After spending a day recuperating at the Cedar Leaf Inn, which was shaped entirely out of living wood by its Druidic owner, the party makes its way to the Far Oasis to prepare for the long trek across the Windward Desert. They discover the owner, Aksa, may or may not be racist against gnomes, but she takes a shine to Daukua. During haggling, Daukua accidentally lets slip the party’s destination: the Ruins of Iskandar. Aksa, a shrewd old woman, advises Daukua that the Sufia has forbidden travel to Iskandar, and extorts extra money out of Daukua in order to keep his secret.
The party settles on a Sandsail, an unusual from of transport that they hope will shave several days off the journey time to their destination. Built like a small ocean-going ship, the Sandsail skims across the desert on skis, with several large canvas sails to propel it. This particular Sandsail is piloted by a young Talay, Rashid, and his hulking half-orc co-pilot, Gam. Neither Gam nor Rashid are particularly talkative, but the party eventually learns that Rashid, despite being a teenager, is one of the more skilled desert guides under Aksa’s employ.
Several weeks out from D’jamena, the characters spot a group of Formians keeping pace with the Sandsail far out in the desert. Rashid seems exceptionally nervous, and reveals his parents were killed in a Formian caravan raid years ago. The Formians, large, ant-like creatures, are known to inhabit the deep desert and prey on human settlements. The bugs don’t trouble the caravan first, but that changes when the group arrives in Haroun, the last tiny village before their destination.
Smoke rises from the village, and a barricade has been built across the road. The party meets with a group of scared but determined militia, and learns a large group of Formians has placed the village under a state of virtual siege for the past several days, staged skirmishes on the outskirts of town to gauge the defenders’ strength. The town militia, bolstered by a detachment of Fezhazeen warriors, is still poorly equipped to defend the village.
The situation turns critical shortly after the party arrives and pulls their sandsail into the middle of the village. The Fezhazeen commanding officer, Ibn Jafir (also a shopkeep in town), informs our group of adventurers that Formian activity has been spotted on the south and northwest sides of the community. The group is preparing for the worst when Yivellor, acting on a whim, sprints to the south side of town. There, he discovers a group of several Formian surrounding a house. The Formian give chase, pinning a desperate Yivellor on the roof of a neighboring building. The situation is looking grim for Yivellor when a griffin, summoned by Pall-bar, changes the tide of battle. Using quick thinking, the group defeats the Formians on the rooftop, only to be beset by more of the pony-sized insects.
A flying Pall-bar proves decisive in this battle, as he casts a handful of ensnaring spells from a safe vantage point to entangle the creatures, which are easily picked off by Daukua and Ugagn. The battle is turning in the group’s favor when the Formians’ activities are revealed. A huge section of sand outside the first house collapses, and a Formian empath—one of the most feared creatures in the desert—emerges from the mouth of a sand tunnel, along with more of the beasts. Again, ensnaring spells change the tide of battle, and the empath, despite numerous mental assaults, is handily defeated.
With the empath slain, the party pauses to take a breath before deciding its next moves.