Mizor (Act I)

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Chapter 1

And so, Mizor popped into the world. Staring around for a moment, he was greeted by a nice fellow named Warriv, to whom he replied "players 8." A strange thing to say, but werefolk aren't the most talkative guys. Some spend too much time sniffing people's crotches, but Mizor is a dignified bear and will restrain that urge. Loping forth onto the Blood Moor, Mizor is a bit surprised to find the denizens can actually give him a bit of a fight - some even get a small piece of him now and then! Wow, saying "players 8" before a fight does make a big difference! But even though he's just a little bear, he's learning and will grow big and strong soon enough. Exploring a cave, he finds lots of big nasty monsters, and a zombie who must have been Arnold Swarzenegger in a previous life. Pounding in his thick skull takes a lot of time, but in the end, the Great Bear up in the sky is pleased with little Mizor, and grants him the power to change his skin. Giving thanks to the Great Bear, Mizor says "Ghhrahooffguh." Maybe there's a good reason werefolk don't say much.

Continuing through these nicely pallisaded wildlands, Mizor wonders, what's with all these fences and walls all over the place, anyway? Ack, something's trying to kill me. It's a little snot-nosed, wobbly-kneed, unkempt, ill-mannered, and positively unsanitary demonling named Bishibosh, who, with a bunch of like-minded friends, is tossing fireballs at Mizor like there's no tomorrow. Expressing his displeasure at one of the smaller ones, Mizor knocks him into next week... but another raises his staff, and the little guy comes back from his vacation with a suntan and a slide show. I'm going to have to take this up with Bishy himself, Mizor realizes, and in true bearish fashion, charges straight into the middle of the group. Things quickly degenerated, and after four minor healings and entirely too much time, Mizor stood triumphant. Ouch. That might have gone better if he had some friends.

As Mizor's adventures on the Cold Plains continued, he got some friends. First, the Great Bear sent... a raven? What's he doing sending me a bird? The raven expressed no opinion, simply perched on Mizor's shoulder and did his business. Mizor upgraded to a wolf. Then, he'd only have to watch where he stepped. This was followed by a sage spirit of the oaks, who would lend his aid by making Mizor and all his friends as sturdy as the trees. Why the spirit looks like Casper the Friendly Wriggling Starfish, no one knows. After meeting a few more very tough shamans (but not tough enough) and exploring another cave, Kashya told Mizor about an abomination in a graveyard. What's a graveyard? Mizor thought.

Mizor did not like Kashya. She was rude and sarcastic, and would hardly even talk to him when he was a bear. At least she didn't keep making "What does a bear do in the woods?" jokes like Gheed, but she sure wasn't nice or very helpful. Charsi was nice, Charsi would rub his ears and once found a tick that had been bothering him. And, before Mizor went to explore the graveyard, Charsi found a wonderful new axe for him: a Large Axe of Readiness, with increased attack speed! Well, she didn't really find it, she sold it to him, but it's the thought that counts with people like Charsi. Newly armed, Mizor went to this graveyard place, where the Rogues plant their dead instead of exposing them for the wolverines to eat like sensible people do, and found a horrible woman named Blood Raven.

It was a long battle, with Blood Raven running all over the graveyard and sniping with arrows of fire. Mizor followed, tripping over a bunch of inconveniently placed rocks every step of the way. His wolf friend chased her too, but didn't have much luck catching her either; she was quick. Mizor was considering drinking a healing potion when Blood Raven finally died, and after a pretty light show, her spirit wafted up to the heavens. No doubt the Great Bear had summoned her up there, to deal with her properly after the way she had inconvenienced his chosen one.

Kashya was impressed, but Mizor never got a chance to ask her why that woman was named Blood Raven. I mean, even if your last name is Raven, why would your parents name you Blood? Kashya did let him hire one of her Rogues for free, a cute little woman named Paige. Paige didn't look happy about serving Mizor, but after he bought her a nice new bow and some studded leathers, she calmed down some. Why wouldn't Kashya give her Rogues any equipment, anyway? No wonder they can't fight off the demons and take back the monestary. And why were the only armors for sale in camp leather? Lots of athletic young women... all the clothes are leather... but Kashya usually doesn't give them anything to wear... Mizor decided not to think about that anymore.

Chapter 2

Awakening, Mizor yawned, said "players 8" and walked over to the handy dandy waypoint the Rogues had in their camp. That was one of the great conveniences to this place, maybe he should try to get the other Werebears to make some of them back home. Sure beats walking everywhere, he wasn't as fast on his feet as the little Werewolves, funny-looking as they are. Of course, the werewolves always say the werebears are funny-looking; huge towering lummoxes tottering along on itty bitty legs, they say. But they don't say it up close. Anyway, with a blue flash and a single unearthly note, Mizor, Paige, a spirit wolf (Mizor called it Wolf) and the Oak Sage appeared on the Cold Plains. He'd explored everything there last night, but more evil creatures had come back; Paige said they did that every night.

Fighting their way through the ever-present fences, Mizor and company made their way to a large stony field, full of more monsters. There was a lot more fighting, bashing, smashing, and stomping of tiny demons and corrupted Rogues, before they came to a quintet of standing stones.

Mizor: "Whrrrflloo." (These stones are common where I am from.)

Paige: "Huh? Did you try to say something?"

Mizor: "Hwaaoder!" (Hey, Wolf smells something over there.)

Paige: "I smell something over here. Maybe you should stop wearing those old skins?"

It was one of the little demons, spitting lightning and saying "Rakanishu!" every time Wolf bit him. This might be dangerous, so Mizor joined in the battle, while Paige busied herself with some other demons. The fight was short but painful; Wolf died, and Mizor was half bald and smelled even worse than before.

Mizor: "Aaaawaaahroo!"

Paige: "Maybe you should try Rogaine. Thanks for getting rid of the skins, by the way."

Mizor summoned another wolf. He called it Wolf. There didn't seem to be any point in getting attached to them. After entirely too much fighting, they came to a cliff. This was surprising, out here on the plains and fields, even if it was only a little cliff to Mizor's eyes, but the important thing about the cliff was a cave. The cave led to a long, dark, underground tunnel that emerged in dark woods. Of course, these weren't real woods... not like the ones back home. But on a trip back to town, Akara told him about a certain special tree he should look for.

Akara: "It is clear we are facing a great evil. We must seek the council of Deckard Cain immediately."

Mizor: "Rrrr?"

Akara: "He lives in Tristram, hundreds of miles from here, but there is a portal we can use. Find a circle of five stones, then find a special tree. Take the bark from the tree, bring it to me for translation, and touch the stones of the circle in the order I give you."

Mizor: (Looks forlornly at the waypoint.)

Akara: "I fear Tristram does not have a waypoint. Do not worry, many of our Rogue sisters went to Tristram to battle Diablo there, when he first reappeared in the world."

Paige: "Just a moment, please, wise Akara. When our sisters were traveling to Tristram, why did you not open this portal for them?"

Akara: "I felt there was no great need for haste."

Paige: "But a great evil was coming back into the world! Would that not call for haste?"

Akara: "Well... the portal's enchantments are old, and using it might have been dangerous."

Mizor: "Aaahrrrriiow!" Paige: "Bearbutt is wondering why you think it will be safe now."

Kashya: "You can understand him?"

Paige: "You figure it out after a while."

Akara: "No, but our choices are few and the danger is great. You must do this. And Paige, no one is to refer to our friend as 'Bearbutt'."

Mizor: (Looks extremely dubious, but returns to the stony fields.)

Kashya: "I don't know why you think Bearbutt can do it."

Akara: "Though he is funny-looking, has itty bitty legs, and suffers from a speech impediment, he is our only hope."

Kashya: "You forgot the smell."

Akara: "I have been trying to forget it since he came into our camp."

Like a good bear, Mizor returned to the stones, touched them, and went through the sparkly red portal that appeared. Tristram was a burning mess, full of nasty surprises, including a named Skeleton warrior and the fattest zombie Mizor had ever seen standing right next together. They made for a long fight; Mizor went out of bear form twice before he managed to knock the fat one down for good. The only living inhabitant of the town was an old guy, hanging in a cage; why was he spared, of all of these people? A mystery to ponder another time; the old man made his own portal, and left. Another mystery to ponder - if he could do that, why was he sitting in that cage?

The old man, Deckard Cain, turned out to be fairly useful. He was full of all kinds of facts on magical items, and made himself very useful explaining their properties. He also identified the demon who was occupying the monastery - Andariel, the maiden of anguish, poisoner of hearts. And, as a final reward for his good deed, the Great Bear blessed Mizor with a gift from the heavens. Right on his head, too. When he regained consciousness, Mizor found he had a new axe, a bigger, faster, more magical axe than his old axe - the broad axe Goreshovel. Thus armed, Mizor went to sleep again. He'd had a long day.

Chapter 3

Ah, another day, another endless series of death and bloodshed. Slaughtering the minions of evil gets to be a little monotonous after a while, they just keep coming back for more, one after the other, you can whack them, maul them, set them on fire or freeze them solid, they don't seem to care. I mean, when you kill a demon, where does it go? Back home, and its master summons it up again later. Makes you wonder if there's any point to the whole business, or if it's all just a big waste of time, they'll keep coming and there's nothing you can do about it. Maybe this Cain guy would have some answers, Akara said he was very wise.

It took time, but Mizor managed to ask Cain about it, and he had a ready answer. Yes, the greater demons simply bring their followers back; they quickly return to full strength if given any respite. Which is exactly why you need to kill the greater demon lords themselves; no one can bring them back once they are banished from the world. And the biggest demon lords of them all are the Three, one of whom is roaming the land and causing all of this misery. But to reach him, you first must find your way through the hordes of lesser evils he has left in his wake, and challenge him alone.

Clearly, Mizor had his work cut out for him, so he and his entourage returned to the dark wood. Moving quickly, they cleared a path to a black and greasy marsh, full of walking skeletons and goats on two legs. The goats might have been tolerable company if they weren't trying to kill him, but they had no sense of humor, or even much dignity; they made ridiculous noises as they died. How even a demon could live without dignity was unimaginable. In the middle of the marsh was a big, burnt-out building, with nothing inside but a ladder leading down to the cellars.

The building, Paige said, was the castle of a Countess who had lived there ages ago. She was an evil woman, who drank and bathed in the blood of a hundred virgin girls before she was sealed alive in the basement of her tower, which was then burnt to the ground. Ah, Mizor recalled, that must be what that odd tome he'd found in the stony fields was talking about. Strangest book, when he opened it, some guy started reading from it aloud, and Mizor couldn't find him anywhere. So, a decadent noble was killing young girls in the olden days. Why kill her by putting her in the basement, and then burn everything above the ground? Shouldn't you put her on the top story, then burn her tower? Sometimes, it seemed that the people in these lands lacked all common sense.

However... Mizor had learned that demons liked to hide in dark caves, and they often had useful things. That basement was as good a place as any, so Mizor led everyone down. At least, he tried to; bears don't do well on ladders. The bear-shaped imprint in the basement floor was a good warning that he was coming, but judging by the smell, there wasn't much alive in there. The place was completely empty, except for some treasure chests and stairs leading to another level of cellar. How many cellars would even a countess need? There couldn't be many.

On the next cellar level, they found all the monsters who were missing from the first level. Right by the stairs, there was a big nasty goat with a bunch of friends. When Mizor tried to move past them to get a little elbow room... there were ghosts down there! A powerful ghost was spitting lightning, and howling like a banshee!

Named Ghost: "We want blood! We want blood! The countess took all of ours!"

Mizor: "Whagarooloorss?!" (What do you want with blood? You have no use for it!)

Named Ghost: "We want blood! We want blood! You have some! Give it to us!"

Mizor: (Points to Named Goat) "Aahhm!" (What about him?)

Named Goat: (Brains Paige with a hammer.) "Hey, don't get me mixed up in this."

Mizor: "Ahhksrrsh." (I think you're being very selfish.) (Mauls Named Goat repeatedly.)

Named Ghost: "We want blood! We want blood! Ouch! Nice doggy!"

Wolf: "Yip! Whine!" (Sizzles with lightning.)

Mizor, Paige, and Oak Sage: "Yip! Whine! Not the Lightning Enchanted beastie!"

Everyone but Mizor died. Mizor lost every inch of fur on him, and again really wished they had something besides leathers in town. Leathers smell just terrible when burnt. Strangely, when he visited Kashya, she wasn't upset about Paige getting flash-fried to a crackly crunch. For a few thousand (a paltry sum, given what Mizor had in his war chest) she could resurrect her and send her into the fight again! Gosh. The veil between life and death was very thin in this part of the world. And Charsi had metal armor for sale! Scale mail, much better. Mizor bought a suit for Paige too, and returned to the forgotten tower.

On the fifth level below ground, Mizor finally found the Countess. She was alive... sort of... even after all this time. Surrounded by ghosts, goats, but no ghosts of goats, and a number of nearly naked nubile nymphs (try saying that when you're a Werebear) the Countess had grown fangs, a pallid complexion, and an unhealthy fondness for Anne Rice novels. She had gone beyond life and death... but not beyond having her arms ripped off by a claustrophobic Werebear. Who'd need five levels of cellars, anyway? No one has that much wine to store. But she did have money, a lot of it, and after leaving tower, Mizor could see another large building, almost within spitting distance; the monastery. He didn't like the look of it one bit.

Chapter 4

The closer Mizor got to the building, the bigger and more radiant with simple, pure evil it seemed. Or maybe it was just Mizor; he'd never liked being indoors. Those caves hadn't helped, and the incredibly deep cellars the Countess had made him feel itchy all over just thinking about them. Paige was sure it was fleas.

Demons were pouring (well, ambling) out of the monastery gates, obviously sent by Andariel. Smashing and bashing their way in, Mizor stopped to admire the fountain in the outer cloister, curiously untouched by the demonic occupation. Though made by the hand of man, it was a very pretty fountain, especially after the ugliness of what was outside. The cloisters were quiet, with large gardens that had been trampled and despoiled, but not quite killed yet. Soon, nature would be allowed to return and make even these places green again, but there were things to take care of first...

Further in were barracks, with several weapon storage areas, now mostly empty. Mizor found a lovely new bow for Paige, and a very bad-tempered Shaman who was unwise enough to stand next to a small shrine which granted fire resistance. It was actually a lucky thing the shrine was there; both Paige and Wolf decided not to go into that room with Mizor, so he got to fight both the Shaman, his friends, and some skeletal archers all by himself. When Paige did decide to come in, just as the last one died, Mizor informed her she would be receiving a cut in pay.

In the deepest parts of the barracks, they discovered a forge, probably where Charsi had done her work in happier days. Now, a huge fat demon in an apron was working in there, but he was no great danger. Peppered with arrows and nibbled on by Wolf, Mizor hardly had to do anything to him at all, just loot the room. There was a nifty little hammer there, which Mizor was sure Charsi would love to have back again.

The door further into the monastery was barred and nailed shut, and not even Mizor's strength could get it open. Paige said that when the demons first appeared, they had tried to contain by blocking all the doors leading out of the inner monastery. But they'd come up from below, through the jails under the barracks. Reasoning that they could get inside the same way, Paige led them to the stairs, and they made their way through the jails. There were several levels underground; even the Rogues were fond of cellars. All over the jails were instruments of torture, and bits and pieces of very, very dead women.

Why did the Rogues need so much prison space? Mizor was sure the torture implements were not demon-made, but there originally. Civilized people; why do such insane things? If someone commits a crime, banish or kill them. Inflicting agony serves no purpose either. Even though the demons hadn't needed to bring their own entertainment with them, they surely knew what to do with what they found. And the way they'd decorated the jails with the mutilated dead was even more wrong than planting them deep in the ground. Death was part of life, but only because the dead carried on into life again. Keeping the dead, or getting them to get up and walk around, was even more a denial of the circle than planting; at least there, they would nourish the trees.

Beyond the jails was an inner cloister, despoiled with bodies, and a cathedral, the way civilized people imagined others should see the light. A new sort of poison filled the cathedral now, a horrible skeleton that spat venom; it must have been a priest in life. Below the cathedrals were catacombs, full of walking dead and more horrible things; it was no surprise that they went very deep into the ground, catacombs are supposed to. At the fourth level below ground, the floor was broken, with a pool of blood and naked dead bodies filled the hole. Two huge doors behind it led to a cross-shaped room, what must have been the monastery's deepest chapel. It would be the perfect place for a demon queen to make her throne, and sure enough, when Mizor charged through the doors, a horrible voice said, "Die, maggot!" and he saw Andariel.

Gheed had mentioned that Andariel was reputed to be beautiful. Perhaps she was, in the eyes of people like Gheed. Certainly, some parts of her were shaped in ways men would find beautiful. The huge spider's legs growing from her back would not be beautiful to anyone Mizor knew, though, and what was she doing with her hair? Before he had time to ask, she was upon him, clouds of venom boiling out of her body and dripping from her unnatural fangs. The battle was long, but Mizor mauled and beat her until her body broke and disintegrated in a column of hellish flame. Drinking an alchemical elixir he'd thought to bring cured him of the last of the poison's effects; Paige was unhurt.

Back at the camp, everyone congratulated him; no more "Bearbutt" now. Even Kashya tried to make friends, and Mizor was pleased enough with himself not to pound her into the ground like a tent stake. The Rogues returned to the monastery, clearing the remaining demons as they went, and Warriv took his caravan (and Mizor) through to Lhut Gholein.

Some thoughts:

  1. Players 8 hasn't really made the game more challenging, at least for a Werebear. The biggest difference is that monsters take much longer to die, which can make them a threat in the very early levels. But you gain levels so much faster, your character is tougher and able to use stronger skills sooner.
  2. Mizor was level 19 when he killed Andariel, which is as late as I've ever killed her, and the fight was relatively easy. Perhaps using 'players 8' would be better if you are moving through Act 1 quickly, ignoring quests and the small dungeons.
  3. The Shaman's fireballs seemed to hurt more than I remember; does 'players 8' increase the damage from elemental attacks?
  4. Muling can make the game much easier, if you have the items to mule. Having Goreshovel was a real boon. That axe seems almost made for a Werebear, and not having it would have made the act much more challenging.