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.