From the Journal of Misteline
Screams in the Night:
Some time in the small hours of the morning of the 16th Septemus, Lukas Moonshank, who was sleeping aboard the boat, awoke to the sound of a splash. In the Brethouwer house, Drake and Rufus awoke as well, and as they began to move about, other people began to stir. The night was very dark and wet; the moon hidden behind thick clouds. Lukas lit (or unveiled) a lantern, which Drake and Rufus saw, and having armed themselves they walked towards the jetty. On the way, Drake heard a pig moving about behind a house, but felt that there was something else. He searched about as best he could, and Rufus and Lukas eventually brought up the lantern.
Drake caught a momentary glimpse of a pale, slender, Human (or Human-like) figure, and also some naked Human footprints in the mud, and of a size suggesting a woman or boy before his full growth.
I had taken the time to check the palisade gate (shut, as it should be) and guard tower (no sign of a guard, but this is usual), and then I lit another lantern and took up a torch as well. Albinus Moonshank and I went out to the others, just in time to hear something fleeing to the lake behind the smithy. Drake could, perhaps, have discharged his bow into the dark, but he did not. I hurled the torch out over the lake, but it's guttering light revealed nothing, save what might have been ripples.
A moment later, we all heard a keening scream across the water; a lonely, beastial sound, full of madness and dispair, it could have come from a Human throat.
Later, Drake found a gnawed fish where the thing had climbed onto the land.
Albinus remained with Lukas, for a while, to check his boat. The rest of us went indoors again, out of the rain.
Apparently that was Clod, and it was not unusual for him to prowl around at night, stealing things, killing fowl and other livestock. Once he menaced a child (and of course it is assumed that Matron Leadfern was taken by him as well).
The villagers had set traps for him, but he avoided them all.
We returned to bed.
We awoke as the household prepared a morning meal, but no sooner than I had rubbed sleep from my eyes than I noticed that Albinus had not returned. Looking outside, I noticed the broken lantern lying on the path through the village.
It was Albinus', who had left Lukas a little after the rest of us. Lukas had heard nothing.
The lantern had been dropped and the glass broken (I looked for signs of other foul play, perhaps the mark of a thrown stone, but there was nothing I could be sure about). There were the naked footprints again, and Albinus' boot prints running afterwards. Both passed to the reeds behind the smithy, which were trampled. Albinus' cloak lay amongst them, and a thorough search revealed his golden cloak broach, it's pin bent.
If I may speculate, it looks like Albinus saw Clod again, on the way back to the Brethouwer house. For some reason he dropped his lantern, did not raise the alarm, and ran in pursuit. Possibly he ripped his cloak off, or perhaps there was a struggle. Albinus was a large man, if old, and with a serviceable dagger, but he was perhaps blinded by his own lantern, or surprised, or drowned. I do not assume that he was overpowered, killed, and dragged off, but it appears likely. It seems that Clod had claimed another victim, and fled back to his lair.
After we had eaten, Silas went in a small boat, with some village children. Apparently there are places where drifting things accumulate, though many find their way into the river at once. The children knew all of them, but there was no sign of Albinus. Silas returned in the evening, wet, and in bad humor.
My own telescope revealed nothing, due, in part to the rain and drifting mists.
I made my way to the inn, and talked with the young women; Juliana Leadfern and Molly Frith. I begged Juliana if I might talk with her father, if Drake could brew something to calm him. She agreed. Drake consulted with Grishilda, the old woman who's herbal cures had been ineffective, and in due course his philtre was added to Samuel's food. We were warned that Samuel is not a pretty sight, and the girls usually push his food into his room.
Samuel was peaceful; a man in his mid forties, somewhat wasted and in a bed, and I could get nothing out of him, neither through conversation nor suggestion. His mind appeared broken, although he didn't soil himself. His face, and what I could see of the rest of him, was a mass of scars; like the blisters that we had seen in Takshendal, but far worse, and healed as much as they would.
There were no papers, maps or diaries.
As Molly washed him, I talked with Juliana; 2 years ago he and his wife had brought a black stone (like the shards that I had seen, but the size of a couple of cabbage heads, yet needing several men to lift it). He had sold it to Bartlemy Linschoten, who had sent it downriver with Albinus, to be collected by Bartholomus Pyle.
I told Juliana a lot of what I knew of the stone, though not of the cult, nor politics of Takshendal.
Drake told Juliana how to make the mixture that calmed her father.
Not knowing if Bartlemy was part of a conspiracy, I forged a letter as if from Bartolomus (Drake had some of the apothecary's notes with him):
For the attention of Bartlemy Linschoten of Slapershaven.
2 years ago, I obtained an unusual black stone from you. I am interested in obtaining more, or news of more. If you have any, please send it down with Albinus Moonshank, as before. Otherwise, please inform me as to the availability of the stone, in a letter on the boat.
Bartholomus Pyle of Takshendal.
I then gave the letter to Lukas, whom I had taken, to an extent, into my confidence.
Drake and I arranged to be in the smithy buying camping provisions (for Drake had organised a journey out to the outlying farms), and fossils.
The deception was all a waste of effort, as the only thing that I learned was that Bartlemy did not remember the name of Bartholomus.
He knew all about the black stones, where they came from (he pointed it out), and that they cause blistering. We will go there.
My purpose is to trace the source of the stone, and any other cultists or revolutionaries (Renas Costa) using it. I would also understand it (is its influence a miasma like malaria, or a radiance like the moonlight that causes lunacy, or is its touch required?). If the stones are unmoveable, we could bury them, or ask Brother Jeppo to warn all against them. Perhaps we could lie in wait for other cultists arriving, seeking new stones.
The shards are but a fraction of Samuel's stone, which seems to have been sent downriver 2 years ago. I have to check this, and find the major part.
There are no mad, blistered wild beasts.
I am fairly confident that it was the stone, rather than the loss of his wife, that turned Samuel mad.
I think it likely that Clod (or a succession of Clods) is another victim of the stone; perhaps Samuel's wife.
Maybe Clod is a feral child.