When the Tragic Hero finally comes to a stop, it is a ruined vessel. Its cracked hull slowly spills sand in to the interior and after a few minutes to patch up the people who were injured in the landing, Samm pokes his head above decks to see what’s going on outside.
What he sees is an endless, featureless salt flat. The ship is torn in to multiple pieces, the masts snapped off, sails missing, and the wheel Husk once manned transformed in to nothing but a splintered crater lined with crusted rime and blood that stinks of alcohol.
After a little investigation, they find that they’re in the midst of the Salt Meres. Known for some immense magical catastrophe in ages past, the result is an enormous, multiple hundreds of miles wide salt flat that thwarts attempts to use magic and contains only the most deadly (and inedible) of Athasian predators. The cruel revelation that the ship’s ruins do not contain enough food and water for the entire contingent of survivors to escape this desert alive is kept secret for now, though most people have figured it out and begin looking for opportunities to extend their own lives.
Meanwhile, Vorelixen happens across a very strange feature in the gray – A fortress wall, complete with banners of the far realm and specifically She Which Bleeds. Investigating further, she finds none other than the ghost of High Praetor DeConste who swears fealty to her before they all (with Vintner and Ared) enter the strangely unguarded fortress. What they find is a series of nightmarish, reality-breaking hallways and stairwells, which eventually empty out in to a ruinous hall of far realm creatures and cultists from different worlds, many of which the group had never heard of. At the end of the hall was a stage containing a familiar figure: Mara, who had claimed the title of She Which Bleeds albeit a bit more viscerally than her predecessor.
Deciding escape was more valuable than an assassination attempt, Vorelixen, Vintner, and Ared made a break for it while DeConste drew steel to do battle with whoever would follow them. Escaping by the skin of their teeth, they found their way to the surface back in to the gray where two humongous funnels of souls had formed like tornados of the dead. Vorelixen’s heightened awareness of the gray determined these were portals to other worlds – One smelling of the Raven Queen, and the other of cheap kank nectar. She picked kank nectar, and her cadre followed her in.
Back in the salt flats, the heroes were assaulted in the night by an enormous Nightmare Beast. Used to being an apex predator, it was quite surprised when a quartet of irate and hungry adventurers dispatched it easily, oddly led by a psionic dwarf named Priscilla. They left the corpse in the desert to attract other would-be predators from their group and began a forced march through the night, coming upon actual structures by morning. Along the way, the murmuring of Gebak and his halfling ways (specifically claims of cannibalism) would eventually lead to mutiny, and in a power struggle to regain control of his own pirates Gebak demanded he take over the expedition to show his strength. Unwilling to relinquish control (or let pirates take food from the mouths of other starving people) Samm was forced to kill him.
The remnants of a ruined city, it appeared that the place had been blown out by some very powerful force from the center of it outward. With a functioning well, it was as good a camping spot as any and the group set down to replenish their water supply still in great need of food. Their solution was to kill Rikard, causing him to reform in some unknown amount of time at his phylactery, where he would then call his phoenix, load up on supplies, and return to the group. They would keep a torch lit until his return.
In the night, the curse of the ruined city manifested. The dead do not rest well in Bodach, and as the sun descended past the horizon the corpses under the sand arose to extinguish all life in their lair. The draw of their souls from the gray formed a thick funnel of souls, which Vorelixen had followed directly to Samm and his odor of kank nectar. Needing to do battle to survive the night, Samm, Priscilla, Vorelixen, and Althaea took positions atop the nearest building and tried to hold off the seemingly endless horde of the undead. Though it nearly killed Priscilla, they would eventually need to take shelter in Vorelixen’s Shadow Mire, suffering the impact of zombies being thrown by their companions and arcane undead that could survive her warlock magics.
At dawn, a phoenix arose with the sun, and atop it sat Rikard, who air dropped enough food for a small army. The few survivors, it seemed (roughly twenty of them) would actually escape the Salt Meres.