The team, plus Ramose-Hotep, load into Ivan’s cab for the drive to the farm. Ivan and Ultraboy! once again trade tails to the horror of Asp. K scouts ahead astrally, noticing that both Asp and RH give off particular signatures on the astral plane-Asp’s is especially glaring. He also discovers a huge and powerful dual-plane barrier just beyond the farm’s location. Ivan, accepting a dare, tries to drive really fast, and nearly wipes out, but recovers quickly. Asp and K are launched into each other by the car’s sudden halt, giving K a bloody nose. RH is terrified of the speed. HCB is not impressed.
Ivan is still driving pretty fast as they near the farm, and doesn’t notice the concealed spike strip which springs up and shreds his tires. The car screeches to a halt again. Ivan and HCB exit and begin repairin/replacing the flats, and HCB drops a bunch of lugnuts all over. Ivan is slightly upset. He deploys the lynx to watch his back. The rest of the team gets out to check out the area, and try and find the hidden farm. Using thermographic vision, they pick up some heat signatures around the edges of a nearby rocky outcropping, and decide to approach. Asp leads, and calls a halt when he notices part of a ring of small concealed sensors embedded in the ground. Most of the rest of the team do not recognize his military signals, however, and he has to stop to explain. Ivan reclines in the cab after fixing the last tire, and dives into the lynx. The team throws some rocks into area within the sensors, which has no effect. They then destroy the nearest two, which also has no effect. HCB then decides to walk thru, which does have an effect.
One of the heat signatures moves, and the team sees a door swing open in the side of the rocky outcropping ahead. Some spiky mastiff-sized dogs approach aggressively. The team tries to respond, but misses with their initial shots, and then the dogs are on them. The lynx, and HCB both take damage, but RH manages to shrug his off, due to his troll hide and massive ceremonial armor. They counter-attack, felling two of the dogs. K manages to do a killing blow to the one in front of RH with a bolt of magic called from the sky, causing RH to believe that his gods have intervened in his favor. Asp attempts a non-lethal strike, but doesn’t succeed. The remaining dog takes another bite out of HCB before they put it down. As it dies, it lets out a terrible howl, which seems to slow most of the team members down quite a bit. The dogs don’t seem to have been fully natural.
The team approaches the cage-it is soundproofed, and now empty. They open the concealed door on the adjacent structure (the other heat signature) and jump when RH is hit in the face by a mop falling over. This room just has a lot of random supplies and heat generating engines inside. Both sheds are under a rock ledge that juts from the side of the outcropping, concealing their heat signatures from airborne surveillance. The team circles the outcropping, and finds a door carved out of the rock, that seems to be open a slit. K tries to project inside, but can’t force his way thru the living earth. RH opens the door and enters.
The room inside is trashed-shelves are tipped over, and bit of debris, food, and such are strewn around the floor. There are bloodstains aplenty, but no bodies. There is also a second door, in the back of the room. HCB cautions the team to be careful, as he smells some explosive residue, and this room doesn’t look like it was damaged by an explosion. Ultraboy! examines the door, and notice a trap set to it. K and Asp leave the room, Ivan pulls the car around. He manages to disarm it (it was fairly basic) and opens the door. Inside, they find the corpse of RH’s cousin, clutching a detonator for the explosives. There is also a small amount of magical items on the processing counter nearby, next to some scales and measuring devices. Asp searches the body for clues-he appears to have died from a series of deep cuts. He also finds a note, saying that “they came at night, and the rest of his team had been killed, and that he hoped to try to escape and bring word to Heliopolis once he was sure they had left. for now, he had set a trap in case they returned-he would not let them take him alive. he thinks they may have headed back to the crater, but is going to wait a bit longer to be sure. he is very tired.” RH translates this from the heirogyphics/script combination it is written in.
The team decides to head for the crater. K projects ahead, and figures that the enormous mana barrier he saw earlier marks the edge of the forbidden zone, and tells the group as much. However, they deduce that the smugglers must have had a way in and out, so Asp decides to try to track the group that left the farm back towards the crater, hoping to find their secret entrance. He gets a little ways, and then loses the trail, although he has a fairly good idea which direction to go. Th team continues along this route, until they see the shimmering barrier at the edge of the crater and halt. Asp once again searches for tracks, and finds an ATV trail along the barrier edge, which they follow to a concealed stone door set into the ground, near where they ATV track turn around. RH opens the door without further investigation, triggering an explosion which he manages to mostly avoid. However, UB!, who was nearby, is heavily injured in the blast.
The team then enters the tunnel, and crawls thru, losing wireless comms halfway, when they cross the barrier. Ivan instructs his car to fight back against anyone who arrives, and then to flee if it takes more than half-damage. They emerge from the far side of the tunnel, and see some firelight flickering from the mouth of the nearest cave set into the craterside. K astrally projects to see if their entrance was noticed, and encounters two watcher spirits approaching Asp’s strobing astral presence. He convinces the spirits to ignore the team, and they depart. But he is worried about Asp endangering the team, as he seems especially worried about water spirits, claiming they hate him for experiments he was forced to partake in back on Earth. They approach-K levitating while Asp sneaks and the rest of the party hangs back. Asp tries to signal that he sees three people around a fire inside, but the rest of the team is somewhat confused, and UB! decides to approach, to clarify. He makes too much noise, and one of the men comes to the cave entrance. Asp shoots him with a taser and knocks him unconscious, and then enters the cave with UB! with their guns out and tells the two remaining men to freeze. They comply.
The rest of the team comes up and they begin questioning the men. The men appear somewhat pale and sickly, and have longer than usual fingernails. They find out that the man they knocked out was the courier they were seeking, which they confirm with the picture Madame Gavral provided. They say they have been hiding in these caves, avoiding whatever is that is out there and has been killing their friends. Asp heals the courier a little, and he regains consciousness and rejoins them around the fire. They offer the team some of the meat that they are cooking. Asp refuses on grounds that it might not on kosher, and RH refuses for similar religious reasons. Everyone else partakes. They begin to feel ill almost instantly, and while questioning what the meat is, one of the men attacks Asp, and the other RH. The fight quickly ends, with two of the men dead, and the courier once again unconscious. They tie him up, and K levitates him to prevent him fleeing.
Meanwhile, UB! and RH have decided to check out the rest of the cave. They wander down the passage aways, and find a dead end, with some stacked boxes. They are pretty sure this is what they are looking for, and both feel a sudden and powerful urge to get the rest of the team back here, and they call out to them. Ivan And HCB join them and ask what they found-as UB! turns to reply, he is sent flying by a blow from a huge hand that swings out from the shadows along the nearby wall. A huge stone-colored furred beast emerges and attacks RH. Ivan slumps to the floor as he brings the lynx back and begins firing, and the rest of the team attacks. K and Asp rush to the area after hearing gunshots, leaving Lefty by the front entrance. K halts the levitation spell on the prisoner when he leaves, accidentally dropping him in the fire, which he doesn’t notice.
RH, Asp, and UB! are all attacking the beast in close combat, as HCB and the lynx attempt to fire between them, and K floats overhead providing spell support. The team is impressed by Asp’s two weapon fighting prowess, involving careful balancing of offense and defense, and swift, brutal counterattacks. However, for all the damage they are dealing to the beast, it seems to be healing rapidly enough to ignore much of it. Meanwhile, it is dealing out some serious hurt to the surrounding team members. Eventually, it seems to be weakening, and finally drops to the ground, leaving the team exhausted. K flies back to the front room, and discovers Lefty confronting a group of 5 more ill-looking humans (which the team has decided are ghouls, based on popular myths and trideo/sim programs). Lefty’s barks and growls were apparently inaudible over the combat in the rear of the cave.
Ivan has the lynx stand over his body while he observes the beast’s corpse to make sure it it actually dead. HCB suggests they burn it, when they have time, believing that he once read a sci-fi story where that worked with this kind of monster. The rest of the team returns to the front of the cave to fight the additional ghouls. Once they realize they have been spotted the ghouls stop trying to placate the dog and attack-1 on Lefty, the other 4 racing towards the team. Lefty takes serious damage, and goes on defense, as Asp races to his aid. K calls down magical attacks on the other four, while UB! launches grenades and RH closes in for the kill with his ceremonial vibroblade. They quickly finish off all 5 ghouls, with limited injury, much of which comes from and errant grenade shot from UB!. UB! and RH return to the back room to grab the boxes they found and make their exit.
Next up: can they escape the crater intact? did they find the answers they were seeking?