They all expected Akintos to announce that he found something profound after that gulp, but instead, he let out a burp! He noticed that everyone was staring at him, so he wondered, “What? Did I miss something?”
Stocastin responded, “Alas, you have not! It appears that putting the golden feathers together had no effect.”
“Great! We went through all that hard work only to have nothing happen!” Narcius griped. “So, now what? We gotta keep roaming Chaos ‘til we find the Netherworld entrance?”
“I guess so,” Exelda lamented. “I really hoped that once we found all of the feathers that our job would get easier, but apparently, that’s not happening! I suppose we could go back to the city and pour through the maps again… Unless you wanna explore the Synorolofus Mountains first. I think it’s starting to go out of Chaos’ territory, but they are right here!”
Akintos denounced that plan. “Oh no! We’ve been doing so much walking that I actually miss doing research! Besides, these hills are so quiet that I doubt that the Netherworld or anything is out there! I’m not sure why they even bothered to build these stupid watchtowers!”
Kefalia disagreed with his last point, “I don’t blame them for being careful around here! I’d wanna keep watch too if I lived near a weird, glowing cave!”
“A glowing cave? Where?” Exelda desperately searched for it.
“Down there!” She indicated to a small, cavern entrance towards the bottom of the ridge across from them. “Why would anyone build a palace around that creepy thing?”
Exelda rejoiced, “That wasn’t there before! The feathers opened up the entrance to the Netherworld! Come on, let’s go!”
Stocastin requested, “Wait!” He sifted through the debris from the broken tower and picked up a long, slender piece of wood. “We might need this!”
“Why? I think your sword will work better as a weapon than that thing!” Narcius differed.
“I meant as a source of light in case that illumination does not cover the entire breadth of the section of the formation’s interior in which we must travel through,” Stocastin countered.
Kefalia puzzled, “Does that stick light up?”
Stocastin enlightened her, “No. Stocastin would use his abilities to light it up, and-.”
Exelda interjected, “Stop wasting time! We have a prince to rescue and a kingdom to save! Come on!” The urgency in her voice was so pronounced that they heeded her word without anymore fuss and followed her towards the glowing cave.
“Are you sure this’ll work?” Mercinon asked Marcin as he climbed onto a pair of stilts.
“It’s the only way we can make you appear taller to your subjects!” Marcin answered. “Unless you wanna roam the streets in a shoe with a heel so large that it gives you a considerate boost in height…”
Mercinon contemplated that concept. “Hmm… High heeled shoes… What a novel idea! What do you think, Thanamenti? Would it look too-?” He stopped mid-sentence when he discovered that Thanamenti had left from his sight. “Oh, when did she leave? Is she sending out more monsters or something?”
Marcin glanced around the cave and spotted her lying on the floor. “Oh, she passed out again!”
“Oh, strange! I thought she finished drinking for the day! Oh well! I’ll just try these things out for a while!” Mercinon mounted the stilts, and while he was shaky, he relished in the fact that he could do it at all. “Hey! These aren’t too bad! After a little bit of practice, I’m sure I can-.” All of a sudden, Dason transformed back into a human! The abruptness of the moment threw Mercinon off so much that he lost his balance and fell to the ground! “Ow! My head! Good thing I’m already dead! I’d hate to have that as the reason I go out!”
“Hey guys…” Dason’s speech got muffled since he remained in the bird cage and could hardly fit inside of it anymore. “I’m happy to have my old body back, but could you help me out of this thing? Or at least get a more size appropriate enclosure?”
Marcin panicked, “Oh no! He’s a person again! You know what that means, right?”
Mercinon nodded his head. “Yup! Thanamenti is doing spells in her sleep! Sad! We should take that staff away from her when she’s unconscious!”
‘No! It means that the royal family’s heroes reversed the spell!” Marcin emphatically told Mercinon.
“This is really uncomfortable!” Dason stated.
Mercinon regarded the issue that Marcin raised. “Did they? That sucks! But… eh! As soon as Thanamenti wakes up, she’ll send out another monster and hopefully this one will actually rid ourselves from them! Ooh, I hope it’s another minotaur, but, like, a more evil one that won’t get swayed to their side! We’ll see how they like getting eaten alive! In the meantime, can you help me get back onto these things?”
Marcin contended with him, “We don’t have time to practice! We have to prepare for their arrival!”
“They’re coming here?” Mercinon questioned.
“Ugh! Yes!” Marcin grew frustrated by Mercinon’s slow uptake on the crisis at hand. “We have to defend ourselves since we can’t use Thanamenti’s magic right now! Oh, I wish we had her conjure up something for us to defend ourselves with in case she’s out of the picture!”
Mercinon resumed walking on his stilts and assured Marcin, “Relax! They may have reversed the spell, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll find the Netherworld entrance immediately! By the time they get here, I’m sure Thanamenti will have woken up.”
Marcin posed to him, “And what if she doesn’t? We need to protect the premises! We’re the only ones who can!”
Mercinon urged him, “For the love of Pasithea, will you calm down? Leaving the cave unguarded would be idiotic! I’m sure she has some kind of safeguard to prevent them from coming inside!”
“Actually, I believe that the magic that kept the cave concealed was the only means of protection!” Stocastin asserted. Mercinon got so shocked by the heroes’ arrival that he tumbled down again!
“We did have to move some of her stuff out of the way though. Man, she has a lot of books!” Kefalia held up a couple of texts with titles revolving around the occult.
Marcin stooped down to Thanamenti’s level and shook her by the shoulders. “Please wake up! Please wake up!”
Mercinon chided Marcin, “Will you quit freaking out? It’s not like the last time when we had to fight for our lives! Oh, wait, you weren’t there ‘cause I had already killed you. Whatever! It’s not like when we were alive, they can’t kill us since we’re already dead!” He saw that the heroes looked surprised to hear that, so he dared them, “Don’t believe me? Go on, give it a shot! Nothing will happen, but you can try!”
“Okay!” Exelda accepted his offer and lobbed off his head.
“Ow! Ugh, that was a bad idea!” Mercinon frowned as he put his body back together.
Akintos delighted in this spectacle, “Neat! I wanna try!” He aimed his palms at him and burned off his hand! After he grew a new one, Akintos remarked, “Cool! It’s like that self-regenerating chicken!”
Dason snickered derisively at Mercinon, who somewhat vexedly addressed the others, “Well, I think you get the picture, so we-.”
“No fair! I wanna try!” Kefalia flew at him before anyone could object and gave him a swift kick, sending him barreling into the pit of jackals! Dason roared with laughter while Marcin forgot his previous woes and watched this scene with amusement.
“Wow, that really hurts!” Mercinon moaned as he crawled out of the perilous chasm.
“It gets a little better after the dozenth round,” Marcin quipped.
While his wounds healed, Mercinon beseeched the heroes, “Please, no more demonstrations! I think we’ve proved that you can’t kill me again!”
Stocastin acknowledged, “His assessment appears to be correct. We don’t have any recourse to neutralize him either, so we’ll have to physically inhibit him from carrying out his attacks.”
“Don’t bother!” Marcin recommended. “He doesn’t do much work now, so nothing would change! Well, he would be more helpless than normal, so I guess it would be more annoying for me… Unless you tied me up too… Please don’t! I’d rather go back to Tartarus than listen to him blabber on for an eternity!” Mercinon glared at him.
“We weren’t gonna leave you here forever,” Narcius let him know. “Hades wants us to bring you back to the Underworld. Well, he didn’t mention you, but we assume he wants all of the dead to return. But how are we supposed to do that? I always thougth that we’d just have to kill you again to send you back, but apparently that won’t work!”
Exelda mulled the matter over for a moment. “Hmm… There must be some kind of entryway to the Underworld…”
Kefalia distressed, “Don’t tell me we have to find more feathers to open it up!” Stocastin, Akintos, and Narcius shared her sentiments at this horrifying prospect.
“There’s an entrance in the back of the cave,” Dason notified them. “Also, can you get me out of this thing?” Exelda used her super strength to break the cage, and Dason was able to hop out. “Ah! I’m free!” Right then, a magical force swooped Dason and the heroes up and bound them together with a green rope made of electricity. “Dang it! So close!”
“Aw, man! Seriously? We just got out of a bind like this!” Akintos whined.
Mercinon could see Thanamenti standing beside her cauldron, so he breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh good! You’re awake! Can you please dispose of these wretches? They annoy me!”
Thanamenti regrettably filled him in, “I can’t harm them! If I could kill them, don’t you think I would have done away with that bird ages ago?”
“Uh, I’m not a bird anymore!” Dason mentioned.
“Why not?” Mercinon inquired.
Stocastin replied, “Because we were able to break that spell!”
Mercinon clarified, “No, I meant why can’t she kill you? Thanamenti, what do you mean you can’t kill them? They’re right there! They can’t use their powers, they’re so vulnerable! It’ll be so easy! What’s the problem?”
“If I use my powers to kill, the sympathies will take my powers away,” Thanamenti revealed. “Oh sure, I can send monsters their way, and if the monsters happened to annihilate them, then so be it, but if I could directly kill them, I would have done away with the royal family years ago and you’d be down in Tartarus doing manual labor to earn your fare on the River Styx!”
“Ew! Don’t remind me of that horrid subject!” Mercinon shuddered. “Okay, I gotta wipe that from my memory! It’s ruining our big win! Just send out a monster or whatever you gotta do to rid ourselves from these pests! Meanwhile, I need to practice my victory march!” He got back on his stilts and resumed traversing around in them.
Exelda boldly shouted out, “You haven’t won yet, you undead prick! We may not be able to attack you, but as we did with your last monstrous attempt, we can still outsmart you!”
Kefalia, who had been gazing at the open book in front of her, brought up, “Uh, I was trying to research baby names and I accidentally summoned a demon!” A small, red sprite hovered above them with a malicious expression on its face.
“Ooh, can the demon murder them?” Mercinon pondered from atop of his stilts.
“No! Go away, you!” Thanamenti used her staff to cast the demon away, and then she leered, “So, I’m supposed to be intimidated by your wit, huh? Forgive me for not shaking in my boots!”
Narcius retorted, “No, we won’t forgive that!”
Thanamenti sneered at them, but before she could say anything else, Dason jumped in, “You can put up a brave front all you want, but I know deep down inside, you’re terrified right now! Don’t deny it! If you weren’t, you wouldn’t have fainted when you saw that they got the last feather!”
“Hold on, you know that she fainted and you didn’t bother to tell us?” Mercinon cried out incredulously.
“Why would I do that? You’re trying to destroy my polis!” Dason rebutted.
Marcin queried, “That’s why you passed out? I thought it was the booze again!”
Thanamenti’s demeanor became very disconcerted, but when she heard a thump come from Echinda’s chambers, she perked right back up. “It doesn’t matter! You’re about to get what’s coming to you!”
“Oh, is it a makeover? I’ve been dying to go to a salon…” Mercinon espied Thanamenti’s irritated face, and he realized his blunder. “Oh, you were talking to them!”
“Say goodbye, super zeroes!” Thanamenti cackled. Exelda tried to think fast as they heard footsteps coming towards them…