I have braved the fire and brimstone of the Kalahari and MWeb Diablo 3 launches to bring you this tale (Part 1)

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In the name of King Leoric-before-his-fall I greet you, fortune hunter. Let me not play coy with tongue and words: if you are reading this, I am most likely no more. My only wish is that my soul has been allowed to shuffle off this mortal coil, and currently does not find itself as etheric sustenance for fire-eyed demons.

I have left this journal as a recounting of my… I hesitate to say adventures, for though they started as such, verily that is not how they ended. But for the sake of propriety lets call them as such and be done with it.

So, adventures: Seven days past I divined the most bizarre of rumours that two separate groups of madmen – for what else could they be? – would both be hosting moonlit fetes in my town of Cape, to celebrate the rebirth of the thrice-returned Lord of Terror, Diablo. Wearing the disguise of  a courtly spreader of news, I ensconced myself in their social circles and procured invitation to both. I would see these events through mine own eye, for surely no man or woman has taken such extreme leave of sense, so as to celebrate the coming of Evil?  And since I had never been as taken with these stories of Diablo as some, I would prove hardier than most against his delicious summons.

The first of the celebrations, called “Launches” in the common tongue, was hosted by the people of Kal’Ah-ari, a group of wealthy merchants famous for hawking their wares far and wide. So armed with ink and parchment, I found myself outside Gandalf’s, a stone walled tavern more famous for travelling minstrels than occult ceremonies. A portentous death-chilled wind stole up my spine as the gatesman marked my name off the list. Briskly, I was ushered into the rock- and wood-hewn bowels of the tavern to join the jostling mass of people, some already glass-eyed with anticipation. Fortune smiled as I quickly found companionship in a few like minded unbelievers, who were also there to bring word back to their people.

It was immediately made apparent that this Kal’Ah-hari had spared no expense: Free drink parched thirst while strange rounded breads (I think I heard them called “peetzahs”) stacked with an assortment of strangely unidentifiable meats slaked hunger. Outlandishly costumed men and women navigated the crowds, their charming siren-call smiles in violent contrast to the weapons at their sides. I wisely kept my distance, but recorded it all.

Ramone Pickover, Kal’Ah-ari’s Category Manager of Games (Snoot-tongued speak for High Priest of Depravities, I believe) took to the dais and began pouring his honeyed words into the ears of the far-too eager crowd. “We’ve waited an age for this,” I heard one murmur. “I want it so bad,” I heard another say. Clearly, I was surrounded by fanatics, with the doubtful few quickly being converted as well as Pickover began issuing out prizes to those who would partake in his twisted games. I would stand fast though in this sea of fanaticism. Diablo would not take me.

With a mockingly placating tone we were herded into the building’s upper level, to be entertained by a selection of minstrels. “Entertained” may be their word, but I knew down to my marrow what they really meant: Distracted. The gods only knew what horrors were being conducted beneath our feet, while we were to be dazzled by light and sound. The gravely named Tombstone Pete was the first to take the stage. I am ashamed to admit it, but with the striking of the very first chord, their fiendish plan found success. I was enraptured. This was no mere musician, this was a multi-limbed mage.

Following on from Tombstone Pete was the travelling group of Strident, whom by sight I judged to be bookish scholars, but by sound I judged to be demon-born. As their “music” set my spine a-rattling, I felt my final inhibitions slipping. Soon, upon their High Priest’s request they began playing the sacred hymns of Diablo himself, invoking in me saccharine memories of ghoul-filled dungeons which I had forgotten I even possessed. Reverie took me as more prizes were handed to those acolytes who could identify those sweetest, nay! foulest of songs.

Pickover once again claimed the light and announced that divine instruction had been received from the ice-crowned Godkings of Blizzard: The true believers who had graciously donated to their devilish cause before that momentous day would be allowed to receive their keys to the Kingdom of Diablo – in the form of some arcane technology called a ” pre-order videogame” – an hour earlier than predicted. We made our way back downstairs – I checked for signs of blood or candle wax, but none was visibly present – and in a matter of minutes the by now red-eyed and ravenous horde had assembled, with only the insane will of their high-priest keeping them ordered.

I suspect that some kind of foul dark-magic enchantment had been placed on these videogames though – maybe while we were ensorcelled by voice and string upstairs – as the barest of moments after game met flesh, these disciples simply vanished without a trace. I suspect they were mystically transported back to their hovels and abodes so as to make final preparations for the witching hour, when – according to their stygian beliefs, as I discovered – the many mouths of Hell will gape wide once more, and they would willingly fling flesh and spirit through fire-rimmed maw.

Soon I was left to stand alone with my compatriots, reflecting on the horrors we had seen, but begrudgingly admitting a sense of awe at the calculating efficiency and splendor of what Kal’Ah-ari had accomplished. Realizing that we would not be converted – although a last ditch effort at entrapment through trinkets nearly succeeded – High Priest Pickover ushered us out into the frigid night.

And as I padded down the cobbles in silent contemplation, a icy sense of dread slipped into my gut. I had teetered on the edge of temptation in this first dark fete, would I be able to survive another the very next night? Or would Diablo finally sink his flame-hardened talons into my soul?

Well, we’ll get to that part of the story soon, but first I require recess to drench the wasteland of my throat. 

“Geoffrey! Bring me an ale!”

Last Updated: May 16, 2012

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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