Dawn, Strange and Beleaguered

The Lineage and Personal History of Koerin Daelsmoore

Dawn bled into the world that morning, staining the sky crimson from the wound’s seepage. Light poured upon the world, bathing even the most obscure surface, marking the dawn’s passage on all that dwelt below. A single quiescent shaft of the sun’s light even happened onto an upper-floor room of Riona’s Inn in the bustling town of Mileth, piercing a darkness that no banished evening sky could claim as kin.

Koerin Daelsmoore awoke to warmth and confusion. The warmth found origin in the morning sun whose rays so insolently broke upon the musty darkness of the room. The confusion came from the aching throb behind his eyes, a beat whose tempo matched the stirrings of the township below. That and…something else. Koerin lay back down upon the rough mattress and gazed upward at the shadowed beams of the tavern’s steeple, his sight seeing far beyond their tangle. Memories of times gone by haunted his vision, memories of a family and a past he had tried so often to drown in heady ale. Come morning he would find himself again, and his torturous history would find him in the shadows.

As an adolescent, Koerin’s mother had oft scolded him, chiding him for being over much like his father’s father: too prone to fits of darkness, too easy to choose the company of beasts and the wilds over the company of men. Events proved her scathing remarks true, though in a fashion that drove her mad with despair, a madness that drove her fevered form upon the mob’s pyre before the citizens of Piet, her friends of childhood, could claim the deed as their own.

The beginning of this thorny path lay in the exploits of Koerin’s grandsire. Yavos Daelsmoore, to whom Koerin was remarked to bear such striking resemblance, was a child of poverty born into the squalor of Loures’ "lower" class. Seeking an escape from the constrictions of city life, Yavos left his broken home at an early age to seek his own way in the world. Those few who called him friend claimed he was driven off, for it was often whispered from neighbor to neighbor how his father, a man whose only friend in the world be a tankard of ale, often scolded the boy as a "lazy lay-about who ran off into the woods at the first sniff of trouble." It was true that the boy enjoyed the wilds and the company of beasts, for he found little comfort in the company of men.

Yavos’ escape from home life in Loures brought him first to Piet, where he found fruitful employ as a trapper and hunter. At this time Piet had been subject to the tender mercies of a most persistent and unnatural pestilence, her fields growing fallow for lack of able bodies to tend them. Yavos stayed for several years, clearing the wilds of Piet as it lay vulnerable and providing the villagers with the meat of his labors, before at last the plague broke and the people could again fend for themselves. With Piet no longer a place of ill omen to travelers, rumor had begun to trickle into her tavern of the wonders of Mileth, a small province beyond the mountains northward. In Mileth, it was said, Deoch had touched many common folk with a sudden imaginative spark and insight into the turnings of the world. In turn, the elder god charged these "aislings" to rail against the darkness that so plagued the land and befouled her cities. Being a hunter of beasts himself, Yavos found the call to Mileth an irresistible pull.

In Mileth, for the first time, did Yavos partake of the company of Ellowyn, the woman fated (some might say cursed) to wed him. Ellowyn, who originally hailed from Undine, was an accomplished priestess of Cail’s order. In a dream she had seen Mileth as if from afar, and on such ephemerous prompting had made the sojourn to the rapidly growing hamlet. Yavos and Ellowyn took to each other’s liking after a few clumsy attempts at courtship, and that eve was spent in each others embrace.

Morning dawned on the lovers with a particular light, for with it came the realization that they both had become aislings. The shared dreams that had seized their few hours of sleep had borne their fruit, leaving both miraculously changed in their wake.

So infused, they embraced each other anew. When the morning’s passion had abated, they prepared themselves for travel, for Yavos had a desire to see the land of Ellowyn’s maidenhood and both felt it a fitting gesture to exchange their vows before the temple of Cail. Neither were of a nature for slow, ponderous action. In such spirits they departed for Abel, where passage aboard a merchant vessel could be booked to Undine.

The voyage across the sea was a brief but tumultuous one, the passion the two shared raging like the black waters below. They set foot upon Suomi’s shore with the peace that comes from having ridden out a storm. Here they parted ways, for while Ellowyn wished to go to Cail’s temple to make preparations for the wedding, Yavos had other plans.

When Yavos was but a child, his mother would regale him with stories of her youth in Suomi. In particular, she spoke of the beauty of the high mountains west of Undine where wild flowers of surpassing beauty grew in secret glades. Recalling such tales, Yavos hurriedly raced along a narrow track into the forsaken recesses of Astrid.

Here, the record of events becomes fractured, for none truly know what happened to Yavos in those wilds but Yavos himself. What is known, and whispered of in fear by the common folk of Suomi and Undine to this day, is that a fell conglomerate of man and beast stalked the wilds that year. Many a traveler fell before the fang and nail of this abomination and many spoke in fear of a creature that had the stature of a man but the aspect of a wolf. A werewolf, the frightful apparition had come to be called, in corruption of the old tongue.

While such a terror stalked Astrid, Ellowyn feared greatly for her absent love. He had been missing for nearly three months now, departed for the wood wherein the monstrosity dwelt. Gathering much courage, and the company of three monks in whose strength she trusted, she set foot along the shade-bound paths of Astrid. No sooner had she and her fellow travelers done so than they were set upon by a blurred motion that rendered flesh into tattered rag in mere moments. Before the shock could even numb her mind, all that stood in her company was a creature who stood upright, as a man, and proportioned as was a man. Yet, such claws and fur grew from no mere human, and that face….

With a start, Ellowyn was roused from her reverie by the shock that she still drew breath. The beast had seemed to recognize her, for now it regarded her coolly with a low growl in its throat. Something, some faint recollection, stayed its flashing teeth and bloodied claws. Ellowyn, rooted to her place, was struck with the realization of why she had been spared when she inspected closer the werewolf’s wracked countenance. From deep beneath furry, furrowed brows, the eyes of her lover gazed back!

Drowning in despair and overcome by anguish, Ellowyn cast herself at Yavos’ feet in hopes of some painful release from the torment fate had brought upon her. Rather than deliver the executioner’s blow, the beast backed away - slowly at first, then with increased haste. It turned tail and fled with unearthly speed toward the foothills.

Some hours passed before Ellowyn withdrew from her miasma, finding herself within the hated depths of Astrid. She gathered herself with grim purpose and slowly began to follow her love’s hurried trail through the wilderness. So doing, she entered the rocky badlands along Astrid’s southwest flank whose appearance marked the mountains’ rise. At the base of a boulder-fenced mound of soil and loam she found the entrance to a crude cave roughly hewn from of the earth. The stench of rotted meat wafted out of the dark recess, as did the sound of labored, painful breathing. Mustering her last measure of courage, she stepped lightly across the threshold.

The depths of the cave took some time for Ellowyn’s eyes to adjust to, but the grim knowledge that she was not alone immediately assaulted her senses. As her gaze became accustomed to the darkness within, she saw a trembling silhouette curled against the back wall. As she approached it, her quavering nerves were stilled by the strange sight of vulnerability in such a murderous form. Moving very slowly, she sat beside her cursed lover and placed her hand on his shoulder.

What few priests of Cail have heard of this tale oft remark as to the god’s wisdom on the matter, for at all times was he watching this exchange. Yavos’ soul cried for release to the god of beasts, for he knew of no other way to end the suffering of he and his lady, nor to wash his hands of the blood of the fallen. From Glioca’s teachings, Cail knew that granting this favor would bring naught but more suffering unto Ellowyn. Intrigue as well stayed Cail’s hand, for he saw within the accursed flesh of Yavos’s form a strange and wondrous possibility. Cail did release Yavos, though not in the way the grief-stricken warrior had so ardently desired. Not for him was to be the easy escape of oblivion. The thick, matted fur beneath Ellowyn’s hand receded into flushed skin without warning, leaving her love cold and naked upon the floor…but human once more. Weeping, she cradled him in her arms. Yavos began to struggle, still feeling the thorns of his remorse and the taint of his sins, but at last gave himself over to her ministrations. They left the cave and its stench behind when he had strength to walk, though he did so woodenly. The weight of the souls he had severed from their houses still sat heavily upon him. Yavos knew, as well, that somewhere within the beast still stalked, a beast he might draw forth in times of great need. Such was the curious nature of Cail’s benefice.

They returned to Undine, and there rested for several days as Yavos regained both physical and spiritual strength. To inquiries of what had transpire in Astrid, Ellowyn was conspicuously tight lipid. Inevitably, however, the fallen monks had to be accounted for. Ellowyn received two visitors on their seventh night in Undine - one, an elder of her order possessed of much wisdom and high regard. The other was a young monk in who came in attendance to his aged companion and also out of unabashed curiosity. Ellowyn quietly related her story while Yavos slept fitfully upon his bed. After a brief examination of the young man’s slumbering form, the monk solemnly thanked Ellowyn for her bravery and turned to leave, trembling slightly for reasons other than the infirmities of age. The young monk, however, having heard that the prone man before him had been responsible for such ruin, was incredulous as to why such a dangerous figure was allowed to live. The elder priest silenced the youth with a stern glare and promised that no more would be spoken of the matter to anyone. It should be noted that this exchange appears nowhere in the record of Cail’s faithful.

Not daring to press their luck with the order of Cail, Yavos and Ellowyn returned silently to Mileth. A peace had settled upon the both of them, the will of Cail done in recompense for their time of suffering. The gathered crowd at the wedding ceremony in Mileth’s temple was mercifully small, and they dwelt for a while in the town’s wooded lanes. During this time, Yavos made several inquiries of Mileth’s higgler regarding a certain cave in western Astrid. A few days later the pair were possessed of a fabulous fortune, a feat Yavos explained as his way of putting the ill-gotten gains of his darker days to good use. Let the coinage of the dead buy new life, Yavos had said. Ellowyn quietly assented, knowing that the lineage of the fallen would be nigh untraceable due to the uncompromising nature of their demise.

The newlyweds turned at last southward, passing near Pravat’s caverns and arriving in Yavos’s haunt of youth, Piet. The townspeople, whose number had been bolstered by an influx of minor land-holders and petty nobles of the court of Loures, well remembered the bravery the warrior had shown in aiding the defense and feeding of the hamlet’s populace. Very few of the villagers found his new found wealth a cause for great concern, assuming Yavos had gained some vaunted title in court during his travels. Yavos and Ellowyn happily assumed the role of recently acquired nobility, for it gave them some means of respite from the populace and some honored holdings on the outskirts of town as well. The existing nobility of Piet, however, silently took note of the holdings and coinage possessed by the pretender, and in some dark hearts seeds of covetousness were sown.

Taking the crest of the wolf’s head, house Daelsmoore flourished under Ellowyn and Yavos’s guidance. The small, hastily constructed townhouse was bolstered and expanded into a homestead of decent size. Yavos repaid the lenders of the acreage in double and set about to the business of making the place self sufficient. A neighboring farm was bought from its owner for a fair sum, for the owner seemed plagued by misfortune and had ill luck with his crops for the last few years. Ellowyn knew many secret arts of nature and earth-lore, however, and from her tender vigilance the land became possessed of renewed virility and bore fine fruits for her labor. Yavos took to his old trade of hunting and trapping, learning as well how to manufacture the pelts into sturdy hauberks for the town guard.

Life was good for the pair despite the waxing darkness of the time. When the danger to the small town from roaming beasts became too great, Yavos would enter the field unarmed, unaided, and alone to draw forth the beast so cowed by Cail’s mercy, an ability Yavos had discovered during a day of conjoined meditation spent peaceably in a grove with Ellowyn. In short order, Ellowyn became as fertile as her fields and full with a crop of her own. Nearly nine months passed before little Ymris was born. From birth he was a mischievous child, possessed of a cruel cunning that bore mark of his wolfen heritage. As he matured, however, Yavos came to realize that his son’s hunt was for station - for leadership of "the pack". The youth, when he came of age to travel, spent much time within the solemn vaults of Gramhail’s church in Loures, learning of the body politic and the court’s intrigues. Yavos disapproved greatly of his son’s obsession with prestation, preferring to live simply and unobtrusively. It ever remained a bone of contention between the two. Another matter of conflict lay in Ymris’s relationship with the daughter of Piet’s mayor. Yavos feared that it would draw the unwanted attention - and ire - of the petty nobles who vied for Piet’s mayor-ship. Ymris walked his own path, however, as ever his father did. The romance between Ymris and Elaine blossomed, much to Yavos and the mayor’s dismay.

Piet’s mayor ill-favored the rakish youth who courted his daughter. He had long sought to marry her to one of the many minor land-holders of the region, a priest in the order of Gramhail, so as to curry political favor with the church and thus Loures. When he made attempt at enforcing his will, the two eloped and married in secret. The mayor was furious at such disobedience, but was further incensed when it also was learnt Elaine was well into pregnancy. In an uncommon turn for a man of such legendary temper, the mayor avowed to bear no regard, ill or no, for his daughter and Ymris’s union. Rather, the mayor chose to bide his time. Yavos had become a well-respected, if reclusive, citizen of the hamlet, and his son wielded a bulk of the political power and popular opinion of the town and her people. House Daelsmoore had gone from a mole-hill to a mountain under his very nose. But even the greatest mountain may topple with persistence. So resolving himself, the mayor made overtures to the unnamed priest of Gramhail and sought his aid in researching the past of the family, looking as ever for weaknesses.

While the mayor and priest delved into the records of the church and library of Loures, Ymris and Elaine bore a son, Koerin Daelsmoore, into the world. The world he was born into, however, proved to be a cold and uncaring orb. During the pregnancy, Elaine and Ymris had increasingly grown apart. The rent in the tapestry of their happiness began when Elaine overheard Ymris, in one of his drunken stupors, proclaiming to one of his father’s pigs what wondrous power he may gain when Koerin took over the mayor-ship of Piet. Elaine knew she had been used, and Ymris soon came to know that his wife knew. By the time of Koerin’s birth, Ymris had made of himself a permanent fixture in the court of Loures, and Elaine had grown despondent over her abuse and rejection by both Ymris and her father.

It was at this time that Koerin’s grandparents stepped in. Ellowyn did much to console the morose Elaine, teaching her the craft of motherhood to distract her mind from her lost love. Yavos, meeting his grandchild for the first time since Ymris had secreted himself and Elaine away, was astounded by the boy’s resemblance to him. The peculiar gleam in Koerin’s eye in particular intrigued the old warrior. He took the youth under his wing, becoming the father Koerin never had. When the insatiably curious youngster was of age to walk, he had already learned much of woodcraft from being borne upon his grandfather’s shoulders during the aged warrior’s walks through the wilds.

Koerin, though raised in kindness, bore in him a keen understanding of the faults of the world. He learned early of his father’s neglect and abhorrent ambitions. The paltry sums of money and written political works sent to him by courier from Loures each birthday only reinforced the biting realization of what his place was in Ymris’s world. Out of spite Koerin avowed and practiced a complete lack of interest in all things political. After a while the annual payoffs (such was the value of his father’s gifts) stopped coming. Koerin’s satisfaction in this minor victory was an empty one, however. He took to spending long bouts of time alone in the wilderness, at communion with a simpler world that needed no such artifice as human law and intrigue. Here was an order he could understand. His grandsire would respect Koerin’s privacy, but would smile to himself all the same at the child’s sensibilities. Someday soon, Yavos new, Koerin would leave to find his own truths.

That day came painfully sooner than any could have foreseen. The day had begun peaceably enough, with the sun revealing a clear blue sky forsaken by even a hint of rain. Yavos had been in a fell mood that morn, having received letter from Loures that Ymris had fallen out of favor with the court over some minor altercation and would be returning to Piet. Not wanting to remain in his grandsire’s company lest his own mood sour, as it were so prone, Koerin shouldered his quiver of steel-tipped arrows, an ash bow crafted by Yavos himself, and satchel full of dried meats and fruit should he be held by weather or misfortune. So outfitted, he departed for the woods.

As Koerin approached Ceannlaidr’s temple, which lay at intersection to Piet’s main thoroughfare and the head of the path to Koerin’s home, he passed by a weather-beaten and scarred man dressed in tattered garb taking respite upon the temple stairs. Not wanting to trouble himself with the company of what seemed another brutish devotee to Ceannlaidr, Koerin stalked past the lounging form and out onto the plains. If Koerin would but have had a glimpse into the suffering this man would bring to him, he would have drawn his bow where he stood and taken aim even in the shadow of such hallowed ground.

The stranger, who introduced himself that day to the mayor as an itinerant monk from the village of Undine, was seeking a quiet place to mend his ails after an abortive sojourn into the marshlands northeast of Piet. The mayor happily lent the stranger run of his home, for he desired to inquire of the monk about Yavos. Chancing upon the warrior’s name in a transcript of the log of a merchant vessel under Loures’ employ, the mayor and his consort had cajoled the news that Yavos had traveled to Undine with his love as a young man. If the monk, who appeared nearly as old as Yavos, remembered the man and his exploits, it might provide fuel for the mayor’s crusade to bring down the threat to his household. A storm gathered where once had shown the sun through clear skies. The aged of the village noted that it had drifted in from the northwest, over the mountains and across the sea.

The tempest broke that night in all its rage and fury over the hamlet, bringing down a torrent of water that drenched the citizenry no matter how securely they were dressed. Mindless of the weather, the inhabitants of the village were out in force, for that eve was the night of the monthly town meeting. With such civic mindedness they plodded their way through the deluge to the mayor’s house. Yavos, having heard of the stranger’s arrival and profession, made a rare appearance out of curiosity. As he seated himself on a bench in a quiet corner of the room, he looked up to see a familiar form leaning against one of the solid supports that kept the second story of the mayor’s home from tumbling down upon them. Their eyes met and the brawler grew pale from recognition of the man whose destruction he had once so fervently counseled to an elder of his order. Yavos shifted uncomfortably in his seat, glancing nervously about for a means of exit through the growing throng of villagers. The mayor and priest, who had been watching for such an exchange between the two, looked to each other and smiled.

The meeting was spent discussing such trivial matters as the growing cost of goods from Loures and the tremulous worth of Piet’s harvests to the capital, each matter of discussion being hurried past those gathered with little chance for debate. Throughout the dissertation, the shaken monk continued to gaze, aghast , upon the object of his fear and hatred. Resigned to his position as an object of such intent, Yavos stared back, offering the monk no quarter from his regard. When the meeting drew to its preternaturally early close, Yavos hurried out the door and raced homeward, knowing the worst was yet to come. Meanwhile, the mayor halted the villagers as they rose to leave, entreating them to stay a while longer and hear the strangers tale. Its subject, he promised, concerned a matter of great importance to the safety of the village. Having so piqued the mood, the mayor sat smugly beside his fellow conspirator, while the monk from Undine told a tale of horror that was everything the mayor and priest had wanted to hear. The effect it had on those gathered was more than they could have dared hope to see.

Yavos arrived home in a state, barring the door behind him upon entering. Elaine looked up from her stitching in concern as Ellowyn raced to her troubled husband’s side. To their worried inquiries, Yavos simply said "I have been found out!" and hurriedly went about the desperate business of securing every possible means of entry into the house. Elaine looked on in confusion as Ellowyn aided in barring doors and covering windows. She asked where Koerin was in all of this, to which Yavos hastily replied, "safer than we!"

Koerin had taken his leave of the shelter of the boughs for the air within the wood had grown chill and damp from the storm, causing the beasts of the wood to take shelter in hidden recesses with their kin. Koerin too longed for the warmth and company of home. As he stepped out of the wood and onto the rolling grassland that stretched between the forest and Piet’s edge, the sight of a mass darker than storm clouds floating in the skies danced before his vision for but a moment before becoming obscured by rain. Holding his hand over his eyes to shield his gaze, Koerin looked again but saw no more than before. Feeling an uneasiness knotting his stomach, the youth set off at a run for home.

As Koerin neared the edge of town, he saw again the dark mass looming overhead. As his eyes followed the plume of black smoke down do its source he let out a cry and collapsed to his knees, for at its base lay the burning ruins of his families home. Abandoning his equipment, he tore at the earth in his dismay, and as he did so a strange warmth took to his limbs. His sight became overlaid by a red haze and a fire burned in his brain. A low, bestial growl emanated from his taught throat, a sound whose import was lost to the fevered state that so devoured his thoughts.

Jumping to his feet and racing forward with unnatural haste, Koerin came to the edge of the conflagration and stopped short of the blaze. All about him lay the dead, the gathered mob who still bore the torches with which they had set the house ablaze. Their bodies were in tatters, barely recognizable from great rents and tears caused by something wholly inhuman. Koerin looked around him numbly, possessed of a grim fascination with the nature of what force could have possibly caused such destruction. A woman sobbed from the shelter of a bush, drawing him from his reverie. He turned and looked to see the trembling form of Bianca, the wife of the town’s higgler, crouched behind a bush and looking at him fearfully. As he approached her, she held her hands before herself in a warding gesture and ran off into the gloom of evening. Koerin also took flight - not in pursuit but in escape.

When the tormented youth came to, he was within the bowels of a hollowed tree of immense age. He crawled out of the sheltered retreat on hands and knees and stretched his stiff legs, his lungs taking in the fresh air of the morning in great yawns. Wondering what had caused him to doze so and be plagued by such horrible dreams, Koerin reached for his pack and armaments and found them missing. Strange it seemed to him, for he never traveled without armament. Nervously, he turned homeward to Piet, hoping he had not caused his mother and grand-folk undue concern with his absence.

Rounding Ceannlaidr’s temple, Koerin saw his gear strewn upon the ground near a place where it appeared some beast had clawed at the soil, as if seeking escape from unknown tormentors. Realizing with a shock the familiarity of the scene, Koerin rose from his musings and turned his gaze down the path to his home. The strength in his legs gave way once more as Koerin looked upon the smoldering remains of the life he once lived. He bellowed out his anguish at the cruelties of fate and added a fresh set of scars to the earth.

Coming to his senses, Koerin rolled onto his back and looked up at his hands, grimly expecting to have to bandage them after his fitful digging. They remained whole, however, and for the first time Koerin noticed that his nails grew longer than usual, more hardened, and had assumed a milky brown hue as opposed their familiar pink. He swallowed hard, unsettled by the change, and as he did so his tongue ran across the rim of his teeth. Koerin brought up a hand to feel for the odd lumps his tongue had described, but quickly drew it back in dismay at its report. His canine teeth had grown longer and sharper sometime during the night, like a beast’s. Like a wolf’s….

The double-doors that permitted exit from Ceannlaidr’s temple creaked open beside Koerin, their rusty report and the heavy footsteps that followed a grim reply to his tortured cries. Gathering quickly his supplies, the youth steeled his heart and hid himself quickly amongst the brush aft of the temple as the guard investigated the temple’s fore. He heard cries of alarm at the demarcations he had left upon the ground and words, hastily spoken, that chilled him despite the rays of the morning sun. One of the more seasoned warriors expressed concern to his companions that there might be another werewolf about, kin to the beast they barely brought down the previous eve, Yavos Daelsmoore.

A miasma overcame Koerin, his head dizzy with implication. Crouching low upon the ground, he buried his face in his hands to hide it from the sun’s judgmental gaze. Any disbelief regarding the truth of what he heard was dispelled by the sensation of claw-like nails pressing upon the skin above his brow and the reminder of his over-large canines as they pressed against his lower lip.

Koerin remained in his simple shelter throughout the remainder of the day, gazing out upon the expanse to the west. As the sun began at last to fall away from the horizon, he rose to his feet and trod with purpose toward the remains of his home, his life. As a youth just barely on his own feet, Koerin would watch curiously as his grandsire would pull out a large volume during their walks, its span bound by travel-worn black leather. Yavos would often scribble within it while gazing upon a peculiar plant or formation of rocks, leading Koerin to first think it a notebook whose discourse related to the lore of the land. During the long evenings of winter, however, Yavos would draw out the tome after gazing long into the flicker of the hearth-fire. A grim countenance changed his face into a mask of wood at those times as he would write long into the night. Koerin remembered falling asleep to the sound of his grandsire’s quill scratching parchment.

Looking back now, Koerin realized somewhat the nature of Yavos’s mysterious tome. It was a journal, a diary of events whose weight had brought down he and his house. Pretending to sleep, Koerin had once watched him hide the tome within some shadowed alcove along the inner edge of the mantle, safe from the small fire within. He had always been too afraid of the flame to investigate further.

Now no more fire burned within the mantle, a blaze of less cheer having consumed any who would light its warm glow. The mantle remained however, though its stonework was buried under so much wreckage that Koerin was black with ash by the time he could gain access to it. Ducking within the tangle of charred timbers, Koerin ducked insight the cold hearth and searched about in the gloom. His hand found purchase on a loose stone near the mouth of the chimney, a stone whose removal revealed a rough alcove. The sole occupant of this niche was a heavy log bound in familiar black leather.

Koerin held the book close, the only other survivor of his family and its legacy worth saving. It smelled of earth and ash and faintly, very faintly, of his grandfather. Clutching it like a lover, Koerin picked his way out of the rubble and headed back to the familiar wood. All night he kept awake in the hollow he had found for himself, fearing that the remnants of the town guard might come looking for the creature who had so blasphemed the earth within sight of Ceannlaidr’s temple. At first light, with eyes red from constant watchfulness, he opened the tome and read the first page.

The tome’s first page was empty space, but upon its second was borne a heart-wrenching dedication. To my dearest Ellowyn, without whom I would be a damned thing, it read, the letters made by a hand who had lain heavily upon the page, causing the edges of the words to blur. Having gazed upon this cryptic first passage, Koerin read on like a thing possessed. Time held no meaning as the sun rose and set, its angle doing naught to deter the crippled soul below who so labored in perusal of its grim talisman. Within the pages of the libram, Koerin came to know all that was hell-bound and pain-wrought in his grandsire’s soul, the whole of the man’s life laid out upon the table like some cadaver awaiting burial. It was in this way he came to know the dark legacy that now plagued his waking hours and haunted his brief moments of slumber. Koerin came at last to accept the truth in black and white - he was grandson to a beast that had shared a fine and honorable man’s flesh and soul. No bird nor beast in the woods gained respite that night, for any attempts at slumber were dashed by the mad howls of a soul cursed to a lifetime of painful self-awareness.

The days passed in fevered procession, Koerin knew not how many. He kept to the woods mainly, daring the company of men only to steal the occasional loaf of bread. Otherwise, he lived as the beasts lived, instinct and mysterious purpose drawing him northward. Through the high mountain Koerin traveled, living off snow and the small eggs of birds. His feral senses, though they chose a path harsh and forbidding, guided him true. In the pass far below, whose trail wound by the caves of Pravat, a contingent of soldiers from far off Loures barred the way, questioning any traveler who so much as looked upon their occupancy.

Eventually Koerin made his way down from the alpine heights, his wanderings bringing him at last to the woodlands of southern Mileth. There, soothed somewhat by the buzzing of bees and the intoxicating fragrance of flowers, did Koerin find some measure of tranquil escape from the horrors of his past. During such time, reason again returned to his senses, and Koerin gazed upon the wood about him like one awoken from deep slumber to the home of a stranger. Nearby, Koerin could see the telltale signs of civilization in a broad path that ran away from the mountains behind him. Like one drunk, he staggered onto the path and slowly stumbled his way toward salvation, toward redemption, toward the kindled fires of vengeance and the strange clarity of desperation. Koerin plodded onward, with leaden legs and hardened heart, toward Mileth...Here began anew his life as one driven by destiny and matters left unresolved- an aisling, born into the wide world with haunted sight.