After the Kreppelin was sailing comfortably along with the wind, Doris turned to Zoey, "So, our plans are to head east. There's a beast tide ongoing out there and mercenary work is paying good. We can drop you off whenever you need along the way, or you can tag along. Speaking of that, where's Athena?"
Zoey also wanted to know where Athena was, so she opened up her comm chanel and contacted her.
"Athena, you there?"
After a moment, Athena's voice came through to Zoey's comm unit, "Hey hun! I'm several kilometers east of town by the canyon out there. You get us a ride?"
"I did. Doris agreed to take us on his Kreppelin, and we just took off. He was planning to head east so we will be heading your way shortly," Zoey replied.
She relayed Athena's location to Doris who stated that he knew of the place she was at. The crew adjusted course and pointed the airship east.
Now that they had a course set, Zoey went over to speak to Nito about their plans. Nito decided that he would stay with them heading east until the Kreppelin passed by a trading town about a day's travel away. From there he would separate and head to the city of Nine Peaks to the southwest where rumors of the sealing array they were seeking were last heard. Athena and Zoey would continue east with Doris and crew to search for the mysterious organization that was protecting Harmonic Heritages in hopes of finding the sealing array there.
Zoey was a little concerned that Nito would be on his own but he promptly reassured her that he had some friends in that region that he could trust. Despite his insistence that he would be fine. Zoey resolved to fabricate him some items with her talent, just in case.
After about a half hour of sailing, the Kreppelin was approaching the canyon area where Athena was waiting for pick up. By using their comms it was easy to coordinate a pickup location and relay that info to Doris, who was a little confused by how they knew exactly where Athena was, but otherwise found no issues with the plans.
As they approached the area where Athena was, Zoey went to the railing to look for her friend. She spotted Athena a kilometer ahead, waiting for them on a cliff that jutted up above the surrounding landscape. The cliff's edge dropped into the large canyon that was over three hundred meters wide in some areas. At the moment the airship was flying directly over the canyon, giving them a wonderful view of the amazing sights below.
Doris instructed the helmsman to drop the ship lower so when they passed the cliff that Athena was on, she could simply jump aboard without them having to stop. The helmsman complied, and the Kreppelin lowered until it was skimming through the air only a few meters higher than the lip of the canyon on either side of the airship.
They approached the cliff that Athena was on at a good speed. Athena would only have a small window to jump aboard as they passed by. Nito was a little worried by this, but Zoey and Doris knew that Athena was fully capable of making the jump.
As they neared the cliff, Athena took a running start, and using her staff, vaulted the fifty meter gap between the cliff and the fast-moving Airship with ease. She landed on the deck with perfect grace amidst the admiring cheers from the crew and grinned at Zoey, who could not help but grin right back at her friend.
Now that everyone was on board, the Kreppelin started gaining altitude again as Athena joined them on the aftercastle. As Doris, Nito, and Viridi greeted her with enthusiasm and admiration for the stunt she had just performed, Zoey noticed that Athena was looking behind them into the distance.
Before Zoey could ask what it was, Athena pointed her staff back towards Sand Pit and spoke, "Heads up, we have some company."
It didn't take long for everyone to see what she meant. Off in the distance were three Kreppelin airships flying with every scrap of sail pushed to the limit, and they were headed their way. Zoey judged the distance to be about three kilometers, and all three of the airships had the red emblem and gold border of the Rellen house showing clearly on the sails.
Their Kreppelin was at full sail at the moment, but their pursuers were clearly gaining on them! This could only spell trouble.
"It's that damned Rellen family again! I knew that they were going to be trouble!" Nito said as he spit towards the chasers with contempt.
Athena turned to Doris, "Any chance we can outrun them?"
Doris turned to her after he finished ordering his crew to prepare the Kreppelin for battle and shook his head, "Not a chance. My girl is old, and the wind array we have is even older. If we boost the power to the arrays, we could gain some air on them, but we will never outlast them. We would run dry on Aether Crystal in six hours, after which we'd be Cold Pike in a barrel for them."
"So what do we do?" asked Nito, his expression slightly panicked as he looked at Zoey. "They are gaining on us, and there is no way they don't have those new ballista that the nobles have been developing! If we let them get within half a kilometer of us, they can take us down with almost no effort!"
Nito was not worried for himself, but for Zoey. He knew the horrors that the noble houses inflicted upon those unfortunate enough to fall into their hands.
"Calm down Nito, we will figure something out," Athena said as she patted his shoulder. She turned to Zoey and raised one eyebrow expectantly.
Zoey smiled. She knew what Athena was asking. "You know, I may have something for just this occasion..." she said as she narrowed her eyes dangerously at the three airships on their tail.
On the aftercastle of the Rellen house flagship frigate known as the Relleiux, Cornelius Rellen lowered his spyglass. He showed no emotion on his face, but he was satisfied. His three airships were gaining on that pathetic pile of driftwood trying to outrun them.
"Increase our speed. Send orders to the Calion and the Mirade to do the same. Have them spread out as well."
His orders were immediately carried out and sent to their accompanying Kreppelins by his command crew. Failure to do so would result in death.
He collapsed his spyglass and clasped his hands behind his back, standing ramrod straight as he watched the distant target getting closer. They were only three kilometers away now. It would not be long before she was in his hands.
The woman standing motionless at his back was completely under his control by now, and he was getting bored with her lack of resistance. It had been a long time since he had broken in a new toy, and the appearance of this enigmatic person he was now pursuing was a welcome event. The fact that his new target happened to be a Harmonic Heritage carrier would make the process far more enjoyable.
The last Harmonic Heritage vessel that the Rellen family possessed had been expended by him before he was able to reach Rank 8, leaving him so close, yet so far from his goal. Once he reached Rank 8, he would be as powerful as his father, and would finally be able to bury that fossil, who to this day refused to die and hand over full control of the family to him, the rightful heir.
Even he, Cornelius Rellen, the man who controlled his emotions with an unyielding, iron grip, was starting to feel excitement at the thought of finally reaching his long awaited goal.
It had been a wise decision to place pickets around the town to alert them of anyone leaving. His seekers had confirmed that she had been inside the town when they arrived, but were unable to pinpoint her location, likely due to a masking token of some kind. Once she had been detected leaving the town he was notified immediately, and had given pursuit.
Now it was only a matter of time.