Party Members: Sixer, Fiver, Barendd, Kylgore, Lysing, Nying, Oogway, Piper, Salem, Eyesack, and Wolfgang.

Journal of Barendd Torunn (Excerpt 4):

As we set out for the Ishah Plains portal, a large group of 11 souls, we were optimistic yet respectfully cognizant of the potential unknown dangers that would lie ahead of us in the Desert of Flies. Personally, if my soul was fated to depart my flesh, then so be it! One must not fear the unknown; too much is missed and left undone if fear is our guide. “There are other worlds than these.”

To better manage such a large group, we broke into 2 squads; Team Kobold (my squad), and Team Watch for Werewolves. I don’t think either team had a specific purpose, but hopefully, if necessary, each squad could be coordinated by a single leader. We intended to travel at night and sleep during the day, and our lofty goal was to travel West from the portal to an oasis, then Southwest towards a city known as Shashotep where we would be seeking information about the strange obelisks scattered throughout the Desert of Flies. This island has a knack for thwarting goals; in all of my attempts, the goals set forth upon departure have never been completed. Bandits, rampaging tunnel worms, marauding gnolls; this island always seems to throw a more pressing obstacle in the way….. While we had prepared well for the hot desert climate, we were barely prepared for the harsh sand-laden winds; and grievously unprepared for the bloodthirsty, brutal nature of the creatures we would encounter.

Since we desired to arrive in the desert at dusk, we were left to our own devices at the “ISP” for most of the day until evening. My first surprise came as we passed through the portal; my body went from the cold, yet tolerable temperature of the Ishah Plains to a bitter, icy chill reminiscent to my winter travels in the high mountains of Faerun. When we passed out of the portal and into the Desert of Flies, the temperature rose to what would be expected for a Fall desert night. I was able to shrug off the cutting chill, suffering only discomfort, however, at least one of our party suffered significant frost bite and had to be healed before we could move on. It appeared that some of the more experienced party members showed little or no ill affects from passing through the portal. What foul or strange domain did we pass through as we were using the portal? Maybe traveling so many miles in a single step was simply a shock to our system…something one gets used to as they experience it more often?

The Desert of Flies portal was surrounded by a raging sandstorm; almost as though it were protected beneath a glass dome. There was no way to proceed without entering that violent maelstrom. Without considering that we might wait for the sandstorm to end or diminish (if that ever occurs), we covered our faces in makeshift cloth (a scrap of blanket for me) and trudged into the blowing sand. At first, the sand-laden wind was merely a nuisance; obscuring our vision and tunneling into our various nooks and cranies. As we moved West, the wind picked up; the sand stinging and tearing at any exposed flesh. Visibility dropped to a point where we needed to lash each other together with ropes or risk someone wandering off. The less hale members of the party had to be healed of their bloody, sandy, scrapes. We continued to move West, and the sandstorm intensified to a point where long standing blemishes in my armor were being blasted away. Woohoo! Shiny armor! But the price……Our exposed flesh was no longer just being scraped, it was being sliced by thousands of tiny, sandy blades. Just as I thought we would be laid to rest by a mindless sandstorm, it began to subside, and we passed into a starry skied dawn morning.

We beheld a breathtaking sandscape of wind blast sculpted sandstone surrounded by a rolling sea of soft, sandy hills. The first creatures we encountered were colossal, otherworldly beasts(?) towering over 100 feet into the sky. They looked like giant, flat wasp nests settled atop 4 long, spindly, tree trunk legs; their bodies had small opposing appendages (eyes?) that appeared to move independently (similar to a lizard?). At their peak, they appeared to be spewing forth a greenish misty substance that seemed to attract the local bird species (some sort of bodily waste?). As we stood awestruck, I wondered if these beings were sentient or had any form of intelligence; were they plant or animal? Part of me hoped they had no intelligence as intellect is often paired with fear and/or malice, and they looked as though they could end us without a thought. However, if they were sentient and hospitable? They must be hundreds of years old…..the stories they could tell….. None of us dared venture closer to find out more about them….I was prepared to bury myself in the sand should they approach with what I perceived as hostile intentions. As we stood gawking at these oddities standing so far above the sand, we neglected to triage our injured, and below the sand lurked beasts of a more predatory nature.

From 4 large lumps of sand around our party, giant scorpions burst forth and attacked mercilessly. In the blink of an eye, 2 of our party lie dying or unconscious. While the 2 kobolds, Fiver and Sixer, took care of each other, I charged after Piper. Damn these short legs! I could not reach her without being in range of a scorpion stinger; normally not something I would worry about, but I was still feeling the ill affects of our trip through the sandstorm. A dead cleric heals no one, and I covered myself in Tyr’s shield. These scorpions seemed to attack in a rage, never considering how easy it would be to simply execute my fallen comrades. I reached Piper and brought her back to her feet; the down kobold was out of harms way, but by this time 2 more comrades lay dying. My intention was to use healing words to bring Eyesack (our party leader) back to health, but when I turned to face him, all I could see was the stump of a kobold neck, spurting his life blood onto the sand. As fire wracked the 2 scorpions near me, I used my healing words on the wizard Nying….only to see him dropped again by a rampaging scorpion attack. Salem’s fire and Oogway’s relentlessness began to turn the tide of battle to our favor. Eventually, Wolfgang was able to revive Nying again, and we were able to dispatch the vicious scorpions. But the damage was done; our fearless leader, Eyesack, was dead and we had no means to bring him back in the middle of this desert. The party took a short rest, cared for our many wounds, and extracted all 4 scorpion poison sacs; it was determined that these would bring a fine price at one of the desert markets. Between mourning Eyesack’s demise and extracting poison sacs, we debated our next action. Some of the party were distraught by what had happened and wished to return to White Moon Cove (WMC) with Eyesack’s body (and head) so as to restore and resurrect him. I wished to carry on with our mission and move West into the desert in search of the oasis. Would there not be an opportunity to restore Eyesack at the oasis? Did Eyesack even want to return to this world? A vote was taken; it was decided to return to WMC…I was sorely tempted to continue on my own, but I have no experience in the desert, and it probably would have been a fool’s errand to continue alone.

For all who would travel to the Desert of Flies: Do NOT tarry at the edge of the sandstorm! Heal thyself and move on quickly; for predators lurk on the storm’s edges waiting for easy prey.

We stuffed Eyesack’s body (and head) into a barrel and trudged back through the sandstorm which extracted its toll in blood. If there was a way to bring Eyesack back to the living, and he was willing, we would do our best to help him out. In the end, he chose to embrace his mortality, and remain with the dead. One of our party, Oogway, was not doing so well. For some unknown reason, he could not control his body temperature. He was racked with bouts of shivering cold, and he had patches of white, scaly skin on his body. Due to his ailment, he was slowly dying of exhaustion. Neither restoration nor removal of curse seemed to have any affect….some crazy wizard even sent him through a dimensional door….. My medical examination revealed that he had some sort of creature living and growing in his body that was hindering his ability to stabilize his body temperature. I deduced that only Divine magic had a chance of purging the creature (symbiotic?) from his body, and any other magic had a strong chance of causing the creature to grow and mature even faster. Fortunately for Oogway, Emily, a paladin was nearby; she laid hands upon him, calling forth her divine magics, and the creature was expunged from his body. Was this simply some parasite from the scorpion meat Oogway tasted? Was it something he inhaled whilst passing through the sandstorm? Was it something from a cold dark domain we briefly passed through while using the portal? Maybe it was some combination….nevertheless, it is a medical mystery worth looking into, and I will make sure to collect more evidence the next time I travel via portal…especially if my destination is the Desert of Flies.