Otrere's Tale - by Rakhir
Otrere woke to the sound of fighting outside her tent. Listening, she heard the shouts of her tribe trying to organize a defense. The rattle of metal and low shouts told her that men in armor were attacking the tribe. Just 10 years old, Otrere's duty was to gather what she could, find the other children and go with them to a place of safety. As she picked up her bow, the tent came crashing down and she was buried in the wreckage. The fighting continued around her as the Amazon's of Rakhalia tried to drive the attackers back. Wriggling out from the wreckage, she saw Amazon archers on the high ground firing at the knights' formations. The tribe had left the village, and Otrere, behind, making a stand on the cliffs nearby while knights assaulted from below and winged demons from above. She saw the queen tossed from the cliff into the knights below and Rakhara and her daughter charge to the rescue. Then another sound turned her attention away from the fight.
'Here's a pretty one,' was all she heard the knight say before she was seized and thrown into a cage. There were a few other children in the cage with her. All appeared to only be frightened and not seriously hurt. Otrere tried to see the battle but the wagon carrying the cage was already moving away from the fight. The heavily armored guards leared at their captives and Otrere began to make plans to escape.
The caravan travelled through the night, pausing only a few minutes each hour to water the troops and check the horses. Otrere watched her guards carefully for a chance to attempt and escape but during the breaks she noticed that the guards that had walked by the cages during the march rotated with those that drove the wagons so they stayed somewhat rested during the journey. That morning the prisoners were given a single cup of water to share amongst them, then a canvas was thrown over the cage as the sun rose. Otrere took a small sip of water and passed the cup to another child, then she tried to lay down and see if she could see anything under the canvas.
The marauders had set up a camp near a grove of trees. She could see at least fifty men roaming around the camp. Most were in plate armor of some kind, as if they expected an attack. She wondered where the men were taking the captives when a huge knight rode into her sight.
'Lazarus needs another sacrifice. Now.' He bellowed.
Several voices nearly screamed 'Yes Lord Gorash' and suddenly the door to Otrere's cage was opened. Atilya who had been sleeping by the door was seized and carried off before Otrere or any in the cage could react. The screaming child was carried to the large knight and thrown across his saddle like a sack. The knight raised his fist and silenced the child with a blow to the back of her head and spurred his horse out of sight. Otrere and her cagemates scrambled to try to see where the knight went but soon he was out of sight.
'Sweet Athena,' whispered Otrere,'they mean to use us as sacrifices, not slaves.' She had hoped that she could survive to be sold into slavery then escape back to the tribe. But this, to be kept in a cage and used in some unholy ceremony. She knew she had to get out soon, preferably with as many of the other children as possible.
That night the caravan continued on its journey. Otrere tried to sleep but the look in Atilya's eyes haunted her. Atilya was only a year older than Otrere and the two used to play together practicing their archery, wrestling and sword-play. She had even begun her training to become a full Amazon and hadn't been able to stop the knights from taking her for their sacrifice to some demon the men called the Horned One. Faintly the sound of unfamiliar bird calls came to her. 'I wonder what bird that is,' she thought.
Just then both of the men driving her cage slumped over, along with several of the guards around the cages. One of the children screamed as an arrow protruded from her hand. Otrere moved to the front of the cage when another arrow struck the floor of the cage beside her. Reaching through the cage bars, she grasped the guards dagger and moved back to the locked door. Several of the guards were moving towards the cages with spears ready to keep their tribute at any cost. Another hail of arrows caused them to pause in their steps and Otrere pried open the lock with the dagger ruining it, but the way out was ready. She motioned the others to sit still and look to see where their rescuers were coming from. Trumpets sounded to the front of the caravan, and Otrere could see the Goatshead banners approaching quickly. Reinforcements for the caravan??? Otrere opened the door and helped the others exit the cage while she watched the new danger approach. Then she noticed that the other children were just standing with her, they hadn't run away from the cage. Otrere pushed two of the children towards a stand of trees and motioned for the others to follow.
Suddenly a group of horse knights exploded from the trees in front of them. Otrere ran to one side and hid to get out of the way but the other children stood stunned by the knights sudden appearance. Otrere watched as the knights lowered their lances and charged through the Amazon children. She watched in horror as her friends were massacred by armored men before they continued their charge into the caravan. Otrere soon found herself outside the battle and ran for cover in the nearby woods. Climbing a tree, she made a nest out of branches and green leaves. Fighting her tears, she silently vowed to avenge each Amazon child that died this evening. She watched as the fighting continued through the day and into the night, at times just beneath her hiding place, waiting for a chance to try to return to her village.
Otrere woke to the warmth of the sun on her face and the smell of cooked rabbit. Remembering the horror of the last two days, she sat up with a start feeling for anything that could be used for a weapon.
'So you're awake,' came a female voice from behind her. Rolling, Otrere lept to her feet to face the woman. A tall, dark-haired woman held out her hands in the Amazon peace sign. Otrere looked around the camp. It was in the middle of the battlefield. 'Is this woman crazy?' she thought, and ran for the trees. Once in the safety of the trees, Otrere watched as the woman continued her meal, glancing at the trees from time to time. A pair of men in armor approached the woman and she waved to them. The pair stopped to talk to the dark-haired woman and glanced at the trees where Otrere was hiding. The men spurred their horses towards the trees and Otrere fled deeper into the forest. She heard the sound of more men in front of her and once again climbed a tree to hide from them. Men in heavy armor walked beneath her, searching for the young Amazon.
Fortunately the men didn't look up. Otrere waited until she could no longer see the men, then slipped down from the tree. She ran farther into the woods then turned east, judging by the moss and ran for the rest of the day towards where the sun would rise and her home.
Chapter 2 -- Homecoming
As Otrere ran through the forest towards her home, she glanced about for signs of the enemy. She had been lucky to escape from the caravan and didn't want to be captured and used in some sacrifical ceremony. As night approached she slowed her run, no sense getting lost in the darkness. Finding a suitable tree, she climbed into its limbs and went to sleep. The next morning she awoke to the growling of her stomach and began to piece together a sling to throw rocks. It was time to hunt up some breakfast. The forest was quiet as the young Amazon started looking for edible plants and animals. She found some berries and managed to chase down a rabbit. With a full stomach, Otrere felt certain she would be home by evening and started to lope through the woods again.
As she neared the edge of the forest near her home, Otrere slowed to walk quietly to the edge of the clearing. She could smell the smoke from fires set days ago when the men attacked her village and a different smell, one she hadn't encountered before. When she peered out from the underbrush, she let out a low moan. The village had been burned to the ground and scattered around it, poles had been erected. On each pole was an Amazon, suspended by the impaling point of the pole. Otrere retreated from the sight, and rubbed her eyes trying to wipe the memory from them. The fire that had begun burning in her heart while escaping the caravan burned fiercer and colder than before, she had more Amazons to avenge. Steeling herself, Otrere looked at the village again. She saw no sign of the attackers and slowly began to crawl across the clearing towards the town, trying not to look at the poles and their grisly ornaments.
The attackers had burned everything in the village and the smoke of the destruction sight of dismembered Amazons burned Otrere's eyes. She crawled to where her tent had been to see if anything had survived the destruction. The tent lay toppled, yet had somehow avoided the torch, perhaps because it had been knocked down. The young Amazon climbed under the leather and sought for the bow her mother had taught her to make. She found the bow and the scrolls used to teach the Amazon path. Each one describing how to use the weapons of the Amazon, each unlocked a higher learning that released greater magical power to the trainee. Somehow Otrere would use these to avenge her tribe. But first she had to find the men who did this.
Gathering a backpack and some cooking utensils, Otrere set out from the village following the trail the caravan that had captured her. They would be the first to pay. As she left the village, she felt someone watching her. Whirling about, the dark-haired woman from the battlefield stood in front of her.
'Where are you going, youngling?' she asked.
Otrere started to turn to run when the woman's eye's flashed and she found herself rooted to the spot unable to move.
'You really should be more careful child,' the woman said walking around Otrere as she spoke. 'Coming back here could have placed you on one the poles with your kinswomen. Sometimes I don't know why I bother with people. But you have a spark, a bit of luck about you, and I see now a cold fire within.' Otrere found herself released from the spell but chose to remain still, looking for an opening to run or attack. 'You need help.'
Otrere felt a wave of nausea sweep over her as her vision was assaulted with waves of images of warfare at its goriest. She fought to keep her sanity as picture after picture of tortured bodies rushed by her. Suddenly it stopped and she fell to her knees.
'Lesson one, War is not pretty,' said the woman. 'If you are going to fight in this war, you will have to be prepared to see some terrible things. You will probably have to do some terrible things. You need to be ready.'
'This is bigger than a fight between Lord Gorash's army and a tribe of Amazons. There is a greater war of which this is just a small, critical part, and an evil that you will have to face and defeat. I see you found the training scrolls given to your ancestors eons ago. Good that's where we'll start.'
The world spun and Otrere woke near a stream. She could hear the sounds of people faintly coming from a small village nearby. This village looked like it had seen better days.
Suddenly, all was quiet. Then the sound of marching feet approached. Otrere crouched behind some bushes and readied her bow. A squad of six men marched into the village. It was a patrol from Gorash's army. They marched right through the town and into the church on the just on the other side of the town. When they had past, the sounds of the village resumed.
'Read the first scroll, then go into the church and find a suitable weapon. Kill the one they call the Butcher and return here.' With that the dark-haired woman disappeared into the brush. Otrere opened the scroll marked Explorer and carefully read the instructions. Then ,sneaking around the town, she approached the old cathedral. On the ground near the doorway, a badly injured man reached out to her. Fearing a trap, she knocked an arrow and approached.
'Please...Help me...Lazarus...Butcher...' was all he said before dying of his wounds. Otrere knelt and closed his staring eyes.
'One more death to avenge,' she said and entered the dark temple.
Chapter 3 -- Explorer
A chill went up the young Amazon's spine as she stood at the foot of the stairs inside the chapel. Otrere put away her bow, the scroll had instructed her to find a sword and shield, possibly some armor. Then she would search this temple for the one called the Butcher and avenge the dead villager outside the temple, then search for the one they call Lazarus. He had slain one of the children captured from Otrere's home in some ritual sacrifice and led the dead man and others apparently into a trap. Slowly she explored the foyer, searching for clues to what may inhabit this ruined place. She found several booted footprints in the dust on the floor, obviously several people have come this way before.
Taking a torch from its place in the wall, Otrere quietly stepped to the only door in the room and pressed her ear to it. She heard the sound of twigs rattling, as if in a windstorm, through the door. ‘Must be another entrance to this place she said as she slowly opened the door to peer inside. A bony hand grabbed the door and ripped it from her grasp. An axe-wielding skeleton swung at her head as she started to back into the foyer. Otrere grabbed the haft of the axe and pulled the skeleton into the room. Still holding the axe, she dropped to the floor and flipped the skeleton over her and into the wall. The walking bones shattered on impact, as did the axe. Continuing to roll to her feet, Otrere prepared herself for the next skeleton to enter the room. Staying low, the young Amazon kicked the feet from under the skeleton and cracked its skull with her elbow. She noticed a club lying on the floor and grabbed it in time to parry the axe of the third skeleton. Whirling she carried the attack to the skeleton driving it back into the large sanctuary it came from then smashed it to oblivion.
Pausing to catch her breath, Otrere gazed around the room. More torches and braziers lit this dust littered room. Several chests and sarcophagi were placed about the room in no particular order. The sarcophagi appeared to have been carried from somewhere else in the church. Curious, Otrere approached one and setting down her club pushed on the lid. Inside she found a ragged suit of leather armor, probably from one of the temples original guardians laid to rest here then summoned by the unholy war to guard the church again. Dusting the armor off, she put it on. ‘Some protection is better than none,’ she said and continued to search the other coffins. Some contained gold, others, blue or red potions. From the scroll she had learned that the blue potions could be used to restore her magical energies and the red would heal her wounds. Fortunately she had not received any serious wounds, the blow to her head had been with the flat of the axe instead of the edge.
So intent on her searches, she almost didn’t hear the approach of several padded feet. A band of small goblin-like creatures armed with wicked looking daggers leapt at her. The first opened a gash in the Amazons leg and was rewarded for his effort with a sound blow to his head. As he started to fall, Otrere sprang after the next but the band of creatures was in retreat. Shaking her head at the puny monsters’ cowardice, she bent to wrap her wound. Then the band returned with a vengeance. Once again the first died of a blow to the head and the others scattered. Otrere watched as the remaining imps regrouped for another charge. Picking up a short sword the last had dropped, she charged into the flank of the fallen one formation, slaying two and chasing the third into a corner where he fell, Otrere’s sword protruding from his chest after passing through his ribs.
Wiping the blade on the corpse, Otrere paused to prepare herself to continue her exploration. This was going to be a lot harder than the 10-year old had thought. She had never been in real combat before, just the mock fights her teachers used to teach the use of weapons. When your opponent is really out for blood it is a different fight altogether. Otrere sipped at the healing potion she had found and gazed about the room. Recalling her lessons, “When outnumbered, seek choke points,” she located all the doors including the exit. To avoid becoming lost, she carved an ‘X’ on this door and arranged the bones of a skeleton so its hand pointed to the door. It would not do to die of starvation in this place. She searched the room for anything that could be used as a weapon or armor and then resumed her hunt.
Taking her time, she moved through the temple. When creatures attacked her, she retreated and faced them either in a doorway or amongst a cluster of barrels. Once she carried on a running battle that went through several rooms when she inadvertently ran through a door escaping another attack. Lesson learned. Never retreat in a different direction than where you came, better to stand and fight than to run into a pack of trouble you may not be able to handle.
Searching and fighting her way through the first floor of the church, Otrere found several more potions to restore life and magic, as well as a few libraries where she learned to cast some basic spells, firebolt and heal. She also found some shrines at which she said a quick prayer to Athena for guidance. Soon, she had mapped the layout of the floor and located a staircase leading deeper into the church. She had improved her equipment, locating a magical short bow of high durability and along with a helm, buckler, and some leather armor. Vowing to locate the Butcher, she descended the stairs.
A mixed group of skeletons and imps greeted her shortly after entering the first sub-basement of the church. Remembering the earlier habits of the imps, she concentrated her attacks on the skeletons. Sure enough, as a skeleton fell, all the imps retreated. Soon, Otrere was finishing off the last of the imps and exploring this new place. She saw a group of dog-like creatures in the distance, accompanied by a larger specimen, which had an arcane glow about it. The pack swarmed and Otrere swung wildly at the creatures. Soon her shield fell from her hand, damaged beyond repair and another of the creatures leapt at her throat. Horror filled her as her life’s blood spilled to the floor. Another creature ripped through her armor and opened a gash just above her waist. Then came blackness.
Otrere woke beside the stream and listened to the song of the birds nearby. She gazed at the sky and smiled as the sun shone on her face. Suddenly a shadow passed in front of her. Opening her eyes, she saw the dark-haired woman standing in front of her frowning.
‘You go to fast child,’ she said. ‘The life you save today, may be the life you need later in our battle. But then the first one is the easiest to lose and you shall lose others.’
Otrere stared dumbfounded. ‘What life? Lose how? I don’t understand what you are saying.’
‘I would be surprised if you did understand. Let me explain.’
‘Each of us has a certain number of lives that we can use in any manner we wish. When we die, we lose one of these lives and continue on with another. I think it has something to do with this Sin War, but anyway. If you lose all of your lives, you don’t get another, you are no longer able to fight in this war. Your tribe’s queen is one of those who were living her last life when Gorash’s army attacked your village.’
‘Are any of my tribe still alive?’ the youngster jumped up. Clutching her head, Otrere collapsed on the grass again, weakened by the shooting pain in her skull.
‘Like I said earlier, child, “You go to fast”. You just lost one life, and are still recovering from the effects. Check you pack and see if you have more healing potions. Good take one of each and sit still while I lecture.’
‘Something about the evil of this place does not allow humans or creatures to die completely when they are slain. A small portion is lost to the Cosmic Balance, then a new body is regenerated to allow the recently deceased to continue with a new life almost where they left off the last one. Granted anything you are not carrying in your pack is lost including armor and jewelry. But you have another life to live and continue the fight another day. Granted when you come back you are weak as a lamb, as you just found out, but in time you recover faster. Until one day you don’t come back. All your lives have been used.’
‘Now, about your tribe. Yes some escaped and live a good distance from here. One has undertaken the task of becoming the next queen but she is so filled with doubt, that even if she succeeds, she will not feel she is worthy of the honor. You on the other hand could become a queen of great power as long as you don’t lose your last life first. Now before I send you back into the dragon’s teeth, you need to rest then we will work on some combat techniques that you need to know.’
With that the dark-haired woman waved her hand over the young Amazon and Otrere drifted off to sleep, dreaming of her tribe, her combat lessons growing up, and herself wearing the crown of a queen.
Chapter 4 Training
Otrere dodged right as the arrow sped towards her and raised her shield to deflect the bolt. As the arrow struck, she ducked the hurling axe and chopped at the skeleton's knees with her mace. Slamming third skeleton back into its sarcophagus, she loosed a firebolt at the archer and smiled when he shattered into dust. Looking around the large room, she noticed a small antechamber with two stands holding magic scrolls on them and a bookcase. Shutting the door, she picked up the scrolls, Identify and Town Portal, and glanced at the book, Firebolt. Unfortunately the book contained more knowledge than she could understand so she returned it to its shelf. Sitting with her back to the door, she considered how she had gotten here. A tear trickled down her cheek.
Her tribe had been attacked by soldiers of this labrynth and she had been captured. After escaping and witnessing the death of all her friends, she had returned to her village where she met a strange dark-haired woman who had told her of the Sin War and the part Otrere was playing in it. The woman explained many things about the war between heaven and hell and how it had come to the world of Man. She learned of the Horadrim, the ancient sect of wizards who had sealed the Three in soul gems. Now one of the Three was trying to escape and had been responsible for the death of many humans in the land around Tristram. This village, situated right in the middle of the Evil, had aided the Dark Lord by not interfering or confronting his minions. Indeed, the High Priest of the town, one Lazarus, had led his own kinsman to their deaths in the temple outside the village.
So many deaths to avenge, so little time.
Otrere's training had begun in earnest after her first foray into the temple. The dark-haired woman told her of the strange regenerative powers in the area, but they had their limits. Otrere vowed not to discover what that limit was so she followed the advice of the Amazon scrolls and the teachings of her strange mentor. That one rarely smiled, and was even less often satisfied with her pupil's progress. The morning after her first sortie, Otrere was wakened by the smell of rabbit over a fire. As she approached, she heard a blood-curdling scream and recieved a kick in her ribs. Rolling with the blow, she rose to her feet facing her opponent. It was the dark-haired woman.
'What are you doing?' asked the young Amazon.
'You want to eat? Get past me,' was all the woman said.
The woman faced her unarmed, hands held out in front of her. Otrere looked around for a suitable weapon to use and noticed that her pack, which she usually slept on, was across the camp from her. The youngster approached her mentor cautiously, waiting to see what reaction she would get. Suddenly she found herself thrown back ten feet and looking at the sky. Otrere never saw the other woman move yet the bruises on her arms where she had been seized were already darkening. Crouching, Otrere gathered her strength and with a shriek, exploded from the ground and sprinted towards the other woman. Again, the youngster found herself looking up at the sky, this time trying to catch her breath from the kick to the stomach she had received. After a bit, Otrere rolled on her stomach then stood. The dark-haired woman still stood between her and the rabbit. Otrere jumped at the woman, swinging her fists wildly, hoping to land a good punch that would knock her tormentor out of the way. But each swing was blocked and soon the youngster had exhausted herself while the dark-haired woman just stood patiently waiting. For the next hour, Otrere tried to defeat or trick the woman to no avail. Finally the woman walked to where Otrere's bow lay and picked it and an arrow up.
'Find this arrow and when you return you may have what is left of the rabbit.'
With that the woman shot the arrow away from the camp into a cow pasture. Otrere ran as fast as she could to locate the arrow. She had seen how fast her companion could eat and knew if she didn't hurry, none would be left. After searching for an hour, the young Amazon located the arrow and walked back to camp. When she arrived, the rabbit was still on the spit, granted it had been moved farther from the fire so it wouldn't burn too much. The woman walked over to her and landed a punch to Otrere's jaw sending the youngster again to the ground.
'Why'd you do that?' asked the girl.
'Because you gave up. In this battle, the winner is not always the strongest. It can be the last one fighting. As long as there is someone still willing to fight, still driven to win, the battle continues and only if you are willing to be that person can you win. When you walked back to camp, you gave up on having any breakfast. Eat now and think on what I've said. Today we'll work on your hand to hand fighting skills before you attempt the labrynth again.'
And so the weeks went by, mornings spent learning different combat techniques, afternoons spent trying them out on the denizens in the old church. Otrere did track down the Butcher, a hideously bloated demon that chased her through the temple until she trapped him in a room and shot him with her bow. The creature dropped a wicked looking sword called the Executioner's blade and the young Amazon made good use of it while she hunted for an axe that she needed for the next part of her Amazon training. She made good use of her training, learning to shield bash since no axe had become available.
One day she happened upon two rogues hunting in the catacombs beneath the church. After following them for a while, she approached them and joined them in their quests. One wanted to find items of a cursed nature which Otrere found odd, the other moved through the hallways like a snake, striking her opponents with deadly accuracy. During this exploration, she located the Holy Shield of the Amazon, the Blackoak Shield. Her new friends let her take it with her, and she repaid them with some of the rings she had found. Eventually she found an axe and tracked down the leaders of several packs of creatures, finishing with the Undead King, Leoric, and defeated them with the axe. Artifacts of power were dropped by several of the monsters and when an emissary of the Great Queen Charisena, a marshall named Tachyon, aided her in finding shrines to enhance her spell abilities and repair her equipment, she was able to repay him with a wizardspike dagger. After defeating the Skeleton King, her mentor performed a small ceremony, promoting the youngling to Amazon Warrior. They then devoted most of their training on sword and shield combat. Soon Otrere would venture deeper under the church, into the caves.
The Amazon entered the caves cautiously. This was completely new territory. From her training scrolls, she knew some of the creatures to expect, but when the balls of magma started landing around her, she nearly paniced and ran. Instead she ducked around a corner and allowed the magma creatures to approach single file. The Executioner's blade lived up to its name as one after another of the creatures shattered into puddles of molten rock. She located the stairway down and since the creatures she hunted were not on this level, she descended. Her reward was to hear a bellow and be knocked across the room as a Mud Runner slammed into her shield. Otrere rolled to her feet and closed on the creature. Soon he was dead at her feet, but others could be seen manuevering for a position to charge her. She could see one of the Runners standing behind the pack. This one seemed to be directing the attack, Breakspine. Otrere located a suitable place to meet the pack one at a time and chopped her way through the creatures until only Breakspine was left. He wasn't smart enough to run away. Otrere hunted the rest of the level then went down another stairway to hunt for Blackstorm. Her luck held and soon the Obsidian Lord was dead at her feet. Exhausted the Amazon returned to camp with her two trophies, the horns from the beasts.
The next day, Otrere set off early to the caves to try and locate Plaguewrath's pack, Oozedrool, Flayer, and hopefully Bluehorn so she could complete her set of horns. The stairs to the level Plaquewrath was rumored to hide were found quickly. Otrere checked her potions to make sure they were handy and started searching for the poison spitter. She soon encountered one of the devil dog's minions and dispatched him, then another approached. Suddenly the air was filled with poisonous globs of spit. Casting a firewall to block the dog's approach, Otrere retreated to check her pots again. Having defeated Brokenstorm earlier, she loosed a lightning bolt at the packs' location, then another. She knew she had to defeat the leader with her sword so she cautiously approached the remains of her firewall. Once again the air filled with spit, too much for her to block or dodge, quickly she drank her restorative potions and tried to retreat. The dogs followed, continuing their blistering attack. Then Otrere found herself drifting above the floor.
She awoke in camp with the dark haired woman. Gone were her sword, shield, jewelry, and armor. Otrere checked her backpack. At least her mace and bows, including the Holy bow of the Amazons, were there. She would need to find replacements for her losses before she ventured into the caves again. Her mentor said nothing as they ate their breakfast and after, Otrere set off for the Church to gather healing and mana potions for her search.
Wiping the tear from her cheek, Otrere opened the door and set off in search of the Butcher. Rumor had it that he had struck another village and mutiliated the children there. One day she hoped, she wouldn't have to avenge another child.
Chapter 5 The Mage and the Raptor
Otrere had been watching the village for several days while the burns she had recieved from Plaquewrath healed. Men in armor, looking more like turtles than humans, carrying swords and shields or staves, women dressed almost identically, some bearing the mark of the Amazon nations, yet having dealings with the townsfolk. How could they have been subverted? Was this part of the Sin War to corrupt the Amazon leaders so they lead their people to ruin? She watched as night fell and the people went into the town's tavern and the streets cleared. She hoped Farnum was able to find a room with the gold she gave him, but he would probably just spend it on liquor as he usually did. She tried. He was the only person in town she trusted since most of the townsfolk and travellers avoided him like he had the plague.
She was just about to return to her camp, when a strange pair caught her eye, a man in robes was following what appeared to be a large lizard. From her vantage point in the rocks just outside the town, Otrere could barely hear what the two were saying, and the lizard's hiss was almost unintelligble. Curiosity got the better of her and she creapt out of her hiding place and sprinted around the town to the cemetary outside the old church and hid behind a wall there. From this point, she would be able to catch the pair if they entered the front door or took the entrance to the catacombs that was hidden in an old crypt in the cemetary. Soon the pair walked past her to the front entrance of the church.
'We're going to die I tell you,' said the mage.
'Relax,' hissed the lizard. 'As long as we keep our wits about us we shouldn't have any problems.'
Otrere noticed that the lizard wore no weapons and the mage carried a well used sword. Surely there must be something wrong with these two to be so concerned. Otrere stepped from her hiding place.
'Maybe I can be of some help,' she said.
Immediately the lizard crouched into a defensive posture while the mage succeeded in drawing his sword and throwing it twenty feet to his right. Otrere stood still, her hands extended in front of her, palms up.
'I mean you know harm,' she began. 'And from what I've heard you may need my help. I have had some experience with the creatures dwelling in this place and may be able to aid you.'
The lizard seemed to relax a bit. 'You merely startled me. Had you been armed, you would have been dead.'
'Yeah, same for me too.' stated the mage from where he was trying to pull his sword from the dirt.
Otrere smiled. Something about these two unlikely partners made her want to join them in fighting the darkness beneath the church.
'I'll keep that in mind. By the way, my name's Otrere
'I am called Raptor,' replied the draconian.
'Dwalin here' said the mage, still trying to pull the sword from where is was stuck. Raptor strode over to it, grasped the hilt with one hand and pulled. Then fell immediately to the ground.
'Thanks Rap, I always have trouble when my Clumsy sword of the Fool gets stuck.'
Otrere heard a sound she hadn't heard in a long, long time. Then she realized she was laughing uncontrollably at the sight of the draconian lying on his back while the mage calmly takes the upraised sword and resheathes it. Wiping her eyes and catching her breath, she motioned to the pair to follow her into the church.
'We have made other sorties into the church, but haven't had much success in getting to the catacombs,' stated Dwalin.
'I fought in the caves beneath the catacombs. If your goal is to reach the catacombs, I will aid you but not carry you,' replied the Amazon.
'Fair enough,' hissed Raptor and he took the lead from the stairs.
Soon, Otrere found work for her blade. She allowed the pair to go where they would and followed them, always watching their flanks to make sure they didn't get ambushed. Skeletons and fallen ones fell to the claws of the draconian and blade of the wizard. Otrere had always thought that mages preferred spells in combat, yet this one only cast when he seemed about to be overwhelmed. The trio soon arrived on the second level below the church and Otrere told the pair of her vendetta against the Butcher. Working together the trio soon located the vile beast's lair and Otrere kicked the door in and sliced the bulging hulk to ribbons with a sabre she had picked up. At one point, a lone skeleton attacked the group and Otrere and Raptor talked of their people and what had brought them to this place while Dwalin fought with the skeleton. After ten minutes, the pair noticed that the skeleton was chasing the mage around the room while he was yelling that he was going to die. Otrere knocked and arrow and finished the skeleton and after the mage rested, (and the others were done teasing him) the trio continued their journey to the third level.
Apparently something had snapped in the mage, for on this level magic flew freely from his fingertips. Even the Skeleton King fell to the onslaught of holy magic that Dwalin threw. As clumsy as he may be in a hand to hand fight, the mage was a force to be reckoned with in a magic battle. Otrere began to respect the mage a little, he was a man after all. No more teasing.
On the fourth level below the church, the trio separated to hunt the Dark One's minions with more speed. Otrere began to use some of her meager magic to suppliment her sword play, skeleton archers were torched with firebolts or lightning when they stood close together enough. Raptor continued to claw his way through his opposition, hurling broken bodies from him with reckless abandon. Soon they gathered at the stairs descending to the catacombs and after a brief conference, entered the fifth level below the church.
The three stayed closer together as creatures came from every hallway and door. Standing in a triangle they defended themselves from the onslaught of the Flesh and Stone Clan warriors. Glooms swooped down on them and Blinks appeared and disappeared around them. Otrere and Raptor fought to keep Dwalin from being overwhelmed and after a time even they began to tire. Otrere suggested that they return to their camps to rest, then try again from the hidden entrance to the catacombs at a later time. The others agreed and returned to town through Otrere's portal.
Back at Otrere's camp, the dark-haired woman sat staring into a bowl of water humming. In the water, she could see Otrere and her companions battling the creatures in the catacombs. 'So the youngster is learning to trust again. She just might make it after all.'
Otrere's Tale Chapter 6 -- Raptor and the Hounds
The dark-haired woman woke to the smell of rabbit. Otrere stood by the fire stretching her limbs and tying her headband in place to keep her hair out of her eyes. The teacher rose and approached the fire to sample the morning's repast. Suddenly she found herself flying from the camp. Tumbling in mid-air, she landed on her feet.
'What are you up to child,' the dark-haired woman asked as she straightened her robes.
'I thought we'd try a role reversal today,' smiled the young Amazon. 'You want to eat, get past me.'
The dark-haired woman approached Otrere cautiously. There was something different about the youngster today. She seemed more confident than the woman remembered. The fire was still in her eyes, but a glint of mischief was also visible. Their morning training sessions had honed the youngster's skills, but now there needed to be a lesson in overconfidence. The elder woman launched a series of blows to the head and stomach of the Amazon. Each was blocked and a counter attack ensued. A punch landed on the cheek of the teacher and she back-flipped out of the way of more punches. Quickly she cast off her robes to free her arms movements, and prepared to defend herself. Otrere stepped back and smiled, then assumed a defensive posture. The woman stared for a second, then remembered that she was the one who needed to get to the rabbit.
'Okay, kid,' growled the dark-haired woman. 'Let's see what you have inside.'
The attack began slowly, easy to block, then started to increase in speed. No change in the pattern just tempo. Otrere blocked the assault, but could not find an opening to launch a counter offensive. Soon a foot was added to the hand assault, but Otrere was able to protect herself from this new attack as well. Then there was a jump in the speed of the attacks and Otrere matched it with her defense. The contest continued through the morning and into the afternoon. The dark-haired woman hadn't worked up a sweat but had still not landed a punch to the Amazon, while Otrere was starting to wonder just how long this would go before her opponent gave up or she passed out.
'It is a shame you let this meal burn, Otrere,' came a hiss from the fire.
'Wha..' WHAM! A fist landed on Otrere's brow spinning the Amazon to the ground. 'We'll talk,' sounded in her head and when she looked Raptor was sitting by her fire, now smoldering, poking the blacked rabbit with a stick staring at the fallen woman. Otrere quickly glanced around the site but her mentor was gone, even her tent.
'How long have you been here?' asked Otrere.
'Not long,' replied the Draconian 'I was watching you workout. How do you achieve such concentration?'
'I guh bihmry... I've had a lot of practice,' Otrere struggled. Why hadn't she been able to say that there was another here she was fighting with? And why hadn't Raptor seen the dark-haired woman? She wanted to talk to her mentor who had vanished without trace but figured that she wouldn't return as long as there was the Draconian was present. Otrere walked to the wash basin to clean herself before eating the dryed rabbit. The face that gazed back at her from the basin was her mentor's. It winked and motioned the Amazon to silence then faded. Startled, Otrere finished washing her face then sat down beside Raptor.
Otrere had met the Draconian a while ago and, along with a wizard who had an affinity for cursed items, had raided the old church and part of the catacombs beneath it. She had taken a liking to Raptor more out of respect for the creature's fighting abilities than anything else. The Draconian seemed to have little trouble dealing death with his bare claws and teeth.
'How did you find me?' asked the Amazon.
'Easy,' replied Raptor raising his nose in the air and inhaling. 'Young female, taste for rabbit over fire, needs a bath. This nose never misses,' he laughed deflecting an incoming stone with ease.
'I see you've started a necklace of charger horns,' mentioned Raptor pointing to Otrere's pack.
'Only the leaders' horns, the rest aren't worth keeping. I've included Fangspeir's and Flayer's fangs as spacers, only one more horn to collect and the neckace is complete. Of course, I'll finish the set with a nice belt made from Plaguewrath's hide,' grinned the Amazon.
'Fair enough. Let's go finish your jewelry then,' replied the Draconian and he rose and started trotting to Tristam. Otrere grabbed her gear and hurried to catch up. Then the two settled into an easy lope that put miles under their feet without effort.
Skirting the village, the two approached the entrance to the caves below Tristram. They could hear sounds of haggling coming from a small camp that a boy had set up to sell items of questionable origin. Otrere hoped he wasn't dealing with the dark forces beneath the town, but if he was, she would have to end his business one way or another. The Amazon checked her belt for the healing and mana pots she might during thier hunt and led Raptor into the openning between the rocks and into the caverns.
Lava rivers flowed back and forth across the cave giving light to all but the remotest corners. Otrere armed herself with her Sword of Leeches and a shield she had found in the church above and the pair began to look for the stairs leading to the poison spitter's lair. The pair encountered some toad demons before finding the stairs, but the creatures were little match for the sword and claws facing them. The stairs were found relatively soon and the pair decided to explore some more before descending. Winged demons awaited them and at times the pair were surrounded. Neither seemed to be in real danger as the creature's attacks were too weak to harm them and the duo's counter offensive soon put them to retreat. Bolstered by their success on the ninth level below the village, the two proceeded to the tenth, Plaguewrath's lair.
Soon after entering the next cave, the pair began to encounter poison spitters, possesed canines that could spit and acid that ate through armor. The beasts came at them in small groups which were easily dispatched until Otrere noticed the glow she had come to recognize as a beast of exceptional power. Cautiously she approached the beast when a wave of acid spit washed across her sending her to oblivion. Helpless she felt her soul rise from her body, yet it did not leave as it had when she had been slain. As she watched, Raptor cast a town portal directly on her corpse. Silently screaming a warning to her friend, she felt something drawing her back into her body, then transported back to town. Quickly running to check her cache of equipment, Otrere found everything she had left behind. Raptor had placed the town portal in such a way that the ressurrection spell sent her through it and away from the spitter pack.
Rearming with her blackoak bow, Otrere entered a portal she had set up upon arriving on the tenth level and made her way back to the pack from a different angle. She saw the items she had dropped when the pack had slain her, and the glow of Plaguewrath and his pack remained where it was. Raptor was no where to be seen, but had moved back from the spitters. As she peeked around the corner, the pack jumped her again. Having no defense she fell.
Hearing her scream, Raptor went to the church to find a scroll to ressurect her, and upon returning defeated the pack and cornered Plaguewrath. Then the draconian restored the Amazon and drawing her sword again, Otrere faced and defeated the vile beast. The two then returned to Otrere's camp and celebrated before Raptor returned to whence he came.
Smiling Otrere washed herself and was almost asleep when a hard kick awoke her. The dark-haired woman had returned. Fire burned in her eyes.
'So you think you have moved to the next Ascension? You're an Avenger now?'
'Plaguewrath is gone. I've slain the necessary leaders in the Caves. I've earned it.'shot back the young Amazon.
'If I catch a rabbit and hold it for you to kill, do you learn how to catch a rabbit?'
'But the scrolls only say he dies by my sword.'
'Fine, Avenger,' snapped the woman. 'You'll have no further aid from me.' There was a flash of light and the dark-haired woman was gone.
Chapter 7 Fall from Grace
Otrere sat staring where the dark-haired woman had stood. She had always known there was something different about the woman. Otrere thought back to when she had first encountered the woman outside Gorash's camp after escaping from the knight's men. The woman had somehow tracked the Amazon to her village and taken her under her wing, leading her to the village of Tristram, and starting her Amazon training. Then, after slaying Plaguewrath with the help of Raptor, the woman left in a flash of light. Otrere knew the woman was a dangerous opponent in combat, and when Raptor had not seen her as the pair trained. Then the woman appeared to Otrere in a bowl of water to tell her to say nothing to the draconian. Now, the dark-haired woman had been offended declared Otrere unfit to wear the title Avenger and left the girl to ponder her fate.
Once again, the youngster was alone. This time she was not a helpless little girl, she had been trained in combat, she had slain several of the sub-leaders beneath the village of Tristram. She would show the dark-haired woman that she was worthy of the title Avenger, and slay necessary beasts to achieve Huntress status by herself. Arming herself with the Civerb's Cudgel and a shield she had picked up, Otrere set out for the crack in the Earth behind Pepin's Hospital.
Smoke seeped from the crevice, Otrere had never smelled anything so bad, even her village after Gorash's army didn't smell as foul. She went to the nearby stream and soaked a rag in the water. Finding a flower, she wrapped the petals in the rag and used it to cover her nose and mouth. Carefully she worked her way down the crevice into the dark pit. Once out of sight of the entrance, Otrere paused to let her eyes adjust to the dim glow from the rocks then she began the long trek down.
Eventually she located the final staircase to take her onto the thirteenth level below Tristram. Checking her armor and weapons, she proceeded slowly down the stairs. At the very bottom was the corpse of a man, obviously trying to gain the stairs, face down on the ground. His back looked as if it had been slashed and torn by razors. Otrere tightened her grip on her shield and hefted her mace in anticipation of a surprise attack. Apparently the creatures responsible had moved on to another room, and Otrere cautiously searched the perimeter to see if any lurked nearby.
A hiss came from the west as a pair of Fire Drakes charged into the room. Otrere backed to stand beside the stairs up and blocked thier first onslaught, countering with the Cudgel and felling both creatures in four blows. Smiling she stode to where the drakes had attacked from and look for more drakes to smash. Four more drakes fell to her attack and she pressed on to the next level down when the stairs appeared. This was where her quarry hid.
More drakes attacked. Some with gold scales and some with red. Otrere retreated to a small room and withstood the attacks and gradually turned the tide to her favor. Soon she was chasing the drakes through the labrynth. Occassionally one or two would turn to slow her advance, but she consistantly pushed them back.
A voice rang in her ears. 'Leave a way for them to escape.'
'Bah, you chose to hold me back when the battle is nearly win?' retorted the brazen Amazon. 'Where are you now old woman? This night I will be Huntress!'
Brazenly she stepped into a hallway. The air became filled with red bolts of magical energy. Some she blocked but a few got past her shield. Retreating around a corner, she took out the Holy Bow of the Amazon and waited for the prey to approach. One. Two. Three witched tasted its sting. A hiss came from behind her. More Drakes! Quickly switching weapons, Otrere launched a counter offensive driving the lead drakes to their doom and giving herself room to run if she had to. Then she noticed the Drake in the back, Fangskin. Shouting an Amazon warcry, Otrere rushed the pack trying to get the the lizard demon. The first drakes fell to her attack but the pack began to surround her with amazing speed. She fought to retreat then her shield shattered. Another drake fell to the holy mace, then four drakes leapt on the girl and crushed her under their attack.
She awoke just outside town with nothing but the two bows she had found and the Blackoak Bow.
'I refuse to let her beat me.' she muttered and sprinted for the door to the church.
Racing through the upper levels of the labrynth, Otrere collected potions and weapons that might help her in her next assault. She paused in a library to read from one of the Amazon scrolls she carried. It mentioned a Retribution Quest. She would go all the way down through the maze until she found and defeated Fangskin then carry the battle deeper. Excited by the possibility she entered the catacombs and continued to gather supplies. Fortune smiled on her by providing an Eldritch shrine and she was able to convert several potions to rejuvenation potions. Bolstered by her luck so far she entered the caves.
Almost immediately she came under attack by lava lords. Sheathing the sword she had found in the catacombs, Otrere returned their missile attacks with a deadly stream of arrows then ducked down the nearby stairs to the tenth level. Not far from the stairway, a group of Storm Riders jumped her, but they proved little more than a nusiance to her defense position in a nook of the wall. Switching from sword to bow she cleared the level of the demons and their companion Mud Runners. Pausing to catch her breath and adjust the straps on the chain mail the creatures had dropped. Otrere noticed that she was starting to run out of potions.
'Not a good time to start being conservative, girl,' she mumbled to herself, then descended the stairs to the eleventh level.
Another group of Lava Lords and Storm Riders greeted her, and switching to bow and spell, Otrere fought to a stand off with the pack diving down the stairs when her belt emptied. Dusting herself off. Otrere gazed around the twelfth level. She had never been here before. Nothing in the scrolls spoke of this place. Carefully she began to work her way around the cavern looking for the stairs to take her down to what some called Hell. A large dog ran across the room just at the edge of her vision. Then another. Suddenly, two Lava Maws leapt out and attacked the Amazon. The sword of the bat she had found served her well, slaying the monsters and restoring her mana. Otrere switched swords to the Shadowhawk she had found in the catacombs and slowly began to look more dogs, or any other creatures that inhabited this level. Two balls of lava flew from a side chamber and as Otrere blocked them, a pair of maws spat their vile acid at the Amazon. Caught between the two groups, Otrere leapt behind a wall as another acid ball slammed into her side.
'You have only one more chance.' a voice intoned.
'What do you mean?'
'Enter the Portal of Nightmares and defeat the Skeleton King. Break his sword on an alter of Righteousness and your honor will be restored.'
Otrere found herself just outside Tristram.
The air seemed heavier, harder to breathe. Clouds blocked all sunlight and smoke from distant fires filled the horizon. Dark shapes could be seen flying above the old church on the outskirts of town. Otrere ran to where the town drunk Farnham usually sat, he was gone. Peeking around the corner of the building, Otrere saw the old man by the fountain. He looked as if centuries had past and left their mark on his face. She saw Pepin ministering to a warrior, both seemed to be carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. Otrere started to wonder just what she had gotten herself into. Checking her weapons, she found two bows still in her pack, the Blackoak bow and a Short War Bow of Heavens, along with several potions of rejuvenation. Feeling confident that she could defeat the Undead King Leoric, Otrere trotted to the church to hunt down the Butcher first. Then the King would fall.
Chapter 8 -- Reunion and Introduction
Darkness clung to the ground like a fog as Otrere approached the entrance to the church. A moan came from a mound near the entrance and the Amazon went to investigate. A familiar face stared blindly up at her.
'Lazarus....Butcher....Trap....Traitor...' then the man's chest stopped rising. Otrere knelt and closed the man's eyes as she had done so many times before. Was there to be no end to this poor soul's torture? Some day this Lazarus would pay for his crimes. Otrere straightened and gazed at the opening to the temple. She noticed the weather had taken its toll on the place. Holes in the mortar allowed smoke to escape, even from the ground where she stood, smoke could be seen. Otrere felt a presence behind her.
'So this is what is to be if the evil is not stopped,' she mumbled not turning.
'Yes, child,' came an all too familiar voice. 'If the evil is not stopped where you came from, the Portal of Nightmares will open and flood that realm also. It may spill over anyway.'
'And this is my last chance.' Otrere turned to face her mentor.
'How do you know this, youngling?' asked the dark-haired woman.
Otrere related the tale of her trials in Hell and on the Quest for Retribution and of what the voice had said before sending her here. The woman looked surprised at the warnings that Otrere received and told the Amazon that it was not her who had spoken to the girl warrior.
'And do you feel ready to do as this voice asked?'
'Yes, I think I'm ready.' replied the Amazon.
'Not good enough. You either are or you are not. No "I think so". Come here.' The woman siezed Otrere by the hair and drug her to a nearby tree pushing her to the ground. Otrere started to rise, but the woman kicked her feet from under her and sat on her chest, pinning the Amazon's arms beneath her knees.
'Time for some insurance,' stated the woman, who produced a dagger and a bowl from her robes. Seeing the dagger, Otrere started to kick but the dark-haired woman's eyes seized the sight from the girl, and Otrere's mind spun into darkness.
Otrere woke to find the dark-haired woman singing at a bundle wrapped in a rag. A small hand reached up to touch the hair of the woman and a smile came across the teacher's face. Otrere rose and approached the pair, and the dark-haired woman turned and held out the baby to the Amazon.
'What's this?' asked Otrere.
'Meet Otrere,' answered the woman. 'This child will hold a portion of your soul when you go into battle with the Skeleton King. In this manner we can cheat the permanent death that voice warned about by restoring your soul from this child.'
'What manner of witch are you?' snapped Otrere drawing her sword of the Shadowhawk. The dark-haired woman's hand flew up and a bolt of lightning slammed into the Amazon's chest.
'Never call me that again,' hissed the woman. 'It is time you learned who I am. Drink this.'
Taking the healing draught from the woman, Otrere sat beside the tree and the woman began her tale.
Chapter 9 -- Fallen Angel
'Long ago, before this world was formed, angels and devils fought in the heavens for rulership over the coming races. One angel, Izual led a massive attack against the stronghold of evil, the Hellforge. I don't know how long the forces of good and evil struggled in this battle, time became meaningless. Eventually, Izual and a small group of angels won their way to the very gates of the Hellforge. The doors stood open before them and thinking the entire citadel had been emptied to stop them on the battlefield, Izual and his comrades strode through the gates. With a deafening clang, the huge doors slammed behind them, and an army twice the size as they had barely defeated stormed into the courtyard. Arcane power surged from both sides and Mephisto himself joined the fray. Answering their cry, Izual charged the demon and the two locked the combat, decimating all nearby. At the height of there battle the great blade Azurewrath was broken and its magic exploded across the court opening a gate to this world.
'The demon horde turned its attention there and Izual's comrades, deprived of their leader moved to block the unholy army until the gate could be sealed. One angel went through the gate, and the remaining five fought desparately to prevent any demon from disturbing her work as she sealed her friend's doom by closing the only escape they had. It took most of the angel's power to seal the hole Azurewrath had created and in doing so she also denied herself a escape from this world. She became mortal. She also became attuned to the forces of evil at work in this world and when the Sin War began, worked with the Mages in the East, the Horadrim to capture and imprison The Three, all the while, hiding her existance from Tyrael, lest he discover her pain.
'To have once sung with angels...'
'You were the angel, weren't you,' declared Otrere. The dark-haired woman nodded and gazed painfully into the Amazon's eyes. Otrere began crying as the story she had just listened to played itself out in the eyes of the fallen angel.
'I wandered the land helping the Horadrim locate The Three. I wept with the brothers while we buried Tal Rasha in the far Eastern Desert. For a time I rested. The evil had been defeated and I was able to enjoy some time roaming the land and learning of its peoples. I returned to visit the Horadrim, but they had passed on to the next life, their mission complete and then I only wanted to respite from my curse. I learned that while I was mortal, I aged extremely slowly thus you still see me as a young woman, not the centuries old crone I should be.'
'Why haven't you fought the evil here yourself?' asked Otrere stretching to keep the Child Otrere from crawling too far away from the tree. Then she paused. This baby had been growing at a very high rate. Now, able to crawl when moments before it was barely able to lift its head from the dark-haired woman's hand.
'I found that while I could assist men in their battle against the evil invading their world, I could not go into the strongholds of evil. Something was blocking my way. So I sought champions to fight for me. Some, like Tal Rasha, knew of me and I helped them directly. Others, I aided covertly, bestowing luck on them and helping by sending others to aid them. Your tribe's new queen is one such that received my aid without her knowledge. I only wish she hadn't relied as heavily on the ones helping her, now her confidence is not where it should be to defeat the Dark Lord in this place. I chose you as I chose Tal Rasha. I found both of you when you were young. Both of you had faced the evil and survived on your own. With my guidance, Tal Rasha was able to defeat Baal, you will defeat Diablo.
'The voices said you must defeat the Skeleton King and break his sword on the Altar of Righteousness or your last life will be lost. This child holds that last life. Go. Defeat the king and break his sword. We will wait for you at the camp.'
Otrere stood and wiped the tears from her face then looked again at her mentor and the toddler now playing at their feet. The sky was much darker than when she arrived. Night was coming and the inhabitants would be stronger here than on the other side of the Portal of Nightmares. Waving to the pair, she entered the temple to hunt the Undead King.
Chapter 10 -- Hall of the Skeleton King
Immediately upon entering the ruined church, Otrere felt as if the weight of the building was pressing down on her shoulders. Slinging her Blackoak bow over her shoulder, she began to hunt down the inhabitants of this place. A slight grin came to her face as she saw a fallen one approaching from the shadows. He carried a sword that she would need in order to save her better weapons for the Butcher and Skeleton King. The creature lunged at her and she punched it in the face. Burning pain seized her as the back swing of the creature’s sword caught her on the cheek. Otrere kicked the creature in the neck and caught the beasts sword arm as it swung back at her again. Stepping back a bit, Otrere drew her Shadowhawk and prepared for the creature's next attack. When the creature charged her, the Amazon stepped to one side and slashed the fallen one's rib cage, cutting through bone and flesh as the blade drank the life from the creature and passed it to the sword's wielder.
The Amazon paused and checked for other creatures in the vicinity. If the fallen were this powerful here, how much stronger would the Butcher and Skeleton King be. Ordinarily she would enter the evil temple bare-handed and collect the equipment she would need to complete her quest, but this time, Otrere armed herself with her best weapons and proceeded to hunt the entry to the church for potions to sustain her life and magic. Gaining the staircase to the second level, Otrere armed herself with the Holy Bow of the Amazons to hunt the Butcher. She knew he would be much stronger here than before and prepared to slay everything else on this floor before approaching him. Skeleton archers and captains sought to deter her and by retreating to doorways and switching back to sword and shield, she minimized the wear on her beloved bow and dealt with the melee creatures before giving the bowers lessons in archery. Locating the stairway to the Skeleton King's lair, Otrere sought out the Butcher.
The Amazon had prided herself in the variety of methods she had used to defeat the hulking brute, bow, sword, mace, shield, staff, and hand. She was confident he would fall and hoped she would defeat him in this nightmare world before he left his chamber. Taking up her bow, Otrere kicked the door to his chamber and leapt inside. Firing rapidly, the warrior was stunned by the speed of the Butcher's attack. He was worse than she expected. Diving out of the chamber, Otrere drank a yellow potion and ran for the down staircase, she would trap the creature. Once again he surprised her with his speed, staying so close to the girl, she could feel his breath on her neck. Dodging barrels and leaping over sarcophagi, the Amazon led the slayer of children to her trap. Ahead loomed the stairwell that would spell the evil beast’s doom. She stumbled on a loose tile and the Butcher leapt on her with an unholy zeal. Burning pain gripped the Amazon as she sought to escape the demon’s onslaught. Summoning bolts of fire, she battled with the creature driving him back, then turned and vaulted to the other side of the stairway. The beast, driven by the scent of her blood, charged the Amazon and wedged himself in the walls of the stairs. Otrere calmly drank another of her rejuvenating potions and knocked her bow.
Stepping over the Butcher’s body, Otrere entered the Skeleton King’s realm. She hoped he would be with more skeleton captains so that she could deal with his minions first, then the Undead Lord himself, without having to dodge arrows at the same time. Luck was with her as she hunted her prey, the skeletons appearing were either skeleton captains or axe wielding horrors. Both types easily dispatched with the morning star she had picked up near the entrance to the church. Then a large party of skeleton captains surged from the far side of the hall she entered. An eerie glow danced behind them, Leoric had found her. Retreating to the nearest doorway, the Amazon made her stand, switching weapons to the Shadowhawk blade that she might recover from the skeleton attacks more quickly. Otrere checked her belt to make sure she had a full complement of potions and awaited the storm.
As the first skeletons approached, Otrere launched a stream of firebolts. She was not surprised when none of the skeletons fell to her magic, and quickly quaffed a mana restorative and prepared her healing magic. Then bones flew, treasures dropped, and blades sang as the skeleton warriors faced the Amazon in the doorway. Otrere began to tire from the onslaught, blocking two skeletons with her shield and dispatching the third with her sword. She stepped back to narrow her attackers to one at a time and tripped on a bone under foot. Three more skeletons poured through the doorway and behind them their leader. The Amazon warrior backed to a corner to face the new threats and soon only the Skeleton King remained. King Leoric stood back from the Amazon and pointed his bony finger. ‘Know this Amazon. This day I shall feast on your soul.’
The Skeleton King’s voice rang inside Otrere’s head and she nearly blacked out from the pain. Then the Undead Lord’s sword crashed down on the Amazon. Quickly, Otrere raised her shield and blocked the blow. Before she could counter attack, another blow from the massive skeleton shattered her already weakened shield. Rolling from the impact, Otrere loosed holy magic to stop the creature and watched as the bolts went wide of their mark and the King approached again. Otrere quickly switched to her bow and loosed a rapid stream of bolts, while draining another potion from her belt. Leoric closed with her and she swung her bow at his forever-grinning skull only to have it shatter against the wicked blade he carried. His free hand closed on her neck and began to squeeze.
‘Long Live Diablo!’ rang in her skull as the Undead Lord’s blade stabbed through her armor and into her heart.
Otrere blinked and looked around her. She gazed up at a clear cloudless sky, small birds wheeled in tight formation trying to decide which way to fly. The sound of laughter from the town's pub drifted in the wind. Otrere checked the string on her short bow and headed towards the evil temple. This day the Butcher would pay for what he had done to the children of her village.
As she approached the entrance, she noticed a man, obviously in a great deal of pain, lying beside the path. She knelt and took his outstretched hand.
'Lazarus...Albrecht...Butcher...Betrayer...All dead...' Otrere sensed that she had seen and heard this man before now but couldn't remember where. He didn't look like any of the peddlers that had come to her mother's hut, yet there was something familiar about him. She would ask her mother when she returned from her hunt.