The New Cadet Series #3:
A Midwinter's Nightmare


By Bryn Ensomhet


Rating: G
Disclaimer: I do not own Young Hercules, or any of his crew. I own Zandro. I am not making any money off this. This has nothing to do with Shakespeare.
Summary: It's Halloween at the Academy and a homicidal maniac is on Hercules' trail.
Author's Note: This is the third story in "The New Cadet" series, but you don't have to read the other fics to understand this one.


[Chapter 1 | To be continued!]

Chapter 1


I'm not ready for the dead to show its face... Whose angel are you anyway?
- "Jonas and Ezekiel", Indigo Girls


"You're dead."
"I was hoping you wouldn't notice."
- Resurrection, H:TLJ


It was a chilly afternoon. A cool breeze swept through the halls of the acadamy, but none of the cadets thought it strange. For it was the day before All Hallows Eve, and two days before All Hallows Day. Supposedly the worst day to be out, for it was always dark and stormy all through that day and night, and the spirits of the unjustly killed were said to haunt then, more than any other time of the year. But All Hallows Eve was an enjoyable holiday for the children of nearby villages, who would roam around, knocking on cottage doors and recieving treats, which would satisfy them while they were cooped up in their homes by supersticious parents all the next day.

Usually the children stayed close to their homes on Hallows Eve, but each year a few of the older and braver children would knock on the doors of the Acadamy, looking for extra treats. Chieron was letting the cadets have these few days free of classes, and those that weren't going home for the holiday were helping the headmaster decorate the Acadamy. Among those who remained were Hercules and Iolaus.

The former was currently in the kitchen of the Acadamy, hefting yet another very large (and very heavy) pumpkin onto the table, so the cook could make pies and salted pumpkin seeds tomorow. Taking a large knife, spoon, and bowl, Herc cleanly cut off the top of the pumpkin and began carving it out. He was almost done, sliding the edge of the spoon around the inside of the rind to catch any last threads or seeds, when he heard a strange sound. He stopped working the spoon and listened intently.

It was a quiet disembodied voice, sounding male and quite unearthly. "Hercules... Hercules..." the voice intoned.

Surely the ghosts haven't started haunting two days early? Herc mused to himself, when suddenly something popped out from under the table and growled, preparing to attack the cadet. It was a horrible monster, wearing ragged and stained clothing, and possessing a face that was so ugly and mangled it would turn a harpy away in fright. Herc just stood there and resumed carving the pumpkin. "Hey Iolaus." he said, nodding at the monster.

The monster stopped it's growling and pulled off it's mask to reveal wild blond curls and laughing blue eyes. "No fun. How'd you know it was me?" Iolaus asked him.

"Because no monster is that short." Herc chuckled, and narrowly missed an elbow in the ribs.

"Hey!" Iolaus exclaimed. "No, really. How'd you guess?"

"I saw you buy that costume in the marketplace last week, remember?" replied Herc.

Iolaus grinned, "Oh yeah."

Herc said, "But how did you do that whole disembodied voice thing? That was kinda creepy."

Iolaus frowned, "What disembodied voice thing?"

Herc shook his head. "Nevermind." If Iolaus didn't want to share his trade secrets, he wouldn't push. Hercules had finished carving out the pumpkin, and was now cutting a face out of one side. Triangle eyes, triange nose, and a large mouth with two teeth.

"What are you doing?"

Herc gently replaced the lid of the pumpkin and, moving the now much lighter pumpkin to a spot along the wall, he replied, "Making lanterns out of pumpkins. Cheiron said that not only are they supposed to ward off evil spirits during All Hallows, but they also look awesome at night with a candle inside them."

"Cool."

~~~~~***~~~~~

Night had falled and the handful of cadets that were staying for the holiday were gathered around the fireplace, sipping mugs of warm cider before curfew. Iolaus had decided it was a perfect time to tell ghost stories, and the current one was about a ghost of a cadet who was killed near the Academy, having been accidently run over by an untrained cadet in a charriot. "And they say that his spirit still haunts this area, roaming around in the guise of a small white cat, waiting to wreak vengence on any hapless cadet caught outside during All Hallows."

"That was so lame." Marcus said after Iolaus finished his story, "Everybody knows that one."

"Why don't you try telling one then?" Iolaus shot back.

"Fine." Marcus replied. "It was a dark and stormy night..."

~~~~~***~~~~~

The morning of All Hallows Eve Day dawned dark and cold. Many of the cadets woke late, having traded stories through most of the night. Herc had retired before the story-telling had gotten into full swing. He had told them that he wanted to actually be awake the next day, but secretly it was because he had wanted to sleep that night. He would never tell a soul, but the one time he had actually stayed up to exchange scary stories, he hadn't been able to sleep peacefully for about a month afterward. On the way to the kitchen, Herc noticed a few red-eyed cadets who looked like they hadn't slept at all last night, and that only proved his point. Entering the kitchen, the cook looked up and grinned.

"Hercules." the cook greeted him, "Thank goodness there's at least one soul who didn't get himself scared witless last night. Would you please help me with these pies?"

The desperation in the cook's voice convinced him, and he agreed. "What do you want me to do?" The cook showed him how to mix the ingredients and make the dough for the crust. Satasfied, the cook went outside to draw another bucket of water from the well, leaving Herc alone in the kitchen.

He had made two crusts already and was so involved in his work that he jumped when he heard his name, and spilled flour on the table. Smooth, real smooth, he thought to himself.

Herc looked around the room for the speaker, but no one was there. "Huh." he murmured to himself absently as he continued stirring the dough. But as soon as he stopped stirring, the strange chant from yesterday started again.

"Hercules... Hercules..."

Herc just smiled. Leave it to Iolaus to try the same pratical joke twice in two days. "Iolaus, I know you're there. You can come out now."

There was no reply. Herc just shook his head. Iolaus must actually believe the trick could work twice! Herc was grinning as he leaned over and pulled up the tablecloth, wondering if he should pretend to be scared when he saw Iolaus.

But there was no one under the table.

Herc frowned as he scanned the room for other occupants, mortal or mischievous god, but he was alone in the kitchien. Okay, this isn't funny anymore. He set aside the finished crust and started mixing ingredients for a fourth, when he heard the whisper again.

"Hercules...Hercules..."

Starting to get annoyed, Herc realized the voice was coming from outside the doorway to the well. Herc set the batter down on the table next to the spilled flour. Walking towards the doorway, Herc said, "Iolaus, I know you love to play tricks on All Hallows Eve, but could you please stop doing it over and over..." Herc paused as he steped outside, his eyes searching for his friend. But the only person in the courtyard was the cook, who was way over by the well. There was no way that whoever the voice belonged to could get all the way to the well, much less out of sight before Herc had gotten outside. Thinking, It must have been the wind, Herc was about to go back inside when he felt something.

He froze, looking down at a his legs, He had unwittingly been blocking the door, and at his feet was a white cat, trying to squeze past. Herc shifted and followed the cat into the kitchen. The cat jumped up on the table and started pawing at the spilled flour. Herc was just about to examine what the cat had been drawing, but he heard footsteps behind him.

"Hey Herc. What's up?" Iolaus asked.

Hercules was relieved. It must have all been a pratical joke by Iolaus, trying to freak him out by using the story he had told last night. "Iolaus." Herc said, "I know you think it's very funny, but I really don't see why you went this far on a joke."

Iolaus was confused. "Herc, what are you talking about?"

"Why, doing the whole disembodied voice thing last night and this morning, and going out and buying a white cat just so you could freak people out after telling your story last night. What do you think I'm talking about?"

"Hercules," Iolaus said, not sure if Herc was trying to trick *him*, "I swear by the gods, I can't do a disembodied voice, and I have nothing to do with you seeing white cats."

Herc tilted his head at his best friend, disbelieving. "Really." he said, and waved a hand at the cat sitting on the table, still idly pawing the flour. "How do you explain that? Or are white cats native to the area?"

Eyeing the table warily, Iolaus asked, "How do I explain what? I don't see anything."

Herc looked from his friend to the cat on the table to his friend. "You don't see the white cat sitting on the table playing in the flour?" he said.

Iolaus shook his head. "I see spilled flour moving, but I thought that was just because of a breeze."

Herc stared at the cat. I seemed finished with the flour, and looked straight back at Hercules. The cadet gave a gasp at the cat turned translucient, and then faded out from view. He had originally thought that this must be a god in disguise since Iolaus hadn't been able to see it, but no gods did that fading away act, they just poofed out or de-materialized. The fading thing was usually associated with ghosts. A voice cut into his thoughts and he turned towards the table.

"Uh, Herc?" Iolaus repeated as he stood next to the table, staring at the spilled flour. "You'd better take a look at this." Herc walked over and read the words the cat had written in the flour.

Hello Hercules.

~~~~~***~~~~~

Hercules was sitting on the fence just outside of the academy, staring at his boots. He was trying to figure out what had just happened. The cat had been there, and then it had just faded out. It couldn't have been a god in disguise, could it?

"That's an interesting notion, but gods can't fade out." a voice supplied from somewhere on his left.

Yeah, I know that, Herc thought absently. Then did I imagine it?

"Couldn't have." the voice continued, "If you had been imagining it, where did the letters in the flour come from?"

Herc nodded to himself. So it had to have been a ghost.

The voice asked, "No offence, but why it that so hard to accept? People usually don't try to make up reasons for why you might not be the son of Zeus."

Yeah, but I've usually proved it by then, so they realize I am a demigod.

"What did you think I was doing the whole fading thing for? Wasn't that proof enough?"

It was just about this time that Hercules realized that he hadn't said anything in this conversation yet. His companion was doing all the talking, and yet he (for the voice sounded male) had been answering Herc's thoughts, as if he could hear them. Herc turned his head to take a look at the owner of the voice. What in Greece is going on?

"It's quite simple, Hercules. The dead can hear you when you think of them. Since you're thinking of me, and I'm dead, then I can hear your thoughts. And I never liked staying silent when someone was talking to me."

Perched on the fence near Herc, there was a teenage boy wearing a clean white cotten shirt with white leather pants and boots. He looked close to fifteen, with pale skin and shoulder-length long hair that was so light blond it was almost white. Herc looked very hard at him and realized with a sickening feeling that he could just make out the outlines of things on the other side of him. The boy was transparent. "You're a ghost, aren't you?"

The boy nodded. "Over a year and counting."

Herc cleared his throat and tooked straight ahead. "I though ghosts only came out at night."

The boy laughed. "Nope. Just the ones who like to scare the living."

"And, I take it, you're not that kind of ghost?"

"Nope." the boy replied. "I have only two reasons why I'm floating around here instead of hanging out in the Elysian Fields. One is so that I can watch over my sister. The other is so I can keep my brothers from getting murdered like I did."

Herc looked back at the ghost. "How many brothers do you have?"

The ghost shook his head. "I don't know." he refrased that. "I have no real brothers. They are actually step brothers and half brothers, that kinda thing. You know?"

"Only too well." Hercules knew what it was like to have more brothers than you knew about. He was still meeting sons of Zeus all the time. "So, how do you protect them all, since you don't know them all?"

The boy shrugged. "The guy who killed me sorta had an obsession with killing all my brothers. So I decided that while I was a ghost, I would follow my murderer around and that way I knew who he was planning on killing next and was right there to warn them. It seemed like a good idea at the time."

"Easy way to meet all your brothers, too." Herc said.

The boy smiled. "That too."

"You been able to save them all so far?"

The boy turned troubled eyes away from Herc. "No." he replied simply. "I couldn't save one of my brothers."

Herc took a deep breath to rid his mind of the thoughts that had popped up. Of Lucious being obsessed with killing his own brothers, of seeing Pollox hanging to the end of a rope over metal prongs, while Hercules himself had been tied to a post nearby. A horrible new thought came to mind. "The latest brother that your killer had picked out, he doesn't happen to go to the academy, does he?"

The boy nodded.

Damn. And I was really hoping for at least a month without more psycho killers. I suppose I should at least be happy that it's not *me* the killer is after. For once. "You know the name of your killer? I'll keep an eye out for him." Herc offered.

The boy turned clear blue eyes up and looked straight into Herc's own blue eyes. "Yeah." the ghost said. "His name is Lucious."

~~~~~***~~~~~

To be continued!


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