The plan, as it was formed, was simple – two days out into the forest, two days back. A simple scouting, just enough to get a feel for what might be needed for a longer expedition.
The first day out we encountered a trio of goblins. The fight was suitably short. We spent more time discussing how to dispose of the bodies than we did in actual combat. We camped a careful distance away from the site of the skirmish and spent the next day’s journey keeping a cautious eye out for any goblin reinforcements or encampments.
That’s how we spotted the wall.
Three hundred years or so of vines and moss clinging to stone looks astonishingly natural – from a distance it could be a cliff or a ridge of rock. Sirette spotted the windows though, and closer investigation revealed a solid tower fallen into disrepair. It didn’t take long to find the arch which once held the front door.
Keller used his magic to detect a faint undead presence within the tower, so we proceeded with caution. Dragda and her battleaxe took the lead, with backup from Keller’s spells and my prayers. Sirette provided melee support and Fungdark alternated between songs of courage and carefully placed arrows. The two skeletons defending the base of the tower were rapidly dispatched.
From there, we began a careful exploration, working our way up the spiral stairs. Sirette jimmied the locks that were amenable to gentle persuasion. A solid kick from Dragda’s boot convinced the more recalcitrant latches. As we worked our way upwards we encountered several pairs of skeletons at strategic junctures – defending a long-rotted storeroom of food, guarding an officer’s quarters and so on. The heaviest resistance was in a barracks near the top of the tower where a half-dozen skeletons were lurking. Fortunately, we were able to keep them bottlenecked in a doorway where they could be dealt with in manageable numbers.
On the way up, Keller discovered a journal from the former captain of the troop that had been stationed at the tower. The tale it told was grim – a promising young officer of the old empire, traveling north with his family to take up residence at this outpost. An uptick in bandit activity, coupled with an ambitious underling. Betrayal. Siege. A last-ditch attempt to reach reinforcements.
As we approached the roof, Keller’s divination sensed a powerful undead presence. We prepared ourselves for a more dangerous foe than the skeletons we had been facing, but as it turned out our preparations were unnecessary. It was the ghost of the captain, still looking for reinforcements that would never arrive. We learned from him that there were two things keeping his spirit in this world: first, he didn’t know the fate of his wife and young child. Second, the tower needed to be garrisoned and secure.
The captain had told us that his troops had been defending his wife and toddler – hidden in a bolt-hole somewhere nearby. If they had succeeded it could have led into a months-long quest for information, tracing family histories in far off lands until we found his distant descendants. Tragically, the problem was much easier to resolve. In a chamber under the base of the tower stair we found the remains of a woman and a child. Her angry spirit appeared as soon as the bones were disturbed, but I was able to calm her and she let us conduct last rites.
And now we have a quandary. This tower could be a fine base of operations – if we can keep it garrisoned. The captain and his troops will only stay at rest if people make the tower their home. Will using this as a base be enough?
On a personal note, I find myself with a theological puzzle: the Wanderer’s Code calls us to help others on their journey. Would helping the unquiet dead reach their afterlife be considered part of this calling?