I port back to my cabin in the Underworld after leaving that god’s forsaken warehouse. I look around and realize that this place is a mess, completely unseemly and unacceptable. Had I been living this way for the last couple of months? I groan and begin the task of cleaning up my abode. Then I go and tend to myself. The dream did one good thing. It has encouraged me to get back into the world. I have hidden in my grief long enough.
I am at my stove, putting the kettle on for some tea when there is a knock on my door.
“Who in Tartarus is this?” I ask myself.
I go up the three steps that lead to the little landing and open my door. Amphitrite, the sea nymph and Goddess of the Sea, stands there beaming and barefoot, the gray sand of the shores clinging to her feet. She will drag that muck into my freshly clean house. In her hand, hanging off two fingers, is a pair of sandals. She smiles widely, showing off her perfect white teeth. I narrow my eyes at her. Her smile falters before she speaks.
“Hi, Than,” she says.
“Sea nymph,” I say.
“Crazy party, huh? Dion and I talked about it before I came down.” She chuckles.
“Indeed,” I answer.
“Well, anyway, you promised you would take me to meet with the nymphs here in the Underworld at the grand opening of Nympheum,” she says, looking unsure.
I do indeed remember my promise to her, and I offer her my best smile to put her at ease. She smiles back, which means it must have done the trick.
“Of course I remember. Allow me to get ready, and I will summon Charon to take us to their dwelling place,” I say.
“Well, I will come in and…”
“No!” I cut her off, looking down at the sand covering her feet.
She looks down and grins sheepishly, and nods her head. She looks off to the shoreline. I follow her gaze and see Poseidon, the King of the Sea, standing in the water. He looks back at us with a big smile and waves. Amphitrite waves back. I merely raise my hand in greeting. She looks back at me with the same sheepish grin.
“He insisted on escorting me, and they are his people too, you know,” she says with a shrug.
I nod and gently close the door to get myself ready. It is just moments before I return, Amphitrite and I heading to the shoreline to greet Poseidon. I place my scythe handle into the waters of Lake Aveinos. The blade glows and sends out a pulse. We wait as a thick veil of mist rises off the lake’s surface. Through the mist, the tip of Charon’s ferry appears, accompanied by the sound of boisterous laughter.
“Laughter? Not Charon, but whom?” I wonder.
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.
“Dion!” she yells.
“Dion?! I thought Hades forbade you from ever coming down here again, especially after that last incident,” Poseidon says.
“Ancient history, forgiven and forgotten. Now, all aboard! You will just love our captain. He will not stop talking my ear off with great seafaring stories,” Dion says while laughing and nudging Charon with an elbow.
I am flummoxed, and my mouth hangs slightly agape. This is madness. I agreed to one, not a whole tribe. Though, the enraged look on Charon’s face is comedic as he extends his hand out to me while Poseidon and Amphitrite board the ferry. I pull out a small bag of drachma and drop it into his outstretched, gnarled hand. It is enough to pay to the Isle of the Rock in the center of the Styx and back. His miserly eyes light up with the greed I know all too well. He removes and examines every piece with his eyes and teeth to make sure I have not short-changed him.
When he is satisfied, I board the ferry, and he shoves off into the currents. I notice there is a knapsack at Dion’s feet. He sees me looking and shoots me a smile and a wink. Amphitrite has decided to hang her feet off the side of the ferry and into the water. Poseidon stands at the bow, and I stand in its center. We glide silently along the waters as Charon guides the boat to the branch that connects to the Styx.
I watch them all. I see the passing glances between the sea nymph and the wine god. Poseidon puts his hand out over the black water of the Styx, and the water rises to greet its king’s touch. Charon glares silently at all of us as he guides the vessel. The clanking of glasses suddenly breaks the silence. All eyes fall on Dion as he rummages through the knapsack at his feet.
He produces a bottle of wine and five wine glasses. Amphitrite’s eyes light up, and a smile grows on Poseidon’s face as Dion hands everyone a glass. Charon refuses with a vehement shake of his hand, to which Dion shrugs. He pops the cork, and it goes sailing out over the Styx. He swirls the bottle in his hand, looking at it as a man in deep thought before pouring the dark purple liquid.
“This little treat is our newest blend from one of the local vineyards,” Dion says as he now swirls the glass.
With his encouragement, we all swirl our glasses around, allowing the libation to breathe. We sip the wine, and it is a delicious blend of mixed berries. Amphitrite asks the question that has been troubling me since this voyage began.
“Mmmm, this is really good, but how did you get down here to Charon before us?” Amphitrite asks, taking a sip from her glass.
“Oh, I have my ways,” Dion answers with a smile, his eyes twinkling with madness.
Charon grunts to his response, and Dion’s smile only grows wider, like the Cheshire cat. Poseidon shoots me a nervous glance, and I raise a questioning eyebrow. But apparently, Dion is done with this conversation and produces containers of cheese, crackers, and fruit from the knapsack. He hands them out, and we partake in a small meal.
We are nearing the center of the Styx when the ferry comes to a stop. All eyes fall onto Charon, who points out over the water. On the horizon is a large wall of thick gray mist. Charon moves about the ferry, raising metal poles on the sides, the front, and the back. Hanging on the poles are black lanterns. He taps the top of each three times, and orange flame sputters to life. He comes to me with his hand extended. Annoyed, I place four drachmas onto his palm. He examines them before tucking them away.
We slowly drift forward into the wall of fog. The mist is freezing as we slowly and silently move through it. Dion pulls Amphitrite close. Poseidon folds his arms over his chest, placing his hands in his armpits. I put up the hood of my cloak. With the exception of my face and hands, I am not bothered by the cold mist.
It is pure darkness. No light reaches this area of the Styx. The black water matches the black sky, and the only light is from the four lanterns on the ferry. The air is still and heavy. I gaze out at the horizon, looking for the Isle of the Rock. Amphitrite quietly slips her feet back into the water. Poseidon nervously plays with the beads on the necklace around his throat.
“Echo!” Dion calls out.
There is no echo back to his hail. Dion looks as if someone has taken the wind from his sails. Poseidon hunkers down next to Amphitrite, and they share a smile as he puts his hand out over the water and closes his eyes. The water ripples out in all directions then flows back to his hand. He opens his eyes.
“Did you see that, Trix?” he asks.
“I did.” She smiles and points. “There.”
In the distance is an unnatural blue bioluminescent glow. It is our destination. Amphitrite seems excited by the sight of it.
“Do you have your speech ready?” Poseidon asks.
“I have been sitting here going over it in my head. I am so ready to try to welcome our people home,” Amphitrite says excitedly.
“I have got your back, Trix,” Poseidon says.
“But what about her front,” Dion says, waggling his eyebrows at her.
She returns this with a giggle and a wink. Poseidon laughs at his joke. I don’t laugh. My attention is on the water and the glowing light ahead. It is finally in view, the massive black rock jutting up from the water laced with flecks of bright blue light surrounded by a sandy island. Amphitrite gasps at the sight of it and places her hands to her heart. Poseidon’s eyes fill with wonder. Dion is smiling widely, in awe of this place.
I see her on top of the rock, clear as day, the naked nymph spying upon our arrival. I tense up as she dives. She hits the water with a splash, followed by multiple others that are impossible to see in the darkness. The ferry comes to a halt, and everyone stands completely still. The only sound is the stirring of the water as they move towards us.
“Get your feet back in the boat,” I growl under my breath.
“What? Why!?” Amphitrite asks.
“Just do it before they try to pull you under or bite them off,” I growl.
Her eyes widen as it seems she remembers my warning about the cannibalistic nature of these nymphs, and she pulls them out immediately. The four of us move to the center of the boat as they begin to circle around us, just on the outskirts of the lamp lights.
“We are in trouble now,” I say as the first one moves in.