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.
Author’s Note: This story arc detours from the tv series after season 4, so obviously it goes on the principle that the events in “Full Circle” never took place.
Iolaus jumped as a loud blast of thunder rang outside the window. The raging storm was making sleep a distinct impossibility, so he decided that a mug of mead was in order. He quietly rose from the bed, intent on not disturbing Elissa, and carefully crept into the kitchen and began stirring up the fire.
“Can’t sleep?” The voice startled the hunter, and he idly wondered why he was so jumpy. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.” He hadn’t noticed Salmoneus sitting silently in the dark, but as the dying embers of the fire turned to flickering flames, he distinctly made out the salesman in the corner.
“I don’t know how anyone could sleep through this,” he replied, getting out a mug for himself and one for Salmoneus. “Except Elissa. I think the roof could cave in and she wouldn’t notice.”
“She’s been through a lot,” Salmoneus whispered, knowing better than anyone what the girl had suffered of late. He came to sit at the table and accepted the mead that the hunter handed him. “You wish Hercules were here, don’t you?” he asked, noticing the unease in Iolaus’ normally cheerful features.
“Don’t you?” he answered with a small smile. While he, Elissa, and Salmoneus had returned to Acheron after their latest encounter with Sinis, Jason had gone on to Corinth to wait for Iphicles and tell him what had been transpiring, in case soldiers were needed. Hercules had gone back to Pharos, intent on returning the mirror they had borrowed to Proteus’ cave. Iolaus did wish his friend were with him. The storm that was violently rampaging outside filled him with foreboding. Sinis was plotting something major, and the hunter was sure that it was on the verge of happening. He would have felt a lot more confident with the demigod by his side.
“Soldiers from Corinth aren’t going to do us any good if they can’t get here through the storm,” Salmoneus remarked nervously.
“They aren’t going to do us any good anyway,” Iolaus told him. “Sinis easily has the power to defeat an army. Whatever war is brewing, it’s just going to be us against him.”
Salmoneus fell silent again. He was scared, and had been looking to Iolaus to reassure him that everything would work out. Pessimism didn’t come naturally to the hunter, and his doubts only served to heighten the fear that had gripped the salesman. His instincts told him to flee from his friends, to get himself out of line of fire. But he was also afraid to leave the only people that could protect him. And even though he didn’t think he could be of any use, a small part of him still wanted to stay, just in case he could help in any way.
“What do you think he’s planning?” Salmoneus was almost afraid to hear the answer, but he had to ask.
“Who knows?” Iolaus replied, staring thoughtfully into the fire. “Whatever it is, I’m sure it has to do with world domination. Egomaniacs like Sinis are never satisfied until every last creature in the world bows down before them.”
“Great. I’m going to spend the rest of my life as a tree. Or a shrub. Or a piece of swamp moss. Or...”
“Did you hear that?” Iolaus interrupted suddenly.
“Hear what? I didn’t hear anything.”
“I thought I heard something,” the hunter whispered, standing up slowly.
“What do you mean ‘something‘? A we’re-in-big-trouble something? A free-ticket-to-Hades something? What kind of something?”
“Maybe I could tell you if you would shut up and let me listen!”
“Right. I can do that.” A stern look from Iolaus prompted the salesman to cover his mouth with his hands. As they stood in silence, straining their ears above the roar of the wind, they heard the faintest thump outside the door. Cautiously, the hunter retrieved his sword from the corner of the room and approached the door. Salmoneus could hardly breathe as Iolaus positioned himself and slowly reached his hand out to crack open the door. The violent wind snatched the door from his grasp, flinging it open to slam against the wall of the house, and the sword clattered to the floor as the hunter dropped it in order to catch Hercules as he collapsed into his arms.
Iolaus quickly took in the battered state of his friend while Salmoneus struggled to shut the door against the howling wind. Together, they managed to drag the demigod’s large bulk next to the fire. The hunter knelt with his partner’s head in his lap while Salmoneus covered his dripping frame with a blanket. As he began to regain consciousness, Hercules moaned out his friend’s name.
“I’m right here, Herc. You’re home. You’re safe now.”
“Do you want me to go get Elissa?” Salmoneus asked, eager to do something. Iolaus hesitated for a moment as Hercules struggled to open his eyes and focus on his surroundings.
“Not yet,” he finally decided. Elissa had been sleeping undisturbed for the first time in days, and he hated to wake her. Besides, he had learned enough by being with her to feel reasonably confident in his own abilities. “But you can put some water on to heat and gather up some bandages.” As the salesman scurried off to do his bidding, Iolaus slipped a pillow under his friend’s head in place of his lap and began checking his injuries. “What happened, Herc?” he asked while he worked.
Hercules was silent for a long time. He didn’t even want to think about what had happened, but he also needed to tell Iolaus, the one person who would understand.
“Sinis,” he said finally. Iolaus helped him sit up enough to drink the mug of water that Salmoneus had brought him. As he eased Hercules back down to the floor, the hunter became disturbed at the look in his partner’s eyes. He had never seen the demigod so utterly helpless, so absolutely betrayed, and it scared him.
“Go on,” he prodded gently, using the water Salmoneus had heated to begin cleaning his friend’s wounds.
“I never saw him coming,” Hercules began. “He hit me from behind and knocked me unconscious. When I woke up, I was in some sort of dungeon. He had me bound in chains. Probably something that Hephaestus created, because I couldn’t break free of them. And... Zeus was there, too.” Tears began to well in the demigod’s eyes, and he shut them tightly, as if to shut away the memory.
“I’m listening,” Iolaus reminded him softly when it appeared that he wasn’t going to continue.
“Sinis gave Zeus a choice,” he whispered hoarsely.
“Yeah, he’s real big on that,” Iolaus said dryly, dabbing carefully at a large gash on his friend’s chest.
“Sinis told him that he had to pick. Either he would make Zeus mortal and force him to run the gauntlet before he could leave, or I’d take his place and he would save Zeus for another day. And Zeus told him to do it to me. My own father...” Hercules trailed off as sobs began to choke him. Iolaus quickly abandoned his ministrations and hugged his friend tightly to him. He alone knew that even after all the mistakes and all the times that Zeus had wronged him, Hercules still loved him and a part of him still longed for a relationship with his father. But this was the last straw. Zeus had finally succeeded in breaking his son’s heart, and no amount of justification or apology was going to set this right. Iolaus held his best friend and tried to comfort him, but inside he was so full of rage over Zeus’ selfishness that he was having trouble thinking coherently. He looked up at Salmoneus who was hovering nervously in the background and told him to go get Elissa.
The healer emerged from the bedroom immediately after the salesman summoned her. She was a bit groggy, but quickly assessed the situation and decided to ask for the explanation later. Elissa went to work brewing a sedative tea, both to calm the distraught man and to relax him so that they could reset his dislocated shoulder. Iolaus managed to coax the tea into Hercules with relatively no problems, and as he slipped back into unconsciousness, the hunter helped Elissa treat the rest of his wounds and held his friend firmly as she tugged the protruding joint back into place. He left her to splint Hercules’ arm to his chest and went to the kitchen to serve up another round of mead. Elissa finished with her patient, covering him with a warm blanket, and sat at the table with Salmoneus. Iolaus doled out the mead and joined them, filling Elissa in with what Hercules had told him.
“Zeus left his own son at the hands of that monster?” she demanded incredulously. “That bastard had better hope he never runs into me again.” Iolaus laughed at her threat, but Salmoneus was failing to find the humor in the situation.
“Is he going to be all right?” he asked seriously.
“I think so,” the healer answered. “He’ll be out of commission for a few days, but none of his injuries are life threatening.”
“But he’s mortal, right?”
“That doesn’t matter,” Iolaus said tightly. “He’s still Hercules.”
“We have to stop Sinis,” Elissa said, softly but with conviction.
“How can we?” Salmoneus whined. “He’s a god, and now with Hercules mortal...”
“We’ll stop him,” Iolaus said coldly, his tone clearly indicating that he wanted the salesman to stop talking about Hercules. “But he’s not going to go easily. The only way we’ll be able to stop him...”
“Is to kill him,” Elissa finished.
“Kill a god? Are you crazy?” Salmoneus yelped.
“Being that he’s bent on destroying the Olympian pantheon, I highly doubt that the other gods will hold it against us.” Iolaus was beginning to tire of Salmoneus‘ constant whining.
“But even if that’s true, how can you kill a god? They’re immortal.” The salesman obviously wasn’t picking up on the hunter’s irritation with him.
“Hind’s blood,” Elissa volunteered. As she realized what she had said, she guiltily looked around to make sure Hercules was asleep and hadn’t heard her. Iolaus had told her all about the golden hind that the demigod had loved, and even though he didn’t talk about it, she knew the pain still ran deep.
“But there aren’t any more hinds,” Salmoneus interjected.
“I’m sure there’s still some blood floating around somewhere,” Iolaus told them. “But I wouldn’t even begin to know where to look for it. However, there is option number two. Gorgon blood is just as lethal to the gods as the blood of the hinds.”
“But I thought Medusa was dead. Perseus killed her.” Iolaus sighed inwardly. Now was the time for action, and he was having enough doubts of his own without having them voiced by the salesman.
“Perseus did kill Medusa, who was mortal. But, she had two immortal sisters, Stheno and Euryale. Hercules and I talked about it, and all we have to do is get to the island where they live and run one of them through with a sword. Ultimately, it won’t hurt the gorgon, since they are immortal, and it will give us a weapon to use against Sinis.”
“Just one more question,” Salmoneus said skeptically. “How are you going to get there? And how are you going to get close enough to stab a gorgon with a sword without getting turned to stone?”
“The same way that Perseus did,” came a voice from behind them. The threesome collectively spun around to see a ghostly figure materializing in the room. Salmoneus shrank back in fear, but Iolaus felt a twinge of recognition. After a moment, he was able to place the spirit before him.
“You remember me,” the shade beamed, obviously delighted that he had made a lasting impression on the hero.
“Sure I do, but what are you doing here?”
“Hades sent me,” Timuron explained. “He and Persephone have been really nice to me. I guess they feel kind of bad for me, after what Sisyphus did. Anyway, he found out that Hercules was going after the gorgons, and he wanted to help. The gods are all in hiding, terrified of Sinis. He’s taking their immortality faster than the rest can restore it. I figured, since I was already dead, there wasn’t much Sinis could do to me, so I volunteered to bring these things to Hercules.” The young spirit looked gravely at the battered figure by the fire. “I guess I’m too late.”
“No,” Iolaus told him, reaching for the bag that the shade was clutching. “I’ll take it.” Timuron hesitated for a moment. His orders were to give the items to Hercules only, but after glancing at the prone form once more, he decided that the hunter was the gods’ only hope.
“Good luck, Iolaus,” the spirit told them as he surrendered his possessions and began to vanish. “Everyone on Olympus is rooting for you.”
“Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d hear,” the hunter muttered, opening the bag. One by one he set the items on the table, as Salmoneus and Elissa watched wide eyed. Athena’s shield, polished to a mirror shine. Hades’ helmet of invisibility. And last but not least, Hermes’ winged sandals.
“Hey, I finally get to try these out,” he grinned, holding up the sandals.
“Are you really going to do this?” Salmoneus asked him.
“Do I have a choice?” Iolaus looked at his unconscious partner. “And there’s no time like the present.”
“Well?” Hades demanded, as Timuron entered the cavern deep in the bowels of the underworld.
“I gave them to Iolaus. He’s going to do it.”
“You were supposed to give them to Hercules,” Athena admonished him angrily. Usually she was a very stoic goddess, but fear had put her on edge.
“I couldn’t,” the spirit said nervously, forgetting for a moment that he was in fact dead, and that an angry goddess could do little to hurt him. “There’s a problem. Hercules is...”
“Dead?” Ares finished hopefully.
“No, but he’s hurt. I think Sinis must have gotten to him.”
“So, our future is in the hands of a mortal?” Athena began to pace irritably.
“That little twerp is doing more than you are,” Ares jibed. Although he would never, ever admit it to a soul, living or dead, the god had long since admired the little blond mortal that followed Hercules around like a puppy. He didn’t even like admitting it to himself, but men with the level of cunning and skill that Iolaus had were few and far between. Ares had learned from past experience that he was not one to be underestimated.
“Shut up, Ares, or you won’t have to worry about Sinis coming for your head.”
“Oh yeah. Just try it, little sister.”
“Will you two knock it off?” Hades glowered at his niece and nephew. “This isn’t helping any.”
“I think he can do it,” Persephone spoke up. “He’s very brave.”
“Yeah, and if he gets himself killed, good old uncle Hades can always snap his fingers and bring him back to life. Not like you haven’t done it a thousand times before.”
“Ares.” It was one word, not even spoken that loudly, but Hades was enough of a stern, foreboding figure to make even his impetuous nephew fall silent.
“He can do it,” Timuron volunteered. “But there’s always a chance that Sinis will stop him.”
“Maybe he’ll be too busy playing whack-the-god to notice,” Ares muttered.
“He’s been keeping pretty close tabs on those three,” Hades mused. “He’s bound to find out what Iolaus is up to. What we need is a distraction.” Everyone turned and looked at Ares.
“Oh no,” he protested as he gleaned what was running through their heads. “I’m not about to go sacrifice myself to that lunatic. You can just find yourself another whipping boy.”
“What’s wrong, Ares?,” Athena taunted. “A minute ago you were chastising me about not doing anything. I thought you were supposed to be the god of war? More like god of chickens if you ask me.”
“Fine,” Ares spat, eyes blazing. “Since I’m the only god around here with any guts, I’ll go after Sinis. But don’t be surprised if I take out that maniac myself and save the gorgon blood for all of you.” With a brilliant flash of light, the god of war vanished.
“He’s so easy to manipulate,” Athena said, settling back smugly. “Just insult his manhood and he’ll do anything you want.”
Iolaus crept silently through the brush, trying to ignore the sound of his heart hammering in his ears. Hermes’ sandals had whisked him to the remote island where the gorgons lived, and he had been tracking them through the remote wilderness for the better part of the day. He had come upon their lair, but had decided to leave his ambush until nightfall, when they were asleep. That’s the way Perseus had slain Medusa, and although it seemed a bit unsportsmanlike to the hunter, he told himself that this was not the time for macho driven heroics.
Slipping on Hades’ helmet, he held Athena’s shield at an angle in front of him. He’d spent the last hour practicing his swordplay while looking at the polished surface of the shield, wanting to be confident that he could accurately maneuver his weapon while viewing the reflection of his intended target. Getting a better grip on his sword, Iolaus pushed his way through the remaining bushes that separated him from the gorgons.
They were sleeping side by side under a tree, obviously not believing themselves to be in any danger. The hunter stealthily approached, closer and closer until he could clearly see the snakes twining about their heads in place of hair. He shuddered involuntarily at the repulsiveness of these poor creatures, wanting to get this over with as soon as possible. Taking a deep breath, Iolaus raised his sword high and plunged it directly through the middle of the monster closest to him.
A scream of rage erupted through the night air as the gorgon awoke. Through the reflection of the shield, Iolaus saw those terrible eyes open and seemingly fixate on him, even though Hades’ helmet hid him from sight. He then knew why looking at the face of a gorgon would turn a man to stone. Just looking into the reflection of the monster’s blood curdling eyes was enough to momentarily freeze him to the spot. The gorgon howled once again, forked tongue flicking angrily through the sharp fangs, and the sound was enough to spur Iolaus to action. He yanked his sword free from the monster’s hideous body, and Hermes’ sandals took him up into the air. The other gorgon, awakened by her sister’s anguished cries, lit into the air after him. She was so close, he could feel the breeze rush over him from her massive wing beats. But, the helmet shielded him from her, and in just a few minutes he had left the island and the gorgons far behind him. Nevertheless, Iolaus kept going as fast as the sandals would take him, still feeling the monster’s iron claws reaching out to snatch him from the sky, and thinking that however much distance he put between himself and them, it wouldn’t be enough.
Elissa stared at the night sky, silently praying that her golden hunter would return to her safely, but doubting anyone was listening. The terrible storm had ceased, but the wind was still howling relentlessly. A bright, full moon shone down upon the land, but their was something sinister about it. Usually, she loved the glow the moonlight cast upon the night, but it was as if Sinis had managed to taint even the beauty of Hecate’s moon and the sight of it now filled her with dread.
“He should have been back by now,” she said worriedly as Salmoneus came up behind her.
“He’ll be here,” he tried to comfort her, putting an arm around her. “After all, who better to hunt a gorgon than Greece’s finest hunter?” The salesman had succeeded in coaxing a smile from the healer, and he hated that he now had to ruin it. “I think he’s getting worse. He keeps asking for Iolaus. I don’t know what to tell him.”
“I’ll go to him,” Elissa said. “Why don’t you try and get some sleep?” Salmoneus nodded wearily and went to make himself a pallet by the fire as Elissa went to check on Hercules.
“Where’s Iolaus?” he asked softly as the healer tried to assess his fever. It did seem like he was getting warmer.
“He’s out hunting,” she tried to soothe him. “He’ll be back soon.”
“No,” Hercules protested, shaking his head weakly. “Something’s wrong. He would be here.” Elissa was quiet for a moment as she tried to decide what to tell him. With a gentle hand she smoothed the damp hair off his forehead and resolved to tell him the truth.
“He went to get the gorgon blood, Hercules,” she said softly.
“Alone? It’s too dangerous.”
“It’s ok. The gods gave him lots of little toys to protect him. He’ll be fine.” She hoped she sounded more convincing than she felt.
“How long has he been gone?”
“Not long,” Elissa lied. “Go back to sleep now. Iolaus will be home soon.” Once again, the healer sent out her silent prayer that she was right.
“Is this a private party, or is every god invited?” Sinis’ appearance warranted a scream from Persephone and expressions of terror from the other three gods.
“This is my domain, Sinis,” Hades thundered. But the new god just smiled evilly at the imposing figure.
“And it’s forbidden to meddle in another god’s domain? Hades, haven’t you learned yet that your Olympian rules mean nothing to me? And by the way, that sad excuse for Tartarus that you have back there is just pathetic. I can come up with dozens of tortures that would make better punishments than your puny devices. Maybe once I rule the underworld, you’ll get to see them firsthand. I know Ares will.”
Hades and Athena both rushed at Sinis, but they were too late. He stretched his arms out before them and began a chant in an ancient language. The jewel hanging against his chest began to glow and pulsate, and a great whirlwind swirled about the room, catching up the three gods in its momentum and draining them of their immortality.
Iolaus had barely gotten the door to the house shut when he was almost knocked down by the force of Elissa flinging herself into his arms.
“You weren’t worried about me, were you?” he asked as she clung to him.
“You? Never,” the healer answered, feeling like she was finally able to breathe again now that he was safely home. She drew back to look at him, and saw the bruises and scratches that covered his frame. “What happened? Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” Iolaus said wearily, limping over to sit at the table. “Hermes’ sandals lost their power on the way back. Sinis must have found him and taken his godhood. I fell to the ground, then had to walk the rest of the way here. Guess I’m just lucky Sinis didn’t get to him until after I crossed the ocean. But, I got the sword.” The hunter displayed it proudly.
“Now we just have to get close enough to use it,” Elissa commented.
“That’s what this is for,” Iolaus reminded her, slipping on Hades’ helmet. “What?” he asked, as the healer’s face fell.
“I can still see you,” she whispered.
“Then he’s gotten to Hades, too,” Iolaus muttered dejectedly, taking off the helmet and tossing it onto the floor. Suddenly, he jumped up as it dawned on him that Hercules was no longer lying by the fire.
“It’s all right. We just moved him into the bedroom,” Elissa told him, in answer to his worried look.
“Iolaus, he has pneumonia. I’ve been trying different medicines, but so far he’s not responding to anything.”
“He’ll be ok, though. Won’t he?”
“I don’t know,” the healer replied honestly, hating to worry the man she loved but knowing that she couldn’t lie to him. “If we can keep his fever down and stop the fluid from filling his lungs, he should be all right. But for now, he’s really not doing well.” Iolaus ran a hand tiredly over his face and looked helplessly at the healer.
“Can I go in and see him?”
“You’d better. He’s been asking for you ever since you left.” The hunter gave her a faint smile and quietly went down the hall to his partner. Salmoneus had been sitting with Hercules, but when Iolaus entered the room he silently got up and went to the kitchen to give them privacy.
“Herc?” Iolaus said softly, easing himself down into the chair next to the bed when his friend was sleeping fitfully. “Can you hear me?” The soft blue eyes, bright with fever, opened and shone as they focused on the sight of the hunter.
“You’re back,” Hercules whispered with a slight grin. “Did you get it?”
“Of course I did. Was there ever any doubt?” The hunter grinned back at his friend and held a cup of water to his cracked lips. After he had taken a sip, Hercules became serious.
“Iolaus, listen to me. We have to talk about Sinis.”
“Later, Herc. Don’t worry about that now.”
“Now might be all I have,” he said, a bit wistfully.
“Don’t talk that that,” Iolaus burst out. “You’re going to be fine.”
“You never were good at lying,” Hercules said fondly. “I don’t need anyone to tell me that I’m losing this battle. And maybe it’s my destiny. To go out with the rest of the gods.”
“Hercules, stop it,” Iolaus commanded. “How many times have you told me that we make our own destinies? We may be down now, but this battle is far from over. And you know Elissa and I aren’t going to let you go without one Tartarus of a fight.” The hunter moved in closer and took his friends hand. “Herc, that time when Sinis killed Elissa nearly killed me, too. The only reason I didn’t follow her... was because of you. As much as I wanted to be with her, I couldn’t leave you. And as much as I love her...I love you, too. So just try to hold on, okay, and don’t worry about Sinis. I’ll be the hero this time.”
“You’re always a hero to me,” Hercules whispered. Iolaus was almost glad that the soft knock on the door interrupted them. He was afraid that if anything else had been said, he would have broken down in tears. Instead he rose and admitted Elissa, who handed him a mug of steaming liquid.
“Try and get this into him,” she instructed. “I haven’t tried this one yet, so maybe it will help.”
“I’ve just never seen him so beaten before,” Iolaus whispered in her ear. “He’s really starting to scare me.”
“There’s still a few other herbs I can try,” the healer tried to reassure him. “Don’t give up yet.” He nodded and turned back to his stricken friend. Elissa let herself out of the room, shutting the door again behind her as she returned to the kitchen. She began stoking the dying fire, knowing that she really should get some sleep, but wanting to go over the dusty parchments that her father had kept. It was a long shot, but she was hoping that she could find something in them that would be of help to Hercules. Salmoneus offered to go out and collect more wood, and the healer nodded absently to him as she lit the lamp on the table.
Elissa began clearing the table of the toys of the gods that Iolaus had dumped there. She piled the helmet and shield randomly on the floor beside the fireplace, but she hesitated as she picked up his sword. The blood encrusted over the metal shone darkly in the firelight, and as she held the weapon two thoughts echoed in her mind. Sinis had to be stopped. And he was never going to let Iolaus get close enough to do it.
A chill ran down Elissa’s spine, and she pulled her cloak tighter around her body. The fierce wind that had been raging abruptly stopped, and its roar was replaced by utter silence. She sat down on a large, flat rock in the sinister glow of the moonlight and prepared to wait. In moments, Sinis appeared before her.
“Good evening, Elissa,” he said politely, bowing grandly before her. “How absolutely marvelous to see you again.” The healer said nothing, but tightened her grip on the sword hidden under her cloak. “So,” the god began. “Your hunter has returned with the gorgon blood. You don’t have any faith in his abilities at all, and believing that he will be killed, you’ve snuck out of the house and have come to kill me yourself. Does that about sum up this nighttime rendezvous?”
“I do have faith in Iolaus,” she insisted. “I just thought that your ego would allow me a better chance.”
“As big as my ego may be, it is not so large as to corrupt my judgment. Really, I do enjoy our games together, but believe me, I have every intention of emerging victorious.”
“We’ll see,” she murmured.
“Come on, little healer. I’ve defeated all of the Olympian gods. Their power now courses through me. Do you honestly think that a mere mortal such as yourself is going to stop me?”
“How did you do it, Sinis?”
“It was actually easier than I anticipated,” he said with an oily smile. “When Ares gave me immortality, he assumed that I would go after Hercules, and if I were able to kill him, Zeus would eliminate me. But the feeling of that divine power coursing through me was unlike anything I could have imagined. I was not about to throw it away. So I disappeared. For months I did nothing but research old scrolls and master my new power. I read about the early battle for supremacy between the gods and the titans, and something struck me. The gods like everyone to believe that they defeated the titans on their own, so they buried a small part of the myth.”
“The titans had a large opal that amplified their strength.” Elissa’s eyes went to the jewel that was hanging around Sinis’ neck. He caught her glance and grinned, reaching up a hand to possessively stroke the pendant. “As long as they controlled it, they had the power to defeat the gods. However, one fortuitous lightening bolt thrown by Zeus knocked it out of Cronus’ hand and the titans were defeated. Zeus tried to destroy the Jewel of the Titans, but there was one factor he didn’t count on. Whereas the whole opal will amplify power, fragments of it will take it away. Once he realized this, he had the pieces hidden away in places that only other gods could get to. I made it my personal quest to find a piece of the jewel. Then it was a simple matter of finding an incantation that would protect me from the opal when I used it on the other gods. And after that, bye bye Olympians.”
“So, now what?” Elissa demanded. “Are you going to go after the Norse gods now?”
“Perhaps. Perhaps not. I doubt they would be as easy to overthrow as our dear Grecian divinities. They brought this on themselves. All they would have needed to do is just band together and face me. They defeated the whole race of titans, for Zeus’ sake, and I was only one weak god. But the Olympians couldn’t even come together to save themselves. They ran like scared rabbits, and it was a simple matter to pick them off one by one. The whole race of them is worthless. You know firsthand that they do nothing but cause trouble for mortals and interfere with their lives. The king of the gods himself even sacrificed his own son to save himself. Really, gods like that have no business being in power, don’t you think?”
“You know I’m no fan of the gods,” she replied. “But even they don’t deserve this. At least most of them don’t.”
“That’s the trouble with you, Elissa. Too much compassion. It distorts your vision of reality.”
“I’d rather be compassionate than a cold hearted butcher like you,” she spat angrily.
“Why? What has that ever gotten you? When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. When you care about nothing, you can’t be manipulated, bribed, or hurt. You love so much, and all it’s gotten you is a life of pain. People die, people betray you, people walk all over your feelings. Yet you still care. And set yourself up for the fall over and over again. Really, what has love ever gotten you, except killed?”
“Love also brought me back,” she reminded him. “And it’s given me things that you’ll never be able to comprehend.”
“You’re a fool,” he hissed back. “Your compassion has made you weak. You’re not a hero, so just end this little charade. You’re nothing.”
“I am not nothing,” Elissa said calmly, refusing to be drawn in. “And I’m done listening to you.”
“Well, well. I see that looking in Proteus’ mirror has given you a new outlook on life. Just what did you see in your reflection?”
“I saw what other people see when they look at me. Not what you or my insecurities see. I saw myself for who I really am, and you’re not going to take that away from me ever again.”
“So, is this the part where you kill me now? Oh Elissa, I do see you for who you really are. And you can’t do this. After all I’ve done to you and your beloved friends, you still can’t bring yourself to plunge that sword into my chest. Here, I’ll give you a free shot.” Sinis stood in front of the healer and presented himself to her. “Come on, one quick thrust to the heart.” She gripped the sword and held it ready, but did not attack. “You see, I told you that you couldn’t do it.” A sharp pain shot through Sinis and he looked in confusion at Elissa, who hadn’t moved.
“Maybe she can’t,” came a low voice in his ear. “But I can.” As he slumped to the ground, he saw Iolaus move into view beside the healer.
“You,” he gasped, reaching behind him and trying in vain to remove the dagger from between his shoulder blades.
“That’s right, Sinis. A ‘mere mortal’ just ended your reign. Enjoy an eternity in Tartarus.”
“There is no Tartarus anymore,” the dying god gasped. Iolaus strode up to him and jerked the pendant around his neck, snapping the chain and removing it.
“There will be,” the hunter assured him.
“Only a god can work the magic of the opal,” Sinis informed them. “And there are no gods left.” His cruel laughter quickly became a cough, and rage set in as he fully realized that his time was over. “I curse you,” he thundered with wild eyes, pointing at Elissa. “I curse you and all you do for the rest of your miserable life.” Iolaus moved protectively closer to the girl and took her in his arms as the god that had epitomized evil quieted and died.
“Are you all right?”
“He was right, Iolaus. Even after everything, I still couldn’t kill him.”
“It’s not in you to take a life, even his,” Iolaus comforted her. “There was actually a part of me that hated stabbing him in the back like that, but I knew that if I didn’t he would have killed all of us.”
“I knew that too, but I still couldn’t...”
“Hey, don’t worry about it. You are who you are, and just because you couldn’t kill him doesn’t make you a coward or doesn’t mean you betrayed us. If you would have done it, you would have betrayed yourself and you’d end up hating yourself for it forever.” Iolaus approached the still form and retrieved his dagger.
“That was a great idea,” Elissa told him. “Heating the blood on the sword until it liquefied and pressing it against the dagger. Two weapons. Sinis never saw that coming.”
“Old Hunter’s Trick,” Iolaus told her, wiping the dagger clean in the grass.
“Now it is,” he grinned.
“I just can’t believe he’s actually gone. All this time worrying about what he was going to do next. I just can’t believe it’s over.”
“I think you spoke too soon,” Iolaus said as Salmoneus burst through the trees.
“He’s getting worse,” the salesmen panted, taking in the sight of the former god lying motionless on the ground. “Is he really...?” But the healer had already begun sprinting back to the house with the hunter and no one was around to answer his question.
Iolaus stopped so abruptly as he entered the room where Hercules lay ill that Elissa plowed into him from behind. As she peaked around him to see what had literally stopped him in his tracks, she saw that Hercules wasn’t alone. A woman was sitting beside his unconscious form, whispering softly to him. She was a plain, ordinary looking woman, but there was something about her that set her apart from other mortals.
“Are you Hestia?” Iolaus asked softly. The goddess looked up at the pair and smiled gently.
“Sinis told us all the gods were gone,” Elissa said.
“They are. All except for me.”
“I don’t understand,” the hunter began. “Why would he leave you?”
“Maybe he didn’t think I had any power worth taking. He’d probably be right about that. My powers as a goddess are limited, especially since I abdicated my place on Olympus to Dionysus. Or maybe he simply forgot about me. With larger than life characters like Ares and Aphrodite running around, I’m easy to overlook.”
“Can you do anything to help Hercules? Or the other gods?” Elissa asked.
“I can help all of them,” Hestia replied. “But I’m leaving the decision of whether I should or not up to you.” Elissa and Iolaus shot each other a questioning look. “I can heal Hercules. And I can release the power from the Jewel of the Titans. The gods would get their divinity back. And Hercules would get his strength back. But to do so, I have to restore all the gods. All of them.”
“What do you think?” Iolaus asked the healer.
“This is your decision,” she told him gently. “You defeated Sinis. It’s up to you.”
“A world without the gods,” the hunter mused. “I can’t even imagine it. No more monsters. No more divine retribution. No more being on Olympus’ most wanted list. No more gods.” He crossed the room to lean on the windowsill, looking out at the breaking dawn. As the sun’s rays began to shine down, the havoc that Sinis had rained down over Greece was apparent. “But the world is suffering,” Iolaus whispered, almost to himself. “Crops are ruined. The ocean is raging. Nature is out of control. The underworld is a mess.” He turned to look sadly at his partner. “People are dying.”
“Before you decide,” Hestia said softly, “I should tell you one other thing. Sinis freed Hera from the abyss of Tartarus. He wanted her power, so he got her out and took it. If you choose to restore the gods, she’ll be restored with them.”
Iolaus had never been so torn in his life. He desperately wished he knew what Hercules would want. The hunter could hear his partner’s voice echo in his mind: Do what’s best for mankind. But would unleashing Hera once again on Greece be doing what was best for mankind, even if it did give them back the gods that could right the turbulent world. Closing his eyes, Iolaus took a deep breath and thrust the jewel at Hestia. The goddess took it from him slowly, and tucked it into the folds of her gown. Laying a gentle hand on the chest of her nephew, she sent a soft white light coursing through him. Hercules jerked once, then lay still.
“He’ll sleep for a time, and when he wakes, he will be as before,” the goddess told them, rising up from her place beside Hercules. She approached the hunter and took his hands in her own. “You have acted very courageously, Iolaus. But I’m afraid the gods have short memories. You shouldn’t count on this selfless deed to protect you in the future.”
“I know,” the hunter said bitterly. “I just hope that they know I didn’t do this for them.”
“If ever there were an example of what a true god should be, you have given it to us, brave hunter.” Hestia kissed him gently on the cheek, making Iolaus blush. “Thank you for your help. If you ever need me, I promise you that I will do what I can.” And then the goddess of the hearth was gone.
“What just happened here?” Elissa turned to see Salmoneus standing dumbfounded in the doorway.
“I think my brave warrior just won himself a friend,” she said teasingly, but the hunter didn’t smile. The healer hugged him from behind and whispered in his ear. “The sun’s out for the first time in days. Why don’t you come out and enjoy with me for awhile.”
“You go,” he said absently. “I think I’m going to stay here for a bit until he wakes up.” Elissa nodded her understanding and left the room with Salmoneus in tow.
“Is he all right?” the salesman inquired.
“I think he’s just worried that Hercules will feel Iolaus betrayed him. But he’ll be fine. Besides, he’s got bigger problems to worry about now.”
“What do you mean?” Salmoneus asked in confusion. Elissa smiled slyly.
“Sinis is gone, and Iolaus promised to marry me.”
Disclaimer: In accordance with TV Rules, Sinis was killed during the writing of this story, but that doesn’t mean he won’t magically pop up again by some strange turn of events at a later date. But I think he is really dead. Probably.
Chapter 13: Calico Skies
Challenge Story Page
The Iolausian Library