The key turns, sliding the mechanism with a mechanical click. Whatever the adventurers’ expectations, be it thunderous magic or a flash of light, they are met with only more anxious silence. Glances are exchanged before the handle is turned and the door opens. Beyond, the room has changed; structurally identical but with entirely distinct furnishings and decorations. Towering paintings encircle the central desk, depicting strange forms and bloody events. Behind the group, peering over their shoulders as they enter, their ghostly accomplice cannot help but smile.
As the adventure within the MacHale Estate reaches its conclusion, the characters finally find their way into Vincent MacHale’s hidden study. The room holds answers to many of the clues found within the house and beyond, unraveling secrets of Greybanner’s founding and the life of its first lord. But these revelations do not come without risk. The adventure’s conclusion may also bring Gabrien’s plans to their finality, creating myriad dangers depending on the characters’ choices within the house. Will they expose, confront, and overcome Gabrien? Will he escape without the party ever being the wiser? Or will they fall to the spectral cultist like so many others before them?
Refer back to the previous sections of this adventure, as well as the adventure index, for the many events preceding this…
23. Vincent’s Hidden Study
The door opens to a modified room, now lit by a fire that glows in the hearth. Replacing the tables, decorations, and even windows opposite you are grand paintings. Another hangs where the bookshelves were, against the eastern wall. The central desk remains with a single thick, disheveled tome left on it. And unlike the rest of the vacant house, you see no buildup of dust or damage to the structure, the room looking instead as if its resident had left it only moments before your entrance.
The hidden study of the MacHale house was created as a private sanctuary for Vincent MacHale. It exists in a demiplane that is activated through the use of the trifold MacHale key (see the ‘Enchanted entrances’ section) and contains information that Vincent kept secret but still deemed necessary to record. This information pertains to the true history of Greybanner’s founding and Vincent’s life. Vincent kept the study and its contents hidden from even his own family and took the key with him when he left to spend his later years traveling.
Vincent originally expressed the history of Greybanner in the form of the paintings around the room, which he created shortly after the building of the house (see the ‘Storied paintings’ section). At the time, the paintings were a self-imposed punishment. He hung them where they would constantly surround him, always reminding him of the bloody events that had earned him his lordship. When he returned to the house after his travels, Vincent found that his son Christof had died and his grandson, Ulrich, wanted nothing to do with him or the family’s past, which he had uncovered on his own. Hoping that someone might eventually discover it and be able to rectify his mistakes, Vincent entered his study one last time and left behind a collection of research he had amassed that could aid in permanently destroying Harazai (see the ‘Treasure’ section). He then scattered the pieces of the key throughout the estate and wrote a message on the back of a painting left in the main study (see the ‘Treasure’ section of area 18, the ‘Main Study‘). Vincent then journeyed to the Verdantguard Tower, where he died. No one has entered the study since.
Aside from its paintings and Vincent’s writings, the hidden study contains little in terms of decorations or other items, save for those used in the creation of said art and texts (see the ‘Treasure’ section). The room also does not bear the dust and cobwebs of the rest of the house, owing to its magical seclusion. A character that looks closely at the fireplace sees that the flames are set in a metal brazier within the hearth, but is unable to see anything fueling the fire inside and also notices that the flame is not producing heat. If the character succeeds on a DC 12 Intelligence (Arcana) check or has access to the continual flame spell, they can identify the fire as being both a product of that spell and linked to the brazier it is set in. A character that has access to the spell or that rolls a 15 or higher on the same check is aware of the spell’s components, the material portion of which can be found on the mantle above the fireplace (see the ‘Treasure’ section).
Enchanted entrances. The hidden study is accessed by using the trifold MacHale key to open either of the doors that would normally lead into the main study (see the ‘Doors to the secret study’ section of area 18, the ‘Main Study‘). Doing so creates a mechanical clicking sound as if the door had been locked and replaces the interior of area 18 with that of the hidden study. The changed interior is only visible and accessible through the door that was opened with the key, while the other door still leads into area 18.
The doorway into the hidden study remains active as long as the key stays in the lock. If the key is removed, the door reverts to connecting to the main study the next time it is closed. Regardless of whether the effect is active, the doors leading out of the hidden study still connect to the same doorways in areas 14 and 19. If a door is opened from the inside, the hidden study is accessible through that doorway until the door is closed again, at which point it reverts to a door to the main study.
If a character is inside the main study when one of its doors is changed into a door to the hidden study, that door is magically sealed to anyone within the main study until it is changed back.
The hidden study cannot be entered by passing through its walls using Incorporeal Movement or a similar effect. A ghost or other creature that attempts to do so instead passes into the main study. Creatures are able to leave the hidden study in this way as long as one of the doorways is active. If both doors are closed and the key is removed, creatures attempting to leave by moving through the walls are magically prevented from doing so and are shunted to the nearest unoccupied space.
Storied paintings. The four paintings across the walls of Vincent’s study include a portrait of Alessia and his interpretation of the events that led to Greybanner’s founding. They were all painted by Vincent himself. The latter paintings act as three consecutive chapters that cover the events chronologically, beginning with the painting on the southern wall, continuing on the west, and finishing with the painting opposite the desk, on the eastern wall. Alessia’s portrait hangs above the fireplace on the north wall. If a character looks over the paintings, read the following descriptions and refer to each section’s explanation:
1. Portrait of Alessia
The portrait depicts a half-elven woman standing against a dark background. Her hair is brown, the top of it tied in a single braid, while the rest flows down her back and over her shoulders, framing an affectionate smile and shining green eyes. She wears a furred shawl over leathers and a dress of similar earthy tones and holds tightly to a wooden staff, which itself has a vibrant green vine winding around it.
The portrait above the fireplace is a painting of Alessia from her and Vincent’s time together. This places its creation after the conflict with the Eyes of Blood and the construction of the Arena but before the official founding of Greybanner. This also makes it the earliest of the paintings in the room, which a character notices if they have proficiency with painter’s supplies or succeeds on a DC 14 Intelligence (Investigation) check, by comparing the skill in the creation of the different paintings.
A character that inspects the painting also recognizes Alessia’s Staff of the Thorn if they have previously seen it in Verdantguard Tower (see the ‘Treasure’ section of the ‘Garden Sanctum‘, in Verdantguard Tower). Similarly, if a character succeeds on a DC 14 Wisdom (Perception) check, they also notice Alessia’s charm hanging on her right wrist. A character that looks over all the paintings can also make a DC 13 Intelligence (Investigation) check. On a success, they are able to identify the silhouettes of Alessia in the other paintings, based on the shape of her clothing and staff.
2. Southern painting:
The painting uses a map of Greybanner’s region as its base, though the town and nearby developments are absent. The map is split from where Greybanner now stands, three cracks of dripping red dividing the landscape. They separate the western plains, the southern forest, and the mountains to the east and north. Each section is also marked by a symbol: the plains bear the silhouette of gallows, framed within a diamond shape; the forest, a wreath of thorns and flowers; and the mountains, an axe lodged in an elongated, fanged skull. Where the lines meet, instead of the town, the red forms into the shape of an eye, with similar streaks of the color streaming down from it.
The first of the larger paintings depicts the circumstances that led to Harazai’s summoning. It shows the division between the three factions of the region and the areas that they controlled, split by red lines that drip to resemble blood and symbolize their conflict. They are labeled by the crest of the Gallows’ Sons Mercenaries and interpretive symbols for the Bramblejade druids and the Reavers of the Titan’s Spine mountains. At the center of the three territories is a literal ‘eye of blood’, representing the cultists that both manipulated and capitalized on the situation.
A character with intimate knowledge of Greybanner’s history, or that succeeds on a DC 16 Intelligence (History) check, is able to identify the three crests on the painting and link them to their respective factions. They can also easily make this connection if they have already identified the figures in the third painting. Similarly, a character in possession of Alessia’s charm, found in the garden sanctum of Verdantguard Tower, recognizes the matching gallows insignia on it and the painting and is able to connect the other two charms to the painted symbols of the druids and Reavers. A character that succeeds on a DC 14 Intelligence (Nature) check of the Reaver symbol identifies the skull as most likely being a troll’s.
3. Western painting:
This painting appears to be an artistic representation of an event or series of events. At its top is a monstrous, demonic black shape that rises out of a dripping red eye symbol. Its arms stretch out to the borders of the picture, where the shapes and silhouettes of similar creatures claw into the frame. Beneath the eye, three figures join hands over a cracked and burnt map of the Greybanner region; a human or elven man and woman, and a dwarven man. Similar figures surround them, opposing the monsters to either side.
The bottom of the painting shows the same three people standing atop a bloodied mound of bodies amidst a lake of red. The two men face outwards, their heads lowered, while the woman raises a staff into the air in the middle. Barbed threads of crimson hang from the staff, wrapping around all three of them and snaking down to join that which pours from the corpses at their feet. It forms thorned tendrils that climb the edges of the painting, tightly weaving and piercing through the monstrous creatures to reach and encircle the single figure at the top.
The second painting is a rendering of the events that led to Greybanner’s founding. Its topmost section depicts the summoning of Harazai from the center of the region’s conflict, connecting back to the same eye symbol in the second painting. Under the shape of Harazai are the figures of Vincent MacHale, Alessia, and Gorrim Steinsson. They are shown meeting and choosing to ally with each other, while their respective forces combat Harazai’s minions that encroach on the area. The bottom of the painting shows the final, decisive act of the conflict: Alessia’s ritual. The three leaders stand over their fallen comrades, Vincent and Gorrim expressing shame, while Alessia uses the blood of the dead to weave a spell, its depiction creating a visual connection to the red eyes throughout the paintings. The spell uses the blood to lash the devilish figures, including Harazai, in bindings that resemble thorned vines.
A character that identified the insignias of the first painting or that has knowledge of Greybanner’s founders is able to easily deduce the identities of the three figures. If the character has not yet checked the first painting and is not familiar with Greybanner’s history, they can make the same DC 16 Intelligence (History) check to identify them. A character can also make a DC 14 Intelligence (Arcana) or Intelligence (Religion) check to identify the silhouetted creatures as fiends and deduce that the painting’s upper half is likely depicting a summoning. The characters are unable to recognize the spell that Alessia’s figure is casting from the painting alone, though they can learn about it in ‘Vincent MacHale’s Research, Section 1‘ (see ‘Studying Vincent’s Research‘).
4. Eastern painting:
The painting opposite the desk shows a side-on view of two fighters clashing in what you recognize as the Greybanner Arena. Their forms are shadowy and indistinct, both wielding a sword and shield and marked by red slashes that bleed to the arena’s floor. They charge at each other before a cheering crowd in the stands. The floor of the arena that the warriors battle on is a line of the same red that drips from them, that itself pours into darkness below. Its streaks coalesce into the shapes of spiked chains, converging from different angles to bind and illuminate another, larger figure. In their scarlet light, you can make out twisted, fiendish features. The raised seating of the council members towers far above in the center but is covered by a red, rune-like symbol that looks hastily painted over the top of the original image.
The fourth painting, which is the third and final painting in the chronology depicts the purpose of the Greybanner Arena since Harazai’s imprisonment. Its setting is clear, while the red of the fighters and the arena floor represents the blood spilled in the many fights. It collects and channels into chains that visibly bind the devilish form of Harazai, which matches his depiction in the second painting. The painting also features an addition made by Vincent upon his return to the study: the symbol of the Eyes of Blood scrawled over the seating of the Greybanner council, indicating his suspicion that the cult had infiltrated the town’s leadership. This belief is expanded upon in his research journal (see ‘Studying Vincent’s Research‘).
A character that has seen the glyph in the basement ritual cave or that has read the Hereca spellbook recognizes the added eye symbol as the same that appears in those two locations (see the ‘Central glyph’ section of area 12, the ‘Ritual Cave‘, and the ‘Treasure’ section of the ‘Basement Caves‘, respectively). A character can also make the same DC 15 Intelligence (Arcana) check to identify its symbology: a combination of the archaic alchemical symbols for life and death crossing over each other, with the symbol of the ‘squared circle’, representing the philosopher’s stone, inside. The combined symbols form a rough eye shape in the center. A character can also receive this information and a further explanation of the symbol from ‘Vincent MacHale’s Research, Section 2‘ (see ‘Studying Vincent’s Research‘).
The painting explanations are given, in part, so that you are prepared for the characters to make skill checks to better interpret the art’s meaning. The party’s ability to form their own understanding of each piece is reliant upon their prior knowledge of the depicted events, which may be nothing if this is one of their first adventures. Gleaning further information requires them to make skill checks. Some of the skill checks pertaining to specific symbols and similar information are covered in the paintings’ explanations but there are many others that the characters may attempt. This could involve using the Arcana, History, Investigation, Religion, or even Insight skills. Which skill they use depends on the character’s skill set and the information they are trying to discern. Your description should reflect this. Arcana, History, and Religion might explain the magical, historic, or religious significance of certain aspects, such as Alessia wielding the same magic as the Eyes. Investigation can add clarity to the timeline and repeated elements between the paintings, while Insight could be used to better understand Vincent’s sentiment through his art.
Developments. If the characters are somehow able to reach the hidden study without otherwise triggering the ghosts’ appearance, opening the room’s door causes them to awaken (see ‘The Ghosts Appear‘). Gabrien carefully approaches the doorway, openly shocked and impressed that the party found the study. Rather than have a fading ghost (marked) inhabit the nearby suit of armor, he commands it to remain hidden. Gabrien nervously greets the party while maintaining his friendly guise. He explains his own curiosity about the room and praises them for finding what no one else could, going on to say that such a capable group may also be able to finally free the house’s ghosts. This brings Gabrien to the same point of deceiving the party as if they had met prior to finding the room (see the ‘Gabrien’s deception’ section of ‘Gabrien Hereca‘, under ‘The Ghosts Appear‘).
Treasure. A chest at the hearth’s side contains a complete set of painter’s supplies and numerous other used paints. On a ledge above the fire is a bound leather pouch containing 50 gp-worth of ruby dust (the material component of the continual flame spell). The fire itself is suspended in a continual flame brazier that is placed in the fireplace.
Left on the central desk is a thick collection of ‘Vincent MacHale’s Research‘.
Continual Flame Brazier
Wondrous item, common
A bowl-shaped iron brazier, roughly a foot in diameter and held up by four small legs. Fire is suspended within it, yet there is no visible fuel and the flame produces no heat.
As an action while within 30 feet of the brazier, you can speak its command word to cause a flame to ignite in the bowl’s center as if it was affected by the continual flame spell. Using an action to speak the command word again causes the flame to be extinguished.
Vincent MacHale’s Research
A large book found within Vincent MacHale’s hidden study inside the MacHale Manor. It is bound in leather and secured with a single strap. Already a thick tome, the integrity of its covers and binding is tested by added papers inserted throughout the book’s second half. An initial glance shows that the book itself is written in a single hand, while the transplanted pages are from myriad different people, some appearing to be entire passages from other texts.
Given its size, composition, and the location in which it was found, a great deal of effort must have gone into the creation of this book. Studying its full contents is sure to take time and attention, though the book does open with the following foreword:
I, Vincent MacHale, must commit these most terrible memories to paper. Though we once swore ourselves to secrecy, and I once believed my paintings to be therapy enough, the years have shown me that our silence will not suffice. Losing Annabelle has proven this. I do not yet know what this revelation may mean, so I must return to my study and begin with all that I can currently do.
These pages will act as a recording of my past and its many secrets, in hopes that confronting them might show me a path forward. If not, then this book will be the sole confession of our actions left for others in the future to find. And should you, whoever may be reading this, be one such soul and still living in a world stained by our sins, I can only beg that you use this information in a better way than we once did.
Vincent’s research contains a great deal of information, separated into three different chapters. For the sake of this article, its expanded contents are included under their own section, which you can find a little further down (or click here to skip straight to it).
After ghost appearances…
Gabrien’s reaction. Accessing the information in Vincent’s study is one of Gabrien’s foremost goals within the house. If he is still non-hostile and with the party when they enter, Gabrien is unable to stifle his wonder at the paintings and book and he inspects the room as the characters do. Gabrien admits to always being curious about what the house’s treasure truly was after seeing so many people try to find it and is eager to know more. He also offers his assistance in interpreting the room’s contents, claiming that his age may give a valuable perspective. If a character begins reading the book, Gabrien reads along over their shoulder. Despite this, he also reminds the party that their business in the house is not over. He mentions that they should not delay and risk other ghosts approaching and prompts them to uphold their end of his bargain and free the trapped ghosts. Despite the value of its information, Gabrien does not risk exposing himself in order to take the book, as his survival and escape are more important.
If Gabrien has been forced into hiding from the party, he remains hidden while attempting to take in as much of the room as possible. Of particular importance is how the party accesses the room by use of the combined key, which Gabrien makes note of. He does not jeopardize his stealth or enter the room if the party is still inside. Gabrien also does not risk being trapped in the study when the door is closed and the key is removed.
Awarding experience points
Reaching the hidden study and discovering the information within is an important step in the grander adventure. Award each character 100 XP once they enter and explore the hidden study.
Studying Vincent’s Research
A character requires a significant stretch of uninterrupted time to read through and understand the contents of Vincent’s research. Within thirty minutes, they realize that the text is divided into three key sections: Vincent’s recounting of the time leading to and surrounding Greybanner’s founding, his search for something known as the ‘Eyes of Blood’, and finally his foray into the study of devils. A character must devote eight hours to studying each individual section and must make an Intelligence (Investigation) check to determine how easily and quickly they can identify the most important information. The required eight hours are reduced by a number of minutes equal to the result of their check multiplied by four. Completing their reading reveals the following information within each section:
Vincent MacHale’s Research, Section 1: Vincent’s Early Journal
The first section of the research found in the hidden study of the MacHale Manor. The dirty pages and smudged text betray its age and are some of the few with no additional entries or notes. The handwriting also appears consistent and a cursory glance suggests that it is the author’s personal recounting of events.
The first section of the book, and likely its original use, is an autobiographical chronicling of the events of Vincent’s life leading to Greybanner’s founding. It is written retrospectively, with comments and contemplations on the stories told. The most prominent events in the text are the following:
- The story of Vincent MacHale first meeting Alessia the Thorn, of the Bramblejade druids. The Gallows’ Sons, a mercenary company that Vincent led, had been called on to slay a venom drake that had wandered into farmland near the southern Bramblejade. Alessia approached the group after they killed the creature and demanded to take the body, as per the custom of her people. Vincent admits that, though he relinquished it under the premise of avoiding conflict with the druids, he was taken by Alessia’s beauty and strength. He ends the story and transitions to the next with the following quote:
My burgeoning feelings were not enough to avoid the conflict that came later. I believe we both knew, even then, that the progressing encroachment on her peoples’ land would only worsen. I wish I could have done something to prevent it but I was only a mercenary at the time and I frankly was more concerned with being paid to fight Reavers than I was with the politics of borders. I suppose we were all young, Gorim, Alessia, and I, though it should not have taken such bloodshed for us to find our wisdom.
- The conflict increased between the three local factions; Gorim Steinsson’s Reavers of the Titan’s Spine Mountains, Alessia’s Bramblejade druids, and the Gallows’ Sons, who fought on behalf of local farms and settlements. Vincent does not recount specific battles, noting that they all blend together in his memory. He explains that the fighting became so constant that they all grew ignorant of what was changing right under their noses.
- A fourth faction suddenly appeared, having infiltrated the region, and plunged it into chaos. Vincent discusses skirmishing with Reavers near the northern forest when the new group made themselves known, writing the following:
The Eyes of Blood. Violence-crazed cultists that polluted our lands while we fought our inane battles. Of course, I know now that it was our foolish warring that invited the Eyes into our homes and prepared the way for their disgusting worship. But I will never forget the moment it happened. Sons and Reavers all stopped in their tracks as that fiery sickness blew through the air. And then, even more vile, was one of my men rejoicing in the success of his true comrades, cheering about their master’s arrival. It was the first of many times that I heard its name: Harazai.
- An incursion of infernal creatures swept across the area, attacking indiscriminately. Vincent makes some notes about the initial assaults that pushed the three factions back to their respective lands and exposed the invaders’ point of origin as the exact location of where their territories met. He then describes another period of conflict against the creatures as each side fought to contain their advance. During this time, they were able to identify the attackers as devils and received stories of their leader, a single devil that was worshipped by a cabal of cultists referring to themselves as the ‘Eyes of Blood’.
- Vincent requested a summit between the three factions to discuss a potential alliance, as no single side could match the opposition’s numbers. His call was only answered when the Gallows’ Sons managed to capture a member of the Eyes of Blood. They each questioned the captive, extracting as much information as possible before executing him. Vincent does not list the exact details that the interrogation revealed but does recall the meeting being the catalyst for the three sides allying, concluding with the following:
I could see it in their faces as the body was dragged away. His final, spiteful words were still laughing in our ears. “You opened the way, your bloodshed the foundation for our great work.” We all knew the truth in his words and felt the resignation that old grudges and disputes must be put aside. That shared silence marked the beginning of our alliance, the first hoisting of the grey banner.
- Though the organization and support between the three groups allowed them to contain the devils’ advance, their own losses placed a time limit on how long they could hold against the ever-replenishing infernals. The Gallows’ Sons received limited reinforcements from surrounding regions but the swiftness of the conflict, as well as Vincent’s status as nothing more than a mercenary, prevented any chance of calling on a larger force. Vincent also mentions attempts to face Harazai during this time. Most ended in total failure but the few that succeeded did not do so for long, as the devil reappeared shortly after with reignited fury. In desperation, the leaders devised a plan that would risk everything they had left for the possibility of a decisive victory. Vincent discusses the plan with the following:
It would all center around the crown, an artifact worn by their elder priests, one of which we had recovered. Using it would allow Alessia to wield the same magic the Eyes used in their summoning, which she assured us could be twisted to imprison and enfeeble Harazai. This seemed like our only option but we were all keenly aware of the implication of the words, ‘the same magic the Eyes used’. It would require blood, a desecration of those that had fallen under our orders, as well as the lives of many who still fought. But it was the only way. What remained of the Sons and Reavers would meet the devils while Alessia and her closest four cast their ritual. None but the three of us knew the cost of our gambit. We could not risk shaking the loyalty of those under us without knowing how much the ritual would take, and how many of them would be needed. So we would call them to the field like so many of the days preceding and pray that it would all be worth it.
Vincent then continues with the following:
It worked, of course. I would not be writing this had it not. The dust settled on our red-stained battlefield, the ground split and broken, and Harazai was gone. Alessia’s vines had drained him of his strength and dragged him beneath the earth. His absence and the chaos it ignited in the cultists and their devils were the advantages we needed and, for the first time since the fighting began, we pushed them back.
The month that followed was a haze of purging cultists and devils and tracking those that were fleeing. I don’t believe I spoke a word to either Gorim or Alessia in that time. The druids saw to restoring the land while the Reavers and Sons cleared the bodies, the former taking the dead cultists and their belongings and burning them all within the mountains. “Let their crowns and other accursed artifacts lay forgotten in their ashes,” Gorim later said to me. We all took our space to adjust to what we had done, though the time quickly came that we had to stop putting off meeting again to decide where to go next. That discussion, though it was good to see them again, was also our realization that our burden was not yet complete. Alessia explained the need to keep her binding ritual fed for it to remain constant. It needed blood. And so, after days of discussion and argument, the idea for an arena was conceived.
- Vincent discusses the creation of what would become the Greybanner Arena, placed directly over top of Harazai’s place of imprisonment, and its original use as a means of settling disputes. It grew in popularity as word spread to towns, mercenaries bands, and even nearby bandits, with many expressing an interest in not only fighting but also spectating the bouts. People began to stay in camps nearby. Some then built small homes, stalls, and stores, amassing the beginnings of a town. Vincent doesn’t give much detail to this period but does mention the following:
With so many seeking the arena, there was plenty of blood to strengthen Harazai’s chains. A small donation from everyone who lost their fight. Most wouldn’t even notice the tithe. That was how we justified it to ourselves. But so much traffic was sure to draw the attention of lords and nobles and we needed an answer before any of them came knocking.
He also mentions the following:
Perhaps the one grace of those years was the company of Alessia, my sweetest rose. We grew close, as those who have shared such history might, and our mutual respect and camaraderie blossomed into love. We were able to give each other some small but valuable moments of peace. Gorim was never the kind to voice his approval, though he did once drunkenly let slip a smile and congratulations for our happiness. He claimed to have always known it would happen.
- The final key chapter of the section covers an event referred to as the ‘Duel of the Founders’. Vincent explains that the burgeoning town needed to elect a lord or face being absorbed into the rulership of another, several of whom were expanding their land ownership towards them. Vincent himself was a prime candidate, as the MacHale family had distant ties that would allow him to take the title. However, knowing that this would strip Gorim Steinsson and Alessia of any official power and that many townsfolk might object, the three decided to resort to the arena’s traditions as a means of deciding who of them would fill the seat. Of this, Vincent recounts the following:
Regardless of bloodlines or legitimacy, we three entered the arena all of one mind. We had grown close as friends and equals, and though it feels strange to say it after my life with Annabelle, I truly loved Alessia. But only one could remain and lead those that had become our people. It was an extreme measure but the truth was that it was a way out for the two who would not become leader. Our burden had grown so heavy that we were each fighting between our need to continue and our desperate want for rest, just as much as we were fighting each other.
I can hardly even remember how I won and I truthfully would rather not. It matters only that I did. Perhaps my friends simply made their choice faster than I did. But the town found its lord and, soon after, its name: Greybanner.
Vincent MacHale’s Research, Section 2: Vincent’s Traveling Journal
The second section of the research found in the hidden study of the MacHale Manor. Its pages appear to be journal entries, though many are arranged like dossiers and include maps and various sketches of people, places, and directions. The text is all penned in the same hand.
This section of the book is a journal covering many years of Vincent’s later life, beginning with a departure from Greybanner. Its entries are written mainly in the present tense and often with large spans of time between them.
The text begins almost a month after Vincent left Greybanner, with him reflecting on his feelings of indecision and anguish over leaving his family but a stalwartness in what he must do. He expresses confidence in his son Christof’s ability to lead in his absence. Vincent first explains his motives with the following:
The anticipation of my journey helps to dull my guilt for leaving and I must remain focused on it if I am to continue. I must remember the importance of what I have set out to do. Members of the Eyes of Blood still remain in this region and beyond, having scurried into the shadows after their master fell. I’ve no doubt that they are waiting for an opening to return. But my real concern is that their order might have grown while we were distracted. For Greybanner and everyone we lost to create it, I must ensure that the Eyes are never permitted to resurface. I will find and put an end to any that remain.
The pages that follow chart Vincent’s investigation into the identities and locations of the Eyes of Blood. He began with the name ‘Loreau’, who he successfully tracked to the west. His encounter with his target appears to have provided Vincent with information that led him to other surviving members. He continued this pattern for years, gathering information and charting the connections between each member and using them to locate more. Much of the text covering this period abandons the journal format in favor of profiles of Vincent’s targets with notes of anything he has learned about them, including sketches and maps. These profiles include the following people:
Jeremiah Loreau. One of a pair of twin brothers that had acted as leaders and proclaimed themselves as ‘Harazai’s chosen’ during the conflict. Jeremiah’s brother, Payton, was killed in the final battle with Harazai but Jeremiah himself escaped to the west. Vincent used a sketch of Payton to track Jeremiah to a small farmstead. Before he died, Jeremiah gave up the names Joseph and Gloria Ostel, the descriptions of another man and woman, as well as the location of Salis Strauss, of whom Vincent was already aware.
Salis Strauss. A former member of the Gallows’ Sons that had revealed his allegiance to the Eyes of Blood upon Harazai’s summoning. Vincent’s notes and interrogation of Jeremiah Loreau show a clear focus on locating Strauss, whose location was revealed by Jeremiah. They also express Vincent’s guilt and anger over Strauss’s success in both deceiving the Sons and escaping. Though Vincent did locate Strauss, there is no record of interrogation.
Joseph and Gloria Ostel. Originally named Joseph Blythe and Gloria Reed, the pair had relied on each other when fleeing south from the battlefield. They became separated from most others in the Eyes and so chose to change their surnames and fake a happy marriage, retaining their first names in hopes that their former comrades attempted to find them. Jeremiah Loreau did just that, shortly before passing the information on to Vincent. Vincent mentions that the pair were difficult to overcome, as word of his approach had given them time to prepare. He prevailed regardless. Gloria, who was a skilled spellcaster, revealed several details about the magic of the Eyes and the symbol that represents their order.
Krella Scornsdottir. A dragonborn that ambushed Vincent during his pursuit of the Pennstadts. Krella was a vicious warrior of the Eyes that had been responsible for protecting other escapees and that had earned a reputation amongst the Gallows Sons for her unwavering brutality in battle. She attacked Vincent in his inn room in the dead of night, injuring him before he was able to deliver a decisive blow and send her tumbling from the window. He was unable to question her due to townsfolk rushing to the scene, but he does mention the following:
Her size and the rage she fought with leave no doubt about her identity. That is without even considering the state she left my room in; frozen, as if the harshest of winter storms had torn through it. Perhaps I should consider it a blessing that she found me. Someone of her fortitude would never have revealed anything, no matter how long I tried. This way, at least the problem is dealt with.
Michelle, Harran, and Ilyra Pennstadt. After his encounter with the Ostels, Vincent traveled to the city in search of the other pair that Jeremiah had described. He learned of a scholar, James Rouse, whose recent research had involved interviews with someone said to have first-hand experience with devils. Vincent disguised himself as an academic with an interest in Rouse’s work to approach him. He mentions his conversations with Rouse sparking curiosity in learning more about devils, considering that it may allow him to do more for Greybanner than simply remove surviving cultists. Vincent grew close enough to Rouse for the latter to invite him to a meeting with his interviewee, Michelle Pennstadt. He recounts that he instantly recognized her as the woman that Jeremiah Loreau described when they met.
Vincent spent time observing Michelle and confirmed her husband, Harran, to be the man that Jeremiah described alongside her. The pair also lived with a young woman, Ilyra, who Vincent believed to be their daughter. Vincent notes that Ilyra’s age confirms that she was almost certainly born after the two went into hiding. He records the following event about the family:
I had hoped that my first impression was wrong, that they had not raised her in their beliefs, that she had renounced them, or even that she was nothing but a maid or friend with a resemblance to the pair. Perhaps that might have allowed for a different outcome. But tonight I watched them as they sat together, smiling and performing the same rituals on themselves as they once did to my people. They showed themselves more mercy, of course. I will not.
Vincent’s writings beyond this entry become sparser and less focused. He does not describe his encounter with the Pennstadts, only confirming his success and two names gained from Harran before writing about a trove of texts that the group possessed, all related to the study of devils.
Hugo. The first of the names given by Harran Pennstadt was ‘Hugo’, a name that Vincent had heard rumors of as a central conspirator in the summoning of Harazai. Vincent exhausted every possible lead in pursuing Hugo but could not track the man’s path beyond his departure from Greybanner. Without a description of Hugo, a path to follow, or any other cultists to interrogate, Vincent was ultimately unable to locate him. He speculates on how Hugo could have disappeared so entirely but admits that he is unlikely ever to find an answer. Vincent expresses anxiety over the thought of what such a high-ranking cultist could accomplish unimpeded.
Lambert. Vincent’s questioning of Harran Pennstadt also revealed the name ‘Lambert’, who Harran claimed had forsworn the Eyes of Blood entirely and disappeared in search of an honest life. Vincent searched for Lambert for some time but made little headway. In his writing, he agonizes over whether to hunt Lambert more fervently or devote more time to studying devils. He also considers returning home but convinces himself otherwise. Vincent eventually abandons the search for Lambert, unsure of whether he can attribute it to a shift in priorities, his age, or not having the stomach to do it anymore.
As part of Vincent’s investigation and his interrogation of Gloria Ostel, he also gained an additional understanding of the symbology of the Eye of Blood and its relation to their motives. He explains it with the following:
Ostel’s explanation was simple to corroborate once I knew where to look. The symbol, their ‘Eye of Blood’, harkens to old alchemy. Its outline overlaps the symbols of life and death, visual inversions of each other. Within the eye is something they referred to as the ‘squared circle’, which represents an artifact of potentially limitless transmutative ability, the philosopher’s stone. It also relates to a pursuit of perfection and ‘completeness’ of body and soul, to summarize a great deal.
Though these symbols certainly relate to their goals, I am left to speculate on the Eye’s exact meaning. Ostel lasted just long enough to mention that only the Eyes’ leading priests were allowed to interact with Harazai and had a full understanding; her own knowledge was mostly from observation of those above her. Regardless, I believe that there are conclusions I can draw.
The use of the squared circle suggests that the Eyes pursue not just the worship of Harazai and his goals but the perfection of their own form. Whether this specifically refers to immortality, power, or some form of ascendence, I am unsure. The combining of life and death around the squared circle indicates that they are imperative to achieving the Eyes’ goal, which aligns with them seeming to draw power from inflicting pain on themselves and others. It seems likely that these rituals are only tastes of what the Eyes ultimately seek.
My own studies have also confirmed that these acts were likely their side of a bargain with Harazai, in exchange for magical power. While the devil’s motivations might be as simplistic as they seem, I am left wondering about the grander objective of its cult and what exactly they were promised. Did their idea of perfection and the Eye come from Harazai’s whispers, or did the cult seek out a devil that aligned with their own ideas? I suppose I may need to come to terms with never having a complete answer, though the latter possibility continues to terrify me.
Vincent ends his journal with a reflection on the years that his writing covered. He expresses regret for many of his decisions, ruminating on what he sees as failures, though the tone that he uses is more peaceful and accepting than the text before it. He concludes with the following entries:
I have spent long enough pondering on what to do next, avoiding the obvious answer. It is time to return home. I have done all I can in my years, found everyone and every scrap of information I am going to, and all that remains is to put it into action. But I am not the strong warrior I once was and my journey has not been kind to my body. The next step is not mine to make. So I pray to any god that will listen that Christof is accepting of what I have to tell him despite all I have done to my family. And if he does not, or if they turn me away, then I have only myself to blame.
I should set out for Greybanner tomorrow. I have told myself that same thing every day for the past three, yet all I can do to alleviate this paralyzing pit in my stomach is sit here and scratch these words into this accursed book. After all that I have done, to suddenly become a craven mess at the prospect of seeing my own family. I imagine that might seem humorous from another perspective. I have no other choice, of course, and I already anticipate the worst for our reunion. It is the uncertainty, the final, fleeting shreds of hope, that are holding me in place. The longer I delay seeing Christof, the longer I can believe that he might welcome me back. To think that I once began this book as a means of admitting to lies and I now suspend its conclusion by deceiving myself.
The final entry is added just underneath the previous and reads the following:
There is an element of relief in having my delusions dispelled. Christof is gone and Ulrich wants nothing to do with me. Even this room, hidden and untouched since I last sat in it, feels foreign to me. Not only would they not hear what I have learned, but the family has also withdrawn further from Greybanner. But this is not the time to lament the circumstances I have rightfully earned. Valeria’s kindness is the only reason I am permitted to walk the house. I fear it will not last much longer. So I will leave his book here and scatter the key to this sanctum throughout the estate. If you are reading this, you have already found its pieces and fate has dictated that you have a role in my legacy. This book and the room you stand in hold the sum of the knowledge I can offer you, including my designs for what might finally enable Harazai to be destroyed in his entirety. May you use it well, for the Eyes will never truly be gone as long as their master remains. They will return to Greybanner and infect its seats of authority. Perhaps they already have. They cannot be allowed to free him.
What you do with this is your decision. I have no right to beg for your action, as you must already know, but I hope that these records of my life act as proof of its necessity. Put an end to the Eyes, Harazai, and the rest of this bloody story, so that the dead may rest and the living may continue unburdened by my sins. Should you accept this charge, I wish you luck. And if you choose to bury it, as we did, then I wish you luck in trying to forget.
And now my time is over. Perhaps selfishly, I go to spend my final days in the home of my dearest rose. I am sure that Verdantgaurd is in need of tending and I think I will allow myself the luxury of a peaceful death, after living so long in turmoil.
Vincent MacHale’s Research, Section 3: Study of Devils
The third and final section of the research found in the hidden study of the MacHale Manor. Interspersed through the final third of the book is a collection of pages torn from other texts and placed between the existing paper of the tome. These added pages are penned in different hands to each other but are united in their topic of discussion, which is visible in their diagrams and interpretations of infernal creatures.
This section of the book appears to chronicle a long study of fiends using information collected from other texts, each piece of which is accompanied by entries of Vincent’s writing. The collected texts discuss the abilities and physiology of their subjects, with diagrams and references to previous historical encounters. The passages focus on several key aspects of devils: their known abilities, interactions with mortals, and stories of those who have killed them. These pages, having been torn from their original covers, are mostly devoid of attribution.
The following passages stand out as important:
One common factor amongst all studies of devils and similar fiends is the durability of their bodies. They present an affinity for shrugging off mundane weaponry, as well as for both avoiding and resisting magic. Any further natural resistances vary between different recountings, though some patterns can be drawn between the more verifiable accounts. The first, of course, is that the use of fire appears to be largely ineffective in harming infernals.
The second pertains to investigations of mages who attempted a summoning. Many such stories mention the presence of alchemical tools present where the summoning took place, still bearing traces of potent poisons. Given the bloody outcomes of many of these encounters, most scholars had assumed that poisons were equally as fruitless as trying to burn devils. Fortunately, these assumptions have recently been confirmed by official studies into infernal physiology that tested all manner of poisonous concoctions, finding them all to have no effect whatsoever on the subject. This can likely be attributed to many devils possessing the ability to produce poisons and venoms of their own.
While these particular strengths appear to be uniform across all infernals, many devil subspecies also present with a similar ability to avoid or resist other forms of attack. These have been found to include resistance to extreme environmental factors, rapid regeneration of wounds, and even a forced inducing of fear in a target, among others. This variation is one of many factors that have slowed research for so long. Scholars have long had difficulty in identifying markers that are consistent among subspecies…
Aligns with our difficulty in killing even his lesser minions and the way his injuries stitched themselves closed more quickly than we could inflict them.
What was it about Gorim’s oil that prevented its healing, when Alessia’s acids could not? Do I risk searching the tunnels for more of it to study? Something else is sure to have made its home there, after all this time, and even the Reavers struggled against the mountains’ other residents. Do I dare ask Christof for help?
For obvious reasons, studies of those who have bargained and formed pacts with demons or devils have been limited, at best. They are different from deals made by those who attempt to forcibly bind fiends, such as with the being’s true name. From what is known, they better resemble other, similar pacts, with the recipient receiving a share of their patron’s power in exchange for a singular or recurring cost.
Devils have been said to most often call for violent or destructive acts. They lack the ‘honor’ and ‘tact’ that is often attributed to other patrons, likely contributing to the rarity of sustained pacts between mortal mages and devils. Instances that have been documented usually involved the mage harming themselves or others, even to the point of murder, at the behest of their patron. These acts appear to also be what the devil seeks in the arrangement, as they derive pleasure in the spreading of pain and chaos and the corruption of mortals. Some more ambitious or sadistic fiends go further, however, by demanding their followers aid them in accessing the mortal plane, that they might personally engage in the violence. In return, the beneficiary receives magic resembling the abilities of the related fiend. These present as both enhancements to their own capabilities or wholly unique talents.
The ‘Eyes of Blood’; their dealing with Harazai was an act of worship, not compulsion. He was not bound to their whims and they reveled in the pain that he empowered them to inflict. Their bargain was mutual, not a binding or use of the ‘true names’ that texts mention.
Their leaders would draw a knife across their forehead and let it bleed into their eyes. This must have been an act of fealty and the source of their additional power. I remember their strength and the way they saw through our magic and stole the life from my men, but what else came from their pact?
Perhaps the single most important factor for those looking to combat devils is the difficulty of permanently destroying them. As fiends, they are inextricably bound to their home plane. Slaying a devil in any plane other than the one from which it originates is only a temporary measure, as the fiend is able to reconstitute itself in his home realm. While this succeeds in driving the devil off, those with a penchant for vengeance may find their way back to the one who killed them, fully recovered and likely in a less favorable mood. One would need to pursue the fiend to its respective hell and slay it a second time; a feat few are capable of even attempting.
There are, of course, stories of great heroes that battled devils into their home planes and slew them. These legends are all tellingly short on details. Even the most convincing, a tale of four warriors that freed a village’s children from the corrupting influence of a fiend, seems to vary depending on the retelling’s author and their mood on the day of writing. None of the versions I have found have adequately explained the group accessing a devil plane. And yet I have personally traveled to the village, heard its stories, and witnessed the fading scars that still remain of the conflict.
This entry is followed by scraps from other texts, written in multiple different hands. Many of them resemble sections of spellbooks and include strings of runes and ritualistic diagrams. The pages after them include recreations of the same diagrams as part of Vincent’s notes, with changes and developments made to the spells and efforts from numerous other, more experienced mages that Vincent sought out. Accompanying the final page is a design of what looks to be a forked and barbed metal implement, with specific instructions for its creation. Vincent’s writing journals his own study of these spells, beginning with the following section:
There are so many accounts of that story, yet none that I have found detail exactly how the fiend was pursued. How did they follow it with such accuracy? Was it simple familiarity and knowledge of its origin or did they find a way to track it?
The thought of anyone facing Harazai again, even in his diminished state, terrifies me. But even that might pale in comparison to the difficulty of finding him again in whatever abyss he flees to, without knowing exactly where that is. It seems an impossible prospect.
I have finally made progress, though my discovery comes with its own difficulties.
A lesser-known version of the story relabels one of the warriors as a nameless wizard who aided in laying a trap for the monster. After the encounter, the story follows with their ambushing it within its home realm. This appeared to be as poorly explained as other accounts but raised a possibility in my mind: did this wizard have a way of tracking or following the fiend? Were they able to travel alongside its escaping essence?
The tale itself makes no mention of such an act and I have been unable to find even a name for the wizard, nor a reason for their exclusion from other retellings. This has made it difficult to find a definitive answer to my questions, but I cannot be free of the thought.
Whatever the wizard did must have been the key to their success. If such a spell still exists, I must find it. And if I cannot find it, or if it never truly existed, I must create it.
A character that reads ‘Vincent MacHale’s Research, Section 3‘ can make an Intelligence (Arcana) check to interpret the magical notes. They gain the following understanding, up to the result of their check:
|DC 15: The notes are gathered scraps of other spells, both complete and works in progress, belonging primarily to the schools of abjuration and conjuration. Vincent’s writing makes efforts to link the spells and combine their effects. He appears to have been successful, as the section ends with the blueprint of a single, elaborate ritual, the function of which requires further study to understand. From the details that are clear, this ritual centers around a connection to a preexisting spell that Vincent refers to as ‘Alessia’s ritual’, and the use of a forked metal implement that resembles a sharpened tuning fork. The tool’s design incorporates elements of conjuration and divination magic.|
|DC 18: The spells featured in the notes include aspects of the magic circle, plane shift, and protection from evil and good spells, as well as elements of the hunter’s mark spell. Vincent has worked to deconstruct them and then combine their components into both an enchantment and a ritual. |
The enchantment is incorporated into the design of the forked tool, which appears intended to be driven into a target creature. It would then be used to pursue them through their use of extradimensional or interplanar travel by opening a temporary portal to their destination.
The ritual, meanwhile, appears to have been crafted to empower the tool’s enchantment by tapping into another ritual that was cast by Alessia. It uses Alessia’s ritual as a means of connecting to Harazai’s essence to greatly expand its effectiveness against him. This involves marking an area with a perimeter of glyphs, using paint made from powdered silver and iron. Vincent notes that the area must be, “in the same place as Alessia’s, where Harazai is now imprisoned.” Upon activation of the tool within the ritual’s border, the latter should greatly expand, contain, and maintain the effectiveness of the tool’s enchantment against Harazai. Vincent does appear to have stumbled in finding a way to maintain the resulting gateway; doing so requires the full attention of a spellcaster channeling magic into the ritual border to keep it functioning once it is active.
A character that succeeds on this skill check is able to inscribe the ritual’s glyphs themself, and can also use the notes as a source of the listed spells for the purpose of copying them into a spellbook.
|DC 22: Despite the input from other experts, the final work is Vincent’s and his inexperience shows in some places. A character that succeeds on this skill check is confident that they could not only inscribe the perimeter runes themself but could do so more efficiently than Vincent, reducing the cost of the material components required.|
A character can also attempt a DC 13 Intelligence (Smith’s Tools) check to understand the design of the forked tool that is at the heart of Vincent’s designs. On a success, they are able to interpret the blueprint as the two-pronged head of a weapon or piece of ammunition, able to be crafted as a spear, javelin, arrow, or crossbow bolt. It is designed to be driven into a hostile creature, with barbs that help it to remain in place until its enchantment is activated.
If the characters succeed on both the DC 18 Intelligence (Arcana) check and the DC 13 Intelligence (Smith’s Tools) check, the combined knowledge is enough to create the weapon. A character that discerns or that is given this information and that is proficient in the use of smith’s tools is able to craft a MacHale planar spike with the use of a forge and the appropriate tools. Crafting the weapon as a javelin or spear requires 100 gp of iron and 100 gp of silver, while an arrow or crossbow bolt requires 60 gp of each metal. The character that succeeded on the Arcana check must aid in the weapon’s creation to complete the enchantment.
MacHale Planar Spike
Weapon (javelin or spear) or ammunition (arrow or crossbow bolt), uncommon
The weapon’s head forks into two points, each serrated with barbs and glistening with silver along its edges.
When an attack using this weapon hits a creature, the weapon becomes magically embedded in the target for 1 minute. Should the target use any form of extradimensional travel, including teleportation or travel to a different plane of existence, while the spike is embedded in them, a portal opens in the space that the spike used to occupy. The portal is a circular opening that is 5 feet in diameter, hovering several inches off the ground and perpendicular to it. An identical, connected portal opens within 5 feet of the target’s destination on whichever plane it traveled to. Both portals remain open for 1 minute. During this time, any creature or object entering the portal exits from the other portal as if the two were adjacent to each other.
A creature can use its action to remove the spike from a target. If the spike is still magically embedded in the target, the creature must succeed on a DC 25 Strength (Athletics) check to remove it. Once the spike’s enchantment has been used and the portals close, the enchantment is lost and the spike becomes a mundane weapon or piece of ammunition.
Vincent’s book includes many details that can help the party in their eventual fight against Harazai and the Eyes of Blood. This final section, in particular, includes devils’ resistances and Harazai’s healing ability, as well as a way to combat it, information on the Eyes’ pacts and a way to identify them, and, perhaps most importantly, instructions for a ritual that would allow the characters to permanently destroy Harazai. These clues are up to the characters to interpret and use. They are not required for the party to succeed but do give an advantage to those who spend the time to read and understand them.
Given the potential importance of this information, you may allow anyone who struggles to understand the texts to make an Intelligence (Investigation) check. Either highlight the most important information for them or explain its meaning in simpler language, with a higher roll helping them to understand more. It is important to make these allowances for players whose ability might not match their characters, or who simply don’t enjoy manually reading through the extended text to find information. Neither of these should hinder what a sufficiently intelligent character can learn from Vincent’s writings. Additionally, the party can also give the book to an appropriate allied character, such as Elias Gilderoy, to study for them (see the ‘Elias’s study’ section of ‘Elias Gilderoy‘, under ‘Moving Forward‘).
All of the party’s actions and decisions with the MacHale Manor bring them closer to the adventure’s conclusion. The specific details of this conclusion vary depending on the characters’ choices within the house, which then influence Greybanner and the larger adventure going forward. It is up to them to piece together the information regarding the MacHales’ history and Gabrien’s plot and decide how to deal with it, but it is up to you to ensure everything comes together and is accounted for when the adventure comes to its end. These revelations form the basis of the conclusion and are the most likely to trigger a final confrontation, as well as being the most impactful for Greybanner and the adventure going forward.
Perhaps the single most important factor in how the conclusion itself plays out, even more so than the fate of the basement ritual, is the party’s relationship with Gabrien Hereca. This allows the adventure’s possible conclusions to be divided based on whether the party exposes and confronts Gabrien or not, with other details influencing the exact outcomes from within those two circumstances.
Please note that the following are only examples of some of the more likely conclusions, given the clues and events within the house. They, as always, cannot account for everything that the party might think or do. You should not consider these as the only options; they are examples for how Gabrien might act and react to the group’s actions, which you should build from and adjust based on your own party’s situation.
Without Exposing Gabrien
Meeting the ghost of Gabrien Hereca is very likely, but is not assured. Likewise, there is no guarantee that the party uncovers his identity and goals and chooses to stop him. Neither of these should be considered failures on their part but do lead to Gabrien succeeding in his current plan. Fortunately, the party will have a later opportunity to deal with the deceptive spirit. If the party does not confront Gabrien, the adventure’s outcome can be split into the following, based on whether or not they ever meet him:
The party never meets Gabrien
It is very unlikely, though still possible, that the party never meets Gabrien in the course of their time in the MacHale Manor. The most plausible way for this to happen is if they visit the house’s basement before venturing upstairs and triggering the ghosts’ ambush. Discovering Ulrich MacHale in the cellar before the rest of the ghosts appear creates the opportunity for the party to defeat him and discover Gabrien’s ritual circle. Destroying the circle and ending its magic frees Gabrien before the characters have even encountered him (see the ‘Developments’ section of area 12, the ‘Ritual Cave‘).
In the event that this happens, the ghosts immediately awaken and Gabrien makes his escape. Ulrich reconstitutes with a last shred of strength if the party defeated him before crying out in desperation and rushing to stop Gabrien. A character that succeeds on a DC 14 Wisdom (Perception) check can track Ulrich’s shouts as he travels upstairs. If the characters are quick enough to investigate, they witness Gabrien making his exit through the courtyard, where he encounters Ulrich. If Ulrich was reduced to zero hit points in his fight with the party, Gabrien easily destroys him. If Ulrich retains any more of his strength, Gabrien is forced to summon his fading ghost (marked) from area 5 to hold Ulrich still while Gabrien kills him. The ghost does the same to any character that attempts to interfere, preventing them from reaching Gabrien. Gabrien then leaves the estate.
This, while technically a conclusion for the house and its story, does not end the adventure for the characters. The party is unlikely to have accomplished their own goals in the house and so must still continue in their exploration. Gabrien’s departure does, however, change several aspects of the house and its residents, including the following:
- Before leaving, Gabrien instructs his fading ghosts (marked) to find and kill the intruders, to ensure that there are no witnesses to his escape. These ghosts begin making Wisdom (Perception) checks to locate both the party and the hiding bandits, and their senses are no longer dulled (see the ‘Dulled senses’ section of ‘Rules for the Ghosts‘, under ‘The Ghosts Appear‘). If a ghost finds and attacks the bandits, the commotion can be heard throughout the house.
- Gabrien unknowingly releases his control of Tobias Adler, freeing the ghost from his confinement in area 22 and allowing him to hunt throughout the house.
- Julia Adler, who watches from the window of area 15 as Gabrien escapes, is shaken by seeing her son and his actions. She ceases to be hostile to the characters and bandits and stops carrying out her duties as housekeeper. Instead, Julia sits lovingly with Gabrien’s corpse (see the ‘Gabrien Hereca’s corpse’ section of area 15, the ‘Master Bedroom‘). She opens the doors leading to the body as part of this, allowing the smell to spread into adjacent rooms. Any character that enters area 15 or that moves within 20 feet of the door to it notices the stench. A character that succeeds on a DC 13 Wisdom (Perception) check while anywhere on the second floor also smells it. Should the characters find Julia with her son’s body, she smiles weakly but peacefully, closes her eyes, and dissipates.
The party never loses trust in Gabrien
Another possibility is that the characters never discover or connect the information to expose Gabrien and end the ritual without ever confronting him. In this case, without the need to attack the party, Gabrien maintains his guise as a helpful ghost seeking freedom. He remains with the group until their business in the house is concluded. If this continues beyond the ritual’s destruction, Gabrien explains that he wishes to repay the party for their help by assisting them in their own goals. In truth, staying with the characters allows Gabrien to achieve his secondary objectives, such as reclaiming his memories and reaching the hidden study (see the ‘Gabrien’s objective’ section of ‘Gabrien Hereca‘, under ‘The Ghosts Appear‘).
The act of destroying the ritual and freeing the ghosts also alerts Ulrich and Ira MacHale, though the former is likely to have been defeated in order for the party to have reached the ritual caves and the latter retains far less of her identity. In response, the two ghosts leave their rooms. Ulrich, knowing what the change means, actively hunts for Gabrien and anyone assisting him, while Ira searches less purposefully for the disturbance. Gabrien, with his freedom almost assured, is more willing to fight back against the MacHales, provided that this does not jeopardize his aforementioned goals.
Once the party’s time in the house comes to an end or when Gabrien is satisfied with having accomplished all of his goals, he gives the characters his final thanks before leaving the estate through its front gate. Gabrien fades into the shadows as he moves out of view but he does not allow himself to dissipate. Instead, he makes his way to Greybanner to continue his work (see the ‘Gabrien Hereca‘ section of ‘Moving Forward‘).
The characters seeing through Gabrien’s lies or uncovering information that exposes him should also bring the realization that they must, in some way, deal with him. This necessitates some form of confrontation with Gabrien. The method by which they uncover his plot may also leave Gabrien unaware of their realization, putting the characters at an advantage and giving them some control over the location, timing, and trigger of the encounter. They may immediately question him or they may carry out their own plot to manipulate or ambush Gabrien. This adds detail and nuance to the situation that must be factored into how Gabrien acts, both leading up to and during the confrontation.
Gabrien’s reaction to the party choosing to confront him hinges on one key question: does he need to fight them? While he is more than willing to kill to further his own goals, Gabrien is also aware of his own limitations and wise enough to know when fighting would be a greater risk than it’s worth. His first choice is always the path of tact and manipulation, even as tensions come to a head. Likewise, while Gabrien prioritizes self-preservation, the party’s presence represents a prime opportunity for him to finally escape the ritual, which is his foremost objective (see the ‘Gabrien’s objective’ section of ‘Gabrien Hereca‘, under ‘The Ghosts Appear‘). This makes open combat and the deaths of the characters Gabrien’s last option. If there is a more prudent path, he will try that first.
There are a number of ways that Gabrien might attempt to succeed over a hostile party while avoiding combat. These vary based on myriad factors of the confrontation and other events within the house. While it is impossible to predict every eventuality, the following are examples of situations in which Gabrien can succeed without having to risk open combat with the party, despite them uncovering his lie:
Example 1: The characters only become suspicious of Gabrien while within the ritual cave.
Should the characters only become suspicious of him while within the ritual cave, swift action could allow Gabrien to destroy the ritual binding him. Gabrien’s best option, should the party refuse to destroy the ritual, is to possess a character, as he lacks the ability to physically affect the circle on his own. He is sure to target any character that he knows would be vulnerable to possession, prioritizing those that could free others through an ability to turn undead. The effects of Gabrien’s Possession action prevent most other characters from freeing the affected character without risking the victim’s life, as Gabrien could easily kill a downed character that he is ejected from. This provides Gabrien leverage and the opportunity to act.
While possessing a character, Gabrien simply needs to damage the ritual circle enough to destroy it. This alone accomplishes his primary goal and all that’s left is his physical escape. If the party has not found a solution to the possession, Gabrien continues threatening the victim’s life as he moves, bargaining that he will let them live if he is allowed to leave. He does not risk himself by leaving the host body. He takes the Hereca spellbook, ‘The MacHale Trophy Room‘, and ‘Vincent MacHale’s Research‘ if the party is carrying them, before leaving through the nearest exit and fleeing in the direction of Greybanner. He dumps the possessed character, who is conscious of everything happening, at the edge of town. He is able to take the stolen books, as he is no longer limited by the house’s enchantment, and uses Become Ethereal, Incorporeal, Shadow Stalk, and Shadow Stealth to vanish.
Example 2: The characters uncover Gabrien’s identity but not his connection to the ritual.
It is possible that the characters realize what Gabrien is and come to the conclusion that he must be dealt with without putting together his connection to the enchantment. If Gabrien knows this and believes that the characters might still break the ritual of their own volition, it is better for him to vanish and allow them to continue without interruption. He continues to watch from the shadows but does not intervene as long as they remain on the same course. Should they destroy the ritual, Gabrien absconds from the house without further confrontation, only calling upon his minions if he has to (the same as ‘The party never meets Gabrien’, under ‘Without Exposing Gabrien‘).
Example 3: Gabrien witnesses the characters realize his true nature.
If Gabrien is present when the party pieces together what is happening, he can attempt an appropriate Wisdom (Perception) check to eavesdrop on their discussion or a later Wisdom (Insight) check if he is lied to or there is a noticeable change in the group’s demeanor. Realizing that the characters are onto him gives Gabrien a tenuous advantage that he must carefully exploit. Gabrien first feigns ignorance of what he heard, continuing with the party as he was before but eavesdropping on everything else they discuss. He remains on guard for anything they might do for as long as he is with them, reducing the likelihood that he is surprised by their actions. If he believes that they are close to attacking him, Gabrien tries to leave their sight without raising suspicion, then hides.
With the advantage of knowing what’s coming, Gabrien’s best option is to gain leverage over the party that could trump whatever they are planning. This could mean possessing a character, as in Example 1, or doing the same to one of the bandits in the house if the party has shown concern for their safety. He could likewise dispatch his fading ghosts (marked) to attack anyone that is vulnerable, allowing him to bargain their lives in exchange for the party’s cooperation. If the characters traveled to the house with a group of other fighters, as in the ‘Drunked Dares’ adventure hook, Gabrien may even attempt to lure one or more of the inebriated fighters into the estate grounds to be used as bargaining chips. This leverage allows Gabrien to preempt combat and turn the tables on the party despite his being discovered.
It might initially seem counterintuitive, anticlimactic, or even simply unfun to end the adventure without a grand fight between the party and Gabrien. While this is a warranted concern, it is more important for the conclusion to be the result of the characters’ actions and Gabrien’s consistent motivations than it is to force in conflict and combat. The party may feel some disappointment if Gabrien succeeds, but this should hopefully turn into an even more personal motivation to finally stop him when he reappears later (see the ‘Gabrien Hereca‘ section of ‘Moving Forward‘).
Combat with Gabrien
Failing any sort of manipulation or escape, Gabrien’s final option is a swift and decisive victory with as little risk to himself as possible. Fortunately, he has had time to prepare for exactly that. If Gabrien is forced to reveal himself and enter combat, read the following:
His expression relaxes into a sneer as he exhales in frustration. As his breath leaves him, shadows collect within his form, roiling and spreading until his ethereal blue is nothing but murky black and purple. Gabrien’s eyes blink, suddenly coated in a luminescent crimson that begins to drip down his face.
Gabrien’s abilities. Gabrien himself is a gloamsoul ghost. He is similar in many ways to other ghosts, with the addition of abilities that stem from the spells he knew in life, though many of these have changed and integrated into his new ghostly form. They make him a deadly opponent but his power does not come from an ability to deal damage. Instead, he has a number of ways to disrupt opponents while keeping himself safe. Gabrien’s additional abilities can be summarized as the following:
- Shadow Stalk and Shadow Stealth, which he shares with Tobias Adler, allow Gabrien to disappear into and move between areas of dim light and darkness. This is where he prefers to remain, skirting the peripheries of combat while making use of his ranged spells and actions. With nothing else to take up his bonus action, Gabrien can use Shadow Stalk to reposition every turn, should he need to. His Umbral Sight makes this more effective by allowing Gabrien to easily see through the darkness in which he hides.
- Frigid Touch is a modification of the chill touch cantrip and Gabrien’s primary form of attack. On its own, it is even weaker than the cantrip it originates from, but it retains the effect of negating healing against targets. This allows Gabrien to ensure that his chosen target falls without intervention from other party members. This becomes all the more dangerous depending on what Gabrien has learned of the party during their time in the house. He targets vulnerable or hurt characters with Frigid Touch to preempt whatever healing he is aware the characters are capable of.
- Shadow Mire comes from the black tentacles spell but is significantly weaker. It does not deal damage and serves only to temporarily restrain enemies within the area, making them easier targets for follow-up attacks. It also does not create an area of darkness but instead relies on existing shadows, a drawback mitigated only by the ability to snuff out nonmagical flames upon its use. Magical light sources can, however, negate the effectiveness of Shadow Mire. Fortunately, Gabrien is able to use it somewhat frequently, and the impact of restraining characters grows exponentially with the number of minions Gabrien has at his disposal (see the ‘Gabrien’s tactics’ section).
- As a reaction to being hit by an attack, Gabrien can use his Shadow Veil. This is an interpretation of the darkness spell that wreaths Gabrien in temporary magical darkness. Thanks to his Umbral Sight, Gabrien can still see through the conjured shadows, while most others can’t, protecting him from subsequent attacks within the same round.
Gabrien’s tactics. Gabrien is not suited to the frontlines of combat. His approach to fighting revolves around using his own abilities to evade damage and attack from the shadows while having his minions attack directly. Some of these minions depend on what the party has discovered within the house and made Gabrien aware of. They can include the following:
- Marked ghosts. The three fading ghosts that Gabrien has marked within the house all obey his orders and respond to Gabrien’s call to arms (see the ‘Marked Ghosts’ section of ‘Gabrien Hereca‘, under ‘The Ghosts Appear‘).
- Tobias Adler. Discovering the grimhunger ghost of Tobias Adler or having his memories restored from ‘The MacHale Trophy Room‘ gives Gabrien the ability to free Tobias from his confinement (see the ‘After ghost appearances’ section of area 22, the ‘Housekeeper’s Bedroom‘).
- Gabrien’s corpse. Finding and recognizing his own corpse gives Gabrien the opportunity to mark it, similar to his marked ghosts. This allows him to raise the corpse as a zombie (see the ‘Gabrien’s other half’ section of area 15, the ‘Master Bedroom‘).
Gabrien telepathically calls to all of his available minions as soon as he knows that combat is going to start, or on his first turn if he is caught off guard. His minions move as quickly as possible to the site of combat and then follow Gabrien’s order to either attack or lay in wait.
Gabrien’s minions are all obedient to him and he is able to directly command the marked ghosts however he pleases but cannot issue complex commands to Tobias or the zombie. The latter two can be given targets but otherwise act of their own accord. The zombie attacks mindlessly and relentlessly, while Tobias attempts to separate and feed on vulnerable or isolated targets.
The variation in his available units, as well as the support of his own abilities, allows Gabrien to create chaos and quickly overwhelm the party. He can use them to shield himself and intelligently focus on specific targets. Gabrien uses the knowledge of the characters that he has gathered from watching them within the house to eliminate priority targets, such as those that he knows to have the ability to turn undead, heal their allies, or badly damage him. Those with weaker mental defenses are ideal targets for Gabrien himself.
While killing the party might be necessary, it is more advantageous for Gabrien to force them into a state of desperation that he can exploit. His ideal victory would be weakening the characters to the point of being able to bargain their lives in exchange for freeing him. This may include possessing one of them, or even offering a bargain: all of their lives in exchange for one character allowing him to possess them in order to destroy the ritual and escape (see ‘Example 1’ under ‘Exposing Gabrien‘). He could do the same to one of them bandits if they are still present and the characters took a liking to them. Gabrien is sure to have total control of the situation before he gives the party any input. With his ruse almost certainly up by this point, he also does not hesitate to threaten, harm, or even kill them to further his own goals.
Gabrien’s defeat. In the event that Gabrien himself is critically injured and judges the combat to be a lost cause, he attempts to escape from the party with his Shadow Stalk and Shadow Stealth abilities. Gabrien moves in a path that puts as many other threats between himself and the party, making particular use of Ira MacHale, as well as having any of his remaining minions hamper the characters’ pursuit. His goal is to disappear and evade them long enough for the party to lose him entirely. If Gabrien succeeds in eluding the party, he then has two options. The first is to hope that the characters then still destroy the ritual, allowing him to leave the house and escape to Greybanner, albeit in a drastically diminished form (see the ‘Gabrien Hereca‘ section of ‘Moving Forward‘). Alternatively, he may make a final attempt at victory by ambushing and possessing a character. This is especially likely if the party split up or can be lured to the ritual cave, where Gabrien can then use one of them to destroy the ritual (see ‘Example 1’ under ‘Exposing Gabrien‘).
Gabrien’s behavior during his escape also depends on its timing in the adventure. Gabrien is more confident and more likely to make another attempt if he believes the party will not destroy the ritual, as losing the engagement, while frustrating, will simply see him reconstitute within the enchanted house. If the party has already freed the ghosts or Gabrien believes that they will, he is more likely to flee with the intention of evading them entirely, to ensure his own survival and later escape. His decision and the resulting conclusion are informed by what he knows of the characters and how best he can achieve his goals in the time the encounter has left.
Gabrien’s abilities, Etherealness, in particular, may be difficult or even impossible for the party to overcome. This can lead to tedium and frustration if the characters are able to successfully pursue Gabrien but are left with no way to land a killing blow. In this case, you may wish to roleplay Gabrien’s injuries diminishing his power and preventing him from escaping to the Ethereal Plane, forcing him to rely on Shadow Stalk and Shadow Stealth. He may still escape but he must do so with abilities that the party has a chance to counteract, such as by using light to cut him off from any shadows. A similar concession can be made if the party is intent on pursuing Gabrien but is always a step behind; his injuries may slow him down or cause him to stumble, making noise. This avoids wasting the excitement of the encounter with an unnecessarily drawn-out conclusion or cheapening it with a final, impossible ‘gotcha’. The party’s enjoyment is more important than Gabrien’s optimal use of his abilities, after all.
Return to Greybanner
Once the adventure has concluded and the party accomplishes anything else they wish to do within the MacHale Manor, it is time for them to return to Greybanner. There may still be dangers within and around the house for them to fight or evade but the journey beyond the estate walls is safe. The characters are likely to still have business to attend to before the adventure is truly finished, depending on which adventure hooks brought them to the house. The adventure hooks and their remaining tasks include the following:
Clues in Verdantguard. If the party was prompted to visit MacHale Manor by Elias Gilderoy, he is eager to speak with them upon their return. Elias seeks them out at the earliest convenience if he realizes that they have returned and the characters did not go to him. He does the same if the party followed another adventure hook and Elias hears of their excursion. He asks to speak privately in his apothecary, where he provides tea and sits down for a detailed recounting of the adventure and anything they learned. After listening to their tale, Elias requests that he be allowed to scour any books, documents, or other pieces of evidence that the group brought back. He promises secrecy and stresses the risks of carrying said information with them. Finally, Elias assures the characters that he will apprise them of anything further that he can learn. Elias later attempts to enter the house himself (see the ‘Elias’s curiosity’ section of ‘Elias Gilderoy‘, under ‘Moving Forward‘).
If Elias is not told of what happened or is not given anything to study, he continues his own research with what information he does have access to.
Bandit Rendezvous. The party is likely to have dealt with the group of bandits hiding within the Manor as part of the adventure. This could result in the bandits being killed, let free, or even escorted back to Greybanner. If the characters were hired by either Captain Ashbrand or a council member to deal with the bandits, they must report back to receive payment. Whoever they speak to inquires about the events of the house. A member of the town council is happy for the matter to be concluded, while Ashbrand is more curious about what occurred and is visibly frustrated if he is told that the bandits escaped or were let go. Either way, the characters are given 70 gp each in payment.
If the party was not hired but still goes to one of the aforementioned authorities in hopes of payment, they must present proof of both the bandits’ plot and their expulsion from the house in order to be paid. In return, they receive 50 gp each.
A Mayor’s Ambition. The characters must return to Mayor Trivellan to receive their payment and report about the house’s safety. Trivellan insists on speaking to them privately to hear about what happened but shows little interest in anything not directly related to his own plans for the house. Once assured that the house is safe to enter, Trivellan pays the party 300 gp and excitedly mentions that he will have another contractor visit the property once the Tournament festivities are over.
If Gabrien survived the events in the MacHale Manor and escaped, Trivellan’s enterprise is interrupted by Mariana Harkness shortly after the party’s return (see the ‘Hereca and Harkness’ section of ‘Gabrien Hereca‘, under ‘Moving Forward‘).
Drunken Dares. The fighters that accompany the party to the estate remain in a small campsite near the estate walls. During the night, they continue drinking themselves into a stupor before falling asleep, only waking of their own accord at midday of the following day. They remember little of what they heard or saw, owing to their drunkenness.
When the fighters next see the party, either from being woken by them or by later encountering them, their reaction depends on whether the characters fulfilled the dare of surviving a full night within the house. The fighters rejoice and happily pay the group 20 gp each if they succeeded, pressing them to tell the story over a round of drinks. If the party leaves the house before dawn, however, the fighters argue that the characters failed the dare and therefore each party member owes them 20 gp, as per the bet. If the characters have sustained significant, visible damage while within the house and argue against paying the fighters, the latter can be convinced to forgo the bet. They offer to buy the party a round of drinks in exchange for being told what happened within the house. If the characters tell them the story, add an embellished version of what they say as a new result in the rumors table of the Greybanner Bunkhouse. The rumors may also result in greater bets being placed on the party for their next bout in the Arena (see the ‘Triumphant rumors’ section of ‘Moving Forward‘).
Awarding Experience Points
Completing their business in the MacHale Manor and returning to Greybanner, regardless of the details of the adventure’s conclusion, marks a story milestone. Award each character 200 XP upon the conclusion of which adventure hook they followed.
With their adventure in the MacHale Manor concluded, the party is once again left to choose their next course of action. This could be influenced by the characters’ personal motivations or the discoveries and developments from this adventure. Whatever they do must be balanced with any obligations to the Arena and Tournament. Meanwhile, the party’s choices within this adventure may also have rippling effects throughout Greybanner that will influence future adventures, with other characters taking actions in response to the adventure’s events.
Triumphant rumors. If the party followed the ‘Drunken Dares’ plot hook and later tells the fighters about what happened during their time in the house, the fighters begin retelling the story in Greybanner’s markets and taverns. Have the fighters make a Charisma (Persuasion) check with a +2 modifier and increase the payout for each party member’s next fight in the Arena by a percentage equal to the result of the check (as per the rules of ‘Spreading the Word’ in the ‘Betting‘ section of the Arena’s ‘Activities for the Characters‘). The characters can still make their own skill checks to spread word of their adventure, in addition to the fighters.
Elias Gilderoy, as an ally to both the party and the current MacHales, is eager to learn what the characters found within the house and assist them in studying it. This requires the characters to trust him with the information but can lead to further discoveries should Elias be successful.
Elias Gilderoy’s studies. If Elias is apprised of the events and information in the Machale Manor, he begins researching everything he can about it. This includes any documents, texts, or other pieces of information that the party gives him, as well as his own, further study. Elias begins with any information surrounding the history of Greybanner and Vincent before moving on to other, less pressing topics. Have Elias make a DC 12 Intelligence (Investigation) check using his +3 modifier each day that he is free to study. On a success, Elias gains an additional understanding of the topic he is studying, which he is then able to pass on to the characters. Elias can also attempt any other skill checks to understand specific texts, such as interpreting the magical notes in ‘Vincent MacHale’s Research, Section 3‘ (see ‘Studying Vincent’s Research‘).
Elias’s research of anything the party gives him can be used as a way to fill in any gaps in their understanding. If the characters missed something, through either their own reading or skill checks, Elias can act as a second chance to discover important information. The time that he takes to do this, as well as the need for his skill check, serves to balance the help he provides and prevents the party from receiving everything they missed regardless of their own input. The bulk of the information should still come from their own discoveries, with Elias only serving to help them along.
Elias’s curiosity. Elias’s research into the information he has been given eventually piques his curiosity to the point of making his own trip to the house. Four days after hearing the characters’ tale, Elias travels to the estate under the cover of night and using the disguise self spell. Have Elias make a DC 14 Intelligence (Investigation) check using his +3 modifier to simulate his search of the house. On a success, he discovers several details that the party missed. These could include particular books from area 4, the ‘Library‘, documents from area 9, the ‘Downstairs Study‘, or his own sketches and interpretations of the paintings in area 23, ‘Vincent’s Hidden Study‘. Elias returns to Greybanner before dawn and is happy to share what he finds with the party.
If there is still danger present in the house, such as remaining trapped ghosts or Ironwind Mercenaries hired by Mariana Harkness (see the ‘Hereca and Harkness’ section of ‘Gabrien Hereca‘, under ‘Moving Forward‘), Elias must also make a DC 12 Dexterity (Stealth) check using his +2 modifier to move unnoticed. If Gabrien was not defeated and is still trapped within the house, this DC is increased to 15. On a failed save, Elias sustains an injury in his escape from the house. He secretly visits Marla Durand’s infirmary upon returning to Greybanner shortly before dawn, resting and recovering in a back room until midday. If the party visits the infirmary during this time or comes across Marla within the next few days, she quietly asks them if they, “have anything to do with the fool mage who bled across her living area.” She otherwise protects his secrecy.
Elias continues his duties as the town’s apothecary while hiding the severity of his injury, claiming to anyone other than Marla and the characters that it was a simple alchemical mishap. Despite the brave face, he is unable to take an active role in helping the party for the next ten days and takes twice as long to study, only making a skill check every second day, for this time. Elias does tell the characters of whatever he found in the house, including the presence of any Ironwind Mercenaries. Marla visits the apothecary once per day to treat the wound until Elias has recovered. She warns the characters to not involve Elias in anything until he has had time to recover if she realizes that they are also visiting him. If a character is able to administer magical healing or succeeds on a DC 15 Wisdom (Medicine) check with a healer’s kit, which Marla carries, Elias’s recovery time is shortened by one day for every day on which the character heals him.
Mariana Harkness is currently the most powerful member of the Eyes of Blood within Greybanner and has always been interested in what might remain to be found in the MacHale Manor. She capitalizes on the opportunity to further the Eyes’ goals and prevent anyone from impeding them, depending on what she learns of the party’s adventure.
Harkness’s response. If Mariana Harkness becomes aware of people having entered and survived the MacHale Manor, she makes provisions to take control of the property. As a member of the Eyes of Blood, Harkness is aware of the stories of the MacHale family, their house, and its rumored treasure. She privately hires a group of four Ironwind Mercenaries to secure and guard the estate. They stay in a small campsite in the courtyard and prevent anyone else from entering the grounds. Should anyone inquire about the mercenaries, Mariana explains that the house is considered the town’s property and the mercenaries are a matter of security to prevent further trespassing without stretching Ashbrand’s militia further than the Tournament already has. The mercenaries will remain until the Tournament has concluded, after which the Council can find the time to better deal with the matter.
If Harkness knows that it was the characters that infiltrated the house, she pays Valasar to dispatch an additional spy to monitor and gather information on the party and their dealings. The spy attempts to follow the party whenever they are within Greybanner. If the characters leave Greybanner, the spy makes a note of where they appear to be headed but does not pursue them. They then report everything they learn to both Harkness and Valasar each night. Only the spy, Valasar, and Harkness are aware of the assignment.
The spy only carries what equipment is necessary and does everything in their power to conceal their identity. A character that inspects the body of the unconscious or otherwise incapacitated spy does, however, notice a tattoo on their upper back. The tattoo is the symbol of the Ironwind Mercenaries: the shape of a sword over a ring of chains. A character that has spent time in Greybanner’s fighters’ camps or that later investigates them or questions other fighters about the symbol is able to identify it as the symbol of the Ironwinds. Valasar, if questioned on the matter, lies and says that he is unaware of the spy’s actions. He explains that his men are free to do as they wish in their own time and that the matter is between the party and the spy. The spy does not willingly reveal any information about their assignment or co-conspirators.
Recovering the book. If Mariana is made aware of the party bringing back books, documents, or other items relating to Harazai or the Eyes, or that would be otherwise valuable to her, she has the spy that is following the party attempt to steal the texts. The spy waits to make sure of the items’ locations and ensures that they are unattended before acting. If the party is keeping the target items with their other belongings in either the Targe and Tankard or the Greybanner Bunkhouse, Elijah Carlisle assists the spy with reaching them and escaping undetected. Any items the spy successfully steals are taken straight to Mariana Harkness.
Harkness’s decisions following the adventure hinge on what she learns of it, particularly from the information that the spy gathers and returns to her. Perhaps the most impactful example is whether she is alerted to the existence of Gabrien and his binding ritual. If she has reason to believe that Gabrien is still trapped within the house, Mariana orders the mercenaries guarding the property to locate him. She provides only the bare minimum information for the group to come into contact with and assist Gabrien and is willing to sacrifice the mercenaries to see Gabrien freed. Should this succeed, Gabrien travels to Greybanner and meets with Harkness (see the ‘Hereca and Harkness’ section of ‘Gabrien Hereca‘, under ‘Moving Forward‘)
Finding the cultist’s crown. Mariana sends a team of Ironwind Mercenaries to the Titan’s Spine Mountains if she learns that Eyes of Blood cultists’ bodies and artifacts were taken there, as mentioned in the first section of ‘Vincent MacHale’s Research‘ (see the ‘Treasure’ section of area 23, ‘Vincent’s Hidden Study‘). The group is given the task of scouring the tunnels for anything that remains of the Eyes and is likely to cross paths with the party if they also travel to the mountains.
The most significant continued plot thread from this adventure comes by way of Gabrien Hereca surviving the events. If Gabrien makes it through the adventure in the MacHale Manor alive, he does not simply fade away and has further opportunities to escape. Gabrien then continues as a member of the Eyes of Blood, as he did in life. He travels to Greybanner to inspect its current circumstances, with a particular interest in its leadership in absence of the MacHale family. Gabrien’s shadowy presence has effects on other adventures going forward, as he uses what he knows of the characters and works towards confronting them again in the future.
Gabrien’s second chance. If the ritual in the MacHale Manor is not ended and Gabrien remains trapped but alive within the house, he is able to make further escape attempts through anyone else that visits. The two most likely possibilities for this are Elias Gilderoy and mercenaries sent by Mariana Harkness (see the ‘Elias’s curiosity’ section of ‘Elias Gilderoy‘ and ‘Harkness’s response’ section of ‘Mariana Harkness‘, both under ‘Moving Forward‘).
If Mariana Harkness hires mercenaries to guard the estate, Gabrien makes an attempt to have them break the ritual. Have Gabrien make a DC 13 Charisma (Deception) check using his +7 modifier. On a success, he is able to trick the mercenaries in the same way that he tried to with the party. This results in three of the mercenaries dying within the house and the fourth being possessed by Gabrien.
If Elias Gilderoy travels to the house, Gabrien is unable to convince Elias of his affability and resorts to attempting to possess him. Have Elias make a DC 13 Charisma saving throw against Gabrien’s possession, using his +0 modifier. On a failure, Gabrien possesses Elias and uses him to destroy the ritual keeping him trapped.
Should Gabrien succeed in possessing either a mercenary or Elias, he has the victim destroy the ritual, freeing himself and the manor’s ghosts. He then takes anything within the house that would be useful to him and that he is aware of, such as the Hereca spellbook, and leaves. He controls the victim until he reaches the edge of Greybanner, where he releases them and disappears (the same as ‘Example 1’ of ‘Exposing Gabrien‘). This leads to Gabrien and Mariana Harkness working together (see the ‘Hereca and Harkness’ section).
Appearance in town. Gabrien is sure to remain hidden from the party and all other prying eyes after the events within the manor, though it is possible for other townsfolk to catch glimpses of him. If Gabrien escaped the MacHale Manor, add the following rumor as an additional result on the rumor table of the Greybanner Bunkhouse:
A patron of the Fighter’s Flagon swears that they saw a ghostly man materialize from the shadows the previous night, before disappearing in the same way. The witness denies being drunk on that particular night.
A character that pursues the rumor can discover that the witness is Rufus Visari, a member of the Larks. Speaking with Rufus reveals that there is little more to the story. He is initially standoffish, as most other townsfolk have branded him a liar who has spread the rumor to attract attention, as the Larks are prone to do. But Rufus insists that it did happen and remarks that, if it were a fabrication, he would have made it a far more exciting encounter. If he is convinced that a character is questioning the story sincerely and is pressed for more detail, Rufus is happy to repeat the brief tale. He is able to recall the following two additional details:
- The man appeared only momentarily and looked like any other. His only distinctive feature, aside from being a ghostly apparition, was the satchel that he carried.
- Rufus saw the man in the shadows of the Arena. The apparition turned and began walking to the north as he vanished.
Though the characters are not aware of it, Gabrien was wandering to the north end of the town to investigate the Greybanner Council. This is what leads to him learning of and then contacting Mariana Harkness.
Hereca and Harkness. Gabrien’s investigation brings him into contact with Mariana Harkness, who is a descendant of Gabrien’s half-brother, Deacon Hereca. She is also a fellow member of the Eyes of Blood, and a member of the town council. Gabrien finding and appearing to Mariana grants the Eyes of Blood within Greybanner a distinct advantage going forward. He shares everything that occurred and that he learned within the house and the two begin working together. Much of the information he has to share is dependent on the events of the adventure but is likely to center around the following key points:
- Gabrien’s personal history, explaining his relationship to the Herecas, now Harknesses, and the MacHales. This information is limited unless Gabrien succeeded in recovering his memories from ‘The MacHale Trophy Room‘ (see the ‘Restoring Gabrien’s Memories’ section of ‘Gabrien Hereca’, under ‘The Ghosts Appear‘)
- Anything he discovered pertaining to Harazai, the Greybanner founders, and the town’s history. This is most likely to focus on the information within the hidden study and ‘Vincent MacHale’s Research‘ (see the ‘Treasure’ section of area 23, ‘Vincent’s Hidden Study‘, and ‘Studying Vincent’s Research‘). Depending on how the adventure concluded, this may mean handing over the items themselves or it may be limited to Gabrien’s recollection of whatever he saw and heard.
- The identities and actions of both the party and the group of bandits. In recounting the events within the house, Gabrien tells Harkness everything he knows about the characters, including their actions, abilities, and motivations. He places particular importance on any knowledge the party now has about Harazai and the Eyes, as well as the characters’ sentiment towards them and whether they may be an obstacle in the near future. If Gabrien escapes the house after taking significant damage in an encounter with the party, he also expresses an interest in personally helping deal with the characters, should they need to. Harkness also dispatches a spy to follow the party (see the ‘Harkness’s response’ section of ‘Mariana Harkness‘, under ‘Moving Forward‘).
Mariana Harkness uses this information in her endeavors going forward. Her first action is to impose control over MacHale Manor (see the ‘Harkness’s response’ section of ‘Moving Forward‘). If the party followed the ‘Bandit Rendezvous’ adventure hook (see the ‘Adventure Hooks‘ section) or otherwise escorted the bandit group to Greybanner, Mariana also quietly approaches Captain Ashbrand and informs him that she will be taking official control of affairs surrounding the house. If the party followed the ‘A Mayor’s Ambition’ adventure hook, Mariana does the same to Albert Trivellan by leveraging the same information and, if she is aware of it, the Mayor’s mishandling of his own plans and the missing contractor he hired. Otherwise, Harkness simply informs the Council that a group was seen traveling to the Manor and that she will see that the house is secured.
Future Adventure Hooks
A number of items and pieces of information within the Manor act as possibly hooks to further adventures in Greybanner. These hooks are designed to pique the characters’ interests and prompt them to investigate further, providing a new path for their adventure going forward. This is not guaranteed, as each party has its own priorities, is tempted by different things, and will draw different conclusions and suspicions from what they have found. Fortunately, each of the adventure hooks within the MacHale Manor is only one of a number of paths towards their respective adventures. The following adventure hooks can be found within the estate:
- Investigate the Greybanner council. Several clues within the house point to strange behavior in the Greybanner Council. These include, but are not limited to, notes left by Ulrich MacHale in the downstairs study and those from Vincent MacHale in the hidden study and the third section of his research (see the ‘Scattered documents’ section of area 9, the ‘Downstairs Study‘, and the ‘Storied paintings’ and ‘Treasure’ sections of area 23, ‘Vincent’s Hidden Study‘). The possibility of the council and other facets of the town being infiltrated by a nefarious faction might encourage the party to look into the histories and current dealings of the council members.
- Locate the tunnels beneath Greybanner. A diagram found amongst the notes of the downstairs study can be identified as a map of Greybanner tunnels (see the ‘Treasure’ section of area 9, the ‘Downstairs Study‘). The map and accompanying documents reveal the existence of tunnels constructed under Greybanner and links the project to four names, including a ‘Harkness’. The party may investigate the tunnels’ existence, attempt to locate the entrances, or follow the name to the current councilor, Mariana Harkness.
- Repair the Reaver armor. The Reaver half plate in the trophy room is incomplete and its enchantment is inactive (see the ‘Treasure’ section of area 20, the ‘Trophy Room‘). Its corresponding entry in ‘The MacHale Trophy Room‘ and a mention in Damien MacHale’s letter expands on this and the possibility of restoring the armor’s magic by locating its missing pieces (see the ‘Treasure’ sections of areas 15 and 16, the ‘Master Bedroom‘ and ‘Secondary Bedroom‘). Characters looking to repair the armor can easily draw the conclusion, or be advised by Elias Gilderoy or other knowledgeable locals, that the missing pieces may still lie in the ruins of the Reaver strongholds in the nearby Titan’s Spine Mountains.
- Investigate the Reaver oil. The third section of ‘Vincent MacHale’s Research‘ makes mention of Gorim Steinsson using oil that made his weapons extra effective against devils (see ‘Studying Vincent’s Research‘). In his comments, Vincent wonders about searching the old Reaver tunnels of the Titan’s Spine Mountains to learn more about the oil, while also mentioning the dangers of the tunnels. Characters that are actively seeking to combat the Eyes of Blood may travel to the mountains in search of the oil or information on it.
- Capture the spy. The conclusion of the MacHale Manor adventure may result in Mariana Harkness and the Ironwind Mercenaries dispatching a spy to follow the party (see the ‘Harkness’s response’ section of ‘Mariana Harkness‘, under ‘Moving Forward‘). Should the characters discover, come into contact with, or apprehend the spy, they may discover them to be a member of the Ironwind Mercenaries. This may lead to the party working alongside Captain Ashbrand or otherwise investigating the mercenaries.
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Thus concludes the second of Greybanner’s adventures! As your party returns to town, attends to their Arena obligations, and prepares for their next adventure, you can refer back to the Greybanner adventure’s index to see all of the previous entries. And there are plenty more to come! In the meantime, please feel free to leave any comments you have about the adventure so far. We love hearing what everyone thinks of it!
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