Hiding behind trees near the road, we knew we were almost defeated. Only one option remained – run down the road and get out of range of those damnable darts! Uphir quickly moved to grab Ismark and began rushing down the road, dodging from thick tree to tree for cover. Janlynn hefted Ireena and did the same. Tetsuo dropped his backpack and scooped up both Nim and myself. (Nobody thinks to discuss anything with the smaller folk, they just pick us up and carry us like children).
We dashed down the road in a bid for gaining the town far below. I situated myself upon Tetsuo’s back and began firing fey blasts back at any pursuers. Soon giant bats with these tiny undead humanoids upon their backs erupted from the copse of trees and screeched after us. I soon earned their ire for my magic blasts and they attacked me vigorously. Nim deftly aided in my defense by shielding me from the worst of these clawing attacks.
Unfortunately Tetsuo was hit and finally succumbed to his many wounds and both Nim and I were deposited unceremoniously upon the dirt track. Akkiir, bleeding from several deep wounds, did not think of his own safety at all as he charged back into the fray to defend Nim, Testsuo and myself from the vicious bats, his uncanny blade swinging and arcing through the air.
Seeing this, Uphir set down Ismark and drawing her bow, began to send arrows towards our enemies. Janlynn set down the now conscious Ireena and moved to see what help she could give. We were all attacking and severely wounding these strange creatures and the bats were retreating from our attacks. Some of them dropped off their riders, who began to viciously rake at us with their clawed, undead hands. One of the bats tried to make off with Nim, grabbing him about the shoulders and lifting him up. That bat did not make it far and soon Nim was on the ground defending his friends once more.
Janlynn used her healing capabilities to get Tetsuo to his feet and managed to stave in the skull of one of the enormous bats for good measure. Soon the immediate threats were either killed or driven off and once again we were racing down the mountain to whatever refuge it may offer. When we got to the spot where Ismark and Ireena were, a dark truth was revealed to us – Ismark had succumbed to his wounds and breathed no more. Ireena was devastated and reluctant to get to her feet, but as Uphir grabbed up the body of Ismark as her burden, Ireena soon followed.
We could still hear some pursuit when we finally stopped for a moment to catch our breath and take time for Janlynn to cast a complicated and powerful healing miracle upon us all. All of our spirits were uplifted slightly from the warmth of that healing coursing through our bodies, and this gave us the strength to once again get to our feet and run the rest of the way down the mountain to eventually come to the palisaded and gated town of Vallaki.
A deep sadness had settled into my heart even as we approached the gate, for I had never lost a friend to violence before in my life. Singing the songs of valiant heroes and their epic and meaningful deaths was not the same as witnessing it and being a part of it in real life. My thoughts were heavy upon our dear, lost Ismark, and this set the stage for my outrage to come.
Exhausted from an afternoon of fighting for our lives, and losing one of our own, made the scene at hand absurd at best and outrageous at the worst. The guards proclaimed that the gates were closed and would not open after sundown. We eight, no seven, weary and frightened travelers would not find solace from the grim shadows that haunt the night in this land!? What kind of place was this that they treated others such?
We needed to treat with this uncouth guardsman for several moments before he eventually capitulated, but he refused to let our “monster” into the town. This was confusing to us at first as we sincerely did not realize that he was speaking of, and maligning, our brave Uphir. How dare this coward of a human deign to speak of our Uphir this way! Never in my own life or his will he ever be graced with the presence of a more honorable, loyal and brave hero, Dragonborn or not.
I could spit, I was so incensed. Well I was not going into this bloody town if good Uphir was not allowed! Janlynn, Ireena and Nim formed an envoy to go to the church and see about gaining entry for our friend, and to give Ismark’s body over. Not one other of us would enter the place without Uphir. They spoke with the head priest and eventually they sought audience with the Baron of this place, with Ireena as spokeswoman for our group. Out of deference for Ireena, the Baron agreed to allow Uphir into the town.
Soon we were gathered at the church, where the priest Lucian Petrovich was beginning their nightly vigil. I could tell Uphir was trying to stay out of the way and not be noticed, lest she frighten some of these… parishioners. I was in no mood to be the happy go lucky diplomat this night. As surprising as it may seem to the rest of my friends, I am not always chipper. Usually I make a point of trying to raise others’ spirits, but let them find cheer within themselves that night, for I had none to give.
Death, terror, uncertainty, insult, and dishonor were heavy upon my mind as I grappled with my own thoughts, while Nim and Janlynn worked towards actual solutions. I stayed at Uphir’s side in the hopes that even as small as I am, I could somehow give her comfort. Nim tried to encourage me, but I was not having it. Later on I walked amongst the dark and shadowed houses of Vallaki alone, thinking of all that has transpired and what is yet still come.
Nim and Janlynn found out from Lucien that the church and it’s property were no longer sanctified (Nor were they desecrated as all other places have been). The bones of a Saint were once buried beneath the altar, but have recently been stolen, and with them the protections it once gave the church. The priest was keeping this information away from the faithful, lest they panic. If Ireena and all the other humans of this place are to be at least somewhat safe, we should locate these saintly remains.
Feeling a little more clear headed upon my return, Nim mentioned that the young boy Yeska, who helps at the church, had been interrogated and they had learned that the boy had told one other person – Milivoj. This other boy was orphaned and was doing everything he could to protect his siblings and to just survive. I at once deduced that the most likely location for the bones would be at this boy Milivoj’s house. He had likely taken them so that they could offer protection to his family exclusively.