Catharsis left his field and began to trod the dirt path back to his home. The sun was setting behind him over the walls of Ǚr and he could see his dark shadow extending in front of him with each step he took closer to his home. His tools were slung over his shoulder. Burning a hole through his burlap shirt. Reminding him of the long day’s work.
When he felt it he stopped and turned around.
He squinted his eyes to see what was there.
He turned around and continued to press onward down the dusty road to his hut in the village. He could see it in the distance and smell the open wood cooking fires in the courtyards wafting towards him in the warm breeze.
His hut sat there amongst hundreds of others, at the foot of the great citadel. That place reserved for his Paladin and the village’s safe place against the Wahrlogs of the Encroaching Hinterlands.
Shh! That place must never be mentioned he reminded himself.
Catharsis’ body was sponged with tiredness. Dull pain from the constant hammering of his joints fighting the thick rocky soil of his field. His field, sat with others against the edge of the small kingdom. The village fields ran almost two-thirds of the way around the inside of the kingdom’s circular wall. Extending from the wall itself inward until they touched the edge of the village.
He looked back again, and this time his vision extended down the single cart road all the way past the Inner Gate and on to the Great Gate. Through the square steel he could faintly see their neighboring kingdom, Ǚruk. As the disappearing sun silhouetted the city black, his gaze came back inside the wall, scanning its base where the thick clay scaled downwards to meet with the growing crops.
“Hmph,” he grunted to himself as he turned and continued walking.
Catharsis was a complicated man. At least he thought himself to be. A man full of emotion simmering just under the surface of his tanned, taught skin. His head like a steadily simmering cauldron full of voices chattering incoherently about self-examination, guilt, shame, ineptness, and social inwardness. But also of helping those in need. These other voices spoke of selflessness, servitude, and exuding grace. Either way, his voices never stopped.
On the outside, his neighbors observed that he was a quiet soul. A soul that preferred to be alone. None would have guessed his social awkwardness and so he preferred this life of his. This life of toil. Where his efforts were manifest in the abundance of his crops.
As he arrived and entered the open doorway to his mud hovel he sensed it again.
Turning around he caught the blur.
Perhaps just a menagerie from the day’s heat and dehydration. Nothing a swill of barley grog wouldn’t take away. But then, he knew that was a remedy he wasn’t permitted, for it tainted the effects of the Elixirs. Those magical ingredients prescribed by the Mediciner to help diminish the effects of Affliction, that ailment – no, that torture, which he had endured since childhood.
He also knew that this Reaper was here to claim his soul.
Setting his tools down at the adobe threshold, he entered and cautiously lit a lamp on the table in the center of the room. Slowly raising his eyes and scanning the dim outskirts of the dull glow.
Now he felt it full force.
There it was in the corner.
The only reason he knew it was there was because he had lived this situation many times. Felt it so many times before. Been broken by it.
This visit by the Wahrlog of Darkness. This Specter.
Catharsis knew it was lurking just out of sight. Where the light faded into the darkness.
As he squinted, he could see its pale face under its sackcloth shroud push from the dark recesses. Its black, hollow eyes. Its sinister, unsheathed dagger teeth glistening in the shadows. Its chipped, stiletto nails sliding around the corner and scratching the walls of his soul.
Suddenly all the horrors of his life appeared at once. Those Tormentors that haunted his days.
The loss of his family. The hurt for his estranged daughter. His numerous failures in Relationship. His anger. His stonewalling and defensiveness. The ever present Darkness. When all of these forces gathered on him at once it was impossible to face.
The darkness enveloped him. Specter’s cloak spreading out from arms that spanned what seemed to be the entire breadth of the single-room dwelling.
He couldn’t stand to face this apparition again. Not with the incessant intensity with which it came this time. This time like so many others.
Often times leaving him crippled fetal on the floor, crying like a baby. Stripped of strength and will. And hope. Begging for it all to end.
In desperation he looked around the room for something to fend off the beast – this harpy. He could feel Its presence growing stronger and reaching towards him.
He couldn’t fight any more than he already had. The Wahrlog slashed at his eyes and dug his talons into his chest, plunging for his heart as its prize.
And so Catharsis decided to finish the fight he could no longer endure.
He fumbled for the cord hanging from the peg on the wall.
Throwing the cord over the rafter and fastening the loose end to the doorpost, he climbed atop the table.
Slipped his neck through the loop.
And let his body go limp.