It has been nearly a century since the dreaded wizard Al’Khameed and his undead war band was driven to the desert wastes. His last known deed was to have a monumental altar erected. It is rumored upon its completion, the dark magics he used to invigorate his undead followers had finally taken their toll. The altar was to become Al’khameed’s tomb. His undead servants prepared his corpse, and with his great tome of dark magic, sealed Al’Khameed deep within its walls.
The desert now has an even harsher climate. Sandstorms erupt frequently. Traversing the expansive dunes is a four day trek, but still more than a week quicker than other routes around it. Even alternate routes that skirt around the desert are not without dangers, as the high mountains that border the desert to the north and south are plagued with vile creatures and goblin tribes.
As such, many merchants are willing to drive caravans through the dry land. The journey is taxing on both animal and man. Even with ample supplies of water, many beasts expire due to exhaustion. Rest at night offers little reprieve from the blazing sun during the day, as the land itself seems to draw the vitality out of living creatures. In fact, many older generations of villages which border the desert claim of its slow expansion. That in nearly two decades, the desert has crawled into the surrounding plains, choking the tall grasses under shifting sands.
Despite the harsh conditions of the desert, gnoll raiders have appeared over the years. The fat trade caravans crossing the dunes proved to be too tempting a prize for the gnolls. Some even have said that these evil creatures have managed to infiltrate the tomb of Al’Khameed, and use it as a base to conduct their raids into neighboring lands.
But others claim the final resting spot of the dreaded necromancer is too evil. Nothing living can survive on the grounds of that dark tomb. Some whisper that his undead minions still shuffle about guarding their master’s remains. With the desire to pilfer the tomb, especially the famed tome of dark magic, rival wizards have sought out Al’Khameed’s tomb only to never return from the desert wastes. What became of them, no one can say.
Hearty adventurers willing to offer their swords can easily find work from merchants wishing to make the journey across the desert. Those practiced in the magical arts which can make the journey more comfortable are in even more demand. However, those that have such skills typically find the beneficial effects of such magics greatly reduced once they are deep within the desert.
Rampaging gnolls, typically attacking caravans, have taken up to raiding neighboring villages. Their attacks have been more frequent and vicious over the years. Even more brutal is the increasing incidence of slaves being taken in such raids. Many noblemen and wealthy merchants have had loved ones taken in such manner. Efforts to hunt down the evil nomads have had limited success. But many nobles are always eager to pay trustworthy parties willing to put gnoll skum to the sword.
The tomb of Al’Khameed itself, and its rumored wealth, still is the desire of many. Especially those seeking to obtain artifacts and rituals of arcane power. Al’Khameed’s possessions must still be within the walls of the tomb. Many wizards would quickly fund an expedition of this sort to retrieve such treasures, but unwilling to make such a risky venture by themselves.