The Gods Of Today

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Chapter Three: Sentencing

He counted what seemed to be over a hundred stairs escalating up toward an ominous arena. It is worse when you know your end is coming, but to walk up in anticipation while your mind wonders of the possibilities? Well, that’s torturous in its own right. Slowly making his way one step at a time, he felt no need to rush. Even with his demised scenarios continually replaying in his head, Thelonious figured that was the less of two evils.

Within an ear’s range, he noticed someone begging for leniency. They must have been talking to the judges because he could hear various voices mumbling back and forth. Reaching the top of the last step, three gentlemen sat upon their golden thrones in the middle of a desolated court. Each had orange eyes emitting a distinct glow from their pupils, and parts of their bodies were turned to stone, hardly able to move from their very chairs. You could not tell one from another unless specified. In the middle of their court rested a clear glass Orb hovering in the air for all to see.

‘What was its purpose?’ Thelonious thought.

A commoner fell to his knees and implored the judges to grant him haven. Aiakos, judge of the European region, spoke first. “You have done questionable acts indeed.” He scratched his stoned leg and forced the orb to float in his direction. Landing on the palm of his hand, he stared into it, concentrating on the verdict. “You beg for salvation, yet your transgressions speak in your eyes. Your misdeeds are concerning, and the path you choose-- disappointing. Regardless of such unimportance, none of what you have done is to be punished severely. Are we in agreeance, brothers?” Swatting the orb back to the middle of the court, they all came to a consensus. “It is done. The Asphodel meadows you shall remain. Thanatos, please help this mortal to the Lethe River and release one’s burdens from memory.”

The gentleman got up from his knees and thanked them for being merciful. Thanatos walked past Thelonious and entered the court. Grabbing the mortal by his shoulder, the god told him to be at peace. He closed his eyes and smiled as they both vanished in a cloud of black smoke.

All attention was now set on Thelonious, who was next to be judged. Aiakos extended his hand out toward the soldier. “Come closer, Thelonious of Athens.”

The fellow commander coughed uncomfortably and walked forward disinclined. The three gazed intently at him and crossed their hands. Talking in unison, they said, “Place the hand upon the orb, and your fate to us shall be scored.” Slowly resting his hand on the suspicious object, a surge of energy rushed through his body. “Forfeited, ones’ self shall be evaluated. May your judgment be just.” They all turned their attention to the orb as it replayed through Thelonious’s life. Feeling a shock, he ripped his hand away and held it close to his chest. Looking up, the three were already contemplating judgment in their thrones. Placing his arms by his side, he watched as the judges deliberated in silence.

Rhadamanthys, judge of the Asian region, was the first to speak. “Judgment upon he is difficult to determine, brothers.”

Minos, the final decider of the three, chipped in. “Very difficult indeed.”

“His life has been filled with hardships and pain,” Aiakos pointed out.

“Pain which not of his doing,” Minos added.

“Destruction that follows before him is of such doings,” Rhadamanthys stated to the two.

Aiakos turned toward Rhadamanthys. “Glory and honor to Zeus and country have followed along with it,” he argued.

They all looked at Thelonious and fell silent again. The judges could not come to a clear consensus as to what should happen to the fellow human. Indecisive on the mortal who stood before them, a god suddenly popped into the court unannounced. Wearing a glimmering white toga, he had eyes as blue as his father’s. His clean-cut beard suited his appearance along with a broad-brimmed bronze hat that seemed a tad too big for this head. A short-shaped staff with two serpents slithering around rested in his hands, and wings as white as clouds fluttered on the sides of each ankle. Startled, Thelonious backed away from him.

“Hermes,” Minos uttered. “What brings you on this day?”

Bowing his head respectfully, Hermes explained himself. “Your honors, apologies for the intrusion. I have come with urgent tidings regarding this mortal. He shall be confined into Elysium at once.”

Each judge looked at one another then back at the god. Aiakos stood up very slowly and spoke for all. “You dare come into our place of questioning and decide his fate in which we were tasked? Whose authority gives you such the right to overrule?”

Hermes gave them a smug expression and answered. “Our father, Zeus.”

Aiakos lifted his tongue no further and sat back down. Hearing that name quickly put an end to their discrepancy. “Rightfully so,” Rhadamanthys agreed. “Father is just and wise. His judgment absolute.” He looked at both Minos and Aiakos, who also acknowledged and supported his claim. “Thy will is done. Thelonious of Athens, you shall be--” Rhadamanthys was cut off and interrupted by the sounds of clapping.

“My, my,” a voice originated. From the shadows of the courtroom, a gentleman appeared to them. “Most curious to see such a mortal that of which my brother has taken such keen interest.”

Hermes looked at the god in a hostile manner. “Hades? Why have you come?”

He turned his attention toward Hermes. “One can recall the domain of which they are in, I assume?”

Huffing angrily, Hermes became snippy. “I would not have come to such a desolate place unless matters presented itself. A snake before my eyes, I take no joy in being around.”

Hades walked up to Hermes until he was face to face with him. “One should remember to mind their tongue. You may be of kin, but my wrath sees beyond family when tempted.”

Hermes smiled and disrespected the god further by saying, “You are but a mere speck in Olympus’s eye. Nothing more. A force of malevolence and despair cast upon all like a disease. You th--”

Hades waved his hand over Hermes taking his ability to speak. “Zeus should teach proper formalities to his offspring. Insolence such as yours can get one killed.” Looking in disgust, he watched happily as smoke circled around the insufferable god and shot him straight out of the underworld. Turning his attention toward the judges, he reassured them. “Do not be alarmed. A mere trip back up to Olympus is of good measure on his behalf.”

Minos stood up, disinterested in Hade’s outlandish behavior. “What you do is of none of us to judge. The mortal’s fate, however, is, and Zeus has proclaimed the sentencing.”

Hades shook his head. “Zeus, pompous and dull-witted is he. You proclaim to be deciders, but let another do so for you. Blinded and naïve to see such truths you are.” The judges looked at one another then at Hades. “I watch idly by as you three mindlessly weigh this mortal’s life simply on the premise of glory and honor?” Shaking his head, he continued to rant. “My self-righteous brother only sees one side to such stories. When one, such as I, has seen humanity stripped to its utter core, well, you simply know better. You do not merely see one’s life through your trinkets.”

He turned to Thelonious and grabbed his shoulder. Plunging his hand through his chest, Thelonious yelled out in distress. “You see a mortal’s true heart through one’s soul.” Reading into Thelonious more thoroughly, he found several disturbing facts that proved the meaning to his point. He took his hand out of him, and a glowing black light rested in Hade’s palm. Grabbing the orb, they all watched as the Thelonious’s true nature was absorbed within.

“The darkness in this one’s heart is ever glowing. This human has raped children, murdered women, pillaged villages, and stole from those who have nothing but a name. How could one let a mortal as vile as he be blessed with such peace?” Hades swiftly wrapped his hand around the human’s throat, hearing gasps of air escaping his mouth. “If my brother casts such judgment so recklessly, I shall follow such an example. For your misdeeds, you shall receive no peace, no rest, and no happiness. You shall forever be trapped in the deepest parts of Tartarus. You shall spend an eternity being tortured by the same actions you have inflicted on those who were less deserving. You will relive those days as if they were new, and it will not falter. You will know no glory nor honor. Only of suffering as rightfully so. That is the fate that has been cast upon you. That is judgment worthy of such actions.”

Thelonious collapsed on the ground crying. Hades felt no regret on his notion turning his back on the human. “Please, I beg of you, great Hades, spare me. I did not know better. I followed my commands. I only thought was right.”

“You mortals never cease to amaze. The most profound truth is, you know better,” he countered. “I saw it within you. You cannot hide your intentions from I, of all gods.” Facing the pitiful Greek that begged for mercy, Hades crouched down and whispered to Thelonious. “Truth be told? Humanity has the delusional notion of ideals that they can be us. Claiming to be rulers and kings, even some go as far as to claim Godship. Having that power over beings, you see less than. Bowing your head to other mortals and fighting for causes you preach are honoring us?” Hades cut himself off and spoke in a more distasteful tone toward him. “What a most horrible realization when you solely notice that upon death, you do it for one’s own volition. Funny that the sight of me is where the truth of how insignificant you are is revealed.”

A screech echoed above them as Tisiphone came swooping down from the air. Digging her talons into Thelonious’s shoulder blades, he wailed in agony and grabbed the fury’s legs trying to free himself. Flapping her wings and hovering him in place, Hades walked up to the feeble mortal. “Furies are truly misunderstood, creatures. Most see them as vindictive and vile, but not I. What mortals and even gods fail to comprehend, they are by no means evil. Such a revelation one comes to when realizing they punish evil. Though the overwhelming sensation of such a feeling does take a toll. One cannot handle such burdens and remain sane. They are protectors of those wronged, and I admire such determination. Tisiphone here especially has a particular taste. Do you know of what?” Thelonious cursed at the Fury while he tried to fight his fate.

Chuckling, Hades continued. “All have such specialties. Hers, in particular, is murderers. Mainly horrific and unjustified. Something she can sense in you quite abundantly. With that, this is where I must leave you. Farwell, Thelonious of Athens. May your torture be as just as those you have inflicted upon.” Thelonious tried to plead his case further, but it was no use. Hade’s judgment was final. With one swift action, Tisiphone carried Thelonious away to the pits of Tartarus, where his proper punishment awaited.

The court went silent. The judges were furious with Hade’s actions. Shocked by the whole situation, Aiakos was first to raise his voice. “You have defied Zeus and cast sentencing unlawfully!”

“Well, if I have done such a horrid thing to oppose the will of your father, then have Zeus, COME DOWN AND SAY OTHERWISE!” Hades snapped his fingers, shattering their orb to pieces. “Enlighten him of this action as well, you impotent children.” Storming off, he left the arena and transported himself back into his palace.

Anger freely flowed through the god. Not being able to control his emotions, his fist went through one of his walls out of frustration. Feeling foolish for doing so, he dusted off his knuckles and began pacing back and forth. He knew the mortal was not the reason for such anger radiating out of him. The answer to that question lives deep within the recesses of his mind, where he harbors his most ill thoughts.

Thanatos knocked on his door and slowly walked in, standing respectfully in front of his king. “Thelonious of Athens has been placed into Tartarus as instructed.”

Glancing at Thanatos, Hades looked away, almost ashamed. “Have I gone too far this time, old friend? Was the man’s condemnation of selfish intent?”

“The choice if given I would have taken such approach as well,” Thanatos thoughtlessly replied.

Hades turned toward him, astonished by his answer. “Your conclusion is swift Thanatos. How could you say without a thought to give?”

Thanatos walked over and sat down in front of Hades. “I was there, my liege.”

Perplexed, Hades finally realized. “You were in the shadows observing?”

Thanatos nodded slightly. “As I observed, I saw the trial as is. I have walked upon the earth’s grounds. I have watched mortals, and the actions they make, the choices they decide. I have reaped more souls to last lifetimes. I know humanity at its primal core. What you chose was just. Even if others deem unwise.” Sighing, Hades sat down as well. Seeing his facial expressions, Thanatos could concur that something deeper troubled him. Adding to what was said, the god asked, “Is that what really ails you, my lord?”

Rubbing his fingers in a circular motion, Hades faintly blurted, “No such particular thing ails me, dear friend.”

“Are you certain?” Thanatos followed up.

The ground beneath began to quake as Hade’s real emotions were starting to consume him. “The thing that ails me is your pursuance into such things that are not of concern to you.”

Quickly falling to one knee, Thanatos apologized for offending him. The god only wanted to help and did not think there would be repercussions to such doings. Seizing the ground movements, he told his right-hand man to rise. “It is not of your doing for why I feel such confliction. Excuse such brashness, dear friend. The thoughts that invade my mind are chaotic in its nature, and seizing such a nuisance is unbearable to do so.” Staring out his window, he gazed upon the scenery before him. “What truly ails me Thanatos, is my brother. If he were to vanish into the deepest parts of Tartarus, it would be a most glorious life.”

“Careful my liege, for the winds, carry even in these parts,” Thanatos warned him.

Hades smiled into the window. “You care too much old friend. Who besides he would dare challenge?” Thanatos remained silent, not rebutting the god’s comment. “You’ve heard the old stories, have you not?” Thanatos nodded his head, recalling the various incarnations that were told throughout the millenniums. “Many stories told within my time that the truth of the matter has been muddled. Nonetheless, I recall my time perfectly as it still haunts me,” Hades stated.

“While in the belly of my father, I dreamt of freedom from that putrid prison and becoming a just god. A god that could be respected and honored for his compassion and mercy. More than what my wretched father ever was.” Seeing nothing but darkness and despair within his kingdom, he continued on. “My brother, Ha-ha, my brother … he came and saved us all from that torment. I was finally free to do as I pleased, and I used my newfound independence to join Zeus and Poseidon to defeat our father. It was then where I knew I could be more. Time has passed since those times. Reflection upon reflection has made me realize … I am no better than Kronos.”

Stunned, Thanatos spoke out. “You cannot believe your own words spewing from your own tongue?”

Hades turned toward Thanatos in a vulnerable manner. “Every word I speak, no matter the intent, I do believe. I stare upon the world and see the truth. I am feared upon the heavens and earth like my father before me. My kin has temples and statues in their honor. Mortals praise and worship with love as I am forgotten and feared. Only when their time has been met, do they remember the god that dwells within this realm.”

With resentment, Hades complained further of his internal struggles. “I take no joy in what I do, Thanatos. Hatred is pinned upon my name so strongly without a glimmer of joy, and no ease comes with such knowledge. For such an ill choice, I was cast upon an eternity of damned souls. Looking out in the dismal existence of a realm, scenes remain unchanged, time feels thin, and questions of one’s sanity arises when struggling to deal with such atrocities.”

“My liege, I did not know such burden was weighed upon your shoulders,” Thanatos sympathized.

“How could you?” he added. “Every god has its own task. No god feels the same struggles. You, my friend, are the closest to relate to such pain. Most of what others do is rather enjoyed than loathed. For us? A prison that cannot be escaped and that dear friend, was where my epiphany finally came into reality.”

Thanatos refrained from saying any more. The god did not know such turmoil resided within Hades. Seeming distraught, Thanatos apologized for his suffering. The god felt useless. What else could be done besides comfort a friend? Hades tried thanking him for his company but was interrupted. Peeking out of his window, thunderous sounds rippled across the underworld.

“Zeus has arrived,” Thanatos informed.

A lightning bolt the size of a dory spear burst through the door and came hurtling toward Hades at tremendous speed. Hades conjured a shadow in front of him and redirected the blast. Zeus, dressed in his decorated aegis with a golden crown resting on his head, came barging into the room with determination. Swatting his own bolt like a fly, rubble flew everywhere as a gaping hole was left on the side of the palace quarters.

Sarcastically, Hades welcomed Zeus. “Brother, as always, an unexpected surprise. How may I be of service?”

“How dare you defy me!” Zeus yelled. Glaring at Thanatos, Zeus decided to repay the favor that Hades so graciously gifted Hermes. “Away, you insect.”

Electricity radiated out of his eyes as lightning came down from the heavens and struck Thanatos. Nothing remained of the god. Blindsided, he asked what Zeus did. His brother looked at him, annoyed. “Pets have no place among our quarrel.”

Darkness consumed the room as Hade’s eyes flickered black. “What … did you do?”

Zeus walked up to his brother, proud, and cocky. “Careful brother, or you shall do something deplorable.”

Hades grabbed Zeus and slammed him against the wall. Fueled by rage, he began tightening his grip. His brother only smiled at the situation. “You truly are mad to forget your place.”

“Let’s see your place when you beg for mercy,” Hades replied confidently.

Zeus grabbed his hands, and forcefully started pulling his fingers off one at a time. Feeling a rush of electricity through his fist, Zeus let out a forceful punch onto his brother’s chest. Hades flew backward, caving in the wall behind him. Slowly pushing himself off, he landed face-first onto the ground.

Zeus walked up to his brother and grabbed him by the chin. Lifting him up in the air, Hade’s body hung dead. “Temperamental are we? False confidence fills the mind, and you see what befalls you. My best judgment speaks of casting you upon the depths of Tartarus and reacquainting with our monstrous father, but that would be unwise of me.”

Tossing him back onto the floor, Zeus decided to let himself out. “Thanatos,” Zeus said, “Cast upon the surface world to continue reaping souls. Never shun my children from doing their tasks. Such insolence demands correction, and I shall come bearing such a gift when I decide best. Then you can recall who truly is the king among all, brother.” With his final word, Zeus walked out of the room while Hades laid upon the floor, reconciling with what transpired.

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