In opposition to the oppressive summer heat, the children of the small third world settlement, Bagrudesh, often gathered round the naturally formed lake on the village outskirts. This tranquil, surreal paradise created and constantly fed into by runoff streams stretching to faraway places, was a true oasis for life of all kinds in the midst of an unforgiving desert. In any given direction beyond the water’s reach lay nothing but ruined earth and barren infertile sandy soil. Frequent windstorms, which ravaged the area daily, gathered huge smothering clouds of dust and debris, moving small mountains worth of sediment in a matter of hours.
Yet, despite the storms destructive power, they would never dare come near the oasis. Elder Tahn, amongst the oldest living members of their village, commonly explained this exclusion of the oasis to those who asked by telling them that the storms could not reach the small forest due to its low lying position in the surrounding terrain’s topography. Most of the village inhabitants simply believed the location was protected by their deity.
Due to an unforgiving climate and infertile soil, as well as other challenging terrain conditions that defined the region, growing anything beyond the barrier of the oasis was impossible. Beyond the oasis, no one knew for certain if life could exist at all. Only the elders were old enough to recalled how the world had been before the disaster occurred, and even they had doubts that anyone else could have survived. The rest of the world seemed silent and empty.
Knowing that their paradise may very well be the last chalice of life on Earth, they respected and praised it as their God and savior. The village relied ultimately on the bounty of the forest. Should it perish, they would soon follow. Possessing an understanding of their interconnection with the forest, the inhabitants of Bagrudesh treated her well. In return for her bounty, they nourished the forest and insured it thrived.
Each day at dusk, the village elders, Tahn included, would make their way to the forest and commence the offering of gifts to Mother Eun. The practice was known as Joob-La-Goo, or 'The Giving of Thanks'. The gifts, mostly trinkets or other small items that various selected village residence had crafted by hand, were placed atop large bungalow leaves and set to float towards the center of the lake. After a prayer was said and ritual candles were lit, the elders would depart just as the sun began to drop over the horizon. The next morning, the items, but not the leaves, would be gone.
Elder Tahn, a man of science, could never quite deduce an exact reason for why this occurred. The other elders sometimes couldn’t help but chuckle at his scientific rationalization of all things. They told him to accept that Mother Eun was acknowledging their tribute and that is where the items were going, to the other side. Tahn did not agree with their justification, however he found it impossible to prove them incorrect.
While the forest welcomed the village members warmly during the day, it was strictly forbidden that no one set foot in or remain within the oasis parameter beyond sunset.
To some degree of irony the rule preventing him from uncovering the truth behind this occurrence was established in partial on account of his own request. Many moons past he had reasoned with the Elder Council in order to inaugurate the ban on night travel. Even the elders were not allowed in the forest after dark. No one was. The reason for this strictly reinforced rule was due to the disappearance of a young girl many years prior. She’d entered the forest a few hours before dusk with a group of other children. While the others left at the proper time she refused to come along. They left her in the waters, afraid of what their parent’s might do to them for being late to supper and too young to fully realize the error in their decision. The sun set soon after... The girl was never seen again.
Her body was never found. The lake was combed many times to see if she had possibly drown, yet no evidence turned up. While there were wild beasts, bore and other creatures loose in the forest, no signs of a struggle could be determined. After a while, people gave up looking for her. They’d combed the entire forest and found nothing, not a single trace that she’d ever been here. The cause of her disappearance was left unknown.
Tahn tried to reason with the other elders and the village members as to what might have happen to the girl. They refuted his logic, for he could offer no solid proof. They believed that she was stolen away by an evil spirit called Ka-dral-in, ‘The Night Stalker.' As they saw it, all things that remained within the forest past the sun setting, forevermore belonged to the forest.
After the girl’s disappearance some became weary of the forest’s intentions. Many stopped visiting it or paying tribute. Consequently, personal belongings began mysteriously vanishing from the villager’s homes in the middle of the night. Some villagers described seeing Kadralin’s shadow moving through the village. It was deemed that he was permitted to wander free from the forest because Mother Eun was incapable of controlling him without absorbing the power of their tribute and praise.
Fearing that Kadralin may soon begin to steel away other children directly from the village, the Elder Council deemed that Joob-La-Goo needed become law for every inhabitant. The normal rituals were also accompanied by additional ones, which included the monthly butchering of wild bore. With these modifications it was believed that mother Eun would be strong enough to control Kadralin, preventing him from further tormenting the village.
Tahn once again disputed their rationality, however, he was forced to accept their terms when the first night that the rituals and additional tributes were offered, Kadralin was not seen… or the night after… or the next. Despite the rituals apparent success, it was proposed by elder Tahn that no one enter the forest at night under any circumstances. He suspected other forces were at work, and until he was certain of what happened to the young girl, he’d see no one else lost to the shadows.