The Ascension Gate

To Find the Living, You Must Face the Dead

Erasday, 16th of Toragas, 2022 AG

I am cold.

Though the night is warm and damp with the recent summer rains, the chill of winter has entered my bones. Autumn has barely begun, and the summer heat has not yet faded, yet I shiver. The sound of insects at the height of their enterprise thunders around us, yet it feels as though all should be silent, frozen, and desolate.

This is the touch of the dead. Damned souls that befoul the realm of the living, seeking to steal from it warmth and life to sate…something. Perhaps to feel warm for a fleeting moment, for a brief respite from the soul-shattering cold of death. Perhaps out of spiteful jealousy of those that yet live, hatred for that which they can never be again. Perhaps simply because they are compelled by the dark magics that animate them and truly have no memory of what they once were. I do not know the answer.

We did not find the pilgrims. I am convinced they are still alive, but we lost the trail long ago. We should have stopped the search miles ago, but I did not want to believe we had failed. Stubbornly, we pushed on, even as the sun’s light began to fade.

We found the clearing at dusk, a morass of mud and dead trees deep in the forest. I knew at once that we had found something dark, confirmed by Daba’s proclamation that an aura of necromantic magic hung heavily in the air. It seemed likely that this was the place mentioned in the local histories found at Parlfray Keep; the site of a battle between Lothar Parlfray and a dark cult. It would seem a curse truly was laid on this land, and we were drawn to it like moths to flame.

The wraith appeared after moonrise, two pinpricks of cold blue flame where its eyes should have been. Its body was translucent, nearly invisible. Only the shifting beams of moonlight bending through its outline gave any real indication that something was there. It locked its gaze on me, and I could feel pure hatred emanate from it like heat from a furnace.

The battle was swift, and Gadar be praised, our strikes true. Still, the creature’s touch was something I will never forget. It was as though my very soul was being pulled apart, like a loaf of bread broken to be consumed. I do not believe any permanent harm was done to me, but I will not forget that feeling. It will haunt my dreams.

Vilig is looking wan and feverish again. No wonder, with those creatures scratching at him. I will go and tend to him now. I doubt I could sleep anyway.

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Taros

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