How Dolt Lungren loathed his name. When he was born, his parents spent every coin they had to have his name written on paper, thereby making it immortal. Unfortunately, Dolt's family was poor, and they could only afford the services of a junior scribe. The inexperienced scribe had inverted the last letter of his first name, changing it from an "f" to a "t."
Perhaps the error could have been corrected if it hadn't been for Dolt's father. Dolt's father was a barbarian warrior who believed that diplomacy was something to be inflicted on helpless opponents with the flat side of his axe. By the time Dolt's father had finished negotiating with the local chapter of the Scribes' Guild, Scribe Hall had been burned to the ground. The Scribes' Guild retaliated by issuing a Letter of Condemnation. The letter stated, basically, that Dolt's father was an unreasoning brute who should not be welcomed anywhere. Within a week, couriers were carrying copies of the letter to Scribe Halls across the land. Dolt's family was forced to flee for the hills and never return to civilized lands again.
So, Dolt Lungren had the immortality that his parents had worked so hard to purchase for him, but he would forever be a "Dolt," both in this world, and in all those to follow. Dolt hated his name.
Regardless, he observed custom and always carried the greenish-brown scrap of parchment that bore his name. His family had paid dearly for it. He kept it tucked inside his armor, near his heart.
Dolt was pondering the prospect of Eternity more and more lately. Since his arrival in Tristram, it had seemed like one life-or-death struggle after another. The Cathedral, the Catacombs, the Hive, the Caves, the depths of Hell, and now, this Crypt. It seemed endless.
Dolt's armor, silly as it looked, made him nearly invulnerable. Having been named "Dolt" all his life probably inoculated him against the embarrassment other men might have felt being preceded into battle by a giant pink udder.
"This armor was worn by the Warrior Elite of my homeland," explained the man who gave Dolt the Bovine Plate.
"Really," said Dolt skeptically.
"Oh, absolutely. The Mighty Minotaur Man-Bull Elite were feared and respected throughout the land."
"If they were Man-Bulls," Dolt wanted to know, "Why does this armor have an udder?"
"Oh that reminds me," said the man, "Check this out!" He took one of the armor's steel teats in each hand and squeezed firmly. A rumbling "moo" issued forth from somewhere within the armor. "Pretty cool, huh? When our enemies heard that sound, they threw down their weapons and ran like stampeding cattle!"
"Speaking of cattle, you still haven't explained the udder."
"Lousy weather we've been having lately."
Dolt took the armor, never being quite sure whether or not he was the butt of some sort of practical joke. Whatever its origins and appearance, it was terrific armor.
Like the fighting men of his family before him, Dolt wielded an axe in battle. He had won it in battle and immediately sensed it to be a special weapon. He took it to Cain for identification.
Cain studied the runes on the axe for several minutes. "This is a Strange Axe," he finally said, handing it back to Dolt.
"I know, that's why I brought it to you," said Dolt.
"And you were right to do so," replied Cain pocketing the hundred gold coins Dolt had paid Cain for his services.
Dolt waited. "So what kind of axe is it?" he finally asked.
"I told you," replied Cain, "It's a Strange Axe."
"Look, if you don't know what kind of axe it is, you should give me my money back."
"It's a Strange Axe."
"I know," said Dolt. He felt very close to his father at that moment. In fact, if not for the timely and reasoned intervention of Pepin and Griswold, Dolt would have followed in his father's footsteps, with Cain playing the unenviable role of Scribe Hall.
Dolt was having an awfully hard time getting straight answers in Tristram lately.
At the moment, however, he was in his element: A dark monster-infested Crypt, his axe in hand, and the weight of armor on his back. Here, anyone who wanted to confuse him with words or give him other grief could talk to the blade of his axe first. No know-it-all village elder, no loonies with bovine fetishes, no peg-legged street urchins with deals he couldn't refuse. I was just Dolt, his axe and his enemies. The more he thought about dealing with people in town - or anywhere for that matter - the more he loved battle. Once again, Dolt felt close to his father.
A mighty blow from one of the stone Crypt Demons nearly brought him even closer to his father. Dolt shook off the pain and let the Strange Axe reply for him. The creature shattered into a walkway's worth of cobblestones.
Dolt noticed a small vial of crimson liquid lying in the wreckage of the Crypt Demon. Another healing potion. He picked it up and considered it. His head was still ringing from its encounter with the demon's giant marble fist and he could feel the blood getting sticky between his helmet and his scalp. He peered into the darkness of the Crypt. Two more of the marble Crypt Demons were lumbering his way, along with three of the scaly red Devilkin Brutes. Off in the distance, he thought he could make out the shape of at least one of the two-headed giants that Cain had identified for him as Biclopses.
At that point, he could have simply turned and headed back for the stairs. His adversaries would never catch up to him in the darkness. Once he reached the surface, Pepin could heal his wounds and Griswold could repair any damage his armor and weapons had sustained in recent melees. The thought of going back to town and dealing with people actually made Dolt cringe.
Dolt thought about drinking the healing potion and then tucked it into his belt pouch with the others. He found that a little pain focused him wonderfully in battle. "Besides," he decided out loud, "There are only six of them. I don't need a potion yet."
He waited for the approaching Devilkin Brutes. They were classic devils, complete with scaly red skin and horned heads. Instead of pitchforks, they wielded great clubs, however. As the demons neared, Dolt kicked open a nearby chest and knelt to pocket the coins it contained. The Devilkin Brutes correctly took this to be a gesture of contempt on Dolt's part and charged, hissing and grunting.
Dolt shouted out his immortal name for the gods to hear and flew at the creatures. The Strange Axe gutted all three in a single swipe. He leaped over the dying demons and barreled blade-first into the nearest Crypt Demon, shattering it.
Dolt felt his blood pounding in his veins (and pouring down his face). He was the God of Destruction. Woe unto any demon, man, beast or angel who crossed his path.
A sizzling blast of energy boiled his blood and made him howl. A pair of skeletal Bone Demons stepped out from a shadowed alcove. One of them raised its bony hands and fired another blast. This time Dolt rolled under it and swung his axe at the nearest of the demon skeletons. The unholy thing died, evaporating in a whiff of fire.
Dolt's trajectory had carried him to the feet of one of the Biclopses he had spied earlier. A blow from its battle-axe sent Dolt sprawling backwards.
That was enough of that. Dolt reached for one of the healing potions in his belt pouch.
It wasn't there.
Sometime during the melee, his belt had been severed and Dolt hadn't even noticed. The healing potions were gone.
The remaining Bone Demon stepped forward and blasted him at point-blank range. The pain was excruciating. It was unlike anything Dolt had ever experienced and seemed to last forever. The world turned red.
Then the second Crypt Demon brought a giant stone fist into Dolt's side. The Bovine Plate split open. The great pink udder clattered across the floor and came to rest in a corner with a loud "moo." The ribs on the right side of Dolt's body turned into white-hot splinters as they journeyed through his innards to meet their counterparts on the left side of his body.
Strangely enough, that didn't hurt at all.
The Crypt Demon hesitated a moment and then proceeded to a nearby alcove to resume its existence as a statue. The Bone Demon cackled insanely and vanished in a whiff of flame. Two Biclopses approached and Dolt steeled himself for their attack. He felt focused and more clear-headed than he'd ever felt in his life.
One of the giants kicked him. Dolt didn't even feel it. The other Biclops stooped near Dolt's face and peered at him curiously. Each of the giant's two heads had a single giant red eye.
It wasn't until the Biclops who had kicked him firmly planted a foot in Dolt's crotch and yanked Dolt's leg off with a mighty tug that Dolt finally got it.
"But I wasn't done fighting yet!" Dolt wailed into the ether.
"I'm afraid you were." The speaker was a tall, handsome warrior in full plate armor. The armor and his shield had been polished to a reflective gleam. He wore no helmet.
"Do... Do you want your helmet back?" Dolt could not think of anything else to say to him.
Lachdanan glanced across the chamber where the Veil of Steel lay in a corner. "I told you I didn't need it anymore when I gave it to you," he smiled.
"And now I don't need it anymore either."
"I always expected to see my father when this finally happened," Dolt said.
"He's waiting for you," said Lachdanan, "And pretty impatiently. Zakarum's Light! I have never met a man with such a temper! Apparently, 'Rest in Peace' is just an expression to him."
For the first time in his afterlife, Dolt Lungren laughed. "That sounds like Father," he said.
"Come on," invited Lachdanan, "You will not believe the wonders that await you. There is much to see and do and all the time in Eternity to do it."
Dolt stepped toward the knight and then hesitated. What Lachdanan had said about Eternity bothered him.
"What's the matter, my friend?"
"It's my name," said Dolt. "It's immortal. Must I be a Dolt for all Eternity?"
Lachdanan laughed and shook his head. "Where we're going, everyone already knows who you are."
Dolt Lungren's physical remains did not last long amongst the scavenging beasts of the Crypt. His armor, axe, the Veil of Steel, and everything else of value scattered, changing owners frequently.
One precious item went unclaimed however. For months, it lay undisturbed until a common rat saw fit to add it to its nest, on the first level of the Crypt. The rat, or its offspring, would certainly have destroyed the treasure if a Scavenger Beast hadn't discovered the rat's nest. It scattered the contents of the nest while devouring its occupants.
A draft of cold air carried the treasure - a greenish-brown scrap of parchment that bore the name Dolt Lungren - through an open door. As it settled on a softly glowing block of masonry, a booming voice spoke: "In the year of the Golden Light..."
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