TL;DRWe're going on a bear hunt / We're going to catch a big one / What a beautiful day! / We're not scared.
See, what had happened was …Brother Canus, the aspiring necromancer for reasons unknown, having in the last session been druidly tasked with the vanquishing of a monster in the Realm Wood, set out to do so.
He picked up Takk the fletcher's youngest son Li'l Eric, to be his guide. It's a short way to the Realm Wood, but, what with all the snow and all, better not to take chances on getting lost.
Along the way, I got a random encounter: bears. So I said there's a cave. WDYD? Brother Canus wants to go in. Li'l Eric says yeeeeeeahhh, I'll be out here in the trees because you know there's going to be bears in there, Brother Canus. Brother Canus says it's cool and heads in, torch ablaze.
There are, of course, bears in there. 1d4 of them. 2 of them. This is done by chat; so there's no mapping. I just describe the narrow cave entrance twisting around and opening into a large chamber, where Canus can hear snoring/breathing. He tosses his torch 30', and, 10' ahead of that, he sees two bears. They perk up. I roll a 2 on my reaction roll: hostile, immediate attack.
Like a boss, Canus had dug out a little hole in the ground when he heard the breathing. He jams his spear into that thing and waits to receive the charge.
Massive critting ensues. The bear is impaled, but the force breaks the spear and sends Canus back into the cave wall with a dead bear arm on top of him.
Then the female bear starts sniffing around. He's playing like he's dead, but it doesn't work. The remaining bear rises up on its back legs and roars. Some quick thinking and a visit to Wikipedia later, Brother Canus starts banging on the cave wall with his sword and yelling like a crazy man. Another reaction roll: success! The bear backs off, unsure, and Canus slips out with some fresh, clean XP.
Then things got crazy.
Canus and Li'l Eric happened upon the sacred grove without further incident. It's a 60' diameter thing with a "hallway" of trees, an altar, a pile of bones, and a big boulder carved with something. The monster is of course on top of the pile of bones, presumably flossing with them.
It's an owlbear, right? But I wanted to spruce it up. So it's got the body of a bear, but imagine a decapitated bear with a huge bronze imperial Roman aquila standard shoved down the hole: the eagle head is its head, and the eagle wings sprout inflexibly out the back. This enabled some quasi-improvisational weirdness to follow. Looks kinda like this except more life-sized:
What do you do? I said.
Brother Canus says he knocks Li'l Eric out and takes him to the altar as a sacrifice to the monster.
Yikes, Brother Canus. Your necromantic aspirations have crossed the line. See Fig. 1, below:
Brother Canus's Necromatic Aspirations
In any case, Li'l Eric puts up a fight and slashes Canus across the face before Canus shoves his head into a tree.
The monster plays it cool the whole way to the altar. It lets Canus retreat and proceeds to eat the boy alive. It is uncomfortable. Canus holds himself together. The monster still doesn't move to attack (my reaction rolls were highly favorable). Then Canus gets the idea to hop up on the boulder and drop down Dark Souls style onto the monster for massive damage. Seems legit to me.
As he prepares to scale the boulder, I tell him he sees some kind of religious frenzy-hunt scene with animal-headed humans led by a giant in bone armor. Weird. And, when Canus gets to the top, he can tell the boulder's hollow: dungeon entrance.
The attack plan goes very wrong. The aquilabear eats the javelin and tosses Canus. It's charging him now; it's almost certain death, and then Canus says he stands up and chants something to him in Latin. I can't recall what it was, but man does it work: 12 on the reaction roll—enthusiastic friendship.
The aquilabear bows. It says how it's plundered the barbarians. Come and see their treasure. The monster shows Canus the silver and gems it's taken from the druids, and it requests some of Canus's blood so that it can find him later after Canus "releases him from service." The monster calls him "Pontifex" and, as he takes off, says, "Hail Caesar, son of Zeus, king of kings, savior of the world."
Okay . . .
Canus decides not to mess with the dungeon entrance for now. He takes Eric's knife and some of his bones and intends to go get the hide from the bear he killed earlier, but he hears ominous sounds from within the cave and thinks better of it.
We cut it with him heading back into town bloodied and in serious trouble.
I can't wait to see him get his just deserts.