I reached out to touch her, but stopped myself at the last moment. My hands hovered inches away from her, desperate to heal the pain with my touch, but I was terrified. I didn’t want to taint her perfect skin with my unworthy hands. ”
“What?” I asked him. He looked away and put his hand out. “Bloody Tartarus, are you serious? You want me to pay for the creature to be aboard?” He continued to stare into the distance with his palm outstretched in superior silence. I shook my head and flicked a coin at him, which he caught without even looking. “Take us home, you bloody old swine.”
I took my Bident from my inside pocket and ran for the gates. My loyal servant, Bion, was already there to see what had caused Cerberus’s outcry. As I reached them, Bion was trying to calm him down, but my dog was angry and snapped at him between growls and shaking his heads.
Some kings wear a crown and cloak to show their station and status, but I am more than a king. My brother, Zeus, has his lightning bolt, and Poseidon has his Trident. We would be significantly weaker without them and much more vulnerable. They are weapons of kings among gods. Who needs a crown?
I felt pity for him. It suddenly became clear to me that he had nothing that he cared about in his strange life, except for those coins. The idea of him losing the only things precious to him while in my kingdom was something I could not stomach or stand.
“This is your kingdom.” He pointed his paddle at me accusingly, like I was to blame. He’d hit me with the paddle once, and it bloody hurt. I pointed at him with a look that said don’t you bloody dare, and shook my head as I looked at his paddle, which I suspected was about to come at me. “You need to get this place under control. You have allowed too many things to go wrong since you decided to play in that circus upstairs.”
“You have not changed, old friend.” I chuckled. “Enjoy your drink. I am sure we will bump into each other again soon.” I drank my scotch and straightened my suit jacket, brushing it down with my hands and patting my hair to make certain it was not messed up. I have to look my best for the big return.
“You got it, partner.” Her eyes lit up at my request, and she pointed a finger at me knowingly. “I got just the thing for you, and it hasn’t been festering in the bowels of an animal or come out of one’s backside.” She turned and began fiddling with one of the machines. It looked complicated for just coffee.
“Get me the Tartarus out of here, Charon.” I went to step aboard, but he thrust his oar in front of me. “Oh, the bloody greed of you knows no bounds. What do you do with these coins, anyway? You never bloody go anywhere to spend them.” I thrust a coin at him and pushed him aside to get on board. He never answered me, as usual. He just pushed us away from the foggy bank and took us across the Styx.
I wanted her to give herself to me willingly, to love me. Did I feel guilty then? Yes, and no. I was a very different god in the old days. I was arrogant and angry a lot of the time. I was no longer that god. As time drifted by, I became more open-minded about life. As I watched from the shadows of the Underworld, I began to enjoy the changing world above me.
The darkness played tricks with your perceptions. Colours danced in your mind’s eye because the brain took over. Damp air filled your lungs, and your feet squelched and cracked on the sticky, crunchy surface. Shadows were the only visible things breaking through the blackness and dimming the dancing colours.
I was unsure of myself for the first time in so long I barely remembered the feeling. I hesitated with my hand hovering over the door handle and felt a bead of sweat roll down the side of my face. I gritted my teeth and snarled. Bloody Furies think they can make me feel this way? They will pay the price.
When the gods left earth, so did everything, and everyone else, including the Furies. They were put under my charge to be kept in the Underworld, but they were difficult to control and were always trying to take over my job as torturer. I gave them some freedom in Tartarus to do just that, but only for one person, for one day. That was the deal. They had no purpose, and I gave that back to them. Now? Now they were who knew where.
I needed to spend a short time in the Underworld to make sure all knew I was still more than capable of smiting the lot of them. Fear up close was always going to have the greatest impact. I had kingly duties to perform.
I slowly circled him with my Bident in hand, smiling down at him. His eyes caught mine, and for a split moment, I could see fear. He knew that I knew something he didn’t want me to know. My face must have given me away.