The Less Than Legendary Journeys

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Letters Home From The Academy
by Liz Sharpe

It seems - and who so astonished as they?
- that they had held back material facts; that
they were guilty both of "suppressio veri" and
"suggestio falsi" (well-known gods against whom
they often offended); further, that they were
malignant in their dispositions, untrustworthy in
their characters, pernicious and revolutionary in
their influences, abandoned to the devils of
wilfulness, pride, and a most intolerable

_Stalky & Company_, Rudyard Kipling (1897)

To: Alcmene of Thebes, at The Farm

Dear Mother,

Headmaster Cheiron told us all write to our
parents in case you heard about the barbarian
invasion from some traveler and worried. We are
okay. Only one of our barracks and two
out-houses got torched. Luckily, none of us got
skewered or incinerated because we were all down
in the caverns looking for Iolaus when it

Oh yes, please tell Iolaus' family he is okay.
He can't send a message now because of his

I got to hang from a vine in one of the pit
traps. It was neat. We never would have found
Iolaus in the labyrinth if it hadn't been for the
dragon. Cheiron got mad at Iolaus for going to
fight a monster alone without telling anyone.
Iolaus said he did tell him, but it was during
ghidra attack on the Academy, so he probably didn't
hear him.

Did you know that if you throw olive oil on a
ghidra, the olive oil will make a big fireball?
The ghidra turned out to be flameproof, but the
big practice hall wasn't. Neither were some of
our clothes.

Jason is going to look weird until his hair grows

Cheiron is a fine teacher. Don't worry, he is a
great warrior too. And, he is teaching Jason how
to handle a chariot. But he only lets him take
the reins out in the high meadow where there aren't
any villagers around. Anyway, all we ever
see up there are Bacchae.

Lately, Cheiron has had to spend a lot of time
supervising the work crews on the new barracks,
so we are trying not to cause him any extra
worry. Cheiron has lots of improvements planned
on the new building. That's why they dug the
cellar so deep, and it explains the special
reinforced doors and all the iron bars and chains
and stuff they're bringing in.

Cheiron isn't crabby like some of the
instructors. He didn't even swear when we had to
tell him about the problem with the breechcloths.

Oh. And guess what? We are learning about
emergency medicine, too. When Lilith took a wild
swing with her practice spear and impaled her own
foot, we got to see how a tourniquet works.

Also, Jason and Iolaus and I got pretty sick
behind the barn. Cheiron said it probably was
just because we drank too much of the leftover
wine from the fertility festival. He said they
made themselves blind that way with the liquor
they swilled in the woods back home. I'm so glad
he was exiled from his people and became our

We will be back at the school as soon as the
angry villagers relent, if Cheiron gets the
galley fixed. It wasn't his fault about the
shipwreck. The galley was hardly leaking at all
when we set out after the pirates.

Cheiron said that with a trireme that old you
have to expect something to give way. That's
probably why he can't get anybody to pay him any
dinars for it. We think it's a super boat. He
doesn't care if we get blood on it, and he said
one day soon we can all swing from the rigging.

We might get to ride back in the wagon. It gets
pretty crowded when all the cadets try to pile on
at the same time. Cheiron used to let us take
turns playing in the cage on the back, until the
Hestian virgins stopped and threw rotten fruit at

This morning all of the other cadets were
practising climbing up the cliffs and rappelling
down. Headmaster Cheiron wouldn't let me because
I might attract Hera, and Iolaus was afraid he
would slip because of his bandages. So instead,
Cheiron let us go hunting up in the badlands. It
was great. You can still see some of the
crucified skeletons from the barbarian
encampment, up at the ruined temple.

I have to go now. We have to send our message
scrolls and still stop the berserker cultists
from making their virgin sacrifice to Ares.

Don't worry about anything. We are fine.


* * * * *

To: Erythia of Thebes

Dear Mom,

Headmaster Cheiron is making us all write home,
in case you heard about the barbarians and
worried. I told him you'd only be worried if you
heard from me, but he wouldn't listen. So don't
have a heart attack when you get this. We are

I hope you can read my writing. It's tricky
holding the stylus in my teeth, but I'm getting
the hang of it. Cheiron said the healer said
that if I'm good, they'll untie me from all these
bandages by the end of the week. Cheiron must've
been more worried than he let on, because that's
the only time he's ever smiled at me.

Anyway, just one of our barracks and two
out-houses got torched in the raid. Luckily,
none of the cadets or instructors got skewered or
incinerated, because I had cleverly led them all
down to the caverns when it happened.

The others lost my trail and got turned around in
the labyrinth. Hercules ended up hanging from a
vine in one of the pit traps. But you know Herc.
He wasn't afraid and later he said it was neat.

You would be proud of me. I tracked the dragon
all the way to his hoard. I was holding him at
bay single-handed when the rest of the cadets
finally showed up and barged in. That's what
screwed up my timing. The burns are healing fine
and the claw marks are long but not very deep.
The cough from the fumes has pretty much gone

Cheiron got mad at me for going to fight a
monster alone without telling anyone. Well, I
did tell him. But it was during the ghidra
attack on the Academy, so he probably just didn't
hear me.

Hercules found out that if you throw olive oil on
a ghidra, the ghidra doesn't care, but the olive
oil will make a big fireball. It was very cool,
except for the sparks. We saved all the
buildings except the main practice hall. These
other bruises are from when Hercules tackled me
and rolled me around in the courtyard to put my
clothes out. He forgets how strong he is. I can
get a new vest, and it's only my left wrist and
it didn't slow me down any in the maze.

Jason looks pretty tough with no hair. He says
he may keep that look, because the girls really
go for it. I thought about trying it myself, but
Hercules said don't you dare. I would've gone to
find some shears right then, except I'm still
working on the knots Cheiron tied in that last
set of bandages. They're kind of special. So I
guess I'll stay curly and blond for now.

We'll be back at the school as soon as the angry
villagers relent. If Cheiron gets the galley put
back together. It wasn't his fault about the
shipwreck. Jason just got over-excited and
forgot he was holding the tiller when we spotted
the pirates. It wouldn't have happened if their
leader hadn't climbed up in the rigging topless.
That woman had an incredible physique, anybody
would've been startled. Anyway, I know Jason
didn't mean to run over that smelly old fishing
skiff. He did try to miss them, but then that
shoal was in exactly the wrong place. The galley
only broke into a few pieces, so Hercules grabbed
one and we made it to shore before my bandages
got totally waterlogged.

Maybe Cheiron can ask Fiducious to come get us in
the wagon. It's not very comfortable when all
the cadets pile onto the load bed at once, but
sometimes people throw food or coins at us
through the bars. Myself, I'm not too proud to
turn down free offerings from passing admirers.

Just as long as Cheiron doesn't let Jason take
the reins. Jase gets even more excited driving a
team of horses than he does with the galley. You
should see what was left of the haystacks, last
time Jason was practising with the war chariot up
in the meadow.

This morning all of the cadets were drilling at
scaling the rocks and sliding down ropes on the
cliffs. Hercules didn't want me joining in
because of the bandages, and Cheiron was still
antsy over that thing with Herc and the stolen
chalice and Hera and all. So I talked him into
letting us go hunting. As usual, Herc had no
clue where we were headed when I took the turn
toward the badlands. He turned as green as grass
when I showed him the crucified skeletons left
over from the last time the barbarians camped
out, up where the old temple used to be. That'll
teach him to be such a mother hen.

Oh, and you'll be happy to know that we're
learning some basic field medicine, along with
our other training. When that really annoying
Amazon girl nailed herself in the foot with her
practice spear, we got to see how a tourniquet
works. Hey, she didn't have to take the safety
padding off just because I dared her to. The
instructors are always telling us how warriors
have to have good judgment and keep their heads
no matter what.

Also, Jason and Herc blew chunks big time behind
the barn when we went back there to sample the
leftovers from the fertility festival. Centaur
wine really packs a punch. I didn't get sick,
but I'm not sure how I wound up back with the
healer again. I thought I'd gotten most of the
knots loose in the dressings, too, but when I
woke up they were so tight I could hardly
breathe. Cheiron said it was a miracle I'd been
able to move at all. He added some extra
bandages to be on the safe side. My head was
hurting pretty bad, but the healer wouldn't let
Cheiron put a tourniquet around my neck even
though he promised it would make the pain go

I have to finish now and get myself mobile again.
We're headed into the local market to send our
messages before the packtrain leaves, and then I
bet we'll have to stop the berserker cultists
from making their virgin sacrifice to Ares.
Jason and I have got to do something about that
real soon. This game of keeping the bloodthirsty
priests off Herc whenever there's a disaster is
getting old.

I know Dad will throw this in the fire before you
finish reading it, so I left some of the raunchy
stuff in to piss him off.

Don't be upset about anything. We are fine.
I'll swing by the house and say hi next time I'm
in the area,

(your son) Iolaus

* * * * *

To: Ophistus, Steward, Royal Palace, Corinth

Honored Ophistus,

Headmaster Cheiron requested all the cadets to
send word to their guardians, in case news of the
most recent barbarian incursion reached you from
some other source, and caused any disturbances.
Please reassure anybody who needs to know. We're
all fine.

The damage to the facilities was minimal. Only
one of our dormitories and two out-buildings were
actually destroyed. Luckily, none of the cadets
or staff were wounded. I was leading a search
and rescue expedition composed of virtually the
entire school down in the caverns, looking for
Iolaus, when the barbarians passed through.

Oh yes, and would you please arrange to contact
Hercules' and Iolaus' mothers, and make sure they
know their sons are okay? Iolaus is temporarily
incapacitated, so Hercules is a nervous wreck.
Cheiron told them to send their own messages, but
it might be diplomatic to make sure the word gets
through, if it can be arranged without an obvious
fuss. Thank you.

The expedition to the caves turned into quite an
adventure, though it meant we missed the
barbarians. Hercules was pulled off his feet by
a strangler vine and swung out over a pit trap
full of spikes. Here's my favorite quote of the
week from him: "It was neat." Despite Hercules'
persistence in the face of numerous deadly
obstacles, we never would have found Iolaus in
the labyrinth, if it hadn't been for the dragon
Iolaus found first.

I would never say this to his face because it
would just encourage him. But I'll tell you in
confidence: it was a very impressive sight when
we charged around that last bend and saw Iolaus
holding the dragon back somehow, all alone in the
middle of the flames and fumes and bloodied
treasure. It couldn't last, though. In the end,
it took all of us to put the monster down. Even
so, I'm not sure we would have triumphed, if
Hercules hadn't seen Iolaus fall and gone totally
berserk. That was an impressive sight, too. We
had to leave without the treasure, since the
tunnels were starting to collapse by then. Too
bad, but at least the cave-in will deter future

Cheiron was understandably annoyed with Iolaus
for going off alone like that without telling
anyone. I was kind of annoyed myself. It sets a
bad example for the other cadets. Plus, it took
forever to get everybody patched up when we got
back. And then we still had to deal with the
mess the raiders had made while we were gone.

When he woke up, Iolaus insisted that he did tell
us, but it was during the ghidra attack earlier,
so maybe we hadn't been listening. Just once, I'd
like to be able to get away with a story like

Oh, and speaking of the ghidra, my hair got a
little singed, and then the barber must not have
been listening when I asked him to just neaten it
up. Don't be surprised next time you see me. I
might keep it this short for a while. It's easy
to take care of and a couple of people have said
they liked it and all that. Some of the other
guys are talking about shaving theirs too.

You will have noticed from the direction on this
scroll that we're not actually at the Academy
right now. We're camped near a village a little
way down the coast. Due to a couple of minor
incidents with the townsfolk, Cheiron felt a
temporary strategic absence would be wise, so we
took the galley out on maneuvers. We plan to
return when the townies have had time to settle
down a little.

Unfortunately, however, there's been a small
problem with the galley. I may have to request a
draft on the Exchequer, though the gods know the
leaky old barge can't have been worth much. If
he could've gotten a decent price, Cheiron would
have unloaded it on some unsuspecting person long

Nevertheless, I was the one at the helm at the
time, so I'll assume full responsibility for the
wreck. I'm not sure exactly what happened. We
were pursuing a xebec crammed with notorious
pirates, when suddenly they hoisted some fell
device into the rigging, and I was temporarily
rendered blind. I recovered just in time to see
that a fishing boat had blundered into our
course. I put the tiller over immediately, which
was when we found out about the shoal. And that
was that. Don't be alarmed, everybody made it to
shore safe and sound. Well, thanks to all his
bandages, Iolaus swam even more like a stone than
usual. He managed to swallow an amazing quantity
of sea water before Hercules realized he'd have
to use what was left of the bowsprit to keep them
both afloat, even if it did mean paddling for the
beach while hanging onto a huge pair of wooden
tits for dear life where all the rest of us could
see. Anyway, I say, good riddance to the worm-eaten
piece of unseaworthy rubbish. Some day I'm
going to have a much grander vessel all my own,
with a proper crew of heros to sail her. Then we
won't have to embarrass ourselves spending
alternate shifts bailing and prying splinters out
of our butts, when we should be faring forth on
nobler endeavors.

If Cheiron decides to have Fiducious come pick us
up in the wagon, I hope he'll let me drive.
Nobody else at the Academy can handle a team the
way I do.

Cheiron has even encouraged me to take the war
chariot up to the high meadow now and then, to
hone my skills. It was a pity about the
villagers' haystacks last time. But I had to use
something to help defend myself against those
Bacchae. Even Hercules and Iolaus agreed that it
was a clever ruse.

This morning Cheiron had all the cadets out on
the cliffs, with the seniors showing the new kids
the how to climb a rockface and rappel down
again. Hercules and Iolaus begged off the drill
on some pretense. After a while I saw them
headed for the woods with their hunting gear.
They brought a nice buck with them when they came
back. Hercules was pretty pale and subdued at
dinner, though. He wouldn't talk about it, but
at least neither of them seemed to be bleeding
anywhere new. Iolaus looked pretty pleased with
himself, though, so he probably managed to get
them into some scrape, even though he's still
pretty much a walking bundle of linen bindings.
It's kind of amazing he can get around at all.
Cheiron just looks at him and shakes his head.

Oh, and we're learning some rudimentary field
medicine, too. Do you remember that incredible
spitfire Lilith, the Amazon girl I told you
about? Well, she had a little accident during a
training session with her spear, and her foot got
cut pretty badly. I offered to give her a stick
to bite on when they tightened the tourniquet,
but she just yelled and punched me. I think I'm
making progress. This time she hit me in the

I have a humble admission to make. Everything
you told me about Centaur wine is true. After
the last fertility festival, Hercules and Iolaus
and I went out behind the barn to try some. It's
not a happy memory. What I remember of it.
Hercules doesn't have much of a head for liquor,
so it wasn't long before he was annihilated all
the way back to breakfast the day before. I was
a little better but not much. Iolaus can usually
handle a surprising amount, especially when you
consider how small he is. But after the second
amphora, he couldn't even sit up straight. It's
probably a good thing we got so sick. If we hadn't
gotten the poison out of our systems, I
don't think we would have been able to crawl back
to our bunks. Iolaus kept daring me to stand up,
but I knew I'd fall off the ground if I let go.
Next morning when we finally came to, we found
out Iolaus was back in the healer's care again.
I thought I'd heard him moving around after we
got back, but I was too busy making my bed hold
still to get a good look. I hope he's okay.
Cheiron has forbidden him to move even one finger
for a while. He says it's for his own good.

Well, I'd better wind this up and get it sealed.
We're going into the village now to try to catch
the pack train before it sets out, and then we'll
probably have to stop the berserker cultists from
making their virgin sacrifice to Ares again. I
wish Hercules would hurry up and get himself laid
(if you will pardon the frank expression). This
is getting to be a real nuisance.

Again, please don't be alarmed about anything.
We are fine.

Fondest salutations,

The Less Than Legendary Journeys