The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)
The shouts of people on the docks lulled Fiona and Gwyn from sleep, and both grunted as the boat made a thud against the pier. They had been sitting on a bench, side by side, when sleep overtook them.
“Welcome home, Princess and Nonpareil!” Braxen, the dock head, shouted. Behind him, the spiraling towers of Quenth pointed to a clear blue sky.
“It’s good to be home,” Fiona said with a nod. Gwyn said nothing, but slid down the bench further from the princess. She had not been so close when he fell asleep, but their shoulders started pressing against each other at some point. Aqueenian skin was surprisingly soft, considering how much it looked like a gemstone in the light.
They shuffled off the boat and were greeted by Donn and some familiar faces.
“Princess Fiona!” the fan club trio charged forward. It looked like they might hug her but stopped short as they likely considered their position. Fiona didn’t care and pulled the group close.
“Simeon. Siegfried. Sinatra. It’s great to see you again! You all look a little bulkier. Donn hasn’t put any weird ideas in your head, has he?”
The trio didn’t reply as they pulled away and attempted to cover their tears with their forearms.
“We don’t deserve such kindness from our princess!” they wept in unison. Colton, who had waited by the vehakul, only shook his head.
Fiona chuckled and gave her brother a hug. The bulky prince’s large eyes went wide as she came close.
“What brought that on?”
“What brought what on?”
Donn shook his head and turned to Gwyn.
“Well, Nonpareil Gwyn, it is good to see you again.” He held a giant blue hand forward for Gwyn to shake, but the earthling only stared. After a moment of silence, the crown prince continued. “Well, we have a huge banquet for everyone, then we’ll let you get some rest.”
Fiona and Gwyn loaded into the vehakul with the prince and fan club and drove through the shining city streets. The Aqueenians all engaged in lively banter, catching up on everything, which Gwyn found off-putting as he leaned against the door and stared out the window. He ignored any attempts to bring him into the conversation, so the others soon let him be.
A sprawling banquet had been laid out in the castle's main dining room with more food than Fiona or Gwyn could ever eat, though the former tried as hard as she could—she must have forgotten how much she enjoyed authentic Aqueenian food. The Nonpareil mostly poked at his food and ate very little.
At the end of the meal, Colton escorted them to their rooms.
“Princess,” the green guard whispered as Gwyn slumped after them. He needed to slow his pace to not leave the Nonpareil behind. “Is he okay?”
“I think he’s just exhausted from the trip,” Fiona whispered. She paused momentarily, continuing, “The fighting was rough, and some of us almost died. He probably just needs time to process.”
“I hope that is all it is,” Colton murmured as he looked back to Gwyn, who simply grunted in reply to Mem atop his shoulder. He was worried but left it be.
They reached the Nonpareils room, and Gwyn nodded to them. Fiona blocked his path and stared intensely at his brown eyes, to which Gwyn turned his head.
“Make sure you get plenty of rest, okay?” she said.
He couldn’t stop her from hugging him, but quickly pulled away and retreated into the room. The door slid shut, and a click indicated it had been locked.
Fiona and Colton were quiet momentarily as they departed from Gwyn’s door, but a conversation soon began as they came close to Fiona’s room.
“Well, Colton, I didn’t know you were a fan of mine,” she said in a playful tone. It came across as forced, but the green guard figured letting the conversation move naturally was best.
“I was reluctantly brought in and made vice president. Rest assured, princess, I am no fonder of you than any ordinary guard.”
“I think most of the guards hate me.”
“I am no fonder of you than what ought to be expected of an ordinary guard,” Colton corrected.
“Vice president is a pretty big role; it seems odd to me if you are so reluctant.”
“They argued that since I knew you the longest, it gave me a higher status. Truly, I only wanted to learn from Prince Donn.”
“Well, I hope you do well in your vice president's role. I expect lots of activities!”
Colton wanted to snap a sharp retort at the princess, but held off as he swore there was some quivering in her voice.
“Of course, princess, why don’t you get some rest? The morning will come before you know it.”
“Yes, you’re right. Well, goodnight Colton. She tapped the guard’s shoulder—missing a hug as he sidestepped—before entering her room and shutting the door. Colton heard what sounded like a flop onto her bed, and he assumed she must have fallen right on it without bothering to change—exhaustion coming quickly to take her. He left the sleeping princess in peace.