A/N: Sorry for the long gap, but school has kept me really busy so it took me about 3 to 4 months to write this chapter. This has been the most challenging chapter for me to write and the most challenging to construct. For those of you who are still reading this story, thank you and for those of you who have just started, I hope that you are enjoying it. Enjoy reading and as always leave me something to read so I can improve as a writer. Thank you and enjoy.
P.S. The italicized part in the beginning is the previous chapter. I just placed it there as a refresher for those of you who have read the chapter when it was published. Enjoy!
There was no light and no sense of direction. The young maiden had no idea where she was, she only knew that there was darkness and she could feel it growing and expanding as each moment passed. She could not feel anything other than the empty void, nor could she see anything. As the hours passed she endlessly paced back and forth. Her mind was deep in thought and the darkness was getting the best of her. She began to question her whereabouts. She shook her head trying to dismiss the uneasy feeling growing in the pit of her stomach.
Thinking that she might be having a nightmare, she pinched herself only to find that she could not sense the pain. She slapped herself, but nothing. There was no noise, there was nothing. Everything was numb and there was no feeling, no warmth. Staring out into the void, the empty space, only frightened her more for she could not see its beginning and nor its end. She began to think to herself if she was even really there or if her imagination had begun to get the best of her. Perhaps it was a dream gone astray and it was her responsibility to wake up.
But she did not wake up no matter the pain she inflicted on herself. She pulled her hair, scratched at herself, stuck her nails into her eyes, and did anything possible to feel, to sense, to know the pain. The ability to feel pain meant that you were awake and alive, but she felt nothing. Numb.
She tried to wave her fingers in front of herself, but only the shadows of the darkness were noticeable. There was no light. She tried waving them again and when she did not see them or feel them her breath grew short and quick. She began to run, but didn't know which direction to run in and felt like she had been going around in circles. She ran for hours without end. The abyss had no time; it was infinite, at least that was what she had begun to believe.
Images flashed through her mind, but there was absolutely nothing. She couldn't remember who she was and she'd find herself having conversations with herself. Then after the minutes turned to hours and hours to days she tried feeling for a wall, for an escape, but there was none. No one could escape. There was no escape and already she begun to forget herself. She wanted to wake up from the horrible nightmare and made an attempt at screaming herself awake, but there was no sound. The abyss of shadows and darkness swallowed every attempt at trying leave.
Her frail, cold and numb body fell to the floor, but she couldn't feel the impact. It was as if her soul were floating in the shadows. Feeling the burden of being alone, of not enjoying her senses, or not knowing where or who she was, she cried. Her tears turned to icicles on her face, crystallized for eternity. There was no hope. Her memory had faded. The nightmare was too real.
Yet images had suddenly flashed across her mind, the only memories she could remember. A young man. A young man with eyes the color of the endless sky yet hidden deep within the clear sky lay the possibility of a frenzy of storms, of danger. Promises of love, his lips upon her, then the abyss of shadows, of madness.
She couldn't understand anything, couldn't remember who she was, and couldn't conceive thought. Her body went limp; her mind fell to chaos, and her soul could no longer feel. In the empty abyss she wept in silence. All hope drained out of her, surrounding herself with the shadows of the darkness, escaping to the deep recesses of her mind.
She lay down, rocking herself back and forth, trying to warm herself up. She was so cold, so lost. The darkness had swallowed her. Her thoughts, her memories, her mind.
While she slipped in and out of her mind, someone had sneaked up behind her stealthily. She felt a hand lightly touch her shoulder. She felt. She could feel. Slowly, some warmth began to flow through her veins and pump through her heart. As she stood up and blood raced through her body, she turned around to face her companion in the darkness.
He had a golden aura that illuminated him, causing the darkness to subside and forced the shadows into their abyss. His feet were adorned with winged sandals, which fluttered and allowed him to hover in the air slightly.
"Who are you?" she inquired, her voice barely a shaken, audible whisper.
"I am called by many things, but you shall remember me as pschyopompos." He took a step towards her and she took several quick steps back.
Her eyes grew large in disbelief and she couldn't help but shake her head and hug herself. "It is not possible. You cannot be Lord Hermes. If you are Lord Hermes that means that I am…"
"Dead." He waited for her to breakdown as mortals usually do when they find out that they are no longer among the living. He offered her a hand, but she stared at it and began shaking her head.
"No. This is not possible. I am alive. I am in the realm of Hypnos and any moment I shall awaken from my slumber and you will be nothing but a dream." The maiden kept backing away from Hermes, taking larger and larger steps away from him until she broke into a sprint.
"Where will you run to? You are dead and if your soul stays here, in this limbo, you shall drive yourself on the brink of insanity. Do not fight your fate." He reached his hands toward her when she halted. "Take my hand, maiden."
Staring at his hand, her mind reluctantly thought of the endless darkness that had engulfed her. She hadn't been able to escape and her body had been numb and cold. Her body had felt no pain. Her eyes gleamed with desperation as she realized her fate. "I am dead. Gods! I am dead. How? Why?"
"All mortals must one day die. It is the fate every mortal must suffer. When I carry your soul into the Underworld it will all become clear." He took a step towards her, relieved that she did not back away from him anymore.
Tears flooded her eyes and she could not hold it in any longer; she broke down sobbing to the floor. "Lord Hermes, I-I do not understand. Help me understand. Help me, please." She grabbed at exomis and inside her eyes lay the darkness and the endless void of shadows, which continued to consume her mind. "Please."
Hermes, the psychopompos, the carrier of souls, brought her languid body into a standing position. Her mind had fled and nothing was left. "It is the will of the Fates. In the Underworld all shall be clear."
The maiden's body lay face down in the water until she floated to shore. She could feel the sand graze her face as the motion of the waves pushed her further onto shore. Laments of woe and the shrieks of fear in the background reverberated through her ears, but she tried her best to ignore it not wishing to look up. But she could still hear them, the crying growing louder and louder until she felt her fluttering heart drop to her stomach. That's if she even had a heart, she thought to herself. Images of the dark abyss of shadows, of blackness, of nothing clouded her mind like morning mist, slowly creeping its way into every corner of her mind. She squeezed her eyes shut never wishing to open them. She felt something clawing at her leg as she stared at the black veil behind her eyelid. Her eyes shot wide open to find a man, with thick folds of skin on his face and deep etched lines near the creases of his mouth and eyes, trying to grab her leg and crying out for help. Afraid that he might harm her, she kicked him off and his body seemed to float lifelessly in the water.
Looking about her she noticed that there was no sun, no moon, no stars, yet a self-emitting luminescent glow radiated through the sky making everything visible. Gathering herself and turning to face the large body of water she caught glimpses of slight bumps in the water that rocked back and forth with each passing wave. The waves kept pushing the bumps closer to her, yet she could still not distinguish what the water had hidden under its waves. Stepping deeper into the water, she felt something break underneath her foot. Bending down to pick up the object she had broken she jumped and screamed as she found a face looking at her from below the waves. Its eyes held no emotion as they lay still staring off into the darkness that surrounded them. Suddenly, its pupil began to dilate as the eye began to move around. The young maiden jumped back as the body emerged from the water and began dragging itself towards her, muttering words she could not comprehend. Frozen by fear, the young maiden could not move.
The sand below her feet began to tremble as she watched the body, with a few of its limbs missing clawing its way up to her, stop in its track and focus its attention to the side. A creature that had the head of a lizard, eyes of a serpent, body of a tiger and tail of a serpent charged at the body while it clawed its way back into its watery grave. The creature gave a roar until the body was no longer to be found. The voice of a man with a hint of a hissing serpent spilled from its mouth saying, "You cursed creature, get back! Remain where you are told! This is a warning for all of you. Next time I might not decide to be so courteous."
While the creature had chased the body far away into the water, she could see that the lumps that rocked along with the waves were mutilated carcasses similar to the one that had just approached her. The carcasses surrounded her, floating lightly on the surface and none had their eyes closed in peace. Rather, they had their eyes wide open, still and lifeless, as if a force stopped them from being able to close their eyes and escape to the serenity of a deep sleep.
A fiery tongue spewed from its mouth before turning its head to the side, locking its eyes with the maiden. It rushed forth to her, its body moving with elegance and such potency that the force flowed through its body like waves crashing into each other every time it took a step forward. Its lizard head began to sniff at her to find that her aura did not smell of rotting carcass. Reaching its snake tail to her arm and rubbing it against her skin, while she stood there frozen with fear he said, "Why are you still resting near here? You no longer belong to this ocean of lost souls. You no longer carry the scent so move on into the Underworld. You would not want another euskopsauron to find you lingering here. Who knows what my brethren would do to a shade that still wandered near the lost souls. Perhaps they would send you back into the water so that your soul would rot in Orcus, your place of confinement. You remember that place do you not?
"It's dark and your mind continues to torture you filling the dark void with things worse than us, the euskopsauroi." It drew closer to her and she held her breath and squeezed her eyes shut, muttering under her breath. Memories of the wretchedness of the endless void clouded her mind as the euskopsauros' snake tail moved up to her ear and slowly whispered, "So…run!"
Her eyes opened as the euskopsauros emitted a lingering roar that echoed through the area as she opened her eyes and as quickly as she could, ran to the shore. She did not wish to be sent back to Orcus, to the confinement of her mind. When she reached the shore filled with soft grains of sand that stuck between her toes, she turned around to look at the ocean to find that the ocean was filled with dead, motionless bodies beyond the horizon. All along the coastline she caught glimpses of euskopsauroi, Minotaur, harpies, and other creatures that were too horrible to describe. Some of the creatures caught glimpses of her and were slowly making their way to her. Remembering what the euskopsauros had said to her about its brethren, she continued her sprint further up the shore until she finally reached dirt instead of sand. The dirt felt smooth against her feet for the sand had grazed a thin layer of skin on the bottom of her foot. She took a small moment to let her feet rest upon the silky texture of the soil and to take a small break from the running. As she slowly walked further inland, she could not avert her eyes from the sudden surge of fire off into the distance.
She ascended up a hill of dirt and when she finally reached the top, she could see everything. She caught sight of a gate that stood at the height of three or four giants. It looked impenetrable as if it had been forged in the heart of Tartarus. A three headed dog stood by it looking into the land inside the gates and growling every time a shade drew too close to the gate. Other smaller creatures stood guard near the gates, most of them keeping their eyes on the inner land as opposed to concentrating on keeping people from going in. A few inches beyond the gates, in the inside, was a river, the color of mourning, which forged a natural barrier and stretched out as far as the gate did.
The maiden finally turned her gaze to the land itself. Her heart dropped to her stomach as she gazed to the far off land where a fire seemed to rise from the ground and engulf all its surrounding area with red sparks of fire and geysers of molten lava. By the light of the molten fire she could see that a great body of water encircled the inner area behind the gates. It rose up into the sky, continuing its spiral ascent until she could no longer see where the water ceased from flowing. She could only see the river spiraling into the air and another river spiraling downward miles away from the geyser of lava, still following the same spiral pattern. Land seemed to be attached to the outer river, spiraling along with the river. It stretched out beyond her vision and she could only guess that the land was infinite.
The maiden could see that she only had a few more miles to walk before she arrived to the gates, yet she sat down on the hill, put her head between her legs. Her eyes glassed over as she stared at the lava bursting into the air. Trying to keep the over abundance of moisture in her eyes from flowing down her cheek like a river, she tried her hardest to keep her eyes wide open, but it proved to be too difficult. While she had stood on that hill and looked at Underworld with its hidden depths of fire and unknown land, she realized that she was no longer among the living. All things that she had seen were real, none fathoms of her imagination. Hermes had not lied to her; she had died.
Hermes had said to her, "Do not fear that which you do not know. The Underworld is not only for those who have erred in their lives, but also for those who have done well. You have been in Orcus for too long and you have lost your sense of reality to your confinement. When you realize you are dead remember these simple instructions: Do not stay on the land between the sea of dead bodies and the Gates of Erebus for too long. Those who wait too long to enter the Underworld experience something worse than death itself. They become shades of the land and are not allowed to pass through the Gates of Erebus for all eternity. Their souls are never at peace and they are taunted by the proximity of their escape. It tantalizes them for they are not able to quench their thirst for rest.
"Heed my warning and all shall be well, do not fear." Those were Hermes' last words before she had found herself washed up on shore believing she had dreamt everything and at any moment she would awaken.
Drying her eyes, she stood up ready to descend down the hill. During her descent she caught glimpses of shades rushing past her, oblivious to her presence for they were only trying to find an escape. As she reached the bottom of the hill she began to see other figures migrating to the gate as well. A little girl rushed past her crying for her mother. She stumbled on a little rock only to fall on the ground. She didn't make the effort to pick herself back up and lay on the ground crying for her mother. The young maiden rushed over to the little girl and picked her up in her arms. She knew if the girl did not pass through the gates she would eventually turn into a shade doomed to suffer for all eternity.
Her voice dripped with honey as she told the little girl, "It is going to be alright, little one. We will go find your mother. It is going to be alright. Dry your eyes, little one. Let's go find her."
The little girl stared at everyone's face, expecting to recognize her mother's familiar face, but she had no luck in finding her mother. Once or twice she thought that she had found her and had run to them shouting, "Mother, mother I found you." Yet as soon as they turned around all hope escaped her face and fled from her body and she lost the will to keep looking for her lost mother. She kept walking, holding the maiden's hand, while the fire behind her eyes fled and she became lost in the caverns of her mind. The maiden attempted to bring her back to reality, but figured she needed more time to fully realize her whereabouts.
When they finally arrived before the gates, the euskopsauroi made them form three lines to enter the Gates. The Gates, which seemed to stretch indefinitely, had a single entrance and a single exit, a bridge. As the souls walked through the bridge they caught glimpses of riches glimmering in the water, luring them to take a swim. A few, unwilling to control themselves, dived into the water for they wished to obtain the riches, yet when their bodies hit the water of the Cocytus, the river of woe, they vaporized into the air.
Three female voices, which came from the middle of the bridge, sliced through the air like swords saying "Let that be a warning to you all. These riches have one master and one master only…Learn how to control your greed." At the center on the bridge, each standing on a separate ionic column, which were the size of a man, were sphinxes. Sphinxes were elegant creatures with the powerful a body of a lion, which had a pair of wings attached to it, and the head of a beautiful woman. They each stood on their own column alone and unmoving. The crowd of dead souls did not dare cross onto the other side of the bridge until they had permission. All at once, the sphinxes outstretched their wings and bared their deadly lion teeth to all that could see. Everyone took a step back, fearing that they would attack them.
Their sharp voices echoed through air as they each began to recite a different piece of the riddle that every dead man or woman had heard of since the Gates of Erebus had first come into being.
"To enter you must pay the price…"
"Without the price you shall perish…"
"But with the price you shall live!"
All those, who were waiting to enter the Gates of Erebus began to murmur to each other trying to figure what the sphinxes meant by price. The sphinxes, tall with their chests puffed out and their wings outstretched, sat on their columns eyeing all the souls like prey ready to be devoured. They quietly descended from their posts unto the bridge. Those who were closer to them took several steps back afraid of being hurled to the water. The three sphinxes locked eyes with those who were nearest and asked them to come forward. As they approached the sphinxes, harpies began to fly overhead and screech with delight as the people began to move forward.
When the first three souls approached the sphinxes a mist surrounded them which did not allow those who were still in line to witness any event happening between the sphinxes and the three souls enveloped in the mist.
All three of them spoke at once with a cold, womanly voice carrying a hint of a lion's purr, "Come forward. The price we ask is small, yet the punishment for not having the price we seek is great. Present the price to us or ready yourselves for the inevitable consequence."
Each of the sphinxes held one of dead's gazes, paralyzing them in a trance as all their body's started convulsing except for one. Grabbing at their throats they began to cough until their faces were flushed either crimson or a dark purple. They fell to the ground unable to cease the coughing. After a few moments, a metallic object spewed from their mouth and simply floated in the air. A small, silver coin, an obolos, hovered in the air before the two souls.
The two sphinxes spoke to both of them at once, "Take it with you for you will need it once again. You may now pass through the Gates of Erebus. Be warned, there is no escape for there is only one way." They both collected their coins and vanished further into the mist, continuing their journey into the Underworld.
The sphinx in the middle gave a roar which caused its chest to become even more prominent and its wings to stretch out higher into the air. The soul in the middle cowered before the sphinx and fell to the ground covering its face with its arms. When the sphinx spoke, the womanly voice vanished and all that could be heard was the vocals of a lion speaking the words of humans, "You do not possess that which we seek. You shall continue to suffer. Until you possess the price we ask your soul will linger in Erebus or in the Ocean of Lost Souls."
While the sphinx had been speaking, two harpies emerged from the mist behind the soul. They had the bodies of different human sized birds and the face of a beautiful maiden, yet their noses changed to a bird's beak when they became crossed or excited. "Harpies, relieve us of this soul. Take it back to rot in the Ocean of Lost Souls."
The harpies' noses had changed to long, jagged beaks that began to poke and tear of flesh from the poor soul. It began to scream, "No! No! Don't take me back…NO!" Grabbing it by their claws the harpies lifted it into the air by digging their claws into its flesh. The soul tried biting them but they only dug their claws further into its flesh. They rose out of the mist and all those who were gathered on the bridge were able to see the consequences that lay ahead if they were not able to pay the price to enter the gates.
A third harpy flew above those waiting to pass through the gates and they all ducked in fear of being taken back to Orcus. The little girl burrowed her face into the maiden's dress and began to cry. "Don't let them get me mommy. Please, I don't want to go back mommy. Protect me."
The young maiden combed her fingers through the girl's hair, fighting back the urge to tell the little girl that she was not her mother. "It is alright, little one. I will not let them harm you. I need you to be brave. Do not be afraid for I will not let them harm you. Now dry your eyes, little one, and be ready to present the price to the sphinxes."
"Wh-wh-what if I do not have the price they ask for? What if they hurt me? I do not want to go back, mommy. Don't let them take me back, please." The little girl's body shuddered as she continued to hear the cries of the soul being dragged back by the harpies.
The young maiden kept combing her fingers through the girl's hair hoping to calm her fears. Then she began to rub her shoulders hoping for the same. "You do have what they ask for. So do not be afraid, you shall pass and no harm shall come to you. Dry your tears and be brave for mommy," she calmly told the little girl. The line had begun to move forward, yet everyone still tried to keep distance from the mist, afraid of being snatched.
Finally, their time had come to stand before the sphinxes shrouded by the mist. The maiden spoke softly to the little girl, "Be brave. Once you have crossed the bridge wait for me. If I do not pass through the Gates of Erebus you must be strong and continue. Do you understand?" The little girl nodded in apprehension.
From the mist, a voice echoed, "Come forward and give me that which we seek."
The young maiden gently nudged the girl into the fog. She called out behind her, "Be brave, little one." As the little girl proceeded forward, a few of the souls became restless and, suddenly, ran forward to the front of the line. They shoved all those who stood in their way.
"They can't take us!" they shouted. "We are many and they are outnumbered!" Unfortunately, dozens of harpies had been summoned to keep watch over the souls and keep them in line. "Death has already claimed us, what more can they do? Don't let them…" Before the soul could finish his speech, a harpy flew from behind and pierced its beak through the back of the soul's neck. The harpy flew into the air with the body and let it drop into the Cocytus River, where it disintegrated in the water. Those who had followed him quickly ran back to their place with their bodies tense and stiff.
Above them the harpies began to screech with delight. Everyone stiffened as the harpies began to fly lower over them. Finally, from within the mist the young maiden heard a woman's voice beckoning her to go through the barrier of fog. She slowly and cautiously stepped forward until she bumped into the chest of the sphinx that towered over her. It growled at her for it didn't like being touched by the dead.
"To enter there is a price you must pay.
It is not big, but it will cost you much should you not have it.
It is silver and double sided.
Without it some people perish from Earth,
For it is a weapon that can kill without drawing blood,
Or a shield that buys men and women many years."
The sphinx locked eyes with the young maiden and began to put her in a trance as her body convulsed and her mouth spewed out the little silver coin.
"Do not fear the guardians of the Gates of Erebus for they only take out their fury on those who do not keep order. Once you have entered the Gates of Erebus seek the Acheron River for that is the only road that leads to an eternity of peace or anguish. Heed my warning, do not step foot into that river, for Acheron is alive in the land of the dead and does not take kindly to those who pollute its waters. The waters are cursed and those who do not heed my advice only know pain, both physically and mentally, and may never rest in peace. There is only one road that will lead to peace and only one god can lead you through the Underworld and he requires payment."
The sphinx flashed her teeth to the young maiden and calmly told her, "You may pass through the Gates…but be warned the dangers are not yet over."
The young maiden quickly passed through the Gates of Erebus as the harpies hovering above the gates slowly descended to the ground and began to patrol the bridge on foot. The maiden caught sight of the little girl waiting for her at the end of the bridge, keeping her eye on the harpies who were beginning to hover around her. Suddenly, a harpy landed in front of the little girl and began to peck at her flesh. The little girl attempted to ward the harpy off, but the harpy was triple the size of the little girl. "Move on!" it screeched.
The girl replied, "I can't! I'm waiting for my mommy. Leave me alone, please," the little girl pleaded and cried. The maiden rushed forth before the harpy could do more damage to the little girl and took her by the hand.
"Follow me, little one. Do not linger on the bridge for it is not safe," she said to the girl. Then, she turned to the harpy, who had gotten angry that it had been interrupted from having its fun, "We shall be moving on to the next step of our journey. You may now leave us in peace for we are no longer disrupting the order of things." The harpy drew close to the maiden opened its mouth and gave a loud, screeching cry of agitation before lifting up into the air to find its next prey.
Hand in hand they took their first steps into vast realm of Hades with other countless souls following suit. At the foot of the gate stood a creature as tall as the gate itself that made sure that no soul tried to escape Hades' grasp. Its paws had claws made of metal that could rip a god in half with one slash. Its fur was constructed of the shadows of those souls that had tried to cheat death and escape back to the world of the living. The tail of the creature was assembled with the souls of soldiers who had slaughtered the innocent in their expeditions for power. In order to redeem themselves, they were sentenced to an eternity of being slaves to the horrible creature. Resting on top of its shoulders were three monstrous dog heads. Each one of the heads was the size of two grown men. Its faces were also composed of the shifting shadows of men and women trying to escape their prison. Its teeth were made of a substance sharper and stronger than any weapon known to man or god. The side of its tongues were covered in jagged, razor sharp weapons that would bring a new death to those souls who tried to escape Dis.
Its chest began to become more prominent as the souls trapped within its skin attempted to push their way through its fur. The beast, though, narrowed its eyes and began a menacing growl as it forced the souls to cease their attempt at escape. While the young maiden and the little girl walked hand in hand deeper into the heart of Hades following the procession of those who were dead, two souls were running towards them. They were being pursued by two creatures that had the bodies of men, yet they had the heads of owls that kept extending as the souls kept escaping their clutches.
The viristrixes finally grabbed hold of one of the souls with their claws and began pecking at its face and body, tearing the flesh from bone until nothing was left except its skeleton. The other soul glanced back to find its companion completely devoured yet its skeletal remains still stirring in agony for it was already dead and within the Gates of Erebus. It could not relive death for once within Hades, the soul lives forever and cannot be cast out.
The other soul kept running to the gates seizing the opportunity that the misfortune of his companion had brought him. It ran past the procession of the dead and yelled at them, "Fools! Escape while you can. Fools!" The viristrixes were still pecking at the remains of the other foolish soul that had not escaped their grasp.
The beast caught a glimpse of the single soul proceeding to the exit of the Underworld. Its eyes narrowed on the soul and the souls trapped within its pupil began to stir as the creature became enraged. It forced its fur to be completely still and it merged with the shadows that the lack of light in the Underworld created.
The soul beamed with delight as it realized that the gate was only a few feet away, but once it caught a glimpse of the harpies hovering around the Gates of Erebus its delight and hope was vanquished. It remembered how the viristrixes had happily devoured its companion. The more it thought about his unlucky companion the more fear began to pump into its dead heart, but it kept running toward the gates praying to the gods that they be merciful and let it through. The gods, however, do not concern themselves with the dead and could care less for someone who was no longer paying tribute to them. Out of the shadows the dog like beast appeared behind the soul. Its paws shook the ground every time it took a step making it visible even to those on the bridge of the gates. The soul, however, was preoccupied by the harpies and other creatures lurking beyond the gates that it could not sense the creature lurking behind.
The beast wished to catch the soul by surprise, so it decided to move no further than it should. Without warning it slowly released its souls from its body. First it released those who had killed the innocent during their power hungry campaigns from its tail. They slipped off of the creature's tail and began marching towards the soul. They looked like waves slowly advancing to the shore for they were so many that they simply created one single threatening obstacle. Some of the souls looked beyond the gate, their escape tantalizing them, but the beast quickly regained control over them and ordered them to finally seize the soul.
They drew out their weapons, which were poisoned by the River Acheron and made of the same metal that the beast's weapons were constructed of. One of the soldiers grabbed the soul by surprise from behind and cut off its ear. The soul yelled in agony, yet the procession of the dead going further into the Underworld paid no attention for they were concerned for their own well-being. Another of the dead soldiers decided to pierce him through the heart with a small dagger. The soul dropped to its knees keeping its eyes fixed on the gate. The soldiers followed the soul's line of vision and saw that it looked beyond the Gates of Erebus to its escape. When they caught sight of what he kept glancing at they all let out a deep, growling laugh. One of the soldiers grabbed its sword and sawed through the soul's foot and threw it beyond the gate where one of the harpies caught it.
While being dragged to the beast, the soul kept shouting and pleading for mercy. "I'll never try to escape again. Just let me live. I will behave and go further into the darkness. Please, let me go…I beg you." The souls of the soldiers just kept on laughing at it and making jokes of its misery. The terrible creature emerged from the shadows and called its souls back into it. The souls of the soldiers merged with those on its paws and they slowly travelled back to their place of residency like water flowing through a cluttered stream. The soul lay cowering before the beast in a pool of blood. The beast emitted a bark so horrible that even the harpies shuddered. Its bark reverberated through every single part of its body.
As it barked it released some of the souls from its paws leaving empty voids throughout its paws that were filled by other souls, causing its paws to shrink. About twenty of the creature's souls encircled the unfortunate soul lying on the ground. They grabbed a hold of it and carried it directly in front of the creature, which growled each time it tried to move itself.
"Please! I beg you, have mercy! Have mercy!" it shrieked in a desperate attempt to save itself. But the creature crouched low to the ground and sniffed the soul. All those who were his prisoners began to laugh for they knew what would occur within the next few moments. It had once occurred to them. The head in the middle grabbed it with its teeth and swallowed it whole. After a couple of minutes, something could be seen moving through the shadows of the side of its neck. The soul had become a shadow moving along the creature's skin until it ceased its struggling and became one of the shades forever controlled by Hades' most loyal guard and pet, Cerberus.
As the soul had become part of Cerberus, the young maiden and the girl continued their journey further into the land of the dead. When they had reached the murky waters of the Acheron, that never ceased their rippling, they noticed a ferry resting on the shore. It was covered in decorations of gems, but, also, illustrations of a man kneeling over a stream before three men with white beards and hair, and crowns resting upon their brows. As the procession of dead souls advanced to the ferry, the illustration morphed into a depiction of the three old men turning their backs to the man who appeared to be screaming in anguish. Suddenly, the side of the ferry turned to crimson as the earth beneath them began to tremble while fire and lava shot into the sky in the middle of ascending spiral of the river. The roar of the eruption itself began to ripple the water even more. The souls all dropped to their knees and covered their heads with their arms, afraid of being burnt.
Once the fire had died down and the trembling ceased, a hooded figure stepped off the ferry and in front of the cowering souls. Suddenly, a voice seemed to travel through all directions and didn't seem to have one set location from which it started. "All that I require is that which you already possess. Present it to me and you shall continue your journey into the depths of the Underworld." With that the hooded figure stepped onto its ferry beckoning the others to follow him.
No one wished to step forward in the land of darkness. A few looked back to the bridge and the idea of trying to escape washed over their faces. They had all witnessed what had happened to the poor soul that had tried to escape, an end worse than death. Turning back their gaze upon the ferry, a few began to step forward for they feared the unknown but feared Hades' loyal servant even more. As soon as they stepped onto the ferry, the hooded figure stepped out before them with a pithos floating nonchalantly by its side. The hooded figure whispered, "I seek that which you have."
Without much thought the souls dropped their obolos into the pithos. As the small silver coin fell into the storage jar, its sound was never heard. The ferry did not contain seats of any kind; instead, the floor was littered with obolos and drachmas so that whenever anyone would take a step, they could hear the shifting of the coins on the floor.
As the dead finished boarding the ferry, they found that there was barely enough space for people to breath let alone empty space for more people to sit. The hooded figure slithered its way to the entrance to his ferry and closed it. He began to hum a tune while he cast the ship off and, suddenly, the ferry began its ascent up the River Acheron. While the hooded figure hummed low and deep, the water of the river began to respond. Slowly, a similar sound began to emerge from the waters and the passengers of the ferry could see shadows swimming up the river. Suddenly, the hooded figure ceased its humming and gave a small sigh as the voices in the water began to fade away into the deep shadows of the river.
The hooded figure stood near the entrance of the ferry and turned to face the crowd of dead souls. The pithos came floating back to him and he reached inside of it and pulled out a staff. The staff was made purely of the coins of the dead. At the head of the staff there was a hollow sapphire gem filled with the water of a certain river from the realm of Hades.
Suddenly, he struck the ferry with his staff while in a powerful voice he said, "Stand!" Immediately, the pithos fell to the floor and spewed out all of its contents. The coins began to crawl to each other and form large masses of piled coins. They seemed to be melting into each other. Huge puddles of melted gold, silver, and bronze lay on the floor, but suddenly they began to rise in thin streams that flowed through the air like snakes slithering on land. Within a few moments benches of gold and silver began to fill the ferry and the dead began to take a seat. Some benches were not fully solidified so that souls seated upon them would move up and down in their seats as the ferry swayed in the river.
At the back of the ferry the hooded figure stood and called to everyone, "Welcome to the Underworld. I am known as Charon, the ferry-man of the dead, which would be you. I will be guiding you in your journey through the Underworld whether you are assigned to Tartarus, the Fields of Asphodel, Elysium, or the Islands of the Blessed. As a warning, do not try to escape the ferry for if you jump into the River Acheron you will suffer something worse than death itself and will simply cease to exist. The Acheron does not take kindly to the stench of the dead. Enjoy your passage through Dis, but do not do anything reckless to bring upon your own demise."
As he led them through the Underworld, they passed by the grey void of the Fields of Asphodel where those who were both wicked and good dwell. They passed by Elysium and were barely able to capture a glimpse of souls dancing around to a soul playing the lyre. Elysium had a luminescent glow that cancelled the grey and black of the Underworld. As they passed, while they ascended up the spiraling Acheron, they felt happiness come into their hearts, but as soon the land of Elysium was behind them, they fell back into their gloom and anticipation. Charon kept humming to himself as he kept on swirling the water inside his sapphire orb. Every now and again the dead could hear the lulling sound of humming pass underneath the ferry.
The lands of the different levels of the Underworld were below and as they kept going up the river everything slowly became darker and the waters of the Acheron became deeper. The river kept flowing upward, but it was no longer linked to any sort of land mass. Instead, it flowed up in mid-air. The passengers could feel things lurking underneath the murky waters slightly colliding into the ferry and having it sway side to side.
As they kept sailing on the river, they could see the debris of rock further up above them in the distance. An island of land floated above them with harpies and viristrixes flying underneath the island and keeping their eyes on the ferry of the dead. Some hanged upside down sleeping like bats. When they finally reached the island, the river ceased its ascent and flowed horizontally onto the small island.
In the distance, not more than a mile in the distance stood a mountain which was larger and taller than that of Olympus. The mountain loomed over the barren land. On the sides of the mountain there stood carved balconies that opened up into the darkness of the Underworld. There also stood a double gated entrance way, which was made of marble ionic columns that had the top of the column in gold as well as the bases. Above the columns was a pediment of sculptures that had sculpted scenes of a man, made of gold and ivory, sitting on a throne with a warrior's helmet resting on the arm of his throne. At his feet lay his loyal beast with three monstrous heads. Immediately on his left was an empty space. On his right were two men made of marble significantly smaller than him both wearing crowns of kings and on his left was a man of smaller height with a crown upon his head and his clothing had geometric patterns that began to form a shifting labyrinth. On opposite ends were two reclining figures that had folded wings. One of these figures was slowly falling asleep, while the other seemed to be holding a dead figure in the palm of his hand. The figures would move and interact with one another, but the empty spot next to the throne always remained vacant. The king in the middle put on his helm and vanished into thin air. The souls looked at these with amazement as they quickly approached the mountain.
The River Acheron seemed to be approaching the mountain, but it suddenly turned right and was approaching a palace, which was on top of a hill, that had six doric columns made entirely of gold. On top were three sculpted relief scenes. Each scene kept changing as the minutes passed. At one moment one depicted a man rolling a huge rock up the hill only to have it roll back down the hill before he got to the top. Another showed a man grabbing a tree while he was in water; he would reach for the fruit on the tree but the tree would slowly turn its branches away from him and when he tried to drink the water of the river, the river would slowly drain. The other displayed a man tied to a rock as an eagle swooped down and picked at his flesh. Then the scenes shifted to a man playing the lyre, a woman dancing and men drinking among their friends. After that, the scenes changed to women screaming and pulling out their hair, men crying and people just staring off into the distance, devoid of life, of happiness, of pain.
Charon steered the ferry more slowly and docked the ferry near the bank of the river. When he docked, he hit the floor of the ferry with his staff and the entrance and exit to the ferry opened. Moving closer to the people, he advised them, "Do not be so foolish as to cause your own doom. Law and Justice are always upheld in the land of Hades. Everyone justly receives their due. Do not think yourself higher than the gods and try to escape Fate. Once your Fate has been spoken, you can never escape it. Enter into the Palace of Judgment and do not wander off the lit path for you will find things that are not for mortal eyes. You may now disembark…and remember…heed my words."
They all stepped off the ferry and began to follow the road lit by candles suspended in midair. All along the roads stood statues of warriors, both men and women, who kept shifting their glances to make sure that none strayed from the path. One statue dragged a body that had tried to venture off the path. The woman statue stood on the side of the path with the body kneeling on the floor, its eyes gouged out. The soul wailed and cried, but the statue finally kicked it back onto the path forcing it to finish its journey.
The entrance to the palace was composed of two ionic columns carved of marble and had two sphinxes carved into it. As they entered the palace they stepped into darkness, the candles only had enough power to light the path not the surrounding area. Finally, they had entered into a room filled by the light of candles positioned on the walls of the room. The room led to three different doors. One had a minotaur emerging from the Labyrinth carved into it. Another had a man on the floor wailing and crying. The other had a man with a crown in the middle of men and women dancing and drinking.
In the middle of the room stood three statues of women decorated with beautiful draping chitons and peplos. They each held a balance of scales in their hands. The lights in the room slowly began to dim and the statues began to talk. Together the statues of women chanted,
"Beyond these doors lies your Fate
It is not possible to Escape.
One by one you will file in,
To rediscover who you are and how you lived.
Justice will decide your place in Hades
The Fate that you will never flee."
"There are three doors that are all the same so decide to enter one and meet your Fate," the statue on the left instructed. Little by little, the dead began to form a line behind each door. Suddenly, each door opened to reveal that the doors all led to the same room. In the middle of the room, there was a small circular pond and above it on the roof was a circular opening into the Underworld. Blue water that almost looked black spilled from the opening of the roof into the small pond. The water flowed out from the pond to the sides of the enormous room and out of the rooms of the palace. Further past the ponds stood three thrones carved out of the very terrain from the Underworld. On each one sat a man with a white beard and a crown upon his brow. Each throne has the same craved scenes as the doors did. At the back of the room stood a throne bigger and taller than the other three that overlooked the room and all its happenings. The man who sat upon the throne with the Minotaur slowly stood up and spoke in such a clear and loud voice that all those in line could hear him. He said, "You have now almost completed your journey in the afterlife. You shall stand before us three and you shall be judged for your deeds when your soul still inhabited your body. We are the three judges of the Underworld. I am Minos."
The man in the throne that had the wailing man carved on the throne stood next and averred, "I am Aeacus."
Lastly, the man in the throne of the man surrounded by mirth stood and spoke quietly and softly with a smile on his face, "I am Rhadamanthys. May the little one standing under the middle door please enter."
The little girl entered timidly and slowly. When she was fully in the room, all three doors closed and the little girl stood before the three who judge the souls of the dead.
Minos looked at the little girl with a kind heart, "Come closer to the water my dear. We will not hurt you, only if you have done wrong in your life." All three judges stepped forward to the small pond in front on them. Aecus held a small vase in his hands. He dipped it into the water and slowly filled it to the brim as he kept muttering words under his breath. Then Rhadamanthys held out a krater for Aecus to poor the water into. Minos stood before the krater staring at its shifting waters. He let out a small sigh and poured the water into a small golden cup. He then threw the water into the air and slowly a mist began to form on top of the pond and the little girl began to remember who she was.
The mist slowly enveloped the entire room. The little girl began to see images of her mother handing her a water jar to fill at the water fountains, but it was too heavy for her to carry so she simply followed her mother, who carried it instead. Images of her life began to flash by, each one reminding her of who she was. She saw images of her little brothers being held by her father, who let them hold his sword and shield, while she sat in the corner of the room learning to weave. Images of houses burning flooded the mist and she caught a glimpse of her father grabbing his sword and shield and instructing his wife to take herself and the children into the citadel. They entered the citadel through an entrance that appeared to be built by Cyclopes because it was so big and was adorned with two lions facing each other on the top. Days passed and the cistern provided enough water for all the refugees, but after weeks the food supply began to be scarce. There was not sufficient food for everyone. The little girl sat on the ground with her mother and siblings. Her stomach growled as her mother gave most of the food to her little boys. Boys that could one day defend the city as their father did. The little girl became weak as the food became less and less satisfying and eventually there was no food left for her. Then darkness spread through the mist after catching a few glimpses of her mother crying with her little boys situated on her lap eating her ration of food.
The little girl began to cry as she remembered everything that had happened. She remembered the war, the lack of food, the congestion inside the walled citadel and her mother begging her to be strong for her brothers. Minos stepped forward and the mist completely disappeared.
He spoke softly to her, "Do not cry, little one. All your suffering and pain is now over. Your life saved the lives of your little brothers, a noble thing. You are so full of innocence and good. You never inflicted any wrong upon anyone. You are not a criminal. Your soul is good and pure."
Suddenly the three judges stepped forward and began to speak simultaneously as the water from the River Lethe began to turn into the clearest blue, "You lived a life full of innocence and purity. All your pain and suffering shall now be vanquished. You shall be sentenced to the Fields of Elysium, where you shall rejoice for eternity and know no sorrow. Your heart will be full of happiness for all eternity."
The pond turned to its normal color as Rhadamanthys instructed the little girl to take the candle lit path out of the room and back to the ferry. Before the little girl left, she gave a hug to Minos, who kindly pushed her to the lit path.
As she left, the three doors once again opened to reveal all the dead waiting to be judged. "Young maiden standing under the door of Rhadamanthys step forward to receive judgment."
The young maiden stepped forward and jumped as the doors shut rapidly behind her. Minos looked at her and said, "Come closer, young maiden. Do not be afraid for we do not harm anyone, we may only decide their Fate."
She stepped closer and the judges once again gathered the water from the pond. When Minos looked upon the water in the cup, he took in a quick breath. As he threw the water into the air and the mist began to form he told Aeacus, "Lord Hades needs to be informed of the way this young maiden had her life stolen from her. This is the one he warned us of."
The mist began to reveal images of a young man, with electric blue eyes that reflected the shifting of the sky. It was as if his eyes were the heavens themselves.