90 Sixty Years Ago
As Zoey looked at the scene before her in stunned amazement, Athena walked past her over to the tied up Nito, who was staring at both of them in surprise.
"So after you left the other day, this guy shows up and starts asking questions around town about you. He knew way too much, like what you looked like and what you were wearing, so I decided to find out what he knew. Do you know him?" Athena asked as she glared menacingly at Nito.
"Actually Athena, this is my friend, Nito," Zoey said, trying to stifle her laughter.
Athena looked at her, then back to Nito, "This is the guy you were waiting for?" She shook her head bemusement, "No wonder he knew so much about you. I thought he was a noble spy!"
Zoey chuckled as she removed her mask and disguise, then walked over and started to untie Nito, "Yeah, you should have been more careful Nito. What if someone else got their hands on you?"
Nito groaned as he stretched his sore joints. Athena had been very thorough when she had restrained him.
"I didn't really have any other options you know," he said after he got up. "I had to make sure as fast as possible that you made it to the town. If you had been taken by the nobles I needed to know right away..." He paused and looked at Zoey with sadness in his eyes. He glanced at Athena, then sent Zoey a questioning look.
Zoey nodded to reassure him then said, "This is Athena. I met her in the crater after we split up. She pretty much knows everything, so you're ok."
Nito nodded in relief. He had been both surprised and worried when Zoey had shown up with this strange woman that was incredibly strong, as he had discovered first hand.
Zoey could tell that Nito had truly been worried for her. When they first split up after the Rellen family found them, the situation had called for swift action, leaving them no time for much planning or cooperation.
"Zoey... I am sorry that I was not able to do more when they found us... All I could think of was sending you to the crater and trying to get you here to Sand Pit..." Nito said as he hung his head. He was clearly upset that he had not been able to do more for his friend.
"Why did you split up? Would you not have had a better chance together?" Athena asked as she looked sternly at Nito. She clearly did not approve of his actions.
"I couldn't risk it..." Nito said as he looked up with a sorrowful look on his face. "I hold the key to Master Wex's emporium. If the Rellens, or any noble family gets their hands on the key... the consequences would be disastrous!"
"Wait, THE professor Wex?! As in the leading researcher of Heritages and innate talents? The one that was rumored to have learned the secret to obtaining additional innate talents??" Athena asked surprised.
Nito nodded sadly, "If the Rellens knew that not only Zoey was there, but also that I was with her... I'm afraid that they would have even pursued us into the crater, despite the aversion they have for it."
Athena nodded thoughtfully, "You were probably right then to split up. If all they were after was Zoey and her Heritage, then adding you to the mix would have driven them insane with greed."
Zoey remembered Nito mentioning professor Wex a few times in their conversations, but this had never been mentioned before. However, now she knew why Nito had been so desperate when the Rellen family had shown up in the forest. It had been a thought hovering in the back of her mind that she had not acknowledged, a worry that Nito had left because he felt that she was a burden or for some other reason. Now she knew that is was out of concern for both of their safety. If this professor Wex's emporium truly was as valuable as it sounded, then they had gotten lucky.
She placed her hand on Nito's shoulder and smiled reassuringly, "Don't worry about it Nito. You did what you needed to do. I'm just glad we're all ok."
Zoey could see the weight on Nito's shoulders lift a little when she reasured him. He even gave a small smile. It was nice seeing him after a month apart. Suddenly, a look of realization flashed across Nito's face. He jumped up and grabbed his backpack and pulled out a rolled up parchment. He then moved to Athena's table and motioned them both over as he unrolled the parchment to reveal a map.
"After we separated, I did some digging for information on hiding your Harmonic Heritage," Nito said excitedly as he showed them the map. "I thought that you would only need the blood of a Rank 4 creature to hide your Heritage, but I was mistaken! We also need an special array and an array master who can build the array for us."
Zoey nodded to show that she understood, "Athena was able to tell me the same. We should be fine without the array master though, I can build the array myself once we have it."
Like he had been many times before, Nito was once again speechless. Only Zoey could casually state that she would be able to build an array herself without an array master... Not to mention that this array was rumored to be one of the most intricate arrays ever created!
"Ok, so all we need is the array then!" Nito said as he grinned at the two of them. "But before we get to that, I need to tell you about the crater. Now, one thing you may not have known is why the Rellen family is afraid of the crater?" He looked at them questioningly.
Both Athena and Zoey shook their heads. Neither of them had any idea, but both were interested in the story.
"Well, this story goes back almost sixty years to when the Rellen family first captured professor Wex and started to take control of Colten. Zoey, do you remember the crashed Kreppelin we found?"
Zoey nodded, "It belonged to the Ursag family right?"
"Right! So the House of Ursag was the only real competition to the Rellen family back then, and my master, professor Wex was friends with the Ursag Patriarch. When the Rellens captured the professor, the Ursag family took it personally and went after the Rellen family. At that time I had already left the city, so I was not around, but I managed to gather some information about what happened.
The Rellen and Ursag conflict was fairly even for a few years, with neither house gaining the upper hand on the other. But, a spy planted in the Ursag house managed to discover that the young daughter of the Ursag Patriarch was born with a Harmonic Heritage!"
Both Athena and Zoey were startled by this revelation. A Harmonic Heritage being added into the mix would certainly escalate the conflict.
Nito continued, "After that information was leaked, several smaller noble houses allied themselves with the Rellen family in hopes of claiming the Harmonic Heritage for themselves. The last few days of the conflict were especially brutal as a result, with the Ursag family being pushed to the brink. In a desperate bid to protect his children, the Ursag Patriach sent his last Kreppelin away from the city with his youngest son and daughter on board as he stayed behind to protect their escape.
However, he was not able to protect them for long. He was killed by the Rellen Patriarch and then an entire armada of Kreppelin warships chased after the escaping Ursag family. The crashed Kreppelin we discovered was where they were shot down...
The stories of what happened that night by the crater are hard to find, but most accounts say that when the Ursag family was cornered and surrounded, the daughter of the Ursag family took her own life to prevent herself from falling into the Rellen family's hands...
After that, her brother went mad, and in his rage he almost destroyed the entire armada that had pursued them before he was thrown into the crater. But before they managed to stop him, he severely wounded the Rellen Patriarch, who has never been able to completely recover. After that incident, the northern nobles have avoided the crater like it is the God of Pestilence himself."
A somber silence settled on the room as Athena and Zoey absorbed the information.
But Nito still had more of the story to share...