It was about 11:30 a.m. on a normal day at Cheiron's Academy. Hercules was busy practicing his pole fighting drill Iolaus was sparring with Lilith and losing. Iolaus had just been knocked down for the fourth time in five minuets and he was still claiming that he wasn't warmed up yet. Just as Iolaus hit the floor for the fifth time Cheiron came walking into the room.
"Hercules," he said motioning the demi-god over, "I need you to deliver this weapons order to the blacksmith in town." He handed Hercules the scroll then continued.
"As a reward I'll excuse you from classes for the rest of the day." Since that idea greatly appealed to Hercules he was off down the road like a shot.
"Hey," said Iolaus, "Why does he get all the breaks?"
"Because he's not the one who is on the floor, again." Said Cheiron with a smirk. He turned and walked out of the room and practice resumed.
11 hours Later…,
Lilith, Jason, and Iolaus paced the floor in the dorm restlessly, Growing more and more anxious with each step.
"He should have been back hours ago!" said Lilith breaking the silence and give voice to the thought that they were all thinking. Just then the door swung open Cheiron entered the room. He looked grave.
"I'm afraid your fears were justified," he said, "I just returned from the village. The blacksmith said that Hercules never showed up!"
Iolaus headed for the door.
"We've got to find him." He said. Jason pulled him back.
"Iolaus, use your head," he said, "we'll never find anything in the dark!"
"Right," said Cheiron, "all of you get some sleep. We'll send out search parties first thing in the morning.
EARLIER THAT DAY...
Hercules stirred and opened his eyes. He found himself on his back looking into the inquisitive bright blue eyes of a ten year-old girl with light-blonde hair.
"Hi," she said cheerfully.
"Hi," said Hercules sitting up. He immediately became aware of the throbbing in his head.
"Are you okay," she asked, When Hercules grimaced and touched his hand to his head.
"I think I hit my head," said Hercules
"Well," said the girl, "that explains what you're doing here on the river bank. By the way I'm Nila."
"I'm," Hercules pause he realized that he couldn't remember anything back beyond meeting Nila.
"You're who," asked Nila.
"I-I can't remember," stammered Hercules, "I'm sure that I've got a name I just can't remember."
"It's okay," said Nila, "My sister told me that a hit on the head can cause people to lose their memory for awhile. Until you remember you're real name I'll just call you Jaden." Hercules got to his feet and rose gracefully to his full height. Nila grabbed his hand.
"Come on," she said, "you can stay with my sister and me until you get well."
She led Hercules over the hill and down the other side to a small house at the edge of the glen. Nila opened the door and pulled Hercules inside. Another girl, a very beautiful one, who looked like an older version of Nila, stopped dead in her tracks between the kitchen and the table when she saw her sister and Hercules enter the room.
"Jaden," said Nila, "this is my sister Nisha. Nisha this is Jaden. Actually it's not his real name but he got a bump on of the head and can't remember his real name so I told him he could stay here until he gets his memory back. Please let him stay." Hercules was impressed Nila had said all of that in one breath. He smiled nervously.
"Pleased to meet you," he said, "you're sister was kind enough to offer me your hospitality, but I don't want to intrude."
Nisha finally found her voice.
" O-of course you c-can stay," she stammered, "I was just about to set the table for the evening meal." Suddenly the color drained from her face as a smoky smell drifted in from the kitchen.
"My roast!" she cried running for the kitchen with Hercules and Nila at her heels. Quickly she pulled the charred remains of her roast out of the brick oven.
"Now what are we going to eat," she groaned. "there's not enough left to feed all of us."
"Don't worry," said Hercules, " I have and idea." He took a knife and cut off a small slab of the meat that was still usable, then turning around he took a ball of string from the sewing box on the table. The girls, wondering what he was up too watched as he went outside and selected a long stout stick. Flashing a smile over his shoulder he disappeared over the hill. About an hour later he came walking back over the hill carrying string of the largest fish the girls had ever seen. Hercules smiled as he walked by them into the house. With out a world he cut up the fish and thirty minutes later he sat a plate with perfectly cooked and seasoned fish filets and potatoes on the table. The girls sat there gaping at Hercules.
"You cooked," said Nila, "you, a boy, cooked something without burning or mutilating it!"
Hercules smiled, Nisha turned red with embarrassment.
"Yeah I guess I did," he said, "I can remember how to cook I just can't remember where I learned to do it or who taught me." As they sat down to eat it was finally Hercules turn to ask some questions.
"Do you live here all by yourselves." He asked. Nisha nodded.
"Our parents died when Nila was three. Killed in a raid by one of the warlords that King Aeson ran out of the area before he died." Nisha was about to continue when the conversation was interrupted by the sound of someone reigning in his horse outside the door. Nisha Jumped and ran to the window.
"Who is it?" asked Hercules standing up
"It's Captain Treybis," replied Nisha, "he works for the magistrate and his son Lyses."
"Well what is he doing here?" Hercules asked.
"Lyses thinks that my sister is his girlfriend," said Nila, "he can't get it through his thick skull that she doesn't like him. Because of that Treybis and his men think that they can come in here and demand our food whenever they want." Nisha turned to Hercules.
"Jaden," she said, "you'd better get out of sight. If he sees you here there'll be trouble." Hercules nodded.
"I'll wait in the other room." Hercules turned and disappeared into the other room. No sooner had he disappeared from sight than the door of the cottage was practically thrown open. And big burly man in a soldiers uniform burst through the door.
"Nisha," he thundered, "bring me food!" Nisha dished out the last of the fish and potatoes. Treybis wasn't satisfied.
"More than that, Woman!" he snapped
"That's all that I have," said Nisha.
"Humph!" said Treybis, "he reached over and snatched Nila's plate away.
"Hey that's mine!!" snapped Nila grabbing Treybis' arm. Treybis snorted, shoved her hard against the wall, and drew his hand back to hit her. Nisha grabbed his arm,
"Leave her alone!" She Cried
Treybis, now furious, threw Nisha to the floor and went for his sword.
"I'LL TEACH YOU TO DEFY ME!!!" he screamed. He raised the sword to strike when a hand grabbed his wrist a second had grabbed his belt and lifted him off the ground. In the next instant Treybis was thrown backwards into the opposite wall. He jumped to his feet and came face to face with Hercules.
"You don't who you're messing with, boy," he growled, "this is none of you're business so you got three seconds to get out of here."
Hercules stood there calmly for several seconds. Finally he spoke.
"I think my time is up," he said with a smirk. Howling with rage Treybis attacked. Treybis was one of the most skilled fighters in the area, so the girls were amazed when they saw Hercules dodge or block everyone Treybis attacks effortlessly. Suddenly Hercules landed a right-hook that spun Treybis around backwards. Hercules followed up the punch with well-placed kick to the rear that sent Treybis sailing out into the yard. Treybis landed face down in a mud-puddle 10 feet from the front door.
"And stay out!!" snapped Hercules before slamming the door.
"You were wonderful, Jaden" said Nila beaming at Hercules. Nisha was still staring wide-eyed at Hercules.
"I think she's impressed," said Nila giggling
"Don't be so happy about this, Nila," said Nisha Frowning, " I'm grateful to Jaden for defending us but, Now Treybis has been whipped he'll be screaming for revenge!"
Hercules was silent. He walked into the living room and slowly sank into a chair burying his face in his hands. Nila followed close behind.
"Jaden," she asked, "What's wrong?"
"What if I'm not such a good man," said Hercules, "you saw the way that I was able to handle that man in there. What if I'm one of the soldiers who have been mistreating you?"
"No," said Nila vehemently, "I know just by looking into you're eyes that you're not one of them. Their eyes are cold and hard yours are soft and kind. Besides wouldn't Treybis have recognized you and called you by name if you had been one of his soldiers." Hercules smiled
"You've got a point." He said
"I know I do, Jaden," Nila continued, "So stop worrying about you real identity because I'm sure that the man you really are is a good man too."
Jason, Iolaus, Lilith, Cheiron, the other cadets, and the Telequire Amazons had been combing the countryside for most of the morning. They had been up since the crack of dawn. They met up on the trail that Hercules use as a short most of the time when he was headed for town.
"I guess we all had the same idea," said Jason
"Yeah," said Iolaus, "if the big guy started out for town he probably went this way." The walked down the trail in the direction of the village. When they rounded the bend just up the hill from the river, their hearts sank.
A group of villagers were working to rebuild the foot bridge over the creek.
"Kesil," said Iolaus spotting someone he knew, "What happened?!"
"There was a freak flash flood half past noon yesterday," replied Kesil, "reduced the bridge to splinters."
The three cadets and the Amazons looked at each other. They were all thinking the same thing. Hercules left at 11:30 that morning and it would have taken about and hour to cover the distance between the academy and the bridge.
"The flash flood got Hercules," said Cyane, saying what they had all been afraid to say although her voice was threatening to break.
"How could there have been a flash-flood at the exact time Hercules would have been on that bridge?" asked Lilith. The answer came simultaneously from a dozen pairs of lips,
TBC please review!!