Disclaimer - these characters are the property of Universal and Renaissance Pictures and no attempt is made to infringe the copyright thereof. We are just borrowing them and will give them back at the end of the story!


By Chattan

Hecate, Goddess Ruler of the Underworld and Queen of Witches was
preparing for her most active period. Her colleague Baal, supreme
divinity of the Phoenicians and Grand Duke of Hell was wrapping up his
four weeks of worship with a big ceremonial sacrifice of children on the
thirty-first day. After all October was his month. The Demonology
calendar was actually split in a very democratic way, each figure head or
henchman getting the chance to be really savage for a short period of
time. Moloch's turn was next, he was God of the Carthaginians and
Ammonites and was also into child sacrifice...all to ensure a good crop
of wheat.

Hecate had more in common with Medea the Magician of Antiquity who had
married Jason of the Argonauts and subsequently butchered their children.
She was a very busy God and spent a great deal of time starting fires
and shaking the earth. With her pack of dogs she roamed around graves
calling up phantoms to frighten mortals taking pleasure in scaring them
literally to death sometimes.

Wanting to create an impact on the first day of November and to please
the Queen of the Gods, Hecate had set a plan in motion at the beginning
of Thamuz's reign. Thamuz was the infernal ambassador and Demon of the
Second Order and as such he controlled the month of September. As the
figure of the night Hecate was herself a feared character, even more so
as mother of the Titans and she was determined to prove herself supreme
Goddess of Terror. The thirty-first of October would be a special date
in the Christian calendar centuries later as the eve of All Saints Day
or Halloween, as it came to be known, but for now the Gods and Demons
would play games between their reigns.

Hera, the Queen of the Gods, was constantly complaining to Hecate about
Zeus' bastard son Hercules. He and his pathetic mortal sidekick were a
thorn in her side. Nothing, Hera said, had been successful in bringing
about the downfall of demigod and her patience was wearing thin. It was
then the plan began to form.

The Queen of the Witches' decided to create an infernal servant, not one
of the creatures that fed on the blood of animals and children but a very
special diabolique who would do her bidding by killing the bastard son of
Zeus. This slave would not be created from the eternal slime, but formed
of the flesh of one already living, someone in a unique position who,
unable to control his own actions, could not resist the calling. Until
the point came where she required his services the mortal would be
completely unaware of his honoured place in her scheme. There was only
one choice, that of Hercules best friend, Iolaus of Thebes.

Thamuz had agreed to let Hecate run riot around a small village for a few
weeks prior to the arrival of a certain warrior. Taking the form of a
she-wolf she had killed livestock and a few unfortunate stray humans,
leaving their bodies strewn around the countryside where they could be
easily found. The story had spread about a murdering monster in the
mountains and the trap was set.

The plan succeeded surprisingly well. The blonde warrior arrived on the
scene on his own and proceeded to play hero before waiting for his
half-god friend to arrive. What a delicious fight that had been.

Of course Hecate could have killed the insignificant man at any time she
pleased, or the two brats that he had come to rescue, but she had
something more subtle and interesting in store for the mortal.

The courageous fool had engaged the creature who was at least twice his
size, never giving ground, his sword thrusting even as he was cut to
ribbons with her sharp claws. On earth he was a formidable warrior and
faced with anyone other than the Goddess Ruler of the Underworld he may
have been truly victorious. The children refused to leave the hero's
side making it impossible for him to contemplate escape. Enjoyable
though this was, Hecate decided it was time to let him think he had won
the day, but not before putting her evil plan in motion.

The she-wolf reared up on its haunches, exposing her soft underbelly to
Iolaus' sword, the hunter went to plunge the metal into the guts of the
creature but miscalculated. As he lunged forward one huge, muscular
foreleg whipped round and swiped him off his feet. Iolaus landed heavily
and the warrior's head connected with a rock. He was only temporarily
stunned but was out long enough for the wolf to attack. The enormous
beast leaned over his bloody body and drew shrivelled lips back over her
teeth exposing the gleaming, razor-sharp points, the canines dripping
with saliva, the black tongue visible behind the putrid gums. Then, to
the sweet sound of yelling children she bit deeply into the deliciously
cool flesh of Iolaus' body. The man screamed, a sound that was like
music to her evil ears.

It was an erotic experience and one that Hecate would like to have
repeated but she had done enough damage to the handsome mortal, it was
now time for the wolf to `die'. Before he could pass out with the agony
of his horrific wound Iolaus struggled to reach his sword, one of the
small girls rushed forward to push it closer to the fallen warrior,
risking the attention of the giant wolf.

Unfortunately the girl had been seen and the lumbering creature turned to
face the weeping child. The blonde mustered all his remaining strength
and, now armed, tried desperately to get up. As Iolaus made to stand the
wolf pounced at the child. The blonde swung the sword with all his might
at the animal in mid-flight slicing into the warm fur of its stomach and
feeling the blood gush from the long wound he had inflicted. As the
beast squealed Iolaus' arm struck with inhuman force at the wolf's head
whipping it back, the neck cracking loudly where the spine had broken.
Within seconds it lay on the ground, still twitching, pieces of Iolaus'
own flesh visible between it's jaws.

The mortal sagged to his knees clutching his side, not really sure which
hurt most, the slashes he had received everywhere or the missing section
of his mid-riff. On the point of passing out he tried reassuring the
children, soothing them and telling them that someone would find them
soon. `I'm Iolaus' he had said and they told him their names were
Caraleira and Bramcene. "Way too complicated for me, may I call you Cara
and Bram?" They had agreed and kept him conscious by talking to him as
long as they could. There was nothing to be done for him now and he
truly believed he would die on this mountain. His one regret had been
the children. He had no strength to build a fire and he couldn't get
down to the village in his condition. Iolaus urged them to snuggle up
close to him for warmth and he rested his head on the leg of the dead
wolf. Mercifully he was unconscious almost immediately.

That was how Hercules had found Iolaus, he had carried him down to the
village with the children and the warrior was nursed back to health. It
had taken a full three weeks and recovery was slow. What none of them
knew however, was that Iolaus wasn't getting better, he was getting
worse. In that one bite Hecate had managed to plant a verjuice pomade
that would gradually turn the poor man to her will.


Hercules, Iolaus, Jason and his wife Alcmene, the mother of Hercules,
were travelling back to Thebes together. They had spent an amazing few
days in the city of Aredi where an Iolarian Festival Convention had taken
place in honour of Iolaus. It had been the idea of Leara, the mother of
Caraleira and Bramcene and, although initially reluctant, Iolaus had
ended up having the time of his life. He was told that four hundred and
thirty-six people had been there to celebrate his life and deeds. Iolaus
was still floating six feet off the ground.

And so were some of the fortunate women who got to hug and kiss the hero.
They had followed the party everywhere hoping to catch glimpses of the
handsome men. Jason was enjoying himself too and Alcmene had to bring
his attention firmly back to her on a number of occasions.

Everything was fine, or should have been but prior to leaving the city
Hercules had received a very cryptic message from Canicles, the man who
had helped to heal Iolaus after the she-wolf's attack. Canicles asked
the demigod to meet him alone at the old cemetery and not to mention
their meeting to a soul, especially Iolaus. The demigod couldn't think
what it could be about but he trusted the healer and owed him his best
friend's life.

When Hercules reached the outskirts of the city it was dark. The night
birds screeching loudly, lending a more mysterious air to the place. The
demigod shivered involuntarily and drew his cloak closer across his broad
chest. He held a torch in front of him making ghostly shadows dance
across the ground. It was almost a full moon and the clear sky was lit
up with the pearly clarity of its eery luminescence. The smell of the
place was appalling, a mixture of musty and decay. Hercules heard a
noise behind him and turned to see the small, balding man creep up to
him. Canicles carried no light and Hercules wondered how he had managed
to navigate in the strange city.

He held out his hand in greeting which the scrawny healer took and shook
warmly. "Thank you for coming Hercules. I realise that this is a
somewhat unusual request but I've discovered a somewhat unusual
situation. Come let's sit for a moment." He indicated a tree with some
soft ground beneath that the dew hadn't yet reached. Hercules eased his
big frame down beside him and said "What's this all about? I don't
understand why I couldn't tell anyone I was coming here."

Canicles sighed, his heart heavy. "It's because it involves Iolaus. Now
please, before I begin, you have to understand that I in no way blame
Iolaus for anything but I'm just trying to warn you for your own safety."

The man was talking in the same riddles he had when diagnosing Iolaus'
pneumonia after his fight with the wolf. It irritated the demigod, why
couldn't he just come straight to the point.

"Canicles, I don't mean to be rude but just tell me what you're talking
about. What blame could you possibly lay at Iolaus' door?"

"I said I don't blame him. But that's not helping you understand. I'll
start from the beginning. As you know Iolaus was bitten by a wolf and
survived. Well that in itself isn't unusual, after all there are
hundreds of the animals roaming around the countryside. You saw the
beast though and I'm sure you would be the first to admit that it wasn't
a normal creature. The size for one thing and then there were the eyes,
a blazing yellow that, even in death, seemed to pull you in."

Hercules had to agree, he had helped to dispose of the carcass and
several men lost their nerve and were unable to continue. In the end
Hercules superior strength was all that got the body of the beast down
the mountainside to burn.

Canicles knees were drawn up in front of him with his arms crossed over
them and his head resting as if what he had to say were too heavy a

"Okay we know the thing wasn't a simple wolf so why should I ask you here
in the middle of a cold October night?.... It's because I'm worried
about your friend, Gods I'd be pleased to call him my friend now. At
first it was just little things. Hercules, do you remember me saying
that I'd never seen a wound quite the shade that Iolaus's one was? The
skin around it was a strange and unhealthy yellow, more than just the
trauma of the injury it was as though there were something extra, some
kind of poison, that had been introduced into his system. The poultices
just didn't seem to draw it out but when the stitches healed the colour
all but disappeared. I didn't think much about it at the time.

"Then there were the dreams. I heard Iolaus crying out at night, in the
few times that you let me administer to him. He was experiencing a
delirium that troubled me, oft times he would speak in a language I had
never heard before. Does Iolaus speak Latin?"

Hercules looked sharply at the man beside him. "No. Not that I'm aware
of, we learned a few words as boys but nothing that either of us would be
able to string a sentence together with."

"Well he can now, and fairly fluently by the sounds of it." Said the
healer meeting the demigod's gaze. "The last thing I have to tell you is
the most worrying of all. When we met in the street the other day I
asked Iolaus if I could check his side. You must remember his reaction.
He got angry and didn't want me to touch it but I had already caught a
glimpse. Hercules I don't know how to put this..but where he was
wounded..its kind of pulsing with a life of it's own, he also has some
fine golden hairs growing over the scarring."

A small bat flittered hurriedly between the sitting men, it's small furry
body briefly illuminated by the torchlight. A bad omen and one that
wasn't lost on the skinny healer.

"Just what are you implying?" The big man shouted. "This is crazy.
Really Canicles I appreciate your telling me but I don't see there's
anything wrong with my friend that a few more weeks of convalescing won't
cure." Hercules was angry. He didn't want to acknowledge that there may
be some truth to what Canicles said. "I think I'd better leave now."

Canicles became panicky "No please, wait..there's one more thing that I
haven't told you. Fadoulla, the healer that comes round to the village
periodically, I sent her a message and I think you should see the reply."
The balding man reached down into his scrip and withdrew a scroll that
was partially crushed. His fingers trembled as he offered it to

Hercules looked into the man's face before opening the scroll. "Here
give me the torch, I'll hold it up so you can see better." The demigod
handed it to Canicles and began to read.

Dearest Canicles,

I was so thrilled to get your message, I will be with you all in a week's
time so tell Militsa to hold on to that baby of hers until I can deliver
it. And say to Panestra that I've got the ginger she wanted.

On the other subject I'm afraid I have some bad news for you. I have
asked a few colleagues here and they are all in agreement. It seems to
be the start of a metamorphosis of some sort. Our guess would be
Lycanthropy at the very least. The man in question - the one you simply
name `Hunter' cannot be trusted. Our feeling is that it would be best
for his sake as well as yours to kill him now. Release him.

I am so sorry dear friend, I could tell from your letter just how much
you respect and admire this person. Please believe me when I tell you it
is the only way - end his suffering.

Affectionately yours


Hercules crushed the paper in his hand, vaguely realising this must have
been what Canicles had done to the letter himself after reading it.

The demigod's world had just dropped out from under him. After what
seemed like an eternity of silence he spoke, a quiet determination in his
voice. "I refuse to believe this. I haven't seen one piece of real
evidence to suggest that Iolaus is anything other than normal. This is
all horse dung." He jumped to his feet and stalked away from the healer
throwing the crumpled piece of paper over his shoulder into the darkness
as he went.

Canicles, still holding the torch, looked sadly at the hero and muttered
"I hope to Zeus I am wrong Hercules...believe me, for both your sakes."

>From the shadows something watched.


The healer eased himself up off the ground and started to walk back to
the Inn where his wife, Panestra was waiting for him. He hadn't told
another person about Iolaus' condition and she would be wondering why he
had gone out so late in the evening. He was very heavy of heart and
distressed from the conversation with Hercules.

As he crossed the cemetery he thought he heard a crackle of autumn leaves
just behind and to the left of him. He just carried on walking, picking
up speed slightly but determined not to be spooked. Then he heard,
rather than felt, breathing behind him and he turned automatically. The
light from the torch barely extending in front of him. Again nothing.
But it had been so close... Canicles walked backwards for a while, the
burning stick held in front of him protectively, he took another step
backwards, tripped and fell and the torch spluttered and died.

Oh my goodness...please no don't let this be happening. He thought. It
was then he saw the eyes, they almost seemed to float in mid air, the
amber colour broken only by the slitted black pupil that made them wholly
evil. Then the thing growled. The poor man nearly froze but managed to
shuffle backwards away from the terrifying sight. He couldn't move fast
enough and tried to grab at anything that could be used as a weapon in
his wake. His backward momentum was halted as he found himself suddenly
pushed up against a cold headstone, the skull resting on the top grinning
at him mockingly.

His throat was dry with terror and his mouth tried to form the word HELP
but couldn't. He was helpless. If only he had gone with Hercules....
In desperation his hand gripped something and with horror he realised it
was a bone from some occupant of the cemetery, his mouth filled with
bile. He swung the makeshift weapon blindly at the creature that pounced
on him and he took some small satisfaction when it connected with flesh
and a howl erupted from the beast.

Some small part of him wondered if the golden monster that tore out his
throat was the blonde hunter and hero...Iolaus. Blood poured over his
lips, he gurgled and died.


The four had set off the day after Hercules' visit to Canicles, unaware
of the terrible night's events in the cemetery. Iolaus seemed to be
energised and happy although Hercules did notice his friend rubbing his
side quite a lot.

What was he to do. He couldn't tell Jason and Alcmene what Canicles had
discovered for fear of frightening them. Then again, did he seriously
believe that Iolaus could be turning into some bizarre creature. When he
looked at his friend he didn't see any difference to him at all, the same
small, powerfully muscular body, the same sunshine hair and piercing blue
eyes, the same infectious giggle. Iolaus had taken to wearing the new
vest that Leara had made for him though, this one had strips of leather
to hold it closed across his broad chest concealing the unsightly scar on
his right side. Other than that..nothing.

Why didn't he just dismiss it all then? It was the letter, the damned
letter the words of which were imprinted on his memory. `it would be
best for his sake and yours to kill him now. End his suffering.' And
even if Iolaus had been poisoned or changed somehow did he, his best
friend, have the guts to kill him. He didn't just doubt it he knew very
well he couldn't.

"Hey Herc. Why are you so distracted? You look like you've seen a
ghost." Iolaus chuckled as he bounced by the side of his friend.
"Listen Herc, Alcmene and I were just talking and she's offered to let us
stay with her and Jason, just for a few days when we get back. Waddya
think? I'd kinda like to relax for a bit, maybe we could use it as a
base and do some fishing although it is a little late in the season...

"What? Oh..sorry Iolaus I was just thinking about a few things. What was
it you said?"

"Are you sure you're okay. You're not coming down with something are
you? Anyway, I was just saying your mother offered to put us up to get a
little R&R before we go back to the hero trade. Kewl idea or what?"

"Yes that would be...no..actually it wouldn't be such a good idea. I
think that you and I should travel back on our own, in fact it might be a
good idea if we split up with them here."

"Hercules what are you talking about? We can't leave them to travel back
on their own. Suppose they meet bandits or something? I know Jason is
capable of looking after Alcmene but just the same I'd rather not leave
it to chance." Iolaus was genuinely confused. He couldn't believe that
Hercules wanted to leave his mother open to danger.

"I think you're wrong Iolaus...any bandits would probably come after us,
after all there is that brand new golden dagger that Hephaestus gave

"Oh sure Herc." Iolaus said, fingering the strange and beautiful gift in
its fine leather scabbard. "I reckon they really will want to tackle a
couple of armed warriors, one of whom happens to be the strongest man in
the world, rather than pick on a helpless couple of travellers. Are you
nuts?" All thoughts of the past couple of days were swept away in Iolaus'
concern for his friend. What had happened between yesterday evening and
this morning that had made Hercules so morose. He was determined to find

"You never told me where you went last night Herc." The hunter threw in

Hercules' head shot round. "You were watching me? What were you doing
up at that time of night?"

"Actually I wasn't deliberately spying on you it's just that I couldn't
get to sleep, what with these nightmares and all. So I opened the window
to get some fresh air in and saw you going out towards the city cemetery.
You gonna tell me what that was all about?"

Hercules hated lying to his friend but until he knew more about what was
going on he didn't dare reveal anything. "It was nothing Iolaus, just a
woman." But the lie was on his lips and Iolaus knew it.

"Hercules, have you been holding out on me? I didn't know that you'd
arranged a rendezvous, sly devil. What was she like? Must have been a
real strange one if she wanted to, you know...do it in the

"Let's just drop it okay Iolaus. It's finished now all right."

Iolaus held up his hands in surrender. "Hey, hey anything you say big
guy...did you make love in the moonlight?"

"Iolaus!" Hercules almost laughed in spite of himself.

"Well if you don't want me to talk about her maybe you can tell me why
Canicles and Panestra never said goodbye this morning."


"Canicles and Panestra..they never came to say goodbye this morning. I
know you talked to them last night but Canicles promised to come to
Marriotti's this morning to have breakfast with me and never turned up.
I just assumed you'd know. Hey what's that for!"

"Oh Gods Iolaus...why didn't you tell me before." He had grabbed Iolaus
by the shirt front. Hearing the commotion, Alcmene and Jason turned to
look at the two men.

Iolaus grasped the demigod's wrists, "Herc hold on a minute...why should
I have mentioned it. You never asked! And next time mind the stitching
okay...this is my hero's vest."

As Hercules let him go, Iolaus tried to make light of what had just
occurred but it was yet another thing that had him worried.

"Is everything all right between you two?" Jason asked behind them.

"Yes, Jason, no problem we were just having a discussion."

"A rather animated discussion." Iolaus added under his breath.

"I have got to go back." Hercules said more to himself than anyone

Iolaus put a restraining hand on his friend's arm. "Hercules what are you
talking about. You can't go back - Aredi is hours away, in completely
the other direction. Canicles probably overslept or something don't

"Get you hand off me Iolaus. Why don't you want me to go? Well just for
your information I'm going whether you like it or not." He snatched his
arm away from Iolaus' touch as though he had been burned.

The blonde looked wounded. "All right but I'm coming with you. Canicles
is my friend too and you're probably right, there could be something
wrong. I don't want to take that chance."

"NO! No..you travel on without me, I'll only be a few hours behind, once
I know they're both okay I'll catch up to you. How about we meet up at
the old castle on the main road." He tried to keep the panic out of his

"You mean the one they say is haunted!" Iolaus cocked his handsome
blonde head on one side in amusement.

"Yes Iolaus that one."

"Er..okay Herc but you'd better be back by nightfall after all you know
what night it is don't you?" The demigod looked confused. "It's the
night before Hecate's reign...there's not many who should be abroad
tonight....hooooooooooo, spooky!" The hunter saw the look of utter
dismay creep across Hercules face "What? What did I say?"

"Never mind...just look after yourself and mother too. I'll be back
shortly." He went over to a very confused Alcmene and Jason and Iolaus
looked on as he explained the situation to them. They seemed to be
having a long conversation and at one point Iolaus saw all three of them
glance in his direction. He felt cold inside, as though something had
just twisted and reached up to run a hand through his hair in his
customary habit. "Ow.." he exclaimed as he touched the newly formed
bruise on his head, just above the hairline, the blood had crusted over
in a scab but it was quite painful. The funny thing was that Iolaus
couldn't remember hurting himself.
As the morning drifted slowly onwards Hecate could feel the changes take
place in her mortal's body. She had prepared the magic potion well. The
composition of this pomade had been known since the dawn of civilisation.
Hecate, Medea and Circe all knew how to produce the metamorphosis in
man, the first stage was to administer the Datura, a quick acting poison
distilled from the plant of the same name, an evil looking thing with
large oblong leaves and a smell that would kill a horse. Once introduced
into Iolaus' system via the bite, it lay dormant in his tender flesh
until the Queen of Witches could complete the recipe by lacing his food
with the remains of the verjuice which included belladonna, morelle,
poppy and hemp. Delirium or stupor would follow then, as the moon rose
to it's zenith, the full transformation.

The evil witch had conducted a small `test' the night before and knew
that her victim was ready.

By the time morning came the great Hercules would be dead and Hera would
be forever in Hecate's debt. Unfortunately Iolaus was destined to be
sacrificed on the pyre along with the remains of Baal's feast. Alive of
course. She threw her head back and laughed.


Alcmene was watching Iolaus from the corner of her eye as they travelled
together. Most of the morning he seemed to be his usual cheerful self
but half way through he became quiet and withdrawn, his facial muscles
sagged and she wondered if he was in pain from the recently healed wound
or was worrying about his friends.

Hercules hadn't said much to either her or Jason, only that he had to
return to see what had happened to Canicles. He had urged them to watch
out for Iolaus, indicating that he may not be quite himself. When
Alcmene had expressed concern Hercules told her that Canicles thought the
wound might still be infected and that there may be some `changes' in
Iolaus' behaviour. More than that the demigod wasn't willing to say.

"Iolaus let me carry the packs." Jason said to the warrior ahead of him.

"No, no it's okay Jason. I can manage."

"But you're sweating Iolaus. Are you sure you're all right?"

Iolaus stopped and hefted the baggage onto the other shoulder, shifting
the weight. He ran the palm of one hand over his forehead that was
beading with sweat.

"Yeah. I'm just hot, it's kinda close today." In actual fact the
temperature had been dropping rapidly in the last couple of hours and
both Alcmene and Jason were wrapped in cloaks. Iolaus was wearing
nothing but his vest and trousers and still he was hot. "Can we stop
soon, I'm getting a little hungry and now might be a good time to have a
rest. Whaddya think?"

"Of course Iolaus, that's an excellent idea. I packed some cold meats
and fruit for the journey and your landlord, Marriotti, gave us a fresh
loaf of bread this morning." Alcmene went to help Iolaus lift the heavy
luggage from his shoulder and couldn't help noticing the fine hairs that
seemed to coat his broad muscular back. Hardly noticeable in the
daylight she knew Iolaus' body well enough to know that he never had them
before. The warrior's skin was always smooth and brown and flawless,
apart from the myriad of pale scars obtained over the years.

As if bothered by the attention Iolaus self-consciously straightened the
purple vest quickly covering the sight. "I wonder what's taking Hercules
so long. I figured he'd be back by now. We'll be at that castle
shortly, I hope he makes it before nightfall." Iolaus didn't know why
but somehow that was important to him.

Jason helped Alcmene get the food ready. "Well if he doesn't we'll just
have to spend the night there and wait for him to find us in the

"Yeah I guess so." The hunter said wistfully.

They sat down to eat a little way off the road. Alcmene tried to engage
Iolaus in conversation about the convention that had just taken place.
At first he was keen to chat, often mentioning Leara and how much he had
enjoyed her company. The children Cara and Bram were never far from his
mind either and Hercules' mother could almost picture them as a family.

Alcmene considered herself lucky having met Jason late in life and wished
desperately that both Hercules and Iolaus could settle down. Thankfully
her other son, Hercules' half brother Iphicles, had a child of his own,
so she knew the joys of being a grandmother once more. Alcmene would
never get over the loss of Deinaeira or the children, nor would Iolaus
truly get over Ania and his son's death.

Iolaus ate ravenously but almost daintily, rapidly putting away anything
that was placed in front of him although Jason noticed that he mostly
devoured the meat. Alcmene's husband watched in horror when, at one
point, Iolaus seemed to crunch and consume a whole chicken leg, bones as
well. His stomach turned at the sight and it gave him cause to wonder
just what was wrong with his friend.

The meal finished they started back on their way but after a mile or so
before Iolaus doubled over suddenly, clutching his stomach. Alcmene
rushed to his side trying to stop him from keeling over. His eyes were
glazed and bloodshot and his pupils appeared to be tinged with yellow.
The blonde was obviously in pain as the cords on his neck stood taught
against the skin. His belly cramped painfully and his balance was
completely gone. Iolaus waved off the offered hand and straightened
himself up slowly, still swaying, hands gripping his middle.

"I'm okay now." He gasped through clenched teeth. "Wow...I don't know
what happened then. Too much food I guess." When he saw the look on
Alcmene's face he kissed her cheek "Don't worry, I'm fine really. Sorry
if I scared you."

"Silly boy, you didn't scare us we were just worried about you. Jason
could you get Iolaus some water?" Her husband did as she asked and held
the skin out for Iolaus to drink from. The hunter wiped away the stray
droplets with the back of his hand and smiled gently.

"Thanks ...great..I feel just great..now." His eyes gleamed and a shadow
crossed the weary face as something stirred in the depths of his soul.


Hercules had run as fast as possible back to Aredi. Even for a half-god
it took the best part of three hours. Every single moment of that time
he went over and over the conversation that he had with the healer the
previous evening. Everything that he could recall was filed away in his
head for access later. He prayed to Zeus and anyone else who was
listening - that his suspicions were unfounded. He willed Canicles to be
waiting for him, hale and hearty saying it was all a horrible mistake -
not only was Iolaus perfectly healthy but he had simply forgotten their
appointment that morning. He could almost hear the words.

By the time the son of Zeus reached the city he had convinced himself
that the conversation had indeed taken place!

What had been a triumphant entrance two days ago now took on the look of
a funeral procession. Everywhere he went people seemed scared, the
terror evident in their eyes and many looked past him, their heads down
rushing to their unknown destinations. Phobos had been working overtime
in the city. Hercules ran straight to Marriotti's hostelry where he and
Iolaus had stayed for the festival. The sign over the door claiming
`Iolaus of Thebes, Hero, stayed here" was hanging at an angle the words
barely recognisable from the vegetable matter clinging to it. From what
Hercules could see the whole of the front of the establishment had been
pelted with the stuff. Unusually the door wasn't open and the big man
knocked. After a few half-heard curses the latch was undone and a very
scared man answered the door.

"Go awaya I don't want to a talka to hanyone!"

"Marriotti it's Hercules. I need to speak to you it's extremely

"Are you alone?"


Reluctantly the portly man opened the door and quickly glancing left and
right to see who was looking, ushered the demigod into the inn closing
and locking the door behind him. "You shouldn't havea come here. You
haven't broughta your friend havea you?" He looked genuinely frightened.

"No but tell me what's going on. Why is everyone walking around like
they've been raided or something?"

The large man shook his head. "You don'ta know then."

"Know what?" But Hercules already had a pretty shrewd idea.

"I'ma so sorry...you'ra friends. De ones that you came herea with, they
havea been killed, murdered. One of them upstairs here ina this very

Hercules world was falling apart, he heard the words but he didn't want
to conjure up the pictures that went with them. If he denied their
deaths maybe it wouldn't be true. Where, he had to know where but before
he could ask the question Marriotti continued.

"Missy Panestra, she came here thisa morning, beforea you left. I'ma
surprised you didn'ta see her. She came to visit your friend Iolaus.
She was in dere a longa time. I justa thought she hada gone an I never
checked da room." His face had gone six shades paler as he thought of
the sight that greeted him on entering the bed chamber to clean it.
His hands wrung together, the chubby fingers slipping around each other.

"It wasa awful, I cannot describe the amount of blooda" The large man
looked up at the demigod apologetically and covering his mouth ran
outside to be sick in the bushes. Hercules heard him and panic started
to swell in the demigod. Canicles...what had happened to Canicles?

When Marriotti was finally able to control himself he came back inside,
the smell of bile lingering about him. "I'ma sorry - I have a da weak
stomach. The other body dey found at the old cemetery on the Athens
road, the poor man hada his throat ripped out! They say ita happened
late lasta night." The landlord shook his head in disgust. "What a da
waste and sucha nice man too."

The next question was even harder for Hercules to ask but ask he must.
"Marriotti..do the soldiers have any idea who did terrible thing?"

The man's eyes opened wide and he looked the demigod square in the face.
"Oh..I assumed thata was why you werea here. You really don'ta know do
you?" Hercules shook his head. "It was youra friend, da hero." He
fished around grotesquely in his trouser pocket for a few moments and his
large hand came out clutching something that Hercules immediately
recognised. It was Iolaus' medallion. "Theya found dis in da man's

"Oh Gods...mother!" Was all he said before snatching the object from a
very bemused Marriotti and retracing his steps out of the city and onto
the open road as fast as he could run.


The trio had reached the crossroads where they were to follow one route
to the abandoned castle. Although Iolaus had only been through there
once himself he didn't hesitate in making the correct choice for he
remembered the road had been marked. Where each of the three paths
joined a carved post had been set into the ground, the one to the right
marked with a horse, to the left a dog and in the middle that of a woman.
None of them recognised the signs as belonging to Hecate and followed
the hunter on the middle path to their fates.

Dark clouds had started to gather in the sky giving the late afternoon
the unnatural appearance of night there should have been a few more hours
of daylight left but thunderheads brewed above them and the air chilled
even more. Ahead of the small party Iolaus was shivering but the odd
smile of his face was enough to keep both Jason and Alcmene from saying

They simply followed him watching to see he didn't fall. On more than
one occasion his lack of balance caused him to sway but determination
moved the blonde forward. Every now and then they heard Iolaus talking
to himself, muttering and mumbling in broken Greek and another language
that Jason vaguely recognised as being Latin. The hunter would giggle
and gesticulate wildly as if brushing off some invisible fly that was
bothering him, before becoming quiet again.

The flat ground gave way to a slight rise in gradient as they travelled
up a increasingly sharp incline toward the bleak ruin above. As they got
higher bonfires could be seen smoking and burning in the distance, more
and more being lit to celebrate the end of Baal's reign. Pinpoints of
red and orange on the horizon. The celebrations had begun. At one point
Iolaus turned and pointed into the distance shouting "Spectare etiam
ignis fieri eius familius!" and laughed again before continuing. Jason
translated what Iolaus had said into Greek: `See, even `the' fire becomes
her servant.' Neither of them had a clue what Iolaus meant by it.

The air was thick with woodsmoke now and it clogged their lungs. Jason
insisted Alcmene put her cloak up to her nose and mouth to breathe
through and he did the same. Iolaus however seemed to be unaware that
there was anything wrong, he slowly plodded forward. Finally they
reached the ancient wooden doors and heaving them aside on creaking
hinges went into the ruined building. The hunter found the torch that he
and Hercules had used the first night they stayed there and went about
collecting wood to start a fire. Jason noticed the man's movements were
slow, almost languid, as if he were drugged. If he got the chance Jason
decided he would attempt to look at the wound in Iolaus' side to make
sure that the infection Hercules had hinted at wasn't causing the warrior
to behave strangely.

Overhead thunder rumbled menacingly and the first drops of rain found
their way through the open rafters soaking the dry ground. Iolaus cursed
as the moisture dampened the kindling he had found and he moved the pile
to a spot underneath an overhang, the only dry place in the ruins.
Several attempts later he still hadn't managed, with nerveless fingers,
to light the thing. Jason offered to help but received a string of
curses, some Latin, from the hunter's lips that he had never before heard
the gentle Iolaus utter. Cold though they were Hercules' mother and
step-father left the man to it.

"Why isn't Hercules here?" Iolaus suddenly exclaimed grabbing his head
as if in pain. Then he mumbled something again and went back to his task
as though nothing had happened.

"Iolaus please tell me what's wrong with you. Maybe I can help."
Alcmene came up behind Iolaus and laid a hand on his shoulder. Swiftly
his arm came up and grabbed Alcmene's wrist, twisting it brutally. His
face turned to her, teeth gritted, there were dark rings beneath his
eyes, the flesh of his normally handsome face had been drawn tight over
the skull and bone structure giving him a ghoulish appearance. For a
brief second Alcmene thought she saw bright yellow shining behind his
orbs but it was gone in an instant. "Ow Iolaus you're hurting me!"

Jason hadn't seen what happened but heard his wife cry out. Quickly he
went to her aid. "Iolaus let go. You're bruising her wrist..Iolaus let
go NOW!" With a barely audible growl the warrior released his grip.
Iolaus' hands clenched and tightened and he moaned "Why isn't Hercules
here? Something's really wrong; slipping away, everything is slipping

"Come on, you're tired. It's been a long day. Why don't you let me take
over with the fire while you rest." Jason unobtrusively indicated for
his wife to move away from Iolaus over to the other side of the castle

Once again a mask seemed to drop back into place as he looked into
Jason's perplexed gaze "Must eat...I'll go hunt." And with a haunted
look he slipped back out of the doors and was gone into the rainy night.

Incredibly the deluge only seemed to take place on the hilltops for the
raging bonfires were still alight. Iolaus plugged his hands tightly over
his ears as he fancied he could hear the screams of small children as they
were sacrificed to Baal.

It was a living nightmare. The Iolaus that was gradually being
overwhelmed by something within him it was as though his own mind were
being transported, disconnected with his flesh. At first he had felt
light-headed, his side was aching: a deep itch that no amount of
scratching could stop. Then his tongue felt as though it had ballooned
to treble it's size and he couldn't move it properly within his mouth.
There was a foul taste, everything he had eaten that day was bitter and
when he washed it down the water scoured his throat like acid. His skin
was prickling as if something was trying to get out and he watched,
amazed, as golden hairs started to appear on the backs of his hands.
Iolaus had the urge to run as far away from the place as he could get and
wanted to rip himself to shreds to purge himself of whatever was in his
body. But something tethered him to the site, a voice urging him to
stay, someone was coming and he needed to be ready.

Iolaus found himself reliving the nightmares he had experienced when he
had lain in Leara's bed many weeks previously, sick with fever and
pneumonia. One dream in particular he recalled vividly as it repeated
itself even after his recovery, he had toyed with the idea of telling
Hercules about it but decided he didn't want to worry his friend. Now
Iolaus knew why the she-wolf had appeared to be familiar to him in this
dream, it was part of him or what he was to become, the thought terrified
him. The real Iolaus lay trapped on an altar, tied not by bonds but by
Hecate's incantations. The chants of her coven weaving a spell-binding
of such power that the hunter feared not even Hercules strength could
break him free. He watched through two sets of eyes..the orbs of The
Beast and the trapped innocent. He couldn't control his actions, nor
could he warn those he loved...

The Queen of Witches watched over the altar where she had prepared the
vessel that contained the mortal's mind and soul, she tormented him by
allowing glimpses of what the beast had done to his friends...he couldn't
stop it from slashing Canicles throat nor was he able to prevent it
tearing out Panestra's heart. His body was no longer his and his mind

As he hunted for small prey he started giggling, it just bubbled up from
nowhere and he couldn't hold it in. He was drunk on oxygen, every breath
he took made his head spin and he fancied he saw tiny demons, incubus and
succubus, skipping around his feet. Iolaus' night sight had improved to
the extent that he was able to spot an unfortunate rabbit going to ground
and was on it in seconds, it's neck swiftly broken... "Ummn...Suavis.
Delicious!" As he crouched down listening for his next prey he felt the
throbbing of the Datura poison hot against his side and the beast in him
yelled into the oncoming night even as his mortal flesh began to

Inside the castle the weary travellers heard the unearthly screaming.
The full moon appeared from behind a cloud and the terrible sound sent
shivers down their spines. Not knowing what animal had made the
agonising noise, Alcmene turned to her husband "Oh Jason we should go and
find Iolaus? I'm so worried about him. Something is terribly wrong - I
know the Gods are at work and I can't help wishing my son were here."

Jason held his wife in his strong arms and, kissing the top of her head,
promised that he would look for Iolaus. At that moment something heavy
crashed into the castle doors, flinging them open on straining hinges.

"It must be Hercules..thank Zeus!"

A bedraggled and grotesque creature stepped through the remains of the
splintered wood.

"Oh my Gods, what is that thing?"


Hercules was still a good ten miles from his destination, as he came
closer the ground became wet and treacherous underfoot slowing his
progress considerably. He saw the distant lights of fires and felt their
unearthly heat, even from far away. His hand never left hold of the
medallion, Iolaus' medallion and he clutched it to his chest desperately
praying that this nightmare wasn't real.

His path took him past a huge bonfire surrounded by revellers, their
faces concealed behind home-made masks as they danced around the pyre -
goats, horned animals, skulls and demons of all shapes. A figure dressed
completely in red stood in the centre of the ring and Hercules could hear
the man invocating the Goddess of the Underworld. He was quoting from a
Grimoire, the sacred book of witches. Hercules steered clear of the
merry band but as he went past every masked head turned to stare and he
couldn't help feeling uncomfortable, it was unnerving. As he moved past
it was accompanied by the sound of throaty laughter.

Spurred into a quicker pace he thought of Canicles' warning and wished he
had never left the healer alone, he might still be alive now... One part
of him refused to believe that his best friend was responsible for their
deaths, the other part held the proof gripped in his fist.

Several times the demigod slipped on the quaggy ground, the knees of his
trousers were caked in mud, but each time he cursed and resumed his
journey paying no attention to the bruising, aches and tiredness.
Another mile gone, nine more to go.

I'm coming...hold on I'm coming.

Hercules was getting close, the beast could feel it. It had its bait
cornered and all it needed to do was keep them at bay while they waited
for the Son of Zeus to arrive. Night was creeping on and the minutes
counted down to Hecate's reign.

All was quiet, only the sound of the wind as it swept through the ruins
looking for release. Alcmene whispered "Jason...what do you suppose that
thing is?" They had pushed themselves as far as they could up against
one of the back walls keeping the small fire between them and the
creature. Amazingly Hercules' mother wasn't afraid, she had faced
greater enemies before but never anything so inherently evil.

"I truly have no idea...it seems to be half-formed, it's still evolving
somehow." He was fascinated and revolted by the animal, there was
something vaguely familiar about its behaviour that disturbed Jason
deeply but he didn't want to voice it to his wife.

The beast stood on it's hind legs; small and powerfully muscular, the
form vaguely like that of a man but the arms and legs thicker and meatier
ending in large padded feet and claws that were the sharper than knives.
It's back was hunched, the spine visible as a bony ridge that seemed to
have a life of it's own as the beast took shape. The neck was pulled
forward between the shoulder blades and had elongated since the animal
first appeared.

The wolf-like creature paced around the keep...waiting...biding it's time
until the son of Zeus arrived. Although horrific it hadn't shown any
sign that it was about to attack simply staring with reptilian eyes that
shone in the dark, black slits crossing deep yellow pupils, the nictating
membranes flickering across the surface.

The face was the most terrifying part of its conglomerated flesh. The
sleek golden fur that covered most of the body was thicker and patchy
over its long snout and matted with blood a few drops of which slowly
dripped to the ground. It's fangs were exposed as the animal panted for
breath, sharp pointed instruments that could kill in seconds.

What had happened to Iolaus? Alcmene was more worried about the hunter
than the beast before them, when she had seen the blood it took all of
Jason's not inconsiderable, strength to stop her from rushing out into
the night after him. There was nothing that could be done. From where
they were it was impossible to reach the weapons that lay temptingly
bedside their bed rolls. Not without a plan.

"This is ridiculous...it's waiting for something. It won't stay like
that all night, I think it's after Hercules, in fact I'm darned sure this
has got to be something to do with Hera. We can't take the chance that
he might come blasting through those doors at any moment and come face
to face that thing."

"What are you going to do?"

"I'll create some sort of diversion and try and reach the weapons. I'd
feel happier if I held cold steel in my hands. Okay, I want you to
distract it, start talking to me loudly, shouting maybe. If we look as
though we're having an argument it might confuse it, then, if you're
willing to risk it I want you to move far away from me over to the corner
there and pretend to cry or something. Just enough movement for it to
watch you. Hopefully I can get a clear run for the sword then. By the
look of the creature it has some intelligence and might realise what
we're doing so be careful darling. Say now if you're worried."

"Of course I'm worried, Jason! I'm more worried about what it will do to
you if it spots you and I'm less concerned about myself than about
Iolaus and Hercules. Don't forget I've faced Echidna before!"

Jason kissed her tenderly. "You're a very special woman Alcmene. I'm
proud to be your husband."

Hercules' mother returned the kiss with heartfelt passion. If this was
to be their last embrace on Earth then she wanted to take the memory with
her to the underworld - she just hoped that she wouldn't find her son or
Iolaus waiting there for her.

"Why didn't you tell me you saw that woman in Aredi? Absolutely
pathetic, you're MY HUSBAND and I won't have you going around sleeping
with prostitutes!"

For a second Jason was thrown by what Alcmene had chosen to come up with
as a distraction but he quickly fell into the play-acting. "YOU'RE NOT
MY KEEPER! I'll do what I want and I'll sleep with any woman I choose."

"HOW DARE YOU! I could almost understand it if she was pretty but she was
a TRAMP! Or don't you care as long as she has a pair of long legs?"

It was working. The golden-haired wolf was looking at the humans in
confusion, it stopped pacing and turned towards them, the grotesque head
cocked on one side in an achingly familiar pose. Behind the creature's
fiery eyes the images were being relayed back to Hecate, her infernal
servant didn't expect this to be happening and it had no way of knowing
how to react. A very small part of the hunter remained in the transformed
body, a tenuous link between his trapped mind and abused flesh. Iolaus
knew this to be a ploy by his two friends. He daren't risk letting
Hecate know and fought with every ounce of his depleted strength not to
give away the fact to the awful thing inhabiting his body. If only he
could control it but the torment was too much even for him. Every time
he tried to exert his will over the creature he was subjected to
excruciating pain.

Iolaus knew what the outcome of this would be, Hecate had kindly shown
him a window into the future. He saw his own death and welcomed it.
What the Goddess Ruler of the Underworld could not show him though was
the death of the son of Zeus. Try as she might the pictures wouldn't
form and she cursed the Fates. She was convinced her plan would work,
for Hera. Iolaus prayed it would not - for him.


The wolf dragged itself closer to the pair, teeth bared showing its
displeasure being distracted from it's patrol. The volume of the
argument increased and the beast growled in anger and frustration.

"Why did I EVER consider marrying such a pig-headed, selfish, arrogant
GOAT like you?"

"PERHAPS it's because no one else would have married someone as UGLY AS


The louder they got, the more it worried the beast, they could feel the
tension building as it stepped from foot to foot unsure whether or not to

Alcmene feigned tears and ran to the far side of the keep as they
planned. The wolf watched her, weighing up the benefit of killing this
pathetic creature and whilst distracted Jason moved very quietly around
the back of the beast, he didn't realise it but he was holding his
breath, desperate not to break its focus on Alcmene. He had almost
reached the bed rolls when a roving, reptilian eye settled upon him. He
froze in horror as the creature turned leisurely in his direction. It's
fetid breath close enough for him to smell.

Alcmene looked around frantically for anything she could use as a weapon
to give her husband those few precious seconds that may mean the
difference between life and his death. She spied some small rocks and
gathered a few in her skirt. Moving behind the animal she hurled one at
the back of it's furred head but missed. The distraction was enough
however and it turned it's cold eyes back to her. Jason leaped for the
scabbard and wrenched out his sword, without hesitation he struck a
glancing blow off it's left shoulder. The beast screamed in anger and
agony, blood running down from the deep cut. Alcmene followed it with
another rock but Hecate's servant was determined to revenge itself on the
mortal man that had wounded it.

Now was his only opportunity to run the creature through, if he didn't he
would surely die.

The creature paused in its progress towards Jason, something appeared
fleetingly in the eyes as the greying warrior looked at the foul beast.
There, just for a brief second was the unmistakeable image of Iolaus
reflected back at him. "Gods! Iolaus!" Was all he had time to mutter
before the muscular weight of the wolf pounced on him forcing him to the

Alcmene was screaming in reaction. She threw the remaining rocks, mostly
hitting their target, at the animal crushing her husband. She hadn't
seen what Jason had and didn't know that was the reason for his
hesitation when he had the clear opportunity to run the creature through.
Now her husband was dying and she could do nothing to help him.


The voice belonged to Hercules.

The wolf's head whipped round lips drawing back from its teeth in a feral
snarl, the flesh on the deformed snout wrinkling in an animalistic
warning. Not yet registering its primary victim, the creature turned
back to the fallen leader of the Argonauts. Hecate had said to kill this
one, for Medea. One swift bite and it would all be over. Gelatinous
saliva dripped onto the victim's neck, the jaws open - prepared to bite.
But the beast hesitated.

Out of desperation Hercules cried "Iolaus! DON'T!". Once more it faced
the son of Zeus - never letting its prey loose but it was more interested
in the demigod, beneath its crushing weight Jason struggled, he thrashed
about trying to break free.

"Hercules - thank the Gods, but that can't be Iolaus, can it?" Alcmene
had moved to stand behind her son her eyes locked on the struggle.
Hercules waved her back "Not now mother, I'll explain later."

Hecate's servant was concentrating solely on the demigod and in doing so
loosened its grip slightly on Jason - it was enough - the older warrior
managed to extricate himself from underneath the creature.

The wolf sprang at Hercules. He took the full brunt of the assault, the
animal's considerable weight throwing the demigod off balance but as he
fell he brought his knee up underneath the furry body, the momentum
enough to carry Hecate's servant over his head. It fell squealing to the

It didn't take long for the beast to recover but Hercules was ready for
it. The inhuman eyes had turned blood red with rage as it sprang to its
feet and turned on the warrior again - the two other mortals all but

"Believe me Iolaus, I don't want to fight you!" If he thought he would
get a reply he was disappointed, his plea made no impression on this
night creature, the link with the hunter's memories all but extinguished;
the invasion of his body almost complete.

Jason understood Hercules was fighting one of the most important battles
of his life - against a parasite that had rendered his best friend
helpless, he didn't - couldn't, blame the young hunter for the horrific
use of his flesh. Sadly he could only think of one way to release his
friend from eternal damnation - when, IF, the time came - he would save
Hercules from delivering the blow.

Hercules turned slightly to tell his mother to run. The beast chose his
pre-occupation to launch its next attack. This time it was Hercules turn
to feel the hot breath on his neck and couldn't resist the urge to turn -
beneath it this was Iolaus and he wasn't frightened as perhaps he should
have been.

The eyes pulled him in, even as it raked razor sharp claws across the
demigod's broad back - blood welling up from the cuts. Through the haze
of pain Hercules saw Iolaus, trapped on the altar and with him Hecate,
Queen of Witches, her face drawn in a mixture of concentration and glee.

The dinar dropped and he now realised all the events of the last two
months had been leading to this point. So Hecate must be doing it for
Hera, the bitch Queen of the Gods, in return the Goddess of the
Underworld would have protection during her reign. He couldn't kill the
beast now for he thought it was Iolaus' only route back to this life.
The demigod swore revenge.

The son of a God and the Beast of the underworld wrestled - their
abilities matched like for like - empowered with magical strength the
wolf fought - its only goal death.

Mist was beginning to form close to the ground as it crept towards
midnight - the Queen of the Witches' reign of terror was about to begin.
Neither good nor evil gave ground as they beat each other to pulp.

As Hercules became weaker, spectres began to appear, unclear at first
these ghoulish apparitions formed in the air and plagued Jason and
Alcmene, stopping them from going to the demigod's aid. They flew around
the trio - swooping and diving, ghostly fingers tearing at clothing and
hair - cackling as they went about their mischief.

Tiny demons sat up in the ruins watching the scene below, waiting for the
death knell - it was nearly time.

Jason reached desperately for his fallen sword, and brushing off the
ghouls as best he could, fought to get to his friend. Hercules was barely
visible beneath a blur of muscle and sinew, his large hands gripped around
the wolf's throat - just able to keep the jaws from his exposed neck.

"Hercules - HERE!" Jason shouted as he threw the sword hoping it would
help the fallen warrior, but small gnarled hands plucked it from the air
and carried it off into the darkness. Jason's face dropped - now there was
no saving them. "God's teeth what was I thinking!" he cursed himself for
his foolish action.

Alcmene saw something shining brightly by the side of Iolaus' discarded
pack - she hadn't noticed it lying there before - it was the hunter's
gold dagger, a present given to him by Hephaestus at the Iolarian
Convention in honour of Iolaus' bravery. It saddened her to think it may
be the weapon that would end what she now suspected to be Iolaus' life.
She grasped the scabbard shakily, swiftly concealing the weapon from the
winged demons and moved towards the two figures locked in combat. A
singular purpose overtook her as she held the weapon - her mind focused
on what she was about to do. It was one of the hardest decisions of her

Hercules managed to extricate himself from the bloody body, he was
growing weaker by the minute, in contrast Hecate's servant was becoming
stronger the closer it got to midnight. Every ounce of the demigod's
diminishing strength was concentrated in blocking the blows rather than
hurting the beast, he knew Iolaus was gone but still he refused to kill
the evil creature. A powerful arm smacked into Hercules' face rocking
his head back, blood gushing from another split in his puffy lips. The
demigod could hardly see out of his right eye, it was swollen and
half-closed, the cuts on his back smarting as he was ground into the

The son of Zeus pushed the beast's head back as far as he was able, the
stench of rotting flesh wafted into his nostils as the mouth came closer.
His arms were tired and the muscles cramped painfully, it wouldn't be
long before they gave out completely. The beast growled and pushed
forward gripping Hercules shoulders and digging into his flesh. On the
point of blacking out Hercules heard a shout from Jason.

"Alcmene NO!!"

With renewed strength he pushed the arms up rolling the creature over
onto its back, reversing their positions just as Alcmene plunged
Hephaestus' dagger up to its hilt into the wolf's side - in exactly the
same place Iolaus had been bitten.

The look of betrayal and pain in the wolf's face was almost pitiful as it
cried out in pain and shuddered, the last vestiges of life disappearing.
The yellow eyes clouded over and, giving one last howl of despair the
light behind the eyes flickered and died.

Alcmene was shaking uncontrollably when Jason reached her, there was
blood all over her hands and she still gripped the gory knife. Carefully
he opened her fingers and let the gift drop to the ground. Hercule's
mother wept then, the knowledge of what she had done too much for her to

Iolaus of Thebes, was dead.


In the unnatural silence that followed no one noticed the apparitions
disappear nor the mist clear in the keep. Even the wind had died down,
the only sound the gentle sobbing of a woman who had been forced to take
the life of someone whom she loved like a son to her in order to spare
the life of her son by blood.

Jason couldn't speak - there was nothing to be said. Hercules just
stared at the body, almost catatonic - disbelief and shock clear on his
battered face, he was numb. Now there was no vessel for the hunter to
return to. Hecate would surely torment Iolaus for eternity - wherever
his mind was.

It seemed like hours before anyone moved but in reality minutes only
passed before a light appeared over the corpse, shrouding it from the
trio's gaze. It emanated from the dagger and seemed to seek out the
wolf's body, engulfing it and consuming it in a blaze of golden fire.
They watched in awe as the fire changed from a fierce orange to a cold
blue and finally disappeared completely.

What remained there in the ruins of the castle was a miracle, for, beneath
the light a form began to appear, naked and whole, the bronze skin
flawless - no trace of the wolf remained, it was achingly, unmistakeably
that of Iolaus. He lay in the same position that the wolf had died
curled into a foetal ball, the shock of blonde hair gleaming in the
firelight. Not a mark remained on his body, no sign that he had ever
been scarred by the she-wolf nor the knife wound in his side. It was as
though he had been re-born.

The hunter was unconscious, his eyelids fluttered as if in sleep and he
was breathing deeply and evenly. Alcmene stopped crying, her face
breaking into a wonderful smile.

"Well I'll be darned!" Was Jason's only comment.

The battered demigod bent painfully to his friend's side, he needed to
touch him to know he was real. Was he truly back?

Alcemene found a cloak with which to cover the man and draped it over his
nakedness. "So he's not an illusion then..he looks so well. You've got
a lot of explaining to do, Hercules." She turned to her son whose eyes
never left the sleeping form. So much had happened over the past weeks,
why couldn't the Gods stop tormenting those he loved.

"I think Hephaestus has just given us a gift." Was all the demigod said.


It was morning before Iolaus stirred. Hercules' mother had tended to her
son's more serious wounds as best she could. There were no herbs or
dressings save those she travelled with but she made the best job she
could under the circumstances. Jason went out a little after dawn to
hunt for breakfast, none of them (save probably Iolaus!) had eaten since
earlier the previous day. He returned with quail and the three ate
quietly together.

Alcmene broke another piece of bread and handed it to her son who took it
stiffly. She noticed that he couldn't keep his eyes off Iolaus for long,
reassuring himself that the hunter still slept. They had talked at
length about what had happened. Hercules explained Canicles message to
meet him and his unfortunate demise together with that of his wife

They each agreed that Iolaus had nothing to do with Hecate's evil plans
and hoped desperately that the small warrior wouldn't remember the

"So this whole thing was planned right from the beginning? From the
moment Iolaus stepped into that village and went off in search of Leara's
children neither of you stood a chance?"

"Yes Jason, I think Hecate decided the last day of October would be a
fitting day to kill me and ingratiate herself with Hera at the same time.
People complain about Baal but I think the Queen of Witches is perhaps
the more evil of the two, if that's possible. Like you I never realised
anything was wrong with Iolaus until I met Canicles in the cemetery - he
was behaving perfectly normally right up until then."

"I think Hecate must have been lacing his food with something, he was in
such pain after eating, it must have been the catalyst for
transformation." Alcmene's eyes searched her son's seeking reassurance
that he was feeling better.

"Don't fuss mother, I'm fine really. I've taken worse beatings from Iolaus
when we rough housed as kids! I'm more concerned with what we say to him
when he awakens."

"Say WHAT when WHO awakens?"

"Iolaus!" Hercules face lit up as he turned to see the hunter who had
propped himself up on his elbows. "Am I glad to see you're awake, my

"Yeah, well, perhaps someone can tell me why I'm stark naked under this

All three laughed. The fact that Iolaus hadn't remembered that much was a
good sign.

"We didn't know where you'd left your clothes! Jason searched for them
this morning but all he could find were your boots."

"Well it's freezing cold. Was I drunk or something? Like that time when
we visited Iphicles and there was that festival on; you must remember
Herc, we both, er..sorry." He'd just noticed Alcmene standing there and
thought it best not to continue. "I've got THE worst headache..what
happened to you?" He stared in concern as he noticed Hercules' blue and
purple face for the first time. Iolaus felt as though he should know
exactly what happened but there was a huge hole in his memory.

"I'll tell you later my friend, let's find you some clothes."

"And something to eat Iolaus, you must be starving." Alcmene added
putting together some of the meat and bread to offer to him.

"Er..actually I'm not too hungry, the last time it gave me this terrible
pain in my stomach...oh Gods..!"

"What is it? What's wrong?" Hercules made to go to his friend's side.
The blonde looked up at his friend, the blue eyes haunted.

"Oh Gods Hercules...I remember, everything!" His voice was filled with
shame and he could hardly mouth the words. "Those wounds and bruises, I
did that to you...and Canicles and Panestra. NOOOooo I'm so ashamed." His
control lost the warrior broke down.

His three friends didn't know how to console him, he had been through so
much recently and then to be returned, whole, but with the knowledge that
he had unwittingly murdered two people and tried to kill three of his
dearest friends; it was too much for him. No one would ever know what
torment he had suffered as Hecate's prisoner, Iolaus had too much pride
for that. The scars were gone but emotionally he was red raw.

"Iolaus, please listen to me." Hercules knelt by his friend's side and
put a hand on his arm. "Look at me Iolaus." Reluctantly the blonde
looked up but couldn't quite meet the other man's gaze. "None of us will
ever know what it was like to have your body and mind invaded like that
but don't EVER think that we blame you for what happened. We'll
straighten everything out. I will go to Aredi and explain that this was
all Hecate's doing and you will have no fear about setting foot in that
city, or any other. Hephaestus must have known what the Queen of Witches
had planned which is why he gave you the dagger at the Convention."

"What are you talking about Hercules? What has my dagger got to do with
this?" Hercules looked to Jason then Alcmene, she nodded her head
indicating that he should tell Iolaus the whole story.

When the demigod had finished it was Iolaus' turn to ease Alcmene's pain.
"You did what you had to do, in fact, Alcmene, I am grateful. If there
had been a way I could have done it I would have taken my own life. Just
promise me that you will never hesitate to do the same thing again if it
came down to it."

She looked at the trusting man before her and wondered again how such a
man came to be born. "I promise, Iolaus," was all she said.

Hercules gave his friend a reassuring pat on the back. "Good, that's
settled then. I don't want you to think about it any more, Iolaus. We'll
rest here for a couple of days, goodness knows my ribs could do with it,
then head off home - is that acceptable to everyone?" No one indicated
otherwise. "I'll see if I can find your clothes now, Iolaus. We can't
have you wandering around frightening the rabbits now can we?" If
Hercules had any inkling that that sentence would set his friend off it
would never have passed his lips. Iolaus roared with laughter, bringing
tears to his eyes.. he dabbed at the salty liquid with the back of a
hand, his ribs aching from the exertion.

"What? What did I say that's so funny?"

"Oh Herc, you just try asking the last bunny wabbit I met up with..
Haahaaa haaa haaaaaaa!" That set him off again. The sound of his
friend's laughter was like music to his hears but he was none the wiser.


High on Mount Olympus two Gods were arguing. Hecate was confronting
Hephaestus. "You INTERFERING...BLACKSMITH!" she shouted with enough
rage to send thunderbolts rocketing to earth. "How dare you when I have
Hera's protection. If it wasn't for you Hercules would be dead by now!"

Hephaestus stood before her, arms crossed staring at the raging Goddess,
his mouth drawn in a slight smile, the part of his face that wasn't
scarred looked more handsome than ever. "Hecate, I've told you before I
had nothing to do with this. I merely honoured Iolaus with a small gift
I had forged, how was I to know that Hercules' mother would try and kill
one of your evil creations with it? I think you're the one that has the
explaining to do. Just what did Hera promise you in return for your
co-operation anyway?"

"Aaaagh, you wouldn't understand. Hera was the least of it. The Night
of the Demons is very special to me - you denied me my sacrifice
Hephaestus and for that you will PAY!"

"Oh I don't think so my dear Queen, in this instance I have the full
backing of Zeus and unless you want to be Goddess of bovines and other
lower life forms, I suggest you forget about this little incident." He
turned to leave her to her raging. "Besides which.." He threw back
"You're no longer supreme demon of November, your place has been given to
someone more, shall we say, worthy?"

"DON'T YOU EVER TURN YOUR BACK ON ME! I'll split you in two and eat your

Hephaestus merely laughed and carried on walking.


The laughter was heard down the corridors of Olympus, and back on earth
two special people began to put their lives back together.


(Disclaimer: No slightly furry golden hunters were harmed (much!)
during this story, although Iolaus' singing voice is now two octaves

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