Have you ever gotten back from vacation and then wished you had never gone? It’s like, suddenly no one can function because you left. Any relaxation incurred during your time away instantly evaporates the moment you get back.
Now imagine that tenfold.
I went on vacation for several months, and when I got back, the unthinkable had occurred. The titan Kronos, my father, has somehow come back, from who knows where, and has managed to team up with Chronos, the Primordial God of Time. Chronos somehow escaped from the lowest level of Tartarus, below even The Pit, and is now roaming free. They burst in on a family Winter Solstice party and announced they want the keys to Olympus back, or they will go on a killing spree.
How does this happen?
Tartarus has not had an entity escape from it in thousands of years. I go away for two months and this happens? I’m waiting for Nyx to arrive and fill me in, but in the meantime, I have to find out for myself what is happening, and what is being done to fix it. Without a doubt, this is all going to come back on me. Little brother Zeus is going to show up anytime, and start accusing me of all sorts of things. Honestly, I’m shocked he isn’t here already.
I teleport from my office to the Pit, the deepest hole of Tartarus. I find Charon along with Cottus and Gyes, the two Hecatonchires who are tasked with guarding Tartarus. With one hundred flailing arms and fifty heads each, they are difficult, if not impossible, to escape. When they see me appear, everyone stops talking. I stride forward, looking at each of them in turn.
“What happened?” I ask as I examine one of the open iron doors. It looks as if there is no damage, it must have been opened with a key. I have a key and Nyx has a key.
Cottus, with his fifty heads, begins speaking at once. Some of the heads are asleep, but many are not, and the Hecatonchire is visibly agitated.
“We knows not the manner…” starts one head.
“The manner in which the prisoner…” says another head.
“The prisoners, the prisoners escaped and we know not how,” chimes in a third head. And so it went on as the heads would speak in turn, or all over one another in an effort to tell the story. Gyes was no better. The heads that are awake are all yammering at once. Some wake up to add in pieces of information, then fall back asleep. I recognize a lie when I hear one, but they both seem to be as in the dark as I.
Charon is no help either, though he does say he sees Nyx out and about often. Still, Nyx lives here, not very uncommon for her to be out and about. Plus, how did it go unnoticed that titans were missing until they showed up at the solstice party?
I head back to the office, and speaking of Nyx, she is sitting in the reception area. My assistant Alex has gotten her hot tea and she sets it down when I pop back into the room.
“Nyx, thank you for coming to talk to me on such short notice.”
“Of course, Hades. I’m here to help in any way I can.”
“I’ll get straight to the point. Nyx, do you still have your key to Tartarus?”
“You think I had something to do with this, Hades?”
“I am simply pursuing every possibility, Nyx. I ask again, do you have your Key to Tartarus?”
I watch as she conjures the key into her hands, then passes it over to me. I look at it carefully; there’s no doubt it is her key. It is stamped with my magical sigil and hums in my hand. It is no forgery.
I look at her as she watches me, her face expressionless.
“Does anyone else have this key?”
“Dinlas,” she replies, “he has a key.”
I can’t quite believe my ears, so I ask her, “Dinlas? My nephew? He has a key to Tartarus?”
She stands, watching me and looking quite aplomb before she answers, “Of course he does. He is welcome in my apartment anytime and he is trustworthy beyond reproach.”
I stand looking at her. I want to mention his betrayal of Lamark, but even I don’t have the nerve to do that. After all, Dinlas did that a long time ago. More uncomfortably, he did it at Zeus’, Ares’, and my bidding. He did it with our encouragement. The three men he most trusted. I can’t possibly throw that in his face, without getting it all over myself as well.
I focus back on Nyx. She is still standing quietly and watching me.
“Do you know where he keeps this key, Nyx?” I ask her.
She shakes her head. “I believe it is in the Warehouse, but he has never told me.”
I nod. “I will summon him and get to the bottom of this now.”
“No,” Nyx says, “I will go to him and find out if he still has it. I don’t want him interrogated, he has been through enough recently.”
I look at her closely. I can’t tell if she is genuinely concerned for Dinlas, or if there is something nefarious going on. Was she trying to cover for him?
She must have read my thoughts because as we stand staring at each other she suddenly says, “Hades, you can’t possibly think I want all the titans turned loose. I am not hiding anything, just let me go talk to him. We will see he still has his key, then we can pursue what really happened. Is that a deal?”
I watch her face as she speaks. Nyx is always straightforward, and this time is no exception. She isn’t lying or being deceptive. “That is a deal, Nyx. Let me know as soon as you can.” Nyx nods once, and in a swirl of black night disappears from my office, leaving only a faint trail of stardust that drifts down to the rug, then disappears.
I cancel the rest of my appointments that afternoon and ponder what could have happened. Honestly, my thoughts are jumbled as I struggle to remember the various safeguards and protections around Tartarus. I am at a loss as to how they could be circumvented. It goes this way until I lie down to sleep. Even my recent trip to Boracay seems distant and foggy. Why am I having trouble remembering such a simple thing? Such a recent event in my life, and yet I feel as if it happened hundreds or thousands of years ago. Sleep finally comes, but it too is a struggle and elusive.
I peer up at the sky. For some reason, I am on Olympus. I despise this place. Crass, overdone opulence with largely shallow and insipid players.
Still, here I am.
I watch as Zeus rages above me. At first, he appears to be simply pulling thunder and lightning bolts from the sky and hurtling them everywhere. But then as I look closer, I realize that a person is the source of his anger. Sleight of build and covered in a cloak and mantle, I cannot decipher the features of this being. Only that they have obviously drummed up my brother’s righteous anger in force. The bolts are not being thrown in a haphazard fashion, he is purposefully hurtling them in such a way as to drive them off the mountain.
I frown as I watch. Who or what is this person? Very few have ever been denounced and expelled from Olympus. That, despite many deserving it. I try to close the distance between myself and them, yet as I approach, ever they recede. When the mysterious hooded figure reaches the edge of the precipice, they hold their hands up. An obvious gesture to sue for mercy. There is no mercy, a thunderbolt lands and the figure is thrown from the cliff and into the abyss below.
I sit up in bed in a cold sweat. What did that mean? Who was that figure? Even as the memories start to fade, I lunge for the small journal I keep on my nightstand and feverishly write what I can remember of the dream. When I have it all down, I sit and look at it for quite some time.
“What,” I say to myself, “in the name of Morpheus is happening here?”