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The wind churned heavily once more making Balamor grip the rope and squeeze his eyes shut. His feet slipped and he swung from side to side, spinning around he slammed into the wall and shrieked in pain. His eyes opened to see the rope quivering below and the stout figure of Awkid Anvorbeard still putting hand under hand, impervious to the cold wind. Balamor closed his eyes for a moment before he continued the climb downward, his face and hands now riddled with scrapes and bruises. The night sky was still infant as they resumed their long trek, Balamor could feel the lack of sleep in his eyes. He reached the end of the rope and let down his feet. A shock shot up his spine as he entered a cold body of water.

He removed his pack and held it above the surface of the murky waters. Awkid grabbed a roll of bandage from his bag and wrapped his clay limb starting from the fingers. He finished quickly and unbuckled the lantern from his pack. Flipping open the brass capping he removed his flint and steel. With two quick strikes the wick ignited and illuminated the surrounding bog in a warm yellow shade. He locked the brass cap with a small latch and turned to Balamor who was nearly chest deep in water.

"We move slow now." Awkid said quietly.

Balamor nodded in agreement and unsheathed his silver dagger once again. His teeth began to chatter as they walked through the disgusting waters. Awkid held the lantern in front of him and searched the dreary swampland for any signs of danger. Crows made their caws as over sized insects winged through the air and bore holes through the plantlife; Balamor occasionally swatted them from his view as he gazed at the strange place. The trees were twisted and abated by disease, their leafless gray bark was overgrown with moss and the strangest mushrooms Balamor had ever seen. The gills beneath their large warted caps glowed a dim blue light, casting an eerie mood over the bog.

Balamor drew close to the peculiar fungus, his hands reached out for it when a large insect landed on its surface. Balamor pulled his hand back and observed the bug. Its four translucent wings buzzed before it pierced the mushroom with its long mandible. The mushroom lost its glow and quickly deflated before the mosquito-like bug took off, it’s clear abdomen filled with a bright blue liquid as it flew into the fog — small blurry flickers of blue surrounded the marsh. Balamor kept moving forward behind Awkid Anvorbeard who kept his eyes peeled and his ears alert. He’d been here before, but the Black Robed Man was with him then. And he told Awkid something of dread lived here, something that was someone a long time ago. It lived off dank carcass and the insects they bred.

It was a long time ago — 26 years to be exact — when Awkid first trekked these parts of the world and when the Black Robed Man saved his life. He didn’t know back then, but now, he knew. That musky smell that turns sour in your throat, the baritone croak that never seems to fade, the ripples in the water. He knew what the signs were when looking for the one they call Du’gahr, and none of them were present, yet. But the sun wouldn’t show for hours.

The End

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