Η Υπόσχεση ενός Αδερφού
We were art
But even the most beautiful painting
The descent into the Underworld is not allowed to the living, be they frail mortals or mighty Gods. Only those who have left this vain world behind and a handful of deities that the Fates have connected to this kingdom are allowed to pass through Hades’ gates.
Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t mortals foolish enough to try to find earthly entrances to the realm of death and accomplish the impossible.
Hermes would never understand why anyone would want to be in a place like this. Why should one leave the brightness and warmth of the sun for the darkness and the chill of Death? Why should he choose to walk among pale shadows instead of enjoying the liveliness of his loved ones?
Mortals are greedy –they always want to have what they can’t, ignoring the warnings of the Gods and the consequences of their actions.
The Messenger God let a bicker laugh escape him as his feathery sandals led him into a deep cleft that lay open οn the surface of the Earth. Taking a deep breath, he plunged into the gloom of the opening, following the familiar way to the world of the dead.
The mighty Moirai had assigned him to be a psychopomp, tying his fate to the kingdom of Hades. As he had been entrusted with the task of leading the souls of the dead into the Underworld, he was obliged to visit frequently. He had somehow found himself to be a link between two brothers and two kingdoms, connecting Olympus with the Underworld.
As he landed on the rough surface of the Earth’s foundations and felt the deathly chill on his skin, he cursed the Moirai for his fate. It did not matter how many years he had been visiting Erebus, the shiver of fear that caressed his spine would never go away. Knowing the purpose of his journey didn’t calm his mind either.
The Messenger’s footsteps flattered knowing the news he’d have to announce in front of the Lord of Darkness soon enough. His tongue was tied in a knot as he tried to find a polite way to announce Zeus’ decision to him without enraging him. He had visited enough times to know that the God of the Underworld was an honorable and just King, but he could also become a cunning and monstrous man when he felt threatened.
How could you tell him he’d have to let his only happiness go?
How could you demand him to sacrifice his wants once again for the world’s benefit?
Hermes shook his head in despair, his brunette locks falling into his dark orbs. There was nothing he could do for the news to not offend him. They were asking too much of him –it wasn’t fair. Surely, the Fates wouldn’t give just to take back, would they?
It wasn’t fair for the God for the Underworld nor for the Goddess of Spring. As Hermes approached the Gates of Death and heard a low growl of warning in the darkness, he stopped realizing something.
This wouldn’t destroy only the God of the Dead, but his beloved sister too. Knowing the feelings these two had for each other, he doubted Persephone needed a mighty hero to save her from Death’s grasp.
He only wanted for her to have her happily ever after, but the Fates seemed to have other plans for them.
His thoughts came to a stop as soon as three identical heads appeared from the depths of darkness. Three pairs of razor teeth greeted him as the guardian of the Underworld stood before him. Cerberus’ huge form made him freeze in his place, letting the growling beast to breathe in his scent and recognize him.
With a warning glance and a furious snarl, the three-headed dog disappeared as quickly as it appeared in the first place. Sighing in relief, the God passed through the humongous Gate and made his way to the shores of Acheron.
Wailing souls approached him, begging for him to return them back to the world of the living or help them cross the river and guide them to the afterlife. Feeling extremely uncomfortable and awkward, he could only wait for the ferryman to arrive since he could do absolutely nothing to help them.
As soon as the black-cloaked figure appeared he quickly hopped aboard, giving him two gold coins as a price. With methodical movements, the ferryman led them away from land and into the deep waters of the river, where some souls were trapped. Averting his eyes from the drowning mortals, Hermes focused on the familiar figure of Charon.
“You seem younger.”
The messenger’s dark orbs observed the once frail-looking figure that had visibly changed since the last time he had seen him. His body was more robust and tall, his back straight and no longer slouched. The white hairs that sometimes escaped from his hood were tawny under the light of the torches. The hands that held the puddle were no longer wrinkled and weak, but firm and flawless.
“Death is not always the end, son of Zeus”, his deep voice reached his ears, “Sometimes, it is just the beginning.”
Hermes furrowed his dark eyebrows in confusion as he took a glimpse of a smile under the heavy cloth.
“What do you mean?”
A chuckle reached his ears.
“Your life is tied to the Underworld, yet you fail to understand it”, Charon shook his head in disbelief, “Death is part of rebirth, young God. No matter the long winters you have to endure, spring will always bloom in your soul at the end.”
The messenger cocked his head to the side.
“Is that a way to inform me that my sister is in Hades’ kingdom?”
“You’ll comprehend things when you’ll start seeking their depth”, the ferryman said, “For the time being, shallow explanations seem to be enough for you.”
Hermes was hurt by his harsh judgment.
“I am searching things in depth!“, he defended himself with jaw clenched and balled fists.
“No, messenger, you do not. The Gods present things to you from a certain point of view and you unquestionably accept the depth they reveal to you”, Charon stated as a matter of fact.
“When you start searching for the essence of things by looking at them from different perspectives, you will realize that the Olympians did not tell you everything”, he bowed his head in respect.
As the boat reached the other side of Acheron coming to a complete stop, Hermes could only look at Charon in confusion.
“Things are not always what they seem to be, son of Zeus”, the ferryman explained, “You’ll become wise when you start looking for the truth.”
The Messenger of the Gods could only stare baffled as Charon’s boat disappeared on the waters of Acheron, returning back to the souls waiting for him on the shore. He stood for a few moments, watching the dark surface of the water as the wails of the tortured mortals reached his ears.
Feeling a shiver going down his spine at the tormented sound, he let a shaky breath escape him.
“Will it ever get better?“, he asked himself hopelessly.
“We both know it won’t.”
Turning around, his dark orbs met almost completely white ones. His black feathered wings were resting on his broad shoulders without moving. Thanatos’ arms were crossed before his broad chest, as his eyes scrutinized him. Hermes looked him in the eye, before informing him of his reason for arrival.
“I came to deliver a message to your King.”
His voice sounded strong and confident, but the God of Death had seen the way his fingers played nervously with the edge of his cloth.
“So, you are the one they chose to deliver the bad news.”
“Someone had to”, Hermes looked at him with a grim expression, “Shooting the messenger wouldn’t make this easier, you’ll have to understand that...”
“The decisions of others is not your fault, my old friend”, Thanatos let a humorless laugh escape him, “Besides my Lord was expecting that this would happen sooner or later.”
As they moved through the dark paths of the Underworld towards Hades’ majestic palace, the Messenger God gave him a side glance.
“Is she well?“, his voice trembled with anxiety, “Is she safe?”
Death gave him a small truthful smile.
“Our Queen is well protected and content with her new life in the Underworld.”
A wave of relief overwhelmed him at the news of her safety and happiness. He let a small laugh escape him as he ran his fingers through his brunette curls. Thanatos narrowed his eyes in confusion, not understanding his reaction.
“Didn’t you hear what I told you, messenger?”
Hermes let a chuckle escape him.
“That she is safe and well”, he answered with a bright smile, “That’s all that matters.”
“And what about her being the Queen of the Underworld?“, the God questioned him, “Aren’t you worried? Angry? Shocked?”
“Persephone had feelings for Hades her whole life. I am sure she is more than willing and pleased to be the one standing by his side.”
The two men stood before the large gates of the throne room, staring at each other without entering.
“I just want her to be safe and happy”, he honestly said to the God of Death, “If Hades can give her that, then I am more than content with her decision.”
“Not everyone has the same opinion with you, Hermes”, the winged God shook his head, “The news you bring is proof enough.”
The messenger flinched at his words –the truth behind of them burning him. He didn’t want to disturb his sister’s happiness, but Demeter’s actions didn’t leave them much of a choice.
“Demeter won’t let her go so easily”, he mumbled to the God.
“Neither will Hades.”
A moment of silence fell between the two men.
“What are we going to do?“, whispered the messenger.
Thanatos let a sigh of frustration to escape him as his fingers combed through his dark locks.
“It is not our choice to make. We are nothing but soldiers following the orders of our superiors.”
And indeed, they had no say over what was going to happen next. They could only see from a distance the events unfolding before them, without having any right to interfere. They tried to gather their courage before entering the throne room, knowing that after their entrance everything would change.
White orbs snapped to dark ones. The God of Death was taken aback from the pleading and sincerity that was swirling inside of them.
“I want you to promise me that you’ll take care of her”, the messager pleaded, “That you’ll look out for her like a brother for his sister.”
The younger God gulped loudly before looking at his shaking hands.
“I used to be the one protecting her”, he laughed humorlessly, “But I am not sure I will be able to for much longer.”
Thanatos looked at the troubled God under a new light. He didn’t know that the messenger had a soft spot for the Goddess of Spring, believing that she wasn’t close to her brothers thanks to her mother’s overprotectiveness. A new feeling arose inside him for the messager –a feeling of respect and understanding.
“I’ll be her brother when you can’t.”
His vow seemed to somewhat calm the younger God, who nodded in agreement and gave him a small smile. Taking a deep breath, they turned towards the dark gates to the throne room.
“Are you ready?”
Hermes shook his head negatively.
“No one is ready for this.”
Then, the doors opened widely and the two Gods stepped inside.
End of chapter 30!!
Title Translation:“The Promise of a Brother”
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