The Brushfire headed out with the 'Teferi' jack-shaped ship in tow, heading for Jaxom. But on the way, they needed to stop at a comet to pick up components for Anagnoresis to finish his two almost-completed prototype antimagic devices (which had been restored to their previous, incomplete state by the wish that restored Teferi). Cane thought this would be a good chance to pick up some alchemical components -- surely comet ice would be good for doom-related spells, since comets were harbingers of doom and all.
The comet was hard to find, even knowing where it was -- it was surrounded by a cloud of snow, which didn't look all that different from the other clouds filling the skies. But eventually they located it, and found it surrounded by the stripped hulks of several ships. This did not bode well.
So they send Kyngeah to scout it out astrally, and she detected that there were little creatures that *looked* harmless flying around in the snow, but that the entire comet itself seemed to be alive, and malicious. There was also a pyramid, opaque to astral sight, perched on the comet's surface. Aside from the pyramid, none of this was exactly unexpected, but just in case they decided to send in an away team instead of risking the entire ship. Anagnoresis joined the party on the flying carpet (like Nico, he just flew alongside) and they approached the snowstorm.
The first thing they noticed was that the snowstorm was zero-g -- not just variable gravity, but *no* gravity. The second thing was that it was very, very cold. Anagnoresis tried a heat spell, but it had little effect, and they had to quickly turn back, after gathering samples of the snow and some of the little snow-eating creatures. The snow turned out to be perfectly normal snow, and the creatures harmless, according to shaman Nolan. Harmless and cute. He wanted more!
They did have mundane cold-weather gear from their three months marooned on the winter world of Gaia, so they suited up and headed back in. They landed on the surface and found that it was covered in the useless snow -- they'd have to dig quite a ways down to get to the (presumably doom-flavored) ice. But before they could think about starting that, they spotted an Ur-Kalmar (a bearlike creature with a Kalmar, one of the moral races of Ython, the moon of corruption, controlling it) frozen in a literal ice cube. "He's not alive, but he's not dead, either," was Kyngeah's assessment.
But the pyramid was nearby, so they decided to head there to investigate, since it looked like there was something more than natural cold at work on the comet. The pyramid's door was frozen shut, but between their strength and magic they got it loose, and Cane, Takara (as a cat) and Kyngeah squeezed into the airlock behind it, and then proceeded into the interior, which was warm and comfortable. They closed the inner door to let the other two make their way inside... and saw through the window as Nico was suddenly frozen solid, and Anagnoresis flew off with the carpet.
Eventually, Anagnoresis managed to lose his pursuer -- although it was hard, which was surprising since he could fly and the assailant could not -- and find his way back to the pyramid. "It was like a bear, covered in scythes," he told them, "It froze Nico solid with a touch."
So they dragged Nico and the ice-cubed bear inside to see about unfreezing them, but had no luck -- even the warm interior of the pyramid wasn't enough to so much as melt the ice. Plus, they were pretty sure that unfreezing them incorrectly would kill the people inside if they weren't already dead. So they decided to explore the pyramid to look for a solution.
(1) A series of laboratories, including an alchemy lab, and a medical lab with a frozen bat-like Kalmar.
(2) A hothouse jungle, although all the plants inside were completely mundane.
(3) A radio room, with records of transmissions -- this had been a base for the empire, drilling into the comet. The second to last message said "Send help, please!" The last message said, "This comet isn't worth it. Don't send help, for the love of god, leave us to our fate!"
(4) Another hallway with a frozen Ur-Kalmar (this one dead, inside the ice) and a blue slime that latched onto Cane and started purring.
Anagnoresis: "Ah, that's what I've been looking for!"
Cane: "Well, okay then, you can have it."
Anagnoresis: "No no! You carry it!"
While looking for a working doorway into the drilling chamber (the first door was jammed shut, the second obviously *welded* shut) the found a total of four of the slimes, all of which latched onto Cane. And purred.
Cane: "These had better not be eating my soul."
Anagnoresis: "No, not your *soul*. Not yet, anyway."
Kyngaeh: "Don't worry, your aura looks fine."
But the third and last door into the central drilling chamber was functional, and they were able to examine the bore site. There was a hole drilled deep into the comet, where they could see dark shapes moving through the ice. Kyngeah looked astrally, and verified that the shapes were what was alive, but that there was a central core of malice in the center of the comet that she couldn't really make out. There was also a large chunk of ice cracked open as if something had hatched from it, and a hole torn in the skin of the pyramid to the outside from the drilling chamber, where something had broken free and run loose. Probably the scythe bear.
So they headed back inside to look for notes on the drilling in the laboratory. and found that the pyramid was a research station developing doom-related weapons of mass destruction. It turned out that only the 'dark ice' was magically active, but when it melted it turned into bits of some creature -- they had little jars with peices of fur and flesh floating in them. So since the pieces weren't enough to doom a whole moon at a time, they needed to capture an entire dark ice 'creature' and melt it all at once.
Obviously, this didn't go well.
The notes in the medical lab said that slow thawing killed the subjects every time, but that they'd had some success unfreezing people instantaneously with magic. Although it was still a huge shock to the system and needed additional healing magic to save their lives. They were still looking for a safer way to restore people when the notes stopped -- presumably, the last researchers were frozen, although they'd only found the three cubes and the station had had a crew of like 20.
They thought they might be able to unfreeze Nico with Xerxes' help, and they also wanted to get Teatime who they thought might be able to communicate with the scythe-bears telepathically -- if they were intelligent, Cane could use their blood to make a transformation potion and maybe they'd have the ability to unfreeze people. But flying around on the carpet was likely to attract the hideously fast scythe-bear, so they wanted an insignificance candle to cover them while they made the flight.
So Cane started making one with the alchemy lab's ingredients, and... nothing happened. He couldn't do alchemy -- none of the reactions worked at all. "Oh, right, the slimes ate your magical abilities. Don't worry, it's only temporary."
They put the slimes in bottles and Anagnoresis, who had some alchemical training, tried to make the candle. He failed *miserably* -- the alchemical reaction backfired and he inhaled the smoke, and became unable to consider anything significant. So he wandered up to the radio room and started taking it apart for components to build devices which he never finished. This seemed harmless, so they let him stay at it for a while. Eventually, Cane was able to do alchemy again as long as he only used his left hand, but that was enough to make one candle. He flew up to the Brushfire and snagged Xerxes and Teatime.
Captain Locust: "Are you going to take any troops?"
Cane: "Sure, have Magnus make some decoy troops."
Magnus: "Actually, I'll come along -- then I can make lots of decoys!"
Flying back with the candle burning was nerve-wracking -- the insignificance effect made the other three people on the carpet also seem insignificant, so they had to make sure that before they re-lit it, they all agreed on what they were going to do: fly through the hole in the wall of the pyramid and snuff the candle. The pyramid was being attacked by the scythe-bear -- the top of the pyramid was sparking wildly, and the bear was punching holes in it. But that meant it was distracted, and they managed to get inside.
Then they tied up Anagnoresis with hammocks, and Takara disabled his device, which was converting the *solid gold* making up the walls of the pyramid into mana.
Teatime's psionics revealed that the scythe-bears were only of animal intelligence, unfortunately, but Xerxes and Kyngeah working together were able to unfreeze people. They started with the frozen bat, since it looked easier to subdue if things went badly, but the bat figured they were a team of specialists from the Empire and was willing to talk. Mostly, about how they shouldn't have come -- "Didn't you get the message we sent you? This place isn't worth it!"
He didn't really know anything they didn't already know from the records, though, so they put him to sleep with a sleeping potion, and thawed out Nico. Eventually, Anagnoresis was sane again, so they were ready to leave -- the bat was right, and Cane didn't really have any doom-related potions in mind that were so awesome that it was worth the risk. Anagnoresis, of course, had only wanted the slimes, and his crazy device in the radio room had attracted dozens of them.
Cane: "I bet we could use the slimes to catch the scythe-bear. They'd suck out its magical abilities and it'd stop being able to freeze people."
So, they decided to do that -- with Magnus' decoys and Xerxes and Kyngeah as backup to unfreeze people in case it went really badly, it wasn't *that* risky. Magnus made about 300 decoys, and they set out onto the ice to hunt their target.
Cane: "It's attracted to strong magic, so the decoys should draw it to us."
That part worked. Unfortunately, (a) it was very hard to hit the thing with thrown slimes, and (b) it tore through the decoys like a Naruto villain, freezing or 'popping' dozens of them at a time. But a few slimes hit, and they did slow it down and drain it enough to keep pace with its aura of doom, which gave people near it a greater and greater bad luck penalty the longer they stayed in close proximity. By the end, all the decoys were frozen and half the combatants had taken themselves out with fumbles, but the bear was unconscious and ready for trasnsport.
Since it was the only bear on the surface, that also made it safe to strip-mine the pyramid -- there was still plenty of gold left to make the side trip profitable, even if they never figured out what to do with the scythe bear.
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