|An excerpt from the manuscripts of Deckard Cain: Last of the Horadrim |
Regretably, I was the only man in Tristam who knew about the Soulstone buried beneath the ancient Monastery. As the last descendant of the Horadrim, I alone knew the truth about what the crimson stone held locked within it. Perhaps if I’d told them all about it, our quiet little village would have been spared. Perhaps this horrible chain of events might never have come to pass.
In truth, I suspect that it was the Archbishop Lazarus who first fell prey to the Soulstone’s burning power. He had been sent from Kurast as an ambassador of the Zakarum Church. Cloaked in the Light as he was, no one even suspected the treachery he proved capable of. Apparently, it was he who discovered the crimson stone within the labyrinth under the Monastery . . . and shattered it.
Whether it was madness or some insidious agenda that drove him, Lazarus released upon us an unspeakable horror. Diablo, the Lord of Terror, who was imprisoned within the Soulstone by my ancestors, was set loose upon the world once again. Somehow, Diablo used his hell-borne powers to transform the dank labyrinth into a gateway that led straight into the gaping maw of Hell itself. His murderous servants took up residence within it and awaited anyone foolish enough to plumb its darkened recesses. Our own noble sovereign, King Leoric, fell under Diablo’s sway and spiraled down into the depths of madness and fear. As our maddened King gripped the land in an iron fist, his only son, Prince Albrecht, was kidnapped by Lazarus and spirited away into the ruined Monastery. We watched as the dark things under the earth began to venture into our village, terrorizing all who had chosen to remain. Those were dark days for all of us . . .
By day we worked our farmlands as we always had, trying in vain to ignore the growing sense of the terrors which emanated from the ruined Monastery. By night, we huddled with our families and prayed for the light of dawn to come. After what seemed like an eternity, deliverance finally made its appearance.
A steady stream of heroes and adveturers from all across the known world came to investigate the rumors they’d heard about the growing evil in Tristam. Some came seeking fortune and glory, while others sought to test themselves against the mysterious beasts which slept beneath the earth. Even Sorcerers from the ancient Vizjerel Mage Clan came to study the evil that had awakened in our land. Though the many adventurers nearly bled our village dry, all our hopes for salvation rode on their shoulders.
There was one warrior among them, a quiet, brooding man, who stood out from the rest. None of us ever caught his name, or spoke more than just a few words with him. Yet he radiated a calm and a focus that unnerved even the staunchest of the other would-be heroes. It was this mysterious warrior who fought his way into the deepest recesses of the labyrinth. It was he who finally defeated the Lord of Terror in single combat.
When I close my eyes, I can hear the sound of Diablo’s tortured death cry echoing in my ears. It rumbled up from the deep earth and shattered the windows of the decrepit Monastery. It may only have been my imagination, but I distinctly remember the sound of a young child screaming in the midst of the anguished roar. The echoes of that cry still torture the few hours of sleep I am able to get.
I still remember the sight of the warrior as he crossed the Monastery’s threshold and stepped out into the light of the sun. He looked as if he had walked through Hell itself. And who’s to say . . . maybe he had.
He was covered in both his own blood and that of his enemies. Yet strangely enough, my eye was drawn to a strange wound on his forehead. It looked as if he had somehow gouged himself above his eyes, yet the wound already appeared to have healed. I never did get a chance to question him about it.
Suffice it to say, we believed that our village had been saved, and we bequeathed all manner of rewards upon our nameless hero. Despite the praises and accolades given him, he slipped further and further into a deep, brooding depression. I could only imagine the mind-numbling horrors he had seen beneath the dark earth. I could only speculate as to how they had affected his heart and mind.
He stayed among us for a time. He had no family and nowhere else to go, so it seemed logical that he should be welcomed in Tristam. Though he was cordial to those who approached him, he usually kept to himself and seldom came out of the house that we had given him. Ogden suggested that we throw a celebration in the hope that strong drink and good company would snap him out of his dark mood. We were mistaken. At some point during the celebration he slipped away and left us none the wiser. Later in the evening I paid a visit to his home. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw there.
The nameless man sat alone in his own entryway, muttering to himself in different languages, many of which had not been used in centuries. He had donned a dark travelling cloak, and its deep hood hung low over his face. When he turned toward me, the firelight glinted off his tortured features, revealing the distorted visage of a man who was no longer himself. His eyes shone with a crimson haze and an eerie red light pulsed from the depths of the hood. The wound on his forehead had opened . . . And I thought
I asked him if he was well, yet he just continued to ramble on. I was thoroughly unnerved by the whole scene and had made up my mind to leave him in order to bring help, when suddenly he seemed to snap to atention and spoke with an icy voice that filled my heart with a paralyzing dread. “The time has come to leave this place. My brothers await me in the east. Their chains will bind no longer.” I had then no idea what he was talking about. We were all under the impression that he had no family. Yet, seeing that he had come back to his senses, I decided to take my leave and let him rest. In fact, at that moment, I was quite terrified by him and wished to escape his burning gaze. It was the last time I ever saw him.
Our nameless hero left Tristam early the next morning. In secrecy he set off towards the eastern pass with only a pack of provisions and his sturdy sword. I can only guess what he went searching for. Shortly after his departure, our worst nightmares came true. The demonic servants of Hell returned to Tristam.
As of this writting, I am the only survivor left. I have evaded the foul beasts for many nights, but I know that my time is running short. Why they’ve returned and why they butchered so many innocents. I’ll never know. All that I am sure of is that their arrival is somehow tied with the nameless one’s departure . . . I have written all of this down in the hope that someone will find these passages and attempt to right what transpired here. I expect that my life will end soon, but perhaps these writtings will help to prevent this tragedy from befalling other villages, other lands. I will remain here until help arrives or the creatures finally come for me. Heaven help me. Even after all that’s happened, I cannot bring myself to abandon this dismal place.