The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 18

What is that?” Narcius asked as he gazed at a rectangular, one story building shrouded in shadows from the neighboring mountains.

“I have no idea,” Exelda answered him. “Probably not her house though!” She watched as the elderly lady dragged the wagon with the gold to a door on the far left.

Kefalia wondered, “Why would they make a building in the middle of nowhere?”

Akintos replied sarcastically, “So weird, why would a criminal need so much secrecy?”

Stocastin appeared before them and joined in on the conversation, “I actually don’t believe the guilty party would try to take over the polis if this individual had the ability to build a structure of this magnitude. If they could, then they could just find an empty land and start their own polis. Akintos is correct about the strategic value behind the malefactor’s plan, but Kefalia’s premise on the premises is valid. Premise on the premises? How droll!” He gave a very snort-filled laugh at his observation.

No one else found it quite as humorous, so Narcius changed the subject, “What do you think they would have originally put in a building like this?”

“Duck!” Exelda ordered.

‘Why would they store ducks in-?” Narcius started to say.

Exelda pulled Narcius behind some nearby brush, and they saw the old woman scoping out the area. The five heroes had nervous looks on their faces, but luckily for them, she didn’t seem to have spotted anything suspicious. She dug through her pockets and mumbled, “Let’s see… Where did I put my… Oh, here!” She found a key ring with several keys on it. “Oh gods, why in the world do I have so many dang keys? He should have marked them! Whatever! I’ll try… this one!” She tried it, and the key didn’t fit. “No? Okay, I’ll try this one! Hmm, this one? This one? Wait, that was the first key again! Not that or that or that… Wait, what about this one? Oh, here we go!” She opened the door, and the five heroes tried to catch a glimpse of what was inside. They could only see a blank wall as the elderly woman dragged in the wagon with the ransom money, and as she entered inside, they tried to see more with no success as the door got shut promptly.

Akintos queried, “Now what?”

“We’re going to follow her in,” Exelda told them all. “If we’re lucky, it’ll be an empty room with just her and the bad guy sitting in it. We’re not that lucky though, so we’ll see what monsters or traps might be waiting for us inside! Let’s go!”

They crept up to the door that the old lady had gone through, and they all hid behind Exelda as she cautiously reached for the latch. When she couldn’t open it, Exelda quietly lamented, “It’s locked! I’ll have to break down the door!”

Kefalia pointed out, “There’s another door over there.” She indicated to another door a little farther to their right.

“That door is probably locked too,” Exelda assumed.

“It’s not,” Narcius said after he tested the other door.

Exelda stared at the door in front of her and frowned. “That looks like it’s part of a different room.”

Stocastin put in, “Different room! This is hardly a palace, so it’s highly unlikely that it’s got more than one room in it!”

“It’ll be faster if I just tear down this one!” Exelda objected.

“You just want to break something, don’t you?” Akintos probed.

Exelda initially denied that claim, “No I don’t, I…” She mulled it over for a second and then admitted, “Well, I do, but-.”

Kefalia concluded, “Sounds like we should go in the open door then!” Stocastin, Akintos, and Narcius agreed with her and already started going inside.

“No! Guys, wait! Ugh!” When she saw them enter the building, she begrudgingly ran in after them.

They found themselves in a hallway with a wall to the left and wooden crates stacked up almost as high as the ceiling to their right. The room was too dark to see what was on the other side of the building, so Akintos found a torch on the wall and lit it. Narcius observed, “There’s a door right there!”

“Great! Come on, let’s hurry!” Exelda directed. They rushed over to a small door in the middle of the wall, but before they could see whether or not it was locked, they heard some loud growling behind them. With trepidation, Exelda remarked, “Akintos, please tell me that was your stomach!”

They slowly turned around, their eyes grew wide when they saw what perpetrated the noise. The creature standing behind them had six dog-shaped heads with sharp teeth, tentacle legs, and a cat tail! Kefalia flew above the monster while Narcius used his super speed to dash around it, and both actions confused the various heads. Stocastin turned invisible and tried to stab its heart, but his sword wouldn’t penetrate its skin. Exelda tried to chop off one of its heads, but even with her super strength, she couldn’t break through its hide either. Akintos threw fireballs at it, and it twinged the monster a bit, which prompted Stocastin to gasp, “Wait a minute! I know what this is! It’s a Scylla!”

While still darting between the heads, Narcius snapped back, “Are you going to tell us what that is? ‘Cause it’s a little hard to remember our research right now!”

Stocastin started to explain, “The base of its molecular-.”

“Cut to the chase!” Exelda interrupted him as she fended off a couple of the heads. “How do we kill it?”

“Sunlight!” Stocastin replied simply.

Kefalia, who flew close to the ceiling, noted, “There’s a window behind these boxes!”

Exelda stated, “I can knock the boxes down if you can get this thing away from them for a minute.”

“I know something faster!” Akintos stepped into Narcius path, which made him crash into him. Akintos stole Narcius’s mirror and handed it to Exelda, who tossed it up to Kefalia. Kefalia flew behind the boxes and pointed the mirror in various directions until the sun finally reflected onto the Scylla. The Scylla shrieked as the mirror broke, and just like the mirror, the Scylla also burst into a bunch of little pieces!

“My mirror!” Narcius wailed ramatically.

Kefalia winced as she picked a piece of glass out of her arm. “At least you didn’t get any-!” She screamed as she was suddenly dragged down below! Exelda, Akintos, Narcius, and Stocastin ran into a small opening in the boxes to go help.

They found her wrapped in a long, green vine that stemmed from a giant, red tulip sitting under the window! She tried to slip out of it, but its grip was too strong. Exelda ran over to her and held up her sword to free her, but another vine snatched Exelda up! She dangled upside down, so she couldn’t reach the vine to free herself. The vines slowly dragged them closer and closer to the flower until something sliced off Kefalia and Exelda’s vines from its base! “Thanks, Stocastin!” they both chimed in unison, but before he could reply, they saw more vines growing out of the flower!

All of a sudden, a green haze flew across the room, and the flower absorbed it, which made it immediately go limp! The five heroes turned around and saw a small but beautiful deer standing in the entrance that they had just gone through! Kefalia cooed, “Aww! Thanks, little guy!”

She flew towards it, and Exelda warned her, “Don’t pet it! It could be dangerous!”

“But it’s so cute!” Kefalia got near it, but before she could pet it, it snarled at them and then breathed out more green fog. Kefalia dodged it by flying upwards, and the others dived to the ground to avoid it. Kefalia yelled, “Bad deer!” and used her sword to cut off its head! When its body hit the ground, more of the same green smoke flowed out of its body and began filling up the air around them. The five of them ran down another aisle of boxes to get away from it.

They cautiously walked down the long row of wooden creates, expecting to get attacked at any time, After nothing seemed to be happening, Akintos commented, “Maybe we killed all of the monsters already!”

“That would sure be nice!” Exelda responded wistfully. “But I doubt it! Plus even if the rest of this building is empty, we still have to find our way back to the entrance and find that old lady! She’ll lead us to Dason and the person responsible for all of this!”

“I wonder what’s inside all of these boxes.” Kefalia peered closely at them as they passed by.

Stocastin put in, “It appears as though they were mass producing something before their operation got shut down. It mostly likely isn’t anything valuable or else the manufacturer would have absconded with it.”

“Maybe it’s something useful… like more mirrors!” Narcius looked at a lid of one with great interest.

Exelda advised him, “Don’t open it! It could be dangerous!”

Akintos assured her, “Don’t worry, it’s nailed shut.”

Despite what Akintos asserted, Narcius tried to open one anyways, but he couldn’t make it budge. “Fine! But if we pass by an open one, I’m looking in!”

“You know, curiosity killed the cat!” Akintos teased.

“But he’s not a cat!” Kefalia disputed.

Before anyone could correct her, they suddenly came to an intersection with three vast hallways that they could choose from. “It’s a maze!” Exelda said in awe. They heard a man scream in the distance, and Exelda exclaimed, “That’s Dason!”

“I can’t calculate which way would lead us to his location the fastest!” Stocastin fretted.

“What do we do?” Kefalia asked Exelda, and Exelda couldn’t come up with an answer right away. She gazed down each row and appeared to come to a conclusion that made her uncomfortable…

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 17

Is it something that lives in the ocean?” Narcius asked Stocastin while they were crouched behind some large-leaved bushes. Akintos had fallen asleep while leaning against a tree, Kefalia absentmindedly doodled in the dirt, and Exelda looked as though she were about to lose her patience.

“No,” Stocastin answered Narcius.

Narcius inquired, “So, it’s something that just swims in the ocean?”

Stocastin chirped, “Nope! That was twenty questions, so I win!”

“What was it?” Narcius questioned.

“An evia barbel,” Stocastin replied.

Narcius raged, “A fish? You said it didn’t live in the ocean!”

Stocastin educated him, “It doesn’t! It’s a freshwater fish!”

Exelda hissed. “Will you two keep it down? Someone could hear us?”

“Who can hear us? There’s no one here!” Narcius argued.

“They’ll never come if they hear us! They’ll think they’re being ambushed!” Exelda peered over the bushes and saw the small wagon with a pile of gold was still sitting there by itself. “Maybe it’s already too late! Maybe they already heard us and won’t come!”

Kefalia put in, “But we haven’t heard anyone coming all day!”

Exelda shot back, “What do you expect? They’re not going to bang a drum or sing at the top of their lungs! They’re traveling alone, so they won’t make a lot of noise! And how do you expect to hear anything if we keep making noise?” Kefalia shrugged disinterestedly. Exelda sighed and she turned to Stocastin, “Go back on the pathway and keep watch.”

“But it’s such a lackluster task!” Stocastin objected. “I can’t make any noise, so there’s only so many things I can do to occupy my-!”

“Go there or I’ll throw you there!” Exelda threatened.

Stocastin became invisible and muttered, “Okay, okay!”

They saw one of the branches move forward and then quickly back. Stocastin turned visible again as he fell backward and landed on top of Akintos’s belly. Akintos woke up with a start and reacted, “Oof!”

“Sorry!” Stocastin apologized before turning invisible again and heading out.

Akintos yawned and stretched his arms and legs. “Is it time for lunch?”

“Shh!” Exelda spat. “He or she could come any time to collect the ransom, and if they get scared away because of us, we’ll-!”

“We’ll get fired?” Kefalia guessed.

Akintos responded to that concept grimly, “If we’re fired, we won’t get paid! Okay, I’ll be good!”

Exelda almost spoke up about something, but as Akintos fell back asleep, she decided to let it go. The stick Kefalia had been drawing with snapped, so she flung it away from her. They heard Stocatin cry out, “Ouch!”

“What are you doing here?” Exelda quietly scolded him. “You’re supposed to be-!”

“Shh!” Stocastin interrupted. “Someone’s coming!”

Narcius and Kefalia’s eyes lit up, and Exelda shook Akintos’s foot to wake him up. All five of them peered behind the bushes, and they watched the pathway with baited breath. For a long moment, nothing happened, so they shifted uncomfortably. “Squatting like this really hurts my legs!” Kefalia softly complained.

Exelda ignored her and whispered to Stocastin, “”Are you sure someone is-?”

Narcius gasped, “Look!”

From a distance, they saw a small figure bobbing ahead. They watched with much anticipation, but they began to grow confused as to why it was taking the individual so long to arrive. When the figure got closer, they could see a dark skinned, elderly woman hunched over and clutching a cane. As she slowly hobbled forward, the five heroes began to doubt that she would be the one who the villain sent to collect the ransom money. Akintos slumped down to go back to sleep, but Exelda grabbed him by his toga and made him sit back up. Under his breath, Akintos questioned her, “What? It’s not like they’d send a moorish grandmother to-.”

“Don’t let appearances fool you!” Exelda warned him. “It could be a disguise.”

They continued to watch the old lady as she approached the small wagon with the gold. Kefalia whispered, “What if she takes the gold and just brings it to her house?”

Narcius quietly commented, “I’m pretty sure we can take her!”

Exelda shook her head but didn’t say anything because the old lady reached the ransom spot. She counted the gold there and looked reasonably satisfied, so she took the handle with her free hand, turned herself around, and made her way down the path she came from. Exelda softly instructed, “Stocastin, go out there and let us know when she gets far enough for us to follow.” Stocastin became invisible and waited by the clearing where the gold had been. After a long pause, Exelda quietly scolded, “Stocastin!”

Stocastin assured her, “I’ll tell you! I’ll tell you!”

Kefalia, Narcius, Akintos, and Exelda inched forward along a dusty, dirt road that was surrounded by trees. Narcius impatiently asked, “How long is this path?”

“I have no idea!” Exelda answered. “We never did get a chance to study the maps of the outer ridges of Chaos.”

“I never thought I’d say this, but I miss hiding behind the bush!” Kefalia moaned.

Akintos shared her sentiment, “I never thought I’d say this, but I wish we would move faster!”

Narcius squinted so he could see between the trees. “The sun is starting to set! I’m not facing anymore monsters in the dark! I’d say we tie her to the wagon and force her to tell us where this secret lair is!”

Kefalia and Akintos agreed with him, and Narcius readied himself to use his powers to get her, but Exelda grabbed his toga to stop him. “We can’t do that!”

“Why not?” Akintos probed. “We’re wasting so much time by-!”

Stocastin suddenly appeared before them and reported, “Still no updates!”

Exelda reminded him, “I told you, you don’t need to keep updating us like that! We’ll assume there’s been no changes until you tell us otherwise.”

“I know,” Stocastin acknowledged. “I was just bored.”

“Get back over there in case she disappears!” Exelda ordered him. Stocastin begrudgingly complied.

Kefalia puzzled, “Wait, does she have the same powers as Stocastin?”

Exelda replied, “I have no idea, but that’s the point! I know she seems like a harmless old woman, but the person responsible for all of this mayhem isn’t going to send just anybody for this important task! They sent her for a reason! We may not be the only ones in Greece who the gods gave supernatural abilities to! If we act too rashly, she may reveal a threat that could get one of us hurt or killed! Plus, if we approached her now, we don’t know if she would actually reveal her boss’s secrets. If she stays silent, then we may never find out the mastermind’s hiding spot! In order for us to save our kingdom, we need to make sure she gets all the way there!”

“What if she breaks a hip on the way there!” Akintos wondered. “Or what if someone else attacks her on the way?”

“Then we’ll save her life,” Exelda reasoned, “and she’ll owe us a favor.”

Akintos relished that idea. “Ooh, we can blackmail her! I like it! Oh please, Zeus, Athena, whoever’s listening, please let this happen!”

Exelda admonished him, “That’s a terrible thing to ask for! You shouldn’t wish harm on anyone!”

“Uh, she does work for the bad guy,” Narcius pointed out.

“Yes, but we need her right now!” Exelda disputed. “We should be calling upon the gods to get her there quickly and safely.”

Kefalia exclaimed, “Ooh, she’s on our side right now and doesn’t even know it! She has no idea how much she’s helping us right now!”

Exelda grinned slightly at this, but then she added, “Let’s hope she stays helpful when we get there!” All of a sudden, Stocastin appeared in front of them again. “Stocastin! Are we almost there, or are you about to get into a lot of trouble?”

“Probably both,” Stocastin told her. “I see a building in the distance!”

The other four looked shocked, and Exelda swiftly commanded, “Narcius, dart over to the troops and let them know the news. We’re almost there!” Narcius used his super speed to dash behind them, and Exelda repeated, “We’re almost there!”

As Stocastin turned invisible and returned to his post, Akintos excitedly remarked, “Finally, some action! I hope!”

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 16

How could you ask such an audacious question?” Cyrek cried out while he leaned on the podium on the palace steps.

One of the many scribes in front of him calmly responded, “I just said ‘How are you?’.”

“Sorry,” Cyrek apologized. “I just expected the opening question to be something more probing and that’s the answer I rehearsed. Not that I need to rehearse…”

“Well,” the scribe followed, “I was going to ask if you had any updates on the prince yet…”

The five heroes walked up to the back of the crowd, and Exelda whispered to the others, “We should come back when-.”

Cyrek recognized the five of them and changed his tactics. “Yes, but first, let me introduce the valiant group who have been so successful at keeping the invading monsters at bay! Come on up here, guys!” All of the scribes turned around and stared at them curiously, which made Exelda, Narcius, Kefalia, Stocastin, and Akintos bear painfully awkward expressions. Cyrek gestured for them to join him by the lecturn, and they felt obligated to do so. The five of them reluctantly walked up there, and Exelda, Narcius, and Akintos stood on one side while Stocastin and Kefalia stood next to Krimeno. Cyrek addressed the scribes, “Do you have any questions for our heroes?”

The scribes all eagerly raised their hands, and Exelda picked someone at random. “How long have you guys had super powers?”

“We were born with it,” Exelda replied.

“Could you speak up, please?” the scribe requested.

Exelda shouted, “We were born with it!”

Cyrek advised, “You don’t have to say it that loud.”

The scribes all wrote her answer down, and the first person to finish raised his hand next. After Exelda called on him, he inquired, “Do you have any leads about Prince Dason’s disappearance?”

Cyrek replied, “Really? You have five monster slayers here and you only have one question for them?”

“Oh, we always have more to ask,” the scribe told him, “but that’s kind of all we can think about right now. So, what’s the update?”

Cyrek sighed, “Okay, okay! The update is that Prince Dason is alive and well.”

Another scribe queried, “He’s back now?”

“No, not yet,” Cyrek admitted.

“Then how do you know he’s alive and well?” the scribe asked him.

Cyrek took a moment before he unwillingly answered, “The kidnappers… have asked for a ransom.” A flurry of quills scribbling sounded after that remark, and Exelda suddenly tuned in with great interest. “We plan on a peaceful end to this situation, and Chaos will go back to normal again very soon.”

Another scribe corrected him, “You mean normal aside from dealing with constant monster attacks?”

“Yes,” Cyrek said as casually as he could. “Now, does anyone have anymore-?”

Yet another scribe blurted out, “How much is the ransom?”

“That’s all the time we have for today! Thank you!” Cyrek quietly instructed to the five heroes, “Don’t make eye contact with any of them. Come this way!” The heroes began following Cyrek to the palace, but Krimeno stopped to wave goodbye to the crowd, which made them barrage him with questions. Cyrek turned back, grabbed Krimeno by his toga, and pushed him up the stairs before he could spill out anymore information.

Once they entered the palace, they stood in a giant hallway bustling with various servants and government workers. To their left, they saw the entrance to the throne room, and to their right, they saw the senate floor. Cyrek shifted his attention to Exelda, Stocastin, Narcius, Akintos, and Kefalia. “Sorry about that! I know you didn’t have much preparation for your first informational conference, but I needed a distraction. The less the public knows about our plans, the more safely we can carry them out. We don’t want the criminal to find out and ruin our rescue strategy.”

“What is your rescue strategy?” Stocastin pried.

“I was going to ask the same thing!” Krimeno reacted in astonishment.

Akintos surmised, “You don’t have a plan, do you?”

Cyrek stuttered, “Well, I… we… the palace just got the ransom note, and we… uh…”

“That’s okay,” Exelda interjected. “I have an idea.”

Exelda, Narcius, Akintos, Kefalia, and Stocastin followed Cyrek and Krimeno into a room where a couple dozen men sat in stadium type of seating with a platform where they could take notes. Everyone was arguing with each other until one of them finally took notice of the strangers in the room. “Oh no! It’s the royal inspectors!” The room suddenly fell silent, and all of the senators did their utmost to put on a professional front.

Cyrek let them know, “Uh, no. These are the heroes that have been fighting off the monsters for us.”

The senators all breathed a sigh of relief, and one of them hailed them, “Thank you for all of the work you’ve done! We owe you a big thanks!”

“By thanks, do you mean payment?” Akintos kidded, which prompted Exelda to lightly tap the back of his head.

“She has an idea of how to handle the ransom transaction,” Cyrek reported.

The senators all mumbled in surprise, and Exelda informed them, “Actually, I think I know how we can stop the monster attacks as well.”

They all seemed surprised by that notion, and another senator asked, “How is that possible?”

Exelda explained, “Dason disappeared around the same time as the monster attacks, which could have just been a coincidence, except we had more than one monster know Kefalia’s defect of freezing if she laughs too hard for too long. I’m not sure how anyone besides us could have known that, but if the monsters were invading our polis on their own, how would so many of them have this piece of knowledge? Obviously, one person is orchestrating these attacks, so if we catch Dason’s kidnapper, we can stop the flow of monsters too.”

Another senator questioned, “If someone is guilty of both crimes, then what in the name of Hades is their motive? Why demand money if you’re planning on destroying the kingdom?”

Stocastin jumped in, “We believe that the culprit behind the events actually wants to take over Chaos. The purpose of the monsters is to weaken our defenses, which, needless to say, would make it easier for this individual to use their forces to hijack the throne. The kidnapping is most likely a distraction, although they may also have a purpose behind the money itself such as paying for supplies or possibly to hire help.”

The first senator that spoke up inferred, “Ah, so we pretend to deliver the ransom money and then arrest the guy when he comes to collect it?”

“Highly unlikely that a man who sees himself as the future king would go get the money himself!” Narcius scoffed.

“Narcius is right,” Exelda agreed. “I don’t think he or she would retrieve the money themselves because they’d already anticipate some kind of ambush. But they’d deliver the money to the person they work for, so if we follow the person who comes to collect it, we can find the main person’s hideout!”

The second senator that spoke up gave his opinion, “Sounds simple enough. We could send the royal guards to… Wait, this person is going to a hideout where they store monsters?”

Kefalia responded, “Probably! It’s not like they’d have two hideouts!”

“Then you guys should handle the transaction,” the third senator concluded.

“Really? You’d trust us with a bunch of money after I made that joke?” Akintos replied incredulously.

Before the senator could say anything back, Exelda stated, “We may need the royal guards’ help since we don’t know if this person has begun to assemble an army or not, but we should probably go to the hideout first and clear the area from any potential monsters.”

Cyrek wondered, “How are we going to hide a whole army?”

“Oh, I know!” Krimeno enthusiastically suggested, “We could get a giant wooden horse and pretend it’s a gift when it’s actually full of soldiers…”

“We already did that in the Trojan war,” Cyrek pointed out.

Krimeno looked confused. “Trojan war? Never heard of it!”

Cyrek cringed, but before anyone could respond to his absurdity, Exelda assured them all, “The royal guards can hide at a distance, and we can use our powers not only to spy on the transaction but we can quickly summon the soldiers when we’re ready. We can put a stop to this today if the five of us just had the military backup. Oh, and we’ll need some money too.”

“Yay!” Akintos celebrated.

“For the ransom,” Exelda reminded him, which made Akintos pout. “So, what do you say? Can we count on your assistance?” The senators mulled it over for a moment, and…

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 15

They hadn’t even left the village before they grew out of breath. Exelda braced herself for a moment, and when she caught a glimpse of the enormous figure moving about the ocean, she knew she had to act quickly. She scanned over the other heroes and noticed that while Narcius acted tired, his respiration hadn’t actually slowed down. She breathily commanded him, “Narcius… use… your… powers… to… get… down… there…quick!”

“All by myself?” Narcius fretted.

“Kefalia… can… you… fly?” Exelda asked.

Kefalia answered, “Need… air!”

Exelda told Narcius, “Carry… Stocastin… with you!”

“Ugh, fine!” Narcius draped Stocastin over his shoulder and used his super speed to race to the shore.

A few seconds went by when Narcius returned to them. “What are you doing?” Exelda questioned him.

Narcius reported, “I can’t see a thing down there except for a pair of giant fangs! We don’t know what to do!”

“Well, you and Stocastin can…” She paused before she made an observance. “Wait, you just left him there?”

“He’s got his invisibility, he’s fine!” Narcius reasoned.

Exelda ordered him, “Get back over there! We’ll come help shortly.” Narcius reluctantly sped away, and as Exelda watched him go back to the seaside, she realized just how far they had to go. “We need a faster way to get there.” She saw that Akintos was slumped over an empty cart, and when she stood up, she could see that the pathway out of town was a long slant downhill. “I’ve got an idea!”

As Exelda used her super strength to free the cart from its restraints, Kefalia shrieked, “You’re stealing?”

“We’re commandeering this vehicle for the sake of our duties to the kingdom,” Exelda clarified for her as she dragged it to the top of the hill.

“It’s stealing but legal,” Akintos surmised to Kefalia. “Hmm… I wonder what else we can legally-.”

Exelda cut him off, “Don’t even think about it! Get in!” Akintos willingly hopped onto the cart while Kefalia hesitated. “If you can’t fly, you need to get in here now!” Kefalia made a feeble attempt to fly, and when she couldn’t do it, she forced herself to get on the cart.

Exelda gave the cart a swift push before she hopped on. The further downhill they went, the more speed they gained. When they got to the flatter land, the cart continued the same momentum. They were all worried about crashing into the ocean and screamed. Narcius used his powers to intercept the cart, but he wasn’t strong enough to stop it. He veered it rightwards, which changed their trajectory towards a small tree. They all screamed again as they braced for impact. The cart barreled into the tree, and Exelda as well as Akintos flew head first into the sand! They spit sand out of their mouths as Kefalia exclaimed, “Oh, I can fly now!”

“Oh, sure, rub it in!” Akintos grumbled.

Suddenly, they saw the shadow of something massive heading in their direction, so Akintos and Exelda rolled out of the way. Exelda drew out her sword but couldn’t see where the creature went. She tried to find it with just the moonlight, but all she saw was darkness until a set of fangs raced towards her! She successfully dodged it, but she didn’t see where it went. “I need light! I need light! I need light!” she repeated frantically as she ran from the fangs.

“Here!” Akintos grabbed a piece of wood from the now broken cart and pointed his palm at it. After it was lit, he tossed it to Exelda, who managed to catch it mid-run.

Exelda used her torch to search for the monster and in a flash, she spotted a serpent with fish-like scales and fins! It lunged towards her, but Kefalia flew by its head to intervene. It tried to chomp her, but she darted around too rapidly for its bite. Exelda managed to run to the beast without it noticing her, and she used her sword to cut it in half! It howled in pain and flopped to the ground.

Kefalia inquired, “It’s dead already?”

Narcius commented, “It is? Wow, that was easy!”

“Too easy!” Stocastin said dismally. “No way would our adversary choose a creature that bore so little of a challenge!”

Exelda peered into the water where the back end of the monster laid and watched as the topmost part had bubbles frothing near it. They began to form faster and faster, so Exelda yelled out, “Guys, we’re not done yet!”

They watched with horror as the severed back half formed a new head! Both halves sprang back to life and dove after the heroes! Exelda fended off one of them with her sword while Kefalia flew by its head and distracted it by taking swipes at it with her weapon. Stocastin turned invisible while Narcius used his super speed to dart around randomly because Exelda had the only source of light and was now nowhere near them. Akintos made another one for them and ran over to deliver it. He saw the creature suddenly lunge towards him, so he pointed a palm at it and sent a fireball flying into its face. The monster seemed annoyed by it but didn’t seem hurt. When Kefalia flew near the other creature’s head, its antennae tickled her. Akintos shouted, “Kefalia, get away from there!” When she didn’t, he sent a fireball her way, which hurt her but snapped her into place just in time. The beast that Akintos had been fighting used this opportunity to go after him, so Narcius used his super speed to hurl himself into it. It moved the monster’s body out of the way, and before it could get back up again, Stocastin cut it in half!

“Why did you do that?” Exelda hollered as she continued to fight the other creature. “It’s just going to regenerate!”

“Yes, but it buys us some time,” Stocastin pointed out.

Exelda recognized the legitimacy of his reasoning and halved hers as well. They all quickly convened together, and Exelda probed, “How do we kill it?”

Stocastin replied, “How do you kill anything in general? Obviously we can’t cut it up or burn it.”

Exelda put in, “Probably can’t poison it.”

“Strangle it?” Narcius suggested.

“Where’s Polyphema when you need her?” Akintos joked.

Kefalia brought up, ‘What about drowning?”

Stocastin dismissed that notion, “You can’t drown it! They’re sea creatures!”

“How do you know that?” Kefalia challenged as the four creatures were starting to form.

“Look at them! They have scales, fins, and gills!” Stocastin turned invisible again as the four creatures were now fully formed.

Stocastin, Kefalia, Exelda, and Narcius each took a monster to fight, but with only two torches available, Kefalia and Stocastin had a hard time seeing theirs, so Akintos dashed back to the broken cart to make more. While Exelda fought hers, she cried out, “Wait, they have gills? That means that they need water to breathe!”

Stocastin, who briefly turned visible to receive his torch, agreed, “Affirmative!”

The creature almost got Stocastin and Akintos, so they rolled out of the way. Stocastin’s clothes caught on fire, so he ran into the water to extinguish it. Akintos aimed some fireballs to keep it from attacking Stocastin. Exelda beheaded hers and instructed the others, “Do it one more time!” Kefalia and Narcius managed to cut theirs down, and Narcius zipped over to Stocatin and Akintos so they could use his light. Stocastin couldn’t find his sword in the water, so Akintos drew his sword and killed the last monster. Exelda directed everyone, “Get the bodies out of the ocean before they morph back to life!” Exelda used her super strength to throw her two halves out, Kefalia flew hers to shore one at a time, Narcius used his super speed to drag his out, and Akintos and Stocastin helped each other haul a piece out. One of their pieces started to form in the water, so Akintos used his fireballs to make the water boil. While the other seven pieces on the shore writhed and gasped for air, the one in the ocean looked bothered but not dying. Kefalia helped Exelda glide through the water, and when Exelda reached the last monster, she threw it onto the beach. They watched as its respiration slowed down more and more, and when it finally stopped breathing, everyone breathed a sigh of relief!

Once again, the five heroes were out of breath, and they braced themselves in the water while they waited for air to flow normally again. After a minute or so, Akintos noted, “Our cart is broken, so that means we’ll have to walk all the way back.”

All five of them groaned, and Exelda relented to Akintos, “Okay, we’ll sleep in tomorrow and go to the palace in the afternoon!” The other four all sighed gratefully to hear that.

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 14

In an empty basement room, Dason sat bound but not gagged in a cage. Marcin entered with a plate that had cooked meat and leafy greens on it and jovially announced, “Dinner!” Dason responded by giving him a cold look, and Marcin surmised, “You’re still mad, huh?” Dason continued to give him the same stare. “That’s a yes. You’d be less angry if you ate something. You must be starving! I mean, you’ve refused every meal I’ve tried to give you since you got here!” He took a small pinch of vegetables and held it up to Dason’s mouth, but Dason didn’t seem tempted to eat it. “If you don’t eat, you’ll be too frail to go home.”

Dason finally spoke,”How do I know you haven’t poisoned it?”

Marcin reasoned, “If Mercinon wanted to have you killed, he’d throw you into the pit of jackals. That’s kind of his thing.” He wiggled the bit of food he had in front of his mouth, and Dason reluctantly took it. “There you go!”

After he swallowed it, Dason surprised himself with his observance, “That’s not bad! I wasn’t expecting it to have any flavor.”

“Well, you weren’t eating, so I didn’t think you’d be tempted by bland food! Here, try the beef!” Marcin held the meat up to him, and Dason curiously took a bite. When Dason made a face that indicated he enjoyed it, Marcin remarked, “It’s good, isn’t it?” Dason nodded while he chewed. “It’s a special recipe my mother passed down to me.”

“I take it you don’t have the same issue with your mother as your friend upstairs.” Dason took another bite of food.

Marcin laughed, “Oh, no! His mother was a tyrant! She was brutal, really terrorized her kids.”

After Dason swallowed his food, he probed, “If his mother’s cruelty had such a traumatic effect on him, how could he, in good conscious, do the same to the people of Chaos?”

“He’s not taking over to torture the polis!” Marcin defended him. “He wishes to restore a dignity to the throne that he believed was lost through your family’s mismanagement. He thinks that passing off some of your power to the Senate makes you look weak.”

“I meant the monsters,” Dason argued, “People are losing their homes and their lives all for one man’s primitive political views!”

Marcin shrugged. “You sent your armies out to war knowing some of them will die in the process. It’s the same thing really!”

“No, it’s not! My soldiers chose to enlist, and their sacrifices helped defend Chaos from a dangerous regime. Mercinon isn’t giving them a choice, and he’s destroying the kingdom! Establishing power through fear is vile and barbaric!” He took another bite of food and couldn’t help but relish it. “You know, if it weren’t for the whole treasonous kidnapping thing, I’d hire you as a royal chef in an instant!”

“Marcin! For Hera’s sake, untie his hands and let him feed himself!” Mercinon stood at the doorway with his arms folded.

Mercinon’s sudden appearance made both Dason and Marcin jump. Marcin nervously reacted, “Sire! You’re here?”

Mercinon raised his eyebrows at him. “Uh, yeah! I don’t live in my office; I can go other places!”

Marcin peered at Dason and turned back to Mercinon. “If I untie him, he might find a way to escape. I don’t know how, but he seems crafty enough to figure something out.” Dason nodded to acknowledge the truth of that statement.

“Whatever.” Mercinon shook his head and moved on. “So, am I safe to assume that the superpower jerks killed the Catoblepas?”

“You’re so smart!” Marcin praised him. “How did you know?”

Mercinon replied, “Well, if we were successful, you’d tell me right away… I hope!”

Mercin rationalized, “Hear me out! It could only get defeated by moonlight, and I set it loose early in the morning! I didn’t think there’d be a way around that!”

“Did you find a replacement before you cooked up a gourmet dinner for our hostage?” Mercinon asked.

“After I went to the hill, my girlfriend and I waited at the ransom drop site for hours,” Marcin answered. “I now they have a few days, but I thought they’d pay it right away.”

Mercinon berated him, “Marcin, you idiot! Have your girlfriend deal with the money while you deal with the monsters!”

“Yes, sire!” As Mercinon started to leave, Marcin whispered to Dason, “I made some dessert too, but I’ll have to bring it-.” Mercinon turned around and stared at him quizzically. “I wasn’t saying anything!” He scurried to join Mercinon, who rolled his eyes before he shut the door.

Exelda studied a couple of maps while Narcius, Stocastin, Akintos, and Kefalia all thumbed through different books. Akintos exclaimed, “Oh no! I hope we don’t run into this monster!”

Narcius leaned over Akintos’s shoulder and furrowed his brow. “That doesn’t look so dangerous!”

“That’s what he wants you to think!” Akintos expounded. “It lulls you into a false sense of security so it can strike without warning! Just one bite can infuse venom in your body that will kill you in just seconds! There’s only one cure too, and I don’t think we’ll be able to find it!”

“What is it?” Kefalia inquired.

Akintos dramatically revealed, “The tears of a virgin! I mean, how would we find a virgin who would volunteer to potentially face a monster?”

They slowly craned their heads towards Stocastin, who took offense to that. “Why do you assume I haven’t yet performed the human reproductive act?”

“That!” Narcius said in response to his question.

“Just because I don’t talk about it doesn’t mean I haven’t participated in provocative activities!” Stocastin huffed. “I choose to spend time doing more intellectual pursuits because I enjoy the challenges it provides so much more than a temporary social engagement. I’ve been approached by many amorous women, but I don’t get the same thrill from them as I do by solving an academic mystery. Anyone could take those women to bed; it’s not like it’s hard!”

Kefalia pointed out, “Actually, if it’s not hard, it won’t work!” Narcius and Akintos snickered, and Stocastin pouted.

Exelda grinned but didn’t say anything on the subject. Instead, she brought up, “I’m not seeing anywhere in Chaos where someone could store a bunch of monsters without people noticing. They must be in a place just outside of the city-state! I’m going to need more maps!”

At that moment, someone came up to their table and informed them. “We’re closing now, so please return your materials. Feel free to come back in the morning.”

“Wow, we’ve been here all day!” Kefalia noted.

“With all of this research we’ve done, I feel prepared to face anything!” Narcius declared as he helped gather up books.

Exelda gently reminded him, “Don’t get overly confident! So many of the monsters on this list we made sound easy to defeat, but it’s one of those things that’s easier said than done. Plus, you never want to underestimate your enemies- they may end up surprising you!”

As they put their borrowed material back on their shelves, Akintos put in, “Plus, we don’t have all of these random things it takes to kill all of these things! Like silver, lots of things get killed by silver. I had no idea it was such a deadly object!”

“I bet the palace has lots of silver!” Kefalia stated.

“Excellent point!” Stocastin reacted.

Kefalia seemed shocked at the concept. “It is?”

Stocastin told her, “It was bound to happen sooner or later.” She made a happy gesture in celebration of this feat, and then Stocastin went on, “Princess Aleta did say to come to her if we needed anything to do our job.”

“That’s true.” Exelda rubbed her chin contemplatively as they finished putting everything away. “And they would have the maps we need to look at too. Alright, we’ll go to the palace in the morning.”

“How about the afternoon?” Akintos suggested as they made their way to the exit. “I’m so tired!”

Exelda queried, “How can you sleep at a time like this?”

Akintos responded, “Simple! I close my eyes and…” He pretended to snore as they walked onto the street. With his eyes shut, he didn’t see the camel in front of him and crashed into it. “Who takes their camel out at night?”

The other four laughed as he picked himself up, and then he joined them in their mirth. When they continued on their way, Narcius conversed, “I won’t have any trouble sleeping tonight! I simply have to have my beauty sleep or else I…”

Suddenly, the streets came to a sudden halt as the ground shook beneath them! People all stared in the direction that the shock came from, and from their high vantage of the hilltop that the town rested on, everyone could see people running away from a large mass in the ocean. The five heroes all knew what that meant, and Akintos and Narcius both wailed, “No!”

“No beauty rest tonight!” Narcius grumped.

“Pull it together, guys!” Exelda addressed them. “The sooner we kill this thing, the sooner we can rest!” They all agreed and headed out towards the seaside.

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 13

Are we there yet?” Narcius asked while squished in a chariot with Akintos and a royal guard.

From another chariot that also included Stocastin and another royal guard, Exelda answered sarcastically, “Yeah, we made it to the monster and decided to make a day trip to Mount Olympus instead!”

Narcius indignantly responded, “I meant are we almost there. Chariots aren’t built for three people!”

“There’s an olive field right there!” Kefalia shouted excitedly as she flew above their heads. “Can you believe it? We’re almost at the Agrotis village! My parents are farmhands there! I haven’t seen them in so long!”

“You’re parents are in the area getting attacked by a monster?” Stocastin questioned.

Kefalia’s face fell when she came upon that realization. “Oh no! I hope they don’t get eaten! Or smashed, or whatever this monster does!”

This prompted Exelda to inquire, “What kind of monster are we dealing with anyways?”

The guard on her chariot relayed to them, “It’s a big, shaggy-haired thing that doesn’t like to move much.”

Stocastin, Kefalia, Exelda, and Narcius all turned to Akintos, who reacted resentfully, “What are you all looking at me for?”

“It’s got horrible breath…” the royal guard continued.

“That sounds like you!” Kefalia giggled.

Akintos denied that, “It does not!”

The royal guard went on, “Some have said its ugliness alone could kill you!”

“Yup, that’s you alright!” Narcius guffawed. Akintos folded his arms and glared at them as they laughed.

“He’s eating all of our crops! And anyone who’s tried to stop him has turned into stone!” the royal guard concluded.

Everyone sobered up upon hearing that. Narcius told Akintos, “Okay, it sounds a little different than you!”

Exelda queried Stocastin, “Do you know about any monster like that?”

Stocastin shook his head. “It sounds vaguely familiar, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.”

“If you put your finger on it, you might turn into stone!” Kefalia remarked.

No one bothered to correct her as they started to get further inside the farming village. They began to hear screaming and saw people running in the distance. The royal guards stopped the horses that were hauling them, and the man in Narcius and Akintos’s chariot informed them, “We’re going to evacuate as many people as we can. Good lucky, guys!”

Narcius, Akintos, Stocastin, and Exelda gladly exited their chariots so that the guards could get out. People were running around in various directions, so the royal guards began ushering villagers down towards the path that they had road in on. Akintos crinkled his nose as he commented, “Is that is breath? It smells awful!”

Kefalia joined them on the ground. “No, that’s cow manure. It always smells like that here!”

“There’s nothing but houses in this neighborhood,” Exelda observed. “Kefalia, how do we get to more farmland?”

“Both streets lead to more farmland. How do we know which one to go down?” Kefalia fretted. They suddenly heard a burst of screams from the path on the left. “Oh, okay!” she said as they headed left.

When they got past the housing area, they discovered a field of grapevines with totally barren branches. Exelda joked, “Wow, looks like I kicked the habit just in time!”

The others nervously chuckled until they nearly ran into a statue. They grimaced as they gazed at a man frozen as he cowered in fear, and Kefalia gasped, “I know this guy!” They turned to her with wrapt attention. “He dumped me when I was a teenager! Ha! Good riddance!” She gave the statue a swift kick.

At that moment, Exelda spotted a mass moving in the distance grazing on some vegetation near a barn, so she cried out, “There it is!”

Stocastin squinted to try to get a better look. “Hmm… from here, it just looks like some sort of unshorn bovine. I doubt it’d be as easy to kill though or the farmers would have taken it out a long time ago!”

Akintos exclaimed, “I just remembered something!”

“What?” Exelda’s eyes brimmed with hope of hearing something that would help them with this matter.

“I need to take a leak!” Akintos declared.

Exelda clicked her tongue in annoyance. “Too bad! Now, we should quietly approach it so we can watch it from a distance and learn as much…” She noticed a couple of people advancing towards it with brandished pitchforks. “Never mind!” As they sprinted towards the vigilantes, she ranted, “What kind of idiots would just charge at it like that?”

Narcius used his super speed to push the people out of harm’s way. When the other heroes got closer, they saw the creature’s wild, stringy hair covered its face as it charged at the couple. When the beast realized it missed, it stopped with its head hung low and it let out an exasperated sigh as it repositioned itself to face Exelda, Stocastin, Akintos, and Kefalia. As they stood with their weapons at the ready, they heard a male’s voice call out, “Kefalia!”

“Dad?” Kefalia reacted incredulously. She saw that the couple with the pitchforks were, indeed, her parents, so she rejoiced, “Mom! Dad! You’re here! I missed-!” Narcius had to use his super speed to push her out of the way of the monster’s charging.

“Your parents are here?” Exelda uttered as the creature sighed again as it turned to make another attack. She caught wind of its breath and gagged a little.

Kefalia’s mother confirmed, “Yes, and our pet pigeon!” She took a bird out of her pocket and held it up in the air just as the creature swiveled in that direction. The pigeon gazed into the beast’s eyes, and it squawked in fright as it suddenly turned to stone!

Exelda commanded to Kefalia’s parents, “Don’t look in its eyes!” They covered their eyes to protect themselves, and since Kefalia was in that area, she followed suit. Exelda yelled, “Kefalia, open your eyes and fly away!”

Kefalia complied, but Narcius had to use his super speed to get her parents out of the monster’s trajectory again. Exelda ran to the creature’s side and tried to stab it, but her sword couldn’t penetrate its skin. The beast slowly spun her way, so Exelda shuffled to stay out of its sight. It didn’t deter the beast, who spun in circles trying to find her. Stocastin turned invisible and tried to stab it. His unsuccessful counterattack distracted it from Exelda, but it grew confused trying to figure out who was behind the strikes as Stocastin continued to target it in different spots.

Kefalia, Akintos, and Narcius met up with Exelda, and before anyone could ask the question that they all had about what to do, they caught a glimpse of its face. It’s snout was large and had green slime coming out of it, it had odd bumps on its cheeks, and the two halves of its jaw didn’t match up. It let out another exasperated sigh, and they all caught a whiff of its breath, which made them all heave from nausea. As they were recovering from this bodily shock, Narcius suddenly proclaimed, “Wait a minute, I recognize this thing!” Exelda, Kefalia, and Akintos looked at him in surprise. “It was on the cover of that children’s book you threw at me! It was shrieking in pain as it stared at the moon.”

“That’s how we destroy!” Exelda figured out. “Moonlight!”

“Too bad it’s midday!” Akintos grumbled.

Staying invisible and continuing his attacks, Stocastin educated them, “Technically, the moon doesn’t produce its own light. The glow we see comes from the effect of the sun’s position behind it.”

Exelda surmised, “So, to simulate moonlight, we need to block the sun.” She mulled it over for a moment. “Kefalia, do you think you can block it?”

“It couldn’t hurt to try!” She turned towards it and hurt her eyes. “Oh, I guess it can hurt to try!”

“Turn your back towards it,” Exelda instructed.

Kefalia inquired, “Then how will I know where to fly?”

Exelda replied, “We’ll have to direct you. Oh, but then how can we do that without hurting our eyes?”

“I got it!” Akintos declared.

After Akintos snatched Narcius’s mirror from his belt, Narcius whined, “Hey!”

Akintos turned his back to the sun and held the mirror so he could see behind him. “Go left!” Kefalia did as he said. “Too far, go a little more right. Now move up. A little more. More than that. There!” He frowned. “She’s too small! She needs to hold something to fill in the sides.”

“But what?” Exelda queried as she and Narcius scanned the area for material Kefalia could use.

At that instance, Kefalia’s father shouted, “Here, sweetie!” They took off their togas and threw it her way.

“Ugh!” Exelda, Narcius, and Akintos yelled upon seeing their nudity. Exelda saw that they completely missed, so she set her discomfort aside, swooped up the togas, and threw it up to Kefalia, who draped them as if they were wings. The sun became totally blocked, and the monster shrieked as it suddenly turned into stone!

When they saw that the battle was over, they all cheered and celebrated. Kefalia then flew towards her parents without looking at them and strongly suggested, “Put these back on, Mom and Dad!”

After their clothes were back on, Kefalia’s mother praised her, “Good job, darling! Where did you meet such a talented bunch?”

As they walked back towards the main part of the village, Kefalia told her, “These are my housemates, Mom! Remember, your boss didn’t have room for me anymore, so I went to live with the people at the old smithery!”

“The old smithery?” her mother repeated. “No, that can’t be true. Those guys are weirdos, and these guys seem so nice!”

“You’re findings are based on rumors,” Stocastin disputed, “They aren’t true.”

Her father insisted, “But then why does everyone say it’s a house of sorcery?”

Exelda explained simply, “Because we have superpowers.”

“Oh!” Her father paused before he added, “So, you’re not polyamorous sorcerers?”

“No way in Hades!” Narcius and the others had revolted expressions at the sheer idea.

“Alright, alright, if you insist, we’ll believe you!” Her mother relented. All of a sudden, she recalled, “Oh, I almost forgot my pet rock!”

They stopped to wait for her to retrieve the stone pigeon, and Narcius remarked, “So, guys, we really need to start doing more research!”

Exelda threw her hands up in frustration. “Oh, now you want to do research!” The other four shifted guiltily, and although she shook her head, she let the matter go. When she got a glimpse of Akintos, it reminded her of something. “Oh, since we’re waiting, you may as well go pee now.”

“I don’t need to go anymore,” Akintos said sheepishly.

“You were lying?” Exelda growled.

Akintos refuted, “No, just when I saw the beast, I… Say, who’s up for another trip to the bathhouse?”

Narcius, Stocastin, and Kefalia all snickered, so Exelda admonished them, “Come on, guys! We’re in our thirties, not our teens!” After Kefalia’s mom rejoined them, Exelda found herself snickering too. Akintos pouted while they headed out.

The Unsuper Heroes, Chapter 12

Kefalia, Stocastin, Akintos, and Narcius all walked into the throne room somewhat nervously while Exelda hid her face as she walked behind everybody. A woman with similar features to Dason sat in one of the gilded chairs and looked at several pieces of paper exasperatedly. When she saw the five of them enter, she breathed a sigh of relief. The royal servant announced, “Princess Aleta, here are the people you requested.”

“Yes, I can see that,” Aleta responded to him dryly. She turned to the heroes and regarded them, “Oh, thank gods, you’re all here! I… Wait, where is Exelda?”

Stocastin and Narcius stepped aside to reveal Exelda, who sheepishly said, “Oh, hello there! I, um, I was just-.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah!” Aleta interupted her. “I’m happily married now, so I don’t care about that incident from the past! Besides, I have more important things to worry about. With my parents totally out of it and my brother missing, I’m next in line for the crown! One minute I’m living a life of luxury, and next thing I know, I’m up to my elbows in paperwork and people needing me for this and that! I don’t know what all this means!” She indicated to her paperwork. “Why do I have these bills for services you received? A bathhouse, a tailor… wow, you found a female cobbler?”

Akintos corrected her, “Actually, Nike is a guy.”

“Really?” Aleta puzzled. “Why would he go by a goddess’s name?”

“He started to tell us, but we decided we didn’t want to know,” Akintos reported.

Aleta raised an eyebrow but did not press the subject. “Whatever. Just tell me why your bills are getting sent to the palace!”

The five heroes shifted guiltily, and Exelda explained, “We received these services while on official duty. It came as a result of us fighting the monsters, and Dason promised to pay us, so we figured that you could subtract the bills from the money we’re supposed to receive.”

“Oh, that makes sense,” Aleta replied. “How much did he say he was going to give you?”

Exelda thought about it for a moment. “Hmm… I don’t think he actually said a specific amount.” The other four corroborated her conclusion.

Aelta let out an aggravated sigh. “How in the name of Plutus am I supposed to know what the proper amount to pay you is?” She buried her head into her arms, which rested on throne she sat on. “Why didn’t he write any of this down? Why did he have to go missing in the first place? I just want to go back to being a pampered housewife! That’s all I want!”

She kept her head buried as a young, teenage boy entered the room from a door behind her. He had a piece of parchment and a quill in his hand as he approached her. “Aunt Aleta?”

Not moving her head at all, Aleta muttered, “What?”

The boy requested, “Can you help me with my academic work?”

“You’re asking me this now?” She popped her head up an expression on her face as though she were about to cry from frustration. “I’m in the middle of-!”

“I’m supposed to see my tutor soon and I don’t have any of it done!” he exclaimed. “I can’t go with an incomplete assignment!”

Before Aleta could burst, Stocastin volunteered, “Perhaps I can be of assistance. I’m quite learned in the academic arts.”

The boy seemed a little skeptical. “Really? Do you know anything about mathematical formulas?”

Exelda, Narcius, Akintos, and Kefalia all laughed knowingly while Stocastin’s eyes lit up in sheer joy. Kefalia assured the boy, “Stocastin knows everything about mathematical formulas! He does them on his own for fun!”

“Really? Oh, okay!” The boy stepped off of the throne platform and sat next to Stocastin on the floor.

Aleta’s overwhelmed demeanor mollified a bit as she watched Stocastin delightedly explain how to solve the formulas on his parchment. She then turned to the papers in front of her and concluded, “I guess I can just pay these and keep a record of what you spent so we can figure out how much to pay you when the job is done.”

Exelda promised her, “We’ll try not to charge anything else to you.”

“Well, as long as you don’t crazy with your spending, you can still charge things to the palace,” Aleta decreed. “I want to make sure you have everything you need to get the job done, after all! I mean, your work is unbelievably important! Oh, I’m so glad that Dason hired you before he went missing! I don’t know what I would have done if he hadn’t!”

“Well, the senate came up with this idea,” Exelda pointed out. “You would have done just fine!”

An idea suddenly struck Aleta. “The senate! Of course! Dason must have left the details of his decisions with them!” She turned to her servant and directed him, “Please bring in the senate leader!”

“Yes, Princess!” The servant half bowed before he left.

Aleta returned her attention to the heroes. “If there’s anything you need, please let me know! I’m confident that Dason will return one day, and when he does, I want to make sure you’re all in one piece! He’d kill me if anything happened to you guys! Especially you, Exelda!” Aleta winked at her.

“What do you mean, especially me?” Exelda probed.

Aleta’s face fell slightly. “Oh, he didn’t talk to you about…?” She saw Exelda’s blank expression, which answered her question. “Oh, he’s not going to like that I just said that! Oh well! Since the cat’s out of the bag now, he’s been talking about you non-stop ever since he met you! He finds you charming and sweet, and he’s infinitely intrigued by all of your achievements in the war. He thinks you’re the prettiest person in all of Greece too, so I told him-.”

“He’s wrong!” Narcius interjected. “I’m the prettiest person in all of Greece!”

Aleta looked a little perplexed at his cause for disruption, but it was Kefalia who admonished him, “You can’t interrupt the princess!”

Narcius didn’t seem deterred by her reproach. “You know it’s true!”

“I’m starting to think it’s not so important anymore!” Kefalia huffed.

Aleta was obviously confused, “so Akintos advised her, “Feel free to cut them off anytime!”

Exelda jumped in, “If Dason really felt this way about me, why didn’t he seek me out? He could have found me any time he wanted to, so why didn’t he? Did he believe all of the rumors spread about us?”

“We’re not ones to rely on rumors,” Aleta replied. “As public figures, we have all kinds of gossip swirling around about us. Do you believe any of them?” Exelda mulled it over for a second and shook her head. Aleta continued, “He always wanted to find you, but he never did because he never thought he was good enough for you.”

Exelda’s eyes went wide in shock. “Not good enough for me? But he’s a prince! He’s so handsome and smart and kind… He could have any girl in the kingdom at a moment’s notice! And yet he’s worried about not being good enough for me? Me, a disgraced soldier turned peasant woman! He could have a girl with a flatter stomach, a high social standing, and more… more everything than me, and yet he thinks he’s not good enough for me?”

Aleta sagely stated, “It’s not like he’s perfect! He has faults just like everyone else, and dating a royal comes with some baggage! Besides, you may not think much of yourself, but he thinks a lot of you!”

Exelda’s cheeks reddened immensely, and she couldn’t help but beam broadly. Kefalia cooed, “Awwwwww!”

The royal servant returned and got everyone’s attention by clearing his throat. “The senate leader, your highness.”

Cyrek entered and commented to Aleta, “You interrupted a very busy assembly… And I can’t thank you enough! How can I help you?”

“Finished!” the boy declared. “Thank gods! Who uses the Pythagorean Theorem in real life?”

“You’d be surprised, kid!” Stocastin reacted.

Exelda told Cyrek and Aleta, “We should get going! We still have a lot of research to do!”

Narcius and Kefalia groaned, but Akintos joked, “Relax guys! Every time we try to do research, we get attacked by a monster. So if you don’t want to do any book work, don’t worry, we won’t! Maybe they’ll save us a trip and attack us before we leave!”

“That’s not funny!” Exelda punched his arm. “If we do get attacked by another monster on the way, I swear to Gaia, I will-!”

A royal guard suddenly barged into the room and urgently called out, “Help! The Agrotis village is under attack!”

“By soldiers?” Akintos timidly asked.

“No,” the royal guard answered. “Our farms are under attack by a hideous monster!”

Akintos repined, “Damn!” Exelda glared at him, so he boldly asserted, “You can’t kill me ’til after we defeat the monster!”

Exelda stared at him with raised eyebrows. “You’re not allowed to make any more predictions!” She commanded to the others, “Let’s go!” They followed the royal guard out of the palace.