Blog #16: Hades (from ‘The Telemachy’)

Blog #16:  Hades (from ‘The Telemachy’)

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day… (or, as we used to call it back in the day, Juno Februa!… Maybe not.  (I’ll bet someone did.) )  Butanyhoo…

And so, with love in the air, of course my mind drifts to the Underworld—the Land of the Dead… Hades.  And/or it just happens to be the chapter I was working on in my current novel, ‘The Telemachy’, and I’m very pleased with it, so I thought I’d give a brief glimpse…

But perhaps it’s all Fate?  Perhaps the Moirai themselves—and, in particular, methinks, Lachesis, the “disposer of lots”—has allotted unto me the disposition of purposely having me work on this particular chapter on Valentine’s Day… in which Telemachus and his companions descend into the demesne of Hades himself, god of the dead, ultimate judger of souls—bestower of heaven… or condemner of hell……

And/or (again) mayhap mere coincidence… take it as you will… hob nob; I know not what.

Enjoy!

 * * *

 from ‘The Telemachy of Mishka’

XIV: Hades

 “This is the Feather of Osiris.”

“Who’s Osiris?” asked Telemachus.  He assumed it was one of those other gods Xisuthros had mentioned—but in venturing into Hades’ Realm, he kind of wanted to know exactly with whose relic he was operating…

“Never heard of that one either, hm?” replied Xisuthros, brushing the feather against his chin.  “How about Serapis?”

“Oooo, yes!” squealed Telemachus.  “I know that one.”

“Ah, good!  Osiris is an aspect of Serapis, and he serves the god Hades, one of his many judges of the dead.  This Feather—since you obviously have no blood sacrifices to offer—will be what allows you into and out of the Underworld.  It is of the utmost importance you do not lose it, and when you have re-crossed the Acheron River on the way out simply release the Feather into the air and it will find its way back to me.”

Xisuthros positioned Telemachus and his cohorts in a circle, facing inward toward one another, before the dark entranceway.  The ancient man began a hopping and gyrating sort of dance around the three of them, waving the Feather of Osiris all about, chanting in some strange and mystical language:  “…youdoth ehoke yypok eyand boomboom lalalalala!~”  And then he tickled each of their asses with the Feather of Osiris, and, with a bow, solemnly bestowed the Feather into Telemachus’s care.

As they crossed over the threshold into the chill, black netherworld—a misty, shimmering curtain of warm air rising from a narrow vent in the cavern floor—Telemachus turned at the last second.  “Just out of curiosity,” he asked, “what would have happened if we had tried to cross over without the ritual?”  Would we have just ended up in another cave?  Or would we maybe have been stranded in the Underworld forever?!

Xisuthros frowned, smirking slightly.  “Ritual?”

“Yeah, you know—with the dancing and the chanting?  And the ass-tickling?”

“Oh—that!”  Xisuthros smiled, turning to head back toward Spluge.  With a wave of farewell, he admitted, “Absolutely nothing.  Have a safe journey!”

 

They traveled single file—Telemachus leading with the fireless brand, followed by Tepez in the middle and Alcides last; the latter two indicating they could see fairly well in the dark, which was just as well, as the brand did not shed much light beyond about three feet.  The tunnel made a subtle S-curve, enough so that within a hundred paces or so the cavern they had come from was out of sight.  The walls begin widening out—opening up around them, and a wisping fog swirled slowly all around.  Telemachus soon realized he no longer needed the fireless brand; the fog itself seemed to emanate a soft light—not light reflected from elsewhere, but the fog as the source itself.  The cavern seemed to have no ceiling—yet there was no sky either, not even the sense of one somewhere far above; instead, the mysterious fog thickened with elevation, becoming slowly roiling clouds about twenty feet overhead.  Increasingly there were a variety of scents: musty and acrid and charred (as in burnt) and charred (like a cleaning woman) and earthy and… fruit punch and cake?!  Is that Ham?  And it was!  The shade of the old, Hebrew fellow—best known, perhaps, for domesticating pigs—smiled and waved, and then faded away.

“Well,” commented Telemachus, “I hope that’s the last we’ll see of him…”

Alcides and Tepez shared a glance, nodding in (bedoubted) agreement, and the three continued forward.

As they went, the fog continued to brighten, such that their surroundings now truly seemed merely an overcast, extremely foggy day in the living world—though they still could not see beyond about ten or fifteen feet.  The ground beneath their feet was becoming increasingly muddy, and the prevailing scent was definitively swampy.

“We approach the River Acheron,” Alcides informed them.  Telemachus had nearly forgotten, Alcides had been to the Underworld before!  “Hold, friends; something approaches!” he hissed in a whisper.

All three froze, waiting to see what might manifest from the shroud of vapours before them.  A low, mucousy growl came out of the shadow approaching—no, two—now three!  A pack of hellhounds!  Telemachus braced, filled with fear—nothing but a fireless brand for a weapon.  The feral sound died without echo on the cold, hard air of the Underworld, yet the reverberations of their growling could be felt in the very earth beneath their feet… or, anyway, such was what Telemachus told himself to explain his suddenly really very wobbly knees.

“Methinks I know that growl,” said Alcides, biting back a smile that could not be hidden from the glimmer in his eyes.  “Is that you, old friend?” he called, stepping slowly forward.

In answer, the growling beast crept into view: Cerberus.  The three-headed hellhound, guardian of Hades’ chthonic realm, silently glared malevolence at Telemachus and his friends with eyes as black as death, yet bright as flame.  The creature was huge, easily dwarfing the largest of chariot-toting warhorses, with paws as big as a lion’s—claws to match—and a serpent-tail waving sinuously at his rear.  Staring down the intruders to his demesne, the head on the left sniffed the air for their scent; the head on the right abruptly reared upward in a piercing howl—and the middle head, saliva glistening like poison from its hungry maw, perked his ears straight up and… smiled?!

“Cerby, old buddy, old pal!” cried Alcides, rushing forward to embrace the monster.  Cerberus in turn greeted the giant of a man as if a playful puppy, yipping and bouncing all about.  Soon both were lost in a mad mêlée of wrestling and tussling and growling and laughing (and/or barking), with the Guardian of Hell licking Alcides joyfully—and with all three tongues!

Telemachus decided he had best intercede when Alcides began licking Cerberus in return, ere dire furballs were to ensue…  Ah, what an ignominious end to my quest that would be, he mused.  Aloud, he commented, “So I take it you two know each other?”

 

—Etcetera, etcetera, so forth, forsoothly, an’ anon!~

 #  #  #  #

 

—Mishka Zakharin  © 2015

 

 

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