Amongst the shifting sands of the Nerrab desert lies a large oasis. This oasis has been a major stop on all travel and trade routes through the desert for generations. Despite attempts to enforce a pact of nonviolence in the area, many people have died attempting to take control of this source of clean water. It wasn’t until the arrival of Rognis Lazwel, a Halfling silk merchant, that the cycle of strife began to fade. Rognis always had a keen eye for business and realized that selling portions of a valuable resource such as water was easier and more profitable than trying to stop anyone else from using it.
He hired mercenaries from local ratfolk tribes to defend the oasis from bandits and paid them by charging traders a single copper piece for every sip of water from the oasis. Once word got out about the new security at the oasis more traders became willing to stop there and Rognis’s profits soared. By raising the price of water to a silver piece he was able to fund the construction of defensive fortifications around the oasis which was soon christened Fort Lazwel. The construction of the fort even encouraged some of the traders to put down roots and open up permanent businesses. Shrewd as ever Rognis put up some of his own money to help the fledgling businesses on the condition that he receives a certain percentage of their profits as taxation.
The traders who pass through and live in Fort Lazwel are an eclectic bunch with many different races and cultures represented. All of them are working hard to make ends meet despite Rognis taking larger and larger portions of their profits every year. The most popular tavern in the area is The Sandy Boot, a moderately sized establishment run by two half-elves. They claim to be brothers despite looking nothing at all alike. Just inside the gates of the fort is a general store called Hobkin’s Hodgepodge run by a family of gnomes. An elven weapon smith who goes by the name of Vitex set up shop here because he much prefers the dry heat of the desert to cool forests.
In addition to the traders, nomadic tribes of ratfolk eke out a living in the Nerrab desert as well. They travel from oasis to oasis, trading with each other and living off what they can hunt. Many of the younger ratfolk take jobs as guards around Fort Lazwel and other trading posts in order to make extra money that they can send to their traveling families. Older ratfolk often offer their services as guides for trading caravans. Because older ratfolk can charge a higher rate due to their experience, some newer guides have been known to dust themselves in ash to give their fur a grayer look in order to boost their rates.
The adult blue dragon Shinraza is young by the standards of her species, but she is easily as ambitious as any dragon twice her age. She sees the wealth of trade that flows through the Fort Lazwel and wants it for herself. She does not want to disrupt the systems already in place and instead simply wishes to replace Rognis at the top so all profits flow directly to her. Shinraza knows that a direct assault on Fort Lazwel would be counterproductive since all trade would dry up at the first sign of trouble. Rumors have been spreading amongst the traders that she would pay a handsome price to anyone who could discretely remove Rognis from power.
Strange folks have been passing through Fort Lazwel lately. They’re not the typical traders or explorers who usually make their way across the desert. They tend to be fairly quiet and bookish types who only stick around long enough to buy supplies before heading out into the desert never to be seen again. They get a lot of strange looks because of the dark black robes they all wear. When asked about their fashion sense or their destination they simply reply that they’re members of The Sect of the Ravenous Wind on a holy mission. When pressed for more information they elaborate on their sect’s gospel which states that the world and all who live in it will soon be destroyed by a massive sandstorm. It is only by journeying deep into the desert and performing secret occult rituals that they can prevent this apocalyptic end. They don’t seem at all surprised that other sect members have come before them and seemingly disappeared; they only nod their heads serenely before heading out into the desert themselves.
A strong sandstorm blowing through the area has uncovered an ancient tomb in a nearby patch of sand dunes. Tombs of this sort aren’t uncommon, in fact, there are many such ruins in the area but over the years they have been picked clean of all valuables. This new tomb, however, has been generating all sorts of hushes whispers due to its unusual designs and markings. Bas-relief carvings along the uncovered exterior depict ocean scenes with fish and merfolk. How art like this came to be, despite being hundreds of miles from a coastline is a perplexing question. Even more disconcerting, the steps leading deeper into the tomb are flooded with black brackish water that no light can penetrate.
Drag & Drop Encounter (CR 11)
Desert Giants are a common enough at Fort Lazwel that those who live there barely give them a second glance. The two giants Omaeh and Bralare have to stoop under the gate as they enter and inside they tower over everyone else. They have come seeking a thief who broke into their camp late last night and managed to escape with their gold. It was a moonless last night so Omaeh and Bralare were unable to see the thief clearly but are convinced this is where the thief is hiding. Upon spotting the PCs, Omaeh lets out a shout and both giants rapidly approach with their scimitars drawn.