Chapter 52:

Leaving Quenth

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

It didn't take long for those that were unable to sleep the night before to enter into slumber. Between the gentle hum of the Ali and the swaying of it as it hovered, all but Odell and Rheba were soon asleep.

Odell piloted the passenger van lookalike down a long, dark underground passage. It was wide and had two strips of light running along to fashion a lane. Despite the impressive speed Odell was driving at; the ride was so smooth that anyone inside wouldn't be able to notice.

"This thing is great!" Odell said to himself as he twisted a knob to accelerate the vehakul faster.

"I take it that you are enjoying this?" Rheba asked from the back. She had sat in the next closest seat to the front, which was right behind the passenger seat where Gwyn was currently fast asleep with a goofy smile on his face. She shifted some to change her posture, but her long legs prevented her from getting comfortable.

"Absolutely!" Odell said as enthusiastically and as hushed as he could. A smile lit up his grey face.

"I don't think you should be expecting this to be fun and games," Rheba softly added.

Odell tightened his grip on the steering wheel for a moment.

"I don't," he replied.

"It doesn't seem that way. Why did you choose to come?"

"Maybe it doesn't, but had I not failed before, I may have prevented the death of a major world leader and a friend to my father," Odell said firmly.

"You are very determined," Rheba replied.

Odell, however, was not as concerned with his failure before as he led Rheba to believe. He could have simply worked out more once he returned to his home in preparation for the next battle. In reality, he had seen Fiona and Gwyn getting unwillingly chosen by Queen Whitlock to go on such a journey, and he was frustrated.

He wanted to support them somehow, and when his father had asked for volunteers, he agreed to help them without a second thought. It wasn't until he walked around the seats of the war room that the second thoughts finally set in, and he regretted his rash decision.

There was no going back after he volunteered; such actions would shame his father and his whole family. They might be able to recover it some other time, but even Odell wouldn't risk damaging their reputation in a year when his entire nation was wrapped up with who was most deserving to be the next elected king.

"Yeah, I guess I am," Odell quietly answered Rheba, "What made you decide to tag along?" Odell asked.

"Well, such a mission would reflect well on my record when promotion time comes up."

"Just for promotion time?" Odell asked; he was most unfamiliar with Bentulousian culture, but he knew enough to know that the time of the year when Bentulousians were assigned new ranks had just passed a few weeks before the conference had begun.

"I suppose I also was interested in what kind of Hero the Aqueenians Nonpareil is as well," Rheba added as she looked with curious eyes to the sleeping Gwyn.

Odell chuckled.

"Hate to disappoint you, but he seems to be more interested in museums than being a nonpareil."

"You may say that, but Prince Donn thought he had some hero potential when he gave him the title," Rheba argued.

"I think he just wanted to annoy his father; that seems to run in the family," Odell mused.

The Ali began going up a short incline. At the top, light could be seen peering in. It didn't take long before the speeding Ali exited the tunnel and emerged on the surface of Resh. It came out in an empty field of short and wavy grass.

As the Ali sped away, a giant door slid shut to cover the hole from which they had emerged. Once it snapped shut, a holographic projection of grass appeared overtop, effectively hiding it from all.

"Where are we?" Rheba wondered aloud as she looked out to the plain. It didn't take her long to spot the city of Quenth in the distance behind them. Its sparkling buildings reflected under Resh's twin suns. It almost appeared as if it was a city of lighthouses that only shined during the day.

"Somewhere in the Quenth plains," Odell answered Rheba as he fiddled with a screen on the dashboard. After a minute of trying to navigate the Aqueenian interface, Odell managed to get a map to show up on the screen. He turned the Ali slightly once he could see the map. The vehakul weaved over the wavy grass of the plains.

"You are planning to go to Qu?" Rheba asked as she looked over Odell's shoulder. The map laid out the significant coastline Aqueenian cities that dotted their way to Nun.

"Might as well just follow the coast; we can rest in Qu, resupply in Jeneth, and catch a ferry from Aqui to Nun," Odell said as he traced the path through the Aqueenian cities.

"That seems logical," Rheba replied as she traced the path of cities across the map with her eyes.

The nation of Aquia was the home to the Aqueenians. It comprised of 5 major named cities and hundreds more named and unnamed villages and towns that collected under the rule of a monarchy stationed in Quenth.

The nation took up most of the middle of what was considered the southeast, or Noan, continent. The trip to Nun would take them west, where they would have to weave around the Calii Mountains to keep along the coastline.

Both Odell and Rheba agreed that passing through the major cities would be the best plan, and since anyone who could object was asleep, Odell steered the Ali to the first stop in Qu.

The plains continued to be wide open and filled with the short grass that had greeted them as soon as they left the tunnel. Occasionally a small animal would run and hide from the speeding vehakul, but the occupants inside were unable to notice as the scene blurred past them.

Rheba looked back to the gleaming city of Quenth, which was quickly getting too small and out of focus to see even on the open plain.

"Have you ever been to Nun before?" Odell decided to ask after a moment. He wanted to break up the silence that had fallen between them.

"No, it will be my first time. Have you?"

"Yeah, I once went for a technology show. I had to sneak out of the castle with my uncle to do it," Odell answered. He began to chuckle, "My father was so mad afterward."

Rheba made no reply, and the two fell in silence again. A few moments later, Gwyn began to groan as he woke up. Both Rheba and Odell made sighs of relief as they hoped Gwyn could come up with a conversation for the long drive they had ahead.