The night chilled Iolaus as he exited the inn. With a glance behind, at Herc’s room, he made his way to the ruined temple. Kneeling by the altar, he prayed for the only one who could help him now. A cloaked figure watched from the shadows.
“Save him,” whispered the hunter. An answer never came, not from who he had
begged it from. He waited over four hours, kneeling and praying to a Goddess who was suddenly, unexpectedly silent. The tears long since dried on his cheeks, Iolaus rose from the ground. His grief was nearly buried under the shock and disbelief that filled his soul. His last hope was crushed beneath the oppressive wall of silence from the last one he had trusted. Had she too, turned against him? Had her mind been poisoned by the insidious rumors and hate-filled murmurs of the former ‘Hero’?
Iolaus fell against the chipped and half-toppled wall and felt the cold night air seep into his very soul. The pain of his despair made him blind to the still watchful eyes of the cloaked figure. It was hidden deeply in the shadows of the fallen doorway, unmoving and silent.
Then, an unintelligible curse fell from the mortal’s lips, and he slowly stood. His hands curved into fists, as his mouth curved into a sneer, and he began to punch the broken stone of the archway and walls. Soon, his hands were covered with cuts and bruises; Iolaus didn’t seem to notice the pain. A broken sob escaped from his lips and he smashed both hands into the stone.
The observer walked out of the shadows and stood behind the man, giving no sign of his presence. He could hear the soft cries that were ripped from Iolaus’ heart. “Why did you abandon me? Help me… I need you. You loved me, you loved me.”
The man seemed unable to move or to do anything but mutter under his breath, asking, begging for the help he needed so badly. Something in the observer softened as he looked at Iolaus’ slumped shoulders.
“Who were you calling for?” The observer asked gently. Iolaus seemed shocked at the familiar sound of the voice. He gradually turned, both afraid and hopeful. He couldn’t make out the features of the stranger, the cloak seemed able to hide every detail, leaving only a vague image. He paused, then thinking over the voice in his head came to a conclusion.
“Ares.” Iolaus heard his own tremulous, fearful voice whisper. He breathed deeply, then with a little more strength. “Is that you, Ares?”
The stranger threw back his hood to reveal a very familiar face. The dark hair and beard proved him to be precisely that God. His lush lips curved upward and he continued his earlier questioning. “Who were you calling for, Iolaus?”
“It doesn’t matter,” the blond said wistfully. He glanced at Ares, then his mouth kicked up in a half-smile. ”She isn’t listening any more.”
Behind Iolaus’ flippant words, Ares sensed pain and despair beyond any he had ever inflicted on a human. Someone had broken the hunter’s spirit, perhaps permanently. He asked once more, his voice filled with emotions he hardly understood. “Who were you calling for?”
Iolaus opened his mouth to shoot off a witty and harmless diversion, then he noticed the dead-seriousness of Ares’ expression. So Iolaus told him, simply, in one word the cause of his pain and anguish.
The shock on Ares’ face was obvious and confusing to the hunter. Iolaus had sure that Hera would have revelled in the chance of informing Ares of what had happened. He found it hard to believe or trust Ares, surely he would have been one of the first informed of Herc’s condition and the accusation. “ Where have you been?” Iolaus’ voice turning cynical and cold. “How could you possibly not know? Even Di-Aphrodite knows.”
“I do have other things to do other than pester my half-brother.” Ares’ words, however, were unexpectedly soft. His discerning eyes scanned the hunter again, this time noting the obvious cheekbones, sunken eyes, uncomfortable stance and wary disposition, obvious remnants of a recent torture. “ I was on my way to do just that, but it sounds as though the circumstances have changed. Why were you praying to my air-headed sister in a ruined temple? Seems to me you’d have better luck at the Temple for her in the village.” Ares’ puzzlement was uncommon and it startled himself, usually
he was the first to hear anything, especially if it concerned that annoying brother of his.
“They won’t let me in… I’m not allowed inside any Temple, ever again.” If it was possible the light in Iolaus’ eyes burned even colder. “ He made sure of that, whipped them into such a fervor that, if he hadn’t stopped them, I would be dead now. They won’t let me see Herc, they told me they couldn’t trust me not to finish him off. Gods, if only Herc were awake…” The hurried frenzy of Iolaus’ words made it hard for the god to understand him. Ares leaned back against a ruined wall and looked at the man, urging him to continue. Iolaus caught his breath and, glancing at Ares, continued, this
time more slowly,” Might help it I started from the beginning, gave you some
“It started two days ago, Me and Herc were wandering, not really traveling anywhere. We came to this village and decided to stay here for the night. “He stopped for a moment, visibly gathering his thoughts. “Everyone recognized Herc, of course, and were more than willing to let us have two rooms. Herc, as always insisted on paying…
As we made our way to the table, I couldn’t help noticing everyone in the room, including all the women staring at Herc. Now I don’t have any trouble with them, its just that I wish people recognized me, Iolaus, instead of Herc’s blond side-kick. Anyway, Herc didn’t even seem to notice them. He had been acting odd all day, unfocused and confused. He didn’t seem to want to talk, not that he’s such a chatterbox most of the time, but he had hardly spoken ten words to me all day. Basically, yes and no, when I asked him a question. He seemed to be thinking about something, something that worried him.
Now when the serving girl arrived, I instinctively gave her a smile, but I was concentrating on Herc. I could tell that there was something wrong with him… now if only I knew what. He looked…well, weak was the only word I could think of to describe it. I tried asking him if he felt all right and he offered me a half-shrug. I racked my brains to think of what could be wrong, but I couldn’t think of anything. Ares hadn’t bothered us in over a month and all our recent problems had been handled well. There had been no Hera, Strife, or any God-related trouble that could be affecting him so much.
After about half an hour he excused himself and went upstairs to his room. He didn’t seem to be sure of himself and was walking very slowly. I left as soon as I could, to check on him. I knocked on his door and didn’t get an answer. I was getting pretty worried and tried opening the door. Tried being the important word, the door was locked. I knocked louder, calling Herc’s name… no answer. I got a little nervous and… and I broke down the door.
He wasn’t there.
His window stood wide open and none of his stuff was in the room. Iolaus raced to the window and climbed over the sill. He easily made his way down the side of the house and scanned the ground. When the hunter saw evidence of footsteps he quickly traced them to a small house on the outer edge of the village. Iolaus could hear voices from inside the house, he immediately recognized Herc’s.
“I need to tell him… I can’t keep this a secret, not from him.” Herc’s voice remarked firmly. Iolaus moved under the closed window. He heard movement inside the cottage and Herc continued,”He my best friend and I have to tell him, please let me.” Iolaus was shocked to hear the demi-god’s voice shake.
“We made a deal, half-man, and you will honor it. One of your promissess were to tell no one.” The voice hissed softly. Iolaus couldn’t place the voice, as far as he knew, he’d never before heard it. “You are ssuppossed to keep all bargainss. That iss what I wass told. You sswore to do thiss, would the the ‘Great’ Herculess break hiss word to one who hass keep all of hiss.”
“How much longer?” Hercules’ voice sounded defeated. Iolaus was too curious to stop listening. What was the secret he wasn’t allowed to hear? “Ass long ass we require. You have ssworn, and have no choice. All will be revealed when we choosse.” The voice was slow and deadly. “Ssoon we will know, and ssoon you will be free to tell your friend. Go now, leave uss.”
As Iolaus watched from the bushes Hercules exited the house and headed toward the village. He was about to follow when he heard the slithery voice continue.”Will he keep hiss word?”
“Let uss hope sso, once the fool iss dead we can deal with the rest of the traitorss.” Another voice responded. Startled by the words, Iolaus stepped back… on a branch. At the sudden noise he froze as one asked the other.”Did you hear that, Ssilthass?”
The door to the cabin flung open and a figure strode out. Iolaus kept hidden, hoping that they would dismiss it. He was not so lucky. The eerie eyes seemed to find him at once. Iolaus bolted from the underbrush. The figure ran after him, calling to his comrade. As Iolaus ran, he noticed a figure in front of him, then two more on either side. He searched for an escape, but found nothing. Suddenly, two of the figures grabbed him and dragged him toward the cottage. He fought to free himself, but was soon inside.
All of those inside the cabin wore hooded robes. One approached him. “Who iss thiss? What iss your name and why were you here, little one?” Furious, Iolaus remained silent. Another spoke, ”Thiss is the friend of Herculess, masster. I have sseen him. He wass eavessdropping. He knowss what we have ssaid thiss night.”
The one referred to as ‘master’ drew nearer to Iolaus. One of his hands touched Iolaus’ face, causing him to shudder at the unpleasant dry sensation. The thing’s hand were dark green and appeared to be scaled. “He iss a pretty one.” The creature laughed and stroked Iolaus’ face. “You sshould not be here, warm one.”
The ‘master’ nodded to the others, who seemed to know what to do. They pulled him to a wall, a wall with manacles attached, and despite his struggles forced him in. Iolaus’ was about to scream when a rag was forced in his mouth and tied around his head. The creature made an odd hissing sound and moved to Iolaus. The rough hands moved to the hood of its cloak and it pulled it back. At first sight, the creature’s face was horrifying and Iolaus felt his stomach churn. The face was rough and the eyes yellow
slits. Its nose was almost non-existent and its mouth too big for its face. At his response that mouth opened in a sharp-tooth filled grin. Another shudder went through Iolaus.
“Yess, we will keep thiss one a while. It hass been so long ssince we have played.” The smug voice remarked. The dry hand rose and caressed the human’s shocked features. “ Yess, thiss one will be yourss, ssoon.”
Iolaus was frozen in shock and horror. The monster couldn’t mean what he feared it did. No! His mind screamed. The creature smiled and pulled his hand away from the hunter’s face. “How much longer do we wait? When will he be here? I can not wait for thiss one much longer.”
“Ssoon masster, he promissed to be here. “ One of the things eagerly offered. It scurried to the door. “I ssensse him, masster. He comess.” The ‘master’ grinned at Iolaus, a long, thin tongue snaking out to lick its lips.
“What do you want now?” A bored voice asked from the doorway. The owner
stepped inside, a normal-looking human. “Well, is he on his way?”
“You musst sshow more deference to masster. “ One of the creatures hissed.” I do not like thiss one, masster. He hass no resspect for you.”
“We will deal with him as we ssee fit, young one.” The master responded. “Ass for you, human, do you know thiss one.” He raises a lazy hand toward Iolaus. “What do you believe we sshould do with the Half-man’ss friend.”
“You captured Iolaus,” the man screeched in a panicked voice. “ If Hercules finds out, oh gods, we are going to be in deep shit.” The human started frantically pacing the small room, muttering under his breath.
“Do not worry, human. The fool will never know we have hiss friend. “ The creature’s eyes gleam dully in the dimly lit room. His mouth turned up in a stomach-turning grin as he refocused his gaze on Iolaus. “Thiss one is too pretty too give up. We will keep him a while, we have not played in such a long time. Do not be discouraged, he will not live long enough to tell hiss friend of thiss.”
The master reaches out toward Iolaus with one hand, with a single claw it slits open the faded vest of the hunter. “Yess, much too pretty, you are to let go.” Its claw scrapes down Iolaus chest as it speaks. “Maybe you will even enjoy thiss, golden one. We sshall ssee.”
It turns to the human, gesturing to another creature, who pulls out a pouch to offer to the human. “You will put thiss in the Heross’ drink, yess, and he will ssee what we wissh him to ssee. When thiss is done you will be handssomely rewarded.”
The man pockets the pouch and hurries out of the room. The monster turn back to its contemplation of Iolaus. It removes his vest by slitting the sleeves and then gazes at the hunter, suspended before him. “Very pretty, we are. We will enjoy thiss beyond anything.” The creature flicks its tongue toward Iolaus, obviously enjoying his flinch.
It leans forward, flicking its tongue out to lick up the human’s exposed chest. Its hand slides into Iolaus’ hair as it’s tongue continues exploring his shivering body. “ Sso warm, sso ssoft we are, yess. Mortalss are sso ssweet.” The creature continues to croon as it works its way up to Iolaus’ face. “Beautiful, yess, we sshall enjoy sso much, with thiss one. Sso wonderful, sso unique.”
Iolaus can’t stop the horrified shudders that sweep over his body. Its touch is almost as cold as death and its whispers incite fear from the deepest parts of his soul. He tries to fight the chains, but they are stronger than any mortal could break. Herc, I need you, save me, his mind screams over and over. Against his will, tears well up in Iolaus’ eyes and he closes them, desperately thinking of other times and places.
Iolaus suddenly stops talking and shudders as the memories return to him. His eyes fill with remembered pain and horror and he can’t find any words. He finds himself frozen, unable to speak or move as he mentally relives the terror of the night. Ares finds it almost impossible not to reach out his hand to the anguished mortal. His voice is low and calming, as he quietly murmurs to the stricken soul, “Can you tell me what else happened, Iolaus?” Unable to stop himself this time, he finds himself gently placing his hand on Iolaus’ shivering shoulders. He steps closer, trying to remain calm, as he attempts to show his sympathy, sympathy he hadn’t been aware of before this day.
“Ar-Ares, I just can’t help feeling that, well that you know might more about this then you’re letting on. At least a little more,” Iolaus whispers softly. He slowly turns his shadowed eyes toward Ares, who finds himself glancing away before he forces his gaze to meet the hunter’s own. Iolaus stares at the pensive face a moment, then lowers his gaze before hesitantly asking the waiting god, “Do you…?”
“How would you feel if I did?” The god asks, while his mind reels with new and vaguely disturbing thoughts about the hunter. He finds himself pausing, as he searches for the right words to say. Placing his hand under Iolaus’ chin, he gently, but firmly, turns the mortal’s face upward. Looking straight into Iolaus’ troubled blue eyes, he continues with,”What if I do know more then I’m telling? Does that stop you from needing to tell
Iolaus flinches at the soft and gentle tone. He visibly thinks over Ares’ words, as he remembers the details of that fearful night and its heart-breaking aftermath. Did Ares’ know what had happened? Iolaus was unsure and uneasy at the thought, but would it make any difference if the god knew? After all, who else could he turn to with Herc unconscious and more than half-dead in that room and every other soul seemingly against him. Even, the one person he-No he couldn’t think about it, not now. He realized that no, it didn’t matter, not when he had nowhere else to go and needed this conversation so badly. Iolaus knew that if he didn’t tell someone soon, he might, no he would, start to believe what they had been saying. After all, Aphrodite was no longer there for him, not after what she had been told-and believed-so why not trust Ares? Underneath everything he said or did to the contrary, Iolaus knew he was a warrior, a fighter, at heart. It was what he had dreamed of all his life. He, unlike Herc, craved the rush and freedom of the sword, and because of that truth he knew that no matter what he might say or how often he would stand with Herc against the War God, he was in the end, one of Ares’ own. Once that was settled in his mind, he could allow himself to tell Ares the rest.
The ice-cold feel of the invading tongue prevented any such delusions. The creature's claw stroked his chest, circling his freezing nipple. Iolaus kept his eyes shut, his soul screaming against the intrusion. Please, no. Stop, just stop, his thoughts screamed endlessly, but he refused to make a sound. He wouldn't let the monster know how afraid he was becoming. He kept his breath even and under control, but as the slithering tongue wormed its slimy way down his body he was hard-pressed not to cry out loud.
"Ssalty and ssweet." The creature murmured as it worked its way down Iolaus
shuddering torso. "Sscream, little one. Let me tasste your fear."
Iolaus swallowed his screams and held himself as still he could manage. He felt the icy, scaled hands rub against his chest and back.
The monster nicked the nap of the warm neck in front of it. Its eager tongue licked the small wound clean. Then it placed its mouth around the cut, sucking strongly.
Horror swept through Iolaus' helpless body. The pain of the cut was miniscule in comparison to the fear the creature's actions caused. He knew what would happen next, but he tried to wipe the knowledge from his mind. Maybe, it wouldn't, his fevered brain hoped. Perhaps he would be spared this agony.
His hopes were, of course, futile. The creature slowly dragged its sharp talons down his sides, creating several small breaks in the skin. The claws continued down to his leather pants and without hesitation slit the sides open. It smiled widely as it gently licked Iolaus' shed blood, still warm, from its fingertips.
"Pretty, very pretty." It breathed as it ran its hands up and down his exposed legs. It lightly pressed a claw on Iolaus' thigh and the monster leaned forward to catch his dripping blood in its greedy mouth.
Suddenly, it turned to its silent, passive, and hooded fellows. It spoke sharply to them in a tongue unlike any Iolaus had ever heard. Four of the covered monstrosities approached him and Iolaus noticed the almost convulsive movements of their hands as they reached toward him. Three held him still and the other released a single arm, which it immediately tied to his bare back.
His struggles didn't seem to faze them an instant as they professionally repeated the procedure on his left arm. It was only a matter of moments before he was bound, face-down, and utterly helpless. The rough surface of the table scraped against his chest. He could feel them untie his arms, then bind them to the edge of the table. His legs hung over the edge and he felt a chill move up his spine as he sensed the creature circle him.
“Hello, little one.” It leaned over into his face, searching for something. It seemed unsatisfied as it moved back. He saw it leave his area of sight and tried to prepare himself for its assault. A scaled hand was drawn down his back, briefly cupping the cheek of his ass. “Warm and ssoft… yet ssomehow firm.”
He felt the hand move to his shoulder, gently massaging it.”We musst relax, human. It will be eassier if you give in.” Iolaus felt the horror shudder through him once again. His mind screaming and howling against the monster’s words.
The wet tongue shocked his skin as it licked his back. The tongue moved lower, caressing his ass and flicking in between the cheeks. His hand kept up its soft movements as the cold tongue explored him. The hands moved, reaching down to pull apart his ass cheeks. He felt the rough tongue circle his asshole and attempt to enter it. He fought the urge to gag as the terror hit him in waves.
The hands and tongue left him and he almost breathed a sigh of relief, before he heard the creature’s robe falling to the floor. His mind went numb from the relentless assault of tongue and hands. He refused to show it how humiliated he was, or how horrified.
Something hard pressed against his ass, as the hands returned to holding his cheeks apart. Then it surged it, pain sweeping over Iolaus as his skin ripped within. The pain intensified as the monster began to thrust in and out, dry and fast. It seemed to go forever and Iolaus knew that he was screaming behind the gag, as tears leaked out from behind his closed eyes. Finally he felt the cold liquid enter in pulses and the creature pulled out of him.
He was barely aware as it addressed its compatriots. The unfamiliar words grated against his mind and he tried to block out the sound.
A chilled hand touched his back and the thought ’no, not again’ barely had time to cross his mind before the agony began anew.
The torture seemed to last forever. Every time Iolaus felt himself slipping away inside himself to where they couldn't hurt him, one of the monsters would force-feed him a shimmering potion of some kind. A potion that forced him to feel every moment of the pain and despair. They no longer ripped him from the inside, and so they satisfied themselves by tearing the bits of flesh that they could reach. The licking was the worst. The tongue's fluid burned his wounds and none of them seemed to get enough of his 'sweet, warm blood'.
It took him a few minutes to realize that the pain was gone. He waited for it to return, certain this reprieve would be as short as the others. He focused on his breathing, slowly in and out, trying to find a center of calm before the pain began again. Then, he could hear them, speaking in the harsh, guttural tones that scraped his mind.
A few minutes had passed before he noticed that the creature had switched to Greek. "Iolauss, love, play time iss over." It hauled up his head to force him to stare into its dead eyes."I wonder if your friend misssed you. He issn't here for you." It stroked his cheek with a possessive, almost gentle touch.
Iolaus felt too tired to bother trying to fight or make himself heard through the gag. He felt the monster run a claw down his cheek, but it felt far away, almost as if it were in another world. He pushed its words from his mind, they had done something to Herc, or maybe...
"Time for you to leave, my ssweet pet." It ran it's claws through the gag, and pulled it out of Iolaus' dry mouth."It'ss been sso much fun, but all good thingss..."
He felt himself lifted up and realized he was being carried out of the cabin. He could barely think and had no idea where they were taking him. A sharp pain shot through him as they dropped him on the forest floor. As they left, Iolaus saw his world go black...
*Iolaus notices everyone staring at Herc when they come in the room, while Herc seems oblivious...*
When the serving girl came to our table she flashed a smile at Iolaus, lighting up when he smiled back. I tried not to be bothered by it... and failed. He asked me how I was, snapping me out of my reverie. I shrugged, not wanting to betray myself by speaking. I sat there, just thinking, when I remember the meeting I had to go to. Once again I wished I could tell him, take him with me.
I told him I felt tired and then left the room. I practically ran out the back entrance to the tavern, knowing he would check the room first.
I reached the shack easily with my directions and was soon met by a robed figure. Silently, it opened the door and I slipped inside.
*Unbeknownst to Herc, but knownst to us, Iolaus has followed him.*
"I'm here." I stated, hoping for an answer. He merely passed me bottle and waved at me to leave. I had to tell Iolaus,"I need to tell him… I can’t keep this a secret, not from him. He is my best friend and I have to tell him, please let me." To his horror, Herc felt his voice tremble.
"We made a deal, half-man, and you will honor it. One of your promissess were to tell no one." The hooded man, almost hissed at him. "You are ssuppossed to keep all bargainss. That iss what I wass told. You sswore to do thiss, would the ‘Great’ Herculess break hiss word to one who hass keep all of hiss."
Helpless, I begged, "How much longer?" I couldn't lie to Iolaus much longer.
"Ass long ass we require. You have ssworn, and have no choice. All will be revealed when we choosse." I could almost feel the venom in his smooth voice "Ssoon we will know, and ssoon you will be free to tell your friend. Go now, leave uss."
*Hercules walks away from the cabin, not knowing that Iolaus will soon be captured by the Lizard-people*
He felt dirty. He had done the right thing, that he was certain of, but a faint doubt flickered at the back of his mind. The things, the Linalzrds, were dangerous, but Hercules knew he could handle them. So why did he feel like he had done something wrong?
He entered Goose Fall Tavern, and felt his doubts intensify. His gaze swept the room. He saw moderately clean tables, filled with slightly disreputable people. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, so why did a sudden chill creep through his body. Shaking himself slightly, he headed towards an empty table.