Part one of this trilogy is A Siren's Enchantment
Part two of this trilogy is A Siren's Song
Lamia wearily allowed her body to sink to the bottom of the shallow pool. Hera had taken her gifts and left her with barely enough strength to transport the fish from the lake through the solid rock wall of her prison so she could feed herself.
She had opened the door and allowed Iolaus into her world. He had broken her spell and rescued his childhood friend while she stood by and did nothing to stop him. She knew Hera would be angry but she hadn't realized how angry until the raging goddess had stood before her and Lamia had felt that terrible electricity course through her body leaving her weak and defenseless. She had no memory of the next events, only of waking here in this place.
Not that she would have done anything differently had she known her punishment. She hadn't seen Iolaus since they were little more than children. So much had changed over the years. So different had their worlds become. Once they had shared the same world, the world on the other side of this wall. She had silly thoughts about spending her life with him or later another like him. She had met a few over the years. But her encounters had always been at Hera's bidding. Her mission to lure men into Hera's web. To be the bait and close the trap.
Usually the men were cold-hearted and hard. There was always an element of evil in their hearts. No more, she would not harm others at Hera's bidding, even if that meant she would live out the rest of her days in this miserable, shallow pool behind rock walls where she could not even feel the warmth of the sun.
A chill passed through Lamia's body as an old and familiar presence entered her pool. She turned and was not surprised to see two eyes made of peacock feathers staring at her. Lamia steeled herself for a confrontation she knew she couldn't win.
"Child, this is your last chance to redeem yourself and come back into my fold."
"Mighty Hera, " Lamia chose her words carefully, "I cannot harm a mortal who has done no wrong, who has only good intentions in his heart."
"You will do as I tell you."
"Only if it does not involve doing harm. I will not use my gifts to cause pain, not anymore."
"You have no gifts left to you, they will be restored when you come to your senses. Be certain, be very certain. There will be dire consequences, for yourself and the little friend who turned you from me." Hera had a way of making the word friend sound dirty. The eyes closed and the was rock again.
Lamia slumped to the bottom of the pool with relief. She didn't care about her gifts anymore. She only wanted to live in peace. Obviously Hera wasn't going to allow that. Lamia didn't mind, she supposed, she was used to it, but now, this last threat wasn't just directed at her but also at Iolaus. She had allowed him in to rescue Hercules and now he'd become a target as well.
Lamia had to warn him somehow. If she could only get back to her home in the sea. She was a daughter of Poseidon before Hera. She believed her sea father would protect her. If only she could reach his domain. Then, that left Iolaus. In her state she couldn't protect him. She'd had to let him rescue Hercules. To not allow him into their world would have been to let him drown and she couldn't allow that. He had faced the wrath of the goddess before at Hercules' side and survived. She could only rely on his wit and luck that he would survive again. Perhaps if she could get away, Hera would forget about him. She could at least warn him of the threat, but how?
As she pondered her dilemma, she listened to a couple of boys fishing outside. Their teasing conversation reminded her of two other boys she'd overheard fishing in this lake so long ago. They were so close to her prison, perhaps she could reach them.
Lamia summoned what strength she had and projected herself to them. She couldn't make herself appear solid but she thought they could see her even if she appeared as a translucent ghost.
She moved to hover over the water before them, she was rewarded by a startled gasp from one of the boys.
"Whoa, would you look at that!"
"Please, I need your help. I need you to get a message to Hercules. Tell him Iolaus is in danger. Hera will hurt him to control me. Tell him Lamia needs Iolaus kept safe..." Her strength was gone and the apparition faded away.
Lamia floated in her pool unable even to swim. She allowed the weak current to carry her as she awaited her fate and hoped the message would be enough.
Hercules and Iolaus had returned to Alcmene's exhausted. They both lounged around the house and let Alcmene fuss over them without complaint for a couple of days. Iolaus tried to keep his friend from being blue but understandably his thoughts kept straying to Deianeira and their children.
On the third day Hercules persuaded Iolaus to help him with his mother's wall. That Iolaus' heart wasn't in the work was an understatement. He only helped to be supportive and to keep Hercules busy. He kept trying to take breaks and sneak off. Hercules knew Iolaus thought the wall was a waste of time because he'd been working on it so long he'd never finish it.
The two boys ran breathlessly up to them. "Hercules! there's a...There's.."
"Easy! fellas. Slow down. Take a breath." Hercules kneeled beside them, "Now, tell me what's going on."
"There was this ghost of this lady."
"No! she wasn't a lady. She was like a fish." The other cut in.
Iolaus and Hercules exchanged glances, "Lamia?" Iolaus asked.
"Yeah, that was her name. She said to tell you Hera is gonna hurt Iolaus and you should keep him safe."
Iolaus snorted, "So, what else is new. Where? Where did you see her?"
"The lake. We were fishing over by the old cave."
Hercules glanced at Iolaus, "There's a pool in the back of that cave."
Iolaus nodded, "I'll tell your mother we're going to check out the lake."
Hercules turned to the boys, "I want you two to go home, now. Iolaus and I are going to the lake to see what's in that cave. You can fish another day, alright?"
The boys nodded and ran off toward home.
Alcmene walked Iolaus back into the yard, "You two be careful."
Hercules smiled, "We will."
"Yeah, aren't we always?" Iolaus flashed her a grin and they headed off into the woods.
Iolaus mused over what the boys had said, "If she appeared to them as a ghost, then she didn't have the strength to fully form."
Hercules agreed, "I'm not sure, I want to meet her at full strength again."
"Come on, Herc. She let you go. She couldn't've hurt you."
"Iolaus, she's not the Lamia you knew."
"She wasn't given much of a choice was she?"
They continued down the path in silence.
The cave stood as it always had. Hercules led the way past the brush at the entrance. There were enough holes in the old cave that a dim light was let in to see by. Nothing appeared amiss.
"Hey Herc? I know we used to be a lot smaller when we came here but wasn't it bigger then?"
Hercules appraised the cavern. "Yeah, didn't there used to be a niche back there in the corner that led to the pool?"
"Cave in?" Iolaus suggested.
Hercules moved to the corner, "I don't think so. This looks pretty solid." He leaned on it with his shoulder and the rock gave. "Appearances can be deceiving."
Hercules shoved harder and the wall collapsed leaving the narrow passage open. Quickly they made their way into the cavern with the pool.
"Iolaus! What are you doing here? You have to go. Hera..."
"If I had a dinar for every time that Hera thought about doing something nasty to someone I care about, I'd be a rich man. I can't live worrying about what she's going to do. First, we have to get you out of here and then, we'll see about what comes next."
"She's taken my powers, I can't leave the water."
Hercules glanced at the walls, looking for weak spots, "The lake is on the other side of this wall, right?" He knocked on a stone.
"Stay over there by Iolaus," Hercules gave the wall a mighty shove and the rocks tumbled down. Hercules danced out of the way as the lake water poured in and began filling the cavern.
"Is that big enough?" He called as the dust settled.
"Yes, I can get through," she dove under and Hercules saw her pass through the opening into the lake outside before turning to Iolaus, "Come on, we'd better get out unless you want to swim?"
"No thanks, not today."
As the two men turned toward the narrow passage the cavern shook. Something had impacted outside. The two men exchanged glances, no words were necessary, they both ran. Hercules shoved Iolaus into the passage ahead of him.
Halfway to the main cavern another impact nearly collapsed the passage. Hercules balanced a huge boulder on his shoulder, holding up the roof with brute force. He grimaced under the weight.
"Herc?" Iolaus asked.
"Go, get out. I'll make it."
Iolaus sprinted around the debris and stepped into the main chamber, "Herc, come on!"
Hercules gave the boulder an upward shove and ran for it. The whole cavern ceiling came crashing down behind him. The shock wave sent reverberations through the cave sending both men tumbling as they made for the entrance. The ceiling collapse grew as they stumbled into the sunshine. The whole cave collapsed inward.
They barely had a chance to take a breath before the deadly fireballs began raining from the sky once again. Hercules and Iolaus ran dodging trees and Hera's evil weapons. They ran into a clearing and sprinted across, zig zagging as they went to make themselves more difficult to target.
Hercules knew the power of those deadly orbs first hand. He'd seen them take his family, the day his whole world had come crashing down around him. Iolaus stumbled and Hercules watched in complete horror as he rolled but couldn't avoid being clipped by the fireball.
Hercules' throat constricted. He couldn't breath as his world threatened to collapse again. Iolaus lay motionless on the edge of the smoking crater, "Why didn't I listen to Lamia and keep him safe?"
Hercules kneeled by his friend. He was still alive. He breath came in ragged gasps but he was breathing. Hercules gently pulled him away from the hole. Iolaus was twitching as if he'd been hit by lightning. In a way Hercules guessed he had. He was alarmed by the touch. Iolaus was cold. He was deathly cold.
In his panicked state, Hercules barely noticed the warm presence flow into his mind. Lamia had to repeat herself several times to get his attention. Finally, Hercules tore himself away from Iolaus and acknowledged her presence. She beckoned to him, "Bring Iolaus to me."
Hercules picked up his friend and ran back toward the lake. The fireballs had ended after Iolaus was struck. Lamia watched them rain down from the lake. When they stopped she immediately sought Iolaus' mind and was terrified by the rate he was spiraling toward the final darkness. She nearly couldn't break the contact, so great was the vortex pulling him. She knew if she touched his mind again she would not escape it's pull.
This was her fault. She would not be responsible for bringing yet more pain into the world. Since she was brought into the mortal world, this was the only one who had called her friend. She would not allow him to come to harm. She couldn't live with herself if that happened.
Hercules charged out onto the jette where Lamia had instructed him to come. This was the very spot where she had met Iolaus all those years ago. She would not allow this place to become an ending. She motioned Hercules closer. He cradled his friend in his arms and crawled into the water. He gently floated Iolaus in the waist-high water.
Lamia swam around to Iolaus' head. She placed her hands on his temples for only a moment, long enough to confirm her worst fears.
"He's dying. I can't this happen. This is my responsibility. Hercules, I need you to do something for me."
"Anything, if it will help, Iolaus." The pleading helplessness in his eyes nearly tore her heart in two and strengthened her resolve to do what she had to do to save her only true friend.
"I need you to promise me that you will make him understand that I wanted to do this. I had the freedom and this is my choice. My choice, my consequences. He'll know what I mean. Will you do that?"
Silently Hercules nodded. Lamia placed her fingertips against Iolaus' temples and closed her eyes. A blue glow appeared in her hands and slowly enveloped Iolaus' body. She hadn't the strength to completely restore him but his wounds would not be fatal. Iolaus gasped and the glow faded away. Lamia's strength was gone. She sank low in the water and whispered, "I still love you," in Iolaus' ear and began to slip limply beneath the surface.
"Lamia?" Iolaus cried weakly. Hercules took a firmer grip on his friend and reached for Lamia's hand before it disappeared. Lamia squeezed it reassuringly. Hercules felt the hand go limp. He tried to hold on to her but he still had to balance and support the again unconscious Iolaus. He was forced to let go.
Hercules called for her but received no answer. He scooped Iolaus up in his arms and carried him to shore. Hercules laid his friend in the soft grass and built a fire to warm them both. He sat holding Iolaus' now warm hand and watched the lake's surface for any sign of Lamia. There was no movement. Hercules really didn't think she was coming back.
Iolaus stirred and moaned softly. Hercules allowed him to open his eyes in his own time and kept hold of his hand as much to comfort himself as Iolaus.
"How are you?" Hercules asked when he saw Iolaus' eyes finally focusing.
Iolaus swallowed, "I don't know. Feel strange, weak and shaky. What happened? I remember running."
"You caught a piece of one of Hera's fireballs. I thought I was going to lose you for good."
"Lamia...Where's Lamia?" Iolaus tried to rise. Hercules restrained him.
"Easy, Iolaus. She's..." Hercules took a deep breath. No sense in trying to cushion the blow, "She wanted you to know this was her choice."
Iolaus' heart sank, "She's not coming back." His voice was full of grief, "How could you let her? How could you let her sacrifice herself?"
"I didn't know what she was doing until it was too late." Hercules averted his eyes to the ground, "Stopping her would have meant losing you." Hercules continued quietly explaining, "She made me promise that I would make you understand it was her choice, her consequences. She said you'd know what that meant."
Iolaus nodded. He was too weak to travel on his own, even the short way back to Alcmene's cottage. Hercules waited until Iolaus fell asleep before dousing the fire. He took one last long look at the calm surface of the lake. He owed Lamia a debt he could never hope to repay. He hoped she knew how grateful he was before picking up his friend and carrying him safely home.
Iolaus remained quiet and withdrawn as he slowly regained his strength. He spent a lot of his time walking around the lake. More than once Hercules had walked to the hill to check on him and see Iolaus sitting out of the jette, pitching rocks into the lake.
Alcmene told him not to worry. Iolaus just needed some time to come to terms with what had happened, to find his peace with events. Hercules understood that but it didn't make it any easier to stand back and watch his friend grieve. He knew Iolaus didn't find it easy to accept the sacrifice of others on his behalf.
Eventually Hercules joined Iolaus on the jette and the two friends enjoyed a companionable silence. There was nothing more to be said, so, Hercules simply sat beside his friend lending what support his presence would give. After a time, Iolaus sighed and turned to Hercules, "You wanna fish or something?"
Hercules smiled, "I'd like that."
The currents transported Lamia's lifeless body through the deep caverns and channels beneath the lake and tugged her gently back out to sea. Poseidon received his daughter and sent her on her final journey. Her flesh and bone transformed to rock as she again rejoined her sister sirens in their vigil on the Island of the Blessed.
Written February 1998
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