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.