The terror of these past few weeks is almost more than I can bear; why is it that by writing words into this book I can somehow keep the madness at bay? Perhaps it is as if I’m confessing my sins to a silent companion, or freeing my mind of these tortured thoughts and confining them to paper. I began a journal before this one, but it remains in a place to which I cannot return. So I will start afresh. But this time, I will start from the true beginning.
It began with the finding of that cursed scythe in the mine they call Roland’s Doom. Yes, that was the start of it. Before that, the Defias Brotherhood was happy with our progress in Duskwood. Before the Scythe, the terrors of this place seemed as tame as Northshire. But ever since I found the haft of the Scythe jutting from that pile of rubble in the mine and, curse me, pulled it free, Roland’s Doom became a place of vile death! If I had known what would happen, I would have cut off my own hand to keep from grasping that rune-carved wood. So many regrets! I always thought that was a privilege of the old. I now know that it is not the old – it is the hopeless – who don the mantle of regret, unable and unwilling to shrug it from shoulders stooped with misery.
After the Scythe was freed, a change rippled through the mine. Light from our flickering torches warped, and the strength of our voices seemed beyond our control. Sometimes a man’s whisper roared through the tunnels forcing hands on ears, and sometimes our shouts barely traveled a few steps before diminishing into a hint on the wind. Unnerving, yes, but we did not have long to wonder at this strangeness. It was but a harbinger of what truly drove us from the mine.
They came at us from everywhere, clawing from hidden holes at our feet and dropping upon us from silent perches above. Half our men fell in those first panicked minutes. The rest, including myself, tried to flee. As I ran I saw so many of my brothers taken by tooth and claw, heard so many screams cut short or gurgle to silence. For all I know, I am the only human to escape that place.
I can only guess why I survived that night. I have always been cautious, always quick to flinch from jabs and leap free of pitfalls. My nickname, Jitters, comes from this trait. So perhaps it was just that knack for caution that saved me…
Or maybe it was the Scythe I pulled from the rubble. It cannot be the Scythe itself, for I lost it during my frantic flight. But if it was I who brought the the beasts to Duskwood, then perhaps they afforded me a rare courtesy. Curse them. Or perhaps, I am doomed to witness the change I wrought on Duskwood. Perhaps it is my fate to watch as the creatures tear into this land, staining it ever darker with their foulness. If that truly is my fate, then it is twofold. For the creatures at Roland’s Doom are not the only power to clutch at Duskwood – the fiends from Deadwind Pass have also staked claim.
This is the next chapter of my tale, and I pray it is the last…
After surviving the flight from Roland’s Doom, I hid within a barn owned by a man named Sven. I spent a few days in the barn, and such horror lingered with me that I never once made myself known to Sven or his family. But from what I saw from my hiding place, I knew these farmers were quite decent folk. Had I stepped from my concealment I think they would have taken me in, but trust is hard for me. Harder still after that shock in the mine. So I remained hidden. And it saved my life.
A few days after I arrived at the barn, Sven left his farm for Darkshire. He kissed his wife and smiled to his children and promised to return soon with toys and sweets. The poor man. That was the last time he saw his family unmutilated. At least they parted happily. And at least his wife was the first to die, and was freed from seeing the slaughter of her children. But these small graces do nothing for me. I saw what happened, and it will ever haunt my dreams.