A sigh that would have caused buildings to collapse on earth was barely acknowledged on Olympus. Apollo was bored. Bad things happened when the gods were bored. The sun god struck a disinterested chord on his lyre. Apollo considered starting a plague to see how long it would take for the pleading to begin from his supplicants. “Nah, too much whining,” Apollo muttered as he plucked a bit of the sun from the air and flicked it toward the wall. It bounced off a statue of Ares and skittered into the Grand Viewing room.
He laughed as he rose from his couch and slowly sauntered toward the room in order to remove the evidence of his “irreverence”. “I really don’t want to listen to lecture 1231 today,” Apollo sneered.
As he entered the room, the center screen was focused on Hercules. “Hera must have been in here today. So what is Hercules doing today? O right! …going about doing good,” the god voiced sarcastically. Apollo watched intently, glad to have his boredom momentarily derailed.
Hercules and Iolaus laughed as they confidently tramped along the trail. Iolaus took another swig from his water bag sighed in relief, “Yeah, hey, did you get a look at the fangs on that thing? I’m just glad it was slow.We could have ended up as…”
“Dinner,” Hercules supplied with a grin.
“Yeah, yeah, “ Iolaus said distractedly as Hercules chuckled. “The villagers seemed thankful, though.” Iolaus smiled wickedly and winked.
“Especially Acanthe, huh? Well,” the demigod grimaced, “building those statues in our honor was a bit much, don’t you think?”
Apollo leaned forward when he heard that. Weren’t they in one of his cities recently? “I could have taken care of that little beast if someone had asked me,” he muttered as he listened carefully to Iolaus’ response.
So wrapped up in this little comedy, the god failed to notice Hera’s appearance. She smiled at how easily she could manipulate the current events to her favor. “Find something, or should I say, someone interesting?” she asked smugly.
Apollo only acknowledged her long enough to shush her. “This could be important here!” Remembering whom he was shushing, he added, “Great Lady.”
“Hmm, important, indeed. Let’s hear what the little hero has to say.”
Iolaus laughed even louder as he emptied the contents of his bag. “Come on,” he cajoled,” No more disappearing cattle, no more virgin sacrifices, if you ask me, they have a lot to be thankful for. They should have built a shrine to us.”
Apollo narrowed his eyes and reached for something to throw. Ares appeared and handed him a bag of Zeus’ bolts. Not minding what he had in his hand nor who gave it to him, Apollo fiercely flung the lighting toward the two and hit a tree.
Hercules jumped and put out a hand to stop his friend. “Whoa! You’d better watch your mouth, Iolaus. Remember umm,” Hercules warned as he pointed to the sky.
Ares leaned forward and then turned back to face Apollo. “You’re aims off a little, Bro,” the god of war sneered. “ I’ve been saying all along you other guys need to come to training. Who knows what will happen if you had to face a ‘real’ threat.”
“I was aiming for the tree. You know we can’t do anything to Hercules, Bro,” Apollo groused. “Anyway, a warning was all they needed. Listen”
“It’s not the gods. Hey, there’s one way to prove it,” Iolaus said cheerfully. “Coz, lightning never…”
“…strikes in the same place twice,” Hercules and Iolaus said in unison.
Iolaus was already racing toward the tree when Hercules tried to discourage him. He didn’t really think it was the gods, but the two of them had suchgood luck recently with the monsters, warlords, and bandits lately, he didn’t want to push it. The demigod just shook his head when he saw his best friend posing at the bottom of the hill in front of the tree.
“I think,” the hunter crowed loudly as he raised his hand to the sky, “they should have built a shrine to us!”
Apollo roared, “That’s it…that arrogant little pipsqueek. I’ll show him what a god can do.” He grabbed another bolt and hurled it toward Iolaus. Just as it was going to hit the hunter full on, Hera flicked her wrist a little and deflected what would have been a fatal blow. Apollo and Ares both spun around to face her. The god of music’s mouth dropped open for a second and stared blankly at her. “Why did you do that? I know Dite’s always had a sweet spot for him, but you too?” Apollo grumbled.
“Oh, please. Use your imagination. One would think that someone who is in charge of the Muses could come up with something a little more creative than just blasting him to bits,” Hera smirked.
“Why Mother, what ever do you mean?” Ares interjected. He rolled his eyes at the thought of sparing his half- brother, Hercules, any grief. It would have been a glorious blast. He glanced at the ridiculous figure looking quite fried in that petrified position.
“Well, if you want my opinion…Why don’t you bless him,” Hera offered as she smiled surprisingly sweetly.
“What are you talking about?” asked Apollo. He spared his handy work with a smug grin. He had to stifle an out and out bellylaugh as he heard Hercules pleading with Iolaus to answer him.
“Oh, bless him,” Ares added with a wicked smile. “You know, like you ‘blessed’ Cassandra, that poor child on that island of nonbelievers.”
“Well, it was one of my better ‘blessings’ I admit. It would be even easier because he does have that little bit of seer’s blood in him. All I would have to do is nudge the gift a little,” Apollo admitted. Turning back to the screen, the god snapped his fingers once and nodded. “Well, this is getting boring and I promised a certain goddess a little ride in the chariot today. Besides, I need my oracle to send a little message to that ungrateful village.”
After the god disappeared, Ares looked at his mother, and said, “Okay, now that choir boy is out of the picture, what are you really up to?”
Hera smoothed out her gown and said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, but you might want to urge your minions at Tevar to be ready.”
“Anything for you, Mother,” he bowed and left quickly.
Hera walked forward and put her hands on the railing. She laughed maliciously as she watched Zeus’ brat carry his friend into the caveas a rainstorm started. “Yes.”
Hercules paced for hours back and forth in that tiny cave. The rain poured relentlessly in large sheets, and this was seriously playing on the demigod’s last nerve. Occasionally he would stop to check Iolaus’ breathing and mutter obscure warnings to any diety that would try to kill his friend. Finally, a quick gasp at the mouth of the cave signaled Iolaus’ return to consiousness.
“Iolaus, are you okay?” Herc asked nervously.
“Um, yeah, I think so,” the hunter answered cautiously. “I feel pretty good.”
Hercules blinked hard as he tried to explain, “You were struck by lightening!”
Iolaus grinned and took a deep breath. “Really? Nah, I feel great. I feel better than I’ve felt in my whole life. In fact…in fact, I feel energized,” he laughed and looked around.
Hercules stared at him for a minute before turning his attention to he storm. He sighed, “Well, you might as well relax a little more. With this storm, we’ll likely be stuck here for the rest of the day.”
“No, it’ll be over in a couple of minutes,” Iolaus offered.
“How would you know that?” he asked suspiciously.
“You know,” Iolaus advised, “We’d make Colchis by sundown if it wasn’t for those distractions.”
Iolaus squinted like he was trying to see something far, far away. “Um pretty girl on a horse, and oh, she is going to be so much trouble,” he warned. Hercules tried to interrupt his best friend’s revelation, but it was as if the hunter hadn’t heard a single word he said. In spite of Hercules’ admonitions for Iolaus to rest, the hunter just couldn’t slow down. He darted out of the cave with the demigod fast on his heels. “No, no,no, no,” Iolaus continued, “Whoa! This is like…Whoa!” The rain stopped completely as he tried to explain to Hercules what he was seeing. Iolaus marveled at the visions as they whooshed by. Tall buildings, people flying in silver birds, and other disturbing things flashed in his head. All the time this was happening, Iolaus was aware of his friend’s fear and confusion. “What if he doesn’t believe me,” Iolaus silently considered. Closing his eyes briefly, Iolaus boldly stated, “Horse.”
Hercules frowned and asked, “What?”
Suddenly, the demigod heard the galloping hooves thundering toward them. The two men looked down the road and saw a woman with long auburn hair heading toward them. Hercules shook his head slightly as he could almost swear he saw a figure from his past racing toward him. His vision cleared in time to see this woman come to a complete stop in front of him. Iolaus was slightly distracting as he giggled his I told you so’s and stumbled back.
Hercules shook his head and squinted as he tried to get a better look at the beautiful young lady riding up to them. He felt a strange tug at his heart as she pulled the horse to a stop.
"Whoa!" she gasped. The woman looked around as she dismounted and approached the demigod. "That was some storm wasn't it?" She was perplexed as silence greeted her question. Unwilling to let the awkward silence to continue, she just got down to her question, " Maybe you two can help me. I'm looking for Hercules."
Hercules continued to stare at her. She looked so familiar, but Hercules was sure he'd never met her. His heart quickened as he realized she she was talking about him. He was still trying to remember he was suppose to answer this request when Iolaus punched him in the arm. The demigod blinked hard and answered, "Uh, I'm Hercules."
Iolaus confirmed his identity while the young woman looked a bit reluctant to believe this stranger covered in soot. "No, no,really, and I know coz I'm his best friend, Iolaus," he offered. She nodded as she sensed his sincerity and introduced herself as Rheanna. They all stared at each other for a bit longer before Iolaus offered, "Uh, you'll be wanting some water because it's a long way to Tevar." His eyebrow raised slightly as he considered again the amount of information racing through his mind.
Rheanna looked at him in astonishment. "How did you know that?" she asked.
Iolaus scratched his head slightly and answered, "I...uh...don't know. Maybe I can cool your horse off for you. Um...give you two some time...together. Oh Yeah, come on, Archilochus." He led the horse off toward the creek as Rheanna and Hercules looked on amazed.
"Well, now that you've found us, what can you do for you?" Hercules asked. He tried to keep his anger in check as Rheanna told him of the atrocities Melkos meted out on the village. When she turned her back on the demigod and paced nervously as she told him of the wedding night privilages he invoked, Hercules commented, "I thought those were just rumors."
She grimaced and spun around. Determined, she held her head high as she stated calmly, "They're not." Rheanna waved off his apology defiantly and continued, "Look, I neither need, nor have time for your sympathy. My late husband and I led a rebellion against Melkos. Two months ago, Jordis was killed in an ambush, and since then the movement has floundered. Without his leadership, I'm afraid it'll die."
"And you want our help to overthrow him?" Hercules asked as he moved forward.
She nodded and explained, "Yes, before his oppression spreads." She turned around again and walked slowly with her eyes focused on the road. "Look. I don't seek revenge. I only want to see the end of my people's suffering," Rheanna reassured the demigod. She barely heard him move at all until he stood directly behind her. She sighed in relief as Hercules promised to do all that he and Iolaus could. Rheanna gently took the reigns of her horse from Iolaus as he returned, and they all began walking toward Tovar.
Iolaus felt an unease he hadn't experienced in a long time. It was like trying to remember if he'd doused the fire on his forge before leaving for a long trip, one part of him reassured him there was no danger, and yet another part was jumping up and down, yelling at the top of his lungs to watch out. He shook his head as he tried to tune in to the conversation Rheanna was having with Herc. He had an eerie feeling as he watched the way she moved confidently down the road. It was almost as if he were watching Hercules and Deianeira striding toward the market together.
Rheanna stopped suddenly when she saw a rag-tag group of refuges trudging down the road. "I know those people," she told Hercules and Iolaus. She ran toward them shaking Iolaus from his musings.
As Iolaus saw the way Herc was looking at her, he nudged his friend and spoke,"She's a beauty, isn't she?"
Hercules denied having noticed but Iolaus was positive he saw some kind of infactuation creeping in.
"Right! You haven't taken your eyes off her since she showed up," the hunter teased gently. "But we're going to be up to our ears in soldiers in a minute, so"
Hercules stopped dead in his tracks and looked around frantically. "Soldiers?" he asked.
"Yeah," Iolaus acknowledged nonchallantly as he looked back down the road. When Hercules asked him where they were, Iolaus felt that awkward niggling feeling again. "No, no, no, I didn't see...I mean I saw them, but I just didn't. I mean I did see them," he stuttered. Taking a deep breath he just stated calmly, "Look, look, they're just gonna be here. Trust me!"
Hercules threw his arms up as Rheanna returned. They're refugees from my village," she explained. "They just don't want to live under the king's tyranny anymore."
Almost as if on cue, soldiers rode arrogantly down the road toward the disheartened group. Hercules turned back toward Iolaus and stated incredulously, "Soldiers." Iolaus shrugged before turning his attention back to the coming fight.
Commander Cyrus sat high in his saddle and commanded, "Stop! You people are to return home." His eyes narrowed as the leader of the refugees approached him in defiance.
Clarion stretched his arms out and uttered, "Why? We've nothing left to give to the king. He's taxed us to death."
Cyrus had to admit the man had a certain desperate fearlessness about him. He hated people who were fearless. "The king will be the judge of what you have left to give. Now turn around before you find out what death is really like."
Hercules stepped forward as Iolaus took in the number they were likely to face. The demigod spoke boldly to the commander, "Now hold on here. These people haven't done anything wrong."
Cyrus looked at Hercules in disdain. "I don't recognize you stranger, but I'd advise you to mind your own business," he cautioned the man in front of him, not realizing he wasn't just another mercenary, but the son of Zeus himself. Cyrus was still trying to size up this intruder when Iolaus positioned himself closer to the other soldiers.
Hercules scowled at Cyrus and informed him that he was making this his business. It was at this point Cyrus drew his sword intent on showing this mercenary who was in charge. Or rather, tried to draw his sword for at this point Hercules sprang into action. Grabbing Cyrus' foot, the demigod effortlessly flipped the man from his horse. The foot soldiers rushed toward Hercules, Iolaus joined in the battle by causing one thug on a horse to dismount with extreme discomfort as the hunter knocked him from the animal with a large stone. One of the other soldiers managed to get a couple of hits in when Iolaus laid him flat with a one-two punch.
The refugees looked on in horror as Rheanna was attacked by a brut with a sword. They had heard tales of the valiant warrior bride, but were almost stunned to see her in action. After disarming the soldier, she kicked him hard in the face. When his head snapped back, she elbowed him in the kidneys, and he collapsed.
Clarion fought with brave determination. Hercules watched from the corner ofhis eye as he, himself, continued to beat back Cyrus' men.
Iolaus shocked a soldier when he ran straight to the thug. Leaping quickly he jumped on the man, hung on to the back of his head, and punched him vigorously in the face. When the soldier collapsed. Instantly, the hero was off to find more prey.
Cyrus lay defeated in the mud as Hercules picked him up and threw him on the back of a horse face down. The demigod added the humiliation of throwing two more semi-conscious men face down on the commander's horse and swatting the horse's behind. The stead headed back down the road in a less than magnificent way.
Rheanna was feeling the thrill of winning again when she saw the refuges continuing on their way out of the province. Turning to Clarion, she asked. “Why are they leaving, Clarion? I told them I’d be back with help to fightand I did.”
Clarion tried to explain, “It’s nothing against you, Rheanna, but the death of Jordis really hit the people hard. They just don’t have it in them to fight anymore.”
Rheanna sighed and asked, “What about you, Clarion? Are you leaving too? If you leave, our cause will greatly suffer.” She watched the refugees leaving when she continued, “I can’t make your decision for you.”
Clarion stared pensively at the group leaving and then back to the courageous young woman. “You’ll still lead us?” he cautiously asked her. When she nodded, Clariod added, “And those two…they’ll fight with us? Then I’ll stay, but I’m sending my family with the others.I won’t risk them.” Clarion turned and caught up with his wife and children. Rheanna couldn’t bear to watch the family torn apart.
Hercules and Iolaus strolled up to her. Rheanna smiled tentatively and confessed, “Well, I guess you really are Hercules and Iolaus. You two were amazing out there. The stories of this two man army certainly weren’t exaggerated.”
Hercules blushed when Iolaus clapped him on the back and started toward town. Herc stared at Rheanna again and felt his heartpulling at him.
Hera laughed smoothly as she ran her fingers over the railing in theviewing room. “Perfect,” she sneered.
Ares frowned at his mother, “I don’t get it. My brother takes out a few incompetent soldiers to be the great ‘hero’ again. What’s perfect about that? Besides that Rheanna is really becoming a pain in the…”
“Oh please, forget your pride for a minute and pay attention to what’s happening,” she stated impatiently. When Ares just continued to scowl, the great goddess continued. “What is my area of responsibility?”
“Besides trying to kill Hercules? Marriage, family, all that mundane stuff,” he answered.
“Yes, and what will happen if Hercules were to break the sanctity of all that mundane stuff’, as you put it? He has that stupid ‘Do no Harm’ rule, but suppose he had an affair with a married woman? Wouldn’t I be able to demand restitution?” Hera asked with a smile.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah…you’re in charge. But really, Mother, what are the chances that Hercules, that do-gooder, would even think about a little somethin’ in the afternoon? Besides, her husband is…”
“Dead, yes, it would appear so, wouldn’t it?” Hera smiled smugly as she waited for her son to acknowledge that he’d caught on.
“Oh, you’re good,” he chuckled. “So while Hercules chases after a married woman…”
“Yes, he’s falling into the trap quite nicely,” she said as she tapped her fingers against the railing. With a quick sigh, she turned and vanished.
Ares watched Rheanna introduce Hercules and Iolaus to the innkeeper. His eyes narrowed as he watched her start to help serve the customers. An evil grin blossomed on his face, and he turned his attention to pulling at a small carpet under her feet. Ares started a bit when he heard Iolaus warn Hercules to stay alert moments before he nudged Rheanna sprawling toward his half brother. “How’d he know that? I have got to get Apollo to tone down the seer business,” he muttered. Ares stayed just long enough to see Rheanna fall into the arms of Hercules.
Time seemed to freeze as Hercules’ arms wrapped around Rheanna. She looked down as Herc awkwardly released her. She thanked him, and he cleared his throat and mumbled, “You’re welcome.”
She turned quickly around and placed the tankards on the counter. Taking a deep breath, she informed him that the innkeeper, Vericles, would find them something to eat and a place to stay that night. When Hercules inquired about the meeting, Rheanna spoke softly, “I’ll send someone for you. We…keep it secret till the last minute.” She turned toward the innkeeper and introduced them to the innkeeper, “Vericles, this is Hercules and Iolaus.” She turned and left quickly.
Vericles looked them up and down and offered sarcastically to Iolaus, “Glad ta meetcha….Hercules. What’ll you have?
Iolaus tried to explain to the sceptic, “No, no, no…He really is Hercules.”
Vericles rolled his eyes and and tossed out, “Right, he’s the third one this week.”
Melkos sat "court" in the center of the castle keep in the company of his deformed advisor. "Advisor?" he thought bitterly, "more like someone to do my dirty work. Well, at least it appears as though I have a full staff in this hovel." It never could compare with his uncle's grand villa in Macedonia. Yet, it was better rule absolutely in the hole he was in than to murmur words of flattery and favor to his Uncle Tyrannius. He wondered privately what his uncle would have done to this idiot if Cyrus gone to him with this news. The ruler looked in disdain at the commander in front of him. “Why do I have to deal with the mundane?” he wondered while trying to listen to the excuse this buffoon was trying to give.
With his head bowed, Cyrus took a deep breath, and thought, “I might as well get this over with.” Raising his head to look into the cool eyes of Melkos, the commander explained, “Your highness, we failed toturn back the refugees.”
Melkos looked at his nails and then turned back to face Cyrus with a malevolent smile, “That could cost you your jobs. You do realizethat. It’s their…taxes that pay you and your men.” Narrowing his eyes, he asked, “How many were there?”
Cyrus’ eyes shifted a bit and tried to make it sound a little more dangerous, “Five or six families, Sire.”
“Um, no," Cyrus answered meekly.
"So," Melkos hissed as he stood. Advancing on his commander, the leader continued, "let me get this straight. A...dozen armed and trained soldiers couldn't convince a ragged band of refugee to return to their homes?" Though his tone was definately menacing, Melkos retained his smile during the whole discourse. His "advisor", Grovelus stood just behind him.
Cyrus practically whined, "They had help. One of the women from the village, and two men I've never seen before." The commander had to admit to himself that his explanation sounded lame.
Melkos only smiled more broadly and dismissed him. "Hmm, Grovelus. Probably mercenaries. That bodes well for us. The rebels must be getting desperate if they rely on mercenaries to fight their battles. Yes, things are going according to plan. Still, I want you to find me that woman," he ordered.
Grovelus tilted his head and inquired, "What about the mercenaries?"
Melkos laughed carelessly and scoffed, "Ha! A couple of paid soldiers don't worry me. Besides if all goes according to plan, they'll be crushed with the rest of the rebels."
"You're gonna lose a lot of money," Iolaus uttered as he continued his pacing in the barn. He couldn't stop the flow of information crowding his brain. Pacing seemed to help get rid of at least some of the nervous energy that was flooding his system.
Hercules sat up rigidly on his makeshift bed and wrinkled his brow at this information. "What?" he asked in confusion.
Iolaus continued moving back and forth trying to explain to Herc, "Uh, I see you...losing a lot of money."
The demigod felt more bewildered than he had in a long time. He was worried for his best friend, and he felt out of place with whatever it was he was feeling for Rheanna. He would have liked to discuss it with Iolaus, but the more his friend ranted, the more he felt his friend couldn't be burdened by this pull. Finally he gave up and reasoned, "That just doesn't make sense, Iolaus. I don't have any money."
Iolaus raised his hands in his defense and tried to explain, "I'm just telling you what I see."
Hercules leaned in closer trying to understand and make sense of what was happening to Iolaus. "Iolaus," he started, "what happened to you in that lightning strike? I mean, first it was Rheanna, then the soldiers, now this...this thing about losing money. Are you telling me you can...see the future?"
Iolaus stopped in front of the demigod and admitted,"Yeah...no..I mean." Iolaus was getting frustrated trying to explain something that was so clear in his head, but so hard to put into words. "Um, no, you see..what it is? Um, I get these visions. And sometimes, they're really like...Zing! Clear." Iolaus snapped his fingers making Hercules flinch. "Great, Iolaus," he muttered to himself, "you're making this clear as mud. Okay, try again, and don't freak Herc out. “And other times,” he said louder, "they're kind of..um..wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa! You know, you can't tell. I mean, I don't know what they are. It's sort of..."
Hercules interrupted what appeared to him to be babbling and asked for the fifth time that day, "This is really strange. Are you sure you feel okay?"
Iolaus grinned wildly and laughed a little. "Yeah," he answered, "yeah, I feel great." Iolaus spun on his heels to resume pacing when Hercules reminded him that they both had to get some sleep.
Reluctantly at first, Iolaus realized that his pacing was driving his friend insane. At that point he agreed quickly and plopped down on the ground. After they'd said their goodnights, Iolaus' eyes popped open and advised Hercules, "Herc, um sorry, but you might want to move."
Hercules kept his eyes closed but answered him anyway, "Why?"
"Well, you're in the cow's favorite spot," the hunter replied.
"What cow?" Herc managed to get out of his mouth just as he heard this insistent lowing of the bovine he'd offended. With a sigh and a frown, Hercules scooted out of the way. He spared a glance at his friend before closing his eyes again. Iolaus just chuckled softly and drifted off.
Iolaus felt a sense of urgency. Looking around at the strange landscape surrounding him, he knew it was intensely important for him to be far, far away from there. The sky seemed to be on fire, and he knew something very scary and very significant was heading their way. He saw a beautiful woman kneeling beside a fallen man. Betrayal seeped as quickly as the hero's blood soaking the ground. He turned to run, but someone or something was blocking his way. He thought he heard Hercules call out to him; he saw a strange knife flying through the air.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end as he heard a voice crying, "Stay away from.." Suddenly he sat straight up and clutched his chest. "Man, what a dream...or was it a vision? Oh man," he whispered shakily into the night. "I don't want to know. Wait, where am I suppose to stay away. Wait! This could have to do with Rheanna and her mission." Iolaus instantly knew that if Hercules and Rheanna followed their attraction, bad, bad things would happen. Maybe Rheanna was the beautiful woman, and Herc had to be the fallen hero...except Hercules called to me and that hero was already on the floor," he reasoned to himself. Raising up a little he checked to see that Herc was still asleep. Secure in his knowledge that his friend was fast asleep, Iolaus decided to just stay awake until the meeting. He knew there would be a meeting very soon. He'd seen it in a vision. With that thought, Iolaus shuddered and tried not to think at all.
"What in Tartarus was that!" Ares exclaimed "Hmmm, Mother," Ares said softy, "this just got a whole lot scarier than you."
She appeared instantly and waved him off, "Oh please, it was just a dream. Doesn't all of Apollo's recipients of the gift have to prophesy in the daytime? This was nothing but a dream produced by some bit of sour beef. These humans are incredibly fragile you know.
"Yes, but Mother...Nevermind. I got a little message to one of the soldiers at Tevar to be ready. Doesn't that conflict with your plan?" Ares asked.
"Not at all. Give her a little failure, make Hercules want to bring her under his protective wing. He's falling under as we speak," she laughed.
"Why not just get Cupid to work his little spell on them both and be done with it," he complained.
"When did Eros start going by that wretched Roman name? It's so...foreign...so ordinary." Hera shuddered then took in her son's impatient countenance. "Think about it, my Son. First of all we need to keep this just between us. The more gods know, the more they can intervene. Secondly, Hercules would have some defense if his affair would be caused by the gods. I've got to go listen to her moan about how unfairly society treats her devotees," she jeered as she disappeared.
Ares frowned and turned back to watching Hercules' best friend. He didn't believe for one moment that Iolaus' dream meant nothing. Ares was very shrewd when it came to evil. Something quite sinister was going on, and he was feeling a little left out of the loop.
When Vericles came to get Hercules and Iolaus, he was surprised to see the hunter was still leaning against the wall. "Trouble sleeping, Friend?"
"Nah, look I'll get my buddy up and we'll meet you at the cavern in just a few. And don't ask me how I knew it was going to be in the cavern. You don't want to know, trust me, you just don't want to know," Iolaus groaned. Turning back to his friend, Iolaus lightly shook the demigod.
Hercules blinked and then sat up suddenly. "Is it time to go? Man, I can't believe I slept so hard in such a short period of time. What's wrong, Iolaus? You look like you have something to say."
Iolaus opened his mouth and then shut it very quickly. Trying again, Iolaus started, "Look I don't know how to say this, but don't you think this...um...attraction you're feeling toward Rheanna is a little sudden?"
"Attraction? Did I say something in my sleep? Because I don't remember saying I was feeling anything for her," he said roughly as he pulled his boots on.
"Look, Herc, I just think you're confusing some things here. I mean how long ago did you go to the Other Side to see...I mean, if Rheanna reminds ME of...Look, forget I said anything but just be careful, okay?" Iolaus stammered. The hunter saw the look in his friend's eyes that spoke volumes. Herc just wasn't listening.
"I don't know what you're babbling about, but we're keeping them. Let's go," Hercules said abruptly. Then remembering that his friend only had his welfare in mind, the demigod added, "But I trust you, Iolaus. If you say be careful, then careful I will be. Come on buddy," he said as he patted Iolaus on the shoulder.
Iolaus just sighed and followed.
Iolaus and Hercules sat at the fringes of the meeting. Rheanna was passionate about the rebel’s cause, and Hercules began to see who Iolaus hinted at earlier that night. He remembered her fierce dedication, her independence, and her desire for justice. Hercules felt the loss of his wife even deeper while watching Rheanna.
Rheanna paced as she spoke. She spoke to motivate, to give courage, and inspire her “ragged band of rebels” all the while trying to understand the impact the rebellion had made on her personally. Taking a deep breath, she began, “We’re all feeling the loss of Jordis. But this is no time to let up. Everyday that we continue our attacks on the king, our support grows. And tonight we have news that’ll help our cause immensely. Gnossus?”
Gnossus took over smoothly. He explained, “Tomorrow, the king is sending a shipment of gold through the Lucian forest. Our taxes paid for that gold.”
Vericles looked at Gnossus and crossed his arms, “Why are you telling us this? There’ll be an army to guard it too.”
Rheanna shook her head and countered, “No, as we speak, there’ll be an uprising in Rarda. Most of the king’s army will be busy putting down the rebellion.”
Hephate looked around her and replied, “Then the shipment will be lightly guarded… ripe for the taking.”
Clarion agreed and added, “We can get our taxes back, and hit the king where it hurts the most.”
Rheanna smiled seriously and reasoned further, “Taking his gold, and defeating his soldiers, would build our reputation.”
Vericles jumped to his feet and shouted, “What are we waiting for?”
Hercules and Iolaus looked at each other warily in that torchlit cavern. Hercules volunteered, “I know this is your battle, but you should move cautiously. How do you know this information is correct?”
Rheanna reassured him, “It comes straight from the lips of the king’s bookkeeper.”
Iolaus tried this time to be the voice of reason and asked, “Yeah, but…don’t you have to ask yourself why he’s telling you all of this?” Iolaus and Herc looked at each other again as Gnossus identified himself as the king’s bookkeeper. Iolaus shrugged and asked, “So, um..where is this shipment going?”
The rebels slowly crept along the brush that lined the road. They all quietly waited in ambush. It made Iolaus nervous to lie in wait. As truth would have it, he always felt better in a head-on attack. Not that slipping around wasn’t necessary from time to time, but he’d rather be upfront with these kinds of thugs. As the lone soldier neared, Rheanna called for the attack. It was simple enough to stop the one soldier in the wagon. But when Clarion hacked open the chest, the rebels couldn’t believe what they saw.
“Rocks!” Clarion cried.
Just then the sound of approaching horses filled the forest. It didn’t take long for the small band to see they were trapped. When the soldiers started charging for them, Rheanna called for her forces to pull back. Hercules and Iolaus recreated their two-man army routine in order for the rest to get away. After a short time, Hercules and Iolaus rejoined the rebels in their hiding place. Rheanna was terribly worried that they hadn’t heard the call for retreat, but Herc and Iolaus simply informed her that they ignored it. Rheanna was beating herself up about being so open to the attack. She just couldn’t see how they had been so wrong.
Hercules answered, “There’s not much to figure out here, Rheanna. You were set up.”
Iolaus added, “There’s a traitor in your midst. Here comes Veri..”
Just then, Vericles ran in and informed her, “Rheanna, the village square…two soldiers dumped someone’s body.”
She rushed to him and asked,” Whose?” Vericles couldn’t or wouldn’t answer her. Only that it was too far away to tell. They all rushed out to the village square. Rheanna looked in horror as she discovered it was her brother lying broken in the street. Dropping to her knees she gently laid a hand on his side. Hephate cradled his head in her lap and looked accusingly at Rheanna. Rheanna ignored her anger and asked him what happened.
Gnossus struggled for air and slowly forced out, “They found me out. I didn’t tell them a thing. They don’t know who we are.” Rheanna bowed her head and cried as Hephate spewed her venom and blame at the young woman warrior. When she couldn’t take anymore, Rheanna took off in the opposite direction from which she came.
Hercules looked at Iolaus. He saw the warning in his eyes, but he couldn’t let Rheanna suffer alone like that. “I’ll catch up with you later. Rheanna,” he called after her. I’m sorry about your friend.”
Rheanna continued her driving stride when she informed him, “He wasn’t just my friend. He was my brother.” She stopped suddenly and whirled around to face the demigod. “Look, first my husband, now my brother. Where does it end?”
Hercles simply stated, “Well, when King Melkos no longer rules.”
“But at what cost?” she cried.
Hercules looked closely at her and answered, “The price of freedom is never cheap. I don’t have to tell you that. But you’re the one who has to decide what you’re willing to pay.”
Rheanna shook her head and explained, “I just don’t want to see my people suffer any more than they already have. King Melkos intends to win even if he has to kill us all!”
Hercules looked coolly at her and stated, “Then don’t let him.”
She turned from him, choking back tears, and stammered, “I…I don’t know if I can go on.”
Hercules placed his hands on her shoulders and turned her around. He reassured her, “Your people are counting on you, Rheanna. To give up now would mean your husband and brother’s deaths would have been in vain. They wouldn’t want that.”
For a moment their eyes locked, and they both felt something. Hercules felt the attraction, but he also felt the warning signal that Iolaus tried to set off last night. She blinked hard and made the excuse that she had to go help make arrangements for her brother. When she turned to go, Hercules felt strangely alone.
Melkos had a creepy way of smiling all of the time. So, it was not surprise to Grovelus to see him grinning and speaking with the fool Cyrus. His master was, after all, spinning a tight web around the unsuspecting idiot. Melkos asked incredulously, “Are you saying, that you killed the spy, Gnossus… by yourself?”
Cyrus’ looked strangely proud of himself. Grovelus knew that the look on Melkos’ face had nothing to do with pride or gratitude. Cyrus was oblivious, though as he answered smugly, “Yes, Sire. We dumped his body in the village square. I’d say we sent the rebels quite a message.” Cyrus could scarcely contain his feelings of power and right as he rocked up on his feet.
Melkos slowly circled Cyrus and then laid a hand on his shoulder. “Has it ever occurred to you that…If I wanted to send a message, I’d use a messenger?” he asked. “Or that by killing their spy, we have lost someone we could use to our own advantage, like spreading misinformation?”
Cyrus was beginning to see his mistake both in the execution of Gnossus and in misreading Melkos. “No, Sire,” he replied more humbly.
“Not very smart, that move, was it, Cyrus,” Melkos continued until he was face- to-face with his commander. “And I can’t afford to have myself surrounded by stupid people, can I? Grovelus, enlighten him.” As Melkos started to walk off, Grovelus laughed and produced a very sharp wicked looking dagger.
Cyrus reached out and pleaded, “Please, Your Highness. If I may. We still have access to the rebel’s inner circle.”
That certainly caught Melkos’ attention. He slow turned around, and Cyrus was surprised to see he’d lost that sickeningly sweet smile. “We do? Go on.” Melkos instructed.
Cyrus continued cautiously, “One of my soldiers is having a, shall we say, close relationship with this person.”
Melkos started smiling again, and that of course told Cyrus that he’d better be very careful. Melkos inquired, “Does Grovelus know the name of this soldier?”
Cyrus grinned efficiently this time and answered, “No, Sire. I am the only one with that knowledge. And if anyting were to happen to me…”
Melkos nodded and added, “You may not be very smart, but at least you’re clever. I value cleverness. I’ll spare your education. This time.”
High on Olympus the god of war shouted, “Yes! Ladies and Gentlemen, he CAN be taught. Seriously these soldiers at Tevar are a blight on my reputation. After this is over, I may let the elders from Athens beat back these fools.”
“Temper, temper, my son,” Hera whispered as she entered the viewing room again. “Have you got your plan in place?”
“Yeah, at least mine is do-able. Your little plan has definitely hit a snag. You remember that little ‘lesson’ Apollo applied to the runt? Well, he’s getting high marks in the academy all right. If Hercules decides to listen to him, your part is over. Apparently, along with those bizarre dreams, he sees Rheanna as a real threat.”
She laughed shrilly and turned her icy green eyes back to Ares. “I have my ways of getting them to separate. Once Iolaus is back in that prison, and Hercules and Rheanna can retreat to a little nook, my plan will be complete.”
“See,” Ares sighed, “You’ve never understood the dynamics between them. Hercules will never leave Iolaus behind. They’ve got this best friend, we’ll die together or not at all thing going. I think you’re putting to much trust in this man/woman thing.”
“Would you like to wager on that? If he goes with Rheanna and leaves Iolaus behind, you turn over all of the tribute from your temples to me for one moon cycle. If he doesn’t leave the little pest behind, I’ll turn over mine,” she offered.
Ares grinned and accepted the wager. In a moment, she was gone, and he was muttering about how it really wasn’t a fair wager as he always received more tribute than he did. “Oh well,” he murmured. “I’ll still be richer in tribute. It’s a wonder these guys on Olympus haven’t been tossed out. How many times do I have to tell them they need to know their enemy better than their friend.” With that he shrugged and then vanished.
At the Tavern Vericles felt he had to do something in gratitude to these two heroes. plopping down two mugs of mead, he said nonchalantly, “On the house.”
Iolaus grinned and raised his mug in honor of Vericles and thanked him along with Herc. Iolaus went back to eating the fruit at their table and washing it down with the mead. Suddenly he stopped, motioned to Hercules to move, and said, “Herc.”
Hercules was looking around in a distracted manner when he answered in almost a grunt.
Iolaus became insistent by grabbing Hercules’ mug and moving them both to the neighboring table. After getting settled, Iolaus popped a few more grapes into his mouth and reiterated, “Come here!”
Hercules rolled his eyes, but got up and moved to humor his friend. He was just about to ask him what his problem was when a huge cask plummeted to the table when it’s support rope snapped. It landed exactly where the two were sitting. Hercules looked back at Iolaus, who only shrugged. When the demigod looked away, he saw Rheanna walking forcefully through the village with a basket of fruit. He jumped up and ran toward her.
She turned off a side road and tried to lose him. Of course she should have known better than to try and outrun a demigod. she continued even though Hercules told her he’d been looking for her. She revealed to him that she’d been trying to avoid him.
Hercules stopped her and grabbed her by the arms. “Shouldn’t we at least talk about what we felt earlier.”
Rheanna wouldn’t look him in the eyes. “Look, what happened earlier…”
Hercules raised his voice slightly, “Nothing Happened.”
She looked defiantly into his eyes and decided to play out this conversation. She confessed, “What almost happened, then. What I wanted to happen.”
He looked at her tenderly and admitted, “Is the same thing I wanted to happen..”
Rheanna interrupted him and told him it would be wrong. Hercules tried to reason with her by telling her that the feeling wasn’t wrong, just the timing. Hercules was still feeling the loss of Deianeira even though she’d been gone much longer than Jordis. Hercules told her that he didn’t know what their future together held, but that she shouldn’t exile herself from him completely. She wearily agreed and looked into his eyes deeply. Her love for Jordis was still strong, and yet there was something in Hercules’ eyes that made her long for the strength that she’d seen so many times in her husband’s eyes. They leaned toward each other, only to be interrupted by a passing villager. Suddenly remembering how vulnerable she was to the movement, Hercules said goodbye, and headed back reluctantly to Iolaus.
When the tavern came into site, he saw Iolaus pacing back and forth and glancing in his direction. He took a deep breath and walked toward him. Iolaus clearly wanted to talk with him, but something was holding him back. Finally, Herc took pity on him and asked him, “What?”
That startled the hunter who then tried to look innocent, “What, what?” Iolaus returned.
Hercules sighed and leaned against the wooden post and continued, “Iolaus, you were never good at hiding your feelings. Now, what’s bothering you?”
Iolaus looked back to where Hercules had just come, and then into his face. He was clearly fighting an internal battle with what to say. He couldn’t believe what he kept seeing in his dreams. Each one the same fiery night, each one with a wickedly curved dagger, each one with a fallen warrior with a beautiful woman at his side. Iolaus was sure what everything meant, but he just didn’t know how to tell his best friend that the woman he was falling for. Taking a deep breath, he scratched behind his head. Hercules clearly saw this for the nervous gesture it was and nodded for Iolaus to just get on with it. “Um, I wasn’t going to say anything, b..but, um Herc,“ Iolaus stammered, “I was right about Rheanna; I was right about the soldiers, and I’m right about this. She’s going to betray you.”
Hercules frowned and asked, “Who?”
“Who? Rheanna!” Iolaus restated.
Hercules looked away from Iolaus and laughed lightly. “Oh, Iolaus, come on!”
Iolaus had to get his attention. “Look, I’m only telling you what I heard, and what I saw.”
Hercules scowled at the thought and shook his head, “I don’t know what you..saw, but Rheanna betray me? I mean, it’s a little hard to believe.”
Iolaud stopped. He just knew Hercules wasn’t listening anymore. “All right,” he compromised, “If I can’t stop you from going on the ambush, will you please promise you’ll be careful.”
Hercules dismissed the concern and tried to reassure Iolaus, “I’ll be fine.”
Iolaus knew a dismissal when he heard one. He had to get Hercules to pay attention to him. “Hercules,” he warned, “I saw the death of a warrior. It was you.” The hunter noticed a shiver run through Hercules when he mentioned the death of a warrior. There was no way he could admit to Herc that he wasn’t really sure who all the principal players in his current nightmare were. He had to get him to be alert.
Later that night the rebels gathered together to decide their next course to take. Rheanna pled with them that they couldn’t wait any longer. When Clarion asked her if she was sure whether or not revenge was the true motivation, she looked him straight in the eye and assured him that her feelings were all behind her.
“Look,” she reasoned, “Our last setback has Melkos thinking we’re dispirited, and ready to give up.”
Hercules agreed, “Rheanna’s right. Another raid will show the king your cause isn’t dead.”
The others finally agreed and started to get their weapons. Instantly soldiers were everywhere. One quickly ran a sword through Vericles, leaving him for dead. they all fought valiantly, but when Cyrus gained the upper hand by holding a dagger to Rheanna’s throat, they all dropped their weapons and were herded off despondently towards the dungeon. Hephates stepped in front of Rheanna and identified her. When Rheanna asked why the betrayal, Hephates jeered that she was never good enough for Gnossus. Rheanna shook her head in despair for all the hurt and death from some silly woman’s sense of pride.
As they marched toward the castle, Iolaus apologized about accusing Rheanna. He kept to himself the nagging terror that still kicked at his gut where she was concerned. Iolaus truly felt she would destroy the big guy. Hercules graciously accepted the apology and told him that he wasn’t too far off. A someone did die, and someone did betray them.
Iolaus thought, “It wasn’t just somebody, it was a warrior…not an innkeeper rebel. Oh well, I guess I’ll figure it out someday. In the meantime, I can’t let my guard down again. I should have seen the trap.” His thoughts were interrupted when the guards put them in separate cells.
Melkos caressed the goblet in his hand and smiled genuinely this time as he informed Grovelus, “ The gods have smiled on us, Grovelus. Not only has our young captain delivered the leader of the rebel movement, but the son of Zeus as well.”
Grovelus voiced his concern that Hercules would be an inspiration to the rebels, but Melkos told him that a dead hero is no inspiration. Grovelus thought of the standard operating procedure and started planning the executions without benefit of trials.
Melkos gingerly sniffed the wild spices known for bringing a sense of well-being to a man, and looked shocked. “No,” he contradicted, “there’ll be a trial tomorrow. T They’ll be found guilty, and THEN we execute them. And when the great Hercules dies, no one will ever dare rise up against us again. After all Hercules’ death equals Ares favor, does it not?”
Ares looked at the weasel and felt slimy himself. “Hey slimeball, I support warlords not self-important, soft and flabby bureaucrats.” I guess I could grant him one wish if he can pull it off. But he can’t…I can tell this whole think has failure written all over it. I’ll hang around as far as the wager is concerned, but then I’m out of here.
Rheanna leaned against the wall, knowing that Hercules was on the other side. She reached out her hand and touched the wall. Iolaus saw the mirrored gesture by Hercules and cringed. He listened to her apologize for getting him into this mess, and to Hercules insisting that they’d volunteered for this action. Her gloom about being executed tomorrow didn’t infect Iolaus because he’d seen them getting away. Getting away and running straight into an abyss.
Hercules laid on his bunk for a bit and used the time for a little self-reflection. He kept seeing the concerned look on Iolaus’ face every time Herc spoke tenderly to Rheanna. Little by little, Hercules started seeing the similarities to Deainaera in spirit and physically. Those small character flutters had nagged him gently since the whole thing began. Hercules wondered if that meant the fates had willed them to be together. Suddenly, that thought brought him up short. He realized he was trying to turn Rheanna into Deianeara, and maybe, just maybe, she was looking for a new Jordis. A heavy sigh left him as he swung his legs off the sleeping mat and walked over to the jail cell.
“Hey, Iolaus, about that other thing. I don’t think betrayal is the problem…well, maybe it is,just not the way you thought. I’ve been looking but not seeing the right person,” he confessed.
Iolaus grinned slightly, not revealing how deeply relieved he was to hear Hercules mention that. Iolaus stated, “Hey Herc, I had another vision.
Hercules rolled his eyes. “Oh, great. Is this good or bad?” he asked.
Iolaus suggested some wildly complex and dangerous trick they’d tried in Thessaly, but Hercules wasn’t sure Iolaus would want to do that again, considering being laid up in Alcmene’s sickbed for three weeks afterward. Iolaus shrugged, thinking that a little pain was better than a lot of death. Hercules supplied another way by simply tearing off the cell door and setting it aside. Iolaus shook his head and wondered how many times he’d completely forgot about Hercules’ great strength.
In a heartbeat, a soldier was upon him demanding, “Get back in your cell or I’ll run you through!”
Hercules shrugged and offered, “Um..run me through.” The guard charged at him with his blade held high. It took little effort for the demigod to disarm him, and then ask, “Did you have a back-up plan? I didn’t think so.” With that Hercules slammed him against the bars and let him fall to the floor. Quickly he took the keys out and released the rest of the prisoners.
They ushered Clarion and Rheanna out. Rheanna rushed up to the demigod, and for a moment thought she was going to kiss him. Instead she stared at him for just a moment. It didn’t take long for Iolaus to issue an all clear rush them all out of the dungeon.
The guards advancing toward them had little chance of reclaiming their prisoners. Iolaus, Hercules and the rebels all seemed better trained that the soldiers. After the heroes tossed their last guard into the dungeon, they picked up a couple of loose swords, and raced out side.
It was a brutal fight to get to the battlements. Rheanna was the first to arrive after fighting several guards, she found herself crossing swords with a particularly strong soldier. Her lack of sleep made her a little uncoordinated and dizzy. It was for those reasons she stumbled, and the guard took full advantage of her error. He flipped her over the wall, but she had managed to grasp an iron spike. Iolaus saw her go over and shouted out her name. He punched his advisary in the mouth and tried to get to her. There was no way he or Herc could have reached her. Hercules saw the guard go after her with his sword. The demigod grabbed the sword from his opponent, pummeled his head into the stone wall, and threw the guards sword toward the one menacing Rheanna. It knocked him unconscious, and Hercules and Iolaus raced for her direction. Once reaching her, Hercules reached down and pulled her up. Clarion and Iolaus worked to keep the guards off of him as he brought her to safety.
Hercules looked around for their way of escape and found a rope with a large metal weight attached to it. Getting Iolaus' attention, Hercules called, "Iolaus, time to go for a ride."
Iolaus crashed his forehead into the head of the guard he was fighting. Realizing he didn't have time to get distracted, the hunter asked anyway, "What ride?" After seeing Hercules swing the rope over to a neighboring tree and pulling it tightly, Iolaus knew exactly what ride his friend was talking about. Snatching his belt from around his waist, Iolaus wrapped it around the rope at the top of the wall and yelled for Rheanna to hold on tightly. Rheanna held on as they rode the rope down courtesy of Iolaus' belt. Just as they reached the bottom, one of the enemy managed to sever the rope. Archers rained down their arrows on them, but Iolaus and Rheanna managed to duck out of range.
As they watched the battle from behind a sheltering rock, Iolaus knew she was going to rush out as soon as she could. They were both relieved to see Clarion open the gate and lead the rest of the rebels out, but relief turned to worry as Rheanna watched Hercules battle guard after guard all alone. Using the unconscious bodies piled beneath him, the demigod climbed to the top of the wall and just jumped.
Rheanna screamed his name and tried to run to him. Iolaus knew that Herc was okay, probably bruised, but okay, and he told her to just wait for him as the hunter ignored his own advice and ran to where Hercules would be heading. Rheanna followed behind him and In no time Hercules burst through the brush.
After he reassured Iolaus that he was fine thanks to some pretty thick shrubbery, Hercules found himself wrapped up in the arms of Rheanna. Hercules looked at her and then Iolaus and told him to go on ahead of them. His friend nodded, for the first time Iolaus felt at ease around Rheanna.
Hercules took her hand and explained what he had been feeling. "Rheanna, you're brave, and beautiful, and so smart it makes my heart ache. Normally, that would be a good thing, but the truth is, everytime I'd see this amazingly brave, beautiful and smart woman, I would think of Deaineara. I'm sure when you look at me, you see Jordis. Can't you see, Rheanna, that we both deserve better than that. I don't know if it's just bad timing or just a bad idea, but we can't be together."
"I know, Hercules. I guess deep down inside I'd feel guilty for comparing you to Jordis. It still hurts so much to be without him."
"I don't believe this!" Hera shreiked in the viewing room. Ares shrugged; it'd happened to him more than he liked to admit, but he was above the temper tantrums at the moment. He'd find a way someday to rid himself of his half-brother, plus he'd have all that extra tribute.
"Pay up, Mother," Ares snickered. "Herc is many things, but first and foremost he's best friend to that Iolaus. Know your enemy, Mother." Hera's eyes flashed, and she disappeared. "Oh well, I might as well stir up a war somewhere else. This is getting boring." For just a moment, Ares looked back at Iolaus and reminded himself to keep an eye on that particular warrior. For some reason, Iolaus' dreams spooked even him.
They caught up to Iolaus as they came to a bend in the road. Rheanna told them of a farmhouse nearby where they'd be safe. They walked in companionable silence for a while. It was no time when they broke through the woods to find a modest house with a middle aged woman tending her chickens. Rheanna tried to strike up a conversation with Mirim, but the other woman looked like she wanted to bar the door to them. After explaining their escape, Mirim begrudgingly invited them inside.
"O! Right, the king's patrols are out," Rheanna remembered.
They entered the home that Rheanna had described earlier as a happy warm place that she and Jordis would visit often, but there was an awkward silence, and a confusing coldness that greeted her. Iolaus tried to break the ice by introducing themselves, but when they got no reaction from Mirim, Rheanna finally asked, "Mirim, what is it."
The woman kept glancing into a room off the main hall. With a sigh of resignation, Mirim replied, "You'd better look in there."
Hercules couldn't understand what was happening with Rheanna. When they walked into the room it was as if every color in her face was suddenly leached out. He glanced to Iolaus, but his friend had that seer look on his face again. When Iolaus looked back at Herc, he had both a relieved look on his face and a sad look.
Rheanna approached the obviously wounded man in the corner and helped raise him up. She was trembling when she introduced him to Hercules as Jordis. When Jordis took in a sharp breath she quickly helped him sit back down. Trying to fathom all that was going on, she asked for some kind of explanation. She'd seen him fall from the top of the waterfall. She'd seen the arrow pierce his chest.
Jordis and Mirim went on to explain how the arrow had pierced the medallion she'd given him at their wedding. He had fallen, but Mirim's sons found him downstream after the battle just "a heartbeat from death," she whispered. When Rheanna still tried to get a handle on why no one had told her. Jordis explained that they didn't know if he would live, and he didn't want her grieving twice.
Their joy made his pain even more pronounced, and yet he was really happy for the two of them. He announced, "Well, um, you two should have some time...alone." He turned and left the house with Iolaus following close behind.
Rheanna caressed his face and thanked the gods for Hercules' insight on their relationship. She shuddered to think all that she would have lost if she'd followed where she'd thought her heart was leading. Looking into Jordis' eyes, she whispered," I still can't believe you're back."
"I have a lot of lost time to make up for," he explained.
Rheanna shook her head and argued, "You're in no shape to do anything right now. you need to get well."
He looked beyond her and toward the door. "That can wait. Is he really Hercules?" he asked. When Rheanna nodded, his mind began calculating a plan. "Will he help us? Then we should use it to our advantage. I know I just came back from the dead, but listen to me, in the end, our lives really don't matter. If we can put an end to the injustice and tyranny in this kingdom. We have to strike now while they least expect it. Talk to Hercules. He'll understand."
"Look, I'm sorry," he started.
Hercules raised his hand to stop Iolaus, "For what?" he asked. "For saving me from hurting three people? For forcing me to deal with what i was really feeling? No, I'm honestly happy for Rheanna's good fortune and the rebel's good fortune."
"I know," Iolaus stated. "It just doesn't seem fair that she got her Jordis back and we...we don't get ours back."
Hercules patted Iolaus on the shoulder and realized that he wasn't the only one missing his family at the moment. Now would be a good time to spend some time with his mother.
Cyrus, tired of being the scapegoat, plunged in carelessly, " Your own castle guard let them get away. Now, if it were my men..."
Melkos laughed at that, "Your men? Your men couldn't even turn back a raggedy band of refugees."
Grovelus interjected, "Their escape cold inspire them."
Melkos shook his head, "I don't think so. They very nearly died, and now we know who they are."
Cyrus started to offer up a battleplan when Melkos insisted that they take all of the men, soldiers, and guards alike. He gave the order to raze their homes to the ground. Melkos wanted them wiped out.
The massive deployment searched home after home, only to come up empty every time. This was bizarre to say the least.
In the woods, the rebels waited for the right time. At first Hercules tried to get Jordis to return to Mirim's, but he insisted that his place was with his men. Finally recognizing that look Hercules nodded. "Iolaus and I will take out the sentries. Be ready," Hercules advised.
Hercules threw a grappling hook to the top of the wall. Both Iolaus and the demigod held their breaths, anticipating their next action should that have attracted any attention. Hearing nothing Iolaus scrambled up to the top and over. Hercules was scaling the wall in no time as well. The hunter tried to flatten himself against the wall when the sentry saw him.
"Well," the dolt said, "we meet again." Iolaus made a shushing motion and pointed toward Herc. Hercules grabbed, disarmed, and knocked him out all the while saying, "Still no back up plan, huh?" a body flying over the battlements was a sure sign they were under attack. The soldiers made a grab for swords, boots, helms, and they were at a strict disadvantage.
Hearing the commotion, the rebels sounded their own charge. Hercules quickly opened the gate, and the rebels streamed through. They fought with great courage and determination. Iolaus swung up to a flat cart and managed to kick a few soldiers in the head. Hercules picked one soldier and hung him upside down with one hand. With his free hand he managed to put away several soldiers while the hanging one pleaded for Hercules to put him down.
The king sat drinking when he heard the noise outside. "Grovelus?" he demanded, "What's happening?"
Grovelus answered in great fear, "Sire, the rebels have breached the castle defenses."
"Get my sword!" Melkos ordered.
Above the great racket and carnage, Mount Olympus was erupting with it's own minor skirmish. as pink lights illuminated the viewing room. Aphrodite looked on in horror at the battle raging. "Okay, fix him!" she demanded as she stomped her foot.
"Look, I didn't realize you wanted him under your protection. All I did was a little nudge...that's all," Apollo explained quickly. "Besides, you haven't even met him yet. What stake do you have in his welfare?"
She pouted, "Never mind. I have my reasons, now put him back now. I swear if you ever want me to go joy riding with you again, you'll put him back the way he was!"
Apollo sighed, "Okay...Okay. It was stupid anyway. There."
As he snapped his fingers, two soldiers managed to get under Iolaus and toss him to the wall. As his head made contact with the wall, Apollo's extra gift was gone.
"You better not have done that on purpose," she warned. Apollo just held up his hands in surrender and blinked them both out.
Hercules grabbed the hanging man by both ankles and started spinning with him as if he were a hammer to be tossed at one of the games. Jordis was in deep trouble as more soldiers tried to take him on. Just when it seemed Jordis wouldn't be able to fight on, Herc released his "weapon" and knocked over all of the men. Jordis raised his sword to Hercules and rejoined the battle.
In the meantime, a barely conscious Iolaus lay vulnerable to the attack of one soldier in particular. The thug rushed toward him, intent on piercing him through the heart when Rheanna intervened and made short order of the soldier. Iolaus sprang into action and took out two more.
"Um," Iolaus gasped trying to catch his breath, "I don't know who you are, but..um...thanks."
Grovelus looked out the window and informed Melkos that there was no way his soldiers could hold back the rebels. The king ordered him to the secret passage, only to run into Hercules.
The demigod had his sword drawn and at the base of Melkos' throat. He suggested, "If it's supposed to be a secret, you should really design it bett. Now, you have five seconds to call off your men or they won't have a king to surrender for."
Melkos quickly agreed and called everyone off.
In the light of day, everything seemed new. Jordis clasped Hercules' arm and stated, "I don't know how to thank you, but I do know we couldn't have done it without you."
Hercules replied, "It was your bravery that inspired them. Just get well. It will take a lot of energy to run Melkos' kingdom, now that he's in exile."
A look between Rheanna and Hercules said all that needed to be said. In the long run, it wasn't that the two of them wanted each other. One of them that day would remain with her heart's desire. The other would continue on doing what he could to honor the memory of the one gone before
Hercules and Iolaus headed out of town, and Hercules asked, "So, ever since you took that hit to the head, you can't see the future anymore?"
Iolaus chuckled, "Yeah, but you know what?"
Hercules answered, "Huh?"
Iolaus continued, "When I came to, I didn't know why I was fighting..didn't know who Rheanna was...didn't know who I was."
Hercules put his hand on Iolaus' shoulder and laughed, "Well, I'm sorry it took a hit to the head, but I'm glad to get the old Iolaus back."
Iolaus smiled and admitted, "Yeah, me too. What was your name again?" They laughed heartily as they left.
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