We rejoin our adventurers, bruised but not beaten at the hands of Ferraden Priest and all around douchebag Alec. Choosing to fight rather than give up their newly furry friend Karankawa to certain pain and almost certain death, the Four Locos learned a quick lesson in biting off more than they can chew (this comes up again later). Threatened by the terrifying “demon box” and bored with how easy the fight is, Alec rides off to tattle to the emperor, making sure to look incredibly upset so everyone notices.
After picking themselves up and busting open a few healing kits, the Four Locos dramatically look west towards the desert and the Blacklands, choosing to follow the slave caravan that might hold Swift’s kidnapped sister Linda. Also they are pretty much done with Akhen. Nothing but bad memories.
It dawns on our adventurers pretty quickly that one horse will not get five people through the desert, so they find a camel merchant. As each one looks sadly into their empty pockets it becomes clear that camels must be acquired some other way. Arcturus suggests selling Swift’s horse, Epona (pronunciations vary), to a butcher. Tears begin to well in Swift’s eyes at the mention of horse meat and it is decided to trade Epona instead. An incredibly, almost cartoonishly, ethnic gentleman tells them he will gladly accept Swift’s steed in exchange for a 3-legged camel affectionately referred to as Hippity-Hoppity. Karankawa, in an immediate decision to cut the bullshit, employs the bargaining tactic known as “choking a guy” and demands 5 camels in exchange for Epona. The combination of imagining himself on a grand steed and being choked really hard convinces the merchant to give our heroes 4 camels. They gladly accept because nobody cares about Mazirian and whether or not he gets to ride a camel. As it turns out, Mazirian cares about Mazirian, and he quickly conjures up illusory gold to buy his own non-illusory camel. Everyone is pissed at Mazirian for not thinking of that sooner.
After riding six hours into the desert, our adventurers come upon the oddly named Manta Ray Inn and decide to stop for the night to rest and drink. The barkeep, Arran, takes good care of our heroes and all but Jasha promptly get drunk. While Arcturus sings and dances with the bard and Karankawa strikes up a conversation with Blind Bill, a stern looking man with a dog enters the bar. The tenseness in the air is immediate and the patrons begin leaving one by one as the man sits at the bar. He announces that he is the Emperor’s Bloodhound and our heroes are very confused as to why he is the Bloodhound and the dog is not the Bloodhound. The Bloodhound has been sent to arrest our heroes for attacking a Hand of the Emperor (douchebag Alec) and to retrieve a magical item known only to him as “the box.” They can either spend two weeks in jail or pay a fine of 50 gold. He warns them that they are surrounded by soldiers and he will take what he was sent for by force if necessary.
Jasha tries but fails to warn him of the dangers of passing the box over to Alec and she is forced to hand it over. As she thrusts the box at the Bloodhound, a cool and clammy hand brushes hers and she looks up just in time to see Karankawa, the mildly powerful Frog Amulet around his neck, grab the box from her and leap off into the desert night. Frozen in place at the sight of such valor, our heroes are forced to watch as Karankawa frog leaps away from the soldiers in an effort to create a diversion. Unfortunately, the horses’ gallop proves to be quicker than the frog’s leap and Karankawa is caught. In a last ditch effort to save the box, Jasha tries to convince the Bloodhound that it was the amulet the Emperor wanted all along. Considering she was already in the process of handing over the box and looking upset about it, the Bloodhound saw past her lies and left with the box and 50 pieces of their gold.
This is where we leave our adventurers. Boxless, broke, and defeated. For this one night they will sleep under a sky tainted with failure and know exactly how Mazirian must feel most days.