The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)
Mamie escorted the group, save for Odell, who had left earlier, from her home to where the Ali-442 was waiting. They walked through the streets of the unnamed village, which were silent. Though the morning was already underway, they passed no citizens. Hal, Rheba, and Harlan took note of the missing people and speculated what was going on, while Gwyn and Fiona were oblivious.
The speculating trio remained cautious until they reached the entrance of the village. It was an open courtyard with a fountain in the middle. The tunnel the team had been ambushed in was just beyond the courtyard, and the edges of the mountain stretched around from the tunnel as they surrounded the whole village.
In the center of the courtyard was the Ali, sitting pristinely with a new paint job. The silver exterior had been painted a brown/green, and the windows were replaced with dark black tinting. The vehakul looked entirely new from the outside, and Odell would later attest to them that under the hood was changed.
The miners had opted to remove the faulty existing engine system, which, to their eyes, almost looked like it had been designed to fail, and put in two of their own smaller engines which required some modification to the chassis. Odell would later try to explain to the rest of the team what the difference was and how it was accomplished but gave up when it went over their heads.
However, the team never saw the modified Ali. Around the transport was the entirety of the village. They all cheered when they saw the team. The group jumped in unison at the surprise. As the crowd cheered, Odell walked up to them with a smile.
“I kind of spoiled the surprise for myself when I left earlier, but they wanted to give us a proper send-off.”
Gwyn and Fiona made awkward waves to the crowd as Harlan shrunk behind them. Hal crossed his arms and looked down, and Rheba stood tall and at attention. Mamie quickly gestured to the crowd to silence them.
“I’m sorry for the surprise, but everyone wanted to give you a proper sendoff. We had one request to make of you before you left.”
The team listened as Mamie stopped to take a deep breath.
“It is Aqueenian tradition that a town would be given a name after a large event occurred. As such, we would like to request that you select one.”
The crowd remained quiet in anticipation. The team began to look back and forth at each other.
“What do we do?” Gwyn asked in a hushed whisper.
“Fiona is the princess; she should name it,” Odell said in an equally hushed tone.
Fiona shook her head.
“I’m not good with names!” she whispered back. “One of you do it,” she added.
“If I picked a name, it would be something like Bob; no one wants a town called Bob,” Gwyn whispered in reply.
“It shall be named The DarkFallen, where dark ones fell as they were vanquished,” Hal whispered his serious suggestion.
The others quickly shook their heads in rejection.
“Just pick something!” Rheba said to Fiona. She jumped and frantically began to think of a name.
The town watched in anticipation as she racked her brain for a name. Her first thought was to call it something like ‘Miner’s Town,’ but she knew the tradition usually picked a name in line with the event that prompted the process. That led her to think about battle, freedom, and the like, but all felt too vague as many towns were named with similar themes. She looked around at her team; and considered how strange of a bunch they were. Fiona took a deep breath and looked up at the morning sky. A good idea popped in her head, and the princess gave her suggestion:
“How about Horizon? Coming from words to represent the team here,” she pointed to the group, “as well as where the sun was located when the bandit leader fell,” Fiona finished her explanation. She had pulled from the Aqueenian words for odd and hero, which when mashed together sounded close to the word ‘horizon.’ The reasoning escaped most of the group, but it was not lost on the Aqueenian miners. The word was echoed through the courtyard, and the townsfolk cheered in response.
The team then began the slow process of trying to make it to the Ali as everyone wanted to say one last goodbye and thanks for their support. When they finally made it back into the vehakul, they found several ropes attached to the front, back, and all around. The miners had tied some of their own smaller mine vehakuls to the ropes which hung on either side.
As they were escorted down the narrow path they came up in; the ropes were used to watch how far the Ali would move one way or the other. From one of the smaller escorts, Adan stood watching the team closely. If they swayed too much to the cliffside or the mountain wall, he would create a barrier with a cushioned face for the Ali-442 to course correct. With the extra protection, Odell could travel much faster down than he had up; however, the rest of the team remained nervous throughout the exchange.
They quickly and safely reached a fork in the mountain path near the base. If they went one way, they would promptly exit the range and head back to Qu. If they took the other direction, they would go alongside the mountains.
“Just go that way,” the villagers instructed as they removed the ropes from the Ali, “
We’re heading to Qu to give a long-overdue report.”
The team waved goodbye and went their separate ways through the mountains. The path would take them straight through, and they would leave the range with one last Aqueenian stop before reaching Nun.