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== THE NOODISTS ADVANCE - Initial Training==
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==Initial Training==
  
 
What follows is the account of the Introduction and initial training of Lycis the Paladin and MeNoHoldThings the Sorceress. January 10, 2003.
 
What follows is the account of the Introduction and initial training of Lycis the Paladin and MeNoHoldThings the Sorceress. January 10, 2003.
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Alex strode through the gore and grabbed Lycis by the shoulders, “You are no longer a boy, Lycis, and you ARE a dangerous sorceress Meno, we have shed evil blood together and are now brethren of war. You have defeated the vileness that is Andarial and the sisterhood can now retake the land they had lost. The passage east is now clear and trade may begin again. This is a great victory, and I am proud to have shared it with such a Paladin and Sorceress as you two.” Then, leaning close to Lycis, Alex whispered, “Now go back to camp, we will clean up here. Celebrate as is your custom, but think of taking a woman, for I sense you need one badly.” Alex cocked his head in Meno’s direction. “Put aside your religious inhibitions for this night and release the tensions within.” Alex laughed with terrible joy, as he turned and glared at Else. Lycis looked in Meno’s direction, but she had already gone. No he thought, I cannot take Alex’s advice. Instead I will leave immediately for Lut Gholein and rehabilitate myself there. I must meditate on the strength to resist the new temptations I have encountered. The caravan, back to camp, Warriv and the caravan……
 
Alex strode through the gore and grabbed Lycis by the shoulders, “You are no longer a boy, Lycis, and you ARE a dangerous sorceress Meno, we have shed evil blood together and are now brethren of war. You have defeated the vileness that is Andarial and the sisterhood can now retake the land they had lost. The passage east is now clear and trade may begin again. This is a great victory, and I am proud to have shared it with such a Paladin and Sorceress as you two.” Then, leaning close to Lycis, Alex whispered, “Now go back to camp, we will clean up here. Celebrate as is your custom, but think of taking a woman, for I sense you need one badly.” Alex cocked his head in Meno’s direction. “Put aside your religious inhibitions for this night and release the tensions within.” Alex laughed with terrible joy, as he turned and glared at Else. Lycis looked in Meno’s direction, but she had already gone. No he thought, I cannot take Alex’s advice. Instead I will leave immediately for Lut Gholein and rehabilitate myself there. I must meditate on the strength to resist the new temptations I have encountered. The caravan, back to camp, Warriv and the caravan……
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==Desert Quests==
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What follows is the account of the party of Lycis the Paladin. January 11, 2003
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Lycis woke suddenly. ‘Why is it still dark’ he thought as he sprang from his cot. “There is foul magic upon the land this day” he whispered to himself as he swiftly dressed. The atmosphere in Lut Gholein was menacing. He could hear the frightened voices of the townsfolk through his window. “I must get down to Atma’s immediately, for I am sure the group will gather there to form a plan of attack.”
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As he entered the Hostel, he was greeted by Wystral, “Ah, Lycis, quick to sense danger and respond, I knew you would be among the first to arrive here.” Others were coming in now and gathering in the back around Alex. There were new faces here this day. Faces that Lycis did not recognize. As he surveyed the room, his eyes met the eyes of several others, all of which responded with a confident smile of greeting and recognition. Ahh, there was Meno, standing at the table closest to Alex and looking as fresh and beautiful as she had in Lycis’ haunting dreams. There was also a pale being standing by itself in the corner. A terrifying figure, resembling the possessed minions of Hell the party had recently fought. White hair and black eyes, clad in black leather, this being must surely be a spy, sent from Hell to report on the plans and movements of our troop. “Ah, I see you have noticed the Necromancer.” Wystral whispered. “Fear not brother Paladin, for he is as faithful to our cause as you are. He commands the dark forces of nature. He has the ability to speak to the dead and raise them to our aid. His power is indeed unsettling to us all, but the minions he can call to arms on our behalf are needed soldiers for the light.”
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A loud crash behind him jerked his attention away from this figure of darkness and he turned towards the door. There, barely framed by the door was a massive man, even larger and more powerful than Alex or Wystral. This was unmistakably a Barbarian. Lycis had heard of such men but had never seen one. He was a mountain, bulging muscles covered his enormous body, and his face carried a wry smile of anticipation. A red loincloth about his waist was his only clothing. Lycis could not help but notice Sinfully’s reaction as this colossal man crashed into the room. Her eyes gleamed, as she slowly sat at the table where she was standing, never looking away from him. Her breath quickened and Lycis could see the flush of desire upon here cheeks. The Barbarian rushed toward Wystral and Lycis. Slapping Wystral on the back, but looking directly at Sinfully, he growled, “Today I will cover my body with the blood of my enemies, I will crush the life from all those that appose me. Alex! Who are the fortunate ones to quest with me this day and watch the destruction I will bestow!!” He winked, unmistakably, at Sinfully and her shudder in response was quite noticeable.
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Alex laughed, the laugh of a true warrior ready for the conflict, “Fear not, Half, I will put you in front of our enemies forthwith. We will quest together this day, and with us this enchanting Sorceress, Texvix. The two Paladins Zak and Naked Fist will accompany us as well.” “Good!” laughed Half, “but make the planning quick for I hunger for battle.” Alex turned toward the group with a grim look, “For you others, I have an important mission. Andarial is resurrected. Wystral and Sinfully will lead a group through the enchanted Weypoint, back to the lands of the Sisterhood, and battle her evil once more. Even now, her influence spreads again through the recently cleansed fields of that land.” Alex commanded through gritted teeth. “My group will remain here, and attempt to discover the cause of this dark affliction on the land. We will quest out from the gates here.”
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Wystral and Sinfully moved together, no doubt discussing strategy for the battle with Andarial. Alex, Texvix and Half were laughing together, they were confident and powerful warriors in their way, and were obviously joyful at the coming battles, as true warriors are. Zak and Naked Fist stood together quietly to one side, raising the concentration and focus they would need in order to provide their party with the powerful offensive and defensive auras they could provide. Lycis turned back toward the Necromancer, and discovered he was being watched. A shiver flashed over his body, and then Naked Dead smiled at him. Not an evil grin or contortion, but a smile of noticeable kindness. The Necromancer’s face was strangely beautiful. His eyes, though black as the deepest night, were soft and the look he was giving Lycis said ‘I am your friend and fellow warrior – I would die that you should live.’ Lycis nodded and returned the smile uneasily. The Necromancer strode quietly over, put his hand on Lycis’ shoulder, and said, “Be at ease young Paladin, today you will fight beside my minions and be glad they are there. Likewise, I will take full advantage of your powers and tonight we will laugh together over the tales of our victories.”
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“ENOUGH DELAY!” Alex exclaimed as he and Half started for the door. “We must be off. Wystral, you and Sinfully take your party through the weypoint to the second level of the Catacombs, dispatch Andarial and return here as quickly as you can. I am sure we will need your help. Remember everyone, Hell’s corruptions are dangerous and cunning, be careful, watch each other’s backs, and we will all be around to meet here at the end of the day. Good luck and good hunting.”
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Lycis fell in line behind Meno as she followed Wystral and Sinfully toward the weypoint at the center of Lut Gholein. One by one the party members vanished as they stepped onto the platform. Lycis followed Meno and in a flash, found himself back in the suffocating evil of the Catacombs. Naked Dead flashed in behind him and the five were once again within evil’s reach. Sinfully took the lead and the party moved swiftly out the closest door and silently into the halls of the Catacombs.
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Monster resistance was light, only a band of carvers or two and a couple of Arachnids were all they had encountered. They rounded a corner and entered a great hallway. As they moved down the hall, weaving in and out of the tombs of fallen kings, the scent of brimstone grew stronger and a faint glow in the darkness ahead became visible. Suddenly, slashing carvers and their shaman were among them, having rushed them from a dark hall to the left, they were outnumbered 10 to 1 and fought furiously for their lives. More Carvers attacked from the direction they had been heading, Sinfully and Lycis met the Carver advance with fury. The Shaman fell and the Carvers broke and fled back down the corridor. Sinfully, Lycis, Naked Dead and several of his revived minions pursued the Carvers, while Wystral and Meno followed, after finishing off the remnants of the first assault.
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The party chased the Carvers down the hall and into the waiting ambush. They had unwittingly rushed headlong into the source of the brimstone scent and red glow, Ghoul Lords, half a dozen at least and the same number of their faithful arachnid pets. Carver Shaman were there as well, and the fleeing Carvers, whirled and attacked. Meteors fell like hail and exploded around them. The flames of hell unleashed, the party threw themselves into the fray. Lycis and Meno rushed into the midst of the Ghoul Lords to confront the master lord and as they smote him, great bolts of lightning flashed from the mouths of the wounds they inflicted. The lightning engulfed Lycis and indeed the rest of the party. Lycis felt the lightning and was paralyzed by its power. His life fled his body as bolt after bolt slashed him. He panicked and fled headlong back up the corridor until he could no longer feel the burning. Once free from the lightning’s paralyzing effect, Lycis downed a healing potion and turned to see Meno, his magnificent and secret desire, standing fast against the evil master lord, trading blow after magic blow with the evil priest. She had not fled. She had remained and her powerful magic filled the darkness with hopeful light. Beside her was Sinfully, slashing with both hands as the blood spewed from her foe. Wystral was there too, commanding the elements, turning fire against the lords, unleashing the earth itself, and Naked Dead , with his hands, commanding the attacks of his reanimated minions. Lycis felt stifling shame rush over him and he plunged back into the battle. With the combined efforts of the five fighters, the enemy was soon defeated. It was quickly apparent that all were alive, and without discussion or complaint, the party quickly moved off searching for the stairs that would lead them to an even greater enemy, Andarial.
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The group quickly found what they searched for and after the brief and devastating battle with the lair guards they stood at the great door. From the other side, the group could hear the menacing grunts of what Wystral called Hogmen. The group stood quiet, listening. “Ready?” Wystral asked in a determined voice. All nodded. Wystral stepped forward and threw open the doors. The Hogmen rushed out in a furious attack and met death as Lycis, Meno and Sinfully formed an impenetrable wall. Naked Dead move left into the lair and commanded his revived dead to attack. Wystral followed and opened the earth before Andarial’s attacking minions. The five moved together into a tight group and, as Andarial rushed out to attack, they met her head on. She perished almost instantly, as the concentrated power of the five warriors engulfed her. There was little time for celebration. Wystral was the first to overcome his battle fury, “This work is done. Now back to Lut Gholein, for Alex and his party must surely need our strength.” His magic portal to the Rogue Camp blazed to life. The group leapt into the light, traveling instantly to the camp. In what was only seconds, the entire group, using the mystic weypoint in the Rogue’s Camp was assembled around Cain in Lut Gholein.
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“Hurry” Cain exclaimed, “Radament is loose in the sewers and must be stopped. While he lives, no one in town is safe.” “Where are Alex and his party?” Sinfully inquired. Cain answered, “they left the gates hours ago, they must surely be nearing the maggot lair by now.” Wystral, having lost patience for this conversation, interrupted, “Never mind - Alex and the party must be safe, or they would have abandoned the quest until we returned.” He added, “Now we must protect the town – quickly, to the weypoint and the sewers.”
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The party gathered at the weypoint deep within the sewers. They could hear the sounds of Radament’s minions echoing through the cold halls. They fought constantly, moving from battle to battle, as they made their way toward Radament’s sanctuary. The battles became more intense, as Radament’s minions became more numerous in each new passageway. Suddenly, they were upon him. Sinfully, Wystral and Lycis charged through the ranks of the guards and fell on Radament with vengeful fury. The battle raged around them, as the three together, blow by blow, extracted the last measure of life from the possessed demon. With Radament vanquished, the town was again safe, but there could be no rest, as darkness continued to engulf the land.
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They rushed through the magic portal back to town. The oppressive darkness remained. Wystral was obviously worried, “There must be trouble with Alex’s group. There has been no word for hours, and no portals to suggest they have at anytime returned to town. Cain has not seen them and they would surely have spoken to him.” His worry turned to grim determination, “Hurry – to the gates. We must begin the search at once.”
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The party tread heavily through the gates and into the Rocky Waste beyond. Pain, fatigue, hunger and thirst were growing within each of them. Lycis’ body had long since become numb to the torturous pace they had been keeping. Battle melted into battle, as the trek became a seemingly endless bath of blood. It is difficult to know how long they traveled, but as they moved deeper into the Dry Hills, the party’s strength finally failed. Wystral and Meno were spent. The level of concentration they had maintained for so long during the day’s fighting could be sustained no longer. “We must retire.” Wystral’s weakened voice was filled with frustration. “Meno can barely stand, and my powers can no longer be sustained. We must all go back to town, for it is too dangerous for you three to quest further alone. Hopefully, there will be some word from Alex.”
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There was indeed contact from Alex’s party. They had reached the entrance to the Maggot’s lair and were preparing to enter. Wystral, Meno and Naked Dead retired to their quarters above Atma’s to rest and recuperate their powers for the days of conflict to come. Lycis and Sinfully joined Alex’s group in the Far Oasis, at the mouth of the Maggot’s lair. “It is best that we split up here,” Half advised. “I agree,” replied Alex. Half beamed with relief and power at the sight of Sinfully. He grabbing Sinfully around the shoulders and spoke to Alex, “I will take this useless Assassin with me to protect her, and the young Paladin, Lycis, as well. We will together storm the Viper temple and recover the sacred amulet while you and the others secure the Horadric staff from the maggots.”
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Half move off at a terrific pace. Sinfully at his side obviously reenergized by the presence of her heart’s secret desires. She was a gorgeous creature, even now, covered with the gore of her destroyed enemies. Her body was strong and sensual, her dark hair flowing about her shoulders as she ran beside the giant she loved. She was joyful to be reunited with him, but he would yet not know, for she must keep this desire to herself, else he might reject her and she could not bear the thought.
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At the pace set by Half, they reached the entrance to the Viper Temple quickly. With little delay, the three, led by Half raged through the entrance. The three warriors waded through the Salamanders that greeted them at every turn. They battled through zombies that spewed poison as they were slain, and burning skeletons thrown into their path by great Mummy sorcerers. Onward they fought, deeper and deeper into the temple. Half belted out rejuvenating warcries as he fought. Warcries that bestowed renewed vigor to Lycis and Sinfully as they struggled against the evil before them. Through the door into Fagskin’s lair they rushed. The three together cornered the great master of reptiles in the corner and bashed him into unrecognizable pulp. The assault was done. Lycis climbed the alter and released the amulet from its cradle. “Now – back to Alex and the Maggot Lair for he may still need our help there.” Half commanded.
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Indeed. Alex and his party had been slowed by the closeness of the lair’s passages. Having reached the inner lair where the queen spawned her faithful, the entire party could not squeeze in to battle the multitude of servants she had attending her. Half and Lycis took the portal from town, directly to the lower level and raced toward the queen’s sanctum. They made their way into the lair as the others followed. The crushed bodies of the queen’s young filled the chamber knee deep. The remaining young and attendants sprayed poison wildly around the chamber as Lycis, Half, and Alex pounded whatever moved. Lycis quickly fought his way to the queen as did most of the others and pummeled her repeatedly. She was fat, and pulsed with pain as they gashed her, her inner slime spraying on all that assaulted her. The slime ate at the skin as acid, and the fumes sickened and weakened Lycis to the point of submission. She burst into gore with a final belt and the last of her young were destroyed. Alex struggled through the depth of the gore to the chest and took out the staff. Its brilliance shone through the darkness of the chamber and the entire party laughed with the joy of victory. “Back to town everyone.” Alex exclaimed. “Our work in the desert this day is done.” The party raised a tired cheer as they stepped into the portal.
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The returning members gathered around Alex outside the door to Atma’s. “Grim work we have done this day my brothers. Andariel has been vanquished again. The threat that was Radament is no more. The desert lands beyond these gates have been cleansed. We hold the sacred relics of amulet and staff that will open the passage to Mephisto’s prison that we may slay him. Our victories this day will live in the songs of the druid for ages to come. Rest now, all of you. Soon we must again don the visage of warrior and press forth our pursuit of the three.”
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Lycis staggered down the street toward his room above Drognan’s store. His mind was blank, only the burning need for rest pushed him forward. As he fell onto the cot, and his body relaxed, blackness filled his mind, surrounding a distant figure growing closer and closer – Meno……..
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==''Interlude''==
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''January 15, in the year 903.''
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''It is very late, on the night of the third day hence, that I staggered out of Alex’s portal following the redemption of the Maggot Queen. I wonder now, whether it was wise of me to choose this path for my trial, as I fear we are all quickly approaching redemption. I had heard so much about the brave and terrible warriors in the east, exploits of such daring against evil that it stirred my heart. The time of the beginning of my trial had past and my elders pressed me that I should choose a path, so I committed to finding this band of redeemers and joining them.''
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''I am beginning this journal as a result of a soulful revelation following our recent battles with the evil threatening to overtake the land. It is clear to me that many of us, if not all, will receive eventual redemption at the hands of Hell’s minions, and go to live with our ancestors in the fulfilling light of eternity. These great warriors, who have accepted me as friend, and who have fought at my side in the defense of the light, must be remembered for more than their great victories. They are, all of them, simply people. Each with powers and abilities beyond those of ‘normal’ men and women, but each sharing the same fears, loves, desires, hopes and dreams of those ‘normal’ folk they fight for and must ultimately leave behind. The ‘normal’ folk should never be allowed to forget who they were. Therefore, I have started this journal to chronicle, for history’s sake, the people who selflessly defend mankind from evil.''
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''As I traveled eastward, searching for the group, everywhere I lingered could be heard stories of the eight. I began to hear names in the accounts of the group’s exploits, as I trekked further east and closer to my goal. Alexander, a fierce and terrible warrior-druid, from the forests at the foot of Mount Arreat was the leader. Wystral his companion, a cruel hearted and bitter druid from the same village, with powers to open the earth and swallow any that displeased him or fell from his favor.''
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''There was Half the Destroyer. In many of the stories I heard, Half fed on the children of the village people where the group rested. Afterward, he would crush the skulls of the fathers with his bare hands and then take the mothers to his bed, that should he return to the village sometime in the future, there would be an ample supply of tender flesh to sustain him. I heard tales of Texvix, the beautiful and mysterious black widow sorceress, whose seductions were irresistible to all men, and deadly to all that succumbed. She left dead men behind everywhere the group stopped.''
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''As I was a wandering Paladin apprentice, town’s people warned me of Sin, a mage-killer. She would summarily execute every priest and holy man in any village the group passed through in the name of her “mission”. She would, however, spend up to an hour with each one in a private room prior to the execution. During this time, wild screams of erotic joy could be heard coming from the room. There were stories of the bloodthirsty Sinfully, another mage-killer. These stories of Sinfully chilled the heart. She would set traps around the village designed to terribly wound an unsuspecting villager. Once wounded, the villager would be ‘mercifully’ put to death. Sinfully would supposedly coo, purr and laugh as she took hours to finish off the unfortunates that fell into her traps. The accounts of her tortures were often told in great detail, leading me to believe that they must be true, as they were too terrible to be conceived from the imagination.''
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''Zak the Inquisitor, a fellow Paladin, was renounced in all accounts as a priest whose judgments always meant death to the accused. Zak, recognized evil in all, and held terrible inquisitions of torture, forcing confessions from villagers to fit his whim. The tales I heard would always end with an account of the terrible necromancer, Naked Dead. He was apparently present at all executions and killings in the village and would raise the fallen villager to dance for the party’s pleasure at the lecherous feasts held every night around the village fire.''
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''These were typical of the descriptions I heard as I traveled. At each occasion I would ask, “Why did you permit this – why did you not run away?” The answer was always the same. “What could we do? They are strong – we are weak. Besides, we knew that when they left, the land would be cleansed and we would be again free.”''
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''Of course, I know now that these accounts were all false. During my travels however, I feared, at times to continue my quest. How could I join such a band of monsters as these? The tales of the destruction that these same monsters bestowed upon Hell’s workers kept me going. How could such great warriors for light conduct such evil? The contradiction had to be reconciled. Now I have become a contradiction as well, and shudder at the unknown way I will be described in the late night accounts of countless villagers across the land.''
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''As a boy, I believed such tales of conquest, greatness and evil as if they were spoken from the mouth of the creator himself, and would recount them to any who would listen as such. Now, I realize that most of my childhood dreams of glory and goodness were based on lies. I understand now that it is the frailties of men that guide and influence their judgments.''
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''Today was a glorious day. January in the desert is quite pleasing as the sun was warm but the air cool and refreshing. I woke late and lingered in my room, skipping breakfast at Atma’s. I could hear the voices of several of my fellow ‘Warrior Monsters’ as they went about their business in the town. From my window above Drognan’s store, I could see almost the entire town of Lut Gholein.''
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''“Hullo Lycis!” called Naked Dead as I stuck my head from my window. He and Zak were heading towards the town mall; both were carrying an armful of wildflowers they had just picked outside the gates of town. “I have been bending Zak's attentive ear, burdening him with my troubles, while we picked these wondrous flowers for Atma, and now we are returning them to adorn her tables. Come, join us.” “In a minute, I’ll meet you there” I returned. They walked on, continuing toward Atma’s with a laziness that suggested they were enjoying each other’s company, and didn’t want to leave the warm sunlight. There, across the street, in the town mall, were Alex the Terrible, Wystral the Bitter, and Half the Destroyer, playing Nash with a group of boys.''
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''Nash (translates loosely from the barbarian tongue as ‘crunch’) is a simple, yet rather brutal game enjoyed by most Barbarian and Druid boys. The men were teaching it to the boys of Lut Gholein as I watched. Two teams of ten, twenty ten-inch diameter, sand-filled leather balls per team, two four inch wide boards suspended three feet above the ground, and two fair sized stones, are needed to play the game. Five boys from each team stand shoulder to shoulder, each team on their own board. The boards are parallel and about twenty feet apart. The team members on the boards are called nashers. The five remaining team members from each team, stand around the boards, they are the gatherers. The object of the game is for one team’s nashers, using its leather balls, to knock all the other team’s nashers off their board. Of course, the gatherers retrieve the balls for continuing action. A “Battle” is complete when all the nashers of one team have been felled. A stone is advanced one slot on a ten-slot scoreboard after each battle. The team that wins ten battles – wins the game.''
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''The boys were all standing around laughing while Wystral and Half demonstrated the game. Wystral was standing on one board, while Half stood on the other. Alex was laughing so hard he could hardly stand, as Wystral continually pelted Half with ball after ball, while Half, filled the air with a joyful melody of taunting that, I’m sure, could be heard in Kurast, across the eastern sea. Half was, of course, unaffected by Wystral’s attacks. His song had awakened me this morning.''
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''Near where the men and boys were playing, Sin and Sinfully lounged in the sun around the mall pool. They were talking and laughing together, probably about the men and their antics. It is obvious to me, if no one else, that since we returned from the maggot lair, Sinfully has never strayed very far away from Half. I have never seen them actually together, but she is always nearby. Sin, on the other hand, unless she is with Sinfully, is usually alone, but she does not sulk. While she does not ever take the lead during the playful antics of the party members, she is always quick to respond with a laugh and a warm smile. She is, however, always strangely vigilant. Her eyes are constantly darting back and forth, looking for what, I cannot tell. I’m sure, that she would instantly know if a stone on the street were out of place.''
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''I have spent the last two nights at the hearth of Drognan. He is a wonderfully friendly man and I have learned much about the town and its history from him. I have also learned much about Texvix from him as well. She was not trained by the Zann Esu as is usual for the female mage. Instead, she was apprenticed to Drognan many years ago when she was a young woman of seventeen. He shared with me stories of her apprenticeship and the times she spent with him and his wife, before some internal, deeply rooted, motivation forced her to leave Lut Gholein and begin searching. She is perhaps the oldest member of the party, although Alex and Wystral have probably lived as long. She is uncommonly beautiful, and does not seem modest as she wears the low skirt and halter as is common with members of her clan. She has been very friendly and warm to me these few days, but seems always distant, as if her mind is elsewhere. Her eyes, while glowing, warm and friendly, cannot conceal an inner pain and conflict that she must carry with her. I do not know what this pain is, nor does Drognan, but it is plainly with her always.''
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''There are more than just eight now, but I am tired and have many days to fill this journal. There is Else, Numsay, Naked Fist, and several others, and there is always Meno.''
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==Duriel's Redemption==
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What follows is the account of the nOOdist quests of 1/18/03
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.”
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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.
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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.
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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.”
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!”
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As expected, the group stood once again in the desert. To their left was another of the mystic waypoints. 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.”
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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.
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<br>
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==''The Voyage East''==
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''January 22 in the year 903,''
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''We have been at sea now four days. Meshif says that we may reach Kurast by the end of the day tomorrow, given calm seas and fair winds. We have had both since we left Lut Gholein and this fair ship has sped eastward without mishap.''
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''During the first full day of the voyage, Meno and Zak moved around the deck caring for our wounds, as they were great indeed. Meshif’s wife, skilled in the making of potions and salves, provided us with healing medicines, as Zak meditated, providing a healing aura that greatly quickened our healing. Meno’s presence, her tender touch and warm smile, cannot be over estimated in their healing powers. She grows more beautiful to me with each passing day. I have looked close, as she attended my wounds and as we have talked these past days, for some sign that she has favor for me, but alas, there is none that I can detect.''
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''The warm days and cool nights aboard the ship have been soothing for us all. We grow stronger each day, yet the voyage has not been without challenge. While we grow stronger, there are a few of us that are not accustomed to the sea. The amazons, of course, are happier now than I have seen them at any time. Being from the islands of the twin seas beyond the eastern shore, they are happiest with the sea air in their hair. They have been recently quick to laugh and are frequently standing at the bow with their faces to the wind, their golden hair flowing behind them, the sun on their bodies adding to the deep tan of their skin. They wear almost nothing over their luscious bodies, and I find it both very easy, and extremely difficult to look upon them.''
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''In great contrast to Else and Howsit; Half, Alex and Wystral, the strongest among us, have been debilitated by the voyage. It is really quite comical to behold. These three great and powerful men, descended from the barbarian race, and guardians of the secrets of Mount Arreat, have been reduced to sickly sheep. They hang constantly over the stern rail, pale and weak from the constant rocking of the merchant vessel. The amazons never miss an opportunity to point out that sea sickness is a malady only common to children, the old, and the weak. The three assassins, Sinfully, Sin and Numsay attend the needy three, and add to their misery with chiding of their own. Sinfully has been especially hard on Half, yet has not left his side since the voyage began. It is quite clear to me that Sinfully is deeply in love with Half, yet he gives no indication, other than a quick glance on occasion, that his feelings for Sinfully are any deeper than that of friend and comrade in arms. Sin and Numsay are there as well, obviously attracted to the two druids. This relationship, between Numsay, Sin, Alex and Wystral seems a paradox to me, as I am quite sure that Alex’s heart is sparked by Texvix, and Wystral seems distracted and clumsy whenever Else is near. Yet, the four are playful with one another and seem to enjoy each other’s company.''
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''As I have lain on my pallet, recovering from the grievous wounds received during my foolish rush into the midst of the mummies in Tal Rasha’s tomb, I have watched Texvix and Meno for I am deeply attracted to both. Confronted with Meno’s young breathtaking beauty and fiery confident manner, I was stricken the first moment I saw her at the fire in the Rogue’s Camp, so many days ago. I know, that should I survive this trial, and live to old age, I will carry this love always. The feelings I have for Texvix are deeper still, and have grown as I have watched her and talked with her since the first days of our quest. We have talked together of home and family, of past trials and quests, and of our hopes for the future. She has suffered much in her life, betrayal, abandonment, and the hopelessness of living day-to-day with no love of self. I watched her today, sitting for hours at the ships railing staring out over the expanse of water, longing for self acceptance, and perhaps even more, a companionship with a man she can give her heart to without fear. She longs to let down her guard and accept love as love is given. Though she has not said it, I think she sees Alex as the man that can provide the kind of love her heart desires. If it were only me.''
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''Zak has spent much time with Texvix during these past four days. They have talked long at the ship’s rail and around the fire barrel in the cool sea evenings. I’m sure she has confided in him far more than me, for Zak has a soothing way about him. I have confided in him myself, as has Naked Dead and several others. It is easy to talk to him as he listens intently and has the wisdom to give advice when it is asked for. Above all, he is honest to the core, and therefore, easily trusted.''
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''I can hear Half coughing, and Sinfully’s soothing voice in response. The night is dark, and the sound of the waters about the ship sooth my mind and make me drowsy. I am calm and at peace this night. Perhaps it is a sign, for it has been longer than I can remember since I have felt this way. I think I will seek out Meno – perhaps she will want some company.''
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<br>
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==Jungle Madness==
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What follows is the account of Lycis' party January 25, 2003
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The morning of the fifth day of the voyage east dawned hot and wet. Clouds had moved in overnight and it began to rain shortly before first light. Temperatures each day had steadily increased as the company sailed east toward the jungle realm of Kurast. The humidity had become quite uncomfortable and its effect on the group began to show, as tempers were shorter and moods heavier.
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“Alex!” Meshif called from the stern tower, “we will be in Kurast before dark.” Alex waved a weak hand in Meshif’s direction and moaned, “Thank the Heavens! One more day of this dreadful rocking and I would surely die!” Half grunted a short approval and Wystral simply rolled over and covered his head against the rain. All around the ship, the members of the company were bracing themselves against the rain that was growing heavier. Zak, Lycis and Naked Fist, were putting the finishing touches on a makeshift tent shelter over the stern-quarter, large enough for the entire party to rest under. The company was gathering slowly under it. All except for Wystral, who remained prone against the stern-rail. Sin, Sinfully and Meno helped Meshif’s wife fill small portions of hot porridge into bowls for the companies breakfast, but Numsay remained at Wystral’s side, sitting quietly next to him and sheltering him from the constant rain.
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The company ate quietly. The mood under the tent was heavy and tense. The morale of the group was low this morning, except for Lycis and Meno. Meno hummed pleasantly while she served the porridge and Lycis sat to himself with a distant smile on his face, as if he was recalling some sweet memory over and over in his mind. Meno handed the last bowl to Lycis, and then taking her own, sat down next to him and began to eat, still humming contently.
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Alex sat down heavily next to Texvix, and was quickly joined by Sin. He raised his head and offered a weak smile to the gathered company, “Today we reach Kurast. I have never been there, but Cain tells me it is a fair place, with kind folk, temples and markets where we may get needed equipment repairs and supplies before we set out on our pursuit. When we arrive, Naked Dead and Zak will scout the city to find the party provisions. Texvix, Meno, Lycis and Naked Fist will secure for the party accommodations at some appropriately comfortable hostel. Half, Wystral and I will accompany Cain to gather what information we can about Diablo and Mephisto. Else, Howsit, and the Assassins will stay with the ship and await our return.” There was little reaction from the company, other than a couple of nods, to these directions. Satisfied that each member knew their assignment, Alex leaned back against Texvix and closed his eyes. Texvix held him tenderly and stroked his forehead. Sin hesitated a moment, as if she would protest the situation, then rose to help Meshif’s wife clean up.
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The rain continued into the day. Land was sighted shortly after breakfast and the ship hugged the densely jungled coastline all day. Shortly after land was sighted, and the ship neared the coastline, Alex, Half and Wystral began to grow noticeably stronger. Now, as the ship rounded a small peninsula, bringing the docks of Kurast into view, the three stood at the bow in silence. The sight of the ruined and rotting docks was disheartening. All day, the company had been anticipating the return to civilization and the luxuries that awaited them. Nothing could be seen on the shore but a small stone landing completely surrounded by Jungle. “How can this be?” cried Cain, as his eyes filled with tears. “Glorious Kurast has surely felt the power of the encroaching darkness. This great city, reduced now to molded stone and rotted wood, was once the hub of all trade in the east. You could see the towers of its temples for miles.”
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The ship slipped quietly along side the landing. The amazons leapt from the bow onto the dock as Meshif cast the painters to them. In a blink, the ship was secured. Alex stood next to Cain at the railing with a troubled look, “So, this is the fair city of Kurast. We shall find no rest or help here.” Alex turned to the company gathered behind him, “Everyone pair up and spread out through the docks. We will gather back here in a short time.”
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The company spread out over the docks, disappearing down the rotting walkways in all directions. After a very short time, they were all back at the ship, all except Texvix. She was crossing the main walkway back toward the landing and the group, with a great smile on her face, and behind here strode a Barbarian, his body and face painted as if he had just been in battle. “Look what I have found.” She said in a happy voice. “This monster stopped me and declared that he has been pursuing us for weeks.” Texvix was looking at the barbarian almost lovingly, “He says he wants to join us”
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Half pushed quickly to the front of the group, now crowded around Texvix, Alex, and the barbarian, almost knocking everyone to the ground in his obvious excitement. “Ancient – it is you.” Half bellowed in delight. “By the Ancients, I thought my eyes were deceiving me as I watched you approaching. I had given you up for dead.” Ancient’s face beamed as the two barbarians grasped shoulders, “Half – the last time I saw you, you and Alex and rest of the company were striking off East from the Rogue Camp as I turned South to join the battle there. You were singing that horrible traveling song. By all that is glorious in battle, it is good to see you again.” As if on cue, the two huge men head-butted one another, staggering both. As they recovered, laughing joyously, Half turned to Alex, “Our company is surely graced Alex, for we again boast the two greatest warriors of the barbarian race.” To which Alex quickly responded with a laugh, “And I won’t venture a guess as to which of you is the greatest. Ancient, you are truly welcomed back among us.”
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Alex turned toward the group smiling, “For those of you more recently joined, this is Ancient, one of the original members of our troop. Honor him with your friendship and support, as you have already honored each other. So, what did we learn scouting the docks?” “No accommodations are to be found here, Alex.” Lycis answered. “Nor provisions,” Zak added. “There is a metal worker, a mercenary group, a chemist, and a strange priest-looking fellow in tattered robes that speaks with incomprehensible riddles. There is also a mystic weypoint.” finished Texvix. She continued, “This is my home city, but I can tell you that I do not recognize this place. There should be wide streets leading from the mystic weypoint here at the dock into the city proper, where the bazaar, and great temples reside.”
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“Cain and I have discovered that a dark stranger has been here just recently. It could well have been Diablo himself.” Alex began, “The jungle has been taking over the land for several months, and the growth speed is increased. There are stories that the members of the High Council have been possessed by Hell’s power and that the entire jungle down to the sea is crawling with the possessed minions of the dark.” He looked out over the jungle and sighed, “We have grim work ahead here, and no mistake.” Then turning back to the gathered company, “We will make camp on the land immediately outside the docks, gather what provisions we can, and begin the search in the morning.”
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That night, as the company slept, Alex, Wystral and Half sat talking quietly at the campfire. Alex began, “Half, you will take Lycis, Meno, Else, and Sin, and scout into the jungle. Stay along the streams and do your best to locate what remains of the main city of Kurast. Cain tells me that there are mystic waypoints scattered throughout the jungle. Do your best to locate them.” He continued in a hushed voice, as he detected stirring in the sleeping company, “Wystral and I will remain here, and with the rest of the party, scout the coastline above and below these docks to clear the surrounding jungle of any evil that may be threatening these folk.” Half nodded, “Don’t worry Alex. If Kurast is still out there, we will find it.”
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The warm rain, which had ended shortly before nightfall, had begun again to fall sometime in the early morning. Half and his company; Lycis, Meno, Else and Sin, gathered at the bridge leading into the jungle. The only clear path was along a fetid stream that passed through camp on its way to the sea. The water was black, and smelled of mold and rot. It had a brownish green slime about an inch thick over the top, and bubbled menacingly. “Everyone ready?” Half asked quietly, his great shoulders tense and his eyes twinkling with the anticipation of expected battles. All nodded. “Stick close together, Else and I will lead, Meno and Lycis next, Sin you’re the rear guard. Lets go.”
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The party moved off down the trail following Half’s instructions. It was not long before enormous mosquitoes and biting flies continuously swarmed them. The hated insects were everywhere, and as they fed on the company, great welts rose on the skin where their bites landed. They pushed on, swatting and slapping at their antagonists, deeper in to the jungle. They met large groups of small and ferocious pygmy-like natives that attacked them with broad bladed daggers and long blowguns. They were terribly fast and the short and intense battles with each group took their toll.
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The jungle seemed endless, full of dead ends and side trails that led to nothing but more jungle. On more than one occasion, the party found they had been traveling in circles, as they found themselves surrounded by the remnants of a previous battle. But with grim determination, and very little complaining, they would pick a seemingly new direction and begin anew. Down one trail, one the group was sure they hadn’t been down before, they came upon a clearing. In the clearing were ruins of some long abandoned temple, the collapsing walls were covered with flowering jungle vines and mold. Throughout the clearing the ground was covered with thick spider webs that grabbed their legs and made walking difficult. In the middle of the ruins, and where the webbing was thickest, there was a mound with a gaping black hole large enough for a man to walk through bent over. Lycis could feel the evil within and said, “Half, we must go in and cleanse this place. The evil is strong here, I feel it.” Half simply nodded and without orders or planning, the group followed him through the hole.
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When Lycis emerged from the tunnel into the underground chambers, Half, Else and Meno were already battling in the midst of a dozen giant spiders. The spiders lunged with protruding fangs and spit streams of acid poison that burned the flesh. The fumes from the dying spiders filled the air and sickened the entire group. Lycis charged into the battle to stand beside his fellow warriors, and together the five smote and slashed and punched and stomped the life from the hated animals. They moved through the underground passages slowly, battling spider and maggot, one after the other, progressing inch by slime covered inch onward. They fought their way into a large chamber with a great golden chest in the center surrounded by the largest, and surely the most ferocious spiders they had yet encountered. The spiders and the party charged one another simultaneously and met in the center of the room with a tremendous crash. The group fought feverishly and one by one the giant spiders exploded into slime as crushing blow after crushing blow fell upon their armored bodies. Finally, as Meno exploded the last ghastly foe with a terrible spell, Sin knelt and deftly opened the great chest.
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The chest was full of wondrous treasure; gold, jewels, magic weapons from ages lost, and a small translucent vial, with an eye preserved in a foul smelling liquid. “What a strange artifact to be found amidst the treasure is this eye.” Lycis mused. “I will take this and show it to Cain when we return to camp. Perhaps he can put meaning to this unique find.” “Good.” Half replied. “Now let us get out of this foul place. Back to the entrance and onward into the jungle.”
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Half and Else were speeding up. The day was half gone and the urgency to reach the main part of Kurast and be back in camp by nightfall was growing. With the change of pace, came a change in luck as well. Shortly after leaving the spider cavern, they found their first mystic weypoint. Very quickly after leaving the weypoint, the company charged into a small native village and was assaulted by dozens of its occupants. The battle was tedious as the Flayers (as Half called them) darted in and out of the company using sharp knives as weapons. At the edge of the village, a ritual fire was burning, and Meno found a beautiful dagger on the body of a fallen Flayer Shaman there. “Here is another mysterious treasure for Cain to consider.” She announced to the group. “I may perhaps use this to my advantage until we return to camp.” She showed the blade to Lycis with a look of deep satisfaction on her face. In the middle of the village was a doorway in the ground leading into darkness. “Half, we should take these steps and explore here,” Else suggested, “as I am sure there are more of these beastly pygmies to be found there, and I don’t want any to sneak up behind me in this foul jungle.” “I agree with Else.” Sin added, responding to a questioning look from Half. “Down it is then.” Growled Half, and the party entered the darkness.
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The group entered what was obviously a dungeon. The air here was thick, foul and heavy and the walls oozed black slime from long cracks too numerous to count. Else had been right as the passageways were filled wall to wall with the ghastly pygmies and floating apparitions as well that drained a man’s energy with each blow that he landed. The battle was continuous throughout the dungeon, and the party moved slowly forward. The enemy grew more ferocious with each step forward, as if they were protecting something precious to them. The company crashed into a large room in the center of the dungeon, and was met by a dozen Flayer Shaman guarding a great golden chest, much like the one they discovered in the spider’s cavern. The evil rushed upon them, spewing flame from their mouths as the party battled furiously. Lycis chanted a meditation to bolster the group’s resistance to fire as they landed blow by cruel blow to the heads of the demons. After a final gruesome exchange with the leader, the battle was over. Sin easily opened the chest. It too was filled with glorious treasure similar to the first. “Look!” exclaimed Meno, “here is another vial, though larger than the one Lycis carries, and it too has some organ preserved in it. Cain will surely be busy tonight.” “Back to the light!” retorted Half, “this place sickens my heart.”
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Half did not allow any delay after their return to the village. He and Else moved off quickly down a new trail. The day was growing late, and the light was failing, and they still had not reached Kurast. The jungle, however, was beginning to grow thinner in places, and the foul creatures they had fought all day were scarce. As they rounded a small grove of trees, they stood at the end of a stone bridge, and beyond the bridge could be seen the remnants of a stone road leading to a huge vine covered stone gate. “Kurast! At last we have found it, and just in time too.” Half laughed loudly. His mirth was short lived, as striding out through the gate toward them was a host of huge tree-like giants, with massive needle sharp thorns sticking out from their skin. Half did not hesitate, belting out an earthshaking cry, he charged headlong into the giants, followed closely by all. In the middle of the pack of monsters stood the largest, and the party, as if with one will, battled through the pack to its side. They fell on this one with a fury they had not felt all day, and as they cut him and bashed him, great lightning bolts shot out, engulfing them all. Lycis laughed, for unlike his first encounter in the catacombs with this type of lightening enchanted demon, he was prepared and meditated a lightening resistance aura that protected the entire group. The monster fell into a lifeless knot and they quickly finished off his protecting minions. The gates to Kurast were open before them and they walked through with victorious confidence.
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Just inside the gates, and behind a curiously well-maintained building, was the weypoint they hoped to find here. Without discussion, the weypoint was activated and the party instantly appeared back on the docks. Alex was there and greeted them, “Well Half, did you find Kurast?” “Indeed.” Replied Half, “and much more. Lycis and Meno have several curious artifacts that Cain must decipher. The jungle is indeed full of vile evil creatures, and without the destruction of the corrupting forces creating them, I am sure the ones we destroyed will be replaced ten-fold by the time we return.” Agreed.” Alex answered, “but before we venture out again, we must all recover from the wounds suffered during today’s battles and Cain must be given time to inspect your discoveries and consider their implications to our quest. So, my brave scouts, wash the slime and gore from your bodies, dress your wounds, and join us in camp at your convenience to discuss today’s events. The fire is warm, the tents are dry, and the company is fair, and we will hold council when you are all ready.” Meno moved quietly to Lycis’ side as Alex spoke, and as he finished, she took Lycis’ hand and led him away toward the less frequently used wells at the outskirts of the docks. He followed without protest, and thought to himself, ‘It may be some time before I get back to the company’s council fire.'
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<br>
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==The World Should Rejoice==
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What follows is the account of the party of Lycis the Paladin, February 1, in the year of the light 903
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The clouds were low and thick and the rain was pelting down. The air was hot and steam rose and hung like clouds all around them. “Today my brothers and sisters, we continue our search for Diablo and Mephisto in these festered jungles.” Alex was saying, “the scouting party found the way to Kurast through the jungle and, once there, we will be able to quicken our pursuit. Cain has examined the artifacts returned by Lycis and Meno following the scouting foray. He has also conducted interrogations of several of the hateful creatures we captured from the vicinity of these docks. He has new information for us.” Cain stepped forward and with a stern look, and a determined voice began to speak, all listened, “My brave friends, the news is far worse than I had originally expected. Mephisto is in Kurast. He is imprisoned under the main temple of Kurast in the sanctuary of Travincal. The possessed members of the high council surround the entrance to this labyrinth prison constantly attempting to gain access. They are being controlled by an Orb left somewhere within the city, a Compelling Orb, that ‘compels’ the subjects of Kurast to do evil. This orb can only be destroyed by a magic flail that may be crafted in the Horodric cube. The preserved body parts found by Lycis and Meno are the remains of Khalim, the powerful head of the high council that refused to do Hell’s bidding. His magic flail is also somewhere in Kurast. You must find Khalim’s flail and heart and craft the flail with his other artifacts to create the weapon that will destroy the Compelling Orb and grant access to Mephisto’s labyrinth prison. This mission is the only one of importance here in this jungle. Khalim’s eye was found in the spider caverns, his brain discovered within the Flayer Dungeon, I would expect that the heart be in Kurast. My interrogations lead me to believe you will find the heart in the sewers there. You must get to Kurast as quickly as you can and press the attack. I expect you will meet Mephisto and his brother Diablo this day.”
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Sin stepped forward, “What news of Diablo?” she asked. Cain held her stern gaze and hesitated, and then looking at the others he answered, “I have no facts, but my guess is that Diablo seeks to free Mephisto so that together they can escape to Hell and rally the dark minions there for the final assault on humanity. I expect he has not yet reached Mephisto and that you are close behind him. You must all act quickly now.”
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“Cain is right, there is no time to lose now!” Exclaimed Alex as he pushed his long rain soaked blonde hair back over his head. He continued urgently, “We must strike out at once. We will begin at the weypoint south of Kurast and cleanse the jungle from there to the gates, so as not to leave any evil to fall on us from behind. In Kurast, we will thoroughly search the buildings for evidence of the artifacts Cain speaks of. Howsit and Ancient will lead. Wystral and I will follow close behind the leaders with Zak. Lycis in the middle for energy support with Numsay as rear guard. Now, to the weypoint”
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The party flashed through the weypoint in the Flayer encampment, formed the battle grouping that Alex had ordered, and moved swiftly into the jungle. The Druid’s wolves raced ahead and repeatedly alerted the company to upcoming evil with their howls. The party raged through the jungle, the noises of battle echoing through the dark woods. Ancient’s battle songs bolstered the company’s strength as they met Gloam and Drowned Carcass and Flayer companies with deadly fury. They were moving very swiftly through the jungle now, ever northward toward the gates of Kurast. Just as Half had reported after the scouting mission, the evil destroyed by the scouts had been replaced and as the company stormed the gates of Kurast, they were met by the great lightning enchanted Thorn Beast and his minions. The group’s momentum was barely affected and they smashed through the beasts and into Kurast.
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On through the lower part of the city the group moved with speed and purpose, spreading utter devastation to any that opposed them. Few words of encouragement or instruction were needed this day from Alex, his company of death moved as one, each knowing the order of battle and each doing their part to perfection. This day, the party was unstoppable. The two Paladins, Lycis and Zak flashed the perfect auras for every situation, the Druids cast their nature forces into perfect positions for every attack, and Howsit, Ancient, and Numsay were together a wall of destruction as Numsay was no longer needed as rear guard, for they left none alive behind them. In this manner, the party swept through Lower Kurast, the Bazaar and Upper Kurast and finally rested briefly at the entrance to the sewers.
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The group stood together in silence, breathing hard from their exertions. Lycis could not help but notice the painful beauty of the two women standing together. Howsit, her blue eyes gleaming, her lips bright red and her face flushed from the excitement of battle, stood proud and defiant. Her blood-soaked tunic clung tight around her revealing every curve, every muscle of her amazing body. Numsay, smaller than Howsit, her lithe body tense, her dark eyes afire, her full lips also a bright red, and her face flushed, stood next to Howsit. The clasps on Numsay’s leather vest had been cut in battle and the vest did little to cover the full and luscious body underneath. They were looking at the men, there red lips slightly parted in a breathless smile. Lycis felt a hand on his shoulder drawing his attention away from the two awe-inspiring beauties standing before him. It was Zak, and as Lycis looked around he could see that the women had not gone unnoticed by the other men. They were all looking at the two women with expressions of awe and desire and Numsay and Howsit recognized this. As Lycis turned back toward the women, it became clear that they were looking at the men in the same way, each of the women looking at each of the men in turn, with admiration and desire. For a moment, which to all seemed an eternity, the two sexes stood and admired one another. Finally, Ancient broke the silence with a lustful laugh, “If I should stand here and stare at you beauties but for a few moments longer, I would have to snatch one of you up and quench my growing desire.” The moment passed, and the party relaxed with tense laughter and deep breaths, but it was clear to each member that the desires kindled during that moment would not pass so quickly.
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Alex, looking into the entrance to the Kurast sewers, spoke in a hushed voice, “Cain tells me that the sewers have been infested with unspeakable horrors. This is where we should find Khalim’s Heart. We will move slowly here and stay close.” He motioned towards the entrance and his wolves sprang in and disappeared. “Leaders go – and remember all – stay close.”
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Following close behind Howsit, Numsay, and Ancient, the group moved down into the dreaded Kurast sewers. The smell was overwhelming, and the darkness engulfed them, the sense of doom was as thick and ever-present as the smell. They stayed tightly together and moved slowly through the maze of walls and slime filled trenches. Much to their relief, they met only skeletons, zombies and a few gloam bats as they worked their way through searching for the next set of stairs. Their confidence grew as the horrors Cain had spoken of failed to confront them and they entered the second level of the sewers in high spirits. A brief battle ensued with another group of zombies and one very determined slime snake, and the heart was theirs. “Now, out of this hell quickly, the foulness of this place is making us all ill.” Alex ordered. The group sped back through the sewers and emerged into the same constant heat and rain they had left just moments earlier. As they passed out into the open and moved away from the sewer’s entrance, each had a flash of memory of the group encounter at the entrance earlier. They each knew the memories of that moment would haunt them for a long time. The troubling recall was quickly swept aside however, as they followed Ancient toward the causeway to Travincal and the certain confrontation with the possessed High Council.
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As the group entered the causeway, Lycis and Zak could see the temples rising up within the walls of the central complex of their Zakarum faith. Their hearts could not help but be stirred by the sight, as this place had been, over the ages, the destination of countless pilgrimages of brother Paladins. Great hatred welled up within them both to think of this place soiled by the presence of Hell’s creations. The company stormed ahead crossing the causeway with great speed and crashed headlong into the Temple Guards and Infidels that blocked their path to Travincal. The two captains of the enemy were great lightning enchanted creations of Hell and the bolts spewed forth with each terrible blow the warriors landed. The Paladin’s auras provided ample protection for the company as the causeway defenses were crushed.
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The group rushed into Travincal and for a time separated into two groups. Lycis, Zak, Numsay and Howsit split off from the group and pursued a group of fleeing Ghoul Lords along the sanctuary wall in response to an order from Alex to secure the perimeter. Not until they had made the west wall did they realize the rest of the party had remained at the gates and they were isolated. The Ghoul Lords however, recognized their situation immediately, and rallied around their captain and pressed the attack. The four fought valiantly and defeated the Lords at the West wall before returning to the group at the gates. Once reunited, the party searched the defiled buildings of the temple sanctuary for the mystic weypoint they knew to be there. The possessed Zakarumites fought furiously at every turn and through every door but were no match for the power of the party.
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The High Council, aware that the party was sweeping through the complex, took up a defensive position within the main temple at the North end of the complex, to guard the Compelling Orb. The conflict on the steps of the main temple was tumultuous indeed, as one by one the powerful members of the High Council fell to the power of the light. “What’s this evil at work?” Yelled Alex. “The body count is light. There still remain High Council members unaccounted for. I fear Diablo has taken them with him to free Mephisto – we may be too late.” As the rest of the party members gathered their wits and breath, and contemplated their possible failure, Lycis quickly liberated Khalim’s holy flail from the dead grasp of Torc Icefist and, invoking an ancient magic portal, transported back to the docks to transmute the flail with Khalim’s other relics. Lycis returned almost immediately, and using the transmuted flail, smashed the Compelling Orb with a mighty blow, freeing the remaining population of Kurast from the dark powers that possessed them. At the instant the Orb shattered, the bloodstained alter within the temple where the party was gathered sank into the floor revealing a dark passage underground. “This must be the entrance to the prison labyrinth Cain spoke of this morning.” Alex exclaimed. “Hurry – we may yet catch Diablo before he reaches Mephisto.”
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With little discussion and grim determination, the group formed into battle order and entered the dark passage toward the much-anticipated meeting with the Prime Evils within. They entered a terrible place, blood lay in pools about the floor and great piles of shattered bone and mutilated flesh were found in many rooms. Great hulking giants, fire throwing Ghoul Lords and walking dead met them in every room. Hell itself was now under attack, and Diablo’s minions would not yield.
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Howsit was a skillful guide and quickly found the stairs leading to the second level. Hell was ready for them as a group of Hell’s most powerful champions met the company at the foot of the stairs. They had scarcely cleared the stairs when meteors came raining down upon them and walls of flame sprang up all around them. They could see the Champion Ghoul Lords at the back of the room furiously casting their devastating fire spells. But between the Ghoul Lords and the company stood four champion Giants.
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“ATTACK MY BRAVE WARRIORS – ATTACK!” Alex commanded, and the company slammed into the giants as one mighty fist, and as if controlled by some divine power, all concentrated their blows together on one giant at a time. Under the combined power of the entire group, the giants could not stand and exploded into smoldering heaps under the assault. Seeing their advance guard decimated, the Champion Ghoul Lords attacked, but they proved to be little trouble and each fell quickly. Howsit, Numsay and Ancient lead on and again quickly found the stairs to yet another level of this Durance of Hate the party found themselves in.
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The group plunged down the stairs onto the third level and knew immediately they had reached evil. The air was heavy with the smell of fire, blood, and electricity, as the powers of Hell were preparing to thwart their advance, and protect their evil leaders. They stormed forward and met another group of High Council members at an archway into the hated chambers. The battle raged and they could see Diablo across a moat of blood removing the heavenly bonds that held his brother Mephisto. “NOW WITH FURY MY BROTHERS” Alex raged. “MEPHISTO IS FREED AND THE TWO ARE MOMENTS FROM ESCAPING!” The company together destroyed the last of the council and raced for the passageway to the other side of the blood moat. As they swept through the last of the evil guards and into the main chamber Diablo slipped through the portal. Mephisto’s fury and hate was stifling as he flung himself at the charging company. “YOU ARE TOO LATE!” his booming voice filled their hearts and souls with terror, “MY BROTHER HAS ESCAPED YOU, AND HUMANITY IS DOOMED!” Alex’s voice could be heard above the horror “HAVE FAITH MY BROTHERS, THE POWER OF THE LIGHT IS WITH US – ATTAAACK!!” They fell on Mephisto with a power and a fury unmatched in the annals of human knowledge. The battle was brief yet terrible to behold and the death shriek released as evil was vanquished was deafening.
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They stood over the crumpled and still hideous body of this great evil and knew they had taken the first step toward freeing the world from the certain doom planned by Diablo.
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The seven were too exhausted to speak, but all looked at one another with breathless smiles and deep satisfaction. They were, the seven together, bonded for all time in this moment. All had survived another day in the war against evil and won a tremendous victory for the light, but they knew this to be but one battle. The war continued. They turned toward the portal Diablo had taken, and as they stepped into it one-by-one, they thought ‘The world should rejoice!’ but knew it would not be so as none but they knew of this great victory.
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<br>
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==Soul Devastated==
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''February 4, In the Year of The Light 903''
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''I am exhausted, lonely, and depressed. We have been only hours yet here surrounded by the beauty and terror that is this Pandemonium Fortress. This place is the gateway between Earth and Hell, staying the forces of evil from spewing into the world of men. Alex, Wystral, Ancient, Zak, Howsit, and I spread out under the columns after we emerged from the portal from Mephisto’s defeat. Numsay, without a word, sat next to me against the back wall, and leaning her head on my shoulder, rested, occasionally snuggling closer. I put my arm around her and felt shame and guilt over the arousal that consumed me. God she was so beautiful, as all the women of our party are. They are all strong, brave, and selfless – each would be the kind of companion any man would treasure. Yet I am conflicted, my heart was stolen in the Rogues Camp so long ago and now it is betrayed. She can bear no fault, she has no ill-intention – I know this. One thing I have learned is that the heart chooses, and we have little power to influence the choice. Yet this gives me no comfort. Meno, if you could but feel the power of my love you would be swayed – yet alas no. It would make no difference, as her love for him would entertain no usurpers.''
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''We split up into bands of 7 or 8 before we left the docks of Kurast, what seems ages ago. This was the strategy, as Alex felt that he could not risk all to fall together, as one group must, and would surely succeed in reaching Diablo and Mephisto. As it happened, my group was the first, the battle raged, Mephisto fell and Diablo escaped. Shortly after we came here to the fortress through the portal, the other groups began to appear. Bloodied and exhausted as we were from their battles in the jungles. Meno stepped through and my spirits soared, but she turned to greet the new barbarian, Justa, who came through behind her. She fell into his arms at the portal. As they embraced there, he looked at me with an expression of apologetic defiance, as I sat there with Numsay. They turned away together and he led Meno away to a quiet corner where they sat together.''
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''I am crushed. My spirit has fled my heart. I have not the desire to continue this conflict to save a world that I should live in without her.''
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''Numsay, the wondrous creature that she is, had seen. She stirred, kissed my cheek and whispered to me, “Lycis, you are the kindest, most selfless man I have ever met. You are greatly desirable and my heart beats hard in my chest when I look at you. Meno’s heart has chosen and nothing you can do will change that. You are still the same kind, strong, and brave man that you were when her attentions included you. You have not changed, and nothing you have done has influenced this circumstance. I have admired you from afar for many days now, your quiet and innocent strength harder to resist with each passing day. That moment, today at the entrance to the Kurast sewers, has defeated my inhibitions and I must share with you now my heart.”''
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''Numsay’s words still echo in my mind but my soul is devastated. It is difficult to focus on anything outside of my misery. Yet I am resolved to let go. The short beauty of the moments Meno and I shared will be with me forever as a quiet refreshing pool I may drink from in times of spiritual and emotional thirst. She is gone, I love her still!''
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''Alex, Wystral and Half are talking quietly to Cain and Tyrael. I know we will soon be moving into Hell to seek Diablo. Numsay is here close, Zak and Naked Fist are resting near. Texvix and Ancient are asleep together. Texvix is changed. Just as I was loosing Meno, she was reunited with Ancient. The pain that once shown so plainly in her eyes has diminished. She is clearly happy and content to be near him. Sinfully is there sitting close to Half. They no longer try to hide their affection for each other, but they have yet to disappear together as others have done at times. Sinfully’s sister Sin is there near as well, but she has seemed more troubled lately as the Druids and the Amazons seem to have developed a closer bond. Watching my friends resting together, sharing the kindred that has bonded us together, is comforting.''
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''The distant shrieks and moans from Hell beyond the stairs of the fortress is reminder that we are all maybe moments away from redemption. We will all together, very soon descend the depths into Hell and press forward the battle and the war. Should I fall to the evil beyond these walls, I pray that I be accepted and judged fairly by the creator, that I be remembered by my friends here as a brave and selfless warrior, and that Meno will not forget my name.''

Revision as of 23:40, 19 February 2017