Enforcer Missing Scenes

by Chrysim

Iolaus dabbed gingerly at the fresh collection of tender scrapes and lacerations on his face. The hunter's entire body thrummed with searing pain courtesy of Hera's inhuman water Enforcer. Remembering his violent, ill-fated confrontation with that creature made the warrior wince. What in Hades had he been thinking? He'd seen how badly it had battered Hercules, how could he have even imagined he, a mere mortal, could do any better? He tried to take a deep breath to ease his frustrations but his traumatised ribs protested strenuously. So he settled for several slow, shallow gasps instead. A glorious new day was breaking outside; timid shafts of shimmering gold were turning the dim barn where he lay into a warm, sunny haven. A yawn escaped the hunter's bruised lips. He was exhausted but the last thing he wanted to do now was sleep. Grimacing, he carefully eased himself towards the edge of the makeshift bed of soft hay. Hercules would be back soon. He looked towards the doorway expectantly then sighed remorsefully. He should be with Hercules, helping to defeat Hera's latest abomination. Instead here he was, barely able to move a muscle. ‘I had no other choice!', he muttered through clenched teeth, blue eyes flashing with conviction. The Enforcer, Hera's replacement for Nemesis, had been sent to kill Hercules at all costs. If he hadn't tried to stop it, it would've hurt or killed other people in its maniacal quest. He might've lost the fight but he had kept it from harming anybody else and, at least for a little while, had kept it away from Hercules. Now, though, Nemesis was trying to do the same thing and Hercules was trying to keep her from winding up like him or worse. He glanced at the doorway again, anxiety mixing with the pain in his azure eyes, ‘C'mon, Herc, what's taking you so long?'

To distract himself from his worries, Iolaus turned his thoughts to more practical things. If either of his friends succeeded in confronting the Enforcer, they would need medical attention too. The bloody cloth in his hand wouldn't be nearly enough. He had to get some more cloth and blankets and a bucket of water Just as he was about to stand up, several people entered the barn. Though his vision was disconcertedly bleary, Iolaus recognised the robes of a magistrate instantly. He was followed by one civilian and four soldiers. The warrior frowned at them, at the way their arrival seemed to have set the stable spinning so sickeningly. He put a shaking hand to his head in a futile attempt to steady his senses. His face contorted with the effort of concentrating. However, the harder he tried to strengthen his grip on reality, the weaker he felt. This wasn't good.

Britos, the man accompanying the magistrate, took an excited step forward and pointed, "That's the one, Laegar. He's the guy who wrecked my tavern last night!" Iolaus stared in disbelief at the livid tavernkeeper. This couldn't be real he had to be hallucinating

The magistrate's booming voice sliced through Iolaus's incredulity, "Disturbing the peace and destruction of property are serious offenses here in Melitas, stranger. I am Laegar, newly appointed magistrate for this province. I am placing you under arrest Don't resist or you will only make it harder on yourself."

Angry indignation coursed through Iolaus's abused body, aggravating his many aches and pains to the point that he began to shake. He jabbed the hand still clutching the bloodsoaked cloth in it towards his accuser, "You're alive because of me! Surely your life is worth more than... a few broken chairs or dishes?", he seethed in quick, furious gasps. No sooner had he gotten the words out than a buzzing roar filled his head until he thought it would explode. The pain that came with it easily surpassed the sum of all his other complaints and preceded only by a fraction a dark red haze that obscured his vision. Icy fear replaced fiery anger. The soiled cloth fell from his suddenly nerveless fingers to the ground as an all too familiar all encompassing numbness swept over him. He had time only to close his eyes before pitching forward in a dead faint. He landed heavily at the magistrate's feet, oblivious to the oddly satisfied expression that this unexpected turn of events elicited from the village's novice judge.

Sighing resignedly, Laegar moved aside as his guards hurried to pick Iolaus up. With the unconscious warrior dangling insensibly between two of the imposing soldiers and the other two forming a stern vanguard, the party left the barn. As he was so unceremoniously dragged away, the toes of Iolaus's boots dug a pair of faint jagged scars in the straw littered dirt.

They were just outside the town hall where the courtroom, magistrate's office and dungeons were housed when Iolaus's friend Nabilis defiantly stepped in front of them, blocking their way. He looked Britos squarely in the eye, "What are you doing?", he demanded calmly.

Though discouraged by the hostile silence that followed his question, Nabilis stood his ground even when the lead guards loomed over him menacingly. He'd been with Iolaus the night before when the brave warrior had taken on Hera's supra-human killer. Though he hadn't challenged it himself, he'd tried to assist Iolaus after it'd became apparent that he was in way over his head. Seeing his friend now, who should've been hailed as an hero, being treated as a criminal made Nabilis bold with anger. He tried another tact, "Laegar! Do you have any idea who your goons are manhandling there?" The magistrate refused to even acknowledge that he was being addressed. He simply grunted impatiently and without further prompting, the two soldiers immediately and forcefully shoved Nabilis out of the way. He tried desperately to keep his balance but stumbled and fell. Before he could recover, it was too late. Helplessly Nabilis watched as Iolaus was hauled inside and a formidible ironclad oak door was slammed shut behind him. For a moment Nabilis glared at the barred door as he dusted himself off, "Well, you can't say I didn't try to warn you!", he grumbled to himself. Then, with an expression of intense determination, he turned and ran.

Although it was early in the day, many people had seen Laegar's modest procession march through the streets of Melitas. Most saw only another unlucky miscreant being towed to his fate but more than a few recognised Iolaus. Afterall, he and Hercules had spent nearly three days in Melitas helping organise the festival and the handsome blonde warrior would never be mistaken for a recluse. People began to talk amongst themselves, speculating about what their new magistrate could possibly want with Hercules's friend. Word of the mercifully short yet very spirited fight in the tavern was already common knowledge throughout the village. It didn't take long for people to realise what was happening and the discussion grew more animated as more folks became involved and took sides.

A throng of concerned citizens arrived at the town hall just in time to see Nabilis pushed aside by Laegar's men. Before they could tell him that they were there to support Iolaus, he'd bolted. The rhetoric grew more heated, weapons began to appear in agitated hands and the murmur of angry voices grew steadily louder.

Carrying an unconscious Nemesis in his powerful arms, Hercules stepped through the barn entry, calling "Alright, Iolaus, you'd better scoot over. You've got .". His words echoed hollowly around the empty barn as his brow furrowed in puzzlement, " company.", he finished lamely.

As he moved towards the bedding area, the demigod's cerulean eyes scoured the mews, baffled by his partner's unexpected disappearance. He shrugged. Maybe he'd had to answer the call of nature or more likely had gone in search of a meal. He tenderly laid the young former goddess on the fur-covered straw and shook his head. Luckily the brand-new mortal hadn't been seriously hurt taking on Hera's fanatical Enforcer unlike Iolaus. The thought, ‘Brave of heart and hard of head.', an epithet he often used to describe his best friend, made Hercules smile inspite of the unease which sent a chill through his own sore muscles. The smile didn't last long, either. Something wasn't right here As he sat down beside Nemesis, something at his feet caught his eye. His mystification leapt straight to dread as he leaned down to retrieve the scrap of bloodstained cloth Iolaus had dropped. Before he sat up again, Hercules's sharp eyes also noted the twin grooves Iolaus's boots had made in the barn's dirt floor and his heart stopped for a beat or two as he realised that his friend hadn't left here of his own accord.

He sprang to his feet despite his weariness but hesitated, his need to help one friend conflicting with the need to care for another. The muscles of his jaw knotted in exasperation as he tried to decide what to do. He hadn't been deliberating long when his thoughts were abruptly interrupted by Nabilis rushing into the livery, gasping and babbling at the same time, "Help Hercules the magistrate Iolaus town hall "

"Whoa! Calm down, friend. Catch your breath, then tell me the whole story.", Hercules advised as he guided the breathless tanner towards some haybales so he could sit down.

As Nabilis recounted the brief story he watched the son of Zeus with growing apprehension. The imposing hero stood as impassively as stone several yards away, gazing out the doorway, robed in such brilliant sunshine that he seemed on fire. Though his face was averted, Nabilis still caught the blaze of kindred fire in the demigod's piercing blue eyes. They seemed to grow darker and more intense with every word. It was like watching the early stages of a volcanic eruption. An awkward silence followed which Nabilis was loath to intrude upon but there was one more very crucial piece of information he needed to relay, "The punishment for the crimes Iolaus has been accused of is"

When Nabilis hesitated, Hercules demanded bitterly, "What is the penalty for being an hero in Melitas, friend?", turning to face him. With his mighty arms folded across his broad chest and an expression of barely restrained fury on his face, he was at once intimidating as well as awe-inspiring. He made Nabilis very nervous but the tanner shored up his flagging courage and did as he was bid.

In a small, shame-filled voice he reluctantly concluded, " the putting out of his eyes!" He flinched, expecting an explosion, but Hercules neither spoke nor moved for several long moments. It was a slight moan from Nemesis that succeeded in dispersing the unnerving tension. Nabilis was impressed at how quickly Hercules rushed to her side but the young woman remained blissfully asleep.

In a very quiet voice that belied his wrath, Hercules asked, "Nabilis, will you stay here with Nemesis for awhile? I need to retrieve my misappropriated sidekick."

Nabilis smiled with relief, "Don't worry, Hercules. I'll take good care of your friend as if she were my own." The son of Zeus clapped him gratefully on the shoulder as he passed and then, without another word, he was gone.

At first darkness was all he was aware of. It was everywhere. It was everything. There was no sound. No sensation. No thought or feeling. It was a carefree, pain-free haven. Iolaus felt safe and unthreatened there. So when the vortex reappeared, the whirlpool that sucked him back onto the plane of blinding light, deafening sound and mind-numbing pain and confusion, he fought it with all his might...

"Pagit! Don't just stand there! Give us a hand!", bellowed a loud, angry voice as an elbow dug brutally into sore ribs. Iolaus yelped but when he tried to move he found that he was pinned pretty effectively against a cold hard floor. His arms were twisted behind his back and strong hands were quickly binding his wrists together while others kept him as immobilised as possible. Little black spots danced dizzily before his fuzzy vision as he struggled to breathe.

"Feisty little beggar, isn't he?", someone remarked ruefully as he was roughly hauled to his feet. Another raspy voice prompted a brief round of mirthless guffaws when it replied sardonically, "Yeah – imagine what he could do if he was awake?!"

Existence flickered tenuously as Iolaus swayed precariously on the cusp of consciousness. An excruciating burst of pain in his right ankle made him cry out and his uncooperative legs buckled. He was stopped from falling by more gruff hands which then dragged him a short distance and finally pushed him down ungently into a chair.

While Iolaus worked on unmuddling his mind and clearing his vision, big dark grunting shadows surrounded him and bound him tightly with what felt like ropes of fire until the only part of his body that could still move was his head and that, he didn't want to move! His dark sanctuary hovered near, beckoning intoxicatingly but abruptly vanished, dispelled by a very sharp, bitter scent that made him choke and gasp. A face came into focus, round and flushed with small shaded enigmatic eyes and a predatory expression that woke him up as effectively as jumping into an ice cold lake.

"Welcome back, stranger. I was just about to pass sentence on you " Laegar smiled coldly, setting a tiny vial of smelling salts down on a nearby table, " wouldn't want you to miss that!" There was a small brazier full of red-hot coals on the table too which caught the warrior's eye.

Through gradually thinning patches of mist, Iolaus observed Britos inserting several short metal objects into the heart of the brazier. The coppery taste of blood mixed with the unsavoury after taste from the smelling salts as he swallowed, trying to quiet the fear that was suddenly hammering at his heart.

His voice sounded as weak as he felt, "Sentence? I don't remember a trial?" What in Hades was going on here? The smug expression on Britos's face rekindled the dampened fire of Iolaus's spirit and that brazier.. it tripped every instinctive alarm he possessed. With an effort, he forced himself to stay calm, to think, to remember. He was at a disadvantage but that didn't mean he was just going to give up without a fight!

"There was no need for a trial, stranger. You confessed remember?", the magistrate explained haughtily.

An angry blush accentuated Iolaus's bruised features as he declared ardently, "The only thing I confess to, is doing the right thing! If that's a crime then I guess that I'm guilty!", he added defiantly.

Laegar stepped closer. His obdurate obsidian gaze locked on Iolaus's once again crystal clear azure eyes as he spoke, "The road to Tartarus is lined with good intentions, citizen. You've broken the law. Now you must pay the penalty."

Before he could stop the impulse, Iolaus heard himself asking contemptuously, "So, you're going to brand me for trying to save peoples' lives?"

Laegar shook his head, "No, not exactly." He put on a thick leather glove and then picked up one of the metal implements, holding it up for Iolaus to see, "We aren't going to brand you with these; we're going to blind you!"

For Iolaus, the whole vast world instantly shrank to encompass just one simple image that of the smoking scarlet-tipped instrument brandished in Laegar's hand, "B-b-blind? You can't be serious!", the hunter stammered. He began to squirm frantically. The coarse ropes bit into his flesh, drawing blood and adding to his already lengthy list of agonies.

From behind, first one hand and then another grasped fistfuls of his hair, forcing his head back and holding it firm as Laegar moved nearer. He could feel the heat on his face radiating from the glowing, super-heated metal. He couldn't escape; he couldn't stop it but he resisted until an inky black wave flooded into his thoughts again, sweeping away his pain and fear, leaving nothingness in its wake. The last thing Iolaus was conscious of doing before he sank into the abyss was giving voice to his rage, his frustrations and his terror with a full-throated, blood-churdling scream!

Hercules swept through the streets of Melitas like an ominous storm front. People darted artfully out of his path as he thundered by, turning their backs or shielding their faces from the stinging wind his furious passing kicked up. Once the disturbance was past, however, the curious warily followed. The demigod didn't lose a stride as he plunged into the riled crowd outside the town hall. The mob closed in around him, a sea teeming with highly animated faces and maddeningly disjointed words which furthered his enraged state until the emotional dam burst. With a loud bellow, Hercules snatched a pitchfork from the hands of the nearest agitator and angrily snapped it across his knee. Though he intended them no harm, this sudden act of violence frightened many in the crowd and they quickly edged away, eyeing him with apprehension. Hercules's eyes were a forbidding shade of indigo as he threw the broken tool to the ground and shouted, "You people make me sick! A man risks his life to protect you and this is how you repay him? Well, there's not going to be any mutilation here today so just go home!"

He started to push his way through the assembly once again but was brought to a standstill by a quiet yet commanding voice behind him, "Hercules! We're here FOR Iolaus, not against him!" Hercules looked around at the tense, belligerent faces surrounding him, turning slowly until he was face-to-face with his old friend Clytus.

The weaponsmith grinned at the son of Zeus's obvious bewilderment, "Our women folk would never let us live it down if we let anything happen to Iolaus.", he remarked with a wink but when the fury in Hercules's eyes didn't abate, he swiftly appended, "All of us here know that Iolaus is an hero, Hercules, above and beyond what he did for us last night but Laegar, our new magistrate, doesn't. This is his first post. All he knows of law or justice is what he's read in the scrolls. He really isn't a bad person, Hercules. He just doesn't know any better." Inwardly Clytus heaved an enormous sigh of relief as Hercules visibly relaxed. The demigod's words, however, were far from mollified as he growled, "Ignorance is no excuse for barbarism!" Clytus nodded agreeably and was about to reply when the crisp morning air carried a heart-stopping, chilling scream to their ears.

Laegar hesitated. He had never condemned anyone let alone carried out a punishment in person before. He had, however, seen the faces of criminals before and, as he looked down into the bruised and bloody face of his current unconscious prisoner, he abruptly realised that his wasn't one of them. The words the man had spoken came back to him and suddenly Laegar felt very uncertain about what he was about to do. He lowered the sizzling iron rod as he asked Britos, "Is what he said true, citizen Britos? Did he save your life last night?"

The tavernkeeper shrugged, "I don't know what he was trying to do, sir. All I do know is that he started a fight that trashed my tavern and I want him to pay for it."

The magistrate frowned, ramming the glowing piece of metal back into the brazier's coals. Revenge! Justice wasn't about revenge. As righteous indignation welled up inside of him, Laegar opened his mouth to pontificate but was startled by a sudden, enormous bang that shook the entire building.

Everyone spun as the town hall's massive oak door violently left its hinges and toppled to the floor with a tremendous thump. Through the thin cloud of dust and debris raised by the commotion stepped a tall, powerful man who moved with purpose and decisiveness towards the magistrate's party. He was followed closely by Clytus and a steady flow of irate villagers. The guards positioned themselves protectively in front of Laegar as the intruders approached while Britos blanched and gulped almost inaudibly, "Hercules!"

The demigod stopped. Those following him did likewise, waiting anxiously at a respectful distance as he spoke. The faint smile on Hercules's face as well as the trace of humour in his voice seemed in eerie contrast to the livid fury blazing in his eyes as he said, "Sorry, don't know my own strength sometimes " His expression darkened as one of the soldiers, his right hand still tangled in Iolaus's hair, poised a knife menacingly against the helpless hunter's exposed throat. With a tremendous effort, Hercules focussed his attention on Laegar, "I think there's been a big misunderstanding here. Please don't do anything you'll regret ", he remarked tensely.

Laegar studied Hercules thoughtfully for a moment then, wreathed in an air of seeming indifference, slipped out from behind his would-be protectors to rake his dark eyes over the motley crowd before turning back to Hercules and saying sternly, "The peace has been broken and property damaged. The perpetrator was apprehended and by incriminating himself, was found guilty. The law is explicit and punishment will proceed " Angry shouts of protest interrupted the magistrate's statement. Some of the more agitated villagers attempted to barge past Clytus but the burly weaponsmith's brawn and Laegar's raised voice quelled the tumult, " unless someone has something pertinent to say on the prisoner's behalf!"

All eyes turned expectantly to Hercules but the son of Zeus hardly seemed to notice. His gaze was transfixed by the trussed unconscious figure of his best friend. Mighty fists clenched and unclenched at his sides as he fought to retain the last shread of his composure, "Justice without compassion can make laws as unjust as the crimes they are meant to thwart!", he thundered.

Since all eyes were on Hercules and his eyes never left his captive friend, no one saw the fleeting, stricken look that passed across Laegar's customarily inscrutible features. By the time Hercules drew breath to continue, however, Laegar was once again his impassive self – on the outside atleast.

"If anyone is guilty of a crime here, it's Hera because it was she who sent the Enforcer!", the son of Zeus contended passionately. Abruptly his tone softened and the fire in his eyes was doused by unshed tears as he gasped, "Iolaus was only doing what he always does – protecting people, protecting me – regardless of the risk to himself or any other consequence!"

Across the room, Laegar stood with his arms folded, one hand thoughtfully stroking his chin, while his bushy eyebrows helped obscure how his eyes darted discerningly from the mob to Hercules to the prisoner and back again.

Mistaking Laegar's pensiveness for obstinacy, Hercules cried angrily, "Iolaus has already been punished; just look at him?" When the arbiter failed to react, he added fervently, "If you need to punish anyone, then punish me!"

Once again the crowd erupted with loud protests, waving makeshift weapons or fists wildly in the air but when Laegar began to speak, they instantly subsided, "When the king appointed me as magistrate in this province, he invested me with the powers to repeal as well as to make and enforce the law.", he began solemnly, watching without seeming to as his words sank in before turning away from them and walking over to where his guard still held his knife to Iolaus's throat.

Hercules's piercing cerulean eyes followed him like a hawk. The crowd heard only a stentorian murmur as Laegar said something to his guard... but Hercules's divine ears heard every word... just as Laegar had intended. So when, without warning, the knife flashed in the warm sunlight that washed the silent room and the ropes that bound his friend were abruptly cut, many in the crowd gasped or flinched but Hercules was at his partner's side before the severed strands hit the floor. Kneeling beside the chair and gently holding Iolaus in place,

Hercules looked up questioningly at Laegar. He was puzzled to see a smile on the judge's face. It changed his forbidding demeanour completely and reminded the hero of his mentor Chiron, "I hereby revoke the law governing disturbance of the peace until such a time as it can be replaced with another more compassionate statute. Until then, each incident will be judged by me according to its unique particulars."

Hercules fought to keep his hope from showing but his heart nearly leapt out of his chest in anticipatory joy. Maybe Clytus had been right about Laegar after all

The magistrate lightly laid one hand on Iolaus's shoulder and the other on Hercules' before declaring, "Seeing that he acted selflessly and in the best interests of the people, I formerly absolve Iolaus of all charges." Amid a rain of raucous hoots and hollers, applause and cheers, the magistrate laughed for the first time and Hercules considered it the nicest sound he'd heard all day. Laegar leaned over as he patted Hercules's far less tense shoulder fraternally, "That means you may go now, citizen Hercules."

Grateful cerulean eyes met his, "Thank you... from both of us."

Laegar felt a warm flush of immense satisfaction as he shook his head, "Thank you for playing along, Hercules; for keeping a bad situation from becoming a tragedy." He moved aside as the demigod prepared to scoop his friend up in his protective arms and came face-to-face with a petulant looking Britos, "What about the damages to my tavern?", the angry hosteler demanded. Laegar sighed. A magistrate's work was never-ending. He slipped a friendly arm around the surprised man's shoulders, subtlely coaxing him towards a remote area of the room. Checking over his shoulder, Laegar saw Hercules with his priceless burden, surrounded by happy villagers vanish through the town hall doorway. He removed his arm and turned his full attention back to Britos, letting his countenance become once more that of a stern adjudicator. He eyed the publican critically and decided that it was time that he squirmed a little for a change, "So, tell me, citizen, what made you think blinding a man would fix your tavern?", he asked bluntly.

The stables were wonderfully quiet and warm as Hercules delicately plucked several strands of golden hair stuck in a nasty abrasion above the right eye of his somnolent ally. Upon returning to the barn where they were lodging, Hercules had found Nemesis and Nabilis in the middle of quite an heated argument, which had been instantly forgotten as soon as they'd set eyes on Iolaus. At the moment they were both off on separate quests to acquire more bandages, water and herbs for poultices and food. When the rowdy celebration in the town hall had failed to rouse Iolaus, the first needles of alarm had begun to bury themselves in Hercules's psyche.

Passing a hand slowly over his weary, worried face, Hercules whispered, "C'mon, Iolaus, quit kidding around! You're scaring the daylights out of me. Please, wake up!" When there was no reaction, he sighed deeply and sat back on the bale of hay standing in for a proper chair and rested his head for a moment against the rough barn wall behind him. It was too bad that Iolaus had missed that cheering crowd, it would've made up for all the times his friend had ever felt neglected or under-appreciated. Hercules's head pounded with fatigue and concern.

For the umpteenth time, he sought and found the warrior's reassuringly strong pulse. Though it pained him, he let his eyes note yet again every bruise, every laceration, every scrape and every inflammation daring to mar perfection to make sure that all were taken care of. He told himself that it was a good sign that Iolaus was resting so well and that there was no sign of a fever. His gaze lingered on a neatly bandaged right ankle and a fresh wave of anxiety made him shiver. That was a very badly swollen sprained ankle and Iolaus hadn't even moaned when he'd removed his boot from it. He hadn't winced or cried out either when Hercules had awkwardly tried single-handedly to bind his injured ribs. Nobody knew better than he just how stoic the hunter could be but this was carrying it a little too far.

Unable to stop fidgeting because of his concerns, Hercules reached to adjust the blanket and almost missed the nearly imperceptible flutter of shuttered eyelids. Almost. His joyous smile however was lost in the ensueing melee as Iolaus screamed, arms and legs flailing in the throes of sheer panic. Though caught a touch offguard, Hercules wasn't completely surprised by Iolaus's behaviour considering what was about to be done to him the last time he'd been conscious. As firmly yet as tenderly as was possible, he held his friend down, happily enduring the few wild, weak punches that actually landed until Iolaus finally fully woke up. Hercules couldn't help but laugh at the totally astonished expression on his best friend's face, "Well, that was some entrance, buddy. Welcome back!", he commented calmly, resisting the urge to do a happy dance. Afterall he didn't want Iolaus to have a relapse.

Two stunning azure eyes peered up at him, "You look... as bad as I feel!", the hunter replied with typical wry candour though his voice sounded painfully hoarse.

His own throat suddenly ached with enormous relief and emotion as Hercules countered, "It's good to see you, too, my friend." Iolaus raised his hand and the two friends exchanged a more meaningful than ever warrior's handshake.

Grinning impishly, the hunter then inquired, "So... what's for dinner?" People passing by the barn were bemused by the odd, disembodied sound of giggling and laughter coming from within. With mild shrugs or slight shakes of the head, they continued on, inexplicably smiling to themselves.

Go on to the next story in the challenge.

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