The party was in hot pursuit of the Inquisition, but they weren't really *rushing*, since they thought that they just had to stop them from convincing the bears to make anti-specter/portal-opening weapons for them, which would take days even if Iofur agreed instantly.
The enemies also suspected that perhaps someone might try to follow them, and had left a trap -- in a narrow pass where any pursuer's path was fairly constrained, they left a bunch of triggered 'summon creature' spells, which the party failed to spot. As a result, they were suprised by nine fursnakes leaping out and biting them.
Caihong got bitten, but didn't get enough poison to paralyze him before he started just going all-out defense. Taegan wasn't so lucky, and was soon lying on the ground in a euphoric stupor. Eric and Jana at least had the combat skills to take on the snakes, although they were quite outnumbered, but the daemons (in pangolin form, curled up) and Caihong distracted most of them with immovable objects, letting them defeat the enemy in detail.
It still slowed them down, though, since they needed to drag the paralyzed Taegan on the sled. He came to (slightly hung over) about the time they were on their final approach to the Svalbard ice castle where the bears lived.
Eric and Caihong spotted Wren hiding behind a hill (well, in front of a hill from their perspective) spying on someone, so Eric snuck up to help him spy. There, they saw the four soldiers talking to someone remotely using a pair of sock puppets -- the soldier would move the mouth on Puppet A while speaking in a squeaky voice, and then the other would respond on its own with its own squeaky voice.
Soldier: "The bears didn't trust us, but they let the Inquisition in, like you predicted."
Voice: "Excellent. Let me know when they're in position."
Soldier: "They just went inside."
Voice: "Are you at a safe distance?"
Soldier: "Uh... what?"
Voice: "Nevermind, it's not important."
Then the castle exploded. Wren and Eric managed to duck behind the hill to avoid the worst of the blast, while the others were already behind the hill and safe. All the snow in the area melted instantly, and when Taegan put on his welding goggles and peeked over the hill, he saw a glowing fireball where the castle used to be, slowly shrinking and swirling around, as if that entire section of reality was spinning down a drain.
Which was more or less what was happening. When the smoke cleared, there was a massive black portal to nowhere sucking in air... and the surviving bears whose armor hadn't been quite strong enough to resist the blast from whereever they were standing (who were being rescued by the ones whose had)... and the Aurora Borealis... and when Jana flew Taegan up to Lord Asriel's Tower to look at it through the non-portable equipment, he could see that it was also sucking in pretty much all the Dust. This was really bad.
While Eric and Caihong tried to help the bears' rescue operations, Taegan searched Asriel's notes for something like this, and found out that it was, in fact, one of the 'failure' possibilities if the portal hadn't worked. The same type of machinery as Asriel had used to open the portal would be useful for closing something like this, albiet at the same cost -- someone would have to be severed from their Daemon to power the machine.
The machine was already built, although it wasn't located in the tower but on the next mountain over, so Taegan ran to modify it appropriately. There was no one with a daemon but him and his friends, so he planned to use himself to power it. Jana ran to warn the others about his plan, and they all caught up with him as he was continuing to modify it, to try to convince him not to. "There has to be some other way!"
They couldn't convince him, but Jana got frustrated and whacked him over the head to knock him out. Wren caught up (he was too big for Jana to carry up the cliff, so he'd had to climb it himself) and thought that the best way to deal with this, isntead of just randomly sacrificing one of the order, would be to contact the director who had an alethiometer and could ask an infallible (if cryptic) source of knowledge for the best solution.
They figured there'd probably be a wireless telegraph on the beached ship, so Wren wrote out a message explaining the situation for Jana to fly there. The Cliff Ghasts chased her, but couldn't catch her before she reached the trading post, where men with guns scared them off. The same men were willing to come with her to search the ship (there was still that pixie on board, after all) but didn't think she'd be able to send a telegraph from here -- Svalbard was way out of range of the relay towers.
To their surprise, there was a signal though -- maybe another ship was nearby? -- so they sent the message, and to their even greater surprise got an immediate reply. One of the men from the trading post read off the message as it came in. "Um... they're sending an extraction team? What does that mean?"
Jana immediately figured out that it meant the telegraph was going to the people who took over the ship to infiltrate Svalbard, even before the intention craft warped into existance over the trading post. No one was *at* the trading post, though, and the ship wasn't at the dock, so it had to look around to try to find them for long enough for them to figure out how to load and aim the ship's turrets, and get a shot off at it still unawares. A very, very lucky shot, which hit the *pilot* after penetrating the armor, sending it sinking down into the water, blowing out bubbles.
Another intention craft appeared to pick up the soldiers (who'd been knocked out by the nuke, and taken prisoner by the Order). It, too, was in completely the wrong place to fight the party, but it wasn't *quite* out of range of Eric's soul-destruction ray. The pilot had a weak soul, and was incapacitated instantly... but by the time they ran back to it (this took a while, it was like two miles off), it was gone -- the bears had said that right after touching down it had opened another portal and vanished.
Back at the trading post, Jana, knowing that the intention craft could only be piloted by people with daemons -- suitable sacrifices for Asriel's machine, in other words -- dove into the ice-cold water to try to 'rescue' the pilot, on the off-chance he was still alive. To her surprise, she found that the enemy had started putting more than one person in the crew of their intention craft after losing several to pilot assassination, and had to fight the rest of the crew, who were still strugglig with water-shrunk straps to try to get someone else into the pilot's chair and warp back home.
...which took one round, she wasn't messing around. She grabbed one unconscious but not dead crewmember and his daemon, and managed to swim to shore without passing out from the ice cold water. The villagers had seen her dive into the water and were already preparing the fire and stuff to save her life from being a total idiot, so they immedately dragged her and her prisoner off to tend to them.
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