The Seven Stars fleet stays docked at The Water Docks of Refuge. While they are docked the Captains hire additional crew to fill out their numbers. Among the more interesting to join the group is a kobold cleric of Io named Jirotix and a squad of his followers.
While on the Arcane world Tavist decides there’s no better time to go shopping for new weaponry. Finding a local urchin named Timmy who evidently spends his time as a guide, they set off. As they are passing the shipyards the hear a thunderous roar that continues for about a minute, followed by a huge cheer from the giff mercenaries scattered about the docks. The noise came from a large blunderbuss looking cannon on the deck of one of the ships. Nothing is left of its target except smoke.
“Thats a hell belcher,” Timmy says with a wide grin, “the dwarves are really proud of it!” Tavist immediately heads for the Dwarves and buys four of them outright, making arrangements for installation later that day. He also purchases two more lightning bombards and a Mars Blade.
Weary of shopping Tavist heads for the local pub and gets involved in a Three Draon Ante game. During the conversation he discovers a fellow player is a ship’s Captain who has made the run to Herdspace. The grizzled spacer tells hair raising tales of flying with a group of gnomish scholars. He also informs Tavist that the Fal One-Six-Nine lives on one of the system’s megafauna.
The next morning after a good nights sleep Kaolin uses discern location to locate Whitefire. The divination determines that he is in the Free City of Greyhawk. Timmy arrives shortly thereafter to take them to see Omar, a dealer in exotic textiles. While visiting Omar they do find a set of Planar Sails, however they are way too expensive at 250,000 pp for the set.
Deciding to gather more information they Plane Shift to Bytopia and from there to the Free City of Greyhawk. Using more divination magic Kaolin leads them to his front door. Surprised but happy to see them he invites them in for kaave and discussion ensues. He is able to add little to their knowledge of the Annulus, but does confirm its existence. As leave he asks them to send his regards to “old thirteen squared” for him. When asked if he has met the Fal and if so what it looks like he responds to look for something that resembles an eight ton slug.
Kaolin Planeshifts them back from Greyhawk to Bytopia and from there back to the Valis in Refuge. As they appear on deck they see Kattar having an animated discussion with a pair of dwarves. Evidently the hellbelchers cannot be installed on the tentacles of the ship because they are not strong enough to absorb the recoil. Tavist joins the conversation and a decision is made to install the two on the main deck. The Praetorians are placed in charge of supervising the installation.
Tavist, under duress, takes Kaolin to The Laughing Scavver for a card game. For a change since arriving here he finally wins while playing at the “1 trade bar ante” table. Kaolin grows bored rapidly and heads back to the Valis where she and Taj Pach sit on deck having drinks and discussing the odd ways of their companion.
While conversing Taj hears the sound of a mandolin being played from down on the docks below the ship’s bow. Not only that but whoever is playing it is also extremely talented. Looking over the side they see a female half silver dragon finishing up her tune to the applause of the gathered pedestrians and dock workers.
Kalin invites her up on deck while Taj secures a few bottles from Tavist’s private reserve. The bard introduces herself as illyana Starsinger and the three hit it off merrily. Taj telepathically tells Kaolin,”HA! I’ve got a mate for him! Now I can finally get rid of that smell!” She then summons Tavist back to the ship.
Once they are introduced Illyana tells him, “My Uncle Sar recommended you highly.”
“Well then!” says Tavist, “there is only one course of action!” as he pulls out a bottle of Wavoosh which they drain in short order. Kaolin, meanwhile keeps bouncing around quipping “Hire her! We need a bard! Who’s going to sing our praises and tell the worlds of our adventures!” By the light of dawn it is decided that she shall indeed join the crew.
A few hours later the ships form up and depart Refuge headed for Spiralspace. The trip is short and peaceful and they make great time. Once more they remain just inside the crystal shell while Kaolin renews the ship’s atmospheres. As soon as this is done they re-enter the Flow and make for Herdspace. Taj spends the entire trip doing psionic tattoo work on Kaolin and Tavist. She also gets Kattar into the surgery and augments his armor while replacing his forearm blades with new psionically active ones made of deep crystal.
Unmolested as they approach the small sphere they prepare for what they have been told is an unusual entry. Creating portal in the shell goes normally, but on the other side they see blue skies. Kaolin takes the ship in and as it crossed the crystal shell the entire ship is suddenly teleported to a position ten miles inside the sphere.
A sight unlike any they have ever seen lies below them. The entire interior surface of the sphere is covered with terrain like that one would see on a planet’s surface. Woods, and fields and mountains stretch as far as the eye can see while huge creatures thousands of miles high stand at various points amidst the scenery. Above them shines a small yellow sun.
As they fly towards one of the towering creatures, the megafauna as the gnomes called them, they see that the bright colors and patterns on its hide are terrain in and of themselves. Forests and fields stretch across the “skin” of the titanic beast as though it were the surface of a world. Careful observation reveals that a series of lakes on the surface are actually colossal paw prints, even though the megafauna seem motionless.
Having determined that the Fal might lives inside the ear (Tavist remembers hearing they were subterranean) of the reptilian looking one they fly in close and Tavist, Taj, Kaolin, Illyana and Katta wind walk over and enter the ear.
After journeying several hundred meters into the tunnel they come face to face with One-Six-Nine itself, an entity that looks like a forty foot long slug. A very, very slow conversation ensues in which the Fal tells them that the path of Arrack in seeking the Annulus led him to the Capital Subterrene on the world Penumbra. “Looks like we’re going back to my old stomping grounds,” say Taj with an air of insectile exasperation.
They wind walk back to the ship and discuss their next move.