“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.
“The River Lethe… ah yes. Remember those days? You claim such neglect, but back when our family all lived together, in what is now known as the Underworld, you were singled out for such a great honour. You were given the patronage of one of a body of water in the darkest domain. Each one has such weight and importance, and one was named for you.”
“I wanted to change her perception of me. I wasn’t evil, and I wasn’t a beast or monster. Although, I acted the part and was bloody good at it. It came naturally to me. My dark half was reserved for the Underworld and its occupants, but the rest of me was for her. The good side of me.
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 slipped by him and entered first, going preternaturally still as I stepped into the entryway. Where golden light usually filled the castle, today there was a putrid green cast to the air. Dust motes swirled past, seeming to glow in the murky light.
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. ”
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.
“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.
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.