Our mage was back this week, but our druid was sick. A new player, Dustin, joined us and played the rogue. The DM recapped last week for us - we had entered the courtyard to ensure it was safe, had been attacked by three ocher jelly's, but by the end of the night had defeated the jelly's and had inspected the four crumbling turrets in each corner of the runs of Castle Inverness.
That meant tonight the only section left to inspect was the handful of standing stones in the middle of the courtyard. Faldyra had expected a full size tower to be here, but as the party moved cautiously forward the only thing that was found there now were the upright stones and a single cornerstone. If there has indeed been a tower here at some point the party would have expected some amount of leftover rubble, but as it was, other than the single cornerstone, there wasn't even any sort of stone base or floor, just a grassy knoll.
Inspection of the single cornerstone revealed that it was quite a bit older than any of the other structures of the castle courtyard. There was an inscription on it, but the language was not a familiar one. The mage and Faldyra spent some time trying to decipher the inscription, and decided that the inscription was from an old world "Oerth" tongue and it read: Galap-Dreidel. It was nice to have it interpreted, but that still meant nothing to the party.
Side note: Apparently Galap-Dreidel was the owner of the tower in the original module.
With the courtyard of Castle Inverness now deemed safe the party waved the caravan forward. While the wagons creaked up the hill and arrayed themselves around the vast courtyard the party members reviewed the Iron Skin Belt found last week and decided that Robin, our full-time rogue, should get it.
It was dark once the once the wagons were safely in the courtyard so the settlers quickly set-up torches and camp fires and began to unload the wagons and prepare for a night's rest. The party members were all settlers as well, so they also jumped in to help as needed, although there was apparently a rumor that our new rogue had taken advantage of the confusion to help himself to some snacks found in one of the wagons.
While this was going on Brother Splintershield and his acolytes had begun their preparations for casting the ritual spell that would consecrate the land in and around the castle ruins. Malgram had posted a pair of his guards at each corner of the courtyard, and for a few minutes the only noise of the quiet evening was the hustle and bustle of the unloading of the wagons and the setting up of camps for the evening.
And then the tower simply appeared. Vaguely translucent at first, the glowing structure quickly transformed itself into a physical structure. The base was set directly in the middle of the courtyard and was large enough to encompass the area that included the standing stones. The mysterious tower rose to a height of around sixty feet, and a quick inspection revealed no doors, windows, terraces, balconies, or battlements of any kind on the tower.
There was some initial amount of confusion and panic among the settlers but seeing no immediate danger the party calmed down the settlers and encouraged them to get back to work. Malgram was consulted and it was agreed that his team would continue as outer guards and the party would concentrate on guarding Splintershield in the courtyard. As for Splintershield his initial caution in preparing the ritual was now sped up and with the assitance of his acolytes was soon repeating the ritual as handfuls of consecrated dirt were spread around the courtyard.
Then one of the outer guards gave out a warning. Several skeletons and zombies were approaching the castle courtyard from the road and the surrounding woods. The party quickly moved forward to block the entrance, the mage casting a very effective 3X3 wall of fire directly in front of the gate. With most of the party taking on the undead at the gate the ranger climbed up onto the wall to loose his arrows from above and the paladin made haste to move around the wall and then to the back of the monsters to wreak his havoc from behind.
The zombies proved to be tough to kill, but they soon succumbed to the steel of the party's weapons. The skeletons proved to be minions and they too were quickly cut down. But then another spate of skeletons appeared and the battle resumed. As soon as this second set of skeletons was destroyed a third set appeared, and then eventually a fourth. The guards at the corners of the courtyard were also fighting their own sets of skeletons and while everything looked to be in control for now, the party new this couldn't go on forever.
The next wave of skeletons appeared - 40 of them in all - just as Brother Splintershield completed the ritual. A wave of righteous energy emitted in all directions from the courtyard and every skeleton in the immediate vicinity of the castle was immediately destroyed. The sense of gloom or foreboding that had hung over the castle ruins was also lifted. Splintershield was very happy to see the ritual had worked so effectively, and even grumpy half-orc Malgram gave the party their due for their efforts in the fight.
With the zombies and the skeletons destroyed the party members moved back inside the castle walls and awaited to see what might come next. One of the guards soon yelled a warning and the party moved forward to see what had arrived - a single ghostly warrior mounted on a ghostly steed ambled up the road. His trip in the direction of the castle was interrupted when he reached the boundaries of the protection from evil ritual that Splintershield had just completed.
Side note: I know my quotes below are not completely accurate, but I think I have paraphrased everything sufficiently for game purposes.
In a rage the ghost spoke, saying, "I am Salazar Vladistone, hero of Castle Inverness. Who blocks my path? "
Brother Splintershield moved forward to engage the ghost, although he safely stayed within the boundary of the ritual. "I am Aldus Splintershield, priest of Moradin,. What business have you here?"
The ghost sneered a response, saying "You must face me in combat or you must leave this place."
Splintershield replied that no, he would not leave. He had overcome to many obstacles to reach this point and he intended to not only build a town here but he also intended to recast his ritual to expand it out even further. The stubborn Dwarf further asked "And who are you to claim this area?"
"I am Salazar Vladistone, leader of the Silver Company. My wife is buried in the graveyard inside these walls. The ghost tower is here, and you have no claim to it."
The party members nudged Splintershield and insisted that he do what he could to keep the ghost talking, in case the ghost might reveal more about the mysterious tower. When asked more questions about the tower the ghost replied "The tower means death to you all. A terrible artifact - a soul gem - lies inside, and it will certainly mean death to each of you."
Splintershield laughed confidently and told the ghost these were just empty threats and the stories of the tower were nothing more than old wives tales. Splintershield then was prodded to ask about the lack of doors on the tower, to which the ghost replied "Of course there are doors," but when asked would say no more. The party members decided that the ghost likely knew more then he was letting on, when the ghost said "The tower is no longer whole."
The ghost and Dwarf continued their verbal joust as the ghost continued to make threats and Splintershield laughed at them from safely within the boundaries of the protection from evil spell. Finally the ghost turned to ride away, and offered a final curse: "You may have denied access to a single soul, but you will not deny access to the phantom brigade."
When the ghost was gone the settlers all moved back within the walls of the castle ruins and continued their preparations for a night of rest. Splintershield was quite gracious to the party for their efforts and provided the, with two rewards: a +1 Safewing Amulet and a +1 set of Dwarven Armor. It was decided the ranger would get the amulet and the cleric would get the armor.
When we meet next week the party members will have had time to get an extended rest, and we will see what happens the following day, week, or month, depending where the module takes us. The party members that have attended all four sessions are currently at 963 XP, with 1000 needed to reach level 2.
We have been using the encounter cards during each session. The DM was provided with more than enough packs for each of the players to shuffle together two packs for use during a game session. But, for the most part, they have not been very useful or interesting. However, tonight there were several opportunities when the right player had the right card at the right time and they were very useful. I know several times I have drawn cards that just didn't really apply to my character at all, but that +4 to defense until the start of my next turn was pitch perfect tonight.
Wizards has encouraged some level of deck building (of course) and I assume if you were to attend a gaming convention their use will likely be encouraged. I suppose that if I had a large selection of cards I could construct a deck that could really maximize benefits for my specific character, but for now using a non-maximized deck just to experiment with is sufficient for my needs.