The light in the tiny hut was dim, and by the light of the few embers burning under the kettle, the overly large group was straining to examine the old man who lived there--the one the townsfolk called Dalai. Having asked him their question, they looked at him expectantly, but he was not to be rushed. He had things to do himself, before he would tell them anything. Without rising from his chair, he lifted his head, and viewed each of the young men in turn. At first, this seemed strange, since his eyes were filled with cataracts and all present believed him to be blind. But as his dark, cloudy eyes turned to each person in the room, it was obvious that he could see. In fact, he was able to see far better than any of them. For where they had examined his face, he was examining their souls. Each of them dropped their gaze as  he looked at them, for his eyes burned with things that he had never been meant to see. And as their humbled eyes fell, they knew that this man was truly the one that they had searched for. Then, as he returned to the fire, he shifted and cleared his throat, and they knew they had passed his test. Then slowly, with a raspy voice, he began to speak.

"You have asked me how you might defeat the undead creatures of the night. I feel such sorrow at this, for your question reveals how little you know. But I also know that you ask this for the best of reasons, and you truly intend to brave the dangers that lie ahead. And so I will do as you ask, and will tell you what you need to know. But listen closely, for what I say now may not only save your lives, but your souls as well.

"First, know that it is wrong to speak of the creatures you seek in a single word, for there are several types, and each of them is more evil and deadly than the last. I know, in fact, of five unique categories of these creatures, and to tell you all the varieties within each type might take until tiny Luna finished another cycle. But in describing the six, I will be as thorough as I can.

"The weakest of all of them are called the voodookai, or animated dead. These are perhaps the most cursed of all, for while they remain animated, their souls can never truly be at rest. And yet, they contain none of the knowledge or power that they had in life. These creatures include the skeletons and zombies that often guard the temples of Shotan. The voodookai are strong and tireless, but they lack the intelligence to act for themselves. If you encounter any of these creatures, stand behind your priest, for he has the power to release them from their curse.

Stronger than these, but still weak by comparison are the Neerai, or beasts of the night. They are simply bodies that have been inhabited by foul spirits or minor creatures from other planes. They wander at night, eating the flesh of their victims. Different of these can affect you in different ways, but in call cases you should beware the touch of their rotting hands, for it is cold and will freeze you where you stand, allowing them to eat you while you still live. Ghouls and ghasts are the most common of this lot, and while your priest may be able to dispel them, the blade of your fighter should prove just as effective.

And hope that you may encounter a hundred of these, rather than running across even one of the creatures that they call master. They are the creatures that exist because the universe exists. They are the most feared pawns in the battles between light and darkness. The armies of darkness call these soldiers the Kolarai, and they some may take physical form, while others exist as a dark aura of hate that moves to engulf. They know nothing but the evil and hatred that fills their soul, and this hatred is tangible. It is black energy that radiates from their very existence, and allows their slightest touch to burn your soul and make you less than you are, leaving you as one of them. The wraith, wight and spectre are three of the most common of these, and they may be defeated only by the more powerful magics of your mage, or by an enchanted weapon, wielded by one of great skill.

"And different, but just as deadly is the creature known as the Urai. It is a corrupted soldier of the realm of light. Filled with the power of its home, it is all but impossible to kill, but the corruption of it makes it as evil as its Kolarai cousin. Creatures of this type often carry with them a powerful strain of corrupting disease, which will kill the strongest of men with but a touch. The mummy is the most common of these creatures, and it can only be killed by fire or a highly enchanted weapon.

"There is also the Spritai, who are damned spirits that are unable to face their own death. While some are benign, many have great power from their refusal to cross into the next realm, and such power is always dark. They lure others into the realm of darkness, with every word and deed. While not as dangerous as the Kolarai or Urai, they are harder to fight, as they are not evil by the normal definition of the word. They are simply angry and capable of much destruction. The ghost, spirit and poltergeist are three of the most common of these, and the best defense against them, if the right priests are not available, is to destroy them with a highly enchanted blade. While such a destruction is not permanent, it will often convince them to move on to the next realm.

"And last, but most dangerous is the Necrovi--the servants of unlife. These are the ultimate corruption of the natural order of things. Birth begets life, which in turn begets death, and this can lead again into life. The dark creatures of which I have so far spoken are just manifestations of problems within this cycle. The necrovi are far, far worse, for they are a manifestation of a whole other pattern in the universe, which seeks to undo the natural order. Most of these creatures do not have names, or if they do, you do not speak them aloud. The one form which you may know is the Nosferatu. No priest has power over an agent of the unlife, and the strongest blade will do little more than scratch them. To defeat them is to destroy their very essence, which usually requires undoing the magic that first created them. Such rituals are normally very complex, and are different from one to the next. And in contrast, their magics seem very able to destroy the cycles of the common man, and with but a few gestures, they may create more of their kind.

"The most dangerous and most despicable of these is the creature known as a liche. This is a powerful person who has allowed a fear of the cycle (or a desire for power) to destroy their own existence. They give themselves up to the unlife, while still retaining much of the power they held in life. They are normally capable of destroying the most powerful of armies with a few gestures, and even the most powerful mage usually falls victim to a well entrenched liche.

"My only advice" whispered Dalai, who was clearly getting tired, "is that if you must encounter one of the necrovai, pray that it is a liche, for although your death is certain, he may grant you a clean death."

Then without a word, he lay down and fell into a deep, fitful sleep. And as the brash warriors sat there trying to make sense of what lay before them, the final words of the old man haunted them. "although your death is certain, he may grant you a clean death." And the night seemed very, very cold.