Tenebroum (Noun): A place cut off from the light.

Riley ambushed his partner while they slogged through the mud, dragging their raft higher onto the shore.

He shoved a foot and a half of dull steel into Cutter’s side while the man's hands were full of rope.

The struggle that followed was brief, and by the time Riley had finished gutting Cutter like a fish, he barely had the energy to cry out in pain.

All he could do was cough up blood and lay in the mud while he tried to hold his entrails in.

He didn’t even have the strength to stop Riley from rifling through his pockets for the map and whatever else he might have had on him.

“Two shares is good, but one share is better, don’t you think, chum?” Riley asked, smiling that rotten smile as Cutter’s blood poured into the swamp water, and his world faded to black.


That should have been it for poor old Cutter.

A bad end for a bad man.

It wasn’t, though.

Even though he was dead, Cutter’s spirit stood over his own corpse, watching while his partner mutilated his body for a few more coins.

He couldn’t do anything to stop it as Riley broke fingers to get his rings off and followed that up by bashing him in the face a couple times with the hilt of his blade to pry loose his two gold teeth.Riley wasn’t any gentler when it came to getting rid of Cutter’s body.

He just shoved the hole in his guts full of stones before dragging him into three feet of water and letting him sink into the murk of the fen’s deep mud where no one would ever see him again.Cutter might have done the same thing, of course; waste not, want not, and all that.


He would have had the good sense to wait until they’d gotten the gold out of the swamp and downriver, though.

Killing anyone before you had eyes on the goods was about the dumbest thing a thief like Riley could do, but that didn’t stop him from doing it anyway.Cutter’s memories didn’t stop even after his eyes were blinded forever and his lungs filled with water.

Things just kept right on going after that.

Cutter even smiled as he watched the look of horror bloom on that weasel’s face when he opened the blood-soaked treasure map and found it hopelessly ruined.

That memory would last forever, even after the names and details of everything else dissolved in the murky water.

Even after the carp and the crawfish reduced him from a feast to a skeleton a little more every day, he would never forget that moment of elation.Riley still dug for the treasure that day, just as they’d planned to do together.


He got close too.

Painfully close.

He found the traces of something buried and dug up the empty chest Cutter had put down there as a decoy.

The look of disappointment that bloomed on Riley’s face when he opened it was grand but not half so satisfying as the rage that followed.Suddenly, the man exploded in violent fits that didn’t stop until he’d broken his shovel, beating the wooden chest while he shouted obscenities.

If he’d only dug two feet further, he’d have found the bags of old imperial coins and grave goods they’d stolen from those adventurers, but he didn’t.

The murdering bastard had stopped just short of the finish line.

He left that day empty-handed, searching for a new shovel and a better plan.If he’d left with the gold, Riley would have dragged it off to some city where he could live like a king for a few years, and the echo of the partner he’d left decaying in the bog would have faded entirely.

Cutter would have drifted away to whatever eternal reward awaited cutthroats and confidence men.That isn’t what happened, though.

Riley left the swamp with nothing but bloody hands and a couple gold teeth for his trouble.

He’d tried to steal everything but come away with almost nothing.

That thought kept Cutter’s wraith anchored where it was, basking in the misery of the murderer and anyone else who’d come after his treasure.Things grew more jumbled after that.

Days and nights blended together.

Cutter blamed it on the mist as he stood there in his lonely vigil, clinging to the bitterness of his betrayal like a compass needle.

If he wasn’t going to get to spend that shiny on a lifetime of wine and women, then no one else would, either.

After a few weeks, he wasn’t really a person anymore or even a memory of a person.

He was too diffuse for that.

He was a handful of memories mixed with a need for vengeance that slowly spread among the bog’s pools, drifting outward like poison.At first, he was stuck to the spot where he died, but as his blood drifted outward and the bugs that fed on his flesh wandered further afield, his reach widened.

By the time he could reach the treasure he’d so carefully buried deep in the muck, he could barely remember how they’d swiped all that gold in the first place.

He knew they’d stolen it from adventurers that had pillaged it from an ancient crypt and that he’d planted a deadhead log so Riley could ram it and sink their skiff on the way upriver.Still, he couldn’t remember quite how he’d gotten those casks this deep into the fen.

A few days later, he couldn’t even remember that much.

It didn’t matter.

He wasn’t even a ghost anymore.

He was a mist - a fog of greed that would never let anyone take the score he’d died so unpleasantly for.The only thing that kept time for the spirit was Riley coming back over and over again.

He spent months digging and searching on the boggy island after flea-bitten sand bar without success.

Day in and day out, he traipsed through the swamp, digging new holes where old holes had filled and faded away.It was enough money that he would have a hard time spending it in a lifetime, so it was worth finding, even if it took half a lifetime.

Anyone might have done the same thing.

Every day Riley looked for it, and every day Cutter’s spirit fed the darkness growing there, though.

Every time he raged in frustration at another empty hole, the treasure sank a little lower into the earth - forever out of his reach.

It was these outbursts that fed the shade of his partner.

He couldn’t do anything but exist and hate.

He couldn’t defend the treasure or summon minions to do it for him.

All he could do was watch and feed on the frustration of the man who searched.The murderer consulted soothsayers and arcanists.

Sometimes he returned with little toys like dowsing rods and charms that did nothing.

Occasionally he even brought the hedge wizards with him.

The con artists spent days leading the bastard in circles, but the ones with a real gift only found a growing malignancy in those murky waters and left almost immediately, never to return.

They sensed the light fading from this place as surely as the egrets that had stopped nesting here in the year since his betrayal.The dark waters and deep rushes were still full of life, but that life was changing.

Ducks and cranes chose to land in other wetlands along the river, but Shoebills and Bloodbeaks were becoming more common in their place.

The animals all sensed what Riley couldn’t.The murderer didn’t notice.

Instead of running from the festering darkness, he built a place to stay atop the one place he was sure the treasure wasn’t: the empty chest.

It was a terrible excuse for a shack - just sticks lashed to sticks to make a place to sleep.

The floor was a foot above the high-water mark, and the roof was thatched well enough that it mostly kept the rain off.

The shanty had a large flat rock in the center, just big enough to make a small cooking fire without burning the whole place down.It was a sign that he’d exhausted his meager savings staying in the nearby village, not that the shade cared.

All it cared about was that, instead of feeding on its murderer for a few hours at a time, it could do it all day long now.

Things became more vivid after that.The murderer could only spend half his time hunting for treasure because he had to spend the other half hunting or fishing for food, but that only made things worse for him.

The more he ate of the swamp, the more he became a part of the swamp.The shade could touch him now.

It could slide its fingers deep into the man’s twisted little mind and fan the flames of greed so that he would never give up.

In time the swamp discovered that all sorts of new torments became possible as well.

It couldn’t just make him stay - it could make him suffer.

Those torments turned the trickle of life force he’d been siphoning off his betrayer into a flood.Dreams were the easiest way to hurt anyone foolish enough to dwell in its depths.

The shade could invade the murderer’s dreams most nights when his defenses were lowest and force him to remember what he’d done.

The swamp couldn’t remember those details anymore, but its murderer did.Most of the time, it could only remember that look of disappointment when the murderer realized the map had been smeared into illegibility by his partner’s lifeblood.

When it was in the head of his murderer, though.It could remember other things too.

It could remember what it was like to have a name and hands.

It could remember what it would feel like for his reanimated corpse to hold Riley’s head under the brackish water until the bubbles stopped.

It could teach the murderer things too.

It could teach him what it felt like to be devoured by the denizens of the fen one tiny bite at a time.

These dreams were almost always rewarded with screams as the murderer bolted up from his nightmares.The real nightmare was all around him, though, and because of that treasure, he couldn’t leave.

So, day after day, he sank further into the mud and the madness, and he fed the one thing he wanted to stay buried the whole time.After dreams came diseases.

It was a harder thing to do that required the swamp to work through insects and spoiled food because it had no hands of its own.

All it had was a desire to make its murderer suffer, and the best tool for that turned out to be sickness.The first fevers came on tiny wings.


Swamp shivers.

Grey fever.

For over a year, the murderer had managed to avoid all of them, but in the space of a month he was infected with all three, back-to-back.

After that, the swamp let him recover from death’s door just enough to avoid killing him before he followed with Giardia and Goblin Guts.

Every day was hell after that, and every night was worse.

Not just because he couldn’t manage to keep anything down but because he was too sick to fulfill the need to hunt the swamp’s treasure, and it ate at him as badly as the diseases did.

Any sane person would have left by now, but there was no sanity in Cutter’s Fen.

There were only the dead and the damned.