One Fowl Day

by Baisden

Story originally written for Hercules: the Legendary Journeys by: Adam Armus and Nora Kay Foster

Discord pecked at the ground beneath Ares, not because she wanted to, but because she had an unnatural compulsion to. Then again, at that moment, Discord was a chicken, and as she supposed, it was not such an unnatural compulsion for a chicken. She was mad. "Enough! OK?! Fix this! Lean on Artemis! Get her to change me back!"

Ares thought, "Not to hurry, Discord. The possibilities here are--interesting."

"Not a chance!" Discord said, "Pull it on some other pullet. Just give me back my body!"

Ares picked Discord up, and cradled her in his arm as he would any other chicken, that had once been an ally and goddess. He looked at her beady yellow eyes as he spoke. "All in good time. You were close to greatness. Using Artemis' bow on Hercules was genius. But, you blew it."

His adulation did not impress her. "You've got a one-track mind. What do you want from me? Beside the obvious. What can a chicken do to Hercules?"

"My mind isn't on my brother, right now," Ares spoke as he continued to think about what Iolaus had done. "It's on that piddling mortal who did this to you. Iolaus. I'm offended he thought he could get away with it," he mused.

"You're offended. How do you think I feel?! My giblets are in a stew!"

Ares snarled at Discord. "Your giblets got you into this in the first place. Perhaps it'll teach you to keep your tail feathers together."

Discord let out a loud cluck. She showed Ares what she thought of his opinion. She laid an egg.

"What?!" He said as he pulled out the brown egg from her backside, "Oh-- you are really twisted, you know that? I think I'll leave you the way you are for now-- give you time to think about how you screwed up the perfect opportunity."

"Don't push it. Next time it won't be an egg," she said.

Autolycus and Iolaus walked down a small path after having returned the wagon to the farmer. Autolycus said, "Hah! Let me tell you something. I would think that farmer would be glad to get his wagon back."

"Well, considering you stole it in the first place, I can understand his attitude," Iolaus said.

"Well," Autolycus thought about it. "It was nice that he didn't throw me in jail when he found out it was to help Hercules."

"Yeah, well, I'm sorry he didn't." Iolaus stopped and then turned to Autolycus. "Maybe it will make you think twice about stealing something, again."

The idea that Iolaus would like to see Autolycus in jail really didn't surprise him; however, he bristled somewhat when Iolaus used the word steal. He defended himself. "I prefer to think of it as honing my craft."

"Oh, please," Iolaus said and chuckled. A bright light in front of the two men made them turn away from each other.

Ares appeared in front of them with a bolt of lightning and a crash of thunder. He laughed with evil intent.

"Ares," Iolaus said.

Autolycus was not so matter-of-fact, "Oh, I got a bad feeling about this."

Pleased with his timing, Ares looked at the two men in front of him and said, "Oh, it's going be so much more than a bad feeling." He brought Discord up and waved her in front of him. "Does _this_ look familiar?!"

"Let me at 'em!" Discord said, flapping her wings violently.

Autolycus cringed. "Ah, well, the, ah, the beak looks familiar. But, you know what? To tell you the truth, all chickens pretty much look the same to me." Autolycus laughed nervously.

"So, what do you think, uh, original recipe or spartacue sauce." Iolaus said, less afraid of Ares as Autolycus was, still, Autolycus laughed.

"Impudent toad!" Ares said. As he continued to speak, his voice could not hide his anger. "Before this day is out, you'll be groveling for mercy. Get ready for the worst day of your miserable lives!"

Another bolt of lightning enveloped Iolaus and Autolycus, a strong wind, blew out of the flash of light, almost taking their breath away. When the light and the wind calmed down, both Iolaus and Autolycus looked down and saw they were manacled together at the wrist.

Autolycus laughed and spoke quietly to Iolaus, "Doesn't he know I'm the King of Thieves? I'll shuck these toys like a bad habit."

Ares heard the King of Thieves, and said, "Those chains were forged by Hephaestus. No lock to pick. No way to get out. You two are stuck with each other." Smiling again Ares said, "By the end of the day, you will despise each other."

Iolaus answered wryly. "That'll be an improvement."

A cluck from Discord and Ares spoke to her, "Yep. OK." He looked back at Iolaus and Autolycus. "She doesn't think the chains are enough, and you know? I think I agree."

Another bolt of lightning and another gust of wind enveloped Iolaus and Autolycus. The King of Thieves held his arm up to shield his face. As he did, he saw the bare flesh of his skin.

Iolaus and Autolycus exchanged worried glances. Ares had stripped all of the clothes off of them, and they stood, in the pathway, bare naked.

Ares stood feet away from the two naked men, laughing.

It was a menacing laugh, Iolaus thought.

"I'll be back." Ares said. "Got a big surprise in store for you, Iolaus." He laughed as he disappeared in a flash of lightning.

The two men held up the chain that bound them together. Somehow both of them knew, it would be the worse day of the rest of their lives.

Hercules walked toward a small waterfall at the edge of a glade. The waterfall and pond was surrounded by lush foliage and small, furry animals. It was the sacred falls of Artemis.

"Artemis," Hercules called as he looked for the goddess of the hunt. He knew this was one of her favorite places to hang out.

Artemis appeared in front of the demigod. "Hercules, you found it."

Hercules immediately handed the bow, which Autolycus had stolen, back to its rightful owner. "I'd suggest you put a guard on it," Hercules said, hoping the extra security would keep Autolycus from wanting to steal it again.

"Thank you." Artemis said, taking his advice.

"Don't thank me. It was actually Iolaus," Hercules said and then laughed in irony, "and the thief who stole it that retrieved it for you."

"Thank Iolaus for me, then." Artemis said, "He has become an honorable man under your influence, Hercules."

As Hercules turned to leave, Artemis called him back. "Hercules," she said, almost hesitant to ask for his help once again, "can I get you to do one more thing for me?"

"What is it, Artemis?" Hercules said.

"Have you ever heard of a man by the name of PT Barnabus?" Artemis said.

"No, Why?"

"He has been collecting and displaying many of my animals, and calling them 'freaks of nature'; the werewolf, the lamia, the manticore. Can you talk to him?"

Artemis had mellowed over the years, and was not as eager to turn people into the so called 'beasts' they hunted to teach them a lesson. Besides, she learned, it didn't necessarily teach them a lesson, only turned them into the beast. Instead, she felt that Hercules' quiet influence may be more inclined to teach PT Barnabus a lesson.

"Why don't you talk to him?" Hercules said, always wondering why the gods and goddesses seemed to be afraid to intermix with the humans that populated the land. Then again, the last time Artemis had chosen to interfere with a human, Iolaus had been turned into a deer. "Nevermind," Hercules had decided, "Where can I find him?"

"I heard he had opened up a circus not far from Corinth. He calls it the 'greatest show in Greece', if you can believe his hubris. Caging my animals and then calling it the 'greatest show in Greece'. This," Artemis said as she stretched out her arms, "is the greatest show on earth."

Hercules, resigned to complete another task for Artemis, finally said, "Fine. I'll go 'talk' to him."

Hercules left the glade and headed back toward Corinth. He hoped he would run into Iolaus on his way back.

Trudging through the wet undergrowth of the forest, Autolycus complained, "Oh, I don't know why Ares included me in his little game. You're the one that turned Discord into a chicken!" To cover their bodies, both had wrapped themselves in leaves and vines. A halo of greenery also covered their heads.

"Yeah. But only so she wouldn't turn you into a rat-- which, now that I think about it'you already are! Ahh!"

As they continued to walk, Autolycus advanced to the right of a tree and Iolaus walked to the left. The chain and the tree quickly stopped them.

"Will you watch where I'm going!" Autolycus said.

Pushing himself to Autolycus' side of the tree, Iolaus said, "Oh, look! My arrangement! You've rearranged my arrangement!"

Perturbed, Autolycus stated, "Oh, what if I did? There's plenty of 'small' leaves around." The King of Thieves was quick to emphasize the word small, with little diffidence to Iolaus' stature. And still angry at his predicament, Autolycus jerked on the manacles forcing Iolaus to follow him.

"We gotta find some clothes," Iolaus said.

Autolycus laughed sarcastically. "Ha-ha-ha! OK! Say we did? How would we get them on, with these?!" He held up his arm, reminding Iolaus of the manacle which chained them together.

"Ow!" Iolaus said, as the taller King of Thieves forced Iolaus' arm up and into an unnatural position.

"Uh! Hercules! He's the one that can break us free! Before Ares comes back with his big surprise! Whatever that is."

"Okay," Autolycus said, pacing in irritation. He forced Iolaus around with him, "and where do you suppose we find Hercules? He could be anywhere!"

"What is this?! Twenty questions?" Now Iolaus was annoyed. "He went to take Artemis' bow back, we'll go there first."

"All right, well let's get going. I'm flapping in the breeze, here!"

"Okay!" Iolaus said, coming up with a plan.

"Yeah!" Autolycus said.

"Okay!" Iolaus said.

"Okay! Autolycus reiterated. The thief went one way and Iolaus went the other, pulling each other in opposite directions. "Hey!"

Finally deciding on which direction to go, the two men came to a path. Hearing the sound of a wagon, Iolaus and Autolycus crouched down, hiding themselves in the brush.

A large man pulled a wagon behind him. He was taking empty potato sacks back from the market. As he pulled the wagon through the path, Iolaus and Autolycus snuck up behind it and took a couple of sacks each.

Changing into their burlap attire, Autolycus said, "The King of Thieves in a sack! My image is ruined!"

Iolaus was already tired of his bondage with the loquacious thief. He wanted to keep moving, find Hercules and free himself of Autolycus, which by then, he considered less a rat and more of a parasite. "Listen, you!" Iolaus said, "Why don't you just pick up the pace? Because the sooner we get there, the sooner Hercules can free us, and the sooner I'll be rid of you." Iolaus moved in front of Autolycus and jerked on the chain to convince him to hurry up.

"You know, two can play the yank game?" Autolycus said between his teeth. He jerked on the chain forcing Iolaus closer.

"Oh, yeah?" Iolaus said, turning around and yanking on his side of the chain once more.

"Yeah!" Autolycus said, matching his motion. He turned around and jerked on the chain.

"Ahh! Do you like hospital food?" Iolaus asked Autolycus. He turned and yanked the chain once more.

"Ooh! And do you wanna wake up with a crowd around you?" Autolycus said pulling on the chain.

"Ahh! You'and whose army?" Iolaus said with a final tug.

"Oh! You're looking at him."

"Yeah?" Iolaus said and yanked.

Both effectively played the tug-of-war game. And although each pushed and pulled, Iolaus finally won the tug of war. Being taller, the King of Thieves center of gravity let him down and he fell, taking Iolaus with him. The two tumbled down a ravine and into a mud pit.

"Get up!" Autolycus said, but the weight of the mud-soaked men and the slippery bottom kept pulling them down, back into the mud. Iolaus and Autolycus would splash about, and try valiantly to get up again, and then just as they thought they had mastered it, one of the men would loose their footing and both would be back into the mud.

Deciding it might be better to crawl out of the pit than to walk out, the two men waded through the mud, crawling out of the mire like a lung fish.

"It just keeps getting better and better," Autolycus said as they both laid on their backs, trying to get air back into their abused lungs. They lay next to each other until they dried off. Once they had dried, Iolaus and Autolycus continued on their journey to find Hercules. "Listen! I told you! I'm a hunter! I've got an excellent sense of direction, and the village is this way," Iolaus said pointing to the north.

"Yeah? Well, I'm a thief. And I robbed that town. And I'm telling you, it's back that way!" Autolycus said pointing in the opposite direction.

"Ah! You couldn't find your way out of a sock!" Iolaus said. At that moment, both Iolaus and Autolycus heard the gentle humming of a little girl. They peered between a hedge of bushes. "Hey! Let's ask the little girl."

Looking through a portal of time, Ares watched the two men on their quest together. Picking up a cup of wine, Ares laughed, "Oh, this is just too good," he cooed.

Discord was also pleased with Ares voyeurism. "You said it, baby." He could hear Autolycus' voice through the portal trying to get the small child's attention. "Little girl'"

Ares mused, "Wait till they try and explain themselves. No one'll understand a word they're trying to say." He laughed as he cast a spell that would make every word out of Iolaus' and Autolycus' mouth unintelligible.

Iolaus spoke softly to the little girl, "Hi, Honey. It's," but the words sounded like only grunts and growls to the young girl.

With the two men covered in brown, caking mud, chained together, wrapped in burlap and with a voice the girl could not understand, she became frightened. Fearing for her life, she screamed and ran away.

"What is her problem?" Iolaus asked. He had no idea that Ares had put a spell on himself and Autolycus.

"I don't know. Kids, these days," Autolycus dismissed.

When the girl got back to her village, an elder quietly questioned her, "What is it?! What's wrong?!" he asked.

"It was a monster!" she answered, still traumatized and out of breath from her escape. "It looked like it was coming apart! It tried to eat me!"

"Come, dear," Her mother said as she gently led her child away.

The attack on the little girl finally put the village over the edge. They had had enough of the animals around their village terrorizing their people. They had seen lamia's attack their children, heard werewolves baying at the full moon, and felt the manticore's roar in the forest beyond their village. The elder had decided that it was time to take action. "Let's get it!" he told the village.

The villagers cheered in response and followed their leader to the location the young girl had said she had seen the monster.

Hercules arrived in the village sometime after the men had embarked on their hunting expedition. Approaching one of the females of the village, Hecules said, "Have you heard of a man by the name of PT Barnabus?"

He had been to several villages along the path that lead to Corinth, but none of them had heard of the "greatest show in Greece," or had heard of a man capturing the wildlife of the forest to put on display.

"No, I'm sorry," the woman said as she ushered her child inside the house.

Hercules looked around. There were a few prepubescent boys in the village, but no men. Curious, he asked, "Where are all your men?"

The woman answered him. "They've gone to kill the monster that threatened my child."

"Monster?" Hercules questioned, "What monster? Where'd they go?"

The woman pointed to the woods on the edge of the village, but didn't wait to answer more questions from the demigod. She quickly backed up into her home and closed the door.

Hercules decided it was time to investigate these monsters and began traveling toward the direction the woman pointed.

"All right, Mr. 'I-know-where-we-are' where are we? We're lost! That's where we are!" Autolycus moaned.

"We're headed north! I know where we are!" Iolaus defended.

"Yeah-- so do I. We're in a swamp being eaten by bugs!" He slapped at one that landed on his neck.

Iolaus suddenly bent down, taking the taller thief with him. He studied the trampled ground cover with the expertise of the hunter for which he was, "Shush! Hah! Look! A crowd of people came through here--not long ago. See? The guy in the front was shorter than all the others."

"That's good, right?" Autolycus asked unsure.

"Yeah."

"Well, then, let's find them. Surely, they know the way to civilization."

Hearing commotion in the background, Iolaus said, "Wait, shush. Listen." The villagers were approaching Iolaus and Autolycus. Iolaus heard one man say, "We're lost again, ain't we?! Ahh! There's no monster here!"

The village leader begged to differ. "Yes, there is! You heard the girl! And this is the place he'll be!" He pointed to the ground below him as others in his party looked right and left, waving their torches in the directions they were looking.

"Nothing gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling like a mob of armed villagers," Autolycus said, already having witnessed a few armed mobs in his day .

The same man that had spoken earlier had said, "Let's get out of here. Probably no monster, anyway!"

"Come on!" Iolaus said as the two men got up from the ground. They walked up to the villagers.

"Wow, are we glad to see you!" Autolycus said to the crowd of angry-looking men.

To the villagers, nothing came out of the thief's mouth but incomprehensible grunts and groans.

The villagers looked at each other, suddenly fearing for their lives. Based on what the child had said, the villagers had found the monster, and it was just as dark, scaly and as evil sounding as the child had described.

Lounging in his throne, with Discord still in the chicken form at his side, Ares looked into his personal looking glass and announced, "You idiots! They can't understand a word you're saying!"

"I don't think they can understand a word we're saying." Autolycus said.

"You got it, Mud-boy." Discord said, and then squawked in what can only be described as a chicken's laugh.

The village leader announced to the rest of his mob "It's the monster!"

"Where?" Autolycus asked and looked around him. He wasn't going to stay around if a monster was loose.

"Huh?" Iolaus questioned. His inclination was to come to the villagers aid, but when he too turned around, there was no monster in sight.

Finally, the deductive logic of the hunter and thief began to kick in. Twenty or so villagers, began to bear down on the two mud-stained men. There was no monster behind them. They were the monster.

"Get him!" The village leader said as Iolaus and Autolycus turned around and ran. The villagers ran after them.

As Iolaus and Autolycus looked for a suitable place to hide, they could hear the villagers in the distance. "Don't let him escape!" one had said.

"Burn it alive!" another shouted back.

"No! Skin it alive!" a third offered.

"Oh, this gets better and better," Autolycus said as Iolaus pulled him toward a downed log.

"Maybe, over there!" one said moving away from the two men.

"Where'd he go?" another said standing only feet from where Iolaus and Autolycus were hiding.

As the crowd began to retreat away from the two men, they could here the disappointment in the villagers' voices, "Where'd he go?"

"Where?"

"Well, he's not over here."

"No."

"No. He went that-- !"

"He could be anywhere!"

Finally the voices obscured into the distance, "Where?!"

"Over there!"

Pulling himself up from the log, Iolaus asked Autolycus, "Who are those guys?"

"Beats me." Autolycus said, and then really looked at the partner chained to him. "Do I look as bad as you?"

"Worse," Iolaus said.

The two men quickly found a small stream to wash off. Each cupped their hands into the shallow water and tried as best they could, to wash the mud off of their face, chest, neck and hands.

Close to the edge of the stream, vines of fresh fruit surrounded a large tree.

As Iolaus continued to clean his face, Autolycus sat down and plucked one of the brown fuzzy fruits from the vine. "You know, the one drawback of life on the run is missing regular meals. I am starved!"

Iolaus turned back to see what Autolycus was eating. "Wait, don't eat those!"

"Hmm?" Autolycus asked as he let the sweet juices of the fruit drip down his chin.

"It's a goosenberry!" Iolaus said, "They're supposed to be fermented!"

Autolycus laughed, "Ah," he said, attempting to enlighten his blonde manacle-mate, "A common mistake to the untrained eye."

He held the fruit up to Iolaus, "See, this, my friend, is a farkenberry, it's a cousin to the goosenberry, but with one important difference. See? Your farken doesn't put you to sleep like your goosen. If this was a goosenberry," Autolycus yawned, "I'd be sound asleep by now!"

Autolycus gently mumbled to himself as his head slowly descended to the trunk of the tree he sat next to.

"Wait a sec'" Iolaus said as he turned to Autolycus. He saw the big man asleep, and as if using it as a swear word, Iolaus announced, "farkenberries."

But, knowing they were alone in the woods, with an angry mob of villagers looking for them, Iolaus couldn't wait for Autolycus to wake up.

He pulled the sleeping King of Thieves up onto his back. "Can't wait for you to finish your beauty sleep'" Iolaus said and then noticing his own mud encrusted burlap garment, bare legs and feet wrapped in blades of grass and burlap, finished, "'we'd be waiting all day long."

Iolaus trudged through the mud until he reached an wooden bridge. The bridge went precariously over a rushing waterfall. "Oh, great!" Iolaus said when he noticed the dilapidated bridge. "Oh, boy! I could do with some real boots!"

Ares, still watching the men from his looking glass vantage point, agreed with Iolaus. "You want boots?" He said to himself. "How about big boots?" And then hesitating for a moment as if thinking, he added, "And the feet to go with 'em!"

Ares laughed as he flung his arm toward the looking glass. With a bolt of lightning directed toward the portal, Ares made Iolaus' wish come true.

Standing on the bridge, Iolaus could feel something definitely happening to his feet. Looking down, with the river precariously under him and Autolycus precariously perched on top of him, Iolaus could see his feet and boots grow in length.

He knew who to blame for his predicament. "Oh, what the' Ares!"

Safe in his throne room, Ares laughed.

Autolycus began to stir on the shoulders of Iolaus. Already feeling overburdened with the large man in his back, and now with a large set of clown feet, Iolaus warned Autolycus on his back. " Whoa! Hey, hey! Don't do that!"

Autolycus opened his eyes at the sound of Iolaus' voice and yawning said, "Oh! Hey! You got quite a set of waffle-stompers there!"

Ares, still wanting to play with the predicament the two men found themselves in said, "Oh. You like them? Hey, you got them!"

Autolycus, too, could suddenly feel the stretching and pulling of his feet as the grew in length and in girth.

Discord, sitting beside Ares was eager for some more torture. "Come on! Zap 'em again!" the chicken-goddess encouraged the god of war.

Hair on the body of the thief began to grow; on his head, on his chest, on his legs and feet. His teeth were becoming sharp and angular. "Whath's happening?!" Autolycus said but stopped in mild surprise. "Ooh, I think I bith my lip."

In the mean time, the ears and teeth of Iolaus began to grow in proportion to his feet. Autolycus stared at Iolaus as both ears shot up past his face, practically giving the thief a lobotomy. "Which wouldn't be a bad idea at the moment," the thief thought absently.

Iolaus was beginning to look like a deranged bunny, or a garden gnome gone bad, Autolycus thought. He wasn't sure. "Whath happening to uth?!"

"I don't know!" Iolaus said.

Suddenly Iolaus and Autolycus heard the cracking of the boards underneath their feet.

Ares, in another insightful vision, zapped the boards away from the bridge where Iolaus was standing. Knowing then were going to fall, the thief's feet began flailing, Iolaus' feet began pumping, effectively running in place, but to no avail. Both men yelled when the boards gave way and both fell into the river below.

"This is so much fun!" Ares said in satisfaction as he watched the two men fall.

Swimming toward the edge of the river, Iolaus lamented, "That was close,"

Autolycus answered, "Well, the good newth ith it can't get any worth. Ow, I bith myself again."

But, both Iolaus and Autolycus were wrong. As they struggled to get out of the river, they heard the voice of the village leader announce. "Gotcha!"

Looking at the two-headed monster, one with a overgrowth of hair and the other with the large ears and teeth, the village leader only had one thing to say. "It's an abomination!

Another villager beside him said, "The only good monster is a dead monster!"

"This is not good." Autolycus said, and then decided to reason with them. "Uh'fellas? Can we talk?"

But the only things the villagers could hear were horrible grunts and groans. The noise was beginning to get on the nerve of the village leader. He spoke, "Let's kill it, before it destroys our minds!"

Several of the villagers pushed spears toward what they considered to be the two headed monster of Iolaus and Autolycus, but their slaughter was stopped by a voice behind them.

"Hold on, here! I am PT Barnabus founder of the greatest show in Greece. And I can use this freak of nature in my circus!" The villagers looked back to see a garishly dressed, small man, with a pencil-thin mustache, goatee and eyebrows and a large fedora, looking back at them.

Behind PT Barnabus, there were several odd looking men and women. One man juggled several clubs with his two hands, while another man walked on his.

"Follow me, one and all! A new freak for the new freak show!"

"What do we do?" Autolycus asked.

"You mean other than run and get an arrow stuck in our back. I'd rather be a freak than dead meat." Iolaus said.

Getting up and out of the river, the two men trudged up the embankment.

Once up, Autolycus asked PT Barnabus, "Who you calling a freak, you geek?!"

"Hmm, actually, I hate to say this, but to him, we're the geeks." Iolaus said.

Wanting to warn the other freaks in PT Banabus circus of the monster, the village leader said. "Oh, be careful! Not too close! Stories of the big-footed, two-headed forest monster'has frightened our children for generations!"

"It's true!" another male in the crowd said, knowing full well that they had never heard of a monster in the woods, much less stories about them.

PT Banabus was nonplussed, "Yes, that's why it belongs in a freak show!" He laughed and then looked at the manacled men. "Hideous! Anybody got a chicken? Let's see if it bites the head off!"

Everybody laughed.

Autolycus said to Iolaus "Ooh, quick! We better act crazy! I'd rather go home with Uncle Carny here, than end up a human pincushion!"

Iolaus agreed with the thief. The freak show alternative was certainly better than the villagers choice for the two men, "Okay." Iolaus agreed.

Iolaus and Autolycus began jumping and prancing around the group of spectators. Autolycus stomped around in his hairy and elephant-like feet, where as Iolaus pranced with his bunny ears bouncing up and down with each graceful movement.

"Marvelous!" PT Banabus exclaimed, "Spectacular!" he looked to the village leader, "I'll pay top dinar!"

"You know?" Iolaus said to Autolycus, "We've got to get out of here!"

"Well, what do you suggest?" Autolycus whispered back.

"Run!" Iolaus said and pulled the manacles that held the two men prisoners to each other. They took off toward the grassy area just behind the river.

"Are we talking cash on the barrelhead?" the village leader asked BT Barnabus as he watched the two-headed monster run away. Iolaus and Autolycus were hampered from escaping by their odd configuration of large feet and chained wrists. It was not long before the two men were caught and caged and transported to a location unknown to the two men.

The caravan of oddities, walked behind the wheeled cage. Inside the cage, Iolaus looked at Autolycus and with the same vehemence he usually felt for the thief said, "This is another fine mess you got us into!"

But by now, Autolycus was tired of sparring with Iolaus and was not going to be blamed for this predicament. "I've got two words for you, Discord, Artemis' bow."

"That's three words." Iolaus corrected.

"Well, whatever," Auto said looking at the cage door. He pulled out a lock pick. "You know? I can pick that puny lock in my sleep, but I actually think we're safer in here."

"Safe?" Iolaus said, and then noticed the lock pick in the thief's hand. "Wait, underneath these sacks, we're naked. Where have you been hiding the pick?"

"Don't ask."

"Okay." Iolaus said and shrugged his shoulders.

Once at their camp ground, a field consisting of several large tents, a menagerie of odd folk walked up to the cage that housed Iolaus and Autolycus. They stared at the two-headed monster. They had never seen anything like it.

"Freaks, outcasts, dregs of society," Autolycus said, after one woman, dressed reminiscently like a black cat, hissed at the two men inside the cage.

"Well, that's life under the big top," Iolaus said.

"I was talking about us."

"Don't antagonize them!" Iolaus said. "For once in your life, keep your trap shut, if that's possible." He wanted nothing more than to rid himself of the thief that he was bound to.

"What? And mith out on all your insulth and witty repartee? With pleasure!"

"Oh-- go boil your head!"

PT Barnabus walked up to his newest side show. He was displeased that the two-headed monster had lost some of the animal magnetism that he had seen earlier. He wanted some action from the two-headed monster, something to draw the crowds to his circus. "Hey! No sleeping on the job!"

Finally fed up with the whole situation, Iolaus was the first to defend himself. "You give me that stick! I'll ram it down your fat neck!"

Encouraged by Iolaus' tirade, Autolycus spoke up, "Yeah! You bloodsucking son of a Xiphopagus!"

Still, the crowd around the two-headed monster could only hear the gibberish sounds of growls, hisses and grunts.

Calling attention to Iolaus and Autolycus, PT Banabus announced, "See this ferocious man-eater in a fight to the death with Hippochimora, the muscle-man! Come to the show! Come to the circus!"

"Come to the circus?!" Autolycus said, finally having enough of being the center of attention. He yelled at PT Banabus. "Come over here! And I'll do a high-wire act on that pasty face of yours!"

"You call that keeping your cool? Next thing, they're going to want to throw us to the lions!"

"Ah, stop with this! It's all your fault! Now, go to your corner, and get out of my hair!"

"Okay, I will," Iolaus said as he pushed himself toward the back side of the cage, "Although with your overgrown pelt, that will be hard to do."

"Why you," Autolycus said and then lunged toward Iolaus in the back of the cage. The two men began struggling with each other, but the fact that they were manacled together only made fighting that much more difficult.

Finally, the fight got PT Barnabus' attention. "That's amazing. It's mating with itself!" he said before he left the two men in the cage.

Soon after Hercules left the village, he found the tracks of a large wagon that was traveling along a path. The tracks in the soft earth suggested the wagon's load was heavy, perhaps a large animal. Promising Artemis that he would talk to PT Banabus about capturing animals and displaying them as freaks of nature, Hercules decided to follow the ruts that the wagon had left in the path.

Soon, Hercules found himself walking into a clearing. Very soon, it was clear he found the circus Artemis had told him about. There were several strange men and women, some dressed in colorful clothing, and others, well, just strange. Walking into the crowd of misfits, he heard someone call his name.

"Hey, Herc!" a man called, as he walked toward Hercules. He was wearing stilts and towered above the tall demigod. Looking up to a height that would impress even a Titan, the stilt walker added, "How's the weather down there?"

"Pretty good. Can you tell me where I can find PT Banabus?" Hercules asked.

"PT Banabus? Oh yeah! Don't know, but he's around. The new side show begins soon. You may want to try the big top," the stilt walker announced, and pointed to a tent in the center of the clearing.

And then realizing he was needed elsewhere, the stilt walker called out as he continued to go, "See ya!"

"Yeah," and then Hercules said to himself, "I imagine that wouldn't be hard," aware of the vantage point the stilt walker had on the rest of the odd folk of this circus. Hercules traveled toward the area the stilt walker pointed to.

Off in the distance, Hercules could here someone announcing, "Come one, come all. Two nights only. Kids get in for a half a dinar."

To the right, he observed two men on a teeter-totter. One yelled to the other, "Okay, ready!" and, using the teeter-totter, the other man propelled himself onto the shoulders of the first man. "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yes!" the first man said, as he worked to regain his balance with another man on his shoulders.

The demigod's attention was soon on a boy, obviously tormenting someone. "Na-na-na-na-na-na! Na-na-na-na-na-na! Na-na-na! Na-na!" he said.

The mother of the boy ushered him away, as his sister continued to make faces at the caged animal. "Don't make faces at the monster, honey. But for the grace of the gods, it could be you in that cage. Now, run along."

Trying to get in one more taunt, the boy turned around, wiggled his fingers in his ears and said, "Ha-ha!" before running off.

Hercules walked over to the caged animal. "Iolaus? Autolycus?" he said as he recognized something familiar about the two-headed monster in the cage.

"Oh!" Iolaus and Autolycus said in relief as they were finally recognized.

"Boy, am I glad to see you!" Iolaus said, getting up on his knees and shuffling toward the front of the cage.

Hercules was not so sure he was as glad to see his partner and the thief. "I, uh, wish I could say the same, but you guys are making me kind of queasy. What are you doing in there?"

"Six shows a night, that's what!" Autolycus said as he got up.

"Yeah," Iolaus agreed.

"Hey! Now that the big guy's here, this gig is over!" The King of Thieves pulled out his lock pick and began picking the lock to the cage.

"Yeah, I'm with you, buddy. Come on! Let's get outta here!" But impatient to leave, Iolaus said, "Come on! Come on!" He pushed Autolycus out, almost before the lock was picked. He was eager to be back to himself.

"Will you quit pushing me?" Autolycus said as he tried to make the first tentative steps out of the cage.

"I'm trying to get down the stairs!" Iolaus protested, determined to be the first one out of the cage.

"Well, you're stepping on my feet!"

"Come on!" Iolaus urged, but Autolycus was having a harder time getting down the stairs with his elephant feet than was Iolaus. "What're you doing?"

Once down, the two men proceeded to walk toward the demigod. Hercules looked down at the feet of the two men. Iolaus had long feet, covered in black boots, The feet on Autolycus were as wide as they were long, and covered in hair. "Hey," Hercules said, "those are'big feet."

"Well, you know what they say about big feet, don't you?" Autolycus said, in an effort to call attention to the fact that his feet were currently larger than either Iolaus or Hercules.

"Big boots?" Hercules answered.

"All right!" Iolaus said of the two men's bantering. "Would you guys quit it?" Holding out his arms in entreaty, Iolaus continued, "Chains of Hephaestus! Ares! Discord!"

"Chicken!" Autolycus added.

"Chicken! Yeah, enough said!"

Hercules looked at the two men critically, "Uh, yeah. I get the picture." He moved toward the two bound men. "Here, let me help. Hold still." He grabbed the chain but then let them go.

"One minute." Hercules said and then turned around and walked a few paces away. He wanted to savor the moment of the two men in the big feet just a little longer. "The light's better over here." Hercules laughed.

Iolaus was not particularly amused. "Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Very funny! Come on! Get us out of these."

The two men dutifully stepped toward Hercules. Both wanted out of their bondage, and if a moment of humiliation was what it took, both were willing to oblige Hercules.

"This is," Hercules said as he stifled a giggle, "Sorry."

"Come on," Iolaus pleaded again.

"Yeah. Ready?" Hercules asked the two men.

With a mighty tug on the Hephaestian chains, the chains broke and a bright light enveloped the two men. Free of each other, and free of Ares' spell, both Iolaus and Autolycus laughed. Quickly, Autolycus held out his hand for a soldier's handshake. Iolaus gladly took it.

"Thanks, Herc!" Iolaus said.

"Listen, Iolaus. I'll catch up with you later, but right now, I've got to see PT Banabus about some'circus animals."

"Oh, okay. He's in the big top." Iolaus said, "Probably waiting on us."

"In the big top?" Hercules said. It was the second reference to this thing, but he didn't know what it was.

"Yeah," Autolycus said, pointing to the large tent in the middle of the clearing. "It's that big tent that's shaped like a top."

"Oh," Hercules said and then turned and walked toward the tent.

Autolycus turned back toward Iolaus. "Well, I wish I could say it's been fun, but'it hasn't."

"Yeah."

"Good riddance," Autolycus added to fill the awkward silence and then Autolycus turned to go.

Iolaus grabbed the thief by the arm and pulled him toward him. "You say anything about this and I'll deny everything," Iolaus finished.

But Autolycus wanted no memory of the day they spent chained together. "No problem," Autolycus said without turning back. He waved goodbye as he continued on a path toward Corinth.

As Autolycus took the path that lead away from the small circus town, the strange circus animals and freaks, and away from Iolaus and Hercules, he had the distinct feeling he was being watched.

He heard the sound of leaves rustling. He looked around. "Okay, whoever you are, you think you can sneak up on the King of Thieves? You have another thing..." Autolycus was wrong. Well, not exactly wrong, since the fowl beast that stood in front of him could not possibly sneak up on anyone. It was colossal. "Sweet mother of Zeus!" he said marveling at the size of the chicken before him.

Suddenly, Discord, still in the form of a chicken, began to descend onto Autolycus to exact her revenge on the King of Thieves. Autolycus shielded his face with his arms and screamed. She began to irritably peck and stomp at the thief.

Somehow, Autolycus got away from Discord's angry stomping and pecking. He ran to the circus town to warn them of her impending wrath. As he ran, he literally almost ran into Iolaus. Autolycus was almost too frightened to get the words out, "I-it's a mon! It's a mon! Mo-mo-mo--monster! C-c-c-c-c-coming!"

Iolaus looked at him trying to decipher what Autolycus was trying to say. He saw the disheveled look on the normally quaffed King of Theives. "Okay, w-w-wait. You mean? A real monster did this to you? What kind of monster?"

Autolycus continued to stammer. "It's a...it's a big-g-g!"

"Big? Ares said there'd be a big surprise waiting for us. Okay, come on! Spit it out!"

Frustrated that his fear had not yet subsided, Autolycus decided a rousing game of charades may be used to communicate to Iolaus just as well. He began picking on his now shredded green tunic and said, "Buck! Buck! Buck! Ahhh! Me, me, me! Ahhhhh!"

"Okay," Iolaus said, deciding to play along. After all, he wasn't getting much information from Autolycus in the conventional way. "It's-it's big, now, uh, uh's-sounds like?"

Autolycus continued to pick at his tunic and make odd pecking noises. "Uh' so'Ahh! Ahh!"

"Hey! W-w-w-w-w-wait!" Iolaus said in frustration. "This is getting us nowhere. Okay, where was this monster?"

"In the'" Autolycus said as he pointed toward the path that lead outside of the circus village.

"Okay, let's go," Iolaus said as he turned toward this monster that Autolycus tried so desperately to describe.

When Iolaus realized Autolycus quickly turned the other way, he chastised the King of Thieves. "Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh! Wrong direction. See, if Ares is behind this, there's no escaping it. We might as well suck it up and face it!"

"Wha'wha't about'Her'" Autolycus moved his arm up and about a foot over Iolaus' head.

"Hercules?" He's busy talking to PT Barnabus about his circus animals. Come on! Come on! We can do this ourselves." He said as he took Autolycus by the arm and forced him to go with him.

Autolycus protested with a pitiful groan.

Hercules found PT Barnabus in the big top. He was chastising a large human-wolf hybrid that Artemis called the werewolf. Hercules approached the owner of the circus.

"I understand you were keeping my two friends in a cage and putting them on exhibition," Hercules said.

PT Barnabus turned around, "Your two friends, I don't know what you mean."

"Outside," Hercules pointed, "but don't worry, I freed them."

"You did what?" BT Barnabus said in indignation.

"They didn't belong in a cage, just as this'" Hercules pointed to the werewolf in the cage, "werewolf doesn't."

"Werewolf?" BT Barnabus said, "It's a freak. Besides, whatever it is, it belongs in my circus!"

"No, it doesn't," Hercules said trying to be patient. "The animal is called a werewolf and it's one of a kind. You have to release it."

"Why?" PT Barnabus asked.

"Because it's just not natural." Hercules said, trying to reason with him. What Hercules really wanted to do was pick him up from the collar and shake him. "This is a wild animal, asking it to perform and do tricks is against its nature. And it has to stop before something happens."

As Autolycus was leading Iolaus and some of the local circus freaks toward the area where he last saw Discord, Iolaus was trying to reassure him, "Look, it's all right. It's okay. Calm down. It's okay."

One of the circus performers couldn't help but comment on the strange interaction of Iolaus and Autolycus, "And they call us weirdos!"

"Is this the spot?" Iolaus asked when Autolycus finally stopped. Iolaus looked down to see a large animal footprint in the soft soil. "Wait. What kind of monster could of made these tracks?"

He reviewed the tracks in his mind. As a hunter, he had tracked many animals using the footprints left in the soil. "They look kind of familiar."

Autolycus tried to answer Iolaus' question, but his stuttering was making it extremely difficult, "A ch-ch-ch! A ch-ch-ch!"

"It's real big," Iolaus said.

Having a vantage point like no other in the circus, the man on stilts said, "Look! It's the monster!"

Autolycus, finally getting his voice back announced. "Th-th-th-th- that's it!"

"It's gigantic!" The stilt walker said as the giant chicken approached them.

"It's colossal!" Autolycus agreed.

"It's a chicken." Iolaus said unbelieving, and then quickly recognized the giant bird. "It's-it's Discord."

Discord, in an effort to torment the circus freaks in front of her, jumped on an abandon building and crushed it as if it were made of kindling.

"Run!" Iolaus said, knowing Discord would have a taste for vengeance, if not human flesh.

Running away from the giant chicken for a second time, Autolycus said, "Oh, where's Hercules? He's snoozin' when he should be bruisin'!"

Iolaus answered him. " No that was yesterday. He's with PT Barnabus, but listen, he'll'be'here! She's pretty hard to miss. Meantime' we're on our own."

"Oh, what do you mean, 'We,' sidekick? You're the one that turned her into a chicken. She's looking at you like you're a drumstick."

"Ah! Knock it off!" Iolaus said as they continued to run. Discord was quickly catching up to the circus freaks not to mention the circus village. "I'll try and distract her! You come up with a plan!"

"Yeah, easy for you!" Autolycus said, thinking that it would be much easier to distract a giant chicken than it was to come up with a plan to fry it.

Iolaus began taunting Discord and calling attention to himself. "Yeah. Hey! Hey! Chicken! Come on! Come on! Come on!" The large beak of Discord smashed down only inches from Iolaus. He quickly rolled out of the way.

As the group of circus freaks entered the circus compound, both PT Barnabus and Hercules heard the commotion. Both left the big top to see what the screaming was about.

Hercules and PT Barnabus saw the colossal chicken bearing down on the group.

Concern for his circus family, PT Barnabus ushered all of his people into the big top. "Come on! Don't waste time! Get in the tent! Come on! Hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry!"

"Hey, hey, hey, hey! What're you doing?" Hercules said, knowing that bringing them all into the big top would be disastrous. If Discord wanted to, she could easily crush everyone with a carefully orchestrated chicken dance.

"We got to get everybody in the tent to safety! Come on!" PT Barnabus said.

"No, they won't be safe. This tent won't stop that bird!"

Finally, PT Barnabus understood what Hercules was trying to tell him. This chicken was a wild animal, destroying everything he worked so hard to create. He could just imagine what horror a wild animal inside the tent could do: to his audience, to his workers and to his freaks. The cost would have been too much.

Autolycus watched as Iolaus continued to bait Discord, "Well, Iolaus, I hope you know what you're doing."

But at the moment, Iolaus was just trying to stay away from the mad chicken. His plan was working however, as Discord did not go after the circus performers, but rather focused her revenge on Iolaus.

Iolaus scrambled under a table as the foot of the chicken missed him by only inches.

As the group of circus performers poured into the large tent, Hercules watched as Iolaus did his best to keep Discord occupied and away from the tent. However, Hercules made sure they were safe inside the tent. "Everyone, listen up. Step away from the sides of the tent."

Autolycus ran up to Iolaus as he scrambled away from the chicken. "What happened to our distraction?" Autolycus asked. Iolaus, somewhat out of breath from trying to ditch the determined Discord, mumbled incoherently, imitating Autolycus from only minutes before. "Yeah, yeah. I know how you feel. Come on. Let's get out of here!"

"Okay," Iolaus said. "So much for your plan beta!"

"Well, don't look at me! I'm usually causing trouble!"

Discord, now getting tired of playing with Iolaus, decided to go after the big top, where most of the inhabitants of the circus village had congregated. Her large, pointy beak tore into the roof of the purple and gold tent.

At the moment, Hercules still believed that the circus folks were safer in the big top than outside, but pandemonium was beginning to take over. It would only be a few moments before the group would panic.

"Time for a new plan!" Iolaus said as he watched Discord tear into the big top.

"What do you got? I got a good one," Autolycus said.

"What?" Iolaus asked as Discord turned her head to see the two men out in the open. She stopped her demolition of the tent, and then turned to the two men who were responsible for turning her into a chicken.

As she made a step toward Autolycus, he said, "Run like Tartarus!"

Iolaus had to agree with him. The two men began to run away from the tent, with Discord following them.In the tent, Hercules continued to try to calm down the circus inhabitants. Most were huddled together, in the center of the big top. There was little room to move.

One mother, who had been holding her baby since running into the tent, could no longer handle the wiggling child so she handed the little boy to a daughter, who fearing for her life, promptly put her brother down. Moments later Hercules heard the mother's strident call. "My baby! My baby!"

"Where?" Hercules asked.

"There!" She said and pointed to the entrance of the tent.

Hercules watched as the baby quickly crawled out of the big top. Immediately, Hercules ran to the entrance and picked up the baby. He briefly watched as both Autolycus and Iolaus were leading Discord away from the big top.

"Here's your baby, Ma'am," Hercules said as he handed the small boy to the woman.

"Oh! Thank you."

"You come up with plan gamma," Autolycus said to Iolaus as he was hit with a large basket tossed up in the air by Discord. It knocked him to the ground.

Iolaus was fresh out of plans, and it showed in his hesitancy. "Plan gamma, plan gamma, plan'yeah!" Iolaus ran up to a basket of goosenberries and picked them up, running toward the teeter-totter that he had seen the acrobatics use earlier.

"Come on, let's go!" Autolycus said as he grabbed Iolaus' arm in an attempt to steer him away from Discord. She was bearing down on both of them.

"No, wait!" Iolaus said as he nodded his head toward the bushel of fruit.

"What are you doing?"

"Plan gamma," Iolaus said.

"Goosenberries?"

"Yeah," Iolaus said, remembering the quick effects it had on Autolycus earlier in the day.

"Okay, genius," Autolycus said pointing up at Discord, "how do we get her to take her medicine?"

"I'll distract her! You do the rest," Iolaus said as he ran away from the teeter-totter.

He immediately began drawing Discord's attention toward him. "Hey! You! Ya big chicken! Come on! Come on!"

Discord just looked at Iolaus, tiring of her fowl fun. She hadn't killed anyone yet, and that pulled all the enjoyment out of the game.

"Is that all you got?" he taunted, "Give it to me. Come on! Come on! I can take anything you've got to give. What do you have to lose?"

Autolycus tried to formulate plan gamma in his head. He worked out the mathematics of his body weight, the weight of the bushel of goosenberries and then decided it would work. He laughed. "For once, you're thinking. Okay, say the word."

Iolaus continued to taunt Discord and moved her closer to the position Autolycus needed in order for the plan to work. "Come on! Give me that! Come on! Come on!"

When he decided she was in the right position, Iolaus yelled, "Now!"

Autolycus quickly ran and completed a double-flip over the teeter- totter, landing on the other side. "Yodel-lay-hee-hoo!" he yodeled as he sailed in the air.

He landed on the other end of the teeter-totter. His action created somewhat of a catapult. If the trajectory was correct, the basket of goosenberries would land in her mouth.

Iolaus and Autolycus' plan worked. The bushel of goosenberries landed on her beak. She had to swallow the sleeping potion in order to get the basket of fruit off of her beak. Autolycus laughed, "Say good night, Big Bird."

"Yeah!" Iolaus laughed. Both he and Autolycus were rewarded by a spray of excess goosenberries when Discord finally shook off the basket. "Come on goosenberries, do your stuff," Autolycus said as he waited for the bird to drop. Unfortunately, what the two men did not think of was how the large bird would fall, and it appeared that as Discord seemed to get sleepier, the ample breasted bird was top-heavy and she began falling forward and not backward.

Autolycus and Iolaus screamed feeling they would soon be an integral part of a chicken sandwich.

But Ares had been watching things from his own special vantage point. Having been entertained by the two men in manacles, he was in too good of a mood to allow them to die. He thought that the same kind of entertainment may be fun later. He used his power to make Discord colossal in size, now he turned her back into the normal-sized chicken she was. Addressing the two men in front of him, Ares said. "You know? I haven't laughed so hard, since the entire Mycenaean army drank rancid water and got the runs." Cradling the sleeping chicken in his arms, Ares laughed and then said, "Let's go, my little chickadee!" Ares disappeared.

Autolycus laughed, relieved that the whole ordeal was over. "Iolaus," Autolycus said, "I hope Hercules saw that we took on a monster all by ourselves."

"True, but a chicken?"

"Hey, who you calling a chicken?" Autolycus asked in jest.

Both men yawned as they shook hands. "You know, Iolaus?"

"Yeah?"

Both men were feeling the need to sleep, and quickly slid to the ground, supporting each other back-to back. Autolycus said, "You're not half-bad. If I ever need a partner," he yawned, "you just might be the lucky one."

"Thanks, Autolycus. I'I appreciate that. But, uh-I've already got a pa'" Iolaus said and quickly fell asleep.

Hercules could no longer hear the squawk that had been coming from the angered Discord. Fearing the worse, he left the protection of the big top. He walked out and saw Ares materialize. Hercules quickly made it to the two sleeping men.

"Will they be okay," PT Barnabus asked Hercules.

"After a good-night's sleep, they should be fine," Hercules determined.

"Good," PT Barnabus answered, "I've been thinking about what you said, Hercules," the circus owner steered Hercules away from his sleeping friends.

"You were right. I will return the animals were I found them. They don't belong in my circus."

"That's good to hear," Hercules said, and then looked at his partner and the thief, "Can I ask you one more favor?"

"What is it?" PT Barnabus asked.

"Is there a place these two can sleep it off'?" Hercules said, alluding of course, to the restful effects of the goosenberries. He walked up and carefully picked up Iolaus.

The two men had been through a lot in the last few days, and Hercules knew they were due for a rest.

THE END.



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