“And this was his bedroom,” the minotaur informed Exelda, Akintos, Stocastin, Narcius, and Kefalia as he led them into a space with an enormous bed that had an ornate wooden frame and a wardrobe that matched the other piece of furniture in the room. It was adorned with obviously self-created artwork showcasing Mercinon in an exalted fashion. “I didn’t touch this one much since I found it kinda creepy, but I thought about doing something sometime soon ‘cause I can’t sleep just knowing it’s here!”
“Wow, he makes Narcius look humble!” Akintos remarked.
Narcius queried, “Thanks, I guess! Wait, is that a compliment or not?”
Exelda responded, “I wouldn’t worry abut that right now! There’s some paper and a couple of wooden frames, so let’s see if the feather is somewhere in here!”
The heroes reluctantly began searching for the feather. Stocastin peeked behind a drawing of Mercinon as king, and when he noticed a small bust of Mercinon seemingly staring at him, he shivered and turned it around so its eyes couldn’t point in his direction. Exelda opened up the wardrobe and found that it had gotten packed so tightly that it came flooding out as soon as the door became ajar, burying her in a slew of elaborate togas and accessories! As she pulled a gilded laurel crown off of her head, she wondered, “Why did he need so many different outfits? He almost never went anywhere outside of his so-called palace from what Impusa said.”
Akintos reached across the bed to check under the pillow farthest from him, and as his belly brushed across the surface, he noted, “Ooh! He may not have a good taste in decorations, but he sure picked out a good place to sleep!” He laid down on the bed and let out a comfortable sigh.
“I see something!” Kefalia announced before diving under the bed and retrieving a small crate.
“Is it a feather or artwork that he didn’t have room for?” Exelda probed.
Kefalia made a disgusted face and quickly shoved the crate back under the bed. “Neither! It’s… Well… Akintos, if I were you, I wouldn’t’ lay on there anymore!” Akintos’ eyes grew wide, and he hastily slid off of the bed.
Stocastin suggested, “I think we’ve gleaned all we’re going to get from this area. I propose that we examine the Dytikadasi forest that surrounds the palace instead. We found no trace of it in any of the wooden objects that we could find in here, and anything we missed sounds potentially psychologically harmful to have burned into our memories.”
Kefalia, Akintos, and Narcius concurred with that statement, but after Exelda freed herself from the garments that buried her, she disputed, “Listen, I’m sure there’s some things in here that even the sympathies wouldn’t’ touch, but I’m almost positive that they would have put a feather somewhere around here! This whole thing happened ‘cause of Mercinon! Melampia’s sister has a connection to him, and she’s the one who cast the spell, so it makes absolute sense for a feather to come here! There has to be something we overlooked!”
“How is that possible? We’ve already went over every room in this place!” Narcius differed. “So, unless there’s a secret chamber hidden from our sight…”
“Did you ever try investigating the building for anything like that?” Exelda asked the minotaur. “Any trap doors or concealed staircases or things like that?”
The minotaur answered her, “Of course I checked! I don’t got much else to do as an unemployed monster, so I’ve gone through every inch of this structure! There’s no surprises unless you count the junk he stashed under the bed!”
Kefalia put in, “It’s not surprising, just gross!”
“Are you sure there isn’t anything else connected with the palace that you may not have shown us?” Exelda pressed the minotaur.
“I showed you everything inside of here,” the minotaur insisted.
Exelda grilled him, “What about outside of the palace? Did he have, like, a garden of more art made for the outdoors?”
Akintos crossed his fingers and prayed, “For the love of Lytta, please don’t let that horror exist!”
“No, there’s nothing like that,” the minotaur assured them. The heroes all exhaled in relief, and then the minotaur went on, “The only thing outside of the palace is a couple of watchtowers facing the Synorolofus Mountains. I haven’t been up there since the entrance is too small, I couldn’t squeeze my horns in there, but from what I could see, there wasn’t anything up there except bugs!”
“Bugs? Oh, were skipping those things then!” Narcius declared while shaking from that frightening thought.
Exelda glanced out of the window, and between two mountainous hills, she saw two tall towers made of logs. “The towers are made of wood! That has to be it! Let’s go!”
Narcius protested, “Hey, do I make you face things that you’re afraid of? Like what if I made you… I don’t know! You’re not really afraid of anything, are you?” Exelda shook her head in exasperation before grabbing him by the wrist and dragging him out of the room.
The wind howled against them as they stared at the left tower, which gave them no clue to what may have existed in the interior except for a small platform at the very top that faced the craggy peaks behind the palace. “This wood is quite dilapidated! I would hazard a guess that these spires have been vacant for an extraordinary amount of time!” Stocastin observed.
“Do we really have to go into these hideous eyesores?” Narcius eyeballed it judgmentally.
“Kefalia, can you fly to the top and see if you see anything up there?” Exelda requested.
Once she made a couple of fruitless attempts, Kefalia reported, “I can’t! The wind here is too strong!”
Exelda concluded, “Well then, we don’t have a choice! We have to go inside!”
“Count me out!” Narcius refused. “Who knows what’s lurking in there!”
“That’s the entire reason we need to go in! To see what’s lurking in them!” Exelda shot back. Narcius’s knees quivered, so she told him, “Fine! You can stand watch by yourself! Stocastin and Akintos, you take that one while Kefalia and I go in here.”
Akintos and Stocastin headed to the other side while Exelda and Kefalia ducked inside the small entrance of the one closest to them. Narcius reassured himself, “Yup! I’m much safer out here! All alone…”
The two sets of heroes had gotten halfway up their respective towers when they heard Narcius’ high-pitched scream, so they came rushing out. Their adrenaline surged as they feared the worst, but when they came out, they saw Narcius unblemished. He let them know, “I almost dropped my mirror!”
Akintos griped, “Oh great! We gotta climb this thing twice now all ‘cause you almost dropped a stupid mirror!”
“It’s not stupid!” Narcius refuted. “I need this! And if it breaks, I won’t get to get another one ‘til we get back to town, and who knows when that’ll be!” He gazed at his reflection admirably and then added, “It calms my nerves!”
“Whatever! Just don’t scream again unless it’s an actual emergency!” Exelda warned him.
Narcius complied, “Fine!” He went back to savoring his image, and the others rolled their eyes and returned to their towers.
Kefalia and Exelda nearly reached the top when Exelda squinted her eyes to see something above them. “Is that a feather?”
“Maybe! Nothing else in here is shiny!” Kefalia dusted off a cobweb. All of a sudden, they heard Narcius scream again. Exelda cringed, and Kefalia pondered, “Should we go check on him? He did agree not to do that unless it’s serious!”
“It better be serious or I swear to Zeus, I’ll… punish him somehow!” Exelda exclaimed as they hurried out.
When they came out, they expected to see Narcius fretting over something innocuous, but instead, they got a jolt of dread to see him surrounded by a cloud of blue electricity! The other four had barely begun to process this when they felt a force propel them into Narcius’ enclosure! “What’s happening?” Stocastin wondered. Narcius was clearly too scared to speak, but he pointed towards the sky. They saw half a dozen women in scantily clad clothing flying towards them with wings like embellished butterflies, and while they had ravishing appearances, their expressions beamed out pure spite! Stocastin regarded Narcius, “That doesn’t tell me much!”
The one in red pronounced, “We got them all! Not that I’m at all surprised! Our talent far outweighs theirs, but it is nice to be able to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done!”
The one in orange shared her sentiment, “Yes, indeed! I had expected them to put up a fight, but I’m glad we didn’t’ have to resort to that! I’d rather not have to repair any imperfections that a battle may create!”
“What are you gonna do to us? Pleasure us to death?” Akintos grinned with a gleam of hope in his eyes.
“I already asked that,” Narcius relayed to him. “Trust me, the answer’s a no!”
The one in yellow scoffed, “As if our noble blood would ever compel us to do such a vile act!”
Kefalia opined, “Wow, they sound like you, Narcius!”
“How shall we do this, ladies? Our powers are so mighty that the possibilities are endless!” the one in green posed to her peers.
“Ooh, look! A parting gift!” the one in blue cried out in delight.
As they quarreled over who got to use Narcius’ mirror, Exelda asserted, “They do sound like you, Narcius!”
Narcius bewailed, “Okay, okay! I get it! I’m arrogant! Is that really necessary to prove right before we’re all killed?”
“No, I only meant that if they’re like you, we can decipher their weaknesses! So, how would we destroy you?” Exelda inquired.
“Hey, put down my mirror before you ugly hags break it!” Narcius shouted to them.
The women arched their heads up in total bewilderment, and the one in purple sneered, “He’s lying! He was just trying to preposition us because our beauty bewitched him!”
Narcius contended that, “I thought I was at death’s door, I would have done it with anyone, even you revolting cows!”
“I don’t think cows are revolting!” Kefalia objected. Exelda elbowed her, so she amended her blunder, “You guys wish you were as attractive as cows!”
“You’re telling us you don’t find this at all attractive?” The one in red showed of her body, and the heroes all made gagging noises.
The one in orange shrieked, “How dare you!”
The one in yellow sniffled a little. “It can’t be true!”
“It is!” Stocastin confirmed. “And you smell bad too!”
“What?” the one in green roared. She tried to sniff herself, but tears started to flow and her nostrils got blocked. “You’re so mean!”
All six started crying, and shortly afterwards, they started fading! “Oh no! Our gorgeous bodies!” the one in blue hollered.
The one in purple tried to hex them, but her hand disappeared, so she yelled, “You’ll pay for this!”
Akintos retorted, “No, I don’t think so! I think we won!”
As the winged women’s heads vanished, they gave out one last shriek before they popped out of sight! The electric cloud that bound them dissolved, and the force that pulled them in pushed them out, sending them sailing in all different directions! Exelda got slammed into the tower that she had explored, and after she recovered, she asked everyone else, ‘Are you guys okay?”
“No!” Narcius answered tormentedly. “They took my mirror with them! Those bitches!” He started sobbing but instantly stopped when he spotted something on the ground. “No, wait, there it is!”
“Isn’t it funny how this is the second monster killed by tears?” Kefalia conversed.
Stocastin speculated, “The cipactli suffered from an anaphylactic shock due to the sodium and other substances in your tear water whereas the hubris from these female creatures-.”
Exelda interrupted him, “Hey! That was a feather I saw!” They espied the golden feather, which now dangled off of the edge of the platform at the top! She used her super strength to make the tower vibrate in an effort to knock it down, but she accidentally made the whole thing fall apart! “Oops!”
Akintos groaned, “Why didn’t you do that from the beginning? I would much rather have searched through the rubble than do all that climbing!”
“I got it!” Exelda held it up in the air triumphantly.
“Yay! We have all the feathers!” Kefalia jumped and clapped in joy. ‘Now what?”
Exelda theorized, “I think we gotta put them all together.”
They each pulled out the feather that they retrieved and brought it to her. Exelda stacked the ends together like a fan, and with mounting anticipation, they waited for something to occur. For a moment, they thought nothing happened. Suddenly, Akintos let out a gasp…