Full of curry and fighting the post dinner sleepies, Craig and Dave faced an encounter I have been looking forwards to running for long and long, though they did so without Tez (who was poorly). A fun time was had by all players, although the same cannot be said for the poor characters.
15:50 – 00:00 The group (after tidying themselves up a little) join Salvig and his men for some drinking and story swapping. They then go to bed, aching and battered, their pain numbed a little by the drink...
27/1/50 (Supernatural cold conditions as the group move north towards the anomaly)
04:00 – The group – sore from their battle the night before and the drinking afterwards – drag themselves from their beds, and shivering, begin to prepare to leave The Forge and head down to the docks, and the Boreas Vox.
04:25 – Sadran and Smite meet with the group. They do not have to leave until 08:00, but they wish to say farewell to the party, and arrange, should the battles be over by then and they miss each other before, to meet in Lorehaven on the first day of the Summer Solstice (16/6).
Sadran's farewell to Ardwaine is particularly painful, as the two have been adventuring together for a long time. The Dundorin makes the mongrel aelwyn promise that he won't get himself killed, and he makes her promise the same.
04:35 – The group head out into the arctic darkness, and skid along the streets, passing a small group of fur clad priests tending to the frozen corpse of a soldiers who's short drunken nap the night before has lead to tragedy. Instead of heading for the harbor, they head to the Banturn'Vortaxian temple in order to buy some healing potions (just in case).
05:20 – By the time the group have reached the temple, haggled the price of the potions down, and then slowly made their way along the icy, slick streets of Yorduil to the harbor, it is long after the time they were supposed to board the Boreas Vox.
Arriving at the harbor, they cringe against the merciless, killing cold of the snow laden winds screaming unhindered over the impossibly frozen plain of the Grey Sea. They note the weird formations of ice that have built up like alien sculptures along the sea front, and shake their heads in quiet amazement at the many mercantile vessels currently trapped by the unnatural ice, their rigging heavy with icicles, their crew shivering and stranded.
However, they are more amazed when they see the vessels that are heading north, for they are heavily modified skyships, that have been equipped with crude but functional skis, which will allow them to slide over the sea ice and move at a good speed towards the various musters.
The first force of troops are gathering by their transports (All in all about ten different groups will head off today alone); fur clad, knackered and shouldering well worn gear, stamping their booted feet and swearing against the cold as they line up to board. Luckily for the group, their ship has no queue waiting to board it, and they are able to climb aboard with little trouble.
05:30 – After negotiating the treacherously icy gangplank that leads up to the main deck, the group are greeted by the fur swathed crew a moment before a thickly accented voice calls over to them; slightly slurred it seems.
A man dressed in heavy furs, moves towards the group, his features briefly illuminated within the darkness of his hood by the tabac roll he smokes. This is the ships' captain; Vyacheslav Tidori, a former sea captain who served in the united navy of Upper Magoroth until he was forced to retire (at 28 years age) after “an incident”, and became a merchant instead. He is 33 in the year 50 N.C., and is a small, though toned man, with short cropped black hair, grey-green eyes and a prodigious beaked nose.
He is also a little too fond of Vossk – a very potent Upper Malgorothian spirit, and smokes Tabac almost constantly (his teeth and fingers are stained dark yellow by this habit). However, he is a tough bastard, and is renowned for his fine gun skills.
Vyacheslav greets the group, and makes several off colour remarks before showing them to their rooms and telling them that the ship will be leaving soon.
05:50 – The group get settled in their room, and Ormid (with the hard won permission of Vyacheslav) is allowed to view the engines; a fine example of an elemental engine, activated through certain hard wired rituals bound into the mechanism and the skill and arcane ability of those watching over it.
06:20 – The Boreas Vox leaves Yorduil and begins its journey towards Point Constant.
The group climb up onto the deck soon after the ship leaves as they would rather risk frostbite, than stay below decks where the resonance caused by the ship sliding over the ice (clearly not its usual mode of movement) is deafening and sickening.
08:45 – Ormid, through the swirling veils of biting snow and adumbrative fogs, notices a distant flash of dim orange light, and a split second later, a host of deafening bells and klaxon are wailing as the lookout (half frozen to death in the crow's nest) also spots the flash and calls it in.
08:47 – Vyacheslav begins to bellow orders, and painfully, slowly, the Boreas Vox turns, its whole structure screaming as it strains to obey the engines commands.
08:55 – Slowly, through the snow and mist, the group make out a terrible scene; another ship lying on its port side, its rear end sinking into a boiling pool of melting ice; thick clouds of smoke and steam belching, under lit with a lurid orange glow. Vyacheslav immediately identifies the vessel as the “Sky Dancer”; a competitor under normal circumstances, but an ally in the current one.
“Men, get out there and help!” He screams in his thick, growling voice, “Before the damn engine blows!”
08:58 – 09:02 – Swathed in heavy furs against the deadly cold, the group soon find themselves hurrying (along with most of the Boreas Vox' crew) across the ice and snow, moving towards the gloomy glow of the stricken vessel. As they get closer they begin to encounter dazed members of its crew, and can make out the huge, scorched gouge marks where the ship clearly tore up the ice, apparently in a fatal spin around its own midline (very still, broken bodies can also be seen at intervals in this destructive wake).
The cause for the fatal spin becomes apparent as the group get close enough to clearly make out the details of the ship – one of the runners, only ever attached as a temporary modification – has sheared off, tearing along the side, and no doubt unbalancing it enough to trigger the deadly roll and subsequent crash.
One of the Sky Dancer's crew begins to scream something. “The Captain is still inside! Jules was checking out the engines when the ship threw its fit! Someone help him!”
The group sigh...looks like their role in all this is now clear!
09:07 – The group enter the ship through the huge rent in its starboard side, peering down into the smoke filled belly of the shattered vessel.
09:08 – 09:13: Enduring deadly smoke, collapsing beams of flaming wood, shifting floors and a host of other horrible dangers, the group make their way slowly but surely down towards the aft of the ship, and the engine chambers.
As they near the door (labelled “Salle des machines. Danger! Personnes autorisées seulement au delà de ce point!” ), they can hear the terrible screaming roar from beyond, as well as the terrified, hight pitched shrieks of a man. Something awful is clearly happening beyond, and with a flick of the rogues lock picks, the door is opened...
09:14 – 09:20: The group burst into the choking smoke and searing heat of the reinforced engine chamber, which has collapsed and sagged into the storage vault beneath. Flames jet from the twisted casing of the main engine, and the hardwood of the chamber is being consumed in a steadily advancing wall of flame.
Jules is trapped at the far end of the chamber under a mass of collapsed wood and metal, his legs and abdomen crushed. By some terrible miracle he is alive, and as the group enters the room he turns to them and in a mad panic screams “Help ME!”
However, something looms from within the engine between him and the group; a towering thing of writhing steam and smoke, fire and raw elemental fury, shrouded in toxic vapours and filled with an ancient rage pent up for almost 100 years – the Engine's Spirit.
It is a hulking thing that has great chunks of the engine incorporated into its constantly shifting form; glowing cherry red with the spirits rage and fiery form, and as the group enter the chamber it turns two eye like points of brilliant electric blue light their way, bleeding liquid power into the searing, smoky air, and mad with rage, this thing moves to attack the party, leaving more fire in its wake.
But it doesn't stop there. Reinforced crates, smouldering in the inferno's heat are scattered about the chamber, dislodged by the crash, hopping about as if filled with exploding popcorn...
...If only it was popcorn, but it's not...it's ammunition for the Dancer's broadsides, and exposed to the heat and vibrations that now abound, they have become very unstable indeed – not good with fire spreading at an alarming rate from the engine, and the captain too badly wounded to simply pull out...
And suddenly the party are faced with four equally important situations – the Engine Spirit, the spreading fire, preventing the unexploded ammunition from triggering, and of course, stabilizing and then safely removing the trapped captain.
Initially things are madness as the group battle the Spirit, all the while keeping a terrified eye on the fire as it snakes towards the ammunition. Veteran is sorely wounded time and again by the monster, as the choking fumes surrounding it work their terrible effects on him. However, he lands blow after blow on the thing, driving it back. The Vyrleen lends his daggers to the battle, whilst Ormid spends time trying to wrack his brains for a way to put the fires out and to keep Julien alive.
Ardwaine calls upon her God to heal the warforged and his hound (who is also fighting the spirit), and unleashes a stroke of lightning from her blessed hammer.
Quite quickly the spirit is weakened (though not without it inflicting truly appalling damage on the party), the core of it exposed for all to see. The Vyrleen leaps in with his mace, its ensorcelled adamantine head striking a truly devastating blow to the thing, sending it reeling as it fights to remain in the physical plane.
And then catastrophe.
Just as Ormid reaches the unconscious Lower Malgorothian, the Engine Spirit, in a last ditch attempt to have revenge on the mortal creatures it sees as responsible for its long imprisonment within the guts of the ships' engine, throws a blast of fire and howling steam at one of the ammunition boxes.
...several more explode, triggered by the initial blast...
...Despite the reinforced crates absorbing huge amounts of the blast, their containment runes glowing white hot before they burn out, the exploding ordinance turns the inside of the engine room into a killing zone of crushing shock waves, flying razor edged shrapnel, and deafening force. No one escapes unscathed, but by some miracle all survive...just....very, very just...
At first all is utter confusion in the sudden darkness, the blast having blown much of the fires out. Then, as the flames begin to burn hot once more, the group manage to gather their shell shocked thoughts, the world a mad, whistling blur of concussion and stunned incomprehension.
Then the pain knifes through the fog of shock, and they are back in the room once more, agonized and not yet finished.
Jules lives, though he is clearly critically wounded, and slowly but surely, each party member using every skill and ability at their disposal, he is pulled free from the wreckage, his legs no more than bloody cables of dripping gristle and orange, mutilated fat.
09:23: With Julien critical but stable for now the party turn to leave. Some ammunition remains unexploded, but the crates are shuddering as they cook off in the horrible heat. Smoke chokes the air, and the party are dismayed to see that the fires now block their route of escape – at least until the warforged uses Dracusviir to trigger a crate by the door, its blast once more turning the fires into smoke and darkness, clearing the way.
09:35: The group clamber through the darkness and heat of the ship with Julien. As they do, the massive vessel begins to slowly turn in its death throes, and a deep crumping sound signifies multiple minor blasts in its deepest regions.
Through the stinging, suffocating smoke, the group make out the watery outline of the exit; a slight lightening of the crushing darkness. Almost spent and utterly agonised from their tribulations in the engine room, they manage to clamber out, coughing and choking, spitting up black filth and trailing lines of black snot from their stinging noses.
09:35 – 09:40: They half stumble, half slide from the growling, booming ship and make it far enough away that they are merely knocked flat and almost senseless by the pressure wave when the entire ship explodes in a vast fireball and sweeping corona of flaming wreckage, spurting ammunition shells and vaporised metal.
14:00 – Back on board the Boreas Vox, and Julien, wrapped from head to foot in bloody bandages, barely able to speak through the pain dulling drugs he is on following the amputation of both legs above the knee, asks to see the group.
Sobbing in his pain and loss and gratitude, the Lower Malgorothian thanks the party for their help and his life, and gives them his two greatest treasures; a flawless and very rare rose diamond, and an enchanted ring that enhances the wearers charisma and draw, which can make an individual forget themselves even in the heat of battle and hatred, and seek them out.
20:40: The group arrive in the indescribable cold and darkness at the edge of the rift storm, at Point Constant.