The Good, The Bad, and The Odd

Part Four: Guests of the Manor...
And an unfortunate plan goes awry
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Part Three: Strange storms
And hosts of unclear intent

Fresh off their battle with the kobold raiding party, our heroes return to the Manor to find candles lit at the windows. Some are hesitant to enter the supposedly abandoned manse, but as they file carefully in they find other small changes since their departure. Brie and Arihana, who slept the prior night on opposite ends of the garden, now find that the vegetation has altered in their absence. On the halfling’s side, soft green boughs, lush and verdant, have proliferated, and a variety of flowers have bloomed around her bedroll. Up the opposite balcony, gnarled vines seek their way up with renewed vigor, twisting and tangling around Arihana’s resting spot like a bed of thorns. Asa returns to find her hunting trap missing, replaced instead by a small pile of sticks, feathers and a single fragrant yellow candle. In the tavern, Ghrome and Kamile find the cask of barleywine – sent by the locals and drained the night before – mysteriously refilled with some different, sweeter but no less potent concoction. In the upper gable claimed by Mharsh, someone or something has inelegantly sawed a large chunk of the foot of his bed away, seemingly in an effort to relieve the prior night’s discomforts. The frog awaits as well, watching with interest as he examines the room. Back downstairs, Rhohanna checks her room to find the corners, those areas under such close scrutiny by her visitors the night before, packed with more plaster and dust. With plenty of options still available, she moves her things to another room at once.

The storm

As they search through, finding the Manor to be quite empty in spite of the many odd changes, the weary travelers begin to relax a little. They find food in the larder and eat as what sounds like distant thunder begins to roll across the hillsides. Still upstairs, and with a commanding view of the front of the Manor, Mharsh sees the signs of the storm first. A disciple of the true storm, he recognizes at once the the cracks and booms echoing from the horizon are not genuine thunder. The faint green lights arcing across the air in front of his window only reaffirm the unusual nature of the storm. He watches as the light and noise intensify, strands of the green ether swirling and coalescing, crackling with electrical life as they build and discharge into the air. Downstairs, the growing thunder is joined by other noises from below. Pounding and clanging that causes trembles under their feet is joined by bestial growls and roars – incoherent sounds of rage and frustration at first, which gradually give way to gruff but clear curses. As Mharsh comes down to warn the others of the storm’s nature, a flash of the green light illuminates the foyer, highlighting just for an instant a figure behind the desk. The shadow is tall, vaguely humanoid, but wrong in proportions. The head is too small, the arms and torso too long; in the flash of light, the thing looks to Mharsh like a giant praying mantis.
As the crackle of energy grows outside, so too does the frequency of shudders and bellowed curses from beneath. The others join Mharsh in the foyer, and a spell of magic detection is prepared. As the area within the spell shimmers and scintillates, the form reappears behind the desk. Startled, Kamile spins to see something very like a man, though possessed of the same unusual proportions as the figure from before. His clothes are elegant if old, tailored well to his over-long forearms and lower legs, buttoning down the length of his slender torso. His head is small for his body, his eyes wide and unblinking, mouth pursed in an ‘O’ of surprise that never quite goes away. His surprise is only momentary, however, and he regains his dignity quickly to introduce himself. He is, he tells the assembled party, known as Hume, and he is the caretaker of the Manor.
While our heroes try to glean information from Hume, the caretaker seems distracted, cocking his head to the side when sounds from outside or underneath grow momentarily louder. The ‘thunder’ is shaking even the Manor’s venerable foundation now, and Hume worries over how upset ‘Felicity’ sounds below. Other indistinct noises have joined in the time they talk, nearly drowned out at first, but growing by the moment. Screams of pain weave their way through the sizzle and crash outside the door, noises of a person in great torment. For a moment, this overwhelms their desire for greater understanding of Hume and Felicity, and the party ventures outside.
The first faint strands and wisps that Mharsh observed earlier have grown denser and more intense – a great green stream now through the air, passing just in front of the Manor’s entrance. As they peer to the northeast, where the vibrant, twisting trail of light disappears over the horizon, Asa notes that its orientation is precisely the same as the pull from her vision the night before. The tortured screams come through ever more clearly, causing the lights to surge and pulse with the agonies of the unseen victim. Noting that the streams of energy seem to have a definite direction to their flow now, they try tossing a loose stone from the Manor’s side into the path, where it is swept away at speed and toward the distant horizon. Perhaps a bit unnerved by Hume and eager to be well clear of ‘Felicity’ the way things are proceeding, the party decides to investigate the stream further.
As they follow along, they see from a distance that the conduits of energy flow to the spot before the Manor, and there split off in small trails in other directions. These weaker tributaries end shortly, but they give the space before the manor – a place with no roads – even more the feel of a crossroads of sorts. They continue out of sight of the Manor, across the hills, taking care as they do not to cross under the green lights nor to venture too close to their writhing arcs. Sounds of screams and thunder are lessened away from the seeming nexus outside the Manor, but soon they stumble upon an even greater version of that storm.

Callabran encampment

As the party crests a final hill, they see a spacious camp laid out in front of them, lit as if it might be day by the pulsing green light. The nearest feature is a stone altar at the heart of the magical storm surrounded by four hooded figures involved in some sort of ritual. A fifth man, naked and bloodied, is bound to the altar, where his chief tormenter uses a dagger to elicit even more and greater screams. As the surrounding energies pulse with each agonized cry, rivulets of the wild green tumult seep out, smoother and tamer, to seven stones arrayed out around the altar. As the investigating heroes creep closer to the many surrounding guards and scouts, they see tents beyond the altar area, torches and shadows of watch towers. In the inconstant light, they see what look to be cages. Further exploration is cut short, however, when one sharp-eyed lookout notices their presence. He whistles and calls in a commanding voice, managing to be heard even above the storm’s din, and a detachment of the guards, along with a small pack of wolves begin to close in. A quick count of the pursuers shows the odds clearly not in the party’s favor, and so they flee. As they run back over the hilltop, they note that the green lights make a final surge, then begin to dissipate. Some glance back to catch a mere glimpse of confusion. The robed figures at the altar gesture frantically, their victim now missing.
Not wishing to lead any trackers back directly to the Manor, the party takes a circuitous route to the south as they try and erase evidence of their passing. The wolves outpace the rest of the pursuit and catch up, but Habbakuk’s favor allows Brie to charm and confuse them long enough to get away. Eventually, seeming to have gotten away for now, the group make their way back to the nearby Northbarley.
After the last kobold attack, the local farmers have nearly all congregated back around Callum’s farmstead now, with woefully inadequate lookouts posted around the torch-lit area. As Callum receives their news of the night’s events, along with the destruction of the kobold raiders, Philip and Heather watch on, taciturn and distracted. As Callum broods over the new information, some of the local farmers enter. News has traveled quickly, for these are the family of those killed by the kobolds. They tearfully thank the party for exacting vengeance, and urge Callum to ‘Do right by them.’ Philip joins them, insisting that he thinks these new arrivals are ‘different from the rest.’ In the disagreement, Heather slips out.
Finally relenting to the pressure of those he is sworn to protect, Callum agrees to come clean with the heroes. The situation, he tells them, is worse than he’d initially thought, and they will have to work together if Northbarley has any chance of survival. He offers them a few potions they have on hand, and what equipment is available. He promises more aid once they can locate Heather’s father Angelo, who has gone missing. And he gives them valuable warnings about the nature of fighting kobolds within their lair. Despite the greater long-term danger of the Callabrans, he reiterates that the kobolds are the most immediate threat, as well as the one the heroes are better equipped to deal with. He then reaffirms his vow of greater aid and transparency before sending them on their way.
The heroes return to the Manor as night wears on. Outside, just beneath where the greatest energies of the magical storm coalesced, they find a round patch of blood and translucent slime. The trail from this epicenter leads inside, through the foyer, and out toward the first-floor rooms. Hume, still behind his desk in spite of the end of both storm and detection spell, greets them and announces that he had their ‘guest’ shown to a room. When the party carefully checks, they find the man from the altar, bloodied and unconscious laying in one of the beds.

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Part Two: Arrival at the Manor
And Ghrome stabs a 'dragon' in the face

Arrival

Worn and a bit bedraggled by their journeys and the battle that brought them together, our heroes arrive before the imposing edifice of The Manor. The massive double doors of the entrance are propped only slightly open in a way that isn’t entirely inviting, and although Philip, Son of Philip waits outside for their arrival with supplies and provisions, it is not clear that he has actually ventured inside ahead of them. From the outside, the Manor looks to be a hodgepodge of architecture and construction, almost as is a single, smaller core of the building has been added to and revised over the imposing building’s lifetime. In the fading light of evening, our heroes peruse the exterior as best they can by lantern-light, noting the variety of stone and wood used in the various turrets and gables visible from the front. As Heather and Philip take their leave to visit a couple of outlying farmhouses on their way back to Northbarley proper, the group venture inside.

Inside, the group find that the Manor appears to have been deserted for quite a long time. Windows have succumbed to age and undisturbed dust covers the floor. Sticking close together at first, then gradually fanning out in pairs or individually, they explore the empty building. Ghrome finds the tavern and dining area and quickly sets up shop while a few of the others explore the Manor’s spacious garden. Still impressive after years of neglect, exotic ivies and flowering plants have somehow managed to hold any invasive species from outside mostly at bay. Mharsh finds his way to a second and third floor gable that must once have served as a luxurious master suite and claims it as his own. Meanwhile, Kamile and Brie explore more of the upper floors. They browse the library and some of the upstairs rooms before finding their way up to the rooftop and a small observatory at its center. The cupola structure on the roof holds an ancient brass telescope which, though dirty and in need of some service to its mechanical tracking apparatus, seems otherwise to be in astonishingly good condition. Some among the party select books from those around the Manor, a locked door to the cellar is found to be magical, and the fermented barley drink brought by Philip begins to disappear with alarming speed. Eventually, satisfied that there are no immediate threats awaiting them in some corner or other of the great mansion, our heroes find their way respectively toward places to rest.

A night in the Manor

Kamile

Concerned about the locked cellar door, Kamile Cocksmith decides to take his rest in the tavern area, just behind the bar. He is awoken some time later by what he assumes to be the light of morning, though when he rises to look out of the window, he is greeted by a strange sight. Contrary to the prior night’s geography, the Manor now seems to sit atop a great hill where, underneath, he spies a group of what look to be fauns and satyrs reveling in the midday sun. When finally one of them notices him watching and moves to approach the Manor, Kamile retreats to show the others. On his return, the daylight from the window is gone, replaced by the cool night breeze from outside.

Mharsh

Settling in his spacious chamber in a second floor gable, Mharsh struggles to get comfortable in his too-small bed. Despite his feet dangling off the side, the bed is nevertheless a welcome relief after weeks of travel, and he soon drifts into sleep. He is awoken by sounds in the night to discover a procession of frogs traveling across the floor. They emerge from the base of one wall, where a hole he had not noticed has opened, and move steadily in a more or less orderly file toward the opposite wall. There, another similar hole awaits where they pass out of sight. As the last of the frogs enter the room, the hole behind it closes and the frogs continue their progress. This last frog, however, appears to have lingered too long, and is too late to join its fellows before the opposite hole closes as well. It seems unperturbed, however, and is content in watching Mharsh from the floor.

Brie

One of a few who chose to sleep in the garden, Brie settles in quickly in spite of her odd surroundings. She is welcomed by dreams of home, slightly altered in the visions, but pleasant and reassuring all the same. In her dreams, she remembers the bluebird – the symbol of her god – watching over her through scenes of her youth, years before she found her calling. She is awoken by the birdsong, only to find that it is no longer a mere part of her dream. The bluebird perches on the garden’s black metal lattice and watches her. When she sits up to greet it, it flits down and alights on her shoulder, accepting her as a companion henceforward.

Asa

As Asa, also in the garden, prepares herself to enter the elven trance that functions as her people’s sleep, she reflects on a certain feeling of familiarity that she has been getting from the otherwise dour Manor. She can still feel the forest’s distress that brought her to this place, but it is mixed here with a feeling oddly like home. As she slips deep into the trance, she finds that the feelings of unease, so vague and uncertain in the forest, here seem to have a clear direction and focus. When she emerges back into the conscious world, her tracker’s senses detect at once something altered about the dust on the floor. Where the night before the dust, like in the rest of the Manor, was uniform and undisturbed, it was now around her shaped into striations and runnels, the direction of which corresponded exactly with her strong feelings of direction from the night before.

Ghrome

The last of those choosing to sleep in the more familiar setting of the garden, Ghrome finds a snug, isolated corner to make his home for the night. He wakes mid-night to the glow of a profusion of faintly luminescent mushrooms that has broken out on the metal lattice above his bedroll. He wonders at its sudden growth for a moment before noticing the small scuffling noises to his side. One the floor beside him, a tiny man dressed as a woodcutter, complete with tiny axe and bag for his night’s take, shakes his head and stares ruefully up at the mushrooms. He seems not to notice Ghrome watching as he lays his sack on the floor and sinks down beside it, weeping for his bad luck. Not certain why, Ghrome reaches up with his knife and saws some pieces of the fungus loose, then sets them on the floor next to the figure. The tiny woodsman gathers it up gratefully and leaves. When Ghrome wakes, he finds a small pile of polished stones and semi-precious gems waiting in the spot where he left the mushrooms. Upon inspection, some of the stones seem to match some of the rarer, and more distantly found materials used in the Manor’s construction.

Arihana

Eschewing the direct company of the others, the druid nevertheless remains close to the comforting and exotic foliage by positioning herself atop the second floor balcony that overlooks the garden. Vines climb to spill over the iron railing, and she makes her bed among them. Whether through original design or by overgrowth over time time, the nearby foliage is near enough to the wilds of her home as she awakes. A child’s humming, clear and artless, drifts to Arihanna’s ears and pulls her from the momentary confusion. Pushing through the foliage, she finds the girl singing and gently touching the vines and flowers. Their eyes meet for a moment before recognition and terror overcome the girl’s expression. She drops her delicate basket, into which she had been gathering the driest flowers on the bud and ducks into an overhanging thicket to flee the tiefling. A door slams, and Arihanna can hear the child on the other side, muttering in fear, giving little prayers that the druid not follow through.

Rhohanna

Having kept to herself much of the time since arriving at the Manor, Rhohanna retires early to what must once have clearly been a guest room on the first floor. As she plays her concertina to keep up her and her fellow travelers’ spirits, she is uncertain, but thinks that she can hear something playing along with her, just beyond the edge of hearing. It is a strange type of harmony, imprecise and unfamiliar, made stranger still by the fact that she cannot entirely hear it. It begins just after her, and preternaturally ceases when she stops, even mid-note. She shouts to the rest, but perhaps because they are in other rooms, they hear nothing of these other sounds.
She is awoken in the night by noises, and pays them little mind, thinking they must be merely the scurrying of vermin beneath the floor. As it becomes louder, and sleep drifts further away, however, she looks to the ground, where a floorstone is being pushed up from underneath. She watches as the stone is displaced to the side by tiny hands. One after another, the tiny people clamber up through the hole and begin to survey the room. They are dressed as tradesmen, and mill about with half-purpose until their foreman comes up last. He organizes them into teams and they scatter to the corners of the rooms to begin measuring the angles and junctions. When Rhohanna wakes again, she finds that the corners around both floor and ceiling have been packed with bits of dry, flaking plaster in an attempt to round them off.

Morning

The adventurers reconvene by morning light, each eager to share their odd stories of the night prior. Any further investigation of the phenomena, however, is delayed by Philip’s arrival. He brings unfortunate news that one of the nearby farmsteads has been attacked, and asks the new arrivals to help investigate. When they arrive, they find Heather already going over the grisly scene. The house and part of the barn have been burnt, and among the obvious kobold tracks are others less clear. With some relief, Asa identifies the larger, heavier tracks as reptilian rather than draconic, and the group guesses the other scraped-off areas around some of the more gruesome remnants of livestock to be some sort of large insect. Kamile and Ghrome investigate the farmhouse interior and find the family’s meager savings beneath the floorboards, which they decide to split as partial payment for their continued services.
The surviving family members have already been taken back to Callum for treatment, so the heroes decide to question a wounded horse. The horse is as helpful and descriptive as one would expect, but they do manage to glean a few uncertain facts, mostly about the lizards and biting insects. Sending their new horse friend back to Callum with Heather and Philip, the party decides to take advantage of the morning light and give chase to the attackers. The kobold raiders are easy enough to follow with the bulky lizard tracks. Nevertheless, the crafty creatures manage to double back and set an unlikely ambush to their pursuers.
In the battle that follows, winged kobolds are shot from the sky, and the shamanic beastmaster of the creatures unleashes a small horde of giant centipedes that combine to overwhelm with their ferocity and venomous bites. The lizard, inexpertly altered and augmented to look more like a dragon, is ridden by a larger kobold wielding a crossbow-like device that has been built to launch fire bolts. Brie fends off the enormous lizard’s charge while Kamile and Ghrome try to neutralize the rider. Mharsh is overwhelmed by kobolds and centipedes, and both clerics fall before the beasts. Their comrades, though, take full advantage of their bravery and dispatch the raiders.
The clerics are stabilized and woken, but weak as the heroes set up camp to recover by daylight. Afternoon’s light is beginning to fade by the time they are ready to travel, and their return to the Manor is slow but uneventful. By evening, they find candles lit in the windows to welcome their return.

To be continued in Part Three

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Part One: It Begins
Kobolds, a damsel, and seven strangers meet

As we begin our tale, Arihana the druid, Asa the ranger, and Brie the cleric of Habbakuk are investigating unease in the local forests. Their individual investigations proving frustrating, they have decided to cooperate for the time being, for the sake of the forest.
Meanwhile, another party approaches from the northeast. Coming from the city-state of Callabra, each for their own reasons, Rhohanna the bard, Kamile the rogue, and Mharsh the cleric of the storm travel through the area in the direction of Stormgarde.
Both small groups are drawn by the nearby sounds of distress to find a sizable group of kobolds attacking a local wagon. The driver, a farmer of the area by the name of Roderich, is slumped over at his seat, clearly injured by the initial attack, while his daughter, Sarah, struggles to avoid being taken captive by the kobolds. Their lone defender, the Sorbo-esque Philip, son of Philip, fights valiantly with an enormous battle axe, but numbers are clearly not on his side.
Some seeking reward, others looking perhaps for answers or merely to help, our heroes join the fray. Kamile and Rhohanna move to deal with one group of the creatures, while their half-orc compatriot attacks those still harrying the wagon. A bolt of holy fire from the priest, along with a well-placed arrow from the ranger, Asa, handle those making away with Sarah. Vines sprout from the ground to hold fast the main bulk of attackers, while the armored priestess Brie holds the line with her hammer and healing.
Asa is caught up in a net, Kamile and Rhohanna are almost killed, and Mharsh vaporizes a rooted cluster of the kobolds as Ghrome the gnome makes his entrance with flair. Tumbling underneath the wagon to land a surprise strike to the last of the assailants, the warrior ends the fight.
With Philip’s thanks, and the promise of medical attention and food (and perhaps some mention of reward…?) our brave seven make their way along the road to the nearby hamlet of Northbarley. There, they meet Callum, the dwarven priest who watches over the village along with his adoptive grandchildren.
Though suspicious of the outsiders, Callum offers prayers of healing and barleywine drink to his guests and offers shelter for the night. Listening to their story of the battle, he deduces that whatever forces have emboldened the kobolds to attack so openly must be somehow related to the recent, strange phenomena throughout the nearby forests. He tells the heroes that he, himself is unable to directly investigate much of this, due to the recent arrival of a survey crew from Callabra: a direct danger to Northbarley and its families. He suggests that both parties might help one another, with the new arrivals investigating and suppressing the kobold menace in exchange for some vague and undetermined payment, as well as aid with Callum’s distant allies should those traveling toward Stormgarde choose to continue on afterward.
Upon their acceptance, Callum tells them that he can arrange more permanent shelter for them outside the hamlet, so as not to arouse the immediate attention of the Callabran scouts. He also hints that perhaps a local woodsman named Angelo might know something of the disturbances troubling both forest and town.
On the morrow, the seven heroes accompany Callum’s shadowy yet captivating granddaughter Heather beyond the forest’s edge to Angelo’s cabin. There, they learn that Angelo is, in fact, Heather’s father, and that he has been investigating the same concerns as they have. Unfortunately, he has found out little else, though he promises to keep a careful watch over the woods, and to let them know should he discover anything new.
After a largely fruitless morning spent seeking out Angelo, our group decides to explore their new accommodations: an abandoned structure known ominously as ‘ The Manor’ settled in the low hills. Heather acts again as their guide while all attempts, both collective and individual, to check out the silent-footed rogue’s various attributes and proportions continue to be stymied by her magically shifting cloak. She leads them once more north, veering away from Northbarley into the foothills to where Philip, son of Philip has been investigating the Manor ahead of their arrival.

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1. Invite your players

Invite them with either their email address or their Obsidian Portal username.

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A quick tip: The “+” icon in the top right of every section is how to add a new item, whether it’s a new character or adventure log post, or anything else.

5. Write your first Adventure Log post

The adventure log is where you list the sessions and adventures your party has been on, but for now, we suggest doing a very light “story so far” post. Just give a brief overview of what the party has done up to this point. After each future session, create a new post detailing that night’s adventures.

One final tip: Don’t stress about making your Obsidian Portal campaign look perfect. Instead, just make it work for you and your group. If everyone is having fun, then you’re using Obsidian Portal exactly as it was designed, even if your adventure log isn’t always up to date or your characters don’t all have portrait pictures.

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