The Ballad of the Hamster (Part Eight)

 

Coldcrow

Hamster II hadn’t been sure what to expect out of life. After all, he’d dropped into it, fully-formed and complete with baggage, from – as far as he could tell – absolutely nothing. It was difficult to expect much, given the starting conditions. But he’d found a lot of what he’d seen to be dispiriting and silly, and he’d spent a lot of time being unhappy about it to varying degrees. If anybody had asked him, he supposed he would have liked to say that, as life progressed and things began to happen to him in meaningful ways, the silliness and irritation would begin to fall into context. He’d realise that it was him, and not the world, that was mixed up, and things would start to make sense.

However, this didn’t seem to be happening yet. So far, things had been continuing in a way he found annoying and pointless, and he really couldn’t think of anything good to say about it at all. And he fancied himself as a man with some imagination. He could, after all, raise skeletons from next to nothing, and clay golems from loam.

Now he was picking his way through what ought to have been a pitch-black cave, but wasn’t. It was, in fact, quite well-lit, but there were no cracks through to the overcast daylight above, nor were there luminous fungi. Occasionally he’d come across groups of devilkin or carvers that had hung their caverns with torches, but that couldn’t account for it all. It had taken him a while, but he realised that the light was in fact coming from himself.

This small inexplicable and annoying fact was dominating his mind, because he would much rather think about it than the other annoying facts in his life at that time, such as the fact that he was still running around and getting his knees dirty on the whims of the collection of bossy smoozes at the Rogue encampment. He’d explored the Stony Field as far as he cared to, and had even backtracked to Bloodraven’s graveyard and looted a couple of the larger crypts there, but hadn’t managed to achieve anything beyond postponing the inevitable. So he’d sighed, and climbed into the tunnel.

And here he was. Somewhere underground. And down here, in the lichenny twilight amidst the tree roots and the stifling lack of space and oxygen, there were…

Huge gorilla bear sorts of things.

Did that make sense? They weren’t even hibernating. In fact, if anything, they seemed to be looking for a fight. Only no force on Earth could goad them to attack the devilkin or their annoying, jabbering shamans. Oh no. They would only attack him.

In an unfair world, Hamster II was forced to increase his Barry complement to five. Murph, his golem, took a beating at the hands of a collection of ‘champion’ ape-bear things, but Hamster II was able to bring him back as soon as he collapsed. At the end of the fight, Hamster II loaded himself down with gold and strange potions, and almost came out of the whole thing, on balance, feeling quite good. Champions, as well as being harder to kill and a lot faster and stronger, also had a better quality of loot. This was an almost-logical mathematical point, and restored a little of Hamster II’s equilibrium.

Coldcrow lurked in the lowest reaches of the tunnels, for reasons that escaped Hamster II, and everybody else besides. She was at least as daunting a prospect as Rakanishu and Bloodraven, she had a nice collection of minions and a devastating icy attack. Why these powerful enemies hadn’t teamed up long since, and swept the Rogues of the Sightless Eye into the pages of history, was a mystery. Why one of them hung out in a graveyard, and another deep in a hole in the ground, was another mystery, and one Hamster II didn’t feel qualified to deal with. Why a cave-dwelling demoness had embraced as her weapon of choice a long bow was something Hamster II was willing to overlook, since he and Fiona were both guilty of much the same thing.

After a halfhearted attempt at cutting a deal, Hamster II was compelled to kill her, or at least watch while Murph and Fiona did, while he shot aimless bolts at her milling minions. Then he searched her rather rank-smelling body, and found a warhammer. When he’d searched the long-bow-wielding Bloodraven, he’d found a crossbow, but a warhammer just seemed to be adding insult to injury, and he would have dropped it back on the floor and walked away if it hadn’t occurred to him that the stupid thing might fetch a good price.

These activities had given him ample opportunity to get completely lost in the tunnel network, even though he’d been casually sketching himself a map as he went, lit up as he was by Hamsterlight. He eventually located the way back to the surface, but it was a long way away, and he wasn’t in the mood to go all that way just so Charsi or Akara could give him one gold piece for Coldcrow’s amazing bow-that-was-a-warhammer, and then send him away on another stupid mission or talk to him more about Deckard Stupid Cain. So he explored a side-passage, and eventually crawled his way up to the surface after all.

“Well Barry, Barry, Barry, Barry, Barry, Fiona and Murph,” Hamster II looked around, “we’re not in the Stony Field anymore.”

This could only, as far as Hamster II was concerned, be a good thing.

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