Once back at Raam, the adventurer’s took a much-deserved rest, taking a chance to enjoy the few luxuries that the city-state had to offer. The Veiled Alliance further investigated Jorak’s past, and discovered that he had been secretly stockpiling provisions and untold artifacts at an outpost several days’ journey into the desert. Jadaj returned to the party with news of their next mission: find and investigate this deceased defiler’s lair.
However, upgraded security had now made the task of entering and leaving the city more difficult. The templar guards were even more suspicious than usual of travelers. The party decided that the best course of action would be to hire on as guardsmen of a merchant caravan, then break from the caravan when well out of the city. After careful scrutiny of the caravans leaving from Raam, the heroes joined up with a large caravan headed by lithe older woman, Dethurga, and a seemingly maniacal Tiefling, Sulat. Although the two voiced a contempt at mercenary deserters and alluded to painful repercussions, the party was full of self-confidence that it could (for better or worse) part ways unscathed once into the wilderness. Other guards included two Thri-Kreen, a former-gladiator, and a beautifully deadly woman named Allise. The group quickly became fond of antagonizing the gladiator, wary of the Thri-Kreen, and hesitantly friendly toward Allise.
The following days were filled with fending off elven raiders, provoking the gladiator and courting Allise’s comradeship. Over shared watches, Chri-Keet and Jadaj attempted to garner the support of Allise for their planned departure. Allise seemed to be very interested in the party’s affiliations, but would say little of her own. It quickly became apparent that Allise had her own agenda for garnering the heroes’ trust. The party was contemplating their predicament during a midday rest, when a thunderous explosion from a following caravan shook the ground. Upon prompt investigation, it was discovered that a type of obsidian explosive device was hidden among the former caravan’s belongings. Tartarus and Jadaj also found a seemingly unharmed sigil of a noble house (possibly some type of magi). Meanwhile, Locust and Chri-Keet searched the party’s own caravan and soon located a similar device hidden among a merchant’s belongings. Ever the multi-taskers, the party convinced the bumbling gladiator to carry the suspected explosive to the newly-formed crater to “test” it. Soon the crater had deepened, and the gladiator was vaporized. After this scene of comic relief, the party became all the more aware that they were the target of a powerful magus who was ruthlessly pursuing their assassination.
After more traveling, the party’s caravan passed another heading towards Raam and stopped for trade. Through coin-sweetened conversation, the party learned that Allise was not who she appeared to be. Upon further questioning, the party realized that Allise was likely working for an agent of Abalach-Re, or some other powerful noble. Also through questions at the trade stop, the party learned that Dethurga was a former-templar of Tyr, and was likely very powerful and ruthless herself. The heroes found themselves surrounded by enemies with no allies in sight.
The following night during watch, an unusual sight of a circle of ankecks drew the heroes’ attention. After breaking an illusion ritual, Chri-Keet and Jadaj drew out a powerful arcanist named Yrava accompanied by their fellow caravan guard, Allise. Through a stroke of bad luck, Jadaj ended up captured while Locust and Tartarus hurried to join the battle. Yrava and her guards gave a tough fight, and it quickly became apparent that direct confrontation would lead to heavy losses. The party switched tactics, instead feigning surrender while regrouping and convincing the guards that better fortunes lay in the desert than with their current employer.
And so, the party was now free themselves to strike out into the desert, abandoning their caravan guard duties, along with their survival supplies. After considering their predicament, Locust delved for the nearest settlement, and the band scavenged the barren landscape for food and water along the way. Making use of another of Locust’s abilities, the party arrived in the Elven desert settlement in the heat of the day with not a hint of sweat or discomfort. The elves were impressed enough to trade for enough food and water for the party to continue their journey.
After several more days of travel, a lone stone archway came into view. Jadaj recognized this as the marker for Jorak’s hideaway, and the party found a small hut nearby. Upon careful inspection, Chi-Keet uncovered a hidden hatchway leading into underground ruins. Soon the party was barred by mystical runes and treacherous descents. While exploring further, Tartarus’s heavy footfalls drew the attention of several spirits of the ruins. Sensing threat, the band leaped into combat, but was soon overpowered. After retreating, recuperating, and reconsidering, the party spoke with the ghosts and learned of the dark power binding their servitude. Compelled by a desire to help the ghosts, visions of treasure, and the emptiness of their food stores, the heroes reached an agreement with the ghosts to free them from the powerful being that held them bound to the ruins.