Love, Larceny, and Lies I

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Preview

      The following is an episode of the Young Hercules Fan Fiction Seasons, a non-profit virtual season project; written for fans by fans this is done to help keep the legacy of the short-lived television series Young Hercules alive on the Internet. The overall direction of the story that takes place in this virtual season may not be exactly what took place if an actual televised season had been produced.

Iolaus: "They call him the Prince of Thieves."


A YOUNG DASHING AND HANDSOME DEVIL
Autolycus: "I just love a quiet walk through the woods."
(Autolycus smoothly slips his arm around Megaeras shoulder)
(Iolaus stealthily follows Meg and Autolycus into the woods)
AND A BEAUTIFUL MAIDEN
(Taken by his remark, Megaera blushes)
Herc to Iolaus: "...a thief?"
Iolaus: "I saw them!!"
(The Young Autolycus swaggers)
TROUBLE HAS JUST HIT TOWN
Iolaus to Herc: "They were all mushy and stuff!"
AND ITS HEADED STRAIGHT FOR OUR HEROS
(Hercules lifts Iolaus off the ground by his vest)
ON THE NEXT YOUNG HERCULES
UP NEXT!

Teaser

      <center>RECENTLY ON YOUNG HERCULES:</center>

      Hercules grabbed the leader as he swung and smashed his knee against the broad man's chest before throwing him backwards. The thug hit a tree and slid to the ground. The other two had advanced on Iolaus as Herk rushed to the girl's side.

<center>HERCULES AND IOLAUS MET MEGAERA

      "Are you ok?" he asked. Shyly she nodded, brushing a stray lock of flaxen hair back from her face. The sides were clipped back and the rest fell down her back. Her dark blue robe reached the ground, belted at the waist. Dark eyes that were almost black stared at him. Pale skin, turning pink from sunburn was stark against her hair.

      "I'm Hercules. You're safe now." he smiled at the lovely girl.

      "Thank you for your assistance." she said softly. "Megaera. Call me Meg please. I've heard of you, Hercules."

AND IOLAUS' SUSPICIONS ARE RAISED</B>

      Iolaus's eyes widened when he saw the glimpse of blue flash under her robe. It looked like. . .no. He was seeing things.

      Iolaus lagged behind the pair as they strolled towards Corinth, Herk and Meg laughing and chatting.

      Hearing bits and pieces of the conversation, Iolaus was disturbed by the fact they had extensively talked about Herk's life. And Zeus. Lots about Zeus.

      "I. . .was a priestess."

      "Was? Isn't it kind of a life thing?" he asked.

      "Not if you lose your faith." she smiled charmingly and Herk felt a strange pull in his heart.

      "It's not just Zeus. In the past year, various family members have made themselves known to me, and most of them are not pleasant." he sighed. "In fact, they're down right psychotic."

      "I realize all the gods have their bad sides but when all you see is the bad, it's hard to support that. I've been in service since I was a child, and leaving the grace of a goddess is not a wise choice." Meg said, almost absently.

      "Then why did you? If you don't mind me asking." Herk flashed his smile and Iolaus watched jealously as Meg looked up at him coyly.

      "It's hard to condone her actions when revenge seeps into each one." Meg replied.

<B>
MEGAERA RETURNED HOME, TO AN UNWARM WELCOME</B>

      "Hello father." she said mildly. The man grabbed her by the arm.

      "First you disgrace me by turning your back on the great Hera! Then you run away, and show up with two boys!"

      "Hera?" Herk whispered.

<B>
A LIFELONG FRIENDSHIP IS STRAINED</B>

      Iolaus said, "I can't believe I slept in the woods last night on the ground because you and miss ga-ga were talking all night."

      "Have you ever spent all night with a beautiful girl?" Hercules demanded.

      "Of course I have!" Iolaus ducked his head when Hercules glared at him. "Well, uh. . .not exactly I suppose. Your mom is beautiful and I've spent the night there."

      "Iolaus," Hercules stopped running to catch his breath. "Meg is awesome. She's the greatest girl I've ever met. Since we met I can't stop thinking about her!"

      "Well, if I were you, I would try. Something's not right about her." Iolaus blurted out. Herk narrowed his ice blue eyes.

<B>AND NOW, THIS WEEKS EPISODE:

      "And, for those of you needing the extra credit, I strongly recommend attending the art festival. A simple, 1,000 word essay will suffice for the points." Feducious eyed Iolaus who was tapping his fingers on the desk.

      "Why does he always look at me?" Iolaus whispered to Hercules. The demi-god shrugged, lost in his own thoughts.

      "Spend your exam break wisely. Dismissed." Feducious watched the cadets filing out. Hercules's blue eyes were glassy from daydreaming.

      "What had your attention huh?" Iolaus demanded. "You didn't hear a word of class!"

      "Like you ever do?" Lilith joined them.

      "Well, no one expects me too." Iolaus pointed out with a shrug.

      Hercules tried to slide the scroll between his books.

      "Hey what's that?"

      The shorter cadet snatched the scroll before Hercules could stop him. Sighing, Herk braced himself for the lecture.

      "'My dearest Hercules'-how sweet-'my mind aches as I think of you so far away'-oh YUCK! It's a love letter!" Iolaus shoved it back at the demi-god who glared at him. "From her!"

      "Her name is Meg, Iolaus."

      Iolaus snapped his mouth shut when Lilith gave him a warning glance. The curly haired boy knew better than to start complaining about his best friend's girl.

      "So what about this art festival?" Lilith interjected. "Iolaus, you going?"

      "No way. Art is for sissies."

      "Extra credit is for failing cadets." Hercules replied absently.

      "Well, I figured since Herk loves art, he'd go, then he could just tell me about it and I'll write the essay-"

      "No way." Hercules interjected. "I have no desire to go this thing. I don't need the extra credit and I don't want to."

      "Well I'm going. I think it'll be fun." Lilith replied.

      "You would. Hey, what's that?" The cadets stopped walking and watched the caravan of wagons heading for the town. Each wagon had two riders driving it, and two men on horses.

      "Look like something important." Iolaus mused.

      "How would you know? I bet it's someone important." Lilith contradicted.

      "Well, they look kinda mean. C'mon, let's go to Kora's." Hercules tried to change the subject. They were halfway there already.

      "I wanna know where they're going." Iolaus protested.

      "Looks like Corinth."

      "Well, lets go pay a visit to Jason." Iolaus grinned.

      "We can go to the arts festival while we're there."

      "Hey guys!"

      They turned as Theseus ran up to them.

      "What's up?" Hercules asked.

      "I just saw a flier at Kora's. Some of those paintings are worth hundreds of dinars!"

      "Really?" Iolaus' ears pricked up. "How can a painting be valuable?"

      "The artists are long dead, that's how." Theseus rolled his eyes. "Corinth is under heavy security from Jason."

      "Speaking of Jason, let's get moving. I can taste that palace food now." Iolaus' stomach rumbled at the thought of tasty dishes not involving barley.

      As the cadets hurried to Corinth none spotted the young man lurking in the trees. Dressed in a green and black tunic, black pants, his short dark hair was combed back neatly. Strapped to his back pack was a strange, three pronged curving instrument.

      "Well well. Looks like Corinth will be more profitable than I initially realized. Get ready to dazzle, Auto." the youth mused, stroking the tiny bit of hair under his bottom lip.

Act One

Love, Larceny and Lies I

Also Starring
Jodie Rimmer as Lilith
Mfundo Morrison as Theseus

Guest Starring Rebecca Herbst as Megaera
and
Ian Hughes as Young Autolycus

Based on "Young Hercules"
Created by Renaissance Pictures

Assistant Producer
Euterpe

Co-Executive Producers
Tern O'Brien & Medea

Executive Producer
Kent Simmons

Written and Edited by Tern O'Brien


      Hercules studied the poster for the arts festival. It was being hosted by Meg's father. With a heavy sigh Hercules turned away. If he were to show up, Meg's father would think he was there only to see her.

      "Herk, there's Ruff!" Iolaus exclaimed. Herk's attention snapped back.

      "Where!"

      "Welcome back to the present." Iolaus said sarcastically.

      "Sorry I was thinking about something else." Hercules replied, irritated.

      "Someone else." Iolaus muttered. "Ouch! Get your elbow out of my rib!"

      Lilith smiled sweetly at him. "Cheer up Herk, you'll be able to see her. Her father is underwriting the festival."

      "I know." Herk said glumly. "Which means if I step foot in there, he'll whisk her away."

      "I heard Cheiron already notified him that cadets will be attending for educational purposes. He has to let you in. And he can't harass you."

      "I don't know Lil. Even Jason can't protect Herk from her dad."

      The cadets had reached Corinth, which was bustling more than usual. Iolaus eyed the carts selling food and his mouth began water.

      "You know, Jason may be too busy to see us." Hercules pointed out. "We're just barging in."

      "I doubt he'll mind." Iolaus was picturing the king's table loaded with roast and ham and pies.

      "He is always telling us to drop by anytime." Theseus pointed out. Lilith nodded.

      "There's the castle." Iolaus' step quickened. Hercules lagged behind the others a few steps, his eyes drifting in the direction of Meg's house. His step faltered when he saw the tall girl with long blond hair. Though her back was to him he knew it was her. Slowly she turned, dressed in a dark blue dress, her vest embroidered with gold thread.

      The instant their eyes met, a smile broke over her lovely features. Glancing over her shoulder she motioned to an alley. Hercules hurried to meet her and swept her into a hug.

      "I got your scroll." he wouldn't let go of her.

      "Why are you here?" she half whispered.

      "To see Jason and the arts festival. It's for school."

      "I'm in charge of security for the paintings, can you believe it? I think Father is starting to love me again."

      Hercules heart pulled at the words. His father had never loved him and thinking of the way Meg's treated her infuriated him.

      "That's dangerous. Surely there will be thieves creeping everywhere." he frowned. Meg nodded.

      "Yes but it's ok. We've hired some of King Jason's guards to provide extra security. I have to go before Father sees me. I'll look for you during the festival. I might be able to get away." standing on her tiptoes she brushed her lips against his and vanished into he crowd, leaving Hercules standing with a goofy smile across his handsome features. The young man in the green tunic lurked around a corner, grinning slyly.

      Autolycus couldn't believe his good fortune. Getting into the art festival would be easy as pie. All it took was the seduction of a beautiful young maiden. And no woman had ever been able to resist Autolycus, Prince of Thieves. Stealing hearts was like taking candy from a baby.

Act Two

      Jason greeted his friends warmly.

      "I had a feeling you would show up this weekend." the young king grinned, his smile lingering on Lilith for a second longer. "I had your rooms readied this morning. And Iolaus, supper is almost ready."

      "Great! I'm starved." Iolaus enthused. Lilith rolled her eyes behind his back. "but its good to see you Jase."

      "Uh huh." the sturdy king smacked his friend across the back. "We're having barley stew and muffins. I thought it's be a good remembrance of Cheiron." Jason grinned as Iolaus' smile vanished. Hercules snickered.

      "How's Corinth doing?" he asked. Jason beamed with pride.

      "Fabulous. The people are happy, I haven't had to raise taxes-" Jason led them through the palace as they caught up.

      "The only problem I'm having is with a thief. And I'm worried about the security of this festival." Jason sipped his wine a while later at the table.

      "One thief?" Hercules asked. Iolaus stopped shoveling food in his mouth long enough to ask his name. The ravenous cadet was thrilled to discover Jason had been fooling about the barley stew.

      "I don't know. He goes by the Prince of Thieves." Jason shrugged. "Ever hear of him?"

      Iolaus, the reformed thief shook his head. "I was small time. If he's a threat to the festival than he's big."

      "Actually he's about our age from what I've been told. Only one person has been able to describe him. He uses some kind of smoke screen and no one ever remembers meeting him. But he leaves little notes." in disgust Jason tossed small piece of parchment on the table, which read "courtesy of the Prince of Thieves".

      "You think he'll strike this weekend?" Herk asked.

      "I'd bet dinars against it. Some of my own guards are involved for security."

      "That's what Meg said." Herk muttered, then clamped his lips shut.

      "When did you talk to her?" Iolaus demanded after gulping down his water.

      "I-uh-"

      "That's why you were late getting up here." Lilith laughed. Hercules blushed.

      "Only for a minute." he mumbled. Iolaus rolled his eyes in disgust and went back to scarfing down baked ham.

      Meg was hurrying towards her house, laden with packaged when someone slammed into her from around a corner.

      "My most humble apologies beautiful one. If I had seen you I would have thrown myself at your feet instead of knocking them out from under you." Auto knelt to help the pretty girl up, who was blushing.

      "Oh-I'm ok. Really."

      "I've soiled your dress. Please, allow me to help you carry your packages as an apology. I am terribly clumsy today it seems. I've already knocked over a bucket of water this morning and tripped over a tree stump."

      "You poor thing." Meg studied the handsome youth in front of her. Lively dark eyes, gentle though. A gentleman altogether she felt. A wistful pang reminded her of Hercules.

      "Is your house in this direction? You seemed to be going that way." he gave her a friendly smile. Meg blushed further red.

      "Yes, I was taking these home to my sisters."

      "I shall escort you then, and protect you from other hazards like myself." he flashed the brilliant smile again and Meg smiled back shyly.

Act Three

      Within moments Auto had charmed Meg's father, Cordonius, and been invited to stay for supper. Cordonius heartily enjoyed Auto's stories of travel, and princes, and bragged about his own adventures as a youth. Heaping compliments to Meg's mother, Autolycus masterfully reeled the family in.

      Meg, amused through the obviously exaggerated tales felt pang of guilt. Why couldn't Hercules be the one to chat so easily with her father? Though Cordonius reluctantly allowed Meg to see Hercules on a very limited basis, he had no idea of the correspondence the pair kept up. Meg hid Hercules' letters under her bed, safe from prying eyes. Statues for Hera filled the house still, including Meg's room. Though she no longer followed Hera, she didn't dare anger the powerful goddess.

      The former priestess knew she lived by Hera's grace alone. Should she feel the urge to punish the girl for abandoning her temple, Hera could strike her down at any instant.

      "Autolycus, you must come back tomorrow night for supper again. You've brought some real energy into this house tonight-" Cordonius went on and on. Meg smiled shyly at Auto as he winked at her.

      "I'd be delighted sir. Your lovely wife here is about the best cook this side of the Nile river. And your exquisite daughter, quiet as she is, must join in tomorrow."

      "Of course she will, she's just ta little shy." Cordonius boomed. Meg bitterly thought of all the time he had called her harlot, when she had never been touched by a boy except for a few stolen kisses from Hercules.

      Iolaus, strolling the city after dark, patted his stomach contentedly.

      Realizing he was near Meg's house, Iolaus wandered by. There were plenty of lamps still lit. The door opened and on instinct the short cadet jumped back into the shadows.

      "Till tomorrow night then Autolycus." Cordonius boomed, shaking the young man's hand. Auto bowed to the lady who Iolaus deduced was Meg's mother, and then took Meg's hand brushed his lips against it.

      Iolaus' mouth fell open. Meg had another suitor! And apparently her father approved of this one! Hercules would be broken hearted when he found out. Well, you just won't tell him. Iolaus decided. But it'll get rid of her for good. You get your best friend back. another voice whispered. Iolaus groaned and leaned his head against the wall. He hated being stuck in the middle.

      The festival opened the next day and mos of Corinth was there to tour the museum holding the display of artwork. Cordonius stood at the front door, welcoming the visitors in his thundering voice.

      His smile vanished when he spied the four cadets. Hercules swallowed hard.

      "Good afternoon sir." he said politely. Cordonius grunted a reply and turned to the people behind the cadets.

      "That went well." Iolaus hissed. Hercules spotted Meg across the room, holding a scroll and looking about anxiously. Her blond hair was swept up and she was dressed in green and gold. Lilith nudged Herk.

      "You're drooling." she whispered. Herk blushed.

      Meg approached her father.

      "Father-Hercules is here. May I-"

      "You can talk with him for a moment. But do not forget your duties and do not forget our guest tonight." he said sternly. Meg curtsied.

      "Yes sir." Cordonius' beady eyes followed his daughter as she greeted the cadets. If the goddess Hera hadn't told him to allow her to see Hercules, Cordonius would have forbidden any contact with the boy. A half god indeed! An insult to Hera was more like it. No bastard of Zeus' would marry his daughter. No, she needed a solid, fine young man like Autolycus.

      "This one came all the way from Sumeria." Meg said proudly. To help the cadets with their essays, she was giving them a tour and background on each piece.

      "You really know a lot of about this art huh?" Theseus asked, wishing he was the recipient of her affection.

      "Yes. In-the temple we studied the great artists." she said modestly. Hercules didn't hear a word she said, his eyes drinking her in.

      Meg spied Auto lurking on the other side of the room, watching her.

      "Excuse me please. I must return to my duties." she squeezed Hercules' hand and hurried off.

      "She's nice." Lilith commented. Iolaus made a face that thankfully, Hercules didn't see.

      "She's great." he sighed.

      "Well I think I got the most important points written down." Theseus remarked checking over his scroll.

      Hercules didn't answer, dreaming of Meg.

      Meg sighed with relief. The entire time she had been with the cadets she could feel her father's eyes boring into her. Now he was pleased, seeing her with Auto. Though Meg enjoyed his company, she longed for the demi-god.

      "Is it safe to have such a high risk position? A young lady as beautiful as yourself could fall prey to any number of callous thieves, looking to steal these paintings."

      Meg smiled charmingly.

      "I'm perfectly safe. No one would dare harm me. Everyone knows my family is under the protection of Hera, and the King has his own bodyguards here as well."

      "Royal guards? I'm impressed.." Auto said smoothly.

      "Yes, King Jason was very generous to lend them to us for this. Mainly they just stand around and try to look menacing." she laughed.

      Auto noted their positions and the fact they never seemed to move from hem except to shift their balance. In fact, it didn't look like there were too many security guards at all truthfully. Unless they were in disguise as townspeople. Auto eyes them suspiciously. Within moments he had almost all of them picked out. Single men who looked a little too stern to be a dirt farmer. They stood stiffly, from military training. The real information would come tonight. After he left Meg's house, he would sneak back over here to see the night guards and time the changing of the shift.

      "Do you stay late to lock up?" he asked as they strolled through the museum.

      "Yes. I oversee basically everything and make sure the guards are in place for the night." she said proudly.

      "That must take awhile, with so many guards."

      As Meg went on Auto withheld his laughter. The foolish girl was telling him everything he needed to know. He would go down in history for the biggest heist to date.

      Iolaus, after sleeping luxuriously late, hurried to meet his friends. Jason was buying them lunch at his favorite inn. That didn't stop the curly haired cadet from pausing in the kitchen to grab a few snacks on his way.

      On the route to the inn he passed the museum hosting the art show and slowed down, purposefully blending himself in to the crowd.

      Iolaus eyed Meg distrustfully as he watched her. The tall girl stood talking to the handsome young man with a dark mustache.

      Autolycus smoothly slipped his arm around Meg's shoulders as he led her towards the woods.

      "I just love a quiet walk through the woods. With such a lovely girl as yourself it's only more pleasurable on such a glorious day." Auto told her. Meg blushed, unaware they were being watched.

      Stealthily Iolaus followed the pair. The former thief didn't trust this guy further than he could throw him, which wasn't very far to begin with. He had sleaze written all over him. Why was Meg getting suckered into his game when she wrote such mushy letters to Herk? And who was this creep anyway, moving in on his best friends girl?

      "I've never known Iolaus to be late for a free lunch." Theseus laughed. Jason nodded.

      "He's probably still asleep. You know how heavy a sleeper he is. I say we carry him out to barn." Jason suggested.

      As the four plotted against their friend, Iolaus arrived. Lilith saw him first and signaled the others.

      "You're late Iolaus. We just finished." Hercules said, straight faced. Iolaus' face fell.

      "What! I'm not that late! I got distracted! By a beautiful girl." it wasn't a lie. Meg was beautiful.

      "Yeah we have to go. I have lots to do today." Jason played along. Theseus patted his stomach.

      "Man, that was great."

      Just as Iolaus looked ready to cry the innkeeper arrived with their food and the friends burst into laughter as Iolaus glared at them.

      "We ordered for you." Jason grinned as Iolaus sat next to him, secretly pleased.

      As they ate and chatted, Iolaus wondered about Meg. He was late for breakfast because he had asked around. The young man was Autolycus, a drifter who had been in the city for a couple weeks, but the female merchants adored him.

      The expression was "You can't con a con man." And Iolaus knew quite a bit about cons. And if this Autolycus wasn't a con man, he'd skip two meals.

      Hercules stared at up at the ceiling of the room he shared with the others. Iolaus rolled over.

      "I can hear you sighing from over here. What's on your mind?"

      "You don't want to hear about it." Hercules grumbled.

      "Meg?"

      "Yeah."

      "Go on if it'll make you feel better."

      "Something is off with her. Like she's not herself. Or she's distracted."

      Iolaus bit his lip.

      "Herk-I did see her today on my way over to you guys. She was with some guy."

      "Guy?"

      "Yeah. About our age. He's a drifter. I asked around-"

      "You were spying on her?" Hercules sat up, furious.

      "No! I just happened to see her and something about this-"

      "Iolaus, what depths will you not sink too?" Hercules demanded, throwing his blanket back. "I can't believe you! You'd say anything to poison me against her!"

      Iolaus was left staring, open mouthed as Hercules stormed out of the room. Lilith and Theseus stirred then were quiet.

Act Four

      Unable to sleep after his argument with Hercules, the cadet got up to prowl the castle and find a snack. On a whim, he left the castle, munching on leftover bread from supper.

      Heading towards the museum, he stayed to the shadows, an old habit. Arriving in the correct sector of the city, he waited. A faint sound in the bushes caught his ear and he held perfectly still. The young man form earlier, Autolycus, emerged. Carefully he began eyeing the museum, and studying it. Iolaus knew all too well the move. Autolycus was planning to rob the museum. Was he the Prince of Thieves?

      Iolaus remembered Herk's words and his temper flared. Fine. He'd prove to Hercules that he wasn't imaging things.

      Silent as a cat, Iolaus crept up on the young man from behind and tackle him. Autolycus let out a howl of surprise and tried to throw the smaller boy off.

      "Thief!" Iolaus hollered at the top of his lungs. Slowly lights began to come on in the houses as the two boys rolled around in the dirt.

      "You nut!" Autolycus grunted. How could someone so much smaller than him pin him down?

      Voices were coming. The constable. Auto began to panic but his attacker didn't.

      "Help!" he yelled. "Get this crazy off me!"

      Arms had hold of Iolaus and the smaller youth was pulled off the would be thief.

      "What's going on here!" Cordonius. Iolaus groaned.

      "This guy was examining the museum! He was going to rob it!" Iolaus pointed a finger at Auto who was being brushed off by Cordonius.

      "Who are you? And why were you sneaking around?" Cordonius growled. Then he looked closer. "I know you!"

      "I'm a friend of King Jason! He'll straighten all this out!" The guards laughed.

      "Likely story." one muttered.

      "You're a friend of that scamp, Hercules aren't you?" Cordonius demanded. Iolaus swallowed.

      "I know him."

      "Hey! You're Iolaus! The thief!" someone said. The cadet's heart sunk.

      "I recognize him. He is friends with the King. And Hercules."

      "That doesn't explain why you were snooping around here boy, and attacking my friends." Cordonius was glaring daggers at Iolaus.

      "I told you, he was casing the joint to rob it."

      "I was studying it to make some suggestions to Meg about tightening her security." Auto said smoothly. "If you'll notice on the scroll, I have markings about where a possible thief could get in."

      The scroll as studied and the men began to agree. Auto crossed his arms and glared at Iolaus.

      "I think you were the one planning to rob the museum." he accused. Iolaus shook his head.

      "No! I'm not a thief any more! I'm a cadet at Cheiron's Academy. Call the King, he'll clear this up."

      "I'm not disturbing King Jason for the likes of you." one guard spat. The other shook his head.

      "We have to. He's a houseguest of the King this week."

      Jason was silent as they headed back to the castle.

      "Jase, I swear to you, I wasn't going to rob it. That guy was!"

      "Iolaus, there' no proof. You have a history and the means. Of course they're going to think you're guilty, especially Cordonius, because he knows your friends with Hercules. And he won't let Herk get close to Meg."

      "Jase I think that Autolycus is the Prince of Thieves!"

      "He's being tailed right now as we speak." Jason said in a low voice. "Iolaus, I believe you. But they don't."

      "But you're the King!"

      "How many times do I have to tell you that I cannot let my personal feelings get in the way?" Jason demanded. Iolaus sighed.

      Iolaus tossed and turned, seeing Meg and Autolycus laughing as they slipped the paintings into satchels. Over and over he saw them slit the paintings out of the frames and roll them up. Auto kissed Meg passionately as they headed into he darkness.

      "First you tell me my girlfriend is running about town with another guy then you accuse her of being a thief?" Hercules grabbed his friend by the front of the purple vest, lifting him off the ground.

      "Herk, I saw them!! They were all mushy and stuff! And that guy Autolycus is the Prince of Thieves, I'm sure of it!"

      "That doesn't make Meg a thief!" Herk snarled. "And there's no proof he's the Prince of Thieves!"

      "If he's not, I'll eat my vest!" Iolaus declared. Hercules glared at his friend as he released him.

      "I don't believe you Iolaus. I don't believe you would do something so callous to turn me against her!"

      Iolaus' mouth fell open in shock as Hercules stormed out of the room.

      Hercules hurried through the marketplace towards Meg's. Surely he could get a few minutes with her.

      Instead, he saw Cordonius, his arm around the shoulders of a tall young man with short dark hair. He fit the description Iolaus had given him.

      "Auto , my boy, I hope you'll be staying in Corinth awhile. This town could use more upstanding young men such as yourself." Cordonius boomed. Hercules swallowed. "And my Meg seems mighty fond of you."

      "I'm mighty fond of your Meg." Auto said smoothly, laughing along with Cordonius. Hercules' heart sank. Maybe Iolaus hadn't been lying.

      "I tell you, when this art festival is done, we must sit down and have a chat. I can see a bright future for you. . ." Cordonius' voice faded as they walked away. Hercules sprinted towards the museum, where he found Meg, lovely in an emerald green dress over a white shirt, her blond hair pulled back form her face.

      "Herk!" her face lit up with pleasure and something else Herk couldn't describe. Guilt?

      "Hi. I had to see you. Is there anyway you can come to the castle tonight?" he asked in a hurt. Meg's face fell.

      "No. We're having company over and father won't let me."

      "Even if King Jason demands it?" Herk asked crossly. Meg bit her lip.

      "He wouldn't be able to refuse. Herk-what's wrong?" Meg asked. Hercules shook his head, hugging her tightly.

      "Nothing. I just want to spend some time alone with you. I have several days here and I-" he didn't finish as his voice choked. Meg hugged him back.

      "Hercules, I"ll reach my majority soon enough. Then we can be together." she smiled up at him, her soft hand touching his cheek.

      Again, Iolaus tailed Autolycus in the shadows. The cadet knew the youth was up to no good.

      Auto hurried through the forest to his camp. Lighting a small fire, he readied himself to sleep.

      "Two more days Auto, to your big finale." he muttered happily to himself as he drifted off. Iolaus edged closer, trying to see what belongings there were. A strange pronged hook contraption. What was that for?? Knapsack that looked awfully full. Nothing out of the ordinary. Surely this guy was too smart to leave written evidence of his plans.

      Silently, mouse like, Iolaus crept up to the sack and retreated, quietly and swiftly rifling through it. Unrolling a parchment Iolaus grinned. It was a homemade sketch of the museum. Sliding it back into the sack, Iolaus replaced it and hightailed his way back to the castle.

      "You snooped through his things?" Jason demanded. Iolaus threw his hands up.

      "It was the only way to find out any information! He has a map that was recently made of the museum. All the makings of where the paintings are Jase. He's going to rob it! He was talking about a 'big finale' in two days."

      Jason rubbed his temples.

      "I cannot order him brought in for a search without probable cause." he moaned. "And he could send charges against you for unlawful entry." Jason sighed. Some days it sucked to be a king. Against his better judgement, only to help Herk, he had sent an official invitation for Meg to come to supper at the castle, an offer no one would refuse, not even Cordonius. Hercules and Meg has eaten alone and were now somewhere in the castle.

      "He's found at midnight, casing the museum, he has a map in his bag-and that's not cause?" Iolaus shouted.

      "You, a former thief, were found with him. You, a former thief, snuck into his camp and searched his belongings. The first thing that will be brought up is that you're the thief and you planted evidence against him." Jason tried to explain without losing his temper. Iolaus grunted and stormed out of the room.

      "I'll flush him out myself!" he hollered, running a hand through his curly hair.

      "So who's this guy that everyone says is hanging around your house?" Hercules asked, trying to sound causal. A smile crept over Meg's lovely features.

      "His name is Autolycus. He's a drifter, but seems like he plans to settle down in Corinth." she watched him carefully. "Why?"

      "Oh, no reason." Hercules forced the words out and Meg burst into laughter.

      "Are you jealous?"

      "Well, it seems like your father likes him a lot." he sighed. Meg hugged him, leaning her head against his chest.

      "Well, he does. And I like him plenty. But I love you." she murmured. Hercules tightened his hold on her.

      "Good. I love you too."

      They stood silently on the balcony, bathed in moonlight, each lost in thought.

      Iolaus stared out over Corinth from the window of the castle. The town was bustling below and he could smell the chicken roasting. Falafel was nearby, shouting out to customers to try his newest dish.

      Somehow, Iolaus knew he had to come up with a plan to nail Autolycus. If the others wouldn't believe him then he'd do it on his own.

      Scaling the wall down, he youth landed nimbly on his feet and headed into he marketplace.

      Roaming, he turned a corner and almost bumped into Meg. The taller girl eyed him cooly.

      "Hello Iolaus." she said.

      "Hi Meg." he replied. Her was an uncomfortable pause as the people moved around them.

      "You look well." she said politely.

      "So do you." he returned. Then, not being able to help himself, "Who's that Autolycus guy you've been seen with?"

      Meg's eyes narrowed.

      "He's a friend of my fathers."

      "You two sure looked friendly the other day." he said. Meg's jaw tightened.

      "Who I keep company with is none of your business." she snapped. He glared.

      "When my best friends' heart is at stake it is!"

      "Hercules means everything to me Iolaus. Whether you believe it or not. Your jealousy can't ruin what we have."

      "Jealousy?" Iolaus repeated, dumbfounded. Meg put her hands on her hips.

      "You're so jealous that he finds something with me that you can't give him. He may love you as a brother, but every man has needs only a woman can fulfill. You're so devoted to him its pathetic. Get used to me being around Iolaus, because I will never lose Hercules. Deal with it." the girl stormed off. Iolaus' face was burning red. How dare she! Yes Herk was the closest thing to a brother he had, and he would lay down his life for the demi-god, but jealous? No. Not him. Unease settled over him. Ok maybe a little that Herk always had girls falling over him but. . .

      Iolaus knew Autolycus was the Prince of Thieves. But Meg looked so. . .cozy with him. Surely Meg wasn't going to help him steal the paintings! Not Meg. No. Meg was too sweet. Well, Herk certainly thought so but the Meg he just fought with wasn't the tender caring girl Hercules was in love with. No there was more to Megaera than met the eye.

      But how to convince Hercules?

Act Five

      "You think my girlfriend is a thief?" Hercules demanded angrily.

      "Herk, that's not what I said. What I said was-"

      "That she's been pulled into that guys scheme? You thin she's that dumb? Iolaus have you been drinking or something? Do you have any idea how outlandish these ideas of yours are?" he demanded. Iolaus sighed and shook his head.

      Jason watched the bitter fight with concern. Ever since Meg had entered their lives things had been tense between the boys. Sometimes, if they hadn't heard from her in a while, they seemed normal but at the first mention, Iolaus smile vanished and Hercules shoulders tensed.

      Maybe it was time for a little royal intervention.

TO BE CONTINUED. . .

Credits

Co-Starring

Feducious: Ross Duncan
Cordonius: Terry Batchelor
Versae: Ilona Rodgers

Creative Team
Aura
Barb Soden
Euterpe
Kalina
Kaya
Kent Simmons
Maggie Z
Medea
Pelee
Tern O'Brien
Thalia

Edit and Proof Read
Pelee
Tern O'Brien
Tracy Viader

Special Thanks To
Ed Naha
Mrinda Jez
Saderah

Technical Assistance
Jose Estreda

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