Wow. I'm actually done. I've been writing this since January 1999. I'm hot even sure what to think now that this is done. Check back with me in a month or two, maybe the shock will have sunk in by then. I hope you've all liked this! I tried to write a story that I would enjoy as an episode, and hopefully I came somewhat close. Well, I don't know what else to say…aside from one thing.
I'd like to dedicate this story to Jel. I know this may seem kind of strange as she didn't start reading this until there were only a few chapters left, but she's been nothing but a world of encouragement and enthusiasm since then. Of all my other friends that read my stories, and of all my other stories, Jel and forsaken fit the best. Look, I beat up Hercules for you! *beams and winks* enjoy it, because I'm never doing that again. Awww…jeje you're the best!
This is also dedicated to Kevin Smith. A meager tribute, but I want to dedicate this to his legacy. There will never be another Ares. Thank you for all you did for us. You will not be forgotten.
Epilogue: Returning Home
Iolaus watched the lone figure leaning on the edge of the moonlit deck. Everyone else was down below sleeping, but not Hercules. He hadn't gotten much sleep in the past week.
After rushing Hercules into the caves, they'd quickly found Willow and she'd healed Hercules. The anti-climatic-ness of it all now garnered a smile from those involved. He, Lilith, Theseus, Hercules, Jason, the Corinthian force, and the Huntress stayed on the island for another week helping the hinds rebuild their village.
A portion of the Corinthian fleet, come to whisk them home, had then arrived. The captain Gravus said that Artemis appeared at her temple in Corinth and left instructions for the fleet to go to her island to pick up its troops, king, and his friends. The Huntress disappeared right around then. Iolaus scratched his head at the thought—the servant of Artemis had been extremely familiar and elusive. Any time he wanted to confront her about her origins ('gods, was she beautiful!' Iolaus thought, 'golden…mysterious…') she was no where to be found. Iolaus sensed that Hercules knew more about her than he let on, but Iolaus wouldn't press him to reveal details. Hercules only kept secrets with good reason, and when this was true, he could be terribly stubborn about keeping his mouth shut.
No, Iolaus would have to unravel the enigma of the Huntress at another time. There was no more to be said now. They would reach the harbor at Corinth by noon tomorrow, 'or today,' Iolaus mused, thinking about how early in the morning it was, 'depending on how you look at it.' He sighed and decided that it was time to go talk Hercules out of whatever brooding mood he was in.
Hercules ran his hands over the smooth wood of the rail and shifted his gaze from the gently churning waves to the softly twinkling sky. Everyone else was sleeping, but he couldn't sleep, no matter how tired he may be. The thoughts continued to plague him. A foreign god, Kal, had tried to kill him. Zeus hadn't done a thing. An entire group of Olympians came to stop Kal, but Zeus had not been among their ranks. Hercules swore that there had been another god there—one he'd never expect to see present—and the one that mattered to him the most had been no where to be seen. What did it all mean?
Hercules turned as he heard the sound of someone approaching behind him. He smiled at the shadowy form. "Hi Iolaus."
"Hey," Iolaus flashed his trademark grin at Hercules and took a place beside the demigod, and took a place beside him, leaning against the edge of the ship. The two fell into silence, Hercules with his thoughts while Iolaus gave Hercules the chance to tell what bothered him, though Iolaus knew he wouldn't. Iolaus could make a good guess at what the problem was, thought. There was something about the moon and Hercules; he always stared at and often talked to it when he was beset by the same thoughts.
"What did he do this time, or would it be didn't do?" Iolaus asked.
Hercules snapped from his reverie and gaped at Iolaus, stammering. "W-who?"
Iolaus rolled his eyes and suppressed the urge to shout at Hercules. It wasn't that he was mad exactly, but he didn't like seeing Hercules torture himself like this. It only fueled Iolaus' growing contempt for Zeus. "You know who. Don't play clueless with me, big guy," he added, seeing Hercules about to form a protest. He jerked a finger upwards. "Zeus. You think I don't know you well enough by now? You always get that look when something having to do with him is bothering you."
Hercules fiddled with the side of the ship and was silent for a moment before answering. "He wasn't there." Hercules' simple statement hung in the air, ringing with confusion, scorn, and sadness. Iolaus bit his lip to keep from spitting out an angry retort about Zeus. Instead, he laid a reassuring and understanding hand on Hercules' shoulder. There was nothing to be said. Nothing as good and potent as sharing his friend's burden. After awhile Iolaus left, giving Hercules the time alone that he needed.
Warmed by Iolaus' support, Hercules gradually found his eyelids growing heavy. He found a pile of sackcloth and crawled into it, rolling himself into a ball. What Zeus thought of him may remain a question, but Hercules felt himself starting to care less. He had all the family he needed down on earth, away from Olympus.
The soothing rise and dip of the ship lulled Hercules to sleep. Yet, though he closed his eyes, the picture did not become black. Mist swirled around Hercules' vision and a familiar figure stepped forth. "You were there," Hercules said evenly.
"That I was," Ares scowled. "Don't take it as a compliment."
"I wasn't planning on it."
Ares folded his arms across his chest and his eyes shot daggers at Hercules, who returned the glare. "Any reason to spite Kal, that upstart of a junior god, was excuse enough for me. I was hoping we'd get there after he'd killed you, but no such like. Artemis was quite insistent about making sure we arrived before you were dead." At this Ares grumbled. "Spoilsport."
Hercules was annoyed; it had been awhile since he'd gotten any decent rest, and he wanted Ares to leave and let him dream in peace. "Are you here for any particular reason?" he asked dryly.
"I just wanted to make sure you're still clear on where we stand." Ares began to fade away. "Nothing has changed."
"Believe me, I didn't think anything had." Hercules' voice was flat. There was an echoing "Good," before Ares disappeared completely. Hercules held on to consciousness for just a few moment more, contemplating all that had just happened. Ares had been part of the group who'd saved him from Kal, but the Greek war god had purely selfish intentions at mind. But, Hercules thought before drifting off to a refreshing, dreamless sleep, that seemed like the way things should be.