Chapter 123:

A Meal With The Hobusian King

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

King Fio quickly had his ship’s crew throw down a ladder. They climbed up to the large Hobusian flagship as Captain Stone tied his boat to the larger vessel.

In no time at all, the team, Captain Stone, and Kako were all given seats at a long table that stretched across the ship's inside. The room was an ample, open space with velvet curtains set up on the walls, despite the fact that there were no windows. Candles lit the interior with flickering flames. They were meant to provide a sense of ambiance within the ship.

Between the curtains hanging on the walls, sets of armor and weapons were placed. They seemed random to the uninformed observer, but as the armor sets circled the room, they represented different eras of the Hobusian empire. Gwyn was the only one that cared to pay them any attention.

King Fio sat at the end of the table. Odell sat on his right, and Captain Stone sat on his left. The rest of the team randomly sat around the table.

“Well, it’s good to see that everyone is doing well!” the king announced at the start of the dinner with a bellowing speech. “I have to admit; I was a little worried when you all were darted off on this quest in such a rush. Of course, I knew Odell would be okay, but imagine my surprise to read about that small town you saved! What a riot. Since that happened, the Fio family’s reputation has gone up massively in the polls!”

“What is he talking about?” Gwyn whispered to Fiona, who sat next to him.

“The Hobusians elect a new king from one of seven noble families every 30 years. Election year just happens to be this one,” she quickly whispered back.

“Now, I know you all still have a hard investigation within Nun,” King Fio continued, “And I do not wish to take the murder of my dear friend lightly, but for today we shall drink and be merry!”

As King Fio finished the speech, the food was carried in by the ship’s crew, who temporarily served as wait staff. Their grey hands quickly placed a series of dishes and saucers in front of each person at the table.

The dish was a traditional Hobusian one. To Gwyn, it looked as if he was just handed a seared steak, fried chicken, bacon, and a small side of potatoes to act as some vegetables. He soon found that the meals were not what they seemed as none tasted like the food he imagined. Surprisingly, the dish that resembled a potato tasted like it was also made of meat. Fiona was the only exception to the others as she was handed a leafy salad.

Everyone ate in silence for a moment as King Fio looked back and forth. He had intended to give someone else a chance to speak, but no one took the opportunity. He sighed and broke the silence.

“So, Bentulousian, how is the meal?” the king asked.

“It’s Rheba, father,” Odell chimed in as he cut his steak-like meat.

Rheba was eyeing her own piece of faux steak that had been cooked to the point past well-done. She wanted to decry the chef who ruined the perfectly good meat, but she thought it best to hold her tongue in front of the foreign leader.

“Personally, I like my steaks medium,” Gwyn said as he tried to chew the meat. Odell looked at the unaware human, who had just insulted several royal chefs, in shock. For his part, King Fio laughed.

“The Nonpareil is quite opinionated! I like it!”

“I guess,” Gwyn said as he cut another piece of his steak-like meal.

Fiona chuckled, Odell shook his head, and Hal rolled his eyes.

“I must say, it is a pleasure to eat with you, King Fio,” Rheba said after patting her napkin over her mouth. She was keen to change the subject. “You have so many legendary accomplishments.”

“Hahaha, trying to flatter me, eh?”

“Not at all; I was raised to respect any great warrior,” Rheba explained.

“He’s not all that great, though!” Captain Stone chimed in with a laugh. “I could tell you stories from the old day if you want?”

“Don’t you dare!” King Fio’s tone switched from cheerful to serious in an instant.

“Father,” Odell said while rolling his eyes.

“We haven’t seen each other for years, and that’s how you are?” Stone shouted back with a laugh.

“Well, enough reminiscing,” King Fio said with a cough.

“Enough, we haven’t even gotten started–”

“Why don’t you regale us with the story of your journey so far?” the king finished while ignoring the captain’s aside.

“Oh, well. We left the city. We ended up in the village. We kicked some ass. We left.” Gwyn said.

“Gwyn, that’s not how you tell a story!” Kako hissed from down the table.

“So, was this Someass a formidable foe? Were there other challenges? I’m afraid your tale was a bit lacking.” King Fio looked for clarity.

Hal cleared his throat to catch the attention of all the others. He slid his hand across his emerald, green hair as if to make it neater.

“Twas a cold and unforgiving night before the morn dawn broke. We found ourselves marooned in an empty farming village the day prior, and the only hope wast for our royal support, your very son, to repair the broken vehakul….” Hal continued to tell the story of their trip from the farming campground to the village. He spun it in a manner that favored the Hobusian prince, and his language grew more and more ornate and poetic as the story continued. The tale covered the brave exploits of Odell as he broke free of the bandit prison, fought head-on with the general Icarus, and supported the Nonpareil in the final defeat of the bandit leader.

When the Netzian soldier finished, he promptly returned to eating his meal without a second thought. Kako made a small clap.

“You have good potential, boy! If I weren’t so much older, I’d take you as a husband right now!” she said with a laugh.

“A fine tale!” Captain Stone added. King Fio nodded in agreement.

“From time to time, I dabble in prose,” Hal said with a roll of his yellow eyes.

“So, all I have to do is talk fancy, and I can get showers of praise?” Gwyn whispered to Fiona.

“I didn’t know storytelling was that easy,” she whispered back.

Harlan shook her head, and Rheba sighed. Hal paid no mind to the two that whispered amongst each other.

King Fio let out a laugh and smacked his son on the back.

“Well, that was quite the tale! I wish I were recording it to share back in the capital!”

“I’m happy to hear you didn’t …” Odell said as he shyly looked at the floor. He wasn’t sure he liked getting all the attention, especially when events were blown out of proportion like in Hal’s recount.

The king gave off another belly laugh; then, his face turned serious. Everyone was beginning to finish their meals, and he figured it was the best time.

“I’m sorry to change the mood suddenly, but I’m afraid I didn’t invite you to dinner just for all the laughs. What was it? Kako dear, may I ask you to leave the room?”

“Of course!” she happily replied.

Once the Hobusian-Aqueenian author had left, King Fio began to speak again.

“I have been looking into the matter of Jol– King Whitlock’s murderer myself. She is well regarded in Nun as a beauideal, but I believe she is by no means the master mind. I know our dear Queen Whitlock believed the Mayor of Nun to be suspect, but I think he would only be another pawn for an organization known as Array.”

“What’s Array?” Gwyn asked.

“A secretive group of sorts. I suppose you could call them an intelligence agency. They have supported many of our nations in the past by providing aid to those that suffered, with the motto that ‘They shall bring peace to the world,’” the king explained.

“They don’t sound all that bad,” Gwyn added.

“They are also believed to have instigated the last Hobusian and Aqueenian war.”

“Oh,” was all Gwyn could reply.

King Fio shook his head.

“Don’t take this investigation lightly,” he cautioned.

Gwyn smiled.

“Don’t worry, that bandit leader was pretty tough too, but we took him down." The Nonpareil did his best to put his hands up like he was about to box. His right hand made the correct shape, but his bad left hand weakly shook as he tried to ball it into a fist. “We can take on anyone!”

“I hope you are correct,” King Fio said. He began to tell the team all he knew of the mysterious organization known as Array.