Chapter 3 Bandits on the Road
The bandits had something round their heads. Hercules could only see their eyes. They wore shirts with red squares on them, and they had swords in their hands.
Hercules spoke quietly to Iolaus.'What do you think?'
'Let's cut off some heads,' said Iolaus.
The bandits made noises, and their leader looked at Hercules. 'There are ten of us and only two of you.'
'Listen, we have an important job to do in Themon,' said Iolaus.'Why don't you move out of the road?'
One of the bandits laughed and said,'You're afraid!'
Iolaus looked at him. 'It was a mistake to say that,' he said quietly. Then he ran at the five in front of him. He hit two of them with his sword, and they fell.
At the same time, Hercules ran at the leader and the other bandits. The leader jumped away, and one of the other bandits tried to cut off Hercules' head. Hercules moved quickly, took the bandit's sword away from him and hit him on the head.
'Get them!' the leader cried.
lolaus had one bandit in front of him and one behind. They ran at him with swords in their hands, but lolaus pushed their swords down and they hit their heads together and fell.
'Get them!'the leader cried again.
But the other bandits ran away, and the leader soon followed them.
'They weren't very good,' said Hercules.
Every day more and more people arrived in the city for the festival. Holix was very tired. He worked with the horses day and night — he wanted them to be ready.
'Take an hour off and go for a walk,' his boss told him.
'Thanks,' said Holix. 'Cire and Sana want to be Summer Queen. I'm happy for them, but ... people say, "Every seventh queen went away and never came back."Why?'
'Don't ask questions!' his boss told him.
So Holix walked down to the beach. He saw Cire sitting on a rock with her face in her hands. She looked up. 'Holix,' she said. 'Help me. I don't want to die!'And she put her arms round him and started crying.
Jax walked quickly through the north of the city. The streets were quiet here. He looked round, but could see nobody behind him. Then he went into a house. A woman sat in the far corner of a dark room. Jax could not see her face.'Did Rotus and his men do the job?'he asked.
'No,' said the woman.
'But there were ten of them!' he said angrily.
'They had to fight two very unusual men,' she said.
'What do we do now?' he said.
'We try again,' she said. 'There's lots of time.'
'Can we stop them?' said Jax.
She laughed.'No, we can't stop them, Jax.'
'So Hercules and Iolaus will get here, and they'll choose a Summer Queen,' said Jax. 'Then the people aren't going to tell Titus, "You're finished! Get out of Themon!" But that was the plan. Right?' He was angry. 'We write clever words on buildings, and we tell people, "Titus isn't a god. Why can't we have a new council leader?" But half the people can't read and the other half don't listen ...'
'You listen,Jax,' she said,'and then leave everything to me.'And for the next two hours they talked about their plans.
Cire stopped crying, but did not move her arms from Holix.
' Why are you going to die?' he asked.
'I got out of bed and heard them talking last night,' she said. Them — the people she worked for. She did not like them, or any of their eight children. 'They said something about a past queen. They found her the day after Titus crowned her. Well — some of her. Her foot and her leg.'
Holix found it difficult to speak. 'Perhaps ... she ...' He stopped.
'You were right,' Cire said. 'Every seven years, one festival queen goes away and she doesn't come back.'
What could he say? This was the seventh year. 'Perhaps they aren't going to choose you. No — well — yes! You're the most beautiful, and —' He stopped. His face was red.
She laughed, and put her face next to his. They sat quietly. 'There was a visitor with them,' said Cire. 'It was Titus. They didn't want Sana to be queen, so Titus said, "Money to the gods can do that." They gave him some money.' She looked at Holix. 'They want me to die, I know it! I'm going to be Summer Queen, and I'm going to die!'