My preparations for my expedition to the wild Lumbridge country were made with the expectation that I would spend, at most, five days on the road. I spent what remained of my meager funds on provisions and supplies, the owner of the general store in Lumbridge being insistent that his goods were the best value one could find in the south of the Kingdom.
The locals were singularly unhelpful when I asked for directions to the old Draynor road. Evidently, they put much stock in the disturbing rumours about that track; many of them attempted to drive me towards the new road instead. Such was their reluctance that I actually felt that fortune favoured me when a drunkard offered directions in exchange for a sip of the foul whiskey I had purchased against the chance of injury on the road.
It was a little past noon when I started down that forlorn road, and my initial response to it was sympathetic to those rumours I had heard in Draynor previously. Scarcely two hours had passed since I set upon that road, and already, I began to feel a sense of unease at my surroundings, which had an air of profound age and neglect. At the time, I convinced myself that I was simply rattled by the stories I had heard. The physical aspect of the road, however, conveyed an unease which the stories alone could not explain. Weeds choked the road, and their appearance was so loathsome to me that I resolved to look straight ahead, paying no attention to anything except the fork at which I would take a wrong turn.
The day passed without incident, though I did note with some distaste that few of the travellers' stories I had heard had so far taken any liberties with the truth. This country was certainly a forsaken one, being of wholly unnerving aspect.
By chance, as night fell, I came upon a lonely farmstead, and, disregarding the travellers' warnings I had heard in Draynor, I sought shelter from the cold, swiftly dampening night. My host was gracious, if somewhat more furtive and reserved than the company I was accustomed to. Waldrin, as he gave his name, was wary of attracting too much attention from the other homesteaders in this country.
“Ain't good to be seen too much,” he explained when I asked him about this strange aversion to attention. “Folks that are seen too often 'round these parts don't last very long, not at all. There's some evil out by the swamp that has its eye on us honest folk, an' those as can have all left now, leavin' the poor and less established – us, mind – to live with the things their ancestors called out from the earth.”
He rambled on like this for a long while as the shadows deepened around us. He offered me supper from the pitted pot in the fireplace, but I respectfully declined and opted instead for the hard, dry food I brought from the town. We talked some more about the local area over supper, and of other matters – for instance, I learned that he was a devout adherent of the benign gods – before Waldrin excused himself and retired to his hard pallet amid a fit of coughing.
I slept in the loft that night, and although there was a foul smell in the air, I was thankful for the shelter as heavy rain lashed against the thatch. Through the night, I fancied that I could hear the frogs and insects and birds that the travellers spoke of in that Draynor tavern, and the brief snatches of croaking and chirping and screeching that I thought I heard through the rain and Waldrin's walls were unnerving enough to keep me awake for most of the night. Each time I drifted into the cusp of sleep, it seemed the hellish snatches of song from outside would reach through the darkness and the rain to jerk me back into consciousness.
The following morning, I ventured out into the rain with the barest of farewells to Waldrin, who at least made an attempt to provide me with directions to return to the main road. I thought, then, as I continued in my search for that storied village in the haunted darkness of these hills, that perhaps I had encountered a man who was genuinely concerned for my safety, or perhaps even my soul – a man whom, it seems, no other traveller had met, or, for their own reasons, would speak of.