Blue. Blue, sharp eyes blazing down on him, locking their gaze with his own, trying to hold, to grip, where the strong arms were of no avail. That desperate gaze filled Iolaus' vision as he slid down through the dark soil. He felt his body falling faster and faster through the ground, but he couldn't make out how deep he was, where he was headed or how much further down the weird tunnel he was in continued. All his eyes could see was Hercules' disbelieving, desperate eyes, trying to hold Iolaus with the sheer power of will.
A sickening feeling descended on Iolaus, and he tightened his grip on those blue eyes. His fall became faster and faster, and Iolaus could see a bright, blinding light appearing down below him. The fall became even faster. Iolaus felt his body leaving the shelter of the tunnel's wall, and falling through thin air. Faster and faster he fell, further and further down.
*THUD*, a muffled sound of a body hitting the floor rang, and the world came swirling around Iolaus. Black.
Iolaus opened his eyes, and immediately shut them again. The blinding light shown around him, and he felt his body lying on a solid floor. Listening carefully , Iolaus searched for noises which would tell him where he was. He heard nothing. All his senses indicated that he was alone.
Iolaus slowly opened his eyes, allowing them to get used to the light. When his vision finally returned to him in its fullest, he started taking survey of his whereabouts.
He found himself in a small cavern, big enough to hold one man, and one man alone. A small lantern in the corner shown brightly, casting heavy shadows around the hunter. Iolaus rose to his feet, and a wave of dizziness came upon him. Swaying on his feet, he leaned against the wall of the cavern.
"So, it's going to be one of *those* days, I see." He mumbled.
He forced his stiff body to action. Slowly, reluctantly, his muscles obeyed him, and the blonde hunter began walking towards the opening of the little cavern. Still swaying, Iolaus reached the opening and stood, mouth wide open in shock.
A dim light dominated the huge hall which stood before his eyes. Nasty looking spikes emerged from the floor all over the place. The walls were covered with brown bumps, which seemed to Iolaus like cocoons.
"Wow! This place is ugly!!", Iolaus told himself, "I wouldn't be caught dead in a place like this!" He looked around, and a strange feeling of panic started to form in the bottom of his heart. "Dead. I can't be dead, can I??", he gazed around, searching for the noise of a flowing river. "Charon?? Hades?? Are you here??", he called. "Gods, I must sound like a stupid peasant. Okay. So, I'm not dead, and this is not the Other Side. But, then, where am I?? What other place can be *this* ugly??"
"The heart of some, and the mind of others," came a still voice from the other side of the hall.
Iolaus was taken by surprise. He did not expect anyone else to be here, and mentally kicked himself speaking out loud before making sure he was indeed alone.
"Who are you?? Where are you??" Iolaus called towards the voice.
"A friend, Iolaus, a friend," came the answer.
"How...how do you know my name??" Iolaus was startled.
"I know many things of many people."
Iolaus' warrior mind didn't like the evasive answers he was given, but he didn't seem to have much choice, and so, he went on, trying to find out as much as possible, before making any moves.
"Why don't you show yourself??", he asked.
"You wouldn't like that, noble Iolaus. My looks are hideous at best. The result of a wicked curse, set upon me by the most evil of Gods."
The Gods. Now, that was something Iolaus could relate to. He and Hercules had spent most of their lives fighting one or the other minion of Hercules' "step-monster", Hera.
"Which God??", he questioned.
"You're getting pesky, child." Came the voice. "One of the many which dominate the universe."
A red light began flashing in Iolaus' mind. The creature, whatever it was, was obviously hiding something. But the authoritative tone it used made it clear that the best thing to do right now was to play along. The time for heroism would come later.
"Why did you call me child?? I'm a grown man, a father."
"Yes, you are.", the voice answered, "but you are nothing but a child compared to my years. I am old, Iolaus. Over a hundred years old, I have seen many, and I have done much. You, my boy, are nothing but a child. So much yet to see. So much yet to do."
A feeling of unease wrapped Iolaus, and he fought to keep it from showing. "Why did you bring me here?? You call yourself a 'friend', but you do not tell me a thing about you. How would I know you're not fooling me??"
"Ah, child. You ask much of me. Very well, I shall answer. I'm not fooling you, noble Iolaus, you are far too valuable to me to loose you over foolishness such as that. Why are you here? I brought you here. A friend, yes. However, not yours. Noble Iolaus, I, am your worst nightmare."
he creature stepped into the dim light, and Iolaus could not help a soft intake of breath. He knew that the feeling aroused by the appearance of this...beast, reflected clearly in his face, and so, didn't try to fight or hide it.
The minotaur laughed. His laughter a pure echo of pure evil. Hate, rage and revenge fought over his features. "You're afraid, boy. Good."
Iolaus could finally regain his peace, or at least, peace enough to talk. "You said I was valuable. For what?? Why am I here??", his voice came out a hoarse whisper.
The beast laughed again. "I will make you an offer. One which you can not refuse." He reached out his hand. "See that hand, Noble Iolaus?? In it lies the faith of many, and of one. "
Iolaus stared at the creature, "I...I don't understand."
"It's quite simple, child." The minotaur smiled wickedly. "It all comes down to one word, one man."
Iolaus felt the name surging through his veins, but had to be certain, "Who??", he asked in a shaky voice.
"No!" Iolaus whispered, and raised his blue eyes to his captor. "You can't harm him, he's the son of a God."
"Ah, child, but so am I."
"What do you want with him?? And what have I got to do with it?"
The minotaur surveyed Iolaus from top to bottom. "I was put here, many years ago. I'm imprisoned, jailed. But every day here, makes me stronger. Every mortal I seize increases my power. I will break free, and when I do, I shall take my revenge. But, the time is not right yet. A few more things have to happen, occasions have to occur."
"How is that connected to Hercules??" Iolaus demanded.
"He stands in my way, as simple as that. I offer you, noble Iolaus, his life."
Iolaus knew he couldn't refuse that, not where Hercules was concerned. "Why would you offer me his life?? If you're so powerful, what would stop you from getting the both of us??"
"You misunderstood me, boy. I will not kill him. I will do much better than that. I will make his life a living hell. You don't understand. Very well, I'll explain. Hercules is a family man, he cherishes his family above all. Imagine how would he feel, when he finds out that his precious little family was slaughtered, and that it was your fault??"
"You wouldn't...you can't. He'll...it'll drive him..."
"Mad. Brilliant, isn't it?? With your betrayal and the lose of his family, Hercules will have nothing to live for. I offer you the choice. You have the power to save Hercules from the faith which awaits him."
Iolaus swallowed past a lump in his throat. "What do you want from me in return?"
"Your power, your strength, your will, your enthusiasm. The essence that is you. I could use the power of a man like you, more than I could use Hercules' suffering"
Iolaus knew that there was no way out. "How will I know you will keep your word?? How will I know you're telling the truth??"
The beast caught his gaze. "You won't. You'll have to take your chances. The choices are yours, noble Iolaus. You, or Hercules."
Iolaus held his gaze. "I accept. What am I to do?"
The minotaur gestured towards a large cocoon. "Step right in, child."
As the walls of the cocoon closed on him, the image of Hercules' pleading eyes floated before him again, filling his vision.
"I'm so sorry, Herc. I never meant to cause you any grief. You were my anchor in my time of need, my friend." He whispered, pronouncing the words more in his mind than by his lips. "I just couldn't let that thing do this to you, and your family. Hercules, forgive me. I wouldn't be able to face myself if I knew I could have saved them, saved you, but I chose my own worthless life."
The image swirled in front his face. Iolaus could only focus on his friend's sharp eyes. Hercules' gaze, "I'm so sorry Herc", pleading, desperate, trying to hold, to save. "Don't forget me, Hercules." Blue.
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