The player characters, who have very little knowledge of each other, have been gathered in the realm Muir, in the central village of Lonely Pine by Cassius Arran. Muir is a temperate grassy realm whose primary export is mutton and sheepskin. The realm border is a acidic marsh, full of dangerous creatures. People largely avoid it.
Cassius, an elder of Lonely Pine, calls the PCs to his house on the periphery of town. He tells them that it is time to perform the yearly ritual in the marsh that keeps the town from being swallowed. He says that the ritual requires a golden amulet, and that it has been sent to a jeweler in the next town over. Problem is, it should have come back about 5 days ago, and he’s worried it got laid up somewhere. Could the PCs please travel through the realm Claws of Man, to Ghadra, the main city in the realm Jutai. The trip isn’t long, but it does involve some serious hiking, and Cassius is simply too old to make the journey. He gives them two potions of healing to begin their voyage. He gives them a warning about bandits, and asks them to please be careful.
The Claws of Man is a realm that is a mountain pass that drops off into an abyss. It is used as a chokepoint by the adversary. The wilderness along the major road is full of nasty critters—the Pine Louse chief among them. Resting in the forest is likely to draw their attention, several soldiers workers climb down from the trees they are resting in. The sound is masked by the wind, but players making a perception check can see that significant parts of the tree’s bark are moving, revealing a glimmering carapace underneath.
A quick look around reveals several cacoonlike pods hanging from the tree above them. Inside, there are the undigestable remains of previous travelers. Inside are 40 sp, a gold ring inset with mother of pearl (non-magical) worth 240 gold, a bunch of random iron bits from clothing – belt buckles, rivets, and other trash. There is also a heavy metal torc that appears to be denser and darker than iron. It is wound from several strands of metal, and is headed with a dragon on each side.
Moving on to Jutai, a hot sandy realm, and Ghadra, the city therein. Jutai is home to some strange weather, including sand springs, and dust rain that create pooling and moving rivers of sand. On the edge of Jutai, the sand and dust is lifted skyward, whipping up with enough force to etch steel. Travel through the sandstorm is extremely dangerous, and almost never attempted.