So, where was I in this tale of cinder and soul? Ah, yes… I had survived my encounter with the Kal’Ah-hari merchant clan, but not without consequence. While I had girded my spirit well against their flashy words and even flashier wares, their fiend-touched minstrels had set an ember in my belly. A softly glowing longing to return to the town of Tristram once more, despite the knowledge that to do so – even for the fleetest of moments – would surely spell ruin.
But let us tarry no longer! Read on as I regale you with the final half of my tale; as I became ensnared in the devilish Web of M!
As I stepped into the tiled barbican of their glass and steel keep, I did so with worry heavy upon my brow. Placed there not by the greeting banners baring the needle-toothed visage of Prime Evil Lord Diablo (Why did I choose to use the honorific? Did he have me already?), or by discovering the presence of the same group of costumed enchanters that had tried to entice me the night before. Rather it was the threat of my dropped guard as a result of familiarity with the Web of M.
As purveyors of one of the largest and most reliable communication networks in the land, even I was counted amongst their patrons. Court rumour-mongers, such as I now found myself disguised, had risked losing tongue, such was their never-ending wagging about the Web of M’s benevolent iconoclasm a few years past, as they successfully rebelled against the Law of Cap.
A satchel of trinkets and toys was provided as gift of welcome, but while enticing and bounteous, I answered their waxy smiles with grim-faced stoicism. I told myself that I would not be so easily bought, but truthfully it was a test of will.
Soon we were ushered away from the ever watchful eyes of the guards into the keep proper. A closed door bearing His sigil marked the entrance to the fabled M’Cave; an inner sanctum that the Web of M had created as a chapel to their Gods of Gaming. On hinges silent as Death, the door swung open.
By the Wings of Tyrael…Viscuous white smoke poured forth, sucking at my boots as I entered. Lurid crimson light from swinging lanterns and a ghostly haze – ash from the pyres of the damned, I suspected – stole breath from lungs and obscured vision just enough to conjure demonic shades upon the walls. Imagination stoked by shortness of breath or the
gentle sickly touch of Diablo? I was not certain.
The very next instant I nearly found my teeth ground to powder as a keening wail tore through the room. Some banshee voiced “smoke detector” enchantment had been triggered. Moments later, a guttural howl like the voice of Baal himself joined the eye-watering screech, as the smoke was sucked up into giant metal pipes lining the roof. A curiously named Web-Mage, Chocs, scurried to and fro, claiming accident, but I was not convinced. Could this have been some sneak-thief ploy to purloin our very essence? To what purpose?!
Conspiratorial thought was struck from mind though as howling ceased and smoke lifted. Ebony-skinned Alienware altars, the likes of which I had never beheld (The first in the land, we were later informed by the Merchant of Dell who had brought them), lined the walls, their scrying screens giving a glimpse into Sancturary. Tables bowed throughout the night under the weight of a feast (these strange peetzahs again!), while a sweet nectared ambrosia known as Ozone flowed freely to replenish lost vigour.
Invitation was then given to use the altars. I would like to say that I ignored the call, that I did not hear the rapidly building torrent of sibilant whispers I had just discovered at my ear. But I slid into the seat before that altar like sharpened blade sliding into doughy flesh. I surprised myself with how easy it was.
It would seem that the old gumming crones had the truth of it though: Whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad. All attempts to activate the altar was met by the ancient demon-speak of Blizzard,”Request timed out. Please try again. Error 300008″. I did not need to understand the words to know a cackling and mocking missive when I see it.
The graveside grumbles of frustration by the acolytes were soon drowned out though by the voice of the bulbous Spider-King of the Web, Desmond Kurz, as he welcomed all to the proceedings. He thanked all of the night’s benefactors in turn, giving them all chance to promote their wares.
First was Half-Lord Ian of Musica, who brought with him news of a deal struck with the Web of M, promising the blessings of the Terror Lord at just a fraction of the cost. The gaming-weaponsmith Barend from Corex also showed off their the steel and plahsteek (some foreign material) implements of death, a King’s horde of which was later awarded as prizes through random selection. I was not of the chosen, and I am ashamed to say it, but I viewed the lucky through jade-tinged sight.
And then the altars beckoned. I assumed position with a final prayer of warding, but even as words fell limply from lips, I knew that it was an effort half of heart. And His fiery gaze must have bore witness to my weakness, for while some individuals still found themselves toyed with, His Most High Lord Diablo graciously granted me immediate access this time, magically transporting me to the world of Sanctuary. It was as if I had never left. Every drop of blood, every muscled fiber in this mortal cage, all sang with singular purpose. And they sang one word: DIABLO!
The Dark Lord had me. It was folly to have thought that I could sip of that sweet waters and not want for more. I told myself that I would stop, that I would return to sense, but I might as well have been attempting to separate moon from sky. Soon my world had contracted to the casting of spell and swinging of sword. And that gravely distinct and unforgettable sound. You converts know of what I speak: like the clicking of Death’s own finger-bones. But dear gods, how I welcomed it. Yearned for it.
But Tyrael the Angelic was still looking out for me it would seem. For a single hand dropped on my shoulder, like a guillotine on neck. Somebody else wanted to use the altar. I slowly blinked at him, eyes veined with blood. How long had I been sitting there? All sense of time had vanished like the mist before dawn’s sun.
But a tiny infinitesimal thought had appeared in my thoughts. Like a jagged glass splinter, slow sparkling as it caught the light: I had a people to return to. I needed to warn them of the horrors that await. Slowly, I forced limbs to action. Creaking knees and knotted back protested severely, but through teeth-gnashing exertion of will I succeeded. I soon stumbled out of the M’Cave, like some cut-string marionette, while others still prostrated themselves in honour to the
Glorious Thrice-cursed Fiend, Diablo.
And now I find myself at the oak table in my study, in the darkness of true night except for the wavering light of a single candle, furiously scribbling down these words as insurance. For though I plan to speak to my people at first light of the nightmares I had seen, those plans may never see fruition, for there is a nightmarish thought that has taken root in my head. Every time I try to shut eye, it is there. I do not know if have the strength left to resist it. And gods be damned, it is getting louder with every turn of the hour. I know that to give in to this this wyrdest of siren-calls would spell the end of me, so I can only cling to hope that I find some last reserves of energy somewhere until the morning. But I – There it is again. CLICK-CLICK-CLICK! IT IS RATTLING MY SKULL. DEAR DIABLO NO NOT DIABLO, TYRAEL, I MEANT TYRAEL, GIVE ME STRENGTH.
CLICK-CLICK-CLICK! CLICK-CLICK-CLICK. KAL’AH-ARI! WEB OF M! A POX UPON YOU FOR WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO ME. A CURSE UPON YOUR LINE.
THIS DEATH-RATTLE SOUND! I CANNOT RESIST IT. I CANNOT.
Last Updated: May 17, 2012