07. Something There

Act I. Dark Ascension

EREBUS

When we returned to the Underworld, Cerberus’ growls were the only sounds echoing through the tunnel aside from the deathly silence. The flames on the cave walls glowed eerily, like they were prepared to combust at any moment. The air became cold and heavy, reminding me of what it felt like to be in death’s embrace. His brothers, Zeus and Poseidon, could only match Hades’ fury.

The Lord of the Underworld sat on his throne, staring at Persephone and me with an unemotional glare. He raised his hand to dismiss the Erinyes. “Thank you, Megaera and Alecto. You may return to Tartarus now. To those in Tartarus whose punishment we postponed, extend their punishment for an extra five hours.”

His eyes glossed over as he stated those words, like he was looking past his wife and me. There were few moments in which we could see Hades as angry as he was now. Everyone knew to be careful not to offend him. A mistake I would regret in the future.

“As you wish, my Lord,” the Erinyes replied in unison before disappearing instantly.

The unsettling silence unnerved me as I waited for him to say something. It was almost as if he hadn’t decided on an appropriate punishment and was debating the possibilities in front of us.

He stood up from his throne and walked towards his wife before murmuring, “We will discuss your actions later, Persephone. For now, wait in our room.”

“But—“

“That wasn’t a request!” he bellowed, causing the flames of the candles to flare until they were practically licking the ceiling.

Tears appeared in Persephone’s eyes, but she fought back the tears and ran back to their room without another word. Hades let out an exasperated sigh before shaking his head. He rarely raised his voice with her, but his fury was dictating his actions. Even though he was angry, I could tell he regretted the way he spoke to her. And then his eyes locked onto my own.

“Do you know what I was doing in Olympus while you were disobeying me, Erebus?” I shook my head, and he continued, “There was a meeting with all the Olympians to discuss your fate. Ares and Zeus actually entertained the idea of imprisoning you with the Titans.”

“And you agreed with them,” I stated, feeling unsurprised, but also hurt at the same time.

“Athena and I tried to persuade the rest of them that there is still hope for you. That there isn’t a part of Chaos waiting to be freed, to wreak havoc in all the Realms. However, your actions today have showed otherwise, and it feels like you’ve stomped on everything I’ve worked hard to fight for in your place. For lack of a better phrase, it was like a slap in the face.”

“I meant no disrespect.”

Then please explain it to me. Why did you leave the Underworld?"

“Do you really want the truth?”

“The truth is the only thing that can save you right now. The Olympians are unaware of your ascension. I can try to hide this, but you have to give me something in return, old friend.”

“You don’t understand what it’s like being trapped in the In-Between. I lose my mind with every moment I spend there. I’m surrounded by the scum of the Mortal Realm all the time. For once, I wanted to see something that isn’t darkness, to feel something that isn’t the icy wind of death, or even see something that isn’t hopelessness. I know the risks, but I want something better than what I have now. If that’s Chaos’ will manifest itself, lock me with the Titans for eternity and throw away the key.”

Hades conjured a pair of chairs in front of the fireplace, which we sat in to continue our discussion. He fanned the flames with his hands and the blank expression on his face made it difficult for me to determine what he was thinking. “I cannot understand your situation, it’s different from anyone I’ve met. However, I know what it feels like to feel stuck with nowhere to go, no one to see. As you know, I didn’t choose to rule the Underworld. Fate decided it for me.”

“But now you have Persephone. You’re no longer alone, you have someone to share your pains with.”
“Is this because of your encounter with Asteria?”

I flinched at the mention of her name, realizing he discovered Asteria saw me while I was in the Mortal Realm. I knew I wasn’t a perfect match for the Mother of the Stars, but there was a part of me holding out that I could hold her heart. The last thing I wanted was to put her in a difficult situation. Even though I’d seen her for a moment, it was long enough to last me an eternity. And yet, I was greedy for more.

My heart longed to be in her presence once more- to allow her silky, blonde strands to pass through my hands, to cradle her face in my hands as I whispered sweet nothings to her, and to feel her delicate lips placed on my own. Her skin had to be soft like satin, but it would be no more enchanting than her bewitching voice. Everything about her undid my thoughts, my wariness, and my soul. Is this what it meant to love?

“A relationship between you two would never work. Asteria has a duty to the heavens, and she has a troubled past. She is the only Titan who can roam between the Realms freely. There are a lot of eyes on her. And you are bound to the In-Between.”

“What is broken can be mended.”

“If I didn’t know any better, old friend, I’d say you were infatuated with the Titaness.”

“What does it matter? As you said, we have no future together.”

“If there is truly something there, I would pay no attention to what I have to say. Fate always has the last word, Erebus. It is up to you whether you follow Fate’s decree.”

His words had a roundabout meaning. Everyone knew going against Fate had its consequences. Whatever was taken from Fate will be compensated by another means. I wasn’t ready to be the man Asteria needed. I was barely a person because of the celestial chains bound tightly to my genes. I had to let go of Asteria or my greed would consume me and drive me to commit something far worse than leaving the Mortal Realm.