The party has returned to Alkor’s domicile after fighting in the arena. It is evening. The table is laden with food, and the party awaits Lucius’ arrival. While waiting Gathilamay regales the group with a song.
After about an hour Lucius arrives. With him he has a human female, and another person of diminutive stature. The latter is cloaked and their features are completely hidden.
Lucius expresses his approval at the teamwork displayed in the arena, and notes that teamwork is vital to surviving in the desert. He tells the party about a grand tournament, Saharabellum: Battle of the Desert, to be held in the middle of the desert with representatives from all the cities in 2 weeks time. Lucius’ plan is to sponsor the party as the team from Bishma, and will cover entry fees (100 gallons of water) and allow the party to keep any winnings in trade for escorting the human female, Helga, and his daughter Lucy across the desert. He explains that his wife has died, and as he is involved in politics he is worried for the child’s safety.
Lucius has already arranged for the entire group to join a caravan presided over by the Caravan Master, Seurat. Seurat has come highly recommended with a good reputation for getting people across the desert safely despite the fact that he never hires caravan guards.
Lucius leaves the party to discuss the proposal and plans to return in an hour’s time. The party discusses the adventure and agrees to accept. Lucius returns, and when the party informs him that they accept the proposal he promises to send Seurat to them to confirm departure in a few days.
The Yurt on the Edge of Town, the next morning
The next morning there is a loud rustling outside the yurt. The party exits the yurt to find a surly dwarf, his skin brown and sun burnt and wrinkled like a grell. He introduces himself as Seurat. He will be providing the group with mounts – the majority of the party opt to ride kanks, but Samuel aspires to own and ride a crodlu. Seurat hopes that the group will be orderly and efficient and informs them that he will not tolerate questions. He expects them to leave two mornings hence, early in the day before the sun is high and the desert hot.
For the next two days the party prepares for its expedition. Samuel spends a large amount of time and money procuring a crodlu and riding lessons. He is so excited that he names his crodlu Admiral Pigglesworth, but just calls him The Admiral. Thalie spends her time praying to Avandra for luck on their journey.
The entire party exchanges their currency (tiles – the currency in Bishma) for gold and gemstones and water.
The morning of departure
A human slave comes to the yurt to retrieve the party. The party gathers in town to prepare for departure. Suddenly, out of no where, Sam enters, sort of riding backwards on an annoyed-looking crodlu. The crodlu attempts to bite Sam.
Lucius is nearby, cautiously watching the group. Helga and Lucy are already mounted on kanks. Thalie examines the other members of the caravan, but cannot find anything amiss. There are approximately 30 people in total in the Caravan, half are slaves of different races and the other half are people in robes assumed to be travelers. In addition to the kanks and crodlu there are inix loaded down with bags, water bladders, and supply crates. The kanks each have a few days of rations in case anyone gets separated from the group.
Seurat mounts his kank and starts leading the party generally northward out of Bishma.
As the sun is at its highest, Sam is startled as his saddle works itself loose and slips sideways. He is fairly dragged for a short distance until he can regain his seat. Everyone checks their saddles, but in general everyone is comfortable as kanks are known as the “Cadillac” of the animal world. The caravan slows down a bit in the hottest part of the day to avoid taxing the animals.
At sunset, Seurat wheels the caravan to the West, leading it toward what looks like a box canyon. Some of the stone near the top of the canyon looks like it has been worked (chiseled) at one time or another. The group comes to full stop in the canyon, and Seurat surveys the land, looking in all directors. Back in the distance the party can see a sandstorm on the horizon, and Seurat hopes that the canyon will provide shelter from the storm. He mumbles something about convincing large ants to let them stay.
The party begins to descend to the bottom of the canyon and the smells of ammonia and refuse soon become nearly unbearable. The group can see large holes in the sides of the canyon, and endless refuse piles. The kanks resist each step of the way. Sam’s crodlu is dead set against going and makes his dissatisfaction known by biting Sam ferociously on the arm.
When they reach the bottom, Seurat orders the slaves to stop, tie up the animals, and to begin organizing the supplies. Seurat then climbs one of the canyon walls to survey the land.
The party, having brought its yurt, begins setting up for the evening. Lucy and Helga go into the yurt when it is erected, the better to stay out of sight. Sam attends to his crodlu. Kalpa stays outside the yurt, but attempts to communicate telepathically with Lucy and ask if her trip was tolerable.
Thalie tries to engage Lucy and Helga and is astonished when Lucy removes her hood. Lucy is in fact not a child, but a shardmind, one of the gemstone people.
Sam ties his crodlu to his ankle so it won’t run away in the evening and comes into the yurt. Kalpa remains outside and talks to the animals, in particular Sam’s crodlu who is a curious sort of animal with many questions.
Seurat appears at the yurt and comes inside. He says that something seems different in the canyon right now. He reports that there used to be large ants here, but that the place is deserted now. But despite his reservations, the dust storm is getting closer so he suggests they remain here for the night as it has provided him with shelter in the past.
Sam, Merielle and Kalpa decide to go exploring. Sam brings his crodlu along to the dismay of the other explorers. The group heads towards the north wall as the sandstorm begins howling. As they climb up the northern wall they approach the entrance to a tunnel. Kalpa starts glowing softly. The group enters the tunnel which extends back and opens into a large room. Merielle notices a bit of cloth sticking out of a crack in the wall. Kalpa hits the wall with his hammer, noting it is not quite solid, and the crack gets larger. Merielle pulls at the cloth and the crack closes. Kalpa hits the wall again and dislodges a section revealing a secret door. The piece of cloth falls on the ground.
The party peers in the door and finds a staircase leading downward. Approximately 30 feet down they hear shuffling and stone grating on stone. Clearly someone is here.
Meanwhile back at the yurt…
Thalie is attempting to learn more about Helga and Lucy. Helga, it turns out, got hired on to be Lucy’s servant, only a few weeks before the group’s departure. Thag tries to speak to Lucy and questions what people want from her. Lucy begins explaining that the shardmind are divided into several factions. Originally they were all part of the Living Gate, but when that gate shattered the different factions came into existence. Lucy said each of the factions believes that one day the Living Gate will be regenerated. There are those who believe this will only be accomplished if all shardmind are killed so the energy can go back to the gate. Lucy shares that Lucius has protected her since her mother perished in an attack, but is not her biological father. He is convinced that the Living Gate can be reproduced through some arcane working and has arranged for a more peaceful faction to collect Lucy at the tournament.
Back at the cave
The group reaches the bottom of the stairs and finds the landing a dead end. They are convinced that there must be a door, but cannot find it. Kalpa hits the walls with his hammer until he finds the wall that sounds the least solid. With a few good whacks, Kalpa reduces the wall to rubble. He goes to enter the wall and immediately gets shot with a crossbow by a goblin. The three agree to return to camp to gather the party and figure out how to proceed. Sam is overjoyed to find his crodlu waiting outside the cave despite the fact that it chewed through its rope tie.
The Yurt, Night time
Sam is off reporting the group’s findings to Seurat. Merielle and Kalpa return to the yurt. As soon as Kalpa enters the yurt, he begins to attack Lucy. Thag takes a swing at Kalpa to try and stop him. Kalpa hits her hard and Lucy fragments into shards and disappears. Helga runs from the yurt screaming. Merielle goes out to try and bring her back, Kalpa appears dazed and doesn’t seem to know what he has done.
Sam returns from talking to Seurat to find the commotion. Merielle and Thag are trying to find out what happened to Kalpa. Gathilamay recaps what the group has learned in song.
Thalie goes looking for Helga and finds her with some other travelers who have obviously sedated her. Thalie leads Helga back to the yurt and puts her to bed.
A few moments later a shriek comes from near the north wall. The party gathers its weapons and head in the direction of the cave, hoping to find Lucy there. At the base of the wall, they find an injured and unconscious gnome named Burlinghoff. They heal him to consciousness, and ask him what happened. In between sobs he tells the group that the goblins have taken his wife.
The group decides to continue on up into the tunnel and try to find Lucy and Burlinghoff’s wife. As they reach the bottom of the stairs, they see a goblin repairing the wall. He takes off and after a bit of stumbling (Thalie runs into Sam who has fallen asleep) the party follows him into the passage.
The passage is narrow and full of turns. The group quickly finds itself besieged by three goblins and has trouble rallying in the fight. As the party begins to make progress in fighting the three goblins, two more show up to reinforce the first three. After what seems like endless fighting and the last goblin has fled, the party journeys back upstairs into the big room to regroup and take a short rest.
The party receives 300xp for its combat with 10% bonuses for those who received coins