In a poor neighborhood of the trading city of Isari sits a seemingly unremarkable tavern. The sunbleached paint on it's hanging sign proclaims it as the Wayward Chimera. Above the hearth hangs an old taxidermy head of a goat and lion on furry shoulders and apparently space for one more head. Some patrons whisper the missing dragon head never existed and the whole thing is poor forgery, while others loudly tell tales of a night where the head was stolen on a drunken dare.
Into this establishment steps a worried looking high Elf with fancy but well worn clothing. He finds the server and quietly asks her "Would you tell the landlords that the mayor has arrived with special business and must speak with them at once?" The Elf is in fact none other than Mayor Karim and in a few moments he is lead to a special room in the basement.
Waiting for him are four rough and tumble types, exactly what he needs. With minimal pleasantries he confides that two farmers who frequently make the trip from their settlement have not shown up for some time, and one of them is a friend of the mayor. This close to the border sending soldiers a field is a risky proposition and he requires adventurers to find out what has happened. For a moth's relief from property tax they agree and set about town to find what they can of the missing farmer.
A day of investigations yields a wine contract, a drunken nine year old street urchin, and the name of a ne'er do well named Nirav. He is from the same town as the farmers, and is also conspicuously absent. The party sets out to the farmers' village of Hafenghar.
There is only ruin. A corpse is tied to a stake in the village square, its torn clothes branded with the mark of an adulterer. In every home there are corpses. Some tried to barricade themselves, others were caught completely off guard. Elderly. Children. None are spared. The bones are cracked and their marrow sucked out: scavengers have long since cleaned up the remains. The possessions have been ransacked.
In all this one thing stands out: a single corpse still has vultures feasting on flesh. His clothes are largely intact, dead seemingly from a single wound to the stomach. In his boot is a dagger inscribed with the name Nirav.
The party spends a night, a day and another night in town to scare away only curious lions and monkeys.
Upon delivering this news to the mayor he is aghast. Just this morning the farmers from the village of Elakar failed to show up at the market. There is no time to loose!
Two party members stay in town to make a planned rendezvous while the ranger and monk go on ahead to scout.
Hiding their horses in the brush 5 miles from town, they creep in to find a quartet of bandits going door to door collecting valuables. The bandits seem completely without worry, every door is already broken, there is no one to offer the slightest resistance. By its size Elakar must have had at least 30 people, how could these four have wreaked so much havoc with no apparent effort? Hyenas and jackals pick at the corpses: what ever killed these people did so only hours before.
The monk and ranger quietly split to pincer the bandits. All seems well until the monk hears the tension of a bowstring and the command to not move a muscle. Apparently in no mood to be captured, the monk dashes into cover and a skirmish ensues. The ranger exchanges arrows with a bandit scout, jumping from roof to roof to avoid being surrounded while the monk deftly brawls it out with thugs in the street.
All the while the scavengers continue to feed. They are bloated from eating and each bite looks painful to swallow, yet they tear away unabated. As it appears the party is gaining the upper-hand in the skirmish one hyena falls over, unable to force another bite. It's belly now touches the ground as it lets out a tortured cackle. The whimpering and whining builds toa crescendo that breaks the skirmish. The miserable beast lets out a final scream as its belly finally explodes, spraying gore all around it.
But it does not lay still. Claws emerge at its haunches that slough off the old torso to reveal a towering sinewy biped, the old face still there but the misery replaced with burning red eyes and fresh hunger. The bandits were the real scavengers, the hunters have returned!
The sounds of more bursting animals are heard in the distance and the heroes of the Wayward Chimera recall that discretion is the better part of valor. They flee into the thorny brush with their former enemies trying to desperately keep up. The ranger stops long enough send an arrow into the chest of the bandit behind him. As they continue to flee they hear screaming, then sudden silence.
Once at the horses they hastily make their way to the rally point and tell their allies, who are fresh from a shopping adventure in town, exactly what has transpired. The smuggler among them knows these creatures: gnolls! It has been nearly a century since they have been seen around these parts.
With the party reunited they return to Elakar to confront the gnolls. At the edge of the town a frontal assault ensues. The monk boldly engages the enemy only to find gnoll reinforcements pouring from the buildings. The unconscious monk seems certain to be torn to pieces until the cleric charges into the melee! Concentrated arrow fire and bloody blades finally prevail.
Upon return to Isari to inform the mayor they are rewarded with all the discretionary goods and funds he could summon on short notice. A bounty is placed on jackals and hyenas lest they turn into more gnolls while the mayor determines how he will control panic and, more importantly, inform the Governess.