The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)
Thanks for reading! A couple of days ago, I decided I wanted to give a Halloween special a try which would be easy for newcomers to jump into, flash-forward without heavy spoilers, and have something important enough to prevent it from being filler. How well I accomplished my goals remains to be seen, but I hope it is enjoyable to all that read it.
And if it is still that time when you get to this section, Happy Halloween.
A cold chill blew through the empty streets of an abandoned alien ruin. With it, it carried a whistle that seemed to drone on in a haunting tune through the night air.
After taking a deep breath, a man, who was human by any measure, with natural golden-red hair, zipped up the front of a tracksuit which made up his Halloween costume. His right arm moved freely, but the left was weak and attempts to use the zipper were awkward.
“Gwyn,” the voice of a blue girl beside him hissed. “Why did we have to come here?” She asked while staring at him with large purple eyes.
The girl was Princess Fiona of the Aqueenians, a species known for their soft gem-colored skin and silky hair. The girl would have been considered alien to someone on earth, but they were nowhere close to the blue planet Gwyn once called home. She was dressed in a way that was most simple to describe as a witch, though Gwyn was the only one who recognized her as such. He had been the one to suggest the costumes.
Gwyn turned and stared blankly at the blue Princess. When he first introduced the idea of Halloween to the denizens of the planet, she had been excited to throw a party in the ‘spookiest’ spot she could imagine—Old Quenth, the original capital of her nation. What was left of the once mighty city was an archaeological wonderland, or a pile of stones, depending on who was asked.
Unlike the current Quenth, which was considered to be a marvel of science on the planet known as Resh, the city street they walked down was built long ago. The roads and buildings were made from a stone that seemed to shout out that they should turn back. They pressed on regardless.
Gwyn wouldn’t have minded exploring the ruins. Seeing all that had to be offered within the centuries-old capital excited him, but they had pressing matters to attend to.
Fiona held two bags in her hands, and Gwyn held a single one in his hand that had strength; his left hand could no longer grip anything heavy. It was their last trip from their transport, parked outside the city, to a small research station their group had commandeered for their Halloween party.
“I know it was my idea,” Fiona continued after seeing Gwyn’s expression, “but you should have tried to talk me out of it!” She knew that he was the wrong person to complain to. Gwyn had been eager to go as soon as he learned such ruins existed. He was disappointed that party prep didn’t allow much time for exploration. Legends said Old Quenth was founded shortly after a hero with the title of Nonpareil lived. Upon coming to the world, Gwyn received the same title, and the potential historical significance of the name shouted out to him to discover.
Despite his curiosity, he pushed down the urge and continued with Fiona to the location of their party—a small domed building. The windows were oval, and the door was rounded, keeping with some of the stony architecture of the Aqueenian ruins around them.
The door slid open with a hiss as the duo approached. A burst of din came from within.
The spot initially set up as a sleeping quarter for archaeologists had been cleared out. In place of them, tables had been set up, and signs had been hung. A mix of many different species was crowded in the space. On the back wall, relative to the door Gwyn and Fiona stood at, a table had been set up with food and drink. And under the oval windows, tables with carved gourds were set up. Pumpkins were not native to Resh, so they had settled on the closest viable option—a misshapen, but suitable, green look alike.
As the duo walked in, they were approached by a tall companion whose head was cut off by an orange ‘Happy Halloween’ banner hanging over the doorway.
Easily double Gwyn’s height and covered with short brown fur from head to toe, their friend, Rheba, leaned down and offered to take the bags of supplies. Her beast-like head, which looked something close to a dog or kangaroo, depending on the angle, moved back and forth as she checked to ensure they weren’t too exhausted.
“Thanks for making all those trips,” she said.
“No worries,” Gwyn replied as he handed her the bag. He wouldn’t have admitted it, but he was happy to be relieved of bringing supplies.
“Now, let’s party!” Fiona eagerly added as she ran into the crowd.
Rheba shook her head and moved across the room to the food table. As the tallest in the room, losing her in the crowd was impossible. She set the bags down in front of a green scaly girl on the other side of the table.
“Here’s the rest, Harlan,” Rheba said in a gruff but not unfriendly voice.
Harlan nodded and began to pull several items out with her clawed fingers. Her face was blank, and her voice calm as she replied,
“You don’t have to stay here and manage the drinks and food, you know.”
“I’m fine over here,” Harlan quickly shot down Rheba’s suggestion. She regretted coming to the party as soon as the crowd began to show up.
“Well, if you change your mind, I think Odell might need an escape….” Gwyn said as he approached the table. They all turned to a short, stout, grey-toned alien moving around the small venue to escape his fiancé, Cecelia.
“Marry me already!” she said in a loud voice that neared being a screech, but she restrained from being too loud to keep from disturbing the crowd too much.
“No!” Odell replied. The crowd chuckled and moved so the two could run around the small space without pushing people out of the way.
The trio at the food table shook their heads.
Rheba shifted her attention to the happy faces in the crowd.
“This was a good idea, Gwyn!” the tall woman said.
“We could have done it with a smaller group, though….” Harlan added. Her tone was neutral, but Gwyn had a feeling she was frustrated.
“I never expected everyone to be interested,” he replied.
“Never underestimate this group’s willingness to have a party….”
“I’ll… keep that in mind.” Gwyn looked around the vast collection of Resh natives and made a small smile. He happily joined in with the party.
As the party drew late into the night, Gwyn yawned and rested in the back near the lit jack-o-lanterns. A large, muscular blue man greeted him with a smile.
“Getting tired, Nonpareil Gwyn,” he said as he leaned against the wall.
“A little Donn and just Gwyn is fine,” the orange-haired human said with another yawn.
Donn let out a laugh. It might have been infectious if Gwyn wasn’t trying to resist going along. The man was Fiona’s elder brother and the crown prince of his nation. His laid-back attitude, and the clear amount of time he spent lifting weights, made him seem hardly fit to be a leader, but Gwyn tended to keep that to himself.
“Perhaps you ought to try talking to more people; the Netzian girl over there looks like she would like to have a word with you.” Donn avoided pointing and simply nodded in the direction he was speaking about. Gwyn turned slightly so that he could see. A nearly human-looking girl with emerald green hair and yellow eyes repeatedly turned back and forth from his direction and at her younger twin sisters. She wanted to chat with Gwyn but wasn’t sure what to do about it.
“I’d rather not get on Hal’s bad side,” Gwyn replied as he tried to spy the older brother of the sister trio. Though Gwyn had kept his distance, Hal had warned that he might cut off Gwyn’s arm if he tried anything ‘funny.’ Given that it was the most violent the Nonpareil had seen his green-haired friend, he figured it was best to stay a reasonable distance away.
“He can’t be that scary!” Donn said with a laugh.
They watched the rest of the party continue from the side. A self-proclaimed fan club of Princess Fiona crowded around the girl who was their namesake. They introduced her to several new members, including an unwilling guard, Colton, who had been named the club’s vice president. In another corner, a writer who went by K.A. Natos was regaling a young green girl with fantastical stories of a far-off world.
“Is that place real!” the girl excitedly asked her mother.
“It’s just a story, dear,” her mother gently replied.
“Don’t tell her that!” an elderly man who sported a long white beard said, “You have to let her imagination grow while she’s still able to do it!”
On one table near the side, an extensive collection of mechanical creatures sat in what looked like silence. To the natives, they were Needaimus—creatures who, when bonded to a person’s limb, would grant abilities to the person attached. Though they were silent, they were exchanging words through radio waves. A blue Needaimus, Mem, which resembled a wyvern, shifted uncomfortably. It was the only one willing to talk out loud and longed to make noise.
Across the room, a Netzian with scales up her neck and on her arms drunkenly danced to some music. Hal appeared from the crowd and put a firm hand on her shoulder.
“Feya,” he said sharply, “You’re supposed to be a leader of a nation…” his tone was harsh, but his words were ignored.
By one of the windows, a trio that consisted of a grey creature, a young blue man, and Odell were staring at a crack in the wall. From a distance, Cecilia watched. Odell had scolded her after their earlier display, and she was trying to ‘respect his space’ as he asked. She fiddled with a pair of scissors that had been left out from decorating. Some others watching kept their distance, just in case she was the type to stab.
“What do you think, Tancred?” Odell asked.
“Hmm, I suspect it must have been made poorly, see, the handiwork isn’t very good.” The short hairy creature replied. His head was similar to Rheba’s, but long grey hair and incredibly short stature made a huge difference.
“Whatever the problem is, it has got to be some kind of safety violation,” the blue man, Adan, added.
Odell began to press on the wall to see how sturdy it was. The lights suddenly went out, and a crash echoed around the space. The party fell silent.
Everyone remained still in the dark. Some Needaimus quickly darted across the black space to bond with their users’ arms, legs, and tails where possible. Of the ones quick to act, Donn was quickly granted night vision by the mechanical creature on his limb. He quickly scanned the room and walked to the breaker box. As some others stumbled around, and several more were given night vision by their Needaimus partners, Donn flipped a switch to turn on emergency power. Lights that were duller than what had been on prior filled the room. With the return of the light came an array of worried talking from the partygoers.
“Everyone calm down!” he shouted with a commanding voice. Despite the misgivings of some to listen to a foreign leader, everyone hushed.
As Donn spoke, the other Needaimus quickly made their way to bond with their partners. For his part, the Prince pointed to the wall where Odell, Tancred, and Adan had just been investigating a crack.
The trio had disappeared, and in place of the minor crack in the wall, a large hole had opened to the darkness outside.
“Odell!” Cecilia screeched as she ran to the opening. She shouted his name several more times into the black night, but her echo was the only thing that came in reply. “I should have never let you out of my sight,” Cecilia added in a whisper.
Donn cleared his throat to get the other’s attention.
“Everyone stay calm; Odell may have just headed to the power station once the lights went out. He and the others are the types to try and fix this sort of thing.” Donn’s words reassured the crowd for a moment, but it only remained quiet long enough for a rumbling in the distance to be heard. Murmurs began to echo inside the small building, and Donn frowned.
“I’ve heard,” the writer K.A. Natos said in a loud enough voice to cut through the chatter, “that there is a legend around this town.” Her words were enough to silence the room. “The geirist of a wicked king was said to continue walking through the dark.”
Harlan rolled her green eyes and muttered too softly for anyone to hear:
“An old folk tale.”
“What do you mean,” Gwyn asked Kako.
She made the type of smile that could only mean trouble
“Perhaps we ought to go looking for our companions. It is said that when the wicked king catches you, he tears your limbs off and drinks your blood.”
The younger people in the crowd shuddered. Rheba shook her head and spoke out to the group.
“Kako, this is hardly the time to be playing around. We’ll send a small crowd to the power station to get the others, then plan on packing up for tonight.”
“Apologies, I have been writing a horror story, and I guess it got the better of me!” K.A. Natos replied. “I will head out to fetch our friends. Who would like to accompany me!”
A group of five was quickly formed, and they ventured out into the darkness. Quiet set in while everyone else waited for their return.
Hardly anytime had passed when several screams began to pierce through the night. Some in the crowd settled to say it was just the wind, but others shivered—believing they recognized the scream as one of the five who headed out.
Debate quickly grew in the group.
Donn tapped Gwyn on the shoulder. His blue face came close to the Nonpareil’s ear so that he could hear over the loud discussion echoing throughout the room.
“I think it would be best to humor everyone. Would you be able to make a suggestion for me,” he said. Gwyn nodded after a moment of hesitation. After the blue Prince relayed his plan, the Nonpareil shouted loudly to get everyone’s attention. The room fell silent.
“I am sure everything is fine, but if anyone wants to go out looking, we will plan on forming groups to do just that. Personally, I’d like to think of it as a small test of courage for this Halloween celebration.”
“Not quite what I suggested, but not bad,” Donn whispered in reply.
“I, for one, want to go find Odell!” Cecilia shouted. “If he’s going to die, he better die alongside me!”
The others somewhat ignored her words as several groups began to form. Gwyn quickly teamed up with Rheba, Harlan, Fiona, and Donn. Hal formed an additional group with his sisters and an odd collection of beauideal celebrity’s and the Princess Fiona Fan Club made up yet another. As Gwyn’s group headed into the hole in the wall, a grey Hobusian girl approached them.
“If it wouldn’t be too much, would I be able to tag along too,” Cecelia asked nervously. “No one else wants to team up with me.”
“After all the shouting you’ve been doing, I can’t blame them,” Rheba said with a shake of her head.
Gwyn sighed. Fiona, Harlan, and Rheba’s eyes told him not to do it. Donn seemed to nod with approval. ‘The more, the merrier,’ Gwyn could imagine him saying.
Cecilia looked at her feet. Her previous energy while chasing Odell around the party earlier and hysterically screaming had vanished completely. Not a trace was left in the girl standing before Gwyn. He looked away and scratched at his limp arm.
“I suppose that would be alright….” he replied.
Cecilia’s face lit up with a smile, but she quickly coughed and twisted her expression back to the same one she used while shouting at Odell.
“I knew the Nonpareil would have good judgment!” she said with a smugness that made Gwyn immediately regret his decision. He sighed and turned back to the hole. No other words were exchanged as they entered the cold night air.
A chill cut to the bone as the team made their way down the abandoned, stony streets. Rheba was the only one who was unfazed, her fur being the perfect insulator. Harlan shivered the worst; scales didn’t agree with cold weather. She wouldn’t have bothered joining the search for just anyone, but Odell, Gwyn, Fiona, and Hal were the exceptions—Rheba was about 50/50. She pulled the jacket of her costume closer to her body in an attempt to get warmer but did her best to keep her shaking under control.
The light of Fiona’s teleportation blinked all around them as the blue Princess zapped from building to building. Occasionally she would shout the name of someone who went missing, but her words quickly faded into the night air. Cecilia, for her part, floated above their heads and looked intensely at every shadow.
Donn and Gwyn walked in the front. Both had detached from their Needaimus, and the mechanical creatures rode on their shoulders.
“Are the search parties really necessary?” Gwyn asked. “I think they just went to the power station like you said.”
“Very true! But I believe walking through these ruins at night aligns with the Halloween experience you described!”
“Is it best to let everyone worry?”
“Those worrying were going to do it no matter what you or I said. Best to walk around some and let everyone’s fears be relieved when the missing persons appear safe and sound.”
Donn spoke casually, but his eyes were trained forward and narrow like he was prepared for anything to jump out.
“I suppose that is true, but what should we do in the meantime?” Gwyn asked as he looked around the ruins. He resisted an urge to go explore the ancient site.
“For now, we should head to the old castle! I suspect that will be the perfect place for the Halloween fun!”
“I’m starting to get the impression you just like saying Halloween….” Despite Gwyn’s criticism, he was interested in seeing where the old palace once stood.
“I concur, partner,” Mem added from atop Gwyn’s shoulder. Donn only laughed.
With a destination in mind, they headed to the ruins of Old Quenth’s castle.
The castle’s ruins did not do justice to the mighty fortress that once stood. What was left mainly was the bottom floor and the underground labyrinth beneath. The swirling archery towers had long since crumbled, and the mighty walls could no longer hold back the Hobusian invaders they were built to stop. Still, Gwyn had to stop to take in the sight. He was accustomed to seeing ruins, having gone on several trips with his father, and carefully reconstructing what the palace may have looked like in its heyday.
“Gwyn! Let’s get moving!” Fiona shouted to him as she and the others headed into the castle. The Nonpareil quickly ran in after them.
What was left of the hallways split into two paths, so the team divided into smaller groups. Fiona, Harlan, and Rheba went right. Gwyn, Donn, and Cecilia went left.
“I have to say this is a little spooky,” Mem chimed in as they began to walk down dark corridors. Its eyes began to glow like a flashlight so that Gwyn could see.
“Ha, this is nothing to be afraid of!” Cecilia said with an arrogant laugh. Her eyes darted around at the dark walls, and her Needaimus bonded fist was clenched tightly. The Hobusian girl increased her pace slightly so that Donn and Gwyn faced her back.
“I don’t think any of the others would have come here…” Gwyn said as he looked around the black halls.
“Not willingly! But what if Odell was dragged off to be dismembered!” Cecilia shouted back.
“You don’t actually believe Kako’s story, do you?” Gwyn asked.
“Are you saying you don’t!” Cecilia replied; she turned around to face Gwyn. Her green eyes grew wide, and she froze. “Where did Prince Donn go?”
Gwyn looked behind him, the well-built Aqueenian Prince was easy to spot, so her words only made him nervous. The blue man had vanished—silently and without a trace. As if to add to the moment, screams came from the other side of the castle. The walls distorted them too much for Gwyn to tell if it was his companions or not.
Cecelia gulped and looked around nervously. Mem bonded to Gwyn’s arm in a flash, and the Nonpareil soon had night vision.
“Not good…” Gwyn said as he backed up to the wall. Cecelia pressed her back close to his.
“What do we do! I don’t want to die with you!” she hissed.
“I share the same sentiment….”
A scraping could be heard across the floor, and both turned to see the source. The sound came from the tip of a sword as it was pulled across the ground by a shadowy form. It was hunched over and limped in a manner that favored the left leg. The form was tall, and a black metal crown was wrapped neatly around a head that held glowing red eyes.
Gwyn and Cecilia screamed.
“A geirist!” Cecilia shouted.
“Run!” Gwyn added.
The Nonpareil began to sprint down the hallway. His Hobusian companion took to the air and floated beside him. She tried to phase through the castle’s walls, but a burning sensation from the old stones stopped her ability from fully working.
“What do we do!” she shouted to Gwyn after several attempts to abandon him failed.
“I don’t know!”
Behind his feet, Gwyn used his ability to turn the stony floor into a liquid. He had hoped the shade would slip in, then he could bind it in place. The shadowy form instead ran across the slick floor with ease.
“Can you do anything useful! I thought you were supposed to be the Nonpareil!” Cecelia shouted to Gwyn.
“Can’t you do anything useful! You’re just floating!” he snapped back.
“I am a high-class Hobusian woman; what do you expect of me!”
Gwyn sighed and set his sights down the hall. A door was positioned on their left, and he hoped it would lead to somewhere better. He didn’t waste time to stop and open the door, instead just liquefying it before getting too close. After Cecilia passed through the threshold, he solidified it back in place—morphing it so that it was bonded to the wall.
They made a sigh of relief and looked at the new space. The short stretch of the hall beyond the door descended down a staircase into darkness.
“This is a terrible spot!” Cecelia shouted.
A black sword of shadow pierced through the door, and the duo screamed.
“Bad or not, I’m not staying here!” Gwyn shouted before sprinting down the stairs.
“Hey, wait for me!” the Hobusian girl shouted as she floated after him.
From the staircase, the duo found themselves within the underground labyrinth that made up the castle’s lower section and weaved through large areas of Old Quenth. The night vision provided by the Needaimus was the only hope they had to find any way out of the old stony maze.
“I think we lost it….” Gwyn said as he looked around.
“We’re just as lost,” Cecilia muttered. She settled her feet on the ground and quickly slumped with her back to a wall. “We’ll die down here; that thing will kill us.” She crossed her arms and looked to the ground.
“Hey, don’t stop!” Gwyn turned back and did his best not to shout. “We need to stay moving until we come up with a plan!”
“What does it matter? Just leave me to die,” Cecelia muttered.
Gwyn sighed and rubbed the back of his head. It was against his judgment, but he sat an arm’s length away from the Hobusian girl.
“We’ve never really spoken before,” Gwyn said after a moment of silence. Cecilia made a small noise to indicate a response; the Nonpareil could not guess what she meant. “You’re Odell’s fiancé, right? You seem to be rather… uh… enthusiastic about it too!”
“It’s the best thing a useless daughter like me could manage….” The Hobusian girl responded.
Gwyn gulped. He did not expect her to be so open. He had slept through far too much of his single psychology course in school to feel comfortable offering advice. Still, he hoped just talking it out might be enough.
“Useless is, er, a strong word….”
“It’s my stepmother’s favorite to use. She says if I hadn’t gotten engaged to Odell, I would have been thrown to the curb long ago.”
Cecilia was looking at her feet and did not see Gwyn make a series of facial expressions as he quickly thought about cartoony evil stepmothers and princesses before pushing the images away—the Nonpareil did not know any cartoon characters that screamed while chasing their princes around, after all. He rubbed a hand to his temple and sighed.
“So, have you been engaged for a while?”
“Five years ago, a ball was held at the king’s palace. I was brought along with my stepsisters, mainly for them to show off the glamorous party before sending me away to clean.” Gwyn looked away and kept his mouth shut while listening to the story. “They made a point to slam the door to the ballroom in my face, and I ended up wandering through the castle while crying.”
As Cecelia spoke, she sniffled. The Hobusian girl paused a moment while briefly realizing how much she was sharing. It was unlike her to talk so much with anyone but Odell. She looked around the black walls, and her despair once again threw out any concern about sharing.
“I ended up in the castle garage, where I met Odell. Most would expect the Prince to be at the party, dressed nice and well charming.” Gwyn held back a laugh. “But Odell was there under a vehakul and covered with grease. I didn’t realize he was a prince a first, but he was willing to talk, so we chatted.”
“So, you met him then?”
“Yes, believe it or not, but I may have told him my life story then….”
“Oh, I believe it.”
“But we had a good time talking, and he showed me how to use some of the tools in the garage. After a while, some royal officials came looking for him. They said he needed to be at the ball since it was an important time to find a fiancé.” Cecilia smiled to herself. “And then he pointed to me and asked why he couldn’t just marry me!”
Gwyn smacked his palm to his forehead. In a certain sense, he was happy to see that Odell had not changed in five years, but in other ways, he was disappointed.
“Cecilia…” he began but stopped after realizing it was best to not say anything.
“They were a little suspicious at first, I was only dressed in rags at the time, but after confirming my family, his father approved the engagement. My stepmother was pleased, or as pleased as that vile woman can be, she said I had finally done something useful for the family, and I better not mess it up….”
Her voice trailed off at the end, leaving Gwyn to ponder what he should follow up with.
“Well, I don’t know much about Hobusian royalty, politics, or well, you know, but… if you don’t mind me asking, ignoring all the complicated stuff I don’t understand, what do you think about Odell?”
Cecelia frowned and looked up at the ceiling.
“When we first met, he seemed like a nice guy, and I was so happy that he suggested he would marry me. I’m not so foolish to realize now that he was trying to get out of the party…. But, I think I want to love him, and I want him to love me, but I don’t know if it is for my family or not at this point.”
Gwyn nodded, though Cecilia wasn’t looking at him.
“I can’t say your tactics have been the best…. But if you promise to work together to get out of here and promise to dial back your… intensity… I will be your wingman!”
“Uh… your support in your romantic pursuits.”
Cecilia jumped to her feet.
“Really?” she asked chipperly. As Gwyn nodded and stood up, her eyes grew wide, and the Hobusian girl cleared her throat. “I mean, of course, you would want to help a high-class lady such as myself!”
Gwyn shook his head but didn’t make any protest. She was motivated enough at the moment to continue on, and he waved to indicate they should do just that.
The duo continued through the dark chambers while making casual banter.
“So, if I told you all that, you should tell me more about yourself too,” Cecelia pressed.
Gwyn groaned but ended up sharing some things about himself and his time on Resh.
After what the duo suspected was hours of walking around the labyrinth, they emerged into what the Nonpareil immediately recognized as a royal tomb. The room was a large circle, with four wide stone pillars to divide the space into two sections. The outer ring was lined with tables and shelves, which were likely filled with treasures and valuables at one point. Gwyn suspected grave robbers or the Aqueenian government probably took them at some point. The inner ring was clear save for a large sarcophagus in the center. The lid of it had been pushed off and cracked into four sections.
“You don’t think….” Gwyn said as he wondered if the space had anything to do with the shadow chasing them.
“That this place is scary! You got that right!”
“We should get away from here soon!”
“I’m wondering if this place has anything to do with the shade that is after us,” Gwyn added.
Cecilia’s eyes lit up. She quickly looked around the room again.
“Oh, you might be right!”
“Do you think it might have come out of the sarcophagus?” he added as he closely examined the cracked lid.
“I bet if we put the lid on, that will solve our problems!” Cecelia offered. Her tone was prideful; she was happy to have come up with a good plan. Gwyn said nothing as he got close and looked at the markings. Pictures had been chiseled into the stone, but what they were trying to indicate was lost on the Nonpareil. He settled for repairing the lid for the moment and began to push the shattered pieces close enough together to weld with his ability.
“Help push,” Gwyn said as he struggled to move the stone.
“You want me to touch….” Cecelia stopped mid-sentence to take a deep breath. She moved next to Gwyn and helped push the stones into place. The break had been in the center of the lid, making a horizontal and vertical line that Gwyn quickly began to liquefy together and reharden. He wasn’t sure if it would work, but he did his best all the same.
A scraping sound of metal on stone got the attention of the two as Gwyn was finishing the last section. The shadowy form sauntered into the chamber. When it saw them near the sarcophagus, it let out a bellow that seemed to shake the whole space. Cecilia’s eyes grew wide, and Gwyn cursed.
The shadow quickly ran across the tomb to the duo; at once, the grey girl took to the air, and the Nonpareil darted to the side. The sword clanged on the repaired lid and bounced off harmlessly. The dark form stumbled back, seemingly surprised to see its blade had no effect.
Gwyn came in close to one of the pillars which held the tomb up and liquified a chunk out of it. In his hands, the stone formed the shape of a sword. The edge of the liquid blade became hard and sharp, and the hilt solidified so Gwyn’s right hand could grip it more tightly. The rest of the blade remained liquid and flowed like a stream.
Sensing Gwyn’s intent, the shadow turned to him and pointed its dark sword at the Nonpareil’s throat. Gwyn shouted as they charged across the room. He ducked to avoid the strike from the shadowy form and thrust his own blade forward at the shade’s chest—the stone sword became completely solid as the strike moved close. The shadow slid to the side to avoid the blow and brought its blade down on Gwyn’s stone one. Instead of shattering, the stone blade turned liquid and morphed into a ring around the dark form.
Gwyn did his best to pull the shade’s blade away, but his one arm wasn’t strong enough. The two engaged in a tug of war as Cecilia flew around the room.
Ordinarily, she might have tried phasing through the floor to come up and grab the opponent by the feet. But the labyrinth’s stone would not let her Needaimus ability work to its fullest. She picked up a discarded stone and threw it at the shadow’s head. It bounced off the shadow but did not distract the form from its tug-of-war with Gwyn.
Cecilia began to check her pockets. She pulled out a pair of scissors used for the Halloween decorations. Taking a deep breath, she flew in close and threw the pointed end at the shadow’s head. They harmlessly phased through the shadow and came flying out at Gwyn. He let out a cry of surprise and flinched as the blades passed by his head.
The Hobusian girl held her six-fingered hands over her mouth.
“I’m so sorry!” she shouted.
“Less talking, more fighting,” Gwyn replied as he struggled to keep his stony sword lock from being pulled out of his hand.
Cecilia examined the room, and her eyes fell on the repaired lid. She pondered how the rock had not phased through, then her eyes lit up.
“Gwyn, it can’t get through the stone!” she shouted joyfully. Gwyn could only grunt in reply. He took a step forward and managed to push the shadow back. It took a step and twisted its foot to hold it in place. Cecilia landed on the floor and clenched her teeth as she lifted the heavy stone lid off the ground.
With great strain, she began to float back in the air and positioned the lid over the empty sarcophagus. She shouted to Gwyn what he ought to do. He was too focused on his struggle to listen, but even without hearing her, what little he saw was enough for him to guess.
The Nonpareil began to shove the shade back to its grave. It held on tightly to the sword, unwilling to let go as Gwyn pushed it backward. He was glad his opponent didn’t seem clever enough to let go and flee.
Gwyn’s legs burned as he used all his might to shove the opponent back. Sweat began to run down his forehead, and he wished his left arm could do something other than weakly sit to the side. The opponent’s resistance was nothing he could scoff at, but he managed to get the back of the shadow’s legs to the sarcophagus edge. With one last burst of force, Gwyn let go of his stone tool. The shadow tripped over the edge and fell into the grave.
Gwyn shoved the feet that dangled out as hard as he could; his hands only phased through, and he had to pull back as the heavy lid was dropped.
A loud boom echoed in the labyrinth as it landed on the sarcophagus. The shadowy legs quickly dissolved as if they had been cut off, and both made a sigh of relief.
Gwyn jumped as soon as a grinding sound echoed in the space.
“It’s trying to lift the lid!” he cried out. Cecilia stopped floating and landed on the lid as Gwyn quickly welded the top to the bottom and sealed it shut. Once he was done, the Hobusian girl jumped off, and they made a sigh of relief. Both fell to the floor and breathed heavily.
“Quick thinking using your weight to hold it down,” Gwyn finally said after a moment of silence.
“E- excuse me?” Cecilia replied in shock.
“Oh, I uh….” Gwyn stammered. His brown eyes darted around the tomb to find something to change the subject. Cecilia began to chuckle. The Nonpareil stopped his panicked search to watch her make a hearty laugh.
“I’m not so undignified to misunderstand your meaning,” she said through her laugh. “Odell was right about you, though,” she added while wiping a tear from her eye.
“He’s been talking about me?”
“Oh, he’s always going on about your adventures together. I don’t know how often he’s talked about your battle with that leader guy in Horizon. Though I think he might exaggerate the role he played when he tells me, no one else seems to know the story the same way.”
Before Gwyn could respond, a feeling like a wave washed over the two from behind. Nothing was in the room with them, but the force they had felt was overwhelming. Their eyes grew wide, and their faces went several shades paler.
“I think we should get out of here now,” Gwyn said.
“I agree!” Cecilia added.
The duo quickly began to rush back through the labyrinth.
Gwyn wasn’t sure how long it took, but eventually, he pushed a heavy stone out of his way and exited to the streets above. The cool night air greeted him, and the position of the twin moons suggested no time had passed. A quick survey of his surrounding let him locate the castle ruins quite a distance away.
He shook his head and offered a hand to Cecilia as she climbed up from the labyrinth. She considered his help for a moment but opted to clamber out on her own after spotting someone walking in the distance.
Gwyn gave up on his aid and turned to see a trio approaching. A wave of a long arm told him who it was.
“Hey, Gwyn!” Odell shouted with a cheery voice that expressed no danger was imminent. Beside him were Adan and Tancred, who seemed somewhat satisfied with themselves.
“Odell!” Cecilia shot out of the labyrinth exit and flew to Odell.
“Oh, Cecilia?” Odell shouted as he started to turn and run. His fiancé was too fast, and she soon grabbed him by his shoulders.
“Where did you go? We were looking for you every–“ she began to screech but stopped short and turned her head slightly to where Gwyn was standing. The Nonpareil was putting the stone for the exit back in place. She took a deep breath and embraced Odell with a hug. “After the power went out, you disappeared, and we were worried,” Cecilia said softly.
Odell could only stammer as Gwyn finished his work and walked to the group. It wasn’t until he escaped his fiancé’s hug—somewhat reluctantly—that Odell was able to speak again.
“Well, the power went out, and the wall gave way; we figured we would head to the power station to fix it!” he explained.
“You wouldn’t believe the number of safety violations in that panel,” Adan said with a shake of his head. “It’s no wonder it broke; I’m going to have a word with someone about this.”
“At the power station….” Gwyn muttered as he shook his head.
“Gwyn!” Fiona suddenly appeared in a flash soon after her voice cut through the night air. Gwyn jumped at her sudden appearance as she zapped right next to him. “Where did you go! We looked all over the castle ruins for you guys?” she asked while Harlan and Rheba approached. “Odell! You also disappeared on us!” The blue Princess suddenly turned to Odell with a frown.
“Oh, sorry about that… I’m not sure why we just left… we were so focused on getting the power back on that we must not have said anything.” Odell laughed as he realized how much trouble they had caused. Fiona frowned.
“You know the only one allowed to cause trouble around here is me!” she protested.
Cecilia shuffled her way over to Gwyn and leaned close.
“Should we tell them about the… you know,” the grey girl asked in a hushed tone.
Gwyn glanced at the crowd that had become engaged in lively conversation.
“We should probably just keep it to ourselves,” he replied.
“That’s a good idea!” A new voice whispered as a giant blue hand rested on Gwyn’s shoulder. Donn smiled brightly at the other two. Gwyn was about to ask where the Prince had disappeared to but instead focused on a bloody bandaged hand that Donn hid behind his back. “I’ll tell you about it later,” the Prince added before speaking to the others in a booming voice. “Well, everyone! I suspect we ought to get back to the party! The other groups should be heading there as we speak!”
Gwyn shook his head. He figured it was best to leave things be for the moment. With a loud voice, he backed up Donn.
“We only have one night! Let’s get going!” The crowd, save for Harlan, threw their fists in the air and cheered.
They quickly returned to the party with all the others who set out. Everyone had non-inspiring stories of simply walking around the city. Gwyn figured his adventure must have been unique and kept quiet.
Odell, Adan, and Tancred worked to seal the hole while the rest partied without issue. Once they were done, the Nonpareil subtly suggested that Odell spend some time with Cecilia. He was initially reluctant, but the fiancés eventually headed to the top of the domed building to talk. Soon the twin suns broke into the sky and marked the next day after the first Halloween on Resh. The couple happily watched the sunrise in peace as Gwyn kept anyone else from going to look for them.