The Heroes of Ustalav

Chapter 3

The square was all but deserted as the companions left the market. Shouts and screams could be heard from the surrounding streets, and the ever-present violin strains continued to play. In the town park across from the market, two girls and a boy were trying to climb atop the bandstand that lay in the center of the green. A growling dog stood nearby, it’s hackles raised. As the party moved closer, they saw disembodied hands clawing through the tall grass towards the children. The dog snarled and leapt at one as they watched.

Spreading out to get a clear sight line, Cal fired an arrow and pinned one of the horrors to the ground. The hands seemed to sense their presence, and half of them moved to attack the party while the rest scuttled on towards the dog and children.

Idris strode purposefully across the green towards the children. As one of the hands grasped at the cleric, it was struck by a bolt of lightning and fell charred and motionless. Piper stepped up beside Cal, a crossbow held to her cheek. Cal saw what she was about to attempt and almost cried out, but feared breaking the gypsy girl’s concentration. With a quick exhalation the bolt flew true, neatly spearing a hand grasping a girl’s leg. Leonan emulated Piper’s daring by picking another hand off of the boy with his shortbow.

Cal rushed forward, not trusting his archery skill enough to risk harming the innocents. All of the children were now free of the grasping horrors and were making their way higher up the bandstand. The brave dog that defended them had one of the hands clawing at its flank. Cal tore the hand free, and it immediately grabbed him around the throat and throttled him unconscious.

The masked archer Lucien took aim at Cal. Even Piper gasped as the arrow flew, skewering the hand wrapped around the elf’s throat and tearing it away. She was simultaneously impressed with the man’s skill and appalled at his recklessness; he could have just as easily killed the fallen scholar.

Leonan snatched a hand that was trying to climb after the children. He held the writhing thing away as it attempted to claw and grab at him. Piper killed two others with magic missiles as Idris rushed to Cal’s aid and stabilized the elf. Another hand was struck down by Gozreh’s wrath as it tried to grab the cleric.

Leonan continued his struggle with the hand, only to drop it in shock as an arrow whizzed by inches from his face. His head snapped around to see Lucien pulling another arrow from his quiver, then down as the hand tried to grasp at his boot. The assassin began jumping around wildly, trying to simultaneously stomp the hand and prevent it from grabbing him. Idris strode over and calmly impaled it on his trident.

Piper checked on the children; they were uninjured but shaken. The dog too seemed to have survived with little more than a patch of fur missing from its flank. The children claimed they could find their way home, but begged the party to go find their brother Roderick. The older boy apparently made spare change posting notices near the bridge crossing the river into town. He had gone out that way earlier in the morning, and they’d not seen him since.

Idris checked on Calaron. The wizard was stable but unconscious, and the cleric had no more healing spells. The party dragged the wizard back to the market, where the shopkeeper produced two healing potions for the party. They fed one to Cal, and Idris pocketed the other. They then left for the river to see about Roderick.

When the party arrived at the river, they saw a boy sitting atop the bridge. Below him were two skeletons wearing the ragged and soaked remains of clothing and nooses around their necks. A third skeleton in tattered armor and a noose sat astride an undead horse.

Idris ran forward brandishing his trident and stabbed the horseman. Cal hit the horseman with a firebolt just before Leonan’s arrow knocked him backwards off the horse. The horse reared up and struck Idris with its hooves, knocking the cleric unconscious.

Lucien pegged one of the skeletons with an arrow as he moved over to stand near Cal. The undead creature advanced on Piper, clawing and raking at her. The bard swung her longsword and cut the skeleton down, then ran to aid Idris.

The other skeleton battled Leonan. Cal cast a firebolt at the creature, and Leonan used the distraction to disengage and run away from the undead monster. The skeleton turned its attention towards Lucien and Cal.

The undead horse reared as Piper tried to shield the fallen cleric. Even as Lucien put an arrow in its flank, it struck Piper and knocked her out. Leonan paused to shoot an arrow at the horse, but continued trying in vain to get away. The horse pursued the assassin and struck him in the head, dropping him as well.

The remaining skeleton continued to advance. Cal fired a ray of frost, hoping to slow the creature, but missed. He scrambled away from it as Lucien drew a sword and chopped off its arm. Without pausing, the skeleton stooped to retrieve its fallen limb, then began to beat Lucien about the head and shoulders with it.

Idris jolted back to consciousness. The cleric stood and shakily stumbled away from the undead beast. He gulped down the healing potion the shopkeeper had given him while assessing the battle. Lucien dropped the last skeleton with a slash from his sword, but the fighter looked the worse for wear. Cal was still standing, but looked almost as scared of Lucien as he did the horse.

The horse advanced on the remaining trio. Idris fired his crossbow, and Cal cast a firebolt at the horror. Lucian put another arrow into it from his longbow, as he moved away from the horse’s advance. Idris also retreated as he fired his crossbow again. Mercifully, the bolt struck true and the undead creature dropped.

The party quickly stabilized Piper and Leonan as the boy climbed down from the bridge. With no more healing, they were preparing to take their fallen comrades back to town when a priest of Sarenrae appeared. He healed Piper and Leonan as they told him of the battle. The boy said the creatures had come out of the water. Lucien examined the bodies and noticed the skeleton riding the horse was wearing a rusted breastplate, but no insignia could be seen.

The priest told them he was on the way to help one of the town councilors, who was trapped in his house. However, since he had expended much of his power healing the party, he suggested they go in his place while he escorted Roderick to safety. As they were in his debt, the party could not refuse. The priest passed them two healing potions, and they set off down the road toward the councilor’s residence.


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