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The Basilisk

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(or The Mysteries of Life, Revisited............for those who are Young

Hercules fans)

by Barbara

Disclaimer: This story was written for fun, not profit, and is not intended to infringe on any copyrights or trademarks. Only original ideas and characters contained within the works of this nonprofit website are the property of the author. Please do not copy these stories to another website or archive, nor print it without author permission. 



This is dedicated to Mary Crawford, who was writing a fire breathing tale of her own and who gave some great editing advice on the IWG list. And thanks to Sandy who pointed out that not everyone would be familiar with the Young Hercules show for the background info.




The three young men stopped at the edge of the woods and looked out onto the hills dotted with clumps of trees amid the valleys. This was the place.


Iolaus picked up the baby basilisk and looked out at all that open sky and wild country. "What if he's all alone? Y'know, just a scared little baby?" The basilisk cried out long and loud. "A loud, scared little baby." He'd never had a pet before and in the short‑and destructive‑time he'd claimed

the basilisk as his own, he'd grown fond of the little creature.


Before anyone could answer, there was the return cry of something that sounded large. Hercules smiled and gave a little laugh. "That's telling him he's not going to be alone."


"Well, I guess he'll be happier with his own kind, huh?" Iolaus set the little monster down and offered it his hand. Ruff automatically reached out and took it, just like the young cadet had trained him. "Goodbye, Ruff." As the armored creature ambled off into the tall grasses and bushes, the other two called out their goodbyes as well.


Iolaus refused to move from the spot until he couldn't see the creature anymore. "Now I know how my mother must have felt when I left home."


Hercules cast him a look of concern as Jason tried to lighten the moment. "Yeah, relieved." His laughter died off as Hercules scowled at him and shook his head slightly. Returning his attention to Iolaus, the young demigod reached out and patted his friend's shoulder.


"He'll be all right. You did the right thing."


Iolaus tried to keep a smile on his face for his friends, but it fell away as they turned to leave. He gave one last look in the direction the creature had taken and then followed them back to Corinth.




20  years later...



The sun was shining, the birds singing, and there was enough breeze to just lift his hair from his neck. All in all, it was a perfect morning to be on their way for a fishing trip.


Hercules smiled and looked down at his shorter friend. As if sensing the affectionate glance, Iolaus' eyes rose up to meet his, a ready smile on his lips that suddenly faded in alarm as Hercules opened his mouth to speak. "Don't say it!"




"Don't! Not a word!" The hunter waved his hands wildly at his partner, as if that could ward off disaster.


"Iolaus, I was only‑"


"No. Every time we go on vacation, you say it, and wham!‑‑‑someone comes staggering over the next hill needing help. Last time you said it where'd we end up? Mycenae with a Minotaur. Before that, Thessaly and a warlord, and before that, Corinth and a trade agreement."


"I was only going to say it's a nice, quiet day to start our vacation." As if on cue, a figure came staggering into sight, shouting, "Hercules!"


It was a long and silent journey to Thrace.



The villager turned out to be Admes of Pella, a small village in the south of Thrace. He and several others had been sent by his uncle, one of the elders there, in search of Hercules. It had all started a six weeks before; mysterious attacks on the outlying farms. Fires had been set, but not by men. The only evidence left had been some large, oddly shaped prints. Several hunters had banded together and gone out to find the creature that had been responsible. They'd not returned. A shepherd had found their bodies a few days later, burned beyond recognition. The king, upon appeal by the village, had sent some of his soldiers to confront the beast, but it had ended just as badly. Only one soldier had survived long enough to be found. He'd died before he could tell them what had attacked them. The villagers elders hadn't waited to see what their king's next move would be. They asked for volunteers, and several men had gone out in different directions in the

hopes of finding the legendary Hercules.


Hercules and Iolaus had left the messenger behind days ago. He couldn't keep up with the two warriors as they cut across country through Macedonia and into Thrace. Admes had taken what roads and paths he could find to speed his way in search of the legendary hero, and though he'd made good time, it had still taken him several weeks to find Hercules. Thus it was that they

alternated between walking and running to make up for lost time. This left very little breath for talking, and since Iolaus was giving him the silent treatment, Hercules had given up any attempt at conversation midway through Macedonia.


It was as they crossed the border and neared Pella that Hercules finally broke the silence. "So, what do you think is causing the fires?"


Iolaus gave him a sideways glance and finally relented in his mission to drive the demigod mad with his silence. "Could be a dragon. Or something else. Basilisk, maybe."


"They're rare," Hercules pointed out regarding the latter theory, glad that his partner had finally deigned to speak to him.


Iolaus shrugged in agreement. They were in their walking phase and he was willing enough to talk since it meant they'd remain at that pace for a while longer. "Or it could be something created by one of your crazy relatives." He grinned to himself at Hercules' wince. "Guess we'll find out when

we‑whoa!" Iolaus broke off as they crested a hill to look down into the valley. It looked like a fire had raged through there recently enough that the land hadn't even had time to begin to repair the damage.


"Looks like we found our monster's calling card," Hercules muttered.



They walked the edge of the burn, hoping to find some tracks or a clue as to what they were facing, but it had been long enough that any evidence had been erased by the last rainfall. In the end, they decided to head on to Pella and see if anything could be gleaned from possible witnesses.


Pella hadn't been untouched by the monster. The outskirts of the village were blackened, the buildings' charred remains pointing accusing fingers at the sky. The villagers themselves were gathered in the center square by the common well, muttering amongst themselves, their soot‑stained faces testimony to their most recent occupation. The village elders where trying

to keep them calm, their voices rising above the angry and frightened murmurs.


"Looks like we got here a little late," Iolaus muttered as they made their way toward the crowd. Once there, introductions were made. Just the name of Hercules brought smiles to some of the faces. The hero had arrived and now everything would be just fine. Iolaus wondered if they had any idea just how hard it was at times to make things 'fine' again.


Admes' uncle was a potter by trade, named Dymas. He took the two heroes to his home and then sent for the few eye witnesses that he felt were reliable.


The panic from the attack had left many people contradicting each other, with the culprit labeled everything from a dragon to a giant lizard. One person had even claimed it was Apollo throwing bits of the sun at them. Iolaus had exchanged a look with his partner over that. The image had

brought back memories of the angered god doing just that several times in their past.


The two young men who came at Dymas' summons were brothers, who hadn't been in the village when the attack came, but had been bringing their wares to market that morning. They'd crested the hill to the south and saw the mayhem as the creature attacked. Coeus, the older of the two, gesticulated wildly as he told their tale.


"...and then we saw it! While everything was on fire, it stalked through the village, making this awful howl of fury and spitting flames everywhere!"


"What was it?" Iolaus interrupted the farmer's tale, anxious to get to the chase. The sooner the monster was killed, the sooner they could continue on their vacation.


"A monster!" Coeus' pronouncement was punctuated by his brother, Dolius, nodding his head.


"We know that!" Iolaus lost all patience and only refrained from saying something he'd later regret by a hand on his shoulder.


"What kind of monster?" Hercules asked while lightly squeezing his partner's shoulder.


"We don't know."


"Oh, that's just great‑!" Iolaus again subsided as the pressure increased.


"We never saw anything like it before," Dolius added.


"Can you describe it to us?" Hercules drew on years of being patient with his partner to deal with the two farmers.


"Did it have wings?" Iolaus added.


"Yes. I mean, no, yes, we can tell you what it looked like."


"And no, we didn't see wings," the older brother continued. "It wasn't scaled, at least it didn't look scaly from where we were."


"More armored." Dolius looked to Coeus for confirmation.


"Yeah. Armored. And big! It was bigger than a tree!"


"Oh, I don't think it was that big," Dolius disagreed.


"It was too."


"Was not!"


"Was too‑!"


"Boys, boys," Hercules interrupted the incipient argument. "Armored. No wings. Okay, was it on four legs, or two?"


"Or six?" Iolaus put in helpfully. At his partner's look, he asked, "What? It could have six legs. Why do we always assume two or four? It could be a six‑legged....something‑or‑other."


"Two, mostly. It had long back legs. Walked like a man, it did, most times."

"Basilisk, then," Hercules said as he sat back, a thoughtful look on his face.


"As tall as a tree? How big do they get?" Iolaus turned back to the two young men. "Are we talking olive tree or cypress here?"


"Cypress, definitely cypress," Coeus decided.


Iolaus cast a glance at Hercules and lifted one brow. Just how reliable were these witnesses? Hercules shrugged then continued the interrogation.


"What happened after the attack?"


"It headed north, away from the village, like it was satisfied with just burning the edges."


"North it is, then." Hercules watched his partner gather up his bow, sword, and pack, and take off without a backward glance. "Uh, he's eager to track down the monster. We appreciate your help." Hercules barely heard their response as he took off after Iolaus. Hopefully they'd find it quickly and get back to their interrupted down time before Iolaus wore even his patience down.


They found tracks north, just like the young men said. Hercules gave a low whistle as the two examined the prints. "That's a big basilisk."


"Maybe it just has big feet," Iolaus offered as he knelt by a print and spread his hand next to it.


Hercules gave him a skeptical look. "Right."


"Hey, I have big feet." This only got the hunter another skeptical look. "Well, proportionately, they're big."


Hercules leaned closer to his friend. "You're perfectly proportionate."


Iolaus looked up and batted his eyes at the demigod. "I bet you say that to all your partners."


"I have." The grin faded as Hercules straightened. "We better get going. I don't want anyone else getting killed."


Iolaus nodded and brushed the dirt off his hands as he rose. "Remember when I had Ruff?"




"What," he corrected. "Remember? Academy. Corinth. Baby basilisk left by Discord and Strife?"


"Oh. That Ruff."


"Herc, you worry me when you can't remember important things. Say, you don't suppose‑"

"No. We left him on Artemis'  island. No one lived there."


"Can basilisks swim?"


"I don't know."


"How old do they live to be?" the hunter continued his interrogation.


"I don't know."


"How big do they get?" He glanced down at the prints again.


"I don't know."


"Must have lost that demigod magic. You always know these things."


Hercules gave him an annoyed look. "There's just not a lot of information about the creatures. I know what you know about them."


"I guess we'll find out more when we track it down." Iolaus headed through the brush, looking back over his shoulder. "You coming? We don't have all day."


Hercules sighed and followed, thinking it might have been better when he was getting the silent treatment.




Iolaus stood. "It's changed directions. It's going east, toward the river." The Axius River was about a two day walk from Pella. "It doesn't seem in a hurry. You know, Herc, from the uneven depth of the prints, I'd say it was limping."


"Wounded then?"


"The king did send some soldiers after it. Maybe one got lucky before he was fried."


"A wounded animal is twice as dangerous. If it didn't have cause before to attack villages and farms, it does now."


"Yeah, but basilisks don't eat meat. They're vegetarians. Why did it attack to begin with?"  His former pet hadn't attacked people maliciously. First he'd been simply too young to know better, and then it had been out of fear and the gods' influence.


"Who knows? It'll probably be one of those unsolved mysteries." Hercules patted Iolaus on the shoulder. "It's not Ruff."


"I didn't say it was." Iolaus went on the defensive.


"You didn't have to. And stop rolling your eyes at me. Come on, we still have a few hours of daylight left. We can camp and then get up early and make up any lost time after a good night's rest." Basilisks weren't nocturnal and it would be bedding down soon itself.



They found a stream to refresh their water supply and decided it was as good a place as any to settle for the night. Dymas had insisted on supplying them with provisions for the next few days, so they were spared having to hunt for their dinner. As Hercules set up the small cooking pot and prepared their meal, Iolaus dropped a supply of wood nearby and then settled down within the circle of light the cookfire provided. Taking off his boots, he stretched his legs out, pointed his toes, then in a reverse maneuver, flexed his feet.


There was a loud popping sound that caused Hercules to wince. It reminded him too much of breaking bones. He surreptitiously glanced in Iolaus' direction, his firm belief that the man did it on purpose to annoy him confirmed when he saw the huge grin on his partner's face. This little

display was followed by smaller crackling noises as Iolaus popped his toes.


"Stop that."


"Stop what, Herc?" Blue eyes looked innocently in his direction.


"Keep it up and your joints will ache when you get old." It was the same line his mother had used when he'd crack his neck as a youth.


"I've news for you, they already ache, so this won't make a difference. Besides, we ran all the way to Thrace and this feels good." He started on the other foot, giggling as Hercules winced.


"You do that on purpose," he accused. Iolaus dropped the false innocence and nodded.


"Yeah, but you mother hen me so much, I have to do something to level the playing field."


"I don't mother hen you. Don't forget to wash your hands before dinner." The last comment earned him a raised eyebrow and a shake of the hunter's head. "What?"


"Never mind, Herc. I love you just the way you are."



They tracked it into the foothills leading to Mount Dysorus. The rocky ground made it difficult and more than once, Hercules was glad his partner was the best tracker in Greece. Even so, their luck ran out as they reached a stretch of ground that was strewn with giant boulders resting on granite slabs with only sparse grasses and the odd bush breaking the surface.


Iolaus walked across it, skirting the wayward mounds of rock, finally stopping altogether and retracing his way back to the beginning. He did this three times, casting for the slightest sign of the creature's passing, a stray print in a patch of dirt, or a scratch from a large claw along the

surface of stone. Hercules watched as the hunter became more agitated, his moves sharper and more abrupt. Finally, Iolaus came back to where his partner rested near an unusual rock formation.


Exasperated, Iolaus flung his hands into the air and leaned against the outcrop, squirming a little to get comfortable in one of the shallow hollows of stone. "It's gone."




Iolaus leaned forward and stretched his lower back. "Every sign just ends here as if the earth swallowed it up whole." He slumped back against the stone. "Of course, if that happened, we'd have signs of the upheaval. There's no prints, no claw marks, nothing. Maybe it is a dragon, or

something one of the gods created. Some new winged monster. What do you think?"


"I think," Hercules rose from where he'd been sitting, "that you're leaning on it."


"Very funny‑" Iolaus didn't get the chance to finish that thought as the world seemed to shift behind him. He scrambled away from his backrest as the rocks moved and rose, the head of the monster coming up from where it had been tucked under a leg as it napped in the sun.


"Move!" Hercules shouted the warning as the basilisk‑the biggest basilisk he'd ever seen, not that he'd seen many‑snaked its head around and spit a fireball at the intruders. He dodged right as Iolaus flung himself to the left. The fire splashed across the rocky ground and within seconds a

few dry bushes whooshed upwards aflame.


Iolaus scrambled up just in time to do a back‑flip away from the monster's follow up to the initial attack. A bit of scrub brush went up in flames as he looked around for something larger and less flammable to take cover behind. The nearest boulder large enough to provide decent cover was

too far away. He wouldn't make it if the creature's aim got better. He headed for it anyway, hoping some god was paying attention and held him in some regard. He heard a bellow and threw a quick look over his shoulder. The basilisk was turning its head, trying to get a look at whatever had annoyed it.


"Hercules," Iolaus muttered as he flung himself behind the rocky shelter. The old 'grab the tail' bit, good for buying time, but not much else when the monsters came in jumbo size. He shouted to his partner, "Plan Alpha's just been crossed off the list. What's plan Beta?"


All he got was a 'whoa!' in response as the basilisk proved that, while wounded, it was still quick. Worried that Hercules wouldn't be as lucky to find shelter, Iolaus grabbed a handy fist‑sized rock and left his cover long enough to fling it at the beast. He managed to hit it in the shoulder and distract it for a few seconds, time he hoped the demigod put to good use.


Releasing his sheathed sword from his back, he drew the blade and glanced around the other side of the boulder in time to see Hercules fly through the air. Flesh impacted a rocky outcrop and his partner slid to the ground. With a warrior's cry, Iolaus charged the basilisk, ready to fling himself to either side at the last minute. He needed to protect his friend, give him enough time to get up and under cover, all without getting turned into Iolaus flambé.


Hercules struggled to his feet, shaking his head. It took him a moment to remember where he was and what he was supposed to be doing at the moment. Hearing his partner's cry, he looked up in alarm to see the reckless charge. "No! Iolaus!"


The monster had turned at Iolaus' scream of fury, but before it could defend itself, it was distracted by yet another cry. Its head swivelled back to Hercules and it spit fire in that direction. Still groggy from the impact, the demigod was slow to respond. The flames hit the back of his shirt as he attempted to dive out of the way. There was a 'whuff!' of displaced air and flames burst upwards. The scent of singed hair hung heavy on the air as Hercules rolled in the dirt to put out the fire.


"Herc!" Iolaus reached the basilisk as it rose up on its hind legs. Finding himself now too far from the head and too close to the creature's reach, he tried to backpedal and swing his sword at the same time. It connected with the armored hide and rebounded, nearly swinging him around off his feet. There followed a rather strange dance as the two combatants tried to get into better position to deal with their foe. This was ended when the angered monster swatted the warrior with one of its front paws.


Iolaus felt himself fly through the air and readied for impact. He tried to roll with the landing, but the momentum brought him up against one of the many boulders that littered the battlefield. He'd lost the grip on his sword in the bargain and had no idea where it was, not that it had been much

help so far.


He felt the earth shake as the beast took several strides to loom over him. Trapped against the large boulder, he couldn't get out of the way. "I guess Iolaus flambé it is," he muttered as he shut his eyes. A second passed and nothing happened. Three seconds later, still nothing. He opened one eye and found himself staring into an eyeball that was the size of his fist or more. Jerking back in surprised, he watched the basilisk snuff at him and pull back, looking for all the world like it was perplexed.


"Okay, this is...odd. Unless...Ruff?" Nearly a year after he'd first freed the baby basilisk, they'd found it once again, prisoner of an unscrupulous man. The basilisk had remembered him and in spite of past treatment, hadn't harmed the young cadets when they'd freed it. However, a lot more time had passed since then. It was asking the impossible for an animal to remember a very short time spent in human company.


The basilisk shook its head and leaned forward again, as if to better catch the scent of the warrior. There was a cry from behind and it jerked up and away. Iolaus watched as Hercules managed to jump between the basilisk and himself, legs straddling  him as the demigod wielded Iolaus' sword.


"Herc, no!" The warning was too late as Hercules rammed the sword up and managed to find a chink between the armored plates. The blade, well honed, slid home between chest and foreleg, striking a vital artery in its upward path. Bright red blood flowed over the sword and ran down the demigod's arms as the basilisk reared back, carrying man and blade with it.


Iolaus caught a confused picture of Hercules hanging from the sword embedded in the basilisk's body, blood flying everywhere, then the creature lost its balance and toppled forward. Iolaus cried out and the world went black.




The heat and darkness pressed upon him, suffocating him. Tartarus. I'm in Tartarus. What did I do to deserve this? Iolaus tried to raise his head but after a moment realized that the weight was real. It smelled like dead monster and sweaty demigod. "Hercules?" It came out very muffled and wheezy as he tried to get enough breath to speak.


In answer, there came a grunt and then the darkness shifted as the weight was lifted. Iolaus looked up to see his partner standing over him, arms stretched upwards to support the weight of the basilisk's carcass. Another grunt and a bunching of muscles, and the demigod shoved the body up and away from them. With light restored, Iolaus found his friend covered in blood. Scrambling up, he reached for Hercules to ascertain his injuries.


"Are you all right?" The same words came from Hercules so that they sounded like an odd Greek chorus. Chuckling a little, Iolaus answered first. "Just a little flattened. You?"


"A bit crisped on the back, but the blood isn't mine. I think."


"Let me look." Not waiting for a reply, Iolaus ran his hands over his partner's arms and then back and chest, liberally coating his hands and the rest of the demigod in blood.


"Gee, thanks. Now I can really look like I've been through a war and went back for seconds."


"Stop grumbling. You've got blisters on your back and um, sorry, but you have a bald spot now."


"What?!" Hercules' whipped his head around as if that would help him catch a glimpse of the back of his head.


"Just kidding. But you'll need a haircut now if you don't want the burnt area to be as noticeable." Satisfied that his partner was relatively whole Iolaus turned his attention from immediate concerns  back to the basilisk. Kneeling by its head, he reached out and touched the muzzle.


"Don't!" Hercules moved to stop him and then pulled back at the annoyed look Iolaus gave him.


"It's dead, Herc. It's not going to rise up and bite me. Basilisks are natural, not something conjured up by a demented god."

Hercules crouched down and watched his partner examine the beast. "Why did you try to stop me?" He thought he knew the answer, but at the time, all he'd thought about was stopping the monster from killing his friend.


"It wasn't going to hurt me. Well, I think it wasn't," Iolaus amended. "I think...maybe it was Ruff." It had been nearly twenty years since they'd taken the beast to the island and set it free, away from men, but it had been his first real pet. "You killed my pet."


"I didn't kill‑well, I did kill it, but we don't know it was Ruff and I thought it was going to kill you." Hercules ran a hand through his hair. He felt guilty, even if it wasn't justified.


"It was Ruff. I know it." The more he said it, the more Iolaus believed it was true.




"The same way you know things. You just know."


"You're going to be difficult about this, aren't you?" Hercules didn't expect an answer and didn't get one. "How do you explain his presence here then?"


"I don't know how he got here, swam maybe..."


"Iolaus, that's a long way to swim."


"I know, but maybe it's like elephants."




"Yeah." Forgetting his hands were bloody, Iolaus brushed one through his hair as he shoved stray locks out of his eyes. He was left with a red streak among the golden strands. "The big animals with the long noses I saw when I went East. I was told that the wild ones, when they get old or sick, leave the herd and travel to a special place to die. Maybe that's what he was doing. He looks old..." Not that he was any expert on determining the age of basilisks. However, now that he had time to really look at the beast, he could see that its armor was cracked in places and healed over, leaving ridges where they didn't seem to belong. The eye on this side was coated with a light opaque substance, like an old dog going blind. Why it had turned on humans was a mystery, but maybe it had been humans who attacked first. Monsters weren't something that people wanted near their homes, even an old and dying monster that was just passing through.


"He's a long way from Corinth," Hercules mused.


"We don't know where he was from originally. Who knows where Strife and Discord found him before taking him there. Poor thing..." He didn't notice the incredulous look Hercules gave him. "We should bury him."


"In case you hadn't noticed, the ground here is pretty much just rock and I am not dragging him several leagues to softer ground."


"The alternative is building a bier and burning his body." Iolaus looked around at the rocky ground. "We need wood..."


"Iolaus, I'm not going to walk all that distance to find enough wood to drag back here. We'd need a whole tree to build a bier big enough."


"Then we can build a cairn around him. There's lots of loose rocks here. A few boulders‑" Iolaus stopped at the look his partner gave him. "What? I'll help. I just think he deserves more than being left for the vultures and scavengers. He did stop from killing me, you know."


Hercules wisely didn't point out it had killed numerous men already. When his partner got this way, there wasn't anything to do but go along. At least there wouldn't be any more damage to property and people. The stubborn look on Iolaus' face reminded him of the young cadet who had persisted in rescuing Ruff from the man who'd trapped him and put him in a sideshow, even

when his friends had initially refused to help. He sighed and gave in. Maybe if he buried it, he wouldn't feel so guilty.


It took them most of the afternoon to move enough rocks and boulders to cover the beast to Iolaus' satisfaction. By that time, they were both hot, tired, and not in the best of tempers with each other. Without another word, they picked up their scattered belongings and headed back to Pella.


They camped that night near a stream, the silence between them only broken when necessary. Iolaus had been brooding, no doubt blaming himself for the basilisk's rampage through southern Thrace, and Hercules was feeling guilty and trying to talk himself out of it. This didn't make for a chatty pair. It wasn't until after they'd washed the blood and grime away and eaten the last

of the food the village had supplied for them that Hercules felt like trying a civil conversation.


"I'm sorry." That wasn't what he'd intended to say, but part of him couldn't help apologizing.


"Huh?" Iolaus looked up from rummaging in his rucksack. "What for?"


"I'm sorry for killing Ruff." If it was Ruff, he amended to himself. He wasn't sorry for stepping between his partner and danger.


"Oh. couldn't know. I didn't realized it was him until too late...thanks." Iolaus gave Hercules a lopsided smile to let him know everything was going to be all right. Returning to his search, he found what he was looking for and pulled it out. "We better get this done before it gets too dark to see." Hercules watched Iolaus unsheathe the small, but incredibly sharp knife he kept for shaving and the occasional trim. At his partner's raised eyebrows, he answered, "I need to fix your hair. We wouldn't want the great Hercules to have less than perfectly coifed hair, now would we?"


"The gods forfend. Trim away." He settled down as comfortably as he could and felt his partner's fingers move lightly through his hair. "And Iolaus? Just a little off the top."



The End