An abandoned manor beyond the outskirts of town; it’s only natural for stories to arise of its ghosts and hauntings. But surely they are just rumors and bedtime tales to keep errant children from trespassing? Yet the gardens remain in bloom long out of their season, faded glyphs hum across the estate’s border, and a trail of fresh blood leads across the stone and into the house. As one treads further into the forgotten property of the MacHales, the more these superstitions become reality, and the more their escape becomes a fantasy.
With the party having triumphed over the ‘Into the Bramblejade’ adventure, it comes time for their next outing! Drawn by curiosity, employment, or even just drunken wagers, the characters’ next destination is the MacHale Estate. But the house has a great many skeletons in its closets and ghosts in its halls, and none are fond of unannounced visitors. The party must face them all if they are to discover what the house is hiding and reveal more of what clues they found in Verdantguard.
Though ‘In Walls That Talk‘ is likely to be the party’s second adventure within Greybanner, the adventures that follow their expedition in ‘Into the Bramblejade‘ do not follow a strict, specific order. They will instead occur when the characters come across them. This means that the group has multiple paths to discovering the adventure hooks at different points in the story, either from other adventures or around town. Some of these rely on the characters’ curiosity or chance encounters with other townsfolk. Others are more direct, allowing you to better ensure they find the hooks if the party is ever directionless.
Clues in Verdantguard. The party’s previous journey to Verdantguard Tower held a number of clues pointing to the MacHale family and their Estate. Apparitions of Vincent MacHale himself are present in the tower, while his final letter to Alessia the Thorn mentions secret knowledge hidden away within the family home. If any of this information is given to Elias Gilderoy, he finds it disconcerting and explains the discrepancies between what is known of Greybanner’s history and what the documents in the tower suggest. He urges the party to quietly pay the manor a visit and see if they can locate the mentioned room in hopes of finding clarification on the cryptic recordings. He would go himself but he is needed for the Tournament and his absence would attract attention. Finally, Elias notes the stories surrounding the house. He has not personally visited the property and so is not sure whether the tales are true or not, only that many locals believe them to be.
Elias has little of monetary value to offer the party in exchange for their trip to the estate, should they press him for payment. Instead, he mentions the Mayor’s recent interest in the property and prompts them to approach him with interest in work and feigned curiosity about the house. Elias also warns the characters against giving away much or any of the information they found in Verdantguard, at least before verifying it.
Bandit Rendezvous. A letter found on the blighted bandits that the party encountered on the road to Greybanner reveals a development in their plot to capitalize on the Tournament. Having robbed and killed a contractor hired by the Mayor to visit the property, the group disagreed on whether to follow the lead. Several of them saw it as too great of an opportunity to pass up. They split from the rest, leaving a note behind to explain. One of them assumed the role of the contractor and acquired keys to the estate; a deception which the Mayor remains unaware of. With event proceedings keeping the town guard preoccupied and short-staffed, the characters may wish to deal with the bandits of their own accord. If they mention the letter to Captain Ashbrand or a member of the town council, the party is offered a reward of 70 gp each to drive the bandits out of the manor.
A Mayor’s Ambition. Mayor Albert Trivellan has been spending time developing a more constant source of income for Greybanner. He intends to turn the abandoned MacHale Manor into a tourist site by playing into the rumors of hauntings, ghosts, and a bloody history. The rest of the council has entertained the idea but is not willing to put resources into it while their focus is on the Tournament. As such, Trivellan is willing to hire outside help in order to first secure the safety of the manor and ensure that the ghoulish stories are, in fact, just stories.
If the party has attracted renown in Greybanner through other adventures or success in the Arena, or caught Trivellan’s attention in another way, he invites them to a lunch and business discussion. Over the meal, he explains the situation and growing interest from some of his nearby connections. The Mayor is willing to pay them 300 gp to remove any dangerous creatures from the house and make certain that it is safe enough for workers to begin moving in. If he is pressed about the enterprise or the amount of gold offered, Trivellan reveals that he already had a contractor visit the manor to assess the work needed. He never returned. Trivellan asks that they keep this detail quiet and that he can deal with it without any link to them. Should they mention the contractor’s death to bandits, detailed in the bandits’ letter, Trivellan shows restrained relief. The death being unrelated to his business should lessen its impact on the enterprise.
Drunken Dares. MacHale Manor has a reputation for being haunted. Townsfolk, particularly those drunkenly celebrating, tell stories of the house and different people who have attempted to spend a night in it, such as one boy who was later found badly injured and with his mind broken. Others express their own intentions of braving the mansion or their disbelief that anything actually lurks inside, blaming small-town superstition. If this alone does not pique the party’s curiosity, another group of fighters may mention the characters’ performances in the arena and excitedly bet them 20 gp each to survive a night in the manor. They offer to meet them just outside of town the following afternoon.
A Forgotten Fortune. Adventurers have a tendency to fashion stories of lost riches waiting to be found. The MacHale Estate is no exception to this. In addition to the tales of hauntings, there is a pervasive rumor that an old ‘MacHale fortune’ of unknown quantity is still hidden in the house, and is perhaps the reason for its ghostly guards. The exact origin of the rumor is unknown, though the visiting fighters and entrepreneurs have only helped it spread. The characters are told about the fortune if they discuss the estate with other fighters, or they may overhear a conversation about it in a tavern or the Bunkhouse (see the Rumors table of the ‘Greybanner Bunkhouse‘).
A wide gravel road leads north of town. It cuts through the thinning border of the forest, with rolling plains of green to its west. In the distance, you spot the occasional farmland, surrounded by fences and fields and with the lights and smoking chimneys of quiet activity. Free of town, the sounds of bustling markets and cheering spectators fade to chirping birds and gently rustling leaves, while the road itself grows more unkempt. Patches of grass encroach on its edges and grow freely through the dirt. Yet, while still unattended and overgrown, the path is a far cry more peaceful than the southern forest.
Not an hour into your journey, the path transitions into clean, cobbled pavement and curves to the right and into the trees. Appearing within the clearing of the road and visible through the treeline, you make out a stone wall, roughly ten feet tall and coated in a sprawl of creeping grass and moss. It extends into the trees and out of view to either side. The wall meets the path at an arched, metal gate, chained closed and affixed with a heavy lock. Beyond it is MacHale Manor, silent and looming, on a raised stone foundation and with a courtyard of hedges to greet you.
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The MacHale Manor and its estate are based on our own ‘Haunted Estate’ battle maps and tokens, which you can find individually or in a bundle…
MacHale Manor was the short-lived home of the MacHale family following the founding of Greybanner. Vincent MacHale had the estate constructed shortly after being named Lord, largely as a means of distancing himself and his future family from the town and the events that created it. The property was passed to his son, Christof, when Vincent left to travel. Each subsequent generation and family leader grew more disconnected from the town due to the secrets that the house and its residents held, the details of which also faded as parents shielded their children from the inconvenient horrors. This was until several generations after Christof, when a studious inheritor sought out the family’s past and discovered more than they had planned to. The family relocated entirely not long after, choosing instead to live in the capital and leave Greybanner’s rulership almost entirely in the hands of its council.
The estate has remained untouched and largely unvisited since its abandonment. Lacking the knowledge of the MacHale family, the people of Greybanner view the house as a reminder of their town’s history. It represents absent rulers and the town’s preference for leadership chosen from the residents of the town. It is also said to be haunted, as vacant mansions are wont to be. This reputation came from groups of drunkards and local teenagers who would scurry back to town with stories of sounds and shadows within the house. These stories went largely unproven until the son of a visiting family accepted a dare from local children. They locked him inside the house and returned the next morning to find him conscious but beaten, scratched, and unresponsive. Alongside the boy’s physical and mental state, it was the furor ignited by his wealthy parents that finally led to an official ban on unauthorized visits to the Estate.
What the people of Greybanner are unaware of is the cause of the Estate’s phantoms. Some few years after the departure of the MacHale family, a lone member of the persisting Eyes of Blood traveled to the house. The cultist, Gabrien Hereca, was unsatisfied with the patient, cautious schemes of his fellows, and sought to approach with a heavier hand. He would find every last scrap of information in the MacHale Estate; records of the conflict, clues to what was done to Harazai, and, most importantly, where they might find him. But Gabrien’s underestimation of the MacHales cost him his life and left his spirit, and those of everyone in the house prior and since, trapped in the confines of the estate.
Most recently, the house has become the target of a group of bandits seeking to profit on the Grand Tournament. Originally content with robbing travelers on the southern road, one of the bandits’ first victims was a contractor hired by Mayor Trivellan to inspect the estate and provide a quote for possible renovations. A portion of the bandits saw an opportunity in this and split from the group. One of them impersonated the contractor in a meeting with the Mayor and acquired the keys to the estate before meeting with his compatriots at the house. The rumored MacHale fortune would be their perfect score. That was until their plan went awry much in the same way as Gabrien’s. Ghosts appeared when the bandits were too deep in the manor to escape, forcing those that survived the undead attackers to barricade themselves in a room. They remain there, scared out of their minds and their supplies dwindling, hoping that the rest of their party will arrive to save them.
A half-elven man, young but with the marks between his brow and under his eyes that you would expect of someone much older. His ear-length hair has fallen out of place, matching the scruff forming on his chin and the weathered coat and thick scarf he wears. You spot a satchel hanging within his coat when his hands habitually adjust and tighten its strap.
Born to two loyal workers of the MacHale Estate in the final generation before its abandonment, Gabrien Adler spent the formative years of his life in Greybanner. He was the subject of bullying and exclusion from many of his peers due to his parents’ roles as employees of the increasingly distant and disliked MacHale household. For all their reassurances of their positions and the MacHales’ kind and fair employment, Gabrien’s parents’ frequent absences only embittered his resentment for the family. He grew angry and cold. Before long, Gabrien was filled with a hatred for the town, its rulers, and even his parents, who he saw as willingly subservient. He believed that they had forced him into a life of belittlement.
Gabrien’s toxic sentiment was noticed by a merchant who frequented Greybanner, named Brandon Hereca. Along with his son Deacon, Brandon began spending time with the boy and quietly expressed his own, similar feelings, earning Gabrien’s trust and confidence. Brandon used this connection to teach Gabrien of Harazai and the Eyes of Blood. The young man was enamored with the many lessons that confirmed what he had felt for so long, while also becoming close friends with Deacon. And when Gabrien’s family home burned down and his parents were lost in the blaze, Hereca took him as an apprentice. Rumors flooded the town; the implications seemed obvious. But neither Brandon nor Gabrien, choosing to become Gabrien Hereca, ever returned to Greybanner to face their accusers.
Brandon taught and passed on the traditions of the Eyes of Blood to the two young men, raising them in the inheritance of the cult’s ambitions. Meanwhile, the pair began to differ as they aged. Deacon was a perfect mirror of his father’s calculating patience, while Gabrien’s impulsive rage only intensified. When news reached them of the MacHale family’s relocation, Gabrien wished to seize the opportunity and uncover the many secrets that Vincent MacHale and his descendants had surely hidden within the house. Brandon forbade him from doing so and risking their own exposure. Gabrien was still driven by his contempt for Greybanner and the MacHales, which Brandon had only nurtured, and he fled another family and traveled to MacHale Estate.
Gabrien scoured the estate for days, unable to find Vincent’s records or any acknowledgment of Harazai or Greybanner’s origins. Only becoming more impatient, he sought instead to extract the information from the MacHales themselves. Gabrien used the magic he had been taught to cast two rituals, powered by the bodies of two townsfolk sent to inspect the house. The first was a binding spell inscribed into the very walls of the property that prevented anyone from leaving the estate through magical means, even as ghosts. He then called upon the spirits of everyone who had been buried within the estate and compelled them to meet him and bargain their secrets in exchange for their freedom.
But Gabrien had never considered that others’ convictions might be as strong, or stronger, than his own. The souls of the fallen MacHales turned on Gabrien as quickly as he could make his demands, tearing the life from his body and trapping his spirit in the very cage that he had constructed. And so the ghosts have remained. The many years since have dulled their senses and identities, leading them to attack others just as they attacked Gabrien, adding to their numbers. Gabrien himself still lingers, consumed by his hateful search for the house’s answers but having learned the lessons of patience and deception from centuries in a cursed limbo.
Gabrien will appear to the party later in the adventure, once they are deeper within the manor. He has a new plan to find Vincent MacHale’s hidden secrets and escape the house but he needs the characters’ help to do so. Gabrien’s current goal, demeanor, and strategy will be covered in a future section, once he makes himself known to the party.
The house stands defiant against the grip of vines and time, a two-story manor of faded bricks and windows that are clouded in dirt and dust. Its tall roofs are a dulled red where they are not covered in fallen, rotting leaves. The front door awaits, closed, beneath the shade of a room on the second level. A single window on the upper floor and to the right is shattered, a maw of razor-sharp glass remaining and only darkness beyond. The air is quiet and still, as if the house itself is holding its breath.
Locked gate. The gate at the very front of the estate is closed and chained with a heavy lock that is worn and rusted (requiring a successful DC 15 Dexterity check with thieves’ tools to pick) and can be easily broken (AC 16; 7 hit points; immunity to poison and psychic damage). The bars of the gate and the tangle of vines on the border walls provide for easier grip, allowing a character to climb them with a DC 10 Strength (Athletics) check.
Manor entrances. The house’s front door is closed but unlocked. All other entrances are locked (requiring a successful DC 15 Dexterity check with thieves’ tools to pick). The door to the manor’s basement, on the southern side of the house, is locked with a heavier lock (DC 20 Dexterity check with thieves’ tools to pick) and barred from the inside, preventing it from being opened.
Perimeter runes. The walls that surround the estate are marked with magical script that acts as the border for Gabrien’s binding spell. They present as faint glyphs of smeared blood, long dried and faint against the rest of the dirt but with a persisting red glow that seems to shine from within the stone. One glyph is inscribed 5 feet high on each of the thicker pillars of the wall, which are each 15 feet apart. A character that succeeds on a DC 18 Wisdom (Perception) check of the walls’ inner faces or looking out from within the estate spots the glyphs. If a character attempts to clean or otherwise remove the runes, they succeed in removing the blood but find that the magical glow remains. A character can make a DC 18 Intelligence (Arcana) check to identify the runes as a combination of several schools of magic, including conjuration and necromancy but primarily focused on abjuration. If the character rolls a 23 or higher, they notice similarities to the forbiddance spell, though whoever cast it made alterations to the ritual.
The original purpose of the runes was to prevent souls from leaving the estate grounds after Gabrien summoned them. Gabrien died without ever dispelling the boundary, leaving it to remain while trapping himself and the other spirits within the estate. The runes also prevent living creatures from leaving through magical means. Creatures can’t teleport out of the grounds through the glyphs’ border or use portals, such as those created by the gate spell, to leave the estate. If three or more of the glyphs are removed, either by destroying the pillars they are inscribed on or with the dispel magic spell (DC 16) or a similar effect, the boundary weakens enough for creatures to teleport through. Characters can end the ritual entirely by removing five of the glyphs or through their actions at its central point in the house’s basement, potentially freeing those trapped in the house.
Breaking the binding spell that surrounds the house may have grave consequences if Gabrien Hereca has not been dealt with. We will cover some of these potential outcomes in a future section, as the party delves into the manor’s basement.
Drunken companions. If the party has taken the ‘Drunken Dares’ story hook, the group of up to four other fighters meets them on the outskirts of Greybanner. They accompany the characters to the estate, drinking and loudly conversing as they go. They will continue to do so as the characters spend time in the estate without entering, growing annoyed if they think the party is stalling or taking too long. As they become more intoxicated, the other fighters will also dismiss or simply joke about anything strange that the party discovers on the estate grounds. When the party enters the house, the fighters close the door behind them and secure it by tying a rope around the door handles and to a nearby pillar. They then continue laughing and loudly teasing the characters about rescuing them in the morning as they leave. The fighters erect a small campsite and fire outside of the estate walls, spending the night there.
The cobbled path circles around a dried, grime-encrusted fountain and continues to the manor’s foundation. Additional paths branch to either side of the front gardens. Disheveled hedges surround them, unkempt yet not overgrown like the road and trees leading to the house. They form an enclosed sitting area through an arch on the left and individually circle four statues to the right.
Once a carefully tended courtyard, the estate’s gardens are now an eery omen of its abandoned state. They are frozen in largely the same state of growth as when Gabrien Hereca entered the grounds and performed his ritual, reflecting the trapped fate of the house’s occupants and the cultist himself. The grass continues around either side of the house’s foundations and connects to the back gardens.
Frozen flora. A character can make a DC 13 Intelligence (Nature) check to identify that the grass, hedges, and trees of the courtyard have not been maintained for several years but are far from being as overgrown as they should be, given how long the house has been vacant. On a 15 or higher, they notice flowers on the archway and in the flowerbeds that are in bloom despite it not being the season or time for them to do so.
MacHale statues. The four statues depict Vincent MacHale and several of his forebears, standing on foot-high platforms with decolored plaques providing their names: Vernon, Camilla, and Maria MacHale. Any fine details have been worn away over time and dirt covers much of the statues’ lower halves. Inspecting the statues easily reveals darkened streaks that run down from their eyes and disappear into the rest of the grime. A character that touches these stains finds that they are still damp and can identify them as semi-dried blood.
A character that makes an Intelligence (Investigation) check of the statues can discern a number of strange details. They notice each of the following features, up to the result of their skill check:
|DC 13: The statues are damaged, with cuts, gashes, and small pieces chipped off the surface. The one labeled as Camilla is missing its right hand. Though the marks appear intentional, they seem like little more than unusual vandalism.
|DC 15: Areas of the grass have been pressed down in the immediate proximity of each statue. The effect resembles trampling from infrequent foot traffic. A character can follow with a DC 15 Wisdom (Survival) check to deduce that the footfalls are heavy and plodding, and their directions meander. The tracks quickly disappear when they reach the cobblestones and gravel paths.
|DC 17: Each statue has a band of runes scratched into its head, encircling just above the eyes. They are old and only the deepest cuts are still distinguishable. A character can make a DC 15 Intelligence (Arcana) check to identify the markings as being rooted in transmutation magic, though any further detail has been lost to time. The runes are currently inactive but are likely still functional.
|DC 20: Despite the amount of dirt and filth covering much of the statues, the grass and plants that grow up their platforms do not continue up the feet and legs, as one might expect they should. Looking much closer, the stone of the feet and that of the platform are separate from each other. There is a coating of collected dirt on the underside of the statues’ boots.
Signs of escape. The group of bandits inside the house came into contact with its undead residents and one of them was separated from the group. He attempted to escape from an upstairs window but fell, injuring his ankle. One of the animated statues (see the ‘developments’ section) swiftly attacked him before tossing his broken body back inside the house, leaving him to die as he crawled to the stairs.
A character that inspects the flowerbeds to the south of the front door, or that makes a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) or Intelligence (Investigation) check of the area, spots the point of impact. A section of flowers has been crushed and shards of shattered glass litter the garden and pavement. There is a small bloodstain on the edge of the stone that has darkened but is still wet. A character that inspects the site can follow the speckles of blood leading back to the doorway, though there is no blood on the door itself, suggesting that the trail leads inside. If a character makes the same Wisdom (Perception) check or Intelligence (Investigation) check of the doorway, they find the same blood trail.
Developments. When the party ventures further into the house and its ghosts become active, the garden’s statues also shake to life. They step from their platforms and begin mindlessly patrolling the grounds, drops of blood trickling from the stone of their eyes. These animated statues are sustained by Gabrien’s magic. He uses them as obedient sentinels to trap victims within the house in hopes that they might further his goals or, failing that, to ensure that their deaths add to the ghosts of the estate. The statues attack anyone that attempts to leave the estate but they will not enter the house or leave the grounds themselves.
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The estate walls close near the back of the house, coming to a large, decorated archway. An iron gate hangs open. Beyond it, the grass and shrubbery quickly rise into the dense forest, and the silence of the estate breaks into gently flowing leaves and the chattering of distant wildlife.
Gabrien’s ritual affected the property within the estate’s walls but left the expansive gardens to the rigors of time. What was once outdoor seating areas, pathways, and even ponds and other water features, is now completely swallowed and reclaimed by nature. A character that makes a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) or Intelligence (Nature) check of the forest within 60 feet of the back gate notices patches of stonework and long overgrown walls and even statuettes, nestled amongst the greenery.
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Having arrived at the Estate and inspected the grounds, the party’s next step is to enter the storied home of the MacHales. But what will they find within? The next sections of this adventure will cover the full interior of the house and its many rooms, secrets, and lingering inhabitants. In the meantime, feel free to look over ‘Tournament Under the Grey Banner’s‘ Introduction or its first adventure, ‘Into the Bramblejade‘. Let us know what you think of the adventures so far or what you’d like to see in the future!
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