Iolaus panicked. Faster and faster it spun. Iolaus thought he might be sick. He forced his breathing to slow. Deep, slow breaths, in, out. He felt the wild pounding of his heart calm. He stared at the center of the swirling fan and let the light flash around him. He put every ounce of his strength and will into seeing only the center...nothing but the center pivot of the fan. He let it become the center of his being, his very existence. There was nothing but that one point in the universe...
Then, it stopped.
"You're very quiet," Kameraus observed.
Iolaus' face lit from within. His smile shone with brilliance. "I see the way. The only true path."
Kameraus stepped in front of Iolaus, "And what way is that?"
"Hello brother, why the way Lorel teaches, of course. Peace and love are the only things that truly matter. They transcend all."
Kameraus smiled a knowing smile. "Welcome Brother Iolaus to your new life." He gestured for the guards to release him.
Iolaus rubbed his sore wrists a moment and then used the arms of the chair for balance as he stood. His knees felt weak and gave out as he put his weight on them.
Kameraus caught him. "Brother Iolaus, aren't you well?"
"A little light-headed is all."
Kameraus nodded in understanding obviously humoring him, "It must be the excitement of entering your new life. You should rest awhile. I'm sure you'll be feeling well enough to join the others soon." He handed Iolaus over to the guards. "Have him marked then put him in the recovery room. I'll send someone to clean him up."
Iolaus hung his head and marked the way out of the corner of his eye as the guards half-carried, half-dragged him along.
The guards dropped Iolaus in a chair. He peered around the room with bleary eyes and hoped this was how he was supposed to be acting.
The room was sparsely furnished. An old woman dug through a box in the corner. She grunted, "Another one?"
The guard nodded. The old woman found what she wanted and hobbled over to the table. She put a small box on the table and sat on a stool opposite Iolaus. She took his chin in her hand and looked his face over appraisingly. Iolaus imitated the dazed look everyone seemed to have down here. Everyone except the old woman. Her eyes shown bright and clear.
"He's a quiet one. Usually, they're babbling on about peace and love and saving the world." She snorted and dug around in her little box. "I've had worse looking though. Nice eyes, I can match those."
She nodded for the guards to leave. Iolaus became aware of an odor in the room. It was some kind of sweet incense smell. It seemed to be getting stronger.
The old woman selected a jewel set from the box and again she grasped Iolaus' chin to keep him from moving his head as she pressed the jewels onto his forehead.
"What is that?" Iolaus asked. His words were slurred. The smell was making him dizzy.
"Nothing really. You've just been marked as one of Kameraus' sheep. But you're not a sheep are you? Well, a wolf in sheep's clothing maybe. Sleep well."
Iolaus saw her wink at him through the fog in his mind just before the world went dark.
Iolaus opened his eyes to find two scantily clad women attending him. One applied a cool cloth to his forehead and face, the other softly caressed his chest. He was lying in a sumptuous, dimly-lit room in a bed with lots of pillows.
Iolaus smiled at the two ladies and took stock of himself. He was wearing soft blue pants and no shirt. He wondered briefly if these two lovelies were responsible for the loss of his clothes. He suspected they were. Too bad he'd been unconscious, it might have been fun. He seemed to be OK. His eyes felt sore and he closed them for a moment. It felt good to rest them. The throbbing in the back of his head went away when he closed his eyes. He felt a little nauseous but on the whole none the worse for wear.
"Usually, I'm not doing nearly this well by this stage in the adventure," Iolaus thought as he opened his eyes and smiled again at the two ladies.
"Best to let them think I'm converted," his thoughts continued. "One of the better old hunter's tricks, disguise yourself as part of your surroundings and let the prey come to you."
"Kameraus said you were not feeling well after your re-education. Are you better now?" the girl with the cold compress asked.
"Oh, yes," Iolaus replied dreamily and ran his fingers through her hair. She was pretty. He could get used to living like this....
Iolaus turned to the other equally beautiful girl, "Could I have some water, please?"
She smiled and winked at him as she got up from the bed.
With one of the girls gone, Iolaus had a larger view of the room. He took the opportunity to scan the room. His acute, hunter-trained eyes lighted upon a small tube-like something in the rock wall. It was almost behind a drape, but he could see that it was an open-ended tube. Something that might amplify the sounds in a room?
The first girl removed the cloth from Iolaus' forehead catching his attention, "She does have a pretty smile," he thought. Iolaus made a mental note to look this one up after he took care of Kameraus.
"You are lovely. As beautiful as Aphrodite, almost," he added the "almost" at the last moment. A jealous Aphrodite was the last person he needed here. There were enough pretty distractions here already.
The other girl returned with a glass. Iolaus pushed himself up against the pillows and took the offered glass with a smile.
"Thank you, sister, you are most kind." It looked like water and smelled like water. He cautiously took a sip. It tasted like water. He hoped it was water and downed the glass. If it wasn't water, at least it had the effect of settling his stomach.
Iolaus handed her the empty glass and swung his feet off the bed just as Kameraus arrived.
"Brother Iolaus. You are feeling better, I trust?"
Remembering his act, Iolaus returned Kameraus' dazed smile. "I feel wonderful. I can't imagine how I survived outside the commune."
Now wasn't the time to take on Kameraus. He'd get his later. Iolaus had to pass this little inspection first and then find Mariah and Regina and figure out how to shut down this place without hurting any innocent bystanders. Boy, were there a lot of innocent bystanders. This whole situation was bad.
Iolaus rose from the bed and bowed to Kameraus, "I am most grateful to you for giving me the chance to serve Lorel and live the perfect life as she intended." He hoped he wasn't laying it on too thick.
"It is my pleasure, brother."
"I'm sure it is," Iolaus thought as he let the girls help him into a matching blue shirt. Again Iolaus exchanged dreamy smiles with the first girl as she tied a yellow sash around his waist.
"You may have her if you wish, brother, we share everything here."
Was he a mind reader, too? She brushed her lips against his and Iolaus stuttered, "La, Later." Their eyes met. "I promise." Iolaus forced himself to look away. He had to get out of here.
He turned to Kameraus, "For now, I wish to join my brothers and sisters in the life we were destined to lead in service to Lorel."
"Go forth, brother, begin your new life."
Iolaus turned to the ladies and bowed, "May Lorel bless you for caring for me in my hour of need. Peace and love to you sisters."
He turned and floated out the door in a seemingly drugged haze.
Kameraus watched him go with narrowed eyes, "Too easy."
A guard escorted Iolaus from the area. Once he was free and among the crowd, he breathed a sign of relief. If Kameraus doubted his sincerity, it wasn't enough to act on, yet, and that's what he needed, just a little time.
He wandered around exchanging greetings with others. Eyes constantly scanning the area for any sign of Mariah, Regina, or Salmoneus. He'd covered most of the area without finding anything. As he was about to give up, he saw the girls standing behind a pillar near the entrance to the re-education room. Iolaus started weaving his way toward them. He tried not to be obvious about it.
Just as he was about to approach them, out of the corner of his eye, Iolaus caught sight of Kameraus watching him from a distance. Maybe the test wasn't quite over yet. He turned to move away from the girls when Lorel's sister saw him. "Oh, oh. Too late, better make this good."
"Greetings, sisters. Peace and love to you..."
Continue with the next story in this challenge.
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