Chapter Seven: Another Tricky Day

This story is not intended to violate any copyrights held by MCA, Universal Studios, or Renaissance Pictures concerning Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. This story is for fun and no money was made from it.

This is no social crisis, just another tricky day for you
"Another Tricky Day" - The Who

Elissa's eyes drifted from her work to linger over the form of the man she loved. The hunter was leaning against a tree with his arms crossed on the outskirts of the camp, waiting for her. He sent her a lazy smile as he caught her eye, which she returned before turning her attentions back to her patient. She finished bandaging the man's wound, and moved onto the next. Iolaus had not exactly been happy when she agreed to treat the warlord's men, but he kept his concerns quiet and let her work.

The healer did not approve of the warlord and his actions either, but she knew that all of the men who worked for him were someone's brother or husband or son, and that many had signed on for the job to provide for their families. With that justification, she could not refuse to help them, but she did accept a large payment from the warlord. It was one of the few times she ever took more than a dinar or two for her services. She went to collect when she was finished, and was begrudgingly handed the money after the man stole several nervous glances at the hunter. He had been up against Hercules and Iolaus before, and had not forgotten the beating he and his men had received. With that in mind, he refused to let Iolaus set foot into his camp, but he also didn't dare slight the healer woman, especially since so many of his men had been wounded at their last skirmish. So, he tossed the bag of coins to Elissa and watched her rejoin her companion.

"Everything go ok?" he asked her.

"You should know. You never took your eyes off me the entire time," she teased.

"I believe that it was you who were staring at me," he said, taking her hand as they walked back toward the road to resume their journey. "And excuse me for wanting to watch out for you when you enter the camps of murdering warlords all alone."

"You worry too much," she said with an affectionate smile, kissing him quickly on the nose. "Come on. It's only a few miles to Creon and lunch is on me!" The healer dropped his hand and began to sprint up the road. Iolaus followed her with a light heart, relieved to see that all the sadness of the past few weeks had left her and that she was her happy self once again.

Elissa truly was happy. Being out on the road had lifted her spirits, even though she knew that danger could be lurking ahead. Sinis was out there, and they had to warn Hercules, but for now she was content to be outside in the nature she loved, traveling with the man she loved even more.

The pair soon reached Creon and shared a meal at the local tavern. Although they wanted to find Hercules as soon as they could, they were not in a desperate hurry, and took a leisurely break in the quiet town. Eventually, they went back to the road and started the journey once more. The road was busy with travelers, but the couple seemed to almost not notice the bustle, lost in their own world with each other. They were pulled back into reality, however, when a boy crashed into the hunter.

"Sorry," he muttered, then kept walking past them. Elissa shrugged and was about to do the same when Iolaus narrowed his eyes and pounced on the boy. He held up the child's hand, which was clutching the hunter's money bag.

"Nice try," he told the kid. "But you'll have do a lot better than that." The boy tried to wrench away, but he was held securely. "That couldn't have been any more obvious. Your form was all wrong and your timing was off."

"I'd suggest a new means of employment," Elissa admonished the child. "Not only did you just try to rob the best thief in all of Greece, but also one without a dinar to his name."

"First of all," Iolaus said, turning to her without letting go of the boy. "That's the best FORMER thief in all of Greece. And second, I don't need money when I have you to support me." Elissa made a face at him, but before he could respond, a gang of thugs approached them.

"Let him go," the apparent leader rumbled. The hunter hesitated a moment, then released the boy, who tore off down the road after glancing fearfully at the gang.

"That was my nephew," the man growled. "And we don't take kindly to strangers roughing him up."

"Well, your nephew tried to pickpocket me," Iolaus explained. "And I didn't rough him up."

"Maybe we should rough you up." The hunter didn't know which man in the gang was threatening him, but it didn't matter. They were all basically the same person, anyway.

"Everywhere we go," he muttered, turning to Elissa. "Give me a minute, ok?"

"Would you like my help?" she asked sweetly, ignoring the laughter that erupted from the gang.

"Thanks, but this one's on me," he assured her.

"Well, hurry it up. We're behind schedule." She gave him a kiss for luck then went to sit under a nearby tree. Iolaus turned back to the gang and sized them up. There were five of them, all twice the size of him, but with, he suspected, the collective intellect of a pomegranate.

"Sending a boy out to steal," he taunted, shaking his head. "Too chicken to do it yourself? You want my money? Come and get it."

"We're going to kill you, little man," the gang leader growled. "And then we're going to take your woman." The words made the hunter's eyes flash with anger and just helped to ensure his victory. He emerged from the fray in a matter of minutes and flopped down beside his love under the tree.

"How was that?" he panted.

"Not bad," she frowned. "But what took you so long? And you let that guy sucker punch you…" Iolaus stopped her teasing with his lips, and when the kiss was finished, Elissa was the one panting.

"I love watching you fight," she whispered, running a finger down his smooth chest. "It's like a dance. Very fluid and graceful. You're so beautiful when you're kicking butt." Iolaus laughed and helped her up.

"Come on. I want to show you something." He led her back down the road a few miles, then veered off into the woods. "There's something up here I want you to see. It's a tough climb, but it'll be worth it. Do you want to go?"

"I thought you wanted to make Hellespont before dark," the healer reminded him.

"We have time. Come on." They began climbing up the winding path, though at times "path" was a bit of a stretch. Iolaus helped her over the worst of it, until finally they broke out into a clearing. Elissa gasped with astonishment when she saw it. There was a huge waterfall that cascaded into a deep, clear pool, surrounded by lush, green vegetation. The air was heavy with the perfume of flowers, and brightly colored birds sang from the surrounding treetops. A great sense of peace and serenity permeated the area, and it was indeed well worth the climb.

"I love it here," Elissa said softly, twining her fingers through the hunter's golden curls. They had spent the remainder of the day there, and evening was now descending. "It feels untouched, like nobody has ever been here before us. How did you find it?"

"I came across it once while I was tracking a stag," Iolaus murmured sleepily. Their afternoon had been filled with passion and now he was sated and relaxed. "I knew you'd like it." Elissa curled next to him and was quiet until she felt he was asleep, then she sat up and looked at him. The dying rays of the sun illuminated his golden form and took her breath away. He was so magnificent, she still couldn't believe he was hers. So strong and brave, yet kind and gentle. The healer hadn't known it was possible to love someone like she loved her soulmate. He was her life now and forever. Though she was tired, her heart was too full of the beauty of the place and love for her golden hunter to sleep. As the sun set and the moon rose, she left his side and dove into the crystal waters of the pool.

Iolaus awoke alone, which was something he hated. Immediately, he went in search of Elissa, quickly finding her swimming beneath the waterfall. He couldn't help smiling as he watched her splashing around playfully, and jumped in to join her.

"This place feels magical," she told him, diving beneath the water.

"Maybe it is," he whispered as she surfaced in front of him. Elissa pulled him to her and kissed him fiercely.

"I love you so much," she told him, her eyes telling him what words could not. "Promise me we'll always be together." The hunter scooped her up and carried her from the water to the soft ferns by its edge.

"I promise," he said, taking her mouth with a hunger that none but she could satisfy.

When the morning sun broke, its gentle rays awakened the sleeping couple.

"I wish we could stay here forever," Elissa yawned as she stretched.

"Well, we can't," Iolaus told her. "But we could stay another hour."

"Whatever would we do in an hour?" she asked innocently, but the gleam in her eye indicated that her ideas indeed matched the ones he had been thinking of.

Eventually, the hunter and the healer made their way back down to the road and started their journey once again. They spent a quiet morning walking, just enjoying being together. The sun ascended to its noon position, and Iolaus was just about to suggest stopping and setting up a fire for lunch when a man frantically approached them.

"Please help me," he begged them. "My horse ran away with my wagon. It overturned, and my daughter is trapped under it. Please, you have to help me." He turned and ran off into the woods, with Iolaus and Elissa close behind him. They followed him to a small clearing where he abruptly stopped and turned to face them.

"Where's the wagon?" Elissa asked, puzzled, but Iolaus suddenly felt like an open target. He spun around to see a horde of soldiers emerging from the trees behind them. Quickly he took Elissa's hand, and began to run forward, only to be stopped by more soldiers stepping out into the clearing. They were approaching from all sides, trapping them in the center of the clearing. Iolaus looked around desperately. He was severely outnumbered and did not stand a chance. But he had to try.

The hunter leapt at the approaching soldiers, catching them off guard. He dispatched of the first two quickly and moved on to the next two. A quick glance at Elissa saw her whirling her bag of stinging solution in the air, and he heard the cry of pain from the first soldier she connected with. It wasn't long before she was overwhelmed, however, and another quick glance saw her in the arms of the soldiers. That sight infuriated Iolaus and spurred him on, but it was sadly in vain. He had fought the good fight, but there were just too many of them, and soon he was also a captive.

Iolaus looked back and tried to catch Elissa's eye, but he was roughly shoved and fell before he could meet her gaze. He glared at his captor with vile hatred before getting to his feet and continuing onward. The men had separated him from the healer, and they had told him point blank that if he tried anything she would immediately be killed. Obviously, they hadn't thought that warning enough to deter him, so they had also chained his hands and guarded him closely. At least they had been relatively considerate of Elissa, leaving her untied and giving her a horse to ride. She looked all right, he just wished he could speak with her and reassure her.

Iolaus marched on until the group stopped for a brief rest. He warily sat down and tried to think of a way out of their predicament. After the initial capture, the soldiers had not lain hands on him except for the occasional shove. That meant that the order had been given to deliver him alive and in good condition. The hunter had a sinking feeling that it had been Sinis who had given that order. But what worried him most was Elissa. Had they brought her along merely as a bargaining chip to keep him in line, or did the new god have plans for her as well? Desperately, he tried again to catch her eye, but she was busy with one of the soldiers. He was younger than most, and seemed to still have a shred of human decency about him. Iolaus watched as he offered her his water skin. She took a small drink, then spoke to him for several moments. They went back and forth for awhile, then the soldier left. The hunter saw him walk over to a small rock that had a tiny sapling growing from it. He broke off a piece and took it back to Elissa. She spoke to him again, and after a moment's hesitation, he broke the twig in two and gave her half. Then he approached Iolaus and tossed him the other half.

"She wanted you to have this," he said over his shoulder as he turned to walk away. Iolaus looked back at the healer. She smiled and gave him a small wave. He couldn't return the wave, but a broad grin split his face as he knew for sure that she was doing all right. As he had found out time and again, Elissa could take care of herself. With the chains on his wrists hindering him slightly, he carefully tucked the small twig into the pouch on his belt. It was the healer's good luck charm, and right now they needed all the luck they could get.

They kept traveling north, with soldiers departing along the way until there were just a small band of them left. From the direction they were heading, Iolaus was sure they were going to one of Ares' fortresses. But would it be Ares or Sinis sitting upon the throne when they arrived? He was not sure it made a difference in the long run.

His hunter's sense of direction had not failed him, and they arrived at the fortress just before nightfall. The men removed the chains binding Iolaus and he walked unbidden into a dungeon cell. They left him little choice but to cooperate by holding a knife to Elissa's throat. Once the door slammed in his face, they quickly spirited the healer away, leaving Iolaus alone in agony, wondering what they were doing to her.

It seemed like an eternity, but in reality it had only been a few hours, when a bright flash of sparks announced the arrival of Olympia's newest god. Iolaus gripped the bars of his cell and stared at Sinis' smirking countenance in hate.

"Where is she? What have you done with her?" He was just barely in control, a fact that did not go unnoticed by his captor.

"Nothing, yet. And if you decide to help me, nothing will happen to her." The voice was calm and oily, and it infuriated the hunter.

"I'd never make a deal with you," he spat contemptuously.

"Not even for the girl's life? Just hear me out, Iolaus." When he got no response, Sinis took it as affirmation and continued. "I don't hold any grievance against the girl. I'd be willing to let her go, and even you too if you would only do one small thing for me."

"What?" Iolaus asked, trying to ignore the sick feeling welling up inside him.

"Kill Hercules."

"You're insane," the hunter whispered.

"No, I just know what I want and how to get it. I want Hercules dead. Even though I have the power to make it happen now, I'm still bound by that silly little rule of Zeus', and believe me, I'm having too much fun as a god to ever throw it away. But you, Iolaus, could do it so easily. He trusts you with his life. All you have to do is wait for him to turn his back and it would all be over with a quick knife to the heart. As much as I love slow torturous deaths, in this case I'd settle for just dead. Then you and your wench would be free to go and live out the rest of your miserable mortal lives."

"Go to Tartarus."

"I've been there," Sinis replied, with an evil smile. "This is an attractive proposition I'm offering. Especially since I'll kill the girl if you turn me down. And it won't be a quick knife to the heart." The god reached through the bars to grab the hunter and pull him up against the cell. "And you'll have a front row seat for it," he threatened, before sending Iolaus crashing against the far wall with a mighty shove. "Just think it over." And then he was gone.

Iolaus struggled to his feet and tried not to let the sheer panic he was feeling overwhelm him. He was being asked to choose between the two people that he loved best in the world. But the hunter did not have to deliberate long. He knew that he could not take Hercules' life, not even for Elissa. And even if he could, she would never forgive him for it, just like he would never forgive himself. Iolaus was also sure that Sinis would not make good on his promise to let them live in peace after the deed was done, but he was quite certain that the new god would keep his word in killing Elissa if he refused. Having seeing Sinis' savage, brutal handiwork on more occasions than he cared to think about, he knew they had to get out of there now. Restlessly, he got up to pace his small cell. He had been over every inch of it, but there was no way out. The cell door had seemingly sealed somehow when it had shut, and he couldn't figure out how it opened. Still, their lives depended on it, so he began examining his prison again, desperate to find an escape.

Sinis watched the hunter for a little while, unseen to the mortal eye, and took great pleasure in his futile efforts. He didn't really expect the man to kill Hercules for him. It was just a bit of mental torture before the physical began. He didn't even really want Hercules dead at all. Sinis had realized that all the other gods had been going about it the wrong way. If Hercules died, he would go to the Elysian Fields, surrounded by his family, and spend eternity in paradise. No, he wanted the demigod to suffer, and the only way to arrange that would be to take away the one thing he had left, and the thing that was dearest to his heart. Sinis did not understand the friendship that Hercules and Iolaus shared, never caring to be close to someone in his mortal life, but that didn't mean that he didn't appreciate it for the advantages it could give him. He had been watching the partners for some time, and he knew that if he could set it up so that Hercules burst through the door just in time to watch him slaughter Iolaus, it would destroy the demigod. But first, he had to destroy the hunter.

Sinis had spent the majority of his life studying cruelty, and to him, torture was an art form. He loved inflicting physical pain on his victims, but even more so he loved mental torture. There was nothing more satisfying than to break a human's spirit and see them crumble, knowing that the rest of their days would be spent in unbearable mental anguish. He knew that the hunter would never break, no matter what inhumane pain was forced upon him. Yes, the way to the hunter was through the girl.

The new god materialized in the girl's room but did not let her see him. He wasn't sure quite how he wanted to deal with her yet, and he needed some time to observe her. She was sitting quietly in the room he'd had her taken to, gazing out the window. Sinis frowned slightly as he watched her. She wasn't afraid, and he could tell she had an unwavering faith that everything would turn out all right. He didn't like it, and he made himself known to her.

"Good evening. I trust you are enjoying your quarters?" She didn't answer, but gazed at him with calm green eyes. Sinis shifted uncomfortably. Her eyes were full of goodness and kindness, and he felt like she was looking right into his soul and his secrets. "Don't you want to know what I've done with him?" he demanded, trying to escape her hypnotic gaze.

"I'd like to see him," she said softly. It was not a demand or a plea. Just a polite request.

"Which piece?" he snapped. Something flickered quickly in her face, then it was gone. Just those calm eyes that were boring into his. She knew he was lying.

"What are you going to do with us?"

"Kill you," he said bluntly. Still no reaction, and he couldn't take it anymore. "You're not afraid of me, are you?" She smiled slightly and shook her head. "Why not? You should be."

"You can't hurt me," she replied gently. Sinis tried to keep his frustration in check and tried not to put her through the wall. That would hurt her.

"What makes you think so?"

"You don't have any power over me." The girl turned and went back to looking out the window. The god was now truly angered and grabbed her by the hair, forcing her to look at him.

"I have more power than you could ever dream of," he shouted. But she was still not frightened. He saw it all in her eyes. She was good and pure and probably couldn't even conceive of the evil he was capable of. And she knew that this was a temporary life, and when it was over, she'd go on to the Elysian Fields for an eternity of peace and happiness with the man she loved with an all encompassing force. To a mind like Sinis', Elissa was the greatest foe he could ever come across. He wanted to crush her spirit in his hands, until she was afraid and tormented. The god looked at the shining light of purity that radiated from her soul, and he wanted to hurt her until it was gone. But strangely, he was also attracted to the beautiful light that the evil in him so wanted to destroy. Maybe there was a way to satisfy both of these conflicting feelings…

He let her go and flashed her his most savage grin. His plan was coming together now, and soon he would put the wheels in motion.

"You will learn to fear me," he whispered sinisterly. He truly believed that he would win this battle, yet it was the powerful god who had to look away first as they stared at each other. "You will learn," he repeated, before vanishing in a blinding flash of light.

Disclaimer: The young pickpocket in this story soon saw the error of his ways and went on to become a fine, upstanding citizen.

Chapter 8: Too Late the Hero
The Iolusian Library