The Reaper narrowed his eyes. “What did you expect me to do, restrain her? In case you’ve forgotten—” He waved his hand in my direction. I flinched. “I can’t touch her.”
Hades’ hand shot out, snapping the Reaper’s wrist. “Do not lie to me.” He tightened his grip. “What really happened?”
The Reaper gasped, face paling. “I told you, she woke up and went nuts—”
Hades twisted the Reaper’s arm, using it to steer him into the wall. “Then why are there bruises around her neck?”
The Reaper’s eyes went wide. “I…I don’t know. Someone must have…” He trailed off, noticing Hades had gone very still, gaze riveted to the Reaper’s arm.
A single strand of my hair clung to the Reaper’s sleeve, shining like a golden beacon against the dark material. Hades yanked the Reaper’s sleeve back, exposing the scratches decorating the
“What did you do?”
“I can explain.”
“Did you touch my wife?” Hades’ voice was low and dangerous.
Hades’ fist slammed into the Reaper’s face. A shield dropped. I blinked, staring at the place where Hades and the Reaper had been. My vision was swimming. I felt lightheaded, a wave of dizziness overwhelmed me, and my eyes rolled shut.
“No you don’t.” Hades was beside me in a flash. I bolted upright, looking behind Hades for the Reaper. He was at the table; a shield had formed around him, gluing him in place. His face was puffy, like Hades had used it for a punching bag.
“It’s okay.” Hades’ voice was soothing. “It’s going to be okay.” He gently kissed my forehead, searching for echoes of pain and panic. His fingers traced a sensitive spot on my neck. I flinched, feeling the network of bruises laced around my throat from the Reaper’s grip. He pushed my sleeves to the side following the red impressions left by the Reaper’s fingers. His jaw clenched when he found the handprints on my side.
Healing warmth spread through his palms, erasing the pain wherever they touched. His fingers brushed the bruises on my leg. His gaze went dark. I could feel the rage coursing through him. He was like a powder keg, ready to explode. When his fingers traced my bruised lips, he took a deep breath, struggling to maintain his temper. He clasped a hand to my cheek, probing further. For a second I could feel my soul as solid and certain as any other part of me.
“Gods,” Hades swore as he assessed the condition of my torn and battered soul. I felt a flash of power, and it fell back into place, whole and unharmed.
Behind him, the Reaper gasped for breath. He looked different. The light wasn’t bending around him the same way it usually did. “What’s happening to me?”
Hades stiffened and pulled away. He studied me for a moment, and I knew he wanted to make sure I was okay before he dealt with the Reaper. I nodded and Hades stood and pivoted toward the Reaper.
“I’ve brought you back to life.” Hades’ voice was cold.
“Don’t get too excited. The condition is temporary.” Hades gave the Reaper a dark grin. “You seem like the type of guy that likes to experiment. You got real creative tearing my wife’s soul to bits. Surely at some point you must have wondered what it felt like.”
“N…no.” The Reaper looked like he wanted to say more, but couldn’t. Thanatos must have found some way to bind him. He looked to me, eyes wide in desperation.
Sucks, doesn’t it? I sat up on the couch, flashing the Reaper a savage grin.
He read my thoughts on my face and gulped. “You don’t understand. It wasn’t just—I didn’t—
There’s more—” His voice gave to an anguished cry when Hades reached out and grabbed him by the shoulder.
“Please! Stop!” he screamed, writhing in agony.
“How many times did she say that?” Hades demanded. “How many times did you make her beg?”
His hand turned white, and it plunged through the Reaper’s neck.
The Reaper let out a guttural cry.
“How long could a normal human soul survive this? Did you ever wonder that?” Hades shook the Reaper; he moved limply, like a rag doll. “Let’s find out.”
There was a bright flash of light, and the Reaper was gone.
Hades was the oldest child of Cronus and Rhea. After Zeus was born and the ten year battle against the Titans was won, Hades and his brothers drew straws to determine who would win which realm. Hades got the Underworld.
In my version of the story the gods just picked what appealed to them. Zeus wanted to rule everything, so he and Hera got the skies, short on people and sentient beings, but it was really more of a symbolic realm since the god of the skies was the god of the gods. Poseidon liked the sea so he picked it, Hades chose the Underworld because he liked people and wanted to help them in some way. Demeter chose earth, and Hestia didn’t really choose anything other than the hearth and home, which isn’t really a realm.
With the exception of the Persephone myth (and the Minthe myth), Hades is never really portrayed as evil. Just passive and wealthy. He was big on balance and order. The dead stayed dead, the living died eventually. Anyone trying to cheat that system was punished, except demigod heroes, who inexplicably go to the Underworld often in mythology. It’s actually part of the hero cycle. I’ve explained that away by saying demigods can travel between realms.
Hades, like the other gods, liked to accessorize. He’s wealthy. He had his handy cloak of invisibility, his dark creepy chariot, and his trusty dog, Cerberus (who is missing in my world). There are some schools of thought that say that Zeus and Hades are the same god, Hades is just the chthonic version of Zeus. Others say that Hades and Dionysius are the same god because Demeter refused to drink wine while her daughter was missing. There’s a lot of evidence behind that last one that says Hades was kind of a cover name for initiates of the Eleusinian Mysteries. I don’t know how I feel about that, but Dionysius doesn’t make an appearance in any of my books so far, so I’m keeping my options open.