After dropping the elves off in Deep Harbor and turning in their quests, the party set sail for the largest city in Novos. The city of King’s Crest was Kaladrax’s hometown and he was excited to be heading back to visit his family. They set sail aboard the Anabelle Lee Mark 2 and estimated a week’s travel, which was about 10 days.
The ship made its way down the southern coast of the island seeing a few fishing villages along the way. When the ship came close to mountains, Kaladrax mentioned that they formed a ring around the massive desert with the healing oasis at the center. The ship began to slow down and then a few of the crew went to retrieve something from the hold. They seemed to be waiting for something. After a few minutes, Malachi noticed a few floating black specs off in the distance. They were coming their way.
As the creatures got closer, the party recognized them as kobolds. They were armed and mean looking. They jabbered something at the crew and Coppertree motioned for them to bring forth the bag retrieved from the hold. The party moved to defensive positions, ready to make a fight of it, but Coppertree motioned for them to hold. She explained that this was an agreement they had with the kobolds and that it was preferable to meeting their boss. Confused but mollified for the moment, the party lowered their weapons and stood down. The kobolds took their tithe and took off towards the mountains off to the starboard side.
Coppertree looked at the confused expressions of the group and proceeded to explain. The kobolds were acquainted with a sea turtle dragon that lived in the seaside caves along the shore. They always took a “toll” for every ship that passed through. If the ship didn’t pay, the sea turtle dragon would exact payment in person. That type of payment was usually paid in blood. This area was known for the many shipwrecks that dotted the rocky shores and shallow pools. All of them now belonged to the dragon.
Now that the payment had been made the ship began to pick up speed, the wake behind it evidence of the importance of their departure. A few days later they made it to the docks outside the city. Coppertree immediately left to drink and gamble her payment away, as did many of the other sailors. The first mate trudged behind her, his head hung low, as she ambled down the mud road towards the grungy lights of what passed for bars and houses of lady favors.
The party made their way down the wooden ramp erected on the port side of the ship. They looked on in wonder of the high stone walls around their destination. As they walked, Aleera heard the high spirited sounds of Vistani music. They followed the pounding sounds of drums paired with the strings of lutes and lilt of a lone viol. They came across a cheerful bonfire surrounded by colorful travois. Their horses were picketed off to the side. They grazed in the lazy manner of animals used to being on the road.
One of the Vistani motioned when she saw them and the party approached. She was old and grey, with her hair in a long braid down her left shoulder. She smiled at them like an old friend and introduced herself as Esmeralda. They had become separated in Barovia, right before the old gods had come and destroyed it. They had thought she had died with the rest of the inhabitants of the pocket dimension. Yet here she was. She had lived a long, full life. Esmeralda had woken in an empty field on Novos many years ago. It had been one hundred years since she had arrived on the island. She told them the story of what had happened after she came to.
Esmeralda had spent the entire time after waking, traveling the island of Novos in search of other survivors and the party. She had found Irina in those travels. They had joined forces and over the years, had developed a deep, loving bond that had sustained them through their hardships. They had traveled, telling the story of Barovia and bringing the scattered Vistani people together to travel again as one people. After many happy years on the road, Irina had passed away leaving her alone. She had waited so long to see them again. She invited them to enjoy the music and the food they could offer.
After the others had wandered off to eat and enjoy the ambience, Esmeralda called to Aleera and handed her the fortune telling tarot cards that had belonged to Madame Eva. She told Aleera that Madame Eva had wanted these to go to her and that she hoped Aleera would find it useful in the future. With this precious gift in her hands, she thanked Esmeralda and went off to join her group.
With the stars and moon bright in the sky, the blazing bonfire and the jumping sounds of the music, Aleera felt the need to dance. She began to move around the fire. Her hands danced with the flames and her skirts flared around her, the shiny sequins flashing in the light. Kaladrax gazed on in open wonder. They ate, drank and danced late into the night. The group went to bed that night surrounded by familiar friends and much to process.