I have returned from several days spent in those revolting warrens. We did not discover much during our short time down there, though the air has a queer quality to it that led to food spoilage and forced us to leave. I am glad for it, since merely being in those tunnels is an assault upon your senses.
The entrance to the warrens is little more than a stony hole close to the seaside, one that emits the most offensive odor you could ever imagine. The worn stone is covered in some manner of effluvial grime and viscous green fluid trickles out, both of which gave me pause. York, whose sense of smell was destroyed by the illness or lost a fear for such things in the leprosarium, was undeterred and stepped into the entrance without a second thought. Wolfswift and Benedict followed shortly after, and I am not ashamed to admit that I was the last to enter. I needed to say a small prayer to the Goddess and fortify myself before I followed them into that foreboding tunnel.
Entering into that place is difficult to describe, Matron. The way in which natural light vanished, the overwhelming and nearly palpable stench, and that strange humid warmth that emanated from within all mixed together to create this sense of dissonance within me. With every step I took into that place, my feet felt as if they were no longer mine and instead were being propelled by a stranger. I was overcome by a sense of otherworldliness, as if I was witnessing someone else’s horrible dream. I began to cling to the slim hope that I was trapped in a nightmare, and that I would soon awake in my own bed within the abbey surrounded by my sisters. Eventually, however, we found ourselves in the warrens proper. I jumped down from the entryway and landed ankle deep in what can only be described as a puddle of muck, and any hope that I may awake in comfort was dispelled.
We had entered into a tunnel that stretched on far beyond the meagre light of our torch, reaching out in two directions. The same sort of stone that made the entry and the tunnel had been used to create the rest of the waterway, and that same strange grime covered most of the blocks. While some of that disgusting stagnant water was present, it looked as if we could keep ourselves dry as long as we navigated carefully. With little to guide us in our exploration, Benedict picked a direction and began to walk the tunnel as we followed.
I have spent the past several days with my companions and I have come to respect that they are far more capable than I thought, though I still stand by my previous judgments of them. Shortly after our arrival, Wolfswift produced some manner of waxy animal product from her pouches that she was able to break into pieces and place up her nose so as to rid herself of the stench. She offered some to the rest of the group, and while I was hesitant to accept such a gift from a pagan, it seemed that the Goddess would have looked upon pragmatism favourably in such a case. Benedict and I both accepted, and while the sensation of having an object in my nose was uncomfortable, far preferable to the smell of those awful fumes. While this moment of cleverness may have won my begrudging respect, her strange rituals of yowling and worshiping her animal totems made her seem as if she was little more than an animal herself.
Benedict, for his part, proved his worth by taking the impetus to scrape grime off the walls of the tunnel so as to mark our passage. If he had not done such a thing, I fear that we would have surely become lost and doomed to the wander those black tunnels when we turned to take our leave of them. I thought it only polite to remark on such an act but found that he was as surly as ever, rebuffing my courtesies. When we established our camp to take rest, he chose to retreat into the shadows and tend to his weapons rather than sit with us.
The darkness of those tunnels seems to be of the same character as that in the ruined manor, despite their differences in location. It is not the darkness that comes with the night; rather, it is that oppressive darkness that only comes from places where the light of the Goddess has been forsaken. The fact it is allowed to flourish so readily in this place is alarming, to be sure, though I know it to be a symptom of whatever thing the elder Clarke half pulled into our world. As we walked, it oftentimes felt as if the light of our torch was barely holding it at bay and it became impossible to not ascribe some sort of nefarious purpose to it. I will confess to occasionally being overcome by fear as I imagined the undead reaching out for me from the shadows, much like they did in the ruins, but it was only ever my imagination getting the better of me.
The waterways run longer and sprawl further than I ever would have guessed. As we explored those ancient waterways, that awful air began to spoil our food far sooner than we could anticipate. This necessitated we cut our exploration short, though we did find one curious thing before we were forced to take our leave of that place. It was discovered by Benedict in a small nook of the waterway, a place where two men might struggle to stand shoulder to shoulder. We found the grime scraped cleanly away from the stone and in its place was a strange runic symbol, one I am unfamiliar with. As disquieting as it is, I believe the symbol may have been painted with blood for the shade of it could not be anything else. Just looking at it created a deep sense of revulsion within me, though I committed the symbol to memory. I have included a sketch with this letter in the hopes that you may be able to guide me in understanding its meaning. Once I am able to find him, I will also consult with that student of the occult in the hopes that he may recognize it and know of its significance. I do not know what it portends, but perhaps the warrens have not been spared the infestation within the weald and ruins.
I am happy to be out of those tunnels, though the knowledge that I will return so soon weighs heavily on my mind. I still have not rid myself of that horrible stench, and I fear that I may never be able- it lingers within my nose, reminding me of the way the air seems to wrap itself around you. I have washed my robes and performed my ablutions, though that is not enough to banish it. Perhaps I must try again.
I eagerly await your response, Matron. May the Goddess always bless us with the Light of Knowledge.