There were only six of us tonight at The Gaming Goat so we did not have to break the group up into two different tables. There was not a real game map provided for this encounter, so we sourced the provided picture of the town into a spreadsheet, stretched and pulled the map into an appropriate size, and then printed and taped up a game map from there. We will apparently need that map next week as well.
Brother Splintershield was still alive, but was not healthy. He had been knocked unconscious three times in last week's encounter but the party members had made a combined effort to keep their leader alive. And worse, his protection from evil spell had been obliterated. After a short rest the party decided it was time to get Splintershield back to safety in Inverness so he could rest.
Side note: Apparently the encounter, named something like "The Death of Splintershield", had a different intended outcome.
As the party made their way back through the woods they began to see a red and yellow glow in the sky emanating from the direction of Inverness. Concerned, the party moved quickly forward until they could see that yes, the newly built structures inside the walls at Castle Inverness were indeed on fire. In the flickering firelight the party members could also see towns people being chased and attacked by more of the ghostly Phantom Squires and Phantom Armigers that the party had just defeated back in the woods.
Of more immediate concern though was that other phantoms were prowling in the woods surrounding the town. If the party was going to get inside the castle walls they would have to sneak past these phantoms first. A skill challenge was deployed to test the party's various skills and the party quickly met the challenge and was able to sneak through the woods successfully and reach the castle walls (and earned a +2 to their attack rolls for the night as well).
Upon reaching the walls they were met by a stream of townspeople leaving the castle, led by the half-orc guard captain Malgram. He warned the party about who or what was inside the walls, and said the phantoms inside were being led by that ghost that had failed to gain entry to the castle grounds six months previous - Salazar Vladistone. The party gave warning to Malgram about the phantoms prowling in the woods, and Malgram agreed to take the ailing Brother Splintershield with him. Malgram stated there were several townspeople still inside, plus Faldyra was missing inside as well. As Malgram herded his band of refugees up the road and away from the castle he bade the party well and expressed hope that we would meet again,
The party then quickly concocted a plan of attack. The paladin and the cleric would walk through the main entrance and draw the attention of the phantoms inside, the rogue would sneak around and attack from the back, and the two mages and the ranger would clamber up the wall and do their damage from above.
Everything went as planned. The six Phantom Squire minions were taken out almost immediately, leaving only two Phantom Armigers and two as-of-yet unknown phantom types. Unfortunately our rogue got distracted by saving a towns person from a burning building, so despite the cleric being able to push and then immobilize one of the phantoms inside a burning building, and despite excellent artillery fire from the wall, and despite having bloodied three of the four remaining phantoms, the paladin and cleric quickly found themselves on their backs in a state of unconsciousness.
Things looked dire for our two heroes in repose but the remainder of the party quickly stepped up to finish the job. Our rogue reappeared to finish off one of the Armigers, one of the mages put up a flame wall to otherwise protect the dying, and as the other phantoms split up to go after the rest of the party members they were eventually knocked off one by one.
The ranger was able to critically hurt one of the remaining phantoms, although he couldn't finish the job because he tried to get tricky and managed to fall off the wall. While one mage finished off that phantom the other mage was able to stabilize and revive the cleric, and the rogue used a Potion of Healing he had "found" to revive the paladin. The newly revived paladin then threw a hand axe at the last remaining Phantom Armiger to kill the final phantom in sight.
With the phantoms defeated and with the party members all back on their feet the adventurers quickly took assessment of their situation. For one thing, Salazar Vladistone was still inside the castle walls somewhere, and Faldyra had not been found yet either. A group of fleeing townspeople told the party that there were more of the phantoms in the area of the graveyard, and after a short rest that is where we will pick it up next week.
And during all this time, the mysterious tower stood there, mute and unchanged from when it had first appeared. The light given off from the burning houses drew ever changing shadows across the tower - what is it's secret? Will Salazar Vladistone re-enter the tower? Will Splintershield recover, and if so, will he want to rebuild his fledgling village? Stay tuned!