Disclaimer: This story was written just for fun and is not an attempt to make money or infringe on any copyrights or trademarks. Feel free to quote from this or print it for personal use, but please don't steal it publish it without my permission. The characters of Young Herc, Iolaus, and the rest of the crew belong to USA studios and rennasance pictures, whereas Holly, Bryn, and Roswella belong exclusivly to me. Thanks to the series 'A Hitchhicker's Guide to Outer Space' for inspiration. Any sentences you recognize belong to them.
Summary: Hercules meets a girl who's not as different from him as he thinks.
Author's Note: This is the fourth story in "The New Cadet" series, but you don't have to read the other fics to understand this one. I do not profess to be an expert on the ancient religions, faiths, or cultures depicted in this story. This is my own personal work of fiction based on some creative rewriting of history and myth. Any myths and heroes that may be mentioned later in the story exist however though they have been adapted for this story. I mean no disrespect to any faith or culture and advise readers not to take the political and religious allusions in this story as fact but rather research yourself before coming to conclusions. I have no idea if Mnemosyne even had priestesses or how they were trained, so that part is all from my imagination
Chapter 1: Prologue
To be continued!
"The night is my companion, solitude my guide..."
- Sarah McLachlan
Thunder shouted and rain pelted the earth as a small, lone figure walked quickly through the woods in search for shelter. Lucky for the mysterious being, there was a cave opening nearby. A small cat, raven-black fur flattened to it's skin, crept into the cave, alert for any previous owners. But the cave was empty. With a small sigh, the cat disappeared and a young maiden appeared in it's place. The girl couldn't have been more than seventeen summers old, with long black hair streaming down to her waist. She quickly peeled off her drenched cloak and laid it on some dry rocks nearby. Deftly retrieving an item from the cloak before discarding it, she took the item and set it in the floor at her feet. The girl started murmuring, gazing intently at the object.
It was a clear white crystal sphere, slightly smaller than a handspan in diameter, which started glowing fiercely at the girl's first words, and growing brighter as she continued chanting. Finally the girl judged it to be bright enough, and she turned to look around the cave. It was a large cave, probably man-made to provide travelers like herself with shelter when they are caught outside during bad weather. There were some cheap but warm blankets folded along the wall, and a waterproof leather sack that might hold some dried berries for the hungry traveler seeking shelter during a storm. She noticed a hole in the wall at the back of the cave and, scooping up the glowing orb, she explored. The hole was a crude doorway that entered into another large room. This one, though, had a hot springs in it, and the girl smiled in anticipation of a warm bath. She walked over to the water's edge and peered in. There was steam floating off of the spring, but the water was as still as a mouse in a serpent's line of sight. The girl frowned slightly as the surface clouded up briefly, but then smiled as two glowing eyes appeared.
"Hello Mother." The girl said, sitting cross_legged beside the water, "I haven't heard from you in a long while."
"Hello daughter." the queen of the gods replied. "How is your process?"
The girl said, "I am doing well. Mnemosyne has accepted me as a priestess, and has released me from my vows to learn the secrets of the crystal sphere." she gestured to the glowing orb. "So far I've gotten it to glow and ignite, but I don't know how I will learn more about it." she looked at the eyes in the water appraisingly, "Do you have something you want of me, Mother?"
Hera ignored the question, "Where are you headed to next?"
The girl replied, "To Cheiron's Academy, in hopes that learning how to control my body will help me control--"
"NO." the voice cut her off.
"What?" the girl asked.
"No. You will not go to that academy. Choose another." Hera commanded sternly.
"But mother! Cheiron's is the best academy around. You want me to go to a second-best school?"
"No, dear." the queen of the gods spoke, "I just will not have you going to the same school Hercules goes to."
"Mother." no one command her, especially her mother who was rarely there whan she needed her. The girl did not share her mother's hatred of the demigod, and she would not even consider going to the second-best school. "I'm afraid that I must disagree with you. Cheiron's Academy is the best, and I will not settle for going anywhere lesser just because my stepfather's half-mortal son is also there." she kept talking, knowing her mother's next idea, "Nor will I kill Hercules for you, or participate in bringing harm to him while I'm there." she could feel her mother's anger condensing, but there was no more for the girl to say so she remained silent.
"All right." Hera said at last, in a cool tone doing little to hide the boiling fury the goddess was feeling. "I will give you one last chance to redeem yourself. For if you do not, I will lift my protection order from you, and leave you vulnerable. And I know for a fact that my husband has been bent on making you mischief since he found out you were my daughter. Without my protection he will be free to strike at you in any way he desires." the queen of the gods paused, wanting to sweeten the deal. "And if he does not kill you, I will send Ares to finish the job. Do you still wish to defy me?
The girl shook her head. "I do not wish to defy you. I wish to go to the best academy, and if doing so causes you to lift you protection and turn away from me, then so be it." then a fire lit in the girl's eyes, giving a hint to a fury that could be just as dangerous as her mother's, "And you sending Ares to assasinate me is an insult. He can't even defeat Hercules. If he is the best weapon you have, maybe I'm better off without your protection."
"Very well." the queen of the gods whispered, and the eyes on the pool disappeared. The girl sighed once again at the troubles of her life, before shedding her clothes and disrupting the stillness of the spring to bathe and think.
Far above the clouds and inside the temple of Zeus, the king of the gods turned off his scrying pool. So... his wife's daughter was now without protection... it was the perfect time to strike, to get the girl out of the way in a quick, expedient fashion. He though for a moment. This girl was a strange one. Born half-mortal, she was raised with Mnemosyne in the hope of becoming a priestess. Then she had been caught learning about the egyptian deities with her best friend, and his wife had punished her by giving the girl her friend's godhood and immortality. For most people this punishment would seem like a reward, but this girl actually *wanted* to be a mortal, so it was a punishment.
He could not strike at her while she was a child, for she was under two protection orders: Mnemosyne's and Hera's. But now was the time that all priestess'_in_training had to brave the world without the protection of their benefactor. Zeus had been looking for loopholes in Hera's protection, when the idiotic girl got it lifted herself. He wasn't sure if the girl was really brave or just really suicidal, but it didn't matter. Now was the time to act. He looked back in on his stepdaughter, and saw that she was asleep. He quickly transported her and her belongings (which wasn't much, just a dry cloak, a crystal ball, some blankets and a leather bag of dry food) into the Labyrinth, willing to let the minotaur do the dirty work for him. Smiling slightly, the king of the gods leaned back and closed his eyes, happy with a revenge carried out.
"This worries me for several reasons."
"It's called the forbidden zone...no one knows what lies beneath it's sands...but whatever it is, no man has ever seen it and lived to tell the tale."
- Adventures in the Forbidden Zone
"Okay. I'm going to go, uh...away from you."
- No Way Out
All was darkness, a damp, shiny darkness.
And there was no sound, no noise at all, except for the echoes of her own breathing, which sounded worried. And the more she listened to them, the more worried they began to sound. She began to walk.
There was a slight glow coming from the moss on the walls, but it wasn't enough to see by, and she often tripped over roots on the floor. One hand flew out to touch the wall as she regained her balance, and she snatched it back quickly as she felt the slime that was covering the walls on either side of the path, and a spider skittered across the back of her hand. "Eww! Gross!" she exclaimed, shaking the spider off with a jerk. "Sorry Hecate," she added as an afterthought, "I just can't deal with your eight legged friends until I figure out where in Greece I am."
After she wiped the slime onto the hem of her cloak, she pulled out the crystal sphere from a pocket inside the cloak. She held the sphere in both hands, closed her eyes, and muttered a few choice words until she felt the crystal turn warm. She opened her eyes and looked around, holding the now-glowing orb like a candle. Now that she could see, she only felt worse, for attached to the walls, one every thirty paces or so, were strange and horrid cocoons. She walked down the hallway, and felt queasy when she saw the remains of what had been a person inside one of them. She walked quickly farther down the passage, holding the glowing crystal in one hand and lifting the hem of her long black skirt with the other hand. She was so busy watching that she didn't trip again, that she almost walked into a piece of wall. The girl held up her crystal to see that the passage split into two winding paths.
She coughed very slightly. She listened to the thin ghostly echo of her own cough trailing off among winding corridors and sightless chambers, as of some great labyrinth, and eventually returning to her via further unseen corridors.
This had happened to every noise she made, and it unnerved her. She tried to hum a cheery tune, but by the time it returned to her it was a hollow dirge and she stopped.
Impulsively, she knelt and studied the floor, looking for a trace of footsteps. If other people had been trapped in this maze-like structure, at least one of them must have found a way out. Just as she had hoped, there were several different footprints on the ground, and they all went the same way. She was about to follow the tracks, when a thought struck her. Maze-like structure...Could this be the Labyrinth? the thought made her smile, because she had heard tales of people escaping the endless maze, escaping the... Her smile froze as she recalled the myth of the monster that inhabented the labyrinth. Nah, she thought after a moment, It can't be. Besides, there's no such thing as a minota...
A roar from behind her cut off her thought as if in response to her thought, and she raced down the corridor following the footprints, wishing to the gods above that she was going away from the monster, and not towards it. She had run about a hundred paces, dodging the cocoons and swerving around corners, when a root tripped her and she crashed to the ground. Pain shot through her leg and she realized she had twisted her ankle. There was no way she could outrun the beast now. Dimming the light in her crystal sphere down to where it was impossible to see, she scooted herself to the nearest wall and huddled close to it facing the wall, glad this was an unslimy spot and hoping the minotaur would pass her by. She could feel the vibrations in the floor as the beast walked down the passageway and he was getting nearer. Seeing a flicker of light on the ground, she realized with horror that he was carrying a torch, and that there was no was in Tautarus that he was going to walk right by without seeing her. Rolling over to face the threat coming down the corridor, her mind ran over her options. She was a full goddess, but she was so inexperienced that she couldn't throw fireballs or energy bolts. She couldn't dematerialize, either. Hera's protection order had been lifted, so she could count on no one but herself to save her. She was so frightened and in pain that there was no chance of gathering to concentration needed for changing her form, so it came down to weapons. The only knife she had was tucked in the boot of her hurt ankle, and she couldn't reach it without calling unwanted attention to herself. That left the crystal sphere. It was all she had, and she clutched the stone to her chest as she waited for the beast to come within firing range.
She shouldn'd be so afraid. A daughter of Hera should be fearless. The gods knew she had hung around Ares, Discord, Strife, and Mnemosyn enough to not be afraid of any god. But legendary monsters didn't follow the rules of gods. She tried to summon up strength from her goddess-half, but it wavered dramatically when the Minotaur came into view.
She knew what a minotaur was supposed to look like: half bull, half man. But the reality was much different than her expectations. The light of the flickering torch he held shed plenty of light to see by, while making the Labyrinth and it's inhabitant seem even more surreal than it already was. The head of the minotaur was that of a bull, fierce, menacing, and topped by a huge pair of horns that curved up and back. His body was technically human but plenty scary. The creature's hands were big and powerful, with long sharp nails. He was wearing a loose fitting tunic, which gave a glimpse of a well-muscled chest. He was also clothed in dark leather pants and boots. Just then he stepped into firing range, and she used all her godly strength to throw the crystal at the creature's head. The light from the torch flashed as it caught the crystal, and the Minotaur noticed it just in time. The muscles in his arm rippled as he moved with almost inhuman speed to snatch the missile out of the air and slow it's momentum.
The minotaur's eyes sought and found the girl hiding against the wall, and locked eyes with her for a moment before returning his gaze to the crystal to study it. The girl murmured two words and the crystal ignited. The minotaur dropped the orb and cast an accusing look at the girl while he shook his slightly scorched hand. She expected him to eat her alive at any moment, but she was wrong. "What didja do that for?" he asked in a hurt tone.
The girl woke and sat up quickly, her eys adjusting to the dim light cast by the torches carried by the guardsmen as they made their rounds, protecting the city of Corinth. She breathed deeply of the cool night air, and willed her racing heart to slow. Once she was fully awake, she wondered at what was happening. _Why am I dreaming of what happened three months ago?_ she slowly rose to her feet and lifted the tent flap to climb out into the deserted marketplace. It was near mid night and the stars were out, shining brightly. She gazed at the constilations and wondered, _Why are you showing me this, Morpheus? What is going to happen?_
But there was no answer, and eventually the girl sighed and climbed back into her tent to await the morrow and anything the days ahead might bring.
It was a bright spring day, and the sun shone down on the two cadets walking along the road towards Corinth. The dirt path was hard packed by the hundreds of travelers that had taken the road before them, but there was no sign of anyone else on the path today. The taller boy had medium length blond hair and had a leadership air around him despite the fact that his old yellow leather tunic and dark leather pants did nothing to hint that he was half god.
His companion, a slightly older boy garbed in simaler dark leather pants and a colorful patched vest, energetically kept up with the demigod's long strides. The sunlight bounced off his golden curly hair and a mischevious grin lit his face as he playfully argued with his long-time friend.
"Come on, Herc. It'll be fun!"
Hercules just shook his head. "Why do you want to, Iolaus? You know it's all fake." They had been over the same subject for the whole walk, and he was tired of the topic. Up ahead were the gates to Corinth and, upon seeing them, Iolaus redoubled his efforts. He jogged ahead of his friend and then turned around and walked backwards, facing the demigod.
"That's what you said the last time we wandered around the marketplace, and we found Ruff in that freak show. Who knows what we might find this time. Besides," Iolaus said, grinning, "Jason said that there was a new fortune-teller in town. Are you afraid of having your fortune told?
Hercules shot his friend a look. "No, I'm not *afraid*. I just think it's a scam."
Iolaus frowned. He had one idea left, guarenteed to hook Hercules... yet he hesitated, knowing how sensitive, not to mention obsessed, Herc was about his father. They were almost to the city gates when he decided to play his last card. Jason had said that he had heard the girl was hot, and Iolaus was desperate for a date. And, he reasoned to himself, It just might help Herc too.
He turned around and walked straight. "You're probabally right." Iolaus said, appearing to give up. "Besides... what in Greece would you want to know about your future? I'm sure you're fine with not knowing when you're going to meet Zeus for the first time." Just as Iolaus had known he would, Hercules stopped dead in his tracks, considering this new possibility. Iolaus kept on walking like he didn't notice. "I bet it would have been a waste of time." He hid a smile as he heard Herc jog to catch up to him.
"I never said that it would be a *waste*." Herc objected, knowing that he'd lost the battle, but determined not to reveal how much his interest had sparked at the mention of finding out more about Zeus. Ever since he had seen the outline of his father by using the fate's eye, he had yearned to see more. "I just said not to get your hopes up." he said, trying to sound casual and failing. "We mineswell try it, just for fun."
Iolaus grinned, knowing he'd won. "Well, if you insist, Herc."
A raven-haired girl opened the flap of the tent and stepped out into the bright sunlight. Shading her eyes, she took in the hustle and bustle of the marketplace around her and frowned. She disliked being in a city... one was always looked at strangly if they didn't fit in, and she definatly didn't fit in. She knew it wasn't the godly blood running through her veins that was the problem, although it had taken away her brother. It was mostly the fact that she didn't give a flying Furie's arse whether she fit in or not. The only reason she was here was to gain a few dinars before heading to Cheiron's Academy. Her long time friend, Holly, had sent for her. Otherwise she would never subject herself to the glances and stares that came with a big city like Corinth.
Though she had to admit that if she dressed more like everybody else that she wouldn't be so conspicuous. But black was her favorite color and she didn't care if the clothing she was wearing was unusual. She was an unusual person. Not many people could claim to be the half-mortal daughter of Hera, so she thought she had a right to wear whatever she wanted.
Her garb was black, her blouse off the shoulders and skirt large and flowing when she moved. Her feet were bare and calloused, and there was a mother-of-pearl triangle hanging at the base of her throat, suspended by a thin gold chain around her neck. Her strange clothing and dark golden green, haunting eyes were said to remind most of a gypsy, and even thought she wasn't wearing the rainbow of colors that gypsies were said to wear, the black she wore seemed to glow, and was too provocitive an outfit to be of the 'mourning' style.
Seeing nothing in the marketplace she thought of value, she turned back to her tent. It too was unusual, made of a gold colored cloth that glittered in the noonday sun. Beside the tent flap was a small wooden sign: 'Roswella, Crystal Worker'. She ducked back inside her tent and sat down. It was so much cooler inside the tent, and the racket outside was muted to almost whispers. She smoothed the cloth that covered the makeshift table and carefully set her crystal ball on the table. After rearanging the pillow that served as her seat, she reached out to grasp the small bench that served as a seat for the customer. She gasped as her fingers touched the pillowand a rush of images flashed through her mind: Two boys walking down a path, one tall with a godly aura, the other shorter with curly hair but not to be disreguarded lightly. Her half/step brother Hercules and his friend Iolaus. A man, tall, dark, and powerful... Ares. And a flash of the minotaur in the Labyrinth. Her eyes shot open and she took in a ragged breath. Could this have something to do with why she'd been dreaming of the past for the last few nights?
To be continued!