"Above all else," the man thought, "Give me hope—strength."

Shades moved around him but he barely noticed, so used was he to their presences. The air was cold, but not stale. It smelled like nighttime and the frigid water of the river, but even this could not console him.

He knelt by the river, dipping his hand into the icy water. When he withdrew his hand, it was dingy; silt and soot clouded the water, making its true depth unfathomable, even to him.

Metaphorical, he thought. His realm's depth, like the Styx, had no real bottom. Endless—and all his. If only that fact brought him joy.

Charon appeared silently, as he often did. His hair hung sleek and black to his waist, his old, bent body covered with a menacing black cowl and hood.

He spoke, and his voice sounded like gravel.

"So sad, Rich One?"

Mortals often referred to him as "Rich One", both because of the vast mineral stores of his realm, and because of the fear that accompanied speaking his true name.

Hades' lips curled into a smile that didn't reach his eyes.

"Aren't I always, Ferryman?"

"Gloomy, Lord, is more your style. This is sadness. There is a distinct difference."

"Is there?"

"Most definitely. This is more…specific."

Charon's eyes gleamed mischievously; his blackened lips turned up at their corners.

"You need a woman, Lord."

No being other than Charon would have survived making such a statement. As it was, Hades' face showed an angry blush.

"Your business is the ferrying of the dead across the Styx. Nowhere in your job description does it appoint you my counselor."

Hades sighed heavily, his anger, as always, fading quickly.

"What woman would have me, Boatman? I'm no sunny-haired God of Olympus. My realm is cold and dark. There is no life or love here."

"Things change, my Lord. Even in dark Hades, things change."