Brash Young Fools

Into the Old Quarter
The cost was too high.

To Runesmith Vrugl Orehunter, Karak Kadrin.

Father Smith,

I’m sorry if my writing is somewhat harder to read than usual. My finger. My hand is. Something is growing in me, in my lungs and limbs, some ancient, horrible disease. One of my fingers is literally rotting. I write to you, because you were good to my household and I wish to tell my grudges, if this is the end. I could not write this to my mother.

My first grudge is against the craven people of Bogenhafen and specifically the temple of Shallya therein. Those fools sent us on a pointless quest to save the town, on which we found that the living saint was an alcoholic, hidden away while plague raged by an avaricious priest so he could have a bigger temple. Greedy, monstrous, idiot.

When we returned to the town, we found it joyous at the return of the blind saint, who was to heal the old quarter at sundown. We knew it all to be a sham, spotted the priest’s agent in the robes of a Shallayan priestess, and could not leave a lie untold. We recruited the leader of the Myrmidians to our cause, a silent, noble lady, and headed for the mayor to tell our story. Sadly, the boatman, Heinrich, got somewhat physical with the mayor’s guards, and we were confined to a cell for most of the day; it gave Heinrich the time to learn juggling, at least. When our friend Dolf, the priest of Verena, got us out, we went straight to the temple and confronted Rufus.

He was unrepentant and threw us out, so we went to St Helena herself and told her the truth, as near as we could. Finally, having been thrown out twice, we barged back in and confronted the priestess behind all the machinations – the hiring of Sharp Jake and the Myrmidians, and the kidnap itself. She nearly admitted all – but Rufus threw us out again. She bears my second grudge.

We went to Mayor Ludwig, and convinced him of our suspicions; he provided us with guards to aid us. Our next step was to provide him with a witness; we contacted a slattern, Suzanne, who owed us under the laws of Ranald (that loathsome god of thieves) and used her threats of blackmail to lure the Priestess out from the temple. As the guards captured her and dragged her away, she told us that we had created a crisis of faith in St Helena and she was refusing to enter the old quarter, except alone. Madness given the hunger of the people in there – and given the chanting we heard.

My third grudge is against him, Pastor Rufus of Shallya and Bogenhafen. The fool who stalled us and wasted our lives and the people’s lives, who couldn’t live consistently within the naive strictures of his faith. We had to go to him, humbled, and ask his leave to aid St Helena in any way on her mission to the old quarter. He sent us over the wall, alone, with a certain grim pleasure.

The boatman Heinrich did it, roaring at the guard Saul, until we were snuck in. I look across at my idiot friend, as he gasps and gurgles. He was so strong then, but now he lies there, beaten down by the minions of the fly lord, and I fear he is rife with infection. During the night one of the Myrmidions died suddenly, eaten from the inside by worms; I wonder what will happen to us.

Once inside, the horror of the place was… bodies, everywhere, buildings burnt, men killing, eating, other men. There was no sign of Goodly Spittle, the honest surgeon who had been tending to the poor when we left two days before. No-one would attack us, three heavily-armed fools, but the things… Across a wall, a boy(?) was nailed, three buboes dangling from his chest, his skin flayed like parchment, his face gone; Karl put him out of his misery. We passed through the ruins quickly and just reached the gates in time for Helena’s entrance. The sainted fool entered, scattering roses, and a horde of the starving rushed her, before being blown apart by the guards’ blunderbusses.

We silently followed her, guarding her against her people, picking off the hungry poor who attempted to approach her. As she picked, her way across the burnt ruins and bodies, she sang a high, disturbing song. Eventually, we came to the old town square and the central well; a poor place to make a stand, with no natural defences, and two entrances, but here she lay down and prayed.

We waited. And waited. Night fell and we lit torches, scattering them. Hope sprang in our hearts – perhaps, perhaps, we might live through the night unassaulted? No. A gurgle alerted us to a dozen shambling citizens, all marked with that same sigil of the three buboes, assaulting us. They were not warriors and we defeated them easily. Soon, however another group assaulted us, backed up by a flapping, shambling mutant monstrosity which took many of Karl’s quarrels before I hacked it down. They had struck a grievous blow to the still-praying St Helena and Heinrich was also bloodied.

Dawn was still far off when the final attack came, two days after we last slept. St Helena’s prayers were louder than ever, as a horde of tangled monstrosities and starving plague-ridden fools charged us. From a rooftop nearby, a familiar face called to us; it was Spittle, but not Spittle. His mouth was sewn up but his belly had ruptured into a larger mouth, and buboes crawled across his skin; it was obvious he no longer served human gods. He bears my fourth, strongest Grudge, chasing him from this world to the next. He cried out and the sky filled with flies; Karl sank an arrow into his forehead and he merely laughed “I feel no pain”. Soon, Heinrich was surrounded by three of the large monstrosities and torn and rent. I lopped the legs off one of the tentacled things, but more cultists stepped forward, and all seemed lost.

Praise be, at this point Lucilla and her armoured Myrmidians arrived; for their timely appearance, I bear them no grudges. They surrounded the saint and bought us time to deal with the ringleader; Spittle. We chased him up to the rooftop and, whilst I attempted to remonstrate with him, Karl pinned him to the wall with an arrow. I ran up and… he vomitted putrescence. I fell down, as the stream of wriggling disease came towards us but my finger was caught and rotted before my eyes. Heinrich caught it full in the gut; I dread to think what incubates inside him now.

Lucky Karl seemed to shrug it off and fired another quarrel into Spittle as I hacked his head in half. Spittle’s belly bellowed again “I feel no PAIN” and swung great cleavers at me. I heard Heinrich yell, on the stairs, as a horde of cultists ran at, and over, him, coming for us. Karl in desperation yelled “Shallya!” and hurled a healing potion at Spittle; it distracted him enough for me to swing my axe one last time and chop him clean in two. The halves staggered towards each other… and collapsed.

The flies fell from the air; the chanting ceased; the cultists paused… and fled.

We sat up all night, tending our wounds and burning the bodies. My ruined finger means, I can no longer hold my axe cleanly or write with ease; what use is a student who cannot write? Heinrich did not seem likely to live through the night, but somehow survived, though I’m not sure how long either of us have.

Eventually, dawn approached. St Helena ceased her chanting and looked up to the rising sun with her blind eyes. “Thank you” she said and just… fell apart, into, oh… old, rotten flesh. I feel the curse is gone from this quarter, but I do not know if we will ever be allowed to leave it; with our sicknesses, I would not allow us to escape either. My final grudge is against this fly lord, whoever he is; if I live long enough, I will find him and kill him.

Please tell mother I love her and that the pumping engine at the base of Shaft 3 is due for refurbishment – Dagny will never remember.

May Valaya sleep all our days.
Grok

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Back to Bogenhafen
In which a conspiracy is made clear, but its unraveling is prevented.

As the days went by, the town became more fervid; there was a feeling in the air that something dreadful was going to happen and soon, but our clues were minimal. We scoured the town and the only clue we could find was from Jake’s fanatic dancer-lover, a harridan by the name of Red Judy, who implied he’d left town, something confirmed by the guards on the gate. Gambling, and at a loss, we followed, intuition telling us that this lord of murderers was involved with St Helena.

Taking a coach, we arrived at the Shallyan wayshrine on the afternoon of the third day. It was as a festival, surrounded by tents and raucous adventurers, who obviously were more interested in drinking and fighting than searching; only with my glib tongue and the blessing of Mayor Ludwig’s name did we manage to investigate the shrine. There I, to my pride, deduced from the undisturbed sands of the inner shrine’s floor that St Helena had been taken, without a struggle, by two people; a tall man and a shorter women, wearing a man’s boots. After that the trail was dead.

We were preparing to retire for the night, when some Dwarfish adventurers whose acquaintance I’d made, pointed us towards the arrogant elf again, Aine. His finely crafted tent came down around his pointy ears, but not before we’d bullied him into revealing the blessed Helena’s route.

The following morning, we started off, tracking the path through the woods. We only halted for two things; first, when ambushed by ruffians who’d murdered Aine, the arrogant fool having set out to rescue Helena alone; we swiftly dispatched them, save a sole survivor we interrogated and allowed to flee. Secondly, when we arrived at a small shrine to Taal, to find a skirmish commencing; a group of men, led by Sharp Jake, attacking a group of lightly-armed and -armoured soldiers we identified as Myrmidions. In utter silence, the Myrmidions salughtered Jake’s superior numbers; we aided a little, removing the contingent of crossbow-wielding thugs from the battle with ease, before Karl’s arrow showed Jake what sharp meant.

Then we were perplexed; the Myrmidions would not talk to us, nor allow us to pass; yet we were sure the blessed Helena was behind them, in the shrine. As we buried the dead (partially our of Heinrich’s holy decorum, partly to keep the wild animals away), the Myrmidion chief, a statuesque priestess, intervened, taking Sharp Jake’s head. We waited and waited and, as the sun fell, the Myrmidions formed a column and walked away. Heinrich quickly ran to pray, whilst we followed them through the woods, shouting to St Helena before the Myrmidions threateningly silenced us.

They came to a clearing full of horses, mounted and rode off. There was nothing we could do but follow, knowing that they would be back in Bogenhafen days before us, and all our trials had been for naught. As night fell, we were dead on our feet, running through darkening woodland… when something curious happened; a wolf (Heinrich swore it was ghostly), crossed our path, ignoring us, but leading us downhill. We followed, cautiously, expecting a pack of the beasts to pounce, and found the river and a boat that should not have floated, next to an unburied skeleton.

I remember that ghostly night, with Heinrich sitting up, his face alight with joy, as he squeezed every ounce of speed from the decrepit coracle; my memories are so dreamlike, but I thought we sailed through the land of the dead, over the faces of the men we’d killed that day, past woods that walked and watching animal eyes. As the sun rose, Heinrich pulled us into Bogenhafen.

Our route took us close to the waterfront palisade of the Old Quarter; from inside, we heard chanting, not Shallyan, that turned my stomach; there was no way that St Helena was already in there, and that chanting was unholy, guttural and wrong. As we sailed into the docks, the boat groaned a little. As we stepped out of it, Heinrich last, looking aghast to leave the waters so soon, it wavered and fell apart into leaves and twigs. I have never venerated these human gods, and never would, but I felt my companions should have offered thanks at that moment.

Talking to the dock guards, our fears were realised; the Myrmidions were returned with St Helena and Sharp Jake was being blamed for the kidnapping; with him and his men dead, the Myrmidions silent, and the simple St Helena ignorant of her situation, who could dispute this hideous lie? And would it avail us now to do so, when the blessed lady had finally arrived?

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Bogenhafen and Beyond
In which a plague occurs and the cure is missed.

Ah, I remember it as if I were yesterday. In those I used to write home to mother every day; now, well now, that’s not so easy, if mother even still lives in those Grugni-forsaken mountains. Would that we had never moved away from the rock-salt caves of Barak Varr…

I find notes from the time. This is in my hand;

“….(unreadable) is dead! Blasted apart. We’re heading for Bogenhafen now, to make our fortunes. Best gap year ever…”

I remember little of that journey, but I remember Bogenhafen; I was stunned at the size and folly of it; a town of perhaps 5000 men undefended by mountains, built into the open! Pride prevented me gaping openly, but I think my comrades must have picked up on my shock at the squalor of it all. To think men live like this, on mud and amidst their own filth, drinking from the same turgid waters they defecate into. No wonder they are so short-lived and hold their lives so cheap.

The town was in uproar; disease was spreading through the ramshackle old quarter, which had been hastily barricaded off, and the people were awaiting St Helena, the Shallyan saint, who’d cured this ‘blue plague’ before. None of our group were trained in medicine else, being the brash young fools we were, we would have doubtless dived straight into the squalor of the plague quarter alongside poor Goodle Spittle and died like the rest.

Quickly, we made our decision; we’d win fame and fortune by finding this Saint and saving the city! We made our base in a fancy inn, the Cockatrice, which suited my status, and stashed our belongings there; meanwhile, the most insalubrious of us, the boatman Heinrich, went to a lowlife establishment that he ascertained to be a den of Ranald worshippers. We found that a well turned-out young lady had been enquiring of a murderer and rogue by the name of Sharp Jake. Foolishly in hindsight, we left the address of our quarters and a good lump of money in the barkeep’s hands, saying we’d pay well for more information.

I do not recall the exact sequence of events that followed; but we made our acquaintance with the Pastor Rufus, the head of local Shallyan mission, who we immediately conceived a dislike for; the noble mayor Ludwig, who I got on famously with, and who was to prove so helpful later; an irritatingly-clever Elf named Aine, who was well ahead of us in the investigation; and Dolf the truthseeker, a blessed priest of Verena. With help of Ludwig and a guard named Saul, we calmed the Old Quarter a little by supplying them with water and food.

Despite all this, we could find no clues to the whereabouts of the Saint; she’d disappeared on the road from Frederheim to Bogenhafen and a huge crowd of adventurers was scouring the countryside for her. Heading back to our rooms, we encountered a Ranaldian wench – the barmaid from the Black Festag – ransacking our goods. Heinrich gave chase across the rooftops and caught the maid; but, brashly, we let her go in return for our silence on her ineptitude and the return of our goods.

I recall at that stage, we broke for the night, so I shall rest my aged hands too, whilst teasing you a little. The next note I have is not in my hand, but the florid Quenya of a High Elf – I presume Aine’s. It reads;

“…confusion and plague. Hordes of orcbrains unable to see beyond their noses. Do they not understand; the priestess kidnapped herself…”

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The Reward Notice
Being what attracted the mercenary players to Bogenhafen

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Stupid Human Year WHATEVER, day 3?!?
Grok Writes

Oh mum,

I’ve got ichor in my beard! I’ve got ichor in my nose! I’ve got bits of demon stuck in my chainmail shirt! HOW DO YOU CLEAN CHAINMAIL? Calm down, calm, calm. I’m lucky to be alive; I don’t mean to worry you, but when the demon fizzed and exploded I was standing right next to it. If it hadn’t been for Fishy Heinrich grabbing my fingers as I went over the cliff edge I’d be food for the sparrows. Starlings? Whatever eats flattened dwarf anyway. Around here, it’s probably flying beastmen.

Sorry, yes, so that arsehole of a Witchhunterturned out to be a big fat liar. He told us that he’d got that funny stone (look, I’ve drawn it – imagine, it’s glowing green and kind of sizzles – I didn’t have any green colour, so I’ve used some of this glowy pink ichor.) he told us he’d got it from a Cultist temple in the middle of a wood. After threatening him with grandad’s axe for a bit, and him begging for his healing draught, he agreed to lead us there, mumbling about having repented his evil deeds, and the town guard, Heinz or Hurtz, said he’d say we’d set ourselves on fire if anyone asked where we’d gone. Not the best lie, but he said he’d come up with something better later.

What a trek it was! Fishy tied up Rankoff really well, reluctantly left the sacks and sacks of heads he’d found behind (he wants us to carry them to Altdorf to get the bounty), and dangled the glowing rock around Rankoff’s neck, and we were off – aiming for a mountain peak in the distance that was the first stop on the journey. First, we had to cross a huge river at a waterfall. Karlspotted a gap behind the waterfall, so Heinrich snuck across holding one end of the rope (narrowly avoiding waking a hibernating bear (bit like a really big rat)) and then tied it to a tree on the other side of the river. It, uh, was still quite low and I nearly drowned getting across – but Heinrich dived in and swam me to the bank! Didn’t even know he could swim. Then Karl came across and then we dragged Rankoff through the water tied to the rope. He looked like a drowned, um, fish.

Then we snuck along a track, ever so quietly because it was covered in beastmen poo (looks like big raisins) and we were just about to get to the foot of the peak when I heard something behind me – four sheepmen were sneaking up on us! Karl plonked a couple of arrows into what looked like the leader, I hit him with the axe, and he went down like a sack of, um beastmen heads, sending the three little ones scurrying off in panic. Karl took them all down; he’s really getting good at this archery thing.

I’m not going to bore you with how long it took to climb the peak; it was mainly granite , though had some interesting shales as well. Very unusual! We all roped together, partly for safety, partly so Rankoff couldn’t run off. At the top there was an obsidian plateau with nothing on it, save for embedded white flowers of radial cristobalite. While we all catching our breath and admiring the view, Rankoff pulled his healing draught from his clothing – we’d forgotten to tie his hands! He drank it quickly, intoning that he would “revenge myself on y…”, and then started screaming. The screaming choked off as shifting limbs pushed themselves out of his mouth, splitting it open sideways and… something… crawled out, sloughing Rankoff aside. I don’t think he expected that.

I can’t describe it now. It didn’t stay still for a moment, a gross of gelatinous eyes roiling across the bloody torso. When it sprang and grabbed you, it had eight limbs covered in hooks and claws, but when it swung for you, they melded into one monstrous talon. Karl filled it with arrows until it looked like an Kislevite knight, and Fishy unloaded Rankoff’s pistols at it, but it kept coming. I saw Sigmar’s sign glowing on its shoulder and when a pistol ball struck nearby, the monster shrieked and staggered back. I took careful aim and (on the second go) hewed Grandad’s pick into it. The creature stopped, losing limbs, and just… fizzed. Swelled. I looked around for the others, but they were both hiding behind a rock, which is why I started to worry… and why, I ended up blown over the side of the cliff when it popped. Twice today, Heinrich saved my life.

There wasn’t much of it left, or of Rankoff. Just a curious bottle, with a sign on it, a bit like Sigmar’s comet, but with an extra tail or two. Heinrich said “Can I have a look?” and when I gave it to him, hurled it over the edge. It fell a long way, and I was again glad that I wasn’t following it.

I don’t feel like writing any more now mum. I’ll write again soon.

Grok.

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Stupid Human Year 2265 or whatever it is

Dear mother,

I know you didn’t expect me to be writing this so soon, as I promised to save all the ratskin parchment for important letters, but I gotta kvetch – don’t worry I’ve written this on beastman fleshig, so apart from the holes from extra eyes and that glowy green gunk I wiped off, this is kosher. Beastmen, apparently, are those big schnook sheep I was telling you about in my last letter. We spent a lot of today running away from them, whilst frantically bandaging each other (turns out I’m not very good at it – the other Big, the yeger Cully, seems to think that just pulling on a sprained ankle doesn’t help it) and following that little nebbish we rescued through ancient dense woodland (I was mainly dragged through the schmutz, to be fair; short legs, too many meaty stouts and tzimmes). It was only when we got out that I noticed that my big fishy friend had a crude arrow sticking out of his shoulder. I wanted to pull it out, but he said that it was lucky and it might be worth enough money to buy a boat. He’s really a schlub, but he’s proving hard to kill. Thankfully, there was the goys’ village, and a young guard just let us all in.

Anyway, no sooner had we got into the palisade of the takhshet boy’s village, than he was grabbed by a langer loksh pervert all in black leather, with pistols and a big floppy hat (who they all called Mr Wit Chunter Sir and who the other Big, Cull(?) recognised from his bounty book). This new Big pulled off the little wossiname’s hat to reveal he had dinky beastman horns! While we argued amongst ourselves, the Wit-chunter did a talk (a bit like Hammerer Morgrim gave before we had to raise the new buttressing for pit number 4), and by the time we stopped arguing the village folk were baying for the little boy’s blood! Heinfish (I think that’s his real, real name) stood up and tried orating back, but he’s got those funny webbed fingers and croaks rather than talks, and when he tried to make them scared of beastmen outside the village, it was rather counter-productive – they actually got scared of the boychik. It was only when they were actually carrying the little chap to the stake for burning that Fishy actually achieved anything, when he tried bullying that dybbuk Mr Wit into letting the boy go, by pointing out that he needed proper Beastman horns to get his bounty in Altdorf. Mr Wit agreed and cut the poor lad’s head straight off to keep the horns. Such tsuris.

Anyway, as it was getting dark, we all piled into one of the watchtowers, so we could see outside and inside the village. While the others got some shuteye, I got to thinking. We’re not much cop at this sight-seeing lark; the wildlife keeps attacking us, anyone nice we meet gets killed, normally because of us, and the local police force are rubbish. I was wondering if Norsca might be nicer at this time of year? Or the Dead Lands (Sounds nice, but I can’t find a guidebook anywhere.)

I was still sat up and the others were asleep (Fishy folded up protectively around the arrow protuding from his shoulder) when I saw a shtickle green glow by the village well. I gently kicked the other two awake and had them follow me down, surrounding a tall man who was busily engaged with the well chain. It was Mr Wit and, when we asked what he was up to, he got rather threatening, before offering to bribe us! I pointed out, rationally enough, that if we really wanted his money we could just take it, and I was about to open my purse to show just how rich we were and how we didn’t want his stinking money anyway, when he pulled his flintlocks on me. Well, the other Big, Cully, shot Mr Wit in the back, but not before meshuga Wit’d shot my belly. It is really getting awfully bruised and the chain links are seizing together. In revenge, I hit the rotter with my pick, which knocked his teeth clean out, and while klutz Fishy was falling over his own feet distractingly, I gave the schmendrick a potch in the face and laid him out flat. As he fell over, his hat fell off revealing two shofar horns, like those on top of the Ionic columns next to the Helmet Store. What chutzpah!

Well, the villagers had heard the ruckus and came running. Heinfish did his weird croaky babbling thing until I had to interrupt (which scared the xenophobes, who’d obviously never seen a dwarf before). I was getting rather worried that everyone in town had those horns, so I got Heiny to croak and point his knife at the guard until he took off his helmet, very reluctantly, to reveal… a big bald patch. He was hugely embarrassed and angry, and was then all for burning the mamzer Mr Wit when we revealed his horns. Whilst Fishy was doing some frankly maven-level knotwork with the toothless and concussed Mr Wit, Cully persuaded the villagers to calm down, and they agreed to give us until morning to ‘torture’ Mr Wit (which Cully now tells me isn’t a name but a title and he’s really called Humbert Humbertdink or something like that. Stupid human names) before they toast him. Though we really just want to steal his pistols and boots (assuming they’re not cloven inside), see if he owns a boat (Fishy is obsessed), chop off his head for Cully’s bounty, and see if he knows the way to Altdorf. Oh, and find out what he was doing in the well!

It’s getting light, so we’d better get on with the torturing; I promise to clean the thumbscrews and empty out the gouging spoons, don’t kvetch.

Love xxx
Grok
Il fullxfull.77702171
Mr Wit Chunter.

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Stupid Human Year 2252

Dear mother, da, and family.

Well, here I am in the Empire! I’m writing this in a waterfront bar which is full of Local Colour. Everyone is very friendly, though the beer seems rather expensive and not at all beerlike. It’s very thin and has hardly any mould or meat in it; no flavour whatsoever!

Oh, I forgot to say; I made a friend! He’s a tall menschwith webbed fingers and a constant cold. He taught me this (very easy) game of cards, and looked very excited when I learnt it so quickly. He jumped all over the place, and said lots of goyim words, then gave me his boat. What do I do with a boat? It would have been orcward to say no, so I accepted it, then asked the landlord, (called Fast Fortlifh – what silly names they have!) to keep hold of it for me.

Heinrich seems lucky (after all he ran into me!), so I’ve decided to keep him. He doesn’t cost much to feed and water, and it’s good to have someone who understands the local customs. He says tomorrow we’ll go up into the woods, as it’s fun up there. I think I’ll finish this letter then.

There’s so much sky here! We ran into a very nice human called Content Not Found: karl, who’s promised to show me a ‘bad time’. He’s crept off oh-so-quietly to go birdwatching I think, so Heinrich and I are having a sit down. We’re

Well, that was EXCITING! After a while Karl didn’t come back but there was lots of yelling (a bit like when father stood on that squig) so we went through the woods to find him being beaten up by sheep! They were a bit taller than the sheep I remember – perhaps twice my height – and carrying axes! I thought it was very funny to see such silly sheep, until the ram gave me a big butt in my belly. Thankfully, I was wearing my mail shirt like you always told me so it didn’t hurt that much, and eventually I jumped high enough to chop his head off.

After we finished the others off, I suggested we stew up the mutton, but Karl looked a bit sick and we could hear what sounded like a whole flock in the distance, so decided to head towards a village a little boy we found stuck up a tree (tell Granda that they’re the big green things you burn if you run out of coal) told us about. Better stop now, as the others are telling me we need to be running rather than writing.

I hope you and the mine-ponies are okay, and the watcher in the deep hasn’t eaten any of the cousins recently.

xxxx
Grok

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Karl Playing With The Sheeps.

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