Week 26 - Hunting the Beast

They waited the night out at Gurdinford and then set off after the owl-bear. Once across the river they were surprised to see a faint trail that looked like it would lead down towards Gnome Ferry and Jovvox. It wasn’t much of a path, but it was more evidence of the rapid growth of Newhaven. However, the owl-bear tracks went off an a tangent - they were fairly easy to follow and lead miles across country right down to the Little Sellen River, a dozen (or so) miles east of Gnome Ferry. There inside a cave in a rocky hillock they discovered the beast’s lair.

Tentatively entering the cave system they managed to alarm a shrieker, which set up a siren like shriek, which in turn set off another one at the far end of that particular cave. Larran discovered a second cave full of webs, but left that cave to rejoin the main group. Only to be attacked by a huge shambling mound that came out from a second side cave. Knowing they needed Shamble Mound remains for Bokken to use as compost – the party moved in to the attack - only to be surprised by the four Violet Fungi that had been creeping up on them.

Suddenly beset from all sides, the battle seemed to be going against the party. Poison from the Violet Fungi was literally rotting the flesh away when they struck, weakening the characters, and sapping their energy at every single strike. To make it worse the shambling mound managed to engulf Larran where we was subject to attack by its symbiotic swarm of poisonous centipedes. An inspired casting of a grease spell by Rudy gave the Larran the edge and he was soon squirted across the cavern as the Mound squeezed him again. The battle raged on close - balanced and tight. However, the spiders from the cave Larran nearly explored used the combat as cover - and suddenly six of them dropped from the ceiling onto Rudy. By this time the Shambler had engulfed Ox - but the residual grease came to he rescue as he was ejected forcibly when the monster squeezed down on him.

It was tight – but the party finally succeeded in clearing the cavern - although they were so weakened that they withdrew for a day in an attempt to recoup their resources. Yet again aggressive vegetation had nearly been the end of the party.

Next day they returned. Not fully refreshed but in much better shape that the previous evening. Only to come up against the biggest owl-bear they had ever heard of. It was nearly twenty feet tall and had a huge reach – and it almost crushed Ox in the first moments of combat. It was doing huge damage, and the group seemed to be barely injuring it, although it was taking damage from the various swords and spells thrown at it. Larran was next - he got close enough for one set of strikes, but was forced to retreat again almost immediately.

Then Cassandra was the only one in reach - and she had just cast another fireball. The beast roared and struck down the young sorceress in the blink of an eye. Fortunately Robert was on hand to call forth the blessing of Iomedae on the combatants – and Cassandra regained consciousness quickly enough to see the beast still advancing.

She had one last chance to strike. But she was in range of the beast. And she was laying on the floor. So she tried to cast from the prone position – and fate was on her side, the spell went off and a ball of flame engulfed the owl-bear for the final time.

There was a brief argument over an owl-bear chick. Rudy wanted to keep it. Cassandra was set against it – and they argued back and forth – before Larran resolved the issue with an arrow.

It was strange - the big owl-bear was wearing high quality barding, while its mate had been killed by bandits and its chicks slain. Behind its nest they discovered the body of a man - perhaps the boss bandit. He was well equipped with magical armour and sword, as well as potions and restorative salve. But he also wore a strange ring. Small gemstones bound together in a circle with some sort of fine thread. When they checked it they found signs of an enchantment - and of necromancy ….

Oh – and there was a map. A map that showed the owl-bear lair and their city of Horcroft - but very little else.

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