Chapter 49:

The Journey Begins

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

The morning came all too quickly. As it turned out, both Odell and Rheba snored rather loudly while they slept. This led to the others not getting as much sleep through the night. Gwyn and Fiona, in particular, only fell asleep right before the morning wake-up call came.

They were greeted and woken by some of Queen Whitlock's guards, a pair of Aqueenians in clean armor and similar shaded turquoise faces. The call was much to the chagrin of all but Rheba and Odell, who had slept rather soundly. The two most awake led the group as they were escorted through the castle. Hal and Harlan followed closely behind them, making all attempts to hide the fact they had not gotten much sleep. Gwyn and Fiona straggled behind the rest. It was clear from how they swayed that they didn't care if people could tell they were tired.

"Fiona..." Gwyn muttered with his eyes only half-open.

"Yes?" Fiona responded in her own half-asleep way.

"Are we not getting a good night's sleep ever again?"

"I don't think we are getting one any time soon."

They both groaned in unison while they struggled to keep up with the rest.

The group navigated through the many castle halls to an oversized, open underground garage. It was a space that connected to many of the underground tunnels within the city.

The garage was considered one of the castle's most secret rooms. It was where many royal-sponsored "mad scientists" gathered to build some of the most unique and dangerous tools that Aquia used in their military. Though most items constructed were just prototypes held together by flux tape, Resh's closest equivalent to duct tape.

On the far side of the garage sat Gwyn's car, or what was left of it. It was far from being put together, between crashing into the column and the Aqueenian scientists' disassembly. Still, enough was left there that Gwyn could recognize it.

Yet, it was Odell that noticed the strange vehicle and ran over to it first. The guards could barely protest as he was gone in a matter of seconds.

"What is this? And this?" Odell helped himself to examine the components of the engine that had been laid out on the table. Most of the front was smashed due to the crash, but the Aqueenian scientists had still carefully and skillfully taken the entire engine apart.

"It seems to work on some kind of combustion system," a nearby scientist happily began telling Odell about what they had found. He had given the speech to a bored King and Queen Whitlock only days prior and was happy to have someone eagerly listen now.

Gwyn followed Odell's lead and began to get a close look at the remains of his car. He picked up a sparkplug in his hand, examined it a moment, then tightly clutched it before setting it back down.

"Fascinating!" Odell shouted as the Aqueenian scientist drew a crude diagram of the engine on a digital board that sat near the car. He didn't get much more of a chance to learn anything else as the group's escort grabbed Odell and Gwyn by the back of their shirts and pulled them away from the vehicle.

"We don't have much time left!" the escort snapped at them.

"Gwyn, you have to tell me all about your vehakul!" Odell eagerly said.

"Um..." Gwyn muttered. He had deliberately avoided learning about cars in the past after his father had sent him on an errand to pick up blinker fluid, so he didn't know what he could tell Odell. He ended up settling for a simple, vague nod.

Odell and Gwyn ended up getting dragged to the end of the garage while the rest of the group walked freely. What sat waiting for them was a vehakul that Gwyn should have recognized and Odell for sure did recognize. They had seen it at the car show earlier when they walked around Quenth.

"An Ali-442!" Odell shouted with glee as he broke free from his escort and ran up to see the vehakul.

The particular model was sterling silver with purple-tinted windows on all sides. Inside, there was a driver's seat and passenger seat in the front. Another four seats had their backs facing the walls. Every seat in the Ali was capable of folding down and becoming a bed and having a small table fold up to it.

"This is a special military vehakul that we will be loaning you. It is equipped with a custom engine and off-road stability," one of the escorts coolly explained.

Rheba leaned over and looked into the Ali. Her Bentalousian standing position stood higher than the vehakul.

"Surely you don't expect me to fit in here?" she asked one of the escorts but got no reply. Instead, they handed her a small tablet.

"We have equipped that device with a map and other important military information; don't let it fall into the wrong hands."

The Ali roared to life before anyone could say anything else. Odell had already climbed into the driver's seat and started it up. It made a gentle but powerful hum and floated slightly over the ground.

"What are you all waiting for, lets take this thing for a spin!" he shouted out the window while pointing to indicate the group should also enter.

"Have you forgotten our mission?" Rheba asked.

"I call shotgun!" Gwyn suddenly shouted before anyone else could speak up. He got curious and confused looks as he claimed the seat next to Odell's. The rest of the group decided to give in and piled into the back seats of the Ali. Rheba had to fold her legs in an uncomfortable position awkwardly, but the others had no issues getting comfortable.

"Why is it shotgun?" Odell asked while the others got in.

"I think it comes from armed guards in front seats of coaches...." Gwyn said as he tried to recall what he had once read.

"Oh, so you're going to be my guard?" Odell happily asked.

"Uhh, sure," said Gwyn, who only wanted to sit in the front.

One of the escorts cleared his throat to get the attention of the others.

"There is a radio with a secure connection under the passenger seat. Please give daily updates."

Rheba nodded to the escort to indicate someone understood; the others made no effort to show they had paid attention.

"Very well, may Aiossas be at your back," the escort said while making a gesture that had him put a cupped left hand over the right side of his chest.

With the final words said by the escorts, Odell decided to see how fast the Ali could move and immediately accelerated forward.

Author Note:

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has read to this point. This chapter marks the last chapter of the introductory section of this story. I am glad you have enjoyed reading this story thus far, and I will continue to endeavor to create exciting developments as we go forward.

The following section will cover the character's journey to the City of Nun. I initially thought I would be able to cover up to King Whitlock's demise and the whole trip to Nun in the same time it took to get to this chapter. I do not know how long it will take to journey to Nun, but I can say there are a couple of stops along the way. (Though, none of it is intended to be filler)

I hope you continue to enjoy future developments.