The Noodists Advance - Duriel's Redemption
What follows is the account of the nOOdist quests of 1/18/03
The grease ran down his chin as Lycis sank his teeth into the hot and juicy rib that three hours before had belonged to a fatted calf donated by Jehryn. As Lycis chewed, he said a silent prayer on the calf's behalf, thanking it for its sacrifice. It was the early evening of the sixth day since they had returned from the horrific struggles in the desert around Lut Gholein. The group had gathered at Atma’s for the evening meal and knew that Alex would speak to them. Lycis continued the discussion momentarily preempted by his assault on the flavorful rib, “….how can I expect to focus on battle with the images of these women constantly in my head?” he asked Zak. “I think of them continuously. Meno, she is constantly in my thoughts. First, thoughts of sweetness and fulfilling friendship, then suddenly, erotic images of deep lust and desire, and as soon as I banish them, I see Sinfully, or Else, or Texvix or any of the other women. They are all so wondrously beautiful in their ways. What am I to do Zak?” Zak smiled and shook his head, “Lycis my brother, you must let go of the arcane teachings imprinted on your poor young mind during your years of training. I know, I know, ‘how can I let go of something I have lived for so long?’ you ask. Look, no where in the Zakarum teachings does it say that celibacy must be maintained on your path to enlightenment. It’s a myth, perpetuated by the high priests that found the minor distractions of the female irritating because their students preferred the company of a pretty girl to the strict studies of the Zakarum. All your short life you have been told that these feelings, your young man’s body and mind can’t help feeling, are corrupting and will lead you to darkness. I say this, have you ever had these feelings in the midst of a battle with a Carver, or skeleton, or berserked beast; did a lusty vision of Meno or Texvix or Sin stay that terrific blow you landed to the forehead of Andarial – NO! My boy you must follow your heart of course, but you should, at least, let it explore a little. After all, you are an ample man in your own right, and you will find that your struggle against these ‘inner demons’ is one battle you cannot win.” Zak was staring at Texvix as he said this. “That woman is truly luscious, but her melancholy weighs on my thoughts. She is troubled, and could use the kindness of a friend. At the proper moment.” Lycis grinned, and Zak belted out a laugh that attracted a glance from Texvix, who smiled warmly with those troubled green eyes.
Alex, Half and Wystral were ready to finish off the entire hindquarters of the calf and being scolded by Sin, Sinfully, and Numsay for not leaving enough for the others. “Half, I can’t believe that you and those two Druids are seriously going to eat the entire hind of that calf.” Sinfully chided. Wystral looked up at Sin and addressed the feeding barbarian, “Half, do you hear a buzz – or perhaps some faint chatter as that of crows in the distance?” Wystral grinned. “Indeed Wystral,” Alex answered, “it sounds much like the endless nagging of a woman!” Half ripped the calf in half and said, “It couldn’t be – only these three mage killers here – I see no women near enough to be nagging us.” “AAAGGGGHHHHH!!!” cried Sinfully and they all laughed together as Half, tearing large sections of the roast meat off the bones for each of them, burst into a feasting song that certainly must have filled every corner of Lut Gholein, Alex and Wystral joined him, raising their tankards high into the air in salute. It seemed that this Barbarian had a song for every occasion.
Else and Howsit sat there at the same table and laughed and sang with the men while the three assassins looked on with wide grins of approval. These two amazon women had befriended one another almost immediately. They were truly intimidating. Both were tall and tanned with excruciatingly ample breasts and muscular bodies. They were the female version of a Barbarian. It truly rose the temperature of a man’s blood to look upon them. However, Lycis considered each of them unapproachable for most men. They seemed to only be attentive to the words and deeds of the three, Alex, Wystral and Half. To all other men, while they would respond in a polite and friendly manner, they acted aloof and uninterested.
The party had healed well over the few days since the last struggle. The warm days had past too quickly, and now they knew that this would be the last night before they must again go forth in the pursuit of the three. Though unspoken among them, they knew that Diablo would not wait and that he may have already freed his brother Mephisto from Tyrael’s prison in Tal Rasha’s tomb. Yes, Cain had related the legends to them in the evenings at Atma’s. They all now knew Diablo’s mission. Alex stood and bashed heavily on the table – all fell silent immediately.
In his warrior’s face and voice he began, “My friends, we have lingered in this quiet and loving village of Lut Gholein far too long. Cain presses me daily, and even though I have resisted him for your sakes, I know he is right. Tomorrow we must resume our quest against evil. Even now, Jehryn reports the evil is encroaching within the cellars of his own palace. We begin there tomorrow. We will first investigate the strange occurrences in the palace cellars and then strike out into the desert in search of Tal Rasha’s tomb.” The high spirits of everyone in the room fell except Half. The gleam of battle filled his eyes. I watched Sinfully slip quietly beside him and lean against his massive shoulder. I watched Texvix smile nervously at Alex as if to say ‘I can quiet your tortured heart’, and I watched that beautiful smile fade slowly from Naked Dead’s face as he and Naked Fist shared a warrior’s look from across the room. Zak laid a hand softly on Lycis’ shoulder and said, “Tonight would be a good night to let your heart loose my friend, for this may well be the last night your soul dwells on earth.” Lycis looked up at Zak and smiled. Meno was away on a special mission, and while the other women of the party stoked his desires he knew there could be no satisfaction in their arms.
The next morning dawned cold and clear. The sky was as blue as Alex could remember ever seeing it. ‘How could evil flourish under such a magnificent sky?’ he thought as he strode through town towards the palace. The group gathered in front of the palace and Jehryn was there. “They are all dead. I have sent two groups of palace guards into the cellars below the harem levels and none have returned.” Jehryn croaked. Choking back tears he added, “You can feel the evil.” Alex responded grimly, “We will cleanse your cellars my friend, and then we will deal with Diablo and his brother.”
The group moved into the palace and down to the Harems. The halls were deserted, and strange noises filled the air with foreboding. In places the walls oozed blood and the group paused briefly at the stairs to the first level of the cellars to fortify their courage. Half, and the two amazons, Else and Howsit, led the group down the stairs and onto the first level. Alex, Wystral and the three assassins were close behind with Texvix, Naked Fist and Lycis as rear guard.
They had scarcely entered the first level when the group was attacked by a group of eight Dune Beasts. These abominations were all that were left of the members of Jehryn’s guards and had been transformed by Hell’s possession into hideous six-armed monsters. They wielded poison-coated scimitars in each of their six hands and towered over even Half. The group rallied together as Half, Else and Howsit stood against the initial attack. Texvix moved in and cast her life stealing static fields as the two druids, Lycis and Naked Fist lunged into the battle. The Dune Beasts were quickly defeated. The group moved off into the convoluted halls and rooms of the cellars, battling Blunderbores, horrible giants of great strength, Horror Mages, skeleton wizards that cast fire from the forces of Hell that resided within them, and Dune Beasts at almost every door and around every turn. They fought their way down to the third level, making sure to leave none of Hell’s evil children behind to spawn anew. They moved together as a tight group, each member knowing their place in the battle line, each member understanding the role they should play in the fighting. The destruction of Hell left in their wake was terrible to behold, and as they approached the center of the third level, Hell’s warriors fled before them, only to be quickly struck down as they ran.
They entered the small room at the center of the lowest level of the palace cellars, and there before them, stood a great archway. Built in the shape of some forgotten rune, the arch blazed with a blue light. Naked Fist stepped up to the arch. He stood there for some seconds, moving his hands over the runes carved into the archway, and said finally, “The runes on this archway tell of a ‘Summoner’, a wizard of great power that calls forth the dead and possesses the living on behalf of the darkness of Hell. My guess is that he uses this portal to transport his created evil into these cellars. If we are to cleanse the evil within this palace, we must go through and deal harshly with what is on the other side.” Alex and Wystral looked at one another, and for the first time, Lycis sensed fear in the leader. “Where does the portal lead?” Else asked nervously. “It is not clear from these runes where or what the destination of the portal is.” Replied Naked Fist. “However, there is reference to a spectral plane of existence, perhaps that is where the portal leads?” Texvix, sensing the great leader’s hesitation, stepped close to Alex, looked into his eyes, and said softly, “There is no other choice here my friend. We must go through.” Alex reached down and laid a tender hand on Texvix’s cheek, “It is not for myself that I fear, but it is difficult to lead friends into the unknown. The burden is great.” She held his gaze, and spoke again, in a firm but comforting voice, “You are the greatest, kindest and most generous man I have ever met. I have vowed to follow where you should lead, no matter the reason or the result. There is not a member among us who would not trade their life for yours. But you must not forget, my friend, that our lives are already forfeit as we have each committed to this grim work.” Lycis could not hold back, “Texvix is right Alex, we all know, and have accepted the fact that we could perish at any moment. We have accepted the risks and you must lead us where we must go.” Alex looked around at the faces of his brave company; the grim and determined looks bolstered his confidence. He looked at Wystral and Half and they were surveying the others with expressions of pride. “Very well then – through the portal – Half you lead.”
They emerged from the portal onto a seemingly dimensionless platform with two sets of curved stairs leading down to a four-way intersecting walkway. In the center of the intersection was a familiar yet surprising sight, a mystic weypoint. The weypoint was the only thing familiar about the place where they found themselves. A depthless black void, a nothingness, surrounded them everywhere. The only evidence of tangibility was the dimensionless walkways that went off in four directions. “Which way?” asked Lycis. “It matters not. Half, choose a direction and lead on.” Replied Naked Fist. Half considered each way in turn, then with a shrug, he and the two amazons moved out onto a walkway.
The walkways were narrow and only one member could pass at a time. It was extremely unnerving, as they could not tell whether the blackness was void or solid. Would one fall or be repelled. Lycis pulled a small dagger he had picked up after a battle and cast it over the edge. It disappeared into the blackness. Half laughed, “it would not be wise to fall off the edge brother Paladin.” The narrowness of the walkways meant that the group leader, when confronting the enemy, had to battle alone, as the others could not get around to join in the fight. The walkways connected periodically with large platforms, where large groups of the evil combatants waited. On several occasions, Else or Howsit would rush past Half, overcome by their battle fury, and face the onslaught on the narrow walkways, only to have their retreat blocked by the rest of the party as they crowded forward, desperately trying to strike a blow in aid to their comrade. This produced several close calls, and brought about a new strategy. The party would try to rush from platform to platform, where there was ample room to maneuver during battle, and avoid facing the enemy on the narrow walkways. This new strategy proved successful for the most part, and they advanced steadily from platform to platform, delivering destruction to all that opposed them.
They battled over the walkways for what seemed hours. Wave after wave of energy stealing ghosts, fire lords and hell clan attacked and were vanquished. In time, they found themselves on a platform with a walkway to the right leading to a set of stairs. The stairs led down to a small platform and then up again to a larger platform surrounded with great pillars. Standing on the platform, in blazing scarlet and purple robes, was a wizard surrounded by hell clan warriors and ghosts. “The Summoner – he is here,” yelled Wystral. The rogue mercenaries that traveled with the party from the west, moved forward and let loose a barrage of distracting arrows at the Summoner and his minions. Alex called to Half, “Take the Assassins - I will raise my wogs at his side while the rogues continue their ranged assault. While he is distracted, attack.” The hasty plan worked perfectly. Alex cast his spell and the wog soldiers sprang to life at the very side of the Summoner. The wolves tore into him as the rogue maidens picked off his minions. Half, Sin, Sinfully and Numsay rushed to his side and waylaid him and he fell, letting out a great soul-wrenching shriek as he died.
An open book rested on a pedestal in the corner of the Summoner’s platform. Naked Fist strode up to it and began to read. After a few seconds, he called out to the others, his voice filled with excitement, “This is an ancient Zakarum Tome that describes the battle between Tyrael and Mephisto. Here are the descriptions of the Seven Tombs of Tal Rasha, a map of the road leading there, and the symbol that marks the one tomb holding Mephisto’s prison. The tombs are located in the Canyon of the Magi – East of the Far Oasis, but the canyon can only be entered through a secret and guarded portal. This is precisely the knowledge we need to find the tomb and set ambush for Diablo and Mephisto, except that there is no description here of the portal or how to find it.” At that very moment, in a blinding flash of red light, a portal opened beside Naked Fist. Howsit laughed, “Ask and ye shall receive, Paladin.” Alex seemed excited. He had a light in his eyes, and he said, “Well, we have come this far and I have no desire to keep Diablo or Mephisto waiting. Through the portal everyone!”
As expected, the group stood once again in the desert. To their left was another of the mystic weypoints. In the distance, they could see a long cliff and carved into its walls, the entrances to seven tombs. “ONWARD TOWARDS THE CLIFFS!” exclaimed Alex, and Half and the Amazons moved off with great speed following Alex’s wishes. They encountered several groups of Gargantuan Beasts, some wandering Sand Cats, and a troublesome mob of Sand Maggots as they worked their way from tomb to tomb along the cliff wall looking for the tomb marked with the same symbol as that discovered by Naked Fist in the Zakarum Tome. “Who has the staff?” Half called back to the others as he ran. “I do.” Replied Lycis. Their excitement was growing as they reached Tal Rasha’s tomb. With little delay, only enough time to regroup, Half, Else and Howsit led the group through the entrance toward the inevitable encounter with Diablo and Mephisto.
They entered the tomb into a hallway leading off to the left and disappearing around a corner. They headed off around the corner and into a group of a dozen Zombies. The battle was fierce but short. As each Zombie perished under the party’s crushing blows, it spewed forth clouds of poison. The reek filled the air with death. One by one, the party became infected until they all stood gasping and coughing. Howsit was the worst. She could not shake the ill affects and stood, doubled over, hacking and vomiting, until at last, Alex cast a magic portal and carried her back to Fara for healing. While they were gone, the group rested. They had been charging the entire day, only pausing once during the discussion at the portal to the spectral plane. The group was approaching exhaustion and needed this rest badly. Alex and Howsit returned after what seemed only a few seconds. Without a word, the group moved off together down the dark sand-filled corridors of the evil filled tomb.
They fought master mummies and their minion skeletons in every room and every corridor as they searched for the key room that Cain assured them they would find. The resistance gained in force and they knew they were getting close. They stormed into a room and stood face to face with ten mummies who blew poison at them and delivered cruel blows with sickle bladed arms. They retreated back into the previous room and Alex yelled above the battle’s fury, “DO NOT ADVANCE. HOLD YOUR PLACE. ROGUES - POSITION YOURSELVES AND FIRE THROUGH THE DOOR. WYSTRAL - CAST FISSURE AND WOLVES THROUGH THE OPENING. WE WILL WEAR THEM DOWN. WHEN THERE ARE ONLY TWO OR THREE LEFT THEN ATTACK!” But too late, Lycis, feeling the overconfidence brought on by the success of the day’s battles, rushed headlong into the waiting mummies. He was immediately poisoned as he rushed into the mummy’s debilitating breath. The mummies swarmed around him, cutting and slashing him with their sickle arms. Lycis immediately realized his foolishness and struggled to break free. Just as it looked as if he would perish there in the lonely halls of Tal Rasha’s tomb, Wystral charged forward. He and his wolves confronted the mummies, allowing Lycis to break free and escape back through the doorway. Wystral followed close behind. “YOU YOUNG FOOL!” Wystral bellowed. “DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT YOU ARE MORTAL! ARE YOU THAT ANXIOUS TO JOIN YOUR ANCESTORS! STAY BACK AND FOCUS YOUR POWERS ON INCREASING THE DAMAGE WE MAY DO AS WE ATTACK!” The Druids and the Rogues continued the attack while the rest waited for the mummies to fall. One by one, Hell’s mummies died under the assault. Half, standing at the door yelled, “NOW – THEY ARE WEAK – ATTACK!” The party charged through the door and fell on the remaining mummies and destroyed them. All was quiet. Before them was the pedestal where the staff should be inserted to open the way to Mephisto’s prison where they hoped they would surprise Diablo and Mephisto together planning the destruction of humanity.
It was decided that the attack order that had proved so effective all day would be maintained for the assault into the prison. Everyone nodded their readiness and Alex nodded to Lycis. Lycis stepped onto the pedestal and inserted the Staff of Kings into the slot. There began a faint hum that soon grew into a roar. The ground shook and for a moment it seemed the walls and ceiling would crash in on them. Lightning flashed from the staff and crashed against the chamber’s far wall creating a black opening. Once again silence filled the room. The party took a collective breath and then lunged into the opening expecting to meet Diablo and Mephisto on the other side.
Instead, a hideous creature confronted them. Part insect and part crab, this huge monster was covered with a hard shell and emitted incapacitating cold. For a brief moment, the group hesitated with confused horror. Half rocked them into action with a war cry that stunned the great monster. He charged, crashing into the monster with a force that made its powerful body shudder. Alex and Wystral called forth six great wolves that lunged into the fray, tearing great mouthfuls of flesh from Hell’s evil creation. The Druids continued their attack calling forth the earth and wind to aid them. Lava flowed up under the creature burning its flesh away as great winds tore at its scaly back. Texvix rushed forward and hit the demon again and again with her powerful life reducing static field. The assassins combined in a whirlwind of devastating martial arts attacks and lightning traps while the Paladins fortified the group with defensive and offensive auras. Naked Fist dove into the battle and bashed the bug repeatedly with his shield. Working together in this way, the monster was no match for the group, and was soon reduced to an oozing pile of slime and gore.
The company rushed into the main chamber expecting to press the attack against Diablo and Mephisto. Instead, they stood face to face with a beautiful creature, shining bright with the inner radiance of grace and goodness. The company stood in awe. Alex whispered, “You are Tyrael, the Archangel who captured Mephisto and held him in this prison.” Tyrael floated above their heads as his beautiful voice filled their minds, “Aye Alex, yet I have failed. Diablo has come and freed his brother in spite of my efforts. They raised the vile creature Duriel to kill you all as they knew you were close behind. You and your party of brave warriors are too late and they are loose together in the world again. They journey yet eastward to rendezvous with their brother Baal. Should the three unite, humanity will be doomed to evil domination for all time. You Alex, and your small party of brave adventurers are humanity’s last hope. Take this portal back to Lut Gholein and embark on the pursuit of Diablo and Mephisto immediately.”
Alex turned toward the company and commanded in a tired voice, “Through the portal and back to town. We set sail across the eastern sea at once.” The party emerged from Tyrael’s portal and quickly scattered to their quarters, to collect the few possessions they carried with them. In ten minutes, Meshif was loosing the painters of his merchant ship and unfurling sail for Kurast. They were all together again as Meno and Zak had returned from their mission. Lycis slumped down at the bow and gazed out over the sea as the ship slipped out of the harbor in pursuit of evil. He could not help but think that he had looked on the friendly people of Lut Gholein for the last time. The wind came up and the ship lunged forth into the expanse of the green sea.