The light continued to pulsate through the windmill's rotating slats, each streak piercing his consciousness. Every time he closed his eyes for blessed relief, the guard prodded his sweat-glistened body with the end of the metal prod. Iolaus could feel himself slipping away a little more with each slash of the flashing light.
In the background, the guards joked and laughed, making bets on how long it would take before he would forget all that he was. Never. His vow formed into speech. "Never!" he screamed. The guards laughed more loudly.
Okay, Iolaus, he began. You can do this. You are stronger than this...this... The needles of light continued to pierce his brain; each one tumbling over all the preceding ones. You will beat this. He began to chant quietly with each slash of light, "I. Can. Do. This. I Can...I Can. Do This." The guards laughed at the guttural sounds, anxious to tell their leader of his newest convert's babbling.
The chanting helped him clear his mind of the outside stimuli. A deep breath calmed his soul. "I can," he whispered triumphantly.
He used the light to his own advantage. Each slash brought a new scene, a different image flashing before him. Flash. His life had been renewed. He had a friend. They were young then; nothing more than scrappy little boys -- he with his wild demeanor and crazy ideas; Hercules a shy, gangly lad growing far more quickly than his young years could handle. The bond was instantaneous...and everlasting. And so great that death could not sever it. Not even death.
Flash. Ania. A picture of beauty and grace. How she had sent him tumbling head over heels. Hercules simply had not been able to understand it. The impossibility of love. No...the impossibility of Iolaus in love. Forever...dear, sweet Ania. Until death do us part.
Flash. Deianeira. Hercules had learned the hard way how love creeps up on you - then knocks you down. The ecstasy...and the despair. He reminisced how the two of them managed to picked up the pieces in the aftermath of loss.
Flash. Monsters. Echidna, Typhon, dragons, the list was endless. Some were beaten; some were befriended. The one ever-present monster in both of their lives -- Hera -- was always out there, just waiting to throw someone else at them.
Kamaros was suddenly in his face -- from Hera? He didn't know. "You're babbling," the leader laughed. "Give it up. You will never win. You will be mine."
"Never," he whispered, the sweat pouring from his brow. "I will never...be yours."
Kamaros burst into another round of laughter; his guards following suit. "Oh, but you will. It may take minutes, maybe hours. It could even take days...but you will be mine."
Iolaus took a deep breath. He was hot; from the inside out. The room was stifling, but he was emanating heat from his entire being. Pain radiated from the dart wound in his neck. His wrists were raw from the manacles and sweat had soaked into the open wounds; the salt festering them further. His stomach rumbled from lack of nourishment, adding its own lament to his suffering.
Another shuddering breath escaped. "Control, Iolaus. Nice and easy. Bring it back." He reached inside himself once more, thinking back to the beginnings of his power.
Ania had been gone for several months; his son barely a toddler. Hercules was busy with his own young family and Iolaus had needed to get away...to come to grips with Ania's death. Unable to ask Hercules to accompany him, he had gone east on his own. There he had met Li Chan, who, next to Hercules, was the most peace-loving person he had ever met. But a man who was also one of the greatest fighters he had ever seen. From Li Chan he had learned his eastern fighting skills. He thought back to the night in the barn when he had boasted his prowess to Hercules. And lost. But Li Chan had taught him other, more valuable lessons. Lessons of patience, reflection, focusing. The same techniques he was now using.
Iolaus could hear Kamaros in the background, becoming more agitated. "It has been hours. He must break soon."
"Sire, he is weakening. The babbling is almost incessant. It will be soon."
"It had better be. If not, we will find a more permanent way to silence our new friend."
"As you wish, master."
Iolaus realized that time was running out. If he was to save the others, he must prepare himself for the rest of the plan. Plan B as Hercules so fondly put it. The plan you used when you were flying by the seat of your toga.
Kamaros came into view and his metal prod dug into Iolaus' cheekbone once more. The incessant light from behind the windmill flashed around him, putting the man's into shadow. The metal bruised the bone in his face.
"Who are you?" Kamaros barked, his breath hot against Iolaus' face.
Iolaus blinked, trying to keep from curling his nose in disgust. "I-I'm...I'm..." His eyes met Kamaros' cold ones and he smiled. "I'm one with the universe. I'm you're friend. Will you be mine?"
Kamaros blinked in surprise, then smiled in return. The gods were with him, after all. "Welcome, friend, to my beautiful city. Here, let me help you."
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