- A. R. Frayre
After the brutal battle with the Half-Giant Zombies, the party treks a few more hours north through the dusty sands and eventually finds refuge within a large gypsum cavern. Tending to their grievous wounds and patching-up their gear, the night is mild and warm outside, and the group finally settles down to sleep next to a roaring fire. Chuul Kwan takes first watch, sharpening his massive bone greatsword, which the wizard Tan informed him was enchanted…
After a few hours, Lokti the elf steps up and takes the 2nd watch shift. The blazing fire and mild night, unfortunately, lulls the young elf to sleep…
The next morning, its business as usual, as the party begins to pack up their gear and continue northward…but somethings terribly wrong! Terric the braxat begins to sniff the air and catches wind of something…someone…or something visited the campsite last night! How could this be? The group turns to Lokti and shake their heads in disappointment…
Apparently, this uninvited guest sabotaged most of the party’s water supply! Each waterskin has puncture marks, and are drained of water. Searching for clues or tracks regarding this malevolent act, Terric determines that this foul-deed was caused by none other than Cactus Imps, as was apparent by the dozens of strange cactus-like needles that still lay scattered about the cave. These creatures are a small race of sentient humanoid cacti who live to cause mischief and havoc, by sneaking into campsites and relieving thirsty desert travelers of their life-giving liquid. These evil, sadistic little creatures have been known to stalk wasteland travelers for days, sneaking into their camps at night and slowly draining their water resources until these unfortunate souls all painfully die of thirst.
This was all quite a devastating blow to the party’s chances of survival to say the least, but they were determined nonetheless to reach their goal. Undaunted, the hardy group of desert ramblers gathered what few remaining waterskins they possessed and headed out into the swirling, dusty void once again.
THE SCENT OF BLOOD
You find yourself traveling several hours through a dusty canyon, trying your best to scavenge any bit of resources, no matter how scant. The party’s combined efforts mange to forage a few handfuls of edible roots, herbs, and beetles, as well as even finding a tiny pool of stagnant water amongst the sandstone crags.
As you and your companions fill your waterskins, you feel a blast of hot wind blanket the area. Leth, the air priest gazes up to the sky for a moment then turns to the party with a concerned look “A storm approaches!”
As the party tries to find a suitable place to hunker down from the storm, the clash of weapons and battle echo throughout the canyon walls! Swiftly, the party unsheathes their weapons and investigates the twisting canyon. As they turn a corner they witness a furious battle between a lone Thri-kreen warrior and a pack of ravenous Sand Howlers! These beasts are the size of a large war-dog, and weigh roughly 300 pounds of solid muscle. They resemble a mix between a great cat and a scaly reptile, with vicious claws and a fang-filled mouth. Atop their menacing faces, these beasts sport a set of 8 crimson-red eyeballs, which they use to hypnotize their prey in combat.
In a flash, the beasts notice the party, and part of the pack make a straight line towards you and your companions. The battle is fierce and bloody, as Vargass the Ssurran gets hypnotized by one of these creatures and nearly loses his life. In a matter of moments, the party and the mysterious Thri-kreen prevail, slaying half of the Sand Howler’s numbers before the rest of the beasts retreat in the dunes beyond, which by this point, are heavily-obscured by the impending sandstorm…
After the fray, the thri-kreen approaches the party and introduces himself as Ga-Rak, a caravan guard out of the City-State of Nibenay. He states that he is heading north towards Tyr, and that his caravan was attacked a week back by a horde of Gith.
As they converse, the hot winds begin to pick up, and at this point, Ga-Rak invites the party to take refuge in a nearby cavern the kreen secured recently. Without delay, the party accepts his offer, though the elf Lokti voices his opinion about this thri-kreen, for these giant mantis-men are known for their savagery and penchant for devouring elf-flesh. Somehow you think that Lokti will not be getting rest this night…
The cold interior of the cavern is a welcomed comfort from the red sun outside. In short-order, the giant insect-man approaches Blazing-Sun and offers him and the rest of your party several waterskins, which pleasantly surprises you and your companions. The stories you have heard of these mantisfolk through the years have always been less than savory.
After taking your fill of newly-found water and eating your pack rations, you settle down for the evening. Since thri-kreen do not require sleep, Ga-Rak offers to take the night watch. In one corner of the cave, Tan-Oz-Gora sets up his writing utensils and begins the arduous process of copying magical spell scrolls into his cherished spellbook. In another part of the cavern, Terric is in the process of creating a Runkh’a, a type of immense spiked war-club used by his barbaric people. Still in another area of the cavern, Lokti the elf goes about the business of crafting deadly toxins using a poisoner’s kit he recently acquired, all the while keeping a sharp-eye on the party’s latest thri-kreen companion…
CANYON OF THE GODS
The party has been traveling through a series of twisting sandstone canyons through most of the sweltering day, and as evening approaches, they begin to seek a suitable shelter from the cold Athasian night. This canyon is riddled with crumbling ruins, as well as large stone effigies of forgotten kings or demons carved directly into the canyon walls. Who exactly these beings were has been lost to the sands of time, though Tan speaks out and mentions that in his studies, this region was known as Kalidnay in ancient times…
In the distance, Lokti spots a wondrous site; a statue of a god or king, carved entirely out of obsidian, and covered in small patches of gold-leaf! The monolith is easily 60 feet in height, and must weight several tons by his estimation. In an instant, the young elf sprints towards the statue and tries scrapping some of the precious gold from one of the black behemoth’s massive toes, but to no avail. Tan approaches the elf and gives the statue a quick magical scan, after he puts his pale hand on the eager Lokti’s shoulder, and with a regretful sigh, nods his head. It appears that this giant relic is under some sort of powerful protection spell to guard against thieves and vandals. With a huff, Lokti storms away empty-handed, though his keen elvish-eyes soon spot something in the distance...
Leth approaches the statue and discovers an ancient description carved into it;
“Take heed Morals! Beyond this canyon lies the domain of your mighty and omnipotent God, Kalid-Ma! Kalid-Ma, master of Time and Space! Kalid-Ma, King of the Endless Sands and Father of the Red Sun! Kalid-Ma, Divine and hallowed is his Rule! All praise Kalid-Ma, Creator of Life and Ruler of Eternity!”
A few feet away, as most of the party stops to rest and take a few gulps from their waterskins, curiosity gets the better of Lokti. He spots a large wine gourd behind some shrubs. Grabbing it up, he hears liquid slosh around inside it. Without delay, the inquisitive elf pops the cork and sniffs its contents; Its Broy! A type of honey wine brewed from the nectar of kanks. With a mighty swig, he downs a great gulp of the brown libation, and lets out a wild yelp of joy! Some of his companions become interested in Lokti’s find, and soon enough, begin to partake in the festivities—all except Chuul Kwan. He stares pensively at the gourd and realizes that it is of elf-make. What in Ral’s Balls is this doing way out here?
Seemingly out of nowhere, a large group of red-headed elves appear, being led by a pale, lanky elf wearing a cloak made of roc feathers. From the looks of these elves, Lokti recognize them as Night Runners, a notorious elven tribe of assassins, outlaws, and worst of all defiler-wizards, and from what he gathers, their leader is a defiler!
After some quick banter, the Night Runners tire of the game. Their leader, the lanky defiler, reveals that they are bounty hunters sent from Celik, with orders to recapture you and your companions! In a flash, a bloody battle commences between the elves and your allies!
Suddenly from behind Kalid-Ma’s monument, a hulking Tul’k appears and joins the battle against you and yours, but after a few tense moments, your team manage to overcome the bounty hunters, slaying their wizard leader and causing the team of tribals to lose heart and retreat back into the desert.