The sun shone valiantly through the white clouds as Aldraen stepped out into the fresh air. It couldn't do much against the cold that Dun Morogh had almost the year around. His breath turned into mist as he breathed.
He had just exited Ironforge from one of the exits on the second depth. The path from there lead down a slope and to the Airstrip, that was lined with different kinds of dwarven and gnomish flying machines and aerial contraptions. As Aldraen walked down the slope, he felt how the ground was snowy in a way very different from the rocky floor of Ironforge, as was the air. It was fresh and chilly as it passed the throat, not the type of hot, imprisoned air of the underground city. He had countered the cold by wearing warm leather clothing with white fur and a hood.
He arrived at the place that he and his team was going to meet at in a couple hours. None of them had arrived yet, but Aldraen was out in good time. He used the time to check that all the equipment and supplies had arrived. Rations, ropes, pickaxes, medical supplies and all the rest was in order, neatly stacked in boxes at the wall of a bunker. He then went on with inspecting the gyrocopters that were going to be used for transport the first bit, talking to the pilots and in general making sure that all was in order. It was good that everything had been fixed with such a short notice.
After his round, he walked over to the stack of crates of equipment and sat down on one and waited for his team to drop in. He watched as the everyday business of the airstrip, with scouting crafts being launched, outlooks spying the horizon and engineers doing their work with monsters of metal with steam running through the veins.
After around ten minutes of waiting, the first person showed up. It was prospector Farenc, one of the new members of the League and one of the only human members of it, to add. She was carrying a backpack that looked perhaps a little heavier than Aldraen had instructed everyone to bring. He checked his pocket watch and found that she was quite early, around an hour before he expected the team to show.
Senna crossed the runway and went over to the crates. Her face shone up when she spotted Aldraen already sitting there.
"Oh, explorer Aldraen!" she said as she walked over. "And I thought I was early coming here at this time."
"No, no, don't worry. I got here a couple hours ago to make sure all is in order. Do you feel ready for your first real expedition as an explorer?" Aldraen asked.
"Yep, I think so. Been preparing all night." she replied and put her bag down on the snowy ground.
She sat down on another crate and they talked for a time before the other team-members came in, one by one. There was the two Rockstomp brothers Eiran and Margunos, Gurnag Tramplefoot, Arhor Skyheaver, Ginrek Irontooth, Ermela Goldseeker and Inga Steelore. When all were there, the full team counted to Aldraen, Senna, five dwarf men and two dwarf women. They had around one more hour before they would depart, so they had more than enough time to load the things.
"Good that you all are here in good time. We have some loading to do now, let's get these boxes onto the gyrocopters. Our ones are parked over there." Aldraen said and pointed further down the runway to a line of transportation gyrocopters.
Along with the others, Aldraen then made everything ready, loading the flying machines with supplies and everything else. After that, he let the team split up with two persons per machine. More than that would unbalance the machine and that was why Aldraen had asked for five ones.
He climbed up into his own copter. He had enough experience to fly one on his own, thus making it unneccesary to bring a pilot for his. Senna joined him in the back seat, as it would be best for the dwarves to fly with dwarves to keep balance well. Normally that wasn't an issue, but they had cargo now as well.
Aldraen seated himself comfortably in the pilot's seat as Senna sat down behind him. The other team-members did the same in their copters. Aldraen's machine was first in line, so he would lift off first.
"So, ever flown before?" he asked to his passenger as he checked the reglages and instruments.
"Yes, but only on gryphonback. How do these work?" Senna answered and looked over Aldraen's shoulder curiously.
"What do you say about I show you? Strap yourself in well and we'll be off." he said back as he flipped a switch and began taxing.
A dwarf on the runway gave a sign for Aldraen to take off. He pulled down a pair of goggles he had brought with him and then accelerated, with the copter thundering. The force pushed him back in his seat and held him there firmly as the wind began pulling in his hair. When the end of the runway began to speed closer, a feelings as if a large fist pressed one down came and the machine was airborne.
Aldraen looked down to the ground briefly and saw how it grew smaller before he flew out over the edge of the mountain. He then turned his focus to piloting. It behaved well in his hands, obeying his commands as he turned it to fly south-southwest.
He could hear over the noise of the engines that several other copters had now taken to the air. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the other four were on his tail, in formation. It seemed as if Senna was trying to tell him something, but it drowned in the wind. Aldraen waved dismissingly at her and then looked straight forward again.
An hour or so passed. Dun Morogh flew by under the craft, everything under a blanket of pure white snow. A flock of birds flew by at a distance. THe clouds were just beginning to clear up as the first real mountain range was flown over. This was where Dun Morogh ended and the massive peaks took over. Where there wasn't a mountain, there was slopes or plains of snow in between. The wind intensified and roared as a furious beast.
Aldraen turned 60 degrees left around the peak of a mountain and the Explorer's League outpost came into view, a small camp with a couple fortified tents and reinforcements at the base of the mountain. He localized the landing pad, although it was almost covered in snow, and steered in to lower his speed enough for landing. He hit a button and a switch and let his machine slow down yet more by turning the twin engines so that instead of pointing forward, they pointed to the ground instead. The gyrocopter swept in gracefully and stabilized its speed so that it hovered gently over the wooden landing pad, blowing away snow. Aldraen then steered off from the pad and landed at the side of it so that the other pilots could land as well.
As the remaining machines landed and the explorers started helping the pilots unload, Aldraen spotted a dwarf emerging from the biggest tent and starting to walk over. He recognized him as explorer Hargumlon, one of the three persons who were assigned to keep the outpost in order.
"Welcome to the coldest place of Azeroth!" he said over the screeching sounds the wind made as it flew over the cliff. "We didn't expect ye just yet. Ye got a lill' ahead of schedule." Hargumlon came over and shook Aldraen's hand.
"Indeed. We had good wind and loaded quicker than I thought." Aldraen said. "Could you brief me on the currecnt situation? Any things I should worry about, troll activity, snowslides, wildlife?"
"Don't worry about snowslides. It's not near enough warm enough for it." Hargumlon said and and scratches his chin as he tried to get some ice out of it, to no avail. "Troll actvity is quite low, as always. They'll be wanting to kill you as soon as they lay eye on you, of course. Just stay away from the village to the east and their patrolls and you should be ok. For the wildlife, it's murderous as the best. The dire wolves are always around, and due to the lowseason of their prey, they are desperate. But your biggest problem is the weather."
Hargumlon illustrated it by doing a sweep with his arm over the wind-beaten area.
"Several things lately have been telling us a blizzard might be coming in. Trust me, when you have stayed here as long as we, you get a feel in the bones. It's not a good idea to be out in the snow when it strikes, you'll be buried under the coat in an instant and nobody will find you for years!"
Aldraen considered it for a second, taking his plan into account.
"How long before it strikes?" he asked. "This is no excavation, as you know. We could be able to do what we came for and then return in time."
"We think it could be around 3 to 4 days. But don't take it lightly, it can be treacherous. You could be slowed down or not get back in time and die out there." answered the dwarf.
"Don't worry, I think my plan will hold quite well. But for now, where are you keeping the rams?" Aldraen said.
Hargumlon waved for him to follow. Aldraen gave an instruction to the team to get the cargo to the largest of the two tents and unload them, and then followed. The dwarf lead him to the side of the second tent and gestured toward a large heap of snow. When Aldraen leaned in, puzzled, Hargumlon brushed off some snow and showed that under it, there was a quite large wooden door. Hargumlon pulled it open with an effort and revealed that under the heap of snow, there was a small, simple store and stable. There were a stack of crates at the back, and a group of snow-white rams were stabled, eating peacefully. They contributed to the smell that came out of the place.
"It's hard to build somethin' that holds in the wind 'ere, see." he said. "Buildin' this little cozy place too some time, but it worked out. Under the snow, it stays quite warm and the wind cannot get to it."
"Good thinking. We'll get them reined and ready to leave as soon as possible." Aldraen said before turning back to Hargumlon. "Are your people back in the main tent? I'm going to brief you on my plan so you know what's going on."
Hargumlon nodded and then walked off to notife his people. Aldraen first made his way through the wind to the gyrocopters again where the team was taking out the crates of supplies and stacking them on the ground instead.
"I'm going to give a briefing in the main tent now." he told them. "I've already given you one, but those of you who want to make sure you know everything can come with me. For you rest, the boxes go in the store at the side of the tent."
Senna, Arhor, Ermela and Inga followed with Aldraen as he walked to the Explorer's League style tent, while the rest helped the pilots carry the crates to the store. He entered the while trying to keep the heat in. It smelled as if they had been cooking something not too long ago, some kind of meat. The smell made the whole tent feel like a dwarf's home. When getting inside, Aldraen pulled down his hood again.
The tent was quite big, but low in roof to avoid it being caught by the wind, even though it was in shelter from it. Three dwarves sat inside of it, Hargumlon and his two collegues. The two others were Fargin Anvilcrash and Lorgahn, who was called (because he wanted it) Lorgahn Traveler. Aldraen had met the two on a meeting a few years ago. Two greeted him as he strode in, bending down a little to not hit the ceiling. He almost hit his head on a oil lamp they had hung up to bring some light in.
"Greetings, fellow explorers." he said as he sat down in the middle of the tent, next to the center-pole of the construction. Senna and the two dwarf women sat down next to Lorgahn, Fargin and Hargumlon, so that they were in a half-circle. "As I'm sure explorer Hargumlon has already told you, I'm here with the others in order to scale Snowfang Peak and fill in the blank area on the map."
Aldraen took out a scrolled-up map of leather from his backpack and rolled it out on the tentground. It showed a crude map of the Modir's Teeth area and Stormwind, but it wasnt very exact and had blank areas.
"This is a map of how the League sees this area right now. I know it's quite simple, but this expedition could fill it in a little bit. But, to show the path we'll be taking to Snowfang Peak..." Aldraen said and put the right index finger heavily on the map. "This is where we are now, the outpost most far into the area ("And only!" Hargumlon added). We are going to trek south, around this mountain, past the crevice and finally to the west." he told them and let his finger run along the map to show the movements. They went down, around a picture of a jagged peak, to the left at a snake-like line and stopped at a collection of long mountains. "And here..." he said and put the finger on the top of one of the peaks. "Here, is the goal. Ladies and gentlemen, from what I have made out of a collection of ancient texts, graphs, finds and different information, I think we have a titan facility up here, on Snowfang Peak. What the purpose is, I cannot say. But all points to that there is one, and no place that holds clues to the past can be left untouched."
Aldraen stopped to watch the others' reactions. He had told his team earlier that they would scale Snowfang Peak, but nothing of his theory of a titan facility. Hargumlon and his people only nodded to the news, not seeming very astonished. Dwarves were hard to impress, at least the ones who had survived in this Light-forsaken climate for so long. Senna looked surprised and and impressed before she noticed Aldraen looking, and concealed it with an interested smile. Inga and Ermela nodded with their mouths slightly open. Aldraen gave them all a smile before he went on again.
"Due to the recent news of an incoming snowstorm, we will have to work quickly, lest we will be caught. The plan doesnt change, though. We have enough food to outlast a storm if we have cover. We'll ride by ram untill we reach the mountain itself, and then the rams will find their way back home. They are trained for it, Senna." he said when he saw that Senna frowned. "We scale the mountain, go into the facility, find what we need and then leave and go back here. A larger crew with heavier equipment can take care of digging deeper after we take the first bit of hard work. Talking about hard work, I think the others are done with unloading now. We should get to distribuiting the things and get ready to move out."
He rose up and pulled up his hood, making sure no hair was left outside, as that would easily let heat out. The group of dwarves and Senna followed him out of the tent, and as soon as he stepped outside, the wind resumed its tries at grabbing him and swooping him away. It tried to sneak in under the clothes, but it didnt succeed.
They walked to the storage, where the door had been shut. Looking as good as he could through the white air, Aldraen couldnt see the unloaders, so he thought they must have began unpacking inside. Hargumlon opened the heavy door that had begun to be oversnowed again, and there the others were. The four gyrocopter pilots along with the rest of the team were breaking up the crates with crowbars. As Aldraen walked in, he told them of that there was a list of how to distribute the supplies in the crate numbered 1. He then asked Inga, who had a good hand with animals and rams in particular, to start reining and making the rams they would be ready.
They then used 20 minutes to hand out everything, packing correctly, getting the snow-rams in order, gearing up and preparing in general. Senna surprised Aldraen by showing him a pair of one-handed axes, looking looked like a northern design, that she was going to carry as weapons through the journey. Himself he wore a one-handed blade, dwarf-forged, along with a small battleknife. The weapons suited his fighting style, his own kind of fencing.
They were almost ready to go when Hargumlon grabbed Aldraen's arm and dragged him to the side in order to trade a qouple of words between four eyes.
"Are you really sure about all this business?" he said in a low voice. "It's more dangerous than you might think to be challenging the fury of the weathergods."
"Yes, I am sure. I have done tougher things than this. Remember the Wetlands?" Aldraen answered.
"Yes, I remember. Ye are just like Brann in this. Ye both have noses for the most interestin' places ta go. And ye have a nose for danger. And by the way, do ye really think it's a good idea ta bring her?" Hargumlon said and nodded towards Senna. "I haven't seen her yet, is it a good idea to bring a youngling?"
"Senna might not he experience within the League, but she has experience of what we do, outside of it." Aldraen answered. "I have faith in her, and she came in as a volounteer. I dont think she would have if she wasnt confident in her abilities."
"Alrigh' then. It's yer expedition. But just remember that ye are responsible for their lives. Ye dont usualy go on expeditions with a team in tow, but remember that when ye do, ye have more than yourself to care for." the dwarf said, patted him on the shoulder and then walked over to help rein the last ram.
It wasn't long before all had been prepared. They bade their farewell to the ones manning the post and the gyrocopter pilots, who returned to Ironforge. They rode out of the camp on the snowrams in a line, with Aldraen first, Senna after and then the dwarves. They woud have a day or two's journey in head of them before arriving at the base of Frostfang Peak, where they would let the rams find their way back to the camp (as they were trained for it) and climb their way up to the peak and the titan facility. The main goal was to establish an arcane focus there, which could be used for magi to create portals for easier access and the ability to bring heavier equipment. It was also through the use of a teleportation spell that they would return to the ground after the mission to the peak. That was the plan, anyway.
Aldraen's pocketwatch told him that the clock was 5 when they rode off, but the needles froze soon after. They rode in silence, at least without speaking, as the wind filled everything around them and blew away any attempts at verbal conversation. It whipped snow into anything that wasnt in cover, and the only ones who didnt seem to mind were the rams. Aldraen tried to use his pair of flying goggles at first, but a crust of frost formed on them after only a minute and he was as good as blind, so he gave it up. He instead tried to see as good as he could through narrowed eyes. Almost everything was white around the group, except for the large shades that the mountains looked like. They could easily have ridden lost, but luckily Aldraen had a good sense of direction and location, so he simply pointed the ram in the right direction and let it trod on through snow that reached far up its thighs.
The first day passed without any big action. As they set up the tent in cover at the side of a cliff, it was aproximately around ten 'o clock, but it was very hard to make it out as the sky was eternaly white. They had reached past the mountain and directly to their south, the ravine was. It was not in sight yet, but if they had traveled correctly and held on-course, it would only be an hour or so before they could turn westwards. But that would have to be done the next day, as when the dark fell it got yet more dangerous to be traveling. They could very easily fall into some crack in the ground, loose each other or just become too tired to stick in the saddle.
The tent they were using was one specialy designed for rough weather. It was made so that the wind would be reddirected over it, instead of making it grab hold of the fabric. It was also low in ceiling, just like Hargumlon's tent, but much lower. They had eaten their rations, some dried meat that they washed down with water. The water was snow they had melted, using a kind of gnomish tool that Aldraen had a hard time understanding. They had also filled their flasks to full with the water that remained, flasks that they carried under the clothing to make sure it didn't freeze.
Most of them were now tucked down in their sleeping bags. They would only sleep a couple of hours before getting on their way again as it grew brighter outside. Ginrek and Eiran were playing a type of dwarven game called "Hrekin", a game with a couple wooden figures. Aldraen understood the game ok, but every time he trie paying it with a dwarf, he was constanly getting beaten. Ermela was reading from a small, thin book she was keeping under her clothing a most times. Senna, Margunos, Gurnag and Inga were all trying to fall into sleep, and Arhor was already snoring loudly. In general, it was calm and silent, except for the wind striking at the tent with invisible fists.
Aldraen himself was simply lying on his back with his arms behind his head, watching the team. He looked over to Senna's bag. She was lying on her let side, facing away from him. The brown hair, a color that Aldraen at first thought of as dark, polished wood, had laid itself outside of the bag. It looked quite beautiful.
He stopped looking and turned his head upwards instead, closing the eyes as he allowed sleep to carry him away. But after a short time that must have been five minutes, he felt a nudge on his sleeping bag.
"Hey, are you asleep?" a female voice that was Senna's asked in a hushed tone.
"No, not yet." he answered and opened his eyes again. Senna had moved her bag to his side. "I thought you were. You should be."
Senna rolled her eyes and gave Aldraen a joking smile.
"I'm not sleepy yet. I have energy to go for a long time. Do you really need sleep? I thought you had that flask of yours." she asked and leaned her head on her hand.
"Oh, you know of the flask?" Aldraen asked and was a little surprised. "It's just swiftthistle tea. I could go on for longer than this, but it's impossble to push on through an arctic night like this. Plus, if I go on drinking the tea constantly for a longer time, it ends up with me collapsing sooner or later. It has happened."
Senna gave him a low laugh (to not awake or disturb the others).
"So... we are really headed for a titan place?" she asked him, sounding eager. "Not just some excavation with a few broken jars, remains and speartips, but a true facility?"
"Yes, we really are. I'm quite excited about it as well, but I'm just too tired to show it right now." Aldraen told her and yawned.
"That's so cool! My first real expedition is going to a place built by the Makers, and I get to have you leading it!" she said, with excitement and perhaps a streak of admiration coloring her voice.
Aldraen smiled back to her and hoped that the blushing wouldnt show in the darkness.
"I know, it's going to be large." he said. "But let's just go to sleep now. I'm not exactly young anymore, I'm 32, and I need my sleep. Good night, Senna."
Aldraen gave her a last smile and then crawled down into his bag. It seemed he had gained a youngling prospector admiring his work.
As he closed his eyes again, he couldnt hear Senna moving her bag back to her place, which meant she was going to sleep there at his side.
As it began to become a litte brighter outside, but before the sun could be seen touching the horizon, Aldraen woke up. It was silent outside now and the tent had stopped rocking. He woke the others, got properly dressed and then open the opening in the tent and peeked outside. The wind had ceased, at least for the moment. It was still cold though, a cold that bit the skin where it could reach. He could for the first time see the whole area without the white veil.
They had raised the tent at a cliff at the base of a mountain, white where the snow had held on and black where the rock looked through. The ground was perfectly white and smooth, as the wind had polished the glacier snow like if it had polished an ivory surface. It resembled a calm, vast sea of white with slopes and waves.
Far to the south a long, jagged, black line could be seen. It was the ravine that they would ride to and the turn west. At a distance, it resembled a snake, just as it had on the map. The only way there was through a mountain pass, that was the only path to get around the rest of Modir's Teeth. That was also why the would be traveling so close to the crevice. As long as the wind didn't blow too hard on them, it would hopefully be quite safe to follow it.
Aldraen took a tour around the tent to check all was in order and the weather hadn't damaged the tent. It hadn't, but he spotted something else. A track of a large beast was found just outside the tent. It looked like wolf tracks, dire wolf tracks judging by the size. As the wind had gone still for the last few hours, they hadn't blown away just yet. That a wold had got scent of them, and that they were as desperate as Hargumlon had told him, it meant that they would need to be really careful.
The rest got their things in order. They packed, had a quick breakfast, got the tent down, loaded the rams and were then on their way again, all done in under 30 minutes. The wind picked up again not soon after, around as soon as the sun climbed up on the sky. The sky was still white, even when it hadn't been any wind. The star of day was but a bright shade through the clouds that hindered its rays, but the explorers could still see there was one.
As they rode through the mountain pass, the wind gained in force again and reached a strength that was yet more than the previous day. This time, they were lucky enough to have it in their backs through the pass, but that meant they would also have it pushing them towards the ravine as they traveled along its side.
After a while, the ravine was reached. To keep safety first, the made sure there always was a good distance to the fall. They were also using a rope tied to each one of them in case there was an accident.
Aldraen spotted a series of smaller cracks in the ice below the snow ahead of them after a while of riding. From a distance he could see that they were around two meters wide each. That meant they were too wide for the rams to jump over, so the group had to send their mounts back home earlier than planned. They then dismounted, unloaded them before turning them back towards Hargumlon's camp and sending them home.
They then continued on foot. The gaps in hte ground were traversed with the use of ropes and climbing over. As they marched on through howling wind, the snow seemed o do everything it could to slow them down. Trudging through it became very tiring after a while, and Aldraen walked in the front with the others following in his footsteps.
It continued like that for an hour without anything happening except marching through snow. But suddenly, Aldraen was pulled up out from boredom. A number of grey shades appeared at a distance in the whirling snow. All he needed was a quick look to identify the walking silhuettes as trolls. He immediately threw himself down into the snow and gave the others a sign to do the same.
From relative safety from the troll eyes, Aldraen could now take a closer look. It looked like a group of seven trolls, being five men and two women. It could be a scouting party, but they were very far from their territory. Possibly a hunting party. They moved on slowly, forcing their way through the wind. They were all armed with spears.
Aldraen cursed with low voice as they begun walking towards the explorers' hiding spot. He forced himself to lie as still as possible to make sure he wasn't spotted, as a battle could slow them down for far too long or waste lives. Letting them pass would be best for everyone.
But as they neared, perhaps to get a look at the view out over the canyon or to check a movement, he saw that Senna (who was lying a bit to his right and closest to the incoming trolls) was reaching down to her hip. It was there that she was carrying her two battleaxes, under a layer cloth to protect against frost and cold. He tried to motion for her to stop, as stealthily as he could, but she didn't seem to notice it. She unwrapped them in a fluid motion and laid still, gripping the weapons in her hands but pressing them down under her so they wouldn't reflect any light.
The frontmost troll, a big muscular one that was wearing the same kind of fur clothing as the rest of the band, approached where Senna was lying. The whole world seemed to hold its breath as he leaned in to examine what had caused the disturbance in the otherwise blank snowsheet. Aldraen could read the surprise in his face as he saw a human woman lying there. Just as he tightened the grip on his spear and was going to shout out something to the others, Senna did her move. Within the blink of an eye, she drew her twin axes into view. The left one came up in an arc and hit the troll in the neck as it was leaning. Before the force in the blow would send it to the side, her second axe swirled up and struck on the other side of the neck, thus decapitating the troll and making the body fall into a spasming heap. The head hit the snow as the snow began to be sprayed scarlet.
Senna got up on her feet quickly, as the other trolls had witnessed the slaying of one of theirs. Aldraen got up as well, as a battle now seemed inevitable. Without warning, a frightenly fast troll darted in from the side and pounced Senna, taking her down to the ground before she could react and then pressing a speartip to her throat. But before the troll could make the killing move, Aldraen had charged at it and tackled it off from her. He gave it a swift punch that knocked it out cold before it could retaliate.
Aldraen looked up again to see the remaining trolls advancing. But all of a sudden, a mighty howl resounded through the usual noise of the wind. A second after, a huge dire wolf with grey fur emerged from the whiteness at the left flank of the trolls. They all halted in their steps as it rushed straight at them in a cascade of snow. The wolf hit a troll woman with amazing force that knocked her down before it bit down at her and seized her around the neck in powerful jaws. The muzzle began to be colored red as it bit hard to renew the grip. The remaining trolls backed off from the beast and turned to flee, returning back into the white veil.
The troll that was left behind struggled without result and the wolf trashed it wildy around, like if the prey was a mere doll. With a dry sound, like a breaking twig, the troll suddenly stopped fighting back and went limp in the jaws. The dire wolf then dragged its prey back to where it had come from, ignoring the explorers. It had got a prey and it was enough for it.
The explorers stood still for a minute. They had evaded the conflict so quickly through a stroke of luck. Senna looked shaken while the others looked reliefed. Aldraen walked over the troll that had been knocked out as it now began to come back to its senses. It opened its eyes and looked around drowsily, confused.
"Listen closely here." Aldraen said as he leaned in over the troll. He spoke in the foe's native language, a crude but understandable version. "We've chosen to spare your life. Run back to your friends and tell them to not follow us. We have no hostile intentions towards you, and having any towards us would not be a good way of repaying your life."
The troll blinked and then nodded quickly. It looked as if it understood what he told it.
With the threat hopefully out of the world, the expedition started marching again. The only things left from the battle that almost took place was a head and a body of a troll, and a second troll who was trying to get back on its feet.
They traveled alongside the ravine for a few miles, which became a few hours in the powerful wind. After that, they turned a bit more to the north and went up the hillside. At the end of the slope, there was the first beginning of the mountains. The previously smooth snow surface was broken by lots of cliffs and rocks, forming natural protections against wind but also places where they had to use their icepicks to scale the mountain. As they made their way upwards to the mountain itself, the wind picked up even more in strength.
The night came and so did the darkness. It grew dark faster than the previous night, due to thickening clouds on the sky. Though the clouds had been a white thick veil, they had now turned more dark, almost grey. The wind had gained even more force, but the group had luckily reached a safe mountainside at which they were relavtivly safe.
In the tent everyone were quiet. It had been exhausting for everyone to climb in the roaring wind, and they had paid with sweat and muscle power to reach as high as they had done. It was only a short bit away from where they would begin the true climb upwards.
Aldraen had been at work. As they were soon to reach Snowfang Peak, he had been working on the plan. With the quickly approaching blizzard, they wouldn't be able to pick the route he had plan earlier. Using a pair of special gnomish goggles that allowed him to scan the surrounding evironment, he had seen through the freezing wind and whirling snow to analyzise the mountain. Taking the equipment weight of the crew into account, as well as wind speeds, the window of time and everything else, he had calculated and found the best route to the summit. It was slower than the first one, but wouldn't expose them as much to treacherous wind. He had drawn a picture of the mountain on a scroll of parchment and was showing the others the way up.
"As I've shown you, this is our route." he said afterwards. "If anyone has thoughts or anything that could help, tell them now. If we go wrong, take too much time or turn halfways, then we will be out in the blizzard for too long. We won't have time to argue up there."
Everyone were silent. After ten seconds, Arhor raised his voice.
"The plan sounds reasonable. But I have one question. We will get to the summit in time, but what then? Are we going to freeze to death up there?"
"No, we are not." Aldraen replied. "Making it to the top is first priority. When we are there, we will find our way into the facility in one way or another. We are going to wait out the storm in there, we have enough food to hold out for a week or longer. The primary goal is to establish a portal anchor, which also means we have an emergency way out."
He paused for a seecond and judged the expressions of those around him. They looked a bit concerned.
"We are going to sleep now, long enough to recover our forces to make sure noone drops dead in midclimb, but short enough to not waste time." Aldraen then said. "Don't sorry about the plan, if the facility has endured the wether here for so many centuries, a single blizzard will not be a threat."
Aldraen then did as he said. He rolled up the map over the mountain and put it back in his backpack. After that, he crawled down in his bag as the others did so as well.
As he began getting comfortable, he felt a nudge on his bag just like the previous night. He turned over and there was Senna. She looked a little embarassed.
"I didn't get to talk to you earlier, as we had to march on in a line and everything." she said. "You saved my life there, I hadn't time to defend myself. If you hadn't jumped in, then-"
Aldraen interrupted her by putting a finger over his lips and shushed.
"You don't need to thank me." he told her in a calm voice. "I'm sure that in the end of all this, we will all have saved each other's lives. I'm not going to abandon you or any other of you."
Senna looked down into the ground.
"I just want to... thanks." she said and looked up again, smiling sincerely. "Is there anything I can do to repay you?" she then asked with an undertone Aldraen couldn't place.
"No, I want nothing." he answered and waved it off. "If you are to think in a logic way, you can't have people you are indebted to. Think staihgt, Senna. Forget about it, you'll get chances to prove yourself back."
Senna sighed in what seemed like dissapointment. She turned over on her back and crawled down in her bag.
"Good night then, explorer Aldraen." she said and then went to trying to sleep.