“Is it something that lives in the ocean?” Narcius asked Stocastin while they were crouched behind some large-leaved bushes. Akintos had fallen asleep while leaning against a tree, Kefalia absentmindedly doodled in the dirt, and Exelda looked as though she were about to lose her patience.
“No,” Stocastin answered Narcius.
Narcius inquired, “So, it’s something that just swims in the ocean?”
Stocastin chirped, “Nope! That was twenty questions, so I win!”
“What was it?” Narcius questioned.
“An evia barbel,” Stocastin replied.
Narcius raged, “A fish? You said it didn’t live in the ocean!”
Stocastin educated him, “It doesn’t! It’s a freshwater fish!”
Exelda hissed. “Will you two keep it down? Someone could hear us?”
“Who can hear us? There’s no one here!” Narcius argued.
“They’ll never come if they hear us! They’ll think they’re being ambushed!” Exelda peered over the bushes and saw the small wagon with a pile of gold was still sitting there by itself. “Maybe it’s already too late! Maybe they already heard us and won’t come!”
Kefalia put in, “But we haven’t heard anyone coming all day!”
Exelda shot back, “What do you expect? They’re not going to bang a drum or sing at the top of their lungs! They’re traveling alone, so they won’t make a lot of noise! And how do you expect to hear anything if we keep making noise?” Kefalia shrugged disinterestedly. Exelda sighed and she turned to Stocastin, “Go back on the pathway and keep watch.”
“But it’s such a lackluster task!” Stocastin objected. “I can’t make any noise, so there’s only so many things I can do to occupy my-!”
“Go there or I’ll throw you there!” Exelda threatened.
Stocastin became invisible and muttered, “Okay, okay!”
They saw one of the branches move forward and then quickly back. Stocastin turned visible again as he fell backward and landed on top of Akintos’s belly. Akintos woke up with a start and reacted, “Oof!”
“Sorry!” Stocastin apologized before turning invisible again and heading out.
Akintos yawned and stretched his arms and legs. “Is it time for lunch?”
“Shh!” Exelda spat. “He or she could come any time to collect the ransom, and if they get scared away because of us, we’ll-!”
“We’ll get fired?” Kefalia guessed.
Akintos responded to that concept grimly, “If we’re fired, we won’t get paid! Okay, I’ll be good!”
Exelda almost spoke up about something, but as Akintos fell back asleep, she decided to let it go. The stick Kefalia had been drawing with snapped, so she flung it away from her. They heard Stocatin cry out, “Ouch!”
“What are you doing here?” Exelda quietly scolded him. “You’re supposed to be-!”
“Shh!” Stocastin interrupted. “Someone’s coming!”
Narcius and Kefalia’s eyes lit up, and Exelda shook Akintos’s foot to wake him up. All five of them peered behind the bushes, and they watched the pathway with baited breath. For a long moment, nothing happened, so they shifted uncomfortably. “Squatting like this really hurts my legs!” Kefalia softly complained.
Exelda ignored her and whispered to Stocastin, “”Are you sure someone is-?”
Narcius gasped, “Look!”
From a distance, they saw a small figure bobbing ahead. They watched with much anticipation, but they began to grow confused as to why it was taking the individual so long to arrive. When the figure got closer, they could see a dark skinned, elderly woman hunched over and clutching a cane. As she slowly hobbled forward, the five heroes began to doubt that she would be the one who the villain sent to collect the ransom money. Akintos slumped down to go back to sleep, but Exelda grabbed him by his toga and made him sit back up. Under his breath, Akintos questioned her, “What? It’s not like they’d send a moorish grandmother to-.”
“Don’t let appearances fool you!” Exelda warned him. “It could be a disguise.”
They continued to watch the old lady as she approached the small wagon with the gold. Kefalia whispered, “What if she takes the gold and just brings it to her house?”
Narcius quietly commented, “I’m pretty sure we can take her!”
Exelda shook her head but didn’t say anything because the old lady reached the ransom spot. She counted the gold there and looked reasonably satisfied, so she took the handle with her free hand, turned herself around, and made her way down the path she came from. Exelda softly instructed, “Stocastin, go out there and let us know when she gets far enough for us to follow.” Stocastin became invisible and waited by the clearing where the gold had been. After a long pause, Exelda quietly scolded, “Stocastin!”
Stocastin assured her, “I’ll tell you! I’ll tell you!”
Kefalia, Narcius, Akintos, and Exelda inched forward along a dusty, dirt road that was surrounded by trees. Narcius impatiently asked, “How long is this path?”
“I have no idea!” Exelda answered. “We never did get a chance to study the maps of the outer ridges of Chaos.”
“I never thought I’d say this, but I miss hiding behind the bush!” Kefalia moaned.
Akintos shared her sentiment, “I never thought I’d say this, but I wish we would move faster!”
Narcius squinted so he could see between the trees. “The sun is starting to set! I’m not facing anymore monsters in the dark! I’d say we tie her to the wagon and force her to tell us where this secret lair is!”
Kefalia and Akintos agreed with him, and Narcius readied himself to use his powers to get her, but Exelda grabbed his toga to stop him. “We can’t do that!”
“Why not?” Akintos probed. “We’re wasting so much time by-!”
Stocastin suddenly appeared before them and reported, “Still no updates!”
Exelda reminded him, “I told you, you don’t need to keep updating us like that! We’ll assume there’s been no changes until you tell us otherwise.”
“I know,” Stocastin acknowledged. “I was just bored.”
“Get back over there in case she disappears!” Exelda ordered him. Stocastin begrudgingly complied.
Kefalia puzzled, “Wait, does she have the same powers as Stocastin?”
Exelda replied, “I have no idea, but that’s the point! I know she seems like a harmless old woman, but the person responsible for all of this mayhem isn’t going to send just anybody for this important task! They sent her for a reason! We may not be the only ones in Greece who the gods gave supernatural abilities to! If we act too rashly, she may reveal a threat that could get one of us hurt or killed! Plus, if we approached her now, we don’t know if she would actually reveal her boss’s secrets. If she stays silent, then we may never find out the mastermind’s hiding spot! In order for us to save our kingdom, we need to make sure she gets all the way there!”
“What if she breaks a hip on the way there!” Akintos wondered. “Or what if someone else attacks her on the way?”
“Then we’ll save her life,” Exelda reasoned, “and she’ll owe us a favor.”
Akintos relished that idea. “Ooh, we can blackmail her! I like it! Oh please, Zeus, Athena, whoever’s listening, please let this happen!”
Exelda admonished him, “That’s a terrible thing to ask for! You shouldn’t wish harm on anyone!”
“Uh, she does work for the bad guy,” Narcius pointed out.
“Yes, but we need her right now!” Exelda disputed. “We should be calling upon the gods to get her there quickly and safely.”
Kefalia exclaimed, “Ooh, she’s on our side right now and doesn’t even know it! She has no idea how much she’s helping us right now!”
Exelda grinned slightly at this, but then she added, “Let’s hope she stays helpful when we get there!” All of a sudden, Stocastin appeared in front of them again. “Stocastin! Are we almost there, or are you about to get into a lot of trouble?”
“Probably both,” Stocastin told her. “I see a building in the distance!”
The other four looked shocked, and Exelda swiftly commanded, “Narcius, dart over to the troops and let them know the news. We’re almost there!” Narcius used his super speed to dash behind them, and Exelda repeated, “We’re almost there!”
As Stocastin turned invisible and returned to his post, Akintos excitedly remarked, “Finally, some action! I hope!”