Morg, Vinara and Castri headed to the Merchant District to purchase supplies for their expedition into the desert. Eager to start their trip, the trio did not spend much time listening to news or gossip, but rather made their purchases and headed back.
While the others were busy procuring supplies, Gwyn opened their shop and attempted to attract some business. The day was slow, with only one patron, a merchant named Dalem Shom, of House Shom. While inking his house symbol onto his arm, Dalem expressed concern over a missing caravan and a dramatic increase in raider activity. Gwyn mentioned that when they were in the desert, they would keep a look out for the lost caravan.
The group set out the next day, guided only by the shared visions of Vinara and the Wastewalker, they headed towards the rising sun. Watchful for the vague landmarks seen in the visions, the group struggled against the harsh terrain, with Gwyn suffering the most as they crossed ravines and escarpments.
As the group moved through a particularly narrow section of the badlands, thin strands of nearly invisible crystal suddenly became apparent. As they got closer, it was apparent that the strands formed a large web stretching between several of the boulders. Having seen this type of web before, the heroes were not surprised by the appearance of two large crystal spiders. The battle against the spiders was not difficult for the seasoned adventurers, although the blinding light reflected by the spiders caused Gwyn to be blinded for a short while.
After eight grueling days of travel, the group finally reached what they assumed could only be their destination; a dust storm hanging in place over a cliff wall. The stationary storm, a twisting pillar of blowing dust and sand ascended over 50 feet into the sky. The screaming wind promised stinging death to those who entered.
From their vantage point, the adventurers could see more than a dozen humans and humanoids among the jumble of rocks and dunes ahead of them. Their ragtag and eclectic dress suggested they were raiders. Some were perched atop the rocks as sentries and other gathered farther away, partly sheltered by a large boulder. Numerous bound human captives lay near the edge of the stationary dust devil. While they assessed the situation, three of the raiders began to drag a captive across the sand and tosses him into the swirling dust. The captive screamed and was gone.
Acting quickly to maintain the element of surprise and prevent more of the captives from being killed, the group sprang into action. Castri launched a volley of arrows across the boulder taking out one of the tarek raiders who was throwing captives into the storm. Morg charged the nearest raider while Gwyn used her magic on a tougher looking tarek. Vinara and Bear moved to position themselves but were unable to take down any of the raiders.
Gwyn summoned claws of arcane energy to tear away at the raiders foolish enough to close in with her. Vinara drained the lifeblood from her opponent to heal Morg who had been wounded battling several of the humans. Castri continued to launch arrows into the raiders switching to those near the captives after they tossed another into the storm.
The group suffered a bit under the hail of javelins and stabs of spears, but eventually they emerged victorious. Although one of the raiders was alive, the heroes tossed him into the storm. The surviving captives were discovered to be the missing House Shom caravan and promised to tell of the heroics of their saviors upon their return to Tyr. Although there was little to be found on the raiders, they did share one thing in common – a tattoo of a snakes skull. None knew of the significance.
After taking a short rest and seeing the merchants of House Shom off, the heroes decided that the only course of action was to attempt to penetrate the sand storm in the hopes of finding the Face in the Stone. Acting on Castri’s advice, the group lashed themselves together and entered the storm with Morg and Vinara leading the way.
Each was challenged to endure the rigors of the dust devil while helping their comrades through the worst parts. Simple brute strength to push through the sandstorm was not enough, in order to withstand the rigors of the dust devil, each had to avoid getting turned around in the swirling sand. As they pushed further in, the intensity worsened and the punishing winds caused sand dunes to form and shift, threatening to bury them.
Suffering many small wounds, the party eventually emerged from the storm to find a hollow area of still air along a high cliff face. The cliff contained the relief carving of a massive humanoid face – clearly the Face in the Stone. The empty eyes were black shadows, but the gaping mouth was set with two granite obelisks that appeared to be massive teeth. There appeared to be flashes of movement within the cave, but who or what it was, was not possible to determine at the distance.