Travelogue: The Weald

Dear brother,

I’ll admit I’ve gotten a bit off-track since arrival. Although investigation of our ancestor’s work remains one of my goals, I’m also doing my best to help pull the Hamlet together. I guess it’s just because I’ve spent a few weeks here, but this place is really starting to feel like home, and I don’t want to neglect it. There’s an old blacksmith in town that we’ve started fixing up. Here in Europe people look at 700 year old buildings that used to be the most vital industry in town but are now totally obsolete, and they say “let’s turn this into a disco,” so I have no idea what this blacksmith shop actually is now, but they still call it the blacksmith. Or “la herreria,” at least, which Dismas tells me means “the blacksmith.”

Speaking of Dismas, he’s been getting drunk all day, and the people at the hotel’s breakfast room keep calling him “kuiristo,” which definitely seems to be some kind of insult or accusation. Dismas just ignores them and keeps drinking. I think he needs some time alone. He was pretty shaken up after the bout with the zombie cult.

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We also asked Busquent to seek some treatment for her growing alcoholism, which is apparently a serious problem around here. Denunciates don’t seem to mind if their Castigator is alcoholic, or maybe it’s just because this place will take whatever spiritual guidance they can get. Regardless of whether the local congregation is okay with Busquent’s habit, there’s only so many drinks to go around at the bar, and anyway it’s just not a healthy way to deal with stress.

One of the top priorities for getting the Hamlet back in one piece is the clearing of the wilderness along the road. We’re not getting into any lumberjacking or anything, just trying to keep the road itself free of obstructions. What surprised me is exactly what those obstructions are. I must not have been paying as much attention on the way in as I thought, because the countryside looks…odd.

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I don’t want to be one of those Americans who thinks they know just everything about Europe because I’ve watched a couple of documentaries. Maybe it’s totally normal for certain European forests to be more fungus than tree? But, like, I feel like I’d have heard about it if there were parts of Europe that were basically Morrowind.

One of our big goals here is to try and find the bandits that have been preying on this road for a while. The ones who ambushed my carriage on the way in, remember? We didn’t have any luck with that, though, because this whole section of forest was choked by other creatures. Like these ones.

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These are Australia-grade spiders. What are they doing here in Europe? Was there a zoo in the Hamlet and some of the creatures escaped when things fell apart? And do you see that tree on the right? I didn’t have time to get a better picture what with the fight for our lives against creatures giving the term “wolf spider” a whole new meaning, but that thing growing up out of the road is, in fact, a tree. You can also see a bit of a cemetery in the background. After the fight we got a closer look.

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So, yeah, the cemetery’s a bit of a mess. Not really a big surprise considering the state the rest of the town’s in, right? Still not sure what’s up with that, by the way, but here’s my question: Why is there a cemetery out here at all? There’s already one in the Hamlet. We buried Croc there when it became clear that no one from the university was coming to pick her up (probably because, y’know, this place is so dangerous that one of their colleagues died violently the same week she came here). It’s right next to the Denouncing Venice church, right where you’d expect a cemetery to be, so I don’t think they made a new one after this one became inaccessible due to the bandits (and, apparently, treentacles).

It turns out that the zombie cult is out here, too, but not with the usual kinds of zombies.

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I mean, these guys are clearly zombies, but they’re clearly the kind of zombies you get from a Cordiceps infestation gone out of control. Which is weird because, y’know, we have a cure for that. I realize this part of Europe is a bit less technologically advanced than the rest of the Union, but surely they’d still have the Cordiceps cure, wouldn’t they? That’s, y’know, important. Cordiceps kills people. And then uses their reanimated corpses to kill other people.

We also found another asylum patient of some kind. Was the local clinic just filled to bursting with these guys when it fell apart or got bombed or whatever? This one was shouting at us like the last. “Ŝi ankoraŭ vivus, se vi ne kondukus ŝin ĉi tien!” I don’t know exactly what that means. I know a few words here and there. She, something, then a word related to life somehow, a word I don’t know, “you not,” a fragment that sounds better in European than in English but means basically nothing without context, some more words I don’t know, and “if here.” “She…you not…if here.” And also something to do with life. I dunno what it means, but even though I didn’t bring Dismas this time, he still wound up dead. I’m pretty sure Reynauld and Beringar were the ones who hacked him up, but honestly, I wasn’t really paying attention. And that bothers me. Like, am I really not even going to try to get this guy some help, when a chance to do better than I did last time basically fell into my lap? On the other hand, I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to do when my companions won’t listen to me on the subject. I need to learn to speak better European. I can only communicate basic ideas right now.

There’s a fascinating thing about the wildlife, though. Apparently there are two kinds of Cordiceps zombies out here. Your standard shambling clicker sorts, but then also something quadrupedal. Which is not to say that it wasn’t made from an infested human, just that the human’s body has been, uh…changed.

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There used to be a farmstead out here, and I think we found the family. I really hope they aren’t feeling anything, because if having mushrooms growing out of your body wasn’t painful, having your bones warped like that has to be.

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The ones in back fired spores at us, and those ones in front were able to use the spores to hit us. Beringar got absolutely shredded. He tore his mask off and shouted and screamed while swinging his sword around, and I know it’s impolite to say, but between you and me, Beringar looks really creepy underneath his mask. When Vesci went to help him with that “unholy twisting of the flesh back into shape” thing, Beringar wouldn’t let him. He said something in European, but the only word I recognized was “ŝatas,” which means “like.” I didn’t really have time to do a lot of translation, zombies were trying to kill us, and these ones were sturdier than the ones we’re used to fighting back in the estate, and now that they had those targeting spore zombies in the back, they were a lot more accurate and deadly, too!

But Duquesne wasn’t having any of it.

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She shot down both the ones in the back rank, and seeing them go down seemed to cheer up Beringar a bit. Anyway, Reynauld was undaunted and hacked the fungus straight to pieces.

We found some discarded luggage along the side of the road afterwards. It looks like it’s what’s left over from someone else who tried to pay this place a visit and got waylaid like I was on the way in. They must’ve been waylaid by zombies and not bandits, though, because they left plenty of treasure behind, including some documents about the estate. Reynauld refused to let me have them, though! I’ve just about had it with this guy. First he won’t shut up about Denouncing Venice and how all the insects (still here and infuriating, by the way!) are Venetian and won’t leave the Hamlet for weeks and weeks, and now that I’ve finally got him back on his feet, he’s going back on the deal we all made to use all the discarded treasure we found to help rebuild the Hamlet and fund our expeditions! What’s he even going to do with those trinkets, anyway? The town is such a mess that there’s nothing to buy here, and Amazon won’t deliver (I’m sure glad I do most of my reading by Kindle anyway)! He was the only one in the group who spoke English, though, so I couldn’t tell any of the other three what was going on. I’ll have to talk to Dismas about this sometime soon. Right now he’s sleeping off a hangover.

Sincerely,
Your relative

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