The soldier walked slowly through the town. He watched as beggars scrounged for food. They fought over the meager scraps that some of his fellow warriors dropped. Out of the blue, he was knocked to the ground. He stood up and straightened his uniform. His hand rested on the hilt of his sword. He expected a fight. As long as he could remember, people had always underestimated him because of his size, and he had been in thousands of fights because of his stature. Even now, when he proven himself as a warrior, men were always pushing him around or knocking him down to see if the little man could take it. “I pity you,” he whispered to himself as he prepared to confront the man who had hit him.
“I’m sorry,” the stranger said. “I wasn’t watching where I was going. I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
The soldier looked at the man who had pushed him to the ground. His retort froze on his lips. Cerulean eyes met cerulean eyes. The warrior studied the stranger in front of him. The wavy blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, compact, yet muscular built, it was like looking in a mirror. He grabbed the dark green medallion hanging from the man’s neck. “Where did you get this?” he asked harshly.
“It was my father’s,” the man responded. He whispered to himself, “Could this be my future if Herc hadn’t been born?” Iolaus thought back to how Callisto had killed Alcmene and prevented Hercules’ birth. Tears filled his azure eyes as he thought of the woman who was like a second mother to him and his best friend. “I swear that I will not rest until I make this right,” he vowed to himself.
“Who are you? You’re not from around here. What brings you to our town, stranger,” the soldier queried.
“My name’s Iolaus. Actually I grew up around here, but it was another lifetime,” the golden hunter replied. He watched as Xena passed judgment on the prisoners. He gasped aloud when he saw Gabrielle thrown before the Conqueror. He rushed to help the young bard when Xena ordered her to be put on a cross and have her legs broken.
The soldier grabbed the stranger by the arm. “I think we need to talk,” he said.
Iolaus pulled out of the man’s grasp, but it was too late. Gabrielle’s sentence had been carried out. Her scream of pain pierced his soul. “I have to prevent this from happening,” he murmured. “Ares. Ares has got to help me. He can send me back. I can make this right.”
The soldier was perplexed. This stranger had the same name and looked exactly like him. “Was the other man insane or drunk?” he wondered. “He doesn’t smell like a drunk. He doesn’t seem crazy, but there are no other rational explanations. Could someone be playing a trick on me? If they are, they are doing a good job, but how did they know about the amulet? No one knows about the medallion my father wore. I must talk to this man. I need to know more.” He chased after the blonde wearing a patched purple vest.
Iolaus left the crowd and headed towards Ares’ temple. “At least this place hasn’t changed,” he commented.
“Where are you going? I need to talk to you,” the soldier declared.
Iolaus faced his double with wild eyes. “I have to talk to Ares. This isn’t right. I need to fix it. Everything has changed, and it’s all my fault. Ares can send me back. I can stop all this from happening,” he babbled. The blonde turned on his heel and marched into the temple.
The soldier sat outside the temple and waited. He really didn’t know what to think about this stranger. The man was so like him, yet so different. He jumped to his feet when Iolaus walked out of the temple in a daze. “I really want to talk to you,” he stated. He was surprised to see the look of utter hopelessness on the other’s face. “What’s wrong?”
Iolaus sighed. “I failed. When it counted, I failed my best friend and his mother. If only, I had stopped Callisto, then none of this would have happened. Everything would be different. Everything would be the way it is supposed to be. Xena would be fighting evil with Gabrielle by her side. Herc and I would be traveling around, helping people, but now Xena has conquered the known world. She has tortured her closest friend, and Herc... Hercules doesn’t even exist.”
“I don’t understand. What are you talking about? Who is Hercules? What do you mean everything has changed?” asked the soldier.
Iolaus gave the warrior a sad look. “You are going to think that I am crazy. Hercules was... is my best friend. Ares and the Goddess Callisto trapped him in a vortex, then Callisto betrayed Ares. She used the hind’s blood to kill Strife. Then she went into the past to kill Herc before he was born. Ares sent me to follow her. I tried to save Alcmene and her unborn son, but I failed. Because I failed, everything has changed. Nothing is like it should be. You. You are me. Or at least you are the me who grew up in a world without Hercules. What was your life like? If I hadn’t become friends with him, I don’t know where I would have ended up. I’d probably be in jail or dead. Hercules helped so many people, and the one time when he needs my help, I fail him.”
“I was in jail,” the soldier said. “I was a wild kid, getting into trouble all the time, finally they locked me up. I would have stayed there, if they hadn’t released some of us to help defend the town against some warlord. I guess I must have impressed someone with my fighting. After the army was defeated, instead of going back to jail, I joined the militia. Fighting is the only thing I’ve ever been good at.” He looked over at the subdued man. “I am sure you did everything you could to help your friend. Is there a way you could fix things? I mean, you’ve traveled through time once, can’t you do it again?”
“Well last time, Ares sent me back in time. After talking to him, I know that he won’t help. I just don’t know what to do,” Iolaus replied. He stood there thinking. “The chronos stone. Herc? Ya know if I had that I could go back in time without Ares’ help. Xena has it. That was the chronos stone on her scepter. Wait...wait....wait... I can’t know that. Unless? Herc? Is that you? Are you there? Yes! He’s alive.” Iolaus grabbed the soldier and hugged him. “He’s alive.”
The warrior looked at the Golden Hunter like he was crazy. “What are you babbling about?” he asked.
“The chronos stone. That green stone on Xena’s scepter has the power to send me back through time. I can use it to fix everything,” Iolaus explained.
The two men headed back into Corinth. The soldier was disgusted to see two men battling each other for the amusement of their leader.
Iolaus spied the scepter sitting right next to Xena’s throne. Iolaus turned to the soldier and took his hand in a warrior’s handshake. “Well, this is goodbye,” he said. He went to knock out one of the guards when the soldier beat him to it. “What are you doing? If they catch you helping me, they will kill you, war hero or not,” Iolaus reminded him.
“Let me help you. If you succeed in your mission, then none of this will ever occur. I’ll distract the guards so that you can grab the stone. Good luck, Iolaus,” the warrior said. He moved to divert the guardians’ attention. Several of Xena’s elite guards hated him and would love a chance to put the little man in his place. He shoved the two closest to him. Soon several of the men jumped on the soldier and started to beat him.
Iolaus shook his head at the man’s courage. “I won’t forget this,” he vowed as he ran and took the scepter from it’s perch. He grabbed the stone and jumped. Everyone stopped what they were doing when the blonde man dressed in rags disappeared.
“Save your friend,” the soldier whispered. “Make things right.” The beaten man smiled before he slid into unconsciousness.
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