Usually the sight of his kingdom brought great joy to Iphicles, but ever since Rena had died, he felt lost. Normally he would have been impatient to return to the castle, but without his beloved wife, Iphicles dreaded returning home.
The castle was filled with too many memories--memories that he didn’t want to face just yet. Those memories were the reason he had gone to sea in the first place. Normally he would have sent one of his ministers to Palagos to procure trading rights, but he couldn’t stay in the castle. Memories of Rena filled every room in the castle, and he still couldn’t forgive himself for not being there when she had died.
"Well, sire, we will soon be home. If conditions hold, the captain says that we will be home by tomorrow morning," Talos said as he approached his king.
"Excellent." Iphicles stated without feeling. Home, that castle isn’t home without Rena, he thought to himself.
Home--that word made him think of many things. Finally it came to him, he could go home to visit his mother and Jason. His mother would fuss over him while he decided how to put his life back together. Iphicles knew that Alcmene and Jason would be glad to see him...Alcmene always complained that he didn’t come to visit enough. It was decided then, as soon as he returned to Corinth, Iphicles was going to visit Jason and Alcmene.
"Talos, I have decided to go and visit my family for a few days after we return. I want you to make all the arrangements."
Talos started, "But, sire..." A look from Iphicles silenced him. "Of course sire, whatever you wish."
Talos walked off to start making arrangements. He looked back at Iphicles who was lost in thought once again. He hoped that this trip to visit family would help bring Iphicles out of his grief.
The messenger had come and gone quickly. Jason prepared himself for the task ahead.
How do you tell someone who has recently lost his wife, that his mother has passed away? He thought to himself.
He wanted to tell Iphicles himself before anyone else broke the news.
"Well, Alcmene, I'm off to Corinth, Iphicles is home and I promised you that I would tell him that he was in your thoughts before you died..."
Jason said to himself.
Iphicles couldn’t believe his eyes. Jason was waiting on the docks. He walked down the plank and hugged Jason.
"Hello Jason, I was just thinking about you and Mother. I was planning to come and visit for a while, if that’s ok with you and Mother...How is Mother? Did she come with you?"
Iphicles released Jason from his embrace and looked at him.
"Jason, what’s wrong?" He asked when he noticed the sorrow etched on Jason’s face.
"Let’s go back to the castle, I’ve got to tell you something," Jason said in a low voice.
"What is it? Is something wrong with mother? Tell me Jason!"
Iphicles demanded. "Not here, let’s go back to the castle."
The two most recent Kings of Corinth walked to the castle. People in the square watched them, whispering to each other about how sad it was for their King to have lost both his mother and wife in such a short time. Iphicles wasn’t even aware of the whispers them. He just wanted to find out what was bothering Jason.
Once they entered the throne room, Iphicles turned to Jason.
"What is it that you have to tell me?"
"There is no easy way to say this..." He started.
Iphicles interrupted, " Is Mother sick?"
"No Iphicles, I hate to tell you this...but Alacmene...is dead."
"You must be kidding. That’s not funny Jason. She was fine when I left to go to Palagos," Iphicles stammered.
"Her heart just gave out. She didn’t suffer. Her final thoughts were of you. She was very proud of you." Jason replied. He went to comfort Iphicles.
"Was Hercules there?" Queried the King.
"Yes, both him and Iolaus. Alcmene understood why you couldn’t be there."
Iphicles shrugged Jason’s hand off his shoulder.
I’m sorry Jason, but I want...I need to be alone."
Jason nodded in understanding.
"I'll be at the house when you’re ready."
Iphicles walked out of the throne room. He went to his quarters and locked the door. He wanted some time to process this information.
Jason left the castle and prepared to return home.
I hope that Iphicles is all right...At least he knows that I’m here for him, he mused.
The sound of laughter broke him out of his reverie. It was coming out of the local tavern. He thought about going inside and having a drink. Drinking had always helped him to forget. Jason shook himself, he didn't want to forget Alcmene. He didn't want the alcohol to dull any of his memories of his beautiful wife.
Iphicles sat silently in his room. He couldn’t believe it, Alcmene was dead. She had died, and he hadn’t been there for her. It was like history was repeating itself - first Rena and then his mother.
“Why wasn’t I there?” He silently raged.
“Why had he missed the deaths of the two people he loved most in the world?”
A tiny voice in his head answered him, “It’s because you are King.” Iphicles shook his head.
“Think about it,” it said, You weren’t home because you were conducting business for Corinth. You were busy with your duties as the King of Corinth while your loved ones lie dying...alone.”
“NO!” Iphicles screamed. “You’re wrong.”
The voice continued, “Ever since Jason made you King, you’ve missed out on many things.”
Iphicles didn’t know what to think. The voice inside his head became more and more insistent.
“It’s Jason’s fault. If he hadn’t made you King, you would have been there for Rena and Alcmene. Maybe you could have prevented their deaths...”
Jason was surprised to hear the pounding on the door. He had been lost in memories of Alcmene. He opened the door to find Iphicles. Iphicles was a disheveled mess.
“Come in Iphicles,” he said.
Iphicles appeared to be dazed. His brown eyes seemed to be clouded.
“Thanks,” He said absently, “...Can I see her grave?”
Jason led him out to the garden.
“We thought that this would be the best spot. She’s surrounded by all of her flowers.”
When Iphicles reached Alcmene’s grave, the voice started in again.
“It’s his fault you weren’t here.”
The grief drove him, a madness that Iphicles had been fighting finally overpowered him. Iphicles drew his sword. Jason looked at Iphicles in confusion.
“What’s wrong, Iphicles?”
“You,” Iphicles spat out. “This is all your fault...”
“What are you talking about? Son, come inside, and we’ll talk. I know that you miss Rena - -” Jason began.
“Don’t call me son! It’s your fault that I wasn’t here for Rena or Alcmene. If you hadn’t made me King of Corinth--none of this would have happened,” Iphicles shouted.
“You deserve to die.” As he spoke Iphicles moved towards Jason with his sword.
“Iphicles, you aren’t thinking clearly. I know that this grief is tough, but you can’t let it take over your life and your thinking,” the former king of Corinth said, “You have to move on--both Rena and Alcmene would have wanted you to.”
Iphicles howled,” Don’t speak their names. You aren’t worthy to speak about them.” Advancing on Jason, Iphicles raised his sword and prepared for the attack.
“NO!!” Jason yelled as he was impaled on Iphicles’ sword.
His body fell to the ground. His life’s blood streamed out of the wound onto the ground. Iphicles slid his sword out of Jason’s lifeless body. He looked down at the puddle of blood surrounding Jason and dripping off his sword. Without a word, Iphicles disappeared into the forest.
Iphicles crashed through the dense underbrush. It was as if he was in a trance--he was totally unaware of himself and his surroundings. He ran blindly through the trees, finally slowing when he reached a clearing. Slowly the madness drained from him. He looked down at the bloodied sword he still carried.
“Oh my god, what have I done? What have I done,” Iphicles moaned.
“You did what had to be done--it was what he deserved,” Ares stated as he materialized in front of a stunned Iphicles. “At least you got the looks inthe family,” he wryly observed.
“Who, what...” Iphicles stuttered. A vision of what he had just done passed through his head. Iphicles grabbed his head and moaned, “My god, I killed Jason. How could I do such a thing? What have I done, what have I...”
“What have you done?” Ares snorted. “He deserved to die. Jason made you King--and look at all you’ve lost because of it. Your loved ones died because of Jason.”
Ares walked over to Iphicles and put his arm over Iphicles’ shoulder.
“And that Iolaus. He was there when Alcmene died--why was he there and not you? That little man weaseled his way into your family and pushed you out. He has even pushed you out of Hercules’ affections...”
Iphicles’ brown eyes started to cloud over with madness once again. Ares smiled. This plan was working out better than he ever expected.
Iolaus and Hercules walked down the path to Jason and Alcmene’s house.
“I hope that Jason doesn’t mind us stopping in,” Iolaus stated.
I just want to see how he’s doing. If it looks like we are unwelcome, we’ll go to Corinth to visit Iphicles,” Hercules said. “I wish Iphicles had been home when Mother passed away. First Rena, and now Mother--he’s got to be hurting.”
The two heroes approached the house. It appeared deserted. Hercules and Iolaus decided to look around for Jason. After several minutes of searching, Iolaus spotted something near Alcmene’s grave.
“Herc, over here,” Iolaus called. They are startled to see Jason lying in a pool of his own blood. Hercules and Iolaus run to help their lifeless friend.
“Is he?” Hercules left the question hanging.
“He’s still alive, but barely. Herc, he needs attention right away,” Iolaus replied to his friend. “Who could have done such a thing?”
“I don’t know, but when I find out--he’s in trouble,” Hercules stated forcefully.
“I’ll carry him into the house and then I’ll run into town for a healer.”
“Herc, I can go for the healer...”
“No, I want you to stay here and take care of Jason.”
Hercules carefully gathered Jason’s lifeless form into his arms. Jason opened his eyes and moaned as Hercules lifted him.
“Jason, who did this to you?” Hercules asked.
Jason managed one word before he lapsed back into oblivion.
Iolaus and Hercules exchanged surprised glances. Hercules quickly carried Jason into the house and laid him on the bed.
“Do you think that Iphicles did this to Jason?” Iolaus queried.
“I don’t know. It could be--or maybe someone attacked Jason and is going after Iphicles,” Hercules responded. “I’m going to get the healer from Corinth, while I’m there I’ll check on Iphicles. You take care of Jason. I’ll send the healer as soon as I can.”
Hercules was out the door before he finished speaking. He didn’t stop running until he reached the house of Perkoditis. Perkoditis was the local healer. He had taken care of Hercules’ and Iolaus’ wounds from time to time. Hercules told Perkoditis what had happened to Jason. Perkoditis left for Jason’s house while Hercules went to the castle. Hercules encountered Talos when he got to the castle.
“Talos, is Iphicles around? I want to talk to him.” Hercules told the King ’s trusted minister.
“No Hercules, Iphicles isn’t here. I haven’t seen him since yesterday when Jason met us when the ship docked. Iphicles had planned on going to visit Jason and Alcmene after we returned. I heard the news--my condolences,” Talos responded. “Is something wrong?”
“I don’t know Talos, but thanks for the information,” Hercules said.
Perkoditis stood over Jason. He had packed the wound and stopped the bleeding, but he didn’t know what would happen next. Iolaus looked up as Perkoditis left Jason’s side.
“So, is he going to be alright?” Iolaus asked the healer.
Perkoditis shook his head.
“Right now I just don’t know, Iolaus. I’ve done all that I can. All that we can do is pray.”
Hercules walked into the hushed sickroom. He stared at the forlorn face of his friend.
“How’s Jason? Is he going to be ok?”
Iolaus shook his head sadly while Perkoditis answered Hercules’ query, “I’ve done everything that I can Hercules. It’s up to Jason now.”
Iolaus went over to the demi-god. “Any news about Iphicles?”
“No. When I went to the castle, I met Talos - - he said that Iphicles wasn’t around. He hadn’t seen Iph since Jason met them at the ship. He’d had been planning to come and visit Jason and Mother,” Hercules told Iolaus. “Iolaus, I’m going to go look for Iphicles. I want you to stay here.”
“But Herc...” Iolaus protested.
“Iolaus, don’t argue with me. I want you to stay here in case Iphicles comes back,” Hercules stated. “Stay here with Jason, please. I’d feel better if I knew you were here. There’s no telling what’s going on with Iphicles.”
“Alright,” Iolaus reluctantly agreed. “I’ll stay here, but Herc... Hey, be careful.”
“Thanks, Iolaus,” Hercules stated. “I’ll be back as soon as I find him.”
Ares continued to goad Iphicles. “That little blonde rat insinuated his way into your family. They treated him better than they treated you.”
Ares used his powers to make images of Iolaus flash through Iphicles’ mind. Scenes of how Hercules and Iolaus met and became friends, Hercules bringing Iolaus home to meet Alcmene, and Alcmene fussing over an injured Iolaus. More and more images flashed through Iphicles head. Iphicles saw Iolaus and Hercules becoming best friends, vowing to die as back-to-back heroes. Images flow one after another through Iphicles mind. He saw Iolaus being welcomed by Alcmene whenever he came home from the Academy with Hercules. He saw Iolaus telling Hercules that he is family, Hercules saying that the feeling is mutual, and Alcmene joking with Iolaus, asking him to do something about Hercules.
Ares glanced at Iphicles. He could see that madness was almost total.
“Just a few more images, and it will be complete,” Ares whispered to himself. He showed Iphicles a scene of Iolaus at Alcmene’s deathbed--Alcmene is telling Iolaus goodbye. Iphicles could hear his mother’s voice telling Iolaus that she was proud of the man that he had become. A few moments later she was gone. Next was an image of Iolaus pouring out his heart at Alcmene’s grave. That image was replaced with one of Iolaus and Hercules talking after Hercules returned from Olympus. Iphicles could hear Hercules speak.
“I came back to be with my family...and you’re it.”
Iphicles moved away from Ares. He ran off into the woods, searching for his next victim. Ares’ laughter echoed throughout the forest.
Hercules started to search for Iphicles. As he hunted for his half-brother, Hercules brooded.
“Did Iphicles actually attack Jason? Why, why would he do something like that,” Hercules pondered. “Could one of the Gods have something to do with this? I wouldn’t put it past some of them. Where would Iph go?”
Hercules continued to search for the King of Corinth while he contemplated Iphicles’ actions.
Iolaus nervously paced the floor outside of Jason’s room. He looked into Perkoditis’ eyes when the elderly healer walked out of the room. Perkoditis gave a weak smile and shook his head.
“There is no change in Jason’s condition. We just have to wait and see what happens. It’s up to the Fates now, I’ve done what I can. Iolaus, if you want to go and help Hercules...just go. There’s nothing that you can do here for Jason.”
“Herc asked me to stay here, and I promised that I would, Perkoditis,” Iolaus responded to the healer. “I’m going to go outside for a bit, call me if you need me.”
“I will Iolaus, don’t worry,” answered Perkoditis.
As Iolaus walked out of the house, he sighed. His last two visits to this house hadn’t been happy ones---first Alcmene died and now Jason was seriously wounded. He wandered around his second home. Iolaus found himself next to Alcmene’s grave. He put some dirt over the pool of Jason’s blood.
“Alcmene, we’ll find out who attacked Jason. Don’t worry, Jason is getting the best care. All of us miss you terribly. You know that I consider you my mother... I could never have become the man I am today without your love and guidance.”
Tears started to run down Iolaus’ face. Without warning, he was attacked from behind.
Iphicles roared, “You don’t belong here! She wasn’t your mother, you shouldn’t have been here when she died.”
He lunged at Iolaus with his sword. Iolaus easily evaded the blow. He reached for his sword, but it wasn’t there. He had left it in the house.
“Iphicles, I’m sorry that you weren’t here--if I could have traded places with you, I would have. Look, Iph, I really don’t want to fight you, let’s go and talk somewhere.”
“You lie! You’ve been trying to sneak into my family as long as I remember!” Iphicles declared. He swung his sword at Iolaus again.
Iolaus dodged the thrust.
“Iph, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He looked about trying to find something to protect himself with. Iolaus moved toward the woods, hoping to find something to use in his defense.
“Sure you don’t. You’ve been pushing me out of my family’s affections for years. First you get close to Hercules, you make him forget that he has a brother. Then you weasel your way into my mother’s affections.” Iphicles spat.
The grief-induced madness grew stronger. Iphicles thrusted his blade at Iolaus. He continued to attack the unarmed warrior. Iolaus eluded Iphicles’ swings. He edged closer and closer to the woods. It got harder and harder to avoid Iphicles’ thrusts, the madness was making Iphicles stronger and stronger. Iolaus spotted a bough in the underbrush only a few feet away.
“Iphicles, I never tried to push you out of your family’s affections. Both Herc and Alcmene loved you--I could never replace you in their hearts!” Iolaus said as he ducked several more blows while he made his way to the bough.
“LIAR!” Iphicles screamed. “Everything that you’ve ever done, was to get into my family.” He jabbed at Iolaus with his sword.
Iolaus parried the blow with the study branch he had grabbed. He went on the offensive. Iolaus didn’t want to hurt Iphicles, but he had to be stopped before someone else was injured. He swung the branch at Iphicles’ head. Iphicles ducked and thrusted his sword at Iolaus. The pair continued to battle - - each thrust was parried - - neither warrior gained an advantage.
“Remember he was there when Alcmene died, he was there instead of you. He’s the one who pushed you out of your family’s hearts. Alcmene and Hercules love him far more than they love you.” The voice in Iphicles’ head reminded him. His insanity increased, which made him stronger.
The tide of battle turned against the blonde warrior. Iphicles attacked Iolaus viciously. He directed blow after blow at the Golden Hunter. Iolaus attempted to dodge the blows, but there were too many coming too fast. He started to lose ground to Iphicles. The taller warrior was overpowering him. Iolaus started to move backwards slowly. Iphicles pressed his advantage. He forced Iolaus back.
“You might as well give up now, you can’t defeat me little man. You may have snuck into the hearts of my family, but that won’t help you now.” Iphicles declared. He took a mighty swing with his blade at Iolaus.
Iolaus retreated to avoid the blow, but he didn’t see the log lying there. He toppled backwards over the log and lay sprawled on the ground, the wind knocked out of him.
Iphicles stood over the dazed warrior. He held his sword over Iolaus’ heart.
“Goodbye, enjoy your trip to the Underworld--you aren’t coming back this time,” the King of Corinth told Iolaus as he prepared to plunge the sword into the blonde warrior.
“Iphicles, don’t do it!” Hercules howled as he watched Iphicles prepare to kill Iolaus.
Iphicles looked over at his brother. “Why do you care about this runt? I’m your brother--not him!”
He raised his sword over Iolaus heart and prepared to drive it through. Hercules charged towards Iphicles, but he knew that he would be too late to save his best friend’s life.
“Don’t do it, Iphicles.” Hercules pleaded with his brother.
Iphicles smirked as he looked at Hercules. His sword began it’s descent towards the fallen warrior. His smile turned to pain when Iolaus kicked him in the stomach. Iphicles fell back clutching his stomach. Iolaus scrambled away.
“I’ll get you for that,” Iphicles swore.
“Iolaus, are you ok?” Hercules asked. “Iphicles, why are you doing this? Did you attack Jason, too?”
Iphicles stared at Hercules with glazed eyes. “Yes, I attacked Jason, he deserved to die, so does Iolaus. Those two are the cause of all the pain in my life,” he proclaimed.
“Iph, what’s wrong with you? Jason and Iolaus are family,” Hercules said.
“They aren’t family, it’s Jason’s fault that Rena and Mother are dead.” Iphicles started. He lunged towards the half-god. Hercules dodged his half-brother’s blow.
“Come on Iphicles...calm down - let’s talk.” Hercules pleaded.
“Herc watch out, Iphicles isn’t himself,” Iolaus informed his friend.
Hercules acknowledged Iolaus’ warning with a nod. “Iphicles, this isn’t like you. Please talk to me, I know you are upset about Mother and Rena. I know what it feels like. Iph, let me help you,” Hercules begged.
“I don’t need your help, “ He stated. He swung his sword menacingly. “Just leave me alone, Hercules. Once I kill Iolaus, I’ll leave.”
“I can’t let you do that. You attacked Jason and now you want to kill Iolaus--I’m not going to stand back and let you hurt the people I care about.” Hercules said.
“Fine, have it your way, brother,” Iphicles announced. He swung his sword at Hercules.
Hercules avoided the blow easily, but he looked at his brother in surprise. Iphicles thrusted his blade at him again. Hercules evaded the blow.
“Snap out of it, Iph. I don’t want to fight you.” Hercules told the King of Corinth.
“What, is the mighty Hercules afraid that he will be beaten by a mortal?” Iphicles quipped. He lunged his blade at Hercules again. “ It’s not you I want, Herc, just let me kill Iolaus and then...”
“No, the killing stops here. There has been too many deaths in this family recently,” Hercules snapped.
The brothers circled each other warily. Iphicles jabbed at Hercules, but he parried each blow. Iphicles grew impatient and wildly attacked him.
Hercules took advantage of Iphicles’ frantic gambit and kicked the sword out of his hand.
“Give it up Iphicles. I don’t want to fight you,” Hercules told his older brother.
Iphicles responded by tackling Hercules around the waist. The sons of Alcmene toppled to the ground. Iphicles started to pummel Hercules. The grief-induced madness was almost making him a match for his divine half-brother. Hercules pushed Iphicles off him. He got to his feet and looked at his brother.
“Iphicles, this is madness, I don’t want to fight you, “ Hercules stated.
“I don’t want to fight you, Hercules,” Iphicles replied. “Just let me finish off Iolaus, and I’ll be on my way, brother.”
“What do you have against Iolaus? What did he ever do to you, Iph? Iolaus is one of the family,” Hercules queried his sibling.
“He’s not part of our family! You and mother loved him more than me. Why was he here when she died? Why was he here and I wasn’t,” Iphicles bellowed.
He launched himself at Hercules, who was stunned by the venom in Iphicles’ voice. He couldn’t believe that Iphicles carried all that hatred towards Iolaus. Hercules warded off Iphicles’ punch. The brothers started to exchange blows. Iphicles forced the demi-god to fight back. Hercules countered Iphicles’ blows, and started to land some of his own.
Ares quaked with laughter. “This is working out too good.” He materialized at the edge of the forest and watched the melee. “My half-brother fighting his half-brother. What a beautiful sight,” he laughed.
Iolaus spotted Ares at the edge of the grove. “Ares, I should have known that he was involved in this.” He crept towards the God of War.
Hercules tried to avoid Iphicles’ blows. Iphicles started to taunt Hercules. He called Hercules all of his hated nicknames from childhood. The demi-god started to lose his temper. He began to fight back against his deranged sibling. Iphicles was relentless in his attack on Hercules. Finally Hercules could take it no more. He drew back his powerful arm and slugged Iphicles.
“This hurts me more than it’ll you.” Hercules told Iphicles, as Iphicles fell to the ground unconscious.
Iolaus decided to confront Ares. He jumped out in front of the God of War and said, “So you are the one behind this, you are the one who made Iphicles do all of these things...”
Ares looked at the blonde pest in front of him. He cocked his hand and fired a powerbolt at Iolaus.
“I guess that I’ll have to take care of you myself,” he said.
Iolaus saw the powerbolt coming, but there was no way that he could get out of the way in time. Hercules looked up from his fallen brother and saw Ares shoot Iolaus with the energybolt.
“IOLAUS!” He screamed. He watched helplessly as Iolaus was hurtled through the air. His friend’s flight ended abruptly when he hit a tree. Iolaus struck the tree with a thud and landed in a motionless heap.
“ARES! Why must you torment my friends and family?”
“Because it’s so much fun,” Ares quipped.
Hercules attempted to tackle Ares, but Ares quickly moved to avoid the attack. He stuck out his foot and tripped Hercules. Hercules caught himself before he fell. He turned and faced his brother.
“So this has all been one of your plots to get to me. It’s not going to succeed, Ares. I’ll stop you,” Hercules declared.
Ares laughed at Hercules. This action enraged the demi-god and he attacked Ares. The half brothers started to scuffle. One would punch the other and knock him across the battlefield, and then he would punch the other one. The combatants were evenly matched - - neither one could gain the upperhand on the other.
“Ares, what did you do to Iphicles? How did you make him attack Jason and Iolaus? What lies did you feed him,” Hercules questioned his brother.
The God of War responded,” I didn’t do much, just opened his eyes a bit.”
“What do you mean?” Ares smirked,” I just encouraged him to act on his feelings.”
Hercules grabbed Ares by his black leather vest, “ You’re a liar. Iphicles would never hurt Jason or Iolaus.”
“I’ll admit that he needed a bit of motivation for Jason, but I didn’t even have to try to get him to want to attack Iolaus. I’m a God, I don’t need to lie. All I did was show Iphicles some images of things that have actually occurred. You really should treat your brother better,” Ares sneered.
Hercules lunged at Ares. The brothers began to grapple. Ares was enjoying the rush of battle. Unnoticed by the two combatants, Iphicles started to regain consciousness. He shook his head and got unsteadily to his feet. He spied his sword lying on the ground and picked it up. He spotted Hercules and Ares battling. He slowly made his way to the battle. Iphicles raised his sword. His brown eyes sparkled as his sword met flesh.
Hercules and Ares gaped at Iphicles.
“Iphicles, what are you doing?” Hercules cried.
He slid his sword out of his victim. The combatants stared at the gaping hole in Ares’ chest which closed abruptly.
“What have you done?” Ares asked Iphicles. Hercules answered,” I guess that you’ve lost, Ares. Welcome back, Iphicles.”
Ares growled,” You may have won this time brother, but this is not the end.” He disappeared with a snap of his fingers. Hercules went over to Iphicles.
“Are you ok?” He looked at the bruise forming on his brother’s jaw. “Iph, are you back? What happened?”
Iphicles shook his head. “Yeah, Herc, I’m ok,” he responded. “I’m not sure what happened. I kinda remember fighting Jason and Iolaus, but I don’t know why. The last thing I remember clearly is Jason telling me that Mother was dead.”
A shadow passed over Iphicles’ countenance. “Oh my God, Jason and Iolaus...are they...are they alive?”
He spotted Iolaus lying in a heap under a tree. Hercules followed Iphicles’ gaze to his fallen friend.
“Iolaus!” He cried. Hercules ran to his comrade with Iphicles following behind him. Iolaus was leaning against the tree with burn marks on his chest. Hercules bent over Iolaus as the warrior started to regain consciousness.
“Urgh, what hit me,” Iolaus muttered. He laid a hand on his pounding head. “What happened?”
“Are you ok, Iolaus?” Hercules asked.
Iolaus looked up at his friend. He was about to respond when he noticed Iphicles coming up behind Hercules. “Herc, watch out,” he cried as he tried to push his friend out of the way.
“Iolaus, what’s wrong?” “Iphicles,” Iolaus choked out before he was overcome by a wave of dizziness and pain.
“It’s alright. Iphicles is himself again. He’s no longer under Ares’ power.”
“Good,” He managed before he blacked out.
Iolaus awoke in bed at Jason and Alcmene’s house. Perkoditis has just finished treating and bandaging his wounds. He patted Iolaus’ shoulder as he got up.
Hercules searched Perkoditis’ face for a sign. “Is he going to be alright?” he asked the healer. “How about Jason?”
“Iolaus will be fine. He just needs lots of rest and to take it easy for a couple of days. I’ve dressed the burns on his chest so they should start to heal. They shouldn’t leave a scar. Iolaus, I order you to stay in bed for the next couple of days--or I’ll tie you to the bed.” He grinned at his patient. “I’ve left some comfrey and sassafrass root in case he complains about pain,” he added to Hercules.
“Jason is the same. We’ll just have to wait and see, there is no more that I can do for him.”
Iphicles sat next to Jason’s bed. Everyone else was in the other room with Iolaus. He looked at Jason’s pale expressionless face. He appeared so still and lifeless. Iphicles swallowed and started to speak.
“Jason, please forgive me. I didn’t mean those things I said to you. Ares used my grief about Mother and Rena to manipulate me into attacking you and Iolaus. I’m grateful that you chose me to succeed you as King - - I hope that I can be a fraction of the king that you were. Please Jason...don’t die! I could never forgive myself if you died. I don’t know what to do...”
Jason opened his eyes and whispered, “I forgive you...Ares used you to get at Hercules...”
Iphicles jumped to his feet. “Jason,” he cried, “you’re alive!”
Hercules and Perkoditis heard the commotion and came to investigate. They saw Jason trying to sit up. Both of them rushed to his side; everyone started talking at once.
Iphicles snuck out during the uproar. He walked down the hall to the room where Iolaus was staying. Iolaus tried to get out of bed to investigate the disturbance. He saw Iphicles at the door and slumped back into the bed gratefully.
“What’s going on?” He asked Iphicles.
“Jason is awake,” he responded.
“Iolaus...” Iphicles started.
“It’s ok...I know that Ares was manipulating you,” Iolaus interrupted.
“Well, it wasn’t all Ares...”
“What do you mean, Iph?”
“I ...I’ve always been jealous of your relationship with Hercules and Alcmene. Sometimes I kinda felt pushed out of my family’s affections. I thought that I had buried those feelings, but they all came out today, and I’m sorry.”
“You were jealous of...that’s ridiculous, Iphicles! I could never take your place in this family. If it wasn’t for your mother and Hercules, I would either be in jail or dead right now,” Iolaus told Iphicles. “I never tried to take your place in their hearts. If I could have traded places so that you could have been here when Alcmene died, I would have.”
“I know that Iolaus,but somewhere inside me there is this little part of me that hates you. Can you forgive me?”
“Yes...but can you forgive me?”
Iphicles looked over at Iolaus, confused.
“Forgive you for what?”
“I must have done something to make you feel that way, Iph--so can you forgive me for that,” Iolaus reasoned. “Friends?”
Iphicles and Iolaus clasped arms in the warrior’s handshake.
Iphicles looked at Iolaus’ bandages. “How do you feel?”
“I’ll be fine. Perkoditis wants me to rest for the next few days- he threatened to tie me to the bed. Can you believe that?” Iolaus said. He gave Iphicles his best ‘who me? I’m innocent’ look.
Iphicles grinned at the smaller man’s antics.
Hercules walked into the room. “What’s going on here?” He asked after he spied the grins on the faces of both men.
“Nothing, Herc,” Iolaus replied.
“Jason is awake, and the healer thinks that he’ll recover fully,” Hercules informed the men.
Both Iolaus and Iphicles smiled. “That’s great!”
Later that night, after the invalids were fed and sleeping, Hercules chatted with Iphicles. They talked about various things, including memories of Alcmene. Finally Hercules confronted Iphicles about what had happened earlier that day.
“Iph, this has been bothering me all day. Ares made some comments, and I need you to explain what he meant,” Hercules stated.
“I’ll try,” responded Iphicles.
“Ares said something about opening your eyes and not really needing to encourage you to attack Iolaus, what did he mean? Do you have something against Iolaus? You said some pretty powerful things about him, and well...I just need to know...” Hercules stammered.
Iphicles gave a sheepish grin. “I did mean what I said while I was fighting you. Deep down inside I’m jealous of the relationship you have with Iolaus. I always wished that we were closer than we are. It hurts that Iolaus was here when Mother died and I wasn’t.”
He noticed that the demi-god was shocked.
“I know that some of it is my fault, I never tried real hard to improve our relationship. I tried to bury my jealousy of Iolaus, but Ares found it and exploited it. I’m not going to ask you for forgiveness-because it doesn’t truly concern you. You are just going to have to deal with my feelings- I can’t help them.”
“Iph, I didn’t know. I’m sorry that I never realized...” Hercules started.
Iphicles replied,” I know that you didn’t realize, but then we’ve never been that close.”
Hercules stated,” Iph, can you forgive me?”
“...Why not.” Iphicles said.
With that, the brothers embraced. They spent the next few weeks rebuilding their relationship while Jason and Iolaus recuperated from their injuries.