Pairing: None: Young Hercules/ Buffy crossover
Archive: Yes, please. Let me know if you take it, OK?
Teaser: Very weird things are afoot at the Academy
Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. They belong to Studios USA or
Whoever owns the Rights to Young Hercules. And to whoever owns the Rights to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This is just for fun. No profit is being made.
The blonde girl stood at the edge of a deep pit. She wore a black sleeveless top and tight red pants with black high-heeled boots. A dark cave surrounded her and her only light came from a flickering torch. She stared down into the bottomless abyss that was mere inches away from her feet. She was not frightened but shifted her gaze to the object in her right hand.
The green gem in the center of the pendant gleamed in the torchlight. The priceless emerald was the centerpiece of the pendant. It was surrounded by delicate gold filigree. The heavy piece rested in the center of her palm while the long chain dangled freely. "Who ever thought such a beautiful thing could cause so much trouble?" she said as she spoke to herself.
A cold draft from the crack in the earth blew her blonde, shoulder-length hair. She looked one final time at the pendant and then tossed it into the pit. The gem flashed a few times as the light from the torch reflected off its facets, then it was gone. The girl carefully backed away from the edge and picked up her crossbow. She lifted the torch from the nook in the wall and headed toward the surface.
She would have been very worried if she had known the pendant had flashed out after falling only a few dozen feet.
"Ah, this is stupid!" Iolaus complained as he dragged a big weaved straw basket behind him. He stomped up the gentle sloping, weed-choked hill behind the other six cadets. His basket caught on a bush and he tried to yank it free.
"Iolaus, don't!" Casche told him as she came back down the hill. Her long red hair shone in the sunlight and cascaded over her shoulders. She set her basket down and went to help Iolaus. She knelt by the basket and used her long slender fingers to untangle the branch. Her gray-blue eyes sparkled as laughed. "It's better to untangle it than just yank it free! Do it your way and you'll end up with a big hole in your basket."
"Yeah, but I didn't come to the Academy to pick stupid berries!" Iolaus frowned at the offensive basket. It was a huge basket that had two handles on it. "I mean, look at the thing! It'll take forever to fill it up! Going to class is bad enough, but this. I never dreamed Chiron would send us on such a boring mission!"
"But it'll be fun!" Casche replied as she picked up her own basket. "We're the lucky ones, Iolaus. We get to spend a day out in the bright sunlight and the fresh air. All the others are stuck inside the Academy and going to classes! Would you rather be sitting through one of Feducious' lectures right now?"
"Heck no!" Iolaus shook his head and his blond curls flew into his eyes. He pushed his hair out of the way and picked up his basket. "I guess I'm just bored. I wish something exciting would happen. And spending hours picking blueberries is not my idea of excitement."
Iolaus followed Casche up the hill and paused when he reached the top. He saw his friends spread out among the wild blueberry bushes. Hercules, Jason, Celest, Neila and Ash. Casche dashed over to a bush and started picking the sweet ripe berries.
"Man, this is stupid." Iolaus dragged his empty basket over to a bush and plucked a berry. He dropped it into his basket. After a few minutes of steady picking, the bottom wasn't even covered. He glanced over at Jason, who was busy picking a few bushes away. "Hey Jason. Doesn't this bother you? I mean, you're a Prince!"
"Of course not. It's good honest work." Jason replied as he picked blueberries. "Besides, just think of the great food we'll have to eat with these berries! Blueberry muffins, blueberry pastries, you can add them to the oats, to bread, all sorts of stuff."
"Yeah, yeah." Iolaus studied his bush and realized it was empty already. Leave it to him to pick a bad bush! Iolaus dragged his basket behind him and searched for another bush. The bushes up here were scattered about. He frowned when he realized all the nearby bushes were taken by his friends. Then he saw a thick clump of bushes about twenty feet away. Even from here he could see they were heavy with ripe plump berries! The berries in his basket were small and dried up. It was like someone had already cleaned the bush and had left these behind. Iolaus grinned as he headed for the untouched bushes. "I'll pick Chiron the best blueberries!"
"Hey!" Hercules called. "Don't you see the warning marker?"
Iolaus stopped and noticed the post sticking out of the ground a few feet in front of him. He concentrated but couldn't remember what it was for. "Yeah. So? There's plump berries over there."
"Don't you remember what Chiron said before we left?" Ash said as she hurried over to Iolaus. She pushed her blonde hair out of her blue eyes, then pointed to the ground past the warning marker. Her mouth was stained with blueberry juice. "Chiron said the ground over there isn't safe. That the area just below is spotted with caverns. If you step in the wrong spot, you might fall through."
Iolaus blinked. "Oh, I wasn't listening."
"Ash is right." Neila told him as she joined the small group by the warning marker. She had sandy blonde hair and blue eyes. "All the rain we had this spring has made the ground extra spongy. And there was lots of erosion."
"Lots of what?" Iolaus stared blankly at Neila.
Hercules sighed. "Don't you ever pay attention in class?"
"Not if I can help it." Iolaus stepped passed the marker and stomped his foot on the ground. He grinned at the others. "See? It's good and solid! You're all just chicken! And jealous because I'll get the best berries for Chiron!"
"Iolaus, no!" Ash cried as she watched him walk toward the berry bushes. To her horror, he wasn't even testing the ground. He just strolled along and whistled to himself.
Halfway to the blueberry bushes, the ground gave way and Iolaus disappeared under the earth!
Iolaus' stomach jumped upward as he felt the ground crumble away under his feet, the next second he was falling. He tried to grip the edge of the hole but the soft earth just crumbled away, too. His heartbeat sped up and he realized he had no idea how far down he would fall. It could be just a few feet or it could be hundreds.
"Iolaus!" Hercules screamed and started to run forward.
But before he got two steps Neila leaped on him and knocked him to the ground. "Do you want to fall in a hole, too? We need to be careful, not run off halfcocked! We'll rescue Iolaus, but we need a plan."
"You're right." Hercules admitted as his half-sister got off him and helped him to his feet. "I just hate to see my friends get hurt."
After talking, they decided to send the lightest person out onto the dangerous ground. That happened to be Celest. Plus Celest was the Goddess of Stars and Constellations. It was unlikely that a fall would injure her.
Celest gripped the end of a long rope in her hand as she carefully headed toward the hole where Iolaus had disappeared. She tested each area of ground before she trusted it with her entire weight. She didn't understand why Iolaus couldn't follow the rules like everyone else did. It was one thing to have fun, but this was something else. It was dangerous!
Finally she reached the lip of the hole and stretched out on the ground. She carefully crawled forward and peered down the dark hole. A bit of the soil crumbled underneath her and tumbled into the dark pit. She frowned. She tucked her brownish-blonde ringlets behind her ear and called down. "Iolaus! Can you hear me?"
Celest listened carefully but didn't hear anything. She wished she could create a light so she could see down there. Maybe she could? Celest concentrated. She closed her green eyes and imagined a round ball of light. She concentrated so hard that her brow furrowed. When she opened her eyes, a big white ball floated before her. It looked like a miniature star. Celest grinned. As far as she knew, none of the other Gods could do this! She flickered her finger and the ball of light zipped down the deep hole. She gasped when she saw Iolaus at the bottom.
Iolaus moaned. He had landed on his back after falling what had seemed like forever. Maybe even longer than that! He slowly sat up and rubbed his head. Ugh. It felt like there was ground in his curly hair! He tested each limb and was pleased that nothing was broke. He felt around and soon found a large boulder to sit on. It had been very close to where he had landed. A shiver traveled down his back. If he had landed on that rock.
"But I didn't." Iolaus reminded himself. He sat on the rock and waited. He knew his friends would get him out soon. After a while, a ball of light floated down to him. After the utter darkness, Iolaus was forced to cover his eyes until he got used to the brightness. He glanced upward and saw Celest. Iolaus stood and waved at her.
Celest picked her head up and called to the other cadets. "He's OK!" Then she pushed the rope down into the hole. Actually, the hole wasn't very deep at all. She estimated it was between ten to fifteen feet. But due to its crumbly nature, Iolaus would never be able to climb out on his own. He needed the rope.
Now that he could see, Iolaus looked around the cavern. It had rough rock walls, assorted rocks and boulders, nothing spectacular. In fact, it looked just like all the other caves he had ever been in. "The only difference is the straw basket and scattered blueberries on the stone floor. I guess even caves are boring."
Iolaus walked the few steps and picked up the basket. Something sparkled next to the boulder and Iolaus grabbed it. He brought it closer to the white ball of light and he whistled in amazement. It was a fancy necklace with a big green gem in the center. It 's weight reassured him it was worth a small fortune. "Today is my lucky day! I'll just take you back to the Academy, clean you up a bit and find out how much someone will pay for you."
He twisted the chain around his wrist and gripped the rope. He tugged on it to let Celest know he was ready to be pulled up.
"OK, pull him up!" Celest called to the others. Jason and Hercules pulled on the rope and soon Iolaus emerged from the hole. Celest gripped his shirt and yanked him a bit roughly onto hopefully solid ground.
"Hey!" Iolaus protested. "Don't be so rough!"
"You had us all worried!" Celest told him angrily. "You could have been killed! That warning marker was there for a reason and you ignored it on purpose!"
"Yeah, but I wasn't." Iolaus told her as he joined the other cadets on the safe side of the warning marker. "In fact, I was lucky that I fell into that hole. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have found this beauty. That just proves that sometimes it pays to break the rules!" Iolaus held up his arm and the green gem sparkled in the sunlight. It was attached to a golden chain and a delicate gold design surrounded the gem.
"Iolaus! Celest is right. You could have been killed." Jason told him angrily. "Look, we all care about you. We don't want to see you risking your life when you don't have to. Chiron put that marker there to protect us. I understand breaking some rules, like sneaking out of the Academy at night or swiping food from the kitchen. But breaking the warning marker rule is just stupid."
"Ah, rules are made to be broken. Besides, I'm OK. So let's just forget about it." Iolaus licked his fingers and rubbed on the green gem. He tilted it this way and that, watching the sunlight reflect off its faceted surface. "Yep. Breaking that rule definitely paid big time."
Hours later the cadets returned to the Academy, their baskets filled with blueberries. After dropping the heavy baskets in the back near the kitchen, they wandered off toward their rooms.
Iolaus ran through the hallways, the necklace gripped in his hand. He raced around the corner at top speed and almost collided with the wall. He avoided it at the last second. He saw the wooden hand-painted sign "Wet Floor" too late. His feet slipped out from under him and he crashed to the floor. The necklace was knocked out of his hand and it slid across the slick surface. Iolaus watched it slide and saw the door to the office open. Chiron and Feducious emerged. Iolaus watched in horror as the necklace slid under the centaur's feet and one of the hooves came down right on top of it.
"No!" Iolaus yelled in panic.
"Iolaus! How many times have I told you no running in the hallways!" Feducious said as he waggled a finger at the young cadet stretched out on the floor. "I told you someone was going to get hurt! And do you ever listen to me? No. Maybe now you will realize we have the rule for a reason."
Chiron jerked his hoof up as he felt something underneath it. Like horses, the center part of a centaur's hoof was soft and tender. If he wasn't careful, stones collected there and he could go lame.
Iolaus scrambled forward and boldly reached under Chiron's hoof. He retrieved the necklace and examined the green gem closely. A thin crack marred the emerald's surface. Iolaus rubbed his finger over the crack and a puff of gray dust blew into his face. He coughed and toppled over backward as he scrubbed at his face. "Gee, thanks Chiron! First you cracked my gem and then you got it all dusty! I was going to sell this to get my tuition money!"
"I'm sorry, Iolaus, but Feducious is correct. It appears to me you were running through the halls again and slipped on the wet floor. That is no one's fault but your own." Chiron tested his hoof and started down the hall. "Now if you excuse me, I have things to attend to."
Feducious stared down at Iolaus, his hands on his hips. "Now perhaps you'll start following the rules!" He pointed his nose in the air and followed Chiron down the hall.
"Hey, you OK?" Hercules asked as he rounded the corner.
"Yeah. But my necklace is ruined." Iolaus said glumly as he climbed to his feet. "Now what am I going to do for tuition money? This would have paid for a couple months tuition!"
"Well, I guess your luck ran out, buddy." Hercules said as he passed Iolaus. He yawned and headed down the hall. "I'm going to bed. See you tomorrow. And don't worry. You still have the job at Kora's."
"But that was going to be my spending money!" Iolaus protested. He glared at the green gem and gripped it tightly in his fist. He stomped to his room and tossed the necklace onto his dresser. He collapsed into bed and groaned. It just wasn't fair! He rolled over on his stomach and tried to fall asleep. He had a feeling it was going to be a long night.
Ash crawled into bed and fluffed up her feather pillow. Her window was open and a warm breeze drifted in. She took in a deep breath and smiled. The Honeysuckle vine outside her window was in full bloom and the sweet scent filled her room. She was exhausted from the day of picking berries and instantly fell asleep.
Sometime later Ash jerked awake. She laid perfectly still and listened. The room was completely black and the Academy was silent. From this she guessed it was very late and everyone else was asleep. She shivered and realized her room felt cold. She wrapped her blanket around herself when she heard the noise.
Ash's heart leaped into her throat. That sound was what had woke her up! It repeated itself. First it sounded like it was over by her dresser. Then it switched to the ceiling above her head. She tried to identify the strange sound, but she couldn't even describe it! It creaked, groaned, cracked and snapped! She trembled as the sound grew louder. It seemed to be right above her.
She leaped from her bed and raced from the room.
Just as Ash reached the safety of the hallway, she heard a loud CRASH. A billowy cloud of dust followed her out of her room and the floor trembled under her feet. Ash coughed as she stumbled blindly down the dark hall. The hallway torches were out for some odd reason and she couldn't see anything.
"What's going on?" Jason called as he hurried out of his room with a torch. "Are you OK, Ash?"
"Yeah, but something in my room was making noises!" Ash knew she sounded totally ridiculous. A cadet shouldn't be scared of odd noises in the night, especially if she was the daughter of the God of War! But the noises had frightened her, she wasn't sure why. And then there had been that loud crash.
"Don't worry. I'll check it out." Jason handed Ash the torch and carefully stepped into her bedroom. She followed behind him. Ash gasped at what she saw.
A big chunk of plaster had fallen from the ceiling and had landed directly on her bed. The chunk had broken into smaller pieces when it had landed and had actually broken her bed. The wooden floor and her oval braided rug were covered with plaster dust and small pieces of plaster. There were also jagged strips of rotten wood scattered about. Everything in her once beautiful room was covered in a fine layer of white dust.
"Good thing you got out." Jason told her as he stared at the mess. "The roof must have been leaking and it first now gave way. I'll tell Chiron about it in the morning. For now, I'll assign you a new room. There are plenty of empty rooms yet in this Hall."
"But...the ceiling never leaked!" Ash told Jason as she stared up at the dark gaping hole in her ceiling. "I would have known if it leaked!"
"Look at this wood." Jason picked up a strip of wood. It had obviously had been a board at one time. It was almost black and some white stuff was growing on it. "This board has been rotten for a while. And look at the mold on it. This isn't good. The mold is bad for your health. So just gather your stuff and I'll give you a new room."
"But it's not even raining!" Ash moved to the dresser and her reflection in the mirror caught her eye. Her blonde hair, her face and arms, even her short black nightgown was covered in a fine layer of white dust. She looked horrible, as if someone had hoolied her with a bag of flour.
"It doesn't have to." Jason explained as he tossed the rotten board onto the floor. "We had too much rain this spring. It even flooded in some areas. A leak must have developed and the water collected here, in your ceiling. The plaster at first must have absorbed it, but it grew too heavy. This happened once at the Palace when I was a kid."
Ash tore her eyes off the mirror and noticed a large crack on the wall next to the dresser. Part of the crack disappeared behind the dresser, but the part she did see was long and went all the way up to the ceiling. It was zigzagged, like a pair of stairs seen from the side. She was amazed at the size of it. Ash knew her finger would fit inside it easily. "Jason, look at this. That wasn't there before."
Jason looked at the crack and shook his head. "Chiron better get someone to look at that. It's time this building had some real maintenance, not just cleaning. That doesn't look good."
Ash collected her stuff and followed Jason to a room on the opposite side of Jason Hall. She hoped the excitement for the night was over.
Over in Ruff Hall, Neila brushed her long sandy blonde hair and pulled on her white nightgown. She blew out the two wall torches and climbed into bed. She pulled a light blanket over herself and got comfortable.
The wall torches flared brightly and started flickering. They threw shifting shadows over the room and the light glared in Neila's startled blue eyes.
"How..?" Neila crawled out of bed and padded on bare feet over to the torches. She stared at them for a moment and blew them out a second time. She stood in the dark in front of the torches for what seemed like a long time. She yawned sleepily and shook her head. "This is so stupid! I must be so tired I'm seeing stuff!"
Neila got back into bed and wiggled under the blanket. The moment her tired head touched the pillow, the torches turned themselves on. Neila sat up and watched as more torches appeared in her room on the walls. The four new ones were on either side of the two old ones. Then more and more torches appeared until they were in a solid line all the way around her room. Then a second row of torches appeared above the first row.
The window opened and closed itself rapidly.
Neila sweated, as her room grew hotter and hotter from all the torches. Her heart pounded rapidly and she jumped out of bed. She dashed to her door and tried to open it. The door refused to budge. Neila yanked on it with all her might but the doorknob slipped out of her sweaty palms. She coughed as her room filled with smoke from all the torches. She thought she counted four rows now through the smoke. Her eyes pinched, burned and watered. She had to do something!
"Help!" she cried as she pounded on her hot bedroom door.
Neila pounded and pounded on the door. She tried to scream but choked on all the smoke. *I have to do something!* she thought. *I have to save myself!*
She stumbled away from the door and threw a powerful blast of lightning at the stuck door. The door crashed onto the hallway floor with a loud BANG. Unfortunately, the door was made of wood and the hot lightning had set it afire! Neila stumbled over the door and tried to avoid the flickering flames. She collapsed against the cool stone wall of the hallway and gasped in clean air. She coughed and slumped to the floor.
The door next to hers opened and another cadet emerged into the hall. She wore dark red pajamas and her long snowy white hair fell to her hips. "Neila! Are you OK?" she asked.
Neila coughed and pointed toward her bedroom. She fell to the stone floor as a coughing fit gripped her. "I...I couldn't open....the door." She gasped out.
The other cadet peered into Neila's dark room and shook her head. The fire on the wood door had gone out by itself. "You really need to learn to control those powers, Neila. Just because you forgot the door was locked is no reason to blast it one. That's dangerous! You could burn down the entire Ruff Hall!"
"But, the torches, the smoke!" Neila climbed to her feet and ran to the doorway to her room. She leaned heavily on the wooden doorjamb and shook her head. Her long sandy blonde hair flew around wildly and her blue eyes opened wide in shock. Her room was dark and looked like it always did. "But it wasn't like this! The torches had multiplied and the room was filled with smoke! The window was jumping up and down! You have to believe me!"
The other girl sniffed the air. "Well, I smell a little smoke, but that's from the door. Your room isn't even hot."
"But it happened!" Neila insisted.
"I'm sure you just had a very realistic nightmare and blasted your door by mistake. Someone will fix it in the morning." The other girl yawned and disappeared back into her own room. She closed her door and left Neila standing in the deserted hallway by herself.
Neila stared at her room. After almost being cooked alive in there, she wasn't too crazy about going back. She decided what she needed was some warm milk to calm her jumpy nerves. So she headed down the dark hallway until she reached the stairs leading to the ground floor.
Out in the horse barn, Casche snoozed in a soft pile of hay. Being half wood nymph, she preferred to sleep close to the animals and Mother Nature. The horse barn provided protection from the elements yet it cared for her nymph needs, too. The horses snorted and nickered and pawed the ground with their hooves. The familiar sounds comforted Casche as she slept in her own stall filled with fresh hay.
Casche jerked awake as she felt the change in the barn. Something had spooked the horses. They pawed the ground restlessly and rolled their eyes. Several reared onto their back legs and screamed a shrill whistle. She got to her feet and quickly searched the barn with her gray-blue eyes. The lantern swung wildly up and back from its position and shadows danced across the barn. She ignored one dark shadow on the wall as she knew it was the tact. Had a stranger snuck into the barn to steal the horses?
She froze as something wet landed on her arm. Casche steadied the lantern and peered at her arm. The light revealed a dark red spot. As she stared at it, the stuff slowly dripped down her lower arm onto her hand. When she poked it with her finger, it felt sticky.
"Huh?" Casche said to herself. She stared up toward the rafters and another large glob landed on her face. She frantically wiped at her face and the stuff was smeared all over her hands. "This isn't funny! You better stop!"
No one answered her.
Casche blinked her eyes and hoped none of the stuff had gotten into them. Another glob landed on the top of her head. It dripped down her face and down the back of her hair. She swiped it away from her eyes and was shocked to see the stuff oozing down the barn walls. It steadily dripped from the rafters and covered the horses, the tact, the hay, EVERYTHING!
Casche grew frightened. This couldn't be a hoolie, could it? It covered too much area to be a practical joke by another student. Besides, the horses knew the students and wouldn't be scared of them. This had to be something else. "I have to get out of here!"
She tried to move but couldn't. She looked down and saw her bare feet were encased by the awful sticky stuff. She tried to pull her right foot up but it wouldn't budge. She bent down and poked it with a finger and felt it had a hard, smooth crust that felt almost like glass. She straightened up slowly, as it was getting harder and harder to move. The maroon goo had hardened over her body as even more poured down on her from above. The horses still screamed but she heard no hoof stomping.
The stuff cascaded down the walls like a waterfall. She shifted her eyes and saw it was already over ankle deep. Her heart pounded like crazy as panic gripped her.
She was trapped!
Casche screamed for help as loudly as she could. She hoped someone could hear her. She used her medallion to send her voice outside the horse barn....but who would be outside at an hour like this?
Celest sat at her desk and filled more hackie sack arrows with flour. She never knew when she might need them, so it was better to be always prepared. The floor under her feet trembled and she spilled flour all over her desk. Celest glanced around her room but didn't see anything unusual. She got up, walked to her door and peeked out in the hallway. Not seeing anything out there either, Celest returned to her room and closed the door.
She stopped and stared. In the few seconds she had been out in the hall, someone had moved her desk and chair! Her desk had always been pushed up against the wall, right under the window. She enjoyed the view it provided her plus the occasional breeze. She had a great view of the Academy Pond with the Academy itself in the background. Now the big wooden desk rested in the middle of the floor and the drawer was open. And who had put her chair on top of her bed?
"Aha!" Celest dashed to her closet and swished open the door. She searched through her clothes for a hiding cadet but found no one. Leaving the door open, she stared at the bed. "I bet you're under there!"
Celest walked toward the bed and the chair jumped at her. Her green eyes opened wide in shock as the chair's hard wood collided with her chest. She was knocked to the wooden floor and landed hard on her back, her brownish-blonde ringlets spread out around her. She tried to throw the chair off herself but couldn't. It felt like it weighed several hundred pounds, not the few pounds it actually weighed. She struggled with the chair when she noticed movement out the corner of her eye.
Her desk had moved its wooden legs and now it slowly marched toward her. The two wooden round knobs on the drawer glowed an eerie red and looked way too much like eyes. The drawer moved in and out rapidly as it continued to advance on her.
"Eeeeee!" Celest screamed as she flung the chair off her. The chair did two flips and landed on its legs. Then it hopped towards her again. Celest scrambled to her feet and backed away from the advancing furniture. She had to get out of the room, but the desk was between her and the door. She thought frantically. Her hackie sack arrows and the special Sugar were useless. She saw the open closet and dashed inside. The door slammed closed behind her.
"I wonder if I did the right thing?" Celest said in a shaky voice. She created her little ball of light and shoved the clothes aside. The closet trembled around her and she fell to the floor. She leaned against the back wall and gazed up at the ceiling with a worried expression. The wall behind her disappeared and Celest fell into a black opening. Her scream echoed throughout Iolaus Hall.
Neila opened the front door of Ruff Hall and hurried out into the warm night. She was glad to be out of the building after what had happened in her room on the second floor. She decided to cut between Lilith Hall and Hercules Hall, circle around the Academy Pond and then enter the Academy by the door near the classrooms. From there she could sneak to the kitchen and get some warm milk. She was walking between the two Halls when she heard someone calling for help. She stopped and listened. It was coming from the horse barn!
Neila dashed to the horse barn and pulled open the big heavy wooden door. She leaped back as a flood of some terrible goo rushed out at her. The stuff pooled on the ground in a big puddle in front of the open door. Soon a stream formed as more of the goo poured out.
"Help! Someone help me! I'm trapped and can't move!" the voice called from inside the barn.
"Casche? Oh my Zeus! Is that you?" Neila asked as she dragged a loose board over to stand on. She placed the board in the puddle and carefully stood on it. The awful stuff was pouring from the rafters of the barn and leaking down the walls. Everything in the barn including the horses, tact and Casche, was covered in the stuff. "Are you OK?"
"I can't move a muscle!" Casche told her. "But don't step in the stuff! It'll harden around your feet and trap you! I don't know what it is or where it came from, but it's horrible! I can't even open my mouth! I'm using my powerful medallion to send you my thoughts. You know it can do some really funky stuff!"
"I'll be right back with some help!" Neila jumped off the board and it was soon covered under the weird goo. She raced to Hercules Hall and busted into her half-brother's room. She shook Hercules until he opened his eyes. "Wake up! We have to go save Casche from the evil goo!"
"Huh?" Hercules asked as he sat up in bed and rubbed at his blue eyes.
"The Evil Goop in the Horse Barn!" Neila repeated as she wrapped her fingers around his wrist and yanked him out of the room. "It has Casche and all the horses! But don't step in it or you'll get trapped, too!"
Hercules ran to the horse barn and peered inside through a small window. He frowned and shook his head. "Man, that is serious. Let's get everyone out here."
They hurried to all the Halls and woke up all the Cadets. Chiron heard all the voices and came out to see what was going on. He was shocked when he was told what the inside of the barn looked like. No one seemed to know where the goo was coming from or what it was. Chiron ordered that lanterns were set up around the barn so they had plenty of light. They need to see what they were doing.
"Hercules." Chiron said. "Bring me a sample of that goo, but be careful."
Hercules dipped a large maple leaf into the goo and held it away from himself. The stuff had coated the lower half of the leave. Jason had broken off a hardened chunk of the stuff with a pick ax. Both carried their samples over to Chiron.
The centaur teacher studied both versions of the goo. "This looks like tree sap, except it has a reddish tint to it. Normally tree sap is a clear golden color, although some saps are darker like this. When tree sap hardens it turns into amber."
"So what are we going to do?" Iolaus asked as he glanced toward the horse barn. "We just can't leave Casche in there!"
"Or the horses." Lilith reminded them. "Those poor horses must be so frightened!"
"We'll tear the roof off the barn and then no more goo can't come down." Jason told the others. "After that, we'll use pick axes to free both Casche and the horses, carry them outside. Then we'll figure out how to get the stuff off them."
The male cadets got ladders out and climbed up onto the barn roof and started the hard job of taking the roof apart. The materials slid down the roof and crashed to the ground. The female cadets served on the ground crew and hauled the junk onto a big pile. All wore gloves to protect their hands from the gooey sap. Finally the roof was off and they started on freeing Casche. The sap had hardened on the floor so they could walk on it without getting trapped, but it was slippery! Iolaus had took one step on it and had fallen, the pickax landing right next to his head!
They finally freed Casche and carried her out of the barn. She was a stiff as a statue but could still talk through her medallion. She complained loudly so all could hear: "You get away from me with that pickax, Iolaus! You're not going to start chopping on my body!"
"Well, we have to do something...." Hercules said as he looked to Chiron for an answer.
They finally freed Casche and carried her out of the barn. She was a stiff as a statue but could still talk through her medallion. She complained loudly so all could hear: "You get away from me with that pickax, Iolaus! You're not going to start chopping on my body!"
"Well, we have to do something...." Hercules said as he looked to Chiron for an answer.
"Try soaking her in some hot water." Chiron suggested. "Perhaps that will loosen up the sap."
"I'll get the hot water!" Lilith ran into the Academy for the hot water.
Jason busied himself freeing the horses with the pickax while Hercules carried the horses out of the remains of the barn. It was a good thing he had inherited Godly strength from Zeus. Hercules had just carried out the last horse when a great vortex appeared in the sky. Most of the cadets screamed and ran for the safety of the Academy but a few stayed to face it bravely. Hercules, Iolaus, Jason, Ash, Neila and Chiron. Casche was there but she still couldn't move.
The vortex swirled violently and was a twisting mix of black and silver. A strong wind gushed out of it and two figures were coughed out. The figures collapsed onto the ground as the vortex disappeared.
Hercules was the first one to move. He approached the figures lying on the ground. He saw one was a blonde girl and the other was an older man around Feducious' age. At his approach, the girl instantly leaped to her feet and took a fighting stance. On the ground, the man stirred and rubbed his head.
Hercules stopped and put up his hands, palms facing outward and open. He studied them, as both wore odd clothes. The girl, who had shoulder length blonde hair, had on a black sleeveless top and tight bright red pants. Her clothes weren't leather and he had no idea what they were made of. The top looked soft while the pants were shiny and reflective. Black boots with heels completed her outfit.
The man was dressed even weirder. He had on a white long-sleeved shirt and wore a gray vest over it. There was also a bright red rope tied around his neck. Maybe someone had tried to hang him? He had on dark gray pants and black boots. There was some object on his face, over his eyes. Herc had no idea what those were!
"Who are you?" Hercules asked the girl. "I'm Hercules. This is Chiron's Academy."
The girl shook her head and said something in an unfamiliar language. Hercules had no idea what she said.
"I guess we can't understand each other." Hercules replied.
Lilith came out with a big pot of hot water and stopped when she saw the newcomers. Hercules quickly explained to her and she took the water over by Casche. She dipped Casche's hand in the pot and waited nervously. After a few minutes, the red stuff came off Casche's hand. "It's working! Hurry, let's carry her inside and put her in the shower!"
Hercules picked Casche up and carried her inside the Academy. Lilith ran after him.
"So, what do you make of those two?" Iolaus asked Jason as he watched the oddly dressed people. The girl had picked up a blue bag of some sort that had straps on it and what appeared to be a black crossbow. The man found a black bag lying on the ground and went to retrieve it.
"I don't know." Jason told his friend. "From how she moves I'd say she's a warrior of some kind. And look at that battle-ax sticking out of the man's bag. They don't speak Greek though. I guess that vortex brought them here against their will, from someplace far away."
"I wonder if she has a boyfriend?" Iolaus said to himself.
The blonde girl stared openly at Chiron, shock clearly written on her face. It was obvious she had never seen a centaur before. She said something to the man and he shrugged his shoulders. She strolled over to the remains of the horse barn and peered inside. She gazed at the goo-covered horses and frowned. She walked up to Chiron and said something, pointing at the horses lying on the ground.
"I'm sorry, but I can't understand you." Chiron told her as he shook his head. He knew the girl was trying to tell him something, but he didn't know what. "Jason, where is Celest? Perhaps she could use her powers so we can talk to them."
"I don't know. I didn't see her." Jason replied. "Oh, I almost forgot. The roof on Jason Hall needs to be repaired. The ceiling collapsed in Ash's room and almost killed her. And there's this big crack in the wall, too."
"And I almost got killed, too!" Neila told Chiron as a shiver traveled through her body. "It was really weird! The torches in my room actually multiplied and the smoke almost got me. I had to blast my door off the hinges to escape!"
"That is too weird." Jason said as he glanced from Neila to Chiron. "And Casche in the horse barn, those two people from a vortex. This can't all be a coincidence. But are they here to help us or are they the cause?"
"Well, this stuff started before they arrived." Neila reasoned as she twisted a long strand of her sandy blonde hair around her finger. "So maybe they're here to help? I certainly have no idea as what might be causing this."
"Yeah." Agreed Jason. "And this is not Ares' style. Or Strife and Discord's style either. So I say none of the Gods are involved in this. If they were, they would have shown themselves to gloat already."
"Hey! Is Celest out here?" Ash asked Jason and Chiron. "I can't find her anywhere and her room is a mess! I'm worried something happened to her."
"We better start looking for her." Jason headed for Iolaus Hall.
"Hey! I thought I heard a scream earlier, before you guys came to get me." Iolaus admitted as he rushed to catch up with Jason. "But I thought it was Casche. Maybe it was Celest."
Hercules had carried all the stiff horses into the shower and left them with Lilith. Then he ran to catch up with his friends. They were all surprised when the new people followed them into Iolaus Hall, along with Chiron. They entered the lobby and Hercules called loudly:
"Celest! Where are you? Are you here? If you can here me, please answer!"
"I'm here!" Her voiced seemed to come from all over the lobby. "Please get me out of here! I think I'm stuck!"
"Celest! Where are you? Are you here? If you can here me, please answer!"
"I'm here!" Her voiced seemed to come from all over the lobby. "Please get me out of here! I think I'm stuck!"
"Where is 'here'?" Hercules asked as he tried to figure out where the voice had came from.
"Ummm, I think I'm stuck behind a wall." Celest answered. "Or inside a wall? Like between two walls? You know what I mean? It's dark and very narrow in here!"
"A wall? Geez, how'd you get in there?" Iolaus asked as he walked up to the nearest wall and tapped on it. "Hello? Are you in there?"
Jason frowned. "If this keeps up we might end up tearing the entire Academy apart building by building. The horse barn already is a complete loss. We have to stop whatever is causing this."
"Iolaus, quit clowning around. We have to find her." Hercules told his friend.
"What? I'm not clowning around! I'm helping search." Iolaus explained as he tapped on another section of wall and listened for a reply from Celest. "If you tap where she is, she should be able to hear it, right? Then we'll know where she is!"
"Yeah, but then how are we going to get her out?" asked Jason as he watched Iolaus tap on the walls in the lobby.
"Easy! Just make a hole in the wall." Iolaus told him. "Use a pickax or something."
"It's not that easy." Jason replied. "First, if you use a pickax, you might hit her. Second, these walls support the building. If you make a big enough hole, it might damage the structure."
"Jason, you worry too much about too much stuff! Everything with you is rules!" Iolaus shook his head and his blond curls flew around. He headed out of the lobby into the main hallway of Iolaus Hall. "You know, I'm going to go check on some other walls. Let me know if you find her, OK?"
"You shouldn't go off by yourself." Jason told Iolaus. "Someone should go with you."
"I'll go with you, Iolaus." Ash offered as she hurried over to him. "I think your tapping idea is great. It seems like a great way to find Celest. And we can cover more area faster if we both tap. Jason can figure out how to get her out once we find her." The two disappeared around the corner.
"It was so weird!" Celest said from somewhere. "The furniture in my room attacked me! I hid in the closet and somehow I fell down here. I'm not hurt, but I can't get out. It was scary, too."
"Well, I guess we'll use Iolaus' tapping idea since we can't think of anything else." Hercules approached a wall and pounded on it with his fist. He winced and shook his head. "Boy, I hope we find her soon or my hands are really going to hurt."
The blonde girl had stood in the center of the room and watched what the cadets were doing. She closed her eyes, cocked her head and listened to the voice. She spun around rapidly and charged at one section of the wall. She leaped into the air and landed on the wall with both feet. The wall cracked and a chunk fell inside the newly created opening. The girl somersaulted and landed on her feet. A moment later a hand stuck out of the tiny hole and waved around.
"Hey! You found her!" Hercules and Jason raced over to the hand and gripped it. "Don't worry, Celest! We'll have you out of there in no time!" Hercules turned around and gasped as he came face to face with a double-headed battle ax. The blonde girl motioned him to move out of the way. Hercules gripped Jason by the arm and yanked him aside.
"Whoa! How did she do that?" Jason asked Hercules as he watched the blonde girl attach the wall with the black battle-ax. The wall just crumbled before her. "And look at that ax. I don't think I ever saw metal like that before."
A few minutes later Celest stepped out of the person-sized hole. She was covered in dirt and grime but otherwise was OK. She stared at the strange girl with the battle ax who had rescued her. Then her green eyes shifted to the oddly dressed man. "Thank you for rescuing me. I'm Celest. Who are you?"
Chiron came forward, his hooves clopped on the floor. "We were hoping you could help with that, Celest. Our guests were dropped here by a vortex. They can't speak our language. I thought since you are a Goddess, you might be able to solve our communications problem."
Celest ran a hand through her brownish-blonde ringlets. "I can try. But languages aren't exactly my specialty. I'm really the Goddess of Stars and Constellations, you know." Celest concentrated and the air filled with twinkling stars. They floated around the two newcomers, who eyed them suspiciously. A moment later, the stars winked out. "OK, try it now."
"Hi. Can you understand me now?" Hercules asked the blonde girl.
"Yes,." The girl looked surprised as she answered. "That thing just appeared and dragged us here. Is she a sorceress?"
"Celest? No, she's a Goddess." Hercules laughed, glad they could finally understand each other. "I'm Hercules and this is Chiron's Academy. This is Chiron." Hercules pointed to his centaur teacher.
"Hello. Welcome to the Academy. You are both welcome to stay here as long as you like. Although this may not be the best time to visit. Strange things are happening, as you can see." Chiron extended his arm and was very surprised when the blonde girl gripped his hand and shook it up and down!
"There must be a reason why we were brought here." The girl mused to herself. "Well, we'll help with your problem. I deal with strange creatures all the time, all of them bad unfortunately. Does your Academy have a history of being haunted? It could be poltergeists."
"Haunted? No." Hercules said as he turned to look at Chiron. "At least I don't think so. Chiron?"
"Not that I know of. We never had any problem like this until tonight." The Headmaster of the Academy told her.
"So all this started tonight? Something must have happened to cause all this." The girl told them as she rubbed her chin.
"Nothing happened that I can think of." Chiron told her. "We held classes and several cadets went berry picking in the hills above the Academy."
"Hey! Iolaus found that pendant, remember?" Neila blurted out. "He went past the marker and found it in that cavern!"
"Yeah, that's right. I forgot all about that." Jason said. "There's so much stuff going on that the berry picking trip seems like months ago, not a few hours. What did Iolaus do with it, anyway?"
"I think he took it to his room." Hercules replied. "He was depressed that the green stone got cracked when Chiron accidentally stepped on it."
"A pendant with a green gem?" the blonde girl asked. She wrapped her arms around herself as if she felt cold. "Did it have gold filigree around the gem? And was on a long gold chain?"
"Yeah! How'd you know?" Jason asked as he stared at her in confusion.
"A few hours ago I threw that pendant into a bottomless pit under my high school. Or it was supposed to be bottomless. Just before that, I had trapped a demon in the pendant, in the emerald, to be exact. It had caused lots of trouble at my school."
"A demon?" Hercules asked, surprised. He glanced around the lobby of Iolaus Hall. Suddenly the lobby didn't appear as friendly and safe as before. He looked at the others and saw their worried expressions. "Who are you anyway?"
"I'm Buffy." The blonde girl replied. "And this is my Watcher, Giles. Slaying vampires, demons and all sorts of evil creatures is my job."
"So how do we get rid of this demon?" asked Chiron.
"Normally I have my friend Willow help me. She's a witch and can cast spells." Buffy explained to the small group gathered around her. "But I see some of you can do magic, too. Maybe one of you can take Willow's place? It's not easy fighting a demon though."
"We'll do whatever we can to help." Hercules told her. "But remember we are students and most of the ones with magic are just learning how to use their powers."
In a different section of Iolaus Hall, Iolaus and Ash tapped on walls looking for Celest. No one had told them she was already rescued. Iolaus looked bored as he walked down the hallway and tapped on the wall. He stopped and rubbed his sore knuckles. "Man, we'll never find her! I still don't see how she got inside a wall anyway!"
"We can't give up, Iolaus!" Ash said as she tapped on a section and carefully listened for a reply. "Just think how horrible it must be in there! It's dark and dirty and I bet it's filled with all sorts of creepy-crawlies! Like spiders!"
"Yeah. I guess so." Iolaus stopped in front of a door and went inside. He slumped down on his bed and sighed. "I just can't believe all the crazy stuff going on at the Academy! Who would believe any of it? And that horse barn, all that goo. What is causing all this stuff?"
"I don't know," Ash told him as she entered his room. "But I wish it would stop!"
The torches flickered and went out.
"Oh oh." Iolaus whispered. "I think you made it mad!"
The lights popped back on and a gray smoke filled the room. The smoke gathered together in a long column and slithered through the air like a snake. It reared up and hissed at the two cadets.
Ash watched the smoke snake, her blue eyes wide with fright. She inched toward the open door. Just as she dashed toward it, the door slammed. She tugged on it but it refused to open. "I can't open it!"
"Well, it's just smoke, right? I mean, it can't hurt us, right?" Iolaus asked as he dodged the smoke snake as it dove at him. He landed on the hard wood floor, scraping his elbow. Iolaus picked up his head and rolled over. He screamed as the snake dove at him a second time. He tried to roll out of the way but it was too fast. It gripped him around the waist and hoisted the blonde, curly haired hunter into the air.
More smoke engulfed Iolaus and he screamed.
Ash leaped forward and tore at the smoke snake with the dagger from her boot. The dagger passed through the snake harmlessly. She tried again, but it didn't do any good. She felt helpless. How could she fight something made from smoke? She didn't even understand how it could grip Iolaus!
"Help!" Iolaus croaked weakly as the snake gathered around him. His eyes were wide with fright. There seemed to be less smoke around Iolaus.
"Let Iolaus go!" Ash yelled at the smoke snake. "You were the one that broke my ceiling, weren't you? My ceiling never leaked! You may have tricked Jason, but I know it was you!"
Ash stepped back and raised her hand. Lightning shot from both her palms and struck the snake. The smoke hissed and some of it seemed to disappear. Encouraged, Ash gave it another double jolt of electricity. Iolaus dropped to the floor and Ash raced to his side. "Are you OK, Iolaus? Speak to me!"
"I...I feel kinda groggy." Iolaus blinked his eyes and slowly sat up. He rubbed his hands over his face and shook his head, sending his blonde curls flying. "What was that thing?"
"I don't know!" Ash replied as she anxiously peered around the room. "I think I got rid of it, but I'm not sure. It might come back. We better get out of here and find the others."
"Yeah. Good idea." Iolaus flopped over on his knees and tried to stand. His face grew white and he collapsed to the floor. "Oh, I feel so weak. I think that thing suck all the energy out of me."
"I'm not leaving you here!" Ash gripped Iolaus and pulled him to his feet. "Hang onto me and we'll make it to the others."
Iolaus leaned heavily on Ash and his body shivered. "Ooohh, I feel so cold! Can I get something from my closet? I'm freezing!"
"Sure." Ash walked slowly to the closet as she supported Iolaus' weight. She opened the closet door so Iolaus could get what he wanted. "Help yourself."
"Oh, I will!" Iolaus gripped Ash and shoved her inside the closet. He slammed the door shut and his eyes glowed an eerie red. A red glow erupted from his hands and spread over the closet door and the door frame. He laughed evilly, his head thrown back. "I'll be back to deal with you later! Then we'll have a nice long chat. But business calls. I have to go deal with a certain Slayer. It's payback time."
"Let me out!" Ash screamed as she pounded on the door. "You evil thing, let Iolaus go!"
"I don't think so." Iolaus laughed. He opened the door to the hallway and exited his bedroom. "Me and Iolaus go way back. It's time we got reacquainted."
Iolaus strolled down the hallway in search of Buffy.
Iolaus peeked around the corner into the main lobby of Iolaus Hall. He watched at his friends chatted with Buffy and Giles. He noted the big hole in the wall and that a dirt-covered Celest chatted with them. *Ha! Look at your friends. They don't care about you at all. They rescued Celest and never bothered finding you, telling you.*
**No! That's not true! They do care about me! I know they do! Get out of my head!**
*I see you don't remember me, but we were once great partners. We shall be again. But first we must destroy the Slayer. The others are not a threat. The one who stopped me last time is here but is different. He does not have the power yet. Look at them. There know there is a demon loose and they don't even search for you. That shows they don't CARE about you. They only pretend they like you. The truth is they are glad you are gone. You don't fit in with them."
**That's not true! Herc and Jason are my friends! We do everything together! They would never hurt me. You're lying!**
*Then why are they not out looking for you?*
**They...they must be making a plan. They couldn't have forgotten, could they?**
*Let's go see.*
Iolaus stumbled out from around the corner and gasped for air. He collapsed onto the floor with a loud thud. "It...it got Ash! I tried to stop it, but there was nothing I could do! I just barely managed to escape."
"Iolaus!" Hercules rushed over to his fallen friend and helped him sit up. "It's OK, buddy. We'll get her back. Just tell us what happened."
"Hey." Iolaus glanced at Celest. "I see you guys found her. She was here all along? How come no one came and told me and Ash?"
"Buffy found her." Jason told Iolaus as he pointed to the Slayer. "Her name's Buffy and the guy is Giles. He's her Watcher. Celest did a spell and now we can talk with each other. We were just planning on how to destroy this demon. I guess we kinda forgot about you."
*See? I told you they don't care.*
"There's a demon loose and you forgot about me?" Iolaus climbed to his feet and stared into Jason's dark eyes. "How could you do that? I thought you cared about me! Didn't it occur to you that thing could have got me? Like it did Ash? Maybe if you would have looked for us right away, it wouldn't have gotten her!"
"Look, I'm sorry!" Jason replied as he gazed at Iolaus with concern. "Look, there's a lot going on right now. Too much going on. It's getting hard to keep track of everyone and stuff. Look, I know you did your best but there's nothing you could have done. It's a demon and you need magic to fight it."
**They actually forgot about me.**
*Why should the Crown Prince of Corinth and the Son of Zeus worry about you? Look at the other students. Their Demigods and Goddesses! The only reason Chiron took you in was because otherwise you would be in jail. He did it as a favor.*
**But not everyone here is related to the Gods!**
*No, but their parents have money. You have to struggle just to pay the tuition. Stick with me and I'll be your REAL friend.*
"Say? Did anyone ever check if Casche and Lilith are OK?" Iolaus asked as his gaze shifted from one friend to another. "They're still in the Academy showers, right? With the horses? I mean, you never checked on me and Ash. Now the thing got her. What if it got Casche and Lilith, too?"
"That's a good idea. We better check on them." Hercules said as he headed for the door of Iolaus Hall. "We should stay together as a group from now on. You can tell us what happened to Ash on the way."
"But we have to rescue Ash!" Celest argued as she planted her feet firmly and decided not to budge. "We know she got captured! We just can't run off and leave her! The demon seems to be the strongest here, in Iolaus Hall. Ash could be in real danger!"
"OK, We'll rescue Ash first." Jason decided. He turned to look at Iolaus. "Tell us what happened. The others gathered around Iolaus to listen.
*See? You are popular now only because they need the information you have.*
"Well, me and Ash were going down the hallway tapping on walls. We were searching for Celest. Ash wanted to stop because her knuckles started to bleed. I guess the stone block walls were too rough for her delicate skin." Iolaus said sadly. His eyes were big and filled with sorrow. A tear dripped down his face and his voice haltered.
"It's OK. Go on." Celest urged him. She cast a worried glance toward Hercules and Jason. They had presumed there was something to rescue. What if there were wrong?
"So...so we headed towards the bathroom, the one on the right side of the building. She wanted to put some ointment on it so it wouldn't get infected. You all know how dangerous infections can be." Iolaus sniffed loudly. "She...she went inside the bathroom and the door slammed shut. I heard her scream and I tried to open the door but I couldn't and she screamed again and again and I just couldn't get in there! I tried to run at the door, to smash it down, but I couldn't! After a while it grew quite. I called her name but she didn't answer me. I didn't know what to do so I came here."
"That's OK." Celest told Iolaus as she hugged him. "We'll rescue her. You did everything you could. There's no way you could have fought a demon by yourself."
"I really hope she's OK." Iolaus said as he wiped his eyes. "So are we going to get her? I probably won't be much help against a demon. Maybe I should go check on Casche and Lilith. Someone needs to see if they are OK."
"Maybe you better." Chiron agreed as he stepped forward, his hooves clopping on the stone floor. "It appears as this demon only attacks the female students. So far none of the males have been bothered. I will go with you, Iolaus. The rest of you can search for Ash."
"All right." Iolaus joined Chiron as they headed out the door. They walked across the green and around the Academy Pond. They reached the Academy and went inside. They hurried down the long hallways toward the showers. They heard water running and Lilith's voice. It sounded like she was talking to one of the horses. They stepped inside and saw Lilith and Casche with the horses. The two girls washed the horses and tried to get all the goo out of their manes and tails. It wasn't easy.
"Hey!" Lilith called happily as she spotted Iolaus and Chiron. "This warm water works great! I think all the horses will be OK once we get them cleaned up. It's hard doing the manes and tails, though."
"The demon got Ash." Chiron informed his two students. "The others have gone to rescue her."
"Oh no!" Casche cried as her hands flew to her mouth. "I hope she'll be OK!"
The door banged shut and Iolaus laughed. The evil laughter echoed throughout the shower room as his eyes glowed red. "They'll never find her...just like they won't never find YOU!"
"Iolaus, NO!" Casche cringed against one of the horses and stared open mouthed at Iolaus in shock. Her long red hair was wet and clung to her body, as were her leather halter-top and leather pants. "Tell me it didn't get you! Oh, this is TERRIBLE!"
"Fight it, Iolaus!" Lilith urged him. "Don't let it control you! You can beat it, I know you can!"
"Silence!" Iolaus screamed and his eyes glowered a brighter yellow-orange. "You three will have an opportunity to join me or meet your fate. But first I must do something. Now don't go anywhere!" Iolaus spun around rapidly until his body was a blur. Then he sunk into the floor and was gone. Only his laughter remained behind and that, too, faded.
"Chiron! What can we do?" Lilith asked as she ran over to her teacher. She looked up at him with wide eyes and waited for a reply.
"It appears Iolaus is possessed by the demon." Chiron told her as he glanced around the shower room. The horses were skittish and Casche used her nymph powers to calm them. The last thing they need was to be stomped to death by frightened horses. "I'm not sure what we can do. Perhaps we can stall for time and hope the others rescue us in time. We need magic to fight the demon. And we must remember the body is Iolaus'. It would be best to restrain him in some way without great body injury. Then we may attempt to force the demon out. Perhaps Buffy is experienced in this and would know how."
"Yes!" Casche agreed as he stroked the nose of a bay Arabian with a white blaze on its face. "Or we can ask the Gods to help us! Many of us are related to them and they might agree to help. It wouldn't hurt to ask."
"But why is the demon doing any of this?" Lilith asked Chiron. "What would it gain from the Academy? It makes no sense!"
"Villains often reveal their plan if asked." Chiron told his young student as he placed a hand on her wet shoulder. "Their over confidence is often a weakness. Perhaps if we ask he may tell us."
Iolaus zipped through the soil under the Academy at an incredible speed. His passage did not disturb a single grain of soil, as he was insubstantial as he traveled. He popped up in his room in Iolaus Hall and swung open the closet door. He grinned evilly at Ash and laughed. "I'm back, Sweetie! Did you miss me?"
Ash kicked at his stomach. She gasped as a wide hole appeared in his midsection and allowed her booted foot to pass through without actually touching him. She screamed and yanked her foot back. The two sides of the hole rushed back together and his body jiggled like a bowl of jelly. She covered her blue eyes and huddled against the back wall of the closet. It was far worse then she feared. She had thought the demon was just controlling his body. But it was more than that, it had *changed* his body.
Iolaus watched her and laughed. "Now that's the proper attitude! But we can talk later. It's time for us to go." Iolaus stretched his arms out and gripped Ash by her shoulders. He yanked her against his body and wrapped his arms around her tightly.
"I'm not going anywhere with you!" Ash screamed and she struggled to get away. She tried to knee him in the groin, to scratch at his face. But her arms were trapped at her sides and she couldn't lift her leg high enough. She was just about to bite him on the face when they started to spin rapidly. Ash closed her eyes as she grew dizzy. Her stomach lurched upward as she felt the floor drop out from underneath them. A few minutes later the dizzy feeling passed and she heard someone shout her name.
"Ash!" Casche cried. The red head raced over and hugged her friend. "Oh, we were so worried about you!"
Ash glanced around the shower room and also saw Chiron, Lilith and a bunch of scared horses. The room smelled of wet horse. "That *thing* in Iolaus' body had me locked in his closet! It was a big smoke snake and it attacked Iolaus. I thought I chased it off with my lightning bolts, but I see that didn't work. It had *tricked* me!" Ash glared angrily at Iolaus with her blue eyes.
"Why are you attacking my students and my Academy?" Chiron asked the demon in Iolaus' body. The centaur stood with his hands crossed over his chest and waited for a reply. "I demand that you release Iolaus! He is one of my students and under my protection!"
Iolaus threw back his head and laughed. "You can't boss me anymore, Horse Breath. The time for me to rule has come! You can either worship me or be the first to die! The choice is yours. Choose wisely."
"You want to rule the Academy?" Lilith asked, confused.
"Of course not!" Iolaus hissed angrily. "The entire Earth! This building will serve as a great headquarters for my new cult. The dorms can house my priests and priestesses. So down on your knees and worship me!"
"We will never worship you." Chiron stated. Lilith was on one side of the centaur and Casche and Ash on his other side. The girls stared at Iolaus in fear. What would he do now?
Iolaus waved his hand and metal shackles appeared on all their wrists. Plus all were hooked together with a metal chain. He waved his hand again and they were in the practice room. The regular balance equipment had been shoved on the side in a tangle of broken sticks. New thick posts, like masts on a ship, extended from the floor to the ceiling. In the center there was a large square obsidian table. The black volcanic rock gleamed in the torchlight. Behind the table, on a raised dais, rested a heavy black throne. Carved into the stone chair were monstrous figures that leaped and danced among the flames.
Iolaus reached out and grabbed Ash. He unhooked her from the others. He dragged her to the black stone and threw her upon it. Black chains grew from the table itself and twisted themselves around her wrists and ankles.
"What are you doing?" Ash cried as she tugged at her wrists. "Let me go!"
Iolaus laughed as he secured the others one by one to the thick posts so they faced Ash. Chiron was tied to two posts due to his size. They had heavy chains wrapped around their bodies so they couldn't move. After he was satisfied no one could escape, Iolaus sauntered over to Ash. "You asked what I'm doing. You're going to be the first one to be sacrificed in my name. It's a great honor!"
"No!" Ash screamed as she struggled harder to free herself. Her body twisted this way and that, but her hands and feet stayed in place. "You horrible monster! I hate you!"
"Hmmm....but I can't do the sacrifice myself. That just wouldn't do." Iolaus rubbed his chin and scratched his curly blonde head. "What to do? Oh! I know! I'll call some of my friends over! Yes, that'll do nicely!"
Iolaus chanted in a strange language and the room filled with green mist. The mist floated above the floor and gathered together into two green pulsating balls. The mist suddenly exploded outward and vanished, revealing two ugly creatures. Each stood seven feet tall and were reptilian in appearance. Their bodies were covered in green scales and were roughly humanoid in that they had a head, two arms and two legs. The limbs had bulging muscles and ended in sharp curved claws. The claws were very large and thick. They had long snouts filled with sharp flesh tearing teeth. The demons' thrashed their long, snakelike tails and focused their eyes on the humans. Like the demon-possessed Iolaus, the creature's eyes glowed an eerie yellow-orange like fire. Huge bat-like wings sprouted out their backs and fanned the air.
Ash whimpered as she saw the ugly creatures. She heard the others gasp.
"I want you to meet my Abashii." Iolaus told them. "They are my loyal servants from where *I* come from. They will gladly do my bidding."
One of the Abashii eagerly walked over to Ash and feasted on her helpless body. Iolaus handed the Abashii a dagger with a long, wavy blade. "You will sacrifice this mortal in my name, then the others one by one. Save the centaur though. I want him to watch as I sacrifice the rest of his students after I capture them. And you," Iolaus pointed to the other Abashii. "Will guard them so not one escapes. I have other matters to attend to, so I may not stay to watch."
Iolaus spun rapidly and disappeared into the floor. The Abashii lifted the dagger high into the air and began to speak.
Ash's mind whirled. The others were tied securely and couldn't free themselves. They certainly couldn't help her. And there was no way she could free herself. She didn't think she could talk the ugly green demon out of sacrificing her. That only left one thing to do.....
"I sacrifice this innocent in the name of ...."
"Father! I need you NOW!" Ash screamed loudly.
"...Dahok." The Abashii finished and it began to lower the dagger.
Ares popped in with a bluish-white flash of light. His dark eyes focused on the green Abashii with the dagger and his daughter tied to a black stone altar. "Hey! Nobody picks on my daughter and gets away with it!" Ares shook his hand and threw a bolt of lightning at the lesser demon. The Abashii slammed into a far wall and the dagger dropped from its clawed hand. It shook its head and climbed to its feet.
The second Abashii flapped its wings and flew at Ares, its large claws outstretched. It snarled and slime leaked from its open jaws. Ares pulled his sword from its scabbard and swung at the demon. He blinked in surprise when his sword just bounced off the Abashii's thick scales. He ducked under the Abashii's attack and snarled at it. "So you want to play rough, huh? Fine. Let's play rough."
He shot lightning at the second Abashii's back and twirled around to give the first one another dose. The two lesser demons thumped to the floor. Ares continued to fill their bodies with lightning bolts until he was satisfied they were dead.
Ares walked over to Ash and raised his sword. He slammed the blade down and cut the chains holding her. He picked her off the demon's altar and gently placed her on the floor. Then he gripped her wrist tightly and looked into her eyes. "Don't worry. I'm not letting that thing come near you again."
"No one is going to move in on my turf! I'm really ANGRY now! You!" Ares stormed over to the tied-up Chiron and glared at him. Ash was pulled along behind him. He gripped the centaur's chin with his other hand and squeezed. "You run this place. Tell me, who sent those *things* to kill my daughter?"
"A demon." Chiron replied. "It has possessed one of my students and just left to kill more of them. It went to Iolaus Hall, as Iolaus is the one possessed. There are two travelers there who are experienced with dealing with demons."
"That explains the disturbance I felt in the time continuum." Ares said to himself. He freed Chiron, Casche and Lilith. "You are welcome to wait at my temple while I go deal with this demon. You'll be safe there, as other Gods can't enter it without my permission."
"But we want to go help our friends!" Lilith told him. "They need us!"
"Fine." Ares waved his hand and they all popped out in a flicker of lights.
Buffy had pulled a large item out of her bag. It was highly detailed in carvings and was shaped like an "x" except she held it differently.
Celest glanced at the item in interest. "Is that a type of weapon? I never saw anything like that. It doesn't even have any pointed edges. What do you use it for?"
"This is a Cross." Buffy told her. "It's very powerful against evil creatures like vampires and demons. Sometimes just seeing it scares them. And if it touches their skin, it burns."
"How does it do that?" Celest asked. "And why should they be scared of it? It doesn't look very scary at all."
"Well, it gets its powers from God." Buffy explained. "And I have Holy Water, too. It's water that was blessed by a priest."
"Which God?" Celest asked. "I'm a Goddess. And there are many Gods and Goddesses in my family. Or do you worship a different Pantheon? If I blessed water would it become Holy Water?"
"In my religion, there only is one God." Buffy explained as she followed the others down the long hallway in Iolaus Hall. There were on their way to the bathroom where Iolaus had said Ash had been attacked by the demon. Buffy frowned. This time period was before her religion had started, at least by several years. She hoped her religious icons still worked, but her faith was strong. No, she *knew* they would work. The demon would search for any weakness it could find. She couldn't afford to give it any!
"Here it is!" Jason shouted as the reached the closed door. He pounded on the wooden door with his fist and yelled. "Ash! Ash! Are you in there?" He tugged on the door but it refused to budge.
"Allow me." Buffy ran at the locked door and kicked it. The door broke off its hinges and crashed to the floor with a loud thud. She stepped into the room with her cross raised but soon realized the room was empty. "There's no one here. I don't see any signs of a struggle, either."
"Whoa." Hercules whispered to Jason. He watched Buffy in awe. "Did you see how she just kicked that door down? I wish I could do that someday."
"Heck, with Zeus' strength you'll be able to pull trees out of the ground." Jason whispered back. "But I must admit, I bet kicking doors down would impress the girls a lot. We'll have to practice that later."
"She's not here." Buffy told them as she exited the bathroom. "We'll have to look elsewhere."
"Don't bother." Iolaus laughed as he rose up out of the floor. His eyes glowed red and his fingers were curled into claws. His blonde curly hair blew in a wind only he felt. "You're too late, Slayer! She was already sacrificed by my loyal Abashii, her spirit on the way to my realm. The others are gone, too, except for the freak teacher."
"NO!" Hercules raced forward and jumped at Iolaus. Iolaus just laughed as a wall of fire sprang up on his body. The fire danced on Iolaus' arms, legs and body. His hair was transformed into living fire. Hercules screamed as he hit the fire and collapsed to the floor. He yanked off his burning shirt and rubbed his singed arms. Jason rushed to his side and pulled him away from Iolaus.
"Well, Slayer? Are you going to do something or not? Or are you *scared*?" Iolaus laughed as flung a fireball at the group. They dove to the sides as it whizzed past them and exploded in the bathroom. "Ooops! Did that almost hit you? I won't miss next time!"
Buffy held her cross before her and advanced toward Iolaus. Her eyes focused on Iolaus' as she searched for any trace of the body's true owner. "I demand that you leave this body, demon!"
"Oh, please!" Iolaus laughed. "You're going to try an exorcism? You're God wasn't even born yet! You are powerless against me! Besides, you need to touch me for that. He touched me and look at the pain he is in."
Hercules was curled up on the floor, his skin blistered. His head was on Celest's lap while the brownish-blonde Goddess tried to comfort him. Neila was next to him, but kept an eye on Iolaus. If Iolaus came any closer to her injured half-brother, she would blast him with lightning. But Buffy knew more about demons so she decided to let the Slayer do her job.
Buffy didn't fall for the trick. The demon wanted her to take her eyes off him so he could attack. Well, she wasn't that stupid! She leaped forward and shoved the metal cross onto his unprotected face. Iolaus screamed and jerked away from the cross and Buffy. A burn in the shape of the cross was on his left cheek. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a tiny glass vial. She flicked the cover off and threw the contents at him. He screamed a second time and his fire went out.
The Slayer leaped onto him and knocked Iolaus to the ground. For a moment his eyes had turned back to their normal color and he croaked, "Help." But the next moment they glowed red once again. He threw Buffy across the room, where she crashed against a wall. Buffy stirred as Giles shook her. She had bumped her head against the stone wall and was unconscious. He pulled a bottle out of his bag and tore the cap off. He held it under her nose.
"You can't defeat me! You will all die now!" Iolaus laughed as his head spun round and round on his body. His head spun so fast it was just a blur. Neila and Celest screamed in horror as the spinning-headed Iolaus approached them. It was the most horrible sight either of them had ever seen. A flaming ball of fire appeared in each of his hands as he walked even closer.
Ares popped in with Ash, Casche, Lilith and Chiron. The War God blasted Iolaus from behind with a lightning bolt and the demon fell to the floor. He leaped onto Iolaus and sat on his chest so the demon couldn't escape.
Buffy blinked her eyes and sat up. She leaped to her feet and hurried over to Iolaus. The demon in Iolaus' body was already waking up from the surprise bolt of lightning. "Quickly, everyone!" Buffy called. "Come and hold him down while I perform the exorcism! We can't let him escape again."
Lilith and Ash gripped one arm and held onto it tightly. Casche and Celest took the other arm. Neila sat on Iolaus' ankles while Hercules and Jason piled onto their friend's legs behind Ares. They hoped their combined weights would be enough to hold him.
"What do we do if he sinks through the floor again?" Lilith asked as she tightened her grip around her friend's wrist.
"Hopefully he won't have a chance to do that." Buffy gladly received a vial of Holy Water that Giles gave her. She opened the vial of Holy Water and dipped her finger into it. She made the mark of the Cross on his forehead.
Iolaus groaned and made sounds like a wild animal. His body thrashed up and down even with all the weight on top of him. A long snakelike tongue popped out of his mouth and green ichor dripped down his chin. He stuck his tongue at Buffy and laughed. "You can't defeat me. I will win. Your attempts are wasted effort."
Buffy poured Holy Water on the tongue. Smoke poured off the burned tongue as the demon screamed in pain. He pulled the injured tongue back into his mouth and struggled to get free. His body rose off the floor several inches.
"IOLAUS IS MINE. I AM DAHOK THE DESTROYER. HE IS MINE NOW AND HE WILL BE MINE AGAIN IN THE FUTURE. I KNOW BECAUSE IT HAS ALREADY HAPPENED. I CAME HERE FROM THE FUTURE, SO I KNOW IT IS TRUE. IOLAUS HAS COME TO ME OF HIS OWN FREE WILL WHEN HE DIED IN EGYPT. IT HAS HAPPENED BEFORE AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN. YOU CANNOT STOP IT. THIS TIME I WILL WIN."
Buffy kneeled on the floor next to Iolaus' floating body. She placed her open palms on his upper chest right below his neck. "In the name of God and Christ I demand the demon Dahok leave this body!"
Iolaus' eyes rolled up in his head and his body crashed to the floor. Smoke poured out of his mouth and formed into a round ball. A pit opened in the floor and red light poured out from it along with columns of steam. The others scrambled away from the gaping hole and they dragged the unconscious Iolaus with them.
"GO HOME!" Buffy cried as she threw the vial of Holy Water at Dahok. The ball of smoke screamed and it fell down into the pit. As he fell, Dahok's voice drifted upward to Buffy and the others. "I'LL BE BACK! AND SOONER THAN YOU WANT. YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE LAST OF ME!"
The pit closed and disappeared. Buffy slumped against the wall and sunk to the floor. She was exhausted. She glanced at Giles. "How are we going to get home?"
"You're from the future, aren't you?" Ares asked as he approached the two. He crossed his arms over his chest and waited for a reply. "You know, you're not supposed to be here. Zeus outlawed time travel."
"Yes, we're from the future." Giles answered as he stood to face the War God. "And you are?"
"Ares, God of War." Ares leaned closer to the Watcher. "You know, I'll cut you some slack since you helped out with the demon. I'll send you home, too. Can't have you people from the future wandering changing history now, can we?"
Giles helped Buffy to her feet. The Slayer smiled weakly at Ares. "Thank you for sending us home. But let me say good-bye to my friends first."
Iolaus opened his eyes and groaned loudly. "Man, I feel like I was ran over by fifty centaurs and a couple of chariots, too. What happened?" He tried to sit up but moved only a few inches before falling back down.
"Iolaus! I think he's OK!" Lilith called happily as she grinned down at her friend.
"You were possessed by a demon." Jason explained to Iolaus as he kneeled next to the curly haired cadet. "Don't you remember?"
"No." Iolaus admitted as brows knitted together in thought. "I remember picking those stupid berries, the green gem, the goo in the horse barn, but that's it. Possessed by a demon? Yikes! No wonder I feel so rotten."
"Yeah, it was doing some really freakish stuff with your body." Jason told him.
Hercules examined his burns. They weren't too bad really, no worse than a really bad sunburn. He tentatively touched his arm and hissed. He needed to ask Chiron for some salve. He glanced up and saw Buffy. "Hi."
"I'm going to be going home now." Buffy told Hercules and the other cadets. "I have a high school to take care of, and my town. Ares is going to take me and Giles home."
Hercules glanced at his older half brother. He was standing next to Giles, watching them talk. "I don't know if you can trust him. I mean, he's always trying to kill me. And yet he helped with the demon. I don't get it."
Hercules marched up to Ares. "Why did you help us for?"
Ares laughed at Hercules' confusion. "Maybe because protecting Greece is my job? That Dahok tried to kill my daughter! He wanted to move in on my turf. If he hadn't been in your little buddy's body I would have blasted him one!"
Hercules stared at his older brother. Maybe Chiron was right. People weren't all black and white, they were shades of gray. Maybe Ares wasn't as evil as he thought he was. Hercules decided he had lots to think about.
Buffy said good-bye to Jason, Iolaus and the other cadets. They hugged each other and the guys smooched her on the cheek, except for Iolaus who couldn't move.
"Ah, you're going so soon?" Iolaus whined. "I didn't get a chance to ask you out! We could have went to Kora's!"
"I know," Buffy knelt down by Iolaus and kissed him on the forehead. "And stay away from demons!"
"I will! Really!" Iolaus promised.
"Bye." Buffy walked back to Giles. Ares waved his hand and the two popped out in a flash of bluish-white light. Ares glanced around Iolaus Hall at the cadets. He walked past Hercules, ignoring his younger half-brother. He stopped in front of Ash and looked down at her. "If you ever need anything, cal me. And remember, I DO take care of my children." With that, Ares blinked out in a flash of light.
Chiron stepped up to Iolaus and looked at his cadet. "Well, Iolaus. Did you learn anything from all this?"
"Yeah," Iolaus moaned. "I'm not ever going to pick any more berries for you!"
Chiron stared down at Iolaus and shook his head. The centaur chuckled. Iolaus was hopeless! He motioned to the other cadets with his arm. "Let's move Iolaus to the infirmary. You too, Hercules. I want to examine those burns."
The cadets jumped to do as Chiron asked. Things were back to normal at the Academy.
Buffy and Giles appeared on the streets of Sunnydale. It was night and the wet roads gleamed in the streetlights. A gentle drizzle fell from the sky and splattered on their heads. They glanced around and realized they were in front of the high school.
It was good to be back home.