The Wanderers On-hand:
Sir Barnabas Ridd, English Backwater Noble
Captain William MacLeod, Scottish Merchant Marine
Joaquin Anton Silva, Portuguese Treasure Hunter
Peter the Wild Boy, Feral man found in European woods
Krieger Von Brawn, German old-fashioned Knight
Lyubov “Love Sausage” Kolbasy, Russian Circus Strongman
12th of November in the year of our Lord 1620
Location: Southern England
“Let us be, or else I cut the wench’s throat!” cried the bandit a top the wagon as he brought his dirty blade closer to the neck of the poor woman in his grasp. He wielder a soldier wielded a shield to the Wanderers.
It was Captain William MacLeod who parleyed first with the remaining bandits not dispatched from the Wanderers’ furious attack. He could not see any opening that would not risk the life of poor captive held by the foul highwaymen. He agreed to let the remaining half dozen bandits go in exchange for the life of the old woman. The bandit eyed the other wanderers sensing his opposition was not unified in this parley and one or would break the contract. Sir Bannabas Ridd also assured the bandits that if go harm be fell the woman they would escape unmolested from his mount. This was enough for the remaining bandits to make their flight in to the foggy woods from where they sprung the ambush of the wagon travelers before the wanderers happened upon the robbery.
The villain clutching the woman cursed out at Captain MacLeod as he pointed with his stiletto at the other wanderers, “Ye break this contract, and I’ll see ye damned to hell!” As he and the other the would-be thieves fled into the thick woods. All the Wanderers held their end of contract and raised no weapon nor gave chase after the bandits. Save one. Peter the Wild Boy notched an arrow into his bow and took aim at the fleeing rogues. With an audible ‘tang!’ the arrow struck from the boy’s hands to the rear escaping bandit’s back slaying him.
Captain MacLeod felt a chill enter him with the knowledge that devil had gained a foothold in the battle for his immortal soul as the life of the bandit left his body. Sir Ridd trotted his steed toward the wagon and assessed the damage of the cart and condition of the woman. Like the wagon, she was well past her prime with scraggly gray hair, but unlike wagon she was still capable of travel.
“May I ask you name fair woman and why you travel on these dangerous roads?” Ridd asked helping the woman from the wagon.
“I am Milred, me lord, and my family were traveling east to start a new life as our farm didn’t yield enough for winter.”
We can escort you to nearest inn or church where you may find additional aid." Ridd replied. Milred agreed and gathered up what possessions she could from the wrecked wagon. Ridd offered her his horse and traveled by foot leading the steed.
As the others helped Milred gather what they could, Peter the Wild Boy set to looting the bodies of the bandits. He found they little few pence adding up to little more than a shilling. Even compared to the ragged red jacket and tattered clothing wrapping on his body, the bandits wore fifthly lice infested rags.
The Wanderers discovered the Hamhock Inn nest among several small independent farms. The two story building’s warm light from the windows was a welcome invitation to the chill of the autumn English rains that bit through to the bone. Inside the warm fire returned the color that the light drizzle and chilling gusts had taken from the Wanderers save Peter. Peter moved to the fire heath to warm himself but he could not shake the growing illness he would soon suffer being unaccustomed to civilized man’s diseases.
The proprietor was a man in his forties with wisps of gray brown hair around his scalp like a wreath. He was a simple but honest looking fellow that eyed the Wanderers’ weapons and armor with a worried brow. He showed the travelers their seat at a heavy dark wood table and offered up stew and ale. Vasili Vorishikin snorted at the weak drink and poured a hefty belt of vodka into his own tankard as well as those around him. Captain Macleod covered the expenses for his fellow travelers and as he paid, the innkeeper Thaddeus Porter asked he and his companions would discover how the folks at the Garner Farm were fairing. Mister Porter was concerned that with the death of Mrs. Garner back in August and the lack of any crops brought into trade from Mister Garner that something horrible may have happened. Porter also worried about the Garner’s youngest daughter. He told the Wanderers that some of the other farmers believe that Garner’s livestock have been infected with hoof and mouth disease or perhaps even anthrax. Even wilder stories claim a curse is upon the farm by spirits, pixies, or demons. The innkeeper doesn’t believe in the tales of ghosts and demons as the cause, but clearly stated to the Wanderers he was afraid of any sort of plague that might be affecting the farm. Yet he worries about the family all the same. Captain Macleod assures the innkeeper that he and his compatriots will investigate the farm tomorrow to set his mind at ease.
After the discussion with the Innkeeper, Captain Macleod notices the wild boy shaken though his clothes are warm and he is close to the fire. Checking his things and asking Mister Porter for some other supplies William mixes a herbal tea that should help prevent the disease from getting worse. Peter eagerly drinks the tea to settle his queasy stomach.
After all of Hamhock Inn have long bedded down for the night, Peter the Wild Boy decided to check on the farm early sneaking out of his room and off to the farm alone. He feels the cold air hit him and is excited to be in the darkness once again. The light rain is not more that a bother and mixes with the excitement of the night darkness. As Peter travels toward the Garner’s Farm he hears a familiar voice call out, “Oy! boy looks like ye traveled the bit of road tonight. Wait I remember you!” A shdowly figures emerge from the sides of the road cast in the rain death halos of a single lantern fluttering and flickering from the precipitation.
With that, the remaining bandits that Peter and the other Wanderers faced surround the wild boy as he reveals two ornate rune marked Khatars and leaps at the villains with a feral scream. The boy is met with a slash of a dirk cutting deep into his flesh, but not before he fells two of the highwaymen, one of which was carrying the lantern the only light source. Peter feels sting of a second blade before he can escape the gang of thugs. For a moment the wild boy eludes his attackers in the night rain. He is too wounded and still reeling from the pain to move far before one of the bandits stumbles upon him in the blackness. A brief exchange or blades and cries ends with the bandit lying in the mud and Peter grasping at his wounds. The other bandits hone in on the sounds of the clash and wildly strike at the wild boy.
13th of November in the year of our Lord 1620
It was early in the morning that the Wanderers met at the same heavy table to meet before heading to the Garner’s Farm. The innkeeper had already ready stoked the fire to ward of the damp chill of the English morning. All had gathered to enjoy a hearty breakfast of ham and eggs save one. Peter the Wild Boy had not walked down the steps from his room. It wasn’t long that the other discovered the boy was missing. Outside Sir Ridd and Vasili Vorishikin picked up the tracks of the impetuous boy.
The rains made it easy to follow Peter’s tracks but hindered vision more than a hundred yards. It was Joaquin Anton Silva’s eagle eyes that first spotted the boy’s battered body. As the others rushed to their companion’s body, the rain lighten to a mist. The boy had been slain by a stiletto to the heart. The nasty weapon still piercing his bosom. Peter had take three of the villain with him to hell as their bodies lay mired in the mud and water bloody. The boy had fought courageously, but was overwhelmed by the numbers of his foes. The two remaining bandits had looted the Wild Boy’s khatars before slinking into the forest once again. The Wanderers moved the boy’s body to the side of the road placing him in a grave with a simple marker fashioned from the surrounding tree branches. Each said a prayer for the young man’s soul before heavy rain picked up again forcing them to continue to the farm.
Approaching from the east the Garner Farm was appeared unremarkable from the other farms the Wanderers had past except for perhaps it was slightly more isolated than the others. As they neared through the rain and mist the Wanderers learned that Farmer Garner had not harvest his crops and they rotted in the fields. More surprising was the size and his potential yield, the melon, cabbage, and other vegetation with enormous in size and quite plentiful. Master Garner was an expert farmer if this field was proof of his ability. The Wanderers were curious to why a farmer with such excess would not even bother harvesting his work let alone barter the excess in the market.
The Wanderers soon saw the plants were not merely gigantic forms of ordinary crops. The flora on the south end of the field were of strange and bizarre color and form often with a sort of prismatic sheen like that of the reflection of a pool of oil or the scales of a fish save of colors none of the Wanderers never thought possible. The plants were also twisted and mutated with grotesque growths and tumors warping the shape of the crops. As the eye traveled north over the field, the crops yellowed and even become grayed and stunted size as if something was draining the life essence such as from pestilence.
Sir Ridd wished to stable his horse as to keep it from the foul vegetation that grew here. He open the livestock pens to allow entry for his steed unaware of the emaciated and crazed cattle imprisoned. The scrawny creatures stumbled to their hooves and charged in a furious bum’s rush toward the egress and fresh meat. Sir Ridd stood stupefied at such a scene yet instinctively went for this weapon. Joaquin Anton Silva with reactions faster than quicksilver slammed the gray board gate and closed the latch as the lead bovine rammed at full speed making an unnatural cracking sound. The beast had snapped its own brittle neck paralyzing its entire body yet its bloodshot eye still filled with rage and its frothy mouth bit air in attempts to grasp the Wanderers who each step back a pace realization. However, the other cattle seeing that this one was unable to defend itself fed upon its still living flesh. The Wanderers gasped in horror of the bloodbath before destroying both the livestock and the field of blight.
During the search of a tool shed to find instruments to aid in the destruction of such abominations, a crumpled bunch of pages were discovered by the Wanderers. They appeared to be written in a woman’s penmanship and read:
Father’s crops are performing exceedingly well this year and appear he will have much to sell at market this year. Father still worries about a late frost or drought. The livestock on the other hand appear to be having difficulty putting on weight and many of the calves didn’t survive. Father believes there might be a pestilence affecting the cattle.
I am to return to London tomorrow. I offered to stay at the farm until mother condition improves, but father feels I should return to my own husband. My mother is a strong woman full of vitality and her condition will improve by rest and the Lord’s prayer.
I have not heard anything from my father and I worry that there is some foul curse upon the farm. I have been having terrible nightmares. They start with me out at the barn looking into the night sky gazing at all of the constellations that Harmonius has taught me. I am alone, but not alone. A bandit or pirate stalks me from the shadows. As I pull my knees to me for comfort I see a strange aura contorting and changing in the night sky. The light moves like water splashed up into the night air.
The Wanderers decided to first check the home in hopes of finding any of the family alive and well. Inside the modest three room home the Wanderers found no one within. The pantry lacked food and no effect had been made to gather up even meager possessions as if to leave. There was a think layer of dust upon everything and a search reveal signs of any disturbance beyond no one bothered to make their bed. The wanderers is discover more pages of the woman’s diary hidden with the tiny cottage.
During the early morning hours as I was beginning my chores, I saw a falling star that actually landed on our farmland! I at first I was frighten by the thing believing it could be a demon or monster. As I trembled, I remembered that all things of heaven would be from the sky and then believed it might be an angel or other artifact of Heaven.
I hurried myself to the part of Chapman’s Brook that runs through my father’s property to discover what the falling star could be fair or foul. What discover was nothing like furious imagination could create. I was merely a rock of some sort in a self-created depression of the earth. Quite more sizable than a man’s head, the porous stone hissed of steam like when a hot pan has water poured over it. I wasn’t sure, but the rock seemed to give off its own light reminiscent of a rainbow more the colours like nothing I has seen even in dreams.
When father awoke, I urged him to look upon the heaven stone, as I called it, the discovery I made. When we both journeyed out to Chapman’s Brook I thought I saw a strange light from the small thicket where the heaven stone had landed. On further thought, however, it was likely my excitement and the rising morning sun. That is what father said, as I am prone to flights of fancy.
When we both arrived to the heaven stone, I noticed that it was almost imperceptibly smaller and when father put his hand to it, it was cool to the touch. I pleaded with him to recover the stone and bring it by to the barn so I could study it further, but he said it was far too heavy and there was work to do.
I returned to the heaven stone to further investigate it only to discover that the rock had shrunk in size. Now about the size of a melon, I attempted to carry it myself. I noticed that it was cracked nearly completely open when I went to lift it. It required little effort to pry open and I discovered strange crystals of colours I thought not possible. I took the heaven stone and placed it in the back to the hay loft where I sometimes go to write in my diary.
A scholar visited our farm today. A mister Harmonius Quill, a London academic, and by his own admittance, armature astronomer visited the farm today. Oh my! It is quite exciting to believe that our little farm is being discussed about in the London Taverns. Master Quill has traveled here to investigate the falling star and strange lights he heard about in London. He was quite impressed with my talent in writing and appeared to enjoy my company and assistance in his investigation. I showed him the heaven stone and he stated that it was geode and the crystals were merely quartz though he could not explain the fascinating colours they reflected.
Exciting news! Mister Quill concluded his investigation today and will be traveling back to London. He posed the question to father if I could be taken back to London to be further trained as a scribe and perhaps take me as his wife. He is older than I would thought my husband would be, but he much more wealthy and refined than the other farmers’ sons. I believe I would be quite happy as his wife living in London, but I worry some about the farm, Nabby is still young and it will be many years before she can marry a man to take over the farm since mother did not bare any boys. Still, I think this is why father and mother were so insistent that us girls were taught to read and write.
My concerns that Harmonius would no longer wish me to study literature and writing after our marriage has become unfounded. I help him with his work detailing the many relics and artifacts he has collected in his studies. He has told be that I have been invaluable in his research and my classification system and organization of his notes, journals, and other books and has saved his months of research time on his study of the Liber Vorago.
I received correspondence from father today. He said every thing is well at the farm. The crops while a bit odd looking, are growing much larger and faster than any of the neighbors. Nabby still wants him to take her to visit the caverns on the southwestern portion of the property. Mother is once again spending her days by Chapman’s Brook painting. She said she thought she saw some St. Elmo’s Fire as she out by the brook longer than usual after. sunset.
A rather nasty Spaniard visited Harmonius today. He was a thin many with a curved scar starting from the left side of this mouth curving upward. The scar combined with his gaunt face and recessed dark eyes made him look like a grinning skull. Ovando he called himself and he reeked of ale and other liqueurs. Curiously, he wore a silver bracer that had strange marking upon it and he must have bee wearing it since he was a boy, since there would no way to remove it barring cutting off his hand. My husband ushered away so he could conduct business with the greasy scoundrel. He had never pushed me away like that. Perhaps it was to protect me from the vile rouge, but I suspect there is more than that. It given me chills to think about that Ovando.
The might Russian Vasilii stated that the Wanderers should search the nearby Chapman’s Brook as the dairy pages referenced the ‘Heaven Stone’ falling to there and the blight appeared to be originating from there as well. The others agreed and walked to the north end of the farmland bordered by the small stream. This area was devoid of all color and appeared nearly as an alien world to the Wanderers as they recognized all they saw but it was dead and gray. In a small bend of the stream was an odd depression as if some one had dug a hole. Capt MacLeod suspected in was more lite a crater caused by a impact such as a cannon yet was larger and deeper than any munition he knew of. As the Wanderers continued investigate Chapman’s Brook, Vasilii tripped of a partially concealed chest containing some painting supplies and more dairy pages:
I have received a letter from Father… Mother is dead! She passed two weeks ago. I leave for the farm tomorrow. My husband has allowed me to stay until the harvest is over that I can help my father.
I have returned to my father’s farm. He is a shell of his former self and smelled of liquor when I arrived. Nabby is sad and has become frightened of father. IN a drunken tirade, father screamed something about the crops were huge but inedible. The livestock are plagued and feral.
It was true what father said. The crops are giant mutated versions of themselves. Strange growths and bizarre colour abound within them. Father offered me a bit of what he called cabbage. It only roughly looked like such a plant. The leaves were longer than my leg and had a strange leathery feel and curious striations looked very much like veins. When I bit into the leaf the taste was incredibly bitter and the leaf oozed a sort of dark ichour thicker than blood. I spit the portion out immediately, but it wasn’t before a few hours had passed that the repugnant taste left me.
The cattle were nearly skeletons of their former selves. Yet they had a sort of madness in their eyes, and one even attempted to trample myself and father stopped only by a study fence. Further by Chapman’s Brook the land had turned gray and lifeless. It was if something consumed all of the colour itself. I could bring myself to visit the stream myself, the loss of mother was too excruciating still.
I wrote Harmiounis today. I informed him that my father’s farm would not provide enough food for him and my sister to make the winter let alone purchase the needed supplies for next year. I begged him to allow father and Nabby to move to London and join us. He is a good man and I am certain he will show kindness and generosity to my father and sister as he has with me.
“The pages made mention of caves to the southwest of the farm, perhaps we may yet find the Garners there or at least clues to aid in this mystery.” Stated the stranger in snow white lacquered platemail. The other wanderers agreed and traveled to the Mernie Caves, a set of small cave hidden within the dense woods of the property. Sir Ridd in fact did discover two sets of tracks one larger the other smaller as if a child both disturbed by the larger set exiting once again. The tracks ended at a deep chasam heading nearly straight down. The lantern light they carried to could not penetrate to the bottom nor could a pebble indicate the depth of this bottomless well. The Wanderers said nothing, but each knew what had happened to the smaller set of footprints. Pausing for a brief moment, the Wanderers filed out of the cave with no word spoken among them as the rain continued to pour. The said nothing until most of the distance back to the barn.
It was in the barn that the Wanderers found Nahum Garner. He twisted slowly on a rope noose dangling from the barn rafters that served as his hangman’s gibbet. Below his feet was a over turned milking stool. The body was decayed and little more than bones covered with rotten flesh. The smell of decay and alcohol were over powering and grisly scene stunned a few of the Wanderers for a moment. It was Joaquin who first noticed the scrap of paper tucked in the front of the body he retrieved the note as the others lower the body down save the Captain MacLeod who ventured up to the hayloft to search the once hiding spot of the Heaven Stone. Yet all he found were spalled rock fragments and an odd quartz crystal with colors much like the crops had. Master Silva glanced at the note which as a poem and suicide note:
I tell yer something that will reelly break ye heart more so than lovers never to Be
I have been sittin’ ere drinkin’ till there ain’t nuthin’ ain’t drunk
I have bin sitin’ ‘ere stinkin’ till there nuthin’ but stunk
It ‘ere I made me plan to kill off my own Kind
I went to me youngest daughter implore
Head off to the caves, the ones to ‘xplore
I told her not a sound to Make
Her face beamed angel’s smile and it was lit
I brought my baby to a bottomless pit
I told her close her eyes and turn her back to Me
As she counted to seven
I reminded meself all children see heaven
Never did she cry she made me so Proud
I pushed her down a bottomless well
That’s how to make a quick trip to hell
I went back to the barn to hang myself in shame
It was the stoic man in platemail that deciphered the cryptic note written within the poem of, “Be Kind, Make Me Proud, Thessa.” The Wanderers put the body at rest as Sir Ridd inquired perhaps they should take Natum Garner’s body to the local church to be buried with his own kin. The others felt the body was simplely too decayed and still could be plagued and better to be buried with land than anywhere else.
The Wanderers had searched nearly the entire farm without encountering the mysterious author of the diary pages. Yet while Captain Macleod relieved himself and the other Wanderers returned to the home to dry themselves some, Vasilii and Joaquin explorer the root cellar at the back of the home.
After opening the moldy wooden trapdoor to the root cellar both men felt a primeval chill as if some horror beyond man’s comprehension lay in the darkness below. The cellar gave off an earthy smell of decay and rot more in common with catacombs and unearthed bodies. It was a sickly sweet pungent odor that wafted up. More peculiar was the ethereal white glow from the cellar’s packed earth floor. The men descended the steps to determine the source of this unearthly light. Vasilli produced his bottle of vodka breathing in a snort full and dousing a cloth to give to Silva to make the stench bearable. They each stood crouched as the cellar was not nearly high enough for even a boy to stand. The intently scanned the cramped area their view resting on the horror that created the spirit like glow. It was a patch of lichen and fungus giving this spectral shine, but more frighting was the the shape of the fungi. It was in the shape of a human body. Melded in the area that would be the right hand of the mold and fungus was a few more dairy pages. The men steeled themselves against the instinctual terror that screamed at them to flee to save their own lives. The crawled ever closer to investigate further. Neither man wanting to seem like a coward to the other. It was the Russian who pulled at the pages causing glowing spores of yellow-green and white to burst into the air. With their prize the men escaped up the ladder to the rain soaked fresh air.
No sooner than the two had gained their freedom did they set to burning the cellar with the rest of the cottage. Surely the rain would slow the burning, but the men wanted to destroy the thing was occupied the unholy cellar. Little did they care for the safety of the fellows. Who to their credit smelled the smoke long before any danger was posed to them. With their task complete, the two read the final dairy entry despite a sudden sense of fatigue and exhaustion that befell them
That stubborn fool! Father doesn’t want to leave the farm for London. He says a man must provide for his family or he is not a man at all. He spends all of his time in the barn drinking. He has not seen his bed since before I returned to the farm. If I cannot convince him to stop drinking and get a night’s rest I will visit the Hamhock Inn and try to convince Master Porter to intervene.
Oh God! Why! I discovered my father’s body in the barn this morning. He hung himself! I went to find Nabby. She isn’t anywhere! What am I going to do?
October 5th ?
I awoke to find myself in the root cellar. I must have fled here to hide. I do not feel well and can barely write. It is the only action I can bring myself to accomplish.
I feel strange. . . I can … I cannot feel my legs anymore and, I can barely resist the urge for slumber…sleep now.
Sleep forever . . .
While Vasilii and Joaquin venture into the diseased cellar, William MacLeod was relieving himself in an outhouse built away from the home. As he contemplated the mystery he noticed tucked to the side of the small shack a piece of parchment with words scratched on it. This was a larger cut of paper than that of the dairy and of higher quality. The ink was a of man’s hand though difficult to read it said:
After stealing the geode from that scholar Quill, I decided to visit the farm that the place it originated from. I found the place quite to my liking, Murder hung over the place like a shroud. The flora is much like the ones I see in my dreams. I believe here is a being from out of time and space such that I was seeking. Perhaps the geode orb was merely the egg for a hatching that has fed upon the life here, I know not, nor cares not. It appears quite insubstantial and anchored to this ‘farm.’ Its growth will surely be impeded as nearly all life here is extinguished. The common rabble of this land will likely see this as a plague, perhaps anthrax. Add too true, there is a disease of this land, though; far worst than any peasant would comprehend! I consulted the portion of the Liber Verago I have in my possession with necromancy. I discovered the creature here will continue to grow here for many years moving from its current larva insubstantial form to a youngling capable of locomotion to feed draining the force of life. To confront such thing will no knowledge of how to confront it would be suicidal, even for one as verse in the occult and arcane as myself. My necromantic visions yielded unto me the form’s sole weakness one must
The Captain flipped the page over hoping for a continuation but found nothing. Nor were there any other loose sheet to be found. Few he finished relieving himself, he was shocked to see the farmhouse ablaze. The rain hissed like the choir of the damned and his party watched the fire from the muddy road they arrived to the farm on. The Russian and Portuguese were leaning upon a larger tree nearly napping.
With no survivors and nothing left to accomplish, the Wanderers returned to the HamHock Inn. It required some effort to keep the men who explored the cellar and torched the cottage awake, but half way back they seemed to recover from the effects of the strange spores. The Wanderer told the story of the Garner Farm to Innkeeper Porter withholding the more ghastly details. Thaddeus Porter thanked the Wanderers for their bravery. He added, that if they ever need a room to stay at in these parts to place their shadow in his door.