Chapter 30:

Castle Tour

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

"And this is the main hallway of the castle!" Fiona explained after gesturing to a large open hallway where she, Odell, and Gwyn stood at the entrance. It was long and wide, with two rows of spiral pillars dotted down the path in a manner that seemed to divide the space into three hallways.

Odell simply nodded at this sight; he had already seen it many times before. Gwyn, on the other hand, was curiously looking around the room at what he saw. He carried two bags in his right hand with the logo of the museum on them. He had bought many items, financed by Fiona, including museum logo clothes, which he had changed into almost immediately. They were a white shirt and pants that had a space-age gleam to the fabric. In the top left of the shirt, the museum logo sat over the location of the chest. The logo also showed up on the sides of the pants as well.

After they had left the museum, Odell got a call to meet his father at the castle. Fiona had figured she should get back as well, so the trio set out to return to the castle. Somewhere along the way, Odell had suggested Fiona give a tour of the castle. She was initially reluctant, but by the time they finished crossing Lover's Bridge, she had apparently changed her mind as far as Gwyn or Odell could tell. The princess had been against the idea but ultimately decided it would be more fun to show Gwyn around than anything else. She had begun her tour as soon as the front gates opened.

They walked down the castle's main hallway, and Fiona gave brief descriptions about what each doorway led to as they passed by. From one entrance, some Hobusians took notice of Odell and called out to him. His shoulders slumped, and he waved goodbye to the others as they headed in their direction.

Fiona continued her tour, taking Gwyn all around the Aqueenian castle. He eagerly listened to her explanations. Some of the guards, staff, and others within the castle whispered to themselves as they walked through.

She walked Gwyn through many chambers, kitchens, quarters, and past rooms he was already familiar with, such as the throne room. She couldn't take him to some other locations at risk of getting punished by her father, so the tour went much quicker than the size of the castle would suggest. Eventually, the two of them reached a balcony on the far side of the castle, relative to Lover's bridge.

The balcony overlooked the waterways below and stared out at the shining city of Quenth across the path. The water was clear, and the reflective buildings seemed to refract onto the water with a kaleidoscope rainbow pattern. The sea life under shined with glowing and spectacular scales.

"Well, that's about all I can show you...." Fiona said with a sigh as she leaned back against the balcony railing.

"Thanks for the tour; it was insightful," Gwyn replied. He leaned over so that his forearms pressed against the railing as he looked out to the glowing scene in awe.

The two stood in an awkward silence after that. The conversation topics had quickly run out. Both ran through a couple of questions to ask in their heads to break the silence.

"So, was it your plan to get eaten by that unkillable?" Fiona finally spat something out before Gwyn came up with anything on his own.

"That? No, it just ate me, and I happened to have that sword still on my back...."

"You got lucky that it swallowed you whole and that the sword didn't fall off your back!" Fiona laughed.

"I guess you're right," Gwyn said with a chuckle. Fiona turned around and matched Gwyn's pose to look out at the city.

"I guess I should thank you, you wouldn't believe how mad my father was that day!" she said with a goofy smile.

"Your... welcome, I guess?" Gwyn replied.

"What are you talking about, Sun!" Fiona shouted at her mechanical arm. It made Gwyn jump slightly as he was not expecting it. Fiona sighed and kept talking, "I guess I should apologize as well. I didn't have your best interests in mind when we met... trying to escape was a bad idea on my part...."

"Why would you do that?" Gwyn pushed himself off the balcony railing and began to look around at some of the architecture. It was silver and white with a swirling design. He focused his attention back on Fiona when she replied, but he remained looking at the architecture.

"That's..." Fiona stopped and sighed before continuing to speak, "For... certain reasons... my father has always seen me as a disease within the family. I like to pay him back whenever I can, I guess!" She ended with a cheery and non-serious tone while turning to Gwyn with a smile.

Gwyn debated on whether he should press the issue further but was interrupted before he could say anything.

"Nonpareil!" the familiar voice of an Aqueenian guard called out to them. In no time at all, Colton found his way onto the balcony. With his eyes welling up, Colton grabbed Gwyn by the shoulders and shook him rather intensely.

"How could you just leave me like that! My position was almost in jeopardy! I've been looking all over for you!" he cried out. Gwyn pushed the soldier's hands off his shoulders and took a step back.

"Sorry about that," he replied while rubbing the back of his head, "I kind of was swept up at the moment..." he finished his apology with a smile to decrease the tension, but Colto's face showed no amusement.

"Please never do that again! I understand everything is strange to you, but my job was on the line!" Colton's voice had switched from nearly crying to fury. Gwyn had no reply and simply nodded to agree with him.

Fiona cleared her throat to get Colton's attention.

"Ah, Princess Fiona! I'm sorry you had to see such an ugly scene."

"It's okay, Colton, you've been through a lot lately... why don't you go get some rest, and I'll keep an eye on our guest for the time being?"

Colton broke out into sudden tears; he put one arm over his eyes to hide them.

"Princess Fiona, I don't care what the others say about you; you're such a sweet lady! I'm sorry for ever doubting!" he shouted through tears.

Fiona's smile briefly became a frown before she replied.

"Dast, please take the rest of the day off; I will take any responsibility."

Colton nodded, while his arms still covered his eyes, and turned around to walk out. Fiona made a sigh of relief as she leaned back against the balcony railing.

"Taking it a bit easy, Fiona?" A new voice shouted out almost immediately after Colton had left.

Fiona jumped at the sound, and Gwyn silently wondered how popular the balcony location was in the castle.

Hermina floated onto the balcony with a smile.

"Hermina, I hope you have been well? Fiona asked. Her face looked to her sister, but her eyes were drifting off to the side.

"Relax, I'm not going to scold you about anything you've done... yet. Rather, I am looking for the Nonpareil." Hermina looked to Gwyn as she replied. Both he and Fiona didn't hide the shock on their faces.

"Why?" Gwyn cautiously asked. He wasn't sure who he was speaking to as they had not met.

Hermina sighed.

"It's really been an awful day," she began. Fiona sighed and slid down to a seated position on the ground. She gave Gwyn a look to express that this would take a while. Gwyn looked from Fiona to Hermina. The eldest Aqueenian princess rested her fingers from the arms without her Needaimus on her cheek and leaning slightly. She stared out into space as she began her explanation. Gwyn figured it would be best to follow Fiona's lead and sat down next to the younger Aqueenian princess.