Word has gone out that Henry Cargan, entirely responsible young scion of the noble Cargan family, is looking for a party of guards to escort some workers to the desert and back. Rumour is that he's got some new business venture he needs a lot of sand for. He's offering 36 Riel a head simply to accompany the workers on what should be a relatively straightforward trip to dig it up and bring it back to Acryn.
The party are given a map of the desert and Serradic patrols by Henry Cargan, along with 162 Riel to buy sacks and pay the workers their upfront fee. He also offers a bonus of 30R each if 80% or more of the workers come back alive (Henry is concerned about his reputation when hiring people in the future.) Taking this offer and the money, the party set off. Unfortunately, the sack merchant's shop is over-run with rats, but the party bravely fight them off and are rewarded with free sacks by the grateful merchant (meaning they get to keep the 12R intended for purchasing them). The next problem encountered is that the 30 quarry workers thought they were getting all their pay up front, not just 5R each, and aren't sure they want to come along. Luckily, this is resolved when some of their less competent friends bring down a rockface on top of them, and everyone decides that even the desert is probably safer than this.
Finally on the road, the party and workers are set upon by bandits, who prove a touch challenge but are finally taken down and left to die, though sadly one of the workers is also killed in the fracas. He is carefully buried and a note made of where his grave is. Approaching Liarus, the party make the decision to wait for a Serradic patrol that Henry's intel tells them should come along the road once a day, and follow it back towards Liarus to get a bit further ahead on the road. They manage to do this without being spotted - until that patrol heading back passes another one heading out directly towards the party, at which point there is not enough time to get party, workers and wagons well enough off the road to not be spotted. A fight ensues, which the party wins, but unfortunately only manage to kill most of the Serradic soldiers - one escapes back along the road to the west despite Otto's best attempts to chase them down.
Choosing to get off the road, Emily is able to guide them through the Flux and find them decent tracks for the wagons to be pulled along. This unfortunately does not protect them from magpies, which are very attracted by the shiny silvery forms of Emily and Felix and start to attack. They are killed easily enough, but not before some of them manage to peck Emily, Felix and Chloe on unprotected skin, which leaves them all feeling oddly drawn to shiny things themselves. A resulting attempt to loot the magpies' nest requires yet another, much larger, magpie to be killed too - but they do get 60R from it, which is shared amongst the three who really want it.
Having successfully forded a treacherous river with the help of some rope, the party are welcomed to the desert by traditional flux sandworms, with a few hopeful vultures hovering overhead in case corpses (or the pile of minced flesh that is Otto) are available. The sandworms are dispatched and the vultures left happily munching on them, while the party moves on to find the area of sand they're actually supposed to be digging up. As the desert becomes more desert-y around them, they meet a group of nomads at an oasis, who in addition to goading Emily into attempting to eat a rock (this doesn't go well) also share the information that apparently another group very similar to this one has recently been digging up some other nearby bit of desert too. This concerns the party, and Felix finds out from their workers that indeed another group of workers from the same quarry was hired a few weeks before, by someone who concealed their identity - not in the open fashion that Henry Cargan hired them.
Having identified a suitable dune, the workers start to dig. On the first night, Chloe on lookout spots what looks to be another campfire some miles to the south-east, but when this is investigated the next day it has been abandoned. Wagon tracks lead out to the north-east, back towards the road. A day later, the workers have filled the wagons with sand, but as the sun rises, Emily on watch becomes aware that a thunderstorm is approaching, whipping up sand as it comes. Everyone attempts to hunker down and wait it out, but the storm is so slow-moving - and the lightning so attracted to shiny metal people - that eventually the decision is made to push forwards out of it. Otto helps by holding his sword high in the air so the lightning strikes him instead. When the storm finally passes, a second worker has died. Nobody bothers to bury him or mark his grave.
Travel back through the flux is uneventful this time, but as the party get back to the road they are confronted by a troubling sight - a beefed-up Serradic patrol coming further out from Liarus (including the one soldier who got away from the previous patrol) has just spotted a somewhat smaller and unprepared group of Acryn militia coming from the east. The party joins in the fight on the side of the Acryn patrol, and manage to save them and kill all the Serradics. The Acryn patrol are very grateful and ask the party to send word back to Acryn of this apparent ramp-up in militarisation on the Serradic side. The party promises to do so, but leaves quickly when the militia start questioning whether Emily and Felix look familiar from Wanted posters…
Finally getting back to Acryn, the decision is made to park the wagons in a safe wagon parking area before informing Henry Cargan they're back, but unfortunately the wagon parking area has been staked out by another group of adventurer-looking people who demand the sand. This leads to a fight, in the course of which another worker dies, while most of the other mercenaries are kept alive, but Felix is so infuriated by one who keeps getting healed that he executes them. The rest of the party is a little shocked at this, and Otto in particular is unimpressed. Within the other group, one rather cackling person was using a staff which hurt people when it touched them and was being used to keep his party alive - after the fight is over, multiple people attempt to pick up the staff and promptly find themselves unwilling and unable to put it down again. Otto binds it to the floor and sternly orders everyone not to touch it, before carefully putting it away for later study. The Watch show up to investigate the fight, at which point Felix abruptly decides to be elsewhere, so he and Emily go to find Henry Cargan.
Henry is worried by the rumours of another load of sand having been brought back to Acryn, and rushes to ensure that his sand gets to his cover safely and quickly. Upon reaching the cove, however, a disturbing sight meets his eyes: between his cove to the south and a more sheltered cove owned by the Terrec family to the north, there is a breakwater protecting the shore in his cove. On this breakwater stands Lena Terrec, spouting nonsense about how making a beach was her brilliant idea and her beach will be the most amazing thing Acryn's ever seen, with donkeys and everything, while Henry's doomed idea fails after all his sand is swept away. She has a group of workers chipping away at the breakwater as she speaks, but helpfully is also able to use fracturing magic to speed up this process. An argument ensues between a) Henry and Lena and b) the party and Lena's workers, who are very reluctant to leave the breakwater without finishing the job and being paid. These both last for long enough that eventually the breakwater crumbles under everyone's feet, throwing some people into the water. Henry and Lena also end up in the water as their shouting match escalates into name-calling and hair-pulling. Eventually, everyone gets back on the shoreline and manages to separate the two idiot nobles, while Otto goes to inform a magistrate of the events of the day.
Everyone except Otto later meets Henry Cargan in a tavern to be paid - they get their original agreed pay plus the bonus, since in the end only three workers died. Otto, meanwhile, shares all the details of the trip with a secretary at the Magistrates' Court, including describing Felix as a murderer and giving all the details of him that he can. This is understandably concerning, and updated Wanted posters are issued. Felix himself, along with Emily and Chloe, are attempting to find a cure for their magpie effect, and (for Felix and Emily) for the effect of having been hit by the magic staff. They go first to the church of the Tender, where Felix pays 10R to be asked a lot of questions, given no helpful advice and put on an extremely long waiting list (giving the name 'Bartholomew Potts'. They then follow a priest's advice to try the Wayfinders' Guild instead, whereupon the wayfinders are very interested in Emily and not so much in anyone else - Felix and Chloe are told they can't be helped. Emily, on the other hand, is kept in a locked room until she signs a guild membership document, whereupon the wayfinders work on her to remove her losing-all-her-bone-marrow problem. She comes out of this no longer dying, and no longer drawn to shiny things, but now with the effect that she looks normal when in Consensus, but if she concentrates while in Flux she can bring back her silver form. Content with this, she goes to ground. Chloe gives up on trying to find a cure for the magpie effect. Felix, however, makes one final attempt to work out what the staff did to him, and goes to the College of the Stars, where he again gives the name Bartholomew Potts and fascinates the mage investigating him, until he confesses that he isn't terribly averse to the idea of killing innocents, whereupon the mage gets rather more terrified. From this mage, Felix gets the general impression that he can now change into small flying mammals, bathe in the blood of the innocents, or possibly eat brains. He seems reasonably happy with this.
As a result of this, a second Wanted poster goes out from the Watch, containing a very different artist's impression of Bartholomew Potts, this time as a hideous skeleton with fangs. Otto recognises that it is Felix, however, and helpfully goes back to the secretary at the Magistrates' Court to inform her of this. The Wanted posters are updated to contain both sets of information. Otto also sends a message to Henry Cargan and finally gets his pay. Having suffered horrible dreams from keeping the evil staff nearby, he also arranges for it to be sent back to the University of Strossbourg for further study. He is given a customs document which contains explicit disclaimers about Acryn taking no responsibility for any eventual destruction of Strossbourg resulting from this.
In news of the actual plot, witness statements on the various fights are taken from everyone except Emily and Felix, who have gone to ground. Nobody remembers to mention anything about the probably annoyed Serradic forces in Liarus. Otto and Vulcan give full descriptions of everything that happened, while Ruby and Chloe are more reticent regarding Felix executing people. From what is heard around the city in the following weeks, it seems Houses Cargan and Terrec are keeping closer control over their young members, but a case for criminal damage of Cargan property is still being brought.