(As one of the players put it, now better described as "Over the river, through the woods, across the frozen tundra, into the desert and delving the dungeon deep." But I like the name as an artifact title, so we're keeping it.)
In the past, a large tribe of orcs was forced from their home by a seaborne invasion of giants. They were pushed into a resource-rich upper valley that humans, dwarves, and goblins had already scuffled over for ages. Last summer's war was just the latest among these cyclical conflicts.
The party was tasked to escape the siege and bring reinforcements from the kingdom at large. They were successful, and this forced the orc warlord Grum to negotiate. His coalition was tenuous, and liable to shatter into factions without careful supervision. The group considered directing this sizable force at the giants instead, along with assistance from the human kingdom. The goal would be to drive the giants back to sea and reclaim Grum's original land for him. However, the other factions were unlikely to spill their own blood for this plan, so it was shelved.
Instead, the group traveled down the river into the long-desolate lower valley. There used to be a bustling network of halfling communities here, along with a budding arcane university. That changed when the mages offered to work spells on the ley lines in the area, trying to form a weather control system over the valley.
They succeeded, but it had dangerous side effects. The ley lines did not allow spirits to pass beyond them. This prevented the dead from resting, and kept generations of fey trapped inside their own sector of the criss-crossing ley lines. The halfling civilization rapidly collapsed in the face of this, and the university went defunct soon after without anything nearby to support it.
The blight compounded, and the land here was dormant. Many trees were dead and petrified. Restless spirits walked the night. The group managed to undo this strangeness and return the valley to normalcy. This opened up lots of living space for the displaced tribes to share, relieving population pressure in the region.
In the process, the group learned that one of the former faculty of the university, a necromancer named Hargreave, was still on the loose and plotting to become a lich--to what end, other than longevity, they are still not sure. They tracked him across the desert to a tomb complex called Shemura where he was fortifying a lair for himself.
There, the group forced him to flee, acquiring much of his wealth and freeing unwilling minions of his in the process. Now, they are preparing to track him down again and put a permanent stop to his wicked ways. But a complication arose. From the notes and items they recovered, they found hints that their quarry may not be working alone...