by Lisa B
At first, Iolaus was not certain what had awoken him from the soothing dream he'd been enjoying.
For once, he had been enjoying an uninterrupted sleep without the sudden jolting snore from Herc, or the arm or leg slung his way as his big friend snuggled into a tighter hold on his lover. Not that Iolaus minded any of those quirks: it only endeared his best friend and lover all the more to him. Nevertheless, a night's sleep alone was a pleasant respite, although he looked forward to rejoining Hercules in the morning, barring any trouble on his way to Corinth. The small campfire he'd made before drifting off to sleep still glowed cheerfully in the darkness and the stars shone brightly overhead, so neither cold nor foul weather disturbed him.
Now, with his hunter's senses sharp and keen with wakefulness, he listened again, fingers slowly wrapping around the comforting hilt of his sword.
Ah! There it was again! Not far from the cheerful glow of his campfire, soft, broken sobs invaded the stillness of the night.
"Who's there?" he called, crouching out of his bed roll, sword at the ready, moonlight catching the edge of the blade in a menacing gleam.
A small gasp and the stifling of muffled crying was his only reply.
Carefully reaching for a burning stick from the fire, he rose, heading toward the sound. "I won't hurt you," he announced quietly to whomever, whatever might be out there. Momentarily, he wished idly that Hercules were there to watch his back. This could be a trap of some sort.
Not more than ten or fifteen paces from his little camp, he heard the scrambled snapping of twigs
"Don't be afraid," he continued, raising the torch for a better look toward the source of the noise.
"Well..." he breathed quietly as the light illuminated the scene.
A pair of scuffed leather boots hastily scrambled for footing near the base of a towering oak. Large green eyes searched his face, tears smearing tracks through dirt and assorted scratches and bruises on a frightened, young woman's face. Blood, caked and dried, matted dark golden hair, plastering it to the side of her face where it escaped the braid that curled around her shoulder. Clutching her right arm to her, she looked to him, trembling lips betraying her as another small cry escaped them.
"What?...Oh!" he cried softly, quickly sheathing the sword she which she eyed with such fear. He crouched near her, slowly raising his palms to her. "My name is Iolaus," he said, his mind abuzz with a thousand questions. "I promise I won't hurt you," he continued, creeping closer.
She seemed to relax with a sigh. To his surprise, her eyes closed and she fell forward into his arms. Drawing his arms about her, he unexpectedly encountered the arrow that was lodged firmly in her back just under the shoulder. A thousand more questions were born in his mind as he carried her back to his camp. Who was she? Why was she wounded? Was she alone? What danger might follow her--and now himself?
Gingerly scooping her into his arms, he quickly carried her back to his little camp.
Carefully placing her in his bed roll, he gently pulled her cloak aside, noting that the design of the weave and coloring was as common as the clothing from any bazaar in this part of the country. Bruised and battered as she was, Iolaus wondered if she had barely escaped with her life from some battlefield or a village being overrun by bloodthirsty warlords.
With his small knife, he gently cut away the roughly woven fabric of her tunic to get a better look at the wound. The shaft was solidly and stubbornly placed, dried and fresh blood surrounding it, dark on her pale skin. He chewed his lip momentarily; this was bad, very bad, he thought to himself, again wishing his friend were here with him now to help.
Propping her on her side with his backpack, Iolaus moved to the front, pulling her tunic collar down, gently probing with skilled fingers, praying to whatever god might have pity on this young woman, hoping against hope to find the head of the arrow. The least he could hope for was that at least the tip had broken through somehow; it would make freeing the arrow so much easier. The best case scenario would be the full head and part of the shaft completely freed.
Lost in his quest, he was shocked to find an unexpected steely grip on his wrist as he prepared to cut the tunic front open.
"I'm trying to help," he explained, not even certain she understood or spoke his language.
"Are you a healer?" she asked, her voice husky and quiet.
"No," he admitted reluctantly, noting her grip had not lessened and suddenly he felt foolish. Here she was hurt, bleeding--maybe dying for all he knew--and she comes to as he's cutting open the front of her tunic. How must that seem to her? Did she think he meant to ravage her, or perhaps finish the job someone else had started in trying to end her life?
With no further time to ponder the situation, he could almost feel the wave of pain that swiftly overtook her. She dropped her hand from his wrist and nodded, delicately pulling back bloody fabric for him to see the evil, glistening tip of the arrow staring back at him from its residence under a bruised collarbone. She closed her eyes. "It's bad, isn't it?" she asked, almost indifferently.
"I've seen worse," he replied, not able to remember exactly when or where, but it seemed the right thing to say.
She half-smiled. "Liar," she snorted quietly before opening her eyes to gaze at him in absolute emerald appraisal. Solemnly she sighed. "Do you think you can...could you...cut the end of this cursed thing? I might be free of it if you could...please?"
Resigned, he felt the weight of her life in the balance of his meager medical training. Battlefield tested, he'd kept more than one companion from being claimed by Hades, but he felt suddenly inadequate to the task at hand.
"It's so dark...do you think it could wait until light?" he asked, hopefully.
"Sure," she agreed with a strange smile. "It'll be easier to pull free in the morning....dead bodies resist so little and their cries are so much quieter than those of the living. When Hades comes for me, I'll be sure and put in a good word for you, how about that?"
Strange girl, he thought, frowning. Lightly, she rested a scraped hand on his. "You're scared to hurt me," she whispered. "I'm scared to die....I think that outweighs your fear of hurting me," she continued, tears welling in the green depths of her eyes as she held his gaze.
Nodding, he grasped the small part of the shaft that protruded under her collarbone, breathed a quick prayer and cut through. Neatly, cleanly, his blade severed the shaft. In disgust, he tossed the head away from him, heard it hit the dirt near his fire. She let go of the breath she'd been holding, rubbing her face on a ragged sleeve, smearing the dirt more with her tears, knowing the worst was to come.
"I don't know..." Iolaus stammered, not wanting what was to come next.
Weakly, she grasped his shoulder, burrowing her head into his chest. "Do it...." she pleaded, fingers digging into his skin as he wrapped his hand around the remaining shaft in her back.
He'd heard animals die in traps that were quieter than she as he pulled the arrow free. Her scream seemed to tremble against the stars. Dozens of tiny barbs lined the length of the shaft, causing as much, if not more, damage coming out as it had going in.
"It's done," he whispered, bowing his head.
Trembling, she looked to him again, raising a bloody hand to his face. "Thanks.." she began and fell limp in his arms as her blood began to run freely over his hands.
Iolaus had seen warriors die before, but finding a dying woman in the woods unnerved him. Scrambling in his pack, he pulled out a spare vest - identical to the one he usually wore - and ripped long strips of fabric from its hem. He pressed the strips to the wound, trying to staunch the alarming flow of blood. His head snapped up and around as heard the faint crackling of branches and twigs deep in the surrounding woods.
"Show yourself!" He nearly screamed, and fought to keep rising fear out of his voice. He was alone with a dying woman in his arms, and her assailant might very well be watching him now. "Fuck, Herc, I need you," he whispered to himself.
Iolaus closed his eyes with relief. Thank the gods. He'd never been happier to hear Herc's large body making its way through deep brush. "Here! Hurry up!" Iolaus looked down once more at the mystery woman and applied steady pressure to her wound.
He looked up to see Hercules enter the clearing.
The demigod's eyes widened when he spied the bloody form in Iolaus' arms, and he closed the distance between them with a few long strides. "What's this? Who is she?" Kneeling beside his lover, Hercules gently pushed Iolaus' hands away to better see the woman's wound.
Iolaus rocked back on his heels, glad to let Hercules take over. He quickly scanned the darkness. He tilted his head a little, listened for any strange noises. He heard none.
Hercules assessed the situation. "She's in very bad shape."
Iolaus nodded, looking down at the unconscious woman. "I know. I think she's going to die."
Hercules met his glance, affirming Iolaus' statement. He had examined her chest; he shifted her body to examine her back.
A millisecond too late, Iolaus heard the arrow streaking through the air before the missile struck, entered, and pierced the woman's heart.
A millisecond too late, Hercules looked up, then down as the arrow struck. The body in his arms sagged, and the woman's last breath warmed his face. His eyes widened in disbelief. He looked at Iolaus, who seemed to be in shock. Both of them looked up and around wildly as a soft male voice floated out of the darkness around them.
"You don't realize it, but I've just saved your lives."
Iolaus looked up at this new voice, rage growing inside him. "What do you mean?" he asked in a cold voice. "You killed her."
"Of course, she was a demon."
This gave Iolaus pause, and he got a good look at this new person. He was almost as tall as Hercules, but had dark hair that came past his shoulders. His eyes were a mix of grey and green and his face was angles and planes. He was wearing black leather vest and pants. He spoke, "I am Merric, hunter of demons."
"I don't know what you're talking about but that girl was under our protection." Hercules said.
"You do not understand." Merric's voice was deep, with a hint of rain and wind.
"Yeah? So explain it." Iolaus was pissed, that girl couldn't have been a demon, and this guy had killed her, while she was in his arms. He gently set her down and slowly stood up.
by Ellen Smithee
Merric shrugged. "She was of no consequence. If you will excuse me, I have other... duties to attend to." The stranger turned to go.
"She was of no consequence?" repeated Iolaus in disbelief. "You bastard!" Enraged, Iolaus lunged at Merric.
"Iolaus, no!" cried Hercules in vain, but Iolaus was beyond reason. He rushed at Merric, reaching for the larger man. As Iolaus's hands touched Merric's vest, however, he gasped in sudden pain. A sudden shock, the smell and taste of brimstone, a flash of light, the anguished voice of his beloved friend calling his name, and then the world slipped from his perception.
Iolaus was aware only of two sensations - the soft surface beneath him and the pounding in his head. He groaned and put his hand to his head, only to find that his hands were immobilized.
"Ah, Sleeping Beauty awakes."
Iolaus's eyes shot open at the sound of the hated voice. "Ares!" he hissed. "Let me go immediately!"
Ares smirked. "Oh, no," he said, shaking his head. "You and I have a score to settle. And I've found just the right diversion to distract Hercules until I'm finished with you."
Iolaus did not know what frightened him more - Ares's plans for Hercules or this score he wanted to settle. Thinking quickly, he decided to put aside his pride to help his friend. "Ares, can't we discuss this?" he pleaded. "There was time when -"
Ares scowled suddenly. "Exactly, Iolaus. There was a time when." Before Iolaus could respond, the god leaned forward, roughly grasped Iolaus's chin, and captured Iolaus's lips for a breathtaking kiss.
Feeling the mortal tense under ministrations, Ares pulled away. "There was a time Iolaus when you would have gladly given yourself to me. I think it's high time we picked up where we left off." Ares told him as he moved them to his bed.
"Ares, I'm with Hercules now. The past has to stay that way, in the past. You know why this can never be, we can't be together, ever!"
The War God looked at Iolaus with longing in his eyes. "I never understood why you did what you did. I could have killed you for that you know. Maybe I should have."
"So why didn't you? Do you want people to cower at the mention of your name? Or do you want to be worshiped? You treat people like shit Ares, especially the people you pretend to love. That's all it ever is with you, one big charade. You don't know the meaning of the word LOVE. It's just a control game with you pulling all the strings. Well, I didn't feel like playing and I still don't. Just let me go Ares." Iolaus went to get up but found himself held back by the strong arm of the God.
"Did you recognize your little friend? Did she look familiar? " He smiled that smile of his that sent tingly feelings flooding through one's soul.
Fed up with this situation Iolaus turned to face the God head on. "What are you talking about? How could
I recognize someone I've never seen before?"
"Oh, you'll figure it out in time," Ares said as he leaned over to kiss him again.
Struggling, Iolaus tired to remove himself from Ares' grasp, unsuccessfully.
"This is going to happen Iolaus so just lay back and enjoy it. I'm going to fuck you like I know you want to be fucked. Travelling around with my pansy-assed brother has turned you into a melting pot. You want it, I can feel you tremble every time I touch you. Tell me I'm wrong, mean it, and I'll stop. 'I'll let you go." Ares pulled Iolaus to him and kissed him with all the passion he possessed.
Moaning, Iolaus brought his arms up and encircled the God's neck. Pulling back slightly he looked into Ares' eyes. "Why can't you just take no for an answer?" He asked, then returned to the God's lips with fury.
Flattening Iolaus with his body Ares climbed on top of the little hunter, his cock rubbing against the one growing beneath him. Their lips joined together in a kiss so encompassing that Iolaus began to spasm as he came in his pants.
Ares moved slightly and the wet clothing vanished in an instant. Rising, he grabbed Iolaus and pulled him up as well. He was behind the hunter and hugged him tight around the waist pressing his enormous erection against the ass now being ground into him.
Bending forward, Iolaus groaned and pushed back on the God's cock. "Come on Ares, this is what you wanted. Take me. Now, damn it!"
Never one to refuse such an offer Ares plunged his cock deep into Iolaus' ass. The sensation of this tight ass gripping the God's cock as he thrust it in and out was pure ambrosia. Placing his hands on the top of his ass cheeks for leverage Ares ruthlessly fucked the small blonde hunter. His thrusts were becoming harsher and deeper and the sounds coming from his throat were hoarse and guttural. Reaching around he started to slowly stroke Iolaus' cock.
Ares' strokes and thrusts matched pace and soon Iolaus was bucking his hips, forcing Ares' cock to hit that special spot over and over again. Several gasps and a few groans later, he came all over the God's hand.
Ares was plunging faster and deeper into the tight confines of Iolaus' ass and with one final ass tearing thrust he came, pouring his seed deep into the golden hunter's ass.
Still leaning over Iolaus, Ares kissed his back. "We are good together Iolaus. We were always good together." Ares pulled his cock out and touched Iolaus' ass with his hand. "Does it hurt much?" he questioned.
Wincing Iolaus answered, "some."
Ares inserted two fingers inside the hunter's ass. Iolaus felt a little tickle and soon the pain was gone.
"So, who was she? Are you going to tell me or were you just trying to goad me?" Iolaus asked the God of War.
Pulling Iolaus down into his arms Ares smiled and said, "Oh, it'll come to you, eventually. If you think about it you'll figure it out."
6 Running Against the Demon
Iolaus lay in Ares' arms and he was comfortable. He laughed at himself. He was content lying in the arms of the God of War. An enemy, although not in every way. Iolaus knew that there had been plenty of times throughout the years that Ares could have killed him, or Hercules for that matter, but never did. Something always held the War God back and Iolaus thought it was because Ares cared about him. Iolaus smirked and failed to hide it from his bedmate.
"What's so funny?" asked Ares.
Iolaus sighed. "Nothing, just thinking about you and me and why you've never killed me." He went with the truth. He found that if you catch Ares off-guard sometimes he surprised you with honesty.
Ares was silent for a moment, contemplating. "Life would be boring without you. Plus I like having you around, always did."
Iolaus turned in Ares' arms to lie facing him. "What is with you? First you kidnap me, then tell me you should have killed me, we fuck, and then you tell me you like having me around. What did you eat?"
Ares laughed, a deep laugh that vibrated his body, and Iolaus couldn't help himself and started to giggle. After they calmed down Ares looked him in the eye.
"Iolaus, there are many things that go on in the world that would surprise you. So many things change, and I like some kind of stability." The god sat up, pulled the sheet around himself and put his back against the headboard.
"Take for instance tonight. That woman, do you know who she is yet?"
Iolaus shook his head. He had been trying to figure it out, but nothing came to him. He almost never forgot a face but he was having trouble. The woman's face was covered with blood and dirt, so it had been difficult to get details of her features.
Ares, whose patience was being strained, continued. "No matter right now. I need to tell you what happened the other night."
The smaller man ran a hand through his curly hair and settled next to Ares at the top of the bed. Iolaus had a feeling that this was not going to be good. The War God was too serious, and right after sex too. He never acknowledged that Ares had spoken just sat and waited for him to continue.
"As you know I look after many things. Since Strife is gone I tend to look more thoroughly. The other night there was a woman, alone in the forest..."
"Ares I'm not interested in your conquests," said Iolaus as he interrupted, sounding slightly jealous.
The War God sighed and wondered, not for the first time, why Iolaus had to be the one to get under his skin. Ares lifted his hand and placed it on the smaller man's neck and squeezed so he knew he had Iolaus' attention.
"I'm not telling you about my sex life!! I'm telling you about Dev. He has returned." With that Ares left go of Iolaus and stood up. He manifested his clothes as he walked away from the bed.
"What!" The hunter jumped out of the bed and started after Ares, momentarily forgetting that he was naked. The god turned and leered at him before he gave the man his clothes.
Iolaus, still stunned from the news, asked again. "What? I thought you killed him. Sent him, to... wherever it is those things go!"
Ares turned his back on his companion and went to the small window opposite the bed. The night sky was as black as could be. The clouds in the air hid the stars and the world below was without light from the heavens.
"I know I did. But he was released. Now I need you to listen and stop the bouncing. Knowing how well you sit still, just listen, okay??" Ares turned and his eyes stopped Iolaus cold.
"'Kay." The only answer and he started up his 'bouncing' movement again.
"Two nights ago there was a woman in the forest in the middle of the night. She had set up a faux altar around a campfire...."
Two nights previous:
A woman, who could not have been more than twenty years of age, was very proud of herself as she looked at the fire. She had everything that she needed, a fire, an altar, herbs, potions, and the scrolls. This had been planned for weeks, but she had to grow strong enough before attempting such a spell.
Raina had been studying the black arts and found she was very good at it. Most of her friends started to disassociate themselves with her, but she didn't care. She had her magic. The spells started off small and with each successful completion she was more confident and tried something harder, more complex. That was when she found a spell that summoned demons.
The young girl thought it would be the greatest accomplishment to successfully complete an enchantment as difficult as that. Raina started to practice more and more, only thinking about the spell and what it could mean for her. She had high hopes of making a living conjuring up all types of things for everyone. That is when she had a dream.
The dream was so vivid. There stood a man, handsome, dressed in black leather, with long hair and mysterious eyes. He spoke to her, yet she could never recall the words, just knew that she felt safe and warm. He asked her to help bring him back. Said that he needed to settle a score, that he was wronged. Being naive and taken with the man, she believed.
The night finally arrived when she would try and bring this 'Dev' back. That was the name she remembered. It was an odd name, but she didn't care.
Raina settled herself around the fire, her scrolls to her right, and began to chant. As she chanted, she threw many herb into the fire, each time reciting words. As each component hit the fire, it blazed up toward the tree branches before settling once again to the confines of the camp. As Raina chose the last ingredient, she hesitated but was undaunted by her subconscious and continued with the incantation.
The last jar held a poison lethal to mortals within minutes of contact. She uncorked it and threw it upon the flames. The fire came to life right before her eyes. The blaze took shape into that of a man, and the normal sound of crackling turned into a roar. The night sky seemed to darken, and the forest around her went deathly quiet.
As the image in front of her changed from a man made of fire to that of just a man, her fear started to settle. Raina stood up and took a step toward the unknown being. "My name is Raina," she said with a grin.
The man looked at her for a moment before he spoke. "I'm Dev." He outstretched his hand and she shook it. "Let me tell you about myself," he continued.
The newly formed duo sat down just outside the campfire's reach. "I'm Dev, I am a God of War and I will be forever grateful to you for returning me to living status."
Raina was confused, she already had a God of War. "War? I don't think so, Ares is the God of War here..." She was unable to finish her thought because just at the mention of the Greek God, Dev grabbed her by the throat.
"I will not have to speaking his name....ever!! Is that understood?"
Raina tied to nod, but was unable to. She could feel the life draining out of her and could do nothing to stop it. Being dead made Dev unaware of how strong he was again, and before he was able to adjust his hold, Raina died. Dev threw her motionless body toward the trees and returned to staring at the fire. He was dimly aware of a presence within the woods, but ignored it. For now.
Iolaus was in shock, he couldn't believe that this demon had returned. He remembered all those years ago, when he had fought alongside of Ares.
During their early years together Hercules and Iolaus did not spend every waking moment together. Hercules had a family, his wife and children were important to him. He spent as much time as possible at home. There were only specific times and reasons when he would go from one place to another doing good works.
During these times, Iolaus had to occupy himself, he turned to Ares.
He never did know why. Until he left.
An odd coupling did they make. Their antics were talked about in several towns and villages, but Hercules never mentioned it. Never. The hunter and War God would train on temple grounds, would 'play' with the warlords. They were almost like children. No one knew for certain if they were lovers, but one could speculate. Something else Hercules never mentioned; something Iolaus never brought up.
It was during one of these times that Iolaus came to the temple and found Ares hurt. The War God tried to brush it off, but Iolaus actually knew him too well. He nursed Ares back to health, and since Gods heal much faster than mortals, it did not take long. This was when Ares explained what had happened.
A demon named Dev had come to Ares' temple seeking out the War God for a challenge. There was an argument and a fight, which left Ares in the state Iolaus had found him.
Demons were a common thing, but normally they did not take much to defeat. Not much for a god. This one was different. Dev was a War God, immoral and ruthless, and ever powerful. Dev was convinced he was meant to rule as God of War for the Greeks, but of course that position was taken. Ares tired to send Iolaus away, he told himself that he didn't need the distraction, and after being hounded for hours upon end, Iolaus finally agreed.
He left the temple and started to walk. He had no destination, just was told to leave. Iolaus contemplated the reasons for Ares' actions, why the god had basically thrown him out of the temple. Ares never gave him a good enough reason, Iolaus left because got sick of hearing Ares say it. Iolaus was so busy with his thoughts, that he did not feel the presence of another. It wasn't until he heard a sword being swung that he realize that he was not alone. Iolaus did all he could to avoid being hit, but he was too slow. The sword slashed his back, from his left shoulder down to his right side. Iolaus fell to the ground in pain, gasping for breath. He looked up to see black boots covered in dust and black leather.
"My name is Dev. And you will be my sacrifice to Ares." Dev raised the sword and readied himself to plunge it into Iolaus' back.
The small man could not move. The pain was too much, he did the only thing he could do. He called Ares.
It was barely above a whisper, but the God of War heard it and appeared next to his lover moments later. One look at Iolaus lying on the ground, back soaked in blood, and Ares lost all control.
He attacked Dev. Somewhere, he had the time to heal Iolaus so man could stand. The majority of the pain has diminished and he was able to move. He watched the two men fight. Both tall and broad and both very skilled. Dev seemed to be gaining an edge against Ares but Iolaus was not sure how that was possible. Ares was the stronger one.
That was when Iolaus realized it was him. Ares was distracted; wasn't giving Dev his full attention. The hunter decided to act drastically. He grabbed his sword and approached the two men. Dev was too involved with the battle to notice the blond's approach. Iolaus was able to get close enough to throw the sword at Dev and strike him in the back.
The sword did not stay there long, Dev reached behind him and pulled it out. However, it was enough of a disturbance to allow Ares to take his life. The Greek God plunged his sword into the demon's chest. Took Dev's own sword and removed the demon's head. The lifeless body fell to the ground and faded into the cold grass, leaving only Ares' sword.
Iolaus sagged against a tree in discomfort from his earlier wound. Ares picked him up and returned to the temple where Ares could heal him properly. That night they just slept, holding each other. Iolaus left the next morning to travel with Hercules for several weeks. During that time, Iolaus repeated the story of the battle between Ares and the demon, that Ares had risked himself for Iolaus. And in a way the God did.
Ares, however was not happy with the praise. The next time Iolaus came to see him, he and Ares had an argument, which led to Iolaus leaving and never coming back. In Ares' mind, he was better off with Hercules than being associated with the God of War where Iolaus would be used often as bait, as had happened with Dev. The War God felt Well he had strong feelings for the blond, and did not want that kind of life for Iolaus. So Ares made a selfless decision. For once.
Of course Iolaus did not know. He felt Ares was just being Ares, pulling the strings of those that cared about him, or those he cared about.
Iolaus shook himself out of his daze and looked at Ares. He saw something different in the War God's eyes, something softer than war and hate. Something that would have to be discussed later. Finally Iolaus spoke, "So what do we do?"
Ares snorted, "I wasn't finished. Dev is strong, but not unbeatable. However, he is trying to frame me and no one but a god can fight him. As part of her spell, Raina used a poison that will kill any mortal. You touched his vest tonight, remember?"
"Yes, I felt awful then I passed out and woke up here."
"You passed out cause the poison was already working, and you woke up here cause I brought you here."
"You saved my life?"
Iolaus was shocked. He never thought Ares would go out of his way to save him. He was speechless. "Oh."
The God of War rolled his eyes. "Yeah, you're welcome." He paused and looked at the blue eyes that stared at him; cleared his throat and continued. "Dev is trying to frame me. He left something at your campfire tonight that's going to point at me. Hercules is going to find it and come after me. I can only guess that Dev is going to attack me at the same time as Hercules...."
Iolaus interrupted him. "I can talk to Herc, make him understand. He'll believe me."
"No he won't," Ares said gravely.
"And why not?" Iolaus retorted slightly annoyed.
"Because the woman that died tonight was Serena."
Meanwhile, back at the barn….
<<Iolaus, no!" cried Hercules in vain, but Iolaus was beyond reason. He rushed at Merric, reaching for the larger man. As Iolaus's hands touched Merric's vest, however, he gasped in sudden pain. A sudden shock, the smell and taste of brimstone, a flash of light, the anguished voice of his beloved friend calling his name, and then the world slipped from his perception.>>
"Iolaus!" Hercules' voice echoed round the empty glade. Both men were gone - all that was left was the acrid smell and a thick yellow smoke that even now was dissipating.
"Iolaus." Hercules whispered, shocked, as he stood and stared at the empty space where his friend had been. He couldn't take it in. Iolaus was gone. In a brief instance his friend and lover had been blasted into nothingness leaving him nothing, not even a body to mourn.
Hercules was unsure of how long he just stood there. He heard a strange noise and it took many moments before he realised his teeth were chattering.
\\ How strange - I'm never cold.\\ He hugged himself and started to rub his arms. Still he felt the chill inside him.
\\I need to light a fire.\\ Still he could not get his legs to move. What was the point. Dead men didn't need fires. And he was dead. He was dead the instance Iolaus had been blasted. It was just that his body - his big, stupid body - was taking a long time to co-operate and lie down and die.
As he stood, swaying on his feet his mind raced through all the times he and Iolaus had been together in danger. All the near misses and all the times when fate hadn't missed. Then he remembered their first time together.
They had camped by the side of a lake and had spent a lazy day fishing, washing their clothes, darning the tears from their recent exploits, when Iolaus had, inevitably, made some outrageous remark. Naturally, Hercules could not let him get away with it, and the pair had begun to wrestle, not caring that they were both naked.
Hercules had resorted to tickling Iolaus, who lay struggling, laughing helpless, beneath the weight of the body that pinned him. Hercules had felt a growing sense of excitement as his erect cock had brushed against Iolaus'. He had started to pull away, embarrassed with his reaction, when Iolaus had stopped him. Starring straight into Hercules eyes he had warned the big man, "I'm going to kiss you." And when the demi-god had not pulled away, Iolaus had suited action to words and placed a gentle kiss on Hercules' lips. A second, deeper, kiss followed and Hercules found him lips opening to the Hunter's tongue. They had been locked together, Iolaus' foraying into Hercules' mouth for some time when Hercules felt Iolaus giggle. Feeling the giggle rather than hearing it as normal was a totally different experience and one that Hercules knew he liked.
"What's so funny?" he asked, breaking the kiss.
"Nothing. I'm just happy that finally, after all these years, that I get to kiss you."
"You mean you've wanted to …you know…for years?"
"Yep. Since even before the Academy. I guess I've just got to face it. Herc, you’re a slow learner."
This further insult resulted in another wrestling match and somehow Iolaus had ended up on top. He had not wasted the opportunity and had kissed his way down Hercules' body generating sensations that had Hercules twisting and moaning Iolaus' name. Iolaus, stubborn as always, had ignored Hercules' entreaties to hurry and had leisurely taken his time familiarising himself with the body he was already so familiar with.
When he finally reached Hercules' huge throbbing rod of manhood <sorry, couldn't resist> he had sighed his pleasure, breathing hot air onto Herc's cock. It twitched in response and Hercules groaned even louder. Iolaus wasted no time. He licked the slit gathering the moisture there with his tongue, tasting the demi-god for the first time. Letting his tongue swirl round the blunt head he opened his lips and slowly, slowly moved his head down the length of the shaft, grazing the flesh, ever so slightly with his teeth. Further and further he took the impressive length into his mouth, relaxing his throat until his nose brushed the wiry hairs and the scent of Hercules' permeated him.
Hercules would never forget the sensation as, buried deep in Iolaus' throat he had felt the other man swallow. It was indescribable, then Iolaus had started to draw back and then engulf him again. Unable to hold out any longer, Hercules felt his world explode and with an unrestrained scream he filled Iolaus' mouth with cum.
Laying back, Hercules tried to catch his breath as the shattered pieces of the world came back into focus.
"Iolaus, that was incredible. I've never experienced anything like that before."
"Just wait, Herc, if you thought that was good wait until you feel what I'm going to do to you next."
Hercules felt Iolaus lift his legs and hook them over the Hunter's shoulders before the smaller man had bend his head, moving the semi-erect cock aside he started to lick, using his tongue to map out the tender flesh, licking and sucking until he reached the tight rosebud. A moan of pleasure at this unfamiliar activity, had escaped Hercules' lips before he felt the tip of a tongue inside the tight ring of his muscles. Hercules clenched against this invader. He saw Iolaus thrust a his thumb into his own mouth and coat it with saliva before it was gently pushed inside him. Iolaus repeated the process as he wet yet more fingers and stretched Hercules even further, gradually working three fingers into his body. The feel of those fingers penetrating him was enticing and inevitable Hercules had to push back, wordlessly begging for more. Knowing he was ready, Ioulas reluctantly withdrew his fingers and kissed Hercules' protests away.
"Don't you dare move, I'll be right back." With the speed of the desperate Iolaus raced to his pack emptying it out and rummaged amongst the contents. With a yell of success he raced back and unplugged the bottle pouring a generous dollop of oil onto his hands. He repositioned himself between Hercules' thighs and started again. His oil-slick fingers easily coated up inside Hercules and he also gave a generous attention to his own rock hard cock.
Hercules closed his eyes and imagined the picture he must make for Iolaus who was looking down at him. Laid open, his head flung back, eyes closed, his lower lip caught on his teeth. He was a willing sacrifice as the alter of Iolaus' lust.
"Herc. Open you eyes. I want to see you when I bury myself in you"
He obeyed immediately, locking his blue eyes onto those of his friend.
"Herc, there may be some pain at first but ride it out. Trust me, it will be worth it."
Hercules soundlessly nodded his head. If Iolaus wanted his trust he would give it. Herc felt the tip of Iolaus slick cock at his opening and felt his friend lean into him. Pain. He closed his eyes against it then remembering Iolaus request opened them again. He let his friend see his pain. Trusted him with it. As Iolaus began to press forward the pain intensified. He was being split. Iolaus paused and Hercules felt the pain diminish, change shape, become bearable. Then Iolaus started to move, just a little at first, rocking back and forth into him. The pain was still there but manageable, the look in Iolaus eyes as he watched him was incredible. Hercules could handle the pain just to see that look. Then Iolaus moved again starting to thrust in and out. And there was something besides the pain.
Hercules shout rang in his own ears as a wall of such intense sensation washed over him. He saw the grin on Iolaus face at his own startled expression. Each thrust into him was accompanied by this mind blowing pleasure. Then Iolaus clasped a hand round his cock and let there pumping motion milk him. Crying his lover's name to the heavens, never taking breaking their eye contact Hercules came. A fountain of cum covered him and just as his world began to make sense again he felt Iolaus stiffen and a totally new sensation hit Hercules as Iolaus spent his load into him.
Then they were both laughing and crying and kissing. Iolaus gathered Hercules into his arms and branded him with a deep kiss.
"Now, your mine." Iolaus was content with his possession.
"Always." Hercules confirmed Iolaus' ownership of him.
The warmth of the memories healed a tiny portion of his soul, allowing Hercules to move again. He gathered both his and Iolaus' things together and stood around. Waiting. He didn't know what to do next.
Looking around he saw the crumpled body of the forgotten woman. He supposed he should give her a decent burial. He straitened out the ragged limbs crossing her arms over her chest, removing the arrow which protruded from her. Somewhere in his brain there was a brief flicker of recognition as the viewed the arrow. He brushed the hair away from the face looking at her countenance for the first time.
"Serena". There was no room inside him for further shocks so he just accepted it. He quietly dug a shallow trench and placed her body in it. He had no words for her. He felt nothing. He covered her over and placed some stones over the fresh earth to prevent any animals digging her up and scavenging her body.
Now what. Hercules was waiting. Waiting to start feeling again. Waiting for it to hit him. Waiting for someone to tell him what he should do next.
Mindlessly, he picked up the arrow that had ended Serena's life. He looked at the markings on it and suddenly his life was filled with purpose again.
Ares. The arrow bore Ares mark! Ares was behind this and that meant Ares was responsible for Iolaus' death. Now he had a purpose. Now there was meaning to the remainder of his existence. He would destroy Ares. It did not matter that Ares was a god. It did not matter that Ares was immortal. It did not matter what Zeus thought.
Ares was as good as dead.
Iolaus stared at Ares stunned. "Serena? That's impossible. Why didn't I recognize her?"
Ares shrugged. "Probably because you were trying to seduce her at the same time."
"Shut up Iolaus. Hercules isn't going to kill me. No matter how much Zeus likes him more, he still won't let Herc kill me."
"You sure about that? I still think I should talk.."
Ares shut off his words of protest with a kiss.
"I said, shut up." Ares looked at Iolaus mock-sternly.
Iolaus grinned. "And what happens if I don't?"
"You really want to find out?" Ares smiled, playing along.
"All right. Keep talking, and you'll find out."
"Maybe I will. I'll tell Herc that.."
Iolaus was silenced when he suddenly found himself in the corner of the bedroom, with his hands tied over the head, his feet barely touching the floor.
"ARES! Let me down!"
Ares shook his head, smiling. "You asked for it, Iolaus."
While he struggled, Ares materialized a large paddle.
"Didn't you know that all bad boys get spanked and put on Time Out?"
Iolaus squirmed, trying to get away from the unerring accuracy of Ares' shots. "What's Time Out?"
"You'll find out soon enough."
Soon Ares had Iolaus' ass glowing a nice bright red. He stepped back, admiring his work. "Very nice. I see you enjoyed it as well." Ares pointed at Iolaus' hard-on.
"Yeah, I did. Now let me down or fuck me!!"
Ares pretended not to hear Iolaus. Instead, with a snap Julius Caesar arrived in the room.
"Ares! I told you not to do that without warning! I was planning an invansion of Eastern Gaul.." His eyes widened with comprehension upon seeing Iolaus,"Is he on Time Out?"
"Oh, good. I love hearing the whimpers of a man denied."
Ares undressed Caesar with a thought, and soon the two were on the bed, kissing and groping each other, each
being further turned on by Iolaus' pleas to be let down.
The two got started sucking each other off, when Caesar stopped. Looking up he said, "Let him watch us. Let him see what he is missing."
Ares grinned. "As you wish, Emperor."
Iolaus began to pout and to plead. "Guys, let me down, please!!!"
He was ignored as Ares pulled out of Caesar's mouth, and positioned Caesar so that Iolaus could get the best view of seeing the High and Mighty Emperor of Rome get fucked.
Ares sighed as he settled down into the Roman's hot depths. He fucked Caesar fast and hard, the way they both liked it, soon their moans joined Iolaus' desperate pleas.
Suddenly Iolaus found his mouth filled with another person's tongue. His eyes widened when he saw who was kissing him.
The god of the underworld grinned and shrugged. "You looked like you were feeling a little left out."
Iolaus couldn't help but grin back. "I was." He returned his lips to those of the god and was rewarded by the warmth of strong arms enclosing him and the torturous rasp of hardened leather against his aching cock. He gasped in pleasure as his bonds dissolved and his arms dropped to pull Hades even closer.
"Hey! What's this?" Judging by Ares' roar, he'd finally noticed the intruder and wasn't happy about it. In fact, he was almost sputtering. "Where do you... What gives you.Who do you think you are? Barging in here and interrupting my little discipline session?"
Hades gave Iolaus a quick wink before turning to confront his angry nephew. "Discipline? Is that what you call it these days? Looked to me like you were merely ignoring this poor man."
Ares scowled. "So you just thought you'd drop in and participate?"
"Not at all." Suddenly, Hades was serious. "I had another reason entirely for coming here."
Ares settled back. "And that would be?" Caesar, obviously recognizing an opportunity when he saw one, nestled to Ares' side and began to lightly stroke the god's cock while he listened.
Hades gave a sneer at the emperor's antics, but laid his arm around the hunter's waist as he continued. "It's Serena. That girl has been almost as much trouble to my bookkeeping as you, Iolaus." He smiled fondly at the man.
"And now she's back. We know." Iolaus looked quickly away from the understanding gaze.
Hades seemed a little surprised at the man's calm acceptance. "Yes, she's back. With some bizarre story of arrows and demons and -- well, it was confusing, but I gathered it had something to do with you, Ares, so I decided to come and find out for myself what was really going on."
Ares sighed. "It's a mess is what's going on." A crafty smile suddenly crossed his face. "A mess that you just might be able to help me clear up, actually. But if you want to know more, you're going to have to pay the price."
"The price?" Hades looked confused.
Iolaus, however, recognized that look and, acknowledging that nothing sensible would be accomplished before Ares had his fun, decided he might as well enjoy the delay. "I think Ares means--" he gave the god a quick shove that toppled him into the middle of the luxurious bed, "--this price."
Before Hades could move, Iolaus was astride the god's body, plunging an eager tongue into his mouth as Ares and Caesar secured the god's arms and legs with the conveniently placed chains. All the sexual frustration of his earlier encounter came rushing back and Iolaus barely registered the god's struggles as he reveled in the taste and feel of the figure beneath him. Vaguely he knew that the others were participating. At some point he registered the god's transition from struggling denial to pleasured acceptance. But the focus of his attention was his own overwhelming need for release. His need to have that hot, wet mouth wrapped around his cock. To feel himself plunging repeatedly into that welcoming heat, over and over, until he couldn't feel anything at all except the explosion of pleasure as he finally found some release.
He felt, as much as heard, Ares' chuckle as the war god gently lifted him from Hades' chest and draped him on the bed nearby. "Guess you were primed for that, blondie."
Iolaus looked sheepishly back toward the chained figure, but Hades merely licked his lips absently, completely absorbed by Caesar's ministrations. As Iolaus watched, the emperor continued to lick and suck Hades' cock, displaying considerable skill as he reduced the god to moans of pleasure and then pleas for release--which were, of course, ignored. Seeming pleased by the show, Ares moved forward and joined in, sharing the god's cock with Caesar in a comfortable manner that suggested they'd done this before. Slowly they teased the god of the underworld to the brink of his tolerance and then finally over the edge, exchanging smug smiles at his impassioned
Before the god had recovered enough to struggle, the trio was rearranged. Caesar sprawled regally, propped at the head of the bed, while a dazed Hades knelt agreeably to apply his lips and tongue to the emperor's cock. As Ares positioned himself behind the prone figure, Iolaus heard what sounded like a protest coming from his own throat.
Ares cast an arrogant look his way. "You have a problem with this?"
"Um, no, uh," Iolaus cleared his throat. "Just don't think it's fair if you don't include me, that's all."
Ares smiled and pulled him close for a hard kiss. "If you think you're up for it."
Iolaus snorted as his hardening cock pressed between them. "Oh, I don't think that'll be a problem." He turned to survey the already oblivious pair before them. "Oil?"
The god complied with a smirk and Iolaus teased him by running a slick hand down the furry chest before covering both their cocks with slow, slippery strokes of his hands. Just as Ares' eyes closed in pleasure, Iolaus abandoned him and turned his attention to Hades. Admiring the smooth muscles, positioned so invitingly, Iolaus allowed his hands to explore slowly, feeling the movement, finding just the right spot and the right angle before he entered in one long smooth thrust.
Hades shouted in surprise, and apparent pleasure. Caesar smiled appreciatively at the sight before him, before forcing the god's head back to his needy cock.
Iolaus reveled in the first long, smooth strokes of his cock inside the tight passageway, but even before he could find a rhythm, he felt Ares behind him, entering him, driving him into the kneeling figure. With a gasp, he gave himself over to the pleasure. Grasping Hades' hips, he steadied himself and enjoyed the dual sensation as the tension grew inside him.
Distantly he heard Caesar's shout of release. Closer he heard Ares' rumbling moan that signaled an approaching climax. And then, just as he could stand it no longer - as the pulsing flood of the war god's semen triggered his own mindless explosion - he heard a loud roar from behind them.
Collapsing sideways into Ares' arms, Iolaus gaped at the figure in the doorway. Wiping sweat from his eyes he looked again, but it was no illusion. His voice came out high and almost panicked.
"Herc, where did you. how did you?"
And then as a figure stepped out from behind the demi-god he questioned, "Merric?"
Just as Ares, beside him growled, "Dev."
In the beginning, there was Chaos, born of nothing.
Divisions of space and air and water--the lines of horizon and earth and sea--did not exist. The world's colors had not yet changed into the seemingly-eternal hues of life, the shaded blues and greens that now define earthly geography. Even Olympus, the cloudy haven for the beings called gods, had not yet been breathed into form.
Instead, flames of a scorching red, tipped with yellow, burned with preternatural intensity. Even to imagine their blazing heat would cause mortal eyes to dissolve and run in weeping torrents down a fleshless skull. Around this blazing fire--only blackness. But not the blackness of night, lit as it is now with stars and moon. The dark that circled the world, cradling it, was the shade of madness, of suffering, of death, so thick not even the infernal heat could light its opaque edges.
And at the center of this blood-black universe, if a center could be found: a pulsing egg, white-shelled, ochre-hearted.
How an egg when nothingness ruled? How life in the unremitting absence of origin? Unanswerable riddles for philosophers, prophets and poets. What mattered is that this egg, this living anomaly, this sole sign of order and life in chaos and death, was ready to burst.
One day in a timeless void, fine cracks appeared in the egg's plump, smooth sides, like the first lines on a young woman's brow. They began to spread, as though deliberately chipped by delicate strokes from the dull blade of a sculptor's knife. Or by the curved silver claws of...
The second image is the true one, the reality made manifest after an instantaneous eon. A final tap of that hard bill, and then a rupture, the first. Others followed, as the creature, driven by a senseless need, struggled for freedom. At last, it left inside for out, shaking off the fragments of its ruined prison. On clawed feet, the thing moved forward, stretching, breathing in that fiery air. Then, poised on hooked toes, its shoulders tensed. The air behind whispered, as the monstrous golden wings shifted on its broad back. At the stir in the burning ether, the creature sighed...And with a sound like thunder, if thunder existed, the wings spread, showering the void with golden dust.
So, from flaming Chaos came black Eros.
He flew into the sky, unspeakably powerful. Space broke apart, reformed, as the gold-winged creature soared through the world. The powdery dust fell like gold rain behind him, and, impossibly, life burst into being. So, from black Eros came the five children of origin: Ge, earth-mother; Tartarus, death-king; Erebus, gloom-dweller; Night, air-walker.
When the children of origin came of age, they coupled, harsh mating that invented pleasure and brought more order to the world. The flames of Chaos dimmed and the blackness thinned as each cataclysmic union produced offspring.
So, from Ge, Tartarus, Erebus and Night came Uranus, the twelve Titans, the Cyclopes and the Hecantonchires.
The children of origin and their offspring gazed up one day, and their vision produced such a powerful glow that the sky filled with a round yellow ball. The world became beautiful. Green roots took hold in the charred soil and trees grew, moist leaves holding delights: apples, pears, peaches, lemons, cherries...Lower to the softening earth: purple clusters of grapes and juice-filled berries. Animals appeared to nuzzle this plentitude, to taste its goodness. And water flowed now, crystal-blue, and silver-finned fish dove through rivers and oceans, while the beasts drank. The sky mirrored the water, and as a reflection, its hue paled, and clouds wafted through what was once impenetrable darkness.
And so infinity nearly passed as paradise. Oh, there were rumblings, and secretive plots. But the beings found such pleasure in the acts of love that Chaos never regained its power. Until one day...
Erebus and Night, darkly-beautiful twins of Eros, had been joined in love since before anyone could remember. They lived for each other, creating hollows in sheer cliff walls and green glades in dark forests to consummate and reconsummate their need. "I love you," Erebus moaned against the sweet skin of Night's throat. The answering cries would make the stars quiver in the heavens, and the other immortals would smile.
Gold-eyed Coeus, born of Uranus and Ge, second of the Titans, followed Erebus and Night into a cavern one day, and watched the rituals of desire--jealous, angry, wanting to own the love. As Erebus' body began to shake, and his seed began to spill, Coeus leapt forward, intending to take Night for himself. But the long fingers of the young Titan slipped, knocking Erebus and his spilling seed into a pit.
Unfortunately, at the stony bottom, forgotten, rested the dying embers of Chaos. As Night shrieked above, before Coeus' hand clamped down over her mouth, creamy seed met scarlet flame, and yet another birth took place.
So, from Erebus and Chaos, came a new being, baptized by jealousy and violence.
His name was Dev.
Dev, though he shared the uncanny beauty of the children of origin, with his glossy dark hair and spring-green eyes, had the heart of Chaos. The others recognized this, and when he finally slunk into the light, Chronus, fearful, tossed his cousin into deepest Tartarus, far to the east of Lethe. But it was too late: Dev's malevolence wormed into his family's soul.
So, from Dev, Chaos was reborn.
Insignificant squabbles became wars: sons killed fathers and fathers killed sons. Once again, the earth turned red, as fires burned and blood spilled. But into this madness, yet another child was born.
Like Dev, he was beautiful, curls gleaming black like the night sky, but with dark eyes, not green. When his mother rocked him to sleep, she whispered to her son that one day he would order the world and repair Dev's damage; she'd learned this in a dream. But as a boy, he was too gentle, and Hera despaired, because all Olympus heard the rumblings from beyond the Fields of Mourning, the sound of Dev's restlessness.
The Fates intervened, with brutal callousness--since such is their nature--and two twins, giants, kidnapped the boy and trapped him in a brass jar. The gods knew, of course, and Artemis tried to free him.
Hera stopped her. "He needs to learn anger and hatred, or we'll all be destroyed."
So the boy remained trapped in the jar, weeping, begging for freedom. Then the tears stopped, and the shouts began. Still, Hera stopped the others' intervention. Only when the shouts stopped, and silence echoed hollowly, did she allow Hermes to rescue the boy from his prison.
Free, he said nothing, and disappeared.
"Let me go to him," Athena begged.
Hera shook her head. "He'll return when he's ready."
When the Olympians next saw the boy, he'd changed. A man now, darkly handsome, well-built, with a heavy sword hanging from his side. He strode into the throne room, ignoring the assembled crowd, and knelt at his mother's feet.
"I'm ready," he said.
"Yes." She placed a silver necklace over his dark curls. As he touched the sword-shaped pendant that hung there, forged by Hephaestus, his mother smiled. "Wear it always. It's a symbol. When others see it, they'll kneel to you, the god of war."
Later, alone with her strong son, Hera told him of Dev. "He's coming for you. Kill him, and save us all."
11 Out of Chaos
At the sight of Dev, a tremor born of eons of hatred ran through the entire length Ares' body.
His memory of the confinement that broke him of his compassion and need for others was a wound that would never heal. It was a hurt that fueled his inner being, and drove him to eventually become the most ruthless and despised of the Olympians. But it had allowed him to bring Order out of Chaos, reining in the feverish need gods and mortals alike felt for bloodshed.
It had not been an easy victory.
With Olympus in turmoil, as the other immortals battled one another, Ares prepared for the coming of Dev. His brother, Hephaestus, shunned and ridiculed by the other gods, found Ares to be of a singular purpose. The god of war never mocked his lame brother's condition. In fact, Ares never mentioned Hephaestus' appearance at all. His visits were for one goal - he needed the weapons that would kill Dev. And Hephaestus, wiser than others, recognized that his brother War would be the one to end the bedlam that plagued the world - if he destroyed the bringer of that bedlam, Dev. So the god of the forge constructed magnificent, lethal weapons for Ares - a sword more precious than the one he already carried, a mace with a weight only the god of war could swing, and a crossbow complete with twelve black arrows bearing the war god's mark.
"You're not yet ready to challenge Dev - he's older and born more closely to our own creators. I have only given you the weapons. I would suggest you seek out Cronos - since he defeated Dev once."
Ares, his ego warring with his common sense, finally realized the wisdom behind his brother's words and sought help from his grandfather. Cronos, imprisoned in the bowels of the earth, was brutal to the young god, all too aware that it was this one's sire that dethroned him. But his anger was tempered with a need for vengeance - for if his own son, Zeus, had overthrown him, perhaps one day, this young, dark deity, would unseat his own father, now king of the gods. Cronos found this a wonderfully comforting thought, and threw his ages of experience into Ares' education.
When Dev finally confronted his prey, he found not the callow youth he expected, but a fierce, seasoned warrior. Their battle shook the foundations of Olympus, but in the end, Ares was victorious - sort of. Dev was more treacherous than Ares could have imagined. Time and time again, when he thought he had the demon in a kill, Dev
managed to evade his demise. It wasn't until the Fates determined that the time of the gods was at hand, that Ares was allowed his victory, trapping the demon in the same brass jar that had been his own prison for so long.
Eventually though, Dev managed to escape and each time he surfaced to torment the gods on Olympus, or the mortals on Earth, Ares, now n the prime of his power, would hunt down and trap the demon. Until that one final battle with Iolaus, only a moment ago by the gods' reckoning of time, though it had been many mortal years ago, when Ares had beheaded Dev.
"Dev," Ares whispered, not hearing Iolaus' voice gasping, "Merric?"
"Ares." The demon's green eyes glittered like unholy emeralds as he surveyed his greatest enemy. "We meet yet again." The demon paused again, his eyes raking the god's body. "I must say, you're looking as luscious as ever."
12 The End of the Beginning of War
"Dev," Ares whispered again. He couldn't believe this. It was unreal, like something out of his worst nightmare.
"Dev?" asked Hercules. The demigod had known of him when he was much younger, hearing about him from Athena, then hearing the story from Iolaus years later, but he had thought Dev dead, killed by Ares, a threat no longer. The thought sent a ripple of fear through him.
"Yes, my poor relations. It is I, returned to say hello," Dev said sarcastically. "So hello."
Blue eyes blazed at him, as Iolaus shouted, "You son of a bitch!" and jumped at him.
"Iolaus NO!!" shouted both son's of Zeus, but it was too late. Iolaus grabbed hold of Dev's arm, but the dark one spun, taking Iolaus' arm and snapping it. Iolaus shouted in pain, and was flung across the room, where he lay silent, unmoving. Hercules ran over to him, and held him, making sure he was alive. He was, but barely. The hunter had a gash across his forehead, and his arm lay limply, the bone showing through the skin.
Anger running through him, Hercules lunged at Dev, and Dev through his arm back, ready to strike at the demigod. But he was sent sprawling across the room by an energy bolt from Ares.
Dev started to get up, but was knocked down by another bolt.
Ares eyes blazing with anger, he threw himself across the room, and began pounding his 'relation'. "Don't....touch....my....BROTHER!!!" He kept punching Dev until Dev was not moving. Thinking him unconscious, he turned to Hercules, still at Iolaus' side, holding his friend and lover close.
"How is he?" asked Ares.
"He'll live," said Hercules, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "No thanks to you."
"It's a real shame Ares," said Dev from behind them. "We should be on the same side." That said, Dev vanished.
Ares kneeled down beside the two men, taking Iolaus in his arms. A soft glow surrounded the hunter as Ares healed him, color returning to Iolaus' face. He opened his eyes slowly, and saw the two men looking at him, both relieved.
"How...Dev..." Iolaus whispered, very weak.
"Shhhh, you're going to be fine," said the demigod, taking the hunter into his arms and laying him on the bed. Iolaus passed out, but he was alive. Hercules looked at Ares, very confused, and very angry.
"I'm not going to ask about Iolaus right now. I just want to know about Dev. I know you killed him years ago. But he IS here. Care to explain?"
"Not much to explain little brother. I did defeat Dev many years ago, with Iolaus' help, and I took his head. I didn't think he'd be around again. Obviously, he's stronger then I, or any of the other God's believed. We have much work to do, you and I."
"You and I Ares? I'm half God. I can't fight him. YOU nearly died trying. And how were you able to heal Iolaus? Dev is a God, same as you. A God can't heal another God's 'handiwork'."
"Not the same Hercules. A God yes, but one born of the darkness. No matter what you think of me, my heart and his do not beat the same. The 'light' within me allowed me to heal Iolaus."
Hercules saw something in the God's eyes but couldn't put his finger on it. Compassion? Love? Could Ares be in love with Iolaus? And did HIS hunter have those kinds of feelings for Ares?
"Do you love him Ares? And does he feel the same?" Hercules finally asked, afraid of what his brother would answer.
"No Hercules, on both counts. That feeling is for you and you alone. I do care for him though. He saved my life all those years ago, in my last battle with Dev. For that I have always respected him. Not to mention the fact that he is one of the finest warriors I have ever known. But the only emotion along those lines he has ever felt for me is lust. I'm surprised you'd even ask something like that. Do you honestly think that he could stay by your side all these years, literally dying for you, and not love you with his heart and very soul? Do you actually think he could love another?"
Hercules' eyes were downcast. Ares' words had hit him hard in the gut. How could he have thought the hunter loved anyone else?
"It's okay Herc," said Iolaus from behind him, standing up, his voice stronger. "If I were you, I would have thought the same thing."
Tears started to form in the hunter's eyes, and began to flow down his cheeks. Hercules walked to him and took his love in his arms.
"Don't cry Iolaus. It's not your fault," said the demigod, wiping Iolaus' tears away.
"No Herc, it is. If I had been more honest with you all those years ago, maybe we..."
"Iolaus, no. You couldn't have known what would happen today."
"But...." began Iolaus, but Ares cut him off.
"We can discuss this later boys. Right now we have a demon to hunt."
"Any idea where he went?" asked Iolaus.
"Unfortunately yes, I KNOW where," the War God answered, his face a cacophony of emotions.
"Are you going to enlighten us or do we guess?" asked Hercules.
"I don't think you're going to like it little brother."
"Does it matter? Just tell us," said Hercules.
"He is on his way to kill the person he holds responsible for his defeat all those years ago. If he succeeds, he will have strength, both physical and mental, which will make him unbeatable. We need to stop him or all humanity as we know it will be destroyed."
"But you and I are here Ares," said Iolaus, confused. "We beat him all those years ago. Who else is there?"
Ares grimaced. He knew the two men were not going to like his answer.
"The person who REALLY caused his defeat all those years ago. The one who took a young boy, with a love and respect of life and turned him into a creature of darkness so he would be able to battle the evil. The one who destroyed the boy's gentle, caring soul and turned him into what some call a monster."
"Ares," said Hercules. "It sounds like you're describing a God. But none of the God's are like that."
"You're very wrong Hercules. Once there was a boy as I described. But he is no more. The boy is dead. Dead by his mother's hand thousands of winters ago. Dev is going after her. If he kills her, he will absorb her power. That power along with his own will make him unstoppable."
"Where is this woman?" asked Iolaus. "And how do we find her?"
"You know where she is Iolaus, and so does my brother."
"How would I know Ares?" asked Hercules.
"Because," said the War God. "You sent her to Tartarus. The woman responsible for all of this is Hera."
13 Ultimate Weapon: The Conclusion
Tartarus. The place where mortals and even the occasional god was punished for their misdeeds. Some called it a bleak place, filled with emptiness and despair; for others it was a place filled with bright pain and haunting memories. For Hera it was the place she now called home. On occasion she could feel her father's presence, grumbling in the distance, full of hate and anger. And she shared his feelings, knowing the impotent rage of betrayal. But even stronger than this was her fear, for their old nemesis Dev was loose again and this time her youngest son would have to face him alone, without her helping him, directing him, supporting him.
Although she wasn't dead, imprisoned alive in the deepest pit of Tartarus she could still feel her boy, the bond between mother and son still strong. She almost smiled with motherly pride as she realized that he was getting better and better at blocking her out but she still felt his basic feelings and right now anger was predominant, not the bright flare of his volatile temper but the cold-burning anger of age-old hate, nurtured over the centuries. And fear was heavily mixed into it. Focusing more closely on the fear, Hera realized that a lot of it was directed at her.
For a moment Hera felt frozen but then she gathered her composure around her like a shield. She knew what this meant; Dev was coming for her. Instead of fighting Ares, he was trying to take her first, kill her and then use her
powers to finally defeat her son.
When the Fates had revealed her youngest child's destiny to her, she had despaired, knowing what kind of sacrifice was asked of her, knowing what it would do to her precious little boy. But she had done what was necessary, had forced her gentle, compassionate child to become the gods' ultimate weapon in their fight against Chaos and Dev.
And she had known that by her actions she was endangering herself as well. But she hadn't cared, not when she considered what was at stake. And now Dev was coming for her.
Tartarus. A place mortals feared and tried to escape. But for Ares it was just another part of his uncle's realm. A place he had played in as a child; a place he'd later traveled to find his grandfather and learn from him how to be the gods' ultimate weapon. A place whose labyrinthine paths he was now wandering in search for his mother who had been banished here by his half-brother.
Ares could feel said half-brother's presence behind him -- the low hum of his godly blood mingling with the blazing light of his mortal ancestry. A mix that had always drawn Ares, like the proverbial moth to the flame. And now he found it a comfort.
And next to him, his mortality burning even brighter than Hercules' was Iolaus. Ares had to admit to himself that he felt reluctant to involve the mortals. He had been trained for this since childhood but they hadn't. And even though Iolaus had faced Dev before Ares was sure that he still didn't grasp totally what Dev was. And neither did Herc.
With Caesar safely back in Rome, only remembering a night of wanton pleasure and Hades off to inform the other gods, Ares was finally able to focus on the task ahead of him, slipping into the single-minded focus of a warrior preparing for a fight.
Hercules, Iolaus at his side, followed Ares down the narrow paths, deeper and deeper into the bowls of Tartarus. In all his travels through his uncle's dark realm he had never wandered this far but Ares seemed to know where he was going. They could do nothing but follow. The demi-god exchanged a glance with Iolaus, who shrugged and tried to grin, even now optimistic. But Hercules knew that Iolaus too noticed the change in Ares, the gathering of power, as if he was drawing everything he was, everything he had into himself, focusing it all on the up-coming battle. It was an impressive sight and for the first time in his life Hercules saw what the God of War really was, which power Ares was able to command. And he began to wonder what they could do to help.
When Ares suddenly stopped, he knew that they had found Hera. And Dev. Hercules stepped to his brother's side and tried to assess the situation. Hera, dressed in her customary black, her green eyes and fiery red hair the only spots of color on her, and Dev, with the same fascinating green eyes, were slowly circling each other. Hercules recognized the tension in the goddess and her desperation. And he wasn't the only one: Dev's victorious laugh echoed through this part of Tartarus.
"Why fight, Hera? You know you can't win. And don't expect your pitiful excuse for a son to come to your rescue."
A lightening bolt was Hera's answer but Dev easily dissipated it and laughed again. "Give up, Hera. You can't win, not against me. I'll take your powers and then I'll take your pretty boy."
"Will you?" Ares' deep voice vibrated with power and to Hercules it felt like a physical caress promising pleasure and pain in equal measures.
In front of them, Hera and Dev turned in their direction. Hope and something like fierce elation filling Hera's face while Dev sneered at them. "You think you can defeat me, Ares?" Then Dev turned, his whole attention now on
his real opponent, on his life-long nemesis.
Hercules shivered as power began to fill the air, crackling around him, singing along his nerves. A glance to his side showed him that Iolaus was feeling it as well, fidgeting and rubbing his arms. Ares on the other hand seemed unperturbed, his whole attention focused on Dev, the amount of power he was calling increasing more and more.
Feeling strangely vulnerable, Hercules stayed where he was and watched as the two incarnations of war began to fight. Ares moving slowly, stalking his opponent, watching and judging, with Dev mirroring his actions. It was Dev who finally broke down and attacked. He lashed out at Ares, moving quicker than humanly possible. And Ares sidestepped, barely avoiding the punch aimed at his face.
Frustrated, unable to help his brother, Hercules watched the oddly compelling duel: the quick bodily attacks, interspersed with lightening bolts and fire-balls. A complicated ballet where only the two involved knew the steps.
The tide of battle was changing, moving away from the physical, the power surrounding the two fighters now almost tangible. Both gods were using their swords now, sparks flying every time the blades met. Neither seemed to gain the upper hand, and neither seemed to tire.
Hercules wanted to help -- but how? Just then he felt a strong hand close around his wrist. Looking to his side he saw Hera standing there, a cold fire burning in her green eyes.
"Help me," she commanded.
Hercules swallowed with difficulty. "How?" he finally managed to ask.
"Distract him. I don't care how, but distract him."
Nodding softly, he turned to Iolaus who shrugged his agreement. They needed no words to communicate and agree upon a course of action. With a cheeky grin Iolaus scampered off to the other side of the fighters, staying out of their way until he'd reached the position he wanted. Hercules moved to a pile of stones and picked one up, lifting the tiny boulder easily. A glance at Iolaus, and the hunter began shouting and screaming. It was enough to briefly capture Dev's attention and in that moment, Hercules threw the stone, hitting the demon-god squarely in the chest.
Stumbling slightly from the impact Dev, turned to Hercules, a snarl twisting his beautiful face. Hercules prepared for the retaliation. But where he had expected a push of power like Ares used it, Dev managed to surprise them by pulling. The force of the powerful, invisible tug hurtling Iolaus across the space, throwing him full force against Hercules, who impacted hardly with the wall. He groaned at the pain shouting threw his body, centering in his head.
But the distraction must have served its purpose because a bloodcurdling scream suddenly filled the air. Hercules forced his eyes open and saw Dev and Ares no longer fighting, at least not physically. Instead the power around them increased, became visible, blue and red lights, mingling, reaching out for each other.
He looked around for Hera, saw her sitting on a boulder, face blank, eyes unfocused, and realized that she must have managed to link with her son, adding her powers to his. Hercules turned his attention back on the two opponents. Blood was running down Ares' face, from his eyes, ears and nose. And he still increased the level of power, calling in more and more but it still didn't seem to be enough to defeat Dev.
Suddenly a wild, angry laugh filled the air and Dev was hit by another lightening bolt. This distraction was enough for Ares to finally tear through Dev's shields, lashing into the other god, tearing him apart.
"Finish it, boy. All the way."
Looking around wildly, Hercules searched for the speaker and gasped softly when he saw the tall, broad-shouldered figure slowly moving toward them. Unruly black curls surrounded a beautiful, sensuous face and hung into piercing green eyes. The resemblance to Ares was unmistakable. For a moment the stranger met Ares' eyes and then both figures turned to the weakened, wounded god. Hercules shivered as the power in the room changed slightly. He felt the sudden coldness, tearing, devouring and he realized with horror that they weren't just destroying the body but also the soul, the very essence that Dev was. This time there would be nothing left that could return.
He felt Iolaus stir in his arms and suddenly move away, only then realizing that Hera had collapsed. But his attention was quickly caught by the two gods: he jumped up when Ares began to shake and fold. The stranger was quicker and caught Ares easily, holding him close.
Hercules cautiously moved closer, uncomfortable under the stranger's close inspection. But his worry for his brother was stronger than his unease. Iolaus and Hera joined him and only when Hera spoke, did he realize just who this stranger was.
"Father? I...what...why?" she stumbled to a halt, but then Hercules caught the attempt of a tiny smile crossing the goddess' face. "Thank you."
Father. That meant the stranger was Chronus, former king of the titans, father of Zeus, Hera and some of the other gods, thrown into Tartarus by his own son.
Hercules watched in silence as Chronus studied his daughter and then the god he still held in his arms, his grandson. A sneering smile that reminded Hercules hauntingly of Ares crossed his face. "You know, I still have hope for the boy. Someday my traitorous son will keep me company down here, betrayed by his own son just like I was betrayed."
Hera shook her head but said nothing. Hercules opened his arms when Chronus turned to him, surrendering the still unconscious Ares.
"Come, daughter. I think we have lots to talk about." With these words Chronus turned and began to walk away.
With Ares in his arms and Iolaus at his side, Hercules watched as Hera followed her father. He knew that even if he wanted to, he couldn't take her back. Only Zeus could, and maybe Hades with Zeus' permission.
Drifting out of sleep Hercules cuddled closer to the warm body, only slowly registering that something felt wrong: the body too big, too hairy to belong to Iolaus. Opening a bleary eyes he noted black hair and tanned skin and with it memory returned. Dev, the fight, ...Hera and Chronus and the fact that they had won.
He raised himself up on one elbow and watched his still-sleeping brother and next to him Iolaus, who was snuggled against Ares' other side, also deeply asleep.
Halfway through Tartarus they had met Hades and he had sent them back to Ares' temple where they all collapsed on the bed, almost instantly asleep. The last few days had been exhausting, physically as well as mentally.
He looked at Iolaus, his golden complexion such a contrast to Ares' darker tones and remembered the pain and emptiness he had felt when he'd thought Iolaus dead. His gaze slowly wandered from his beloved friend to his brother. He couldn't say that he hated Ares, not anymore, not after everything he had learned about him in the last days. It had changed his perspective, especially when he realized just how powerful Ares was and how easily he could have killed him. There must be a reason why Ares never had, why their fights always remained physical, on a relatively even footing.
The feeling of being watched drew him from his thoughts and he looked up. Hercules smiled when he saw that his lover was awake and studying him intently.
"Hey," he said softly and was rewarded with a sunny smile.
For a long moment they just looked at each other, glad to be alive, reveling in the elation and joy but then Hercules' attention again focused on his sleeping half-brother. He reached out to push a stray curl away from Ares' forehead, marveling at the softness of the dark hair.
"The child Ares spoke of: he was talking about himself, wasn't he?"
Iolaus nodded. "Yes, I think so."
For long moment they watched the god, both lost in thoughts of what was and what could have been if things had been different.
"Do you think that this compassionate child is still there?" Hercules finally asked.
Iolaus was silent for some time, his fingers trailing through the dark curls but finally he answered. "Yes, yes, I think it is, even though he would never admit it."
"Want to help me find it?"
Iolaus' grin was answer enough.
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