We had been trudging through the undergrowth for the best part of an hour, although it already felt like a day. Even if we hadn’t encountered anything more dangerous than a thorn, we are all already tired and on edge. The ground has changed, the soil has now a darker tint to it and the ground seems to shift slightly under my boots every step I take. My cloak has been ripped to shreds by the grasping branches and brambles which permeate the Weald. Even my sturdy boots are no match for the inch long steel-like thorns of these brambles. The enclosed feeling of the forest is oppressive. The trail we are following meanders back and forth, avoiding trees and impassable terrain for the wagon, bringing us deeper into the forest. Whatever was on that wagon was exceedingly valuable for these thieves to expend such effort into bringing it so deep into the woods. I had expected them to loot it and leave it closer to the road.
I looked back at Eivind as he cursed his way through the forest and wished he would stop mumbling swearwords into his scarf. He stumbled once more as the undergrowth grabbed at his boots, as if it was alive, and suddenly it was. His shriek was the first clue that we had walked headlong into an ambush and that our retreat was cut off. Two huge bundles of brambles burst out of the undergrowth, flailing limbs of green death raking at us. Eivind was drawn into one of them and I heard his pistol discharge into the green mass, without much visible effect. I could see his skin being lacerated by the thorns as I ran to pull him from the plant’s grasp. Behind me, Kara and Regis were engaged by the other mass, I could hear Kara whooping and intoning a battle chant as she tore into the bramble monster with her huge halberd.
Grabbing Eivind out of the mass of thorns and pulling him back took more courage than I dare to admit. His scalp was a bloody mess and every inch of his skin was covered in lacerations. We fought back the vines with our daggers, chopping off parts of the monstrosity’s limbs and seemingly winning until Eivind collapsed and started spasming. The brambles must be poisonous! I cried out a warning to the others and retreated from the grasping limbs. Regis came to my aid by grappling the bramble monster with a hook and chain and literally dragging it away from Eivind and me. He left Kara to hack the bramble monster limb from limb, nothing could have stopped her now, her battle chant having reached a frenzy, she whirled like a dervish.
I used the momentary respite to fling a vial of acid I normally kept to dissolve stubborn or rusted locks at the plant, hitting it square in the center. The fumes of dissolving plant matter and hissing of the acid a comforting sight in the face of such a monstrous creature. We triumphed thanks to Kara hacking the bramble monsters into tiny pieces. I looked at her with a newfound respect and a slight sense of fear. She was heaving from the exertion, steam rising off her overworked body with plant matter splattered all over her. Regis and I tried to revive Eivind while Kara leaned on her pole-arm, the fight having suddenly left her. Eivind was barely conscious, taking great gasps of air every time he managed to breathe, so we pulled him to the side and sat him up. I washed his wounds as best I could while the other two stood guard. It would be a few hours before we could move again…