In the Swim of Things

by Keesha

She arrived in a blinding flash of fluorescent pink shooting stars and gaudy sparkles. Momentarily glancing up from the musty tome she was reading, Athena peered over the top of the reading glasses perched on her petite nose. “And whom are you trying to impress sister dear?” she inquired dryly.

“Like it? Isn’t it like totally rad?” Aphrodite bubbled.

“Why even bother?” Artemis grunted in as she continued to hone the edge of her bejeweled sword. “Who are you trying to impress? A bunch of mortals?” she snorted. “Plus, how to you ever expect to sneak up on something or someone with such an attention getting entrance?”

“Who wants to sneak up on anything? I prefer the direct, frontal approach,” the Goddess of Love retorted striking a suggestive pose.

“We noticed,” her sisters replied glancing meaningfully at Aphrodite’s ‘frontal assets’.

“Like I always say, if you got it, flaunt it,” Aphrodite added not missing a beat.

Artemis and Athena shook their heads sadly at their sister and went back to their respective tasks.

“So baberettes. What are we doing today?” Aphrodite asked her sisters as she tossed her long, wavy blonde hair over her shoulder.

“I think that is rather obvious,” Athena replied matter-of-factually. “I am reading my book, Artemis is sharpening her sword and YOU are bothering us.”

“Boring. I mean what are we going to do for fun?” the Goddess of Love asked twirling in her skirt to see how high up it would fly--- and what it might revel.

“I am having fun,” Athena said as she went back to reading her age-stained tome.

Artemis laid her sword to one side, thoughtfully. “Well, she is right. This is a trifle boring. What did you have in mind sister?”

“For goodness sake’s Artemis. Don’t encourage her or the next thing you know we’ll be involved in one of her hair brain schemes!”

Aphrodite ignored her bookworm sister and focused on her athletic kin. “You know, Zeus went through the trouble to create all these mortal play toys for us. I think we owe it to Daddy dear to take an interest in them once in a while, and I know just the mortal we should take interest in.”

“Let me guess,” Athena said raising her head from her book again. “That poor short mortal you are always tormenting. Ickery? Eoler? Eeroye?”

“Iolaus,” Artemis supplied. “And he is not HER mortal. He is under my protection.”

“Not to hear Hermes talk,” Athena shot back.

“Well Hermes can just---“ Artemis started.

“Sisters, sisters. Let’s not argue over who Sweetcheeks belongs to,” Aphrodite cooed. “Besides, he belongs to me,” she added under her breath.

“What?” they cried in unison.

“I simply said, lets not fight over a mere mortal. Let’s go play with him,” she replied smiling sweetly. “It is such a nice day, we’ll have him take us on a picnic.”

“Well, I suppose I could sit in the shade of a nice tree with a cool glass of lemonade and finish my book,” Athena mused.

“And I am a little hot after sharpening this sword. A swim would feel good.”

“Perfect. We’ll have Curly take us on a picnic to a lake surrounded by nice big shady trees,” Aphrodite said clapping her hands together in glee.

“I guess,” Artemis agreed standing and stretching her finely tuned athletic body.

“I suppose so,” Athena also agreed closing her tome and putting her reading glasses away.

“Good. It’s settled. Off we go,” and the three sisters disappeared in one gaudy and two sedate flashes of light.

Iolaus whistled as a distraction while he went about his tasks on the farm. Farming was not his favorite thing in the world, but he did like to eat and that meant raising at least a few crops--- or attempting to at any rate.

He scowled down at his corn in frustration and ceased whistling. It wasn’t fair. Other people’s corn was as high as an elephant’s eye. His barely reached his knees. The blonde hunter had tried fertilizers, giving it extra water, hand planting each individual seed, placing dead fish heads at the base of the seedlings, everything that other people said they did to get great corn. However, the only thing he got was a backache, smelly hands and shrimpy corn. It really wasn’t fair.

Suddenly a flash of light surrounded him. ‘Great,’ he thought. ‘Now my poor corn crop is going to get pummeled by some freak storm,” he thought as he threw his hoe on the hard-packed earth. ‘Why do I even bother?’

Iolaus did not know whether to be relieved or alarmed when he discovered the light show was not caused by nature, per say, but by the arrival of three lovely Goddesses.

Aphrodite flounced over and flashed the weary would-be farmer one of her mega-watt smiles. “Hi-ya Sweetcheeks. Surprised to see us?”

“You could say that,” Iolaus replied cautiously wondering where this was going. Three Goddess’ attention focused on him was not comforting, especially these three. He remembered what happened the last time that these three had paid attention to him; it had nearly caused a war between two kingdoms.

“We elected you as the lucky mortal who gets to take us on a picnic,” the Goddess of Love pronounced.

Out of the blue, a picnic basket, umbrella, chairs and blanket appeared on the ground surrounding Iolaus. He suspiciously eyed the burdens with an inward groan. “Wouldn’t it just be easier to get a mule to haul all this stuff for you instead of me?”

“Well, while you and the mule do have some common traits---“

“Hey,” Iolaus cried indignantly.

“--- we think you would be a tad but more fun to have around than the mule. Though, I once knew a man who taught his mule to---“

“Enough Aphrodite,” Athena broke in. “If we are having a picnic, lets get going.”

“Right you are and I know the perfect place,” the blonde bombshell replied.

Before Iolaus could draw a breath to protest further, he found himself, the Goddesses, and all the picnic supplies whisked away to a new locale. He reached out a hand to steady himself on a nearby tree, his head still spinning from his brief magical journey. By the time he got his equilibrium back, the three Goddesses had moved across the field towards the edge of the lake.

“Come on Curly. Don’t dawdle. Be a dear and grab that gear,” Aphrodite instructed with a little laugh at her rhyme.

Iolaus didn’t know what to do. Somehow he thought the idea of refusing to comply with the wishes of the three Goddesses would not be particularly good for his health. He shrugged his broad shoulders. Heck, if they wanted to go on a picnic, he would oblige though he did grumble as he gathered up the picnic equipment and stumbled in the wake of the three sisters. ‘Sheesh. If they could transport the equipment this far, why not another waggle of their fingers and transport it to the edge of the lake,’ he muttered to himself. He struggled as he valiantly hauled all the supplies down to the grass by the lake where the three sisters stood waiting for him impatiently.

“Spread the blanket there, the chairs there, and the umbrella in the corner,” Aphrodite ordered with a wave of her well coiffure hand.

“Hee haw,” Iolaus mumbled.

“What was that?” Aphrodite asked, her eyes narrowing suspiciously at Iolaus.

“What your little mortal friend was referring to was his earlier comment about being used as a mule,” Athena surmised--- correctly based on the look Iolaus threw her.

“That could be arranged,” the Goddess of the Hunt added slyly. “I seem to recall you were a deer once, maybe a mule would be---“

Iolaus threw his hands up in the air and hurried about his assigned tasks. “I’m working. I’m working. See me work? See how nice and smooth the blanket is and look, I’m removing the twigs and pebbles underneath so they won’t be bothersome to your divine derrieres.”

Aphrodite placed her hands on her slender hips and turned her gaze to the lake. In the middle of the serene blue waters was a small lush island. Along the edge of the island, grew some very beautiful water lilies.

“Hey Sweetcheeks. Swim over there and pick some of those flowers would ya? They would make a smashing center piece.”

Iolaus nervously looked at the island, trying to judge the depth of the water. “Ah, why not just pop me over there, I’ll pick them and then you can pop me back.”

“What do I look like to you, a taxi? Be a good mortal and swim over there and pick those flowers,” the Goddess of Love insisted with a dangerous gleam coming into her eye.

Iolaus eyed the island again and then the lovely Goddess. “Aphrodite, it’s not like I don’t WANT to get them for you. I would be happy to do it, especially for you. It’s just, ah, that well, you know, just before you guys arrived I ate a big lunch and ah--- you know what they say about swimming after a big meal. You are not suppose to---“

Iolaus thought he might get away with his fabrication except his stomach let out a mighty roar that clearly indicated it had not been fed in a while. The blonde hunter looked sheepishly at his traitor stomach then up at Aphrodite who was looking none to amused. “Ah, I am a fast digester I guess.”

Aphrodite crossed her shapely arms and started tapping her foot impatiently. “Flowers?!” she demanded.

Iolaus eyed the water, the island, and the impatient Goddess. “Fine, alright, I’ll come clean. I can’t get your flowers. As much as I would love to swim over there and pick those flowers for you, I can’t do it. I can’t swim. Ok, there, you happy?”

“One of my mortals can not swim?” Artemis echoed incredulously. “Somehow that seems very unsuitable. All my mortals are great athletes on land and in the water.”

Iolaus shrugged. He wasn’t real thrilled with the fact that he could not swim. His lack of ability had caused problems in the past.

Athena eyed the well-built warrior. “It does seem rather odd that someone of your physical strength and dexterity can not swim.”

“Well then it is settled,” Aphrodite said. The other two Goddesses nodded their heads in agreement

“Excuse me, what is settled?” Iolaus asked clueless as to what was just decided.

“Well, like duh, that we have to teach you how to swim.”

Iolaus started to back away from the three sisters. “No really, that’s OK. I wouldn’t want to trouble you nice ladies. I don’t need to know how to swim, really--- really I don’t. But protest as he may, Iolaus knew that it was already settled with the Olympian crew.

“It’s settled,” Artemis stated. “As the most athletic of us, it’s logical,” she emphasized glaring at Athena, “that I am the one who teaches Iolaus the fundamentals of swimming.”

“Fine,” Aphrodite pouted as she slung herself into one of the chairs. “Go ahead.” Athena shrugged her shoulders as if she didn’t care and sat next to her sister.

Artemis walked over to where Iolaus stood, nervously fidgeting. “Relax. Swimming is very easy, especially for a talented athlete like yourself.”

Iolaus beamed at her compliment. ‘Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad after all,’ he thought.

“There are two key body areas involved in swimming. Your legs and your arms. If you learn the proper movement for those appendages, then the rest will fall into place naturally. Arms first. Let me demonstrate.” Artemis proceeded to move her arms through the air in the classic freestyle stroke.

Aphrodite started to giggle but a quick glare from the Goddess of the Hunt made her lapse back into a huffy silence.

“See Iolaus. This will be a very easy movement for someone as superbly coordinated as you,” Artemis buttered.

Iolaus beamed a little brighter.

Artemis continued to stroke his ego with flattery, while showing him the stroke. “Now you try.”

Iolaus proceeded to mimic the arm motions that Artemis had shown him. The Goddess moved around behind him. Leaning against his muscular back, she reached her arms around his tanned torso. “More like this,” she whispered in his ear as she gently repositioned his arms. “Exactly. Much better. See, doesn’t that feel right?”

Iolaus didn’t trust his voice, so he merely nodded his head in agreement. Yes, this position felt right--- very right. Artemis might be Goddess of the Hunt, but she was also a woman--- very much a woman. ‘Yes,’ Iolaus thought as he sighed in bliss, ‘this certainly does feel right.’

To soon for Iolaus’ taste, Artemis released his arms and repositioned herself in front of him again. “Now for the next step, the legs.” The athletic Goddess gracefully dropped to the ground. After lifting her hips slightly off the velveteen grass, she stretched her well-formed legs out in front of her.

“This is called the butterfly kick. Watch.” Artemis slightly flexed her knees, pointed her toes and proceeded to flutter her legs in the air. “See? Like this.”

Iolaus could see, oh yes, he could see quite well from his angle. He didn’t know why she called it the “butterfly kick”, well except for the fact that it caused a strange sensation in his lower region--- like butterflies in his stomach, but more pleasant.

“Are you getting this?” Artemis inquired.

Iolaus mutely nodded his head, wondering if he were drooling. Yes he was certainly getting--- something.

“Good,” the Goddess said leaping to her feet. “Now you try.”

Iolaus dropped to the ground and managed to do a fair imitation of the kick.

Artemis smiled over her shoulder smugly at her sisters. “You’ve got it my brave hunter. Perfect. You look splendid. Next step, into the water,” she exclaimed.

Iolaus climbed to his feet and followed the Huntress down to the water’s edge. A casual observer might say Iolaus tagged along behind the Goddess like a lovesick puppy. Artemis stopped at the lake’s edge. “In you go,” she motioned to the blonde.

Iolaus obediently waded into the water.

“Keep going, deeper my handsome hunter,” she encouraged.

When the icy lake’s waters rose above his crotch, Iolaus started to have a reality check. He halted his forward progress into the lake and turned to look back at the Goddess.

“You arms, start moving your arms like I showed you.”

Feeling stupid, but not knowing what else to do, Iolaus complied and started moving his arms.

“Excellent Iolaus,” Artemis crooned. “Now walk further into the lake. When the water gets above your chin start kicking your legs and you’ll be swimming.”

Iolaus hesitated.

Artemis switched from charming to commanding. “Go on. NOW!”

With a definite feeling of uneasy, but unwilling to tick off the Huntress, the blonde warrior continued to wade into the ever-deepening water.

“Your arms, your arms, move your arms,” the Goddess yelled.

Iolaus started windmilling his arms again, splashing them through the water as the cold liquid rose to his meet his breastbone. As the water converged on his chin, Artemis shouted, “Legs, add the legs. Kick, kick.” The last thing Iolaus heard as his ears, eyes and nose sunk below the water was the athletic Goddess shouting “Harder, harder.”

He was kicking his legs as hard as he could and moving his arms but somehow it was a) a lot harder to do in the water than on land; b) much more difficult to do simultaneously; c) certainly not as much fun as when he watched Artemis do it; and d) not working. Shortly, his mop of blond hair completely disappeared under the water.

“Artemis,” Athena queried. “Don’t you think you should do something?”

“Give him a minute. He’ll pop to the surface soon and then you’ll see, he’ll be swimming.”

Athena shrugged and settled back in her chair. It was no skin off her teeth if the mortal drowned.

Another minute passed. Artemis started pacing along the shore.

“Arty, it would be a major downer if he really did drown,” Aphrodite observed as she examined her nail polish.

The Goddess of the Hunt stared at the water. Where was that pesky man? He really should have rose to the surface by now. After all, she taught him properly. There was no doubt in her mind that he was somehow deliberately thwarting her. Finally, she spotted a little ripple, which grew bigger and bigger as it approached the shore. A bedraggled, sputtering, thoroughly sodden and miserable looking Iolaus dragged himself limply out of the water. As he lay retching and gasping on the grass, Artemis integrated him.

“What happened? Why didn’t you swim like I taught you?”

“It didn’t work,” he gasped between watery, heaving breaths.

“What do you mean it didn’t work. I taught you properly. It should have worked fine. Obviously, you did not try hard enough,” Artemis replied haughtily.

“I tried,” the hunter sputtered.

“Not hard enough, you didn’t. Otherwise you would have succeeded.”

“Right,” he muttered under his breath. “Like I wanted to drown in that lake.”

“What?”

“Nothing Artemis,” Iolaus said as he slowly sat up. “It’s me. It’s all my fault. I just can’t swim.”

“Of course you can,” a new voice added as Athena moved over and joined the Goddess and the drown rat. “Artemis meant well with her--- instructions, but she neglected the most important part of the learning process.”

“Oh,” Artemis said archly. “Did I now? I showed him exactly how to swim.”

“Yes you did dear sister, but there in lies the problem. You taught him the ‘physical’ aspects of swimming but you disregarded the theoretical portion of the learning process. Without the theory behind swimming, how did you ever expect him to succeed?”

“Fine miss smarty-pants. Lets see YOU teach him to swim,” Artemis challenged Athena.

“Certainly. Knowledge will triumph over brawn every time.”

Iolaus sat on the ground staring up at the two Goddesses as they debated. He wondered if they would notice if he tried to crawl away. As if she had read his mind, Athena addressed him. “Stay right where you are. “ Iolaus gave up his escape plans and sat mutely waiting for the next torture session to begin.

“If you will excuse us,” Athena said as she brushed past her sister moving to Iolaus’ side.

“Oh by all means. He is all yours. Good luck. I’ll just sit over there and watch your masterful lessons,” Artemis said sarcastically as she moved to occupy the empty chair next to Aphrodite. Aphrodite merely smiled sweetly at her sister as she sat down. ‘Yes, ‘ Aphrodite thought, ‘this was turning out to be an entertaining afternoon.’

Iolaus, still looking like a drown rat, glanced warily up at Athena wondering what she had in store for him.

“Now Iolaus. Before one can hope to learn a subject, one must be in the appropriate surroundings with the proper frame of mind. A wooden desk, chair, and chalk easel magically appeared on the grass. Athena’s outfit changed to a long black robe, mortarboard hat and a pointer appeared in her hand. “Please take your seat.”

The warrior warily rose from the ground, shuffled over to the wooden desk and plopped down in the chair with a slight squishing noise.

“Sit up straight please,” Athena instructed in her schoolteacher's voice. Iolaus shrugged and complied.

“Another key aspect to the educational process is placing yourself in the correct state of mind to integrate the materials into your short term memory where eventually it will make it’s way down the neural pathways of your mind to the long term storage receptacles.”

Iolaus did his ‘deer caught in the headlights’ impression and blinked stupidly at her totally confused.

Athena sighed. This wasn’t going to be easy. “Do you want to learn how to swim? “ she asked him patiently as if he were a child of five.

Iolaus shook his head yes, even though his mind was saying not really.

“Iolaus, son of Skouros, that is not how we respond to a question. The proper manner is to say “Yes, Ma’am. Now let’s try that again. Iolaus, do you want to learn how to swim?”

“Yes Ma'am,” he replied in rote.

“Much better. Now let us begin. First, some physics I think. The concept of aerodynamics is important in that the fundamental understanding of how a body at rest, if set in motion will ---“

Iolaus tried, he really tried to pay attention but Athena lost him with her first sentence, and it went downhill from there. As Athena droned on and on, the wooden chair got harder and harder and the hunter started squirming in his seat.

Athena turned from her chalkboard and the complicated diagram she was drawing to glare at the fidgety hunter. “Please, sit still and pay attention.”

Iolaus stopped his gyrations, sat up straight again, and put what he hoped was an academically interested look on his face.

Satisfied, the Goddess of Wisdom resumed her lecture. “As I was saying, as you can see by this diagram---“

The weary warrior lasted approximately three minutes before he felt his eyes slowly closing and his head sinking towards the desk’s top. He caught himself just as his forehead was about to make contact with the wood. He jerked his head up. ‘Stay awake, stay awake,’ he warned himself.

He managed to sit up straight again and feign interest seconds before Athena turned to check on her pupil. Finding her student in the proper position with what appeared to be the proper attitude, the Goddess resumed her lesson.

As soon as the teacher’s back was turned, Iolaus started to slump in his chair again. He shook his head a number of times trying to clear it and stay awake, but nothing was working. On and on she droned. Iolaus propped his head up on his hands while unfocused eyes stared at the chalkboard. All the letters, numbers and figures started to swirl in front of his pupils forming random patterns that made him dizzy. His elbows slowly slid across the desktop and his forehead once again sagged towards the wooden desktop, finally coming to rest with a quiet thud on the scarred surface.

Athena did not notice and she moved on to the various types of swimming strokes and the meticulously explained each one. As she wrote them on the board and said “Repeat after me. Free style.”

“Free style,” Iolaus muttered from the desktop.

“Clearly enunciate your words please,” Athena reprimanded.

“Free style,” Iolaus repeated in a clear tone while his head rested on the desk. ‘Oh please, won’t someone free me from this torture,’ he thought to himself.

“Back stroke.”

“Back stroke,” the hunter dutifully echoed. ‘I wish someone would send me back, back home,’ he thought.

“Butterfly.”

‘Boy I wish I could fly away from here,’ is what he thought though he replied “Butterfly” out-loud.

“Breast stroke.”

“Please, yes, I’d like that very much,” Iolaus muttered aloud.

Athena spun around and looked at her charge. She was dismayed to find him sprawled in the chair, head on the desk and eyes closed.

“IOLAUS!”

Her loud strident tone caused Iolaus to start so bad that he knocked the desk, the chair and himself over onto the ground. The Goddess stood above him, glaring, clearly not amused.

Iolaus sheepishly righted the desk and chair and crawled back into it. Athena stood there tapping her foot in the grass. Iolaus sat up a little straighter. “Are you quite through with your antics?” she inquired archly.

“Yes--- Ma’am.”

“Very well,” she said as she turned back to the chalkboard.

An eternity later she finally concluded her lecture. With a little flourish she drew the last arrow on the board and turned expectantly towards her student--- who was fast asleep at his desk. A little snore rose from his well-formed lips.

“IOLAUS!”

The hunter’s head shot up. “Free style, back stroke, butterfly, breast stroke,” he shot back.

Athena looked at her pupil with doubt wondering if anything she had tried to teach him in the last three hours had sunk in. Well, time would be the test and there was no time like the present to take the next step. “That concludes the theory portion of my instruction. Now to the water.”

Iolaus got up from the desk, stretched his aching muscles and trailed along after the Goddess of Wisdom. She led him down to the water’s edge. “Iolaus,” she said, turning to face her pupil. “I want you to go into the water and apply what I just taught you.”

‘She’s joking,’ Iolaus thought to himself. “She expects me to somehow translate those words, diagrams and squiggles she drew on the board into swimming?’

“Athena, I don’t think---“

“You were paying attention to my lecture, weren’t you? I didn’t bore you did I? I was clear wasn’t? Surely even you are capable of understanding the clear and concise materials I presented,” the Goddess shot back in a voice that left no room for doubt.

“Well of course I did, well, yeah, kind of, well---,” the hunters voice trailed off to a whisper.

“Good, then into the water you go.”

Iolaus looked over his shoulder forlornly, hoping one of the other Goddess would intervene in his behalf. Aphrodite fussed with her hair, refusing to even acknowledge his desperate optical plea.

Artemis was even worse. She said in a sarcastic voice, “Yes Iolaus. Into the water and demonstrate how WELL my sister has prepared you to swim.”

The hunter cringed. No help from that quarter. In fact he thought Artemis would like to see him drown just to make a point.

“Iolaus,” Athena inquired, her voice causing nasty shivers to run up his spine. “Are you getting into the water dear?”

Having no further recourse, and not willing to anger the Goddess, he hesitantly took a few steps into the lake.

“Good boy. Keep going. Remember what I taught you,” Athena encouraged.

‘How do I get myself into these messes?’ he thought as he waded deeper into the lake. ‘This morning I was working in my garden and all the sudden, bam, I am being forced to repeatedly drown myself in a lake for the amusement of three bored Goddess.’

“Start swimming,” Athena yelled at the receding blond curls.

‘If I had any clue what to do, don’t you think I would do it?’ Iolaus replied--- but only to himself. He made some arm motions that he hoped Athena would translate as swimming even though his legs were still on the lake’s sandy bottom. He bent his upper body forward, hoping to give the illusion that he was indeed swimming. ‘Hey, maybe I can fool them,’ he thought insidiously. “Look, look. I’m doing it. I’m swimming,” he cheerfully called back to the three Goddesses on the shore.

“He not swimming you know. His feet are still on the bottom,” Artemis pointed out to her smart sister.

“I can see that, thank you,” Athena snippety replied. “And I’ll take care of it too.”

Suddenly, the comforting sandy bottom of the serene lake disappeared from under his tootsies. ‘Oh no, here we go again,’ Iolaus thought as his head sunk below the water’s surface.

As with last time, the three Goddesses waited for the warrior to rise to the surface and swim, and the same as last time, he did not appear.

“I would say, sister dear, that your theoretical swimming lessons was no more a success than my physical one,” Artemis taunted.

“Well, look at the material I had to work with,” Athena complained. “He might be good-looking but I don’t thing he is the brightest horse in the stable. “

“Excuses, excuses---“

“Sisters,” Aphrodite broke in. “Don’t you think someone ought to fish him out of the lake?”

“Well don’t look at me,” Artemis started. “It wasn’t my teaching methods which caused him to drown.”

“What do you mean! You did no better than me,” Athena replied hotly and the two sisters started arguing. Aphrodite got so engrossed in watching her sister verbal sparring that she completely forgot about Iolaus. Not one of the Goddesses noticed when, once again, the bedraggled man crawled from the lake and lay gasping on the shore.

As awareness came back to Iolaus, he realized that the Goddesses had temporarily forgotten about him and decided it was a good time to try to make an escape. Very quietly, he climbed to his feet and started to sneak away into the forest. He allowed himself a little self-satisfied smile when he reached the tree line. He was going to make it. He took a quick look over his shoulder and smacked straight into the front of Aphrodite.

“Going somewhere curly?”

Iolaus’ head spun around so quickly he nearly gave himself whiplash. ‘How did you--- I mean a second ago you were--- guess it is a Goddess thing,’ he grumbled under his breath.

“You do realize it is my turn now,” Aphrodite purred. “Come along.”

Iolaus dejectedly trailed along after the long-legged Goddess of Love as she head back towards the lake.

Artemis and Athena had ceased arguing and moved to sit in the chairs. Turning to Athena, Artemis asked, “You don’t really expect her to succeed do you?”

Athena gave a nasty little laugh. “As our dear sister would say, ‘Get real.’”

Aphrodite surveyed Iolaus who was looking none too happy. “Cheer up Sweetcheeks. Have I ever steered you wrong in the past?”

Iolaus started to open his mouth and reply in the affirmative then quickly snapped it shut. She wouldn’t believe him anyway.

“The problem is,” the vision of pink fluff said raising her voice so her sisters would be sure to hear her, “is you have been taught the physical and theoretical aspects of swimming, BUT, both my sisters forgot the most important part. The incentive. The motivation. It has been my observation that mortals require this important item to do a job well.”

Athena and Artemis were laughing so hard at the thought that their scattered brain sister actually had “studied” the human psyche that they nearly fell out of their chairs. “Gee Aphrodite, we didn’t think your ‘observations’ of mortals ever made it above the waist,” Artemis suggested rudely.

Aphrodite stamped her pretty little pink clad foot. “I am working here, do you mind?”

Artemis and Athena tried to stifle their laughter, but occasionally a giggle still emerged.

Aphrodite ignored her sisters and turned her full attention and considerable charm on the blonde hunter. “Now Iolaus. Originally, I did ask you to go pick some flowers for little old me. That SHOULD have been enough incentive for you, but it appears it was not--- though I can’t imagine why,” she sighed prettily. “Anyway, it would seem you need to be more motivated. In my observations of you and Herc’s adventures, it seems what really gets you going is a damsel in distress, especially a pretty one.”

Suddenly, distinctly feminine screams rose from the little island in the middle of the lake and as Aphrodite predicted, Iolaus’ head immediately rotated in that direction.

On the island was the most gorgeous female the warrior had ever seen. “Please! Please! Someone help me!” she shrieked. Without even thinking, Iolaus ran towards the lake’s edge at full speed and into the water. Aphrodite took a moment to smile triumphantly at her sisters. However, when she turned back to the lake there were no signs of a swimming Iolaus. In fact, there were not signs of Iolaus at all. After a few seconds she notice an odd phenomena. There appeared to be the tip of a reed that was moving, slowly but steadily towards the island.

By now, Iolaus had become very familiar with this particular lake and he had discovered it was not all that deep. The depth was such that it was over his head, but not that much so. So, when he entered the waters this time, he snagged one of the hollow reeds that grew along the lake’s edge. Using this as a breathing device, he basically walked his way across the bottom of the lake.

“You’re right Aphrodite,” Athena teased her sister. “Mortals do have great motivation. They also have great innovation.”

Aphrodite watched as the golden hunter emerged successfully on the island. “Well at least I got him to the island. It was more than you two accomplished.”

“But that wasn’t the object, sister dear,” Artemis argued. “The object was to teach Iolaus to swim and you failed just like we did.”

“Well, I think I should still get partial credit because he did get to the island!”

“No way, Jose. That is like saying you won an archery contest by using a sword. It is not the same thing,” Artemis shot back.

“You are just a sore losers. You always have been,” Aphrodite replied and the three sisters got into an animated argument, totally ignoring Iolaus and the now quiet female on the island. After a few minutes Athena declared she had had enough of her sisters and disappeared in a flash, closely followed by Artemis.

“Sore losers,” Aphrodite yelled after her departing sisters. Aphrodite surveyed the area. “This is like so not happening, I’m out of here,” and she too disappeared in a flash of light.

Iolaus did not even notice the departure of the Goddesses. He was too focused on the rescuing of the female.

“Are you hurt? What is the matter? How can I save you? Why are you screaming,” he babbled at the vision of loveliness.

The buxom brunette stopped shrieking, blushed prettily and stared ashamedly at the ground. “There is really nothing wrong,” she said in a low husk voice. “I was only screaming and pretending to need saving.”

“But why would you do--- oh,” Iolaus said as the vision of the mule’s cousin, the jackass, flashed through his mind. “The swimming contest.” Turning around, the hunter scanned the lakeshore for his three nemeses only to find out they had disappeared. “Guess they finally got bored.”

Iolaus directed his attentions back on the lovely woman. “I’m Iolaus,” he offered.

“Anemone. I am truly sorry Iolaus. But I owed Aphrodite a favor so when she came and told me I had to do this, I couldn’t say no,” she said in an apologetic tone.

“Believe me Anemone. If anyone understands Aphrodite’s powers of persuasion it is me. I am just glad you are OK.”

The two stood awkwardly staring at each other. “I guess we should, ah, get off this island,” Iolaus finally said as he glanced around the small piece of land.

“Yes, that does seem like a good idea,” Anemone concurred.

“Can you swim?” Iolaus inquired.

Anemone gave a quick laugh. “Oh yes, very much so,” she said as she waded into the water. Anemone quickly disappeared underwater only to poke her head up a few 100 feet away in the lake.

Iolaus grabbed his reed-breathing device and waded in after her. ‘Boy she swims fast,” Iolaus thought as he started his trek across the lake’s bottom again. Just before he was completely submerged he saw Anemone’s head pop up further down the lake. ‘Real fast. Maybe she can teach me how to swim.’

Iolaus was about half way across the lake’s bed when something large brushed past him. As it went by, it stirred up the sediment on the bottom and made the water murky. His heart started beating faster in his chest. What if it was a sea monster or in this case a lake monster? He hadn’t considered that. And what about Anemone? What if it was a woman-eating monster?

The unidentified object brushed past the hunter again. It circled around and around him.

‘Well, at least if the monster is plaguing me, it is not attacking Anemone,’ he thought gratefully as he continued to trudge onward. He never got a good glance at the monster and soon the water started receding, it disappeared. When his head cleared the lake’s surface he spotted Anemone sitting on the shore.

“Boy, am I glad to see you are OK. Did you see the monster?”

“Monster? No, I didn’t see any monster,” Anemone with a stifled giggle. Her mood turned somber as she glanced around at the forest that completely surrounded the lake and shivered. “How will I ever find my way home?” she wondered aloud. “I thought Aphrodite would take me home after I helped her.”

The hunter gave a quick laugh. “Aphrodite is not known for neatly tying up the loose ends she creates. I would be happy to escort you home since in a way it is really my fault you are here in the first place. Where do you live?”

“By the sea,” Anemone replied.

“What is the name of your village?”

“If you get me to the sea, I can find my way home.”

Iolaus looked at her curiously wondering why she did not want to tell him the name of her town. Oh well, he wasn’t going to worry about that now. She was gorgeous and he’d happily escort her anywhere. He felt his heart do that peculiar jig that it did when he met a pretty girl; that dance that usually got him into trouble. He knew the sea was less than a day’s march to the east; how much trouble could he get into escorting her for a day? He favored her with his charming smiles and a little bow. “This way my lady,” and the two headed off into the woods.

As they proceeded deeper into the woods, Anemone sidled closer and closer to Iolaus’ side, not that the golden hunter was complaining. He liked having the pretty woman close to him.

Anemone’s eyes darted nervously about; if she were a cat her tail would have been twitching a mile-a-minute. When a loud bird squawked nearby, she practically leapt into Iolaus’ arms.

“I’m sorry,” she tittered nervously. “I had a bad experience in the forest once.”

“What is your home like?” Iolaus inquired as they walked along hoping to distract the nervous maiden. But before Anemone could answer, three bandits jumped out in front of the couple. Anemone shrieked theoretically on cue. Iolaus sighed. He got so tired of these stupid confrontations.

“Look fellows,” Iolaus tried to reason. “We all know how this is going to go. You are going to say something stupid like ‘your money or your life’ and ‘give us the girl’. I’m going to pull out my sword to defend the lady. At this point, one of you three gentleman will say something stupid about my stature and annoy me even more than you already have. I will lose my temper and charge at you. For the next few minutes we will engage in a fight scene where I will exhibit some fantastic acrobatics and you three will fight like clumsy oafs. About three-fourths of the way through the fight, you will get the upper hand and inflict some sort of nasty looking, but minor bodily harm on me. At this point, the lady, who has been standing helplessly on the sidelines watching this fiasco, will pick up some object and temporarily distract you gentleman until I recover. Then, I will rush in and deliver a few more decisive blows and victory shall be mine. The lady will profusely thank me while you three will lay moaning and groaning on the ground.”

“Now,” Iolaus continued. “I am sure you gentleman think I am making this all up but believe me I am not. My scenario is truly on the money and in the end you will lose. Instead of all this needless violence, why don’t we proceed as follows: first, you can search me and discover that I am telling the truth that I have no valuables on me. Second, you forget about the girl and third you step aside and let us pass. Does that sound reasonable?”

The three bandits stared blankly at Iolaus.

“Hello, is anybody home?” the warrior asked. Sighing deeply, he turned to face Anemone. “I guess this is going to be the hard way. Stand back. And oh, look for a nice big stick would ya? You are going to need it in a few minutes.” He had barely finished speaking when the bandits started reigning blows down on him.

The fight went exactly as Iolaus described it. The nasty looking, but minor bodily harm turned out to be a cut on his upper arm that bled a lot but was not very deep. Anemone thanks were whole-hearted and consisted of hugs and kisses as well as administrations to the wound, which involved her ripping some cloth from her dress. In the end, Iolaus decided it probably was worth the fight just to get the administrations from the lovely Anemone. His heart did its’ peculiar jig even faster. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe he could get himself in trouble in less than a day with a pretty girl.

Sunset the next day found the two travelers at their journey’s end. Iolaus infatuation with Anemone had grown with each passing league and by the time they reached the ocean he was totally besotted with her.

Iolaus and Anemone stood near the sea watching the teal colored waves with their frothy white crests break on the dark rocks below. A slight sea mist below across the cliff’s edge upon which they stood.

“Oh,” Anemone said as she drew in a deep lung-full of sea-air. “I missed the sea so much.”

As the salt spray lightly misted Anemone, Iolaus thought she grew lovelier and more vibrant with each passing moment. It reminded him of a plant, which when provided with water after a long draught, suddenly blossomed forth. He felt his cheeks flush as his thoughts started to wander down the forbidden paths again. He moved closer to Anemone. Unable to resist, he put his arm around her shoulders. She looked so lovely.

Anemone turned her deep, sea green eyes upon him and he felt himself drowning in their gaze. His hands slipped from her shoulders and trailed to her waist. He gently pulled her close to his heat-flushed body. Hips pressed to hips, he drew her even closer. His lips sought hers and he roughly kissed her, unable to hold his passion in check any longer.

Anemone let out a little gasp but fervently returned his kiss. Iolaus’ hands started to explore her body further. He felt his own desire raising. He deepened his kiss as his hands sought out the secrets of her body.

Suddenly, a huge wave crashed over the cliff and drenched the couple. The cold salt water quickly dampened Iolaus’ ardor and he let broke the embrace. Anemone stepped back and looked at the drenched hunter. His blonde hair dripped water onto his leather vest, his leather pants were soaked and she swore a fish was flopping around in the tops of his boots.

“Daddy,” she whispered under her breath. Then unable to control herself, she giggled at her traveling companion.

“What?” Iolaus complained as he surveyed his clothes. He looked over at Anemone. Some how she managed to look even more beautiful. Himself, he looked like a drown rat. A small giggle escaped his lips. “Ok, I guess it is kind of funny. Great timing that wave had.” Iolaus took a step towards Anemone, planning to try to pick up where he left off. Anemone however, stepped back out of his reach. Looking hurt, Iolaus took the hint and stood still.

He must have misjudged. He thought that she liked him as much as he liked her. It certainly seemed that way during their brief but aborted kiss. He must have been wrong.

“Ah,” the blonde hunter said clearing his throat. “There isn’t much daylight left. I suggest we set up camp for the night and continue the journey to your town in the morn.” He gazed around to hide his embarrassment at having his advances thwarted. “You said when you reached the sea’s coast, you would know which way your town lay. Can you tell?”

Anemone stared out into the darkening sea. “Oh yes. It lays there,” she said gesturing straight out to sea.

Iolaus stained his eyes in the direction she pointed. ‘She must live on an island,’ he thought. “You live on an island? I confess, I can’t see it from here,” he said as he shaded his eyes and peered harder into the deepening twilight.

“Iolaus, I have not been totally forth right with you.” Anemone dropped her eyes. “I don’t live in a town on the coast.”

“Oh,” Iolaus said, his voice raised in question. “Where do you live then?”

“In the sea.”

“Like on an island you mean?”

“No, not on an island, but in the sea itself.” Anemone turned her deep green eyes upon the confused hunter. “Iolaus, I am a mermaid.”

Iolaus’ gaze instinctively dropped to Anemones legs. “You’re joking with me right?” the confused hunter parried. “I don’t mean to be rude, but don’t mermaid have different attributes, like a tail for instance?”

“I do have a tail, when I want to,” Anemone countered.

“Oh, I see. Hmmm, well I guess I am not totally up on my mermaid lore. I thought all mermaids had tails and maids had legs, you know, so you could tell them apart.”

Anemone sighed at Iolaus’ sarcasm. “You are correct in that all mermaids do have tails. However, some of us can change our tails into legs for periods of time if we so choose. Those of us who are direct descendents of Poseidon possess this gift.”

“And I suppose you are going to tell me you are a descendent of Poseidon. In fact, I’ll bet you are his daughter and probably his favorite daughter at that right?”

Anemone bit her lip and blushed. “Well, yes. I am his daughter. However, it seems somehow conceded for me to say I’m his favorite daughter.”

Iolaus sunk down on a near-by rock, his lust totally departed at the thought that he had tried to make it with Poseidon’s daughter. “Oh, I can guarantee that you are his favor daughter. That is how my luck runs. The Gods,” he said as he cradled his head in his hands. “It is always the Gods. Just once in my life I’d like to have a little adventure that doesn’t involve the Gods.” Iolaus shook his fist at the sky. “Why do you guys have it in for me! Can’t you just leave me alone? So,” he said turning his gaze back upon the daughter of Poseidon. “I suppose it is to much to hope that the wave that drenched us was just a freak accident and not the wrath of your father.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t use the term wrath,” Anemone answered. “After all, I am a grown woman, not a little girl.”

“I’ll be the judge of that,” a deep voice boomed from the cliffs behind Iolaus’ back.

“Let me guess… Daddy’s home?” Iolaus intoned flippantly.

“Are you being impertinent mortal?” the voice demanded.

Iolaus sighed, rose from the rock and turned to face the sea. There, raising up from the sea below, stood a man made of water. A crown graced his shimmering head and the infamous trident has held in his right hand. Though appearing to be made of water, he somehow presented a very solid image. Iolaus had met a number of Gods in his life, to include the all-mighty Hera and Zeus, but somehow, Poseidon made all of them seem like rag dolls. Iolaus swallowed noisily. He was doomed. Poseidon was going to turn him into a crab or something for trying to defrock his daughter.

Poseidon crossed his arms on his chest and stared down at the mortal. “Kind of scrawny aren’t you, even for a mortal I mean.”

“Hey, there is no call for that,” Iolaus retorted forgetting himself.

“Hmmm,” the King of the Sea hummed. “Anemone, I am pleased to see you are safe, at least you are safe now that I am here.”

“Daddy. I can take care of myself.”

“Is that what you call it? I don’t think you were doing a very good job of it,” Poseidon said giving Iolaus a withering glance. Perhaps I should turn him into a briny shrimp for his actions.”

‘Shrimp, crab,” Iolaus thought. He was pretty close to the target.

“Daddy! Iolaus saved me from a band of blood-thirsty bandits in the woods,” Anemone pleaded. “Your should be grateful to him.”

Iolaus nodded his head in agreement, trying to look saintly. He had no desire to be a shrimp, briny or otherwise.

“I know, I saw,” Poseidon mumbled.

“Father! Were you spying on me!”

“I was not. It is a Father’s duty to keep an eye on his children. When that flaky Goddess of Love bore you off on her cock-a-maimy errand, I decided I’d better keep an eye on you; to make sure you returned home safely that is,” the Sea God explained drawing himself up to full height.

“I still call that spying,” Anemone countered.

“And I call it parental concern,” Poseidon replied.

Iolaus decided perhaps now would be a good time to leave while the father and daughter worked out their familiar differences. He turned and quietly tiptoed away.

“Mortal, where do you think you are going,” the voice of Poseidon rang forth halting Iolaus in his tracks.

Iolaus winced and then assembled his face to appear contrite as he turned to face the father and his daughter. “Well sir. I have delivered Anemone, your daughter, to her place of origin as I promised. Now I must be off to meet Hercules. You know, Hercules, son of Zeus. He and I travel in the same circles; in fact I dare say I am his best friend. I was suppose to meet him in Thrice and I best hurry or I’ll be late. It was very nice meeting you and your lovely daughter. “

Poseidon continued to glared down on the mortal unimpressed.

“Daddy, I think Iolaus deserves a reward.”

“A reward! For what! Accosting my daughter?”

“He did save me from the bandits and brought me here as he promised. And as for the so-called accosting, I wanted that as much as he did,” Anemone answered defiantly. “After all, I am an adult and I have the right to decide who I want to sleep with.”

Iolaus blushed bright red when Anemone said ‘sleep with’. Hey, it might have been in his mind but did she have to bring it up in front of her father?

“Humph,” Poseidon replied. “Zeus was right. It is so much easier to raise sons than daughters.”

“Iolaus’ reward Daddy ---“

“Well, I STILL don’t think he deserves one, but I suppose if I don’t grant your wish you will pester me to no end --- just like your mother does,” the Sea God added under his breath.

“I heard that Daddy and if you don’t give Iolaus a nice reward I’ll tell mother what you said!”

“You wouldn’t dare?”

“Oh, wouldn’t I?”

Poseidon thought for a moment. She probably would tell her mother what he said and he was sure it would not reflect kindly upon him. “All right, all right,” he grumbled. “I’ll do it. Do you have an idea what this ‘reward’ should be? Riches, power, strength---“

“Really, I don’t need a reward,” Iolaus injected. “I was happy to help. In a way, it was kind of my fault Anemone got pulled in the first place. After all, if Aphrodite hadn’t decided I needed to learn how to swim…”

“That’s it Daddy! His reward. Make him able to swim.”

“You mean you can not swim,” the water God said incredulously. “How can that possibly be? EVERYONE can swim!”

“Well maybe in your world everyone can swim, but not all us land folks can,” Iolaus grumbled.

“You really can’t swim,” Poseidon repeated. “I mean not at all? Not even float or doggie paddle. Surely you can doggie paddle. Even dog can doggie paddle.”

“He can’t Daddy. Not a stroke. That’s why it would be a great reward for him,” Anemone pleaded her case.

Poseidon pointed his trident at Iolaus. “There, done,” he said.

Iolaus patted down his body. “I don’t feel any different,” he remarked.

“You don’t do you. Well how about now?” Poseidon asked as he plucked the warrior from the solid earth and unceremoniously dumped him in the ocean.

“Hey, help,” Iolaus screamed as his head went under the water.

“Swim!” Poseidon’s strident voice commanded.

‘But I don’t know how,’ Iolaus thought as his head went under water. Then suddenly he realized he did know how. He didn’t know how he knew but instinctually his body started to swim. He bobbed to the surface and started swimming across the moonlit sea. ‘This is great,’ he thought. ‘Nothing too it.”

Something bumped him from below and then Anemone bobbed up beside him.

“Look I can swim,” he exclaimed gleefully. “And oh wow you do have a tail and like wow I can swim and---,” Iolaus babbled on like a delighted child.

Anemone and Iolaus frolicked in the moon-drenched sea for awhile. Finally Anemone suggested Iolaus should head for shore. “After all, my Dad only gave you the ability to swim. That doesn’t mean you still can’t drown if you get to tired to make it back to shore.”

Iolaus agreed. He was getting tired, so he swam towards the land, heading for a patch of sandy beach. As he strode out of the water, he realized his clothes were missing, all but his breech cloth. His hands automatically went to cover his privates even though nothing was exposed so to speak.

Anemone giggled from the water behind him. “Your clothes are on that rock over there. In the future when you swim, you should really remember to take your leather clothes and shoes off. Leather is heavy when wet and will weigh you down. Daddy took the ‘liberty’ of saving your clothes for you this time since you did not exactly go into the water under your own steam.”

“You can say that again,” Iolaus agreed.

Silence ensued as the two rested awkwardly, Iolaus on the shell strewn beach and Anemone at the water’s edge. Iolaus involuntarily shivered in the as the night air hit his bare, wet skin.

“You’ll catch a cold. Maybe you should get dressed,” Anemone commented.

“Yeah, guess,” Iolaus said but made no move to put his clothes on.

“Well, I should be going. It was great meeting you Iolaus and thank you for saving me from those bandits.”

“I’m the one who should be thanking you. After all it was me that indirectly got you into this mess in the first place. If I knew how to swim then Aphrodite would not have made you come ashore and none of this would have happened.”

“True,” Anemone returned, “but I also would not have met you and that was worth the danger. You are a remarkable person Iolaus. If circumstances were different and we met... who knows what would have happened.”

“You mean like if I had been a fish, or a crab or something like that,” Iolaus joked to break the tension.

Anemone laughed along with the golden hunter. “Exactly. You see, we who live in the sea have learned over the years that fins and feet just don’t mix well.”

“But you can have feet,” Iolaus said suddenly turning serious again.

“Well yes, I can,” Anemone answered slowly. “But just because I can have feet, doesn’t mean I can live on the land, anymore than if you could have a tail at will that you could live in the ocean. We are still a product of our environment. We have many attachments in our respective worlds. Our love for each other would have to be very, very strong to over come the resentment that would eventually arise if one of us were forced to give up our world.”

Iolaus slowly nodded his head in agreement.

“And,” Anemone continued, “while I am attracted to you, my feelings do not run deep enough for me to be able to give up my world. I hope you are not disappointed.”

“You are beautiful, wise and correct,” Iolaus said with a touch of regret.

“But we can still be friends. I know you like to fish. We could meet and go fishing now and then. I am really good at it," grinned Anemone.

“I’ll bet you are, though it seems to me you have an unfair advantage in catching fish.”

“Unfair? No more than your friend Hercules who uses rocks. How fair is that? He doesn’t even give the fish a sporting chance.”

“Exactly, that is what I keep telling Herc--- hey, wait a minute. How do you know about Herc’s fishing habits?” Iolaus asked suspiciously.

“What, you don’t think we have a grapevine in the sea? Oh, the fish are well aware of Hercules fishing tactics. He is the talk of the clam bar.”

“What do they say about me? Do they refer to me as a great fisherman to be reckon with?” Iolaus asked hopefully.

“Sorry Iolaus. I never heard your name mentioned,” Anemone replied ruefully.

“Figures. Land or sea it is always Hercules that everyone knows not me.”

“But I know you,” Anemone said as her tail turned to legs and she walked over to stand by Iolaus. “And it was you who saved me, not Hercules,” she added as she put her arms around him and give him a kiss.

The two held each other for a few moments of comfort before breaking apart. Iolaus took Anemone by the hand and led her back to the ocean’s edge. He gave her one last kiss and then propelled her towards the sea.

“You’d better go now,” he said huskily.

Anemone bit her lip and nodded in agreement. She too felt the raising attraction between them but still believed what she had said a few moments ago; it was not strong enough to make either of them be able to give up their world. Anemone reached into the pouch she wore on her waist and drew out a small pearl earring and handed it to him.

“What is this for?” he inquired.

“To call me. If you are ever in trouble on the ocean, you want to talk, or you want to go fishing, just cast that into the water and I’ll find you.”

Iolaus rolled the smooth white globe in the palm of his hand. “Really?” he replied.

“Really. It is magic.”

“Kewl,” he said as he reached up and fastened it in his ear. The moonlight seemed to give the pearl an internal glow.

Anemone leaned over and gave him a quick peck on the cheek and then ran into the water and dove underneath the waves. She emerged a few seconds later beyond the breakers and waved to Iolaus.

Iolaus returned the wave and watched as she headed out to sea. Soon he lost sight of her in the dark waters. With a sigh, he turned and headed back up the beach to where his clothes were. ‘What a crazy couple of days it had been,’ he thought as he brushed off his sand-encrusted feet. He glanced up at the waxing moon to judge the time. There were still a couple of hours before daybreak but he was too keyed up to sleep so he decided to start toward Thrice and his rendezvous with Hercules.

‘What a story I have to tell him,’ he mused as he strolled along. Three Goddess, a God, and a mermaid all trying to teach me how to swim. Herc would never believe him… then again he probably would. After all, it wasn’t the first time the Gods had interfered in his life and he had this funny feeling as long as he hung out with Hercules, it would not be the last.

The End

5 Nov 1999

Go on to the next story in the challenge.


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