rėvěnge' n. an honeyed or ambrosial food, usually served chilled.
Part 1: In which the God of the Dead contemplates the God of Mischief's screwed-up Afterlife
The God of
Mischief (deceased) and current Personal Assistant to Hades, King of the Dead,
lay beside the pool and idly cast pebbles into its still surface. It was winter
here in Asphodel. Persephone had arisen to bring spring to the world above once
more, and all the Underworld seemed to be sinking daily into a deeper gloom
without her lightening presence. Even Strife had found himself wishing the days
to speed by quicker. Inasmuch as Asphodel had days. As he lazed apathetically by
the pond he considered the one surprising friendship resulting from his
rather than stupid, Strife had avoided Persephone like the plague that first
year, knowing how Hades doted on her. Not trusting himself to not offend he had
skulked around Tartarus for six months. Pissing Hades off was guaranteed to win
himself an unpleasant afterlife, a fate he was keen to avoid. So except for
banalities mumbled at the occasional unavoidable dinner party he had managed to
barely say a dozen words to her.
The second year he
had been aghast to find the Queen of the Dead deliberately seeking him out. At
first he had been offended to be the recipient of such condescension. After a
few encounters however, he realised not only did Persephone find him amusing,
but she was also neither easily insulted nor shocked. Demeter's smothering
maternalism had actually created a strong minded individual instead of a
dependant weakling. Yet most gods took her for a delicate flower rather than the
iron rose she was. It was this misconception that bridged the gap between the
two gods and laid the foundations of friendship, for if anyone knew about being
misunderstood and underestimated, it was the God of Mischief.
The next year, had
cemented their friendship. The only other young god Strife had willingly spent
large amounts of time with was Cupid, and that was a whole different ball of
wax. Persephone's duties were light and his were amorphous at the best of times,
so they gravitated towards each other whilst Hades worked. At first it had felt
odd being with a goddess in what was essentially a friendly platonic
relationship. Though once you got past the female, warm, two breasts, two arms
and two legs attraction, she wasn't really Strife's type. Quite aside from the
fact Strife knew Hades would cut his balls off for even looking at her
squirrelly and he liked his family jewels just where they were, thank you very
much - dead or not.
It seemed odd to him, that change was just as much a part of being dead as it was of being alive. Most of the major gods seldom bothered to change unless a major catastrophe impacted them. Minor gods such as Strife quickly learnt to be flexible. Being dead enforced this even more. Being dead meant having no access to the power generated by the living, and reduced power meant reduced abilities, reduced range and reduced senses. And prospects for worship were small in the Underworld.
Tartarus was a place where Deimos and Phobos would have fit right in, but mischief there was a minor factor. He did have followers in the Elysian Fields, mainly amongst the youngest shades who dwelt there. However, their tricks were of the gentle childish sort that gave him a mild charge, sweet as honey and quite delicious, but lacking any great power.
*Well, my control has gotten pretty darn spiffy if nuthin' else.* Strife mused. *Just a pity I ain't capable a doin' jack shit. The Energizer Bunny could beat the crap outta me.*
Hades message light popped into existence beside him
#May I see you in the Hall of Judgment please.#
*Much more civilized than Unc Are's bellowin' at me. Well, betta go see what he wants.*
Strife flashed himself to the Hall of Judgment in a small explosion of electric purple and black sparks. It had taken him weeks of continuous practice to get that effect down pat, and he had the nasty suspicion you could only do the black sparky bit if you were dead or something close. But he hadn't had anything better to do with his time and figured it would make Deimos sick with jealousy when he saw it. If he ever saw it, that was.
The chamber was empty but for Hades seated on the throne. The vast hall was of deep charcoal marble, veined in the color of dried blood and hung with dark tapestries that moved disturbingly in the corner of your eye when you didn’t look at them directly. Silence echoed up the walls like the barely perceptible song of crystals and the columns that lined the sidewalls stretched up and up and up, disappearing into infinity. Even Strife hated to look up and see that endless void above him.
Hades sat stiffly upright on the plain seat, and a pang shot through Strife at the memory of Ares sprawled like a lazing panther across his skull-embellished throne.
"Yo, Great Unc."
"Strife, I have been given a formal request by Cupid to visit you."
Hades watched as the God of Mischief's whole being closed in upon itself. Leather-clad arms wrapped themselves around a leather-clad body, shoulders slumped and pale blue eyes blanked.
"No." came quietly.
Hades sighed. "It was a formal request. You must give a reason for refusing."
"Why? I don't wanna see him an’ that's that!"
“It is but honest courtesy.” Hades commented quietly in an impartial voice.
“What’s the point? I’m dead. He’s not. It ain’t like we’re gonna talk about the latest MTV video y’know? Tell him visitin’ rights are suspended. This ain’t a zoo.”
Strife turned on his heel and stalked towards the exit.
“Strife…” Hades raised a hand to delay the departing god, then let it fall.
He couldn’t think what to say to reach his son. The past five years had not brought them any closer, despite his efforts to create a bond between them. All it had done was show him the damage caused by centuries as one of Olympus’s favorite whipping boys. Strife didn’t trust the older and more powerful god on principle, and Hades still had not spoken of their true relationship. Not that he thought it would have helped anyway. Centuries of neglect couldn’t be wiped out in a few small months and so he had to watch Strife shy away with suspicion from any contact that wasn’t directly related to work. Persephone had an easier relationship with Strife than he did, but even she admitted they never spoke of personal matters.
Hades knew the God of Mischief received few prayers or offerings here. Just enough to create a mere trickle of energy, sufficient for basic abilities, but that was all. It must be like feeding thin gruel to a man used to the most sumptuous of feasts, Hades thought. It was one of the reasons he usually released the gods who found themselves in his realm after they survived the passage there. He shuddered at the thought that Strife might not have been strong enough to re-coalesce from the Void when he had died. Bacchus had failed to do so, no great surprise when thinking of the wild and chaotic god of debauchery. Strife had surprised him with how disciplined he could be, though his self-control left something to be desired. He had to admit, however grudgingly, Ares had trained the boy well. He had also shown a flair for strategy which must have been useful when planning trouble, but that was unneeded here.
Monotony was Strife’s worst enemy in Asphodel, but after the third year he had refused to see any of his visitors. Only the stronger gods could freely enter Hades’ realm due to Asphodel’s blocking of their power source. None of the younger ones had come, though Hades would have given them welcome.
Of the others, Eris was of course banned.
Hera had visited a few times, and he had watched from a distance two dark heads bent together in murmured conversation in one of the shady woods beside the Styx. Hades found those times to be painful reminders of long abandoned dreams.
Ares had appeared often, avoiding Hades with a glower, and taking his nephew off for long walks, relating gossip and misadventures that kept Strife in high spirits for days after he left.
Cupid, whose relationship to his son Hades was still uncertain of, had also come frequently. Strife had initially enjoyed seeing the God of Love, but then grown more and more depressed and agitated after his visits as time had passed. At the end of the second year he had asked Cupid not to come again. The God of Love had shouted and ranted and pleaded to no avail. Three years later he was still trying, this time through official channels.
And then, two years ago, Strife had suddenly asked that no visitors be allowed.
Hades had argued. Persephone had argued.
Strife had remained firm.
Not his Grandmother, not his Uncle, and certainly not his Cousin.
Hades had secretly been glad, sure that his son was resigned to his new existence and that he would now welcome Hades. But that had not transpired. Strife had withdrawn into himself, only spending time with Persephone when she was here, and keeping to himself when she was not.
And lately. Lately the God of Mischief seemed to be merely existing from day to day, the spark of manic joy that so characterized him dulling into apathy. Hades didn’t what to do about that, or even if there was anything he could do. If Strife continued to decline like this, th…
Thanatos’s mind-voice broke in upon his musings. He looked up.
*Will you judge this day’s intake now, My Lord?*
“No, no leave me for a while. There is something I must do.”
Hades waited until the black-winged figure had vanished through the doorway, then conjured a scrying mirror. He blew gently on the surface and thought of his son. The mirror's surface rippled, then showed him the God of Mischief striding down a dark corridor filled with mortal shades…
Part 2: In which the God of Mischief screws up someone else's Afterlife.
Strife was already several feet past the shade when his brain caught up with him and recognized who it was.
*Fuck! Iolaus! Jerkules’ bright-eyed boy. Wadda reckon he’s gonna be outta here before Jerkoff can finish whinin’ “Daaadeee”? Fuck, fuck, fuck. It jus’ ain’t fuckin’ fair.*
Strife ground his teeth, stopped and kicked the wall.
"Ow! shit! shit! shit! that hurt."
The shades lining the corridor slowly edged away from the snarling leather clad figure. Annoying a god, especially a dead one, wasn't a good idea at this stage in their existence. Even their slowed synapses thought so. Strife glared at them and one dressed as a warrior bowed politely to him. Strife smirked at the small act of respect, and then the dagger on the man's belt caught his attention. He shuddered. It looked awfully like that damn thing he'd thrust into Serena and then got stuck in him. Of course they both had probably come to Ares's armory from the same forge and th...whoah!
*Oooh, yes! This is like the opportunity of a deathtime! I am sooo gonna fuck wit' his mind...*
Strife flicked a small blessing on the warrior, one his Great-Uncle would hopefully see and honor, then spun and strode back down the corridor. He grabbed Iolaus and vanished them in a small hailstorm of amethyst and ebony.
Iolaus surfaced abruptly from the haze that followed death and preceded judgment in the Halls of the Dead. He glanced around confused, last thing he could remember was a fight, and Hercule's voice yelling his name. Now he was in some sort of upper-class receiving room with...Strife! The dead god looked the same as he always had, 'paler' not really being an option. Dressed in the usual oddly-cut and decorated black leathers, hair a spiky dark halo and ice blue eyes glowing in his ashen face.
"Well, well, well, Iolaus da Hunter - hello dog-boy! Ain't seen you since Jerkules' little wifey got offed. He's losin' bedtoys left, right an' center now, ain't he?" Strife smirked at him.
*Dead. I'm dead again* Iolaus realised.
"What? No snappy comeback? Naah, Herc the Jerc don't keep ya round for the conversation, now do he?" Strife grinned at him "Then again, I'm sure he keeps ya 'roun for the mouth."
Iolaus flinched away from the verbal attack. Whilst he hadn't exactly liked Strife the few times they'd met, he couldn't think what he'd done to incur this type of venom from the god.
"Tell me, don't it worry you that your lover like jumps inta bed wit ya after doing the wild thing wit' an animal? I mean I know he's a demigod an' all, but don't the bestiality thing squick ya jus' a liddle? Married ta her or not?"
Iolaus saw red.
"What?! That's what you thought Serena was? Some dumb beast? She was a woman! A good, decent, loving woman! Who you murdered!!"
"Heh - yeah right. I woulda thought you'da appreciated that an' all. What wit' it leavin' the field clear fer ya."
Guilt and remembered jealousy flashed across the hunter's mobile face, and Strife pounced on the weakness.
"An' come on, weren't like she were a real human, was it? I mean can we say venison here? "
With a roar of rage Iolaus charged at the god. Instead of slamming into him however he felt himself slide past, as though Strife were enveloped in an invisible slippery shell. He managed to stop just before he ran into the wall, turned and stormed back to the god, who stood, arms crossed in a relaxed pose, sneering at him.
Iolaus threw a punch at Strife, who raised up a hand. The blow missed by a fraction but momentum spun the hunter around. His legs twisted together and he fell clumsily to the floor, sitting there for a few seconds, stunned. He flushed in mortification at the uncontained laughter spilling from Strife's lips, scrambled to his feet and swung at the leather-clad figure a second time, only to find his blow passed by the other's face and sent him overbalancing yet again.
"Well he sure don't keep ya round fer ya fightin' skills. I ain't even dodging ya, Curly" Strife smirked.
"You're using magic, you chicken-shit!"
"To quote ‘Dite - duuuh! I am a god y'know."
"Not much of one. Murderer!"
But what had happened to the fireballs? Iolaus wondered. Strife had never been a god to miss an opportunity to show off his powers.
"Oh, yeah, that really hurt. If that ain't the pot callin’ the kettle black!"
"What?! I've never murdered anyone in my life!"
"No? Ya got rid of a few people that had it comin ta them, didn't ya? People you thought the world was better off without?"
"People like you, you mean? Iolaus snarled.
"Yeah right! As if! All I did was follow orders on that one."
"The orders of a first class murderer!"
"Hey, hey if I was you I'd stop dissin the King a the Gods, y'know?"
"Huh? What are you talking about?"
Strife started to pace around Iolaus.
"Oh, ya ain't gonna blame that one on Ares. Deer-girl got her expiry date stamped by the big Z himself."
"Zeus?" Iolaus thought hard, "Zeus...ordered Serena's death" he finished in disbelieving tones.
"Bingo!" Strife whispered in his ear from behind him, hand on his shoulder.
Iolaus pulled away from him.
"I don't believe you."
"Why would I lie?" Strife's eyes glittered like blue ice. With amusement and what looked like pity, Iolaus realized with horror.
"No. I don't believe you."
"Ya think Zeus mighta been juuuuust a little pissed ’cos she was no longer under his thumb? Last a' her kind - ya really think he trusted some unpowered ex-demi-god ta protect her? No matter what Ares promised? Hoo, boy, have I gotta bridge ta sell ya! I mean, get real – he’s gonna let her run around? The one being whose blood can kill gods?" Strife laughed bitterly "An don' I know that!”
“I, I, don’t believe…” Iolaus tailed off, face blanched in shock as he considered the ramifications of Strife’s claim. He backed to the couch and sank onto it, his legs no longer supporting him properly.
Strife followed him over and sank to his knees beside him. Iolaus looked at him and defiance resparked in his face.
“You still murdered her! Or did you think the fact you were told to excuses you?”
Strife was suddenly enraged. The remembered terror and agony of dying, the frustration of being caged here in this eternity of boredom, the pain of being separated from his family and friends...and now this impertinent mortal, who was less than pure himself, dared to judge him? Him, a god, who even Hades was prohibited from judging? His anger boiled out in a venomous whisper.
“Ya wanna know sumtin’ else, dogboy? The real reason Grandaddy won’t let me outta this hellhole? 'Cos I didn’t obey him when I killed Serena. Oh yeah,” he sneered at the confusion on Iolaus’ face “He ordered me ta do it alright. An’ I ain’t gonna disobey the King a the Gods fer some meanin’less mortal qualms. I ain’t his spoilt brat of a bastard who kin get away wit’ anythin’ y’know. He wants ya dead - yer dead. No, the reason he won’t let me out was 'cos I did her too easy…”
The most unpleasant smile Iolaus had ever seen crawled across Strife’s face. He knew, he just knew he didn’t want to hear what the God of Mischief was about to say. But like an already thundering avalanche it was too late to avoid. Strife leaned forward and hissed,
“He wanted me ta make an example of her. He wanted her beaten an’ raped an’ tortured. He wanted her ta perish in agony, screamin’ in fear. He wanted people ta remember what went down wit’ her. Ta whisper about it in horrified voices in dark corners. Ta have nightmares about it in th' depths of winter. Ta write tragedies about it so it weren't never forgotten. He wanted ta make her an example a' what happened ta those that walked away from his ‘protection’…”
“But, but Hercules?”
Iolaus's voice was barely a thread of sound. Strife gave an ugly little chortle.
“Oh, I’m sure he loves Jerkules just fine, don’ get me wrong. But Doofushead wasn’ gonna find out, now was he? What he don’ know won’t kill ’im. An’ hey, women are just so easy ta replace ya know? Gramps’s always gotta ’nother hottie on the string. I’m sure Herc takes after him that way - an’ he’s just sooo the forgivin’ type too.”
Stife launched himself off his knees and Iolaus shrank back on the couch in fear. The god just sneered at him however and walked to the side table, pouring himself a cup of wine. He sipped it, then turned back to the hunter, eerie smile lighting up his pale blue eyes like witchfire.
“See, I knew Serena when we was alive. Not real well, ya understan, just in passin’ like mosta da Herd. She always struck me as an OK sort, if about as innerestin’ as processed cheese. So I didn’ do what Gramps tol’ me. I just stuck the knife in ’er chest. Bam. Dead. She didn’ even wake up. And Zeus? He turned up right at the end ta commiserate wit ol’ Herc there. Say wadda shame it was and how sorry he was. An if ya believe that, I still got that bridge fer sale.”
Iolaus frowned, remembering Zeus revealing himself at the end of the tragedy. The King of the Gods had then returned his son’s demi-godhood, rather than reviving Serena as Hercules had asked.
“So Gramps, he gets one dead piece a’ venison an’ one re-powered teacher’s pet an’ he wins all 'round. ‘Cept fer the little matter a punishin’ me, o’ course. Then I very kindly go ahead an’ get myself killed, an’ he’s perfeck'ly within his rights ta leave me down here. Despite the pesky little ‘no-gods-killing-other-gods’ rule.”
The anger swiftly ebbed away as quickly as it had come, trailing depression in it’s wake. Strife placed the cup of wine down and looked at Iolaus. The shade was hugging himself and rocking slightly as if in shock.
*If dog-boy were alive, he'd be havin' a real bad day.* Strife thought with malice *Guess he’s jus' havin' a real real bad death.*
“So now ya know. The whole sordid littl’ story. Not that it’s gonna do ya much good now, is it? You bein’ dead an’ all and Herc’ bein’ alive. Much as Jerkules deserves ta know da Truth”
Iolaus looked up at him with dazed eyes.
*Ohhh, yeah. Jus' rub it in wid da word a' the year for Jerkules - 'Truth'*
Strife restrained himself with great difficulty from giggling.
*Well asshole, ya gonna find out that contrary ta what ya think Truth ain't a beautiful thing. 'N fact, the bitch is usually uglier 'n Medusa.*
"Well now," Strife said with renewed cheer in his voice. "I better return ya ta the line 'fore Great-Unc thinks I've purloined ya fer nefarious purposes."
The last thing Iolaus saw before his vision was eclipsed in purple and black sparkles was the sympathetically smiling face of the God of Mischief. Somehow that seemed very wrong.
wit one stone. Am I good or what? *
next chronicle: war in rome - part 1