SWEETSPEARGIRL'S ADVENTURES - Chapter 15: The Ancients Await
Cast of Characters
SweetSpearGirl - lvl 77 Spearazon
Euyfura - lvl 77 Rogue merc
The Ubiquitous Valk
"SO IT CAME TO BE THAT THE THREE PRIME EVILS WERE BANISHED IN SPIRIT FORM TO THE MORTAL REALM, AND AFTER SOWING CHAOS ACROSS THE EAST FOR DECADES, THEY WERE HUNTED DOWN BY THE ORDER OF THE MORTAL HORADRIM. THE HORADRIM USED ARTIFACTS CALLED SOULSTONES TO CONTAIN THE ESSENCE OF MEPHISTO, THE LORD OF HATRED; AND HIS BROTHER BAAL, THE LORD OF DESTRUCTION..."
SweetSpearGirl was doing some research. She'd been fighting so long and hard and finally decided it was about time she looked into exactly *why* she was fighting, and what for. It was a long and complicated history covering several continents and uncounted centuries of time. Euyfura had never seen her friend in such a serious, studious mood; the latter had even approached Cain willingly for advice and information. He'd told her as much as he knew, adding at the end, "I have spent decades trying to understand the forces at work in this world, but in the face of all of - this, I realize just how meagre my knowledge is. I will help you where I can, my friend!"
She considered this, then raised her Lycander's Flank and cast a Valk. "Let's finish this for good or for bad," she told Euyfura.
"Or for worse..." the Rogue muttered as they headed for the waypoint and twinked out to the Glacial Trail.
"So far so good," Euyfura said, a pack of Death Slashers and some Reanimated Horde later. The weapons were still doing their jobs; the Valk was still as aimless as ever; but SweetSpearGirl seemed to have some of her old energy back.
"Almost as if all that time studying gave her fresh resolve," Euyfura thought, but didn't voice it aloud. The Amazon had been badly depressed of late, ever since the boss Moon Lords had last driven her from the Ice Caves. Now things seemed different. Better. OK, so Frozen Terrors were still a pain in the butt, but for the first time in ages - since before rescuing Anya, in fact - SweetSpearGirl seemed to be *enjoying* the battle.
SweetSpearGirl was developing the habit of casting Decoys ahead of herself to draw out monsters. This was helping; a Champion pack of Death Slashers was *not* helping. Despite the assistance of ordinary Death Slashers and Reanimated Horde, they were dealt with (dropping the first Chance Stone in ages), and one more tunnel in the Glacial Trail was mapped out in SweetSpearGirl's head.
"I could remember these tunnels like the back of my hand," she commented offhand.
"The back of your hand is always wearing those set Bramble Mitts!" Euyfura shot back with a smirk on her face.
"Trust you to be a smart-arse, Rogue," SweetSpearGirl grinned. "I should set you up with that tenor in the Barbarian Choir, you know, the one we rescued in the Frigid Highlands. He's almost as bad as you with his smart remarks!"
"Yuck, no way," Euyfura said. "I'd rather date Gheed!"
"I do not need that image Euyfura!" the spearazon laughed.
Helping their newly rediscovered high spirits was a drop of over 21k in gold, and their discovery - after much cautious Decoy-casting and creeping forward - of the passage up and out of the Ice Caves.
"We must be pretty high up the mountainside by now," Euyfura said as they emerged onto the Frozen Tundra.
"Yeah," the spearazon agreed. "Like I always say - Onward and upward!" she added with a grin.
"Look at these trees, aren't they fascinating??" the Valkyrie commented. Euyfura rolled her eyes and readied her bow.
Demon Tricksters haunted the snowscape - another variety of those damned teleporting imps the adventurers had grown so tired of in the Frigid Highlands. As always they were accompanied by Crush Beasts, from whose backs they sprayed infernos indiscriminately. Fortunately, while they were good at confusing the Valk, they were not a particularly major threat (unlike Moon Lords!) and while SweetSpearGirl's muscles ached from jabbing, she persevered through the enemies. Eventually they all got tired of the imps and simply ran for it; SweetSpearGirl stopped once briefly to recast the Valk, but shortly afterwards - as Anya and Qual-Kehk had told them - they found another icy passage into the mountain's heart and entered the Ancients' Way. Here SweetSpearGirl stopped and cast a Decoy ahead of them.
The first one attracted no attention, but then Frozen Scourges and Death Slashers came wandering up. Euyfura fired arrows till her fingers ached from plucking the bowstring, and SweetSpearGirl kept casting Decoys, but there was no real danger to the party.
Then the Moon Lords showed up. Two of them barrelled out, flinging themselves on the Decoy. Fortunately, although backed up by Frozen Scourges, they were easily taken care of and the trio moved on. Slowly and cautiously, casting Decoys around every corner and the cold making them shiver beneath their armour, the party moved deeper into the mountain's icy heart. Mind Shield (spectral hit, cold enchanted, multiple shot, cold immune) showed up - he and his Frozen Scourge minions caused the Valk some trouble, but for SweetSpearGirl and Euyfura they were less trouble than a pack of Enslaved and when Mind Shield went down, he left a nice gift: a gold Phase Blade which identified as a Lightsabre ("I can *hear* you Euyfura, humming the Star Wars theme song!").
Next up was *another* Frozen Scourge boss - Seethe Eye, this time fire-enchanted, spectral hit and teleportation-enhanced. SweetSpearGirl set to work on the minions, leaving the Valk to tank Seethe Breath. The minions had very little room to move in the narrow tunnel, so while Seethe Eye teleported a couple of times - bringing back four Moon Lords and some more Frozen Scourges with him - the fight was soon over. SweetSpearGirl recast the Valk, opened up her Horadric Cube and looked over her ill-gotten gains.
"Not bad for a morning's work, eh?"
"Not bad at all," Euyfura agreed. "Want to find the waypoint before we take a break?"
"Sure. Anya said there was one down here."
"Onward and downward then, huh?"
"Hah! Better be careful, Rogue - you're starting to sound just like me."
"No chance of that, I'm too cynical," Euyfura retorted, sticking her tongue out at SweetSpearGirl before drawing her bow on a pack of Moon Lords the Decoy had attracted. (The Valk wandered into the fray just in time to distract the last of them.)
Two more Frozen Scourges and a trapped jar later, the waypoint was theirs; SweetSpearGirl, Euyfura and the Valk returned to Harrogath, just in time for lunch.
* * * *
An hour later, they returned to the Ancients Way. More Death Slashers; more Frozen Scourges. The Valk was even less help than usual, wandering off at points in the middle of a fight, but she did at least distract the enemies long enough for them to get to know a Lycander's Flank intimately via the sharp end. SweetSpearGirl was at one point very glad of her life leech when three Moon Lords surrounded her and quickly took out both Valk and Decoy!
"I live for these hairy moments!" she grinned.
Euyfura rolled her eyes again. "I know, that's why you have to keep resurrecting me!"
"You are replaceable, Rogue," SweetSpearGirl snorted.
"With what, Mr Tenor from the choir?"
Suddenly a Succubus boss pack appeared and rapidly bore down on the Decoy. Their leader - Wrath Head - sported a fanaticism aura and possessed a stone skin - a damn physical immune! (She also had a spectral hit, which didn't improve matters much.) SweetSpearGirl set to on the minions, knowing she could leech from them. She decided to leave the boss busy with a Decoy and move on, hoping to lose her; Wrath Head's life *was* going down, but too slowly to avoid mass purple pot drinking. And SweetSpearGirl knew she'd need to save every last purple for the Ancients - and then some.
Up ahead, it was as if the floodgates had opened. At least twelve Death Slashers, four Moon Lords and a pair of Frozen Scourges converged on them. Several Valk recasts were needed; SweetSpearGirl almost had to reach for a purple potion, but not quite.
"You know, these hairy battles are just warm-ups," she said to Euyfura.
"Thanks for reminding me," the Rogue said, gritting her teeth. "I'm not looking forward to this business with the Ancients."
"Nor am I, believe me," the Amazon replied. "But I did for Nihlathak; we dealt with Shenk and rescued Anya - hell, we did for Diablo! We should be able to beat those guys."
"I hope you're right."
"So do I."
A few more fights (including a pack of Champion Succubi) saw them standing at the entrance to a dark passage leading up and out; SweetSpearGirl could peer up and see daylight at the other end.
"This must be it," she said softly. "The fabled home of the Ancients. Are you guys sure you're up to this?"
"Wouldn't miss it!" Euyfura said; the Valk just glowed and gazed innocently at the icy wall.
"You don't fool me," SweetSpearGirl said. "But thanks." She smiled. "Let's go."
They emerged onto the very summit of the mountain in swirling snow. Below them lay miles of Arreat's slopes - walls and barricades spread out like toys. Harrogath could be seen far below, the sunlight glinting off its snow-topped buildings. She could almost see Cain and Larzuk from here...
"We are the spirits of the Ancient Ones. We have been chosen to guard the sacred mountain wherein rests the Worldstone. Few are worthy to stand in its presence. Fewer still can comprehend its purpose. To enter the Keep, you must defeat us."
The statues surrounding the central aura were enveloped in swirls of light. Then they attacked.
The first moments were dicey - Euyfura went down and SweetSpearGirl had to run and drink potions and throw up Decoys. Eventually she managed to separate two of the Ancients from the third and one by one she took them down. None of them was physical immune which was fortunate! As the last fell, they spoke again, telling her how Baal's purpose was to gain control of the Worldstone and thus open some sort of unstoppable gateway to Hell.
"Well that's not good," she said, portalling back to town. She noticed as she did so, that the battle with the Ancients had boosted her to level 78...
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