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E2a: Dreadwood Beckons

Journal: Earthday 27 Planting 598

Like I haven't slept in years, that's how most of the night passed, once I got to sleep. However, getting to sleep, that was a different story. No one spoke of it, the darkness across the river. The pervading sense of dread reaching out from that forest, grasping and tugging at my consciousness. Yet, there is something, in the back of my mind, a memory floating its way to the surface, then suddenly pulled down into the blackness of my forgotten self. I'm sure of it now, I've been in that forest, but when and why?

The Dreadwood is a vast, dark place. As each of us takes our turn during the night keeping watch, we all hear things, whispers in the night, calling to us to enter the woods. At first, I thought it was just me, but the others have reacted also. It affects me, I can barely sleep. Many times I found myself wandering away from camp. I hear my own voice, it speaks to me in the darkness, when I'm away from the others. At times I find myself standing on the riverbank, my feet in the water, I want to dive-in and swim to the other side. I do not. I just stare at the woods and listen to myself speak of strange things I do not yet understand or can put to words. Perhaps one day I will.

At one point everyone wakes to the sound of an animal, screeching and fighting. Belgariad's trap seems to have caught a deer by the river's edge. There was the sound of splashing water, and more fighting, then silence. By the time everyone arrived to claim it, something else already has. Something grabbed the deer and dragged it - kicking and screaming into the water. Upon our arrival, there is only the motion of waves, the wake heading in the direction of Dreadwood.

The dreaded forest can have it. I'm just happy it wasn't me.

By morning, most everyone seems refreshed, though admittingly I could use a few more days of sleep; perhaps away from Dreadwood. While everyone is breaking camp and readying for our journey south, a dwarf is seen walking down from the hills, from the direction of the hidden vale. None recognized him, he's not one of the dwarves we met yesterday.

He approaches and greets everyone. He says his name is Dilur Malvor, the caretaker of the Vale of Dancing Waters. He apologizes for missing everyone yesterday, claiming his duties took him to the Shine of the Tender Oath - a sacred place where only dwarves are allowed.

He confessed, our arrival caught him by surprise. The other dwarves told him we emerged from the Sanctuary of Morgu, he couldn't believe his ears. He claimed to have built the sanctuary.

The dwarf sat next to the ashen remains of the campfire, saying it was best to put some fresh wood on it. He has a story which begins in late winter of 577. He says he's been waiting to tell this tale for over twenty years. this should be insightful, I hope.

-- "The Truths of the Darklore" by Degnfirth