The Unsuper Heroes II, Chapter 17

She heard someone coming, so Aleta pulled her hood down over her face a little further as she walked down an almost empty road. She couldn’t see much of what was ahead of her, but she could see the cobblestone steps down below her, which was all she needed. Or so she thought! She crashed into a wooden pole, which briefly exposed her face as she tended to her wounds. She glanced around to see if anyone had seen that, but thankfully, not many people lined the street that early in the morning! She put her hood on again with less skin exposed, but she worried about this decision because if someone came close enough, they would probably recognize her. She inwardly prayed that no one would run into her until she returned to the palace!

            After a bit of searching, Aleta began to grow tired, so she slipped into an alleyway to take a breather. She gazed out at the vast cityscape and started to feel doubts about her plan. Chaos didn’t seem like such a large place when she had traveled by horseback, but now that she had spent a significant amount of time hoofing it herself, she didn’t think her idea was very practical anymore! There was just too much ground to cover to get the object before anyone else found it first! She had no clue if she would even get close to it prior to “Konna” delivering it, and if she did, she may not have even known it since she didn’t know exactly what she was even looking for! She took a great risk in coming out there, and she no longer knew if it would even be worth it! “What am I doing?” Aleta groaned.

            “You’re asking me?” a man pushing a cart of sugar beets queried as he passed by.

            “No, I was talking to myself, thank you very much!” Aleta regarded him while trying to keep her visage shielded. The man gave her a peculiar look before scooting his cart a little faster away from her vicinity. She almost felt offended, but then she reasoned that it was safer for him to have the opinion that she lost her mind versus him figuring out who she really was! She could hear more people starting their day, and she wondered if she was already too late. She thought that it may have been pointless to keep hunting for that thing…

            Just when she decided that she should leave, something fell out of the sky and hit her on the head! “Ow! Man, the gods really want every part of my brain to hurt today!” Aleta muttered to herself. When she checked out the ground to see what had done that to her, she spotted a scroll tied up with a black ribbon! “Is this it?” she gasped. She then stooped down and reached out to it with trembling hands, and while she was dying to know the contents of this note, her nerves didn’t allow her to move very fast. She got within inches of it, and then…

            A person approached the alley, and when he espied Aleta, he exclaimed, “It’s you!”

            “No, it’s not!” Aleta knew that probably was an ineffective sentence to utter in this situation, but she couldn’t help it! She was starting to panic, and while she had brought a dagger for protection, she suddenly forgot everything Dason had taught her about how to actually use it!

            “Yes, it is!” the man insited. More people had flocked over in that direction, and he beckoned them, “Look you guys! We caught her in the act!”

            A small crowd with a wide variety of people started at her with wide eyes and murmured excitedly with each other. Aleta admonished herself for getting herself into an area where she was cornered, and she mentally prepared herself to fight her way out. Or at least she tried! She thought she had brandished her weapon, but she realized that she was holding the scroll like a small sword! She moaned knowing that she made herself seem incompetent to a group of individuals who harbored animosity towards her family, and as they advanced towards her, she readied herself for the worst…

            To her astonishment, they all got down on their knees and bowed to her! “Huh? What’s going on? Are you still gonna kill me? Not that I want you to, but still…”

            “Kill you?” the man who had first seen her responded. “We would never kill you, Konna!”

            “Wait, what?” Aleta reacted in bewilderment. “You think I’m Konna?”

            A woman in the throng argued with her, “There’s no sense in denying it anymore! We caught you in the act of delivering your bulletin!”

            Aleta, now completely dumbfounded, didn’t know what to say to that except, “This is really more of a scroll than a bulletin…”

            “See, she admits it! She’s Konna!” a young boy shouted joyfully.

            “No, I…” Aleta attempted to deny that claim.

            Another lady in the mix asserted, “It makes sense! Konna said she was an important part of the palace, and who would have more of a cause to speak out than the jilted princess?”

            All of the others agreed with her argument, and Aleta almost contended their views again, but she suddenly got struck with a brilliant stroke of inspiration. “Fine, I confess! I am Konna! I grew jealous of my brother being poised to take over the kingdom! Yeah, I totally would rather have the stress of running our polis than continue being a pampered housewife! That makes sense to you, right?” They readily accepted that explanation, which she felt grateful for. “I made up all of those crazy rumors to frame them!”

            “Wait, you lied to us?” a little girl questioned.

            “Yeah!” Aleta rejoiced in the fact that they all bought into this concept. “But I can’t do it anymore!”

            An old man probed, “Why not?”

            Aleta had to think fast. “Because…” Luckily, something clicked for her pretty quickly. “Oh, yes! Because Mercinon is dead! No point in trying to take down the royal family without anyone good to replace them. Mercinon never had any kids, so…”

            “Why didn’t he ever get married?” an elderly woman inquired.

            “Beats me!” Aleta honestly replied with a shrug. “But now he will never get the chance since he got taken down yesterday.”

            A teenage boy cried, “Yesterday? You mean when we invaded the senate building?”

            “That’s right!” Aleta tried to hold back her laughter. “So, go forth! Spread the word! Tell everyone to stop the violence! And stop bad mouthing the royal family! You’re stuck with them, you may as well get used to it!” The congregation all dejectedly discussed this turn of events as they left, and Aleta glowed with pride at this turn of events! As everybody dispersed, she could see Cyrek, Krimeno, and Impusa standing on the street with their hoods off and their jaws wide open!

            “Is it too gauche for a future king to wear this?” Mercinon asked Marcin, who was putting the finishing touches on a cape that flowed from Mercinon’s shoulders to a few feet behind him on the floor.

            Marcin, while still sewing, answered him, “Kinda. It makes this already small space feel that much tighter!” Mercinon gave him a reproachful expression, and Marcin could tell he misinterpreted his intent with that dialogue. “Oh, you meant later! It’s not typical, but once they see the garish way you’ll undoubtedly decorate the palace, no one will be surprised!”

            They heard a series of loud thumps coming from the adjacent cavern room, and Mercinon commented, “I’m glad we decided not to send Echinda back to the Underworld! It’ll be niece to have a tool to use when I wanna smite my enemies! Hmm, it sounds like it’s a bit packed in there. Should we start moving them to the palace now?” He didn’t get a response, so he called out, “Thanamenti?”

            “She passed out,” Dason reported while snickering.

            “She passed out what? Candy? I’ve been dying for some pasteli!” Mercinon’s eyes brimmed with hope, but when Dason slapped his wing to his temples and shook his head, Mercinon’s mood deflated. “Well, excuse me for adopting a hint of optimism!”

            Due to the massive size of his cape, Mercinon did a wide u-turn to check out the case for himself. On the other side of her enormous cauldron, he beheld Thanamenti unconscious on the ground with bottles of alcohol all around her. Marcin joined his side and remarked, “Oh Dionysus! She better not be dead! We’ll never succeed without her magic!”

            Marcin bent down to check her pulse, and Thanamenti unexpectedly slapped his hand away from her! Mercinon enquired, “Well, is she alive?”

            Thanamenti groggily got up, and with hazy vision, she observed, “Mercinon, you’re on fire!”

            “Thank you! I mean, I always knew it, but I love hearing it out loud!” Mercinon gushed.

            “I meant it literally!” She indicated to a part of his cape that had touched the flames beneath her pot, which was now burning up!

            Mercinon screamed and tried to run from it, but his cape was too heavy to allow him to move very fast. The weight of it anchored him down and sent him plummeting to the floor! Thanamenti aimed her staff at him, which dowsed him with much more water than needed! She stood up as Dason doubled over in laughter, and Thanamenti apologized, “I’m sorry for knocking out like that! I usually don’t drink that much!”

            Mercinon tried to get up, but the cape had become even heavier, so he couldn’t stand up right then. He kept trying as he conversed with Thanamenti, “Ah, it’s okay! You’re allowed to do a little celebrating after we pulled off that feat!”

            “What celebrating? We lost again! Why do you think I was drinking so much?” Thanamenti challenged him.

            “Victory drinks?” Mercinon guessed.

            Marcin suggested, “Oh, take that thing off! It’s ruined now anyways!”

            Mercinon undid the clasps on his cape, and then he went over to Thanamenti’s brew and pondered, “So, we didn’t overtake the capitol?”

            “No!” Thanamenti bitterly snapped. “And suddenly no one is taking my messages anymore! People have lost faith in Konna! Even those nuts at the winery took down all their souvenirs of me! We lost most of our support!”

            “Great! Can you turn me back into a human since you’re obviously giving up on this folly?” Dason requested.

            Thanamenti vehemently disagreed, “We’re not giving up! It’s just unfortunate to have to do everything from scratch! We can still pull this off by riding ourselves of the heirs to the throne! Mad King Peripetio, his bed ridden wife, the snotty princess, the hawk’s young brat-!”

            Dason corrected her, “I’m not normally a hawk!”

            “Don’t forget Exelda!” Mercinon piped in. “We can’t have her survive since she’s carrying-!”

            “Shut up!” Thanamenti cut him off by making more water fall on him. Dason opened his mouth to find out about that subject Mercinon raised, but Thanamenti wouldn’t let him speak. “Don’t even bother! But we do have to find out what those interfering nuisances are up to at the present moment!”

            Mercinon stated, “While you do that, I’ll work on anticipating our success by making sure I’m dressed for the occasion! Could you be a doll and conjure up some more fabric for my cape?”

            Thanamenti made a noise of annoyance, but she prepared herself to do as he wished. Before she magicked anything, she caught a glimpse of something occurring in her potion and paused her efforts. “Woah! You might wanna take a look at this!”

            “Why? I contribute nothing useful to this part of the plot!” Mercinon objected.

            “Oh my gods!” Marcin hid his chuckle at this development. “They’re at your old palace!”

            Mercinon roared, “What?” He rushed back over to the concoction, and when he witnessed Exelda, Kefalia, Stocastin, Narcius, and Akintos investigating the halls of an ornate, shadowy-stoned structure, he shrieked, “How dare those heathens besmirch my property with their ghastly presence! Again! I demand that you send a monster to chase them away immediately!”

            Thanamenti balked at that notion, “Why would I do that? There’s already a monster there, and it’s not doing a lot of good!”

            “That’s the minotaur who killed me! Of course it’s not doing any good, Impusa convinced him to side with the not-so super heroes!” Mercinon griped.

            “Fine! I’ll send Echinda’s latest offspring there and make sure it includes the minotaur too!” Thanamenti headed towards the cavern room to do just that.

            Mercinon made her halt in her tracks, “Wait! Tell these guys not to get killed!”

            Thanamenti threw her hands up in exasperation, but instead of criticizing his ineptness, she ambled over to the new monsters and muttered, “I hope I didn’t drink the last of my booze!”

The Unsuper Heroes II, Chapter 16

“You know, this is kind of fun!” Marcin remarked as he painted a wooden throne gold. “If I hadn’t devoted my life to serving your depraved whims, I would have totally become a painter!”

            “I know what you mean!” Mercinon concurred as he painted the walls of the cave a sunny hue. “I may not hire servants to color the inside of the palace when I take it over because this is so relaxing!” He got a spot on his toga, and his stance on this activity shifted. “Oh gross! I didn’t realize this was so messy! No wonder they hire peasants to do it! Oh, Thanamenti! I-!”

            Mercinon cut himself off when he beheld Thanamenti lying exasperatedly on her cauldron. She pulled up her heavy head and groaned, “What?” Her eyes grew wide when she saw Mercinon’s partially finished project, and she queried, “What did you do to my home?”

            Not catching on to Thanamenti’s growing ire at his decision, Mercinon proudly showcased his work, “Isn’t it great? I’m a natural! I think I’ll tell my subjects that I have a background doing this kind of labor, give myself a humble beginning…”

            “Why in the Netherworld would you think that this was alright to do?” Thanamenti barked.

            “You said it was okay!” Mercinon refuted. “Don’t you remember? I went up to you while you were watching your potion and told you I need paint to brighten things up a bit. You said ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah!’ and conjured it for me.”

            Thanamenti clicked her tongue in annoyance. “I thought you were changing the color of your chair!”

            Mercinon corrected her, “Throne! There’s an important difference! You see, a mere chair-.”

            “You wanna talk about important things? Don’t you wanna know what’s happening with our enemies?” Thanamenti posed to him.

            “Which ones?” Merinon inquired.

            From inside his birdcage, Dason replied before Thanamenti could, “She’s talking about how my girlfriend and her powerful friends did at their quote en quote execution.”

            Mercinon remembered, “Oh yeah! I meant to follow up on that. So, what do you got for me? Good news?” Thanamenti neared her boiling point after hearing that, so Mercinon surmised, “Oh, I guess not.”

            “They beat them all?” Marcin reacted in surprise. “That’s impressive!” Thanamenti glared at him, so he revised his sentence, “Did I say impressive? I meant repulsive!”

            “I couldn’t believe it! We did everything right this time! They were outnumbered! They had powerful adversaries! They had a crowd rooting against them! And yet, somehow, they were able to walk away!” Thanamenti ranted. “They’re not even that good, but somehow they’re always able to prevail! They used a lousy cage as a weapon! That should have been game over! But they killed two monsters with it! Who does that?”

            Marcin wondered, “Why did you send the cage to the arena?”

            Thanamenti roared, “I wanted it out of here! I had to keep the monsters separated so they didn’t kill each other, but I had no use for it after they were gone! Besides, I had no way of knowing that the stupid thing would actually be useful to them! Ugh! I hate continually trying so hard only to end up making no progress! This is so depressing!”

            “So, this cheery wall color isn’t helping at all?” Mercinon wanted to know. Thanamenti growled, aimed her staff at the painted section of the cave, and made it disappear. At first, Mercinon looked disappointed to see all of his effort vanish like that, but instead of complaining, he requested, “Could you get this stain off my toga?” Thanamenti angrily sent a spell in his direction, and a force came out that exerted so much power that it knocked Mercinon off of his feet! Dason chortled heartily at that sight, and Marcin hid a wry grin from Thanamenti’s view as he continued adorning Mercinon’s throne. Mercinon glanced down at his clothes, and when he noticed that the blotch was no longer there, he gratefully regarded Thanamenti, “Thank you!”

            “I guess all we can do is go back to throwing monsters at those superpowered jerks ‘til one of them finally does them in!” Thanamenti sighed. “Did Echinda give birth to anything new?”

            Mercinon, who could see into Echinda’s cavern chambers from the floor, reported to her, “I think she’s asleep again.”

            Thanamenti sunk down in a deflated manner and slunk herself against her enormous pot with the bubbling concoction. “Oh great! Now what do we do?”

            ‘You could admit you had a terrible plan and give up on such a far-fetched scheme!” Dason needled her.

            “Did you actually think that would work?” Marcin asked Dason.

            Dason answered, “Not really, I mostly just enjoy pissing her off.”

            Marcin nodded in comprehension. “Ah!”

            Thanamenti almost lost her temper again, but then something in her brew caught her attention. “Are they heading to the capitol? I didn’t think they would do that ‘til they accomplished their mission! Not that I truly believed they stood a chance of winning, but still! Why would they go there? Every important building in that area except for the palace has been destroyed, so why would they…?” Suddenly, an idea struck Thanamenti that caused her lips to curl up in a malicious smile. “Oh, I know how we can dispose of those loathsome pests without any monsters!”

            She maniacally laughed and expected Mercinon to join in, but when she looked over at him, he was studying his fingertips. “I got paint on my nails too! Huh! It kinda looks nice! What do you guys think of painted nails?” Marcin and Dason didn’t respond, and Thanamenti exhaled in annoyance.

            “I didn’t know you guys had a cat!” Krimeno exclaimed as a blonde kitty nestled on his lap while he sat on the floor of an empty hallway with Aleta, her husband, Impusa, several palace workers, and all of the senators.

            “Oh, yeah, he’s the palace mouser.” Aleta’s tense muscles clearly indicated she had far more pressing matters on her mind.

            Cyrek pondered, “Ho did this all start?”

            Krimeno gabbed, “Oh, cats have been loyal companions to humans ever since-.”

            “For the love of Eleos, I’m talking about the rioters invading the Senate!” Cyrek shouted.

            “There’s rioters outside?” Akintos puzzled as he arrived with Exelda, Stocastin, Narcius, and Kefalia. “Man, these walls are really soundproof!”

            Cyrek gazed at their arrival in astonishment. “How did you guys know that we were in here?”

            Exelda responded to him, “We didn’t know you were in here. Dason told me that they almost always use the back entrance to avoid getting questioned by scribes and stuff.”

            “There’s a back entrance to the capitol building?” Cyrek stared at Aleta in an offended manner.

            “It’s only supposed to serve the royal family as a safety measure. If we let everyone use it, then it wouldn’t be a secret and we’d lose the security of it,” Aleta justified. “Besides, someone has to talk to the scribes and you’re so good at it!”

            “So, what are you all doing here?” Impusa conversed. “Did you get all the feathers? No, that’s a stupid question. Something’s wrong, isn’t it?”

            Akintos riposted, “Aside from the riots you mean?”

            Stocastin explained, “We theorized that the feather representing the air element may have presented itself in a place that houses a large amount of people who speak at high volumes because people release carbon dioxide, a substance quite important to air. We didn’t find it in the Nothiathlima stadium, so we believe it could have lodged itself in the Senate.”

            A teenage boy that greatly resembled Dason walked in from the backdoor and glanced at everyone gathered there in confusion. “Don’t you guys usually have your meetings in a place with more seating?”

            “We’re here hiding from the rioters!” Cyrek uttered in vexation. “How is it no one can detect the sounds of a violent mob tearing up the senate building?”

            “I just got used to hearing the noise of mayhem and turmoil happening in the kingdom.” The boy shrugged. “Why are they attacking the Senate? I thought they hated my family, not you all!”

            One of the senators brought up, “Actually, a lot of people hated us politicians before Konna came along! I guess that’s why she never bothered to make up rumors about us!”

            Kefalia commented, “I never hated you guys! In fact, I think my father voted for you!” She pointed to one of the senators sitting on the floor, and the senator seemed rather pleased with himself.

            “All we know is they all got here when we were about to vote on raising the taxes on barley, so we had to pause our session and run in here to hide,” another senator filled them in. “I vote no, by the way.”

            Some of the senators grew incensed by his opinion while others whole heartedly supported it, which prompted them to engage in a fierce debate on the subject. Cyrek pounded the wall and bellowed, “Order! Order! Everybody, this is not the time nor the place!”

            Impusa observed, “They all came at the same time? Obviously, someone coordinated this attack!”

            Narcius, who found a mirror hanging on the wall and couldn’t stop himself from admiring his reflection, stated, “It was probably one of those Konna bulletins that appear out of nowhere and everyone trusts for some stupid reason!”

            “Konna bulletin?” Aleta echoed back in intrigue.

            “Konna supporters are under the delusion that an insider from the palace spills the dirt on the royal family’s most guarded secrets,” Exelda expounded. “Lately though, ‘Konna’ has been telling them to do things in the name of Mercinon. But we can go more into that later! Right now, we need to save the Senate building so we can see if there’s a golden feather in there! Plus, it’s the right thing to do and all…”

            Krimeno chimed in, “Did you say golden feather? Dason left one of his feathers behind on the Senate floor, so I started using it as a quill. It’s my new favorite!”

            Exelda cried out, “Oh my gods! I was there that day! I could have grabbed it then! If I only I knew it was significant before I took off!” She took a deep breath, and then she moved on. “Oh well! Anyways, here’s the plan: Impusa, Kefalia, Akintos, and Stocastin, you four will come with me and fight off the invaders while Narcius goes into the Senate building and rescues that feather!”

            “I gotta go in there alone?” Narcius shivered from fright.

            “Use your super speed, grab it, and then come back out and fight with us,” Exelda commanded. Narcius still seemed frightened, but he nodded in obedience.

            On the palace steps, the royal guards struggled to contain all of the furious combatants. One of them bragged to the guards, “We outnumber you by far! Why don’t you give up?”

            One of the royal guards devoutly asserted, “We will never surrender!”

            “You guys should get out of the way,” Impusa advised the guard.

            “Okay, we surrender!” the royal guard heeded her word.

            For a brief instance, the agitators thought that they won. They ran towards the palace in a frenzied excitement until Impusa transformed into a giant hedgehog with massive wings! She exhaled and blew a bunch of them away. Exelda, Stocastin, Kefalia, and Akintos ran across the hallway and fought off the miscreants who had already made it to the capitol building. As Narcius zipped inside of the Senate floor, Akintos cheerily mentioned, “Man, fighting these idiots is a lot easier than our usual monsters!”

            A minute later, Narcius came out of the Senate building, and Exelda praised him, “Well done, Narcius!”

            “I couldn’t find it,” Narcius confessed. “Which one is Krimeno’s desk?”

            “The small one in the front. It’s not there?” Exelda fretted.

            Narcius gasped, “Oh, why didn’t I think to search there? I’ll be right back!” Exelda gritted her teeth but continued to battle. Narcius came back and declared, “I got it!”

            Exelda kicked the person in front of her, sending him barreling down the tall staircase at a rapid speed. “Good! Now, help us fight!”

            “Fight who?” Narcius shot back.

            “Fight who?” Exelda hollered. “You don’t see all these-.” When she viewed what was in front of her, she abandoned her previous notion. Everyone who hadn’t gotten captured by a guard had just retreated! “Oh, I see! Wow, Akintos was right, that was easy!”

            One of the royal guards retorted, “Easy for you, maybe! The rest of us didn’t get blessed with superpowers from the gods!”

            Another royal guard escorted the senators and royal employees out of the palace. When Cyrek emerged, he spotted a group of scribes that had turned up at the foot of the stairs, so he spoke to them, “I know what you’re thinking, but trust me, that was nothing! Everything is fine!” One of the statues in the hallway toppled over, which made the entire structure tremble. As the dust settled, the heroes went inside of the palace and Cyrek went on with scribes, “The real story here is that the price of barley may be going up soon…!”

The Unsuper Heroes II, Chapter 15

As Thanamenti aimed her staff at Echinda’s cavern room, Mercinon sat by her bubbling cauldron and Marcin handed leftover food to the hungry jackals in their pit. Mercinon asked Marcin, “Is it a lake?”

            Marcin answered, “Nope.”

            “Is it a river?” Mercinon tried again.

            “Nope.” Marcin shook his head.

            Mercinon made one more attempt, “Oh, I got it! It’s a fountain, right?”

            Marcin scoffed, “We already established that it’s liquid that people hang out in! Do people hang out do that in a fountain?”

            “I hate to side with Mercinon, but we have a fountain in front of the palace, and sometimes the palace guards have to chase people out of it,” Dason put in. Mercinon stuck his tongue out at Marcin, so Dason added, “But it doesn’t really matter ‘cause Marcin isn’t thinking of a fountain.”

            Mercinon grew irate from his competitive edge, and he hollered, “Wait, you know what it is?”

            Dason’s beak formed a grin. “Maybe!”

            “Come on, you have two more questions left,” Marcin urged him.

            “Okay, okay! Is it a… pond?” Mercinon guessed.

            Marcin shook his head again. “One more chance.”

            Mercinon mulled it over for a minute and finally came up with, “It’s a really, really big puddle?”

            “Isn’t that the definition of a pond?” Marcin responded.

            “Aha! So then, technically I get one more chance!” Mercinon declared.

            Marcin denied that. “No, you lose!”

            Dason asserted, “It’s a public bath!” Marcin nodded, and Mercinon pounded his fists in a raging fit! “I’m not surprised you didn’t get that one! Obviously, you haven’t used one in ages!” Dason waved his wings in front of his face as if he were wafting away a stench.

            “Hey! Birds don’t have noses!” Mercinon protested.

            “They don’t talk either, but here we are!” Dason shot back.

            Thanamenti finished her project with the door and probed, “What’s happening with those no-good do-gooders?”

            Mercinon puzzled, “Huh?”

            “I’ve spent this whole time sealing up that door so Echinda’s creations don’t get out, and I told you to that the moment you see an appropriate place to put them to tell me, and this whole time YOU HAVEN’T BEEN PAYING ATTENTION TO THE MISSION?” Thanamenti roared.

            “No, no! I was!” Merinon lied. “Last time I checked, they were still napping in a little inn by Agrochorio. They’re probably still…” He gazed into the pot and gasped, “Oh, good Eris! They’re on the move! I mean, I totally knew that! It looked like you were almost done, so I waited to tell you…”

            Thanamenti almost boiled over, but then she stopped herself and took a deep breath. “This is for a better polis! This is for my control! Things will get better for me soon!” Once she finished consoling herself, she ambled over to her potion and determined, “Oh, they’re heading south towards Notiathlima! If they go there, we may finally be able to unleash all of these monsters! Almost all at once too!’

            Mercinon feigned interest in her plan. “Oh, that’s wonderful!” He then more excitedly addressed Marcin, “Okay, my turn! Guess what I’m thinking about!”

            “Is it an object?” Marcin posed to him. Thanamenti rolled her eyes and then ignored them as she focused on the image in her concoction.

            “It’s not in here!” Akintos declared as they entered into an ovoid, barren field encircled by a track and a multi-tiered, stone set of seats.

            Stocastin challenged him, “How do you know? We’ve only just arrived!”

            Akintos gestured to everything around them. “The Olympic stadium is totally empty when the athletes aren’t here! If the feather was here, we’d see it right away!”

            Exelda moaned and leaned against the walls of the pews as if she were in agony. Kefalia very concernedly inquired, “What’s wrong? Was it something that Akintos said? Did he hurt your feelings? I thought looking for the air feather here was a great idea ‘cause, like you were saying, there’s normally a lot of people gathered here, and that’s a lot of air coming out of their lungs, so I don’t know why he-.”

            “Ugh! I need some honey!” Exelda groaned.

            “Listen, we’re trying to rescue your boyfriend, and I’m sure he’ll give you all the romance you want!” Narcius reassured her. “With all the time you’ve spent apart, I’m sure he’ll be raring to-.”

            Exelda wailed, “No! I need the food honey! The baby needs it right now!”

            Akintos fumbled, “Um, we’re not very close to a marketplace…”

            Exelda howled and slammed her hands against the arena’s walls. This made the entire structure tremble, and shortly afterwards, stone slats came down from the entrances to the field, sealing them in completely! Exelda grumbled, “Oh great! Now I’ll never get my honey!”

            “There must be a way to release the sealing mechanisms of these doors!” Stocastin reasoned as he pushed on the rocky enclosures.

            “Wow, these are really stuck!” Exelda observed as she pushed on the entryway by them with all of her might. “Kefalia, go fly to the other side and see if there’s a lever or some kind of release.”

            Kefalia soared to the opposite end of the field and reported, “There’s nothing over here!”

            Exelda yelled, “Go outside and come back in!”

            “Oh! Okay!” As she rose into the sky, she saw something that made her don a pronounced frown. “Uh-oh!”

            “What is it? Another monster? Is it an actual dragon this time?” Narcius shivered at the thought.

            Kefalia told him, “Um, not exactly…”

            All of a sudden, a slew of people came trickling into the stands and started sitting down all around the vicinity. “Oh, this isn’t good!” Akintos remarked.

            “What’s going on?” Exelda queried to the spectators.

            “Oh, Konna left us a note saying to come here so we could see the execution of some traitors to the crown of Mercinon,” a man informed her. “Oh hey, I guess that’s you, huh?”

            Exelda scathed, “You all came to watch us die! That’s totally barbaric!”

            The man seemed unphased by that. “Yeah, well, is it my fault you put yourself in this situation?”

            “Maybe! I don’t really know you, you could have done this!” Exelda retorted. The man brushed her off and headed towards where his companions had gathered.

            “What do we do?” Kefalia fretted.

            Stocastin asserted, “That all depends on how they plan on doing it. We can’t plan a counterattack or defense until we know what we’re up against.”

            Akintos snidely commented, “Let me guess, Mercinon’ll send some kind of horrible monster to do it.” A wooden box suddenly appeared before them, and as it nosily shook where it landed, the other heroes looked at Akintos incredulously. Akintos shrugged. “That’s the way he’s always done it! Well, except for that one time he took Exelda hostage…”

            The box burst open on its own, and the crowd burst into applause as hundreds of insect sized warriors teemed out! Akintos shot fireballs at the ones within his trajectory, which worked, but many of them were able to evade his attacks. They couldn’t reach Kefalia, who hovered just out of their reach, but they swarmed all over Stocastin! Narcius ran in a cowardly way around the track to avoid them, which made the spectators laugh. Exelda squished all of the ones who came her way, and she instructed the other four, “Crush them!”

            Stocastin threw himself to the ground and rolled around to smash them. Narcius didn’t hear Exelda’s directions, so Kefalia swooped down and impeded his path, forcing him to halt in his super fast gait. Kefalia then gestured to the others, and while Narcius comprehended this concept, his pause allowed the tiny warriors to start ascending his body! He mimicked Stocastin as Kefalia came down and assisted in smooshing them. Their teeny adversaries slowly grew smaller and smaller in numbers, and after a few minutes, the heroes didn’t see any more of them moving! They had a bunch of tiny cuts on their skin and felt thoroughly exhausted from their efforts, but they knew that they had won that battle, so they celebrated! “Sorry to disappoint you all, but you’re not witnessing an execution today!” Narcius taunted the people, prompting them to boo furiously.

            “If we won, how come they didn’t lift up the gates?” Kefalia wondered.

            “Uh, it appears as though we’re not done yet!” Stocastin indicated to the area behind them, and with complete dread, they turned around to see what he referred to.

            They saw the earth in front of them shake and then crumble, and then a giant cage burst out! It housed a large cat with olive toned skin and giant quills for fur! Its confinement opened by itself, and the creature pounced towards them! They expected it to charge at them, but instead, it took a deep inhale. When it exhaled, it shot out all of its quills! They all managed to duck and avert getting hit, but as its quills grew back, it decided to hunt them! It pursued Kefalia, who flew from it and cried out, “How do we kill it?”

            Exelda glanced around for some kind of hint, and when she caught a glimpse of its cage, a stroke of inspiration came to her! “Get it to come over here!”

            Kefalia had to escape the creature’s orbit to dodge another quill attack, so Narcius called after it, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty!” It sped to where he stood, so he used his powers to outrun it. As it followed him, he emitted a high-pitched scream, but he still managed to get it to go by the cage. When it finally got to the right spot, Exelda tipped it over so that its flat top fell on top of the creature! It shrieked as it made contact with it!

            The five of them all stared at the cage to see if it truly had perished, and when they saw green liquid flowing out, Kefalia pondered, “Is that blood or did it just relieve itself?”

            An unfamiliar male’s voice coming from behind them relayed, “It’s both!”

            They swiveled to face him only to find he was a monster with the body of a snake but the wings and legs of a heron! Thoroughly non-plussed, Exelda stated, “Oh great! It can talk!”

            “Are you here to kill us?” Stocastin asked him.

            “Yeah,” he answered.

            Akintos requested, “Could you not?”

            The monster declined that, “No!”

            It released a fog, and the heroes could no longer see each other! As they groped around to find each other, it jumped onto Akintos! It bared its fangs and lowered its jaws towards him, but before it could sink its teeth into his flesh, Stocastin caught sight of this event, pulled out his sword, and struck him hard! It didn’t penetrate the monster, but his move applied enough force to knock it into the last creature’s cage! He slammed onto the bars so forcibly that the door closed on him! The monster tried to get out, but he found that he couldn’t get the thing to budge! “Uh, a little help!” the monster demanded.

            “Like we would if we could!” Narcius fleered.

            “This is cheating!” the monster objected.

            Exelda quipped, “We weren’t given any rules, so no it’s not!”

            The monster manically whimpered, “Let me out! Let me out! Let me out!” He began hopping up and down in his enclosure, bouncing faster and faster until it hit its head so hard that it fell down and moved no more!

            The heroes studied it for a few seconds to make sure it showed no more signs of life, and while the cage’s door flung open, the monster clearly had lost its ability to set itself in motion ever again! “Okay then!” Exelda uttered. They examined the arena to see if they would face any more contenders, but when they saw that the exits were no longer blocked, they knew it was over! Exelda rejoiced, “We won!”

            As the five heroes basked in their victory, the whole crowd vehemently expressed their disappointment at the results. A young boy lamented to his parents, “I thought we were gonna see the traitors get killed!” The mother pat him comfortingly as they left.

            As the heroes viewed the spectators complain and leave in defeat, Akintos morosely expressed, “Wow, I never imagined so many people would want me dead!”

            “Don’t allow the volume of Konna’s supporters in this space deceive you,” Stocastin sagely advised. “It may seem like a lot since they all appeared at once, but they don’t represent the vast majority of Chaos’ population! The numbers of people who will be overjoyed that we survived will far outweigh what you saw here!”

            “Can we get out of here?” Kefalia beseeched the others as she eyed the remnants of their opponents in disgust.

            Narcius suggested, “We should all probably bathe again before we search for the next feather!”

            The rest of them agreed, and they started to head out. Exelda abruptly ordered, “Wait!” She climbed into the stands and reached into a pile of things that the attendees left behind. She proudly held up a jar of honey and exclaimed, “At least one good thing came from this disaster!” Her fellow heroes chuckled as they all departed from the building.

The Unsuper Heroes II, Chapter 14

A group of scribes waited at the bottom of the staircase at the capitol building, and after a while, Cyrek came out with King Peripetio. Once they approached the podium that had been set up for them, Cyrek addressed everyone who had gathered, “King Peripetio has generously decided to give you some of his time today to go over the issues concerning his recent health, but make it quick because he only has a minute to spare! Okay, go!”

            “Do you really think a minute is enough time to go over everything?” a curious scribe inquired.

            “Would you rather spend this minute going over that or the matter at hand?” Cyrek replied.

            Cyrek called on another reporter, who asked, “Your majesty, why has your behavior been so strange lately?”

            King Peripetio answered, “I just wanted to try using some humor to ease the tension. I guess it didn’t work!”

            “What about reports of palace workers feeling so concerned about the way you’ve been acting that you’ve had to be physically restrained to keep you at bay?” a keen scribe questioned.

            “What reports? Who made these reports?” King Peripetio shot back.

            That scribe admitted, “Well, we did, but we based it off of stories we heard from other people!”

            Another scribe challenged him, “If you’re so healthy, why do you have your son running the kingdom?’

            King Peripetio retorted, “What? Am I supposed to have him sit around and do nothing ‘til he inherits the kingdom? You want someone totally unprepared suddenly take charge?”

            “How come he didn’t appear with you for this event?” a skeptical scribe probed.

            “Hey, this is supposed to be about me! You really wanna talk to him?” King Peripetio pushed back.

            This same scribe responded, “Yes, I think we need to.”

            King Peripetio shifted uncomfortably. “What? Right now?”

            The scribe nodded, and King Peripetio hesitated. Cyrek jumped in, “Well, your minute is almost up anyways. It may be too late for a side by side, but you can go get him.” Cyrek saw subtle signs of something worrisome about King Peripetio, so he wrapped his arm around him and suggested, “Let’s go get him!” The scribes erupted in whispers at the audacity of the casual way he handled the king, but Cyrek and King Peripetio ignored them.

            A moment later, Aleta got escorted out with a handsome, well dressed man on her arm, and a discerning scribe told them, “We were hoping to speak with King Peripetio’s son, not his son in law!”

            “My brother is… indisposed right now. Nothing too serious, just some… digestive issues,” Aleta relayed to them. “Trust me, you don’t want to speak with him right now! How can my husband and I help you all?”

            “I want to gooooo!” Peripetio, who was tied to a chair, voiced loudly. “I want to talk to the pretty people!”

            Krimeno differed, “You mean the scribes? They’re not really all that attractive!”

            Cyrek entered into the hallway where they kept Peripetio with another Peripetio, and the one bound up exclaimed, “Wow, what a mirror!”

            The free Peripetio fully morphed into Impusa, who commented, “I don’t think they bought it.”

            “Oh, I didn’t know you were selling something!” Krimeno remarked.

            “You wonder why I haven’t given you a raise in years! It’s ‘cause of instances like that!” Cyrek rubbed his temples. “And I agree, they’re suspicious. They can smell blood here.” Krimeno opened his mouth to articulate a thought, but Cyrek cut him off, “It’s a metaphor! They’ll doubt the reports of the king’s health based on what they just witnessed, but they can sense panic in the palace. They’re not gonna stop ‘til we can discredit Konna and all of the crazy rumors about the leadership of Chaos!”

            Aleta and her husband joined them, and Aleta piped in, “Most of the rumors are absolute bunk, but Konna got one right: my father has lost his mind!”

            Peripetio wondered, “Does he miss it?”

            As Aleta stared at Peripetio sadly, her husband remarked, “I haven’t known the king for long, but this behavior doesn’t make any sense for him! One day, he was a little off, then the next day, he’s completely gone! It’s weird, it’s like someone put a spell on him or something!”

            Cyrek, Aleta, and Impusa’s eyes widened at that reference, and then Aelta queried to Peripetio, “Dad, did someone curse you?”

            “Lots of people curse at me!” Perpetio stated.

            “Did a nasty sorceress use magic on you?” Impusa grilled him.

            Perpetio chirped, “Oh yeah! The hooded lady! She made me feel wonderful!”

            Cyrek needed clarification, “By make you feel wonderful, you’re talking about the brain scrambling effect, right?” Peripetio nodded as he rocked back and forth, and the other four gazed at each other knowingly.

            “It’s working!” Mercinon shouted gleefully as he held a pan over a small fire.

            “I know it’s working! I’m the one who taught you how to make that cake!” Marcin regarded him as he swept around Dason’s birdcage.

            Mercinon dished his dessert up and set it next to a slew of pan-fried meals. “I know, but I really thought you lost it!”

            Marcin conversed, “Actually, I lost it over a decade ago! See, after my scholarly days, I went to look for work and-.”

            “You already told us that story!” Thanamenti snapped as she exited Echinda’s cavern room. “We don’t need to hear it twice!”

            “What’s the matter? Did those superpowered jerks defeat another monster?” Mercinon pondered as he started prepping for his next culinary project.

            Thanamenti spat, “No! Well, yes. They destroyed the potianaks somehow! And the zubenu that I forgot about. You know, the monster I set out when I thought they’d go northeast and then they went northwest! Anyways, that’s not what’s wrong right now. Haven’t you been paying attention to what’s happening with our plan?”

            Dason spoke up, “No! He’s just been waiting for the day you say one of the monsters actually won!”

            “That’s not true!” Mercinon hid his guilty face behind his fire. “I just trust your judgment, so I immerse myself in other important things!”

            “Important things, huh?” Thanamenti eyeballed all of his finished work with some contempt. “Where did you get that fire anyways?”

            Mercinon reminded her, “You got irritated by macrame and burned everything.”

            Thanamenti cracked a small smile. “Oh yeah! Well, this last monster is truly powerful! I do believe it will finally put an end to those meddlesome do-gooders!”

            “You say that about every monster!” Dason pointed out. “How’s that working out?”

            “Shut up!” Thanamenti barked. She studied the image in her bubbling cauldron and cooed, “Yes, it won’t be long now!”

            As Exelda, Akintos, Stocastin, Narcius, and Kefalia past some thriving olive fields, Kefalia squealed, “We’re nearing the Agrochorio village! Eek! I’m so excited to see it again! I know we were just here a few months ago, but it’s so much fun to revisit my hometown! It’s really a magical place!”

            Narcius plugged his nose and commented, ‘It smells magical!”

            “If it’s so wonderful, why did you leave?” Akintos probed.

            “The farmer I worked for caught me flying and thought I was a sorceress,” Kefalia explained. “He kicked me out, and no one here wanted to talk to me anymore. Gosh, things sure have changed since then! Now everyone calls me a hero! Wait, now the Konna supporters think we’re all… sorceresses! Huh, I guess things haven’t changed that much then!”

            Exelda asserted, “That won’t last long! Once we get the rest of the feathers, we’ll be able to save our polis and we’ll go back to being heroes again! I just hope that this place will be the one representing earth!”

            Stocastin quibbled, “I’m telling you, the volcano represented earth because lava isn’t fire! We got earth and wood, so we need-.”

            “No, the feather at the papermill was the water one,” Exelda disputed.

            “They made their paper from trees, and trees are wood, therefore, it was a wood feather,” Stocastin argued.

            Exelda countered, “I know trees are wood! But Mylos found the feather and used it as a bookmark. His business is right on top of a river, so odds are that he found it near the water!”

            Stocastin disagreed, “There’s also a lot of trees in that proximity.”

            “Yes, but they haven’t spent a lot of time there ‘cause of that fire-breathing chicken, so it had to be water,” Exelda reasoned.

            “It’s called a zubenu.” Stocastin folded his arms and pouted.

            Exelda grinned triumphantly, but when she found herself walking in the citified section of this region, she halted her footsteps and frowned. “Where are we going?”

            Narcius responded, “We were gonna ask you that!”

            Exelda mulled it over for a minute. “Hmm… Last time we came here, we went left towards the vineyards and faced a monster there. I think we should go right this time since we’re probably gonna have to face another monster and I doubt that they would place a monster in the same place twice!” From the left pathway, they heard a deafening, ghoulish screech followed by a number of citizens’ screams, so Exelda expressed in dismay, “Or maybe they’ll go to the exact same spot again! I don’t see the point since they’re still recovering from the last one, but whatever!” The five of them hurried in the direction that they heard their next adversary.

            They came across a tall, stone barn with a thatched roof and wooden doors, which were open at the present. They saw two older blonde people whispering to each other in a plotting way, and Kefalia joyfully greeted them, “Mom! Dad!”

            “Well, hello there!” her father rejoiced. “How are you doing?’

            “Fine!” Kefalia embraced her parents and then continued, “Well, I’m a little exhausted from work, but otherwise, we’re-.”

            Exelda interrupted, “Um, hello! Let’s save pleasantries for later! Don’t you think we should kill the monster before we catch up on things?”

            Kefalia’s mother assured Exelda, “It’s only dangerous if we go near the treasure in the barn!”

            “You’re trying to steal your boss’s riches?” Narcius reacted in shock. “Wait, he keeps it in the barn?”

            “I don’t know where he keeps his gold and Drachmas, but that’s not the treasure we mean,” Kefalia’s father let Exelda know. “We found it in the manure pile, we think it’s been there for a few days.”

            Exelda perked up when she heard that. “A few days? Is it a gold feather?”

            Kefalia’s mother confirmed, “Yeah! How did you know that? Are you psychic?”

            “Yes, and I predict that terrible things will happen unless you stay right here and stay out of our way.” Exelda led the other heroes to where they could peak inside the barn without drawing out the monster, but they didn’t see anything. “Stocastin, turn invisible and find out what monster we’re dealing with.”

            “I can and I shall!” Stocastin disappeared as he marched towards the barn. The other four watched and waited for a minute, and then, all of a sudden, they heard that horrible screech again! It created so much wind that it nearly knocked the heroes down! Stocastin reappeared as he flew backwards out of the barn, and when he landed, he informed them, “It’s a banshee.”

            Everyone understood what that mean, and Exelda reveled, “See! Didn’t I say that our research would pay off?”

            Akintos riposted, “Probably! But we’ll still never admit it!”

            Exelda shook her head, and then she turned back to Kefalia’s parents. “Do you guys still carry your pet rock with you?”

            Kefalia’s mother held up a pigeon-shaped statuette and proclaimed, “Sure do! Why?”

            A giant, green, almost reptilian woman waited behind a haystack. She heard a noise enter the barn, so she pounced, ready to strike. She was mid screech when she realized that it was an object made of stone. She studied it in confusion when suddenly, an invisible force pried her jaw open! Narcius and Akintos held back her hands, and she watched in horror as Exelda carried a large bale of hay to her and shoved it down her throat! She tried to screech as she watched Kefalia fly to the top of a mountain of manure, and she began to lose her breath as she watched Kefalia gingerly pick up the feather. “Ew! Would it break the spell if we washed it?”

            “I dunno.” Exelda picked up the rock pet as they casually exited the barn. “Maybe we could throw it in a sachet of fragrant plants.”

            “I hope the air and wood feathers aren’t in such crappy places!” Akintos kidded. They all laughed as they rejoined Kefalia’s parents.

The Unsuper Heroes II, Chapter 13

“It’s simple really!” Stocastin prattled on as the five heroes walked down a dirt road lined with lush trees and verdant grass nestled alongside the green foliage. “The chemicals that certain metals are comprised of interact with oxygen and water to form a new substance! It is called oxidation, but you need more than just oxygen to make it happen! The air is made of oxygen, so it’s always around it, but if there’s any moisture in the atmosphere, it-.”

            “When I said I’m probably rusty with sword work, it wasn’t an invitation to blabber on about actual rust!” Akintos told Stocastin. “I just meant that since we haven’t had to use our swords in so long that I’m probably gonna be a little slow with it when we do gotta use it.”

            Narcius sarcastically remarked, “You? A little slow? No!”

            As Akintos glared at Narcius, Kefalia attempted to buoy Akintos’ spirits up, “Don’t worry, Akintos! I’m sure we’ll run into a monster that requires sword work soon, and you’ll get plenty of practice then!”

            “First of all,” Exelda put in, “if you had just practiced regularly like you were supposed to, you wouldn’t be rusty!”

            “Don’t act like you didn’t skip practice more than we did!” Akintos argued. “That baby in your stomach is proof that you were too busy playing with Dason’s ‘sword’ to do much with your own!”

            Kefalia puzzled, “What does it matter whose sword she used?”

            Stocastin piped up, “Technically, infants don’t come from a woman’s stomach! It’s another organ that-.”

            “We didn’t do it all the time! We’re not animals!” Exelda refuted. “Okay, Dason’s a bird right now, but still! We did practical things too!” She mulled it over for a second and then added, “But I guess I haven’t spent enough time with you guys lately, have I?’

            “Wait, playing with Dason’s sword…!” Kefalia looked as though she caught on to Akintos’ euphemism, but then she frowned again. “No, no, I still don’t get it!”

            Narcius responded to Exelda, “We used to think you were too strict, but when you’re not around, Impusa takes charge! She’s mean! So, yes, we would prefer to have you around more often!”

            Exelda could see that they missed her more than what they voiced out loud, and she got touched. “Aw, I’m sorry you guys! When we get Dason back and save Chaos from Mercinon, I’ll schedule more time with you, I promise!”

            “You always say when it happens, don’t you mean if it happens?” Akintos posed to her.

            “No, she doesn’t!” Stocastin differed. “We have a hundred percent success rate so far, and unless we encounter a monster with significantly more skill level than what we’ve faced so far, odds are we’ll continue to flourish and achieve our end goal!”

            Narcius shuddered. “What if we do run into a monster that’s harder to beat than the ones we’ve faced so far? Oh Kratos, we’ll be doomed!”

            Exelda admonished him, “Don’t talk like that! We’re not gonna encounter anything we can’t handle!” They came across a group of trees with a large scorch mark on them, and as they stared in apprehension, Exelda assured them, “That’s not necessarily from a dangerous creature! Look at Akintos! He can produce fire and he’s not all that dangerous!”

            Don’t say that so loud! I don’t want to sound weak to the dragon!” Akintos fretted.

            “There’s no dragon!” Exelda insisted. “That probably came from something else!”

            Akintos, Narcius, and Stocastin seemed doubtful about her claim, but Kefalia busted out in laughter. Stocastin queried, “You now understand Akintos’ comical reference about the sword, don’t you?”

            She nodded as she continued her fit of giggles, and then she froze. “Oh great! We’re about to face a dragon and we just lost our person who could meet them in the sky!” Narcius complained.

            “There’s no dragon!” Exelda repeated as she picked up Kefalia and draped her over her shoulder. “We’re going to a paper mill to see if they’ve seen one of the golden feathers, and that’s it! Nothing too crazy! Who knows, maybe it’ll be as simple as them handing it to us when we get there!”

            Akintos, Stocastin, and Narcius traversed down the path nervously, their eyes darting everywhere as if they expected an ambush to occur at any moment. The trees above Narcius rustled, and Narcius screamed, “Aah! It’s the dragon! Hide me!”

            Narcius hid behind Exelda, and with her free hand, Exelda pushed him away from her. “It’s just a squirrel!” she crossly informed him.

            “So? Just ‘cause it’s small doesn’t mean it can’t breathe fire” Narcius bit his nails as he warily walked.

            “I thought with your noble ancestor’s blood running through your veins that you’d want to show off your innate prowess and defeat any monster that dared to come your way!” Exelda prodded him.

            Narcius’ stance and demeanor changed completely upon that characterization. “That’s right! I come from the most decorated soldier in Greece’s history, so I can conquer anything put before me! By myself if I wanted to! I’m that strong and brave!” Akintos stepped on a twig, and the sound of its snap made Narcius let out a high-pitched yelp. Exelda rolled her eyes but otherwise chose not to respond.

            They came across a cozy building with a water wheel that churned into the nearby river and a sign that read: Chartikano Paper Mill, so Exelda reminded everyone, “Alright, we don’t want these people to turn us away for any reason, so please no more talk about dragons!”

            Akintos probed, “What if they bring it up?”

            Exelda shook her head exasperatedly before knocking on the front door. After a small wait, a tall, beefy man with a gruff appearance came to the entrance. His bushy mustache covered his lips, so they couldn’t tell if he had a genial disposition or not. He noticed Kefalia on Exelda’s shoulders and raised an eyebrow, so Exelda hastily explained, “She’s injured… Anyways, we’re here on an important quest, and we were wondering-.”

            “I don’t have any money!” The man huffed as he tried to shut the door.

            “That’s okay, her boyfriend has loads of it!” Kefalia regarded him through gritted teeth.

            The man clearly got confused by the whole situation, so Exelda clarified for him, “We’re searching for an important object that may save our polis, and we just wanted to know-.”

            To their surprise, the man’s ears perked up as he listened to something in the distance. “Did you hear that?”

            “That might’ve been me,” Akintos admitted. “I didn’t think it was noisy enough to-.”

            “You better come inside!” the man barked. He had an aura of authority to him that made them immediately obey his word, and they hastily followed him into the paper mill.

            They entered a small but active workshop, and the employees were busy enough that no one acknowledged that visitors were now present. The man who let everyone in stood before them wringing his hands, and he apologized, “Listen, I’d love to help you guys out, but we’re not making a profit right now! We lost a lot of revenue after the attacks.”

            That last sentence got Exelda’s attention. “Attacks? Who’s been attacking you? Villagers?”

            “No,” the man reported to her.

            “Damn!” Exelda expressed in dismay.

            Akintos questioned him, “So, it was a monster! Was it a dragon?”

            The man shook his head. “It’s not a dragon…”

            “Told you!” Exelda emphatically conveyed to the other heroes.

            “It’s so much worse than that!” the man revealed.

            Exelda and the others’ eyes widened in dread to receive that message, and Akintos chided Exelda, “Still feel like taking that victory lap?”

            Narcius was practically shaking at the concept that the man raised. “How could it possibly be worse than a dragon?”

            “We do not speak of it!” The man shivered from the memories of it. “All I know is that it’s destroyed a lot of our trees, and no man has been able to slay it! It’s injured a number of my workers too! So, I’m sorry we can’t support your project! I’ve had to pay out too much money already for protective measures. I can’t spare anymore!”

            “We don’t need your money!” Exelda iterated. “We’re just looking for-.”

            A man who appeared as though he worked for the paper mill burst the door open, and he tried to quickly shut it behind him, but something pushed against it and prevented him from doing that. He cried out, “I’m sorry, Mylos! I tried to stop it from getting here!”

            Mylos ran to a bell handing off of the wall and clanged it loudly. All of his employees stopped what they were doing and turned their attention to him. Mylos ordered, “Everyone hide! Now!” He faced the heroes and addressed them, “We’ll find a place a place for you to hide too!”

            Narcius and Akintos nearly went with him, but Exelda pulled them back and declined Mylos’ offer, “No! We’re monster hunters, we can take care of this!”

            Mylos seemed doubtful as he left them there, and Akintos, Narcius, and Stocastin appeared just as scared. Kefalia slid off of Exelda’s shoulders and rejoiced, “Yay! I can move again!”

            Exelda drew out her sword, and the others followed suit. The man at the door let go of his barricade, and the heroes prepared themselves for the worst. To their great bewilderment, they discovered that the creature behind the door was an ordinary-looking chicken! “It’s the monster behind the rooster?” Kefalia inquired.

            “Don’t underestimate it!” Mylos warned them from beneath a worktable. “It’s more powerful than it looks!”

            “Oh, yeah, sure!” Narcius cockily strolled towards the fowl. “If this bird really frightens you that much, I’ll take care of it for you!” He ignored Mylos’ urging him not to approach the beast, raised his sword, and challenged the chicken, “Alright, birdy! Do your worst!” The rooster opened his mouth, but instead of clucking, it let out a huge cloud of fire! Narcius let out a high-pitched scream before using his super speed to evade the flames. “I didn’t mean it that way!”

            Exelda commanded, “Narcius, hurry! Get some water and put that fire out!” The chicken struck again, so she added, “And that one too!”

            Kefalia, Akintos, and Exelda attacked it from three different sides but could never reach it as they avoided its fiery breath. Stocastin turned invisible, and after the other three got it to where he could strike it, an unseen hand beheaded it! The heroes exhaled in relief, but Mylos cautioned them, “It’s not over yet!”

            “What are you talking about?” Akintos retorted. With horror, they watched as its head grew back onto its body! “Oh, that’s what you’re talking about!”

            Akintos, Kefalia, and Stocastin resumed lobbing off its limbs while Narcius expediently fetched water to put out the things that the chicken caught on fire. Exelda shouted to them, “We can’t kill it that way! We need to do something different!”

            Stocastin hollered back, “It’s a little hard to think right now!”

            Exelda grabbed a sledgehammer and waited for it to pass her. When the rooster did, she dropped the sledgehammer on its head! The creature didn’t die, but it couldn’t get up! As it flailed on the floor, Exelda exclaimed, “There! Now, how do we kill it?”

            “Maybe water would put it out like it does with its fires,” Kefalia suggested.

            “Good idea!” Exelda praised her.

            Kefalia puzzled, “It is? Gee, I’m not used to hearing that!”

            Stocastin sagely asserted, “We’ve gone over this before! It’s not like you’ve never had a good idea. It doesn’t happen often, but wisdom comes from experience, and with-.”

            “We could try throwing it into the river,” Exelda interrupted his longwinded talk. “If we keep it tied to…”

            Mylos halted this plan, “No! Hold on!”

            Akintos raved, “Are you serious? You guys wanted it gone a minute ago, and now you want to save its life? Why? Why? Why?”

            “It regenerates itself, and it can’t move, right? Well, that means it could be butchered continuously! We could harvest its meat and sell it at the market! Maybe it’ll make up for the profits we lost from the damage it caused!” Mylos grew excited at the prospect, and his employees agreed with him.

            “Well, if it ever escapes, try water!” Exelda relented. “Come on, guys! Let’s go!”

            Stocastin requested, “Wait! There’s a book there that-!”

            Exelda reproached Stocastin, “The Chemistry of Paper? Oh, Stocastin, when are we ever gonna use this?”

            Stocastin shot back, “Hey! I don’t reprimand you for your sordid hobbies! Besides, I actually didn’t intend to have a literature discussion! Behold what he used to mark his place!”

            “You found a feather! Way to go!” Exelda lauded him.

            “Oh, you were looking for that feather? Why didn’t you say so?” Mylos commented to them.

            Exelda grew incensed by that, but she chose to let it go. “Thank you for your time! Good luck with your paper mill slash butcher’s shop!” The workers all merrily waved to them as they exited the building.

The Unsuper Heroes II, Chapter 12

Staring into the bubbling potion in her cauldron, Thanamenti yelled, “You can’t be serious!”

Mercinon, who was sitting on the floor of the cave with a half finished lantern holder, took exception to that, “Oh my gods! I only asked if you could conjure some more twine for me! Sheesh!”

“I’m talking about what those overly powerful imbeciles did, not you! I wasn’t even listening to you!” Thanamenti disputed with him.

“So, how did this round go?” Dason, whose birdcage had gotten lined with a small, woven rug, queried with a note of derision in his voice. This caused Marcin, who now donned a macrame vest on top of his yoga, tittered at Dason’s quip, but when he saw that it caught Thanamenti’s attention, he hid his face behind the book he was reading.

Mercinon worked on tightening the knots on his current project and casually conversed, “So, they defeated the onocentaur, huh? How did they do it? Did the strong one throw rocks from the mountain at him?”

Thanamenti raged, “No! They got him drunk and he drowned! They really didn’t even use their skills this time! They cheated!”

“Why did you send a creature whose weakness was alcohol somewhere where they could get some?” Marcin probed. “You’re making it too easy for them!”

“They were on a mountain! An empty one! How was I supposed to know they’d bring alcohol with them?” Thanamenti argued. She grew saddened and ruefully stated, “They were all hungover too! This should’ve been a cinch! I mean, I know the strong one didn’t drink, but still!”

Mercinon got up and put a sympathetic arm around her shoulder. “There, there! It’s not over yet! We’ll find a monster that’ll maim them! At least you got to see them in agony for a while! That was fun, right?”

Thanamenti sniffled a little. “Yeah, that was nice!”

“And there’ll be other monsters, right?” Mercinon reminded her.

“Yeah, that’s true!” Thanamenti’s spirits started to lift up.

Mercinon told her, “See? Everything’s fine! Now, don’t you feel dumb for getting all worked up?” This filled Thanamenti with a blazing ire, but Mercinon didn’t seem to notice that he offended her. “So… How about conjuring that wine now, hmm?”

Thanamenti coldly regarded him, “OH, I’ll get you your twine!”

She aimed her staff towards the section of the cave where Mercinon had stationed himself, which conjured enough twine to bury Mercinon!

As Dason laughed uproariously and Marcin chuckled behind his book again, Mercinon stuck his thumb out from beneath the heap. “This’ll keep me busy for days! Thank you!”

Thanamenti looked irritated that her plan to punish him seemed to have backfired, but before she could react, they heard a series of thumps coming from Echinda’s chamber. “Ooh! Did she have a multiple birth?” Thanamenti wondered.

“Elysium forbid you check for yourself!” Marcin said under his breath.

“What did you say?” Thanamenti eyed him suspiciously.

Marcin grinned sheepishly at her. “I was just saying that I’m on my way to go check on her.” He scrambled to distance himself from her as she continued to glare at him while he walked towards Echinda’s cavern room. He didn’t glance back at her and instead focused on cautiously scoping out the situation. He peeked inside and reported, “She gave birth to ordinary people! They don’t seem very scary!” All of a sudden, something shifted about their appearance that made Marcin try to get away form them! A couple of claw-like fingers caught him and dragged him into Echinda’s territory! “Oh Aigea! She created more people eaters!”

The others ignored his terrified screams. Mercinon sifted through the pile of twine and questioned, “Where is my lantern holder?”

“Exelda didn’t drink any liquor? She kept her promise to me!” Dason celebrated.

“She didn’t do it due to your promise! She did it because she-.” Thanamenti cut herself off when she recognized that she almost let something slip out.

Dason prodded, “What? What are you hiding from me?”

Thanamenti replied honestly, “Lots of stuff! There’s loads of dark things in my past you don’t wanna know about!”

Before Dason could interrogate her any further, Marcin popped out of the room scratched up but otherwise unharmed. “Wow! You’re sure regenerating faster now!” Thanamenti remarked.

“No, I’m not! They didn’t want to eat me!” Marcin corrected her. “They’re not cannibals, just blood drinkers, and they passed on mine ’cause my dead blood is too cold for them! Huh! I think I actually feel a little hurt for getting rejected to get eaten by them!”

“I found it!” Mercinon declared as he held his project up in the air proudly.

Thanamenti rolled her eyes and then turned her attention to the image in her cauldron. “Okay now, you contemptible twits! Let’s see you defeat these guys!”

Marcin posed to her, “Are you sure you wanna encourage them to do that?” Thanamenti gave him a hard stare, and he figured out what she meant. “Oh, I see what you were going for there!” He quickly immersed himself into the book he had been reading previously, and Thanamenti gave an exasperated sigh as she continued to observe the heroes.

“So, have you thought of any names for you baby yet?” Kefalia asked Exelda as they traversed through a thick of mostly barren trees.

“I haven’t had time to think about anything but surviving this mission!” Exelda answered her. “It still doesn’t feel real to me! Well, except for all the vomit! And I can see a little bump now. I didn’t know it was a baby before, I thought I was just bloated!”

Narcius assured her, “Listen, I know you wanna name your son after me so he can mimic some of my stunning qualities, and you’re afraid to say it because you’re concerned that I would want to reserve that right for my future son, but I’m completely fine with you bestowing that honor the future prince! It’s okay, really!”

Exelda raised her eyebrows at that absurdity, and then she responded, “First of all, I’m, like, ninety-nine percent sure that I’m having a girl…”

“How do you know? A couple days ago, you thought your swelling came from gas!” Akintos teased her.

“Trust me, a mother knows!” Exelda remained steadfast on her conviction. “But secondly, I don’t wanna decide on anything ’til I can discuss it with Dason! Oh Eileithyia, I hope that we can get him out of his bird form so he can help me parent this kid!”

Stocastin reassured her, “I’m confident that the feathers we shall find will reverse the effects of his avian visage!” A deadened branch whipped him, so he vexedly tore it off its base and tossed it to the ground. “I’m not quite as confident about the odds of finding a feather in this arboretum of nothingness! Why are we even bothering to search this area? It seems highly improbable that the sympathies would choose this god-forsaken place to hide a sacred object!”

Kefalia knowledgiably let him know, “The Lofundasos forest dried out, but if we keep heading south, we’ll hit the Chartikano Papermill, and their river leads to Agrochorio, my hometown! Such a special village, there’s gotta be a feather there!”

“Well, let’s hurry up and get there ’cause there’s clearly nothing here! I hope! It’s sort of creepy like something might be hiding here though!” Narcius shuddered and then consoled himself, “Yup, definitely nothing here!”

“Look, there’s something over there!” Akintos pointed to something over Narcius’ shoulders.

Narcius dismissed that notion, “Nice try! I’m not falling for that trick again!”

Kefalia backed Akintos up, “Actually, Akintos isn’t lying this time! There is something there!” “Aah! Don’t let it hurt me!” Narcius shrieked. When he finally beheld what Akintos had referred to, he composed himself and poignantly asserted, “That’s not something there, that’s someone! More than one person, actually! Oh Adonis! What are they wearing?”

“Quiet! They might hear you!” Exelda cautioned Narcius.

Narcius differed, “I don’t think their hearing is that good!”

One of the mysterious figures announced to his comrades, “There’s people in the distance! I heard one of them talking about our clothing!”

“Oh great! Now they probably won’t help us!” Exelda threw her hands up aggravatedly.

“Go over there and help them!” a female in the group directed the male who had spoken up a second ago.

Narcius bragged to Exelda, “Ha! See! I didn’t hurt our chances for us to get help from them!”

Exelda brought up, “You said they couldn’t hear us! You can’t take any credit, I was the one who was proven right!”

An old man wearing a crude toga made from a burlap sack approached the heroes and greeted them, “Welcome, weary travelers! Won’t you sit with us by our comfortable fire?”

“A comfortable sit? I like this guy!” Akintos chirped.

“Wow! I love your clothes! So much fancier than ours!” the old man complimented them. “Yeah, you guys look good!”

As Narcius followed Akintos towards their camp, he soaked in the man’s praise. “Yes, I know I look good! I was just saying that this morning!”

Kefalia, who fell into the rearmost position in their group, didn’t see that the old man suddenly grew fangs and claws while he tried to bite her! She abruptly moved her head in a way that made him miss as she exclaimed, “Oh, there’s a feather! No, never mind, it’s a dead leaf!” The old man grimaced as he changed back to his normal appearance and joined everyone else.

They found a group of people whose ages all ranged widely sitting around a large bonfire with an extraordinarily long spit over it, and when they finally reached them, they all welcomed the heroes, “Hello, travelers!”

Exelda awkwardly waved to them. “Hi, everybody! We have some questions for you, if you don’t mind!”

“Not at all!” a middle aged man obliged. “Please, sit down.”

“Oh, that one is with child! Go bring her a seat so she doesn’t have to stoop so low!” a woman instructed a young boy.

As the young boy delivered their one and only piece of furniture, a rudimentary and somewhat holey chair, Exelda told him graciously, “Oh, that’s so kind of you! Thanks!”

The boy wondered, “So, when do we eat?” His teeth and nails sharpened, and he tried to take a bite out of Exelda.

As the other heroes settled themselves down, they failed to perceive that Exelda was in any peril. Coincidentally, Kefalia glanced over, which caused the boy to immediately turn back into his normal self. Akintos inquired, “What are ya cooking on such a large spit?”

“Oh, whatever we can catch!” A middle aged woman eyed them with a hint of voracity in her eyes.

“We’re on a journey to search for very distinct golden feathers. Did you guys happen to have spotted objects like that?” Stocastin posed to their hosts.

A young woman responded quizzically, “Golden feathers? What are you going to do with those? Add some ornaments to your splendid outfits?”

Narcius rubbed his chin contemplatively. “Hmm…! Gold feathers would look absolutely dashing on me! What a fabulous idea! I never thought I’d get good fashion advice from people who dress so terribly!”

Exelda put in, “It’s kinda complicated, but the feathers may help us stop the riots in the kingdom.”

“There’s riots going on in the kingdom?” an old woman questioned.

“You guys don’t know about them?” Kefalia reacted in surprise. “They’re happening all over Chaos!”

The old man they initially met shrugged. “We haven’t been anywhere besides this forest! Oh, we did go to a cave once!”

As Exelda explained the dilemma to them, a young man slowly crept up to Akintos. “Basically, a bunch of citizens have been radicalized to think that this dead criminal should be king ’cause they believe this sham about the royal family practicing dark magic and drinking people’s blood!”

Just before the young man took a bite in him, Akintos lounged back further, and the young man had to quickly shift back before he caught him. Akintos opined, “Who is disgusting enough to drink blood?”

The people in burlap glanced at each other uncomfortably, and Stocastin misinterpreted their expressions. “Quite abhorrent, right? But by retrieving these golden feathers, we believe that-.”

“Hey!” Narcius had pulled out his hand mirror from his toga pocket, and he caught a young woman with her pointy transformation right as she almost pierced his skin! “They’re trying to eat us!”

“Narcius, that’s ridiculous! They…” Exelda trailed off as everybody changed forms. Her opinion reversed, and she cried out, “Oh Zeus! It’s true!” The old man charged at her, so she used her sword against him. It wouldn’t pierce his skin! “Dammit! I’m so tired of that not working!”

Stocastin turned invisible, picked up a rock, and hurled it at the young man’s head. It didn’t phase him, but he did grow confused as to who did that to him. “Stone doesn’t work either!”

Akintos relayed to them, “My fireballs are working!”

“Throw them into the fire!” Exelda commanded. While Akintos continued to throw fireballs, Exelda used her strength to make the old man fly into their bonfire. Kefalia flew to the old woman, picked her up, and dropped her into the fire. Stocastin tripped the young man, and the young man fell backwards into the flames. Narcius used his speed to both evade the ones around him and apply enough force to push people into the fire quickly. They repeated the process until the area appeared empty. “Is that everyone?” Exelda surveyed their surroundings just to be sure.

“Yes!” Akintos replied to Exelda’s inquiry. A little girl appeared hanging off of the tree branch above him, so he changed his response to, “No!” He destroyed her with his fireballs, and then he affirmed, “Okay, now we’re good!”

Exelda asked Kefalia, “Do monsters run that paper mill you mentioned?”

Kefalia answered her, “I don’t think so, but I haven’t been there in a while, so…”

“Wait, were those people monsters, or do they normally haunt these woods?” Narcius’ eyes darted all over as he fretted about the possibilities.

“I don’t think so! It’s not like they have a representative in the Senate!” Exelda kidded. “Plus, if they were around longer, I’m sure ‘Konna’ would claim they’re from the royal family’s palace and let her loyal dupes watch them go after people!”

Akintos stated, “I hope the paper mill people are nice to us!”

Stocastin disagreed, “I actually hope that they’re more on the unfriendly side because lately the individuals who behaved kindly towards us have tried to assassinate us!” Kefalia, Narcius, and Akintos shared his sentiment and crossed their fingers for that outcome as they headed out.

The Unsuper Heroes II, Chapter 11

Dason sat a long table in a luxurious dining room eating from a large tray of biscuits. A woman who greatly resembled him except for her younger age walked in and got startled by his appearance. “Dason! You’re back?” she inquired.

“Nope! This is Impusa, just waiting for my body to morph back into its glorious old self,” he replied.

“Are you just being sarcastic so I’ll…” she trailed off as she watched him transform into Impusa. “Oh, you were being serious!” she reacted in disappointment.

Impusa, while she continued to shovel food into her mouth, explained, “Sorry, Aleta! I heard some protesters out there acting like fools, so I went out to yell at them.”

Aleta sat next to her and asked, “How did it go?”

“They seemed a little alarmed by the amount of curse words I used. I guess Dason doesn’t use them much, huh?” Impusa supposed.

“No,” Aleta confirmed. “He rarely even raises his voice.”

Impusa responded, “Whoops! The Senate’s probably not gonna be happy with what I did! Oh well! They have worse problems than that to deal with right now!”

Aleta conversed, “Tell me about it! I thought my days of running the kingdom due to my brother’s kidnapping were over, but here I am again! Not only that, but I can’t leave the palace without people screaming horrible things about me and my family! Some anonymous post puts out all these crazy rumors and people believe them without any proof! It’s so weird!”

“I don’t get it either,” Impusa shared her sentiment. “I got duped into working for Mercinon, but he was charming and promised great things if helped him. It’s hard to fathom what any piece of parchment could offer that’s as alluring!”

“Maybe they were promised something too,” Aleta theorized. “But still, what could Konna have said that would make them accept a totally different version of history? My ancestors didn’t use dark magic to take the throne! King Dikiosini took it away from his son because he killed someone! And it’s not like we were outsiders who randomly decided to take over- King Dikiosini gave it to his cousin! It’s well documented too! People trust Konna’s paperwork but not official government ones?”

Impusa ranted, “I don’t see why they think destroying their own buildings is gonna solve any of their problems! If they really thought Mercinon was set to take over, then why would they create as disaster for him to inherit? There wouldn’t be much left for him to take over!”

Aleta shook her head in disappointment. “It’s sad! I never thought Chaos would be known for hysteria!”

As Aleta reached for a biscuit, Impusa moved the plate out of her reach. “Uh-uh! These are mine!” she conveyed to her with a mouth full of food.

“May I remind you that I’m the princess here!” Aleta admonished her.

“Sorry!” Impusa put the plate back where Aleta could access it.

After Aleta took a bite and swallowed it, she started chuckling. “I can’t wait ’til their side is defeated and Dason comes back! The looks on their faces will be priceless!” Impusa agreed, and they both laughed.

At that moment, Cyrek and Krimeno burst into the room. Cyrek seemed a little frazzled, but Krimeno spotted the food and savored, “Ooh, fresh biscuits! Don’t mind if I do!”

“Impusa, did you tell people that Exelda and her team left the capitol to go on a mysterious mission?” Cyrek wanted to know.

“No,” Impusa assured him, “They mentioned something about the heroes not helping out with putting a stop to the riots, and I told them where they could stick their opinions.”

Krimeno pondered, “Where is that?”

Cyrek regarded Impusa, “Don’t answer that! I guess ‘Konna’ is spreading rumors about them too! That’s just great! Ugh, I thought they’d be back before anyone interrogated me about their absence!”

“What did you tell them?” Aleta queried.

“Oh, I didn’t provide them with anything that had substance to it! I reassured them that our heroes were helping out and then I changed the subject, you know, typical diversionary tactic.” He sighed, and then he told them, “Well, I better not let the Senate go unsupervised for too long! Let me know if you hear anything!”

Krimeno chimed in, “Oh, I heard a great joke the other day! Two men go-.”

Cyrek snapped, “Not you! Come on, let’s go!”

A cook brought out another tray of biscuits, so Krimeno objected, “But they just brought out a batch of fresh ones!” Cyrek gave him a hard stare, so he relented, “Okay, fine!” Cyrek left, and Krimeno started to leave, but he quickly circled back and snatched a biscuit before hurrying out.

Mercinon laid on the floor of the cave with his eyes closed and his mouth snoring loudly. Thanamenti looked down on him in disgust and then kicked him, causing him to wake up and sleepily shout, “Mother is back! Quick, hide me!”

“Do I look like your mother?” Thanamenti retorted.

“Kinda,” Mercinon admitted.

Thanamenti rolled her eyes before critiquing him, “You’re dead! What do you need sleep for?”

Mercinon stated, “I don’t need sleep. I’m just so bored here! I miss my palace! If you don’t destroy those superpowered jerks soon, I’m gonna have to take a walk to see it or I swear to Plutus I’ll… I don’t know… Something bad will happen!”

“Something bad will happen if you do go there!” Thanamenti warned him, “You know the royals probably seized control of your home, it’s too risky! Besides, we can’t take chances with you going back to Earth until those meddling cretins get destroyed!”

“Destroy them faster!” Mercinon whined.

Before Thanamenti could respond to that, they heard a loud thump coming from Echinda’s cavern room that was loud enough to rouse Marcin and Dason from their slumber. Dason glanced down at his bird form and lamented, “Aw, man! I forgot about the curse! In my dreams, I’m still human!”

Thanamenti rejoiced, “Oh, what a relief! We really needed another monster! One of you needs to get up and tell me if it’s one that’s good in higher elevations! I saw those idiots exploring the Vorivuna Mountains.”

Mercinon fell asleep again, so Marcin exasperatedly sighed and got up. When he stood in the entryway, he got hit in the chest with an arrow! “Ow! Son of a bitch!” Echinda screeched, so he amended his statement, “I didn’t mean you!” As he pulled the arrow out, he wondered, “Where did you get this? Were you born with it?”

As Marcin headed back to the main area, Thanamenti probed, “Well? Would he do well in the high altitude?”

Marcin bitterly spat, “I don’t care! He could go up there and rot for all I…” He espied Thanamenti’s angry face and reluctantly divulged, “He’ll be fine! That is until the superheroes find a way to destroy him!” Dason chortled exuberantly, but Thanamenti grew irate. Before she could blow up, Marcin volunteered, “I’ll just see myself to the pit of jackals!” Thanamenti seemed slight acquiesced as he headed in that direction but didn’t watch the proceedings as she brought her staff towards Echinda’s chambers.

“What a beautiful morning!” Exelda chirped. Stocastin, Narcius, Akintos, and Kefalia did not share her viewpoint as they lagged behind her while they climbed down a rocky mountain. “Don’t you guys agree?”

“Not so loud!” Akintos groaned. “Did we purposely aggravate you when you used to drink and got hung over?”

Exelda responded to him, “Yes, several times.”

Akintos recalled this and weakly chuckled, “Oh yeah!”

“I know you can’t tell from my marvelous good looks, but I fell terrible!” Narcius made known. Akintos, Stocastin, and Kefalia concurred.

“Not me! I feel great!” Exelda clutched her stomach and reversed her position. “Okay, maybe not that great!”

Exelda vomited off the edge of a small cliff, and Kefalia soon did the same. Once they finished, Kefalia merrily noted, “Hey, we’re throw up twins!” Exelda didn’t know how to react to that, so she just resumed descending down the slope.

Stocastin bemoaned, “Why did I consume such a large quantity of alcohol? I knew exactly what kind of effect that it would have on my body, and yet I participated in that inadvisable behavior anyways! What did I think I would gain from this experience?”

“Well, you did get to feel a woman up! That’s something!” Akintos attempted to buoy up his spirits.

“Indeed, that was a most satisfying moment!” Stocastin acknowledged.

Kefalia posed to everyone, “I don’t remember everything from yesterday. Did I do anything stupid?”

They all snickered a little, and then Narcius spoke up, “You mean stupider than normal?”

“Are we close to completing our exploration of this terrain?” Stocastin asked.

“Nope! We have a few more peaks to go to,” Exelda answered, which caused the others to all grumble. Once Exelda’s feet touched the bottom, she thought about it and reassessed her plan, “Maybe we should take a short break though!”

The other four all exhaled in a grateful alleviation and then settled against the stones at the bottom of the ridge. After a minute of silence in which everyone tried to recover, Stocastin observed, “Hey, there’s a peach tree over there!”

Akintos pressed, “Do you have a good reason for bringing that up, or are you still drunk?”

“I no longer have enough substance in my body to create an inebriated effect! Actually, I called that to your attention because consuming that fruit may help us quell the symptoms stemming from our over consumption of wine,” Stocastin educated them. “The natural glucose inside of it has vitamins that will-.”

“Who’s gonna get up and get it?” Narcius threw out there.

Everyone got quiet for a few seconds, and then Stocastin begrudgingly stepped up, “It was my idea, so it only seems fitting that I be the one to retrieve it.” Narcius, Akintos, Kefalia, and Exelda halfheatedly cheered as he slowly made his way towards a tree next to a small creek. As he gathered the fruit, he prattled on, “Peaches are also very fibrous, so they may aid us in-.”

Suddenly, an arrow flew from the other side of the creek and into a peach that Stocastin held up! He turned invisible and announced, “I believe I see a monster in the distance!”

The others all cried out in anguish to hear that. “Please, no! I’m so uncomfortable right now!” Exelda wailed.

“You could sit on the grass, it’s more soft than the rocks,” Kefalia suggested.

“Stocastin hasn’t come back yet. Go see what it is,” Exelda directed to Kefalia.

Kefalia protested, “But it might make me sick!”

Exelda countered with, “If you don’t, it might make you dead!”

“Oh, right!” Kefalia lifted herself up and forced herself to fly. She soared over the trees where Stocastin disappeared, and then she abruptly had to swerve away from an arrow, which caused her to hurl again! When the projectile met the ground, a male voice hollered out in repulsion, so she apologized, “Sorry!” She thought about it and instantly changed her opinion, “No, I’m not! You tried to kill me!”

“What was it?” Exelda inquired.

A creature emerged whose top half was a young man with a longbow and whose bottom half resembled a donkey, and Kefalia replied to Exleda, “That!”

Akintos burst out laughing and kidded, “That guy looks like a jackass!”

Exelda, Narcius, and Kefalia giggled a little at his joke, but the creature got incensed by his quip. “You find my appearance comical? How about now, wise guy?” He pulled an arrow out from his quiver and shot towards Akintos too fast for him to dodge the attack! It hit him in the leg, and a red liquid came pouring out! “Ah-ha! I’ve hit your artery, and now you will perish! Still feel like teasing me?”

“You didn’t hit an artery! You hit a wine bladder!” Akintos corrected him. “I still have that?”

“What is this wine you speak of?” the creature puzzled.

Exelda filled him in, “You’ve never heard of wine? Oh, it’s a glorious drink that makes you relax your body and mind!”

Before Kefalia, Narcius, and Akintos could disagree, the creature doubted her claim, “I don’t believe you! Do you think I’m dumb?”

“It’s true! I can prove it! I think! Did anyone else bring their wine bladder?” Exelda’s eyes flickered between the three remaining on the mountain’s edge.

“I do, but why would I share it with…” Narcius beheld Exelda’s eyes flashing in warning, so he altered his assertion, “Why would I share it with anyone else but you? Here, try some!”

Narcius walked over to him, and after the creature snatched it away, Narcius nervously ran back to the ridge. After the creature tasted it, his eyes lit up in delight. “Oh my! This is delicious!”

Heading back towards the creature, Narcius barked, “Hey! I didn’t say you could drink the whole thing!” The creature made eye contact with him, so Narcius cowered, “But of course you can though!”

As the creature guzzled down the wine, Stocastin reappeared and quietly complimented Exelda, “I see where this is going! Good one!”

Exelda saw that he was carrying an armful of peaches and exclaimed, “Is that why you dragged your feet coming back? You were protecting the fruit?”

Stocastin defended himself, “We need them!” Exelda shook her head as she handed out peaches to everyone as they watched the creature drink.

It didn’t take much for the creature to start swaying with his eyes slightly glazed over! He gazed at the five heroes and tried to jog his memory. “What was I gonna do here?”

“Have another drink?” Narcius guessed.

“Good idea! This drink makes me thirsty, so I need another one!” The creature stumbled over to the creek, but as he stooped over, he passed out, landing his head into the water!

Kefalia gasped, “Oh no! He’s gonna drown!”

Exelda shrugged. “If he sobers up, he’ll probably try to kill us again, so he can stay there! I hope he doesn’t just wake up wet!”

“I woke up wet once!” Akintos related. This made the others crack up, so he clarified, “The roof was leaking! I swear!”

“Anyways, let’s get going before Mercinon sends another monster to help that jackass finish the job!” Exelda motioned for them to follow her away from there, and they somewhat reluctantly complied and achingly headed out.

The Unsuper Heroes II, Chapter 10

“Enopio! We have guests!” the wife shouted into another room as they entered into her cottage.

“Keep your eyes out for the feather and any signs of danger!” Exelda quietly advised Kefalia, Akintos, Narcius, and Stocastin.

Narcius dismissed her notion of peril, “I’m an excellent judge of character, and I can just tell we’re safe with these people! I highly doubt that we have anything to worry about here!” When they got into the thick of the building, they could see a cluttered but quaint cottage full of homey knick-knacks that would have made them feel instantly comfortable if it weren’t for the plethora of pro Konna and anti royal family décor! As Exelda glared at him, he defiantly stated, “This doesn’t prove anything!”

Their hostess emerged from another small room with a man in his fifties that had gray hair and a tall, lanky body, and he greeted them all with a genuinely warm smile that gave off the aura of a kindly father, “Welcome to Enopio’s Winery! As you may have guessed, I am Enopio, and this is my wife, Krassi! Please, have a seat!” He indicated to a small, round, wooden table adjacent to a cooking area.

“Are you all hungry?” Krassi asked them as they sat down.

“Boy, are we ever!” Akintos answered without consulting anyone else first, which clearly miffed Exelda.

Enopio grabbed a bottle of wine off of the counter, and as he set a glass in front of everyone, he gingerly queried to Exelda, “Forgive me if this seems insulting, but are you pregnant or just overweight?”

Exelda obviously didn’t like the way he phrased that, but she gave him a reply anyways, “I’m both! No wine for me, thank you!”

Once everyone else had a drink in front of them, Enopio suggested, “How about a toast?” They all agreed to that proposal, and as they raised their glasses, they expected him to say something flattering about his guests, but instead, he praised someone else, “To Konna, whose hard work and personal sacrifice has done a great service for Chaos!”

Kefalia, Akintos, Stocastin, and Narcius instinctively shied away from the notion until Exelda raised her glass of water. “Cheers!” She flashed her eyes towards them in a way that commanded them to follow suit, which compelled them to instantly join them.

After their glasses clinked and they took a sip of their drinks, Enopio conversed, “So, what brings you guys to our neck of the woods?”

Everyone but Kefalia waffled on what to say about their reason for coming to the area, but Kefalia proudly let him know, “We took a boat!”

“I see…” Enopio seemed a little thrown off since she hadn’t said that in jest, and then he quickly followed up with, “And what did you have planned for this boat ride?”

“We’re on a scholastic mission to discover lost artifacts,” Stocastin came up with.

Enopio raised an eyebrow at that. “Really You’re all scholars?”

He hadn’t directly alluded to Kefalia, but she figured out who he had meant. “I have a lot to learn!”

“I think it’s a wonderful idea!” Krassi piped in as she stewed some beans in a large pot over a fire. “Get all of the valuable trinkets hidden in our polis before those dreaded royals get their dirty palms on them!”

“You guys must not be familiar with everything that they’re up to,” Enopio misinterpreted their bewildered expressions. “Well, Konna has revealed to us that they actually came into power on illegal grounds! One of their ancestors performed dark magic to sway the rightful king to abdicate his throne to them, and they have to continue that practice in order to stay in their position! Did you know that they sacrifice the blood of children for this spell?”

Akintos started to object, “That’s not true! They-!” Exelda discretely kicked his shin, so he changed what he originally meant to say, “I mean… They can’t ’cause Mercinon stops them!”

Enopio’s eyes sparkled by this concept. “Oh yes! Mercinon is an amazing man who already does so much for this country! I can’t wait for him to take his rightful place as king! Did you know that he’s related to the last legal king of Chaos?”

“Wow, I guess Konna has all the answers!” Narcius sardonically remarked, which earned him a dirty look from Exelda.

“Yes, she does! Such a wise and courageous woman!” Enopio, who didn’t pick up on Narcius’ sarcasm, extolled her.

Exelda had been so wrapped up in this less than favorable chat that she failed to notice that Krassi had approached her side, but when she turned her head slightly, she discovered that she was within inches of of her! Krassi inquired, “You don’t have any dietary sensitivities due to your condition, do you?”

She tried hard to concentrate on the topic she raised, but with where her eyes fell from her lower vantage point, Exelda couldn’t see anything but Krassi’s enormous bosoms! She didn’t delight in this sight, but her surprise unintentionally caused her to stare. “Not that I…” She spotted Krassi’s necklace before then, but she could now see that her jewelry had a charm attached, a charm that Exelda realized was the object resembling one of the golden feathers that they had seen prior to coming inside! “Not that I know of! Thanks!”

After Krassi returned to the kitchen to complete their meal, Exelda quickly gulped down her water and then requested to Enopio, “Could I get a refill, please?”

“Of course!” Enopio obliged.

“So… You got quite the show!” Akintos grinned cheekily and kidded, “Did you find the feather in her toga?”

Exelda responded, “Maybe!” It threw Akintos off completely to get that retort, but before anyone could probe into the matter any further, Exelda instructed them, “One of you is gonna have to try seducing her to catch a glimpse of that thing hiding in her breasts!”

Stocastin decreed, “Narcius should spearhead this task.”

“Me? Why do I always have to seduce the unattractive women?” Narcius protested.

“It’s your own fault for being so good looking!” Kefalia conveyed to him.

Narcius ran his fingers through his hair and acknowledged, “Yes, being this beautiful does come with an ugly price tag!”

Exelda rolled her eyes just as Enopio gave her a full glass of water and Krassi served them a piece of bread with their beans. Exelda could tell that they wanted to continue gushing about Konna, so she changed the subject, “So, how long have you been in the wine business?”

After a coupled of hours, they had long finished with their meals, but after multiple glasses of wine, everyone but Exelda found Enopio’s stories highly amusing. No one caught wind of Exelda impatiently tapping her fingers as Enopio concluded another animated anecdote, “And then the guy’s wife burst in and screams, ‘You scoundrel! You told me you quit!’ And the guy told her, ‘I quit my job, not wine!’” Narcius, Kefalia, Stocastin, and Akintos roared with laughter, and Enopio chortled at his own recollection, “I’d be surprised if he survived the journey home!”

Akintos slurred quite a bit as he chimed in, “That’s like Exelda, what she would do! But she’s the one who promised Da- ow!”

“I promised my child’s father I wouldn’t drink anymore.” Exelda faked a smile for Enopio but glared at Akintos when their hosts weren’t looking.

“Time for another refill! I’ll have to go back to the wine den to get more. Excuse me.” Enopio got up and headed to an adjacent room.

Krassi observed, “Wow, there’s a lot of dishes! I suppose I should wash them before more visitors come here. Excuse me as well.”

Exelda heavily recommended to Narcius, “You should help her!”

“Why? Dishes aren’t my…” He espied the angry expression on Exelda’s face and reversed his stance, “Oh yeah! Hey beautiful! Need a hand?”

“Sure!” Krassi chirped. Narcius applauded her and guffawed at his own joke.

As Krassi handed him a towel, Exelda muttered under her breath, “Oh my gods! He calls that seduction?”

Akintos loudly wondered, “Why do my legs hurt?”

“Because you drunks keep getting close to revealing information you shouldn’t!” Exelda hissed. “We can’t tell them we’re associated with the royal family! Who knows what they’re capable of!”

“Enopio’s such a good name! You should name your baby that!” Kefalia hiccuped, and then she added, “If it’s a boy! But if it’s a girl, you should name her… uh…”

Narcius emanated a big, toothy smile as he purred, “Krassi! You… so pretty! Let’s make out!” He moved towards her with his tongue already swishing, which made Exelda bury her head in her hands and shake her head.

Krassi smacked him in the head and scolded him, “You pig! I’m a married woman! My husband is n the next room!”

“But he’s not here right now!” Narcius gave her a cheesy wink.

“Oh, don’t mind him! He’s just too in-ur-be-rated! Here, I’ll help you do the dishes!” Kefalia offered.

Akintos watched the two women with great interest and questioned, “Ooh, is she gonna seduce her?”

Exelda sourly articulated, “Nope. She’s just doing dishes!”

“Oh, this attempt is proving beyond their capabilities! I’ll just do it!” Stocastin announced.

“You? What do you know about seduction?” Akintos challenged him. “Your idea of flirting is jabber-jawing about formulas!”

Stocastin retaliated, “Hey! It’ll work on the right girl! Besides, I don’t need to seduce her to get the feather!” He turned invisible as he headed towards her.

Exelda tried to quietly deter him, “Oh no! Stocastin, don’t!”

Krassi prattled on with Kefalia, “I found my kids’ names from reading our guest book. We’ve had visitors from all over Chaos and even other parts of Greece, so lots of unique names came our way! One time, we even had a man from- Hey!” She felt something digging into her cleavage, so she turned to yell at the perpetrator. She saw Narcius still standing there, swaying slightly, so she smacked him again.

“Piece of cake!” Stocastin became visible again and sat back down at the table.

“Oh, you guys want some cake? I think we still have some!” Krassi searched the shelf where they stored their food.

Akintos delightfully asserted, “Free cake too! What a great afternoon!”

Exelda deduced, “Free food and an endless supply of wine? Who does that without a motive? Why is Enopio taking so long?”

Kefalia placed a cake on the table as she opined, “You’re too suspicious! They haven’t given us any reason not to trust them!” All of a sudden, a metal cage popped out of the ceiling and surrounded them! “Okay, maybe now they have!”

“Play time’s over, my friends!” Enopio emerged from the wine den carrying a large, slender, wooden pole, threateningly. Krassi retrieved one of her one from behind their pantry and joined her husband in staring at their cage menacingly.

“Are you sure it’s over? ‘Cause you called us your friend and are carrying game sticks!” Kefalia regarded them.

Enopio spat, “Shut up! Did you think we gave you all that food and wine out of the goodness of our hearts?”

Narcius fibbed, “No…”

“We knew who you were!” Krassi divulged. “Konna sent a bulletin out just this morning saying that five palace employees were on the hunt for a rare ingredient for an extremely dark spell, and we caught you! Won’t she be pleased to hear we put a halt to your devious plan!”

“Wait, you’re in contact with Konna? How do you communicate? Where are these bulletins?” Exelda quizzed.

Krassi admitted, “She doesn’t talk to us directly, we just know where she hides her messages for the people of this land! But I’m sure that’s about to change!”

Enopio growled, “Quit trying to get something out of us! That’s what we were trying to do to you! But you didn’t provide us with much, so-!”

“If you wanted to convince us to expose our secrets, you probably shouldn’t have partook in so much liquor!” Stocastin pointed out.

Enopio cringed at that. “It doesn’t matter! The important thing is that we make sure you don’t hurt Mercinon’s rise to the top ever again!”

Akintos prodded them, “You guys know that we’re superheroes, right?”

Exelda easily pried two bars of the cage open, and Akintos created two fireballs that instantly destroyed their weapons! Kefalia flew to the top of the cage and grabbed the rope used to lower it, and she tossed it to Narcius, who used his speed to tie them up before they could run away. Exelda taunted them, “Nice try! We’re leaving now!”

“Hold on!” Akintos ran into the wine den and pulled out a bladder of wine that he could fit in his toga’s pocket. “For the road!”

“Exelda doesn’t want us to steal!” Kefalia gasped.

Akintos countered with, “They’re not gonna report us! They just tried to kill us! Which one is more likely to earn a dungeon sentence?” Kefalia as well as Stocastin and Akintos thought he had a valid argument and helped themselves to a purloined item of their own. Exelda exasperatedly sighed.

As they exited the building, Exelda griped, “Well, that was a disaster!”

“No! If Gifloga erupted while we were there, that would have been a disaster! We got out alive and we got the feather!” Stocastin pulled the gold charm he took from Krassi out of his pocket.

“Let me see that!” Exelda snatched it from him and exclaimed, “It’s not a real feather! It’s metal! Cheap metal too! Look, the gold comes off when you scratch it! She must have had it in the window to dry the paint!” She grumpily tossed it onto the lawn.

Narcius yawned and proposed, “That’s too bad! Let’s take a nap before we search for the real one!”

Exelda denied that, “Oh no! We’re gonna keep going! That’ll be your punishment for drinking on the job! Dason made that rule for me, but it applies to everyone! Let’s go!” The other four groaned as they headed back towards their boat.

The Unsuper Heroes II, Chapter 9

Thanamenti gazed into her bubbling cauldron and furiously bellowed, “This is unbelievable!”

Mercinon, who had been gracelessly dancing to music emanating from a self playing harp, took her words as a personal compliment, “Thank you! Can you believe I’ve had no formal training?”

“Yes!” Thanamenti gave him a disgusted look before returning her attention to the potion in her pot. “I meant that’s simply unthinkable that these five incompetent do-gooders managed to destroy the shabti! How could they possibly know the one way to do it?”

“There’s more than one way to do it!” Marcin quibbled as he sewed a long, red robe. “I found that out when I finished my studies. I was heading towards a place of employment, but then I found a special house and ended up spending money instead of earning it!”

Thanamenti rebuked him, “That is not what I meant! Did you hear anything I else I said?”

Marcin shrugged. “Eh! I tune in and out of your conversations.”

“I don’t get it! They’re not very smart, and they’re nowhere near the level they could be if they actually honed their skills, so how is it they’re able to best our monsters every time? Something isn’t right!” Thanamenti ranted.

“I guess you’re looking for a reason other than your plans are dumb and they simply outsmarted you?” Dason taunted her from inside of his birdcage.

“Yes! Ugh, why did that spell give you the ability to talk?” Thanamenti pouted.

Mercinon, while he continued to frolic to the same haunting melody, advised her, “You need to relax! Just because they bested a few of our attempts to obliterate them doesn’t mean they’ll survive them all! Just send out the next monster and hope for the best this time around! Repeat the process ’til we succeed! Simple!”

Thanamenti responded, “First of all, don’t ever tell an angry woman to relax, it’ll make her do the exact opposite! And second… I guess you’re right! Go check on Echinda and tell me what monster we’re dealing with next.”

“Yeah, Marcin, go check!” Mercinon tacked on to what he presumed was an order for his assistant.

“I think she was talking to you,” Marcin corrected him.

Mercinon laughed in disbelief. “Me? Get an order? Don’t be ridiculous!”

Thanamenti backed Marcin up, “Actually, I was talking to you.”

“What?” Mercinon got so stunned to hear that revelation that he tripped over his own feet and landed on the floor of the cave.

“All you do is waste time doing trivial things! You need to contribute more than just bossing Marcin around! I can do that!” Thanamenti scolded him.

Mercinon argued, “I’m resting now because when I’m king I won’t have a chance to do it! It’s good for you, you should try it sometime! Oh my gods! There I go telling you to relax again! Okay, I’ll go check on Echinda.”

Marcin suggested, “Maybe I should go check. He’ll probably mess it up somehow!”

“I beg your pardon?” Mercinon took great exception to that. “Are you implying that I’m incapable of handling an easy task like that?”

“I don’t think he’s implying it, he pretty much said it straight up!” Dason needled him.

Mercinon defiantly declared, “I’ll show you all! Ooh, if I didn’t want that cape right away, I would so make you revisit the pit of jackals!” As he marched inside, Marcin purposely slowed down the speed of his sewing. As soon as Mercinon entered into the cavern room that they held Echinda in, he exclaimed, “That’s Echinda?” They heard Echinda screech, and Mercinon amended his blunder, “My apologies! There’s nothing wrong with your looks! I just pictured you differently in my head!”

After a bout where the only sound heard stemmed from the self playing harp, Thanamenti inquired, “Well, what do you see?”

“I don’t see anything in here!” Mercinon replied.

“Oh, Marcin was right about you! I better go see this for myself!” She walked over to Echinda’s chambers, and she cried out in astonishment, “Oh no! She hasn’t given birth yet!” She came back to the main area of the cave wringing her hands. “She always creates a monster at a certain pace, and she hasn’t made a new one yet! What if she’s barren?”

Mercinon emerged from Echinda’s quarters and informed Thanamenti, “She’s just fallen asleep. Maybe she only gives birth when she’s awake. I didn’t think a woman had a choice about when she went into labor, but it’s probably different with her. In the meantime, just-.” He cut himself off before he finished that sentence.

Thanamenti raged, “Oh, you better not have been about to tell me to relax again!”

“I wasn’t going to!” Mercinon lied. “I was gonna say you should… Watch them in the cauldron! If they get too close to a feather and she still hasn’t produced another monster, we’ll… do something about it!”

“Knowing them, they’re probably getting close!” Thanamenti glanced into her steaming concoction and grinned. “Oh, we have time! If they were close to a feather, they probably wouldn’t be disrobing right now!”

Mercinon, who had returned to his fancy swaying, rushed over to the cauldron when he heard that last part, and Marcin paused his stitching so he could be privy to this sight. “Drats! The river water is covering them!” Marcin lamented.

Thanamenti rejoiced, “I recognize this place! They’re in the Nerostaffilon River, so close to peril and they don’t even realize it!” She cackled in delight.

“So, we don’t need a monster at all right now!” Mercinon sighed in relief.

“Well, if we get one, it probably wouldn’t to send it near there! The more danger to them the better! But for now, I can relax!” As Thanamenti conjured herself a comfortable chair, Mercinon opened his mouth to say something regarding what she had just expressed, but Marcin shook his head to urge him not to do it, so he shut his mouth and went back to his feverish dance.

As Exelda and Kefalia bathed on one side of a viney shrub that seeped into the riverbank, the men settled in on the other side. Stocastin merrily washed himself while Akintos lounged int the water and Narcius fixated on his reflection exuding from the stream. Narcius praised his image, “Wow, I think you’re getting more gorgeous with age! Look how smooth the muscles on my glorious chest are! And no hint of wrinkles on my beautiful face! Oh sure, there’s a few lines of refinement, but it just makes me appear more distinguished! And my hair shows- Aah!” A fish briefly popped out of the water in the spot he was staring at, causing him to jump a bit.

The others chuckled, and Exelda remarked, “Oh, thank Aidos! I couldn’t take much more of that!”

“I’m ashamed that I used to have romantic feelings for that guy!” Kefalia commented.

“What?” Narcius genuinely didn’t catch the statement she had made.

Kefalia fibbed, “Nothing!”

Stocastin suddenly had a realization. “Hey, this is water!”

“Listen, we all know you’re smarter than us, but I hope you don’t think we’re that dumb!” Akintos retorted.

“No, I only meant to allude to the fact that perhaps it serves as a symbol suitable enough for a place where the feather could manifest for us on our quest,” Stocastin clarified.

Exelda lauded Stocastin’s idea, “Oh, that’s true! I wish I had thought of that, but all I could think about was getting all the remnants of the volcano off of me!”

Stocastin opened his mouth to correct her, but Narcius cut him off, “We know what it really was, but we all agreed not to bring it up ever again, remember?” This made Stocastin recall that pact, so he no longer wished to broach the subject any further.

“Well, I hope everyone enjoyed that break! Get dressed ’cause we’re not walking down the riverbank naked!” Exelda directed them as she retrieved her toga and started putting it on.

“Walking? Look, I know we agreed to not bring the royal horses near potential monsters, but why do we have to walk when we’re on a river? Why can’t we take a boat?” Akintos whined.

Exelda pointed out, “We don’t have a boat.”
Kefalia indicated to something on the other side of the stream, “There’s a boat over there we could use.”

“Kefalia, that’s tied up, so obviously it belongs to someone. We can’t steal anything unless it’s an absolute emergency, and laziness hardly qualifies as one!” Exelda lectured.

“We wouldn’t be stealing it, we’d just be borrowing it for a while! It’s not like we’d take it with us after we’re done!” Akintos reasoned.

Exelda still seemed hesitant, so Stocastin logically hashed out, “Time is of the essence on this mission, and this gesture would expedite our term in this terrain.”

Still feeling a little reluctant, Exelda relented, “I suppose we do have to do all we can to find the feathers as soon as possible so we can save Dason! Oh, and the entire kingdom! Okay, let’s do it!”

Narcius, Exelda, Stocastin, and Akintos all swam towards the log raft with a small sail on it, but Kefalia stayed behind and relayed to them, “I can’t go beyond the shallows ’cause I don’t know how to swim!”

“You can fly!” Akintos brought to her attention.

“Oh yeah!” Kefalia reacted in relief. She hovered over them as they got onto the small vessel, and when everyone else got on board, she frowned. “There’s no room for me on there!”

Exelda echoed Akintos’ words, “You can fly!”

Kefalia chirped, “Oh yeah!”

Not too far down the river, they came across a small home with a vineyard behind it, and Stocastin warned Kefalia, “It’s highly recommended that pregnant women do not consume alcohol!”

“I know that!” Exelda barked. “You don’t need to keep harping on me for that! After I found Dason, I no longer needed wine to help me relax! I found something much more effective!”

“What is it? Some kind of potion?” Kefalia pondered.

Narcius piped up, “It’s obviously the act involved in creating her son!”

Exelda put in, “Or daughter! Anyways, we’re not stopping there!”

“Stop the boat! We have to in there!” Akintos announced.

“Akintos, since when do you drink liquor?” Narcius inquired.

Shaking his head, Akintos replied, “Look inside their window!” They all gazed inside of the cottage, and in the window frame, they saw an object that resembled one of the feathers! “Also, I’ve been drinking every now and then since I hit puberty.”

Squinting in that direction, Exelda esteemed, “I don’t know, something seems off about it.”

“Well, we should go find out! What if it’s a feather and we miss it?” Kefalia beseeched.

“Alright, let’s go check it out.” Exelda used the wooden oar left on board to veer raft towards the house.

Once they had docked, they crept up to the cottage, but when they peeked inside, they discovered that it had vanished! “Where did it go? Don’t tell me we did all that work for nothing!” Akintos fretted.

Stocastin theorized, “No one left the premises, so they must’ve moved it to another location within the building.”

“You should turn invisible and sneak inside to search the place,” Narcius suggested.

“I can’t sneak inside! They won’t see me, but they could hear me!” Stocastin objected.

Kefalia puzzled, “How else are we gonna get inside?”

Exelda shushed them and then whispered, “You guys need to be more quiet! Someone could hear us!”

“No one can hear us!” Akintos denied that claim. At that instance, a middle aged woman with red hair and a plump physique opened the window and peered outside! “Aah! Oh, hello! We were just…”

“Oh, this happens way too frequently! We’re going to have to put up a sign! Fisherman visiting our facility want to take a break here, but they can never figure out where the front door is! Go around the corner and you’ll see it!” The woman ducked back inside of her home and presumably waited for them.

The five of them complied with her advice, and Narcius mentioned, “Get invited inside! I should have that of that sooner!”

Exelda had a grim expression on her face. “Don’t get too excited about this!”

“Oh, why not? She seems nice,” Akintos disagreed with her less optimistic viewpoint.

“She has the feather somewhere in there! The fact that it disappeared from our sight may not bode well for us!” Exelda worriedly assessed.

Kefalia cheerily regarded her, “You stress out too much! You should ask yourself this: what’s the best that can happen?”

Before Exelda could dispute her assertion, they reached the front door. The woman they met before opened her entrance up and invited them, “Come on in!”

The Unsuper Heroes II, Chapter 8

“Oh boy! I’m so excited for my first day as Voriodikta’s town herald!” a young man gushed to the two scribes who escorted him through a bustling marketplace towards the town square. “I can’t believe the last guy just quit! Why would anyone want to leave such a fabulous position?”

“Uh… no reason…” one of the scribes lied.

The other scribe handed him a piece of parchment and a curved horn and informed him, “There you go! You’re all set! We’ll be hiding in these bushes if you need anything!”

As they dashed into the nearby shrubs, the herald questioned, “Why would you need to do that?”

“No reason!” the first scribe repeated himself.

“Okay then…” The herald grew suspicious but didn’t broach the subject any further. He stepped onto a small, stone dais, and he gaped when he beheld a group of villagers storming one of the forum buildings, using pitchforks and various other tools to smash everything in their sight! “Maybe I should wait ’til later…”

The second scribe urged him, “They’ll stop when you start. Go on!”

The young herald seemed skeptical, but despite his misgivings, he raised the horn to his lips and blew. The rioters did indeed stop, however, they now turned to the scribe with malice on their faces. One villager suddenly proclaimed, “Oh look, there’s another mouthpiece from the palace! I wonder what lies they’re peddling today!”

They all gathered before him, but they all bore expressions of pure venom, and the herald trembled slightly as he announced, “I’m pleased to report that the monster lurking in the Akadimaikos shore is no longer a threat to the public!”

“They killed it?” another villager probed.

“Well, no, they just tamed it,” the herald nervously let them. Know.

A surly villager jeered, “They said they killed it! See, the royal family lied again!”

The herald assured them, “No, no, no! They never claimed to have killed it! It’s just a lovable pet now!”

“They can’t even protect us from monsters anymore!” an irate villager complained.

“You know who would have killed the monster? Mercinon!” a woman chimed in, and the crowd wholeheartedly agreed with her.

The herald queried, “Mercinon? Isn’t he the one that sent the monsters here in the first place?”

A defensive villager shouted, “See! More lies! Get him!”

The mob advanced towards him, but before they reached him, Exelda challenged them, “If you want the hippocamp dead, feel free to slay it yourselves! But you’ll need several people to work a large spear, and you better get it on the first try or else it’ll easily crush you all in a single move!”

“More lies!” an obstinate villager shrieked. “They have royal horses, so they’re just pawns for the palace too! Let’s get them!”

“Please don’t!” Exelda sounded more annoyed than worried. When one of them neared her, she swatted him away as if he were a fly! As he forcibly flew back into the gaggle, everyone abandoned that idea.

Kefalia surveyed the damage they did and inquired, “Oh my gods! What happened to your tailor shop?”

A sullen villager replied, “He said he didn’t want a dead man running our polis!”

“Is that so unreasonable?” Narcius countered. “Plus, now you have no tailor shop to go to, so when you need a new toga…”

“We don’t need anymore togas right now! We’re fine with what we’ve got!” a righteous villager contended. As the other radicals cheered their support for that sentiment, the last thread holding that man’s clothing together gave way! Everyone around him grew quiet as he now stood there buck naked, and that man broke the silence by growling, “Oh, let’s just go back to our houses and wait for news from the only source we can trust, Konna!”

As the sulky villagers all dispersed, the herald attempted to continue his communique, “In other news, the farmers in Agrochorio have reported a surplus in olives, so prices for the crop have dropped…”

As they trotted away from the area, Akintos brought up, “Remember when we used to get praised for saving people?”

Mercinon marched around the cave in a very flamboyant way and held a stick up in the air as if he were holding a flag. Thanamenti came in from one of the cavern rooms, and she stared at Mercinon in shock. “Huh! I didn’t know you could still get drunk once you’ve died!” she remarked.

“You can? Ooh, who’s tanked right now? Is it that skeleton in the river Styx?” Mercinon continued his prance-like gait.

“He’s sober, he’s just practicing for the parade he wants to hold after he’s crowned king,” Marcin relayed to her as he munched on bird seeds. He glanced up at Dason’s birdcage and tried to coax him, “See, they’re not poisonous!”

Dason muttered, “Yeah, they won’t kill you, you’re already dead!”

Marcin differed, “Yes, but I would still get hurt, just like when I go to the pit of jackals! Remember, you saw me do that a couple of times now!”

Mercinon commented, “Wait, so you don’t like that walk? Should I do it more slow and graceful?” He slowed his pace but still propelled himself exuberantly.

A loud groan sounded from the cavern room, which prompted Marcin to ask, “Did Echinda have another baby, or is that just the sound she makes in the process of making them?”

“I got her newest creation contained in a cage, but it’s hungry, so one of you will have to feed it,” Thanamenti told them.

“Marcin will have to do it, I’m very busy!” Mercinon responded while he pretended to greet his adoring fans as he airily strolled around.

Rolling his eyes, Marcin forced himself to get up and take care of what he perceived as a mundane task. “Okay, what does he eat? Bird seeds by chance?”

Thanamenti notified him, “Actually, he feeds on people…”

“What? You want him to eat me?” Marcin reacted in aghast.

“Just tear off a limb, it’ll grow back just like your flesh does after you leave the pit of jackals!” Thanamenti saw his apparent reluctance, so she elaborated, “It’s just ’til those five meddling pinheads get close to the last feather.” She peered into her cauldron and seethed, “I have a hunch they’re about to come across one!”

Marcin protested, “A hunch? So, you don’t know how long I’ll have to feed him parts of my own body?” Thanamenti glared at him, so he sighed and tugged on his arm, trying to pull it off as he headed into the cavern room.

Mercinon posed to Thanamenti, “Should I add a twirl or something?”

Thanamenti let out an exasperated noise. “Mercinon, are you crazy? Obviously, the first one was better, just lower your knees a bit!” Mercinon took her suggestion and continued marching around the cave, totally oblivious to Marcin crying out in pain in the cavern room.

“There’s a feather!” Kefalia exclaimed as she pointed to some white plumage on the dark, rocky ground.

“Once again, we’re looking for a golden feather!” Exelda irritatedly reminded her. “Don’t even mention it if it’s not the right color! But keep your eyes open ’cause we’re on the volcano now! It’s gotta be around here somewhere since it’s the only thing around Chaos that represents fire!”

Stocastin differed, “I find the premise of that theses faulty! Fire is a chemical reaction of oxygen and a combustible material, and lava is simply molten rock! I highly doubt that the sympathies would place the feather somewhere without fire!”

Exelda debated him, “What would you have us do? Check every fireplace in our polis? Besides, it doesn’t have to be fire, it just has to represent it!”

“But they’re totally different substances! Trust me, I know everything about volcanoes!” Stocastin was so wrapped up in bickering that he didn’t notice a crack in the stony surface and tripped on it, tumbling straight onto the ground!

“Did you know that Gifloga had right there?” Exelda teased him.

The other three roared in laughter, and then Kefalia stiffened up and fell to the floor as well! As Narcius helped Stocastin get up and Exelda picked up Kefalia, Akintos voluntarily laid down. “What are you doing?” Exelda reproached him.

Akintos defended himself, “What? They get to lay down and I don’t?”

“No one else is down there anymore. I think you should get up before Exelda explodes!” Narcius suggested.

“But it’s so comfy here!” Akintos stretched and snuggled in more. “You should try it! The warmth of these rocks is so soothing!”

Exelda snarled in frustration, handed Kefalia to Narcius, and picked Akintos up. She used more force than she anticipated though, so not only did she lift him over head but she accidentally sent him flying up the volcano! Narcius handed Kefalia over to Stocastin and used his super speed to zip up and grab him before he fell in. Akintos landed on the edge, and Narcius reported to Exelda, “Don’t worry! There was plenty of space for him to land, you wouldn’t have killed him!”

Although Exelda felt relieved to hear that her mishap wasn’t as dire as she feared, she still appeared fairly worried. “I am so sorry, Akintos! I didn’t know I could do that! I thought with my pregnancy that I couldn’t lift as much, but having a baby seems to have made my powers stronger!”

“Um… little help!” Stocastin called himself to her attention. Exelda turned back to him and saw that Stocastin had buckled trying to prop Kefalia up, causing them both to have fallen down again! As Exelda stooped down to assist them, Stocastin expressed, “Wow, this is comfortable!”

“Told ya!” Akintos reluctantly began to stand up, but then something caught his eye. “Hey, there’s a feather!”

Dropping Kefalia, Exelda scolded him, “What did I tell you about that?”

Narcius confirmed Akintos’ assertion, “No, this one is golden! It’s on a rickety bridge going over the volcano! Why is that there? Who is that for?”

“What are you waiting for? Hurry and…” Exelda heard something moving behind her, and when she faced the perpetrator of the loud stomping, she gasped. She discovered a giant man made of a clay-like substance heading towards them! Exelda pulled out her sword and ran towards it. He tried to grab her, but she dodged him and took a swipe at him with her weapon. When it collided with his body, it got stuck! He used this momentary distraction to pick her up and lowered her towards his mouth!
“Oh my gods!” Narcius yelped before zipping over to them. He knocked her out of the monster man’s grip, but it continued to pursue them. “Shouldn’t it be easy to destroy clay?” Narcius pondered.

Stocastin, who had gotten pinned down again, corrected Narcius, “It’s not clay, it’s a lipid!”

From on top of the volcano, Akintos puzzled, “What in the name of Gaea is a lipid?”

“Get the feather!” Exelda ordered while she evaded the monster man.

“I… Okay!” Akintos gingerly put a foot onto the first rung of the wooden bridge, and while it did not break, it did make the structure sway. “Maybe my mom was right- I am getting fat!”

Stocastin tried to push Kefalia off of him while illuminated everyone, “That’s what a lipid is! It’s commonly known as fat! You can destroy it through a lipase enzyme!”

As Narcius avoided the monster man, he begrudgingly admitted, “I guess we should have let him bring his chemistry set after all!”

“Yes, you should have!” Stocastin approved of his statement. “But you don’t need purchased chemicals in this case, it’s naturally formed inside urine!”

“So, you’re saying we have to pee on it?” Exelda squealed. “Gross! I’m not doing that!”

Stocastin managed to push Kefalia of him just in time to impede the monster man’s footsteps, which caused him to lose his balance. Right after it landed face first onto the terrain, Narcius stood over him and exclaimed, “And you say I have too much pride!” He showered the monster man, but it didn’t last long. “Damn! I wish I didn’t go before we got here!”

Exelda could see what little he did get out did destroy a part of the monster man, so she quickly placed herself above him and let everything she had out. Stocastin joined her, and when Kefalia could move again, she joined them too. To their relief, their collective efforts worked! The monster man melted! The four of them celebrated, but when the mixture they created touched their sandals, they scurried away from that spot! Kefalia requested, “Um… If anyone asks, can we just say that we threw him into the volcano?”

“The volcano! Akintos!” Exelda gazed up the volcano, and it alleviated her to see Akintos rolling down towards them! When he finally stopped, Exelda asked him, “Is the feather okay?”

“Yes!” He held it up as he answered. “I’m fine too, by the way!” He surveyed the scene beneath him and inquired, “What happened here?”

Exelda replied, “Don’t even bother ’til after I bathe!” Narcius, Kefalia, and Stocastin concurred with her as they headed out. Akintos shrugged as he followed them away from the scene.