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.