Ch. 23

A.N: I rewrote the last part... Not sure its still the way I want it but it will do for now. I may change parts at some point, we'll see.

Perseus sat a few feet into the small pond located by the hut he shared with Heracles in Tiryns. He held his right arm under the water and let the liquid do its magic on the painful burn he had on the bottom half of his forearm. He'd had no time on their journey back from stealing the mares of Diomedes, King of Argos, to heal his wound. They had been forced to flee into the countryside with the man-eating equines, the soldiers of Diomedes hot on their trail.

After being cornered, Heracles had set to work on tethering the horses to a few trees while Perseus held off their attackers with his bow. He wasn't sure how many enemies he killed but by the time Heracles returned to the battle, the threat was nothing the duo couldn't handle within a few minutes.

It was easily the most men Perseus had ever slain in battle. His mind had felt numb, his body moving on its own accord, firing arrows with deadly precision as the soldiers tried to advance. His bow had become like another extension of his body, working in perfect sync with his arms, launching projectile after projectile, cutting down men like they were nothing but targets in an archery range. While he felt slightly guilty but he knew that it had been a life or death situation and the soldiers would have killed him without a second thought.

Still, he did feel bad. They had been attacking on the orders from their king and their king had been justified in ordering the attack. He and Heracles had stolen the king's prized horses. And even if they'd been of the man-eating, fire breathing variety, it still felt wrong. What had really bothered him was Heracles feeding a few of Diomedes' soldiers to the horses before the pursuit. He had been right about it calming the beasts and preventing them from attacking them, it was still a stomach turning scene to watch the men be devoured within seconds by the dozen ravenous animals.

He'd been burned when they first snuck into the stables to steal the horses in the middle of the night, after the king had offered them quarter. They'd claimed to be weary travelers and been shown kindness and hospitality that few kings would have offered. That was the other thing that bothered him. He felt like a criminal, taking advantage of the king's kindness to steal from him.

He pushed those thoughts aside, knowing they had done what they had to. It was Hera who was really to blame. It was her ridiculous labors that forced them to do it and the blame lay on her immortal shoulders and hers alone.

He pulled his arm from the water and let out a relieved sigh when he found it showed no lasting effects from the burns. He had been worried his right arm would be disfigured like his left. Like always, his damaged arm was hidden beneath the custom built leather vambrace that Heracles made for him, hiding his injured flesh from the bicep down. Only his scared fingers were visible, allowing him to avoid looking at the gift he'd gotten from battling the Hydra.

Perseus heard footsteps approaching and looked behind him to find Heracles making his way back from the palace of Eurystheus. To their surprise, the king had actually taken the man-eating horses, sending them off with a few of his servants. He'd then dismissed Perseus, only allowing an audience for Heracles. Perseus guessed it had something to do with his habit of calling out the king when he showed his cowardice in front of the heroes.

He'd left happily, not wishing to spend any more time than necessary with the king and his petulant little herald.

He rose from the pond and stepped out of the water, his clothes completely dry as he met Heracles in front of their hut.

"What'd I miss?" As soon as he asked, he knew he wasn't going to like it. Heracles' sober expression told him that whatever orders the king had given him were bad enough sap the happiness of completing their last quest right from him face.

"The ninth labor," Heracles frowned. "I must retrieve the Belt of Hippolyta."

Perseus felt like he'd been punched in the gut, "You're kidding, right?"

From the teachings of Heracles over the years, he was well informed about Hippolyta and her clan of women warriors. Hippolyta was a daughter of Ares who ruled over a warrior race of women. They were well known for their brutality and aggression. They loved war and could match any known army of men in battle.

Heracles' face darkened, "The fool's daughter has requested the belt as a gift from her father."

"Tell her to go get it herself then," Perseus growled but knew that was pointless to even say. Heracles was bound to complete twelve tasks given by Eurystheus and they had no say in what any of those labors would be.

Heracles didn't respond to his statement, knowing Perseus was well aware that wasn't an option.

Both heroes stood silently for a moment as they pondered the next task given to them. Finally, Perseus broke them out of the reveries.

"When do we leave?"

"First light," Heracles answered, "Apparently the king is actually hoping we complete this task. He has offered us a ship to speed us on our journey."

"How generous," Perseus rolled his eyes. "Great, so we've got however many days it takes to sail to Themiscrya left to live. Hopefully its at least a long journey."

Heracles placed his hand on Perseus' shoulder, "You need not join me on this quest. I can complete this task on my own. You should stay and rest; prepare for the next trial." He was only half serious. Trying to steal the belt of the Queen of the Amazons could go very poorly, very fast.

Perseus swatted his hand away and stepped towards their hut, "I'll be ready to go. Let's rest, this may be the most difficult challenge we've yet to face." He disappeared into their hut and Heracles let out a deep, sad breath. He knew better than to try to argue with his young companion. While he had meant what he said about Perseus staying behind, he couldn't deny feeling relieved to hear that his battle hardened friend would be joining him on the perilous journey. In the four years since he'd met the young son of Poseidon, Perseus had managed to become his equal with the bow, and his skill with the sword was not far behind. He did not have the strength Heracles had but he compensated with speed that Heracles couldn't dream of matching.

He had no idea how they would complete this labor but knowing he wasn't walking alone into the kingdom of the Amazons was enough to give him a small glimmer of hope.

Line Break

As night began to set on the fourth day of their journey, Heracles began to get restless aboard their ship. The small crew said little to the two heroes but their every movement seemed to get under the son of Zeus' skin, despite the fact they were simply sailing the ship. He claimed it was because as a child of Zeus, he wasn't comfortable spending that much time at sea but Perseus knew better.

They both knew they would arrive at their destination the next day. Somehow, whenever they were at sea, Perseus had perfect bearings. He could tell they were drawing closer because he sensed the sea becoming more shallow, little by little, as they approached land. Ever since he told Heracles, the son of Zeus had become more and more restless.

That was the true source of Heracles' irritation. He was nervous. Perseus was too, but he didn't take his anxiety out on others. He didn't fault his friend; people handled stress differently. His way of handling it was just more annoying and made him a bit of jerk. While it didn't make the journey any more pleasant for Perseus, he decided it wasn't worth setting the big guy off.

But they both had good reason to be nervous. Somehow, they would need to walk into a land that was hostile towards men and find a way to acquire what was the most prized possession of a race of ruthless warriors.

What could go wrong?

Rather than watch Heracles' pace around the deck, Perseus decided to go below deck and get some sleep. If he was going to die tomorrow, he figured he might as well be well rested when he was skewered by a dozen Amazonian spears.

He left Heracles and disappeared down to their quarters.

When he woke the next day, it was from the sounds of the crew yelling at each other and scrambling around the ship. He reached out with his senses and his eyes widened when he realized they were sailing in water less than two hundred feet deep and becoming more shallow by the minute.

He grabbed his armor and rushed to the deck of the ship. He found Heracles at the bow of the ship, his eyes locked on the mass of land in front of them. As he hastily put on his armor, he stepped up beside his friend, watching the land in front of them grow larger and more distinct as they sailed closer.

"Do we have a plan?"

Heracles didn't look at him, keeping his eyes on the quickly approaching shoreline.

"Plan?" He repeated, "Sure. The plan is to get the belt and avoid ending up with our heads on a pike."

Perseus glanced over but found no humor on Heracles' face.

"My head not ending up on a pike is a pretty solid plan. Let's focus on that. That should be priority number one."

Heracles didn't respond, his face a mask of stoicism. They didn't speak again until the ship slowed then stopped about one hundred feet from the shore.

"This is as close as we can get, my lord." One of the sailors announced behind them. Perseus turned and found the face of the captain standing behind them.

"This is fine." Heracles replied simply. "Keep the ship anchored here. If we don't return in two days, you can set sail for home."

The captain looked quizzically at the back of Heracles' head, "My lord?"

"He means," Perseus cut in. "If we aren't back in two days, that means we're dead. And you will need to make a hasty retreat before the Amazons decide that they would like to add this nice ship to their fleet."

The captain's face turned pale, "Ye... Yes, my lords. Shall we lower the raft to take your ashore?"

"No need," Perseus replied then looked at Heracles, "You ready?"


Perseus summoned the sea to him, a tower of water rising up to the bow of the ship. The captain staggered back in shock but the two heroes paid him no mind. Perseus stepped off the ship first, using power over the sea to solidify the water so densely that it prevented anything from passing through it. He willed the water to form into a set of steps and began to descend them. Heracles followed behind, able to walk atop the water thanks to Perseus' command of the sea.

The walked down the liquid steps and across the top of the sea until they reached the shore. Both were tense as they set foot on the sandy shores, eyes darting around, looking for an attack. But to their surprise, they was no attack waiting for them. They walked up the beach and into the sparse forest leading inland.

They walked for close to an hour, jumping every time they heard a bird chirp or a tree rustling in the breeze, but found the land seemingly uninhabited. They started to relax when Perseus felt a cold shiver go down his spine. With the speed that no mortal could match, he threw himself onto his back, an arrow coming so close to impaling him that it grazed the side of his head, cutting the hair down to a close shave right above his left ear.

A second arrow flew at Heracles but he was ready and swatted it aside with his sword. More arrows flew in from all directions, all aimed at the son of Zeus. He would have been skewered if he hadn't pulled his lion skin cloak around him and dropped into a crouch, hiding his whole body beneath his cloak. He felt the loud thud of arrows bouncing off the Nemean Lion pelt, but none were able to pierce the mythical hide of the monster.

When the thudding of arrows stopped, Heracles rose back to his feet and slowly unwrapped the pelt from around his face. He found a dozen spears leveled at him, each held by a beautiful but alarmingly muscular and intimidating woman.

"You will die for trespassing on our lands," one of the muscular woman snarled.

Instead of responding, Heracles lashed out with his sword, cutting the spear of the Amazon who spoke in half. He let out a booming battle cry and slashed his blade in a wide arc, cutting a half dozen of the other warriors' spears in half.

One approached from his side and would have impaled him through the thigh if Perseus hadn't climbed back to his feet. He parried the spear with his sword and grabbed it by the shaft, yanking the Amazon forward, sending her stumbling towards him. He smacked the spear out of her hand and grabbed her, spinning her around and placing his sword at her throat.

"Enough!" He snarled. "We did not come to fight you."

Three of the Amazons who still held their spears surrounded him, their weapons all raised and ready to cut him down.

"Only those wishing to die dare to come to our lands." One of the woman hissed. "Release Catriona and I will make your death as painless as possible."

"No," Heracles said in a commanding tone. "We are here to parlay! We demand to speak to Hippolyta. It is our right to parlay and you are honor bound to bring us to your leader."

The Amazon who had spoken to Perseus spit on the ground. She looked like she wanted to remove Heracles' head from his body but managed to restrain herself. Then, another of the warriors spoke.

"Very well," she growled. "We will honor your request to parlay. But once our queen rejects whatever you have to say, I will make sure you die slowly." She finished with an icy glare at Heracles.

He did not flinch though. Instead, he met her glare with his own. The Amazon tried to hold his gaze but turned away after a moment and took a step back, seemingly shaken from what she'd found in Heracles' eyes.

"Lead us to your queen." Heracles growled before looking at Perseus. "Let her go, brother. If she attacks you, cut her down."

Perseus paused for a second, "Don't attack me," he said imploringly. He spoke with a surprisingly soft voice, one that only she could hear. "I don't want to hurt any of your warriors. We just want to speak to your queen."

He felt the Amazon's body relax a little and he let go, stepping back but keeping his sword gripped tightly at his side. She took a step forward then turned, her face a combination of anger and confusion. His words had sounded so sincere, her plan to cut his throat the moment he released her momentarily forgotten.

She settled for glaring daggers at him but she faltered when she found him looking back at her with no malice at all. His face managed to convey the message that he was sorry for threatening her but also that he would and most certainly could remove her head from her body if he had to.

She walked away from him, joining her fellow Amazons as they stood in front of the two men who had defended their attack with surprising ease.

"Come," the apparent leader snarled. "Queen Hippolyta will deal with you."

Neither hero responded. The both gave small nods and followed as the Amazons led them deeper into the woods.

They walked for almost another hour before the forest broke apart and gave way to a massive valley below. A huge city, not as large as Athens but much bigger than Tiryns, lay built into the valley. The Amazons gestured for them to follow as they began to descend towards the city.

The way was steep and it took a while to make their way into the city. Once they did, their entourage of warriors led them to the middle of the city and into a large building with huge marble pillars leading to tall double doors that opened into a vast throne room.

At the far wall of the throne room, a woman sat on a modest looking throne, at least in comparison to what Perseus had seen of the thrones of mortal kings. It was carved out of what appeared to be ash, simple but beautiful at the same time.

As they approached, the woman sat up, eyeing them as they approached.

She was beautiful in a terrifying way. She had a lithe, muscular body. She wore only a pair of trousers, her top completely exposed to them. Perseus, unable to help himself, stared at her exposed breasts in awe. He tried to hide his blush but the sight of the queen made his face burn and other parts of his body respond inappropriately for the situation they were in.

Heracles managed to give him an inconspicuous nudge with his elbow when he noticed Perseus' wide eyes. He knew this was the first time his young friend had laid eyes on such an exposed woman but also knew that if he was caught ogling at the queen, they'd likely kill him on the spot.

Perseus swallowed hard and collected him bearings, forcing himself to keep his eyes trained on anything but the queen's naked flesh.

"My queen," the lead Amazon announced with a small bow. "We captured these intruders in the forest."

Hippolyta raised an eyebrow, "Why are they not dead, Melina?"

The Amazon, Melina, frowned, "They have invoked the right to parlay."

"They lived long enough to ask to parlay?" The queen asked surprised.

Melina's frown morphed into a more of an embarrassed look, "They..." she paused for a moment, "they were more skilled than we anticipated."

Hippolyta tilted her head, looking intrigued, her eyes moving from her Amazon to the two males standing behind her warriors.

"They overpowered you? These two demigods bested twelve of my Amazons?"

Melina and the other Amazons all had matching looks of shame, their heads lowered as they prepared for their queen's disappointment.

Hippolyta eyed the two heroes for a moment before she gave a small nod, like she just confirmed a question she had asked herself.

"Two formidable demigods," she added, "a son of Zeus and a son of Poseidon. Both very powerful heroes."

Hippolyta kept her eyes on them for another long moment then made a shooing gesture with her hands.

"Go," she said to Melina. "Leave us. I would speak to the demigods alone."

Melina's eyes widened in surprise. She opened her mouth to protest but then seemed to think better of it. Her queen could certainly handle these two males should they try anything. She gestured for her comrades to follow and led them out of the throne room.

Once the other Amazons were gone, Hippolyta leaned forward in her throne and laced her fingers together and rested her chin on them.

"So," she eyed the heroes, "tell me, why are you here? To risk stepping foot on these lands, you surely must have an interesting story to tell."

Heracles glanced at Perseus, his expressing conveying that he would do the talking.

"Yes," he answered as he bowed to the queen. Perseus followed his lead and bowed as well. "Our story is quite incredible and I will tell you all of it."

And tell her he did. Heracles gave the queen his life story, starting with his birth and the goddess Athena tricking Hera into breastfeeding the young hero before noticing she held the bastard son of her husband to her bosom and being filled with a rage that had yet to sate. He told her of the attempts Hera made to end his life since his childhood, all of which failed to kill him. He told her of Hera infecting him with madness which led to him murdering his whole family. He explained meeting Perseus in a forest on his way to Delphi and their experience with the oracle. He spoke of the penance the oracle commanded of him and the journeys he and Perseus had endured over the past four years, including what Eurystheus had commanded of them for his ninth labor. When he finished the tale, the queen remained stoic, her face revealing nothing of her thoughts.

Perseus felt his pendant weighing on his neck, urging him to draw his bow before the queen could jump from her throne and cut them down. He resisted those instincts though and waited for the queen to speak.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, Hippolyta spoke.

"That is quite the tale." She said simply. "And now you are here, to take the my belt, a gift from my father Ares, and the symbol of the Amazon Queen."

"Yes," Heracles said apprehensively. "I'm afraid we have no choice once we've been handed a labor from the king."

Hippolyta leaned back in her throne, looking deep in thought.

Unknown to the heroes or the Queen of the Amazons, a crowds of over fifty Amazons had gathered outside the throne room, waiting to defend their queen should the need arise.

Amongst the Amazons, was a woman that they would not have recognized if they'd been paying attention. Her large, soft brown eyes were the only part of her appearance she hadn't altered. She was dressed in similar garb as the other Amazons and hid her true identity.

She walked through the crowd of women warriors and whispered of a plot to kill the queen. Within minutes, the message seemed to spread throughout the small mob, leading to a general consensus without the crowd.

"They are here to assassinate the queen!" One of the Amazon's yelled.

"Protect the Queen!" A chorus of others replied.

Meanwhile, inside the throne room, the scene played out very differently.

Hippolyta rose from her throne, "I believe you," she smiled. "And seeing as this quest has been ordered by the gods, I will let you heroes take my belt. I do not need it to rule my people."

Both Perseus and Heracles stared at the queen in shock.

"Really?" Perseus asked.

"Yes," Hippolyta nodded and reached for her belt when the doors of the throne room burst open.

"Save the queen!" An Amazon yelled. "Slay the assassins!"

"What is this?" Hippolyta growled, now looking at the two demigods with suspicion and anger.

"The belt!" Heracles held out his hand but instead of receiving it, the queen slashed at his outstretched arm with a dagger, nearly slicing his hand from his body. Heracles recoiled in pain, blood pouring from the deep gash.

When the mob of Amazon's charged into the room, Perseus began to summon his bow, then stopped when he saw the marble fountain in the side of the room. He reached out towards it and summoned the gallons of water, sending it flying at the Amazons in a torrent, effectively flushing the warriors right out the throne room doors and back into the street.

He turned back towards Heracles and the queen and his eyes widened as Heracles had his sword drawn and used it to knock the dagger from her hand. He threw a hard punch that sent Hippolyta flying back into her throne as Heracles closed in for the kill.

Perseus lunged towards them, summoning his own blade and just barely managing to block the strike from his friend.

"What are you doing?" He snarled.

Heracles' eyes burned with anger and he swatted Perseus aside with the back of his hand. He reared back to attack the queen again and only Perseus' incredible speed allowed him to jump back between them and parry the blow. Heracles stumbled a bit in surprise and Perseus kicked him hard in the side, knocking him to the ground.

"Stop!" Perseus spat. "Enough blood has been spilled in these ridiculous labors."

"Get out of the way, boy. I need that belt and she will pay for double crossing me!" He held up his bloodied hand and stepped towards the queen again.

Perseus turned and yanked the belt off Hippolyta's waist, freezing the still woozy queen in shock. He tossed it Heracles and stood between them.

"Then take it."

Heracles caught it surprised and stepped towards the exit in the back of the throne room as the Amazons began to pick themselves up from their surprising surprise exit.

"Let's go." Heracles waved towards the door, only for Perseus to hesitate.

"You go." He said shaking his head.

"What are you doing? They'll kill you!" Heracles exclaimed.

Perseus just shook his head, "Go. I will find my own way out of this. I can't continue on this path with you any further."

Heracles looked dumbfounded by his words. He was about to argue when an arrow flew right back his head, carving a gash in his cheek as it grazed him.

"Go!" Perseus yelled and pulled the small amount of remaining water from the fountain and sent it flying into the front row of Amazons, knocking their legs out from under them.

Heracles looked like he was still going to protest but the hoard of Amazons forced him to bolt out the exit in the back of the room, carrying the belt as he sprinted back towards the forest and eventually their ship.

He felt his heart break into a million pieces as he left his best friend to deal with the mob of angry Amazons."

A.N: So... This and Exiled are the two stories i'm working on. Don't bother asking about the others. I will get to them once I'm done with these. But so you know, the next two will be Forged Destinies and Timeless Warrior.

Now, what did you think? Looks like Perseus and Heracles are done together... what did you think?