We start in the clouds above a giant bear graveyard, approaching the aurora borealis. Everyone’s on deck, waiting for thing to go wrong as they break cloud cover. Some of the bear skeletons peek out over the cloud cover. It’s brutally cold, but everyone is well-equipped in cold-weather gear. They all wait for a while, but nothing happens, and eventually Wilde makes a pointed comment and goes below decks. Zolf instructs everyone to “stay sharp” and people comply. The kobolds are no longer hanging over the side but doing their jobs while sometimes looking out with interest. The whole crew knows that they won’t reach the borealis for a few hours.
After about an hour of waiting, Cel advises Zolf that people might be reaching their limit of concentration, and he might want to consider putting people on shift. Zolf tells everyone to take a break if they need to, but not to sleep — they can come to him if they’re tired.
Azu goes over to Kiko and asks her if she wants to take a break with her; Kiko agrees. Hamid and Cel make eye contact, smile, and give thumbs up — Kiko is confused, but Hamid pretends he was doing something else. Azu stutteringly talks about where they might go, and Kiko takes Azu’s hand. She takes her below decks, to a second cargo bay in the cubby hole. Kiko goes in first, letting Azu sit next to the entrance. The cubby hole has some candles, a couple of bed rolls and pillows set up as a couch, a few bottles of booze, a few books, and a used pair of socks; Kiko hurriedly tidies.
Kiko sits and offers Azu a drink, which Azu declines because they might be called to action soon. Kiko says she’ll drink so she won’t die sober. Azu sits awkwardly and ask Kiko if she hangs out here a lot; Kiko says she prefers sleeping here, partly to stop herself from throttling Carter. Azu recounts the story of how she once put her foot in Carter’s mouth, and both women share a nice moment of hating Carter.
Azu starts talking about the circumstances around that event — being in quarantine and meeting the kobolds — but Kiko stops her and asks her to back up a bit. The only things Kiko knows about Azu is that she’s tall, looks good in armour, has something to do with Aphrodite, and doesn’t like chewing tobacco. She asks Azu why she’s going to Svalbard by the most dangerous route possible, and Azu mentions that she’s saving the world before backtracking and saying “nothing.” Kiko moves a bit closer, interested, and asks what Azu does in her downtime — Azu says “this.” Kiko talks about why she’s going to Svalbard because it means she gets to sail with her adopted father’s captain; she owes Earhart a lot and wants to repay her. Kiko was adopted into a gnomish family; her adopted mother died fairly young, so she was raised by her dad, Elbert. Kiko mostly stayed with her Nan while Elbert did tours with Earhart. Eventually, he didn’t come back.
Azu thinks for a few seconds, then seems to remember something. She then talks about her ambitions to become High Priestess of Aphrodite, and how she has to do “lots and lots of really good things” to achieve this — like healing people. Kiko asks if Azu can heal a crick in her shoulder, and Azu agrees. The scene fades out. The date goes well and Azu and Kiko kiss.
Azu comes back onto deck while Kiko stays below decks a little longer. Hamid makes eye contact and asks Azu how she’s doing, and claps when he learns Azu got a kiss; Cel squeals.
The ship lurches slightly upwards to avoid another bear corpse. Earhart comments that it seems like the bears were climbing to the tops of mountains to die. She asks Zolf whether they should worry about an enormous predator that could have been hunting the bears. Zolf says he’s not sure, but that if it’s big enough to take down megafauna, they’ll see it from a long way away. Earhart says she’s actually more concerned about the borealis. She explains that “an airship is what happens when you take three — or more, or less — big angry elementals and then force them to basically have a never-ending argument, and then use that argument as propulsion.” She’s worried about how the wild magic of the borealis will interact with that. She can’t get higher than the borealis, and going around it would basically involve avoiding The Northern Wastes. Zolf suggests putting this to a vote, and Earhart agrees. She wants Zolf to do it, but Zolf convinces her to hold the vote herself.
Zolf assembles everyone on deck; as he walks past Azu, he pats her on the arm and says “nice one.” Kiko comes up on deck and gives a sly wink to Azu.
Earhart addresses the crew. She explains whatever happened to the bears probably can’t fly, but the borealis, which now stretches the horizon, indicates high levels of wild magic. They can either go through the borealis or take a detour, adding a month or more to their journey. They’re not provisioned for that, but could probably get provisions along the way. She opens the floor to comments. Zolf speaks up, saying that a detour might put them into enemy-controlled airspace. Azu asks how the borealis works, exactly — does it affect people based on touch? Zolf asks Friedrich, who says it’s “tingly,” then “burny,” then “stretchy,” then “tingly.” He says it’s worse if you’re outside; it had been his turn steering the ship.
Hamid explains that there’s magic in the world all the time, but there are places where the level is much higher, and this makes wild magic effects more likely. The borealis is an indicator of the presence of high levels of magic, but doesn’t itself cause the effect. Additionally, the effects of these high-magic areas are not guaranteed; they’re simply much higher.
Cel asks whether the material that was used to make the anti-magic cell at the inn could protect from wild magic — Cel has a little bit of this. Hamid says it’s not just the material that counts, but an enchantment on that material (additionally, it’s very hard to get that much material.) Cel says they wish they could have constructed a safe room. Zolf says that they don’t have that, but they do have a cleric, a paladin, an alchemist, and a arcanist, which makes them better equipped than most crews.
Kiko says that she’ll follow Earhart. She also asks whether using magic in wild magic zones will make it worse. Hamid knows that there are very few things that can effect your ability to cast spells (Rome is a huge outlier; the magic there is corrupted, not wild.) Rather, doing spells could increase the likelihood of things going wrong with wild magic — but only by very little. Hamid conveys this to the party: they can probably do the spells they normally do here.
Zolf asks how the kobolds feel about this. Skraak has a muttered conversation with the other kobolds, who want to know whether you can kill it. Skraak asks the party this, and Cel and Hamid explain that it’s more of a storm than something you can kill. Skraak asks if you could create a lightning rod for the storm. Cel think that while they couldn’t ground a lightning rod, they could create a Faraday cage to protect people below decks from wild magic. However, at least one person will need to stay above decks to steer, as they can’t construct the cage around the rigging and steering wheel. Additionally, it may not completely guarantee safety for those in the Faraday cage, only reduce the likelihood of something drastic happening. Additionally, it will not eliminate the wild magic, but rather channel it into another place.
Cel says that they want to make a safe room based on this principle; they can make it before they arrive at the borealis. They’ll make a “dangly thing” so the magic from the cage will shoot out the bottom of the ship. Hamid suggests it be channeled into spell casting ability.
Zolf pauses the conversation to ask Earhart if she’s okay with this — she is — and suggests they now vote on whether to go through the borealis with this current plan. Most people vote in favour, although the kobolds look to Hamid for his call; Hamid looks to Skraak for a second, then votes in favour, having heard the kobolds’ earlier conversation. The votes against are Siggif, Friedrich, and Earhart. Barnes abstains. Cel asks Earhart about her vote, and Earhart explains that a detour might take them to a place she’d like to go; Zolf ignores this, because they voted in favour. He suggests they slow the ship down while Hamid, Cel, and the kobolds build the anti-magic cage. Earhart assents, instructing Cel to build it in the bow of the ship, so they won’t have to move engines.
Zolf also volunteers to drive the ship through the storm, as he has the most experience and is the most resistant to magical effects. Wilde asks to speak to Zolf about this as everyone else heads to their jobs. Wilde says that he’ll be “immune” to the magical effects (because of his anti-magic anklets), so he should drive the ship through the borealis. Zolf says Wilde doesn’t know what he’s doing, and Wilde says Zolf could teach him in the time they have. Alternatively, Zolf (or someone else, though Wilde thinks this is a terrible idea) could take the anklets to fly the ship. Zolf says he might be able to teach Wilde the basics, but if anything happens, Wilde will kill them all by accident. He also thinks that if Wilde takes off the anklets, his attackers will find them, and they’ll all die. Zolf reiterates that he should do it — so that only he dies if things go wrong. Wilde says that Zolf should teach him in case Zolf dies, and Zolf finally assents.
Cel builds the anti magic cage with Hamid and the kobolds’ help. Hamid and the kobolds think that the cage is good, while Cel knows that it might not work. Cel is terrified that everyone’s going to die and it will be their fault. They freeze up, letting people know that it’s an imperfect solution and won’t definitely be okay. Friedrich asks for reassurance that it’ll work, as if trying to convince himself, but Kiko says it doesn’t matter at this point.
(Meanwhile, Hamid, with his navigator skills, tries to figure out the location Earhart might have wanted to visit, and realizes that they’d come close to occupied lands — probably aiming for the dragon.)
Cel says they’ve done the best they can do. Hamid reassures them that anything else will be going over hostile enemy territory. Meanwhile, Skraak and Sassraa are having an argument that’s too hushed and quick to make out. Eventually, Sassraa, in very broken English with Hamid explaining, says that if no one else can do better than Cel, they should shut up. Sassraa grabs Cel’s hand and leads them into the safe room. Sassraa gives a rude gesture to everyone who’s not inside, closes the door, and tells people they’re either inside or outside. Everyone generally agrees to this. Cel gives Sassraa the fang. Azu notices that Sassraa looks at Cel with hero-worshipping adoration, though Cel hasn’t noticed — Sassraa gives far more respect to Cel than to Hamid, and wants to be them. Azu empathizes; she knows what it’s like to look up to a mentor.
Azu puts a hand on Cel’s back and says that she trusts Cel. This is devastating for Cel, who swallows and gets a strange look in their eyes, but tries to feign cheerfulness.
As they draw closer to the borealis, they all gather in the safe room, which is a modified version of the living quarters, close to the bow. There is enough space for everyone, but it’s more crowded than usual because the kobolds are there. Zolf pops his head into that room, gives Earhart a look, and reassures everyone. Azu wishes Zolf luck, and Earhart advises him not to be alone on deck longer than needed.
Hamid pulls Zolf aside to cast heroism on him (which involves placing a hand on each shoulder and touching foreheads.) Finally, Zolf takes the helm. Down below, Cel is tinkering, forcing a positive attitude.
- Kiko: "What’s a paladin of Aphrodite doing going to Svalbard via the most dangerous route in the world?"
- Azu: "To save - to save the world."
- Kiko: "So let’s - what?"
- Azu: "Oh! I mean! Um. Nothing."
- ―Azu and Kiko go on a bit of a date.
- Zolf: "Fine. But we need you alive, alright? None of this — we’re not playing silly buggers, alright?"
- Wilde: "I’m not trying to die, I’m trying to live, Zolf."
- Zolf: "Good."
- ―Zolf and Wilde have a chat.
- Lydia: "I've got 15 on the engineering. That is literally, in both cases, almost as low as Cel can possibly—"
- Alex: "I'm very happy."
- Lydia: "I rolled a two and a three."
- Ben: "Oof."
- Bryn: "I rolled a three and a one so...good teamwork there."
- Helen: "Oh my god."
- Lydia: "We are actu— Like, we would probably be better if just about anyone else rolled."
- ―Bryn and Lydia roll atrociously.
Dice rolls & mechanics
- Zolf Diplomacy to urge Earhart to make a vote: 22
- Hamid Knowledge (arcana) about the theoretical principles of the borealis: 28
- Cel Knowledge (arcana) about creating a lightning rod for wild magic: 34
- Cel Knowledge (arcana) for making the anti magic box: 19 (Hamid fails to assist: nat1)
- Cel Knowledge (engineering) for making the anti magic box: 15 (Skraak fails to assist: 10)
- Hamid Sense Motive on Earhart: 10
- Hamid Profession (navigator): 10
- Cel Sense Motive on Sassraa: 6
- Azu Sense Motive on Sassraa: 30