The Pains of a Family I
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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.
(Hercules, Iolaus, and Jason walk down a road)
IT'S ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING
(Two very active toddlers, and an infant)
(A tired mother holds baby while sitting and staring at a table)
Little Boy: "My daddy is always grumpy, and makes Mommy cry."
(Hercules and Iolaus look quite shocked, and sad as well)
AND A STRUGGLE TO PROTECT A FAMILY FROM HARM
(A shot of a young boy's leg with scars and cuts)
(Hercules holds the battered mother in cellar room, and looks up at Iolaus)
(Mother with a splinted arm, under a plush canopy bed, holds Jason's hand)
Hercules, frowning: "No!"
A VERY SPECIAL YOUNG HERCULES ADVENTURE
"Hercules. Iolaus. Just the two I was looking for."
Both stopped the escape to their break. Before turning around, they gave a sigh, and put on their best smiles.
Cheiron was not fooled. "Come. I have a job for you."
"But, Cheiron, we promised Jason we'd kidnap him for some air," said Hercules. Iolaus nodded his head next to him.
"Be careful how you choose your words. Kidnaping a king is punishable by death. Besides, he needs to stay where he is: safe. And I need you two. Come."
They gave another sigh, and followed the academy's headmaster back into the academy.
"So what's the job?" asked Iolaus, trying to sound interested.
"It's difficult. It will take patience, thought, and a great deal of time, and energy. It will be a challenge. And you two might say it will be extra credit."
"All right!" said Iolaus. Hercules echoed his excitement. They felt proud to be chosen for an extra task.
"What is it?" Hercules repeated his friend's question.
Cheiron opened the door to the kitchen. Inside were two toddlers, hopping and hollering around in a circle playing tag. They ran around an infant playing with a rag doll on her mother's lap.
The mother at the table, was a young woman, not much older then the boys. She was overweight, and nervous. Even in the hot weather she wore a full length dress with long sleeves. Her long, wavy, red hair was pulled back into a thick ponytail and her green eyes stared at the rag doll.
"This is Kaira. She will be working here twice a week. Helping with cooking, cleaning, and keeping the academy in shape, while her husband works in Corinth's market place. But she needs someone to watch her children. So, I volunteered you two."
Nathaniel Lees as Cheiron
Jodie Rimmer as Lilith
Caitlin McDougall as Kaira
Based on "Young Hercules"
Created by Renaissance Pictures
Euterpe and Jose Estreda
Medea and Tern O'Brien
Edited by Tern O'Brien
Hercules gave a small laugh of disbelief. "Babysitting? This is our difficult task?"
The youth looked at each other, then at the boy and girl playing tag. "You want us to watch these three twice a week?" asked Iolaus.
The boys gave a look of reluctance and looked at the mother again. She had not moved, looked at them, or said a word. Hercules felt sorry for her. She looked too young to have the responsibility of three very active, very small children. He could see she needed help, but he had a feeling there was more to it.
"I'm in," he said stopping the kids by holding on to their shirt collars.
"No way," said Iolaus, waving and crossing his arms in front of his chest. "I'm not going to change any diapers, be thrown up on, or anything like that."
As he turned to walk away, Hercules held on to both squirming kids with one hand, grabbed Iolaus by his vest and pulled him back. "Come on. It'll be fun."
"Fun? It'll stink. I think someone already does." Iolaus cringed his face and waved a hand in front of his nose. He tried to walk away again, but Hercules held on.
"You'll get out of your classes any days you watch them," said Cheiron, bribing Iolaus in a way he knew could not be resisted.
"I'm in," Iolaus said, changing his attitude with those sweet words. Turning around and going over to take the infant from her mother he continued, "How hard can it be anyway?"
Lifting her into his arms, he received an earful of piercing screams and kicks in his ribs.
Kaira stood up and handed the doll to her. "Dana. Go and be good. Mommy promises it will be alright. I'll come for you ... Soon ...Today." She took a doe skin bag, and handed it to Iolaus, then went around and gave each of her children a kiss on the cheek. She wiped the flooding tears from her face, and gave her instructions. "The bag has food, diapers, and a blanket for Dana. Snacks for Daniel and Sera. If you have any questions you can find me around .We will leave here two hours before dinner." She turned and rubbed Daniel's fresh washed face. "We need to be home in time to get dinner for Daddy, okay?"
"Yes, Mommy," said the little boy. He looked about four to his babysitters.
"I'll show you around then," said Cheiron, walking out of the kitchen. "By the way, gentlemen. You will still be expected to do any lessons Feducious assigns. Better hope your class-mates take good notes."
Hercules gave a small laugh at his friend.
"But-" Iolaus started, then stopped. He knew there was no way out now. "Great. Now along with extra credit comes extra homework."
"What are you worried about, Iolaus? You don't do your home work anyway," Hercules joked as he led the kids outside.
Iolaus trotted with Dana in his arms to catch up. "How are we going to explain this to Jason? We promised to get him out for awhile." Iolaus reminded Hercules when they were in the courtyard.
"I'll go!" chimed Lilith, skipping up beside them with a sheepish smile. "Since you two are so busy, I'll go see Jason."
"What are you so happy about?" asked Iolaus.
"I don't have to babysit."
"You knew?" asked Hercules.
"I suggested it. And you know. . .I'm not the motherly type, so I wouldn't be any good with kids. Even if I were offered to get out of class. I'll be sure to send Jason your hellos."
The young cadet laughed and ran off.
"Yeah? Well you'd better take some good notes for us," Hercules called after her.
He and Iolaus looked at each other, shook their heads. With a sigh they took the kids to a clear area to let them run around.
"So what do you guys want to play?" Hercules asked bending down to Daniel and Sera's level.
Daniel looked at him with a daring look. "Are you really Hercules?"
"Yes," he said, wondering what the boy meant.
"Your daddy is really Zeus?" Daniel dared again.
"Yes," was the only answer Hercules could come up with. He was not sure where this was leading.
The boy's face lightened up into a smile as he fell down to sit. "Goody. Tell us a story of your adventures."
Sera followed her brother to a sitting position. Her tiny finger in her mouth and a spell binding smile on her face.
"A story?" The two looked at each other again, and gave a small chuckle. "What have you heard?" he asked, as Iolaus laid Dana's blanket down to change her diaper.
"I've heard you're real strong, and you have strong friends."
Iolaus smiled at that one, and straightened his vest.
"And you fight big monsters, and they go ROAR!" Daniel illustrated his summary with such excitement and speed, they almost did not follow what he was saying.
Hercules had to laugh at the child's enthusiasm. "Big monsters, huh? Who tells you those stories?"
"My Mommy. She tells them for bedtime stories." said Daniel.
At the mention of bedtime, Sera stood up. Shaking her head, she started to run around.
"So tell me about a giant. Or about bandits. Or about Amazons. That's Sera's favorite."
Amazons caught the little girls attention. She had a watchful eye on her story teller, and resumed her seat.
"My Daddy doesn't like it though. He says women are suppose to stay home."
"He does, huh?"
"What do you think, Hercules? Do you think it's okay for girls to go out, and work, and fight, and be heros too?"
"Sure. I think anybody can do anything they want. Now. You want a story, huh? Okay. . . How about when King Jason, Iolaus, and I had to go to Athens to deliver a message?"
"King Jason of Corinth?" The boy's eyes widened with surprise, but soon became disappointed. "What's so exciting about a boat ride to Athens?"
"What's exciting about a boat ride? A lot can happen on a boat. And this wasn't a boat. We were on a ship," He spread his arms out wide as he sat in front of them. "And on this ship were smugglers. Do you know what they were smuggling?"
"No. What's smuggling?"
"That means they were hiding something in their ship they weren't suppose to have. But these smugglers had Amazons that they were bringing in for slaves."
Sera's eyes grew wide and bright. Her interest was like putty in his hands.
"Were they mean?" Daniel's eyes were as wide as his sisters.
He had found the confidence to go on.
"The Amazons? Only in battle. Otherwise they're really good friends of ours." Hercules glanced over at Iolaus to include him.
"And King Jason's?"
"And King Jason's. See, before Jason became the King, he came here. And one day we accidently knocked out a messenger. He was on his way to Athens to see about a cook for the academy here."
"My Mommy can cook good," Daniel interrupted with a proud statement.
"Good. Maybe she can help our cook," Iolaus joked as he sat Dana up, and handed her to Hercules, then walked away to rinse her diaper.
"So anyway, Cheiron has us three," holds up three fingers,"go in the messenger's place to get this cook."
Hercules realized the trance he had on his audience. He thought maybe this babysitting job would be more fun than he had first thought.
The day was not easy. The children were not sure what was happening. They had never been away from their mother. And their crying almost drove their babysitters crazy. If it was not one it was the other, or all three. Yet they kept each other calm. They told story after story and came up with new games. In return they were taught how much energy small children have, and how well they can fight off a nap. To the bitter end.
Inside, it was no easier for Kaira. Never being away from her children, her heart ached when she heard their cries. She would try to go to them, but Cheiron would have a word of confidence for her. "What will they learn if you run to their every cry?"
"Are you speaking of my children, or your pupils?" Kaira asked. Her eyes looked at the floor, her voice faltered, and her hands wrung the cloth she had been using on the floor.
"It appears they are not the only ones learning." he said putting a hand on her shoulder for approval.
She pulled away in pain.
"Are you all right?"
"Fine. Just fine." Never looking at the concerned centaur, she turned back to her work.
As promised, two hours before dinner time, Kaira and her children left the grounds. None of them seemed too happy to leave. Yet she hurried them on their way, carrying Dana in a back sling. "So how did it go today?" Cheiron asked the very tired youth, when Hercules and Iolaus came in for their bags.
"Fine," said Iolaus. "I had a lot more fun then I thought I would."
"Yeah. It was kind of nice to have somebody tell me an adventurous story for once," said Hercules. "And that Daniel can sure tell a story."
"And act it out," laughed Iolaus.
"Good. Then I'll know you'll do well next time,"Cheiron smiled and walked on out, letting the youth leave and spend what time they had left with their friend.
"Did you think there was something weird about the way she hurried the kids out?" asked Iolaus as he and Hercules walked to where they hoped to find Lilith and Jason. "I mean, I understand that she had to get home to cook for her husband, but there was just something weird about it."
"It's probably nothing. Let's go."
"Hey Jason!" called Iolaus as they found Jason and Lilith eating their supper under a tree beside the road to Corinth.
"Hey," Jason mimicked back while he stood up. "Thanks for abandoning me. Luckily Lilith came and rescued me."
"She set us up !" Iolaus protested as Lilith wiped her mouth off, and dusted her hands off on each other. She stood up and walked up to them with a cat smirk. "By the way, thank you for a great time."
Her smile fell along with her jaw. Iolaus patted her shoulder, took her smile as his own, and jumped up and sat in the tree. Hercules gave her the same smile and joined him on the opposite side of the tree.
"You enjoyed it?" She asked turning to look at them. "You actually enjoyed babysitting?"
Jason folded his arms across his chest and looked back and forth between the two in the tree.
"You mean you two stood me up to watch some kids?"
"Three," Hercules said flipping himself to hang by his knees with a weed in his mouth. "very active kids. The oldest is four, and the youngest is not yet a year; barely crawling. One boy - very imaginative - and two girls.
"My first instinct was, 'What are we going to do?' I don't know the first thing about taking care of kids. So we take them outside. Iolaus actually changed two very nasty diapers, and rinsed them."
Jason looked impressed as Iolaus who was waving a hand in front of his face to emphasize the memory as Hercules continued, "I told stories. I had stories acted out for me, very vividly I might add. Then we found different ways to keep them entertained when they started crying for their mother. Iolaus came up with most of the ideas."
Jason again looked at Iolaus, very surprised. "So. . .everything went okay?" he asked.
The two just gave a little chuckle and nodded.
"So how did Lilith set you up with this?"
"Because Cheiron had approached her first," said Hercules, flipping out of the tree to get the blood flowing back to his legs and out of his head. "And she decided we were more suitable for the job; hence we were volunteered by her and Cheiron. Besides the mother looked like she really needed a break from the kids. Like I said, they're very active."
"Well, my time out is up. If I don't get home on time, I'll have the whole army of Corinth looking for me," Jason said picking up a sack he had under the tree. "So I got to get going. You still staying the rest of your break at the palace?"
"Sorry, we couldn't get you out for longer, Jase, but that lady. . .I don't know. . .I just know she needed our help," Hercules walked up to him and patted his shoulder. "And you know we can't resist a pass to the palace.
"Yeah. And the next time you watch the kids, maybe I'll stop by and help you. I think I'd get a kick out of watching Iolaus changing diapers." Jason laughed as he imagined it. "Let's get going. You guys look like you could use some rest."
"Hey, Jase. Do you think that one masseuse will be around. You know, the one with the real good hands?"
"If she is, she's all yours."
Iolaus jumped out of the tree, and the four friends trotted down the road. Each told the others all about their day, and were still talking about it at dinner in the palace.
It was five days before the children came again. They saw Hercules and Iolaus doing their stretches in the court yard. Daniel and Sera ran up and tackled them off the bails of hay they were using. "Hercules!" Daniel shrieked as he and his victim landed with a thud, a groan, and the child's arms around his hero. Sera and Iolaus landed next to them only a second later, due to her legs being a little shorter then her brothers.
"Hi, guys, " Hercules said with a wide smile and a chuckle, when he got his wind back. "Good to see you too."
"Any new stories yet?" Daniel asked looking into Hercules' eyes with excitement and innocence. He laid his chin in his hands, held up on his elbows, resting on his victim's chest.
"Not yet." He smiled and he stood up with his growth attached tight around his chest and stomach.
"Sorry, to interrupt your class, Cheiron," Kaira apologized to the supervising headmaster. She walked over and handed the back sling with a sleeping Dana and another bag to Hercules. Her hands shook and her eyes were to the ground. Hercules thought she was scared of something. "I also apologize for the assault. They're not usually like that towards people."
"It's no problem," Iolaus said, settling Sera on his back, and getting his curls out of his face. "We were needing a rest anyway."
He took the bag and Hercules took Daniel still stuck like glue to him.
Kiara murmured another shaky apology and went inside to go to work.
The daycare bunch went to the other side of the courtyard where they brought out a bag ball. "You two up for a game of ball?" Iolaus asked.
"I'm hungry," Daniel said shaking his head.
"Hungry, huh? Well, let's look and see what's in your bag today."
Daniel and Sera sat down on the ground and waited patiently for him to scavenge through their bag. "Didn't you guys have breakfast?" he asked handing them each a piece of fruit.
"Daddy was sleeping late and Mommy didn't want to take the chance of waking him. He gets real mad when you wake him. We were going to wait until he left for the market place, but Mommy decided that she wouldn't have any time to get her work done," Daniel said.
"So what does your dad sell in the market place?" Iolaus asked sitting in front of them with his legs crossed and giving them his full attention.
"Mommy's bankies," Sera said her with her mouth full. "Mommy makes petty bankies."
"Pretty blankets, huh?" he repeated to confirm the child's vocabulary.
"And his tins. He makes things out of tin." Daniel added.
"Really? Do you get to help him?"
"No," he sulked. "He does his stuff somewhere else. That way we don't bother him."
"Does he ever make you anything?"
"Just my necklace. " He showed his prize possession from under his shirt. "Mommy makes us stuff a lot. She made Dana's doll, our clothes. She makes lots of stuff when Daddy doesn't have her making the blankets to sell. So what does your dad do?" He asked Iolaus.
"My dad?" came a surprised repeat. "My dad is a General. He fights in wars a lot."
"He hurts people?" Daniel asked with a scared look. "Does he ever hurt you?"
"Well, I do remember once or twice a tanned backside, but not really hurt. Only when I was in trouble. I don't really see him much."
"Tell us about your daddy, Hercules," Daniel said, turning to the next contestant.
Hercules had just finished setting up a shading shelter for Dana and looked over in surprise. He gave a nervous chuckle and looked back and forth between Daniel and Iolaus before answering. "I've never met him. Why do you ask?"
"I just wanted to know if he was anything like my daddy."
"Well, being a god, he doesn't have time to work, but he's still real busy."
"Is he grumpy?"
"I'm sure he can be. Yeah. Especially when you see lightening strike out of nowhere."
"My dad gets mad a lot. Sometimes I wish he wouldn't come home."
Hercules came over next to the boy and laid on his side with his head propped up on his bent elbow. "I think you're lucky to have a dad that works and come home to see you. I bet when he gets grumpy, he's probably just had a hard day, and he's tired. Work is hard to get and even harder to keep. Maybe he's just worried about something."
"Yeah. Maybe. I just don't like it when he makes my Mommy cry." Daniel looked away and spotted the ball. " Can we play ball now?"
"Don't you want to finish your fruit?" Iolaus asked.
The boy had been talking so much, he had only taken a few bites. "I'm not hungry anymore."
"Well, all right then, let's play ball," Hercules said as he got up with the ball. He tried to lighten up the mood by having fun.
Sera did not want to sit alone and finish her fruit, while her brother ran around having fun. She gave Iolaus a sly smile, pitched her fruit over her head to him, got up and ran to play with her brother.
"Eww. Thank you," Iolaus sighed with a forced smile. "No problem. I just love to have half eaten, wet, slimy fruit thrown at me." Iolaus got up in disgust. "I'll just take these over to the hogs. I'm sure they'll enjoy a treat. Good food around here is a delicacy."
Hercules and the kids stayed close enough to keep an eye on Dana, but safe enough distance away that the ball would not hit her.
Iolaus joined in after taking care of the hogs, just in time for Dana to wake up.
"I'll get her," said Hercules when he was given a look of 'your turn'.
"Okay guys. Show me your stuff!" Iolaus said rolling the ball between the two and let them start kicking. He encouraged each of their direction, and taught them to aim for where they wanted the ball to go.
Hercules watched as he got an odorous air of what his friend had changed before. "Whoa, child! What do they feed you?" He held his breath as he laid aside the dirty diaper after using an unsoiled part of it to clean the infant.
After putting on the clean diaper, he went to rinse out the soiled one. At the washing basin he saw Kaira curled up in the doorway corner to the kitchen, asleep, and holding on to the broom. Hercules took a separate bucket of water out of the wash basin, put the diaper in it, and walked over to her.
"Kaira," sitting beside her, he put a hand on her shoulder. "Hey, Kaira. You okay?"
Her eyes flashed open in shock. "Oh. Oh, my gosh. How long have I been asleep?"
"It couldn't have been too long. You've only been here an hour and already the kitchen's clean." Hercules gave her a gentle smile. "You okay?"
"Yeah. I hate to ask, and I'm sure I shouldn't, but please don' t tell Cheiron."
"My lips are sealed. You're sure you're all right-"
She got up fast as she could and went back to work. Then she had a fearful apologetic look. "I'm fine. Thank you."
"Is there anything I can do?"
"Don't be angry?"
Kiara did not look at him as she finished sweeping the dirt from the porch.
"No one's angry. You fell asleep for a few minutes. No harm done." Hercules didn't understand why she thought he would be angry. He saw she was scared and became worried.
"Well, then, back to work. We all have things to do. " She went back inside and closed the kitchen door behind her.
Hercules waited a moment before returning to rinsing out the diaper. He didn't know what was going on, but he knew something was wrong. When he had finished with the rinsing, he took a look back one more time at the kitchen. Sighing, he went back to Iolaus and the children.
Two hours later, Iolaus was laying down a tuckered out Sera for a nap beside her sister, who was laying down, jabbering to her doll. Daniel ate some bread and cheese, and held the bag ball next to him.
"Daniel, how does your daddy make your mommy cry?" Hercules asked in an unsure voice. His conversation with Kaira still bugged him.
Daniel looked at him quizzed. "Mommy cries a lot," he said in a nervous tone.
"Why, Big Guy? Why does your mom cry a lot?"
"Daddy's mad a lot. He yells a lot. He yells loud, but I can yell louder. Mommy says so. But I'm not to yell back at Daddy. Mommy hides us when he yells."
"Why does Daddy yell?"
"Daniel! It's time to go!" came Kaira's voice as she rushed toward them, holding up her skirt.
"But, Mommy, it's early still," he protested as he looked at her with a tired pout.
"I know, Honey, but mommy finished already, and we really need to get home. I need to finish the blankets for Daddy. He said he needs them for tomorrow. We'll be back in the morning. Come on."
Kaira put Dana in to her back sling and picked up Sera.
Iolaus noticed her sleeves were still pulled back from while she had been working, and became horrified at what he saw. Bruises and burn marks all over.
"Here let me help you," he said with a hard swallow. He took Sera, held her in one arm, and helped put the sling on Kaira.
Hercules helped Daniel put the few toys he and Sera had brought into the small bag, and looked at Kaira too.
Her eyes were bloodshot and tired. Her face was sad and scared. Her hands shook as she pulled down her sleeves, and hurried Daniel along. "Thank you boys. I hope they weren't too much a bother. I don't have the time to correct it now."
Iolaus couldn't let her go. "Wait. Kaira. Please. Stay while Sera takes her nap and you get some rest yourself. You look like you could use it."
"I thank you again, but I haven't the time. Good-bye."
"Wait!" said Hercules. "Let us help you take the kids home. It'll make it easier on you. Please. Let us help you."
Iolaus didn't wait for an answer. He took Daniel's bag and let Sera's head rest on his shoulder. Hercules put Daniel on his shoulders.
"Lead the way," He said with a helpful smile.
Kaira gave a weak smile of submission, and moved as fast as she could toward her home. She was tired and hurting. She had hurried through her job the best she could. He expected those blankets to be done to be sold the next day. She had stayed up all night. And now she was afraid she would have to do it again.
It was a long walk to an isolated, small house, surrounded by the woods. A small colorful flower garden grew in front by the door. A few of the kids' toys were scattered in a small clearing on the other side. Smoke came out of the stove's chimney, left over from the morning fire and a large wood pile was stacked against the house next to the door.
"Thank you for your help, but I really have a lot of work to do. So I must say good-bye."
"If you have so much work, let us stay and watch the kids," said Iolaus. "I mean, they need to eat. So while we feed them, you do your work."
"Iolaus- I can't ask. . ."
"My husband will be home soon, and he doesn't like strangers. He doesn't know I have the job at your academy."
Iolaus put a hand to stop her. "As soon as the kids and you have lunch, and are settled down, not bothering you, we'll leave. I promise."
"Thank you. Really. But the kids' lunch is in their bag. They'll just play outside with their toys. Please. I must ask you to go."
"Are you sure?" asked Hercules. He saw a lot of fear in her green eyes.
"Yes. Now, please go. You have a lot of work to do yourselves at the academy."
Kaira took Sera in her arms, Daniel's hand, and turned away from them and walked to the house. He looked back with a silent sad wave.
Iolaus watched with a sigh.
"What was that about?" Hercules asked in a low voice. He looked at Iolaus and then back to the kids.
"Come on, Herc. You saw the bruises-" Iolaus answered in the same tone, not taking his eyes off the house. "You heard how Daniel talked of his dad. We've got to help."
He turned and started to walk in a different direction than the academy.
"Wait. Where are you going?" Hercules had to jog a little to catch up to his pace.
"To see Jason. He's the king. He can do something."
"About what? All you saw was a few bruises and burns that could have come from anywhere."
"What about what Daniel said?"
"Daniel is four. He's imaginative. And all he said was that his dad yells a lot, and makes his mother cry. So is that what you're going to tell Jason?"
Iolaus didn't stop. "It's more then that! It's her eyes. Her voice. The way she didn't want us there when her husband got home. She was terrified."
"She's just a little older than us, Iolaus. How would it look to you if you came home and there were two strange men at your house with your wife and kids? She said it herself, he doesn't know she works at the academy."
"And what's up with that? Why wouldn't she tell him? Don't you think maybe she's saving enough money to get away from him?"
"Okay, stop right there!" They both stopped for the first time since they left the house and faced each other. "Now you're really letting your imagination run away. You have no proof. Now, yes I saw, and do see the fear in her eyes. I did see her arms. I do hear her voice. I hear Daniel when he talks of being hidden when his father yells. But you're going to bring this to Jason. He's never met her or seen any of this. What's he going to do?"
Iolaus looked at him and sighed again. "I don't know, Herc. I just know that I've got to do something. And since Jason is King, and has an authority, maybe he could find out who her husband is. Find out something about him. Or maybe he could come out and see her. He said he wanted to have a good laugh at watching us take care of the kids." He started to walk again. "I know at first I didn't want to do this, but now I can't walk away. If there's something I can do, I'm going to do it."
It was Hercules' turn to sigh as he ran to catch up with Iolaus again.
"Hercules is right, Iolaus," said Jason after listening to his friends' story. "There's nothing I can do. But it's not because of lack of proof. It's because she is his wife. There are no laws that say a man can't handle his household as he sees fit. Now if he were to start a brawl or attack someone in the street or anywhere else, then the soldiers could intervene. But what a husband and wife do is none of the laws concern."
"Then make it a concern! You're the King!" protested Iolaus.
"Young man, that tone is no way to speak to the King," said the advisor that stood to his left.
Jason held up his hand before that conversation got out of hand. It was meant more for Iolaus, whom was taking a side step forward. "A husband has the right to choose what his wife's place is, and how to show it to her."
"Even if it means beating her?"
"I'm sorry." Jason nodded.
"What about the kids? Do they deserve it? Do they deserve to watch?"
"Iolaus! I told you I can't do anything about it."
"If you saw it, you would do something. At least the Jason who is my friend would."
Iolaus turned and walked out, leaving Hercules standing alone with one arm wrapped around his waist, cradling his other arm with his hand rubbing his chin. "So, what are you going to do, Jason?" he asked.
"There's nothing I can do," Jason said with a tone of tired of repeating himself. Hercules looked at him again. "Okay. Is she going to be there tomorrow?"
"Supposed to be," He smiled. "Want to come out for a game of bag ball? That little Daniel has a mean kick."
"It really matters to him, huh?" Jason nodded to the entry way where Iolaus waited for Hercules with a nervous pace and his arms crossed around his chest. "Yeah. It does," Hercules stepped up closer for a more private conversation. "I haven't figured out why, yet. I mean, yeah he doesn't like to see anybody get hurt. Nobody does. But it can't be any more then that. He didn't even want to do this babysitting thing with me until he found out he'd be getting out of classes. Now he sees bruises, and don't get me wrong, that steams me too. Nobody deserves that. But he just went off, and marched to you.
"He trusts you, Jason. And with you being King, he had every hope you would help."
"I'll look in to it. I'll make it an investigation. You two know I don't like seeing anybody get hurt either. But before I can go off and start making laws and arresting people, I need proof. I need to see what's going on and possibly talk to her.
"These are my people, and they do look to me to protect them. Besides a game of bag ball sounds relaxing. And it would be nice to see Cheiron again."
Hercules left and on his way out the door, patted Iolaus on the shoulder. Leading him away, he explained the plan.
"Cheiron, is it okay if Jason comes by tomorrow?" Hercules asked the centaur head master, standing over assignment scrolls.
"Isn't tomorrow one of your days with the children?" Cheiron asked, looking up and giving the youth his full attention.
"Uh, yeah." he swung and knocked his fists in front of himself a couple of times, then put his hands on his hips. "He wants to come by and see how we are doing with the babysitting and maybe get in a relaxing game of bag ball - with the kids too."
"Of course," Cheiron said going back to the scrolls. "I don't see any problem, as long as you don't neglect the children. They are your responsibility and they must come first. But a visit from the King of Corinth is always welcome."
"Thanks, Cheiron, " Hercules turned to leave then stepped on the balls of his feet and turned back around. With his pointer finger in the air, he asked, "Cheiron, how did Kaira come to you for the job?"
Again, the Centaur looked up from the scrolls. "What do you mean, Hercules?"
"I was just curious."
Leaning back on his hind legs, he crossed his arms around his chest. "Is there something going on that I should know about? Is there a problem with you watching the children?"
"No. We love watching the kids. We just want to know if there's something more we can do to help."
Cheiron studied the nervous cadet for a moment. "It's not in your heart to lie, Hercules. But I do know that you do like to help. All right. Kaira came to me asking for a job. She said her husband worked the market place, selling stuff, but he is gone for days at a time; leaving her with no money, and no food. So for security reasons for the children, she wanted her own money. I couldn't offer her much. We just don't have it in the budget for more hired help. So along with her job, she will also be learning hunting skills."
"So the bruises could have come from that," Hercules said under his breath.
"Oh, nothing. Better get to bed. Energy you know. Those kids can really tire you out." He turned to leave.
He stopped, poked his head back in to the office.
"Never jump to conclusions, and never be afraid to ask for help."
Hercules gave a smile. "Thanks, Cheiron." and he left for the dormitory.
Iolaus heard the morning bells' wake up call the next morning. As he blinked his eyes open, he found it difficult to move. There was an odd weight on his chest. It was light enough to move, made him look down with a startle.
There was little Daniel laying on his chest. The little boy's blue eyes sparkled at him and Iolaus didn't know what to do.
"Good morning," said the little boy, not moving.
"Uh, good morning," said Iolaus in a voice of I-must-be-dreaming. "What are you doing?"
"Waiting for you to wake up."
Daniel sat up with a bounce on his stomach. "To bring you this!"
The young, excited boy help up a large plate with food and drink that he brought up . "I wanted to get you up earlier, but Hercules said you'd be grumpy like a bull. So I stayed, watching you to make sure you didn't spill it."
Iolaus looked around at the dormitory and through the crowd of grumbling cadets gathering their gear for the day. "Where is Hercules?"
"Feeding Dana for Mommy. She wanted to get a an early start today on her chores, since we left so early yesterday. Do you think he will give me another ride on his shoulders? That was fun!"
"Are you always like this so early in the morning?" Iolaus started to eat, but the boy only smiled. "Where's Sera?"
"With Lilith. She's showing her the horses. She says we're going to play bag ball again today."
"Lilith is joining us?"
"Today," he was bouncing on the slab used for a bunk. "Hurry, Iolaus."
"Have you eaten? This is really good."
"Mommy made it. She wanted to thank you for your help. She got her work done, so Daddy wasn't so grumpy this morning."
"Daniel, did you save any of that food for Iolaus?" Came Kaira's voice from the dormitory's entry way.
"Yes, Mommy. We were just talking while he ate."
She walked in and gathered up all the blankets off the bunks. "Hercules is waiting for you outside. With all due respect, I believe the words lazy and rump were used in the invitation to join him."
"That sounds like him," said Iolaus slowly chewing his food and not being able to take his eyes off her face.
Her eyes were puffy and red, with a bruise over her right cheek. She walked slow and careful trying to hide behind her hair. "Well, you two had better get going." Her voice was nervous after she glanced at Iolaus' expression.
"Come on, Iolaus. I want to stop at the pigpens. I think they're neat."
"Yeah, I'm coming."
"Daniel, you behave," Kaira said after her disappearing son, then walked on by Iolaus continuing to gather up the blankets.
"Kaira," he began, as she walked past him.
"You better get going. Everybody's waiting." She filled her arms with as many blankets as they could hold. She knew that Iolaus was watching. Every step she took she tried to hide the pain. But her careful steps, heavy breathing, shaking hands, and her muffled groans gave it away.
He could only watch her as Daniel came back.
"Come on!" The young boy took his hand and pulled him on.
"You don't even know this woman," said Lilith as they sat on the ground. Dana played with her rag doll in the middle of them, and Daniel and Sera practiced running and kicking the bag ball.
"So, just because we don't know her, we shouldn't help?" Iolaus asked picking up a handful of gravel and sifting it through his fingers.
"That's not what I mean. I mean, you need to find out the whole situation before you go in, both crossbows shooting, and swords swinging. Hercules said it himself that she's taking lessons from Cheiron on hunting. She could've got those bruises in her training."
"But Cheiron didn't know anything about them," said Hercules.
"So what are you going to do?"
Iolaus sighed in frustration, and looked at the academy. He could pictured Kaira working inside. "I don't know. I mean, like you said, we don't know her. And she doesn't know us. So, she has no real reason to trust us. All I know, is that the fear in her eyes and the shake in her hands-... I just have a gut feeling that something has to be done."
"And you two have to do it?"
"Who else is going to?" Iolaus almost snapped. He thought he would have a lot more support and help from his friends. "Nobody else knows. . .probably. Their house is out in the middle of the forest. Totally isolated."
"But you don't know!" she insisted.
Hercules knew he had better defuse the dynamite before the conversation blew and the kids were forgotten. "Guys! I see what each one is saying." he said, holding up his hand at each of his friends' chest levels.
"But I'm going to have to go with Iolaus on this."
Lilith gave an 'of-course' look and threw a hand up in the air.
He looked back and forth between the two. "True. We don't know the situation. But! We do know that there is something wrong. Kaira not only had bruises on her arms, but there were also burn scars. This morning her eyes were puffy, red, and bloodshot. Who knows when she last had a good nights rest. I found her asleep yesterday on the back steps. Then there was the bruise on her face.
"Daniel says his dad's grumpy, makes his mother cry, and that she hides them. True he does have an imagination. But he's scared and sad when he tries talking about it.
"Now, Jason is supposed to be here today. He said he would look into it. Let's see what he has to say. If we need to we'll go through every single scroll law. But we are going to help. Nobody deserves to live in fear. We'll just take it slow, so not to make it worse."
Hercules looked over at Daniel and Sera. They laughed as they ran, chasing one another, and kicking the bagball. He knew it affected them. They did not show it, but he knew that they were affected. Their sweet faces were full of innocence, but he had seen the shadows in their eyes. It saddened him to think what those eyes might have seen.
Then, Daniel tripped on a large rock. He screamed as he fell, and yelped in pain. He cradled his elbow and his knees. Hercules and Iolaus ran over to him to see how bad he was hurt. Sera started to cry at the sight of her brother crying.
"It's okay, Sera," said Lilith trying to comfort her by putting her hands on the child's arms, and holding her close.
Sera only chewed on her fingers, and kept crying. She was scared and shaking. "Ak-dent!" she screamed.
Hercules turned to see the little girl tear from Lilith's grip, which was not tight in the first place. He had just enough time to move before being bulldozed. She sat next to her brother and held him in a protective embrace.
"Ak-dent!" she screamed, her face red from the volume. Her hands shook and her eyes were wide in fear. Her tiny lips quivered with her sobs.
Hercules and Iolaus looked back at Lilith. "Now do you see what I mean?" Iolaus asked her as she stood shocked.
"All that proves is that she is protective of her brother," she stammered, not wanting to admit he was right. But inside she knew he was.
"But why must she be protective of him?" Iolaus asked.
He and Hercules were down on their haunches to be on the same level as the kids. Iolaus was turned to face Lilith and Hercules was trying to calm down the children.
"She's only two. What has she seen that she needs to protect him from?"
He turned and helped Hercules to get Sera to let go of her brother so that they could tend to him.
Daniel was quiet, and his eyes matched the width of his sister's. He had no idea what they would do to her for protecting him, and he was ready to spring to protect her right back. Their gentleness was new to him, and he did not know what was coming next.
"Sera. We want to help Daniel. We won't hurt him, but you need to let go." Iolaus spoke soft and soothing.
Sera looked at him with a quizzed look. She could not figure out what was going on. This is not how things were handled when her father was around. She did not know what to do.
"Ak-dent," she said softer, through her shuttering sobs.
"I know it was an accident, " said Iolaus. "Hercules knows it was an accident." Hercules nodded and smiled at her. "Hercules knows what to do to make it feel better. So why don't you come with me to watch Dana, and let him take care of Daniel."
Dana! Lilith remembered that the trio had left the infant back at the tree. She turned on her heel and went to check on the child.
Sera gave her brother a tighter hug. "No hurt?"
"No. I won't hurt him," Hercules tried to assure her. "I need to take him inside so I can get some medicine for his cut. See?"
He showed her where the rocks had torn through Daniel's doe skin leather pants.
"See, Sera," said Iolaus. "Daniel's hurt pretty bad. So we're going to help. But you have to let go. Come on, Sweetheart. He'll be fine. I promise."
Sera let go of her brother and went to Iolaus' comforting open arms. "All right," he sighed as he picked her up, and carried her over to Dana and Lilith.
Hercules cradled Daniel in his strong arms. He put the boy's head on his chest, and arm around his neck. They young boy listened to loud beating of his heart. It was comforting as they walked inside the academy building.
"Mommy's going to be sad. This is my last pair of pants," Daniel said through his shuttering sobs as he imagined his mother's tear streaked face.
"It's only ripped in the knee. They'll be fine. We'll just take them off and clean that knee."
"What's wrong?" Hercules asked as he sat down the frightened, young boy on a table. A wood box of medicines and rags for bandages was next to him. "All I'm going to do is clean up your knee and put a bandage on it."
"That's all?" He seemed surprised. Hercules could not understand what had him so nervous. He put his hand on the table on either side of the young boy. That made his little body shrink back. But when Hercules watched him with his own quizzed look, and a comforting smile, he relaxed a little.
He brought his eyes down to the boys level. "Hey, nobody will hurt you here. All we want to do is help. If you need to talk to us about anything, you just let us know."
"Like, why your sister thought we were going to hurt you when you fell. Anything you want to talk about."
"Anything? At anytime?"
"Yeah. Anything at anytime. Now. Let's have a look at your knee."
Daniel stood up on the table to remove his pants from the wound. Hercules had to stiffen himself to not make any sudden sound or expression. He almost lost his breakfast. On the boy's young body were burn marks, scars, and bruises. He knew that Daniel was a very active child, but he was not clumsy. He also had to remind himself of his promise. He helped Daniel sit back down on the table, and started cleaning his wound. ,/P>
"That's uh, a pretty mean scar on the side of your leg there," said Hercules, clearing his voice to keep control of it's tone. "How'd you get it?"
"I don't know," Daniel said in an innocent voice.
"Oh yeah? Well, do you remember how you got all those burn marks?"
This time Daniel looked around. His innocence left and was replaced by uneasiness. Hercules looked up from cleaning the wound after a moment of silence.
"So do your sisters have any marks like this?" he could not keep himself from asking. He felt Iolaus' help bug getting stronger.
Daniel looked into his eyes and face for a moment, then looked away again. "Why?" His innocent voice was back.
Hercules took a rag and started to wrap the knee. "Because, if there is, then we're going to have to tell someone."
"Why? Isn't this how you were taught?"
"Nooo," Hercules said softly as he finished wrapping and securing the bandage. "Sure, once and a while my rear end got a lesson, but only when needed. When it was all over, we had a talk to discuss why. If there was an apology needed, it was given."
"What's an apology?"
Hercules looked at him with a smile, realizing that he had used too big a word for the young boy. " That's when sorries are said."
"Did you ever get a sorry for being taught?"
"Yes, I did. And I had to say a whole lot of sorries for what I had done."
"Daniel!" Kaira raced in to see her son. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, Mommy. Hercules helped me," Daniel said under her muffling embrace.
"Thank you, Hercules," she said. She did not look at him, and nor let go of her son.
"Yeah," Hercules cleared his throat again. "Uh, we were just talking about the marks on his legs."
She let go of Daniel and helped him get dressed again. "Hercules will be along in a moment, Honey. You go on."
Daniel sulked and showed her his leg. "Got a hole."
"It's okay, Daniel. Now, please go on out and play," She said turning him toward the door, and giving him a small push.
Hercules had his arms folded across his chest, as she refused to look at him.
"So where did he get those marks on his legs? Or how about your face?" he asked in a calm voice, leaning up against the table where he had just tended to the small boy.
"He's an active, young boy. He gets scrapes and bruises all the time."
"All right. Then what about the burns? Are you going to tell me he jumps around in fire?"
She could not answer him.
"Kaira. When he tripped, Sera ran over and protected him. As if she expected us to get mad."
Her question both startled the young man and hurt him. "No. So, why would she have any reason to protect him?"
"She's his sister."
"She's only two." he was trying very hard to keep his voice calm. "What would a two year old have to protect her older brother from? All he did was trip on a rock."
"Just forget about it, Hercules. Please. Just forget about it. There's nothing you can do."
Before Kaira had to hear anymore, she left to get back to work. All she wanted was to go to bed. A nice hot bath sounded nice also. But a bed would be better then the Elysian Fields. Speaking of bed, the blankets were dry and ready to go back on the dorm beds. She kept her mind on her work to keep from thinking about the conversation with the youth.
Hercules started to follow her, when he was stopped by Cheiron.
"Finished with your first aide?" asked the strong centaur.
"Yes, sir," he sighed and watched her get away.
"Is there something wrong, Hercules?" he studied his young pupil's face.
"That's what I'm trying to find out," Hercules said excusing himself, and returned to help Iolaus.
"Herc!" Iolaus called from where he carried yet another soiled diaper. He held it in front of him to keep from smelling it. "Did you find anything out? Daniel said you were talking to Kaira."
"Nothing," Hercules said exasperated. "Iolaus?"
"Yeah?" He put the diaper in a small bucket with separate wash water, then the water used to do the wash.
"Who's watching the kids?"
"Oh. Jason and Lilith have them. Whew! That child eats way too much fruit!"
"When did Jason get here?"
"Yuck!" he stuck out his tongue and shook his hands. "Just as you took Daniel in. So what did Kaira say?"
"Well, I confronted her about Daniel's legs. . ."
"What about them?"
"It was sad. His legs are covered in bruises, scars, burns-" Hercules put his hands on the big wash tub and leaned on it. He watched as Iolaus used the tips of his long fingers to rinse and dunk the diaper. "I owe you an apology."
His attention snapped up at the sound of those bea-u-ti-ful words. "You owe me an apology?" he chuckled a bit and dropped the diaper in the wash. "Yes! Hercules owes me an apology!"
Hercules held up a hand for him to settle down. "Okay! You've enjoyed your moment. Believe me, it'll be a long time before you hear those words again, okay."
Iolaus stopped his dance of jumping around in circles.
"You were right. I knew there was something going on, and I said I was going to help you, but now it's different. Now I'm going to take it more serious.
"Kaira said those marks came from him being an active boy. But when I asked her about the burns and her face, she avoided me. She asked me to forget about it, and there was nothing I could do."
"But we are going to try?" Iolaus said fishing the diaper out of the bucket, and waiting for his reply.
"Yeah. We're going to do something. It'll take time, but we'll do something."
"Jason! How'd you get away from the palace with out your body guards this time?" Hercules asked after he left a gloating Iolaus to his washing.
Jason was giving Sera a ride on his back, while Lilith sat with Daniel on Dana's blanket. She fought to put a clean diaper on the squirming, screaming infant.
Hercules picked up Dana's rag doll, and handed it to her with a soothing smile. She took the doll and teethed on its head. Lilith gave him a sneering thanks as she finished clothing the now still child.
"Hey, I'm the King," Jason laughed. "I threaten them, they believe me." He galloped over to bounce Sera and hear her giggle. "So what's going on?"
"Iolaus was right." Hercules put his hands on his hips and gave a serious look.
"What happened when you took care of the boy?" Jason let the giggling little girl slide down his back.
"Hey, Daniel? Come do me a favor. Why don't you and Sera go out and kick the ball around again, and in a few minutes, you can show Jason how strong your kick is?"
Hercules turned to his friends and explained what he saw and his conversation with Kaira.
"Hercules, I hear your concern. And I admire you and Iolaus for wanting to step in and help. I said I would do an investigation into the matter and I mean it. But from what you're telling me, it sounds like Kaira just wants some privacy. Maybe she doesn't want you to butt in."
"Or maybe she's too scared to ask for help!" Hercules interrupted. He didn't mean to jump on his friend. He stepped back, caught his patience, and then continued. "Please. Just keep your eyes open while you're here."
"And when do I meet Kaira?"
"Lunch time. She always takes the kids then."
"Jason! Come play. I think we practiced enough," came Daniel's voice.
"Give me just a minute, okay Buddy?" Jason said to the tiring little boy, then turned back to Hercules. "You have me for the day. You show me hard proof, without invading anyone's privacy, and I will give you all I have. That's all I can promise."
"Then that is all that I can ask." Daniel gave the bag ball a strong kick. It sailed into an empty water barrel that stood in a corner in between the academy's walls.
"Good one!" clapped Jason to cheer on the small child. "I'll get it."
One storey above was an open window. Inside Kaira had just finished scrubbing the upper floors and came to the window to dump out the water. She saw Daniel look over her way. She gave a smile and a wave, then dumped the water.
Jason stood up straight and turned to throw the ball back to the waving little boy."Look Mommy!" Daniel pointed up, as the water hit the handsome king.
Kaira looked out the window, and saw that she had drenched someone. "Oh no!" she said and ducked back inside.
Hercules and Lilith started laughing as Iolaus came back and looked over at Jason. Seeing his soaked friend shake the water from his head and arms, he joined in.
Daniel grabbed Sera and pulled her over to the tree where Dana was. The two of them did not move as Dana kept playing with her rag doll. They watched and waited to see what would happen next, expecting the worst.
"That's okay. I needed a bath anyway," Jason said to his friends' not-so helpful response. The he looked at the children. "Hey, Daniel. Come here."
Daniel did not move. He stared at them all with Sera close behind him. She watched over her brother's shoulder and started sobbing as Jason took a step closer.
"What's the matter?" he asked as he put the ball in one hand and started to walk towards them again.
Everyone else stopped laughing and looked over at the children as well. Sera sobs were getting louder and her eyes wider as Jason got closer. But Daniel stood his ground.
"Jason," Hercules said in a low voice, and held up a hand to stop his friend. "Stay right there. If you get too close, too fast you'll only scare them more. He's protecting his sisters as Sera protected him this morning."
He stopped and watched the little family. Dana, hearing her sister's sobs, started to cry too, "Uh, Herc? What do I do now?"
"I don't know. I've never seen them like this. I mean, we've had them all three crying at once, but that was because they missed their mom."
"What did you do this morning?"
"Yeah," Hercules shrugged his shoulders. "We just talked to them to calm them down. But it helps if you get down to their height level."
"Yeah? Okay. I can do this." Jason said to himself and did as he was told. After clearing his throat, he continued to the children, "Hey, Daniel. Why don't you we talk about what's wrong."
"Leave my sisters alone!" Daniel yelled and took a step backwards with Sera.
"What?" Jason was taken off guard.
"I'm their big brother! I protect them!"
"And you are doing a great job. But right here, there is nothing to protect them from. Nobody wants to hurt anybody."
"Not even Mommy?"
Daniel started to let his guard down. Still kept his, now crying, sisters behind him.
"Not even Mommy. Can we come over and sit with you?" Jason made a gesture that included his watching, awestruck friends. "We want to know what made you so scared."
Daniel nodded and sat while keeping a curious eye on everyone. Sera kept her head over his shoulder as she sat behind him.
Lilith came over and sat between the girls to calm their shuddering sobs. She looked over at Jason with a 'good-job' smile.
"Aren't you mad?" Daniel asked. He was surprised at what was happening.
"About what?" Jason asked, sitting but keeping a safe distance so not to frighten them again.
"About the water."
"Nooo," he almost sang. "Actually on a day like this, that felt good. Don't you think getting angry over an accident like that is silly?"
Daniel shrugged his shoulders. He honestly did not know. "Daddy gets mad over accidents."
"Is that why you felt you had to protect your sisters? You thought I would get mad?"
The young boy's sad eyes looked at him and nodded. "When Daddy gets mad, Mommy hides us. But we still hear things."
Daniel looked over at Hercules. "Is this 'anytime'?"
"What?" Hercules asked from the tree he was leaning on, and listening.
"You said that I could talk to you about anything at any time."
"Yeah. This would be one of those times."
Daniel looked back over at the King who was getting an 'I'll -tell- you -later ' look from Hercules, and continued when Jason gave him his attention again. "Yelling mostly. Banging, crashing of dishes, screaming. Loud things. Bad things."
"Scary things?" Jason asked. His face was sad, and compassionate.
Daniel nodded again. "I don't let anything happen to my sisters."
"You are a very good big brother."
Everyone of the spectators friends agreed, and Daniel smiled bright. Nobody had ever given him a greater compliment.
"No!" came a scream from behind them. "Stay away from them!"
Hercules lifted himself off the tree, as they all turned to see Kaira running towards them. She stopped a few feet from them, out of breath, and bowed when she recognized Jason. Her whole body shook in fear, as she kept her gaze to the ground. She had to lean on one arm to keep her balance.
"My lord, King Jason, I beg you. Do not harm my children. I am the one who dumped the water on you."
Jason stood up, and walked over to her. He really did not know what to say until he saw her dressed ripped in slashed under her long, wavy, red hair. Gently he held out a hand to her. "Please, get up. I promise no harm will come to them or you. There is nothing to be sorry for. Take my hand. Please."
She raised her head, and looked at him in surprise. She did not take his hand to stand, and became embarrassed. "Forgive my intrusion. I forgot my place."
"Your place is a mother. You had every right to make sure your children were safe. And they are."
"Thank you," she brushed some hair behind her ear, exposing the battered and worn face that he had not yet had a chance to see. "Um, lunch is ready. I'll take the children into the kitchen with me, so that you can come in to eat. I'll see you in the dining hall. Daniel, Sera. Let's go." She bent and picked up Dana and took Daniel's hand, as he held Sera's. Without another word, she hurried them inside.
"Do you have your proof yet?" Iolaus asked as he and Hercules stood beside him, and they all watched the family disappear into the academy.
"Yeah. Enough to start an investigation."
"Thank you," he said, putting a hand on his friend's shoulder.
Kaira hurried around the kitchen to get food for the children. "Are you two okay?" she asked setting Daniel and Sera's lunch in front of them. She lifted their chins to examine their faces.
"Hercules wouldn't hurt us, Mama." Daniel said.
"We don't know that." She sat down next to him. "Just, please be careful. I need to get us some money so we can move away."
"We're going to leave Daddy?" Daniel was confused and scared.
"Shh. It's our secret. Okay?"
Kaira was petting his light brown hair back away from his face. She relaxed, and watched him eat his food. She looked at all of their angelic faces with their shadowed blue and green eyes. Even though she had brought them into a harsh life, she did not know what she would do without them. They were her silver lining, and her reason for leaving. She could not let happen to them what was happening to her. She had get out.
"Will you stop crying if we leave?" Daniel asked breaking her train of thought, and snapping her back to his attention.
"Oh, honey. There's always things in the land to make you cry. But I don't think I'll cry as often. But no more talk about it until it's time to go."
"I don't know yet, honey. But when we do, I promise we will never go through this again. I will starve before I let anyone hurt you again. . .eat. It'll be time for you to go back out again soon."
"Kaira?" came a voice from the doorway.
Recognizing it, she stood up. Turning towards it, she knelt on the floor in front of the table. Her eyes focused on the shine she had put on it earlier. "How may I help you, my King?"
"Please, get up," Jason said in a gentle voice, holding out a hand again.
"I am not worthy."
"Please. I like to see the face of the person I talk to."
Kaira raised her head up slow, and looked at the young King. His green eyes were as gentle as his voice, and his hand. She felt very uncomfortable. She kneeled before her King. The young man who was the high judge of her land. She was a patron in his land, one of many, and he was wanting to talk to her. There had to be something wrong. Had he heard her and Daniel talking about leaving?
"If I may, my King. I extend my greatest apologies for the water being dumped on you," She remained kneeling and started to look at the floor again.
"Apology accepted and you're forgiven." He said still extending his strong hand. "Please let me help you up."
"Please. . . Join me at the table. Have you eaten?"
"No, my K-"
"Jason. Please. Right now I want to be your friend Jason."
Kaira stood without his hand again. "My King. I could not in good conscience use that name, talking to you personally. Now let me get you a bowl of stew."
"I have eaten. Thank you. Please. Sit with your children."
"I have work. . ."
"And it can wait." his helping hand being denied a second time, Jason folded his arms against his chest and leaned against a counter behind him.
"Please. I just need a moment to talk to you." he held his hand palm out to stop her further avoidance.
"Have I done anything wrong?"
"Have the children?"
"No. But there may be the issue of your husband."
"Has he done anything wrong?" Her heart sank and raced as her stomach tightened. Had he heard her conversation? Was he going to stop her from leaving, and tell him?
"You tell me."
"I don't know what you mean, my King."
"Then tell me about your son's legs."
Kaira looked at him, and hoped her relief of the different subject didn't show. "So, Hercules came running to you?"
"Hercules, Iolaus, and I are all concerned."
"About an active boy who gets scrapes and bruises, like most young children. I already went over this with Hercules."
"About the burns. On him and you. You seem to have avoided him on that one. Please. Talk to me."
"What does this have to with my husband?" Kaira could no longer look at him with the strange care in his face. She did not know how to take it.
"Did he put the burn marks on you? And what about the bruise on your face?"
Kaira brought her shaking hand up on instinct to the memory of that sting. "Why would he do that?"
"Kaira." Jason straightened up from the counter, and walked over to her. With slow motions he took her shaking hands in one of his, and with his other hand, tried to tilt her head to look at him. "It's very evident there is something wrong. You are scared and shaking. You won't give me a straight answer. Please, sit down with me at the table."
Kaira looked over at the children. They had been watching them the whole time, while finishing their lunch. "Daniel, can you carry Dana out to Iolaus and Hercules in the sling."
"Yes, Mama," he said with a proud voice. Remembering the compliment that he had received, he gave Jason a big smile.
Kaira wondered what his sudden take to the young king was as she took her hands out of Jason's, and walked over him. She was more nervous then before as she helped him put the sling across his chest so he could wrap his arms around the baby.
"Don't cry Mama," came his innocent voice. His small hand touched her face, and wiped away the unnoticed tear. "Is he going to help us? " he whispered.
Kaira gave him an appreciative smile. "We'll be fine. Don't you worry." She snuggled Dana in the sling, and helped him place his arms where he needed to support her. "You just take care of your sisters, and have fun. I love you."
She gazed into his big blue eyes of his father's. How could the same eyes have different feelings for her? She wondered. She returned the facial touch, then stood and sent them all on their way, holding hands.
Jason came up and stood behind her, to watch the kids walk out into the dining hall. After a moment of silence, he put a hand on her shoulder. Kaira startled, and pulled back. Jason gave a sigh as he pulled his hands back, then used it to guide her to a chair at the table.
"I don't think this is necessary-" she started as she sat, not looking at him. Even more nervous yet.
"Please." he interrupted her as he walked around the table. "Let me get you a bowl."
"I'm not hungry, my King. Thank you." Her voice was low and quivered. She intertwined her fingers and her stomach felt tighter.
"Okay. Now. I want to get this straight. You are not in any trouble." Again he had to hold up a hand so not to be interrupted. "I have heard some concerns, and I have seen some things that concern me. Now, please tell me about Daniel's legs. Where did the burns come from?"
She remembered. She remembered every event that placed every marking on his body. But she could not tell. What would he do if she did?
"I only want to help. But if you be silent, I can't."
Silence rang again. Still, the young King kept his cool.
"Let me try another question. Maybe you could tell me about why you all are so scared. Or about the rips on the back of your dress. Pick a subject. I'm listening"
There were the words to get her to look at him. Kaira's green eyes were wide with surprise, highlighting her red cheeks even more.
It was Jason's turn to have his stomach tighten. He gathered himself, cleared his throat and continued with what he had to say. "I noticed the tears when you thought I was going to hurt the children. I had no intention of doing so, by the way. But we'll get to that later. Please, tell me about the tears. You can't hide them forever behind your hair."
"I am over weight, my lord, and this dress is old."
"Kaira. I saw your dress. Those are not tears from being too small. There also was blood stained on them. To me that says you were whipped."
Kaira looked away again, not feeling well at all. It was not because of her nervousness. She had not been feeling well for a couple of days. She felt cold, and yet, she was beginning to sweat.
"I may have deserved it." she said after another moment of silence. Her focus was becoming blurred and she felt dizzy.
"And what of your prisoners?"
"That's not our subject."
His gentle voice had not changed tone, or volume, and yet she still shrunk back. Jason sighed in frustration. He did not know how to talk to her with her so scared. "Yes. Some of the prisoners are whipped for their punishment. But it's not a sentence I give lightly. I would rather not have that as a punishment, but I hate the death sentence even more. Now. I have answered your question. Will you answer at least one of mine?"
Kaira pierced her lips together and looked away. Tears were burning her eyes again. "I have work to do." she said in a tight voice to try to keep from crying.
"I want to help." He put a hand on her entwined fingers.
She pulled her hands away and shot at him. "Your father could do nothing to help. What makes you think you could?"
He was taken back by his head being removed and spit in.
As soon as the words came out, she wanted so much to take them back. Her look dissolved into her submissive silence, as she bowed and left the room.
Jason recovered and followed her outside to the wash bucket; away from everybody. "Kaira."
"Please! I am taking care of it." Kaira bent to pick up a bucket of clean water she had placed beside it earlier. She sighed at the water that had been spilled out as cadets had kicked it on their way by to classes. In her attempt to pick it up, she failed to hide the searing pain in her back.
Jason came up and took it from her. "Where to?"
"Forgive me, my lord, but toting around a bucket of wash water is not-"
"It is today. I would like to continue our conversation. Now where to?"
Kaira let go and pointed back in to the kitchen where the door had been left open. Jason followed her point of direction and poured the water into the sink where the cooking dishes waited to be washed. Kaira went straight to work, as though he had left, and a piece of her wished he had.
He watched her for a moment, then sat, curled up in the window sill. Looking outside, he let his mind wander to the past as the silence went on. So much had gone on there at the academy. He could not believe that it seemed so long ago.
The loud sound woke Jason from his brief reminiscing. He looked to see Kaira laying unconscious on the wet, hardwood floor. Her hair was to the side of her, exposing the fresh blood, soaking the back of her dress, along with some splashed water.
The young King leapt from his position, and skidded across the wet floor to her. He barely kept his stop in control as he knelt next to her.
"Kaira," he said rolling her over on his lap, and cradling her sweat soaked head in his arms. "Kaira."
"Ow." Came a faint cry from her lips.
Jason looked up again. The dining hall was deserted. All the cadets were on the other, side in the training hall. The cook had vanished, probably to a nature call. He looked down at Kaira again. He knew he would have to get her to Cheiron for help.
"Okay. You can do this Jason," he thought to himself. He positioned himself so he could get his arm under her legs, and centered himself for balance. He wasn't worried so much about her weight, as he was about aggregating her wounds further. "I know this is going to hurt, but we need to get you some help, whether you want it or not."
He carried her through the halls and slipped into the infirmary. Using his foot to close the door behind him, he took a breath and laid her on a slab table on her stomach.
Kaira groaned in pain again through her sleep.
"Sorry," Jason said pulling her soaking wet hair from her. Then he wiped the trickle of sweat from the side of her face. "I'm going to get Cheiron. I'll be right back."
He did not know if she could hear him or not, but he talked to her just the same, as he left to look for his former mentor.
Jason found Cheiron watching over the cadets sparring matches, with Feducious standing next to him, grading scrolls. He approached the head master and explained to both of them what had happened. Cheiron seemed to be expecting it. While his assistant was shocked without words.
"I'll be right there. Feducious?" Cheiron said.
"Of course. The students are in good hands."
Jason led him off to where Kaira laid.
"Jason, I need you to get water, salve, and bandages," Cheiron said feeling her forehead and taking a knife to rip away the remains of the dress' back.
The young King left with his instructions, and Cheiron pulled a blanket out of a cupboard and laid it over her legs for privacy. Looking at her back, he eased away the material. He gave a look of sympathy while he choked back down the sickening feeling he had.
"I got the water," Jason said coming back in at a fast walk, and sloshing water everywhere. "I'll get the first aide box. How's she doing?"
He looked at her back when Cheiron did not answer. "What did this?"
"Apparently she has been whipped over and over without enough time to heal in between. She has lost a lot of blood, and she's dehydrated, has a fever, and is exhausted."
"So what are we going to do?" he asked, handing over the box.
The centaur went right to work, cleaning the wounds. "We will do what we can. Give her a place to stay, try to find something for her to wear, and get her better. . .If she will let us."
"What do you mean?"
"Obviously she did not tell us of her pain, because she is afraid and ashamed. She is trying to be strong for her children, but someone thinks that she needs to be under control."
"Why do you suspect?. . .Something is going on."
"Well, Hercules and Iolaus asked me to look in on a matter," Jason went on to explain about what had happened with his friends' plea and visit, the incident with Daniel, his cold shower, and his conversation.
Cheiron listened to every word, and let Jason finish. "So once again, you three take things into your own hands."
"I had no idea you didn't know. Being King made looking into the matter an obligation. I can not defend Corinth in war if I can not keep peace inside the city. That includes in the families."
"Something else bothering you?"
Jason did not know he had let it show, but he should have known that he could not keep anything like that from the intellectual centaur. "Yeah," he sighed. "She had said something about my Father not being able to help her. That's why she would not let me help her."
"Do you remember her?"
"No." He shook his head. Looking at her face, he was not sure. She did seem familiar, but he could not put her finger on it.
"You do not sound so sure, Young King. Maybe you had better think about it first."
"Help me do what we can to make her comfortable. I'm sure it will come to you."
"Maybe I should send one of the cadets to see about some clothes?"
"No. We do not want word to get out, in case she's in real danger. We'll see if Feducious has something. We will also keep her in here."
"What about the children?"
"Children like games. We will tell them they are going to have a sleep over here. Try not to alarm them about their mother. We will tell them the truth. That she's resting safely."
Hercules and Iolaus were exhausted. The kids had more energy then ever, and had refused to take naps. "Where's Mommy?" Daniel would ask, scared. He was unsure about not seeing her for this length of time.
"She's fine. She's with Jason." Hercules would say, but that did not ease the young boys mind.
"When are we going home?"
"I'm sure she'll be here any minute now," Iolaus would try to reassure him.
Over and over this conversation would go on through the afternoon. When evening came, they started packing the childrens' things to take them inside for dinner.
Daniel's eyes were shifty, and scared. His tone was nervous. Hercules was getting worried about the little boy, as his fear started scaring his sisters.
All of a sudden, Daniel's eyes became wide as he looked out the gate. His little body became stiff and mouth opened, but nothing came out.
"What's the matter, Daniel?" Hercules asked as he picked up the crying, and exhausted Sera.
Daniel could only raise his arm and point to the hill outside the academy. There was a man of middle stature, shoulder length brown hair with natural blonde highlights, and broad shoulders, walking down the hill in light doeskin pants and vest.
"Who is that?" Iolaus asked, putting his hands on the boy's rigid shoulders and lowering himself to whisper in his ear.
"Daddy," Daniel whispered back. Still staring, still pointing, a tremble came over his entire body.
"Uh, Herc. I think we need to get the kids inside." Iolaus said as he stood.
"Yeah." Hercules agreed, lifting Dana into his other arm.
Iolaus grabbed the bag with all their stuff, and picked up Daniel, who kept his frozen pose, and rushed to get them inside the academy's main building.
The training room was empty, as all the cadets were cleaning up for dinner.
"Hercules!" came the annoyed, firm voice from Cheiron as he stood in the infirmary doors. "I believe you two have some explaining to do."
"Cheiron-" Hercules began.
"Now! And leave the children with Iolaus."
Cheiron motioned for Hercules to enter the infirmary and opened the doorway more.
"Cheiron, Kaira's husband is here, and -"
"I will handle it. You, in there. Iolaus, take the children to the sleeping quarters. Now."
Iolaus flipped Sera onto his back, held Dana in one arm, and shifted Daniel closer. He headed as fast as he could to the dormitory. Hercules sighed and went into the room that his headmaster was walking out of.
Jason stood inside with his arms crossed, and looking at Hercules. He was emotionless, and was making him even more nervous then Daniel. "What?"
"You didn't tell Cheiron about what was going on," Jason stated. "If you had, he could have helped you. But you went over his head to me."
"Save it! We're all involved now. But you should have told him. Now we have to concentrate all our strengths on helping her heal."
Hercules followed Jason's gaze to the table where Kaira laid. Her back wounds were wrapped in bandages, much in the same way as set ribs.
"What happened?" He asked as he walked over to her.
"She passed out when I was trying to talk to her about the concerns that we have," The young King uncrossed his arms and joined his friend. "Don't get me wrong. You were right to let Iolaus drag you to me. But Cheiron is the first one you should have told. Chain of command. It was very uncomfortable for me to have to explain why I was here to deal with a situation he knew almost nothing about."
Hercules did not respond. All he could do was look at her. All the dressings Cheiron had put on her entire body that the blanket didn't cover.
"Yeah, I was hoping to catch up with the family in their daily walk," They heard coming from the training room. "When I didn't see them anywhere around, I thought something must be wrong and maybe they came here to get help. This is a nice academy you have here."
The young men went to the infirmary doors and closed them to the point of having a crack to look out of. Cheiron was walking with Daniel's father through the academy.
"With so many wars going on, fathers are away. Boys need someone to show them discipline, control, wisdom, and self-defense as they grow into men. A lot of mothers raising them by themselves, can't teach them that in their busy schedules."
"Unlike my lazy woman. She hardly does anything around the house. She sits around all day sewing, or taking walks with the kids. When I come home from a hard day in the market place, and long walk home, all I want is the kids quiet and in bed, the house clean, and a decent meal. But no. The kids are spoiled by their mother, and sopping wet behind the ears. The boy could use a place like this to toughen him up."
Hercules had to hold Jason back, along with his own anger. With a hand over the young King's mouth and one arm holding down both of his around his tight waist, Hercules had to keep moving away from things so that Jason would not kick them over and attract attention to them.
"We offer guidance and discipline," Cheiron corrected. "Everyone needs that."
"So you haven't seen anyone to match their descriptions?" The man asked looking around more and walking towards the cracked doors to the infirmary.
"None," Cheiron said trying to keep his voice under control.
"Maybe one of your boys had seen them," the husky, middle sized man started towards two boys who had come back to get some gear they had forgotten.
"I doubt it. They have been in classes all day. To admit not being would only give them extra chores," Feducious put in carrying some material in his arms, under fresh supplies for the first aide box. His voice was loud enough for the boys to take a warning, even though they did not know what was going on.
"Stop it Jason," Hercules hissed in his ear. "If he hears you, you'll put them all in more danger."
All Jason could think of was showing the suave gentleman the damage he could cause him, for what he had done to this family.
"Shall I show you out now?" Cheiron asked Kaira's husband, extending an arm towards the door.
"Sure. How old would he have to be to come here?"
"We usually take in young men. . ."
They heard their voices trail off and the clicking of Cheiron's hooves on the hard floor. The agitated King settled down, but his friend still held him and watched the doors, as though he could see Cheiron escort the man out.
"Herc," Jason tried to say through his friends muffling. "Herc."
Hercules looked down, and realized it was alright to let him go. "Oh. Sorry. I guess I forgot."
Jason straightened out his off white, light woven shirt and his neck. "What are we going to do now?"
Both walked over to Kaira again, and watched her restless sleep. They each felt helpless with her in this condition.
"I'm sorry that we did -" Hercules began, but the doors creaked open. Expecting the worse, both moved in front of where Kaira laid to hide and protect her.
"Goodness sakes, boys!" Feducious said sucking in his breath and dropping everything as he almost jumped out of his skin. He put a hand on his heart, and let his breath out before picking up the material and the supplies. "Must you do that? The man has left. And now you two are to leave this room. Lilith will come in and take over. Now scoot."
The wise teacher laid the material on the make shift bed, next to woman who was now crying in her sleep.
They both gave a worried look as they were herded out of the room, and the doors shut behind them.
"You two need to go help Iolaus. It seems the children were rather frightened enough to have accidents on the floor in the dorm room. You also need to help set up beds for the three of them. You can use a storage crate for a bed for the baby. Now go. Have it done before dinner so you can have some time to study, and see the King return home."
"Feducious. I can not return to the palace tonight. There's so much to figure out-"
"And there will be time enough tomorrow."
"I doubt she'll be waking up anytime tonight. Tomorrow will be the time for answers. Tonight is for rest. . .if you can get the children to calm down."
Iolaus woke up in the night to a soft crying sound. He blinked his eyes open to pay attention to where it came from.
In the slab of a bunk above him, Daniel was sitting up in a tight ball, against the wall. He tried to stifle joe cries by burying his face in between his knees, and chest.
Iolaus stood up to see what was the matter. "Hey, Daniel," he whispered so not to wake up the other cadets. "What's wrong, Bud?"
"I can't tell you," the little boy whispered back, scared and shaking.
"Because you'll be mad."
"No. I won't."
"Yeah. Yeah, I promise. Hey. What could you have done in these few hours of the night, to get into trouble?"
Daniel raised his head. His tear soaked face was pale. "I wet the bed. I'm so sorry!"
He started to cry again. "I want my mommy."
"I know you do." Iolaus' heart sank. The boy was shaking and his fear shone like a bonfire. "But you know what? Mommy needs her rest. She needs time to heal, so she can tale care of you. Sooooooo. . .what do you say, we clean up your accident, and take care of you. We'll make sure it doesn't happen again tonight. Then we'll bring you back in here. Get you a dry shirt, and another blanket. No harm done."
Iolaus pretended to think a moment. He raised his bright green eyes to the ceiling, while nodding his way through the list in his head. "Yeah. That's all I can think of that needs to be done."
"You're not mad?"
Daniel gave him a curious look.
"Hey. You're scared. That's understandable. Nobody's going to get mad over one accident in the middle of the night."
"Even though I had an accident earlier?"
"What if I do it again?"
"We'll clean it up again, and watch what you drink before bed." Daniel's look went from curious, to disbelieving.
"Come on," Iolaus encouraged, holding out his kind, strong arms to the boy. "Come on." He reached up and tickled him with a sheepish smile.
Daniel laughed at the strange touch. Feeling more secure, he leapt to his hero.
When the boy was down on the floor, they took off his soiled shirt, and used the blanket to scrub up the accident. Satisfied, Iolaus placed the two soiled garments together under his slab, and took off his own shirt to give it to the boy.
"Better?" he asked in his soft whisper.
Daniel held out the oversized shirt to examine it. He could not say a word. He only bit his bottom lip, looked up, and gave his new friend a smothering hug.
Iolaus had been at the boys height, and almost lost his balance from the force of affection. As soon as he got his balance he stood, returned the strong embrace, and grabbed the blanket from his bed. With a deep, satisfied sigh, he smiled and carried the clutching boy off.
"Something the matter, Iolaus?"
Cheiron's voice frightened both the boys on their way back to the dormitory. They watched as his hooves clicked on the hard, training room floor.
"No, sir," Iolaus said carrying Daniel, wrapped in the blanket. "Daniel just had a little call from nature and so we were just on our way back to bed."
"Good. Get plenty on rest. You'll be needing it for tomorrow."
Extra chores. Just what I look forward to. Iolaus thought to himself as he waved with his free hand and smiled. "Good night, Cheiron."
As he carried, a now sleeping Daniel back to bed, he remembered the earful they had received after Jason left. Not only was there extra chores added on to their work, but their extra credit was taken away and they received extra homework on top of taking care of the kids.
On his way to his bunk, Iolaus looked in on the girls. He smiled at the sight.
Sera was curled up with Lilith in her bunk. The older girl's arm was wrapped around the fragile girl sucking her thumb and twirling her hair in her sleep.
Dana was in a storage box, as Feducious had suggested, by Hercules' bunk. He had switched with another cadet to have the bottom bunk for the night. The half god's strong arm rested inside the make shift bed. His big hand held hers, as she wrapped her tiny hand around his index finger.
Satisfied that everyone was settled for the night, he laid Daniel back on the bunk above his. He stood for a moment, and watched the boy sleep with a smile across his angelic face. His small body was wrapped in the oversized, woven shirt and blanket.
Iolaus laid on his bunk and shook off the cold night from his upper body with the good feeling. Knowing everybody he cared about was safe that night was enough to keep him warm.
Feducious: Ross Duncan
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