The Rabbit Cooking Barbarian of Harrogath - Occhidiangela
"Here, chef, have a little fire starter for your next banquet!"
Without further ado, she stalked off toward Malah's house, her irritation manifesting itself in a slight static charge around her brow. Not a woman to trifle with.
The dark haired barbarian continued to methodically turn the rabbit over the fire. He looked up slowly as the dark haired lady in green walked further away, and gazed at the book that had landed not five feet from his fire. He smiled grimly to himself.
The disguise had worked again. No one recognized him, here in the far North. No one knew him, and more importantly, no one knew of his past. He looked over at the book, finally giving in to temptation. Reaching out with a smoke blackened hand from his kneeling position, and he pulled the book to him.
Keeping his right hand on the spit, and cradling the spine of the book in the palm of his left hand, he opened the cover with his large, grit covered thumb and read. Or rather, he fell into the book with his mind and simply joined in with the words to experience their totality, their meaning, their tale, their truth.
He woke up to the smell of burning rabbit meat. The book and all of its lore had been consumed in the process of reading. Its contents were dizzying in their complexity, much as the puzzle of the chess match he could hear going on between Cain and Nihlathak across the street.
Gripping the spit, he started turning the rabbit over the fire again, assessing from the depth of charring that he had been "reading" for about seven minutes. The catharsis of this mundane task gave him a moment to consider how his reading skills had eroded since leaving Tristram. There was a time, not so very long ago, when he could absorb a book in a few seconds, assimilating all of its lore without so much as missing a drunken syllable in Farnham's endless stories. Mayhap, he thought, that trip into the bowels of the Earth behind Pippin's hut had left him weaker than he had supposed.
Perhaps the scar on his forehead, disguised by his long, shaggy bangs, should remind him better of why he had come North after that aborted wagon ride East had been obstructed by the Rogues at their Citadel. Perhaps, he thought yet again with deep remorse, it had been careless to rip the red jewel from his forehead and toss it onto the ground in that Mountain Pass in Ensteig, where pretty much any fool walking with his face to the ground could find it.
Rumor had come to him of a hooded Dark Wanderer, with a glowing red eye, entering and devastating the Rogue's Citadel and then opening a gateway into Hell that had given the Demon Queen Andariel the opportunity to ravage the lands of the West-- and to corrupt his dearly beloved rogue, Blood Raven. What had possessed him to think that dark of night and rain would help conceal a shard of a soulstone? Of course someone had picked it up, with the predictable result that the demon Diablo once again walked the earth in the body of a mortal, this form doubtless hardier than Prince Alberecht's broken body had been before possession.
He shook his head, once again marveling at how the cohabitation of a demon lord's spirit in his skull had cost him his ability to reason consistently. Of course, the three month drunken binge in Lut Gholein had done little to help his clarity of thought.
The rabbit was beginning to smell of the rosemary sprigs he had stuffed into the abdominal cavity, which meant that a few more minutes would see his dinner cooked to perfection. His "all hare" diet had trimmed him down and put him back into fighting form after the long months of eating and drinking his sorrows into oblivion in Lut Gholein. The long journey north from Kurast and the cold mountain air had purged him of the sloth of the South. He sat back, letting the top of the rabbit char to match the black patch on the bottom, where his reading had disrupted his meal preparation, and reached under his old brown cloak to feel again the Sword he had found beneath Tristram.
It was the Old King's Sword, the Sword of Karlan Quickblade.
Karlan, that quaint footnote of Westmarch history who had started the crusade against wizardry when the Vizjeri clan refugees had come west.
Karlan, the man who had learned to slay magicians with a combination of blade speed and fancy footwork.
Karlan, who had little time to learn of magic, only of its evil influence on the good people of Westmarch.
Karlan, who had died in the blazing fury of an Apocalypse spell, or indeed a torrent of such spells, when he had called out the infamous Vizjeri sorcerer Ilcattivo, demanding that he turn himself in to face the King's Justice.
Karlan, whose charred and blackened body was never recovered from within his Holy Plate Mail of the Lion, his Jade Crown of the Heavens, or from underneath his Gothic Storm Shield, since it was burned to ash.
Karlan, whose ashes Ilcattivo urinated on and stirred into the mud of the main street of Kingsport, while holding his Apocalyptic Staff aloft and daring the King's retainers to move a muscle.
Karlan, fool of a King, and wielder of the greatest bastard sword ever forged from steel.
Karlan, his great-great-great-great-great grand uncle, and fourth cousin, six times removed, of Old King Leoric of Khanduras.
The "barbarian" felt again the hard outline of the Stormshield, and imagined the cold grey glow of his Holy Plate Mail of the Lion, now in Larzuk's for socketing. He reached into his pack and pulled out his Jade Crown of the Heavens, to look once again on the heirloom of his ancestor; the crown scorned by the current royal family of Westmarch as the "trappings of a fool, not of a King."
He stopped his musing and went back to the rabbit, done to perfection.
This was his twenty first rabbit meal in succession. His seventh straight day in Harrogath, spent eating, preparing rabbit jerky and hardtack, exercising, and watching a procession of fools and heroes go out through the gate to counterattack Shenk's army, never to return. This was his last cooked meal before venturing out into the hills to seek the Worldstone, and perhaps a meeting with yet another Prime Evil. The ritual of eating rabbit allowed his mind to drift again, and to pick up the conversation between Cain and Nihlathak, still at their endless chess match.
"Knight to queen's
bishop two. Check."
The "barbarian" smiled as he licked the rabbit grease from his fingers. The chess match was finally getting interesting enough to watch, had he the inclination. Instead, he stood up and reached into his pouch for his family jewelry, preparing himself for this last phase of his own personal crusade.
He first put an Obsidian Amulet of the Heavens around his neck. On his right ring finger, he placed an Obsidian Ring of the Heavens, and on his left a Jade Ring of Perfection. Picking up his pack, he trod over to Larzuk, who was signaling to him that his armor was done being modified. Reaching into his belt pouch again, he fingered the two runestones that Larzuk would imbed into his armor's new sockets.
He grinned with satisfaction.
Yes, this time he would be more than ready for the sort of magic that killed his ancestors and drove Old King Leoric insane. This time, he would walk boldly into the maw of sorcerous evil, and rip its own avatar out by the roots. Tal Rasha, the greatest of mages and now the demon Baal's host, would be the final notch he would carve into his sword hilt to honor his ancestor's vendetta against the evils of wizardry.
It was time to move forward. It was time for the Old King's Bastard Sword of Haste to sing its bloody songs in the Mountains of the North. It was time for Biondi, descendant of kings, known in the West as Il Buono, to step forward and do battle yet again with the minions of Hell. With an errie whistle, he drew his cloak back and buckled on his sword belt as he headed over to Larzuk's smithy.