Charon had more patience than Hades. And it irked. The boatman had a single task, and it was damned straightforward. Ferry the fucking dead. It certainly didn’t fall to the ferryman to solve problems presented by the endless embarkation of souls.
Or worse, wait out a panic attack, a wailing regret, a tearful recrimination or steadfast refusal.
Aeons of passengers carried hourly across the Styx and now a bottleneck was crowding the shore of Feneos. All because a child wouldn’t board without the scruffy terrier held fast in her arms.
Lovingly, Charon corrected him. Lovingly in her arms.
The god and the psychopomp stood on the dock, shoulder to shoulder, looking out over the ever-growing horde of human souls. The child stood trembling at the front of the masses, the dog asleep in her embrace, its head pressed against her throat. Her soul was keeping the mutt incarnate.
Hades was of a mind to wrench the creature away and let it dissolve into the aether. Charon had sensed this somehow and laid his long-fingered hand on the god’s forearm, the meaning clear. Don’t.
A sibilant hiss from the Lord of the Underworld. What do you suggest, he asked, but the question was delivered with a stoic exhaustion. Death needed a holiday.
Let her say goodbye.
It’s already gone.
She doesn’t know that. Her love is keeping it suspended. She can’t let go.
She will let go. It’s ordained.
In an effort to complete their journey, Souls had begun wading into the lapping river, up to their ankles, their knees, then bending and folding into the water, silently carried away by the swift and unseen undercurrent. Not acceptable. Downstream they would clog the confluence. Hades closed his eyes and breathed noisily out both nostrils. I have an idea, he told Charon. In the meantime, get back to work.
) O (
) O (
Twenty-three minutes later he was back on the dock, the three-headed Cerberus at heel. He didn’t, actually, know much about the souls of animals and trees, insects and flowers. Watching over the souls of the human dead was his reason for being and it kept him very, very busy.
He was pleased to see that Charon had nearly cleared the vast plain, the Shades moving forward in a calm and orderly fashion. As it should be. As it had always been. And always would remain.
The child was sitting, the pup in her lap. He marveled at the strength of the bond between the two souls. The girl's eyes had glossed white, and Hades knew she was no longer seeing the present and the past was falling away.
He squatted down beside her and gently lifted the dog into one arm, holding it tight against his own body, then took one of the child’s small hands in his, helping her back to her feet. She went up on tiptoe and he leaned down so she could press her lips against the head of the little dog. Then he boosted her up high onto the back of the Hounds of Hell. She buried her face in the thick black fur and held on for dear death.
Hades felt the weight of the dog’s soul, nestled in the crook of his arm lighten and disappear. Charon watched him from the boat and they both waved goodbye, goodbye, fare well.
Note: I do believe that somehow in some way we remain with our beloveds. This fic is more in keeping with the classical perception of The Underworld.
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