My gift to the Loot Devs. Enjoy.
Striding purposefully through the corroded gates - their impassable enchantments temporarily nullified by the geas of Gustavine Kyerrh - Miz Pookle surveyed the cracked and pitted marble walkway thoughtfully. After jumping on the spot a few times to make sure the footing wasn't likely to give way, she unrolled a summoning parchment, muttered the activating Words and made the arcane Come Hither gesture. After a pause just long enough to be irritating, there was a sudden movement of air as her annoying-but-faithful sidekick Ayron Staliya -"Cleric for Hire. Cheap Hourly Rates. No refunds. " - appeared, immaculate as always.
"Morning Pooks, what we up against this time?"
She sniffed crossly, and favored the errant ecclesiast with her best hard stare. "Don't call me that. I'm am Miz Pookle, Eternal Warrior and Lady Knight of the Order of Order, and don't you forget it. We're in the Vale of Twilight: do you know it?"
"Of course I know it; I know everywhere," he said loftily, and looked down over the edge of the walkway. "This end's infested with giant spiders of six or seven different varieties, ogres carrying great big clubs, scorpions (Fiendish, Vile and Other), the odd invisible Thing, elementals, spellcasting rakshasas and occasionally a deranged Djinn."
"All that? Seems like an odd arrangment... Why such a mixture?"
Ayron rolled his eyes. "Don't ask me. It's an extraplanar incursion, it's not supposed to make sense. Anyway, didn't you get a back-story in the briefing?"
Miz Pookle turned hurriedly without catching his eye, suddenly very interested in the scenery.
"Anyway," continued Ayron, "I hope you're better-equipped than the last guy I escorted through here. Bloody sorcerors think all they've got to do is chuck a few fireballs around and the monsters will run for cover. Well, not in these parts they won't, let me tell you. Scroll-healing's all very well, but he'd have done better to eat more red meat and do a few pushups from time to time if you ask me; a couple of bites and he folded like a cheap card table. I got chased halfway across the country, totally out of mana, following his ghost with his soulstone in my arms while a swarm of ticked-off spiders tried to have ME for dessert. And had the client buffed me? A little Blur, a little Heroism maybe? Had he hell. Give me a meat-shield to babysit every time; at least they don't think they're bleedin' invulnerable. The customer's always right and all that, but I tell you, if I had a platinum piece for every time..."
"Alright, alright, thank you for the warning Sir Staliya and your dedication to duty is, as always, noted. You need not fear, in any case. My recent travails in the Orchard of the Macabre have gifted me with powerful new items with which to stand against my foes."
"Hmmm. If you say so. Shall we get going, then?"
"Certainly. My quest is to find the fabled outpost of Meridia, and I shall not falter nor turn aside!"
"Right-oh Boss. Lead the way!"
Without further ado, Miz Pookle jumped off the walkway to the grassy terrain below and the waiting embrace of lurking arachnids. After thoughtfully observing the resulting confrontation for perhaps half a minute, Ayron teleported down to join her.
"Going alright is it, Pooks?"
Panting with exertion, the Lady Knight flourished her flashing greatsword in a mighty overhead swing, biting into the mandibles of an oncoming Twilight Spider. It didn't appear unduly perturbed, but the brave Lady Knight pressed her attack regardless, laying into the maddened creature with a savage flurry of blows.
Still swinging, she growled; "Don't... call... me... that... OUCH!"
Her exclamation was occasioned by a sudden blow to the back of her helmeted head, blurring her sight for a moment as an indistinct shape lashed out at her; even with her magically-enhanced vision, she hadn't seen it approach.
"Ayron, a little help here perhaps?"
"Sorry, what? Oh, right, hang on..."
Pookle straightened as divine healing energies flowed through her, and with renewed vigor she finished off the Twilight Spider with a vicious thrust before turning her attention to the barely-seen shape that had struck her moments before. Putting her whole body into a manoeuvre she had practised for endless hours to perfect, she cried out and swept her greatsword in a magnificent circle around her, slicing into her assailant's body and finally putting the creature down. It wasn't any easier to see dead than alive, and Pookle was suddenly struck by the unworthy thought that at least this creature - whatever it was - wouldn't be adding anything to the cost of laundering her tunic; its blood was invisible, too.
Ayron stood still, unwilling to move lest more spiders sensed the trembling of the ground and came to investigate.
"Hey, Pook... er... Lady Knight, are you sure about that gear you're wearing? No offense and all that, but I can't help but notice that you seemed to be struggling a bit. I normally don't have to break out the big divine mojo until at least the Memorial Pillar."
"Hmmm," replied the valiant warrior woman, "you may have a point. As you know, I am the Warrior Eternal and have fought these benighted things through many lives. Shades of the past - heroes of bygone days, whom I once was and may one day be again - whisper in my ear and urge me to victory... or at least, they did. Now they're laughing and telling me that I ought not to be having this much trouble with a couple of jumped-up bugs and a see-through elemental. I don't understand it! I carved my way through the Orchard without raising a sweat! Have the monsters out here had an upgrade?"
"Nope," shrugged Ayron "I don't think so. I reckon your problem's a bit more fundamental than that, but what do I know? I'm just the hired help, after all."
Miz Pookle fixed him with a quizzical stare. "Sir Staliya, I know you: you're thicker-skinned than a rhinoceros and as subtle as a Tarrasque. When you pretend to have hurt feelings it's because there's something you want to say that I'm really not going to like. Spit it out."
Ayron sighed deeply.
"Look, just... You were Reborn to your new life quite recently, weren't you?
"That's true," she replied suspiciously "but I don't see..."
"Let's have a look at your items and see, shall we? For instance, what's that sword you're swinging?"
"It's my pride and joy, the best sword I've found: a +4 Acid Greatsword of Ghostbane, with Masterful Craftsmanship! Alright, so it might not be ideally suited to the environment, but..."
"You don't have, say, Vermin Bane?" asked Ayron, cutting her off. Miz Pookle paused for a moment, a look of confusion on her face.
"Vermin Bane? What's..." she stopped and cocked her head slightly to one side as though listening to something. Ayron recognised her expression; the Warrior Eternal was communing with her previous selves. "Oh. I see. No, I can't say I have."
"Well, what about that one?" said Ayron, pointing at another of the many weapons bristling from her Sheath of Unfeasible Size.
"Um. +1 Cursespewing of Ghostbane."
"+3 Shock of Ghostbane."
"+3 Frost of Ghostbane"
"I'm starting to see a pattern here. What about those?"
"Frost-with-a-Slightly-Bigger-Number of Ghostbane and... um..." she read the arcane label on the other hilt and her lips moved soundlessly for a moment "...er, there seems to have been some sort of mistake. Apparently this is a +Ghostbane Ghostbane of Ghostbane." Miz Pookle looked embarrassed, an expression that seemed out of place on her noble features, and then her face brightened as she reached into her enchanted back-pack and pulled out yet another massive shimmering blade.
"Ah, yes, now we're talking! This one," she drew it forth proudly and made a couple of impressively martial-looking passes with the cumbersome weapon, "is a Deception Greatsword of Riposte!"
Ayron's face conveyed volumes that his Contract did not permit him to verbally express. He struggled for a moment to find the right words, and finally asked, cautiously; "And... you, a Warrior of the Order of Order, can take advantage of the opportunities to sneak attack your opponent, can you?"
"Not as such, but..."
"What does Riposte do? Respond with a witty comment if the monsters use harsh language?"
Pookle frowned as she examined the weapon more closely. "Um. Never mind. Really."
"Well," said Ayron brightly, "What about defenses? What are those bracers you're wearing?"
She traced the sigils engraved on the leather with a shapely fingernail. "Fortifying Bracers of Speed!"
"That sounds good; what exactly do they do?"
"They increase my fortification by 40% and make me attack faster by... 3%..."
"And your armour?"
"+5 Retributive Platemail of Hammerblock"
"OK," said Ayron, "Boring as all-get-out, but I've heard worse. And those boots?"
"Speed Boots of Fortifying, making me yet more invulnerable to critical hits and even faster in combat!"
"Really? They stack with the bracers, do they?"
"Well, of course they must! I mean, otherwise why would..." Ayron saw the Lady Knight's shoulders slump as she deciphered the closely-packed glyphs. "Oh," she said. "I've been so blind; all these items, I don't understand..." She stuttered to a halt, looking bewildered.
Ayron looked upon the flustered warrior with a compassionate gaze. "Look, things have changed a little since you were last Incarnated, that's all. You're the Warrior Eternal; surely you have access to artifacts of power from your earlier lives?"
"Yes," said Miz Pookle in a small voice, sounding thoroughly dispirited, "I have a small cache of items my previous selves thought might be of use in the battles to come, but with all these new enchantments, surely there must be..."
"There aren't," interrupted Ayron, not unkindly. "Let's just get out of here, shall we?"
Miz Pookle nodded quietly, and summoned the energies that would transport her back to civilisation, and the Vaults of House Kundarak wherein her ancient treasures lay...
Ayron continued "Only I can see some chap in a fez floating around over there, and with the sort of gear you're wearing I don't think it would be a good idea to make the Djinn fizz. Djinn fizz, geddit?!"
The Lady Knight, Warrior Eternal of the Order of Order shot him a murderous glare and opened her mouth to respond, but the portal closed over her before she could speak, and in an instant she was gone.
Ayron shook his head sadly, invoking his Early Termination Clause with a sense of relief. As the magics in the Contract transported him back to his luxury apartment in Stormreach, he muttered to himself : "I really HATE escort quests!"
 The very small print at the bottom is not, as it appears, a decorative border. It's an addendum, written backwards in Ancient Vulkoorim script - a language so obscure and difficult that the last scholar who tried to speak it choked to death on his own tongue while trying to recite its alphabet - and reads: "Not licensed to operate in environments containing pools of lava, pits of acid or other noxious substances. You have been warned."
This fan fiction was brought to you by Update 19, and the letter W.