Mizor (Act IV)
So this is Hell. Mizor had never really given much thought to the place. The light above nurtured the green and growing places of the world, and good fertile soil made the beasts and man. Hell simply wasn't important for any of these things. But now, standing on the battlements of a heavenly fortress, staring out over an ash-gray steppe which stretching to the horizon, Mizor wondered, why is this place here? Everything out there was so... dead. Lifeless. Pointless. Punishing sinners? When a man's soul leaves the light, it ceases to exist; the reward of evil is nothingness. But if nothingness is a place, will there be evil souls there, being punished? Mizor wondered if he'd be meeting anyone he knew.
Deckard Can was in the Pandemonium fortress to greet Mizor and Paige. He hadn't come by the portal in Mephisto's Durance of Hate, he had been brought directly, on the wings of the angel Tyrael. The angel was hovering next to the fortress's fireplace. Though the fortress was obviously made of stone and iron, the ethereal brightness of the angel didn't seem out of place. Tyrael and Cain told Mizor what he needed to do. Further into the great circles of hell, beside a river of flame, the demons had a Hellforge, where they made many weapons. The soulstones which contained the Three's essences could be smashed there, and doing so would prevent them from entering the world of man ever again.
Tyrael also told Mizor of another angel in Hell. Long ago, an angel named Izual had led an assault on the Hellforge, and was captured by the demons. Under torture, Izual told the demons many of heaven's secrets, and as punishment, he was locked in the body of a powerful demon, so his spirit would be tortured forever in a shell of icy flesh. Why not just destroy him utterly, Mizor wondered? He didn't even utter the question, but Tyrael answered anyway. A soul cannot be destroyed, not that of man, not the demons, and not the angels. Nothing truly ends, things can be twisted and changed, or contained and limited, placed where they will do no harm, and perhaps learn something. Tyrael was sure that further torture would do Izual no good; surely, it had been long enough.
Though he would never admit to fear, Mizor felt that caution was in order before venturing out into Hell, so he and Paige went shopping. Two mortals were in the fortress, Jamella and Halbu, who seemed to be some kind of permanent staff. How two people kept the demons from overrunning the fortress, Mizor did not know; either they were very, very powerful, or the demons weren't interested in taking the fort. Maybe if they were that powerful, one of them could be persuaded to smash Mephisto's soulstone. They both had little shops; Mizor found some new gothic plate for himself, a new bow for Paige, and another Maul, this one with an enchantment to increase its swing speed. With that, Goreshovel seemed to have served its purpose; the Great Bear would surely forgive him, but he sold it. Maybe it would find its way into the hands of another who needed it more.
The steppes had nothing alive about them, not even soil. Everything was sharp lava and ash, except where it was stained with pools of blood and ichor, because once they got far from the fortresses' walls, there were creatures there. Huge demons with wings, poison dripping from their blades, tentacled crawlers who spit bodies as a kind of squishy artillery, and horrible faceless things that crawled on their backs, constantly whelping faceless worms. They came in endless waves, and died clawing and aching to hurt more. There were also people on the steppes, though some were hard to recognize They were the same gray color as the ash, empty of all life. Some were chained to pillars, some were on the ground like paving stones, some writhed in the eternal fires the demons used to light up the steppe. And some of them took pot-shots at Mizor, so they smashed them. If you die in hell, where do you go, Mizor wondered? To heaven, maybe, or to the world of men.
While wandering the steppes, Mizor kept an eye out for unenchanted items. Charsi had promised to enchant something for him with the Horadric Malus. Some gauntlets of speed would be nice, but he didn't find any nice gauntlets, just some greaves. Hmmm... some boots let you walk faster, and that would come in handy too, so Mizor decided to let Charsi try the greaves. The waypoint took him out of hell (Those waypoints are so handy! Must get some for home.) all the way back across the world to the Rogue's monastery. Everyone was very happy to see Mizor, and while Paige was gossiping madly with her old friends, Mizor gave the greaves to Charsi.
She came back with the enchanted greaves: 6% fire resistance, 10% faster hit recovery, +2 to life. Mizor had to admit he was underwhelmed. Charsi was sorry, but the Malus' effects where impossible to predict, and it took a month to recharge. As Mizor didn't have a month to spare, he had a bath, spent the night, and returned to Hell in the morning. Hell was very easy to get into, and out of, it seemed. But Mizor still needed some equipment.
Jamella had a stock of items, which she allowed others to gamble on. Gambling was about all Mizor could do with his money, and occasionally, he got something good, like the belt he was wearing. Looking over the items she had on the table, Mizor put his money down on a pair of greaves. Oooh. OOOOH. OH, WAOW. Oh, they were so pretty and shiny and nice! 20% faster walk, 16% cold resistance, 25% magic find, +22 stamina, and 20% enhanced defense. Feeling lucky, he tried a few more times, then got a plated belt. Oooh. OOOOH. OH, WAOW. Oh, that was pretty and shiny and nice too! +22 life, 34% enhanced defense, 20% lightning resistance, attacker takes damage of 5, 10% faster hit recovery. Mizor gambled on a bow for Paige; not great, but better than what she had. He gambled on a few suits of armor; nothing great. He gambled on a Maul. Oooh. OOOOH. Oh, WAOW. Oh, it was also so pretty and shiny and nice! 33% enhanced damage, +14 to attack rating, +7 to max damage, 6% mana stolen per hit, 20% increased attack speed. Soon, all of Mizor's money was gone. He didn't get anything else, but felt is position vis a vis Hell was much improved.
(Note: My luck with gambling seems to be fairly good, though this run was exceptional. Once, in an expansion game, I gambled on an amulet and got the Nokozan Relic. Pity I was playing a Necromancer, who didn't have much use for it, and I didn't know how to mule.)
The high steppe was broken here and there by vast pits, with a reddish light shining up from far, far below. They looked exactly like the Zakarumites said Hell did. Mizor didn't look down any of them. Heights made him nervous. Glowing red heights made him even more nervous. According to the Zakarumites, there was a river of flame down there, where certain sinners burned forever. Only certain ones; Zakarumite lore placed every sinner where they ought to be, according to their favorite sins; heretics here, suicides there, liars inside that thing. Why they spent so much time thinking about Hell and what awaited bad people, and not about the world and what good people should be doing, was anyone's guess. Mephisto, Lord of Hate, probably had a lot to do with it.
Moving ever downwards, Mizor led his band through vast plains of ash and sadness. The land itself seemed to suck the soul dry, it was getting hard to remember anything green, or a day that brought joy. When a huge ice demon, unlike anything else they'd met, screamed "Save yourself!" and attacked, Mizor could hardly even care. The ice demon was alone, but it wasn't until halfway through the fight that Mizor realized this must be the imprisoned angel. He was getting depressed; the whole plain radiated despair, and it was getting to him. After a very long fight, the demon broke, and a being of pure, beautiful radiance rose from the fractured body... laughing. Mizor had never heard an angel laugh before, but he was almost completely positive they weren't supposed to laugh like that.
Izual laughed at Tyreal. He laughed at the Horadrim, all of mankind, every effort that had been taken to oppose the Three Prime Evils. The assault on the Hellforge was a sham, Izual was working with the Three to destroy the world. He had freely told the Three how to corrupt soulstones, and use them to gain powerful mortal bodies for themselves. With those bodies, they could freely walk the earth, and bring their followers to destroy mankind. Boy, that angel could gloat. Gloat, gloat, gloat. Mizor put up a portal halfway through his speech and went back to the fortress, just so he didn't have to listen anymore.
Tyreal, when he learned of Izual's words, seemed concerned. It's a little hard to see facial expressions through all the glowing, but he wasn't happy. "We may have been played for fools all along," he opined. What do you mean WE, angelface? Mizor almost said. Cain was troubled too, with the knowledge that the whole Horadrim order, founded to combat the Three, may have been nothing more than part of their long-range plan. For all their efforts and sacrifices, they had been nothing but pawns. Mizor could see that was a terrible blow for the old man. Tyreal's reward was a nice one, though: knowledge. Not many have experienced pure knowledge, shining directly into their befuddled minds and sweeping aside a thousand misconceptions. But there's nothing more sobering and focusing in existence; now, even Hell itself held nothing to fear.
Below the plains was a huge dead city; it looked like ruins, but there were many inhabitants, Undead mages, flying spider-like things, and bloated crawling beasts. They lived in huge cages, and a blasphemous parody of a church, hung with chains that could imprison a god. Looking at the church, Mizor wondered why he'd used the word "blasphemous", he shouldn't care about a church. Unfortunately, "blasphemous" was the only word that fit. The price of an inadequate vocabulary. The plains didn't go any further. To descend, they would have to go down one of the fiery cracks into the ground. The one with a built-in set of stairs was probably the best choice.
The stairs led down into a huge cave, where, lo and behold, there was a river of flame, with naked dead people writhing in it. It certainly was hellish; the stairs didn't even have a safety rail. Down on the rocks floating in the flames, giant leggy maggot-worms, just like the ones in Lut Gholein's deserts, brooded eggs. The muscly pinheads from Jerhyn's palace were there too. Were other familiar monsters here, like some of those corrupted Rogues? They paused to look in the river, and while Paige didn't recognize anyone, Mizor thought he did.
Mizor: "Aa! Grrmrullaahg!" (Hey! Grand Uncle Mallog!)
Grand Uncle Mallog: "AAAAAAHHHIIIIEEEHHHHAAAAHHHHH!!!!!"
Mizor: "Uaaalleeghaaauuwaallauhd!" (Uncle, Aunt Hinnadix wants to know where you hid the key to the cedar chest in the bedroom closet! You didn't tell her before you died!)
Grand Uncle Mallog: "WAAAIIIEEEHURSOMUCHAAAAOOOAIEAIEAIEEEEE!!!!!"
Mizor: "Hruf." (Well, fine. Be that way.)
Grand Uncle Mallog had always been an old bastard. Maybe he'd have been nicer if he'd seen this place. Actually, he probably wouldn't have been; he'd have just stood there gloating over all the suffering. Some people are like that, gloat and gloat and gloat like they think they're too good for it to ever happen to them. Mizor was reminded of a certain angel. Speaking of angels, they needed to concentrate on finding this Hellforge thing. This was a good place for a forge, the river sure produced enough heat.
The Hellforge was on a peninsula, jutting out into the hottest part of the flames; it felt warm enough to melt steel. Working the forge was a fat, pink demon who looked... rather familiar, like the Smith who had the Horadric Malus, only bigger. Maybe they were related. After a serious mauling, the demon fell dead, and the Hellforge was theirs.
To destroy Mephisto's soulstone, Mizor placed it on the Hellforge, and smashed it with the Hell smith's hammer. His Maul couldn't break it, strangely, even though the corrupted soulstone was supposed to be fragile. The ways of magic are strange. Mephisto's soul was in the stone, and smashing it would release him back into Hell, but without any connection to the world, so he couldn't go back. The stone glowed in the heat of the forge, and with great pleasure, Mizor pounded it into tiny little flinders, releasing several dead spirits. Who were they, Mizor wondered? Souls the father of hate had devoured? They were gone too quickly to guess at their identity; hopefully, they would go on to whatever reward they deserved.
Among the soulstone fragments were several rocks of gem quality; a perfect sapphire, a flawless emerald, a flawless diamond, and a small demon skull, along with a Tal rune. Fascinating how one stone can produce such variety. After playing with his Horadric Cube for a while (such a useful toy!) Mizor had 5 perfect stones, all very large and shiny. It seemed to Mizor, after a moment's pondering, that this victory called for some sort of celebration. Maybe a trip back to Lut Gholein to talk with that nice fellow from Atma's? No, Paige didn't want to, and the angel seemed to disapprove, so he and Paige played marbles with his gems.
Mizor: "Rrrruf!" (Good shot!)
Paige: "Next time, I'm going after your big topaz."
Mizor: "Hauurrugahh?" (Who are you kidding?) (Shoots, get a ruby.)
Paige: "Why didn't go for the perfect skull?"
Mizor: "Haz." (I was.)
Paige: "Handy things, opposable thumbs." (Shoots, gets the perfect topaz.)
Mizor: "Soeahuum?" (Should we ignore him some more?)
Paige: "He wants us to go back into Hell."
Mizor: "Ahhownel. Rrpprreen." (I don't like Hell. It's depressing.)
Paige: "Hellish, even."
Mizor: "Rrrrfll." (Infernal.)
Mizor: "Prruushs." (Perditious.)
Mizor: "Rrr... rrgadrrul?" (Er... purgatorial?)
Mizor: "Hwin." (You win.)
Tyrael: "The time has come for you to hunt down and destroy Diablo himself."
Mizor: "Aaawwgiigahom?" (Can't we just give him a big wedgie and go home?)
Tyrael: "The demon lord Diablo is the youngest of the Three Great Evils, the Lord of Terror. He is responsible for the destruction of Tristram, and many other cities and towns, as well as the corruption of the last great hero who faced him. He is dedicated to the destruction of your entire world, and all that you know."
Mizor: "Owwunaarrb." (I can throw in a good dutch rub.)
Tyrael: "He is to be found in his Chaos Fortress, conferring with his closest advisors. They are protected by five seals, which you must open to reach the Lord of Terror himself."
Paige: "Wedgies for all! Except some of them might not wear underwear."
Mizor: "Hweerreenowrr?" (Do we really want to know about demon underwear?)
Tyrael: "It is imperative that you complete this task..."
Mizor: "RRWWAAAHHH! Hrrgo." (We know, already! Here we go.)
(Poof, away they went.)
Tyrael: "This does not bode well. Should their courage falter, we..."
Cain: "Please, worry not, great Tyrael. They have not lost their bravery. The trials they have faced were tiring, and they needed time to rest and restore their spirits."
Tyrael: "The trials that face them have hardly begun. If the mortal hero tires so quickly, what hope is there for your world?"
Cain: "They simply lack your experience and knowledge. The first trial a youth faces weighs heavily upon him, as he has known no greater burden."
Tyrael: "Perhaps you are right, mortal. Izual's betrayal has troubled me, and led me to doubt the wisdom of my course. They have brought so much suffering, and my actions may have caused still more. Could we simply be playing into their deception again?"
From the Hellforge, Mizor and Paige fought upriver, finding another angel hovering over the path. Hadriel? Who was Hadriel? Whoever he was, he repeated what Tyrael said about the Chaos Fortress, and wouldn't say anything more. The Chaos Fortress was an awful place, full of demons who threw curses and laughing skulls, and opening the seals unleashed Diablo's advisors. He had nasty advisors, who probably gave nasty advice. The skeleton guy did something really nasty to Paige, for which Mizor pounded him into splinters. Once his advisors had all been disposed of, the fortress shook, and a voice almost as frightening as Mephisto's said, "Not even death can save you from me." Paige shrugged. "Been there, done that."
Diablo was terrifying, and not just in looks. He killed Bear with a bolt of pinkish lightning, again and again, and the Heart of Wolverine spirit. Even with the Spirit, it was hard for Mizor's claws to penetrate the demon's thick scales, and his maul just seemed to bounce away. Paige kept her distance, chilling Diablo with her arrows; the harm they did seemed insignificant. Mizor spent much of his time simply re-summoning his minions, he could not match the Lord of Terror by himself. When Paige was killed by a lightning bolt meant for Mizor, things got really difficult. Mizor drank potion after potion, trying to keep breath in his body. Bear was little more than a distraction now, but a distraction that lasted long enough to summon the Heart of Wolverine again. Almost imperceptibly, Diablo began to weaken, and threw fiery waves and lightning frantically at his foes. Hammering away for all he was worth, Mizor drank his last potion, hoping he'd be able to run if Diablo didn't die soon enough. Diablo chose to kill Bear first, then the Spirit. That bought Mizor enough time. On the brink of death himself, Mizor crushed the back of the Lord of Terror's skull. It was over.