Will You Remember Me?
Sequel to Will You Remember Me?
King Iphicles watched from the window as the boy he once knew left with Iphicles' brother and their friends. He sighed as he remembered the years since the short time they'd known each other.
He'd believed he was old beyond his years, but in fact he'd been little more than a boy himself. He'd sought out power and glory in a vain attempt to compete with his brother. Into that path had fallen Joxer.
He turned away from the window and walked down the palace halls. He began remembering evey moment of his time at Lord Janus' manor: training with the boys, watching the abuse they suffered at their father's hands, and the bravery and courage of the youngest triplet.
He also remembered the guilt he had felt when, upon realizing how bad life was for Joxer, he'd thanked the Gods it hadn't been him. He and the boy had been so alike, yet unalike. While Iphicles went out into the world to fight, Joxer had submitted to protect those he loved.
And he'd thanked the Gods it hadn't happened to him.
He opened the door to the palace dungeons and descended the cold, mouldy stairs. He had done his best to try and forget his time with Joxer. It wasn't because he didn't care for the boy -- he did. However, he never again wanted to feel as helpless as he had the day he'd stood at his bedroom door watching the boy's father whip him over and over again.
"At ease, Captain." It had been a long time since he'd been to the palace dungeon and he had not yet visited with his most recent 'visitors'. "Report."
"All is well. There was some difficulty from the last prisoner after his transfer from Miramus, but he knows the rules now."
"I would like to see him."
The guard led the way down the dank hallway and opened up the wooden cell door. Once inside, Iphicles spoke to the guard.
"Leave us. Come only if I call you."
Iphicles turned to look at the chained prisoner as he heard the guard walk away.
"You don't recognize me, do you?"
"You do look familiar, but I haven't known many kings in my time."
"I wasn't always a King, you know. Once, I was a young man in search of direction. Eventually, I found my way to your army."
The prisoner squinted, trying to get a better look at the King. "It can't be! Iphicles?"
"So you do remember me."
"Good boy. I always liked you. Once we get out of here, I'll buy you a drink and we can catch up on old times."
"You're not getting out, Janus."
"What? Then what did you come down here for? Why was I transferred here?"
"You have committed many crimes in your time, Janus, and even more that you haven't been punished for."
"Iphicles, what are you talking about? I was good to you, boy. I trained you, I let you into my home, and this is the thanks I get!"
"I owe you nothing."
"Then why am I here?"
"To atone for the past." Iphicles turned his back on the man and began walking out the door.
"So when's the execution?"
"There will be no execution."
"Then I suppose I should thank you for that."
"Don't thank me. The only reason I'm not letting you die is that, for some strange reason, your sons still love you, and I would never hurt Joxer in that way. Never."
Iphicles left the dungeon, letting the Captain relock the prisoner's cell. He hoped the man spent the rest of his days thinking about what he did to his family, and the fact that his "idiot" son was the reason he wasn't about to die.
He walked up to his chambers and sat at the small table in his room. He took out a scroll, a pot of ink, and a quill, then spent a few moments wondering what he would write.
It's been a long time, hasn't it. So, what do you think? Does the crown suit me? I sometimes wonder myself.
It was good seeing you again. You know, every now and again, I'd see something or someone that reminded me a little of you and I'd remember.
I'm sorry I never wrote you earlier. After the defeat, I took up with some mercenaries in Thrace and I had little time to write.
That isn't completely true. I was afraid. Afraid of so many things for so many reasons. I was afraid you'd miss me too much. I was afraid I'd miss you. I was afraid your father might see the message and remember his defeat and."
Iphicles looked up from the parchment at the knock on his door.
The door opened, admitting his manservant. "Sire, one of your visitors has returned."
His eyes opened wide with hope. He followed the man downstairs, a little slower than he'd have liked, and entered his throne room.
There, huffing and puffing to catch his breath, was Joxer.
Iphicles turned to his manservant. "Leave us." He never once took his eyes off Joxer as the man left.
"You came back."
"Well, umm, you know how it is, being a hero. Sometimes you get tired and you just have to sit back and let your friends do something every now and then."
Iphicles fought back his laughter as he quirked up an eyebrow.
"All right. Hercules kind of noticed that we'd met before, and when I told him you spent some time with my family, he said that they'd be ok without my help and I should come back here."
"I'm glad you came back."
"So am I."
The two men stared at each other for several moments, not sure what to say or do.
"Joxer, are you hungry?"
The other man bit his lip before answering. "A little."
Iphicles led the way to the kitchen where he made them both a snack despite the protests of the cook. They went out to a courtyard looking out over the palace gardens to eat.
For a few minutes, they ate in silence.
"I'm happy for you, Iph. You've done good for yourself."
"I got lucky. But look at you. You get to travel around with two of the most beautiful, and dangerous, women in Greece."
"I got lucky." Iphicles leered at Joxer. "No, not that way, though I wouldn't mind." Both men laughed.
"I'm not the same guy you met a long time ago, Iph."
"I know, Jox. I've changed too."
Joxer nodded. "I don't suppose I'll get a chance to get to know the new Iphicles, eh?"
"Well, it depends on how long you're sticking around."
"As long as I'm welcome."
Iphicles smiled. "Then while we're at it, I wouldn't mind getting to know this new Joxer. Something tells me I'll like him."
He held his arm out and Joxer took it, shaking it. Their eyes locked and for a moment they were fifteen years younger.
The letter Iphicles had been writing lay forgotten as Iphicles asked about Joxer's life.
As Joxer responded, he forgot all about the scrolls that lay unsent in his own pack, including the one he'd written only last week:
Well, we defeated yet another warlord. Gabby pulled my nose and my ear, again. At least I've got matching bruises now.
We met up with Hercules for the first time in ages. He told us about a brother of his, I think you know the guy. He became King of Corinth a while back, and his wife died recently.
I wanted to go immediately, to see you were okay, maybe even to comfort you the way you did me, to be there when you needed me. But yet again, Xena and Gabby needed me. You know they can't go very long without missing me.
.but it's nothing like how I miss you sometimes. I don't blame you for not writing. I wouldn't want to write me either, especially after seeing the things you saw. Now I know that isn't the way a normal family acts, but then.
Jett's fine. He escaped from prison and is back to work. Jace, well we haven't heard from him since he let us know just how different he was. After you left, he and I used to talk a little. I even talked about you a bit.
I don't know why I keep writing. I say the same things over and over, and I know you're never going to get these letters.
You were wrong, you know. I'm not brave. If I were, I'd track you down and give you these letters. Better yet, I'd talk to you personally and let you know just how much our time together meant to me. You were the first person other than Jace to ever seem to care about me, about who I was. You gave me something more precious than anything my father ever brought back from one of his campaigns -- you gave me hope.
Well, this letter's long enough already and you'd probably be bored by now if you ever got to read this. Maybe we'll see each other again. You never know.
Your friend always,