This one draws some inspiration from two sources, the first of which was Rob suggesting a taxidermist going around describing the fauna of Norbayne, which I found very interesting. The second was something else I can't think of at the moment, but it was, again, someone writing a bestiary of a fantasy world by going out and observing the creatures.
Unfortunately, Boclæden of Baél-Ád went to the Black Fens, and we'll see how that goes for him.
The esteemed natural scholar, Boclæden of Baél-Ád set out to document the fauna and flora of the Black Fen in the year 616 of the Common Era. He was never seen again.
Another expedition from Peostólorca attempted to find traces of the lost scholar, but all they succeeded in finding was a collection of weather-beaten journals which almost certainly belonged to Boclæden.
These journals have been translated from the Dunscarth language to one more befitting a civilised reader.
Within days of entering the Black Fens, we have found ourselves being harassed on a constant basis by the teeming insects. Many varieties exist in these wetlands, many of which seem to be drawn to warm-blooded creatures.
Upon capturing a specimen in a glass jar, I was able to observe it more closely and was horrified and intrigued by what I discovered. The thorax of the specimen was exceptionally bloated and was causing it to have difficulty moving. Close inspection revealed that the three inch long thorax was bloated with blood and that the head of the creature was shaped much like a needle.
I contend that the creature lands upon its prey and takes its sustenance by withdrawing vital fluids from its victim. A horrifying thought. One could only imagine that the 'needle' of the creature would be coated with dried fluids from other creatures, introducing contaminants into the bloodstream of its prey.
Judging by the stinging pains the expedition have been experiencing on any bare skin and the sheer magnitude of the liquid within the specimen, I would have to assume that any number and perhaps all of the expedition have perhaps been infected with any number of transmittable diseases. At least two men have already taken ill. We are carrying them along on hastily built stretchers, but with only limited supplies of water, the humid atmosphere and a lack of proper Dunscarth medical treatment there is little hope for their survival.
We have lost three members of our party in the last two days. The first loss was sustained the night before last, one member of the party unfortunately pitching his tent too close to a body of water. The first we knew of the attack was a wet snap and dragging sounds. Our sentries jumped up but were too late to prevent the beast, whatever it was, from dragging the poor man and his tent into the water where it presumably devoured him.
We decided to stay and see if we could trap the creature for study, although I do believe part of the reason it was so easy to convince everyone to stay in place was due to the rapidly deteriorating condition of our two sick companions. No one had the heart to move them in the state they were in.
Come the morning nets were set in the brackish water and the party generally relaxed around camp until around midday, at which time one of the sick men expired. We buried him in the swamp as we did not have the capability to build a pyre for him.
The expedition has taken to covering any bare skin in mud to prevent the insects from detecting our warm blood. It has been surprisingly effective and the number of bites have sharply decreased.
We have been hunting our own food and have turned to the small terrestrial reptiles which stick to the drier parts of the swamps. They are armoured with heavy scales, particularly on the back and head, however the underbelly is unarmoured. In size they are no bigger than Midland capaills and their flesh tastes similar, though it is more tender. We used two corpses as bait for the beast in the water, but as yet have had no luck in luring it out. We can only assume that our companion either afforded the beast enough sustenance that it will be satisfied for some time, or perhaps it has moved on.
This morning we awoke to find that the other sick member of our expedition had also expired. We buried him next to our other companion and continued into the Fens.
We set up camp in the evening last night, having travelled at least twenty miles over the course of the week. It does not sound a great deal, but I assure you that in these conditions and in this fascinating, deadly place, twenty miles is a grand achievement.
Some of the expedition have reported hearing strange sounds in the fens. We do not know what the cause is, but most have heard it, a low, warbling call.
It is a haunting melody, An idle fancy, the call cannot be music. None have ever found intelligent life in these marshlands.
This morning Dræfend, the party's head scout, discovered tracks of an unusual and gargantuan nature. Quite by accident, we stumbled upon a trail which had been forged by something very large moving at some speed through the dense undergrowth. The prints were massive affairs, approximately five feet in diameter, crowned with three claw-marks. Whatever left these was a massive, bipedal predator.
I begin to properly fear for my life in these swamps.
Several days have passed since last I wrote, and this is no coincidence. Of the twenty-five who set out with me, only six now remain. The remaining number have fallen prey to the denizens of these lands, which are far more advanced than any have ever realised.
The first we knew of the attack was a sudden hail of black darts falling into our midst, many of which must have been envenomed with some virulent substance, for upon being hit with a dart, men would fall to the ground, writhing in agony. This attack was made all the more effective by the fact that the expedition did not expect an attack and so few were armoured. What is more, in this heat, not a few had divested of upper garments completely, relying upon only the local mud for protection. Enough against the dagger-flies which plagued us earlier, but not against these vicious darts. After just a few short moments, some of us managed to take cover in the tents and waited with horrified fascination as our attackers approached our fallen comrades.
We could see them through the canvas sides of the tent, vague shapes, similar in a basic fashion to a man, yet different. Their movements were quick and rapid, followed by long moments of absolute stillness. Uncannily like the movement of a lizard, if a lizard were to be seen moving as a biped and clutching a weapon.
Their language, if you could call it thus, is a collection of hisses, snarls, growls and clicks. Yet despite that, they managed to coordinate their efforts perfectly, storming our camp and then taking the wounded, dragging them through the swamp.
We have begun our trek out of the swamps now, but fear it may already be too late.
We did not cease moving all night, and it went against us. Frædrec stumbled in the night and it would seem has broken his leg.
We could not leave him, but he is slowing us down, and now as the dawn starts to lighten even this dismal place, we have drawn to a halt. Dræfend has taken charge of the expedition, Oxfjord having perished several days ago now. He is loathe to push Frædrec harder than needs must, and while I am of like mind, we must now consider that we may never leave these fens with him.
We can hear them approaching, hissing, shrieking, groaning in that bestial language.
By the Great Fires of my homeland, how I wish I had never come here!
No more can be made out of the journal, the rest of it damaged by blood and water. Boclæden made just two more entries before the creatures caught his party, but neither are in any way legible.
The lack of any remains near the journals' resting place ensure that Boclæden's final resting place, or even whether or not he is deceased, remain unknown.
It is, however, unlikely that he could have survived.