The Missings Scenes from "The Lost City" or Pain and Love in Shangri-La

by Melisande

Author's Note: This scenario is based on the supposition that the events of "The Lost City" took place immediately after the events of the Golden Hind arc of episodes. It is also based somewhat on my own story "Epilogue for Judgment Day". The reader is referred to those stories if there are questions here.)

Bright-dark-bright-dark-bright-dark-bright ... the whirling motes of light and shadow had begun to beat against Iolaus' forehead like a persistent tapping that kept getting stronger and stronger. At first, it had been easy to ignore, to watch the play of the spinning blades as an interesting pattern and nothing more. But it was not long before the constant change from dark to light became a physical force that first seemed to touch his forehead like tiny raindrops dripping gently, but ceaselessly in the same spot. Soon, the force grew and grew until it felt like hailstones striking him. The sensation spread over his forehead and down over his eyes, and beat just as strongly against his closed eyelids as it did when Kamaros or the guards forced him to reopen them.

"It's only light and darkness," he kept saying to himself, over and over. "How can light and darkness hurt me?" But this thought seemed to be failing him, as the constant motion and increasing force changed from a perception of tapping, to striking, to a fierce and constant pain that spread from the center of his forehead to his whole face. The drug that Kamaros had given him via the blowgun was also altering his perception of pain and his focus on reality. After being wakened the third time from the sleep his body craved as a defense mechanism, the pain began running down his back, over his arms, and down his legs.

He knew he needed another focus, to keep his concentration fixed away from the pain and the vulnerability. He reached for the strongest anchor he knew - his friendship with Hercules. But instead of finding solace and strength there, he could only see that tortured face of his friend just after the burial of his wife Serena four days ago. He could only hear his friend's anguished rejection of his offer of help and support. He could only feel the aching loss as he had turned away to continue to Thessela. Iolaus would have followed his friend to the ends of the Earth to help, but Hercules had refused him, saying he had to go away on his own.

And so Iolaus had gone, off to visit their old friend Lykos in Thessela. Detouring to visit his widowed aunt Delia in the village of Tyros, he had learned that her daughter, his little cousin Regina, had disappeared. Iolaus had assured his frantic aunt that he would find Regina, and that quest had brought him here to this lost city, to this chair of anguish and loneliness.

Since he and Hercules had first met as boys twenty-five years ago, he had never felt so alone. That aching emptiness yawned before him like a tomb.

Fighting that loneliness, he struggled in his bonds and tears spilled from his sapphire eyes. As though Hercules could somehow hear him, Iolaus whispered, "In all these years ... this is the first time ... It has to be this way? ... Hercules ... get back, please get back!"

And then, Kamaros began to speak.

"You're not enjoying yourself," his oily voice came out of the light. "From your babbling, I'd say you have an uncommon fear of death."

"The only thing I'm afraid of is turning into a creep like you," Iolaus spat.

"Oh, such spirit!" Kamaros mocked, leaning closer and thrusting the top of his staff into Iolaus' aching cheekbone. "Enjoy it while you can ... because in a few more hours, you won't even remember who you are."

Kamaros' hateful laughter blended with Iolaus' pain and brought the blond warrior to a pinnacle of anguish. He screamed his defiance and pain.

Kamaros laughed harder. "Good - you're about ready for the next step. Now - I rip your soul from your body and take it for my own."

Before Iolaus could reply, the remembered voice of the wise man who had taught him meditation and martial arts in his Eastern travels flooded his thoughts.

*Your enemy can take all else from you, but he cannot take your soul unless you place it into his hands.*

Iolaus said nothing, and closed his eyes, holding on to that thought with all his will. *Let Kamaros think me weak,* he thought, and remained silent.

When Kamaros' voice returned, it was gentle and a little sad. "Your life was a failure before you came here."

Iolaus kept silent, his eyes closed, his thought only on his mentor's teaching. He shook his head.

"Think again. Think of your family. Your mother and father. Were you a happy child?"

Iolaus kept silent, but a frown creased his forehead.

"You were never happy," Kamaros' voice sadly stated.

"No!" Iolaus could not stop the words. "Before my father left, I was happy all the --"

"But your father left ... why?"

"The wars. He --" Iolaus stopped himself. *Don't give it to him!*

"Wasn't it because of you? Because you weren't the son he wanted?"

"No! That's not true!" Iolaus held to his mantra, but his voice now was the quiet cry of a child left alone in the dark. "But we made it up. He told me he was wrong, he was sorry."

"But was he? Or was that a way for him to get what he wanted?"

Iolaus started to vehemently deny this idea, but suddenly the memory of his father marching gladly to the Elysian Fields unfolded before him, and his doubt grew.

*Was that why he apologized?* the doubt questioned. *Because it would get him into the Elysian Fields?*

"And you've never had many friends, have you?"

"There you're wrong, you bastard! I have many friends and comrades, many I grew up with and many met in battle."

"But none so strong as to be with you now. You're alone, aren't you?"

"NO! Never ... I can never be alone." * Or can I?* "Not when I have Hercules!"

"Hercules?" There was a sudden surprise and startlement in the heretofore calm and authoritative voice. "*The* Hercules? What do you mean?"

"Hercules is my best friend. We've been friends since we were little kids."

"Oh, I see." Iolaus felt a tiny thread of strength as the voice was silent a moment, and he was able to allow his thoughts travel through memory after memory of his friendship with the son of Zeus.

But his memories fled as the voice spoke again. "But if you're Hercules' best friend, surely you've been with him in some of his labors?"

"Of course I have!" Iolaus snapped. "We fought the Hydra together, and Greighis and Echidna --"

"But if you've helped Hercules in all those deeds, why hasn't anyone heard of you?"

The pain in his head and body throbbed as anguish coursed through him. The question, posed so reasonably and thoughtfully in the calm and knowing voice arrowed straight to his deepest and most often fought jealousy.

*Why ... why haven't they?*

"It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. The important thing is that we help people, and we do it together. He just happens to be the son of Zeus and have the strength of ten men. People tend to remember that. But we're best friends and fight back to back."

"If that's the case, where is he now?"

Another deep wave of pain swept over Iolaus, but this time it lodged unmoving in his heart. "He wouldn't come with me. He just buried his wife."

"And you left him?" the voice asked, with gentle accusation.

"NO! I - I didn't want to. He said he had to be alone ... to think things out. I wanted to go with him, wanted to help him but ..." his voice dropped to a whisper, " ... he pushed me away. He had already broken up our partnership to marry Serena. When I tried to help him in his grief, tried to be there for him, he said he had to do it alone."

"And so he left?"

Iolaus clamped his lips shut. *Your enemy cannot take your soul unless you give it away.* He heard his teacher's voice, but now it seemed so hard to believe. Was it the drug, the light, or seeing himself in the light of truth that made him feel so lost and alone?

"Then you are alone," the gentle, sympathetic voice mourned. "Your best friend rejected you. He turned away from your help."

The pain throbbed in Iolaus' head and in his heart. Again he saw Hercules' tortured face as they had spoken last, in the road above Serena's cairn. Again he felt the aching wrench of loss as their partnership, their friendship, all they had been together seemed to dissolve in the terrible desperation of that moment.

"He's gone. your friendship is over," the voice sighed with compassionate but reasonable insistence. "You must face it, Iolaus. You have no best friend."

"No," Iolaus whispered, his eyes closing against the tears, fighting the loss and emptiness. "Hercules!"

"Give up your struggle, Iolaus," the voice said, gently.

On the verge of allowing himself to surrender all that he was to that calm presence, Iolaus again heard his teacher's voice. In the clarity of that memory of truth, he perceived the oily film of lies on the calm surface of the voice he heard now.

"We have such peace here, such tranquillity. Join us." The voice ... *Kamaros -- yes, Kamaros, remember!* Iolaus thought, feeling a thread of light piercing the darkness of his anguish.

Again, with strengthening memory, he heard his teacher speak. *Against the enemy who tries to take your soul, meditation is your strongest weapon. Find a positive to combat your enemy's negative. Focus on it to the exclusion of all else.*

Kamaros' voice came again, tranquil but insistent, "You've seen the extent of your own loneliness, and you've seen our oneness. Join us, Iolaus."

For a moment the bliss of that tranquillity lured him, but then other memories woke.

*Oneness,* Iolaus thought. *Ania and I had it, briefly. But for most of my life, any oneness I've known has been with Hercules.*

As he focused on his oneness with Hercules, he perceived their friendship as a strong silver cord that stretched between them, binding their very souls together. That cord, though pulled and stretched and frayed and patched in places, was still strong and pulsing with the lifeblood of their friendship, despite the fact they were at this moment so far apart from each other.

Somehow, Iolaus knew that if he gave up his soul to Kamaros, he would lose Hercules forever. Though Hercules' rejection still gave him pain, Iolaus knew he could never willingly turn away from his friendship with the son of Zeus. *Our partnership may be broken, but I will never betray him again,* Iolaus' heart whispered.

He allowed first an expression of pain cross his face, then slowly opened his eyes and looked at Kamaros allowing all the intense emotions drain from his face, leaving a pleasant, vapid smile. In his heart and mind, however, he was holding on to that strong silver cord with all his might. *Hercules* his heart whispered.

"Oh, yes," Iolaus said sweetly, looking at Kamaros with what he hoped was an expression similar to that he had seen on "Brother Sal's" face. "Yes, I see now. Please, may I join you?"

Kamaros smiled a shark's smile, studying him through soulless, narrowed eyes. Iolaus had to fight to keep the overwhelming desire to punch the man's teeth in from showing on his face. "Yes, of course, Brother Iolaus. We've so looked forward to having you. We just want to be completely sure your conversion is complete." He made a signal to the Nubian guard, and suddenly the fan began to rotate faster than ever.

The throbbing pain rose to a blinding wave of anguish. Iolaus closed his eyes and his muscles contracted all over his body. Vaguely, over the roar of the fan blades, he heard his own voice screaming in agony. With all his will, with all his heart, with all his soul, he held tight to the strong silver cord of Hercules' love.

Suddenly, he realized the pain had passed its peak and was beginning to diminish. He held on, his breath coming in sobs, sweat pouring from his body, feeling blood running from the manacles that bound his wrists. Finally, the fan slowed to a stop, and Iolaus was able to relax, but still he kept his mental hold on Hercules' image, like a child clutching a corner of his father's cloak in sleep.

His eyes still closed, he held that image, hoping with all his heart that if the bond of his and Hercules' friendship was strong enough to get him through this torture, it would survive the breach they'd just suffered.

He managed to ease his face and eyes into an even more stuporous, pleasant blankness. Slowly he opened his eyes to find Kamaros' eyes studying him intently.

"And now, Brother Iolaus, how do you feel?"

Iolaus gazed at Kamaros with a sweet smile, as he thought longingly of getting his hands around the man's throat. "I feel like I'm floating in a sea of oneness and beauty," he said, in a light, high voice. "Everything is so beautiful, and I love you so much."

Kamaros nodded to the guards, laughing. "So it is! Brother Iolaus is one of us now, friends." Two men came to the chair and began to unfasten Iolaus' bonds. He fought hard not to show his relief when the incredibly painful headpiece came off, and the revolving fan and light ceased.

"Now, Brother Iolaus, you will see the beauty and the bounty that results from the decision you have made. Enjoy!" Kamaros rose and left the room, laughing and slapping his staff on his thigh.

As the two guards raised Iolaus from the chair, he found he could hardly walk, and the residual effects of the torture had left him weak and faint. He was too dazed, weak, and battered to be very anxious about what was next. The guards took him out of the torture room and down the hall. As they opened another door, they laughingly tossed him in, calling, "Enjoy, brother."

Iolaus tripped and fell into a soft nest of pillows. The sweet scents and delightful softness of the room were an incredible change from what had had just undergone.

"I should get up ... check the place out," he mumbled to himself. But the bed of pillows was *so* comfortable and it had been *so* long since he had been allowed to sleep ...

Iolaus woke an indeterminate time later to the pleasant but bewildering feeling of small hands stripping him of what was left of his clothes. Grabbing a pillow to place in a strategic spot, he awoke completely and looked around. A chorus of sighs and smiles greeted him.

Six or eight beautiful, scantily-clad women surrounded him, smiling in the vapid, unfocused manner of lotus-eaters.

"Greetings, brother Iolaus," a beautiful brunette said, stroking his face. "We are here to conduct the final step of your re-education."

"I see," Iolaus said, his voice cracking on the words. Clearing his throat and pitching his voice a bit deeper, he continued. "And exactly what does that mean, uh, Sister?"

A beautiful blonde who pillowed his head in her lap held a goblet of cold spring water to his lips. As he drank, she said, sweetly, invitingly,"It means we give you the ritual bath and the welcome ceremony -- and new clothes."

Iolaus finished drinking and smiled up at the blonde in thanks, at which she bent and kissed him. After a long moment, she ended the kiss. Iolaus took a deep breath.

"Bath?" Iolaus' voice was a bit steadier, but not by much. "And what is this ... uh ... welcome ceremony?"

A stunning redhead bent close to him and also kissed him lingeringly on the lips. "We give you ... refreshment ... and each of us introduces you to the oneness of the community," she whispered against his lips.

"Each of you?" he whispered back, swallowing convulsively, his blue eyes widening as he stared into her moss-green eyes.

"As many as are needed," she replied. She held out her hand, and showed him one of the teardrop shaped jewels he had seen worn on members' foreheads. "And your oneness is symbolized by the jewels each of us will give you."

"Oh, *that's* what those mean," he said. " Ah, praise be to the wisdom of Lorel, and Kamaros!" *The old carrot and the stick routine, eh, Kamaros?* his thoughts raced. * I've had the stick, so if that doesn't quite do it, the carrot does?*

She sat back up, and the women helped him to stand and supported him as they walked him toward a steaming sunken bath. *Responsibility first, Iolaus,* his conscience nudged, *While you're still capable of rational thought.* "Uh, just a minute, Sisters," he said,"Before we begin, I need to know about my friends, if any of you have seen them. Sister Aurora, and Sister Regina, and Miriyah, the woman that I arrived with. I ... um .... worry for their presence in the light of Lorel."

"I know Sister Aurora," replied a beautiful Nubian woman. "I saw her just before I came here."

"Yes, she was with Sister Regina, and the stranger woman," said an auburn-haired beauty.

"Good," Iolaus said, relieved. "May the joy of Lorel be theirs."

As Iolaus sunk into the perfumed bath and several pairs of willing, gentle hands began bathing him with evident delight, he still held on to that strong cord of Hercules' friendship.

*If I can remember you, Herc, and remember Kamaros' "stick", surely I can enjoy the "carrot" for a while,* he thought to his image of his sometimes "goody-two-sandals" friend. *There's plenty of time to rescue everyone.* He smiled up at his thorough, dedicated "welcome commitee", and sighed one of those "What's a hero to do?" kind of sighs.

*And, besides, Herc, you know how I like carrots!*

-- The End --

Go on to the next story in the challenge.

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