"I swear, I'm going to clobber him when he shows up."
Hercules was talking to himself while he stalked around the area where he and Iolaus had agreed to meet. Where was Iolaus, anyway? It was getting late, and Herc wanted to tell his friend about the mysterious woman he'd met, and the miracle she'd performed.
Hercules leaned against a tree and smiled as he remembered his recent meeting with the beautiful Serena. Her hair, her smile, the way she kept stroking his skin- he was feeling things he hadn't felt in a very, very long time.
"Snap out of it, Hercules. You're behaving like a schoolboy with his first crush." However, he still had to smile at himself and his feelings. He glanced up through the trees, and saw that he could no longer see the sun. It was on its descent toward evening, and still no Iolaus. Hercules felt the first twinge of concern. Here he'd been, daydreaming of a beautiful woman, and hadn't realized that being this late was really out of character for his best friend, Iolaus. Could something have happened to him? Could he have fallen prey to one of Nestor's men, or another one of those traps? Hercules shook that troubling thought out of his head. Maybe Iolaus had caught the Hind, and was waiting for Hercules to come find them and help him get the Hind to safety. Surely, that was it. Hercules straightened up from the tree and started off in the direction he'd last seen Iolaus go. His steps were a little hurried, though--he couldn't get rid of those troubling thoughts that something was wrong.
The forest was quiet as Hercules searched for his friend. Apparently, Nestor's men had given up their chase for the day. That was a good thought. But, there were no birds singing. There should be the sound of birds, he thought to himself. "Wait, Hercules," he thought to himself, "you're making enough noise crashing through here to scare off any birds. That's all that's the matter--quit worrying!" Still, he couldn't shake off that nagging feeling that something was very wrong. Serena had completely left his mind--all his thoughts now were of his missing friend.
Hercules stopped. He thought he had heard something. He stood quietly, listening. There it was again--a low moan, and the sound of something, or someone, thrashing around nearby. Hercules ran in the direction of the sound. He burst into a small clearing, and his heart quit beating. There lay his friend on the ground, writhing in agony, an arrow sticking out of his chest.
"Iolaus!" Hercules ran to his friend and knelt down by his side. He put his hands on Iolaus' shoulders to stop his thrashing about, and found his friend was burning up with fever. "Iolaus, can you hear me?" Hercules gently shook Iolaus, but the only response he got was an uncomprehending glance from fevered eyes, and another moan. This was not the effects of just an arrow wound. Something was terribly, terribly wrong. Hercules grabbed the arrow shaft, and jerked the evil thing from Iolaus' chest. Iolaus' scream of pain rent the silence of the forest. Hercules gathered him in his arms and held him tightly, trying to will the pain away. He heard Iolaus saying softly, "No...no...I'm here to help you....help you."
A sick feeling hit Hercules' stomach. It must have been the Hind herself who'd shot Iolaus. There were stories that a Hind's arrows were dipped in a strong poison, from which no human had ever survived. "Oh, Iolaus, what have we gotten into this time?" Hercules looked around the small clearing frantically. His cousin, Aesclepius, had taught him of some herbs that helped reduce a person's fever. Would that the gods allow some of those herbs be nearby. He lay his sick friend back down on the ground. "Iolaus, I'll be right back. I've got to look for something to help you." Iolaus groaned as he was laid back down, not hearing a word Hercules had said to him. Blood flowed from his wound. It seemed he was weakening right before Hercules' eyes.
Hercules quickly scanned the area, saying a silent, fervent prayer to the god of medicine. There, growing at the base of a tree, was what Hercules was looking for. "Thank you, Aesclepius," Hercules murmured as he knelt and gathered the precious herbs. As he returned to Iolaus, he also grabbed a piece of vine growing up one of the trees. It would do for binding until Hercules could get Iolaus back to the town. Kneeling beside his friend, Hercules crushed a handful of the leaves and packed them into Iolaus' wound. He pressed the remaining herbs against the wound to try to stanch the blood flow, and bound the piece of vine around Iolaus' chest, to hold the makeshift dressing in place. He then slid his arms under his friend's body, and lifted him from the ground. Iolaus moaned, "Herc....Herc, be careful....she doesn't believe we're here to help. Watch out....Herc." These words made Hercules' heart ache. Sick and in pain as he was, in his delirium, Iolaus' thoughts were for Hercules instead of himself.
With his voice catching, Hercules looked at his dearest friend, and told the sick man, "Iolaus, stay with me. Everything will be all right. I'm going to get help for you. This I promise."
With that, the mighty hero of legend and song stood, clutching his precious cargo close to his chest, and ran from the clearing, toward town and help.
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