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The following is an episode of the Young Hercules Fan Fiction Seasons, a non-profit virtual season project; written for fans by fans this is done to help keep the legacy of the short-lived television series Young Hercules alive on the Internet. The overall direction of the story that takes place in this virtual season may not be exactly what took place if an actual televised season had been produced.
(Iolaus fighting two men with a woman)
WHEN IOLAUS GETS AMNESIA, ARES HAS A PLAN
Iolaus on cot asking: "Who am I?"
(Iolaus training with mean looking men)
Xanthos: "Soon we'll be ready to march on Corinth."
AND HERCULES FACES A CHALLENGE
Hercules: "Iolaus, it's me! Hercules!"
Iolaus: "I know, and I'm going to kill you!"
IT'S A FIGHT TO THE DEATH BETWEEN FRIENDS
Hercules: "I am NOT going to fight you anymore!"
(Intent to his words, Hercules throws down his weapon)
ON THE NEXT YOUNG HERCULES
Iolaus could not remember the last time he had been alone. Ever since the former thief came to Cheiron's Academy he had always been in the company of his friends Hercules, Jason, Theseus, and even Lilith, the only girl ever to attend the Academy.
But a lot had changed in the recent months. First there was Jason's coronation and now Jason spent most of his time in Corinth, only making it back to the Academy for a visit or two. Lilith had decided to return to Queen Cyane and the Amazons full time. But most of all, there was Megaera and the trouble between Iolaus and Hercules. For the first time in over a year the friends had disputes-and all about Megaera. Their friendship weakened. On the eve of her wedding to Hercules, Megaera was murdered and Iolaus was framed.
There was a trial and, thankfully, the truth was learned before it was too late. Iolaus was free and he and Hercules made up, although their new friendship was not as strong as the old. But it was a start and everyone around them was glad for the new beginning.
Iolaus smiled to himself as he walked along, heading back to the Academy. It was good to be returning-minus the classes and tests-after a short break. After the trial, Cheiron had granted him and Hercules a few days away from the Academy and each other, giving them time to sort through everything and to leave all the bad feelings at home.
Even though he was glad to be heading back, Iolaus was still nervous about seeing Hercules again; the demigod could be stubborn sometimes, almost as stubborn as he could be..
"Help! Somebody please help us!" The cadet stopped suddenly as a shrill shriek split the air. Without a moment's hesitation, Iolaus raced toward the cry. Up the road he came upon three men attacking a couple and ransacking their wagon. They did not see Iolaus right away, their attention still on the couple and their belongings.
"Please leave us alone!" the woman cried, kneeling beside her husband who had been knocked unconscious.
"Don't worry, sweet thing. We'll be going once we've taken what's ours," the man standing near her sneered, tweaking her chin with a dirty hand.
"Which is nothing." Iolaus stepped forward, finally drawing attention to himself.
The two men scavenging through the people's things paused and turned to the third man who was obviously the leader. "Oh really?" he said haughtily. "Are you going to be the one to stop us, Shorty?" he started guffawing and the other two joined in.
Iolaus sighed. "Here we go with the short jokes again," he muttered. A bit louder he declared, "Yes, I am!"
The leader grunted. "Sure. Three against one aren't good odds, boy."
"No, but then I don't think three against two who are unarmed are better odds," the cadet retorted, falling into a battling stance.
"All right, shrimp. You asked for it! Get him!" On his order the other two jumped out of the wagon and went for Iolaus. The first to reach the cadet tried to punch him in the face. Iolaus easily blocked it and rammed the guy in the stomach. The man doubled over and Iolaus kicked his legs out from under him.
The second came up behind the cadet, grabbing him beneath the arms. Iolaus easily flipped the guy over and, freeing his arms, turned the man around so he was facing him and punched him. The man fell to the ground. By then the first man was ready to fight again.
"I'll show you not to mess with me!" he growled, charging at Iolaus.
Iolaus waited and, at the right moment, stepped aside, sticking out his foot and tripped the man as he ran by. He chuckled as the man tumbled and remained on the ground.
"Enough games!" Iolaus turned, remembering that he was not quite finished. The leader was holding a blade to the woman's throat.
"Leave her alone!" Iolaus demanded with all the bravado he could muster. "Or are you just a coward, hiding behind a woman?" he challenged after a moment.
The barb enraged the man; his eyes bulged and he bared his teeth maliciously. "Oh, you'll regret that boy." His grip on the knife's hilt tightened and Iolaus knew he was about to see the woman killed, and there was nothing he could do to reach the man in time to save her.
Suddenly an arrow came flying out of nowhere, embedding itself in the leader's hand, catching him by surprise. He cried out and dropped his knife, releasing his hold on the woman.
Nathaniel Lees as Cheiron
Mfundo Morrison as Theseus
Tshianna Joelson as Zephyra
Kevin Smith as Ares
Based on "Young Hercules"
Created by Renaissance Pictures
Tracy Viader and Barb Soden
Edited by Tern O'Brien
"I suggest you do as the young man says," a hard feminine voice called. Iolaus and the three men turned and saw a young woman approaching on horseback, a loaded crossbow pointed at the leader.
"Zephyra!" the woman cried thankfully.
Zephyra ignored the woman a moment, her eyes focused on the three men. "Go on, get out of here," she ordered.
"Ooooh, this isn't over!" the leader vowed, holding his injured hand. "I know I'll see the two of you again." Then he was gone, his followers straggling behind.
Once they were out of sight, Zephyra dismounted and went to the woman, and hugged her tightly. "Mother, are you all right?"
"Yes, thanks to you and this young man," she looked up and smiled at Iolaus.
Zephyra looked at Iolaus, her gaze thankful, yet still suspicious. "Thank you for your help," she said stiffly.
Iolaus nodded. "You're welcome." He picked up his satchel and came over to where Zephyra and her mother stood. "Let me help you with your father."
"Thank you, but my mother and I can handle it ourselves."
"Zephyra!" her mother admonished.
"It's okay," Iolaus said, keeping his eyes on Zephyra. Reaching into his bag, he pulled out the few medical supplies he had. "Here." He handed Zephyra what he had. "Be safe."
"Thank you," Zephyra called as he started to walk away.
As he continued down the road, Iolaus could hear Zephyra's mother scolding her.
Night fell and Iolaus still had a ways to go before reaching the Academy. He stopped in a village and went to the inn where he ordered a hot meal. While he waited, he looked around the place. It was a nice establishment, yet it was not as nice as Kora's. There were people there that Kora would not permit to set foot in her inn.
"Well, well, well. Look who it is, boys," said a voice Iolaus thought he would never hear again.
Looking up, Iolaus saw the leader of the men he fought earlier. This time he was accompanied by seven others, two of which he recognized from before. "Oh, hello."
"'Hello?'" the man scoffed. "So now we're friends? I don't think so. You and that girl…" he growled and held up a bandaged hand. "I owe you two for this and the humiliation of my men."
"So, I guess it's too late to apologize," Iolaus quipped, preparing to make his move.
"Damn right. Get him!"
"Here we go again," Iolaus grumbled, dodging the three who came for him by ducking under the table. Before the others could grab him, Iolaus kicked the table on its side, blocking three more of the leader's men.
"Get him!" the leader shouted again.
"Yes sir, Corydon."
It was easier said then done. Remaining on the floor and on all fours, Iolaus was able to get around the men who kept bumping into the other patrons and knocking their things over. Some of the people started to fight back, and soon the whole place became one big brawl; plates, tankards, and silverware were being thrown, pitchers of wine were being broken as people were tossed, shoved, and knocked over counters. In all the chaos, no one noticed that the short young man with curly blond hair was gone.
Once he was outside, Iolaus ran, knowing that he only had so long before Corydon and his men saw he wasn't there and came after him.
"How do I always get myself into these messes?" he thought. "I must have 'Please get me in trouble' tattooed across my forehead!" Shaking his head, Iolaus continued to run through the forest. Branches whipped at his face and low growing vines threatened to trip him.
"Whoa!" a rock found his foot just as he broke free of the woods. His momentum sent him falling down a hill. Iolaus rolled and rolled, faster and faster until his head struck something hard and he fell into darkness.
For once in his long life he was bored. No wars, family feuds, nor even the idea of torturing his half-brother pleased the God of War. Ares just sat on his throne, staring dumbly at the myriad of swords and shields hanging on the wall.
"Snap out of it, Ares!" a very exasperated Discord appeared in a flash of blue light.
"Unless you have something bigger and better then a war or a new idea on how to get rid of Hercules, get lost!" Ares snarled, barely looking at his sister.
"Well of course I do, otherwise I wouldn't waste my time stopping by," the leather clad goddess pouted. "Everyone knows how mopey you've been lately, especially after Hera's plan didn't work the way you hoped."
"And your point would be?" Ares said warningly.
"I'm getting there! What would you say to using Herkules' friend to get rid of him, especially the one that was supposed to be his ex-best friend?"
"You're talking about Herc's annoying little blond pal, Iolaus, aren't you?" Discord nodded.
"Oh, sis!" Ares started to howl with laughter. "That's the best thing I've heard in two hundred years! Did it escape your small brain that our half-brother and Blondie made up?"
"But what if Blondie didn't know that?" Discord baited after a moment, a cruel twinkle in her eyes.
Ares stared at her. "All right, sis. You've got my attention. What's your plan?"
An hour later Ares appeared a mile from the inn and over an unconscious Iolaus. Discord appeared a second later. "Told you," she smirked. For a moment the two gods looked down at the fallen cadet. Blood pooled around his head where he had struck it on something and broke the skin. The slight rise and fall of his chest let the gods know he was still alive.
"Well, let's do what we're going to do." Ares waved his hand and he, Discord, and Iolaus disappeared, reappearing a moment later in the makeshift tent of one of Ares' newer and already feared generals.
"My Lord Ares!" Xanthos gasped. "To what do I owe the honor of your visit?"
"I have a new recruit for you, Xanthos," Ares gestured to where Discord was laying the unconscious cadet on the general's cot.
"Him? He looks like a weakling!"
"That he does," Ares chuckled, "but I assure you he is no such thing. I have it on good authority," the god glanced at Discord, "that this 'weakling' beat three of your soldiers today and then evaded them and company at a nearby inn."
Xanthos' eyes widened. "So he's that one," he mused, impressed. "Does he have a name?"
"His name is Iolaus and I want you to take extra special care of him."
Xanthos stiffened. If the God of War was giving special sanction to the boy, where did that leave him standing in the god's graces? "Of course, my Lord," he replied after a moment. "Your wish is my command."
"Naturally," Ares smiled coldly. "Now, I will take my leave." The god vanished and Discord blinked out a moment later.
Xanthos stood there a moment, reflecting on what had just passed. Then, giving Iolaus one more look, he called the army surgeon to tend to the cadet's wounds.
He awoke to the sound of a loud, thundering voice that was answered by a hundred more, mixed with the clanging of various weapons. A fierce throbbing in the back of his head made him groan. Reaching up, he felt a bump beneath a bandage.
"Ah, so you're finally awake," came a gruff yet gentle voice.
Opening his eyes, Iolaus was just able to make out someone's profile through his blurred vision. "Where am I ?" he asked. Then, blinking his eyes and frowning, "Who am I ?"
"Easy lad. Your questions will be answered soon. Now, you just rest some more while I get the General."
Only the whisking sound of the tent flap closing answered him. A few minutes later, a taller man-the General, Iolaus assumed-entered.
"So Iolaus, you're awake," he said.
"Iolaus? Who's Iolaus?"
"Why, you are. Don't you remember?"
Iolaus shook his head. "No…in fact, I don't remember anything at all!"
Xanthos smiled. Ares had been right about what would happen when the boy awoke. "Of course you don't," he soothed, sitting down on the stool beside Iolaus' bed. "You took a nasty spill and hit your head on a rock. You've been out for a few days." Iolaus remained silent, although he must have had a perplexed look for the general continued. "Your confusion is understandable, what with your amnesia-that's what you have. But don't worry. Your memory will eventually return. In the meantime, your fellow soldiers and I will try to help you recall who you are."
"Thank you, sir. Um…if I may, you've told me my name-"
"I am Xanthos-that's General Xanthos to you," he added with a grin. "Now. I will leave you and send Dorian in to make sure you are ready to go back to work."
The army surgeon gave Iolaus a clean bill of health the next day, although he advised him to take it easy. Iolaus had nodded and then reported for duty.
A week passed. During that time Iolaus trained with Xanthos' men, and the soldiers fabricated the story of Iolaus' background. According to them, Iolaus had been a feared thief and murderer who had been running from the law when he ran into Xanthos' army. After a year, he had become one of the best in the army, perhaps only second to Corydon. The background also included the varied story of how-much to the chagrin of Corydon-after their last minor disagreement, Iolaus had single-handedly beat the man and his cronies, finally settling the matter.
Even though some of the things he had been told irked him, Iolaus accepted them. After all, there had not been anyone to tell him any different.
"I don't like it, General. Not one bit," Corydon stated as he watched Iolaus participate in the drills.
"Don't worry Corydon. I doubt Iolaus will be with us for long," he said after a moment, keeping his eyes on the parade ground.
"What makes you say that, sir?"
"Ares has something planned for him-"
"Ares? The God of War has something planned for him? For that…that shrimp!?" Corydon interrupted, incredulous.
"Don't be jealous of Iolaus. It has been my experience that if you are hand chosen by Ares to do something, your days are numbered even moreso. And, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't 'that shrimp' beat you?" Xanthos reminded, none too gently.
"Only 'cause some girl showed up," Corydon grumbled.
"Of course." The general let the subject drop, knowing that Corydon would never admit defeat to anyone smaller beating him. "The men are looking good," he commented after a moment. "Almost time for us to make our move."
"That they are," Corydon agreed. "Taking the villages and Corinth will be a piece of cake!"
Corinth was in a state of chaos. Since the beginning of the month refugees had been pouring into the city, fleeing from the advancement of Xanthos' army of plunderers and murderers. And the word was that Xanthos was marching on Corinth.
Jason was at his wits' end after sending out scouts and spies to find Xanthos' army and attempting to discover when he would be attacking the city-and none had ever returned. The young king desperately needed the information; the Corinthian army had been training daily for a battle that never came. It was almost becoming a joke to the soldiers, so instead of training for so many hours a day, they started to assist the magistrate in keeping the peace among the city citizens and the villagers, which was all right, but it had reached Jason's ears that some of the soldiers were halting anyone and threatening them with jail.
"You wanted to see us?" Jason looked up as Hercules and Theseus entered the throne room.
Jason nodded. "I did. I have a favor to ask of you. You may refuse to do it if you wish, but I really need your help."
"Let me guess. You want us to find Xanthos and see when his army will attack. Is that it?" Hercules asked knowingly after a moment.
Jason nodded. "I wouldn't be asking, you know, but everyone else I've sent has disappeared …most likely they are dead."
Hercules glanced at Theseus who shrugged. "I'll go if you will," he said.
"We'll go," Hercules said after a moment. "Who knows? Maybe we'll finally find Iolaus," the demigod added wistfully, the longing hope apparent in his voice.
Jason and Theseus said nothing, already knowing how their friend felt. No one knew where Iolaus was. When he did not return to the Academy on time, Cheiron, Hercules, and the other cadets thought he would return later. A few weeks went by, and still no word from him. Slight worry had gone to full scale panic, yet there was no sign of the young man having been anywhere around.
Just as Cheiron was about to send out a search party, the survivors of a nearby village came seeking refuge at the Academy. They were taken in, and it was then that Xanthos' existence was made known. Cheiron called off the search for Iolaus and set the cadets to taking care of the wounded. The centaur then sent Hercules, Theseus, and a few other cadets to Corinth where he was sure Xanthos was headed.
And they were still in Corinth almost a month later.
Jason stepped forward and placed a hand on Hercules' arm. "I hope you do happen to find him -for his sake and yours."
"I will have provisions gathered for you-" Jason started after a moment.
"Don't worry, Jason. We'll take care of ourselves," Hercules said.
"Of course. Thanks, guys. Good luck!"
Hercules and Theseus set out after nightfall, using the dark to mask their movement. They stuck to the forest, using the cover of the trees as well.
"So, Ace, what's your plan when we find Xanthos?" Theseus asked after a while.
"What do you mean?" Hercules returned. "We're just supposed to be spying on his army, not engaging the soldiers in any way."
"I know that. But how are we going to spy on them? After all, we're like spies numbers what -fifty? One hundred?"
Hercules shook his head, knowing what Theseus was getting at. "We're just going to have to be extra careful," he said after a moment.
"And even if we are we end up getting caught ninety-nine percent of the time," Theseus muttered. Hercules sighed, but said nothing, continuing to move on.
An hour later, Hercules stopped suddenly, causing Theseus to run into him. "Why'd you-?" Theseus started but was silenced when Hercules raised his hand.
"I think I hear something up ahead," he said after a moment. He motioned for Theseus to follow. Sure enough, they came upon a clearing where they discovered Xanthos' army camped out.
The two cadets stayed behind the safety of the trees and tried to think of a way to get closer without calling attention to themselves. Hercules noticed that there were only three guards patrolling the perimeter of the camp.
"I see them Herc. Think we can take them?"
"You could try, but I wouldn't advise it." Hercules and Theseus turned their heads and jumped into defensive stances. "I don't think so, boys! I have a crossbow pointed at you right now! Try anything and you die," the strange voice threatened.
"Who are you?" Hercules called after a moment.
"That is none of your business," came the growl from behind them this time. "Are you part of Xanthos' army?"
"Does it matter?" Theseus asked. A sharp point in his backside silenced him.
"To me it does. If you are, I'll kill you, no questions asked."
"We aren't," Hercules said. "We're from Cheiron's Academy, although we've been in Corinth for the past month helping to take care of the refugees that keep coming." The demigod tried to turn to see who was behind them, but he also felt the tip of an arrow on his back.
"Cheiron's Academy? That's where those from my village who survived went!" Hercules listened to the shifting behind him. The pressure on his back vanished after a moment and the demigod slowly turned.
Their tormentor was a young woman with reddish brown hair held in a ponytail and green eyes. She was dressed in black leather pants and a brown leather tank top and black boots. She gripped a crossbow tightly in her hands, pointing the tip down towards the ground, thankfully.
"Who are you?" Hercules asked after a moment.
"My name's Zephyra," she replied after a long silence.
"I'm Hercules and that's Theseus," Hercules introduced them.
"Hi," Theseus nodded stiffly, still not liking the fact someone had gotten the drop on them.
"Hi. Sorry about the misunderstanding," Zephyra apologized after a moment. "So, how are the people that made it to Cheiron's?"
"Most of the ones who made it there are doing fine," Hercules answered.
"What about a woman with auburn hair, and a man with graying dark hair? Both had green eyes like mine?" Zephyra's voice was filled with hope. "Did they make it?"
Hercules inhaled deeply, not knowing what to say. By the time most of the refugees from Scythia made it to the Academy, a third were already dead either from losing too much blood. The demigod slightly recalled a man and woman matching Zephyra's description being among the dead.
"I guess they're dead because you're taking too long to answer," Hercules heard Zephyra sniff suddenly.
"I'm sorry, Zephyra, but I couldn't tell you for sure whether the two you ask about are alive or dead. They're your parents, right?"
Zephyra nodded. "I pray they're alive. So," she began after a moment, "what brings you and Theseus here?"
"We're here to spy on Xanthos' army and get numbers for Jason," Theseus explained.
"Jason? You mean the King of Corinth?"
Theseus and Hercules nodded. "He's our friend."
"We're also looking for a friend of ours that has been missing for the last month-about your height, curly blonde hair, blue eyes, answers to the name Iolaus-"
"Iolaus?" Zephyra's face darkened.
"Have you met him?" Hercules asked.
"About a month ago my family was attacked by some of Xanthos' men…a young man matching your description helped to save us-but he can't be your friend! He's part of Xanthos' army!"
"What!?" Hercules could not believe his ears.
Zephyra nodded. "I couldn't believe it either. I mean, I didn't trust him when I first met him, but I never thought he'd be one of them-"
" He isn't!" Hercules swore furiously. "He must have had a run in with the gods or hit his head or something…."
"Maybe so, but he's one of them right now. I can show you," Zephyra said softly, feeling a little bit sorry for Hercules. Obviously he cared for the traitor.
Hercules and Theseus stared at her. "You know where he is?"
"Sure. I know the exact layout of this camp, how many men there are, and when Xanthos is planning to attack Corinth," Zephyra told them.
"If you know, how come you haven't been to Corinth to tell someone?" Theseus asked, his tone accusative.
"Because I've been trying to make sure no one else has been surprised by Xanthos!" Zephyra shot back.
"You've been warning the other villages, haven't you?" Hercules stated.
Zephyra nodded. "Each time I knew where Xanthos was heading and when, I went and warned them."
"You've saved a lot of lives."
"Yeah, well, I couldn't save my parents-I know, they could be fine-and I wasn't able to save the spies and scouts that were sent before you. I tried, but by the time I came up with a plan that could possibly work, Xanthos already had them executed." For a moment she was silent. "You want to see your friend, right? This way." Zephyra led Hercules and Theseus around to the farthest side of the camp. They were only able to use the forest as cover halfway around, and used wagons and supply piles the rest of the way.
"He usually stays in the tent over there," Zephyra pointed to one of the furthest tents away from them.
"Wonderful," Theseus muttered. "Just how are we going to get to him?"
"Oh, that shouldn't be too difficult," a cruel voice sneered behind them. Theseus, Hercules, and Zephyra turned and found several soldiers-their weapons trained on them-surrounded them.
Zephyra's eyes widened in recognition. "You!" she hissed, looking at the large man who appeared to be the leader.
"Ah, so you remember me," the man grinned. "That's good, 'cause I sure remember you, girlie." Before Zephyra could defend herself, the leader reached for her and jerked her to her feet, twisting her arm behind her back. "Now, you two-you do as I tell you, or your friend here gets hurt."
Hercules and Theseus exchanged glances, knowing that for the moment they were defeated.
Iolaus had been charged with bringing the new prisoners their meal. He wondered why, knowing that sooner or later they would end up dead like the other spies that had been caught. Orders are orders, he thought with a sigh. He soon came to where they had been chained to posts. At his approach, he was surprised to see the flickers of recognition that came to their faces.
"Iolaus?" the tall, blond-haired one gasped.
"Do I know you?" Iolaus asked suspiciously as he handed each of them a small bowl of stew.
The blond haired youth exchanged glances with his fellow captives. "It's me, Hercules," he said after a moment.
"Hercules?" Iolaus echoed. "Never met you before."
"You're my best friend! Don't you remember?"
"Hey Iolaus!" Corydon's voice came from the darkness. "You've given them their grub, now get back to your post!"
Iolaus gave the prisoners one more look before obeying. Once he was gone, Corydon wandered over to where they were.
"Nice try, punk," Corydon growled, kicking Hercules in the stomach.
"Hey! Don't you know it's not polite to kick someone when they're down?" Theseus called.
Corydon turned on him. "You want some, too?"
"Corydon, enough!" Xanthos appeared suddenly. "You are not to touch these prisoners, you understand me?"
"Yes, sir," Corydon grumbled. He gave the prisoners a disdainful glare before retreating in to the dark. Xanthos watched him go and then he too left them alone.
"Why do I get the feeling they've something already planned for us?" Theseus whispered.
"Because they do?" Hercules replied.
"What?" Zephyra asked.
"I don't know, but I don't think it will be too long before they decide to tell us."
Xanthos returned to his tent and was only slightly surprised to see Ares waiting for him. The general bowed. "My Lord Ares. How may I be of service?"
"It is time to put my plan into action. Tell me, have you noticed that your new prisoners seem to be 'chummy' with Iolaus, especially the blond haired one?"
"Indeed I have, my Lord."
"I want you to have Iolaus fight him and kill him," Ares said.
"What about the girl and his dark friend?"
"You can kill them as well, but only after Hercules is dead."
"Hercules? That is who that youth is? Your brother-?"
"My half brother, as the little twerp loves to remind me."
Xanthos stared at the God of War, incredulous. "Not to be disrespectful, but are you sure that is wise? I have heard the tales told about your…half brother…you would have him fight his best friend?" the general asked as another fragment of the tales dawned on him.
"Questioning my command, Xanthos?" Ares growled, jamming a dagger into the table before him.
"Of course not, Ares!"
"Good. I want you to do it now, before your attack on Corinth," the god ordered, disappearing in to the air.
Xanthos blinked a couple of times, wondering if he had just dreamed what had transpired. The dagger in the table told him it had not been a dream. "Corydon!"
Corydon stepped into the tent a moment later. "You called?"
"Get Iolaus and the rest of the men and meet me with the prisoners."
"Sir, what's going on?"
"Remember what I told you about Ares picking Iolaus for something?" Corydon nodded. "Well, his time has come."
Iolaus was suspicious when Corydon summoned him. They had never gotten along since Iolaus had returned to the army. He mainly tried to avoid Corydon, most times being successful. This was the first time, however, that the second in command actively sought him out.
"Iolaus, you are to come with me to where the prisoners are," Corydon told him.
Iolaus eyed the man warily. "Why?"
Iolaus followed him then, not wishing to disobey the general. He was amazed to see that he was not the only one summoned to the area where the prisoners were; it seemed the entire army was there as well. Iolaus joined a couple of his friends and waited for Xanthos to explain why they were all gathered there.
"Men, tonight we will witness a fight to the death ordained by Ares, our illustrious God of War," Xanthos began.
Hercules, Theseus, and Zephyra grimaced. "Ares," the demigod growled. "I knew he was involved somehow!"
"Iolaus will battle and kill Hercules," the general announced.
Iolaus was stunned. "Me?"
"Yes, you." Xanthos beckoned for Iolaus to stand and nodded to Corydon who proceeded to unlock Hercules. "Unlock the other two as well."
"When Iolaus kills Hercules, we will kill them as well." Corydon shrugged and did as Xanthos said. A few soldiers forced the three captives to their feet, and Hercules was herded towards the center of the circle the army formed. He glanced back and saw that Zephyra and Theseus were being guarded by four men, two each. Hercules turned and saw Iolaus facing him across the circle.
The demigod could only stare at the person who had been his best friend since childhood. He barely noticed that someone had slipped a sword into his hand and that someone had also supplied Iolaus with one as well. It was as if he were dreaming, having a nightmare where it would end in his death or his best friend's.
NO!! Hercules shook his head and lifted his sword defensively as Iolaus took a step forward. He then heard Xanthos give the go ahead for the battle to begin.
The two combatants had their weapons raised and they circled around for a few minutes, each looking for a place to strike first or to defend as it was in Hercules' case. Iolaus made the first move, charging the demigod. Metal clanged, and Hercules easily parried his friend's strike.
"Iolaus! Stop! You don't have to do this!" Hercules shouted above the robust cheering of the men.
"Yes, I do!" Iolaus spat. "Ares has commanded it!"
"Yeah, but that doesn't mean you have to obey! If you were thinking straight, we wouldn't even be fighting!" Hercules barely got his sword up in time to defend himself from another attack.
"How do you know?" Iolaus swung again.
"Because we're friends, Iolaus! Best friends!" Hercules dodged the swing by stepping to the side and then, continuing to face Iolaus, he backed up and started to circle again, hoping that he could talk to him before he tried to attack again. "Remember the time before we went to Cheiron's? When I stole the urn from Ares and you tried to take it from me when I got back and we released this tornado on Thebes?" Iolaus came at Hercules again, this time a bit too fast for the demigod to deflect the blow and blade met flesh. The army cheered as Hercules tried to maintain his hold on his weapon.
"No, I don't!" Iolaus charged again and metal clashed as he and Hercules fought. Neither gave nor gained an inch before they were back to circling again. They had partnered each other so man times in drills, Iolaus with his memory would know the strike pattern.
"Iolaus, you have to remember! It's me, Hercules!"
"I know, and I'm going to kill you!" Iolaus attacked again.
"Iolaus, please! Remember we went after the Golden Fleece with Jason and Yvenna! You remember her? Remember your decision to fight back to back with me-to the death?" Hercules barely got out as he continued to defend himself against Iolaus' onslaught. Iolaus seemed to continue to ignore him. "Come on Iolaus!" Hercules ducked and rolled as Iolaus made a daring swing for his head. He was on his feet a split moment later. "Fight it! You've got to remember!" Hercules begged, doing a backflip to dodge another attack. "Iolaus, we've been through so much together! Remember Elane and how you were turned into a stag by Artemis…the time we taught Lilith how to be a princess! Remember Cyane and her Amazons! …Remember how we were in Hera's valley and we were almost killed by her monster!" Hercules dodged one last attack before going on the offensive, but he was soon back to being defensive because he just couldn't harm Iolaus. "Iolaus, please remember! We're like brothers! We've always stood together, been there for one another…even with the recent mess with Megaera! We overcame that, and we can overcome this…but you have got to remember!" Hercules looked at Iolaus, hoping that some of what he had said had gotten through. Iolaus still held his sword, ready to attack.
Hercules lowered his sword, his decision made. "Well, even if you don't remember, Iolaus, I do! I am not going to fight you anymore!" Hercules let the sword fall from his hand. Slowly, he raised his arms and spread them wide. Hercules saw Iolaus' eyes sparkle with blood lust. The demigod closed his eyes-if he were to be struck down, he wanted to be left with the good memories of his friend.
Iolaus could not believe what was happening. Hercules was going to let him kill him! Iolaus paused a moment, ignoring the shouts of encouragement from the soldiers. Then, he raised his sword and ran at Hercules, yelling like a madman……
Hercules braced himself for the final blow……
It never came.
"Hercules?" the demigod heard the tentativeness in his voice.
"Iolaus?" Hercules opened his eyes and found his friend.
Iolaus gazed at the sword in his hand, and then at the wound he knew he inflicted upon his best friend. He cast it aside.
"Get them!" the two heard Xanthos command.
"Maybe you were a little hasty in throwing down your weapon?" Hercules called to Iolaus as he fought with three men. Glancing to the side, he saw Theseus and Zephyra fighting as well.
"No use complaining about it now!" Iolaus retorted.
"Hey Ace! Iolaus! We've got to get out of here!" Theseus yelled, dispatching the men he was fighting. He started for the forest. Zephyra downed a few more soldiers before following him. "Let's go!" Hercules and Iolaus worked together to create a clear path towards the forest and they ran for it.
The soldiers started to follow, but Xanthos stopped them. "Leave them be! We have more important things to worry about, such as our attack on Corinth in the morning."
"That's not what you planned, is it?" Corydon asked.
"No, it isn't. But Iolaus has his memory back, it would seem. He knows when we're supposed to attack, which is two days from now. He will report that to whomever and they will prepare for it. But we will get the drop on them!"
Iolaus, Theseus, Hercules, and Zephyra ran until they were sure they were far enough form the camp to stop and that they weren't being pursued.
"Good work back there, Ace. Though I wasn't sure what you were going to do if…" Theseus let his voice trail after receiving disapproving looks from Hercules and Zephyra. As he was speaking, he did not notice Iolaus moving away from them, ashamed.
"I would have killed him," they heard him mumble.
"But you didn't," Hercules went to stand beside him. He placed a comforting hand on his shoulder but Iolaus just shrugged it off.
"But I would have, Herc! If something hadn't snapped inside of me…you would be dead now, and so would they!" Iolaus leaned on a tree. "Gods! What have I done? You three must hate me-"
"No!" Hercules protested. "What you did, it wasn't your fault! If you want to blame anyone, blame Ares!"
"It wasn't his fault I tripped and hit my head," Iolaus countered, feeling the scar just above his eyes.
"Maybe not, but your being with the army and your being chosen to fight me was."
"What about the villages we attacked? I was a part of that! Me! I hurt people-"
"Not as much as some of the others," Zephyra interrupted him. "I was at the first attacked village…my home. I saw you and I couldn't believe it because you had helped my family earlier. Yet you never killed anyone! Knocked people out, disarmed them-yes, but you never killed anyone and you stopped some of the others from doing just that-"
"I remember what happened!" Iolaus snapped and he stormed off. Zephyra opened her mouth to call out an apology, but Hercules just shook his head.
"Leave him be," he said gently. "Come on, let's get back to Corinth. We've got to warn them that Xanthos will be there possibly in the morning."
"But he's not supposed to attack for another day or two," Zephyra said.
Hercules looked in the direction Iolaus went and Zephyra and Theseus immediately understood. The three of them followed Iolaus a moment later and headed for Corinth.
Jason was relieved when Theseus and Hercules made it back safe a couple of hours before sunrise. He was also thrilled to have Iolaus back and to meet Zephyra who quickly informed him of Xanthos' numbers.
"And he expects to take Corinth with that many men?" Jason asked. He, Hercules, and Theseus stood around a table looking down at a map of the city and surrounding area.
"He could succeed if he only had the element of surprise on his side, which he doesn't," Hercules said. "Iolaus and Zephyra said Xanthos planned to attack in two days, yet because Iolaus has his memory back, I'm guessing he'll move the attack to this morning, or some time today just so he can maintain his 'advantage'."
Jason called to one of his aides. "Tell my men to prepare themselves for battle. Also look for volunteers among the refugees, but do not force anyone to join, understand?"
"Yes, your Highness." Once he was gone, Jason looked at Theseus and Hercules.
"Let's get some sleep," he ordered quietly. "We've got a long day ahead of us."
Iolaus couldn't sleep. After tossing and turning for almost an hour, listening to the steady breathing coming from Hercules and Theseus who were sharing the room, he quietly got up and headed outside.
It was peaceful out on the parapet. Iolaus wished that it could be the same inside him….
"Iolaus?" Hercules had woken up and seen that Iolaus' bed was empty and figured he had gone outside somewhere to think.
"Go away, Herc," Iolaus said half-heartedly. "I don't want to talk."
"Maybe so," the demigod shrugged, coming to stand beside him. "But you need to."
"Not now, I don't!"
Hercules sighed. He knew he probably shouldn't be pushing Iolaus considering everything they had been through, but he just had to get through to him! "Iolaus, please. Talk to me."
"Why do I need to talk when you already know what I'm thinking?"
"Because I could be wrong?"
Iolaus glanced at Hercules. Then he sighed. "You probably wouldn't be."
"But I could be. I've been wrong before," Hercules said and Iolaus knew he was referring to what happened between them because of Megaera.
"That, yes-this, no."
"Fine. Just know this-neither Theseus, Zephyra, Jason, or I think any less of you because you were with Xanthos' army. You're a good person, Iolaus. Nothing the gods throw at you or even people you run into will ever change that." Hercules clapped Iolaus on the shoulder before heading back inside.
Iolaus watched his friend go. For the first time in several months, Iolaus felt a weight lift from his shoulders.
The sun rose slowly over the city and a nearby field. It did not escape Jason nor his soldiers that the sky was painted a fiery red, mixed with orange-as if the heavens knew of the bloodbath yet to come.
Breakfast was short and quick. Once everyone had had a little something to eat, Jason called for his soldiers to arm themselves and wait for the signal to attack. The young king joined them later, in spite of the protests from Ophistus and his other advisors. Hercules, Iolaus, Zephyra, and Theseus stayed with him. The cadets and young king had armed themselves with swords while Zephyra had her crossbow.
"King Jason! Xanthos is approaching!" a guard called down an hour after they had stationed themselves.
Jason nodded and then, to the horror of his friends, soldiers, and advisors, he ordered the gates of the city to be opened.
"Jase, what are you doing?" Theseus demanded.
"I am going out to talk with Xanthos," Jason said as he tied a white flag to a small stick.
"Are you nuts! Xanthos would just as soon kill you then talk with you," Iolaus put in.
"That's where you come in," Jason said. He was met with four blank stares. "Look, I go out to talk to him, but you four cover me. We make it seem that we are the only ones defending the city right now."
"That's the oldest trick in the book, man! They're not going to buy that!" Theseus scoffed.
"Do you have a better idea?" Jason challenged. Theseus shook his head and looked at Hercules.
"I don't have anything," the demigod said.
"We go with my plan, then," Jason said. "Ready?"
"No," the three cadets and Zephyra chorused.
"Good. Let's go." Jason walked forward and raised the white flag. Hercules, Iolaus, Theseus, and Zephyra followed, their weapons ready to defend the king if necessary.
To their relief, Jason did not go far from the city walls. He stopped after a hundred feet or so and waited for Xanthos to approach.
Xanthos saw the gates of Corinth open and immediately he thought he and his army were going to be attacked. He almost guffawed when he saw a young man in black walk out, a flag of truce raised, and he was followed by Iolaus, Hercules, and the other two trouble makers.
"They aren't serious, are they?" Corydon snorted, echoing what Xanthos was thinking.
"Come, we shall see what they want," Xanthos walked forward towards the five people, his entire army following.
Xanthos and his army stopped a few feet away from Jason and his friends. "Ah, King Jason. How nice of you to personally greet me and my army. The other places I have attacked have been quite rude. The villagers either scream and run, or they aren't around at all."
"I did not come out here to speak pleasantries, Xanthos. I am here to warn you-leave or your army will be destroyed!" Jason informed the general.
Xanthos cocked his head. "Really? Are you and your friends there going to stop us by yourselves? Oh, this is too much!"
"Scoff all you want, Xanthos. The choice is yours."
"Well then, here's my decision," Xanthos looked behind him. "Attack!" he ordered.
"Zephyra, NOW!" Jason yelled. Zephyra fired her first arrow in the sky. She quickly reloaded and fired at one of the two men about to attack Jason. The king nodded to her and easily dispatched the other man.
A split second after her arrow flew into the sky, there was a loud yell and Jason's army came running out of the city, accompanied by several volunteers.
"They'll never reach you in time!" Xanthos shouted at Jason. "You and your friends are dead!"
Jason disarmed two more men and glared at Xanthos. "That's what you think!" he looked towards the road past Xanthos' army. The general followed his gaze and saw Cheiron and several cadets from the Academy rushing to join the fray. Xanthos could not believe his eyes.
"Nooo!" Xanthos cried.
"Yes! I suggest you surrender, Xanthos, before lives are lost that don't need to be!"
Xanthos snarled and charged at the young king. Jason barely had time to raise his sword to defend himself. Xanthos' blade nicked Jason's arm before Jason was able to deflect the blow. The young king ducked as Xanthos tried to strike him again. When he came back up, Jason attacked and the two battled, oblivious to the rest of the fight going on around them.
It soon came apparent that the army of thieves and murderers was losing. Several had already deserted the field, running for the forest. Xanthos paused long enough to shout for them to come back, but his orders were ignored.
"Give up, Xanthos!" Jason shouted.
"Never!" the general charged suddenly, catching Jason off guard.
"Jason!" Hercules, Iolaus, and Theseus cried as the blade started to come down on the young king.
But the sword never made it. Midthrust, Xanthos gasped out in pain. Looking down he saw an arrow sticking out from his chest. A matching arrow struck, piercing his side. After a moment, the general fell forward, dead. Jason gaped in shock and looked around for whoever shot Xanthos. Glancing back, he saw Zephyra with her crossbow and it was not loaded.
The battle around them stopped. Those who remained of Xanthos' army were quickly arrested by the Corinthian army. Hercules, Iolaus, and Theseus rushed to Jason and helped him to his feet.
"Thank you," he said shakily.
"It had to be done," Zephyra replied.
After the battle, many of the villagers left Corinth, returning to their homes. In a way, Jason was glad to see them go, at least then things could start getting back to normal. Meanwhile, Hercules and Theseus found Cheiron and updated him on what had happened since they left the Academy. They told him about Iolaus and his amnesia, and about Zephyra.
"Do you know if her parents are alive?" Hercules asked.
"Yes. They did not make it."
"Oh, man," Theseus whispered. "Poor kid."
"We've got to tell her," Hercules said after a moment.
"Hercules, I think she knows," Cheiron stated.
"There are some things you just know," was the centaur's cryptic reply.
Zephyra and Iolaus stood on the parapet together, gazing at the open field, staring particularly at the patches of grass, stained with blood. Zephyra stole a few glances in Iolaus' direction.
"So, do you think you'll be okay?" she asked after a while.
"I guess so," he shrugged. "What about you? I mean…" Iolaus let his voice trail. The two of them had come out after accidentally eavesdropping on the talk between Cheiron, Theseus, and Hercules.
"Yeah..I'll be fine. I have family in Scyros, so I'll head there."
"Oh." Iolaus sounded a bit disappointed. "That's great."
"Don't tell me you were hoping I'd stick around for a while? After the way I was when we first met?"
"Hey, you were just trying to protect your family-seems you were right to be that way."
"Oh, Iolaus! Stop beating yourself over what happened-"
"How do you know I was?"
"Easy. You've been doing it since you got your memory back, and since the battle today. Nothing that happened was your fault!"
"You apparently believed it was," Iolaus grumbled, surprising her. "Hercules told me how you reacted when he gave you my description," he explained.
"Can you blame me?" Zephyra asked. "No, you can't, and that's your entire point, isn't it? You think you are that person, don't you?"
"I was-for a month! I was one of them!"
"It wasn't your fault-"
"How can it not be? Gods! You and Hercules!"
"Hercules has already had this conversation with you, has he? Well, if you can't believe him, can you believe your heart?"
"Iolaus, I knew my parents were dead before I overheard it from Cheiron. I just had this feeling that they were gone. I tried to ignore it, to believe that yes, I would see them again, but even as I told myself that, I knew the truth-here," Zephyra placed her hand on her heart. "Now, I want you to tell me what you feel, what your instinct is. Do you really think it is your fault that you spent the last month with Xanthos' army?"
"Well, Hercules said-"
"Hercules said a lot, I'm sure. And I'm sure he's right, but I did not ask you what Hercules said or thought. I asked what do you think?"
Iolaus started to reply yes, but something stopped him. He thought back over the month he had spent with the army; all the training he went through, the stories he had been fed by the soldiers, the looks he kept getting from Xanthos and Corydon. He even recalled at one point that Ares had appeared, although he had not known it was Ares at the time. He remebered that he had laughed at him. He recalled the fight to the death with Hercules. All through the fight and afterwards the demigod held no grudge against him.
"Well?" Zephyra prompted after a few minutes.
"No, it wasn't my fault," Iolaus finally replied.
"Good! Now don't you forget it!" Zephyra grinned. "You're lucky to have a friend like Hercules, Iolaus, as he is lucky to have a friend like you," she added after a moment.
"Yeah, I am…"
"Go on," Zephyra ordered softly. "Let him know."
Iolaus nodded and headed inside, leaving Zephyra alone. Once he was gone, she continued to gaze at the field and then watched the sun start to set.
KENT SIMMONS & TERN O'BRIEN
Discord: Meighan Desmond
Xanthos: Stig Eldred
Corydon: Stephen Papps
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Any resemblence between Corydon and a certain French Captain in 1801
is simply coincidental