We entered the forest clearing as the sickle of Orhan was rising above the dense treetop foliage. The obelisk was there, just as the tales had said. But of what use was it? Garrik rushed to the pillar. This was all his idea... "Well, what is it?" I asked Garrik finally as we circled the five-sided pyramidal obelisk. It stood almost twice our height. The smooth, pale grey stone was inscribed with swirling symbols. I shivered, and not with the chill of the night. It was a cool evening, but my chills came from an unease over being in this huge dark forest in the middle of the night.

Garrik had assumed his most officious linguist expression and peered intently at the runes. "I believe it is a monument to some Lord of Orhan or another. Something about 'night' and 'sleep'..."

"Fine, now let's get out of here. It's five miles back to the river, and --"

I stopped when I saw Garrik's face, then I looked in the direction of his open-mouthed stare.

There at the edge of the clearing were horrors as I hope I live long yet never see again. I could not even see how many there were, but they made a sickening, slimy-wet sound, and the stink that drifted towards us was a foul stench of rotting flesh.

"Destroyers....Destroyers of the Older Ones..." Garrik was mumbling, but I didn't understand his meaning. Nor did I care at the moment, only wanting to run - and far. But I couldn't! Somehow rooted to the spot, I could not make my legs carry me away. A mist of darkness enclosed the clearing, blurring the trees and even dimming the thin silvery light of Orhan. The unearthly, formless creatures drew nearer, and I began to sense something even more terrifying than their hideous appearance: an alien touch on my thoughts, some foul mind invading my own...

Then through the vaulted corridors of the forest I heard a thunderous gallop, and a misty-white glow appeared far off but rushing towards us with unreal speed. The shadowy mist wavered, and several of the creatures drew back, leaving trails of loathsome slime matting the grass in their wake.

All at once a great light burst into the clearing, at the center of which was a rider all in black but astride a mighty white unicorn. The darkness fled to the perimeter, gathering the protective shadows there. We stood by the obelisk, frozen in fear and wonder.

The rider, tall and stern with sable hair, drew a sword glittering like a clear winter night. It glowed with a pure light and from its tip flared a ray of cleansing white fire. The foul creatures were burned in a flash of light, leaving only smoking tra ils of their grotesque ooze.

Garrik cried with joy, even as I was still trying to recover my senses, rushing to the rider, calling out his name. Then I realized: Reaan, the Master of Dreams, had saved us from this living nightmare.

Tale of Ranzi Arain, Duranaki Prince
As told to Randae Terisonen
4750 Third Era
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