Two turns of the hourglass is how long I must hold my vigil after foolishly taking the first watch. The two men of our party, those petty and weak willed men, are taking their rest while I stand watch for any sign of that abominable satyr.
We have found ourselves in the midst of those mysterious insects once more. We have established a camp in the middle of their swarm. After marching for an untold number of hours. It is impossible to say how long it has been since the satyr first made itself known to us and forced us to flee amongst the trees. It has been two days, or perhaps three. The darkness of this place makes it impossible to know for sure. All attempts at rest have been interrupted by that Unnatural monster and we have been pushed past the limits of exhaustion and hunger. My feet have become numb and my eyes feel as if daggers are being slowly pressed upon them, so it is that I can scarcely keep them open. We have marched dutifully through the Weald with Cole leading us along the same path we had entered upon. I cannot be sure that he is not leading us in circles like fools. The trees all look the same to me. I am the least skilled tracker of our party, however, and bickering with the drunk would only keep me in this place longer.
We have made our camp with the dim hope that even the satyr will be deterred by the swarm that gathers just outside our small circle of light. The purpose that the insects serve is unknown, but it is undoubtedly nefarious. Perhaps it is enough to keep the monster from pursuing us further. It still bears the scars of the few times we have foolishly stood against it, and it seems unlikely to be stopped now. I will cling to any hope, however slight, as long as I am afforded my sleep. Both my mind and my body cannot bear travelling much further.
The buzzing and the clicking from the swarm is awful. It reverberates through my bones and rattles the teeth. It pushes all thought from the mind and it is impossible to focus. It is only bearable in believing that it affords us some manner of grim protection from our hunter, though that may be little more than an illusion we have crafted for our benefit.
I am thankful that Blacksmith has fallen silent, however. The fool has eaten through the entirety of his rations and seems to believe that he is destined to starve to death amongst the trees. I have reluctantly shared what is left of my own diminished food in an attempt to buy his silence. It has worked to some effect. If we have found these insects again we must be close to the exit. I hope that he will be able to steel his resolve enough to bear it in silence until we return to the hamlet.
Cole is becoming steadily more enraptured by the monkey’s paw. Where once he would only steal surreptitious glances he now has been openly admiring it while we marched. I have seen Blacksmith himself staring longingly upon the paw as well. Its three gnarled fingers still remained closed upon the palm. I do not believe it has selected a new owner, and if those two fools were granted access to its dark power they would doom us all. Its potential would be wasted upon them in the event they were allowed to use it. Perhaps I should wrest it away from their greedy hands, if only to keep myself safe from their blundering ways.
The hourglass mocks me. I have been watching it and the sand inside has become some manner of honey, or something equally viscous. When one grain falls, it is entire minutes before the next grain follows. Some manner of dreadful witchcraft is at work I suspect, slowing time to crawl. I am being tormented for having a hand in slaying the Hag, for dispatching of her in such a cruel manner. She was a young girl once and perhaps was innocent in whatever foul things had overtaken her. The elder Clarke must have orchestrated her corruption much like
orchestrated the corruption
of the estate and the
I fell asleep during my watch, and that damnable fool Blacksmith took advantage of it. I cannot say how long I had slept for, but Blacksmith awoke while I slumbered. Presumably driven by hunger, for I cannot imagine what else could have compelled him, the fool rifled through my belongings in search of food. I was awoken by accusations and prayers being hurled at me as if they were weapons, and found Blacksmith holding the effigy of the satyr I had taken. He held me at the point of his sword with terror in his eyes, accusing me of being an agent of the monster that hunts us. His sword was shaking as he retreated from me, threatening to cut me down as I attempted to explain why it was in my possession. It was to no avail, however, and he continued to retreat from me until the fool stepped outside the light cast by our diminishing campfire.
He screamed and howled in pain as those insects swarmed over his armored leg. They appeared to be willing to brave the light for a meal, and I recoiled in terror as I saw what malformed creatures they were. I caught glimpses of crooked and hairy legs, mismatched snapping jaws, fire reflected in the light of thousands of eyes. The horrific insects devoured his armor, the plate revealing the tender flesh underneath, but that quickly became little more than a red and pulpy mass. Blacksmith continued to scream as he fell backwards, falling completely into the darkness. I stared on in horror, though Cole had awoken and lit a torch, running to where Blacksmith had fallen. His screaming had already stopped, and as Cole cast light over his body the insects retreated into the darkness. What remained of Blacksmith was a grisly sight, one I wish to purge from my mind. As we looked upon his remains, the insects continued to buzz in agitation, as if their appetite had merely been whetted, and Cole quickly took the torch away. They swarmed back over their prize, not allowing what remained to go to waste.
Cole has questioned me on the events that preceded his death, and I have lied about what I know. I have insisted that he was overtaken by a fit of madness to try and escape this place on his own. The effigy is lost amongst the swarm, and I have no desire to explain the circumstances to him. I do not know if he believes me, but it does not matter, since mine is the only word that is left to believe. Regardless of what he is told, the guilt is mine to live with. The terror in his eyes still haunts me, and it as if I can still hear is screaming under the angry sound of the swarm. I cannot help but feel that my curiosity is what drove him to his death.
The shock of losing another man has rattled Cole, who has forsaken sleep for drink. His whisky is nearly depleted, and he has stated that once his bottle is empty, he will not rest until we exit this foul place. I am still exhausted, though Blacksmith’s death has had a sobering effect. I can only hope that Cole’s confidence is not misplaced, and that we are as close to the exit as he believes us to be.
Perhaps I will ask the sister for a prayer once we return.