It had been a busy couple of years for Solo. She had been touring with Caravan almost the entire time, telling the tale of HellCraft to packed houses at each stop. Now, as others had begun to tell her tale, the audiences began to dwindle. That was the problem with her chosen profession; a Bard was only as good as her last tale. Sure, she'd helped save the world from Diablo and the Zerg and the Boojum, but people were starting to ask, "But what have you done for me lately?"
Last weekend, a perceptive lad had turned that question on its head. "So, what are you going to do now?" he wanted to know.
The answer came to Solo all by itself. "Why, I'm going on vacation," she replied.
Like most in her profession, Solo considered "vacation" to be an opportunity to catch up on her reading. As luck would have it, she was only a few day's journey from a mountaintop monastery that housed a huge library. A week or three of quiet time alone in the brisk mountain air with a stack of good books was exactly what the healer ordered.
Naturally, the place was overrun with monsters when she got there. Solo had been on her way up the mountain and the monks had been on their way down to find help. Apparently, someone had read the wrong book out loud and summoned a demon. Not a major one, not even significant enough to rate a name, but big enough to be accompanied by a pack of gargoyles.
Ten of them had descended on her the moment she set foot in the courtyard. They were huge snaggletoothed brutes with bat-like wings and stony hides. Luckily, they were ponderous fliers and she was able to bring half of them down with a little Chain Lightning before they were close enough to pose a real threat. Solo then used her Teleport spell to to keep herself at a safe distance while she dished out more punishment.
The tactic had worked fine in the courtyard. Once she got inside, there was less room for her to maneuver. Fortunately, the gargoyles were operating under the same handicap. Ultimately, Solo was able to kill or drive off the winged monsters.
That left their boss. He was fully the size of a balrog and his hide was armored rather than stony. He carried a huge mace that drained some of Solo's Mana every time it connected. Whenever the demon exhaled, he breathed out a cloud of noxious fumes that burned Solo's nose and throat and made her eyes stream.
Worst of all, from Solo's point of view, he had chosen the monastery's main library as his lair. Solo would have rather let the demon have his way with her before risking harming the priceless books with a Fireball or Chain Lightning. That meant she had to get up close and personal with him.
Solo leaped out of the way as the giant gargoyle demon's mace splintered the table she'd been standing on. She scored a hit with her Dragon's sword of Vampires before Teleporting behind him. Between the demon's mace and being forced to Teleport all over the library, Solo's ball was nearly drained. Any energy her sword absorbed had to go into keeping her Mana Shield up.
The hulking demon turned and breathed out another cloud of gas. Solo made sure she wasn't in it by Teleporting behind him. she slashed at his back with both swords. Her new sword scored several hits and drew ichor before the demon could react.
As far as Solo knew, The Grandfather was lost forever in some other universe. If there was any justice, it was still embedded in Queen Diablo's skull. Fortunately, Solo had earned enough money from her story to commission a suitable replacement. Money couldn't buy a better weapon than her King's sword of Haste.
The demon turned again and, this time, his mace toppled a huge bookcase. Again, he exhaled and, again, Solo Teleported behind him. It was only question of whether she could do enough damage to kill him before she either ran out of Mana or his poison breath stank up the room so much that she smothered.
Solo struck again and the King's sword of Haste scored six more hits before she had to Teleport again. This time, however, the giant gargoyle was ready for her. The giant mace connected with Solo's Mana Shield and drained her ball completely.
Solo saw the demon inhale deeply as he prepared to gas her again. Unable to Teleport, Solo held her breath and shut her eyes tightly and threw herself at her opponent. She let her swords do the work. The King's sword led the way in a blinding dance of speed and fury while the Dragon's sword slashed and stabbed beneath it. Solo kept her eyes shut. If she let up for an instant, she was dead.
She drove the demon back a step.
And then another.
She backed him into a tall bookcase and books rained all around them, but Solo kept up the pressure.
And then suddenly, and unexpectedly, she didn't need to anymore. The great demon lay dead. The expression on his hideous face was nothing less than sheer bewilderment and, perhaps, some embarrassment that such a slight little maiden could best him so decisively.
Solo staggered out of the building and into the fresh air. Her arm and shoulder throbbed from the workout the King's sword of Haste had given her. She'd pulled muscles she didn't even know she had.
A cool steady breeze blew through the great library and the air inside cleared quickly. Solo went inside to survey the damage. It was a mess, but it didn't look like anything that a skilled librarian and a couple of carpenters couldn't fix.
A heavy volume fell from a high shelf and nearly brained her. That would have been a stupid and ironic way to die. She checked to see that there were no more loose books above her and picked up the tome.
Solo caught her breath as she read the gold letters embossed in the soft brown cover. "The AGD Fanfic Archive." She drifted over to one of the big windows to catch the last hours of the afternoon's light, found a soft chair and plopped into it. Eventually, she would have to make the trek down the mountain to let the monks know that it was safe to come back. In the meantime, it was time for her to start her vacation.
Sadly, Stephen van Ham's AGD Fanfic Archive has gone missing in action. Guess you'll just have to stay here and read Val Halla's Journey and HellCraft again. I suppose if you're really tired of my stuff, you could try http://www.fanfiction.net; they've got a nice selection of Diablo-related tales.
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