The townspeople are of a curious sort.
I prepared my concoctions and medicines, surprised by the high quality of the ingredients the alchemist was peddling. It was still the early afternoon when I had finished, and finding myself overcome with boredom, I decided to explore this ramshackle hamlet.
I went downstairs, finding it mostly empty though restored from the destruction visited upon it the night before. The owner was the only one present, a one eyed man with horribly twisted back. He quick with food, though he only spoke in barely audible sentences when he spoke at all. His daughter was around, doing most of the cleaning up, and she proved to be much more useful, even if she was a mere country bumpkin. I asked her what she knew about the Clarke family and she was more than willing to indulge me, but fell silent under the withering glare of her father. Not wanting to risk his wrath, I let the subject quickly drop until he wandered off to take care of some other business. Once he was out of earshot, she started to speak quickly, divulging her secrets as if I were an older sister. She was young and didn’t say much that was useful, simply that she had always been warned to stay away from the Clarke castle, and that she was forbidden to travel to certain parts of the countryside and had to stay on the road. In a hushed voice, she told me that she had tried to sneak off to the nearby coast to see if mermaids lived in a cove there, but she had seen strange things moving in the woodland and didn’t get very far.
I asked her what she knew about the Clarke family, and she told me that the elder Clarke had returned to the estate a few months ago , but he had hidden himself away until his sudden passing several weeks ago. She seemed unsure how, she said she had heard a pistol shot the night he died but no one wanted to talk about it.
Once the subject of young Master Clarke came up, she became unusually quiet and averted her eyes. I asked her what she knew about him, and she stammered out that he had been brought into this world without a mother. I asked her to explain, but she muttered something about an evil mouth and then grew quiet. Efforts to get her to explain what that meant proved fruitless, but anyway, her father had returned and was glaring at me with his one good eye. I paid for my meal and left, thanking both of them.
It has been 8 long years since I graduated the physician’s college and chased the plague across the continent, healing and profiting in its wake. While death and disease were aplenty, I had also seen much fouler things arise from locations where the plague was particularly devastating. So much death in one place would twist the energies in a place, corrupting it and allowing other things to arise that could only be cleansed by non-scientific means. Those locations had a particular air of corruption about them, where darkness seemed to seep into even the brightest spots. This whole estate has a similar air surrounding it, and the focal point of it all seems to be that damnable castle upon the hill. The feeling of being in its shadow constantly is unshakeable, and it amazes me that life is somehow able to flourish under it. Though this can hardly be described as “flourishing”, merely surviving.
I saw some more of the townspeople outside, and all of them seemed to be in a similar state as the tavern owner, all diminished and twisted it seemed. I found myself wondering how these people lived in such a harsh landscape.
The travellers were easy to spot, in comparison to the townspeople. There is a certain vitality about them, a worldliness. By my count, there are maybe 8 of us present. I’ve seen some coming and going from the church to keep the faith and others seem to only hold the faith of the bottle. I encountered the soldier I had met on the first day outside of the tavern, and we exchanged pleasantries. He introduced himself simply as Blacksmith, stating that his name was of no consequence, his trade was what he was. When I asked if he had been an armorer for the army, a brooding look came over his face and denied it. He is lying, clearly, though to what end I am unsure. He informed me that the rumor was that the young Master Clarke was due to return tomorrow with a wagon full of gold.
Since it seems that he had interacted with the others more than I have, I asked him what he thought of our companions. He complained at length of a woman from the Pagan East that was staying at the tavern, proclaiming that her surname was Wolfswift but may as well be hellion, but the rest seemed to be of a solid sort.
I thanked him for the information and we parted ways, returning to my room. As I write this, I can hear the rabble returning downstairs, consuming their ale and creating a racket. I will do my best to become absorbed in my work and ignore it, hopefully getting a better night’s sleep than last night. I hope that the rumors are true and the young Master Clarke returns to his homeland tomorrow, and that this venture will not prove to have been a waste of time.