Underworld

by Owlharp

Story originally written for Hercules: the Legendary Journeys by: Andrew Dettmann and Daniel Truly
Transcript of original episode to assist RLJ staff written by: Sponge
*Script excerpts from a second draft script dated 26 July 1993, copyright to Andrew Dettmann, Daniel Truly, Renniassance Pictures, Universal Television

PROLOGUE TO "UNDERWORLD"

"We're fine. Thanks for asking".

Over the past two years, Iolaus had gotten used to saying this. It had become a habit. Since Ania had died and taken their second son, Aeacus, with her, it seemed that half the world was asking Iolaus, "How are you and Telaus doing?"

It had started immediately, as soon as Laodice the midwife had gone back to the town and let it be known that Ania, wife of Iolaus, had not survived her second childbed.

It wasn't that he was ungrateful - the sympathy of the townspeople was genuine. Ania had endeared herself to many, with her sweetness and her stubborn determination to become a model wife. He understood that. It was part and parcel of what made her so dear to him. But every time he'd had to answer that question, it seemed that the pain of her loss would flare up again deep inside him. So he took refuge in that brief phrase and an even briefer smile, and eventually it became automatic. And, after time, it even took on a semblance of truth.

He WAS fine. He had to be. The work that needed to be done allowed no time for collapsing in idle grief. He had crops to tend and animals to feed. He had a motherless child to be strong for.He could work himself into exhaustion and lose himself in the demands of life, and the pain of his loss slowly lessened, never completely disappearing, but becoming like an old, scarred-over wound that would only hurt if you prodded directly.

Daily life assumed a new and eventually comforting rhythm. He would awaken automatically, before the sun rose or the cock crowed, and check on Telaus in his little bed. He'd stir up the fire that he had carefully banked the night before, and set the water to boil to make the breakfast barley gruel. Telaus would awaken, and Iolaus would send him to the well to fill the water jar. It was also Telaus' job to feed the chickens and collect any eggs. By that time breakfast would be ready - cheese, dried fruit and barley gruel sweetened with honey from a secret hive that Iolaus had found in the woods. In good weather they would eat under the grape arbor at the front of the house. The day's round of chores would begin - milking the goats, tending the crops of barley and wheat in the fields, pruning the vines, collecting the olives from the trees behind the house. One day a week Iolaus and Telaus would head for the woods to chop and gather firewood, and maybe snare a few rabbits along the way. Now and then Iolaus would fire up the forge in the barn and take whatever ironwork the townspeople would bring his way - mostly repairing farm implements. Telaus would work the bellows, and it made Iolaus' heart sing to watch his son growing stronger and able to pump for longer and longer periods of time. At the end of the day they would head back to the house for dinner - perhaps rabbit or fish, olives, flat bread that the townsfolk paid for ironwork with, and watered wine for both of them.

It was hard work, but they were surviving. Iolaus missed seeing his best friend Hercules as often as he used to, but he faced the reality that both of them now had other obligations. When they did meet up, they would swap loud and boisterous stories about their latest farming disasters, much as they used to trade stories about fighting monsters. Now and then, Iolaus found himself hankering for those wild days, but then he would look out at his green fields or at the fire shining in Telaus' golden curls, and he would call himself a fool. This was his life now, and it was a good one. He was fine. He was careful always to thank people for asking.

Fade in:
The history of the world

A dynamic montage of molecules, fossils, waterfalls, creating a pleasant valley. Elements of the world to come: a shambling BEGGAR who is Zeus. A temple image of the beautiful, formidable goddess HERA who holds a PEACOCK FEATHER in hand.

They illustrate a SCROLL read by a disembodied VOICE...

VOICE
IT WAS A TIME BEFORE ROME AND BEFORE GREECE, BEFORE BABYLON AND GILGAMESH, BEFORE NOAH AND THE CLEANSING OF THE FLOOD. INSTEAD OF ONE GOD THERE WERE MANY GODS, AND THEY PLAYED MAN FOR THEIR SPORT. AND THE PEOPLE HAD ONLY A WORD FOR THEIR DELIVERANCE. AND THAT WORD WAS... HERCULES.

Images begin flashing:

A GIRL OF FIVE being led away from a village. A FUNERAL PYRE raging in the night. A HOLE bursting up through the ground, like a flameless EXPLOSION. A WOMAN standing atop a HIGH CLIFF, her gown flowing in the wind. A flittering BLUE-STONED MEDALLION. An ARROW whistling through the air. A mysterious HOODED MAN. SIX RED EYES flowing in the darkness. And WORSHIPPERS prostrate before a temple under mocking LAUGHTER from above the clouds.

DISSOLVE TO:

CLOSE-UP as a hand steadies a rough WOODEN POST. A huge HAMMER swings down -WHAACK!- driving it into the ground.

PULL BACK TO REVEAL the dirt MAIN STREET of a VILLAGE where TWO MEN are staking out a large square. The BIGGER MAN swings the hammer, looking mean. The Smaller Man holds the posts -heís weasely-lookng, with a PINCHED FACE. WHACK! WHACK!

CURIOUS ONLOOKERS appear from nearby BUILDINGS and the Villageís busy MARKETPLACE. WHAACK! WHAACK!

Pinched Face smiles to himself, expertly guaging the Crowdís interest. Waiting. Waiting. Then, when he knows itís at itís peak, he twirls around with the flair of a CARNIVAL SHOWMAN.

PINCHED FACE
Who are these men? And what do they bring to your tiny town?

People exchange glances, DRAWING CLOSE. As Pinched Face talks, the Bigger Man LIMPS from post to post, circling them with a ROPE.

PINCHED FACE (cont)
Is it entertainment? Is it opportunity? (pregnant pause) Perhaps itís a chance to win a prize?.

The Crowd murmurs excitedly, surrounding the Two Men and the crude BOXING RING theyíve erected. Pinched Face spreads his arms wide.

STRANGER (cont)
Well, ladies and gents, weíve brought you all three! If you wish...if you dare, take a chance and step into the ring with Eryx the Boxer!

On cue, the Bigger Man PUFFS HIS CHEST and STRUTS awkwardly around the inside of the ring.

IN THE CROWD THREE MEN push their way toward the front. A FOURTH MAN follows behind them. He walks HUNCHED with a cane, hidden beneath a dark CLOAK.

As they reach the ring, one of the Three, SESTUS, shorts out.

SESTUS
We have someone whoíll fight!

PINCHED FACE
Well, letís stop wasting time then, Send him forward.

The Three step to the side, revealing the Cloaked Man.

SESTUS
Tell me first, what do we get? What do we win if he beats your man?

PINCHED FACE
That depends on what you wager. Iíll pay three times whatever you put up.

A MURMUR rolls through the Crowd. Sestus and his friends, OPION and CLETIS, start pulling out MONEY, confident. Others do the same.

SESTUS
Iíve got four dinars says our maníll beat your Eryx the Boxer.

OPION
Iíve got three.

CLETIS
Iíll go five!

Pinched Face produces a SMALL BAG and begins collecting. In a few seconds, itís nearly full of clinking coins.

The Cloaked Man, meanwhile, climbs GINGERLY into the ring.

PINCHED FACE
So. It seems we have a fight. But I warn you, Eryx the Boxer has never been beaten.

SESTUS
(laughs) Thatís because heís never faced Artus!

Sestus waves toward the Ring.

ARTUS
tosses away his cloak DISGUISE. Heís young, MUSCLED and POWERFUL, a trained FIGHTER. He throws his arms into the air. mightily.

The CROWD ROARS. Sestus and his friends break into laughter having fooled Pinched Face.

IN THE RING

Artus begins to square off against the Bigger Man. But Pinched Face suddenly STEPS BETWEEN THEM, stopping Artus with a BONY HAND.

PINCHED FACE
Not so fast, friends. We canít start without Eryx the Boxer.

Artus looks love to Sestus, confused. Sestus jumps forward.

SESTUS
But we thought this was Eryx the Boxer.

PINCHED FACE
No, no, no...This is Eryx the Boxer.

With a chorus of GASPS and SHRIEKS, the crowd parts and the REAL ERYX THE BOXER strides forward. Heís a HUGE BEAST of a man, Seven feet tall, muscles rippling across his massive frame, his BALLED FISTS the size of ANVILS.

SESTUS
W-Wait. This isnít fair!

OPION
You tricked us!

As Eryx steps into the Ring, Artus looks to his handlers, unsure - ďWhat do I do?Ē

SESTUS
(to Artus, unconvincing) Itís alright, Artus, Show him what you got. You can take him.

CRUUUNCH!! Eryxís first and only BLOW collides with Artusí FACE, collapsing it instantly. The manís DEAD BODY lands in the dirt, a crumpled heap.

ERYX
WHOís NEXT?!

The Crowd stands in STUNNED SILENCE.

SESTUS and OPION suddenly ERUPT with anger, GRABBING Pinched Face, SHOVING him angrily against the Ropes.

SESTUS
You Bastard! You cheating bastard!

OPION
Artus was our friend!

THUUMP! THUMMP! Eryxís huge hands CLAMP DOWN on each of them, HOISTING them into the ring.

ERYX
(grinning) Well, come on then. With any luck, weíll get to see him again real soon.

CRUUNCH! Eryx CLASHES sestus and Opion together like a giant pair of CYMBALS! They stand stunned for a moment...then BLOOD begins to run from their ears. Their eyes roll back, THUUD! THUUD! They hit the street DEAD.

Eryx breaks into a huge BELLY LAUGH.

ERYX
Haa-haa! Iím not even warmed up yet!

IN THE REAR OF THE CROWD an OLD MAN turns to a YOUNG BOY, and whispers something into his ear The Boy nods and TAKES OFF RUNNING.

Cut to:
Ext. Herculesí Home - Hilltop - afternoon

A LARGE HOUSE, luxurious for itís time, sits nestled in a glade of treed on a HILLTOP. Crop-filled FIELDS spread in all directions. A BARN and CORRAL stand nearby.

DEIANEIRA sits in front of the house. As 35, sheís a beautiful, regal-looking woman, Her face glows as she watches.

HER THREE CHILDREN playing nearby. ILEA (5) tags along behind her two older brothers, AESON (9) and KLONUS (7) as they stalk through the deep grass. The boys clutch sticks like spears and BASKET-TOPS like shields, hunting an UNSEEN PREY.

KLONUS
(whispering) Aeson, where is he?

AESON
Sshhh. I donít know.

Suddenly, a RUSTLING draws their attention. They turn and see

A LION head and mane visible above the grassline. Wide-eyed, Aeson signals to his brother.

AESON (cont)
Klonus, there he is. There he is.

The Boys raise their spears and creep toward the unsuspecting Beast. Their sister waits behind - sheís curious but SCARED.

Suddenly, with a burst of yelling, the Boys leap through the grass and ATTACK! They jab their spears into the Lionís hide. The beast lets loose a STRANGE-SOUNDING ROAR.

ANOTHER ANGLE reveals the ďLionĒ to be a MAN draped with a LION SKIN. The kids shriek and giggle as he turns and POUNCES, tackling them to the ground.

Deianeira watches all of this with a LAUGH...but little Ilea looks worried. Fearing for her brothers, she lifts a TREE BRANCH off the ground and goes to the rescue.

Deianeiraís expression changes as ILEA RAISES THE BRANCH over the lionís head.

DEIANEIRA
ILEA! NO!

Too late. Ilea brings the Branch down. CLOONK! The ďLionĒ lets out a surprised growl, then topples over with a THUUD! The boys step back, astonished.

Deianeira rushes over. She bends down, nudging the unconscious ďLionĒ.

DEIANEIRA
Honey? Are you alright? Honey?

No answer. Ilea drops the tree branch, her lip starting to QUIVER.

ILEA
Daddy?

ROOOAARR! The Lion bursts up and tackles the entire family. Everyone falls to the ground, rolling around, laughing and giggling.

Just then, a SHADOW falls over them - itís the SMALL BOY from town. He can barely speak through his PANTING and GASPING.

BOY
Hercules. We need you.

HERCULES rises to his feet, tossing off the lion skin. We finally see his HANDSOME FACE and strong ATHLETIC BODY

cut to:
ext town - the boxing ring - afternoon

Eryx stands triumphant over the five or six DEAD BODIES now littering the ring. Heís taunting the disheartened crowd.

ERYX
Isnít there anyone else brave enough to take me on? Isnít anyone man enough to defend the honor or this pathetic town?

He moves down the line, singling out TERRIFIED FACES.

ERYX (cont)
What about you? Huh? Or you? Or what about you?

Suddenly, a VOICE comes booming from the back of the crowd.

HERCULES (OS)
What about me?!

An EXCITED MURMUR begins to ripple through the throng - ďHercules.Ē The name is spoken over and over, growing louder and louder, until finally, the townspeople part to reveal... ...OUR HERO standing there.

A GRIN stretches its way across Eryxí face.

ERYX (cont)
Well, itís about time. I was beginning to wonder if youíd ever get here.

HERCULES
If it was me you wanted, you didnít have to kill all these innocent men.

ERYX
(smart-ass smirk) Had to find some way to amuse myself. Besides, I couldnít think of any other way. Youíre not an easy man to find these days.

Hercules strides forward and steps into the Ring. Eryx looks him up and down.

ERYX (cont)
You know, Iíve heard a lot about you, and I gotta say, you hardly look like the strongest man in the world.

HERCULES
Sorry to let you down.

ERYX
(raising his fists) Doesnít matter. That titleís as good as mine now anyway. Your days are over now that weíve met.

HERCULES
Then why donít we stop talking and get to fighting?

Eryx growls and throws a GIGANTIC PUNCH! Hercules steps back. WHOOSH! The fist sails by. Eryx eyes Hercules, then throws another. WHOOSH! Hercules steps back again.

With Hercules backed into a corner, Eryx charges with an ENORMOUS PUNCH. Hercules ducks. C-CRASH! Eryxís fist smashes through one of the RING POSTS, snapping it clean off, sending wood splintering everywhere.

Eryx spins around, ENRAGED.

ERYX
The fightíll get started when the famous Hercules stops running!

Hercules stops in his tracks and stands tall.

HERCULES
Whoís running?

Eryx GRINS, sensing the kill. He winds up his anvil-sized RIGHT HAND and throws a punch. WHAP! Hercules catches the fist, stopping it cold. Eryx canít believe it. He growls and throws a LEFT. WHAP! Hercules catches that one too. They stand locked together - toe to toe, face to face - each STRAINING at full force against the other.

then Hercules begins to take the upper hand. He twists Eryxís fists backwards, forcing him down to his KNEES.

HERCULES
(through gritted teeth) You made a mess of this village today, Eryx. Killed some good men. Hereís your chance to beg for forgiveness.

But Eryx suddenly ROLLS BACKWARDS, pulling Hercules over him in a JUDO-THROW! With is feet, Eryx launches our Hero into the air. WHUUMP! Hercules crashes down hard, flat on his back.

He gets to his feet, just as Eryx charges -WHAAAM!- slamming his shoulder into HErculesí gut, sending both men tumbling through the ropes and OUT OF THE RING!

ANGLE ON THE CROWD An old TOOTHLESS BEGGAR watches the fight, delighting at the action. Heís kind-looking, with eyes that are very much ALIVE. He ELBOWS the FAT SLOB standing next to him.

BEGGAR
I got five dinars to bet on Hercules. What díya say?

The Fat Slob looks back to the fight for a moment, considering it, then...

FAT SLOB
Alright. You gotta bet.

The two Men SHAKE HANDS, then quickly turn their attention back to the battle.

IN THE STREET
Hercules grabs Eryx from behind, wrapping an arm around his throat. The Boxer GAGS and SPUTTERS as Hercules TIGHTENS the vise, squeezing the life out of him.

But Eryx struggles to his feet. And with Hercules still on his back, he LUNGES BACKWARDS with a mighty heave. C-C-CRAAAASH! Hercules is SLAMMED against a BUILDING. The wall gives way and both men DISAPPEAR in an explosion of mud and plaster.

Thereís a momentary calm. The Townspeople exchange tense glances...then -C-C-CRAASSH!- in a second explosion, Eryx comes flying out through ANOTHER WALL! K-WUUMPH! The ground shakes as he lands heavily in the dirt.

Hercules steps out. The crowd goes wild. But Eryx is far from finished. With the ease of a gymnast, he JUMP=SPRINGS to his feet. With a spin, he -WHAACK!- nails Hercules in the face with a LEAPING KARATE-LIKE KICK!

Hercules staggers back. Erxy rushes in and seizes him, and the two men launch into an all-out, no holds=barred WRESTLING MATCH to make the W.W.F. look tame.

HAMMER-LOCKS. KNEE-DROPS. SIDE-KICKS. LEG-SWEEPS. The two rivals back and stomp each other like demons. One savage blow countered by another. The Crowd watches it all, cheering and wincing, yelling and cringing.

Hercules lifts Eryx over his head and FLINGS HIM -SMAAASH!- through a MARKET STALL. Vendors run screaming. Fruits and vegetables go flying. Eryx disappears under an avalanche of HUGE MELONS and WOODEN PLANKS.

When he reappears, heís bloodied and looking pissed-off.

ERYX
Enough games, Hercules.

HERCULES
I agree. Letís finish this.

Hercules and Eryx TOE UP in the center of the street, fact-to-face. They stare at each other a moment. Then Eryx NODS, offering Hercules the first shot.

Hercules winds up and -WHAACK!- delivers a MONSTER blow to Eryxís face. The Boxer is rocked for a second...then comes back -WHAAAM!- with a COLOSSAL SHOP of his own, knocking Hercules back a step.

WHAACK! WHAAM! WHAACK! WHAAM! They trade blow after punishing blow,like two towering gladiators bent on total destruction. The crowd winces and gasps with each punch - no normal men could stand this kind of punishment.

WHAACK! WHAAM! Slowly, the fight starts to turn as Eryx batters Hercules again and again. The Strongmanís knees are wobbling. Even Hercules can only take so much of the Boxerís HUGE FISTS.

The Crowd grows quiet as Hercules sways, hands droppinglower. His eyes look dulled, ALMOST BEATEN. Eryx sees his chance. With an EVIL GRIN, he hauls back BOTH FISTS.

Through his daze, Hercules sees the LITTLE BOY who came calling for his help. The Little Boy whose town needs saving.

WHOOOSH! Eryx swings BOTH FISTS FORWARD to cymbal-clap Herculesí head, but suddenly, our Hero swings both ARMS up and -WHAAAM!- blocks the blows!

WHAAACK! Hercules HEAD-BUTTS Eryx in the FACE. The Crowd cheers as -WHAAM! WHAACK! WHAAM! WHAACK- he sends the Boxer reeling with ONE HUGE PUNCH after ANOTHER.

Eryx staggers, faltering. His huge face puffy and bleeding. The gigantic fists drop to his sides.

Hercules winds up for the FINAL BLOW. Summoning all the godly power heís heir to, our Hero unleashes a PUNCH that seems to explode the heavens. It catches Eryx under the CHIN, lifting him off his feet, sending him sailing up into the air.

CLOSE-UP ON THE SPLINTERED RING-POST jutting out of the ground, as Eryxís SHADOW grows larger and larger...and then -WHUUUMPHH- he lands, IMPALED on the Post!

Hercules stands, VICTORIOUS. The Townspeople crowd around him, CHEERING and THANKING him, PATTING him on the back.

ANGLE ON A PEACOCK watching the action from a short distance away. Itís a gaudy, nasty, unpleasant-looking BIRD that turns itís head in DISGUST as Hercules is praised.

HERCULES smiles weakly and starts to stagger away, back toward his home. Suddenly, PINCHED FACE steps in his path. Heís holding SOMETHING out of sight behind his back.

PINCHED FACE
You won, Hercules. Youíre entitled to a prize--

HERCULES
I donít want any prize from you.

PINCHED FACE
But itís special. It was picked out just for you!

The a GRIN, Pinched Face pulls the ĒprizeĒ from behind his back - itís a single PEACOCK FEATHER.

The Crowd looks puzzled, but itís meaning is clear to Hercules. He SNATCHES the Feather away, then SPINS scanning the street, ANGRILY, looking for something...But he sees nothing. The Peacock is GONE.

He cuts purposefully away, through the Crowd.

CUT TO:
ext. Worshiping Shrine - afternoon

A small SHRINE at the edge of town. TWO PEOPLE kneel and light incense, presenting offerings of FRUIT and WHEAT.

WORSHIPER #1
Oh, Hera, great goddess. We make this humble offering and ask that you watch over us. In your goodness, show mercy as you look down on our family...

Suddenly, HEAVY FOOTSTEPS interrupt their prayers - itís HERCULES stomping forward, Feather in hand. The Worshipers back away as the Strongman reaches the Shrine.

HERCULES
Hera. I thought we were through with these games of yours. Iíve stayed out of your way. So why donít you stay outta mine?

Hercules stands as if waiting for some reply. None comes.

HERCULES (cont)
I know you and IĒve battled in the past, but thatís over...or at least it could be. I only want to be left alone to be with my family. What díyou say to a truce?

Hercules takes another long pause,waiting. But again,no response somes. He darkens slightly.

HERCULES (cont)
Fine. If itís how you want it, we can always go back to the way it was.

With that, Hercules gives the shrine a MIGHTY SHOVE. It falls over with a clattering CRRAASH! Offerings and incense tumble to the ground. Urns topple and shatter.

Hercules stomps off.

Suddenly, the Toothless Beggar appears alongside him.

BEGGAR
You were doiní so well, Hercules. Whyíd you have to end it like that?

HERCULES
Sheís lucky thatís all I did.

BEGGAR
Itís only gonna make her madder.

HERCULES
Yeah, well, if you hadnít been unfaithful to her, she wouldnít be so pissed off in the first place.

BEGGAR
If I hadnít been unfaithful, you wouldíve never been born! (beat) I hate to think what sheíll do now.

HERCULES
Well, sheís your wife. Why donít you keep her in line, then neither of usíll have to worry about it?

BEGGAR
I canít

HERCULES
(scoffs) Youíre Zeus, the god of gods. Youíre supposed to be able to do anything.

BEGGAR
Itís not that simple, you know that.

HERCULES
All I know if that itíd be nice if, just once, youíd side with your son, instead of that....thing youíre married to.

Hercules speeds up, leaving the Beggar in his wake. The Old Man calls after him, GENUINE PRIDE in his voice.

BEGGAR
You did great today, son! I was proud of you!

"Do you always talk to yourself?" came a voice suddenly. "They're gonna lock you up, someday!"

Hercules whirled.

Iolaus stepped from the shadows. "Hey buddy!" he said, a grin - something that Hercules had seen very rarely recently - lighting up his face.

"Did you see the fight?" asked the demigod eagerly.

"Sorry, no! I really wanted to, but I had to go by Laodice's place first. By the time I got to the square, you'd shishkabob'ed old Eryx and were headed out of town. I tried to catch up, but then I saw you talking to thin air. I figured it had to be one of your relatives, so I didn't want to interrupt."

"It was my father".

Iolaus nodded. "Not surprising. I take it you impressed him!"

Hercules snorted. "As much as he can be impressed by anything." Something that Iolaus had said earlier tugged at the back of his mind. "You said you had to go by Laodice's place? Somebody sick?"

Iolaus' grin disappeared. "Telaus. And he's not really sick, it's just .... well, he gets these times when he runs these fevers. In the morning he'll be healthy and running around like kids do, and then by afternoon he's delirious. It's kinda scary. He says it's like someone lighting a fire in him. And then it'll go away, and he'll be fine for weeks. It doesn't seem to be a lung thing, not like a cold or the choking sickness. So I went to see Laodice and told her about it. She gave me some bitter willow bark and told me to make a tea and give it to him, next time he has any problems. Hopefully that'll help! And speaking of seeing a healer, you might want to go to Laodice yourself. You've got bits and pieces of you bleeding all over!"

Hercules wiped the blood that was trickling from his lip and shook his head. "Nah, I'm gonna go home. Deianeira will take care of me".

"And give you something for the pain?" Iolaus gave a leer and Hercules raised a hand for a playful punch to his friend's shoulder, but Iolaus swerved out of the way at the last minute. It occurred to Hercules that this was the first time he'd heard Iolaus banter about sex since Ania had died. He was glad to hear it. Maybe some of the light in Iolaus was coming back, at long last.

He settled for nodding, with a satisfied smile. "Hey, you and Telaus come by for dinner soon, OK? We don't see enough of you, these days!"

Once again a smile brightened Iolaus' face. "I'd like that. Telaus would too - he likes Deinaira's cooking a lot better than mine!"

Both laughed and set off on their separate ways.

DISSOLVE TO:
A dark room and a large wooden bowl filled with steaming water. A womanís HAND reaches in with a CLOTH, dipping it into the liquid.

HERCULES (OS)
How long is this going to go on? Iíve had it with Heraís spells and torments. And my father, he doesnít do anything.

DEIANEIRA (OS)
SSShhhh. You need to sit still.

PULL BACK to see weíre

int. Herculesí Home

He sits, bare-chested, on the bed. Deianeira stands behind him. In the flickering firelight, the mood is tender and intimate, as she nurses the BRUISES and CUTS on his back.

HERCULES
I shouldíve known Eryx was another one of her tricks.

DEIANEIRA
What difference would it have made? Youíd have gone anyway, Hercules. Thatís who you are. People call for help....

HERCULES
(apologetic) And I always go, I know. But I canít stand to see the gods play with peopleís lives. Anybodyís lives. (beat, looks up) Iím sure you must hate me for that.

Deianeira stops washing. She steps around in front of her husband, staring him in the eyes.

DEIANEIRA
Hercules, I love you for that.

She smiles, and begins tracing a finger along an OLD SCAR zig-zagging across his shoulder.

DEIANEIRA (cont)
You got this from the great lion, didnít you? What would the people of Nemea have done if you hadnít killed it for them?

She gently kisses the scar. Then her finger moves lower, sexily touching another OLD SCAR on his chest.

DEIANEIRA (cont)
And the Hydra that tormented the Lernaeans? What wouldnít happened if you hadnít gone to their help?

Ske KISSES his neck as HER HAND SLIDES LOWER, to ANOTHER SCAR on his stomach. Things are heating up.

DEIANEIRA (cont)
Or Tiphys. This of all the suffering he caused until you stopped him.

A sexy, TEMPTING SMILE appears on Deianeiraís lips as she SLIDES HER HAND DOWN past Herculesí waist.

DEIANEIRA (cont)
Do I have to remind you what happened in Saenia?

Hercules canít take anymore. He reaches our and PULLS HER DOWN onto him, KISSING her hard.

As he slides her dress from her shoulders, we...

DISSOLVE TO:
ext. Herculesí Home - morning

A morning shot of Herculesí house and surrounding hills - the Sun has broken the horizon and started itís climb into the sky.

CLANK! CLANK! CLANK! A POUNDING SOUND carries from somewhere nearby.

CUT TO:
int. barn - morning

Shafts of SUNLIGHT filter down on the CHICKENS and half-dozen HORSES penned in a stall. Hercules wields a heavy HAMMER, pounding a metal OX HARNESS. Frustrated, he calls out.

HERCULES
Nessus, what am I doing wrong?

A HEAD AND SHOULDERS rises up among the horses - itís NESSUS, Herculesí hired hand. His face is good-looking, but weathered. His lean muscles ripple as he brushes the animals down.

NESSUS
Be patient, Hercules. You canít just bully iron into shape. You gotta mold it, little by little. (eyeing the harness) Try heating it a little bit more.

Hercules nods, putting the Harness into the FIRE-COALS. With his foot,he PUMPS the BELLOWS. The flames crackly, glowing red-hot.

Outside the barn, something catches Herculesí attention.

HERCULESí P.O.V.
Deianeira exits the house, carrying a laughing Ilea. Aeson and Klonus bound out as well. They follow after their mother, tugging on her skirt. She whirls and begins chasing them.

A CONTENTED SMILE spreads on Herculesí face as he watches his family. Heís completely distracted from his metal work.

IN THE FIRE
The Harness GLOWS hotter and hotter. Nesses spies it.

NESSUS
Hercules.

But Hercules doesnít answer. Nessus turns to see what has Hercules so engrossed. He rolls his eyes.

NESSUS (cont)
Hey, Hercules!

Finally, Hercules snaps out of his trance. He looks at Nessus. Nessus nods to the fire, sarcastically.

NESSUS (cont)
I think the harness is hot enough now.

Hercules pulls the RED-HOT HARNESS out of the coals with an EMBARRASSED LAUGH.

HERCULES
Guess I sort of got distracted. (shaking his head) Sometimes I just canít believe theyíre mine, know what I mean?

NESSUS
Youíre a lucky man, Hercules.

Nessusí words sound vaguely SNIDE. If Hercules notices, he doesnít show it. He just SMILES.

HERCULES
Yeah, Iíd say I am.

Hercules steals ANOTHER GLANCE at his family, then starts pounding metal again. But after several whacks, he STOPS, obviously not happy with his progress.

HERCULES (cont)
Iím still not doing this right. Do me a favor, Nessus. When youíre done with those horses, See what you can do. Youíre a hundred times better at this than I am.

NESSUS
Actually, Iím done with the horses now. If you wanna takeíem out to the corral, Iíll see if I can salvage that harness.

HERCULES
Perfect. Thanks.

Hercules goes over and takes the reins of the Horses, leading them out of the stall. AS their large bodies exit, we get our first

FULL VIEW OF NESSUS

He has the HEAD and SHOULDERS OF A MAN, but the body of a HORSE. Heís a CENTAUR!

CUT TO:
ext. House - day

Klonus and Aeson are still frolicking with Deianeira up near the house. Something catches Klonusís eye.

KLONUS
Look, Mom. Someoneís coming.

Deianeira stops and turns to see.
Their P.O.V. - long shot Far down the path, beyond the Barn, a SOLITARY FIGURE is approaching.

Deianeira pats Klonus and Aeson on the shoulders.

DEIANEIRA
Why donít you run tell your father?

The Boys take off running down toward the Barn.

CUT TO:
ext. Barn -day

Hercules leads the Horses into the corral and closes the gate. As he loops the rope latch into place, he hears Aeson and Klonus pounding down the path toward him.

KLONUS and AESON
Dad. Dad. Look, somebodyís coming.

Hercules looks back over his shoulder. The Solitary figure is closer now. Itís a young woman, IOLE.

Her voice calls out weakly.

IOLE
Are...are you Hercules? I must find Hercules.

Hercules goes toward her as her steps begin to falter. Sheís weary, covered with road dirt, but without a doubt, sheís the most radiant, breathtakingly BEAUTIFUL creature youíre ever seen. It hurts just to look at her.

On a CHAIN around her neck, she wears a glittering MEDALLION set with a flawless BLUE-STONE.

Ioleís knees buckle and she begins to fall, but HERCULES CATCHES HER, lifting her up in his arms.

IOLE
Hercules. Finally. Iíve travelled so far to find you.

CUT TO:
ext. Herculesí House -day

Deianeira sees Hercules approaching with Iole in his arms. She puts Ilea down and rushes over, CONCERNED.

DEIANEIRA
Bring her inside, quickly.

Int. Herculesí House - day

Hercules lays Iole down on a BED. Deianeira offers a cup of WATER, but Iole pushes it away, gasping, trying to speak.

IOLE
I-I need your help. Please...

DEIANEIRA
Donít try to talk. You should rest.

But Iole persists, her voice no more than a WHISPER.

IOLE
Thereís no time. Iíve travelled days and nights without stopping to come here, to find Hercules.

Her grasping hand finds Herculesí arm. She pulls him closer.

IOLE (cont)
You must help us. My village... a hole has opened up. Itís choking everything.

HERCULES
What do you mean? What kind of hole?

IOLE
I donít know. A hole to the underworld. A hole breathing death. Children, their mothers, even our strongest meníve been dying. Crops and animals, too. Weíve made sacrifices, and offerings, but nothings been able to stop it. Soon, all of Gryphon will be dead.

HERCULES
Iím not sure that I could do anything to help...

Ioleís swimming eyes lock onto Herculesí, PLEADING.

IOLE (cont)
You must! Youíre our only hope. Iíve come all this way to lead you back to Gryphon. Please say youíll go back with me. Please!

Ioleís eyes flutter...then she PASSES OUT. Deianeira lays her back, brushing hair from her face.

DEIANEIRA
Thatís right, child, sleep. You need to rest.

She covers Iole with a blanket, then crosses to Hercules, who stands staring out the door.

DEIANEIRA (cont)
What an awful tale. Iíve never heard anything so horrible.

HERCULES
Neither have I.

Hercules continues staring. His thoughts seem conflicted, in a QUANDRY. Deianeira touches his arm.

DEIANEIRA
What are you gonna do? Will you help her?

HERCULES
I donít know, Deianeira. For the first time in my life...I donít know.

DEIANEIRA
I think you should.

Hercules turns toward her, slightly SURPRISED.

HERCULES
Are you sure? Itís a long journey to Gryphon. I could be gone a long time.

DEIANEIRA
I know. But the people need you.

Deianeira glances at Iole, sleeping quietly in bed.

DEIANEIRA (cont)
And thereís just something about her. Something so honest, and innocent, and beautiful.

HERCULES
And it doesnít bother you to think of me going off with her?

Deianeira turns back to Hercules. Her eyes burn with LOVE.

DEIANEIRA
Hercules, I trust you. And as much as I want you here with me, I canít keep you from doing what you have to do.

A LONG BEAT passes as Hercules and Deianeira stare at one another...

DISSOLVE TO:
int. village tavern - night

TOWNSMEN crowd inside a dark, rowdy TAVERN, shouting and downing SPIRITS from worn wooden cups. Behind the crude bar, the TAVERN KEEPER fills three more from a BARREL, and sets them down for three men - IDAS, CANTHUS and ECHION.

IDAS
Whatíll we drink to?

Canthus hoists his cup, SHOUTING to the whole crowd.

CANTHUS
To our protector, Hercules! May he live forever!

Idas and Eshion join in, along with many of the others.

EVERYONE
To Hercules!

Everyone drinks.

CANTHUS
Did you see the way he killed that bastard, Eryx? Incredible.

IDAS
Ahh, you shouldíve been there the time he killed the two-headed giant, Tiphys. That was something to see.

ECHION
I tell you, thereíll never be another like him. Ever. Hercules belongs with his father, among the gods.

IDAS
Yeah, well, Iím glad heís down here to protect us instead.

ECHION
Letís have another to Hercules then!

As the Crowd cheers and drinks again, a DRUNKEN VOICE calls out from the end of the bar. Mocking. Derisive.

DRUNKEN VOICE (OS)
Hercules, Hercules, Hercules. Iím gonna be sick if I hear one more idiot extolling the name Hercules.

We pan down the bar to discover the Voice belongs to Herculesí hired hand, NESSUS. HE looks just as drunk as he sounds.

NESSUS (cont)
You talk like he can do anything. Well he canít. Believe me, Iíve worked for him for ten years. I know better than anyone.

The Three react to Nessusí obviously familiar complaint.

ECHION
Aw, shut your trap, Nessus! Hercules is the greatest. Thereís no disputing it.

IDAS
Yeah. None of us could do even a fraction of what heís done.

Nessus
Of course not. But weíre not half-god, are we? I mean, if your father were Zeus, you could do all those things too. So could I. Any of us could.

IDAS
Yeah, well, our fatherís not Zeus.

NESSUS
Exactly, So we work and sweat and make offerings everyday, just barely getting by, while Hercules has money and women and fame showering into his lap. Now how fair is that?

The Townsmen just turn away, ignoring him. Nessus waves them off with a SNORT.

NESSUS (cont)
Youíre blind, you know it? All of you. Just like Deianeira. She fawns over him, and praises him. Like the man can do no wrong. (bitter laugh) Hercules doesnít deserve her. Heís gone all the time, off doing whatever he can to make his name bigger. Iím the one who looks after her.

IDAS
You better watch your mouth, you idiot half-horse! If Hercules heard you...

NESSUS
I donít fear Hercules. Not one bit! (a tipsy smile) I have Hera to rely on. She watches over me. Sheís my protector.

Nessus throws a couple COINS on the bar and stumbles toward the door, again revealing his strange horsesís body.

NESSUS (cont)
Iíve had enough of all of you. Iím leaving before I hear his damned name raised again.

Nessus staggers drunkenly out the door.

DISSOLVE TO:
int. Herculesí Home - Ioleís Room - Night

Iole lies in bedk, asleep. After a moment, she rolls over, stirring. Her eyes flutter open to see

IN THE WINDOW

a FIGURE silhouetted by the moon outside, peering in at her.

Iole BOLTS upright with a startled GASP.

IOLE
Go away! Get away from here!

IN THE WINDOW

The figure darts off into the darkness.

Just then, Deianeira ENTERS. She comes to Ioleís side with a motherly concern.

DEIANEIRA
Whatís the matter? What is it? Youíre trembling?

IOLE
I thought I saw someone out there. Outside the window.

Deianeira goes to the window and looks out...then returns.

DEIANEIRA
Well, youíre safe. Thereís no one there now.

IOLE
Iím sorry. I didnít mean to wake you...

Deianeira helps Iole slide back down under the sheets.

DEIANEIRA
Shhh. Itís alright. Donít give it another thought. Just day down, and try to go back to sleep.

Iole fixes Deianeira with her LUMINOUS EYES.

IOLE
Is Hercules going to help my village? Will he come back with me to Gryphon?

DEIANEIRA
(smiles, reassuring) Yeah, I think he will.

IOLE
Thank you. Thank both of you.

DEIANEIRA
(hugging her) Goodnight.

Then she leaves the room.

int. Hercules and Deianeiraís Bedroom - night

Deianeira comes back into her room. She smiles to herself, seeing Hercules snoring in bed, undisturbed.

Suddenly, thereís a NOISE from outside. CLANK! CLANK!

Deianeira looks up, puzzled. Then back at Hercules, still sound asleep. CLANK! CLANK! She watches him for a moment longer, then pulls on a ROBE and leaves.

ext. Herculesí Home - night

Carrying an OIL LAMP, and bathed in MOONLIGHT, Deianeira walks the path down toward the BARN, following the Noises.

int. Barn - Night

DEIANEIRA enters. An eerie RED LIGHT throws shadows on the walls. CLANK! CLANK! She raises the Lamp to see - itís NESSUS, hammering on the Ox Harness.

DEIANEIRA
Nessus. What are you doing?

Nessus turns toward her, his drunken eyes WILD in the red glow of the coals. He holds up the Harness.

NESSUS
See this? Itís perfect. Absolutely perfect.

He dunks it in a WATER-BUCKET with a loud HISSSSS! Deianeira can tell heís drunk. She goes over and gently takes the HAMMER out of his hand.

DEIANEIRA
Why donít we just leave it for now?

NESSUS
You donít believe me, do you? That I can do something better than Hercules?

DEIANEIRA
I believe you, Nessus. But itís late.

NESSUS
(Nasty) Oh, Did I wake you up? Iím surprised you could even sleep, what with that young girl here to take your precious husband away.

Deianeira eyes him. This is more than just drunk.

DEIANEIRA
Nessus, whatís wrong with you?

NESSUS
With me? Itís whatís wrong with you thatís what problem (laughs, mocking) You donít trust him, do you? You donít really think heíll be faithful?

DEIANEIRA
My Hercules? Iím sure of it.

NESSUS
Oh, címon, Deianeira. Think about it. Her blessed hair, her glowing skin. Her youth. Sheís absolutely perfect. And, well...Hercules is what Hercules is.

DEIANEIRA
Thatís enough, Nessus. Good night.

Deianeira turns to go, but NESSUS STEPS INTO HER PATH. Close. Too close. His large body threatening as he leers at her.

NESSUS
I bet thereís something else I can do better than Hercules.

SMAACK! Deianeira SLAPS Nessus across the face!

DEIANEIRA
Get out of my way, Nessus, and go sleep it off!

Her eyes bore into him, HARD. After a tense moment, Nessus takes a step back. Deianeira heads out the door.

NESSUS
Heíll have her. Youíll see.

CUT TO:
Back in the house

Deianeira ENTERS, taking a moment to catch her breath - thinking about what Nessus said.

As she heads back toward her bedroom, she canít help but stop to look in on Iole.

IOLEís QUARTERS

Iole is back to sleep - a slumbering ANGEL. In the flickering lamplight, her beauty seems to GLOW, as if it could light the room by itself. Itís overpowering. Deianeira stands for a long beat, just LOOKING.

Finally, she turns to go...and finds her OWN FACE reflected in the MIRROR. Deianeira stares at herself, scrutinizing what the years have made of her beauty.

She looks down at her hands; her worn, weathered hands. They begin to tremble.

When Deianeira looks back to the Mirror, TEARS are streaming down her face.

DISSOLVE TO:
int. Herculesí Home - morning

The next morning. Deianeira stands in the KITCHEN, filling a CLOTH BAG with fruits, gourds and dried meats.

Hercules enters, a clothes-filled LEATHER PACK slung over his shoulder. He smiles as usual.

HERCULES
Looks like a good day to travel.

Deianeira doesnít look up. Hercules kisses her on the cheek.

HERCULES (cont)
I was afraid we might have rain, but it looks like weíll be just fine.

Still he wife avoids his gaze. She just ands him the Food Bag without so much as a smile.

DEIANEIRA
There. I hope thatíll be enough to get you there.

She turns away, busying herself with straightening the room. Hercules stops her, taking her by the arm.

HERCULES
Hey, whatís wrong with you?

DEIANEIRA
Iím fine. I just... (turns to face him) I just know how much Iím gonna miss you, thatís all.

Hercules smiles warmly, pulling her into him.

HERCULES
IĒll miss you, too.

They HUG - itís warm and tender. When the part, Hercules notices SOMETHING outside, through the window.

HERCULES
Whatís all that about?

DEIANEIRA
Oh, itís seems word of Iole has gotten into town. I guess theyíve come to see for themselves.

CUT TO:
ext. Herculesí House - morning

A handful of villagers have gathered in a cluster outside Herculesí home. Theyíre watching Iole playing with the kids.

Villagerís P.O.V.

Iole swings little Ilea in the air, SINGING to her. Her voice is like the sweetest music. She pauses long enough to accept a FLOWER from a slightly embarrassed Aeson. He then runs back to Klonus who breaks into giggles.

IN THE CROWD OF VILLAGERS

A handsome young man named LYCASTUS watches Iole with FIRE IN HIS EYES. Heís her age. Her coloring. He looks like he wants to step toward her, and drag her away forever.

OVER BY THE HOUSE

Hercules and Deianeira exit the front door. He grabs a BOW AND ARROW from the side of the house, CALLING OUT.

HERCULES
Nessus, where are you? Itís time to go.

Deianeira stops her husband. She pulls him back a step.

DEIANEIRA
Hercules, be careful around Nessus, alright? He worries me.

HERCULES
Look. I know Nessus has his faults, but heís been a loyal hand for ten years. Besides, you know I promised his brother, Chiron, Iíd always look after him.

DEIANEIRA
Still...Iíd feel better if you kept an eye on him.

HERCULES
Alright. For you, I will.

Warmed by Herculesí smile and his never-ending confidence, Deianeiraís fears melt away. She kisses him.

Iole sees them and leads the Children over. They push and shove to see who gets to hold her hand. Iole smiles at them.

IOLE
Kids, why donít you give your dad a big kiss goodbye?

Hercules kneels down. The kids throw their arms around him, smothering him with HUGS and KISSES.

Iole turns to Deianeira. Their exchange is warm and genuine.

IOLE
I want to thank you for taking such good care of me. I was in a pretty horrid state when I arrived.

DEIANEIRA
Well, Iím glad to see youíre feeling better today.

IOLE
(smiles) I think your wonderful cooking was the key.

DEIANEIRA
No, no. It was just rest you needed.

IOLE takes off the SPARKLING MEDALLION that hangs around her neck.

IOLE
Here, I want you to have this.

DEIANEIRA
No, no, Iole. Itís much too precious. You shouldnít...

IOLE
Please, Deianeira. Itíll make me very happy if youíll accept it. And wear it.

DEIANEIRA
(smiles) Then I will. Thank you.

Deianeira put on the Medallion. She and Iole share a HUG.

NESSUS clomps up. He avoids Deianeiraís gaze. Hercules loads the Bags and Bow and Arrow onto the Centaurís back.

Then he turns back to his wife for a final Hug and KISS.

HERCULES
This is always the hardest part, leaving you.

DEIANEIRA
I know. For me, too.

They stare at each other for a moment...then both break into SMILES

HERCULES & DEIANEIRA
I love you.

They kiss again, then, reluctantly, Hercules lets go of Deianeira. He, Iole and Nessus head down the path, through the gathered Villagers.

With her children gathered around her, Deianeira watches proudly as her husband sets off on another Labor.

DISSOLVE TO:
ext Village - same day - Later

The village is back to normal after the Eryx fight. The Market is busy with hawking VENDORS and haggling BUYERS.

Deianeira walks among the carts, shopping. Sheís completely unaware that

AN OLD HAG is following close behind, shadowing her ominously.

DEIANEIRA stops to examine some coloful fruits.

DEIANEIRA
These look fine today, Biton. Iíll take tree.

The Vendor nods and wraps them up.

THE OLD HAG circles ahead, like a stalking PREDATOR

DEIANEIRA pays and turns to go. Suddenly, the old hag appears in her path. Her hand is clutched to her chest, HIDING SOMETHING. Her head raises up with a HISS.

ANGLE ON THE OLD HAGíS FACE Itís wrinkled and Weary. Tears stream down her cheeks. Her moth movies, but her words seem clogged by some unspeakable grief.

Seeing the Croneís distress, Deianeira reaches down, CONCERNED.

DEIANEIRA
What is it? Are you hungry? Can I do something...

The old Hag opens her clutched hand to reveal a MEDALLION. A Medallion IDENTICAL to Deianeiraís! Deianeiraís eyes go wide.

Without a word, the old Hag reaches out and takes a hold of Deianeiraís Medallion. Gripping it in her hands, along with her own, she lets out a horrible, tortured cry of anguish...then collapses to the street. Silent. DEAD.

Deianeira stands stunned. She looks around, not knowing what to do, as a Crowd gather around her.

Suddenly, a Samaritan steps from the Group. Dark-skinned, dressed in Elaborate Robes. He bends down over the old Hag.

Deianeira bends next to him, shaken.

DEIANEIRA
What happened to her?

The Samaritan looks at Deianeira. He sees her Medallion.

SAMARITAN
She died of grief. Grief for you.

DEIANEIRA
(confused)I-I donít understand.

SAMARITAN
For the loss of your husband.

DEIANEIRA
My husbandís fine. You must be mis...

SAMARITAN
But you have the Medallion. It says youíve lost your husband.

Deianeira fingers her sparkling Medallion.

DEIANEIRA
No, no. This was just a gift....

SAMARITAN
(knowingly) A gift from a sweet, beautiful girl?

Deianeira nods, fear starting to take hold.

SAMARITAN
A Nurian maiden.

DEIANEIRA
But...W-Why would you think my husband was dead.

SAMARITAN
Nurian maidens have but one purpose: when a task need be done, a task so dangerous that a man canít possibly accomplish it and emerge alive, these beautiful virgins can persuade him to attempt it anyway.

DEIANEIRA
No, no. Not my Hercules. She has no power over him.

SAMARITAN
But she has power over every man. Since the day she was born, sheís trained for this, and only this. And knows all there is to know about love, and charm...and seduction. Sheíll make your husband fall in love with her. And once he has, heíll do anything she asks...even if it takes him to his death.

Deianeira stares down at the dead Hag, and the Blue-stone Medallion locked around her lifeless neck.

DEIANEIRA
No. It canít be. No!

TH-THUMP! The fruits drop from her hands as sheís swamped by a wave of panic. She runs off into the crowd.

CUT TO:
int. Herculesí Home - Day

Deianeira moves frantically about, gathering a few bites of food and clothing. Her sister, ALTHEA shadows her, concerned.

ALTHEA
Deianeira, I donít think you should go. She was just some old, crazy woman.

DEIANEIRA
But the things the man said. He knew. Iíve got to warn Hercules. I have to!

ALTHEA
But it could be dangerous out there. Youíre not even sure you know the right way.

Deianeira doesnít have time or patience for a debate.

DEIANEIRA
Look, just please, take care of my children, alright? Thatís all Iím asking of you.

Althea reluctantly nods. Deianeira rushes out the door...

ext. Herculesí House - Day

She quickly huddles her children together.

DEIANEIRA
Kids, I have to go for awhile. Iíll be back later. Your Aunt Althea is going to take care of you. Alright?

Before the kids have time to answer, Deianeira gives them a quick kiss, then rushes off down the path.

DISSOLVE TO:
ext. River Valley - day

The Paunius River carves itís way through a narrow valley. Itís wide and fast-moving, not hospitable to crossing.

The sound of bushes rustling...then Nessus appears on the river bank, pushing through the thick shrubs, returning from upstream. Hercules appears from downstream. Heís holding a coil of rope.

HERCULES
Whatíd you find? Does it get any better up there?

NESSUS
(shaking his head) I went all the way to the bend. It looks like it just gets deeper.

HERCULES
Yeah, well downstreamís no better. I guess this is probably the best spot.

Hercules ties one end of the rope around his waist, then tosses the rest to Nessus.

HERCULES (cont)
Iíll swim across and tie it off, then come back for the two of you.

SPLAASH!He dives into the River and starts swimming, battling the swift current as Nessus pays out line.

CUT TO:
The Bluff Above

Where Iole watches Hercules swimming across. She looks radiant sitting in the sun-dappled shade. A twittering BIRD swoops down and LANDS on her shoulder. Iole smiles and pets it - the Bird is instantly tamed, nuzzling against her finger.

Suddenly, a voice speaks....

DEIANEIRA (OS)
Your beautyís so strong it charms even the birds.

Iole turns - itís Deianeira walking up.

DEIANEIRA (cont)
I guess it shouldnít surprise me.

IOLE
(getting up) Deianeira. Whatís wrong?

Deianeira reaches out, dangling the Medallion from her hand.

DEIANEIRA
I know all about you, Iole. I know about your breeding, your training, how you have the power to make men fall in love with you. (more pointed) How youíll make a widow and orphans out of a loving family. Please, call this off. Leave my family be.

IOLE
I canít

DEIANEIRA
You have to.

IOLE
Deianeira, if you know all about me, then you know I have no choice. Iíve prepared all my life for this. Since the day I was born, Iíve learned to be what I am, so I could one day answer the call, and do something great.

Iole steps forward, sympathetic, but firm.

IOLE (cont)
This is my destiny.

DEIANEIRA
But it doesnít have to be my husband. There are plenty of other strong men. Plenty of brave ones...

IOLE
None as strong or brave as Hercules.

DEIANEIRA
But you donít understand. You donít know what he and I have been through. Itís taken all our lives to get what we have. Let him enjoy it. Let him play with his children, watch them grow up. For all Hercules has done in this world, he deserves a little peace.

IOLE
My village is being destroyed. My people are dying. Your husbandís the only person who can save them. I wish I could walk away from all of this. I really do. But I must bring Hercules back to my village.

Just then, Hercules and Nessus appear, trudging up the hill. Hercules is wet from his swim.

HERCULES
Deianeira? What are you doing here?

Deianeira rushes over to him, taking him aside, away from the others.

DEIANEIRA
I had to come warn you. Thank the gods youíre alright.

HERCULES
Warn me? What are you talking about?

DEIANEIRA
Youíve been tricked! We both have. This Medallion - the one Iole gave me. IT means sheís a Nurian.

HERCULES
(admitting, reluctantly) Deianeira, I know. Iíve known since she first arrived.

Deianeira can barely believe it.

DEIANEIRA
And youíre going with her anyway?

HERCULES
Itíll be alright.

DEIANEIRA
But weíll never see you again. Sheíll take you from us forever!

Hercules places a finger against her lips, quieting her.

HERCULES
Shhh, shhh, Thatíll never happen.

DEIANEIRA
Please. Please come home with me now. Sheíll make you fall in love with her. And once you have, youíll be willing to die for her.

Hercules pulls Deianeira in, hugging her.

HERCULES
Deianeira. You trust me, donít you? (she nods) And I trust you. I always have. Itís the one thing thatís always gotten us through.

She looks up at him. Sheís calming a little.

HERCULES (cont)
Well, let that trust be enough now. Trust that I love you, and only you. Trust that youíre the only person Iíd ever die for.

He takes her face in his hands.

HERCULES (cont)
Trust that Iíd never let anything keep me away from you.

Deianeira puts her arms around him, hugging him tightly.

HERCULES (cont)
Let me go and do what I can for Ioleís people. Then Iíll hurry right back home to you. (beat) At the very worst, Iíll have a new scar or two to show you.

Hercules smiles. Deianeira smiles. They kiss.

HERCULES (cont)
Now get yourself home. Nessusíll go with you, to make sure you get there safely.

Nessusí jaw clenches at the quick dismissal.

Hercules gives his wife one last kiss, then grabs his bags and bow off the centaurís back. He turns to Iole.

HERCULES
Iole, letís get going. We need to cover some ground before the sun sets. (to Deianeira) Goodbye.

Hercules and Iole set off down the hill.

Deianeira stands, watching them as they make their way through the rocks and shrubs, down to the river. She smiles to herself, but the smile is still tinted with worry.

Nessus steps up behind her, sanding just over her shoulder.

NESSUS
Funny, isnít it? you travel all this way because you love him and care for him so much. And still, where are you? Alone, watching as he leaves with her for a second time.

DEIANEIRA
BE quiet, Nessus. Hercules has a job to do.

NESSUS
Yeah, But why this job? Ask yourself that. Why has he chosen to abandon his family and go off, risking his life for this stranger? Could it be because sheís a young, beautiful virgin?

Their P.O.V. - looking down on the riverbank

Hercules scoops Iole up in his arms. Grabbing the rope stretched taut across the River, he begins carrying her across.

NESSUS (cont OS)
Look at the way he carries her. Look at the way he holds her. Itís tender, like a lover.

Deianeira grits her teeth, trying to ignore Nessusí words.

NESSUS (cont)
He used to carry you that way. Do you remember? Or is it too long ago?

She turns to him, betraying no emotion.

DEIANEIRA
Itís time to go.

She takes a step, but Nessus grabs her by the arm.

NESSUS
If you were mine, Deianeira, youíd never be alone.

Deianeira goes to tug her arm away, but Nessus holds it tight.

DEIANEIRA
Let go of me, Nessus. Let go or when Hercules comes back, Iíll tell him all about this, and the other night, too.

NESSUS
(laughs, scoffing) Youíre not listening. Hercules wonít be coming back. Iole will have him. Youíll never see him again.

DEIANEIRA
Heíll be coming back. He said so.

NESSUS
(angry, crazed) God! Youíre caught in his spell. Donít you see that? Youíve been tricked by him into thinking hiís something he isnít.

Deianeira struggles harder to free her arm from Nessusí grasp, but he holds on tight, now grabbing her other arm as well.

DEIANEIRA
Nessus!

NESSUS
Thereís only one way to get through to you. One way to make you see things clearly, like I do?

Nessus pulls her in, Kissing at her neck.

DEIANEIRA
Nessus. Stop it right now.

NESSUS
I should have done this a long time ago. You need to be saved from him.

Deianeira finally manages to free an arm. WHAACK! She slaps Nessus hard on the face, and pulls away. He grasps for her, but catches only her cloak.

Deianeira starts to run, but thereís nowhere to go. Sheís cornered by boulders. Nessus eyes her, twirling the cloak.

NESSUS (cont)
Iím going to have you, Deianeira. Thereís no escape and you know it.

DEIANEIRA
HERCULES! HERCULES, HELP!

CUT TO:
The opposite river-bluff

Hercules is leading Iole up the far hill when Deianeiraís screams reach his ears. He whirls around, senses immediately on full-alert.

HERCULES P.O.V.

Even from a half-mile away, clear across the river canyon, his eyes lock on the dark shapes of Deianeira and Nessus.

Iole turns around, confused. Her eyes scan the opposite bluff, unable to see anything.

IOLE
W-Whatís happening? What is it?

In a flash, Hercules whips the bow off his back and notches a wicked-looking arrow. With a mighty pull,he draws it back. Muscles Bulge and he aims high into the air, instantly calculating the long arcing shot across the river.

Iole is still clueless.

IOLE (cont)
Hercules, whatís going on?

Hercules hears only the wind rustle the trees nearby. He adjusts his aim with a minuscule shift then -TWWAAAAANG!- lets the arrow fly, sending it whistling skyward.

CUT TO:

On the other Bluff

Deianeira is backed against the rocks, terrified.

DEIANEIRA
HERCULES, HELP ME! ! HERCULES!

A crazed snicker escapes the Centaurís lips.

NESSUS
What are you screaming for, Deianeira? There is no Hercules. Heís gone. I told you. In fact, heís as good as dea...UUUHHHH! !

Nessusí face writhes in agony as Herculesí arrow finds its mark, piercing the center of his back.

He sways for a moment, eyes blinking, trying to comprehend what just happened - trying to make sense of the razor-point jutting from his chest. Then -THUUD!- he topples over.

Nessus lies gasping - each heavy, labored breath throwing more blood from his mouth. Deianeiraís cloak, still clutched in his hand, soaks crimson red.

NESSUS (cont)
(barely a whisper) Hera. Iím dying. You were supposed to protect me.

Just then a caustic, grating bird cry rings out. Nessus turns his head toward the woods.

NESSUSí P.O.V.
The gaudy peacock stands at the Treeline a short distance away. It turns its head, eyeing the wounded centaur.

NESSUS sees the bird, and a relieved smile spreads on his face, Then suddenly, his expression changes. He cocks his head, listening to some unheard voice.

NESSUS (cont)
Yes, Hera... Yes...

He glances at the cloak in his hand.

NESSUS (cont)
Yes... If thatís what you want...

Deianeira moves slowly, cautiously toward him, pitying his apparent delusion. She looks to see what heís looking at...but thereís nothing there. The peacock is gone.

NESSUS (cont)
Deianeira

She turns. the Centaur is looking up at her - all the hate gone from his face.

NESSUS (cont)
I want to make amends before I die.

He holds out the blood-stained cloak.

NESSUS (cont)
My blood is a powerful potion. Give the cloak to Hercules. Once he puts it on, you can be sure heíll never be unfaithful to you.

DEIANEIRA
But...But I donít doubt him.

NESSUS
But you do

Deianeira looks at the cloak. Suddenly, magically, the blood stains disappear. Her eyes widen.

Just then, Herculesí voice calls out, spinning Deianeira around.

HERCULES (OS)
DEIANEIRA! DEIANEIRA!

She looks back to the cloak. Then at Nessus. Her mind is battling with what to do.

NESSUS
(weakly) Be sure. Give it to him.

The centaur dies...just as Hercules crests the hill. Fear is written all over his face as he sees the scene.

HERCULES
DEIANEIRA!

DEIANEIRA
Itís alright, Hercules. Iím alright.

Hercules stares at Nessusí dead body, then back to her.

HERCULES
This is my fault. I should have known. You tried to tell me.

DEIANEIRA
Hercules, Iím not hurt. Everything is fine.

HERCULES
It wonít be fine until I take you back home.

DEIANEIRA
No. I can make it back by myself. You need to go on. Get to Ioleís village. Her people need you there.

HERCULES
Are you sure?

DEIANEIRA
Yes. Iím sure.

Hercules wraps her in his arms and hugs her. While they embrace, Deianeira stares over Herculesí shoulder at the cloak. She struggles to decide what to do. To give it to him would mean she doesnít trust him. But not to... Finally, her mind is made up.

DEIANEIRA (cont)
Just do me this favor.

She breaks from Hercules, and bends, picking up the cloak.

DEIANEIRA (cont)
Take this. And when youíre cold at night, put it on and think only of me.

Hercules takes the cloak, smiling.

HERCULES
Iíll think of nothing else.

Hercules and Deianeira kiss.

HERCULES (cont)
Iíll miss you. Goodbye.

He disappears back down the hill. Deianeira hangs her head.

DISSOLVE TO:
ext. Forest Trail - day

Hercules and Iole make their way along a wooded trail. She leads. He shoulders all the gear.

IOLE
Iím tired of talking about me. I wanna know about you. Tell me some tales about the great Hercules.

HERCULES
Thereís not that much to tell. I just do what I do. Besides, you still havenít told me why you decided to become a Nurian in the first place.

IOLE
Well, thatís Ďcause it wasnít really my decision. I was only five when my mother had a vision. It told her that someday, Iíd be called upon to make a great effort to save my village. And in the vision, I was wearing the blue-stone medallion. So she and my father sent me off to train as a Nurian, and fifteen years later...here I am.

HERCULES
What about the stories Iíve heard? Of your special powers and all that?

IOLE
Oh, thatís nonsense. Foolís talk. You of all people must know how that is. I mean according to the stories about the great and powerful Hercules, youíre supposed to be ten feet tall.

Iole shakes her head, smiling.

IOLE (cont)
Some of the crazy things they say youíve done... Díyou know you supposedly slew a two-headed giant? And you get the Lernaean Hydra all by yourself? (laughs) Or best of all, I heard someone say you killed an enormous sea monster by squeezing his heart Ďtil it stopped beating.

Hercules stops short, his brow furrowed.

HERCULES
But those stories are true.

Iole eyes him, disbelieving. Hercules insists.

HERCULES
No. I mean it. I really did all those things.

Finally, Ioleís look of disbelief turns into a broad smile.

IOLE
So maybe Hercules does have a tale or two after all.

Hercules smiles at having been had. She takes his hand.

IOLE
Címon. Tell me a few more.

They travel onward.

DISSOLVE TO:
ext. Trail - Dusk

The sun is setting, throwing rays of red and purple across the sky. Hercules and Iole come into view.

HERCULES
Look, thereís an inn right up there. We can get a meal.

A Rustic Inn

by the side of the road. Light glows through the doorway. Suddenly, a burst of screams from inside shatters the stillness.

VOICES (OS)
AAAHHH! Heís going crazy! HEELP!

The sound of CRASHING WOOD can be heard.

Hercules and Iole
share a look..then rush forward

As they reach the Inn, more yelling and breaking can be heard inside.

HERCULES
I think you better stay out here.

Hercules darts into the Inn.

CUT TO:
int. Inn - Night

Frightened customers cower under tables and behind the bar as a man goes berserk in the corner.

A couple of large men grab him, but he flings them to the ground. Wooden bowls and chairs fly every which way. Tables are reduced to kindling.

The Berserk Manís eyes bulge wide...but he doesnít speak. He just shrieks strangely.

Angle on Hercules as he grabs the quaking innkeeper.

HERCULES
Whatís happening here?

INNKEEPER
I dunno. He came in, and just started screaming. When I tried to throw him out, he goes crazy and starts smashiní up the place.

HERCULES
Did he say what he was mad about?

INNKEEPER
No. Didnít say nothiní.

Hercules picks through the mess on the floor, finding a big broken chair-leg. He stand up, brandishing it like a club.

In the Doorway Iole watches the scene. She peers hard at the Berserk Man. Something about his face...

Back inside The others make way for Hercules as he moves into position, sizing the man up.

The berserk man sees Hercules and growls angrily. SMAASH! He breaks a table in two with an enraged blow of his big fist!

Hercules cocks his club to attack...but -WHAAP!- a hand grabs it, holding it back. Itís Iole! Hercules spins.

HERCULES
Iole?! W-What are...

IOLE
Youíre only scaring him.

HERCULES
Scaring him? Heís gone crazy. Heíll turn this place into a pile of splinters if I donít stop him.

IOLE
No. Please, put down the club. Lemme talk to him.

Before Hercules can stop her, Iole steps between him and the crazed man. The man kicks a chair aside, baring his teeth.

IOLE
Hercules, put the club down.

Hercules reluctantly does.

Iole turns and walks slowly toward the man. With arms outstretched and palms open, she offers no threat at all.

The man seems as perplexed as Hercules, alternately growling, then backing down. Growling. then backing down.

But as Iole gets closer, we see her beautiful charm begin to work on him. Calming him.

We can also see what Iole saw - that the berserk ďManĒ is actually no more than an over-sized boy. Big and hulking...but with eyes that look dull, dim-witted.

As Iole gets closer, the boy softens more. Five feet away. Three feet. One foot. Finally, she touches him, laying a gentle hand on him, stroking his head.

IOLE
There, there. Itís alright now.

She turns to the Innkeeper.

IOLE
Could you get him some water?

The Innkeeper goes. The frightened customers come out of hiding, amazed, as Iole sits the boy down at a table.

The Innkeeper returns with the water. Iole strokes the boyís head as he gulps the whole jug down.

IOLE (cont)
He wants something to eat. But he canít ask for it because heís mute. Get him something, would you? Iíll be happy to pay for it.

The Innkeeper scurries off again.

Angle on Hercules looking amazed and impressed.

Angle on another face equally amazed and impressed. Itís Lycastus, the handsome young man who was in the crowd outside Herculesí house. He watches Iole protectively, with the same Fire in his eyes.

DISSOLVE TO:
next day montage:

As Hercules and Iole travel the next day.

At a Crevasse
They come to a deep crevasse. Itís too far across to jump. With a roar of strength, Hercules pushes over a tall tree. WHAAM! It lands on the other side, spanning the ravine. Hercules and Iole are able to get across.

In a Shadowy Forest
Hercules leads Iole through a dark maze of trees. Huge snakes loop over limbs. Birds screech and flutter through the branches. Iole holds his hand tight, looking a little scared.

At a Waterfall
Hercules and Iole pass under a thundering waterfall. Everything is slick and slippery - itís slow going. Suddenly, Hercules looses his footing and starts to fall. WHAAP! Iole catches him by the arm, and pulls him up. Hercules gives a smile of gratitude, then they continue on.

A moment later

Lycastus appears, carrying a strange-looking, hand-carved staff. He stops for a few seconds, looking at the rock where Hercules nearly fell. Then he creeps on, following in their tracks.

DISSOLVE TO:
ext. camp - night

Hercules and Iole have made camp for the night. They sit by the fire on bedrolls. Hercules finishes off a charred animal leg, then leans back for a mighty stretch.

Iole looks up, gazing at the stars overhead.

IOLE
Itís beautiful isnít it?

Hercules looks up.

HERCULES
Yeah. A lot of stars out tonight.

They stare for a long beat. Iole points at a constellation.

IOLE
Myrea and Martumus. Every time I see them, it makes me sad.

HERCULES
Which ones are they?

Pointing again.

IOLE
Right up there.

Hercules squints, scanning the heavens.

HERCULES
Right up... where?

IOLE
Right up here. (smiles) Here. Iíll show you.

Iole gets up and goes over to Hercules, sitting down next to him, close against his body. She points at the constellations again, putting her soft face right against Herculesí so he can sight down her arm into the sky.

IOLE (cont)
See? There they are.

Iole remains close to Hercules as she tells the tale.

IOLE (cont)
There were lovers in life...or wouldíve been. Their families were at war, so they were kept apart. They were never allowed to see each other, never allowed to touch.

HERCULES
Why didnít they just run away?

IOLE
They were going to. They had it all planed out, to meet in a meadow and finally be together. But Myreaís father found out about it. He became enraged. And when Myrea refused to denounce her love for Martumus, her father was so filled with spite, he killed her.

HERCULES
He killed his own daughter?

IOLE
Uh-huh. And he tossed her body into the heavens. Thatís her right there, reaching out.

Ioleís body presses close to Hercules as she outlines Myreaís Constellation in the sky. The closer she gets, the more Herculesí voice begins to sound far-off and dreamy.

HERCULES
And what happened to Martumus?

IOLE
Well, he went to the meadow and waited for Myrea. Naturally, she never came. Finally, by chance, he looked up into the sky. And there she was.

HERCULES
Well, what did he do? Did he get revenge? Did he kill her father?

IOLE
He was so wracked with grief, he drew his dagger, and cut out his own heart. He had to just to stop the pain. Luckily, the gods saw what had happened. Out of pity, they drew his body up into the heavens. See, thatís him, there, reaching toward Myrea.

HERCULES
But theyíre not touching.

IOLE
No. In a cruel twist of fate, Martumus landed just outta reach of Myrea. And thatís how theyíll spend eternity. They know theyíll never touch...but they never stop trying.

A single tear rolls down Ioleís face.

IOLE (cont)
Isnít that sad?

Hercules doesnít answer. His eyes are riveted on Ioleís as she stares into the sky.

Sheís so beautiful. And so close. Our hero is practically in a trance. It seems like anything could happen, until...

She turns toward him with an innocent smile, wiping away the tear, slightly embarrassed.

IOLE (cont)
I guess Iím just silly.

She gives Hercules a quick kiss on the cheek, then goes back to her bedroll. She lies down, turning her back to him.

Angle on Iole reveals her smile at drawing Hercules under her spell.

IOLE
Goodnight,Hercules.

Back with Hercules who looks a little dizzy. He lies down on his bedroll.

HERCULES
Uh...goodnight, Iole.

As the fire crackles and pops...

Over in the Trees Lycastus spies on them from the darkness. He looks enraged, the staff trembling in his white-knuckle grip.

Finally, he creeps away, disappearing into the night.

DISSOLVE TO:
ext. Water Pool - Morning

IOLE appears. She steps onto a flat bounder at the waterís edge and dips a toe in, testing the temperature. Satisfied, she drops her dress and dives in with a SPLASH!

Another Angle reveals Lycastus creeping through the bushes. he still carried his strange staff as he moves closer to the edge of the pool.

In the Water Iole splashes, oblivious, the sun sparkling off the cool water caressing her skin.

On the Shore Lycastus steps closer and closer, picking quietly through the brush, eyes riveted on Iole.

At the waterís edge, he crouches behind a leafy palm, fixed on her.

In the Pool Iole backstrokes across the surface of the water.

On the Shore Lycastusí eyes widen an excitement. He steps sideways, trying to get a better view. C-CRACK! A fallen branch snaps loudly beneath his foot.

In the Pool Iole jerks upright, startled. She spins around just as the parted palm fronds -SWIIISH!- swing back into place.

A coquettish smile spreads across her face. She calls toward the shore.

IOLE
Hercules. You know you shouldnít be watching me.

When she sees the palm fronds being pushed apart again, she takes a deep breath and dives. Her bare butt flashes in the air before disappearing underwater.

On the Shore Lycastusí jaw drops, having seen the show.

In the Pool SPLUUSSH! Iole breaks the surface. She turns to the palm fronds, smiling as she prepares to bust ďHercules the peeperĒ...

But Hercules Voice calls out from the opposite direction.

HERCULES (OS)
Iole, hurry up! We need to be on the road!

Ioleís eyes widen, realizing that Hercules is still in camp.

She whirls around, confused - ďThen who was watching...?Ē

In the Bushes Lycastus has forgotten Iole. He grabs his staff and heads off after Hercules, eyes burning with hatred.

CUT TO:
ext. camp - same time

Hercules is packing up their stuff. Suddenly, the bushes rustle behind him.

The Strongman turns around, slinging the bags over his shoulder.

HERCULES
Címon, Iole. Itís getting kinda late.

Hercules stands there, expecting Iole to appear before him. But she doesnít. He takes a step forward.

HERCULES (cont)
Iole?

Lycastus suddenly bursts from the bushes with a yell, swinging his staff like a man possessed. The attach catches Hercules off-guard.

WHAACK! The staff cracks him on top of the head. Hercules stumbles backwards, tripping over a knee-high rock.

WHAAM! He lands on his ass in the dirt. His bags go flying. Lycastus jumps atop the rock, raising his staff overhead.

LYCASTUS
You donít deserve to live, you bastard!

He twists the staff and -WHIICK- a nasty-looking spear-point pops out of one end. With a yell, he leaps down toward Hercules, aiming the spear toward his throat.

Hercules rolls out of the way as -THUUMP!- it jabs into the ground. He jumps to his feet but quickly has to -WHOOOSH!- dodge a lunge. Then another. Then another.

HERCULES
Whoa, Whoa. who are you, friend? Why are you attacking me?

LYCASTUS
Iím not your friend!

HERCULES
Okay, but tell me your name, kid. I like to know whoís trying to kill me.

LYCASTUS
Iím not a kid either!

HERCULES
So youíre not a friend and youíre not a kid. But I donít remember crossing you.

LYCASTUS
Thatís alright. Youíll remember dying by my hand.

He launches more spirited, if clumsy, attacks. SWIISH! SWAASH! Hercules easily ducks and side-steps.

On the Edge of Camp Iole appears. She stifles a scream, instantly recognizing the young man.

She ducks behind a tree, eyes glued on the fight, wincing at every thrust and parry.

In Camp Hercules is ducking add dodging blows, but he looks like heís swatting away mosquitos.

WHACK! He blocks a swing. SWOOSH! Hercules jumps back from a lunge.

HERCULES
Now thatís enough. Iím not gonna dirty my fists on you.

Lycastus stops attacking.

LYCASTUS
Youíre not?

HERCULES
No. Youíll have to go find someone else to kill.

Lycastus frowns. Hercules just rolls his eyes. the young man sees his chance. WHOOSH! He lunges again.

WHAAP! Hercules grabs the staff and -C-CRACK!- snaps off the spear-point with a growl.

HERCULES (cont)
Iím warning you. Next thing to break is your neck.

But Lycastus twists the staff and -SHUUUP!_ a wicked blade pops out of the other end.

With a victory grin, he swings it at Herculesí head. WHAAP! the strongman grabs that end too. C-CRACK! the blade hits the dirt.

Lycastus stares dumbfounded at his broken staff thatís not maybe a four-and-a-half long.

WHAAP! Hercules grabs him by the neck and pulls back for a monster punch.

Iole bursts out of the forest.

IOLE
Hercules, donít kill him!

Hercules looks over - ďHuh?Ē - but doesnít take the guyís head off. Instead, he slows his fist and -WHAAP!- just knocks him cold instead.

THUUD! Lycastus crumples to an unconscious heap on the ground.

Iole rushes to his side. She bends down, cradling his head.

IOLE
Oh, poor Lycastus.

Hercules dusts himself off, eyeing her.

HERCULES
Is there something you wanna tell me?

Iole looks up

IOLE
I told him not to follow me, but he canít help it. He doesnít understand.

HERCULES
Doesnít understand what?

IOLE
He doesnít understand that even though I love him...there isnít a future for us. He thinks thereís a future for us, and there isnít.

HERCULES
Why not?

IOLE
Because there canít be. Itís not in my destiny.

HERCULES
But if you love him, and he obviously loves you...

IOLE
It doesnít matter. There are so many more important things in the world. My life and his life mean nothing.

Iole gently lays the young man back down.

IOLE (cont)
I donít want this to affect anything, Hercules. Saving my town is still the only thing that matters to me.

Itís obvious from Ioleís tender touch that thatís not true.

She rises, shouldering a bag.

IOLE (cont)
We have to get going.

DISSOLVE TO:
ext hilltop - late afternoon

Afternoon. Hercules and Iole crest a hill. She points to an apocalyptic scenes in the distance. Black shafts of light and smoke rise into the air over a small town.

IOLE
There, thatís Gryphon. My home.

Hercules and Iole start forward again.

CUT TO:
ext. just outside Gryphon - late afternoon

The citizens of Gryphon have all but abandoned the actual town. Theyíve set up a makeshift camp fifty yards away - a hodgepodge of sagging tents and boiling stove-pots.

the people themselves look weary and demoralized. Many appear half-dead. Children cry. Dogs pant listlessly in the dust.

A haggard-looking woman scrutinizes a picked-over goat carcass for one last morsel to throw in her stew. Something catches her eye - two figures aproaching from the distance.

A grin come to her face.

HAGGARD WOMAN
Itís him (Yelling) Look! Ioleís returned! And sheís brought Hercules!

The excited buzz of ďHerculesĒ quickly ripples through the camp. Smiles appear on faces. People are suddenly energized with hope.

Hercules and Iole enter the camp.

Everyone swarms around, ecstatic. Clapping Hercules on the back. Jabbering their welcomes and praises. Children trail in Herculesí footsteps, trying to emulate his walk.

MAN#!
Youíll save us now, wonít you, Hercules?

MAN #2
Of course he will. Heís the strongest man in the world!

Iole steps aside as the Crowd surrounds Hercules like a tide sweeping him up and carrying him away.

MAN #3
This way Hercules. Weíll take you to it.

MAN #2
Come with us!

They lead Hercules toward the town, right at his side every step of the way. But as the air begins to cloud with smoke and fumes, the townspeople fall away, afraid to continue.

A few steps further, Hercules realizes heís now on his own.

The smoke quickly thickens, drifting in great banks. With every step, signs of death become more and more evident. Shrubs lie brown and shrivelled in the dirt. Cracks spiderweb the ground. A lifeless bird flutters out of the sky and drops near Herculesí feet.

And a horrible sound grows louder, more frightening. The ground is now vibrating, thundering with sound.

Hercules squints to see. Suddenly, thereís a break in the smoke. And there it is!

The Black Hole - sfx

Itís a huge craggy black hole. The rocks and dirt at itís edges look blasted and charred. Noxious fumes spew forth like swirling smoke. Itís a mighty battle, even for him. Finally, he reaches the edge of the hole and peers down into the void.

Herculesí P.O.V. - Inside the Black Hole - sfx

Itís a mind-bending abyss of insanity. Chattering skeletons scream across a flickering sky. Horrific, mangled faces rush up to fill the screen, leering and laughing, then vanish into smoke. Flames roar in huge columns. Oceans of tears thunder down, crushing whole continents.

Hercules stumbles backwards from the Hole, retreating far enough to escape the harsh wind and noise. He looks shaken.

Suddenly, a voice speaks right behind him...

BEGGAR (OS)
I never thought Iíd see the day. A task too big, even for my son.

Another Angle
reveals the toothless beggar standing behind our hero.

Hercules doesnít turn around. He just stares at the hole, deep in thought. The beggar watches him.

BEGGAR (cont)
So, What are you gonna do?

HERCULES
Ií donít know. Iíve battled hideous beasts, Iíve matched blows with giants, Iíve even gone against whole armies of men...(a beat) But Iíve never been asked to die before.

Hercules finally turns to face his father.

HERCULES (cont)
When I was younger, I mightíve marched right into this. I mightíve fought death himself if it was asked of me. But now I have so much to live for. My wife. My children.

Hercules looks at the hole again. His mind is battling with everything before it. after a long bat, he turns back to the Beggar.

HERCULES (cont)
I need to know something...am I immortal or not?

BEGGAR
(side-stepping) Hercules...

HERCULES
Iíve never asked you before, but as your son, Iím asking you now. Can I die?

BEGGAR
You donít wanna know.

HERCULES
I have to know. Youíre a god. My motherís mortal. What does that make me?

BEGGAR
Hercules, this is a question you shouldnít be asking. If I tell you youíre mortal, youíll change. Youíll grow cautious. And if I say youíre gonna live forever...Well, thatís a curse in itself.

HERCULES
But I have to know whatís gonna happen if I go into that hole. If Iíll ever get home again.

BEGGAR
So go home right now. You donít have to save this town. You donít owe these people anything. Just turn around, and leave. Grow old with your family like youíve always intended to.

HERCULES
Tell me.

The beggar stands silent. Hercules grabs him by his shabby collar, lifting him up.

HERCULES (cont)
Dammit. Tell me!

BEGGAR
(rolling his eyes) Alright, alright.

Hercules puts the beggar down. The old man straightens himself. Finally, reluctantly...

BEGGAR (cont)
Youíre mortal, Hercules. You can die.

Hercules reacts. The answer only makes his decision tougher.

But then Hercules cocks his head, eyeing the Beggar suspiciously.

HERCULES
How do I know youíre telling the truth?

BEGGAR
Why would I lie?

HERCULES
To keep me out of that hole.

ZEUS
Donít be ridiculous.

HERCULES
Iím not. (looks at the hole) Maybe this is all Heraís doing. And maybe youíre afraid of whatíll happen if I go down there and interfere.

The beggar scoffs at the thought of it.

HERCULES (cont)
I wouldnít be surprised if sheís watching us right now...

Hercules looks around, scanning the area. But thereís no sign of the peacock. And when he turns back, thereís no sign of Zeus either. The Beggar is gone.

CUT TO:
Iole and the Townspeople

Watching from a distance. As the clouds of smoke come and go, they catch repeated glimpses of Hercules.

TOWNSPERSON #1
Whatís happening? Heís just standing there.

TOWNSPERSON #2
Why isnít he doing anything?

A Town Elder turns to Iole with a grave stare

ELDER
You know your fate if he fails.

Iole nods solemnly to the Elder, then turns and walks away.

CUT TO:
int. Ioleís hut - night

Iole enters. She goes to a mirror and looks at herself. She knows what she has to do. she starts preparing for Hercules - fixing her hair, putting on perfume oils.

Angle on Lycastus Watching from the corner of the hut. His eye is blackened from this morningís fight...but that is the least of his pain.

LYCASTUS
Youíre getting ready for him, arenít you?

Iole looks over, startled. but she doesnít say anything. She doesnít have to. Heís right and they both know it.

Lycastus steps toward her.

LYCASTUS (cont)
Please, Iole. Donít.

IOLE
Lycastus, youíve always known this day would come. Itís my destiny.

LYCASTUS
But I thought you loved me.

IOLE
I do love you. and if you love me, youíll let me do what I have to.

Lycastus takes Iole in his arms.

LYCASTUS
What about us?

IOLE
There is no us.

Lycastus pulls her back in and kisses her. She doesnít fight it. She kisses back.

The kiss becomes impassioned. Lycastus starts to lead her toward the bed...until she breaks away, flushed.

IOLE (cont)
No. We canít. I canít.

LYCASTUS
But you want to.

Yes, she does. But just then, thereís a knock at the door. Ioleís eyes go wide with panic.

IOLE
Quick. Youíve gotta hide.

She looks around frantically, then shoves Lycastus back into the corner, drawing a curtain to cover him up just as

Hercules enters

The strongman sits down on the end of the bed. Iole stands behind him, staring at this slumped shoulders.

IOLE (cont)
Iíve been waiting for you, Hercules.

HERCULES
Iole, Iím afraid I canít help your town.

Iole winces at his words, but then she takes a deep breath, steeling herself. She knows exactly what she must do in order to save her town...and fulfill her destiny.

Iole undoes her hair-knot. Her golden tresses spill down to her shoulders. She moves forward, no longer innocent, but sultry, erotic as she transforms right behind his back. Itís time for her most powerful weapon: seduction.

Hercules stares at the floor, oblivious.

HERCULES (cont)
I stood on the edge of that hole, and I thought about it long and hard. I canít do it.

Iole takes another step, unfastening the tie on her silken gown. It silently slips to the floor, revealing her exquisite nakedness. Sheís just inches from him.

HERCULES (cont)
I have children now, and a wife I love. I have to live for them.

Iole traces a slender finger along his broad shoulders. It sends an almost visible shock through him.

IOLE
But Hercules, my people suffer so. They need you. I need you.

Hercules turns around. His eyes widen at the sight of her. Her flawless body. Her beautiful, sparkling eyes. She takes his face in her hands.

IOLE (cont)
Please. Wonít you do it for me?

Iole bends toward Herculesí face. Her lips aiming for his.

Angle on Lycastus watching from behind the curtain. He closes his eyes. His heart is breaking.

But before Iolesí lips reach their target, Hercules grasps her hands, stopping her.

HERCULES
No. My mind is made up.

Iole looks stunned. hurt. She presses forward. A second attempt. He stops her again.

HERCULES (cont)
Please, donít. I just wanna go home and be with my family. I donít want anything more to do with the gods and their games... I just wanna be left alone. Itís all over.

Iole looks at him. A tear rolls down her delicate cheek.

IOLE
then I am dead. Iíve failed, and I am dead.

Hercules stares at her for a long time, but his mind is made up. He picks up the cloak that Deianeira gave him.

HERCULES
Iím sorry.

Hercules yanks back the curtain, where he knew Lycastus was all along. He puts a hand on the young manís shoulder.

HERCULES
(genuine) Take care of her, my friend.

With that, Hercules crosses to the door and exits.

CUT TO:
ext. Camp - night

Hercules wanders through the camp in the cold night air. The Twonspeople stare at him, eyes hopeful...but get nothing in return.

He looks at the cloak in his hands, lifting it to his face, smelling Deianeira on it. At this moment, it suddenly means so much to him. He glances at the sky.

HERCULES
Deianeira, if youíre looking at this moon tonight, be thinking of me.

Hercules unfolds the cloak, and wraps it around his broad shoulders.

Instantly heís racked with horrific agony!

The cloakís collar coils around his neck, strangling like a garotte. Its fabric sprouts snake-like scales, sucking tight against his skin with a HIIIISSS.

Hercules twists and spins, trying to tear the cloak away, but its razor-sharp claws bind into his flesh, clenching even tighter!

He throws his head back, screaming into the night sky.

HERCULES (cont)
AAAAAAHH!

Hercules stumbles through the smokiness. Townspeople scatter out of his way, wide-eyed.

Iole and Lycastus burst out of her hut.

IOLE
HERCULES! (to the others) Somebody help him! Help him!

A townsman tried to seize the cloak but -HIIIIISSS!!- it burns his hands. Hercules howls, his skin frying too!

Lycastus grabs a bucket of water and throws it on him. WHOOSH! Ghastly-smelling steam blasts as it hits the cloak.

Iole is frantic with worry.

Hercules staggers into the town. the people follow, horrified. As smoke swirls around him, Hercules drops to his knees. Summoning all his strength, he grabs the burning fabric and pulls. With a horrible ripping sound, he yanks the cloak off his body!

He balls it up with a guttural roar, flings it to the dirt.

WHOOOMPH! The cloak explodes in a flash, instantly transforming into a live peacock. the crowd jerks back, amazed, as it runs off, flapping and squawking, disappearing into the smoke.

Herculesí eyes narrow at the sight of Heraís trick. He rises to his feet, voice trembling with rage...and realization.

HERCULES
The godsíll never stop, will they? Weíll never be able to escape their damn games.

He turns to face Iole, Lycastus, everyone.

HERCULES (cont)
Tell my wife and children Iíll always love them.

With that, Hercules turns...and runs into the smoke. the Townspeople gasp in horror as he makes a giant leap into the black hole!

Angle - into the Black Hole - sfx

As Hercules plummets into the insane void. Hideous creatures swarm toward him like spiders to a fly. Our Herís body flips and tumbles, growing smaller and smaller as he falls.

Finally, Hercules has disappeared.

DISSOLVE TO:
ext. Herculesí Home - Day

Little Ilea is sitting outside the house, playing mother to a rag doll. She glances up, and notices a man in the distance running the path toward the house. She smiles.

ILEA
Daddy. (shouting) Mommy, Mommy! Daddyís coming!

The running man gets closer, Ilea stands up, excited.

ILEA (cont)
Mommy! Itís daddy!

But Ileaís expression changes as the man reaches the house. She can see heís not Hercules. She slumps, disappointed.

Just then, Deianeira bursts from the front door, ready to greet her husband.

DEIANEIRA
Hercules. I canít belie...

But her words fall away. No Hercules. Itís a runner, dusty and sweat-streaked, carrying news. Deianeiraí momentary joy is replaced by stunned realization. She knows.

DEIANEIRA (cont)
Ilea. Go in the house. Go on, right now.

Ilea takes her doll and goes. The runner stands doubled over, panting for breath. He says nothing.

DEIANEIRA (cont)
(emotionless, in shock) Heís dead, isnít he? My husband is dead.

The runner looks up, giving just a slight, mournful nod. It hits Deianeira like a punch to the stomach. She struggles to form words.

DEIANEIRA
H-How? W-What happened to him?

The runner rises to his full height. His eyes are sympathetic, grieving the loss of a hero.

RUNNER
It was a cloak. A cursed cloak. (Deianeira reacts) He put it on, and it tortured him...drove him mad. His only escape was to leap into the hole.

Deianeira is swimming in confusion, guilt, shock.

DEIANEIRA
B-But the cloak was supposed to protect him. IT was supposed to protect us. I-I donít know...

She cups her hands to her face.

DEIANEIRA (cont)
What have I done? How could I have listened to Nessus? Iíve killed my beloved Hercules.

Wrapped by numbness, she turns and walks slowly back into the house.

Iolaus had meant it, when he said that he and Telaus would like to come to dinner, but it seemed like there was always something getting in the way of making the trip.First there was a spell of drought, which had both him and his son digging a frantic trench from the nearest spring to bring water to the rapidly shrivelling crops. Then the rains finally came and the roofs on the house and the barn both leaked, and Iolaus spent several days up on the rooftops, busily covering holes with hastily fashioned shingles. Now and then he would think of his friends and say to himself "We'll go tomorrow".

And then there came the message from Alcmene.

"He can't be dead", Iolaus said to himself for the hundredth, or maybe the thousandth time, as he and Telaus made their way to the little farm where Hercules and his family lived. He'd have felt it. He'd have known. There was something inside of him that would have warned him, had this news been true. The bond between himself and his best friend, while stretched and strained these days due to family responsibilities, was yet unbroken. He'd have known immediately if the tie had been snapped by death. Therefore the news couldn't be true. He held that thought in an iron grip.

They reached the bottom of the little hill that the house stood on, and Iolaus looked up at at, shading his eyes from the sun, expecting to see Hercules' tall form striding down to meet him. But instead, he saw Alcmene running towards him, with a face white and drawn with grief.

"Alcmene, I - " he broke off and folded her in his arms instead.

She gave him a crushing hug and then pulled back. "Iolaus, I don't think he's dead. I really don't. I'd have known it."

"You're right", he answered, relief flooding through him. If Alcmene, too, felt this way, then the news must be wrong.

But her face remained grave. "But Deianeira apparently doesn't believe that. And Iolaus, she's run off. She left with the children with Althea, and sent a message to me. When I got here, Althea told me Deianeira kept saying that this was all her fault. Althea tried to convince her that she was wrong, but she wouldn't listen. And now we can't find her!"

Cold crept through Iolaus' veins, but he struggled to keep his voice calm, knowing well that Telaus was listening to this with far too much understanding for his childish years. "It'll be all right, Alcmene. I'll find her. You know I can track a black rabbit through a forest at midnight. Take Telaus up to the house, and keep everybody calm. She's probably just gone off to mourn somewhere in private. I'll bring her back!"

Alcmene nodded mutely, some of the misery leaving her face. She managed an uncertain smile at Telaus. "Come on, young man. We'll go up to the house, and get you something to eat". She took him by the hand.

"Go along, son." Iolaus patted Telaus on the shoulder. "I'll be back soon with your Aunt Deianeira. Don't you worry."

DISSOLVE TO:
int. Dark Cavern

A dark, cold cavern. An underground cave. Gently lapping water can be heard, although not seen in the lightless gloom.

Hercules lies on the ground. He stirs, finding his way back to consciousness. His eyes open. Slowly, he gets to his feet.

He doesnít know where he is. Neither do we as he looks around.

A lantern light appears in the distance. In itís glow, we can make out a lone boatman, Charon, poling his way closer in a small boat.

Hercules moves toward him, stopping at the waterís edge.

HERCULES
Hey, you there. Where am I? Tell me what this place is.

No answer from Charon as he poles closer. Hercules angers.

HERCULES (cont)
Iím talking to you. Answer me!

Finally, a crackly-thin voice calls back.

CHARON
Thereíll be time enough for answers. We're in no hurry here.

HERCULES
Where is ďhereĒ?

TH-THUMP. The boat runs aground at Herculesí feet. Charon extends a wiry hand, palm up.

CHARON
Itís customary to pay the boatman for passage.

Charonís hand waits, but receives no payment. He picks up his lantern, raising it to get a better look at Hercules. What he sees startles him.

CHARON (cont)
W-What are you doing here? You canít cross!

Charon tries to pole his boat away, but Hercules grabs the bow and yanks it further onto shore. OOOF! Charon falls back on his ass.

HERCULES
Why not?

CHARON (cont)
Y-Youíre alive!

Hercules reacts, happy and relieved to hear that.

CHARON (cont)
Only the dead are allowed to cross the River Styx.

Hercules hauls Charon up by the collar.

HERCULES
Well, weíre gonna change that right now.

CHARON
But we canít.

Hercules pulls Charon closer, eye to eye, menacing.

HERCULES
Canít?

CUT TO:
ext. River Styx

Still water, darkness...

Then lantern light creeps in, darting through the gloom, slowly getting brighter.

CHARON (OS)
Hades is not gonna be happy about this, Iím telliní ya. Nobody alive has ever entered the Underworld before. Youíre gonna be in a lotta trouble when he hears about this. (beat) What am I sayiní? Iím gonna be in a lotta trouble.

The boat glides into view. Hercules sits in the bow with the lantern, straining to see into the inky darkness ahead. Charon pilots the boat, rattling on.

CHARON (cont)
Why would a liviní person like yourself wanna come down here, anyway? Huh? You lookiní for someone? Someone lookiní for you?

Hercules ignores Charonís questions, too curious about what lies ahead. The opposite shore comes into sight. Muck like the first side. Flat dirt bank, cave-like walls.

Suddenly, a low rumble shakes the cavern. Water sloshes into Hercules. Charon almost loses his balance.

CHARON (cont)
Dammit. There goes another one.

HERCULES
Another what? What was that?

CHARON
Oh, that damn dog Cerberus again. Heís supposed to guarding the gate, keepiní the dead down here where they belong. ĎCept somehow he got loose and now heís off running around. Itís causiní all sorts of trouble. (shakes his head) Canít imagine what things mist be like up in the living world.

HERCULES
Well I can.

C-CLUUNK! the boat reaches

The Opposite Shore Hercules climbs out. Charon extends his empty hand again for a tip.

CHARON
A-hem. how about it? Little somethiní for the effort?

HERCULES
Sorry. Canít help you.

Hercules picks up the lantern and turns to go.

CHARON (cont)
Hey. At least gimme my lantern back.

Hercules puts his foot on the bow of the boat.

HERCULES
Maybe a little later. Thanks for the ride, though.

WHOOOOSH! He gives a mighty shove, sending the boat, and Charon, skimming off into the darkness.

Charonís voice echoes off into the distance.

CHARON
Oh, very funny. Pick on Charon. Sure. Why not? everybody else does.

Finally, it fades away.

Hercules starts up the bank, finding his way along the barren terrain with the lanternís dim light.

Strange Sounds can be heard all around as he walks. Whispered laughing nearby, strangled moans behind him, the fluttering of leathery wings overhead. But, try as he might, Hercules never catches sight of anything.

Finally, the lantern light falls across a stone structure standing just ahead. Weathered, twenty foot-tall columns. Rought-shewn stones form a crumbling arch across the top.

Itís the gate Charon was talking about.

But, strangely, it doesnít appear to lead anywhere - it just stand, like an entry way to more dim nowhere.

Suddenly -CLINK-CLANK- Herculesí foot hits something.

He bends down with the lantern, revealing the end of a heavy chain, staked into the dirt.

HERCULES
(to himself) Cerberus.

Hercules grabs the chain, following it link by link, searching for itís other end. When he reaches it, he stops short.

The chain ends in not one...not two...but three heavy collars.

Suddenly, -R-R-R-RUUUUFF!!- a husky bark ripples from the darkness beyond the gate. itís an eerie sound, weirdly chorded, the noise of three heads barking at once!

The hair stands on Herculesí neck.

He raises the lantern to see...

...but suddenly, itís light begins to flicker. The oil is nearly out. In a moment, everything will be plunged into total darkness.

R-R-RUUUUFFF!! Cerberusí eerie bark drifts through the gloom again. Hercules steps toward the Gate.

He takes a deep breath, not knowing where the Gate will take him, but certain he must go in.

Hercules steps through the gate.

The instant his body passes under the Arch...

FLAAAASH!

Even going at a run, it was little problem for an experienced tracker like Iolaus to pick up the print of Deianeira's sandals in the damp ground. Her tracks were fresh and led down from the house, through the nearest field, and along the path through the forest of pines and fern trees. He could read her progress easily - she had taken a steady, unerring direction and this worried him, more and more, because that direction was towards the sea.

The tracks grew fresher, and he knew he was gaining on her.

The forest came to an end as the land sloped downward, towards the sea. He stood for a moment and scanned the landscape below him. There! A small dark figure moved slowly in the distance. He let out a sigh of relief. He'd catch up with her and bring her back, and then they'd sort this whole thing out.

With a speed that Hermes might have envied, Iolaus flew down the hillside from the forest.

He began to smell the salt in the air, and the sound of waves came occasionally to his ears, mostly drowned out by his panting and the pounding of his heart.

The distance between him and Deianeira lessened. He could see her clearly now, her hair blowing in the sea breeze.

Iolaus paused to take in enough air and bellowed "Deianeira!"

There was no reaction from the woman still far ahead of him.

"Deianeira!"

Still no sign that she had heard him. By now she had reached the edge of the cliff.

By now he was running so fast he was almost airborne. His blood was thudding loudly in his ears and the sweat was pouring down his chest and neck. The air burned his lungs as he took a deep breath and again bellowed "Deianeira!!!!"

She seemed to shake her head, as if to deny the interruption. He was less than fifty paces away, when he heard her cry out "Hercules!"

She held out her arms, as though embracing the empty air.

A scream ripped its way out of Iolaus' throat. "NOOOOOOO!!!"

Deianeira cried out "My love! It is you!"

And then she was no longer there.

Iolaus collapsed into the dirt at the edge of the cliff and stared down, through tear-blinded eyes, at the barnacled rocks far below. She was lying across one of them, sprawled limply, unmoving except for her hair which fluttered in the salt breeze.

Scarcely aware of what he was doing, Iolaus crawled to the dropoff and scrambled down over the stony lip. It was not a sheer rock face - there were hand and foot-holds if you knew where to look, and somehow he managed to find them. His hands were scraped and bleeding by the time he reached the bottom, but he ignored this. He threw himself on his knees beside her and took her hand. It was already cold, from the wind and sea spray.

"Deianeira...." he whispered.

The scornful laughter of the circling gulls and the growling of the waves were his only answer.

She lay still, staring upward, her face peaceful. Blood was pooled in the crevices of the rock below her head.

With a shaking hand, Iolaus reached out and closed her eyes. "O gods!" he whispered softly. "I was too late ... forgive me..." and with that the tears welled up.

After an unknown time, a voice above him said, "Let her go, mortal".

Iolaus slowly looked up. He should have been shocked or surprised or something, but all he felt was a hollow tiredness at the sight of the blond, black-leather clad figure who stood over him, giving off the unmistakeable aura of divinity.

"No, " Iolaus replied.

"Do you know who I am?"

"You're Hades ..." said Iolaus flatly, looking back down at Deianeira, stroking the hair back from her brow.

"And you're that annoying friend of my nephew's. Iolaus son of Skouros, isn't it?"

"You know me?" A stupid thing to say, but he didn't care, nor did he take his eyes off Deianeira's dead face.

The God of the Other Side gave a snort. "I never forget anyone who louses up my book-keeping".

"Huh?" His curiosity flickered for a second, but then died away under the weight of his grief.

"Never mind. Anyway, I'm here to take Deianeira".

"No".

"Look, mortal, I know you're grieving and all that, but that's the way it's got to be. Don't worry, I'm taking her straight to Elysium". His impatient tone was a sharp contrast to the gentleness with which he raised Deianeira's body from the rocks.

Iolaus was still holding Deianeira's hand. A black-gloved hand firmly broke his grasp. "Let her go," said Hades, as though to a misbehaving child.

Iolaus felt the sting of new tears behind his eyelids. So far today he'd lost to Time and then to Death, and now he was confronting a god. He had the feeling he wasn't going to win this one either.

"No, you're not," replied Hades, quite accurately reading his mind.

Ashamed of the tears that were now rolling down to join the sea-spray on his face, Iolaus wiped them away with the back of his hand. "Look," he said miserably, "when you take her to Hercules in Elysium, just ... tell them both not to worry about the kids.. Alcmene and I -"

He was interrupted by the sound of a thoroughly exasperated god who had just hit the limits of his patience. "What the STYX are you talking about?!"

"Huh?"

"Hercules isn't dead!"

Iolaus stared at him in utter bewilderment, disbelief and relief going at it, hand-to-hand, in his brain. "Are you sure?" came out of his mouth of its own volition.

"You keep forgetting who you're talking to!" Hades' face grew thunderous for a second, then a weary smile crossed it."Believe me, I'd know if Hercules had died!!"

"But we were told - I mean, Deianeira thought that - "

A sigh like a hurricane blew from the God of the Underworld. "Yeah, I know. My damned - er, dear - sister-in-law's playing her little games again! And who has to clean up all the bodies afterwards, I ask you, hmm?"

Iolaus wasn't listening. Guilt assailed him. He'd been right. Deianeira had been deceived, and Hercules wasn't dead. He'd felt it in his very soul. If only he had run a little faster.... A desperate thought suddenly popped into his head.

"Give Deianeira back!"

"What???"

"Give her back. You can do it! You're a god, after all!"

"Yeah, and you're a mortal! Where do you get off, making demands?"

"I'm not demanding. I'm begging!" Iolaus did his best to look humble.

Once again came the weary smile. "Kid, I've been begged by experts. Don't you realize I get that request just about every time I take someone?!"

"This isn't for me. It's for Hercules. He's Zeus' son and your nephew."

"And the answer's the same for him as it would be for anyone else. NO."

"Hades, please!!" Iolaus fell to his knees, ignoring his own pride and disdain for the gods, conscious of only the need to get Deianeira back.

The God of the Underworld bellowed in exasperation. "What part of 'no' don't you understand???!"

Iolaus took a deep breath and gambled his last throw of the dice. "Are you so afraid of Hera?"

Hades took a step backwards and his face turned purple. "That's IT!!!!!" He clutched Deianeira's body to him and raised one hand.

There was the sound of thunder.

CUT TO:
ext Tartarus - Land of Fallen Heroes

Hercules suddenly finds himself standing in a luscious orchard that stretches before him as far as the eye can see.

Its beauty is staggering, surreal. Bright-green grass blankets the ground. Delicate blossoms adorn the trees, giving sweet scent to the air.

Overhead - sfx
White clouds race across a brilliant blue sky, swirling like time-lapse photography.

Hercules as he stands stunned, amazed. He spins around...but the gate has vanished - heís surrounded by the orchards in every direction.

Hercules grows calmer. He breathes in the air. It gives him a sense of strength, and well-being. Just then, he spies.

A group of warrior-looking men moving about beneath the trees. they look healthy, vital dressed in armor and carrying swords. Sunlight glints brightly off their helmets. All of them glow with the majestic luster of battlefield heroes.

Hercules moves toward the group. A voice rings out.

VOICE
Hercules? Is that Hercules?

Our Hero squints to see the source among the group.

HERCULES
Yes. Iím Hercules.

The warriors part and Chrysippus, a noble-looking Centaur, steps from their midst.

CHRYSIPPUS
By the Godís It is you, my friend.

Hercules is immediately warmed by the sight of his friend.

HERCULES
Chrysippus! I canít believe it. What luck!

they cross to each other and embrace.

CHRYSIPPUS
Itís so good to see you. What are you doing here? And how is it you managed to arrive alive?

HERCULES
I donít know exactly. I ...uh...

CHRYSIPPUS
Ah. It doesnít matter. youíre here. thatís all that counts.

HERCULES
(smiles)If you donít mind my asking, where is here? Where am I?

CHRYSIPPUS
This is Tartarus. The land of fallen heroes. Itís where warriors like you and I end up, though in your case hopefully not for a long while.

Chrysippus leads Hercules toward the warriors.

CHRYSIPPUS (cont)
Come, say hello to come of the others. (pointing around) Thatís Presius. Thatís Creon. Apesantus and Opheltes you already know. And thatís Lampon.

Hercules nods to each. They all nod back, friendly.

Hercules turns, taking a good long look at Tartarus - looking more closely now. Chrysippus claps him on the back.

CHRYSIPPUS
Beautiful, isnít it? Like a dream come true.

They start strolling amongst the trees.

HERCULES
(nodding) I always wondered what was waiting after death. Is there more?

CHRYSIPPUS
What else could we need?

Hercules shrugs as if to say, ďYouíve got a point there.Ē

HERCULES
What do you do for food? Do you hunt?

CHRYSIPPUS
No need to. We never hunger. Nor do we get cold, or sick, or lonely. All those things are left in the land of the living. (beat) Everything is perfect here, Hercules. the waterís pure, the trees bear only the sweetest fruit. The days are warm, the nights always sparkly with stars. (grins) Itís paradise my friend. Itís our reward. Someday youíll share it with us.

Hercules seems to zone out momentarily. when he speaks his mood is suddenly somber.

HERCULES
What about those whoíve done evil? (knowing but asking anyway) They donít end up here, do they?

CHRYSIPPUS
No. they have their own place. One thatís fitting for the lives they lived. One that pays back the hurt they caused to others.

HERCULES
Then Iím sure Iíll return to Tartarus when I die, Chrysippus.

CHRYSIPPUS
Of course you will. What are you talking about?

HERCULES
(looking shamed) Your brother. Nessus. Iím afraid...

CHRYSIPPUS
(stopping him) Hercules, I know all about Nessus. You had no choice but to kill him. I canít fault you for that.

HERCULES
Well, still, Iím sorry for your grief.

CHRYSIPPUS
And Iím sorry for you. Over losing Deianeira.

HERCULES
W-What do you mean?

CHRYSIPPUS realizes Hercules has no idea.

CHRYSIPPUS
Sheís dead, Hercules. I thought you knew that.

Hercules shakes his head, eyes narrowing.

HERCULES
No. No, that canít be.

CHRYSIPPUS
Iím afraid it is, my friend. I wish I could say different, but I canít. Sheís here now, in the Underworld with us. Iíll show you.

Chrysippus raises his arm and -WE-WHOOMPH!- a picture window into another place where a woman walks through a beautiful meadow.

As she turns, and looks over her shoulder, we see the expressionless face of Deianeira.

Hercules reacts, stricken with agony and grief. He steps toward her....

HERCULES
Deianeira...
...reaching out to touch her, but -WHOOMPH!- the window closes and the vision vanishes.

Hercules turns to Chrysippus.

HERCULES (cont)
Where is she? I have to go to her.

CHRYSIPPUS
You canít, Hercules. Sheís in the Elysian Fields. Youíre not allowed to go there.

HERCULES
But I have to! Please, show me the way.

CHRYSIPPUS
I canít.

HERCULES
Chrysippus. If we were ever friend. If you ever cared for me, please, take me to my wife.

CHRYSIPPUS
You donít understand. If I could, Iíd go with you, like old times, side by side. But the best I can do now, it wish you good luck. Iíve gone as far as I can go. thereís no way for me to leave Tartarus.

Hercules looks puzzled - the orchard seems to stretch ahead of them for miles. But he turns back. Offers his hand.

HERCULES
Goodbye then.

CHRYSIPPUS
Goodbye, Hercules. good luck.

Hercules turns to go. As his foot takes its very next step...

FLAAAASH!

Iolaus was, quite honestly, surprised he was still alive. He came to, sometime later, lying in the gravel at the top of the cliff. Shakily, he got to his hands and knees and crawled to the edge to look down. Hades was gone, and so was Deianeira.

He sighed. Well, he had tried. He climbed to his feet and stumbling, turned towards home.

It was dark by the time he returned. Alcmene and Althea were waiting for him on the porch of the farmhouse. He didn't need to tell them anything - they could see for themselves that Deianeira wasn't with him. Alcmene came slowly down the hill to meet him.

Iolaus was suddenly very tired. "I'm sorry," he whispered. Alcmene caught him as he staggered and helped him up to sit on the edge of the porch. Althea, her eyes glittering with tears, brought him a cup of watered wine. He took a deep drink, which washed the residue of dust and sorrow from his desert-like throat. "I'm sorry," he said again. "I wasn't in time. She went over the cliff. I went down after her, but - but Hades came and - "

"Hades?!" asked Alcmene nervously."Hades himself?"

"Yeah," Iolaus answered. "He said he was taking her to Elysium. And he said something else, too." Wearily he raised his eyes and met Alcmene's. "He said Hercules isn't dead. He said it was just a trick of Hera's..."

Alcmene was whiter than her linen chiton. "Then Deianeira ....?"

"Died for Hera's lies".

"Oh gods..." Alcmene buried her face in her hands and wept. Althea curled into a ball on the porch and began to wail softly.

Iolaus, on the other hand, had suddenly begun to burn with anger. "I'm going after him," he said softly. "I'm going to find Hercules, and we are - " he stopped suddenly.

"I don't know what we're going to do. But this can't be borne ... and he shouldn't have to face it by himself!" He got to his feet. He took Alcmene by the shoulders and kissed her forehead. "Please - look after the kids. Tell them we'll be back soon. If they ask, say that I am still looking for Deianeira. That will be the truth."

Alcmene kissed him back. "Go," she said. "And all my blessings go with you".

Iolaus set out in the dark, without a backward look, on the path that would take him to his friend, carrying only his sword and the heavy burden of grief.

CUT TO:
ext. Erebus - Land of the Damed

Hercules has been instantly transported to a desolate wasteland.

Itís a never-ending expanse of desert, lying cracked and barren under a sky of boiling black clouds. Scalding gas shoots in all directions. Bolts of lightning jag through the reddish air.

Even worse is the deafening cacophony of sound. Hideous shrieking, louder than jet-engines. Thundering clanks and machine-like roars. Wet, gristly noises, the sound of bodies being ripped to pieces.

Under all of it is a deep atonal drone, like the working of some infernal engine.

Hercules starts forward, swamped by an overpowering uneasiness. His shoulderís hunch. Sweat pops on his brow. Suddenly the ground starts to tremble. Then -CRUNCH! CRUNCH!- grasping hands begin bursting up everywhere.

Hercules spins to run but more hands break through in all directions. One hand grabs his ankle. Two more seize the other. More and more latch onto his legs, scrambling and clawing, pulling Hercules down.

Hercules kicks and yells, trying to break free...but heís overwhelmed. Gouts of steam spew as your hero disappears under the choking dirt.

CUT TO:
int. Netherworld

Hercules crashes down into a lower netherworld where heís immediately swarmed by hordes of hideous, rotting ghouls.

The ghouls with their mangled faces and scrabbling claws, grab and clutch at Hercules, shrieking hysterically for his help.

GHOUL #1
Hercules, give me water.

GHOUL #2
Hercules, take me with you, I donít belong here.

GHOUL #3
Donít listen to her. She murdered her children.

OTHER GHOULS
Hercules, please. Hercules!

Hercules starts struggling, fighting to get away. Aw he pushes through the mob insane images pop in his face like flashbulbs. Shattered sneers gibbering beneath empty eye-sockets. Maggot-filled mouths warping and stretching as they scream louder and louder. A half-formed fetus swinging from a torn abdomen.

Hercules cuts through the mob like a bushman through the jungle. Limbs rip off as he fights his way through, ignoring the cries.

GHOULS
Hercules! Hercules! Please! Please ! Hercules! Please! Hercules!

Finally, Hercules breaks through the crowd of Ghouls, coughing from their feted, stinking breath. His eyes are bugged wide like a man whoís fighting hard to retain his sanity.

R-R-RUUUFFF! Cerberusí howl echoes from somewhere.

Hercules doesnít seem to notice. He stumbles onward through this shadow-filled netherworld. All of a sudden -WHOOOSH!!-

A huge spear come hurtling through the darkness.

Hercules leaps out of the way before it runs through his head.

He spins around, squinting into the darkness.

HERCULES
Whoís there?

In the darkness thereís no answer. No one to be seen. Just shadows moving through the gloom. then -WHIIIISH!-

An arrow comes whistling out of nowhere. Hercules catches it and -CRAACK!- snaps it in two.

HERCULES (cont)
show yourself! Now!

Two dozen dark figures suddenly materialize before him. Some are soldiers, some are thugs. A few resemble humped, bristling beasts. One thing is sure. Each is uglier than the next. Curved swords and razor-sharp talons dangle from their hands.

From the back of the pack a voice calls out, mocking.

VOICE
Well, well. Look who we have here. Itís Hercules. And heís alive.

The dark figures part and Eryx the Boxer steps to the front of the group. Skin pale and hollow. eyes dull and dead. the jagged wooden ring-post still juts from the blood-streaked chest.

ERYX (cont)
Do you recognize me and my friends here, Hercules? You should. Every one of us was sent to this infernal place by you. (ragged chuckle) I guess this is our chance to show our appreciation.

Eryx lunges forward and seizes Hercules by the throat. His huge hands tighten, squeezing the very life from our hero.

Hercules gasps and flails, unable to break free. Eyes fluttering, he grabs hold of the splintered post jutting out of the Boxerís chest. With a mightily heave, he yanks the post out of Eryx with a wet SLURP!

Eryx looks down at the gaping hold in his chest. A roar fills his throat, a sound of unearthly rage. He squeezes harder on Hercules neck until...

WHAACK! Hercules swings the post into Eryxís head. the huge boxer stumbles back, finally releasing Hercules from his grip.

Hercules barely had time to take a breath before all the others explode into murderous action!

Enemies spring through the air, slashing and hacking. Arrows fly and axes swing. Throwing knives wicker by. Spears are thrust. Heavy maces whistle past, hoping to bash brains.

Itís a hurricane of utter chaos.

Hercules wields the post like a club, splintering skills and knee-capping others. He ducks a sword-swing, snap-kicks the attacker and snatches the weapon away.

With sword in one hand and club in the other, Hercules cuts a swath through his enemies. Each man snarls and snaps, wanting a piece of him but getting only crushed bones or dismemberment. Blood splashes Hercules, the ground, the trees.

After a few long moments, dead bodies litter the ground in every direction.

Hercules stands victorious...until Eryx steps from the shadows.

ERYX
Címon, Hercules. What díya say? Throw down the weapons and fight me toe to toe again.

The boxer strides forward, but Hercules doesnít have the time.

HERCULES
Sorry, Eryx. But Iíve got better things to do.

He hauls back and throws the jagged post. It flies like the wind itself, driving through Eryxís forehead with a sickening CRUUUNCH!!

THUUUD! The boxer falls to the ground heavily.

Hercules stands alone, panting, weary.

The corpses on the ground suddenly begin to stir. Fingerless hands start grasping again. Headless torsos sit up.

A mangled face gurgles gleefully up at him.

ENEMY #1
Youíre not finished just yet, Hercules. We have an eternity of rage in store for you.

Hercules kicks and the corpseís head goes tumbling away...its body keeps on moving.

Hercules takes off running. Suddenly, everything around him explodes in a horrific firestorm!

Flames roar up on all sides. Jets of fire arc like flamethrowers. the ground cracks open, spewing ropy splatters of lava. In an instant, everything had become hideous, blazing hellscape. Dante would be proud.

Hercules races along as the ground gives way underneath his feet. He doesnít know where heís going. But he canít slow down for a second. Suddenly, through the flames he spies Chrysippus, standing in the distance, back turned.

Hercules runs over, eyes wide with relief.

HERCULES
Chrysippus! thanks the gods! Youíve come to help me.

The centaur turns...but itsí not Chrysippus - itís Nessus.

He laughs, mimicking Hercules

NESSUS
Chrysippus. Chrysippus (wicked sneer) Howíd you like to cloak, Hercules? did it fit okay? I hope it wasnít at all uncomfortable.

Hercules reacts. His momentary horror quickly becomes anger.

HERCULES
You!

He lunges, but -SWIIIISH!- the centaur dissolves like smoke in his grasp.

Nessus reappears ten feet away, a hellish hologram dancing in the blast-furnace of air. His voice is pure mockery.

NESSUS
And I was so sorry to hear about Deianeira. Really. I was.

HERCULES
you damned bastard! Youíre the one to blame.

NESSUS takes it as a compliment.

NESSUS
Well, Iíd like to think so. But Iím afraid it was actually Heraís plan.

Hercules trembles with rage and despair at the mention of Hera. Nessus continues with his mock sympathy.

NESSUS
Poor Deianeira, when she heard the cloak had driven you to your death, she felt so guilty, she threw herself off a cliff. What a mess.

Hercules eyes Nessus with disbelief, unable to make sense of his bitterness.

HERCULES
What happened to you, Nessus? You were my trusted hand for so many years, then suddenly, all this hatred.

NESSUS
Suddenly? Suddenly?! Youíre an even bigger fool than I thought. I always hated you. I wasnít taken in by your spell like the others. I saw you for what you are.

HERCULES
And whatís that?

NESSUS
An arrogant bastard who feeds on the praise and adoration of the weaklings who fawn over you. Praise and adoration you never deserved. Well, now you'll suffer, Hercules.

Hercules glances around at flames and fury surrounding them.

HERCULES
Youíre the one who suffers, Nessus. Down here. In this place.

NESSUS
Believe me. Just seeing your anguished face has eased my suffering for all time.

HERCULES
Donít be so sure. Iím gonna find Deianeira and take her out of this place.

NESSUS
It wonít do you any good. Even if you do find her, she wonít know you. Your Deianeira is gone.

HERCULES
What do you mean? Iíve seen her.

NESSUS
Sheís gone forever!

Nessusí image dissolves into nothingness, leaving only a mocking laughter swirling around our hero.

WHAA-BOOM! Everything about Hercules explodes in a conflagration! Fire and steam and smoke shoot in all directions. The underworld seems to be caving in on itself.

Hercules staggers away, confused, insane with grief. He reaches a high cliff-top. Glowing lava boils below. Flames rip through the sky above. There is no direction for Hercules to turn, no safe place for him to go. so, without stopping, without even thinking, he steps off the cliff. His voice is but a tortured whisper...

HERCULES
Deianeira...

FLAAAAAASSH!

It was pretty much like Alcmene had described it to him, when he was a child. The sky was a perfect blue, with glowing puffs of white cloud that never blocked the warm radiance of the sunlight. The grass was uniformly green and soft, adorned here and there with multi-colored flowers. In the same way, brightly colored birds flitted among the green branches of the trees that were scattered in pleasing groves about the landscape. A gentle breeze brought sweet scents to Hercules' nostrils. Now and then there was the sound of distant music and singing, and waters running over stones.

There were people in Elysium, too. Clad in faintly luminous robes, they drifted about the land, much as the clouds did in the skies, some in groups, and some alone.

It was thoroughly glorious and Hercules appreciated none of it.

With the speed that his godly heritage gave him, he rushed from one person to another, from group to group, always looking in their faces, seeking only one face and not finding it. No one seemed surprised at this - they would gaze at him calmly, with blissful smiles. He wondered if they could even really see him.

Only once did he stop short.

"Ania..." he breathed. She stood beneath an olive tree with was alive with bright birds fluttering about. Her long brown hair blew about her peaceful face, and she looked down at the infant in her arms, who waved his chubby hands and gurgled with delight at the birds and his mother's smile.

Hercules spared the time for one sigh of mingled relief and sadness. He would tell Iolaus about this. It would ease his friend's mind. His own mind, however ... He resumed his frantic search.

Finally he spied her, standing in a grove of flowering orange trees. She was more beautiful than he had ever seen her and his heart swelled with longing. They'd go home together and he'd take her to bed and ... Panting, he ran up to his wife.

"Deianeira! I can't believe I found you!"

There was a completely blank look in her eyes as she turned to him. With an uncertain smile, she said "I'm sorry. Am I supposed to know you?"

His guts grew icy. "What do you mean? It's me, Hercules. I'm your husband!"

A puzzled line appeared between her brows. "I'm afraid I don't remember."

"How can you not remember? You have to remember! We love each other!" The anguish and hurt threatened to split him apart.

There was a sudden rush of displaced air that heralded - as Hercules well knew - the arrival of a god. He turned to see Hades standing there, in all his black leather glory, his gauntleted arms folded in annoyance.

"Hercules, you shouldn't be here. You've got to leave. It isn't your time yet."

"It wasn't Deianeira's time either!" To his embarrassment, Hercules felt hot tears running down his face. Deianeira, with a rather concerned look, reached up and wiped them away. Her fingers were warm and soft, just as they always were, and his anguish became unbearable. "It WASN'T her time!" he repeated desperately.

"Sorry, but it was. I lifted her broken body from the rocks myself."

"She doesn't even remember me! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY WIFE???"

"I merely erased the misery that brought her here. I gave her peace of mind".

"Give her back, or I'll give you a piece of my FIST!" At any other time, he would have known that threatening Hades was pointless, but he was too upset to care.

Stormclouds began to gather in Hades' face. "Look, I'm gonna give you the same answer I give everybody - NO!"

Deianeira was looking into Hercules' face, with a searching expression. "You say I'm your wife?"

More tears coursed down his face. "Yes. Oh gods, can't you remember? We searched for the fire together, and brought it back to Prometheus and the world. We were married in the springtime, and I carved the head of our marriage bed into a living tree and built our house around it." Deianeira was listening intently now, looking deep into his streaming eyes, and he went on, "You bore me three beautiful children. Aeson, Klonus and little Ilea. Can't you remember? They're waiting for you! They love you!" His voice broke. "And you love them!"

As he was speaking, he watched Deianeira's expression change from puzzlement to alarm to recognition. "Hercules?" she asked unsteadily, and then, with assurance she repeated, "Hercules!"

He crushed her to him, his lips on hers, and felt her arms go around his neck in an achingly familiar clasp. For a long time they held each other, until Hades' voice broke the spell. "This is all very touching, but she's still staying here!"

Hercules' anger blazed up again full force. "Bullshit!" he bellowed. "It wasn't Deianeira's time to die and you know it! This was one of Hera's set-ups! You know that too! I can't believe you're going to let Hera get away with it!"

"You know, the son of Skouros got into a lot of trouble saying that same thing to me!"

That jolted Hercules."What does Iolaus have to do with this?"

"Your annoying friend tried to stop me from taking Deianeira."

"What did you do to him? Is he - ?"

Hades sighed. "No. I merely moved him out of the way a little." He chuckled in a rather amused way and the sound increased Hercules' fury.

"Give her back to me, Hades, or I'll - "

"You'll WHAT?" By now the last vestiges of Hades' patience had clearly vanished. "Look, I'd love to stand around and listen to whatever lame argument you might come up with, but I've got a major crisis down here, with Cerberus running around loose, and I need to go take care of it. So we're gonna end this right now. SHE stays! YOU go! End of story. Bye!" He raised his hand and Hercules knew exactly what was going to happen but the mention of Cerberus had given him one last wild possibility.

"I'll catch Cerberus for you!"

"What?" Hades stopped dead.

"I can do it! You know I can! I'll catch Cerberus for you - and you'll let Deianeira come back with me!" He held his breath. It was the greatest risk he had ever taken in his life.

Hades started to say "My best hunters are out after him - "

At that point Hercules knew he had won. He went weak with relief and tightened his grip around Deianeira. "Your best hunters are no match for me, and you know it. Do we have a deal?"

For a long time Hades looked at him stonily, then sighed and shook his head. "All right. All right! You catch Cerberus, and Deianeira goes back with you. But if you fail, you BOTH will be staying with me, you understand?"

"Failure's not an option. One of the philosophers said that. I don't remember who," Hercules realized he was babbling. He turned to Deianeira and kissed her once again. "I'll be back for you soon. It's gonna be all right. Everything's gonna be all right!" He looked back at Hades. "OK - where did you last see your dog?"

CUT TO:
Hadesí Seven Minions bound through the woods. All are ghastly, fierce-looking thugs, called up from Erebus for this special chore. they carry ropes and whips and various weapons. some have bloody wounds from the hunt.

Minion #1 throws a lasso into the darkness. We hears a thundering roar as -TH-WAAAP!- the rope snaps taut.

MINION #1
there. got you, you miserable beast!

He struggles with the rope, fighting to hold on as Minion #2 tosses a second rope, TH-WAAAAP!

In all the shadowy gloom, itís impossible to see Cerberus clearly. All thatís visible is a huge, humped shape bucking and snapping, as itís six red eyes glare out of the shadows burning like embers.

The other minions being attacking the unseen beast with their whips and spears. they seem to be getting the upper hand.

Minion #1 lets loose a cackling laugh.

MINION #1
Youíre not getting away this time, you mangy hound! Weíre gonna....

Suddenly, -WHOOOSH!- something swipes past him in a blur! His laugh ends abruptly. The rope flies from his hands as -WHAAM!- he hits the ground, dead - a huge, gore-splattered claw mark grooved across his chest.

Minion #2 struggles mightily with his rope, screaming at the others.

MINION #2
Help me with this! Heís getting awa...

Cerberus breaks free with a ROOOOAAR!!

Thereís a sickening -HIIIIISSSS!- as the ropes whips through Minion #2ís grip, taking most of his hands with it!

In a flash, Cerberusí huge shape is breaking away.

Hercules is pushing through the trees, when a loud thrashing comes right at him. He barely has time to dive to the side as the great dog flashes by.

The minions, chasing Cerberus, come upon Hercules.

MINIONS
Wh-What? Who the hell are you? Itís Hercules!

The leader of the minions, the brawniest and most wicked-looking thug, steps up.

MINION-LEADER
What are you doing here, Hercules?

HERCULES
Iíve come to get Cerberus.

MINION-LEADER
(snorts) What makes you think we need your help?

Herculesí eyes flick to the dead minion on the ground, then to the bloody gash on the Minion-Leaderís arm.

HERCULES
What makes you think you donít?

MINION-LEADER
(allowing a laugh) Tag along if you want, Hercules. But the dog is mine.

He spins around to the others.

MINION-LEADER (cont)
After him!!

The Minions take off after Cerberus. Hercules -C-CRAACK!- breaks a large branch off a tree, forming an instant club.

He starts after Cerberus too.

CUT TO:

In the woods as the Minions follow Cerberusí barks in a yelling, torchlit phalanx.

Hercules races quickly as well, dodging trees and ducking branches like the expert hunter he is.

The hunt travels through the dark shadowland. Several times Hercules catches a glimpse of Cerberusí dark shape huge and shaggy, tearing through the trees.

Suddenly, the Minion-Leader points.

MINION-LEADER
Heís over here!

The Minions swarm toward the hell-dog. The leader shouts orders, moving them into postion.

Suddenly, Hercules breaks through the group. He takes a few bounding steps and leaps! The Minion-Leader is enraged.

MINION-LEADER
Hercules!!

WHAAAM! Hercules lands on top of the Hell-Dog! Cerberus roars, flipping him off his back.

WHAAAM! Hercules hits the dirt. SLAAASH! Cerberus rakes his bicep with a razor-tipped claw.

The minions rush in, attacking with their spears and swords. ROOAR! SLAAASH! ROOOOAAAR! SLAAASH!! A couple more fall as Cerberus bursts through, snapping and biting. We get more teasing half-glimpses of the beast as they fight, but it takes off running again before we can really see it.

MINION-LEADER
Don't let him get away!

TH-WAAAP! TH-WAAAAP! They toss ropes after Cerberusí massive silhouette. Itís deep, chorded growling rumbles like thunder.

MINION #3
Weíve got him! Weíve got him.

MINION #4
He canít get away this time! Cerberus is ours!

Hercules steps up just as Cerberus finally comes into the light. Itís a vision of pure horror. Three snarling heads, each bristling with huge curved teeth, sprout from a mane of hissing snakes. A razor-tipped hook whips back and forth on the end of itís sinewy tail.

The Minion-Leader raises his whip.

MINION-LEADER
Iíll teach you whoís boss, you freak.

He begins furiously whipping the dog while the others jab madly with their spears. Cerberus screams and rears, slashing out, charging and retreating, going completely crazy.

Hercules works a rope, fighting against the monster with his tremendous strength.

Suddenly -ROOOOAAR!!- Cerberus bursts forward! The minions scatter with a yell.

The Minion-Leader isnít fast enough.

CRUUUUNCH!! Cerberusí middle head scares his in itís teeth, holding tight while the two other heads tear into him! The thug screams in agony until, with a violent shake, his back is snapped.

The remaining Minions struggle and strain, trying to get the hell-dog under control. they turn to Hercules, their only hope.

MINIONS
Hercules, do something!

Cerberus spins on Hercules. A corded bark explodes from the beast. It bares itís teeth as foam drips from itís snapping jaws.

Hercules assumes a fighting stance, raising his club. He stares at the dogís blazing eyes.

The beast crouches, body coiled, ready to spring. Itís eyes bore back at Hercules

The Minions yell and scream, anticipating a horrific fight.

But suddenly, Hercules stops advancing. He lowers his club, standing up straight from his attack pose.

The Minions exchange glances, confused.

MINIONS
Hercules? What is it? Whatís wrong?

Cerberus is also confused. His brow furrows. He snaps and growls suspiciously.

THUUD! Hercules drops his club to the ground.

The Minions shout frantically.

MINIONS (cont)
Hercules! Pick up your weapon! Heíll kill you!

But Hercules opens his hands, slowing them to the dog.

HERCULES
Look. I donít wanna hurt you.

He takes a step forward.

HERCULES (cont)
You just need to go back where you belong.

The Minions are screaming, ďNo! No!Ē as Hercules takes a final step, extending his hands to the beast.

HERCULES (cont)
So whatta you say? Will you go?

Cerberusí three heads poke forward, growling, hackles up. In the quickest flash of their teeth, they could rip Herculesí arm off his body...but they donít. they just sniff his hand.

Hercules smiles. He pats the Middle Head. The other two heads nuzzle in, licking his fingers. The beastís razor tail begins wagging.

Hercules throws a look back to the Minions.

Hercules (cont)
Remember that. Sometimes a little kindness does the trick.

Off our Heroís triumphant grin...

To Hercules' immense relief, the moment he emerged from the cave, there was a rush of displaced air and Deianeira appeared. He swept her up in his embrace, ignoring the hoots and envious applause coming from the dead hunters. "I wasn't going to lose you, " he whispered, coming up for air finally.

"I wasn't going to lose you, either!" whispered Deianeira and burrowed back into her husband's arms.

"C'mon, boys!" muttered one of the hunters. "I don't think we're needed around here right now. And for Eros' sake, will you two please get a ROOM?!"

There was no reaction from the two reunited lovers. After a heartbeat or perhaps a century, Hercules broke away from the kiss and declared, "We're out of here! C'mon!"

"Listen, before we go... I've got to say ..."

"What?"

"I'm sorry ... I doubted you. I doubted you so much I listened to Nessus. I doubted you so much I was ready to kill myself, when I heard that you were dead. "

"Dei - don't. Please. Honey, the whole damn thing was a setup of Hera's from start to finish. I let you in for this, because you're married to me. I'm the one that needs to apologize, for putting you through all this." He was going to say more, but she moved in for a kiss. And after that, there was nothing left for either of them to say, only the need to climb up from Hades' realm as quickly as possible, find the nearest secluded grassy glade, and there, exchange the sincerest of apologies. Apologizing took most of the night, and it was only with the coming of rosy-fingered Dawn that they set out again on the road home.

SMASH CUT TO:
ext. Ioleís Village - Day

SFX: the black hole disappears altogether!

Reverse Angle reveals Hercules and Deianeira, arm in arm, watching the successful end to Herculesí labor.

Townspeople begin appearing behind them, one by one. Curious. Smiles appearing as they re-enter their town.

TOWNSMAN
Heís done it! Hercules has done it!

TOWNSWOMAN
Our town is saved!

A cheer rings out from the thankful crowd.

Iole appears. Lycastus is with her. Theyíre holding hands.

She shares a smile with Hercules, and with Deianeira, as people swarm the strongman, lifting him up onto their shoulders.

TOWNSPEOPLE
Hercules! Hercules! Hercules!

Hand in hand, they walked together down the long hill in the golden light of the dawn, and from the top of the neighboring hill, Iolaus saw them clearly. For a moment he stood, stunned, and then with a whoop that echoed from the surrounding slopes, he launched himself down to meet them, leaping and turning cartwheels the whole way.

At his first shout, they looked up in surprise and then Hercules waved. Iolaus finished his final cartwheel right at their feet. He grinned up at them from the dust and leaped to his feet, catching them both in a hug.

"You did it, Herc! I knew you could do it! I knew you'd bring her back!"

Hercules smiled as Deianeira grabbed Iolaus and kissed him hard. "Hades told me about you coming after me, " she said. "He told me that you stood up to him! That was the bravest, craziest, kindest thing...." The sentence ended in another kiss. Iolaus blushed.

Hercules grabbed his partner's arm in a warrior's handshake. "Thanks, buddy. For everything.".

"Don't mention it. No problem". Iolaus turned to look at the road behind him. "We'd better haul for home - fast! The sooner the both of you get back, the better!"

Deianeira spoke. "Iolaus ... We thought you should know ..."

She stole a worried glance at Hercules, who cleared his throat and said "Iolaus... while I was in Elysium ... I saw Ania and the baby...."

The huge grin on his best friend's face did not diminish, but there was a sudden glitter in his blue eyes. "You did? That's great... How ... how are they?"

Hercules took him by the arm. "She's fine, buddy. Aeacus too. They're both beautiful and happy - and Ania even gets along with the wildlife there ...The birds were flying all around her and singing..."

"That's great, man. That's great. I'm really glad to hear it". Iolaus found his throat getting thick.

"But Iolaus - I'm really sorry. I couldn't - ".

"No!" Iolaus interrupted forcefully. "Don't say it. Don't even think it. You got no reason to feel guilty, so don't, OK? I'm glad to know you saw her, and know she's happy. That's enough for now." He took a long, deep breath. "C'mon, let's head out! With luck we'll get back in time for lunch. Alcmene's been teaching Althea to make stuffed grape leaves - we don't want to miss that, now, do we?"

DISSOLVE TO:

An apple tree loaded with fruit. While a gentle breeze jostles the leaves, we hear childrenís voices calling out.

KLONUS (OS)
Get me one, Dad. Get me a big one.

AESON (OS)
I want one, too.

ILEA
What about me? Donít I get one?

Suddenly, we hear the whistle of an arrow in flight.

The arrow -THUUP THUUP THUUP- pierces three apples, skewering them like a shish kebab, then falls to the ground.

Ilea, Klonus and Aeson run over to grab the fallen apples, cheering.

A wider angle reveals Hercules with his bow, standing in the tall grass next to Deianeira and Iolaus. They all laugh delightedly watching the kids.

In the background on the path leading up to the house, a desperate runner wearily closes in on the man who might bring him salvation...

Hercules!

Fade Out.



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