During the next few days in the “Flow”, heading for the Rock of Braal, our heroes chat to Colonel Havoc, commander of the Giff marines that the elves leave aboard the “Hammer”. They describe the local region of space.
Distances are shown in WEEKS at max cruising speed for the “Hammer” and for Elven Man-o-War ships. Normal ships take double the time. Slow ships take four-times the time.
The Giff are mercenaries, usually hired for months in advance. The money is sent to their Council of Generals back on the Giff Homeworld (out past Realms-space) via the Giff Embassy on the Rock of Braal. Havoc’s regiment was hired by the Elven Sylvarian Empire and has another month to go before the Elves need to renew the contract. They probably won’t renew as there only 3 remaining members of the Glorious 7th.
The Giff do not have any spellcasting ability and cannot helm ships of their own and are magic resistant – immune to charm and fear.
Our heroes pretend that the spare helm from the Death Tyrant’s ship is their helm so that the giff and the elves don’t realise their ship is unique.
The Rock of Braal is about one mile long and half a mile across. It has an atmosphere and standard gravity and rumour is, that it has one or more “helms” buried at the base of the rock. Most of the surface is covered in warehouses and taverns and docks and foundries in perpetual daylight with the residential areas in caverns. The top of the rock is flat and planted with orchards and vineyards and herds of goats.
No fighting is permitted on the rock – punishment is severe – upto confiscation of the offender’s ship, imprisonment of the crew and banning ships from their faction from the place for years at a time. The Scro only recently completed a period of three years banned a couple of months ago.
The one exception to this is the Arena – formal challenges can be issued and agreed to. Combat in the Arena is always to the death. Combats are fought on Friday nights. There is a lot of gambling on the outcome.
They go to Starfire Foundry and talk to Rutgert Ironhold, the Dwarven master ship-wright.
To do basic repairs to the ship – 10K
To fit the Starhal’s Horn as an effective ram – 10K
To waterproof the ship’s hull in case they want to land on water– 10K
To fit armour plating – 10K
To fit the Starwhal’s ribcage so that it becomes part of the magical helm and improves the ship – 10K
Replacing the Cannon – 10K
The work will take 5 days.
They pool together their money and gems and can pay for most of it. They sell the meat and innards of the Starwhal and Rutger buys the inner heart of the beast for 900gp – explaining it can be used as a magical Heroes Feast. He offers to let them buy it back for 2,000.
On top of all the other unique features of their ship, they are the only active “whaling” ship in space. Starwhals are too fast and manouverable for larger ships, too dangerous for smaller ships. They are almost the only ship that still has Ballista and certainly the only one with harpoons on 1,000 ft cables. Their shio is old-fashioned – even archaic as it was designed a few thousand years earlier – blueprints left by the God, Torkas.
Also the Starwhals are only found in Chaos, a dangerous zone where ships often wander lost for weeks (even with a native guide) and for months without one. The fact that they have the githzerai – Zerth Symron aboard (waiting a chance to pay back his “life-debt”) acts as a cover story for how they manage to enter Chaos and find their way out again. Githzerai and Githyanki very rarely act as guides for other races.
Clayton is still distraught about not being able to get drunk – the “curse” of the Gnome King still affects him and everything he drinks turns to pure water. He tries to make some money out of this ability by offering to drink the most-deadly booze they have, but the Rock-dwellers have seen everything before and sense a scam. They suggest doing this drinking challenge in the sight of Shalaarvik, the beholder barman at the “Eye and Eyes” tavern.
With his middle eye open, a cone of anti-magic shines forth, negating the curse and Clayton can finally taste his beer. He gratefully gets drunk then wanders off to find “ladies of negotiable virtue”. In his drunken state he asks for the most bizarre alien available and ends up sleeping with a Thri-Kreen woman called Klaraatoo Nerada (a humanoid preying mantis!).
The rest of the crew spend their pay in similar fashion – on drink and entertainment.
Mulan goes off on a shopping spree, converting some gems and jewellery into cash, buying some pistols and powder and shot and powder kegs for the ship and finding a female companion of her own after a month as the only woman on a ship full of men and orcs.
Raef, Abraham and Jock find themselves in conversation with the Beholder – he seems to act and talk like a human (and may once have been human) but now he has the shape and strange powers of a Beholder. He keeps them supplied with free beer as long as they are telling tales of their homeworld and their journey. He is even friendly enough not to accept Raef’s crazy challenge to a fight in the Arena. Raef has heard about the gambling and thinks he can make fast money by betting on himself in a fight to the death.
When Shalaarvik learns they have a fast ship and have a Githzerai guide, he offers them a lucrative commission…
There are wanted posters up for “THE TERRORIST PRINCE G’VRAIN OF VORANDER” 50K if he is delivered ALIVE for trial to the Lord Protector of Vorander. Vorander used to trade with the Rock, they have about 30 star-ships but over the last 10 years or so they have become increasingly withdrawn, finally closing their borders 5 years ago – some say not wanting to get involved in the Elf/Scro war, others that their religious leaders convinced them that all outworlders are heretical. Stocks of Vorandan wine are becoming very precious as the Portal to Vorander is guarded and ships that enter are either turned away or never seen again. The Wanted Poster promises the reward and safe passage. Vorandans are basically human – but with green-ish skin.
Shalaarvik has a “contact” who has the Prince stashed away in a lair inside Chaos and he has been waiting for a ship capable of making the trip with a decent chance of success. When they seem interested, and asking or a promise of discretion, he reveals that his “contact” is a True Beholder called Gravalax, who dwells in Chaos in a place called the Veil of Terrors. From the description it is the magical veil that cast Phantasmal Force on the whole ship as they passed through it. This Gravalax has a lair in the North East corner of the Veil. They have the position of the Veil marked on their Magical Chart as it fills-in automatically as their ship travels. It would take them 3 weeks to get back to the Chaos Portal and is only 2 days from the Portal to the Veil. They might even be able to hunt another Starwhal as an added incentive to return to Chaos. Gravalax wants 20K of the 50K reward and Shalaarvik has bargained him down (via some form of Sending Spell) to only want 8K in advance (for handing over the prisoner) with a promise of the other 12K delivered to Shalaarvik within 10 days of the reward being paid. Vorander is only a couple of weeks from the Chaos Portal so this sounds fairly easy and quick (maybe 60 days roundtrip).
Shalaarvik also offers to recommend some half-orc crew to accompany them – “they are all tough sailors, experienced and can be trusted to be discreet”. He could arrange for 10 of them to sign-up for a 60 days for only 900g.
They more or less agree, but have to wait around on the rock a few more days for the repairs.
Raef is bored and itching to prove himself in the Arena, keen to bet on himself to win. He manages to get into a religious debate with an office of one of the 3 Scro Squidships currently in port – he claims that Torkas must only be a demi-god and that Gruumsh is the god of all right-thinking Scro. Raef disagrees and they agree to fight in the Arena.
It turns out that “Death-Hammer” is a priest, not quite as experienced as Raef, but he has fought a few times before in the Arena and they can get odds of 2:1 against Raef.
Not used to Arena fighting, Raef risks trying to cast his Darkness spell directly on the Priest instead of around himself or just in the area (which would automatically work), and the spell fails to take hold. The priest manages to cast Hold Person on him, paralysing him and then hacks him to death while he is paralysed. It is a short and bloody fight and they then learn that the rules of the Arena mean all the loser’s possessions now belong to the victor. This includes his magical armour and a lot of money and gems.
Jock decides to challenge “Death-Hammer” (who should really have refused as he had already used some of his spells that day). Jock manages to bully the Scro into accepting. As the crowd realise Jock has now seen Death-hammer fight and must know what he is risking, the odds are only even on this second fight.
Jock manages to cast Blindness on the priest and the priest fails to hit him a few times, with his own hammer and with a spiritual weapon. Death-hammer then tries a powerful Spirit Guardians spell which Jock manages to mostly avoid and backs away. The priest lumbers blindly toward him, sending the crowd running for cover (as he cast it when blind, he could not exclude anyone!). Jock continues to sneak away then shoot, while the Scro stumbles after him.
Eventually Jock shoots him through the heart and then gasps as the priest snaps off the arrow and shakes off the blindness and keeps coming. It appears the priest had Death Ward which kept him in the fight for one last desperate attempt at Hold Person, but Jock shrugs it off again and shoots him through the eye. Raef is avenged. However, when the priest saw Jock handing over his valuables before the fight, he did the same and the only loot is non-magical chainmail, a Warhammer and a holy symbol of Gruumsh.
The rest of the crew recoup some of their losses through their bets. They didn’t think to use the Re-vivify spell to bring Raef back from the dead. His body has now been tossed into a garbage pit deep inside the Rock. “It’s what he would have wanted!” sniffs one of his fellow red-orc crewmen.
[GM: Please think before you do anything suicidal and completely unnecessary – I should have had the Beholder accept Raef’s first challenge but tried to talk him out of it instead. Frank – you should be able to play Jock unless Holly comes back, but if she does, you’ll have to create your own 10th level character. I’m not going to do it for you – it took me a few hours to create Raef and write up a character sheet with all the spells]