This quest requires you to take a trek to the newly-founded Hunting Lodge area just to the east of Tuskdale. All you need to do is leave your capital and head east twice, then north once. When you arrive, a man named Jamel Visser will give a little speech: you won't be hunting mere vermin, but rather owlbears, hydras and wyverns, and to make this already high-stakes hunt more interesting, they'll be engaging in a bit of friendly competition. Of all the monsters prowling about, there are three "dire monsters" of special interest. The team who bags the most of these beasts will earn themselves a "valuable prize". When he's done talking, inspect your rivals, then commence the hunt, which will reveal the "Hunting Grounds" area.
Talk to Jamel Vissel again and ask what questions you will, then search behind the counter to find a chest [Perception 20], which you can unlock [Trickery 22] and plunder for 221 GP and two Potions of Bear's Endurance.
Of more interest is the Servant standing near the fireplace, who seems to have caught a bit of a cold. This leads to a moral choice, with which you can express a kind, but useless [Neutral Good] wish for him to get some rest, you can rudely demand he leave to safeguard your own well-being [Neutral Evil], or you can ask him to try and sabotage your rivals by spreading the illness [Chaotic Neutral].
When you're done causing whatever mischief you're up to, leave the Hunting Lodge, then head north to reach the Hunting Grounds area, which should have appeared on your map.
Enter the Hunting Grounds
You'll arrive on the southwestern edge of this area, and if you head north along the western edge of the map, the tone for this area will be set very quickly. Here you'll find a pack of worgs waiting in ambush, including one Alpha Worg and three Great Worgs. All are threats, what with their high Attack bonus and ability to trip, and they can probably even hit your tank(s) regularly enough to be worrisome. You can bring back the tried and true Web spell and cast it at the bushes the Worgs hide in while you keep your party to the south, in a narrow space between some rocks and the edge of the area.
Polish off these wolves, then make your way to the northeast where you'll find some Owlbear figurines along some rocks. A curious find in an area recently overrun by such monsters, and to drive the point home, you may well be accosted by an Owlbear which lurks to the southeast. Owlbears aren't quite the threat they used to be, but these ones can still pack quite a punch, being even stronger than the Greater Worgs. For that reason, consider applying long-lasting spell-buffs (Bless, Bull's Strength, Shield of Faith, Blur, Stoneskin) to boost your combat effectiveness. You're in a timed competition, after all, and the less you need to heal the better off you'll be.
You'll get a chance to further test yourself against the critters dwelling here soon enough. Venture north to find several Owlbears, which are trouble enough on their own, but in a group they have the potential to deal serious damage. Use Web to (hopefully) slow them down and deal with them one or two at a time.
Heal up if you must, then continue north. Be wary, however, as another pack of worgs - three Greater Worgs - lie in ambush in the scrub to the west. Dispose of them, then search the trees to find some elevated claw marks, which suggest the passage of a massive Owlbear.
Exterminate the Enraged Greater Owlbear
Sure enough, if you continue north you'll find this beast. A Greater Enraged Owlbear dwells up in the northwestern corner of the area, and it's not alone. It seems the Mivonian hunters found it first, but they're no match for such a foe. Be sure to hit it with Slow (buffing yourself with Haste also won't hurt, but may not be strictly necessary anymore) before engaging. Kill the beast, then loot it to obtain the Owlbear's Head - your rightful prize.
Afterwards, talk to the Aldori sisters to hear them bicker at each other over the fiasco. If you insult their fighting skills, this will allow you to make a [Chaotic Neutral] moral choice to defuse the situation, or a [Chaotic Evil] choice to provoke a fight. Both will drop Dueling Swords +1, two Potions of Cure Light Wounds each, a suit of Studded Leather Armor +1 and a Cloak of Resistance +1.
Before you continue on, search the cliffs to the west to find [Perception 24] a chest [Trickery 22], inside of which you'll find 86 GP, a Potion of Invisibility and three Jasper gems. Not much of a reward for all this effort, but better than nothing.
In Praise of Lamashtu
Venture east from where the Greater Enraged Owlbear was worrying the sisters from Mivon, turning southeast as the terrain demands. Along the way, stop to find some arms and armor amidst a pile of bones, the significance of which may not be immediately clear. The ubiquitousness of dangerous wildlife in this area has been well established already, after all.
To further reinforce this point, continue southeast to find a trio of Dire Bears, which are roughly as dangerous as the Great Worgs are, save they can't perform a trip attack.
Eradicate the ursine menace, then continue southeast to find an interesting interaction taking place. A group of goblins are celebrating a Ferocious Wyvern, praising its more dangerous traits in the name of one "Lamashtu". Whatever makes goblins happy can't be a good thing- not that a wyvern on your lands is good thing, goblins or not. Once the goblins flee, rush on in and cut down the Ferocious Wyvern, which is probably the least dangerous foe you've encountered in this area, all things considered.
Continue south along the cliffs to find a tree which shows the sign of a large beast abusing the poor plant. Unfortunately, any number of monsters in this area could account for the damage. From here head east, killing two more Ferocious Wyverns as you go. When you find a path leading uphill to the north, ascend the slope, and when that path splits, veer off to the northwest. Be sure to lead with a tank, as another pack of worgs (an Alpha Worg and three Greater Worgs) await you. Kill them, then continue northwest until you reach a dead-end, where you can find [Perception 7] a stone you can loot for a Taldan Snaffle. You guessed it, another relic for the antiquarian.
Backtrack to the southeast, then head up the previously neglected (and worg-free!) northern path. Your ascent will be complicated by a trap [Perception 22] [Trickery 22], beyond which you'll find some enormous paw prints. Hopefully another dire beast can be found nearby!
The Embeth Travelers
Continue north until you hit the northern end of the area, then turn east to find another band of rival hunters. This group - the Embeth Travelers - are more competent than the ladies from Mivon, as evidenced by their strategies for taking down their prey. You can attempt to join them in their fight, if you wish, but you'll need to disarm another trap [Perception 22] [Trickery 22] to get there safely, after which the fight will probably be well in hand.
Unlike the Mivonian sisters, the Embeth Travelers will certainly succeed in vanquishing their prey, an Ancient Wyvern. Even if you reach the beast before they kill it, land the killing blow yourself, or even deal a majority of the damage, the leader of this group will claim the Wyvern's Head for himself. If you tripped the trap on your approach, the leader of this group will chastise you, otherwise he'll boast about their accomplishment. Either way, the conversation thereafter will be mostly the same: in the latter case you can make a [Chaotic Neutral] choice to try and demand the prize from them (and will be promptly refused), leaving only congratulation or conquest [Chaotic Evil] your only options.
Should you choose to take the trophy by force you'll find that the Embeth Travelers aren't terribly strong, as their leader isn't any stronger than the staple monsters you've been fighting in this area. If you defeat them, loot their leader for a Masterwork Longsword, a Scroll of Haste a Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds and the Wyvern's Head, of course. You need not resort to violence, however - you only need two of the three trophies to claim the prize, after all.
Note: If you kill the Embeth Travelers here, you'll eventually run afoul of the random encounter "The Hunter's Revenge", which will be recorded after this quest, although in practice you may encounter it later.
After your encounter with the Embeth Travelers, explore south from where the Ancient Wyvern was slain to find another trap [Perception 22] [Trickery 22] to the southwest. Beyond this trap waits two chests, the larger of which is locked [Trickery 27], in which you'll find a Wand of Searing Light and the Recipe: Hunter's Roast. In the smaller chest you can collect a Melted Shard of a Ring.
Another, greater threat lurks just southeast of this trap, a Primal Giant Flytrap. You may have fought something similar in the Abandoned Keep, and you should be well aware that naming conventions like "Greater", "Enraged", "Dire" or in this case "Primal" suggests a more serious threat. This plant's Hit Points may not be incredible, but it's further protected by a high Armor Class, a 20% concealment bonus (similar to Blur) and Damage Reduction, which will keep it in the fight for quite a while. From your previous experience, it should be no surprise that this creature hits hard and strikes often, with a high enough Attack bonus to regularly hit your tanks. Against lesser warriors, it can tear through them with startling speed. Suffice to say, Haste and Slow may be warranted here, along with whatever other buffs you deem necessary. Pull this weed and not only will you gain a great deal of experience, but you can search its remains for another Melted Shard of a Ring.
Backtrack downhill to the area just east of where the goblins were praising a wyvern and notice the abundance of options. You already explored to the north and northwest, but you can further explore to the southeast and southwest. There's plenty left to kill, but before you run off in search of extraneous game to hunt, you might as well take down the third dire monster and claim your trophy. After this, you'll have more time to spend on the rest of the area.
First venture southeast, where the path will promptly split again. Examine some bones at the elbow of this split to notice the feeding habits of another dangerous predator, then continue east to reach a dead-end. To the south you can spot [Perception 25] an abandoned object covered by the foreground. Unlock it [Trickery 26] and claim Kneesplitter as your prize. This Heavy Pick +2 has the "Giant Bane" property, making it count as a +4 weapon against giants and dealing an extra 2d6 damage against them. Shame you didn't have it when trolls were rampaging throughout the land, but you'll probably find an excuse to use it sooner or later. Next search some rocks to the north to find a Torag's Pendant, then backtrack west to the fork.
Now take the western fork to the south and follow the rocks until you find a humble camp to the east. Seems the Pitaxians - led by Annamede Belavarah - are taking a somewhat different approach to hunting. Specifically, they're of the "life's too short to get chewed on by nasty monsters" persuasion, and they've accordingly set up a picnic to better enjoy the day. Chat with them if you like and when you've exhausted the rest of their dialogue options, you can choose to attack them [Chaotic Evil], join them (this will finish the hunt with whatever progress you currently have) or just leave and get back to business. If you've a mind to win this competition, choose the latter - the Pitaxians are certainly not going anywhere any time soon.
If you want to spare them some trouble down the road (literally!) continue east and you'll find some worgs hiding in the brush. This includes an Alpha Worg and three Greater Worgs, making it a fairly standard fight for this area, but by no means a push-over. After you smite them, search some brush behind (east of) them and to the north of the trail to score a Token of the Dryad.
Return to the Pitaxian camp and follow the trail nearby to the west and southwest until you find an abandoned cart. Well... not so much abandoned as... let's just say its former owners probably won't care if you loot it for some scrolls, coins and gems. West of this cart you can spot [Perception 8] a rock under which is hidden a Taldan Warrior's Dog Tag.
Poach the Poisonous Hydra
The final fight - should you care about winning this tournament, anyway - is just to the north (and possibly a bit to the west) of this cart. Make your way downhill into a depression, where you may find a Ferocious Hydra prowling about. Be sure to exterminate it first, as this beast is just a warmup for the real - much more dangerous - threat, the Poisonous Hydra. You don't need another hydra showing up mid-fight to spoil things.
You've dealt with hydras and with poison before, but those experiences may (provided you didn't stumble upon an incredibly unfortunate random encounter in the Kamelands) not have prepared you for this foe. The Poisonous Hydra doesn't just inflict poison with its bite (although it does that, too), it'll also spit clouds of poison at its foes, potentially poisoning numerous characters.
There are a few ways to deal with this hydra's venom, the least ideal of which is to simply weather it. If you have plenty of Restoration spells handy, you can recover from the ability point damage well enough to go throughout the rest of the area without being too hindered, but there are other, somewhat more elegant solutions. Speaking of which, if you have Jaethal in your party you can have her engage the hydra while the rest of your party sticks back and provides ranged support, but there's a good chance she's not capable of weathering - even if buffed - the hydra's attacks. If you'd rather expend magic at the start of a fight, rather than at the end, you can always prepare several Delay Poison spells and apply them to your warriors. Finally, you can simply avoid the attack by being wary, as the Hydra won't use it unless there's several characters nearby it can hit with it. Just keep an eye out for the purple action icon that indicates this attack is coming and withdraw your characters. You'll provoke an Attack of Opportunity, but the Hydra will abandon the attack, and you can just re-engage, repeating until it falls. Whatever strategy you adopt, Haste comes highly recommended.
Emerge victorious and loot the Poisonous Hydra for a Melted Shard of a Ring and a Hydra's Head, which should be enough to secure you victory in this little hunting competition. There's still more creatures to fight and treasure to gain, however, so the rest of this section will be dedicated to finishing up the area. If you don't care to do so for whatever reason, skip ahead to "The End of the Hunt".
Clear the Hunting Grounds
From the watery depression the Poisonous Hydra occupied, venture south up a hill to find a rock you can search for a Taldan Warrior's Dog Tag. That's a nice little appetizer, but other treasures won't come as easily. If you're sick of hydras, you're not going to be keen on the next task, as it requires you to venture back down into the watery depression these multi-headed reptiles seem to thrive in. From where you fought the Poisonous Hydra, make your way northeast to find a trio of Primal Hydras.
While not the most formidable of foes on their own, they're serious enough that three of them at once may present some problems if you don't spell buff. It's another fight where Haste and Web (or something like Obsidian Flow - a 4th level arcane spell that can start replacing Web) will make all the difference in the world. Defeat them, then continue northeast to find the body of a dwarf lying against some rocks, on which you can find some gold coins and gems.
Return back to where you fought the Poisonous Hydra and from here continue north and somewhat west to find [Perception 25] a tree stump you can loot for some gold, gems, and potions. Northeast of here you'll find a Giant Flytrap, which is a stout foe, but nowhere near as powerful as the Primal Giant Flytrap - you shouldn't need any more refined tactics than rushing with your warriors and perhaps flanking it. Search its remains to discover a Shard of Knight's Bracers.
Note: If you approached the Poisonous Hydra from the north, you'd have seen a scene with three goblins praising the Hydra's death-dealing qualities, all in the name of Lamashtu. Witnessing this isn't necessary, but it's an interesting development, nonetheless...
Continue north and you'll find the final encounter in this watery, sunken pit - a trio of Owlbears. Respect their damage output, spellbuff sensibly and engage with your tanks and you should win without too much trouble. After they've been culled, search a rock to find more statues, this time of hydras preying on humans. What a, ahem, strange coincidence.
Make your way back south to where you fought the Poisonous Hydra (last time, promise!) and from here head southwest to find a trio of Greater Dire Bears. Don't let their adjectives fool you, they're no stronger than the Owlbears you've been cutting up throughout this area. Dispatch them, then head through a narrow pass between some rock formations to the southwest, stopping to search some rocks hiding a Token of the Dryad.
With that, you're done with this area. All you need to do is find an area transition (there's one in the southeastern corner and southwestern corner of the map) and travel back to the Hunting Lodge. Or, if you prefer to be more sociable, spend some time with those Pitaxian nobles and enjoy the rest of the day.
The End of the Hunt
Whether you cleared the Hunting Grounds or not, and regardless of how you ended the hunt, return to the Hunting Lodge and report your exploits to Jamel Visser. Should you have acquired two of the heads (and there's no good reason why you couldn't have) you'll win the mystery prize which turns out to be a hefty 2,500 GP and twelve Exquisite Pearls.
If your protagonist is evil or chaotic, you can make [Evil] or [Chaotic] checks to claim the prize for yourself - deserving or not. This naturally doesn't please Jamel Visser much, since it amounts to little more than simple robbery but you'll get the prize, and Jamel will leave after making a subtle threat.
|Reward: For winning the hunting competition|
|2,500 GP, Exquisite Pearl x12|
Note: Unfairly claiming the prize will also subject you to "The Hunter's Revenge" random encounter, which you'll find listed below.
After you're done talking to Jamel Visser, the servant's sickness will finally progress to its final, horrifying stages. Now transformed into a Ferocious Owlbear, it'll express the mindless hostility which is a staple of this wretched species. Put the beast down, then contemplate what just occurred. A magical beast infestation is enough of a threat, but an illness that transforms people into monsters? That's a far more startling development, one that may very well threaten your entire kingdom, should the plague spread.
Before you leave, talk to your envoy - whomever that may be - and you'll get several moral choices to make for how to handle the news of this plague. You can try to keep the details of this plague quiet [Lawful Evil] or [Lawful Neutral], or you can be more open about it [Chaotic Neutral] or [Chaotic Good].
Make what decision you will, then return to Tuskdale. There's a storm approaching, but for now there's little you can do but manage your kingdom and wait for more developments. Be sure to rest and save your game, as when the next major event card appears, you'll be forced to deal with a bit of business before you get the opportunity to gather your party, rest, and explore freely.