Just outside of a neighboring village, a large patch of mud took over the dirt path that they walked on, and Akintos commented, “Well, good luck with that!”
He tried to leave, but Exelda stopped him. “We’re not turning back now! We’re almost there!”
“I don’t want to get all dirty!” Kefalia complained.
“You can fly!” Exelda reminded her.
Kefalia remembered, “Oh yeah! I keep forgetting that our powers are out in the open now!”
Akintos watched her hover the mud and mumbled, “Show off!”
“I, for one, do not want to touch mud unless it’s for some kind of spa treatment!” Narcius put in.
Stocastin added, “They won’t let us into any academic centers if we leave a muddy trail.”
“We can wash our feet off at a water trough,” Exelda suggested. “Now, come on! We’re wasting time!”
Exelda led the way into the mud patch, and although Stocastin, Narcius, and Akintos all looked hesitant, they followed her through it. The farther they went inside, the harder it became to traverse. Exelda had to use her super strength to get through it, but the three men got stuck. “Speaking of wasting time…” Akintos teased.
“Oh, shut up! I’ll get you out!” Exelda waded over to Stocastin, lifted him up, and moved him to more shallow grounds. She had a little trouble with Narcius, so Kefalia helped her out, which got Narcius out of it. They both struggled with Akintos, and as they tried dragging him out, Exelda asked him, “Are you even trying?”
Akintos dully answered, “Trying for what?”
“MOVE!” both Exelda and Kefalia barked.
“Ugh! Fine!” Akintos began moving his legs, and they were able to get him out after that.
As Exelda caught her breath, she remarked, “Whew! Finally, we can move on!”
Stocastin brought up, “Actually, we can’t move on quite yet. We have another problem.”
“Seriously? What could possibly be…?” She trailed off as she noticed Stocastin pointing to their feet. When Exelda noticed that no one but Kefalia had their shoes anymore, she groaned, “Oh, for Hera’s sake!”
As they searched the city with unshod feet, the people who passed them looked at them peculiarly. Narcius indignantly stated, “Obviously, their heralds haven’t told them who we are yet!”
Exelda advised, “Just ignore them! I’m sure there’s a cobbler around here somewhere!” Right after she spoke, she spotted a sign over a shop window. “There we go! And it doesn’t look busy either! How lucky can we get?” Stocatin opened his mouth to respond, so Exelda clarified, “That was rhetorical.” Stocastin’s face indicated that he wanted to argue, but he kept his mouth shut as they walked inside.
The walls of the shop were lined with wooden boxes full of shoes, and the center of the room had a couple of chairs. An old man with a wild beard and misty eyes came out from a back room and greeted them, “Welcome to my shop! I am Nike.”
“Like the goddess?” Exelda questioned.
“Yes,” Nike confirmed. “When I was a baby, my parents thought I was a girl. Do you want to know why?”
Exelda replied, “No!”
Nike shrugged. “Suit yourself! Anyways, thank you for choosing Nike’s cobbler service! How can I help you?”
“Nike’s cobbler service…” Akintos repeated. “Nike and shoes… What a strange combination!”
“Anyways!” Exelda interjected. “As you can see from our bare feet, we’re in dire need of shoes. Do you have anything pre-made that we can take?”
Nike reveled, “Oh, you want to adopt some of my babies?”
Narcius responded confusedly, “Adopt your what?”
“Have a seat,” Nike invited them. Narcius and Akintos reluctantly took a seat in the two chairs while Nike rummaged through some of his boxes. He pulled out a pair and brought them over to Narcius, not seeming to notice how uncomfortable Narcius looked as he slipped the shoes on. “Oh, he fits you nicely! You’re going to a good home today, my dear!” Narcius nervously laughed and got out of the seat. Stocastin warily replaced him as he rummaged through more bins. He brought a pair over to Exelda and told her, “They like you!”
“I’m sure they do! I can do that!” She forced herself to politely smile as she took the shoes from Nike and put them on herself.
Nike turned to Kefalia and said, “Oh, I know a pair that would just love you!”
“Oh, no, I’m good!” Kefalia waited until he went to another box of shoes to say under her breath, “Thank gods!”
Nike brought a pair of sandals over to Akintos, “Yes, you two will get along nicely!” Akintos didn’t respond to him except to grimace. Nike then joyfully informed Stocastin, “I have a special pair for you in the back! Please excuse me!”
As Nike skipped to the back room, Akintos repulsively expressed, “Instead of going to the academic center, can we go back to the mud pit and search for our old shoes? I don’t want shoes that might speak to me!”
“I’m sure he’s just a little overly zealous about something he’s created,” Exelda reasoned. “Obviously, the shoes aren’t actually talking to him!”
“We need to get out of here!” Narcius’s eyes widened as he held his sandal to his ear. “I can hear this one singing!”
Exelda dismissed this notion, “That’s ridiculous! As soon as Nike brings out-.”
Akintos interrupted, “By Zeus, I can hear them too! We need to leave! Now!”
When Akintos rapidly sat up, he knocked over a box of shoes. He and Narcius zipped out of the door, so Exelda and Kefalia began picking the shoes up. Exelda remarked, “At least they’re comfortable!”
“They don’t look very comfortable! They’re out there shaking like a leaf!” Kefalia peered at them through the front window.
“No, I meant the shoes!” Exelda corrected her.
Kefalia conversed, “Well, they better be comfortable since they’re creepy singing shoes!”
Exelda started to say, “They’re not singing! They-!”
Stocastin told her, “I hear singing too, but it’s coming from outside.”
Exelda finally heard the music, it was a small choir of women singing very seductively, so she ran to the window where she saw men slowly walking down the street in a very trance like manner. “They’re in trouble! Let’s go!”
Exelda and Kefalia bolted out. Stocastin was about to when Nike came out from the back room with a pair of sandals. “Here they are! They’re… Hey, where’d everyone go?”
“No time to explain!” Stocastin quickly snatched the shoes from him and hastily put them on as he headed out the door. “Send the bill to the palace, they owe us money!”
Out in the streets, Kefalia flew over the crowd and found Narcius and Akintos heedless marching towards three very attractive ladies crooning in the middle of a large plaza. She grabbed the men’s togas to try to stop them, but they ignored her attempts and dragged her along with them. Kefalia shouted to them, “Stop! These are the dangerous women who make men crash their ships!”
Narcius pointed out, “We’re not on a ship!”
Kefalia didn’t let go until Exelda caught up with them. “Kefalia, why don’t you try distracting the Sirens so they stop singing?” she directed as she gripped the two men’s togas. They still tried to move forward but couldn’t actually go anywhere under her hold.
Kefalia flew in front of the Sirens’ faces and exclaimed, “Knock it off, you harlots!”
One of the Sirens coolly responded, “Like we’re going to listen to you, blondie!” All three tickled her, which made her laugh and then freeze up.
“That was hot!” Akintos expressed.
Stocastin found Exelda stared at him in surprise. “Why aren’t they having an effect on you? Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were…”
“I’m not! Pretty girls just scare me!” He picked up Narcius’s hands and put a finger in each ear. Narcius no longer tried to reach the Sirens, but he stared at Stocastin in confusion. “Don’t take them out!”
“What?” Narcius yelled.
Stocastin put Akintos’s fingers in his ears, and Exelda probed, “Now what? Kefalia’s frozen and these two can’t use their hands!” Stocastin shrugged.
Exelda thought for a moment, but soon she noticed that a lot of men and a couple of women were still hypnotized by the Sirens. Exelda didn’t like the devious looks on the Sirens’ faces as people started to near them, so she knew she had to do something. She drew out her sword and ran over to them. Seeing that they were now under threat, the Sirens stopped singing and let out a hideous shriek. They slowly transformed into snarling, cat-like beasts with purple, scaly skin and long, sharp fangs, and their new visage broke everyone out of their spell. Exelda attempted to face all three at once, but the men couldn’t let her fight alone, so they sprung into action. Narcius used his super speed to circle around the beasts and distract them, and Stocastin turned invisible and began attacking one of them. Akintos shrouded one of them in fireballs and watched it writhe around in pain. While Narcius helped Stocastin kill off the other beast, Exelda battled the last one. After evading a few swipes, she got into a good position to finish it off. She saw that Stocastin and Narcius had finished off the second beast and were staring into the fountain behind them where the third beast had extinguished itself. Needing to act quickly, Exelda picked Kefalia up and threw her at it, which pinned it down and made it drown.
When they saw that the monsters were defeated and that Kefalia had been successfully retrieved, the townspeople clapped and cheered. After a number of people thanked them and the excitement began to ebb a bit, the five heroes could hear each other talk again, so Akitnos joked, “See, this is why I’m still single! All of the prettiest women in Chaos are either taken or blood-thirsty monsters!”
Exelda rolled her eyes but also laughed. Narcius wiped his hands and declared, “There! Problem solved forever!”
“Nice try!” Exelda replied, “We still have research to do!” Narcius, Akintos, and Kefalia balked at the idea but did not argue in front of the admiring crowd.