Darkest Dungeon 10

JOURNAL 10
This weald is a wicked place and the air within stinks of moist, rotting vegetation. The gnarled and knotted trees grow so tall and so thick that we cannot even walk shoulder to shoulder, and the canopy above is interwoven so tightly that little light can penetrate it. We entered a short while after sunrise, but we were quickly reduced to relying on our torch for light to fight off the encroaching darkness. The warped trees cast twisted silhouettes in the flickering light, giving the impression of movement all around and making us wary. We have expended our energy for the day and established camp, giving me this chance to write. Even now, as the campfire dwindles, the shadows still startle me from time to time and tempt me to sound the alarm.

A day within this place and the only indications that life exists among these corrupted trees is in the undergrowth, which is teeming with insects. I first heard them skittering amongst the carpet of dead leaves shortly after it had become too dark to see without a torch. It was a slight noise at first, barely audible over our footsteps. But as we have traversed deeper into the weald the chittering of these unseen insects has become louder, at times reaching such a volume that your thoughts are at risk of being drowned out. Curiously enough, they seem to actively avoid the light of our torch and all I have been afforded glimpses of is light reflecting off shiny black carapaces before the creatures scurry into the safety of darkness. I believe I shall make it a project of mine to capture one for study. Perhaps one will stray too close to the fire and I will be able to impale it upon my dirk. Now, as the fire burns, I can hear them just outside the circle of light as if they were waiting for something.

Even among these trees, the shadow of the manor can be felt. Within the hamlet it is omnipresent and hangs over every action you perform, every location you visit. Within this place however, where Nature has been twisted and corrupted by the old magic, the darkness is oppressive and all encompassing. It threatens to overpower the mind and lurks at the edges of vision no matter how bright the fire burns. It is undeniably difficult to bear, though all of us have our own ways of coping. Blacksmith has brought a small talisman of the Goddess with him that he clutches and mutters to, Maxwell takes solace with Anselm, and Cole has his whisky. I am not concerned about them presently, but I fear what might happen if Cole runs out of drink.

We are all trusting Maxwell to lead us, though it would be more accurate to say that Anselm is leading. Blacksmith and Cole are competent men and have done tracking in their time, though Maxwell is the most experienced huntsman of the group and if there is a single living thing within this weald, he will find it. He insists that he is following a subtle trail amongst the trees that shows evidence of recent use, and if we are to find this Hag of the Weald sticking to this trail must be the best way to do it. We followed it to a small cleandaring in the trees, where we have established our camp. We have seen no sign of the ancestral cemetery that sits at the heart of the weald, so we have far to travel yet.

The insects chitter just outside the circle of light, but beyond them the weald sits still and quiet tonight. York’s report of necromancy within the manor raised concerns amongst the group, but there’s no sign of such foul happenings within the weald. Blacksmith believes this Hag we are hunting to be a witch, a practitioner of a unique brand of foul, Unnatural magic. Cole disagrees, though he refuses to divulge why. I suspect that he has learned something from the library, or the young Master Clarke confided in him the nature of the Hag, which may explain the secrecy. I suppose it does not make a difference to our mission, though I do not like the idea of information being held from me.

The hourglass runs low, and it is time to wake Blacksmith to assume the watch. Only one more turn of it before we all wake and set out again.

Darkest Dungeon 9

JOURNAL 9

At sunrise, I am to go into the weald surrounding the hamlet with Maxwell, Blacksmith, and Cole as my companions.

The young Master Clarke and Raziq have only deciphered a small portion of the notes recovered from the library, but they have already revealed much. It seems that the elder Clarke long held a fascination with the old magic, and for many years before he learned of the thing lurking beneath his estate and began his ill-fated expedition, he used his considerable wealth and influence to collect strange devices wrought with dark enchantments. One of the very first was the dreaded monkey’s paw, a wicked artifact that originated deep within the southern continent. As Raziq explained it, an old shaman had given it the power to grant three wishes to who ever held it, with the warning that no one can escape their fate. The paw had belonged to many owners, but eventually had worked its way into the ownership of the elder Clarke. The notes made mention that he had gifted it to someone who had lived within the manor, though there were no specifics as to who. In a later note, there was a singular mention of the “Hag Of The Weald” who seemed to be in possession of the paw, but they could find no further information on it.

Speaking with his customary authority, the young Master Clarke said that the weald was a result of corrupted growth, the source of which could be traced to his family’s ancestral cemetery. His father had made mentions of sprawling overgrowth, how it had taken over the ancient mausoleums and spread into the pristine hunting grounds upon the estate, and the young Master Clarke believed that the corruption festering below the surface had fueled it further, bubbling up and driving the gnarled roots farther and deeper. He believes that the source of the growth may rest with the Hag, and even if she is merely a denizen of the weald rather than the cause, recovery of such a dangerous artifact as the monkey’s paw is to be one of our highest priorities.

Maxwell and Anselm will prove useful, having spent many years as trackers for the royal family they once served. Surely they will be able to find a lone woman who lives in the woods. Blacksmith is of sure heart and steady hand, a stalwart companion if there ever was one. I am leery of Cole, however. The man has been in his cups since he returned from the ruins of the manor, and while he is seasoned veteran of many campaigns, I cannot help but wonder if the young Master Clarke has depended on him for too long and for too much. Cole will be unable to bear the weight of this campaign alone, and if he is not allowed to rest, I fear what may become of him and those he leads.

My preparations have been completed. I have packed away my physician’s supplies, and I have sufficient quantities of the concoction I had prepared with the help of the alchemist’s library. Maxwell has volunteered to personally prepare our equipment and rations, which we will receive from him in the morning. The young Master Clarke has requested that, if we are afforded the opportunity, to reclaim any lost heirlooms scattered throughout the weald.

I must rest. I do not believe that this will be a short journey, or an easy one. I have asked Blacksmith to pray to the Goddess for the safe return of all four of us.

Darkest Dungeon 8

JOURNAL 8

Another day has passed, and much has happened.

The party returned from the ruins in the dark of the night, loudly calling for my services as a physician.  I had at first disregarded it, thinking someone to be merely drunk, but a startled Maxwell pounded on my door, requesting my presence downstairs where I was greeted by a gory sight.  The sister, Catherine, had been laid out on a table, barely conscious and her robes soaked in blood. The other three were wounded but able to stand, allowing me to focus my immediate attention on her.

She had endured multiple slashes by cruel blades, the edges of her wounds looking much more ragged than if cut by a regular sword.  Her arms and her legs had been hacked at badly, and she had one nasty laceration that had exposed her ribs, though her interior anatomy had been spared any damage.  She was still conscious and receptive to pain as I examined the wounds, though a small amount of ether was sufficient to render her fully unconscious.  Her skin was clammy, possibly from fever already setting in, so I have applied maggots to the worst of the cuts.  She rests in my quarters now, and once the maggots have done their healing work I shall pass her to the church to continue her rest.  It is unfortunate that she had suffered so much and rendered so helpless, for the healing abilities of the Order are revered for their efficacy.  If she were more able, there was much she could have done for herself.

The bounty hunter was much better off, his only wound being a crossbow bolt that had passed through his shoulder.  The weapons wielded by the enemy seem engineered to ensure much suffering, as his wound was also ragged and torn around the edges.  His clothes were covered in some strange green ectoplasm, the likes of which I could not identify despite its pungent odor.  His wound will heal with no intervention on my part, but I have leeched both sides of the wound as well as his arms so as to ward off fever.

The leper, who I would later learn was named York before his illness, had taken his fair share of blows as well. The leprosy had ravaged him some years past, rendering his skin cracked and useless while also making him immune to pain.  In a strange twist of fate, his illness had possibly offered him the best protection against those malicious weapons.  Unfortunately, he was just as immune to all my healing efforts.  The leprosy did not take his life, though if he is not careful, he may die an even slower death within the estate.  He may feel no pain, but the flesh is finite.

Clarke’s man Cole bore no injuries from these cruel blades, though his body was battered and bruised.  There was not much I could do for him, in that case, and he seemed much more interested in seeking whisky than healing.

The story, as it came to me from York, was that immediately upon entering the ruins they were beset on all sides by the undead.  Unable to fight their way through, they sought a route to the library.  The buildings have fallen into a state of disrepair, and the only way to the library was through caved in, claustrophobic corridors, which Cole navigated them the best he could with the map they had been provided.  Cole was relentless, pushing them well past the point of exhaustion and forgoing all rest with the intention of reaching the library and its trove of knowledge as quickly as possible.  York said that once inside, it was impossible to track the passage of time, but he estimated that within a day they had reached the library.  Tomes and scrolls were stacked amongst shelves, along with more occult devices that Cole strictly forbade anyone from touching them.  The party quickly gathered everything they could, shoving whatever they could reach into their packs.  York uncovered a small alcove within the library that showed evidence of men living there, and recently.  Within the alcove, there were grisly tomes in a strange cipher he claimed not to understand, though the pictures indicated they were texts of necromancy.  With no mention of rest, Cole drove them to depart, leaving the ruins as quickly as they had come.  It was upon their exit that the undead had fallen upon them with more intensity than before, perhaps because their presence had been noted in the library.  Whatever the reason, it was during these assaults the party sustained their worst wounds and when Catherine had been most grievously injured .  To his credit, Cole rallied the members and acted as an enraged berserker, carving a swath through the undead that stood in their way until they were able to exit and return to the hamlet with Catherine unable to walk.

The sun was rising as I finished my treatments, and by the time I was done the travelers had all assembled, along with the young master Clarke.  Cole passed over what they had retrieved from the ruins, which Clarke received warily.  With barely a mention of what had taken place in the library, he simply summoned Raziq to his side and instructed the travelers to assemble at sundown in the tavern.

I must sleep, and try and recover the rest I lost the night preceding.  I can only assume that the young Master Clarke and Raziq are poring over the documents recovered from the library, seeing what sort of sorcery the elder Clarke had partaken of.  I assume that another party will be sent out shortly, within the next day or so, as the extent of the corruption and the way to cleanse it become more apparent.  I have no desire to expose myself to danger, but I do not know if I can tolerate simply sitting and waiting as another group goes out to face whatever foul things wander the estate.

Darkest Dungeon 7

JOURNAL 7

It has been a full day since the party set out for the ruins of the manor, and the mood amongst the travelers has soured.  What was before an anticipation of future riches has become a brooding upon the monstrosities that fester within the ruins of the manor, the results of some sort of foul necromancy.  The old magic has always existed within the cracks of the world, and whatever it is the elder Clarke opened has acted as a beacon for those unspeakable things. Having realized this, my fellow travelers have begun to imagine the nature of what we may be about to face.  The corruption is extensive, and it amazes me that this squat hamlet has somehow been spared.  Even the woods have a stink of corruption about them, the trees and branches all twisted and gnarled, warning off anyone who may think of entering.

While they have been gone, plumbing the ruins for the library, another traveler has wandered into the hamlet.  This new stranger wears the garb and speaks with the accent of the southern continent, and he is laden with pouches and packs that bulge with scrolls and odd devices.  He gave his name as Raziq, and requested the young master Clarke by name upon his arrival.  There is a certain sect of scholars within the southern continent that dedicate their lives to studying the old magic – I can only assume that he belongs to such a sect and a thirst for knowledge of the forbidden has brought him here.  Perhaps the young Master Clarke sent for him to help decipher what horrible machinations have been set in place, but I did not inquire any further than necessary, leaving him in the company of Maxwell and Blacksmith.  The old soldier seemed uncomfortable around the student of this occult, but Maxwell did not seem to mind.

Fortune has smiled upon me in the form of the kindly old apothecary and his wagon.  Within the hamlet proper, there is little in the way of scholarly works, and I would not be surprised if even the clergy proved to be illiterate.  However, the apothecary and his wagon have proven to be most useful, having alchemical texts and medical scrolls along with a wealth of ingredients.  He allows me to peruse his library of information for the small of fee having someone to talk to, and he has proved to be the one bright spot in this shadowed town.  While I have followed the plague and only have stories of death and destruction, he has spent his life traveling the continents, occasionally serving famous alchemists and physicians.   His stories were joyous ones and allowed me a moment to forget what abominations are festering under the very earth.

Within his wagon, I found a scroll detailing an alchemist’s quest to discover Alkahest, the universal solvent.  He had ultimately failed, much like those before him, but buried within the formulas I found one that may prove useful against whatever abominations await me throughout the estate.  The alchemist had discarded it as useless, but I believe it may help destroy and rot whatever I may encounter.  I was able to purchase the ingredients from apothecary and they are brewing as I write this.  I know not how I will be able to test it, but I can only hope that when that time comes it will be effective.

I hope that those four in the ruins return quickly and safely.  No one has seen the young Master Clarke since he left the tavern, shaking with disgust over the obscene mockery of his family’s house.  He may be exploring his ancestral homeland further, mapping out the extent of the corruption, though the task seems foolhardy without his man-at-arms.  He is the only thing providing direction and unity to the travelers gathered here.  If he were to perish, that all would be lost, allowing the thing his father pulled into our world to grow unchecked.

Darkest Dungeon 6

JOURNAL 6

As I write this, four of our number are walking the treacherous path to the ruined manor that sits upon the hill, casting its shadow over everything below it.

We all gathered this morning at sunrise in the tavern, as instructed by the young Master Clarke.  Himself and his man Cole were already present when I arrived, and I couldn’t help but notice he looked particularly hollow eyed, as if something had robbed him of his sleep.  Cole looked much the same, though he did appear unusually absorbed in his tankard of mead for such an early hour.  Once the travelers were assembled, Cole distributed the initial payment for our service from a sack of gold.  The paltry sum that was greeted with grumbles of dissent, mine included, though the young Master Clarke quickly placated us with promises of future riches.  He detailed his plan of recovering long lost heirlooms and valuable artifacts that were lost over the estate, promising substantial wealth to whoever helped retrieve them.  This calmed the travelers, allowing him recount his expedition from the night before.

After departing the tavern the previous night, he and Cole had set out to explore the estate so he may learn the extent of the corruption stemming from the subterranean cavern deep below the manor.  The dark of the night proved challenging to navigate, he claimed, but the two men were able to at least approach the ruins enough to see the foul things stirring within.  The undead, he claimed, in staggering numbers and still wearing finery emblazoned with his house’s crest in some obscene mockery.  At this, he began to visibly shake, overcome with some emotion between revulsion and anger, and the gathered travelers murmured to each other in disbelief.  I have had some experience with the undead, in cities where death caused by plague twisted and corrupted Nature, but I can not speak for everyone.  After he regained his composure, the young Master Clarke thanked providence that the undead seemed chained to the manor, sparing the small hamlet of their horror, and then excused himself from the tavern.

His man Cole took over, detailing the plan.  The young Master Clarke had inherited a map of the ruined manor from his father, the likes of which indicated a vault deep within the manor that served as his father’s library.  Cole was to lead 3 others into the manor in an attempt to reach that vault and recover everything they could, so as to shed some light upon the corruption that had taken hold, and perhaps how to defeat it.  Picking the sister Catherine, the bounty hunter Achus, and the nameless leper as his 3, he stated that they would leave that afternoon, giving them enough time to obtain supplies and perform whatever rites they needed to steel themselves for the horrors ahead.  The rest of us were dismissed, with explicit instructions to be available at all times.

Clarke’s man Cole wears the scars of multiple military campaigns proudly, and his choice of companions show he is a competent tactician.  The ruddiness in his cheeks reveal a man who is too fond of the bottle, but nevertheless, I trust that those 3 are in good hands even against such Unnatural horrors.  I do find it curious, however, that the Order has only seen fit to send one lowly sister despite such reports of the undead.  Perhaps there are things their matriarchs fear, even in their far off monastery.

While they are away, I must find some manner of weapon for use against the Unnatural abominations.  Some alchemical formula, some potion that may destroy their rotting visages, anything that will afford me some distance from those monstrosities.  I am no stranger to using my dirk, though I harbor doubts that it will prove to be effective.  I must make myself useful in other manner.

Darkest Dungeon 5

JOURNAL 5

The young Master Clarke has finally arrived.

While I was downstairs eating my morning meal with Anselm and Maxwell for company, a traveler unknown to me walked into the tavern.  He was unmistakably a knight in the employ of some nobleman, his swaggering gait and well-groomed appearance instantly giving away a lifetime of service. An eye patch wrapped around his head to obscure one wounded eye and a scar ran down his neck, disappearing under his plate mail.  A mace hung menacingly at his side and a shield was strapped to his back, bearing a crest unknown to me- an octopus with one large eye and 6 appendages, each dreadful tentacle grasping a candle.  The paint upon his shield was cracked and fading with age, revealing a pattern of diagonal stripes under it.  With barely a glance at me or my companions, the stranger took a seat next to Maxwell and ordered a pint of mead.  Anselm growled at the knight, though Maxwell quickly calmed him.  As he was soothing Anselm, Maxwell asked the stranger if the crest he bore was that of the Clarke house.  The stranger nodded, identifying himself as Reginald Cole, a man at arms in the employ of the young Master Clarke who was due to arrive in the next few hours.

Word travelled like wildfire throughout the town, despite myself and Maxwell never leaving the tavern, drawing all travellers to our door.  While I had observed most of them at various points, I don’t believe I had seen them all assembled in the few days I have been here.  As the tavern became a hive of activity, I found myself focusing most of my attentions towards Anselm, who was more than happy to reciprocate.  I was pleased to see that the wound from last night’s altercation did not seem to be bothering him much at all, and already showed signs of healing well.  I was careful to note the travelers present, and I will attempt to list them here to the best of my memory:

The woman from the pagan East, the one Blacksmith complained at length about, a wildling by the name of Wolfswift.  A rowdy woman, to be sure, clad in naught else but furs and face paint.

Blacksmith, the soldier who was not a soldier, who arrived at the tavern in plate mail and a tabard bearing the symbol of the Goddess and seemed to enjoy the company of those around him less than I do.

The sister from the Order of the Mended Chain, a vestal virgin named Catherine. An unbearably pleasant sort, she made an effort to speak with all the travelers present, though she was intelligent enough to keep any sanctimony to herself.

To my surprise, a body snatcher who was well-known to the physician’s college and much reviled by the nobility was present.  She had a reputation for recovering cadavers for the college, infiltrating the most well-guarded and heavily trapped mausoleums in search of such morbid treasures.  I had only ever heard her referred to as Sorain, though I held doubts it was her real name.

The man who had injured Anselm the night before, sitting by himself in a shadowy corner.  Later on, I learned the man’s name was Achus, a bounty hunter well-known throughout the continent for his successes as well as his cruelty, employing hook and chain during his captures.

There were several others present, though they were not remarkable enough for me to commit their traits to memory.  A leper who was well past the risk of spreading his illness, a fool with his lute, a rat of a man strapped with dagger and flintlock.  We all waited together in the tavern for several hours, when over the din of all the talking, the unmistakable sound of a horse galloping was heard outside.  We all fell silent, watching the door of the tavern intently, and after an eternity of waiting the young Master Clarke walked in.

A shock of black hair rested upon his head, and threadbare clothes bearing his family’s crest hung on his gaunt, emaciated figure.  He was abnormally tall, having to stoop while walking into the tavern, and his eyes were mismatched, with one iris being a bright blue and the other a deep, vibrant green.  Upon his entrance, I saw the tavern owner flinch as if someone had struck him, and he hastily left the building.

The man at arms unseated himself for the first time since he arrived and formally introduced the young Master Clarke to the tavern, the heir to the estate, though there was no doubt in anyone’s mind who he was.  Despite his diminished frame, the young Master Clarke spoke with the voice of a man born into power and authority as he addressed us.  He wasted no time with pleasantries, informing us that he cared not why we had come to his estate or what we may have been before, he only demanded our obedience and skills and in return we would receive gold and glory.  Speaking in no uncertain terms, he informed us that his father had been a man intelligent and curious enough to study and understand the old magic, but too weak to resist its temptations.  He had discovered an ancient conduit for the old magic that had been long sealed within the subterranean depths beneath the castle, and had learned the rite to harness its immense power.  He led the men of the town in an excavation beneath the castle, squandering the family’s reputation and fortune, to find it.

His father had never spoken of what had happened next, he claimed, though it was enough to drive his father half insane and ruin his mind and spirit.  What was known to the young Master Clarke was that the rite had only been half completed, allowing some foul thing to enter our world but unable to leave its subterranean cavern. Regardless, its awful influence spread and corrupted the lands, acting as a beacon for all manner of Unnatural things.   If were to be under his employ, we were to cleanse his estate of these influences, restoring the Natural order of the world to it and purging the power in that subterranean cavern.

Abruptly, he said that he wished to tour the estate, summoning Cole to his side.  Addressing all of the travelers, he instructed us to be downstairs at sunrise the next day so we may receive our initial payment of gold and our first instructions, and if we were not up to the task, we were to leave the estate that night lest we find ourselves at his mercy as trespassers.

After he departed, the tavern exploded with excited chatter over the tale he had told.  I returned to my quarters, mulling over the details of his story.  Even now, I feel a twinge of nervousness when I reflect on the things that may be growing under the estate.  I must consult my texts for these unspeakable things borne on the old magic, for I will not be caught off-guard!