With the aid of the cleric Achmed Raisul, the Fated had regained their strength and set out into the Desert of Desolation. Their objective was the Oasis of the White Palm, which they believed held the secret to defeating the Efreeti Pasha they had unwittingly released.
After cutting a swath through a village of bugbears, they reached the oasis on the 23rd of Agitelen. To their horror, it was a blackened, burning wasteland, its waters scoured, its trees cut down. Despair gripped the Fated. “Does nothing go right for us?” Ethlyn shouted to the heavens. There was no answer from Imran.
The next day, the Fated headed south. Their old caravan map indicated there was another oasis further south, and they hoped they might learn what had befallen the Oasis of the White Palm .They made good time by trekking through a smooth wadi that snaked through the landscape. It was only when they saw the purple chitin scraped here and there on the side of the wadi that they realized they were marching along a worm-tread… Not long after, they caught sight of great plumes of sand being thrown up by some massive creature. They fled as far and as fast as they could, and then encamped for the night. During the hours of darkness, Rakh was bit by a black widow spider, but fortunately Senef’s shamanic powers saved his life.
The next day, 25th of Agitelen, the southern oasis came into site – a thousand yard wide vista of lush green grass and high waving palms. Proudest of all was the towering white palm that soared skyward. “Did we get fooled…by a decoy oasis?” asked Shikra. The party advanced forward with glee, soon catching site of a campsite of nomad tents, as well as a large caravanserai.
The Besherab nomads of the Oasis of the White Palm – for this was, indeed, the sacred oasis – were a suspicious lot, but Mahmud and Ethlyn’s charisma, as well as the generous gift of a magical dagger, soon got the Fated brought before the sheikh of the oasis, Kassim Arslan, and his son, Hassan. After the appropriate exchange of food, water, and courtesies, the sheikh shared his problems with the Fated.
“Five days ago, Shadalah, a young noblewoman from our tribe, was betrothed to my first-born son, Hassan. She was the chosen bride because she had upon the palm of her hand the sacred symbol. After their betrothal the three-day feast began.” Yet, the place was set and no man knew the time. May Imran guide us! Word came by runner during the feast that my soldiers were needed to defend the Oasis of Akhir from an evil efreeti. My warriors departed at once. On the following night, Princess Shadalah disappeared. The marks in the sand outside her tent told of a struggle. The trail ended just north of our camp. Our warriors have not returned from their struggle to hold the evil one at bay. Their absence has weakened my position here and made my enemies bold. I believe that my enemies here in the camp, whoever they may be, have Hassan’s bride. I ask you to help us recover Shadalah, the beloved bride of my first-born son. If you find her, then the wealth of my tent and the friendship and service of my kingdom shall be yours.”
Mahmud and Ethlyn were deeply moved by this plea, and agreed to help find the missing princess of the Oasis. To indicate that they were in his service, the Sheik gave them a magical amulet graven with ancient symbols. Curious about this amulet, and the mention of the “sacred symbol” on the hand of the missing princess, the party decided to seek out the cleric of the Oasis, hoping he might explain more.
The cleric, one Nadron Ilanis, was happy to share with a paladin of Imran. “The symbol on the palm of Hassan’s bride comes from a tradition that is almost as old as the tribe itself. Only one woman at a time may bear the symbol and only so long as she lives, or until it is passed on to the new bride. The old beliefs say that the first bride has great power over evil because of the mark on her hand. In any event, the symbol has not yet returned to the altar; therefore, the bride must still be alive.” The party began to become suspicious about how the amulet, the bride, and the efreeti might all be related…
They next visited the tent of Korus Arslan, the sheik’s second son. They were surprised to find the sheik’s first son, Hassan, being entertained by a lewd dancing girl in the tent – but then realized things were not as they seemed! Rather, Korus was an identical twin of Hassan, born only a minute afterwards. Ethlyn used her good looks and feisty personality to befriend Korus, who quickly sought to involve them in some sort of plot he had afoot. “Help me find the princess Shadalah. I believe that certain people in the Sandvoyager’s Guild are holding the girl in their warehouse. Bring her straight to me. I will wait for you after dark by the monolith in the oasis.” He then gifted them with a prize trove of magical maces in exchange for their help.
The Fated instantly suspected Korus of guilt. Perhaps it was because he insisted on Shadalah being brought to him; perhaps it was because he seemed to have a motive; because his dancing girl showed signs of having been beaten. Ethlyn was especially troubled by the latter, and purchased the girl, Kerina, and freed her.
Intrigued by Korus’s mention of a “monolith,” the party investigated. They found the monolith in question hidden among a dense copse of palm trees. It was carved with holy symbols – the earliest symbols being archaic glyphs of the Empyrean gods, these largely carved over by Kemeshi hieroglyphs to the Chthonic gods. Ceara, now blessed with the preternatural sight of the elves, noticed that the monolith concealed a secret door, but the party decided not to enter it yet.
Heading over to the caravanserai, the party knocked on the door of the Sandvoyager’s Guild. When no one answered, they broke into the warehouse. This prompted a short fight with the guild members within, but the party refused to draw weapons and just broke heads instead. After breaking enough heads, they convinced the guild to grant them a meeting with the guild leader, Thurnas. Thurnas was quite suspicious and gruff, but became outraged at the suggestion that he had princess Shadalah. He angrily suggested they talk to Korus Arslan, who he alleged to be a deal-breaking, treacherous, Chthonic cultist. “PTAH! I spit on Korus Arslan!”
The party decided they should alert the Sheikh of the treachery of his son. Unfortunately, this did not go well, as the party underestimated the extent to which a Besherab’s family loyalty might outweigh reason. “You come into my tent and insult my family? You claim that the son of my loins is involved in treachery against the family? I am outraged! Be lucky that you have the guest-right or I would have you beheaded in this instant! Out of my tent! PTAH!”
As the sun set, Senef cast a divination. “How can we rescue the Princess Shadalah?” “She must be freed from the crypt of great greed.” Suad quickly surmised that the “crypt of great greed” referred to the Crypt of Badr al-Mosak, the legendary “greediest man who ever lived”. Sadly, the location of this crypt was lost long ago. Balen rolled his eyes. “We can find her with this,” he said, producing his crystal ball. Gazing in, he saw a faint image of a beautiful Besherab maiden…imprisoned in a bottle.
There seemed to be no further avenue of investigation save the monolith, so the Fated headed there. Opening the secret door revealed stairs downward into an underground complex. A symbol graven on the walls marked it as dedicated to Set, a Kemeshi incarnation of Sakkara. After battling through several zombies and dispelling a deadly magical trap, the party came to a temple, with a glowing red sacrificial pit and a huge stone idol of Set himself, his serpentine eyes each a giant ruby. Zoya instantly declared it essential that this evil altar be desecrated by stealing the ruby eyes. This, indeed, seemed like a holy act to all of the Fated.
Zoya’s first attempt to pry out the ruby eyes got her knocked aside as the statue’s arms animated. The group came up with a clever plan; Balen webbed the statue with several layers of magical spidersilk, while Zoya quickly pried off the giant rubies and tossed them to Rakh. Rakh was surprised at how strangely warm the first ruby was, but thought nothing much of it, and placed it in his backpack.
Even as Zoya held the second ruby aloft, the first exploded. She dropped the second down the sacrificial well, where all 10,000gp of it erupted in flames. Rakh and Balen were the hardest hit, each of them immediately knocked unconscious. Rakh’s face was notably burned and both were unable to continue adventuring without rest. Outraged at the loss of 20,000gp, and its comrade’s skin complexion, the party hastily pushed the statue down the sacrificial pit and fled for the surface.
They decided to encamp for the night by the monolith, thinking they might espy who came in and out. They were entirely unprepared for the arrival of thirteen red-robed cultists at midnight, having kept just two adventurers awake and on guard. Most of the party was able to awaken before the cultists descended upon them, but Dornethan was a heavy sleeper and was stabbed in the knight. A fierce and hateful battle ensued; one of the cultists was a Chthonic priest, but his evil curses were stopped with steel. A phantasmal fireball, followed by a sleep spell, took care of most of the other red robed thugs. The leader proved a particularly tough foe, but he was knocked down with an arrow in his heel, and then webbed. His robe was pulled back to reveal…Korus Arslan.