Archive for the ‘Cloaked Revenge’ Category

It did not take long for Acheron to prepare himself for the journey. He had but a few belongings and, as he did not foresee the task taking more than a day, he chose to keep his packing light. Just a few loaves of bread and water made up the contents of his bag and a small dagger with a bone handle was thrust inside his belt, away from prying eyes. He did not expect to use it but his years as a thief and rogue had taught him to prepare for danger. Maybe if he had had it with him on the day he died the scorned husband would not have thwarted him so easily.

They journeyed in silence, the men moving quickly across the barren landscape and dust billowed around them as their leather-clad feet disturbed the sandy ground. The sun was hot and Acheron could feel the perspiration forming a glistening shine on his tiring body. He longed to rest but his companions, used to the exhausting heat, obliviously marched forwards on the unrelenting flat landscape.

Acheron trudged behind them, each mile becoming increasing difficult. Lykos, the taller of the two men with long, boney limbs that dangled freely as he loped across the sand, occasionally turned to check that the man was still following him but Dareious, who was much more thickset, trudged forward oblivious of their entourage. His balding head was developing a red hue as the sun beat down on to his exposed skin, creating white lines as he grimaced through this unwanted task.

“We’re here.” Lykos uttered suddenly, stopping swiftly making Acheron stumble behind him.  Picking up a jagged rock he etched a circle into the dusty sand with an embellished horizontal line at the centre that was curved at either end forming the capital letter Theta. In a hushed voice he whispered “Domos Haidou”. Beneath Acheron’s feet the ground began to vibrate, increasing in intensity until he lost his footing and hurtled to the floor. A deafening sound filled his ears; a high pitched squeal piercing through the low rumble echoing across the land. Acheron’s head ached from the sound and, although he struggled to stand, his legs could no longer bear his weight and he crumpled back to the ground.

Acheron screamed with the pain and clutched his ears in a futile to attempt to block out the sickening noise. His mouth tried to formulate the word ‘help’ but no matter how much he tried he couldn’t summon the breath to speak. High above black shadows began to form, moving with stealth across the otherwise clear skies. Drawing closer they began to reveal the terrifying silhouettes of huge winged creatures twisting above him, weaving between each other getting closer towards Acheron. Stymphalian birds swarmed overhead, the sunlight glinting off their metallic bodies making Acheron squint as he struggled to watch them gracefully glide through the air. Their bodies entwined into a perpetual ball of twisting metal, ever moving but never colliding as if their paths had been preordained. With a powerful beat they simultaneously pointed their huge wings downwards and launched a rain of metallic feathers that fell to the ground like a shower of daggers towards the paralysed Acheron. He tried to move but the high-pitched squeal had taken away his energy and all he could do was watch as the razor sharp spikes cascaded all around him.

A bright glint passed across Acheron’s eyes as one narrowly missed his face, but others sliced into his arm and thigh and he felt a burning pain course through his body as the red hot metal seared into his skin. The smell of smoldering flesh filled his senses as his skin blackened around the wound and tiny white blisters began to form. The world began to cloud into an agonizing darkness and, as his eyes began to close in defeat, he felt a hand clasp his arm firmly and the sound disappeared into the distance leaving behind it the loud hum of his reeling eardrums.

“I apologise for that, a little deterrent for disobedient souls.” Dareious laughed with an evil callousness. “We are immune as gatekeepers but you were not so lucky.”

Acheron looked down to examine his wounds but there was nothing there; his tanned thigh appeared to be undamaged except for a graze from a rock when he fell. “But…my leg…the birds…” He stuttered.

“Ah, it appears you were subjected to the most horrifying of illusions, the Stymphalian birds; horrid creatures with beaks of bronze and metallic feathers that they launch at their frightened victims. Quite the worst of Hades’ visions but you are safe, they reside in the marshes and one hasn’t been seen near here for thousands of years.”

“Visions?” Acheron asked.

“Visions…hallucinations you might say. Hades plays tricks with your mind to make you believe you are in peril. Men have been known to go insane as the fear consumes them and they are forever haunted with paranoia of its return. Many have endeavoured to leave the Underworld once but none twice.”

In the empty prison only a low growling remained, strangely quieter than usual as if a sense of acceptance had been reached. Hades listened for a while, unconsciously matching his own breathing to the fierce exhalations of his captive and his body calmed in the hypnotic rhythm.

It stopped. Hades held is breath waiting for the sound to return…10 seconds, 30 seconds, maybe more. The silence was excruciating. Slowly Hades edged closer, approaching the door with trepidation and fear. He raised his now shaking hand towards a small steel hatch and listened carefully as he rested his fingers on the handle. The smallest noise and he would turn away, assured that the occupant was still alive. But it did not come. Gently, he slid across the hatch.

A ferocious snarl broke the silence as the creature’s body hammered against the door and long claws thrust out of the hole, slicing into Hades face. Throwing himself backwards onto the hard ground he clutched his face, feeling the warm blood flow through his hand and down his sun-beaten skin.

“You bastard, Hades.” The voice bellowed from inside the cell, “I will kill you, finish what I should have done when you were born. The end is coming my boy, The Furies have foreseen it. You and your pathetic empire will fall.”

An eye peered through the hatch, burning red with a ring of gold. It stared, unblinking, at the cowering God, its menace piercing Hades normal self-assured disposition. The demon’s words had chilled him to the core and a sudden weakness overcame him. “You’re wrong,” He shouted with hatred, “I will endure, there is nothing you can do to hurt me anymore.”

“I am but frail and old, you are probably correct. Just one question, how is your mother, Hades?” The corners of his eye creased up into a callous smile.

“Do not utter her name, she is no longer of any concern to you.”

“You have grown into such strong rulers, more than I could have ever imagined.” The eye, still transfixed on Hades, became a gentle blue-green and the pupil widened as he spoke with gentility. “I’m proud of you and your brothers.”

“We do not need the admiration of a tyrant.” Hades replied coldly and slammed the hatch shut sealing him in once more. Turning his back on the door he began to walk away.

“Thank you for our conference, Hades,” The creature shouted through the stone wall, “I do look forward to our discussions.” His bellowing laughter echoed through the corridor and Hades left him alone to his own amusement.

“Do you have any proof of her infidelity?” Poseidon asked his brother. He supped his deep red wine from a highly ornate chalice, letting the flavour dance on his taste buds for a moment before allowing the warmth to slip down his throat. “Are you not judging her unfairly? She did, after all, defy her family to be with you and it would seem curious for her to succumb to some second rate mortal.”

“I saw them together on the morning that he travelled here with Theseus; she was laughing so gaily, the like I had never been able to yield in her. Also, Charon overheard the men whispering…”

“Charon?” Poseidon laughed, drenching his white robes with a cascade of red wine. “You are basing your surmises on the word of an insidious ferryman that would betray you as quick as look at you? Please Hades, think about what you are suggesting or it will be your downfall.” He stared forlornly at his older brother who stared distantly to the lands beyond the rivers, clutching to the vain hope that Persephone would return to him. “She will be gone for many more months yet, not to return till autumn turns the green leaves to gold and things will feel different then. Time is a great healer; if you truly love her and her you, then you will cast aside all jealousies and your relationship will be subsequently stronger. Now is not the time to act whilst tempers boil high and all reasoning is lost in the clouds of your betrayal.”

“So you too believe I was betrayed?”

“Honestly, no, I do not believe she has done anything more than enjoyed the company of another man, although with your frequent transgressions she had more reason than most. You have to remember that she was an earth dweller, her mother Demeter bathed her in the all the beauty that the world had to offer. To leave that to spend a third of her year residing in such a barren wasteland with only the most loathsome characters of the earth to provide her company left her frequently very lonely. This Pirithous fellow told her tales of her home and her beloved ward Adonis and it brought her comfort.”

“This is her home! I never once denied her visitors; she used to spend hours with Aphrodite ambling along the banks of the river conversing about earthly affairs.  I allowed it to continue despite my disapproval of this pairing owing to her friend’s well-known indiscretions outside of her marital bed. No, I do not accept that she was lonely. I gave her everything she needed, made her queen of the entire underworld. What need would she have for such base trivialities?” Hades turned his head from his brother not wishing to witness his disapproving gaze.

“You allowed her? Oh my dear brother, if you have any chance of winning back her love you must cease referring her to a possession as you would a servant or that pesky dog of yours.”

Deep in the chasms, far below the surface of Tartanus, Hades hastened to replace the chain around the stone door, sealing the unfortunate inhabitant inside the windowless prison. Once closed the cell offered no light and many prisoners had become blind from the complete devoid of light. Hades reserved these imprisonments for the most repulsive creatures, left to rot inside their own minds and slowly deteriorate into an internal madness as a fitting punishment for their heinous crimes. Although he rarely interacted with his prisoners Hades visited this one frequently; this one was different.

“Hades,” a soft voice whispered from behind him.

A swell filled his stomach as he recognized the sweet sound of the person behind him. “Persephone,” he exclaimed as he turned to see his beautiful wife standing before him in a long, red velvet dress. “You have returned to me, oh my love you have returned.”

“I could no longer be away from you; I should never have left.” She replied, a small smile escaping from the corner of her mouth. “I was wrong, I should have obeyed you and kept my attention solely focused on my husband.”

For a moment Hades stared at the beauty of the woman; her smooth, pale white skin and her deep blue eyes that twinkled in the candlelight made her glow with a warmth that drove many a man to madness as he became lost in her allure. He walked towards her and held her softly by the waist, the tips of his fingers gently caressing the contours of her lower back and gradually moving up her spine until he reached the petite nape of her neck. He cupped her face tenderly, caressing her lips with his fingertips and she looked at him with lustful eyes, moving her mouth upwards to meet his expectant lips. Hades paused and smiled as she passionately hung in the promise of his embrace, her eyes widening with every minute as her increasing desire grew. But in a moment his loving smile transformed into an angry grimace, his face contorting with vehement hatred. With his large hands he grasped her throat, squeezing his muscular fingers into her windpipe and lifting her from the ground by her neck. “You contemptible hag, how dare you try to trick me? I should have you tortured for your insolence you contemptible vile creature. Which one are you? It matters not, all three are equally as repulsive and not fitting to impersonate one so pure.” Her body now hung limply and she made gurgling sounds as she desperately tried to beg for her freedom.  Her eyes, which were now an oily black across the entire surface, began to lose focus he propelled her body, limp with fear, across the corridor and left her in a crumpled heap against the stone wall.

“It was but a mere jest, my Lord.” Her voice, once sweet, had dissolved into a high-pitched rasp and her lungs rattled as she panted for breath. No longer wearing the elegant velvet dress she was now attired in a blood soaked dress that barely covered her sore covered skin that oozed with pus as she writhed quietly on the wet floor, soaked with the urine of terrified prisoners. Wrapped around her cowering body were black wings of translucent skin stretched across a skeletal frame.

“So it is you, Tisiphone, you vengeful disgrace for an immortal. I suppose your sisters are near to watch your amusements. Show yourselves to your master, Furies.” Deep inside a blackened corner two rocks began to move, elongated shapes protruding out and unfurling into the shapes of two more females. Both were grotesque like their sister and wore the same haggard faces with skin that wrapped itself tightly around its boney surface. They wore cloth around their middle, torn and bloodied from their hunts but their legs and torsos were uncovered except for snakes that weaved between their breasts and around their small waists as if searching for prey.

“How did you uncover our ruse?” One crone said as she stretched her wings after her recent confinement. Her bright red hair fell in large, messy curls and swept across her face covering her oily, black eyes like deep pools of nothingness; the soulless void where emotion had been sucked from her and her sisters when they grew from the blood of the castrated Uranus.

“Although, Alectro, your sister looked every bit the image of pure perfection she forgot one small detail. Persphone is a strong willed woman and would never admit such shortcomings in her nature. In future you must observe your characters more closely for looks are not the only perception of character.” Hades replied, his tempers waning slightly. “Now, tell me what purpose you have here, did I not give you a task to complete?”

“We have done what you asked. We are merely here to check upon our captive, my lord.” Megaera, the quieter of the three Furies, uttered her reply softly. Her head bowed down towards the floor, unable to look directly at the God, and she flicked her wings nervously.

“For your sake I hope so. Now leave me, find some other unfortunate soul to inflict your distasteful trickeries on.” Hades heard the women scurry away up the corridor, their long nails tapping on the stone floor as they scampered on all fours like animals and their callous cackles disappeared on the windless air.

 

The girl sat huddled alone on the edge of the cliff overlooking Tartanus, the gentle curves of the small figure creating a silhouette against the turbulent sky that was streaked with purple in a stormed fury. The moon shone down like a spotlight highlighting the girl and her luscious, curly hair, that fell carelessly down to her waist, shimmered in the silvery light, the colour of which Acheron had never before seen. The left half of her thick locks was a bright white that shone with a luminescent glow but the right side was a deep black that absorbed the light around her.

Acheron, you must not do the dark lord’s bidding, he has a darker purpose for you and I mean to warn you.” She said, her voice soft and lilting like a well-known melody sung sweetly flowing from the lips of a nurturing mother.

Who are you?” He took a step forward and tried to peer around the girl to catch a glimpse of her face but she drew herself closer, wrapping her arms around her knees tightly.

I am recognized by all men but known by none. Through your dreams I twist my spirit, tormenting your unconscious musings with dark lust and regretful fantasies. But now I carry a crucial message, one you must heed or great peril lies before you. The young child, Adonis, is treasured amongst Gods and men alike. Do not meddle in divine disputes for Hades is an unforgiving man.”

I am grateful for your concern but he holds no fear for me. Whatever threats Hades feels he has to unsettle my existence he has none, for I have nothing left to lose.”

You have more to lose than you yourself can comprehend…where is your brother, Acheron?” She paused to allow him to speak but no words came to his lips. “He is in grave danger; don’t turn your back on your flesh for a truth that is better left lied buried in your past.” Without looking behind her she arose, walked forward and, in a moment, she disappeared, her spirit dispersing into the night sky.