95 Sails Underway
After passing through the guards, Zoey found herself in the Kreppelin landing area of the mercenary compound. Here, the sandstone was carved to form an open area on the outer face of Sand Pit's spire. Built into that open face was a wooden platform on which the Flame Scorpion airship was docked.
When Zoey walked into the area, she instantly drew the attention of everyone on the landing platform. Doris himself was there sitting at a table looking at a map as she walked in. As everyone was looking at the strange intruder wondering who she was and how this masked person had gotten in, Doris looked up and saw her. After he realized who she was, he stood up and greeted Zoey.
"Zoey! It's nice to see you again so soon. I can't provide much hospitality at the moment but come in, have a seat."
Zoey removed her mask and hood as she walked over and sat down with a nod of thanks to Doris. Everyone in the room took a collective breath when they got a good look at her for the first time. Even Doris was no exception. Zoey noticed their reaction, but did not show any indication that she did. She had expected this reaction, but she had a reason for taking off her mask. It was mostly to show respect for Doris by not hiding her face when they talked. Making a deal while hiding your face would not go well with someone as straightforward and direct as Doris. Plus she liked dealing face-to-face as well.
"So, what can I do for you? I'm sure you didn't come here just to visit." Doris asked as he collected himself and took a seat.
Zoey nodded. "Myself and a few friends are hoping to catch a ride with you away from Sand Pit. It's pretty obvious you don't plan on sticking around, and we would like to head out as well. Of course we would pay our way..."
Doris scratched his head thoughtfully as he looked at Zoey, then he asked, "How many is a few friends?"
"There's me, Athena and Viridi, who you already know, and Nito, another friend of mine who you haven't met."
Doris nodded and looked at his papers for a moment. "We have space for you, and we can likely take you along but first I'd like to know... Those nobles showing up. They have anything to do with you?" His eyes peered at Zoey after he asked his question.
Zoey remained silent for a moment. She had not expected that Doris would link the noble's appearance here with her, but he was mostly right to think so.
She nodded to answer his question. "I don't know about the southern nobles and why they are here, but those northerners I am familiar with. I had a run-in with them up north a while back and they have been after me since."
Doris grinned when he heard that. "Well, anyone being hunted by nobles is all right in my book, and I've already gotten your measure when we had our little spar. You and your friends can tag along, but we were planning to leave pretty quick. Can they get here in time?"
"Viridi is already here and so is my friend Nito," Zoe said.
As Doris in the mercenaries looked at her in confusion, Zoey smiled and snapped her fingers. On her left side appeared Viridi, her large form and deadly appearance looking especially intimidating with the sudden entrance. On her right, Nito appeared with a sheepish grin on his face.
Needless to say the appearance of a huge, draconic panther and a Vekt in their midst sent Doris and the mercenaries into stunned shock. They had no idea how either of them had gotten in here without detection. Zoey found it hard to keep the smile off of her face when she saw everyone's reaction. Having Nito and Viridi pop in like that was worth it.
"This is Nito, and you've met Viridi. Athena is out of the city at the moment. She said she will catch up with us when we leave," Zoey said as Doris gathered his thoughts.
"Got it... But let's not do that surprise appearance again. You nearly made my men lose their lunch!" Doris said as he grinned around at his still stupefied men. "Anyway, now that that's settled, let's get to work. We got some packing up to do, and I don't want those nobles surprising us while we're here. Let's make sail and beat feet while those clowns Loxon and Serena are keeping them busy."
With that, everyone got back to work. Nito introduced himself to Doris, and then Zoey and him helped out the mercenaries loading the airship. Most of the compound was already stowed away by the time Zoey had arrived, so after a few hours of work, the Kreppelin was fully loaded.
The airship itself was a hundred meter long twin masted vessel that resembled the schooners that once sailed on the seas of Gaia long ago. At the back of the airship it had a raised aftercastle where the control podium and wind arrays were located. On the upper deck Zoey spotted several ballista lining each rail, about five on each side. These were clearly the offensive weaponry of the Kreppelin, and were designed to throw two meter long spears thicker than Zoey's leg. It was an archaic design but no doubt effective against the wooden planks that these airships were made of. Below there was one main deck that housed the cargo and the sleeping areas of the crew.
Once the airship was loaded, Zoey and Nito joined Doris on the airship's aftercastle as the mercenaries readied for takeoff. Viridi had found herself a spot on the railing of the aftercastle and settled in to watch the activities going on around her with great interest. The mercenaries were keeping a good distance from her as they worked for some reason. The nervous looks they gave the big panther were quite humorous to Zoey.
Doris quickly shouted orders to his mercenaries and got them working on the sails as the Kreppelin was set free from the landing platform. The crew worked with trained precision as they dropped the sails and prepared to take off. Zoey watched with interest as the helmsman manning the podium worked the levers to guide the ship away from Sand Pit.
With the loud creaking of wooden beams, and the snapping of ropes and sails, the airship lifted off of the landing area and slowly drifted into the sky. The helmsman adjusted some levers and Zoey heard the whoosh of air being blown into the sails. The wind was produced through two arrays placed on either side of the aftercastle. The arrays were etched into metal plates and the wind directed into the sails by large metal funnels.
As the sails responded to the wind, the airship slowly started gaining speed as it rose into the sky. From her place on the aftercastle, Zoey could see they were about two hundred meters off the ground, and she judged they were moving at about thirty kilometers an hour, not bad speed for this type of vessel.
Behind them Sand Pit was drifting into the distance as they started their journey. Zoey only took one look back before turning and facing the horizon ahead.
Another adventure awaited!