They Say You Faced the Minotaur?

by Nanaea

"They say you faced the Minotaur?"
The pretty wench did ask.
Iolaus' grin lit up the inn,
"It was an easy task!

You see, I learned these fight techniques
When I was in the East..."
He couldn't wait to demonstrate
The way he'd fought the beast.

But as Iolaus struck a pose
With hands like weapons raised,
A laughing shout rang loudly out:
"Iolaus! I'm a-MAZED!"

Iolaus turned, saw Hercules,
And gave a startled yelp.
With voice now strained, he then explained,
"I... had a little help."

The serving wench eyed Hercules.
"A *little* help?" she teased.
And with a smirk, she winked at Herc.
Iolaus wasn't pleased.

But then, far worse, a drunk yelled out:
"These godlike bulls, I hear,
Will have their way. Did this one say,
'Be mine, Europa, dear'?"

The whole inn laughed. Iolaus choked,
"What do you mean by that?"
The drunk's disdain was made quite plain--
Upon the floor he spat.

The blood drained from Iolaus' face;
The crowd still roared with glee.
Then Herc stepped forth and softly coughed,
"Iolaus, come with me."

Herc led him to a quiet seat,
Then ordered up more ale.
Iolaus' stare seemed far elsewhere;
His face was deathly pale.

"Iolaus," Hercules began,
"What happened in the maze?
You haven't been the same since then.
You're troubled now, these days."

Iolaus turned his face away.
Herc tried a different tack,
"The Minotaur will kill no more.
He's never coming back."

And then, Iolaus stammered, soft,
"Don't call it 'he.' I can--
I cannot bear-- It was, I swear,
More animal than man."

Iolaus' words then tumbled out,
"It bathed me in its slime,
Which made me weak-- I couldn't speak
Or get away in time..."

Iolaus shuddered now and clenched
His ale with trembling hand.
With some unease, now Hercules
Began to understand.

Iolaus' wounded eyes now turned
Upon his friend in pain.
"You asked me. Well, that's all to tell.
Don't ask me, please, again."

Herc nodded. For, to be a friend
Means knowing when to speak.
But more so, too, a friend who's true
Will know when *not* to speak.

Thus through strong bonds of friendship comes
A knowledge of such things--
And love that's dared, and pain that's shared,
And sorrow that it brings.

Just then, the serving wench returned;
Iolaus tensed with shame.
She took a seat, her voice was sweet:
"Ianae is my name.

They didn't mean to laugh at you;
They've had too much to drink.
Will you regale *me* with your tale?
You're very brave, I think.""

Iolaus shrugged, his smile forced.
"It's not so great a tale.
What did you say? You're Ianae?
May I buy you an ale?"

Iolaus caught his comrade's eye,
The message there was read.
"I do believe I'll take my leave,"
The Big Guy wisely said.

A parting grin told Hercules
Iolaus would be fine.
The darkest day may fade away;
The sun once more may shine.

But Herc knew well, there comes a time
When silence won't suffice--
When things we dread are left unsaid,
We pay a bitter price.

When that time came, Herc would be there--
For that's what friends are for.
Until the end, he'd help his friend
To face the Minotaur.

Go on to the next story in the challenge.


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