The Great Hall looked strangely normal, aside from all the chairs that were set up. No Gods were rampaging, no hoolies had missed being cleaned up, and no barbarians or monsters were attacking the school. There was absolutely nothing to explain why all the cadets found themselves wandering into the Great Hall at the same time.
Aimee entered the Great Hall, looking around warily. A slip of parchment had been slipped under her door that morning, warning her of a mandatory Hoolie recipe exchange scheduled in the Great Hall today at this time. She saw Alayia, Ty, and Casche sitting near the front of the auditorium and sat down in an empty chair near them.
"I'm telling you, something's up." Casche said, in the middle of a conversation with Alayia and Ty. She flashed Aimee a welcoming smile. "The Chancellors keep disappearing for random lengths of time, and now we're all being called into the Hall under false pretenses?"
"So this isn't a Hoolie recipe exchange?" Aimee was slightly disappointed. She'd been hoping to get a few ideas for next Hoolie Day...
"Nope. I was told that this was going to be auditions for an academy play." Alayia said.
"Extra-credit first-aid class," Ty offered.
Casche shrugged, "I heard that Iolaus was going to have a secret karaoke party this period."
“Hey, that’s a good idea!” Iolaus popped over.
"So what's actually going on?" Aimee wondered, just as Celest joined them.
“I don’t see any preparations for war, so we’re not under attack,” Jason and Hercules arrived.
"So the word is that all the Chancellors have gone crazy and were spotted skulking around the Academy at strange hours, and they've called us all in here to sacrifice us all to Strife." Celest said. The Hall was filled with almost all of the cadets by now. Ruff wandered around looking for things to set on fire.
"Strife?" Ty raised an eyebrow, "No way."
“Where are the Ancients?” Ty mused. “Kalina, Pelee-no one has seen them for weeks, but I occasionally hear noises in their rooms.”
“What if something got them?” Celest asked. “And the Chancellors too? It’s not like Tern and Bryn to leave their harems alone for this long.”
“Good point,” Aimee said. “Maybe Ares is trying a new takeover method.”
“Hey,” Katharos, one of the newest cadets, joined them, “if this is gonna be some party shouldn’t Tern’s harem be here in their gold loincloths?”
The girls all perked up at that thought but there was no sign of the fourteen men.
Just then, the entire Hall plunged into darkness. "Suddenly the sacrifice rumor is a little more believable," Alayia muttered in the darkness.
The candles on the stage of the Great Hall suddenly flared into life, spluttering light on three large, gilded, jewel encrusted thrones. Tern and Bryn were each sitting in their thrones, dressed a little more formally than usual, meaning they were wearing more clothes than normal, but still showing plenty of flesh. Less than a second later Gorax came running onstage and fell into his throne. There was a small twig and three leaves tangled in his hair. Behind them stood Tern’s and Bryn’s harems, Tern’s in their traditional gold loincloths, and Bryn’s in skimpy black leather.
More than one cadet strained to get a glimpse of the well built, scantily clad men standing behind the Chancellors. More than one of Tern’s looked peeved at having to wear the loincloth again.
Hercules, Iolaus and Jason grumbled amongst themselves about the harem men until Celest turned around and whispered “Well, you know you could be up their loincloths and we wouldn’t object.”
The three Heroes ceased their complaining.
Tern stood and addressed the gathered cadets. "Welcome to the first Promotion Ceremony since the Reopening of the YHU." Instantly all the cadets were paying close attention. At long last! "This ceremony will be short as we know you just want an excuse to party,” she winked. “We’ve been watching all of you and recording your efforts over the last few months, even when you think we’re not. We've seen you when you're sparring. We've known when you are hoolieing. We know if you've been bad or good, and now all your hard work pays off." The smile she gave them made more than one uneasy. Tern had a strange sense of humor sometimes.
Bo and Spike stepped forward, bearing scrolls secured in green and tan ribbon.
Bryn and Gorax both stood, and Bryn selected a scroll. "Dea, will you please come up here?"
A spotlight turned on and focused on Dea, who was sitting in the middle of the fourth row. She looked around at her fellow cadets for support before hesitantly standing and walking up on stage. Her eyes darted upwards toward the ceiling, looking for a Hoolie about to drop. She had heard about some of these promotion ceremonies and how they could get out of hand.
"Dea," Bryn said, "When you first arrived here you were but a new recruit, unknowing of the ways of the Academy and innocent of your first hoolie. You have learned a lot over your months here and have made us proud to have you as a student." She clasped arms with Dea.
"For your excellent work at staying active in the Lounge and the good bribes you've sent, we have decided to encourage your efforts and promote you two levels to the honorable rank of Greenhorn." A cheer went up from the cadets, and Dea burst into a happy grin. "A double promotion is not given lightly, but we feel you have earned it and trust that you will continue to be an active cadet in the Academy."
Tern handed Dea a rolled certificate and clasped her arm. "Congratulations."
"Thank you!" Dea exclaimed, clutching her certificate close. She moved on to Gorax.
"What they said." Gorax said, clasping arms. Dea bounced off of the stage and back to her seat, still smiling.
Bryn checked her next scroll. "Celest?"
Celest gasped and jumped up, and the cadets around her clapped and cheered her on. She hurried up on stage and stopped in front of Bryn.
"Being a Greenhorn is nothing to sneeze at," Bryn said. "But every cadet should do their best and try to get promoted higher. Not only do higher ranks come with perks, but also with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. You are well on your way to climbing the ranks." Bryn grinned and clasped arms with Celest.
Tern was next. "For your efforts at turning in the weekly tests and staying active in the Lounge, we promote you to Level Four - Disciple. Congratulations." Tern handed over the certificate and clasped arms. Gorax clasped her arm as well and Celest hurried back to her seat amid hi-fives and congrats from her classmates.
Bryn glanced at the scroll in her hands. “Alex!”
Startled, Alex rose and headed up to the stage.
“Alex, as one of most enthusiastic and active members, and always ready to help out, your promotion is a special one,” Bryn said.
“Not only do you turn in your tests, you’re always ready to lead a good RP. So we are also granting you a double promotion, from Level Two Rookie, to Level 4 Disciple.”
Alex’s mouth dropped open as she clasped arms with the Chancellors, stole a good look at the display of man flesh behind the thrones, and hopped back to her seat, hugged by her friends.
Ty and Aimee were each called up and thanked for their efforts and contribution, and promoted one level from Greenhorn to Disciple. Neila was next and then Alayia, both getting promoted one level from Disciple to Apprentice Cadet.
"Last, but not least," Bryn announced, "Casche." Casche looked up at the stage in shock, and it took pushing from her fellow cadets to get her out of her chair and up to the stage.
"For excellent work turning in tests and staying active on the board," Bryn said, clasping Casche's arm, "we have decided to promote you two levels, from Level Three to Level Five. You are now an Apprentice Cadet."
There was applause from the assembled cadets and someone yelled out "You go girl!"
"As I said before, a double promotion is to be enjoyed, but not to be taken lightly." Tern said. "We have noticed your efforts and wish to both reward you and encourage you to keep up the good work. We expect to see you back up on this stage during the next Promotions Ceremony in the summer." Tern handed over the certificate and clasped her arm.
"Good job," Gorax said, clasping Casche's arm before she left the stage. Casche danced back to her chair, happily receiving her friends' congrats as she sat.
“A note to all Apprentice cadets- a major must be declared when you reach level Six, so start thinking creatively,” Tern added.
“What was yours?” someone called. Tern flashed a smile.
“Harem Control, with a minor in Exotic Leather Knots,” she answered to some giggles. “I’m not sure if Bryn and Gorax want to reveal thiers.” she winked.
Bryn and Gorax sat back down.
"That is all of the promotions for today," Tern announced, and disappointed groans filled the Hall. Tern held up one hand and the cadets quieted. "For all of you who weren't promoted, there is always next time to look forward to. You have about six months to work, play and bribe your way up the ranks.” There were chuckles at the emphasis on bribing. “For those of you promoted today, we encourage you to keep active so that you will have the pleasure of crossing this stage next time as well, as there are still many levels to conquer. Now, onto the fun stuff-party time!”
The candles on the stage all went out, and the room was again cast in darkness. A moment later, candles all around the Hall sparked and burned, lighting up the room and a spinning reflective ball appeared overheard. Gold and silver streamers stretched across the room as the three thrones vanished. Bryn's harem was just finishing setting up a table at the back of the hall with snacks and a big bowl of berry madness. Three of Tern’s harem’s members were arguing as usual, Bo, Curly and Dean. A couple others looked a bit lost and several were trying to sneak out so they could put clothes on.
Iolaus, Hercules and Jason grabbed a couple of the girls to dance as music swelled up through the room.