Disclaimer: Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and its characters belongs to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. There is no profit to be made from the “Kirra’s Journey” series, just lots of fun for writer and readers. The character of Kirra and any other original characters in Episode I belong to me, Jennifer Lawson. If you like this story and would be interested in adding to the “Kirra’s Journey” series, please email me and let me know. All submissions subject to author’s approval.
Content: Language is moderate. A WARNING TO SENSITIVE READERS: This story deals with the serious issues of verbal, physical and sexual domestic abuse. If you find this subject matter disturbing, I ask that you please not read this story. Future episodes of “Kirra’s Journey” will not lean so close upon this subject, but to set the basis for the character of Kirra it has become a main subject of Episode I.
Spoiler Warning: Takes place sometime between The Centaur-Mentor Journey and Cave Of Echoes. There are no issues from either of these episodes dealt with, so it should not interfere in your reading.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to Sam for her editing work.
The Paths Taken
by Jennifer L.
The day started out like any other day for Kirra. An early rise only to spend the morning with her mother, Meriba, doing chores—tending to the garden, cleaning house and the like. Nevertheless, the day was different. She had plans for the afternoon…plans her mother knew absolutely nothing about; not that her mother would have ordinarily disapproved of what she was going to do. The problem was her stepfather.
Kirra and her mother were as close as a mother and daughter could be, but her stepfather, Hiram, was slowly drawing a wedge between them. Before her mother had met Hiram, things had been perfect for them except for the fact that they were nearly out of money and about to be thrown on the street. But, they had each other. That’s what had been important to Kirra. Although things were rough for them day by day, they still had each other.
She knew Hiram had set his sites on her mother long before Meriba could even see it. So, when he came calling, professing his love for Meriba, Kirra knew it wouldn’t be long before Hiram and her mother were married. Being the headstrong eighteen year old that she was, who had demanded her say since she was a young girl, Kirra protested the marriage. Her mother had quieted her though, claiming she loved Hiram. Kirra had refused to believe it then and she refused to believe it now. Though Hiram was a professional blacksmith and made the dinars needed to take care of them, he was a disgusting slob that Kirra couldn’t believe her mother shared the same bed with. He was overbearing, lording over Kirra and her mother with a heavy fist. Hiram also had a tendency to drink too much, and when he did, his heavy fist would become a reality.
Her hatred for Hiram was subdued only by her fear of him. She had gone rounds with his fist because of her headstrong ways often enough to know when not to anger him. Especially when he was drinking. She thanked the gods that he was not here today. If he knew where she was going, he’d probably strangle her.
Standing in front of her mother’s warped mirror to inspect herself, Kirra smiled. She didn’t care what Hiram told her, she didn’t look like a she-demon. In fact, she was sort of pretty, even if she did say so herself. Most people told her that she was the spitting image of her father, Nemuel. She didn’t know what he looked like, since her only memory of her father was a vague one. She didn’t recall his face exactly, just that he used to spin her around in the air. Sometimes she could close her eyes and remember in vivid detail that exhilarating feeling of flying through the air. Kirra wished she had been allowed more time to get to know him. She had been only 5 years old when he died. She may not be able to recall what Nemuel looked like, but she could stare into the mirror and see that she looked nothing like her mother. Meriba was a bit on the plump side with dark, wavy black hair. Though her mother was beginning to show not only her age, but her life with Hiram, she still had fair, soft skin. That was the one thing she did pick up from her mother, Kirra guessed. What her father had given her was his thick blonde mane with a mix of bushy, unruly curls. She often had to keep them in toe by braiding her thick hair back away from her face, leaving only a mass of curly bangs to hang over her forehead. She smiled again at the picture she presented in the soft blue dress her mother had bought her last season during the winter solstice. A dress she purchased with money she had to keep hidden from Hiram lest he take it from her.
Now that all her chores were done and she was ready, she only needed one more thing. Tiptoeing out of her mother’s room, she quietly slipped into her own and grabbed the old worn scrolls out from under her bed. Sneaking a look out of her bedroom door, Kirra looked around cautiously for her mother. With her mother nowhere in sight and the backdoor beckoning her, she hurriedly sidled toward it.
"Kirra," came a voice from behind her, causing her to skid to a stop.
Holding back a curse, Kirra turned to face her mother, who looked at her suspiciously, arms akimbo. "Yes, mother," she said as innocently as she could.
"Where are you going?"
Fiddling with the scroll in her hand, she said, "I just wanted to take a quick run to town..."
“I know what you’re up to, Kirra,” Meriba said with a sigh. “Why must you try to hide everything from me?”
“The less you know, the less Hiram knows. Besides, we’re finished with the chores.”
“Yes, we are. But, you know that Hiram specifically forbid you to go into town today.”
“Only because he knows why I want to go and he’s trying to be cruel.”
“Kirra, I just don’t understand what is so important about this Hercules, anyway!” Meriba cried. Meriba loved her daughter and trusted her to make the right decisions in her life, but she did not understand her daughter’s fascination with the half-god. “He’s no different from any other man,” she told her daughter. “I have come to learn that all men are the same. You’ll learn that soon enough yourself, I’m sure.”
Kirra shook her head at her mother. “Not Hercules, mother. He is different. He has made a difference in so many people’s lives. He’s helped so many people. How could you say he’s like all other men, when you know nothing about him?” She held out her scrolls to her mother. “You should read my scrolls about him. These are stories I’ve written down about his life and what he does for people. It might change your mind.”
Meriba stared down at her daughter’s scrolls in concern. Never before had she ever felt the need to question Kirra’s motives. Her child was very smart and not just book smart, which Meriba had made sure of. Kirra was intelligent. She was a quick learner and willing to learn, knowing more often than even her own mother did what was right or wrong. That was why she didn’t understand Kirra’s need to scribble into her scrolls everything she could about this man Hercules. Every little detail she ever learned, even if she knew it was untrue, she would write down in her scrolls, keeping a detailed account of his life.
Listening now to her daughter’s words, she wondered if she believed Hercules would one-day come to help them as well. Shaking her head sadly, Meriba walked over to Kirra. Softly grasping her shoulders, she said to her, “Kirra, I’m sure he is the best of men. I don’t doubt that he is, but you can’t expect him to come here and solve our problems for us.”
"I don’t expect him to solve our problems, mother," Kirra responded angrily. Taking a deep breath, she calmed some and added, “I just want to meet him. That’s all. Besides, how many more times will Hercules visit Endor? Never! I have to go! I only have this one chance—a chance of a lifetime and I’m not going to miss out on it simply because Hiram says 'no'!”
"Kirra, if he were to find out..." her mother began nervously.
“He won’t, I promise,” she pleaded with Meriba, her expressive eyes searching her mother’s eyes.
Meriba was easily won over whenever her daughter begged her. Knowing the risk her daughter was taking, she felt forced to take the risk with her. Although she allowed Hiram to practically keep her a prisoner in her own home, she couldn’t allow him to rule over Kirra the same way. She wanted Kirra to have a life, to feel free to make her own choices and not have them decided for her. She wasn’t sure if this was a wise course, but she would have to trust her daughter’s instincts. "Just be careful and come home early."
Kirra’s worried expression turned into a beautiful smile of joy. "I promise I will, mother. He won’t even know I left." With a girlish giggle, she turned to hurry out the door. Then, she hesitated, turned back and wrapped her arms around her mother’s neck. "Thank you."
With a smile, Meriba said, “You’re welcome, dear.” She kissed the top of Kirra’s head as tears came to her eyes. She was so much like her father. “Hurry back.”
“I will,” Kirra said as she rushed out the door.
With a beating heart, Kirra hurried into town, her scroll pressed tightly against her chest, as if she were afraid to lose it. She was, but in actuality, it was an attempt to keep her shaky hands in check. She didn’t want anyone to know how nervous she was. Nevertheless, it was hard to keep the excitement off her face as she entered the small village of Endor, passing directly under a huge banner that read:
All around her was a flurry of activity. There were many people in town today setting up shops, decorating and creating a feast for the known world’s most famous hero. Kirra had been worried she would be late, missing his first appearance, but apparently he hadn’t even shown up yet. ‘Thank the gods,’ she thought to herself. Parched from nervousness, she went to the first stand she could find that was selling lemonade.
As she approached, she noticed her old school teacher handing out the cool drinks and Kirra went immediately to her. “Hello, Miss Lalia.”
Lalia smiled brightly and said, “Hello, Kirra! How are you today? Come to see Hercules?”
“Yes,” she responded, a blush rising to her cheeks. “I’m so excited!”
“We all are. This will be a momentous occasion we’ll want to mark down in Endor’s scrolls of history.”
Her expression hopeful, she asked, “Has he come yet?”
“No, not yet. But, we expect him soon. Here...have some lemonade. You look like you could use it.”
“Thanks. How much?” Kirra asked, digging into the pockets of her frock for the five dinars she’d saved up.
“Don’t worry about it, Kirra. Today all the food and drink is free to celebrate the arrival of Hercules.”
With another note of thanks, Kirra accepted the drink gratefully, continuing on her way so that the next person could be served. Wondering around town, careful not to get anywhere near the blacksmith’s shop, Kirra noticed a gray-bearded, heavy set man who seemed to be the one organizing everyone’s efforts to get the village ready for Hercules’ arrival. He wore a long-skirted garment with pretty, gold tassels at the hem that rustled around his ankles as he walked. And she noticed the expensive rings on several of his fingers. Obviously, he must be somebody pretty important, for she had never seen him here in Endor before. She could hear him shouting to a man on the roof of one of the buildings who was arranging some flower decorations off the side.
“No, not like that! That’s upside down! That looks ridiculous!”
She watched the man on the roof rearrange the decoration and look to the bearded man to make sure he was arranging it correctly. “That’s much better!” the bearded man said. Kirra wondered if this man might have a little inside information as to when Hercules would be showing up. Well, there was only one way to find out.
Making her way up behind him, Kirra raised her hand to tap him on the shoulder. “Excu—“ To her surprise, the man suddenly turned and walked right into her, not having realized that she was behind him.
“Whoa!” the man cried, taking in the look of surprise on this young girl’s face. 'Surprise?!' He thought, 'She’s got the nerve to be surprised?! She scared the mess outta me!' He quickly grabbed hold of her by the arms to keep her from falling and in the process knocked something out of her hands.
“I’m sorry!” Kirra exclaimed, worried that she had offended this man of such an obviously high station. “I am so sorry, sir! It was an accident!” So profuse was she in her apologies that she didn’t even notice when her scrolls fell to the ground.
“It’s all right - my fault. I should have been watching where I was going,” the man said with a smile. Kirra sighed with relief, thankful that he wasn’t angry with her. “I believe you dropped something. Here, let me get it for you.”
“My scroll!” Kirra cried, accepting the scroll from the bearded man with a smile. “Oh, thank you, sir. If I had ever lost this, I don’t know what I’d do.”
The bearded man chuckled and said, “You know, I know someone just like you who has a thing for scrolls, too.”
“Really? Probably nothing like my scrolls.”
“What is it, a diary?”
“Well, sort of...” Nervously, Kirra stared down at the ground and stubbed her toe into the dirt. She could feel the blush coursing its way up her face. “Actually...it’s sort of a...” She paused as she searched for the right word. “record...of the life of...Hercules.”
With a knowing glance, the man nodded his head and smiled, “Oh, Hercules, huh? Big fan?”
“Yeah,” she said with an embarrassed smile, her eyes downshifting to the ground. “I’ve wanted to meet him all my life and now I’m finally getting the chance. It’s so exciting!”
“You know,” he said, making a show of prancing about like a very important person. “I just happen to be a close, personal friend of the big guy.”
Kirra snorted with laughter at his pompous act. “Yeah, right!”
“It’s true!” the bearded man cried as if he were actually wounded by her remark. He crossed his first and middle fingers together and said, “We’re like this.”
“I’m sorry,” she laughed. “I just don’t believe you. Besides, if you were, you’d be in my scroll here. What’s your name anyway?” Kirra asked curiously.
“What’s yours?” he said, mirroring her curiosity.
“Well, Kirra, I am Salmoneus. Friend and sometimes sidekick to Hercules.”
Trying hard to hold back another gale of laughter, Kirra blurted, “I’ve never heard of you, Salmoneus.”
“Never heard of me?!” Salmoneus said, this time looking more hurt than wounded. “How could you never have heard of me?!”
“I don’t know,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “In all the stories I’ve heard about Hercules, nobody has ever mentioned a Salmoneus.”
“Well, in all these stories you’ve heard, you ever heard about the time Hercules fought the Cyclops of Treachus?”
“Yes, it’s one of my favorites.”
“Well, there you are! I was there! In fact, it was the first time I met Hercules. I have to be somewhere in your little scroll.”
Kirra shook her head without remorse. “Sorry. Still never heard of you.”
Salmoneus searched his memory for another popular Hercules story. “Okay, okay. Um…how about when Hercules defeated the evil Darfus?”
Kirra smiled and shook her head. She could tell he was desperate to be recognized, but he could at least try to get the stories right. “You mean when Hercules and Xena, Warrior Princess defeated the evil Darfus?”
“Well, of course, that’s what I mean!” he said, exasperated.
“That’s not what you said.”
Perplexed at this strange young girl, Salmoneus’ brow furrowed. “I’m sorry if I don’t remember the details correctly. I was about to become the lunch of a huge monster dog at the time.”
“What was the dog’s name?” she asked suspiciously.
Salmoneus looked around as if searching the ground for the answer. “Uh...Greagus.”
“Did I hear a moment of hesitation?” Kirra accused, pointing a finger at him.
“It was fear…pure and simple,” Salmoneus said, annoyed. Placing a hand over his heart, the look of an unforgotten fear washed over his face. “Just the mention of that name brings fear into my heart.”
“Sorry, Salmoneus.” Kirra was surprised at the man. She had taken him for a very important, a very dignified man, and here he was begging to be recognized as a sidekick of Hercules. Hercules already had a sidekick and it wasn’t this man. “You’re going to have to give me a little more to go on than just that. Everybody knows these stories, you know. You’re not the only one.”
Salmoneus nodded in understanding, but inside he was scheming. Before the day was out, this girl was going to believe him one way or another. And with Hercules coming, he was sure to beat her at her own game. “Don’t worry. When Hercules gets here, you’re going to see I’m telling the truth.”
Smiling, Kirra was doing a little scheming of her own. “Well, if you are the good friend you say you are, I expect you to introduce me to him.”
Placing a friendly hand on Kirra’s shoulder, Salmoneus began to walk her towards the center of the small village. “Gladly, my dear. Gladly.”
Pointing her finger at him again, Kirra said sternly, “And he better know your name.”
“I can only assure you he will.”
Nearly an hour later, there was still no sign of Hercules. The streets of Endor were beginning to crowd with onlookers and the curious alike. Though Kirra was starting to feel worried that Hercules might not show, she was thankful Hiram hadn’t shown his face around as well.
She and her newfound friend, Salmoneus, were seated at a long table that was to be used for the evening’s festivities. Though she had yet to believe his story, she liked the man. He was kind, had a good sense of humor and a laugh that she found so funny, it would send her into gales of her own laughter. She always believed that the way a person laughed was a key to the center of their personality. If a person could laugh, and laugh good, they had a good soul. The more infectious the laughter, the better.
Slapping both hands on the tabletop, Salmoneus got Kirra’s complete attention and looked straight into her eyes. “So, what do you say? Do you want to wager?”
Uncertain, Kirra said, “I don’t know.”
“Oh, come on,” Salmoneus rebounded excitedly. “It’s a fair bet! If you can prove that I’m lying about the big guy...”
“I never said you were lying, Salmoneus, just misguided.”
“Ahhh, I see. Well, if you can prove my misguidedness about the big guy, you win. If I can prove to you that I’m telling the truth, I win!”
“Okay, deal. What’s the wager?”
“Ten dinars?! I only have five. That would break me.”
“Are you afraid you’re not going to win?” Salmoneus asked with a sly grin.
Kirra caught his drift and she wasn’t about to back down for even a second. “Okay, fine. Ten dinars it is, although I can’t promise I’m going to be able to come up with the other five.”
“Well, you better, because you are about to lose.” That sly grin returned to Salmoneus’ face.
Kirra couldn’t help but return with a smile of her own. “We’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?” she challenged. She could tell by the look in his eyes that Salmoneus had just come up with some witty retort. She looked forward to his reply with a smile, but his eyes suddenly caught hold of something else. Squinting, he stared over Kirra’s shoulder, his eyes fixing on something in the distance.
“What is it?” she asked curiously, looking back over her shoulder to see what had caught Salmoneus’ attention.
With a devious smile, Salmoneus said, “It looks as if we won’t have to wait very long.”
In the distance, she could see a man coming up the road towards the village of Endor. Though he was still far enough away that she couldn’t yet make out any features, his very being made a large impact on her. Immediately, she rose from her seat at the table and turned to watch the man coming up the road. Never turning her eyes away from the sight before her, she spoke to Salmoneus almost in a whisper. “Is it...?”
“Hercules, yeah. You might want to start looking for that extra five dinars.”
“Okay,” she responded unthinkingly. All she’d heard was “Hercules”, the rest drowned out of her ears. She didn’t know what it was, but all of a sudden, she couldn’t even blink. She was completely riveted to the image of this man. Maybe it was the way he walked with such confidence, every step sure and able. He seemed a man capable of such greatness and courage. As he came closer, in her eyes the image of him becoming clearer, more defined, she began to wonder if perhaps it was the way the setting sun glinted off his chestnut hair or the way it radiated off of his bronzed, well-muscled arms. When he finally passed underneath the “Welcome, Hercules” banner, a smile crossed his face that made her heart race as the townsfolk went to greet him.
“That’s Hercules?” she asked Salmoneus when she was able to find her voice.
“The one and only.”
Kirra watched as the village’s leader, Tiras, went and shook hands with the man she now knew as Hercules. She watched as he smiled and laughed with Tiras, shaking his hand firmly. On her soul, she did not believe that any man could look the way he did. The men in her village no longer even ranked as men in her eyes. Most of them were fat and slow or ugly and balding, badly needing a good shave and an even better bath. Hiram was like that. All her life, though, that kind of man was all she knew existed. She knew Hercules was a courageous hero, with the strength of the gods and the heart of a human, but never in her wildest imaginings did she ever see him as she was seeing him now. Her heart was beating in her chest so fast and so wildly, that she felt it would burst. What would she say to a man like that?
“Hercules!” she heard Salmoneus call from behind. She nearly jumped out of her skin at the sound of his voice. She wanted to turn to Salmoneus and tell him to shut up, but it was too late. She watched Hercules look up at the sound of his name and look around until his eyes settled upon them. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she saw him mouth the words: “Oh, no.” The functioning part of her brain thought: Please tell me he’s responding to the sight of Salmoneus and not to the sight of me.
Then, before she knew it, Salmoneus had grabbed her arm and was pulling her in Hercules’ direction. She wanted to stop, fearful now of actually meeting him. But, her legs were lifeless to her. They simply followed Salmoneus along wherever he led them…and he was leading them straight to Hercules.
The look of concern she had seen on Hercules’ face easily shifted to a smile of greeting. She heard him say, as if from some great distance, “Hello, Salmoneus. How did I know I was going to run into you here?”
“Hey, who do you think set you up with this gig? You should do this more often. You should go on a Hercules Known-World Tour, visiting villages, dignitaries... Do you have any idea how much money we could make?”
Hercules smiled and shook his head. “Salmoneus, always looking for a dinar.”
“Yeah,” he said, Hercules’ joke going straight over his head. Kirra would have laughed if she could move a limb. “They’re getting harder to find these days.”
When Hercules’ eyes finally rested upon her, Kirra could have sworn she felt her heart stop beating. He smiled graciously at her, a kind smile, a smile of friendship. She wanted so much to return the smile, but she couldn’t move. Gods, how stupid she must look! Standing in front of this god among men and she couldn’t even return his smile. She felt as if she would faint. Hercules turned to Salmoneus, curious as to who the young girl was. “Who’s your friend?” He smiled at her again, but still there was no response on her part.
“Hercules, this is Kirra. Kirra, this is Hercules.” He swatted Kirra’s arm playfully and triumphantly said, “Told you I knew him.”
Hercules stared down at the girl who seemed to have turned to stone. “Is she okay?” he asked Salmoneus with concern. Catching Hercules’ look, Salmoneus turned to Kirra, concern on his own face. “Kirra, you okay?” He shook her lightly, confused at this sudden change in her personality. That seemed to jar her, for she snapped her eyes open as if from some trance-like state.
Okay, okay, don’t freak out! She told herself. He’s only a person, just like you. He’s no different, except for the fact that he’s only the most gorgeous thing that ever walked the earth. “Yeah, yeah,” she said to both of them, nodding her head. Just pretend you’re having a hot flash and everything will be okay. Kirra waved a hand in her face, trying to fan away the blush that burned her cheeks. “I’m okay. I think the sun’s getting to me.”
Hercules was no fool, though. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t seen this kind of thing before. It didn’t matter what village he went to; he always saw the same thing. That same adoring stare, the bashful glance or two; he was used to it. At least he wasn’t dealing with one of those blatant, overly sexual glares he most often got. He was thankful this girl was more like the first two than the later. “Here,” he said, taking her arm and leading her towards the table. “Why don’t you have a seat? You’ll feel better.”
“Oh, thank you,” Kirra said, happy she had her voice back. “Me and the sun just don’t agree with each other.”
At least she’s modest about it, Hercules thought.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Salmoneus asked, taking a seat at the table across from her.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” she said, forcing a smile to her lips. “Don’t worry, you’ll get your ten dinars.” Kirra dug in her pocket for the five on her.
“Thaaat’s riiiight,” Salmoneus said as the memory of their bet came back to him. How could I have forgotten? He thought. Greedily, he cupped his hand to accept the money coming to him. “Pay up.”
Curious, Hercules asked, “Ten dinars? What’s all this about?”
“Kirra and I had a bet going,” Salmoneus told Hercules. “She didn’t believe that you and I are the best of friends. Whoever was able to prove the other wrong won ten dinars. So, I’m just waiting for my money.”
With a reprimanding look on his face, Hercules shook his head at Salmoneus. “Salmoneus, only you would stoop so low.”
“What?!” Salmoneus exclaimed. “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Kirra said with a wave of her hand. “It was a fair bet.”
Hercules looked down at the coins in her hand. “Yeah, but you only have five dinars. Don’t let him swindle you out of the only money you have.”
“Thanks a lot, Hercules,” Salmoneus said, insulted. “So, now I’m a swindler, huh? I’m telling you, the bet was fair and square!”
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