Mizor (Act II)
Ah, the glorious city of Lut Gholein! Well, the glorious town of Lut Gholein. It's a bit smaller than the word "city" would imply. Warriv dropped them off inside the western gates, and a very nicely-dressed young man greeted Paige.
Jerhyn: "Welcome, honored traveler. I bid you welcome to my fair port city."
Paige: "Thanks, but he's the honored traveler."
Jerhyn: "Ah, of course, I should have noticed the axe. I bid you welcome, and apologize for my oversight."
Mizor: "Rmmmm." (Attempts a smile.)
Jerhyn was lord of Lut Gholein, and gave them a lovely little tour. The palace was a graceful edifice, but Jerhyn did not invite them in, saying things were "a bit of a mess." There was a small inn, where Mizor rented a room, mostly for Paige; he felt no need to stay there himself. The town's walls were manned by mercenaries, led by a man named Greiz; Greiz seemed to think Mizor was some kind of traveling animal act, and asked what tricks he did. Mizor showed him one. It's a good thing Greiz was wearing a helmet, and that Jerhyn was there to calm things down.
In a central market, Fara, a pale-skinned, red-haired woman quite unlike the rest of the town's inhabitants, had set up an armory. Mizor bought himself some chainmail, and a new helmet for Paige. Deckard Cain, who had come along, was sitting by the well in the center of town, talking with an alchemist. Further down the street was a tavern, where several people were sullenly drinking and trying to avoid going out of doors. The tavern owner, a woman named Atma, accosted Paige.
Atma: "I cannot expect this of you, but if you will help me, I would be grateful."
Paige: (Looks up at Mizor) "You know, I wouldn't think you'd be this hard to miss."
Atma: "I will accept aid from anyone. My husband and son were slaughtered by a fiend from the town's sewers. Vengeance is all I can have."
Mizor: "Wazewr?" (What's a sewer?)
Paige: "A bunch of tunnels under a town, to wash... wastes away where people won't have to step in them."
Mizor: (Looks down at Wolf.) "Hooa." (Good idea.)
Wolf: (pant pant pant, wag tail.)
The sewer outflow was under the town's docks, above the sea. Mizor had never seen a sea before, and had to stare at all that water. It didn't smell very good, but that might have been the sewer. They went into the outflow tunnel; it was the sewer. This sewer was full of flaming skeletons with bows and scimitars, no doubt brought in by the evil fiend. These people were fond of tombs, so they probably hadn't washed their ancestors down the drain.
The sewers were deep, going down three levels, and full of the burning dead. On the lowest level, there were more skeletons, and... cat people! Maybe they'd be friendlier than the goat people back at the monastery, Mizor thought, the animal people of the world can't all be pawns of hell. They weren't as bad as the goats -- they were worse, using whips to lash pieces of skin away, a slow and agonizing way to kill. At the very bottom was a gigantic... skeleton? Zombie? A towering patchwork of parts, some very fresh, others so old they puffed up dust every time the creature moved.
The creature's retinue of skeletons was huge, and it raised every one that was struck down. And he kept repeating, "I shall live again!" Death comes to us all, and none should attempt to move beyond their span, but some need more convincing than others. After drawing some of the skeletons away to kill, the crowd was thin enough that Mizor could charge straight in, and knock this Radamant around until his stitches came undone. After a long battle, they did, and all of his servants died with him. Now stay that way, Mizor thought.
Radamant had a nice book with him, and a scroll. Cain explained that the Horadrim used to "mummify" their highest mages, drying and poisoning the body so that nothing could eat it and it would remain intact for a long time. Parts of the body were replaced with animal parts, and enchantments woven among the bones to raise them, so they could "protect their own tombs against bandits." Now, why don't they just forget the whole tomb business, and let the dead be dead? There would be nothing for the bandits to steal, and the demons wouldn't have nearly as much material lying around to work with. It would be a little late to point that out now. But Cain did say something worth hearing: hidden in one old tomb, there was a device called a Horadric Cube, which could change things into other things. That might be useful, so Mizor went to look for it.
Having cleaned out the sewers below Lut Gholein, Mizor turned his attention to the surface outside the gates. What a barren, inhospitable land this was. How did the people get enough food to support them here? There didn't seem to be that many fish for sale in the market. As usual, there wasn't much time to think about it; a group of strange creatures scampered out of the rocky wastes, and leapt high in the air to attack. They were very annoying opponents, not hitting hard enough to really hurt, but they leapt and bounced and rolled away from blows with great speed.
After the last of the leapers bit the sandy dust, vultures came circling overhead. That would not have been alarming, but these vultures had four legs, and hands. They flew high enough that Paige doubted she could hit one unless they came lower, which they did in a steep dive. When they landed, they took no interest in the dead leapers, but attacked Mizor and his friends; live prey seemed to appeal to them. While dealing with them, a group of cat people walked up, and started lobbing poisonous potions. It was turning out to be quite a party, and they'd hardly gotten out of the gates.
Moving through the flat valley between the low hills of the desert, Mizor found great heat, very little water (which looked black and undrinkable), and bugs. Bugs were everywhere, scorpions, sand fleas, flies, chiggers, mosquitoes, every bug that stung or bit or itched or flew into the eyes, hovering over the occasional mercenary corpse, crawling amid the spiny plants, descending in clouds with every demon vulture that dove down... poor Mizor just couldn't stand it after a while. Even that pool of black, stagnant water had to be better than being eaten alive... so he dove in. Then ran screaming back to town. Paige found him in the tavern.
Mizor: "Waauuughh." (Tips mug of ale over his whole nose.)
Geglash: "I hear ya, I can't stand them demons either. Say... aren't ya supposed to be an elephant? And pink?"
Mizor: "Rubrrum." (Sunburn.) (Rubs his poor red nose.)
Geglash: "Yeah, Lorcia's Red Rum is to die for! I can't always afford it. I don't suppose a rich guy like you could help a buddy out... ?"
Mizor: "Snooorf." (Drops gold on bar. A bottle appears.)
Atma: (To Paige.) "He just came in. He must need help with all those leeches." Paige: "How expensive is salt here?"
Atma: "It doesn't matter. Perhaps one of my hairbrushes would help as well."
After Mizor's beer bath (which did him a tiny bit of good) they went out to a small tomb not far from the city gates. After stomping through the tomb for a while, Mizor noticed he wasn't itching any more. He couldn't understand it, until after a fight with a walking mummy named Feeping Creature. Or Creeping Feature. Something. Anyway, after they die, the lesser mummies break open in a cloud of rotten corpse gas. Mizor just held his breath... but the bugs didn't know to, and after a few mummies, they were all dead. The living dead have their charms after all.
Moving beyond the low wastes, Mizor led his merry band into some dry hills. The cat people were thick here, and a huge set of tombs lay buried beyond a single entrance. Not only were there skeletons and the lesser mummies, but also big mummies like Radamant, but with animal skulls and a huge sickle of bone in place of one hand. They didn't have to die to unleash corpse gas, they could breathe it out. You know, these things could actually be useful! Just get one back to town and rent it out for fumigation, Elzix's whole inn could sure use it. Drag the monster into someone's living room, let it do its thing...
Mizor didn't realize he'd been giggling until Paige asked him what was funny. Imagine, a Werebear giggling. And plotting to use the living dead! No doubt some mad entrepreneur of a Necromancer would try it, if any of them ever thought of it. He sure wasn't going to tell one, they didn't need any encouragement. At the bottom of the tombs, there was a special chamber with no burials, just a fancy chest containing an even fancier box. It was a strange box, which opened completely without obvious hinges, and had a big button on one side.
Cain said it was a Horadric Cube, and he had quite a treasure there, it would change things into other things, like three chips of gemstone into a larger, better quality gem. Mizor looked at the huge pile of shiny rocks he'd been collecting (they were pretty) and immediately understood. There was a lot more room in his war chest after that.
Beyond the dry hills was an oasis, though its waters were fouled with muck and full of insects. And what insects they were! Huge crawling things bigger than Mizor, giant beetles that spat out lightning, and demonic clouds of midges which acted as though guided by a single mind. His fur was almost alive by the time they cleared the oasis, and to his disappointment, there wasn't a single tomb available for delousing. Just a round hole in the ground, with more bugs crawling, flying, or stumbling out of it. There must be something unnatural down there, to be producing all these things; something that needed killing.
The hole was just wide enough to accommodate Mizor. The tunnels beyond were rather... slimy, and full of every sort of evil bug imaginable. At the bottom, in a huge chamber, was a maggot five times the size of all the others, with veiny tendrils burrowed into the earth, laying more bugs as fast as its huge, bloated body could force them out. And when it died, the squeal was deafening, before it exploded in a shower of venomous slime that covered everything in the chamber in rank, sticky goo. Adventures in mucous.
Antidote potions were distributed to all. It sure killed off the fleas, but Mizor preferred the mummies. Paige didn't like it one bit; she was huddled against the wall, whimpering "gross gross gross gross gross gross gross gross gross gross" until Mizor had to slap her. The Maggot Queen had a chest with a staff in it; why would a bug want such a thing, Mizor wondered? But who can say with these unnatural creatures? In another chamber of the lair, Mizor opened a single chest, and found no less than six rare items! None were particularly useful for him, but these bugs seemed quite adept at collecting treasures.
In the hills beyond the oasis was a ruined city, its buildings in ruins and filled with the dead. The fate of all cities, though not all cities had such active dead. Soon after Mizor came within sight of the dead city, the sun... went out? Something large and black was covering the sun! No one in town knew anything about it, but Drognan, who was otherwise not very helpful, suggested that some snake people called Claw Vipers could be responsible. Mizor had seem pictures of them on the walls of the tombs, big snakes with arms and a foul disposition, judging from the human heads they were always holding. Goat people, cat people, and now snake people; these demons were giving animals a bad name. No wonder ordinary people were nervous around him, Mizor thought.
The city of the dead had many zombies, most of them infected with the plague that must have wiped out the city. In an adjacent valley, a huge temple, decorated with serpents, led to an underground complex. More underground tunnels. Mizor sighed. In the future, he resolved to only save the world from demonic invasions if they remained strictly out of doors. And no blotting out the sun, that was just creepy. The temple was full of snake people and mummies, a sure sign that these serpents were in league with evil forces. Sure enough, in the basement, they had set up an evil altar to worship demons. Mizor and his friends smashed, shot, and chomped through every snake in the place; he even summoned up another wolf just for a lightning-spitting one by the altar. After smashing the alter, Mizor found an amulet, and was glad to see the sun had returned when he got back to the surface.
Paige: "Mizor wants to know how the people of the city died, and why the Claw Vipers had built their temple right next to it, and where the diseased zombies came from?"
Drognan: "I am impressed with your keen ear, Rogue. Your master is correct in surmising that the three things are connected. In ages past, men made attempts to be friendly with the serpent men, reasoning that kindly overtures may be reciprocated, and a cold exterior may conceal a better nature than was actually the case. The Claw Vipers were allowed to build their home next to the city, and relations were good at first."
Paige: "So, you're saying the Vipers are pretty good liars."
Mizor: "Sheekrnnge." (Speak with forked tongue.)
Drognan: "In so many words. The Claw Viper's hearts are cold and empty, and they took the gentle words of the city people as a sign of weakness, to exploit for foul sacrifice to their dark masters. The entire city was wiped out by the foulest disease many decades ago, and its former inhabitants' bodies are enslaved for the demon's foul purposes. But there is another matter which concerns us more now. You must speak with Jerhyn immediately."
Jerhyn was eager to see them. It turned out that his palace was being invaded from below by demons! A Vizjeri wizard had wandered in and disappeared while exploring the cellars, near a strange gate Jerhyn had down there. Since then, demons had been pouring through the gate, and every guard Jerhyn had was pulled away from the town walls and put in the palace. Now, there were only two left, Kaelen and one other guy. Jerhyn was distraught, lest his city be overrun from within his own palace. "Do you wonder, could there be a connection between that mage, and the demons now driving upwards from my cellars?"
Mizor blinked, smacked his forehead, and wondered why he was helping these people. Jerhyn had a strange gate thing in his cellar, and didn't know where it led. Some demon-summoner wizard wants to be left alone with it, and Jerhyn allows it. The wizard disappears, and then demons start pouring through the gate. And he was wondering if there might be a connection. It took all of Mizor's willpower not to clobber Jerhyn, just to try to knock some sense into his head. Muttering to himself, Mizor smiled, which made everyone nervous, shoved the guards aside, and entered the palace.
Jerhyn's palace was spacious and opulent, full of soft cushions, divans, latticework, large round beds (a lot of beds), trellises and screens, as well as silken curtains, satiny sheets, tiled floors, gorgeous gilt-and-enamel wall decorations, erotic artwork, and candelabra in every room. The impression of wealth and indolence would have been complete if there weren't so many bits and pieces of town guards and harem girls everywhere. They were impaled on their own spears, tied to the gilded columns, forced halfway through barred windows, spread out over the carpets... over several carpets, even. What could possibly lead creatures to crush and mangle these bodies long after all life was gone? Even Mizor could think of better things to do with a harem girl, but maybe demons don't care about that.
Noticing that his wolves were eating the bodies of the demons, Mizor decided to try a little of it himself. Demons taste terrible, especially when they're still alive, but it was invigorating in a strange way. In the palace, Mizor found something he hadn't seen before: a head pelt, such as his people wear as a sign of high status. It was a hawk helm, from the giant eagles of the mountains, but not of good quality; maybe Jerhyn had it for his private museum of curiosities. On a whim, Mizor put it on, and smiled at Paige, sure that he looked quite regal. Paige stared for a moment, bug-eyed, then burst out laughing. "It's a chicken, I tell you! A giant chicken!" Mizor threw it away. It didn't look that much like a chicken... did it?
In the lowest level of cellars (sultans have an excuse for lots of cellars, at least) there was the gate, which opened easily. Beyond was a place not made by nature's architect, but by what sort of madman Mizor did not know. Suspended in empty space, long marble catwalks twisted and turned in impossible directions, with stars whizzing past through the void. Despite the catwalks, the inhabitants were goat men, along with ghouls and ghosts. There was a lot of old treasure, and Mizor discovered that ghosts taste like cold consomme; it surprised him that they tasted like anything, frankly. Deep in the maze, Mizor found a living, mortal man, dressed in the very old robes of some long-dead archmagus, and cackling madly. So Mizor bit his head off. It came off very easily; must not have been screwed on right.
The summoner had a red gate, which led to a barren canyon. There was also a handy waypoint, which Mizor used, and the Great Bear blessed him with another gift. An animal pelt, a superior set of antlers, though they looked like a ram's head. It gave him bonuses to his skills, +2 to Lycanthropy and +1 to Heart of Wolverine, with 3 sockets for his use; the Great Bear included three runes, Ral, Ort, and Thul. These would not spell out any of the sacred words, but would grant Mizor resistance against the elements, something he didn't mind at all. All praise the Great Bear!
The entrances to this canyon had been sealed off long ago by huge rockslides; the waypoint was probably the only way in. Set in the walls were seven tombs. Didn't Jerhyn mention something about seven tombs in a canyon, one of which had Baal in it? Yes! The arcane sanctuary was built by some Portajon guy, who had a journal where he might have written it down... back in his sanctuary... for which the red gate was now gone... doh! Well, there was no point in going through the arcane maze again; Diablo couldn't possibly have gotten into this canyon. Mizor could leisurely go through the tombs, one at a time, until he found the right one.
They went through all seven tombs, and found all kinds of demons, but nothing that looked like it might be Baal, or even Diablo. Back in town, Cain had been trying to get his attention, and finally got him to sit down and explain, with a lot of help form Paige. It turns out they needed to use the Horadric cube to make a Staff of Kings, and put it in a socket in the floor of a special chamber to open the way to Baal's tomb.
Cain: "I hope there is still time to stop Diablo, before he frees his brother!"
Paige: "If someone would ever stop to ask for directions, I know there would be!"
Mizor: "Rrruff!" (Looks petulant. It's not his fault they made this so confusing!)
Paige: "You never admit when you're lost. And what are you doing summoning up wolves, anyway? I thought you worshipped the big bear."
Mizor: "Grrrrbrr! Aauugh... wwbrrr!" (That's the Great Bear to you, missy! And those aren't wolves. They're... wolf-bears!"
(Paige looks at the wolves. They look back with happy wolf expressions all over their faces.)
Paige: "Oh... kay."
So, back they went, with the staff, and found the room. After another pretty light show, they went in and found, not Tal Rasha, not Baal, but something completely different, and completely disgusting. It was a huge ugly maggoty slug of a demon prince, probably father to every evil bug in the desert. Fighting him hip-deep in a mud pit was slow, but by biting chunks out of his diabolical body every so often, Mizor didn't need to touch a single potion, just beat him down until his bloated body burst and died. Baal was not in the tomb. The platform where he had been imprisoned was empty except for an angel, who chided Mizor for being so late. Baal and Diablo were headed for Kurast, where the third brother, Mephisto, had been imprisoned, and Mizor had better not be too late to reach him or the world was doomed. Everybody's a critic; it's not Mizor's fault that he walks so slow.