The Margren Party is now two moons from the Forest; per our benefactor’s instructions, I have started documenting our travel in these journals.
Walter Margren is our party’s leader. He recruited us all: Lestor the navigator, Lya the physician, and I, Rowen, the hunter. This morning Walter asked me to begin taking a record of the journey. It is my hope that these pages will prove informative after our task is complete.
We have been heading north from Fortuna’s Bluff since the last harvest. As planned, we will meet up with the other parties at the Forest’s southern outpost. The Margren Party is expected to arrive on schedule.
Meat is in surplus and fresh water is plentiful. Our supplies are stocked and in good shape. I will report if conditions change.
18th of Snowfall, 322
Conditions have worsened. We have lost Lestor and the party is shaken. We hit an unexpected obstacle this morning but the expedition will continue.
I have been instructed to document the incident objectively. Shortly after daybreak, we arrived at a river that was not on our maps. Lestor deemed it too dangerous to cross, so we followed the river west looking for a better position to cross. The four of us moved silently along the bank, so we were surprised when we heard something distinctly human ahead. Sure enough, we came upon a woman kneeling by the river, hunched over crying.
The stranger was dressed modestly, in a dirty brown skirt. It was obvious she had been in the wilderness long, yet her black hair was far from unkempt. We approached cautiously, and first noticed the rag tied over her eyes- she appeared to be blind. She held a stone rabbit statue in her palms and tried to weep quietly.
“Are you alright miss?” Walter called out to announce ourselves. The woman turned in our general direction. “Who’s there?” she demanded.
“Walter Margren of Fortuna’s Bluff.”
“Who’s with you?” the stranger asked.
“Just my companions,” Walter answered. “Lestor, Rowen, and Lya. What’s your name, dear?”
The woman scanned our vicinity, as if she were sizing us up… although she couldn’t see us. Finally, she must have realized she had to trust us. “My name’s Euryal,” she admitted.
“What are you doing out here Euryal?” Walter asked. “Are you travelling alone?”
“No,” the woman answered, “well… my husb- uh, companion, was with me, but he’s lost now.”
“Lost? Is that why you were crying?” Euryal did not reply.
“Euryal…” Walter urged, “it’s dangerous to be alone out here, especially with an infirmity. Won’t you let us help you?”
“No, no,” the stranger muttered. “I’ll find my friend, I just… I need help crossing this river. I can’t cross the river.”
“We can help you with that. We’re heading north to a certain forest about two moons from here. You can accompany us for as long as you need.” At this point, Walter had us each introduce ourselves so that the woman would know our voices.
Lestor decided that this was a safe enough spot to cross on foot, and Lya began tentatively trying paths through the current. Lestor was distracted during this affair- he couldn’t help but steal glances at the stone rabbit that the stranger was clutching, which had apparently brought her to tears. Soon, his curiosity was too much. He had to ask.
“What’s that rabbit about?” Lestor prodded. Euryal remained silent; after a pause, she placed the figurine on the ground. “Did it belong to your husband?”
“I don’t have a husband,” Euryal murmured.
“Right.” Lestor stared her down for a moment. “Hey Euryal?” he continued. “How did you go blind?”
As I recall, Lya and Walter both scolded him for asking such a blunt question, whereas I was curious what Lestor was moving towards. Euryal did not answer; she simply turned away from us and occupied her time by nudging the stone rabbit with her foot. We all assumed her blindness was a traumatic event that she would rather not discuss, but Lestor did not relent.
“Were you born blind?” Lestor continued. “Were you scarred?” Still, the stranger did not answer. “Our friend Lya is a talented physician, perhaps she could look at your eyes.”
At this point, I realized Lestor was being rather forceful. He was not offering the party’s help, he was demanding to understand Euryal’s blindness. It was clear he had noticed something the rest of us had not. Regardless, Lya readily offered her help: “If you’ll allow me an examination,” she said, “I’m sure I could alleviate some of your problems.”
Lestor reached for Euryal’s blindfold before she could respond, and tried to undo the knot. The stranger screamed and recoiled, clutching the rag to her face. “No, you can’t!” she wailed.
“What’s this then?” Lestor spoke. “What trick have you sprung on us? Are there men waiting across the river for us?” He reached out and tore off her blindfold before she could stop him.
Euryal kept her eyes clenched shut, but it was clear to us that her eyes were physically intact. I think we all began to wonder if Lestor’s suspicions were justified. Everything this stranger had done seemed to hide a great secret, and I began to question if this woman was actually blind. Maybe she was the bait for some thieving operation, or worse. She covered her eyes with her palms and backed into the river.
“Enough of that!” Walter barked at Lestor. The navigator advanced on the stranger, while Lya looked on apprehensively. I nocked an arrow, unsure where I should have been pointing it.
“Are you blind at all?” Lestor snapped, pulling her hands away.
Euryal’s piercing gray eyes met Lestor’s, and they both gasped. That was the moment our party fractured.
There was some magic in the stranger’s gaze, and Lestor took the force of it. The man became rigid, his posture froze as he had been standing. Then in an instant, Lestor’s skin hardened. His flesh turned to stone faster than we could process the event. The navigator managed to moan in pain before his visage solidified, and Lestor was gone.
Euryal looked on in horror. The stone statue that used to be Lestor still gripped her, and she wrestled out of its grasp. She looked up at me, and I almost met her gaze before I made the connection, and averted my eyes quickly. She broke into a sprint, escaping the scene along the river, away from where we came.
“That’s a gorgon!” Margren shouted. “Shoot her!” I hesitated for only a moment, then I loosed an arrow in her direction. I missed my mark by a meter, and Euryal disappeared into the trees.
Lestor’s stone corpse tumbled into the river, and Lya scrambled to the bank. The stone rabbit made sense now; it seemed that any living thing that meets Euryal’s gaze would turn to stone. Was this irreversible though? I pocketed the rabbit in case its study could be valuable.
Shaken and afraid, Walter decided that the party better stop for the night. We set up our tents at the riverbank, and Lya stood watch until the sun waned, lest the cursed woman return. Eventually we all retired for the night.
Meat is in surplus and fresh water is plentiful. Our supplies are worn but in good shape. I will report if
I’m sorry. As I am writing this, I am alone in my tent. I hear something at the flap. Without a doubt, I hear Euryal’s soft weeping just beyond the canvas.
I was told to document this journey objectively. For the sake of transparency, I must admit that the stranger was… excessively beautiful. So gods forgive me if I let her into my tent tonight.
19th of Snowfall, 322
I made a mistake last night. I trusted the gorgon woman, and now the party is ruined. We have experienced loss, but the Margren party will make it to the Forest.
She was blindfolded when she crawled into my shelter last night; it looked like she had torn a cloth from her skirt to hide her sight. “Is this Rowen?” she whispered as she huddled in the corner, trembling. I quietly told her that yes, she found the right tent.
“I’m so scared,” she quivered softly. “I don’t know how much longer I can survive out here alone. I thought you’d help me, because you spared my life today. It was no accident that your arrow missed.” She let that statement hang; I would not confirm her suspicion.
“I should shout for help,” I warned. “You killed Lestor. I won’t be seen helping you.”
“I didn’t mean to do that.” She was weeping at this point, I could tell through the blindfold. “It’s my curse. Everything I look upon turns to stone. I didn’t want him to find out, but he forced that upon himself.”
“Surely you mean anything that shares your gaze,” I say. I know Euryal looked at me that day, and I am certainly not stone.
“If it were that simple, I wouldn’t need to blind myself,” Euryal lamented. “No, everything I see will die- Lestor, my husband, and that poor rabbit too.”
“I wasn’t born like this,” she mourned. “You call me a gorgon, but I am not like them. I was cursed, only two years past, when I went to that damned Forest!”
I knew she meant the same Forest our party marched toward. “How do you mean?”
“There is some evil in that dark place, and everyone who enters must pay some price. I was given this curse for trying to leave. When I discovered what had happened to me, I covered my eyes and returned to my village. I told my husband about my infirmity, and he decided we must return to the Forest together. But I… I messed up. I am alone in this darkness, and I… think I went insane, forgetting what another human looks like. And I longed for him so terribly… something overcame me, I can’t explain it.”
“Where is he now?”
“West of here. I couldn’t move him. Couldn’t get him across the river.”
“Why would you need to do that?”
“Rowen, I have to get him to the Forest. I know this can be fixed somehow, and if there’s a solution, it lies in those trees.”
Euryal moved closer to me, nestling tighter for warmth. I must admit I was frightened, knowing what she might do even by utter accident… but I recognize she was alone and afraid. She needed comfort.
“I’ll help you,” I said slowly and deliberately. “I’ll sneak away in the morning and get you across the river. Walter won’t understand your plight, but I’ll help you for as long as I can.”
Perhaps that was my mistake. I put myself at risk to help a stranger who I knew was dangerous. I should have stayed out of it.
Morning came and Euryal was gone, having slipped out in the gray daybreak as I had asked. We disassembled our campsite, and Walter and Lya went to work building a raft to get us across. I convinced Walter that I’d better hunt on the south side of the river, and thus I stole away with my bow, a day pack, and an extra satchel of meat and travel supplies.
I found Euryal in a clearing. She sat beside the statue of a man, who had frozen in a serene position. Unlike Lestor’s shocked grimace, this man looked to be at peace.
We worked quickly to assemble a raft of our own. After some time, we pieced together a twisted vessel just buoyant enough to get us across. I loosely strapped the statue to the raft to prevent it from tipping, and I gave Euryal the extra supplies I had taken.
Crossing proved to be more difficult than I thought- we did not choose the safest place to attempt it. I told Euryal that in this current, I could not paddle alone. She reluctantly removed her blindfold to help me navigate, although she was careful to avoid looking at me. She faced the side we came from to be safe.
Before we were halfway across, the current seemed to increase. Euryal became panicked as the statue seemed to fight against its restraints, rolling toward the back. I was more concerned with whether or not the raft would hold. It turned out there were greater hazards in this work.
“Rowen!” I heard my name being yelled from the bank, followed by a shriek. I turned around and saw Lya standing on the shore, appalled by my getaway. Yet the shriek was Euryal’s; Lya had caught her attention, and we both watched in horror as she turned to stone.
We were petrified for a second too long; the current overcame us and we were thrown from the raft, which soon went under too. I remember sinking in the frigid depths, and… I think I saw Euryal down there. A pair of gray eyes met me in the river, and… that had to be her, right? Yet I was fine.
I am writing this from the near side of the river. I washed up next to Lya’s stone likeness, which rests by me now. I did not see which side Euryal ended up on, if she escaped the river at all. This was a dumb idea, and if I had rejected Euryal last night, none of this would have happened. But she was just so… charming, I can’t explain it. I am drawn to her, inseparably.
No matter. There is nothing more I can do for Euryal, her husband, or Lya. The only thing left for me is to continue to the Forest and finish my mission. Hopefully something good can come from these pages.
Meat is in shortage and fresh water is plentiful. Our supplies are lacking and we are in poor shape. I will report when conditions worsen.
21st of Snowfall, 322
I returned to Walter that night. He told me that Lya went looking for me after I had been gone too long, worried that the stranger had turned me. I didn’t have the heart to tell him what happened- I suppose he’ll learn the truth in time. He suspects the gorgon finished Lya; he’s not wrong.
We still haven’t crossed the river. Walter had us wait at the makeshift campsite, refusing to leave while a party member was unaccounted for. Yesterday he left the camp vowing to find Lya or to otherwise kill the gorgon. He took a hunting knife and a looking glass, assuming he could evade Euryal’s cursed glare by not observing it directly. I should have warned him, but I am not even convinced it won’t work. I can’t stop thinking about the gray eyes I saw, the ones that did not turn me.
Walter has not returned. I have nothing but time to fill these pages with my paranoid thoughts. You see, I can’t help but believe that I may be immune to Euryal’s curse… That’s crazy, yet I know she looked upon me in the river. If I could find her, I could know for sure… But if I’m somehow special, why? I believe I might be the cure to her affliction.
Damnit! I feel like a child. These thoughts only possess me because I am infatuated with the monster. She is deadly, and it doesn’t matter how beautiful she is. I must hope Walter finds her after all.
Walter has been gone much longer than expected. Eventually, I must assume that Euryal has turned him. Once I am sure, I’ll go looking for her myself. I’ll prove to her that I’m immune, and we can journey together after that- to the Forest or away, it won’t matter. Or if I’m not immune, at least I’ll be free of this mess. At least I’ll know for sure.
I am out of meat and fresh water is plentiful. My supplies are gone, and it’s time to move on. I will report if conditions improve.
24th of Snowfall, 322
Ruined. All of them, ruined.
I never came across Walter. But that idiot found me after all. I was resting in a clearing, taking a moment to recuperate while I tried to figure out a way across the river. That was when I heard Rowen approach. I clenched my eyes, but he was over me quickly. I expected him to be angry or hurt, but he just kept babbling about how he was… immune to me, that he was going to save me. He thought I looked upon him in the river, and was convinced that I couldn’t hurt him.
I wouldn’t let him test his theory, but he wouldn’t let me stop him. Rowen pinned me and forced my eyes open while I fought him. I cannot understand how manic he was towards the end. This folly had consumed him, and he was hysterical. Sadly, I had to watch him turn quickly. Rowen was not the hero he thought he could be.
He left behind his bow, this journal, and the stone rabbit he still carried. I have taken his possessions as my own rather than leave them in the dirt; I feel I owe him that.
It’s my fault. I forced him into this, even if I didn’t mean to. It’s far too late to fix this, but the least I can do is finish this party’s work. I will take over Rowen’s journal, and continue his group’s passage north. Whatever they hoped to find in that Forest, I will find it. Their story will carry on.
The Margren party will reach the Forest on time.