In the Middle of the Night

by Rhiannon

It was a dark and stormy night. At least, that was Iolaus’ first impression as he woke suddenly and reluctantly cracked open an eye. He groaned inwardly. Yup, it was definitely a dark and stormy night. He hated dark and stormy. Of course, night was always dark, but usually the stars and moon cast a silvery glow over the land. This darkness was different. It was thick and oppressive, filling the hunter with a sense of foreboding. Added to that was the sound of the storm - a howling roar that seemed to vibrate all around the clearing in which he’d made his camp. With each roar he could feel the power of the wind beating against him. All that was required to complete the misery was a downpour of rain.

Iolaus shivered, pulled his blanket closer around him and snuggled down until only his blond curls were visible above the covering. He felt totally deflated. A storm would completely ruin the fun of the festival and he’d been so much looking forward to it. Last night had been wonderful - plenty of ale, dancing and pretty girls - but this afternoon would be even better. The outdoor games were to take place and he’d been chosen as judge for several of the competitions. He smiled to himself as his mind conjured up images of beautiful, scantily clad women, lining up to throw the javelin. He groaned again as another clap of thunder almost shook him out of his bedding. It wasn’t fair! How could the weather change so quickly? It had been almost dawn when he’d finally staggered back to his campsite and collapsed into his blankets. Almost dawn ...

Fully awake now, he tensed as another loud roar of thunder threatened to deafen him. There was something strange going on here. If it had been almost dawn when he’d gone to sleep, he must have slept for almost a full day. That was extremely unlikely - admittedly, he’d consumed a large quantity of ale, but he’d been too excited to sleep for long. There must be another explanation for the darkness. Most likely one or more of the gods were at work. Maybe Ares ... Ares?!

In one swift, graceful movement the hunter was on his feet, dagger in hand, moving easily into a fighter’s stance. He glanced up and his eyes widened in disbelief. Absently lowering his dagger, the hunter tilted his head back to look up a little higher.

Beyond the shadow towering over him, the cloudless sky was a brilliant cornflower blue, the sun shining cheerfully high above the horizon. Deliberately, Iolaus moved several steps to one side and closed his eyes for a blissful moment, allowing the rays of sunshine to soak into his body. The hunter smiled happily. It was a beautiful day after all, the festival would go ahead and everything was right with the world.

Iolaus turned and looked up into the mischievous eyes of the young dragon standing before him.

"Hi Braxis," he grinned. "How’s tricks?"

The End

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