Hermodur, Norvegicus, Rabi, Silver and Zunden have traveled to the cruel, unforgiving expanse known as the Shifting Sands with their companion Violet. On the way, they became allies with the monks of the Lunar Monastery after helping them solve a murder case. The culprit, a bat pony mare named Aurora d'Arbanville, has also joined the party on their travels.
Back in the Dominion, Hermodur has had visions of Ailuros' continued campaign. Against her normal wishes, the would-be princess has contracted a Fire Witch, members of a sect of Celestia that are known for their prophetic powers. Ailuros is using the Fire Witch's abilities to routinely check on Hermodur. Hermodur himself has also encountered a Fire Witch called Fever Ray, who suggested trying dragonfire to transmit messages out of the Echoes.
Meanwhile, Zunden encountered a crippled mare called Dawn, who was under the care of the monks, who was found by them under bizarre circumstances. She soon found that this was the same Dawn whose ruined journal they had found at the start of their travels, although she was unfortunately not able to say much to Zunden before passing out. However, her most grevious wounds have been healed, and she will recover in time, although it is unlikely she will be able to see well again.
The Shifting Sands have proven themselves as deadly and treacherous as their reputation. A vast expanse of crimson sand, the Sands are populated by all manner of monstrous creatures, such as the predatory Terreocti or the elusive but deadly Bone Shambler, and the few that live there have been driven to madness and desperation by the desert. To make things worse, the party have discovered that the desert itself is alive, comprised of millions and millions of tiny treasure-loving insects masquerading as grains of sand.
Not all is despair, however. The party have not only grown in number with the addition of Aurora, but also made the acquaintance of a pair of traveling merchants, Rosen and Gilder, from who they acquired clothes for their journey as well as a disparity of magical trinkets. After having claimed water supplies from a reaver camp nearby, the party stand poised to embark on a long and arduous stretch of their journey traversing a vast salt flat. Beyond lies the center of the desert where Violet has heard great treasures can be found in forgotten ruins, as well as the heart of the Shifting Sands: an immense spire known as the Hive.
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