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On Righteous Bloodlust...
I apologize if this is too silly for your tastes Lydia but after my paladin rageboner had to be stomped on by the rest of the party last session (and rightfully so it was to our advantage), I ended up coming up with this. After seeing a spinoff of the original song I've spent the last week or so brewing on this idea and finally sat down and finished it tonight. It is sung to the tune of "Do you wanna Build a Snowman" from Disney's "Frozen". A link for those who haven't heard it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntRSopUllV4

And now, from the Carrion Crown Musical:

*Abe runs up to Bricer*

Hey, Bricer?

Do you wanna kill some vampires?
I've sharpened you a stake!
We don't fight undead anymore,
it's such a bore,
those thralls I'd gladly break!
I used to flank guys for you!
And now I don't...
And these vamps all need to die!
Do you wanna kill some vampires?
It doesn't have to be just vampires...

Bricer: "We... really need you not to fall right now Abe."

Ok bye...

*Abe runs up and taps Bron on the shoulder*

Bron!

Do you wanna kill some vampires?
Or introduce them to the sun?
If anyone is game it would be you!
I know you hate them too!
This isn't any fun!

Just think of who you worship,
how she hates undead?
What would she say to you?

*Bron slowly shakes his head scowling*

*Cut to Abe slowly walking into the door of Zelevas' room*

Zelevas, please just hear me out now...
The others won't give me a chance.
They say "Calm down Abe," but I know your slash,
can turn them into ash
with just a glance!

These bloodsuckers are scumbags,
They really need to pay.
We can't just leave them loose!

*Zelevas looks up from crafting an item and cocks an eyebrow*

*with puppy dog eyes* Do you wanna kill some vampires?

*Zelevas rolls his eyes and goes back to his work*

*Abe sighs heavily and walks out of the doorway, shoulders slumped*
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Old Madness and New Fears
Bricer shut the heavy ledger and let out a deep sigh. It had been an interesting month. He had experienced more then he could of ever dreamed in such a short time. He was once so ignorant and naive; now he felt dirty and small. He looked around the small apartment he was currently renting. It felt... off. His whole life he had spent in dirty tenets and on the road in cramped caravans. Now he had his own place to live, somewhere to take off his hat every night. It wasn't him, none of this was. The managing, this "guild" of Abe's, and this damn town too.

After saving the Beast Bricer had felt like he had one some great battle, like the generals of old. But that victory felt like it happened years ago, in some distant memory. Harrowstone felt like some distant land that he had never visited. It all felt dull. His mind shifted to Kendra. He sighed again. He regretted not spending more time with the girl. She took after her father, a book learner. Bricer sent a prayer to the gods to keep that woman safe from the horrors he had seen. He thought of the beasts she should never witness: phase spiders, wrathes, ghouls, devils, flesh constructs, and of course, skinwalkers. He shuddered and placed his hand on the table and noticed his claws had extended at the harrowing thought of that otherworldly creature. The gods were sick. How could they allow such beings to draw breath? It was over though, for now. But what would they be faced with next, how many more times must his mind shatter with fear and madness? How many more times must Abe stand in the way of Hell and shield his friends. What happens when that shield breaks? What happens when Abe breaks? Bricer couldn't go down that road, they won, they will keep winning and they would find the bastards that killed Lorrimor. He noticed tears on the corners of his infernal eyes.

Bricer coughed as he pulled out his pipe and filled it with tobacco. Zelevas, Bricer adored that eccentric mage. The flame from the pipe was now visible, just as Bricer liked it. Nothing better then hot smoke.

Bricer looked at the pipe. Ah Caromark, that twisted bastard. Bricer had "liberated" the pipe from his smoking room. He simply couldn't understand that mad man's obsession with creating his bizarre "family". What was he hanging on to? A corpse wife? A twisted son? A ruined castle? Bricer stood and walked to the window, he looked out onto the city and scoffed again. He was angry, seething. He wasn't mad at Caromark's madness, nor of his unnatural son (truthfully Bricer loved the big guy). He was mad at himself. This city had gotten to him. Where had his innocence gone? He felt that he once had such great hope for these humans, a culture he had known for far to long. A society that he smiled at even while laying face down in blood that the same society had bled from him. Bricer sincerely smiled for the first time in what what felt like weeks. Bricer Kane had changed, and he was unsure of what this meant for the twisted world of Ustalav, or more importantly, his dearest and closest friends.
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To those whose help has let us come this far...
The next day, Zelevas rose early. He went out to find Bricer, he owed him for the worth of the scrolls he had unilaterally bartered. It was a surprise, then, that when he found the rogue Bricer insisted that he needed no recompense, and instead suggested a donation to the university for the scrolls which were taken. At some loss for words, Zelevas agreed. Later that day, he dropped off his intended donation to the university, leaving with the steward a request that it be spend on the magical library.

But this wasn't all he intended to do. That morning he had thought of all the people that had helped them along the way. The elders of Ravengro, the dwarven Blacksmith, even the judge in Lepidstadt. To these people the group were outsiders, but even then they had trusted it with heavy matters and their very own welfare. They had even given them gold and payment. Now that Zelevas had gained a comfortable amount of wealth he could finally show them his appreciation. He returned to the guildhall and began to fashion these gifts.


Delivered by Courier to the town of Ravenscrow:

To the Blacksmith Jorfa: Jorfa, thank you for your assistance while we were in Ravenscrow. The trust you showed in us, as then outsiders, was appreciated and much needed. As a token of our thanks, please accept this hammer, may it always strike iron and foe true.

Jorfa's Hammer: Masterwork Light Warhammer, functional also as a smith's hammer. A heavy iron head, bigger than a normal hammer's, with a smaller end on the other side. Polished to reflectivity and adorned with raised carvings on either side of the head. On one side reads, in Dwarven, "Faith is not the sole contingency" and at the main head, an image of the hammer striking a shield can be seen. On the other side is written "Always build the future" and at the head there is an image of the hammer striking an Anvil. The haft is made of Darkwood, and shod with Mithral, Adamantine and Steel.

To Kendra Lorrimor: Dear Kendra, I hope this letter finds you well. Since our departure from Ravengro, things have taken a strange turn indeed. Our arrival at Lepidstatt saw us being commissioned by one of the high justices to investigate the alleged crimes of a flesh golem, called the Beast of Lepidstadt. A furious investigation saw us exonerate it, and draw blame of a number of crimes onto a local Alchemist and factory owner who himself turned out to be a fey. (Indeed, these are hardly believable things, even to me, yet I was there for the duration of the investigation and trial.) More so, however, we have found evidence of the influence and actions of the Whispering Way and are even now pursuing leads that would lead us to them. We suspect that we are chasing the same men who were responsible for the disturbances at Harrowstone and the death of your dear father Petros.

Recent news aside, dear Kendra, enclosed you will find a gift. As thanks for your unyielding hospitality and generosity, even as we were strangers to you. May these robes keep you warm in the coldest nights.

With deep affection,
Zelevas von Haupesberg

Kendra's Comfortable Robes: A pair of comfortable, if somewhat plain, robes. Their color, but not their texture, which is of a fine, sturdy cotton, may be changed and even some amount of pattern imposed upon them as per the prestidigitation spell. They keep the wearer warm during a cold winter, as is appropriate for the person wearing them, or cool during the summer. They do not provide protection from the elements, as per the spell, and do not completely insulate the wearer from the scorching heat of the midday desert sun or the strong, cold winds of a blizzard. They do, however, decrease the intensity these effects have on the wearer by one step. This cloak is enchanted with prestidigitation and in addition to its heating, cooling and color changing may be cleaned at will, with any nonmagical dirt being removed immediately. It may be dried if wet. If the robe is torn or cut or pierced, folding it neatly and allowing it to stay undisturbed for 8 hours will repair the garment. The robes come with a pair of well-made leather gloves, which count as part of the robe for any magical effects.

To the Elder 'name': As an appreciation of the trust you showed in us, trusting us with the salvation of your town, please accept these tokens.

Elder Tokens: A golden-silver-mithral pendant depicting the Sword of Iomedae and the Key of Abadar flanking the symbol of Pharasma. Below is written "Justice, Duty, Honor." And below that circularly along the edge "Noble Servants of the People, be always mindful of your duty."

On the back is written a dedication, with each elder's name: In thanks for your cooperation and assistance with Harrowstone, and with the hope that you are always just and dutiful to the people of Ravengro.

Our names are below: Z. Haupesberg, A. von Statd, B. Ironhand, B. Kane

Gift to the Judge of Leipidstadt: On a round pendant, about the size of a palm. A silver angel with spread out wings, looking up into a golden ray of light coming down, on a mithril back. Below the image is written: Against the tides of civil strife, you demanded justice for the least of us, and ensured
justice for all of us.

On the back: To High Justice Deramid, as a thanks to you for the trust you showed in us and for your commitment to justice.
The position you hold, you deserve.

Our names listed below: Z. Haupesberg, A. von Statd, B. Ironhand, B. Kane
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A Restless Night
Zelevas lay in bed. Not his bed, but a bed, a real bed, resting on a proper floor in a proper room in a building to which he and his compatriots held the deed. It might as well have been his bed, for he hadn't been in his bed for a good long while now. “But how long,” he thought. Time had, especially in the last two weeks, blended together, there was hardly a moment for him to catch his breath before they were off on another expedition to parts barely known, or not known at all. It had been almost a year since Zelevas had been back at his home, the village where he grew up, the relatively modest keep his family called home. He hadn't heard from his family since he left, though he hadn't really expected to, he would be traveling and post would be too slow to catch up to them in any case. Maybe he should write to them, see how they were faring... he wondered if his father was still alive, if his eldest brother had finally inherited the keep he'd so desired since childhood.

His thoughts drifted to his mother. He had been young when she died, fallen sick from some disease that none of the village priests could identify, even the family chaplain. Zelevas remembered tugging at his robes, looking up into his dour countenance, asking him to pray to Pharasma for healing, begging him write to some other temple seeking counsel. But the chaplain pushed him away, asking the governess to take this child from the room, lest he be a greater disruption. “Last rights are a sacred duty,” the chaplain maintained. The only emotion Zelevas had seen on his face was cold irritation, not the paternal worry or comforting grace he had heard of in his bedtime tales. This chaplain was not the caring priest, determined to spend day and night to heal the sick and sooth the injured. No, the chaplain never showed such concern. He was always eager to administer the last rights and return to that cold, sterile crypt for the still living and go on chanting about bones and fate. Zelevas hated him as a child. The man might as well have been the grim reaper himself, his presence always portending death. Zelevas still hated him, even as he had grown to know more of Pharasman dogma. Despite himself, he wished a grim reaper came for him, to administer his last rights “.. for a cold... that would be irony.” “Incurable,” the reaper would declare, despite the protestations of the chaplain, “utterly incurable. It is best that I prepare the body for passing. Fate decrees, Pharasma has written it in the bone.” “But its just a cold, I need only a bit of the unguent in your bag and I'll be fine,” the chaplain would insist. “Delusion takes us all before the end, we must leave him in peace, to meet his end,” and with arms outspread, the reaper leads the mourners out of the room, shutting the great stone doors behind him.

Zelevas frowned at the ceiling. The thought had not brought him as much satisfaction as he would have liked. No one deserves such an end. Not even this arrogant, unconcerned chaplain. Zelevas hoped he'd never see the man again, but he would pray his end came only after a proper healer had forestalled it as long as possible.

Zelevas sighed. He still couldn't get to sleep, it was unexpected, but the comfort, the security of the room felt almost alien... unnatural. After the trolls, the two days spent in Schloss Caromark, uncertain if anything would jump them from the walls, the nights spent in the open wilderness, with the wolf howls in the distance, this was a quiet room and a soft bed and walls to keep the rain and wind and snow away. Zelevas tried to think of something else, something other than the alien civility of his surroundings. His thoughts drifted to Caromark. It was a difficult battle. He instinctively reached with one hand for where the trolls had nearly ripped him to pieces. The wounds were barely visible and within a few days he wouldn't be able to tell that his chest had been nearly split open, but he could still feel it.

Then there was the demon, it had nearly ended them all, the mockery of angels, that malicious, sadistic thing that had them all on edge even after they sent it back to the abyss. The many stitched monstrosities, the mangled flesh of animals and... men. Not necromancy, he knew, but the corpses of what were men did act as the body of these beasts. It made him shudder, even given all he knew of magic and necromancy. But in the end they'd saved Caromark, from the brink of starvation, and from his latest creation, and that thing was monstrous. But what were these simulacra built for? Some for protection, but others.... in desire for a family. The Count's dead wife was lamentable, but Zelevas couldn't help but sneer at his actions. All around the world men and women and children died. Families were torn to pieces, villages were razed and the lives of countless many people ruined, painfully destroyed, and the survivors forced to rebuild. No less hurt and damaged by the loss of loved ones, these people nevertheless woke the next morning and built anew. They dwelt, they mourned, they cried and they cradled their wounded hearts, but they moved forward, for the majority of them not doing so would have meant starvation... But wealth had a way of insulating men from the concerns of the world. Having been born blue-blooded, the count did as he pleased. For his beloved wife, he built a display case and adored her even in death. Spoke to her, loved her, waited on her and built her a family. But the consequences? They were not considered. The count was a tragic figure, Zelevas thought, but not one of sympathy. The wealth in his castle could would be invaluable to them. Hunting as they were the Whispering way, which they knew to be necromancers, but more importantly, killers, plotting to unleash a malicious tyrant or any number of other destructive blights on the ravaged land of Ustalav. But by law, this monumental collection of wealth was tied to the whims and wishes of some noble, disinterested in things beyond his immediate surroundings, even though his whims govern large estates, look after the well-being of countless villages and cities.... but those are usually but pawns in his games. To amass wealth or power... but in the service of what? More wealth, usually, or power. But laws kept them tied to power and to wealth and to influence. Harsh, immutable, absolute law, ages old, written for circumstances which may have changed, enforced to the cruelest letter, but never the spirit, and defended to the death by such nobility who cannot see past their vault rooms.

Still Caramark had parted with some valuables. Zelevas would have seen his title buried, but he would settle for this small gift of valuables. At last, the group had some spending money, to equip themselves, to plan for the chase after the Whispering Way. What would be needed..... it occurred to him of the scrolls he had asked Bricer to liberate from university control. Zelevas had anticipated the need for some magics, or, if that wouldn't be needed, some way in which to raise capital to buy what was needed to pursue the Whispering Way. But now, he had made money, his plans no longer thwarted on every side by lack of material and wealth. Did he owe the university anything? He had motivated Bricer to take the scrolls when they were absolutely needed, but they were no longer absolutely needed, not to mention the fact that they were bartered to the Count. Still, he ought to return some of their value to the university, the bitter time of need was passed, he could afford, now, to settle debts. And if he didn't.... he would become as low and contemptible as any grasping, greedy noble or manipulative scoundrel... Zelevas came from minor nobility, but he wouldn't join them in their morals, he had vowed this to himself when he left for Lorrimor's funeral. It was time to make good on that vow. With that thought he caught the sleep which had eluded him.
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Inner Musings (End of Module 2)
Abraham couldn't sleep. For the past 2 hours he'd been sitting in the smoking room in the manse of Schloss Caromarc nursing a glass of wine. Yet another amenity the Count was freely providing that caused Abe to feel guilty. When their party had been discussing the possibility of taking the valuables from the castle selling them for gold Abe hadn't been too perturbed. Yes it was looting, but they had all assumed the Count may very well be dead what with the trolls taking up residence in his gatehouse. And when that she-devil had been summoned by that trap Bricer sprung Abe had been convinced that the Count had in fact perished at the hands of the Whispering Way. As he and Zelevas had carried food and wine to the cart Abe had told himself that the gold they would make selling these treasures would go towards bringing the Count's killers to justice (and of course a portion of his cut would go to local charities and to the guild). He hadn't given it a second thought. And then they found the Count, emaciated but alive, trapped in his tower. As they freed him and the events of the Count's imprisonment had been explained, all Abe could do was look at Bricer and wait. The Tiefling had expressed several times that no matter the outcome he wanted to keep the looted goods. And after some time the lie finally came: "When we got here the place was looted!". Even knowing the truth it sounded like fact coming from Bricer. Abe had held his tongue until he could speak with the Count privately, and then explained what had really happened to the Counts valuables. To Abe's surprise, Count Caromarc actually agreed to let them take everything they had "stolen". When Abe told the others this news Bricer had been grinning from ear to ear. Abe hadn't really talked the rest of the evening, and now here he was staring into the fireplace and wondering if he had really done the right thing.

Was Bricer a thief? Well yes, and an unashamed one at that. Or perhaps not... Abe though back to when Bricer had confessed to him after the devil attacked, through tear filled eyes, how he had robbed the church in Ravengro to provide holy water for them. Abe ran a hand down his face and closed his eyes, leaning his head into the soft back of his chair. Bricer had stolen that holy water, true enough, but without those vials the ghosts of Harrowstone would have added Abe, Bricer, Zelevas and Bron to their number. From the sound of it everything Bricer had stolen had a similar story. Each time it was some resource, be it holy water or treasure, whose current owner was making no use of. And in each case Bricer stole them away in order for their motley crew to make use of. And use them they did. The holy water alone had saved their hides at least three times over. Could he really condemn Bricer for his deeds when he wouldn't be sitting here if not for Bricer's thefts? The teachings of Iomedae would say that Abraham should have declared their need for that holy water to the locals, and the locals should have provided it, but that wasn't the reality. The party would have never got their hands on that holy water if it hadn't been for Bricer. No amount of emotional appeal or pleading would have changed Father Grimborough's mind, and any attempts to take it by force would have seen them chased out of town! Often the lessons of his goddess were told in the form of war metaphors. As Abe pondered this, he came to a realization.

Perhaps it was Abe's duty to be the general who does not compromise in war. Who would refuse to sacrifice the lives of his men, even if it meant victory in the end. If you compared it to how the real world worked, the ideals he strives to uphold are comical, almost absurd in their lack of realism. Maybe that was it, he was a charicature, someone parents could point out to their young ones and say "See that man? THAT is how you need to conduct yourself!". And while he acted the part of the noble distraction for the masses, men like Bricer were the war leaders no one in the military tells tales of. The ones the common folk cannot know about. Men who make the hard choices and got their hands dirty for the sake of final victory over the darkness. Abe opened his eyes and stared back into the flames. Yes, that must be it. At his worst Bricer was petty and vengeful, but when it came down to it, he was a big part of why everyone was still alive. And he was most certainly remorseful of his actions, the teary confessions were enough to prove that. Abe wouldn't speak up, and he wouldn't get in the way. If Bricer ever crossed the line... well, Abe would know it when he saw it. And then he would deal with it. He just hoped to the gods it wouldn't come to that. Abe glanced up, "You'll tell me if I'm in the wrong in this, won't you m'lady?".

"Praying out loud Abe? You didn't strike me as the type." Abe started out of his chair, the door to the smoking room was open. Bricer stood in the doorway, silhouetted by the torches from the hall. Abe relaxed and heaved a sigh, "Something you need Bricer? I thought you were sleeping." Bricer looked at the floor sheepishly, "Yeah well, thing is I can't. Got something on my mind you see." Abe raised an eyebrow, "I'm listening..." "Well you know that stuff we took from the Count? All the priceless treasures and stuff?" Abe nodded, "Yes what of it? I thought I made it clear the matter had been dealt with." Bricer suddenly looked back up, "Well I want to give it back. All of it." Abe blinked in surprise, speechless, "I... what!?" Bricer hurriedly continued, "I've been doing some thinking and it's just... this isn't right Abe. What I'm making you do. We're already getting plenty of gold without all this stolen junk and I'm just being a greedy bastard trying to steal all this stuff that still technically belongs to the Count. I mean I know he GAVE it to us, but only after you covered our asses! And that's just the thing Abe, I'm making you bend your morals. I'm making a paladin, my FRIEND, bend his code backwards just so I can make some money. I mean it's a LOT of gold and we are gonna split it. It's just that I can't live with myself knowing that my greed is corrupting my friends. I just can't. Especially you Abe. I mean, won't Iomedae be really pissed at you for going along with me like this!?" Again Abe blinked twice, after a moment of hesitation he stuttered, "Erm... h-how about in the morning we ask the Count what he would be willing to donate to us instead eh? It'd be a happy compromise and I can't think of a god that would take offense to that sort of arrangement." "Oh,", Bricer's brow creased in though, "Yes I guess that seems more sensible. Probably means we still make off with a good bit of the loot, we DID save the guy's life after all. Alright Abe, good plan! Goodnight I suppose!" "Goodnight Bricer.", Abe said still struggling to process what had just happened. As Bricer turned to go Abe suddenly called back, "Bricer?" the Tiefling turned mid stride, "Yeah Abe?" "Thank you. I truly mean it." For a moment their gazes met, Bricer's eyes serious and honest for a change, and Abe's sincere and relieved. Wordlessly Bricer turned and walked way as the door was close by an unseen servant spell.

Abe sat back down and looked into his wine glass grinning broadly, "Sometimes I forget," he said as he swirled the glass idly, "in the midst of all this darkness, the goddess sometimes provides." A few minutes later the sound of the fire and the warmth of the wine carried him to rest. And Abraham slept more soundly than he had in weeks.




TL;DR? The paladin-rogue bromance continues. The ship has sailed. Start your fanfics.
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