We have recovered that accursed artefact, the monkey’s paw, and the Hag of the Weald has been slain.
We set out this morning, hungry and exhausted, having miraculously stayed along the trail during our flight from the witches. It was only then that I noticed that the further we push into the cemetery, the thicker and wilder the growth becomes. The trees have become more twisted, the roots more gnarled, and a strange fungus has grown rampant, dominating thick trunks and exposed roots. The mushrooms looked similar to those that had grown in the carcass of that slain chimera, and I took care to steer the party clear of them. Our progress was significantly slowed but we still moved steadily forward, and we soon became aware of the sound of a wailing woman. Cole was the first to take notice of this and his manner changed entirely, becoming much more rigid and attentive. He called the wailing to our attention and warned us to steel ourselves for the struggle ahead.
We eventually abandoned the trail entirely, since avoiding the sinister fungus became laborious, and elected to follow the sound of the wailing. There was a haunting clarity to it and it became impossible to not imagine the woman whose body had been wracked by those sobs, overcome by such grief. It quickly wore on the mind, however, and as the hours passed I could feel my tolerance for it start to wane. It echoed throughout the trees, and just when I thought I could no longer bear it we came into view of the Hag of the Weald.
We saw a tomb through the trees and a small, frail figure kneeling in front of it. She was at the edge of our circle of light and had the silhouette of a young woman. Her skin looked gray and ashen, however, and ruined clothes hung in tatters off of her shoulders. Her hair was shockingly white and was long enough to rest upon the ground. Attached to a small rope hung around her neck was the unmistakable monkey’s paw, with two of its fingers folded against the palm while the last clawed finger pointed accusingly towards the ground. I stood uselessly within the treeline, caught off guard by the vulnerability of our quarry, though Cole stepped forward and addressed the Hag directly, demanding the paw. The wailing stopped as she turned towards him and hissed, standing up and clutching the paw between her hands. As he took a step forward, she closed her eyes and said something in the same guttural language the witches used and I watched the last dreadful finger curl against the palm, signifying that her last wish had been granted.
Such flagrant use of the dark artefact enraged Blacksmith and he charged out of the trees with his longsword and slashed at the Hag, though she moved with surprising quickness and avoided his attack. In one fluid movement, she pounced upon him and knocked his helmet aside, leaving his face terribly exposed. Her nails were akin to talons and she clawed viciously at his face, swiftly bloodying it, though Cole knocked her aside with his shield and gave our companion a reprieve. The Hag disappeared into the trees and Cole ordered us to be on our guard, warning that she could strike from any direction. The brutality of the assault had sapped Blacksmith’s fervor and he remained upon the ground, shouting that the foul hag had blinded him. The three of us circled around him as the Hag darted from the trees at us, screaming and slashing with her talons, as we repelled each assault the best we could before she disappeared among the trees. She had begun wailing once more and that horrible noise echoed throughout the Weald, making it impossible to hear her approach and driving a stake through the mind. I cannot say for sure how long we held our position, bracing ourselves against her vicious assaults. I only know that it ended when I splashed her with a corrosive grenade, which had the effect of freezing her in place as she shrieked in pain. Maxwell lunged forward and caved her skull in with a single blow from his club, silencing the Hag forever.
In those first few moments of blessed silence after she was slain, I heard a roar deep within the Weald, though none in our party could make sense of it. Wasting no time, Cole stepped forward and wrapped the paw in a cloth, yanking it free from the Hag’s neck and placing it in a pouch. He also searched her body, pulling dirt encrusted trinkets from her person that bore the symbol of the house of Clarke. I tended to Blacksmith and saw that he was alive with both eyes intact, though blood had splashed into them. The skin of his scalp and face had been badly lacerated, though it will not put him at risk of death. I have leeched him to ward off fever for the sake of caution, however.
The party is in high spirits now that our task has been completed, the highest they have been since we entered this foul place. Even Blacksmith has laughed, a feat for a man so rattled and wounded by its machination. Maxwell believes that we can place the Weald at our backs in two days’ time, maybe less, if we keep a good pace. The only disturbance to our merriment is the tomb the Hag had been mourning at. There was no indication of who it belonged to though it appeared to be quite recent, and only when the fight was over did I notice that the strange fungus had infested the tomb. Its exterior was covered in mushrooms, and its green tendrils looked as if they had snaked their way inside the tomb through any cracked stone they could find. Or, rather, they had snaked their way from the inside out. As I studied the manner of the tomb, Cole told me to stop my investigation and enjoy our small victory while I can before we set out again. I believe he knows more than he lets on, though he refuses to indulge my curiosity. It is no matter, though I appreciate anything that may allow me to make sense of this awful place.
Soon, I will be able to sleep in my soft bed. That is all the motivation I need to surpass whatever obstacles the Weald may try and place in my way during our exit.