Chapter 10 The New Summer Queen
Itwas time. Titus Perical got up from his chair and began to speak to the people of Themon. In front of him was a line of five young women, and Titus smiled at them.
Hercules looked at them. It was easy to see Cire and her sister, with their red hair. They were in the centre of the line.
Titus talked about the women's beauty, and about the important job of Summer Queen. Then he stood in front of each young woman, and talked about her and her family.
Hercules heard a noise behind him and looked round. He saw one of the doors of the council rooms begin to open.
'Who's that behind the doors?' he thought. 'All the councillors are out here.' He put a hand on his friend's arm. 'lolaus,' he said quietly, and stood up.
'Now?' said lolaus. 'But the women aren't —'
Hercules moved quickly back to the doors. Now lolaus saw them opening slowly. He smiled at Hercules and said,'OK!' very quietly.
Hercules pushed the doors — hard!
There were cries of 'Aaagh!' and 'Oooh!' when the doors closed, and more cries when Hercules pulled them open again, and he and lolaus went inside.
They saw three rebels on the floor, and Rotus with his mouth open saying, 'What — who —?' lolaus ran at the rebels with his sword and Hercules jumped on Rotus, and the rebel leader fell. Then somebody hit Hercules on the back, and he turned and saw an angry woman with long black hair. It was Zarel. He put a hand on her head and pushed her down on the floor. 'Don't move, my friend,' he told her, 'or I'll kill you!' She did not move.
lolaus fought two rebels with his sword. 'Hercules!' he called. But Hercules walked across to Rotus and put a foot on the rebel leader's back.
lolaus moved quickly and one of the rebel's swords went into the door. lolaus kicked him to the floor. The other rebel started to move away, but saw Hercules. He turned again — and lolaus hit him hard, and he went down.
lolaus went across to Hercules. 'Why didn't you help me?' he said.
Hercules smiled and looked down at Rotus. 'I didn't want him to get away,' he said.
'Why must I do all the hard work, and you get the easy jobs?' said lolaus.
Hercules laughed, then said, 'Get some of the police to take Rotus and the others away. Then we can go back to the festival.'
Jocasta came in. She looked at Rotus. 'You killed Jax!' she said, angrily.
'He was bad,' said Rotus. 'And you're bad, too.'
Titus came in. He looked at his wife, and at the rebels on the floor. 'What - ?' he began.
'The rebels are finished,' said Hercules.
'But this is only the beginning,' said lolaus.
Some minutes later, Titus's men arrived and took Rotus and the other rebels away. Hercules and lolaus went back to their table with Titus and Jocasta.
'Tell me,' Hercules said to Titus. 'Why did you say, "Yes" to Hera - that she could take the festival queen?'
'Jocasta and I have nothing, Hercules,'said Titus. 'The city pays for our house, for everything. I knew this was the last time, and I looked at the things we had, all the things we didn't have ... and I was afraid. We had very little.'
'Hercules, we haven't got much time,' said lolaus.
'Your plan?'said Titus.
'Yes,' said Hercules. 'Titus, you must not choose a new queen. Do you understand? Don't choose a queen!'
Titus walked away. He asked the five young women to stand in a line and look out at the people. Everybody started to get excited. Then Titus asked lolaus and Hercules to come and stand next to him. The people got more excited than before.
Hercules looked at the sky. It was black.
lolaus walked slowly up and down the line. He looked at each of the young women. The wind was strong now, and Hercules pushed his hair back off his face. He looked across at lolaus and said the word 'Now' with his mouth, but made no sound.
lolaus smiled and put a hand on Cire's arm. She began to move away from him, but Hercules put his hand in hers. 'Don't be afraid,' he said. 'Everything will be OK.'
Everybody was excited, and there was noise of voices all round the square. Titus put the festival crown on Cire's head, then Iolaus took her hand and together they walked into the centre of the square. Hercules followed them, and people threw flowers and began to sing happily.
'Come on, Holix!' thought Hercules. 'It's time —'
Then he heard a noise at the south of the square, and a big white horse pushed through the people. A man in black from head to foot was on the horse's back.
Suddenly, everybody was quiet and afraid. They saw the man in black pull Cire up on to the back of the horse and turn the animal round.
'Be quick, Holix!' thought Hercules.
Holix gave a cry, and the horse pushed through the people again. Holix got across the square, but his horse suddenly stopped, kicked out its front legs, stood up on its back legs — and Holix fell off.
The police ran across to Holix before he could get up. Two policemen got the horse, and one helped Cire to get off the animal. There was nothing Hercules could do.
The people thought all this was something new and exciting for the festival. Something planned by Titus. Titus smiled, turned to Jocasta and said something, so that they thought they were right.
Soon after, Cire was back on the horse, and Titus told the judges and some of his men, 'Take the queen to her place above the rocks.' But before they went, he asked Hercules, 'What happened to your plan?'
'The boy fell off the horse,' said Hercules.
'Hera will get me for this!' cried Titus. 'Her place —'
'I know!' said Hercules. 'Iolaus found it this morning.'
Titus was tired, and he walked sadly away.
Hercules was angry. 'Klothon is waiting,' he thought. 'Before the sun comes up tomorrow, one of us will be dead.'