“What in Hades does this mean?” Sam frowned.
A Newsletter Of Thus
Endowed Higher Wits
1, 2, 3, 4, 29, 18, 76, 11, 47, 7
“Anybody have a clue?” Sam asked.
His friends were gathered around him and the horn in his hands. Each of them took their time inspecting the thing, but Sam could see from the confused expressions on their faces that they were as clueless about this as he was.
“Perhaps we’re looking for a famous newsletter?” Jackboot suggested.
“That makes zero sense,” Farsight chimed in. “A newsletter wouldn’t relate to the other two lines...”
Sam noticed how Thunder’s focus had remained with the underside of the cornucopia.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Look at these numbers... Doesn’t it seem like they’ve been intentionally written out of order?” she guessed.
“1, 2, 3, 4, 29...” A lightbulb lit up in Sam’s brain. “1 plus 2 equals 3, and 2 plus 3 equals 4—”
“3 plus 4 equals 7, 4 plus 7 equals 11,” Thunder continued.
“It’s a mathematical progression,” Farsight chimed in. “7 plus 11 equals 18, add 11 to 18 and you get 29... I know what this is.”
She paused for effect, a fact that irked Jackboot.
“Will you carry on already,” he pressed.
“It’s called the Lucas Numbers, which is a kind of mathematical integer sequence similar to the Fibonacci Sequence,” Farsight explained.
“And its purpose?” Jackboot asked.
“Apart from being out of sequence in this clue... I don’t know,” Farsight admitted.
But Sam thought she’d said the magic words. She and Thunder had noticed what he hadn’t, and that was the fact that the numbers were jumbled up, which meant the phrases might have been jumbled too. He racked his mind for the different kinds of puzzles and wordplays his father had taught him and quickly stumbled onto something he hadn’t heard of in a very long time.
“I know what they mean...” he breathed.
Sam borrowed Jackboot’s journal and then scribbled the two phrases A Newsletter Of Thus and Endowed Higher Wits onto a blank page. Then he rearranged the order of letters in the first phrase to form several alternate phrases using the same words.
“A southwestern felt, no... A fleeter who stunts, probably not... Sweeter loft shunt, this one makes no sense,” Sam’s brow furrowed. “Holy Zeus, I got it!”
He showed his friends the page. Written underneath all the discarded phrases was The Sunflower State.
“It’s an anagram!” Sam chuckled. “Damn, that’s clever...”
“Then this second phrase is also an anagram...” Thunder guessed.
It took a while, but figuring out that the Sunflower State was the nickname for Kansas led them to the answer of the second phrase. Endowed Higher Wits was an anagram for Dwight D. Eisenhower, thirty-fourth President of the United States of America and Supreme Allied Commander of the European Expeditionary Force during World War II.
“Makes sense... he’s probably the most famous person to have been born in that state,” Farsight noted.
“Um, probably not the most famous...” Thunder said in an undertone, drawing the others' gazes toward her. “Nevermind...” She brushed off their interest by diverting the topic to, “Does Eisenhower have any monuments in Kansas?”
“He’s buried there, isn’t he?” Sam asked.
“We can find out with the Flint Consolidated powered supercomputer in our very cozy bus as soon as we finally get out of this,” Farsight’s gaze drifted quickly toward the Achelous automaton before coming back to Sam’s face, “weird magic dimension where my powers don’t work... It's giving me quite the headache...”
“Calling my domain weird is rude, you know,” Achelous grumbled.
The god-possessed automaton appeared at their side as if he’d been standing between Farsight and Thunder all along. He was frowning at Sam again.
“Congratulations on solving the test and so on and so forth,” he sighed as if congratulating Sam was the most annoying thing in the world for him. “Now, I would appreciate it if you’d all go back to your trash-infested mortal realm and leave me to my solitude...”
He pointed a thumb behind him in a very lazy way.
“You can take him with you too,” Achelous grumbled.
“Him?” Sam asked.
“Him,” Achelous repeated tersely. “It’s rude to enter a god’s domain without an invitation, you know...”
“Him...” Sam narrowed his eyes at the direction Achelous pointed at. “Who are you—”
Standing on the sandy shore by the Eastern side of the lake was a man whose bulky physique and lion’s head hood left no confusion as to who had arrived to spoil their treasure hunt.
“Did he come through the portal in the Chicago Water Tower too?” Thunder asked.
“Impossible... the dome was flooded,” Farsight reasoned.
“Doesn’t matter... if he even tries to swim to our island then the water guardian will definitely get him,” Sam said. Then he added in an undertone, “I hope...”
You really think so, kid? Chiron challenged. A hundred drachma says he makes it...
Sam didn’t take that bet. He didn’t like his odds.
They watched as Apex went into the water and began to swim toward their tiny island at the center of the lake.
“Come on, come on,” Sam whispered. “Where are you?”
Soon enough, the water guardian’s blue fin broke through the water right between Apex and their island.
“Yes!” Sam pumped his fist into the air, earning him a sidelong glance from his friends. “I’m just happy the things with fangs aren’t just focused on us for a change.”
Then a second, a third, and a fourth fin appeared to stretch behind the first like one long serpent’s spine, causing chills to rise up Sam’s own spine.
Geez, I hate serpents... He repressed a shiver. I hate big serpents even more...
“They’re about to collide,” Jackboot reported. “Let’s go kaiju!”
The serpent’s dragon-like head — scaly blue skin glistening under the pale moonlight — rushed out of the water with its mouth wide open. Its sword-sized fangs crashed down on Apex’s head as its jaws snapped shut on his body, dragging him down into the watery depths.
“Holy Zeus...” Sam breathed.
Seconds ticked by while they watched the water with bated breath with the lake’s surface giving them no sign as to what could be happening down in the depths.
“Well, that’s not good,” Achelous whispered ominously.
Bubbles formed on the water’s surface. Great big frothing bubbles suggesting that a portion of the lake was beginning to boil. Then the lake water turned red like a great amount of blood had been spilled, far too much to have come from just a single man's body.
“Mates... I think we have a winner, and it’s definitely not who we’d hoped would win,” Jackboot reported.
The lake guardian’s severed head floated up to the surface moments later, and all thought of getting out of this without having to fight was suddenly drained from Sam’s mind.
Styx,” he hissed. Can't a guy catch a break...
Apparently, the Fates were determined to make Sam's adventures as difficult as humanly possible. At least that's what he believed.
You've got incoming, kid, Chiron warned.
To everyone’s surprise, Sam ran into the lake, stopping only after the water was up to his waist. It was around this time that Apex reappeared too. He was also much closer to the island now — roughly halfway there.
“Sam!” Thunder called. “What are you doing?”
It took a moment for Sam to reply as he was busy checking his status and making sure he had enough life-force to waste on this special move.
“Trying something new... ” Sam replied. Then he added, “I’ve got this... I’ve got this,” to psyche himself up before he yelled, “Herculean!” in the sky.
|[Herculean (Δ)] is now active. Based on probability and threat assessment calculations, your current Strength is temporarily tripled. .|
Sam could feel the energy coursing through him once more, strengthening his muscles with the same explosive force that was simultaneously tearing them down much like the push and pull of a powerful magnet.
“I’m definitely never ever getting used to this...” he said through gritted teeth.
You’re planning on doing the thing, aren’t you? Chiron surmised.
“We’ve practiced it enough times,” Sam replied.
He willed all of Herculean’s energy to gather around his hands, to spread across his palms, and flow into the tips of his fingers.
“It... stings,” Sam gasped.
His hands felt like they were on fire as the power continued to build up around them. There was so much of it gathered there, in fact, that what was once invisible to everyone else was now showing off as sparks of teal-colored lightning crackling across the back of his hands.
“Whatever you’re trying to do, you best get a move on it, mate!” Jackboot warned.
Apex swam across the lake's surface at a speed that would soon see him collide with Sam.
You’ve charged it enough, kid... any more and you're likely to pop a blood vessel, Chiron warned.
Sam spread his arms to the side, and even this took effort. It was like he was lifting a hundred-and-fifty-pound barbel in each hand.
"Ugh," Sam gasped.
Apex launched himself out of the water like a rocket with fists stretched forward. It was the kind of superman punch that would cream Sam if he was hit.
Now, Sam! Chiron ordered.
Sam drew his hands forward so that his palms would slap against each other — and the shockwave that spread out from the point of impact was so explosive that it caused a tsunami to rise up and devour everything in Sam's field of view.