And Then There Were...
There were *six*.
Iphicles jumped, Herc yelped, Autolycus groaned, Sov gasped, Ares held back a scream and Iolaus just giggled.
"You guys are all chicken-shits," Iolaus said with a smirk. "It's only a wolf. Now come on. We still have a ways to go."
Iolaus was leading them down twisted paths, deeper into the woods, and, except for Iolaus, they had absolutely no idea where they were headed. They had let the hunter take them on this journey at Cupid's request and now they were sorry. Iolaus wouldn't tell them why they had to go and they had been too stupid to ask.
"They say that there's a spirit in these woods," Iolaus giggled. "She turns men into trees." He turned to the dark god. "But you don't have to worry about that Ares. You're a God."
Ares tried, for the fourth time, to whisk himself away, but failed again. Iolaus noticed.
"Told ya Ares, these woods are enchanted. Joxer is trapped here and you have to help me save him. Then, I'll lead you out. Until then, you stay with me. Got it?"
Five men nodded, there was another howl, and Sov practically jumped into Iphicles' arms. Iphicles pushed him away. "Give it a rest would you."
As they got closer to a clearing, they began to shiver. The sights which greeted them were a bit much, even for the God of War and the Sovereign. Bodies, all shapes and sizes, all over the place. Men, women, and children.
"What is this place?" Iphicles asked, gripping onto his brother's arm for dear life.
"I don't know," Herc answered. "Iolaus, are you sure you know where you're going?"
"Yeah. Cupid gave me directions. Look maybe we should split up, and try to find Joxer." Iolaus looked at the five men and saw they were reluctant. "Look, I am half the size of you guys and I'm not afraid. A little spooked, but not afraid." The other five nodded again. "Okay then. Sov, you, Iph, and Auto go that way, Herc and Ares, you're with me. We'll go this way. If anybody sees anything odd just shout. Okay?"
Everyone agreed and they were off.
"I see something," Iolaus said. He ran ahead of Ares and Herc, and they chased after him.
"Where'd he go?" Herc asked.
Before they could look for Iolaus, they heard Iphicles scream. "AHHHHHHHH!!!"
"*IPHY*!" Herc and Ares both yelled. They took off in the direction of the scream. They found Iphicles and Autolycus, both breathing heavy, and pointing to the ground. They looked down and saw Sov. He was dead, and he was very pale.
And then there were *five*.
"That's it," Herc said firmly. "You're staying with me." He grabbed Iphicles' arm, his other hand grabbing Iolaus.
"And me!" Ares said, grabbing Iphicles other arm.
"What happened?" Herc asked.
"We were looking around, Auto and I heard a noise, turned for a moment, and when we looked back he was gone. Then he fell out of the tree...like that."
Iphicles was shaken up, and Herc pulled him closer. "It's okay Iph. I won't let anything hurt you."
"Neither will I," said Ares.
"What about me?" Auto asked. Iolaus grabbed him.
They heard rustling in the bushes and all walked over, very slowly.
"It's only a fox," Ares said, breathing a sigh of relief.
"I have to pee," Iphicles said.
"*Now* Iph," Herc asked.
"*Now* Herc," Iph answered.
"Okay. Go behind that bush. We'll stand watch."
"Hey I think I see Joxer," Iolaus shouted and took off.
"Iolaus wait!" Herc shouted. He started to run after him when there was a yell from behind the bush.
Herc, Ares, and Autolycus ran over, and found Iphicles. He was dead, and he was very pale.
The sons of Zeus and the king of thieves stared at each other.
"What could have done this so quickly?" Ares asked, shedding a tear for his lover, now dead.
"I don't know," answered Autolycus, shedding a tear for his lover, now dead.
"Where's Iolaus?" asked Herc, his tears for his brother, now gone forever.
Iolaus came running back. "It was someone. But I lost them. Could have been Joxer. Hey, where's Iph?" Ares and Herc pointed. Iolaus walked over. "Oh shit!"
And then there were *four*.
Ares grabbed Autolycus, and Herc grabbed Iolaus.
"I'm not letting go of you Iolaus," Herc said.
"Nor I you Autolycus," said Ares.
"Guys look," Iolaus said. "I don't know what happened, but maybe the guy I saw had something to do with this. Let's go find him."
The other three nodded and they were off.
A short while later they heard a shout. "That's Joxer," Ares yelled and took off in the direction of the voice.
"Ares wait!" Herc screamed. They ran after him.
By the time Herc caught up to him, Ares was like the others. He was dead, and he was very pale.
Herc turned and saw Autolycus, but no Iolaus.
"Iolaus!" Herc shouted. The hunter came running up behind him.
"Is he...." Iolaus asked.
"Yes." Herc answered.
"Oh boy," Iolaus said.
And then there were *three*.
The three men walked slowly, Herc gripping both Iolaus and Autolycus by an arm. Something swooped down out of a tree and grazed Autolycus' cheek.
"I'm out of here!" The thief yelled and ran off. Herc ran after him, and found him a few minutes later. He was dead, and he was very pale. He heard a sound behind him, turned and saw Joxer.
"Joxer, thank the gods we found you."
"Hercules, we have to get out of here...and we have to get out of here *now*." Joxer pulled at him, but Herc wouldn't budge.
"Joxer, calm down. We can't leave without Iolaus." Herc looked around. "Where is Iolaus?"
"That's what I have to tell you Herc. Iolaus is...."
"Iolaus is *what* Joxer?" Iolaus asked from behind them. The two men turned and saw the hunter standing there, staring at them. He took a step toward Joxer, and Joxer moved closer to Hercules.
Hercules and Joxer watched as Iolaus' eyes became blood red, and his teeth sharpened, the canines bared. Joxer turned to Hercules.
"Run, Hercules, run!" He didn't get very far. A hand grabbed him by the arm, spun him around, and sharp teeth plunged into his neck.
Within moments, Joxer was dead, and he was very pale.
Iolaus looked at Hercules, red eyes blazing, and he advanced on the demigod.
The next night....
Xena and Gabrielle were sitting in a tavern, sharing drinks with Jason and Salmoneus, when they looked up and saw Iolaus.
"Have you seen Joxer?" Gabrielle asked.
"We haven't seen him in four days," Xena said.
"Yeah," said Iolaus. "Come on. I think I know where he is."
They followed him a bit and Xena asked, "Iolaus, where's Hercules?"
"Right here," came the demigod's voice from behind them. "And, like Iolaus said, we think we know where Joxer is."
He smiled at Iolaus and the hunter smiled back.
"I get to feed first tonight," Herc whispered.
"Okay," said Iolaus. "You know I can't refuse you anything."