|A Paladin's Tale|
This is a Diablo2-fanfiction, so if you don't like D2, don't read any further! ;) I tried to give some background info to make it easier to understand for anyone who doesn't know D2, yet it might not have been enough and this info might make it boring for those of you playing D2. I hope you'll enjoy it anyway! :)
Prologue – Randorin’s account
May I present myself? My name is Randorin and I’m a paladin. One of those who were taught by the few who left Zakarum when Mephisto took over the High Council. You want to hear how it all started? But I’m sure you all know already about the time when there was supposedly a revolt in Hell where the four lesser prime evils managed to throw the three prime evils Diablo, Mephisto and Baal out of Hell. No? You don’t? Well, it was a bad time for humanity. And if the arch-angel Tyrael hadn’t gotten involved, maybe none of us would have been able to live till this day. But forgive me, my thoughts are wandering. I was telling of the first time the three prime evils wandered on Earth. Tyrael chose the best mages of the different Mage-clans to form the Horadrim. And those Horadrim managed to ban the three prime evils into the three Soulstones Tyrael had given them and buried those stones at different corners of Earth. Now humanity would be safe – or so everyone thought. Diablo’s Soulstone was interred below a huge maze of catacombs in Tristram; Mephisto’s Soulstone got incarcerated in Travincal. Baal’s Soulstone had gotten chipped, so Tal Rasha himself, the leader of the Horadrim and the most powerful of the Mages, gave his life to keep Baal captive forever: he had the Horadrim run the sliver of the Soulstone into his body and let himself be entombed alive in the Valley of Mages. But not even the Soulstones were enough, as we of the Order of Zakarum were the first to find out in sorrow. My teachers fled Kurast and as the tale of this reached Archbishop Lazarus from Tristram, he decided to take a look for himself. Woe him! He fell under the curse of Mephisto and was set under geas to free Diablo. And so he did, betraying everyone in Tristram. He stole High King Leoric’s son and gave him to Diablo so the demon would have a new body to inhabit! Then he led most of Tristram’s able-bodied men into a trap, setting them up to be killed by the powerful demon only known by the name of The Butcher. Deckard Cain, the last of the Horadrim, already thought everything would be lost, when a great Hero came. He conquered the whole maze of catacombs and after slaying Archbishop Lazarus managed to win through to Diablo himself. He won – barely – but knowing that the Soulstone alone wouldn’t be enough to keep Diablo safely entombed, he ran it into his own body, hoping thus to keep the world safe. His battle to contain Diablo began that night and lasted many a day and night. Alack, he lost. And that’s where my tale begins…
Chapter 1 – Randorin’s account
What had happened to Tristram had come to our knowledge in our refuge. I had just been made a full paladin and I asked for the honour of proving my worth by investigating this. The Elders didn’t like it but finally accepted to send me. They found a powerful Mage who could open a portal to a safe place near Tristram, and so I got sent there. I looked around a bit astonished when I suddenly found myself inside a Camp in the wilderness instead of a proper town – or the Rogue’s Monastery as I’d expected actually. But Warriv soon told me about what had happened. The sisters were of course very distrustful towards me. At first this shocked me, how could they distrust a paladin? After a bit of thought of course I had to accept it only made sense – with what was happening right now. And I probably wouldn’t trust a stranger who suddenly appeared in my Camp either…
Well, to make a long tale shorter, they asked me to deal with a few monsters that were threatening them before they’d accept to trust them. I performed the first and second quest, no expecting actual rewards for them. But when Akara offered to teach me a new skill, I gladly accepted of course. It was only Kashya’s reward that gave me a bit of a shock. She told one of her rogues to accompany me from now on! I didn’t want anyone accompanying me! Having to watch out for someone would only slow me down! I was used to moving fast. How would a frail girl be able to keep up with my longer stride? And moreover I had already met the monsters I’d be up against till I won through to Tristram. I was hoping that I’d be able to withstand them but this mere girl? “I thank you very much. I’m honoured,” I said to Kashya, “But it’ll be way easier for me alone.” I sighed when she insisted. “By getting rid of Bloodraven who was waking our dead and threatening us, you’ve done us a great service. Let Alyssa repay it.” I took a quick look at Alyssa and when I saw the hero worship in her eyes, I had even more misgivings. But not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings I finally accepted her company…
Chapter 2 – Alyssa’s diary
5th day after having left the Monastery
A paladin in our Camp? I couldn’t believe it when I saw him step out of the Portal. I watched him surreptitiously whenever he was in the Camp and listened to everything he told from outside. When he came back as victor from the quest Akara had set him, I begged Kashya to let me accompany him when he was going after Bloodraven. She just looked at me coldly and told me to mind my own business. “Show me first that you’ve mastered your cold arrow and Inner Sight.” I sighed and complied. Even young as I was, I belonged to the best among those having specialised in cold – at least now that so many of us had died or had been brought under the spell of Andariel. She nodded curtly and sent me away. I was sorely disappointed but knew better than to let it show. With Kashya one could never know what sort of task she might have for someone after all…
6th day after having left the Monastery
The paladin has returned, victorious! Bloodraven is no more and our dead can rest in peace from now on. I couldn’t believe it when Kashya had me called and told me that from now on I was to accompany him. But how much it hurt me when I saw that he didn’t want me. I bit my lips but I wouldn’t let him see. After a few minutes of a heated argument he finally accepted it. “Well, girl, come here. Let me see what armour and bow you have.” Inwardly bristling at the “girl”, I complied. He only looked at them shortly. “You want to go out battle monsters with that toy? And your armour is worth nothing. One hit and you’re dead! Go to Charsi and have her outfit you in the best armour she’s got. I’ll pay for it. – And if she doesn’t have anything useful, try Gheed.”
“Yes, my lord.” I stammered.
He looked at me oddly then; it was the first time he looked directly at me. “I’m no one’s lord. My name is Randorin.”
“Yes, my… Randorin.”
His lips twitched at this, then he looked at the sun. “Hmm, night is approaching. I had intended to leave again as soon as I had told Kashya the news about Bloodraven. But I’m afraid you’re not used to camping out, girl – what’s your name? I can’t keep calling you ‘girl’ forever!”
“Alyssa.” I said shyly.
“Good, Alyssa, you’ve got till tomorrow to prepare yourself. We’ll leave at dawn.” With those words he turned and went away to talk to Akara.
Chapter 3 – Randorin’s recount
After I had told Alyssa to get better gear and to be ready the next morning, I went to Akara again. Finally she had found out a bit more about Tristram. But what she said shocked me. Deckard Cain, the last of the Horadrim, had been there last. So she begged me to rescue him if I could. I promised her I would try my best. As the common ways there were blocked by two many monsters, she told me she knew of a way to open a Portal there directly. But she didn’t quite know in what way the monoliths worked. To properly advise me, she’d need some bark from the tree of Inifuss.
So the next day I searched for the Dark Passage to get to the Dark Woods where this Tree was supposedly standing. On my way there Alyssa noticed an odd Tome lying around. I looked at it and it told about a Forgotten Tower where to find lots of reaches. Even though I wasn’t out for reaches I memorized what it said before it crumbled into dust. Maybe if I had time and if I passed that way, I just might take a look. Giving alms was natural to a paladin – but without money giving alms always was hard…
In short we travelled through the Dark Passage, found the Tree and brought back the bark. During that time I was actually astonished at how well Alyssa knew to fight. I’d assumed she’d be a charge for me, actually she was quite a great help. While I kept the monsters busy with mêlée combat, she picked them off singly with her bow. Never having been much of an archer, I was pretty much in awe at the accuracy that she kept hitting the monsters with. When I found a crossbow I offered it to her but she declined saying that she much preferred the hunting bow Charsi had made for her.
Finally we brought the bark to Akara who deciphered it and told me how to activate the monoliths. I did so and stepped through the Portal. But what site must I behold? Beautiful Tristram was burning and monsters were swarming the whole place. – Back then I didn’t know yet that the Hero had been taken over by Diablo of course, so I was even more shocked. Where had all those monsters come from? Especially after the Hero had cleaned out the catacombs? Full of anguish and very much afraid for Deckard Cain, I slowly advanced into the town. Alyssa and me quickly dissected the first few monsters we came across. Suddenly, however, another monster came out to meet us. I thought at first full of surprise how had that human managed to survive this carnage? Then when he attacked me, I figured pretty much that he had fallen under the spell of evil as well. Full of sadness I battled him. It was not an easy battle. If not for Alyssa’s help I might have fallen under his powerful blows. But her arrows were what turned the tide. And finally he lay at my feet. Biting my lips I moved on through Tristram till I heard faint calls for help. I went into the direction of the sound and found a cave. I lowered it and felt a sigh of relief: Deckard Cain was alive. He alone had survived the carnage – I know not how. Maybe the demons felt it adequate to place the last of their arch-enemy, the Horadrim, into a cage to starve him. Or maybe the Hero – who as I later learned had been taken over by Diablo - still had enough control not to slay Deckard Cain who had once befriended him. I know not. I only know that somehow a miracle had happened and he was alive. Quickly I opened a town portal to send him to the Rogue Encampment and followed him there.
Chapter 4 – Randorin’s recount
The tale Deckard Cain told me was gruesome: the Hero had grown moody and very quiet shortly after having emerged as a victor from the catacombs. Cain had simply thought his experiences had changed him and it would take a while till he’d feel like laughing again but hadn’t paid particular attention to it. One night, however, he’d disappeared. And it was the day after that the monsters had struck. They’d slaughtered everyone, men, women, children. He himself had been the only survivor. As he told me this, he had tears in the eyes. I pitied the old man and wished I was able to help him. But not even my magic could bring people back from the dead… But I vowed to avenge Tristram for him. If I couldn't right the wrong, at least I could avenge it. And I’d start be evicting Andariel from the Rogue’s monastery – or I’d die trying. When I told Charsi of my plan, she asked me to bring me her hammer, the Horadrim-Malus, that she had had to abandon when leaving the monastery. I nodded. “If I find it, I’ll bring it back to you.”
“Thank you. I’ll make it worth your while, I promise.”, she replied joyfully. Had those people still not understood that the good deed itself was the reward for me? And the honing of skills of course that comes with frequent use of them. So Alyssa and I made our way to the Monastery. The closer we came the harder it got. Finally we reached the Outer Monastery and I breathed a sigh of relief. I turned to Alyssa: "Well, you know your way around here. Where would I find the Horadrim-Malus and where would I find Andariel?"
"The Horadrim-Malus? But you can't think of confronting the demon who's guarding it."
I smiled grimly. "Do you think Andariel will be easier to kill?"
Confused she shook her head and led the way. Suddenly I heard a thundering voice: "I'll break your bones and make weapons from them." I shuddered but forged onward. And the fight began. I hit and dodged, hit and blocked and so on. If I hadn't prepared for a hard fight by bringing all the healing potions that Akara had pressed on me, I would have died. But after an eternity I heard a thundering roar and the Smith fell. With relief I looked through his gear - but there was no hammer! I got a shock till Alyssa pointed at the weapon rack where it was hanging. With a smile I took it and headed back towards the Camp. Charsi was completely overjoyed and promised she'd use it to enchant a weapon or piece of armour for me when I'd have need of it. As I was quite content with my current weapons and armour, I thanked her profoundly for the offer and told her I'd have to think on it. Then I went to ask Deckard Cain and all rogues in the Camp for as much information as they could give me about Andariel. Maybe she had a weakness that I might be able to exploit...
Chapter 5 – Alyssa’s diary
He really meant to go first after the Smith and then after Andariel? Had he gone mad? I could have turned back of course. But I had asked Kashya for the honor of accompanying my Hero, and now I would not admit I'd been wrong after all. So, biting my lips together to keep myself shrieking in fear, I led the way. And he succeeded in beating the Smith. I'm totally in awe at his fighting skill!
I seem to have lost the track of days as we worked our way first through the Dungeons and lateron through the Catacombs down to Andariel's Lair. The paladin commented on the inaccessibility of the Inner Cloister. “Who would build it on such a stupid layout?” he asked with an odd smile.
“Oh, we are going in the back way of course. It's a bit longer but the other way would surely be blocked completely. Andariel won't care for visitors.” I replied lightly, inwardly quaking of fear. He still meant to go after Andariel! Didn't he know this was madness? Repeatedly he had asked me if I didn't want to turn back, yet I had refused time and time again. I'd follow him into Hell itself if the need should arise. I couldn't help myself: I had fallen in love with him. This realization had slowly dawned on me while I'd been following him down.
The farther we came the more gruesome the monsters became. In level 2 of the catacombs we came up against huge spiders. I couldn't keep myself from letting out a piercing shriek when I first saw one. The only thing I'd always been afraid of were spiders. Yet Randorin just walked up to it and dissected it calmly. Was there nothing that could disturb him? He seemed utterly fearless, cold and unapproachable. Yet I couldn't help loving him. And of course he must be mad. Only a madman would seek his death so calmly. So when we finally reached the last level of the catacombs I prepared to die. At least I'd die with him at my side...