Glancing around at the destruction and death all around them – corpses litering the decks of noth ships, Zerth Symron proclaimed that his life-debt was now repaid. He would continue to guard their secret, but his time on the Hammer was over. They are free to contact him in the future (by Sending Spell?) if they ever want to attack the Citadel of the Githyanki Lich Queen to rescue their captured comrades. With a bow, he vanishes.
They spend a few days disentangling themselves from the shattered hulk of the Vorandan warship and then making temporary repairs using the salvage. They dragged another valuable Spelljammer Helm aboard and also the little run-about dragonfly (space motorcycle) with room for 4 people.
They kept a watchful eye on the distant Starwhal – it had remained watching them throughout the battle and the repairs. Had it chosen to charge and ram them while they were jammed together, it could have destroyed them fairly easily. Deckard – the Vorandan Dwarf, surprised them all by telling them he had seen Starwhals before. “One of the strongholds of the Pyrussian Empire is the place where they have been building Spelljammer ships. I was liberating some equipment from there and entered the Forbidden Zone – there were corpses of dozens of baby Starwhals – all with their bones hacked out”.
They agreed to make their way to the lair of Gravalax the Beholder – they owed him money and could afford to pay their debt in plunder. To do any better repairs they would need access to a forge and maybe to hire on some crew, and maybe some help from a creature that understood the helms – they knew that Gavalax and his Goblin Warlock/slave were already working on their broken dragonfly craft (the vessel that sad prince G’Vrain had ridden into Chaos).
Just before they limped off towards the Veil of Terror, where Gravalax’s asteroid lair was, they made an astounding discovery! While their ship was within a mile of the Portal, the giant hexagon showed a clear view of “normal space”. They had skewered the Vorandan vessel as it was passing through and they could see some wreckage floating in space. They moved their ship around to the other side of the portal, expecting to see the back of the hexagon (or perhaps to see nothing) but what they saw was that the other side of the hexagon was also a portal, but it led to a different location – no wreckage and a different set of constellations. They had no idea where it led.
It gave them another option of where to go, but until the ship could at least match the speed of the Vorandan warships, it was too dangerous.
When they were ready to limp away to the asteroid lair of Gravalax, they decided to try and communicate with the Starwhal. Clayton and Abraham approached slowly on the dragonfly. It seemed skittish (if you can call a huge horned space whale skittish) but let them get close enough for Abraham to use his ability to read surface thoughts.
“what are these tiny creatures?”
“why is their ship clad in bones from one of my people?”
“why do they have another corpse of one of my people with its bones cut out?”
“how is this happening so often over the last 8 years, more of my people have perished and failed to be returned to the furnace of the stars”
“how is this happening – we have continued the practice of logansrun so there are no old or weak Starwhals any more”
When it thought of logansrun Abraham saw pictures of Starwhals throwing themselves into a Star when they reached middle age.
He was unable to communicate properly but his power let him implant a magical suggestion.
“YOU SHOULD INVESTIGATE VORANDA PRIME – THEY ARE BREEDING AND SLAUGHTERING STARWHALS THERE TO MAKE THEIR SHIPS”
The huge creature raced past them, sending the dragonfly tumbling and it plunged through the Portal.
[GM: They have only been out in space for about 3 months so far and the Starwhal mentioned that his folk had been going missing for 8 years – that roughly coincides with when Torkas would have flown through here and also when the Vorandan’s started building-up their fleet]
It took another 5 days to reach Gravalax’s asteroid, embedded in the fring of the Veil of Terror. As before, all the spellcasters aboard felt a surge of Wild Magic and experience bizarre effects.
Clayton felt an unstoppable build-up of lightning inside him and had to chose nearby targets to discharge it towards – he was at the cannons with the last two half-orcs and he killed one of them and badly injured the other!
Most significantly – Jock dropped dead!
As most of the other magical effects they had suffered on the previous visit, they decided to wait an hour to see if the “death” was temporary. When Abraham checked on the body an hour later, Jock’s clothes lay on the bed and something wriggled inside them. The inquisitor grabbed it with his gauntleted hand and hoisted out a naked gnome. It swore in Jock’s Kaledonian accent – Jock has been reincarnated as a forest gnome!.
They approached the asteroid and remembered to fly a Jolly Roger as the agreed signal.
Skizz (the goblin warlock ambassador of Gravalax) floated out on his ebony fly (pony sized mechanical fly). When they explained what they wanted, he called for his master and Gravalax used his anti-magic eye to open the veil. Clayton negotiated with the monster for half an hour or so and they agreed to a DEAL! It emerged that Gravalax, despite being a creature of insane chaos, was obsessed with the concept of deals. He refused to accept goods in trade for their previous deal of 12,000 gold pieces. They didn’t have the coin and even though they were offering almost double the value, he refused. Then they offered to sell him one of the spare Helms and he paid them in gold pieces so that they could pay him the 12,000.
There was then more negotiating (he drew it out so they experienced another wave of chaos – but again no serious effects) and eventually they agreed to give him another Helm and the spare Starwhal bones in exchange for him (mainly Skizz) fixing the ship’s speed problems. Skizz has some understanding of the relationship of Starwhal bones and the magic of Helms and how to tie them together. Gravalax can use his Telekinetic powers to make micro-manipulations of the threads. Between them, they may be able to give them back some speed (with luck getting back to being as fast as the warships). However, without more crew, they won’t get back to being faster than the warships. They also won’t get their maneuverability back without crew.
The Helms are probably worth 30,000gp at the rock of Braal, but Gravalax will only offer 10,000gp for each.
Gravalax offers to sell them some of his servants (goblins or trolls) but they decide not to go for it. He would sell them any of his creatures other than Skizz, who he needs.
When Skizz comes aboard the Hammer to look at the Helm damage, Abraham is pretending the dummy Helm is powering the ship and Skizz can tell it isn’t.
There is an awkward moment when Abraham shouts that “all deals are off” (because he doesn’t want to risk Skizz finding out about their unique ship). This is just about the worst thing to say to Gravalax as he instantly begins to attack. They manage to calm him down and explain that Abraham does not speak for the ship and can be ignored. Only one eye-beam was fired and it felt to Abraham that it was going to take control of his mind.
They realise that in order to fix the ship, they have to show Skizz and Gravalax that the actual helm power is running through the Chart Room and the Mast (but they hide the Chart itself) and it seems they don’t suspect the true nature of the vessel.
Skizz lets Abraham know that he would be willing to let them take him away from Gravalax, but they mustn’t let the Beholder know. Gravalax intends to have Skizz fit the two new helms and the Starwhal bones to the asteroid so he can drive it around.
Skizz has also got a cure for the hourly Wild Magic effect – he has a special version of Protection From Evil that lasts 24 hrs and he can affect enough people to cover all the spellcasters.
They have a banquet in the Asteroid and Clayton gives the beholder a gift of Vorandan wine (a bottle worth about 100gp). The beholder learns that it is a sort of “deal” that when you have a visitor who gives you a gift, it is proper to visit them and take a gift. He accepts an invitation to dine on the Ship the following night.
They will be stuck here for a week while the repairs are made and possibly may need to re-negotiate for a second week – the deal was very clearly that they would attempt to fix the ship in 1 week, but it might be so difficult that it would take a second week. Skiz has suggested he could work super-hard to get it done if they promise to take him with them.