The three of them decided to stay the night in the cave next to the hot spring and head out the next morning. So they set up camp and settled in as the sun went down. Zoey was no longer on edge around Athena thanks to the day's events and the discovery that they were both connected to Sethrii in a way. Zoey was not sure was significance this would have, but at least it allowed her to trust Athena a little.
Viridi and Athena got along very well as it turned out. Athena was able to find the spots where Viridi loved being scratched, and even some that Zoey didn't know about. Athena attributed this to the fact that they had many cats where she grew up, and often the cats had been her only friends, so she ended up learning what they liked and disliked very quickly.
The night was a peaceful one. They were lulled to sleep by the sound of the night and surrounded by the scent of thousands of flowers. Zoey counted it among one of the most restful nights she had since coming to Darren.
The next day they packed up their camp and headed out with Athena leading the way southwest towards the town known as Sand Pit. On the way Zoey learned several things about Athena. She was a free spirit that loved adventure and had a habit of leaping before looking. Athena was always energetic and full of life, and when she decided on something, she went for it head first. The fact that she was incredibly strong helped her survive the odd and dangerous situations she found herself in.
Naturally, she had many stories about close encounters thanks to her recklessness, and Zoey enjoyed listening to them while they traveled. Athena was an adventurous soul and never stayed in one place for long, so she had traveled all over the continent and had a story for every place she visited. Stories about the amazing creatures she ran into and the obnoxious noble families she encountered, and each one more fantastic than the next.
Thanks to Athena's stories, Zoey was able to form a more complete picture of the world and what she would have to look out for. Athena was able to impart knowledge of how to identify when she entered the territory of a strong beast and how to gauge if she could defeat them or not. Knowing one's limits was important when it came to exploring the many wild areas where ordinary people did not dare to travel. Despite her reckless approach to adventure, Athena was well aware of her limits, and knew very well what to avoid and when to escape from danger. Zoey was thankful for her advice and said as much, only to have Athena tell her that it's only natural that she help her out, they were fellow sisters after all.
So onwards they went towards Sand Pit. They did not encounter anything threatening on the way, just some smaller predators that were not smart enough to avoid something stronger than themselves. Zoey was able to learn that there was a good reason Athena's tattoo was themed after the staff that she carried. This was because she was Zoey quickly realized that she was an absolute artist with her staff. Athena showed absolute control and precision when using her staff and when required, she could bring forth incredible power with it. Zoey theorized that Athena's Heritage and innate talents were somehow related to the staff, but it would have been rude to ask, so Zoey let it be.
Zoey on the other hand only showed off her Dark Star Control with her knife. She was starting to trust Athena, but Zoey wanted to have an ace up her sleeve, so she never used her 9mm Custom, just in case. Athena was impressed with Zoey's ability and skill, much like Zoey was impressed by Athena's staff skills, so the two of them came to a mutual appreciation of one another. Despite that, it was apparent to Zoey that Athena was considerably stronger that she was. Zoey had only just achieved Rank 3, and her intuition and instincts told her that Athena was no less than twice as strong as she was. Zoey was not sure how strong Athena was when compared to other magic users out here in the Exile Frontier, but she was undoubtedly stronger than the man in black leather that Zoey had faced.
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On the third day after leaving the crater, Athena, Zoey, and Viridi emerged from the jungle forest into a sandy savannah populated by sparse trees and shrubs. In the distance Zoey could see herds of herbivores grazing and in the sky she could see flocks of birds and other avians flying about. Athena said that they were only a day from Sand Pit, so they continued on their way.
Towards the end of the day as they traveled through the savannah, Zoey spotted a rock formation off in the distance. As they drew closer she could see that the rock formation was actually a small sandstone mountain. She could also see that there were several Kreppelin airships tethered to various points along the mountain where cargo and people could be seen moving in and out of the airships. The mountain was apparently hollow and Athena confirmed this when Zoey asked about it.
She also said that the Kreppelins belonged to various mercenary factions that had formed in the Exile Frontier. According to Athena they were far easier to deal with than the noble factions because they were weaker, and had less resources, but Athena also warned that there was a larger amount of criminals and undesirables here then there would be otherwise. People that could not fit in or simply did not agree with the noble's version of society often found their way here.
Soon, the three of them were close enough to see people on their way back to the city after a day of hunting and scrounging to survive. Most of the people they saw were decked out in survival gear and carried a multitude of weapons and vicious looking tools. Athena said this was just an attempt to look intimidating. If you looked strong and dangerous, maybe others would not mess with you.
The three of them drew quite a few glances as they finally reached the opening of the town and stepped into the gate.