Chapter thirty-two of my Xenoblade novelisation, and the party acquires an interesting item.
Shulk, Reyn, Sharla, Dunban, Dickson, Otharon and Juju followed Kacha as he led them through the doorway behind the throne in Exile Fortress. He took them up a ramp, winding around the side of the building, until they found themselves back on to flat ground.
Grass grew atop the roof of the fortress, in the middle of which sat a dark-coloured altar. Kacha led the party to it and turned to Shulk. “Hom hom put mirror here!” he ordered.
Shulk obliged, laying the giants’ mirror on top of the altar. The mirror glowed faintly, its light spreading across the altar. The two then went dim, and the altar opened up to reveal its contents.
Inside was a large orange orb, twice as big as Shulk’s head. Reyn reached into the altar, placing his hands beneath it.
“Reyn!” said Dunban sharply.
“What?” asked Reyn, effortlessly lifting the orb from the altar. He gave a shout of surprise. “It’s so light!”
Sharla saw something more out of the corner of her eye. She looked up and promptly reached for her weapon. “Guys!”
The rest of the party followed her eyes and immediately pulled out their own weapons. “There are three of them!” shouted Dunban.
The party were surrounded by giant arachno. They reminded Shulk and Reyn very much of the one they had encountered at the end of Tephra Cave, just before they came out on to the Bionis’ Leg.
They were held up by four purple legs, each tipped with yellow claws. Four chelicerae protruded out of the sides of their tiny faces, with two on either side. Giant black ear-like structures stuck out of the tops of their heads, sporting striking red veins running through them from top to bottom. Out either side of their black abdomens grew an oval-shaped purple structure, from which three spikes poked out of the side. The top of the oval-shaped masses were black, with red dots spotted throughout.
Reyn gripped the orb tightly. “How do we fight these things!?”
“We don’t!” said Dunban harshly. “We just need to break through!”
“What if they follow us?” shouted Juju, panicked.
“Then they’ll fall to our blades,” Dunban growled, rounding on the boy. “They won’t all fit into the throne room. If they go that far, we can fight them one by one.”
One of the arachno, tired of their conversation, fired a shot of web at the party. They dived to get out of the way; it stuck over the top of the altar.
“MOVE!” Dunban roared. He ushered Juju and the rest of the group back towards the ramp they had come up from, fending off the arachno with the help of Shulk and Dickson.
“Here, kid,” growled Reyn, pushing the orb into Juju’s hands. “Don’t drop it. We’ll follow ya. Get the orb and Kacha outta here!” He leapt into the fray alongside his friends, with Sharla and Otharon providing covering fire.
They slowly made their way across the roof of the Exile Fortress, creeping ever closer to the road leading downwards. Juju and Kacha stayed close to Sharla and Otharon, not daring to stray from their protectors.
Juju, Kacha, Sharla and Otharon made it to the ramp. “Start heading down!” barked Otharon. “We’ll hold them off. Don’t let them get that orb!”
As he spoke, one of Sharla’s rifle bullets blasted off the chelicerae of one of the arachno, which Shulk was fighting. The beast shrieked, and he used the distraction to plunge the Monado into its face. It gave a shudder, before collapsing before him.
The other two arachno turned on Shulk, snapping their jaws. One of them lunged at him; he waved the Monado in response and a yellow shield appeared around him. The arachno stopped mid-air when it hit the shield with a sickening crunch.
Dickson leapt on the beast and pushed his rifle into its abdomen. He fired a bullet, sending arachno guts spraying across the roof of the fortress. Sharla and Otharon trained their rifles on the final remaining beast, which attempted to flee.
“Oh no you don’t!” Reyn dashed into its escape route, holding up his shield. “You think we’ll let you get away to attack us again!?”
The arachno shrieked and reared up, preparing to slam its fangs into Reyn. Shulk was reminded of the scene in Tephra Cave. It feels so long ago.
Dunban stepped up to the beast and executed a horizontal slice, cutting his foe in two with his katana. It fell to the ground.
“Ha!” said Reyn. “And you said we couldn’t beat ‘em!”
“We got lucky,” growled Dunban. “Sharla landed an incredibly hard shot, and Shulk was quick off the mark.”
“Are you implying I’m a bad shot, Dunban?” Sharla quipped, smiling. “And that Shulk has slow reflexes?”
“That’s not what I was saying at all,” Dunban began, but stopped when Sharla chuckled. “Ah. You were having a dig.”
“I was,” Sharla confirmed. “Relax a little, Dunban.” Then she noticed Reyn, and her face changed. “Reyn! What happened to your arm!?”
“Hmm?” Reyn followed her gaze and saw part of it was covered in blood. “Oh, that. Just a scratch.”
Sharla sighed. “Let me take a look.” She held out Reyn’s arm and examined the wound. “It doesn’t look too serious. Let me patch it up though. It’ll heal faster this way.” Sharla reached into her bag and began tending to Reyn’s wound.
“That was amazing!” exclaimed Kacha, causing everyone to jump; they had all forgotten he was there.
“We’re merely doing our duty,” Dunban replied.
“So what is that orb?” Shulk asked, turning to look at the object in Juju’s hands.
“It key.” Kacha walked over to Juju to look at the orb more closely. “There two more like it. This one called Daring of the Giants.”
“Daring of the Giants?” Shulk echoed. He frowned. “You said it was a key. A key to what, exactly?”
The Nopon shook his head. “Kacha not know. That why Kacha travel with merchants; Kacha look for answers.”
“So what’re we going to do with it?” Reyn asked.
“Hom hom leave Daring of Giants with Kacha if they not want it,” Kacha suggested hopefully.
“Sounds like a good idea to me,” Sharla agreed. “Kacha will probably make much better use of it than we can, and he can continue his research.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Reyn agreed. The others nodded. He looked down at his arm, now partly bandaged. “Thanks, Sharla.”
“No problem, Reyn. Just let me at it sooner next time.”
“First, we need to get you back to camp,” Dunban said to Kacha. The Nopon was ecstatic with his find as he and the others headed back down the ramp leading down the side of the fortress, back through the throne room, around the path leading all the way around the fortress and came out to ground level.
The party struck north-west, heading back towards the Nopon camp. The sun began its descent in the sky as they walked. They headed past the Silent Obelisk, around the Barren Moor and the Poison Swamp, passing the stunning Zaldania Waterfall again.
“I still can’t believe how light this thing is,” Juju commented, staring in amazement at the orange ball in his hands.
“It probably giant magic,” said Kacha. “Giants able to make all kinds of magic.”
“What other kind of magic could they do?” Juju asked the Nopon.
The Nopon spread its tiny arms wide. “Lots and lots! Kacha cannot possibly name them all.”
The Nopon camp was in sight, and the sky above was pink. When they arrived, the Nopon in the camp were overjoyed to see their friend again. Kacha beckoned them over.
“Look what Kacha find with hom hom friend!” he exclaimed.
“That what Kacha looking for?” one of them asked.
Kacha nodded. “One of them. Friends going to leave it with Kacha so Kacha can research.”
“That excellent news!” said the Nopon. He looked up. “Hom hom stay with us tonight?”
“If you wouldn’t mind, that would be greatly appreciated,” said Dunban gratefully.
“It no trouble!” the Nopon assured him. “Come, gather around campfire, tell stories and eat.”
The party told the Nopon merchants everything that had transpired on their journey to and from the Exile Fortress; the brogs, the Crown Tree, the secret key and their fight in the throne room; Kacha was embarrassed at this point. They talked of finding the orange orb using the mirror Shulk had chanced upon at the Bionis’ Leg. The Nopon were fascinated, listening intently even as they ate their dinner.
“We haven’t defeated all the monsters you’ve asked us to yet, but we will before we leave the marsh,” Dunban assured them.
“Hmm… Okay.” One of the merchants jumped up and yawned. “Sleep time for everyone methinks.”
“You said it,” Reyn agreed. “I’m pooped out after all that action today.”
“How’s your arm, Reyn?” Sharla asked him.
“Yeah, feels fine. You did a great job on it.”
Sharla unwrapped the bandages, taking a long look at it. “It looks okay. I might wrap it up again, just to be sure it doesn’t get infected.”
Shulk leaned back, looking up at the sky. It’s been a long day. “I might get some rest too.”
“I think we all should,” said Dunban.
“Agreed,” said Dickson. “That would require all of you to stop talking so we can all get some piece and quiet.”
Dunban chuckled. “All right then. See you all in the morning.”