Orestes Challenge Story

by Bwell

It was under a crystal blue sky when Orestes and Niobe spread a blanket on the ground. With all of the bureaucracy they were dealing with lately, a little picnic was certainly in order. Lately, there had been one state crisis after another. The livery was accusing the smith guild of not shoeing the horses properly. The bakery was accusing the mill of adding dust to the flour, and several artists accused the quarry of adding wax to the marble. One group was always bickering with another, and this was taking its toll on the new marriage of King Orestes.

"Finally, we've been able to get out of the palace! It's too bad we have to have Hector and Linus following us around." complained Niobe bitterly. Niobe was not usually taken to bits of selfishness, but she was extremely tired, and the matters of state were weighing heavily on her.

"Well, now Niobe, you were the one that insisted I take being King a bit more seriously. Look, I'm taking it seriously. Just tell me what you want me to be," he started. "Or maybe just who you want me to be," he finished with a whisper. His eyes were downcast trying to avoid hers. He knew he had said the wrong thing; this king business was also trampling him down.

"Orestes," she said with huge tears in her eyes. He hadn't meant to hurt her again, but he did. "Orestes, I want you to be Orestes. I'm just so tired, and occasionally, I'd like to be alone with the man I married to get to know him better."

"Niobe, I'm sorry. I know this is difficult for you; it's just as difficult for me. You know that Hector and Linus must be with us. I'd like to slip away myself..."

"Orestes!" she cried with an unusual brightness in her eyes, "Let's do it?"

"Niobe! Here in front of Hector and Linus?!" gasped a rather shocked King as a smile crept across his face.

She playfully punched him in the arm, "Not that! Let's slip away! We can do it; after all, your father used to creep out of the castle from time to time. We could use all those delicious secret passages and get away for a couple of days."

He winced at the playfulness in her voice. It was like a song in his heart; it was like a giggle of the soul; it was unlike anything he'd ever heard from her before. So why not? Weren't they entitled to a day off once in awhile. Orestes knew full well which hidden passages she was talking about. He had put them to good use, or bad from another point of view, when he was single. He grabbed both her hands, rose to his knees, and whispered in her ear, "Let's take a holiday." She was so excited that she pulled free and threw both arms around him; she then did something she had never done before ... She kissed him. Not a peck on the cheek, or forehead, but a full-fledged kiss right on the mouth. He was just beginning to enjoy himself when she unexpectedly pulled back.

"Um. Okay, when do we make our escape?" she asked as she turned very crimson. "Of course, we'll have to come up with some disguises. People will definitely recognise you and me."

"Don't worry, my dear. I have just the perfect thing. Finish your lunch and don't forget to smile at Hector from time to time. We don't want them getting wind of our holiday," smiled Orestes. He gave her a quick wink just as her normal colour was returning; this only served to spread the sweet scarlet over her face again.

Later, that night in the castle, Niobe came to the King's chamber. She slipped in not quite unnoticed as she had hoped. Her Lady-in-waiting had seen this as a good sign, and she left strict orders that no one, not even Hector, was to disturb the King's chamber until late afternoon the next day. She smiled as she considered getting the royal carpenter to start work on a cradle.

Niobe was taken aback as she first entered the room. He was here! There was no mistaking it. Black leather pants, purple patched vest, and quite unruly hair. "Iolaus!" she gasped as he spun around.

"Quite convincing don't you think?" invaded Orestes' voice from her lost love. "I should think that if I could fool you, I certainly think I could convince others who might pass by."

"Orestes, do you think this is wise? I mean Iolaus is a warrior; suppose some bandit wants to make a reputation by killing Hercules's best friend? I mean could you do..." she stopped abruptly in shame as she considered the shame she was foisting on her husband. "Just let's be careful. What do I have to wear?"

Orestes' frown evolved into a sneaky smile as he held up two dresses for her to choose from. One was a blue peasant dress much too low-cut for her taste, but the other was obviously one from a previous acquaintance. It was red, and its neckline was practically nonexistent. This dress had a slit cut way up the side to reveal every bit of leg she had. The back of the dress was even worse. It plunged all the way to her...well, she wasn't even going to think about that aspect of the dress. She grabbed the peasant dress from his hand and said, "This will do. Just where did you... never mind. I don't want to know." And she skittered into his dressing room to slip on the dress.

When she returned, he was simply glowing at her. He helped her with her hair as they tried desperately to straighten her curls. "This isn't working. How about braids?" he suggested. So they worked on her beautiful auburn curls until they were two braids that framed her beautiful face. "Hmmm, you'll have to get a bit dirty, but we can fix that outside; now come with me." And he took her by the hand as they slipped out of the castle.

They were safely out of Attica's walls before they felt they could breath again. Even as a peasant, Niobe was stunning. Little curls pulled free from the braids to frame her face. Orestes, well Orestes looked identically like Iolaus. They made a naturally beautiful couple. Down the road they shuffled like two little children sneaking out of school giggling all the way.

They stopped a ways down the road at an inn. When they walked in breathlessly, the slightly round innkeeper's wife slapped Orestes on the back and made a quite racy joke. The innkeeper stepped between his bawdy wife and the embarrassed couple. "Iolaus, sorry about that. She does like to test the homemade ale. No offence, Friend."

"None taken," replied Orestes. "I may have been the one to teach her that one m'self." Iolaus let loose a lusty laugh, "Could we have a room tonight?"

"Why of course. And what's the name of this pretty young lass. Or is that a secret? Never mind; forget I asked," he blurted out as he led them to their room.

"We made it! They thought I was Iolaus. This is so easy," giggled Orestes.

Niobe looked with bittersweet eyes at her husband. He did look so much like him. His zest for life equalled Iolaus', and Niobe for one minute almost convinced herself that he was Iolaus. Her eyes travelled to the one big bed in the room, and she unconsciously sighed.

"Don't worry, my dear. I'll sleep on the chair. I won't bother you."

"No, Orestes. This is a large bed. There's no sense in you being uncomfortable," she answered him with her eyes downcast. So, they laid said by side fully clothed in heartbreaking silence. She could almost be with him if she pretended he was Iolaus, but that would be wrong. So they each slept with their own heartache.

The next morning they headed down the road again. He was practicing his Iolaus impression by telling terrible jokes. She was loving every minute. "Oh! Look! A festival. This will be great fun. I understand that my cousin loves festivals. Wine, bread, great food, games, and I'm told he's fond of beautiful women," he said with raised eyebrows. "This promises to be a wonderful holiday." Niobe smiled in anticipation.

When they walked into the village, there was an air of disappointment. The further they went into the village, the happier it seemed. People were genuinely excited to see them.

"I thought you couldn't make the festival. Oh the children will be excited to see you, Iolaus!" shouted an old man in the square. "When we got your message that you wouldn't be able to be here, the children cried most of the night. Did you get that war business settled? Well, I'm glad you made it in time for the Hestian Festival for the Orphans. They're in desperate need, and I shudder to think what would have happened to them if we couldn't raise the money. Now that you're here, were sure to raise 400 dinars. Without it, the magistrate will send the children out into the streets."

"Does King Orestes approve of this? Why haven't you appealed to him?" asked a worried Orestes.

"Well, we tried two years ago to ask his father. Every month we went to ask for relief, and every month we were sent back . The trip just kept us away from the children, and it used up money we really didn't have to waste. So, we just gave up," offered the man who was obviously in charge of the orphanage.

"But I understand that King Orestes is different," said Niobe.

"We really can't afford to take that risk. Hopefully we can raise the money before dawn tomorrow," he said drifting away. "But, enough of these problems. I have a feeling you're about to make some young ones very happy."

Orestes was frowning at the severity of the problem. He could, of course, just reveal who he was and give the money, but he wanted to look into this magistrates other dealings. Plus, he didn't want to disappoint the children. So, he forced his best Iolaus grin onto his face, grabbed Niobe by the hand, and said, " Come on, Willomena; let's see some kids."

Niobe whispered, "Willomena?"

"Hey! It's the first name that came to mind."

The minute he walked into the room, it was like magic. Sad faces jumped to attention, and they all crowded around Orestes laughing and bouncing up and down. "Iolaus! Iolaus!"

"Swing me around!"

"Tickle me!"

"Sing us a song!"

"Tell us a story!"

"Yes, tell us a story," they all said inn one voice. A little girl of three or four made her way to him and outstretched her little arms to him. He lifted her as she gave him a heart felt hug and kiss on the cheek, "I missed you! Tell me a story, please," came the very small voice from this very small person. Orestes almost cried. Niobe did.

"Yes, well, a story then." He looked over to Niobe almost pleadingly. All of the stories he remembered were definitely not for children's ears. His brain was working at a furious pace trying to recall stories he'd heard as a child. But he just couldn't remember. "Well, um..A story, yes. Once there was this baker who thought he was being cheated. It seemed the mill was putting dust..," He noticed frowns and yawns from the little faces and once again looked to Niobe.

"Iolaus, I think the children would rather hear about the time you and Hercules defeated the hydra," she offered.

Orestes looked at her with a blank face; then, suddenly, his face lit up. "Oh! Yes! Would you rather hear about the hydra?" Hydra was punctuated with a low growl. The children's voices went up in a cheer along with the adults who had wandered into the room. Orestes remembered the tale in great detail as Iolaus told it. He cleared his throat and began, "A hydra is a terrifying beast, all teeth and a horrifying snake like body. Herk and I were walking and minding.." The people listening sat transfixed by his voice. They hung on his every word which poured out like honey. "Willomena" sat with huge tears on the brink of spilling as Orestes became Iolaus. "So, I threw the torch, and he burned the stumps before another hideous head could grow, and the monster dissolved."

He wiggled his fingers in the air for effect to end the story, and a cheer once again went up. Every child came up to hug him and thank him for the story.

He grabbed Niobe by the hand and pulled her out into the street. Samarias, the old man, smiled and told Orestes, "Well, you earned 25 dinars with that story. We passed a cup around to the adults when you finished. We only have 375 more to go. Are you up for our dunking booth?"

"Um, dunking booth?" he asked tentatively as he eyed the huge barrel of water.

"Yes, we'll charge 5 dinars for someone to throw a ball at that lever. If it hits on the right spot, the bench will release depositing its occupant into the barrel of water. It's quite an invention, isn't it?" Samarias grinned from ear to ear. "I'm sure we'll make lots of money with you on the bench."

"Oh ho ho, friend. I don't know about this!" Orestes started backing away from the barrel with a surprised Samarias raising his eyebrows.

"Come on, Iolaus! It's for the children," laughed Niobe.

"Well, since it's for the children...okay!" Orestes recovered and climbed up the ladder to the bench suspended above the wooden bench. It was two boards hinged on either side. He centred on the bench and braced himself.

The line quickly wound down the street and through the square. The magistrate came out of his office to see what was going on. He frowned to see the laughing faces. He stormed up to one of the young men and demanded, "Just what is going on here? Do you have a permit to gather in the square like this?"

"Well, Sirganeus, it's for the orphans' benefit. I think he did obtain a permit from you, sir."

"What's the attraction?" he asked with a sneer.

"Iolaus is in the dunking booth. I think the orphanage might earn the money from this attraction alone!"

The patron was oblivious to the frown indenting itself on his forehead. The magistrate pushed passed him and stormed down the line. He growled at anyone foolish enough to greet him this day. He looked in astonishment as he saw a very wet Iolaus taunting the smith of the village to try again. Sirganeus scowled at the sight and wondered what happened to his plan. He specifically remembered changing the date on the invitation to Iolaus and intercepting his acknowledgment. Sirganeus was well pleased with himself on inventing the battle that he couldn't tear himself away from. What had happened to his plan? He decided to step in. "Ahem, Samarias! I hope you're benefit is successful. Have you raised much money?"

Niobe answered enthusiastically, "Yes! Can you believe that we've already raised 250 dinars? That's just with one little story, the dunking booth, and the pastry sale. We should have the money when all these people try to dunk Iolaus!" Orestes, hearing his name, smiled brilliantly and waved.

"Willomena has been cheering the people on. Seems she likes her friend Iolaus a little wet," Samarias laughed.

"I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you'll have to shut down the dunking booth. I'm afraid the long lines are blocking traffic in the square. Well so close, I'm sure you'll raise it by dawn. Good Luck!" dripped from his snake like tongue.

They broke up the crowd and helped Orestes from the booth. A little girl carried a blanket to wrap around him as he shivered on the street. Niobe whispered to Orestes what had just happened, and she saw an anger flare up in him that she had never seen. He was pacing up and down the road muttering under his breath. She laid a gentle hand on his arm, and he spun around with his eyes flashing. When he read the look in her eyes, he softened. He pulled her to him and hugged her. She threw her arms around him before remembering that he was still wet. He pulled back, and they both laughed as they settled with their heads together. "Okay, I'll calm down, but 'Willomena', he can't be allowed to get away with this. We have to raise the money!" He jerked away and saw the little girl staring at him. He knelt and placed his hand on top of her head. She ran right into his arms and snuggled into his very wet embrace.

"I love you, Iolaus. You'll help us; I believe in you," she whispered. He held her and closed his eyes to stem the tears. He envied his cousin once more to have gained this kind of trust.

"Don't worry! We'll do it!" He said with an ear to ear grin. Orestes looked up at Niobe and noticed that something was changing. But he couldn't afford to think of that at this point.

Just then, two very gorgeous young women came running up to Orestes. "Come on, Iolaus. We have an idea!" and they pulled Orestes from the little girl. They led Orestes, Niobe, and half the village to a farm just outside the village. They each had him by the hand when they stopped at a small table. "We'll have a kissing booth!"

"Well, you girls are liable to earn this money yet. I may even contribute myself. What do you say, Willomena; is it all right?" he said with a wink.

"Oh no, Iolaus! You've misunderstood. You're going to be the one doing the kissing, and we want to contribute!" Suddenly Orestes was surrounded by the young women of the village. He looked helplessly at Niobe as the first girl grabbed him around the neck and planted a big kiss right on his mouth. She looked dreamily off into space as she gladly deposited 10 dinar in a small cup.

Samarias laughed and told Niobe that they'd need a bigger cup. Niobe's eyes narrowed as she experienced something definitely new. She was jealous. There was no denying it now; she wanted to march over and punch every drooling woman in the line in the face. She held a tight hold on her emotions as she sat at the table and took in money. Orestes definitely tried to look like he wasn't enjoying this, but he saw the look on Niobe's face. Part of him was enjoying that, and a new hope took root in his heart. After nearly all the young women in the village had taken their delight, Niobe was counting the money. Her eyes were downcast and frowning when Samarias said, "We just have one more patroness." Niobe rolled her eyes viciously and threw daggers at the one who would buy her husband's kisses. She laughed out loud when she saw the oldest woman in the village pucker up to taste her delight. Orestes was a good sport and planted a big one on her mouth too. Niobe reached an epiphany. She was upset with women buying her HUSBAND'S kisses. She stopped seeing him as Iolaus; he was Orestes to her, and her heart ached to get for free what these women paid for.

"Ahem we have 375 dinars. What do you suggest we do now?" asked Samarias.

"Iíd tell another story, but my mouth is quite numb by now," winked Orestes.

"What about the pie eating contest? At 2 dinars to enter, surely we could find thirteen people to try eating pies. Especially since Saraleas has baked them. Nobody doesnít like Saraleasí pies!" grinned the old man. "Iím afraid weíre going to have to close your little pie eating contest. Saraleasí bakery has been found using contaminated flour. We found dust in it. Iím sorry. Are you still a little short?" smirked Sirganeus looking directly at Orestes.

"Sirganeus! This is an outrage! I wonder where she got that flour? Perhaps at your brothers mill in Attica?!" shouted Samarias. He was moving toward the magistrate in a threatening way when he found himself to be surrounded by Sirganeusí henchmen. "Thatís it! This festival is now officially closed! Too bad, you were this close," he laughed pinching his finger and his thumb together in Orestesí face.

Niobe made a move closer to the smug official when Orestes laid a hand on her arm. He whispered, "Patience, my dear. We wonít be able to help the orphans or Samarias if weíre in prison as well."

Orestes reached for his money pouch to add the 25 dinars to make up the difference, but in horror, he discovered that heíd been robbed. He looked frantically around him; then, he noticed a sly smile on Sirganeusí face. Of course! Heíd arranged for all of this to happen.

It was beginning to turn dark as they hauled Samarias away. Orestes and Niobe checked at the orphanage to make sure they were all bedded down and looked after. Samariasí wife nodded tearfully as Orestes asked to tell them a bedtime story. He told of a foolish king who had been made wise by the love of his lady faire and a brave hero. He told how the foolish king would make all wrongs in the kingdom right and force the evil advisers out of power. All orphans in the kingdom were well fed and looked after in comfort all the days the king would live. The children fell asleep with smiles on their faces and hope in their hearts.

Niobe walked over to Orestes and hugged him after he tucked the last one in. "I have a couple of dinars hidden away. Letís go see what the local tavern has to offer." And they left arm in arm.

The couple strolled into a very quiet tavern. The people were disappointed at the festival being cancelled, but no one offered to fork over the last twenty-five dinars. Niobe and Orestes sat across from each other at a small intimate table. They were discussing how they could help solve the problem when a waitress came over to take their orders. Niobe had asked what two dinars would buy them.

She smiled and said in a lusty voice, "The dinner is on the house for you, Iolaus, and of course for you too, um Wilona. Order who ... Oh! I mean what you want!" she giggled at Orestes. Orestes just returned the smile and blew out a long breath as she reached across him to place a napkin on his lap. She lingered with her ample chest in his face. He tried to look at Niobe, but she blocked his vision further.

"Um, just bring us the house specialty," he said turning a bright red. She left with a flounce and threw a possessive grin at Niobe. "What? I didnít do anything. Really sheís just harmlessly flirting. Donít take it seriously. Iíd rather have your attention than hers any day."

"Well, just try to not flash that smile to brightly. It will only encourage her. I donít think she needs any encouragement. I thought she was going to just plop down on your lap!" Niobe was trying very hard to remain calm, but she didnít want this wench playing up to Orestes.

"Well, you know olí Iolaus. I just have to flirt with everyone I see," he grinned. His grin turned to pained look as she kicked him in the shin under the table.

"Yes, but you need to remember to control yourself," she flashed her own knowing smile as she said this between her teeth.

"Is Wilma giving you any trouble, handsome," the waitress said setting down two mugs of ale.

"Itís Willomena to you," shot back Niobe. "Do you think we could have our meal before you devour my h....honey?"

"Listen, Willowena. Iolaus isnít just your honey. Iolaus belongs to us all. So, maybe he doesnít want to be with some dried up little prude who looks like sheís some frump. Really, Iíve seen better hair on the rear end of a horse!"

Niobe stood to her feet. "Perhaps youíd like to see how hard this horse can kick?" Orestes tried to reach out to her, but she jerked her arm away from him.

"Anytime you think you can try, sister Willowhina!" and that was all it took. Niobe slammed her fist into the young womanís jaw and knocked her to the ground. "You got just a little lucky with that one. Iíll make sure Iím ready for the next," and she jumped to her feet.

A shout brought the tavern to life, "Camphalia is going to fight the stranger. Oh this is going to be good."

"Take it outside ladies; Iíd like to keep the tavern in good shape."

Orestes grabbed Niobeís elbow. "Niobe, donít do this. She isnít worth the risk," he whispered urgently. Then she said something that stunned him.

"Maybe not, but maybe just maybe you are." She pulled out of his grasp and headed for the door.

This time she was unprepared. As she walked out of the tavern, Camphalia jumped her from behind and landed on top of her on the ground. Niobe buried her fingers in the mass of red curls and pulled with all of her might. Orestes noticed a crowd gathering and hoped the magistrate wouldnít throw them all in prison. However, One of Samarias' helpers also noticed. As the women thrashed about on the ground, he circulated through the crowd with a cup discreetly hidden collecting a dinar here and a dinar there. Orestes tried to pull them apart, but both of them yell at him to mind his own business. He was worried for Niobe so he grabbed a bucket of cold water and threw it on them thinking this would separate them. This only made them angrier and more alluring to the audience they had acquired. In fact, the dirt turned to mud as they struggled to gain their footing, and they stumbled back to the ground slithering in the slick mud.

Camphalia had Niobe face down in the mud when she straddled her. She grabbed her braids and pulled back on them as if they were reins. However, Niobe surprised her by slamming her heel into her back. This startled Camphalia, and threw her off guard. This allowed Niobe to throw her off her back. This found their positions reversed, and she proceeded to trounce Camphalia soundly. She kept pushing her face into the mud and pulling it out for her to catch her breath. "Now you will leave Orestes alone!" She shouted.

Everyone froze. "I mean Iolaus," but the cat was out of the bag and the crowd surrounded the couple. Orestes smiled sheepishly.

"Well, what can I say? I was just trying to impress Willomena. I'm sorry, but I'm not Orestes, my dear."

The magistrate rushed to the fracas and demanded that they pay a fine for disturbing the peace. "I believe you'll owe me what is in this cup," and he jerked the cup away from Samarias' assistant's hands. The dinars spilled all over the ground, and Niobe and Orestes stooped to pick them up. It was exactly 25 dinars.

Orestes interrupted, "As I was saying, though I am not Orestes, I am his cousin, his close cousin. I'm sure that he'd love to know about the dealings in this village. He's very fond of orphans, and not too fond of magistrates and their dishonest brothers." Sirganeus turned deathly white. He had never considered the resemblance before; after all, he had only seen King Orestes from a distance. So, he squinted his eyes and looked at him. His jaw instantaneously dropped to his chest.

"Um...perhaps I was a little hasty. You can keep your money. Just make sure all of it is in my office by dawn," he stammered as he backed away. Everyone cheered and slapped Orestes on the back; they didn't notice Sirganeius slipping two dinars from the ground into his pocket. He slithered out of the crowd as Camphalia and Niobe shook hands tentatively then burst out laughing at the sight they were. When Orestes joined them in their laughing, they looked at each other, smiled and surrounded him.

"No! Oh no...this isn't going to happen. Look at yourselves! You two certainly could use a bath," he grinned. Niobe and Camphalia both threw their arms around him in a group hug and proceeded to put him in serious need of a bath too. "Okay! I'm up for it; let's head down to the lake for a little clean-up!" He winked.

"I don't think so, Iolaus," came a voice out of the darkness; it was Samarias' wife. She had stepped out of the orphanage to see what was going on. "Ladies, if you will follow me, we have wonderful bathing facilities at the orphanage. Oh no! Not you Iolaus. The lake, the very icy cold lake, is that way. Have fun!" And all three women trotted off to the orphanage laughing all the way.

Orestes stood there trying to figure out just what happened when he shrugged and laughed his way down to the lake.

"I wonder if Cousin Iolaus often gets into these predicaments?"

After they had bathed the each came out of the bathing stalls in the simple gowns of the orphanage. They laughed to see each other and parted friends as Camphalia made her way back to her home. Niobe snuggled down on a warm bed provided by the kind old woman. Orestes had returned long ago and sat up with the assistant until just before dawn.

At the designated time, all of the occupants of the orphanage rose and dressed to meet with the magistrate. They all had planned on being there when the money was triumphantly deposited in the wicked man's hands. Orestes and Niobe led the way with a mob behind them. When they reached the magistrate's door, he took forever to come out.

"Hopefully, you haven't wasted my time. Okay let's count this money." They proudly emptied their bounty onto his desk. He began counting slowly until he said, "395, 396, 397, and 398...Oops! looks like you're 2 dinar short. And look! That must be Helios quickly heading this way. Looks like the orphans are going to be out..." He felt a cold hand on his wrist. He looked up into the eyes of a very angry man.

"I think you may have miscounted! We were here before sunrise, and that's what counts!" said Orestes through clenched teeth. "Besides, I believe you missed these," and Orestes quite deliberately placed Niobe's dinars in his trembling hand. "That should make 400, even."

A cheer rolled through the village and through the countryside. The orphanage was safe from foreclosure. And everyone was laughing and hugging. This infuriated Sirganeus, and he grew redder and redder by the second. "Celebrate if you want! But the penalty for threatening the king's magistrate is 25 years hard labour. Tell me do you think Samarias will last 25 years?" A vicious laugh ripped through him.

"Perhaps something can be arranged. Can you and I meet privately?" asked Orestes as he backed Sirganeus into his house. Sirganeus looked very worried but refrained from calling his guards as Orestes shut the door. "I'm going to let you in on a very big secret, Sirganeus. I AM Orestes. Yes, my cousin and I have this incredible likeness, but if you need further proof," Orestes reached into his right boot and pulled out his signet ring. "Never leave the palace without it."

Sirganeus turned deathly white and stumbled, "Oh, sire, of course you may have Samarias' release. I d...d...didn't know. You want me to build a new orphanage; it will be the best of all kingdoms. My brother really didn't need that building for his new grain storage anyway."

"You can tell your cheating brother that he is also no longer welcome in my kingdom either. In fact, I believe the money' you collected falsely. Perhaps we can look at your books together...That's what I thought. I believe I'll take that 400 dinars and use it to make restitution for your brother. You can take it out of his hide. Now, I suggest you leave through your rear entrance, and unless you want to see what a REAL dungeon looks like, you'd better never show your hideous face around here again!" Orestes punctuated his speech with a little shove to the mid-section.

That was all the motivation Sirganeus needed. He picked up a few belongings and ran out the back entrance. "Hmmm," thought Orestes as he gazed at the luxurious surroundings, "This would make a wonderful orphanage. I'll bet Samarias would make a great magistrate." Orestes walked out of the door. "It seems Sirganeus has resigned, but not before ordering the release of Samarias."

Everyone resumed the cheering with Camphalia peering into the dwelling. She was almost expected to see the prone body of the magistrate on the floor. They all ran to the jail and hugged Samarias as he emerged from the prison only slightly damaged. He had complained of sleeping on a cold floor bothering his back. He marched up to Iolaus and gave him a huge bear-hug. "I don't think we could have done it without you, Iolaus. How can we ever repay you?"

"Just keep looking after these children with the love you've always provided. Willomena, are you ready to go?" asked Orestes before he started crying.

"Of course, Iolaus. I definitely think it's time to go. Farewell," she called to her new friends as they walked toward the edge of the village.

"Hey! Iolaus, come back when you get tired of old Prudomena," called Camphalia laughingly. She stopped laughing when Niobe pulled Orestes into one long passionate kiss.

"I guess I prefer the prude type," laughed Orestes as Niobe elbowed him in the stomach. And they strolled out of the village arm in arm. A short way down the road, they came upon a small search party. It was Iolaus, Hector, and Linus. They were looking at the ground when they heard, "Well, hello cousin! Nice to see you again!" Orestes locked arms with Iolaus and started heading for Attica.

"Wait a minute, you two. Um where have you been? Hector and Linus have been worried sick over you. Hey! What's with the get up? Why are you dressed like me? Niobe, you look..." and his common sense kicked in before he stumbled into something.

"Cousin, you look like you could use a holiday; would you like to spend it with us?" laughed Orestes again.

"Well," he started still looking incredulously, "I have some business to attend to in the next village." Niobe and Orestes smiled at each other leaving Iolaus wondering what was up. "But I'll try to stop by on the way back."

"Come see us soon," whispered Niobe as she pecked him on the cheek. It still hurt, but the pain of their loss ached a little less. Iolaus looked almost sad as he watched them head toward Attica holding hands. With a huge sigh, he headed toward the village after taking his leave of the party from Attica.

Iolaus walked into the tavern quite confused. People had been slapping him on the back and expressing their gratitude. He'd been there for a festival, but he looked at the village and decided he was too late. "Oh well, at least I can go see Camphalia before I go over to the orphanage." He snuck up behind her and covered her eyes, "Guess who, sweetness?" Iolaus doubled over in agony as Camphalia planted her elbow firmly in his stomach.

"Touch me again, and I'll make sure you prefer prudes the rest of your eunuch life," she sneered at him. Iolaus looked totally confused until a light dawned in his mixed up mind. He smiled and muttered, "Oh, Orestes! what have you been up to?"

The End

Go on to the next story in the challenge.

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