Lord Hades and the Gem of Tartarus (Part II)
As I knelt behind the altar, its cold, coarse texture leaving grit against my cheek, I chided myself. I survived, no, thrived, for millennia against all manner of foes and fools. Yet here I am, cowering behind a rock like a sniveling coward. Quickly, I dismissed the feeling and experience took over. I am a god after all. However, until I knew what I was dealing with, it was always best to retreat to a position of power. From there you can surveil and bring true strength.
Just a few short months ago, I was on the top of the world. All the other deities were lolling around on their backsides, pouring wine down their gullets, and chasing after each other’s tail. Meanwhile, I was the only one that even tried to care about the mortals of Earth. I’ve always been the one to care for them throughout eternity. The others think they are so much better than me. They ostracize me and tell me I am a pessimist and evil. They have convinced the mortals I am something to be feared. Even though all the mortals have ever been to the others are toys—something to play with for seventy or so years until they are broken, or the deities become bored and discard them. Then, it is old Lord Hades who must house and care for them through eternity.
Granted, I manipulate the mortals for my own ends at times. Someone had to pay the bills on Olympus for all those years, but I can’t be blamed for the decadence and decay in society. It was already there. These mortals—they truly are created in the image of their creator—selfish, arrogant and destructive being the primary traits ingrained in their system from creation. Do I wish I could have done more? Of course, but I did the best I could with what I had available to me—by myself.
My brother is quick to point fingers at others—to blame everyone but himself. At one time, I mostly supported his efforts even if we didn’t agree entirely. Removing the tyranny of our predecessors seemed to be all that mattered at the time. However, like most leaders who speak of grandiose ideals and achievements, he is oblivious to the damage he causes in his reckless and half-baked pursuits. Even when he stepped out of the office and did face time with the mortals, all he was good for was debauchery in all its forms and throwing temper tantrums when he didn’t get his way.
Breaking News—there never was a “golden age.” There was only an age of excess and tribalistic power, preceded by one and followed by another and another. Those who see themselves as the purveyors of freedom and prosperity rarely shed a concern for those who sacrificed the very same things or themselves for those ideals to be achieved. That is the way of this world. You can hope for it to be different, but there will always be someone who demands more than their share of the pie and will do whatever it takes to sneak away with another’s slice.
Then one day, Zeus wakes up from a drunken stupor built on cheap, local wine. Someone mentioned he should check out this “new thing” with tweets. He’s so vain, he probably thought it had something to do with all the peacocks running around his penthouse.
He sees the Greek economy has all but entirely crashed and he gasps. He sees politicians degrading each other and the people they are supposed to serve. He sees the infrastructure of the great civilizations neglected and crumbling. He sees agricultural and industrial pollution has diminished the quality of sustainability—his wine is just a little bit more bitter, his baths smell of lead and chemicals—and he is inconvenienced.
Next thing you know, he is declaring Olympus has fallen from grace and only he can fix it. In his infinite wisdom, he decides all the deities need to go and join the mortal work force. He bleats on and on about how the old days were so much better. We are going to learn the new ways of the world and make Olympus great again. Seems oxymoronic to replicate failed processes and expect a different result, but then again, old Sparky never was the sharpest tool in the toolshed—always more concerned with the depth of his tan, the temperament of his hair, and how many idolaters can fluff his fragile ego.
So off they go, all these supernatural beings with Bronze Age mentalities, trying to blend in with the mortals they have ignored for a dozen and three centuries. From what I have seen, nothing has changed—many have not evolved in all this time. They are still worried primarily about drinking and toking, joking and poking. In between these acts of self-gratification, they look for ways to cause division among one another, punish those who disagree with them, and blame everyone else for the world’s unhappiness—or perhaps deep-down it is their own inadequacies they seek to placate. But who is to know the minds of gods? Not even me.
Since they have woke, I’ve had to deal with serial killings, love triangles, sexual harassment, threats of war, sabotage, petty bickering, escaping monstrosities, and now these damn portals. Does anyone even care? As I was leaving the Olympus Administration building, I’m sure I saw something from the corner of my eye—something that wasn’t supposed to be there. With all the failed biological experiments these fools have condemned and forgotten to the bottoms of Tartarus, there is no telling what has escaped.
I’m sure whatever it is, it is wreaking havoc on the mortal population and not one of these “good guys with superpowers” are lifting a finger to do anything about it. Nope, not a damn thing—just throwing back another pint, running their mouth on the internet, gyrating against something, and looking for their next roll around. Why would I expect anything different though from the eternal slacktivists?
It’s not like they ever cared about anyone besides themselves and lifting a finger is certainly too much effort for them. In all these years, scarcely anyone has ever visited me, unless they needed something. Even right now, I’m sure no one even realizes I’m missing. In fact, if experience is any indication, they are blathering away, thinking I’m right there talking to them. That is until the next flashy doodad catches their eye and off, they will go on another self-absorbed, delusional tangent.
As usual, I don’t have much time for contemplating existence right now. It’s always one thing after another lately and I’m always the bad guy. Whatever. I can only wait for this portal to do its job and handle things as they come. But if those buffoons don’t stop wrecking crap, things are only going to get worse. I swear if I find out one of them is behind these bollocks—some sort of a practical joke—there will be Hades to pay.
~ ☕ ~
In the center of the lost village, there was a small temple built from the same brick and sandstone façade. It was the only structure with a roof, so it made sense to secure that for our dwelling for the night. As we approached, we saw the courtyard was a tangled mess of weeds long since browned some taller than poor Alastair. This patch of brown death sprawled up to the foundation, periodically dotted with scraggly, dead olive trees.
On closer inspection, we noticed the temple was surrounded by an ancient graveyard. Treading warily through the eroded and cracked tombstones, we made it to the large wooden door that signaled the entrance. There was something wrong about this place, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. No one spoke of their reservations, either they were too afraid to do so, or I was overreacting. To save face, I opted to tell myself it was more the latter than the former. I couldn’t shake that nagging feeling in my gut though, the land in the immediate vicinity had obviously been dead—maybe even for a hundred years, and yet, I still told myself, “This is fine. Nothing wrong here.”
Belen settled down in his bedroll and ate a scanty meal of wildflower salad seasoned with a berry sauce. It has been days since we crossed a viable stream and Belen usually takes his bow for a quick hunt. He is an excellent hunter. I’ve never met anyone who could track and bag dinner as fast as he could. Unfortunately for us, he tore a large gash in his leg while exploring the ruined village. I crafted a poultice from clay, moss and wild herbs for his wound. It was healing quite nicely, by morning it would be almost, if not completely, healed. Tonight, he needed a long rest though. So, we decided salad would be the meal du jour. We could stay here a few days, give it a chance to mend if needed, but I’ve always had a magical touch with my herbal concoctions.
“Do you think I’ll be able to head out on an early morning hunt, Galena? I mean… I appreciate the salad, but rabbit food is rabbit food after all.”
“Shhh, Belen. That rabbit food is going to heal you, so don’t fuss about it. We’ll go look for eggs in the morning. I think I saw a nest or two back in the forest. I’m sure Alastair will be good gnawing roots and grubs…”
No sooner had I finished that thought when an icy breeze touched the back of my neck. Had we left the door open? I was about to say something to Darien when I saw the look of horror on his face. His eyes were opened wide and his jaw was dropped to the floor. In his hand, he held a fork full of wildflower salad. If I didn’t know better, I would say he was making commentary on the lack of meat in his diet. I turned to follow his gaze…
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