Tired after the battle with the goblins and their swift travel through the ever-deepening woods, the party pushed on a little further before stopping to rest. An hour later, the heroes were ready to push on.
Continuing to follow the trail of the large clawed thing, they plunged deeper into the southern woods. For a few hours, the vegetation got thicker and denser, and the gloom under the forest's numberless boughs became almost palpable.
Shortly thereafter, though, the vegetation began to thin out, and soon, the heroes could easily make out the glowering spring sky above. As the land slowly rose upwards and the vegetation continued to thin, the party at last came to the so-called Shunned Valley of the Three Tombs.
The valley was a gloomy place. A river plunged over the head of the valley down a series of stepped waterfalls into a marshy and boggy pool fringed with reeds and rushes. Three cave mouths pierced the valley's walls, and three piles of stones--that looked for all the world like burial cairns--squatted among the weeds and swamp grass to the east of the pool.
Dimble decided to see if anything lurked in the pool. The cunning gnome used his arcane powers to bring forth the illusion of a deer. However, nothing could be drawn forth from the pool or reeds by such trickery. However, his doings did seem to agitate the many frogs and toads dwelling in the vicinity. The creatures started a great cacophony of croaking, and several of the party distinctly heard a much deeper croak among the others. When Lion hurled the bent caltrop he had claimed as part of his loot from the slain goblins, all the heroes caught a glimpse of an impossibly large frog thrashing about in the reeds. No one seemed very keen to fight the monstrous beast--remembering tales of frogs so large they could swallow grown men whole--so the group decided to leave it alone for the moment.
The tracks swung around the pool and the three cairns and--perhaps inevitably--led to the most distant cave mouth. The party approached cautiously. As they drew closer, Elmo detected the faint scent of carrion and rotting flesh on the air dribbling from the cave. Fur and--strangely--white feathers lay on the ground amid bones, pieces of decomposing flesh and other unidentifiable things. Clearly, a fearsome predator laired within and, judging by the looks of things, Helmia and Theoden hypothesised it was an owlbear. No one was very keen to fight the monster at close quarters, so the heroes decided to draw it out into the open.
This plan laid, Lion climbed up above the cave entrance, ready to jump down on the beast from behind while the other heroes took up a loose skirmish line on the hillside. To lure the savage beast forth, the heroes banged on the cave wall with a crowbar.
They didn't have long to wait. In a few short minutes, over 600 pounds of fur, feathers and fury burst from the cave. A short, brutal fight ensued. Elmo hacked at the creature. Lion leapt down from a ledge above the cave mouth to vicious stab the beast in the back, wounding it grievously. Helmia, Theoden and Polumya hurled magical fire and ice at the beast. In the ensuing maelstrom of violence, Lion was badly injured by the thing's beak, but it fell to the doughty warrior to deliver the killing blow--disembowelling the owlbear with his--now gore-drenched--longsword.
With the owlbear--unbelievably a youngling--slain, the group quickly laid a plan. However, they were interrupted. A ghostly, translucent figure of a woman drifted forth from the waterfall which now lay to their west. Restrained panic at the appearance of what looked like a ghost set in. However, the ghost did not seem hostile and, in fact, beckoned the party to approach. Some of the bravest heroes did so only to learn that the woman--by looks of things, a half-elf--was bound to the lake. The owlbear had pursued her therein, and she had drowned. She craved a peaceful place of rest in the forest, and the party promised to retrieve her bones from the lake and inter them therein once they had recovered them from the lake and had rescued Taisto.
With this plan now set, the group dared to enter the fetid owlbear lair. Bones, rubbish, and part-eaten corpses littered the cave floor. A slow, methodical search revealed, sadly, Taisto's eviscerated corpse in a lower chamber but also bore fruit when Helmia retrieved a warhammer from the bony grip of a skeletal dwarf part-buried amid mounds of bat guano in one of the most remote reaches of the caves.
By now, the gloom of evening was bearing down on the valley, and the party were keen to get away before the fully-grown owlbear returned. Casting around for a place to rest, they settled on one of the other caves as a suitable spot. A pile of rubble partly filled the cave mouth, which--by the looks of things was actually a burial crypt of some sort. A circular capstone had been rolled away at some point in the past, and Elmo reported with his dark-piercing half-orc eyes that a passageway and what might be several chambers lay beyond the collapse. Dimble crawling up the rubble--which seemed mostly stable--also reported what looked like the shattered remains of a statue lying on the floor beyond the collapse...
This post is a session summary from my weekly 5e D&D Edgelands of Darkness campaign set in the Duchy of Ashlar.