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A BARBARIAN’S TALE

barbarian

You know…
I don’t usually go in for mercenaries…
The Barbarian’s life is usually a lonely one, and I’m fine with that…
We make this career choice consciously…
I have no illusions…
However, I do find that I’m a classic horder of gold and goodies…
Even after my cut-off point of 150,000 gold at a mere level 20…
I often find I’m walking around lugging another 190,000-odd on me, in my bulging pockets…
(The chronic pain of RSI and aggravated back problems is quite well known throughout the Barbarian community…
And there’s no Occupational Health & Safety regulations for our line of work…
We’re on our own in this regard too…
We put up with a lot…)
So occasionally – it’s been known to happen – I’ll hire a mercenary or two, or three, just to help out with the work load…
I’m always lookin’ for dudes (or dudettes) wielding some kinda Cold Damage (in order to freeze ’em, so I can smash ’em…
that old chestnut…
the oldest trick in the book…)

Well…
For one of the first times in the history of my ongoing Diablo quests…
I managed to keep (& she really earned her keep, too) this one Amazon chick around since we first met in the Rogue Encampment…
Aliza was her name…
Ah, Aliza…
Maybe you know her…
(She had a history when I came to know her…
So I’m sure she got around…)
Top chick…
She and I really hacked our way across the tundra with some style…
We could do no wrong…
She was wielding a bow that did Cold Damage, my personal fave…
It was kizmet…

Well…
Let’s face it; it’s always a ‘fire-and-forget’ philosophy in regards to keeping them alive…
I’ve never really looked out for them…much…
Don’t get me wrong, I mean, of course we do try…for the most part…
No ones trying to die, am I right..?
But, hey, everyone’s got their own problems to deal with when we’re out there…
I’m trying not to die myself…
‘Deal with it…’
‘Rock’n’Roll…’
But…
It’s a rare thing when synergy appears before your eyes…
Forces align…
The chi starts flowing…
And it’s the purity of it, the energy, that dazzles…
It’s like music…
It becomes a performance…

Well…
It was happening, man…

On all fronts too…
We really cared about each other…
But there was commitment…
(In the past, I’ve often questioned the commitment of Mercs…like they weren’t pulling their weight, and just after the paycheck…they were mostly gold-diggers in my book…)
You could feel it, the way we both charged into a room…
It was selflessness…
We were all for each other…
It was a beautiful thing…
I even spent tens of thousands and – well, I had the money to blow on her too, lets face it…
So I swooned her…
With a beautiful set of Scale Mail that was outrageously enhanced…
A mad Bone Helm…(that was a sexy look)…
And a 3-socketed bow that was slinging some serious shit around, lemme tellya…
I put some jewels into it for her…
Far out…
She loved it…
Really appreciated it too…
‘I’ll put this to good use’, she used to say…
Hehe…
Fuck she could make me laugh…
Ahh…yeah…

Well, you know what it’s like…
We weren’t getting any younger,,,
And we were putting our lives on the line, every minute of every day it seemed…
Never a chance to rest…
We chewed coca leaves, and damn, we were zooming along, and I swear, it’s like we never slept…
Saw every nightfall, and every sunrise…
The rain storms, the, um, yep, you name it, we been through it all…

Good times…

Well, it came time to face Duriel…
We ran through the deserts of Lut Gholein like a couple possessed…
We were unstoppable…
Even in our early levels, we ripped thru Lut like paper…
‘Sandpaper…’ we’d say to each other…and we’d laugh…

I remember sometimes though…
The few times we stole to rest and…well…
One time…we…
I’m not ashamed to say…
We shared a night together…
It was the night before we went off to get Duriel…

We’d done it all…Lut was old news…
We’d chewed it up…
It was time to knock it over…
Time to take out that slug fuck Duriel and roll on…
Roll on to those pesky pygmy fuckers that waited for us in the jungles ahead…

As we lay there, by the fire, in each others’ arms, I told her stories of my previous quests…and the sights that lay ahead for us…
The Grand Viziers…
The Travincal Council…
The Oblivion Knights…
The red swarms of…I dunno, bugs or something…
And of course, Diablo’s seals….
‘…then, we’ll take out the Big Guy, baby…together…’ I said…
And I leaned in to kiss her-
‘who’s that..?’ she asked…
‘Diablo…’ I said ‘Keep up…’
She wasn’t the smartest girl I’d ever met, but that didn’t matter…
We…
Well, we fell in love…
Against all our better judgement…
I mean, I know the drill…
You don’t get involved with a Barbarian…
And you don’t get involved with a party member…
It’s got to remain professional at all times…
It’s too easy…
That’s why you hire one of the big ugly bearded bastards from the Kurast swamps…
Just some greasy gimp to act as a human shield more than anything…
I rarely become friends with these dopes, let alone fall in love with one of them…
Jeez…

I always swore I’d do things differently…
I’ve always tried to protect myself out there, best I could…
My friend Kutter once said: ‘Love’s only gonna cloud some serious judgement… Love’s only gonna put something at risk that wasn’t there before…
Barbarians don’t need that extra pressure…’
And he was right…
Ah, hell…

Anyway…

Well, we headed off to the Arcane Sanctuary for some practice…
I wanted us both to level-up before Duriel…
Which we did, but…
In the end, it wasn’t enough…

I knew Duriel was a big Cold death-dealing fuck from way back…
So I was trying to find her some armour that would halve her Freeze Time…
But I couldn’t…
I had so much money, that I even gambled 60-odd thousand on a splint mail that turned out to be nothing but Poison Resist 14%…
We just laughed…
(I sold it straight back to that cheap bastard Helix or Zelix or whatever his name is…gave me a pissy 8 grand for it…could have killed him…)
‘Fuck it…’ I said, ‘We wont need it…I’ll be there…Its not like you’re facing him alone…’
‘True…’ she said…
‘I mean, we’ve been chewing this place up…we’ll chew up Duriel as well…’
‘I love you…’ she said…
‘I love you too…’ I said…
(I mean, what can ya say in a situation like that? Really? Ya gotta say yes…so I said it…)
But I did love her…
I was just more amazed I’d admitted to her…
To myself…

Anyway…

We headed off to Tal Rasha’s tomb…
I’d opened the wall earlier…
We walked over…
And we stopped for a moment…just outside the hole in the wall…
I said to her: ‘I’d tell you stay here, but I know you’re gonna come in with me. Truth be told, I don’t know how to get you to stay here, otherwise I would do it…’
‘I know…’ she said…
‘Hang on a sec…I’ll just go have another look at the guidebook, maybe I just missed -‘
‘No, we don’t have time…’
‘But -‘
‘I’ll be fine…’ she said…
We kissed each other…hard…
‘Okay…lets do it, baby…’
‘I’m right behind you…’
And we went in…
Well…talk about bad luck…
We must have walked in just as that Jabba-motherfucker was sliding toward where our portal opened…
Coz we walked in face to face with that fuck…
We were both frozen blue in a second…
We hadn’t even swung yet…
So I start double-swinging maces like a madman…
And I look to my left and see Aliza frozen, trying to fire her arrow…
But she’s not just freezing, she’s frozen solid!…
I said: ‘Oh, she’s -‘
BHAM!!…

She was smashed into a thousand ice-cubes…

And melted into a puddle…

And just vanished…

She must have lasted 5 seconds…tops…

I couldn’t believe it…
I said: ‘Get out of town!…I just paid shit loads for that gear!…
And I just gambled 60-odd grand as well…’
But I was just masking the pain…
It was denial, I guess…
My love was gone…
So I stood my ground and toe-to-toe’d with that chubby bastard til he burst into maggots…
Then I went around treading on heaps of the maggots…
‘Vengeance for you, Aliza, my love…’
I didn’t really say that…
I’m just saying that now…

And, so, I went out and spoke to that angel dude…
He waxed on with a bunch of shit…I wasn’t really listening…
I was in a daze…
Then I went back to Lut and got my stuff…
Spoke to a few of the locals…said goodbye….
And I caught the next boat east…

Anyway…
That’s that…

You move on…

You grow, as a barbarian, you grow…

Decoy VI
Honourable Son of Mount Arreat

 

Epilogue…

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Did he resurrect her?
And the answer is: yes, I did…
I’d actually forgotten it was even possible…
But when I got to Kurast, Asheara told me that I could bring her back…
For a fee of course…
11,880 gold…
‘Bit steep’, I said…
‘Well, what’re gonna do?’ she said, ‘That’s the going rate. If you don’t like it, you can hire one of my guys for a lot cheaper…’
I looked over at the grisly horde of hirsute hackers she was peddling…
Heard one of them grunt…
Heard another fart…
I turned to Asheara, ‘Do it…bring her back…’ I said.
What did I care..?
I had more money than sense anyway…
I’ve blown 12,000 gold in sillier ways…
And as soon as I handed over the money – FOOF!! – Aliza was standing in front of me…
Wow, I thought…
‘I can’t…I can’t believe it’ I said, ‘You charge twelve grand for that?! That’s fucking criminal! I mean, I got a good mind to -‘
‘Yeah, well, bite me, bigshot, you knew the score…’
‘Yeah, but I figured it would involve some elaborate ritual, and we’d all dress up in some ceremonial garb and -‘
‘Look, tell your story walkin’ pal, I got better things to do…tight-ass…’
I knew she was right…
For all the gold I had, I was cheap…
Truth hurts, I guess…
So I turned and left…
Aliza followed silently behind…
Didn’t stop me from calling out: ‘Ah, suck my unwashed balls, Asheara, you bitch…’
It was the best I could come up with…
I’m an immature tight-ass…Anyway…

Aliza and I hit the swamps, and got straight back into business…
But things were never the same…
I’m sure she blamed me for letting her die back in Duriel’s chamber…
I don’t know…
We never talked about it…
Maybe she was pissed off I brought her back from the dead…who knows…

All I do know is; she was different…
She was paler for starters…
She needed some sun, that’s for sure…
But it was more than that…
She was distant…detached…aloof…
She seemed unemotional…

I mean, she still slung a mean arrow and earned her share of the gore…
But it was mechanical…robotic…like she was just going through the motions…
There was no heart anymore…no spirit…
There was no love…

She never talked anymore…
She always thanked me when I’d give her a Healing Potion…
But the sentiment seemed empty…
Too polite…
Too cordial…
Like programming…

In fact, things just got weirder…
I reached breaking point with the gold…
I literally couldn’t carry anymore, and I couldn’t fit any more in my secret stash…
So I was just leaving these huge pools of cash lying around on the ground everywhere we went…
And she refused to carry any of it…
Though I started to suspect she was pocketing some of it on the sly…
But I can’t be sure…
I was getting paranoid…
And I was starting to resent her for it, I guess…

And so we grew apart…
There were no more stolen nights of bliss…
We were simply work colleagues…
Employer and employee…
And I couldn’t shake this strange sense of guilt about it all…

Anyway…
One day we were down in the Flayer Dungeon, looking for some guy’s brain that was meant to be fetching a price back in town…
And I knew four or five Pygmy Shaman were waiting for us in there…
So as we closed in and the Shaman started breathing their fire, there was a moment where I could have opened a Town Portal and got us back to safety…
But I didn’t…
I held back…
Aliza walked straight into the cross-fire and got torched in 2 seconds…
Let her go, I thought…
Maybe I never should have brought her back…
‘I won’t make that mistake again’ I said to myself…

I went back to town, feeling depressed…

I walked over to Asheara’s hut…
‘Hey, big spender’ she said, ‘Where’s your friend..?’
‘Dead’ I replied, ‘again…’
‘So, what, you want to hire one of my men..?’
I took another look at her band of dudes…
The grunts…the farts…same old same old…

And I thought about it…

‘Nah, fuck it, bring her back again, what do I care..?’
‘Really..?’ Asheara asked…
‘Yeah…it’s only eye candy, really…I’d rather perv on her out there than one of these sorry sons of bitches…Plus, I got more gold than I know what to do with…I need something to spend it on…breaks my heart leaving all this gold lying around…I know all you Kurastians just steal it when I’m not around…well, screw that…fuckin’ vultures…get a job…’

Asheara didn’t care either way…
The more money the better…
She said: ‘Okay, it’s your choice…’
‘Damn straight’ I said, ‘Let’s get this show on the road…here’s your ransom…’
And – FOOF!! – Aliza was back again…

You should have seen the look she gave me…
Priceless…
I don’t suppose it’s much fun being violently killed then brought back to life, over and over again…
To find the man who brought you back is the same negligent prick who got you killed in the first place…
And an ex-, to boot…
Ouch…
There’s some crazy irony for you…

But hey…life sucks for all of us…

And besides, I’m still confident I’ll win her back…

One small death at a time…

FIN

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