Last Place on Earth, Downtown Duluth
“Brit, what are you doing up here?” Madison asks, not bother to mask the derision in her voice.
“Maddy, I am so glad you made it up here! I know, we just need to make a quick hop down to the Twin Cities, do you think you can help?”
“I don’t what you all did at the Bazaar, but sure, I guess, where is it you want to go?”
Maddison’s eyes widen, “What? No, I want nothing to do with my asshole of a father, I won’t take you there.”
Bobby takes a moment to calm Madison down, as Alek asks if they can go somewhere close by. Madison nods her head in ascent, “I…I can take you somewhere close, but the quickest way I have to go through either lands controlled by Vestele Darkwind or by Blackthorn in the Nevernever. What works best for you?”
Alek, Bobby, Brittany, Craig, Hunter, and Thomas take a moment to confer and decide to risk traveling the lands controlled by Blackthorn, wanting to stay out of the influence of the Winter Court as much as possible. Madison agrees and after taking a moment to concentrate, she finds a Way and opens a door leading into the Nevernever.
Blackthorn’s Garden Party, Nevernever
Madison leads them into the lush, wild wilderness of the Nevernever, quickly though, they find themselves in a manicure garden where the oddest party that they have ever seen is going on. An assortment of creatures, fairies, and other beings are sitting about tables and chairs that appear as if they were grown from the ground into the furniture. They see mortals playing music or wandering around serving food or drink. One thing these servers have in common, besides being beautiful, is they each have either a gold collar or anklet with a fine chain connected to a large band about the waist. Hunter’s sensitive ears pick up the sounds of bets being taken regarding the odds of the “Star” surviving.
Madison skips into the party as a giant tree reveals itself to be a Troll of Summer. “Hi Maddy,” it rumbles as she passes by, it turns to the rest of the travelers and goes, “Invitation please.”
They all realize that the Troll appears to be a bit dim, Bobby slips into the background, while Thomas pretends to be a bodyguard, and Brit waves after Maddy like they are old friends. Hunter ignores the conversation and focuses on the conversations the patrons are having with his acute hearing. Alek weaves a quick tale about being friends of Madison and the troll lets them through and tells them, “If you wanna place a wager just ask one of the servants.”
Alek nods and the rest stroll on by, one of the servant greets them and leads them to a table. He offers them food or drink, but Craig quickly states, “While here, don’t drink or eat anything.” The rest nod. As they plan their next move, suddenly they hear a cough behind them and see a bemused Blackthorn standing there.
Jack remains to the side, not really paying attention, but realizes the betting is about the likelihood of Alison Harper surviving. He notice they are gambling with things like a “baby’s first laugh” or a part of an artist’s soul. The longer he listens the more he hears that the odds are stacked against them. He whispers this to everyone else, as Blackthorn starts to speak.
“Well, uninvited guests, please have a drink, something to eat, you do present me something of a problem.” He spreads his arms wide, the colors of his fitted suit matching the natural background perfectly, with almost a chameleon like blend, “I am running an evening of gaming and well, having the principles here, adds a complication, it makes it seem like I might have insider information. Truly a problem that is in search of a solution.”
He flashes a smile at them. Solutions are offered, with Blackthorn sadly shaking his head to each, seeing a problem or a concern, until finally, Alek, offering a smile of his own, “Well, you probably want us out of here as soon as possible, as it is well known that Craig Hale, while not only being a principle and a Wizard of the White Council; also has the ability to see the future. The longer we are here, the more that we would cause a disruption to your evening festivities.”
Blackthorn strokes his chin, “You make an excellent point,” and with a flash of his hand he invokes the power of his demesne, muting Craig, “that solves that problem.”
Thomas, silent and stoic, suddenly speaks up, “Does it really? You have been talking to us for a while, keeping us here is just a losing proposition, sending us on our way is not that much aid and helps you tamp down that you are speaking to us; especially if you give us a minor obstacle.”
Blackthorn smiles brightens, "Good point, I shall send you on your way, it will just take a little longer than you hoped! The world turns bright around them and they find themselves ejected from the Nevernever.
Outside the Wabasha Street Caves, St. Paul, 10:00pm.
Suddenly they find themselves standing outside the boarded up entrance to the Wabasha Street Caves. Once a tourist destination, recent violence and assaults has resulted in the caves being closed off. They also notice that they lost most of the day. Bobby gets a sense of the ritual magic being utilized further into the cave.
“We have until like Midnight man, then the ritual reaches it’s like climax, I think I can get to my like lab and brew up some potions to help us.”
Craig also gets a sense of the ritual magic involved and feels that some kind of giant ward is being constructed in the depths of the caverns, “Bobby, I can go with you and help you with the brewing.”
Brittany then offers to go with Bobby and Craig in case things do not go as smoothly. Hunter steps away from the rest and transforms into an eagle and flies through the open door to the caves to scout farther ahead. Alek decides to take a moment to scout the grounds and see what he can find; while Thomas, now left alone at the cave entrance decides to step inside and wait at the mouth of the cave.
Alek, now alone turns on his flashlight and begins to search the area, looking for signs of passage or defense. He finds the evidence of motorcycle tracks. He follows the trail and it leads back down to the cave entrance where he can see that the motorcycle stopped. He then makes out a set of footprints, most likely either that of a woman or a slender man, running from where the motorcycle stopped and into the caves. Alek turns off is flashlight and steps inside to pass this information along to Thomas.
Indian Mounds Park, St. Paul
Bobby, Brittany and Craig make their way to Bobby’s RV and lab. Brittany checks her watch and shares the time with Bobby. The alchemist and wizard realize that if they brew some potions while Brittany drives the RV back to the Wabasha Street Caves. Bobby and Craig clamber in back and start to gather ingredients as Brittany starts up the RV and begins to drive quickly back to the caves.
As they pass across the bridge leading across the Mississippi River, the RV suddenly lurches rolling to its side. Brittany pinned in the driver’s seat sees a giant wooded fist of a Summer Troll pounding on the door to the cab. She looks around quickly and sees a container of weed killer, she grabs, uncorks it and then hurls it at the troll. Brittany’s aim is true as the container explodes directly in the chest of the plant like troll. It lets out a bellow, frantically pulling at the passenger side door of the RV.
Bobby scrambles to pull together his potions supplies and realizes that he won’t be able to make all that he wanted to brew. Craig frantically pushes at the back door, trying to get away, but finds himself not strong enough to open it.
Bobby looks out the side window and yells, “Tree Beard, man, like why did you punch my RV!?”
Tree Beard shakes his head and peers at the window, “Oh, hi, Bobby, sorry, scary Queen Lady says I have to stop you and stop you I shall.”
Bobby sighs and conversationally replies, “Yeah, but man, you owe me one.”
Tree Beard ponders for a moment, stuck between two obligations, and suddenly smiles, “Me no smash Bobby, I smash lady instead!” He then begins to pound on the doors of the cab, Brittany twisting and turning to avoid shards of glass and twisted metal.
Brittany surges out of the cab of the truck and head butts Tree Beard viciously, knocking him back. He flails at her uselessly and she snarls, “Keep this up and I will rip your arms off, you troll.”
The Summer Fae stumbles backward against her onslaught, bellowing, almost pleading, “Scary Queen says I have to stop you, can’t listen to her.”
Brittany whips out her ghost axe and slices some of the vines making up the troll’s body, “Well this Scary Lady is going to chop you into kindling if you don’t give up.”
Bobby yells out man, “Yeah, just like make her walk or something.”
Tree Beard backs away and looks at Brittany, “You no drive, you promise to walk to the Caves and Tree Beard can let you through.”
Brittany thinks about the time, ghost axe in hand, and goes, “Deal, I promise not to drive.”
Tree Beard nods and climbs back over the side of the bridge and away. Craig pulls himself together and Brittany sighs, before flipping the RV upright.
“Bobby, you drive,” Brittany says and grabs onto the back bumper, “I will be running behind you.”
Bobby takes off, as Brittany strides behind the RV, letting the motor pull her forward. Her shoes begin to burn and tatter against the friction of the black top road.
Wabasha Street Caves, St. Paul
Hunter flies into the entryway of the caves. He sees what appears to be several cultist lying dead on the floor, their throats cut by a slender blade. Hunter flies deeper down the cavern, he can see what appears to be an old style of wiring for demolitions that will blow the entrance to cave. He flies further down and comes to an old mine door. Peering through the barred window, he can see chanting Wyvern Cultists and behind them at a tall alter the robed figure of Magnus Jotunnson plunging a dagger into a human being. He quickly takes wing back to the cave entrance.
As Hunter flies deeper into the cavern, Thomas steps inside taking witness to the carnage at his feet. He takes a quick look around, but his inspection is interrupted by a lilting Irish accent, “Ahhh the Champion of Iron, I was hoping to speak to you.”
Thomas looks up and sees Erin Kirkpatrick in form fitting leathers, two slender blades sheathed at her waist. Thomas cocks and eyebrow, “and?”
“I abhor this killing of children, but, unfortunately I am compelled to impede you and your companions’ path.” Erin strides to the mouth of the cave, blocking Thomas’s ability to go deeper, “I have two options, one I like more than the other. Notwithstanding the shape changer flying back down the cavern, if you and your companions attempt to travel down the cave I possess the power, both through arcane arts or technological methods, to collapse the cave and prevent your rescue of the child. The alternative, which I prefer for I deem it more honorable, is for you to face me in single combat. Your companions may continue on, without your aid, where they will most likely fail their test of arms against the power of Magnus.”
Thomas thinks a moment and nods, “Deal, I will face you in single combat, does it begin now?”
Erin shakes her head, “No, you can wait for your companions, no reason to not be civil, but the duel begins when one of them continues down the pathway.”
When she finishes speaking, Hunter flies back and transforms into Human form as Alek enters the cave, tracing the footprints he found. Alek quickly realizes that the footprints he saw belonged to that of Erin; Hunter tells them both about the human sacrifices going on in the ritual chamber. Before Hunter and Alek can charge them back down, Thomas stops them both and relays to them Erin’s deal.
With nothing to do, but wait; Thomas sits down on a rock and sharpens his sword. Erin leans against the side of the tunnel wall, with one hand resting on the hilt of a sword blade, the other holding a leather bound book as she reads. Hunter and Alek confer, pacing about, seeing if they can disarm the bomb mechanism.
It isn’t long before they hear the sound of Bobby’s RV sputtering to a stop outside. Bobby, Brittany and Craig run inside, taking in the unusual sight. Thomas calmly explains the deal; with Brittany thinking for a moment to take his place, but discards the idea readily. Craig takes a moment outside of the caves and looks the clear night sky. He uses his arcane knowledge and invokes a ritual to empower himself with the light of the stars. Erin stands smiling and relaxed as everyone else gathers together and walks by her, both Thomas and Erin maintain eye contact as the last of Thomas’s companions continue deeper into the caves.
As soon as the final person passes, Erin leaps into action, being quicker than Thomas, and strikes true. Thomas feels pain and a sting in his side as he realizes Erin has coated her blades in an ichor that burns at the iron inside of him. He knows that his iron will cut through Erin’s defenses, but it appears she evened the playing field. They trade blows with Thomas stalwartly blocking and Erin twisting side to side.
Ritual Chamber, Wabasha Street Caves, St. Paul
Bobby reaches into his satchel and passes Brittany a small package that says “Eat Me” and a vial to Hunter that says “Drink Me”. Alek, now that he can see the explosive closer, notices that they could be tricky to disarm as they have a dead man’s switch. Luckily, he has seen this kind of rigging before and he takes a moment to disarm it. Bobby keeps a few items for himself.
Craig peers through the crack in the door. He can see a blue flame burning with the light directly from Jotunnheim. He knows it will burn cold instead of hot. He can also see several cultists and the ritual spell has been carved into the stone, illuminated by the blue flame. He takes a moment and can feel the ritual magic and realizes that the power being channeled here is fueled by the death of many people and that if it allowed to go out of control it could cause major destruction to innocent people living above; not to mention bringing the caverns down on top of them. Craig then senses that they are channeling immense energy into a series of wards deep below the Twin Cities, almost directly below Witch’s Hat Tower. Craig gains the sense that there are 6 immense wards and a complex veil. He realizes that one of the wards is failing and the ward being channeled here is to renew that ward. He knows that if someone put the life of the sun into this last ward they could restore it.
As Craig comes to this cold realization, Hunter sees an air shaft and transforms into a hawk. He takes the vial he got from Bobby in his talons and flies up the air shaft and into the ritual chamber. He now sees Alison Harper, suspended in chains against the wall, raised up above the floor. Unfortunately, Magnus sees Hunter and his chanting stops, curious to see an eagle, with a potion vial, flying in an underground cavern.
Brittany wastes little time and kicks the door savagely with her foot slamming it into a chanting cultist, she charges in with ghost axe at the ready. Alek, Bobby, and Craig follow her in with Alek drawing his shotgun, pumping a shell in. Magnus looks on with arrogant annoyance at the intrusion. He steps from the blue flame, throwing his robe back, a giant maul in his fist.
“You know not what you meddle in fools,” Magnus ripples beneath his pale flesh and grows to immense size, dwarfing everyone else, “you’re interference could bring death to all you care about!”
As Magnus roars, another cultist steps to the center to resume chanting; several of the others suddenly stab blades into their hearts. Their skin peals and suddenly emerging from their flesh with a moist and bloody explosion are wolves carved of ice, howling for blood.
Wabasha Street Caves, St. Paul.
Thomas felt the bite of Erin’s blades again as she ran up the side of the cave wall to dodge one of his powerful sword blows. She twists the blades, causing Thomas to wince. He reaches behind his back and grabs one of the boxes of nails he had. Erin darts in, expecting another of Thomas sword swings, but instead he slams the box of nails against the side of her face. Erin cartwheels to the side slamming against the wall. She regain her balance, but not before Thomas can set his defenses and hold his sword at the ready.
Ritual Chamber, Wabasha Street Caves, St. Paul.
Hunter takes flight above the struggle below, he flies towards Alison’s prone and restrained form. He lands on the chains next to her and uncorks the bottle. Realizing that this would be too awkward, he transforms to human shape and attempts to poor the fluid down her throat. Her unconscious and hanging form makes this difficult causing some of the “Drink Me” potion to pour out of her mouth.
Brittany shoulders aside to ice wolves and grabs the package marked “Eat Me” ripping it open. She pops the alchemical food into her mouth, swallowing it quickly. Brittany suddenly roars, feeling strength and energy coursing through her body as she suddenly grows to a size equal to that of Magnus, her clothes ripping to tatters about her. Brittany stands tall and naked, her hands clenching in fists as she prepares to assault Magnus.
Alek discharges his shotgun, dodging ice wolves as they lunge at him. The blast deafens Magnus. Bobby takes a gulp of Odin’s Breath and exhales alchemical energy dazing the wolves and Magnus. Craig looks to the stone ceiling hoping to find a weak spot, but is unable to see any faults in the craftsmanship. Unfortunately for Bobby, he gets assailed by wolves and they cut him deeply. Brittany gets hamstrung by some of the ice wolves, giving an opening in her defenses for Magnus to savagely slam his Maul against her ribs. She feels them cracking.
Magnus growls with the blow, “You fools, your interference will cause Fenrir, the father of monsters to awaken. He must be sealed below, he must be restrained!”
Wabasha Street Caves, St. Paul
Thomas realizes that overcoming Erin quickly will be a difficult proposition. He resolves to extend the conflict, so that he can prevent Erin from perhaps tipping the scales between his companions and that of Magnus. He grabs his other box of nails and whips it across the floor spreading iron nails about. Erin looks at him with aspiration, her eyes suddenly turn green as her long red hair suddenly billows out. A warm summer breeze blows through the door, filling the cave with the smell of spring. The winds whip the nails across the floor, clearing a path between her and Thomas.
Ritual Chamber, Wabasha Street Caves, St. Paul
Brittany and Magnus exchange blows with the ice wolves worrying at her flanks. She shoulders Magnus aside, crushing a wolf into shards and lets out a roar, shaking the constructs and intimidating them. They instead turn to other targets and move on the more vulnerable Bobby and Craig.
Hunter, seeing that Alison is beginning to slowly shrink and seeing the change in the tactics of the wolves, drops to the ground. He shifts to that of a giant wolf and lands on the stone floor. He charges a pair of wolves, tearing into them. His might jaws and claws pulverize one into a pile of ice.
Craig, realizes that sadly there is truth to Magnus’s words, the ward is failing. He turns and blasts a wolf with spirit, laced with star power, obliterating it. Bobby attempts to learn more about the wards, but is blocked by an immense veil that keep him from greater understanding. Alek times another shotgun shot, blasting at Magnus and dazing him with the glare.
Magnus staggers back from Brittany’s blows. His eye glow with a strong blue light, as cold as ice. He channels energy and summons a frigid gale, freezing his foes to the core. They are blasted back and coated in droplets of ice. He lets out a fierce roar that shakes the domed ritual chamber.
Wabasha Street Caves, St. Paul
Thomas and Erin both hear Magnus’s Earth shaking roar and feel the blast of cold air. Thomas fears for the safety of his companions and attempts to taunt Erin, drawing her to follow him down the cavern, bringing her closer. Erin at first follows through on Thomas’s attempt, their blades clashing together. Suddenly though, she sees through the ruse and wanting to keep Thomas out of the ritual chamber, she summons a wall of stone, with the power of Summer, behind him sealing off the cave.
Ritual Chamber, Wabasha Street Caves, St. Paul
Magnus and Brittany continue to exchange hammer blows and punches, the chamber groaning beneath their powerful strikes. Craig responds to the gale Magnus casted with his own blast of star light. He fills the chamber with spiritual energy and with the fury that built inside of him is able to take the power of the stars and burns away the wolves and cultists. Magnus roars in pain as his own flesh burns under the fierce assault. With the Cultists dead, Bobby quickly takes control of the ritual. Hunter hamstrings Magnus, knocking him off balance as Alek grabs a machete he bought at the Last Place on Earth and stabs Magnus in the side. Magnus gathers his will and using the power of the Outside is able to assert his will over the ritual circle and gain control of the ritual, preventing Bobby from dissipating the power.
Craig sees that his Prophecy of Doom is coming true as a sword has cut Magnus’s flesh, Bobby’s potion has been fueling Brittany’s relentless assault, and Magnus is in the Wabasha Street Caves he channels a blast of spirit energy. He burns the energy of the stars from him to sear Magnus. Magnus burns, his skin melting off of him, his blood boils and his bone curdles. The skin peels from his skull as Brittany wraps her arms under Magnus and digs her fingers into his eyes, pulling him back.
Magnus roars with fury and defeat, struggling in Brittany’s titan grasp. Craig calls out to Magnus, drawing on Alison’s personal magnetism, “Magnus, your ritual will fail, surrender and we can find another way. You will not be harmed.”
Bobby, not wanting to be the target of a death curse, draws on the savage wounds Magnus sustained, “Yeah man, if your are going to end it this way, you’re going to wreck the city anyways.”
Magnus sags in Brittany’s arms and surrenders, howling in tears, “You don’t understand, this is the only way, what is the life of a girl compared to the city….to the world?”
As Magnus speaks, a shrunken Alison slides from her bounds. Hunter quickly turns to human and catches her as she falls, lowering her unconscious form to the floor. Bobby channels what energy is left in the ritual into the failing ward and realizes that this will only keep the ward sustained for a couple of weeks at best.
Wabasha Street Caves, St. Paul
The fierce battle between Erin and Thomas comes to a sudden halt as Erin leaps back with a small laugh.
“How interesting! Well fought Thomas, but it appears your companions were successful,” Erin makes a gesture with her hand, lowering the stone wall, “go to them, the purpose of our duel has been render moot, besides, I have some winnings to collect.”
Thomas lowers his sword allowing Erin to disengage. Erin laughs as she sheathes her blade, he takes note that she draws a marker from her belt pouch, a marker matching those at Blackthorn’s garden party. “I enjoyed our duel Thomas, you are a skilled swordsman. I fear our blades will cross again while Alison Harper continues to be claimed by the Winter Court. Fare you well.”
Erin turns and leaves the caves, as Thomas calls back, with a touch of respect, “Fare you well as well, I look forward to our next battle.”
He then turns and walks down the caves to join his companions.