The Swamps of Kalareth
A fantasy short story
"Beware the Swamps of Kalareth, for those who enter, will never return." The marshes within the Forbidden Lands, cursed for eternity after the Lich king, Vezrael, was defeated the lands became cursed by his soul. The dead are forever cursed, the souls of the innocent trapped beneath the dark and murky waters. Should one get too close the souls shriek and reach to pull them in and drown them. Adding to the unfortunate souls below. But there is still more.
For deep below the swamps of Kalareth, under the Bastael mountain, where the very air you breathed was poisoned. If the marshes did not kill you, the air would take its time. Torturing your body setting your lungs ablaze. The few who enter the cave are met with the undead. Creatures of all kinds rotted and reanimated to face against the living who dare enter. If the brave were to make it through, the barren caves echoed your footsteps, dripping water reeking like sewage falls upon their armor. Distant rustles and footfalls of a massive creature full the empty caverns. A sigh of humongous lungs breathes a wind through the lair. Quietly you reach the hoard. A glittering room filled with riches untold, magic swirling around a chaotic mesh between the divine, and dark. There the beast lay, with jaws large enough to eat an elephant as a treat. Should one gaze into the dark wells that are its eyes, demise, dread, and death. For here you have arrived at the Lair of Xaranath.
“Approach slow, mortal.” It breathes. His deep tone gently vibrating against his hoard. “I must congratulate thee, for very few have reached my hoard.” He places his massive claws in front of him as he raises his body off of the ground. As a mouse watches a snake rear up for the final strike, his head gazed down upon you. A green acid dripping from his mouth. The feeling in the air changes as he lifts his front paw in a clenching motion, the very air in your lungs disappears, your mouth becomes parched, you reach for the water nearby and as you thrust your head into the water, you cannot swallow. The water repels from you. And as you lay there, “gulping” the water you fail to see the spectral glow approaching you. Your thirst grows, more and more, and the undead spirit approaches faster and faster. From above Xaranath smirks, you hear his final words as your eyes begin to close, “Ahhh yes, the suffering of mortal souls.”
Your body begins to freeze, your soul leaving slowly from your body. You awaken once again, deep below the water. Surrounding you are the wailing souls of the long deceased. Your body begins to rise above the cursed water. A voice almost compelling you to walk forward, you look up to the massive reptilian beast in front of you, "Good," he sighs, "Listen closely, follow my every word. You work for me, you will heed every command, you will guard this hoard with your soul. No one is to touch it. No go to the marsh and remain there." Your legs move on their own, you try to resist, try to scream out, and refuse. Nothing.
You enter the marshes and see the wandering dead within the swamp, your weapons in hand. You've become cursed for eternity. And in the distance you can hear the echoing laughter of Xaranath. Years pass and not another soul enters the swamps, you've wandered aimlessly until finally, a group enters. Who might this group be? Are they trying to get to the hoard? It seems as though they are attacking the other undead.
Your body moves without control. Before you know it, you are raising your sword against a vaguely familiar face. A relative. Your father. Your soul screams, wanting to stop. He gazes at you noticing the resemblance. Deep in his eyes, you can see the horror and sadness as your sword clashes with his shield. He has others with him, a group that you cannot recognize in your head you hear the command once again "You will guard this hoard with your soul."
With a conviction in your heart you raise your sword once again and lunge at him, your sword slides past his shield and it plunges into his heart. You want to scream, what have you done? It's over, there is nothing more you can do. Your bones break, you fall to your skeletal knees and wail. You've served your purpose and your soul slips away from your body. The world rushes beneath you as you Descend to the depths of Avernus. Welcome to your eternal damnation.
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