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[Gift] The Black Star Path

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[Article clipping from the Mynrosian Chronicle]
 
It is I, dear readers, back once again with another tale from the depths of the turtonic isles. It is a particularly spine-tingling tale I bring you during this Slumbering Feast, so very thematic to the nature of the season.
 
As you well know, many myths and legends exist across the turtonic islands, tales of creatures both benevolent and foreboding that lurk in the places least traveled. The well-traveled are likely to be familiar with these tales, the most well-known of them the mysterious being who maintains the various rest stops across the many islands. These safe havens for the weak and weary have existed for an indefinite time, but are known by the strings of softly glowing silk stars that adorn their entrance and mark their location on a path. Camps, cabins, and inns alike, all of these places of rest seem maintained by magical means and are always stocked despite the season or time they were last inhabited, which has led to the traveler's tale of a being who is in many places at once but never seen by those who rest in these havens but readies them all when there is a need.
 
The antithesis of this good spirit is the creature that lurks where a different silk star hangs. These black stars give off a void-like glow, ink spots even on the palest night. It is said these are warnings of ill omens, of locations where a strange beast lurks or where wild magic lingers thickest. It is said those who travel the paths where these stars appear often disappear without a trace, gone from the world by whatever hidden creature lurks in these domains. Some believe the creature itself places the stars, aware of its nature and trying to warn away those it would make its prey.
 
As my dear readers know, I am not one to accept a tale at face value so I have once again done my due diligence to see if any bold individual has sought out the truth of this sinister tale. It is near one of these paths I met a researcher, who strangely enough was trying to commune with the spirits of those missing souls. While charmingly strange Zom ended up being a fountain of insight into this tale of a lurking beast. It seems he had some success in his summoning, but so many of them were distraught from their experience entering these dangerous locations that only pieces could be gained. What was discovered is that the tales of disappearances seem to hold some truth, as many plead with some unknown entity as if they are being pulled away. To where I cannot say but the alarm and the fact the spirits seem drawn toward the places marked with the black stars suggest that there is something hidden in these locations that may point to their fates. Alas, I am not so foolhardy, nor should you be dear readers if you would like to continue reading my tales of travel.
 
Fortunately, my findings did not end there, as Zom is truly a master at his craft and welcomed me to witness one of his summoning a spirit. He was eager to share the nuance of his work and emphasized that despite the alarm and despair many of his summons had shown that he was not drawing forth the last moments of these individuals' lives. It appears he draws forth strong emotions that imprint themselves on the magic lingering in these locations. So despite the bleak moments, he was drawing forth, he could not confirm that the stories told about these black star paths were entirely truthful. I would like to believe him, his confidence is infectious but one can only witness these moments and feel a certain sense of dread.
 
He summoned forth for the ritual, a frail little thing, a peculiarly small mhoat who didn't seem at all the type to brave a long trek from home to seek out danger. We both watched on, troubled and then alarmed as the little mhoat cried out and like so many of his others seemed to become frozen in fear but not immediately drawn away into the area marked by the stars. Zom grew excited, it seems this is what he had been waiting for, stepping into the path of the little spirit and beginning to talk quietly with it, to gather some moment of calm before its moment of clarity was stolen by the fear. In its tiny warbling voice, it claimed to see eyes that looked like the depth of the night sky and the stars began to radiate green. I found the second detail particularly strange as the stars seem to radiate the color of whatever their light reflects against, so whatever caused them to light must surely share that color. 
 
Given the little mhoats clarity at the moment I hoped to learn something more, but just as I tried to ask Zom a question the little form flickered out and disappeared entirely. My noise of displeasure seemed to pull the attention of the researcher and he gave me a bemused look but explained that the spirit faded because the emotions fueling the spirit had stopped at that moment. It did not seem this little mhoat was a victim of the strange beast lingering among the black stars. I was left feeling a strange mix of relief and frustration because this young mhoat surely must live in the villages nearby...and yet I had expected them to meet the same fate as the other spirits, to witness some detail that might clue me into this strange creature's nature.
 
I excused myself shortly after, Zom did seem a bit troubled by my mood following the summoning and suggested that I might rest at the inn nearby along the road leading back to the village. It seemed wise to remove myself, I had not noticed before but as I left the location I realized that a lingering feeling of unease had grown the longer I remained near those black stars as I heard the details given by the spirit researcher. It led me to wonder how he could endure such a feeling while researching such dire fates to those foolish enough to ignore the warning placed at the edges of that place. I have grown familiar with encountering the strange be it locations or fellow travelers, so I went to the Inn knowing a good night's sleep would ease the memories of that day. 
 
A warm meal, a warm bed, and the reassuring familiarity of a resting place kept by a more benevolent spirit set me at ease and allowed me to rest through the night. The following day I decided to visit the nearest village and seek out the identity of the little spirit I had witnessed the previous afternoon. As is so often the case, seeking out an unnamed figure is often time-consuming and likely to lead to dead ends, but it seems luck was on my side as a description of the little mhoat pointed me quickly to the village elder who seemed to be a sort of reservoir of knowledge for the town history and those living there. She is a lovely old mhoat, perhaps the tallest individual I have ever seen with long pale hair artfully coiled into the most elegant braids. She felt ageless, imposing in a way that only those who hold great knowledge can be, though one might claim her height played some role as one who often finds themself looking up a great deal of their life it can be effective.
 
She explained to me that her role in the village was that of a recordkeeper and upon seeing her sitting room I could understand well what she meant. Her walls were lined with various materials from books to scrolls and even a few maps and tapestries. I asked her how long the village had been founded and she admitted that there were a few centuries of history held within her home and a few more held within the archives of the town hall. I'll admit it left me breathless, all this information so carefully kept by one individual. I almost didn't know what to ask, of course, I was looking for the little mhoat from the summoning but with so much information before me, it felt like I could ask anything at all, even the origins of this local myth, but I decided to restrain myself and begin with the facts.
 
I explained my reason for visiting the area and my encounter with the spirit researcher and the little mhoat summoned at the edge of the mushroom forest. This seemed to capture the recordkeeper's attention, she stood and pulled out an old scroll of village lineages. Upon looking it seemed that none of the current residents matched the description of the mhoat I had seen, but she tutted at me and pointed to a branch a few generations back that held the description I was looking for. My heart plummeted as she explained the mhoat I had seen was the brother of her great-grandfather and that he had gone to the forest long before the inn along the road was built. That he has returned but eventually ventured out once more and went missing, that her family never knew what happened to him. She thanked me for discovering this moment of forgotten history, pulling out a newer tome, and writing down the information I had given her. I could not understand her acceptance of this information, but I suppose it explained Zom's response to my mood after the summoning. He likely knew of this little mhoat's fate and was battling with whether he should share the information, which it is for the best he didn't. This news was much easier after a good night's rest, I don't think my sleep would have been quite as calm after such a discovery.
 
Still, it left me deeply curious and so I asked this wise recordkeeper if she knew anything about what the little mhoat may have seen. To this, her expression became sad and she nodded while standing to place back the scroll and return the tome she had written in. Next, she pulled out an older book, one that had seen a few decades if the way the leather was cracked and the pages had yellowed was any indication. She explained that the stars had been hung at the edge of the forest for a little over a century and that there was an old tale that arose before that time of a strange creature forming in the thickest parts of the forest with elders using it as a tale to warn children away from wandering into beast's lair. It seems the story faded with time but not the sightings after the stars were hung, whatever was stalking in the night began to take fewer curious mhoats as some sort of ward contained where it could roam. 
 
I was alarmed, that this creature may have at one point roamed the area surrounding the village and stolen those careless enough to wander at night seemed alarming. Again the recordkeeper seemed unbothered, but I suppose for this village it is merely a history rather than a threat, but it did leave me to wonder what the creature was and who might have the ability or even desire to contain it. Such a power would often be attributed to a deity, but when I asked about the origin of the stars it seemed that the recordkeeper had no answer and even fewer about the monster in question. She admitted there were some details gathered over time, but none of it had ever added up to a creature like the one the little mhoat had described. Some claimed it a large furred beast, others a serpent, the eyes were always different, but the presence of terrible fangs and long tendril-like body parts seemed to be a constant. None of these described what the little mhoat had seen, so it left me once more at square one or something like it.
 
Traveling as always did lead me to a unique story and strange individuals, but as always it seems the truth is elusive and incomplete. While there is some truth to the myths of where these black stars hang, I could not find the reason they mark a location nor could I find who may have left them. Someone powerful in magic and old to be certain, but with no description to be found, I found myself once again at a dead end. Not even the sighting of the creature itself beyond some vague drawing left in an old leatherbound book.
 
As you know dear reader, it is not the answers but the journey that makes up our monthly ventures out into the wide world. While this tale is still a mystery it is one with some glimmer of light shone upon it and I take that as some consolation. If nothing else there was an answer to past history for the family of the spirit we encountered and some clarity to the nature of the story. Perhaps if I seek out more of these locations pieces will fall into place and I can return to you all with an update in the future. Until then, my travels continue dear readers and you will soon hear from me again.
Numiauri
[Gift] The Black Star Path
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In Halloween XTA ・ By Numiauri

A travel writer stumbles upon the story of a little green entity, but the answers are not as clear cut as they may hope c:

Word Count: 2,250


Submitted By Numiauri
Submitted: 1 month agoLast Updated: 1 month ago

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