We were ambushed as we slept by the black tree. Witches, a pair of them. Anselm’s booming bark awoke us, and I was startled to see two strangers standing amongst us, one looming over me with a cruel dagger and the other in the center of our camp. Both were women, with bent backs and warty skin hanging loose off of their bones. They had hair like straw and wore strange trinkets about their person. One appeared to wear a crown of animal bones, while the one standing over me had hung a pan flute from her neck that looked as if it had been cut from the bark of the black tree.
I laid there uselessly, my limbs stiff and unresponsive as the dagger came closer to my heart until Cole’s call to arms shook me from my paralysis. Our party scrambled to our battle positions, prompting one witch to chant something in a low, guttural language I was unfamiliar with. I believe it to be a hex of some sort, because Cole rapidly lost the strength to lift both his shield and his mace, leaving him struggling to stand under the weight of his armor. Anselm rushed the witches, though the one with the pan flute piped several dissonant notes that enraptured our hound, leaving him whimpering and pacified. I lobbed one of my corrosive grenades at the witch that had attempted to gouge me but it fell short, ineffectually splashing upon the ground, and Maxwell lunged forward with his club only to be clawed by the long, torturous nails of one of the witches. While we attempted to repel our assailants, Blacksmith sat upon the ground, as if under some sort of spell, until I shouted for him to rouse himself. This broke the spell that had seemingly been cast on him, and with a zealous shout, he leaped to his feet as he produced some manner of religious scroll from a pouch, holding it accusingly towards the witches. It began to glow with a holy light, beams of it falling upon the witches and burning them, driving them back to the treeline as they hissed at their accuser. Blacksmith lunged forward with his longsword and cleaved one of the foul witches in twain, and our party took advantage of the reprieve to prepare our camp for departure.
Maxwell shouldered Cole’s shield as I took his mace and we dashed into the trees with Blacksmith, who left the remaining witch on the far side of the clearing. The thickness of the trees and the sudden weakness that had overtaken Cole severely limited our stride, but we were quick to put distance between ourselves and the black tree. Our only guidepost during this time was the tombstones of the cemetery, ensuring that we traveled deeper into Weald. We were assailed by strange creatures during this time, Unnatural and twisted beasts, though none as fearsome as the chimera that had injured Maxwell and we were able to dispatch them with ease.
Several hours passed as we continued to travel, and Cole’s strength slowly returned to him. We were able to stop and take stock of the situation, once we felt we were no longer under threat of assault. It was only then we realized we had left half of our rations behind, reducing us to bare sustenance for the remainder of our time within the Weald. With our situation realized, both Maxwell and I suggested that we depart this wicked place and return to the hamlet, taking our knowledge with us so we may be better prepared for a second trip, but Cole would not hear of it. He believes that running would be akin to cowardice, even if it is merely survival, and he will not return until our task is complete. While the hex had left him unable to lift his mace, he still had the strength to lift a bottle, and in his inebriated state he declared that he knew the Hag was close. While we prepared the camp, Maxwell and Anselm scouted further ahead and discovered a trail that looked to be the same as the one we had been following previously. With this news, Cole nodded sagely, and said that tomorrow we would retrieve the trinket. Only then would we be allowed to depart.
After suffering the ambush at the black tree, we have doubled the watch. I am awake with Blacksmith as my company, who is still burning with the fervor of a zealot. His manner has completely changed, shifting from a man nearly broken by the Unnatural happenings in the Weald to a soldier who was self-assured in his righteousness. He is a stout defender, though I hope that in his newfound purpose he does not lose sight of who his allies are.
I can still hear that dissonant piping deep within the Weald. Of all the foul things within, I fear that the sound of that pan flute will haunt me even when this place is merely a distant memory for me.