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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.
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.
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
basilisk as his own, he'd grown fond of the little creature.
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."
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.
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
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
be all right. You did the right thing."
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...
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.
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!"
Not a word!" The hunter waved his hands wildly at his partner, as if that could ward off disaster.
I was only‑"
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."
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,
was a long and silent journey to Thrace.
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
of finding the legendary 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
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.
was as they crossed the border and neared Pella that Hercules finally broke the silence. "So, what do you think is causing
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."
rare," Hercules pointed out regarding the latter theory, glad that his partner had finally deigned to speak to him.
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
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.
like we found our monster's calling card," Hercules muttered.
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.
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
keep them calm, their voices rising above the angry and frightened murmurs.
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.
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.
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
back memories of the angered god doing just that several times in their past.
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.
then we saw it! While everything was on fire, it stalked through the village, making this awful howl of fury and spitting
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.
monster!" Coeus' pronouncement was punctuated by his brother, Dolius, nodding his head.
know that!" Iolaus lost all patience and only refrained from saying something he'd later regret by a hand on his shoulder.
kind of monster?" Hercules asked while lightly squeezing his partner's shoulder.
that's just great‑!" Iolaus again subsided as the pressure increased.
never saw anything like it before," Dolius added.
you describe it to us?" Hercules drew on years of being patient with his partner to deal with the two farmers.
it have wings?" Iolaus added.
I mean, no, yes, we can tell you what it looked like."
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."
armored." Dolius looked to Coeus for confirmation.
Armored. And big! It was bigger than a tree!"
I don't think it was that big," Dolius disagreed.
boys," Hercules interrupted the incipient argument. "Armored. No wings. Okay, was it on four legs, or two?"
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."
mostly. It had long back legs. Walked like a man, it did, most times."
then," Hercules said as he sat back, a thoughtful look on his face.
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?"
definitely cypress," Coeus decided.
cast a glance at Hercules and lifted one brow. Just how reliable were these witnesses? Hercules shrugged then continued the
happened after the attack?"
headed north, away from the village, like it was satisfied with just burning the edges."
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
found tracks north, just like the young men said. Hercules gave a low whistle as the two examined the prints. "That's a big
it just has big feet," Iolaus offered as he knelt by a print and spread his hand next to it.
gave him a skeptical look. "Right."
I have big feet." This only got the hunter another skeptical look. "Well, proportionately, they're big."
leaned closer to his friend. "You're perfectly proportionate."
looked up and batted his eyes at the demigod. "I bet you say that to all your partners."
have." The grin faded as Hercules straightened. "We better get going. I don't want anyone else getting killed."
nodded and brushed the dirt off his hands as he rose. "Remember when I had Ruff?"
he corrected. "Remember? Academy. Corinth. Baby basilisk left by Discord and Strife?"
you worry me when you can't remember important things. Say, you don't suppose‑"
We left him on Artemis' island. No one lived there."
old do they live to be?" the hunter continued his interrogation.
big do they get?" He glanced down at the prints again.
have lost that demigod magic. You always know these things."
gave him an annoyed look. "There's just not a lot of information about the creatures. I know what you know about them."
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."
sighed and followed, thinking it might have been better when he was getting the silent treatment.
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."
king did send some soldiers after it. Maybe one got lucky before he was fried."
wounded animal is twice as dangerous. If it didn't have cause before to attack villages and farms, it does now."
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.
knows? It'll probably be one of those unsolved mysteries." Hercules patted Iolaus on the shoulder. "It's not Ruff."
didn't say it was." Iolaus went on the defensive.
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
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.
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
was followed by smaller crackling noises as Iolaus popped his toes.
what, Herc?" Blue eyes looked innocently in his direction.
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
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.
do that on purpose," he accused. Iolaus dropped the false innocence and nodded.
but you mother hen me so much, I have to do something to level the playing field."
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?"
mind, Herc. I love you just the way you are."
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.
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
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.
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."
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
one of the gods created. Some new winged monster. What do you think?"
think," Hercules rose from where he'd been sitting, "that you're leaning on it."
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.
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
dry bushes whooshed upwards aflame.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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!"
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?"
bit crisped on the back, but the blood isn't mine. I think."
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.
thanks. Now I can really look like I've been through a war and went back for seconds."
grumbling. You've got blisters on your back and um, sorry, but you have a bald spot now."
Hercules' whipped his head around as if that would help him catch a glimpse of the back of his head.
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.
Hercules moved to stop him and then pulled back at the annoyed look Iolaus gave him.
dead, Herc. It's not going to rise up and bite me. Basilisks are natural, not something conjured up by a demented god."
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.
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."
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.
was Ruff. I know it." The more he said it, the more Iolaus believed it was true.
same way you know things. You just know."
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?"
don't know how he got here, swam maybe..."
that's a long way to swim."
know, but maybe it's like elephants."
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.
a long way from Corinth," Hercules mused.
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."
case you hadn't noticed, the ground here is pretty much just rock and I am not dragging him several leagues to softer
alternative is building a bier and burning his body." Iolaus looked around at the rocky ground. "We need wood..."
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
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."
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
his friends had initially refused to help. He sighed and gave in. Maybe if he buried it, he wouldn't feel so guilty.
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.
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
the food the village had supplied for them that Hercules felt like trying a civil conversation.
sorry." That wasn't what he'd intended to say, but part of him couldn't help apologizing.
Iolaus looked up from rummaging in his rucksack. "What for?"
sorry for killing Ruff." If it was Ruff, he amended to himself. He wasn't sorry for stepping between his partner and danger.
Yeah...but...you 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?"
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."