After an hour or so riding with the potter of Urath, the party came upon his estate, sprawled a few miles outside of Urath itself. The compound was small, consisting of a modestly nice house, a barracks for the slaves, and the clay pits, wheels, and kilns. Also, and of particular interest to Sheera, a small stand of scraggly trees grew near the edge of the property. A small pool of water next to it drew Narimbi’s attention. Also in abundance were people. The grounds seemingly teemed with slaves, guards, and a few task masters. Despite the fact that the market had closed in town, there was still work to be done, even into the evening.
Upon examining the grounds, and Narimbi’s blessing/examination of the water, they began to interview guards and slaves to find out how exactly the slaves had gone missing. They quickly learned that only one ever disappeared, and that was once every two nights. Slaves had awakened from their sleep to see one of their number staggering out into the night, with their eyes still closed. However, little was to be done with this curious information, as a slave had vanished only the night before. The party would have to wait.
Prior to dinner, Cassandra flexed her innate good looks and a roguish streak (that none of us thought her player had) to easily seduce one of the guards, thereby gaining access to their barracks in the main house. After the party shared a quiet meal in the kitchen with the house slaves, she made her rendezvous with the reasonably piggish guard. After satisfying him (and more importantly, herself), she proceeded to help herself to whatever valuables she could find in the room, which amounted to a handful of ceramic coins and bits. After, she found her way to her own room, bolted the door, and went to sleep, as did Narimbi. Sheera, mistrustful of the potter and his many servants and guards, arranged several large barrels of water on the back porch in a concealing manner and slept behind them. The night passed without incident, and the party awakened at dawn, with the exception of Cassandra. (This would become the longest running joke in the campaign. Cassandra is still usually the last one awake after over a year of play. Sometimes, she sleeps through a few rounds of combat before bothering to get herself up.)
During the course of the day, little of note happened. Mostly the party conserved their energy to wait up in the night to see if another slave left. Sheera examined the stand of trees and managed to find herself a good hiding spot in preparation and did a few patrols. She also found some tracks in the sand outside the compound likely left by the last missing slave. Cassandra attempted to break back into the guards’ barracks to no effect, apparently not feeling like seducing any of the others. The blazing day passed in time, the party relatively free from its blistering intensity.
Once the sun had set, the party took a brief meal of rice and fruit, and began to watch the slave barracks, Sheera in the trees, Cassandra and Narimbi in the slaves’ quarters themselves. The hours drew on long into the night and soon, not a soul stirred but the party and the few guards on night duty.
It was sudden. A slave bolted up and began a shuffling, dizzy walk for the door. Narimbi and Cassandra urged him to lie back down but stopped when they saw that his eyes were closed. Having no choice and not wanting to hurt him, they followed him instead. Sheera joined them outside, and they wandered out into the sands, following the drifter.
The hours crawled by out in the open wastes beneath the twin moons of Athas. Sand eventually gave way to rock. That was when the first chatkchas struck, two of them sticking into Cassandra’s chest. Before they knew what was happening, the thri-kreen was on them. The mantis warrior was alone, but armed with gythka, claws, chatkcha, and venomous bite. A vicious battle ensued as it leaped into the middle of the party and began laying waste to the adventurers. After a hard-fought struggle, they injured the creature enough to cause it to flee, although as it bounded away (50 feet at a time!), Sheera could not fell it with her longbow before it passed from her sight. Taking a moment, the sorely beaten adventurers contemplated their wounds as the wind whistled around them.