As the party prepares to depart to the badlands, they are joined by a strange “elf” from what the locals call “The Big Scary Forest,” a Delvian healer from a race of woodland beings, who ALSO appear to be suffering from their own plague. The Delvian joins the party in their quest, along with Tengu Yoshi. With the addition of Galamore’s servants, the number of Wagon Buddies, et al is 12.
The party spends several days of their 3-week journey headed to the Fortline. They arrive at “Point L,” (called “Pointell” by the locals), where they find a ragged group of soldiers, among them Halfhand One-Eye. Their reunion garners them information about the lands beyond, where it appears a dragon is on the loose, a devil that emerges from the dust itself to ravage patrols. The discover several ways to approach Ermsagh Canyon, where the Laprell dweel (somewhere). They also discover rumors concering:
*The Legendary village of Barovia, cursed to exist in another realm until said curse can be lifted, has appeared under moonlit nights, a strange, glowing forested region glittering like a mirage over the broken sands.
*The wasteland, a dead forest covered in gray mist. Those who enter do not return.
*The Red Tower: a strange wizard’s tower that appears out of nowhere, enticing visitors to retrieve its treasures within. The problem? No one knows where or when it will appear.
*Lost units from the Dregs and Pharisians have taken up residence in the Broken Lands, establishing their own fiefs. Among them is said to be a powerful warrior, Beelzebub, who is said to have uttered, “’Tis better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.”
All told, the party has 3 ways to get to the canyon, the worst of which seems to be the direct route—the main road to the canyon is the preferred hunting grounds of the Dust Dragon. They eventually decide to make their way through the dead valley.
After providing food and healing to the troops, the party makes its way out into the badlands. Hoit, Vorga and Yoshi provide much of the scouting, with some help from Aladar, backed by the mapping of cartographer Phineas. Hoit and Aladar briefly scout the dead valley, only to return to the party after an encounter with grey, enveloping mist, wolf howls in the distance, and the feeling they are being watched. Though a place of limited visbility, absolute bleakness and a haven for curses (the blight causes the Delvian healer to actually become overwhelmed and sick), the route proves fairly smooth.
Eventually, the party finds a break in the mist, and, inexplicably, a pile of treasure among the ruins of what used to be a city of stone. Hoit, of course, decides to investigate the cache, a pile of coins and items resting among what looks like Dragons Eggs!
Of course, they all know this is some sort of a trap. And when the Dust Dragon bursts out of the ground and attacks, their suspicions are confirmed. Yet, the group, sans Vorga and Phinease, who flee in fear in the Dragon’s presence, easily overcomes the creature, thanks mainly to its focus on the fearsome Tengu warrior, who uses his flight and great weaponry to deliver crushing blows to the creature. Though heavily wounded, the Tengu stands firm against the Dragon, driving it off with help from Udagold’s summoned storm firing its lethal lightning, scorching the devil. The dragon exercises retreat, leaving a nice horde behind. The eggs, of course, turn out to be facsimiles, “bait” to lure the adventurers. But if this is just “bait,” all this treasure, one wonders about the horde itself. On the positive side, the party uncovers 3 relics: a ring, a mail shirt and a hammer, all of either dwarf or elf make (and in the case of the ring—BOTH).
Lingering only briefly, the party wends its way out of the valley, and makes camp at the lip of Ermsagh Canyon. They then set about scouting the area. They discover a tribe of Ogre creatures living in a ramshackle port that once belonged to the Dregs. The village, situated on a great lake, into which a river flows, appears to be led by a great chief who has tamed a pair of huge tigers. They also locate an aerie overlooking the canyon that appears to be inhabited by humanoids who fly astride great, winged mounts. With no clue as to where the Laprell may be, the party decides to investigate both the village and the aerie.
The village experiment turns out to be a near debacle. Hoit makes his way into the village, aided by a distraction provided by Yoshi, who flies above the village, getting the Ogre’s attention. Unfortunately, Hoit’s sneaky-sneak places him in a poor position, as he races across the village square, unnoticed, right into the chamber of a pair of Ogres (whom the party later discovers are called “the Ogrinoth”), who catch sight of him. Intending to toss a net over them to cover his escape, Hoit instead reaches for…the Dwarf hammer, which he snatched up earlier, and which now seems to have imprinted on him the desire to use this weapon above all others. To close to use the hammer’s thunder-blasting ranged ability, Hoit beats feat OUT of the area, drawing the attention of the WHOLE village.
Thankfully, Hoit is able to avoid the javelin attacks of the few armed Ogres. Yoshi sweeps him up and carries him far away from the swarming creatures, leading them in a direction opposite from the party encampment. They eventually light on the cliffs above, while the Ogri-noth yammer, yell and stare, below.
Meanwhile, Phineas, Vorga, Udagold and their Delvian companion make their way to the Aerie. In short order, they are accosted by…dwarves! Using the power of the ring, which grants dwarven speech, the party negotiates with the short ones, who turn out to be descendents of an ancient race called the Udaar, a group of dwarves who once lived in the dead valley (not then dead) alongside the Uthron Elves. Now servants of the Laprell, the dwarves maintain a wary watch while one member of the Laprell, Aristotle, appears and approaches the party. The group is made welcome, and spends the afternoon feasting next to a fire in the Aerie.
The group discovers that the 3 remaining gems are located in 3 different places. One of the gems rests in the high mountains beyond the Aaracokra. A second, south, near the Great Scary Forest. And the third? Lost somewhere on the Planes. The former two can be discovered and retrieved. But reaching the planes? This requires great magic.
But of course, there is a way to reach the third. Aristotle tells them that the Laprell are relatively sure Manual of the Planes rests in The High Underdark, in chambers “Beyond the Palace of the Zoke.” These chambers are accessible by the river-feeing lake, below. The main problem? Many tribes of Ogrinoth live below. Plus, the party does not have a boat.
The group also discovers that the visions the Delvian has been having, visions which first begin as the party approached the dead valley, are actually visions of the long, dead past of the Uthron-Udaar, once warring tribes of Elves and Dwarves who lived in harmony in a great, green valley. Their long century of peace was eventually shattered when greed brought them into conflict with an entity called Damleck the Destroyer. The Laprell believe Damleck, defeated at the cost of the Uthron-Udaar empire, has returned, bringing with it the Dust Dragons.
With their quest for the aaracockra before them, as well as the lure of the treasure of the Uthron-Udaar — rumored to be “the greatest treasure of all” — the party decides to mount an expedition into the High Underdark to find the manual of the planes. After that, they will set their sites on the dead valley again, in hopes of locating the Uthron-Udaary treasure. Then, the expeditions to find the gems will commence in earnest.