& the return of Speed Tanaka
After clearing Cairo safely, the team gets ahold of Simon Andrews at Saeder-Krupp Heavy Industries, and arranges to assist SK in locating the valuable haul they aim to uncover, on the terms that the team gets a first look and can take the cache and any items it contains. Andrews agrees, and Frosty Jane approves it, so it’s a go. They get a debrief on Poland’s situation: basically SK moved in hard and funds the armed forces and some government militias against Russian-backed insurgents. The country is very conservative and very Catholic, and there have been some church officials poking around near SK’s Owl Mountain dig site, so the team figures local opposition may come in the form of the Vigilia Evangelica. They order arms, armor, ammo, and supplies through SK to meet them at the dig.
The team make their way in through SK’s advanced digsite, after checking in with Andrews and finalizing all the transactions and deals. Traversing a system of partially excavated Nazi tunnels and bunkers, they follow astral traces to an old Polish resistance hideout, and find a secret tunnel connected to an old, but still-sealed Nazi bunker. They gain access, and find evidence that people were still living there well after the end of WWII. They get into a fight with a ghoul in a tattered and patched uniform with an old-school gatling gun. Toast manages to break the gun before he fires, and they kill the ghoul, though Toast is covered in ghoul blood. They head deeper into the bunker and find a partially collapsed “war room”, followed by some scientific areas and cryo chambers, all but one of which have failed. They find an old non-functional enigma machine, as well as some very early room-filling computers. Advancing further, they find a massive broken drill as well as an exposed, smoothly-bored tunnel inscribed with some sort of astral writing.
They travel a ways down the tunnel, before encountering some kind of strange astral web, which they destroy, and rush past as it begins to multiply and reform. They travel down the pitch-black, perfectly smooth tube for days, with Toff determining that it is making a great circle route to the area around Pripyat, aka Chernobyl: the cursed site of the former Bloodwood. They eventually find some desiccated Nazi ghoul corpses with emptied machine guns, but no evidence of what they were firing at. After many days, they find a sealed stone slab, which Toff shapes through, and they discover themselves at The Library of Throal, the great dwarven library from the 4th World. They make camp, hoping to rest up after the rough travel down the strange tunnel. They are awoken unpleasantly early, by a strange commotion at a nearby collapsed tunnel.
MEANWHILE: Speed Tanaka, Testinchen, and Chessick Allens-Whitehill have all found themselves wandering some sort of strange fey realm after getting shunted off course while trying to escape Boston via the Gateway Project. Unfortunately, they passed through the portal a bit later than the rest of the team, and it wasn’t fully functional again after the crystalline entity’s attack. They found themselves in a strange, fey realm, rife with woodlands and streams. After exploring for some time, and repeatedly losing their way, they found themselves at what looked to be a nursery, and entered after seeing another figure moving inside, while singing a strange song.
They found an elven-looking man carefully stuffing some of the babies inside the nursery into a large sack he carried, and were about to try to get some info from him when a guard entered and sent them all fleeing, calling them “forces of the Unmaker.” They were scattered and chased by hunters and hounds. Tanaka lost sight of the other 2, but found a strange silvery pool which contained an image of some of his former teammates from Boston sleeping in some sort of ruined cave. Fearing her pursuers, Tanaka leapt in, and crashed into the camp, awakening the rest of the team.
They don’t have much time for introductions, as 2 hounds and a hunter with a bow follow quickly through,. The team defeats them in combat, and they dissipate, as spirits tend to do, and vanish as the portal closes. However, they didn’t seem to have any grievance with the team until they were attacked- they were only after Tanaka. They all exchange info, and decide that Tanaka and the others likely ran afoul of someone capable of summoning The Wild Hunt, a sort of vigilante collection of spirits that can be called upon to track, hunt, and enact vengeance upon an individual or group who has wronged the summoner. However, they will only hunt for 1 day’s time, so Tanaka may have escaped their clutches for now. The real question is: where was she?
Regardless, for the moment they decide to continue the current mission, and cut Tanaka in on the profits, to a slightly lesser extent. They break camp, and begin using assensing and various clair-senses to try to find a way further in. They soon discover am intact antechamber, which looks to have held about half a dozen individuals at one point, in some sort of secure vault. They recover intact, but summary, copies of some of the texts they sought here, detailing some of the culture and creatures of ancient Barsaive, a rough copy of the “Books of Harrow”, telling of the end of the 2nd Age & the tablets discovery in the 4th, as well as some crumbled journals that they get as much as they can from without destroying. It seems that the vault is called a kaer, a structure built to shelter people of the 4th World from the Horror’s that mark the end of a phase of magic. This was a secondary kaer, meant to stay open longer & collect info and stragglers as late as possible, after the main kaer deep in the library was sealed.
It seems there was a schism with the Lorekeepers here, after a feathered serpent among their number became obsessed with reading the Book of Scales, a tome about the Horrors which survived from the 2nd Age (2 magical epochs ago), and using the knowledge therein to use a blood ritual to protect himself and others from the Horrors. The other lorekeepers banished him, but were apparently somewhat corrupted by exposure when they cracked the seal on the kaer to expel him. Only 2 made it to the end of the 100 year period that they intended to survive there, and reopened it to find a world in ruins. The journal ends with 1 of them heading into the library to try to make contact with the main kaer, while the other ventures forth to seek other survivors outside Barsaive.
Toff has some visions of the time spent in here, as well as some of the ancient adventurers who stashed their accounts here, hoping that someone would one day read them. The team heads deeper into the library, following the serpent’s projected path, with Toff tunneling through collapsed stone while Love holds up the tunnel around the team with powerful barrier spells. They eventually find a small clear area under a walkway, which sheltered the area from the roof collapse. There is another large vault-like stone slab door, but this one is cracked open. They enter, and after exchanging some cryptic words with an old man within, get in a serious throwdown combat as he shifts into his draconic form. They eventually defeat him, and he crumbles to dust as they search the massive chamber.
It is filled with remains- it seems that the people who took shelter here were universally slaughtered to power whatever kind of blood ritual the serpent performed, and based on Toff’s quick view, it wasn’t even fully successful, as the serpent appeared corrupted by exposure, though not fully destroyed. So, a partial success? Also a 2nd indication that blood magic does actually work to protect from the Horrors, though its users also suffer a price. They also recover the miraculously intact Book of Scales from a bone pedestal near a deep well, which has a coppery stink eminating from it.
Toff touches the book, and it drives him partially insane, as he is riddles with flashbacks. Others who view it before they close it and stuff it in the provided mana-bag are mentally damaged just by the sight. However, they do gain some useful intel: the book was composed by a dragon who was driven mad by the Horrors, and cannibalized himself to write it- it is written on his hide and scales, and scribed in his blood. It tells of the coming of the Horrors, as well as worshipfully naming and describing some of them. The serpent has also updated the book with notations on the ritual he performed, as well as descriptions of the few visitirs he had over the years that he actually allowed to leave: 2 early “prophets” of the Horrors known as Ludwig Prinn and Abdul Al’Hazred. This explains some things… They also find the ruins of a cache container (which looks to have house the Book), and find a magical concoction of some sort, which when applied to an edged weapon will bypass spirit’s natural immunities. They coat Tanaka’s blade in it, to make her a bit more effective.
The team make camp and stabilize/heal up from the brutal fight, and stay there until SK finally catches up a few days later. As promised, SK examines everything, claims the contents of the library, and lets the team leave with the cache’s “contents”- the Book of Scales. Jane is satisfied with how this all played out, as the team has full scans of the tablets and tomes they found, as well as some info from the crumbled journals it will be hard for SK to reconstruct. Jane tells them that based on all this new data, and research done while the team was underground, they’re off to London next, to seek another cache. Tanaka splits off to deal with her sudden wealth from all the Boston money, and check in with her people outside. The rest of the team travels to London, and reserves rooms at The Continental to ease the way (some light smuggling is provided).