Kwikwilyaqa goes home
Rain beat down on canvas of the tent. A bedraggled chicken clucked disconsolately under the table. A fine day to set out. Kwikwilyaqa twisted heavily on the wooden bench they’d let him sleep on, turning his back to the rain and pulling his tattered blanket over his head, trying vainly to shut out the light of the dawn and the rush of the wide stream just outside the camp. Perhaps if he just lay here, not moving, eyes closed. Perhaps then the world would right itself, would reveal that it had never been wrong. The intervening years were the dream, the nightmare, the mistake…
He would open his eyes and find himself back in Sescheron, in his parents’ home. He was still 12, they were still all together in the vibrant capital city – there was culture, art, diversity, good food, good friends. There had been no accident, no visit from Kala. The Seer had never decreed that he be sent to his only surviving relatives in that filthy hole of Harrogath, buried suffocatingly deep in the Kae Huron range. Where they laughed at him. They laughed at him. They lived in hovels, with bad thatch and no plumbing. They were illiterate, grunting their desires. They grilled rabbit on an open spit with no spices or marinade and its EARS STILL ON, for Athulua’s sake. And they laughed at him.
Oh, how they had laughed. Their derision was beyond laughter - they taunted, they howled. His parents were suspect: his father Bryos was a soft-spoken, studious man who had unfathomably wed not just beyond the clan but beyond his race; his mother Mechthild had been a postulant in the Order of the Sightless Eye when she met the young Bryos and they had fled together to Sescheron. His accent, and the things he said with it, gave rise to great ridicule. He had never understood why, “Please stop doing that and come over here instead, thanks” should be objectionable, when compared with “Urrnnh!” He was bullied unceasingly by his cousin Djüdli, who would never step out of the gates of the hamlet unless accompanied by his gang of thugs. And really, “hamlet” was too good for the place. Not the Hamlet of Branagh or Olivier, at best the summer stock Hamlet of Myron Shreveswood, playing to half-empty houses in upstate New York.
He had grown yet quieter, more remote and withdrawn. Finally Malah sought him out. As she had watched this fine young man, so gifted and so alone, she had thought her heart would break. Slowly she won the young man’s trust and confidence, then one day she revealed a secret chamber, hidden beyond her shelves of medicines, lined with scrolls of ancient learning. She told him the story of her own son, a young man at odds with convention, of how he had become an archer of amazing skill in spite of the ridicule of his peers. At first he had put up a token resistance, but slowly he began to immerse himself in the scrolls by candlelight.
His imagination was caught by talk of strategy, tales of daring, and oddly, comparative religion. Huh. Always thought a CoT was a bed, shows how much you know. Slowly his resolve was formed: he would set out alone, no gang of thugs for him. He would follow in the footsteps of Malah’s son and yes, his mother. He would SO show those Harrogavians. Did they think him weak? Then he would develop only the strength for the bow of his dreams, live with the life he was given. And as for grunting, why, he would roar them more gently than any nightingale, more eloquently than Demosthenes.
“Uh. Kwi… er. Um. You.” He sighed. Rain. Chickens. “You have to get up Kwiliwiki. You can’t stay here.” Stupid really. He’d found the name in one of Malah’s texts. A minor clown in a pantheon of an ancient people’s spirits. A clown with a striped face, that drew laughter by mimicking others. KwiKWILyaqa. Why would he imagine anyone could remember it, let alone pronounce it. Kwi would have to do. He grimaced, drawing his thumb and forefinger hard across his eyes, pushing away sleep and memories, squeezing the bridge of his nose. He swung his feet onto the sodden, squelching planks and took the steaming mug the rogue had set next to him. What had the old woman said? “There is a place of great evil…” Well, there were a lot of those these days, hard to pick your battles. But she reminded him of Malah. Two things you must know about the Wise Woman, my lord. First, she is a woman. Second… “She is wise?” He’d grown used to the voices in his head, odd commentary, echoes and patterns of distant places and times. He wondered about Malah’s library, sometimes it had felt as though the scrolls were reading him…
He caressed his fabulous bow, the bow of his dreams, before carefully bracing it and waxing the now-taut string. He shook his head, still uncertain. He had set out on his own, asking no favors, and with no ancestral heritage. If he had HAD ancestors… Wait a bit. Everyone had ancestors. If his had left him anything, had he descended from a line of archers, this is the very bow he would have begged of them. And right before his most dire battle to date, the fight that he was certain would claim him and his weak weapon (the old man that followed him from town to town had pronounced it “merciless,” although “unforgiving” struck him as more appropriate)… The very last demon he had released from the imprisoning seal *ork, ork* had given him this bow. Was it a gift from the gods, or evil temptation? At least he had been inspired – he would not let Diablo take this bow from him before the grip had grown to love his hand. And now it had so conformed to his hand that no other could wield it.
He shrugged. If it was demonic, so be it. There was evil to be fought. He brushed his hand across his face, clearing away the cobwebs of thought. He’d spend all day thinking if he didn’t just get on with it. He’d gone around twice, time to see what the third time had to offer. He kicked his servant.
“You. Waheed. Get up. Monsters.” “Vikhyat, sir.” “Whatever. And put some shoes on.”
After coming to the conclusion that Hard Core gets the better stories, I realized that I wanted one. Somewhat sheepishly in the face of my "methinks the lady doth protest to much"-ness, Kwikwilyaqa was born. Kwi is my no-twink, no-vit, solo Bow Barb. He's allowed one mule, for crafting supplies and those things he's not completely sure he's through with. Once something's muled off though, it's gone. So far he's done full clears - jungle temples and swampy pits and private barbarian hells and Nihlathak himelf. He's accompanied by a barefoot man who increases his likelihood of hitting the monster things.
I had no idea how far I'd be able to take him, having so little experience in HC, and couldn't bring myself to dare a death poll for a character that was likely to die to normal Diablo. He's pretty much the only Barb I've ever played -- there was a leaper who somehow made it through Normal SC, almost always partied and clueless as to how to apply any of his skills. As of this morning, he's at level 67, and has completed the Hellish Den of Evil. I still have no idea how far I can take him, and now that I've posted this, I'll be glad to make it past Cold Crow.
I gave him enough strength to use a Diamond Bow (89) and besides that, every point has gone to Dex. With a level 28 BO (after Battle Command) he has just over 1300 HP, which, coming from SC and not playing barbs, seems like a lot to me. And again with BC, he has maxed resists as long as he's got his main weapon out.
He's been insanely lucky with respect to gear. The Infector of Souls stunned me by dropping a Witchwild String right before he had to go to meet Diablo. I'm slightly distressed to suddenly have gear I would mind losing, and somewhat confusedly feel like using it might be cheating.
So far, normal Infector+Minions and Diablo and the NM Council have been the only seriously scary places, although far from the only places I've approached with great apprehension, and not the only drawn out battles. The NM Minions didn't even get me out of the Throne Room -- go figure.
So, sheepish, but proud too. Seeing as how I'm in the process of "so showing" the only person that ever needed any demonstration. (That would be me. :blush:)
He heard a heavy sigh, a squishy thud, and then a petulant voice demanding, “Does this make any sense to you?”
Vikhyat had learned to distinguish when his odd young master was just muttering to himself, and when he really expected an answer. He completed his current breath cycle and slowly opened his eyes from his meditation. In the mud before him lay a sheaf of bound parchment. He nudged it gently with his bare toe until he could make out the calligraphy: The Western Kingdoms on 35 Gold Pieces a Day.
He shrugged. “Many travelers passing through Lut Gholein have professed themselves pleased with the Solitary Satellite scrolls. Perhaps Master should talk with Akara.”
“Master doesn’t want to talk with Akara! Just look at this itinerary! According to this, to get the most out of my journey, I should follow the main road in a leisurely fashion. I should sample the bucolic amenities offered by the friendly farmers in their quaint stone huts. Although I should explore the countryside and enjoy the shelter of the stone walls, I should save all of the side trips for a second journey, shunning in particular the cemetery with its stone sepulchers and memorials, and the looming stones of the Black Tower. We should climb gently through the woods to an uplands plateau before a great Cathedral made of this same ever-present stone. For a shilling – what’s a shilling? – we should take the guided Catacombs Tour.”
Vikhyat waited composedly as his master grew more and more excited.
“And then, before venturing into the great burial chambers, I should do the whole thing ALL OVER AGAIN! With side trips. ‘Stunning stone statuary.’ ‘Stalwart standing stones.’ ‘Stone-walled natural caves, with stone floors, stone ceilings and petroglyphs.’ Petroglyphs, I ask you!” “Petroglyphs, sir?” “Carvings. Hacked into – wait for it – stone.” “To what end is this repeat journey suggested, Master?” “‘Allows the adventurer to receive the greatest value for his experience’ it says here.” “Does it not also mention that the same benefits may be achieved in fewer trips, Master, if one delays one’s initial journey?” Kwikwilyaqa glared. “You mean, remain in Harrogath one second longer than necessary? Join the local youth in a spot of Baal-baiting?” “‘Running,’ I believe. It is often done, Master.” “Well not by me,” he said with finality.
Vikhyat kept his smile to himself. He knew well that they had indeed visited Baal a second time, and as nightmares go, it had not been so bad. But it had not been easy. Possibly taunting quill rats was preferable to another 20 minutes in Baal’s chamber.
Kwikwilyaqa picked up his heap of scrolls, brushed away the worst of the mud, then flipped to the roll-out map in the center and studied it. “Anyway, we’ve done a lot of this already.” “Yes, sir.” “We made it through this Den of Evil.” “Yes, sir. Surprising, really. Charming petroglyphs.” “What an odd idea you have of charm, Haseen.” “Yes, sir. Vikhyat, sir.” “And here, the Burial Grounds. We eventually did convince that Blood Raven woman to stand still for a moment.” “Yes, Master. I was very glad when you realized that taking out most of her followers first would make her more accessible. It was touch and go there for me for a bit, sir.” “Scrolls are a bit out of date, though.” “Yes, master. I am convinced that a minimum of 45 gold pieces daily are necessitated for proper enjoyment of the Western Kingdoms.” Kwi glanced up suspiciously. “Are you laughing at me, Ahsab?” “No, sir,” came the muffled reply. Vikhyat had found a sudden need to scratch his nose. “Vikhyat, sir.” “It’s just that they ramble on about the Bucolic Beauty that is Tristram. Not much like what we found there.” “Yes, sir.” Kwi looked up sharply. “Er, no, sir.” “They were right about the Tower though.” “Yes, sir. Very pleasant to only have to clear one level.”
Kwikwilyaqa fell silent, pondering the map. Occasionally, he would thumb through the pages, checking a point here or there. Finally, he rolled the whole thing in on itself, a great wad of foxed, torn, muddy, much-thumbed pages, and sighed deeply. “So I guess we do it again.”
He paused, and a far-off look came to his eye. With studied nonchalance he asked, “I don’t suppose you’ve seen that young Necromancer around anywhere?”
On the caravan journey Vikhyat talked a lot about the value of non-attachment, about the spiritual burden that a preponderance of material possessions can impose, about how one's innermost self is laid bare in the desert. The mule shuffling along under the weight of its great pack sincerely hoped that Kwi took even the tiniest bit of it to heart.
<quote=Russtovich,Jul 26, 2005 - 7:46 PM> Slowly but surely eh? He's showing remarkable intelligence for a Barb. :rolleyes:</quote> Well, you may remember, back when he was telling his own story, that he had an odd sort of upbringing. Not your average Harrogavian.
Not to mention the cluelessness of his driver. (How long do we think I can keep you believing that bit of self-deprecation?) But if I were used to playing Barbs I'd have treated him like a typical sturdy Barb and have made a huge mistake by now. Instead, I treat him like my Summoner -- appallingly fragile, but only if anything gets close. Except that with just over 1600 HP (after BO) he's not as fragile as all that -- it's just that it does me no good to get into that mindset. He's fragile, I remind myself constantly, FRAGILE.
<quote=Russ>Good luck with both sets of Council Members. :unsure: </quote> These fine gentlemen are toast or, if you prefer, history. (Both can be rather dry, but only one is improved with butter.) In this case "slowly but surely" was three nerve-wracking hours for the trip from the Travincal Waypoint to the Red Portal to Hell:
Full clear of Trav, since who knows how far I'll have to retreat. Council members for the most part came out one at a time -- no idea what anyone's mods were.
Down to Durance, where the very first monsters I meet are a CE/MB/Cu boss pack of, you guessed it, Dolls: we will slow you, curse you, and make it impossible for you to stun us or leap out of the way; and then we will blow up :ph34r:. I did WHAT to deserve this? Slow, slow, slow crawling forward. Did I neglect to use Grim Ward up to this point? Here it became my skill of choice, always putting one up before moving on, to have a place of relative safety to retreat to. Dolls on both levels, but surprisingly bossless -- only encountered one other boss pack of anything. Ended up with an almost full clear of Durance 2, due to an attack of other-leftness. (Kwi pretty much abandoned full clears in the Canyon of the Magi. If he was going to clear all those tombs, we would still be there trying to keep up with the resurrectors and spawners...)
Durance 3 could have been much worse. There were only a couple of Blood Lords in the vestibule. The battle with Bremm looked like most of his battles:
As close to off the edge of the screen as possible, with blue and green (thanks to a Pestilent LC of Pestilence that dropped in the jungles) monsters clustered around Vikhyat. My primary job is keeping him alive and so avoid being swarmed. I think I might just possibly be seeing that Bremm had a Blessed Aim aura, otherwise I don't know what it was. Wyand was MB/Tele/LE/ES, Maffer EF/EF/Conv/MS. A quick look around revealed where the bosses had been hiding, as Wyand and Maffer had one apiece. Meph dropped a Toothrow, which is a step up from Vikhyats Jeweller's Gothic Plate of Runed Resistances.
Ormus pronounced himself, "impressed beyond words." I'm pretty stunned myself, and a bit shaky still, but not yet speechless. :rolleyes:
Kwikwilyaqa was tired to the bone.
He sat on the white marble steps staring bleakly at the arches and columns, wondering if he had the will to go on.
Word of the young necromancer's death had reached him in the swamps, and had sapped his very will. He had sat for weeks on the docks, looking for answers in the bubbles rising from the murky, decaying blackness that passsed for water. Taatangaya had been the closest thing he had had to a companion on his journeys, and he had cherished the hope that at the end they would raise a glass together. Finally he had buried his loneliness and pushed beyond his fears, braved the fetid reeking swamps and the mouldering temples of the once-great city of Kurast. He had faced and overcome a Prime Evil and stepped tentatively through the glowing portal to the very reaches of Hell itself.
As he made his way across the Plains of Hell, staving off that despair that was never far from his heart, strange tidings were sweeping Sanctuary. The nature of evil was changing. The goal he had set himself, while still worthy, had been cheapened somehow. And so, at the cleft in the earth where he had found entrance to the rivers of molten lava below, he had retreated to these antiseptic halls, and again he paused, but this time to take stock and hold council with himself.
More than anything, he decided, he wanted to rest. But this was no place to stop, so cold, so dead, so isolated. Over and over again he had been startled to find his thoughts straying to humble thatched roofs and fires, to the rough laughter and calling of the men as they made ready for battle. Most of all his thoughts lingered on one stooped and graying figure who tended the wounded with a quiet sadness, who had unexepectedly befriended him and shown him the love he so longed for. He would push on then, with the goal of making it back to Harrogath; there he could lay down his bow and find ease.
He made his way through the River of Flame with something akin to relief. "Hell must be anxious to be rid of me, " he thought. The Urdars, Pit Lords and Finger Mages were simple distractions, with none of the dreaded spawners in sight. The Soulstone was brought to the forge and shattered into the ultimate of ironies: lying among the shards was a Gul rune... As the Chaos Sanctuary approached his anticipation heightened, his self-doubt grew. "Slowly," he told himself. "Just take it easy, so far so good." Finally the champion oblivion knights, the boss oblivion knights, and all the rest of them were cleared. What would the seals hold?
At the first sight of Lord de Seis' fanatical crew, he flung himself into his town portal to sneak back in through the front door. One by one he lured the minions out to the doom their names so rightly foretold for them, puzzled to see that they now all sported a Blessed Aim aura. "Well, they don't call it Hell for nothing," he shrugged. With growing trepidation he released the fourth seal, ready to dash away from the Infector. Nothing happened. "Has it been so long since I've been in this place? Have I really forgotten the patterns?" Apparently, he sighed. "Perhaps it's for the best. No time to psyche myself out in between battles this way. Grit your teeth and get ready for them both. Here goes."
And in an instant the megademons were upon them. Habit took over, and he began to methodically stun, battlecry, retreat and shoot. The Infector fell at the base of the pentagram, and Kwi turned to face Diablo himself. With a pounding heart and sweaty palms he let fly a volley of arrows. After some jockeying for position, Diablo seemed content to release useless lightning bolt after useless lightning bolt upon Vikhyat. "I can do this!" thought Kwi. His life bulb dipped to a sudden ring of fire. "As long as I don't get complacent." And finally, the second Prime Evil fell. Finding nothing among the remains, he headed back to the Fortress.
He was unable to share in Cain's joy at his success. The will that had sustained him for his last battle had deserted him. With fingers tingling numbly and still badly shaken, he turned to Tyrael. "Please...?" was all he could manage.
Kwikwilyaqa has come home.
Reprinted with permission of the author, GrLnDgz The original post is here: