She waves her wand again, and the pain in my leg disappears. At the same time, I hear her grunt, and her hand goes to her leg. She takes a deep breath and puts her wand away. She grits her teeth briefly as she places one hand on the arm of the sofa and the other beside her. “Happy now?”
“Point me toward the way out?” I asked, feeling the forced grin still plastered across my face. Charon obliged, silently pointing, before pushing off from the dock. I pulled my hood over my head and then made my way back to the surface.
“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.”
We shoot off like a rocket as the water rises and propels us forward at the combined will of the sea gods. Dion is thrown back and lands on top of me. Charon lurches forward, loses his balance, and lands on top of Dionysos. I groan from the bottom of the dogpile. We sail through the mist at top speed, not even feeling the cold on this trip.
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.
Then the ferry finally comes through, and we all see the source of the merriment. Dionysos stands next to Charon, laughing and clapping him on the back. Charon looks positively irate as he brings the ferry into the shallows so we may board. The sea god laughs, and the Amphitrite jumps for joy, splashing the water as she giggles.
“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.”
I don’t shift, only run. Run as fast as I can as I hold the sides of my dress. Run up the winding stairs toward her room as tears begin to fall. I know what I have to do and what I have to give up. He was right, a heartless bitch I’m not. At least not yet. I’d made enemies, so many enemies, and now they are coming for the ones I hold dear.
“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.
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.
Back in Black by ACDC blasted out of the speakers as I started the engine and floored the gas. I imagined my hysterical laughter trailed behind the car like the tail of an asteroid. A new era was about to begin. Lord Hades was back, and the world better watch out. The King had returned.