PCs met some new friends on the road, also with the failed worm implantation (how do you bring new PCs into a game without spending 4 hours role-playing why a bunch of paranoid killers, who fear bad guys who are controlled by worms in the head, would automatically add strangers to their ranks…), killed some kobolds, then went to town.
Lord Padraig is a drunk with little or no influence outside his town's walls.
The locals turn to the visiting adventurers for help with an Ankheg problem.
The PCs visit the site of a recent Ankheg attack. Farmer Brown missing. All fear the worst.
A little detective work, and the PCs determine that burrowing giant insects with acid reflux don't usually eat farmers in established farmland – so why are these here, now?
A little fighting, and a little tracking, and the PCs find the culprit – a dwarf in a large cart with cages, using the Ankhegs to capture farmers alive (they carry the farmers back to the nest in belly pouches), to force them to sell their land (the farmers here are landowners) – They overcome him, capture him, and try to bring him back to town, but he just sort of keels over dead, and a worm erupts from the back of his neck – and the PCs stomp it dead.
PCs saved Farmer Brown, and his neighbors Pink and Orange are pleased. The PCs are now trusted enough to be told that the nearby ruins of an old keep are a constant source of evil monsters, and was built centuries ago to guard against something within – a portal to a bad place? Having established trust, the local sage Valthrun consented to tell the PCs about the Keep, 2 miles to the North.
A little trip to the ruined keep. It's a huge place, easily a couple hundred yards long. Mounds of rubble. Nothing growing. And a lair of loathsome humanoid frogs called bullywugs. All but one of the strikers get swallowed by giant frogs, and the party nearly loses two rogues… but the bullywugs are slain, and a smal portal to a plane of mud is sealed. But this is not the Big Bad Portal the heroes were looking for.
Back out to the ruins, and a fight with Gnoll slavers who were waiting for them.
Tough session, but the PCs prevail. All are 2nd level now.