Which, in its own way, is the game going better than I'd hoped.
The Order wasted no time in returning to Oxford to retrieve the pixies. They found them out of their jar, having charmed the scholar of lepidoptery by talking to him about dragonflies (and, possibly, by casting spells on him). So when they told them that the aletiometer had said that they should be set free to convince the enemy about the danger, and the pixies suggested that they be dropped off at a mostly uninhabited pixie depot near-but-not-TOO-near Svalbard, the scholar asked to come along. As, apparently, the pixies' mount. And they let him, because they didn't want to waste time arguing.
They telegraphed their own side telling them not to shoot them down, and the pixies radio'd their side telling them not to shoot them down, so while they were watched and escorted (from a wary distance), they weren't stopped. The pixies (and scholar) got off, and they decided to head to the middle of the enemy encampment to wait for the enemy to be convinced to talk to them.
Well, the enemies weren't willing to trust them instantly, and told them that unless they intended to be shot down, they'd have to accept a prize crew. Not having read enough pirate books, the Order didn't realize that that meant the enemy thought they were being taken prisoner until it was really awkward... and they spent the next few hours hovering over the enemy camp arguing about their status, and trying to come to some sort of arrangement that would let them negotiate in good faith without anyone shooting anyone else or giving up their weapons.
Eventually, the enemy leader -- the one the alethiometer had basically told them to kill -- agreed to a conference as long as they left their weapons behind. Eric decided to go alone, entrusting his gun to the rest of the Order, with the sun setting and the moon rising as he approached the tent unarmed.
...and turned into a werewolf, since it *was* the night of the full moon. Oops!
As 'assassins', the Order's status changed considerably. Taegan managed to convince the 'prize crew' (a single pilot) that they should RUN AWAY because if they were shot down, he'd die too. He wasn't a good enough pilot to run away very well, though, but they told him to open a portal to Faerie, and the enemies didn't guess that that world was the one they'd gated to, letting them shake off pursuit for the moment.
There didn't seem to be a rift in Faerie -- had the fairies already closed it? There weren't any signs of faeries nearby either, though. They took the 'prize crew' prisoner (at his insistence, since otherwise he was a traitor) and 'interrogated' him until he volunteered the location of the factory where the portal devices were made -- they planned to warp right into it and build 20 more devices to close the portal with, without any of this tedious mucking about with cooperation.
The factory was very near the rift, though... and as they got close they could feel the rift that wasn't there trying to suck them in. Oh, duh -- the fairies had just cloaked it and were pretending it didn't exist. That's what fairies always did.
So they warped into the factory. There was a mostly-automated assembly line, which Taegan was able to modify to make pre-tuned portal-closing devices instead of portal-opening devices. They needed a shopping trip to fetch some of the raw materials the machines needed -- apparently they enemies had run it until they ran out of stuff to make more portal-openers with -- and to generate the power they needed to close the rift that was just outside the window, they had to overload the factory's generator. Well, that wasn't the ONLY way to get the power, but destroying the factory was a side-benefit anyway.
So, in the midst of radio chatter among the enemies panicking about not knowing how to close the rift and contemplating their certain doom -- they sort of figured out they needed to go to Asrial's tower to get the info, but hadn't actually decided to do that yet -- Taegan broadcast, "Okay, I'm closing your stupid rift for you," and pushed the button to do so.
Of course, there was a slight flaw in this plan. The rift was closed, but the Order was left in the middle of a massive dead zone, just like had formed around the rift on their world, when they'd closed it. Jana managed to keep her wings attached to her body, barely, but Caihong and Taegan lost track of their daemons as they vanished, ejected from the zone.
Taegan's held on long enough to blast a hole in the self-destructing factory and fling the intention craft out of the dead zone, at least, which let Taegan at least remain conscious. While he went to inspect the damage to the portal-closers (which had been attached to the intention craft by long tethers, and banged against the sides of buildings on the quick flight out of the city), Jana woke up Caihong, and Caihong was able to see that they still did have a connection to their daemons, just a sort of stretched out one now. So they were reunited with their daemons quickly, but it was clear that the relationship wasn't as close anymore -- they kept losing track of each other, as they got distracted working on some task or other...
The enemy didn't come to re-arrest them -- they were busy dogfighting with the massive ultra-specter created by closing the rift, which the pilots couldn't see but the pixies could. The intention craft lasers seemed to piss it off, but weren't killing it, so the battle went on for a while.
Meanwhile, back at the tent, Eric regained sanity (as the enemy leader's domination spell wore off) and found himself in a cage. As a wolf. Guarded by two selkies who, once he got them talking (a -4 to his social skill for being completely impaired in the 'talking' department still left him enough skill to get his point across to someone who was trying to listen), mostly wanted to know how he'd managed to turn into a wolf, since they hadn't been able to find a wolf skin to remove from him. Eventually, they got their leader, who cast a charm spell on Eric, telling him to go convince his friends that they should cooperate with him, allowing him to coordinate the effort to close the other rifts, since this one had been closed prematurely, before he'd been able to set up his 'ritual'.
Only the spell didn't work this time -- Eric resisted it. And since he really did want to cooperate enough to let the guy think he was in charge, he didn't do anything to make the enemy suspect that he hadn't been charmed.
So he was set free to reunite with his friends. It was a tense reunion, especially since Caihong, the only person able to actually see that it was Eric, went and hid before getting a good look.
And they cooperated with the enemy, building a giant fleet of intention craft jerry-rigged to the surviving portal-closers. The massive 'intention craft' floating ziggurat that had tried to capture them before was dedicated to the project, and it had an oversized power system and portal device, which once retuned by Taegan (with the enemy techs watching and trying to learn, but failing as he deliberately obfuscated what he was doing) was able to make up for the lost closers.
So then it was time for the world tour. The enemy leader ('Raistlin' was what he called himself) picked Faerie for the first destination, so they... um... didn't have a big enough portal-opener to make a portal big enough to fit the ziggurat through, since it had been retuned to close them. Reluctantly, Jana cut a huge hole in the sky for them to fly through, as saving entire worlds was worth breaking her word to the bears not to open portals with her sword.
But instead of closing the portal right away, Raistlin insisted that the pixies cast a massive specter-ward around the rift 'to control the giant specter that will certainly be created'. The party made sure to sabotage the spell secretly, in case that was the ritual Eric told them about (by laboriously scratching words into the deck plating). As they started the final countdown, the Order -- and only the Order -- saw an intention craft fly past the assembled rift-closing fleet towards the rift, apparently on course to enter it just as the rift was closed. Basically, the witchcraft invisibility spells didn't work if you were doing something actively intending to harm someone, and while he bore no ill will towards his own people, he *was* planning to wipe out the Order as soon as possible, so he couldn't hide from them with magic.
So Taegan stopped the countdown at the last second. BLOOP, the craft flew into the rift. Taegan gave it a good fifteen minutes double-checking the settings before he let them actually fire the closers and seal it up, hoping that was enough time for their enemy to be thoroughly eaten by the abyss.
Well... it wasn't, although perhaps that delay was why instead of a God, he turned into a giant, angry, magic-using specter-thing. That no one could see except for the pixies... who were instantly charmed. "Let's... run away," was the general consensus, so they did -- to the world of Talking Machines next.
There, the military was arrayed around the 'anomoly', inside specter-wards holding the army of specters at bay, getting ready to set off a nuke inside Lord Asrial's device instead of sacrificing the life of Martha or Jim -- because really, what problem *can't* be solved by nuking? Luckily, they didn't have to find out if their mad plan would work, because the Order was there to close the rift properly!
Oh, and so was this giant magic-using specter-demon thing, that followed them through, and charmed all the adults present instantly. They closed the rift to make another giant specter that they *hoped* would fight the magic-using monster, dodged a salvo of missiles and artillery fired by the nearby navy task force, and fled back to fairie, closing the portal behind them, sealing the enemy in the world of talking machines.
And that was that -- the rest was basically mop-up. They closed the other rifts, used the intention-craft lasers (with some additional modifications) to wipe out the armies of specters infesting the various worlds, sealed up all the portals, and exiled the citizens of 'Heaven' to their species' homeworlds, dissolving what was left of their society, which really wasn't much with the loss of their capitol and only real city to the dead zone, their leader to the specter-demon-thing, and so on.
They now knew enough to open portals kind-of sort-of safely (as long as all the spells and stuff worked, which wasn't guaranteed), but they didn't go back to the one world that Lyra really wanted a portal to, since that was where the enemy waited, biding his time. According to the Alethiometer, the people of that world wouldn't be able to get rid of the giant magic-using specter that liked dominating everyone that saw him, but 'he isn't the worst of their false gods'.
last session | next session, different campaign
"Well, yeah, you *can* go back to that world and try to fight the charmed US military and giant magic-using false god, but either that's going to be an entire campaign that I'm really not prepared to run right now, or it'll be a giant anticlimax. So it's probably better to end 'book 1' here."
Anyway, next up is the campaign that we've been building characters for for months now, run by Lazar again. Our party of 'first level' adventurers includes a ghost, an 8-tailed kitsune, and an ancient magic genie thing... and a thief, and a fighter.