The scent of the mint patch overwhelmed me as I entered the grove. It was growing wild, untamed and uncared for, spreading even onto the neighboring trees. In the midst of the brilliant green was a single, dead tree. A face with flowing hair was carved into the dark trunk. At the base was a small tombstone, with the words Here rests Minthe engraved upon it.
Thanatos sat on the other side of his desk smoking his pipe in his office at Mr. T’s in Chicago. I recognized the location after a few moments, but only because Thanatos had described his office to me in the past. I smiled, hoping I hadn’t surprised him, and bowed my head slightly.
“Hello, Thanatos, I hope this isn’t a bad time.”
I sensed Hades’ hands hovering inches away from me, waiting for a sign that it was okay. That he could touch me. I hadn’t let him in a long, long time. It used to be the only way I could punish him. I would deny him the love he craved.
The stables were oddly empty of the usual staff, but it afforded me some much-desired privacy with the twins. I had time to introduce them to each of the horses, name by name, giving tidbits about their history and heroic deeds.
The water droplets fell free from my nose and chin, and I opened my eyes slowly to stare down at my reflection. I looked paler than usual. A black tear dripped from the corner of my eye. I blinked. Perhaps my eyes were blurry? I rubbed them, then continued to stare. But my reflection only worsened.
Take me to Arion. I willed the portal to open, and the bark began to peel away, revealing a small, glowing gateway. Taking one last hasty glance around me to make sure I wasn’t being watched, I stepped through. I re-entered the Grieving Gardens. Only now, they were deathly quiet. The children were gone. A soft nicker interrupted the stillness, and I turned to see Arion approach me. He set his muzzle against my hand, and I was glad for the kind greeting.
Giving of my time and efforts came so naturally to me. I’d seen no harm in it. At least, that’s how I used to be. I had eventually learned how my generosity could be used against me. And there was never enough that I could do to satisfy the needs of the mortals. Nor the immortals.
I can’t remember the last time he’s wanted to run like this, I thought, slightly worried. But I saw no point in trying to slow the stallion down. His legs pounded away at the ground, and I could do little more than hope he would stay on the road until we cleared the Dead City. His desire for speed was absolutely ferocious. Luckily, I’d always liked to ride fast, and we had a lot of ground to cover.