The Hunt: The Illian Desecration

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halfhand
Posts: 106
Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2018 11:12 am

Re: The Hunt: The Illian Desecration

Post by halfhand » Sat Oct 31, 2020 12:27 pm

CHAPTER SEVEN

“...of unusual fiery academic discord for the scholars at the Saleri Conference to agree on the exact start of the Chaotic Era. There were strong arguments for both the losses at the battle of Tarwin’s Gap, the subsequent Battle of Falme, as well as near disaster at the Stone of Tear. But logic prevailed on the exhausted scholars and it was finally determined that it was the vanishing of the Lodestar that predated all of those catalysms.” - Maluga the Senior. Notes on the Saleri Conference of Chronology and Standards, CE 1.


Troias was an ordinary Illian town of comfortable means, deriving its industry from forestry and its nearby olive groves. It was of moderate wealth, being positioned on a major trade route. The townsfolk prided them on their rugged self reliance. They dutifully paid their taxes to the capital and were faithfully King’s men, but for all regards of their daily lives, thought themselves more of Troias than Illian. And they happily lived their lives in blissful ignorance of the dangerous outer world. That is until the events of two years prior that became too much to ignore.

The very first herald of concern was a local olive farmer arriving into town in the dead of winter, with a ludicrous rambling story about a gaunt creature stalking his farm and plaguing his family. The result was his young wife was now dead and buried. To find help for the rest of his family, he had trekked to the village through snow drifts, dehydrated and fingertips already blackening from frostbite, and the flesh on his arms savaged as if by a wild animal.

The village had gathered a small investigatory party, deputizing two of the local game trackers, the goodwife Lordis, and a contingent of hastily armed volunteers. When the party finally arrived at the farm, they found the house and the olive grove without a stir of life. They found the buried body of his wife where the farmer had described it, in a shallow grave barely cut into the frozen ground. But it was odd, for she was already mostly skeleton, despite the preserving cold. Many of her bones were broken, cracked with blunt teeth marks, marrow hollowed out. Goodwife Lordis was able to identify the teeth marks as human. This prompted a more extensive search of the grounds which quickly unearthed more skeletons in shallow burial sites, to the rising horror of the investigators, resembling the farmer’s two sons, and his elderly mother and father. Only the daughter was missing. There were no signs of any other creature.

The search party returned with the horrifying evidence and confronted the olive farmer.

The man quickly broke and confessed. Witika, the ghost of the forest has come into him. The first night it asked him for his wife. He refused. And the second night as well. But on the third, he was weak and could not refuse. And when she laid limp on the ground, with the scent of fresh blood heavy in the air, he could not resist the Witika and he devoured her. And when he had finished sucking the marrow out of her bones, he wept and the Witika left him. But it left him with a hunger that could not be filled. And a hunger that soon overwhelmed his guilt and the Witika came again, and the older son was the next to fall victim. After he buried the remains, he wept and wept and swore the Witika would not win again.

When the hunger inevitably returned, he killed the family goat and cow, drinking their fresh blood and ate their still steaming entrails, but it was not enough. He gnawed on his own arms, carving large strips of meat. But, it satisfied the hunger only briefly. And his baby son was next, but the Witika was insatiable and it turned its eyes on his daughter.

For his precious daughter, he scratched at his last shred of resistance, and there was a desperate battle between him and the Witika. In the chaos, the daughter fled into the frozen woods. The Witika chased her and neither to be seen again. With his family all lost to the Witika, the man finally went to town for help.

Goodwife Lordis matched the man’s teeth to the marks on the bones, confirming his insane story. The trial for him was short and the jury of his peers was unanimous. The man was hanged in Troias square, his last words a wailing warning of the Witika.

The people of Troias found the events disturbing but chalked this up as a farmer gone sick in the head from the winter madness. A strange but isolated event in their peaceful life. A month passed. A messenger from the Council of Nine had stopped by. They formally announced that the Children of the Light have been banned. The villagers shrugged. They have rarely seen a Whitecloak in their lifetime. What need did they have for one? They had no Darkfriends here to bother the honest folks, and there were no monsters outside of the occasional farmer sick in the head. The Witika was already a shadow of a memory.

But then they started noticing the lack of regular visits from the usual farmers that lived outside of Troias. A few men went out to check and only found abandoned farmhouses. In some of them, the denizens had clearly moved away with all their possessions. But in others, all the belongings were left without their owners. They searched more and more homesteads with growing alarm, but only in the daytime. The distant farms were all abandoned. They found farmers still in the larger commune farms or those closest to Troias or the major road. But those farmers were nervous, jumping at shadows, and quickly fled into Troias with all their belongings at the news. Perhaps the Witika was not a madman’s ranting after all.

Soon, Troias was filled to the brim with terrified villagers of the region. The Mayor took events into hand. He was steadfast and decisive, a retired sergeant of the Illian army and knew when the people needed a strong hand. It was likely due to his leadership that Troias maintained its survival for so long. With the surplus workers, he instructed them to craft a protective palisade around the city and instilled a militia. And that firm direction and the presence of the walls calmed the populace.

There was a farmers’ draft, where individual farmers would rotate shifts to work the fields closest to the Troas at day time and return at night to safety. This seemed to work for a while. But with the extra mouths and the disappearance of trade, they were starting to starve. Some of the townspeople packed up and left to brave the unknown, and a ration system was installed, but that bought them only a longer time of starvation.
Then came the day the Illian Companions arrived. The people’s hearts lightened. The Companions were the elite forces of Illian. Six of them came with the messenger from the Capital. They were in full polished plate armor that shined in the sun. But these armor were etched with strange markings that looked straight, but started to curve and bend in eerie ways if one stared at it too long. They carried heavy barbed lances atop their massive steed, also etched with serpiginous lines.

When the Companions first entered Troias, they initially developed a train of gawking children. The Companions were heroes of legend and gleeman tales. The warriors that protected the King, and fought in wars of justice in far-off exotic lands. But the children were the first to notice something off with these men, although soon it became apparent to all. These Companions cloistered to themselves in their rooms at the Inn, spoke no friendly word to anyone else. They did not eat in public, and the trays left at their door went untouched. And their chilling stares. That was the worst. Some thought the gaze was snobbery, but others whispered that it was pure contempt. But all agreed that it seemed their eyes had a red glow like coals, especially in the dim of night.

It was obvious that they would not be the answer to the villagers’ prayers. They were not here to save them from the darkness stalking the countryside. No, their official purpose was to deliver the message from the capital. Lord Brend of the Council of the Nine has instituted what is to be called the Tithe. Two people to be delivered to the capital each week. Men, women, or children. It mattered not. But, two will be required by law. And the Companions were there to enforce the first Tithe.

In their official garbs, the Mayor and the Elders had met them in the square with pageantry and initially in happiness, but quickly resolved into confusion at this news. But the messenger was unyielding. Finally, it was decided that two of the Elders would go as the first Tithe, that they would go to petition Lord Brend, the Council, the King, of anyone who would listen. This was clearly some mistake. Troias would of course heed a draft if war was afoot, but this made no sense.

This was acceptable for the diplomat. He did not care who they were, just that there were two. So with little ceremony, the two Elders packed and left for the long journey to the capital with the messenger and the unsettling group of the Companions. There was a sigh of relief to their departure and fresh hope that the Elders would set things right and would return shortly with a patrol to help pacify their land and bring normalcy.

Such feeble hope was dashed when a messenger arrived the next week with guards in tow, but without the two Elders. When the Mayor questioned their location, the messenger’s only terse reply was “Tithes do not return” and he turned directly to the manner of the next two Tithes.

The atmosphere in Troias was no longer that of greeting saviors, but of a den of trapped voles facing a fanged predator. The last two Elders on the Village Council resolved to give one more attempt, and volunteered again and disappeared with the envoy.

The resilient Mayor came to a decision when they left and placed a gambit on his own neck. The next time the collectors came, their new palisade gate was ordered closed to them. As expected, the Elders never returned. The Mayor greeted the envoy and Companions from above the watchtower.

“We cannot welcome you to Troias today. But we have left out the King’s Taxes for the year before you. Every coin accounted for. You shall not be of want for a year.”

“As you will.” The envoy replied. “But I am here for the two Tithes. Send them out and we shall be our way.”

“We will not be sending out any more.” The Mayor announced. “Until you can explain their purpose or return our dipomats.”

The villagers hidden behind the wall held their breaths in fear.

Outside, the Envoy and the Companions studied the walls. It was a crude wall, but should easily keep out just six men. Yet, there was a sense of nervousness in the villagers as if there was a true sense that these terrifying Companions could tear down their walls with bare hands. But, worse of all, this was a charge that could be levelled by treason, but the Mayor was willing to take the sacrifice to the gibbet. From his time in the army, he carried the notion of the protection of the people is paramount.

Finally, the Envoy spoke up again. “As you will, but next time I come, the Tithe will be four. And so on until the debt is paid. ” And they departed to the collective relief of Troias but with a new sense of uncertainty of when an Illian army may be the next visitor. But to mixed relief and worry, every week the envoy returned with his same escorts. And each time, he would announce to the closed gate a tally that ominously rose by two each week with the grimness of an executioner’s axe. These punctual visits were the only sense of regularity in these uncertain times. They missed only one visit, but it was the same day two farmers failed to return from their shift, and the tally next week was two less. After that, no one went out on the day of a collector’s visit.

Meanwhile, the mood within Troias continued to grow darker and darker. The people continued to slowly starve. Cats and dogs have all but disappeared from the streets. People bartered, prostituted themselves, and eventually stole. It was only a matter of time until the first murder and the first rape. It was a shock. Crimes like that were unknown here. There was whisper that the Witika must have passed the walls. But no, it was just humanity. The two guilty villagers were scheduled for the hanging block, but after a long discussion of the jurists, were the first two to be sent unwillingly as Tithes, chained before the gate to be taken by the capital’s collector.

As crime and sin bubbled up through Troias, there was also a whisper of a group of citizens gathering in secret as the League of Patriots. It was the contention of the League that all the ills of Troias had come due to the Mayor’s defiance of the Council of Nine, and that peace would come one more when the Mayor and all his supporters were sent as Tithe and loyalty redemonstrated. And as misery and starvation grew in Troias, the League swelled in numbers and the plot for the takeover became less of a whisper and more of a roar. The clash was inevitable.



Jena took a sip of water for her parched throat, but continued her tale no more.

Halfhand had found himself hanging on to the young lady’s tales, half out of morbid curiosity, and the other a growing understanding of what Jena must have suffered. What did she have to do for her pack of food? “And what was the end? Did the League take over Troias?”

She glowered over the fire. “In a week, a month? Who knows? As sure when desperation crests. This do not be a gleeman tale, with a lesson and a wink. It do be just life. Maybe the world will never know the ending.” Her tale was a dark condemnation. It was true. The frogs of Troias were indeed drowning in the well.

“You have lived in Troias your entire life. Do you not feel any regrets in leaving it behind to its fate? You seem to have some endearment towards the Mayor and your Goodwife.”

“What if I did? If I were to beg you with all my heart, would you stop your mission to come to our aid? Hunt down our Witika of the Forest, scatter the mob of Patriots, and face the Companions? You two have the look that makes merchant guards look like puppy dogs and you may be a match for the first set of Companions, but for how long will you stay and fight for Troias?”

At the two soldiers’ heavy silence, Jena nodded to herself in confirmation. “Then there be nothing for regret. The Mayor knows what the Patriots’ yearn for; it is no secret. He may overcome or not. Troais will find its fate with me or without. It do be the edge of darkness and not its heart. And you two do be running rightly for the moldering heart of the Hummer’s Rot.”

“Hummer’s Rot?” Halfhand mulled over the strange regional term.

She frowned as if this was common knowledge. “Once the Goodwife do show me her poor patient with the Hummer’s Rot. It eats them from inside. Nightly hot fevers and his skin do be draped on his bones. And when you press your ear to his chest, you can hear the terrible humming of his heart like a wounded stray. And the worst part do be the blight spots. First a few black spots on the soles or fingertip, but then an entire finger blackens or the foot. Bit by bit, Goodwife do carve away pieces to halt the black bits, but eventually there is nothing left to carve. That pool soul died in agony, mad and blind. But when she showed me the heart afterward, it was black as mold and growing evil things.”

“It is the valves.” Viellain seemed to talk more to himself. He always had a better head for such things. “It is true the heart is the source of your Hummer’s Rot. But, destroying the source will destroy the patient. So it may be with your Illian.“

“Maybe so, maybe Illian will die if you kill its black heart.” Jena retorted. “But far sight better than the rot consuming you whole. A fate worse than death. So my helping you will do much good for all the other Troias in Illian. But, one day, I do promise, I will return to Troias.

“So I do agree to your demands." Her voice burned fierce with conviction. "But I do have one of my own. Teach me everything you know about fighting the Shadow, in men and monsters. Show that an ordinary human can roar back at the Dark Gods that squat over us. So that on the day of my return, I will purge the Darkness of whatever remains of Troias.”

And the fateful accord was met. That day, the two became three.

halfhand
Posts: 106
Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2018 11:12 am

Re: The Hunt: The Illian Desecration

Post by halfhand » Sun Feb 14, 2021 8:38 pm

CHAPTER EIGHT

With Jena as their guide through the decaying wetlands of Illian, the journey became much smoother, albeit not without its challenges. She seemed to have a sixth sense of the negotiable roads and trails that crisscrossed the seemingly impassable bog. With her coveted hunting knife, she had split the length of her wool dress to convert it to a riding dress with a bone needle and thread. This allowed her to sit behind Halfhand on his warhorse. It was out of the question for her to ride with Viellain on his temperamental Matese.

And at each of the nightly resting spots, the two Child of the Light provided the instructions in the ways of the Hunt. Jena seemed to take to the didactic with a sharp aptitude. Hidden behind her backwater facade and rough Illian accent was a seed of keen intellect and curiosity. She took a keen liking to Viellain’s assortments of tools from his remarkable articulating Manus to his razor-whip and his arsenal of flechette. She had a nimble hand and a quick study of the Hand’s projectile handling.

But, the brunt of her attention was on the greater treasure trove, the books of the trade that both Children always carried. It was a surprise to Halfhand to learn Jena’s level of literacy. But, she consumed the books that they shared with alacrity, and only needed bare assistance with some of the more arcane writings. Jena has little interest in sharing any details of her own upbringing, although based on her story of Troas, Halfhand already had his suspicions of the source of her reticence. But, it seemed that she had been raised in the books by the goodwife Lordis of Troas.

So, it was on an average camp night after a meager supper of a malnourished gamefowl, that Jena was surrounded by small piles of the beloved books. From Viellain’s collection came Rakin’s Complete Threat Dossier, the Booke of Wytches, and the Atlus Anatomicus. From Halfhand’s collection came his copies of the Way of the Light, Thais Meditations, and Universal Wordes of Power. Immediately after Jena had received the lent tomes, she had eagerly poured through them for a mention of her Witika. To her eventual disappointment she had only found only a one-sentence reference, in a cursory mention as a Omen of Calamity without even a footnote. However, that letdown was soon forgotten in the wealth of precious knowledge buried within the old pages. However, Halfhand did note her lack of interest in his own books after her cursory flip through them.

“Do not neglect the fundamentals.” Halfhand lectured her as he watched over her study from his seat by the campfire. He chewed slowly on the willow bark resin provided by Viellain, letting the bitterness seep into his throat. It was one of the few things that kept his headaches at bay.
She frowned, her eyes flickered briefly to the books of rhetorics. “I don’t see the point. I find nothing that would talk a draghkar to death.”
Viellain gave a stifled snort without looking from his own work with his makeshift contraptions that seemed to consist of a small copper kettle of burning woodscrap attached to a glass column of marsh water.

“Words may seem light and abstract, Jena, but they can carry the same weight and edge as a sword. With a sword, you may kill your foe. And in a productive day, you may even kill a dozen, perhaps a hundred before you can no longer find the strength to raise your arm. But with the right word at the right time, you could topple a nation or save a soul.”

Jena appeared unconvinced, but agreed that she will take another look through her neglected tomes.

Satisfied, Halfhand peered down at what Jena was currently perusing. It was the familiar red-leathered Booke of Witches with its thick illustrated pages. It was opened to the worn section on the Thirteen Forsaken.

On those smooth vellum pages was illustrated the most vile creatures that were once mortal. There was a page dedicated to each Forsaken, with an artist’s rendition in skilled woodcut relief. There was Lanfear, her willowy figure undulating like a snake, with ink-black braided hairs that trailed the ground behind her like a cape, and Sammael the Destroyer roaring like a lion with fanged overbite, a mane of golden hair and a jagged scar splitting his face. According to the lore, the Forsaken were supposed to have been bound in Shayol Ghul at the end of the War of Shadows, to be unleashed at the Last Battle. Although it was the suspicion of many historians, including the author of the Booke, that they prematurely tread the earth once more.

“Wouldn’t it be obvious to anyone with eyes if they came back?” Jena pointed at the gross caricatures of their beastly faces, as if reading his mind.

“These are just the artist’s guesses based on recount and gossip. If they walk the world now, they would appear like any other man, their seething evil cloaked beneath normal human flesh. That counts as your First Question of tonight, Jena.” Halfhand raised one finger.

Jena clamped her mouth shut as if she realized she wasted one of her precious questions. This was one of the rules imposed by the Child after the first day. Three questions a day. It was a lesson in itself. Questions can be a useful tool, but it can be a double-edge sword and a crutch of the weak-minded. She would have to choose them carefully and methodically, or find the answers herself.

However, Jena pushed forward undaunted. “Then I do use my second question. This refers to the Forsaken as if they had two meanings. One as the damned group of thirteen of the stories. But the second as the peno- penul- ‘penultimate of the Threat Hierarchy’.” She worked out the latter phrase from the book. “What do that mean?”

Halfhand nodded in understanding. The dense prose of the Booke of Wytches was known for dead-end references with minimal elaborations, if any. “I will explain to you the Threat Hierarchy, in which The Forsaken are the namesake of their own tier.”

Halfhand picked up a long stick and drew a curved triangle on the soil. “This is Abralof’s Threat Hierarchy of Powers, how we classify the danger of the witches who wield the One Power. There are five levels, and at each higher ascending level, there is a ten-fold increase in overall strength and ten-fold increase in rarity. Vermis, Behemoth, Leviathan, and Forsaken.”

He stabbed at the lowest level at the base of the triangle and scrawled a V. “At the bottom is the Vermis class. From hedge witches to Tower Novices, they are the most common. The initial estimate was a few thousands in the world, but with the wild awakening in the last decade, we suspect their number may be even greater. Their average power places them at the level of one trained Child of Light soldier.” He picked up a fist-sized rock from the ground. “This rock is a representation of their relative manifest strength. Ordinary appearing, yet in the right hand, enough to maim and kill.” Halfhand tapped the rock lightly against Jena’s forehead who gave not a single flinch.

With the stick, he drew the second level of the triangle.

“The next level is the Behemoth class, of which there are many hundreds in the Westlands. Your average Tower witch or Seanchan damane. These are the equivalent of a ten-man squad of determined Children of Light hunter-killers. The rock of their relative strength would be the size of a catapult round.” He tapped the rock in his hand against a half-buried granite boulder rising out of the marsh.

Then he scratched the third level of the triangle with an “L”.

“And this next tier above is the Leviathan class, of which there may be few dozens in the world. Each individually the equal of at least a hundred Children. The manifest rock of their destructive power would now be the size of the Stone fortress of Tear. A walking army with true city crushing power. “

“And finally, your penultimate level, the Forsaken class. Of their official count is just thirteen, the strongest Dreadlords sworn to the Dark One in the War of Shadows. And one Forsaken can only be matched with the power of a full Legion. At the highest peak of the Children’s strength, the Thirteen Named Legions was raised by the Secundus Lord to await the Thirteen’s revival. The Forsaken’s stone is the size of the Mountain of Mists.”

“And that leaves the tip.” The observant girl pointed at the tiny triangle left unmarked at the top.

Halfhand stabbed the stick into the top of the pyramid. “This is Annihilation. At this scale, we talk more of a force of destructive nature barely contained in human skin. Their stone’s size would be greater than that of the entire Westlands. If even one comes into existence, they have the capacity to destroy the whole world, break it anew, maybe permanently. If the Dragon comes once more. Or if a Forsaken class obtains a tier-raising force multiplier. To oppose an Annihilation would necessitate the entire Order of the Children united. And even that would be an uncertain outcome, because theoretically there is no ceiling to the power of an Annihilation.”

“Then based on this Hierarchy, the pair of you do only be able to face two Vermis-level witches.” Jena concluded as she studied the pyramid, but she arched a brow as if implying the question.

“Possibly. But, Abralof’s Hierarchy is a theoretical construct. If the outcome of all engagements was based simply on pure power, the world would be already lost and we may as well give up. In pure numbers alone, the Vermis now surpass the current roster of the Children. And if the Forsaken showed their face, we may be able to raise five full Legions if lucky, let alone the Named Thirteen. No, if we take the Threat Hierarchy as gospel, the Children would all be huddling in the Fortress against the threat of unopposable power.

“It is thus that we have the Philosophy of Da’vat. It means ‘Just one’. Whether a vermis or leviathan, it just takes one Child of Light. That in the right circumstances, no matter how rare, with the right preparation and the right luck, one simple Child of Light can overcome even the greatest witch.”

“Even an Annihilation?...” Jena asked incredibly, before flattening her ending inflection to pretend it was a statement. Halfhand let it pass without counting it as a question.

Halfhand nods, “Philosophy of Da’vat is what allows a Child of Light to rise and face insurmountable odds. Even a sliver in a million chance is greater than the zero chance of despair.” He points to Viellian who seemed to be already bored with this dialogue. “Just ask our witchkiller there who has listed a Leviathan by himself.”

Viellain snorted in derision. “They’re all human flesh. They sleep and eat. They toss mountains but they’re still mortal. Sheep or Annihilation, they bleed the same to me.” But his bravado seemed to reflect the admiration of Jena. But he tempered his words, “The Hierarchy is not wrong. In terms of absolute power in a faceoff between us and a witch, there is indeed a sheer chasm. Human ingenuity will close the gap, but only so far. If faced with even a Behemoth class, it would be wise to reconsider our strategy. And a single Leviathan would render our little trip painfully short. But only a fool would rush into a battle with one, when indirect methods will work. Even with the tools at Child Halfhand and my disposal, you are actually more equipped to bring down any witch than us. Your innocuous appearance and a hidden dagger will find success where Legions would fall.”

She pondered Viellain’s words comfortably, digesting them in her head. Then she spoke up, methodically picking her words carefully. “But why target witches in the first place? The ones that do not pledge their soul to the Dark Ones like the Forsaken. One of the written theory say their source is the True Source that runs the Wheel of Time. That is not inherent evil. What of the thousands of them that mind their own business. “

“Like for example a village goodwife plying her potions.” Viellain probed carefully. There was a flash of predatory gleam in his searching eyes.

Jena remained silent to the probe, but there was a brief tightness of the corner of her lips.

“I will take this.” Halfhand gestured to Viellian. He sat next to Jena. “That is your question three. Let us say the theory is true. Channelers tap the power of the Creator. But there lay the rub.

“We take it as a universal truth that the Male Channelers will inevitably become irredeemably mad from their use of the True Source. Why would we assume women are immune to this? The White Tower declares this, but they have everything to gain from that claim. When mortals seize that of the divine, they corrupt willingly or not. That is the nature of corruption. No one wakes up one morning to decide to be evil. Corruption is an insidious path that starts with good intention and belief. But one misguided step after another finds you slowly becoming something unrecognizable from what you started.

“It is akin to a rabid dog. Sometimes one may fight a bear with you. But, you would never sleep with your back to one. Nor doubt that the right path is to put down a rabid dog at the earliest, if not only for the sake of the once loyal hound. Unlike many, I do not relish the taking of any life, but I appreciate the necessity of the sacrifice for the greater good. It was not any true evil beast or creature of the shadow that sparked the greatest calamities of the times, from the War of the Shadows to the Breaking to the Trolloc Wars. No, they were each started by a channeler who believed they wielded the Creator’s powers for good.

“And when the Last Battle finds us, and child, pray it does not in our lifetime, and the combined death and misery blot out all those other stains of history, its source will no doubt once again be the catalyst of a single human channeler.”

“So, yes, innocent or guilty, the spilt blood of a witch pave the road for the rest of humanity. It is what we call the Reaper’s Cut. And for the innocent lives of the world, our grim job is to give the reaper his due.”

He picked up one book from his pack and dropped it to the top of Jena’s collection. He could feel Viellain’s eyes boring into his back. The Hand could likely recognize the slim black book with gilded edges. E.M.T’s Philosophy of Nature and Powers.

“That was your last question, Jena. Sharp as always. Read and think. But do remember that an inquisitive mind is blessed, but dangerous is an entirely open mind for everyone. Corruption is not limited only to the witches, and often more subtle.”

And like every night, he left Jena to read in silence and ponder the lessons of the night. But even after that particularly heavy didactic, he could see the burning spirit in the young woman’s eyes, undiminished by the cold edge of his words of reality. And in fact, these grim talks in the dreadful swamps will soon be remembered as halcyon days in the face of the wicked storm that will soon consume their group.

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