Chapter 60:

A New Path

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

The trip from Qu to the mountains went rather quickly. After exiting the city, the Ali sped through a well-laid road directed to the mountain range. Fiona spun her index fingers around each other as they approached the looming Calii mountains.

"How big are these mountains?" Gwyn asked as the peaks grew higher and the road ever shorter.

"The range is rather large, but the village shouldn't be too far buried in," Rheba explained while looking at information about the village on the tablet. "Looks like it is a small unnamed settlement formed around some mining spots. The population is maybe 200 or so based on the last census," she continued to read.

"Will they have the part we want?" Gwyn asked.

"Dast, the mechanic told me the part we are after is the same kind they use in their mining vehakuls; I might have to make some small adjustments when we are there, but there should be no issue!" Odell explained.

The Ali was beginning to enter the mountain range. The road below it started to curve upward slightly as they made their ascent. A metal track was lined on the road and seemed to hug against the mountain wall, which the Ali effortlessly hovered over. They traveled up for a moment, with the Ali sputtering and grinding as it struggled to move. Eventually, they turned a corner, and the incline became shallower as it curved around the mountain pass.

The ground below and Ali were divided by only a little excess road. The vehakul side by the mountain face only just missed creating significant scratches on the silver side with a small pocket of air dividing them. There was no room for the Ali to move left or right, and Odell had to focus intensely on the road to keep steady on the path.

"One mere slip and gravity shall take us to an early grave," Hal said while glancing out the window at the ground, which continued to grow farther away. He directed his comments at Odell, but the Hobusian prince was too focused on the path to pay any mind.

"That would be unfortunate," Gwyn replied to Hal in the friendliest tone he could muster. The Netzian only rolled his yellow eyes and continued to look out the window.

"Please do be careful, Odell," Harlan whispered too quietly for anyone to hear. She looked out of the window down to the ground, which grew farther away. It was only for a brief moment, then suddenly, she closed her eyes and turned her head so that her gaze would be directed to the floor.

The Ali continued to convey its struggle with a sputtering noise as they slowly turned around the mountain face on a patch of road.

"This path should have been made wider," Odell said with a nervous laugh as they cleared the bend and began to head upward on an incline once again.

"It was made for walking and mine transport, not a wide vehakul," Fiona said with an uneasy sigh.

The Ali continued going further up with many of its passengers on the edge of their seats. It, at last, reached a tunnel, and the ground leveled out. The tunnel was wide and straight, with small lights dotted every so often. It served as the main road into the mining village. The metal tracks split to run alongside the walls.

The tracks went straight to the ends of the tunnel and repeatedly forked to connect with several smaller openings on the sides. Mined goods would be brought straight down the tunnel in small minecart-like vehakuls. The side tunnels weaved directly through the mountain to the mines and served to bring the mine carts out for expedited delivery.

Odell took the opportunity to speed up significantly, and the tiny lights seemed to zoom by the vehakul.

The crowd in the Ali seemed to sigh relief all at once, except for Odell, who was rather pleased with how well he navigated up the mountain pass.

"That was a bit of fun!" the Hobusian prince happily said while wiping some sweat off his face.

"Fun?" Fiona exclaimed. She was going to shout more but settled on taking a deep breath and calming down.

"I share Princess Fiona's sentiment; that maneuver was rather risky," Rheba added.

"Oh, come on, we made it up just fine thanks to my expert handling!" Odell retorted.

"Hey, how do we get back down?" Gwyn said. His question was sudden to the others, but the thought had run through his mind as they had ascended.

There was silence for a moment.

"Maybe I'll beef this baby up, and we can just jump off!" Odell said with a laugh.

"Dant!" the crowd shouted in unison, save for Gwyn, who went with a 'no.' Even Harlan joined in the crowd's yell, though her voice was the quietest of the group.

"Calm down; it was just a joke. I don't have the right tools to make a modification like that," Odell explained.

"It was not a funny one," Fiona said while shaking her head.

"I am inclined to agree," Gwyn added. He and Fiona got several nods of agreement behind them, even from Hal.

Odell sighed and continued to drive forward through the dark tunnel. A light at the end promised a break from the monotonous darkness. Still, with the end in sight, Odell slowed down.

"What's that?" Gwyn said as he squinted his eyes to focus on the end of the tunnel. Some figures were standing and blocking the entrance to the Aqueenian town. They were just silhouettes, but the forms suggested a Bentulousian and Zenotote greeted the team.