Thank you for your last letter. In these dark times, it is encouraging to hear good news from the temple. I am happy to hear that Acolyte Abigail is performing well in her duties, even in my absence. I always knew that the Goddess had blessed her with ability and I suspect she will prove herself worthy of being a Sister in short order.
I was correct in surmising that Clarke would see fit to send another group out upon the return of Morgan and Cole, and I have been selected as a part of it. I trust that reports of witchcraft have reached Clarke’s ears, for he seemed particularly rattled when meeting with the travelers. I cannot know what he had expected to find upon returning to his ancestral estate, but it seems that the abominations that currently infest it were beyond his imagination. His disgust is beyond measure, but he has paid good coin to the travelers gathered here and has every intention of using their services to finally reclaim his rightful inheritance.
I and three others have been directed to explore the warrens that run under the estate. Clarke has spoken at length of these warrens, ancient aqueducts and endless tunnels that sprawl under the earth. They have existed for eons, built by the harbinger of civilization. No maps exist of it yet Clarke would have us explore that dark maze to discover what awful secrets it may hold. Entrances to it dot the estate, it is said, and we are to explore it section by section and learn what we may of it. If witches have taken refuge within the Weald and necromancers openly practice their accursed art in the ruins of the Clarke manor, I can only imagine what horrors are in store for us among the tunnels. I have faith that the Goddess will bless me so I may be Her sword against the encroaching darkness, whatever form it may take.
I am not so certain that my companions will prove worthy of Her blessing, however. The wildling woman, a surly bandit and a leper are all meant to accompany me as we explore that dark place and root out whatever evil may be lurking within. Initially, it seemed strange that Clarke’s man Cole was not selected to lead our group, though he returned from the Weald a diminished man. It is perhaps best if he is allowed more time to heal and recover from the horrors he had endured within.
You would be astounded by the immodesty of the wildling woman if you were here, Matron. She wears little else other than furs and her massive halberd that she brings with her everywhere. I have tried to discuss the virtues of modesty with her, though she does little more than gaze angrily and grunt in response. I have seen her engage in her primitive pagan worship, muttering prayers to strange totems she carries with her. Even her name, Wolfswift, invokes pagan imagery. She is deaf to the Goddess, though perhaps I can change that for the better.
My other two companions, York and Benedict, are just as strange. The illness has ravaged York’s flesh, leaving it cracked and unfeeling. His eyes are horrifically empty, as if has died yet still stands upon his feet. He claims to have escaped from a leprosarium run by the Order, though the horrors he has described seeing within fills me with doubt. He does seem to hold extensive knowledge of the Order’s rites, particularly for an outsider, though I cannot accept the Order would knowingly do such things. I have heard of Sisters who have strayed from the Goddess and attempted to recreate the Order in their own vision, falsely establishing temples. Perhaps this is such a case.
The last of my companions, Benedict, is a man who warrants watching. He seems to naturally skulk in the shadows, rarely speaking with the other travelers. When I do encounter him in the tavern, he seems to always be polishing his flintlock pistol and sharpening his dagger. It is as if he expects to be set upon by his enemies at all times. He does not speak of his past and no one knows where he came from, though I have always known the pistol to be the mark of a lawman or an outlaw. Even now, as we have prepared ourselves to journey in that winding maze, he has not said a dozen words to me. I may not necessarily approve of my companions, though I know well enough that now is not the time to reject them- I have worked with York and Wolfswift to ensure that we have the equipment needed to navigate that place. Benedict, however, has merely made his own preparations without cooperation from us.
We are to set out at first light tomorrow. I have taken my evening meal within the church and led the clergy in a prayer for all of our safety. Privately, I have performed my Mending so as to strengthen my faith for the trials ahead. I have been reflecting upon the horrors I encountered within the ruins of the manor while preparing to venture into the warrens, and I know that the Goddess was with me then as She surely is now. My heart beats faster and I feel cold when I think back to those legions of undead falling upon me and hacking at my person with their terrible blades, but my faith fills me with warmth and calms my soul. I know that whatever trials may lie ahead, whatever may happen to me or my companions, I must remain resolute in my faith. If my faith falters, the Goddess may no longer shine Her light upon me and leave me to stumble in the darkness.
I shall write to you again up on my return, Matron. May the Goddess grant us the strength to mend what is broken.