Til it Bends or Breaks
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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.
Hercules: "You're just jealous!"
OUR HERO'S FRIENDSHIP HAS NEVER BEEN TESTED LIKE THIS BEFORE
(Hercules and Iolaus shot each other hostile looks)
(Iolaus pushes Hercules hard during practice drills)
(After shouting, Hercules storms out of the drill room doors)
ON THE NEXT YOUNG HERCULES:
Hera: "My plan is set . . . nothing can stop it."
(Hera's eyes flash during a thunder and lighting storm)
AS OUR HEROS RETURN HOME, AN EVIL GODDESS PLOTS REVENGE
(Hercules kneels down and takes Megaera's hands)
(Iolaus stands behind a door, looking very itchy)
AND CHANGES OUR HERO'S WORLD FOREVER
(Hera's wicked laughter voices over the Academy)
(Jason pulls apart angry Hercules and Iolaus during drills)
DON'T MISS A DRAMATIC EPISODE OF YOUNG HERCULES
"You forget dear husband, I have powers as great as you. You couldn't kill me in my sleep if you tried." Hera smirked. "Of course you wouldn't disobey the rules, would you?" Hera tauntingly asked as she walked up to her husband, Zeus.
Zeus turned away, frowning. "Even if it meant killing you," he somberly stated.
Hera laughed. "I see you admire the world. But not all of it is your creation. Beyond Greece we have no powers," Hera said changing the subject. "Each culture has there own pantheon. Only those on the steppes have no gods."
"They use magic and sorcery!" Zeus snapped. "Powers as great as the gods. But I do not fear them!" Zeus turned around and looked his wife straight in the eyes. "I have heard of your impending plans, to unite all the amazon nations together. Those from Anatolia and Greece...all to wage a bloody war on Greece!"
"I do," Zeus firmly told his wife, "Greece is my domain!" Zeus slowly turned away from his wife and returned to calmly staring down at earth. "My word is final."
"You won't get your wish, dear husband. I will see to it that the amazons bring war to Greece. But I do wonder what you fear more: the prospect of the amazon nation ruling Greece, or the power the amazons of the north hold." Hera materialized away in a flash of light, laughing.
Zeus fearfully said to himself, "I fear the plot you have hatched to kill my son."
"Are you Hercules?" asked the weary Amazon, as Hercules helped her lay down in a pile of hay.
"Yes. I'm Hercules," stated the demi-god in a concerned tone of voice. "Who are you? Who or what harmed you?"
"I was sent from Cyane," the weary Amazon said as she sat up a little and coughed, "to deliver a message to Hercules." Feeling weary, she slowly slumped back down into the hay.
Iolaus looked on, concern etching every inch of his face, but with some hidden disappointment in his heart. Cyane knew he and Hercules were a team, but she only sent for Hercules.
"What did you need to tell me?" Hercules asked as he grabbed a water pouch from the ground.
"All amazons are dead. Only Cyane isn't. She was kidnaped, by Barbarics. Savages that live to the north east of here. Far away."
"I'll rescue her. I promise." Hercules assured the amazon, his concern now including the intense determination he had when it came to rescuing a friend...a lady friend.
"What makes you think Cyane was really kidnaped by these Barbarics?" Iolaus questioned Hercules.
"What about a dying amazon, asking me to rescue her Queen? It's gut instinct," Hercules replied.
"Maybe, or maybe its something else...like your feelings."
"You know about Cyane and me."
"Yeah, you decided your relationship just wouldn't work because Cyane was an amazon queen, and your destiny elsewhere. But that's not what I was referring too."
"What we're you referring to then?"
Hercules eyes sparkled at the mention of Meg. His heart melted.
Iolaus said, "The same thing is happening again. Hercules has to comfort and save the damsel indistress, even without looking at the circumstances and danger surrounding the matter athand."
"You're just jealous, Iolaus!" Hercules stood up and headed for the door.
Iolaus suddenly ran through the last barbaric with his sword, but un-expectedly, the barbaric fell forward, trusting his wobbly blade into the grounded amazons stomach.
"No," Iolaus shouted as he ran over to her. The hunter grabbed the barbaric, threw him off, and gently pulled the blade from her stomach.
Iolaus and Hercules cradled the amazon in their arms.
Hercules watched as the dying amazon and Iolaus had several parting words.
"I'm sorry...I should have been more careful." Iolaus emotionally chastised himself.
"It's okay, Iolaus...that's you're name isn't it. It's a beautiful name." The Amazon sniffled as her eyes closed and she breathed her last breath.
"Stop!" A female voice shouted. Iolaus and Hercules looked up. There were at least ten Amazons standing before them, all angry. They looked down at Iolaus' hands, which were specked with blood. They looked unmercifully at Hercules, whose hands also had blood on them; he was holding a bloodied sword.
"Saderah! She's dead. You killed her!" the first amazon shouted as she spotted the amazon's dead body.
"I...I didn't. She fell, and, well...one of her attackers cut her with his sword.," Iolaus replied with much concern.
Hercules, interrupted as the amazon was about to speak. "Perhaps you should point us to ward Queen Cyane, leader of the Telequire amazons, kidnaped by a tribe called the Barbarics."
"Telequire? What are Telequire Amazons!?" the second amazon was puzzled. "The only amazons that rule here are us, formerly the Chertomlik."
"Neither my friend or I know much about ancient amazon history," Hercules explained. "But Iknow what I saw, Cyane's tribe dead, and a dying amazon asking me to find her captors, a tribe known as the Barbarics.
"You mean the men you help in the slaughter of Amazons, like my sister, Saderah!" the first amazon said with sarcasm. "You really better watch out for them."
Hercules got angry. "Why do you insist we killed your sister! Why would we be standing over the bodies of your enemies, if we weren't against them?!"
"Your diplomatic skills are pathetic," the second amazon snarled. "Consider the fact you are...."
"...a man, yeah I know."
"Actually, if you were a woman I'd distrust your word as much. I can't determine you guilty," the first amazon said, taking the conversation to a close. "Only my queen can do that!"
"Perhaps your queen can shed some light on further subjects, since you aren't much help."
"You two are under arrest!" the first amazon ordered as she looked at Hercules and Iolaus. Then she turned to the other amazons. "Restrain them, take them to the yurts. Our queen will determine them liars or telling the truth."
Iolaus shot Hercules a angry look. "Next time, look before you leap."
"Don't take one little messy situation, and turn it into more," Hercules snarled as the amazon tying his eyes behind his back kicked him to walk forward.
Yeah," Iolaus griped as the amazon who had tied his hands behind his back kicked him to walk forward. "Nice mess you got us into, friend."
Everyone stopped what they were doing once Hercules and Iolaus were brought to the camp. The Amazon Queen, a strong woman in her early twenties, with shoulder length brownish-yellow hair, and wearing a long fur tunic over the traditional amazon clothing, left her yurt and walked over to where the two newest prisoners were being ordered to kneel.
"Queen, I am sorry you lost your sister," Hercules solemnly spoke. "Her death was not our fault. We came here to rescue Queen Cyane of the Telequire Amazon Nation, kidnaped by a tribe known as the Barbarics."
The Amazon Queen's grief turned back to anger as she heard the word barbarics. "Don't speak that damned word again in my presence, you murdering heartless bastards. Don't try and tell me lies about Barbaric's trying to kidnap some amazon queen you supposedly know. Amazons aren't kidnaped by the Barbaric's...they are only slitted and stuffed!"
"It was my fault. I killed one of the men trying to kill Saderah, and he stumbled onto her as he died, and killed her," Iolaus suddenly spoke up, with some hesitation. Iolaus shot a look at Hercules and quietly said, "I told you!"
The Queen grabbed Iolaus by the arm. Iolaus cringed a little as she squeezed his arm tightly, and it began to turn blue. "Listen up barbaric child; if what you are telling me is true than you are and your friend might be released." The Amazon Queen turned to face one of the yurts. "Altina," she hollered.
Suddenly, the rustle of the wind grew louder as the cloth door on the yurt was moved away and ahand reached out. "Yes, Queen Cyane," the screechy voice answered. It was the voice of a tall middle-aged woman, wearing elk-skin slacks, elk-skin tunic tucked in, a long over-tunic made ofanimal fur, and a helmet with antlers sticking out on the left and right side. Her face made everyone cringe for at least a moment. A frightening site; intimidating and eerie.
"Queen Cyane?" Hercules asked. "We've been duped, I suppose."
"Yeah," Iolaus said with some anger. "Who knows why but we have been, and I told you. If youhad asked me I would have told you the origin of Queen Cyane's title, CYANE!"
Altina suddenly grabbed Hercules and Iolaus by there necks. They cringed as she looked into there eyes and read them. "They lie!" she screamed as she shot a look at Queen Cyane.
"What?" Hercules shouted. "You listen to the words of a witch!?"
"Shut up," Altina shouted as she slapped Hercules hardly across the face, sending him onto the ground. Iolaus grew a little angry. Altina laughed and did the same to him as she had done to Hercules.
Queen Cyane looked down at the dazzled Hercules. "Altina is our shamaness. She can look into the hearts of man and woman and see the truth. I'd trust her with my life. If she tells me you and your friend lie, you have lied. You will be executed come morning, when my sisters return with the rest of the Barbaric's army."
Altina sinfully smiled as she looked at the fallen Hercules and Iolaus. "You're as good as dead," she cackled under her breath.
"Hey Altina!" Hercules shouted as the shamaness was about to exit the yurt. Altina swiftly turned around and eyed the demi-god, who was sitting on the floor, with Iolaus a few feet away.
"What!?" she said as she kneeled down and stared her eyes into those of Hercules, making the demi-god gulp. " . . . I suppose you want to know why I lied to Queen Cyane about you?" Altina said. She shot a look at Iolaus, who was itching to say something; Iolaus fell down suddenly.
Hercules paid no attention to Iolaus. His concern was getting an answer from Altina.
"Well," the shamaness explained, "I raised Cyane after her mother died, and she entrusts the power of this tribe with me! I forced her to banish the former shamaness, an old wrinkled up hag. She lives in the woods now...a pitiful excuse for a conjurer and seer. I now tell the amazons where to hunt, battle, and who is friend and who is enemy. I know whyyou came, and I know your future...its filled with betrayal and death, not tomention MUCH suffering along the way....of course, that's changed now that you will dietomorrow." Altina cackled.
"What about this war with Greece? What does Greece have that Cyane wants!? Huh!?"
"Absolutely none of your business," Altina snarled as she caressed her finger across the demi-gods forehead, making him a little fearful of why she was doing this. "I wouldn't want you to die knowing everything, now would I?" Altina cackled.
Hercules spit at the shamaness. "Your trying to control Queen Cyane! Luring us here with a dying amazon, and the name of my friend! What sorcery is this that lures us here?"
"None!" Altina laughed. "Who you are is what brought you here.
"You created the event!" Hercules stood up slowly. "You filled Cyane's mind with thoughts of us killing her sister and who knows what else. You must want something from us. I demand too know!"
Altina snickered, then headed toward the flap exit. "I did fill Cyane's mind with lies of you and many others things, but who's going to stop me from doing it again?" Altina shot a look at Hercules as she prepared to walk out. "Not you!"
In the shadows of a yurt, a tall figure with pale blue eyes lurked, waiting for something or someone to arrive.
As Altina entered the yurt, the figure made itself known. It was Hera.
"Hera," Altina said with a nasty smile. "My good friend, and partner in crime. I thank you for the chance to pester those two idiots. If you didn't want them dead, I would happily torture them till I slit there throats, and enjoyed drinking their blood as it dripped out as I..."
Slightly repulsed by the shamaness words, Hera's eyes glowed. "That's enough. I'll let you imagine that on your own time. This is my time." Hera's eyes returned to their normal pale blue state. "I never did thank you for supplying me with the power I need to kill my bastard stepson and his pesky friend, that Iolaus. Because of you, my cowardly husband will bring about his own demise once he sees his dead son. I will rule supreme over Greece. As much as I would like this barbaric amazon nation to kill enslave all Greece's mortals, it wouldn't work. Your working this feud between amazons and Barbarics, with the added touch of a dying spy, to lure Hercules here and allow me to kill them with this special magical power while his heroic heart keeps him here to stop the war...that pleasures me. I will soon reign supreme among supreme among gods!"
Altina seemed bored. "Whatever you say," Altina snarled. "Now give me what you promised to give me if it did everything you just said."
Hera pulled a sharp dagger from her boot and handed it to Altina, who gasped and then gave a pleasurable smile at it. "The dagger which can kill a shamaness, and take her powers from her! Thank you."
Hera wickedly smiled. "Its all yours, Altina. I will return to kill my bastard stepson once the time is right." With that said, Hera materialized away.
"Now, I go and murder the former shamaness, Vernesa, and gain enough power to kill Cyane and rule the amazons forever." Altina cackled. Lightening bolted across the sky followed by a furious thunder.
After escape the amazon camp, and walking for awhile through the forest, Hercules and Iolaus found a cavern. They searched it, finding writing on the walls. One of them was two young men, who were drawn like them, fighting amazons and then each other. They figured the shamaness was writing about them, and their disagreements.
"Come closer," an elderly female voice called. Hercules and Iolaus turned around. The elderly shamaness was sitting face to the wall, drawing the start of the battle between the amazons and Barbarics. "This cannot be finished. Maybe it can be today, but not tomorrow."
Hercules and Iolaus sat against the wall and listened to the shamaness' story.
"My name of Vernesa. You are Hercules and Iolaus. You come from Greece."
They nodded. "We are," Hercules quickly said, just as Iolaus was about to. Iolaus didn't seem quite alright with Hercules getting the ultimate word so far on this journey....for the last few months most times.
Vernesa continued to talk. "I was Cyane's foster mother when Altina killed Cyane's mother, the former queen of the amazons and descendant of the first Cyane, a woman from the far future, a leader that was sent to us to ally us with our savage enemies and help them teach their children a new way. I learned that Altina killed Cyane's mother. I told Cyane, but her love for Altina pushed her to banish me and make Altina the new shamaness. I knew it had to be done, so Cyane could banish Altina herself, and prove herself as the queen of the tribe."
"You said the battle had to end between Barbarics and amazons? We've come to stop it."
"I know," Vernesa said in a whisper. "You must stop it. You must let the truth be told. But they won't trust you unless you prove it."
"How can I prove it?"
"The sword of veracity!"
"What's that," Iolaus quickly asked, making Hercules's face turn red for a moment once he beat him to asking.
"Its an eastern sword, from an island to the east of this continent. When held to a person, they cannot lie. They must tell the whole truth. There's only one catch." Vernesa paused. "It resides in the amazon land of dead. Altina conjured a spell that sent it there, to avoid the truth be told. You must retrieve it, a task near impossible."
"Oh," Hercules replied. "How will we get to this land of the dead?"
Vernesa pointed to herself. "I can transport one of your spirts into the afterlife with my remaining powers. Than I can bring it, and the sword back. I warn you, before you accept it...its very risky.Death could surely follow if something went wrong. I fear my powers may not be strong enough. I grow old; death will surely follow soon."
Without reasoning, Hercules nodded. "We go."
"We?" Iolaus asked. "Only one of us can go."
"I will go, but you will sit here and watch over me. You can make sure nothing happens. Do the watching stuff."
Although insulted to an extent, for the first time on this adventure Hercules had asked him to help out. He had said do something "together." He would do what was asked of him.
"Lay down," Vernesa instructed Hercules
Hercules hurriedly laid down on the ground. He closed his eyes. "So, when am I going?"
Vernesa moved her hand across Hercules' face, covering him with an aura. She watched as his spirit left its body and floated into the air, soon disappearing. Iolaus looked on, not seeing any of this.
"Sorry, Iolaus. Only shaman's can see that." Vernesa regrettably said.
"Yeah, not the nobody called Iolaus," Iolaus mumbled to himself
Back at the amazon village, Altina stormed out of the yurt where she had jailed the demi-god and his blonde haired friend. "Damn fools!" she screamed. She looked down, spotting foot prints which led to the forest. "They escaped. They are going for the shamaness. They will find the sword of veracity. They will know everything!"
In the amazon afterlife, Hercules was hanging from the other end of the fiery chasm. Sweat dripped profusely from his brow. He had attempted a leap. With all his strength, he pulled himself up to the ground. He staggered over to the altar and grabbed the sword.
"Iolaus!" Hercules exclaimed as he saw his friend sitting beside his laying body. His body had magically been reunited with his soul in the real world after he had gotten the sword. Iolaus carefully helped Hercules up.
"You got the sword," Iolaus exclaimed. "Let's go!"
"Altina!" Hercules shouted as he and Iolaus suddenly appeared from one of the cavern tunnels. Hercules guarded them with the sword of veracity.
With lighting flashing in the sky, Altina stood up and roared as she hurled a black sphere of power at the sword, which knocked it from Hercules hand, and shocked both demi-god and golden hunter.
Hercules and Iolaus fainted at the twist of Altina's fingers.
"It's time for you to die," Altina snarled as she picked up the sword and hefted it above Hercules body. "Perhaps I can take your strength from you...then I would betray Hera, but since when have I given a damn who I betray." Altina laughed as she prepared to strike. She suddenly dropped the sword behind a rock.
"Do you have it?" Hercules asked with a shout as Iolaus snuck under the yurt later that morning after escaping to retrieve the sword. Iolaus took a moment to catch his breath as he sat down. He finally spoke moments later, still exhausted. "No, its missing," was all the golden hunter said.
Angry, Hercules grabbed his friend by his top and lifted him off the ground. "What are you telling me?" he shouted. "That was our only chance to stop this damn war from happening, and you ruined it!" Hercules dropped Iolaus and shrugged. "Just lost our only chance."
"I'm sorry I'm such a disappointment, Hercules. I did all I could, thank you." Iolaus sat down on a barrel and sobbed. "I'm sorry I was ever born," he whispered to himself.
"I'm sorry," Hercules sorrowfully said as his anger cooled down. "I shouldn't blame you for that entirely, it was also Altina's fault." Hercules smiled. "How about you go pick up some horses from the stable we saw on our way here?"
"Thanks," the hunter said in reply to Hercules half thoughtful apology. At least it was an apology though, and his name was mentioned. He accepted it. "I'll go and get the horses, the smaller job while you do the fighting," Iolaus quietly griped.
Suddenly, all eyes were on the blinding light that formed the goddess of the hunt, Artemis, near the prison yurt. Because the amazons had never seen Artemis, they had no idea who she was and some picked up there weapons. The tall, statuesque red headed goddess wielded the Sword of Veracity.
Altina slowly walked backwards, for the first time ever showing some fear. She was stopped from going any farther by several amazons. Altina withered with fear. She would be exposed. However just then she remembered she had enough power to kill everyone. No matter, she would win anyway. Let them expose her! Obviously she forgot that Hera would be angry at her.
"I am Artemis, a goddess from the Grecian lands," Artemis began to explain. "Although you don't worship me, or serve me, I protect all amazons...except lately I have not done so for you because I feared Altina and her powers. No more!" Artemis handed the Sword of Veracity to Hercules.
Iolaus remained in the yurt, watching from there. Hercules was going to steal the spotlight yet again. He might as well not even get stressed watching it happen.
Hercules pointed the sword of veracity directly at Altina. "This is the Sword of Veracity! Only the truth can be spoken in front of it once its pointed at someone."
Having no choice, Altina told everything: "The Greek goddess Hera wanted to kill her stepson, Hercules, and needed godlike power to do so outside Greece, where she could kill him. I supplied the power she need, and in return she supplied me with a dagger I could kill Vernesa with, just like I killed Cyane's mother, and take her power from her. The war was started between barbaric's and amazons to lure Hercules here, and I ordered Cyane to wage war on Greece so Hercules would stay and try to avert that war, and this current war with his heroic heart. I feared I would be exposed." Altina frowned. "That's everything."
"Hera!" Hercules hatefully snarled, as Hera arrived.
Laughing, Hera pushed Hercules with one hand, sending him off and her and onto the ground. Hercules persisted to attack again, so much energy and emotion circulating through him because of everything his evil stepmother had done to him and his loved ones, and lunged at Hera, who sent Hercules across the village as she created a lighting bolt and threw it at him.
"No!" Artemis shouted.
Hera smite the lighting bolt with a breath and swirled around, to look as Artemis had her bow loaded and an arrow aimed right at Hera.
"One move and I'll shoot!" Artemis threatened.
Meanwhile, Altina had escaped. But to her surprise, Iolaus had tracked her into the woods. He pulled the special dagger from his boot and surprised Altina by ripping it across her stomach. Although she didn't die, she slowly felt her shaman powers leaving her.
Iolaus grabbed the weakened Altina, took her in his arms, and carried her back to camp. Of course she was older and larger, so heavy to carry, but he wanted to show he could help and could carry a load, just like Hercules.
"Your killing my powers," Altina screamed. Iolaus ignored her.
"Just taking you back, not for Hercules, for me! This is my chance." Iolaus smiled.
"So stepmother dear, how do you like mortality?" Hercules brashly asked as he and Artemis stood over Hera.
Hera desperately begged, as tears welled around her eyes, "Kill me! End me now! Don't let me be disgraced like this."
Artemis shook her head. "Even powerless gods can materialize back and forth. Go back to Olympus."
Hera tried to laugh, but couldn't, so she said what she was going to represent by a laugh: "Oh I will, and I'll return. I'll return and kill these amazons, and Hercules if he ever leaves Greece again. It will happen, believe me it will." Hera shot Hercules a wicked look.
"No it won't," Artemis said with assurance. "The amazons, as long as they exist, I will protect them from anyone who brings them harm, even my mother! As for Hercules, Zeus has decreed a new law which states gods cannot kill other gods even outside Greece. It will be passed when you sign against it with Ares and his lackeys. You might as well make history and have everyone sign agreement to it."
"Never," Hera said in a whisper. "I won't let myself be disgraced, even if I lose! The amazons can go to Tartarus for all I care, and Hercules...we will meet again!" Hera materialized away; her evil laughter was left behind for a moment as her eyes appeared in the sky and a peacock feather fell into Hercules unsuspecting hands.
"Thank you, Hercules, and also your friend," acknowledged Cyane later that day as she walked with Hercules, "for helping restore peace."
"Your welcome," Hercules replied.
The demi-god sighed. "Of course you shouldn't thank Iolaus. If it was his choice, we would have never come." By the way Hercules said this, one couldn't tell if he was serious or joking. But to Iolaus is wasn't a joke. Unknown to anyone, Iolaus was standing close behind Hercules and Cyane, hearing every single word they said. Anger, hurt, and jealously all raged through the sidekick's body, neither having a problem with outdoing the other. It even worsened when Iolaus saw Cyane kiss Hercules on the cheek.
Grinning, Hera looked into a reflecting mirror. "Yes dear husband, this time you won...but remember, gods still cannot undo what gods do to mortals. The next time, it won't be so easy for you to interfere." Hera looked into her mirror, now seeing Hercules and Iolaus walking home to Greece. Iolaus was lagging ways behind Hercules.
Hera grinned wickedly. "Perfect for my next plan to be set into action!"
"Hey Iolaus, catch up," Hercules said out-loud. "C'mon. We need to get to the stable and pick some horses up. Move it." Not once did he look back while he said anything, unlike many times before when he would always look back first to make sure Iolaus was still there.
"I'm the shadow. I'm the hero's sidekick, the nobody," he said back out-loud. "I get the scraps and nothing else. The hero, you, get the girls, the acknowledgment, the victory I helped you achieve over Hera and Altina, and more. Bah! It sickens me."
"You're such a comedian, Iolaus," Hercules said with a chuckle. "Your always good for a funny joke, even when you joke about yourself."
Hercules didn't look back, because if he had he might of seem the tears welling around Iolaus' eyes and thought different about what he had just said.
Nathaniel Lees as Cheiron
Jodie Rimmer as Lilith
Rebecca Herbst as Megaera
Meg Foster as The Voice of Hera
Kevin Smith as Ares
Based on "Young Hercules"
Created by Renaissance Pictures
Edited by Tern O'Brien
Stunned, Megaera stared at her father.
"You can't be serious." she whispered.
"I am. I have arranged a marriage for you. Within the month you will be married and out of this house. I'll be rid of you and your disgraceful reputation."
"But Father I've been good-"
"That fiasco with the paintings was the final straw! You can't be trusted for anything!"
"Father-" tears welled in Meg's eyes, "I swear to you by Hera-"
"Don't blasphemy! You have no right to call on her!"
"I had nothing to do with Autolycus stealing those paintings! I had no idea!"
"You cost me a small fortune! You have no idea what it took to find someone willing to marry you, you with your tramp's reputation!" Cordonious bellowed.
Choking back a sob Meg fled to her room. Hercules. She had to get word to Hercules. The wedding was set before she would reach eighteen. . .they had to stop it. Hercules would know how. Meg had faith in him.
"The least you could do is slow down a little." Iolaus called as he trailed behind Hercules.
The blond demi-god tossed an irritated glance over his shoulder, but said nothing. The large, empty pack he carried slung over his shoulder flopped rhythmically in time with his long, impatient strides. Iolaus half walked, half jogged in an effort to keep a close enough distance.
"I didn't volunteer for this supply run to have company." Hercules returned evenly.
Iolaus shifted the strap of the empty pack he carried also and sighed. "It's not my fault Feducious added so much to the list Cheiron said this was a two man run."
"And it's not my fault is was you he chose to come along. I don't feel like talking, so just keep up."
"Well, most times, I'm the obvious choice." Iolaus muttered.
"What?" Hercules asked over his shoulder again.
"If you'd slow down, you could save your voice." Iolaus answered instead.
Hercules did save his voice, but he didn't slow down until they had nearly reached the city. He stopped and turned around to wait for Iolaus to close the gap. The shorter cadet stopped beside him with an expectant look.
"What's on your half of the list?" Hercules asked.
Iolaus pulled the list from where it was tucked under his belt, but the end caught and Iolaus fumbled it. Hercules grabbed it before it hit the ground, blowing out a breath and unrolling the paper.
"Stock for the kitchen, some supplies for the stable . . ." he said aloud, skimming it. "Here." He held out his list in exchange to Iolaus. "You do this one."
"Why? What does it matter?" Iolaus took it, puzzled.
"Mine's mostly Feducious'. Scrolls and stuff."
"Wouldn't want half the kitchen supplies gone before we get back to the Academy." Hercules slapped the list against Iolaus' chest and walked off into the city.
"Hey!" Iolaus said to Herk's retreating back. In spite of himself, the barb had stung. Trying to put the tension from his mind, Iolaus set about his task.
A while later, he approached the city's edge again, loaded down. An item on Iolaus' new list had been a staff to replace one that had been broken the previous week. Its pads would be added later by Cheiron. Iolaus had fashioned a loop from slack in the pack strap and carried the staff slid between his back and his burden.
Hercules stood waiting for him, filled pack at his feet. When he saw Iolaus, he hefted the pack up to carry.
"Took your time." Hercules said as if he had been waiting a good while. It had only been a few minutes. "Get everything?"
"Sure." Iolaus acknowledged stiffly. "You?"
Herk settled the pack more squarely on his back and the two stood looking at each other for a moment. Then he turned and headed back toward the Academy. They walked in silence, but Hercules did compensate on speed this time, staying no more than three strides ahead.
The Academy loomed in the distance now. Hercules leapt easily over a large rock in his path rather than go around it, but the jostle to his pack caused a small bundle to finally be squeezed out and fall to the ground. Reflexively, both boys went to retrieve it. As he bent over, the staff Iolaus carried hit Hercules across the neck.
"Watch it!" Hercules snapped, rubbing the back of his neck absently.
"It was an accident!" Iolaus retorted.
Hercules just twisted his mouth and shrugged off his pack, setting it down and retrieving the bundle. He returned it to its place in the pack and started to tie the flap back again more securely.
"What is your problem?" Iolaus asked. "You've been more civil to Ares than you have been to me lately."
Hercules yanked the flap ties much harder than necessary.
"You really have to ask?"
Iolaus stood waiting.
"Deal with it. I told you before, I'm not in the mood for talking." He lifted the pack again and stalked off.
"Too bad." Iolaus challenged, following.
"Now is not the time."
"Not for doing your clam impression, no." Iolaus pressed.
Hercules stopped and pivoted to face Iolaus, spreading his arms. "Fine. You want to start, start."
"Good..." Iolaus began.
"Hercules!" came a voice rounding the trail from ahead.
The two cadets turned to face that direction, and were surprised by who they saw. Meg was hurrying towards them, obviously distressed. Her eyes were red-rimmed. Her golden hair seemed dulled and was disheveled as if she had repeatedly raked her fingers through it. One hand twisted the cloth of her skirt nervously.
"Hercules, I need your help."
"Anything. Meg, what is it? Where's your father?" Herk looked around, hoping the man wasn't near. Eagerly he embraced his girlfriend, ignoring Iolaus' scowl.
"I snuck away. I tried to find you at the Academy. They told me you were..."
Iolaus had started walking away.
"Iolaus, where are you going?" Herk called when he noticed.
"You were right. Now is not the time."
Iolaus nearly decided to storm all the way back to the Academy alone, but after a distance he stopped and growled in frustration. This close. They had been this close to clearing the air -- no doubt arguing, and possibly an actual fight in there somewhere, but things would have straightened. "Appearance-by-Meg foils again." he thought.
He turned and fuffed a breath to blow a lock of hair from his eyes. "Wait, no way do I give up this easily." Iolaus obstinately repositioned the pack he still carried at his back and started again towards Herk and Meg, speaking aloud to himself now. "It's a setback, that's all. Hercules is sensible. He won't put blinders on this time. Things can work out . . ."
Iolaus came back into hearing and sight range of the demi-god and his love. Herk's pack had been hastily laid aside and Meg was in his arms.
Iolaus glared and set his jaw as he continued advancing. "Or not."
"Shh." Herk whispered, holding Meg close. Enjoying the feel of her soft body against his, the young man forced himself to focus on the problem. "I won't let him do this to you Meg."
"Hercules, I don't have a choice! I'm not old enough to protest it!" Meg pulled away, her lovely face streaked with tears.
"Why is he doing this?" Hercules demanded. "If he waits he can throw you out with no obligation."
"I don't know." Meg sobbed.
Herk turned towards Iolaus who stood several feet away, arms crossed over his chest, glaring at the couple. No help there.
"He wants me gone, he called me a tramp! He can save his own reputation if he marries me off instead of just throwing me out."
Hercules had always envied Meg for having a father who at least cared enough about her to get angry. His own father had never even made himself known to Hercules, and for that, Hercules could hate Zeus if he allowed himself to.
"It'll be okay." he said quietly. "We'll figure it out."
Iolaus stood to the side, glowering towards them. The distance between the boys had just gone from a foot to a mile.
Ares' enthusiastic and appreciative laughter echoed through the halls of the fortress atop Mount Olympus.
He was in his chambers, lounging upon a throne. The throne was black, naturally, decorated with silver and leather. Also, sprinkled around the room were various gifts his worshipers had left upon his different alters.
Ares wasn't one given to being sentimental about such things, not a single piece held onto memories of the giver. Truth be told, he used some of the offerings for aerial target practice when he was bored, but he chose to keep these here because they fit his taste of decor.
"Oh, Mother, you are brilliant!" Ares praised. The familiar vision of Hera's peacock eyes hovered close-by. "Your plan to bring down Hercules is just brilliant. Using one of your very own priestesses to get to him." He sobered and held a hand to his chest, saying in a heartfelt manner, "I am so proud to be your son."
"I saw the potential from the beginning." Hera's voice evidenced that she was pleased, both with herself and Ares' approval. "And now paths so carefully guided are about to meet."
"Tell me again." Ares leaned forward eagerly.
Hera's eyes shimmered away and were replaced by two slightly wavering portals.
The one on the left was of Hercules. He was standing by the lake, peering out over it, lost in thought. He was obviously brought out of his reverie as he turned his head, likely to the sound of his name being called. Then he smiled as Meg joined him, twining her arm with his. They stayed there, enjoying the feel of each other's company.
The portal on the right was one of Iolaus. He was speaking with a vendor, then selecting a knife from the wares before him and testing it for grip, weight and balance. He approved and fished around in his money pouch for the dinars to buy it.
"The rift between Hercules and Iolaus is wide and raw. The girl's steady presence now keeps it so. Soon it will come time to carry out the fatal step and Hercules will be destroyed. First in spirit -- in body soon to follow."
Iolaus pondered the knives. His blade was almost worn out, and he had been saving for a new one. Though the ivory handled blade kept drawing his eyes back, Iolaus knew it was well out of his budget. Keeping his eyes focused on the sturdier, cheaper knives, he lifted them one by one, examining every inch, from every angle.
"That's a fine blade there boy. Watched it forged myself." the vendor replied. "Me brother does most of the forging. Some say he rivals Hephaestus..."
Iolaus tuned the man out and he pretended to take aim with the knife. It was a fine blade. . .though he doubted it could rival Heph's blades. This one felt particularly smooth. The cool metal was almost silken againt the skin of his finger.
Out of habit he turned to Hercules, then remembered Herk was somewhere with Meg. Sighing, he asked the merchant for the price.
Hercules and Meg settled onto the grassy bank of the lake, watching the sun begin its slow descent. Hercules had his arm around Meg's shoulders securely and she rested her head on his shoulder.
"I don't want to go back." she sighed.
"Then come with me to Cheiron's. We can hide you there. I doubt your father will come looking for you."
"And do what? I have no skills Herk. I would be of no use."
"You'd be safe. At least until I come up with a plan."
"I would be a burden."
"Not for me."
"Father says arranged marriages are common and I have no say in the matter, as I'm a girl. Besides, I think you and Iolaus need time together."
"We're always together." Hercules said, irritated.
"To work out your problems. You've been friends a long time, and that's an expensive thing to lose."
"Iolaus will get over whatver it is soon enough. Besides, I have you." Herk brushed a lock of her hair from her deep blue eyes.
"For a month." she reminded him with a sigh. Hercules sat up straight.
"What are you talking about? The wedding is in a month." Meg looked puzzled. Hercules grinned and took her hands in his.
"Meg, will you marry me?" he asked breathlessly.
Iolaus waited for Hercules at the city edge. They had stashed their supplies for a while so Herk and Meg could be alone. Impatiently Iolaus entertained himself with his new knife, practicing his combat skills to get the feel of the new blade.
Eight inches of hardened steel, the edge honed to slice through silk, its hilt solid oak, burnished and polished to a high gloss, Iolaus was enjoying himself immensely as he darted around, fighting invisible enemies. The hilt was engraved with intricate markings that Iolaus had run his fingers over several times.
Finally Hercules and Meg appeared in the distance, slowly heading towards him. Both were grinning like fools and Iolaus felt some of his joy dissipate. He and Herk used to have fun like that. Always a team, running around in laughter, joking, seeking the next adventure. Before her.
Iolaus took a deep breath as they approached.
"Hey look what I got!" he said brightly, forcing a smile. "I had to replace-"
"We're getting married!" Hercules burst out.
Iolaus froze, his fake smile vanishing.
"Meg won't have to marry this guy. I asked her to marry me."
"But - we still have a year at the Academy!" Iolaus said. Hercules shrugged.
"I can finish. Meg can stay with Mother and learn how to farm. Then we'll get our own place." Hercules beamed. Iolaus' heart sunk. Somehow he had always envisioned them traveling the world together, rescuing damsels and fighting evil.
"I think you shocked him." Meg said, with an amused smile. Hercules couldn't take his arms or eyes from Meg. Iolaus slid his new knife into his boot.
"Congratulations." he said flatly.
"Thanks." Hercules wouldn't stop smiling. "We have to get back to the Academy. I'll send you a note tomorrow." he told Meg. She nodded and he kissed her on the cheek. She watched as they gathered up their supplies and headed back to the Academy. The smiling maiden headed towards home.
Iolaus was silent the whole way, struggling to keep up with Hercules, whose good mood increased his speed. The demi-god was practically dancing.
Hercules arrived through the Academy gates first, his elation and whirling mind had finally pushed his speed above anything Iolaus cared to try and keep up with. Lilith was crossing the yard and they met up. Herk's eyes were virtually twinkling.
"What's got you so happy? Was everything on sale?" she ribbed.
"No." He sat his pack down and nearly crowed, "I'm getting married!"
Lilith was stunned. "Married?? Married to who?"
"Meg, of course."
"Well . . that's wonderful." she smiled at him.
"I know!" Needing to unleash his excitement, Hercules grabbed Lilith and swung her around.
"Hercules," Lilith said in a gasp, "you're crushing me!" She was laughing as well as she could in spite of the embrace; it was infectious. He set her down, still beaming.
Lilith held her side, smirking. "You don't look sorry."
She paused when Iolaus stalked past, grabbing Herk's pack on the fly and dragging it off with him. He had entered the grounds to witness Hercules' display of celebration.
Unnoticed by any of the three he had been observing, Cheiron slipped back from the main building's doorway and returned inside.
A few minutes later, Lilith found Iolaus in the stables, taking out frustration on the new supplies. He was slamming, stuffing and generally abusing them into their places.
"Hey, cut the poor things some slack."
Iolaus didn't answer, only jammed his hand down into a pack and pulled out a couple more items. Lilith ventured conversation anyway.
"This is some news, huh? Hercules getting married?"
"Oh, come on, there'll be a girl for you . . someday." she joked.
Iolaus whirled, gesturing harshly. The bridle rope he held snapped like a flail and Lilith took an instinctive step backward. "Leave it alone, Lilith."
"Ok, I get it. Touchy subject."
Iolaus huffed a sigh and tossed the rope in with some others. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to do that."
"You're really wound up over this. Iolaus, he's your best friend. You're supposed to be happy for him."
"Oh, that sure sounds like it."
Iolaus threw his hands up. "He's jumping at this way too quick. What's he thinking?" He kicked at some hay on the floor.
"Probably that it's a good idea. I'd agree."
Iolaus looked up. Not the answer he wanted to hear. He set his jaw; a habit formed today, it seemed. Grabbing both packs, he left the stables.
"We got back late. I have to hand these over. See you."
Lilith watched him walk away.
That night, Iolaus tossed in his bed, unable to sleep. Eventually he gave in and got up. He passed Herk's bunk; it was empty. Iolaus wandered the halls trying to tire himself out, mildly wondering where Herk was as well. Flickering light coming from the commonroom drew his attention. Peering inside he saw Hercules sitting at a table, a few candles set up near himself and paper before him. Iolaus walked in and sat across from him.
Herk looked up happily. "Hey, Iolaus." He continued writing.
"I'm making plans. Sort of a To Do list."
"For the wedding." Iolaus filled in.
"Yep." Hercules continued steadily filling up the page. "I couldn't sleep, too many things to figure out."
"The note you said you'd send Meg?" Iolaus asked dully.
"Oh, that's right here." He patted the note, already prepared for sending.
"Aren't wedding plans more the girl's area?"
Hercules looked up and frowned. "Who says? Anyway, we have to get a jump start on it."
"Set a date?"
"It'll be as soon as possible. You'll be my best man, right?" Iolaus' face was impassive. "Don't give me this again, Iolaus."
"What?" he invited.
"Grief. You've done almost nothing but give me grief about Meg from the beginning."
Iolaus avoided a direct answer. "Does the wedding have to happen this soon? Being engaged could be enough to . ."
"No." Hercules slapped the quill down on the table. "This is the best thing that ever happened to me. Why won't you understand that? If you can't be happy for me, at least keep your opinions about it to yourself."
Iolaus remained silent.
"Good." Hercules accepted. "Look, this probably would have happened eventually anyway. It's just - problems demand we marry immediately instead."
"Fine." Iolaus returned evenly. Suddenly he was feeling very tired. Tired and defeated.
Iolaus stood up trudged back to his bunk, hoping sleep would claim him and wipe this all for at least a few hours. But like it or not, he would spend almost the remainder of the night turning everything over and over in his mind.
Meg closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, picturing Hercules to give her strength. Her father sat in the room beyond; she could just see him from where she stood.
"Megaera, wife of Hercules," she whispered aloud. The words calmed her taught nerves and she relented for a moment, letting the smile spread across her face. Then she squared her shoulders, raised her head high and walked toward the table. Meg knew her father would not react passively to the news she was about to tell him, but she couldn't wait any longer. She stood to face him.
Cordonius sat glaring at a paper before him, not even noticing his daughter was those few feet away.
"Father.." Meg began, trying to gain his attention.
"The coward. Doesn't even have the spine to demand this face to face. I'll see Hades himself before . ." Cordonius was fairly chewing the words out, crushing the paper into a ball between his hands.
"Father." Meg said again.
Cordonius whipped his attention to her, fixing her in his searing gaze. Meg almost lost her nerve, but pressed on.
"I have something to tell you."
"Get on with it, girl. I have more important matters to tend to than sitting here listening to you."
"It's about this marriage. I can't go through with it." she stated boldly.
Wrong approach. Cordonius shot to his feet. "To Tartarus you won't!" He got a sudden idea, waving the wadded paper. "Have you been talking to Maldos and his father? You talked them into demanding a larger dowry, didn't you!"
Meg was stunned. "I'm talking about Hercules. We..."
"You thought you could be smart and cause the agreement to be broken." He pointed an accusing finger before the word 'Hercules' sank in. "Have you been cavorting with that disgrace to Hera behind my back?!"
"Father, please. Listen to me."
"I will not have you disgracing me any further. You will soon be married and away from here for good. Keep away from Hercules."
"I will not!" Meg shouted. Cordonius was taken aback and Meg continued. "I will not marry Maldos or any other man you bribe into it! I am going to marry Hercules. He asked me and I have accepted."
Cordonius raged. "Insolent girl! How dare you . . "
"I will marry him!" Meg pressed on, feeling a surge of bravery, "You should approve of this, Father!"
"You think I should thank you?!" he cried in disbelief, his words lapping over some of Meg's as she continued. "That boy is an insult to the great Hera and I should be happy my tart of a daughter wants tomarry him? You have no shame!"
"You'll save your reputation and your precious money!"
"Do not speak to me in such a manner! I will not have you and that . ."
"You can't stop us!"
Meg fled to her room before Cordonius could say another word. She sat at the head of her bed with her knees pulled up defensively, expecting her father to burst in and rage at her, but he never did. Instead, she heard the crash of things hitting the walls and the slam of their front door.
Meg lowered her head to her knees and let out a shaky breath. Not long, she mentally reminded herself. Not too much longer and everything will be alright.
Iolaus stood outside Cheiron's office, hand poised to knock on the door. After the moment's hesitation, he rapped and stuck his head inside.
"Cheiron, um, can I come in?"
The centaur looked up from the scroll he was reviewing. "What is it, Iolaus?"
He set the scroll down as Iolaus came inside, leaving the door ajar, and moving to stand across the desk from him.
"I need to talk to someone, you have a minute?"
Cheiron raised an eyebrow slightly, a little surprised at the cadet's fidgety demeanor, but answered, "Of course. Are your friends otherwise engaged?"
Iolaus snorted softly at that. "I need . . a neutral ear."
"Ah. This is about Hercules."
Iolaus wasn't surprised Cheiron knew just what he was getting at. "Yeah. I don't know what to do about this whole Hercules thing." he said, shifting his gaze to the wall behind Cheiron for a moment, then back to him.
"Hercules 'thing'?" the centaur echoed.
Outside, Hercules approached Cheiron's office. He needed to speak with the mentor, but paused at the sound of Iolaus' voice and Cheiron's response. Quietly, he drifted toward the door and leaned against the wall, listening as Iolaus continued.
"I mean Meg and Herk. And how I fit in, or rather don't. I'm worried about him."
"How so?" Cheiron prompted, listening patiently.
"Don't you think this is all rather hasty, marrying Meg now. I know the situation, I can understand the urgency he feels, I can, but I just know something bad's coming."
Still undetected in the hallway, Hercules closed his eyes and tensed his mouth at the familiar sentiments. Iolaus' impassioned voice floated out to Herk as he continued.
"Everytime she comes back, our world gets turned upside down. And every time I've tried to come to terms with things on my own, something else happens to stir the whole mess back up again. Eventually she leaves and I understand Herk again, but this time she won't. Meg'll stay and I'll be left in the dust with everything else." Iolaus deflated and Cheiron waited for the words he suspected were next. "It's just not fair."
Herk blinked in surprise at Iolaus' words and straightened from the wall, debating whether he should go in.
Cheiron replied, "You feel she's taken him away from you, stepped between your friendship."
"That isn't true." Herk said from the doorway. Iolaus turned quickly when he had spoken, his face blank, guarded.
"You're telling me your priorities didn't change? Meg doesn't come first and foremost before absolutely anything else?"
"Iolaus," Cheiron advised from where he stood, "don't be so quick to strike."
"Of course Meg is important to me!" Herk returned. "I love her and she needs my help. This is right in so many ways." Iolaus just looked at him and Hercules sighed. "But I need you, too, Iolaus. I know things have been far from right between us, for too long. We have to get past this."
"Any new ideas?"
"Accept that Meg is a part of things now. I can see things from your side. Yes, I can." Herk returned to Iolaus' scoff. "I can."
"The whole doesn't have to lose part of itself to welcome something new, merely adjust to include it."
Hercules and Iolaus jumped at the centaur's words. Somehow, even with his size, he could make himself fade into the background. They had quickly forgotten he was there.
Herk looked from Cheiron to Iolaus. He'd known the tension between Iolaus and himself was a problem, but he hadn't considered it something they wouldn't overcome...in time. Maybe lots of time. Suddenly he realized, it was a possibilty. This crack in their friendship might never close if things kept on like this.
The two friends were in a stand off. Watching, waiting. Neither of them wanted to budge an inch, both were so equally stubborn in thier convictions, but someone had to take the first step.
Finally, Hercules did so, figuratively and literally. "Let's adjust?" He held his arm out.
Iolaus looked at his outstretched offering. The hand of friendship. One he never thought he'd have to regain.
Iolaus reached out and clasped Herk's wrist. "Yeah." he said quietly, nodding.
Megaera hummed happily to herself as she packed her trunk. Within a few hours she and Hercules would be married, she'd be away from her father and everything would work out. Living with Alcmene would be an agjustment, but she looked forward to it. Alcmene liked her a lot and seemed pleased, if a little disturbed by the rush.
Turning to reach for another dress, she spotted the figure behind her.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded. There was no answer.
"If you've come to rain on my happiness you can just leave. Hercules loves me and I love him. We're going to have a life together whether you like it or not." Tossing her head arrogantly, Meg reached for the delicate ivory lace she would wear tomorrow. Right after dawn she would meet Hercules, King Jason, Alcmene and possibly Iolaus at the palace for the wedding. She didn't expect or want her father to attend.
Holding out the lace that would cover her hair, Meg was practically dancing when a movement reminded her she wasn't alone.
"Why are you still here? Jealous?" she smirked. "That he loves me? He's rescuing me. You didn't see that coming did you? That we'd fall in love. We're going to be toghet-" she stopped, staring in horror at the dagger protruding from her stomach. Gasping she fell to the ground, clutching her lace.
"Hey Meg?" Iolaus knocked on the door. He had to set thigns right before the wedding. He had to make peace with his best friends wife to be.
Though things were still shaky between them, he and Hercules had come to some understandings. Hercules had promised to be more open with him, and include him more. Iolaus had promised to be more patient, and try to focus on the fact both he and meg loved Herk, in different ways, and there was plenty to share. Happily he agreed to stand next to Herk at the wedding. Jason would be there as well.
"Meg?" he called again, pushing the door open. Clothes were laid out on the bed, a trunk was half full. Candles burned silently, casting shadows on the walls. A soft groan caught his hunter's ear.
"Meg?" he stepped to the side and saw her on teh ground."Meg!"
Kneeling down he cradled her head in his hands. "Hold on. Hold on. I'll get help. Oh Gods, you can't die!"
"MEGAERA!" Cordonius bellowed. Iolaus looked up, his heart sinking as he recognized the knife embedded in her.
"Iol. . .aus. . ." she gapsed. "You. . ."
Cordonius dashed to his daughter's side. Iolaus felt his heart stop at the same moment hers did, the realization sinking in. The dagger belonged to him.
Kent Simmons & Tern O'Brien
Cordonius: Terry Batchelor
Vendor: Huntley Elliot
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