Awaiting Destiny


By Brynhild Ensomhet


Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I have no association with Fox Kids, USA Studios, and whatever else in charge of Young Hercules. I own Cemia. This story was written just for fun and is not an attempt to make money or infringe on any copyrights or trademarks and so on and so forth.
Summary: When Hercules meets a girl who's half mermaid and half centaur, Ares just has to intervene.
Author's Note: This is an unfinished fanfiction. Hopefully some day I'll get around to finishing it.


[The Pond | Enrolling | Candles Out | Seeker | Exchange | Sight | Planning | Throne Room | Fish | Ares | Deeper | Trade | The Kiss | More to come!]

Hercules was walking along the path to Corinth towards a pond that was on the way there. Herc had woken with a strange urge to swim today, and since all three of his best friends were busy, he had decided to take off.

It wasn't their fault, he mused as he walked. It was just that having your three best friends be a busy king, a never-learned-how-to-swim-er, and a female cadet...It didn't help you improve your backstroke.

As he was thinking, he arrived at the lake. The wind was still, and the surface of the lake was as smooth as steel. He was about to strip to his bathing suit and jump in, when he spotted another swimmer. It appeared to be a teenage girl floating face down in the middle of the lake. His alarm grew as he squinted to see her better.

::She's not breathing!:: was the thought that ran through Herc's mind as he stood there. Her long blond hair fanned out around her. She just bobbed there semi underwater, and he knew there was no way she could still be alive and not be making ripples on the surface. Herc thought that her family wouldn't want her left floating in the lake without a decient funeral pyre, so he decided to swim out and tow the poor girl's body to shore.

~~~~~

Cemia floated, becoming almost one with the water. By the gods, she loved being sourounded by water, just as much as she loved running with the wind.

She guessed that one reason she loved the wind and the water so much was because of all they could tell you, if you knew how to listen. For instance, Cemia heard splashing below her, which meant there was a school of fish swimming around.

Another kind of splashing caught her attention. Cemia listened. She guessed from the sounds of breathing, and of water splashing around, that it almost had to be a teenage boy. By the speed of which she heard him getting closer, she knew he was strong, but he probably hadn't swum much recently.

She knew that there was an Academy nearby, so she wasn't surprised when she felt the stranger guy grab her arm and start towing her to shore. ::More than likely some cadet trying to be a hero:: she thought to herself, ::Well, I'll let him think he's saving me until we reach the shore, or else I might scare him to death::

So she let her body go limp, a little smile on her mouth.

~~~~~

Hercules towed the girl to shore and set her on the grass, then knelt beside her. He checked for a pulse, knowing that there wouldn't be one. He was almost knocked off his knees by how strong it was. He stared at her chest, and saw it barely rise, as if the girl was pretending to have drowned. "Give it up." he said, sitting cross-legged at the girl's side. "Why don't you open your eyes and come back to the realm of the living?"

He watched as a tiny smile formed on the girl's mouth. "What? And ruin your noble rescue?" she said in a mock-shocked voice. "I wouldn't think it!"

Herc snorted in response and the girl laughed as she sat up, and began wringing water from her hair. Her eyes were still closed, so Herc used this chance to study the girl. She was deeply tanned, with long blond hair that she weaved into a loose, thick braid which reached her waist. She was wearing a pale yellow leather halter-top with a matching skirt. Her sandals were slightly worn, but in good condition. On her left leg from her knee to her ankle was a large tattoo that looked like a piece of seaweed wrapped around her calf.

Herc realized that he hadn't introduced himself yet, so said, "Hi. I'm Hercules." and waited with a slight feeling of dread for the usual response. Something like: Oh! Hercules! I know you! You're the son of Zeus! You did such and such... He was always a little embarressed whenever someone had heard of him. He never knew how to react.

Herc waited, but the girl just quietly wrung water out of her braid with her eyes closed. Herc stared at her, as if by sheer will he could learn where she came from. ::Could she actually have never heard of me?:: he wondered.

~~~~~

::Well:: Cemia though to herself ::I've been 'rescued' by the heroic Hercules. Wouldn't the mergirls back in the clan be jealous...But the minstrels didn't sing about his rudeness and how over-inflated his ego was. He's been staring at me for a whole minute!:: Cemia grinned mischievously in her mind. She would just have to bring hero-boy's ego down a notch.

~~~~~

Herc watched as the girl turned towards him, opening her pale green eyes. "What did you expect me to do?" she said sarcastically, "Salute and sing 'Hail, the Conquering Hero?'"

Herc blushed slightly in embarrassment. That wasn't what he was expecting, but...her hand patting his knee snapped him back to attention.

"It's okay." she was saying. "It's hard for those whom minstrels sing about. Everyone thinks they know you." a slightly bitter note tinged her voice, "Anybody who believes a minstrel is a fool."

"Not really." Herc replied, "If you believe every word a minstrel says, that's foolish, but there are some truths in the songs."

"Yeah?" she asked him skeptically, "How are you supposed to know if what the minstrel sings is truth or fiction?"

"Well," Herc answered, "First you have to decide if you really *want* to know whether it's true or not. I mean, some people might be happy not knowing. But if you did want to know, you caound start by using common sense. Or you can ask someone who was involved to find out what happened. You see?"

"Oh ha ha." the girl said sarcastically. "You're so funny. A riot."

Having no idea what she was talking about, Herc decided to change the topic with a compliment. "That's a nice tattoo on your leg."

~~~~~

::Tattoo?:: Cemia thought, ::what tattoo? I donít have a...:: She ran her fingers over her leg, then smiled. "It's not a tattoo."

"Then what is it?" Hero-boy asked.

Cemia grinned as she peeled the lakeweed off of her leg. "It's a piece of kelp that stuck to my leg when you pulled me out."

She tore a section off of the kelp and popped it in her mouth. She offered another piece to Hercules, "Want some?"

~~~~~

Hercules accepted the offered kelp and put it in his mouth. Why not? Cheiron often said how important it was to try new foods..."Eww!" Herc exclaimed, barely keeping himself from spiting out the vile substance. It tasted horrible! The sour salty taste was so powerful it almost made him gag.

"I know." the girl said as she popped another bite in her mouth. "It's so bland compared to seakelp, but it does okay for a snack now and then."

It was strange. Herc saw that the girl's clear green eyes were open and looking towards him, but she wasn't quite looking at him. She seemed to be gazing at something over his shoulder. Herc flashed a glance over his shoulder, but couldn't figure out what the girl was looking at.

He turned his attention back to the present while she said, "I guess it's not really their fault. It's just that they never include all the details." It took Herc a moment to figure out that the girl was talking about minstrels again.

"Details?" Herc said as he tried to swallow the awful gunk in his mouth.

He succeded. The girl replied, "Have you ever heard the tale of Mertari and Tauron?"

"Yeah." Herc said, nodding. "The tale of the mermaid and the centaur falling in love." Feducious had assigned them to write a scroll about it last year. As the tale went, there was a war brewing between the mermaids and the centaurs almost two decades ago, when one of each species fell in love with the other. Mertari the mermaid and Tauron the centaur were banished from their clans when their family learned of their love, but the war dissolved as an indirect result of it. It was said that the Ares, who was quite angry with them for ruining his war, eventually tracked the lovebirds down and killed them. It was one more reason to add to all the others of why Herc didn't like his half-brother. "It's a good story."

"It's not just a story." The girl replied, her voice laced with bitter sadness. "They were my parents. I'm Cemia, daughter of Mertari and Tauron. My friends call me Mia, at least they would if I had any friends."

~~~~~

Herc was about to say something really lame, like 'I'll be your friend.', but stopped himself just in time. Cemia looked so angry and sad that he had the weird feeling that she would punch him if he said something like that. Herc frowned, absorbing what she had said. ::Man:: he thought, ::I'm bummed at Zeus for not being there, and here Mia has been living without either of her parents:: Herc was about to ask her more, but as he watched her stewing angrily, popping bits of kelp into her mouth, another mystery popped into his mind. He puzzeled outloud, "There's no kelp in this pond."

~~~~~

Cemia was completely caught off guard. She had expected hero-boy to say something really lame, like, 'I'll be your friend', and she was ready to sock him one when he did. But changing the topic back to lakeweed? It was so unexpected Mia had to laugh. "Yeah, there's a small patch down on the lake floor."

She could feel him looking at her strangely as he said slowly, "There's no floor to this pond. It's bottomless."

Cemia smiled, "It has a bottom. It's about twenty leagues down...not very far to swim."

~~~~~

"Not very far?" Herc exclaimed. "Nobody can hold their breath for twenty leagues down and back. What are you talking about?"

Cemia shook her head. "You're not very observant, are you?"

It was Herc's turn to be caught off guard. "Observant?"

Mia lowered her head and pulled her ear forward. Herc leaned over, and saw what looked like gills behind her ears. He leaned back, thinking. "It that all you got from your mom's side of the family?"

Cemia grinned, "As if. Watch." She stretched out her legs and propped herself on her elbows.

Herc didn't dare blink as he watched Mia's legs fuse together, while growing paler and rougher. Her sandals were fusing to her feet and both were growing bigger and thinner. It only took moments and the change was complete, and there was a mermaid reclining in the grass in front of Herc. He noted that her tail was made of scales the yellowish of what her leather skirt had been, and she still wore her leather halter shirt. But she still hadn't looked straight at him. She was still gazing at something over his shoulder.

"Cool, huh?" Mia said.

"Yeah." Herc replied as Mia's fin turned back into human legs. "And you can turn into a centaur, too? That must be fun."

"Yeah, sure. A blast." said Mia, the bitter note entering her voice again. "Tons of fun being stuck between the land and the sea, with no place for me anywhere."

Hercules was struck by a major wave of deja vu. Those were simaler to the words he had said to his mother over a couple years ago. Then she sent him to Cheiron's, and his opinion of his life changed. "Maybe you should come to Cheiron at the academy. He might help you see your way."

"Oh hardy har har. You really like to make cracks about it, don't you?" Mia snapped.

"What?" Herc exclaimed as he stood up defensively.

~~~~~

Cemia frowned as she stood up and faced him. Although it had been almost a decade of living with her 'disability', the topic was still a sore spot for her. "Don't play dumb with me. I don't like being teased about it."

"About what?" she heard hero-boy reply, sincerely confused.

::Can he really not tell?:: "By the gods. You really aren't observant if you can't see it," she said.

~~~~~

"See what?" Herc was getting tired of this game. He couldn't tell what this girl was talking about. The only thing that he didn't understand was why she didn't look at him. There was nothing else...

Her hands at his cheek jolted him back to the present. He looked at her. Cemia had placed both her hands on his head, one on either side of his face. He wrinkled his brow as she seemed to correct her line of sight. It was really weird. They were so close that she should have been looking straight into his eyes. Herc looked into her eyes, but they just gazed blankly back at him. Suddenly, he knew what was wrong, what she was talking about. "You're blind, aren't you?"

Cemia broke away from him, murmuring, "Hero-boy gets a clue." A long pause developed between them. Cemia sighed, "I'm guessing this is the part where you take back your offer to visit the Academy." Before Hercules could correct her, she continued, "Don't feel bad. You aren't the first to change your mind. I doubt a blind girl would do very good there, anyway."

"Quite the contrary!" Herc exclaimed, "You'd be automatically ahead of all the other new cadets."

Even without any emotion showing in her blank eyes, her body language conveyed that she didn't believe the demigod. "Explain." She asked suspiciously.

"Part of being a new cadet is learning how to use the weapons. Once you master that, then you have to learn it all over again with a blindfold."

She grinned, "You're right. I would be ahead of the game. Maybe checking out your academy wouldn't be so bad." She shrugged, "Maybe I will go and talk to this Cheiron guy, and go from there." she walked away from him for a couple steps, then turned towards him again. "Do you want a ride?"

"A ride?" Herc thought he might as well be Echo since most of the conversation was him repeating Mia's last words.

"Yeah. You can show me where Cheiron's is, and we'll both get there faster."

Herc was once again confused. He hadn't seen a chariot parked nearby, and besides...how would she have driven it, being blind and all? "Okayyyy...where's the chariot?"

"Who needs a chariot?" She asked, grinning. As Herc watched, a yellowish glow appeared behind her, which grew brighter and bigger and more solid as Mia's legs grew hairy and her feet grew smaller and smooth and harder. Within moments, the change was complete and Herc was looking at a female centaur. Her horse half looked like a pinto, with yellow hair and a long blond tail. As Herc began shaking his head no, Mia asked, "This is much faster. So, do you want a ride?"

Herc hit himself in the head with his palm ::of course she can't see you shaking your head. She's blind!:: "No, that's okay." Herc said instead, "I can walk."

"Like Tartarus you're walking." Mia snorted. "And here's a few reasons why. One, you're soaking wet. Two, think of it as a free ride for 'saving' me from getting all pruny." Hercules had to smile at that. "Three, With your help we can both get there faster and you can keep me from running into other travilers on the road. And four," he had to lean forward to hear as she mumbled, "I would like the company." she raised her voice to the normal volume. "So stop fooling around and lets go."she finished, prancing a little towards the direction the Academy was.

"I'm not fool...Hey, wait." Herc said. "How do you know where the academy is?"

Cemia shrugged, "My father told me stories about Cheiron and directions to get to it. And besides," she replied, "I can smell it." she clawed the ground with a fore hoof, and then said, "So, you coming?"

Herc smiled. It was no use to argue with her, so he walked over and mounted her horseback and Mia took off.

~~~~~

It didn't take long before they were outside the main gates of the academy. They were both dry from the sun, and Mia wasn't even breathing hard. Herc slung off of Cemia's back and waited for her to change back.

"You gonna lead the way?" Mia said, still in centaur form.

Herc was like, "Yeah, sure. I just thought you wanted to change back."

Mia shook her head, "Cross-breed manners. It's only polite to be in my father's form when I meet Cheiron. If I was in my mortal form, it makes the suggestion that I think my centaur form is inferior to my human one. I don't, and I don't want to make that impression."

"Ahh." Herc said, and led her in the gates.

~~~~~

Cemia followed Hercules closely, not wanting to get lost. She heard the ring of steel on steel coming from a training room as they walked by it. Hercules described the academy to her as he led her into a big building, down a hall, right, sharp left, and it was the first room on the left. She heard a slight click of hooves from inside the room, and the sound of a tail swishing, before Hercules knocked on the doorframe.

"Come in." she heard a voice say, and then Hercules grabbed her hand and led her into the room. Once she was in, he let go of her hand and said, "Mia, This is Cheiron, our headmaster and owner of the Academy."

~~~~~

Cheiron looked up as Hercules entered his office, surprised to see him back from his swim so fast. And with a centauress. Cheiron shook his head. It seemed as if Hercules couldn't seem to stay out of things. He swept his gaze over her. Cheiron was sure that he would have heard about the birth of a pinto centauress...it was so rare. There hadn't been one since almost two decades ago...

Then Hercules said, " Cheiron, this is Cemia, daughter of Mertari and Tauron." Ahh yes. Cheiron remembered now. He had been comrades and friends with Tauron before and after Tauron fell in love with Mertari. He had met their little pinto colt, Mia, a long time ago. He had heard about the terrible incident eight years ago, when Ares found and killed them, and had heard that Cemia would be living with a clan of mermaids while she grew up. Cheiron had tried to find her once, but she had already left the clan and nobody knew where she had gone.

"I am sorry about what happened to your parents." Cheiron said, coming around his desk to face Cemia. "I knew them well." He noticed the way Cemia's gaze was blank, and recognized it from when Lilith had accidentally lost her sight a couple months ago. There had been rumors too that Ares had taken her sight after he killed her parents. Apparently this was true as well.

"The fates can be cruel." Mia replied, "But thank you."

The three stood in silence for a moment before Herc mentioned, "Cemia said she wanted to enroll here."

"Is this true?" Cheiron asked her.

Mia nodded. "Well, I've lived long enough with the mermaids, and now I feel that I must learn more about the world before I can hope to revenge my parents. Hercules suggested coming here, and I was thinking about accepting the invitation."

"I'm sure we can get you in." Cheiron said.

~~~~~

Mia had decided to change into her mortal form before Hercules showed her around the grounds. It didn't seem to draw as much attention as her centaur form had when she had walked in, but Cemia could still feel many sets of eyes watching her. She had been introduced to many people, though she doubted she would be able to keep the names and voices straight. Quickly evening came, and Cemia was relieved that Cheiron let her sleep in an empty bunk across from Hercules and Iolaus' cots.

"So, Cemia. If you're half centaur and half mermaid, then how come you can look like a mortal?" She heard Iolaus' voice ask her as she climbed into her cot. His voice was easily recognized, since he seemed to not have stopped talking since he ran into her and Hercules when they walked out of Cheiron's office.

"Iolaus..." Hercules said in a warning voice as she heard him get into his own cot.

"It's okay." she said to Hercules. She didn't really mind answering questions. It was a whole lot better than staying silent and being stared at like you were the snake-haired Medusa or a two-headed calf. "When I was born, Artemis blessed me with a third form, human, to make it easier for me to adjust to the other two."

"Were you born blind also?" Iolaus asked.

Mia shook her head sadly. "No. I lost my sight after Ares murdered my parents. He wanted that to be the last thing I saw."

Herculesí breath caught, at the same time Iolaus let out a low whistle.

"Candles out, cadets." she heard Cheiron call through the dorms.

"That must have been horrible." she heard Iolaus say after a minute. "I don't know what might be worse than that."

"How about Ares stealing your sight and then saying that he would let you live in blind suffering for a while, and then he'd hunt you down and kill you too?" Cemia said nonchalantly.

"He said that?" Hercules asked, shocked. Not at the fact that Ares had said that, but at how Mia could tell what happened to her like it was an every-day occurrence.

"Yeah." Mia shrugged. But I figure that one day he'll show up and I'll say 'Hello. My name is Cemia. You killed my parents. Prepare to die.'"

"You'd kill Ares?" Hercules asked.

"Of course I couldn't. He *is* a god. How about, 'Prepare to feel very little pain if any at all while I try in vain to hurt you in a hope to revenge my parent's deaths?' Better?" she said with an edge to her voice.

"Sorry. I didn't mean to insult you or your mission." Herc said quietly.

Cemia sighed. "It's not you. It's just the old memories. I can still hear my mother's screams, see my father collapse to the ground covered in a scarlet sheet of his own blood. I used to have nightmares all the time, but they've tapered off through the years." Even in the dim light Herc saw her literally shake herself, then smile. "But it's better talking about it than keeping it inside." she yawned. "What do you say we just get to sleep now?"

"Good idea." Iolaus said, ready to doze off. "Go to sleep and dream of Cheiron's oats for breakfast."

"Oats?" Mia was happily surprised. She hadn't had her favorite food since she she started living with the merclan. and it was another thing she sorily missed. "Do you have them alot here?"

"Oh yeah." Hercules and Iolaus said in unison. Herc explained, "Cheiron sets the meals. We think it's a centaur thing."

She grinned as she lay back down on her cot, "Yep. I'm definatly going to like it here."

Hercules and Iolaus shared a glance and Iolaus grinned, "Uh oh. Looks like more culinary changes to look out for, Herc." Mia burst out laughing, the guys joinging in moments later.

After all the other cadtes had fallen asleep, Cemia gave a small contented sigh before also drifting asleep, marveling at the new turns her life had taken.

~~~~~

Several weeks passed and her life fell into an enjoyable routine. Cemia was happy. She didn't remember feeling this carefree since before her parents were killed. She woke early, practiced fighting with Hercules, Iolaus, or their other friend called Lilith, ate with the cadets, tried to avoid Iolaus' practical jokes, and started to be able to find her way around the academy by herself.

But after a week of being cooped up in the academy after years of travelling out in the open, Mia ached to stretch her centaur legs and run. When the weekend break rolled around, Hercules and Iolaus were going to town so Cemia headed straight towards the forest that was nearby. She was about to change her form when she heard a voice.

"Hello." a man said in a very handsome slightly accented voice a few yards ahead of her. "What's a girl like you doing in a forest like this?"

Mia wasn't sure how to respond, so she said, "Just wandering. You?"

"Searching." he replied.

"For what?" she questioned.

"Purity. What do you search for?"

"I don't know,Ē she said. "Revenge? An end to my problems?"

"Problems?" he asked

"My sight. A god took it away several years ago."

"Did you try asking for it back?"

Cemia laughed. "Somehow I don't think Ares is the kind of god who would do something nice just to do something nice."

"Who said anything about Ares? Artemis' sacred hunting grounds are not to far away. And it doesn't usually hurt to ask."

Mia had never though of that. And the stranger was right, it usually *didn't* hurt to ask. "Why not?"

"I regret to say that I won't be able to accompany you," the seeker said, "But I can at least point you in the right direction."

"Thank you. For everything." Cemia said as she left in the direction he had indicated.

The seeker watched her walk away until she was out of sight, then a wicked grin appeared on his face. "No, thank you." he said in a non-accented voice. He motioned with his fingers and his clothing was changed back to the usual black leather pants and vest. "With your help you'll soon be dead, and if things go according to my plans, so will Hercules." Ares chuckled evilly and de-materialized.

~~~~~

It wasn't too long before she reached the sacred grounds. Cemia didn't know how to properly ask favors of gods, so she said, "Artemis?"

She felt the goddess appear. "Why have you called to me, maiden?" Artemis said inside Mia's mind.

"Um, I came to ask you for my sight."

The goddess seemed to consider, "And what is in it for me?"

::that seeker didn't mention I would have to bargain for it:: she thought. ::I guess I shouldn't have thought this would be easy::

~~~~~

Artemis was slightly grumpy. She wasn't sure why, she just was. Now a foolish maiden was trying to weedle a favor from her with no idea how to pay for it. ::Mortals:: she thought in disgust. They never had any idea what a god desires.

"What do I have that you would want?" the girl who had called her asked.

::smart girl:: the goddess thought to herself. Letís see, what did she want? Artemis took a closer look at the girl's aura. It seemed like she had a fish/horse air around her. There was also a god's signature in her aura. Artemis looked at the signature closer and was shocked to realize that it was she own. ::When did I ever give a mercentaur a human shape??:: then she remembered. ::oh yeah. that time Aphrodite bet me that Mertari and Tauron would be able to have a kid before bro zapped them. Taught me never to bet on love matters against Dite. "You have three forms. Trade one for your sight."

The girl gulped.

~~~~~

::well, which one don't I really use?:: Cemia thought for a second. She took a deep breath. ::Hope I'm not making a mistake:: "I'll trade my mer form for my sight."

The goddess nodded. "Very well." she disappeared.

Cemia had squeezed her eyes shut during the brief shot of pain when Artemis had taken her form, and lifted a hand to the back of her ear and felt smooth skin instead if the rough edges of the gills she had been born with. Then she slowly opened her eyes. "Wow." Mia breathed.

~~~~~

As she slowly walked back to the academy, Cemia reveled in her newfound sight. Faded memories of colors were suddenly bright as ever, and she made new memories of the blue of the sky, the green of the trees, and the brown of the dirt road. Mia caught her breath and stopped as a little bird swooped down and flew across the path ahead, uttering a sweet cry that she had heard time and time before, but had never seen the owner of the voice.

Spotting a small spring not too far from the road, Cemia had the urge to find out what she looked like. She aproached the spring and leaned over to look ar her reflection...

...and saw her mother's face looking back at her. The same small nose... the same high cheekbones... and the same clear green eyes. A treamendous sense of sorrow and loss overcame her and she fell to her knees, hugging her shuddering self as dry sobs of grief racked her kneeling form.

~~~~~

Slowly she woke and pushed herself from the ground. The sun had dipped lower in the sky and Mia realized that she had cried herself to sleep. Touching her warm and swollen eyes, she got to her feet and stumbled over to the spring to spach some cold water on her face and try to sooth her dry throat. Starting to get over the shock of seeing her mother's features on her own face, she headed back to the Academy.

She approached the academy, taking in the tall surrounding walls and the heavy metal gates. The walk back had clamed her down and now she was feeling much better and was excited to see the Academy for the first time, as well as her best friends. Cemia let her gaze wander over the rock walls and the stone and wood buildings. It was like she was walking into one of her father's stories, it was just how he had described it so many years ago. She heard the familiar ring of steel on steel coming from the training room that she and Herc had walked past on her first day. Without quite realizing it, her feet steered her towards the dorm. She could hear Hercules and Iolaus' voices from within, and remembered all the practical jokes Iolaus had played on her in the last few weeks. She walked in, keeping an eye out for any more tricks Iolaus had laid out, when she saw Hercules for the first time. He had heard her walk in and turned towards her, smiling.

By the Gods, he was beautiful. Slightly shaggy blond hair, deep blue eyes... Mia felt her heart melt, even as her eyes involuntarily unfocused and looked away from him.

"Hey. You're back." Herc said as she walked over to her bunk. "How was your run?"

Cemia had noticed the air-filled pig's bladder that Iolaus used on Feducious last hoolie day lying on her bed where she usually sat and avoided it, sitting further down on her cot. She couldn't believe it, she had forgotten to take the run! Of course, regaining your sight after eight years kinda makes you lose track of details. "Okay." Out of the corner of her eye she saw him give her a questioning look, but she ignored it. She didn't know quite why she was still pretending to be blind... she guessed because it was like a protective shell around her, and because she could pull a Tartarus of a practical joke on Iolaus. If she could just think of one...

Another cadet was standing there, shorter than Hercules. He looked older, though, with long curly blond hair and sparkling blue eyes. ::Who do we have here?:: she thought as she noticed the vest he was wearing. It was a horrible orange color, like somebody had thrown up on it. Besides the vest, though, he was very handsome.

"Well, what do you think?" he said to Hercules, strutting around like the rooster Mia remembered from when she was a kid.

"I think the same thing that I thought back at the market, Iolaus. It just isn't your color." Herc replied.

::That's Iolaus?!?!:: Mia was shocked. Two of her best friends were drop-dead gorgeous hotties! She smiled a little as she remembered the phrase the mergirls back at the clan would say about any merman they swam across. Just then a blond girl walked in. Mia knew that this had to be Lilith, the only other girl at the Academy.

Lilith picked up the whoopie cushion and tossed it onto his own bunk, "Very ingenious, Iolaus." Cemia motioned beside her, and Lilith took a seat as well. "And why are you wearing such a gross color vest? It's so ugly."

"The girl who sold it to me didn't thing so." Iolaus replied, slightly offended. "She said the color brought out my eyes."

Cemia couldn't help it. She laughed and said, "Iolaus, that color had nothing to do with your eyes. She probably said that because no one else would buy it." she smiled, then froze because all three cadets were staring at her. "What?" she said, glancing from face to shocked face.

"You can... see?" Iolaus asked.

Mia blushed. She hadn't meant to tell her friends in this way, but why not? "Yeah. I got it this afternoon."

"How?" Hercules said.

Cemia shrugged. "I went walking this morning like I was planing to. I ran into this guy, a seeker or something. We talked a bit, and he suggested I ask Artemis for my sight back."

At the goddess's name, Herc stiffened for a moment. "And she did it? She just gave you your sight for free?"

Mia replied, "Uh...no. I traded my mer form for it. But I didn't use it much anyway. Why?"

Hercules looked a little worried. "Oh, no reason. It's just that, deals with gods usually have strings attached. I don't want you caught in a trap."

Cemia smiled. "Don't worry, Hercules. I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself."

~~~~~

"That's what you think." Ares said to himself as he eavesdropped on their conversation. Satisfied that this part of his plan could take care of itself, the god de-materialized. He re-materialized at a humble cottage, the home of the best sorcerer nearby. ::It also helps that he worships me:: Ares thought to himself as the surprised man jumped to his feet, spilling the soup he had been eating. ::clumsy mortal:: Aries thought disgustingly to himself, and he put his most charming smile on and said, "Is it finished?"

The man stuttered, "A-Ares. You're here..."

"Well?" Ares said, beginning to lose patience.

"Oh, um, you see," the man stalled, "I found the spell you needed, and it'll work perfectly... but..."

This mortal was getting on his nerves, but Ares needed him for a little while longer. "What?" he said, annoyed.

"The spell. It takes a month to work." the sorcerer said quietly.

"WHAT?!?!" Ares shouted, and the mortal cowered and fell to his hands and knees before him. The cowering pleased him slightly, and he felt better. "It takes a month?" the god asked in a calmer voice.

"Yes, your godliness. Time must be spent gathering the ingredients, drying herbs, or else the spell will not work."

Ares grumbled to himself and asked, "You don't have any dried herbs around here that you could use?"

"No," the sorcerer said, "Some of the ingredients will only be usable for a few days after they are picked, other are more complicated."

Ares sighed. He hated waiting to kill his little brother and the girl, but he had enough experience with Strife to know that if he rushed things, Hercules would slip through his fingers again. "Very well. Start work immediently on the spell. You know which lake I ment, don't you?" the mortal nodded his head vigorously, apparently glad that Ares would let him live. "Call me when the work is finished."

The mortal bowed and Ares disappeared.

~~~~~

The month passed smoothly. Everything was going great. Cemia took advantage of her sight and loved every second of it, while on the other side of the spectrum, Ares' sorcerer had finally finished the spell.

"This cow belongs to me, King Jason." the voice rang out in the quiet of the throne room. Another argued the first.

"He's mine, my king! I raised this cow from a little calf with my two hands! You have no idea the amount of time and money..."

"I believe you already told this story." Ophistus cut the second man off.

"Yeah, like twice." Jason muttered.

A warm breeze swept in through an opened window, not quite enough to stir the tension between the two farmers, the cow, the advisor, and the young king. But the next thing that came through the window was. A leather ball bounced across the table, scattered dishes and rolled back to the door of the throne room. The cow gave a startled 'moo' as Iolaus and Hercules stumbled into the throne room, with Cemia on their heels. Iolaus scooped up the rolling ball before realizing that there were other people in the room.

"Uh, sorry. Don't let us interupt you." Iolaus apologized, trying to keep Hercules from stealing the ball.

"Uh, yeah, but my point, eh?" Cemia grinned, grabbing the ball out of Iolaus' hands, dribbling, and tossing the ball through the crown hanging over the doorway.

Jason grinned at his friends, while Ophistus commanded, "This is a throne room, not some common coutyard! Leave now!" Hercules picked up the ball and went to stand by Cemia and Iolaus, who were leaning against a wall, out of the way.

Realizing that he'd have to settle this quickly before he could join his friends, Jason pointed at one of the men, "Look, you can have the cow." before the other man could speak, Jason pointed at him, "and you can have a cow from the royal herd. A royal cow." he looked at each of the men, "Everybody's happy, Everybody has a cow. Moo, moo, moo. See ya later." Jason smiled, satisfied that this argument was over. The men left.

Jason was about to join his friends when his advisor spoke. "There is one more paritioner." Ophistus consoled the young king of Corinth.

"Aw, come on. That's what you said three paritioners ago." Jason grumbled. "Can I go now? I just want to play... Hi." He managed a royal smile as the small group from one of the outer villages approached. "What can I do for you?"

"A ferocious monster is attacking our village, Your Majesty! All our young men and women are being chased by it. You must help rid us of this monster." one of the older men in the group said.

"What kind of monster? A giant? A gorgon? A hydra?" Jason asked the villagers.

"Even worse! A fish!" one of the women cried.

Hercules and Cemia exchanged a skeptical glance, while Iolaus stifled a laugh. "You guys are scared of a *fish*?"

The elderly man shot an angry glare at the curly-haired cadet. "That's right, boy. A fish bigger than a cottage, with legs and a huge pincher that curves over its head, like a scorpionís tail." As the man described, Cemia leaned closer to listen. Her mer-friends had once told her of large fish with scorpion-like claws. But they had never said anything about fish with legs, so Mia was interested.

Hercules had made his way over to Jason and said, "Hey Jase. You want us to check this out?"

Cemia, with Iolaus in tow, followed Hercules. "It doesn't sound like much. We should be able to handle it."

Jason looked from his friends to the villagers and back to his friends. He knew about Cemia and her extensive knowledge of marine life. "If you guys don't mind... I'd really appreciate it." Assured that his friends didn't mind, he turned back to the villagers, "These are my friends. They will accompany you back to your village and will defeat the...er...giant fish."

"Thank you, your highness." the villagers said, bowing before they left.

Jason sighed. There went his hope for a normal afternoon.

~~~~~

Hercules just stared at the thing. It was big, but not as big as the giants he'd fought. It was definitely weird. It really was a huge fish, with four short thick legs and a claw that started near it's tail and curved over its head. There was also a short antenna with a rather large and ugly growth on the end of it that glowed slightly. It was blue-black, and was covered in a hard outer skin. The three cadets and the elder of the village stood on a small rise overlooking the village where the monsterous fish was roaming around, looking for victims.

"How many people have been hurt so far?" Hercules asked the elder.

He replied, "None... yet. The monster seems to be content chasing people back and forth. Whenever it gets too close, we are able to distract it long enough for them to get away."

"I wonder how much longer it will be content with just chasing." Iolaus said.

"Maybe it's looking for someone." Mia murmured.

At the sound of their voices, the monster's head turned towards the group. Hercules could have sworn that something clicked it the fish's mind right before it charged them. Hercules and Mia dodged left towards the pond, while the elder and Iolaus dodged right. Herc and Mia started running, and the fish followed them.

"Split up. I'll try drawing it away from the village." Herc told Mia as they ran, and she nodded. On Hercules' signal, they split and Mia ran one way, while Hercules yelled and shouted at the fish as he ran the opposite way. But the fish's attention didn't even waver as it turned to continue in Mia's direction. Herc came to a stop and just stared in horror as the monster gained distance. "Mia! Faster!" Hercules yelled.

~~~~~

Mia heard Hercules' yell, but before she could put on a fresh burst of speed, she felt a claw wrap around her waist and all of a sudden she was hanging in the air.

Exciting, isn't it? a deep male voice spoke in her mind. The whole disembodied voice thing reminded her of when she had spoken with Artemis. But it reminded her of something else too. She couldn't quite place her finger on the memory, since her head was still spinning from acending so fast.

Who's there? she thought wildly.

Look around. the voice commanded. Mia's gaze searched from her higher vantage point, until she saw a figure standing over by the edge of the forest. He was grinning evilly, and even though she had never seen him before, she realized where she had heard his voice before. It was the seeker, the one who had suggested that she ask Artemis for her sight. He wore elegant black leather, much too expensive for a mere seeker.

Who are you? Mia thought. What do you want?

The figure and his voice ignored her first question. I want you and Hercules dead, Mia. And watching this fish kill you will hurt Hercules as much as watching me kill your parents hurt you. After you are dead, it will be so much more enjoyable torturing little brother.

Mia wasn't listening anymore....as watching me kill your parents... She knew now that it was the God of War himself who had been using her. There was a sickening feeling in her stomach as she realized his plans...that he meant to have the fish drown her in the pond nearby...the waters that had once been so comforting would now kill her. She would not get a chance to revenge her parents now. Her shocked mind was still spinning from the height she was hanging at, and she could barely think straight. The only concept her clouded mind could grasp was that she was a failure...

"CEMIA!!!!"

Hercules' shout brought her out of her depression. She could see Hercules trying to save her, the same Hercules who had outsmarted Ares time and time again. The thought gave her hope that she would get another chance. She would not let Ares win this time. Even now she felt the claw's grip on her loosening as Hercules punched the fish. She wriggled in its grasp, and then broke free.

She hit the ground rolling until she was out of the way, and then stood up. Hercules was throwing in punches and kicks, while the fish was trying to knock him over with the claw. Mia's breath caught as the claw latched on to the back of Hercules' tunic. Then Hercules punched the fish extra hard and it went flying backward into the pond. But the monster was still holding on to Herc's tunic, and the force sent Hercules flying into the pond as well. Mia watched the fish splashdown and its legs disappear, but then it swam around and started to attack Hercules. Cemia and Iolaus could only watch, standing on the shore.

~~~~~

"Get 'im, Herc! You can do it!" Iolaus yelled above the splashing. "Teach that one-antennae monster a lesson!"

Cemia watched helplessly as Hercules fought the monster in the middle of the lake. She could have sworn her mother had told her about huge carnivorous fish with one claw like a scorpion's tail and one antenna with a ball-like growth on the end...wait! That's it!

"Hercules!" Mia shouted, "Hit the growth on the antenna! It's their weakness!"

~~~~~

Hercules was starting to get nervous. Here he was, fighting this monster fish every way he knew how, and nothing was working. He'd better think of something, or else he'd be fish food in a second. "Oh boy." he said as he felt the fish's claw grab on to his tunic again. The claw lifted Hercules out of the water, and angled him so that his feet were inches away from its mouth. ::Think of something!:: he yelled at himself mentally. Then he heard Mia's shout.

In lifting Hercules out of the water, the fish had accidentally put Hercules at eye-level with the growth on the end of the fish's antenna. Herc boxed it hard, and the fish froze in pain for a moment, before continuing to try and eat Hercules.

But a moment was all Hercules needed. He swung up onto the antenna and wrapped his legs around it for leverage before raining blows on the growth. After ten hard hits, the fish gave up and started heading towards the bottom of the lake. Hercules didn't realize anything was wrong until he felt himself being pulled under the water...deeper...deeper...

~~~~~

Cemia seemed to be watching in slow motion. She watched as Hercules slammed blow after blow at the antenna, and then saw the fish give up and dive beneath the waves. But the fish's claw had not yet let go of Hercules' tunic, so as it dived, it pulled Hercules under.

Without time for thought, Cemia ran into the water and dived after them. But the fish was too fast. Cemia hadn't swum a league before her lungs started pounding against her chest for air and she had to swim back to the surface.

"Go get help!" she shouted to Iolaus who was standing on the shore. Iolaus took off running towards Corinth. "Artemis! Goddess of the Hunt!" she called out once Iolaus was out of earshot, "I need you!"

The goddess appeared floating over the water. "Why have you called to me, maiden?" Artemis said inside Mia's mind.

"Hercules is in trouble and will drown unless I save him!" Cemia said, treading water.

Artemis repeated, "And why have you called to me?"

"Herc is sinking fast, literally. I need my mer form to reach him." Mia replied.

The goddess seemed to consider, "And what is in it for me?"

Cemia was ready for this. "You can have my sight back. I'll serve you for my life. I'll sacrifice my life for you. Anything. I must save him." Mia pleaded.

Artemis questioned, "Why 'must' you?"

"Because he did the same for me." Cemia answered.

"This sounds like an interesting offer. I will consider it." and the goddess disappeared.

Moments seemed like eternity before Cemia felt her legs start fusing together. Without wasting any more time, she dove straight down.

"Come to my sacred hunting grounds when you are finished. We will discuss payment then." she heard Artemis say in her head as she dove deeper and looked for Hercules. Mia felt a trace of dread at what the goddess might want for payment, but she shoved her thoughts aside. She had to find Hercules before he drowned. A several leagues passed...no monster. Cemia swan faster.

And then, not too far away, she saw them. The monster was diving down, Hercules trailing it in the claw's grasp. Mia frantically sped towards them, while sifting oxygen through her gills and collecting it in her mouth. She reached out, felt Hercules' weak wrist, and pulled her self along until she had reached where the fish's claw held on to Hercules' tunic. She grabbed Herc's tunic and gave a hard slap to the claw with her tail. The fish, realizing that it was about to lose its prize, turned swiftly around to fight. A couple hard tail smacks to the already sore antenna changed its mind, though, and the monster swam away.

Cemia checked Hercules' wrist and thanked the gods when she found his pulse. It was not as strong as it should have been, but it was there. She hoped he was only unconscious because of the lack of air. No time like the present to remedy that. She wrapped her arms around the unconscious Hercules, and locked her lips with his. Then she breathed the oxygen she had been storing in her mouth into Herculesí mouth. She kept sifting oxygen from the water around then and giving it to Hercules as they slowly floated towards the surface.

~~~~~

Herc blinked his eyes as he slowly came to. His somewhat groggy mind kept him from panicking as he tried to figure out what was going on. For some reason he felt very light, almost as if he was weightless, and he wondered if this is what one felt like after drowning and being eaten by a giant fish. The last thing he remembered was sinking in the water, and he wondered why he wasn't begging a ride across the river Stix from Charon by now.

After a moment, he realized that he was breathing, and that instead of breathing through his nose as he was acustomed to do, he was breathing through his mouth. On the heels of that discovery, he found out that someone was clinging to him with their lips locked to his. His eyes slowly focused underwater and he saw that the being he was mouth to mouth with was a certain blond mermaid. ::Not a bad way to wake up:: he thought to himself. Then he mentally grinned, ::Iolaus is going to be *so* jealous::

It was much too soon, in Herc's opinion, that they reached the surface of the pond. He reluctantly broke away from Cemia and they climbed onto shore. After catching his breath, he glanced at Mia who was sitting near him. It was then that he realized just what she had done. He had no idea whet she traded with the gods to give her merform back so she could save him, but whatever she had given up, he was grateful. "Thank you. For saving my life, I mean."

"Thank you for saving mine." Mia replied.

Herc smoothed his wet hair away from his face. "What was the deal?"

Mia watched him for a moment. "I don't know." At his quizzical glance, she elaborated. "Artemis gave me back my sight, but I don't know what the price is yet. I am to go to her sacred falls to find out. I may have to pledge my life to her."

Herc's expression softened. "I can't believe you did that for me."

Cemia looked into his eyes, "Whatever the price is, I want you to know that it was worth it to save your life." She smiled. "You're going to grow up to be a great man, Hercules. A hero. You will save many people. I know that whatever the price Artemis asks of me, it is less than what would happen to the world if you no longer existed to fulfill your destiny."

He lifted his had to caress her cheek. "Thank you." he said again.

"You're welcome." she murmmered.

Without really realizing it, he drifted closer to her, and she followed suit. Blue met green as they lost themselves in eachother's eyes. Closer still they leaned, and slowly they closed their eyes. Two pairs of lips drifted closer... and closer... and were about to meet...

"Herc!" Someone shouted. Hercules and Cemia haistily broke away and saw Iolaus running over a hill toward them. A moment later, many Corinthian guards appeared over the hill.

"I thought... we might need... the help..." Iolaus gasped as he tried to catch his breath and explain at the same time. He wondered why his both his friends were flustered, and why Herc was acting just like he did whenever Iolaus walked in on him and Cyane. Surely Herc and Mia weren't... were they? ::How come Herc always gets the girl?:: Iolaus grumbled half-heartedly.

The guards caught up to the threesome, and looked around for the fish. Not seeing their adversary, the head guard stepped forward and spoke to the two soaked cadets. "Then the monster has been defeated?"

"Yeah." Herc replied.

"In that case," The guard and his men smiled, clearly glad not to have to fight anything today, "King Jason has decreed that there will be a royal celebration of this occasion once you arrive back in Corinth."

Herc and Mia grinned and Iolaus shouted, "Party at the palace!"

To Be Continued...

~~~~~

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