[tab][/tab]-[tab][/tab] Spirits were high that night during dinner at the inn your party was staying. The teamsters were merry and in their caps, as tomorrow after unloading the mules at the docks they would take the road back home to the mountains and leave this place. They are glad they would soon meet their families again. The magi and Ioannes were at a different table, talking about their trip and things they have seen. When asked about the water covenant of the area Anastaj takes a pause to think then hesitantly speaks: '' There was... a covenant around here, a small one, three or four people no more. They are members of the Order so not witches per se, though if I remember most of them were Ex Miscellanea. I am sorry my memory is not that good on this subject, I was... preoccupied with other things these past few years, didn't pay much attention. Still, they had a place here, at some beach on the inner arm of the peninsula, the one that juts into the gulf, near some kind of salt lake. I have never been there, don't know the exact location but I heard it was inside the waters themselves, protected by magic. You should ask the redcaps, they should know more. We have not heard of them the past fifteen years, not after the Fall of the City. I assume they hid, fled or got wiped out during the Crusade, but in reality... they had long kept to themselves and had sparse contact with anyone even before them, rarely coming to the Assemblies. The whole of Epirus was largely avoided by our kind, its a home for recluses. This place though is very interesting, a meeting of land and water. In ancient times, most of what you see covered in water was actually dry land. Why, the island of Lefkada (Λεύκάδα) is actually an extension of the land, periodically cut off by the tides. The ancients had a silt moving operation to make it a waterway pass for trader ships. On the inner gulf side, strange tides happen all the time and vast shallow lagoons dot the marshy edges. On the outside, past some ways out sea, the Adriatic splashes against the Ionian. Its a good place to study water magics I think.'' He pauses to gather his thoughts, then voices some more thoughts '' I do remember they had a woman leader, Astia? She was Ex Miscellanea, definitely what you Scylax would call a water witch. They had good relations with Aegaea Covenant, but little contact with the rest of us. I think their patron was a water nymph of some kind, or rather a nereid (Νηρηΐς), one of the mythic daughters of Nereus.''
[tab][/tab]-[tab][/tab] When the magi find time alone in their counsel, and Scylax broaches the subject of Epirus politics and Meru Mudi relations with the mundane rulers and authorities, Anastaj raises an eyebrow and shares some knowledge: '' Our covenant is barely started, its been what, barely four months? We don't know where our own linen and blankets are, we have no contact with any rulers, nobility or the church for that matter. The locals are barely aware of us. I hope that does not change, being unknown is a good thing. Michael Dukas just died, our Covenant just started, so I am certain the new person in charge, Theodore Dukas, has no idea we even exist. Same with the local nobles. I would prefer to keep it this way, mundanes are troublesome. Local will learn about us unfortunately, but we could probably pass off as weird ascetic men of the mountains or some such thing, and be left alone.''
[tab][/tab] He pauses again to think a bit, then continues: '' Actually the real problem would be our Companions, two of them in particular. Sir Georgios is an infamous warrior here in Epirus and did fight in the Fall of the City. His military experience is invaluable and as such he is a great addition to our covenant. I have high hopes he will help us with making some guards to protect us and such, I have no clue on military matters. But our security is paramount and he is the man we need for that job. He does have some issues from his past and that might bring the attention of nobility and clergy on us. I think though that we should shield him as best we can, he is a good man. On the other hand is Alexios. You probably have not seen him around much. He is an alchemist, but one of the useful ones, he has a military background. In fact, he is from the former Imperial apparatus. I offered him sanctuary and a place to work, not only because he is a highly valuable asset for our Covenant but because I did not want him running around Epirus to be snatched up by the Despotate. That would lead to too much mischief. Better keep him and hide him than let what that man knows fall in inappropriate hands. We at least know how to keep secrets and dangerous knowledge. I also expect trouble from the East about him, mayhap Niceae will be looking for him too. That's why we need eyes and ears to have early warnings. Miklos is doing just that, he will keep us informed. That one is a competent fellow'' he snorts.
[tab][/tab]-[tab][/tab] Early morning at the tiny port your teamsters are unloading your baggages into a small boat to be ferried over to a Venetian merchant ship. Small in size with two masts, one square and one triangle, Mare Regina is a fast, old ship mainly used for transporting luxury items and passengers, its captain plying the Adriatic for years. Anastaj had made plans for the trip and some money were exchanged and though there were no permanent quarters, you did put up a separate tent for the five of your party (the three magi, Ioannes and a grog). Besides this will be a short trip to Nafplio, no more that two days. It is a tight fit, but you manage to store away all your packs and such, the magi having to do menial work too, and the ship draws anchor and gently starts the journey south.
[tab][/tab] The winds are favorable, a steady northern breeze uncharacteristic for this time of year. It speeds your journey quite a bit and the weather keeps clear, pleasant and hot. Right out of Preveza you enter the Ionian sea where the great naval battle of Aktium took place in Roman times and Mark Antony lost to the forces of Octavian led by Agrippa. You travel on the western side of Lefkada, a semi-island with white beaches, down to Kefalonia the largest island in the Ionian sea, and certainly the one with the highest mountains. Your vessel weaves between Kefalonia and Ithaca, legendary island of Odysseus, then past Zakynthos to sail next to the western edge of the Peloponnese, its golden beaches blinding from afar. Near the evening, your captain takes you to deeper waters as the edges of the mainland appear, full of mighty cliffs and dangerous coastlines and the wind changes. It is a slower passage on the south side of the Greek peninsula, a clear night full of stars and to the north tiny pinpricks of lights signifying coastal towns hidden away in the gulfs and small villages perching on the edge of cliffs. Dawn finds you past the last of the Eptanisa, Cythira (Κύθηρα) and in the Aegean sea. Your Venetian transport turns north for the last part of the journey, along the rugged mountainous coastline and up into the eastern gulf towards the city of Nafplio.
[tab][/tab] The journey is difficult for Ioannes for he is ailed by some kind of motion sickness, apparent from the first hour when he rushes to be violently ill... on the wrong side of the ship. Anastaj considers the problem and after examining the man, suggests to knock the scholar out. That would keep him from suffering during the journey, a temporary but effective solution since the Vlach cannot find the underlying problem. ''Cheer up, its only three days of sailing in total on this journey'' he says unsympathetically.
[tab][/tab] Nafplio is an old Greek city, one of the ancient sites of human habitation. Situated at the end of an emerald gulf, it is a town of strategic importance. You can see from the distance a lot of ships in its harbor, while the town itself climbs up the hills in white and red order. There is construction on the top of the hills, new fortifications and emplacements. This city had recently been the center of conflict between the various players at the end of the fourth crusade, with vicious battles taking place inside the city itself. In fact for a time it was divided between the Byzantine half and the Frankish half. Now it's under the jurisdiction of the Duchy of Athens, firmly in the hands of foreigners. Near the center of the harbor is a lone island, where a καϊκι is waiting for you. This is a large fishing ship with one mast, smaller than Mare Regina by two classes but agile none the less. It appears that you would not have time on land, but change vessels in the middle of the sea. Poor Ioannes....