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..
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”
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.