“Boy, you were gone a long time. Did you have any luck?” Hercules inquired as he turned to face his returning partner. A quick sweep of his friend’s general countenance told him two things; Iolaus’ hands held no game and his pants were missing. Hercules paused a second to determine which subject to tackle first, dinner or wardrobe. Curiosity got the better of his stomach. “Iolaus, do you know your pants are missing?”
The blonde hunter looked down at his bare legs peeking out from under the blanket, which was wrapped about his slim waist. He feigned surprise. “By the Gods Hercules! You’re right!”
The sarcasm in Iolaus’ voice did not escape Hercules’ attention. “Should I even ask what happened or is this going to be one of those incredulous tall tales I don’t believe from the get go.”
“What do you mean, incredulous tall tales?” Iolaus whined in mock-hurt.
“I mean, like those tales you use to weave for my mother on how her pies magically disappeared off the kitchen counters. Or the tales on how your clothes got mysteriously ripped. Or the tales you told the teachers about your missing homework. Or the ones---“
“Alright, alright,” the shorter man said throwing his hands up in the air. “I concede that I may have, perhaps, occasionally, told a tall tale or two in my life.” The look Hercules gave his friend indicated he thought it was--- perhaps--- more than occasionally.
Iolaus chose to ignore the accusatory look and settled himself onto a near by log. The blanket he had wrapped about his torso gently settled about his lower, naked extremities. Iolaus checked himself like a modest girl, made a few adjustments, and then began to speak.
“It really is your fault I lost my pants Herc.”
The demi-god stared at his best friend in disbelief. He shook his head more to himself than anyone else, as he too sat down and leaned back against a boulder. This was going to be one of those tall tales for sure.
The compact warrior went on. “If you hadn’t insisted that we stop so early tonight, none of this would have ever happened. After all, there was still a good two hours until dusk and we certainly could’ve covered more ground.”
“Well,” Hercules drawled, “The way I remember it, it was you who wanted to stop early. Something to do with being exhausted after your ‘big night out’ in that tavern last evening. I seem to recall the words, ‘not much sleep’, ‘headache the size of Mount Olympus’ and ‘she really worked me hard’ being uttered from your lips.”
Iolaus had the good grace to at least acknowledge Hercules’ words with a faint blush. “Since when do you ever listen to what I say,” he muttered under his breath.
“What was that?” the son of Zeus inquired.
“Nothing. Like I was saying, since you wanted to halt for the night this all happened. It really was too early to go hunting; the animals were still taking their afternoon siestas. So it should come to no surprise, that even a great hunter like myself, was unable to find any game for dinner.”
Hercules quirked an eyebrow.
“But,” Iolaus said expansively waving his arms. “I didn’t want you to go hungry, so I decided to head down to the river and try to catch us some trout.”
“Iolaus, if all of the game were sleeping wouldn’t the fish be sleeping too? I seem to recall you telling me over the years, that the best times to fish are at dusk and dawn.”
“Again, he listens to what I say,” the hunter mumbled to himself. “Well Herc,” he continued in a tone that indicated he was talking to a little child--- or the village idiot. “It is shady down by the river and the shadows of the trees across the water’s surface confuse the fish as to the real time of day. Therefore, the fish in these shadows, thinking it is dusk, would be awake.”
Rubbing his hands across his handsome brow, Hercules wondered why he even bothered. “So you went down to the river to go fishing and fell in.”
“Yes. Well no. I mean yes, but well no, not exactly.”
The tall man tried to shift into a more comfortable position against his backrest. “So, let me guess, there was this girl.”
“Friend, with you there is always a girl.”
Unsure how to take that comment, the hunter decided to let it pass. “Well, for once you are wrong. There was no girl.”
“Really?!” The demigod threw his partner a look of total disbelief. “No girl?”
“No. It was a Goddess. Your sister Aphrodite to be exact.”
Caught on a technicality, Hercules conceded defeat. To say his bodacious sister was a mere ‘girl’ would be ludicrous and inaccurate at best. “What did Aphrodite want?”
“She wanted me to catch frogs for her,” he replied matter-of-factly
Hercules stared at Iolaus dumbfounded. “Why?”
“She heard some story about a Prince who was turned into a frog and only the most beautiful woman in the world could revert him to his true form with a kiss,” Iolaus said with a dramatic gesture of his arms.
“A kiss. On the lips.”
Hercules pondered this. “I wonder if frogs have lips.”
“Me, I think it is a cock-and-bull story but you know your vain sister.” Iolaus suddenly winced and quickly glanced around, forgetting that the aforementioned ‘vain sister’ was also a Goddess and might be listening to his tale too. He had seen Aphrodite’s temper in the past and he didn’t wish to be the focus of it again for any stray comments he might make. “Your beautiful, wise, witty sister,” he added in the way of an appeasement--- just in case.
“So you waded into the river?”
Iolaus shook his head yes.
“And caught a frog for my sister?”
Another affirmative nod.
“And when you got back on shore, you gave the frog to her and she kissed it but it did not turn into a Prince. Since your pants were wet and it was getting cold out, you decide to take them off and let them dry. End of story.” Hercules concluded in a rather hopeful manner.
The blonde hunter sadly shook his head no. Hercules heaved a deep sigh.
“Aphrodite was not satisfied with one frog, she wanted me to catch a more. The problem was I did not have a net with me. So when I caught each frog, I had to carry it back to shore. That got old fast so I decide to temporarily store them in my pants.”
“You dropped the frogs down your pants?” Hercules questioned in disbelief.
“No, I did not drop the frogs down my pants,” Iolaus snapped indignantly. “I merely tucked them into the waist-band. I didn’t shove them down my pants. That’s sick. Sheesh.”
“But---?“ Herc prompted
“But what?” the blonde hunter replied, his gaze shifting uncomfortably.
“But at least one frog did end up down your pants right?”
“Yeah, yeah. One of the stupid frogs somehow ended up down my pants.” Iolaus looked seriously at his demi-god friend. “Do you have any idea what it is like to have a frog in your pants?”
“No, I can honestly say that particular situation has never occurred in my life.”
“Well let me tell you buddy, it is not comfortable.”
“No, I suppose not,” Hercules replied thoughtfully. “Ok, go on, finish your tale.”
Iolaus ran a hand through his unruly locks. “I had to get that frog out of there. It was plain he wasn’t going to come out on his own, so I went behind a bush and removed my pants--- much to your sister’s dismay I might add.”
“Aphrodite was upset because you removed your pants? That does not sound like my sister.”
“No, she was upset because I did it behind a bush instead of in front of her. “
Hercules nodded his head. Now that made sense.
“Any rate, I got the stupid frog out. I went to put my pants back on but well, I don’t know. There was something about putting on a pair of pants that a frog has slimed around in that disgusted me.”
Hercules vainly tried to keep a straight face. This coming from a man who thought bathing was unhealthy.
“So I decided to take them down to the river and rinse them out. Luckily, I had this blanket, so I wrapped that around me.”
“And what was Aphrodite doing during your impromptu laundry session?”
Iolaus took another quick glance around to check for spying Goddesses. “Believe it or not, she was kissing those frogs, well up to the point when the bushes laughed.”
“The bushes laughed?”
“Actually, it was Athena and Artemis standing behind the bushes laughing. Apparently, they concocted this silly tale about frog-Prince to get even with Aphrodite for something that she did to them. And, as usual, I got caught in the middle,” Iolaus sighed.
Hercules looked his partner over but saw no sign of the pants. “But that still doesn’t explain where your pants are.”
“When Aphrodite heard the laughter, she knew she had been had and the three of them took off in a flash of light. Boy, I wouldn’t want to be around for that cat-fight. Anyway, that left me, the wet pants, the frogs, and the Prince all standing by the river.”
“Excuse me. Could you rewind the scroll a moment? The Prince? What Prince?”
“Well--- seems this whole frog- Prince story was not such a tall tale after all. Apparently, some God did curse this Prince and turn him into a frog and only the kiss from a Goddess could return him to his mortal state. I guess the God figured there weren’t too many Goddesses who go around kissing frogs. Anyway, when Aphrodite kissed the frog-Prince he reverted to his Princely form. However, since the spell was so old, I guess it took a few minutes to kick in and by that time Aphrodite was gone and it was just me, the frogs and the Prince.”
“And your pants?”
“The naked Prince took them.”
“He stole your pants? You let him take your pants?”
“I didn’t have much choice you know,” the warrior said in a hurt tone of voice. “He did have a sword and my knife was back in the bushes where I took my pants off.”
“Where did he get the sword from?”
“I don’t know. It was there when he changed from a frog to a man.”
“Let me get this straight. When he metamorphosed from a frog to a man, he was naked, but he had a sword,” Hercules recapped.
“Hey, I don’t write the rules. Yes, he had a sword, he held it at my throat, and he told me to give him my pants or else.”
“And you did.”
“It seemed like the wisest course of action at the time,” Iolaus answered.
Both men sat in silence for a few minutes; each absorbed in their own thoughts.
“Well, I have to hand it to you Iolaus. That was one of the oddest stories you have told me yet.”
“It’s true Herc. I swear on my Grandmother’s grave that it all happened just the way I told you.”
Hercules stared at his friend for a long minute. “You know what the sad part is Iolaus?”
“I lost my pants?”
“Your story is probably true and you’re the only person in the world it could have happened to. You have strange luck my friend.”
“Don’t I know it,” Iolaus lamented. “I’m going to miss those pants.”
“We’ll get you a new pair in the next village and if they don’t have your size I’ll make you a pair myself.”
“Yes, you know that. Didn’t we have this conversation once before?”
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