From the Journal of Misteline
Following the Murder in the Alley, I had received another commission from my patroness Adriana Wormpole (250 crowns including expenses); to locate the source of the shards of the Black Stone, and perhaps the origin of the conspiracy and the mysterious Rena(s) Koster.
We had a faint trail indeed; Bartholomus Pyle had supplied shards of a mysterious Black Stone to members of a dark and sexually perverse cult, which was also a conspiracy to overthrow the Grand Archduke of Takshendal. He had obtained it from an unknown trader at Slapershaven. The shards were reputed to twist the minds of their worshippers, opening them to suggestion and madness. They also caused blisters on their hands and bodies.
The only boat that travels to this rather remote area is run by Albinus Moonshank, and he took Myself, the worthy Drake, Rufus, and Silas (as he is already aware of the conspiracy, and enjoys official standing) to the village.
The journey was tedious, yet uncomfortable.
We arrived at the village of Slapershaven in the afternoon. My first impressions were of isolation, chill mists about a gloomy lake, with mean peasants grubbing a squalid living from the stony shores and dank forests. Then the screaming of the local lunatic destroyed my idyll. The wretch is Samuel Leadfern, driven mad by the death of his wife at the hands, or claws of the local horror. He lives above the taproom of the local inn, a rustic establishment relishing in the jolly name of Ye Merry Badger. They serve Scrape; a local moonshine named after a disease of sheep, and 3 types of eel (green which is foul, brown that I dared not sample, and silver which isn't too bad). I won't even mention the wine. Did I mention that guests sleep in the taproom?
Fortunately the local headman; Herluf Brethouwer, invited us to stay in his house (it being heated by the foetid exhalations of cattle on the ground floor). We accepted.
Enough of my bitter feelings; his abode is moderately comfortable, his table generous and his wine of high quality. His wife is young and attractive (as one of her sex) as well.
Another person whom I was pleased, and very surprised to meet, is Brother Jeppo, an aquaintance from Takshendal. He is here to build a church (to the Divine Grace) and to expand the village.
Our actual arrival had been somewhat chaotic, as the locals jostled to get the best bargains. Nevertheless I had noticed the unsettlingly sturdy pallisade across the neck of the isthmus, the watchtower, and the guard at the gate. It seems that the area is beset by 4 problems; the monstrous being known as Clod, a couple of local bandits who were farmhands who killed their master, wolves and bears. I'm not sure what to think of Clod, and it is far too early to speculate, but there is a little suggestion of infectious madness and physical defilement, which is what we are looking for. The Brothers Groot must know the local land like few others, and I'll wager some of the villagers know where to find them.
Another little detail is that the local Blacksmith runs a general store, and I suspect that he supplies fossils to Albinus. In my mind, someone who knows where to find fossils may know about Black Stones. Unfortunately Bartlemy Linschoten seems to have formed a low opinion of me, when he heard that I am an artist and natural philosopher.
Albinus Moonshank had also been invited into the Headman's house and here the tale is told about the curse:
Up in the mountains there is a secret place; a place of rocks and moss where water falls from above into a silent pool. This was once the home of a lonely creature, called Clod to some, Sumpter to others. The creature was as a man but it was not a man. It had a face and stood upright on wracked and bent legs and would howl at the moon of a night, chasing wild animals for to gnaw on their flesh.
When men first came to the Slapersmeer, they fought Clod several times for it ate their sheep and slaughtered their fowl. Finally, on a dark night, Clod entered a farmstead and killed all within. When the farmer came to his house and found his family dead, he swore revenge and sought out Clod in the mountains and slew it with his axe. He cut off the creatures head, but its blood spilled on his hand and in the days that followed his hand withered and fell off. The farmer was called Jorik and he died twelve days later. His kinsmen buried him in a cairn that has ever since been called the Clodsbantor.
Then, men left these lands in the great winter years of 1398 and 1411. When they returned they expected to find the cairn again, but the strange thing is, no one can find the Clodsbantor any more. The old ones say, Clod’s kin folk came down from the mountains to find him. They dug up Jorik’s bones and took his soul up into the dark lands for ever more...
...now, something roams our lands and slays our sheep once again. The old women say Clod has returned and the farmers out in the wilds lock their homesteads tight and live in fear for their daughters. Brother Jeppo here is come from Takshendal to purge the land of this menace and in return we will build a temple to the creator though it taxes our meagre wealth to do so.
...this creature, seldom seen, is a pale figure, Slender and wasted. It screams of a night and can be heard often in these days. It seems to haunt Slapershaven, but so far we’ve not been able to track it down for it slips into the Slapersmeer and escapes. Truly, we are poor hunters though for our strength is sapped by fear. The ghost of Clod walks amongst us.