The Price of Immortality

The Seelie Queen and the Dracolich

Despite being overwhelmed by the presence of the Seelie Queen in front of her, Lini keeps up the pretense that she is enjoying her surroundings in all innocence. The Seelie Queen sees through the guile of Lini, that she is more than she appears to be. “What have we here? This is nice, I will keep you as my new toy!” She stretches her arm out toward Lini, and then a butterfly lands on her hand. As quick as lightning, the Seelie Queens eyes turn red and she squashes the butterfly. She then looks upward as if sensing something and at that same moment Luna dives towards the Seelie Queen and unleashes her spell, with the enormous amplification of the artefact. Something like a shockwave from an explosion emanates from the Seelie Queen through the entire forest, all the butterflies are scattered. The winged man next to Preen also seems to be affected, he too looks towards the sky. The Seelie Queen looks at Lini with pity in her eyes and then says: “Run!!!”

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Feeling the urgency an truth of this command, Luna changes into a bear and gestures Lini to climb on her back. The satyr and centaurs are running away fast. Preen also starts to run, to follow Luna and Lini. Behind them an enormous heat is felt as a blue fire boils down on the open area. The dracolich has arrived. When Lini looks behind them, she sees that the Seelie Queen and her two companions are fighting a titanic battle with the dracolich.She realizes that if they had remained they would surely have perished. They run on and on towards the edge of the forest. Luna feels clearly that there is a fight happening in the forest. Just before they pass through the dome they hear a huge bang, and the earth shakes heavily. They step through the dome and enter a white world where it is snowing. Shortly afterwards they hear an icy scream coming from the dome and the dracolich and its rider flee from the dome. The dracolich is wounded, it shows many broken bones and is also bleeding. Also its rider is bleeding from several wounds.
The first sheltered place they find they use to take cover and rest. When the dracolich is gone, they continue their trek through the snowy world until nightfall. They reach a road and also spot several farms. They carefully look for a ranger hut to spend the night. Preen is looking for a good spot. He has found a hut which seems to be empty, but when he opens the door, he sees a figure at the table, who gets up to go outside. Preen quickly hides and sneaks away. The figure goes back inside when he does not see what has disturbed him.
Preen, Lini and Luna decide to spend the night in the nearby forest, and after a quick meal they take alternate watches throughout the night.

ocarina.jpg During the first watch, Lini hears tiny voices coming from a source that is speeding around the group. “Hihihi!!” Lini is not able to see what or who is making the noise, but she speaks out in a general direction: “Why don’t you come and sit here with me?” But the creature has no patience for sitting: “No time! No time!” Lini then asks what the creature wants. Then she can see a small figure who is approaching her carefully and seems to be thinking real hard. “My mistress has sent me,” it finally says, “to bestow a gift upon you” A small wooden instrument – an ocarina – is handed to Lini. “When you play on this, the Seelie Queen will come to help.” The creature then disappears. quickling.jpgAfter a number of appearances and disappearances, it finally shows up just behind Lini and says in her ear: “You get one favor from the Seelie Queen. She gives her thanks.” And then in a somewhat louder voice: “Bye bye!” and vanishes in the night, not to return anymore. The remainder of Lini’s watch is uneventful. When she wakes Preen for his turn, she tells him about her encounter and shows him the ocarina. Preens watch is without any incidents and when it is Luna’s turn for the watch, she notices a large number of small footprints in the snow, which she recognizes as footsteps from a quickling.

After breakfast they continue their journey. After two days they spot their ship, a small plume of smoke coming from the galley. Both Lini and Luna see that some repair work has been done on the ship. Preen calls to the ship and Jeremy greets them. They get aboard the ship and then Preen asks Jeremy if everything has been OK. Jeremy answers that they have felt an earthquake. Preen explains what has happened and says that the fight between the Seelie Queen and the dragon has likely been the cause of the earth shaking. They eat on the ship and then prepare the ship for sailing the next day.
When they reach the spot near the forest of the arch druid, they disembark from the ship to enter the forest on foot. Luna bids the crew farewell. After only a short walk into the forest, they find themselves in the grove of the archdruid. Luna says: “I told you she would find us!” The grove again is presided by a bear and various other animals are sitting or lying near the bear. Then the bear shimmers and the arch druid is in its place. Luna walks forward and hands her the orb. Preen asks where Jonathan is. “He is around.” the arch druid answers vaguely.
They then report what has happened in the seelie forest, ending with the huge fight between the Seelie Queen and the dracolich. The arch druid listens closely and concern shows a little on her face. She says that she will contact the Seelie Queen and discuss with her how to deal with the dragon pest. Preen hints about aid from the blue dragon to which the arch druid says that one should be careful, there is always a price…
She then takes a scroll from her robes and hands it to Preen. “As agreed, this is the scroll of restauration. But please be aware, that only a druid can speak the words with effect, to anyone else it will just be meaningless and nothing will happen.” “Well,” Preen says, “It seems, Luna, we may need you a bit longer. Would you be interested in travelling with us a bit longer? See the world and all that?” Preen cracks a bit of a crooked smile when he finishes his question. But Luna is willing to come along, it seems she did not have to think it over too long.
Then Jonathan appears from among the trees. He seems very tranquil and happy. The arch druid says she will need Jonathan a bit longer for some work on Erastil, and Jonathan indicates that he would love to stay and help. He does want to write a letter to his family to give to Preen. Jonathan, Preen and Lini have some reminiscing talks while they have dinner. Before they go to sleep, Jonathan gives Preen the letter for his family, and they shake hands. Lini gives Jonathan a big hug and then they all go to bed.

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Setting a trap for the Seelie Queen

satyr.pngEven though the satyr seems to be back to her normal self, no longer under the influence of the Seelie Queen, she does mention that the healing effect will only be temporary. “What brings you here”, she asks the trio of adventurers. Preen explains that they wish to remove the spell of the Seelie Queen from the land, and that they have an artefact that will magnify the effect of a cure spell cast by a druid. Here he points at Luna, still in her bear-form. The satyr looks at Luna and then greets her in the druidic language. Luna transforms back to her human shape. She elaborates on the plan and asks the satyr where the Seelie Queen may be.
“Finding her won’t be the problem, but how do you intend to approach her? She is in her forest palace, with her husband, surrounded by guards. It will be very tough to get close to her to cast the spell that requires touching her.” The satyr adds: “You will have to trick her in some way, as you will not survive a direct confrontation.”
They all sit an ponder about this challenge for a while. Several plans are discussed. They could lure the Seelie Queen with the artefact – she will sense when it is used – and then through a prepared spell and subterfuge have Luna remove the curse. Another option could be to travel to the forest palace and request an audience. Offer the artefact and ask for a kiss of the queen in return – while the exchange is made the prepared cure spell can be used. The second plan seems more risky, so they expand on the first option. An alternative method for luring the Seelie Queen could be to purify a large area in her domain – she will certainly feel that, especially if the artefact is used. Lini will protect Luna from chaos through a spell and will sit as ‘bait’ in the purified area, with Luna in the form of a butterfly close by. The satyr will add more butterflies that will fly around Lini. They continue working out the details of the plan and then they have dinner. Lini has conjured up food again and also the satyr has gathered food from the forest: berries, roots and meat from some large animal. Among all of them, there is enough food that is safe to eat. Luna asks the satyr how it is possible that she is a female satyr, to her knowledge all satyrs are male. The satyr explains that she has been cursed and then changed into a satyr by the Seelie Queen. She has to stay in the forest forever.
That night Preen, Luna and Lini keep watch in turn, while the satyr stays awake all night. She has cast some spell on herself.

The next morning they continue with their preparations. Luna casts a spell on Lini and Preen to increase their morale, they will have a +2 bonus on saving throws and to hit for the rest of the day. Lini casts a ‘protection from chaos’ spell on Luna. Preen hides himself. Luna casts a purification spell through the stone artefact, and an area around her of at least 100 meters in diameter is purified. She then turns herself into a butterfly, and joins the swarm of butterflies that circle around Lini, who sits in the middle of the purified area and starts to make flower wreaths.
After about two minutes, Preen hears the sound of cantering hooves coming from all sides. Not much later a large number of centaurs approach the open space – but they keep their distance. The group in the purified area feels that they are now surrounded. Then they hear a screech from high above and soon after see three shapes flying towards the open area.
Lini hears little voices near her: “Ooh, that is interesting, can we eat it??” Lini asks the voices if they want to help her make flower wreaths. Two pixies appear, with alternating red and normal eyes. They do not attack Lini, and accept the flowers Lini offers them. One of the flying creatures – a human with wings – has landed next to Preen, and looks straight through his hiding position. Preen pretends that he is playing hide-and-seek, and places a finger on his lips. This seems to work, they eyes of the winged man spark a little and he joins Preen in his hiding position. “This better be a good one!” he says to Preen as they wait together.
seelie_queen.jpgThe second winged man lands between Lini and the satyr. From his appearance he seems to be the King of the Forest, the Protector. He radiates power.
“Do you think this flower wreath is pretty?” Lini asks him in her most innocent voice. Briefly a red sheen appears in his eyes and he draws a wooden dagger from somewhere in his leg and throws this in a rage at one of the bears, who is killed on the spot.
Then the Seelie Queen herself lands right before Lini. “Hmm, what have we here?” she purrs.

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The Satyr and the Three Bears

In her bear-shape, Luna tries to get behind the satyr, to approach her unseen from that side. Unfortunately, when she comes closer to the satyr, she falls under the spell of the druid and enters a resting mode, just like the other three bears. Preen has seen the bear approach the satyr and fall asleep – as he has not seen Luna transform into a bear, he knows she is able to, so he guesses that it might be her, but he is not completely certain. Preen sees that the satyr looks at Luna, but continues to play her pan flute.
Preen sneaks towards the bear he thinks / hopes is Luna, and pokes it, silently praying that he is right, and this indeed is Luna. The poke has effect: Luna startles awake and manages just to avoid clawing at Preen in her moment of confusion at waking suddenly from an unexpected slumber. The satyr notices that Luna is awake, but does not see Preen. The satyr and Luna look at each other strangely – to the satyrs knowledge, the bear should not have woken on her own. Luna then mimics swatting at a horsefly, yawns demonstratively, and turns to the satyr, while giving Preen a quick wink. As Luna starts towards the satyr, the confusion in the druid is clear, and her face clearly shows the unspoken question: Why are you awake? Luna sees a red flicker in her eyes.
Luna continues to walk towards the satyr, who stops playing her pan flute and asks Luna in the tongue of the bears: “Who are you?” The other bears start to stir, now that the flute music has stopped. Luna answers in as innocent a tone “Bear” and continues to walk on. She now also sees a red glow in the eyes of the bears. “But you are not under my influence?!” the satyr says. Luna repeats her previous statement: “Bear”, and her bluff works. The satyr picks up her flute and starts playing again: the bears become tranquil once more.
Luna is now very close to the satyr and suddenly a red glow covers the eyes of the satyr and she stops playing. Luna dives at her and starts to cast a remove disease spell. The satyr is surprised by this sudden ‘attack’, and as the spell of Luna misses its target, her eyes become a deeper red and between clenched teeth she hisses “Run, you fool!!” and she starts to froth at the mouth. The bears become fully awake now.

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The satyr takes a step back and casts successfully a ‘fear’ spell on Luna, who turns around and starts running away. She is pursued by two of the three bears. As they run in the direction where Preen is hidden, there is a chance that they spot him, or trample him, but by some miracle neither happens.
The remaining bear attacks the satyr, but misses his strikes. Lini approaches the scene a bit more, and sees the satyr and the bear standing together, both having red eyes. Preen returns and casts a ‘cause fear’ spell on the bear, which partially works – the bear is shaken for a short time.
Then the satyr causes lightning to strike from dark clouds that suddenly appear, and Preen is hit and suffers some minor damage.
Lini then steps forward and shoots a lightning arc of her own into the satyr. Preen joins Lini and repeats his cause fear spell on the bear, with the same effect.
In the meantime, unknown to the group in the clearing, the two bears chasing Luna have given up on her, and start to turn around. The satyr repeats her lightning trick, and both Lini and Preen are hit. Due to her resistance to electricity damage, Lini has barely a scratch, but Preen does suffer a hard blow. Then the satyr casts a spell and a wild boar appears out of nowhere, and charges at Lini. Its attack misses, but the counterstrike of Lini’s trident hits its target. Preen moves around the boar to ensure it is flanked by him and Lini, and executes a double backstab attack, finishing the boar off, and with a somewhat anticlimactic “poof” the boar disappears. In the distance Lini hears sounds coming from the forest, of more than one animal coming back at a moderate speed. She informs Preen that she thinks the other bears, and maybe Luna? will return soon.
The satyr runs away and shoots an arrow at Lini. The bear still in the clearing has stepped toward Lini, who now steps back and casts her ‘spiritual weapon’ spell and has the sword attack the satyr, but it fails to hit its target.
Preen casts another ‘cause fear’ spell on the bear, this time with more effect, the bear is scared and runs away from Preen. This small victory is of short duration: the other two bears now return to the scene. The satyr, under influence of the red rage, does not think coherently, and causes lightning to strike the spiritual sword – to no effect of course. The spiritual sword attacks the satyr and hits her. Lini runs towards the satyr while Preen casts another ‘cause fear’ spell on one of the bears, but this fails to have any effect. The other bear attacks Preen, but this attack also misses.
The satyr attacks Lini, and casts a spell on her. Lini now feels that the satyr is her friend, and would not harm her – so she sends the spiritual weapon to attack one of the bears. As her intended ‘remove disease’ spell is not something that would harm the satyr, but rather help her – and wouldn’t you help a friend too? – she steps towards the satyr to cast her spell. The satyr, knowing that Lini is under her friendship spell, does not expect any harm, so she does not oppose Lini as she puts her hand on her to cast her spell. Immediately after Lini has released her spell, the red from the eyes of the satyr disappears.
In the meantime, after Preens attack of one of the bears missed, the bear has attacked Preen and grabbed him in a literal bear hug, causing significant damage. With the eyes of the satyr having returned to a normal colour, she looks around herself, and taking the scene into consideration, she growls something towards the bears, and their eyes lose their red glow too. The bear releases Preen and walks towards the satyr. The satyr thanks Lini. The fight is over. Lini goes towards Preen and heals him partially.

The influence of the fear spell cast on Luna has subsided, and she gets back to her senses. She intends to return to the clearing, and thankfully finds the correct direction straight away. After a few minutes she, still in her bear-shape, returns to the clearing to find Preen, Lini and the satyr sitting together, with the three bears lying quietly near them.

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In the Fae world - again

Before they enter the dome, Luna casts a “pass without trace” spell on LIni and Preen, which should ensure that they are not easily followed. Luna proposes to look in the forest for a solitary pixie or other fae creature, that she can heal temporarily to ask where the Queen is. After agreeing on this plan, they enter the dome, Preen first, Lini taking up the rear. Once they are inside the dome, Preen becomes very relaxed and his mind starts to wander. He takes his tin whistle from his backpack, and moves as to play it. Lini, remembering vaguely that the previous time this was not a success, prevents him from playing, and Luna takes the whistle away from him, giving it then to Lini for safekeeping. Preen then walks away from the other two, whistling softly. Lini and Luna follow him. Luna does not understand what has gotten over Preen. Lini suggest that maybe the forest or the Fae may have something to do with this. “Ah,” Luna sighs, comprehending, “It must be some form of influential magic. I know just what to do!” And she approaches Preen, with the intention to “snap him out of it” by slapping him in the face. But before she can reach him, Preen runs away and climbs a tree. Lini has to run to keep up.
Then Preen, with a huge smile on his face, jumps and somersaults from tree to tree, disappearing further in the forest at a rapid speed. Luna tries to hit Preen with her sling, but misses. Preen ‘flees’ further into the forest, still with a huge grin on his face. Having to choose between losing Lini or losing Preen, Luna calls to Lini to wait for her when she can’t follow anymore, and goes in pursuit of Preen. It does not take long before Lini loses sight of both of them, despite her running as fast as she can. When she reaches the spot where she thought she saw Luna last, she stops running to catch her breath.

dryad-crop.jpgBeing completely unamused by now, Luna casts an ‘entangle’ spell and Preen is caught by lianas, and hangs upside down between two trees. Luna approaches him and slaps him in the face. OUCH!” Preen cries out, “What is your problem with me?!” while looking both at the tree that has caused him to trip up and still holds him ‘captive’ as well as at Luna.
Then Preen calls out “Watch out!” sounding significantly less fuzzy. Luna looks around her and spots a Dryad at about 45 feet distance, with glowing red eyes, preparing a spell. Preen grabs his bow and arrow, and from his upside-down position fires an arrow at the creature, but misses. Luna briefly is covered by a feeling of drowsiness and sleep, but is able to shake it off. She supports Preen and removes her entangle spell, guiding Preen partially to the ground. Then she charges at the Dryad – who promptly disappears INSIDE the tree. Luna looks back and forth between Preen and the tree into which the Dryad disappeared. Preen has lost his tranquility, it seems the influential spell has been broken. But they have also lost Lini…

After having caught her breath, Lini checks her surroundings. She has lost all sense of direction, she has no idea where she came from or where Luna and Preen went. She decides to wait for Luna, as she was told to do, but she would not mind if she would pick some flowers right? These are so beautiful flowers, most are strange and new to her, but there are a few she recognizes as summer flowers that also are found on Gozreh. Wait? What? Summer flowers? In autumn? Lini wonders about this odd fact while she keeps picking flowers, even sticking a few in her hair.

Luna traces back the route she and Preen have taken, estimating the spot where Lini should be, but there is nobody around. Fortunately, Preen hears something away from the initial path, and it does not take long to find her. When the group reunites and shares their adventures – Preen was following that little Dryad, he was not running away from the others! – Summer flowers in autumn? – Preen asks his tin whistle back, which Lini gives him, although slightly reluctantly. They continue their walk into the forest, and then Lini hears the sounds of a pan flute in the distance. This could possibly be a satyr, she tells the others, and as she only hears one set of pan flute notes, it’s probably just the one. They go in the direction Lini indicates she hears the sound from, and it takes not long before also the others hear it. When they get closer to the sound, they suddenly hear a snarl, and the flute music stops, being replaced by a sad song in a strange language. Luna recognizes the language as druidic, and comes to the conclusion that there must be a druid ahead! Preen sneaks ahead and approaches a small open area in the forest, where a satyr is sitting on a rock, singing the sad song, while three bears are lying calmly at her feet. Preen motions to Luna to indicate that there are three additional creatures apart from the satyr, and then moves around the open area in order to end up directly behind the satyr on the rock.

Then a loud growl is heard, not coming from any of the bears, but from the satyr. The song ends, and she grabs her pan flute again, playing soothing music. During this transition from singing to playing, the bears had shuddered, lifted their heads from their paws, but once the flute music started, they rested their heads again and resumed their calm poses.
Luna and Lini, at the edge of the clearing, discuss and decide that Luna should go to the druid in her bear-shape, to try to place a remove disease spell on her. A shimmering takes place and where Luna was, now a large bear is present. The bear moves slowly toward the open space with the satyr and the three other bears.

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The Archdruid's Quest

After being welcomed to the grove of the Archdruid, and after some brief introductions, Preen answers her question what brings them there: that he thinks that they can help each other. “It seems you are being plagued by a necromancer who flies through the skies on a skeletal dragon. We can help you deal with them, in exchange for something we believe is in your power to give: a Scroll of Regeneration.”
The Archdruid looks at the three adventurers a bit sceptically: You are going to fight the necromancer?”
“No, no, not us”, Preen assures her, and explains they know of an ‘entity’ that may be able to help in this matter. He does say that he cannot guarantee for a hundred percent that aid will be given, but he expects that there is a large chance that help will be provided.
“Hmm,” the Archdruid ponders, “That are not very good odds, but better than some I heard before. Unfortunately, the white dragon is not our first problem. Nor is the necromancer. The greatest peril comes from the Fae in the forest. I will make you a deal. If you help me lift the curse from the Seelie Queen, I will give you the Scroll of Regeneration you seem to desire.”
When Preen, Lini and Jonathan ask for more information on what their help should look like, and what the risks are, before they can agree to anything, the Archdruid elaborates: “Your recent arrival on Erastil means that you are unknown to these lands. You will not be recognized if you get near to the Seelie Queen. You will help a druid get near to her. This druid will carry this stone” the Arch druid removes a red, round, fist-sized stone from her robes and shows it to them, lying on her palm, “and by using this stone the druid can cast a spell over the Seelie Queen that will remove her ‘disease’. Once the Seelie Queen is cured, the forest and the Fae will no longer pose a threat and we can then focus on the secondary things that are not right on Erastil”

A discussion follows between Preen, Lini, Jonathan and the Archdruid going into more detail regarding this quest, and what would be needed exactly and how things should be done. It is important that there is mutual trust during this mission. The Archdruid concludes the discussion by stating that if the mission is well prepared, and if they will use sufficient stealth, the chances are that they will survive the quest. Leaning towards agreeing, Preen argues that the crew of their airship will need to be fed in their time away, but that would be a minor issue that can be taken care of by the druids.
Lini senses that the motive of the Archdruid is neither good nor bad, but mainly focused on restoring the balance. Her intentions are in principle good, she will benefit from a successful mission, and she will give an important artefact – an amplification stone – to them to take on their mission.
Then the Archdruid makes a surprising request: she requires that Jonathan stay behind – as some form of security. She then calls out : “Luna!” and a large woman comes forward, who holds her hand out to Lini and says: “Hello, I am Luna” Lini looks somewhat surprised by her appearance – she appears much larger than she really is – and then shakes her hand and introduces herself. Preen casts a quick look at Jonathan, who does not wear an expression that he is not okay with what is going on. Nala is already running around the grove, playing and talking to druids and other creatures. Preen then says to Luna, while shaking her hand: “So you are the one who will cast the spell on the Seelie Queen.”
“Yup, that is the idea,” Luna answers.

Preen then remembers something, and asks the Archdruid if she can help him with his lycanthropy problem, preferably without having him changing bodies or form – he likes the way he is now (when not in his were-bat shape, that is). “Well, if you are that attached to your own body, then I am afraid I cannot help you” the Archdruid answers. A pity, Preen thinks, I’m really stuck with the dragon’s deal then…
Resigned, Preen checks with Lini if she is okay with the new quest, but Lini basically sees it as one big adventure and she’s eager to get started. When asked how she feels about the plan, Luna just nods her approval.
“But what about Jonathan?” Lini asks suddenly, “What happens to him if we don’t get back??” The Archdruid ensures that nothing bad will befall him, he will be placed in service of the grove, not in a way a slave would be in service, but a servitude of learning and helping each other.
Mollified by this answer and although not everyone is equally convinced of the wisdom of the Archdruid’s quest, they agree to do her bidding.

Preen and Lini make some small talk with Luna, in order to get acquainted. Then suddenly the Archdruid stands behind Luna and offers her the amplification stone. “Be aware: when you use the stone when you cast a spell, this can be felt. If the Seelie Queen is healed, she will not be without gratitude.” With those words, she turns around to lead Jonathan away. Before he lets himself be led away, Jonathan gives Lini a big hug and claps Preen on his shoulder as farewell. He then leaves with the Archdruid.
Two raccoons approach the trio of adventurers, dragging a large package which is placed in front of them. After a quick check, this appears to be food that is to be given to the crew of the ship while they wait for them to return from their mission.
“All right,” says Preen, “Let’s go.” And he turns to leave. Luna picks up the package of food and she and Lini also turn to leave. Something made them look back, and the grove is no longer behind them. Luna fortunately knows in which direction they have to go to reach their ship.

During their walk to the airship, they try to get to know each other better. Luna is from [INSERT BACKGROUND STORY LUNA]
Preen and Lini tell Luna about the blue dragon they met on their way to Erastil and their promise regarding the scroll of regeneration.
When they exit the forest, they are very close to their airship. “Ahoy!” Preen calls, explaining to Luna that this is the way to speak to a ship. “I didn’t know ships could talk…” LIni says softly, upon which Luna bursts out laughing.
Jeremy has spotted them and throws down a rope ladder. They all climb up, after having secured the package of food to a rope to be hoisted up. The plan regarding the Seelie Queen is explained to the crew, and they are told to park the ship at the northern edge of this forest after they have dropped the adventurers off near the Fae forest. The food package should be enough for the four remaining crewmembers for the next couple of days.

After about a day and a half of sailing, Preen, Lini and Luna are dropped at about half a day walking from the Fae forest. At the end of the afternoon they make their camp near the edge of the dome in a section that can almost be called forest. Lini generates their food, and they set out a guard throughout the night. Preen has first watch and during his shift he continuously has the feeling that ‘something’ is watching them from the dome, and a feeling of dread envelops him. When it is time to wake Luna for the second watch, Preen takes a few sips of brandy, to make him sleep better, and then crawls into his blankets. Luna knows that there is nobody near, and has no eerie feelings whatsoever. She sits out her watch and then wakes Lini for the final stretch of the night watch. Lini too has a feeling of paranoia and unease during her watch, and is very much on edge when dawn finally breaks and she wakes the others. Preen is the first one to notice that the edge of the dome has moved: that small group of gnarly trees first was completely outside of the dome, but now is almost halfway in it! There clearly is something going on here…

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Close encounters in the Fae world
We'd better look for the Archdruid somewhere else

Jonathan and Lini recognize the flying creatures around their ship as pixies, although normally these creatures of the Fae world are not aggressive. The pixies in question are very aggressive, they have red eyes and sharp teeth. In the distance they faintly hear a girl’s voice call out: “Run!”
Jonathan grabs the Goggles of Starsight from his belt, throws this at Jeremy, and says that it is really time to go. “Use those goggles to navigate, as anything else you see around here will likely be an illusion” He adds, almost as an afterthought, that this behaviour is not at all like pixies he knows about…
Then the fight begins. Preen and Jonathan fire arrows at the pixies, but both miss. Before Lini can do anything, she and Preen are hit by at least one small pixie arrow, and they both drop down to the deck, in an enchanted sleep. Also one of the crew members is hit and is soon fast asleep on the deck of the ship. Jonathan starts shooting his arrows in earnest, he hits a pixie three times, but there is no apparent effect. Then he selects an exploding arrow, and shoots it in a nearby tree, where also two pixies fly near. The huge explosion causes a large fireball and the two pixies are engulfed by flames, which causes some high-pitched screeching.
At that same time, Jonathan also hears a piercing cry coming from far away in the forest. Then he is also shot by a number of pixie arrows, and his world goes black…

An undefined amount of time later, Lini wakes up to a somewhat rhythmic sound of something thudding against something else. She soon discovers that this is the sound the ship makes, softly flying repeatedly into a tree. The others also start to wake up. Jeremy lies on deck and is missing a complete leg! Two other crewmen are also on deck, a sound coming from below indicates that Cook is also still around. The third deckhand is unaccounted for though.
Lini quickly goes over to Jeremy, who is in shock: “They ate us alive!” Lini performs a cure serious wounds spell, to stabilize Jeremy and heal the stump that his now his right leg. During the healing Jeremy faints.
Jonathan and Preen notice that they are no longer in the Fae forest, but back near the lake again. Then Cook comes up from belowdecks and calls out in frustration: “They ate all our food!! There is nothing left!”
Jonathan looks for Nala, his small dragon, and asks her if she can tell him what has happened after they all fell asleep. Nala is still very frightened from what has happened, but after some encouraging she tells Jeremy what she knows. Apparently they started eating Jeremy first, as he was still awake. Then they also ate a crewmember. One of the crewmen just walked off the ship – the one who is unaccounted for. Then suddenly a large tree came to the ship, and picked it up an threw it out of the dome. After Nala finished her report, Jonathan gives her some fruit from his backpack, which was not found by the pixies.


They decide to go around the domed forest, at a safe distance from the shimmering border. It takes them six days to fly around the forest. Lini ensures that everyone has safe food to eat every day. They decide to go to a nearby fort, and see that also around this fort a fair amount of makeshift hovels are built around the fort. Lini and Jonathan see that ten people are led outside the fort by about twice that number of soldiers, and on a unheard command, the throats of the ten ‘prisoners’ are slit. They approach the fort but remain at a respectable distance, but still within earshot. The people in the hovels look emaciated. “Ahoy!” Preen calls, “We come in peace!” The somewhat suspicious answer comes from the watch tower, asking whether they have food. As there is some food to spare from Lini’s ‘cooking’, they agree to give them 36 meals. “Where are the druids” Preen asks. “They travel around, between the forts and other safe places. They distribute food. One of them was here a week ago. She will have continued her round and should be at the second fort from this one in less than a week’s time.” The helpful fort soldier shows them a map of the islands, with all the forts indicated, and points first to his own fort and then the one the druid will be traveling to. Preen thanks him and they arrange the food to be dropped to the watchtower by flying over it. They continue their journey to the fort where they hope to meet up with the druid.

Upon asking, Jeremy informs them they have for about 49 days fuel left, and he suspects it will take about five days flying to reach the other fort. They keep flying in the night, and during one of these nights on her watch Lini sees a large shape flying across the horizon. The shape has a white sheen and blue piercing eyes. She realizes that this is a Dracolisk – for lack of better description, a skeleton of a dragon, which is beyond powerful. She also saw something or someone sitting on its back – a human shape covered in dark robes.
In the morning Lini shares this information with the others, and they are a bit more concerned than they already were. This may explain what is wrong with the island and the plague ravaging it.
When they arrive at the other fort, which is very similar in appearance as the one they left five days ago, they learn that the druid has just left, and has the guise of an eagle. Lini searches for animals in the area and is able to contact a raven, who she asks if he has seen an eagle recently, and where it may be now. The raven says he has seen many eagles, and asks if she is searching for a particular one? When Lini haltingly tries to communicate that she is looking for an eagle who is not an eagle, the raven quickly interrupts her and says “Oh, you’re looking for the druid” A bit embarrassed, Lini accedes to this, and asks him if this is the arch-druid. “No, no, the arch druid takes the shape of a bear and lives in a forest” The raven does not know which forest this may be, but he can guide them to the eagle. Lini explains the gist of her conversation with the raven to the others and tells Jeremy to follow the raven. They fly all day, and continue part of the night, until they reach a small copse of trees, where they spot a small fire. Lini thanks the raven and gives him some food as payment. When they reach the fire, they see nobody around. They make their good intentions known, and suddenly a female elf appears on deck. “What brings you here?” she asks, still a bit wary.
“Well, it seems you have a problem with an undead dragon, we know someone who may be able to counter his influence, but we need the help of the Arch druid to restore it to its full powers.” The druid looks at them a bit askance: “How can this ‘someone’ help, if it need help itself?” she asks a bit skeptically. “_ Preen replies: _”By joining forces, the result will always be better than each individual force alone…“_
The druid gives some additional explanation regarding the situation on Erastil: _”The Seelie Queen in the forest with the temple is also under the influence of this ‘zombie curse’, and as the Seelie Queen and her subjects are immortal, the effect of the curse is different too. The Seelie Queen now wishes to expand her domain and the Arch druid is trying to counter this.“_ She looks at them with her head slightly cocked. _”Maybe you can be of assistance_" she muses. “I will give you a guide to lead you to the Arch druid” She then looks at Jonathan, or more precisely, at Nala, who sits on his shoulder. Nala flies towards the druid, and the druid whispers something in her ears. Nala then starts to emanate a blue light, and starts to fly away from the ship. “Follow her if you wish to meet with the Arch druid” the elven druid says, and leaves the ship.

They fly four days and nights, following the seemingly inexhaustible Nala, until they reach a dense forest, and the blue light fades from Nala. She is very tired, and crawls into a safe spot in Jonathans pack. The forest is too dense to fly through, so they anchor the ship and instruct the crew to wait for them. Lini leaves some food for them for the coming day or two, and Preen, Jonathan and Lini leave the ship to enter the forest. Jonathan is looking for tracks, any tracks but specifically bear tracks, but he does not find them. LIni contacts a blue tit, to ask it where the arch druid may be. The response is that you do not find the arch druid, but she will find you. With this somewhat unhelpful answer they continue their trek into the forest. They thought they have walked in a straight line towards the center of the forest, but Jonathan realizes that after a day of walking, all they have done is walk in circles. They reach a clearing, and at the other side of the clearing a fox and a dear are standing close together. Lini tries to contact them, but they scamper away before she is successful, startled maybe by the sounds Preen makes when marching into the clearing. They decide to make camp here, as it is as good a place as anywhere. When it is fully dark, a pantherlike creature appears at the edge of the clearing, emanating a familiar blue light. It turns away and looks at them over its shoulder, as if to invite them to follow. They douse the fire, grab their belongings and follow the panther. During the short trek Preen and Jonathan notice that at some point, between two steps, they are no longer at the same place. It is much lighter now, and there are blue jack ‘o lanterns around, and different types of toadstools and mushrooms. Preen is engulfed by a peaceful feeling. Lini and Jonathan are not affected by this. They approach a lighter area in the forest, a grove with a small pool. Next to some large rocks surrounding the pool, a fox, a deer and a very large brown bear are sitting in a semi-circle. Preen, as if in a daze, walks forward and sits down in this circle. After only a brief hesitation, Lini and Jonathan follow suit, completing the circle.
After some time, the bear turns toward the ’guests’ and shimmers into a human female shape. She is dressed in animal skins, and is much older than she looks. “Welcome to my grove,” she says with a voice that has wisdom of ages, “What brings you to Erastil at this time?”

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On Erastil
Something strange is going on here...

When they approach the skyport in Cloud Eagle to dock, they notice that the towers are not in the best condition. The area at the base of the skyport towers is crammed full with all sorts of makeshift houses and hovels. There are almost no skyships present at the towers. The towers that do hold ships show heavy barricades that prevent people climbing up the tower towards the ships. All docking places at those towers are full.
Upon indication of Preen, Jeremy tries to get their ship next to one of the other docked ships, a large freight vessel, similar to the Freebird, which they sold on Iomedae. The looks they receive are a bit strange, and they are questioned immediately: “Who are you?”"
Preen tells them who they are and that he would like some information on the current events on Erastil and in Cloud Eagle. The captain of the freight vessel tells Preen that docking here would probably not be a good idea, pointing towards the barricades and the overflowing city.
When Preen asks where the druids are to be found, the captain shrugs, and says “probably in a forest or something. But I would not know about those people, they dwell on land…”
“Are there other places or ports on Erastil where we can dock?” Preen asks. “Have you not heard?” the captain asks almost incredulously, “Erastil is cursed! All food is poisoned, when you eat any of the food you will die and at the same time you won’t die… You become a soulless body, moving about for who knows what purpose. Possibly there are still some forts standing further inland, which are safe havens, but to be honest, I do not know. I am more concerned now with getting fuel. I have already sent out three men on separate occasions, and none of them have returned. My ship will drop out of the air in a week time!” The anguish and frustration is clear on the captain’s face. Preen wishes him good luck and then orders Jeremy to fly out of earshot.

After a brief discussion, Preen, Jonathan and Lini decide not to dock in Cloud Eagle. Jeremy informs them that they still have fuel for about 60 days. A proposal is made to fly overland, to get a feel of the land and look for the forts and hopefully they can get some information on where the archdruid can be found. Their food stock is somewhat limited, they have for about 5 days provisions. But as Lini is able to conjure up safe and sustaining food each day, that is not a large concern at the moment. Having somewhat of a plan, they fly over the city, further inland.
They notice a lot of people, making begging gestures towards them as they fly overhead. They reach with their arms toward the ship as if that would enable them to board the ship.

After leaving the city behind them, flying at a comfortable altitude of about 100 meters above ground, they set course towards the center of the island, as they understood there would be a temple in the middle of a big forest. They spot a large amount of fields and farms on their way. A large manor farm surrounded by smaller farms, connected by small dirt roads, and a larger road connecting the big farms to the larger settlements. They see almost no activity, only some cows are in the pastures, and some pigs, but they don’t see any people.
At some point Jonathan notices that the cows act in a strange way. They moo at fixed intervals, every fifth count, and after they moo, they take five paces and then moo again. This is not synchronized between the cows, so it is not very clear to spot, but when Jonathan points it out to Lini and Preen, they also notice the rythmical behaviour of the cows and when they pay closer attention, they notice this behaviour with all farm animals. The wild birds still behave as expected from birds. They lower their ship, to a height of 50 meters above the land, so they can examine the cows more closely. Their unnatural behaviour reminds Lini of a spell that can turn living creatures into zombies, where assignments can be given that will be repeated endlessly. It seems that whoever cast the spell on these animals, they tried to have them behave naturally.
The majority of the crops are still in the fields, waiting to be harvested. They go back to their 100 meter altitude.

They decide to fly through the night. The next day they approach a lake. Nowhere are people in sight. It takes them two days to cross the lake. Then they approach a large forest, still some goodly ways away. When they approach the forest, they keep an eye out for any strange things in or near the forest. But they don’t seem to be able to focus to clearly on the forest, there is some sort of haze covering the forest, keeping everything out of focus. When they are near this aberration, they give it a closer inspection. It appears to be some sort of dome, covering a large part of the central forest on Erastil. Preen casts his Detect Magic spell, and is almost blinded by the amount of magic that resonates from the dome. The type of magic he detects is one of transmutation, illusion and conjuring. Jonathan nocks an arrow and shoots this into the shimmering haze. The arrow disappears and is not seen again. They notice that birds do seem to fly in and out of the dome without problems.
Thinking that this must be some sort of protective spell around the forest, cast by the druids, they decide to fly into the dome. Lini is at the front of the ship, wanting to be the first to experience what happens when you cross the ‘border’.
When the bow of the ship enters the dome, Jonathan and Preen see Lini disappear from view. Lini is the first to see that inside the dome the continue flying between trees, there is an endless amount of flower blossoms that falls down, some soft, lovely music can be heard, together with some giggling voices. A general feeling of serenity encompasses all of them, once the ship has completely entered the dome. They see a path leading towards the center of the forest, presumably towards the temple. Jonathan is the only one who realizes that they have entered the realm of the fae!
He tells Preen, who is standing next to him, that it is probably best that they turn around now. “But why?” Preen asks, “It is so beautiful here!”
“It is always beautiful in the fae world! It really is better to turn around now, then we can prepare better!”
The crew is completely impressed by their surroundings, and is totally relaxed, leaving their sailing duties for what they are.
Lini and Preen do feel, deep down, that something is amiss, they are not in control. Then they spot a big branch which moves to grab the ship. The branch is attached to a tree with glowing red eyes. The voices around them turn a bit more aggressive.
Lini spots a very beautiful woman, sitting on a stone next to a small forest pool. She beckons to the crew members.

Preen commands Jeremy to turn the ship around, and this is done, albeit somewhat reluctantly. They intend to follow the path outside the dome. Preen feels the wind and tells Jeremy to keep the ship half towards the wind. Then Preen, by some impulse, decides to pull forth his whistle, and he starts to play a random tune. This almost immediately causes the veil of tranquility that covered them to drop. They now experience a sense of unease. Then they see about six one-foot high creatures flying around the ship, armed with bows and arrows. They look at them aggressively through red eyes and with a snarl on their faces.

View
Change of plans and direction
A deal is struck

After seeing the head of the enormous blue dragon emerge, the crew members all disappear below deck, Jeremy remains where he is, but he looks very pale and is trembling. Nala crawls deep in the hood of Jonathan’s tunic, she also appears to be very afraid.
After a brief recovery time, Jonathan calls to the dragon in the draconic tongue: “Greetings oh great blue dragon” He then stumbles on his words, not knowing exactly what to say or how to say it in the draconic tongue with which he lacks aptitude. Also Preen is whispering things to him to say. At some point Jonathan haltingly excuses himself and also says that the others do not understand the draconic tongue…
“I know that…” the dragon replies in the common tongue. Lini and Preen notice that the dragon looks old and battered. There are many scars, most look to be relatively fresh. The dragon gives them a terrifying dragon smile, baring her teeth: “So you have come here to pay tribute, have you not?”
Preen takes the calling horn from Jonathan and answers: “We did not know you were here, so we have not prepared any tribute” The dragon replies, still smiling that awful smile, “Oh, but you have everything what I need…”
Realizing she must mean the fuel bricks, they talk to Jeremy and ask how many bricks they can miss without running into problems themselves. After some calculations, Jeremy informs them nervously that we can spare 60 bricks. Preen informs the dragon of this offer, and also tells her that this is all they can afford to miss, so this is not an opening offer. The dragon seems pleased, and says that now they are ready to negotiate. When she says this, she looks at Preen, and he feels she looks right through him.
Upon an unheard command, ten wyverans fly toward the Kingfisher. Jeremy and the crew haul up the 60 bricks and place them on the deck, after which the crew disappears again. The wyverans each take six bricks in their arms and fly back to the ‘island ship’. Jeremy is still at the helm of the ship, but on shaking legs. Jonathan walks up to him and says: “I’ll take over here, you can go down if you wish” Jeremy thanks him and with a mixed look of gratitude, fear and relief, he also disappears below deck.

When the wyverans have returned to their own ship, and delivered the fuel brick tribute, the dragon says to Preen: “I think we can help each other out, little bat…” Startled to find out that his secret is not so secret to the dragon, Preen soon learns that the dragon can help him lift the curse and help him with a cure. But of course, quid pro quo, so they will have to do something for her too. They will need to get her a specific healing spell. When asked whether she cannot get this spell herself, being a great blue dragon and all, she roars, gets up on her feet and spreads her wings. Shockingly, one of the wings is only a stump, cut off at about two meters from her body. The other wing is also heavily damaged.
“The person who is able to help me and heal my injuries is unwilling to do so” the dragon explains. “You must go to Erastil and speak to the Arch druid there. Negotiate for a scroll of regeneration, without mentioning for whom it is intended. We have had a quarrel in the past, and that is the reason she will not help!”
Knowing that blue dragons are not the friendliest creatures, and helping her may bring about evil in the world, Preen, Jonathan and Lini are a bit hesitant to agree to help outright. They need some assurances. “How do we know that if we help you and you will be regenerated, that you will not destroy some cities or wreak havoc on any or all of the islands?” Preen asks her. “That is something that would not sit well with us”.
The dragon explains with a hint of exasperation that even in her current condition she can do just that, if she feels like it. But all she wants is to get well and to go home. Lini assumes she will need two healthy wings to get home, and says so to her companions. The dragon overhears this and says that her home can be reached by airship, but that it is currently being occupied… They decide not to ask further details on this topic.

They strike a deal, they will get the scroll of regeneration from the arch druid on Erastil and in exchange the dragon will cure Preen of his lycanthropy. When asked where they can find her, the dragon says that she will find them… They turn the ship around as the dragon inhales deeply. The air starts to crackle and the stern of the ship is hit by a large lightning bolt when the dragon exhales. The ship surges forward, and maintains a significantly higher sailing speed than before. A big ball of lightning is now attached to the stern of the ship.
Once they are out of range of the other ship, Lini gets the crew back on deck and they explain the situation to them. “A crisis, with a possible deadly result, has been averted. But in order to do this, we have to go to Erastil right now. We expect you to remain loyal to us and stay with us on this trip, as a thank you for saving us all from the earlier predicament. We will likely have to go back to Asteroath first, to get new fuel bricks”
Jeremy informs them that they have more than enough bricks to get to Erastil. Upon hearing this, Preen and Lini realise that Jeremy has been bluffing when counting out the tribute: there are many more bricks left than expected…

They change their course to Erastil. At some point Jeremy has the sails lowered, as with the new propulsion aid the sails hamper them more than help them go forward. Once the sails are down, they pick up more speed. Preen wonders out loud how the ship can slow down, especially once they reach Erastil. Jeremy says that he will test how things work. But after several futile attempts, the ship does not slow down. Then Jonathan walks up to the ball of lightning and says: “Slow down” in the draconic tongue, but to no avail. Preen is now also intrigued and determined to find out how it works. He lets his spellcraft skill work and discovers that the ball of lightning is made by an evocation spell that requires concentration. So once the concentration of the spell caster drops, the spell will also fade. They hope that by the time they reach Erastil, the concentration will have dropped…
Normally it would be about 27 days sailing to Erastil from where they are now, but with the increased speed they will probably reach the island in half this time. During the next days, Lini takes time to write down everything that has happened so far in their journal for the Pathfinder guild. She also starts to look closely to all the birds and ‘flying fish’ in the air around and clouds beneath her. She tries to sketch some of them in her own journal. At some point, through the mist below, she spots a huge creature in the mist, at least two and a half times the size of their own ship. It flies at a leisurely pace but this may very well be the reason Jeremy keeps the ship well above the mist..

The Draft

After a couple of days of sailing they approach the Draft. Jeremy guesses that due to their lack of sails and increased speed, the crossing should be more easy. When they reach the Draft, they can actually ‘see’ the wind blow. It appears that the Draft is alive. Preen gets out his whistle and starts to play a tune. Jeremy warns them they must be ready to hold on. He and the crew start to secure everything on deck that is loose. Preen walks towards the mast and continues playing up to the last moment. Then they go into the draft. The wind is extremely strong, it howls around the ship. It is stronger than any wind Preen, Jonathan or Lini have experienced before. It is impossible to sail against this strong wind. It appears at some moments that the wind is actively trying to grab things. Lini takes a closer look and recognizes air elementals flashing briefly into existence before disappearing again. It almost looks like that there is a tear in the planes from which the air elementals partially ‘leak’ to the real world. The Draft definitely is a magical phenomenon.
After about two hours sailing, with the wind howling around them, they suddenly are through the draft and in calm, normal air. The silence around them is suddenly very pronounced.
Lini is very enthousiastic about the experience. “This was so cool!! Did you see those air elementals pop in and out of existence? That was really something, right? Wow, this is what I call sailing!!” Preen and Jonathan look at her, a bit bewildered: they did not enjoy this very much, and would prefer not to do this again anytime soon.
Then Jeremy comes up from the galley, carrying three glasses with strong drink. “And now you are truly sky sailors!” He hands the drinks to Preen, Jonathan and Lini. “Even though the Draft was very quiet today”

Erastil

Thirteen days after their encounter with the blue dragon, they spot the sky port of Erastil, Cloud Eagle. The island of Erastil is very level, no mountain ranges can be seen. There is mainly forest mixed with fields for agriculture. It is the onset of winter, the trees have lost their leaves already. The sky port is also the only city they can see on the island. Approaching Cloud Eagle, they spot a ship that is sailing just above the mist, hunting the big flying fish that fly in the mist.
The sky port of Cloud Eagle is noticeably less well maintained than Tamran or Asteroath. They also see that the city is very full of people, and a lot of ramshackle buildings are present, many of which have a temporary look. The gates of the city are closed, but there are still many people outside the city walls. Refugees maybe?
The extensive fields outside the city are dotted with small farms, but Jonathan notices that the majority of the crops are not harvested, but still on the fields. This is very odd, harvest time has long since gone!
The sky port itself also holds very few ships. Preen notices that inside the city the hovels and rickety buildings they saw before have been built on spaces that were market squares and other open areas in the city. There is definitely something going on here, and if they recall the rumours they heard in Tamran and on Iomedae, this may be the result of the plague that is said to be present on Erastil.

Once the ship flies over land, the ball of lightning at the stern of the ship shrinks in size and their speed drops significantly. They are able to dock their ship without problems.

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An unexpected encounter while flying to Shelyn

Having purchased a new, smaller airship, Preen, Jonathan and Lini also realize they need a crew to fly the ship. They search for Jeremy, to ask him whether he knows of a smaller crew available for flying them to Shelyn and Serenrae. They find him in a tavern which is frequented by sailors. When they get their beers from the bar, and another one for Jeremy, they sit with him at a table. As they tell them about their new ship that needs a crew of 5 or 6 men, Jeremy asks them what price they had in mind for payment of the crew. Not having really thought about this up till now, Preen ventures forth with 1 to 1.5 gold pieces per person for 5 days. Jeremy starts to laugh at that: “You’ll never get a crew paying those low wages!” When asked what a more reasonable price would be, Jeremy says that 1,5 gold piece per day for the whole crew is a good price. As the crew that joined Jeremy on the earlier trip is not a fixed crew, but just a bunch of hirelings without too much loyalty, Jeremy says that he is happy to join them again, the cook will come again, and three other trustworthy sailors. Before agreeing to this, and the price, Preen wants to check whether the price Jeremy asks is reasonable.
They take their leave to ask around for prices and find that the price is indeed following the market trend. Reasoning that Jeremy is a good fellow to have around, and that the food the cook made was acceptable, they decide they will accept his offer. But first they do some shopping. Some healing potions are bought, new clothes and arrows. Jonathan also buys two fireball arrows. Preen buys some ingredients for his special potion and “just in case” also buys silver plated shackles. Then they return to the tavern to tell Jeremy that he can gather his men.

They hire Jeremy, the cook and three sailors for the trip to Serenrae, possibly also for an extended period. The cook says he needs 3 gold to buy food for their trip up to Shelyn, 4 gold would be better to have some margin. It should be 17 days of flying to get to Shelyn. As the ship will consume 1 brick per day, 20 bricks should suffice to get to Shelyn. Jeremy advises however to get a full load of bricks as the air can be treacherous and they also need to go through ‘the draft’ which is a very fast air current inhabited by all kinds of creatures. They accept his advice and will tell the shipyard to fill up the ship with fuel bricks upon delivery. They tell Jeremy when they expect to depart – in two or three days – and after shaking hands to seal their new deal, leave for the inn.

When the ship is finished, Preen, Jonathan and Lini meet Jeremy and the crew at the wharf. Preen is wearing his newly bought ostentatious captains clothing. The crew somehow manages not to laugh when they see him. The ship is dubbed Kingfisher and after a brief ceremony, all board the ship and they depart to set sail to Shelyn. Once again, when they go over the edge of the island, they go down in a deep dive before the ship stabilizes again. The first few hours the crew is busy with optimizing the rigging and all other things that are required to fly the ship properly.
On their way there are many things to be seen: birds, clouds, flying ‘fish’ in the mist bank below them. Preen plays in the evenings on his tin whistle. Jonathan plays regularly with the small dragon Nala.
The three sailors remain very distant to Preen, as they see him as ‘the Captain’. After observation of the crew Lini realizes that Jeremy and Cook are loyal to the ship and to them, as long as they are being paid. The others are more in the category bought labour, in case of problems they will not risk themselves, being paid or no.

On the second morning after their departure, they notice that Jeremy is standing very still and looking concerned, his eyes focused to the right side of the ship. There is a strangely shaped dark cloud that crackles with lightning energy. The cloud moves in the direction of the Kingfisher
Looking at the expression on Jeremy’s face, this phenomenon is also new to him. They try to evade the cloud by changing their sailing direction. After some time they notice that also the cloud has changed direction, and again is coming straight toward them. Lini recognizes a lightning storm and Preen realizes that this is made by a spell to protect or hide something within the storm. It probably is a ship with a powerful mage on board. The lightning storm moves faster than they do, and Preen estimates that they will be overtaken in about 6 hours flying. He also calculates that they will end up at a higher flying position than they are now.
When Preen uses the spyglass to get a better view of what may be hidden in the dark cloud, he notices that there are several things flying in and out of the cloud. He does not recognize what it is. When Jeremy takes a look with the spyglass, he tells the other that the flying things are wyverans: flying kobolds.

This news does not bode well, so they prepare for a fight. Lini prays for guidance and prepares some spells that may help them in their upcoming struggle. When the cloud comes closer, they can see that inside the cloud there is a ‘ship’ in the shape of a big flying island, but with a ship hull at the bottom. The size is estimated at about 50 meter long. There are no sails visible. Lini spots at the bow of the ship a creature with two wings and two legs and a big tail, a draconic head and about half the size of their own ship. This is a wyvern. These creatures are not very bright, at least not intelligent enough to do any magic, so this wyvern is not responsible for the magical cloud. Wyverns are poisonous though…
The flying kobolds or wyverans always are present in large groups and they follow a larger draconic leader (tribal). They appear to be resistant to lightning energy, as they fly through the lightning storm cloud unharmed.

Slowly the other ship closes in. Trying to avoid the other ship gaining the upper hand, Preen tells Jeremy to fly higher and higher to end up at the same level as the other ship. Where the other ship initially compensates by flying even higher, at some point a maximum height is reached and the two ships are level with each other. The air here is relatively thin, which may explain why they don’t go higher. They notice that at the front and the back of the ‘island ship’ big balls of lighting are attached. This appears to have a propelling effect. The wyverans are calling to each other, and Jonathan, being able to understand the draconic tongue a little bit, catches some phrases and he notices that the name Zusira is repeated often.
Jonathan then calls out loudly in the draconic tongue: “Let us speak to Zusira!” The screeches of the wyverans halt, and it becomes relatively silent. At the back of the ship a large rock starts to move, and a neck with a large dragon head rotates in Jonathans direction and says “Yes?”
They recognize the large rock to be a gargantuan blue dragon! What in the world is a blue dragon on an airship? And more importantly, what does it want from them?

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A new airship

After they have finished their business in Iomedae, and Jeremy and his crew are also back on board, they depart again for Asteroath. The journey back is uneventful. Jonathan asks Jeremy what the airship they are flying now is worth if they were to sell it. Jeremy thinks about it, and taking into account that there is some damage and required maintenance, and many miles have been flown with the ship, he estimates the price between 15.000 and 20.000 goldpieces.
The first night they go to bed on the return trip, Preen finds a little package on his pillow. There is a note attached to it which reads: “Preferentially not to be used at night in the forest” The package contains the tin whistle Jonathan has bought for Preen.
It is again about 5 days flying back to Asteroath, during which time Preen tries to learn as much as possible from sky sailing from Jeremy, and Jonathan also listens in, focusing more on navigation than the actual sailing operations. Lini mainly occupies herself again by taking in all the sights around her. In the evenings Preen plays his whistle.
When they approach Asteroath, Preen is the one to dock the ship, and he is successful in his attempt. Jeremy puts the crew at work to secure the ship. After the work is finished, Jonathan pays Jeremy 25 gold, 5 gold more than the agreed price. Jeremy thanks him for this unexpected bonus.

The harbour master registers the ship in the dock, the docking fee is 5 silver pieces per day. Then Preen, Jonathan and Lini go to the drydocks, to see if they can sell and buy an airship. In the city it is very calm, less people are about than would be expected for a city this size. While they walk and overhear parts of conversations, they notice there is much talk about the food prices that have gone up significantly, and there has not been any fresh grain coming from Erastil in a long time. Also coffee is very expensive. Three old men, sitting in front of a tavern, talk about _ Dead man’s crossing_ which apparently has disappeared completely, burnt down. Lini decides to go over to them to ask more about this. She is initially mistaken for a young girl, who surely must be looking for her mother, but when Lini erects herself to her full height and shows her religious symbol with a somewhat sterner look on her face, the men become more talkative. Lini learns that about three weeks ago the resting place Dead man’s crossing, including the small village, was completely destroyed. They do not know who is responsible for this. The location of the village is to the north-east, past Iomedae even. Lini empathizes with them and promises to send some thoughts and prayers to the people of the destroyed village. She then returns to Preen and Jonathan and shares what she has learned.

In order to find the best ship dealer, they decide to split up and visit different bars and taverns to ask for a reliable ship dealer. Preen gets Petson & sons recommended, Jonathan hears that Anders is the man to go to. Lini asks a number of working men and understands that Petson is the go-to guy, and that she should avoid Anders, he is not to be trusted. When they regroup again and share their recommendations, they decide to pay this Petson a visit. His wharf looks well maintained. They see several ships in different states of completion. When they walk towards the office building, they pass a kennel with two clay dogs with burning green eyes, and in their backs a compartment holding a glowing brick that is also the fuel for the airships.
They enter the office and Preen rings the small bell that is on the counter. A man who was writing something in a ledger, gets up and introduces himself as Ricardo, son of Petson. “How can I be of service?” Preen asks for the smallest ship that is able to sail between the islands.
“Ah!” Ricardo says, smelling business, “Do sit down good people! Do you want something to drink?” When Preen asks for a beer, Ricardo apologizes and says they don’t serve beer while doing business, but there is coffee, or a herbal drink? They settle for the herbal drink.
Ricardo shows some drawings of different airships. They currently have two ships of about 15 meter length directly available. One sailing ship, which would require 5 or 6 sailors, and a ship without sails, which would require 2 or 3 sailors to crew. Both ships have very simple rooms below deck.
The sailing ship would cost them 12.000 goldpieces, plus another 500 to make the ship ready for sailing. The propeller ship is more expensive, 20.000 goldpieces and another 2000 gold to prepare everything. The fuel consumption is 1 brick per day for the sailing ship and 2 bricks per day for the propeller ship.
It is quickly decided that the sailing ship has their preference. Preen also mentions that they have a big airship (freight ship) for sale, or to exchange. They show Ricardo the papers of the Freebird. Ricardo excuses himself to arrange a ‘specialist’ to go to the skydock to appraise the ship. The man leaves on horseback to do as he is bidden. While they await the return of the appraiser, they are shown the extra’s that can be purchased to improve the basic quality of the sailing ship. He draws the layout of the lower deck with three small bedrooms, a communal room, and a room for the crew.
After some time the appraiser returns and confers briefly with Ricardo before he disappears again. Ricardo offers them to buy the airship from them for 15.000 goldpieces. But if they will buy the sailing ship as an exchange, he is willing to offer 17.000 goldpieces for the Freebird. The sailing ship with the agreed accessories would cost 13.5000 goldpieces. Preen asks Ricardo why the price he offers is so low. Ricardo says there is some overdue maintenance to be done to the ship. Preen thinks he is being cheated, but Lini reads the man well, and feels Ricardo means well. Also, the price which is offered coincides with what Jeremy thought the ship was worth. After some further negotiating, they strike a deal. They will exchange the Freebird for the smaller airship with also on-board sanitation, and get 4000 goldpieces.

As the extra’s still need to be installed on the new ship, they will have to wait three days before it will be ready. This night they will spend on the Freebird still and collect their private belongings. They put the still glowing bricks from the airship in their small lifeboat, which will be pulled by the new ship. The next morning they take their belongings to an inn where they will stay until the new ship is ready.

Their intention is to fly to Shelyn to Serenrae, to find a cure for Preen and to find the enchantress who is supposed to have the third part of the key to the treasure of Kassen. They know that Shelyn island is known for export of coffee, cotton, chocolate and tobacco. The weather is almost always nice and warm there, there are some swamps and sub-tropical forests. Shelyn has two skyports.
Serenrae is known for weapons and armour and rough clay as export products. The local Serenrae people are very formal and focused on etiquette. Serenrae is more or less divided into two parts, the northern part has a temperate climate, the southern part, across the mountain range, is a desert.

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