Characters: Pierre, Ginger, Bayleen, Simon, Thorin, Vicar Horace
About the same time the dragon was slain, a completely different party in a complete different part of the world set out as part of a caravan traveling across the desert searching for the fabled "City of Gold" This new party members had been hired to perform a number of duties. The paladin Ginger was hired as a guard. Bayleen the bard was hired as an entertainer and Pierre the miner was hired as a technical advisor. Vicar Horace, an evangelizing priest, was hired as a healer but decided to come more for the chance to spread the word. The party members also come from various backgrounds and locations. Thorin the ranger, come from the jungles far to the south. Simon, a fencing expert, comes from the forests of the east. The one thing they have in common is they now hate this desert.
Sand, nothing but sand for as far as they can see. And the heat! And the scorpions! If it weren't for the good pay, they would all have left months ago. It seems like only last week when they started on this journey. It had all started in Jasper. Now Jasper was a city for mercenaries. Bars on every corner, money to be made ( and lost ) at the dice tables, and as much work as any mercenary could want. What with the need for bouncers at the bars, guards for the gambling halls, all the little wars going on between the different rulers in the area, there is no lack of jobs to be found. And let's not forget the mines. That much silver has a way of attracting the wrong sorts that must be guarded against. With all that money, drink, and gambling in Jasper, it would take quite a bit to attract someone to take an out-of-town job.
The pay for this job did just that. Where else could they get 10GP per day with the only duties to sit and do a little guard duty. OK, sitting on a camel sounded better then than now. The blisters are mostly healed and most of the party members have gotten used to the smell. The flies are not too bad if you keep your mouth shut. It is the heat that is the real problem. In the day you feel like you are about the melt and drip off the back of the camel. At night it turns so cold that you almost wish for the heat to come back. And then you get you wish.
This journey into hell has gone on now for almost 3 months. They have each earned over 800 GP but what good is gold if there is no place to spend it? And no sign of the fabled "City of Gold." A city of any kind would be welcome. Each morning the Sultan comes from his tent, lifts a feather to the sky and drops it. What ever way the feather flies is the direction for the day. They have even camped in the same place 3 times now! There are rumors that some of the guards are planning to steal the feather but the party still remembers how the last thief was dealt with. Vicar Horace the priest never knew that two camels could pull that hard. He said two prayers for the two halves.
It is morning and the Sultan has just picked the direction for the day when there is a commotion coming from the far side of camp. Thorin thinks he can hear the sound of steel against steel. Bandits! Confusion abounds as the party leaps into action. Ginger draws her long sword and advances to the nearest bandit. Bayleen swings at a bandit with her quarter staff. Simon expertly runs a bandit through with his lightning fast rapier. Thorin slashes another bandit with his curved scimitar. Vicar Horace even sends a bandit to meets his maker with his holy mace. Pierre, not being used to such action, decides to examine the mineral composition of the sand near his feet.
After the sand settles, the party has successfully battled off the bandits capturing one bandit. There are dead bodies spread over the camp. There is a mixture of bandits and guards. Among the dead is the Sultan. His tent has been raided and the camels are gone. Simon questions the captive but he would not talk. In fact he spit at Simon. Simon finished him off with one quick thrust. The party decided to follow the tracks of the bandits since they had taken the caravan supplies and the Sultan's wealth.
Thorin leads the party due to his tracking skill. He easily picks up the trail noting over three dozen camel tracks. Given the number of camels that the Sultan had, there could be as many as 25 bandits remaining. The sun's head beats down on the party as they push to catch up with the camels. Thorin thinks that they are gaining on their quarry so the they risk a rest break around noon.
Mid-afternoon, Thorin notices a rocky outcropping ahead as he tops a dune. He notes it and continues down the dune following the tracks. His concentration on following the trail is so great that he almost misses seeing the scorpions as they attack. He notices them just in time to leap out of the way as the first one strikes at him. Ginger has her sword out in a flash and advances. Bayleen cast a spell that creates a greasy spot where one scorpion is standing an it slips and flips upside down. Pierre cast a light spell on the second scorpion and it begins blindly thrashing around. The lead scorpion manages to catch Ginger's shield arm with its right pincher. Ginger pulls with all her might and escapes just as the barbed tail strikes where she had been held. After the near hit, the party decided to back off and escape.
They easily outrun the scorpion and soon it halts and returns to the rock. With hearts pumping, the party resumes tracking with an extra measure of alertness. Thorin vows to not let that happen again. Ginger prays to her god asking for assurance that retreat had been the right thing to do. A peace flows through her and she is sure she did the right thing.
They travel on till the sun begins to set in the west. Night in the desert can be quite cold so they begin looking for a sheltered spot. They set what meager camp they can, having no tents or firewood and only the food in their packs. As they settle in for the night, Thorin takes a stroll to the top of a nearby dune and notices a golden light coming from behind dunes about 3 miles away to the southeast. The party is sure that it is the bandits so they break camp and move closer to check out the bandit camp.
Thorin sneaks in to get a better look. The bandits have several guards walking a perimeter (outside his current position!), a number of bandits visibly asleep in camp, and several tents. He returns and reports to the party that there are about 20 bandits. They decide to wait till morning to attack the bandits. They take turns sleeping until just before dawn when the party makes their move. Bayleen cast a sleep spell on several sleeping bandits. Horace cast a hold person spell on another group as well as blessing the party. Thorin and Ginger began the missile attacks on the guards. Pierre cast a light spell on a bandit who looks like the leader and attempted to levitate a large bandit but misses. He then shrinks a large bandit to 70% of his normal size. After the barrage of missiles and spells, the party only has to deal with about 6 bandits.
After interrogating the bandits, they decide that the bandit in the blue turban is the leader. They execute the leader as judgment for the murder of the Sultan and much of the caravan. The party then offers to spare the life of any who will lead them to the bandits hideout. A small, pitiful, man named Achmed begs to be spared and offers to lead them to the hideout. Through his sobbing, they learn that he has only been a bandit for a short time and knows little about their doings. He offers to do anything they want if they will spare his life. After tying up the other bandits and packing up the camels, they use his knowledge to travel on to the bandit's hideout. Using a combination of spells, stealth, and a little fighting, the party takes the hideout and more prisoners. In the search of the hideout they discover a map to the City of Gold.
The party decides to attempt to find the City of Gold but in order to get their bearings, they will first travel to the oasis shown on the map. Before they leave the camp, they execute all of the bandits except for Achmed, the stooge, who they give a camel and release warning him not to talk to anyone about their plans. They cover their tracks with a dust devil and leave for the oasis. As they near the oasis, they notice several large spotted lions in the oasis and decide not to camp at the oasis. Pierre levitates Thorin high into the sky to see the butte on the map so they can get their bearings and then they proceed in that direction till nightfall.
After dark, they are attacked by 6 spotted lions. In the battle, Pierre casts a light spell on one cat's eyes, levitates another cat, and shrinks one cat. Several members are greatly wounded but the party prevails. Simon has a rough battle and afterwards pays Horace 50 GP to bless his rapier since he kept missing so often.
The party continues to the butte where they discover a valley leading to a tunnel. As they near the end of the tunnel they see golden light gleaming from around the corner. Just as they pass the corner, they are attacked by bandits from a hidden area above the tunnel. Using his now typical sequences of spells, Pierre disables 2 and shrinks 1 of the bandits so the party makes short work of them. On one of the bandits, they discover several more maps to the City of Gold.
They also discover a magical '1 way' roof that allowed the bandits to see down but the party could not see up. In this compartment, Simon discovers another bandit who he deals with in short order. While Simon waits in the compartment, the rest of the party goes on only to discover that the City of Gold is a City of Fools Gold. An old pueblo village, half buried in the sand, has been layered in pyrite and other shiny metal to give off the golden glow. While searching the hidden room, they discover 10 more maps to the City of Gold. Then it hits them: the City of Gold is a trap and the bandits have been advertising for 'business'. They dump the bodies in a pit they discovered and move the camels into a stable that had been made in one of the old pueblo dwellings. While resting in the hidden compartment, they hear voices. The voices come from two explorers with their own map to the City of Gold. These explorers curse and kick themselves as they leave never knowing how close to death they had been. What's more, it is overheard that one of the explorers had paid 200 GP for his map!
After resting, the party leaves for Jasper. On the way, a sandstorm forces them to take refuge in the bandits hideout. After the storm, they discovered that they have been infested with sand chiggers. Not deadly, but the party will itch for several days. They also notice that the bandit's scimitar has a symbol of a sickle and a lightning bolt. This symbol is carved elsewhere in the hideout and looks like it might be a crest or fraternal symbol. The party completes their journey to Jasper much richer and a little wiser than they left.