Shadows Over Ustalav

Into the Depths

November 3rd 4711

Early the next morning, amid driving rain and leaden sky, the group once more laboured towards the old prison, this time laden with additional knotted ropes and other supplies. Re-entering the old training room with the burned -out lift shaft five hempen knotted ropes were secured to old winch anchor points and surviving metal works, and Christov decended down into the basement.

His feet touched the sodden floor of a cavernous chamber which may have once been an underground cellblock, but it had long since collapsed. The crumbled walls were thick with mold and stained with soot, and heaps of fallen stones and charred wooden beams lined the area. Water dripped and seeped along the walls, collecting in a dark, murky pool in the middle of the room. The north, the twisted remains of a wood and iron lift lay in a heap in a shallow portion of the pool near Christov, and above the jagged hole in the roof yawned above the ruin. To the west, a partially blocked opening seems to open up after several feet into a dark but stable tunnel. Amidst the debris of the eastern wall appeared to be the remains of coffins and tangles of bone.

“All clear”, he shouted, and resumed scanning the walls. Seconds later Ysabot tapped him on the shoulder. “Boo.”

“How did you get down here?” started Christov.

“Oh. I’m just quick, that’s all.” she smiled slightly, her strange eyes glittering in the half -light. Christov mulled this over as he resumed his scanning.

Keryn climbed down next, looking oddly at Ysabot. She was the first two notice the water in the murky pool bubbling slightly in two locations. “Whats that?” she pointed.

As they watched, the bubbling increased in height to a couple of feet, and now seemed to shine with a strange greenish phosphorescence. And then the bubbling seemed to shift and grow, forming two slimy, shifting masses in humanoid shape, but made out of what appeared to be some form of greenish sticky rope or cloth. The things lurched jerkily across the pool, seemingly struggling to maintain their horrific forms.

As she stood in shock one of the things lunged hard into Keryn, making her stagger back. Layers of stale putrid slime covered her face and nostrils, causing her to cough and retch as she dropped her bow and stumbled away. Another slammed into Christov, but he was more fortunate and merely suffered scratches and buffeting. Behind them Ysabot chanted and gestured in some harsh alien tongue.

Recovering, Christov cleaved one of the things with the Lopper’s Axe, and it disintigrated into a pile of revolting slime. The second too was quickly despatched.

“What”, asked Ysabot slowly, “Was that?”

“I think,”said Christov, lifting up a piece of green slime with his dagger, “That this stuff is called Ectoplasm. I had a long chat with Father Grimburrow about hauntings and such.”

The others managed to descend without incident: the passage to the west was the only exit, and as they moved up this the indications of burning became less intense, and the structure more intact. Trig rubbed a brass plate with an arrow pointing to the wrecked room they had just left, it read “Hell’s Basement”.

“Very appropriate” commented Keryn.

The short corridor exited in a large rectangular room to the west- exits could be glimpsed on the north and south walls, though the view to the west side appeared blocked by a thick stone wall or column reaching up to the ceiling. As Christov stepped in the rattle of bones was heard from around the room, and paired green dots of eerie luminescence could be seen rising from the floor. Sif gripped her hammer and gulped, keenly aware that she had hardly distinguished herself in their previous encounter with the undead in the upper cellblock.

Cristov however had no such doubts. Like the others he had recently downed one of Ysabot’s protective potions, and he stepped forward crushing two of the skeletal forms with his twinned weapons. The remainder rushed in.

This time however the group seemed to have got the measure of fighting these silent undead automatons. Keryn and Trig used their mace and club respectively, and after a brief but hectic fight all of the things were destroyed. The group themselves were unharmed.

Moving forward in to room they noted that the stone column was in fact the rubble-blocked stairwell upwards, and that there was a further exit to the west. From the northern exit a red fiery glow could be seen at the edge of Ysabot’s light spell, and Christov moved across to get a better view. He soon wished he hadn’t.

Shambling down the corridor towards them, somewhat hesitantly was another skeleton; this was was headless however, and wreathed in flame. Gripping a short axe it nevertheless moved close to Sif and Christov,swinging wildly. Again Ysabot could be heard behind them chanting in some hellish tongue.

The figure was unarmored, and the blows rained in on it splintering bone, but nevertheless it seemed to possess some unnatural resilience. The flames surrounding its body scorched and burned Christov and Sif, but finally it collapsed. It appeared to have come from a small room situated on the left side of the corridor leaing north. This too was labelled with a smoke covered brass plaque, as “The Oubliette”.

Looking briefly into the sparsely furnished room, they emerged into a square, empty room with several iron doors lining the walls. In the middle of the room, a hinged ten-foot-square metal grating lay over a dark pit in the floor. A thick rope had been tied to the grating and dangled into the pit below. Christov walked over.

Silently a ghastly figure rose up from the pit, immediately in front of him. A shaven headed man, his eyes ablaze with green fire, and his flesh a ghastly pallor of greyish white. His arms too, appeared unusually elongated, and his legs appeared knock- kneed, as though crushed or injured. With a soul-chilling shriek a one handed axe, seemingly the twin of the one held by Christov lashed out, burning his flesh with a cold dead sensation. Off to his side the hairs on the nape of Sif’s neck rose as she saw a spurt of blood shoot out of Christov, to be absorbed into the hovering spectre.

Christov staggered back badly hurt, and Sif and Keryn, determined to use the Ghost touched arrows they had aquired, moved across to flank the pit on both sides. Ysabot stepped up behind Christov and touched his shoulder, closing some of his wounds with a cool healing light.

Grinning horribly with wide colourless lips, the phantom floated across to Trig, the axe again hitting and burning her badly, with blood apparently being drawn towards the creature. Sif and Kendra aimed, unable to get a clear shot, but Christov lashed out and had the satisfaction of experiencing the Lopper’s Handaxe meet resistance as it hit, slicing through the creature. His hammer went right through the creature without effect. “Ordinary weapons have no effect” he realised, “Only the Lopper’s Axe”.

The phantom next attacked Keryn with similar success, though she managed to fire one of her magical arrows into it. Ysabot used up her final healing spell, and Christov again hit home, as this time the floating horror attacked Sif, fortunately missing.

Christov realised that in some strange way the phantom was drawing strength from their wounds, in order to replenish itself. It turned to Ysabot, but finally Sif let fly with her arrow. The Ghost Touch arrow vanished barb and shaft right into the creature, which with a piercing wail, appeared to collapse in on itself, and then vanish entirely. The chamber was silent once more, and after the difficult combat the group breathed a sigh of relief.

Ysabot leaned over the black oubliette, her eyes glittering. “There are things down there” she said, “and some of them are magical. I can see a mace.”

Trig was lowered down on a rope, and found a pile of three crumbled corpses- plus an extra skull.

“I bet that belonged to the headless skeleton” said Christov, “Probably a guard.”

Trig rooted around and held up the items for Ysabot to inspect. A heavy black mace was clearly magical, as was a strange stone in a decorative clasp. In addition there was a good quality sword, a damaged crossbow and a ring of keys.

“Finally”, said Sif. “I feel like we’re making some progress. I assume that was the Lopper?”

“I assume so” replied Christov, “Let’s go back to the big room”.

Here they discovered that there was a further passage leading westwards, and another to the south, though this was blocked by a metal portcullis and the winch mechanism looked completely siezed up. They entered the western passage towards ‘Reapers Hold’.

This too ended in a lowered portcullis, though here the mechanism looked in much better shape. Before this were two doors, one on the northern and one on the southern wall. Opening the northern door revealed what looked like a small Guardroom, but the southern door proved more interesting. This too looked like a Guardroom, but this one contained only a single large table with two chairs astride it and a single sagging cot pushed up against the eastern
wall. Several battered cabinets lined the northern wall, with a few arrows and bits of chainmail lying scattered on the floor nearby. The oddest thing however was the eerie sight of three fractured skulls sitting on the table next to a heavy hammer. It looked as if someone had arranged the fragments of the skulls in some sort of pattern, as if an attempt had been made to construct a fourth skull from the broken fragments of the trio on the table. The leathery body of a long-dead dwarf, his wiry red hair and beard still strangely
vibrant in death, lay slumped on the ground behind the table.

“Hum” said Trig, “The Mosswater Marauder? I’ll go in and have a look.”

The wall beyond the body had attracted Trig’s attention due to the regularity of the stonework, and sure enough as she examined it she was certain there was a door in it somewhere. She ran her fingers along the stones and soon found one which pushed in. There was a click, and the wall swung away from her revealing a darkened space beyond. A cry went up behind her.

Turning to here side she was horrified to see the bluish translucent figure of a bearded dwarf wielding a hammer. Nearby the three skulls rose from the table, and darted at Christov who was stood in the doorway.

The dwarf swung his ghostly hammer, but Trig managed to leap backwards reaching at her belt for her remaining Haunt Siphon.

Keryn watched the scene from over CHrostov’s shoulder and then cried with pain as something heavy smashed into her back. Staggering round, her eyes blurring she saw Sif, a feral snarl on her face and the Marauder’s hammer clutched tightly in her fist. “Sif no!” she cried backing away, realising that Sif might actually kill all of them.

Trig activated the Siphon, which rapidly filled with greenish smoke; almost simultaneously Ysabot crashed her staff down on one of the skulls which shattered. With a sonorous moan the ghostly dwarf faded away and the remaing skull crashed to the floor. The Marauder too had been defeated.

In the Guardroom the others could now hear Keryn trying to placate Sif, who was advancing and snarling, appearing confused, but was fortunately no longer attacking. Ysabot rolled her eyes.

“Sif No!” shouted Christov. “Stop Now!” Sif hesitated, and then dropped the hammer and fell to her knees, covering her face with her hands. Gingerly Christov picked up the hammer and dropped it into a sack.

“There’s a lot of stuff in this secret room” said Ysabot, “and it has Jorfa’s mark on it.”

Indeed, there was a large quantity of fine armour and weapons, as well as potions and a few other items.

“Look, we’ve done well today” said Ysabot. “but most of our spells and such are used up. Lets get this stuff out and come back another day. The Splatter Man has a long way to go yet to spell out Versorianna’s name, and a day or too isn’t going to make much difference.” The others agreed.

After spending an hour hauling their loot to the main room, pulling it up and stowing it in the corridor leading to the Property Room, the group shouldered what they could and headed back to Ravengro. With four of the spirits defeated only the Splattter Man now remained.

Later that evening Trig was the only one still awake when she heard shouting from the nearby citizen watchpost outside. Picking up her sickle she walked over to the front gate to get a view outside. Moments later she had cried an alarum and was rushing towards the barricade.

Two shambling figures, obviously dead were striking at the two spear armed villagers, who were defending themselves ineffectually. It might take minutes for the Guard to reach them, and so Trig drew her sickle and charged one of the fugures from behind. By the time it had reacted and turned round she had disabled it, though one of the villagers was also on the floor.

Although currently unarmoured the tiny gnome was difficult to hit, as her sickle cut again and again at the lumbering corpse. As Keryn and Trestleblase- one of the Guards arrived on the scene, she sliced it to the ground, and stood panting. She had been rather more successful than on her last encounter with these horrors.

Trestlebalde turned over one of the corpses with her boot. “It’s old Riggs, and Mortimer. These are the two who perished in the fire at the Town Hall. Their bodies were being stored in an icehouse with the cemetary being shut up and all.” she said.

“It seems like the Splatter Man still has a few cards he can play” said Christov ominously.

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