Part one of this trilogy is A Siren's Enchantment
Hercules, the legendary son of Zeus, champion of the innocent, defender of the poor, slayer of many monsters and a worthy trophy for many women along the coast line of Greece, was standing in water up to his waist, eyeing his fishy opponent.
"How do I manage to get myself into these situations," he mumbled. His thoughts were cut short by a splash of water right in his face.
"Whatís the matter, Herc, canít keep up??" a cheerful voice rang above his head.
Hercules raised his eyes, and saw his best friend, completely dry, sitting on a rock at the lake shore, fishing pole in hand, spraying water all around Hercules with his feet.
"Oh, Iím fine, Iolaus, donít worry about me," the demigod, now thoroughly wet, answered, "just remember, revenge tastes best when itís cold"
"Oooooo, Iím so scared," Iolaus laughed from his dry seat, just beyond Herculesí reach, "Howís youíre fishing coming along??"
"I've had better days, how about you??"
Iolaus couldnít keep from chuckling, "Oh, you know, Herc, reasonably fine." He gestured at the big pile of fish next to him.
Hercules shot his companion a deadly glance, "Iím so glad youíre having a good time, Iolaus."
"Oh, but I am, Herc, I am. The best time I've had in a while!!" Iolaus managed between chuckles.
Hercules raised his eyes up to the sky, "Youíre trying to teach me a lesson, arenít you, Athena?? Aphrodite??"
Iolaus managed to get the chuckling fit under control. "Iím sorry, Herc. Come on, get out of the water before you catch a cold."
"Yes, Mother," Hercules chuckled in response, and started his way out of the water.
Iolaus rose from the rock he was sitting on, and turned to their camp, which was placed just a few paces from the lake. It was his turn to cook, and his stomach had been rumbling for the last hour. He figured that Hercules, having spent the afternoon fishing, Iolaus couldnít help a smile remembering his friendís Ďluckí this afternoon, would be just as hungry as he was.
He passed the few yards separating their camp and the lake shore, and threw the fish on the dark soil. Then, Iolaus turned his eyes to the lake, looking for Hercules. When he couldnít see his friend, he shrugged and went on, thinking that his friend was probably a few paces down the shore, drying himself.
Iolaus hastily built a fire, and began preparing the fish. "Hercules," he shouted at the general direction of, so he thought, Hercules, "how would you like your fish?? And no cooking remarks!!"
"Hercules?? Are you okay??" Iolaus shouted again, still not lifting his eyes from what was to be their dinner.
"Hercules??? Come on, now, itís not funny anymore!", Iolaus tried one more time, a sudden feeling of discomfort enveloped him.
Hunger forgotten, Iolaus rose to his feet and turned on his heels, almost afraid of what he may find. Now facing the lake, he called again, "Hercules!!".
The hunter moved to a frenzy of action. He ran to the lake, coming to a complete, startled halt, as he finally reached full view of the water surface.
His best friend was no where to be seen.
Iolaus felt panic starting to rise deep down in his belly, "It canít be! He canít be gone! I just saw him! 5 minutes ago! He must be here some place!!", he frantically repeated the words.
He started circling the small lake, hoping with each fragment of his soul, that his best friend was safe and sound. He kept on walking, his eyes constantly searching the water surface and the sandy shore. He walked on, and on, hardly noticing the distance he had passed.
Iolaus completed a full circle of the lake, and found no sign of his friend. It was as if the ground itself opened itís mouth and sucked Hercules into itís depths. Now both physically and emotionally exhausted, Iolaus sank down to his knees in the sand of the shore, his head resting on his chest.
A Yellow spot. Iolaus tried to blink it away, but still, it remained, resting peacefully on the sand, right before Iolausí disbelieving eyes. "No, it canít be! I must be hallucinating!" He mumbled , and reached his hand out to the yellow spot.
His worst fears came crushing down on his entire being, as his fingers touched soft, wet, leather. Iolaus pulled the cloth closer, and the world swirled around him. In his hands, he was holding Herculesí tunic, soft, wet and familiar.
Iolaus lifted his gaze up from the well-worn garment. Looking, hoping, praying to what ever God was listening.
Nothing. Silence. Complete, dead, silence. Even the birds and the bugs stopped their singing and buzzing. The entire world seemed to be wrapped in magical slumber.
Iolausí shout tore the stillness of the air.
"NO!! NO!! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!", and the tears came streaming down.
Hercules felt himself being pulled down, down to the depth of the blue, calm lake, a strange feeling embracing him like a lover. It reminded him of something long gone. A feeling he once knew, and craved for ever since.
He heard his name being called aloud, and tried to recognize the voice, out of mere curiosity, for nothing else seemed to matter. He heard the urgency of the call, and all of a sudden, he knew. Iolaus. The name rang through his mind, and his entire being responded. His mind and body started to fight together, to come back to that well loved voice.
"Hercules," a soft, feminine voice whispered near his ear, "why fight it? Let the wave carry you, go with the flow. Let the water embrace you, and the streams guide you. Donít fight your feelings, embrace them, they will bring you to me."
He fought to recognize, to understand. And again, he heard his name being called aloud.
Hercules felt the need in that voice, but could no longer remember the one calling. A magical, sweet darkness surrounded the Son of Zeus, and the feminine voice whispered again.
"Let the water carry you, Hercules, the streams will guide you. To me.", the voice fell silent again, leaving Hercules in a world of silence.
"Let the water carry, and the streams guide me," he thought, "To her." Somehow, it felt right. The feeling returned to embrace the demigod, and his mind drifted away to sleep, while his body drifted in the depths of the water. Guided by the streams.
Eos opened the gates of heaven for the new day to arrive. The wind blew lightly, blowing golden curls off Iolausí eyes. Not that it mattered much, for the hunter was numb to the beauty of the renewing world. One word kept ringing again and again in his head, filling every corner of his being.
"Hercules," he whispered, hoping with the last fragment of hope, that the familiar voice of his best friend would answer the call, and the Son of Zeus would stand in front of him, smiling, with some faint excuse and overwhelming with apologies.
He waited, muscles tensing. Nothing. The silence around him was interrupted only by the sounds of nature raising to a new day. Slowly, Iolaus rose to his feet, and bent down to retrieve the few belonging they had brought with them. Near the stained bag which contained practically all of Iolausí worldly goods, rested a pair of heavy leather gauntlets. Iolaus picked them up, turning them around in his hands, clinging to the last memory of his friend. Disappointed that the gauntlets could not ease his pain, he threw them in his bag, and headed down the shore.
He gazed around him, searching the horizon as he slowly approached the place where he had lost it all. Where he had lost his best friend... Hercules. His gaze was fixed on the calm surface of the water, enchanted by the sparkle of the sun rays on the waves. He reached the rock where he sat...how long ago was it?? "Yesterday," he sighed, " it seems like eternity has passed."
Everything seemed to remind him of his lost best friend ; the sparkle of the sun on the calm water reminded him of the sun rays breaking on his friendí gold striped hair, the blue surface brought memories of the deep blue eyes, which never showed a thing beside unconditional love, the happy song of the birds woke visions of two friends laughing by the camp fire. He trudged on, eyes gazing at the sandy shore, mind drifting in the memories of a life time.
ĎWater. Men canít breath in water, can they?í, Hercules thought as he slowly regained his consciousness. He could smell the water, all around him. He could hear the muffled sound of waves breaking in the distance. He could feel his own wet locks on his face.
ĎWell, thereís only one way to be sure of thatí, he thought ironically, as he finally decided to open his eyes. Slowly, almost reluctantly, Hercules opened his eyes to the charming view of a secluded coast.
Palm trees kissed the water surface, light breezes blew gently, the air was sweet and clear, and the sand shone in the sun.
Hercules sat up, and looked around him. Admiring the heavenly view that lay before his eyes. Slowly he rose to his feet, fighting a sudden wave of dizziness as he stood his full height. His unbelieving eyes gazed around him, searching for something familiar, some known point.
Suddenly, he felt his heart ache within him, and his mind filled with a desperate need to go, to follow. ĎGo where?? Follow what?í, the little voice of logic chanted in his mind, but the demigod silenced that voice harshly, and went to follow the unknown call.
He walked for what seemed like hours, his entire being pulling him towards the glowing presence, which he knew was dominating this heavenly corner. As he walked, his gaze fell down to the shining sand. "Funny." He said, " The sand, itís almost golden in the sunlight." He went on, his hand reaching up to shade his eyes from the golden glow of the sand. "Why does that remind me of someone?", Hercules shrugged the disturbing thought aside. There were more important things to do now. Like finding the source of that sweet call, which kept pulling him to her with ropes thicker than metal.
On and on. The Son of Zeus had no idea of the time that has passed. For him, it could have been days, weeks. Years for all he cared. He knew one thing, and one thing only.
ĎI have to get to herí, like a never ending mantra rang through his mind.
Finally, after a time that seemed like forever, yet seemed like seconds all the same, Hercules saw a big cottage before him. It was surrounded by the most beautiful fields he had ever seen. Flowers, in all the shades of the rainbow, bloomed in front of his eyes. Golden wheat was ripe for harvest, and green, shady trees were heavy with fruits. A river ran nearby, forming a small water fall, which gathered its water in a green pond.
An old phrase his mother used to say surfaced in his mind, ĎIt looks like one of the things the gods always promise.í
At the sight of that wealth, Hercules suddenly felt a wave of dizziness coming over him, and he realized that he had not eaten nor slept in what seemed like ages. Dazed and swaying on his feet, he approached the cottage, hoping to find the habitants of this place.
As he finally stood on the grassy path to the cottage, a slim, feminine figure appeared at the entrance to it. Herculesí eyes widened in disbelief. "No. It canít be. Youíre, youíre," his own tongue failed him. Not being able to pronounce the bitter words, he simply stood and stared.
The figure came closer, smiling at the demigod. Her sweet, soft voice floating in the wind, "Hercules, my love, I missed you."
Hot tears filling his eyes, Hercules reached forward to hold the well loved figure in his strong arms.
"Deianiera, I, Ió" he whispered as exhaustion and hunger won the battle, and the Son of Zeus fell fainting to the ground.
Somewhere in the Elysian Fields, Deianiera, beloved wife of the mighty Hercules, and victim of Heraís wrath, woke up shaking in her lonely bed. A disturbing feeling overwhelmed her.
As always, her thoughts drifted to her husband, whom she hasnít seen for so long. ĎIf he doesn't hurry back,í she thought, Ď heíll be a stranger to his own children.í She climbed out of her bed, and went over to her childrenís bed. Ason, Clonos and little Ilea slept soundly. Deianiera smiled at the peaceful sight before her, and tucked the blanket more firmly around their shoulders. "Sleep well, my children, and hold your father in your dreams."
She sank back to her own soft bed, but even the relaxing sight of the children didnít push away the feeling. Something was terribly wrong. "Heíll be fine. Hercules is a big boy, he can take care of himself." She whispered to the darkness of her bed chamber. "Heíll come back to me. He will always come back to me."
Iolaus made his way through the crowded agora of Thebes. Merchants declared their goods, preparations were being made for the upcoming Spring Festival, beautiful maidens sent adoring gazes at the blonde, handsome warrior. What would usually spark Iolausí mind and flesh, and send him into a frenzy of excitement, now served as an emphasis to the hunterís depression.
He kept pushing forward, towards the house of Alcemene and Jason. When he finally stood before the gates, he noticed that the house was unusually silent. He knocked, and when no answer came, knocked again, louder this time.
The window of the next house opened, and a man shoved his head out of it. "Thereís no one home, sir. Mistress Alcemene and Mister Jason went to Corinth to visit King Iphicles.", he called out to Iolaus, and shut the window again.
Iolaus sighed in dismay. "Great," he mumbled, "now Iím gonna have to go to Corinth, to break the news." He turned his back on the silent house and started out of the city. He wasnít heading somewhere special, for it was obvious he couldnít start out for Corinth today. He simply went where ever his legs carried him, allowing his mind to drift back to the horrible days that had passed since he left the little lake.
He didnít remember much from those days, everything seemed to blur in his mind. He only knew that he had to keep going, to be the one to tell Alcemene of her sonís death, reach her before the traveling bards did.
All of a sudden, he felt the strong wind hitting his face. He shook himself back to the present, and found himself standing on the edge of a high cliff. He took one reluctant step back, and looked around him.
It didnít take him long to recognize the place. He and Hercules came here often as youths and then as grown ups, whenever they wanted a quiet place to sit down and hear nothing but the blowing wind and the breaking waves on the rocks far below. Iolaus sank down to his knees, allowing the breeze to blow his curls away from his face. His mind continued the saga of this place. Six years ago, Hercules stopped coming here with him. At first, Iolaus didnít know why, but he knew his friend better than pushing him to share his feelings.
Three years afterwards, Deianiera died. Iolaus could remember the shock and rage which wrapped Hercules then. Later on, the demigod just needed to talk. And talk he did. Many long nights, when sleep would not come to the wary hero, he simply sat by the fire, telling Iolaus all he could about his life with her. In a way, it seemed to ease his pain, but the mornings which came, always found Hercules in a deep, agonizing grief.
On one of those nights, Hercules told him the story of Nessus, the vile centaur who tried to violate Herculesí precious wife. On his dying words, he deceived Deianiera into believing that his blood was a potion which wouldl guarantee Herculesí love for her. "As if anything could ever make me stop loving her", were the stricken words of the demigod, when he narrated the story. Deianiera had believed that she had caused her husbandís death, and took her own life. She began her voyage to the other side from this very same place. Iolaus understood his friend's refusal to come back here.
Now, Iolaus rose back to his full height. His mind continued whispering the words. ĎHercules found her in the underworld. He brought her back. The same way he brought *you* backí
"But he was alive then", Iolaus argued with himself.
ĎThen you shall be the one to find *him* in the underworld,í the voice stated in Iolausí mind.
"Herc and Ió together again." Iolaus whispered, "and all I have to do is take one small step. So easy."
The falcons flying high above the sea caught a glimpse of gold falling from the high cliff. Down, down, far below.
Hercules began following the trail back to consciousness. He could feel his body resting peacefully, and opened his eyes to find himself in a big, soft bed. Surprised, he rose to a sitting position and looked around. The room was large, a big window was carved in the wall, revealing the richness of the area. The air was sweet-scented and cool, and the sun's rays danced lightly around the room.
A sudden wave of dizziness swept over him, forcing Hercules back down. He closed his eyes again, and allowed the wave to break and wash away. Once his head cleared, he opened his eyes again, and took another satisfied look around him. For the first time in a long time he felt relaxed. It felt right to the wary demigod. Nothing, no one came to disturb the peace he had finally found.
A beautiful woman entered the room, carrying a tray that seemed to be filled with all the goods of the earth.
"So, you have finally woken up!" She smiled at him, "I was beginning to think you were going to sleep forever."
"Deianiera." He whispered, "I still canít believe youíre here."
"Well, I am. And I brought you breakfast," she gave him a quick grin, "which is a bit heavy."
"Oh!", Hercules finally remembered his manners, and took the heavy tray from her hands, " Iím sorry," he smiled. "I was just, surprised, I guess. You really shouldnít have, you know. I could get up and fix my own breakfast."
She gave him another grin, accompanied with an impish twinkle. " I know. But I thought youíd like a breakfast in bed better." Looking deep into his eyes, she brushed her lips against his. "Was I right??"
"As always." His eyes returned the twinkle, and he reached out and pulled her close.
A delicate, yet firm finger was placed on his eager lips. "Ah. Eat first. There will be plenty of time for that later." She rose to her feet and left the room, leaving her soft laughter hanging in the air behind her.
Hercules suddenly found out he was holding his breath the whole time.
Lamia stepped out of the room, and leaned heavily against the white wall. "Whatís wrong with me?" she sighed. "I could do this so easily once. How come he is so different??"
Her features shimmered, and transformed from those of Herculesí beloved wife, to her own. She was a stunningly beautiful woman, but her eyes echoed long years of loneliness.
She walked away from the room where Herculesí laid and went outside. Behind the house, hidden by a big rock, and elusive in the shadows, stood an altar. A large statue of a peacock stood before it. Lamia kneeled before the altar, and bowed her head.
"I have done your bidding, mighty Hera." She pronounced in a shaky voice. "Hercules believes I am his precious wife. Soon, heíll be ripe for harvest."
The statueís eyes lit in a ferocious shade of green and a voice echoed in Lamiaís ears. A voice no other soul heard. "You have done well, Lamia. Well, indeed."
Lamia raised her eyes, and held her gaze. "What will you have me do next, mighty Goddess?"
Hera laughed. "Continue your task. Make Hercules certain you are his Deianiera," the evil Goddess spat the names out. "Make him sure beyond a shadow of a doubt. Then, bring him to me."
"Yes, mighty Hera. But he will ask many questions. Where he is, where are his children. What am I to answer, great Goddess??" Lamia still held her gaze.
The peacockís eyes flashed. "Iím sure you can think of something, my child.", Hera answered in a freezing voice. "Or is your Ďtalentí fading??"
Lamia lowered her eyes in shame. "No, mighty Hera. Itís just that, that heís different. He loves her so much. Itís so obvious he does. And itís just harder than I expected, thatís all."
"Yes, I know, child." Heraís voice was filled with bitterness. "Hercules has always been a worthy opponent. But, that would only make him a worthy trophy. Donít you agree, Lamia??"
"I donít understand, great Goddess."
Hera laughed again, a cold, evil laughter. "Make him forget his past, the life before he was brought here. Make his only desire to stay here, with you. To leave behind and forget all the things he lived for. Make him mine, Lamia, and I shall grant him to you."
The voice echoed in Lamiaís mind long after Heraís presence was gone. She was taught from a very young age, to serve Hera, to do the Queen of the Godsí bidding. From a young age, the Naiad was trained to use her charms, to lure men to her secluded world.
Usually, Lamia would do Heraís will with no doubts, no second thoughts. But, now, something tingled her mind. Hercules was not like the others. And she had seen many others. His love for his late wife was clear with every breath he took, with every word he said. He didnít deserve the fate Hera had planned for him. Lamia knew that, but could not rationalize it to herself.
"No, I owe my life to Hera. I will do her bidding, and I will do it just like I always have. With no second thoughts! Hercules is no different than any of those other men.", she told herself firmly.
She rose back to her feet. ĎIt could be so nice to have a man around here, though. One who will love me, and care for me.í she thought, smiling.
"No! Lamia, you mustnít fool yourself. He doesnít love you, he loves her. And he always will." She stated firmly. "You canít allow yourself to fall for him. He now belongs to Hera. To take or leave as she pleases."
She reached her hand to her tearing eyes. "The choice is not yours, Lamia. Not yours." She whispered.
Lamia took a deep breath, and allowed her features to shimmer back to those of Deianiera. Silently, gracefully, she went back inside.
Iolaus opened his eyes to the familiar visage of Hadesí face. "What are *you* doing here??" he demanded of the God.
"I could ask you the same thing, "Hades retorted. "In fact, I should probably leave you here for eternity."
"Oh, not again!!" Iolaus grunted, as he shifted to a sitting position.
"Youíre telling me??" Hades glared at the mortal.
"Wait a minute here! How come youíre not freaking out on me?? Last time I was here, youó"
The God of the Underworld silenced him with a single gesture. "Iolaus, we have no time for this."
"Why? Whatís wrong??"
"Iolaus," Hades began slowly, "Do you know why you are here?? Think it through before you answer."
Iolaus thought back as far as he could. He was in Thebes, Jason and Alcemene were in Corinth, so he went to the cliff. He jumped. "Yes, I jumped of the cliff."
"Do you remember why??"
Iolaus once again thought back. His memories started to fade, staying just beyond his reach. "No. Why did I?" he pronounced , raising wondering eyes towards Hades.
"Think harder, Iolaus. You have to remember. Even I canít help you with that. Lean on your emotions, feel your own heart."
Iolaus tried. He wiped everything out of his mind, everything except the constant beating of his heart. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and dived in his own soul. A sudden wave of fear swept over him, and his eyes flew open. He saw a lonely figure standing on the edge of a cliff. He felt the fear, the loneliness and the grief emanating from the man. A sense of loss, too great to endure.
Iolausí heart twisted within him, and his soul reached out to its ever present support. The firm wall that stood between him and breakdown, him and death. But this time, as he reached a hesitant hand, the wall crumbled between his fingers.
"HERCULES!!" the shout came from his agonized soul, and Iolaus realized it was himself he was watching.
His vision cleared, and he could see Hades, standing in front of him, patiently waiting the result of Iolausí reverie.
"Hercules," Iolaus whispered hoarsely. "Heís dead. And I couldnít face the world without him. Couldnít face his family, his friends. I couldnít even face Alcemene."
"Heís not dead" Hades voice penetrated Iolausí thoughts.
"Now you tell me??", he mumbled, trying to gather his strength.
"Heís not exactly alive, either, Iolaus."
"I donít understand, Hades. How can he not be here, and still not be alive??"
"Heís trapped," Hades began to explain. "One of Heraís minions. She captured him, made him believe sheís his wife. If the spell isnít broken, sheíll have his soul, and hand him to Hera."
"Hercules would never fall for that!" Iolaus protested. "Heíll never give in to Hera."
"Heíll never know." Hades stated. "He thinks that heís with Deianiera. If the spell isnít broken, his soul will belong to Hera, and heíll never even know it."
"You said he was trapped, Hades. Where??"
"I canít tell you, Iolaus. You must seek it yourself." Hades answered.
"How will I do that, if Iím stuck here?!" Iolaus asked with frustration.
Hades smiled. "Iíll give you a little Ďlee-wayí."
"Youíre letting me out of here??" Iolaus was surprised. "Are you feeling well, Hades??"
Hades glared at him. "Yes, I am, Iolaus. Youíre free to go. But, you have to get Hercules back."
"Iíll get him back, Hades. Thank you." Iolaus simply said. "Hades, what happens if I fail?" Iolaus didnít know from where he drew the power to face the dreaded option.
"Does it matter?"
"No," Iolaus silently admitted. "Nothing will matter if I fail."
The world shimmered around him, and Iolaus saw Hadesí grinning face beyond the fog. When the world materialized again, Iolaus found himself standing in open, blooming fields. Beautiful maidens walked about the green grass, smiling sweetly at the blonde hunter.
"The Elysian Fields," Iolaus heard Hadesí voice behind him.
"I donít get it, Hades. You said I can go back above."
"True. But you have some answers to find first. This is where youíll find them."
"How?? Who will give them to me??" Iolaus questioned.
"Thatís for you to find out. And remember, Iolaus, you have until sundown. Then, you will be returned to the world above. With, or without the answers you seek." And with a shower of golden sparks, Hades was gone.
Iolaus looked around him. "Where would I go, who am I looking for??", he asked himself. "Come on, Hades, this is the Fields! Who would know me in here??" he called, drawing gazes from the maidens around him.
"OK, Iolaus, you can think this through. Youíre in the Elysian Fields. You have the rest of the day to find what you need." He mumbled as he walked. "What *do* you need??" he asked himself. "Thatís easy, I need answers. Why? To save Hercules." A frustrated groan left his throat. His thoughts raced. "Think, Iolaus, think! Hercules is captive of Hera. She makes him believe her minion is Deianiera. I needó"
His thoughts were interrupted by a childish voice.
"Uncle Iolaus! Uncle Iolaus!!" a little, charming girl ran towards a surprised Iolaus.
"Ilea!!" Iolaus lifted her up in the air, smiling.
"What are you doing here??" she demanded, wrapping her small hands around his neck. "Is Daddy with you??"
"Um, no, Ilea, heís not." Seeing the disappointment in her eyes, he took a deep breath and tried to reassure her, "he couldnít come, so, he sent me to see if everything was all right with you. Where is your mother??"
"Home. She said weíll have company today, but she didnít say it will be *you* ! " she giggled, and started pulling him after her. "Come on, Uncle Iolaus!!"
Iolaus smiled at her and began following. "Deianiera!! I needed to find *her* here!" He sighed. Looking at Herculesí precious little daughter brought back painful memories. He wasnít sure he could face Deianiera now. Not with what he was going to demand of her. "Why do these things always happen to me?" he mumbled, "Iím getting too old for this!"
"Mom! Mom!! Look what we found!", three children ran into the small house, dragging behind them a smiling hunter.
Deianiera smiled, and without looking up asked, "What did you find, kids??"
"Hello, Deianiera,", a familiar voice rang in her ears, slashing the hopes she had kindled.
She took a deep breath, and turned around. "Iolaus," she smiled. "Good to see you."
Their gazes met, and a message passed between them. ĎDonít alarm the children. They donít know a thing, donít let them know somethingís wrong,í her eyes pleaded.
"I-uh, I donít want to intrude, or anything." He mumbled, trying to break the awkward silence.
Her senses jolted back to action. She sent a bright smile at him, though her eyes remained pleading. "You know you are always welcomed, Iolaus! Weíd love to have you. ", she turned to her children. "Ason, go fetch some fresh water, and keep an eye on your sister. Clonos, why donít you go get some more firewood?"
The children quickly spread out to do their chores, leaving Iolaus and Deianiera alone together.
"So, itís true then. Thereís something wrong.", Deianiera stated warily.
Iolaus stood in silence, regarding her. It was weird for him, to see this loving family without Hercules being around. "I never thought Iíd be happy to see you and the kids without Hercules", he said.
"IóI know what happened. Hades told me. He said it was some conspiracy of Hera, to get rid of the both of you. He said that Hercules is protected by Zeus, so she canít kill him. But if you showed up here, it will mean her plan is successful. I hoped, butó" she broke in tears.
He moved to her, and took her in his strong arms, trying to calm her. "I thought he was dead. I didnít know what to do. I couldnít handle it. So I decided to follow him. Then, Hades told me that he is trapped, but that thereís a chance I can save him. Everything will be all right. Youíll see."
She broke his embrace, and raised teary eyes to him. But now, she had regained control of her emotions. She was strong again, ready to fight for the man she loved. "Iolaus, you need to break that spell. You have to bring him back to your world! For me, if not for anything else."
She walked across the room, and into her bedroom, signaling him to come with her. He hesitated, but followed. There, she opened a small engraved box, and drew out a gentle silver necklace.
"Here, take this.", she handed the piece of jewelry to Iolaus.
He stared at her, and at the necklace she held. "IóI canít. Itís yours, your memories."
She placed the thing in his palm. "You have to, Iolaus. You have to jog his memory, if you want to break the spell. "
"What is it?", he softly asked.
"He gave this to me on our wedding day. He said, that it reminded him of me." Gentle, but with the strength of metal, "he said. He will recognize it from a thousands of itís likeness."
"But, thatís too precious. You donít have much of him left, andó"
"Iolaus, itís too important a battle to loose over it. Donít worry. If it fails, it will matter no more. If it succeeds, thatís all that will matter. Take it."
Iolaus closed his hand around the necklace. "Thank you."
They walked back to the common room, just in time to find the children coming in. All three were eager to hear some more of their Uncle Iolausí stories.
"Children, why donít we set the table and have an early dinner?? This way, Iolaus can join us." Deianiera started warming up the food.
"Are you leaving, Uncle Iolaus?" Ason asked.
Iolaus swallowed past a lump in his throat, "Uh, yes, I have to. Iím sorry."
Little Ilea tugged his sleeve. He turned his attention to her; she hadnít changed much since he last saw her, she was still the little girl he remembered and loved so much. She always will be.
"Donít bother with it, Iolaus. It only makes it worse." Deianiera read his mind. "Okay, everyone, sit down."
The family sat to dinner, and Iolaus breathed in the rich aromas. He was about to bring a spoonful of stew to his mouth, when he remembered. "I canít. I canít eat the food of the Other Side."
"Thatís right, Iolaus. You canít. And, itís time for you to go", a deep voice boomed behind them, and they turned to see Hades standing at the door.
"I guess it is, Hades." Iolaus had to agree.
They spent the next few minutes saying their good-byes. For Iolaus, it was heartbreaking. For the first time, he really understood what Hercules had felt when he left his family behind.
"Iíll walk you out, Iolaus," Deianiera said.
Hades lead them to an open field, some distance from the house, and stepped back a few paces to allow the two friends last moments of privacy.
"Deianiera, I have to ask. Why? Why are you doing this? I mean, if he dies, heíll be united with you, with his children. Youíre helping me save him, and keeping you apart for Gods know how many more years!"
She sighed. "He wonít die, time has no meaning there. Heíll stay forever in Heraís prison, as her slave. By helping you, Iím giving us hope to be reunited. If you fail, Iíll never see him again. If you succeed, we will all meet again."
ĎWhat would you do if he could have died there?í, both their minds formed the question. But it hung, unpronounced and unanswered between them.
Hades coughed slightly. "Time to go."
Iolaus turned back to his friendís beloved wife. "Thank you. I wonít fail, Iíll save him, and everything will be fine. I promise."
She said nothing.
Iolaus walked over to Hades. "Okay, letís get this over with."
The God of the Underworld waved, and the Fields began fading around Iolaus. Just as darkness began to envelope him, he heard Deianiera speak.
"Iolaus," she whispered, "tell him I love him".
The wind whistled in his ears, and the world came swirling back around him. But not for long, for the earth traveled at a frightening speed towards him. He closed his eyes, and steeled himself for the unavoidable.
"Gee, thanks, Hades.", he managed to get out before the pain blossomed in his body, and the darkness claimed him.
Alcemene laughed cheerfully . Jason watched her from a few paces behind. She was so happy, so beautiful, laughing like that, he thought. Even after all those years, giving birth to two children, going through trouble after trouble. Heck, only half-raising Iolaus was probably the cause for half the white hairs on her head.
He tore himself from his thoughts when he saw her halt, and turn pale white. He hurried to her side, expecting the worst.
On the rocks before them, lay a blonde men. An open gash on the side of his head bled freely, coloring his golden hair red. His torso was covered with bruises, and his breath came ragged and shallow.
"Iolaus!!", Alcemene knelt down to feel his pulse, and drew a relived breath . "Jason, heís not dead. We have to get him inside before he looses anymore blood!"
Jason quickly picked the limp man up, and picked up a quick pace towards their home. Alcemene hovered around him.
When they finally reached the house, Jason turned a questioning glance to his wife.
"Herculesí room. Itís the only room thatís always ready to use." She answered.
Iolaus was gently placed in the large bed, and Jason moved back to allow Alcemene the space she needed to tend to the wounded man.
After she had done all she could, she tucked the blanket around his shoulders, and whispered a silent pray to Apollo.
"Please. Make him well. I have done all I can for him, but it may not be enough. Itís a miracle he survived the fall in the first place. He means so much to so many. Donít take him away from me, please."
As she rose to leave the room, she noticed his sack was thrown in the corner of the room. She vaguely remembered picking it up, along with his sword, thinking that he would want them, whenóif, he wakes up.
She slowly picked the sack up, and opened it. She didnít know why. She never went through any of her childrenís things. But now, she felt compelled to do it.
Alcemene knelt on the floor, and emptied the contents of Iolausí sack. She surveyed the objects in front of her, and her heart stood still.
On the floor, before her eyes, were her sonís shirt and gauntlets. Her mind raced to find an reasonable explanation, to contradict the awful thought lurking in her heart. Where is he?? They went fishing together, like they always do. Hercules would never leave Iolaus alone, wounded like that. And why does Iolaus carry Herculesí clothes? She thought her mind would explode, that her heart would break.
She walked back to Iolausí bedside, " I canít loose two sons on one day, Iolaus. You have to wake up. I canít loose you both, I canít."
The first thing Iolaus noticed when he came back to his senses was the scent. A soft scent hovering about the room. The pillow, the sheets, the blanket, the walls, everything had that soft scent about them. That scent held old, loved memories, which now flashed through Iolausí mind. Of laughs, and hunts, and rough-housing, and first discoveries, and excitement. Of trying to relax a nervous groom the night before his wedding, and sharing the joys and the pains of life. It was the smell of home. Iolaus allowed that scent to wrap him, to sink in his skin, stick to his mind.
He slowly opened his eyes, and knew a new feeling. Pain. For there she was, sitting by his bedside, watching him with her sonís blue gaze. And now, he recognized the place.
"You know, donít you?"
Alcemene barely nodded. "A mother knows. A mother always knows, Iolaus. I know something is wrong. I just donít know what."
Dizziness enveloped Iolaus, and he closed his eyes wearily. "Itís too complicated to explain now, Alcemene. Thereís no time. IóI have to go." He tried to push himself out of the bed.
Effortlessly, she shoved him back. "Youíre not going anywhere, Iolaus. Youíd be of no help to him like this. Get better first."
Iolaus glared up at the woman who was like a mother to him, "I have to go. I canít stay and rest. Alcemene, he needs me!! Heó" Iolausí voice broke. "He needs me." he pleaded, "Hercules needs me."
Alcemene could say nothing, do nothing, except one thing. She reached out her arms, and both mother and son wept.
Eventually, a weak and dazed Iolaus cried himself to sleep. With tear stained eyes, Alcemene watched him relax and fall to the loving arms of Morpheous. She knew what was to be done. She knew she could not keep the blonde hunter in bed for the time he needed to heal. He had to go, and all she could do was watch him leave, and send a prayer to the merciless Fates, for his success.
Alcemene stroked a batch of golden curls off his face, and watched him shift gingerly. Her son was at stake here. The bets were on, and there was a price to pay. It was a cruel game of win or loose. Risk them both, to save them both.
"Risk both to save both", she murmured. "Why does it always have to be so hard?"
It took 3 days for Iolaus to convince Alcemene that he was fit for travel. 3 long, hard days for both the care-givers, and the patient. Alcemene would not let Iolaus out of her sight, keeping him securely tucked in bed, away from dangerís reach. Iolaus, on his part, did his best to convince her to let him go. Skillfully mastering her fears, worries and love for both him and Hercules. On the afternoon of the third day, she threw her hands in the air, and with an angry tone, gave up.
Iolaus spent that night shifting from side to side restlessly. He knew full well that he needed the rest, that he wasnít completely healed, but the time passed, and he knew he had to go. He closed his eyes, and called for Morpheous, but the Gods kept the blissful sleep from him.
When Seleneís chariot arrived to the peak of the heavens, he pushed the covers away, and silently pulled his clothes on. Swiftly walking through the empty rooms, he left Alcemeneís house. Behind him, he left everything. His sword, his few belongings. The only thing he took was Deianieraís necklace, safely tucked in his belt.
Fortune had smiled upon Iolaus that night, for as the first morning rays broke their ways to the world, he was a short distance away from the lake. Sliding through the woods, running swiftly across valleys and speeding over the plains, his still aching body never ceased to amaze him.
Finally, he stood upon the shore. He waded his way in, until he reached knee high water. "Well, here I am" he said, simply to hear himself talk. He felt a slippery motion near his feet, and the shadow of a smile crossed his lips. "Iíll catch you, friend," he chuckled at the fish, "but some things come first."
He reached to his belt, and fished the necklace out. Not knowing why, he stared at it for a while. " So, thatís what it all comes down to. Give and take. You know, Deianiera, sometimes, the gods can be so cruel. But who am I to tell you that, right? She took him, now I have to get him back. For both of us." He cradled the jewel in his palm.
"Funny. I thought I would be terrified when it would actually get to doing this. That it would be like throwing myself to Heraís fire. " He shrugged. "But for some reason, it feels like something old and familiar. Something I knew." He giggled. "Maybe I was a fish in another life time."
Clouds began enveloping the sky, and Iolaus tucked the necklace back in his belt. The dark blue water circled his feet, and he was hypnotized by it.
Pictures flew past his eyes. Herculesí smiling face. The ground speeding towards him. His own desperate form, standing on the edge of the cliff. Alcemeneís pain filled, almost desperate face. Deianiera handing him the necklace. Little Ilea running towards him. Everything circled in his mind, blinding him. One picture stood out, rising from the mists of the past. Herculesí and Deianieraís locked gazes, as they said their wedding vows.
"This oneís for you, little sister", he saluted Herculesí wife, and threw himself to the mercies of the lake.
Lamia jerked upright. Something was trying to gain passage to her world. She could not allow that. Those were her Goddessí orders. Muscular arms enveloped her, and Hercules mumbled something to her, half a sleep.
She planted a soft kiss on his cheek, and sank back down. She focused all her energies on the entrance to her world, sending herself to that place, leaving an empty shell in the sleeping Herculesí arms.
It was him. Lamia knew it even before she saw his pale face. It was him. Lamia knew it even before she saw his pale face. she felt his pain and without thinking reached out and took it from him. The shock and surprise took too much energy, and she re-opened her eyes in the bed. He was here. but why? Slowly, old memories flowed back. the blonde boy who was her firse love, the best friends of a son of Zeus.
He came to take him back. Claim his friend from Heraís vicious grip. It was right. ĎHereís your chance, Lamia,í the siren thought, Ď do the right thing.í She called her powers back, and opened a small gate to the world. Long enough for him to enter, but, she hoped, too short for Hera to notice.
"I cannot help you, Iolaus. But I wonít stand in your way. The best of luck, young love of mine."
Iolaus came to his senses slowly, reluctantly. He allowed himself to just lie there on the warm sand for a while, keeping his eyes closed. He had a feeling that when he would open his eyes, he would not enjoy this blessed serenity much longer. Serenity, how long has it been since either he or Hercules indulged themselves in a bit of that? There was always some village in trouble, some monster to slay, some warlord to stop. On some occasions, the requests were a bit more exotic, more intriguing. Or more emotionally drenching. As was this one. With a sigh, Iolaus opened his eyes, and pushed himself up, realizing with amazement that his head didn't hurt and his bruises were gone.
"Why'd Hera do that?" He shook his head still wondering and looked around, "Well, that's it, I guess." he said to no one in particular, "I'm here."
The only answer he received was the soft whistle of the blowing wind. Iolaus looked around him, his senses tuned for anything out of normal. Or what passes for normal in this place, his corrected himself. Normal was a very relative term when dealing with the capricious Queen of the Gods.
Dropping his blue gaze down to the sand, he began looking for any trace of Herculesí presence. The sandy land and the blowing wind did not assist him much in his self-appointed mission, and soon, Iolaus began feeling agitated. He dropped down to his knees in the shore, and poured some water on his face and shoulders. He was about to rise and resume his search, when some inner instinct told his that heíd better make himself scarce.
He looked up and around, his senses honed and tuned for anything that might pose a threat. To his vast surprise, nothing was there. The coast was just as peaceful as it was several moments ago, when he first woke here. Iolaus shrugged his shoulders. There was something on the coast, other than himself. The place was ruled by Hera. Therefore, the thing, whatever it was, would be hostile to him. Logical. Been there, done that. Sparing just enough time for a sweeping glance around, Iolaus began trudging his way along the shore, heading away from the water.
He walked for what seemed like forever, wrapped in his gloomy thoughts. After all that has happened, all that heíd been through, this lovely piece of paradise seemed...wrong. This was one of Heraís domains. This is where she trapped his best friend. There was a sense of evil, and watching eyes all around him. So why did the wind sing in his ears, and tell his of his childhood? Why did this feel like he was heading towards something familiar, and old, and loved. Iolaus stopped in his tracks, and took a deep breath. Shaking his blonde curls, he tried to clear his mind. Taking long, deep breaths, he began walking again.
Youíre a man with a mission, Iolaus. You have no time for wallowing in old memories. Hercules depends on you. Alcemene has faith in you. He sighed, and lowered his head, staring at the necklace still clutched in his hand. Deianiera trusts you. Deianiera.
He looked up, and saw her. Deianiera.
No, it canít be. Itís not her, Iolaus. Sheís dead, and you know it. His mind reeled. Thatís just one of Heraís tricks, traps. He measured her with his gaze. Same hair, same face, same figure, same pose. But there was something about her. Something he knew he should recognize. Something that called for him, begged him to be acknowledged. That something... Iolaus ran his oldest memories in his mind, trying to remember that something he just knew was there.
"Hello, Iolaus," she said, her voice carrying in it the same musical quality of Herculesí late wife.
That voice. Iolaus knew that voice. There was that something again, in the notes, hovering about them. Clinging to the music. It reminded him of the wind, and of the sand, and of clear, sparkling water, and of the glowing sun. And of the sea. The sea. And he remembered. His disbelieving eyes cleared, and his gaze focused on her mesmerizing eyes. She held his gaze valiantly, and he suddenly knew.
The sound of her own name seemed to have sent a blow to the young nymph. She visibly winced, and lowered her gaze, closing her eyes in concentration. After a moment of awkward silence, her features shimmered and changed back to her own. As she adjusted to the change, she heard Iolausí intake of breath and raised her eyes back to his.
"Better?" she asked, her voice almost a whisper.
It took a few precious moments before Iolausí dazed mind registered her question. His eyes could hardly believe what they were seeing. Lamia, his first love, the first girl to have stolen his young heart. He never saw her again, since that night so many years ago. Yet there she was, standing in front of him. A servant of Hera.
"Much," He forced a weak smile, "Deianiera was one of a kind."
"She must have been."
"And how would you know?" He countered, the bitterness now obvious in his voice. "How could you know anything about people? About who they were? All you do is steal their hearts, and leave them at the mercies of Hera."
She didnít flinch. "Because he loves her that much."
Iolaus laughed. A short, bitter, harsh outlet of air. "How convenient."
"Yes. Convenient. There are few things that canít be made convenient to the Queen of the Gods," she admitted the truth of his words solemnly. "But neither one of you falls into that category."
"No. We donít. And we take pride in that. Apparently, I canít say the same thing about you."
"Appearances can be deceiving, Iolaus."
"And whoís better fitted to claim that than you, Lamia."
"Donít judge me for things which are beyond my powers to change. I told you years ago, I donít have a choice. I never had. I have to do this."
Iolaus saw her eyes begin to tear, and took a step towards her. This time, she did flinch. "Iíd never hurt you, Lamia. You know that. But you always have a choice. Unless you allow someone to take it from you."
She turned away from him, and started walking towards the lush garden. "Take a walk with me, Iolaus."
He remained firmly in place. "I canít. I have toó"
"I know you do," she sighed. "Time is indeed of the essence. But a few more minutes wonít matter. Spare a few minutes for an old friend."
They walked together for a few minutes, until they reached a small, running stream. Lamia nodded at the sound of the water, as they sat down under a large olive tree which grew near it.
"You are much more than an old friend, Lamia." Iolaus said, taking her hand in his.
"Donít make things harder, Iolaus. Please. Too much has happened, too many days have passed."
He withdrew his hand, and gazed at her. She hadnít changed much. She was older, but the familiar features remained. For a brief moment he wondered if that was her true appearance, or a phantom. He pushed the thought aside firmly. This was his Lamia, and she deserved to at least be heard out.
"Lamiaó" he slowly began, but she silenced him.
"No, Iolaus. Let me speak. There are things you need to know, that I need to say." Her voice faded as she tried to collect her thoughts. "I told you I donít have a choice, Iolaus. That wasnít true. I do have a choice. And a price to pay.
"I canít help you free your friend, Iolaus. I canít match the Queen of the Gods. But I can turn a blind eye."
His blue gaze urged her forward. "The spell canít be broken only as long as I will it so. If I leave it be, it can be broken. All you have to do is somehow jog Herculesí memory. To make him realize where he is. I canít help you with that. And he can not leave this place until the spell is broken. The sea gates wouldnít allow it. All I can do is not stand in your way.
"You must hurry, Iolaus. It wonít be long now, before Hera notices your arrival. If she does, neither one of you will leave this place alive."
Iolaus nodded. "And what about you, Lamia? Hera would never let you get away with it."
"Thatís my fight, Iolaus. Not yours."
"Every fight against Hera is mine, too."
She smiled weakly. "Not this one. Though I do appreciate the offer. Iíve served Hera all my life. Done her bidding, stole soul after soul. No more, Iolaus. I have to stand up to her, and put a stop to it, no matter how high the price. Freedom does not come easily, nor is it cheap. Fight your own battles, Iolaus. Fight them, and win them, but leave this one to me."
Iolaus started to say something, but the nymph wasnít through yet. "Thereís no more time for words, Iolaus. Itís time for deeds. Hurry now, save your friend. It wonít be hard. The spell is weakening even now."
"Leave Hera to me."
Nodding silently, Iolaus rose to leave, leaving Lamia sitting by the stream. He started walking towards the house, still trying to accept all that had passed. He came to a halt before the closed door.
ĎNo more doubts, no more guessing, Iolaus. Thatís it. Go inside, save Herc, get out of this place, and on with your lives. And Lamia?í Iolaus countered himself. ĎWhat about her? She wants her fight with Hera. Let her have it. Let her go. Move on with *her* life. He remembered her words, so recently spoken. ĎItís not your fight, Iolaus. You have to avoid this fight, if you ever want to win the war.í
With a burning sense of loss running through his body, Iolaus pushed the door open, and walked in.
By the stream, Lamia still sat, letting her tears flow and mingle with the water. Allowing herself one last gaze at him, she repeated the words spoken so many nights ago, "I was supposed to be able to steal your heart, not allow you to take mine."
Iolaus closed the door behind himself, and stood, quietly looking around. The house was shaded and quiet, except for a monotone sound of a metal hammer banging on the anvil. Iolaus began following the sound, and found himself standing in a small smithy behind the house. Hercules stood with his back turned to him, forging something Iolaus couldnít see.
Iolaus watched him for a few moments, before opening his mouth. For the second time in this long day, he was at a lose for words.
"Herc..." he said, and his friend immediately turned at the sound of his voice.
"Iolaus!" the demigod happily exclaimed, coming towards him, "What brings you here? We never see you anymore!"
Not certain what to say, Iolaus decided to play along until he could find the right time to let the truth out.
"I was, uh, kinda busy. You know, wondering around, saving a damsel or two. The usual."
"Oh," a smile played on Herculesí features. "And that Ďusualí took you this long? Youíre slipping, old buddy."
"Me? Iím slipping?" Iolaus asked incredulously, "And just what have you been doing all that time?"
Hercules turned halfway around and gestured at the anvil, "Oh, nothing much, really. Just trying to catch up on farm work. Itís amazing how high grass can grow if you donít cut it every day."
The two friends started advancing towards the edge of the farm, and Iolaus surveyed his surroundings. "Uh, Herc, itís awfully quiet here..."
Hercules glanced around, frowning. "Yeah, the kids are with my mother, I gathered. I havenít seen them since I got back, either."
Nice work, Lamia. Nice work, indeed. You had the trap all set up, all you had to do was lure the mouse in. Iolaus thought grimly to himself. "Uh, got back from where, Herc?" He asked, aloud.
"Well, remember the raiders that bothered the travelers on the Isthmus? Well, theyíre not there anymore."
"Oh." Iolaus found himself yet again speechless. He remembered that trip quite clearly. He was at Athens at the time, and went off running towards the Isthmus as soon as he heard the rumors that the Great Hercules was there. In a typical stroke of Iolaus-luck, he got there just in time to see Hercules march the raiders inside the gates of Corinth. "I always miss all the fun!", he complained back then.
"So," Herculesí voice startled him out of his reverie, "have you seen Deianiera yet? Sheíd be so happy to see you!"
Iolaus recognized the right time when he saw one, and that was it. He almost hated doing this to his best friend, he hadnít seen Hercules this happy since...since Hera took his family. Firmly, Iolaus reminded himself that it was all an illusion. Nothing but a scam, to lure and trap Heraís bitter enemy.
"Um, actually, Hercules, I have seen her."
"Oh?" The demigod raised his eyebrows in question, "Where?"
Iím sorry, Herc. I hate doing this to you, but I have no choice! Iolaus tried to quiet his conscience down.
"On the Other Side, Hercules."
It took a moment for Iolausí words to register in Herculesí mind. "No! How can that be? I just saw her, Iolaus. She *canít* be dead!"
"Hercules, thatís not your real wife. Sheís not Deianiera."
"No buts, Hercules. You have to believe me on this one. This is a trap of Hera's, sheís using Deianieraís image to trap you here."
Herculesí shoulders sagged, and he looked at Iolaus like a drowning child seeking shelter. "That canít be true, Iolaus! Youíre wrong! You have to be..."
Biting his lips and cursing himself wholeheartedly, Iolaus shook his head. "I wish I were, Herc. I really, really, wish I were. Your wife is dead, Herc. Deianieraís gone."
Hercules dropped his gaze, fighting what his mind was telling him was true, but the spell still lasted. "Can you prove your words, Iolaus? Can you?"
Silently, Iolaus nodded. He reached into his pouch, and fished out the delicate necklace. Hercules was watching his every move, it didnít take long for him to notice what Iolaus was holding. He placed the necklace in Herculesí hand, and took a step backwards. "Iím sorry, Hercules."
Hercules sank to his knees, his eyes never leaving the piece of jewelry in his palm. The remains of the spellís weave were quickly fading, and the truth had came rushing in with full force, and with it, the tears. The son of Zeus wasnít crying only for the death of his wife, but also for the lost dream, which, had it been real, could have been wonderful. But this was not the time for tears, Hercules knew, as he felt a strong hand touch his shoulder. He looked up to see Iolausí tearing eyes.
"We have to go, Herc. Now."
The demigod nodded and rose to his feet. High above them, the skies began to darken, threatening clouds swirled in the strengthening wind. The wind got stronger and stronger, turning into a storm as the two friends rounded the house, running for the shore, and the safety of the sea.
Casting one last glance behind him, Iolaus saw Lamia standing by the stream. The winds whirled around her, causing her flowing dresses to dance a manic dance at her feet. It was as if the Queen of the Gods had summoned all her evil, and threw it at one defenseless girl.
Iolaus froze in his tracks, remembering Lamiaís words. "Appearances can be deceiving," she said. The young nymph was not as fragile as she seemed to be. The same force she had used to capture the mind and soul of the Son of Zeus was the same force she wielded now, against the Queen of the Gods. A green glow enveloped her body, and she transformed back into her original form that Iolaus remembered so well. The winds around her seemed to grow even stronger, swirling in her gowns, flowing her black hair high above her head.
Mesmerized to the sight, Iolaus stood frozen, oblivious to the world around him. Suddenly, he was jolted back to the reality of their poor situation, when Hercules, after giving up on yelling Iolausí name, had simply grabbed the mortal by the shoulders and shook him to get his attention.
Fully alert to their escape now, the two friends started fighting the winds on their way to the sea. Gesturing back, Hercules yelled over the scream of the wind, "Is she keeping Hera busy for us to escape?"
Iolaus nodded, "Itís a long story, Herc," he yelled back. "Iíll tell it to you someday, when weíre both dry and safe." He spared a glance over his shoulders, he could see that Lamia was still holding her own in the uneven duel that was taking place behind them, and smiled ruefully. "Letís just say that sheís an old friend."
The sea was roaring in their faces now. The waves rose high and gray, daring any mortal foolish enough to try and cross them. Hercules stopped at the line of water, and looked at Iolaus questioningly.
Iolaus didnít spare the time to stop. If he did, heíd lose the courage to jump back in. "We go inside, Herc. Hold on tight, weíre in for a bumpy ride!!" He yelled, and threw himself to the mercies of the waves. Hercules shook his head, and followed Iolaus to the roaring realm of Poseidon.
Selene had long since cleared the seat of the heavens, and Helios had taken the vacated throne when the two still figures on the lake side stirred back to life.
Both of them were soaked wet, and mud and see weeds still clung to their clothes and hair. Iolaus reached up to brush stray hair away from his eyes, and climb to his feet. Looking around him, he saw Hercules lying not far from him, blue eyes open and staring at the sky. He walked over to friend, and plumped down on the wet sand beside him.
"You back with us, Herc?"
Hercules started to nod, but thought better of it when he discovered that he was still lying down. Rising to a siting position, he smiled, "Yeah, Iím back. I think." He brought his hand up to wipe his brow. The silver necklace was still clutched tightly between his fingers. He gazed at it quietly for a few moments. "So it was for real then. I was kind of hoping it was all a bad dream..."
"A nightmare, to be exact. But it was real. All *too* real, if you ask me!" Iolaus answered.
"Yeah." Hercules was still gazing at the necklace. "Iolaus. When you saw her, was she..."
Iolaus rested his hand on his friendís shoulder. "Yeah, she was. She misses you terribly, though. The kids do too."
Hercules nodded silently.
"Hercules," Iolaus started softly, "she asked me to tell you something. She said that sheíll always love you."
"I know. Iíll always love her, too. She knows that. I hope."
"Iím sure she does, Herc. Iím sure she does."
The two sat in silent for a while, each wrapped in thoughts of the woman he loved, and was lost to him.
Finally, Iolaus broke the silence. "Hercó"
"Letís go home. Your mother should be worried sick by now. And she always cooks when she worries about you. Iím famished!"
Hercules chuckled softly. "Yeah, I *was* wondering when youíd get to that part. Letís go home."
They climbed to their feet, and started walking away from the lake.
As they were about to get off the sand and into the tree line, Iolaus suddenly stopped. "Hey, Herc," he called after his friend, waiting until the demigod stopped and turned to him, "I just remembered. What was it you were saying about half-girls, half-fish??"
Hercules shook his head in long suffering, and started marching home. Behind him, Iolaus giggled, and hurried to catch up to him. "They donít *exist*, I believe it was?"
"Watch it, Iolaus..."
"íThereís no such thing as half-girl, half-fish, Iolausí...Really, Herc, silly me!!"
End of Story Two of Three.
Part three of this trilogy is A Siren's Tears
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