Fan fiction:Winds of the Kae Huron/Chapter 1: Last Man
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Winds of the Kae Huron is a fan fiction piece by Nephilim, originally posted in the Diii.net Fan Fiction Forum. The fiction series was reposted on January 29th 2004. You can find more information on Winds of the Kae Huron article.
Chapter 1: Last Man
The scream that shook the mountains.
M'avina had been inside of Malah's infirmary, at the time.
She wasn't as bad off as many of the others. Many from before they had arrived, with grievous wounds they weren't expected to recover from. It had been an injury of folly that had landed M'avina here. She had been bringing up the rear of a war party with ranged support and hadn't seen the overseer clumsily climbing the rocks up towards her. It lashed its whip around her ankle and yanked her off her perch, breaking her leg and fracturing her shoulder in the fall. Now, she had to rest, and allow Malah's soothing medicines to do their work.
She had been asleep, and had shot awake at not just the sound, but the motion. The low, muffled scream reverberated through the very rocks of the mountain, and shook the foundation of Harrogath. She felt it more than heard it. And then, suddenly, a feeling came over her of peace, of harmony. A strange sensation of everything being right in the world.
The others had felt it, too, and they glanced at each other, to see if they were the only one. M'avina knew what had happened before most of the others. A tentative smile crept onto her face, and she put a hand to her mouth, to stifle the cries she wanted to shout out. Tears streamed openly down her visage.
Baal, Lord of Destruction and last of the Three, was defeated.
The others in the infirmary, Barbarians, for the most part, began to chuckle at first, and then burst into uproarious, celebratory laughter. It was over. Harrogath was free, and they would lose no more friends.
M'avina knew that the battle would have cost them dearly. No doubt, the Lord of Destruction had not gone without a fight, and likely many of the brave adventurers who went up there were not coming back. M'avina's partner, Vidala, could very well be among them. But still, she could help feeling so elated. They had finished what they'd started. M'avina had been there as Diablo had rotted away before them, and all that remained was his soulstone over a pile of ash-covered bone.
M'avina hadn't been there when they had shattered it, though, at Hellforge. The horrifyingly violent death of Athena at the hands of the smithing demon when they had first raided it to deal with Mephisto's Stone had left too black a mark upon M'avina's memory. Nonetheless, she had a stake in all this, and now that it had come to pass, she could hardly believe it.
All these months of chasing down the demons in Sanctuary, all the new friends she had made, and all the old friends she had lost . . . she never expected it to end. Even when they had killed Diablo, they still had that weight upon their shoulders. M'avina had felt like breaking down right there when Tyrael had told them that they weren't finished. She was just so tired.
And now, they were going to greet the returning heroes. M'avina shuddered at the thought of her imminent catharsis. Everything was going to come out once she say Vidala or Isenhart, or even the grumpy old Qual-Kehk, who had insisted on accompanying the expedition on their final journey to battle.
Malah helped M'avina and those other wounded who were still mobile out into the square, where they waited in anticipation, looking out the gates at the bloodied battlefields around Harrogath.
They saw him when he was still some distance off, descending the many levels of fortified stronghold through the mountain. But as he neared, they saw that there was no one else with him.
This troubled them to no end. Was Qual-Kehk the only survivor of the titanic battle? M'avina wanted to toss aside her crutch and drag herself to his feet, where she would scream her demand of where Vidala was. As he neared, they saw that he walked with a limp. Malah glanced apprehensively at Anya, who stared intently into the distance.
When he was twenty feet away from the gates, Anya nodded to the gatekeepers, and two husky Barbarian youths rolled back the chains and lifted the gate for him. He strode inside.
Qual-Kehk's featured were even more grizzled than usual. He was bleeding, and had various-coloured blood splattered across his once glorious armour, now dented and cracked in places. His white beard was covered in dirt, dust, and blood, and his sword, broken, was clenched firmly in one fist, and the blood on it was a deep, deep red. No steel blade could be seen, it was so thoroughly saturated. It had been a mighty battle indeed.
Despite his maimed appearance, Qual-Kehk stood strong and tall, his chest puffed out in pride, but his face grim and serious. He stopped shortly into the gate. M'avina wanted to urge him forward, but she knew it was not her place. He simple stood there, in silence, letting the assembled crowd take in every detail.
"Baal is no more," he said finally in his low, gruff voice.
They all drew a breath, ready to whoop for joy and jump up out of their cots, breaking all those bones all over again. But that energy remained pent up, for the stare of Qual-Kehk didn't merit celebration. He just stood there, the wind tossing his long hair gently about his face. M'avina was truly beginning to hate him. Malah was glancing at his various wounds, wondering if she should rush up and tend to him.
"Are . . ." Anya hesitated after a long silence, "are you the only . . . where is everyone else?"
"They are gone," said Qual-Kehk quietly. "When the Relic had been taken from Baal, Tyrael was once again allowed to enter the sacred mountain. He opened up a portal for all the champions who survived."
More portals, M'avina thought. Between the Infernal Gate, the portal to Nihlathak's foul mountain temple, and the one Tyrael had opened to Harrogath, M'avina had grown tired of traversing great distances with the mystical doors.
"Where did it lead?" asked M'avina.
Qual-Kehk shook his head. "I do not know, for he did not say. He only said that it would lead them to a peace that they much deserved."
M'avina's heart crumbled. She would never see Vidala again, she slowly realized. And then a new sensation dawned on her, a profound anger simmered within her, and she felt her face grow hot, even within the cold winds. Why wasn't she allowed this peace? She had almost died in the battle with the Black Council in Travincal, and had put her life on the line with every demon leader they fought. So why was she left behind, at the roof of the world, and now, without her mentor and friend to see her off of it?
So what was she to do now?
Her attention was drawn back to Qual-Kehk as Larzuk and Malah quickly approached him. The smith helped him out of his armour - parts of which were so dented that they were impossible to come off without hammering them off - and the healer examined his wound.
One of the younger Barbarians - Drus, the one who had lost his arm - spoke up. "Were there casualties in the battle?"
Larzuk paused for a moment, glancing at Drus, but then continued to manipulate the armour.
Qual-Kehk sighed heavily. "Yes. There are casualties in every battle."
Drus exchanged glances with the other Barbarians. He then chanced a quick look to M'avina. "Who were they?"
Qual-Kehk looked down, pushing Larzuk away for a moment. Malah stood back. There was a very long moment. M'avina's heart pounded and her temples ached. "That is not important. They all fought bravely, as did all of you, and all of them are now at peace, one way or another. You shall never see any of them again."
M'avina felt suddenly sick to her stomach. She looked at the rest of the crowd. There were others there, too, among them, who had come a great distance to be here, and now it was over, and they had nowhere to go. Arcanna, the young witch of the Zann Esu, had been told to remain in Harrogath, to try and strengthen the ward, by her superior, Regha, who had gone up Arreat. There was another sorceress, Kira, but she had been brutally wounded in a fight with succubi, and was still comatose in Malah's infirmary. They had met all three of the sorceresses in Lut Gholein. They had joined up with another, Eschuta, in Kurast, but she had died at the hands of Sarina.
Isenhart had been with the sorceresses in Lut Gholein, trying to get to Kurast to the rest of his contingent. When they had arrived, only three, Milabrega, Wilhelm, and Guillame, had survived the ravages of the Jungle. Guillame had died in the fight with Mephisto, Wilhelm had fallen to Izual, and Milabrega had given her life in the titanic battle with Diablo, along with many others. And now Isenhart, the last of them, had disappeared up the mountain.
Two of the three Rogues from the Monastery, Paige and Shikha, hadn't made it. And others, too many to name, were among the list of the dead. So now, all that remained of the war party that had entered Harrogath was M'avina, Arcanna, the spearman Haseen, the young Paladin, Kinemil, the Ironwolf, Jabari, and Ume, the relatively young Necromancer. There was also the Druid, Dimoak, who had been part of a small group of druids who had arrived in Harrogath shortly after M'avina's party. But Dimoak hadn't associated himself much with the rest of them, not unlike the other druids. Nevertheless, here he stood with them, perhaps realizing now that he was completely alone here.
Malah was beginning to usher her patients back into her home, and Qual-Kehk gruffly pushed Larzuk aside, making his way toward his house. Larzuk resigned himself to defeat and walked away.
M'avina quickly limped over to Qual-Kehk, leaning heavily on her crutch. She almost fell into him as she grabbed him by the shoulder. She immediately regretted it as he winced when he turned to her.
"What is it, child?" he asked impatiently.
M'avina stopped, not sure if it was appropriate to ask, but she had to know. "Why didn't you go with them?"
Qual-Kehk seemed surprised at the question, and M'avina was, for a moment, afraid that he would be angry with her. But he was not. He looked up, around the village, and squinted into the wind, before answering. "It was not my time for peace." His eyes looked distant again. "I am needed here. And soon, I expect, I shall have to journey to Sescheron, and speak with Halaberd, if he still lives. There is much work to be done here, and I cannot expect Anya to shoulder that responsibility without my aid. She is spirited and resilient, but she is still young and not accustomed to this station. She will need my help."
M'avina took her hand off his shoulder. She suddenly felt very small and petty, standing before him. "I . . ." she stuttered, "that's very noble of you."
He shrugged. "Nobility has little to do with it, child. I have duties." He turned to go back to his house. "Now, you should rest, Amazon. You may do so without worry, now."
He didn't say anything else to her.
M'avina stood in front of his house for several minutes, and then looked around at the square, and saw that she was the only one still standing out in the cold wind. M'avina sighed, and saw her breath turn to a white cloud before her. Then she turned, and hobbled her way back to Malah's.
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