13th of Tenth Month, 180th Year of the Triumvirate
We’ve finally arrived in Lelina. The final stretch was most arduous, as coach drivers and ferry men have taken to refusing transport to anyone heading into the region. We were forced to travel on foot, through muck and mire. On the second night we were beset upon by hounds. Mister Mackay tells us they weren’t wolves, but neither was he able to recognize the breed. Nevertheless they were putrescent things, covered in sores and hairless, their skin thickened by some strange condition.
They were also cowardly. It only took one shot from Mister Mackay’s long rifle and the death of one of the hounds to send the rest of the pack running. Still, throughout that night I kept one ear open and pointed toward the trees and underbrush. I don’t know what’s worse when you listen to the cacophony of the wilderness at night; the things you hear, or the things you THINK you hear.
At some point, just before dawn, as the morning mist began to rise, I could have sworn I heard the sound of machinery in the distance. I told myself that perhaps the denizens of Lelina had a mill or some such thing out here, but I couldn’t convince myself of this possibility. There was something off about the sound, a certain cadence that didn’t seem entirely natural. Something that reminded me of footsteps.
One should think that finally arriving at our destination would be a moment for respite, and it is, but only just. The town is more part of the swamp than a place within it. The buildings suffer from wood rot, their walls covered in slimy moss and lichen. Many buildings along the outskirts have collapsed, leaving only dead spires of ripe smelling decay. I reached out and touched one on the way in. The wood was moist and soft, like a sponge-cake. Water, green and oily, seeped out at my touch. In the darkest reaches of my imagination I picture something taking root beneath the skin, tiny green tendrils wrapping themselves around the bones of my fingers and squeezing.
Such thoughts are nonsense, of course.
The members of my company are all on edge, as well. Meriam has expressed several times a desire to turn around and leave. However, she tells me that thoughts of what we may find at the ancient site in the swamp helps to keep her mind occupied.
Doctor Trenum has taken to humming under her breath. It is a tune I do not recognize, though it feels familiar. I asked her what it was as we approached the town’s one hotel. She claimed to have no earthly idea what I was on about.
The population of the town is…sparse, to say the least. Many left after the site was discovered. More left after the first people disappeared. The proprietor of the hotel tells us that three families left day before last, heading in the direction from whence we came. We did not encounter them, nor did we see any sign of their passing.
When I asked him what might be causing the disappearances, the proprietor did his best to dodge the subject, providing only vague answers about superstitious nonsense and youths who refuse to settle. Other people I’ve talked to clam up entirely.
The people that remain in town seem friendly enough, so there is that. Small, isolated places such as this have a reputation for being unwelcoming. Perhaps they’re all just happy to see someone coming to Lelina, rather than leaving.
Tomorrow, we are set to head out to the ruins, where we will meet with Professor Croshaw, the leader of a team sent from New Toring University. I look forward to speaking with someone other than those who live here and hopefully gain a truer sense of what has happened.