“I, Alana, sworn to Dwayna, do hereby attest that this is a good and true account of Ephan Oroborz, brother to the people of Kryta. Father. Husband. And, loved by our village. His body now returned to the land. His soul to the Mists.”
Ephan stood at the edge of his small farm looking out at the marsh. The boundaries of his farm were really not an issue since everybody else in the nearby village thought the man was a fool for staking a claim in the Black Curtain. The Black Curtain was a place where the fog was said to be able to coalesce in to horrible creatures and maddened souls crackled with wispy, blue energy that would electrocute any person brave or dumb enough to enter the swamp. Ephan wondered why the villagers always dismissed the majestic Temple of Ages when talking about the Black Curtain. Some of the power of the five gods still remained at the holy place. Young brother Theophilus seemed to traverse the wetlands easily enough when the small encampment at the Temple needed more supplies.
“Some would call Ephan a simple man, but he was born and made of the earth like so many of his fellow farmers standing here today. He gave a simple love, an honest love, to his family. It was kind, unselfish, protecting, and always persevering. Were that all of us had such a basic and true love for one another, as Ephan had. His simple strength that built a life for his family was unfaltering. His family, though not one of wealth and riches, never wanted for simple comfort and protection.”
Yet, he was worried. The past few nights the cries of the nightmares had been louder, and more rhythmic. To Ephan it sounded almost like chanting or singing. The shadowy nightmare’s meowls traveled miles over the swamp, yet the denizens stayed away from Ephan’s farmhouse. Wards put up by nearby priests kept the swamp life, alive or not, at bay. So did Ephan’s massive wolfhound. Still, it seemed to Ephan, as he watched the last light of the day touch the swamp that the nighttime cries were culminating to something.
“If he was simple, then he was simple like an impenetrable rock wall with no groove or flaw. He was stalwart in his beliefs in the good of humanity, and his faith in the five gods was unmovable. Ephan’s farm was a barrier of light against the darkness of the swamp. It could have had no better keeper. For us all, we knew him as a farmer, but to the gods he was also a warden.”
Ephan was just about to turn in and leave the night to the sounds and his wolfhound, but a strange sight called to him in the distance. It was a wisp with its seductive light. The ones he had seen before were silly things, easily ignored. This one called to him. Without a thought to farm or family, he trudged off in to the night with his worried animal companion following nearby. In what felt like minutes later Ephan appeared in a clearing miles away from his home. Dozens of human spirits stood dazed staring at a monstrous shadow-born creature. Ephan recognized a few spirits from villagers that had died in the past few years.
“This brave village knows quite well the shadow of the swamp has grown darker in recent years. We have lost too many to its denizens and evils. Ephan kept that shadow in check, and on his final night Ephan drew enough strength from the five gods to attack it. With his enormous wolfhound and divine light, Ephan marched in to the night to face an evil none of us could ever imagine. His plow became a blazing sword under Balthazar’s strength, his dog became a beast of vengeance under Melandru’s guidance, his mind became a bastion of resolve with Lyssa’s thoughts, and his eyes lit up the swamp with the light of Dwayna’s justice. No evil could stand in his way.”
Ephan’s brain was racked with fear, but the shadowy creature had not noticed the living man amongst so many of the incorporeal dead. The creature seemed to be made of shards of black energy, and it was drawing a blue light from the human souls. One of the souls gasped, and fell to its knees. It was quickly absorbed into the creature. Ephan was so mesmerized by the scene that he forgot to recognize his inner voice screaming at him to flee. A spell controlled the ritual, and ensorcelled, Ephan shambled unknowingly to the next space in the sacrificial line. The shadow creature drunk with soul energy did not notice that its next meal was a physical being. It did, however, notice the moment that Ephan’s bodily essence started corrupting the shadow creature and binding it to the physical plane.
“Ephan, Vengeant, slew the corruption. Its unholy energy was sent far from this plane to be judged. Even in so short of time orchids are blooming along the swamp. The sounds of the night are being replaced by peaceful crickets. Even larger creatures like deer and skale have been returning to fill the swamp with true life. It is as if Ephan has brought the purest light of life to the Black Curtain.”
The creature spoke directly in to Ephan’s mind like cockroaches scrabbling over the outside of his brain searching for entry. It told him to run. He also saw the wisp standing back in the trees, and it told him to draw nearer. Its voice now sounded like his conscience. Ephan stepped closer and the connection strengthened. The creature tried to brush the energy away as it searched for escape. Its own spell defiantly held the shadow entity captive. At last in desperation, the shadow creature opened a portal through which Ephan saw a necropolis filled with unearthly sights. The creature’s last words as it ripped the last of Ephan’s life energy to shreds foretold that it would return when the gods became lost to the realm. The wisp winked out of existence when the portal closed.
“Sadly Grenth saw the sacrifice that was needed to return the swamp to us, and Ephan’s soul has gone triumphantly to the Mists. Let us all pray together now so that our words may lend guidance to Ephan on his journey in the afterlife.”