The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)
Harlan made her way down the street through the coastal town. Her head remained low to avoid making eye contact with some Aqueenian passersby. She kept the ground in her sight while walking through all the beautiful views Aqui offered.
After navigating through several streets in her closed-off manner, Harlan stood in front of her destination.
It was a large building that seemed to contrast the Aqueenian architecture of the town. The building was square, with stone walls that moved in as they went up to the sky to create a steep incline. The overall shape resembled a pyramid made from several large trapezoidal blocks. A staircase in the center welcomed visitors up to a flat platform where a smaller building sat in the center.
The center building looked almost like a box with two doors. It had a flat top and offered little aesthetic interest compared to the rest of the coastal town. Some swirling pillars had been added to the corners to provide Aqueenian flair, but the building largely kept with the blocky pyramid’s architectural style.
Harlan put her green arms forward with her palms facing each other. Her elbows were bent at 90 degrees, so her hands were close to her face. In unison, she pivoted both her forearms to her waist. Then, she rotated her hands so that they faced the ground. Many on the streets watched in awe as hardly anyone made the traditional sign before entering. She took a deep breath and began to ascend the stairs.
The building belonged to the Order of Crenussal; the ancient said to lead all others. In Resh’s past, the building had been constructed to perform various practices to honor the ancient. In the present, it had become a very popular tourist destination.
At the top platform, many Aqueenian visitors were gleefully walking around the order and looking at statues and murals. Some stands sold various souvenirs at the order, and painted scenes were set up for families to take pictures in front of.
Harlan walked past and up to the small building that stood in the center of the platform. The tourists largely ignored it as they were not allowed to enter. Two guards stood in front of the door. They were a blue and green pair of Aqueenian women who served as hetaira in the Order. Their clothes were similar to Harlan’s, resembling a dress with a large piece of fabric running down the center. The hetaira's clothes were partially translucent, allowing some of the blue and green skin to bleed through, with a large selection of the material cut out to reveal the stomach plainly.
“Good day, ma’am,” the blue hetaira said as both stood at attention. They could tell the Zenotote ranked much higher than either of them.
Harlan nodded to each as she walked past and entered the building, the inside of which was simple in appearance. It was an open room with curtains covering all the walls. In the center of the room was a large pit where a fire could be started.
The fire was already in full force. Harlan walked up and made a slight bow to the flame before walking around it to the back of the room. She pulled the curtain to the side and revealed a door. There was a beep, and the door slid open to a small elevator.
The green scientist walked in and descended into the structure.
The scene that the elevator opened to was much different than the temple above. It was a small room filled with screens and speakers. Many Aqueenian hetairas sat around the room doing various tasks on the equipment.
“Oh, good day, ma’am!” one operator said as Harlan entered the room.
“Good day; where is Leader Mixolydian today?” Harlan said in a quiet voice.
“Hmm, I believe he is doing a routine inspection in the Order of the Hobusian nation…. I’ll get someone to reach him; please just take a seat in that chair for the time being!” the operator said while gesturing to a chair at the end of the room.
Harlan did as requested and looked at the headset, which sat in front of her chair. It was shaped for Aqueenian heads, and she pondered how it might fit around the frills on her own. She fiddled with it for a moment and settled on holding one of the speakers and the mic close to her head rather than create unnecessary discomfort.
The operator waved to indicate communication had been established. Then, she gathered the other operators. They all crammed themselves on the elevator and went up; Harlan was left alone.
“Hello, Harlan!” Mixolydian yelled through the headset. Harlan winced at his loud voice. “Hello! Hello? Can you hear me?” the Zenotote leader kept yelling.
“Yes, father,” Harlan answered in a quiet voice.
“Ah, good! You haven’t called for days! I figured you would check in sooner!” the leader yelled.
“We ran into some trouble….” Harlan began to explain all that had happened after the group had left Quenth.
When she finished, Mixolydian let out a hearty laugh.
“To think, you would have so much happen! You seem to be having all the fun lately,” her father said through his laughs.
“Father,” she said. The leader continued to laugh.
“Well, that’s enough of that,” Mixolydian said after he finished laughing. “It sounds like you are close to Nun. When you get there, be cautious. I believe the Mayor is planning to make a move of some sort.”
“I understand. Well, I should be going,” Harlan said as she began to put down the headset.
“Wait!” the leader shouted loud enough to be heard even with the headset away.
Harlan sighed and moved the speaker closer to her head.
“About that Nonpareil. Does he show any promise?”
Harlan thought for a moment. After the death of King Whitlock, her father had tasked her with ‘investigating’ the regicide. The pretense would allow her to gather information on several things, including the mysterious traveler from another world.
The Zenotote scientist had also not missed the fact that her father chose her to go on the mission for the express purpose of gathering as much information as possible. She was raised to be fully aware of her father’s motive. Harlan had made sure to pay attention to all her team members, especially Gwyn, knowing that the leader would want to hear about it.
“He can be a bit too impulsive at times, even when he knows logic should be focused on instead, but he seems honest and reliable. With time and molding, he could be a great asset to the Zenotote absolutism.”
“Hmm, well, keep observing for now. If he seems like he could become a threat, you know what to do.”
Harlan paused for a moment. It was brief, so her father did not notice, but the pause was longer than it would have been before she left on the trip.
“Of course, father,” she replied.
“Oh, and make sure you put that Bentulousian in her place when possible.”
“Of course, father, goodbye,” Harlan said with no pause. She began to put her headset back down.
“Wait!” Mixolydian shouted again. Once again, Harlan put the headset back near her face.
The leader made a grumbling sound for a moment before speaking.
“Just… make sure you stay safe out there,” he suddenly spat and quickly hung up.
Harlan rolled her green slitted eyes and stood up from her chair. She made her way back upstairs, where the hetaira were all waiting. The scientist had intended to leave right away, but they began to beg her to sing a traditional song before departing. Harlan shyly tried to excuse herself but could not convince them. She gave in and began to sing.