One of the things I really like about Diablo III is that many of the small NPCs (non-player characters) have their own stories. Such is the case with Mayor Holus, the rotund, well dressed, guy who players first meet in Act I of Story Mode.
I suspect that Mayor Holus was placed into the game, in precisely the spot he stands in, for functional reasons. He starts out as an intentionally unlikable character. Blizzard could have left it at that, but instead, actually wrote some character development for him. It is the little things like this that make the game so interesting.
Take a look at Mayor Holus and you will see a man who was, until recently, living a life of comfort. He lives in New Tristram, a town where food has become extremely scarce. Many of the villagers, and the drunk guy in the Inn, look like they haven’t had enough to eat for quite some time. Captain Rumford has had to ration food (for both the villagers and the guards). Yet, Mayor Holus looks like he’s been getting his nutritional needs met.
My best guess is that everyone in New Tristram looked about as healthy as Mayor Holus does back before the dead started rising from their graves. It is not unheard of for mayors to live in larger homes than the ones the townspeople live in. Mayor Holus probably had a large pantry full of food before things got bad. He’s been able to rely on it, comfortably, until very recently. Now, he’s down to the same rations as the rest of the town, and he’s not at all thrilled about it. This could be why he decided it was time to pack up and leave.
In addition, you can see that his clothing is finer than what the rest of the villagers are wearing. It’s a nice color, and has fancy gold colored details edging it. His boots are of a higher quality than what your character is wearing when he or she first encounters Mayor Holus!
As soon as you go near Mayor Holus, a nearby villager calls out to you.
Villager: Don’t you dare lift a finger to help our mayor fix his wagon. My brother died defending this town while that bloated coward tried to run away!
It appears that this villager’s brother was one of the newly recruited, and barely trained, soldiers that defend New Tristram from the undead. It is easy to see why she is angry with Mayor Holus. He wasn’t doing a good job. There aren’t enough soldiers, and the ones that are recruited are inexperienced. Food is running out and the Mayor didn’t work on a solution. The Mayor was trying to sneak out of town while the soldiers were putting themselves at risk to defend it.
Mayor Holus starts out as a completely unlikable character.
The Villager’s words pretty much point an arrow at Mayor Holus. The player characters all say something slightly different to him. Much of it can be summarized as “move out of the way”.
Mayor Holus: How dare you speak to me like that! I am the mayor of this town!
This statement shows that, in addition to being accustomed to living a life of comfort, Mayor Holus was also used to having people show him a great deal of respect. He’s offended that the player character speaks to him as though he were just another villager. He points out that he is the mayor of the town – somehow believing that the title still holds the power that it used to. Your character could easily push him out of the way, and Mayor Holus assumes that he or she wouldn’t dare!
The player characters then say something that indicates that they want to walk down the road that Mayor Holus’s cart is blocking. They ask him to move the cart out of the way.
Mayor Holus: Are you mad? This town is doomed! Anyone with a grain of sense should be trying to get out! Will you help me or not?
The player character responds with a colorful “no”, and calls Mayor Holus a coward. I happen to like the way the Barbarian phrases his or her response to Mayor Holus.
Barbarian: No. For now, the safest place for cowards is behind the gates.
Later on, the player character returns to New Tristram to find that Mayor Holus, and his cart, are no longer blocking the road.
Mayor Holus: So this is how it ends? They dragged my cart from the road, but for what? I can’t get it repaired. Might as well dig a hole and die in it.
Who is this “they”? There’s no way to know for sure. Personally, I like to think that after your character ventures out of New Tristram to continue his or her quest, a party of four Barbarians came along and promptly pushed Mayor Holus and his cart right out of the way.
Your character responds to Mayor Holus. Again each character class has a different thing to say. The Barbarian one stands out to me.
Barbarian: And then you would rise as a shambling corpse and find my blade buried in your skull. You still live. Make the best of it.
The pathetic Mayor Holus stays there, on the side of the road, next to his broken cart, for the rest of Act I. He doesn’t appear in Act II at all, but somehow managed to get himself (without his cart) to Bastion’s Keep (in Act III). He has been renamed “Former Mayor Holus”.
Former Mayor Holus now stands not too far from where Myriam the Mystic is located. He is rather close to a doorway where demons have come into the Keep. Perhaps he thinks the nearby soldier will save him if that happens again?
We don’t know what Former Mayor Holus saw, or experienced, on his trip from New Tristriam to Bastion’s Keep. Whatever it was caused him to grow up a little bit.
As before, each player character is going to respond to Former Mayor Holus in their own way. I was playing a Wizard when I first noticed that Former Mayor Holus was in the Keep, so I’m going to go with that player character’s responses.
Wizard: Ah, the cowardly mayor of New Tristram. What brings you to Bastion’s Keep?
Former Mayor Holus: Cruel fortune has left me as a lowly merchant once again!
Here is where we learn that before he was a merchant before he became the mayor of New Tristram. He describes this life as that of “a lowly merchant”. Maybe he wasn’t good at selling things, and didn’t make much money. Or, it could be that the life of a merchant seems “lowly” after living as a mayor for a while. In any case, it is clear that Former Mayor Holus did not come from nobility or from a rich family.
Former Mayor Holus: And now I’m minutes away from slaughter by the demonic hordes! Please escort me out of here! I will pay anything!
Wizard: Why would I do that? It’s much too entertaining, watching you panic.
Mayor Holus has more to say right before the player embarks on the battle with Ghom.
Former Mayor Holus: There’s a terrible stench coming up from below. Oh no! What is demons have infested the larder?
His words show that he knows what it is like to be unable to obtain enough food. He doesn’t want to go through that again.
Wizard: If you are so troubled, perhaps you should go investigate?
Of course, it is the player character (and maybe a follower) who ends up investigating the larder. The next time Former Mayor Holus has something to say is immediately after demons invade the Keep.
Former Mayor Holus unintentionally ends up in the middle of the battle. He kind of curls into himself and covers his head with his hands.
Former Mayor Holus: You see? They can kill any of us at any time! I won’t wait a second longer. I am leaving now!
He prepares to run away again. Where will he go this time? I don’t think he’s got that worked out yet. His words are motivated by fear.
Wizard: You would leave the safety of this keep to be exposed out there? You’re not only a coward; you’re a fool as well.
Another short conversation between the player character and Former Mayor Holus happens later on, after the player finishes more quests.
Former Mayor Holus: Now’s the time to run, isn’t it? While there’s a lull in the fighting?
Wizard: Who would know better when to flee than a coward like yourself?
The next conversation between Former Mayor Holus and the player character is significant. He’s starting to wake up and become braver.
Former Mayor Holus: I am told you are going out to the battlefield on your own. Is that wise?
This is the first time he shows compassion and concern about the wellbeing of someone other than himself. He’s worried that the player character is going to get hurt or killed. He cares enough to try and warn the player character that maybe going onto the battlefield alone isn’t a good idea.
Wizard: Why don’t you join me?
Former Mayor Holus: I am not a coward. I just want to live!
This statement is a big change from when we last saw him. Before, his viewpoint was “Might as well dig a hole and die in it”. He had completely given up. Whatever struggle he went through on his way to Bastion’s Keep has toughened him up a bit. A coward would have turned back to New Tristram the first time he had to fight zombies. Former Mayor Holus kept going!
He says “I just want to live!” Former Mayor Holus is saying two things in that statement. One: he’s no longer depressed enough to be considering dying in a hole. Two, he just wants to live. He’s no longer self-identifying as a “Mayor”, and he has left his belongings behind. He doesn’t seem to miss what he has let go of. All he wants now is to live.
Unfortunately, he still speaks in a manner that sounds kind of whiney and complain-y.
Wizard: You call it living. I call it groveling.
The last conversation between the player character and Former Mayor Holus shows that he continues to change and grow as a person.
Former Mayor Holus: If ever there was a time to run, this would be it. But where would I run to? Maybe it is better to stay and fight for your life when the time comes.
The “lightbulb” has gone on for Former Mayor Holus. He’s beginning to grasp why the soldiers fight off the demons who enter the Keep, and why the player character is going out to the battlefield all by themselves. “Maybe it is better to say and fight for your life when the time comes.” This is a moment of enlightenment for Former Mayor Holus. He’s evolving.
Wizard: Holus! I am shocked. One might think you a sensible person if you keep talking like that.
Leave it to the Wizard to give someone a snarky compliment at the very moment they show signs of becoming a better person. That being said, I cannot imagine a more Wizard-like way of acknowledging the changes in Former Mayor Holus. Before, the Wizard was calling him a fool. Now, the Wizard identifies him as a sensible person.
After the player character has slayed Azmodon, its time to talk to Former Mayor Holis once again.
Wizard: Holus, you surprise me. You didn’t run!
This is probably as close as the Wizard is going to come to saying “I’m proud of you.” After all his talk about running away, Former Mayor Holus decided to stay in Bastion’s Keep. He’s become braver than he’s ever been and is making decisions from his new found emotional strength (instead of from a place of fear).
Blizzard didn’t have to put this much character development into an NPC that many players are going to overlook (once they get past Act I). I’m glad they gave Former Mayor Holus some story. By the time the player reaches the end of Act III, there are good reasons to like Former Mayor Holus.
Don’t get overly attached, though. Former Mayor Holus briefly appears in Act IV, and the end of his story is bittersweet.
Here lies Former Mayor Holis. What happened to him while the player was gone? The nearby Guard of the Keep explains.
Guard of the Keep: That fat merchant never ran, not even when he had a chance. I wonder why.
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