Disclaimer: Diablo and all continuations belong to Blizzard Entertainment, save the Hellfire Expansion, which I've never actually seen. This is a fan fiction built on Blizzard's work, and thus their brilliant, money-grubbing minds deserve the most of the credit for the world behind this story.

Pre-story notes: Well, this is sort of a mix between "because I can" and "why not." I had a crack idea while playing the game, and made a note for a possible story. Well, that took enough hold and now here I am writing said story. I had a laugh while thinking of it, so maybe you'll have a laugh while reading. Um, further notes, this has a strange set up. Based off of the game in most ways, except for having a person controlling the character. Told in third-person, though it starts in first. A few personal jokes you might not understand, but for the most part it should be alright. Also, for the bits of barding, I won't just ellipsis and write standard, I'll actually give a shot at barding. :D

Summary: A Necromancer, one step from becoming a demon himself, is forced into saving Sanctuary from the Prime Evils, starting at the Rogue Encampment. But he's just a bard, and some of those demons are... quite attractive. Harem. Parody. Warning, sexual in nature.

Pairing: Necromancer/harem, specifically Blood Raven, a rogue Mercenary, the Countess, a drop of corrupted rogues, and perhaps even Andariel.


Ladies, Ladies, Ladies


So there I was... at spear-point before the Rogue Encampment. No gear, no gold... And in desperate need of shelter from the rain. The rogues could supply, if they didn't kill me first. This is the last bastion of the once mighty rogues... I could be of no help here, save through my Arts. That, I intended to give in return for the shelter.

"He appears a Necromancer, but he can't fool my Inner Sight!" the lead rogue spat. "He is a demon!" Not the leader of the encampment, though, as evident by her garb.

Zykinander, Zyke for short, always had a certain appreciation for rogues. They wore leather armor cut low enough to expose a satisfactory amount of cleavage and just a loincloth for the rest of their modesty. Exotic red hair pulled back into ponytails, pale skin creamy. Not bad fighters either. Only Amazons could come even close to their archery. And what running did to their thin little loincloths... Yes, he had a great appreciation for rogues.

Currently, two rogues had their spears leveled at his throat, and behind them were three more with bows nocked and drawn tightly. A wrong step would result in his death as surely as facing Diablo unarmed. His hands were up, to show he meant no harm.

"Ladies, Ladies, Ladies, please... I am neither a Necromancer nor a demon," Zyke announced with a calm that belied his position.

Several rogues recoiled visibly at his words. "Well, at least we know he's not another zombie," the initial rogue mumbled, recovering fast. She then glanced at his hair, full yet snowy white like an old man's. The tell-tale sign of a Necromancer. She narrowed her eyes, and her face twisted to near a sneer. "Get Kashya."

One of the archers lifted her bow and trotted off. Zyke tilted his head to watch as her loincloth flapped behind her. He might have to retire out here some day, if only to be able to see that everyday.

Soon, the rogue and another came back at the same pace, and this one wore a chain mail armor – also ending as a loincloth, mind – and a red cloak. By armor, he knew her to be the leader. She had a stern face, with probably to tongue to match, but she was as pretty as the rest of the lot, if older.

She frowned as she approached. "Even Necromancers are allowed in our encampment. Why..." she trailed off as her Inner Sight suddenly sprang to life, a gold little flare between him and her, and her eyes narrowed. "A demon?"

Zyke sighed. "Like I said, I am not a demon. Nor am I a Necromancer."

Knowing his low strength from her Inner Sight, and seeing him adequately held at bay by her rogues, Kashya folded her arms and sneered at him. "And what, pray tell, are you then?"

At this, Zyke grinned. "I am a traveling storyteller, or bard if you prefer, who may tell of stories in lands both near and far, of the great and the desperate, of heroes' rise and heroes' fall, of love and tragedy." He punctuated this with a bow, arms spread wide. It was true, too. Despite his youth – for he was young – he was the best damn storyteller one could find... In his own mind, at least.

Kashya snorted. "You expect me to believe that?" He remained bowed, a smile still on his lips. She frowned, and her Inner Sight flared again, only this time brighter. "...Perhaps you are human, but the corruption of your art has taken you strong, Necromancer. I do not trust you."

Zyke righted himself, smile unfailing. "I tell you, I am no Necromancer. Zyke the Bard I am known in many lands."

"Aliza, search him," Kashya commanded.

Hands calloused from years with the bow patted him down roughly, yet the girl herself had a nice face and a rather glorious bosom, for her willowy shape. A bosom peaking above her low armor. As she bent forward, his eyes went downward and caught a rather nice eyeful. Eventually, her patting came to his pants, and she felt an eight inch hardness. At her look, he winked at her.

Digging her hands inside, she pulled out his wand - his actual wand – which she handed to Kashya. The leader of the rogues took the piece of wood and inspected it. "Ability to summon a single skeleton." She looked back at him, her expression cool. "Not a Necromancer, hmm?"

"For protection, I assure you," Zyke replied, still smiling.

"What is your purpose here then, 'Zyke the Bard?'" Kashya demanded roughly, no longer in the mood for his games.

His purpose? At this point, he didn't really have one. "To tell stories, of course. I assume morale has lowered in recent days since the fall of the Monastery, and the epics I can recite may help bring life back to your rogues."

She sniffed. "My sisters and I can get along just fine without your 'stories.' What we need are adventurers willing to help fight back Andariel's forces, not corrupted Necromancers." Kashya eyed the wand, rolling it between her fingers, before handing it back to him. "I will let you stay, if you agree to help our plight, as useless as you may be."

For once, Zyke frowned. "But I'm just a bard. I don't fight." However, Kashya had already turned and was headed back inside the camp. The other rogues lowered the weapons and resumed their posts, sending him dirty looks but no longer holding him at guard.

Zyke tightened his grip on the wand for a moment before returning it to his pocket. At least he was able to stay. He sighed and made his way inside.

Mud stuck to his boots, but he no longer noticed. Zyke eyed the wood logs forming the ring protecting the encampment, and the rogues guarding it. There was a fire in the center of the camp, with a man standing before his caravan, another man behind him, and a blacksmith back there too. A female blacksmith. He would have to visit her at some time. She might want to hear one of his stories.

To his right was a tent, with an elderly woman under a purple cloak. When his eyes caught hers, she gestured him over. With nothing else to do, and most of the camp sending him unwelcoming looks, he made his way over.

The woman's tent was full of strange objects, some magical, some powerful. She must be a trader of some sort. Zyke gave her an elaborate bow, saying simply, "I am Zyke the Bard. How may I assist you?"

The woman smiled slightly at that. "Greetings. I am Akara, High Priestess of the sisterhood of the Sightless Eye." He had heard of them. "I'm afraid I can only offer you a poor shelter. You see, our sisterhood has fallen under a strange curse..." She continued, explaining the situation he had heard in multiple towns on the way, although those had been somewhat altered with distance.

After her story, she gained a strange look, as if aware to what Kashya had said earlier. "There is a place of great evil in the wilderness. Kashya's rogue scouts have informed me that a cave nearby is filled with shadowy creatures and horrors from beyond the grave. I fear that these creatures are massing for an attack against our encampment. If you are sincere about helping us, find the dark labyrinth and destroy the foul beasts. May the Great Eye watch over you."

Zyke shifted on his feet. "Sorry, but I am simply a bard. I wish to help with morale, not demon extermination."

Akara appeared to not have heard him. She was probably senile. "I should add that many rogue scouts have died in that horrible place. We cannot afford to lose any more. If you choose to enter that Den of Evil, you must do so alone." She turned away from him to go through her many artifacts.

Zyke sighed and left, seeing as she wasn't paying attention to him anymore, and he headed to the fire. That was always a good place to tell stories.

He only just got close enough to feel the nice warmth of the fire – a very welcomed warmth with all the rain – when Kashya suddenly appeared at his side. Not close enough to invade personal space, but definitely noticeable. When he looked, her arms were folded and she was looking right at him.

"...Yes?" he asked.

"The demons in that cave have claimed many of my finest archers," she said immediately. "I wonder how you will fare!"

Zyke ran a hand through his wet hair. Explaining things was getting nowhere, and with the general attitude of the camp as it was, he would not have anywhere to sleep when night finally fell. He sighed. "Fine then, I'll cleanse the damn cave."

Kashya smirked haughtily at that, and she turned her head as he headed back for the entrance.

Zyke smiled at the guarding rogues as he passed before he was on the bridge. He sped up to a run then, boots pounding the wet stones.

Clearing the bridge, he slowed down to get a look at things. The Blood Moore. Already, he could see zombies and other nefarious things lurking through the rain. It brought back fond memories, and a genuine smirk fitted its way on his face. A dark smirk. "All who oppose me... beware."

And then he was off.

He honestly did not enjoy fighting anymore. In his younger days – not that long ago, actually – the joys of wrecking havoc and chaos filled him, and he always sought any form of combat. He had grown skilled - powerful - a master of his deadly arts. He rose through the ranks of Necromancers, even surpassing the Elders at the Necropolis. He was the best. He was.

Then that had been stripped away from him. His skill tree book was revoked, and he was back to nothing. He was to start over, with a warning to never start again. He had put that life behind him, and yet here he was...

xxx

Zyke spat blood, glaring at those surrounding him. He was on his knees, defeated. DEFEATED? He could not be defeated! He snarled. A clay golem bashed his face, sending him into the mud again. A weak monstrosity, yet he, too, was weak now.

"Necromagi Zykinander, you are hereby REVOKED of your rights as Necromancer, your strength stripped, and are banished from the Necropolis for the rest of your unnatural life."

xxx

The first zombie never saw it coming.

The weight of a full sprint was brought into a blow, and Zyke swung his wand for all its worth. The crunch of its skull cracking sent a reminding wave of failure through Zyke. A wave reminding him of what he could no longer do.

For some reason, that sparked an anger in him, and Zyke continued his strikes. A zombie, the weakest of risen dead, stumbled, trying to strike back, but he beat it down until the weak vertebrae holding it together finally broke and it collapsed.

Breathing hard, Zyke glared at the zombie corpse. A spawn of pathetic necromancy, a perversion of the true art. He would have to fix that.

Necromantic energies swelled into Zyke, and he allowed a rapturous smile on his face. The energies, although so much weaker now, were a comfort. It had been too long. He raised his wand and channeled through it, and the bones of the zombie ripped free of the flesh in an explosion of gore and fitted themselves back together.

In no time, a skeletal warrior rose to its feet, carrying a half-scythe and battered shield. A weak thing, but a creation of the True Art. Weak instead of pathetic. It pained him that it was actually risen from his wand and not his own strength, but at this point it wasn't his decision.

Sighing again, he moved on. The stray zombies and Fallen Ones that appeared along the way were brought down quickly, from either his wand or his new pet. Eventually, though...

Zyke hissed as the thick scimitar of the Fallen One cut into his arm, and blood streamed from it thick. He had four measly minor healing potions hanging from his belt, but a little cut like this wasn't worth it. Instead, he brought his wand around hard enough to kill the demon in a single blow.

Now, normally he wouldn't fight demons. Actually, he did feel a sense of kinship with some of them. Perhaps he was corrupted in some way. Regardless, Fallen paid little regard to others, and didn't deserve life. They were a disgrace to all demons.

He turned to face the last of the group, only to watch as his skeleton warrior brought its scythe down and rent it in two. With that blow, however, a wave of power surged into him. A power different than before. Zyke laughed at the feeling, feeling raw power course through him. His feeble mana supply was restored, all his wounds healed... It was fantastic.

But the power was raw, and he needed to guide it. So, glancing for more enemies, he first guided the power into two fifths physical strength, two fifths vitality, and the final fifth into energy. Then, he sat down and pulled out an almost forgotten book.

His spell book had been wiped clean, and to mock him they had returned it, blank. Now, however, it was glowing brightly, ready to relearn abilities. He gently flipped it open to the first chapter, and without hesitation chose 'Raise Skeleton.' The little blue 'one' beneath the skull became a little 'two,' and he grinned.

He put the book away and pulled out his wand again. Again, he filled himself with necromantic energies and a Fallen corpse exploded into another gory mess as a second skeleton warrior rose to existence. He may only be allowed to have two because of the wand, but at least now one was because of his own power.

Wiping wet hair away from his eyes, Zyke squinted into the distance. He thought he saw the cave, but the rain was too thick to be certain. With two pets now, he moved on.

It appeared the Den of Evil was what he saw, and with only a look for stray beasts, he descended.

Strangely, torches were lit, revealing cold grey stone and a hellova lot of horrors. At the same time, a strong wave of something familiar washed over him. He muttered pleasantly, "I sense... death within this place."

As if that were his battle cry, all the other horrors shouted theirs and charged.

It was a familiar dance of death, one he had gotten quite good at before it was stripped away. Fallen were only as good as their Shamans, and he danced between the little red monsters to get to them. Dodging balls of fire, weapons, and zombie lash-outs were once laughable to him, but now it was life or death. His two minions also fought, though they didn't have the thought to fight the resurrecting Shamans. That was his job.

Soon, he was there, and his wand brought down the first of many. All the Fallen Ones scattered at the sight of their great leader being struck down. They'd be back, though. And suddenly, they were, and the dance began anew.

Along the way, Zyke picked up any gold that dropped, and he even managed to find a piece of quilted armor. Pathetic, but usable.

At the back of the cave, he sighed and pulled out his map. A magical item, one that recorded where he had seen. Apparently, he had missed a hallway that led to a whole eastern wing within the cave. No problem. He moved on, replacing a skeleton as he went.

When he reached the hallway, however, he did discover a problem. A big problem. A hairy, head brushing the ceiling problem. A gargantuan charged him and his minions. The skeleton warriors intercepted it, and Zyke waited in the shadows, watching. The scythes made quick work of it, but a massive fist managed to crush one of his skeletons to useless rumble and do considerable damage to the other.

Regardless, he made another skeleton from the beast's corpse and moved on.

As the last Fallen fell to a third skeleton – he managed to have another surge of power, which allowed a new skill – his quest book reminded him of its presence. Another magical item. He opened it and saw "5 monsters remaining." Well, there was only one hall left, after all.

Rounding the corner, he saw a potential problem. Four regular zombies shambled around uselessly, yet a fifth glowed a brilliant blue. It was enchanted upon its resurrection. Enchanted with... spectral hit. Well, that sounded like fun.

Charging forward, it was like two armies colliding. A glorious sight to him.

Zyke himself charged solely Corpsefire, the name of the special Zombie. One hit from it had him retreating though. He wheezed and chugged down a second potion, feeling life seep back into him.

Instead, he stood back and watched. His three minions made quick work of the regular zombies, while Corpsefire made quick work of them. He kept them up to maximum supply, though. The endless hacks of the scythes finally did it, and Corpsefire made a small explosion, destroying another two skeleton warriors.

Light bled into the cave, and a sense that its cleansing was complete filled him. Checking his quest log confirmed it. He sighed. "Is that enough to earn the rogues' trust?"

He allowed his last skeleton to remain as he used his only scroll of town portal. A blue spiral erupted before him, opening into a void. He went inside.

xxx

"Here, take this."

Something small was shoved into his hands before someone roughly shoved him forward. Zyke stumbled, feeling naked without his enchanted armor. The rags they gave him did nothing! The bone door of the Necropolis slammed shut behind him, and guards watched to be sure he didn't try returning.

Zyke sighed and checked to see what they had given him. A wand. Inspecting it, he found it was a wand that allowed him to raise a single skeleton. A single skeleton warrior when he used to be able to raise an army of them.

One of the guards laughed – he had 'assisted' in Zyke's bodily removal. "So you can protect yourself, Shackled."

xxx

"Hmm. I'm surprised you survived that test, outlander. Go see Akara. She may reward you."

Kashya was looking as lovely as ever, though her opinion of him hardly seemed changed. At least her glare was split evenly between him and his single remaining skeleton. When the rogue leader turned, he took his time to peak at her rounded ass as her chain linked loincloth moved.

Giving one last wistful look to the blazing fire, he turned and made his way back to Akara and her tent. The woman was waiting for him, smiling. Before Zyke could say anything, the aged woman burst into congratulations, "You have cleansed the Den of Evil. You've earned my trust and may yet restore my faith in humanity. Your reward is training in the skill of your choice."

For a second, there was nothing. Then, Zyke frowned and pulled out his spell book. To his surprise, it was glowing brightly. Opening it, he saw he was capable of learning yet another ability, even without the surge of power. He eyed the woman and her mysterious smile. A very ancient and powerful magic, one that could grant skills to others, and only accessible to those of pure heart and those willing to use it only for the good of others.

He selected 'Raise Skeleton' for a third time; although it did not increase his number of skeletons to four, it allowed him to hold onto three even without his wand, and so long as he had the wand, those three would be more powerful.

Closing and replacing his book, he bowed to the High Priestess. "I thank you, Akara, for the reward. However, I-"

Kashya was suddenly there, her eyes fierce and hard yet for once not directed at him. Her words seemed for him as well as Akara, "My rogue scouts have just reported an abomination in the Monastery graveyard! Apparently, Andariel is not content to take only our living. Blood Raven, one of our finest captains in the battle against Diablo at Tristram, was also one of the first to be corrupted by Andariel. Now, you'll find her in the Monastery graveyard raising our dead as zombies!" She looked right at Zyke. "We cannot abide this defilement! If you are truly our ally, you will help us destroy her."

Zyke opened his mouth to argue, and again the rogue leader trotted off, most likely to tell the others. He sighed. Akara, however, didn't let him leave without having her own say. "Blood Raven fought valiantly against Diablo in the catacombs beneath Tristram... She was never quite the same afterwards. It is now obvious she brought an evil influence back with her."

Zyke didn't even try this time. Akara simply turned and returned to her goods, ignoring him. His remaining skeleton warrior ran back and forth randomly, not straying far, yet it was no companion in this. He sighed. He looked to the sky, seeing only dark clouds. At least it was not yet night. Looking down again, he caught sight of the blacksmith from earlier and decided to talk to her. Akara appeared senile, so he didn't trust selling his recovered items with her.

The blacksmith was quite the looker, as were most females among the rogues. However, unlike the others, she appeared of barbarian descent. She was even taller than him! Orange hair was casually swept back in a braid, unlike the tight ponytails of the other rogues, and she wore only a leather apron over red leather breeches. A smooth, muscled, and tanned back was revealed as she bent over an anvil, hammering a sword back into shape with a skilled hand. Her bending also left a nice impression in her tight breeches.

He knew from his travels that barbarians cared little for modesty, but this was the first he had seen a female so blatant about it. She heard him coming, and she flashed a quick smile at him before straightening. He caught sight of the sides of her breasts as she turned, only barely covered by the leather apron.

"Hi there, I'm Charsi, the blacksmith here in camp." She paused to flip her orange braid back over her shoulder and set down her hammer. "It's good to see some strong adventurers around here. Many of our sisters fought bravely against Diablo when he first attacked the town of Tristram. They came back to us true veterans, bearing some really powerful items. Seems like their victory was short lived there. Most of them are now corrupted by Andariel."

"I'm aware, and am sorry for your loss. My name is Zyke. I am a traveling bard, come to tell stories for entertainment where hope seems lost and perhaps add a few more to my arsenal," he ended with another bow, his smile eliciting another from her.

"A Necromancer and a bard, huh? Sounds interesting," she said cheerfully, fiddling with the straps of her apron.

"Actually, I am not a Necromancer," he corrected automatically, but not impolitely. Charsi blinked, glancing at his hair and back to his face. She then looked at the skeleton running around aimlessly. He pulled off his pack and rummaged through his inventory. "I do have some things to sell, however, if you'll have them."

Charsi finally looked back at him, ignoring how obvious it was that he was a Necromancer. "Well, I buy almost anything. And if you want something better than those battered rags, I've got a thing or two you might be interested in." She led him under her wood canvas, revealing her wares.

Selling a stamina potion, a dirk, some crude boots, and his quilted armor, Zyke examined her own goods. True to her word, she did have a fine variety. Certainly better than what a Fallen or zombie would ever have on them. At this point, a buckler would have to do. She happily gave it over for the right price. He also wanted a better pair of boots, but even the worst – far better than the crude pair he sold her – was out of his current price range. Selling a light mana potion he managed to find, he had just enough. At this point, the minor mana potion he had left would be more than enough, even if he was casting dry.

"Thanks, traveler," Charsi said as she tucked the potion away. She flashed him another smile, this one a bit more sultry than the friendly ones before. "Maybe later you can get around to telling me some of those stories. I pack up the forge when night falls."

Zyke smiled back, eyes dipping to her low apron as he bowed. "It'll be my pleasure." He headed back as she returned to her work, only once sending a glance over his shoulder to admire her bare back as she bent over again.

At the entrance again, this time off to go stop the Blood Raven, one of the rogues stopped him. "You'll want to stay with the road. The Burial Grounds are just past the Cold Plains." He nodded his thanks to her, and she hesitated for a moment. Then, "Good luck."

He flashed her a smile, and she blushed, before he sped to a run down the stone bridge yet again.

xxx

Zyke opened bleary eyes at the sound of someone kicking bottles over. He winced at the loud sounds of their clanks. Someone was standing in front of him. It could be a mugger, not that he had anything to mug. He squinted and tried to see who it was. "Whatdyawant?" he mumbled past a numb tongue. His whole body ached from the position he slept in, and his head pounded with hangover.

The man kneeled, cloak spilling around him. For the life of him, Zyke couldn't even tell if the cloak was nice or not. "I know who you are. I know who you were."

"Do you?" Zyke let out a coarse laugh. His whole starved belly ached from the force of it, but he laughed, a harsh sound. "Do you really?"

xxx

Quill Rats were the first delight he came across on the way, having wandered onto the road since the first time he had come. He restocked to three skeletons, now stronger than before, and kept moving. He passed the Den of Evil, still shining inside with holy light from its cleansing. Eventually, he saw a stone wall ahead, with a small gap between. The road led straight to the gap.

He slowed as he came, noticing someone standing there.

A rogue, he saw. Her bow was nocked and aimed at him before she saw who it was. She waved him over. She wore the standard rogue armor, loincloth and all, although the tops of her leather actually covered her breasts, leaving just two suggestive red protrusions. Cute was how to describe her, with a round face and big eyes. However, her expression right now was stern. A veteran scout, probably why she was out here alone.

"My name is Flavie, Necromancer," she said, eyeing him up and down once to assess him. "Take care. The corrupted rogues in the wilderness ahead are not to be trifled with." As if to punctuate her point, she rounded suddenly, loosing an arrow followed by three more.

Zyke watched passively as three... things entered the other side of the pass, holding spear and pikes, only to fall under the elite rogue's arrows. Upon death, the corrupted rogues' souls broke free of their torment in a flash of green.

Flavie turned back to him, calm as death. She nodded once to him, and he nodded back before moving on.

There were no immediate threats as he entered the Cold Plains, and his skeleton guards shambled around him defensively as he took a good look. Just before him, however, was a waypoint. He ran forward and activated it, watching two ethereal flames burst to light on either side. He checked its archive. The points were active only at the Rogue Encampment and the Cold Plains. The rest were greyed out, yet he memorized the names at least. Next was the Stony Field.

Running again, he continued down the trail. He passed a deserted inn and a few loose boulders, but he left them alone for now. He could see things lurking further out in the rain, things he didn't yet trust. Once he was out of sight from the pass into the Blood Moore, he slowed down. He could feel it, like a sense of kinship. Something was approaching him.

He rounded suddenly, seeing a group of three corrupted rogues charging him, weapons readied. Instead of panicking, he watched as they slowed, growing confused. Even his skeleton warriors didn't react. The sense of kinship ran two ways.

Their corruption did not affect their beauty. Only... changed it. The first of three had long black hair, contrasting with pale as death skin. She wore armor on a single shoulder - the side that also held a spiked buckler – and held a curved sword in her other hand. Her chest was covered by a black top that only covered her breasts. Lower, she wore a black thong and knee-high black boots.

The second wore a helm of bone on her head, yet her eyes gleamed red like the others' with her corruption. The face that Zyke could see beneath that helm was smooth, and hinted at her pretty face. She also wore a black top. Instead of a thong, she wore red leather pants riddled with holes, one ridding teasingly high up her inner thigh but revealing nothing. She held a three-pronged pike.

The third had her hair pulled into a black ponytail, an echo of her time as a rogue. Crimson eyes glowed above high cheekbones, though she seemed to have a look of cruel amusement etched on her face. Zyke liked her already. Unfortunately, she wore a metal breastplate that covered her taut stomach, yet the tops of her breasts were bared in typical rogue fashion. Under that was a black loincloth, yet it was somehow even thinner than those the rogues wore. Her weapon was a simple spear, while her boots stopped well before her knee, like the second's.

When they reached him, they lowered their weapons, figuring him not a threat. The first spoke, "We are Dark Hunters under the service of captain Blood Raven and the great succubus Andariel. Name yourself."

One might wonder how Zyke, a man stripped of all his power, could survive the journey from the Necropolis all the way to the Rogue Encampment, especially with Hell's forces bleeding out into the world. One might wonder. But he didn't. "I am Zyke the Bard, a traveling storyteller from lands afar." He flashed the girls a smile and bowed elegantly. "How may I assist?"

The third one laughed at that, shifting her spear around, but the first remained expressionless and the second scowled. "Who are you under the service of, demon?"

Zyke inclined his head. "I am not a demon, nor am I under the service of any. I am merely a traveling storyteller."

"Do not play games!" the second shouted, lowering her pike mere inches from his throat. "Tell us your master's name, or I will kill you where you stand."

Zyke made no move, but instead the first of the trio put her hand on the second's shoulder. "Peace, sister. Perhaps he speaks truth. There are rumors that Necromancy is a dangerous art – more dangerous than they say, anyways – and that if a Necromancer doesn't keep a firm hold over himself, he may be corrupted. Perhaps he is one of those men."

The third tilted her head, regarding him with her crimson eyes as one hand came up to tap a lip thoughtfully. "So tell us, Zyke the Bard... Does that sound right to you?"

"Forgive me, but I am just a traveling storyteller, not a Necromancer in any way." He smiled at them again. "However, how would you fine ladies like to accompany me to the Burial Grounds? I'll tell you a story of your choosing, if you ask nicely." He completely disregarded the pike still at his throat.

The glowing embers for eyes inside the skull helm narrowed. "What business do you have with our captain?"

"I wish to speak with her," Zyke said, raising his hands as they turned hostile. "That is all."

The three Dark Hunters looked at each other. Then, the one with the skull helm shook her head. "I don't like this one. I say we kill him." Her pike moved closer to his throat for emphasis.

The third - the one with the ponytail – however, moved past here sisters and wrapped herself around his arm, smirking at them. "Well, I for one do like him. When's the last time any of you saw a man we didn't have to kill? Mmm, it's been so long I could drag him back to our camp right now and just have my way with him." She turned her mischievous smile to him. "My name was Olena."

"Peace, Raissa," the first sighed, using her own hand to push the pike away from Zyke. "Don't forget that he has us outnumbered, and even alone a Necromancer has the ability to defeat all three of us." She turned to him. "I was Paige."

The second – Raissa – glared at the skeletons surrounding them. "I still don't like him."

"More for me then," Olena piped, her expression smug.

Paige eyed Zyke, then nodded once. "I'll get my turn too, Olena." The girl pouted, but it wasn't serious.

If Zyke was surprised by this turn of events, he didn't show it. Well, he did raise an eyebrow at Olena when she first grabbed his arm, but that was it. "Shall we go?"

Paige pointed the way with her sword. "This way to the Burial Grounds, Necromancer."

"Please listen, I am not a Necromancer," Zyke tried yet again as they started on their way, arm still trapped by Olena's grip. The skeletons followed.

The way there was not entirely quiet, as more hordes of corrupted rogues charged them, only to stop upon seeing them. A brief exchange of words usually sent them on their way. Usually.

"I call a turn after Paige!" one of them – Blaise – called back as she and her squad moved on. Zyke's eyes strayed to her thin loincloth as the woman trotted off. Corrupted rogues competed very well with regular rogues in matters like this.

A few more gargantuans made their appearance as they move, too, though Zyke's skeletons made quick work of them. A horde of Fallen, lead by an orange Fallen Shaman called Bishibosh, a fire enchanted little devil that left a mess by the time his skeleton warriors were done, attacked and were eradicated.

The Dark Hunters made no attempt to lend him a hand in the Fallen extermination, but as he worked they each gave him acknowledging nods, even a grudging one from Raissa. He even gained a power surge from one of the groups – leveling up to the forth level. He marked the appropriate spell in his spell book and moved on. That would be a little surprise for Blood Raven, when he finally met her.

Finally, they did in fact reach the Burial Grounds, where Olena expressed her displeasure at having to leave him.

"When you're done, you come right back here, alright?" Olena all but demanded after her initial complaints.

Zyke laughed, and nodded. "Of course, of course."

Olena eyed him doubtfully, a pout on her pale face, before she leaned in to steal a quick kiss and trotted off, back to her sisters. He watched her go. He watched them go. Between Paige's thong, Olena's loincloth, and the surprisingly large hole on the back of Raissa's leather pants that revealed everything, it made quite the sight.

When he finally turned back to the Burial Ground, he sighed. With his three skeleton warriors surrounding him, he moved forward.

Stronger zombies – the Hungry Dead – wondered mindlessly, easy pray for his skeletons, while enemy skeletons shambled after his. Those, however, were of much weaker mettle, and his made quick work of them.

As he and his minions made their way forward, he was preparing himself for the encounter. He knew several epics surrounding the legendary Blood Raven. Of the heroes of Tristrim, she had been his favorite. Now, here she was, corrupted, and him with a quest to destroy her. He frowned.

Finally, the gates of the graveyard came into sight, and only one thing came to mind, "Too many empty graves..." He shook his head and squeezed through where the bars had been rent apart; his skeletons struggled following, but managed.

There were two buildings: a crypt and a mausoleum, and between them was a stripped and dead-looking tree. Also between them was a rather impressive amount of Hungry Dead. He charged, and so did his skeletons.

Wand and scythes tore into the horde of zombies, making their way to the center. Before they got there, however, Zyke saw an arrow whiz through the undead and strike one of his skeletons, and it exploded in a burst of flame, completely destroying it. Then, he heard an old Necromancer battle cry.

"Join my army of the dead!"

The voice was haunting, but feminine. There was no doubt, it was Blood Raven.

The zombies were thinning out, and he caught sight of something white and red between the mass of dark death. Resurrecting a skeleton, he called out to her, "Excuse me, may we talk?"

Her response was another arrow, and he ran to the side to avoid it. He sighed. So it was the hard way after all.

Like in the game stone, parchment, cutters, a Necromancer always beat an animator. Always, unless the Necromancer was a dumb fool or the animator was exceptionally stronger. This corrupted Blood Raven was obviously an animator, and he... Well, one could get the idea. Not a Necromancer though. Never.

The reason for this, however, was because of how it worked. An animator brought a corpse back to life. Once that corpse was slain, an animator could bring it back again, or a Necromancer could bring the corpse back as a skeleton. Once a skeleton was destroyed, however, it was unusable for both. In other words, the corpses could only go away as the Necromancer made minions of them, and once they were gone... only his would be left.

And so for a time the two battled it out. Zombies fell to his skeletons, his skeletons fell to her arrows, and both sides were replenished by their casters. But the horde of zombies decreased faster than Blood Raven was animating, and his skeletons remained a solid three. Then, Zyke cast a new spell, the one he had just gained before coming here.

Bones – for there were a lot of them – floated up and swirled around him, forming a layer of armor. There was a time when this Bone Armor had been near impenetrable, but for now this would do. He had a plan for it.

Ignoring the battle of their pets, Zyke strolled towards Blood Raven. She wore a bone helm much like Rassia, and glowing crimson eyes could be seen between the eye-holes. She wore a red top like Paige's, one that exposed a good amount of cleavage, and a blood red loincloth that was about as wide as a rogue's. She also wore knee-high boots of the same color. Years of archery had done well with her body, and it was toned in a good way, with her breasts still obviously full. And, of course, bone spikes happened to be protruding from her hips and elbows.

"Blood Raven, may we speak now?" Zyke asked as he moved towards her. There was a time he would have been excited. He was actually speaking to Blood Raven! Now, however, he needed to make sure she didn't plant an arrow between his eyes.

"My army will destroy you!" She fired another missile, and it cracked against his Bone Armor.

Several bones fell away from the force of it, but Zyke just smiled and reapplied the spell. He still had mana to spare, and his limited casting was allowing it to replenish on its own. "Actually, my army is destroying yours at the moment, and you yourself cannot harm me, as you can see. So let's just talk about this."

Blood Raven retreated a few steps and fired a flaming arrow at him. His entire Bone Armor was almost destroyed by that, with only a rib and a femur remaining, yet he merely reapplied it. Although he didn't show it, that move drained drastic amounts of his mana, so willingly taking her arrows would be bad eventually. But he needed it to appear this way.

"Like I said, you cannot harm me," Zyke said calmly, still strolling forward. Blood Raven called forth more zombies between them, but one of the skeletons charged forward and intercepted them. Zyke easily walked past. "Blood Raven, we are both masters of the True Art; I am not your enemy." Technically, animation was a form of the True Art, but it was considered lesser. He refrained from mentioning that.

Blood Raven nocked another arrow and glared at him. "Then why are you here, mortal?"

Zyke assumed an affronted look, with a hand over his heart. "I need a reason for wishing to meet with such a lovely lady?"

"...What?" Blood Raven asked, surprise slipping into her ethereal voice. Her bow didn't budge an inch, though. No matter what, she was one of the best.

"Once a heroine of the legends, now a performer of the True Arts... My dear, you have become one of my favorite people," Zyke mentioned. "Forgive my manners. I am Zyke the Bard, a traveling storyteller from lands afar. Meeting the Blood Raven in the flesh is very exciting."

The last of the zombies had been finished off, and the three skeletons wandered aimlessly behind Zyke. Seeing as he was no longer hostile, and obviously quite capable of finishing her off, Blood Raven lowered her bow slightly. "I sense a great corruption in you, Necromancer. You are not far from being a demon yourself. Do you wish to serve Matron Andariel as well?"

Zyke politely declined. "And I am not a Necromancer, merely a traveling bard seeking more wonders from the world."

"...Do you think me stupid, Necromancer?" she growled, lifting her bow slightly.

"No, I think you as gorgeous and cunning as the legends have suggested, why?" Zyke asked.

"Gorgeous?" Blood Raven laughed, the sound coming in her haunting, inhumane voice. "My beauty was stripped away with my humanity when I pledged myself to Matron Andariel."

"I disagree. In fact, I believe your beauty to be enhanced. But then, perhaps that is just my personal preference." The Necropolis was underground, and paleness was a trait of attraction, as were things linked to death. Blood Raven now carried both.

The former rogue shifted her bow into one hand, and with the other she removed her helm of bone. "You find this attractive?" she asked harshly, as if he were mocking her.

Raven dark hair spilled out of the helm, going well past her shoulders. The face revealed, however, carried every sign that women had been drop-dead gorgeous before her corruption, save a single scar that stretched down her left cheek. To Zyke, however, she was still just as breathtaking, and the scar a beauty mark. The glowing crimson eyes shined brightly between furrowed brows, but they merely made her look as exotic as the other corrupted rogues he had met on the way over.

"Very much so," he muttered quietly, yet the words carried to her, and her eyebrows rose in surprise.

There was a moment of silence, as the two merely stared at each other, before Blood Raven shook her head – long hair swishing. "So you come here, destroy my army, and now try to get on my good graces? To what end, Necromancer?"

"Please, just call me Zyke. And to what end? Well, actually I came to ask you to stop your defilement to the Monastery graveyard," he said simply.

Blood Raven blinked. "You... want me, Blood Raven, captain of the rogues under Matron Andariel's command, to simply stop defiling a lost graveyard? You came all the way here, just for that?"

Zyke laughed sheepishly and scratched the back of his head. "Well, actually I was told to come here and kill you, but like I said, I like you, so I wouldn't do that."

The more they spoke, the less sense this mortal made to her. "And then what, Zyke? I stop here, what does that change if I move elsewhere? Your request has changed nothing."

Zyke shrugged. "Not my problem, so long as you stop your work here." Blood Raven just stared at him, lips drawn tight. He cocked his head suddenly. "Actually... You asked me to join your army of the dead. How about you join me?"

Her eyebrows rose even higher, and her lips parted slightly as her jaw slacked in surprise. "Join you? In doing what?"

It was a decision he had been struggling with ever since he accepted going to the Den of Evil. With enough hard work, maybe a bit of pleasure on the way if those Dark Hunters had been serious, he might be able to do it. To spit in the face of the Elders, regain his power, and defeat Diablo. The world was going to the Hells if someone didn't step up, and although heroes were springing up like weeds, so also were they getting chopped down. He knew power, had held it once. He could do it.

He took a deep breath. Once proclaimed, there would be no going back. Life would get significantly harder, endangering both himself and everyone he became involved with. He nearly smirked at that. What did he care?

"Join me in marching to the Gates of Hell and defeating the Three Prime Evils."

xxx

Zyke pulled the strap on the final bag tightly, and the horse was ready to be mounted. He glared at the man behind him, packing his own horse. "What?"

"I said, I'm just a bard, not some great warrior." The man's smile only added more wrinkles to his face. His hair was a mix of black and grey, and it almost reached his shoulders.

"But you-"

"Just a bard, Zykinander."

xxx

"This is foolishness. You are foolish!" Blood Raven snapped as they exited Burial Grounds. "Matro- Ugh, Andariel will destroy the both of us for this treachery."

"How many rogues will follow you, and how many Andariel?" Zyke asked, eyeing the darkening sky. He should be getting back to the Rogue Encampment, but what to do with Blood Raven?

"Follow me under her, all of them. Follow me under you, none," Blood Raven growled. "For demons its a power game. Demons will only follow the most powerful demon."

'Join me or die.' The oldest phrase of domination in existence, for demons and humans alike. "Which is why you are following me. Because I am stronger," Zyke pointed out.

"Yet Ma- Andariel is stronger than you."

Which was true, currently. He could, of course, go around from corrupted rogue to corrupted rogue, forcing them to turn to him or die. They would come, especially with Blood Raven already here. However, with Andariel the greater power, they would slip away to rejoin her forces whenever his back was turned.

Blood Raven wouldn't, though. Of that, he was certain.

"Why are you smiling at me?" she asked, glaring.

"No reason," he said merrily. She reminded him a bit of... her. Interesting, the thought of her didn't hurt as bad as it used to.

They were barely outside the Burial Grounds when Zyke was suddenly enveloped by a Bone (Armor) crushing hug from behind. He felt someone rest their head on his shoulder, and he heard their voice in his ear. "You came back."

He now had another reason to smile. "Olena."

"It appears you've been busy, Zyke," Blood Raven commented dryly from his other side. "Was I not the first?"

Another pout appeared on Olena's face. "But I was supposed to be fir- Captain!" She sprang away from Zyke, saluting the woman standing next to him. Paige and Raissa were also there, and they also saluted Blood Raven.

Blood Raven gave a mirthless laugh as she returned the gesture, before she turned to Zyke. "I'm guessing they don't even know yet."

"Know what?" Paige asked, attentive and apparently the leader of the trio, from what Zyke had gathered.

Blood Raven grinned wickedly at her, yet as she opened her mouth, Zyke beat her to it. "Nothing important right now. Olena, you mentioned you had a camp somewhere. Do you mind if we stay the night there? I'll tell stories, if you wish."

Olena grinned and latched onto his arm again. "Oh I want more than stories from you, Zyke the Bard. And you most certainly are going to stay the night there. Just don't expect any sleep." Off to the side, Paige gave a nod of agreement, while Raissa sighed.

Blood Raven grumbled under her breath as Paige led the way, something about 'lack of discipline' and such a thing 'never being allowed before,' but Zyke paid her little mind. For some reason, this night seemed to hold great promise for him.

The camp was surprisingly better than he expected. Three tents cut low surrounded a now smothered and drenched fire pit. No supplies, which was expected from these types of demons, yet it was surprisingly tidy. Then again, it was what he expected from former rogues. Blood Raven gave a nod of approval.

Only when Paige moved to restart the fire did Zyke notice it had finally stopped raining. Glancing around, he saw little fires spread throughout the distance. Other Dark Hunter squads and Fallen camps.

He sat down on a stump, hands stretched for at least some warmth from the weak fire, when suddenly Olena sat herself in his lap - minus her earlier breastplate - with her thin loincloth draping over his leg. Regrettably, it seemed she had nothing else to wear underneath the removed armor, and her breasts were left exposed. But who was Zyke to oppose? His arms went around her automatically, yet his hands remained on her firm stomach. The better things would come later.

Some Necromancers – not that he was one - became so involved in their happenings with death that they grew an attraction for corpses and took part in necrophilia. However, for the most part that was looked down upon. These demons – these corrupted rogues – however, were not like corpses at all. He could feel warmth from Olena, and her skin felt soft under his hands, above muscles tight from rigorous exercise. A slight personality change, a shift in allegiance, a color drain, a few enhancements... but these were regular women. Very attractive women.

As it turned out, when they left him to enter the Burial Grounds earlier, the trio had recovered one of the gargantuan beasts he had slain, and now were roasting part of it over the fire. That, thankfully, he could eat. Free shelter and a meal. This truly was a good night. Now, perhaps some entertainment.

"Would any of you like to hear a story?" he asked, a smile on his face.

"You still insist that you are just a storyteller?" Blood Raven and Raissa echoed, both incredulous. They looked at each other when they realized they had spoken at the same time, then looked back at him.

Paige was tending the meat on the fire, but she looked up at him at that, black hair flipped to one side as she bent forward. "I'm interested."

Zyke smiled, then patted Olena's thigh. "I'm sorry, Olena, but your going to need to get off for me to do this." The girl pouted – she had a very cute pouting face, and probably had known it before she was corrupted – but complied. She sat next to Paige, and suddenly Zyke realized that her exposed state might serve as a distraction as his eyes refused to budge from her breasts.

Blood Raven huffed at this and moved to go sit somewhere else, resting her back against another stump a small distance away from the fire. Not far enough to where she couldn't hear his story, though she tried to make it appear that way, facing away from him as she was. Raissa finally removed her bone helmet, revealing a face more handsome than pretty with all her hair shaved off save a single black topknot near the back of her head. She sat by the fire, but she also tried to appear that she wasn't interested in his story.

Zyke clapped and rubbed his hands together before thrusting them near the fire, letting warmth seep back into his fingers. He had yet to find gloves. "Alright. This is a personal favorite, though it's long enough to have to be told through multiple nights. This is a story of love, that ends in tragedy. A story of the hero's rise to power, and the eventual downfall of him and his lover. It-"

"We are demons, oh great bard; we don't give a damn. Just get on with it," Blood Raven kindly put in from her place off to the side. At least that meant she was listening.

"Right," Zyke said, smiling. "This is a story about a Necromancer and an Amazon." Olena turned to Paige and mouthed 'It's about him.' Zyke's smile widened. People always thought that, at first. "A female Necromancer, and a male Amazon, rare as they are. Her name was... Ellyia.

"Many years ago, initiate Necromancers were sent out to further their strength and turn it into new skills. In case you don't know, Necromancers are given particular skill tree books – or spell books, depending where your from – that allow them particular skills. All spell books are the same among Necromancers, and the stronger you are, the more skills you were able to learn. The same could be said for Amazons.

"Ellyia was such an initiate. At eighteen, she was given five years to increase her strength and return to the Necropolis, the great underground city of the Necromancers. Our story begins after her first year, when she first ran into the Amazon named Rednanikyz.

"She was in the jungles of Kurast. You rogues may not know what that land is like, so let me describe it to you. The land is wild, uncultivated. Great trees tower like buildings there, the leaves as thick as any roof. And they are packed together so tightly they can be as impassible as any wall you have here. Massive roots break free of damp earth like arms, always a hazard to those trying to travel. An attempt to flee from something can easily turn into a fall if one isn't careful of said roots. And then there are vines, everywhere. Not just on the ground, either, but from trees as well.

"Snakes of all sorts roam there. The bite from the tiniest will result in your death as surely as the constriction from the biggest, rumored to stretch as long as thirty feet, and as thick as a man. Spiders are no less poisonous, though some can get bigger than people if rumors of the Spider Cavern are to be believed.

"Rivers there run like roads here, twisting any and everywhere, leading to destinations as surely as any dirt road would. Best not get into the creatures that live in those waters. Now Ellyia was in that jungle, a Necromancer as sure as any other. At that time, she had five skeleton warriors, four skeleton magi, the infamous blood golem, and Bone Armor strong enough to shrug off a hundred of your best arrows and have bones to spare! Her curses were formidable as well, and as secretive as the rest of her.

"She was young and foolish at the time, thinking herself brave and such, and thus decided to break free from the river-drawn paths. Without a look back, she turned to the endless forest and squeezed herself between two trees around three spans thick each. Immediately, light was consumed by the heavy canopy of leaves above, plunging the Necromancer in darkness.

"But she liked the darkness, most Necromancers do. And so she moved on, moving through any small opening she could, going deeper into the dark forest. Some spaces were so tight she had to deactivate her Bone Armor just to pass through, leaving her defenseless – the fool! Under one tree, called the Viper Willow – and for good reason! - she sat down to have herself a lunch, thinking it better to eat there than using a portal to return to town.

"Viper Willow earns its name well, with thick branches reaching out in almost a perfect circles and growing its long leafs from the ends of their knuckles. The leafs are about as thick as your thumb, and can get to spans long if the tree is old enough. That one was, by the way. The reason for its name is because vipers enjoy the scent of the tree, and can often be found hanging among those long leafs. More vipers in Kurast are green, so you know, not that it mattered in the darkness brought upon by the thick canopy above.

"And so, this young and foolish girl unwrapped her cooked Leaper, giving off its sweet, succulent smell. Makes your mouth water just thinking about it. Hers certainly was. Of course, so were the three vipers hanging from that particular tree. And so while the girl sat there, nibbling oh so daintily on her cooked Leaper, the three vipers slithered down their branches, spiraling down the gnarled wood. The first ended just a foot away from her unaware body, and it didn't hesitate to get closer.

"Like any real Necromancer, she wore impressive gear. Polished bone breastplate kept her well protected, with the skulls of defeated foes now protecting her shoulders. Her pants were much the same, with cured black leather free of cracks or weakness, emboldened by iron armor and more bone, all the way to her heavy boots. With her Bone Armor up, she would never have to even worry about taking damage, let alone some ridiculous snake. With her minions, she also wouldn't have to worry, but alas, she left them behind when entering that forest of the damned.

"But the first viper cared little for her extravagant gear. With its body a good span and a half long, it easily managed to take a venomous bite to her exposed neck. Like that, a fool would have died a fools death. Fortunately for her, the poison of that viper was weaker in humans, causing a long reaction of hallucination and weakness instead of death.

"At the time, Ellyia had thought herself invincible, and as such she never carried any measly 'antidote potions.' No, those were for the weak. When she was first struck, she dropped her food and ripped the snake away, crushing it under her heavy boot, but the damage had been done, and the other vipers were not to waste their advantage.

"The second struck her legs, but caught only leather. Lucky for her, as that was the Black Eye viper, and more deadly than a blade through the heart. She ran, narrowly avoiding the third, the blue stripped Changa, with fangs long enough to pierce even an inch thick breastplate, and although not as deadly, combined with the first viper's poison, she would not have survived.

"She ran, with her vision beginning to distort from the poison. Tree's became larger, branches lower, dark into day. Vines became more snakes, and the ground a mass of endless bugs and critters. She ran and ran, drinking a healing potion to no avail. Her mind was too lost to think about her town portals, and if she collapsed she would be easy pray for the other beasts of the jungle. That much she knew at least.

"She ran between the massive trees and tangled brush, tripping and recovering from high roots and low vines, eyes untrustworthy for either. The weakness kicked in, and her movements began to slow. She was going to collapse soon, and the poison would leave her unable to move for a few hours, at least. More than enough time for something to come along and finish the job.

"Her movements slowed, gloved hands slipping as she tried to catch her breath against gnarled trunks and boulders infested with more vines. She fell more times than she could remember or count, head bashing a rock or root at times, hitting soft dirt at others, but she always just barely managed to pick herself up and keep moving. Just barely.

"And then, finally, with her limbs burning with strain, her chest heaving with breaths that weren't giving enough air, her eyes blurring already distorted images and the lids much to heavy to keep open... She collapsed. It was the end of Ellyia, and she knew it. She hated it, hated how powerful she was, with all her great wondrous skills, yet was going to die a fool's death because of her pride and thoughtlessness. But her thoughts were slipping, and she couldn't focus on even her foolishness.

"A deep cold settled in her stomach, an omen of her death to come. That was the only thing she could notice at that point. The terrible, terrible cold. Death was familiar to her, a friend to a Necromancer, yet that terrible cold was a surefire enemy.

"For some reason, the thought that the cold was her enemy sparked something inside her. Not a warmth, but a... strength. The last of it, surely, but it gathered together. It was enough, had to be enough. Groaning, nearly weeping, Ellyia opened her eyes, seeing a world not normal, and forced her hands to move.

"She pushed herself onto her kneels. She felt hopeless, desperate, but the terrible cold was still there. She was trembling, with weakness or fear it didn't matter. She just barely lifted a leg under her, and with a groan she used that to push herself to a stand. She wobbled – almost fell again – but she managed.

"The cold was throughout her entire being by then, and fear closed its icy fist around her heart. The very, very last of her strength was shoved into her legs, and she gave a desperate cry as she pushed off them in a run that was more of a stumbling fall. One hand slapped against another treetrunk, and she shoved off from that to keep going forward.

"She couldn't see where she was going, but she knew she was falling for the final time. She struggled to get her feet up under her, to get another step off, but her steps were reaching less and less, her body more and more forward. She reached out for another tree to right herself with, just a single tree to keep herself going. She had strength for another push. She had the strength!

"But alas there was no tree, and her grasping was in vain as she fell forward. She fell, knew she was falling, her mind screamed at it, hopeless, the cold was closing her off, killing her. She was going to die. She was...

"Paige, the meat is burning," Zyke commented suddenly.

Paige was standing there still bent forward to tend the meat, but all her attention was on him. At his break from the story, she snapped, "What happened?"

Zyke gazed at his impromptu audience. Olena was leaning forward, arms before her to support her weight and covering her breasts from him. She had a smile on her face as she listened. Raissa had forgotten she was supposed to pretend to be not listening, and she was watching him with wide crimson eyes. Even Blood Raven, arms folded under her breasts as she rested against the log, was turned toward him, eyes bright red as opposed to the rest of her in the darkness.

Pride swelled within Zyke. Even demons were mesmerized by his stories. He grinned. To answer Paige's question, he said simply, "She fell into one of the rivers, where Rednanikyz was bathing at the time. The Amazon pulled her out, gave her an antidote potion, and nourished her back to health. That was how they met. Now, let's eat."

Paige shook her head and gave each of them a portion of the meat, with Blood Raven receiving the biggest. It was Raissa who spoke first, "I'm surprised, Zyke. Perhaps you really are a bard. I would like to hear more tomorrow." The others nodded, even Blood Raven, who seemed to have forgotten their current problems for the moment.

After they ate their fill, Olena wasted no time in immersing herself in Zyke. Her lips smashed against his, warm and tasting faintly of the meat she had just eaten. Her pale arms snaked around him, and her breasts mashed against his plain leather armor. Zyke responded with no less enthusiasm, his arms going low around her slender waist, one hand cupping a pale cheek.

Still locked in their embrace, Olena guided him to his feet and back towards her low tent, stripping him of his armor with expert fingers. She pulled him down, and led him inside just as she got his dark leggings off. Her remaining loincloth stood no chance to his hands.

Before they could truly get into it, Paige peaked her head in the front of the tent, long hair spilling down the side of her. "Don't forget I get a turn after you!"

xxx

Zyke stumbled into a table, reeling from the force of the blow. His jaw felt unhinged, and his cheek burned from where he had been struck. His companion was scowling at him. "Do not mock the legends of those who were greater than you. Just because they didn't end as miserable as you doesn't mean they didn't risk life and limb for others. Even Gail earns more right to the name hero than you ever did."

Zyke wiped his hand against his cheek and checked for blood. There was none, unsurprisingly, but it still stung fiercely. "Gail? Gail was a fool with delusions of grandeur, and he deserved his death."

"Perhaps his death was warranted for his actions," the man accepted, though his eyes bore holes in Zyke's skull, "but at least he tried, which is more than could be said of you."

xxx

"It's the Necromancer! And he brought Blood Raven!"

Zyke and his companion halted on the stone bridge as bows were raised, and one of the rogues trotted off to inform Kashya. He was tired, but in a good way. After Olena, Paige had had her turn. And that Blaise he barely met actually showed up at the camp for her own turn. Surprisingly, after her, even Raissa had demanded her own go at him. Yes, exhausted was the only way to describe it. Olena hadn't been too far off in her warning of a lack of sleep.

Zyke had a sense of déjà vu as the rogue came trotting back, Kashya on her heels. However, this time Akara came as well, moving well for her age. Neither looked pleased by the sight of him, and Kashya was downright scowling fiercely at him.

"You have betrayed us, outsider!" Kashya spat as she came closer, hateful eyes remaining on him and not straying even for a second to her former friend.

"Actually, I stopped the desecration of your graveyard, as asked," Zyke pointed out. He looked calm, in face of all the bows aimed at his heart, yet in truth he was ready to activate his Bone Armor at a the drop of a pin. This had been another gamble, and all gambles came with risks.

Akara pushed her way forward, her face equally calm yet radiating disapproval. "Why did you return to our encampment with Blood Raven, adventurer? Were you not our enemy, why would she be your ally?"

Blood Raven scoffed at being so blatantly ignored, and she sneered at them. "You should know well, Kashya, that leadership is often judged by power. Or in this case, the greatest chance of survival."

Kashya's hard eyes turned to Blood Raven, flashing angrily. "Don't speak to me, demon! You are not the woman I knew."

Blood Raven wore her bone helm again, and her crimson eyes turned to Zyke, sniffing disdainfully. "I told you they wouldn't listen, fool."

Zyke ignored her. "We march against Andariel, with or without your help. Blood Raven has changed from whom you knew, but she still lives, and will continue living so long as it is under me. I ask only for help in reaching Andariel, in the form of information if nothing else. After all, I'm just a bard. Adventuring is not my strong point."

Kashya sneered, another sharp comment ready, yet Akara spoke ahead of her, "We find it hard to trust you, Necromancer, but I am willing to give you your chance. There is only one Horadrim sage, schooled in the most arcane history and lore, who could advise you... His name is Deckard Cain. You must go to Tristram and find him. I pray that he still lives."

She continued before Zyke could accept or reject her new quest. "Tristram is too far to journey by foot... Cain would likely be dead when you arrived. However, there is a magical portal that will take you there instantly. To open it, one must stand within the circle of Cairn Stones and touch them in a certain order. The proper order can be found in the runes written on the bark of the Tree of Inifuss. You must find the sacred Tree of Inifuss and bring back its bark. I will translate the runes to unlock the Stones' mystic pattern."

The holes he thought he saw in the plan were filled in rather nicely by her. There was no doubt she was a wise woman, and rightfully the High Priestess. Deckard Cain... Zyke knew of him, and was surprised. Another legend he was to meet. From the stories he had learned... Cain had assisted Blood Raven, back when Diablo first broke through to the world of Sanctuary. She would know him as well.

"I accept," Zyke confirmed, and he ignored how Blood Raven glanced at him. The bows aimed at the two of them had not lowered an inch.

Akara studied him a moment with eyes that saw more than just him, and she nodded. "Rescue him, Necromancer, and you will have my trust again, strange as you are."

"I shall bring you that scroll, but I make no promises for his life. And I am not a Necromancer, just a bard," Zyke gave a small bow, lowering himself to fit his spoken occupation. When he straightened, he hesitated. "...May I use your waypoint?"

"You are not coming into our camp with that filth!" Kashya spat immediately. Akara glanced at her but didn't argue the point.

Zyke nodded, and he turned to continue back down the stone bridge. He managed only a few steps, Blood Raven on his heels, when someone shouted, "Wait!"

He turned, as did Kashya and Akara. A rogue lowered her bow, shifting from the looks, but she wasn't to back down. "I'll go with you, adventurer. By your leave of course, Captain."

"Aliza...?" Kashya looked thunderstruck, before her pretty face hardened to stone. "You risk more than death by joining with him, Aliza. Are you sure about your decision?"

"I know the way to the Tree of Inifuss. If time is short, having a guide will be the fastest way. I am willing to face the risk, even in company of... them," the rogue confirmed, trotting forward to stand near Zyke and Blood Raven, suppressing a cringe when she caught a good look at her former captain.

Zyke remembered her from his arrival here yesterday. A pretty, rounded face. Light eyes, hair as fiery as the rest. And of course, an impressive bosom that belied her willowy frame, straining against her low-cut leather armor. Her blue eyes caught his, and she gave a stiff nod to him. He smiled back.

"May the Great Eye watch over you. All of you," Akara intoned, and the trio moved out, Aliza at the lead.

xxx

Zyke handed a mug of ale to his companion as he returned from the owner of the tavern. "Well?"

The older man's eyes twinkled as he smiled. "He will accept only a well account of Ulric the Pure."

"Well that's fantastic," Zyke said, leaning forward. "Your retellings of him are the best I've heard."

"Who said anything about me? Tonight is your night, my young bard."

Zyke choked on his own mug.

xxx

They were nearly to the Den of Evil when Aliza slowed down, and she turned to her companions. Her face was grim. "If that was all a deception, now is your chance to strike me down." She glanced between him and Blood Raven fearlessly, even though her Inner Sight told her the former was near enough a demon and the latter she knew to be a sure enemy.

"Always the brave one, Aliza," Blood Raven laughed, the sound haunting and echoing with her corruption. "I always liked that in you."

Zyke, however, shook his head. "We are not your enemies, that I promise you. However, there are things we must discuss before facing the demons ahead..."

As he spoke, Aliza nodded, trying to appear stone faced, yet as he went on, her expression grew more and more surprised, and when he finished she struggled to say, "A-Alright."

They moved on again. Upon reaching the pass that Flavie guarded, the archer herself merely watched them. She recognized Zyke and Aliza, and without a doubt she recognized Blood Raven, her once-captain. She made no comment, though, nor did she raise her bow to them. She just watched as they trotted past.

At Zyke's words, Aliza did not raise her bow to the corrupted rogues they passed. She trembled at the effort, though, eyes wide at the sight of squads of Dark Hunters and Dark Spearwomen. The squads themselves charged them initially, but sight of Blood Raven elicited salutes and they backed off, unquestioning.

The gargantuan beasts and Fallen Ones were another story, however. Unlike the corrupted rogues Zyke had spent the night with earlier, Blood Raven assisted in the fighting. Zombies mixed with skeleton warriors, and the horde of them ate through their foes, backed with the fire enchanted shots of Blood Raven and the icy arrows of Aliza.

Zombies, of course, were too slow to keep up with their quick pace and were destroyed before moving on, but Zyke's skeletons remained with them. They cleared the Cold Plains, and soon entered the Stony Field.

Aliza led Zyke to the waypoint before setting a hard pace onward, only briefly pointing out the Cairn Stones in the distance yet remaining away from it. Instead of Fallen and their Shamans out here, there were only Carvers, blue skinned and stronger than the former. They were only a minor delay, though.

They stopped outside a cave built into a mountain blocking their path. Aliza gestured to it. "The Underground Passage. This will take us to the Dark Wood, where the Tree of Inifuss is located." She hesitated, and her eyes gained a sad cast to them. "Many of our more veteran sisters were stationed in this pass to assist travelers. None have been seen since the fall of the Monastery.

"They are still down there," Blood Raven confirmed, crimson eyes studying Aliza. "Vile Hunters and Vile Lancers now. Between Zyke and myself, they will not harm you. They wouldn't dare defy my command... yet."

Zyke nodded, and he guided his skeletons through first before they followed.

They barely took two steps before a volley of arrows were absorbed by their bone wall, consisting of Zyke's skeletons and Bone Armor. Blood Raven sprang into action, calling more Hungry Dead from the ground that shambled towards a large horde of skeleton archers. Her steady shots followed, as did Aliza's. Zyke watched, letting his minions do the fighting for him.

They easily cleared the boney horde, and moved deeper into the Underground Passage. That was when they met the next group of horrors. A quad of corrupted rogues charged them, their skin a light green instead of near white, and the remnants of armor that they wore was blood red, much like Blood Raven's. Behind them, however, a pair of Misshapen followed, long tongues dangling as they bounded on hands and feet.

They were demons, one and all, as Zyke felt the kinship with each of them. As surely as they felt the kinship with him and Blood Raven. As surely as they sensed Aliza the odd-man-out: the human. A few scowled and growled at her, but they addressed Zyke and Blood Raven.

"Well, well, well, look at what the Captain has brought us," a Vile Hunter drawled, though her tone was pleased and low. "A male capable of satisfying our... growing needs. We thank you, Captain, but you may keep the human for your own amusement. The male is more than enough."

"Discipline yourself!" Blood Raven snapped, her haunting voice sharp. "I will not stand to see my sisters so shameless!" The Vile Hunter who spoke blinked in surprise, and she and the others snapped to attention, saluting. After a moment, Blood Raven nodded, satisfied. "Unlike the rest of you, he has proven himself worthy of being a close confident, and with him I am escorting this young... rogue to the Dark Wood, with orders from Matron Andariel herself. If I find myself having to explain more to the likes of you, I will use your corpses to replenish my army of the dead!"

The former captain was fierce even when bluffing, and the Vile Hunters made no attempt of disputing her words, some even giving Zyke appraising – or hungry – looks. The two near the back ran off to inform the others deeper in the pass. Blood Raven nodded again at that. One hand roughly shoved Aliza forward, earning a surprised squawk from her, and they began moving on.

Not without one last comment from one of the Hunters, though. "If you ever find yourself growing lonely on a cold night, Necromancer, you know where to find us!"

"I'm not a Necromancer," Zyke grumbled as they sprinted down the winding paths. Aliza sent him a wide-eyed look, stunned by what she had heard from those who were once her sisters.

A few more skeletal archers needed to be plowed through, but for the most part the the other Vile Hunters and Vile Lancers only nodded or saluted as they passed, some giving a wistful look to Zyke, others a wicked smile to Aliza, who tried very hard to simply ignore them.

At last, they reached the end of the tunnel, and the trio ascended into light. Light dimmed by thick clouds blocking the sky, but at least it wasn't raining. Aliza let out a shaky breath at that, relieved to have gotten out alive. Zyke just studied the terrain before them, seeing it riddled with trees and rocks. Any of them could be the Tree of Inifuss.

After catching her breath and calming her nerves, Aliza turned to Blood Raven, not flinching at the sight of glowing crimson eyes under a helm of bone, the unnatural skin, nor the bone spikes protruding from her hips and elbows. In fact, she smiled ruefully. "It's nice to see your corruption has not affected your quick-thinking... Captain Blood Raven."

The former heroine stared at her for a moment, before turning away and muttering, "Let's keep moving."

Zyke nodded, and Aliza gave Blood Raven a final look before trotting onward. Zyke allowed his eyes to trail to her bouncing loincloth only a couple of times, keeping an eye out for approaching enemies. He didn't have to wait long.

More Skeleton Archers appeared, followed by a horde of Carvers and a leading Shaman. Hungry Dead, skeleton warriors, and arrows made quick work of them, of course, yet as the last Carver fell, Zyke experienced another surge of power. The fifth level, as signified by his spell book.

For the first time, Blood Raven saw him pull the flashing book out, and she watched as he selected a curse before snapping it shut again. When he finished, he caught her staring and asked, "Is something wrong?"

"No," Blood Raven responded immediately, then hesitated. "I... used to have one of those myself, back when I was still a rogue. The events leading to confronting Diablo allowed a great array of skills before I pledged myself to Andariel."

Zyke tilted his head, regarding her as he gathered some of the fallen loot and gold. "Where is this book now?"

"I lost it, most likely somewhere deep within the catacombs Andarial resides in."

Zyke frowned suddenly. "You know the way to Andariel? Why didn't you mention this before?" With a gesture from Aliza, they began moving again.

"You are not yet strong enough to face her. We both know this," Blood Raven commented stiffly. "I was hoping delay would allow you to build your feeble strength enough to actually match her."

Zyke opened his mouth to respond, but a group of Vile Hunters approached, and he instead faced them. These all held bows, but they lowered them once catching sight of their pray and sensing them. There were three, much like the trio Zyke had met the previous day. Two had their hair in ponytails, while the third had her long hair loose and swept back. The first and last both wore the thin red loincloths, while the middle one wore a thong. Their armor consisted of only red tops that covered only their breasts and two shoulder pads. Their boots were also red, and all three pairs went up to their knees.

They each eyed Zyke, but when they saw Blood Raven they all saluted. "Captain," the middle one intoned. Her face was older than most rogues, likely in her forties before corruption. Her two companions, however, were much younger, and both smiling at Zyke during their salutes. He smiled back.

He couldn't say he had a preference for light green skin, in fact he liked the pale creamy Aliza had, even even better was the unnatural pale Blood Raven and the Dark Hunters displayed, but he in no way opposed it. The two younger corrupted rogues were quite the lookers, too.

"Carry on, sisters. I'm on urgent business right now," Blood Raven commanded in her ethereal voice, in a tone that brooked no argument.

The center Vile Hunter nodded, stepping back, but she asked one more question. "Forgive me, Captain, but is there a chance you could send this male demon to us when you finish? Some sisters, myself excluded of course, wish for more than each other to satisfy themselves. Normally I would not ask, but they grow restless, and..."

"Not. Now." Blood Raven's irritation on the matter was obvious, and the three saluted – the two flanking the middle expressing regret – and trotted off.

They moved on once Aliza could finally close her mouth. Blood Raven sent a slanted look Zykes way. "You are either the luckiest male alive, or the unluckiest. Andariel has yet to find males worth turning, and you can see the result it is having on those whose darker instincts have been inflamed."

"Zyke, you wouldn't actually... consider any of those offers... would you?" Aliza asked, trying to sound casual yet failing miserably.

Remembering the previous night, he could only smile sheepishly and shrug. Blood Raven snorted with laughter as Aliza paled.

Aliza found them the Dark Wood waypoint, and from there she lead them in a straight course for the Tree of Inifuss. There were of course a few bumps on the way, with more Skeleton Archers, a massive camp of Carvers and multiple Shamans, and more Vile Hunters and Lancers interested in them.

Finally, though, a tree massive enough to make those surrounding it seem like hills surrounding a mountain came into sight, and Aliza confirmed it to be the Tree of Inifuss. But there was a slight problem before they could reach it, however. Three big, hairy problems. Brutes – a stronger species of gargantuans – guarded the tree, and one of them gave of a golden aura, signifying that it was special.

"Beware of Treehead Woodfist," was all Aliza said before nocking her bow and firing the first shot.

Things burst into action suddenly. Blood Raven waved a hand, and a pair of Hungry Dead ripped free of the ground, before pulling out her bow and following Aliza's rapid shooting with her fire empowered arrows. The two actually made a decent team like that, with Aliza's cold arrows slowing the beasts while Blood Raven blasted them down. The first Brute fell, but the one with the golden aura paid no mind to that.

Zyke cast his new curse – amplify damage – on the two remaining beasts just as his skeletons intercepted Treehead Woodfist, shortly joined by the pair of shambling Hungry Dead. As well that they did, however, as the enchanted beast managed to crush a skeleton in a single blow.

Zyke quickly summoned another from the first downed Brute, while Blood Raven called forth four additional zombies. Alisa remained steady in the chaos, a rogue true to her training, and she focused solely on the regular Brute, keeping it slowed with her abilities. Those cold arrows had little effect on Treehead Woodfist.

Blood Raven, however, was not a force to be trifled with, and her fire arrows hammered into the beast, some exploding. It roared in savage fury, a back hand destroying two zombies in a single swipe. With Zyke's curse up, however, the constant hacks of his skeleton's scythes combined with Blood Raven's heavy-hitting arrows because too much for it, and even that raging beast finally collapsed in a bloody heap. The last Brute followed, still slowed by Aliza's efforts.

Two more of his skeleton's had been destroyed before then, however, and the last was in no condition to be of any use. Zyke summoned three more – one from the Brute, two from Blood Raven's fallen zombies – and his miniature army was complete once more. Without delay, he ran over to the massive tree and rested a hand on the bark.

There was a flash of magic from the tree, one that left a tingle on his hand, before a piece of the bark ripped off, falling near his feet. He rubbed his hand to work out the tingle as he picked up the piece of bark, muttering, "This tree shines with inner spirit."

"We've done it, Zyke!" Aliza said, running up to him. Even surrounded by bloody corpses of beasts best forgotten, he took the time to enjoy the bounce of her breasts barely contained and the forbidden flash he got as her loincloth moved with her run. "We have the Scroll of Inifuss. You truly are a man of your word. Of your nobility, I have no doubt."

Blood Raven came up behind her, taking careful steps around the splattered corpses, her eyes searching from side to side for more threats. "Deckard Cain does not deserve to be subjected to the torment we demons will inflict upon him. Let us make haste."

Aliza looked startled at that. "Blood Raven... You sound like you care."

Red eyes flashed with anger as the demon rounded on the rogue, glaring with hatred. "Don't forget what I am now, foolish girl, and don't test my patience." Aliza took a step back, surprised and with a bit of fright.

Zyke placed the scroll in his inventory, and he cheekily wrapped an arm around Blood Raven, guiding her back towards the waypoint Aliza had found. "Now, now, there's no need to be ashamed of it, Blood Raven. After all, he was once a great friend to you, and a guide that assisted in your defeat of Diablo all those years back."

Blood Raven stiffened in his hold, but she moved forward. "How do you know about that?"

Zyke gave her a look. "I told you already. I am a bard, and the stories following the legendary heroine Blood Raven, brave Captain of the rogues in the battle of Tristram, were among my favorite. I know much about your past exploits."

Blood Raven was silent for a moment, but then she drifted out of his embrace and walked ahead of him. Her voice came surprisingly soft, given its natural quality, "Those are in the past now." Was it him, or did she sound regretful?

Aliza followed on Zyke's heels, and with a look, they began another sprint to reach the waypoint sooner. At the waypoint itself, Zyke handed Aliza the bark and sent her through first, to announce his and Blood Raven's coming and not cause a panic. She nodded and went through, vanishing from sight suddenly.

For a while it was just him and Blood Raven, waiting. She didn't seem in the mood for talking, and he didn't press. After he deemed it long enough, he said, "Alright, let's go." Blood Raven stepped onto the platform, and together they vanished from the Dark Wood.

Unlike most people, Zyke had an unfortunate weakness with the waypoints. As soon as the queasy lurching was over, he stumbled, dizzy and nauseous. Blood Raven caught him with an arm, and the muscled former rogue was steady enough to support him as he recovered. Only when he was on his own two feet under his own power did they bother looking up.

Akara was there, smiling her motherly smile for them – encompassing even Blood Raven. Some of the rogues in the camp glanced over and gave a respectful nod, but nothing outspoken like Aliza's beaming face near the campfire. Charsi gave him a smile and a quizzical look at Blood Raven, as if unsure how to see her. Kashya faced away from them, towards the fire, with her arms folded under her breasts.

Akara produced a rolled-up scroll from her purple cloak and held it outstretched. "Very good... Zyke. I have translated the runes on this scroll. You must now go to the Cairn Stones and touch them in the order that I have written."

Zyke nodded and accepted the scroll. "If Cain still lives, I will return him safely."

"I trust that you will. May the Great Eye watch over you."

Still on the platform, Zyke selected the new destination – Stony Field – and then they were off.

Blood Raven was faster this time, one arm coming around his shoulder immediately to help steady him. As they stepped off like that, he swallowed the bile that tried to rise and gave her a thankful nod. She let go without a word.

His three skeleton warriors were still with them, and together they started to head towards where Aliza had pointed the Cairn Stones to be. They only barely started moving when they heard the waypoint activate again, and they turned to see Aliza standing there, bow at hand and quiver full. She even had a hand axe strapped to her right thigh.

"I wish to work as your Mercenary, Zyke, if you will have me."

Dark red hair pulled back in a tight ponytail, eyes light blue yet the hard of a warrior, armor suggestive yet not just for looks, armed and ready to stand by his side, ready to march with him into Hell if he commanded it, which he might, given his goal... By her expression, it was almost like she knew he would and was eager for it.

Zyke nodded once, and Aliza smiled at him before trotting up, standing next to him on the side opposite of Blood Raven. Another member in his impromptu army. An army of skeletal minions, a demon, and now a rogue. Interesting.

Together, they moved out again, heading straight for the monolithic stones grouped together. As they came closer, the shadows crawling around them became more real. Just opening the path to Tristram would involve its own battle. They came close enough to make out the shapes – dozens of Carvers – and with the first cry of "Rakanishu!" it started.

Skeletons and zombies shambled forward to meet the advancing Carvers, as arrows flew over either of Zyke's shoulders, decimating the small horde even before they reached the skeletons. As all Fallen do, even the more powerful ones, the Carvers scrambled in all directions as their numbers began to decrease. Among them, however, was another... pleasant surprise.

As opposed to the normal blue of the Carvers, this one in particular glowed a bright blue. It was enchanted, and with a bit of squinting Zyke found it to actually be Rakanishu, the name the Fallen shouted as a battle cry, an extra fast and lightning enchanted Carver. From what he had heard of it, he was glad he had archers on his side.

The first arrow was Aliza's, and as it struck the demon – not killing it – charges of lightning exploded outward, finishing off one of his nearby skeletons. Mindless of details like that, his skeletons attempted hacking the demon to pieces, yet an endless array of bolts exploded outwards, finishing those skeletons off, as well as the Hungry Dead behind them.

Blood Raven, however, did not put up with his shenanigans. A fire enchanted arrow streaked forward and easily hit its target, and upon impact the arrow exploded in another burst of flame. Rakanishu let off one final charge before collapsing in a pool of blood. The Carvers scattered again.

Zyke took the time to summon more skeletons, while Aliza and Blood Raven picked off the last of the blue lesser demons. Before the last had even fallen, Zyke was surprised to feel another power surge, and even Aliza muttered, "I feel much stronger now."

Pulling out his flashing spell book, Zyke grinned at the new possibly abilities he saw lit up. He didn't hesitate. The area labeled 'Clay Golem' grew a white '1' under it. The grin was still on his face as he tucked away his spell book and called upon the powers of the True Art. His hand lifted up, and from the ground sprouted a hulking monstrosity, its color the tan of the clay it had been made from. His army grew yet.

The girls with him only glanced at his newest addition before continuing to look for enemies, leaving him to activate the stones. Before he did so, he took a look at what the Carvers had dropped with their deaths. A not insignificant amount of gold found its way into his pocket, and he found a nice thing of studded leather armor to replace his breaking hard leather chest piece. He smiled after slipping it on, a ribbed layer of bone forming over it. For looks, of course.

And to his luck, he found a pair of cracked gloves finally, as well as an enchanted sash. His first piece of enchanted armor, yet all it really did was repair itself. Regardless, he was satisfied. To his surprise, one final gem was discovered – not an actual gem, but another useful piece of armor. A piece of superior hard leather armor, not quite as good as his studded leather, but certainly better than the on-the-spot thing given to the rogues in their encampment.

"A gift, for my new mercenary," Zyke tossed it, and Aliza caught it, surprised. Then, she smiled.

She gave him a shy look as she turned away from him, and she undid the buckles holding her current piece together. She removed it, and he had a nice view of her flawless, pale, and taut back. As she swayed slightly to pick up the new armor, he was even given a glimpse of the sides of her impressive breasts, but just a glimpse. Then, she was fitting her head into the armor, and her fingers worked up the new buckles. It was stiff, as it was new, but with time it would soften to her and fit her better. Unfortunately, it also covered her breasts entirely, the top ending up at her neck.

Aliza shifted in it, and gave only a small frown. "It's going to need a trim, along here-" She gestured from one shoulder, down to the tops of her breasts, to her other shoulder. "-but it'll do nicely." She flashed him another smile. "Thank you, Zyke." He nodded back to her, looking forward to said trimming.

He then pulled out Akara's scroll, and he watched as it lit with magic. The order of the stones was revealed, and in no time he touched them in their proper order. He sensed many spirits about the stones, even before he touched them in the right order, but once he did, things exploded into life.

Lightning flashed along the sky, touching down hazardously close. Then, bolts struck the stones. Struck all of them, and the stones glowed with the electric energy. Then, the stones shot bolts at each other, one surprising Zyke by passing harmlessly through him, forming a pentacle. And within that pentacle ripped open a red voice, spreading wider and wider until a portal stood there. A red portal, one that was not temporary like the scroll he had used to leave the Den of Evil earlier.

With a final look at his two companions, he stepped inside. He stepped out into Tristram.

xxx

"Where to now?" Zyke asked, slouched against his horse, head resting on its neck. He never felt so free before, strange given how tired he was, yet this ability to go any and everywhere felt quite nice.

"Hmm, I think its your turn to decide. Think of it as a celebratory gift, for my new bard," the man answered, smiling at Zyke.

Childlike was not the way to describe Zyke – ever – yet it wasn't too far off at the moment. He was filled with childish enthusiasm. He had the name at the ready.

"Westmarch."

xxx

"All that's left of proud Tristram are ghosts and ashes," Zyke muttered as he got a good look of where he ended up, Blood Raven appearing behind followed by Aliza. His minions wandered aimlessly, but defensively.

He could feel them. There was a great evil here. Perhaps not a single power like Blood Raven, but a massive collection. No small amount of demons here, either.

"No deceptions here. Everything here is to die and remain dead, except Deckard Cain. If you find him, free him," Zyke reminded as his eyes remained focused forward. A small team of skeletons – Returned - had just shambled past a building, and upon seeing them, they burst into their slow charge. He locked eyes with Blood Raven, fearless crimson eyes ready for murder, then Aliza, all focus and a steady hand. He nodded, and then they moved.

The skeletons stood really no chance, and the same went for the following goatmen of the Night Clan, their fur midnight black and carrying long, wicked halberds.

Together they slipped between two burning buildings, and the real nightmares began. A trio of Champion skeletal archers made their presence known by easily shooting down one of Zyke's skeleton warriors, and Blood Raven was quick to return that fire. Carvers by the dozens poured in between buildings, and their Shamans led them with balls of fire. More hordes of Returned and teams of Night Clan mixed with them - nothing but a sea of monsters.

But that wasn't the real problem, no. Deckard Cain was found, shouting for help in a cramped, suspended cage that used to be used for criminals. And under him... The man was massive, no doubt with the arms of a blacksmith. His eyes were red with corruption, half his face burned away, and his heavy footfalls rumbled the ground even among everything else. He plowed right through the hordes just to get to them. Griswold.

Zyke casted waves of amplify magic on the monstrosities, and the two archer's arrows were making good progress, but not enough. The skeleton warriors diverted the attentions of the main force, but Aliza was still required to turn sharply and pick out those trying to stream in from behind. THIS was the force that had overwhelmed Tristram, and it was obvious why.

Zyke's clay golem rumbled forward as well and met Griswold. Even that tank of a minion wouldn't last long against the former blacksmith, who met crushing blow for crushing blow. The same curse fiery hovering above the blacksmith's head, the one that made attacks against him hit twice as hard, suddenly appeared above the clay golem. So this man was cursed, as well granted unholy strength.

Enemy forces fell fast to their onslaught, leaving a steady supply of replacements for Zyke's minions, and even Blood Raven dipped her hand in the True Art, animating masses of Carvers into her service as well as any Shaman could. Zyke also replaced his golem three times, keeping it between him and the lumbering blacksmith, yet after the third one he was casting dry.

He fingered a blue potion resting on his belt, but he ignored it for the time being. Blood Raven sent a good portion of her Carvers to cover their rear, so Aliza was finally able to turn forward again. Together, the two archers hammered Griswold, and Zyke reapplied his amplify magic curse, running out of mana again.

Then, Zyke burst into action. His Bone Armor was still at full, and the legion before them was thinning out. As he ran past Griswold and his latest clay golem, the cursed man cast his own amplify magic again, and Zyke winced as he was afflicted. It didn't stop him though. One skeleton broke from the Night Clan onslaught and rushed ahead of him, right into a group of six Returned. It wouldn't last long.

Zyke reached Cain's cage, and he hit the lever, allowing it to come gliding back down to the ground. A little fast gliding, though, and the bottom gave out upon impact, and Cain let out a loud grunt. There was no time to waste on seeing any injuries, though.

"Deckard Cain, if you value your life, leave here immediately!" Zyke commanded harshly, and the elderly sage nodded.

"Thank you!" he cried as a blue portal opened before him, and he hobbled inside. The portal closed, much to Zyke's relief. A relief that died fast, however, as something hammered into him from behind, wiping out his Bone Armor immediately due to the curse, and a second strike immediately following it sent him stumbling forward, cursing.

His skeleton had died, and those Returned had moved on to him. Not enough mana for another Bone Armor. A couple of seconds, however, and he could bring back another skeleton. He fingered the mana potion again, but decided against it. Only one, for emergencies. He did chug a minor healing potion, though. He a dozen of those from the Fallen and Carvers he had cleared in his eventful life here with the rogues.

Backing up a few steps, he checked on the girls' progress. The clay golem was reduced to another pile of rubble, which he knew through his bond with his minions, but Griswold himself was still alive and kicking. Or running, depending on how you saw it. Blood Raven had turned her fire to the Returned chasing him, fire arrows exploding and decimating them, while Aliza focused solely on Griswold. Her cold arrows slowed the blacksmith, but he would get there eventually. That was all he had time to see, however.

The amplify magic curse over his head faded, and Zyke raised another skeleton, feeling his mana run dry yet again. Together, they charged into the remaining Carvers. The Shamans of those remained, yelling and waving their daggers around, and until those were killed, the Carvers would keep being a problem.

The cluster of them were between another pair of buildings, which Zyke was thankful for as it meant they couldn't surround him and his companion skeleton. It did take him from Blood Raven's sight, though. That left him on his own for now.

Suddenly, arrows whizzed through the horde of demons, and for a moment Zyke thought that Blood Raven had actually followed. Until those arrows hit him, sinking into his new armor and piercing his chest. He gasped and retreated, satisfied with the fact that his skeleton managed to decapitate the Shaman, willingly walking into its fireball to do it.

He stumbled around the building so he could see how the rogues were fairing, and he was satisfied to see Griswold lying on the ground in a large puddle of blood. It was about time! He wasn't satisfied to see Aliza's shooting arm dangling uselessly, though, obvious broken and mangled. So Griswold had gotten a swipe at her.

Ripping the arrows out of his chest and downing another potion, he hollered and tossed another to Aliza. She caught it with her bow hand and drank deeply, and he watched as the arm fixed itself good as new. She nodded to him and drew another arrow, catching up to him and Blood Raven who had somehow come to his side without him realizing it.

A final glance down the alley showed her animated Carvers on the ground, corpses again. Good. Together, they moved through the alley he had left his skeleton at, seeing only a pile of bones where it had been defeated and the Carvers who were there before now scattered.

He had recovered enough mana to continue casting, and he chose two more skeletons over reapplying Bone Armor. The raptures of Necromantic energy in the pounding thrill of battle reminded him of times long past, but he remained focused. They exploded out of the alley, two arrows of opposing colors loosed immediately over the shoulders of his quick yet shambling minions.

The sight of eight skeleton archers, over a dozen Carvers with multiple Shamans, a large squad of Night Clan, and a horde of Returned all focused on them wasn't very promising, considered all they had done in the town square only moments ago, yet they didn't hesitate. Aliza was a master of the quickshot, and her arrows flew fast and true to any target trying to get close. Blood Raven, however, once considered the finest Rogue alive, was much the same, although her fiery shots were aimed at specific targets.

The Shamans went down first, scattering the Carvers, and her next shots were directed solely at the skeleton archers behind the rest of the horde. The Night Clan overtook Zyke's skeleton's fast, however, and soon the might of the remaining forces turned to them. It was a split-second decision, but one he did not doubt. The girls were just archers, albeit Blood Raven both superior in skill and granted great unholy strength with her corruption.

Bone Armor erupted around him, leaving him dry again, and he barreled into the Night Clan. His wand wasn't the best of melee weapons, but it got the job done, three whacks or so in the thick skull capable of killing even one of the heavy goatmen. His Bone Armor flew away in large chunks as their halberds swiped out at him.

When the last femur knocked aside one of the blades, leaving him unguarded, Zyke still didn't stop. This was a dance with death. A dance with an old friend, who one day he would find himself in the arms of. He accepted that – accepted death – and that removed all fear from him. His body twisted and rolled in ways it hadn't had to in several years, narrowly dodging those blades as his arm lashed out and battered the Night Clan further.

He didn't get away with this unscathed, however. Sometimes the blade barely nicked him, in the arm or leg, yet once it slid clean into his stomach.

Zyke exhaled in surprise, nearly dropping his wand, and his strength seemed to fade in an instant. The goatman holding the blade snorted in glee, and it ripped the blade out. Zyke stumbled back, knowing they would follow and finish him, yet he tried, one hand over the wound to hold in his guts and blood as best as he could. The other fumbled for a light healing potion around his wand, yet he knew it wouldn't be fast enough.

Suddenly, two Night Clan behind those preparing to finish him off behaved erratically. They struck out and killed those he had already weakened. The two left alive bleated in surprise and spun, frantically striking out at what appeared to be their own clansmen. Drinking the healing potion finally, Zyke saw what had happened.

Those two 'renegade' Night Clan weren't normal. One's skull was caved in from the left side, tongue dangling from its mouth, and the other was a bloody mess and riddled with arrows. Animation. Blood Raven. As if on queue, arrows rained down from over Zyke – as he had collapsed to one knee with his injury – and the last of the Night Clan were struck down, either in a fiery explosion or shattered as they were frozen solid.

Zyke slumped from his kneel to plop onto the ground, letting out a relieved sigh. The damn mana potion on his belt clinked against something, as if mocking him. He had almost died, for his foolishness of deciding to wait on that. A foolish mistake he could no longer afford.

More Night Clan rose from their deaths, and they stumbled around looking for more enemies, though there were none in the immediate area.

Aliza crouched next to him, her eyes wide and wild from the fight, yet her concern showed as she inspected him while also looking out for more foes. Blood Raven trotted up too, bow nocked and her eyes elsewhere. "Again you show your foolishness, fool," the demoness muttered, the portion of her face visible beneath the skull helm tight – lips compressed, jaw clenched.

Zyke huffed a breathless laugh. "I gave you the time you needed, right?"

Her crimson eyes flashed to him, glowing coals. "Time I could have gained by raising the undead between us and them. Never forget all the abilities in your arsenal, fool, and mine are yours to command."

There was something significant in that proclamation, as if finally confirmed that Blood Raven was his to the end. She could have easily left him to die, too, and instead had saved him. He wouldn't forget that. "Thank you."

She nodded, eyes locked into the distance and beginning a light trot forward. Even with his blood pounding from the fight, his eyes trailed to her crimson loincloth, bouncing listlessly with her steps. She had a fine ass, that one did. It was because of that he didn't not notice Aliza had her hand out to help him stand until she was practically waving it in his face. He grinned sheepishly and took it, and the surprising strong, lithe rogue hoisted him to his feet as well as any man could.

Blood Raven seemed it fit to take mattered into her own hands, and her risen Night Clan, now with bloodier weapons, wandered aimlessly around a large boulder, not far from the northern river. She herself was standing behind the boulder, staring down at something Zyke could not see. With his partially regenerated mana, Zyke raised another clay golem and formed another spiraling layer of Bone Armor. A couple more seconds and he would start raising his skeleton warriors again.

He and Aliza circled the boulder, and they found Blood Raven staring down at the rotting body of a small child. Perhaps she had known him?

As if to answer the thought, Blood Raven spoke, the ethereal quality of her voice masking her emotions, "His name was Wirt." So she did know him. Kneeling, her white hand reached out to touch him. She barely made contact before something happened, and she stepped quickly, wary of traps.

Amazingly, gold flew from his body. An enchantment of cruel humiliation, maybe. However, the amount of gold spilling out of him was significant. At the very end, the boy's leg cracked and shot up too, separating from the body and landing with a wet sound. All three were wordless at that, the desecration of the small boy, and after a moment Zyke bent down to collect the gold. As he pocked the final pieces, he looked up to see the only thing Blood Raven had picked up.

She held Wirt's Leg, stared at it for a moment, before she slipped that into her own inventory. Zyke didn't question her, and Aliza remained turned away, pretending to be looking for more enemies. After, Zyke summoned his skeletons and led them back to where he had almost died and the town square, looking for decent loot that had dropped.

He found a pair of unidentified skullcaps, which he slipped into his inventory, as well as a better pair of chain gloves he put on. Fortune shined on him as he found a fat ring and an unidentified light belt. Speaking of fortune, he found a flawed skull and a chipped ruby, as well as a light mana potion, a rejuvenation potion, and a few light healing potions to replace those he had lost. With the rest of the room in his inventory, he stocked with the most expensive looking weapons he could find.

With that, they looked for any remaining spawn that had escaped them. They found a few groups pocketed against the east wall and the river, a last group of Night Clan that they tore through easily. Surprisingly, near the end of that slaughter, Aliza again muttered, "I feel stronger now," and Zyke sent her an appraising look. He knew he wasn't the only one to experience those power surges, it was obvious any human did.

And speaking of power surges, Zyke felt his as they moved a bit south and were confronted by a horde of Returned and skeleton archers, led by an enchanted, green Returned Zyke didn't feel like catching the name of. It had stoneskin, though, and took more than a few blows before it collapsed, and the power rushed into him.

Guiding the raw power into new strengths as he always did – that also always came in fifths, for some strange reason – he opened his flashing spell book and selected Skeleton Mastery, and the ability grew a white '1' under it. He nodded to himself, satisfied, and with a final look at his companions, seeing their eyes on him, he moved back towards the red portal and stepped through, leading their journey back to the Stony Field and eventually the Rogue Encampment.

xxx

"We are two traveling bards, seeking a brief shelter before continuing on," the man explained extravagantly, with an added bow, with a touch of humility. Somehow he pulled that off.

The tavern keeper spat between his teeth, and it landed on the dirt before them. The man's smile twitched, but it remained firmly in place, just as the tavern keeper's sneer remained in place. "We don't like your kind around here." His beady eyes were for Zyke alone.

Zyke himself performed his own humble bow, as had been taught. "I assure you, despite my looks, I am not a Necromancer of any sort. Merely a traveling bard."

The skinny tavern keeper spat again.

xxx

This time it was Aliza who caught Zyke after traveling through the waypoint, though Blood Raven did have a hand on his shoulder. Well, he more or less stumbled right into Aliza after they arrived, but she caught him with her shoulder and steadied him. "Not very good with these, are you?" she asked as Zyke took a slow breath and righted himself, looking a little green in the face.

"I prefer portals," he answered simply.

They arrival did not go unnoticed, as a beaming Akara, hobbling Deckard Cain, and expressionless Kashya approached. Aliza excused herself briefly, saying she had things to see to as she trotted off towards Charsi, who was peaking over her forge at the arrivals. Always a pleasant sight, a rogue in motion, and it took Akara's warm voice to brings his eyes away.

"You have risked your life to rescue Cain. For that we thank you, Zyke and Blood Raven," the aged woman announced, shameless in her including of the former rogue. Kashya twitched, but only barely. "You truly have rekindled my trust in you, Zyke, and have inspired a small hope that our corrupted sisters may yet be brought back from the grips of the shadow."

Blood Raven opened her mouth, probably to argue, but when elders wanted to speak, they were very good at speaking over the younger. Deckard Cain made a loud sound. "Hmm, while it saddens me to see such a noble warrior as Blood Raven reduced to such a state, I sense that your great spirit remains as a Hero of Tristram."

Akara nodded and voiced her agreement, "Indeed. The evil influence that followed her after that fateful night is still there, but her spirit is fighting it, trying to return her to her true state."

Blood Raven scoffed at them, dryly mutter in her enhanced voice, "Hardly."

Kashya shifted her stony gaze from her former friend to Zyke, and it did not soften. But stone was not hate. "I acknowledge you for your great deed, outlander, and the Sisterhood is grateful to you for delivering Cain to us. However, even in light of this... I find it hard to trust you." Her voice cracked near the end.

Zyke nodded his understanding. While she no longer opposed them, she did not welcome a corrupted man and a demon with open arms. "I do not expect you to trust me until Andariel is gone, and probably me with her." Kashya didn't say anything, but inside she most likely felt it was true.

Suddenly, Zyke remembered something. It was only a possibility, a small one at that, but still he had to check. "I'll be right back." He quickly moved back to the waypoint, and he barely noticed Aliza on her way back as he selected his destination. Seeing what he was doing, the rogue sprinted, and she just barely managed stepping onto the platform as he was whisked off, leaving Blood Raven alone with her former friends.

As always, the start of it came with Zyke's stomach dropping out suddenly, and his vision swam from the Rogue Encampment to their sudden destination, blurring as his mind spun with a wave of dizziness. Bile tried to crawl up his throat with the nausea, yet before he could even attempt to get a hold over anything, Aliza, still in a full sprint, collided with him, sending them spiraling into the dirt and grass of the Stony Field.

The sudden jolt only made the sickening feel that much worse, and Zyke prided himself with the fact that he didn't vomit. Once vision finally cleared, he blinked at the position he was in.

He was flat on his back, with Aliza straddling his crotch, loincloth draped to the side over his right hip, teasing him as he could just barely see the start of where her creamy leg met her center, but not quite her womanhood. But that wasn't what drew his attention, surprisingly. No, apparently she had gone to Charsi to get that armor trimming she mentioned, and the stiff armor now lifted her breasts with even more cleavage showing than her previous armor had. And Aliza was already very impressive in that department.

She leaned down suddenly, a hand going down on his chest, with her light eyes full of concern. "Oh, Zyke, are you alright?" Her bending gave him an even better view, and he could only stare. After a moment of silence, she seemed to realize what he was staring at, and an amused smile fitted its way on her face. She patted his chest and stood, fixing her loincloth. "Yep, you appear just fine. Typical male."

Zyke shook his head and stood, contemplating offering her an apology before deciding against it. She appeared not to mind much. With the last of his dizziness fading, he pointed off towards the Cairn Stones. She nodded, checking her bow for damage before drawing an arrow and trotting off with him.

The portal was still there of course, and they stepped through. Unlike the waypoint, there was no sudden lurching or anything like that. Simply one step into another. Closing your eyes, you wouldn't even notice you had changed locations completely.

Fires still burned, and the air hung with the stench of death and demons. They kept moving. "I'm looking for a small book, one that might be similar to this one." He showed his spell book for emphasis, and Aliza nodded, breaking away to dart into a mostly burned building. Zyke himself entered one as well. Best to get those out of the way first, before they were burned entirely.

There was in fact a bookshelf, covered in ash yet mostly undamaged, but none were what he was looking for. He moved to the next building, as did Aliza, just a flash of pale flesh and red armor. Again, no success.

Tristram, for all its popularity, was not a large town, and soon they had all the remaining buildings searched. No sign of the book he was looking for. That was not unexpected, yet he didn't want to give up so soon. Together they searched the ground among the corpses, looking for it among everything that had been dropped by the invading forces.

Their search led them back into the town square, and inevitably to the corpse of the massive blacksmith. Aliza looked to Zyke, and he shrugged at the possibility. He kneeled, hands rummaging through the cloth and girth of the man once called Griswold. There were a few things in the bags hanging from his waist that hadn't dropped upon his death, but no book. Together, they rolled him over. His back was covered in blood, giving off a putrid smell, yet the bags on him were protected by the outer leather.

One square-shape one caught Zyke's eye, and he unwound the chord holding it closed. Snaking his hand inside, he pulled out a single book. The outside was wood covered by a green cloth. Flipping it to the front, he found a red raven embossed in the cover. Hope sparked in him, and he opened the book anxiously.

...Firebolt, Flame Wave, Flash, Golem, Guardian, Heal... the list continued, names next to small pictures. And under the pictures, small numbers. Zyke smiled, more than pleased, and he slipped the book into his own inventory. Aliza took that to mean he had found what he was looking for, and she shared a smile with him before looking around again in case they had missed any enemies.

Standing, Zyke nodded to her before they ran back to the portal to Stony Field, and eventually to the waypoint.

Aliza had a hand ready for him as they appeared back in the Rogue Encampment, and she didn't let go until he was steady again.

Zyke looked up to see Blood Raven still alive and standing near the campfire. She had removed her bone helmet, long raven hair spilling down her back, the scar on her pale cheek obvious, as were her unnatural eyes. She was speaking with Kashya, of all people. They even seemed on civil terms, if tense and awkward.

Charsi could be seen returning to her forge, and the glances back at those at the fire told Zyke that she was coming from there. Former friends exchanging words. He left Blood Raven to her conversation, heading instead to Charsi with Aliza trailing him.

The blacksmith smiled at him. "Hi there, stranger. There really is more to you than meets the eye."

"Hello, Charsi," Zyke greeted, and he moved to get the spare items out of his inventory.

Charsi understand, and as he worked she turned an eye to Aliza. "How's the armor treating you?"

Aliza smiled, fingering the top of it where it had been cut and glancing at Zyke, although he didn't see the look. "Very well. Thank you."

"Anything for a sister," Charsi acknowledged, and Aliza nodded to her. Zyke presented his wares, and after running a trained eye over them, Charsi laid out her prices for them. Zyke accepted, several hundred gold richer. He also slipped in a repair for his own equipment.

Now he just needed the rest identified, and if he remembered correctly, Horadrim sages were known for just that. Speaking with Cain should be cheaper than buying scrolls from Akara, who had returned to her tent.

The man himself was also by the fire. The two rogue captains glanced at Zyke as he approached before turning back to each other, speaking in low voices. Cain smiled at Zyke, moving to greet him. "Ah, the brave adventurer. You left before I could mention this, but as a token of my gratitude I will identify any items you have upon your possession, whenever you may ask."

Zyke blinked at that. Well, that was convenient. "Actually, I am just a traveling bard, not some brave adventurer, but I do have a few things..."

A few moments later, and Zyke had himself a ring that gave a small amount of energy to him and allowed him to recover from blows faster, a light belt that reduced poison duration and gave more life, a skullcap that surprisingly increased mana regeneration – a rare item – and a second skullcap that increased dexterity slightly. Thanking the aged man, Zyke slipped his potions into his new belt. The first two-slotted column light healing potions, the second minor healing, the third his minor and light mana potions, and the fourth his single rejuvenation potion.

Skullcaps were not the most attractive piece of armor, but they provided decent armor, and the enchantments more than gave them worth. He donned the one with mana regeneration, enjoying the familiar tingle it sparked through him. And he knew just whom to give the other to.

"Say, Aliza. Do you have any helms?"

The rogue frowned and shook her head. "If I did, I would wear it into battle." She glanced at his, but raised no comment.

"Here, then," he tossed her the second skullcap.

Aliza caught it on reflex, and she stared down at it, surprised. Then, she realized exactly what it did. "Zyke, thank you! I'll put this into good use."

He nodded. "I'm sure you will."

Suddenly, Blood Raven was standing there, bone helm held under one arm, crimson eyes eerie as the rest of her body was shadowed from the fire. "Zyke, we have something else to attend to. Far from here, in the Black Marsh, past the Dark Wood, there lies a tower. An evil woman once dwelled there, and it was burned to the ground and forgotten. She still lives, however. Countess is her name. My... former sisters have requested our help in her removal, and I told them we would deal with it."

Zyke glanced up at the sky. It never truly seemed daylight here, always thick with dark clouds threatening rain, yet right now it was even darker with the impending nightfall. So much work to finally get accepted into this camp, and even now he couldn't enjoy a full night here. "Tell me more about this Countess."

Blood Raven tightened her grip over her helm. "While the tower still stood, she had been slowly kidnapping young virgin girls. What she did with them, no one knew for a time. By the time she reached the hundredth, the people discovered. She killed them and bathed in their blood, thinking it would keep her youthful and beautiful. The people revolted and burned her tower down while she still resided within. Most thought her dead.

"There was rumor that this Countess held a great treasure, and many sisters ventured within the towers ruins to find it. Most never returned, and those that did were delirious and mad, according to Kashya. I happen to know otherwise. Countess accepted her own corruption, and she has become a demon. She is not under the service of Andariel, but she has gathered her own followers. Not all the sisters who never returned found death."

Blood Raven didn't appear to realize she was calling the rogues her sisters, as if she truly were one of them again. Zyke didn't bother mentioning that, either. Demons had emotions, too – emotions and attachment. It just so happened that their darker desires were kindled into a raging fire, one that ran deeper with deeper corruption.

Aliza grabbed her bow and stood. "When do we go?"

Zyke shook her head. "Aliza, I'm going to ask you to remain here tonight. You are a fine companion, and I am honored to have you by my side in battle, but as you can remember from our trip to the Tree of Inifuss, some things require more than fighting." He gestured to himself and Blood Raven, who remained expressionless. "Things like us... there are things we must do that I don't want you subjected to."

Zyke nearly winced at that. That was the closest he had ever come to acknowledging the corruption within him. Not just that, but he was letting his mask slip. The mask he and that man had spent months building. The mask that held in what he never wanted to let out. He was just a bard, nothing else. But he would do what must be done, that he was certain of.

Aliza pouted. The look didn't suit her as well as it did for Olena, who's high cheekbones made her look especially kissable, but it was formidable. And it made Zyke feel like he needed to make it up for her. Fingering the flawed skull in his pocket, he knew just the thing.

xxx

"Get out of town, filth!" a face in the crowd shouted. Zyke could not point him out.

He and the man next to him backed away, cautious of any sudden reactions from the mob. Most held weapons. None followed, though, and soon, Zyke and his companion mounted up and broke into a trot, off into the darkness of night.

When they finally slowed, miles from the unwelcoming town, the man sighed, one hand scratching an unshaven cheek. "I fear that things will get worse and worse the further west we go."

Zyke closed his eyes and sighed before opening them and facing his companion. "Then we should head back."

xxx

He and Blood Raven moved to the waypoint, and with a single nod from Kashya, they traveled to the Dark Wood. Blood Raven caught him as he fell, her free arm snaking through his and locking it against her body. Shaking his head after fighting back the bile – it was always the same! He never got used to it! - he nodded his thanks to her, and she let go. Amazing how her torso could feel so nice and smooth while her arms were so strong and hard.

Calling forth his Bone Armor and clay golem, raising skeletons from zombies Blood Raven pulled from the ground and released, they were ready, and the two headed out along the dirt road, obvious among the surrounding grass. Despite Aliza's words earlier that day – was it really the same day? It felt so much longer – they did not need a guide. Blood Raven had been the best of the best scout in life, and she knew these lands as well as or even better than any other. Not to mention, she had remastered the land in her reign under Andariel, staying one step ahead of the rogue's after her.

There were no complications with the Vile Hunters this time as they moved, only more casual demands of pleasure in the form of Zyke. He only smiled as he passed, while Blood Raven muttered under her breath. They entered the Black Marsh.

As they passed the marking passageway, Zyke turned to her, "Do you think the Countess could be convinced to join me?"

She didn't slow her run as she turned an eye to him before looking forward again. "Locked up in that tower, alone with her demonic... urges, for who knows how long... Yes, she might be convinced." Zyke stared at her for a moment, surprised by what she was suggesting.

Blood Raven led him to the waypoint first, not far from the entrance. As they began to head out, both halted suddenly, hearing something from the trees around them. Zyke's minions provided a good buffer from anything that decided to attack, so they were safe enough, yet both remained cautious.

Women slipped from behind trees in a sudden ambush, and Zyke felt the kinship with them immediately. They did as well, because they lowered their bows and trotted up. Even with the failing light, Zyke could make out the light green skin of Vile Archers. His tongue stilled in his mouth though when three walked to them through passive minions.

Their choice of clothing was by far the best yet. Topless, all of them, breasts jiggling and bouncing with their steps. Their armor was unnatural, though. Red as the rest of the Vile rogues, yet strange in nature. Thick pieces of it – like red tree roots - coiled up their legs, splitting and merging at parts, until they reached the apex, where a single strand of it curved to protect what modesty they still had while revealing the inner thighs and much else. The strange vines went up their sides and formed a brief layer over the shoulders, but that was it. One woman's set of 'armor' stretched down from the shoulder-pads to coil around her breasts suggestively, in no way covering them.

Yes, he could only stare.

Blood Raven shook her head at this, muttering something under breath still, and spoke for them after returning the trio's salutes, "Has anyone attempted to pass through here in recent days?"

All three of the Vile Archers were eyeing Zyke, with faces to match their bodies, yet the center one spoke, "No, Captain. No one but you and your... companion here. By the Matron, a male...!" The others didn't outright nod at that, but they came near enough.

"Yes, a male," Blood Raven snapped, irritation obvious even through her spectral voice. "We must continue onward, so remove yourselves and resume your posts! Perhaps you may enjoy him later, if he lives, but that time will not come until after my task is complete!" The sharpness in her voice managed to pull Zyke's attention away from these fine specimens of female demons; he had to admit it, she had leadership and command down to a 'T', even when lying through her teeth. And the mind that spun such convincing excuses to avoid suspicion was to be admired.

The archers saluted again, fist over heart, though the one on the end turned that into suggestively grabbing a breast and winking at Zyke. She had his attention, though the one in the center was slightly more gorgeous. Blood Raven made a sharp sound that roughly resembled a 'tsk', and the Vile Archers retreated quickly, all of them glancing over shoulders for a last look at Zyke.

"Was that as arousing for you as it was me?" Blood Raven asked dryly, causing Zyke's attention to snap to her suddenly. The captain shook her head and began trotting forward again, but Zyke was sure he saw a smile under her bone helm. She had teased him. Blood Raven, teasing!

Laughing softly, he ran after her, falling into place just behind her so that she could lead them to this Forgotten Tower.

More Vile Archers watched them as they moved, and several bands of Night Clan snorted at them but left them alone. Without Aliza, even Carvers and Returned didn't bother trying to attack. Well, until they accidentally stumbled into a massive camp belonging to the Carvers, containing over fifty of the little devils, four Shamans, and one enchanted Shaman that was able to resurrect other Shamans instead of just Carvers.

That army held nothing to Zyke's little band and what Blood Raven brought forth from the ground, however, and after checking and taking decent loot, they continued moving. Zyke was ecstatic, after that. Well, somewhat ecstatic. He had feared the worse when he saw that only Vile Archer's held bows – of course he wouldn't attack them without reason – yet he had not only found one among the Carvers, he found the exact type he was looking for.

Eventually, Blood Raven pointed into the distance, and after slaughtering a Night Clan that got too nosy, they entered the tower. All that was left of the first story was three walls – not even a fragment of a roof. A rather obvious ladder led down to lower levels, though. There was even light emitting from that lower level. It was obvious something lived down there.

Zyke moved towards the ladder, but Blood Raven stopped him with an arm. She removed her bone helm, raven hair spilling out as it always did to frame her pale face and unnatural eyes. The scar was there to, on her left cheek. An old wound, from before her corruption. Her eyebrows were furrowed above those glowing red embers, and her jaw was set with seriousness. She was beautiful.

"I don't know what your plan is, aside from your foolish quest to challenge the Prime Evils. Your demonic nature calls to me so strongly I'm surprised you haven't just massacred the entire Rogue Encampment at first chance. Some demons, like Andariel, control themselves and instead gather legions to them... Like you are doing. You are stronger now than when we first met, and your darkness grows with you. You claim the side of humanity, yet involve yourself with demons comfortably, and without a second thought. If I am to follow you, I want to know what to expect. What are you planning?"

Zyke stared at her, expressionless, only for a moment. Then, he reached inside his inventory and produced the book he had went back to find in Tristram. "Planning? Nothing, my dear. I'm just a humble storyteller trying to make his way." He handed her the book, which she almost dropped with trembling fingers, and he gracefully swept past her to slide down the ladder.

"This place reeks of death," he muttered to himself.

The first cellar level of the tower was surprisingly small and empty, only about as big as the room above him. Two torches, however, were lit on either side of a crumbled hole in the wall, a hole that led to another lower level. Zyke waited by that hole for some time before Blood Raven finally managed to follow, still without her helm, and when she touched the floor he swept into the hole, and went further down.

Blood Raven, bone helm clutched tightly under one arm, couldn't stop staring at Zyke. What he had given her...! It was almost fanciful, hard to believe, yet it was the same. The very same! He had found her spell book! Her jaw clenched, and her grip over her helm tightened even further.

This second level was eerily abandoned, yet Zyke moved without slowing ahead of Blood Raven. He passed several doors, felt the sense of kinship behind some of them, but he didn't stop to greet whatever was in there. He found a new set of stairs, and he descended yet again.

A small group of Devilkin were huddled together to the left, but once they saw that Zyke was not alone – a horde of minions following, ahead of an even stronger demon – they wisely stayed pressed against the wall. Devilkin, yet another stronger form of Fallen, smarter too, and orange in color.

Zyke swept down another hallway, again feeling fellow – not fellow – demons through them. However, this time doors cracked open when they felt him too, and red eyes peaked out to see who it was. Whispered followed his wake, whispers undoubtedly female.

"A male?"

"Finally, some who can satisfy..."

"Look!"

Zyke kept his steady pace, but suddenly his clay golem pressed ahead of him. With a grunt, it swung its arms up, and they came down with a heavy crunch. Another of those later, a transparent Ghost flickered into existence, its white wispy-ness flaring before extinguishing, and it fell nothing but bones.

Suddenly, a group of Ghosts flew towards him, but his skeletons easily interfered and exorcised them. Zyke didn't slow, and turning down one of the halls, silent Blood Raven on his heels, he found the next set of stairs and descended.

On this fourth cellar level, corrupted rogues were there to meet them. A new kind, with deep blue skin instead of the earlier white or light green. Dark Archers, they were called, and not under Blood Raven's direct command.

Seven were in that particular hall, yet when they heard Zyke coming, turned and finally saw him, they all stared in surprise. Several mouths dropped open, and eyes widened all around. Then, there were sudden smiles and an excited murmur erupted between them. All of a sudden they moved forward, crowding around Zyke.

Each was beautiful; rogues almost always were, and these were only the corrupted form of them. This one had long hair flipped back, that one tied back into a ponytail. She was bald, yet she had a braid. That one wore a tight brown top – brown was the theme, here – that emphasized her large bosom, while this one had a baggy thing that slipped far enough to flash a nipple when she moved. All held bows, but each rogue were different in their own ways. Pretty, cute, gorgeous, handsome, roguish – one was even almost able to rival Blood Raven in pure physical attraction. Almost.

They burst into talk at once, some modest and others brazen, yet all had eyes for Zyke and Zyke only. Some mentioned he take multiple of them at the same time, while others asked if he had once been a human, like them.

Zyke blinked at this sudden onslaught, and Blood Raven was just as taken aback as him. Zyke opened his mouth to speak, and for a wonder they all quieted in an instant. "Fine ladies, all of you, and I would love to stay and tell a story to you, or even spend a night together as many have suggested, but right now I must speak with the Countess. If you'll excuse me..."

He shoved forward, right into the mass of them, Blood Raven pressed tight against his back as the girls closed in. The mortician of restraint the Vile Rogues had shown in Blood Raven's presence was not found here at all. They all expressed great displeasure at his words, reaching shouting levels as they tried to speak over each other. Some grabbed his wrists, trying to drag him forcibly into one of the rooms. Blood Raven firmly took one of his arms to keep him moving, though it was a struggle.

One – black hair tied into a ponytail that reached far down her back, wore a brown top and matching thong, a heart-shaped face with a scar on a temple and another slashing the chin – grabbed Zyke by his studded leather armor and, with pleading eyes, begged, "Just take me here - a quicky before you see my Mistress." And then she started to strip right then and there, fully intending to do just that.

Even Zyke wasn't ready for this, and with wide eyes he barely ripped himself free and sprinted down the torchlit hall. Begging voices trailed after him, and he ran all the harder. Making a hard left, he kept running, and suddenly a red goatman – a Blood Clan – plodded out of one of the open doors. It saw him and 'bah'ed, confused. Seeing the skeleton army trailing Zyke, it sudden bleated loudly and raised its halberd.

More Blood Clan flooded out of rooms at the call, and together they massed to attack Zyke. He slowed, hearing that the Dark Archers weren't following, and he allowed his minions to charge and start the fight. The clay golem lumbered at the front, and it absorbed the most of the blows before the skeletons arrived and began their hacking frenzy.

Blood Raven was right there too, not to be outrun by a man, yet she didn't even bother unslinging her bow from her shoulder to assist in the fight. It was a one-sided massacre. One that ended in a power surge for Zyke. He replaced the single lost skeleton warrior from one of the Blood Clan corpses and kept moving, selecting his next ability – a forth (fifth with wand) point in "Raise Skeleton" - as he descended down the final stairwell, down to the fifth cellar floor.

As he tucked away his book, Blood Raven turned to him, shifting the helm she still had yet to don under an arm. How had she managed to keep a hold on it through that? "Keep this up and you'll have yourself a real army by the time we face Andarial." She thumbed her recovered spell book inside her inventory after she said it, though.

Zyke laughed, but it sounded forced. "I enjoy female company, but for girls like that I can only take so many at a time."

As they spoke, a larger group of Devilkin had found the nerve to attack, yet they were tore apart without notice. Zyke almost looked surprise by the still twitching corpses as they progressed.

This floor was not a hall, but instead a wide passage with fat columns on either side. They progressed down it. At the end was a wall, with doors to either side, yet resting before that wall was a stone stoup, yet instead of holy water it was filled with dark, ruby blood. Both looked at with only a passive eye, trying to decide whether to go through the left door or the right.

The decision was made for them, though, when more Dark Archers poured through either.

Unlike those from the previous floor, these where somewhat more disciplined, keeping their excitement to only a low buzz, while one stepped forward and asked, "May we be of assistance to you?" The sultry emphasis she put on that word made it clear what she really wanted to assist with.

Zyke smiled and bowed to her, spreading his arms extravagantly, "I am Zyke the Bard, a storyteller from lands afar. I would appreciate you fine ladies showing me the way to the Countess."

The speaker smiled, her and the rest slinging their bows over their shoulders, and all approached him. Zyke almost panicked, but these girls were in fact of higher discipline. The speaker took his hand in hers and pulled him gently towards the right door. "Right this way, Zyke." The others, however, had their piece too, and Blood Raven was left to following at a distance behind them, scowling.

Another girl had taken Zyke's other hand and pulled him onward, while two girls had draped themselves over either outstretched arm. Immediately behind those were girls wrapping their arms around his waist with the guise of guiding him. The one behind him with a hand on his shoulder and the other hand rubbing his back had him shaking his head, but a smile was there too.

They led him into a room, where instead of torches burned a large fire. Zyke only glanced to be sure there weren't people inside those flames before moving on, into a conjoined room. From there, there was an open doorway to the left, and somehow the horde of women around him all squeezed through it. Blood Raven followed.

The Countess was obvious.

Tall, tall enough to match Zyke, yet with a body she was right to be proud of. Of course, as opposed to the deep blue rogues surrounding him, she was a deep green, darker than the Vile rogues had been. A dark green top assisted in covering a bosom even larger than Aliza's yet it covered that only, and was thin enough to leave suggestive impressions. Under that was a smooth, flawless stomach, cinching in at the sides with a natural curve, before widening again for the hips. For a vain woman, she was not vain enough to be wearing a dress, especially when adventurers were known to venture down here, backed by the bow slung over her shoulder like the corrupted rogue's – even Blood Raven eyed that. Below the waist she wore a wide loincloth, dark green to match her thin top, held to her by a single chord that rose high over her hips and dipped low down her stomach before the start of the cloth. Very low. On either side of that cloth were her appetizing legs, revealed only so far as her knees. Soft leather boots completed the assembly, green in color and laced up to her knees.

That she had a beautiful face, Zyke had not doubted before coming here. Actually seeing it was another matter. High cheek bones with full lips, thin eyebrows above her glowing crimson eyes, heart-shaped, flawless in structure and the skin without mare. She had her long black hair swept back behind her, framing that gorgeous face. She certainly matched Blood Raven toe-to-toe in beauty. However, if forced to make a choice, he liked Blood Raven the tiniest bit more, for the scar if nothing else.

Interesting that she was dressed as a warrior, yet Zyke did not doubt her ability. With her level of corruption, the unholy strength that she was granted most likely made her stronger than any of the Dark Archers currently in the room. She had to be, in order to bend them to her will.

"Well, this is a pleasure," Countess commented, her voice low and hazardously sensuous as she glided forward, and she took Zyke's hand from the previous speaker and guided him forward from the other girls. They did not leave, though. They waited with anticipation. A smile could be seen on the Countess's face, spreading those perfect lips. "Male demons are a novelty in these parts. What brings you here? Perhaps we can... assist you in some way?"

She guided him to the center of the room, and once there she released him to slide back towards what he assumed was her throne. Zyke cleared his throat. "May I speak with you alone, my dear Countess?"

The woman froze at that, and without looking back she made a shooing motion with her hand before continuing. The girls in the corner groaned and complained, but they left without hesitation. Several made lewd promises for later before they vanished through the door. Blood Raven remained, of course, standing in a soldier's stance with her helm tucked under an arm and feet spread.

Strangely, for their equal beauty, there was a great contrast between the two women remaining in the room. And Zyke enjoyed taking the time to notice this. The Countess breathed royalty, elegant in bearing and very feminine in conduct. She set her bow down and sat herself on her throne, and even that showed the difference. She was a women who knew how to use her charms, and she had a great many of those. Blood Raven, however, was a warrior at heart. Her stance, feet spread, helm tucked under one arm, the other clenched behind her back, spoke of her self-discipline and life as a rogue. She didn't flaunt her beauty, but that it was there was undeniable. Both could hold command as easily as the other, by presence alone, yet in entirely different ways. It was remarkable.

And here he was, (literally) between them. The life of a bard was very rewarding.

The Countess inclined her head to Zyke, eye-level even on that throne. "I haven't even seen a male in decades, let alone satisfied myself with one. Perhaps your reason for coming could be delayed for a time?" Her eyes turned to Blood Raven for a moment.

The former captain shrugged and spoke to Zyke, "You have done worse in my presence before. Feel free to go ahead." A thin eyebrow rose at that, and the Countess's sensuous smile tugged at one side in amusement.

Zyke ignored Blood Raven, instead bowing with his arms spread wide. "I am Zyke the Bard, a storyteller from distant lands. I am neither a demon nor am I under the service of any master. I come here with an offer."

The Countess reclined back, her large chest pressing against its thin covering. Zyke very attentively noted the hard protrusions of her nipples in that cloth, and he took that as a sign of her arousal. As a matter of fact, that was something he was relying on at the moment. One of her hands came down, sliding down her stomach as if to emphasis its softness, and one finger dug under the chord holding her loincloth in place. At the same time, the other hand grasped the bottom of her thin top. Like that, she lifted each respective piece of cloth and fanned herself. Very erotic fanning.

Zyke didn't know whether to stare at how her most impressive bosom bounced with each little flap, or stare lower, where the loincloth was rhythmically moving up and down in a very teasing and dangerous fashion. He was sure that with a little leaning forward, he could see exactly what was hidden under that little piece of cloth.

After a moment of this, with Zyke trying to watch both very attentively, the Countess stopped with a smile. "Forgive me, it is quite warm in here." She then turned to take a silver pitcher off a nearby table and pour herself a goblet of something red. Probably blood. Just the bending for that shifted her legs to the side, giving almost the angle to see through the side of the loincloth. Almost.

With her words, Zyke noticed that indeed it was quite warm in there, and he tugged a big at his collar. His pants felt a little tight, too. Probably the heat as well.

Taking a small sip of her drink, eyes remaining on his and slowly licking her lips after, the Countess finally addressed his statement. "Now, what is this offer? My treasures are already quite great, and the only thing I have been lacking is... carnal fulfillment. What is it you desire of me, and what do you have to offer?"

Zyke took a deep breath. Speak well, and this could end very, very well for him. Speak bad, and he had to deal with what was lost on top of a fight he didn't want. "I am going to assume you have heard of Andariel, Maiden of Anguish, one of the four Lesser Evils, and her take over of the Rogue Monastery." The Countess's gaze slipped from him to her goblet, and her smile faded. "As you probably know, she has been amassing an army behind her. An army already several times more massive than yours has ever been. I'm sure that you will not be forgotten in her path of destruction when she sends that army onward."

Cold, intelligent eyes regarded him. "I am well aware of Andariel and her legions."

"And you know she will come for you," Zyke nodded. "And when she does, that will leave you with only one real choice. Your army will be given to her for her to control, and you yourself will be made one of her servants. All that you have, your treasure, will be gone, and even your pride will slowly be stripped away until you are just another demon, scum beneath the Matron's heel." Blood Raven shifted her weight, while the Countess tightened her grip on her cup until the silver began to warp.

Realizing what she was doing, the Countess calmed herself visibly, relaxing her grip and taking a deep breath. Calm again, she opened her eyes and fixed Zyke with a stare that could have frozen fire. "And you have an... alternative to this? Of being the 'scum beneath the Matron's heel?'"

This was it. Zyke drew himself up. "An alternative, yes, but beware that this is not much better. Of the two, you must decided which one holds the most appeal to you."

The Countess brought her goblet to her lip, and without drinking she brought it down again. "Go on."

"You willing give up your army, and all your possessions beyond what you can carry. That much is the same. Also, you will become a servant, though to a different master. That is also the same. However, the difference between this option and the other begins there. You may be yourself and will not be degraded or lowered in any way. You will have to give up killing humans, though, and you must do as your told when your told. Like I said, this is not much better, but at least you will in no way be treated like scum, and your pride will remain as intact as can be once stripped of possessions."

"And who exactly," the Countess asked harshly, "is this master I would have to submit to?"

Zyke smiled, and he performed another showy yet humble bow. "Why, myself of course."

For awhile there was only silence as she stared at him with wide eyes. Then, she breathed out slowly. "Is this some kind of joke? You, a lowly corrupted Necromancer, self-proclaimed bard, expect to keep me safe from Andariel?"

"Kept safe from her? Of course! And I'm just a bard, not a Necromancer," Zyke waved off, and he flashed an amused grin at her. "Now, what you should really be concerned about is how I intend to banish all three Prime Evils back into the Hell they spawned from."

The Countess shook her head and looked past him, to Blood Raven. Pointing for emphasis, she asked, "Is he deranged, or is he for real?"

Blood Raven laughed, her ethereal voice echoing off the walls. "For real, and most certainly deranged. But think twice before doubting him."

For a moment, the Countess looked decidedly uncertain, and she peered down into her goblet, still without drinking. Then, her face hardened and she looked back at Zyke, who was still grinning at her. "If I refuse?"

Zyke shrugged. "Well, I figured I could first satisfy that itch you've had for so long, then I will leave – sooner or later, depending on those girls above – I will leave and destroy the way down here, block the entrance, and collapse the rest of your tower, so no one has any reminder of this this place. I was asked to end your 'threat,' and I will do so, whether you accept or refuse. And you will remain here, trapped, until hopefully Andariel picks up some trace of your demonic energy and digs her way down to you, where she does everything I have said – and you know – she will."

The Countess frowned, and one hand came up to rub her chest. Her fingers brushed a stiff nipple, and her hand retreated suddenly. She gritted her teeth, very fierce in her expression. "Do you understand what you are asking of me, bard?"

Zyke nodded, his expression dead serious for once. "I'm asking you to give up everything you have fought so hard to gain and horde in this tower, as well as your freedom. However, at this point, that will happen regardless. I, at least, can offer protection and a better life for your remaining days."

"Until Diablo strikes you dead, that is," she murmured loud enough for him to hear. He was meant to hear. She inclined her head to the stone ceiling, and likely various scenarios of either life worked through her quick mind. The choice was obvious, though. It had to be obvious. He hoped it was.

The Countess looked down again, and she drained the goblet before carefully setting it on the tray next to her throne. Then, her crimson eyes turned to him, and her green hands settled into her bared lap. Her legs shifted together, too, but that was probably because of her arousal. "I will accept, Zyke the Bard, on two conditions."

"Name them."

"The first is that I am allowed a servant of my own, someone who will attend my needs." Her eyes said that that was crucial to her decision.

Zyke regarded her for a moment, then nodded. Royalty to her toes, but that was how it was to be with this kind of woman. "A servant of my choice," he specified. He had just the person in mind.

The Countess stared, and then she nodded. "So long as she is satisfactory. The other condition is a bit more simple."

"I will try my best," Zyke offered. So long as it was reasonable.

The Countess assumed every portion of her dignity at once, shoulders squaring, back straightening, hands folded serenely, drawing in a breath... Her eyes were burning embers searing into him. "You must satisfy me regularly, whenever I so desire. And by that, I mean you must fuck me until I am satisfied."

Zyke blinked in surprise at the condition. Then, he laughed. "That, I can do!" With a woman that gorgeous, with a body like that, it would be a treat...

And then he realized exactly how long she had been left to stew without a vent for her desires, and how much she would require in order to be 'satisfied.' His pleased chuckled ended abruptly.

The Countess was already moving. She had stood from her throne, and she was in the process of removing her thin top over her head, leaving her gorgeous breasts to bounce freely. Green like the rest of her, of course, with hard, dark green nipples contrasting the smooth skin. The top drifted to the floor, and she stepped around the chest in the center of the room to reach to him. One hand went to her side, and suddenly the chord holding her loincloth came undone, and that fell to the floor.

She pressed up against him before he could see anything, and her warm lips found their way onto his neck. She pulled back only to say, "Starting now."

-lemon-

Zyke didn't hesitate, of course, and his hands came up behind her, finding their way onto her full ass. She moaned while she continued to suck his neck. Then, her hands came up to remove his armor, pulling the studded leather up and over his head, and it fell to the ground with the skullcap. The bones encasing his armor were only decorative, and it came off easily despite the bulk.

He could now feel her breasts pressing against his chest, and with only another squeeze of her ass, his hands came up to test them. More than a handful, with a weight to match. Still cupping them, his thumbs came down to brush her nipples, and he felt how stiff they were. She moaned again, and while he was doing that, her nimble hands came down to unfasten his pants. In record time she got them undone, but his boots interfered, unlike hers.

One of her soft hands came down to grasp him, and she slowly started kissing down his neck while bringing her hand up and down at an equal speed. Eventually, her breasts left his hands, and he placed them on her head, now at his abs, and his fingers curled into her dark hair. She reached his groin, and she made sure to kiss the length of his shaft, a bit of tongue flicking the end, before kissing back and then down his legs. Down there, she quickly tugged off his crude boots before ripping off his pants, and, grasping his shaft, she gave it another long, sensuous lick before standing, the movement coming more kisses up his torso.

The air chilled her saliva on his shaft, sending waves of pleasure into him, and Zyke wasted no time in attacking her mouth with his, tasting a bit of the woman who was the Countess. A little coppery from what she had just drank, but for the most part he could taste her. One hand founds its way to her sizable breasts again, while the other reached her back provide support as he guided her backwards and towards the floor. She had a deep crimson rug there, which would certainly be more pleasant than the cold stone where he had been standing.

She moaned as her back finally rested on the rug and he moved his head to take a dark green nipple into his mouth. It was then he saw that Blood Raven was still in the room, watching, but at the moment he couldn't bring himself to care. The chill on his length without more stimulant was becoming unpleasant, and he allowed himself to rest on her completely. His weight was supported by an elbow, but his crotch now grinded into her leg, building the fire in him. His left hand returned to her other breast, the one that his teeth weren't currently tugging a nipple on.

"It's been too long," the Countess groaned, one around him and the other sliding down her stomach. "I need you in me. Now!"

He didn't need to be told twice, lifting himself off her leg to kneel between her legs. He finally saw her prize, the one that had so often teased him without actually revealing itself during their conversation. A demon, and thus hairless there. Green lips puffed up, flushing dark with color, and were slick with her juices. A good portion of her thighs were slick with juice!

Her hand down there brushed her clit a few times, but no more. He needed no more invitation. Lowering himself and using a hand to guide it, his tip penetrated her, and she let out a satisfied sound. He looked up at her, seeing one hand fondling her own breasts and her eyes closed. He lowered himself down again, resting his weight on a hand, and he slid in a few more inches. One of her hands roughly pinched a nipple. Enough of that.

He dropped himself in her completely and in one motion, grunting from the pleasure, and she let out a loud sound. He bent over to kiss her again and get more of her taste, while his other hand replaced hers on her breast. One of her hands was used to brace herself against the ground, while the other came up to wrap around his muscled middle.

Zyke pulled back until he was almost to the tip and then slid in again. She moaned, tightening her grip on him. "It's been sooo long..." she groaned out, grinding her hips into his.

He pulled back again, and then thrust back in. She moved to meet him. Again. And again. Faster now. They settled into a rhythm, his thrusts coming forward and her rising up to meet him with a wet smack. Her walls were tight around him, but with her wetness it moved easily and fluidly. Both of their breathings increased, and their faces flushed, although the Countess's was of a darker green.

A body like her's wasn't to go to waste in the mundane, though, and Zyke's left hand left her breasts to feel the length of her, running down her smooth stomach and reaching her pumping hips. He could feel her muscles working under the skin, and his middle finger managed to find her clit. He rubbed the nub the best he could around their thrusting, and she made deep sounds of approval.

After the events of the previous night, he was in no worries of blowing early, although the Countess was under no such luck. She screamed her first orgasm, and her juices exploded around his tool and against his stomach. For a moment he stopped, staring down at her heaving chest as she tried to regain her breath. He switched hands, now holding himself up with his left and the right was free to do as it wished with her, and that was glide up her stomach before finding a breast. He hoped she remembered herself quick, because he was getting desperate for his own release.

Finally, the Countess's red eyes opened, though they glowed with warmth instead of her usual fire. She smiled blissfully at him. "That was great, master. And now for more. Pull out."

Zyke did so, intrigued as to what she had in mind. She pulled herself from under him, and she rolled over so she too was on her knees. Then, she bend over, giving him an excellent view of her full ass. He could see her parted and dripping lips like that, right under another option. Her finger guided him, though, circling her netherlips and gathering her own juices. "Back in here."

"As you say," Zyke muttered, and he lined himself up. Once he was in, his hands came to her hips, and he thrusted. He saw her ass jiggle with the force of it, and her whole body rocked forward. He pulled back and thrust in again. Back and in. He worked up a pattern again, this one faster than before. His hands on her hips guided her back to him, allowing him to set the pace.

"Harder!" the Countess gasped, her face buried into the carpet, black hair spilling around her. He could see sweat glistening down her back, and he felt it on himself too. He thrust harder, and the meaty thwacks became even louder. She groaned.

It was an exotic sight, thrusting into this woman of deep green skin. He felt he would enjoy seeing it more often.

Feeling his own end near, he thrusted even harder, and her throaty sounds became even louder, more satisfied. One of her hands came down and found her clit, and she fiercely rubbed the bundle of nerves. Then, she gasped out, "I'm almost there!" Zyke was too, but he could hold out longer.

One of his hands reached around her hips to feel her slick stomach, and the hand slipped back until it reached the top of her leg. He squeezed that, and the other, then just let himself go. He ravaged her like that, and she quickly let out a loud, extended moan, and he felt her walls clenching around him as her juices squirted past. He kept going, until he reached his own end.

His seed spurted into her, and he groaned. When his orgasm ended, he pulled himself out and collapsed next to her, spent from the final burst. She rolled off her knees into him, and he curled an arm around her.

The Countess turned her head to look at him, seeing a youthful face framed with white, now disarrayed hair. He also studied her, with her flawless face now flushed and dotted with beads of sweat. Her hair was no longer perfect, with a few strands sticking up oddly and some sticking to her green forehead. He liked the satisfied smile she had on her face, and he leaned in to kiss her.

After, that smile was still there, and her exotic red eyes glinted mischievously. "That was a good start." Suddenly, she flipped herself up and straddled him, her dripping netherlips smearing the base of his semi-erect shaft. It twitched. Her hand came down and started rubbing it, up and down. "But I'm not quite satisfied yet." Once he was hard again, she guided him into her, and she let out a moan.

Zyke felt like this was going to be another long night.

xxx

"Well, well, well, if it isn't the Lord Captain Commander and his new little lapdog," a voice called out.

The men holding them at spear point split apart to admit this new voice, and they saw him step forward with confident steps. Wolf fur lined his armor, and several scars littered his face. The grin was decidedly cruel, or perhaps very pleased. "Last I heard, you were dead."

The greying man standing next to Zyke offered a small smile and a bow. "I'm afraid you must have me confused. We are merely two traveling bards, looking for new stories and places to spread the grand tales we have already collected."

The newcomer drew his sword in a flash, serpentine blade resting over his arm and pointed right at the man's throat. His eyes glinted, and the smile tugged wider to one side. Maniacal, Zyke finally decided. "I served under you for two years, Lord Captain Commander. All the way until you abandoned the army in those Light-forsaken Marshlands. You left us there to die. But oh no, no, no! We didn't die. No, we didn't. We survived, all for THIS moment."

xxx

"I'm not sure I approve of your methods of 'dealing' with threats, adventurer," Akara rasped, a hint of amusement in her voice. "But I am glad you found... something of value down in that death-trap."

Zyke laughed sheepishly, scratching the back of his head under his helm. Behind him on one side was Blood Raven, of course, and on the other was Countess – she requested that as her name instead of just a title in the morning – and her unnaturalness was more obvious than Blood Raven's, with her deep green skin. For once, the sun actually shone in the sky, just barely peaking over the far mountain range.

"Yes, I fear where this path may lead you, my friend," Cain said more seriously, running a hand through his beard. "I sense a great darkness in you, yet strangely it seems contained for the time being. Remarkable..."

"A great darkness?" Kashya snorted. "Everything about him reeks of being a demon himself."

"Just one?" Countess asked Zyke, eyeing the humans around her disdainfully. "Just one to remind them of their place?"

"I said no more killing," Zyke replied automatically, not really paying attention to her anymore – which was rather hard to do, given her looks and charm. Aliza was approaching, though, eyeing the newest arrival with curiosity. She was learning to expect strange things from him. "Aliza," he greeted as she came closer, "meet Countess, our newest... companion. Countess, this is Aliza, my Mercenary."

The others drifted away after their partial thanks for ridding them of the Forgotten Tower. Aliza smoothed her face and greeted Countess politely, before she raised a red eyebrow at Zyke. "Are you building yourself an army or a harem?"

"I like this girl already, master," Countess said into Zyke's ear, before she wrapped herself around him and smiled at the rogue. "Hopefully the latter, dear. Why, are you part of this little harem as well?"

Aliza blushed and shook her head, causing Countess to laugh. The demon's voice was deeper with her corruption, not quite like Blood Raven's spectral quality, but her laughter sounded quite nice to Zyke's ears.

One of his arms came around to return the gesture, slipping around Countess's trim waist, while the other included Blood Raven and her taut yet smooth stomach. The former captain, wearing her bone helm again, stiffened, but she didn't try to step away. Zyke grinned roguishly at Aliza. "Why, this is just my lovely army, which you and all your wonderful attributes are a part of as well."

It took the rogue a moment to realize the suggestion behind it, and she blushed again, which further amused Countess. The poor rogue was going to be subjected to much teasing in the days ahead.

The sun was up, dawning Zyke's third day out here in these lands. Three days of gathering power. Was he ready for Andariel? "Blood Raven, it's time to head to the Monastery."

The archer's head turned to him, a crimson eye studying him through her large and horned white helm. "Without me, your chances are small if you are to fight her."

That was one of the things they had spoken about that morning, before heading back here. Aliza listened in intently. Countess wanted Zyke to prove himself, to give some sign that his absurd quest held some hope of possibility. If he was to face Andariel so that they could continue eastward, he was to do so without her or Blood Raven. Blood Raven had agreed; she was his and had proven that, but for this he must prove himself worthy to lead, a man of power who didn't need to rely on his underlings.

Of course, there was always the alternative. The more likely option as well, given his current track record. Blood Raven mentioned dryly that he might just end up twisting the great succubus around his finger and seducing the Maiden of Anguish. Countess was doubtful at first, then she paused to look at herself and Blood Raven. Then she believed.

"I am his Mercenary. I will fight regardless of either of you," Aliza intoned rebelliously. She didn't glare at either demon, but she locked her jaw sternly and she nod once at Zyke. He smiled softly back at her.

"Let's go see Charsi. We have a few more items and gold thanks to Countess here," Zyke said, leading the way with a woman still on either arm. Countess grimaced at the reminder of what she had given up. All her gold had been kept, though, as had a few items he knew he could use and others sell.

Charsi raised her eyebrows at his approach, still dressed in her red leather breeches and apron and nothing else. Countess appeared surprised to see a woman taller than herself for once. "Zyke, sisters," she nodded to each of them, including Blood Raven surprisingly, yet tilted her head at the sight of Countess. "Who is this?"

"Just another ally for myself," Zyke side-stepped, "We have more wares." Charsi nodded and led them back.

First to go was Zyke's now battered buckler. Socketed items could be as valuable as enchanted items, and the small shield Countess had had was better than that even without its two empty sockets. Countess had assisted even further by supplying a chipped emerald and a Tal Rune of all things. The wood glowed green with the emerald, and the rune also slid right in. Both increased poison resistance, though the rune did significantly. A Ring of Remedy, another enchanted item of poison resistance, slipped onto his other finger.

From the many stories he knew of Andariel, death by her poison was always the most common.

His studded leather armor was removed and passed down to Aliza, who of course had it trimmed for more... breathing room. He instead slipped some ring mail over his head. Again, Countess had supplied. Goodbye crude boots, hello Heavy Boots of Haste. Paradoxical, yes, yet Zyke could feel the tingle running up his legs, letting him know he could now run significantly faster.

There were a few more things Zyke could have given Aliza, but she insisted on only chest armor, helm, and weapon. Everything else only interfered, she said.

Enchanted armor, Countess had, but her real treasure was her collection of gems, jewels, and gold. They had brought all that they could carry and deposited them into Zyke's Stash. Skulls and runes were also to be found, and they went in there as well. Except for three, which Zyke held for a very specific reason.

On the way to Countess, he had found a three slot socketed longbow. By itself already better than what Aliza used, but once socketed... The flawed skull he had found in Tristram went in first, and its brown color melted away to black. Then came a chipped emerald and flawed topaz, courtesy of Countess.

Damage greatly increased, the bow also now stole life and mana from its enemies. He presented it to Aliza, who gaped. Even Charsi gave a respectable nod to the weapon. The rogue accepted it with a sound near a squeal, and she gave Zyke a thankful hug and kiss, surprising him. She pulled back and fawned over the new weapon without appearing to even have noticed.

After that there was really only the things they had intended to sell – enchanted axes, a weapon for a paladin, socketed dirks and such. The money that had, from Countess's fortune to that which Zyke had built from selling the loot he himself had found, was quite significant, and Zyke offered buying either demon better equipment.

It would be a shame as the armor would hide away their fantastic curves and cover the soft stomachs he so liked seeing and touching, but survival was more important. To his surprise, both declined.

Blood Raven mentioned her bow was better than anything Charsi could produce without her Horadric Malus, and her unholy strength was enough to keep her protected for now. Countess mentioned that her own bow was the finest she had had in her sizable collection, though she was envious of the bow Zyke had given Aliza as none that she had were socketed. As for armor, the woman just smiled demurely and groped a breast through the thin cloth.

"I wouldn't want you missing these."

Zyke considered the matter rightfully settled.

With that, Charsi took the time to acknowledge Zyke's abilities seen so far, and she brought up the loss of her great hammer, the Horadric Malus. Zyke promised that if he found it, he would return it.

And so now ready, the four finally departed to dispose of Andariel, one way... or another.

xxx

Zyke ran.

He wanted to go back there, summon spirits of the dead to enter those foul men and explode them from the inside. He wanted to raise their lifeless corpses as his own minions, he wanted...!

Zyke ran.

He was dead. The man who rescued him from rock bottom was dead. Dead, when he didn't deserve it. There needed to be revenge. Revenge! Kill them all, spit on their corpses!

Zyke ran.

xxx

As it turned out, Aliza had the waypoint for the Outer Cloister, inside the Monastery. She had the Inner Cloister as well, but she mentioned that the Outer was where the Barrack was, and thus Charsi's hammer. Zyke gave her a scroll of town portal – gathering the rest into a book of town portal, thanks to Akara – and Aliza nodded before retreating into the waypoint, vanishing in a blue wave.

Immediately a portal opened up inside the town, by the campfire, and the remainder darted inside. Right into the thick of battle.

Bone Armor immediately sprang up around Zyke, and he dove forward to take a crushing blow from a giant Yeti attempting to strike Aliza's back. The girl was focused the other way, shooting down corrupted rogues who had charged her upon arrival. Black Rogues, they were called. The elite that had protected the Monastery, now corrupted.

Zyke reapplied his Bone Armor after the blow, and a golem sprung up between him and the three Yeti. Blood Raven and Countess were at his back, arrows neatly picking out the attacking Devilkin. A wave of her hand later, and Ghouls – Zombies even stronger than Hungry Dead – ripped free and entered the fray.

With the mounting corpses, Zyke summoned three skeleton warriors, and like that the small party easily cleared the area, Aliza muttering, "I feel stronger now," along the way.

After, as Blood Raven allowed her Ghouls to fall apart, Aliza motioned them onward, "This way." It was likely Blood Raven knew the way as well, yet she was content with letting the other rogue lead and keeping her eyes peeled for more enemies.

Zyke eyed the courtyard as they moved. Before Andariel, it was likely very beautiful and grand. Well-crafted stone walls and railing, columns and walls. The waypoint itself was in a grassy plane, surrounded by a square stone walkway. On either side were large wooden doors, and smaller - he guessed sidedoors – ones on the other two sides, all cut well and looked quite grand. Of course, before Andariel, loincloth-clad rogues would be found all over the place here, enhancing the place's beauty.

Aliza led them to one of the bigger, double doors. Zyke could feel the kinship echoing through even before she opened it. Then, the latch was undone and the doors boomed open. Arrows flew into their skeletal and clay meat-wall, and all three archers returned fire as Zyke's horde poured in.

Devilkin by the dozen met his minions, supported by a single Shaman that Blood Raven killed with an exploding arrow. Behind them were a small force of Bone Archers, the source of the earlier and continuing arrows. The clay golem lumbered past the Devilkin – stuck between cowardly fighting and scrambling to get away, leaving easy pickings – and barreled into the Bone Archers, absorbing their arrows.

For the first time, Zyke got a good look at Countess in action. She was steady as a rogue as she drew, nocked, and released arrows, one crimson eye closed as she took aim. And her unholy strength likely matched or was even greater than Blood Raven's, though the latter was both more skilled and able to do more with her arrows. Countess's arrows flew true but plain, while Blood Raven's burned with fire and exploded upon impact, always where it would do the most damage.

Strange that all three of his willing companions were archers, though he was glad for it. Melee folk who rushed in with his skeletons tended to die fast. Then again, this was the land of the rogues, so perhaps it made perfect sense.

Their foes died out, and they moved again, Aliza leading them down sharp twisting halls that no longer looked like the home she knew. A few more hordes of Devilkin and leading Shamans tried their luck against them and failed. Aliza turned them down another hall and opened the first door to their left.

A ball of fire greeted her, exploding against her new armor, and she staggered back with a grunt. Before Zyke or anyone could move in, Aliza raised her bow and show three arrows in. With each shot, a swirl of red appeared around her, and the little red and black marks on her neck and the exposed area below it were healed. She gave a smile of thanks to Zyke before darting inside.

As he moved in, he saw only three piles of bone: Bone Mages, most likely. Everyone else only gave it a passing glance as they trotted by.

For the first time, Zyke finally noticed that all three of his companions, on top of being archers, also wore only loincloths. Which bounced as they ran ahead of him, exposing creamy, pale, and green buttocks respectively. He would have to cover the rear more often, he decided.

Aliza stopped at the hall ahead, as did the other two. When he got there, he saw why. Three Black Rogues stood there, staring uncertainly. They saluted Blood Raven, fist over chest, and their eyes lit up when they saw him, though.

Blood Raven pressed forward, moving at a trot again. Countess followed, as did Zyke. Aliza pressed up against Zyke from behind, trying to escape too much notice.

"Not now, ladies," Zyke said in passing to the Black Rogues. "Perhaps later though!" he called back to them. They shared smiles.

The hallway curved right and then left, circling around a room they didn't enter, and that fed into a chamber of sorts. The sense of kinship was the only warning Zyke had before it happened.

Three goatmen charged them, bleating angrily. Teal, black, and orange. Not different clans, either. Champion Blood Clan.

Zyke, with his zippy boots, let out a burst of speed, and he got his arms around Blood Raven just in time. She had tried to lift her bow to fire, but doubtless there wasn't enough time, and if there was – she was Blood Raven, after all – hurting one Champion would help little against the other two, who would probably cleave her in two.

Arms around Blood Raven, he spun, bringing himself between her and them, and presenting his unguarded back. The first halberd absorbed all of Zyke's Bone Armor and still nicked flesh. He tried to recast it immediately, that was his intent, but as the bones began appearing to start circling around him, the second halberd sliced right through them as they formed and imbedded into his side.

Ring mail was good armor and absorbed much of the blow, but even that folded from the force of it and tore through his muscle. He cursed. Then, the clay golem knocked the three goatmen back, the last halberd sinking deep into the clay. The skeletons followed, building the wall between the Champion Blood Clan and them.

Aliza and Countess didn't hesitate, arrows firing past the skeletons into the goatmen. One fell, another was frozen before the clay golem's heavy hit shattered it. The minions and arrows made easy work of the last one.

During that time, Zyke had collapsed to one knee, the pain in his side exploding with agony. Blood Raven's eyes were wide with surprise, visible through her bone helm, and she held onto him to support him while the others fought. Zyke fished for a healing potion from his belt, and he gulped it quickly. He let out a content sigh as the pain reduced and life returned to him, the wound healing.

"Zyke..." Blood Raven muttered, her ethereal voice soft.

He grinned up at her. That one minor potion wasn't enough to heal him fully anymore, but it was enough for now. "I protect what's mine, and you, my dear, are not going anywhere." It went unspoken that that would have resulted in her death. For each blow to hurt him even through full Bone Armor, and that much through ring mail... Not even her unholy toughness would survive that.

Then, Countess and Aliza were there, on either side of Zyke. They helped him stand, and he thanked them, only briefly fingering the raw mark on his side. Not healed. Next healing potion he found would replenish his stock, and the one after he would gulp just to finish off the pain.

Together, a bit more cautiously now, they moved on into the next room.

Skeletons and clay golem met a large horde of Devilkin, and a deep voice boomed from further in the room, "I shall make weapons from your BONES!"

Right. Zyke had checked his quest log on the way over, and this one had mentioned, "Beware the Smith that guards it." Funny, no one else had mentioned it.

The mass of Devilkin thinned out, and the sight of the monstrosity charging them had Zyke's mouth dry. "An Overlord? Here?"

Stacked and rippling with muscle, the beast roared with fury, lifting a massive weapon. It stomped through the Devilkin, crushing one beneath its foot, and attacked.

Zyke let out a breath as the Smith swung down at a skeleton. The bones raddled and snapped, it's buckler dented, but the skeleton warrior hadn't died. It wasn't an Overlord, just another beast in Andariel's forces. Fear he hadn't notice drained away with that breath.

Of course, just because it wasn't going to slaughter them didn't mean it was going to go down easily. The next blow did demolish the skeleton, and the Smith moved onto his clay golem. Zyke dusted off his curses and cast amplify magic on it, and the three archers behind him began hammering the Smith. Heh.

Zyke replaced his minions as they were lost, having plenty of Devilkin corpses available, while Blood Raven animated a few of those to help out. It took longer than it should have, even with the curse on the beast, but eventually the Smith let out one final roar and collapsed, blood oozing out around it.

The progressed further into the room, Zyke looking for the Malus and the girls looking for more enemies, arrows already nocked. It wasn't hard to find, resting reverently on its own little stand next to the forge and anvil, glowing with enchantments. Zyke picked it up and slipped it into his inventory. They were done here.

He turned to tell the girls, but then paused. He took the time to study them. Aliza was closest, with a small frown on her pretty face, eyes sweeping the corners of the room and her hair still neatly done in her ponytail. Sweat dampened her face and her chest, glistening in the torchlight. Then there was Countess, checking the other side of the room, looking for enemies as much as for anything of interest. Her green appeared even darker in the light, though he could see how her hair – usually just tossed behind her – stood disarrayed, some strands even rebelliously falling in front of her. Her sweat caused the little cloth that covered her breasts to stick to her, outlining the impressive shape in detail. Her loincloth had slipped down slightly from their actions, and when she turned away from him he could see the beginnings of her crack.

And then there was Blood Raven, a motionless sentry standing facing the door, her bow pulled back tightly and ready for the first enemy trying to sneak up on them. He knew her face better now, and he could imagine the most of it from behind her mask, with her clenched jaw and narrowed eyes. He could just as easily picture the pretty little scar on her left cheek.

He sighed contently. Then, he used his book of town portals, opening the blue spiral. "Found it."

They didn't spend long in the Rogue Encampment, the sun just reaching noon overhead. They gave Charsi her hammer, Zyke got his kiss for it, several rogues gave them respectful nods, Kashya expressed her thanks and excitement, as did Akara, though the elderly woman and Cain both sprouted about greatness and the shadow and their spirits and something else that Zyke couldn't make sense of.

He was a bard, he knew how to speak in extravagance, yet those two made his most grand seem almost drab. It hurt his pride, somewhat.

After that quick stop, they were to proceed immediately to Andariel.

Blood Raven, as Zyke expected, had the waypoints like Aliza did, though both only had up to the Outer Cloister, not the second level of the Catacombs that Zyke saw was the closest area. Apparently not many rogues had to go down there during their time in the Monastery... which made sense. Not many people visited catacombs.

After a moment, it was decided that Blood Raven would go – alone – and make her way to that last waypoint, where she would open a portal to them. Zyke wanted to go with her, but...

"I don't know how you do it, but somehow you manage to attract every demon in the area wherever you go. Don't look at me like that! When was the last time we could just walk past a group of Fallen, no matter their type? You attract them like flies," Blood Raven countered sharply, leaving Zyke to smile sheepishly. "And that's not even considering the problems we go through every time when you meet corrupted rogues..."

That said, she went through alone, and the remaining three were left waiting.

For a time, they were silent. The two portals – one from Zyke, the other from Aliza – remained simply two portals. While they waited, several rogues who knew what they had planned were also glancing for the third portal. Kashya was included in that, standing at her place by the fire, arms folded under her breasts, and she kept sending emotionless glances towards the place portals usually appeared.

After awhile, as time stretched, Aliza began getting worried too. She voiced her concerns, but received no answer. Then, Countess, having been ticking her fingernails on the log bench, turned to check the portals, and she frowned. "It has been long enough. She should have reached there by now." Aliza nodded.

Zyke's minions ran around listlessly, from one end of the fire to the other, stepping around the portals and people with no real destination, but their summoner, Zyke, he remained unconcerned. This was Blood Raven they were talking about. Even if all the hellspawn from one waypoint to the other were against her, she would manage.

Aliza stood, and she walked over to the portal stop worriedly. Countess eyed her, but she remained seated with Zyke. "Now would be a good time to satisfy me... If there was a place we could be in private, I would demand it." Which was her right, by the second condition.

Zyke only acknowledged her with his eyes, which took the time to rove her excellent frame, before returning to the dirt in front of him. Now wasn't the time for that, and she knew it. Perhaps when Blood Raven had first left, but not now.

Still they waited.

Aliza began paced along the portal area, checking consistently. Her obvious worry was beginning to spread to those around her, and other rogues took to glancing at the portal spot as well. Kashya remained impassive, yet she, too, continued searching... Then, with a cry, Aliza shouted, "It's here!" And then she darted inside.

Bone Armor sprang up around Zyke as he bounded to his feet, and with Countess they moved quickly towards the portals. The newest one held her identity in the way only portals could. Something about just spoke "Blood Raven." Without hesitation, they slipped inside, his minions following.

The switch from bright light to dark corridor had Zyke blinking for a second, before he spread his vision from nearby torches to the rest of it, and he could make out things. Stone covered everything: walls, floor, ceiling, and blood decorated that more than anything else did. Cracks ran through much of the area, but nothing hazardous.

And then there was Blood Raven and Aliza, off to the side. Blood Raven was crouching against a wall, and Aliza had a hand on her shoulder. Zyke went cold when he realized a lot of the blood was still wet, and it led to her.

He ran to Blood Raven, slipping out a light healing potion and handing it over. She took it, but waved them off, "I'm fine." Even her special voice sounded exhausted. And she wasn't fine; she was a mess.

Her bone helm had a portion broken away on the left side, revealing her face up to a bit above her eye. No other damage there though, just the old scar Zyke liked so much. The red armor on her shoulders were cracked and wet, and the strap holding the right one to her had been severed with a slight wound there, leaving the armor to flop awkwardly. Another wound spread across her stomach, three claw marks that left a trail of blood each. The middle was the deepest. Her left arm was broken on the humerus, hanging limply. The whites of her legs were alright, but under that there was a thick slash through her right boot that showed the pale skin under it, as well as a long, dark slash of where it had pierced her flesh. From the way she winced with her back pressed against the wall – arching it at times – he knew her to have damage back there.

All this until she drank the potion, of course. Light, and thus more powerful than minor. Her flesh stitched itself up, ugly wounds closing as if they had never been. Not even a scar, with potions, which is why scars were so rare. Another reason to like the one on her cheek. Soon, the only sign she had been hurt at all was the damaged shoulder and boots, as well as the blood stains.

He got her arm around his shoulder, and he began to help her stand. Blood Raven had a lot of muscle, making her heavy, but not near as bad as if she had been a man. Righted, she wiped off some of the blood, nodding her thanks to him.

"What happened?" Zyke asked simply. Aliza and Countess waited for the answer, too.

Blood Raven began to say 'nothing,' but she stopped at the hard look Zyke was giving her. "Afflicted," she conceded. "Their lusts are just as inflamed as the rest of us, and apparently they prey on corrupted rogues whenever they have their urges. I was apparently a... more difficult victim." Her dark smirk said that she had killed them all, at least.

Afflicted. Zyke could only conjure an image of hulking beast running on hands and feet like gorillas, with massive heads and even larger tongues. Like Misshapen, only stronger and more vile.

Blood Raven fingered the missing piece of her helm and winced. She took it off her head, letting it clatter hollowly on the stone floor. Raven hair that had been stuffed inside spilled out, and she swept it all behind her with a hand, like Countess. Equal beauties, the pair of them. Even Aliza had a look about her, though without all the darker attractions. Her large bosom on her lithe frame was formidable.

Blood Raven drew an arrow and fitted it into her bow. "Andariel is on the fourth floor. Hack all the way through until we reach there. Countess and I will remain there, as well. We will know if you've defeated Andariel or not."

"I sense... a demonic presence here..." That was when Zyke first felt it, having been worried about Blood Raven earlier. The kinship between him and demons. Only, it wasn't close. Something had to be so powerful and charged with demonic energy that he felt it from that distance. It could be only one thing. Andariel. That was what he was up against. Yes, they would know if he defeated her or not.

Taking a deep breath, death and musk filling his nose, he nodded to them, and they began.

They had no guide this time, so it was simply open doors and keep moving. One room was full of giant spiders, called Arach. Well, at least that verified the one story he had told those rogues the night before last.

Rounding a corner often resulted in a horde of even stronger Fallen, called Dark Ones, and these were all led by annoying Shamans. A corridor between two passageways was filled with witches called Banished, and walls of fire and balls of flame assaulted them. That inspired Countess, and suddenly fire walls broke out among the Banished, and they screeched as they were consumed.

And speaking of casting spells... Well, for one, Zyke achieved his eighth power surge, bringing him to his ninth ability and level, and when he pulled out his spell book for it – Dim Vision, a second curse – Blood Raven pulled out her own spell book finally, and she looked through the spells. "Golem and Guardian..." she muttered.

"What was that?" Zyke asked as he closed his book, slipping it away into his inventory again.

"Golem," Blood Raven repeated, although she raised a hand and a spark of magic came off it.

Zyke was about to ask what she meant by that – he had golems, after all – when suddenly the stones of the floor mixed together, and up rose a man-shaped form made entirely of stone. Unlike his clay golem, which wandered near him like his skeletons, the stone golem marched off in a random direction, broke through a door they ignored, and suddenly they could all hear the shrieks of Dark Ones dying.

He turned a blank look to Blood Raven, who had a grin on her pretty and now visible face. "Have I ever told you how much the True Arts turn me on?"

Blood Raven laughed, a spectral sound echoing off the walls. "Once or twice, yes."

Zyke nodded, "Good. Now where exactly is your golem going?"

She shrugged. "Wherever it wishes, until it is destroyed. This is an old spell, before you Necromancers mastered it in other forms. Oh that's right, you aren't a Necromancer."

He nodded at that, pleased, while all three girls sent him deadpanning looks. "Is there anything in there that might get us to the stairs sooner?"

Blood Raven hesitated, flipping through the pages. "Well, there is Phasing, but..."

One cast and them all ending up in a room surrounded by Banished ruled out that idea. Zyke looked at his map to see where they were and saw that it was just the next room, but that was... too unreliable.

They moved on with plain running, and eventually found the stairs down to the third floor of the Catacombs.

On the third floor, Blood Raven demonstrated her... Guardian spell, though she explained that it was low of rank. Zyke was again stunned by old magics as this former rogue summoned practically the equivalent of the sorceress's legendary Hydra spell, a three-headed dragon sprouting from the ground to spit fire at enemies. Alas it wasn't very powerful, taking two balls of fire to kill even one Dark One, yet it helped raise chaos in the following fights.

More Arach, Dark Ones and their Shamans, Afflicted that Zyke took especial joy in killing, and Ghouls appeared in their path as they wandered the halls of the Catacomb, and eventually Aliza had another power surge of her own, a smile on her face as she informed, "I feel stronger now."

Banished and Gargoyle Traps sprouted their fire, yet the group preserved, as it always had. Together they cleared a path through Andariel's horde of monsters and demons, until the moment finally came.

Blood Raven rounded the corner first, bow at the ready and saw that there were no enemies. The rest followed. This room was darker than the others as there were no torches on the wall, yet as they came closer it became obvious. The iron barred cage of a downward stairwell rested before them.

Blood Raven and Countess stopped at the edge, and each looked at him. Countess spoke, "We will go no further." It was hard to tell because of the light, but Zyke thought she looked worried. Blood Raven, however, was stone, and she crouched near one of the stairwell's walls, facing the hall they had come from. She didn't look at him, but it was obvious she had no intention of continuing onward.

Aliza was at his back, though, with her black bow clenched tightly in her fists. With her Inner Sight, she could sense Andariel below. And she intended to follow Zyke until the end, be it theirs or Andariel's.

Zyke just stared down the dark stairs, silent. He could feel her. From here, the magnitude of the Lesser Evil was more obvious. He felt the kinship with her. She was a sister by nature. No reason to fight her. There was a different urge, too. To serve her, submit to her. Do anything for her. An urge that only pulled at demons... Which he wasn't, of course. Of course.

"Aliza, stay here," he said finally, in a softer tone than usual.

The girl froze, then she whipped around to stare at him, eyes wide. "What?"

"Stay here, with them," he repeated, not looking away from the consuming darkness of the lower floor. Andariel was there...

"I am your Mercenary, Zyke! With all that you've done for my sisters and I, I will follow you into death!" she insisted, her tone pleading.

He shook his head. "There are worse things than death, Aliza." He broke his gaze away from the darkness to smile at her. A sad smile. Then, he turned to Blood Raven. "If things don't work out down there..."

She looked at him, crimson eyes bright despite the dark. Then, she nodded. "I will return her to her sisters." That was all he needed.

Three skeletons warriors – no magi - a clay golem, the first rank of bone armor, and two curses. Just that, to face one of the Lesser Evils. He fingered his potions again. First column, health. Second, mana. Third, rejuvenation. Fourth, antidote. The list was taken to heart. He had others – stamina potion and a thawing potion – yet only these would be useful down there, if things went worse than expected.

He almost took a step to start heading down, then paused. Blood Raven had resumed checking their trail, still crouched. Aliza was torn between pouting and sending him worried looks. Countess had sat on the edge of the stone wall, arms folded under her impressive bust, and was watching him impassively – she was as stone faced as Blood Raven.

Zyke assumed a hurt look. "No kiss goodbye? Or for good luck? Or just for the hell of it?"

Stone cracked as Countess's lips tugged to one side, amused. She stood in a fluid motion, and glided to him in her regal way. Then, her soft lips came to his, and one hand snaked around to grope his ass. He got his share of that too, his hand fondling flesh hardly covered by the loincloth.

She broke the kiss, and while still there, she said quietly, "Goodbye, Zyke the Bard. I do hope you are as good as you've pretended to be, because I want more nights like last's... And I still want my servant you promised me." And she drifted back, resuming her spot on the edge, stone mask returning as she studied him.

The next mouth was there before he had even turned away from her, and he saw the fiery hair in the dim light. Aliza was kissing him. Like with Countess, his hands went low and cupped her ass past the loincloth, feeling how it was more taut than Countess's with her lifestyle. Aliza moaned into his mouth, and she pressed tighter against him.

Then, she pulled back and smiled. "For good luck." And she, too, moved away.

Zyke nearly laughed at that. So they took his statement seriously. He turned to Blood Raven, expecting her next, yet she hadn't budged an inch from her spot, eyes still watching for oncoming enemies. Probably the only corrupted rogue who didn't try to take him on the spot, despite the fact that her darker desires had been inflamed as well. Her lust for pleasure, killing, greed... All that had to be raging in her, yet she remained disciplined. Well, perhaps not on the killing part, but ever since she agreed to join him, she had.

"No kiss for me, Blood Raven?" he asked, failing at maintaining his hurt tone after the first two kisses. Aliza snorted at this, and he was fairly sure Countess smiled, but he couldn't be certain. "Just for the hell of it?"

For a moment she ignored him, then, her bow lowered, and she turned her head towards him. Her crimson eyes, pale face... It was expressionless, yet so beautiful. Zyke was hoping she would. So far, the most erotic thing they've done together was use an arm to steady the other. He was hoping for more, eventually, yet this could be his last chance.

"I tried," Blood Raven said suddenly. Her pale face, unmasked by the bone helm now and framed by her raven hair, still remained starkly without emotion. "Very hard. The first night I was stuck listening to you... satisfy four of my sisters. Last night, I was left to watch you satisfy her multiple times. Even now, I tried, and you pressed."

Zyke could never quite remember how it happened. One second she was there, crouched and gazing intensely at him as she spoke. The next, he was pressed against the wall next to where Countess was resting, Blood Raven's toned body pressed against him as she kissed him for all his worth. Her core ground against his leg, arousing him, but his attention was elsewhere. Her arms were around him, one high one low, gripping him with strength. Her crimson eyes were closed as her tongue left her mouth to enter his. His left hand snaked through her thick hair, pressing her head even tighter to his, while his right finally, FINALLY slid down her back, feeling the hard muscles underneath, past the leather strap holding her loin cloth, and he got a handful of her ass, fuller than Aliza's yet as taut. She ground herself harder against his leg at that.

It was as intense as Countess was the previous night, yet it was all Blood Raven. This continued for awhile, until she finally moved her hips away from his leg, and her hands slid off his back as she pulled back. She was as reluctant as he was, neck craning to hold the kiss until finally it broke. His mind was fuzzy from the kiss, and all he could do was stare at her for a moment with wide eyes.

Blood Raven licked her lips, carrying tracers of both of their saliva. Then, she squared herself as best she could. She even tried for the dry voice she was so good at, yet it came out warm. "And that was just for the hell of it. Now, go do your thing with Andariel, fool, so you can finally satisfy me."

"Will do," he said immediately, starting to recover.

"Don't forget that I will get my turn as well, tonight," Countess reminded from his left, her nipples already hard and noticeable through the thin cloth. That kiss had turned her on and she wasn't even part of it!

Aliza, just a bit beyond Countess, licked her lips nervously. "Me too." She blushed as eyes turned to her, shifting on her feet, but she smiled at Zyke. "I can't be part of your little harem if I don't get some too, right?"

"Oh, we corrupted her, and she's not even a demon," Countess laughed, full lips curved into a delighted smirk.

Zyke breathed out as he looked between Blood Raven and Aliza, and he shook his head, laughing. "You all will be the death of me, every time I wish to sleep."

Countess laughed again, and she left the wall to wrap an arm around the still blushing rogue. "Oh don't worry too much about that, master. Being alone in that tower with just those girls for so long taught me a few things that we can do to... occupy ourselves." Aliza's blush deepened when she realized what Countess was hinting at. "Now go, Zyke, and add that giant succubus to your harem. And don't be late, or we will grow... restless."

Zyke let out a strangled laugh at that, finally descending the stairs. The last thing he heard was Blood Raven asking, "We are going to add a limit to this harem, right?" and Countess's laugh, "Maybe."

xxx

Zyke watched as she dressed herself, still buried in the thick sheets of the bed. Red loincloth slid up over strong hips, covering her from his sight. She laughed, noticing how his expression fell before his eyes rose to her exposed chest. She pulled her blond hair back and worked at getting it into a ponytail, deciding to leave her chest armor for last, for him.

"Say, Zyke." His eyes rose to hers for only a moment before dropping to her chest again, but he was listening. "Do you know the difference between love and lust?" He looked up to her eyes again, but she was focused on sliding bracers up her arms. It was strange to do that without her chest armor on first. He didn't answer.

"What about what it means to have a harem and how the women fit into those two categories?"

xxx

Where she had come from, harems were found among commoners as often as royalty, and she expected to be in one. She explained things about them that got his heart racing, and others that had him frown so deeply he doubted that he wanted the thing at all. He would have stayed with her forever, if he could have. He had tried, certainly. But his five years ran up, and they came for him. They took everything from him, including her. No, not her, but she was taken from him because of them.

But that was a long time ago. Well... not that long, but much had happened since then. Too much, he'd say. Zyke the Bard. That was who he was. Traveling storyteller from lands near and far. He liked telling stories, and that's what he did. Not anything else. Just a storyteller, a bard. Not a Necromancer, not a demon, and most certainly not a Shackled. Freed. That's how he felt. That was the gift that man had given him.

Of course his thoughts had turned to her after that upstairs. Blood Raven's personality was almost a splitting image to her's, even to where she denied herself until his teasing pushed her over the edge. That had been a surprise, from either of them when it happened. Very pleasant surprises.

It was hard to focus on the current threat with his head in the clouds like this. He was lucky the first room down here was empty, save a few open caskets. It was hard to think he would do anything but succeed and get back to them upstairs. He'd have to warn them about jumbling his head like this. No, wait. That might be a bad idea. She had mentioned something about it. Get it to go both ways, or something, but never confront.

Zyke blinked when he realized his hand was on a knob. He had almost waltzed into the next room without a single thought. Andariel wasn't in there, or if she was that was one hell of a long room, but there were a lot of demons in there. Corrupted sisters or goatmen – they seemed to have a thing against him – it wouldn't do well do walk in distracted.

Blood Raven's wit, Countess's fantastic body, and Aliza's bosom would all come later. Focus on the present, so that he could get to that later.

Steeling himself, Zyke opened the door boldly, walking in with his army following.

Let's see here. A pool of naked corpses and blood in the center, bone spires erupting from the ground, random fires, a dead rogue hanging from a pole, a few barrels stacked near the back. To the right was a huge door, and before it two bone flagpoles, bearing banners that he expected: Andariel, Maiden of Anguish. Well, now he knew where she was, if there had been any doubting before.

Oh right, before he forgot... A couple of Ghouls were heading his way from the left, and to the right and EVERYWHERE else, a sea of Dark Ones and their snarling Shamans. He hated Fallen, all kinds of them. Not because of any particular thing about them, but because the feeling was mutual.

Armies collided, and Zyke merely watched as his few held off the sea, and was winning. One skeleton fell for every ten Dark Ones, and he easily replaced them, while the Shamans scrambled to keep up. He moved towards the right, two skeletons clearing the way while the third quickly ended the stumbling Ghouls.

One skeleton fell to a fireball, yet Zyke just created another from the corpse the Shaman was standing next to. One down, four to go. Deciding to make things quicker, Zyke decided to rely on his Bone Armor, and he darted around the Dark Ones to reach more Shamans.

Soon, the room was cleared. Well, almost. One Dark One rose up, only to be cut down again. Zyke scanned the room for the Shaman but didn't see anything. The Dark One rose again, and was cut down again. Again, no Shaman. It rose again, and was cut down. Zyke was baffled. Maybe that one was special? He walked over. It snarled and stood, lifting its sword... and dropping it as his skeleton decapitated it. The head snapped back on in a burst of golden sparkles, and the Dark One stood again, lifting its sword... and died. Again.

Interesting.

Zyke scratched his head, not understanding. He let his skeletons play with the thing as he looked around. No Shaman's waving their torches anywhere... So what... His eyes traveled past the undying Dark One, to the series of stacked barrels. A small grin appeared on his face as his eyes narrowed, and he inconspicuously strolled in that direction, eyeing the Dark One that kept rising.

Stepping around a fire, he peaked behind the barrels. There, waving its torch around, wearing its big, funky hat, was a Dark One Shaman. It saw him, froze, and the gold sparkles appeared again. His skeletons cut down the Dark One again. Zyke shook his head, and it launched a fireball at him.

Sidestepping, he watched as the other skeletons rushed past him and ended the thing's poor life. Did he mention he hated Fallen?

With that settled, he turned towards the large wooden doors. Andariel. Would she be alone, or would there be an even bigger force waiting there for him? Were her breasts really as big as the stories said? The world would never know. Until he opened the door, that is.

Taking a breath, he opened that door.

Immediately he stepped back as two Ghouls swiped at him, and his skeletons hacked them to bits. More adorable Dark Ones and Shamans charged him, followed by three Afflicted. Those, however, hesitated, feeling the kinship. Fallen didn't care.

After the Dark Ones were finally all dead, Zyke approached the Afflicted. He suddenly had a great dislike for them, ever since first reaching the Catacombs, but he could see Andariel sitting on her throne behind them, in the distance. Too far to make anything out, though, besides the fact that a lot of skin was showing.

"Why are you here, brother?" the first Afflicted snarled around its long tongue, hanging out its mouth.

"To speak with Demon Queen Andariel, Maiden of Anguish, of the Lesser Evils," Zyke replied honestly, using the titles that sprang to mind.

They looked at each other, then, they shrugged and hobbled aside. Zyke nodded to them and walked past. As he got closer, he got his first good look at Andariel.

Two things came to mind immediately. First, her breasts were as big as they said – bigger than his head! - and instead of sagging, their perkiness seemed to defy gravity! Very, very interesting. The second thing was that her long red hair, each strand probably as long as his body, went straight up, also defying gravity, but in a less appealing way.

A succubus, so of course her face was to be stared at. However, other things stuck out. Like her breasts. Completely unclothed, for his viewing pleasure, yet her nipples were covered by caps, with a chain dangling between them. Her waist made the willowy Aliza appear hefty, while the hips and legs carried the perfect amount of meat on them. Her remaining modesty was covered by a curved metal plate fitted for her, held up by leather straps that went high up her hips.

Then there were the slightly unnatural parts of her, aside from her indifference to gravity. For one, she was huge. Twice as tall as him, at least. At some point down her arms and legs, her curvy body morphed into a red monstrosity – the demon in her. Well, she was a full demon, but it certainly showed here. Her hands were smooth for their unnaturalness, yet their ended in sharp claws. Her legs tilted back for the abnormal bottom, which ended in something similar to a hoof. Interesting, and not bad enough to affect her attractiveness. And then on her back were four massive claws like spider legs. Perhaps that had something to do with her known poison.

More Dark Ones snarled at him from the side, and a few more Afflicted watched him, but none came to oppose him. His minions trailed behind him, a triangle of skeleton warriors followed by the clay golem. Andariel saw him, of course. Saw him kill those earlier Dark Ones, too, yet she let him approach unhindered.

Her throne was made of bone, with segments in the back allowing her claws to rest comfortably, and the ends of the armrests massive skulls. One of her hand claws tapped a skull thoughtfully as she watched him.

At last he was in speaking distance – and out of striking distance – and he stopped. Zyke gave his best winning smile, very easy with a woman like that before him, and he performed his extravagant bow, arms spreading as his head dipped. There, now she wouldn't try to kill him immediately for disrespect.

He straightened and kept his smile. The whole room smelled of blood and death and ash. "I greet you, Demon Queen Andariel, Maiden of Anguish." She inclined her head at that. Now to introduce himself to the great Demon Queen, in a way that wouldn't have her trying to kill him. "I am Zyke the Bard, a storyteller from distant lands. I am neither a demon nor am I under the service of any master. I come here with an offer." It had worked well on Countess, after all.

The demoness, however, was not Countess. She leaned forward, black eyes peering down at him. He took careful note of how her large breasts moved, too. "Zyke the bard, you say," she muttered in a rather throaty tone. "I've received reports about you from the Black Marsh all the way to the Cold Plains." He could say something, but he felt she wasn't finished. "I hear that you are Blood Raven's new companion. I have yet to see my captain of the rogues since her last assignment. Tell me, how is she?"

"Very well," Zyke answered. She completely avoided his question. He would have to let her beat around the bush in full.

"I see," Andariel said coolly, still in her low, throaty tone. That tone gave him shivers in a good way, but he felt it was just natural to her. "You have caused quite the stir in my underlings, you Zyke of no master, Zyke who is no demon, Zyke who is no Necromancer." She seemed amused by that. "They wish for more males, to satisfy them. I know much of pleasure and lust, and I don't wish to deny them.

"Enough of them, though. You, Zyke, interest me. A Necromancer overcome by his unholy dealings, converted into a demon... Yet you deny both of them. Very interesting." She paused for a moment, then eyed him curiously. "Tell me, what is it you desire? Not this little 'offer' you no doubt cleverly put together, but truly desire? Is it pleasure? I can give you pleasure. No? Is it wealth? Fame? What is it you desire most?"

Zyke took a deep breath. "I achieve my fair share of those already, in whichever way I earn them. What I desire, Demon Queen, is to tell stories. Nothing more. I am a bard, neither demon nor Necromancer. Of that, I can assure you."

"Oh, but your not, young Zyke," Andariel cooed. A smile curved her lips. One clawed hand reached forward, and it twisted as if feeling something. "I can sense it within you. The darkness, the corruption. So close, yet so well contained. You Necromancers think yourself so great, dabbling in powers you cannot comprehend, and when one starts to realize, you cut him off, forcibly weakening yourselves. That is you, correct? What they call Shackled?"

"A simple bard," Zyke insisted, yet he hated how his voice creaked on that.

"Shackled. When the darkness starts to consume a Necromancer, and they see him as chained or shackled to that darkness. So they take away his power. Revoke it. But what they don't realize is that the power is already there, and they cannot truly touch it. I feel that power in you, Zyke. Shall I release it for you?"

Zyke trembled. A bard. This wasn't going how he wanted. His offer, that was what mattered. She would get to it, if he held out long enough. Her command tugged at his darkness, and he fought it.

"Do you remember your power, Necromagi? The greatness you once held, the greatness they took away? Oh, but I can give it back. Remember what you could do with that power. Raise legions for yourself, convert your enemies with the crook of your finger. It felt good. Wonderful. The sensation of it remains in you, doesn't it?" As she spoke, Andariel's hand fell to her leg, and the claws slowly dragged their way up. "The pleasure of it?" The claw reached her apex, and it glided across the plate suggestively.

He did remember. He remembered it all, the sensation of harnessing those energies as well as the sense of power he had from it. Pleasure? It - was - Rapture. Ulric the Pure, the Tragedy of Gail, the Legends of Tristram, the tales of Ellyia and Rednanikyz... Ellyia! "Don't get me confused with someone else, Demon Queen. I am only Zyke the Bard, nothing less, nothing... more."

The claw left her core as she folded her hands and leaned forward, smiling. "Still you fight it! It's so adorable. I cannot wait to have you among my legions, Zyke the Bard. Watching you break will be... entertaining."

Delay much longer, and he very well might. Zyke's mouth felt dry, and sweat began to break out on his forehead despite the chill of being this low. He was a bard, a storyteller, doing what he must just to get by. It was now or never. She would hear him out and either accept or try to kill him. Could he beat her?

"I seek to kill the Prime Evils," Zyke announced, the same he would at the beginning of any tale. Just a storyteller. Necromantic energies felt so wonderful. "You and the other Lesser Evils once worked together and banished them onto this realm. I ask for your help to send them back, as well as request you open the passage eastward."

Silence. Flames licked barrels behind the Demon Queen, and demons shuffled at his words, but there was silence. Then, her sensuous voice came very quietly. Dangerously. "You seek the Lord Diablo?"

"And Mephisto and Baal," Zyke added, sending a grin her way. "All three, and to send them right back to Hell."

"That is madness!" Andariel boomed, and she lifted herself to her feet... hooves. "No mortal could ever dream of defeating one Prime Evil, let alone all three. Not even a corrupted failure like you."

"That's not what I hear," Zyke said with a smile. "I hear that Lord Diablo tried to take over Tristram a few years back. A mortal man, a simple warrior, defeated him single-handedly, while the rogue captain Blood Raven led a force to hold off Diablo's forces, backed by a sorcerer known as the Summoner. The only reason the Lord of Terror remained in the world, however, was because of the soulstones, which none were aware of at the time."

For a long time Andariel just glared at him. Then, she asked, "What are these soulstones?"

Zyke blinked at her. "You don't know?"

"Tell me!" she roared, and the chamber shook from the force.

Zyke held up his hands, trying to appease her. "There is much unknown about them, but the gist of it is that with their soulstone, a Prime Evil may use it to corrupt nearby mortals. By inserting the stone in a mortal's body, the Prime Evil may resume their form. When you Lesser Evils banished them here, the soulstones were the method of containing them. It took two centuries for Diablo to gain enough power to get someone to insert his stone. That was Tristram. However, that warrior who defeated him, Diablo must have spread his corruption to him. The warrior inserted the stone into his head afterwards, and thus we have Diablo's second reign in Sanctuary."

Zyke couldn't be sure in the fire light, but he thought Andariel's face paled. "So it is because of these stones that he and the other Prime Evil's have resumed their forms?"

Zyke nodded, and Andariel's curves fitted their way back onto her throne in a graceful collapse. Strange that she shouldn't know that, considering she was now working for them. Unless a... deception was involved. Interesting. A shift in his plans, but very interesting.

After a moment, Andariel seemed to remember he was there. She leaned forward, her face stern. "How do you know this? Can you prove that it's true? Speak quickly, mortal, and I may spare you."

"More than spare me, Andariel." This was it. "You need me."

"Need you? Ha!" She sneered at him. "Why would I, Andariel, Maiden of Anguish, need you, a mere mortal struggling against the most basic of corruption?"

Well, she was certainly singing a different tune about that now. "Just a bard, actually." Two could play at that game, though her scowl told him not to press too much on that front. "Because I refuse to believe all four Lesser Evils walk the world of Sanctuary, meaning all seven powers of Hell walk here. And without all four, you and your legions stand no chance against even a single Prime Evil."

She glared spitefully at him, but did not dispute his word. Well, that was fortunate. Now... "Myself, however..." He took a breath. Walk the line. The line. So dangerous... Like this... not just a bard. "You were right about one thing: I did once hold great power. Power that could easily wipe Diablo and his brothers off the face of Sanctuary. Power that was stripped from me." The line. Focus. Two halves. A bard, and more, but still a bard.

"I came here to recruit or banish you, Andariel, before moving onward and removing the Prime Evils. I do not need you. However, you would be useful."

"You... dare?" Andariel growled, hatred spilling into her voice. "You DARE say that of me? You think I will submit myself – me, Andariel! - submit myself to you? So that I may be some useful underling?" Her breasts heaved with her fury. Very distracting. "If the Lord of Terror can corrupt through these soulstones, a Shackled like you would easily fall prey to him."

Forget the line. Bard. Just a Bard. Zyke the Bard, traveling storyteller. That's all he was. No more, no less. "But do you have any choice, Demon Queen?"

"I should kill you where you stand," she growled, eyes narrowing as if to do just that.

"You are strong, Andariel. Very strong. However, my strength already rivals yours, and it will continue to grow." A bluff, certainly. He might win if she tried, but only because of the potions carefully placed in his belt.

For a time, she simply seethed on her throne, glaring at him. He hoped she didn't try attacking him. She was too beautiful to kill, in her own way, and it would be like killing a sister. Then, she leaned back and worked at smoothing her face. So she could control herself. Good. For him at least. "If – IF - I were to take this offer of yours, what would be your conditions?"

That sounded promising, though it had little hope with what his conditions actually were. "Your army must return to hell, first." Her eyes bulged at that, completely unsuspecting to that. She must have thought that an army was a measure of strength. Any Necromancer would say otherwise. He wasn't one, of course. Just a bard. "Then you will assumed a human shape – and I know you are capable of having one, as both a succubus and a Lesser Evil – and you will travel with me and the others I have gathered, fighting when we fight. You may not kill humans, either. I will not release you from under me until all Prime Evils are gone, and only if you return to Hell."

With each word, her eyebrows rose higher and higher, as did her indigent anger, but he wasn't finished. "On the other hand, I will not gloat over your servitude. You will still be Andariel, Maiden of Anguish; only, the mortal population will be free of the destruction you could unleash upon them."

Her eyes told him how much she loathed the idea regardless, loathed him too, and she wasn't swayed just yet. "These companions of yours... Name them."

"Aliza, a mortal rogue. Countess, a demon who also was forced to give up her army to serve under me. And Blood Raven, of course," Zyke listed. All that against the Prime Evils. They definitely stood a chance, right?

"Blood Raven?" Andariel boomed, surprise taking her. Then she nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, odd that you would be her companion. She is yours..." Her face blanked again, and her black eyes regarded him. "I am a succubus, Zyke the Bard. A sex demon. Must I give up my arts for you as well?"

"If you plan on killing a man by taking his energy during sex, then yes, I would deny that," Zyke clarified, though grinning. "But not the normal sort."

One clawed hand came up to her face as she reclined on her throne, and she covered her eyes with it. She sighed, causing a bounce with her free breasts. As with Countess, there wasn't really a choice. Andariel moved her hand down, and her eyes swept across her 'kingdom.' Blood, bone, and fire. Demons still lurked among the walls, chittering uneasily. She waved her hand. "Begone."

And suddenly, they were. Banished back to the Hell she brought them from. She had accepted.

Andariel rose from her throne, and in two massive strides she stood before Zyke, peering down at him. Down between her breasts. Then, she knelt down so they were face to face. She was beautiful, though with a strange hairstyle, and her black eyes were unique. She spoke softly, fighting humiliation, "I, Andariel, daughter of Lilith... am willing to serve."

There was a shimmering around her, suddenly. She pulled back, but that wasn't all that happening. She was shrinking. Her wild hair fell around her, the nipple caps dropped, her hands and feet shifted from red flesh into normal looking limbs. The claws from her back retracted into her. Her completely bared breasts unfortunately stopped their amazing floating show, reducing in size slightly while falling to her chest... yet retaining an excellent amount of perkiness.

Then, she was the same size as him, and she stood. The metal plate she had from before clattered to the floor. Zyke paused to stare at her like this.

The hair changed everything, really, as the long strands fell around her – most behind her, though some on either side of her breasts. Once he could see past that... she looked much the same. The hands and feet weren't too noticeable before, and the spider-legs from before left only an impression. And now she stood before him entirely nude, breasts rising and falling with her breaths, netherlips covered by a triangular patch of red hair – her impression of a mortal female.

For the first time, it really hit Zyke. He had done it. He not only survived Andariel, but the Lesser Evil served under him. Him, a bard! He nearly laughed in joy and relief, but she might see that as cruel. He settled with a smile. "Thank you, Andy."

The woman scowled at the name, but it was obvious they couldn't go around sprouting the name of one of the seven powers of Hell. She would need clothes, though, as appealing as the sight was. As they began to head out, him taking a chance to inspect her backside, he decided that it would be a shame, but he would have to make sacrifices.

She caught him staring and shifted her ass for him. "Like what you see?" she asked dryly.

Zyke almost stumbled. Not because of what she said or did, but because of her voice. It really was a normal voice! Still throaty, still gave him shivers, but it wouldn't raise a second glance from someone else, not like Blood Raven's or Countess's would. "Very much so," he acknowledged, and she scowled as she faced forward again. But she added a sway in her step, strangely. Perhaps because he was her master, now, or perhaps because she was a succubus and thought she could seduce him to the point where she was in control. Either way, he liked it.

xxx

"In a proper harem - and I will see you have one – there will be women you love, but also will there be women you just lust. Without both, it will not last, or if it does, there won't be much happiness. Those that you love, you will spent time with as companions, comfortable by their presence. Those that you lust, you will spend your nights with, as well as those you love, but in the throes of passion. Remember that the two often mix, though, and you should never lower one because you do not love them, because lust holds an equal weight."

Zyke rose from the bed, and with three steps he was to her, kissing her. One hand was around her bared back, feeling the golden tresses of her ponytail, and the other went up to clumsily fondle her breast – he was learning, though. Pulling back, he asked, "And if I love and lust one equally?"

She laughed and patted his abs, stepping back to finally wrap the red leather breastplate around herself. "None of that until tonight. The morning is for hunting."

xxx

Stone softened on Blood Raven's face when she saw Zyke approaching. She even smiled slightly, as opposed to large, sultry smirk that bloomed on Countess's face. Aliza let out a relieved sigh, one hand coming to her armored chest. Her eyes twinkled darkly in the poorly lit room, while the demons' burned like embers.

But they could each sense the powerful demonic presence with him, through Inner Sight and the kinship among demons, respectively, and they looked past him for what should have been the massive form of Andariel, overwhelming the room with her presence. Instead of the Lesser Evil, though, all they saw was a stacked yet short woman, her hair an even brighter red than Aliza's and naked as the day she was spawned.

Zyke returned a smile to them, and with a hand he gestured to the new girl. "Everyone, meet Andy. She will be joining us for the remainder."

While they had been wondering, that confirmed it. All three pairs of eyes widened significantly, even Blood Raven who had stood before the Demon Queen before. Not surprise at the result of Zyke confronting her – that had been expected – but at how she looked. Very feminine, as expected of a succubus, yet as short as Aliza, with not a speck of demonic endowments save her midnight eyes. No fangs, horns, claws... Just a woman. A woman who scowled fiercely at their looks.

Alas, it was finally time to find Andariel some clothes, and Aliza made a portal and slipped inside to go bring some back.

With her gone, Andariel folded her hands under her breasts and raised an eyebrow at Blood Raven. "I hear you betrayed me for this man."

The rogue captain met her stare unflinchingly. "It was join or die."

Andariel nodded. It was hard to tell, but her black eyes flicked to Zyke and back. She moved closer to Blood Raven, speaking lower, "Were you aware of his plan of challenging me and defeating the three Prime Evils?"

"I assisted in seeing he had sufficient strength to challenge you in the first place," Blood Raven replied evenly, shifting her bow around on her shoulder. Andariel blinked in surprise at that, though she wasn't much pleased.

As they spoke, Countess had pulled Zyke into their own private conversation, on the other side of the portal. Her expression was wry. "You know, master... I abandoned my army for you, gave up all my possessions, and placed my freewill into your hands. Because if I didn't, Andariel and her legions would come swooping down on me, consuming me and stripping me of them anyways." Her glowing eyes turned half-lipped. "And yet she, too, is bound to you in servitude. I could have refused and remained free." She sounded regretful, but it came with heavy exaggeration.

Her soft hand was still on his wrist, but his other arm went around her bared waist – smooth and soft, while Blood Raven was smooth and hard - and he kissed her. She didn't hesitate in returning the gesture, hand leaving his wrist to lace with the other behind his neck. When he finally pulled back, her eyes were closed, and her body pressed tight to his.

She sighed contently. "Right, there were benefits. Point proven."

He smiled, and he pulled back when he heard the sound of the portal, blue light fading as Aliza appeared. She was smiling, and she held a cloth bundle under her arm. The smile faded slightly when she caught sight of Andariel, but she handed the bundle over without hesitation.

Undergarments and a brown cloak capable of being tied closed, with a wide hood. Andariel grimaced at the clothing, muttering about how it was unsuited for one such as herself, but she accepted them. One arm still around Countess, Zyke made very careful study of Andariel as she dressed, trying to memorize her wonderful curves and assets before they were hidden away. Sexy legs stepped into the lower undergarment, and it slid up and up and up until reaching her womanhood, impressing the shape of it as the garment closed around her hips. Arms followed, slipping into the brassiere, and admirably her perky breasts fit well into even Aliza's.

With that, the fruits were gone, and Zyke's eyes merely followed the curves until the cloak covered those too, ties showing the tiniest peak of tanned skin down her right side. She freed trapped fiery hair from the garb, the most of the long tresses behind her with some still framing the sides of her breasts.

Then, they were ready. Zyke opened a new portal, and together they all went through.

The group emerged to the sound of celebration: cheers, hollers, whistles, and clapping. Smiles were wide all around, with some back-clasping among the rogues. Many turned to them as they appeared, likely to congratulate them. Then, the whole camp suddenly lit up with golden flares of Inner Sight, and the cheers fell silent almost immediately.

Akara pushed through some of the rogues to get to them, her face very pale. Her aged eyes saw them, and her mouth parted when she caught sight of the redhead standing behind Zyke. She paled even more, if that was possible. Her eyes darted back to Zyke, and her mouth worked weakly, "You... you really...?"

No rest for the weary; a common theme with the heroes in the stories Zyke knew. His voice rose and addressed them as if he were barding in a large common room, "The real threats in this world are the three Prime Evils, not the Lessers, and I take any allies I can get. Your ancestral Monastery is returned to you, as promised, though in need of much repair... I came here to spread hope and raise morale to you rogues, and though I have yet to tell my stories, I hope I have achieved this."

Silence followed the declaration, eyes still wide. "Well," he sighed, "I was planning on leaving in the morning, but perhaps it would be best to depart immediately. Good luck, rogues." With a bow, he turned to leave, knowing his girls would follow. Andariel sneered at all those she saw, and some flinched at the look.

"Wait, my friend!" Cain's voice strained loudly, and he hobbled past the crowd the best he could. Zyke turned to him. "Though I fear where this path you have set yourself on will lead you, there is no doubt in my mind that you are destined for great and terrible things. I am well read in ancient texts and lore, and I have spent decades trying to understand the forces at work in this world. Perhaps I may accompany you to see where this path of yours ends, and I offer my knowledge to assist you where it may."

For a long while Zyke merely studied the elderly man. Deckard Cain, a legend even before Tristram. To travel with him, and the Blood Raven, and even one of the Lesser Evils! Who would have thought a simple bard could be so lucky as to meet all three, let alone travel with them? "In the morning, we will return as far as the stone bridge before traveling east. I would be honored to have you along, Deckard Cain of the Horadrim, if you still wish to go, then."

Then, with everyone still watching them in that unnatural silence, he turned and headed out of the camp. On the stone bridge, however, Blood Raven asked, "Zyke, can you wait for a moment?" He complied, and she turned and trotted back into the Rogue Encampment, loincloth bouncing to reveal her taut, pale buttocks as she went.

With her gone, he turned to the other rogue. "I know you think you owe debts to me, Aliza, but the truth is you don't. You showed trust in me, and that made up for everything. Stay here with your sisters, return to the Monastery. Live without the horrors I go to face."

Her round face tightened at his words, and she slipped her bow over her shoulder. Light eyes narrowed as she leaned towards him, and she took his chin in hand. "I have earned my night with you, and you accepted. That can't very well happen if I remain here while you go." Then she smiled, and a light blush bloomed on her cheeks when she realized her proximity and the boldness of her words. She released his chin and straightened. "Besides, I am your Mercenary, and none of the seven powers of Hell will keep me from watching your back."

Andariel looked at her at that, but she shook her head and resumed her sulking.

No rogue raised her bow against Blood Raven as she returned to the Rogue Encampment, and she moved past log wall and tents to reach the still silent fire, though Akara and Cain were now deep in a private discussion. The one she was looking for wasn't far from them.

Kashya stood trembling, and her usually folded arms were now wrapped around her middle in attempt to calm her slight tremors. She flinched as Blood Raven stopped before her, red eyes and pale skin the only visible difference on the familiar face of whom she once considered her closest friend.

Blood Raven didn't hesitate in speaking, her voice soft despite its special quality, "Do not fear, sister. That man, that bard, is the strangest I've met in life and in damnation, but he speaks only truth. Only beasts roam our home. Reclaim it."

Kashya looked her in the eyes, while her own were still wider than normal with fear. "Blood Raven, you... He... That was Andariel! What evil is he that allows him control of a Lesser Evil? ...What evil is he that allows us to speak again as sisters?"

"The kind that will banish the Prime Evils back to the Hell that spawned them," Blood Raven announced confidently. Kashya appeared startled by that. "It is hard for me to see what Andariel did to our sisters as a monstrosity, as you do, but I understand your feelings for her. Know that she bows her head to Zyke now, while your rogues remain free. Our corrupted sisters, however... Without Andariel's rule, they may be swayed, with effort. Understand their darkness – the dark desires that burn in them – and perhaps, with Akara's guidance, you can bring them back into the Light. Good luck, sister."

Kashya bit her lip at Blood Raven's words, and she stared at her former friend. Pale, corrupted, bone protrusions from his hips and elbows... Confident, with the same steady stance she always held. The one that always spoke "take the ground from under me, and I will not stumble in the slightest." Kashya hugged Blood Raven.

The demon stiffened, but slowly she returned the gesture. It was awkward for them both, but it reminded them of the bonds they once held. Kashya whispered, "Thank you, sister." Blood Raven pulled back, and with a nod she turned to leave. "Fare well, and may the Great Eye watch over you." Blood Raven left.

xxx

"You and I, together forever?" Her hand reached for his.

"You and I, together forever." He took it.

xxx

"Where do we rest for the night?" Blood Raven asked as they moved down the Blood Moore.

Countess nodded at the question. "Yes, where is it that you will finally satisfy us?" She said that as if she hadn't been in his arms the night before, receiving that satisfaction.

"The Cold Plains," Zyke answered simply, and with a mysterious smile towards Blood Raven. "At a small camp that welcomed us before, and to get your servant, Countess."

Blood Raven glanced at Aliza, then back to Zyke and nodded, while Countess grew a pleased smile. Aliza gave him a look, but she didn't raise any question. Andariel had no such restraint. "So I am correct in assuming you have taken them all into your own personal harem?"

"Yes, he has," Countess beamed, taking Zyke and Aliza under each arm, causing both to stumble at the unexpectedness of it.

The Lesser Evil slowly, deliberately scrutinized Zyke from head to toe. Then, she looked back to the road. "Perhaps if he can properly please a woman, I myself will grace his bed with my presence." She had her own desires, after all. "I will watch."

Zyke's thoughts spiraled back to her, yet he quickly brought himself back. Arm around Countess, he grinned at Andariel. "Looking forward to it." Sleep? Oh no, you must have Zyke confused with someone else. He doesn't get much of that anymore.

They reached the Cold Plains. Flavie slipped away as they approached, and she didn't return until they were past, giving them all a wide-eyed stare.

Andariel stared out at what had once been a part of her great legion. Not many remained out there, and those corrupted rogues that saw them no longer charged them weapons first. Individual groups huddled together, whispering secretly. The Demon Queen held her head high, showing no sign of her loss.

One rogue group did charge them, however. It might have been the skeleton and golem horde that tipped them off, or perhaps Zyke and Blood Raven themselves, or maybe even they were just checking out a sudden sense of kinship different than usual. Regardless, in the failing light of late twilight, Zyke made out three slender, humanoid shapes moving in their direction at a high speed.

He had only barely managed to recognize them before they were there, and suddenly the one at the lead left the ground.

Now, in his travels, Zyke had come across a forest, somewhere on the other side of the sea. In the forest had been a peculiar animal. A squirrel, with a webbing between arms and legs that allowed it to glide from tree to tree. Locals called it a flying squirrel, although it didn't actually fly.

The was best how to describe that lead rogue. Like a flying squirrel, body completely parallel to the ground, arms outstretched. Then, like that, she collided into him. Her arms went around his waist easily, holding him tight, before the rest of her followed, knocking Zyke clear off his feet.

He hit the dirt, skidding backwards on his armor. He was dazed for the moment, both from the initial contact as well as hitting the ground. Then, as his mind cleared, he saw Olena, nuzzling him. Down past the corrupted rogue's head and armor-clad back, he could see her thin loincloth had fallen forward with her, leaving her taut derriere exposed for his viewing pleasure. And unhindered for his fondling pleasure, as his right hand came down to do just that.

Olena purred, and she stopped her nuzzling to look up at him, chin resting on his chest. "You came back," she grinned, her teeth flashing under those high cheekbones, right below glowing crimson eyes.

"With guests," he added, nodding behind her, though his hand slowly began to knead her.

Olena let out a satisfied sound at that before lifting herself up with her two arms, body curved so their groins remained connected, and she looked behind her. Her breasts threatened to pop out of her armor like that and were thrust in his face nicely. She lifted a hand to make a fist across that bust, saluting. "Captain." She checked the others, and her eyes flashed with recognition. "A-Aliza?"

The others had caught up by then, Raissa in her bone helm and Paige with her thong and hair swept back like Countess's. They also saluted Blood Raven, though when seeing Aliza, Raissa shifted to lower her weapon suddenly.

Paige caught the pike, first, one hand struggling against Raissa's grip. "Peace, sister. Captain has left Aliza alive for a reason."

Andariel looked like she wanted to chew through a boulder, beautiful face almost snarling, but that was just how she was since submitting to Zyke, and she remained silent. Countess raised an eyebrow. "More, Zyke?"

"Just girls I helped with a little itch," Zyke commented, and he stopped his kneading to pat Olena's ass, telling her to get off him. "And whom I hoped to camp with tonight."

"Of course you may!" Olena answered for them, hugging him once he was one his feet. Paige nodded, though, and that settled it.

In a few minutes, the whole lot of them were seated around the rogue's fire. Aliza sat between Zyke and Countess, though Olena resumed her place on Zyke's lap, minus her breastplate again. The presence of Andariel had raised a few eyes once they realized the huge source of power, yet she remained in her human form, though no longer scowling once given 'proper respect' from the corrupted sisters. Blood Raven sat to Zyke's left.

"Before we get into anything... Girls, this is Countess, who was buried the in Forgotten Tower years ago, if you remember. She also serves under me, and I promised her a proper servant to tend her needs," Zyke informed from around Olena, arms around her waist. "If any of you would accept the position, you are free to travel with us."

Andariel huffed, muttering to herself, "This is what I serve, a man who asks rather than takes."

Paige eyed him and Countess, before shaking her head. "You were a great relief for my unyielding lusts, Zyke, but no longer under command by Matron Andariel, I wish to see if the remnants of the sisters can be banded together again. I must decline."

Raissa, helm removed at the camp, revealing her almost bald head and short topknot. Her gaze on Zyke was certainly softer than it had been a day prior. "My place is with my sisters, always."

That left one, and Olena assumed a thoughtful expression, lips pursing as she tapped a finger against them. "Leave my sisters, for a life as a servant? Mmmm, but I would travel with Captain Blood Raven, and I could still get my Zyke... Where are you all going, if I may ask?"

"To kill the Prime Evils," Zyke answered simply. He felt Olena go rigid in his in his lap.

She tried to laugh it off as a strange joke at first, but she saw from the others' expressions that he was serious. Especially Andariel, staring hard into the fire. "...Surely you can't... No, you can. That is Matron Andariel, sitting right there... For a bard, Zyke, the life you lead is certainly interesting." She tried to settled deeper into him, which wasn't much possible, and her legs rubbed together. Then, she sighed, "For you Zyke, I'll do it."

Zyke smiled and kissed her neck from behind. He then looked at Countess, an unasked question in his expression. She looked at Olena, and she nodded. "You seem fond of this one, and she appears... entertaining. With the right training, she could be a most enjoyable servant." Olena wasn't all too happy about her new position, but she nodded her acceptance.

That settled, Zyke smiled. "Now, who's up for a story?"

Those who had heard him before agreed immediately, and the general consensus from the rest was an affirmative. He patted Olena's thigh so she would get off him, and she moved to sit on the packed dirt near Countess, legs folded. Now, her bosom held little on Andariel's in either form, or Countess's, and though he had yet to fully see it, Aliza's as well. That said, they still bounced and swayed distractingly, and it took him a considerable amount of time again to finally look away.

Like Blood Raven before, Andariel folded her arms and looked away, clearly uninterested, but he wasn't concerned about her. She would listen, too.

"Now, where we left off last time, Ellyia – a female Necromancer, out of the Necropolis for her first year of five – had just stumbled into Rednanikyz - a rare male amazon – deep in the jungles of Kurast after having been bit by a poisonous viper, and Rednanikyz had assisted her back to full health," Zyke recapped for the newcomers. "That was the beginning for the two, and their story together is much too long to go through no matter how many nights it takes, so we may need to skip ahead...

"After the viper mishap, Ellyia and Rednanikyz became traveling companions. What Ellyia didn't know at the time was that Rednanikyz had left his ancestral home to find himself a mate, and while he didn't consider her it at first, that quest would alter their destinies together drastically. Tragically.

"From Kurast, the duo had traveled north, into the arid deserts of Kehjistan. Like Lut Gholein, it was hot and dry, and water came as rare as gold. However, unlike Lut Gholein, strong winds create vicious sandstorms from the endless sea of dunes. In these wetter lands, you might not know what a sandstorm is like.

"Winds batter your body like physical blows, and anywhere skin is exposed is worn raw from the sand contained within those winds. Eyes get clogged and go blind without protection, and even with protection it is impossible to see anything other than endless murk. You can't even see a hand before your face! Yes, these sandstorms are unpleasant to endure, yet that is not the true danger of them. By the time they are over, it is impossible to tell direction without markers before hand. To make matters worse, the dunes those storms are spawned of shift in the winds, and nothing will look the same afterwards. People get lost and die, wandering the Kehjistan dunes.

"As for our heroes, while Rednanikyz was looking for a mate, Ellyia was looking for further methods to increase her strength and ancient lore to increase her knowledge, much like the legendary Horadrim Sage Deckard Cain, whom most of you have actually met recently. Despite it being only her first year of five, Ellyia was very strong for a Necromancer by then, and her journey to Kehjistan was for that knowledge. Following rumors of a remarkable tome, the Book of King Escerez II, said to contain accurate information regarding the beginnings of Sanctuary.

"The tome was lost through the ages, of course, and said to be buried with King Escerez II himself, and his tomb deep in the deserts of Kehjistan. That's where this story begins, deep in the Sea of Dunes, with only each other for company...

"Blistering sun burned down from overhead, washing the dunes in heat and causing heatwaves to waver their vision in the distance with mirages. Sand, baked from the sun to form a dark pink, was soft under their boots, and the two often slipped when climbing or descending the large dunes – some reaching well over one hundred feet in height. From the bottom of a dune, one could only see walls of sand around them, while from the top, they see an endless world full of deep holes. The tomb could be in any of those holes, if it existed at all.

"The heat and sand and dryness irritated them, and the frustration of failure mounted up remarkably fast for them. By then, their water was running low, and any form of food besides hard biscuits had spoiled. Turning back would have been the smart thing to do. Would have been.

"Ellyia was stubborn and reckless though, as seen by her folly in Kurast. Not the temperament of a hero who expected to live long and great. And so while she wished to continue and press on until they found it or they died from lack of supplies, luckily Rednanikyz was the voice of reason. He had a good head on his shoulders, that one did. Looked things through logically, practically, and he was cautious to the point of being called paranoid. The perfect match for each other, though one that sparked the most conflicts.

"They were in the middle of one at the moment, too.

"Ellyia's boot sunk too deep into the sand near an edge of a dune wall, crumbling her pathway, and as she began to fall. Rednanikyz, a quick Amazon, grabbed her wrist in time and hoisted her up. He was a handsome lad, with striking blue eyes and long blond hair pulled back into a ponytail in the amazonian style, capped by a simple leather headband. A memorable personality, too, with a dry wit to him that he didn't hesitate to use.

"Prideful as she was, Ellyia did not like having to be saved from the fall like that, on top of her own irritation from the desert, and her only thanks was ripping her arm free and shouldering past him. Fool girl didn't even watch her steps, and she marched right off the other edge! Rednanikyz tried to save her again, yet his own steady footing wasn't enough, and he fell too.

"They tumbled down the sandy wall for fifty, perhaps seventy feet. Sand filled their boots, armor, inventories, even their spell books as they recovered, irritating them further.

"Rednanikyz finally had enough of that desert, and he mentioned so to her. 'Thousands have tried and failed; if this tomb is to be found, it is not to be by us!' he snapped, trying to dig sand from his red leather armor.

"'Don't tell me what is and isn't to be found!' Ellyia shouted back, and an argument began between the two. About their next course of action.

"With their quarreling, they did not notice the approaching darkness from the horizon. A sandstorm, closing in on them. They didn't notice until the raging beast was twisting over their pit of sand, darkening the sky. When they finally looked, all they had time to see was how a wave of sand was descending upon them before it hit them.

"They had the right equipment: protection for their eyes, cloth to cover their skin, and a blanket to hide under. Quickly, the two donned their gear, and they huddled together under the blanket.

"Only their firm grip on the cloth prevented the storm from sucking it away from them, and it twisted and pulled and spat sand at them through it. Eventually, the layer of sand on the outside of it became enough to hold it down with its weight, and the sandstorm attempted to bury them there.

"The raging storm took too much attention for them to remember their argument, let alone speak to each other. Yet they worked together to stay protected, comfortable while pressed together and not working for just themselves, but the other as well.

"After what had to be hours, the last of the howling winds faded away, and the two released their ends of the cloth, exhausted from the experience. So tired were they that they didn't even try removing the blanket from over them immediately, only lying there next to each other, recovering.

"Then, with as much dignity as she could muster, Ellyia turned to her companion, and she finally conceded, 'Perhaps we could turn back, now.' He was relieved.

"They then worked together to lift the weighted blanket off them – buried as they were under what had to be a foot of sand! They stood and retrieved their blanket, packing it away. Then, they tried to get a good look at their new surroundings. And were astounded.

"There, before them, rising a solid fifty feet tall, was a stone statue of the man-raven. The man-raven was King Escerez II's chief symbol, and the statue the only known marker for his lost tomb. And there, behind the looming statue, was a tall entrance-way, blocked with sand along the whole way save a small opening at the top. Just enough for them to fit through. The sandstorm had uncovered the way.

"They had done it! They had found King Escerez II's tomb, and within would be his book. Awed, the duo rushed inside, managing the tight hole, and they slid down a mountain of sand to reach the first chamber.

"As you know, tombs and curses are like death and rot – they go together. However, nothing that came at them could even dent Ellyia's Necromantic army, and Rednanikyz javelin demolished the hordes of opposing undead. Soon, they reached the innermost chamber, where the King rested. On his casket of solid gold, painted on all sides with scenes of his great rule, rested a single tome. The tome.

"Ellyia grinned at her companion, "So do I get a kiss for this or what, Red?"

"Simple teasing, surly, yet little did she know how it affected Rednanikyz, who at that point was trying hard to see her as just a close companion, and not the mate he was looking for. He knew that if he gave that kiss, his strong resolve would crumble, and he shook his head sternly.

"Ellyia, of course, was oblivious to her companion's struggle, and she laughed before grabbing the tome. What happened next, they would both forever remember.

"The walls of the tomb rumbled, sand spilling from the stone ceiling. Dark energies erupted from the casket, energies that washed over the room like a vile filth, and the strength behind it had both backing up, fear rising. Could the Lord of Terror himself be approaching? Death was a friend to Necromancers, yet the energies spoke of something much worse.

"The lid of the heavy gold casket jerked.

"Ellyia's heavy Bone Armor was refreshed, and her many minions moved to stand between her and the casket. Rednanikyz readied his javelin, and he readied himself for death. They would fight together to the very end.

"The lid jerked again, and it moved slightly. The dull scraaaaaape of the lid sent goosebumps down their spines.

"Both warriors looked at each other, and they nodded. Together, they would fight. Together, they would fall.

"The lid EXPLODED off the sarcophagus, and Rednanikyz barely managed dodged to the side in time to avoid it. The heavy gold slammed into the wall, crushing stone and leaving a gaping hole their that would have been his body. Both sets of eyes didn't leave the open casket, though. They couldn't afford that.

"A deep, dark rumble emerged from the tomb. Hahahahaha... FOOLS!" Zyke imitated the sound perhaps too well, coming deep and unnatural from his throat.

"The powers of death swirled up from the dark hole, bleeding green light into the room in an unholy torrent. They swirled all the way to the ceiling, and slowly something drifted up in that cyclone of uncontrolled Necromantic energies. A corpse, reeking of unholy strength, enchantments, and rituals of the dead meant to empower it, hovered in the swirl of power.

"Hahahahaha! it laughed again. Now I have been freed! You will be the first to know the terror of..." Zyke paused, gauging reactions. Leaning in, eyes wide. Even Andariel was giving him her attention, and she looked as if she couldn't believe what she was hearing. In the good way, of course. "AND the fight between them and the ghost of King Escerez II is another story for another time," he finished, smiling cheekily at them.

A wave of displeased groans answered that, while Andariel let out a harsh, "What?" Beautiful, and another successful night of storytelling.

"Now," Zyke said, rubbing his hands together. "Is there any food? I, for one, am starving after that." Paige tossed leftover gargantuan meat, wrapped in a cloth, at his face hard enough to leave a sharp sting. He thanked her, after a moment.

While they ate, Countess began to explain some of the things Olena would be doing for her. Zyke listened with only a passive ear – most of it was surprisingly standard, from what was expected to how to behave – until one particular comment caught him off-guard. "...and of course attending my bedchamber, once we establish a permanent one. On that subject, on the nights Zyke is too... preoccupied to perform his duties of pleasure – which will happen, unfortunately – you will take his place, using methods I will show you later. Perform well enough and I will return the favor."

Olena's eyes bulged at that, and her eyes dipped to Countess's loincloth before averting suddenly. Countess chortled and patted Olena's pale cheek, now flushing a slight grey. "Women have talents of there own, as you will find." It appeared this trio of Dark Hunters had never attempted such a thing to satisfy their own desires, hence why they had been so adamant the day he met them. Zyke had to work at banishing the images from his mind.

While Countess continued, Zyke turned to Andariel. "Tell me, what did Diablo and his brothers tell you if not of the soulstones?"

Andariel's blank expression dipped into yet another scowl, but this one wasn't directed at any of them. "He attempted to deceive us Lesser Evils. He told us that in their banishment, they had achieved a new form of immortality. We had heard of his defeat at Tristram, and the fact that he was alive again seemed to prove that true. Azmodan and Belial refused to believe that, and they remained in Hell, battling for dominance, indifferent to the Prime Evils. Durial and myself, however... We were deceived like fools! I will see Diablo's heart torn from his chest for that, even if it is by your hand!"

Zyke nodded, slowly. So the other two Lesser Evils had remained in Hell only because of their lust for power. That all seven powers of Hell could have walked the world at the same time...! Durial was still here. He would be recruited, or banished.

"Zyke," Blood Raven said suddenly from his side. He looked at her, seeing her pale face and crimson eyes, framed by raven locks - her gorgeous face, enhanced by the long scar on her left cheek. "Making plans to defeat the enemy is always the proper course of action," she muttered, and a subtle shifting in her legs made him realize that they were clenched together and rubbing, building heat. "But the path to Lut Gholein is long, and time is plenty. I have waited long enough." Her low red top, exposing a good portion of pale cleavage like most rogues, held the visible nubs of her nipples, symbolizing their hardness. Her arousal.

For a moment he just stared at her, and her back, face stony. Then, he leaned over and kissed her, and the fire raged up in her suddenly, breaking down the walls of stone. Her hard expression melted as she leaned into him, responding eagerly to his affections, and her arms wrapped around him.

This, of course, gained the attention from the others. Countess stopped speaking to glance at the low tents. She frowned. "Those allow us to go only one at a time, perhaps two if you like squeezing."

Blood Raven broke the kiss only to growl, "We go alone!" With her spectral voice, no one dared oppose. Then, she was back to the fiery kiss.

They stood from the log, and they began moving to Olena's low tent again.

-lemon-

Zyke's boots and chest armor were removed before entering, clattering to the dirt, as were her still-damaged shoulder pads and soft leather boots. Then, she took him by the shoulders and nearly slammed him onto Olena's bedding, climbing on top of him to resume.

Her full, taut ass Zyke had both seen and felt, finally – and enjoyed – yet her remaining fruits had remained hidden to him so far, building his lusts. The Blood Raven, straddling and kissing him. His length strained against his leggings, pressing against her grinding core, yet even that remained hidden still by the loincloth.

His hands came up behind her, and they slipped under the red top. He began pulling the garment up, only to stop when his arms accidentally bumped the bone spikes protruding from her elbows. Sexy, yet made him move carefully around them. More on her hips, too. Seeing his problem, Blood Raven made a sound against his mouth before sitting up, grinding harder against him, and yanking her top off.

Her pasty, full breasts spilled free suddenly, bouncing against her chest before settling. Full, despite the muscle outlines on her abs and pelvis. Dark nipples opposed her pale flesh, both jutting out. She went down again, but his hands went behind her and, with a good hold on her taunt ass, shoved her forward so she was resting on his stomach, her breasts hovering above his face.

One hand remained on her ass, while the other came up to guide a breast so he could take a nipple into his mouth. She used her hands above his head to stay in that position, and looking up he could see the pleasure on her face. He could feel her juices leaking onto his stomach, too. The hand on her ass slide under her – careful of hip-spikes - to feel the start of her lips, indeed very wet.

His tongue swirled her left nipple one last time before quickly lavishing the right. Then, he just slide her loincloth to the side, which was easier than making her remove it. He could see the wet cleft slowly grinding there without much relief. With another hold on her ass, he scooted her even further, her knees to either side of his head.

He had an even better view of her netherlips this way, pearly even in the dark, and obviously slick. They were parted and engorged. His mouth came up around it, and he thrust his tongue inside her. Demon juices tasted different than a human's, slightly. Not bad, though. His hands finally found a use for those hip-spikes, and her gripped them to get leverage to begin ravaging her with his tongue.

The ethereal sounds she made while he did so were lovely as he swirled his tongue around her walls, pulling back only to lick the length of her slit before entering again. The sight of her from that angle, the entire long distance up, from abs to between the breasts to her blissful face, eyes closed and raven hair falling forward, was everything he ever hoped for from her, but he had his own desires.

He pulled his mouth back, ending with a flick near the top of her slit, and his hands moved to her abs, pushing her back slightly. Blood Raven let out a low sound as the lavishings stopped, but she got the idea and moved from his face. His leggings came off faster to her hands than he thought they could, and suddenly she tossed them out the tent, onto the armor piled there. His length sprang free, and her glowing crimson eyes turned to it.

She bent over between his legs to take it into her mouth, and he inhaled deeply at the pleasure of it. The rogue's tent wasn't very large, and for her to do that meant her ass had to be sticking out for the others to clearly see, and the idea as to what she doing obvious. Well, Andariel was actually standing just outside the tent, watching it all with her arms folded. He ignored her.

He could feel Blood Raven's tongue swirling around his member, her mouth wet and warm. Then, her tongue pressed against the bottom, and she slid him deeper into her mouth and began bobbing. He groaned, hands digging through her hair.

While it felt very good, he wanted to see more of her, and he had her stop. Blood Raven's intense gaze fixed on him as she crawled back up, breasts swaying teasingly, and she stopped when he poked into her stomach. Then, she took him in her hand, eyes still on his, and guided him into her, moving down swiftly – from cold air to warm walls.

She had a sharp intake of breath, and he felt why. Not a virgin, but nearly as tight. A sound escaped his throat.

She started, lifting up and dropping down again with a bounce of her breasts, stomach muscles flexing with her movements. Again she lifted and dropped, and his eyes watched her breasts. Then, she started a slow pace like that for a few moments, then flipped the loose strands of hair behind her head and leaned forward, taking him in her arms in a way that made him lean forward. He thought he got the idea.

One arm came around her tight waist, the other bracing himself, and he began thrusting into her. She met his pace evenly, then growled, "Faster..." He complied, and she made a deep sound in her throat.

Her breasts still bounced with each thrust, and now they were even closer. But as he was enjoying them, suddenly he heard Blood Raven moan, and he felt her clenching him even tighter with her orgasm. She shuddered at the sensation, red eyes staring down at him warmly. But he wasn't done yet.

The arm holding her was used to roll her onto her back, and then he was the one on top. One arm held him up, while the other took a hold of a breast. His kissed her and continued thrusting, and her deep sounds resumed. His fingers rubbed, flicked, and pulled at her nipple, and her back arched into him, giving him even better access to her tight hole.

Unlike Countess, her red embers for eyes stared into his the entire time. He leaned down to kiss her again, still thrusting. Her slick, velvety walls felt amazing around him, and he could feel his own end beginning.

Her arms were around his upper back, nails digging into the flesh there. The hand on her breast left it to also brace himself, and he began thrusting even faster, and he was satisfied to hear her breathing hitch. In and out he went into that tight hole, bringing him closer and closer. The pleasure drove him hard, and he could feel it rising up. Her hands came up behind his head, and she pulled him down to kiss him again, moaning into his mouth.

She came right before he did, clenching his tool as his seed filled her in spurts. He exhaled deeply with that, still locked in a kiss with her warm lips. When it was done, he pulled out and laid himself next to her, his head on her breasts, one of the few softs on her toned body.

She smiled down at him, fingers in his hair. "Thank you, Zyke."

He grinned back. "Any time."

Suddenly, Andariel's voice rose from at the front of there tent. "He's finished. Who's next?" She really was watching to see how well he could perform!

Blood Raven's eyes drifted outside the tent then back to Zyke, but her smile remained. "Enjoy yourself." She pulled his head off her, and she was getting out of the tent just as Countess entered, sensuous smile already on her face. The woman smacked Blood Raven's ass in passing, causing the captain to stiffen for a moment before fixing her loincloth and beginning to recover her gear.

Countess was eager from there, and her clothes were off immediately before she crawled onto Zyke, her deep green skin a contrast to Blood Raven's white, and her soft curves to Blood Raven's hard body. She used her hand to coax him into being ready again, and then she began...

"Next," Andariel said immediately after he had come, and Zyke nearly groaned.

He gave Countess's throat a final suckle, tasting her sweat, and he pulled out, rolling onto his back. Countess smiled at him and kissed his cheek. "Until next time, then." He nodded, and she rose to leave. His eyes followed her full buttocks out, jiggling with a slight limp. By the agreement, she had to be satisfied, after all.

It took some time, but then Aliza shyly entered the tent, dropping her bow off in the pile outside. She then knelt down, eyes not focusing on his nude state, and she seemed surprised to see how wet the sheet was. She was still in full gear, except her boots and shoulder pads.

He laughed, sitting up. "Well, we can't very well do this without looking at each other." She blushed, but she looked at him. He then regarded her seriously. "Aliza, you don't have to do this because they do. Demons, with a higher drive for lust. You-"

"No!" she interrupted quickly, then blushed again. "I want to."

Studying her for a moment, he nodded. Then, he grinned, "You have me at a disadvantage in matter of dress. Shall I fix that, or will you?"

Aliza smiled, and she settled back. "You."

Zyke's grin turned into a smirk as he leaned in and kissed her. She responded, one hand coming around his slick back. His old armor didn't have buckles, so he simple tugged at it until it gave, and he managed to begin lifting it over her head. Aliza lifted her arms to help, breaking the kiss momentarily.

He had always known Aliza to have a large bosom, despite her lithe frame. It was undeniably noticeable, from the amount of cleavage that showed with her armor to the impressions in the armor. Once the armor was over her head, all that came free, and his had his first real view of them.

Countess's were larger, if slightly, but the woman was also larger. On Aliza, that made hers look even bigger. Large creamy breasts with large, brown nipples to match. If he hadn't just been with two equally impressive women, his mouth would have watered. She blushed under his look, self-conscious.

"Magnificent," he assured her finally, and she smiled. He then kissed her again, but that quickly trailed down her pale neck, her collarbone, and down her one of her breasts. One hand went behind her, supporting her lower back, while the other came up to take a handful over the other fantastic breast. He started slowly with her, kisses that turned to licks circling around the nipple but not actually touching. His hand kneaded the other gently.

Aliza moaned softly at his touch, and one of her hands came behind his head, holding it to her bosom.

Then, his hand on her back went lower, snaking under her loincloth to grope her tight ass, and his mouth finally moved to the nipple, getting it wet before suckling. Her moans came a bit louder, and the fingers on his head curled.

After a while more of this, he felt himself hard and yearning for more. He left her nipple wet, and his hands move to help guide her back onto the sheet. She melted at his touch, following at the slightest movement, until she was lying on her back, staring up at him.

Like this, he studied her, dressed only in a loincloth. Her pretty face peered at him intently, though one of her hands came up to undo the ponytail holding her dark red mane back. Under were her magnificent breasts, pulling his attention for a time. Lower, and there were her abs, muscled like Blood Ravens. Then was her only remaining article of clothing - the loincloth – and on either side were pale thighs slender for running. Adorable.

He bent down to kiss her lips again, hers curving to meet his, and again he trailed downwards. This time, he left a wet mark on her right breast before continuing onward. Smooth abs greeted his lips, shifting with her breaths. His tongue felt her bellybutton, and she giggled slightly, causing him to smile before moving on.

Her softer lower stomach became the loincloth, and his eyes searched hers. Harder when they weren't glowing a fiery red, but he found them easy enough. She nodded. His hands came to either side of the strap holding it, and he began sliding it downward. As it dropped, so did his kisses.

Unlike those before, she had a patch of hair there, and he kissed right through it until he reached her lips. The loincloth came off, and he inspected his prize. Dark hair was trimmed, and her netherlips visible through it, glistening and damping the hairs around it. With another smirk at her, he lifted her legs over his shoulders and dipped his head in.

Demons definitely had a different taste, though this had a trace of Aliza to it as well. She gasped and mewled, sounds they hadn't given either, and her hands returned to his head, fingers running through his white hair. His tongue ran the length of her slit a few times before ending at the top and feeling around for her clit, and when he found it she gave a little jerk. He gave that attention for a bit before going lower and penetrating her with his tongue, her coarse hairs tickling his nose.

Her fingers curled in his hair again, and he set to work. Her body shook as he did this, and her moans and gasps increased in frequency, as well as little mewls of his name. As he was finishing up to move on, she suddenly seized his hair, her thighs squeezed his head, and she let out a loud moan. More juices coated his tongue, and he lapped them up, surprised. She had orgasmed from just that.

He then pulled back and lowered her legs, seeing a satisfied grin on her face. Wiping his mouth, he moved forward. His member hovered before her still glistening entrance, and he looked back at her. She gave him another nod, bracing herself on her arms. Her large breasts moved as she lifted herself slightly.

Again, he moved slowly. Just the tip at first, to see her reaction. Then, he slid into her a bit more, and she made a sound. More, and another sound. Finally, he just finished, letting out a hiss. She, like Blood Raven, hadn't done this often, and she was extremely tight. He waited a few seconds, until her eyes were back on his, and then he pulled back and thrust back in. She squeaked. Adorable was the only word!

He moved a bit faster, settling into a rhythm. Her large breasts rewarded him with delightful bounces each thrust, though she didn't seem to notice, biting a lip and giving off her sounds. Her pubic hair was a change, but not an unpleasant one. Another thing that made her Aliza. He could feel it press against him each thrust, as her tightness enveloped him and breasts gave him that intoxicating show.

That continued until she suddenly lunged forward to grab a hold of him, giving off some high sound in her throat as she orgasmed a second time. He laughed, kissing her when she relaxed slightly. Her eyes had dropped to half-lidded, and she almost appeared about to fall asleep. But she wasn't done yet, and neither was he.

"Zyke..." she said softly, almost slurring the word.

"Hmm?" he asked, almost about to start thrusting again.

"Would you like to try my breasts?" Her eyes opened a bit more, and she grinned mischievously at him. His eyebrows rose at that.

Now, he was on his back, member still slick from her juices and standing cold in the night air. Then she was there, kneeling between his legs, her breasts swaying near him. She smiled up at him, and then she started.

Zyke watched, intrigued, as she grabbed her breasts and pressed them to either side of his length, enveloping in their warm, pillowy softness. Then, she used her hands to lift her breasts up and down, the slickness from her juices allowing it to glide, and the pleasure of it filled him. He let out a sound of his own at that, and she smiled again, beginning to go faster.

He could only lean back and let her work, absorbing himself in the pleasure. The friction made it get warmer and warmer. However, the juices from before didn't last long, and it took him giving her a third orgasm, her tight folds clenching him even tighter, before she started again.

As she pumped her breasts over his length, he could feel his own orgasm approaching, and he let her know. She worked faster, and it got even warmer. He watched her working vigorously, her face intent and his tip peaking and vanishing between her impressive assists. He was almost there...! However, the juices dried again, chafing them, and she quickly took him into her mouth, sucking hard. That took him over the edge, and his seed exploded into the back of her mouth.

Aliza took it all, smaller as it was his third so far, and after sliding him out of her mouth, she swallow it all. She then licked her lips, sending him another sly smile. He liked that look on her, especially with her hair loose like that, ponytail removed.

Aliza just moved in to kiss him again when Andariel reminded them of her presence. "Next!" The rogue blushed hard enough to be noticeable in the dark, and Zyke laughed, kissing her again. She dressed quickly, trying to avoid the other woman's eyes.

Olena entered next, and she stripped as fast as Countess had.

A long night, with very little sleep involved.

xxx

The the last of the five Captains of Hell – under direct command from Diablo himself – collapsed with a strangled sound, body splattering into the pool of blood created from the four others. Zyke didn't even need to use corpse explosion to finish him off.

His nostrils flared as he exhaled, his fury and desire for their blood slowly bleeding out of him. Then he was the calm of death, gazing impassively at the decimated horde. Back to the Hell they spawned from, never to return to the mortal plane. The hordes within the Dreadlands were now without leadership.

"Zyke..." his companion muttered, her soft hand resting on his arm. He looked at her, and a great lust blazed up within him. She smiled at him, her javelin clean of blood – she never even had to use it, with him there. "Your strength has truly become great. More than even the Elders of your Necropolis... Greater than even the Prime Evils, should they ever break free." He knew this already, could feel it coursing through his bones with rapturous energies.

He nodded to her, kissing her hotly while surrounded by the still warm corpses of their enemies. "Great enough to stay with you forever."

xxx

Cain was there the next morning, standing on the stone bridge waiting for him. On the other side of the bridge stood a great portion of the remaining rogues, and at the front Kashya and Akara. Also with Cain, however, was a man in grey and blue, sitting on top of a small caravan.

"Warriv is also traveling east, and I felt having a place to rest my weary legs would be welcome," the aged man said as Zyke approached, hobbling over with his walking staff. "He doesn't trust your 'companions' much, but he acknowledges your great deeds, and he feels safe in your capable hands."

Zyke looked at this Warriv, and the man nodded to him. Zyke smiled and waved casually, before nodding to Cain. "That certainly would make things more comfortable in that blasted desert." Cain eyed him for a moment, wise eyes seeing more than just flesh, but he voiced his agreement.

They moved out as two groups, Zyke's companions one and Warriv's caravan the other. Cain walked with Zyke, between both groups.

After awhile of speaking – Zyke had a great desire to speak with the legendary Horadrim Sage, of course – Deckard Cain fell silent. The man rubbed a hand through his considerable beard, and his bushy eyebrows furrowed as he again studied Zyke intimately. Zyke glanced between him and the road enough not seem like he was staring at either, and it was obvious he felt awkward from Cain's look.

Then, the Sage spoke in his strained voice, "There was once a man who shook the world, not too long ago. A young Necromancer, hard as that is to believe, yet the tales I've heard of him always described him so. Powerful enough to make the High Heaven's tremble and the Burning Hell's afraid of the dark, it was said. Word of him spread everywhere I traveled before returning to Tristram. A man of extraordinary deeds, each as great or greater than the last.

"And then, suddenly, he vanished. Rumors still spread around, but nothing new. The Necromancer appeared to have simply stepped off the face of Sanctuary. Some say the gates to the High Heavens had opened for him, and he had took his rightful place there. Others say he broke down the gates to Hell, and he was on his way to purge everything there. Others, still, say he had gone mad and corrupt with his power, and he left to join the forces of Hell."

Zyke looked at the Sage with a raised eyebrow, though the man was now looking down the road instead of at him. Zyke, too, had heard these rumors. Cain finished, "Necromagi Zykinander, was his name. I couldn't help but see some similarities between you and him." Still looking down the road, as if not interested at all. Just making conversation, like saying the sky was blue.

But Zyke heard the inference, and he laughed. One hand clasped Cain on a bony shoulder, careful not to hurt him. "My name is just Zyke, nothing more, and I am just a bard, not some great Necromancer."

Cain nodded casually, yet he appeared unconvinced. "Well, if you ever by chance happen across this Necromagi Zykinander, perhaps you could pass along my thanks for this book, given just over four years ago." The Sage pulled out an aged tome, glinting gold in the light, with a printed man-raven on its cover.

xxx

"Your five years are up, Necromagi Zykinander!"

They had come in the middle of the night. The elite core of Necroguardians, fifty strong, all with their summons out and ready, a trailing army of hundreds of skeleton warriors, magi, and golems of all sorts. Several had even brought revived corpses, now black while under their servitude.

Zyke hadn't been prepared, and his own army wasn't with him at the time. He leapt from the sleeping roll, naked, and his Bone Armor sprang up around him. Without his enchanted gear, he could feel how his mana drained. A fire golem erupted from the ground between him and them, and a Bone Spirit proceeded towards them as he filled the sky with curses.

"I can feel it!" one of the Necroguardians shouted as their army moved to attack him. "He's a Shackled! Necromagi Zykinander is Shackled!"

The woman who was to be his wife had moved when he did, scooping up her javelin – equally naked – and charging the horde, a shout on her lips. Amazon to the bone, and entirely fearless.

But they too had curses, and she was incapacitated fast, to the point where she could only move weakly and gesture towards him. Two Necroguardians held her by the arms, pulling her away. "Zyke!" she shouted, striking blue eyes wide with fear, now.

Bone Walls crumbled under their tenacity, and those minions he managed to strike down – a great deal of them, at that – he couldn't do anything with. His fire golem could barely last ten seconds before needing another recast. His eyes found hers, though, strained as he was by holding them off.

His own eyes filled with fear as he saw her getting dragged away, into the forest surrounding them. "No! Ellyia!"

"Zyke!" she shouted back, struggling weakly yet insistently.

"ELLYIA!" he shouted starting to move towards her. A clay golem was there, suddenly, and it knocked him back even through his Bone Armor. He sprang to his feet again, regardless, panic gripping him. "NO! STOP! ELLYIA!"

"ZYKE!"

xxx

Red, short for Rednanikyz. Zyke, short for Zykinander. One backwards made the other. Switch the names, switch the genders, and Zyke had himself the finest line of stories heard since that of Tristram. The tales of an Amazon and a Necromancer, Ellyia and 'Rednanikyz.' A tale of greatness... and of tragedy. A tale that started with Ellyia, a fool Necromancer poisoned by a blasted viper, falling into the river the sexiest Amazon she had ever met was bathing in. A tale that started with him, a fool Necromancer poisoned by a blasted viper, falling into the river the sexiest Amazon he had ever met was bathing in.

But that wasn't him, not Zyke the Bard. Zyke the Bard was a traveling storyteller, who did what he must when he must. Zykinander was a Shackled Necromancer, corrupted into mostly a demon for his dabbling in the True Arts. Zykinander's darkest desires had been inflamed by his corruption. His lust for pleasure, killing, power, wealth... Zyke the Bard was eager for women, quick to kill enemies, revealed in the power surges, horded the gold he earned from his kills...

Two entirely separate men.

But both had lost their Ellyia, his lovely Amazon mate who was to be his wife one day, where she would have coaxed him into forming a harem, as was natural to her people. She would accept only the greatest from her husband. She was his javelin, and he was her army. Then she had been taken from him, and when she was released, she had died from grief, they said. And so had Zykinander.

In the lows of his life that followed, never a moment sober, a man had taken the remaining husk and breathed to life Zyke the Bard, traveling storyteller of lands near and far. Zyke the Bard was no Necromancer, nor Shackled, nor demon. Just a man recovering, spreading entertainment to the mortal world.

A man who had come to the Rogue Encampment upon hearing news of their Monastery, fleeing east from the tragedy befallen in Bramwell. A man forced into helping them, doing what must be done. Den of Evil, graveyard defilements, Prime Evils... His harem, as had been established, was a tribute to the woman he had lost and would have built one with.

And so now here he was, traveling east still, but with a purpose. To do what must be done. To recruit or kill Durial, another Lesser Evil, before moving on to the three Prime Evils. For breaking his oath to no longer build power again, the Necropolis would come after him. Let them. This time, they would fall.

To Lut Gholein, for them. The next step in this momentous journey. Perhaps a story would be told about it, one day. His story, the story of the storyteller, Zyke the Bard. It had a nice ring to it, if he did say so himself.

Perhaps it would be told... One day.


AN: Alright, let's dissect this story.

The length of just Act I became so long that I decided to end it there, instead of all five acts, and I feel like it would be too much of a stretch to force this along. I gave it all the originality and twists I could. What follows is too expected and repetitive.

A few things to mention. Most descriptions are attempted to be accurate to the game. Beauty, obviously, is impossible to tell from the five pixels that make up faces there, though the scandalous dress code is fairly accurate from what I saw. Descriptions are a mix of what I see from playing and the tiny bit of concept art I peaked at. For example, the red, ripped up leggings I gave Raissa were what I saw, though in an Andy concept art I saw that it was actually supposed to be some strange twisting thing, which I later gave the Vile Archers (I saw the concept art after the Raissa scene). Personalities were forged of a splutter of game quotes and what background story I saw, before adding my things.

This was supposed to be more parody and humor and less sexual, but... That's just how it came out. For example, a Paladin was supposed to appear, called a game name like Holyshieldz, and turn hostile to Zyke, and Zyke kills him and takes his ear. It didn't fit anywhere, though.

As any hardcore Diablo fan might notice – not Hardcore mode, but as in intense – I tried using as much game quotes as I could, as fluidly as I could. That was fun, at least. And things like giving a Mercenary armor got me thinking, and laughing. Really, how do they put in on right there and have it look the same? Making Aliza switch pieces right in front of Zyke was the result, though the trimmings came later.

There might be one more chapter, as there's still some life in this story, but not a complete one like this for Act II. More like an epilogue... Or perhaps a second chapter, one that accelerates the journey through the next four Acts (IE doesn't go through every damn quest), if the response to this is well enough. Would have another few lemons, if so.

This story is complete, so I'll leave my original notes here for your viewing pleasure. Those spawned this story, and from just that all this came. I hope you all enjoyed!


Story: Ladies, Ladies, Ladies. A Necromancer, only one step from being a demon himself, is noticing the attractiveness of the demons he is killing. Possibly harem, obviously parody. Blood Raven joins first, and they fight together (she raises zombies and as they die, he raised the corpses as skeles). Andy, succubi, and lashers. :D

-Take note to observe actual scenarios and looks.

-Never forget NPCs.

-Despite his corruption, he insists on storytelling. Inner Sight claims he is too close to being a demon, but he still insists on storytelling. Tells stories to his ladies. Bard?

-Thawing potions… wink, wink.

-Blood Raven is the Rogue from Diablo I, so her spellbook or whatever has the old spells… like golem.

-Start each chapter with "So there I was…" followed by perhaps a paragraph of first-person, situation detail before moving on to third person story. First scene is surrounded by the Rogues (wink), he holds up his hands "Ladies, Ladies, Ladies, please ~R~."

-His stories resolve around himself, obviously. A necromancer and an amazon. Genders are switched, to throw people off.