Chapter 53:

The Road to Qu

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

Gwyn woke up and yawned. He lazily looked around the Ali until his gaze focused on the plains outside his window.

"Well, gobuda!" Odell greeted Gwyn with a midday phrase.

"I suppose..." Gwyn muttered while still half asleep. He stared out the window for a moment longer before speaking up again. "So, were really going to this Nun place, huh?"

"Where else would we go?" Odell asked with a laugh.

Gwyn sighed and shook his head. He continued to look out the window, the city of Quenth was no longer in view, and all in sight was a long, seemingly endless plain. A herd of odd animals was visible standing at a watering hole on the open fields, but other than that, the fields appeared to be nothing but grass. It looked like they were an odd cross between an ostrich and gazelle to Gwyn.

"What's that?" Gwyn asked while pointing to the animal.

"A tobosell. They are fairly tasty but difficult to catch," Rheba answered.

"Hmm, so they aren't going to attack us?" Gwyn asked as he recalled dangerous wildlife in sci-fi stories that he had read.

"Do you want them to?" Odell asked in shock, but he continued to keep his eyes on the path ahead.

"Not particularly," Gwyn answered.

Odell looked over to the herd for a brief moment before looking back to the plains in front of him.

"You know, we will need rations for the trip. A little dried tobosell goes a long way," he said.

"Absolutely not; I would never let you dry out the meat!" Rheba suddenly blurted out. Gwyn jumped from the sudden outburst, and Odell only shook his head.

"I was only joking... mostly joking... I know we would never be able to agree on how to prepare the meat anyway," Odell said.

Gwyn looked back and forth between the two. He shook his head and left the explanation to be cultural differences between the Hobusians and Bentulousians.

Rheba made a cough to clear her throat before speaking again.

"I apologize; I let myself get out of hand," she said calmly, "We should not be arguing about how to prepare meat before going on this important mission."

"Well, I'm not sure about the mission, but you are right about not arguing. It wouldn't be good for the team if you lost a debate," Odell happily replied.

Neither Odell nor Gwyn could see it as they stared forward out the window, but Rheba's brow furrowed, and her pointed ears fell back. She took a deep breath and restrained snapping back at the Hobusian prince.

"So, how long of a drive do we have anyway?" Gwyn asked.

"At our current speed, we should reach Qu by nightfall!" Odell happily reported.

"Qu? I thought we were going to Nun."

"There is a couple of towns along the way; we can rest there and get supplies," Odell explained.

"I see; how many days until we get to Nun?" Gwyn asked.

"I would expect us to take 6 or 7 at most before we make it. If you don't mind me going fast, I can probably make it 4 or 5, though," Odell said.

Gwyn quietly groaned and slumped in his seat. He looked out of the tinted window and stared at the grassy plains.

There was silence for a moment, and Gwyn used that time to get lost in his thoughts.

He wasn't sure what he wanted to do. He figured with Mem's help, he might be able to get away from the group at their next stop. However, Gwyn wasn't sure what he would do after he left or if he should abandon the group in that manner. The only thing he knew for sure was that he did not want to fight in any more battles. He had had enough.

With that determination, Gwyn silently nodded to himself. He would stay with the group, but he would let the others do the fighting. He shook off the feeling of fleeing to himself as he considered it might be cowardly and steeled his resolve in his goal not to fight.

Gwyn scratched at an itch on his left arm to distract his thoughts. The spot felt rough like it had become calloused. He brushed it off as a side effect from fusing with Mem back in the arena.

It was at that moment; he also noticed that Mem was nowhere to be found. He started looking around for the Needaimus by his legs and around his seat.

"Do you need help finding something?" Rheba kindly asked.

"Just looking for Mem," Gwyn explained.

"Your Needaimus is in the back," Odell interjected as he pointed behind him with one of his six fingers.

Gwyn turned and saw the six Needaimus huddled in the back of the van. They were in a small circle like a sports team might make before a big game. No sound or body language indication was made that they were talking to each other, but Gwyn assumed that might be the case given the way they sat.

He shrugged and changed his view to continue looking out the window. At that moment, Fiona was beginning to emerge from her own slumber. Though she didn't say anything, Harlan had also woken mere moments before.

"Goyura," Fiona lazily said as she began to rub her purple eyes.

"You're a little late to say that! Odell happily chimed from the front; the day was already getting closer to being over than beginning.

Fiona waved off Odell's comment and stretched her arms so that her hands were close to the ceiling of the Ali.

"Where are we now?" she asked once she had finished stretching.

"Still heading through the grassy plains. I expect we should break out of them soon," Odell answered.

"What's after the grassy plains?" Gwyn asked.

"More plains, but they've been converted to farmlands," Fiona answered with obvious unenthusiasm in her voice. Gwyn, however, was curious.

It took a while longer, but the Ali eventually broke free from the plains and set down to hover over a dirt pathway.

The grassy plains slowly disappeared behind them as the sights opened up to the farmland. Unlike ordinary farmland, where the fields would be square, the farmland was wavy. Several fields had been artificially raised on top of each other with stone borders.

At the tops of the raised sections, water flowed out from a starting point in the center of the field. They flowed randomly around the fields and down the raised sections in small waterfalls. The water eventually drained into a grate at the bottom, where it was processed underground and pumped back to the top.

However, all that was visible to the viewer was an ornate and wavy field and irrigation.

The view intrigued Gwyn for a moment, but he soon noticed something else that took his attention.

"Where are the people?" he asked.

Though the water was flowing, and houses could be seen dotted around, the soil was empty, and there were no signs of farmers.

"They are tending different fields this year," Fiona explained, "This is considered one of three great farms of Quenth. Every year the farmers move to a different location to grow."

"That seems... impractical...." Gwyn said aloud.

Odell laughed, and Rheba tried to contain her own chuckles.

"Well, the Aqueenians like to eat a certain crop that makes the fields barren for a year and a half!" the Hobusian prince said through his laughs.

Fiona frowned but didn't protest. Odell's laughter died down in a short moment, and the Ali was again filled with silence.

The silence did not last long. In a matter of moments, the soft hum from the vehakul suddenly turned to loud clanking and grinding. The Ali shuddered and began to slow rapidly.

"Well, that can't be good...." Odell said as he brought the vehakul to a stop.