The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 16

How could you ask such an audacious question?” Cyrek cried out while he leaned on the podium on the palace steps.

One of the many scribes in front of him calmly responded, “I just said ‘How are you?’.”

“Sorry,” Cyrek apologized. “I just expected the opening question to be something more probing and that’s the answer I rehearsed. Not that I need to rehearse…”

“Well,” the scribe followed, “I was going to ask if you had any updates on the prince yet…”

The five heroes walked up to the back of the crowd, and Exelda whispered to the others, “We should come back when-.”

Cyrek recognized the five of them and changed his tactics. “Yes, but first, let me introduce the valiant group who have been so successful at keeping the invading monsters at bay! Come on up here, guys!” All of the scribes turned around and stared at them curiously, which made Exelda, Narcius, Kefalia, Stocastin, and Akintos bear painfully awkward expressions. Cyrek gestured for them to join him by the lecturn, and they felt obligated to do so. The five of them reluctantly walked up there, and Exelda, Narcius, and Akintos stood on one side while Stocastin and Kefalia stood next to Krimeno. Cyrek addressed the scribes, “Do you have any questions for our heroes?”

The scribes all eagerly raised their hands, and Exelda picked someone at random. “How long have you guys had super powers?”

“We were born with it,” Exelda replied.

“Could you speak up, please?” the scribe requested.

Exelda shouted, “We were born with it!”

Cyrek advised, “You don’t have to say it that loud.”

The scribes all wrote her answer down, and the first person to finish raised his hand next. After Exelda called on him, he inquired, “Do you have any leads about Prince Dason’s disappearance?”

Cyrek replied, “Really? You have five monster slayers here and you only have one question for them?”

“Oh, we always have more to ask,” the scribe told him, “but that’s kind of all we can think about right now. So, what’s the update?”

Cyrek sighed, “Okay, okay! The update is that Prince Dason is alive and well.”

Another scribe queried, “He’s back now?”

“No, not yet,” Cyrek admitted.

“Then how do you know he’s alive and well?” the scribe asked him.

Cyrek took a moment before he unwillingly answered, “The kidnappers… have asked for a ransom.” A flurry of quills scribbling sounded after that remark, and Exelda suddenly tuned in with great interest. “We plan on a peaceful end to this situation, and Chaos will go back to normal again very soon.”

Another scribe corrected him, “You mean normal aside from dealing with constant monster attacks?”

“Yes,” Cyrek said as casually as he could. “Now, does anyone have anymore-?”

Yet another scribe blurted out, “How much is the ransom?”

“That’s all the time we have for today! Thank you!” Cyrek quietly instructed to the five heroes, “Don’t make eye contact with any of them. Come this way!” The heroes began following Cyrek to the palace, but Krimeno stopped to wave goodbye to the crowd, which made them barrage him with questions. Cyrek turned back, grabbed Krimeno by his toga, and pushed him up the stairs before he could spill out anymore information.

Once they entered the palace, they stood in a giant hallway bustling with various servants and government workers. To their left, they saw the entrance to the throne room, and to their right, they saw the senate floor. Cyrek shifted his attention to Exelda, Stocastin, Narcius, Akintos, and Kefalia. “Sorry about that! I know you didn’t have much preparation for your first informational conference, but I needed a distraction. The less the public knows about our plans, the more safely we can carry them out. We don’t want the criminal to find out and ruin our rescue strategy.”

“What is your rescue strategy?” Stocastin pried.

“I was going to ask the same thing!” Krimeno reacted in astonishment.

Akintos surmised, “You don’t have a plan, do you?”

Cyrek stuttered, “Well, I… we… the palace just got the ransom note, and we… uh…”

“That’s okay,” Exelda interjected. “I have an idea.”

Exelda, Narcius, Akintos, Kefalia, and Stocastin followed Cyrek and Krimeno into a room where a couple dozen men sat in stadium type of seating with a platform where they could take notes. Everyone was arguing with each other until one of them finally took notice of the strangers in the room. “Oh no! It’s the royal inspectors!” The room suddenly fell silent, and all of the senators did their utmost to put on a professional front.

Cyrek let them know, “Uh, no. These are the heroes that have been fighting off the monsters for us.”

The senators all breathed a sigh of relief, and one of them hailed them, “Thank you for all of the work you’ve done! We owe you a big thanks!”

“By thanks, do you mean payment?” Akintos kidded, which prompted Exelda to lightly tap the back of his head.

“She has an idea of how to handle the ransom transaction,” Cyrek reported.

The senators all mumbled in surprise, and Exelda informed them, “Actually, I think I know how we can stop the monster attacks as well.”

They all seemed surprised by that notion, and another senator asked, “How is that possible?”

Exelda explained, “Dason disappeared around the same time as the monster attacks, which could have just been a coincidence, except we had more than one monster know Kefalia’s defect of freezing if she laughs too hard for too long. I’m not sure how anyone besides us could have known that, but if the monsters were invading our polis on their own, how would so many of them have this piece of knowledge? Obviously, one person is orchestrating these attacks, so if we catch Dason’s kidnapper, we can stop the flow of monsters too.”

Another senator questioned, “If someone is guilty of both crimes, then what in the name of Hades is their motive? Why demand money if you’re planning on destroying the kingdom?”

Stocastin jumped in, “We believe that the culprit behind the events actually wants to take over Chaos. The purpose of the monsters is to weaken our defenses, which, needless to say, would make it easier for this individual to use their forces to hijack the throne. The kidnapping is most likely a distraction, although they may also have a purpose behind the money itself such as paying for supplies or possibly to hire help.”

The first senator that spoke up inferred, “Ah, so we pretend to deliver the ransom money and then arrest the guy when he comes to collect it?”

“Highly unlikely that a man who sees himself as the future king would go get the money himself!” Narcius scoffed.

“Narcius is right,” Exelda agreed. “I don’t think he or she would retrieve the money themselves because they’d already anticipate some kind of ambush. But they’d deliver the money to the person they work for, so if we follow the person who comes to collect it, we can find the main person’s hideout!”

The second senator that spoke up gave his opinion, “Sounds simple enough. We could send the royal guards to… Wait, this person is going to a hideout where they store monsters?”

Kefalia responded, “Probably! It’s not like they’d have two hideouts!”

“Then you guys should handle the transaction,” the third senator concluded.

“Really? You’d trust us with a bunch of money after I made that joke?” Akintos replied incredulously.

Before the senator could say anything back, Exelda stated, “We may need the royal guards’ help since we don’t know if this person has begun to assemble an army or not, but we should probably go to the hideout first and clear the area from any potential monsters.”

Cyrek wondered, “How are we going to hide a whole army?”

“Oh, I know!” Krimeno enthusiastically suggested, “We could get a giant wooden horse and pretend it’s a gift when it’s actually full of soldiers…”

“We already did that in the Trojan war,” Cyrek pointed out.

Krimeno looked confused. “Trojan war? Never heard of it!”

Cyrek cringed, but before anyone could respond to his absurdity, Exelda assured them all, “The royal guards can hide at a distance, and we can use our powers not only to spy on the transaction but we can quickly summon the soldiers when we’re ready. We can put a stop to this today if the five of us just had the military backup. Oh, and we’ll need some money too.”

“Yay!” Akintos celebrated.

“For the ransom,” Exelda reminded him, which made Akintos pout. “So, what do you say? Can we count on your assistance?” The senators mulled it over for a moment, and…

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 15

They hadn’t even left the village before they grew out of breath. Exelda braced herself for a moment, and when she caught a glimpse of the enormous figure moving about the ocean, she knew she had to act quickly. She scanned over the other heroes and noticed that while Narcius acted tired, his respiration hadn’t actually slowed down. She breathily commanded him, “Narcius… use… your… powers… to… get… down… there…quick!”

“All by myself?” Narcius fretted.

“Kefalia… can… you… fly?” Exelda asked.

Kefalia answered, “Need… air!”

Exelda told Narcius, “Carry… Stocastin… with you!”

“Ugh, fine!” Narcius draped Stocastin over his shoulder and used his super speed to race to the shore.

A few seconds went by when Narcius returned to them. “What are you doing?” Exelda questioned him.

Narcius reported, “I can’t see a thing down there except for a pair of giant fangs! We don’t know what to do!”

“Well, you and Stocastin can…” She paused before she made an observance. “Wait, you just left him there?”

“He’s got his invisibility, he’s fine!” Narcius reasoned.

Exelda ordered him, “Get back over there! We’ll come help shortly.” Narcius reluctantly sped away, and as Exelda watched him go back to the seaside, she realized just how far they had to go. “We need a faster way to get there.” She saw that Akintos was slumped over an empty cart, and when she stood up, she could see that the pathway out of town was a long slant downhill. “I’ve got an idea!”

As Exelda used her super strength to free the cart from its restraints, Kefalia shrieked, “You’re stealing?”

“We’re commandeering this vehicle for the sake of our duties to the kingdom,” Exelda clarified for her as she dragged it to the top of the hill.

“It’s stealing but legal,” Akintos surmised to Kefalia. “Hmm… I wonder what else we can legally-.”

Exelda cut him off, “Don’t even think about it! Get in!” Akintos willingly hopped onto the cart while Kefalia hesitated. “If you can’t fly, you need to get in here now!” Kefalia made a feeble attempt to fly, and when she couldn’t do it, she forced herself to get on the cart.

Exelda gave the cart a swift push before she hopped on. The further downhill they went, the more speed they gained. When they got to the flatter land, the cart continued the same momentum. They were all worried about crashing into the ocean and screamed. Narcius used his powers to intercept the cart, but he wasn’t strong enough to stop it. He veered it rightwards, which changed their trajectory towards a small tree. They all screamed again as they braced for impact. The cart barreled into the tree, and Exelda as well as Akintos flew head first into the sand! They spit sand out of their mouths as Kefalia exclaimed, “Oh, I can fly now!”

“Oh, sure, rub it in!” Akintos grumbled.

Suddenly, they saw the shadow of something massive heading in their direction, so Akintos and Exelda rolled out of the way. Exelda drew out her sword but couldn’t see where the creature went. She tried to find it with just the moonlight, but all she saw was darkness until a set of fangs raced towards her! She successfully dodged it, but she didn’t see where it went. “I need light! I need light! I need light!” she repeated frantically as she ran from the fangs.

“Here!” Akintos grabbed a piece of wood from the now broken cart and pointed his palm at it. After it was lit, he tossed it to Exelda, who managed to catch it mid-run.

Exelda used her torch to search for the monster and in a flash, she spotted a serpent with fish-like scales and fins! It lunged towards her, but Kefalia flew by its head to intervene. It tried to chomp her, but she darted around too rapidly for its bite. Exelda managed to run to the beast without it noticing her, and she used her sword to cut it in half! It howled in pain and flopped to the ground.

Kefalia inquired, “It’s dead already?”

Narcius commented, “It is? Wow, that was easy!”

“Too easy!” Stocastin said dismally. “No way would our adversary choose a creature that bore so little of a challenge!”

Exelda peered into the water where the back end of the monster laid and watched as the topmost part had bubbles frothing near it. They began to form faster and faster, so Exelda yelled out, “Guys, we’re not done yet!”

They watched with horror as the severed back half formed a new head! Both halves sprang back to life and dove after the heroes! Exelda fended off one of them with her sword while Kefalia flew by its head and distracted it by taking swipes at it with her weapon. Stocastin turned invisible while Narcius used his super speed to dart around randomly because Exelda had the only source of light and was now nowhere near them. Akintos made another one for them and ran over to deliver it. He saw the creature suddenly lunge towards him, so he pointed a palm at it and sent a fireball flying into its face. The monster seemed annoyed by it but didn’t seem hurt. When Kefalia flew near the other creature’s head, its antennae tickled her. Akintos shouted, “Kefalia, get away from there!” When she didn’t, he sent a fireball her way, which hurt her but snapped her into place just in time. The beast that Akintos had been fighting used this opportunity to go after him, so Narcius used his super speed to hurl himself into it. It moved the monster’s body out of the way, and before it could get back up again, Stocastin cut it in half!

“Why did you do that?” Exelda hollered as she continued to fight the other creature. “It’s just going to regenerate!”

“Yes, but it buys us some time,” Stocastin pointed out.

Exelda recognized the legitimacy of his reasoning and halved hers as well. They all quickly convened together, and Exelda probed, “How do we kill it?”

Stocastin replied, “How do you kill anything in general? Obviously we can’t cut it up or burn it.”

Exelda put in, “Probably can’t poison it.”

“Strangle it?” Narcius suggested.

“Where’s Polyphema when you need her?” Akintos joked.

Kefalia brought up, ‘What about drowning?”

Stocastin dismissed that notion, “You can’t drown it! They’re sea creatures!”

“How do you know that?” Kefalia challenged as the four creatures were starting to form.

“Look at them! They have scales, fins, and gills!” Stocastin turned invisible again as the four creatures were now fully formed.

Stocastin, Kefalia, Exelda, and Narcius each took a monster to fight, but with only two torches available, Kefalia and Stocastin had a hard time seeing theirs, so Akintos dashed back to the broken cart to make more. While Exelda fought hers, she cried out, “Wait, they have gills? That means that they need water to breathe!”

Stocastin, who briefly turned visible to receive his torch, agreed, “Affirmative!”

The creature almost got Stocastin and Akintos, so they rolled out of the way. Stocastin’s clothes caught on fire, so he ran into the water to extinguish it. Akintos aimed some fireballs to keep it from attacking Stocastin. Exelda beheaded hers and instructed the others, “Do it one more time!” Kefalia and Narcius managed to cut theirs down, and Narcius zipped over to Stocatin and Akintos so they could use his light. Stocastin couldn’t find his sword in the water, so Akintos drew his sword and killed the last monster. Exelda directed everyone, “Get the bodies out of the ocean before they morph back to life!” Exelda used her super strength to throw her two halves out, Kefalia flew hers to shore one at a time, Narcius used his super speed to drag his out, and Akintos and Stocastin helped each other haul a piece out. One of their pieces started to form in the water, so Akintos used his fireballs to make the water boil. While the other seven pieces on the shore writhed and gasped for air, the one in the ocean looked bothered but not dying. Kefalia helped Exelda glide through the water, and when Exelda reached the last monster, she threw it onto the beach. They watched as its respiration slowed down more and more, and when it finally stopped breathing, everyone breathed a sigh of relief!

Once again, the five heroes were out of breath, and they braced themselves in the water while they waited for air to flow normally again. After a minute or so, Akintos noted, “Our cart is broken, so that means we’ll have to walk all the way back.”

All five of them groaned, and Exelda relented to Akintos, “Okay, we’ll sleep in tomorrow and go to the palace in the afternoon!” The other four all sighed gratefully to hear that.

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 14

In an empty basement room, Dason sat bound but not gagged in a cage. Marcin entered with a plate that had cooked meat and leafy greens on it and jovially announced, “Dinner!” Dason responded by giving him a cold look, and Marcin surmised, “You’re still mad, huh?” Dason continued to give him the same stare. “That’s a yes. You’d be less angry if you ate something. You must be starving! I mean, you’ve refused every meal I’ve tried to give you since you got here!” He took a small pinch of vegetables and held it up to Dason’s mouth, but Dason didn’t seem tempted to eat it. “If you don’t eat, you’ll be too frail to go home.”

Dason finally spoke,”How do I know you haven’t poisoned it?”

Marcin reasoned, “If Mercinon wanted to have you killed, he’d throw you into the pit of jackals. That’s kind of his thing.” He wiggled the bit of food he had in front of his mouth, and Dason reluctantly took it. “There you go!”

After he swallowed it, Dason surprised himself with his observance, “That’s not bad! I wasn’t expecting it to have any flavor.”

“Well, you weren’t eating, so I didn’t think you’d be tempted by bland food! Here, try the beef!” Marcin held the meat up to him, and Dason curiously took a bite. When Dason made a face that indicated he enjoyed it, Marcin remarked, “It’s good, isn’t it?” Dason nodded while he chewed. “It’s a special recipe my mother passed down to me.”

“I take it you don’t have the same issue with your mother as your friend upstairs.” Dason took another bite of food.

Marcin laughed, “Oh, no! His mother was a tyrant! She was brutal, really terrorized her kids.”

After Dason swallowed his food, he probed, “If his mother’s cruelty had such a traumatic effect on him, how could he, in good conscious, do the same to the people of Chaos?”

“He’s not taking over to torture the polis!” Marcin defended him. “He wishes to restore a dignity to the throne that he believed was lost through your family’s mismanagement. He thinks that passing off some of your power to the Senate makes you look weak.”

“I meant the monsters,” Dason argued, “People are losing their homes and their lives all for one man’s primitive political views!”

Marcin shrugged. “You sent your armies out to war knowing some of them will die in the process. It’s the same thing really!”

“No, it’s not! My soldiers chose to enlist, and their sacrifices helped defend Chaos from a dangerous regime. Mercinon isn’t giving them a choice, and he’s destroying the kingdom! Establishing power through fear is vile and barbaric!” He took another bite of food and couldn’t help but relish it. “You know, if it weren’t for the whole treasonous kidnapping thing, I’d hire you as a royal chef in an instant!”

“Marcin! For Hera’s sake, untie his hands and let him feed himself!” Mercinon stood at the doorway with his arms folded.

Mercinon’s sudden appearance made both Dason and Marcin jump. Marcin nervously reacted, “Sire! You’re here?”

Mercinon raised his eyebrows at him. “Uh, yeah! I don’t live in my office; I can go other places!”

Marcin peered at Dason and turned back to Mercinon. “If I untie him, he might find a way to escape. I don’t know how, but he seems crafty enough to figure something out.” Dason nodded to acknowledge the truth of that statement.

“Whatever.” Mercinon shook his head and moved on. “So, am I safe to assume that the superpower jerks killed the Catoblepas?”

“You’re so smart!” Marcin praised him. “How did you know?”

Mercinon replied, “Well, if we were successful, you’d tell me right away… I hope!”

Mercin rationalized, “Hear me out! It could only get defeated by moonlight, and I set it loose early in the morning! I didn’t think there’d be a way around that!”

“Did you find a replacement before you cooked up a gourmet dinner for our hostage?” Mercinon asked.

“After I went to the hill, my girlfriend and I waited at the ransom drop site for hours,” Marcin answered. “I now they have a few days, but I thought they’d pay it right away.”

Mercinon berated him, “Marcin, you idiot! Have your girlfriend deal with the money while you deal with the monsters!”

“Yes, sire!” As Mercinon started to leave, Marcin whispered to Dason, “I made some dessert too, but I’ll have to bring it-.” Mercinon turned around and stared at him quizzically. “I wasn’t saying anything!” He scurried to join Mercinon, who rolled his eyes before he shut the door.

Exelda studied a couple of maps while Narcius, Stocastin, Akintos, and Kefalia all thumbed through different books. Akintos exclaimed, “Oh no! I hope we don’t run into this monster!”

Narcius leaned over Akintos’s shoulder and furrowed his brow. “That doesn’t look so dangerous!”

“That’s what he wants you to think!” Akintos expounded. “It lulls you into a false sense of security so it can strike without warning! Just one bite can infuse venom in your body that will kill you in just seconds! There’s only one cure too, and I don’t think we’ll be able to find it!”

“What is it?” Kefalia inquired.

Akintos dramatically revealed, “The tears of a virgin! I mean, how would we find a virgin who would volunteer to potentially face a monster?”

They slowly craned their heads towards Stocastin, who took offense to that. “Why do you assume I haven’t yet performed the human reproductive act?”

“That!” Narcius said in response to his question.

“Just because I don’t talk about it doesn’t mean I haven’t participated in provocative activities!” Stocastin huffed. “I choose to spend time doing more intellectual pursuits because I enjoy the challenges it provides so much more than a temporary social engagement. I’ve been approached by many amorous women, but I don’t get the same thrill from them as I do by solving an academic mystery. Anyone could take those women to bed; it’s not like it’s hard!”

Kefalia pointed out, “Actually, if it’s not hard, it won’t work!” Narcius and Akintos snickered, and Stocastin pouted.

Exelda grinned but didn’t say anything on the subject. Instead, she brought up, “I’m not seeing anywhere in Chaos where someone could store a bunch of monsters without people noticing. They must be in a place just outside of the city-state! I’m going to need more maps!”

At that moment, someone came up to their table and informed them. “We’re closing now, so please return your materials. Feel free to come back in the morning.”

“Wow, we’ve been here all day!” Kefalia noted.

“With all of this research we’ve done, I feel prepared to face anything!” Narcius declared as he helped gather up books.

Exelda gently reminded him, “Don’t get overly confident! So many of the monsters on this list we made sound easy to defeat, but it’s one of those things that’s easier said than done. Plus, you never want to underestimate your enemies- they may end up surprising you!”

As they put their borrowed material back on their shelves, Akintos put in, “Plus, we don’t have all of these random things it takes to kill all of these things! Like silver, lots of things get killed by silver. I had no idea it was such a deadly object!”

“I bet the palace has lots of silver!” Kefalia stated.

“Excellent point!” Stocastin reacted.

Kefalia seemed shocked at the concept. “It is?”

Stocastin told her, “It was bound to happen sooner or later.” She made a happy gesture in celebration of this feat, and then Stocastin went on, “Princess Aleta did say to come to her if we needed anything to do our job.”

“That’s true.” Exelda rubbed her chin contemplatively as they finished putting everything away. “And they would have the maps we need to look at too. Alright, we’ll go to the palace in the morning.”

“How about the afternoon?” Akintos suggested as they made their way to the exit. “I’m so tired!”

Exelda queried, “How can you sleep at a time like this?”

Akintos responded, “Simple! I close my eyes and…” He pretended to snore as they walked onto the street. With his eyes shut, he didn’t see the camel in front of him and crashed into it. “Who takes their camel out at night?”

The other four laughed as he picked himself up, and then he joined them in their mirth. When they continued on their way, Narcius conversed, “I won’t have any trouble sleeping tonight! I simply have to have my beauty sleep or else I…”

Suddenly, the streets came to a sudden halt as the ground shook beneath them! People all stared in the direction that the shock came from, and from their high vantage of the hilltop that the town rested on, everyone could see people running away from a large mass in the ocean. The five heroes all knew what that meant, and Akintos and Narcius both wailed, “No!”

“No beauty rest tonight!” Narcius grumped.

“Pull it together, guys!” Exelda addressed them. “The sooner we kill this thing, the sooner we can rest!” They all agreed and headed out towards the seaside.

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 13

Are we there yet?” Narcius asked while squished in a chariot with Akintos and a royal guard.

From another chariot that also included Stocastin and another royal guard, Exelda answered sarcastically, “Yeah, we made it to the monster and decided to make a day trip to Mount Olympus instead!”

Narcius indignantly responded, “I meant are we almost there. Chariots aren’t built for three people!”

“There’s an olive field right there!” Kefalia shouted excitedly as she flew above their heads. “Can you believe it? We’re almost at the Agrotis village! My parents are farmhands there! I haven’t seen them in so long!”

“You’re parents are in the area getting attacked by a monster?” Stocastin questioned.

Kefalia’s face fell when she came upon that realization. “Oh no! I hope they don’t get eaten! Or smashed, or whatever this monster does!”

This prompted Exelda to inquire, “What kind of monster are we dealing with anyways?”

The guard on her chariot relayed to them, “It’s a big, shaggy-haired thing that doesn’t like to move much.”

Stocastin, Kefalia, Exelda, and Narcius all turned to Akintos, who reacted resentfully, “What are you all looking at me for?”

“It’s got horrible breath…” the royal guard continued.

“That sounds like you!” Kefalia giggled.

Akintos denied that, “It does not!”

The royal guard went on, “Some have said its ugliness alone could kill you!”

“Yup, that’s you alright!” Narcius guffawed. Akintos folded his arms and glared at them as they laughed.

“He’s eating all of our crops! And anyone who’s tried to stop him has turned into stone!” the royal guard concluded.

Everyone sobered up upon hearing that. Narcius told Akintos, “Okay, it sounds a little different than you!”

Exelda queried Stocastin, “Do you know about any monster like that?”

Stocastin shook his head. “It sounds vaguely familiar, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.”

“If you put your finger on it, you might turn into stone!” Kefalia remarked.

No one bothered to correct her as they started to get further inside the farming village. They began to hear screaming and saw people running in the distance. The royal guards stopped the horses that were hauling them, and the man in Narcius and Akintos’s chariot informed them, “We’re going to evacuate as many people as we can. Good lucky, guys!”

Narcius, Akintos, Stocastin, and Exelda gladly exited their chariots so that the guards could get out. People were running around in various directions, so the royal guards began ushering villagers down towards the path that they had road in on. Akintos crinkled his nose as he commented, “Is that is breath? It smells awful!”

Kefalia joined them on the ground. “No, that’s cow manure. It always smells like that here!”

“There’s nothing but houses in this neighborhood,” Exelda observed. “Kefalia, how do we get to more farmland?”

“Both streets lead to more farmland. How do we know which one to go down?” Kefalia fretted. They suddenly heard a burst of screams from the path on the left. “Oh, okay!” she said as they headed left.

When they got past the housing area, they discovered a field of grapevines with totally barren branches. Exelda joked, “Wow, looks like I kicked the habit just in time!”

The others nervously chuckled until they nearly ran into a statue. They grimaced as they gazed at a man frozen as he cowered in fear, and Kefalia gasped, “I know this guy!” They turned to her with wrapt attention. “He dumped me when I was a teenager! Ha! Good riddance!” She gave the statue a swift kick.

At that moment, Exelda spotted a mass moving in the distance grazing on some vegetation near a barn, so she cried out, “There it is!”

Stocastin squinted to try to get a better look. “Hmm… from here, it just looks like some sort of unshorn bovine. I doubt it’d be as easy to kill though or the farmers would have taken it out a long time ago!”

Akintos exclaimed, “I just remembered something!”

“What?” Exelda’s eyes brimmed with hope of hearing something that would help them with this matter.

“I need to take a leak!” Akintos declared.

Exelda clicked her tongue in annoyance. “Too bad! Now, we should quietly approach it so we can watch it from a distance and learn as much…” She noticed a couple of people advancing towards it with brandished pitchforks. “Never mind!” As they sprinted towards the vigilantes, she ranted, “What kind of idiots would just charge at it like that?”

Narcius used his super speed to push the people out of harm’s way. When the other heroes got closer, they saw the creature’s wild, stringy hair covered its face as it charged at the couple. When the beast realized it missed, it stopped with its head hung low and it let out an exasperated sigh as it repositioned itself to face Exelda, Stocastin, Akintos, and Kefalia. As they stood with their weapons at the ready, they heard a male’s voice call out, “Kefalia!”

“Dad?” Kefalia reacted incredulously. She saw that the couple with the pitchforks were, indeed, her parents, so she rejoiced, “Mom! Dad! You’re here! I missed-!” Narcius had to use his super speed to push her out of the way of the monster’s charging.

“Your parents are here?” Exelda uttered as the creature sighed again as it turned to make another attack. She caught wind of its breath and gagged a little.

Kefalia’s mother confirmed, “Yes, and our pet pigeon!” She took a bird out of her pocket and held it up in the air just as the creature swiveled in that direction. The pigeon gazed into the beast’s eyes, and it squawked in fright as it suddenly turned to stone!

Exelda commanded to Kefalia’s parents, “Don’t look in its eyes!” They covered their eyes to protect themselves, and since Kefalia was in that area, she followed suit. Exelda yelled, “Kefalia, open your eyes and fly away!”

Kefalia complied, but Narcius had to use his super speed to get her parents out of the monster’s trajectory again. Exelda ran to the creature’s side and tried to stab it, but her sword couldn’t penetrate its skin. The beast slowly spun her way, so Exelda shuffled to stay out of its sight. It didn’t deter the beast, who spun in circles trying to find her. Stocastin turned invisible and tried to stab it. His unsuccessful counterattack distracted it from Exelda, but it grew confused trying to figure out who was behind the strikes as Stocastin continued to target it in different spots.

Kefalia, Akintos, and Narcius met up with Exelda, and before anyone could ask the question that they all had about what to do, they caught a glimpse of its face. It’s snout was large and had green slime coming out of it, it had odd bumps on its cheeks, and the two halves of its jaw didn’t match up. It let out another exasperated sigh, and they all caught a whiff of its breath, which made them all heave from nausea. As they were recovering from this bodily shock, Narcius suddenly proclaimed, “Wait a minute, I recognize this thing!” Exelda, Kefalia, and Akintos looked at him in surprise. “It was on the cover of that children’s book you threw at me! It was shrieking in pain as it stared at the moon.”

“That’s how we destroy!” Exelda figured out. “Moonlight!”

“Too bad it’s midday!” Akintos grumbled.

Staying invisible and continuing his attacks, Stocastin educated them, “Technically, the moon doesn’t produce its own light. The glow we see comes from the effect of the sun’s position behind it.”

Exelda surmised, “So, to simulate moonlight, we need to block the sun.” She mulled it over for a moment. “Kefalia, do you think you can block it?”

“It couldn’t hurt to try!” She turned towards it and hurt her eyes. “Oh, I guess it can hurt to try!”

“Turn your back towards it,” Exelda instructed.

Kefalia inquired, “Then how will I know where to fly?”

Exelda replied, “We’ll have to direct you. Oh, but then how can we do that without hurting our eyes?”

“I got it!” Akintos declared.

After Akintos snatched Narcius’s mirror from his belt, Narcius whined, “Hey!”

Akintos turned his back to the sun and held the mirror so he could see behind him. “Go left!” Kefalia did as he said. “Too far, go a little more right. Now move up. A little more. More than that. There!” He frowned. “She’s too small! She needs to hold something to fill in the sides.”

“But what?” Exelda queried as she and Narcius scanned the area for material Kefalia could use.

At that instance, Kefalia’s father shouted, “Here, sweetie!” They took off their togas and threw it her way.

“Ugh!” Exelda, Narcius, and Akintos yelled upon seeing their nudity. Exelda saw that they completely missed, so she set her discomfort aside, swooped up the togas, and threw it up to Kefalia, who draped them as if they were wings. The sun became totally blocked, and the monster shrieked as it suddenly turned into stone!

When they saw that the battle was over, they all cheered and celebrated. Kefalia then flew towards her parents without looking at them and strongly suggested, “Put these back on, Mom and Dad!”

After their clothes were back on, Kefalia’s mother praised her, “Good job, darling! Where did you meet such a talented bunch?”

As they walked back towards the main part of the village, Kefalia told her, “These are my housemates, Mom! Remember, your boss didn’t have room for me anymore, so I went to live with the people at the old smithery!”

“The old smithery?” her mother repeated. “No, that can’t be true. Those guys are weirdos, and these guys seem so nice!”

“You’re findings are based on rumors,” Stocastin disputed, “They aren’t true.”

Her father insisted, “But then why does everyone say it’s a house of sorcery?”

Exelda explained simply, “Because we have superpowers.”

“Oh!” Her father paused before he added, “So, you’re not polyamorous sorcerers?”

“No way in Hades!” Narcius and the others had revolted expressions at the sheer idea.

“Alright, alright, if you insist, we’ll believe you!” Her mother relented. All of a sudden, she recalled, “Oh, I almost forgot my pet rock!”

They stopped to wait for her to retrieve the stone pigeon, and Narcius remarked, “So, guys, we really need to start doing more research!”

Exelda threw her hands up in frustration. “Oh, now you want to do research!” The other four shifted guiltily, and although she shook her head, she let the matter go. When she got a glimpse of Akintos, it reminded her of something. “Oh, since we’re waiting, you may as well go pee now.”

“I don’t need to go anymore,” Akintos said sheepishly.

“You were lying?” Exelda growled.

Akintos refuted, “No, just when I saw the beast, I… Say, who’s up for another trip to the bathhouse?”

Narcius, Stocastin, and Kefalia all snickered, so Exelda admonished them, “Come on, guys! We’re in our thirties, not our teens!” After Kefalia’s mom rejoined them, Exelda found herself snickering too. Akintos pouted while they headed out.

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 12

Kefalia, Stocastin, Akintos, and Narcius all walked into the throne room somewhat nervously while Exelda hid her face as she walked behind everybody. A woman with similar features to Dason sat in one of the gilded chairs and looked at several pieces of paper exasperatedly. When she saw the five of them enter, she breathed a sigh of relief. The royal servant announced, “Princess Aleta, here are the people you requested.”

“Yes, I can see that,” Aleta responded to him dryly. She turned to the heroes and regarded them, “Oh, thank gods, you’re all here! I… Wait, where is Exelda?”

Stocastin and Narcius stepped aside to reveal Exelda, who sheepishly said, “Oh, hello there! I, um, I was just-.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah!” Aleta interupted her. “I’m happily married now, so I don’t care about that incident from the past! Besides, I have more important things to worry about. With my parents totally out of it and my brother missing, I’m next in line for the crown! One minute I’m living a life of luxury, and next thing I know, I’m up to my elbows in paperwork and people needing me for this and that! I don’t know what all this means!” She indicated to her paperwork. “Why do I have these bills for services you received? A bathhouse, a tailor… wow, you found a female cobbler?”

Akintos corrected her, “Actually, Nike is a guy.”

“Really?” Aleta puzzled. “Why would he go by a goddess’s name?”

“He started to tell us, but we decided we didn’t want to know,” Akintos reported.

Aleta raised an eyebrow but did not press the subject. “Whatever. Just tell me why your bills are getting sent to the palace!”

The five heroes shifted guiltily, and Exelda explained, “We received these services while on official duty. It came as a result of us fighting the monsters, and Dason promised to pay us, so we figured that you could subtract the bills from the money we’re supposed to receive.”

“Oh, that makes sense,” Aleta replied. “How much did he say he was going to give you?”

Exelda thought about it for a moment. “Hmm… I don’t think he actually said a specific amount.” The other four corroborated her conclusion.

Aelta let out an aggravated sigh. “How in the name of Plutus am I supposed to know what the proper amount to pay you is?” She buried her head into her arms, which rested on throne she sat on. “Why didn’t he write any of this down? Why did he have to go missing in the first place? I just want to go back to being a pampered housewife! That’s all I want!”

She kept her head buried as a young, teenage boy entered the room from a door behind her. He had a piece of parchment and a quill in his hand as he approached her. “Aunt Aleta?”

Not moving her head at all, Aleta muttered, “What?”

The boy requested, “Can you help me with my academic work?”

“You’re asking me this now?” She popped her head up an expression on her face as though she were about to cry from frustration. “I’m in the middle of-!”

“I’m supposed to see my tutor soon and I don’t have any of it done!” he exclaimed. “I can’t go with an incomplete assignment!”

Before Aleta could burst, Stocastin volunteered, “Perhaps I can be of assistance. I’m quite learned in the academic arts.”

The boy seemed a little skeptical. “Really? Do you know anything about mathematical formulas?”

Exelda, Narcius, Akintos, and Kefalia all laughed knowingly while Stocastin’s eyes lit up in sheer joy. Kefalia assured the boy, “Stocastin knows everything about mathematical formulas! He does them on his own for fun!”

“Really? Oh, okay!” The boy stepped off of the throne platform and sat next to Stocastin on the floor.

Aleta’s overwhelmed demeanor mollified a bit as she watched Stocastin delightedly explain how to solve the formulas on his parchment. She then turned to the papers in front of her and concluded, “I guess I can just pay these and keep a record of what you spent so we can figure out how much to pay you when the job is done.”

Exelda promised her, “We’ll try not to charge anything else to you.”

“Well, as long as you don’t crazy with your spending, you can still charge things to the palace,” Aleta decreed. “I want to make sure you have everything you need to get the job done, after all! I mean, your work is unbelievably important! Oh, I’m so glad that Dason hired you before he went missing! I don’t know what I would have done if he hadn’t!”

“Well, the senate came up with this idea,” Exelda pointed out. “You would have done just fine!”

An idea suddenly struck Aleta. “The senate! Of course! Dason must have left the details of his decisions with them!” She turned to her servant and directed him, “Please bring in the senate leader!”

“Yes, Princess!” The servant half bowed before he left.

Aleta returned her attention to the heroes. “If there’s anything you need, please let me know! I’m confident that Dason will return one day, and when he does, I want to make sure you’re all in one piece! He’d kill me if anything happened to you guys! Especially you, Exelda!” Aleta winked at her.

“What do you mean, especially me?” Exelda probed.

Aleta’s face fell slightly. “Oh, he didn’t talk to you about…?” She saw Exelda’s blank expression, which answered her question. “Oh, he’s not going to like that I just said that! Oh well! Since the cat’s out of the bag now, he’s been talking about you non-stop ever since he met you! He finds you charming and sweet, and he’s infinitely intrigued by all of your achievements in the war. He thinks you’re the prettiest person in all of Greece too, so I told him-.”

“He’s wrong!” Narcius interjected. “I’m the prettiest person in all of Greece!”

Aleta looked a little perplexed at his cause for disruption, but it was Kefalia who admonished him, “You can’t interrupt the princess!”

Narcius didn’t seem deterred by her reproach. “You know it’s true!”

“I’m starting to think it’s not so important anymore!” Kefalia huffed.

Aleta was obviously confused, “so Akintos advised her, “Feel free to cut them off anytime!”

Exelda jumped in, “If Dason really felt this way about me, why didn’t he seek me out? He could have found me any time he wanted to, so why didn’t he? Did he believe all of the rumors spread about us?”

“We’re not ones to rely on rumors,” Aleta replied. “As public figures, we have all kinds of gossip swirling around about us. Do you believe any of them?” Exelda mulled it over for a second and shook her head. Aleta continued, “He always wanted to find you, but he never did because he never thought he was good enough for you.”

Exelda’s eyes went wide in shock. “Not good enough for me? But he’s a prince! He’s so handsome and smart and kind… He could have any girl in the kingdom at a moment’s notice! And yet he’s worried about not being good enough for me? Me, a disgraced soldier turned peasant woman! He could have a girl with a flatter stomach, a high social standing, and more… more everything than me, and yet he thinks he’s not good enough for me?”

Aleta sagely stated, “It’s not like he’s perfect! He has faults just like everyone else, and dating a royal comes with some baggage! Besides, you may not think much of yourself, but he thinks a lot of you!”

Exelda’s cheeks reddened immensely, and she couldn’t help but beam broadly. Kefalia cooed, “Awwwwww!”

The royal servant returned and got everyone’s attention by clearing his throat. “The senate leader, your highness.”

Cyrek entered and commented to Aleta, “You interrupted a very busy assembly… And I can’t thank you enough! How can I help you?”

“Finished!” the boy declared. “Thank gods! Who uses the Pythagorean Theorem in real life?”

“You’d be surprised, kid!” Stocastin reacted.

Exelda told Cyrek and Aleta, “We should get going! We still have a lot of research to do!”

Narcius and Kefalia groaned, but Akintos joked, “Relax guys! Every time we try to do research, we get attacked by a monster. So if you don’t want to do any book work, don’t worry, we won’t! Maybe they’ll save us a trip and attack us before we leave!”

“That’s not funny!” Exelda punched his arm. “If we do get attacked by another monster on the way, I swear to Gaia, I will-!”

A royal guard suddenly barged into the room and urgently called out, “Help! The Agrotis village is under attack!”

“By soldiers?” Akintos timidly asked.

“No,” the royal guard answered. “Our farms are under attack by a hideous monster!”

Akintos repined, “Damn!” Exelda glared at him, so he boldly asserted, “You can’t kill me ’til after we defeat the monster!”

Exelda stared at him with raised eyebrows. “You’re not allowed to make any more predictions!” She commanded to the others, “Let’s go!” They followed the royal guard out of the palace.

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 11

Narcius lead Polyphema to a clearing surrounded by tall, sturdy trees, and after they stopped, Narcius instructed her, “Lie down here… beautiful!”

“Okay!” Polyphema flirtatiously giggled, and then she knelt down, swung her legs around, and gently laid her back on the floor. When she spread her legs, Narcius whipped her head away and muffled his gagging so she couldn’t hear it. Polyphema adoringly notified him, “Polyphema ready!”

Stocastin turned visible next to Narcius and whispered into his ear. Narcius then directed Polyphema, “Put your hands above your head.”

“Why Polyphema do that?” she questioned.

Narcius quickly improvised, “Oh, it’s a surprise!” She tittered in anticipation and complied. Stocastin whispered something else to Narcius, and Narcius then told her, “Okay, close your eyes! Eye!” Polyphema did that and then sighed contentedly.

Stocastin silently motioned for Narcius to follow him, and they both tiptoed towards a tree to the right of her head where the others stood. Exelda stealthily crept towards Polyphema’s hands while Akintos began burning the roots off of the tree. Polyphema started to grow restless and inquired, “What take so long?”

Narcius used his super speed to zip back to his original position. “Just warming up!” He dashed back over to the tree that now stood loosely in the ground. Kefalia flew up to a higher part of the tree while Narcius and Stocastin stood at the base. Polyphema impatiently asserted, “No more waiting! Polyphema want it now!”

Staying bye the tree this time, Narcius responded, “You’ll get it now!”

Akintos made a signal to Exelda by nodding as Polyphema inquired, “Where you go?” She opened her eyes just as Exelda pinned her hands down. She roared in rage but could not move. Kefalia, Narcius, and Stocastin pushed the tree down, and as it pummeled towards her, she let out a deafening yell and kicked her feet hard enough to make the ground shake. The tree landed on her face with a loud smack, and a brown liquid erupted from her body upon impact. The forest suddenly fell silent, and she moved no more.

Exelda met up with Kefalia, Stocastin, Akintos, and Narcius as they all cheered and celebrated. Once they got over their initial thrill of victory, they were all disgusted to see that they were covered in that brown goo. “Is this blood?” Kefalia exclaimed.

“Why is it brown?” Exelda added.

“My guess would be low oxygen or an iron deficiency,” Stocastin theorized. “Then again, maybe she wasn’t totally human and had a totally different element that made up her blood, like… You know what, since it’s all over me, I don’t even want to think about it!”

Narcius stated, “There’s lots of things about today that I don’t want to think about!”

Akintos laughed mockingly at him. “Oh my gods, did you see under her toga?”

“I don’t want to talk about it!” Narcius snapped.

“That’s a yes!” Akintos chortled uproariously. “Oh, you have to share the details!”

Exelda jumped in, “Ugh, no you don’t! Come on, let’s get out of here!”

As they headed back towards the village, Kefalia bemoaned, “Don’t tell me we still have to study after this!”

“All I can think about is finding the nearest bathhouse and getting this gunk off immediately!” Exelda grimaced as she purposefully did not look down at her visage. The others heartily agreed with her.

After a quiet moment, Akintos ribbed Narcius, “So, how did she compare to the rest of the women of Chaos?”

Exelda, Kefalia, and Stocastin all groaned, and before Narcius could say anything, Exelda ordered, “For the love of Zeus, don’t answer that!” Akintos continued to chortle as they exited the clearing.

That night, Mercinon stared into the mirror he had on his wall as he majestically spoke, “As your beloved king, it is my duty to impose new laws for your own protection. Therefore, today I must issue a royal decree…” A small knock sounded at the door, but he did not hear it. “… It is now illegal to walk your camel after sunset…” The perpetrator of the knocks made another attempt, but Mercinon still didn’t notice. “… I know it may not seem fair, but there has been far too many chariot accidents lately, so I-!” All of a sudden, he heard a loud boom that almost made him lose his balance. “Ah! We’re under attack!” He hid behind his desk and shivered from fear.

The door cracked open, and Marcin cautiously stuck his head inside. “Sire?”

Mercinon popped out from his hiding spot. “Oh, it’s just you! What do you want? Are you here to tell me more bad news?”

Marcin stared at him in surprise. “How did you know that? Have the gods gifted you with clairvoyancy?”

“I’m not clairvoyant!” Mercinon rebutted. “If I was, do you think I’d let those jerks with superpowers keep killing my best monsters?”

“Well…” Marcin started to reply.

Mercinon chastised him, “You have to think about it? The answer is obvious! Please use your brain a little more! This is a very important mission!”

Marcin got down to his knees. “I keep disappointing you! Please forgive me! I’ll get it right next time, I swear!”

“Don’t make promises that you have no idea whether or not you keep!” Mercinon sharply advised him. He sat on his throne-like chair and exhaled in frustration. “So, what went wrong this time?”

“I really thought I nailed it this time!” Marcin explained. “Polyphema’s massive size and primitive rage made her the perfect force for destruction! Never in my wildest dreams did I think she would get the hots for someone while on the job!”

Mercinon remarked, “Okay, so this defeat really had nothing to do with their skills. They just got lucky!”

Marcin responded, “No, I think only one of them got lucky!”

After rolling his eyes, Mercinon commanded, “Just find another monster, but make sure this one can’t be seduced!”

“Yes, sire!” Marcin bowed before he headed out of the room.

From the other side of the door, Marcin heard Mercinon say, “For my next decree, I declare that it is now illegal to cut off your own head!” Marcin looked as though he wanted to correct him, but he shook it off and said nothing as he left.

Exelda, Stocastin, Narcius, Akintos, and Kefalia all wore new togas as they sat at the wooden table in their home eating oatmeal. Exelda started to eat so fervently that everyone else froze just watching her. “This tastes amazing! Why does this taste so good?” Exelda wondered.

Kefalia shrugged. “I put some honey in it.” She passed the clay jar over to her.

Exelda unsealed it and took a spoonful out. After she sampled it, her eyes lit up and she began chowing down on it voraciously. “How come I never noticed how good honey is?”

“It probably tastes different with wine on your tongue,” Stocastin figured.

“Um, this stuff isn’t cheap.” Kefalia tried to reach for it.

Exelda smacked her hand as it got close. “Back off!”

Stocastin assured Kefalia, “We can afford to get more since we’re saving so much money by not buying alcohol.”

“Or we can always just charge it to the palace again.” Akintos finished his breakfast and stretched out comfortably. “We got free shoes, a free bath, and free clothes! If I knew this hero stuff would come with so many perks, I would have signed up a long time ago!”

“It’s not free, we have to go through a lot to get these things!” Narcius pointed out. “No clothes or bathhouses will get certain images out of my head!”

Akintos kidded, “Are you sure you didn’t enjoy that a little?”

Kefalia retorted, “Maybe you keep making fun of him because you’re just jealous you didn’t get to see it!”

Everyone got amused by her comment, but they were also surprised that it came out of her mouth. Stocastin complimented her, “Wow, that was supremely clever!”

“Why does everyone look so shocked when I say something smart?” Kefalia probed.

The other four shifted guiltily. After an awkward silence, Exelda resumed eating her honey. With a full mouth, she opinionated, “They’ll probably take all of these things out of whatever they were going to pay us. We should really stop charging stuff to the palace; they might get mad if we spend too much.”

Akitnos dismissed this idea. “No way! They have so much money that they probably won’t even notice any is missing! Besides, if they were really mad, don’t you think they’d contact us about it by now?”

At that instance, they heard a knock at the door, Narcius, who was closest to the entrance, swallowed the last of his food and went to the door. A royal servant came in and announced, “You’re all being summoned to the palace.”

Exelda glared at Akintos, so he suggested, “Maybe it’s good news!” No one seemed to believe him as they all prepared to leave.

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 10

Mercinon flamboyantly practiced sword fighting with a tall, slender sword when Marcin entered. Mercinon didn’t see or hear Marcin, so after he did a quick turn, he almost stabbed him! Mercinon reprimanded him, “You really got to start knocking!”

“I’m sorry, sire!” Marcin apologized. “I’ll do better next time! It’s imperative for a mission like this to have the foresight to-.”

“Why are you babbling?” Mercinon noticed that Marcin was hanging his head and shuffling his feet around, so he clicked his tongue out of annoyance and asked, “Are you here to tell me how you screwed up this time?”

Marcin confessed, “The Sirens are dead!”

Mercinon’s eyes widened upon hearing this. “Seriously? You sounded so sure that this would work!”

“Well, we brought down the blonde girl right away, and I was so sure that the rest of them liked women!”Marcin explained.

“You idiot! You can’t make plans based off of assumptions! That’s so… ugh!” He put all of his frustration into his sword work and resumed his extravagant practicing. After a moment, he realized that Maricn hadn’t spoken in a while, so he probed, “Well? Did you get something to replace the Sirens?”

Marcin replied, “Actually, on my way back to your palace, I found Echinda…”

Mercinon got so stunned to hear him say this that he froze mid pose! “You got Echinda? The mother of all monsters?” Marcin nodded. “That’s brilliant! With Echinda on our side, our regime can continue indefinitely!” He observed Marcin shifting guiltily again. “Ugh, I should have known better than to get my hopes up! How did you blow it already?”

“It wasn’t my fault!” Marcin sniveled. “Hades came and took her for a pet.”

Mercinon growled and aggressively began his swordplay again. “Just release your next monster so-.”

Marcin repeated, “Next monster? I spent all day on the last two, I didn’t have time to-.”

“Argh!” Mercinon cried out.

“I’ll get one first thing in the morning!” Marcin whimpered.

Mercinon shouted, “You think you deserve sleep after this? You-!” He thrust his sword so violently that he lost his balance and fell down into a heap. “…Jackals…”

“Are you okay, sire?” Marcin approached him cautiously.

Still on the ground, Mercinon spouted, “Jackals!”

Marcin was able to infer the message Mercinon was trying to convey. “Okay, sire! I’m gone!” Mercinon mumbled something incoherent as Marcin dashed out of the room.

The next morning, the five heroes sat a table in the center of a vast room full of shelves and books. Exelda gazed up from the book she had and saw that Akintos had fallen asleep, so she nudged him to wake him up. “Huh?” He blinked his eyes groggily. “Where are we?”

“We’re in the heart of the academic center! Can you believe it?” Stocastin gushed. “Just look at all of these books! Think about how much time it took for each one to get handwritten and bound! Thousands of hours went into making this room fill up, but thanks to their efforts, we have pages upon pages of the thoughts of the most brilliant minds in all of Chaos! Maybe in all of Greece! We’re so fortunate to have this opportunity!”

“Yeah, real fortunate!” Akintos yawned. “Why are we here? Weren’t we just here yesterday?”

Exelda expounded, “Yes, but we spent all day getting thanked and answering questions from the locals, so we didn’t get any research done! We’re still under threat of an impending monster attack, and our prince is still missing! We have to find out all we can so we can restore peace to Chaos once more!” Akintos shrugged as he disinterestedly thumbed through a book in front of him. “Well, at least Narcius and Kefalia aren’t complaining!” She glanced over to them and cringed. “Oh, for Elysium’s sake!”

Kefalia stared at Narcius adoringly as Narcius primped himself while looking into his hand mirror. Kefalia inquired, “Narcius? Can I ask you something?”

Not taking his gaze off of this reflection, Naricus replied, “Go ahead.”

Kefalia wrung her hands nervously. “I, uh, well, I think you’re kind of handsome…”

“You’re wrong!” Narcius corrected her. “I’m not kind of handsome, I’m extremely handsome!”

Exelda jumped in, “And I think you’re extremely dumb! Here!” She tossed a children’s book to him. “If you see a picture of a monster we might face, just point and grunt.”

“I can read!” Narcius indignantly put down his mirror and picked up another book.

“Come on you guys!” Exelda urged them. “We need to learn all we can before another monster-!” Suddenly, they felt the entire building shake, which was followed by a number of people outside screaming. “Ugh, too late! Let’s go!” They put down their books and ran towards the pandemonium.

When they came out to the street, they saw a woman as tall as a small mountain with one giant eye and the brutish looks of a cave person stomping on a building down the road from them! Exelda thought out loud, “Okay, she’s human, so it’s just like killing an enemy on the battlefield… only she’s a hundred times bigger than anyone I’ve ever faced!”

Stocastin pointed out, “We would have to ensure that she fell in an exact way so that she doesn’t crush any buildings. Even if we managed to do that, the impact of her body hitting the ground would most likely cause tremors equal to that of a small earthquake.”

“So, what do we do then?” Akintos wondered.

“Don’t ask me!” Kefalia put in. “They keep tickling me, so I’m useless!”

Exelda’s eyes lit up as she made a connection. “Wait a minute! How would the monsters know to do that?” As she talked, the ground beneath them shook more and more. “They didn’t tickle you by accident, the Sirens and the Points both did it on purpose! It can’t be a coincidence! This is proof someone is controlling them! But who besides us would know her weakness?”

The vibrations became strong enough that they could hardly stand, so Narcius requested, “Can we talk about this later? What’s our plan to deal with that massive…?”

Before he could finish his sentence, a shadow suddenly loomed over them, and he saw the other four all had frightened expressions on their faces. He turned around and grew pale when he saw that he was closest to the giant, who now stood right above them! The giant spoke to him, “You call Polyphema names? Polyphema crush you!”

Her foot hovered over him, so Narcius shrieked, “I didn’t mean massive in a bad way!” She stopped and stared at him curiously. Even though he trembled tremendously, he knew he had to continue, so he fibbed, “I was going to say massive…beauty! Yes, that’s right, massive beauty!”

Polyphema put her foot down and gazed at him in surprise. “You think Polyphema beauty-ful?”

Under his breath, Narcius scolded himself, “Why did I say that?” He seemed unsure of how to respond, so he turned back to the others, who all urged him to keep going. He reluctantly faced Polyphema again, who eagerly waited for his confirmation. “Well… I can honestly say I’ve never seen a woman like you before!”

“Aw, you make Polyphema blush!” She grinned bashfully.

As Narcius continued to occupy Polyphema’s attention, the other four huddled together. Stocastin noted, “She doesn’t appear to be a threat anymore!”

“He can’t start dating her!” Kefalia eyed them jealously. “He doesn’t love her! Eventually she’ll figure that out, and when they break up, she’ll get really mad and destroy our polis again!”

“We’re just using this opportunity to buy some time,” Exelda assured her. “It’s not like we meant for them to get married and have kids!”

Akintos puzzled, “Have kids? How would that even work? He could probably walk into her malakas like a cave!”

Kefalia and Stocastin looked repulsed at the idea of doing what he described, but Exelda cried out, “That’s it!” The other three stared at her incredulously, so Exelda hastily explained, “No, not that! I mean, if Polyphema thought she was getting lucky, she would lay down willingly and we could avoid her causing an earthquake!” Stocastin, Akintos, and Kefalia all got the idea and non-verbally agreed that it had merit.

Exelda tiptoed over to Narcius, who told Polyphema, “…Surely Aphrodite has blessed you with many lovers!”

“No, Polyphema alone,” Polyphema informed him.

“No way!” Narcius said as sincerely as he could. As Polyphema looked away sheepishly, Exelda whispered into Narcius’s ear. “No way!” he reacted vehemently.

Exelda hissed, “Just do it!”

Polyphema questioned, “What you say?”

“Uh… I…” Narcius stammered.

“You say do it? Polyphema say okay! Polyphema like you!” She smiled coyly.

Trying his hardest not to wince, Narcius suggested, “Okay, let’s go get some privacy then!” He gulped as Polyphema held out her hand, and he clutched her little finger as they walked out of the village. Exelda, Kefalia, Akintos, and Stocastin followed them at a distance.

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 9

Just outside of a neighboring village, a large patch of mud took over the dirt path that they walked on, and Akintos commented, “Well, good luck with that!”

He tried to leave, but Exelda stopped him. “We’re not turning back now! We’re almost there!”

“I don’t want to get all dirty!” Kefalia complained.

“You can fly!” Exelda reminded her.

Kefalia remembered, “Oh yeah! I keep forgetting that our powers are out in the open now!”

Akintos watched her hover the mud and mumbled, “Show off!”

“I, for one, do not want to touch mud unless it’s for some kind of spa treatment!” Narcius put in.

Stocastin added, “They won’t let us into any academic centers if we leave a muddy trail.”

“We can wash our feet off at a water trough,” Exelda suggested. “Now, come on! We’re wasting time!”

Exelda led the way into the mud patch, and although Stocastin, Narcius, and Akintos all looked hesitant, they followed her through it. The farther they went inside, the harder it became to traverse. Exelda had to use her super strength to get through it, but the three men got stuck. “Speaking of wasting time…” Akintos teased.

“Oh, shut up! I’ll get you out!” Exelda waded over to Stocastin, lifted him up, and moved him to more shallow grounds. She had a little trouble with Narcius, so Kefalia helped her out, which got Narcius out of it. They both struggled with Akintos, and as they tried dragging him out, Exelda asked him, “Are you even trying?”

Akintos dully answered, “Trying for what?”

“MOVE!” both Exelda and Kefalia barked.

“Ugh! Fine!” Akintos began moving his legs, and they were able to get him out after that.

As Exelda caught her breath, she remarked, “Whew! Finally, we can move on!”

Stocastin brought up, “Actually, we can’t move on quite yet. We have another problem.”

“Seriously? What could possibly be…?” She trailed off as she noticed Stocastin pointing to their feet. When Exelda noticed that no one but Kefalia had their shoes anymore, she groaned, “Oh, for Hera’s sake!”

As they searched the city with unshod feet, the people who passed them looked at them peculiarly. Narcius indignantly stated, “Obviously, their heralds haven’t told them who we are yet!”

Exelda advised, “Just ignore them! I’m sure there’s a cobbler around here somewhere!” Right after she spoke, she spotted a sign over a shop window. “There we go! And it doesn’t look busy either! How lucky can we get?” Stocatin opened his mouth to respond, so Exelda clarified, “That was rhetorical.” Stocastin’s face indicated that he wanted to argue, but he kept his mouth shut as they walked inside.

The walls of the shop were lined with wooden boxes full of shoes, and the center of the room had a couple of chairs. An old man with a wild beard and misty eyes came out from a back room and greeted them, “Welcome to my shop! I am Nike.”

“Like the goddess?” Exelda questioned.

“Yes,” Nike confirmed. “When I was a baby, my parents thought I was a girl. Do you want to know why?”

Exelda replied, “No!”

Nike shrugged. “Suit yourself! Anyways, thank you for choosing Nike’s cobbler service! How can I help you?”

“Nike’s cobbler service…” Akintos repeated. “Nike and shoes… What a strange combination!”

“Anyways!” Exelda interjected. “As you can see from our bare feet, we’re in dire need of shoes. Do you have anything pre-made that we can take?”

Nike reveled, “Oh, you want to adopt some of my babies?”

Narcius responded confusedly, “Adopt your what?”

“Have a seat,” Nike invited them. Narcius and Akintos reluctantly took a seat in the two chairs while Nike rummaged through some of his boxes. He pulled out a pair and brought them over to Narcius, not seeming to notice how uncomfortable Narcius looked as he slipped the shoes on. “Oh, he fits you nicely! You’re going to a good home today, my dear!” Narcius nervously laughed and got out of the seat. Stocastin warily replaced him as he rummaged through more bins. He brought a pair over to Exelda and told her, “They like you!”

“I’m sure they do! I can do that!” She forced herself to politely smile as she took the shoes from Nike and put them on herself.

Nike turned to Kefalia and said, “Oh, I know a pair that would just love you!”

“Oh, no, I’m good!” Kefalia waited until he went to another box of shoes to say under her breath, “Thank gods!”

Nike brought a pair of sandals over to Akintos, “Yes, you two will get along nicely!” Akintos didn’t respond to him except to grimace. Nike then joyfully informed Stocastin, “I have a special pair for you in the back! Please excuse me!”

As Nike skipped to the back room, Akintos repulsively expressed, “Instead of going to the academic center, can we go back to the mud pit and search for our old shoes? I don’t want shoes that might speak to me!”

“I’m sure he’s just a little overly zealous about something he’s created,” Exelda reasoned. “Obviously, the shoes aren’t actually talking to him!”

“We need to get out of here!” Narcius’s eyes widened as he held his sandal to his ear. “I can hear this one singing!”

Exelda dismissed this notion, “That’s ridiculous! As soon as Nike brings out-.”

Akintos interrupted, “By Zeus, I can hear them too! We need to leave! Now!”

When Akintos rapidly sat up, he knocked over a box of shoes. He and Narcius zipped out of the door, so Exelda and Kefalia began picking the shoes up. Exelda remarked, “At least they’re comfortable!”

“They don’t look very comfortable! They’re out there shaking like a leaf!” Kefalia peered at them through the front window.

“No, I meant the shoes!” Exelda corrected her.

Kefalia conversed, “Well, they better be comfortable since they’re creepy singing shoes!”

Exelda started to say, “They’re not singing! They-!”

Stocastin told her, “I hear singing too, but it’s coming from outside.”

Exelda finally heard the music, it was a small choir of women singing very seductively, so she ran to the window where she saw men slowly walking down the street in a very trance like manner. “They’re in trouble! Let’s go!”

Exelda and Kefalia bolted out. Stocastin was about to when Nike came out from the back room with a pair of sandals. “Here they are! They’re… Hey, where’d everyone go?”

“No time to explain!” Stocastin quickly snatched the shoes from him and hastily put them on as he headed out the door. “Send the bill to the palace, they owe us money!”

Out in the streets, Kefalia flew over the crowd and found Narcius and Akintos heedless marching towards three very attractive ladies crooning in the middle of a large plaza. She grabbed the men’s togas to try to stop them, but they ignored her attempts and dragged her along with them. Kefalia shouted to them, “Stop! These are the dangerous women who make men crash their ships!”

Narcius pointed out, “We’re not on a ship!”

Kefalia didn’t let go until Exelda caught up with them. “Kefalia, why don’t you try distracting the Sirens so they stop singing?” she directed as she gripped the two men’s togas. They still tried to move forward but couldn’t actually go anywhere under her hold.

Kefalia flew in front of the Sirens’ faces and exclaimed, “Knock it off, you harlots!”

One of the Sirens coolly responded, “Like we’re going to listen to you, blondie!” All three tickled her, which made her laugh and then freeze up.

“That was hot!” Akintos expressed.

Stocastin found Exelda stared at him in surprise. “Why aren’t they having an effect on you? Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were…”

“I’m not! Pretty girls just scare me!” He picked up Narcius’s hands and put a finger in each ear. Narcius no longer tried to reach the Sirens, but he stared at Stocastin in confusion. “Don’t take them out!”

“What?” Narcius yelled.

Stocastin put Akintos’s fingers in his ears, and Exelda probed, “Now what? Kefalia’s frozen and these two can’t use their hands!” Stocastin shrugged.

Exelda thought for a moment, but soon she noticed that a lot of men and a couple of women were still hypnotized by the Sirens. Exelda didn’t like the devious looks on the Sirens’ faces as people started to near them, so she knew she had to do something. She drew out her sword and ran over to them. Seeing that they were now under threat, the Sirens stopped singing and let out a hideous shriek. They slowly transformed into snarling, cat-like beasts with purple, scaly skin and long, sharp fangs, and their new visage broke everyone out of their spell. Exelda attempted to face all three at once, but the men couldn’t let her fight alone, so they sprung into action. Narcius used his super speed to circle around the beasts and distract them, and Stocastin turned invisible and began attacking one of them. Akintos shrouded one of them in fireballs and watched it writhe around in pain. While Narcius helped Stocastin kill off the other beast, Exelda battled the last one. After evading a few swipes, she got into a good position to finish it off. She saw that Stocastin and Narcius had finished off the second beast and were staring into the fountain behind them where the third beast had extinguished itself. Needing to act quickly, Exelda picked Kefalia up and threw her at it, which pinned it down and made it drown.

When they saw that the monsters were defeated and that Kefalia had been successfully retrieved, the townspeople clapped and cheered. After a number of people thanked them and the excitement began to ebb a bit, the five heroes could hear each other talk again, so Akitnos joked, “See, this is why I’m still single! All of the prettiest women in Chaos are either taken or blood-thirsty monsters!”

Exelda rolled her eyes but also laughed. Narcius wiped his hands and declared, “There! Problem solved forever!”

“Nice try!” Exelda replied, “We still have research to do!” Narcius, Akintos, and Kefalia balked at the idea but did not argue in front of the admiring crowd.

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 8

Marcin entered Mercinon’s office only to to see him on all fours with his rear end pointed up in the air. Marcin cautiously conversed, “Did you lose something, sire?”

Mercinon replied, “My patience, Marcin! Which is why I’ve taken up yoga.” He laid flat on the ground and lifted up his torso. “It’s an Eastern method of relaxation and inner peace.” He flipped his body over and arched his back in a way that made his stomach jut towards the ceiling. “I can’t believe it’s taking this long to take over one measly kingdom!” He laid flat again and transitioned himself into sitting with his heels touching each other. “It’s just not fair!” he shouted as he shifted into a squat with his arms extended forward.

“I don’t think this yoga thing is really working,” Marcin remarked.

“What did you say?” Mercinon probed as he stood up and raised his right foot to his left thigh.

Marcin hastily covered up his previous statement by announcing, “I said I have a piece of good news.”

As Mercinon switched so his feet so that his left one touched his right thigh, he followed up with, “Just a piece, eh? Not a whole good news segment?” Marcin shrugged, and as Mercinon stretched his left leg behind him and grabbed his ankle for balance, he asked, “Well, what is it?”

“Let me show you!” He happily skipped into the hallway.

As Mercinon did the same pose with the opposite leg, Marcin wheeled in a large cage that had Dason bound and gagged inside of it! Mercinon got such a large shock from seeing this that he lost his balance and fell face first onto the floor. He quickly picked himself up and gasped, “What did you do?”

“I kidnapped the prince.” Marcin had clearly expected to get praised for this deed and started to get nervous when he didn’t get it.

“I can see that!” Mercinon responded with a hint of annoyance in his voice. “Why in the name of Hades would you do that?”

Marcin hung his head sheepishly. “He caught me capturing a monster.”

Mercinon forcibly raised his hand to his forehead. “So you kidnapped him? You could have pretended to be an innocent villager trying to stave off another attack! Did you even try that? You do realize that even if he did catch you committing a crime that the best solution to that problem isn’t to kidnap the witness, right? Really, this is exactly the kind of thing that we have a pit of jackals for!”

“Well, I kept him alive so you could decide what you want to do with him,” Marcin explained. “You know, in case you wanted to ask the royal family for a ransom or something.”

“A ransom…” Mercinon rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Yes, I suppose we could send an anonymous letter to the palace and demand a large sum of Drachmas! We could use the extra money, especially after The Points ate a bunch of our gold! Okay Marcin, I forgive you for this stunt!” Marcin looked very pleased with himself. “But since you brought him in, you’re responsible for feeding him and cleaning up after him! Make sure you store him somewhere safe!” Through his gag, Dason clearly tried to shout a comeback to Mercinon, who reacted in appall, “Hey! Don’t insult my mother! She could be here any time!” After he uttered this, Mercinon eyeballed the room apprehensively.

Dason turned to Marcin for explanation, and Marcin advised him, “Don’t ask!”

Mercinon quickly composed himself and maintained a dignified stance as he questioned, “This new monster is less easy to destroy, isn’t it?”

“Oh, don’t worry! No man stands a chance against them!” Marcin assured him.

“Good! If those super weirdos destroy this set, I swear to gods I will…!” He trailed off as he shook his fist in the air. Marcin stared at him in confusion as to whether or not he had finished his thought, so Mercinon told him, “You can go now!” Marcin hastily grabbed the cage’s tether and dragged Dason out of the room. Mercinon sighed, sat on his desk with his legs criss-crossed, and began humming tranquilly.

Exelda stood with her hands on her hips as Narcius used a stick to practice sword fighting with an invisible Stocasting, who clearly had the upper hand and was able to get a number of jabs in as Narcius moved around the practice space trying to find him. Narcius moaned out of a growing frustration, and then suddenly Stocastin tripped over Akintos, who had been lazily lounging on the sidelines. Stocastin lost his concentration and turned visible, and seizing the opportunity, Narcius ran over to him and pinned Stocastin down with his foot. “Ah-ha! Now you can see my ancestor’s noble blood at work! I don’t even need to see my opponent to beat them!”

Exelda rolled her eyes, Kefalia fervently clapped, and Akintos sarcastically asked, “Oh, so next time we face a monster, can we blindfold you?”

Narcius proudly answered, “Yes, you certainly can!”

“No! Absolutely not!” Exelda interjected.

“Is that jealousy I hear?” Narcius arrogantly said to her.

Exelda scoffed, “No! It’s reality!”

Stocastin put in, “You know, you can get off of me any time!”

As Narcius took his foot off of Stocastin, Exelda scolded him, “You got a lucky break! Any monster we might face probably won’t be so clumsy!”

“So what you’re saying is that there is a small chance!” Narcius reacted cheekily.

Exelda didn’t acknowledge his remark other than to shake her head. “Okay, Akintos, why don’t you face Kefalia this time?”

Everyone groaned, and Akintos complained, “We’ve been practicing all day! Can’t we take a little break?”

“Don’t get complacent!” Exelda warned. “Just because we bested two sets of monsters doesn’t mean we’ll get through the next one so easily! Now, come on! Let’s go!”

“You’re no fun when you’re sober!” Akintos grumped.

Exelda looked affronted by that. “I can have fun! We just need a lot of practice!”

“His hypothesis does seem to have merit,” Stocastin opinionated. “You seem to have replaced alcoholic beverages with combat practice.”

“I’m not addicted to practicing!” Exelda refuted. “We were hired to do a very important job, so we should do all we can to make sure we do it well!”

Akintos challenged, “ Name one fun thing you’ve done since you gave up drinking!”

Exelda exclaimed, “I do lots of fun things! Like… uh…”

The men all had satisfied smirks on their faces, but Kefalia defended her. “You guys should be nicer to her, you know! She’s probably going to be the future queen!”

“Future queen?” Exelda puzzled. “What in the name of Zeus are you talking about?”

“Oh come on! If I can see it, it must be pretty obvious!” Kefalia stated, and the others agreed with her.

Exelda’s cheeks reddened, but she dismissed these claims. “That’s crazy! What makes you think I have feelings for him?”

Akintos told her, “Because you look at him the way Narcius looks at himself in the mirror!” Narcius had coincidentally been gazing into a hand mirror at that moment, but he put it down when he heard him say that.

Kefalia comfortingly pat her arm. “It’s okay! He obviously likes you too! And you won’t be so boring when we defeat all of the monsters and find your prince!”

Akintos wondered, “What makes you think we’ll find the prince when we defeat all of the monsters?”

Kefalia shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know! They happened around the same time, so I thought the same bad guy did it!”

“Of course!” Exelda cried out. “Kefalia, you’re a genius!”

“Woah! Woah! Woah!” Stocastin, Narcius, and Akintos all reacted at the same time.

Narcius expressed, “Why are we taking orders from someone with that kind of judgment?”

Exelda elaborated, “I meant that she really has a good point! Think about it! What are the odds that two major crimes occurred simultaneously without them being connected?”

“By Hera! Why didn’t I see the correlation before?” Stocastin pondered. “Sometime between the defeat of the Menoreas and the release of The Points, the acting head of state disappeared, so it stands to reason that a single person could have orchestrated both events. Why? I’m not sure. I suppose that this individual’s intentions could be to seize power through both physical and political means!”

“Exactly!” Exelda concurred. “These monsters aren’t just randomly showing up, someone is setting them onto us! So, if we find Dason’s kidnapper, we might be able to stop these attacks! Maybe we should use our powers to go look for him!”

Everyone groaned again, and Akintos whined, “So, we’re supposed to walk around all of Chaos just so we can find your boyfriend?”

“He’s not my… I mean, not that there would be anything wrong with it if I did, but I ‘m not… Oh, never mind! We don’t have to travel through the whole city-state; we can go to the Academic village and do some research.” Exelda suggested. “They probably have some maps we can study to narrow down a region that someone could hide a bunch of monsters in. Who knows, maybe they have some knowledge about potential monsters that we could face.”

“Finally! We’re doing something I wanted us to do!” Stocastin rejoiced.

The other three seemed less excited about the prospect, so Exelda pointed out, “It’s either that or we stay here and practice some more.” They suddenly became much more interested in doing research and prepared to leave immediately.