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Summary[]

The party learns the location of the final piece of the puzzle and get equipped for the mission before they find themselves in Svalbard with a little help from professor Einstein.

Synopsis[]

Cel, Hamid, and Skraak are looking at the plans for the device. Skraak knows that nothing is mechanically wrong with the device. Cel and Hamid also agree that the device should do what it's meant to do, and they can see how the killswitch should interact with it. However, they do notice an error in the designs: there are mechanisms at play that should protect the brain in the jar from feedback, such that the brain would survive- but the error means that although the process of mind-replacement and hivemind release should work, it will kill Babbage. Cel wonders if it's really an error, or whether it's been designed in to 'take pity' on Babbage (so he wouldn't have to live as a brain). Hamid wonders if keeping the brain alive would leave an opening for the Cult of Hades or other bad actor to re-take over at a later date.

A doorbell goes in the distance, and Ada goes to greet the new arrival. Meanwhile, Hamid and Cel head to the workshop and discuss the error. Is Babbage in pain? Can they communicate with him and ask him what he would prefer? Maybe they could talk to Ada about the error, and would know if it would be OK to talk to Babbage.

Ada comes back down the stairs with a familiar figure. Einstein greets Hamid, and he introduces Einstein to Cel and Skraak. Einstein has stepped back a little on the combat gear, but still wears a few ammo belts. He wears an eyepatch just above the eye, and seems in good health, more or less. Einstein and Cel compliment each other on their outfits, and Ada is a little lost.

Einstein tells the party he has been working with the Harlequins, then helped with the evacuation of Cairo, and has recently been helping the brain-scientists after he was contacted by Barret). Azu gives him a big hug and when he shows her his big (for him) new muscles, she compliments him. Everyone assembles in the meeting room (the PCs, Wilde, Skraak, Einstein, Sumutnyerl (eventually and reluctantly), and Ada; Augusta wasn't very interested and was slightly disparaging).

Ada tells everyone not to interrupt until the end, otherwise she'll lose her thread. She starts showing slides. The first is the exterior of the Svalbardian Vault (Svalbard's main city). It looks like an ice cap with stairs leading down into the side of the ice, with vaulted doors. There is space for two or three people to walk abreast through it. A path leads off out of shot. Ada says that with Einstein's help (Einstein immediately interrupts), they've found the location of the killswitch they need to cannibalise for the device. (Hamid interrupts, asking if it's the one Grizzop commissioned from the Cult of Hephaestos in episode 120; Zolf scolds him.) The next slide shows a plan of the interior of the Vault, which is massive (it's a whole city). Ada says that most of the entrances to the city aren't usable. The next slide shows a series of diplomatic documents. Ada says that they've managed to find out that the population of Svalbard dropped out of contact during the infection, and that the envoy they sent to the city said it was abandoned, locked down, not infected, and possibly dead. She says they think the dwarves might have had a seed in the vault and that it triggered, but wrongly in some way. (Zolf interrupts, telling her that the party found out what happened to the dwarves [see episodes 185 and 186]; Azu scolds him, and Cel is silently furious- they, too, had known the answer but had been working very hard to not interrupt.)

Ada moves on to the next slide, showing a letter with Hephaestos symbology on it. She says they received a missive from the Cult of Hephaestos, saying that they might have a solution to to infection, and that's why an envoy was sent to Svalbard. Now, however, since Einstein is working with them, they can get there themselves. She says that the killswitch may have interfered with the seed when it triggered, so it triggered differently. She says the killswitch is most likely in one of the most secure places in the city, for example a vault, council chamber, treasury, or lab. With Einstein's help they've managed to isolate certain areas as inaccessible, but Einstein hasn't managed to get very far in due to warding spells. (Einstein interrupts again; Azu scolds him and encourages Ada.)

She says they've generated a plan: Einstein can get them via teleport past the main entrance in to a 'foyer', due to a blank spot in the warding. The party will then enter, fetch the device, and bring it back out. Einstein can bring it back, and they can plug it into the main device. Hamid asks again about whether the killswitch is the one Grizzop commissioned. After looking again at the Hephaestos communication, Wilde says it's inconclusive, but very likely. Wilde also asks Ada if she has any equipment for them. Ada points them to their armoury, which is looked over by Augusta, and suggests they rest and stock up.

Cel asks what monsters they might meet or expect. Ada says that the party is already familiar with the Root Guardians (her name for the plant-corpses, and what Gragg calls 'beasties'); she believes those are derived from the plant itself, so even if the plant in Svalbard is different, they might turn up again. Additionally, she believes that the four interplanar plants are all really the same plant, with four 'faces' currently on the material plane. [Editor's note: this concept is similar to, say, a mushroom ring or certain plants, where there are several discrete mushrooms or plants on the surface, but under the surface they're all connected by the same set of roots or mycelia- it's just in this case, the 'surface' is the boundary between planes.] It seems likely that the Svalbard face is damaged, so there may be interplanar entities. The wardings may also interefere with this. There may also be more naturally-occurring beasties, given it's an abandoned place.

Einstein adds that he has 'poked around further than he should have', and got to the main entrance on the far side of the foyer. He found dead bodies that seemed connected via roots and which 'keep an eye out'- if they see you, other things connected to the roots seem to notice. The bodies aren't everywhere, but they'll have to be careful as they seem a little ('3/10') gestalt. They can't move. Azu sums it up as 'a big mushroom network with eyes'.

BREAK

The group heads to the armoury. It's grossly overstocked, and looks largely looted and stolen. There are several basic magical items, enough for everyone: amulets of natural armour, cloaks of elvenkind, cat-burglar's boots, goggles of the night, rings of protection, and all kinds of mundane weapons (including a totally useless ceremonial axe that Azu doesn't take). The party all take a full-night's rest.

The party (PCs plus Skraak, Sumutnyerl, and Wilde) assembles the next morning. Einstein is wearing boots and carrying a hiking staff, and gives a pep talk. They follow him out, one-by-one, until they are outside. They join hands, and he teleports them successfully.

The party arrives in what feels like an open-topped underground cave. There is a large amount of unworked stone and earth around them, and they are stood upon a large elaborate stone pavement with interlaced designs upon it. They are at one end of a 35 ft (~10.5 m) wide bridge leading 200 ft (~61 m) out over an enormous chasm, the bottom of which they cannot see. The bridge leads to an imposing fortress-esque (e.g. arrow-slits, buttresses etc.) edifice that is built into the very rock and ice. On either side of the main bridge are two balconies a little higher than the bridge, which look out upon the bridge and the chasm. They seem to be covered in medium-sized plants. It looks like the plants have sprung from the dead, and mark where someone has fallen and been integrated. On the lefthand-most balcony there appears to be a shambling dwarf-sized creature (it's not a dwarf... any more). There are two small towers on either side of the near end of the bridge. Einstein says he can't teleport any further than this.

Hamid asks if the plants are watching, and Einstein says they are but that they're not very sensitive to sound and can't see very far. He tells them that the main entrance is full of them, but that there are side doors and that the right-hand door is clearer. If they can get through the first set of them, they're in. Hamid suggests they turn invisible for entering past the first wave of plants.

Einstein adds that he can't go in with them, or he'll use up all his teleport slots. Azu suggests someone stays with them, and Hamid suggests Wilde and Sumutnyerl stay with him. Wilde adds that Sumutnyerl could kill something with their bear hands and Cel tells him that's offensive in Polar Bear. Wilde will sustain an illusion on the tower to make it look empty, to protect Einstein. Wilde wishes them luck, and Zolf tells him to be safe, giving him a squeeze on the arm. Wilde, Einstein and Sumutnyerl go into the left-hand tower and apparently disappear.

[Bryn adds out of character that Hamid and Wilde have had a quick chat to establish a set of codes with different meanings if he, Einstein, and Sumutnyerl have to leave the tower.]

The party is left standing on the porch of an incredibly cold, enormous chasm facing a forbidding ice fortress that is manned only by the dead and the doomed.


Quotes[]

Hamid: "This is my friend Cel, pronouns they/them-"
Einstein: "Oh hey Cel! Oh cool!"
Hamid: "They're an alchemical expert and they've been a wonderful friend, and have done so much good while working with us over the last-"
Cel: "Oh, Hamid!"
Einstein: "I really like your goggles!"
Cel: "Yeah, I'm- I'm- I'm really liking this whole, this whole getup, do you make the belts yourself? They look extremely practical."
Einstein: "I mostly use them to carry snacks."
Cel: "Ah, yes"
Einstein: "Unfortunately my, my thing doesn't really need much in the way of components- maybe a little bit- so, mostly it's like, you see this is my beans pouch, and then over here we have my sweets pouch..."
―Cel and einstein compliment each other's outfits

Wilde: "Did you have anything that you could maybe give us to, ah, equip up a bit? 'Cos I'm- let's be honest, I don't think I'm the only person at the table here who assumes that the second that we're going to go in there, there's going to be nothing but death and monsters the whole way down, right?"
Zolf: "Yeah, pretty much."
Cel: "Oh! I was also hoping there'd be, like, interesting mechanical devices, some of which may be traps!"
―Cel is excited by the prospect of mechanical traps in their dangerous mission.

Sumutnyerl: "Yes, I can turn into animals"
Wilde: "I just mean that, you know, you could kill something with your, with your bear hands!"
Hamid: " Oscar, is this really the time for jokes?"
Cel: "I just think you should know that what - what you said was actually very offensive in polar bear."
―wilde can't help himself from making a bear pun, despite the danger they're all in.

Wilde: "Good luck, and... you got this! I certainly couldn't think of anyone else in the world who's better suited."
Zolf: "Yeah, you too. Be safe."
―Zolf and Wilde part ways in front of the ice fortress.


Dice rolls & mechanics[]

  • Hamid rolls Knowledge (arcana) to assess the device: nat 20 (37)
  • Cel rolls Knowledge (alchemy) to assess the device: 33
  • Skraak rolls Knowledge (engineering) to assess the device: 18
  • The party rolls Perception to assess the plant life. Zolf: 24. Azu: 17. Cel: 31. Hamid: 11. Skraak: 18.

Plot Notes[]

The plans for the killswitch (based on Shoin's work) were found in Tesla's vault in Cairo in episode 98, and given to Wilde. In episode 120, Grizzop takes the plans to the Temple of Hephaestos in Damascus, where he commissions a cleric of Hephaestos (a dwarf named Garten) to build as much of the switch as possible, and to keep it a secret. However, after the 18-month timeskip, Curie tells the party in episode 127 that Garten and some other members of the cult have 'gone underground'. It's likely that Alex meant that quite literally.

Trivia[]

For the Svalbard dungeon crawl, Alex is using the virtual tabletop system Roll20. The opening screen is just a big smiling cartoon rabbit face on a black background and the words 'be afraid'.

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