The face of the enemy is finally seen, and much urine is expelled in the throes of fear!
20:40 – 22:30 – The group disengage from the Boreas Vox, though before leaving, Vyacheslav finds them and in his own way praises them for their incredible acts at the crash site of the Sky Dancer.
They then enter Point Constant...
Despite being built in the last few months, Point Constant looks like it has squatted on the sea ice for untold centuries. It is a small place; a collection of low buildings made from bolted sections of treated metal and covered over with compacted snow. The concept of this “prefabricated” building is that of Ezloz; Chief Artificer and Ghaerduun in charge of the station, and although it has made more than a few Dundorin crimson with disdain, the structures are holding out well.
There is a small barracks, an operations centre, a large hall (dubbed “the howler”, due to the loud resonance that ululates through its vaulted ceiling when the wind hits it just right), which is a combined mess hall, R&R room and assembly point, and a small building that houses the hospital and research labs.
There are currently forty souls at Point Constant; three clerics (two of Oerdaine, one of Daragnae), 27 soldiers of various skills, and ten research staff including Ezloz herself.
The group are met by Ezloz (Ezloz is surprisingly level headed for one of the Ghaerduun, and does not seem to exhibit their racial insanity. She is swathed in furs when the group first meet her, but at once the intelligence within her can be seen burning in her bright blue and silver eyes), Caspian Del'Trouth (a towering human warrior who is in charge of the points soldiers – currently limping as he acclimatises to losing several toes to frostbite), and a young, awkward woman – Sister Amelle; Priestess of Oerdaine'Maelandra, one of three healers stationed at the point.
The trio greet the group, and Ezloz gives them a quick tour of the facility, showing them around and introducing them to several other key players there. They are then encouraged to get some food, to rest, and will then be given their mission briefing and sent on their way.
Most of the group are glad to be able to get some rest, still aching from their trials earlier this day, and aware of a painful psychic “pressure” that has been increasing the further north (or more specifically, the closer to the anomaly) they get.
22:00 – 06:00 (28/1/50 – Near Anomaly; supernatural conditions of cold and psychic turbulence. Intense unnatural blizzards)
The group sleep and awaken sore and grotty, both from the cold (barely held at bay despite the Points sound design and the small heaters found everywhere which incorporate fire element shards), and from the rising bruises and stinging burns from the day before.
06:30 – 06:50 – They join Ezloz in her workshop for their first mission briefing.
They are informed that the storm that surrounds the anomaly is unnatural – evidenced by the clearly delineated edge of its area, the psychic pressure it exudes and the almost 100% kill rate for patrols that head into the storm, and that until the storm is neutralised, any kind of mass military action will be impossible as an army simply cannot function within its killing cold, blinding blizzards and shifting terrain. This problem is compounded by the fact that It seems (from the few survivors that have emerged – usually half-dead and ranting) that “the enemy” can function quite well within it.
Therefore it is imperative that the storm is neutralised. Several attempts to move a sizeable force through the storm to find its source have been attempted already, each ending in disaster (most simply vanishing), and the War Masters are now hoping to try a different approach – send a small but highly skilled team into the storm in the hopes that they will not be detected (a conversation about the possibility of the storm being some kind of sensor medium begins here and this is deigned highly likely), and might succeed where the others failed.
The group are given a small bundle of healing potions as well as drafts which will temporarily remove the bite of all but the most extreme cold. They are also given an arcane compass which points towards the strongest source of magical energy – usually the distant discharges of arcane power at the poles, but here, unreliable due to the pulsing, unseen energies of the anomaly.
Their mission is clear – enter the storm, locate its source and either report back to the Point, or, if possible, neutralise it.
Ormid asks what is known about “the enemy”. Ezloz repeats what they have already heard; that reports are sketchy as to their exact nature, though all describe them as huge humanoids.
Then she shows them something that makes their blood run cold...
...Under a tarpaulin lies a huge face plate, forged from an alien metal that has a rough almost pumice like texture to it. The metal is black, but shows a dark purple iridescence like beetles wing-cases when it catches the light, and organic looking veins of some golden/bronzed material crawl over its contours like some kind of solidified slime. It is a crude but grotesque thing, with the angular eyes of a monstrous skull, and the angles of some filthy thing humanoid but not human.
Ormid estimates – assuming its owner was of human proportions – that its owner stood between 16' – 18' tall...not a comforting thought.
Before they leave, Ezloz offers to further enchant an item that each of the group owns, to better arm them for the coming trials. Llewellyn has his mace greatly empowered, and Ormid his armour. The Warforged has his Bloodiron plate inscribed with further runes of power, enhancing its already formidable protection.
08:10 – After further preparations for the journey east, the group leave Point Constant, and head towards the edge of the anomalous storm.
08:15 – The group arrive at the edge of the storm. It is an incredible sight from the camp; a vast wall of swirling grey/white vapour, faintly shimmering with power. At first glance, the whole massive thing seems to be almost serene; slowly turning about its hidden heart. However, closer examination reveals the violent swirls, writhing vortices and terrible power within. Above the storm, eerie aurorae flicker and gleam in colours that are hard to name, and which hurt the mind to dwell upon too long.
As the group near the neatly delineated edge of the storm, they all feel the air temperature – already far below freezing – drop even further, and can hear the overwhelming roar of the storms freezing winds. An Arcana check to detect magic made anywhere near or within the storm is overwhelmed by the powerful and chaotic energies that blaze into their minds eye, and even those unable to sense magic can feel it here; prickly and untamed, swirling and writhing with alien, primal power.
08:16 - Within the storm all is madness. The air is ripped from the characters throats by the howling wind, and any kind of vocal communication is almost impossible over the screaming and shrieking of the storm. Movement is hampered hugely by the pressing winds, and visibility is next to nothing. The pain from the psychic pressure surges and fades constantly as immaterial waves of magical force gust around the group.
Realising that they need to move as quickly as possible through the storm, Ormid summons spectral steeds for the group. The ritual is a success and they appear, though they glow and flicker weirdly as the local magics shift and pulse through them, at times almost seeming to fade from reality, or glowing with such brightness that they are painful to look at.
08:20 – 09:35 – The group make slow and painful progress through the dizzying heart of the storm. Ormid begins to succumb to the sapping cold, as does Llewellyn, and they have to make constant stops to try and work out where they are, and which direction they are moving in.
As they travel, they find several reminders of the dangers they are moving towards. At one point they find an area of frozen blood and entrails, their source long gone or destroyed. A while later they find a whole squad impaled on vast blades of ice, their gore having frozen into crimson icicles and sanguined columns of foulness.
The fate of the impaled soldiers almost finds them too, for the Razor Ice seems to be a by-product of the sea water so far below the ice and the cold; the lethal blades exploding upwards as sea water is forced under pressure by the shifting ice only to flash freeze. One such eruption bursts around the party, but misses them thanks to the sensitive eyes and ears of the group hearing the subtle sounds of the approaching fluids a moment before they burst out and transform into the killing blades.
It takes over two hours for the numb and disoriented adventurers to make their way towards the heart of the storm, the last slog being made easier by the eerie light that flickers and glows through the snow and mist from an unknown source.
09:36 – A painful, frozen climb up a shelf of dark green sea ice and the group, panting with exhaustion and anxiety, enter into an even more intense zone of storm to behold an impossible sight...
A vast ziggurat of the alien metal, larger than a city, floating upon a vast disk of spiked black metal, moving through the blazing, fluid boundary of a gate so huge it dwarfs even the one the group passed through in space. The Ziggurat glows with psychic power, and the group struggle to simply absorb the impossibility of what they are seeing – or the vast power it would require to keep something that massive and heavy afloat for a heartbeat, let alone constantly. From their vantage point the group are unable to truly get an appreciation for scale. They can see tiny forms below the thing, in the eerie light cast by the huge central elemental engine that levitates the whole thing, and the flickering gyro-runes which stop it flipping over under such intense directed force, but are unable to fathom whether they are small as ants or larger than anything they imagined.
The source of the storm is now clear – it is the result of the air from this world being pulled screaming through the Gate into the universe beyond; a terrible place of darkness, swollen with dying suns, rotting vacuums and entropy made manifest – and of that foul planes deathly energies entering and disrupting this universes fabric.
No one speaks. No one knows what to say. The last time they faced anything so primal and epic in its raw power was the Reality Pylon on Astartis, and somehow this seems more awe inspiring, if only by dint of its colossal size.
The Ziggurat is moving too slowly to be seen, but all in the party get the impression of a terrible inertia and the one thing they all agree on is that this is something way too big for them to handle on their own.
They turn to leave...
...Razor Ice explodes around them...
...Four terrible shapes stride into view through the storm...
09:36 – 09:40 – All four of the things are towering humanoids clad in brutal and heavy armour crafted from the same strange metal as the faceplate Ezloz showed the group. All of them carry the pressure and soul shrivelling presence of daemonic beings, though Ormid quickly realises (from the blazing binding rituals engraved all over the highly ornamented armour) that they are actually animates like golems, who's driving spirits are daemonic.
One – a towering 16' high brute of ebon armour and black spikes, wreathed in smoky, guttering, red flames – is quickly brought down by the Warforged and the Vyrleen. However, the battle then becomes desperate, as two of the things – each equipped with rune engraved claws that seethe with disruptive energy – use sorcery to trap Ardwaine and the Warforged in shimmering spheres of crushing force (both escape, but loose valuable time in their suffocating, shrinking prisons), and simply rip into the rest of the group with their deadly talons.
The final creature is a mobile horror that unleashes psychic lightning imbued with rage and fear at the party, the bolts arcing to strike at anyone nearby, sowing ruin amongst them. Whilst the two ground bound monsters open horrible wounds in the party, this thing skirmishes with them, dropping low and firing its deadly power at them, before twisting back up into the cover of the storm.
Ormid is taken out at one point, his entrails exposed by the chewing claw of one of the ground bound monsters, his blood steaming away his body heat in the swirling maelstrom of the storm and the battle. Luckily, the Vyrleen leaps in and force feeds him one of the healing potions and both are able to scramble away from harm.
Ardwaine's healing spells manage to drag the adventurers back from the brink several times, as do Ormid's healing infusions. The fiery blade of the Warforged and the Devastating head of the Vyrleen's mace chew mercilessly through the foes, and slowly, painfully and with growing desperation, they manage to beat the monsters back.
One falls, its animating daemon shrieking with dark fury as it is banished back to its home realm (this actually sends the group scattering in fear so awful is its psychic rage and polluted presence), but the swooping, lightning spitting form of the third steals the glow of victory. The final ground based horror is surrounded time and again by the party, but shows no signs of giving up, as it continues to lay about them with its flickering talons, tearing apart armour and flesh with equal ease.
However, Ormid, speaking in an ancient language, addresses the daemon within the last ground bound animate. He commands it to stop, and to everyone's amazement, the daemon replies telepathically, its thoughts poisonous.
“Spells hold me to the service of the Gennamene mortal. I shall stay my hand as long as I am able, but this favour is a pact, and I shall seek its repayment”
Whilst Ormid staggers under the weight of what the foul spirit just said, the rest of the group lay about it, shattering the frame to which it is bound and freeing it at last.
“Remembeeeerrrrr” It hisses as it fades away, “I can find you anywhere mortal....you owe...meeeeeeeee....”
The group have no time to watch the daemon depart however, for they expect the flying monster to attack at any moment...only.....it doesn't.
The snows briefly part and allow a clear view of the Ziggurat and the land between here and there. Flying like a shimmering missile, the flying animate is heading towards the tiny figures in the distance, and the group realise that this could mean their deaths if they linger.
09:41 – There is no time to tarry. Stopping the storm is impossible and with an army of horrors likely to begin surging towards them, the group, battered, bleeding, and succumbing to the storm, turn around and run for their lives.