So we last left our heroes ready to get the hell out of dodge wizard Manatha Albarn and her sidekick Gerun quickly decided to saddle some sandrunners and ride out Oxy's main gate - after a bit of tooing and froing with the gate guards they rode into the desert, keen to escape the clutches of the Temple and to avoid whatever the hell kinda creature they had unleashed.
I quickly described the terrain as sandy with several rocky hills nearby but not much else and got them to roll three times on my random encounter chart for the region.
They had a general idea that there were more cities to the north but didn't ask any real questions about the desert, the length of time to cross it or the socio-political situation. Ohhh well.
The three encounters they rolled were: ruins, death worm and desert nomads. (I'd like give another big shout out to Pao over at Strange Stones for his Borloi Death Worms that I've adapted for my saga.
As the pcs trotted along the terrain gradually turned from arid highlands to full on desert, complete with howling winds, sand, grit and all the other nasties. Manatha decided the pair should seek shelter and soon, so I mentioned that in the distance they could see what looked like a rocky berm.
As the wind picked up and the pair struggled on (I just kept on making the situation worse) they noticed the smell of ozone or something like it - kind of like the first smell of rain.
Their decision was to make a flat out gallop for the berm before it "rained" and get some shelter.
Little did they realise the smell actually signalled the prescense of one of the Oxy Desert's main pests - the Borloi Death Worm.
"There's a crackle of white electricity and something red and horrid explodes out of the sand - more than 15 foot long the worm's great red coils swing around, spraying sand everywhere. As its giant, dripping maw plunges out of the ground there's a flash of electricity."
The worm hooked in with a burst of electrical charge - killing Manatha's mount and badly wounding her. Gerun managed to critically hit the animal with a well aimed crossbow bolt (Sam rolled a 17 - burnt a hero point and added her two points of "Hunter") and it retreaded half into the sand as the warrior ran to help his badly hurt mistress.
As the pair tried to fall back the worm attacked once more- throwing itself at Gerun who beat at it with his crossbow. Manatha was madly trying to come up with a quick and dirty spell when the worm's mate struck - much smaller and less deadly the creature was still more than a match for the wounded sorceress.
It delivered a savage shock to her, knocking her under the 0 lifeblood line and out cold.
Not panicked that his mistress was dead, her henchman came out swinging - hacking at the female worm and driving it back with his short sword.
Still very pissed he turned on the other, bigger, worm when it retreated.
Now, badly hurt and with only one sandrunner the pair made a run for the berm - only to find it was in fact the ruins of an ancient cottage, left vacant many years ago.
As night fell Gerun frantically worked to save his mistress and keep warm.
Now, most GMs would give their pcs a break at this point - but I decided to keep things rolling along as the random generator had rolled.
As dawn broke Gerun sat poking at the guttering fire while his mistress slept. But far off in the distance he noticed a mounted figure.
Another popped up on the horizon shortly afterwards. Wisely assuming these folks were not dropping in for some tea, he packed up the camp, forced the lady onto the sandrunner and got moving.
As the day moved on the figures gained ground and seemed to increase in number. The pair, despite the sorceress' condition, to turn and face the riders and ran to take cover in a rocky hill.
Just before reaching the hillock there came the high pitched battle yell: "I-hiiiiiiii-Eee!" and arrows spat past.
One took Gerun in the shoulder and another failed to punch through his light leather breastplate.
Turning, sword in hand, he saw the men for the first time.
All wore long, flowing robes, many with full face coverings and wound head scarves. The seven that had surrounded them all rode the feathered sand runners and either carried short bows or spears.
All of the spearmen carried big round shields that had been painted in a tacky red substance that seemed to be flaking off.
The pair realised with a start that their shields had been painted in blood.
The raiders moved in - another arrow knocking Gerun down - when Manatha declared she was going to let rip a magical burst of lights and flashes to scare the raiders' animals.
I decided it was a cantrip and would be easily performed.
So just as the raiders moved in - a sudden series of explosions tore across the sand - sending high flashes of sparks and smoke. Easily panicked, many of the mounts bucked their riders and the charged turned into chaos.
Clearly afraid the dusky-skinned raiders pulled back, chattering in their own language until one rode off and returned a minute or two later with a tall, darker man.
Dismounting the man, obviously some sort of leader, walked towards the pair - his sword still in its sheath and his blood painted shield slung.
"You are a magic maker?" he asks in a thick accent.
When he receives an answer in the affirmative, he smiles.
"Good, good - we have waited some time for you. Quickly, my men will tend your wounds and get you some food.
"But then we must be crossing the sands to see Jazal."