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The Third Notch on the Haft The Shroo and Gew Inn-- Wait, no. Haft paid the barmaid once more, too unnerved - at the time - to realize he was paying once more for his tab. Heart of a Bard, Soul of a Druid... Like, figuratively, or literally? The latter was much easier - Well, the first one at least. Shouldn't be too hard to find a way to capture a soul with enough coin thrown at a wizard's face. The Barbarian's mind was racing when suddenly an explosion of glitter obfuscated his face and thoughts. Another patron, the size of a modest beer mug to Haft's eyes but much, MUCH more flamboyant, surged into view, colourful and bombastic. Especially for his size... Locks Gingersnap erupted from a cloud of incalculable amounts of glitter, dashing to Dimestus, eager as a bat out of hell. - "Dime! Dime! You have to come, there's a big show coming up soon at Sidonia's Bard Theater! And the best thing?! CANON will be there!!" - Dime, trying to both cope with what he witnessed and still maintain sight after the heavy duty glitter covering his face, proceeded to talk with Locks and Emerald. The mere mention of Canon alone prompted the barmaid to approach in glee, with the pixie and barmaid sharing moments of instantaneous fraternization. Emerald looked unfazed by the name, but the promise of further alcohol intrigued her. But Haft's mind broke in a moment of realization. This couldn't be coincidence, right? He was just needing the heart of a bard and the world promptly gives him the whereabouts of one of the GREATEST (debatedly) bards known around. Nothing like an axe to the chest wouldn't help Haft finding the Heart of a Bard - if not the Heart of THE bard. Of course, this would be problematic to Haft's propsects of working together with Canon, as were discussed in that seedy tavern in Bree, in that one room where Haft donned one of Canon's back-up dancer outfits for a few moments... But he could live with that. Canon probably won't. He would understand. Again, probably. "YEAH, WE'RE GOING THERE. LEAD US THERE, PIXIEBOY" - bellowed Haft to Locks, who was pushing to convince Dime to get a fake, legal age ID. Though restless, he kept his composure as Locks glittered the way towards Sidonia. The world would lose a great bard, but at least, it would be in front of the public, all dramatic-like. That's better than dying to some demon and being turned into spit roast, surely. The group arrived at the Theatre, which was already quite full. Most of the group took a place to sit, already eager to see Canon in action, but not Haft. He scanned the area, looking for the bard, but instead of seeing the most-renowned one on the stage... there laid a barrel. "MAYBE HE'S HIDING IN THERE" - Though Haft out extra-loud and marched to the centerstage, Axe at the ready. Haft paid no mind, lightning-focused on his task, but strangely, the public didn't oppose this breach of public etiquette. And, found inside the barrel, laid dormant a book titled 'TO WIN THE HEART OF A BARD - PICKETH AND CHOOSETH THINE ADVENTURE ! (For Lads and Lasses VIII and further)". Haft looked nonplussed as a dull blade. "WHAT THE HELL'S THIS?!" - He beckoned his companions, who mysteriously couldn't work out the serpentine paths laid by the book. - Haft: "WHERE'S CANON?!" - Locks: "Yeah, where's Canon?!" - Uncertainty brewed among the group. Was it all an elaborate joke? At the same time, the public started to jeer. The rowdier ones sharpened their tomatoes. And, against all odds, the blade in his mind was struck by the turn of the sharpening stone cogwheels in his brain. - "GUYS... I THINK WE NEED TO PRESENT TO THE PUBLIC." - Earning the heart of a bard... perhaps... act like a bard to achieve maximum bard-heartness? The first attempts were horrid. Haft, who lacked much imagination and had the same charisma as a roasted bug, couldn't think of much but swing wildly his axe, attempting to display his technique to the crowd, like a street performer. Emerald flickered her hands over the levers for scenarios, attempting to give suitable lighting and environment. Dime gave encouraging words for Haft. Locks made VERY sure that Glitter was ALWAYS available. Yet it was a tough crowd... or, for Haft, a bunch of phillistines who couldn't appreciate the ways of the Axe. Annoyed at the constant jeering and tomatoes, the grindwheels sped into overdrive. - "FINE, YOU WANT A BLASTED STORY?!" - He said, spitting tomato seeds sideways. - "FINE!!" - He slammed the book open and begun reading, out of anger than anything else. - "IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT--" ... And thus, it was. Haft, accompanied by Dime, Emerald and Locks, found themselves on an open field, during a dark, stormy night. Haft blinked and, as others stood confused... he felt compelled to keep on reading. - "... AND THE BARBARIAN, WITH HIS TROUPE, WALKED SEARCHING FOR A SAFE HAVEN". - But, before he could read much, he was faced with a choice. Where would the Hero go...? - "UUH... WAIT A MINUTE, I HAVE TO CHANGE PAGES..." As Haft read, the story told that the heroes arrived at a village, which was shortly after attacked by a Green Dragon. As the phrases were completed, so did the scenario change - a gloomy village sprouted out of nothingness... and lightning struck as a green dragon viciously started to attack the party. - "WHAT THE HELL!?" - Haft stuck a finger in the page as he held the book with one hand and the axe with another. The fight drew on and Haft continued. - "A-AND AS THE DRAGON WAS SLAIN, LIGHTNING--" - He grunted as he smashed his weapon against the dragon's scales. - "STRUCK A-- STRUCK A HOUSE AND FIRE SPEWED OUT, WITH FIRE ELEMENTALS TURNING THE FIGHT INTO A SMORGASBORD OF FIRE, POISON, WATER AND LIGHTING- WHAT?! WHAT A CLICHÉD USE OF SOMRGSGMSFGM--" - Suddenly, a lightning bolt struck a house, causing a fire, of which fire elementals started to pour out in immense numbers. By this point, it started to dawn what was going on. As Haft read from the book, what he read became a sort of reality. Pain and injuries were also realistic. But it wasn't quite straightforward... whatever opponents appeared, whatever issues happened, they had to be solved for the next options to be available. In fact, Haft was half unsure that he was -actually- reading from the book. He felt that the words came from his own mind, but the text was there, clear as day, after his reading. "DESPITE THE GROUP'S EFFORTS, SEVERAL BUILDINGS WERE DESTROYED" - Well, they were. - "WHICH INCLUDED THE SUGGESTION OF 'HOSING' THEM DOWN, BUT WAS VEHEMENTLY DENIED BY THE PARTY. IN FEAR OF THE POSSIBLE ANGRY MOB, AN EXPEDITIOUS RETREAT WAS TAKEN." - And, just as Haft was formulating the words in his mind, speaking them out as naturally as it came, the scenario changed. - "THEY ARRIVED AT SOME RUINS, WHERE A COFFIN LAID IN FRONT OF IT." - Haft looked at the coffin. ... Was it meant for him? The story was just beginning, what kind of shoddy hero dies so early? Was this a threat? He approached it and kicked the coffin's lid open, angered. As he acted, words came out from his own mouth, an urge to describe his actions flourishing within him. - "THE BARBARIAN, AFFRONTED BY THE MERE *SUGGESTION* THAT HE WOULD DIE, KICKED THE COFFIN LID--" - And, as he did, a huge army of zombies and skeletones came from the floor! - "THE BARBARIAN GRITTED HIS TEETH AND SLAMMED HIS WIDE SELF INTO THE CORPSES, BLOWING THEM AWAY!" - The soldiers of Undeath were no match for the prowess of the barbarian, who-- As he looked around, he saw his companions sitting in the sidelines, enjoying popcorn and cheering for Haft. Well, most of them. At some point, perhaps as the fight was drawing to a close, Emerald and Locks started talking about-- Haft: "OY, YOU PHILISTINES!! I'M TELLING A STORY HERE, PAY ATTENTION!!" Haft continued the story, shifting the focus to himself, only. It felt... more natural, for some reason. - "THE BARBARIAN JOURNEYED UP INTO THE MOUNTAINS," - looking for his final opponent. He barely opened the book, anymore. Somehow, he KNEW. He knew what was written. - "DESPITE COLD WEATHER, HE VENTURED FORTH, SEEKING TO VANQUISH THE ONE BEING WHO COULD HAVE A CLAIM ON THE HERO'S HEAD..." - He half-opened the book, his fingers running the pages. He knew the page. - "BUT THEY WEREN'T ALONE." The Four Horsemen rode to vision as the night came, led by Death itself. - YOU ARE NOT INVINCIBLE, BARBARIAN. NO ONE IS. - Haft: "SAID THE APPARITION, BUT THE HERO JUST GRINNED. YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO YOURSELF, YOU PILE OF PRIMORDIAL BONES!!" - And he dashed into battle... ... one which, by all rights, he should have perished. He pressed on, gritting his teeth, swinging his axe, receiving blow after blow. Death constantly tried to decapitate him, only narrowly missing but still cutting deep into his flesh. War trampled him, Pestilence infected his wounds and Famine made Haft's will to fight lower. Yet he pressed on...! ... ... was this... ... the power of plot armor? One by one, the horsemen were defeated. Locks, Em and Dime often got caught in the crossifre, but survived the ordeal. - "EVEN AS DEATH AND THE BARBARIAN CLASHED ATOP THE MOUNTAINS, THERE WAS NO FEAR FROM EITHER SIDE. BUT THE BARBARIAN HAD A FOCUS, A GOAL" - To teach the fear of the Axe unto the primordial being. And thus, it happened. With a smashing blow to the boney chest of Death, the creature shattered into pieces and vanished into dust. Haft was exhausted - both physically and mentally, as his imagination muscle was one hardly used - but he knew he had to to end it. Unsure, panting and slightly choking, he opened the book, looking for inspiration. To him, that was the end, but... there were more options. His sight slightly blurred, he picked one page at random... - "... AND, AS THE PLACE WAS SAFE, THE... *wheeze* THE UH.... ..." - He tried to focus. - "THE GIRL... RANGERS... APPEARED, CELEBRATING, AS THEY WERE FREED FROM THE CLUTCHES OF DEATH...?" - From the crevices of the mountains sprouted half a dozen girls, all cheering and jumping merrily, holding hands and dancing a song of thanks to Haft who, at this moment, discovered he couldn't deal well with children. "THE BARBARIAN, UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THE HUGS OF LITTLE GIRLS, PROMISED TO BUY THEM ALL SOME ICE-CREAM." - And this was the end... ... Or was it? The book prompted Haft another choice. One... to return to the start and encourage him to pick a different path. ... "Y'ALL ROT YOUR TEETH WITH SWEETS!! BWAHAHAHA!" - The Barbarian claimed, as he ditched the kids mercilessly and broke into a sprint. Haft didn't quite like that ending... and since this was his first time using his imaginating this vividly, he wanted to give a rapid-fire debut of situations, hoping at least one of them would stick. He could always claim it was a trilogy - which he eventually did. His second adventure led him through a packed jungle, where he found an abandoned fort boasting an impressive cannon. As he got there, he was surrounded by manticores, bone titans and goblins. Because it is possible for even the most dense of heads to sense the need to follow a trope, he quickly loaded and fired the Chekhov Cannon into the titans inbetween frays with the manticores. It was somewhat different, but as it happens with these kind of books... sometimes you just forget the path you took the last time. Locks, Dime and Emerald chimed in unison - "AGAIN?!" - as the Four Horsemen appeared once more. - Haft: "IT'S A GRUDGE MATCH, A GRUDGE MATCH!" - Grinning awkwardly. - "DEATH, UH, WANTS THEIR TITLE BACK CUZ OTHERWISE THEY'RE OUT OF A JOB AND THE NORMAL REAPING ISN'T THAT GREAT" - He said clumsily. It was still a rousing fight, but Haft felt like he was rushing. He was getting tired of all this... imagination. - "AFTER A THRILLING FIGHT THAT DID NOT TAKE TOO LONG, NO NO, DEATH WAS ONCE AGAIN DEFEATED, BUT THE BARBARIAN DIDN'T WANT TO KEEP THE TITLE OF DEATH, SO HE GAVE IT BACK. YEAH." - He leaned against his axe, not sure how he was still standing. He thumbed the now half-dogged pages of the book for that sweet finale... - "... AS THE DUST SETTLED, THE -- WAIT, ANOTHER PRISIONER?! IT WAS A... DAMSEL IN DISTRESS!...?" - Blindsided by the massive body that trampled him, the half-orc princess hugged Haft, thankful for the salvation. - "My Hero!" - Haft tumbled to the floor, exhaused. The public aplauded... ... ... No, this is still... not... enough...! "THE BARBARIAN DITCHED THE PRINCESS AS WELL BECAUSE SHE WAS NOT HIS TYPE - SHE HAD GREAT PERSONALITY, JUST NOT INTO HALF-ORCS." The last adventure finished as Haft faced off against the Witch King himself, which, according to Haft, - "WAS ENORMEOUSLY PISSED THAT HE DITCHED HIS DAUGHTER JUST LIKE THAT AND WAS SEEKING REVENGE! BUT EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE EVENLY MATCHED, THE BARBARIAN GRINNED..." - ... Because, despite the way he was fighting all this time... he wasn't left-handed. The Witch King, decapitated, laid dead before him. No more. No more of this. He only wanted to end it all. A big finale. Come on. The ground shook as the Girl Rangers, the Half-Orc in Distress and a Treant hurried towards him. Fireworks blasted through the skies. The children sung, the half-orc hugged Haft's arm, and the treant.... the treant... stood face-to-face with Haft. "... I GOT ENOUGH HUGS ALREADY, THE HELL YOU WANT--" *BARF* From the Treant's mouth, a cat was projectile-vomited towards Haft's face. "MEOW!" Haft: "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!! GET IT OUT!! GET IT OUT GET IT OUT!!! JUST END THIS!! END!! FIN!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!" As Haft dropped to the floor and rolled around, since he felt having a cat stuck on his face was akin to being on fire, he eventually stopped, as the applause grew larger and larger. Back at the theatre, the public was clapping - giving a standing ovation - while Haft raised his face from the floor, confused. Emerald, Locks and Dime surrounded him, now just as much part of the public as the others. "What a grandiose display!" - Claimed a loud, yet charming voice from the audience. Canon made large strides towards the stage, a smile stamped on his face. The public clapped even more enthusiastically. The scene of the veteran and adored bard giving his blessings to the fledgling one moved some to tears. Haft grasped for his axe. ... He didn't feel like a bard at all. In fact, even though he now respected them much more, he also sort of hated them. Which means... that his original plan was the correct one. Canon: "I feel it is safe to assume that you, young burly man, surely kept everyone on the edge of their seats!" Haft: "OH HEY THERE CAN..." - He lifted himself, slowly, supported by his weapon. Canon: "Your story, my friend... I can safely say it captured the hearts of the audience..." Haft: "... STAND STILL FOR A SECOND, WILLYA." - He started to raise his weapon, the icebergs in his mind spewing lava as his rage grew, not hearing what was going on. Canon: "But also..." Dimestus: "Haft, NO! STOP!" Haft hesitated. Canon: "... it captured mine." - The words came out soothing, like music to a beast. Haft's rage dispelled from his body, leaving him vacuous for a moment. The cheer and applause echoed through his mind. He felt people patting him on the back. He felt explosions of glitter shower the room. The moment passed, a different weight burdened his hands, his axe holstered on his back at some point. He looked down to see, laying on his hands, a picture of a winking Canon, finger-crossbows at the painter, and the writing - "My heart goes to you --Canon", weighted down by a bright, red jewel. Haft: "... I THINK... IT WORKED." - He looked at the others, who had differing levels of attention. - "I THINK IT WORKED! I GOT THE HEART OF A BARD!!" - While Locks was still trying to go for an autograph, Emerald was chugging the free drinks from the bar and Dime looked immensively relieved, it happened again. The Shrew and Goo Inn. The Soul of a Druid... was what was left.
The Second Notch on the Haft The Shrew and Goo Inn. A place of less repute than others, but when your intent is getting hammered, you want to work with quantity, not quality. Haft was sharing a drink with Dimestus Timalar who got gently coerced to tag along. It was a happy coincidence - the young man was out to tackle some Mask Cultists, Haft was being harassed by a few. Not for long, of course, but that's how they met in that evening. The Cultists' pocket change would help pay for some more drinks, too. The Barbarian was in dire need of getting plastered. The uneasiness he felt constantly after what happened at Carn Dum was taking a toll on him, and he hoped the sweet lips of the alcohol goddesses would make him forget all about that mess. Despite Dime's begrudging remarks, he still tagged along for a while. Eventually, both were joined by Emerald Igneous. Amidst such companionship and after drinking heavily, Haft saw, in a half-wobble, somewhat clearly that the alcohol wouldn't help. He had to get something out of his chest. While waiting for the tab and a glass of water to clear his mind, he spoke to both of them how he felt pursued. Someone, or something, was threatening him, and the fact that he couldn't see who or what was doing it unnerved him greatly. Always facing his problems and enemies head on... For Haft, having something just constantly threaten him while not showing themselves... the frustration piled up. The cool, cold water came together with the bill. Haft took a deep breath before running his finger through the bill, his other hand clenching the cold water, an inviting glass of upcoming clarity. How numbers go again? Oh, right... he tried to focused on the amount of zeros... zeros... zeros...? That can't be right, it states quite clearly 'YOUR GREATEST ENEMY COMES'--- Haft jumped back, axe at the ready, about to cleave the table where the bill laid. This quickly prompted his table companions to step back and ask what was wrong. Confused and alarmed, he asked Dime to read the bill, only to be informed that it was simply a large sum. Nothing to be afraid of, unless he were in a tight purse. Returning his Axe to his back, he broke in a cold sweat. After a quick, mind-freezing gulp of the water and a small relief for his purse laden with gold, it was quickly decided that enough is enough - or is far from being enough. Who knew, who cared? Haft needed some fresh air. Together with Dime and Em, he walked through the slum streets of Annakol, getting to know each other. Haft was hankerin' for a fight - The ongoing sobriety mixed with frustration was getting the better of him. The talks with Emerald and Dime were soothing, as it kept him from thinking too hard... until the first graffiti was spotted. Inked in red, on a wall, the saying 'YOUR GREATEST ENEMY COMES' was splattered on it. Haft's eyes blazed through the environment. Not too far off, a gathering of Masked Cultists planned their next ambush. But in the eyes of the barbarian, they were the culprits. Without mercy, he charged at the cultists, cleaving them in twain or even... quadwain. Quadain. Qu-- As many times as was needed until he could feel some relief. However, despite the victory, each step furter in the slums led to one more piece of graffiti. 'YOUR GREATEST ENEMY COMES', repeated over and over. More and more cultists suffered Haft's fury, who thoughtlessly dragged Emerald and Dime along with him. Dime seemed fine, however, as this coincided with his original objective in the slums, and Emerald was glad to make the neighbourhood a bit safer. Noble intents, a glaring flare of morality contrasted with Haft's racing mind. 'Shut up. Just shut up. Come and face me already. Let's get this over with.' - he thought. Their battles led them to a corner where the same text as always was splattered on the floor, bigger than ever... right next to the entrance of a back alley, which exumed a sickeningly green fog. Nowhere was it clear what was the cause of the fog or who did the graffiti... but the alley beckoned the group, a gross invitation of uncertainty with promises of dimmed resolutions. Nothing related to sanity recommended stepping into the fog, but Haft was feeling less than sane at that point. Haft entered the fog, accompanied by both Dime and Em - led either by curiosity, suspicion, or worry. Once through the fog, the three arrived at a cave - behind them, nothing like an entrance or exit. Though it did not show anything promising at all, to Haft, this was hope. Hope that he would find answers there. As they ventured beyond, a massive amount of large insects ambushed the group. Warmed up by the cultists, and with the help of Emerald and Dime, Haft carved a path onward. The adrenaline mixed with the usage of his strength lowered his tension and anger. He felt more calm and collected... not quite ready for what was to come. They approached an alcove in which laid some mushrooms, a cauldron over a fire, a log and, of all things, an elderly woman. She looked to the group with glazed eyes, giving a slightly fiendish grin. - "Oh, you've made it here. Good, good..." - Were her words. Haft, confused, entered a conflict with the old lady. He was no kinder to the elderly than anything else, which meant 'very little'. The old crone seemingly ignored Haft's remarks, instead focusing on both his loudness and his constant babbling, much like an elderly person. Frustration amassed inside Haft once more. All of that... just for this? The old lady seemed like she was expecting them, but... she was acting like any old lady! "Sit. Learn." - The docile, though complain-y old lady suddenly spewed out a command sharper than anything. Haft unwittingly sat down, next to her. The sharpness on her tongue was akin to a sudden tear in cloth. Raspy, yet severe. Though it came in waves, and everytime Haft dared to stand up, it would return. - "Sit. Learn." To Haft, the 'teachings' were nothing more than rambling... but the crone made herself aware of the situation. She knew that Haft's "greatest enemy" was approaching, and warned him that his "dull weapon" would not suffice. Though her remarks, sometimes perverse, sometimes wise, but throughout enigmatic, never made quite clear what was exactly 'dull'. Regardless, this was Haft's best chance, and ignoring how insane the circumstances were... he needed a goal. A direction. Through the sound of sudden thunder, the old hag kept stirring her cauldron, asking for two things... The Heart of a Bard... and the Soul of a Druid. Before she could explain anymore... ... Haft, Em and Dime returned to the Shrew and Goo Inn. As if nothing happened... ... quite literally. Moments later, the waitress was taking the final calls. Confused and perplexed, Haft ordered a water - more out of habit than anything else. His head ached - not ONLY because of what just happened, but also because alcohol was cruising fiercily in his veins. The water came together with a bill. He looked at Em and Dime, asking... just what the hell happened. Their guess was as good as his, which was a bad thing. Could it be... that they turned back in time? Or did they black out for a whole day? ... Did the caverns and the old crone really even happened? Haft ran his finger on the bill, clenching the cold water in his other hand, the promise of freezing clarity beckoning to him. Trying to push away the cackle of the old lady which still resonated in his mind, he checked the final price.... of a Heart of a Bard, and Sould of a Druid. Haft jumped. Just what -exactly- was going on...? Dime confirmed that it was, again, just a bunch of zeroes. But now... Haft did not seem as crazy, at least.
The First Notch on the Haft It is said by men and women wishing to sound smart that "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results". People like that are narrow-minded. Like any other saying or expression, there's a different one that acts as a counter. What about "Practice and repetition makes perfect"? Which is why Haft Ax never paid any mind to words of wisdom from so-called wise people trying to be all... wise. One day one of these sayings applies to you, but the next? Suddenly all of your life's issues can be compressed in another different saying, ready to eat. That's silly. Words can't be eaten. He tried. It is with a tinge of heavy frustration borne from over-thinking such a statement that Haft Ax made his way to Carn Dum. Reports came through that the drow were amassing their numbers once more. He decided to face off these hordes by himself, in a challenge to himself. Something not unusual - after all, one should set their own goals for self-improvement, and Haft like to see himself as someone pro-active in achieving challenging goals. And who knows, maybe the answer to his questions could spill out of the guts of an enemy, like one of these fortitutious pastries with little sayings in bamboo-wrapping from the Tarowan inn. He's gotten better with the axe. No one can deny him that. But knowledge is a fickle mistress - the more you think you understand, the less you come to actually understand any of it. Not only that, the harder became the obstacles in the path to more less-knowledge. Blows that were supposed to decapitate no longer had the same effect. Normal blades would budge to magic treatments. Amulets and rings offered protections, but like visiting off-the-road, uncospicuous and shady houses of leisure, one was never completely safe of what was brewn in darkness. Turning into a statue, having his axe melt in his hands, magical cats, wizards... Haft could have tried other approaches. More magic, other weapons, companions, summons... But so far, he found out that with enough hacks of the greataxe, everything could be split in twain. Water and ice could split rocks, eventually, after years or decades of constant attrition. Haft decided to "become water", then. Or rather, a much more aggressive version of it with axes that didn't need years to split anything in half. Though frustration always crept on him. Some battles were worthy. Others... not as much. As he advanced against the Drow, he felt no remorse in cutting the lives of his opponents. First, he felt life was cheap. Ressurrections, blessings of the Gods, planar bindings... those with power had their ways of coming back - and the soldiers of Carn Dum were absolutely no exception. He felt he was the one at a disadvantage there, depending on only his constitution, his weapon, and a truckload of enchantments. Second... it was a gamble, like it always was. To the winner, the spoils of life. The Drow posed a more serious threat this time, but nothing to worry. The axe kept striking true. As he faced Adunaphel, he tried to keep his mind blank, trying to get into a higher state of mind... ... only to be stabbed by one of her swords, get screamed at his ear by a phantom, get blasted by ice or divine power or whatever the hell else. 'I'M TRYING NOT TO THINK!!' His anger burned cold. Eventually, even those chosen by Gods fall... with enough hacks of the greataxe. As her body was left strewn on the floor, he checked for items - perhaps more items he could pawn off to send the money back to his family, once he learned their address. But among the trinkets laid a note which said... "YOUR GREATEST ENEMY COMES" Haft gave a hearty chuckle. - 'HAH! AND SHE WAS EVEN WARNED OF ME!" - A small jolt of pride went down his spine. So perhaps the Drow were informed that Haft was coming and prepared for him. He came out on top... but still without any answers. Maybe next time... As he stepped out of the temple, however... something rose out of the floor. His sight focused on the many, many, thousand-like limbs that kept sprawling throughout the floor. A large trunk rose amidst the limbs, branches and whips and turned eerily towards Haft. The gnashing, whipping and crackling of the thousands of limb-like appendages strewn accross the area invaded Haft's eardrums, perforating his senses, making his own voice impossible to hear to himself. As Haft looked at the creature, he could only think... 'WHAT IS THIS GOOFY-LOOKING MONSTRUOSITY' The constant noise, the barrage of whips and limbs striking him, the difficulty of hearing his own thoughts properly... gave way to the only thing strong enough to rip through all of this - The icy-hot rage that dwelled within him. Haft lost the sense of time as he hacked away at the branches and limbs. The fact that the creature looked like a drunk cyclops mated with one of those spooky trees that seem to have faces on them was incredibly off-putting. Cursing while hacking at the thousands of limbs, frustration grew further as something so horrible could still have a massive array of spells to add to the limbs. But even such beings could fall... with enough hacks of the greataxe. As the creature lay down, splintered and bloodied, Haft looked around. ... More, many more of such twisted monstrosities existed, rising from the floors of Carn Dum. What was going on there...? The battle took a lengthy amount of time - Haft could not see to it that these beings should leave Carn Dum. In his eyes, that was the Drow's doing. But something started to unnerve Haft. Right after most of these creatures were put to rest, an army of goblins, orcs and other low-ranking soldiers rushed at him. Though that felt like a breather... amidst these vast armies awaited the thing that could take from Haft his raison d'être... permanently. The thing that could potentially render Haft meaningless. A Rust Monster. A jolt of desperate logic crossed the burning tundras of his anger. As he rushed towards the monster... he holstered his weapon and united his hands in a large, single fist. It would not be this day where he would lose his weapon. 'MY FISTS ARE MADE OF UNRUSTABLE STEEL!!' - The muscles on the man were not for show. His unarmed attacks, while undisciplined and without technique, could still take care of the monster. ... Its death brought temporary relief to Haft. There was something off about it. Not using his axe was strange. Plus, the single rust monster seemed like a psychological attack, meant to take Haft by surprise. As the unnerving feeling kept creeping closer and closer, Haft tried to think about more important things. 'UNRUSTABLE SEEMS WRONG. WHAT IF... DE-RUSTABLE? NO, IT IMPLIES THAT MY FISTS WERE RUSTY BEFORE. ........ STAINLESS FISTS? THAT JUST SOUNDS LIKE I'M BEING HYGIENIC.' As he walked through Carn Dum, occupying himself with defeating stragglers and any remaining monstruosities, he suddenly came accross a plank of wood spiked into the earth... or was it spiking -from- the earth? He could not tell, but on it, the saying "YOUR GREATEST ENEMY COMES" was repeated. Someone was indeed targetting him. But what? He defeated the demonic tree-like beings - the natural enemies of axe-wielders. He defeated the Rust Monster. He crushed the insane shapeshifters that turned into stone-turners! He saw no cats! ... Something was off. For the first time, he was being the one targeted by something else. Other things were supposed to fear the executioner's Axe, yet someone... or something... was threatening the executioner. Carn dum was a wasteland of corpses. His axe needed sharpening. His body was a mess of wounds, guts, splinters and tiredness. It was time to retreat... for now.
Dime: "Prime, Prime, Prime! A thief, an elven baronette, a gnome scientist, a cleric of Benthar, and a girl who's bigger than you followed me here! Can I keep them?!" Prime: "I... er... WHAT?!?" Dime grins: "You should see your face in the mirror!"