After their meeting with Glorin Hammerfist the Bear Claws approach Dunesend. As they approach they hear shouting, and weeping. Through the trees several of the Bear Claws see a satyr tailing them. When he realizes he has been spotted he takes off toward Dunesend. The Bear Claws pursue and find a large gnoll who has just killed a teenage son of one of the citizens. He has a young Behir companions that slinks around behind him, intimidating the surrounding villagers. The gnoll Warden is shouting angrily that the people have not provided the proper amount for their tribute.
The Bear Claws leap into action, skewer the fleeing satyr and charge the offending Warden. Thornside knocks out the satyr with his bow in order to question him later. The behir rises up and swallows Jak, taking him down in one gulp. Jak rallies his strength and slices his way out of the behir, killing it.
The Warden and his satyr friends fall quickly and the townspeople react with anger. Now that the Warden is dead it will be worse for them when Queen Shephatiah finds out. Queen Shephatiah is the Queen of the Drylands and the Warden showed up about a year ago demanding tribute on her behalf.
James casts a ritual on the body of the Warden and sees a vision of him crossing the desert, living in a sparse room made of stone and speaking to a green-haired Eladrin sitting on a jeweled throne.
Thornside puts his tracking dust on the unconscious satyr and leaves him with the other dead in hopes of tricking him into thinking that he survived by chance.
Everyone goes to Bede’s Bakery where he serves them bear claws and tea and talks to them about adventuring. He was an adventurer in his younger days and he gifts a lucky charm to Alton. Thornside asks for advice about being a sneaky adventurer and Bede issues caution, telling him that sometimes poor choices reflect on your adventuring party.
Xaladin sends an animal messenger into the feywild to his old friend to ask about Queen Shephatiah.
Elberesk buys the horses from the Bear Claws because they will not be able to make the journey into the desert. He promises to sell them back at 80% when they return.
Checking on the satyr Thornside discovers that he has left and that his trail leads into the Thornwaste, instead of in the direction they intended to go. The rest of the Bear Claws sleep while he tracks it down. The satyr tells him that he was hired by the Warden to show up and intimidate the townspeople once a month. He doesn’t know anything about Shephatiah or the Warden or the Karak Lode.
Deciding to follow the trail that James saw in his ritual across the desert, Alton summons some phantom steeds with flaming hooves and eyes and the party sets out. The desert is hot and unrelenting and lots of sand. At night it is cold and uncomfortable.
Halfway through the second day they encounter a hag, disguised as a dry and thirsty old woman. When they spot her escort hiding in the sand she screams and turns into her hideous self. Jak smashes her teeth and the other Bear Claws make short work of her and the three razorclaw shifters that are with her. They keep one alive and try to question him. He tells them his tribe lives in the desert and Shephatiah uses them as muscle for her operation. He tells them that the fortress entrance is guarded and that there is a bluff behind the fortress that is unguarded. On the top of the bluff is a hole that leads into an inner courtyard of the fortress.
There is much discussion about what to do with the prisoner until Roland kills him. James buries the dead so they will be harder to find by roving patrols.
The Bear Claws continue on their way and approach the Ironfell Fortress. It is carved into a basalt bluff, two towers with a narrow passage between them. A broken Ironfell crest can be seen above the entrance.
Thornside sneaks close and sees that all the arrow slits that he can see are guarded by dummies and there are obvious signs of a trap in the entry way. The Bear Claws decide to scale the bluff and lower ropes for those less inclined to climb.
When they reach the top Jak and James find a nest of Harpies that leap into the air to attack.