A twisted tale of Greek mythology, where Keres are warriors and death is a pleasure.
| Hermes flitted through the endless lines of souls, their moans cutting through his concentration. He had another whining soul to transport. They were all the same, the “Why did this happen to me?”’s and “I’m not a bad person”’s ricocheting off the high ceilings into the vast pits of nothingness. They all said the same things and it ran into background music. This soul was special though, different from the others. He held on to the silver wisps of the man’s arm and pulled him through the gates. The gatekeeper, Cerberus held his ground and kept the wandering dead at bay.
Hades sat on his throne of bones, the vessels of his servants bringing a small ounce of comfort into his life. Small, childlike skulls were perched on the top of the throne above his head and an ottoman made of deteriorating feet propped his sandaled legs up. The flesh crawled with maggots and larvae when he set his feet on the leathery skin. Infant feet held up the legs and the skin was turning black with the dirt and unknown particles being stirred in the air whenever someone entered. A golden snake was wrapped around the head of Hades’ scepter, its red eyes glowing in the dim lighting and it rested over Hades’ black silk-robed knee. The ivory of the shaft was a stark contrast against the black cloaking of the Underworld.
A young woman with black wings sat on the ground next to Hades, her body covered by a chiton of red silk, the material a distinct polarity with her fair skin. A large sword was strapped to her waist, the blue steel blade flashing with the flickering light of the flames in the corners of the palace. The gold hilt was embedded with Brazilian Emeralds and the green gems shone with the immense care Ker put into cleaning her prized possession. She rubbed her hand over the blade, collecting the beads of blood running along the edge and ran her tongue over the blood covered thumb. A little of the life force stuck to her lips and her pink tongue darted out to rightfully claim the red liquid once again. Her feathered wings folded perfectly into her back, so she could lean against the throne with ease. She felt Hades’ hand run through her hair and she reached up to pat the flyaway strands back into place. She closed her eyes and hummed in contentment as the hand returned, threading its fingers through the umber curls. Hermes floated down to the obsidian floor and rustled his robe to catch the attention of the King of the Dead. The faraway look in his eye almost immediately went away and his fingers stilled in Ker’s mahogany locks. He noticed the fearful soul clinging to Hermes and rolled his eyes. A light tap on Ker’s shoulder and a silent conversation between themselves was all it took for Ker to pick herself up off the floor, brush her robes off and walk down the hallway to her sleeping quarters. She branched off to visit Cerberus and flexed her wings as she walked, the tips brushing the walls around her. Along her walk, she passed several of her siblings; Thanatos, Hypnos, Nemesis, Eris, Oneiroi, Keres, Aether, Epiphron, Hemera and Moros, all going about their days without a faintest idea of what was going on in the throne room. If only she could be so näive.
Hades was such a lonely person, his only wife gone most of the year to be with her mother, Dementer, and Zeus. She had told Hades that she was only a handmaiden there, but the last time Ker was there Persephone had looked like a lot more than a handmaiden; sitting in his lap, laughing and playing with his beard. Ker sympathized for Hera, Zeus’ wife, for she was sitting in her throne, not six feet away, having to watch this mess unfold before her eyes. The daggers she was throwing in their direction was a minuscule piece of what she was really feeling. The last time that Persephone had come back to her rightful place in the Underworld, she moaned about the pains of having to work for Zeus. Hades was so blind-sided by his infatuation with her that he didn’t see that she was lying to his face. Ker was infuriated with the look of glee on Persephone’s face and she cornered her in the dark hallway, threatening to end the goddess of innocence’s life by snapping her to pieces, prying her commissures apart while watching the life fade from the worshiped queen’s eyes. She knew that she really couldn’t kill an immortal, but the fear in the goddess’ eyes told her that Persephone didn’t know that. Ker didn’t like seeing pain that she hadn’t administered and was disgusted by Persephone’s choice to pull the wool over Hades’ eyes rather than tell him that she wasn’t in love with him anymore. She felt oddly protective of the Ruler of the Underworld. He had always gotten the short end of the stick, having first been eaten by his own father then to have the draw of the Underworld. He seemed happy with his pick, but he was left out of what was happening above him in the world of life.
The hallway opened up into the outside world and the souls all turned and watched her walk down the steps of the palace. Her wing bones stretched and popped into place as she spread her wings and started to glide over the Plain of Judgement. The dead looked on with awe, for they had never seen a goddess with wings. She spiraled over her newly found audience, liking the attention she was receiving for her childish antics. The goddess of violent death flipped and twirled, laughing all the while. She dropped silently behind Cerberus and padded over to the three-headed dog. She hovered by the large dog to scratch the fur underneath the spiked collar. One of the black heads turned and slid his tongue up the length of Ker. She giggled and ruffled the downy soft ears atop the head and after whispering a few compliments into Cerberus’ ear, she flew on, leaving the playful-turned-guard dog behind. Her next stop was to meet Charon, her last brother and the ferryman of the Styx, to take her over the river and back to the world above.
“How are the parents?” Charon asked, his voice raspy from the days of silence. He slowly pulled his oar through the murky waters of the Styx, the skiff pulling ahead slightly on each stroke.
“Eh, the same. Living ‘happily’ in the Pit. Who in the right mind likes Tartarus? But they are Nyx and Erebus, they’d like anything dark. Though people are saying that they’ve seen them out and about. But those are just filthy rumors, right?” Ker brushed Charon’s arm with her wing and watched the old man shiver as the feathers ran down his bicep.
“Don’t do that,” he said, pulling away slightly, “You know that creeps me out.” They were approaching the bank quickly and the dead on the other side were reaching out with golden coins in their hands.
“An old man scared of a little feather. It most definitely will terrify an immortal,” Ker mused and quietly hopped out of the skiff when it breached the shore. “Thanks for the ride, Charie old fellow.”
She walked into the crowd and heard behind her the shout that she was waiting for. “I told not to call me that! It’s Charon!” the ferryman called out. Ker smirked and kept nudging her way through the group of the newly dead. The easiest way out of the Underworld was through the Gate of Ivory, but that was on the other side of the realm. The entrance to the Underworld was a challenge to come out of. And Ker liked a challenge.
She flew at the top of the tunnel, the hoards of wandering souls walking down the worn path below her. Her keen sword hung perpendicular to her body, the tip just missing the heads of the dead below her. A small stalactite appeared before her and she dipped to avoid crashing into the calcium buildup. When she flew lower, she watched in horror as the blade sliced through a man’s head. The head vibrated for a few seconds then the cut seemed to mend itself together. It was bizarre, but the inner child in Ker thought it was amusing. She dipped again and watched the seven vibrating heads she had just sliced through. It didn’t seem to hurt them, they didn’t even notice the ice blue blade cutting through their brains. Her peals of laughter bounced against the dark tunnel walls and the souls looked up at the disturbance.
Ker soared through the tunnel, passing the souls going the only way there was, to the dreadful Underworld. She was an exception, the only exception in the tunnel, for everyone else entered and exited through the Gate of Ivory on the other side. The bright rays of the sun made Ker cover her eyes and cringe away from its harsh glare. The two days she had spent with Hades had made her vulnerable to the sunlight and the goddess of violent death couldn’t have any vulnerabilities.
A strong pull led her towards a small shack. The windows were covered with grass and the dried mud bricks were cracked and crumbling into dust. The hay covered roof had holes in it and last night’s rain was still leaking through, soaking the mud floor underneath. She felt a godly presence and slid the curtain aside to peer into the dark room. There he stood, in all of his five feet of glory, Thanatos, the god of peaceful death. Ker laughed quietly, he was trying to persuade the mortal to go to sleep so he could bring him to the gods. Typical, he had to be the angelic child of the group. Him and his twin brother Hypnos were so perfect and “Mother loved them better” and all of that mumbo jumbo. Ker had an idea, she would fulfill her place in the godly pecking order. She would make all the other Keres proud. She quietly stepped behind Thanatos and watched his hands move in patterns in front of the awake human.
The mortal looked startled at the presence of another goddess but Ker rested a finger against her lips and the man nodded slightly. Ker had a profile view of Thanatos’ face and saw that his eyes were scrunched up in frustration. She smiled, this will be fun, she thought and lightly brushed his white wings. He jumped and turned around but before he could get a word out she raised her sword and thrusted it into the mortal’s chest. It rested in the middle of his torso, sliding through the ribs to puncture the frail lungs. The man coughed out blood and looked at the vital fluid pouring out of his upper body in astonishment. The steel squelched as she withdrew it from his heart and she licked the blade, tasting the metallic tang of fresh blood. Thanatos looked on in horror as the red liquid seeped out of the dead man’s mouth. He was flat on the floor and had blood pooling around him, combining with the dirt.
“You...you killed him! You shoved a sword through his body and killed him! How could you steal a life like that? That’s horrid, abominable, utterly disgusting! He was mine! He had worked all his life and he deserved a break. But no! You had to go and murder him!” His little rant ebbed and he was breathing hard by the end of it.
“Sorry?” was my only answer to his temper tantrum. “Uh, my...my sword slipped?”
“Your sword slipped,” he screamed, “Your sword slipped! You picked it up and forcibly thrust it into his chest! You removed it from the sheath and intentionally killed him! You knew it was my turn too! You just can’t stand that Nyx loves me more! You know that she can’t stand you because you’re so vile! I hate you!”
She bent over the corpse and made small cuts into his cooling skin as if nothing was bothering her. “You know,” Thanatos whispered, his warm breath bringing goosebumps to her bare shoulder, “He never really loved you.” Ker ignored him and sliced the palm of the hand apart. “He will always love Persephone.” The cuts were getting sliced deeper as she took her frustrations out on the corpse, not her godly brother. “You were just a fling, a way to warm the three months of autumn up while she was away. And every winter, you were tossed away. Just. Like. A. Broken. Toy.” Each word was spoken louder than the first and it wasn’t long before he was yelling in her ear. “I’ve even heard through the grapevine that Persephone is with child. It won’t be long until you are thrown away just like every other Ker he ever met.” She straightened and closed her eyes. She was tempted to kill Thanatos, but knew that she couldn’t. The temptation was too great for her and she chose a different way out. She spun around, sword in hand, and slashed through Thanatos’ bicep. He screamed like a little human girl and clutched a hand to the wound. It wasn’t bleeding blood like a mortal’s would, but a silver light that pierced the darkness. He screamed incoherently and whimpered out, “I’m telling Mother!” before he stalked out of the one room house.
Ker was breathing heavily and wiped the blade clean of silver and red blood. She returned it to her sheath and quickly drained the carcass of its life force. If Thanatos was right she would need to be at full power, ready for a fight. She strode out of the house and strongly flapped her wings, heading back to the Underworld. The look of rage on her face made whoever she crossed step back to hide in the shadows; she was out for blood. It didn’t matter whether it was silver or crimson, so long as it dripped from a cold body that she once loved. For hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.