I barely slept a wink last night, due to the never ending din coming from the bottom floor of the tavern. When I arose this morning, I found myself pushing past patrons who reeked of ale and whiskey who were, at this early hour, just retiring to their beds. As far as I am aware, they had all come to this dismal hamlet for the same reason I have, and I can only hope that whatever I may be tasked with, I will not be forced to be paired with the lot of them. Fortunately, I did not count the soldier I had met among them, so perhaps there was hope yet for at least one stalwart companion.
When I had arrived last night, it was too dark to pay much mind to the house upon the hill, and how it seemed to be cloaked in shadow. In the light of day, however, there was no doubt that the house was of sinister character. What is more, however, is that its shadow seemed to extend until it covered the whole hamlet, despite the fact that such a feat would be impossible, and that seemed to prove true for the countryside. The only reasonable explanation would be that everything that fell under the manor’s view was touched by darkness, warping it and corrupting it. I suspect that old magic may be infesting the manor and spreading outward, and perhaps this would explain the young Master Clarke’s willingness to pay good gold to purge his lands of it.
I found the apothecary with ease, a small wagon that had pulled up on the edge of the town. Its owner was a wizened and kindly man, who was far more informative than anyone else thus far. He had lived in this small town as a young boy, under the lordship of the elder Clarke. It was a time of prosperity for the town, though the elder Clarke seemed to be utterly removed from the duties of lordship. Rumors abounded about the distant lord, rumors of dabbling in the old magic. One day, when the man had just started to ‘prentice under the apothecary, the elder Clarke drew upon the men of the town in an excavation under his great mansion, an expedition that lasted several years. One day, he recalls, there was a great rumbling of the earth, threatening to swallow the land whole. It stopped, and several days later, the elder Clarke fled the town in the dark of night, laughing and wailing, while the rest of the men were never seen again. The town quickly fell into disarray and the inhabitants fled over the years, reducing the town to what it was now. His father had been one of those that fled, and was unaware of what may have happened in the meanwhile. He had only returned one week ago, once he heard the rumor that the young Master Clarke was returning to his ancestral homeland to finally cleanse it.
Feeling that I understood the situation better, I thanked him for the information and purchased supplies. He was able to supply me with two tinctures of mercury, a vial of honey, maggots, leeches, and pouches with various herbs. As he retrieved my supplies, I asked him what had become of the elder Clarke. He replied that the elder Clarke had perished some several weeks past, in the town, though the circumstances were unknown. Some say he was trampled under horse, others said that he finally paid for some dark bargain with his soul. As he handed me my willow bark, he said that the small church had collected his body and had given a small service for the deceased Clarke, but were otherwise silent on the matter.
I thanked him again and departed for the tavern, surprised to see a sister from the Order of the Mended Chain within the town. She disappeared inside the church, but her presence only further confirms the old magic. The Order did not take up mercenary work, they only appeared from their monastery to purge the old magic from infested areas, scouring the earth of its evil.
The tavern was empty when I returned, only containing a sweeper who was attempting to clean the floor from last night. I have retired to my quarters to prepare my medications, though that can only last for so long. I hope the young Master Clarke arrives soon, for I can only take so much of this boredom.