After pumping what information they could from the two Ob-funded scientists, Gangenwieck and Thornsenkertz, the party pressed on to the final chamber, where the lich rested over a foot deep in the ice, totally motionless. Before even attempting to talk with him, they had Hugo perform a Reverse Portal ritual, bringing in Leone Quital and the rest of Templeton’s squad, just for backup purposes.
Once Leone was cuffed into unconsciousness, the bargaining began. The surgeon spoke with an incongrously smooth and gleeful voice, slathering on the charm to his supposed liberators and offering them further boons in exchange for their help. “Perhaps the martial-minded among you have always wanted to master the arcane arts? Perhaps some among you were born with quick minds, when you’d value quick hands even more? All these things are possible for me. With but a few minutes of soul-surgery, I can alter your body and memories; no door is closed to you. You can be anything you like, just give me permission…”
Rightfully, most of the party was spooked by the idea, but Qiyet stepped forward. She had been focusing on the techniques taught to her from her study-abroad program in Elfaivar of late, and though occasional teleportation was helpful, she found the overall style incongruous with her self-crafted fighting technique. After detailing the possibilities to the lich, he agreed to alter her memories, dimming the lessons gleaned from eladrin warriors and strengthening the fundamentals she’d learned back in the Jierre Academy of Arms, a set of core maneuvers known to some as Elementary Stances.
After granting this adjustment for free (and assuring them that he’d avoided learning mind-control magic during his existence, to make his service more palatable to the Demonocracy), he requested all those present to enter into a pact with him. He would grant them the soul-manipulation magic that Grappa had requested, but once he did so the party would be required to free him. If they tried to leave while he was still trapped, the power of the pact would turn their blood to ice. The constables agreed, fancying their odds against a lich who hadn’t had a chance to hone his spellcraft in centuries.
First, the Surgeon removed Leone’s soul. Even though the man slept, the pain of the removal brought his consciousness to the surface, and he screamed. He used every ounce of his strength to try to throw his captors away from him as they pressed him up against the wall entombing their undead benefactor, but Templeton and Talon held him fast, while Hugo kept a chunk of ice against the back of his head (thanks to his investment in a belt of endurance). As his cries died away, the ice turned black, and the lich informed them that their enemy’s soul could be destroyed forever if they sundered the ice here and now.
“You know what the worst part about this is?” Templeton asked the silent, fragile container housing Leone’s soul. “These days, this sort of thing doesn’t even bother me anymore.” He slammed the ice against the ground, watching the color bleed out from the dozens of tiny shards until nothing remained of their unrepentant rival.
This process was repeated again, though with a more permanent form of crystal plucked from Kida’s seemingly bottomless inventory. The soul of Xambria Meredith was finally removed from Hugo, and placed into the body of Thornsenkertz, leaving the Ob researcher trapped in the crystal. Finally, the lich taught the details to a more limited form of the soul transfers they had watched; a ritual he called Mortal Possession. Grappa listened intently, and Hugo took the time to copy notes into his own ritual book, as well.
“Now fulfill your half of the bargain,” the lich decreed, suggesting they use heat to simply melt him free… only the party realized they had journeyed to Drakr with no kind of fire magic whatsoever. Undeterred, Talon began to shave away layers of ice using an adamantine battleaxe, and within a half hour or so, the lich was able to stand up and shake the remaining ice from himself in the alcove the warden had carved.
“You will all have a place in my future domain, once I’ve had my revenge on the Clergy…” he laughed airily, but the constables were in no mood to let him live out his dream (though they still had little love for the Clergy leadership). As he saw them level their weapons, he shouted, “Fools! I stood with the mighty armies of the Demonocracy. I helped them fell legions of your kind in my day, and you think you can stand against me!? Your souls will only fuel my rage across this continent…!”
Kida pulled out her fracturing handgun and fired off a spray of shrapnel—unexpectedly, the lich burst into thousands of bony fragments, and the fight was over before it had started! At first, the constables refused to accept what had happened, searching the ice nearby for the lich’s phylactery, or some other sign that he had somehow escaped destruction… but a careful check of the Ob notes by Xambria and Hugo revealed that the Surgeon’s phylactery had, in fact, been destroyed very soon after uncovering his frozen form, just as a precaution.
The real battle only began after the constables left that chamber, finding the Khangitche Odul with a dozen or more of his fellow frost giants, arrayed against them with a wall of mostly-dwarven prisoners, including Kvarti Gorbatiy. The greedy giant announced that he had decided to change he and Talon’s deal from earlier, since it seemed the party were traveling with untold wealth just hanging off them in the form of expensive magic items. Talon warned him not to try – that the very items he lusted after were deadly in the hands of the constables, and that they would destroy the Khangitche and his tribe, if they needed to. Odul was unmoved, and ordered his fellows to kill them all.
Kvarti joined the fight after being tossed a carbine and a sack of bullets, but the battle was long and bloody. For once, none of the party dropped from their wounds, despite the arduous circumstances! But the giants were all formidably tough—even the weakest of them still took several hits from the powerful members of Team 1 before succumbing to their injuries. One by one they were all taken out; and when Odul himself was felled, his three mages tried to surrender, only to be wiped out since the party was in a very unforgiving mood.
Templeton despaired at the sheer amount of evidence they’d left at this dig site; it would only be a matter of time before the RHC’s involvement here was discovered by the Obscurati, he reasoned. Xambria suggested they simply leave nothing behind, using munitions from the party’s ship to collapse the excavated chambers, nurturing the idea that the frost giants had simply rebelled, taken everything of value, then flattened the place in their anger, burying it under tons of ice. From there, Xambria would use her notes to figure out where she needed to be to meet with an Ob contact, while Grappa would take a train into Crisillyir and try to slip back into Leone’s life. Both promised to contact the constabulary immediately if they found information they could use against the Ob, or an opportunity they could exploit.