11. Day of the Masquerade

Act 2. Forbidden Love

EREBUS

“The day has finally come!” Persephone exclaimed as pieces of colorful paper floated around us. She glanced back at me and added, “The mortals have come up with this wonderful thing called confetti. Perhaps we should get more! The more color, the better!”

Hades and I exchanged looks before taking a sip out of our glasses of ambrosia. “Are you alright with this? Everything seems a little too bright for the Lord of the Underworld,” I commented in a low voice while Persephone delivered more instructions to Orpheus and Eurydice.

“As long as she is happy,” Hades simply replied.

“Before I forget, here are your masks!” Persephone handed Hades a black, crow-styled mask. Mine looked like any ordinary mask, but the amount of glitter on its frame bothered me. “The guests will be here soon, so please put them on. And remember, leave them on until the ball ends!”

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“Welcome!” Persephone exclaimed, greeting our first guests. Classical music played in the background. The orchestra consisted of various kind souls who retired to the Elysian Fields for their afterlife. Even though every person would come wearing a mask, it was easy to identify the Olympians.

Zeus continued to exude a burst of pure energy. His bright blonde hair peeking from beneath the string of his mask. Beside him was a woman in a fuchsia gown, holding onto him tightly like she was concerned he’d leave her side at any moment. ‘Zeus’ infidelity is truly legendary,’ I thought.

His eyes locked onto mine as he went in for a handshake. It was firm, like he could crush my hand at any moment. “This is a wonderful ball you’ve all put together. It’s a pleasure to be in the presence of a deity who has grown so much. The Underworld would truly be lost without someone like you and I’m certain Hades can attest to that as well,” he complimented me.

“Thank you, it brings me joy to hear I make a difference in the afterlife,” I responded. It was a scripted reply, but the point of the ball was to show my growth and, most importantly, that Chaos would remain dormant.

“Please enjoy.” I handed him a glass of ambrosia, which he heartily accepted before proceeding into the room.

“I’ve heard of your accomplishments in the sea, Erebus. You are doing great things in the In-Between. Perhaps you will produce equally significant results in the Mortal Realm one day,” Poseidon remarked. He rarely surfaced, so seeing him at the ball thoroughly surprised me. His robes were a deep navy blue, matching his intricate Atlantean-styled mask.

Standing beside him was a woman with an otherworldly beauty, dressed in a deep blue gown with seashells as embellishments. Her hair was black, but the lights almost made the strands look like a deep violet. Her skin was pale and delicate, rivaling a siren’s beauty. A shining diamond rested on her finger, the same hand that was wrapped around Poseidon’s arm.

“This is my wife, Amphitrite. You will have to forgive her. She rarely surfaces, so everything is very new to her,” Poseidon explained.

“Not to worry, there is plenty of ambrosia and music for everyone. Please enjoy the ball to your heart’s delight,” I replied, handing each of them a glass of ambrosia as I did with Zeus. He gave me a nod of approval before entering the room.

“You may have everyone fooled, but I know what kind of creature you are, spawn of Chaos,” the next person sneered at me. “I will be watching you.” He pushed past me in a hurry, anger etched in his features. His armor was a dead-giveaway. Ares.

“Pay no attention to him, Erebus. Ares is just upset he wasn’t able to take Aphrodite to the ball,” Persephone reassured me, squeezing my hand gently to give me some strength. She gestured towards the next couple, which included a crippled man. “I don’t understand why she doesn’t just divorce Hephaestus. They clearly don’t love each other.”

“Divorce is frowned upon. And besides, it was Zeus who blessed the union. They cannot go against what he has decreed,” Hades said. “My brother may understand but he also likes it when things go his way.”

The next guests on the invitation list were the twins: Apollo and Artemis. Both were blonde like their father, Zeus, but their personalities were completely different. Artemis dressed in a silver gown with her hair put up in a high ponytail. Whereas Apollo was in goldenrod robes to match his bright personality.
Apollo was the first to speak. “It’s been quite some time, Erebus. You should have balls more often.”

“You are just looking for an excuse to speak to more women, brother,” Artemis chastised him.

He began sputtering, so she added, “You cannot even put your thoughts together. Your mind is just filled with lust. It’s not an admirable quality.” She looked up at me with her hazel colored eyes and said, “Thank you for the invitation. Next time, please do not invite my brother. He cannot afford to have another child right now. He has his godly duties to focus on.”

She pushed Apollo to the side in annoyance before joining the other Olympians in conversation. Apollo stared at his twin, baffled, as his gaze darted between Artemis, Hades, Persephone, and me. “That’s not true. Artie!” he called out, moving past us.

“And I thought our family had problems,” Hades remarked.

“What sort of problems are you speaking of?” Persephone countered with her hands on her hips.

“We have a spirit for a daughter and our friend is the guardian of the In-Between. How is that not strange?”

My heart warmed hearing Hades refer to me as part of their family. It was the first time I ever felt like I was part of something.

They continued to bicker, leaving me alone to greet Dionysus, Athena, Aphrodite, Dionysus, Hermes, and Hestia on my own. Like the predecessors, they greeted me with open arms and bright grins. I couldn’t help but notice Demeter was missing. ‘Perhaps she felt too uncomfortable to enter the Underworld,’ I thought.

“Well, well. Who knew we would meet again?” a familiar voice questioned me out of the blue. I glanced up to discover it was my ex-wife, Nyx. “I was surprised to receive an invitation, but then again, you were probably hoping to find an opportunity to finish the job.”

“I did not ask them to invite you, Nyx. You could have easily denied the invitation or simply pretend you never saw it,” I retorted through clenched teeth. My hands balled into fists at my sides. I was doing my best to control my temper.

“When I heard you were possibly being freed from your duties, I had to show up to confirm it for myself. But, you look like you haven’t changed.”

“I would never lay a hand on a woman. I might carry the seed of Chaos, but I am not heartless, Nyx.”

“Could have fooled me.”

“Why are you here? Do you plan to throw our children in my face? You’ve already turned all of them against me. What’s more to rub salt into the wound?”

“They’re not your children anymore. You lost that privilege when you hurt me. I will make sure you never forget that.”