The River Styx
You decide to stay with the women. It seems like they know what they're doing better than you do. One of them goes to the edge of the river and hands a sack of coins to a hooded figure in a little black boat. As she bends down to give them to him, you notice something odd...could that be a tail peeking out from under her robes. It seems improbable, but then, so does being turned into a Pegasus.
The hooded creature counts the coins carefully then stows them in his robes. He then nods to the woman, who waves the rest of the group over, with you in tow. The hooded figure speaks. You're not sure if it's the sound of his voice, or just a long-dead memory reawakaning, but somehow you know that he's Charon, boatman of the dead. It's not the slapdash, halfway knowledge that told you that Persephone's mother wasn't Ceres. No, this is absolute certainty, just like you'd be able to recognize the president or your old grade school. It's almost as if the suit knew, and you know because the suit knows. Charon's voice is hollow and old, like a dying wind: "I can only take one at a time."
The leader snaps back, in a relatively sharp tone, "That's a rather inneficient operation now, isn't it?"
To which Charon replies, "The dead can wait. The dead can wait." It isn't a reply so much as a mantra.
The group leader appears ready to pitch Charon into the river and pilot the boat herself, but another member of the group speaks first:"I'll go first," she says. She steps toward the boat, and her face is awash in the green light emanating from the river.
She appears to be covered with fur. It's odd that you never noticed this before. Must've been the tranks. She continues, "I'll meet our prisoner on the other side and take her to Persephone." The woman who paid Charon speaks up now, sounding irate: "We shall ALL deliver the beast, so we shall all recieve our due payment." She steps into the boat without another word, and the ferryman takes her away, laboriously slowly.
The River Styx is an impossibly wide river. You also have no way of knowing if Charon drops passengers directly on the other side, or if there's a certain point on the huge island where the incoming dead are dropped. To pass the time, you look over your captors. The leader has green eyes with slits for pupils and claws. Another one is sporting a unicorn horn and tail. Another one has tiger-striped skin, and the one who originally offered to cross first is an
anthropomorphic housecat. Then it dawns on you: everyone here has been changed by a costume. Maybe this entire pseudo-Greek Mythology universe is populated by victims of that creepy costume maze. Charon could be some poor sap who happened upon a Charon costume back in the maze. The shadowy people on the riverbank, too.
At first you thought they were the dead, but then you realize: nobody stays dead in this universe, they just get reborn in the local inn. So they're not real
shades, they're people in shade costumes.
Suddenly, this whole adventure feels less like a horrible nightmare and more like a play, or Halloween. You laugh at the thought of these women asking Persephone for candy when they deliver you. Except that the laugh comes out as a high pitched whinny. Come to think of it, you're not sure you can speak.
You test it out with a simple "Hello, can you undertand me?" All you hear is a high-pitched whinny, but the woman with the unicorn horn whinnies back. Oddly enough, you understand it as, "I can understand you. Any horse morph will. But my companions are all cat morphs, and just think we're making noises."
The leader, evidently, did not understand you, because she simply snaps, "Shut up," and commences licking the back of her hand daintily.
Time is a funny thing in Hades. There's no sun, no rose-fingered dawn, so you have nothing to mark the passage of time. Maybe time doesn't pass at all. That would stink, since you have to stay a pegasus for at least a week. In time, or perhaps not, Charon appears back on the shore. The leader hastily shoves you into the boat and you set off. More time, or less, or no time passes at all, and you are deposited on the opposite side of the river. The woman there takes ahold of your reins and waits...
Eventually, every last member of the group is on the opposite shore, and the leader again takes ahold of you. You are led to the looming castle, and the leader pounds on a set of huge double doors. They swing open slowly and, apparently, automatically.
The group heads down winding corridor after winding corridor, up one set of steep, unsafe stairs after another, all the while you struggle to keep your balance while being dragged along. Finally, the group arives at a small door on the top of a tower. The leader again knocks. This time, a dainty voice answers: "Enter."
The leader pushes the door open and on the other side you find...
Written by Zodiac on 01 July 2007