Fan fiction:Fulcrum/Chapter 3
Fulcrum is a fan fiction piece by Anyee, originally posted in 2003 on the original The Dark Library website. Reposted in the Diabloii.net Fan Fiction Forum by silentwater. This story was started on January 12th 2006.
Chapter 3[edit source]
The crypt was barely illuminated with oil-torches, left by the Rogue priestesses after they completed their burial rituals. Their protective wards and charms seemed to have had no effect, because there were few graves left undefiled. Assorted barrels of supplies were strewn about, including a few chests of burial clothes, offerings of money, healing items for the Rogue afterlife. I busied myself with opening one of them, while Paige stood guard behind me. We were still close enough to the mouth of the crypt that most of the undead would stay away from the sunlight.
I kicked over the first barrel. Nothing. The second proved little more useful, with a healing potion falling out of it. I hit the third and had it explode in a burst of gold pieces. Success at last. As I bent to retrieve the gold, I head a moan and then felt a rush of air. A green-gray, moldy arm hit my chest as the zombie, previously concealed under the barrel, attacked. As I reeled back, I saw him illuminated for a second, and then split into several pieces as the whoosh of arrows went by my head.
'Stay alert, Assassin, or else I will be the one to defeat the demon queen and bring her head to your tomb.'
I straightened up, checking my body. There were a few scratches and some superficial damage to the armor, but otherwise I was fine. I started with a nasty comment, but then thought the better and thanked her for the quick thinking. Soon enough she would lose her cockiness.
We traveled on through the crypt, fighting mostly zombies and skeletons. Paige's bow was a constant heartbeat of quick death, piercing flesh and non-corporeal forms with equal ease. I saw her look askance at some of the wraiths, their screams of death taunting her as they whirled towards us and tried to drain our energy source. I thought it a good time to begin instructing Paige on the finer points of evil hunting. I explained the difference between undead, corrupt, and demonic to her. I explained that some would respond better to her arrows and some to my blades, some to the burst of ice that she could summon and some to a fiery blast from above. I was still uncertain as to what exactly we would find in this crypt, but I had a vague intimation of what lay ahead when we came to a large vault.
'This must have been an army's burial room, judging by its size and layout,' I grunted as I overturned a headstone. Sure enough, there was a still-untouched Rogue corpse, marked with signs indicating victory in battle, and wrapped in a faintly glowing belt. I murmured a prayer to the warrior's spirit, asking for her forgiveness and her protection, as I gently removed the belt; the corpse crumbled to nothing at my touch. I lifted the belt and rotated it a few times. Definitely magical, but of what sort I couldn't tell. I tucked it gently into my pack, being careful not to damage it with my blades.
Paige's bow had been strangely silent. I stood up, brushing the dust off my legs, and I walked next to her. Paige stood, ramrod straight, gripping her bow with white-knuckled strength. I watched her jaw tense but refrain from either talking or firing. I followed her line of sight into the next room: a dead Rogue, tied to a stake, caked blood all over her face, her legs and torso half-gnawed off, half-burned away by fire. Tiny red humanoids encircled her, babbling wildly.
'Carvers. About ten of them, and their shaman. The lowest level of demon. Easy to kill. Very cowardly. Get as many as you can and I'll take care of their boss. Now let's move.'
Paige shook herself once and began to fire into the doorway. Her aim was true and she cut down three demons, who were promptly resurrected by their leader. I edged around the wall and leapt into the fray. I ran towards the shaman and he howled at me, cursing in hell-tongue and common language. I dodged his frantic blow and lopped off an arm, turning quickly to finish him with a second strike, but not before he sent a fireball my way. I caught it full in the face and I staggered back, blinded. I recovered after a few seconds and finished off the two remaining carvers, blocking their swords with my claws until I could hit the hellions with some accuracy.
The room became quiet again. I reached a hand up to my face, probing my cheeks and forehead with my mostly-bound fingers. The skin was raw and oozing, beginning to blister, but strangely lacking in pain thanks to the severity of the burn. My vision was clouding and I could feel the inside of my mouth drying out. I wavered momentarily, struggling to breath through my seared lungs. I reached to my belt and pulled out a healing potion. I drank the livid, red liquid and felt its warmth spread through my body. My vision returned to normal and I began to breathe easier.
Paige stood in the corner, panting. One leg was covered in blood, the other bruised and dangling at a strange angle. It couldn't be comfortable for her to remain upright, but she did it to prove her toughness, I supposed. I tossed her a potion that one of the carvers had dropped. She uncorked it and I watched her stand a little straighter as the bones in her leg knit back together. 'Thank you,' she said as she approached the dead Rogue.
'Let me.' I said, stopping her. I stepped into the fire, wincing as it burned my still-tender skin, and cut through the Rogue's bonds. The corpse crumpled to the floor, spilling its few items onto the ground. I gently moved the body over to the side, where the caretakers of the burial grounds could easily find her and give her a proper burial. I collected the things she had spilled and we motioned for Paige to follow me. She walked behind me, emotionless.
We continued down through the tomb, dispensing with the remainder of the specters that flitted through the stone walls. Rounding a bend, we came into a large room, with no visible means of exit other than the hallway behind us. A screech of 'Back off!' emanated from the center and there was the sound of clattering weapons. Paige closed her eyes and suddenly the room was illuminated with her inner sight. Fifteen carvers advanced towards us. A slightly taller one decorated with arcane demonic signs and glowing a pale green stood in back of them. 'By the Bloods,' I murmured. His symbols indicated that Diablo himself had brushed his fingers over this little runt's skin, giving him extra strength and the nasty ability to explode his body into fire. Paige was busy fighting off the demons that had approached her. Three tiny bodies split into pieces near my feet and I ducked as their equipment flew into the air.
The green one advanced towards me, mocking me and waving his scimitar. I called my totem animals to me, and I felt the spirit of the tiger descend into my body. My back carved slightly and I snarled as I launched at him. Once, twice, three times I slashed at the demon with my left arm, and then I stabbed him with my right. The tiger-spirit in my veins exploded with power and I opened a wound through his right leg. He howled in pain and drove his scimitar through my stomach. I felt something vital explode and I dropped to the floor, gushing blood. I grabbed a potion again and drank quickly, then flipped back to standing. My entire torso felt like someone had sewn a live rabid dog into it, but I was no longer in danger of dying. I tensed my muscles again, calling upon the tiger's strength and dove back at the green demon. I hacked off both his arms with several powerful blows. Finally, I decapitated him.
His body exploded, tossing me against the wall of the tomb. I hit, shattering several ribs and breaking my right wrist bladeÖand the hand it covered. My legs were covered in fresh burns as the demons' acid blood ate through my armor and my flesh with equal ease. I clawed downwards to my belt, but I had finished the last of my potions. I cursed violently. I was in pain, but I wasn't in danger of dying. I walked, very slowly, over to the corner, where a tiny chest glittered in the gloom. A demon limped towards me and I stabbed him, then fished through his corpse. Nothing. Ah well. The demons, in their nonsensical greed, had been protecting this cache from the outside. Well, no more. I had succeeded in returning them to their fiery dwellings and their prize was mine. I sat down near the chest and opened it, cursing every time my right hand hit the wooden lid. Inside, glittering, were a few hundred gold, a set of claws glowing faintly, and several potions. I considered drinking the potions, then figured I should go back to town anyhow to figure out what it was exactly I had gotten.
I opened my pack and removed a scroll of town portal. I read the incantation aloud and the blue vortex burst before me. The contents of the chest were dumped into my bag unsteadily, as I found myself unable to move my right hand at all. I replaced the bulging sack on my back and prepared to return to the camp. 'Paige,' I called, 'we are going back to town.' No answer. 'Paige,' I called again. I lifted myself off the ground and turned around to find a very disheveled, very injured Rogue standing before me. Her leather armor was shredded and pierced from all sides. Blood ran freely from two matching slashes on her chest and back. Her leg bones were visible where the demons had stripped away the skin and muscle with their blades. One eye swollen shut and most of the scalp on the left side of her head was lying near her on the floor. Her jaw hung open, broken, explaining why she had not answered me. Still, she stood before me, trembling in pain, and leaning heavily on her nearly shattered bow.
I offered her my arm, and wrapped it around her midsection as I helped her through the portal. We stepped through the portal and half-walked, half dragged ourselves towards the center of the camp. 'Kashya!' I yelled, and the Rogue leader turned, then ran towards us when she saw our condition. I let Paige slip into her commander's arms as the young Rogue faded into unconsciousness, her destroyed face relaxing as her brain retreated from reality. I limped over to the fire, as Kashya called Akara to the Rogue's side, and dropped down to my knees. I suppressed a scream as my burned skin split open under my weight. I removed my pack and took out all of the new items I had found and lay them before me. My body ached in ways I had never thought possible. I realized that I should probably take care of my own injuries, but I was curious to see what I had garnered on my trip down. However, the insistent pulsing in my right arm told me that the items had to wait if I ever wanted to fight again.
I looked at my right hand, still clad in the remnant of its weapon. Even I, who had seen the entrails of kings strewn like garlands of flowers around a throne room, dreaded to unwrap the leather bindings. There is something about the mortification of your own flesh that makes the grotesque injuries you usually inflict on others so much more gruesome. Clumsily, I undid the straps on my left wrist blade with my teeth, sinking the point of the blade into the earth to study it. I rotated my arms several times, watching the blood return to the white places where the straps had cut off the circulation. I flexed my fingers carefully, and then set to work removing the right weapon. The straps were slippery with my own blood and I couldn't get the fastenings to come off. I grabbed my left blade from the ground and cut off the weapon.
I could no longer hold myself back and let out a deep yell as the blood rushed into my damaged hand, bringing the pain from the back of my mind to the forefront of my consciousness. All my fingers were purple, broken, and moved into unnatural positions. I couldn't flex any of them, nor could I rotate my wrist. I lifted my arm to my eye level to survey the damage better, and immediately wished I hadn't. A new surge of pain went through me, and I bit down on my lip to keep from screaming again, as I cradled what remained of my hand.
I rose, unsteadily, and walked to Akara's tent. Paige was already being healed under her expert ministrations, but was being kept unconscious to hasten the process. I mustered all the decorum I could and I whispered, 'Akara, I understand that your duties lie to your Rogues. I also understand your rage at my bringing back one of your own in such terrible condition. But if you couldÖ' I trailed off, as I suddenly felt too heavy for my own frame. The last thing I thought was how light the sky seemed, and then realized that we had been underground for a mere three hours. Then everything, from the sky to the ground, went black.
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