The Ballad of the Hamster (Part Six)

Day 88. 149,907 words.


The Electrifying Rakanishu

“Look,” Hamster II said, trying to conceal his annoyance for the simple joint reasons that a) Akara seemed to have an infinite supply of money and magical weapons, and b) there seemed to be no way he could feasibly attack her, or get any of his posse to do so either. “It’s a ruby. Glitter glitter. Those cracks will wash right out. You can’t offer me two hundred for it. It’s worth at least a million. Okay, half a million.”

“The last time anybody saw him, he was in the small village of Tristram, before a great misfortune-”

“This has little or nothing to do with my ruby,” Hamster II surmised. “I’ll tell you what. Three hundred thousand, and I’ll throw in this … pebble.”

“That’s an el rune!” Fiona exclaimed. “How exciting! Can I have it?”

“Whatever,” Hamster II tossed her the pebble, and she pressed it proudly into the front of her studded leather armour.

“I’ll put that to good use,” she assured him.

“See that you do,” Hamster II turned back to Akara, who had at least stopped burbling about Deckard Cain, whoever he was. “Okay,” he went on, “I didn’t want to do this, but I’ll throw in Bitter Quill, and the ruby, and this one which I think is a topaz or yellow glass – but very expensive yellow glass, they don’t make it like this anymore … and my stick, and … you can have the golem, he’d be good at heavy lifting. But I’ll want a clear million.”

“May the Sightless Eye watch over you on your quest.”

“The Sightless Eye can stick my quest up its sightless eye,” Hamster II snapped. “How much will you give me for Bitter Quill?”

“One thousand, three hundred and seventy-three gold pieces.”

“Oh,” Hamster II glared at the crossbow, and then at Fiona, and then at Barry, Barry, Barry, Barry and the golem. Of the six of them, only the golem didn’t grin and caper. The golem rumbled. Hamster II looked back at Bitter Quill, and swore. “Okay, fine. How about I swap you the ruby for a few quivers of crossbow bolts?”

“Deal. And here is your change,” Akara, suddenly very helpful, handed Hamster II a small palmful of gold and a bundle of crossbow bolts. “May the Sightless Eye-”

“Yeah yeah.”

“Would you like to get rid of your old wand and buckler?”

“How much-”

“One gold piece each.”

“Yeah, whatever, why not.”

“Will you be requiring scrolls or potions?”

“Are there any that I can use to drug Warriv and steal his wagon?”

Grumbling to himself, Hamster II wandered back over to the Waygate, queasied himself through the battered old teleport system, tripped and twisted his ankle on a dead Rogue, and stalked away across the Cold Plains. His ever-growing collection of Barries, the as-yet unnamed golem, and the ever-chirpy Fiona followed along behind, occasionally diverting to attack the local fauna and flora. Hamster II found himself hard-pressed, in spite of himself, to fault the golem’s strength or Fiona’s skill with the bow. Many was the time a zombie fell, dead again after such a brief holiday, pincushioned with arrows and stomped flat at strategic locations by a huge pair of clay feet.

He left the Cold Plains, and entered the Stony Field. This was amusing, in a bitter sort of way, because it was no warmer and, apart from the weird ring of monoliths away in one corner, not a great deal more stony either. Still, since stones seemed to be the point of it, Hamster made his way towards the monoliths. There seemed to be some sort of party going on around them.

Several questions answered themselves at this point. First and foremost, as little as he liked it, Hamster II now knew who this “Rakanishu” guy was that the little red midgets were always shouting about. Only, the little red midgets in the Stony Field were in fact little blue midgets, they were a bit tougher than usual, and the ones having a party around the standing stones were even tougher still. And they moved in fast-motion.

Other questions included “how good a shot am I with this bow?”, “how many little blue guys can my golem squash before he falls apart?”, “how much longer can I keep bringing back skeletons when there aren’t any bodies to do it from?”, and “how am I going to tell Kashya that her girlfriend’s dead?”

Although the lattermost question, in retrospect, didn’t have an immediate answer, except possibly, “with a big smile.” The rest of the questions had unpleasant answers, and Hamster II ran away, brilliant crawling spiders of lightning pulsing along the ground behind him.

After regrouping in the Cold Plains for a while, killing some vile huntresses and assorted irritating life-forms and bringing his force of Barries back to full strength, Hamster II was glad for Bitter Quill’s handy mana-adding feature, which he folded out of the crossbow’s butt and used several times when he thought it unlikely anybody was looking. Then he had a brief think about it, and tried to bring the golem back. It worked. The heavy yellow-brown thing shouldered its way up out of the almost-black loam, as incongruous as a human skeleton rising up out of a hedgehog.

“Mnurrrrgh.”

“Yeah, you already said,” Hamster II eyed the golem up and down critically. “Do you have a name?”

“Muurf.”

Hamster II, Barry, Barry, Barry, Barry and Murph headed purposefully back into the Stony Field, to do battle with the outrageously fast and unpleasantly electrical Rakanishu. Hamster II stood well back and shot bolts as best he could, and even managed to raise a couple of skeletons from the bodies of Rakanishu’s minions. He brought Murph back, shot some more, and finally the storm of creeping lightning came to an end. One of Hamster II’s boots had melted slightly, and he had a nasty tingling sensation in his left arm from the lightning bolts, but a swig of ‘potion’ was enough to straighten him out. He was beginning to suspect that most of Akara’s ‘potions’ were in fact industrial-grade alcohol from the still she had constructed in her tent.

They stood for an obligatory moment over the crumpled body of Fiona. Hamster II couldn’t help but notice with muted hilarity that her pigtails were standing on end from the electricity Rakanishu had pumped through her.

The slightly-drunk necromancer cleared his throat.

“What can we say about a Rogue like Fiona?” he asked the grey, uncaring sky.

Then they left.

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