Lord Hades and the Gem of Tartarus (Part I)

“Where in the name of Zeus’ brovaries am I? Dammit! These were my favorite pants, too,” I said while wiping muck from my pleated sharkskin trousers. My filthy hand only smeared it deeper into the material. 

“I really need to stop doing the superhero landing,” I thought out loud. “Nah, the classics are classic for a reason.”

With a quick wipe to smooth my beard, I peered up from the damage done. I watched as the blue light from the portal blinked into non-existence and was replaced by the dull orange of oil lamps. Done fussing with myself, I could better ascertain my surroundings. The oil lamps were iron cages mounted periodically along the granite stone walls. In each cage, there was an oversized skull with a flame flickering from the top. The walls were well over twenty feet tall, disappearing into the darkness the lamplight couldn’t reach. 

Peering into the darkness above, I could make out a vague outline of a grated opening, probably an iron trapdoor. Besides the trapdoor, there was no other opening in the room. The wall behind me was slick with water seeping through the crevices where the mortar had eroded away. 

The air hung in my nostrils, dark and dank with the smell of rot and burning oil. Bracing myself with one hand on the rough sandstone altar before me, I kicked some muck aside with my already ruined leather shoes. The floor was black and white mosaic, symbolic of human life checkered with good and evil. I began to laugh. The classics never really get old. Though I do wonder who would build a temple inside an oubliette. Lowering this altar down must have been a real chore. Before I could finish surveying the situation, I heard a sizzle and the blue light of a portal reappeared. Siding on caution, I ducked behind the altar to see what was coming through.  

~ ☕ ~

Our party emerged from the dark thicket in the late afternoon. The last remnants of the setting sun provided a welcome warmth on our faces. We had been travelling through the forest up the face of Olympus for days. We were weary with exertion, but we had no time to contemplate the burning in our legs or the salty grit filled sweat hanging on our brow. Standing before us on the open plateau were the battered and neglected remains of a village. 

Looking to one another, our first thought seeing the ruined buildings was “Who built this? Are they still here? Will they be back?” We had not expected any structures here, but instead to find them on the peaks still a day or more hike away. 

Legends tell of the Olympians making their homes on the mountain tops, and that is the purpose of our journey. My companions and I are treasure seekers, and surely the homes of gods would provide an abundance to ensure our comfortable retirement. This humble village hardly seemed worthy of deities, though. Were these the homes of ancient farmers then? Or was this the site of a cult seeking favor from the gods?

We set off with trepidation towards the nearest building. It was evident the village had not been occupied for decades, if not longer. The once creamy sandstone walls were pitted and worn, covered in moss and ivy stretching across windows and doors alike. Without fear, Alastair pushed through the growth and disappeared inside. Belen cautiously notched an arrow, just in case something besides the warrior reemerged from the doorway. 

“There ain’t nothing in here but rotten furniture and broken bowls,” he shouted out to us.

Crossing over to the next building, I pushed the vines with my staff and peeked inside the window. Luckily, the wooden roof had long rotted and collapsed, allowing the light to fill the inside. Floors thick with dirt stretched from wall to wall. Ancient crockery sat on a table blackened with age and blanketed in moss. Alongside the tumbled fireplace sat an iron pot spilled on its side. In the center of the room, there appeared to be an ancient grain bin. This must have been where they dried and ground their crops. In the corner, though, was something interesting: a small wooden chest partially obscured by a fallen rafter.

“Whoa! Hey! There’s a chest inside this one,” I called to the others. 

Darien, singing with delight, ran to my side and peered at the interior. “Looks clear. I’m going to go look. You coming?”

I shook my head firmly. “No thanks. This place still gives me the creeps. Besides, who is going to apply bandage to your boo-boos if we both get hurt?”

He chuckled. “I thought you were going to say something about being accosted by gluten-laden ghosts.” 

When I didn’t react to his horrible joke, he shrugged his shoulders and forced his way through the vines covering the front door. As I watched through the window, he made a beeline straight for the chest. 

“There doesn’t seem to be a lock. That doesn’t seem promising. Should I open it?” 

I stared at him with a noncommittal gaze. We both knew his inquiry was only a formality. 

“You’re no fun, Galena,” he said with a smirk and a twinkle in his eye. 

“If that means I have more common sense than a rutting hog, then I will take it. So, if you’re done being an arrogant jerk…”

“Alright. Damn. Thorough chastising acknowledged.” 

He turned back to the chest and cautiously reached for the corroded iron clasp holding it closed. Grasping it firmly, he began to lift it with a squeaking strained sound. The thinning, corroded metal showered rust flakes to the ground near his feet and suddenly snapped loudly as it broke off in his hand. 

“Well, they don’t make them like they used to,” he said wryly. 

I rolled my eyes. Darien was a handsome man with the voice of an angel when he sang. He had plenty of groupies hankering for his attention whenever he sang at any of the music venues in town. However, his humor was severely lacking, having relied on his other traits to heavily throughout his life. Yet, he was still likable, but frustrating nonetheless. 

“Any time now, Darien, we don’t have all night.”

He nodded. His failed attempts at humor were only an effort to hide his fear. Many an adventurer had carelessly opened a chest only to find an arrow in their chest or a choking cloud of poison envelope them. Standing to the side, he reached forward and gently lifted the lid. Nothing happened and we both exhaled with relief. Darien reached inside and with exaggerated flourish produced a large, clay water bottle. 

“Whelp, we can go home now. We have found the Olympian genie’s bottle. What’s your first wish?”

“For you to get a better joke writer,” I said with a wink. Leaving him sputtering, I spun on my heels and returned to the others.

~ ☕ ~

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Lord Hades (C.E. Robb)
C.E. Robb is the pen name for an established technical writer, editor and curriculum designer. At night, they craft table-top role-playing game supplements, world-build a SciFi Solar Punk setting, write a novel about Hereditary Witches, and blog the exploits of the Greek God, Hades, for #ThePantheon. Somewhere between all of that, they find time to rough house with their Jack Russell and enjoy the outdoors. #WritingCommunity and #DNDCommunity Supporter
Lord Hades (C.E. Robb)

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