Session 18: Winter Is Already Here, and It Sucks
The PCs tumble through space, as their escape pods flip and try to align themselves. As they leave the wormwhole, an unfamiliar planet comes into sight, and the escape pods attempt to correct their courses to the planet. Their descent into the atmosphere is rough and jarring; Adriana vomits immediately, all over herself and Pip, while Joel and Sarah are jerked around. While entering the atmosphere of the planet, they see the ground below them is covered in lava and desolate rocky plains; the volcanoes and craters give way to mountains and forest, and they notice a golden dome surrounded by vegetation. However, while their escape pod attempts to correct their course to land there, they are sent careening away, hitting off of mountains onto the other side of the range, into a tundra filled with ice plains and snow.
Sarah crash lands into the middle of an ice plane. The hatch opens and is immediately ripped off by the strong and icy cold winds. Even though the pod burns and keeps itself somewhat warm, the cold seeps in and it’s clear that the clothes the PCs wore on the ship won’t help them on this planet. The pod beeps a happy message—“You have landed safetly. The ambient weather is -20 °C. Thank you for choosing this escape pod!”—while Sarah crawls out of the wreckage. She turns her skin to stone, but the cold seeps in even worse, and she reluctantly goes back to flesh form. Over the howling wind, she can hear what sounds like a pack of animals, but she can’t see them near her. Sarah tries to use the communications console to contact the other PCs, but there’s no signal, and it’s not clear if it’s from her misuse of the instrument or if they’re not alive. As she attempts to salvage parts for warmth—fuel for a small torch, a blanket, and some rations—the sky overhead is brilliant with falling debris, like a meteor shower. Some of the wreckage seems to turn in middair, like escape pods would. She sees one crash down a few miles away, and she sets off for it alone.
Meanwhile, Adriana and Pip crash into a different part of the tundra. The hatch of their pod flies off, and Adriana tentatively turns into water to get the vomit off of herself. Pip briefly washes himself off as well before Adriana returns to human form, realizing that she can’t keep turning herself into water in this cold. Adriana attempts to salvage parts of her escape pod, finding rations and a blanket luckily not coated in vomit. Pip keeps up a lively conversation the whole time, with unhelpful suggestions, and she tries to tune him out, annoyed after their prolonged space voyage together. Adriana manages to work one of the consoles in the ship, and she extracts it from the pod to make it portable. One of the extra batteries is missing, but the console is fully charged for a few days worth of use. The console shows blip a few miles away from her crash landing, with a weak signal. Adriana learns that Pip can only carry them in himself for about 10 minutes before they would run out of air, something the PCs never considered before. Pip manages to tractor beam a piece of metal in front of himself, and he uses it to keep them warm for most of the walk to the other escape pod, though she has to use the blanket for the last leg. Pip rests on her shoulder for the walk, much to her annoyance, as the wind is strong enough to push him around.
Joel, unlike the others, crashes into the side of a mountain. His escape pod slides down, and as the hatch attempts to open, it is covered by snow and he is effectively trapped inside. Seeing no other option, he ignites, burning the inside of the console severely but thawing the snow above him so he can crawl out into the icy wind. Weakened by his fire powers, he tries to salvage parts for himself, but the entire inside of the pod was burned, and nothing remains for use. Looking around, he notices that the sky is still bright with falling wreckage—parts of Asgardian ships, pieces of a Synodan ship, and chunks of metal hurling through the atmosphere. He tries to walk down the slope, but he collapses, exhausted. The air thrums with some magic energy, making his fire powers weaken him instead of warm him, and he feels drained of strength. As he falls, he sees a figure with a glowing ball on its shoulder, and he tries to make his way towards them. Adriana and Pip run to help him up, sharing their blanket and making sure he isn’t hurt. As they bring Joel back to the escape pod, Sarah finally reaches the pod and realizes the Joel was the cause of the steam she saw rising from the mountain earlier. She gives Joel to torch to warm himself up, and keeps the blanket for herself. The PCs wonder where they are; all three saw the golden dome and the lush forests, but both are weeks away by foot. Everything around them is ice, snow, and mountains, and they aren’t sure where Ashlee is, or if any of the humans made it back to earth.
Adriana notices that a storm is brewing on the horizon, and that they must take shelter soon before they’re trapped in a snowstorm. Joel and Sarah work together to make an igloo, using the torch and their own body heat to melt the snow and reform it into ice. They all stow themselves inside the igloo for the night, tired and horribly cold. As they work, they ask Pip to keep watch in the threshold for any problems: anything living over a kilogram in size, walking to the igloo, including Synodans or other robotic forms. The PCs finally finish the igloo after a few hours of work, and they decide to take watch during the night. Sarah takes first watch, regaling Pip with more stories about LOTR, finally finishing the story for him. Adriana takes the next watch, and she finally snaps and tells Pip that LOTR isn’t real after he tries to talk to her about the Battle of the Five Armies. They talk instead about Pip, and how he grew up with 5000 brothers and sisters and his “mother” on some distant planet; at some point, Loki found him and trained him. Adriana asks if Pip liked Loki, to which he responds that he can only saw good things about Loki, and she gets irritated and stops their conversation when he asks if she liked working for Loki and Borris. Joel, during his watch, talks about Star Wars, and Pip is fascinated by these historical documentaries of earth.
The next morning, Adriana looks at her console and sees a blip that appears to be a few hours away from them, due east. The PCs set off, with Sarah leading, followed by Adriana, with Joel at the rear with Pip and the torch to keep warm. They reach the bottom of the mountain slope, and Adriana notices three icy craters in the ground; Pip faintly sees paw prints in the ground, but he doesn’t saw anything to the PCs, as nothing living is currently approaching them within a set distance. The PCs walk for some time through knee-deep snow; after an hour, Adriana switches her blanket for Joel’s torch to keep warm, and Pip finally flies forward to Sarah to say (in his best indoor voice) that 18 living creatures over 1 kg in mass are following them about 860 yards back; she and the PCs immediately stop (Pip notes that the creatures also stop along with the PCs), and tells Joel and Adriana. They decide to keep walking, as they might reach the other escape pod soon, but they have Pip keep a closer eye on the creatures (which he describes as humans covered in fur on their hands and knees).
The PCs come across a wreckage with a Synodan in the center. Adriana and Joel instantly recognize that it had been killed on the planet, as evidence of elementals escaping the body are all around them, and it seems like it had been torn in half. The creatures, now clearly stalking the PCs, are much closer than they were before, while the blip is no closer than it was in the morning. Pip notes that the signal may be overamplified, perhaps through the use of another battery; the PCs wonder if they’ll find a human, or something else, as the alarm on Loki’s gambit was shipwide, and the escape pod may house a Geb, an Asgardian, or a Synodan instead. The PCs continue to walk, leaving the corpse behind them, and they finally reach a great frozen lake; on the other side, a shear cliff wall blocks their path, but they agree to climb up and over to reach the blip. As they step on the ice, it cracks loudly, but they know that it should be safe to cross. The PCs begin to cross, but the creatures—now direwolves, they realize—come up to flank them, preventing their crossing. Adriana and Pip attempt to discern if the wolves are trying to stop them from moving forward at someone else’s bidding, while Sarah and Joel realize that the wolves don’t want to fight them, but they also don’t want to let the PCs escape up a cliff before they can be eaten. The PCs back away as the front wolves begin to howl, and they instead start walking around the frozen lake.
As they walk, they see a frozen Asgardian in full battle regalia in the ice, about ten feet down, with clothes old enough to indicate that he had been down there for some time. Adriana and Joel start to set up camp, another igloo, while Pip keeps watch for the wolves—now faded into the snow, much closer than they were before—and Sarah digs out the body to use as bait. As she unearths the Asgardian, throwing him up to the surface while cursing loudly, Adriana senses necrotic magic, realizing that the Asgardian is undead. She tries to warn Sarah, but she is too far away for Sarah to notice, and she kicks angrily at the Asgardian. The ice around his head cracks, and he immediately begins to groan, and Sarah runs back to the others, screaming about zombies. The PCs panic; they have a zombie in their camp, an igloo, and they are surrounded on all sides by the direwolves, which have already settled into packs of three around their camp, drawn in by the sound of the groaning zombie. The PCs decide to place the zombie in the doorway, as a door, and hope to lure a more curious direwolf closer to their igloo so they can kill it and hopefully scare the other direwolves away. They decide to keep watch behind the zombie—named DAJ (Dead Asgardian Jingwei)— door, so as to catch any direwolves unaware, and settle in for another night snowstorm.