Shnecke's Wolves - Fire, Deals and Deadly Ice

23:56 - 00:00 (31/8/1472): Initially the group find themselves somewhat on the back foot, as the monsters unleash a horrific amount of pain their way. The soldiers it seems know a little magic, and send out great arcane chains of hooked flame, which draw the warriors closer. The hell hound is a catastrophe of fire and ripping jaws, who's elemental heat sears the flesh of anyone that gets too close. But worse, is the robed gigorim who stays back, the symbol of Zargor clutched in its armoured fist. Chanting in a voice like an inferno, this monstrosity bathes the streets (and the group) in blasting waves of flame and strikes at them with spears of lava.

Worse, before the group can fully adjust to the ferocity of the attack, the swordmage gives a tiny wail and drops to the floor; eyes rolling in his head, bloody foam frothing from his mouth. He convulses on the ground, unaware of the lethal battles around him.

The warlock flees to the slate roofs of the homes nearby, the assassin doing the same in a silent burst of shadow, whilst the rest of the group try to simultaneously stay out of the hound's brutal aura, and away from the glowing greatswords of the zargorim soldiers. Grigori is forced to throw almost everything into keeping his allies alive, whilst the rest of the group fight to protect the fitting swordmage and to take the monsters down. With the priest pouring healing into them, they slowly begin to push back at the monsters - though they are temporarily wrong footed when the obsidian exterior of the hell hound falls away to expose its blazing guts to the world, its deadly heat increasing to agonising levels. The fiery canine is the first to go down, its form vanishing in a burst of sulphurous smoke and sparks. Then the two soldiers are taken down, one annihilated by a wailing bolt of raw spite fired by the warlock, supercharged by pain taken from his allies with Hope's Famine's deadly powers, the other hacked and chopped to pieces by the priest and barbarian, weakend and disoriented by the assassin's deadly poisons.

Suddenly outnumbered, the priest tries to flee. He fails.

00:03 - 00:25: Gathering up the fallen swordmage (who twitches and convulses still, his eyes wide open, a thin scream escaping his open mouth), the group run from the area and head for Narogg's Grogs as fast as they can, arriving a short while later.

00:26 - 03:00: Varracuda is put to bed, and Grigori spends time with him, carefully pouring restorative spells into him. With time, his convulsions stop, and he falls into a natural sleep. Meanwhile, the rest of the group get stuck into some drinking....gambling...and, after Shnecke loses a wrestling match with a fellow Ulnyrr and smashes a stool over his skull in protest, brawling. Leorn is seems only favors the priest, who, once he has settled the genasai, comes down to play cards. Whereas everyone else loses money, he wins a huge amount - and adds several sharp brained card players to the crew roster.

Narogg informs the group that they have a meeting with Mercurio Giovecci the next day, a Feccia captain.

Varracuda has come around by the time the group retire, and he hoarsely informs them that he has seen a "vision of what lies beneath the volcano". He struggles to compose himself as he continues, "It's ancient. Older than anything you can imagine. A molten mass of hatred so intense that it would blot out this universe if given half a chance." He shudders, "It overwhelmed me. It's.....we have to leave or stop it".

08:30 - 13:00: The group awaken to find that Caleph is waiting for them. He informs the group that beyond the bounds of Scarathane's port, reality has shifted, and that the sea has frozen solid. This is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, there is a distinct line the planar intrusion stops at around the island, suggesting that the it exists in some kind of dimensionally secure pocket. Secondly, the Drowned Bell was seen leaving only an hour or so before the sea froze, heading North. It seems very likely therefore that it is now stuck in the ice...vulnerable to attack.

It is decided that once they have met with the Feccia, they will head out to find the stricken pirate ship, to add it and its crew to their list of conquered foes.

The meeting has been arranged to take place at the "Sword and Sabre", a well appointed inn that is mostly built into the side of the volcano. After securing their weapons and implements in peace knots, the group are allowed in (by the clearly terrified door guards). They are shown upstairs to a well appointed room, where, instead of the expected captain, they meet with one Iskarius Faedento; a devilishly handsome man with a warm, practiced, demeanor of businesslike friendliness. He is watched over by a hulking humanoid construct of gleaming steel, darkwood and polished obsidian, that Jaeger recognises as an advanced form of Shield Guardian being sold by the Order to certain individuals. His name, according to Iskarius, is Signore Massacrare (Mr Butcher), and he quickly demonstrates his protective nature when the warlock speaks in a less than friendly tone during the negotiations, and it rumbles menacingly, adopting a protective stance over the representative.

Iskarius (speaking crude tradespeak) apologises for Giovanni's absence, stating that the Feccia rarely allow "unknowns" to meet their ranking officers. Grigori realises that their reactions are being measured here, and that the intention of this last minute change is purely to see how they react. It is at this point that Thatari begins to voice his displeasure, the priest stepping in to speak over him and prevent the meeting ending before it can even start.

The meeting is brief, and the outcome clear (Grigori enacts a translation ritual, allowing the group to more accurately communicate with Iskarius). If the group wish to enjoy the benefits of association with the Feccia Del Mare, they will have to prove themselves. To this end, they are given a seemingly impossible task.

There are two rival groups of pirates in the city - the Figli Putana, and the Cani Mortali. The former group are despised by the Feccia, and are seen as worthy only of death. The "Death Dogs" however, whilst certainly foolish to have tried to take a piece of the Feccia's territory, have impressed them enough that they are willing to try and absorb them into their syndicate - a proposition they have currently rejected. To aid in this process, the Feccia feel they need to send a powerful message to the Cani, without starting a war. To this end, they ask that the group infiltrate their stronghold in the city - once the stronghold of Jediker's Collaterals, a mercantile investor and banker - in order to steal Scheggia; The Splinter; a deadly and potent dagger once owned by the Feccia, and held by Jediker's as a deposit against a loan they granted them. To make matters worse, the dagger is held within the heavily warded vaults beneath the stronghold, created by a well known local archmage who specialises in such constructs, within a solid pillar of crystal, built into the vault itself!

Oh, and if possible, the Feccia would prefer it if there were no fatalities amongst the Cani, and that they are not made aware of the theft. This is because they want to show them that they have the means to enter their most secure places, take what they want, and to leave without them even knowing, and without slaying a single soul - a powerful motivator for them to join the Feccia without a fight ("If we can do this, imagine what we will do if you anger us").

Iskarius leaves the group to discuss the proposition. Telling them that if they accept, they get three days stay in the ports for free - though all costs that would be incurred will be owed if the group fail in the mission. Thatari is not happy. He argues that by doing what is asked, the Feccia get something for nothing. Grigori argues the opposite, and feels it to be a good idea to try. The assassin and swordmage agree, whilst the barbarian seems concerned about the probable lack of killing involved, his axe aching for a good fight.

Eventually, the group agree. They will, within the next three days, try to retrieve the Splinter (though the assassin warns the group that the blade is known to the Unified Order, and was once held in the Durance Occulta. Intelligent, and famed for how its blade breaks off in a victim, before burrowing into their hearts, it is considered an "Artifice Threat". There is (or was before the Sundering) a substantial reward for its return to the Order).

With the meeting concluded, the group rush back towards the SC, eager to get out hunting for the Drowned Bell. As they head towards the harbor, they can see the impossibly huge wall of smog that has formed where the sulphurous, hot, dry air of the island meets the unnaturally cold and wet air of the realms beyond. What little sunlight that would normally push through the usual clouds of smoke and airborne ash is swallowed by this colossal wall of turbulent vapors, the only clear light being the constant flashes of lightning that leap and dance along its edge. It makes for an ominous sight, charging the atmosphere with a strange energy, and even the normally unshakable people of Scarathane are subdued and on edge this day.

13:00 - 21:45: The group discuss tactics, changing their original plan (sneaking up on the ship by swimming under the ice that they are reliably told now covers the ocean beyond the wall of smog), when they learn that the cold beyond is utterly alien in its intensity, and has frozen the sea to quite some depth. This also changes their original plan to bring along a good few of their crew, as they realise that the environment they are about to enter may be too much for them to bear.

Grigori casts a ritual about the group that will shield them from the worst of most forms of natural cold, and with two crew men rowing, the group leave the ship in a lifeboat, and head for the interface between this realm and the one beyond...

The seas begin to thicken with ashy ice about half a mile from the end of the port, several huge vessels, clad in crushing ice, slowly sinking into the ash blackened, slushy waters. The cold increases every few meters further from the island they row, and the group realise that their crewmen may not be able to stand taking them much nearer to the dimensional interface. Fortunately, the tiny boat encounters solid ice before this happens, and the party disembark, leaving the two men, teeth chattering (despite the heavy furs they wear) to wait for their return.

Stepping onto the ice, each party member notes the thin skin of buzzing orange light that clings to them, realising it is Grigori's ritual desperately fighting to keep them warm. Grimly aware that they could be walking to their dooms, the group head in towards the howling wall of smog, snow and flickering corposant.

Within the wall, all is shrieking icy winds and blinding, biting snow. The group have to rope themselves together to prevent being blown away from each other, and it becomes immediately clear that although the ritual is offering them some protection against the cold, it is not able to fully shield them against its unnatural power. They trudge on, ignoring the pain of the cold, trying to be as alert as possible in the overwhelming chaos of the planar interface. This goes on for what seems like forever, until suddenly, they find themselves standing in another world.

Behind them, the wall of chaotic power is only visible as a ghostly image superimposed on the reality of the universe they now partially occupy; an endless place of ice, scudding black clouds, and unimaginable cold, litten by a bloodless, pale green sun. Shivering and pained by the cold, the group take a moment to acclimatise, the living struggling as the algid air freezes their throats and lungs. Worst hit are the assassin, and oddly enough, the Ulnyrr, who seem more stressed by the cold than the rest of the group.

"Th-th-there." Gasps Jaeger, pointing in what would, in their world, have been south. "A bump in the landscape." He takes out his telescope, and asks the warlock to breathe on it, to melt the frost that instantly gathers over its lens. Peering through, he sees that there is indeed a bump in the land, that appears to be a ship, trapped in the ice. However, as he does this, the priest hears something that makes his blood run cold; a rumbling, animalistic call, coming from the near distance, that reminds him of the call of whales.

Grigori tells the group what he has heard, and the telescope is swung in the direction of the sound. Soon enough, something massive is seen, slowly coming into view over the distant horizon; a monstrous silhouette against the light of the halo ringed, setting sun. As the moments pass the cold seems to deepen, and the group begin to burn with it, their limbs growing heavy and leaden. However, they find themselves transfixed as the beast comes closer, for it becomes clear that it is massive beyond words - at least the size of a large cathedral.

It is vaguely elephantine, with six massive legs, and a blunt head studded with huge, blue, fiery eyes. A massive vertical mouth splits the head, now and then opening to emit the terrible, bowel weakening cry that the priest first picked up on.

The group become worried, for the creature is heading vaguely in the direction of the Drowned Bell. However, they realise that it will not encounter it, and vote to let the behemoth pass before carrying on. This means waiting, in the waning light and waxing cold, for what seems like an age, as the impossibly huge beast sways and roars past, heading towards the planar interface, and possibly, the tropical waters around the port. The wait takes its toll, the cold draining the resolve and deadening the flesh of several party members. However, they manage to stand firm, and once happy that the monster is gone, they advance.

Darkness steals across this desolate place, the air growing still colder. Light pours from each adventurer as the enchantments fight desperately not to be overwhelmed by the cold, blending with another light that suddenly wells from beneath their feet. It is the pale green glow of rotting wood, rising it seems from the very ice upon which they walk. Wreathed in this, and the frozen spectres of their own breath, the group advance and soon find the corpse of the Drowned Bell.

The ship has been cut in half by its own exploding body, the water in its planks and ropes flash freezing and bursting outwards. Its masts lie in pieces, decorated in a million icicles, its sails shattered like glass.

The same thing has happened to the crew, all of whom are now abstract things of gory ice and erupted slush. Each has exploded as they have frozen, their forms caught mid-eruption, their faces lost amidst clusters of a thousand, thrusting, crimson needles.

Creeping forwards, the party begin to explore the ghost ship, trying to ignore the horrific forms that were, but a few hours ago, living, breathing men and women. Thick ice is hacked away, and the group get access to the lower decks, and hopefully, whatever treasure the ship was carrying. And it is whilst they explore these levels that they hear a faint sobbing cry coming from the lowest decks. Moving carefully towards it, past cannons that have torn themselves apart as their metals contracted, and past more tortured, surreal remains, the group eventually find a Dohr'Khustan, dressed in the robes of a mage, half frozen into the ice that threads the ships corpse. He is close to death, a small ember of summoned flame the only thing keeping him alive. Realising he must possess great power to have survived this long, the group approach him and offer him his life in return for his loyalty. He is barely conscious, but after a long time, in a voice so weak and whispered as to be near inaudiable, he says one sentence before passing out.

"Aye aye captain."