Carrion Crown

Ill Met in Illmarsh

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The Mayor of Illmarsh asked you to investigate The Recondite Order of the Indomitable Sea in connection with strange disappearances and bizarre occurrences in Illmarsh. He promised to reward you with information about The Dark Rider.

You discovered that The Recondite Order of the Indomitable Sea is not an order dedicated to Gozreh. It is actually a cult of Dagon.

You discovered The Vizier of the Recondite Order was headed to The House of Undiomede to try and meet with The Neighbors down the Bay, to “foster” a young couple’s daughter.

The Vizier seems to have been attacked by a mysterious slug creature. The same kind of creature nearly infested Mordren. These creatures seem to explode their victims head. The Cult had collected the bodies of many missing persons, victims of the slugs.

You discovered that a visiting Merchant from Caliphas, and victim of the strange slugs, was actually an agent of the Whispering Way. He coordinated a trade off between The Dark Rider and whoever holds the unnamed artifact the Whispering Way needs. This meeting was to take place at The House of Undiomede.

Hidden behind the Altarpiece in the Temple of Dagon is a small wooden door with a brass nameplate over top of it. It is clearly many years old. The nameplate reads: “Walter B. Derleth”

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One morning on the Road

In the early morning, Bjorn heads outside the camp to a quiet clearing nearby. He takes with him is sword, shield, and breastplate, but leaves the remaining parts of his armor at the camp. In a small bag is some silver dust, onyx shards, the vials of unholy water, a book, and some assorted spell components.

The book, a copy of The Acts of Iomedae, is in good condition. Bjorn picked it up on his last day at Asconor Lodge. It seemed to be well ignored by most of the previous guests and was therefor in good condition. He expected to read it while traveling to Feldgrau and back, but his quest now takes him south the Thrushmoor. He will have to return it when he can.

One of the lesser acts mentioned in the book was the purification and sanctification of the unholy. And so this his test for the morning.

He builds a small hot fire, then while saying a prayer to Iomedae, he trows the onyx shards in to the fire. This represented the purging of evil though the powers of Holy Fire. Once added to the fire, Bjorn charges the fire with positive energy causing the shards to turn to dust and mix in with the ash.

After the fire dies down, he takes out the vials of unholy water and recites another prayer from The Acts. Then he sprinkles the silver dust over one of the vials and charges it again with positive energy. The vial shatters with the excess of energy. After a few moments of contemplation, Bjorn centers himself and tries again. This time instead of invoking the name of the Inheritor, he just lets the holy energy flow though is hands and soft light the vial. The water bubbles and spills but it stays mostly intact.

Bjorn repeats the process on the remaining two vials and each time it is done with more control and stability. When it is all done, he takes the vials and sprinkles the newly purified water over his sword, breastplate, and shield to symbolize that from corruption comes purity and that purity will protect him from the corruption.

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The Story of Elk Runner

The first entry is dated ten years prior to the Professor’s funeral. It is written in Varisian with large careful blocky letters. Several of the words are misspelled and it is clear that this is an entry by someone unused to writing.

A woman named Cam has stayed with us for the last two weeks. She was hurt in the woods and mom has been helping her. I like Cam and she has been helping me learn to write. It is hard because I have to learn using the town language. Cam says I am really smart. She tells me a lot of stories about the big city down south. I really want to go see it some time.

The next pages are covered with surprisingly detailed drawings of animals and trees, each with a little description. A number of other images have been folded up and stuffed between the pages. The next dated entry is six months later.

Mom and dad came back today. Hegrev and I had been exploring the ruins when they came home. I was surprised when we saw them because they weren’t supposed to be back for another week. Kar was with them but when I asked about Bevor mom just started crying. Bevor had startled a mother bear and she attacked him. Mom and dad chased it off but Bevor was dead. Dad and Hegrev were crying too but I just sat next to mom and stared at Bevor’s bag. Last night I couldn’t sleep right and every time I closed my eyes I had terrible dreams about the bear and Bevor. I would shout and shout but he never saw the bear until it was too late.

The nature drawings continue after this entry but many are covered with scribbled ink while others contain disturbing images of animal corpses, insect nests, and various molds and fungi. The descriptions, especially concerning the decomposition of corpses, are significantly more detailed and the handwriting is dramatically improved. There are no personal entries until 4 years later.

Bevor died four years ago today. I still have the dreams, but they come less frequently now. My parents decided that it would be safer if I didn’t stay behind at the cabin alone when they went out on their expeditions. Hegrev, they said, was old enough to come with them but the thought it would be better if I went to live with father’s cousin Belor Hemlock in Sandpoint. Cousin Belor has been amazing. He has been very supportive despite all my frustrating mood swings. For once the natural distrust people of my clan suffer has worked in my favor and I have been largely free to come and go as I please without the need to be social.

When Belor saw my drawings he introduced me to Ilsoari Gandethus who has been teaching me about magic and every other topic I can ask about. Between him and Aliver Podiker, the town apothecary that is shunned almost as much as I am, I have learned a lot about the natural world and how it works. I don’t want to admit it but coming here has been rewarding. I have learned more here than I could have on my own at the cabin. Next year is my naming. Master Gandethus has told me about a large university in Korvosa. Maybe when I come of age I will be allowed to go there and study.

After this entry there are fewer drawings and more textual entries. A year later Beshkee participates in her naming ceremony and is given the name Elk Runner in honor of her many excursions into the wilds around her family’s cabin and Sandpoint. Her parents ask her to stay with the tribe but eventually consented to let her go to Korvosa and study. Elk Runner is in Korvosa for five years. She goes to study magic but finds the rigidity of spell casting just beyond her grasp. Three entries from this period stand out.

Damn that bitch! Two years we were together. I loved love her; bitch. She didn’t even have the courtesy to talk about it with me. She just came to my room, said it was over and then left. And she fucking left. Withdrew her enrollment and left the city. She told the innkeeper that she was going home for a month. Damnit Cythia why couldn’t you just talk to me. Damnit.


As I sit down to write this I can’t remember why I decided to go to the lecture last night. It was on the history of the old empire ruins. I’ve never studied that stuff before. I guess I just needed to get out of the room. I don’t think I have been out except for lessons and meals since Cythia left. But I sure am glad I did go. The ruins are everywhere in Varisia and there seem to be as many people studying them as there are stones. I took some lessons with professors that talked about the food that people ate from back then, or the architectural reasons for using andesite rather than marble in their buildings. Not this professor. He gets up to the podium in his well worn finery and his scared face and starts to tell stories about the glories of the old empire. He talks about the grand experiments of their arcanists and armies of Giant servants that built their cities and monuments.

After the lecture most people just left the hall amidst mutterings about old men with crazy theories. I went up to speak with him. His name was Lorimor. He told me about his travels around Avistan speaking at different universities in exchange for a chance to look through their libraries. When we started talking about my studies and how I had trouble grasping the arcane spell formulas he told me about alchemists. I knew from Mr. Podiker that you could mix potions without spells but what Professor Lorimor described was a whole other level. He talked about mixing volatile explosives that could rival a wizards fireball and droughts that could bring back the dead. I am going to visit him tomorrow to borrow some books and talk some more about the world outside the city.


I received a disturbing letter today from Ustalav. It was signed by Kendra Lorimor, the Professor’s daughter. She said that the Professor had died suddenly in the little town of Ravengro. It is a long journey to Ustalav from here, even if I wanted to brave the orc lands. I will make it gladly though. The professor quite literally changed my life. If hadn’t come to speak at the University that day I probably would have dropped out. I was getting nowhere with my study of magic and most of my friends turned out to be Cythia’s friends first. I was days away from declaring defeat and going home to face the judgmental stares of the tribe. The Professor changed all that. He showed me a different way of seeing the world. The other instructors at the University are too concerned with their little area of academic pursuit that they don’t see what is really happening. There are dangers in the world that everyone needs to be prepared to face. I promised the Professor that I would keep studying and experimenting with my alchemy so that if those dangers came to Varisia I would be ready.

I will leave tomorrow with a caravan that is going to try and make it through Nimrathas. I don’t know that I will ever come back to Korvosa. The University has nothing more to teach me. What I need is out there now. Even in death the Professor is pushing me towards a greater journey.



Many people when they hear about the spell Circle of Death it conjures up images of horrific pain and decaying flesh. In actuality it is a rather peaceful way for a person to die. The soul is simply severed from the body and death is instantaneous. Most of the pain comes from the shock, both to the departed soul and the survivors that witness the sudden termination. For Beshkee this was exactly what happened. One moment she was drifting over the rubble covering the floor of the tower and the next there was nothing but blackness. Having struggled to throw off a blinding curse earlier that evening she felt she understood what had happened to her. She had only a moment to realise that she couldn’t feel her body or hear the sounds of the combat. Panic set in but turned to surprise as the darkness immediately vanished leaving only blinding white.

“Hello.”

Beshkee looked down and saw her body, naked but intact. All of her wounds were healed and the dust and grime of weeks of constant travel had been washed away. The room, for she had no other word to describe it, was pure white and there seemed to be no edges. The white sameness continued on as far as she could see. This was quite unlike the vision of Desna given a few nights back. The emptiness was strangely comforting.

“I’m glad you are here.”

The only distinguishing feature was a door made of some grey stone unlike anything she had ever seen. It was massive, easily ten times her size. Letters, numbers, and images filled the surface of the door. Some appeared carved into the stone, other seemed made of light and danced across its face. It was not attached to anything for this place seemed to have no floor or ceiling. She only called it a door because of the narrow seam running down the center.

“Do you know where you are?”

Beshkee finally focused on the voice. It was high pitched with a certain menacing warmth. When she stopped to look the source of this strange voice was either a halfling or a human child, but only the outline of one. This blurred form sat with crossed legs just the the left of the door.

“Am I dead?”

“Yes.”

“Is Vrood?”

“In a moment.”

“Is this Elysium?”

“No, this is nowhere.”

“Why am I here?”

“You know why.”

Even as he spoke Beshkee knew that answer. She looked down again at her remade body. It glowed faintly, pulsing with the beating of her heart.

“The Alchemy. The power I took in changed me, bound my essence and my body. The alchemy I performed in the lab is taking place in my spirit. I am different.”

“Do you know who I am?”

“You are Truth.”

The child-being smiled at this. Two rows of pointed teeth filled his wide grin. He gestured to the door behind him.

“Do I go through?”

“That is your choice.”

“What’s behind it?”

“Only you can find that out.”

One of the pictures spinning through the door grew brighter and larger, seeming to come forward from within the stone. At first it was a generic profile of a young man but then the face turned. It had the same high cheeks and rounded chin Beshkee knew from the mirror but distinctly masculine. It looked directly at Elk Runner and smiled and she had her answer. She started to walk toward the door which swung open of its own accord. Beyond it was light and darkness, form and shapelessness. As she passed the threshold Elk Runner felt, for the first time in a long while, joy.

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The Quiet Walk

It is done. Auren Vrood, the killer of Professor Lorrimor has been defeated. I know that I must still eventually head to the Gallowspire to put back this Evil that has spread over these lands. But that is for tomorrow.

Today, only the two of us stand.

Elkrunner and Kendra are dead. They did see their quest to the end, but they paid the final price. Walter, by all accounts should be dead….again. But something in him refuses to let go. I am not sure if a man’s soul can take such damage. If he comes back, how much more “broken” will he be? And then there is Jenkins, I do not know what power he serves, but it seems bound to Walter.

I have know the girl Mordren for only a few months. She has shown herself to be an experienced tracker and hunter as well as an expert marksman. But also never afraid to go toe to toe with that axe of hers.

When the White Witches took my mother and sister, I wondered the wastelands in haze of rage for years. Fighting for what I thought was the glory of battle itself. It is only now that I have purpose.

I fear for Mordren. Today her “family” has been killed. I see the twin passions of rage and grief fill her. Will they consume her, or will best these demons? We shall see tomorrow.

Today, We walk.

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A Rat Among Us

    Kendra and Elkrunner are dead. That thought won’t get out of my mind. I feel as if I have let the Professor down. I feel ask if I’ve let Liam down. I’ve let everyone down….

    I landed the killing shot, I felt my friends around me, I succeeded in my quest to avenge my dead friend. And what do I get from it? I lose my friends, some of the only friends I’ve had in my life. And a head. I get a head. I will place this on Embreth’s desk and I will make her bring my friends back. I can’t go through this, I can’t lose someone I care about again.

    As I shift Walter’s weight on my shoulder I can’t help but wonder aloud to Bjorn, “How is it, the loyal and good die, and the evil and cursed live?”

    I feel a new anger surge within me. Why am I carrying Walter? What has he truly done for me? Who has he made a pact with and why does he live?

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The Devil Inside

    As the beast pulled his teeth from my shoulder I could feel that a slight tingling sensation remained. I knew what was happening and I wanted revenge. As he came in to bite me again I latched onto his face, some animalistic rage taking over. Maybe this was the beginning… was it possible to turn now?

    The beast dropped me to the forest floor. I scrabbled to regain my footing, fighting to look up at him as blood poured from my throat.

    The beast curled his lip, growling at me, “Soon.”

    He howled again as he loped back into the forest, probably sending some kind of signal that the threat had been eliminated.

    But it hadn’t. This only fueled me into action. I would kill him if it was the last thing I ever did.

    I stumbled back through the woods, pain wracking my body, blurring me thoughts as I moved towards where Delgrose had said he had a camp. Delgrose told me he’d be waiting. He had thought I would run away, he was mistaken. I could tell that he had doubted me, I don’t handle doubt well.

    I could smell burning wood wafting through the forest, I could hear the soft pop of what little moisture remaining in the wood popped free of it’s tomb. I came upon Delgrose’s camp, exhausted and bloody. He invited me into his tent and eyed me hesitantly.

    I could sense something had changed. He’d seemed so handsome, so mysteriouss, before. But he had changed, he was staring directly at my wounds, assessing the animalistic quality of them. His stance was guarded, I could tell he was apprehensive, I could smell him leaking fear, and something else. Hatred?

    I gurgled as I spoke, my throat not much more than a pulverized fruit. With a sick thought, I imagined the professor’s body after the stone had fallen on him. I tried to make light of the situation as he had not put down his crossbow yet.

    “I’ll be fine.”

    That probably didn’t look like the case but I was sure Elkrunner or Walter could do something to help what I could feel spreading inside me.

    I could tell Delgrose wasn’t buying it so I stood up to leave, trying to nudge past him when his head connected with my face and the world went black.

    I dreamt, and not the horrible dreams I’d been having, but one where I spoke with Liam. He was concerned for my safety. He knew I didn’t want this, knew that I would rather die than become a monster. He told me that I had to find a cure for it, that i would need to fight the urge to give in, the urge that was even present in my dreams.

    Liam suddenly gripped me by my shoulders, shaking me, and yelling at me to wake up, to fix it all, to protect Kendra, to avenge the professor, to….

    BANG

    I opened my eyes with a jolt. That sounded like a gun. Could it be Reiner? No, no, he was long gone, who was it? The Sheriff?! I struggled to stand, it sounded like fighting outside, was someone attacking us? What was happening?

    I grabbed my crossbow and eased open the flat of the tent. In the seconds I had to react I saw the scene before me, silver tools laid upon the ground, a fire burning bright and a pot with something silver in color boiling inside. The sheriff and Delgrose were fighting. Delgrose looked to be winning, the knife he was trying to press into my friend getting closer. He was trying to kill my friend. He was trying to kill me!

    I took careful aim and pulled the trigger, knowing that taking him by surprise could increase the damage. I caught him through the throat, he turned to me, dropping the knife and falling to his knees.

    Seeing his opportunity, the sheriff put his gun to Delgrose’s head and pulled the trigger, splattering his ill intentions upon the campground, killing him instantly.

    The smell of his blood instantly overwhelmed me. Before I could be sick, the sheriff pushed me back into the tent and caught me up on what I’d missed at the lodge and I explained what had happened to me in the ’Wood.

    His reaction was not the hostile one I expected. He seemed relieved. I would learn that it was because he was no longer alone in his secret. He too was a werewolf (by birth). Our companion! He healed me and forced me to drink a potion to keep the animal inside at bay during the full moon. He also gave me a warning, that if I were to ever change, he would kill me. And I had to return the favor.

    We made our way back to the lodge, not bothered along the way back.

    Bjorn was hurt but was being tended to by the strangely beautiful gypsy woman. I told all present what had happened, telling Elkrunner that she would be responsible for making my monthly potions for as long as we were together.

    With everyone caught up, we went to sleep. My dreams were not peaceful, the were confusing. I was hungry and my bones ached. My teeth felt oddly shaped, my nails growing into claws. While I looked at my hands I could see my skin stretching and then splitting, clay colored fur growing from the skin beneath my own. My body burned, bits of my scalp and hair falling to the ground, one of my horns clattering to my feet. I curled into a crouch, clutching at my body, pulling the tightening skin off, tearing at the furred skin beneath, rending it open, and as it tore open, small, silvery purple moths poured out.

     I awoke to screaming.

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Journal from the Stair

Seriously, what the damned shit! We came to these damned woods looking for signs of Vrood and instead we found a lodge full of what I was convinced were werewolves. Turns out the they weren’t werewolves just ignorant simpering nobles under the supervision of an inept spiritbinder. In the span of a day we fought off a enormous poisonous spider that left Bjorn paralyzed, let the most competent person at the lodge get killed, and had to combat Walter, who somehow managed to get himself possessed, again. Naturally we followed this up this with a headlong change into a werewolf civil war, which was no less foolhardy because it was my idea. Now we are trapped on top of a temple tower in the middle of a war zone surrounded by lycanthropes, many of whom just had their leader killed, by us. Strangely I think if we don’t survive this I owe Silvia ten sovereigns.

Also Mordren is a werewolf.

We have a few moments to breathe up here. The battle has moved on for the time being and we have camped here to prepare the ritual outlined in the Halo of Dreams. Walter’s memory and Bjorn’s insight into the divine are more useful than my alchemy in this case giving me time to reflect. I really wish it didn’t. Sometimes it feels like the only thing that has kept me sane since the fire has been not stopping to think. Stopping to think causes me to remember that I have died three times already. Stopping makes me acknowledge that Walter’s legs were shattered when he somehow managed to survive a blow to the chest and a fall from the top of the tower. Stopping forces me to confront the fact that even if I can figure out the formula for the professor’s Wolfsbane potion Mordren’s blood frenzy during the fight with Mordrenach may put her beyond it’s aid. Stopping shows me that the wound on Bjorn was probably caused by teeth rather than claws. Stopping brings home the fact that we are about to summon an incredibly powerful entity that, despite the teachings of her priests, I am not convinced can be trusted to help us. Stopping means succumbing to the despair of Ustalav.

Stopping sucks, time to get moving.

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Plunging Down
Walterfalls

Walter blinked and stared down at the broad, silver blade as it drove clean through him. The attack had been expected, it was only a matter of time before Mordrinacht severed the lifeline of his chief opponent, Bjorn, and that meant cutting through Walter himself. What had not been expected was the lethality of the blow, the bitter pulsing hatred of the beast for all that Walter was, or the sheer intensity of the pain as the sword clove through his abdomen. So great was the agony that Walter didn’t even feel the chief Silverhide’s jaws closing over his shoulder or the blade cutting across his chest once again. By the time Mordrinacht lifted the man over his head, the pain was gone, replaced by a brutal chill and Walter’s mind began working again.

He knew he was dead. The cold meant his lifeblood had left him. The fact that he was about to be thrown off the edge of the tower to fall a thousand feet to the ground was irrelevant. What mattered was what could be done about it. The answer was, of course, nothing; and that terrified Walter Barnabas Derleth more than absolutely anything.

Death wasn’t the problem. Walter would be happy to die, after the experiences he’d had. The trick was dying at the right time. That time was not now. Life was immaterial compared to the eternal ever after. His soul was still in jeopardy.

His mind was still racing as he began to fall. The voice was screaming in his head, but Walter forced it down and back, to the top of his spine. He didn’t do this consciously; that had always been impossible, but the spasms of his psyche as his brain began randomly shutting down forced him to play witness to the tragedy of his life.

He saw the dilapidated, run down house of his childhood. He played again in the cold dark waters that flooded the basement, watching the ripples of light his splashes cast on the walls. Now those ripples made him recoil mentally in a way the water’s chill never had.

He examined again the angles and architecture of the buildings around him. He ducked again into one of those corners and cloaked himself in darkness while the strangers walked from the waves.

He saw an object of strangely whorled silver. He ran the stolen crown through his fingers and cast a glance back, considering the long miles he had fled.

He delighted again in the happy times of the University. He trained again as an adept, mathematician, and scholar. The Professor’s face swimming strongly through his vision, though it no longer gave him comfort as the twists in his mind gave Lorrimor the body of a hairless cat.

He saw a book on the bottom shelf of a darkly shadowed corner. His mind instinctively jerked back, away from the tome, from the whispers that echoed through him. His remorse was incredible. If only he could take that book from here. If only he had read it more thoroughly. He couldn’t, it was too late.

He journeyed again to Absalom. The island loomed large as they gave it wide berth.

He saw again in sequence the crypts and temples and labyrinths he had explored. He wandered the streets of the city by night, following and pursued by a small dark shape. A shape that clung to his flesh even as Walter fell.

And then he fell again and the terror became pure. It consumed him entirely and he felt it shred through his very soul as deep black waters enveloped him. That was when his mind shut down, refusing to go further. The world shuddered and twisted, jerking sideways even as he plummeted. There was a tremendous crack from somewhere far off.

-

When he came to, Jenkin was staring him in the face. Walter felt a flood of absolute relief. Somehow, he was still alive. The creature must have opened a door as they fell, twisted the planes into the proper alignment, reversed the effects of gravity by shunting them through probably through the ethereal and then reemerging into the material world. The only question was why. Why would a beast drenched in Walter’s darkest dreads save him?

So consumed was he by the question, Elk Runner’s words barely resounded in his ears. Walter’s legs had shattered and were useless. His other wounds had been healed enough to halt his end before the soul had wholly left the body, but the damage to his limbs was beyond any of their abilities. It was decided to conduct the ritual to contact Desna herself and see what she could do. Perhaps, her favor could be earned and she would see fit to aid Walter with both his problems.

It did not matter, Walter realized as he twisted space and drifted into the air, his useless appendages dangling like the limp tentacles of an octopus lifted from the water. He had another chance. He could still seek salvation!

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The Ascent Before the Storm

Time is not on our side. Peace must be made soon or the whole woods will be awash in marauding werewolves, and the lodge will not be safe. Unlike the Orclands, which were contained in themselves, here too many innocents are at risk. This must be stopped.

Elkrunner suggests we go to the Stair and force a peace among the werewolf tribes. It is as good as any other idea. And my muscles ache for some exercise should the sword be needed instead of word and deed.

There was one skirmish we faced while traveling to the tower, but it was there we saw the madness that could set the woods ablaze. Hundreds of werewolves were fighting each other. Packs of different sizes and colors roam the battlefield and stuck out at each other. At the base of the tower, a contingent wolfman archers rained arrows on the field.

Since we were not the participants of this war, we were able to find cover near by. The tower rose high in to the sky. From our cover, Walter calculated that we could fold the planes to get up most of the tower. There is always an eerie coldness when we go through his plane foldings, but it gets us where we need to be. Best just to close your eyes and let the world change around you. Lest you see something staring back in between.

The landing was not perfect, but it seems the spirits had not ordained me to fall just yet. And so we ascended the stair.

At the top two werewolves were in debate. As they were here, I assumed them to be the leaders of their packs. I climbed up the platform to parley with them, but like most beasts of chaos, battle was a better solution.

I engaged the grey one and we struck hard at each other, though his speed was more than mine, I was able to keep standing. Walter was able to keep my wounds bound while I continued my onslaught. And it did not keep the grey one from biting me. Then the grey one turned on Walter and rendered him to pieces and threw his limp body over the top. With that Mordren raged and with fury matching the grey wolfs speed, struck at him with demonic passion.

While she dealt with the grey, I tried to subdue the red druid, but she escaped my grasp. Elkrunner flew in to pursuit, but I do not think she was able to take down the red druid.

Then I turned and saw it. The beast inside Mordren had taken over. I am not sure if it were demon or wolf, but I had seen this blood lust many times in my time in the Orc lands. In the past I have reveled in such display, but now only sadness.

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Killing Moon

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