06. Hell Hath No Fury

Act I. Dark Ascension

ASTERIA

Ear-piercing shrieks resonated through the clearing, forcing my attention to avert to the hellish creature that flew in the sky. The moonlight cast menacing shadows on the ground, accentuating the creature’s bat wings and hair of snakes that would horrify a mortal. There was a single word illuminated on its chest like a beacon: morality.

“Looks like they’ve caught us!” Persephone said as she hid behind Erebus.

“Caught? Persephone, did you really leave without telling Hades where you were going?” I asked in astonishment. “He must be furious enough to send an Erinye. You must leave at once and beg for his forgiveness!”

The Erinyes were three Infernal Goddesses of Hell, who seek to deliver retribution to individuals who may have committed any of the three types of crimes: moral, murder, and unfaithfulness. They served as the torturers of Tartarus. Seeing them in the Mortal Realm was not something to be taken lightly, and for that, I was terrified of what was to come.

“He will brood for some time, but he will forgive me, eventually. What fun would married life be if I didn’t rile him up once in a while?”

“Hades is the last person you should rile up. Even if you are his wife, there will be consequences! You could have disrupted the balance of the seasons.”

“Besides, Erebus could see the night sky for the first time. He’s never seen stars before,” she added absentmindedly, as though she were in her own little world.

“Are you even listening to me, Persephone? Erebus is not supposed to be in Mortal Realm. You’ve not only gone against your husband, but you’ve disobeyed the order of the Olympians. Zeus will punish you greatly.”

“Zeus is unaware of Erebus’ presence,” someone else responded. Turning my head to the side, I discovered it was Megaera, another Erinye. Her appearance was the same as Alecto’s. However, a different word glowed on her chest: jealousy.

“Megaera. What did Lord Hades say to you?” Alecto asked with a low hiss.

“Nothing that would appease your vengeful desires, sister.” Megaera glanced at me for a moment before returning her attention to Erebus and Persephone. “Lord Hades wishes to speak with both of you.”

“He’s decided, then? I’m to be imprisoned with the Titans?” I was taken aback by Erebus’ question, but knew it was something the Olympians were debating. Erebus’ fate was something that every God and Goddess gossiped about like it was daily mortal news. It wasn’t a fate I’d wish upon my worst of enemies. The Titans were another class of beings. No matter how bad a crime an individual committed, nothing would warrant being trapped with criminals as foul as the Titans.

“Ask Hades,” Megaera replied.

“Very well. I will go quietly then,” Erebus responded. “Come along, Lady Persephone. We mustn’t keep him waiting.” Profound sadness lurked beneath his smooth voice, like he was on the path leading to his demise.

“It was a pleasure to meet you, Asteria. Perhaps I might be fortunate enough to see you among the stars again in the future,” he said to me.

“I don’t think the stars will reach that far, Erebus,” I replied. Immediately after the words escaped my mouth, I started berating myself. ‘He already knows this. You could have just replied positively and let it be! Stupid, stupid.’

“One can only hope,” he said. The optimism in his voice was surprising. Something about it warmed my heart and the only thoughts that followed revolved around him being able to glimpse the beautiful starry sky. “Until then.” With a wave from Persephone, they walked towards the open hole in the ground, and the Underworld swallowed them completely.

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After Erebus and Persephone departed, I returned to the north star where my palace was. The walls were transparent from the outside, allowing me to see the night sky no matter where I was in the palace. Sometimes certain catastrophes caused constellations to be torn from their positions, so I needed to be aware of any changes in the heavens.

“Welcome back, Miss Asteria,” Columba greeted me at the entrance. Columba was one constellation in the sky but given how much she helped the mortals during times of flood, I allowed her to take on a human form. She oversaw everything that happened in the palace and made sure everything was to my liking. She was a dutiful assistant and a wonderful friend.

She had waist-length hair as white as snow and ruby red lips, a true beauty in her human form and reminiscent of her true form, a dove. Her clear blue eyes peered up at me with admiration as she handed me a dark blue shawl to cover myself like she normally did. “Thank you, Columba. I trust all is well?”
“Most of the day was uneventful. However, you had a visitor.”

“A visitor? Did she leave a note?” I assumed the visitor was Hecate, she was the only person other than Nyx who visited my palace. And gathering that night was far from over, Nyx would still be in the Mortal Realm overseeing the skies.

“It wasn’t Miss Hecate.”

“Who is it?”

“I’m afraid it’s Lord Perses. I asked him to leave, but he was adamant about staying. He’s in the dining room, eating what’s left of our meat.”

“Don’t worry, Columba. I do not blame you for this. I am glad you did not argue with him. It would have made the situation worse.” I began walking towards the room, dreading the coming conversation with my estranged husband. His appearance in my palace had to result from seeing me at Dionysus’ party.

“Shall I send Orion?”

“Yes, that would be best.”

I flicked my hand, causing the walls to shift from the night sky to a dark purple tint. And as Columba said, Perses was sitting at the head of the table in the dining room. There were platters of bones stacked atop each other, and the only sounds that could be heard were his smacking lips as he chewed and the crackle of the flames in the fireplace. He was dressed in the same outfit he was in during the party, but the area around his lips was slick with grease.

“Beautiful Asteria, I thought you would never return,” he commented as he threw another bone onto one of the platters. “What took you so long? Normally you finish placing the stars within an hour and yet, I’ve been waiting here for two.”

“What are you doing here, Perses?” I questioned in a low voice, knowing the man in front of me was the source of my unhappiness.

“I am simply visiting my wife’s palace. Do you think it strange?”

“You know as well I that you haven’t considered me your wife in a long time. So I will ask you again, what are you doing here?” I was immediately knocked back with a powerful gust of wind, my back hitting the wall with a loud thud. My bones shrieked at the harsh contact. If I were a mortal, I would have died from such an impact.

“Do not speak to me that way, beloved. We may not be living in the same quarters, but I am still your husband. You would be wise to remember that,” Perses growled.

“My Lady!” Orion called out as he rushed to my side. “Are you injured?” Standing beside him were two black and brown hounds, Canis Major and Canis Minor. Orion’s hair almost looked dark red from the light of the fire. He placed an arm around my shoulders, helping me back up. The hounds snapped at Perses, baring their sharp teeth and crouching in warning.

“I’m fine, Orion. Thank you,” I replied.

Orion’s head turned up to look at Perses once he knew I was alright. My immortal blood healed any injuries I sustained from Perses’ attack. “Lord Perses, you are not welcome here. Leave at once or I shall summon Lady Hestia.”

Hestia was not only the goddess of the hearth, she helped maintain peace in the homes she guarded. We summoned her several times in the past, which forced Perses to flee every time. She was the unofficial thirteenth Olympian, so she held more authority than Perses could dare to accept.

“One of these days, Orion will not be here to rescue you, Asteria. You will listen to what I have to say then,” Perses threatened. He disappeared instantly, leaving me alone with Orion and his hounds. Even though he was gone, the pressure his presence exerted remained, and it felt as though I was being suffocated.

“Thank you, Orion,” I said.

“It is my duty, my Lady. May I have permission to speak my mind freely?” When I nodded, and he continued, “I think you should ask Lady Hestia to place a spell on your palace to prevent this from happening. I can’t leave my constellation as easily and for extended periods of time. I would feel better knowing you are safe.”

“That requires blood magic. It would keep Hecate out as well.”

“And you haven’t told your daughter about the situation?”

“No. You must think I’m pathetic for fearing telling my daughter the truth.”

“I think you are a compassionate deity, but you’re also a mother. You want what is best for her, but sometimes what is best does not work. My heart will calm if you tell me you will at least consider it.”

“I will, Orion.”

“I have to return to my constellation, but I will speak with the other stars to generate a protection plan in case Lord Perses returns once more.”

“Yes, go before the heavens realize your absence. Good night, Orion.”

“Good night, my Lady.”