Waves crashed nearby.
Dojima, Siphokazi and the bakawk were trying to excalibur Jack’s head from the sand.
“Bluaargh.” Jack coughed as he was freed.
“Don’t be so dramatic.” Dojima said. Siphokazi knelt down and inspected apparently nothing.
“Ah, Spectre Shrub. We must be on the western beach.” she said.
“Jack doesn’t see anything except sand.” Jack said with sand pouring out of his mouth.
“The Spectre Shrub can render itself transparent in the moonlight, making it optically invisible.” Siphokazi said.
“I feel like a lot depends on the moon.”
“I’ll say!” the moon said but as usual no one heard.
“The castle should be about an hours walk from here.” Felix said. “Shall we?”
They set off toward a distant light. That wasn’t to say the beach was dark. Eye Land glowed bluishly.
“It’s so sparkly.” Jack said.
“Mirror petals.” Siphokazi said. “They reflect the moon’s light.”
“I don’t trust this place.” Dojima said.
“Bakawk.” the bakawk agreed.
“We should find the path just over this dune.” Felix said. Just then a ghostly voice spoke.
“I’m a ghooooost!” Lo and behold, a ghost burst out of the sand and flailed at them.
“Good evening.” Felix said.
“Prepare for your doo…” the ghost paused. “Good evening. How are you?”
“I’m well thanks, and yourself?”
“Not bad. Not bad. Getting by. You know how it is. Now, prepare for your doom.”
“Can Jack smell you?” Jack asked.
“Excuse me?” the ghost said taken aback.
“Jack’s never smelled a ghost before.” Jack said edging toward it.
“No. No. That’s not how its done.” the ghost said floating away in disgust, “It goes like this: I appear, the screen shatters and then we have a battle.”
“A battle? What did we do wrong?” Felix said.
“Well, it’s not that you did something wrong. You walked fifty steps and its in the rules that we’re meant to attack you now.”
“Who counts our steps?” Siphokazi asked.
“Well, we do, of course. Look here’s my abacus.” the ghost eerily produced an abacus.
“Bakawk.” the bakawk said superciliously.
“Look buddy. I don’t make the rules. I just wanna go to heaven.” the ghost said impatiently.
“But, you’re already dead.”
“No good would come of fighting, would it?” Siphokazi reasoned.
“But… but…the rules!” the ghost grumbled.
“Come now, rules are there to protect you not to force you to do things you don’t want to do.” Felix said.
“Ah. I never thought of it that way.” the ghost said thoughtfully.
“By the way, isn’t the path just passed this dune.”
“Oh no, they moved it recently. It’s just there, by that wisp wood tree.” the ghost pointed his ectoplasmic finger at a pale tree with skyward facing leaves.
“Oh? Ah, yes, I see it. Thanks. Well, we must be off. Nice to meet you.”
“And you. But wait!” the ghost reached into his spooky cloak. “Here, take this.” He handed Felix a nuclear green potion. “I was going to drop this on death, but now I see there’s no need for that. I’m a new ghost.”
“Thanks. I’m glad to hear it.” Felix said. The ghost waved poltergeistically as they walked off.
“Wisp wood trees produce buoyant timber, in case you were interested.” Siphokazi said.
“12, 13, 14…” The ghost counted instinctively as they walked away.
As they neared the castle it grew more and more impressive. It was situated on a hill and surrounded by a sturdy wall that was lined with heavily armoured knights. The Queen’s knights were known as the most loyal and trustworthy knights in the Gnome Archipelago and were often called the Knights of Virtue. It was said the knights would do anything to protect the Queen and not just in a henchman sort of way. They followed the path up to the entrance to the Queens castle where several of the aforementioned knights stood waiting. One of the knights clunked heavily forward.
“Good evening.” Felix said. The knight said nothing.
“I hope you are well.” The knight still said nothing.
“We seek an audience with the Q…”
“Justice!” the knight bellowed.
“JUSTICE!” the knight shouted again. Felix paused.
“Justice!” Felix said.
“Justice justice?” the knight asked.
“Justice justice justice.” Felix replied.
“Justice? Juuuustice.” the knight laughed and beckoned them in. The mighty doors opened in a just-try-it sort of way. The Justice Knight pointed them to another knight. They headed over to him/her, it was hard to tell as he/she was completely hidden within his/her suit of armour.
“Good evening.” Felix said. “We’re here to …”
“HONOUR!” the knight bellowed.
Ultimately, it took Justice, Honour, Temperance, Determination, Respect and unironically Patience to reach the Queen’s waiting room. On there way there they noticed a massive garden within the walls. The Queen was evidently a fan of flowers. In the waiting room there were a few rows of chairs, some toys and two or three other people, one of whom looked rather ill. The waiting room was where the less battle-hardened knights were stationed. More Speed Less Haste brought them a few light drinks. Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbour’s Ass brought them some bakawk kebabs, which Jack respectfully declined. I Shall Feel Regret When Stepping On Snails, sat at the reception and suggested they read a magazine while they waited. There wasn’t much of a selection. All they had were 15 outdated editions of VirtYou. Siphokazi had already taken out one of her own books. Dojima meditated silently. Jack went up to the reception and asked what it was like working for the Queen. Felix made polite conversation with the others who were waiting. One of them was a Molish citizen who had come to ask for a loan to improve the living conditions in his community. The bakawk walked to the nearby hearth and looked into the fire and pondered the countless deaths of her kinsmen. Then she wondered what she tasted like. The ill looking person appeared to be under the impression that he was in a doctor’s waiting room. Felix didn’t get to speak to the third person as she was beckoned in before he could get to her. So, he decided to hear the Molish guy’s plan in more detail.
He was an idealist but undoubtedly inspiring, Felix would have given him a shot.
Soon the Molish guy, GrNash, went in. Felix asked Siphokazi what she was reading. It was evidently one of the books prescribed by the senior librarians whom she mentioned she had great respect for twice in one sentence. She gave what she probably thought was a brief synopsis which consisted of an introduction, several paragraphs of analysis and a conclusion. Felix nodded and mmhmm-ed politely. He contemplated whether it would be rude to interrupt Dojima’s meditation but before he could decide GrNash returned.
“And?” Felix said.
“Not as much as I’d hoped for. I won’t be able to do the whole place at once but they’re giving me enough to start off with. I’ll just have to make do with what I’ve got!” he said.
“That’s the spirit.” Felix said. “Until we meet again, GrNash.”
“Good luck finding Valiant, Felix.” GrNash said as he shook Felix’s paw.
“Do you have any tips for convincing the Queen?” Felix asked.
“Don’t lie. I thought my nose was good but his is something else.” GrNash said.
The doors opened in a no-really-just-try-it sort of way and the party entered.
Dali got to the Hopping Port just in time. Unfortunately, the next episode was on and the full moon arrived before he could convince the attendant to help him. The Hopping Port vanished and Dali the Impressive, a muey and a squid vanished with it.