As you descend from the top of Rock Ridge to investigate the chaos that has apparently broken out in the camp, a wave of nausea runs over you. You close your eyes and the world spins around you. Horrific bile bursts from your nose and mouth and you get the distinct impression of being curled up in the fetal position. You open your eyes only to have them stung by sweat. A wave of heat washes over you and you feel yourself falling.
A decade seems to pass before the cool touch of a water-soaked rag brings you to your senses. The taste in your mouth is what sand would taste like if it had dysentery. A vaguely humanoid shape hovers over you, blocking out what you first took to be the sun, but begin to suspect is a mere lamp suspended above you. The shapes wobbles and moves and you feel something crisp, clear and delicious pass your lips. Honey water. The sweet liquid soothes your parched lips and washes the foulness from your tongue (or mandibles, as the case may be). You feel the slow tingle of energy returning to your lips as your bodily greedily begins processing the life-giving fluid.
“Careful now. Drink slowly.”
The voice is a thousand miles away, but it’s wisdom rings true and you fight every urge in your body to begin gulping at the cup that has been offered to you. After a painstaking series of slow, deliberate sips, your vision starts to focus and you’re able to take in your surroundings.
The tent is something like a large cone. You see support beams splayed out beneath a patchwork of canvas that reaches a peak at the top. Smoke from a tiny cook fire wafts up through the tiny space where the supports meet. Atop of the fire is a thick clay pot that is nearly bubbling over with a savory looking broth. Your stomach heaves at the smell of food and for a moment you wonder if you’re going to loose all the tasty honey water you just imbibed, but the pain soon passes and you come to realize that it’s hunger!
“It’s almost ready, but you will have to wait awhile before you can handle anything more than lek’sha.”
The cup is placed to your lips again and you drink deeply, but deliberately.
“Good. Good. Already the strength flows back into your bones. Do you remember who you are? Where you are?”
Names and faces pass before your mind’s eye. You see yourself and your companions. You remember the biting winds of the sandstorm that separated you from the caravan that was bound for Urik. That was days ago, though. You can’t quite be sure how many suns have set since then. 3? 5? 12? Everything is a blur.
Suddenly, a deep sense of danger strikes at your heart. You remember brigands, fire and the name “Greasefinger”. The shape beside you comes into focus as the adrenaline rushes through your veins. Your caretaker is human and very old. He has a mass of thick, gray dreadlocks around a wizened old face. He wears the trappings of a wastelander and you get the distinct impression that he is some kind of medicine man. With slow deliberate motions, he calmly points out the shapes of your companions laid out around the cookfire.
“Do not be worried. Be joyful! You and your friends have safely survived not only the deep desert, but the sweating sickness. What fortune there is on Athas smiles upon you. Here. Drink. The lek’sha will replenish your strength, then you can explore Rock Ridge and be reunited with your fellows.”
A day passes in the medicine man’s tent. He calls himself Flinz and though he will not let you leave until he is certain you feel better, he does take time to answer your questions and fill in some of the holes in your mind. You are, in fact, in Rock Ridge – a small trading post south of Urik and east of Tyr. The post is overseen by a man called Greasefinger who regularly hires mercenaries from the Longstrider League to keep the peace and guard against raids and roving wildlife. Flinz also mentions a group of wastelanders who have been in town. Apparently, he found a few of them in his tent pawing over your belongings shortly after he started treating you for the sweating sickness.
The disease itself is caused by extreme exposure to the wastes of Athas. Flinz was sure that at least one of you would die, but something seemed to be keeping you together. When one worsened, all worsened, but when one started to recover, the rest drew strength from it until you were all awake and sipping lek’sha. Of your strange fever dreams, Flinz can only say that people see many weird things when death is upon them. The whole thing seems to be distasteful to him, but he can give you no insight into why you all had same dream. Perhaps you each pulled in disparate elements of your surroundings and added it to the shared experience.
Once the old codger is finally satisfied that you’ve eaten enough broth and are fully recovered, he sends for a man who you all immediately recognize as Dra’Qim; the human mercenary who hired you each of you to join the Longstrider League.
“Welcome back to the land of the living, boys. If you’re done with your little nap, it’s time to get to work.”