The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)
The group, minus Hal, made their way down to near where the beach met the coastal town. A small pub sat along the street just before it descended down the walkway to the sandy shore. Unlike the rest of the city, which was starting to wind down as the first sun set, this small eatery was as lively as possible.
Shouts and laughter echoed out of the street under a bright sign that read ‘Stone’s Pub’ with slightly smaller text under the sign that added ‘Who’s asking?’
“Is this the restaurant?” Harlan asked cautiously as the rowdy voices inside sounded like they were engaged in a playful barfight.
“It seems to be; well, shall we go in?” Rheba did not hesitate to step forward. Gwyn and Odell followed without a second thought. Fiona tilted her head for a moment before she waved to Harlan that she should follow in as well. The green-scaled scientist let her head hang as she entered the crowded place.
The pub surprised Gwyn as it looked typical of what he expected. A bar lined the back wall with many bottles, and many circular tables were placed around the floor. There was a colorful display of Aqueenians drinking and making merry all over the space. They clanged glasses full of brightly colored liquors, of blues, reds, and greens, together while shouts and songs filled the air. Some wrestled, but there was no malice in their actions, and others cheered the wrestlers on to encourage the activity.
Some eyes darted to the strange group that entered, but they quickly got over it as the merriment continued.
“Is something going on today, or is this normal?” Gwyn whispered to Fiona. She didn’t hear him.
The princess’s eyes were lit up with wonder at its spectacle. From a young age, the royal education had taught that drinking, or any activity for that matter, should be done in a sophisticated manner. A pub was a place for commoners, or so she was taught. Had the princess not partook in the mining town’s festival, she would have had sensory overload.
Rheba politely made her way through the drinking Aqueenian patrons to the bar, taking care not to bump into anyone. A barkeeper behind the counter watched her approach as he shook up a drink for one of the customers. Behind the barkeeper was a face that the Bentulousian warrior recognized.
“Hey lassie, good to see ya!” the older Aqueenian she had met at the license agency shouted. He reached over the counter to shake her hand. She received his greeting, taking care not to crush his faintly wrinkled hand.
“Someone you know?” Gwyn asked as he and the rest walked up to the bar.
“They call me Captain Stone around these parts!” the older Aqueenian cheerfully declared, “I met the lassie in the line for the license office, but that’s enough talk. How bout a drink on the house!” Captain Stone happily said. It was clear to the group that he had already had a couple of drinks.
The barkeeper next to him only shook his head and whispered:
“Stop giving away drinks for free!”
“Give me the strongest drink you got!” Odell shouted to the barkeeper, not wanting to miss the opportunity for the complimentary beverage.
The older man laughed while the barkeeper turned to the captain and gave a look that indicated, ‘are you sure? it’s pretty strong.’
“Let the young Hobusian have his drink! He’ll see what Aqueenians are capable of soon enough!”
The barkeeper shrugged and quickly slid a tall glass of a bright blue liquid. The captain's whims were something he wouldn’t start an argument over.
The others sat down at the bar as Odell began to chug his drink.
“I’ll take something good for hu-Netzians,” Gwyn said as he recalled the overly strong drink from the mining town. He was slid a drink that looked and smelled similar to a beer. After a sip, he figured it was safe enough for him to consume.
“Do you have any charponay?” Fiona politely asked. She avoided drinking in Horizon since they did not have anything suitable to her tastes. The light drink known as charponay, which was best compared to low-proof wine, was more to her pallet.
“Nothing fancy like that here; we can water down and add some fruits to the good stuff if that’s your preference!” Captain Stone said with a laugh.
“I suppose,” Fiona said with a sigh. She quickly slid a mixed cocktail.
“I’ll take what he has,” Rheba said, pointing to Gwyn, “but don’t hold back.”
She was quickly handed what looked like a large stein that matched a 5-gallon, or 20-liter, bucket in size. It took a moment to fill up, but once complete, the Bentulousian warrior lifted the heavy glass with ease and began to sip her drink.
“Just water,” Harlan softly said.
With all team members having their drinks, the barkeeper went to serve the next customer. Captain Stone put his hands on his hips and took a deep breath.
“Well, you have quite the odd group here! I take it you were planning to go to Nun but ran into that little issue in the water.”
“More like a big issue,” Gwyn said as the memory of the beast returned to him.
“I’ll tell you what, I tried to go out this morning to fish, and they wouldn’t let me!” Captain stone griped with a smile on his face. “I told them I could handle a little Japhinth, but they wouldn’t’ have any of it.”
“It’s unfortunate, but it seems we have to wait,” Rheba said as she gently set her stein down. About half of the drink was already gone.
“Why can’t we just go beat it up,” Fiona said with a hiccup, “We all have Needaimus for nothing?” She had only drunk about a quarter of her watered-down drink, but everyone could see she was a lightweight as she swayed like a branch in the wind. Gwyn gently reached over and slid the glass just outside of her reach.
“Yeah, a monster like that is nothing!” Odell shouted as he finished down the last of the pub’s strongest drink.
“I like the way you lot think,” Captain Stone said while rubbing his short beard.
Harlan shook her head and silently drank her water. She had a bad feeling welling up inside of her.
“Please calm down, you two; we shouldn’t do something so reckless,” Rheba said.
The captain laughed.
“Indeed, you would need a mighty good sea vessel to attempt something like that!”
Harlan’s shoulders relaxed as she finished her drink.
“Captain, such an endeavor would be risky,” Rheba said to the bar owner.
“Why couldn’t we just attack from the beach?” Odell asked as he swayed.
“It would risk the Japhinth damaging the city. You have to fight those beasts in their territory,” Rheba explained.
“Now, this is an interesting conversation,” a new voice said from behind. Those who were still sober enough, Fiona had fallen asleep, and Odell was beginning to sway and turned to look at the speaker.
A familiar writer stood behind them.
“Hi, Gwyn,” she said.
“Uh, hello… Kako…” the Nonpareil awkwardly replied.
“Someone you know?” Rheba asked.
“She’s a writer I met in town,” Gwyn explained.
“A writer, huh?” Odell managed to break from falling asleep to engage with the conversation. He drunkenly spun around to face Kako. “What’s your favorite kind of punctuation?” he asked in slurred words.
“A semicolon,” Kako answered without missing a beat. She had a smile on her grey-blue face.
“Huh,” Odell muttered before spinning back around and passing out at the bar.
Kako chuckled and made her way to the bar.
“So, you’re thinking of taking on that Japhinth?” she asked as she stroked the head of the Needaimus, which hung on her shoulder.
“That was the alcohol talking,” Rheba explained.
“That’s a shame,” Kako said coolly, “I thought I might tag along. Such an experience would be great for inspiring material, you see.”
“It would be outside of the necessary risks unless your Needaimus is a special one?” Harlan butted in to back up Rheba, though she loathed agreeing with a Bentulousian.
Rheba felt the same but nodded in agreement with Harlan anyway.
“This little guy, I’m afraid its ability is only to turn vague thoughts into a well-written and grammatically correct text. Great for my books, not so much for fighting. I can, however, do a little magic if that helps,” Kako explained.
“Ah, a witch! We have quite the force here!” Captain Stone laughed merrily.
Rheba and Harlan shook their heads in unison to indicate ‘no.’
Gwyn pondered the idea for a moment before speaking up.
“We defeated those guys in the village; why can’t we defeat a monster?” he wondered aloud.
“We likely could defeat it, but we are between two cities while out on the channel, and there is the risk that one would get damaged. Without an expert in driving the creatures away, we wouldn’t want to attempt such a thing,” Rheba explained.
Harlan didn’t like that Rheba seemed open to the idea but chose not to say anything while they were aligned on the issue.
“Actually, I’ve driven away my fair share of monsters in my youth! And I happen to have a favor I can call in as well,” Captain Stone cheerily butted in from behind the bar. “All I’m missing are some supporters on my ship that can handle a giant monster!”
“Really?” Rheba asked with curiosity.
Harlan’s green slit eyes grew wide as she realized what might be coming.
“Yep! I wouldn’t be so quick to offer my boat up otherwise. Do you take me for a poor sailor?”
“Hmm, I suppose that is true,” Rheba said as she rubbed the brown fur on her chin.
“Sounds like we might be able to do this!” Kako happily said.
“Hold on,” Rheba interrupted. She turned to the captain. “Tell me your plan first.”
Captain stone made a broad smile on his emerald face. He began to relay a potential plan to the group. Rheba, Gwyn, and Kako listened eagerly. Harlan did her best not to squirm as they developed their reckless plot. Fiona and Odell slept soundly, unaware of what would come the following day.