Another day amongst these trees, and the Weald has had its first taste of our blood.
The attack came shortly after we had arrived in this clearing, having spent all day following the trail that we pursued yesterday. Even to my untrained eyes, evidence of humans occupying this space was immediately evident, and the four of us investigated what remained of their visit. It was not much more than a space between the trees, accelerating the search, and I quickly found two strange objects, laid carefully at the edge of the treeline: a small leather sack containing a silver ring that bore the sigil of the Clarke house, next to a strange effigy made of wood and bone. I studied the effigy, believing it to be a pagan relic, and heard a snort from within the trees. Thinking only of the young Master Clarke’s command to retrieve lost heirlooms of his house, I pulled the ring from the pouch and upon doing so a terrifying beast burst from the woods.
My initial impression was of some strange chimera of ram and boar, an Unnatural beast that had grown enormous from the foul energies of the Weald. It stood as tall as a man, its tusks as long as swords and covered in some strange growth, while its curved horns were darkened from the blood of other creatures. It seemed half crazed and half blind, the mysterious growth on its tusks reaching its snout and infecting one of its eyes. I stumbled backwards in surprise and the slavering beast made to gore me, but Anselm attacked and distracted the beast while Cole rallied the men, giving me an opportunity to get to my feet. Anselm had clamped onto its throat as the beast struggled to shake him off, and Blacksmith started hacking at it with his sword. Anselm was eventually thrown free and it lunged for Cole, attempting to impale him upon its fearsome horns. Cole was quick with his shield, deflecting the blow, giving Blacksmith another opportunity to attack.
While the men engaged the beast, I pulled one of the pouches of the corrosive concoction from my bag and threw it at the awful thing. It was more effective than I would have ever suspected as it splashed across the flank of the beast, burning and melting its flesh. The smell of singed hair was unmistakable and the creature gave a furious scream, lunging toward Maxwell. He attempted to evade it but one of those horrible tusks caught his arm. I saw the blood splash onto the ground as he was thrown backwards, causing Blacksmith and Cole to double their efforts against the massive beast. As sword and mace crashed into it over and over, its flesh became matted with blood and its energy started to falter. I pulled another pouch of the potion, preparing to throw it, but Anselm lunged again at the creature, securing his grip and tearing out its throat. The beast started to stagger as blood poured from its wounds; it attempted to make its way back to the trees but fell short, collapsing in the clearing.
When Maxwell had been thrown, the torch had gone with him and dwindled dangerously low. I rushed to his aid once I saw that the beast had been vanquished. He was still very much alive, though bleeding badly, but Blacksmith rushed over to ensure that the torch did not become extinguished. It is perhaps telling that it is only our second day within this place and light has already grown more valuable than companionship, though maybe I am being too harsh on Blacksmith. Perhaps, in the aftermath of the battle, he was more clearheaded than I was.
Maxwell was gored badly in his arm, the flesh torn and ragged, though he will live. His left arm will be useless for the remainder of our journey through the Weald, however. I have slathered the wound in honey to ward off fever and leeched him for the night, though I secretly worry about the strange growth on the monster’s tusks. The way it had taken over the monster’s face shows a capacity to dominate the flesh, but I do not know if that will happen to Maxwell’s arm. If that time comes, I suppose I will have to cauterize the wound, though I hope that the current treatment suffice.
After the battle, when no more attacks came, we established our meagre campsite and ate our evening meal in silence. Maxwell was obviously shaken by the attack, though Anselm seemed no worse for wear and tried to comfort his master. Cole and Blacksmith wanted to use the slain beast to increase our rations, but the Weald had already started to claim its prize. Strange vines had sprouted from the trees and wrapped themselves around the corpse of the creature, and it was quickly decomposing. Mushrooms had already sprouted upon it as well, strange looking growths I have never seen or read of. We left the creature to the Weald’s machinations, resigning ourselves to the idea that we may be limited only to the supplies we have brought with us.
The Weald is quiet tonight. I have not seen or heard the insects that had hounded us last night for the latter half of the day, and I believe we may have passed through the territory of their colony. Perhaps, with the light of day still fresh in my mind, I did not feel trepidation at their presence, though I now suspect that they may have been far more nefarious than I could imagine. I have heard of ant colonies in far off lands that can consume a whole sow in mere minutes, and I shudder to think what those strange insects may be capable of. It is better that I was not afforded a chance to study them, I think.
I have not mentioned the ring or the effigy to any of my companions yet, simply because I see no need to. I am still studying the effigy, trying to ascertain its origins. It is composed of bark from a tree and the bones of a small animal, I suspect, and looks as if it is meant to represent some manner of man. There is a strange addition to the head of the effigy, tiny shards of bone that look as if they are meant to be horns. I can’t imagine what it represents, though Wolfswift may know once I return to the hamlet.
We still have not seen any sign of the ancestral cemetery that sits at the heart of the Weald, so I suspect that we may have to travel much further. This clearing was occupied recently, and I can only imagine that the Hag we are tracking was here. Perhaps we won’t have to venture much further, if we can capture this Hag quickly, and be done with this awful place faster than we anticipate.