As it began to spread into the Neblina Forest, Deng and his students began to work feverishly to stop it. It was E’thor who dubbed the disease the Black Fog. Its vapors found themselves in the lungs of creatures, turning them feral and wild. It was absorbed into the leaves of the plants of the forest, wilting them before their time and turning their stems and trunks black and twisted. Travelers who inhaled the disease became lethargic and tired before falling into a haze and eventually a permanent sleep unto death.
At first, the disease did not spread far. It stayed localized around the ruined tower that Deng quickly quarantined. Unfortunately, the Black Fog spread far and wide through the forest one day. In a magically scarred section of the forest in the south called the Dreamlands, the fearsome Zoog tribe and the mystic Cats of Ulthar had long been at war with one another. The Zoogs dug deep trenches around their territory to defend themselves, and the Cats of Ulthar summoned great storms to wash away the Zoogs from the area. Both parties warred over the Dreamlands, believing it to be a sacred and holy land to them. A particularly powerful storm from the Cats of Ulthar blew fierce winds throughout the entire Neblina Forest, and the Black Fog expanded its reach.
One of the many places affected by the Black Fog was the Vale, the home of Mavka. For years, Mavka lived peacefully but unhappily, ever unwilling to return to the Feywild without Arpistis. The Black Fog eventually came into the Vale, and stayed there due to the wind currents from the mountains and Prattle Lake. Mavka tried her best to defend it, but to no avail. All of the Vale was corrupted in a very short time, and Mavka caught the disease herself. But unlike humans, elves, dwarves, or the like in the forest, a dryad like Mavka underwent a terrible transformation as the Black Fog corrupted her. Her magic tried to subdue it, but she became a shell of her former self, full of hatred and self-loathing. Anyone foolish enough to cross into the Vale would meet with a terrible fate if Mavka found them.
Deng worked tirelessly with E’thor to cure Telynor, but Telynor’s situation worsened over time. E’thor began bringing in different magical ingredients from around the forest to help him and Deng find a cure, but nothing seemed to be working. Riuying took Arpistis and Griba with her on many ventures outside the forest to find magical cures for Telynor but they always returned empty handed. For two years, Deng and E’thor experimented with everything they could while trying to take care of a diseased and dying forest around them.
Telynor’s sickness came and went for the next three years, but each time it returned, it came back stronger than before. This drove E’thor into a maddening depression. The one he loved was always sick. What was worse was that E’thor blamed himself for opening the coffer in the first place. One day, he came upon an ancient scroll in Deng’s library that mentioned a rare silver lily that grew in the mountains north of the Neblina Forest. He crossed over Prattle Creek on the journey to find the silver lily and came upon a long abandoned manor, dilapidated and ruined.
Daring to venture in and willing to do anything for Telynor, E’thor came upon a figure wrapped in strange cloaks. It identified itself as Ar’ek, a self-proclaimed good-natured lesser demon. Ar’ek sensed E’thor’s mission to save his love, and promised to help him. Ar’ek had knowledge of many potions and magical medicines that only he could create. He only asked for one thing in return: E’thor was to visit Ar’ek and tell him about his travels, adventures, and work in the forest. As he put it, Ar’ek was lonely and wanted company. E’thor flatly refused and fled, returning to the Neblina Forest and back to Telynor’s side.
Telynor was awake and recovering for a time when E’thor returned. Happy to see the man he loved, Telynor proposed marriage to E’thor immediately, wanting to marry him before the Black Fog put him back into another months-long sleep. A small and quiet ceremony was held. Deng performed the ceremony, with Riuying, Arpistis, and Griba attending. For three days, E’thor and Telynor were happy. Then the Black Fog returned, and Telynor drifted to sleep once again.
E’thor raged. His husband was asleep yet again, and he and Deng were no closer to finding a cure than they were three years ago. In the dead of night, E’thor took Telynor away. He crossed Prattle Creek and ran up into the old manor and found Ar’ek again.
“Please!” he begged. “I love him! I cannot lose him! Teach me! Teach me so I can save him!”