The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 6

Exelda sat at the wooden table and drank wine out of a bottle as she watched Kefalia set up two prayer shrines against the wall between the front window and the door. After Kefalia finished, she got down on her knees to pray at one, shuffled over to the next one, prayed at that one, and shuffled back to the first one. She repeated this process until Exelda asked her, “What are you doing?”

Kefalia craned her head towards Exelda as she answered, “I’m praying to Athena for wisdom and Aphrodite for love.”

“Not a good idea!” Exelda took a swig from her wine bottled before she continued, “They don’t get along.”

“Why not?” Kefalia replied curiously.

Stocastin, who had been sitting on the staircase doing equations again, informed Kefalia, “Because wisdom involves logic and love lacks logic. That’s why people who fall in love act like idiots.”

“Oh, is that why people have always called me that?” Kefalia chirped.

Exelda told her, “You didn’t fall in love when you were a child!”

Kefalia disputed, “But I loved my parents!”

“Stocastin didn’t mean that kind of love,” Exelda corrected her. “He meant when you’ve found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.”

“I want to spend the rest of my life with my parents!” Kefalia argued.

Stocastin put in, “I meant the kind of love where you find the one you want to start your own family with.”

Kefalia fretted, “Really? Ugh, love is so confusing! This is why I need to pray to both of them!”

“Are you really praying to Aphrodite about your parents?” Exelda wondered.

“No! I’m praying to her because of my feelings for…” She grew embarrassed and shifted her eyes to the floor bashfully. “Well, I mean, I think I have feelings for… I’m not sure! I don’t know how I feel!”

“Did you know there’s a science behind falling in love?” Stocastin expounded. “It’s a combination of three biochemical reactions in your brain. First, adrenaline is released from an exciting experience, and then a hormone mixes with your brain chemicals to increase attraction. Then a different set of hormones-.”

Exelda interrupted him, “Stocastin, you should really fall in love with someone! You have too much logic!” Stocastin looked slightly miffed by her reaction. “One of you needs more logic, and one of you needs less, so why don’t you both pray for the corresponding goddess’ advice?” Stocastin and Kefalia turned to each other, shrugged, and went to the shrines to pray. To Exelda’s dismay, Stocastin went to Athena’s shrine and Kefalia went to Aphrodite. “No, you have it backwards! Ugh!”

From the hayloft above them, Akintos peeked his head over the railing and requested, “Will you keep it down? Someone’s trying to sleep up here!”

“Since when do you need quiet to sleep?” Exelda retorted.

“I’m not talking about me,” Akintos expressed to her. “Narcius is trying to get his ‘beauty sleep,’ okay?”

Exelda teased him, “So what are you doing up there? Do you also think he’s beautiful when he sleeps?”

Akintos looked affronted. “How dare you! I’m just too comfortable to get up. I mean stand up!”

Kefalia, Exelda, and Stocastin all doubled over in laughter, and in the middle of their fit of giggles, they heard a knock on the door. Stocastin indicated to Kefalia, “You’re closest to the door.” Kefalia laid perfectly still, so he awkwardly inquired, “Um, are you going to get that?”

With her teeth clenched together, Kefalia stated, “I can’t.”

“We’ve been over this before, Kefalia,” Exelda reminded her, “All you have to do is turn the knob to open it.”

“No, I mean I literally can’t,” Kefalia iterated. “I can’t move for several minutes.”

Akintos concurred, “Same here!”

Kefalia sighed, “This always happens when I laugh too hard!”

As Stocastin answered the door, he remarked, “You don’t make any sense!”

The person at the door turned out to be Dason. “Pardon?”

“I think he’s talking to me,” Kefalia let him know while still lying on the ground.

“I see…” Dason stared at her in confusion but decided not to ask. “Oh, I see you’ve been praying for luck in your upcoming battles!”

Stocastin gasped, “That would have been a great idea!”

Dason queried, “Why else would you be praying to Athena?”

“New equations to solve.” Stocastin hung his head ashamedly.

Dason raised his eyebrows but, once again, decided not to press the subject. “Oh, I see someone’s been praying to Aphrodite! Was it you?” He pointed to Exelda.

Exelda held up her bottle of alcohol in the air. “No, I’m paying tribute to the wine god, Bacchus!”

Dason probed, “Are you a drunkard?”

“I’m not a drunkard! I don’t drink that much!” She stood up and brushed her foot against another bottle, which chimed against a few more.

“You could get called into battle at any moment,” Dason gently chided her. “You shouldn’t engage in anything that impairs your judgment.”

Exelda felt deeply insulted by that. “My drinking doesn’t affect my fighting skills! And my mind is as sharp as a…”

From the hayloft, Akintos joked, “Feather.”

“Yes!” She thought about it for a second and corrected herself, “Wait, no!” Dason watched her skeptically, so she contended, “That doesn’t prove anything!”

“You want to prove yourself? Well then, punch me!” Dason challenged.

Kefalia, Stocastin, and Akintos all reacted in horror, and Exelda cautioned him, “I have super strength, I’ll kill you!”

Dason responded, “I didn’t say a hard punch. Go ahead and lob me with a soft one.” Kefalia, Akitnos, and Stocastin all had nervous expressions on their faces as Exelda stepped up to him. She pulled her fist back and sprang it forward, fully expecting to feel his clothing. Instead, she only felt air as her fist landed to the left of his arm. “Yeah, that’s what I thought!”

“You moved!” Exelda claimed.

“I can’t move yet!” Kefalia commented.

Exelda spat, “Not you!”

Dason calmly replied, “I didn’t move. Now, as prince, I order you not to drink alcohol or take any other mind altering substances so long as you’re under the polis’ employment. That goes for everyone, to be fair.”

The others didn’t seem to care, but Exelda looked irate. “To be fair! It’s easy for you to say! You don’t have any reason to drink!”

“You don’t think I have problems?” Dason disputed. “Did you forget that a decade ago, my wife died of a mysterious illness? And my parents aren’t doing so well, so I have to take over their royal duties! It’s not exactly easy to run a polis, especially when your polis is getting attacked by monsters and you don’t even know why!”

“Yeah, well…I guess you do have reasons to drink!” Exelda’s mood went from combative to sympathetic. “I’m sorry!”

Dason assured her, “I’m not mad. I know it won’t be easy, but you’ll have to find a way to deal with your problems that doesn’t involve alcohol. Personally, I like to exercise.” Exelda looked terrified at the thought, so he put a empathetic hand on her shoulder. She didn’t seem too optimistic about the idea, but she did seem as though she appreciate his gesture. After a moment, Dason felt somewhat awkward and removed his hand. “Oh, um… speaking of exercise, how’s practice going?”

Akintos divulged, “We started practicing yesterday, but I made a crack about the dummy being better looking than Narcius, so he got mad and destroyed it. Now we’re bored.”

Dason shook his head. “You don’t need a dummy to practice! Find another way to hone your skills! Remember, we won’t pay you to save the city-state if the city-state doesn’t exist anymore!”

“I never thought about like that!” Akintos mulled this concept over.

Dason chuckled and added, “We want you to survive this ordeal as well, so please take this seriously!” They all mumbled in agreement. He turned to leave and said, “Take care of yourselves now!” He noticed that Exelda still seemed worried, so he softly nudged her chin up and reassured her, “You’ll be fine without it, I promise!” He smiled at her encouragingly, but she could only half smile back. He accepted this and waved to the others before he left.

After he was gone, Exelda went back to the table and picked up a bottle of wine by habit. As she uncorked it, she remembered Dason’s decree, so she put it down and grumbled, “Well, I didn’t have anything planned for today. Let’s practice!” She yelled to Akintos, “Can you see if Narcius is still alive?”

“I could,” he replied. “but I’m so comfortable here…”

“Ugh!” Exelda still had a cork in her hand, so she threw it up to the hayloft. She knew she had hit her target when she heard his high pitched scream. “Oh good, you’re awake! Time to practice!”

As Dason walked down a hillside path, he noticed a man in the bushes grunting and gesturing wildly. Dason questioned him, “Um, what are you doing?”

Marcin quickly turned around and stood as if he were hiding something behind him. “I’m not doing anything sinister!”

Dason found his behavior odd, but he decided that he didn’t want to know after all. “Okay then!”

As Dason began to walk away, Marcin got struck with an idea. “Actually, I could use your help.”

“Pass!” Dason immediately declined.

“No, no, no! It’s not what you think!” Marcin clarified. He looked at him pleadingly, and while Dason didn’t totally believe him, he stepped off the path to investigate. When Dason couldn’t see him anymore, Marcin held up a burlap sack and grinned wickedly.

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 5

In a vast, gilded room, a red carpet led up to a small stage with four golden thrones overlooking the area, but only one of the chairs was occupied at that moment. A handsome man with silky, black hair, light blue eyes, fine clothing that perfectly complimented his toned body, and a laurel crown sat anxiously waiting. He looked up when he heard Kefalia exclaim, “Wow, it’s so big!”

Narcius vainly joked, “Boy, I wish I had a Drachma for every time I heard that!”

Akintos retorted, “You’d have one Drachma! We’ve all seen you at the baths!” Narcius looked a little crestfallen by that point.

Cyrek cleared his throat and subtly gestured towards the man on the throne, which made everyone sober up. Cyrek bowed and greeted him, “Prince Dason!”

Dason stepped off of the stage and told Cyrek, “Please, let’s skip the formalities! Tell me what is going on in my kingdom!”

Cyrek explained, “Well, it was hard enough to get the senate to convene let alone discuss solutions for the monster invasion, so I decided to go to the oracle, Melampia for guidance. I learned that these five people had the power to stop it.”

“And I learned not to hit on an angry oracle!” Krimeno proudly shared.

“Uh, okay…” Dason raised an eyebrow but decided not to discuss Krimeno’s statement any further. “Did you say five people?” He looked over to the heroes and saw Kefalia, Narcius, Akintos, and Stocastin very clearly. He walked over to them and noticed someone hiding behind Stocastin. He peered around him and saw Exelda trying to hide her face. When he stepped closer to her, he was able to recognize her. “Hey, I know you!”

Exelda fibbed, “No, you don’t!”

Dason chuckled, “Do you think I could forget a day like that?”

“Could you try?” Exelda shot back.

“Oh, come on! It wasn’t that bad!” Dason assured her.

Exelda pouted, “Yeah, not for you! I was humiliated!”

Stocastin jumped in, “There’s obviously a story here! You know you have to tell us! We won’t leave you alone until you do.” The others fervently agreed with him.

Exelda clearly did not want to tell the history shared between them, but she knew Stocastin was absolutely right, so she relented, “Fine! You already know that I got kicked out of the military because they found out I was a girl. Well, I lied about how they found out. It wasn’t because someone hit me in the crotch and I didn’t double over in pain. The truth is that I became a war hero, and I got called to the palace so the king and queen could reward me for my service. In addition to a large sum of money, they wanted to honor me by giving me… well…”

Dason supplied, “My sister’s hand in marriage.”

Akintos, Narcius, Stocastin, Krimeno, and Cyrek all laughed, but Kefalia seemed puzzled. “Wait, you were married?”

“No!” Exelda replied while still sulking. “She tried to kiss me, so I took off my armor to show her that I’m a woman. She got mad as if I tried to embarrass her on purpose, so King Iremio and Queen Erini told me they’d let me keep the money if I promised not to let the public hear this story. So, there, now you know everything!”

Akintos commented, “You know what would’ve made the story better? If you kissed her!” Narcius and Krimeno concurred.

Exelda rolled her eyes, but before she could respond, Dason blurted out, “Hey, the story’s already really hot!” Everyone stared at him in surprise, so he questioned, “Oh, did I say that out loud?” Kefalia, Narcius, Stocastin, Akintos, and Krimeno verified that he had, and his face flushed.

‘You think the story’s hot?” Exelda probed.

Dason’s cheeks burned red as he replied, “Sorry, it’s just that seeing a manly soldier strip down and turn into a beautiful woman is, well, rather enticing!”

“Yeah, I could see that!” Narcius acknowledged. Akintos, Stocastin, and Krimeno shared his sentiment.

“Aw, you think she’s beautiful?” Kefalia cooed.

Exelda looked surprised at that thought and turned to Dason, who didn’t respond other than to show a pronounced bashfulness. After a bout of awkward silence, Cyrek spoke up, “Okay, so you obviously know Exelda. This is Kefalia, Narcius, Stocastin, and Akintos. The five of them have volunteered to help us save Chaos from the monsters.”

“Monsters?” Exelda, Akintos, Stocastin, Kefalia, and Narcius each echoed.

“Monsters?” Narcius repeated. “As in more than one?”

Cyrek attempted to respond casually, “Yeah, didn’t I mention this already?” The five heroes shook their heads. “Oh, well, now you know.”

Akintos brought up, “I also heard you say volunteer. Not only do we have to fight multiple monsters, but we have to do it for free?”

“I’ll see to it you get paid for your services,” Dason assured them. “The first monster is at least dead now, right?”

“We left it in a state that appeared to be rigor mortis,” Stocastin reported. “Its molecular structure didn’t appear to have regenerative properties, so we believe it is fully incapacitated.”

Dason seemed a little confused, so Exelda clarified, “Yes, it’s dead.”

“Oh, thank gods!” Dason sighed in relief. “I’m glad we have our best people on the case!” Everyone in the room shifted uncomfortably. “What?”

Everyone except for Krimeno thought about how to word it politely, but Krimeno thoughtlessly divulged, “I wouldn’t say they’re the best, but they have super powers, so it balances out.”

Dason’s face conveyed skepticism, so Cyrek confirmed, “It’s true, they do have super powers, they just… need some practice.”

“I see…” Dason still displayed some doubt but apparently decided not to press the issue any further. “Well, we’ll have to periodically monitor your progress. Make sure you’re ready to go at any time because we don’t know when the next attack will come. And please reach out to me if you need anything!”

“Anything?” Akintos rubbed his chin contemplatively.

Dason amended his original thought, “Not anything!” He offered his hand to shake, and Akintos begrudgingly shook it as he turned to to leave. He shook each of their hands in turn, and when he got to Exelda, he told her, “I’ll see you soon!”

“Yes, your majesty,” Exelda responded formally.

“Please, just Dason,” he let her know. Exelda smiled but didn’t say anything else to him as she turned to leave.

Before Cyrek showed them out of the room, Kefalia waved to him. “Goodbye, Just Dason!” Dason chuckled as they went out.

Later that day, Marcin went up to Mercinon, who appeared to be sleeping with his face down on the desk. Marcin shook him gently. “Sire? Sire?”

Mercinon groggily woke up, and when he became fully alert, he wondered, “I’m still here?” He saw Marcin shrug, and when he had his arms extended, Mercinon noticed a bunch of scratch marks all over his extremities. “Wow, your new girlfriend likes it rough!”

“My girlfriend didn’t do this!” Marcin refuted. “Oh, well she did that one.” Mercin began tapping his fingers impatiently, so Marcin went on, “Anyways, I found some monsters for you. It took some persuasion, but I’ve convinced them to help us.”

“Why do I feel like there’s a big but there?” Mercinon speculated.

Marcin disputed, “My girlfriend’s butt isn’t that big!”

Mercinon growled, “I’m talking about the monsters, you moron! I can tell there’s a catch. How did you persuade them to join us.”

“Uh… well…” Marcin seemed hesitant to tell him, but when Mercinon glared at him, he admitted, “I had to promise them gold.”

Mercinon clearly expected something much more dire, so he loosened up when he heard this. “That’s it? Good! Tell them I’ll pay them after the job is done.”

Marcin nervously informed him, “They demanded the gold up front.”

After he clicked his tongue in annoyance, Mercinon gave in, “Fine! Normally, I don’t like to pay until the work is done, but-.”

“Oh, they don’t want the gold for payment purposes,” Marcin explained. “They need it as food.”

“WHAT?” Mercinon roared. “They eat gold?”

Marcin got down to his knees. “I’m so sorry! I can go find cheaper monsters. I just thought since we’re dealing with people that have super powers that you’d want me to find the most-!”

“Woah, woah, woah!” Mercinon interrupted. “People with super powers?”

Marcin’s face went pale. “I forgot to tell you about that, didn’t I?” Mercinon scowled at him. “That’s a yes. I’ll just see myself to the jackals!”

Mercinon stopped him, but he still sounded thoroughly vexed. “What do you know about these people with super powers?”

Marcin shook his head. “I don’t know anything.”

“Isn’t that the truth!” Mercinon exclaimed. “Look, I’ll spare you from the jackals if you can keep yourself useful. Go find out what you can about these supernatural people and report back to me.”

“Yes, sire!” Marcin sounded immensely relieved to have been spared. He paused and then gingerly asked, “So, do you want to feed the monsters I found or…?”

Mercinon went under his desk and grabbed a sack of coins. He tossed it to Marcin, hitting him in the stomach hard enough to make him grunt. “Find some less expensive monsters! I’m not feeding them again!”

Marcin readily agreed, “Yes, sire!” He hastily left the room, and Mercinon exasperatedly sat down at his desk. After a moment of digesting everything, he spotted a gold coin on his desk. Curious, he picked it up and tried to take a bite out of it. He found that it tasted awful and threw it away from him in disgust.

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 4

Cyrek and Krimeno lead Exelda, Narcius, Kefalia Stocastin, and Akintos to a part of the capitol where many buildings were destroyed and people ran around in a panic. When the five of them saw the Menoreas for the first time, they stopped dead in their tracks. Cyrek pointed out, “There’s the monster.”

“Gee, really?” Exelda responded sarcastically.

Cyrek told them, “We’ll be watching you from here. Good luck!” Cyrek and Krimeno hid behind a still standing pillar and peeked their heads out to observe.

Exelda, Narcius, Kefalia, Stocastin, and Akintos stared blankly at the Menoreas for a moment. Kefalia broke their torpor by saying, “Okay, so what’s the plan?”

“We were supposed to have a plan?” Akintos questioned.

“We’re supposed to use our powers,” Narcius put in.

Exelda turned to Stocastin and inquired, “What do you know about the Menoreas?”

Stocastin shook his head. “I’m afraid I don’t remember reading about them before.”

“What?” Exelda exclaimed. “You’re supposed to be the idea person! Ugh, how will we know which of our powers will be effective on it?”

“We’ll have to experiment and find out,” Stocastin stated.

Narcius replied, “What do you mean, experiment? We’re supposed to just take turns fighting it and see who survives?”

Stocastin retorted, “Got any better ideas?” Narcius couldn’t come up with anything.

“So, who’s going first then?” Akintos queried. They all stared at him expectantly. “What? You want me to go first?”

“Well, you can attack from a safe distance,” Exelda observed. “It’s not like it’s that hard for you!”

“Ugh, fine!” Akintos relented. He walked to a spot on the street where he could get a better shot at it and pointed his palm. “Alright! Prepare to die!” The Menoreas spotted him him before he could fire and swatted him away like a bug, sending him flying into an already wrecked building behind the rest of them! “I guess I was talking to myself!”

The Menoreas noticed the rest of them, and they slowly backed away from it as it started to move in their direction. From behind the pillars, Cyrek expressed his doubts, “Maybe this was a bad idea!”

As Cyrek and Krimeno watched Stocastin walk towards the Menoreas without using his powers, Krimeno remarked, “Well, you know, Melampia was on drugs!”

“All of the oracles are on drugs!” Cyrek said with annoyance.

Exelda, Narcius, Kefalia, and Akintos all urged Stocastin to turn invisible, but he just stood there, trembling. The Menoreas batted him away, and he landed against a water trough with a thud. He then immediately turned invisible, which made Exelda shout, “Oh, now you turn invisible!”

“It’s not easy under pressure!” Stocastin rejoindered.

Exelda groaned, but before anyone could say anything else, the Menoreas came closer to them, so she drew out her sword and bravely ran towards it. It tried to attack her, but she dodged his attempts and thrust her sword into its leg. The Menoreas did not bleed nor did it cry out in pain. She watched its skin absorb her sword into its body, and she stared at it in confusion. “Huh?” The Menoreas took advantage of her distraction and swatted her away. After she landed back by the rest of her housemates in a crumple, she yelled, “Do something!”

“What are supposed to do if a sword-?” Before Narcius could finish his thought, the Menoreas hovered over him. He gave a high pitched scream and began circling around it at top speed. He tried to stab it at various parts of the monster that he could reach, but nothing he did seemed to have an effect on the monster except for distracting it as it unsuccessfully tried to nab him.

As Akintos and Stocastin helped Exelda up, Exelda instructed Kefalia, “Fly up and attack the parts he can’t reach!”

“Okay!” Kefalia flew hesitantly flew near it and tried to attack it, and he averted his attention from Narcius to her. He attempted to bat her away, but she flew around it and dodged its blows. Cyrek and Krimeno exchanged nervous glances as they watched her vain attempts at getting the upper hand. Finally, it caught up with her and slapped her down.

Kefalia landed in a puddle, which splashed the Menoreas. When the water hit its skin, the Menoreas shrieked in pain. Exelda called out excitedly, “That’s it! Water! I have an idea!”

“Oh, thank gods!” Akintos breathed a sigh of relief.

Exelda hollered to Narcius, who was still attacking the Menoreas, “Narcius! Lead it to the fountain in front of the capitol!”

“What? Why?” Narcius questioned.

“Just do it!” Exelda ordered.

Narcius begrudgingly adhered to her instructions. He stopped long enough for the Menoreas to attempt to smash him, but before it could reach him, he zipped forward. He stopped again, and the Menoreas tried again. While Narcius kept repeating this pattern, Exelda grabbed a large rope that was nearby and told Akintos, Kefalia, and Stocastin, “Come on!” They followed Narcius and the Menoreas.

When the others caught up with them, Narcius continued to distract it while he asked, “Now what?”

Exelda directed, “Kefalia, create a distraction in the air so he doesn’t see what we’re doing on the ground!”

Kefalia flew above its head and shouted, “Distraction! Distraction! Distraction!”

As the Menoreas tried to swipe at her, Exelda handed the rope to Stocastin. “You and Akintos stretch the rope behind it.” They hastily did as they were told, and as soon as they were done, Exelda ran as fast as she could towards the monster. As she reached it, she pushed its body as hard as possible. Her impact made it step back, and when it did, it tripped over the rope and fell into the fountain. It roared in pain, but it slowly got quieter and quieter until it moved no more.

It took them a while to realize what just happened, and when it finally sunk in, Exelda vehemently rejoiced, “We did it! We won!”

Kefalia flew down and excitedly commented, “We’re still alive!” The five of them went in for a group hug in exhilaration. After a moment, they heard applause and cheers behind them. It confused them at first, but after they broke apart, they saw that the townspeople were celebrating them! They bashfully accepted their recognition.

Cyrek and Krimeno ran up to them, and Cyrek shook each of their hands. Cyrek praised them, “Congratulations! Well done! I had no doubt that you would prevail!” Krimeno opened his mouth to correct him, so Cyrek spat, “Shut up!”

A man ran up to Cyrek and informed him, “Sir, Prince Dason requests a word with you.”

“Very well.” Cyrek invited the five of them, “Would you heroes care to join us?” Exelda looked thoroughly nonplussed about the idea, but the other four readily agreed, so she knew she had no choice about going with them.

Before they left, a villager stopped them, “Wait!” All seven in the group turned around. “What are we supposed to do with that?”
He pointed to the fountain where the Menoreas’s corpse still laid. No one had really thought about that, so they didn’t know how to respond until Akintos brushed him off, “Hey, we were hired to slay a monster, not clean it up!” The others agreed with his logic and left the villager standing there slightly miffed.

Inside of his office that overlooked Chaos, Mercinon delicately stacked a playing card on top of a very large house of cards as Marcin entered the room. He gazed at Mercinon skittishly, and then he awkwardly conversed, “Bored again, sire?”

Mercinon sarcastically replied, “No, this is really important.” Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Marcin shifting uncomfortably. “What do you want?”

Marcin sputtered, “Oh, I, uh, have… interesting news.”

Still concentrating on his house of cards, Mercinon probed, “Interesting good?”


“Well, what’s the news? Spit it out!”

Marcin took a deep breath and revealed, “The Menoreas is dead!”

This information startled Mercinon enough to make him lose his focus, which made him topple down his house of cards. “Great! Now my entire day has been a waste of time!” Marcin stared at him in cowardice, and Mercinon moaned, “How did this happen?”

Marcin answered, “You placed the card on too hard, and the pressure made-.”

“The Menoreas!” Mercinon snapped.

“Oh, sorry!” Marcin clumsily apologized. “It looks like a group of people figured out its weakness.”

“Argh!” Mercinon slumped into a throne-like chair near his desk. Marcin watched him as if he were waiting for further instruction, so Mercinon barked, “What are you just standing there for? Go find more monsters!”

“Find more?” Marcin echoed.

Mercinon irritatedly responded, “Or make them, I don’t care!”

Marcin chuckled, “Make them? Who do I look like, Zeus?” Mercinon glared at him, so he stated obediently, “I’ll get right on it!” After he exited, Mercinon rubbed his temples in frustration.

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 3

In a clay house with a thatched roof, a woman with dark-brown hair, golden brown eyes, beige skin, and a bronze toga on a a thick but curvy body peered out of a window with tattered, purple curtains. With a slight slur in her voice, she called out, “Hey guys, I think Chaos is under attack!”

A man with shaggy, brown hair, a pale complexion, and a pot belly lounged against a haystack near the inglenook. He yawned and stretched before he replied, “Neat! Are there any fires?”

The woman near the window insisted, “I’m serious! It looks like a lot of people are in trouble!”

From a wooden table near an open area, a woman with flowing blonde hair, blue eyes, and a taut little body played cat’s cradle with a piece of twine. “They’re in trouble for starting the fires?”

The first woman responded, “Uh, no! There’s a giant monster destroying everything in its path!”

A very thin man with short, black hair, porcelain skin, and dark-rimmed spectacles lazily scribbled mathematical formulas on a piece of parchment while sitting on a wooden staircase. “That seems highly improbable! How much have you had to drink?”

“Nothing!” The brunette woman paused and then corrected herself, “Okay, maybe a little! But my wine doesn’t make me hallucinate! There’s a monster at the capitol!”

From a hayloft on a small second story of the building, a man with finely combed, dark hair, a chiseled jawline, and a toga that showed off his muscly physique asserted, “Oh, she’s obviously playing a joke on us.” He descended the staircase, not realizing that he almost stepped on the bespectacled man’s equations. “But the situation warrants verification, and I, the descendant of the most decorated soldier in Greek history, should be the one to take on such a potentially precarious task!” He confidently approached the window as he spoke, “If there is, indeed, a monster, then we’ll need to rely on my vast courage to-.” When he got around to actually looking out of the window, his eyes went wide with horror. He let out a high pitched scream and hid behind the brunette woman.

The brunette woman shook him off of her, which sent him to the floor. She folded her arms and stated, “I told you!”

With their curiosity peaked, the other three went to the window to see what was happening. All three got shocked by what they saw! The bespectacled man declared, “This defies all logic!”

“Do you think it’d come here?” the blonde woman asked.

The shaggy haired man sniffed in disgust. “I doubt it! Everyone tries to avoid us, why should he be any different?”

The brunette woman challenged him, “What makes you think it’s a he? You don’t think a female monster is capable of such carnage?”

“I’m not saying a female monster couldn’t,” the shaggy haired man refuted. “But getting angry and destroying the city is such a dude thing to do.”

The man on the floor put in, “I doubt a monster would understand the rumors people spread about us! And if he does, then he’ll leave us alone. Nothing to worry about!”

“Except spiders!” the blonde woman added.

“Spiders? Where?” The man on the floor shot up and looked around frantically.

The brunette woman cried out, “Nothing to worry about except for a monster taking away innocent lives! We should help them!”

The bespectacled man scoffed, “Why should we help them? They haven’t been very nice to us.”

The shaggy haired man agreed, “If they needed us, they’d come over and beg for our forgiveness! The odds of that happening are as likely as me becoming a rich athlete tomorrow!”

Suddenly, they heard a knock on the door. They all seemed to find the timing uncanny, and for a moment, everyone just stared in that direction. The brunette woman cautiously went over to the door and slowly opened it. She was surprised to see Cyrek and Krimeno standing there. As they entered, the five inhabitants of the house all became pretty confused. Cyrek, who clearly felt awkward, cleared his throat, pulled out a small piece of parchment, and read out loud, “Narcius?” The muscly man raised his hand. “Akintos?” The shaggy haired man raised his hand. “Kefalia?” The blonde woman raised her hand. “Stocastin?” The bespectacled man raised his hand. “Exelda?” The brunette woman raised her hand. He put the scroll away and introduced himself, “I’m Cyrek, senate leader of Chaos, and this is my assistant, Krimeno.” Krimeno nodded. Cyrek took a deep breath before he spoke again. “On behalf of the people of Chaos, I’d like to apologize for how we treated you! We were ignorant and unfair, and we’d like to humbly beg for your forgiveness because we really need your help! Chaos is in trouble!”

“Who cares!” Akintos exclaimed. “Tomorrow, I’ll be set for life!”

Cyrek seemed a little thrown off by Akintos’s response, and after Exelda shook her head, she regarded Cyrek, “You don’t have to respond to that. So, all these years, you’ve igonred us, but now you need our help? What changed your mind?”

“We went to the oracle for answers on how to defeat the Menoreas,” Cyrek explained. “And she said you guys have the power to defeat it.”

Exelda, Akintos, Stocastin, Kefalia, and Narcius all glanced at each other with questioning looks. Stocastin reported, “It’s been our general policy not to talk about our special abilities.”

Cyrek retorted, “Then don’t talk, show me!” He took the dummy from Krimeno and walked over to a hook hanging on the wall near the fireplace. “I’d like you all to demonstrate your abilities on this dummy.” He hung the dummy up by its neck. “The dummy’s name is Krimeno. Any questions?” Krimeno raised his hand, but Cyrek ignored him.

The five others exchanged glances, non-verbally wondering if they should show them or not. Eventually, Exelda went to a corner where some old weapons were stored and grabbed a sword. Cyrek got out of the way as she stood before the dummy. She raised her sword only to have it fly out of her hand. Cyrek and Krimeno looked to each other doubtfully, but Exelda shrugged it off, “It’s okay, I don’t need it!” She ran towards the dummy and raised her fist to punch it. She missed and hit the wall, but the impact of her blow shook the whole house so much that the dummy’s head fell off!
Everyone but Exelda got knocked to the ground from the tremors she created. As they picked themselves up, Kefalia grumped, “I hate it when she does that!”

Krimeno and Cyrek had astonished expressions on their faces, and Cyrek gasped, “Wow, you’re super strong!” Exelda gave a half bow as a thank you. “Alright, let’s put Krimeno’s head back on and see what else you guys can do!” As Exelda returned the dummy’s head to its body, Cyrek noticed that Akintos hadn’t gotten up from when they were knocked down. “Are you okay?”

“I didn’t realize how comfortable our floor was before!” Akintos stretched and settled in more.

“She said all five of you had powers, so get up and show us what you can do!” Cyrek commanded.

Akintos laughed, “I don’t need to get up to show you what I can do!” He pointed his palm up, which made a fireball shoot out! It flew across the room and engulfed the dummy in flames!

“Woah!” Cyrek and Krimeno said in unison.

Cyrek requested, “Can someone pour water on the Krimeno dummy?” Kefalia threw a bucket of water on the real Krimeno, which made Cyrek grin. “No, the one made of cloth.”

As Kefalia poured water on the dummy, Narcius stepped forward. “I shall go next. As the descendant of the most decorated soldier in Greek history, I inherited a great power! But I don’t see how being the world’s greatest lover will help fight the monster!” He laughed hysterically, but no one else did. Exelda rolled her eyes, and then she picked up a piece of hay and discretely tickled the back of Narcius’s neck. Narcius shrieked, “A spider!” He zipped around the room so fast he became a blur! He passed by the dummy, and his sheer speed caused the dummy’s head to fall off again. After circling the room a few times, he finally stopped to catch his breath.

Cyrek and Krimeno both looked impressed. Stocastin, who was closest to where the dummy’s head had rolled, picked up the head and noted, “Krimeno keeps losing his head.”

“Tell me about it!” Cyrek commented, making Krimeno pout. “Since you’re already heading over there, why don’t you put on his head and show us what you can do.”

“Very well!” After Stocastin attached the head, he cleared his throat as he faced the dummy. “Did you know if you take the sum of the squares of the sides of a right triangle, it will equal to the square of-?”

Cyrek interrupted him, “What are you doing?”

Stocastin justified himself, “I intend to boggle his mind so much that it will explode!”

“That might work on the real Krimeno, but no the clothe one,” Cyrek pointed out. “Please show your actual power.”

“Very well,” Stocastin conceded. In the blink of an eye, he disappeared out of sight! They saw a small indent on the dummy that looked like a fist mark, but the dummy hardly moved. Stocastin suddenly reappeared and proclaimed, “My mathematical skills are far more impressive!”

“I disagree!” Cyrek differed. His attention then shifted to Kefalia. “Okay, your turn.”

“Turn?” Kefalia spun around in circles.

Exelda grabbed her shoulders to stop her in her tracks. “Show him your powers!”

“Oh!” Kefalia stood on her tiptoes with her arms extended, and she floated up into the air. She flew in circles around the ceiling until she hit a wooden beam. “Ow!” She returned to the ground rather abruptly.

Cyrek confirmed, “Wow! You guys really do have powers! You’re not exactly graceful, but we can work on that!” Before the five of them could respond, Cyrek passionately orated, “The oracle was right about you guys having powers, so she must be right about you being able to save Chaos! I know the people here haven’t been very nice to you, but it’s time to make them sorry for their mistreatment! You have the potential to go down in history as the greatest heroes in Chaotic history, so it would be a shame if you let that go to waste! It’s time to fulfill your destiny! Now, who’s ready to fight a monster?” The five of them stood still with their eyes wide in fright. The mumbled a halfhearted agreement, and Cyrek concluded, “Close enough! Let’s go!”

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 2

Cyrek and Krimeno briskly walked down a trail surrounded by lush, green plants and moss-covered trees. The sun poked in between the shade, and the humidity was almost tangible. They stopped for a moment to catch their breath. Cyrek remarked, “That was good thinking back there! Your singing really drove them off!”

“Do you think they liked it?” Krimeno asked with sincerity.

Cyrek made an exasperated face but did not answer. Instead, Cyrek commented, “Those scribes are relentless! We better hurry before they find us again! I can’t imagine her reaction if we showed up with a crowd of people!”

“But would it really be so bad if they knew?” Krimeno wondered. “They’re going to find out eventually, so why not be upfront about it?”

Cyrek objected to his logic, “Have you lost your mind?” Krimeno opened his mouth to speak, so Cyrek cut him off, “Don’t answer that!” Krimeno shut his mouth again. “We can’t let them know what she says in case she has bad news. If she can’t help us, we don’t want the public to think we have no idea what to do!”

Krimeno brought up, “But we don’t know what to do!”

“I know that!” Cyrek snapped. “We can’t let the public know that, for Elysium’s sake! If we lose our cool, so will they!”

“They’re already panicking from the monster destroying everything in sight though!” Krimeno pointed out.

Cyrek explained, “Yes, but once the monster is out of their sight, they go back to feeling calm from the reassurance that their government has a plan. If they lost that, hysteria would tear our society apart! What’s left of it anyways. We were elected to solve their greatest problems, so we can’t admit we don’t know how to fix this! They won’t understand that this problem is too great for mere mortals to solve! We need to consult the gods on what to do, and once we follow their advice, then maybe we’ll tell the public what the oracle said.”

“Maybe?” Krimeno questioned.

“Yes,” Cyrek confirmed. “If she gives us bad news, then we’re going to pretend like this never happened.”

“Got it!” Krimeno told him enthusiastically.

“Do you really?” Cyrek sounded a little surprised.

Krimeno confidently asserted, “Yes! I thought you took my map away, but I got it!” He pulled it out of his toga and held it up proudly. Cyrek groaned.

They came across a narrow hill, and on the very top, a temple with white columns became apparent. A puff of florescent pink smoke billowed from the center of the structure, and they could hear a woman humming in the distance. Krimeno had his map out and studied it in confusion. “There’s a lot of hills in this area! How will we know we’ve found the right one?”

Slightly annoyed, Cyrek suggested, “Why don’t you look up?”

“How will that help?” Krimeno craned his head to gaze at the sky. Cyrek gave an irritated sigh and moved Krimeno’s head to face the right direction. “Oh!” They both stared at it with a growing sense of trepidation. After a moment, Krimeno nervously blurted out, “Well, it was nice working with you!”

Krimeno tried to run away, but Cyrek grabbed him by the shoulders, forcing him to stop. “Don’t be such a baby! Get up there!” He pushed him towards the hill.

Krimeno stiffly began his ascent up the hill, and when he realized he was walking alone, he called out, “You are coming, right?”

With a shaky voice, Krimeno replied, “Yeah, I’m right behind you!”

Cyrek followed Krimeno up the hill. As they got closer, they could hear the woman’s humming a lot more clearly. She had a melodic, soothing voice, and combining that with the fruity scent that overpowered the air, Krimeno and Cyrek’s fears began to quell. When they neared the temple, they saw a beautiful woman flowing robes and bushy, brunette hair that reached the middle of her back standing in the center. She had her eyes covered with a tattered white blindfold as she hovered over a cauldron with a bubbling, pink liquid. She stopped humming but did not stop swaying as she greeted them, “Welcome!”

Cyrek and Krimeno stepped towards her, and Cyrek addressed her, “Hello! My name is Cyrek, and this is my assistant, Krimeno.” He gestured towards him, but when he realized that she couldn’t see, he awkwardly put his hands to his sides.

“My name is Melampia, Oracle of Chaos!” she said while adding an ingredient into her potion. “Of course, you already know that. You came here purposefully to ask a question.”

“How did you know that?” Cyrek responded incredulously.

Melampia simply stated, “Why else would you journey here? No one comes just to chat.”

“Aw! How sad!” Krimeno reacted sympathetically.

Melampia didn’t respond to Krimeno’s assertion, and Cyrek rolled his eyes before he regarded her, “Oh, wise one! Chaos has a terrible problem! We’ve been invaded by a monster, a powerful one! It’s taller than most of our buildings and can destroy any structure it comes across! It has long, sharp teeth that can tear almost anything to shreds! And-!”

“And it has bubbly, red skin that makes it such an eyesore to look at!” Krimeno added. Cyrek put his hand to his temple and shook his head in frustration.

Before Cyrek could finish his thought, Melampia noted, “Ah, yes, the Menoreas. It is the first of many to attack Chaos.”

Both Cyrek and Krimeno’s eyes grew wide in shock. Cyrek’s muscles tensed up, and his expression grew almost blank as if his mind didn’t want to accept what he just heard. “First of many?” he echoed.

“Yes,” Melampia affirmed. “A dark force seeks to take over the kingdom and will use creatures of horror to make it happen.”

“Oh my gods!” Cyrek slumped against one of the pillars that lined the edge of the temple. “We can’t even handle the one we got, and there’s going to be more?”

Krimeno thought about it briefly and concluded, “Yeah, it’s good the scribes weren’t here to witness this!”

Cyrek glared at Krimeno, but he decided to bite his tongue to focus on more pressing matters. “Is there nothing we can do to stop this dark force and its monsters from destroying our polis?”

Melampia fell silent for a moment. Cyrek and Krimeno looked at each other grimly, and they waited for her reply on pins and needles. Melampia poured something else into her cauldron, making the smoke become denser. Although she kept her blindfold on, she appeared to be gazing into the thick vapor. Finally, she spoke, “I see an abandoned smithery in the Korikos village. Five souls reside there who are destined to save the kingdom.”

Cyrek and Krimeno’s wrapt attention had deflated upon hearing this. Cyrek warily laughed, “You can’t mean… Surely not…”

Melampia insisted, “The gods do not lie!”

Cyrek objected, “Those guys are destined to save the kingdom? How is that possible? They’ve summoned the royal guards to help them squish a bug! And they’re supposed to save us from all of the monsters?”

“The gods have gifted them with the powers needed to stop the monsters,” Melampia informed them.

“The gods gave them powers? Those freaks? That’s it, life is officially unfair!” Cyrek stomped and pouted.

Melampia didn’t react to his outburst. “You must call upon them to save your polis.”

Cyrek relented, “Alright, alright! I guess it couldn’t hurt to give them a shot! Well, it might hurt them. Oh well! If the gods want them to face the monsters, so be it! Thank you for your time, Melampia! Let’s go, Krimeno!”

“Wait!” Krimeno told Cyrek. He turned to Melampia and uttered, “Before we go, there’s something I need to ask you!”

Cyrek raised an eyebrow out of intrigue, and Melampia responded, “Go ahead.”

Krimeno dramatically pressed, “I just have to know… what’s in that pot?”

“Oh, for Zeus’s sake!” Cyrek exclaimed.

Melampia replied, “Oh, it’s my special recipe, pomegranate surprise! You’re welcome to try it if you’d like.”

“Okay!” Krimeno grabbed a spoon, and just before he took a sip, he asked, “What’s the surprise?”

She answered, “Opium.” Krimeno immediately spit it out, and it landed back into the cauldron. Melampia took off her blindfold and angrily gazed into her concoction. “Oh great! You ruined it! Do you have any idea how long that took me to make?”

Krimeno justified himself, “You should have warned me it had opium in it! I’m a government official, I can’t do that kind of stuff!”

“So, you spit into my pot?” Melampia bellowed. “You careless dolt! How dare you ruin my creation! HOW DARE YOU!”

“Say, how about you and me go out tonight?” Krimeno gave her a very seductive grin.

Melampia roared with outrage, but before Krimeno could speak another word, Cyrek grabbed him by the toga and ran out of the temple. They could hear her screaming as they dashed down the hill. Cyrek scolded him, “You pissed off an oracle, and then you hit on her! What were you thinking?”

“I didn’t hear a no!” Krimeno replied. Cyrek cringed as they ran out of sight.

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 1

At nightfall, a dark-hooded traversed down a dusty dirt road. Nothing else occupied the path before him, and tall trees loomed along the road, shielding the figure from what laid behind them. The only sounds that were heard came from the low hoot of an owl and the traveler’s footsteps. A twig snapped in the distance, and the hooded stranger clutched the leather bag he had been carrying close to his chest for protection. When he didn’t hear any other noise around him, he confidently moved forward. He went faster and faster until… smack! He tripped over his own robes and fell face first onto the ground. He groggily picked himself up, retrieved the bag, and continued on his way with a slight sense of trepidation in his step.

The pathway led to a woody mountain, and the hooded figure gazed up to see a shadowy palace with high, thick walls and tall, stone columns giving it support. In a window on the top floor, he could see a dull candlelight illuminate a man with a laurel crown and a cape. The man’s beady, black eyes gazed down onto the hooded figure below, and he wondered, “Why is he just standing there?” He motioned for the hooded figure to hurry up, and the hooded figure hastily scrambled to get inside.

The man rubbed his temple in frustration, and then he reminded himself, “Get it together, Mercinon! Remember, frowning causes wrinkles!” He quickly looked into an ornate mirror hanging on a pillar, and he saw that while it was obvious he was still middle aged, his olive toned skin still appeared smooth. He studied his short, black hair, and when he got a closer look, he noticed a few patches of gray. “Oh no! No, no, no! We can’t have that! How are people going to take me seriously? I could deliver a magnificent speech, the grandest you’ve ever heard, and all people will think about is whether or not I’m going gray!”

He peeled himself away from the mirror and turned to the window again. “Hmm, I don’t see Marcin anymore, so he must have gone inside. He better not have gotten himself lost again! I’m so not in the mood to search the palace for him again!” He sighed and shifted his focus upwards where he saw a large city in the moonlight. “Look at it! The candles and torches are slowly getting extinguished as everyone is turning in for the night! They’ll fall asleep thinking, ‘Oh, I live in Chaos, the most peaceful polis in all of Greece! Surely, no harm will come to me in the morning!’ They love their boring little lives and actually take pride in living in a city-state named after yawning! They’ll wake up tomorrow expecting to carry out their dull routines, same as normal, and they’ll get blindsided by the horror I’m about to unleash upon them!” He laughed mischieviously.

“Who are you talking to?” Marcin inquired. Mercinon turned around to see the hooded man had taken his cloak off, and his normally white toga was covered in dust. Marcin noticed his gaze and tersely explained, “I fell.” He set his cloak down, and once it reached the ground, the garment emitted a cloud of dust. Marcin coughed as the dust reached his face, and after it cleared, he wiped off the remnants from his short, scraggly hair and his pale face.

“No, leave it on your skin, you could use the color!” Mercinon directed.

Marcin immediately stopped and stood at attention. “So, is there someone else here, or…?”

“Is there?” Mercinon checked the roomed, and when he didn’t find anyting menacing there, he quickly recovered. “It’s called thinking out loud, Marcin. I know it’s probably a novel concept for you since you don’t think inwardly in the first place!”

Marcin seemed skeptical, but he didn’t dare raise those concerns to him. Instead, he apologized, “I’m so sorry I’m late, Sire! You know I wouldn’t dare disobey a direct order on purpose! I worship you as a king even though you’re not one yet!”

“So, why are you late?” Mercinon snapped.

“Oh, I displeased you!” Marcin wailed. He fell to his knees and practically sobbed, “I didn’t mean to offend you, Sire! I’ll do better next time, I swear! I live to serve your-!”

Mercinon interrupted him, “Will you get on with it! Do you remember the last guy who kept me waiting?”

“Your hair dresser? He couldn’t find his scissors, so you fed him to the jackals.” Marcin shuddered, and then he quickly told him, “A storm is coming! I had to get him inside! It wasn’t easy!”

“You idiot!” Mercinon bellowed. “There hasn’t been a cloud in the sky all day, it’s not going to storm!” Suddenly, they heard a loud clap of thunder followed by a huge downpour of rain. “Oh, I see… Well done then.”

Mercinon turned back to the window overlooking the town, and he saw more lights on the street get extinguished. “Look at them out there! Afraid of a little wind and rain! They’re spooked by a little storm, so just imagine how they’ll react when they see what I have brewing! Destroying this quaint little polis will be a cinch! And I thought taking over an entire kingdom would be difficult! They think this storm is a monster? Well, just wait until they meet a real one!” Mercinon laughed maniacally.

Marcin asked, “Am I allowed to laugh too?”

Mercinon clicked his tongue in frustration. “Of course you can laugh too! Who do you think I’m talking to?”

Marcin shrugged. “The same person you were talking to before I came into the room. I never did get a confirmation on who that was.” Mercinon gave him a reproachful glare, so he got off that subject. “But yes, I agree! You’ll become king in no time! Your mother is looking down on you and smiling!”

“She is?” Mercinon searched above him, and when he found nothing, he scolded Marcin, “Don’t even joke about that! I doubt very much that her death will stop her from terrorizing me!”

“Sorry, Sire!” They both stood together in an awkward silence for a moment, and then Marcin veered back to the original topic, “Your take over shall be glorious!”

“Yes, it shall!” Mercinon vehemently agreed. They both maniacally laughed this time. Once their rapture petered out, they fell quiet again. “Hmm, I’m bored!”

“Oh, I got your manicure set!” Marcin held up the bag he had on the pathway.

Mercinon smiled in relief. “Oh, thank gods!” He went over to Marcin to examine what he brought.

The next day, the streets were full of people running and screaming. Many buildings were fully or partially destroyed, and a few villagers were tending to their neighbors’ wounds and injuries. A group of scribes marched to the capitol with rolls of parchment and a quill. A number of them had torn up togas, and some even had very noticeable bruises. They all watched a man emerge from the polished marble building that they stood before, and as he walked down the well-kept white steps, they couldn’t help but observe how clean he appeared. His bronzed skin had no scratches or scrapes, his silver hair had been neatly combed, and his elegant outfit didn’t have a thread out of place. He could sense their hostility as he approached the lectern, but the man who stood beside him did not. The other man’s head was balding but otherwise unblemished, and while his appearance wasn’t attractive, but his unsightly visage had nothing to do with the city’s turmoil. The scribes all gave him very judgmental looks, but he obviously didn’t grasp their sentiment and greeted them with a broad smile and a wave. The silver haired man tried not to outwardly groan.

The silver haired man cleared his throat, and he addressed the scribes, “Good afternoon!” Immediately after he said that, the sound of a building collapsing was heard. “I’m Cyrek, the senate leader of the Chaotic polis. This is my assistant, Krimeno. We’re here to assure the citizens of our great land that everything is under control!” The sound of people screaming blared behind them.

The scribes clearly didn’t buy his claim, but they wrote his explanation down nonetheless. One scribe probed, “Sir, what about the attack?”

“Which attack?” Cyrek responded. “I mean, what attack? Oh, pronouns!”

“What about that one?” Another scribe pointed to his right where a group of people were trying to get an old man out from beneath the wreckage.

“Oh, yes… Chaos has seen some real tragedies, but I can assure you, your government has a plan to fix the problem!” He tried to convey as much confidence as possible as he gave them a very toothy grin.

A third scribe queried, “So, why is that senator crying?”

Cyrek and Krimeno glanced behind them where a man held himself as he sobbed, “We’re doomed! We’re all going to die!”

Cyrek cringed at the sight of this, but he painted another smile on his face as he turned back to the scribes. “We’re all moved by our kingdom’s plight! We’re suffering right alongside you!”

A fourth scribe asked, “How come your building isn’t hurt?”

“I have no idea!” Cyrek answered honestly. “But I can assure you, we’ll have answers soon! Prince Dason is sending soldiers to deal with our new adversary, so soon our streets will rest easy again! We shall rebuild! Always remember, your government is here for you!” He paused and added, “Gotta go!”

A fifth scribe questioned him, “Where are you going?”

Cyrek fibbed, “Oh, just the usual…” He saw Krimeno studying a map, so he quickly snatched it from him to avoid the scribes seeing it. The scribes did see it though, and they chased after them as Cyrek and Krimeno walked away.

The Curse of Dregs Hollow, Chapter 21

As a baby, she remembered a younger, gaunter Reisseck setting her on the grass by the lake she frequented as an adult. He stood before her with his wand out and began to do a little jig. As he danced, an eerie glow seeped out of his wand like ribbon and flowed to her as he sang, “Tonight, tonight, my plans I make./ Tomorrow, tomorrow, your freedom I’ll take./ You will freeze when you go too far,/ and to remember this, I’ll give thee a star./ The rule will always stay the same/ until, three times, you say my name… Rumpelstiltskin! Rumpelstiltskin! Rumpelstiltskin!” He laughed manically as the star appeared on her infant hand.

Slowly, Cally became aware of her body in the present. Her chest emitted a great pain, and her eyes felt so heavy that she couldn’t open them. Sound was muffled for her, but she could sense an intense amount of anger in the cacophony made. Little by little, the noise became clearer and clearer, and she realized people were shouting. She recognized a male’s voice, it was her father’s. Henrick shouted, “… high treason!”

“You fools! No dungeon will hold me!” She knew that voice too, Reisseck. She corrected herself, his real name was Rumpelstiltskin. She remembered her mission and summoned all of her strength to tell the others, but her body would not budge.

“We’re not going to let you get away with this!”her mother raged. Cally could hear in her parents’ voice just how devastated they got to see her so gravely injured, and she so dearly wanted to tell them what she discovered! She could make her lips move, but she couldn’t talk or open her eyes at that point.

“Stand back!” Cally could hear Rumpelstiltskin brandish his wand threateningly. Her spirits buoyed a bit when she managed to lift her eyelids and see a bit.

“Your powers must be almost gone after killing another innocent person!” She saw Galena point her wand at him.

“Rump… Rump…el…” Cally’s words were hardly audible.

Rumpelstiltskin scoffed, “Actually, they’re…” He had a sudden realization, and he glanced towards Cally. His eyes didn’t linger though. Instead, he began backing away towards the exit. “I may have lost some of my ability, but I can still out match you! Do you really want to take that risk?”

“Rump… el… stilt… rump… el…” Cally’s voice grew stronger, but everyone had followed him, so no one could hear her.

“He’s bluffing!” Cally’s heart soared to hear Derrick alive and well. “Let’s cuff him and-.”

“I’m not going anywhere!” Rumpelstiltskin roared. “If I have to take the throne in another way, so be it!” Cally watched as Rumpelstiltskin pointed his wand at Derrick, and her blood boiled! Derrick moved his hand out of the way, but he struggled against his brute force to keep the wand away from being able to aim at him. Rumpelstiltskin shot off a spell that nicked Derrick in the shoulder…

Seeing blood trickle down Derrick’s body revitalized her senses, and her adrenaline gave her the strength she needed. She stood up, and her voice shook the entire room as she bellowed, “Rumpelstiltskin! Rumpelstiltskin! Rumpelstiltskin!”

A wind flew out of her body, racing up the walls and out of the room. When it blew past everyone near the foyer, Rumpelstiltskin cried out, “No!”

Cally could hardly believe it herself! She felt a s though it were over, but such a joyous feat felt more like a dream than a reality. She needed confirmation, and with her hands trembling, she looked to her left palm. The star had vanished! She quickly put her palm in the air so that Rumpelstiltskin could see it. His eyes widened, and he made a noise as if he were choking. Cally boldly exclaimed, “It’s over! You hear me? You don’t own me anymore! I’m free! I’m FREE!”

Rumpelstiltskin’s shock paralyzed him. Taking advantage of his astonishment, Galena pointed her wand at him, which caused him to freeze and fall down backwards. Nearby knights immediately put shackles around his wrists and ankles. Galena jumped onto his chest and looked him dead in the eyes. “I out matched you after all!” Rumpelstiltskin groaned. She happily hopped off as the knights took him away.

Avalyn, Henrick, and Derrick turned to Cally with totally stunned expressions on their faces. They stayed silent as if acknowledging this miraculous phenomenon would disturb the delicate balance that kept her standing. Avalyn timidly stepped forward. “Caliana? You’re alive?” Cally nodded, and when it really sunk into their heads, Avalyn and Henrick rapturously ran to her. They instantly wrapped their arms around her and squeezed her tightly, and all three of them were in tears. Derrick, Duke Ferrin, and Galena watched them with warm smiles on their faces.

After a moment, it dawned on Cally that she was holding her parents! She had gone her whole life with no family, and now they were here, right in front of her! It seemed incredible to her that they immediately accepted her and that she actually belonged somewhere! Rumpelstiltskin always had so much venom for the king and queen, but Cally thought that anyone that he he harbored that much hate for must be opposite of him and there fore a good person, so she secretly admired them this whole time. Still, it amazed her that she came from them! She broke apart from them so that she could make eye contact and verify this information. “Father?” Henrick nodded. “Mother?” Avalyn nodded. “Wow, I…” She wanted to express her appreciation for them entering into her life, but she got overwhelmed with emotion. Henrick and Avalyn seemed to have understood what she meant to say and gave her another hug.

Galena went up to them and commented, “Wow, you held on to my elixir all of these years?”

“Are you kidding? We couldn’t let it go after all it did for us!” Avalyn picked Galena up and gave her a hug.

Henrick addressed Galena, “We can’t thank you enough! Your role in this whole thing has been instrumental! I’d like to appoint you for a special task force to create new laws and procedures regarding magical crimes.”

“I accept!” Galena beamed with a sparkle in her eye.

“I’d like to help,” Duke Ferrin stated. “After fighting against a sorcerer, I have some ideas.”

“Of course!” Galena purred.

He told Cally, “I’d like to consult our new princess as well! After all, you did survive a powerful curse!”

Galena remarked, “That’s right! You sure did! Obviously, the healing elixir helped, but how did you survive the sword to the heart?”

Cally pulled out a blood-stained book with a huge gash down the middle out of her chest and turned to Derrick, who had watched them from a distance. “I guess your novel absorbed some of the impact! Sorry for returning it in such shape!”

Derrick tittered, but his mind fixated on another thought. “You brought my book with you on your wedding day? Why?”

“I wanted to keep you close to my heart,” Cally replied with more tears forming in her eyes. “You… I …!” Once again, Cally lost the right words to convey the passionate emotions she felt, but Derrick seemed to grasp the concept anyways. They ran to each other and wrapped their arms around one another. Their faces were close, and although Cally never kissed anyone in her life, her instincts guided her body on what to do. Their lips met, and Cally couldn’t remember feeling lighter or more peaceful than she did right then with him! A blissful excitement coursed through her body, and she never wanted to let him go!

Henrick, Avalyn, Galena, and Duke Ferrin gazed at them fondly until Cloris gave the knights a hard time as they tried to put shackles on her. “Let me go! You had no right to come here! We had every right to defend ourselves!”

Avalyn asked Cally, “Caliana, what do you think is the proper punishment for her?”

Cloris looked at Cally in horror. “You’re going to kill me as revenge for everything, aren’t you?”

Cally chuckled, “Why, is that what you would do? I wouldn’t. There’s been enough blood shed already! Take her to the dungeons for a while, and when she’s done, send her back to Dregs Hollow. I think having me rule over her is punishment enough!” Cloris glowered at her, which signaled to Cally that she had the correct line of thinking. “But living here shouldn’t be a punishment! I’d like to have a merit system to help the innocent citizens of this town!” Henrick and Avalyn looked to each other and nodded in agreement. Now that everything had wrapped up, Cally suddenly felt awkward still standing in the ceremony room of this town. She never felt like she belonged there, and she inwardly celebrated the fact that she no longer had to stay there! She recommended to them all, “Let’s go home!” For the first time in her life, home was somewhere she actually wanted to be! With a feverish glee, they all made their way out of there.

As they walked through the streets of Dregs Hollow, Cally gazed at the buildings with a certain fondness. She had survived so much in this village that being able to walk through it as a free woman felt like gazing upon a battle scar. She appreciated the fact that she had overcome such struggle, and it felt unreal that this part of her life was over. She would never forget where she came from, and although she was miserable in Dregs Hollow, she felt almost sad to say goodbye. Almost. She walked hand in hand with Derrick while Avalyn and Henrick strolled by their sides, and while she didn’t know what to expect in her new home, she would savor every bit of it, good times and bad, just remembering where she got started.

They came to a hitching post in the center of town, and Cally hadn’t realized until now that it even existed. Avalyn and Henrick each mounted their own horses, and Duke Ferrin put Galena into his saddlebag before he climbed onto his steed. Cally expected to ride behind Derrick, but instead, Derrick asserted, “I think you should learn to steer, my lady!” Cally felt stunned at his offer to teach her, but she gladly accepted it. After a quick lesson, they galloped off!

Cally’s heart skipped a beat as they raced through the gates of Dregs Hollow, but the reality of the situation still didn’t feel real to her since she was still on familiar grounds. They passed by Camellia’s Circus, and Cally felt eternally grateful that she never had to set foot in there again! She relished in the fact her new line of work had so much more meaning to it! When they got to the fork in the road by Bohemma, Cally almost felt as though she would freeze up again, and when she didn’t, the concept really cemented in her head- she was free!

Several years later, sitting below a painting of Derrick in a handsome tuxedo and Cally in a simple yet elegant wedding gown, Derrick and Cally held hands as they each read a book. A servant entered and bowed to them. “Your royal majesties of Lacoriandor-.”

“I told you,” Cally reminded him, “You don’t need to formally address me every time we speak! You can call me Cally!”

The servant looked quite nervous about the idea. “Uh, no, I don’t think I can! Lady Joanne and Lady Sasha are here. Your parents have already joined them.”

Derrick regarded him, “Thank you, Andel!” Andel half bowed as he exited the room. “He needs to loosen up!”

Cally laughed, and then she offered her arm. “Shall we?” He linked his arm with hers as they left the room.

The End

The Curse of Dregs Hollow, Chapter 20

Cally felt grateful for the interruption to the ceremony, but she now worried that these hooded figures would become more of an enemy than ally. Based on Reisseck’s expression, she could tell they weren’t invited guests. She hoped that these strange people would provide enough of a distraction so that she could slip out. She didn’t know how long she could evade Reisseck if she escaped, but she at least wanted to find Derrick and Galena to tell them what she just learned. She thought that maybe they could run to the library to find more books with unusual names in it, or perhaps she would write a letter to King Henrick and Queen Avalyn so they could use their royal powers to put a stop to this unholy union. At the very least, she wanted to see Derrick one last time before Reisseck forced her into this plan. She eyeballed the nearest exit to run out as soon as Reisseck’s attention ebbed.

“Who are you people?” Reisseck snarled. The hooded figures parted to create a path that one of them walked down, and when that person got to the most forward position amongst them, they took off their hood to reveal their face. “Duke Ferrin?” Reisseck’s concern seemed to vanish, and with a cocky swagger, he strolled closer to them with one hand on the pocket where he carried his wand. “Are you here to challenge me for the throne? Well, you’re too late! There was a time when I counted on you to take power and pass laws that would make my life easier, but then I found a better way to improve my circumstances! As soon as I marry her, I’ll become king and get everything I’ve ever dreamed of! You can try to stop this marriage if you dare, but mark my words, I can end you all with one swipe of my wand!”

The rest of the hooded figures began to circle the room, and Duke Ferrin calmly pointed out, “You could, but would you really be willing to put your own people at risk? The only souls who have stood by your side all of these years? Do you bear no honor or shame?”

Reisseck observed the position of the rest of the hooded figures, and he looked thoroughly miffed about their proximity to the inhabitants of Dregs Hollow. He didn’t address Duke Ferrin’s concern and instead asked a question of his own, “So, what do you want?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Duke Ferrin replied.

“You’re trying to stop me from marrying her so you can take the throne.” Reisseck drew out his wand, ready to fight back.

Duke Ferrin laughed derisively, which incensed Reisseck. “Up until this evening, I was ready to take over the crown as a duty to Lacorian law, but I discovered I don’t have the right to the throne, and neither do you!”

“I will when I marry Cally!” He pulled her close, which made her scowl. “She’s the heir to the crown, and when I marry the future queen, I’ll become the future king! It’s all perfectly legal!”

Duke Ferrin scoffed, “You kidnapped the princess and you have the gall to talk about legality?”

Reisseck threw Cally to the ground stepped towards Duke Ferrin menacingly. “What do you stand to gain from doing this?”

“A clean conscious.” Duke Ferrin drew his sword.

Reisseck sneered, “Do you really think you’re going to stop me?”

“No,” Duke Ferrin responded coolly. “They are!”

On cue, the hooded figures all revealed themselves. To Cally’s shock, she saw that Avalyn, Henrick, and Derrick had brought a group of knights with them! Reisseck’s guards drew their weapons, and the royal guards did the same. Reisseck coldly remarked, “So it begins!” He pointed his wand at Duke Ferrin, who used his sword to butt Reisseck’s wand out of his range. Reisseck’s men took that as their signal to advance on the royal guard, and the battle began!

Cally saw several Dregs Hollow citizens advance towards her, so she quickly picked herself up and ran to the decorative swords on the wall. She felt grateful that she was able to easily get one down, but she had a momentary flash of panic when she realized she hadn’t done any swordplay in her life! She didn’t know that so many of her former neighbors had weapons! She had no choice, she had to do her best to defend herself! She didn’t have combat experience, but she used several tools at Camellia’s Circus, which prompted her to swiftly strategize. She needed a tool to block attacks and to make some of her own if necessary, so with this in mind, she joined the battle.

Reisseck knocked Duke Ferrin to the ground, but before he could strike, a burst of light hit him in the arm! “No!” he cried out in dismay. He glanced over to the entrance and confirmed his fear, Galena had entered! Reisseck tried to use his wand to strike her, but Duke Ferrin kicked his hand, sending Reisseck’s wand flying! Reisseck lunged for it, but Duke Ferrin rose up and pushed him out of the way! Due to his massive size, Reisseck didn’t go far, but from his new point of view, he saw Cally struggling to fend people off, so he shouted, “Don’t hurt her! She’s mine!”

When they heard this, Reisseck’s loyalists still fought her out of a desire to get her to submit, but their skill seemed to have lessened since they couldn’t kill her. Cally used this to her advantage and moved around more freely. Reisseck’s words echoed in her head, and it really burned her up inside! She couldn’t believe he viewed a princess and future queen as his property! Her distraction gave someone the opportunity to get a hit on her, and that person sliced her hand! It hurt, but she rmanaged to ignore it and created a huge gash in her attacker’s arm! She felt thrilled at her success, but she had to keep fighting because other people were still coming after her. She caught a glimpse of her left hand and saw that the star that marked her binding curse had no mark on it! She realized that this was the reason Reisseck felt he could claim her. Furious, she slowly made her way towards him.

Cally got within earshot of Reisseck, and although she thought that her idea was a long shot, she decided to try it anyways. As she fought off attackers, she began spouting off names to him. Reisseck didn’t say anything since he was fighting off Duke Ferrin as well as a couple of knights, but Cally could see the look of irritation on his face, so she knew her ploy had the right effect. Duke Ferrin and the knights didn’t seem to understand why she was doing that, but they wanted to help, so they joined in. Slowly, Derrick, Henrick, Galena, and Avalyn joined in too. Cally secretly hoped one of them would guess Reisseck’s real name so that they could end this battle. She didn’t fully know what to expect after it finished, but she wanted to prevent as much destruction as possible.

Reisseck could tell his side was losing, and soon he was surrounded by people shouting names at him. More and more pressure grew on him, and he knew he had to act fast before it was too late. To his delight, Cloris tossed him his wand, and as he held it, he felt his sense of omnipotence return to his body. He knew the only way he could escape victoriously was to show the loathsome meddlers just what he was capable of! He saw the other decorative sword on the wall and pointed his wand…

Cally saw the sword budge, and she looked at Reisseck, who pointed his wand to Derrick. Her heart froze, but protective instincts flared up and took over her body. She ran to Derrick and used her body to shield his. Part of her thought Reisseck would stop the hex because he needed her to stay alive, but another part of her didn’t care what happened to her now. Nothing was worth seeng Derrick die!

Derrick didn’t realize what Cally was doing until it was too late! A sword magically hurled itself into the middle of her chest! “No!” he wailed in anguish. The whole room stopped what they were doing to watch blood seeping out of her chest as she fell towards the ground! Avalyn shrieked, and Henrick howled in horror. Derrick caught her as everyone in the royal guard ran towards her. None of the Dregs Hollow denizens seemed to care except for Reisseck, who looked shocked at what she made him do. With tears forming in his eyes, Derrick cried, “Cally! Why did you do that?”

Cally could feel her energy lessen, and it took more and more effort just to inhale and exhale. She breathily told Derrick, “I’d die for you!”

“Please don’t!” Derrick sobbed.

Though she trembled immensely, Avalyn dug into her pocket and took out a vial of potion. “I have a healing elixir!” she knelt down to Cally’s side and desperately stated, “This prevented me from dying, and it worked for your father too! It’s a family tradition, you see? You’re going to take this and be fine! You’ll see!” Cally couldn’t respond, but she accepted the potion into her mouth. Avalyn waited to see it take effect, and when Cally’s consciousness seemed to slip away, Avalyn exclaimed, “Why isn’t this working?”

Galena sadly explained, “It can’t repair tissue if it’s already dead. With the force a spell like that can muster, it may have taken her heart immediately.”

Henrick bolted up in fury, and he voraciously hollered, “Reisseck, you fiend! I’ll tear you up from ribs to rump!”

Cally saw Reisseck flinch at the word rump, and it stirred up a memory for her, which flashed before her eyes as she began to blackout…

The Curse of Dregs Hollow, Chapter 19

For a moment, the three of them sat in silence as they allowed their minds to absorb this realization. Derrick felt stunned to learn that Cally was the princess that the kingdom thought they lost forever, but he knew his astonishment couldn’t compare to what Henrick and Avalyn going through! He couldn’t imagine the effect it had on their hearts to find out the daughter that they thought got murdered thirty three years ago was actually alive! All of a sudden, Avalyn grabbed her napkin and began dabbing her eyes. “I knew it! I knew it! She’s alive!”

“It’s a miracle!” Henrick rejoiced. He went over to Avalyn, and they held each other as they wept. Suddenly, a thought occurred to Henrick. “Wait, our baby is about to get married to a murderous sorcerer!”

“No!” Avalyn cried. “She can’t!”

“And she won’t!” Derrick avowed. “It may not be too late! Let’s go!”

Avalyn and Derrick rose up, but Henrick commanded them, “Wait!” They looked at him with irritation, not comprehending Henrick’s hesitation. “I’m sure Reisseck is prepared for an ambush, so we can’t just rush in like that!” They knew he was completely right, so they begrudgingly sat back down. Henrick asserted, “Now, we’ll never be able to match his magical defenses, so we’ll have to outsmart him. We need a distraction, something that will catch him off guard so we can slip in unnoticed.”

They all mulled it over for a moment, and then Derrick declared, “I have an idea!”

Cally caught a glimpse of herself in the full length mirror that someone had set up in the living room. The wedding gown she wore had a gaudy design and an antique feel to it. The color had yellowed a bit, and she felt sure that Reisseck could have whipped up a potion to fix it if she requested it, but she didn’t care. This didn’t feel like a real wedding to her, so she could have cared less about what went on during the ceremony. As she stared at her reflection, a sickening feeling arose in the pit of her stomach. She turned away, but the view of their living room wasn’t much better. Reisseck packed away all of their belongings into boxes, and it only reminded her of her fate in the near future. The only solace she found was that while Duke Ferrin performed his royal duties, she could roam the castle freely, a privilege she intended to use to find out Reisseck’s true name and break the binding spell. She didn’t want to become the soon to be king’s queen, but once she got rid of the curse that bound her to Reisseck, she would use her royal powers to see that he got punished severely for all of the crimes he committed!

She went to the last remaining box that hadn’t yet been sealed with the intention of putting her red cloak in there. It felt weighty to her, and she remembered that she left a couple of things inside it. She found what was left of the transfiguring potion, and she tossed that to the side. She tried to comfort herself with the knowledge that she’d never have to use it again, but she just couldn’t enjoy that fact. She couldn’t say she wanted to go back to taking it regularly again, but she would miss the small bit of freedom she had from the opportunities she got when she left Dregs Hollow. Most people who took the throne would relish in freedom that they never had access to before, but as long as Reisseck was around, she would never be free! As he dragged her out of the woods, he taunted her with the forewarning that the only reason she would stay alive was so that she would produce an heir. She wondered how long it would take and how long she would last once it was done.

She couldn’t think about the that at this moment, so she shook it off and pulled out the other thing in her cloak pocket. It was the book that Derrick had lent her! Her heart shattered into pieces at the thought of him! It seemed so unfair and cruel to have found someone that she fell in love with right before she got forced into a detested marriage! She remembered his beautiful eyes, his warm smile, and the way she felt in his strong, firm arms, and she fell to her knees in tears. In her whole life, no one had made her feel so good about herself or gave her such a feeling of purpose until he came along. She couldn’t stand the thought that she would never get to see him again! She would try her hardest to break that spell so she could return to him, but she couldn’t guarantee when or if that would ever happen. She vehemently despised the fact that she had to marry someone who was him, but Reisseck told her that if she didn’t go through with it that he would kill him. She had to do it to save Derrick’s life, but it was pure agony to think they would be apart forever! She held the book to her heart, clutching it as if it were the only thing keeping her upright, and she sobbed mercilessly.

The sentries at the entrance of Dregs Hollow leaned against the tall, wooden fence and yawned. Suddenly, they felt the ground beneath them began to shake, and this prompted them to stand at attention. In the distance, they saw a dozen hooded figures charging towards them, so they drew up their spears in a ready position. When the hooded horsemen approached the sentries, one of them growled, “We’ve told you a dozen times that the royal guard isn’t allowed here unannounced! Stand aside!”

“We are not the royal guard!” The man at the head of the pack took of his hood to reveal a robust yet elegant man in his sixties.

“Duke Ferrin!” the other sentry responded in surprise. Both of them kneeled before him. “What are you doing here? You’re not trying to stop the wedding, are you?”

Duke Ferrin waved off this notion. “Not at all! In fact, I’d like to give Reisseck my blessings! But first, we must secure the area. I heard that he could use some reinforcements.”

The sentries nodded in agreement, and one of them inquired, “How did you know that?”

“I have my ways,” Duke Ferrin said with a wry grin. “Forgive my men for not removing their hoods. It’s a rather covert mission, not one I wish to spread around…”

“Right! Of course, we understand,” the other sentry assured him. “Please, come on in!” The gladly opened the gates for him.

“Thank you!” Duke Ferrin began to enter when he noticed that sentries on the inside stepped aside as well, which made him raise an eyebrow. “You keep people from leaving too?” The sentries looked at each other suspiciously before they nodded. Duke Ferrin shrugged it off. “Ah, I see. Carry on!” He put his hood back on and led the rest of the hooded figures inside.

Just as Cally had finished putting on her veil, Cloris entered with a mischievous smile on her face. Cally knew that she had to know what torture this moment was for her and did not give her the satisfaction of showing any emotion. Cloris leered, “It’s time!” She grabbed her arm and led her away from that home.

As Cloris practically dragged her to a cavern ceremony room, she noticed a number of Dregs Hollow denizens guarding the entrance with swords and spears ready to use if necessary. She found it odd because she didn’t think that anyone in their village could even afford a weapon! It seemed rather ominous to have such a battle-ready set of people as the first thing guests would see as they arrived, but she reminded herself that nothing about this occasion was traditional! Cloris left her in a small foyer and sneered, “Good luck!” Cally didn’t give her a reaction, but Cloris seemed to know what she was feeling snickered as she took her seat.

Awful pipe organ music began to play, and Cally’s heart thumped wildly in her chest. She couldn’t believe that this was really happening! She gazed at the altar, which was empty. She felt that was strange, but she didn’t dare to think that Duke Ferrin changed his mind. She thought perhaps that he intended to make an entrance, which sort of disgusted her. She didn’t think that he would actually enjoy this, and it revolted her to think that a person could enjoy taking away someone’s freedom like that! Reisseck stood up, and Cally cringed at the frilly, terribly old-fashioned tuxedo he was wearing. He impatiently motioned for her to come in, and Cally knew this was it! She figured she may as well get it over with, sighed, and entered the ceremony room.

She walked slowly and kept her eyes low. Reisseck could force her into this marriage, but he couldnt’ force her to enjoy it! The closer she got to the altar, the more her heart pounded. She didn’t want to do this, and every fiber in her being wanted to turn around and run away. When she got to the end of the aisle, she decided she shouldn’t show Duke Ferrin any fear. If he was willing to commit such a heinous act, she was going to force him to look into her angry, hate-filled eyes! When she looked up, she expected to see Duke Ferrin standing there, so she glared as hard as she could! To her astoundment, Duke Ferrin wasn’t there! Only Reisseck and the man performing the ceremony stood before her. Utterly confused now, Cally asked, “What’s going on? Where’s Duke Ferrin?”

“You’re not marrying Duke Ferrin!” Reisseck answered her. “You’re marrying me!” Cally didn’t believe him, she thought he had to be joking. “Your parents weren’t nobles who sold you to me to save your mother’s life! You’re the king and queen’s daughter, and I’m marrying you to become ruler of Lacoria!”

Cally found this claim too outrageous to be true! She became overwhelmed with bewilderment, not understanding why Reisseck would even say that! “No! The princess died a long time ago! She’s been gone since I was born!” It suddenly clicked for her, and she couldn’t believe she didn’t see it before! Reisseck kidnapped the princess, and just days later, he obtained a baby girl! Suddenly, Cally knew why Homer handed her that article before he died! He figured it out quicker than she did! The idea slowly trickled into her head, but she hadn’t quite accepted it yet. “I’m the missing princess?”

She didn’t know what to do; she was still too shocked to move. The master of ceremonies began the wedding, and her head scrambled with what she should do with this information. She couldn’t go ahead with the marriage knowing what she now knew! She couldn’t just let Reisseck become king! And she certainly didn’t want to conceive a child with him! She saw a couple of decorative swords hanging above them, and she wondered if she should use them. She saw Reisseck’s wand sticking out of his pocket and knew that idea wouldn’t work. She felt compelled to take action, but she had no clue what to do… Luckily, she didn’t have to figure it out since a dozen hooded figures entered the room…

The Curse of Dregs Hollow, Chapter 18

Henrick morosely walked down the halls of Barlock, and when he passed by the library, he noticed some movement out of the corner of his eye. He backtracked a little and spotted Derrick feverishly scanning through a large book and jotting down information at random. He asked him, “What are you-?”

“Names!” Derrick answered manically. “I’m going to get every name I can think of before the wedding! I’ll free her from the binding spell before she has to marry him! If she loses the curse, Reisseck will have no reason to force their union! His powers have been weakened, so he can’t perform the ritual again! It’s the only way to save her!”

Henrick looked utterly confused by his ramblings. He didn’t know how to respond, so he simply invited him, “Would you care to join me in-?”

“Oh no! I’m out of time, aren’t I?” He snatched up what little information he had gathered and ran up to Henrick. “Where are they doing it? The throne room?”

“Doing what?” Henrick replied, completely perplexed.

Derrick, who didn’t want to waste precious time, howled in frustration. “The dark sorcerer is going to force Cally to marry Duke Ferrin, and since he has a magical hold on her, he’ll have to join them in the castle. He’s using them to secretly take over Lacoria! The only way to break the spell is for Cally to say Reisseck’s true name three times! Now, where would Duke Ferrin most likely hold a wedding?”

“At his estate.” Henrick grabbed his arm before Derrick darted off. “Last I checked, Duke Ferrin was meeting with the royal guard. He talked about legal challenges, but he didn’t mention a wedding. I suppose if he had a shady deal with an evil criminal, he may not want to confide this to the head of state, but… Son, even if Duke Ferrin did sneak off to get married, you can’t just barge into this Reisseck fellow’s realm! He would hurt you for interfering with his plan!”

Derrick realized he had a point, but he didn’t want to give up so easily. “Well, then I’ll slip this list to her so she can guess his name before it’s too late!”

Henrick brought up, “How do you know it isn’t too late already?”

At this thought, Derrick’s heart completely plummeted. “It can’t be… I have to… She’s my…” He nearly fell to the ground as he started to sob uncontrollably.

Henrick caught him before he reached the floor. “Listen, why don’t we dine together and think of a strategy to face this sorcerer.” Derrick agreed, and Henrick led him to the meal room.

At a long, ornate dining table, Henrick sat at the head of the table while Derrick sat beside him. Neither of them seemed very interested in the food that a servant served them. When he put down a third plate, Derrick inquired, “Are you joining us?” He tried to convey politeness, but he didn’t want to discuss anything in front of someone he didn’t know. He had no idea who he could trust besides Henrick, Galena, and Cally; he didn’t want anyone to give Reisseck a heads up.

“No sir,” the servant responded cordially. “This plate is for Queen Avalyn.”

“She arrived back this morning,” Henrick filled Derrick in as the servant left a food trolley with a bottle of wine and a pot of tea on a silver tray.

A moment later, Avalyn entered the room, and Henrick and Derrick stood up out of courtesy. Derrick observed that she had sallow skin and deep circles under her eyes, and he almost forgot that they faced a stressful situation as well. Avalyn greeted Henrick, “Hello, my love. Oh, Derrick! How nice to see you!”

“Nice to see you as well.” Derrick wished he could offer her more comfort at a time like this, but he faced an overwhelming crisis of his own.

Avalyn’s eyes flickered between the two men, and she concluded, “You two look like you could use a drink!” She went to the food trolley and poured them each a glass.

After she handed them their drink, she went back to the food trolley to fix herself some tea. Henrick and Derrick looked at each other somewhat awkwardly as if they didn’t know where to begin in their discussion. Henrick suggested, “Shall we start with a toast?” He lifted his glass in the air. “To my beloved, Lacoria and the legacy my family will leave it!”

Just as Avalyn was finishing up her tea, Derrick lifted his glass and toasted, “To my beloved, Cally! No, for a more formal ceremony, we should use her proper name. To Caliana!”

As Henrick and Derrick clinked glasses, Avalyn dropped the silver tray and all of its contents! Henrick and Derrick glanced over to her and saw that she had a look of total shock on her face. Henrick tentatively questioned, “Avalyn? What is it?”

Practically shaking, Avalyn revealed, “The last time I saw my daughter, I named her Caliana!”

Derrick felt a little stunned, but Henrick seemed to have gotten thrown into a colossal denial. He reacted, “A mere coincidence!”

“Coincidence? I don’t think so!” Avalyn emphatically disagreed. “I told our baby out loud that I named her Caliana. No one else was in the room, and we know that the kidnapper came in through the window, so he must have been laying in wait when he heard me say that!”

Reisseck argued, “Why would he have kept her name the same? It would make it so easy to pinpoint the crime to him if he did that.”

“Maybe that was the point,” Derrick reasoned, “He wanted you to know what he did at the right time, when the question of who has sovereignty of the throne arose! If you had any other children besides the missing princess, they could have challenged Cally based on an illegitimate marriage. Since you had none…” He paused for a moment as his words really sunk into his head. “Sakes alive! He never intended her to marry Duke Ferrin so he could run the kingdom secretly! All along, he planned on marrying her so he could become king!” The thought of her marrying that heartless, vile excuse for a human being was too hard for him to accept. “No! No, that can’t be true! Maybe it was just a coincidence…”

“Our daughter is dead!” Henrick cried out. “You saw the blood! She couldn’t have survived if she lost that much blood!”

“And I’ve said all along that maybe the kidnapper put that blood there to make us think she was dead!” Avalyn countered. “Or he could have gotten injured in the process!”

Derrick remembered, “Reisseck does walk with a limp.”

Henrick opinionated, “Cally has her own parents though! I’m sure-.”

“Actually, we never did figure out who her parents were,” Derrick corrected him. “I always thought Reisseck made them disappear in some way, but we got so focused on finding Reisseck’s true identity in order to break the binding spell that we stopped looking for them.”

Henrick still seemed skeptical. “How could he have kept this secret from everyone? Our knights searched the entire country and couldn’t find a trace of her anywhere! Okay, maybe he could have fooled our initial investigation, but how could no one make the connection between the missing princess and this unmarried man suddenly attaining this baby? After thirty three years, no one suspected anything?”

“He made her take a transfiguring potion twice a day,” Derrick reported to them. “I’ve seen it! She’s not recognizable once it takes effect.”

Avalyn surmised, “And he had her go by the name Cally so I wouldn’t catch wind of her whereabouts.”

Henrick looked a little horrified as if the thought of his daughter possibly being alive was tantamount to seeing a ghost. “I don’t know. Maybe he figured out you guys were investigating him and is marrying her to really solidify that he can’t go anywhere. Or maybe he’s just trying to distract you so stop muckraking the issue.”

Avalyn clicked her tongue in frustration. “Why can’t you ever accept the possibility that our daughter could be alive? Do you like the idea of her getting murdered? Do you enjoy losing our kingdom to a terrible person?”

“Of course not!” Clearly these words stung Henrick at his core. “This matters so much that I can’t get my hopes up. If you’re wrong, I’ll lose her all over again! I couldn’t bear to go through that again! My heart already hurts even thinking about it!”

“You still don’t believe me though,” Avalyn stated. “I may have lost my daughter, but my instincts as a mother never went away! She’s still alive!” Henrick didn’t react, so she turned to Derrick. “You believe me, don’t you?”

“Well…” The truth was that while her theory seemed valid, he still made up his mind. He never thought their daughter could have survived until right then, and it just seemed too incredible to be true! Galena’s reasoning for sorcerers not wanting to bask in the glory of causing mass horror and oppression made sense to him, so it seemed odd to him now that he would attempt to become king. Cally did bear the name that Avalyn gave to her child, but Derrick thought that it would have been incredibly lucky on the kidnapper’s part to overhear her at that exact moment. The evidence they discussed earlier made it seemed plausible, but he still felt that something was missing to really make him believe that the orphan he fell in love with was actually the daughter of the king and queen. He didn’t want to shatter Avalyn’s spirits by his hesitation to make a judgment, so he intended to express this to her as gently as possible. He looked Avalyn in the eye, and his heart nearly exploded! “She has your eyes!” Henrick grew startled, and the vigor of the moment brought color back to Avalyn’s face. “Holy smokes!” Derrick exclaimed, “She is… Cally is the missing princess!”