(A/N): I would have posted this chapter Saturday morning, but technical problems with the site alternately caused my update of the story summary to not be saved, or caused an error message telling me I "might be a spammer". As a result, the wiki version (which I did post yesterday) preceded this site's version for the first time in years.

The last chapter got only four reviews, which is the lowest in a very long time. I'm guessing that's because the chapter was little more than a continuation of the previous one, so people probably felt they didn't have anything new to say. This story did pick up four new Favoriters since the last chapter, though, and is now a Top 40 hit by that measure.


The next morning, after they had breakfasted, Brett went to school whilst his mother went to earn their daily bread. That evening, after they had dined and Brett had attended to his homework, Brett asked his mother to tell him more about her experience on Total Drama Island. Brett sat in his favorite chair, and his mother sat on the sofa. She took a few moments to collect her thoughts, and then she began to speak.


As the rescue party approached the Hydra venue, they immediately saw what had Beardo in such a tizzy: the man-eating supersnake had Carrie in its coils and was slowly but surely squeezing the life out of her as she wept in silent terror. The baby-faced bottle blonde would have cried out in her distress if she had enough air in her lungs to do so.

Beardo and Carrie were under orders that, if either should be attacked, the other was not to attempt a rescue without first calling for backup. Having made that call, the sound effects master could do nothing but watch his colleague suffer—asphyxiation by constriction is a slow, horrible way to die—because even a man as big and strong as he could not hope to uncoil such a vast serpent alone; and he was forbidden to harm it, not that he had the means to do it much harm, because it was effectively irreplaceable within the constraints of the show's shooting schedule.

When Beardo saw the Chain Gang and its support staff approaching, he voiced an exultant "cavalry charge" bugle effect and finally grasped the snake's tail to begin uncoiling it, for it was no longer futile to do so. By the time he reached the limit of what he could do alone, his hands would be joined by many others.

Uncoiling the snake required the five biggest, strongest people on hand—Beardo, Chef Hatchet, Owen, D.J. and, because Chris could not be bothered to help, Leshawna—but it was not overlong before Carrie was free. She was still in shock and only dimly aware of her surroundings, so no sooner were her lungs filled than she wailed in distress as sobs wracked her body. She would recover ere long, for although she had been terrified out of her mind, she was not seriously hurt.[01]

After the rescuers returned the snake to its tank, Hatchet turned to Chris and said, "Now do you see why we need two interns to look after the snakes?" After the earlier incident, Hatchet had—over Chris' objections—stationed two interns instead of one to manage the snakes.

When Carrie had recovered enough to think coherently, Hatchet told her to trade places with the intern stationed at the Erymanthian Boar challenge.


Chris said, "I was going to have Leshwana do her Cretan Bull challenge next, but since we're here and Trent is scheduled to go up against the Hydra, he might as well do it now. Your loss, since that big snake is probably mad about getting robbed."

"I'd have to sooner or later," Trent said with a shrug. As he approached the snake tank, he added, more for the camera's benefit than the snake's, "You might as well chill, dude. You know that if you catch me, they won't let you keep me."

The great serpent eyed Trent warily, but seemed at least temporarily chastened by having its second breakfast[02] taken from it, so it slithered along the tank's perimeter in apparent desire to avoid Trent. The axboy surmised that the supersnake, even if docile, was more than he could handle, so he let it be. Learning also from Courtney's failure, he picked up one of the smaller snakes as gently as he might, disdaining Courtney's fast strike tactics. The serpent did not resist, and Trent transferred it without incident.

Trent transferred four more snakes without difficulty, but the sixth snake—conceivably the same one that had been Courtney's downfall—objected to being handled. When Trent tried to work his hand underneath it, behind its throat, the snake began to slither away. With his other hand, the axboy grabbed the snake by its tail and pulled it back toward him, a maneuver snakes are poorly equipped to resist. Trent again tried to grasp the snake near its head, and this time the snake sank its teeth into his arm. Trent still had the snake by its tail, though, so it could not throw its coils around him.

Most constrictors are not venomous, so the bite of even a large one is painful but not especially dangerous if the snake cannot encoil its victim. Trent bore the pain stoically as he lifted the snake out of the tank. He placed it in the receiving tank, loosened his grip on its tail and waited. After a few moments, the snake seemed to understand his intent, whereupon it let go his arm and slithered away. Trent transferred the remaining two smaller snakes without further incident.

Trent's bonus spin assigned him the Erymanthian Boar. Because that venue was closer than the corral, Chris chose to delay Leshawna's challenge again. The Chain Gang arrived at the dodgeball court to find Carrie calmly tending the piglet, seemingly none the worse for her brush with death.

Trent's battle with the boar went much as Leshawna's had. After about two minutes of maneuvering, the flour-covered axboy presented the piglet to Chris, who pronounced his Labor a success.

The Chain Gang repaired to the corral, where Leshawna's twice-delayed encounter with the Cretan Bull moose would conclude the fourth round. Once there, Leshawna became the first camper to have significant trouble with that test; for she approached the moose more aggressively than the others had, in keeping with her cocksure attitude, but that made the moose more aggressive as well. The homegirl belatedly realized she had bitten off more than she could chew, and she backed off, but the moose remained aggressive for a time. Fortunately for Leshawna, the Cretan Bull test was not timed, so she was able to wait for it to calm down, whilst making occasional moves toward it lest Chris decide that he had seen enough. Leshawna needed nearly ten minutes to snatch the ribbon; but in the end, she managed it.


Chris announced, "That's it for Round Four. Six campers are still in the running. Captain Izzy, would you like to kick off the next round?"

"I'm running out of location challenges. I'd rather do a stage challenge this time," Izzy replied as if that was the end of the matter.

"That's fine, if that's what the wheel shows," Chris answered, "but it's still your turn to spin."

"I can control the wheel with my Jedi mind powers,"[03] Izzy explained with an air of exaggerated mystery, "so even if I spin first, I won't be doing my challenge first."

"Now you're just being difficult. Take your spin already," Chris demanded impatiently.

The off-kilter cop finally did as she was told, and it pleased the Fates (or perhaps Izzy herself) that she should face Eva for the Girdle of Hippolyta, which was indeed a stage Labor. "Told you," she said before the host could tell her not to.

"Fine," Chris replied testily. "Heather, you're up."

After the dragon girl successfully netted a quail to pass the Stymphalian Birds test, the Wheel tasked Leshawna with the Augean Stables. The homegirl struck the bulls-eye with her fourth shot, and her bonus spin charged her to face Cerberus when the Chain Gang returned to the amphitheater.

D.J. and Katie's spins also yielded stage challenges, the Girdle of Hippolyta and the Nemean Lion, respectively.

Trent closed the fifth round location challenges in the corral against the Golden Hind, where he chose the weighted net. Bridgette put up a spirited resistance and successfully dodged several throws, partly because Trent tended to throw too soon, from too far away, which gave the golden girl more time to react. With about thirty seconds left, though, Bridgette stumbled as she moved to dodge, and the net settled over her before she could scramble out of the way.


When the Chain Gang returned to the amphitheater, Chris said, "Our next batter is Izzy, for the Girdle of Hippolyta."

"Cool. I'll go with the pebble test," the demented redhead said. Moments later, she stepped into the ring with Eva, who held out her hand and said her line.

Suddenly, the pebble was in Izzy's hand. No one saw her strike, and Eva only felt it after the fact. The finished episode included a super-slow motion replay so the viewing audience could see that Izzy had indeed snatched the stone legitimately, as opposed to using some sort of trick. The finished episode also spliced in an Izzy confessional spot.

"I've had a lot of training in unarmed combat techniques," the off-kilter cop explained in the confessional, "because I couldn't carry weapons on my undercover assignments without tipping my hand. I was pretty sure I could beat Eva in a wrestling match, but I didn't want to embarrass her, and I figured the pebble snatch was less likely to do that. Eva's strength is her pride. Her quickness, not so much."


Leshawna took the stage to capture Cerberus. She well knew that she was not as nimble as Izzy or Katie, so their avoidance tactics were unlikely to work for her, not that they had worked especially well for Izzy. Leshawna had never been much for subtlety, so she decided to take her chances with a direct approach.

Either Scarlett or the mechamutt's own programming viewed Leshawna's approach as a little too aggressive, so the homegirl received a painful electric shock. She responded reflexively with a backhand blow that struck off the nearest snake head. Sparks briefly flew from the stump, and Mechacerberus moved no more.

The homegirl looked backstage, and B responded with the characteristic shrug and upturned palms of helplessness, which was his way of saying the hardware hound was well and truly disabled. Leshawna, not seeing anything else she could do, hoisted the robot onto one shoulder, grunting with the effort; for although the mechamutt was not especially heavy, it weighed at least as much as a real dog of the same size.

When Leshawna presented the disabled dog to Chris, the host clucked his tongue. "Tsk, tsk. You were supposed to walk the dog, not kill it. And so—"

"Self-defense," Izzy broke in. "It attacked first. Leshawna reacted instinctively. You can't blame her for that."

"Thanks, girl," Leshawna said with feeling.

"Oh, I can blame her," the Arbiter of Fates countered. "I've blamed people for less when the shooting schedule is at stake. What if someone else has to do the Twelfth Labor?"

"Make something up on the spot," Izzy suggested. "You've done it before, and you're actually pretty good at it."

Whether Izzy actually regarded the host as a good improviser was beside the point; for Chris McLean was a vain man, as has been told of before, and as such was susceptible to flattery. "You make a good point," he admitted, "and it's possible the interns might be able to fix Cerberus."

"That's a good one," Izzy said. "Fix the dog."[04]

"Laying it on a little thick, aren't you?" Heather asked loudly enough for Chris to hear, for the dragon girl yet hoped the technicality-loving host would disqualify her enemy.

Chris pondered a moment and said, "Tell you what. We'll preview the finale by having the losers vote." He turned to said losers in their pillories and said, "Unemployed lame-os, it's up to you. Should I let Leshawna stay in the challenge? Duncan?"

"Sure, give it to her."

"Cody?"

"She's a pretty girl. Do you really have to ask?"

"Well, yeah, I did, but I see your point. I'll take that as a 'yes'. Courtney?"

"You canned Zeke on a lamer technicality than that." Chris opened his mouth as if to protest, but Courtney cut him off. "No, that wasn't Millie Stacey's fault, it was yours. Anyway, that's why I'm voting 'no'. Nothing personal, Leshawna."

"I understand," the homegirl admitted.

"Gwen?" prompted the host.

"Leshawna's always been there for me," said the Goth, "so I'm there for her. Let her stay."

"Lindsay?"

As the formerly blonde bombshell opened her mouth to answer, she noticed a warning glare from Heather. A long moment later, Lindsay said, "I might get in trouble if I vote 'yes', so I have to vote 'no'. Sorry, Madonna."

"That's okay," Leshawna assured the sweet but weak-willed bombshell, "but you really should learn to stand up for yourself."

Chris declaimed, "That's three votes to keep Leshawna on, and two votes to sack her, with two losers yet to vote. It could still go either way. Ezekiel?"

The farm boy had guessed the nature of the 'trouble' Lindsay feared, so he also looked to his new ally. This time, Heather surmised the carrot would work better than the stick, so she made puppy dog eyes at him and silently mouthed the words, "please, no."

Ezekiel understood that Heather had a very good gameplay-related reason for wanting Leshawna disqualified, even without their personal enmity. This was a chance to demonstrate his value as an ally. The farm boy said, "I have a … commitment to vote 'no'."

So that's what Heather offered him, several campers thought. Courtney also thought, I wish I knew whether that's good or bad.

Chris turned to the unpilloried campers, where the latest loser sat in freedom, and declaimed, "The vote is three to three. Owen, it's all up to you. Does Leshawna still have a job, so to speak?"

"Yes," the man-mountain said simply; for while he loved the challenges, he did not share the host's love of drama.

"That's it, then," Chris said. "Leshawna, you're still in the running for invincibility and a luxury trailer getaway, but consider yourself on probation. If there's another marginal situation, I can't guarantee I'll be so charitable next time." The host emphasized his warning with an "I'm watching you" gesture.


"D.J. has the Ninth Labor, the Girdle of Hippolyta," the Arbiter of Fates declaimed as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

The brickhouse stepped into the ring with Eva and said, "Look at it this way. The underdog has nothing to lose, because they're expected to lose."

"Talk is cheap," the musclegirl growled for the camera, but she knew he was right. Although Eva had more wrestling experience than D.J., the brickhouse was as quick as she, at least as strong, and much bigger. Eva knew she could not win this match with conventional tactics; ergo, she would have to do something D.J. did not expect.

The grapplers spent a few moments looking for an opening before D.J. attacked high and Eva dodged low, evading his grasp. Almost instantly, the bronze maiden sprang upright again. Now behind the brickhouse, she grabbed him by the waist and, using all her immense strength, body slammed him to the mat. She could not maintain her advantage, though, for D.J.'s size and strength enabled him to break her hold without much difficulty.

The pair quickly regained their feet and looked again for an opening. "First points to you," D.J. said, "but we're not keeping score here."

"I know, right?" was all Eva said in reply; for in truth, what she had gained was not points toward a decision, but precious seconds toward her goal of running out the clock, and she had done so honorably.

Eva feinted from her crouch, but D.J. did not respond, for he and everyone else knew that Eva was playing defense. D.J. attacked high again, but this time anticipated Eva's dodge and drove her to the mat. Yet he could not capitalize on his advantage, for "Hippolyta" escaped with a juggle that seemed nigh supernatural[05] to those viewers who were not well-versed in wrestling's finer points. The grapplers regained their feet, and D.J. was back to Square One.

D.J.'s third attack brought the turning point. This time, Eva did not try to dodge the brickhouse's waist-high attack; but at the last possible moment, she spun about so D.J. found himself clinching her from behind. This was Eva's unexpected, unconventional move; and before D.J. could react and either try to throw her or go for her belt, the bronze maiden fastened a vise-like grip on the brickhouse's wrists—a grip so tight that she might have broken them had she been a little stronger or he more frail.

D.J. struggled briefly to free himself, but Eva had cannily gripped his right with her left and vice versa, which gave her the better leverage, so she had only to hold fast as the seconds ticked away.

Under normal wrestling rules, this gambit might have earned Eva a warning for passivity, not to mention a likely loss by decision, but Queen and Laborer were not operating under normal rules. D.J. did look to Chris, perhaps hoping for a passivity warning and a position reset, but the Arbiter of Fates seemed content to let the match take its natural course. Nor did Ref Hatchet see fit to intervene, for the bronze maiden had not shirked her duty to engage her foe.

With the clock running, and unable to free himself by main strength, D.J. reluctantly set aside his concern about possibly injuring his ex-teammate. "Sorry girl, but you leave me no choice," he said a moment before he slammed them both to the mat, landing atop her like—fittingly for a brickhouse—the proverbial ton of bricks.

"Do your worst," Eva gasped through the pain she had known would be hers. "I mean that. If you respect me, don't hold back."

D.J. struggled to his feet, for Eva holding him fast in their clinch posed an unusual balance problem. His conscience now clear, he body slammed her to the mat again and again. On the fifth slam, the seemingly invulnerable musclegirl actually cried out in pain, but she did not loosen her grip.

The ninth body slam brought the match to the end the Fates had ordained for it. D.J. finally succeeded in breaking Eva's grip and freeing one hand. Now it was the bronze maiden who could do nothing as the brickhouse reached for her belt, intending to rip it off by main strength.

A horn sounded, and Chris called, "Time's up! That was close, dude, but 'close' only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. You're out."

D.J. accepted his fate with good grace. He rose without protest and helped the battered

Eva to her feet.[06]

"Good job, Deej," the Amazon said equably. "You almost had me."

"I would have if I'd known more about wrestling," the disappointed brickhouse lamented.

"Can't argue with that."

D.J. returned to his seat, but thanks to the bonus invincibility he had earned from the Hydra test, he was spared the indignity of the pillory.


Chris announced, "To finish off the fifth round, we have Katie and the Nemean Lion."

"Just one question," Katie said. "What if I don't want to kiss Millie Stacey?"

"I hear that," Chris answered "Frankly, I don't know why anyone would want to."

"Well, she is hot," Owen offered.

"She's also evil," Chris countered.

"Has that ever stopped your girlfriends?" Heather asked pointedly.

Wild applause erupted from backstage.

"How would you like to be booted out of this challenge right now?" Chris asked darkly, for narcissists hate few things more than to be the butt of a joke.

"In other words, you don't have a decent comeback," Heather surmised.

"You go, girl!" Millie called from backstage.

"Shut up, Mildred!" Chris snapped.

"Uh, Chris?" Katie ventured timidly.

As the Lord of Wawanakwa tried to calm himself, Duncan said, "Hey, Katie, I've got an idea. If you earn a kiss from Millie Stacey, maybe you could have Zeke stand in for you. He was supposed to get one, but he got robbed."

"Sounds good to me, eh?" Ezekiel seconded. "I'd be happy to be your designated kissee, if you want."

Katie motioned to the farm boy with twin finger guns and said, "I'll keep that in mind."

It took all the self-control Courtney could muster to remain silent.

Chris had apparently regained control of himself, for his trademark bland smile was back in place. He said, "In answer to your question, Katie … no spoilers. We'll just have to see what you get."

When the host received word that the trial by ordeal was ready, Katie chose the door to her left. When she opened it, all the girls' hearts raced, not just hers; for there, preening on the stool, sat none other than The Embodiment of Manly Beauty himself.

Justin smiled and said, "I'm told I'm supposed to give you that kiss I wasn't able to give you before the Awake-a-thon."[07]

Katie ignored her fluttering heart as best she might and said, "I wish I could, but I can't do that to Lindsay."

Chris said in theatrical amazement, "You're giving your Justin kiss to another girl? Now that's a true friend." He made a show of wiping away a nonexistent tear, then grinned wickedly and added, "Or maybe you're just not into guys."

"She's into guys," answered most of the other girls in unison, in a tone that said, "Believe me, she's into guys."

"Whatever," Chris said, for he had merely been baiting Katie because he was Chris. "Justin, your bondage bride awaits in the pillory section. Don't take too long, though. We're—"

"Yeah, I know," Justin broke in. "We're on a schedule."

The Embodiment of Manly Beauty approached Lindsay's pillory with his distinctive series-of-poses gait. He removed his shirt and slowly squatted down before her, for the bleacher-and-pillory arrangement made it impractical to kneel. After Justin had thus allowed Lindsay to admire his sculpted torso, Wawanakwa's Royal Couple of Beauty shared a couple of long kisses, tender and passionate in equal measure. Lindsay whispered something to her beautiful beau before he rose and replaced his shirt.

When Justin met with Katie during his return to the backstage, he said, "Thanks, Katie. We owe you one … and Lindsay has suggested a way to repay you."

Before the Thin Twin could ask what he meant, the uberhunk swept her off her feet and treated her to one of the fieriest kisses in his repertoire as he held her in a deep dip. After a moment's hesitation, Katie twined her arms around him lest he release her too quickly. In the fullness of time, Justin let her up for air and retired backstage as Katie staggered back to her seat, only dimly aware of her surroundings.

Justin later said in the confessional, "Katie gave as good as she got, in her own way. She's going to make someone very happy."


GAME OF DEATH

Chris announced, "That's it for Round Five, and five are still alive."

"How long did it take you to come up with that line?" someone asked from the bleachers.

Chris did not deign to reply. Instead, he said, "We'll start Round Six with the only dude who's still in the running. Trent, come take your spin."

The axboy's spin assigned him the Augean Stables, so he returned to his seat. Izzy spun next, and once again called her shot. This time, it pleased her to face Jasmine in the Tenth Labor, the Cattle of Geryon.

"Chris, since I'm not a 'real' contestant anymore, can I ask a favor?" the off-kilter cop pleaded.

"I can't guarantee that I'll grant it, but you can ask."

"If you'll turn off the clock for this one, Big Bertha[08] and I will make it worth your while, not to mention the viewing audience's."

"Deal," declared the Arbiter of Fates. "But I'll hold you to that. If you don't deliver, you're out."

Izzy bounded to the starting point and yelled, "Get her a chair!"

Jasmine presently emerged carrying a folding chair, which she placed in front of the lectern and sat upon. The giantess apparently understood why she should sit, for she grinned broadly and said, "This should be fun, but don't count on the original outcome."

Izzy approached and struck a theatrical martial arts readiness pose for a second or two, then attacked. Jasmine repelled her with a kick whilst still sitting in the chair. Izzy fairly flew backward and fell to the mat, but the fall became a roll, and in a trice Weird Red was back on her feet and assumed the same readiness pose as before. Jasmine stood and tossed the chair behind the lectern to get it out of the way, her eyes still fixed on her foe. Izzy advanced again, and the battle began in earnest.[09]

It quickly became apparent that both young women were skilled martial artists, albeit with very different styles. Izzy's style emphasized constant motion and constant banter, in keeping with her manic nature, whereas Jasmine had a reach advantage against most opponents and a fighting style designed to take full advantage of that.[10] She spoke less frequently, but was not silent. The attacks and counters tended to be more florid than would be called for in a serious fight, for the fighters were mindful of the camera's needs and Izzy's pledge.

The fight lasted six minutes if it lasted one, with no sign that either of these mythic warriors was holding anything back. In the end, though, a final flurry by Izzy put Jasmine down for the proverbial count. By the time the giantess recovered enough to continue, Izzy had pressed the lectern button and made off with the imaginary prize.

Chris said, "Well done, Izzy. It's a pity we won't have time to show most of that in the episode, but it'll make an awesome clip for the show's website."

Izzy rejoined her colleagues. She seemed none the worse for wear, apart from a black eye and a few bruises here and there; but when she reached her seat, and no longer had to worry about a camera closeup, she sat down heavily and seemed to deflate.

"Worn out?" D.J. asked.

"I can't even," the off-kilter cop admitted, "I gave as good as I got, though, and that's what matters."

"You were amazing," the brickhouse said, his voice frankly admiring. "You both were. Do you know if she's one of the new interns? I don't recall seeing her before."

"Yeah, Jasmine's one of the newbies. We met the day I came back to camp, and when we found out that we're both into martial arts, we really hit it off. Being martial artists, naturally we knew Bruce Lee's work. A couple of rounds ago, I was able to get a word with her, and she liked the idea of doing our own martial arts movie fight scene."

Meanwhile, Chris had called Katie to the stage, and the Wheel decreed that the stick girl should play Atlas' shell game in the Eleventh Labor. The gargantuan intern did not attempt to palm the crabapple when he shuffled the shells for Katie, but the naïve girl-child did not know how to interpret his tell. She named the center shell when the crabapple actually lay to her left, so she was out. Katie dutifully retired to the seventh pillory, which yawned open to receive her.[11]

"And then there were four," Chris intoned.


The Lord of Wawanakwa called Heather forward for to find her fate, and the dragon girl drew the Girdle of Hippolyta. Unsurprisingly, she chose the pebble test and succeeded on her second try.

"That should not have happened," the Amazon queen lamented. "That bout with D.J. must have taken more out of me than I thought."

"Excuses, excuses," Heather snarked, but she did thank D.J. upon returning to her seat.

Leshawna had the last spin of the round, and drew the Hydra. With no more stage challenges in the queue, the Chain Gang, including the unpilloried losers D.J. and Owen, repaired to the Augean Stables for Trent's Labor.

Trent was not a particularly good archer, but he nevertheless struck the bulls-eye with his final shot. His bonus spin assigned him the Nemean Lion, Wawanakwa style. In other words, the Lady or the Tiger; but that ordeal would have to wait, for it was not a field Labor.

The Chain Gang came to the snake tank for Leshawna's test. Leshawna walked up to the snake tank, put her hands on her hips and glared at the big man-eater.

Snakes have no eyelids, so one might expect them to have little trouble winning a staredown, but Jormungandr Junior could not bear the attitude behind the homegirl's gaze. The great serpent turned aside and showed every sign that it wished to avoid confrontation. Leshawna let it be and transferred the smaller snakes without incident, for she emulated Trent's gentler and more successful approach as opposed to the more aggressive tack that had gotten Courtney into trouble.

Upon completing this task, Leshawna drew the Mares of Diomedes with her bonus spin. She won the first leg of her race against the Gothic horseman by a wider margin than Heather or Katie had done, although the race was still relatively close. The homegirl miscalculated on the return trip, however, and was hard pressed to recover in time to catch her quarry on the return leg, for the short course left little margin for error. Leshawna managed only one lash on her ghoulish adversary before the race ended, and she struck him hard out of desperation; but one lash was all the rules required, so the homegirl advanced.

Leshawna said to her nightmarish victim, "I'm sorry I had to hit you that hard. I was out of time."

"It happens," he replied in his listless monotone.


With only Trent's bonus Labor remaining for the sixth round, the Chain Gang returned to the amphitheater. Chris called Trent to the stage, reminded the viewing audience that the axboy was about to attempt the Nemean Lion test, and said, "Which will it be? The Lady, or the Tiger?" He added under his breath, "More like 'The Whore, or the Tiger?'" That bit would not appear in the finished episode, for obvious reasons, but the season's DVD set would include it in a collection of outtakes.

Yeah, we get it. You don't like your ex, Trent thought.

Trent opened the door to his right, and felt mixed emotions when Millie greeted him. On the one hand, he was glad to have chosen correctly. On the other, he did not particularly want to kiss another woman, even one as pretty as Millie Stacey—especially one as pretty as Millie Stacey—in front of Gwen, even though Gwen was unlikely to mind under the circumstances.

Millie stood and opened her arms invitingly to Trent, clearly intending that their kiss should look good for the cameras; but Trent said, "Please don't take this the wrong way, but do we have to do this? My girlfriend is here."

Millie answered, "You've seen how McLame is with technicalities. Are you sure it's wise to turn me down?"

"Maybe not, but it would just feel weird to kiss you in front of my girlfriend."

"Ah, I see, you don't want her to feel inadequate," Millie suggested loudly enough for Gwen to hear. The Goth rolled her eyes, and Trent bit his tongue with an effort.

Chris said, "There must be a kiss."

Millie shrugged and said, "You heard him. Pucker up." She opened her arms again and added, "And you might want to take notes. I know a thing or two about kissing."

"She learned from the best," Chris said as he pointed a thumb to himself.

Millie laughed uproariously and staggered back to her stool, which she clutched for support until her (probably faked) laughing fit subsided. When she was done, Trent chivalrously offered her a hand up.

"I have an idea, if you don't mind," the axboy said. "When Katie wasn't willing to kiss Lindsay's boyfriend, she had Lindsay stand in for her."

"And you want someone to stand in for you," Millie surmised. "Seriously? You think you can just pass me around like a piece of meat?" The Aftermath diva quickly looked to Chris, for she knew she had left herself open. Seeing that the Lord of Wawanakwa had indeed opened his mouth to speak, Millie warned, "Don't say it, Chris."

"A gourmet cut, if I may say so," Trent ventured, hoping Millie would be as susceptible to flattery as Chris. "And I won't contradict you if you want to say it's my loss."

"Nice recovery," Millie said in a tone that suggested she was rather enjoying this banter. "I'll accept your … proposal if I get to choose the stand-in."

"Go for it," Trent said. "I doubt any of those dudes would turn you down. I wouldn't have if I wasn't a taken man. But if I may make a suggestion, Ezekiel got robbed when he had to do this test."

"I had him in mind," Millie admitted. "Maybe I can make someone jealous."

The woman in white catwalked to Ezekiel's pillory with an exaggerated wiggle in her hips. She stooped down in front of the farm boy, which enabled him to see down the front of her dress (not that he saw anything unsuitable for general audiences) and said, "I was too hard on you before. I took your question as an insult when I probably should have taken it as a compliment … so pucker up, Bible Boy."

Millie gave Ezekiel a kiss that seemed at once enthusiastic and dainty. She probably felt nothing, but was clearly pleased at the farm boy's enthralled reaction.

As the Tiger Lady retired backstage, Ezekiel said to Duncan, who was pilloried in the row above him, "She kisses even better than Izzy."

"Did not need to know that," Courtney said.


Round Seven began with Leshawna facing Eva for the Girdle of Hippolyta. The big homegirl said, "Speed isn't really my thing, so I'll wrestle her for it."

Eva grinned and nodded in approval. "I was hoping you would."

As the two friends squared off, Eva said, "Don't pull your punches. You know I won't."

Leshawna took that advice literally. She rushed left and, as Eva moved to counter, raised her powerful right arm and belted the Amazon queen across the chops.

"Can she do that?" Heather asked incredulously.

Eva staggered for a moment, stunned more by surprise than by the force of Leshawna's blow, heavy though it was; and before she could recover, Leshawna's locomotive rush sent both fighters to the mat. Eva grinned fiendishly, as if relishing the turn this match had taken; but before she could carry out whatever plan had brought that grin to her face, Leshawna had her hands on the belt and quickly unhooked it. The homegirl held her prize aloft as she rose to her feet.

"Leshawna moves on!" Chris proclaimed.

"Seriously, can she do that?" Heather asked again.

"I don't have a problem with it," Eva said as she rose to her feet.

"No rule against it," Chris added.

"Why didn't I think of that?" Duncan asked rhetorically.

"She probably would have expected you to try it, since you basically hate each other," Cody observed.

"True," Duncan admitted. "It worked for Leshawna because it was a surprise. Something tells me it wouldn't work again."

Meanwhile, Eva extended her hand to Leshawna and said, "I should have seen that coming. My bad."

"In the dodgeball match, you said yourself that we have to be able to play tough against friends," the homegirl said as she took Eva's hand in hers and shook. "Just tell me you didn't take a dive because we're tight."

"Don't even think it. You won because you did something I didn't expect," Eva assured her dusky friend.


Heather came to the stage, took her spin, and drew the First Labor—the Laddy or the Tiger, representing the Nemean Lion. Luck was not with the dragon girl, though, and she opened the door to her left to reveal a large Russian Blue house cat. An extraordinarily friendly house cat; for the Nemean Blue ran toward the dragon with its tail held high and, with one mighty bound, twined its paws around her neck. Heather instinctively brought her forearm up to support the cat's hind legs, lest it start raking her exposed midriff to maintain its position. The "man-eater" began sucking on Heather's earlobe and purring ecstatically.[12]

"Hmph, no accounting for taste," Leshawna said.

"I know, right?" Gwen said softly, for she did not want Heather to overhear. Gwen still did not like the queen bee, and had not forgiven her for the Diary Incident, but Gwen had found life on the island a good deal more bearable since she and Heather had forged their surprisingly long-lived truce. That truce was fragile, though, and Gwen did not want to be the one to break it.

As the "Nemean Lion" continued to suck away, Heather smiled in spite of her disappointment. "I take it this means I'm out?"

"'Fraid so," Chris said.

"It could have been worse," the dragon girl admitted. "I would have expected your 'man-eating lion' to be something a lot more painful or annoying or … something."

"Believe me, I had plenty of ideas, but Legal said no … so don't you dare think I'm going soft."

"Certainly not," Heather admitted as the "Nemean Lion" continued to "eat" her. "If you want us to think you're irredeemably evil, I'm happy to oblige you."

Jasmine emerged from backstage, walking with a slight limp which she did her best to conceal. "C'mere, you little ratbag," she said affectionately as she carefully pried the cat off of Heather.

Jasmine would appear again quickly enough, for the Wheel of Work assigned the Tenth Labor to Trent. The axboy might have had trouble with a fresh Jasmine even if she confined herself to wrestling moves, but the Aboriginal giantess was still recovering from her mutually exhausting fight with Izzy, and her reaction time was noticeably slowed. Trent feinted left, went left and evaded Jasmine's initial attempt to grapple him. She recovered and grabbed him about the waist on her second attempt, but by then Trent was close enough to his goal to pull down the lectern as Leshawna had done. Jasmine was able to restrain only one of Trent's arms, so he pressed the button with the other and advanced.

Izzy was also still recovering from her martial arts tour de force, so she expressed a desire for a nonphysical test. Sure enough, her turn at the Wheel gave her the Eleventh Labor—the Golden Apples—and she won Atlas' shell game by correctly picking the shell to her right.


Chris declaimed, "That's it for Round Seven. We still have three hard workers going into the homestretch. Izzy, you've only done eight Labors, whereas Trent and Leshawna have each done nine, so that makes you the slacker … which means you're up first.

Izzy controlled her spin, as she had done more often than not. She still wanted a bit more rest time, so she elected to take her chances with the least physical Labor remaining to her: the Laddy or the Tiger. She had to do it sometime, she reasoned; and if she failed, she would have all the rest time she wanted. If she succeeded, then so much the better, for she did not think any of her other remaining Labors were likely to stop her.

Presently, the off-kilter cop stood before the doors, trying to decide which to open. She listened intently in hope of gaining a clue, but the doors were heavily soundproofed. She sniffed experimentally, but could learn nothing because both Justin and the cat had been in both chambers. It would be a truly blind choice, just as Chris had intended.

With nothing to gain by continuing to dither, Izzy opened the door to her right and beheld the most beautiful sight she had ever seen. She had seen it many times before, of course, but she never tired of it.

Justin said softly, with an awestruck look, "You're the most beautiful woman ever."

"You don't mean that, not that it isn't nice to hear."[13]

"You got me," the Embodiment of Manly Beauty admitted. "That would be Lindsay. Would you believe second most beautiful?"

"Yeah, right," Izzy replied impishly. "I'd believe top third."

"All right," Justin said. He smirked devilishly and added, "The top third of you is the second most beautiful I've ever seen."

"Ah, a tit man," Izzy joked, for her mammaries were modest, although most people who had seen them uncovered would call them shapely. "Not that your lies aren't fun to listen to, but you owe me a kiss. I'm sure Lindsay understands."

"Just don't enjoy it too much," Lindsay called good-naturedly from her pillory.

Izzy turned to acknowledge that admonition, and bantered, "Ooh, that means I'm really going to have to hold back … or, I could teach him a new trick, and he can teach you when he gets a chance."

"Do what you think is best," the bondaged bombshell said. "I trust you … and him."

Justin stood and opened his arms invitingly. Izzy glomped him, held him in a deep dip as Justin had done with Katie, and kissed him with great enthusiasm. This time, it was Justin who staggered back to his place.

As Izzy returned to her seat, she said, "Chris, I'm still behind in my Labor count, so I'd probably better do the Hydra next round. I'll need a boombox or something for that."

"You'll have it," Chris assured her.

"Wait a minute," Leshawna broke in. "We can have props?"

"Within reason," the host clarified. "Izzy's request sounds reasonable."

"Why didn't you say anything about that before?" Heather challenged.

"Nobody asked."


After Leshawna's spin assigned her the Stymphalian Birds, Trent spun and drew Cerberus. On cue, the mechamutt sallied out, once more prepared for battle, for its electronic systems had required naught but a simple reboot. The snake head Leshawna had struck off was back in place and as functional as before, thanks to B's mechanical wizardry, although the hasty patch job was plainly visible.[14]

With this appearance, Mechacerberus showed its most aggressive personality yet, almost as if it were angry at Leshawna's mistreatment of it and seeking to take out its frustrations on the first person it came across. It crouched down as if ready to spring, whilst all three dog heads growled menacingly and all three snake heads reared with mouths open, ready to bite or zap any Laborer foolish enough to come within range. After a few moments, the hardware hound rose from its crouch and began to stalk its prey.

Trent kept a respectful distance as he considered his tactics. Presently, he had an idea. As quickly as he might, he pulled up one of the mats covering the stage floor and held it before him like the shield of fabled Aias.[15] The mat was rather larger than the axboy could wield easily, but he managed it just the same.

Scarlett quickly divined Trent's intent and commanded Mechacerberus to charge, but the hardware hound was not built for speed. Nevertheless, dog and Laborer joined battle quickly enough. The robot seized the mat in its dog jaws and tried to wrest it from Trent's grip, to open a clear line of fire for the lightning-breathing snake heads, but the Achaean axboy held his shield fast.

When Trent thought the moment right, he half-threw, half-draped his shield mat over the robot's body. The mechamutt's snake heads spat thunderbolts three, but the mat's foam rubber filling was thick enough to resist them.

Trent quickly stepped aside and knelt down to attach his collar to the nearest dog neck before Mechacerberus could work its way out from beneath the mat, which Scarlett was furiously working her remote control to achieve. On Trent's first attempt, he got a painful jolt when an electric arc struck the mat too close to his hand. On his second try, he was shocked again; but this second shock was less painful than the first, despite actually striking his hand. A third attempt brought only mild discomfort from a near miss, and the mechamutt's movements began to slow noticeably; for Scarlett knew Trent would be the last camper to face the Twelfth Labor, so she was holding nothing in reserve.

With that third attempt, Trent succeeded in collaring the robot, and it became docile. The axboy pulled the mat off the hardware hound and led it across the stage, thereby fulfilling the requirements of the Twelfth Labor.


THE DAY THE MAGIC DIED[16]

The Chain Gang went to Dawn's tree, where Leshawna succeeded in capturing a Stymphalian Bird. Chris gave Trent the first spin of the ninth round, and the Wheel of Work came to rest on the Hydra icon. Trent had already completed the second through fifth Labors, as has been told of before, so he, like Leshawna, faced the Stymphalian Birds; and he, like Leshawna, completed that assignment without undue difficulty.

Chris said, "Izzy, you wanted to do the Second Labor this round, so let's see if you can get it."

"No problem," Izzy said. "I've got a two in three chance without even trying."

The off-kilter cop dutifully spun the Wheel of Work, which stopped on the Seventh Labor. Izzy had already faced the Cretan Bull; so by rule, Chris moved the wheel clockwise until he came to the first test she had not done: The Hydra.

The Chain Gang arrived at the Hydra venue to find Izzy's boombox waiting. When the off-kilter cop turned it on, it began to play "I'm Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor".[17]

"Very funny, Chris," Izzy said with a theatrically outraged glare.

"I thought so, too," the host replied, missing the sarcasm or choosing to ignore it. "But you didn't ask for any music, so we had no idea what you wanted."

"My first guess would be snake charming music," Trent ventured.

"Kind of," Izzy admitted. "Fortunately I came prepared." She reached under her skirt, drew forth a CD and popped it into the player.

As the boombox began to play "In the Hall of the Mountain King",[18] the off-kilter cop approached the snake tank, swaying sinuously to the initially relaxed tempo. She declaimed, "I call this 'The Dance of the Rattlesnake'."[19]

"Shouldn't it be 'The Dance of the Boa Constrictor' or the 'Anaconda Mambo' or something like that?" D.J. asked.

"Shush, you. This isn't a request program," Izzy replied. She began her dance and said to the snakes, "Look into my eyes. What do you see?" She may have said much else in a babbling, incoherent fashion, or perhaps she was simply making noises, but it mattered not; for although snakes are sensitive to vibrations, they are quite deaf, and would not be likely to understand human speech in any case. What they did understand, or thought they understood, was the swaying of Izzy's body. This they mimicked in their own fashion, seemingly hypnotized.

Izzy continued to dance as she carried the smaller snakes, one by one, to the receiving tank. Her snake charming CD was a mix, and segued from "In the Hall of the Mountain King" to the "Russian Sailor Dance", during which she transferred the last of the eight. The supersnake she left where it was, for the same reason Trent had left it: she deemed it too massive for her to move, although it was no more resistant to her dance than its smaller kin.

Izzy's bonus spin assigned her the Fourth Labor, so the Chain Gang repaired to the dodgeball court for her encounter with the Erymanthian Boar. When the clock started, the off-kilter cop shrieked and whooped and pranced about in her inimitably manic manner, which sent the terrified piglet dashing deep into the flour bank in hope that Izzy would not follow it there.

No such luck, of course. Izzy gleefully ran toward the struggling piglet and dove and knifed her way into the flour bank so efficiently that for a few moments she was completely hidden from view. Suddenly, she erupted from the flour, covered from head to toe, holding the confused piglet which she had captured from below.

Izzy presented the piglet to Chris and said, "If you're going to do something, you might as well do it with flair."

"I hear you, Izz," the host replied with a grin.

Leshawna spun the Wheel, and the Chain Gang hiked to the corral so she could try her luck with the Golden Hind. Leshawna chose the net, as most of her colleagues had done, and Bridgette proceeded to run her ragged. The homegirl did eventually succeed in netting the wave rider, but nobody doubted that Bridgette had made her work for it.


Chris led the Chain Gang back to the amphitheater. There he declaimed, "After nine rounds, we have three hard workers going to sudden death: Trent, Izzy and Leshawna. Yes, I know I said at the start that the twelfth round would be sudden death, but that was because I didn't want to give away the twist with the 'disqualified' Labors and the double dips. The fact is, I knew perfectly well that this challenge couldn't go twelve rounds and probably wouldn't go eleven before someone got all twelve Labors done.

"Anywho, Trent's only remaining Labor is the Girdle of Hippolyta, Izzy has done everything except the Stymphalian Birds, and Leshawna is missing only the Laddy or the Tiger."

The Arbiter of Fates pulled some coins from his pocket and handed one to each of the three remaining Laborers. Nor were they ordinary coins. Struck from silver bullion for the show in case a coin flip should be needed for any reason, they bore Chris' face as the "head" and the TDI logo as the "tail". At the end of the season, a coin of this type would be part of the collection of branded tchotchkes each camper received as mementos of their summer in the sun.

"Each of you, flip your coin and tell me whether it comes up 'heads' or 'tails'," the Arbiter of Fates instructed.

The campers did as they were bidden. "Heads," said Trent.

"Tails," said Izzy.

"Heads," said Leshawna.

Chris opened his mouth as if to speak, but Izzy shrieked, "Don't say it!" When the host closed his mouth and eyed the off-kilter cop warily, Izzy explained, "Because I want to." She drew herself to her full height and declaimed, as if delivering a Shakespeare soliloquy, "Izzy is the odd camper out. How fitting." She looked to her pilloried campmates and challenged, "Be honest. You were all thinking that, right?"

"It's a fair cop. So to speak," Cody admitted.

"O … kay," Chris said uncertainly. "I was about to say that being the odd camper meant you would go first, with a chance to win before Trent or Leshawna even got a chance; but sadly, you've eliminated yourself."[20]

"What?" Izzy demanded indignantly. "How did I …?" Then, as if a switch had been flipped, she calmed and said, "Oh, yeah. You and your technicalities … or me and my conclusion jumping. Whatever. Oops."

Accepting the consequences of her blunder in good grace, Izzy turned to Trent and Leshawna and said, "Oh, well, them's the breaks. Good luck, whoever goes first. We wouldn't want to see a winner by default."

Chef Hatchet collected the coins and gave them back to Chris. The Arbiter of Fates flipped one of these high into the air and commanded, "Leshawna! Call it!"

"Tails," the homegirl said.

When the coin came to rest, it revealed the grinning visage of Chris McLean.

"It is heads," Hatchet pronounced.

Chris announced grandly, "And now, the main event! Trent versus Queen Hippolyta for all the marbles!"

Eva strode onto the stage and assumed a fighter's crouch.

"Begin," Hatchet commanded.

If Duncan and D.J. could not defeat Eva, Trent thought, what chance did he have? Granted, Leshawna had beaten her, but Eva had brought that on herself by underestimating the homegirl. Trent did not think the Amazon queen would make that mistake again.

With nothing to lose, Trent decided to try a different tack.

The axboy casually walked up to the Amazon, who glared defiantly at him from her crouch. Without warning, he knelt before her, averted his eyes, spread his arms in a gesture of supplication, and declaimed, "Your glory, if it's not irredeemably presumptuous of me to ask, may I please have your girdle?"

Eva cracked a wry smile as she stood erect. "Sure, why not?" she said, and reached behind her back to unfasten her belt. As Trent rose to his feet, "Queen Hippolyta" handed him his prize.

"Trent wins the challenge!" Chris pronounced.

"You're frontin' me!" Leshawna cried. Turning to Chris with an accusatory glare, she protested, "You said she was supposed to resist!"

"I said to expect her to resist. I never said she had to," the Arbiter of Fates reminded her.

"I was briefed before the challenge," Eva explained. "Apparently, in some versions of the story, Hippolyta initially liked Hercules[21] and was willing to give him the girdle without a fight until Hera stirred up her people, so I was told to hand that belt over freely to the first one of you who asked for it nicely. Sorry, Shawnee."

Leshawna continued to fume, for this seemed a cheap way to lose the challenge, but there was no help for it. Trickery by the host was par for the course in this game.

Chris turned to his guest star. "Well done, Eva," he said with a genuine smile. "For your assistance, you and the other 'guest star' ex-campers may join me and Chef for dinner tonight. Steak and lobster. Or, in Bridgette's case, eggplant."

"Awesome," Eva pronounced. As she exited stage right, the "queen for a day" waved to the campers and said, "So long, guys, it's been fun. Nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live here."

"She's mellowed," Lindsay observed approvingly. "Looks like hooking up with Nigel has done her some good."


After a late lunch, Chris sat in a lawn chair near the dock, gazing out over the lake as he sipped hot buttered rum. Chef's secret recipe, it was, and it had been Chris' favorite for years, ever since he had first met Hatchet in the studio cafeteria whilst filming Strawberry Bitch. No one could mix drinks like Chef, Chris thought, and that skill was one reason the Lord of Wawanakwa had insisted on having Hatchet on his staff for Total Drama Island.

It had been an entertaining challenge, Chris mused, with he getting to spring plenty of ratings-friendly surprises on the campers, and the teens rising to the occasion with surprises of their own. In particular, the host felt confident that he had made the right choice in bringing back Trent and Owen instead of the more popular Noah and Justin.

Ever the narcissist, Chris was taking credit, even in the privacy of his own thoughts, for a fortuitous decision that had not been his. He had, in fact, asked for Noah when the bookworm won a viewer poll on the show's website, but the producers had overruled him for budgetary reasons. That is to say, the losers' compound served better food than the campers or even the interns got on the island, and Owen had been eating the producers out of house and home.

Mentally reviewing his performance, Chris did recall one mistake: he had called attention to an intern being eaten by the megasnake, and that bit would have to be edited out so any future intern recruits would not know.

"Mr. McLean, we need to talk."

His reverie interrupted, the irritated host turned toward the voice. The formal address identified the speaker as an intern, but what intern would dare address him in that tone? Oh, the witch, he thought when he saw the scowling, wraithlike girl standing beside him. Who does she think she is?

"Interns don't give orders, you take them," the host declared archly as he stood, the better to tower over her. Chris was not especially tall, as has been told of before, but he was still a good deal taller than the diminutive mystic.

"Scott was killed in today's challenge," Dawn stated.

"Well, you do have hazardous work, but we have plenty more."

"And Dave yesterday—the same way—when we were setting up. And I heard that if you had your way, we would have lost Carrie, too." On the point of tears, the mystic said, "I begged you to let me manage the snakes. Why wouldn't you? Chef was willing to."

"We needed you to round up the 'Stymphalian Birds', since your animal-summoning sidekick up and skipped out on us. Seriously, ascending to a higher plane of existence on company time? What's up with that?"

"That big snake is dangerous! The birds aren't!"

"Exactly. Your skills are too valuable. I couldn't risk losing you. I thought you understood that," the Lord of Wawanakwa explained, seemingly oblivious to the little redshirt's distress.

"It would not have harmed me!" the wraith-girl screamed. "I thought you understood that!"

Chris was taken aback for a moment, for neither he nor anyone else on the island had ever heard Dawn raise her voice in anger, but he recovered quickly. "Maybe not, but I couldn't take that chance," he explained with audible exasperation. "If anything happened to you, I'd have had to hire a professional animal handler. Do you have any idea what they cost?"

When Dawn did not respond immediately, Chris played what he considered the trump card. "Besides, if the campers had seen you at the Hydra challenge, they might have thought they weren't in any real danger. That wouldn't have been good for ratings."

Chris did not notice, or perhaps it simply did not register, that the sky behind the mystic was darkening as if with a gathering storm. He did notice that her misting eyes had begun to shine—indeed, to glow—but that was surely just a trick of the light. Magically gifted she might be, but she was still human. Presumably.

As tears of rage finally began to stream down Dawn's cheeks, she raised her arm and pointed an accusing finger at her evil overlord. She declared, "Chris McLean, your aura is blacker than your hair dye. You are a blight on this world."

The mystic turned her back on Chris in disgust and said, "Get him, gals."

The sky had darkened not with storm clouds, but with a vast swarm of horseflies so enormous that two could not have stood end to end on a man's finger. Moreover, they were all female, for it is the females that must feed on blood to mature their eggs; and a horsefly's bite is not the bloodless puncture of a mosquito bite, but a bloody, slashing bite. And they had all come for the blood of Chris McLean.

Dawn stalked off as Chris fled screaming to his trailer.[22]

Hell's vengeance boils in my heart;
Death and despair blaze around me!
Disowned be forever!
Forsaken be forever!
Shattered be forever!
All the bonds of nature—
Hear! Hear! Hear!
Gods of vengeance, hear the mother's oath!

Dawn went to the interns' quarters and packed her bags as quickly as she might, for she intended to leave the island. Even if Chris would allow her to stay after what she had done to him, she felt she could not stay in good conscience.

She went to the dock and stood at the end, at the spot where the Boat of Losers received castoff campers after the elimination ceremony. There she stood for a time, looking out over the lake, watching as a mound rose above the water's surface in the distance and began to move toward her.

"Angie, wait up!"

Dawn turned back toward the camp and saw Izzy sprinting toward her with D.J. and Katie. Leonard trailed a little way behind, gamely trying to keep up with the three campers.

The mystic smiled a bit as she trotted back to meet them. She had not foreseen this, but told herself that perhaps she should have. No matter; whether their purpose was to see her off or to persuade her to stay, she was pleased to see them.

"I heard you stuck it to our evil overlord," Izzy explained when they met at the base of the dock. "Couldn't happen to a nicer guy."

"I know, right?" Katie seconded. She turned to Dawn and said, her voice quavering with disappointment, "Is it true you're leaving us?"

"I'm afraid so," Dawn answered ruefully. "Not that I'm not glad to see you, but how did you know?"

"Izzy told me and Leonard," Katie explained, "but she hasn't told us how she knew."

"Nothing simpler," Izzy explained, "Angie told Perola, Perola told Sunshine, Sunshine told me, and so it was done."

"I might have known," Dawn admitted. She turned to her fellow intern and said, "Leonard, I haven't forgotten my promise. I'll be in touch."

The diminutive mystic craned her neck a bit to meet the gaze of the towering brickhouse who rounded out the sendoff committee, and she seemed to flush slightly. "Did you hear about it through the grapevine, like the others?"

D.J. opened his mouth to answer, but stopped short. After a moment, he admitted, "Now that you mention it, I don't know. I could have sworn somebody told me, but I can't for the life of me remember who."

Dawn cocked her head as if listening to voices only she could hear—a distinct possibility, her companions thought—and then looked intently at D.J. for a few moments. Neither he nor anyone else saw fit to interrupt her. Finally, the wraith-girl smiled warmly. "It seems I may have given you more that night than I realized," she said enigmatically. "I will be very interested to see where this leads."

"Another riddle," D.J. chided gently. "I take it that's your way of saying you'll keep in touch. I would like that."

"So what did you get from her 'that night', Deej?" Katie needled. "Sounds naughty."

"No, it wasn't like that," Dawn said. "But now that you mention it, I suppose it did sound rather salacious."

"That wouldn't happen if you came right out and said what you mean," D.J. chided again, but his smile took the sting from his words.

"And if she did, what would happen to that air of mystery that men can't resist?" Izzy countered.

"Me, irresistible to men?" Dawn asked with audible amusement. "You give me far too much credit."

The approaching mound on the water was quite near, and now identifiable as the carapace of a colossal snapping turtle. The bus-sized turtle presently hauled itself halfway onto shore at the base of the dock.

"My ride is here," Dawn explained. "Katie, I'm glad I could give you what help I did. I'd have done more if it had been within my power."

"I'll miss you," Katie said. "Do you really have to go?"

"Yes, I'm afraid I must. Remember, you must not take that necklace off for any reason until you leave the island for good."

Dawn turned to Izzy. "Until next time, Becky. I'm glad you got your legal problems cleared up. Sounds to me that they let you off pretty easy."

"I know, right?" Izzy replied.

"Look after her, Sunshine. Don't let her get in too much trouble, okay?" Dawn smiled knowingly, as if well aware that she was setting the proverbial fox to guard the henhouse.

Having nothing more to say, the mystic made the short leap from the dock onto the turtle's back. She sat cross-legged at the base of her steed's neck, and the huge reptile eased itself back into the water. The turtle came about and swam away with such power that it and its passenger were soon lost to view.[23]

Down the slippery slopes of Myrtle,
Where the early pumpkins blow,
To the calm and silent sea
Fled the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.
There, beyond the Bay of Gurtle,
Lay a large and lively Turtle,
'You're the Cove,' he said, 'for me
'On your back beyond the sea,
'Turtle, you shall carry me!'
Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò,
Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.

Through the silent-roaring ocean
Did the Turtle swiftly go;
Holding fast upon his shell
Rode the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.
With a sad primæval motion
Towards the sunset isles of Boshen
Still the Turtle bore him well.
Holding fast upon his shell,
'Lady Jingly Jones, farewell!'
Sang the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò,
Sang the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.


Leonard and the campers returned to their own affairs by whatever paths seemed best to them. When D.J. happened to pass near the boy's cabin, Trent stepped out and called, with a beckoning gesture, "Yo, dude! Got a minute?"

Time was heavy on D.J.'s hands, so he went into the cabin to find out what Trent wanted. He was mildly surprised to find all the boys there because, with the challenge done, they would normally be scattered about the camp at this time of day.

"Duncan has an idea," Trent said before D.J. could ask. "He didn't want to explain until everyone was here, but now everybody is."

"We're in trouble," Duncan declared. "Chris letting Izzy back in the game means there are seven chicks and only six dudes. If they realize that, they're going to pick us off one by one, so we have to strike before they do."

"Are you sure? It's not like they're all pals or anything," D.J. noted skeptically.

"In a game like this, you don't have to be pals to be allies," the Juvenile Hall alumnus countered. "All you have to do is vote together."

Cody said, "I don't know about you, but I like having a bunch of hot chicks around."

"So do I," Duncan admitted, "but that doesn't mean I want them controlling my destiny. The only reason you're still here is because the team phase ended before your team ran out of dudes. They'll do the same thing to the rest of us if we give them a chance."

"But if we like having girls around, why wouldn't they like having dudes?" Owen asked.

"They probably do, but have you ever seen a chick flick? When push comes to shove, they're going to stick together, which means we have to. Bros before hos."

Several boy protested, almost as one, that this or that girl was not a "ho".

"All right, then, pals before gals, but the point stands," Duncan insisted.

"But you and I sort of have an alliance with Courtney, eh?" Ezekiel noted. "Are you just going to throw her to the wolves?"

"When we have to," Duncan admitted. "We'll be trading up, sacrificing a smaller alliance for a bigger one."

"I don't know," Trent said. "Gwen and I have been hooked up most of the summer. It doesn't feel right being in an alliance without her."

"Like I told Zeke, you'll be sacrificing a smaller alliance to be part of a bigger one. That doesn't mean Gwen can't still be your girlfriend, but it does mean you have to be careful what you tell her."

Duncan could see that some of the boys remained unconvinced. "Dudes, it's not as hard as you're making it," he insisted. "This isn't going to work if we're not all in on it. We're only down one, so we can still take control if we stick together; but if anyone flakes out on us, the girls will have time to react after we strike. This is an elimination game. Trust me, dudes, Gwen and Courtney will understand. Voting against someone doesn't necessarily mean you don't like them. Anyone who's smarter than Lindsay should get that by now."

In the fullness of time, Duncan's arguments carried the day, and all the boys agreed to join the Grand Dudes Alliance. Their discussion then turned to the question of which girl to target first.[24]

The hour was growing late, so Brett's mother left off her tale and suggested that he prepare for bed.


NOTES:

[01] Under the original plan of having the man-eating snake attack Katie during her Hydra sub-challenge, the scene would essentially have been a played-for-drama counterpart to D.J.'s failure in the canonical "random punishments" challenge. Chris would have appeared content to let the encounter run its course (i.e. to let Katie die) until the other campers could take no more, whereupon they would have stormed the snake tank and rescued her.

[02] Describing Carrie as the supersnake's intended second breakfast alludes to J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth novels, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. "Second breakfast" is the second of six standard meals in hobbit society. The film adaptation identifies the full listing as breakfast, second breakfast (a traditional meal in parts of Eastern Europe), elevenses (also called "morning tea" in some countries), luncheon, dinner and supper.

[03] The first meal in camp (episode 1, Second Night) established that Izzy is a fan of the Star Wars franchise.

[04] For the benefit of readers not well versed in American slang, "fixing" a dog or other animal means to neuter or spay it.

[05] In wrestling, a juggle is a move used to break a hold. Describing Eva's juggle as "nigh supernatural" refers to the song, "Like a Ghost his Vigil Keeping" from the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, The Yeomen of the Guard. The pertinent part of this alternating-lines duet goes:

After mighty tug and tussle—
It resembled more a struggle—
He, by dint of stronger muscle—
Or by some infernal juggle—
From my clutches quickly sliding—
I should rather call it slipping—

[06] The trick Eva uses to beat D.J. is loosely based on the story of Br'er Rabbit and the Tar-Baby. D.J. needing nine body slams to free himself is based on the significance of that number in Norse mythology.

[07] Justin offering Katie the kiss he could not give her before the Awake-a-Thon alludes to their "romance novel" scene where Justin used his wiles to distract Katie, who was about to vomit from overeating at the buffet following the 20K run (episode 3, Fourth Night). He succeeded in calming her stomach, but when she tried to kiss him, he politely declined because he had his heart set on Lindsay.

[08] "Big Bertha" has become a generic term, but in the sense of "particularly large example" it originally referred to a certain huge World War I howitzer fielded by the Germans. The French used the term generically for several exceptionally large German guns, including the Paris Gun.

[09] Izzy's fight with Jasmine is based on an iconic fight scene in the unfinished martial arts film, The Game of Death, and includes a loose reenactment of the opening bit. In that scene, the protagonist (played by Bruce Lee, who died during a production hiatus) faces a giant guardian (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). A video link is available on the author's profile page. The Izzy-Jasmine fight also alludes to an ambition of Jasmine's canon counterpart, who hoped to use the prize money from Total Drama Pahkitew Island to open a combination cage fighting school and flower shop.

[10] Izzy's fighting style is loosely based on that of the comic book superhero, Spider-Man. Jasmine's style does not have any specific model. Their use of differing styles is a departure from the Game of Death fight scene, as Lee and Jabbar used the same style.

[11] A second snake attack would have been too repetitive, so Katie is eliminated in another Labor and does not face the Hydra.

[12] The "Tiger" cat's behavior toward Heather is based on a Burmese cat the author had as a child.

[13] Izzy's scene with Justin is based on a quasi-canonical short video where Izzy claims to have dated Justin for a time, only to dump him because he was a liar.

[14] The robotic Cerberus losing a snake head to Leshawna's wrath and getting it replaced in time to face Trent alludes to an incident in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah where Godzilla blasts off one of Ghidorah's heads, only to have a third party replace the destroyed head with a mechanical head.

[15] Aias (Ajax to the Romans) was the name of two Greek heroes in the Trojan War. Aias the Greater was probably the biggest warrior in the Achaean host, and was said to be the second strongest after Achilles; and in The Iliad, Homer made numerous references to his huge "shield like a tower". Bronze Age Greece had three major shield designs: the round buckler; the tower shield which covered the entire body; and a vaguely figure-eight design with flared top and bottom and narrower waist, which was as tall as a tower shield but easier to handle.

[16] The section heading, "The Day the Magic Died" is a play on "the day the music died". On 3 February 1959, rock and roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson died in a light plane crash en route to a tour stop. In 1971, folk rock singer/songwriter Don McLean referred to the incident as "the day the music died" in his song, "American Pie", and the label stuck.

[17] "I'm Being Eaten [or "Swallowed"] by a Boa Constrictor", officially titled simply "Boa Constrictor", is a children's song by Shel Silverstein (1930-1999). A video link is available on the author's profile page.

[18] "In the Hall of the Mountain King", by Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), is canonically the tune Mal likes to whistle in Total Drama All-Stars.

[19] The Dance of the Rattlesnake is canonically the act Izzy offers for the talent show challenge. Video links to both tunes in Izzy's dance mix are available on the author's profile page.

[20] Izzy also eliminates herself and places third in the canon counterpart to this challenge, although the setup is quite different.

[21] Although Chris uses the original name, Heracles, throughout the challenge, Eva uses the better-known Hercules.

[22] Dawn siccing the swarm of giant horseflies on Chris was foreshadowed as "another story for another time" during the "save Katie from the curse" subplot (episode 11, Seventeenth Night) when Gwen suspected that crossing Dawn would be unwise, Dawn's pleasant and mild-mannered demeanor notwithstanding. The accompanying verse is an abridged version of the Queen of the Night's famous aria from The Magic Flute, for which a video link is available on the author's profile page.

[23] Dawn's theme is "If I Could Talk to the Animals" from Doctor Doolittle, for which a video link is available on the author's profile page. The verses accompanying her departure scene come from "The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò", which was previously quoted in part during Gwen and Cody's transit to Boney Island (episode 8, Twelfth Night).

[24] In the original, Duncan forged the boys' alliance two episodes later, during the hide-and-seek challenge (episode 17, "Hide and be Sneaky"). Doing so immediately after the merge might have made more sense in-universe, but the show was constrained to 20-minute segments and other storylines took precedence in episodes 15 ("No Pain, No Game") and 16 ("Search and Do Not Destroy").


LABORS OF HERACLES CHALLENGE PROGRESSION:

First round (listings alphabetical):

Out: Cody (Labor #10), Courtney (2), Duncan (9)
Passed: D.J. (5/3), Ezekiel (3), Gwen (10), Heather (8), Izzy (7), Katie (8), Leshawna (11), Lindsay (10), Owen (7), Trent (11)

Second round:

Out: none
Passed: D.J. (10), Ezekiel (5/8), Gwen (11), Heather (2/3), Izzy (8), Katie (3), Leshawna (4), Lindsay (12), Owen (2*/9), Trent (7)

Third round:

Out: Gwen (9), Lindsay (6)
Passed: D.J. (2*/4), Ezekiel (4), Heather (11), Izzy (12), Katie (9), Leshawna (10), Owen (5/10), Trent (8)

Fourth round (in progress at start of this chapter):

Out: Ezekiel (1), Owen (8)
Passed: D.J. (6), Heather (10), Izzy (5/3), Katie (12), Leshawna (7), Trent (2/4)

Fifth round:

Out: D.J. (9)
Passed: Heather, Izzy, Katie, Leshawna, Trent

Sixth round:

Out: Katie (11)
Passed: Heather (9), Izzy (10), Leshawna (2/8), Trent (5/1)

Seventh round:

Out: Heather (1)
Passed: Izzy (11), Leshawna (9), Trent (10)

Eighth round:

Passed: Izzy (1), Leshawna (6), Trent (12)

Ninth round:

Passed: Izzy (2/4), Leshawna (3), Trent (6)

Tenth round (sudden death):

Out: Izzy (n/a)
Passed: Trent (9)
Not Attempted: Leshawna (1)

WINNER: Trent. Bonus invincibility to D.J. and Owen.

* Earned bonus invincibility


INTERN UPDATE:

Original intern corps: Alejandro, Anne Maria, B, Brick, Cameron, Jo, Lightning, Scott, Staci + 4 others

Pregame: unidentified intern dies (eaten by sharks)

Episode 2: unidentified intern dies (mauled by bear)

Episode 4 pregame: two unidentified interns die (construction accident)

Episode 5 pregame: Rodney, Shawn + 11 others arrive

Episode 5: Anne Maria + unidentified intern die (burned to death fighting the amphitheatre fire)

Episode 6 pregame: two unidentified interns allegedly die (mauled by bears). It is unclear whether they really died or were even attacked at all, or whether Chris was just playing mind games during the challenge briefing.

Episode 8 pregame ("The Boney Island Massacre"): Jo dies (killed by giant beavers, essentially rodent versions of bears); Lightning + several unidentified interns die (rockslide)

Episode 10 pregame: Beardo, Carrie, Dave, Ennui, Dawn, Ella, Leonard, Max, Scarlett, Sky + 3 others arrive

Episode 12: Cameron's earlier death mentioned (cause not stated, but implied to have been violent)

Episode 13 pregame: Rodney injured, out for the season

Episode 13: Ella dies, sort of (natural causes)

Episode 15 pregame: Jasmine, Ryan + 11 others arrive; Dave dies (eaten by snake); Max injured but able to continue, Scarlett injured but able to continue

Episode 15: Scott dies (eaten by snake)

NOTE: Additional intern deaths and injuries not mentioned in the narrative should be assumed.

Confirmed dead (6): Anne Maria, Cameron, Dave, Jo, Lightning, Scott

Presumably dead (1): Brick

Define "dead" (1): Ella

Status uncertain (1): Staci

Presumably alive (2): Rodney (injured, departed), Shawn

Confirmed alive (12): Alejandro, B, Beardo, Carrie, Dawn (departed), Ennui, Jasmine, Leonard, Max, Ryan, Scarlett (injured), Sky

NOTE: Although it is technically possible for an intern to die within seconds of their last "sighting", for purposes of this listing anyone appearing on the most recent day of the story's chronology is "confirmed alive" unless otherwise noted. Interns who have appeared or been stated to be alive in the latest week or so of the story's chronology, or who have left the island, are "presumably alive" unless otherwise noted.


(A/N): And so concludes what I expect to be far and away this story's most elaborate challenge, the Labors of Heracles. Including the pre-challenge briefing, this challenge ran 26,000 words over three chapters; and for that reason, episode 15 will be the first (and, God willing, the last) episode to span portions of five chapters. I expect the next several episodes to be much more in line with the story average of about three chapters per two episodes. I will also be returning to my normal update schedule, because the only substantial part I have prewritten for episode 16 is the post-challenge drama.

It is with mixed feeling that I send Dawn to "the sunset isles of Boshen", because this story's most-reviewed chapters have generally been those where she and/or Ella were prominent, but Dawn was always planned to go when she did (and unlike Ella, was always planned to go in the way she did). But has she left a legacy? If so, what? If you have any theories, you know where the Reviews page is.

Speaking of theories, who do you think the Grand Dudes Alliance will target first? Will they succeed?