“Bring him to me, and I’ll take care of the rest,” Hades directed them.
“That doesn’t sound too hard!” Akintos assessed.
Impusa warned him, “Don’t jinx it!”
Exelda followed up Hades’ request with, “We can do that! Where is he?”
“I have no idea!” Hades responded with a shrug.
“What did I tell you?” Impusa lightly hit Akintos with her cane.
Cyrek wanted to know, “You have no clue?”
Hades shook his head in dismay. “I’m afraid not. I turned to everyone I know, and I do mean everyone, and no one has any inkling where he went! That’s why I came to you.”
“So, we have become, as the idiomatic expression goes, your last resort?” Stocastin questioned. Hades nodded to confirm this, but he seemed a little guilty about doing so.
“Don’t worry, it’s not the first time we’ve been someone’s last resort!” Kefalia had meant that to give Hades some reassurance, but she just made him look a little alarmed. Cyrek shifted uncomfortably and didn’t make eye contact with anyone for a while.
Exelda ranted, “Oh great! We gotta find a dead man walking around somewhere so obscure that the gods can’t even find him and we gotta find a way to go into the Netherworld to get my boyfriend out and back into human form!”
Her last sentence piqued Hades’ interest. “How did your boyfriend get into the Netherworld? I can’t even get in there!”
“My sister put a spell on him,” Melampia let him know. “I believe that she’s helping Mercinon in some way.”
“So, Thanamenti is in contact with him at the very least,” Hades deduced. “She could be holding him in the Netherworld too! Regardless of the case, going to the Netherworld would make a lot of sense! Wow, why didn’t I contact you sooner?”
Melampia threw her hands up in the air in frustration. “I don’t know! I’ve been here the whole time, not up to much! Apparently, you didn’t get in touch with everyone until now! But I shall forgive you in light of this revelation! My sister’s destructive forces must be stopped before it’s too late! I’m delighted to hear that we have a better perspective on how to do that!” Hades liquid form gave her a high five, and they both seemed pretty pleased with themselves.
Narcius interjected, “Excuse me! I fail to see what you two are getting so excited about! Are any of us even allowed to go into the Netherworld?”
“There is an entrance to the Netherworld here on Earth, but you can’t just walk in. A mortal would need to provide the proper payment to activate the access to the inside,” Hades informed them.
“That’s simple enough! We have enough in the treasury to get them the Drachmas they need to do that. How much is it?” Krimeno pulled his quill and a piece of parchment out of his pocket and prepared himself to take notes.
Cyrek upbraided him, “Krimeno, he didn’t mean a financial payment!” He paused and then queried to Hades, “Did you?”
Hades shot down that notion, “You would need a more heroic tribute than that.”
“Dang it! Why can’t anything ever be easy?” Cyrek bemoaned.
“Hang on! We’re already heroes! Do you know how many monsters we defeated to save the kingdom? I’m not sure the exact amount, but it was a lot! So, we should be able to just walk right in, right?” Akintos reasoned.
Hades denied that, “It needs to be a physical object.”
Akintos argued, “We are physical objects!”
“What if we provided them with a medal or a trophy we got for our services?” Exelda threw out there.
“We don’t have any kind of tokens marking our accomplishments though!” Stocastin pointed out.
Cyrek assured him, “Oh, that’s easy! We can get you one!”
Impusa mumbled, “About damn time!”
“What?” Cyrek didn’t catch wind of what she had said but knew that she had spoken up.
“I was just saying your hair looks nice!” Impusa lied.
Cyrek brushed his fingers through his mane proudly. “Thanks!”
Hades asked Exelda, “You mentioned turning your boyfriend back into a human. Did he by chance get turned into a bird?”
“Yes!” Exelda answered. “Was there a purpose behind that? It seemed so random!”
“Oh, that’s perfect! She used the Curse of the Five Feathers!” Hades exclaimed.
Most of them stared at him blankly after he made that announcement, so Melampia filled them in, “In that spell, the castor can deprive an individual of their human form and hold them in confinement, but it’s not permanent. There’s only one way to reverse it though- you have to gather five special feathers and return them to the avian creature that the afflicted has become.”
Krimeno held his quill up and offered, “You can have this feather! It’s my favorite, so that should count as one.”
“These would be ones that came off the bird itself,” Melampia enlightened them. “when the magic occurred, the sympathies involved plucked five feathers from the cursed one and hid them in significant places that represent each of the five elements of nature.”
“Uh, there are way more than just five elements in nature!” Stocastin differed. “We know of dozens, but scholars believe there’s dozens more that have yet to be discovered.”
Exelda corrected him, “She means earth, wind, fire, air, and water. So… any ideas of where the sympathies put these feathers? Feel free to be as specific as possible!”
Hades gestured in a way that demonstrated his lack of foresight on the subject. “Sorry! Your guess is as good as mine!”
“Even mine?” Kefalia gazed at him in a delightfully hopeful manner.
“You don’t have to answer that,” Akintos disclosed to him before he optimistically expressed, “Alright! This is gonna be awesome! We get to go treasure hunting with a god!”
Hades disputed this, “I can’t go with you! I can appear in various forms, but I can’t actually set foot on Earth. If I could, I’d find out where my wife goes in the summer!”
Exelda needed clarification on this situation, so she posed to Hades, “Basically, the only way we can save my boyfriend and our polis is to keep wandering to different terrains and hope we find one of the feathers we need?”
“Yeah, pretty much!” Hades confirmed. “And you need to move quickly before too much damage is done!”
“Quickly, huh?” Exelda grimaced as she as well as Narcius, Akintos, Kefalia, and Stocastin gave Impusa a worried glance. Exelda politely appealed to her, “Impusa, we need… someone to stay behind and protect the royal family, and since you…”
Impusa folded her arms and gave them all a miffed expression. “I know where you’re going with this…” They all looked at each other nervously until she finished her thought, “You don’t want me to run into my ex in the the Underworld! Or Netherworld or whatever!”
“That was precisely what I was gonna say!” Exelda fibbed.
“Well, that’s settled then! Remember to send Mercinon to me when you find him! Good luck! Your world’s entire existence depends on you!” Hades bade them.
Narcius quivered slightly when he heard that. “No pressure or anything!”
Hades grinned at them encouragingly before his liquid form morphed back into a potion. For a moment, no one spoke as they absorbed all that transpired, but then Cyrek piped up, “Well, I’m gonna go back to the Capitol and pretend like everything is fine! Let me know if you need anything!”
“We need five magic feathers!” Akintos cried out.
“Thank you for your services, Melampia!” Cyrek half bowed to her, and as he led Krimeno and Impusa away from Melampia’s temple, he merrily wished to Exelda, Stocastin, Akintos, Kefalia, and Narcius, “Do me a favor and don’t die along the way!”
Exelda reacted sardonically, “Oh sure, we’ll do that for you!”
Cyrek gave them a wink and warm gesture with his hands before departing, and as he walked away, Kefalia wondered, “Okay… What do we do now?”
They mulled it over for a few seconds, and then Stocastin came up with, “Well, we are presently situated in the Mentivalto Forest, so we can search the vicinity and see if perhaps this location got chosen to represent wood.”
Exelda shrugged. “It couldn’t hurt to check.”
“It might if there’s a bear or something!” Kefalia remarked.
“After all the monsters we faced recently, I think we can bear dealing with forest creatures!” Akintos commented jocularly.
They all groaned a little at his pun, and then Exelda waved goodbye to Melampia. “Thank you for your time!”
Melampia rosily blessed them, “Good fortune to the six of you on this journey!”
Exelda started to quibble, “No, there’s five of us right now since Impusa went with…” She glanced down at her stomach and realized what she meant. “Oh, right! There is six of us, hun?” She rubbed her belly, but then she shook off any anxiety she garnered from this and trekked down the hill with the others.
As they traversed through a trail in a very woody, plant-filled scene, Akintos moaned, “I’m so tired! We’ve already searched through half the forest now! Can’t we take a break?”
“It’s only been fifteen minutes!” Narcius contended.
“It feels like fifteen years!” Akintos grumbled.
Narcius advised him, “We have a long journey ahead of us, so I highly recommend that you man up and quit acting so childish!” When he turned back to the path ahead of him, he nearly ran into a spiderweb, so he let out a high pitched scream and wailed, “It almost touched me!”
Akintos snidely quipped, “Remind me again how muc hmore mature you are than me!”
“Nature is so gross!” Narcius complained as he avoided stepping in a mud puddle.
“I don’t know why you two are griping so much! Personally, I’m enjoying this!” Exelda opined. “Hiking through such beautiful scenery is so relaxing!”
All of a sudden, a loud, belch-like uproar sounded in the distance ahead of them, which startled everyone enough to make them freeze in their tracks! Kefalia observed, “That didn’t sound very beautiful or relaxing!”
Exelda wondered, “What in the name of Hera was that?”
“I don’t recognize that reverberation! If I didn’t know any better, I would hypothesize that we were about to encounter a monster!” Stocastin tried to convince himself that this theory was far fetched, but his face indicated that he didn’t actually think that was so.
“Oh, I doubt it’s another monster! It’s probably just-.” Her sentence got cut off as they experienced a series of short but violent tremors, so she amended what she intended to say, “We better go find out!”
They cut through the thick foliage, and when they got close to a river, Exelda crossed her fingers and prayed, “Please be something normal! Please be something normal!” They finally spotted the perpetrator of the noise, and they all gasped when they beheld a large creature with the snout and skin of an alligator and the structure of a frog! Exelda muttered, “Boo!”
The monster ceased eating a large bush when it detected them, and it suddenly and furiously hopped in their direction! Akintos declared, “Don’t worry, I got this!” He shot a series of fireballs at it, but it simply ate them and laughed at him when it was through. “I don’t got this!”
“Stocastin, turn invisible and got stab it!” Exelda commanded.
“I shall!” Stocastin heeded her word, but when he slashed the monster, its rough skin broke his weapon! “Oh, Phobos! That was expensive!” The monster heard him and began pursuing him based on the sounds he made.
Exelda ordered, “Kefalia, go fly above it and keep it away from what we’re doing!”
Kefalia promised her, “I can do that!” She hovered above him and had to escalate higher as its jump almost got enough height to touch her. Once she was at a safe distance, it still tried to to get her, which amused Kefalia. She taunted it, “You can’t get me! Nah, nah, nah-ah-uh!”
“Narcius, crash into that tall tree at full speed,” Exelda instructed him.
“That sounds painful!” Narcius objected.
Exelda retorted, “Would you rather get eaten by that thing?”
Narcius relented, “I guess not!”
As Narcius gained some yardage, Exelda cautioned, “Kefalia, don’t fly too close to us! Stocastin, stay clear of that spot!”
Stocastin reappeared next to her and responded, “What? You think I stayed there after that?”
Before Exelda could react to him, Narcius hurled himself against the tree, creating a dent that made it buckle. Exelda used her strength to push the tree down, and it landed on top of the monster! They all began to celebrate, but then the monster shook the tree off and laughed at them. Kefalia started weeping and cried, “Oh no! It can’t be killed!” A teardrop landed inside of the monster’s mouth, and it made the monster shriek in pain! It stumbled around a bit, and then it fell down belly up. As it laid motionless, Kefalia rectified her previous position, “Oh, I guess it can!”
“Fascinating! Is it a purely freshwater creature, or does it have an allergic reaction to sodium?” Stocastin studied its corpse curiously.
“Who cares! We have a feather to find!” Exelda thought about it for a moment, and then she noted, “Wow, there’s something I never thought I’d ever say!” The others shared her sentiments as they strolled away from that locale.