(Note: this recap will be a spoiler for the adventure Haggling Friends, available at DriveThruRpg).
On their way out of town the party decides to indulge in the druid's favorite hobby, burning buildings. They work all day to pile wood inside the harpy's tower, ignoring her insults now that the burly fighting men are immune to her song. When they finally ignite the conflagration, the harpy rolls her eyes and flies away. Convincing themselves that they have won the encounter, they set out for home, following the distinctive tracks of the wheeled police golem that originally brought them here.
In the middle of the night they are (not) surprised by the return of the harpy, but the presence of Lady Night is different matter. The druid, demonstrating good instincts, offers a ransom if she will let them go. Surprised herself, the lady agrees to call off the harpy circling overhead in exchange for precious tael. Coming from the notoriously tight-fisted druid, this is a real sacrifice. But the party will have none of it; they hurled insults and then javelins and arrows when the harpy dives into an attack.
The harpy dies pretty quickly. Without her song she is no match for the barbarian and ranger. Lady Night, on the other hand, turns out to be an incredibly dangerous foe (especially considering she is only a ECL 4 encounter!). She immediately summons multiple swarms of bats, which prove to be as debilitating to the party as all the swarms they have sent against their enemies. The druid struggles to get off a spell, the barbarian can't get past her armor and damage resistance, and the ranger is almost immediately dominated by her vampiric charm. Once again deafness plays to their advantage; she can't order him to attack his companions. It all comes down to a desperate Turn Undead from the cleric (who succeeds only after adding every imaginable bonus the party could scrape together). Even so the bats she left behind might have caused a death or two but for the druid wielding summoned flame - the only effective weapon they have against swarms.
The next day they hustle to put distance between themselves and Lady Night's resting place, which they assume must be somewhere in the City of Tomorrow. They know she won't risk being caught out at dawn, so if they can just get far enough away they'll be safe from her attentions. Of course this leaves Rialto to deal with the creature, but they seem remarkably unconcerned for his safety.
The plains stretch out wide and long before them, broken up by forests. In the distance they see a sphinx on the wing and decide not to head in its direction. When the golem tracks lead them into a forest, they hesitate; the dangers of the open plains and the sphinx seem less intimidating than whatever the trees are hiding. However, home, and more importantly the donkeys carrying all of their gold, lay on the other side, so in they go,
Where they are immediately attacked by what appears to be a tribe of pixies, small blue creatures that cast annoying spells on them and then disappear. They seriously consider retreating and detouring around the forest when they are saved by an attractive young woman who frightens the invisible creatures off.
Her name is Abby and she is currently engaged in some arcane magical research, hence the isolation of living in the forest. She invites them back to her humble hut for dinner and offers to brew up a potion to cure the two warrior's deafness - if they can provide her with the necessary ingredients of tael and an owlbear feather. The druid is carrying a bag full of various monster parts like a demented kind of trophy case, but Abby turns her nose up at the feather he produces. She says it must be fresh; and as luck would have it, she can give them directions to an owlbear's lair not too far away.
The party is pretty confident of their owlbear hunting skills, and as usual this one barely puts up a fight before the ranger kills it with his dagger. Seriously, that guy is just showboating now. The potion is successful and the party enjoys a nice dinner cooked over the fireplace outside her hut. The wizard engages her in interesting arcane discussions and the bard engages her in his usual ribaldry, both of which seem well-received.
In the morning Abby asks them for a favor in return. It turns out that she is not completely alone here; she has two sisters, one to the north and one to the south, who used to live with her. However, they had a falling out and not spoken for a few years. Her sister Bella accused her of stealing a precious unicorn horn and a set of wereboar teeth. While she maintains her innocence, she is ready to bury the hatchet, and the party can help. If they could rustle up a horn or some teeth, and take them to Bella with a note of contrition from Abby, perhaps the two sisters could repair their relationship. And as luck would have it, she can give them directions...
The druid and the cleric put their foot down at hunting unicorns. They are Good, after all. Most of the party sets out in search of the wereboars, leaving behind the wizard and bard who seem otherwise occupied (and whose player's missed this session). After a long day's hike they find the were-brothers digging for truffles in the dirt like a pair of half-naked savages (which, in fact, they are). Like any meeting in the wild, far from the influence of law and order, the situation is tense. The brothers are wary but are not overtly hostile. The druid becomes slightly uneasy and opens a discussion with the brothers to determine if they are evil enough to be murdered. Within a few minutes both sides are exchanging foodstuffs (mushrooms for ale) and in general having a good time.
So that puts that murder-for-hire contract off the table. The party decides to go off-script and search out the third sister (since they happen to be close to her territory) and see what she wants. (Again, this is both the danger and glory of the sandbox approach. Even when the rails are plainly marked - like three sisters named A, B, and C - the players can get themselves completely lost.) They find Crissy, a beautiful red-headed woman who frankly looks nothing like the younger black-haired Abby, and introduce themselves. She tells them a similar tale of woe, suggesting that they fetch a Dire Lion skin for their cousin, Mar, who lives to the west. And as luck would have it...
The Dire Lions, despite being huge carnivorous bags of teeth and claws, are no match for the dreaded Entangle spell coupled with the ranger's bow. Finally equipped with a suitable gift, the party heads for Mar's place. Along the way they get assaulted by a rogue air elemental, which gives them a serious beating and would have carried the cleric off to be murdered if the barbarian hadn't rescued him from the whirlwind with a well-timed grab.
Mar does not look like her cousins. She is a hideously ugly creature with yellowed, leathery skin and rotting seaweed for hair. She is also obviously deranged. The lion skin prompts a confession out of her; she was the one who stole all of the sister's missing components. But she had a good reason; she is trying to open a portal to the plane of water so as to flood the area and create a new sea. Apparently a band of Dark Naga had driven her away from the ocean far to the west, and living in a river just wasn't good enough. Mar has had some success, due to ancient text on gate magic called the Tome of Doors. Unfortunately her spellcraft is abysmal and what she accomplished was to open a portal to the plane of air, which accounts for all the rogue air elementals roaming around. She swears she knows how to fix it; if the party will help her in a new ritual she will convert the portal to water and reward them with as many pearls as they can carry.
The party is dubious but they agree to help her, secretly planning to wait until she goes through the portal to collect the pearls and then smash the portal, trapping her on the other side. She casts Water Breathing on all of them and leads them up-river to where the portal is located. They travel underwater so as to avoid the detection of the air elementals, who will surely view any attack on their doorway home as provocative. This, at last, is properly heroic - sacrificing their promised treasure to shut down a gateway to a hostile plane of monsters. But will they be able to pull it off? And what will they tell cousin Abby, when they go back to recover their mates?