Forward Into Danger

Frontier Justice
Overheard in the Silent Cartographer...

“Arik, did ya’ hear about Ooryg, the fat-faced brick-carrier, aways sittin’ at the small table by himself? Arrested by that ex-army sergeant and his friends, and I hear Konin that dwarf smith was with them too.

What’s that Arik? Oh, you know the crime for stealin’ horseflesh is swinging, ever since Alfred ruled that stealin’ military property is considered high treason, and punishable by death. There’ll be no sailing for that man, if I had to lay a bet. No, I don’t know what happened to his Clanless partner. Hear tell that those outta towners tracked them over rough ground and through water, killed ’em all dead at night, except the one they saved to peg Ooryg for a thief. Smart lot, those boys.

‘Course, the milita would have spent a tenday bumbling through the woods, most likely woulda gotten themselves killed in the process. Honest boys, but not veterans from the Wars of Pacification like me and you. Tough days, those were…beating on the Clanless and burning villages. Let’s have another drink, and talk about that…"

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Arrival at Faetan and Clanless

Well The eastern frontier and farming are far behind me now, Liss is in her 30s now and started wondering to much why I still looked like i did when she was a child, it was time. I met an interesting war veteran named Wade in the capitol, he was traveling east with an odd elven wizard and mentioned that roads are safer in groups.

On the road, Wade mentioned a job escorting a halfling noble back to the dwarven homeland, while I was just in that part of the country it may be a worth while journey. It may be time for me to do a life as a caravan guard or other lawful traveler, While the crafts were interesting I feel as my previous sedentary lives did not lend to me experiencing as much as I could, I was to worried about keeping my disguise, perhaps the road can aid that as who thinks about the guard they hired for a month or the traveler who passes through an inn every few weeks. At least for now it will let me be more aware as the last corporal and private from the 4th Company, 6th legion of Dol Dorn I have still not been able to locate.

While we were waiting for the rich short folk Wade ran into an old friend, a dwarven smith named Kamen, who seems to be some form of traveling holy man. I was able to overhear a stable boy’s lament on missing military horses and offered to look into this for a reward upon the horses return (oddly enough I did not get any official reward potions for Wade and spell ink for Ugly, but the sack of silver from the thieves accomplice will suffice) and the three of us and Wade’s dwarven friend dispatched of the clanless effortlessly, mostly thanks to Wade.

Wade’s friend painter also has us going to an old Menhir grave, supposedly a buried paladin in full kit, which was always extravagant, supposedly unmolested from around the time of Bloody Summer. I do not know what deal he struck with the man but he seems somewhat shifty but good to his word for now, and luckily for us, he is the quartermaster for the army and while not indebted to us, owes us for the return of such a large amount of Rathen war horses.

Notes:

On Wade: He seems to have been an X career Sergent in the Rathen army, he refuses to talk about the war so I can only assume that he did or saw things that he regrets. I don’t think he recognizes me but I believe I worked with his unit during bloody summer for a bit as a scout right before I took care of the Menhirith corporal from the raid, but I don’t think I said a word to him during that time so it is understandable (and good as I have changed my appearance so that seems to be working). His martial ability is staggering, He took down four clanless including a cleric in the time it took me to handle only 1. It is almost art to see his by the numbers use of his kit, if I grace and efficiency where made into a killing art Wade could earn a weight of gold in its execution.

On Ugly Ulundo: I doubt the humans understand his name, but it is apt. With his rather odd face (like a weathered human with an elf frame) he seems to have never dealt with people, I wonder if his master locked him in a library and then shooed him into the human world when he ran out of books on useless topics. While it is odd to see a trained elven wizard I doubt his being in human lands has any ulterior motives, he left because he had to, so i respect that but I will still keep a keen eye on him. His knowledge of useless facts may only be rivaled by his idea that sharing these will impress or ingratiate others to him. He seems to be a summoner, his choice of a dire rat was a bit unnerving as he had it rip the neck open of an ensorcered clanless man.

On Kamen: A stout dwarf, he seems to venerate the god Moredin, but most especially his role as the craftsmen, He is awkward and clumsy even for a dwarf, I doubt he is one of the famed battle clerics I have heard of, but he seems well meaning enough and I believe has decided to return to his homeland with us. From his performance at the clanless camp, it seems that he is much more of a caster, wielding the power of his god directly as opposed to augmenting himself and swinging axe or hammer.

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Missive To Auric I

I’ve found a small adventuring party with whom to explore the Empire. They suspect nothing, as I have deftly assimilated myself to local culture. The humans seem to respect boorish japes and insults over a beautiful soliloquy. I dare say, I saw a group of them lilting and belching like a herd of cattle. As such, I’ve taken to insulting and critiquing their customs whenever possible to endear myself.

Another Elf has joined our fellowship, though it appears he has all of these troglodytes tricked into thinking he’s a human! As if his light gait and subtle supraorbital ridge weren’t a dead give away: Absurd! I believe the Humans can literally only discern an Elf by the ears. It’s no wonder they still view anything non-divine… Well, I digress. Suffice it to say, it’s a wonder they can even read a scroll and balance their humors, forget commanding the elements. I hope to learn much more from this Elf, Tannin — he plays the humans like a bard to a lute. However, the man has been assessing the weight of my purse when he thinks I’m not aware. I’ve taken to stashing my gold in my boot.

As for the Human’s culinary expertise, I suspect that they possess an inferior tongue. The head chef at the local tavern has developed a sour dough recipe that uses flour mixed with rat feces and roach eggs risen with left over brewer’s yeast! As I was the only patron off put by the house recipe, I put on my best face and devoured what I was given, even asking for seconds to seal the ruse. Their local brews tasted of moldy barrels and stagnant water, yet they guzzled the grog like it was an antidote to one of their venereal diseases.

We dispatched of some local brigands, through a lead that Tannin (the Elf) was able produce. Watching him manipulate the conversation was astounding. Did you know that Humans prefer to negotiate while unkempt and filthy? I offered to presidigitate my new friend before beginning his parlay. He denied my offering and the Human seemed to PREFER it. Why, I’m sure I was flush with embarrassment during the entire ordeal, but nary a local noticed — the tips of my ears must have been as scarlet as a tulip!

The brigands were merely paper tigers; two even feel asleep mid battle. No doubt they typified the drunk, lazy human. If we were to conquer this land, I’m beginning to think a couple of initiates with a dire badger could topple their entire regime within a fortnight.

-Ulundo

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Missive To Auric II

A subpoena has imprisoned us in this burg for two more days — apparently, these plebeians are only content with murdering their fellow citizens after a thorough series of theatrics. The fact that they’ve given the brigands nothing to aspire to but strong-arms or field hands is lost on them. Even a modicum of real culture here could revolutionize their society. Perhaps I’ll abandon my lot and become Ulundo The Farter, Flatulist To The King. I’ve no doubt they would parade me about the kingdom as cultural touchstone. 

While we we’re waiting, the party was able to take up a task for the Human and Dwarf’s aquaintance, who is colloquially known as “Painter;” though I’ve yet to see any of his artwork. I briefly asked him his opinions of the venerable works of Alceedo, only to be met with a blank stare. There’s a chance that his name is an ironic twist on his lack of artistic prowess, human humor is still lost on me. 

We were to seek out an impromptu burial site for a decorated paladin. Much to my chagrin, we were not retrieving his remains for a proper funeral. Instead we were to loot his corpse and divide the wealth. Hurmph! 

The halfling assisted in plotting our corse, and among the human, halfling and dwarf, I’d be reluctant to trust that they could trace the route betwixt their scrotum and their sphincter. The simple side quest had us waylaid by the undead and trudging through muddy, dense forests. 

To his credit, when the dwarf isn’t inebriated or cursing, he’s a capable fighter and a scourge to the undead. If the hirsute race ever sobers up, we may have a real threat on our hands. 

- U

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Where the paved road ends

Wade was able to find the halfling that we are to escort, he seems capable for his craft but definitely comes from money, for the price of his kit you could outfit a Rathin skirmish line. With him in tow we ventured out for the grave site, which we did not make that night. I have to question the skills and ideas of both Wade and Kamen, they decided to bed us down in an old ruin, which was apparently the hunting ground for undead with tactical abilities. While I am not used to dealing with these things, it seems that an edge or point is all but worthless against walking bones. According to Kamen, these were some kind of smart skeleton and a good club or mace is needed to properly end them (it appears that holy power is also effective from the dwarves impressive ability to destroy them).

Late in the next day we located the grave site after another odd pathing choice had us bushwhacking through rough ground instead of following natural paths. Wade’s friend seemed to neglect to mention that they had fortified this position as there was a very elaborate rockfall and pit snare set up. I was able to avoid the rock fall but the pit was a concealed well (mostly by time) luckily I am still quick on my feet, but I will need to be more careful and observant in the future. I located the body which was very well preserved and brought it out. We found a few trinkets and some expensive gear, but besides a few potions and scrolls nothing super useful. On our return we spotted more undead, a savage hungry group rife with disease and the ability to paralyze with a touch. As I am still not accustomed to fighting the undead I was of little use, Komen and Wade made quick work of them but Wade seemed to contract some wrenched disease that Komen was unable to cleanse.

Upon returning Painter was a much more shrewd negotiator then I thought and with the Komen’s suggestion we let go of 2 of the magic scrolls (I was able to get an extra bit of cash for the traps though). We also paid to have Wade cured of the vile disease in which the ghouls had given him. While I have been in Rath a while, this was the first time I have witnessed their trials, which are a bit lacking in actual fairness, while the man was guilty I would fear being put into this system as it can be very one sided and circumstantial.

Notes:

Ugly was very odd about reburying the body and while Kamen offered to re-intern him the elf made a big show about doing it himself with no one else around. This combined with how comfortable he was around the undead that attacked us earlier make me suspicious of his true motives (by in far my studies were brief but I saw what those drawn to necromancy were like and the potential for disaster they carried with them) and why he left and who he is still in contact with as I see him writing letters when he believes everyone distracted. His continued mannerisms around people make me think it is less about him being awkward and more that he looks down on basically everyone he sees. He was also adamant about taking as much magic and looking at all of the wealth, he is either greedy or does not trust anyone but himself to make judgements on things. It is also odd, he has started storing coins in his boot, which is obvious and looks to be somewhat discomforting as they seem not to be made for traveling and the coins rattle about to under his foot.

On Alden: The young halfling seems to be very capable, he uses a fancy gnomish multiple bow with considerable accuracy. He must come from a very well off family, no doubt they paid to have him escorted back, I wonder if this is some kind of coming of age trial we are accompanying him on. Besides a ridicules amount of odd and expensive gear he also has very accurate maps of which he made copies and additional information on the route he has selected to take. From his choice of path (straight instead of the road) I believe that this is his first time in the world, the path he has picked leads straight through clanless and sundered lands. He is enthusiastic, that comes with his extreme youth but it is refreshing, I may be able to temper it with caution and get through to the mountains with little trouble and make good gold in doing so.

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Carthac's Grave

…overheard in the Wagon Wheel’s back room…

“…and I still can’t believe they actually GOT Carthac’s armor back! Worth a shiny bit it is, belonging to a blood relation of that long-disappeared Speaker of the Host. I got word from that tattooed half-elf crook; he said there was a buyer lined up and it wouldn’t hurt the Empire one damn bit. He’s helped me out of a jam or two in the last few years, so I’m inclined to take his word for it. That’ll be enough to set you and me up proper-like, after we make our way out of this here army.

Of course I’m quick to the fact that they held on to all sorts of things I don’t know about! I stressed the clerical magic, knowing THAT’S what they’d latch onto. If I know anything of Wade and Kaman, it’s that the obvious tends to hide in plain sight, far as they’re concerned.

Good men though."

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Missive To Auric III

I warned you before I left that my reputation as the class jester would precede me — someone owes me 10 gold! Even in our small group, everyone is always snickering and guffawing when I speak. On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself surrounded by crowd of tavern drunkards hanging on my every word in-between bouts of uproarious laughter.

Our group has been traveling by horseback for more than a fortnight. Nothing of note happened in the “settled” lands — if you can call shanty towns with a higher population of vermin than man settled. To an outsider, this strikes me more as the land of rats with pesky human infestation. As we broke into the wilds, we’ve had to start making camp nightly. The halfling has a knack for discovering the most dangerous sites in the kingdom. Just since my last letter, we were beset upon by a pride of giant, quasi-magical spiders and (in a separate incident) a gaggle of monstrous vampire bats who nearly drained one horse like an old prune.

To his credit, the tiny halfling’s cup runeth over with tenacity and heroism. We could all learn something from his selfless bravery in battle — always prioritizing the group before the self. And, despite the fact that cruel gods have robbed the halflings of any positive physical or mental attributes, they still rise every morning and put one disgusting foot in front of the other. Perhaps food is their only pleasure, which would explain the breakfasts…

As the dotted landscape turned to forest, we stumbled on small grotto. Again, it was to my chagrin that we were not cataloging the cavern’s flora and fauna but instead ransacking any corpses we could find like savages. Within the tunnel, we found a large room that was home to an aggressive species of plant life and their zombified puppets. I get the feeling that the rest of my party is (i) mortified by the undead and (ii) disturbed that I’m not mortified. Has no one else read Glondelon’s eight volume set on undeath? It’s practically standard reading! The state of the Rathan education system is abysmal! Point in fact: After the battle with the plants, I overheard Wade (the human) counting up silver pieces: The man strained to remember what number came after 14. For gods’ sake, he hadn’t even run out of fingers and toes yet!

And the dwarf, I could waste entire quills writing about his drunken exploits. I’ve stopped counting when he’s drunk and starting counting when he’s sober. The dwarf’s god is either the Lord of Hedonism or a trickster devil who seeks to destroy the Dwarven race from within. I’d read of divine incantations to that turn water into mead, but was sure it was a joke inserted by a rogue monk. I’ll suffice it to say that a stray ember might light him up like a bearded bottle of alchemist’s fire.

As I write this, we’re traveling by raft with a large contingent of humans that we’ve stumbled upon. It’s like a staged drama, keeping track of who’s raping who and who’s killing who after the rapings. I’ve listened in on more than a few conversations among the soldiers. It sounds as if certain sections of the kingdom operate on a rape-based economy. Unsettling to say the least. There’s an elder wizard here among the rabble. I’m hoping that he can carve out enough time to take me under his wing and connect me into some important groups here for my research.

- U

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Wade's Log, #1

It’s high time I started keeping track of what I do. At my age, I’m liable to forget what I ate for breakfast, let alone where I laid my head a fortnight ago. I want my family to know how much I truly did to make sure they were taken care of, even as I’m so far from home.

My companions are a mixed lot, though traveling with Kamen again has been comforting. Knowing that bastard is still the same drunken, hammer swinging lunatic gives me hope for a world that seems to be changing by the minute…

And he’s the most normal of the lot!

The halfling, Alden, has the most outlandish kit I’ve ever laid my eyes upon. This certainly was not issued by any military, and most of been procured through riches or trickery. I hope for the former as he has become something of a benefactor for the party as we travel to Gossed. I feel bad for negotiating so strongly with a younger man, but for the perils we certainly will find, I will forgive myself. Though inexperienced, he’s capable when needed and surprisingly hardy. That said, I’ve had to berate him as I would a son on several occasions… the young man just doesn’t think! A signal flare after a raid?! It’s as if he INSISTS I earn every piece of gold he’s paying me with risks to my own life. To be frank, at times I feel that I am too old for this… well, this shit.

The spell caster we’ve found, Ulundo, is odd, and talks much. I feel as if he looks down upon the rest of the party for lack of intellect, though from what I’ve seen in combat, he’s earned his right to raise his nose at us. I learned long ago wizards are worth protecting (though I still do not understand their insistence on never wearing a single piece of armor, as if their skin is not permeable by steel). For what it’s worth, his banter is interesting, and I prefer his inane chatter to silence. Perhaps his intellect is to combat his horrendous appearance, which is odd for one of elven descent. There are times where I find his face looks worse than a militia smells.

Also with us is a rogue, and I must say that it’s nice to have a human with me as I travel. He’s certainly crafty and while in combat he hasn’t shown absolute prowess, I feel he’s not shown us the full reach of his abilities. I can’t place it, but I get the impression that he’s not to be trifled with. This is a trait I respect, though, and it’s often the quiet ones who cause the most harm when pushed. He also has a way of always sneaking up on me. I pride myself on having sharp eyes and ears (especially in the trees), but perhaps I’m really getting old…

In the past two weeks, we’ve encountered translucent spiders, giant bats, angry plants and the undead. For several days after those fights, I felt my mind slow for the first time in my life. I just couldn’t sort out my normal tasks, and to be honest, it was more disheartening than the ghoul fever (a story for another time) I picked up previously.

We’re now traveling by river with a group from Blacker’s Hill, who seem trustworthy enough. Thankfully, Kamen is skilled at navigating on boats, because I am completely useless on the water. It’s my hope to cut some off the journey we currently are taking. If my mind is right, we’re very close to the border of the Sundered, a place I never have risked entering before. There’s a strange wind in the air and the sky is not itself in the distance. I feel the worst of this journey is still ahead. Worse even than being attacked while I sleep, worse even than ghoul fever, worse even than the softening of mind.

As an aside, I must find a chain or leather shirt to wear at night. It seems that the beasts of the wild are no better than the soldiers of Menhir, attacking upstanding men while they sleep. Never again do I want to be caught shirtless with only a shield. My bones can only take so much. Without Kamen’s abilities, I’d certainly have been killed on several occasions already.

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Field Report
Alden Piermont Abercrombie - Flight Cadet in training

The front of this slim, leather bound notebook is embossed with a stylized eagle

The first page contains a bulleted list of official credentials

Alden Piermont Abercrombie

Aerial Marine Squadron

  • Flight Cadet in training

First Royal Naval Academy of Gossud

  • First Cadet Gruadate, Officer Squire of Maritime Resource Management
  • Honorary Minor of mechanized marksmanship
  • Accelerated Naval Infantry Trainee (condensed)

The following pages are to be filled with the trainee’s final distance training report

Trainee Entry 1 – Arrival in Faetan

I have landed outside the Rathan village of Faetan – a storied hamlet if the accounts of the war I’ve read are accurate. I mean to establish a base of operations in the village and, although it is not explicitly stated in the conditions of my mission, I intend to assemble a team to accompany me on my journey. If our flight assignments have us working with a team, I should attempt to emulate those conditions in my training.

Unlike the examples the other flight cadets have set, I intend to take the path back to Gossud precisely as the eagle flies. I have not had the same military training as the other cadets, and as such I believe I have something to prove – and I mean to go above and beyond in doing so. This path will take me out of the empire, through wilderness and sundered ruin. I will need to select a team with enough experience, and no shortness of mettle, so as to not hamper the progress of my mission.

I have made the acquaintance of a dwarven artificer named Kaman. A perfectly normal dwarf if I do say so – if he can be inspired to leave his post as the village blacksmith, he would be a fine quartermaster, not to mention a sorely needed medic. By chance, he claims to know a traveling mercenary who is a rathan war veteran, currently traveling with another soldier and even an elven wizard! I should recruit them as quickly as possible.

On a side note – to endear myself to the human villagers, I’ve taken to wearing boots. They would never suffice in a flight situation, or be necessary in my homeland, but the tallfolk’s reliance on sturdy footwear has an unfortunate consequence: they litter the roads and floors with dangerous obstructions! Even Kaman’s smithy was littered with sharp slag and jagged bits of wood and metal. Also some of their rural roads are paved with splintered logs! I’ve seen game trails with safer passage. Perhaps its the increased distance between their eyes and the earth. I look forward to not requiring such restrictive footwear, but for now it will do.

Many pages follow detailing the route to be taken, maps with notes, an assessment of the teams capabilities likened to their most relevant military post, and an outline of events prior to leaving Faetan for good.

Kaman Mosin – Medic, Quartermaster
Wade Neill – Forward Infantry
Tannin Cooper – Support Infantry, Reconnaissance
Ulundo Calrissian – Arcane Offense (conjuration), Intelligence

Trainee Entry 2 – Through the clanless lands

The first leg of our journey has taken us east by south east, across the Rathan border and into the clanless lands. As I expected, we’ve encountered no shortage of dangers on our path. I’ve read of walking dead and arcane, mutated beasts, but I never expected to have to set them in my sights. Fortunately, my bolts do not discriminate, and all manner of monsters can be felled by a well placed shot. My chosen team has been most useful, I must be diligent and not allow them to do the lions share of the work lest I be accused of being carried. I have stayed ahead of the group and scouted our path, supplied them with maps, and taken first watch every night.

The night we camped upon a plateau at the behest of my council, we were attacked by large, blood sucking bats. No losses to report, although Tannin (after staying hidden for more than half the battle) accused me of putting the party in danger. Our other option, a nearby cave system, he assumed to be safer. Well, upon exploration of the cave we discovered man eating plants who were both carnivorous AND poisonous. They attacked us with a host of undead – no doubt the last group of people to take shelter in this cave.

Wade, the Rathan soldier, insists on sleeping unprepared for battle. I’ve read a lot of Rathan tactical manuals and this is never mentioned… I will keep this to myself for now, because otherwise his field experience has been a great boon. Perhaps he simply appreciates the mobility. Wade is older than I expected. Don’t most humans have families to tend to by this point in their lives? The Menhirites war-mongering must have deprived him of the opportunity.

After our detour into the cave, I insisted we continue on the journey. We discovered evidence of a settlement on the river, and planned to acquire passage up the waterway. This will no doubt place us squarely in the sundered lands.

Tannin, despite his frequent vanishing acts, is an able scout. I held post in the canopy as he scouted the settlement – he reported that the camp had been overtaken by Rathan millitia-men. Wade signaled our approach and we learned that the camp had been taken by men from Blackers Hill, a relatively new clanless settlement, because the camps previous owners had enslaved a number of their women. A tragic turn of events made right by force of arms – this is the way of things in the part of the world. I have seen myself the toll of undeserved violence on the innocent, and left behind a life of comfort to help prevent it. The men of Blackers Hill acted admirably. They offered us a ship to travel up the river – we will follow them until the northward bend in the river and then continue through the sundered.

While I was helping Kaman prepare the vessel, I noticed Ulundo trying to endear himself to one of the Blackers Hill soldiers. He carried wands so I suspect the elf takes him for a wizard. Does he not know that most humans arcane understanding would be far less than his own? They are much more practical in their approach to wizardry – they lack the long lives of the elves and simply don’t have the luxury of spending long years in academic study. To his credit, Ulundo is not a flashy wizard, and his chosen arcane specialties have been most practical. He has taken to discussing the humans shortcomings with me, perhaps because we share similar traits like pointed ears and longer lives. He’s got a lot of pride in his education and a face only a mother could love.

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Eastern Promises of Wealth

We left Faetan early and traveled the back paths and wilds at the southern edge of the empire for four or five days (it is hard to tell where the empire ends and the clanless lands begin). Our first night both Wade and Alden agreed on the perfect spot to camp, one festered with giant translucent spiders, while not magic themselves definitely a remnant of some ancient wizards poor decision. Like clockwork, our next camp they choose to be high on a bluff, a perfect spot for a group of giant bats to feed off of our horses, for two supposedly seasoned travelers I am beginning to doubt some of their choices. I was able to convince the group that exploring a nearby cave was worth the small detour, while eventful with mobile carnivorous plants, I was unfortunately unable to procure a sample of their spores which are great for rendering most completely stunned (it seemed to not effect me, I can only assume that my heritage protects me from as nothing else I know would).

We are now traveling with a group from Blacker’s Hill who raided and razed another clanless settlement, it did give us a fully supplied boat, 100 miles of relatively safe traveling and a small stash that was overlooked by the raiders.

Notes:

Alden must come from a very well off family, on negotiating the contract he threw extra gold at us and declared he is not in this for monetary gain which only confirms my suspicion that his family is not just rich, but extremely rich and powerful in other ways.

Ugly was not fazed by the plant controlled undead, but for some reason he viewed our removing of wealth from the cave poorly as he looked disgusted by it. He is also definitely from the wealthiest of the elven families as he seems to have no concept of how the world actually works. I also took great pleasure in disguising him as a human, he was so hateful and disgusted by the entire process but kept saying things like “should’nt I have feces on me” and while only a swine herd would wallow in that filth and not clean themselves I was more then happy to liberally apply what must have once been a bad patch of grass that disagreed with the moose that ate it all about him.

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