Hsessriss usually hunted in the swamps alone, a practitioner of Camactli's "Sacred Hunt." One fateful day he rescued a pair of travelers and brought them back to Home. They were a grizzled Alligator tribe Monk called Walks-Without-Purpose and a bubbly Yuan-Ti Oracle who's name was Jyothikyrinnan Chusi (or "Jones" for short). Since everyone in Home must contribute to the greater good, the new arrivals were set up with jobs. Walk-Without-Purpose would aid in the local herbalists and Jones would assist Ter'Ri the Egg-Tender. Both would stay in Slaughter Swamp with the curmudgeon hermit Druid called "Old Bones" until they could get their own huts. Hsessriss himself lives in the Hunting Lodge, but dreams of one day having his own private yurt. Their friend Brand is a young Velociraptor acolyte of Firekeeper Charr. Before she joined the clergy of the sun god Rae, Brand was an abandoned egg raised by the hunters. Originally called "Bait," she would be used to flush out small game, easily out-running most danger. Now Brand lives on the highest hill in town and is tasked with maintaining the fires for Oten the Slaver, the Smokehouse, and Mother Yaku's Public House.
Located just off of the Desert Road in the village's north-side, Mother Yaku’s Public House is the largest building in Home. For a crossroads community like this, it is vital to have a central meeting place that is a common ground for all folk. Mother Yaku, the impossibly ancient Velociraptor who runs the house, has a simple rule. While some fighting is to be expected, there is to be no lethal violence within her territory. The rule is simply “Kill and BE killed."
The gang were having a pleasant evening, telling each other about their day over drinks at a table outside of the crowded inn. At the table next to them was the bloated slaver named Slythe and his thugs Ghem, Drek, Bort, Nagog. They were drunk, angry, and looking to goad somebody into a fight. Mindful of Mother Yaku's rule, the gang did their best to ignore the goons and keep the tension from escalating.
The old blind hunter Ssillian the Wise arrived at Mother Yaku's and announced that Toku’s hunting party (including himself and the hunters Snapjaw & Two Claw) were now 4 suns overdue from the Brutal Steppes, and he feared the worst. The village would never be able to survive without their contribution of meat. Slythe & his goons laughed and mocked Ssillian, and these antics forced Hsessriss to take action. When Slythe and his goons brandished weapons, Hsessriss and Brand decided to match them with lethal violence. Walks-Without-Purpose subdued many of the goons with a knockout quarterstaff blow to their heads. A novice in melee combat, Jones' poison spray kept missing. Soon she was severely wounded and quickly slithered into the public house for safety. Mother Yaku's law only extended as far as her property, so Hsessriss dragged Slythe just past the mushrooms that marked her yard and disemboweled the fat lizard. Later he would fashion a new club from Slythe's femur. Terrified and leaderless, the rest of the goons fled the scene. Brand took an obsidian dagger from Slythe's half-eaten corpse, claiming the lava-forged weapon as sacred to her god. She also took his bronze breastplate, while Hsessriss claimed Slythe's whip and skull helmet.
The gang prepped to leave town and seek out the missing hunters at first light. Ssillian the Wise promised that he would smooth things over with Slythe's boss, Oten the Slaver. Brand hated Oten passionately, having to visit his compound on Slave Hill daily as part of her fire-tending rounds. Firekeeper Charr was strangely heartfelt with her goodbye, going so far as to give Brand a hug before she left. Old Bones was seemingly delighted that Walks-Without-Purpose and Jones were leaving her hovel, but she forced the monk to take a well-stocked herbalism kit and to accept a rune that she painted on his forehead with mud. Jones claimed five unfertilized eggs from the Egg-Tender as a road-snack. While she loved taking care of the "leggy babies," she loved eating eggs even more. After Brand's morning prayers, the gang left town to find Toku & his missing hunters.
Hsessriss is a skilled tracker, and initially he was able to find the missing hunter's trail. For or the next six suns they traveled the Brutal Steppes. Walks-Without-Purpose shared with them the nuts from the Kola tree, giving them the energy to ignore exhaustion and keep tracking their quarry. When they lost the trail, Jones was able to auger the correct path by rolling her bones. Losing the trail had cost them precious time, and they were growing low on provisions. They needed meat, and soon, if they were to continue. After six suns of travel, the now starving adventurers found the scene of a battle. The ground was littered with broken arrows made in Home by A’Roo and there were long drag marks like those made by prey captured in a hunting net. The footprints of dozens of giant riding lizards were plainly visible, even to the untrained eye. Though there were many signs of a struggle, there was only one body. This Komodo tribe Lizard had been shot in the back by Brutal Horde arrows, and lay near death. The gang interrogated the wounded Horde soldier, and confirmed that their friends had indeed been taken prisoner. The Komodo attempted to bargain for his life, offering to aid the party against his former allies who had betrayed him and left him here to die. Confident in their own skills and long since conditioned to the cheapness of life in the Age of Tooth and Claw, they party slew and butchered the Komodo. Initially Hsessriss tainted much of the meat by puncturing the Komodo's poison gland, but Brand was able to purify the food the next morning. With enough meat to last them several days, the party continued their pursuit.
Scared at how quickly they had grown hungry, Brand decided that they should hunt for more food. Returning to her training from when she was known as "Bait," Brand would flush out prey and the rest of the party would take it out. The plan, such as it was, worked. The prey that they flushed out was a massive and heavilly armored Ankylosaurus, just like the ones that Toku and his team had been hunting when they were captured. According to Hsessriss, they could be cooked inside their own shell for a delicious stew. Brand pointed out that such a meal is a sacred ritual of Rae the Sun God, who is also credited with the creation of barbecue. While they were distracted with thoughts of divine culinary ceremonies, the dinosaur charged them.
While Hsessriss attempted to steer the rampaging dinosaur with the tip of his spear, Walks-Without-Purpose used his Monk-training to engage it in hand-to-hand combat. The Ankylosaurus chomped down on his left hand, leaving only a mangled stump. In the end it was Jones' magic that tamed the dumb monster. Walk-Without-Purpose was stoic about the loss of his hand. Perhaps they could have it regrown in Home by Brand's mentor Charr, but in the meantime he considered it a fair trade for such a wonderful new pet. Walks-Without-Purpose named him "Lefty." After six more suns of travel, the gang found what they were looking for. The Brutal Horde camp out lay in the open, on a flat steepe where one could see for miles.
Hsessriss successfully snuck past the camp's perimeter to investigate. The small area was home to a mere skeleton crew of Brutal Horde warriors. The vast bulk of the army was clearly somewhere else. Toku, Two Claw, and Snap Jaw were trapped in a dinosaur cage in the middle of camp, surrounded by five huts. Four additional Riding Lizards were tethered nearby, next to a rack of weapons and torture equipment. Skulls and discarded bones littered the ground.
As he attempted to sneak back away from the camp, Hsessriss caught the attention of one of three rotating sentries on mounted patrol. The Lizardman blew a whistle to sound an alarm and mobilized the camp. The three mounted sentries were quickly joined in battle by eight Hoard minions. Walks-Without-Purpose stampeded Lefty into the enemy ranks. He was repeatedly nearly killed, but Brand's divine magic was able to revive him each time. Lefty made short work of the barbarian minions, then contented himself with eating their bodies. Hsessriss found himself locked in mortal combat with one of the mounted sentries, only barely surviving as they clawed, stabbed, and bit at each other.
Brand spent a seeming eternity battling against a single resilient sentry, who seemed to evade all of her divine smiting. He attempted to flee once the battle was lost, but the Velociraptor cleric outran his mount and kept hurling spells at him until he turned again to face her. Eyes rolling back into his head, the sentry began chanting in a foul and unknown tongue. Sensing that she was in the presence of great evil, Brand called down a final divine smite, that immolated the still chanting sentry. He kept speaking to her long after the point of death, threatening her and her village with unspeakable retribution from the Brutal Horde. As his corpse crumbled into ash, the sentry taunted Brand with the knowledge that the entire Brutal Horde would be here in just four suns. They might as well kill themselves now.
As Hsessriss freed the imprisoned and tortured hunters, Jones made a line straight to the fifth hut, occupied by the Brutal Horde's Egg Tender, 35 eggs, and five hatchlings. She was determined to take the clutch of eggs, and the Egg Tender was ready to fight to the death to prevent her. With everybody injured, a compromise was made. The Egg Tender was allowed to leave with the five hatchlings, but the eggs were forfeit. Hsessriss allowed Jones to take some, but planned on letting the others hatch back Home and become members of their village. Such egg raiding is a common tactic among lizardfolk.
The rescued hunters confirmed what the group already knew. They had been taken prisoner during a hunt and tortured extensively. Two Claws didn't know what the horde had wanted. They never even asked them any questions. With time of the essence, the gang looted the camp and loaded the injured hunters onto riding lizards. They would head back to Slaughter Swamp as quickly as they could and attempt to lose any tail on them from the Horde. It wasn't much of a plan, but it was the best that they had.