With their preparations complete, the heroes were ready to get on with the important task of bandit hunting—specifically the hunting of Venla Koira and her band whose killing or capture was worth 200 gold crowns.
Cleverly they hatched a plan: using the last of the money from their exploration of Coldwater they purchased a wagon and two mules. Warg agreed to masquerade as a wealthy dwarven noblewoman intent on purchasing the dismal village. He swanned around the city for a few days in his newly purchased finery and a fetching wig (in what could only be described as a “disguise”) telling all who would speak with him of his plans. Thus, in this way the party hoped the bandits would fall on them once the dwarven noblewoman and her few guards were far from help on the road leading to Coldwater.
The next day they set off early, and dithered on the road. Although they passed several other groups of travellers, the only person of note they encountered was a pitiful leper—Joosef— begging on the side of the road. Both Warg and Thangrimm felt for the man and so they gave him food and a gold piece. Joosef was tremendously grateful and in return warned them of an owlbear lurking in woodland ahead.
Sadly the notorious bandits did not fall upon them and thus the party made camp. Their first night on the trail passed uneventfully and in the morning, they pretended one of the wagon’s wheels was broken. They tarried all day “fixing” the wheel, but again no bandit materialised. That night, several of the party heard a distant hooting and screeching which they identified as the call of a hunting owlbear. However, the beast did not approach the campsite and the heroes’ night was essentially peaceful.
The next morning, they again got under way—as slowly as before. Around midday, they discovered something of note. Johann identified a set of tracks going back and forth across the road as belonging to a large owlbear. As they party debated what to do—should they follow the tracks or keep on the trail—Warg heard the softly jangling of a bell behind his wagon. It was Joosef, who had been following the party—perhaps in the hopes of more food and gold. He warned the party the owlbear lurked in the immediate surrounds and that he had seen its lair—an old crumbling tower a half-mile or so hence.
Hearing this, the party immediately deviated from their plan—a ruined tower might mean loot and the adventure! Driving the wagon off the road and hiding it among the trees they prepared to track down the owlbear—Johann knowing he could easily follow their trail. The party’s interest in the tower was piqued further when Alice remembered some old stories of the wizard Aleksandra Ihalempi who dwelled somewhere in the vicinity. She disappeared about 50 years ago and legends told of her haunted tower. Clearly, the owlbear dwelt in the tower, and several of the heroes mused about the possibility of undiscovered loot amid the ruin.
The matter decided, the party set off into the trees. Pushing onwards and upwards they made their way through the wood. After a short while, the party’s vanguard could see the grey ruin of the alleged wizard’s tower ahead through the trees. At that moment, however, the owlbear made an appearance as it burst forth from a stand of trees up ahead. Hooting and screeching it rushed forward. The heroes leapt into action and, as they fought the foul beast, another—smaller—owlbear answered its parent’s call. As the larger owlbear rended Warg, and was slain in turn, the younger creature crashed into the back of the party. However, with the adult slain, the party could bring its full might to bear against the adolescent and it was quickly also slain.
With their foes despatched, the party advanced heroically to the tower and entered a small outbuilding which seemed to be the only means of obvious entry into the ruined, crumbling building. Within, they discovered a noisome owlbear nest and a short flight of stairs leading upwards to a stout iron-bound door. Poking around the owlbear’s nest the party found a few trinkets of note and some coins. With this loot secured, the party turned their attentions to the stout iron-bound door and the tower proper…