Immortality. The worst part is the boredom. Hours and days hardly register, not when you can take years or decades to finish one simple task. There’s just no sense of urgency, so naturally, few things are ever urgent. This is doubly true for young gods. The ennui can be debilitating for many. But for some of us, it is a perfect catalyst for poor choices and good times. Mortals complain of never having enough time, but I envy them in a way. Eighty, ninety years? Think of how much they get accomplished in such a minuscule span of time. I’ve taken eighty years to finish little compared to some mortal’s lifetime of work and devotion.
All the time in the world.
Years roll into decades, which crash into centuries, and many deities never seem to grow out of it. I did, but I haven’t always been like I am now. Now I am described with words like stoic, serious, and intense. For many years those words bore little resemblance to me.
We’re at the party. They’re playing Eros’ childish game, and now Hekate’s arrow has landed on me. I protest since I made it clear I wasn’t playing, but it is to no avail. I have no interest in kissing anyone but Nyx, and she isn’t there. Hekate stares at me, and I can feel the color drain from my face. The laughter and conversation in the room turns to a distant buzz. It’s a vibration that I am hardly aware of, except that it is annoying.
She’s staring at me like a frightened rabbit. For my part, I’m sure I look less like Dinlas, and more like a sweaty wax statue of Dinlas.
We have to kiss. Again.
All the time in the world. Yet we are thinking of the same moment in ancient history, the first time this happened.
I vividly remember meeting Hekate. No, we didn’t kiss then. The equivalent of a bored Saturday night for Hypnos and I. We often prowled with his brother, Thanatos. The three of us grew up together, and spent years together as kids. We played, laughed, goofed, made poor decisions, and got into all kinds of trouble. Our little pack, as I suppose most kids have. I never interacted with the celebrities on Olympus. My adopted family was the dark side of the Underworld. Primordials, imps, and specters rounded out my usual day, and Nyx’s sons were good companions. Especially for kids looking to stir trouble. Nyx, like Hades, spent most of her time away doing one thing or another, which left us with little supervision. The three of us came and went as we wanted. Other than their sister, Nemesis, no one ever showed up and told us ‘no’ to anything.
Thanatos arrived with Hekate midway through another boring night.
“Thanatos. Where have you been?” I asked as he approached with her leaning against him and laughing at some unheard joke. I glanced at her and nonchalantly added, “Who in Tartarus is she?”
The girl pushed herself away from Thanatos, straightened her dress, and replied, “I’m Hekate. And you’re Dinlas. Yes?”
I kept looking at her. I didn’t remember speaking to her, but there she was answering. She pulled her coal-black hair back and swept it over one shoulder as she returned my gaze.
“That’s a fancy dress for down here,” I commented. “Did Than kidnap you while you were on your way to a soiree on the mountain?”
Hypnos snickered, and Hekate flashed a look at Thanatos, then back to me. I could see the tension set in her jaw. “No. That would require an invitation. Which doesn’t happen when your father is Zeus, and your mother isn’t Hera.”
I laughed. The privileged daughter of Zeus trying to tell me how hard she had it as a bastard-child. Poor baby. I kept staring and replied, “Tough life, huh? Another misunderstood Princess from Olympus deciding to slum in the Underworld? Maybe bolster that self-esteem and make yourself feel better with the real low-lifes and degenerates?”
“She….she…she wanted to come, so I liberated her from her keep. Like…like in the stories the mortals tell one another,” Than said with a small smile on his face. Thanatos, always the romantic. As he smiled, he tried to step back from me, but Hypnos came from behind and pushed him forward by his shoulder. He took one or two staggering steps and caught himself. Hypnos wore his patented toothy, game-show host grin.
“Well, holy shit, Thanner! You brought a girl. Way to go little brother, way to fucking go,” Hypnos said through the sickly smile. He placed a hand on Thanatos’ shoulder. Than visibly stiffened and nodded in acknowledgement as Hypnos turned to me, still smiling.
“Look, he brought fresh meat, Din,” he exclaimed as he looked at me, past a visibly concerned Thanatos.
Hekate’s eyes darted between us and her surroundings. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
I cut my eyes at Hypnos. He was always creepy, even more so when it came to women. It was difficult to believe he and Thanatos could be brothers.
“Calm down, it doesn’t mean anything, Princess. Are you two friends, Than?”
“Yes,” Than whispered in his quiet, rasping tone.
I looked at them both. Than was a good judge of character, certainly far better than Hyp. So if he liked her, she was probably okay. Still, I couldn’t have her just waltzing down here with her fancy party dress and thinking she belonged. “All right, but if you want to get into the Underworld, you have to pass the test. You sure you wanna try that?”
Hekate stepped around Thanatos, crossed her arms, and cocked her hip to one side. “If you’re trying to scare me, it won’t work.”
Thanatos cackled at her spunk. “I found her, may I keep her?” he croaked.
Hmm, maybe it’s not too hard to believe these two are brothers.
“What?” Hypnos interrupted my thoughts and asked, looking at Than. “No, Thanner, you can’t keep her, she’s a goddess, not a pet!” Thanatos looked down, turning bright red. “So are we testing her, Din, or what? I am itching to fucking go.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle at the exchange. Thanatos meant well, he just didn’t always express himself clearly. Hyp knew it as well but took every chance to belittle his brother in front of others, especially some pretty face.
I looked back at Hekate and replied, “Are you sure it won’t work? That I can’t scare you?” She hesitated, so I continued, “Show you’re worthy, that’s all you need to do. Uncle Hades’ imps have talked all morning. They just unearthed a ruby the size of a man’s fist. Go steal it from the mine, and we will be waiting for you just outside.”
“Are you sure that’s a good test, Din? Mr. Hades’ imps are nasty things. Should she really go in there alone?” Thanatos asked while fidgeting with his hands.
“She’s fine. Aren’t you, Princess? Do you need help? Are you scared of a few nasty imps?”
“I can nick a ruby easy enough,” she said, back straight, but then she paused as something occurred to her. “Is…is Hades going to be there?”
“Maybe. What’s that matter?” She didn’t answer, but she did look nervous.
“Little, tough thing. See, I told you, Din, I like her already,” Hypnos said. His smile widened as Hekate’s cheeks flushed red.
“Yeah, well, Hyp, you like anything with a set of tits. So you aren’t really a yardstick to measure anything by.”
“All right, I will give you that, but she’s different. I’m not sure how, but she is, Din. I mean, she got Thanner out of his shell. That alone is a wonder.”
I stood watching her. She didn’t like us standing and talking about her as if she wasn’t there, but she kept her cool as I addressed her again.
“Relax, Hades won’t likely be there, but Than is right, imps are nasty little shit bags. What do you need from us?”
Hekate looked around at the strange landscape. It was obvious she’d never been to the Underworld. Getting her bearings was pointless. “A distraction, maybe?”
“I…I can do that,” Than stammered.
“Who are you and what the fuck did you do with my little brother?” Hyp asked, then laughed again at Thanatos.
Thanatos swallowed audibly and shook his head in response. Hypnos looked annoyed by the lack of answer, but let it go. Hekate surveyed the landscape and marched off in the direction where everything else was. A half-dozen steps ahead, she looked back over her shoulder. “Do you want this damn ruby or not?”
I grinned. I wasn’t going to tell her, but I liked her already. “I assume this means you are tired of wearing pretty party dresses on the mountain, Princess?”
She smirked back at me. “What’s the phrase? Better to reign below than kneel above?”
“Oooooo! See, Din, I like her,” Hypnos said smiling. “Don’t worry, Kate. I can see that look in his eye, he is starting to warm up, and you already got Thanner on a leash.” Hypnos threw his head back and laughed hard, clapping Than on the back and jolting him forward again.
Than looked like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming truck. “Leash?” he asked as he felt his neck.
“It’s not literally there, dumbass,” Hypnos said as he rolled his eyes, annoyed.
“I…I knew that.”
I scowled at Hyp’s constant commentary. “Shut up and keep your shit to yourself.” Turning back to Hekate, I continued, “We go to the mine offices and create a distraction to allow you to slip in. The ruby is kept in a locked room in the back. Once we make the diversion, you’re on your own.”
Hekate pushed past the brothers with a regal flair that comes from living on Olympus. “It’s a wonder you get anything done. You’re as bad as Father. All talk. No action.”
I ignored her barb and waved my hand for them to follow me. We paid Charon, and once on the other side, it was a short walk to the mines. None of us said anything, but I caught Hypnos eyeing Hekate from behind several times on the sly. For his part, Thanatos seemed enamored by her, and that was always a good sign.
We reached the mines, and I directed her to wait outside while Hypnos and I entered first. I left Thanatos with her to make sure she didn’t get cold feet and run off. I never minded getting in some trouble, but I didn’t need Uncle Hades staring me down while I tried to explain her wandering aimlessly amongst the dead. We entered the office, and there were several imps and some specters going about business. They didn’t really care who else was in there, except they all knew the rule. No one steals from Hades. I started shuffling some papers and rummaging in a desk, while barking orders to the imps. They knew me, and they knew to follow my direction. Soon, I had two looking through last year’s shipping manifests, one getting me a coffee, and two others dusting above the door-jambs.
Just outside the door, I could see Hekate quickly braiding her hair and tying it off with a ribbon. I nearly choked when she grabbed the bottom hem of her dress and pulled it off over her head, stripping down to a brief tunic that was less likely to attract attention or get tangled up. She wadded her dress up and tossed it to Thanatos. He caught it, and I saw him twitch as if he’d just been thrown a human head. Hypnos shook his head at his brother and sighed as Thanatos blushed brightly and looked at the ground.
“Hold that. I can move better without it,” she said. Thanatos stood rigid as Hekate closed her eyes for a moment and made a gesture with her hand. Her lips moved, and shadows raced across the ground. They slipped around her like a cloak, just before she darted towards the mine entrance and slipped inside.
Now we wait. It looked like she had the situation in hand as she disappeared in her manufactured shadows, so hopefully, it wouldn’t be long. I took the dress from Thanatos and tucked it under my arm. I could still feel her warmth on it. Hypnos chuckled and shot me a knowing look with a massive smirk on his face. Time rolled by, and we were starting to get worried when she finally reappeared, toting the purloined ruby and grinning.
A safe distance away and out of sight, the shadows around her dissipated like a dark fog lifting. A wicked smile creased her face, and she extended her hand toward me, bouncing the ruby on her palm like an apple. “Done.”
I eyed her and responded, “Very impressive.” Even I wasn’t sure if I was commenting on her scantily clad body or her theft of the ruby.
She pulled her hand back when I didn’t take it from her. “Does this mean I get to keep it?”
“You probably don’t want to do that. Uncle Hades doesn’t take kindly to thievery, regardless of who your Daddy is up there.” I held my hand out. “Maybe toss it over.”
Hekate again paled at the mention of my Uncle, then blushed on a scale rivaling the ruby in her hand. Instead of tossing it to me, she marched across the space between us and shoved it in my hand, perhaps trying to save some face. “Fine, keep it then. Daddy has plenty upstairs.” Her eyes darted down to her dress, still tucked under my arm. “You wanna keep that, too? Or can I have it back?”
I smiled at her, then looked down at the crumpled garment under my arm. “It is pretty,” I said as I raised it and breathed in, while locking eyes with her. “Smells heavenly, like amber and spice, but it’s not my size.” She rolled her eyes as I offered it to her.
Hypnos grinned, grabbed the dress first, and inhaled deeply of the scent. He threw his head back, howling like a wolf as I pulled it away from him. He could cheapen anything.
Hekate snatched the dress, her eyes darting between us, as she straightened the gown. She then slipped it over her head, drawing it down over curves and smoothing it across her legs. Finally, she unraveled her braid and shook her hair out, then turned to Thanatos.
“Is this what you do every night?”
“N-not every night, but you will see for yourself the more you come out. Are you ready to go?” he murmured with a frown. He was clearly disappointed she was fully clothed again. Hekate nodded, far more comfortable now than before.
I waited until Thanatos finished, then casually asked, “So what do I call you? Princess? Hekate? Or do you have some cute nickname?”
“Princess will do,” she said with a smile as she ran her fingers through her hair again. “Maybe it’ll help you remember your place.”
I grinned to let her know she won me over. She acted quite unlike the others up there. It was easy to like her. As Thanatos and she left for the ferry, I called out, “We’ll see you next time, Princess. Don’t make us wait too long.”
She didn’t answer. Instead, she just glanced over her shoulder and smiled.
It was answer enough.