Unconventional Herding

"There are no cattle here. We wasted all this time and he has no cattle? What are we supposed to do? We can steal some cattle. We'll just say they were his. No one can tell the difference," Azeus panicked looking into an empty pasture.

"No, someone has decided to imitate Hermes," Heracles said putting his face to the grass and tasting a single blade.

"What are you doing?"

"Hermes once stole cattle from Apollo by making them walk backwards, thus leaving no tracks."

"That makes no sense, there would be tracks still," Azeus was quickly becoming more flustered.

"There would not be cows' tracks. But nobody is looking for other tracks. Here we are. Let's go."

"Then why did you eat the grass?"

"Because it bothered you," Heracles let out a hearty laugh following the odd shaped markings on the ground.

"They could not have gone far, we have been here less than a day."

It wasn't long until the tracks stopped, heading into a cave. A torch was lit, and the two wandered in. What they found was a man named Cacus, being stomped by the cattle. They had been irritated by gadflies. A gift from Hera who wished to make them impossible to heard. Cacus had the unfortunate fate of attempting to steal the cattle before Heracles.

"He's going to die," Azeus said heading towards Cacus.

"He's already dead, if we stopped them now, he would just suffer. What is one less thief," Heracles held him back.

"Are we not thieves? Many times over at this point. Girdles, deer, boars, horses, at least three cities. We've stolen a lot."

"The boar was not stolen, the deer was returned and there was but one girdle," Heracles responded in disgust.

"One girdle, given to you after we failed to steal it. But you admit we stole everything else," Azeus was dismissive of Heracles and dug into his supply bag to retrieve a bottle of wine.

"I am not a thief," was all Heracles could muster after never considering how much he had stolen while serving Eurystheus.

Azeus filled his mouth with wine and held the torch at arm's length while stepping to the side of the cave. Aiming above the heads of cattle he sprayed the wine from his mouth and through the torch. Flames shot forth and startled the cattle more than the flies had. They left Cacus alone, and rushed to leave the cave. Any flies that survived the initial burst of flame did not survive the second.

"Where did you learn to breathe fire," Heracles asked in confusion.

"I didn't. I watched the Amazons. They dipped their arrows in wine and lit them. That's how they shot the flaming arrows."

"Well did they teach you to herd cattle?"

"If you give me some time, I will herd them, and I have friends to help. I owe you my life," Cacus spoke from the ground.

"I suppose the flat man and his friends will help us return with the cattle," Heracles lifted Cacus from the ground as he cried out in pain.

"Will Eurystheus disqualify you for having help again?"

"Not if he wants to live."

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