I caught sight of a man making his way down the long hallway. “Who’s that?”
Cassandra followed my pointed finger and narrowed her dark eyes. “Hey you!” She jogged through the entertainment room to the hall.
I followed closely behind her, studying the man. Something was off about him. He was tall, wearing robes the same disorienting black I’d seen on Hades, but that wasn’t what stood out to me. Light seemed to bend around him, as though he was sucking it out of the room.
“Reapers aren’t allowed down here.” Cassandra frowned. “How did you get clearance?”
“From Thanatos. What about you? Do you have clearance?” he asked in a snide voice.
Cassandra bristled. “I live here.”
“Ah yes, Hades’ pet soul. I almost forgot. What about her?” He motioned to me.
“None of your business. She belongs here, you don’t. So shoo!”
“I’m Persephone.” I was determined to be polite, no matter how snide he sounded.
Cassandra sighed. “You don’t have to talk to him.”
“I’m Zachary.” He gave me an appreciative once-over. “You must be new here.”
“I am.” I made myself meet his eyes. It was hard to look at him directly; my eyes kept getting distracted by the strange bends in light around him. “Nice to meet you.” I extended my hand.
“No, Persephone, don’t!” Cassandra reached out to block the Reaper’s hand. His fingers brushed mine and I fell to my knees screaming. Fire laced through my veins. Something ripped inside of me, trying to break free.
“Shit! She’s alive?” Zachary sprang away from me, hands in the air.
“Yes, she’s alive, you idiot!” Cassandra yelled. She knelt beside me. “Hades!”
I gasped. My arms were crossed over my chest, gripping my shoulders to hold myself together. My vision swam. I doubled over, my head nearly touching the stone floor.
“What happened?” Hades appeared in front of me. He knelt beside me, a frown marring his otherwise perfect face. He touched my shoulder and I cried out. Something within me shifted and suddenly the pain was gone.
I stared up at him, breathing hard. “What—”
Hades was already on his feet, turning on the Reaper. “What are you doing here?”
“I didn’t know she was alive, I swear!”
“I didn’t ask if you knew she was alive, I asked what you’re doing here.”
“What happened?” I asked Cassandra when she offered me her hand and helped me up.
“Reapers collect souls and bring them to the Underworld,” she explained.
“Thanatos sent me. I was getting the list. I’m really sorry.” Zachary met my eyes. “I didn’t know you were alive.”
That horrible feeling had been my soul? I stared at Zachary in disbelief. He looked terrified. I followed his gaze to Hades.
“It was my fault. I shook his hand. I didn’t know that would happen.”
Cassandra rolled her eyes. “He shouldn’t be here at all, and he knows it. You should be able to walk around freely in your own palace.”
“Her own . . . ” Zachary paled. “Oh shit. I mean, I’m really really sorry. I didn’t know we have a queen.”
I opened my mouth to correct him, but Cassandra squeezed my hand.
Hades looked at Cassandra, then back at Zachary. “Go find Thanatos and bring him to me.”
Zachary stumbled away, apologizing with every step.
This week I’m focusing on Halloween appropriate Greek Myths, so it seemed like Reapers were a good place to start. Reapers don’t (to my knowledge) have much of a place in Greek Mythology besides Thanatos, and Cronus. I take a bit about Thanatos a few weeks ago. He gets the Reaper association because he’s the god of death. Cronus gets it nod because he used a sickle to castrate his father.
There is a god of death in just about every cultures but the idea of multiple Reapers is, as far as I can tell, pretty new. Obviously shows like “Dead Like Me” or “Supernatural” have played a part, and I owe a huge debt of my depiction of Reapers to the “Soul Screamers” series by Rachel Vincent. (Amazing series, seriously everyone should read it).
In my version Reapers are just regular souls granted powers by Thanatos and Hades to go release souls from dead bodies. They don’t actually kill anyone, they just release the souls. I felt like that was an important distinction. Death is part of the natural cycle decided on by all the gods, it’s not just Hades’ evil decision, and the Reapers aren’t typically just hanging around waiting to maliciously kill someone. Their touch is a mercy.
Reapers are volunteers, but they must meet some criteria. The first being that everyone they knew in life is dead. There’s probably more to the selection process, but for now I’m keeping my options open. While Reapers don’t typically kill people they do have the ability. If they touch a human they release their soul, dead or not. They can also hurt Persephone quite a bit because she hasn’t come into her powers yet so her soul still tries to leave at their touch, it just can’t go anywhere.
The Reapers play a pivotal role in the second book of the series, but we’ll see more of them as the series progresses.