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Livin' Easy
1998-1999 by Vic Sagerquist
http://home.inreach.com/vicman/

Chapter 8:  Evening; The Court of the CowLord

On the other side of the portal was the biggest cavern Solo had ever seen. A luminescent fungus or mineral covered the ceiling and provided light equivalent to that of a cloudy afternoon. That light shined down on rolling green pastures surrounding a crystal blue pond. Cattle of all breeds and types grazed on the hillsides. The portal opened onto a gravel path that led down to a small stone cottage by the edge of the pond. A dozen Minotaurs of all sizes lined the path. One of the giant winged bullrogs stood at the end of the line.

"Ladies and gentlemen, cows and bulls, golems and demons," announced the bullrog, "Let's all give it up for the Divine Bovine and Master of the Pasture, and one Bad Muthah Udder: The CowLord!"

"Moo! Moo! Moo!" cheered the Minotaurs waving their fists in the air. Throughout the cavern, cattle mooed their greetings to their master.

"Gods, I love that," confided Ichabod.

Solo was in awe. "It's like... like some sort of Secret Cow Level!" she breathed. She realized Dolt, Griswold and Red Vex were all staring at her. "What?" Solo made a mental note to come up with some other name for the cavern when she chronicled the adventure.

"The man's been down here alone with unlimited blue potions and a bunch of cows. There's a story that doesn't need telling."

"I'm so glad you like it," said Ichabod walking past the Minotaurs. He nodded at some, shook hands with others. Two even held their beefy hands up for high fives. Several cows were also nearby, chewing their cud. Those within reach received affectionate pats on the nose. "The pond is a Purifying Spring. All the free Mana you can drink."

Dolt whispered into Griswold's ear: "The man's been down here alone with unlimited blue potions and a bunch of cows. There's a story that doesn't need telling."

Griswold winced. "Please, dinnae make me laugh. It hurts."

A small Minotaur trotted ahead and opened the gate in the low stone wall surrounding Conjurer Ichabod's cottage. "Home sweet home," said Ichabod inviting the others to follow him. "Fetch some refreshments for our guests, Jeeves."

The little Minotaur who had opened the gate closed it and went into the cottage.

"Make yourselves comfortable," said Ichabod. There were chairs and benches around the courtyard. "Gris, why don't you take the hammock over in the corner and get some more rest."

Griswold accepted Ichabod's invitation and lay down in the hammock strung between a small fruit tree and the courtyard wall. Dolt found himself a seat that allowed him to have his back to the cottage wall. Red Vex sat on the wall circling the cottage. The CowLord armor was not made for sitting, so Ichabod remained standing. Besides, he didn't want to wrinkle his cape. Solo pulled up a chair and sat near him.

"You were explaining why the Zerg have left you alone," prompted Solo. "Granted, you handled the giant crab..."

"It was a Guardian-Familiar hybrid," supplied Ichabod knowing of the Bard's desire for accuracy and details.

"But it was just one creature. From what I've seen the Zerg tend to attack in swarms," said Solo.

"Two reasons," said Ichabod. "The first is that I can tap into the Purifying Spring any time I like, wherever I am." He lowered his visor. "I AM ALL-POWERFUL!" He raised his visor again. "That means my ball never drains. But the main reason they leave me alone is because I know what they're afraid of."

"And what would that be?" prompted Solo. This could be the information they had come looking for.

"Are you kidding? I'm afraid of it too!"

Dolt stood up, his axe in hand. "Tell us, sorcerer."

Ichabod looked at the Barbarian warrior, started to lower his visor, and then stopped. "Nope, can't do it. There are some things mortals weren't meant to know."

Dolt scowled and advanced a step.

Ichabod cupped a hand to his ear. "Oops! I think I hear some of my loyal subjects calling." He lowered his visor. "COWLORD FEARS NOTHING! I MUST FLY!" And he did, through a Horadrim Portal that opened thirty feet above the cottage.

"If you'd showed him any more, we'd be spreading you on crackers right now!"

"Oh, that was good, Dolt," snapped Solo as the portal winked shut. "I realize interviewing skills probably aren't in Chapter One of the Barbarian Training Guide, but that was..."

"You have to show these sorcerers who's boss," interrupted Dolt firmly.

"If you'd showed him any more, we'd be spreading you on crackers right now!" returned Solo.

Griswold decided to intervene before blood was shed. "Did y'notice how he changed whenever he had his visor up or down?" asked Griswold. "Almost like he was two different people."

"Do you think he's possessed?" asked Dolt.

"Aye," replied Griswold. "When the visor's up, he's pretty much the Conjurer Ichabod I knew before the troubles. Maybe a few potions short of a full belt, but mostly th' same old Ichabod. When the visor's down, though, he calls himself..."

"CowLord," finished Solo. "And shouts a lot. I'd noticed."

"Ye're the demon," Griswold addressed Red Vex, "D'you know of any creature like CowLord who might try t'possess Conjurer Ichabod?"

"It's been my experience," said Solo, "that in four out of five cases of demonic possession, the demons are of the victim's own making."

"Nine out of ten," corrected Red Vex. "There is no scent of demon anywhere about our host. He is as human as any of you."

"Well, whatever he is, or whoever he is," said Griswold, "he may know what it takes t'defeat the Zerg."

"But the coward's afraid of it himself," snorted Dolt.

"No," said Solo thoughtfully, "Ichabod's afraid of it. CowLord fears nothing."

Before Solo could pursue the train of thought any further, Jeeves, the small Minotaur came out of the cottage carrying a huge tray of food. He set it on a table in the middle of the courtyard, bowed and went back into the house. Griswold's appetite had come roaring back and he climbed out of the hammock to help himself. Whatever magic CowLord had used on him to speed his recovery, it was certainly effective. Watching Griswold eat made Solo and Dolt hungry and they quickly joined him.

 

Back to Chapter 7
On to Chapter 9

Originally published to alt.games.diablo February 1, 1999

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