He was drowning.
He was falling.
Yes, definitely falling. Somehow, though, he was falling *up*, and the space through which he fell was filled with blades, slicing and stabbing at him. He tried to twist away from the cold agony, but his body stubbornly refused to obey his commands. Fine time to turn on me, he grumbled to himself. Been my body for my whole life, never gave me a moment's trouble; it decides to bail on me when I'm falling up through knives? Perfect. A rush of disquiet swept through him as he heard footsteps approach, then stop. Who was falling with him?
Hercules. Iolaus struggled to answer the stark horror in that familiar voice as fiercely as he'd ever battled any opponent. He wanted to weep with frustration as his body remained wooden, a dense, immovable prison.
Silence again, and still falling. Still the frozen, piercing pain. Hercules. Please, shout, he begged of his thick, stone tongue. Call out; let him know that I'm still in here. Hercules.
He felt a gentle hand on this throat, and another at the tearing hub of his agony, just beneath his heart.
"Good. Hang on, Iolaus." There was a slight catch in Hercules' voice as the hand left his throat. Pulse; of course, Hercules must have been checking his pulse.
"Iolaus. I've got to pull the arrow out. It's ... it's going to hurt. Please, forgive me."
Silence. It's going to hurt, Herc? It'll have to get in line. But, a new pain began taunting Iolaus, a deeper pain; he knew what it would cost Hercules to remove the arrow. He remembered how he'd felt, steeling himself to pull Hephaestus' arrow from his dearest friend, watching Hercules' face contort with agony as the barbs rent his flesh, hearing his scream shattering the air.
Well, at least he would be able to spare Hercules that experience; his body wasn't planning to move a muscle anytime soon.
A steadying hand pressed against his chest, then his body was cleft, his heart was pulled, beating, from it's bony cage and slowly shredded. He heard screaming, and the rawness in his throat told him that it was his voice ripping through the void. He felt his entire being convulse, shuddering against the arms which suddenly surrounded him, as though seeking to shelter him from an external foe.
He was lifted, held with warm strength, and the jolting caused a moan to slip from him. So much pain; why couldn't he just sleep, checking back in at intervals to see whether the situation had improved? No such luck, however; he was aware of every step, each sideways, knifing beat of his heart. The blades were still there, but, clasped in Hercules' arms as he was, he couldn't possibly be falling upward through them. Hercules must be walking through them, making his way through a field of living death.
He passed the agonized eternity which followed by trying to make his voice work. To speak to Hercules, who was keeping up a constant monologue as he traveled.
"You'll be OK, Iolaus. The arrow wasn't in your heart. That darkness around your neck, it's just, I don't know, a trick of the light, or something."
Silence for a while.
"No. We both know there was something on that arrowhead. You're burning up. Was it Nestor, Iolaus? If only I'd been quicker. If only .... Wait."
Iolaus heard a small whimper as he was placed gently on the ground, through the blades of pain. Sure. His tongue was willing to scream and whimper; it couldn't manage a few words to warn Hercules about the hind? A rustling and some muffled cursing, then a cool, slick softness was placed against his chest. Hercules pulled him in again and rose, striding through the unseen forest.
"I've found some herbs, Iolaus. They should help stop the bleeding, and pull the poison from the wound. I hope. I met this woman, Iolaus. She .... she has a gift. I'll find her for you, I swear. She'll cast a light around you, heal you. I've seen her do it."
Hercules rambled on about this magical woman, and Iolaus found himself drifting slightly, then wafted into the sweetest, blackest sleep he'd ever known. He would have loved to have remained there, forever, but a jolt brought him back abruptly, and Hercules began apologizing for having tripped.
Unexpectedly, Iolaus' eyes opened all by themselves, the light splintering in his brain in tiny versions of the blades still falling around him. He struggled to focus on the blur above him, and it gradually coalesced into Hercules' face, his icy, blue eyes staring intently ahead as he rushed through the forest with Iolaus clasped protectively to his chest.
"Herc." it was a mere croak, but it was all his. Iolaus would have shouted for joy, had he been able.
Hercules stared down at him, never slowing his frantic pace.
"Iolaus? Oh, gods. Who was it? Was it Nestor, one of his hunters?"
"Hind. She must've thought I ... Her eyes, her eyes were ... " Iolaus' eyes widened as the impossible pain escalated to inconceivable in the space of one, agonized breath. He tried to bite back the scream, but couldn't.
The knives had grown; they were swords now, and they were as hot as pitch, stripping hunks of his flesh from his bones as they passed.
Another scream, and blessed nothingness.
Hercules blinked the hot tears away as Iolaus collapsed back into a swoon, his last scream still bouncing off of the surrounding trees and echoing through the demigod's shuddering heart.
No one shot by the hind's arrow survived.
He squared his shoulders and increased his pace, stealing occasional glances at his friend's sweat-slicked face. His complexion grew greyer by the moment, as his already burning body grew even hotter, and his ragged breathing became more labored. The discolored flesh ringing the base of his throat had grown darker; a sinister, outward marking of the poison ravaging Iolaus' helpless system.
No one shot by Hephaestus' arrow had ever survived, either. Until Hercules. Iolaus had brought him back from the brink. If Hercules had to tear the forest apart down to the last blade of grass, he would find Serena and she would make Iolaus whole once again. He fought down his rising panic as he remembered stumbling across his friend's twisted, golden form sprawled in the forest, the arrow protruding from his chest. One hand had been curled around it, as though Iolaus had tried to grab it before he'd lost his fight with the pain. And, the poison. If Hercules hadn't passed that way, Iolaus would have remained there, abandoned, untended. Or, he might have been found by Nestor's men. He would, most likely, already be dead. On such small choices as a path taken through the forest, a whole world could hinge.
The son of Zeus tightened his jaw, as he entered the village and flew toward Hemnor's home.
Iolaus would live.
Hercules would make sure of it.
Some images, characters and other things used in these works are the property of others, including but not limited to Renaissance Pictures and Universal Studios. Everything else remains the property of the artist or author. No money will be made on anything appearing on this webpage and no copyright infringement is intended. This site was created by fans for the enjoyment of other fans.
For information on reprinting text and/or artwork (including privately owned photos, photo manipulations, and other images) from this website, please contact Ceryndip , who will assist you in contacting the original creator of the piece. Do NOT reprint, republish, or in any way link to items on these pages without obtaining permission from either the original creator of the piece or the webpage owner. A written one-time use statement may be issued to you at the discretion of the artist or the author. Please respect the legal and artistic rights of our contributors.