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From the Journal of Estavan of Westmarch
Part 1 is found here:
What at first had seemed like a pointless trip into the tributaries finally revealed its purpose to me back at our lodgings in the nearby village. It was in the professor's room at the Inn that he pulled out a roll of leather and unfurled it across the floor. Pinned at regular intervals on one side of the leather such as to be displayed were samples of hiltweed which had been gathered at yearly intervals dating back just over twenty years. In ink beneath each one was marked its respective date of collection along with a few pertinent details that were not obvious from the samples; such as the color and odor the sap had possessed when first collected.
"These were the most difficult to acquire," the professor pointed to the first three samples. They were clearly different from the rest. The vine was segmented with ridges between each segment. The general shape of the connecting ridges seemed to be the source of the plant's name for each segment looked not unlike how the hilt of a sword held a blade. Each segment began like a narrow blade before growing wider to form the hilt in which the next segment would fit. These early samples were tan in color but the text written on the leather besides noted that their original hues were "light green", and the sap was "white" and "sweet of scent".
But it was the sample dated "1264" that was the most astonishing. It was as far as I could tell the same plant, possessing the same segmented nature, but its hue was dark brown and the original text described the natural color as having originally been "maroon". The hilt-like ridges were gone, having grown into larger protrusions that formed deviously curved thorns which were themselves longer than the original segments. The notations next to this specimen stated the sap was a "foul smelling sanguine hue" and the additional text "Poisonous" was boldly written beneath it.
For each year after 1265 the hiltweed's appearance seemed to gradually return back to that of the earliest samples. The thorns became less obvious and the text slowly indicated that the original colors and quality of sap were reverting to their pre-1263 counterparts. Yet the sample from last year still possessed thorns, albeit small ones, and its notation reported beige as opposed white colored sap. Whatever environmental condition had forced a change in the plant twenty years earlier seemed to have left an enduring scar upon its nature.
The Professor studied the sample we had gathered today. It was yellowish, not green, and I recalled the sap had been musky and peach in color. Entwell seemed concerned, and he compared it against the sample from last year quite extensively. As I looked closer I could tell that the thorns from today's sample were noticeably longer and more curved. Even after the passage of an entire year, the previous sample seemed to be greener than the yellowish one we had collected only hours earlier. Today's sample looked as if it would have been more at home with the specimen's from fifteen years earlier.
I asked the Professor what it meant. His exact words were, "It's... troubling."
It was on this evening that I came to understand that the Professor had expected was to enlighten me to the seriousness of his work and the lengths he went to gather his research, but he never intended to find samples of Hiltweed like the ones we had gathered today. He'd expected a continuation of the progression of the plant's changes over the last fifteen years. Today's sample showed a stark withdrawal from progress and this seemed to deeply concern the Professor. What I had mistaken as disappointment earlier in the day when we gathered the vines was truly more an expression of concern on the old man's face.
Largely I was still unconvinced that the changes effected in these specimens was demonic in nature. The Professor believed the changes of twenty years ago were wrought by demonic influences. In my own mind I wondered if the volcanic collapse of Arreat could have introduced foreign materials in the waterways of the Sharval Wilds which could have eventually affected the growth of the plants, though I had to admit the dating on the specimens didn't quite support my theory, nor did it seem possible to account for the quality of today's specimen.
On the morrow after we would journey south from Downspout towards New Tristram. From there the Professor intended to travel back to Duncraig to report the findings of his research along the Westmarch Gulf. I on the other hand would travel west back to my beloved Westmarch and the hospitality of Sagira's hearth from which I had been absent far longer than I cared for.
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