Updated Fri, Jan 02, 2009 by Ethec
So you've bought the "Desert of Flames" expansion, and you're wondering what to do next. Personally, I wondered around like a dog at a fire hydrant convention in the Commonlands, bouncing off the zone walls right about where the Desert of Ro zone-in existed in the original EQ. All this effort, only to have a guildie laughingly tell you that the expansion is only accessible from the "dock" areas of the two major cities! You'll be looking for (what else?) a flying carpet; in Qeynos its at the Qeynos Harbor docks near the fish mongers, in Freeport you'll find the carpets in East Freeport at the foot of the docks. Double-click and away you go!
You'll land at a small encampment in a desert paradise called "The Sinking Sands." Trader Gashaan is off to your left; pick up an easy quest to kill 10 crocodiles for a level 47 STA earring from him. You'll find Gashaan has a progression of worthwhile, fairly menial quests. Speak to Kallon Ebbtide (up the snake ramp) for a quest to seek out Jaza at the nearby crocodile hunter encampment, located off to the northwest. Jaza is a busy guy, sometimes he's guiding players on the second part of the quest (which you'll incidentally need a small group for, methinks), so keep checking back for him. At the crocodile hunter's camp you'll also find a quest for various crocodile parts from "hatchlings" and "deepwater crocodiles" (not "deepwater caimens")- presumably these beasties are located in the crocodile caves, which I'm still looking for!
Getting around in The Sinking Sands can be a real pain, especially without a horse. Things are spread out like roaches at a lightbulb convention. Fortunately, El'khazi, the carpeteer, will start you on the "Carpet Quest" - a four-stage, level 45-minimum quest that ultimately results in your very own flying carpet.
Beginning Your Court-ship
Back at the "landing area", several of the NPCs are clamoring for you to join their "Court" - one of the three rival NPC factions in Maj'Dul (the "Court of Blades," the "Court of Truth," and the "Court of Coin"). You might want to make the choice with your guild, but no worries if you've already chosen; there's no such thing as permanently choosing your faction. Rather, you'll be offered a quest to raise your faction standing with one Court and lower faction with the other two Courts. If you find you need a quest or book reward from the other factions, you can switch later on. The only real, lasting difference seems to be faction armor color. Coin is blue, Blades is gold, and Truth is red (Thanks Mongoo!) You can also choose not to get involved, but where's the fun in that? Declaring faction is also the only way to rent property in Maj'Dul; apparently, despite the rampant corruption, money only gets you so far with the landlords in this desert city. The 1-room apartment for the Court of Truth costs 14 gold, 62 silver, and 22,000 in status to buy, and 59 silver, 3000 status to maintain, for example.
I chose to give the "Court of Truth" a shot. I was tasked with "Samiel Investigations"- a quest from Taj As'ad to determine the extent of the Samiel pirates' thieving. After a brief swim through the perilous waters surrounding the docks and Pirate's Perch to the southeast (note that now you can "shake" waterbourne aggro simply by stepping onto dry land; pretty sweet!), I discovered a stolen crate at -2030, -231, -82. If you're following along with me, on "Drywind Isle" (which contains Pirate's Perch) head to -2100, -233, -143 if you're level 46 and have a small group at hand (the minimum level is 46 I believe).You should see a lamp on the ground; rub it to be ported to an instance ("Azhar's Penance"). Here you'll face off against 3 waves of mobs and, at the end, be rewarded with your choice of a tradable +12 WIS, +46 power über hand piece or 2 other STA / INT / AGI items!
The second part of my "Court of Truth" faction quest was to kill 10 Samiel plunderers. These spawn along the length of shore south of the landing area, well past the "Oasis of Marr" along the shoreline. These aren't too brutal; my 44 Templar was able to solo 3-pops of the 45-46 mobs. I returned to Taj As'ad for a 3-gold-and-change reward plus a +2500 faction boost for Truth and a -2500 faction hit for the other courts. This made me a little skittish about heading to Maj'Dul for fear of being kill-on-sight to two-thirds of the city's NPC population. It was then that I realized that a discerning player checks the souped-up "persona" window to monitor faction status; and it turns out that one Court faction quest isn't enough to turn the other Courts against you. This is both good and bad news- you can't make yourself a target without a little effort, but it's going to be pretty tough to change faction later on!
So I cinched up my girdle, right clicked and clambored onto the flying carpet near Honest Ali at the landing encampment, and away I flew to that great big Dervish city floating in the sky! Later, by the way, you can use a different right-click option to return to Qeynos / Freeport.
Maj'Dul really has the feel of an "Arabian Night's"-esque city, with flowing sand crunching underfoot, broken pottery and incidious thieves littering the dank back alleys, and the city's police force, the Sha'ir, patrolling the skies above on their flying carpets. No matter your faction standing, you must watch for the aggressive "excited gamblers" clustered in the city's upper tiers and "dervish thieves" sprinkled through the poverty-stricken depths of the city. Level 50 "vendor" food and drink and 12-slot bags are available from all the NPC garden-variety merchants. One other introductory note since you, like me, will probably be spending gold to repair your gear fairly soon into your "Desert of Flames" experience: Mender Ahman is located at +54, 139, -34 in the "Midday Market" on the city's lowest tier.
The city is not only split into tiers, but also into the Court districts. Each Court has its own stomping grounds, so it might be prudent (if you're of a lower level and don't have invisibility, like me!) to do the bulk of your exploring before you play much with faction. Each faction district has its 1-room, 2-room, and 3-room apartments; the licenses for which are attainable by doing faction work (Thanks Krislyn!). Even if you choose to change faction later, you'll retain your "license" - so don't fear having to move your stuff as often as a military brat.
Several non-faction-aligned NPCs will offer quests to anyone. Nazheem (inside the gate and to the left from the "landing area") seeks his mother Nazheera somewhere in Maj'Dul. Aquim (-140, 150, -18, in the "Court of Truth") and Zeke Two Tone (82, 140, 38, in the "Court of Coin") each offer quests to kill nasties in The Sinking Sands. As you roam around Maj'Dul, click on all the "glowing" pottery, baskets, scrolls and other inanimate objects you see to start collecting books and loose pages (items which are also available as loot from the outlying zones). You can take these items to Abnar the Bookbinder in the Tower of the Moon (up the long stairs and to the right from the "landing area")- though this process seems to be broken at present (or I'm simply too low of level!). The Tower of the Moon also appears to be where you'll take your faction coins (looted from Maj'Dul PvE encounters) to turn it in to one of the faction representatives.
Deeper Into the Sinking Sands
One other quest to note from my early travels in the burning sands outside Maj'Dul: Xillia Beetlebinder along the overland passage from the "docks" to the foot of Maj'Dul (-919,-144, -340) offers a series of armor quests. The first is simple enough: to scare a nearby skittish scarab towards the aggro tarantulas and then collect the preserved shell. Return this shell to Xillia and she'll sell you some +STR armor for 1 copper. Continue doing the quests for Xillia and she'll sell you more.
That's about all I can report from my early travels in the Desert of Flames, thanks for coming along! More info to follow as I continue with the various 45+ quests, so wrap up that turban and strap yourself in to that brand new flying carpet. It's going to be quite a ride!