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Generated: Apr 28, 2021 9:10 PM
Post last updated: Apr 28, 2021 9:10 PM
blood and darkness
The son of Hades attracts the attention of many beings from all paths of life and beyond
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If they were mortal, Chaos might be amused by the irony in saying that they predate time. It was not until their daughter Gaia and grandson Uranus sired Cronus that it came to be, and to this day their relationship with their (great-)grandchild is cordial at best. Chaos lies at the outer edges of the world, and has little concern for the limitations their (great-)grandchild has placed upon it.

Still, they notice an interdimensional interloper drifting by the metaphorical window, and Chaos likes patterns as much as they like breaking them. So when Lord Hades's son will begin to attempt his little stunts at breaking the walls that confine him, that seems like the appropriate time for this visitor to arrive. All that the primordial Titan has to do is open the metaphorical window a little bit further, and here she is, touching the surface of their world, slipping through the membrane that keeps it from spilling outside.

When the young godling sees the portal and sacrifices a little bit of his vitality to go through, heedless of his own sanity and wellbeing, it is not Chaos who awaits him in these shadowy chambers.

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Someone is curled up asleep in the temple in the floating starscape that normally holds Chaos. She's nestled in a blanket made of a different set of stars, looking as still and peaceful as death is supposed to be, for people that actually find that debilitating or something. Her hair is long and loose and a brilliant (and somewhat unnatural) shade of red, and she's almost unnaturally beautiful. Not quite up to Aphrodite levels of impossible, overwhelming beauty, but the sort of thing that would put paintings to shame. If a little inhuman, and not in the ways the denizens of the Underworld usually are.

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And with little warning, a peculiar young man arrives. The sclera of his right eye are as pitch-black as his hair, and his right iris glows red. His feet are bare, and one could be excused if they believed they were made of molten magma, although the effect fades to normal (if somewhat more faded than usual) skin up his ankles, though they are mostly hidden by grey armour. A long piece of cloth, blood-red and dark grey, is carefully wrapped around his torso in a chiton, attached to his body by a belt of skulls and a similarly macabre shoulderpad. He has a red, faintly glowing sword attached to his hip, and his gait as he regains his composure after whatever event transported him there belies intimate familiarity with the weapon.

He takes a couple of steps towards the sleeping figure before he notices her and stops in his tracks as soon as he does. "Well, you're new," he says, furrowing his eyebrows. "Uh, in the name of Hades, who... are you?"

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A single white-gold eye opens on the blanket, to look at him. Then the blanket flits away into nothingness beneath the woman like a shadow confronted with light, and she opens her eyes and sits up. Her eyes are a much more ordinary hazel, though still subtly more inhuman than the recently dead, or someone from Elysium.

"Hello. I'm Yvette." She tilts her head and looks at him. "You're not of this place, you're... from further up."

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"I... suppose you could put it that way. My name is Zagreus."

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"Well, it's nice to meet you. How did you get here? I highly doubt it was the way I got here." She looks around, and spots the portal. "Oh, I see. That hadn't been there earlier. .... Why is it so sharp."

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He looks up at where she's staring then back at her, blinking. "It looks pretty round from where I'm standing."

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"No, I mean, it bites. It doesn't even need to! Someone just made it that way because they could! That's very rude."

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"Oh, yeah. That would be Chaos. I believe the little trinket they gave me would let me bypass that inconvenience."

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“Biting should be opt-in, not opt-out,” she sniffs. “That’s how consent works, Chaos!”

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He laughs. "I opted in when I decided to step through the portal."

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Her eyes flash the same white-gold of the earlier eye on the blanket. “Yes, but you’ve done this before. Did Chaos explain the mechanism of the portal biting before the very first time you hopped into it?”

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"Well... no, but somehow I knew anyway," says Zagreus, furrowing his eyebrows again.

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She considers this, looking a bit petulant. Then she crosses her arms and huffs a sigh.

“... Fine. I guess that counts as informed consent. I apologize for my incorrect assumption, and I’m sorry for raising my voice.”

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She gets the understanding that she is forgiven, with a slight undertone (that would be amusement if amusement were the kind of thing Chaos was wont to express) that it's harder to offend them than calling their portals "nonconsensually sharp".

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And from Zagreus's snicker he received the same memo.

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“Well even if I didn’t offend you I was due to give an apology anyway. Out of principle.”

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No response seems forthcoming this time.

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"It is probably a good idea to err on the side of being too polite when dealing with gods," Zagreus says, nodding. "Even when one is themself a god...?" he adds, tilting his head in Yvette's direction.

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She furrows her brows.

“Do I seem like a god? Well. I suppose I might be. I don’t know. I’m not the same kind as you, though.”

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"More like Chaos? Or the Titans?"

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“... Closer, but I’m still not like them. I’m not from your world at all. And most of me isn’t even here. Not that I’d come, the place above seems so sticky.”

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"Sticky."

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“It’s not nice to poke fun at people who need more practice at talking,” she sniffs. “Yes. Sticky. It doesn’t want to let anything go.”

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"That it doesn't. He... doesn't... Anyway."

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“You sound aggravated. Are you trying to get out?” She squints at him, her eyes flashing gold again. “Oh, no wonder, that’s offensive. You were just born here!”

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"- I apologise? Erm, offensive how, exactly?"

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"Not you. The thing keeping you. It's offensive, I'm offended. Can I just....? Oh, no. The only way out is through. Damn."

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"My Father? I suppose he is pretty offensive as a person."

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"You're not wrong, but you're also not right, either."

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"I seem to be that pretty often in this conversation," he comments, smiling.

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"I'm really out of practice at talking, sorry."

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"You're doing fine! All your words even have meanings, which is more than I can say for some people."

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“I don’t have the context to understand the implication there. Why wouldn’t my words have meanings? That is what words are for.”

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"I should introduce you to Charon sometime."

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“I assume that will make more sense if I do meet him.”

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"He usually communicates by grunts that I have yet to find out how to decipher."

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“Oh, I see. Well, now I’m curious, so I suppose I’ll have to meet him.”

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"Father must be able to talk to him, I think."

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"Or they have worked out an elaborate sign language. Which seems the obvious thing to do if one can only grunt."

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"That... is a possibility I hadn't considered, yes!"

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"Or a chalkboard. Actually, have you mentioned that you can't understand him and tried to work around it?"

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"Well, I've mentioned it, but I haven't really... had much time to chat, whenever I ran into him."

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"Oh. Okay. Well, I can make you a chalkboard if you want one. Or at least, something that functions like one, anyway."

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"I might take you up on that, if I run into you again. But I neglected to include chalkboard-sized pockets in this garb," he says, motioning down at his chiton.

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"I could tie it to a string, or maybe on the end of a necklace. Though that would be very unwieldy. Hmm. Expandable, maybe...? Oh, you probably have access to the thing that makes chalkboards without me, I'm likely devoting too much thought to this."

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"The thing that makes chalkboards being?"

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"..... S...late...? I'm guessing, I don't know."

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"I think I shall just ask Father. Once he's gotten used to the idea that I'm not staying down here forever."

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"Or you could play an elaborate game of charades with.... Charon, was it? Hm. Ferryman of the Underworld?"

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"The one and only, yes. Are you acquainted?"

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"Not... in so many words, no. Who's your father?"

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"Hades, Lord of the Underworld and god of the dead."

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".... Huh. And there's a Zeus and an Aphrodite and other assorted Greek gods? ... Who's your mom, the flower goddess whose kidnapping explains the seasons?"

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"Yes wait the what?"

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“... Which part of that was questionable, because we’re at the limit of my accrued history channel binge knowledge.”

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"My... mother is Persephone, who has not as far as I know been kidnapped although that would explain where she has been over the past years that is not here. I do not know what seasons are."

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“Oh, no, uh. Kidnapped in the other direction. To be Hades’s wife. But if she’s not splitting the year in half on a timeshare between Hades and, uh, her... mom....? I don’t know what to tell you.”

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"My father does not allow anyone to speak her name. Until recently I thought Nyx was my mother, and only found out otherwise by accident. And that is why I'm trying to leave."

Well, that is some of the reason, at least.

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"Okay. Well. This is very like some mythology from my home, back when I was human, but. I never knew it very well, it's been a while, and demonstrably it's not necessarily very accurate. Does Zeus uh, have sex with anything vaguely female shaped without any care for the word 'no,' can that be inaccurate?"

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"I think his preference for females is not strict."

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"That is not the direction I wanted confirmation in. Ugh." She makes a face, then her entire body turns to a starscape and promptly liquidates into a dark puddle on the floor.

"This is probably ultimately a good thing, because I'm probably close to home if the myths are at all similar," grumbles the puddle of stars on the ground, "but ugh, I am going to spend a lot of my free time here being an unappealing puddle."

The puddle bubbles. Grumpily.

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"I think I am missing quite a lot of context, here."

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"I do not want to pick a fight with a whole pantheon of gods just because one of them gets a boner for me because I'm female shaped. So. I am a puddle. I think it's a very tidy solution, personally."

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"I admire your creativity," he says, eventually. "I do not think he reaches this far down, anyway."

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"It's not even just him!! This is just a thing that happens!! So I'm a puddle and I'm not coming out and you can't make me."

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"I would not dream of it."

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"That was more of a strongly worded emotional expression than an actual expectation that you'd try." The puddle blurbles with the word 'expression,' as if to add some sort of body language to. Being a puddle. "I don't even see how trying would work."

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"I could try to be very persuasive about the benefits of having a body."

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“I can have a body elsewhere. Being a puddle here doesn’t mean I have to be a puddle everywhere, and most of me isn’t even here.”

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"Where is most of you, then?"

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“You ask that like I’ve given names to all of the places I’ve been. Mostly they’ve been empty and sad and not worth the trouble. Most of me’s not in this world, anyway.”

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"Well, it's news to me that there are more worlds," he says, shrugging a bit and stretching his neck. "Anyway, I should probably move on ahead before Father notices where I ran off to."

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“Yes, don’t let me keep you. Actually, can I help you escape?”

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"Well, only you can answer that, I think. I would not refuse an offer."

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“Well the obvious thing to do would be to just follow you around as an eldritch puddle on the floor and directly help with problems as you encounter them. Maybe add some sarcastic commentary along the way. Oh, but that’s not how everyone else is helping you, is it. Hm. I think I can probably give you a blessing like the others you have.”

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"Or both, I would not object to both."

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"You may have both," says the Yvette-puddle, bubbling a little with amusement. "Hm. Let me give you options, that seems to be the way things are done here."

There's a pause, then: he is offered some options! He may have one of three choices. His teleport/dash can leave a ghostly after-image that will briefly trick enemies into thinking he'd never left, his sword can draw enemies towards him when he does this specific special action, or his blood magic cast can take on a slow moving, gravity warping effect that draws enemies towards the center.

"I think I can only do one for now, unless you have any spare stars available for me to eat."

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"I think I'll what do you mean any spare stars?"

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".... It's not as bad as it sounds. When I'm actually eating them, I only pick the ones with dead systems. Usually the unstable ones that were going to explode anyway, since I don't even know what I'd do with a whole star's mass. And most of the time I just siphon off what the star's already giving off. Basically soaking up sunlight? Except also heat and radiation."

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"I think my mostly theoretical knowledge of stars is not up to par so instead I will just pick the gravity effect."

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"Here you go." Gravity effect! "And the stars that I ate were giant balls of super-hot plasma, not, uh, whatever thing may be going on in this world with them. It's fine, really!"

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"My thanks, Lady Yvette."

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And three round holes open up on the floor of the temple floating in the middle of the starry void, smoky darkness leaking from each of them.

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"You're welcome. And thank you for the doors that don't bite, Chaos!"

Well, she has no idea which door is the one Zagreus wants, so she'll just bundle up her puddle into a starry blob, and hop onto his shoulder. The one with the skulls. Actually, she can just go into the skulls to hang out, and be nice and unobtrusive. Maybe this is a bit gross, but her sense of what is and isn't gross is incredibly skewed, since she spent a lot of her early time as whatever-she-is throwing up and bleeding starscapes out from underneath her fingernails. And she can clean them of any leftover organic bits if they're not clean. But they're fine, right, he wouldn't be wearing really gross skulls on his shoulder everywhere he goes, right? ... Right?

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No organic bits on or in the skulls, no, sir.

Zagreus looks at the three portals and decides on one of them seemingly at random, then in he goes.

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They travel through a quick void, and Zagreus lands on one knee in a dark chamber of stone sectioned off from what appears to be moving darkness, with pinpricks of light from small crude buildings visible in the distance. Pillars of stone and various vases adorn the place, but it's eerily empty.

Until bells like death knolls start sounding.

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Which causes Zagreus to immediately perk up and get onto his feet.

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She has no idea what that means! That's a bit intimidating, she's glad she decided to tuck herself away in the skulls on his shoulder. She reminds herself that she is a scary eldritch abomination from beyond the veil of the world, and there is no reason at all for her to be intimidated by some bells. Mhm. No reason at all. Also she's not hiding, she's neatly tucked away. Yes. That is what's happening here.

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After a couple of seconds, another young man appears. His hair is silver and his eyes are gold, but the most notable thing about him is the enormous scythe he has attached to his back. His chiton is dark purple, held in place by various skull- and wings-themed pieces of jewellery, and has a hood which he has pulled up above his head. Despite this, his right pec, shoulder, and arm are left uncovered. He has leg guards similar to Zagreus's, and is also barefoot, although his feet do not look like they are made of lava.

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"Than!"

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"Hello, Zagreus," says the young man. Then he fixes his gaze onto Zagreus's shoulder. "And who's that with you?"

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"Yvette, hi," says the blob of night tucked away on his shoulder, poking a little bit of starscape out from the skulls. "Nice to meet you," she adds, a little shyly. Look, she's intimidated, okay, he has a large scythe and his arrival is announced by a doom bell, he is intimidating.

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"I am Thanatos," he says, simply. "A pleasure to meet you," although it sure doesn't sound it, with the monotone he uses to talk.

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She doesn't particularly mind the monotone, actually. Thanatos, Thanatos, she has no idea what he's the Greek deity of, but the name sounds ominous? Actually maybe she should just look at him instead of being a blob of starscape.

A white-gold iris forms and glows from within one of the skulls' eye sockets on Zagreus's shoulder, and looks at Thanatos.

"Oh. The god of death," she says, thoughtfully. "Though more of a merciful relocation to the Underworld than just making them stop. You must be very busy."

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"Yes, particularly with the war the mortals seem to be having at the moment. Not that any of this ever occurred to a certain cousin of mine."

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"Hey, come on, Than..."

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“Is it just you? For all mortals, everywhere in the world? Oh it is, that’s terrible. What happens when an industrial revolution hits. What if you want a vacation! Do you just leave everybody awkwardly in agonizing mid death limbo whenever you go on a water break?!”

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"Time tends to be on my side," he replies, cryptically enough.

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"Wait, I don't suppose I could get in on that? That would make these escape attempts way easier."

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"No."

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“It is probably rude to ask someone with a very busy job that requires the bending of time and probably also space to accomplish to give you freebies,” says Yvette, in a stage-whisper. “Especially when you’re asking him to bend time and probably also space to help you break a fundamental rule of part of the foundation of the world. That he is extremely connected to. I’m not saying it’s not a dumb rule that doesn’t need it, just. I don’t think death-as-it-exists-in-this-world is the thing to hit it with. I think if he can’t do his job very bad things happen for everybody.”

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Pout.

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"Well, how about we stop wasting time and get going, then, shall we?"

And as he says that a number of glowing circles of light of various sizes start appearing on the floor around the chamber.

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Naturally, she peers at the glowing circles of light with her eye!

“Oh. They’re not going to calmly negotiate about the way the Underworld should be arranged and who should be forcibly kept inside it, are they.”

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"Nope," says Zagreus, popping the 'p'. He grabs the sword from his hip and stretches a bit. "Come at me."

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Various creatures emerge from the circles. Specifically, a couple of floating torsos and floating skulls, as well as two piles of non-floating but still yellow-with-glowing-red-eyes skulls.

The god of death grabs his own weapon of choice and gestures at one of the skulls.

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The smoky, glowing purple scythe that appears above said skull is probably indicative of something, but Zagreus dashes at approximately the speed of sound towards it and a single slice from his sword is enough to break it to pieces.

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"Showoff," says Thanatos in a volume probably too soft for Zag himself to hear.

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“For the record,” says Yvette in a loud voice from Zagreus’s shoulder, “This is a dumb and inefficient way of working out domestic disputes!”

... but it is admittedly pretty nice to watch two pretty boys kill things with great efficiency. Fortunately for her, she’s a starry blob, so no one can tell what she’s thinking.

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If they have anything to say to that, they are both too busy slaying things to do so.

Thanatos's way of dealing with the wretches is slow but extremely efficient; anything that's still up by the time his mark goes off will no longer be.

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But Zagreus definitely takes a more hands-on approach. He takes a couple of tries to get the hang of the gravity gift Yvette bestowed upon him but once he has he uses them to great effect. The great effect is often dragging wretches out of Thanatos's reach so that Zag can get the kill rather than Than, which obviously makes the whole thing take way longer than it needs to, but it works anyway.

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The first time this happens:

"Are you kill stealing. Are you using my blessing to kill steal. That's so rude!"

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No words, only death.

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Death has words, though: "I have never known Zag to play fair, and would be surprised to see him start now," he drawls.

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"Next time I'm helping Thanatos," sniffs the blob of stars from Zagreus's shoulder, loftily. "Because I know what sportsmanship is."

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"As if Thanatos played fair, either!"

Oh now he can talk.

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"You're just mad because you like my gravity warping effect and you're going to pout when I give it to someone else!"

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"He's the god of death he doesn't need more advantages!"

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"You're the god of life, do you?"

At that point wretches stop appearing.

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"I think he's admitting that he does," she conspires, amused.

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"'Course I do," he says, shrugging and relaxing his posture. "Twenty-five," he calls.

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"Eleven," sighs the god of death.

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"It was not a fair contest so I, as the unaffiliated and unbiased third party, do not declare a winner."

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"He can kill these things with a look! I have to actually break a sweat."

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"It doesn't matter," says Thanatos, floating over to where Zagreus is, his feet not touching the ground. "Here. Have this," he says, offering a heart-shaped jewel the size of a football also floating above his hands.

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"Oh. Thank you, Than," he says, meaning it. When he extends his hands to accept the heart, it floats towards him and disappears into his chest.

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This is all very interesting to look at! Huh. What a charming and efficient way to transfer power. Also, cute. Does it need to be heart shaped? Aw, are the gods of death and life boyfriends, because that would be adorable!

"What would have happened if Thanatos won?" she wonders, curiously.

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"I wouldn't have given him the Centaur Heart."

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"Is your love that conditional, Than?"

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Probably most people who received a look this withering from the god of death would be significantly more scared than Zagreus seems to be.

"Are we done here?"

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Okay, so they’re totally boyfriends. Cute!

“Do you want company while you’re at work? It seems like it might get kind of lonely, especially if there’s time warping going on. I can tag along with two people at once.”

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"Do what you will."

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"Hey, how come she gets to tag along and I don't?"

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Withering look.

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“Oh, that’s true. Technically you’d be getting me out of the Underworld if I went with you. I wouldn’t want to get you in trouble. I could send a very small piece of me and hand you a binding to it, and you can kill it and send it back to the Underworld if I try to run? I realize you have ultimate job security but your entire pantheon is really touchy.”

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"I feel like it would not be a problem either way, but thank you."

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“Well, you have my permission to kill the part of me tagging along with you if it looks like I’m doing anything sketchy. I won’t, but I understand incentives.”

A tiny mote of starscape separates itself from the greater whole to go float out in front of him where he can grab it! It is very small, and neatly self contained, and ridiculously easy for him to extinguish.

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Sure he can grab that.

"You might want to learn a thing or two from this new friend of yours, Zagreus," he says, before disappearing in a flash of darkness.

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Sigh.

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“I’m sorry,” murmurs Yvette, from his shoulder. “To be fair, I also don’t think he can just drag you out. The part of me with him is very small, and you can’t separate like I do, and I don’t think it’d be the thing you want if you’re stuck following him instead of going where you want under your own power. But I think he’d pull you out if he could, and that he’s doing everything he can to help.”

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"Would that he'd say that."

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“... Yeah. But I think he is. Do you want a hug, I’ll even go human shaped for it.”

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"Uh, why?"

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“... be...cause you’re sad and physical comfort helps with that? It is also fine if you’d rather not?”

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"I- don't think anyone's ever offered, before, is all. I think it would be nice?"

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“Yeah. I probably need one too, anyway.”

The blob of stars drips out of his set of skulls to form another puddle on the floor in front of him. Out of the puddle rises Yvette, who offers a tentative little smile and two open arms.

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O...kay. He's not sure how this goes exactly with the armour but he can probably step forward and hug?

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Hug!

She is quite snuggly, and not apparently made out of goop at all.

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Okay! This is... nice. It's nice. He rests his chin on the top of her head and shuts his eyes for a second.

"Tell me if my armour is uncomfortable."

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“It’s fine,” hums a very happy Yvette, nestling against him. Snuggles! Snuuuuuuggles! She’s so happy.

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Yeah. Yeah, okay, this is. Nice.

"- I should probably move on ahead though," he says after a while.

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“Okay,” she agrees, just a trace sadly. She gives him a little squeeze. “But you can ask later if you’d like a hug, okay?”

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"Yeah, okay."

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She pulls away from the hug to look at him, “And, hey. I’m going to do my best to get you out too, okay? Within reason. I don’t want to break the Underworld completely open and let all of the dead and imprisoned dangers cause mayhem in the mortal realm, but. I thought about it. I will definitely yell at your dad and maybe literally fight him about it. Okay?”

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He laughs.

"Alright. Onwards."

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“Onwards!”

She melts back into a puddle of darkness and stars, and then hops back onto his shoulder. In the skulls.

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Thanatos's first destination is a war camp on a plain, hidden by rocks. There are tents strewn about, with soldiers standing at attention at the edges of the encampment. He appears right in the middle of the encampment, and starts floating towards a specific tent. Despite his towering, ominous appearance, no one seems to notice him, even when he floats right by their faces.

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Medical tent, probably. That'd be the obvious first destination for the personification of death. What she'd like to do is figure out a way to heal everybody in it and put Thanatos out of a job, but actually she doesn't... have the knowledge or the power to do that. Yet. And besides;

"They just go right back to killing each other if they recover from their injuries, don't they," she sighs.

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"Such is the condition of mortals."

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"What a damned waste. Thank you, for this. I know it probably sucks. Though, to be fair, the minute I figure out how, I'd like to put you out of a job."

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"Death is inescapable."

He floats over to what does, indeed, seem to be the medical tent, larger than most others, and ducks his head to get in. Inside, various beds with patients in conditions of varied severity await, with medics flitting this way and that to take care of them, or writing documents, or just resting.

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"Fine, then I'd like to make your job cushy and boring and meant only for extremely old people after long, fulfilling lives who want to move on to hanging out in the Underworld with all of the cool people," she sniffs.

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Thanatos doesn't reply. Instead, he floats to one of the beds, where a particularly pale young man lies asleep. Although he is covered by a blanket, the volume of his body under it betrays the loss of one leg. His sickly visage seems like it would be sleeping fitfully if it had the energy for fits, but as it is he merely waits.

Thanatos lowers to the ground, dropping to one knee, and puts a hand on the boy's forehead. "It is time," he says, and the death knoll rings, disturbing none but the dead himself, whose eyes open suddenly.

    "Lord Thanatos?" asks the shade.

"You have fought well, and now you shall take your leave."

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Yvette has the good grace and sense to not interrupt. Her tiny little mote of night just stays nestled on the top of his head, hidden by his hood and hair. Warm and small and hopefully some measure of comforting, for the one guy that has to watch every single mortal in the world die.

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He offers the shade his hand, then stands up, pulling the man to his feet as well. "Hermes will be here soon."

The shade nods, trembling a bit, and Thanatos turns to leave.

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Thanatos's head is very snuggled by this tiny warm mote of darkness.

"He doesn't tend to slack on the job, does he...?" murmurs Yvette, a little concerned for lost souls wandering around in the world.

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Thanatos hikes a thumb in the direction of the shade.

The shade is already gone.

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"Oh, good." Head snug!

"Would you like conversation, music, or companionable silence?"

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"I don't have much to talk about."

There's a frame skip and they are elsewhere. A small village, in front of a stone house.

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"And I'm atrociously out of practice! But I can probably still chatter at you, if it wouldn't get on your nerves."

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"I do not have nerves."

He floats up to the door and opens it, and the noises become sharper and resolve into a woman moaning loudly in pain.

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Yvette thinks that statement is bullshit, but it's probably not productive to say so, so she doesn't.

"Hmm. I suppose you must have a high tolerance for things," she agrees.

For some reason, listening to someone moaning in pain sort of distracts from her ability to chatter.

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They move to a back room where a woman is in a bathtub, being helped by two other women. "Push harder," one of the women says, "I can almost see his head!"

"This might get uncomfortable," says Thanatos in his usual monotonic drawl. "She is not going to deliver the baby. I am meant to take both."

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“Oh, fuck pre-industrial standards of medical care and child mortality rates,” she swears fiercely. She opens an eye to peer more closely at the scene before them. Is whatever’s going to go wrong obvious, and possible to maybe fix on a shoestring budget?

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It's not obvious at first, but given that Thanatos probably did not take them to an hour before the actual deaths - and there it is, the first thing the woman manages to push out is not the baby's head. Or feet. Or anything else; it seems to be the umbilical cord.

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That is not fixable on a shoestring budget. Not at all.

“Does the Underworld have good systems for childcare?” she wonders, softly.

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"We try to keep babies with their mothers when we can."

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“Thank you.”

Sad hair nestle. Okay, so break out of the Underworld with Zag and then go shove some industrialization down the throats of humanity, that sounds like a plan.

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It does not take long for the baby to die after the compressions cut off its oxygen. Thanatos lays a hand on top of the pregnant woman's belly, and then he's cradling the baby in his arms. "I'm sorry, little girl," he tells the baby. It's a very small baby, and clearly a newborn despite the lack of the telltale blood that a recent birth would have.

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Yvette slides out of Thanatos’s hair, hops down his arm, and scoots over on his hand to croon a little lullaby to the recently deceased baby.

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The woman still doesn't know her baby won't come out, but her pushes are growing fainter. The compressions ruptured the umbilical cord, and now she is bleeding rather a lot. "Just another moment and you will meet your mum," he murmurs to the conspicuously silent baby. "They don't cry when they die here," he explains, probably to Yvette. "They don't feel any pain."

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She gives a little affirmative hum against his hand, nuzzling it a little, but yep. She’s still going to keep gently singing to the little baby. It helps drown out the sounds of a woman dying in childbirth, anyway.

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It only takes a minute before Thanatos looks at the woman again and offers her his hand. He takes hers and pulls her to her feet, then offers her the baby. "It's a beautiful baby girl," he says, softly.

    "- oh. She's... I'm..."

"Yes."

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There’s no real comfort Yvette can offer here, as a tiny mote of stars. She’ll just quietly slide back up to return to her nesting spot in Thanatos’s hair. With proper medical attention they both could have been fine, it’s so incredibly unfair and she hates it so much. She was already working on how to transfer power to herself through the fabric of this very structured world with its powerful barriers, but now she’s working on it with great prejudice.

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"Hermes will be with you, for your next abode. I'm sorry it had to be this way."

And he turns to leave. Hermes takes the shade before they can notice.

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“It doesn’t, actually,” she says. “Have to be this way. Forever, I mean, there’s not much to be done about it now. If we come across someone I think I can save, may I try?”

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"...you may, but the Fates might not agree with your choice. Then again, it might be Fated that you would intervene."

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Oh, fuck the Fates, she doesn’t say, but thinks, very loudly.

“Thank you. Is there a way I could know their ruling beforehand?”

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"My sisters are not known to take kindly to visitors. There have been situations when they chose to disclose their designs, but they have all been at their own discretion."

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“Well, then I suppose I’ll just have to act as I think is best, and apologize to them if I have upset any of their plans.”

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"As do we all." Teleport now they're in a big city. "I believe they gave Zagreus access to a few prophecies in which he personally takes part."

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"Huh! How does he feel about that?"

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"You would have to ask him."

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"I will, whenever we're done hanging out in the time weirdness and I can talk to myself again. This is a little weird to experience, it's not at all like the time relativity I'm used to working with. Kinda neat, though."

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"It's the only one I know."

Here's the house of a rich guy who's in bed surrounded by loved ones in his last moments.

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Oh, that's a nice way to go. Good for the rich guy, probably.

"Well, from my perspective it's kind of like most of my mind is opaque to the part of me that's thinking for this little mote, and vice versa. Usually it's more like, uh, some of me has more time to think in than others, but I can see it all at the same time, and the differences in speed aren't very large anyway unless part of me's going much faster than others. And here I'm just neatly cut off from myself. I might be able to fight the thing doing this and have my mind be perfectly interconnected again, but that seems like the sort of dumb thing that will not do anything useful at all, get me into at least one big fight, and maybe drive me insane while I'm at it. So. I haven't done that and don't plan to."

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"Sensible."

The old guy doesn't have many objections to being taken, and clearly had made his peace with death a while ago.

After he's gone, Thanatos stops for a while, closes his eyes, and takes a deep breath.

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Yvette gives a little comforting hum from her nest in his hair. Probably what's going to happen next is going to suck, isn't it. He seems like he thinks it's going to suck, he doesn't seem like the type to just take a break between easy jobs.

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They teleport to a battlefield, so the probable answer is "yes".

If the time shenanigans from before were more of the time travel flavour, now the world is decidedly in slow motion. The battle is happening before their eyes, but they can catch the trajectory of each arrow as it flies, see each blow just as it's about to land.

Thanatos has his work cut out for him.

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That he does. Wow. Intellectually, she always knew war was Hell, but, well. Yep. This is definitely more Hell-flavored than the literal Underworld part of her's trapped in, isn't it.

She cannot interfere in a way that makes this all stop. Saving someone's life in one moment does not actually get them out of the danger and horrors of war, or even guarantee they'll last the day. Maybe she'll have an opening or two to stabilize someone that's on the edge of bleeding out, but, well. Probably most of what she could potentially do here is actually going to be a major waste of power and attention that could be used elsewhere more efficiently. And looking around with her extra vision - there are other powers at play here. Gods, and powerful ones. She doesn't particularly want to get their attention, or get in the middle of a divine spat. Probably best to just be Thanatos's little mote companion and little else.

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Definitely other powers, yes, with Ares and Athena being the most prominent ones. They're both present in small quantities everywhere, but if one pays sufficient attention they will notice they seem to be favouring opposing sides.

This might explain why the battle is less one-sided than these things often are.

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The Greek pantheon is such bullshit in so many ways. Who makes two gods of war, of course they're going to fight each other, that's just obvious!

"So," she says, sounding a bit more clinical than usual, "music? I've got some options."

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"Do as you will." He has a job to perform, and he will begin with this poor sod who turned around at the wrong moment and caught an arrow to his carotid.

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"Give a hum if you approve and a grunt if you don't, then."

And then she slides down to perch beside his ear and starts playing him music. Unfortunately for him, she's only got remembered piano music and some more esoteric instrumental pieces written by Yvette herself. Without any real education or theory in musical composition, she thinks they're passable and interesting, but not actually as good. But hey, those piano lessons in middle school sure keep paying off in unexpected ways, don't they.

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He neither hums nor grunts, just moves from one soul to the next: a missed parry here, an arrow to the back there, a sword to the gut elsewhere, two men trampled by their own horses...

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War is such Hell!! Such Hell!! Such pointless, stupid Hell!!! Why are there two gods of it and why are they fighting each other with mortals as their playing pieces!! It's not right, it's not fair, and it's completely horrifying on all levels, what the fuck, Olympians! What the fuck!!

She continues playing music, though. Partly for Thanatos, and partly as something to focus on besides unfathomable rage at the injustice of the universe and the petty, cruel gods that toy with it.

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Thanatos goes at this with practised ease, as befits someone who has been doing this for centuries, maybe even millennia. His face is stone cold, an impassive mask reaping the souls of all the departed, for as long as the battle lasts. Even his kind words are fewer and farther between, here, and with the number of shades being taken Yvette might even catch a glimpse or two of Hermes escorting them to the boatman.

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She's mostly not looking. Zoning out and focusing on musical arrangement seems like the choice that will end with less horrible pointless trauma. She'll notice the lulls in soul reaping, but she's just going to let all of the details slide right by. Thanatos isn't the only one here that can go into a flow state.

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Downswing from his sword and he's damaged the hydra's skull enough that it finally cracks, and its last head crumbles to pieces. "Asphodel done," he says, mostly to himself, as he watches the bone pieces dissolve into red mist.

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"Oh, good, I suppose that means we leave the tiring and cliche lava level. Why is there so much lava here, anyway? This can't be good for Underworld efficiency. Your feet are constantly on fire and you're uncomfortable standing in it!"

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"I think it is technically not actually lava, it's just how the Phlegethon river is."

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"Well it wouldn't be lava anyway since we're underground, it'd be magma, but regardless you see my point, yes?"

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"Yeah." He shrugs. "I hear it didn't use to be like this, but the river overflowed before I was born, so I don't know."

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"Bah. The Underworld's infrastructure must be in shambles, no wonder you're leaving." Her puddle of night flickers over to the boat, and she goes through the trouble of putting her body back together just for the joy of getting to make actual emotes. Being a puddle of starry darkness is fun and all, but it's terrible for facial expressions. Or body language! Like this; she crosses her arms.

"So what's the next place like? Is it the ice level, please tell me it's not the ice level."

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"The fields of Elysium. It's beautiful, and all the great souls go there."

He hops onto the little fireproof raft and on it sails.

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"Hm. That'll be nice, I guess, but then it just makes me more annoyed that all of the Underworld isn't beautiful. I'm going to eat some not-lava as we go, since it's unwanted flooding anyway. Maybe I can use it to power another proper blessing for you."

And with that, she sits down on the boat and dangles her feet in the not-actually-lava to start siphoning some of it up.

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"You're eating it with your feet," Zagreus observes after a couple of heartbeats.

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“My entire body is a decorative construct with added sensations to mimic when I was human, and is therefore arbitrarily shaped at all times. Technically speaking, I don’t have feet right now, because the fire river would melt my construct and I don’t want to bother to figure out how to make it heat resistant. So, yes, but also no.”

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"The type of god you are sounds very handy."

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“Yes. Though to be fair, I have mostly worked around a lot of the unpleasant parts! I used to have a book that hid behind my eyelids, I hated it.”

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"A book?"

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"Mhm. Fancy blue and gold book that looked like it was made of the night sky and sunlight. None of the words were written in a language I would have understood as a human, and there wasn't really.... words at all in there. But I understood what was on the pages anyway. And then once I figured out how to get rid of it, I copied all of the information held within and destroyed that fucking thing."

Her voice is calm and matter-of-fact, right up until the end, which she says with some amount of emotion and relish.

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"Was it... a very terrible book?" he asks, trying not to sound too obtuse.

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"Yes. It appeared behind my eyelids when I closed my eyes for too long and hung there. Touching it at the library was the thing that transported me away from my home and dumped me alone in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a basic instruction manual for how to remake myself and a lot of questions. I do not know where my home is, or how to get to it, and have been searching for literal years now, and I have a family who loves me and I get to spend every single minute I'm away aware that they think I'm dead and don't know where I am. So. Yes. It was a very terrible book." Pause. "... The content was fine, I suppose."

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...okay. He is going to use the new thing he's just learnt about, here. "Do you want a hug?"

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She turns her head to look at him, surprised.

“Yes,” she says immediately, anyway.

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Okay he can - well, she's sitting down, so he sits, too, and hugs her.

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Yvette leans into him, snuggling up and then clinging. Then she gives a little sniffle, and promptly starts crying onto the nearest available shoulder. ... The tears are black and fit her theme of starscapes.

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He can't see them, as they're on his shoulder, but he would find this appropriately aesthetic. He has the instinct to pat her on the back, and the second instinct that this sounds kind of idiotic and he should just hug her.

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Huuuuuugs! Hugs hugs hugs hugs hugs!

“The irony of a god trying to escape his home meeting a person trying to get home wasn’t obvious to me until now,” she sniffles. “I’d say trade you, but.”

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"I don't think you would like my home very much," he says, ruefully.

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“I also don’t think you’d actually like to cut yourself off from everyone you know without any ability to communicate or visit!” Sniff, sniff. “Thanatos would be heartbroken.”

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"He has made his opinion about my leaving without telling him first very clear, yes."

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“Oh, is that why he was so mad at you!” She snickers a little, then nuzzles into his shoulder. “I’m sorry. You must want out of here so badly.”

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"It's been a couple of centuries. I suppose I'm stir crazy. I wonder how Father's direct employees aren't."

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“Do they not get vacations, or is he just that bad of a boss?”

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"...vacations?"

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“I suppose that answers my question, doesn’t it. Uh, designated time for not working and just being able to. Go and do what you like. Travel, spend time with family, lock yourself in your house to not talk to anyone for a week. The use of it varies.”

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"Er, no, no I do not think Father's employees have that."

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Sigh. “Never mind, I want to swap so I can shove employee benefits and the benefits of not overworking your employees down your dad’s throat,” she deadpans.

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"I'm sure the shades would appreciate it."

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“And I bet Hades would have more employees to handle infrastructure problems if they got nice perks for working for him! Funny how that works.”

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"Maybe!"

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Snuuuuuggle. Even though she’s apparently cheered up a bit, she’s still very snuggly.

“Thanks,” she says, softly. Still leaning into him.

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"No problem." He looks up ahead as the raft moves of its own accord. "There we go, Lethe."

And indeed, up ahead there is the view of a more distant river that seems to be made of clouds. Closer than that there is another shore which turns from Asphodel's parched land into green grass, with a large gold and iron gate serving as the only visible entrance to a spiked fence that seems to extend to both sides for miles.

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"A river made of clouds. Huh. All right. .... Is it terrible that I want to eat that too, just out of curiosity?"

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"When the dead drink from it, they forget. That's what it's for. I... don't know what happens to gods. Or to you."

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“Oh. Well in that case, nevermind, I’m not touching it.”

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"You can touch it, just don't drink from it. And here we are," he says just as the raft slows to stop at the shore.

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“I meant more that I wouldn’t absorb it in any form,” she points out, wryly. Then she gives him a squeeze and disintegrates back to a starscape, returning to the skulls on his shoulder. “Shall we be off, then? Let’s go break the pretty place into pretty pieces.”

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"Sadly the pieces all reform after a few seconds," he says, mock disappointed. He hops off the raft and walks over to the gate to push it open, then climbs up the stairs behind it all the way to a temple up a hill. He opens those doors, too, and the inside of the new temple is quite unlike the previous rooms.

The walls and floors are all metal, and there are large bronze cogs jutting out of holes on the ground, slowly rotating. The room they're in is not large, but it's largely empty, except for a few peculiar items by the right wall: a decorative fountain about as tall as Zagreus is, with blood-red water pouring down from one cup to another; a wide, shallow stone basin on top of a stone pedestal filled with a faintly glowing purple liquid; a large glass case with what looks to be a collection of curious trinkets on display; and another fountain made up of a single basin on the ground filled with clear water.

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".... Huh!" she says, golden eyes looking at the array of items before them. "How adorably tidy. I'm rather charmed. Oh, look, the glass case changes for whoever opens it! That's so clever."

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"Oh, does it? I ordered it from the contractor a while ago, it comes in handy."

Zagreus walks over to the clear water fountain, kneels by it, and cups his hands to collect and drink some water from it. Its effects are immediately felt, many of the bruises and cuts he's suffered from the shades his father sent to stop him in Asphodel healing up and even some of the dirt on his skin and clothes disappearing.

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"Did you not know the details of what it did? Huh. Well I think it's brilliant, it must be marvelously convenient for anyone transporting tools for construction work or something." Her eyes turn towards the fountain he drank from. "And, aw. You tired it out. I think it's supposed to refresh shades, not gods, Zagreus," she teases.

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"I'm sure it will restore itself in no time," he says, shrugging and walking over to the purple basin. He looks into the water and his eyes unfocus, as if he's looking at something beyond its bottom.

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“It will, the structure is completely fine. It’s just empty of healing energy and needs time to refill. And the one you’re looking at is a... shop? A very small one.”

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"Yep," he says, reaching into a small pouch attached to his belt for a few coins. He drops them into the purple liquid and they dissolve into nothing, and then a vial tinted blue and red floats up to the surface from nowhere. He grabs it. "Centaur's soul, painfully useful."

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“Like the little heart Thanatos gave you! Aw, but his was better.”

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"His was better," Zagreus agrees, looking away from the pool and blinking to refocus. He thumbs the vial open and drinks its misty contents, and then the vial itself fades away. And now over to the glass case.

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She of course can’t see any of the contents of his glass case, but she does gaze with fascination at it anyway. It’s so neat! She wants to try to figure out how to make something like it.

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After some humming he unclips a little rose-shaped pin from one of the folds of his chiton and grabs a small vial filled with what looks like blood. It's attached to a string, which Zagreus wears like a necklace. "Alright, we're good."

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"Okay! That's to get Ares's attention, right? And the flower was for Aphrodite."

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"Yup. They feel flattered if I wear their trinkets, although uh not if I wear more than one at once." He winces a bit when he says that.

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"... Ah. Yeah. Jealous gods, aren't they. Well if I give you a trinket that will help me more easily find you, I will not be offended if it's not the only one. ... I guess they might be though. If they see it. Which they might."

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"Probably better not to risk it," he agrees.

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She gives a heavy sigh, but does not mention that she may or may not eat like half of the Olympic pantheon if she gets the chance.

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The minor god walks along to the other entrance to the temple, and when he pushes the doors open the sight that welcomes them is a lush and verdant garden with a snaking path amidst the greenery. The river of forgetfulness follows lazily beneath the trees, and there are stone benches here and there for one to sit at and enjoy the breeze.

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"Oh, it is very pretty. ... Why isn't the entire Underworld this pretty."

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"Only the greatest souls come to the Gardens of Elysium," Zagreus recites.

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"... So??? It doesn't diminish the coolness of their VIP lounge for other places to also be pretty. They can be pretty in different ways, even, this is not the only way something can be pretty."

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Shrug. "I think the Asphodel Meadows used to be rather pleasant before the flood."

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"R̗̞̣̟͈̘͘ͅṛ̠̩͔͕̖̀r̞̮͈r̮̹͉̦̕rr̜̙̪r͏̦̻͓̖̦̻͔r̴̦̰̞̙̣̼̺g͙̺h҉͙͇͖͇," she growls, annoyed. It is... not a sort of growl that gods, shades, or mortals can make, though it certainly resembles it enough to be intelligible.

"I'm helping you get out first, but then I might come back and personally fix it."

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...she's a puddle in his shoulder skulls, how in Hades's name did that manage to sound hot.

Whatever. "I'm sure the shades of Asphodel will be very grateful."

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"They will be once I'm done with it, because I will in fact take their opinions into account and take requests!"

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"Careful, you might end up making Asphodel more pleasant than Elysium."

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"Oh no, the horror? Can they not decide to leave Elysium and live in Asphodel, the fancy VIP lounge should not be a prison, that seems very dumb?"

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"I am pretty sure they cannot," he replies, folding his arms behind his back and taking in the scenery. A blue butterfly that reflects the light a little bit weirdly, as if it's made of gemstones, lands on one of the broken stone statues up ahead, making the god smile. "That the barriers that surround the realms of the dead are impassable is the whole premise I am challenging, here, isn't it."

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“True! Just. Ugh. What a shitty VIP lounge, a home shouldn’t be a prison. That’s not how homes work.”

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"I think the idea is more that Elysium is a home... realm... I mean, while they're alive it's not like they can leave Greece, right? There's nothing else, there's nowhere else to go. Well, Olympus, and here, but you know."

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“Mrrrrh,” she grumbles. “I think I want to better understand the constraints here so I can implement better fixes.”

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"Father would... well, no, Father would not, Nyx would say that Elysium needs to be better than Asphodel and Asphodel better than Tartarus so that mortals have something to aspire to to not make their lives miserable to each other."

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“But better is such a relative term! It varies for different people. Yes, broadly speaking Elysium can be better and more impressive and have more cool people to talk to and be more as an incentive for people to be better in life, I guess. It’s kind of comparatively easy for it to be better anyway, since it sounds like there’s much less people. But what about the ‘great’ people that want a quiet retirement with their family and loved ones?”

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"I think the term is usually only applied to heroes and the like. Kings."

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“Do their loved ones come with them to Elysium?”

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"I... think arrangements can be made, but not by default, no."

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“What excellent motivation to be great, never see anyone you love ever again if they were not also great, surely this is an excellent reward that mortals should aspire to in order to be better.”

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"Theseus did not seem to mind," he grumbles.

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“Who?”

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"Old king of Athens, great warrior, killed the Bull of Minos to get something or other from the king of Minos, and now they're boyfriends."

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“Oh. ... Wait, did the princess of said kingdom give him some yarn to find the Minotaur, and then did he ditch her on an island the minute everything was solved? I suppose being gay is a decent enough explanation for not being interested, but the most I remember from that myth is how much of an ungrateful asshole the hero was.” Pause. “And also that the queen had sex with a bull in a bull costume. That was also pretty memorable.”

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"I... suppose you will have to ask him about the details. The yarn seems plausible, though I am not sure what that... word... 'gay', that sounds like Greek but I don't think I know that word."

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“Preferring the same sex in a carnal fashion. Instead of preferring the opposite sex, being unconcerned with the whole premise, or somewhere in between all three.”

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"Oh. Is that... a thing mortals do?"

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“Yep! Lots of variance of preference, lack of preference, and libidos.”

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"Huh. Wait, is that also why they do the thing where they only have one partner forever?"

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“... no not quite, monogamy versus polygamy are related, but different. But we’re reaching the limits of my ability to educate you on these topics. I was in my mid-teens when I was eaten by my book, so, like. I was just starting to pay attention to things of this nature.”

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Blink. "Mid teens, isn't that when mortals are about to get married or something?"

Permalink Mark Unread

“Oh, ew, no. I mean, yes, probably, in your Greece. But in my world, that’s waaaaaay too young to be permanently tied to someone. And. Trying to have kids. Ick. No, it was like, experimental awkward dating phase where nobody knows how it works but they’re all pretending at each other.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"You're an interesting mortal-turned-god, you know."

Permalink Mark Unread

“Thanks. Though it’d be kind of impressive if I could somehow manage to be boring, being a mortal-turned-whatever-I-am from another world that’s similar but much more technologically advanced and with an entirely different culture. Because, uh, how.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Fair point!" And there's the other end of the little passage they've been following, a great marble wall with two passages sealed by what look to be giant circular bronze shields half buried in the ground. "Let's see, right or left?"

Permalink Mark Unread

“I don’t know. How do you usually choose?”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Randomly!" he says brightly.

Permalink Mark Unread

“And that works for you and doesn’t get you running in circles? Uh, okay. Left, then.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Sometimes there's a circle or two but no, the local geography always gets you where you want to go even if Father tries to make it a little bit harder for that to happen for me than other people."

He raises a hand in the direction of the left shield, palm forward, and the shield glows then sinks down into the earth. In he goes.

Permalink Mark Unread

“That’s... not how geography works in. Any of the other places I’ve been. But. Okay. Sure.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Achilles mentioned that it made him pretty confused at first but he got used to it."

On the other side of the short tunnel they find themselves in a beautiful walled garden, decorated with bronze statues and vases, the walls covered in decorative carvings and peppered with vines. There are a couple of blueish human-looking people standing at attention, holding spears, here and there, and they immediately notice Zagreus and starts sprinting towards him. The entrance he came from is immediately closed shut by another huge bronze shield. "Time to play," he says, drawing his sword and dashing forward faster than he has any rights to.

Permalink Mark Unread

“Yaaaaaay,” drawls Yvette. Okay, so mostly this is a Zagreus show, because it’s surprisingly difficult to just blast dead things with star plasma until they die, but she can manage to shove them around a bit. She mostly uses this to foil attacks against Zagreus.

But she can take advantage of all of this sprinting to trip one of the spear guys with a little mote of sticky night! Hi spear guy, enjoy crashing face first into this nice lush green ground, isn’t it such a lovely ground to faceplant into.

Permalink Mark Unread

These were the great people of Greece, so after only falling on their faces a couple of times they learn to watch for it.

When Zagreus kills his first spear-wielding shade, it turns into a floating black-and-purple flame with an eye, and drops a spectral spear where it was killed. The flame stands there, motionless, doing nothing, but Zagreus nevertheless makes for it and starts hacking at it with a vengeance.

Permalink Mark Unread

Well, he's the expert here. If he needs to kill the flame thing as soon as possible, she'll try to give him time to do it. One moment to build up some mass and power and then - boop! Wave of night at the spear guys trying to stab Zagreus in the back while he's busy, knocking them back and buying him time.

Permalink Mark Unread

It dissipates into nothing after relatively few hacks, and he's back at the shades with actual limbs.

Permalink Mark Unread

Well, then they can just continue this system of theirs until all of the shades that are trying to kill Zagreus are themselves killed. She still can't manage to directly make much of a dent in these jerks, but she's going to get very good at giving Zagreus openings and covering his back while he's busy.

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"This is substantially easier when I don't have to spend half my awareness worried about being stabbed in the back, you know," he says as he deals the killing blow on the last shade.

Permalink Mark Unread

"What, is the lack of challenge boring, should I stop?" she teases.

Permalink Mark Unread

"No, there will be challenge enough later," he says, looking around for further enemies and, finding none, cracks his neck and starts looking around for useful loot.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Ominous. There's going to be another boss fight at the exit, isn't there."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...boss fight? Uh, I don't know that Theseus and Asterius are anyone's bosses..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's a, a reference to a sort of game, don't worry about it. Enemies that are greater in power than ordinary foes, and that are often hard to defeat. So is it just one after the other or is it both of them at the same time...?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Both at the same time. They share the title of Champions of Elysium, and I think Father is making sure I'll run into their coliseum whenever I get as far as here."

Permalink Mark Unread

"The boyfriends who slay together stay together," she mutters. "Ugh, two on one though, that's so unfair. I'm kind of glad I'm here to even things up a bit more now, just out of principle."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You know, that's exactly what I told them, but Theseus still managed to be a self-righteous prick about it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Lovely. Self-righteous pricks, my favorite. I'm going to hate him, aren't I."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't know, Asterius seems fine but somehow likes him anyway."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Is he some combination of extremely cliché, prone to saying lots of words that don't amount to anything, not particularly thoughtful or empathetic towards others, or infuriatingly dimwitted?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Who, Theseus? He likes to declaim everything loudly to the audience and declare with very precise consonants that I am a fiend from hell he shall exterminate with the gods' blessings."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Is he particularly charming about it?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"No. He is particularly self-righteous about it. Aha!" he exclaims suddenly, reaching into a bush and grabbing a round red fruit like a pomegranate.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I will probably hate him. Oo, what's that?" She peers at it in lieu of waiting for an answer. "Oooooo, nice. A pomegranate that strengthens abilities, it matches the aesthetic very well."

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"You mean there are pomegranates that don't do that?"

He straightens up and resumes his search around the garden while he squeezes the fruit open to start eating it.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes. Yours are magic Underworld pomegranates. Normal pomegranates are just delicious. I hear. I haven't eaten one."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh. Well these are pretty nice if you want to try some." He doesn't quite raise the fruit up to his shoulder but the aborted motion was definitely that.

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"In mythology eating food from the Underworld is the sort of thing that would tie me to it forever! ... I have no idea if that's accurate or not. But probably best to let you have it, since you're the one with the god-slaying weapon and I'm unarmed."

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"That sounds like a very strange thing to tie you to the Underworld forever but if it's true I'm in for a rude awakening when I get out, aren't I."

Not finding anything else of note, he walks over to the bronze-shield-door-thing that will take him to the next place. This time there's only one, and rather than a tunnel behind it there's a hedge "maze" that only goes as high as his knees and that is decorated with hedge statues and fountains here and there, as well as the occasional shade admiring it all.

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"Well, I hope you're not. And if your mother disappeared that implies that this isn't a thing, because if she had all the time to go and have a kid before she left, she probably ate something. Not to mention these are myths from another world that have already proven to be inaccurate in major ways, so. Eh."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh yeah that is a good point, my mother did stay here a while."

Permalink Mark Unread

“Yep. Still going to avoid eating any pomegranates, though, because I will be so annoyed with myself if I fail to follow a very basic premise like that.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Sensible."

Zagreus strolls through the hedge maze towards the next potential destination, and there they have it, another walled garden that traps them as soon as he walks in. In this one, the bronze statues of archers start shooting ethereal arrows at him. All in a day's work.

Permalink Mark Unread

Huh. Well, if the arrows are predictable she expects Zagreus can avoid them on his own, but if it looks like he's about to get skewered by one she can try to deflect one for him.

"Are traps common here?" she wonders, thinking of possible ways to use this.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Fairly." Another summoning circle of light shows up and a pink sphere surrounded by pink butterflies emerges. "Oh, one of those," Zagreus groans.

Permalink Mark Unread

“I’m going to try shoving it in the trap,” declares Yvette, who emerges from her perch on his shoulder to night-tackle the butterfly ball into some traps.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Deeply appreciated!" says the godling, parrying a sword-wielding shade.

Permalink Mark Unread

“You’re welcome! I’ll try to hinder the butterflies even if I can’t kill it!”

But she can kill it, right? Just kick the big pink butterfly ball into the nearest trap, it’s easy enough. It’s not like it has any decent footing, it’s hovering in the air.

Permalink Mark Unread

Oh yes it is pretty easy to kill if you don't have to deal with the cloud of explosive butterflies it generates to do it.

Permalink Mark Unread

And she has the easily modifiable body plan and 360 degree vision to make dodging or hitting the butterflies achievable, and the massive cheating brain space to be able to keep track of them all. It dies pretty quickly!

“Ha! Got it!” she calls, once it’s properly destroyed. Then, back she goes to continue playing support to Zagreus at his shoulder.

Permalink Mark Unread

What about those two other butterfly balls that show up though?

Permalink Mark Unread

... okay, she doesn’t have the mass available here to properly shove them both at the same time. But she can have a little part of her play bug swatter with one of the butterfly balls, while the rest of her shoves the other one into another trap. The butterflies are small and weak enough for her to directly kill, though it’ll mean she’s too busy to watch Zagreus’s back for things that might stab him in it. The butterflies probably take priority, though.

Permalink Mark Unread

They sure do, he can deal with stabbing.

Eventually they have killed enough shades that whoever else his father is sending his way is probably too far to show up right there and then.

"Now for some ransacking."

Permalink Mark Unread

“Hooray, ransacking!” she chirps, returning to her designated night storage spot. “Don’t mind me, I’ll leave you to it while I try to figure out something that will actually have any kind of direct bite to it. Unless the coliseum has traps in it?”

Permalink Mark Unread

"No, just four huge regenerating statues."

Permalink Mark Unread

“Bah. They couldn’t make it easy for me, could they.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Probably not."

Permalink Mark Unread

“Fine, I’ll just have to figure out how to blast past your world’s weird magical shielding all on my own. I actually think the fire liquid from the river’s my in for that. Only a bit of it, though, it would be so inefficient if I just spewed not-lava at them and covered half of the battlefield, comparatively speaking I only have a little bit of it compared to star stuff. Besides, somehow I don’t think you’d appreciate everything being on fire.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"I am only heat-resistant, not fireproof," he agrees.

He fusses inside a vase for Loot when the sound of war drums can suddenly be heard from all directions.

Permalink Mark Unread

Hello, Ares, god of war, you will probably be very helpful about getting out of the Underworld when it's all about fighting, but that doesn't mean she has to like you. She'll just be a quiet little shoulder companion.

Permalink Mark Unread

Indeed, Ares's voice echoes in the garden a second later: "Well, cousin, I think I sense quite the bloodthirst around you recently! You are growing into quite the death dealer, aren't you? I like to think my blessings have something to do with that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, don't worry, they don't," replies Zagreus, mostly to himself, rolling his eyes.

Permalink Mark Unread

"... Can he not hear you?" murmurs Yvette, cautiously.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Not if I don't direct it to him very forcefully and even then it's iffy. Offerings help." He shrugs, and his eyes lose focus as he looks through blessings to pick.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh. All right. Is that normal?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"They have very limited reach here in the Underworld, and Nyx is casting a veil of night on me to make it even harder to see me."

Permalink Mark Unread

"A veil of.... huh. Then either it's covering me too by proximity, or. ... No, I think she's shielding me, too."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Is she? Huh. Interesting. Maybe she does not want Father to worry."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You'd know her motives better than I, I think. I suppose I'll just go with it and not try to disturb her veil with anything particularly big."

Permalink Mark Unread

"We can ask her next time I die," he says, nodding.

Onwards to the doors.

Permalink Mark Unread

"If you die! Or we could get out and you could live forever, running rampant."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Here's to hoping!"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Quite."

She peers at Nyx's shield. Hmm. She's already pretty aligned with it, aesthetically speaking, which seems to actually mean something here. Blasting things with power from stars is actually not going to make much of a ripple at all, it's the not-lava that's the one that might disturb it more than she ought to. Which means she needs to figure out how to do exactly what she planned to, which is to say, rely mostly on stored power with the not-lava as supplement to get it to actually have some real bite to it. Well. Glad to have confirmation, she guesses?

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Onwards past a couple more chambers, until they reach one particularly different garden. This one has a small island with an enormous statue of a Greek warrior surrounded by vases. "Is that... Achilles?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I really wouldn't know. Probably?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I always wondered why he was back at the House rather than here, really..."

He walks on.

Permalink Mark Unread

And a voice can be heard up ahead, a single voice, taking to itself. "...knew of no one, nothing stronger, other than the love we shared."

Permalink Mark Unread

Huh. Strange. Usually shades in Elysium seem either more content, or more murderous. She stays silent, and doesn't interrupt.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Was I deceived, in thinking this of you, of us? Well..."

The shade looks up when he sees them approaching, then blinks slowly when he sees Zagreus slowing down. "...go on stranger. Plenty more shades looking to fight with you out here."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm just passing through. You seem unlike the rest. May I ask your name? I'm Zagreus."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Names are there to be forgotten, stranger. You shouldn't be here. May the Fates favour your journey. But just in case they don't..." He reaches to his left, where a few empty cups and a few less empty mugs are, and grabs a mug to offer it to Zagreus. "Here. Why don't you take this? And leave me alone."

Permalink Mark Unread

Well, this looks very much like a person who does not like it here in Elysium. Not everyone that qualifies necessarily likes it, here. Pretty though it is.

"... Are you being kept apart from someone? Is there, perhaps, a message we could deliver to them, maybe?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...ah, you seem to have an unseen companion, there, stranger. I do not know that I am being kept in any fashion, but we are apart, yes."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Over here. On his shoulder." She makes a glowing golden iris in one of the eye sockets. It just seems polite, even if she doesn't want to be social and have a body. "Where either of us will end up is rather up in the air, but we're certainly not staying in Elysium. So. Can I take a message? Written if you'd like something private, spoken if you'd like for them to hear your voice? ... I can perfectly repeat sounds I hear. So it'd be your voice, just through an intermediary."

Permalink Mark Unread

He laughs. "If you ever run into Achilles, then, tell him Patroclus asks why."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...if we ever run into Achilles we will be sure to tell him that," says Zagreus before Yvette has a chance to reply.

Permalink Mark Unread

"We will," she agrees. "Thank you for the help, and sorry to bother you."

Permalink Mark Unread

Zagreus tips his head and accepts the mug the shade has offered, sipping thoughtfully from its contents as he walks through a randomly-picked one of the doors.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm not actually able to resist saying, 'See??' but rest assured it's not actually directed at you," she says to Zagreus, once they're out of earshot.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Whom is it directed at, then, and what are they meant to be seeing, here?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Hades, probably, or whoever's responsible for the current state of things here. And they are meant to be seeing that mortals are in fact sad about being cut off from their loved ones, even if you put them in the nice VIP realm."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Achilles would have probably been here if he were not in my father's employ, but that in itself is strange."

Permalink Mark Unread

".... Would Patroclus, though?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...I don't know. I had never heard of him before, Achilles never mentioned him."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah, that's roughly what I was thinking, too. I've heard of Achilles, but I have no idea who Patroclus is. And if his question is 'why'... It is probably not any of my business but look I'm a compulsive problem solver, I can't help it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You're thinking... Achilles got Patroclus to end up here in exchange for working for my father?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"It seems the obvious sort of thing for someone to do for their loved one, that nonetheless separates them and makes them both miserable even though it was with the best intentions in mind! It might not be that. ... If I'm right I am allowed one smug laugh, though. As payment for my brilliance."

Permalink Mark Unread

"They would have been separated nonetheless, if Achilles had gone to Elysium and Patroclus had stayed in Asphodel or Tartarus, though." Pause. "Which just adds to your point."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Mmhmmmm," she says. Smugly. "But I might be wrong."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You don't think you are."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I really don't!! Aesthetically speaking it's got 'Greek tragedy' written all over it! But I acknowledge the possibility and do not want to bias you. With how I'm totally right."

Permalink Mark Unread

He laughs and keeps walking.

Permalink Mark Unread

She gives a little happy hum, then goes back to fiddling with how to directly blast things with the combined might of stars and not-lava.

Permalink Mark Unread

They walk; they fight; they loot; they chat. The Fields of Elysium are pretty everywhere, and not all shades living there had agreed to try to stop the Prince. Most of them seemed to have, though, or maybe Hades was steering Zagreus towards the more warlike ones. The godling isn't perfect, but he's good, and he manages to go through numerous foes while suffering relatively few blows of his own, many of which were quickly healed by the drink Patroclus had given him, for as long as its effect lasted.

Eventually they reached one final garden just before the Elysium Coliseum, which could be seen just after the foliage.

Permalink Mark Unread

And there, waiting for him, was a skeletal figure robed in grey and gold, holding an oar which it presumably used to row its boat, which could be seen on the Lethe over yonder, tied to a wooden pole sunk into the ground. The figure was standing watch near wooden shelves filled with trinkets, snacks, and other strange pieces, no repeats, no two items alike. It stared at Zagreus without blinking, and waited.

Permalink Mark Unread

Yvette is in the habit of letting Zagreus be the first to address people, and then deciding whether or not to chime in after. She keeps up this habit, though she's terribly curious. Is that the boatman, Charon?

Permalink Mark Unread

"Hello, Charon, mate," says Zagreus, walking up to the figure with a broad grin and confirming Yvette's guess. "Anything good on offer today?"

Permalink Mark Unread


H̲̎͛͗ͫ̇͑̏n̩͎͍͐͌ͯ̾̍̃ͅr̗͇̘̩͚̲̯̈́ṙ̨̞̞̜̭̭ͯ̄͂̔a̫͇̘̗̻ͩͭͩͬ̿ͮä͝â̗̼̜͚̺̆̈̄͛̊ͯa͉̰͇͕͖ͮ́ǧ̼̣̪̘̤͎͈͝ḥ̙͕̭̝̻́̽ͫ̐̋ḧ̨͎́ͩ̅hͬ̄͏̤h̃̎ͮ͛̚h̟͇̿͢ͅ.̞̝̉̎̅͐͆̍̍͞.̩͚͌.͕̘̪͈̦̩̠͋

Permalink Mark Unread

... Huh! That's very intelligible, actually.

"'You'll have to see for yourself,'" she translates, for Zagreus, turning on her eye to look at the boatman. "Hello, Charon. Pleasure to meet you."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You understand him?"

Permalink Mark Unread


Hͬ́͐̑҉͉͓͍̳̼̜̝̱r̅̿͐҉̹͇̱̰̪̰̟r̃̂̎̇̐̅ͮ̂͏͖̘̯̘n̨̯̺̫̳̲̰ͮͮ̇̆ͥg̲̖̬̦̭͎̹̑ͨḩ̨̻͚̪̲ͥͯ̾̃ͦạ̵ͩ̉̄̊͊ͮ̂͘h̙̲͊ͩ͗ͧ͛̈́̎ͪ͟ͅh̡͖ͥ̔ͩ̔̒̀.̸̗̩̰ͥ̿͗ͧ̓͞͝ͅ.̥̟͙̅ͧ̍̏̕.̸͉͙͋̍̉̏ͭ̊͒ͅ?̗̭̻ͪ͛ͪ͗̓̿̾͡ ̫͈̹̲͚̓̋͟͞K̈͂ͫͥ̇ͦͤͨ҉̹̳̹̼̼̣̣̻͢h̷̠̖͈̭̼̣͒ͧ̋̈́̎͆̚͡ͅh̵͈͚̙̜̓̏ͯ͟r̴͎̰̩̻͓̲͔̥̣ͬ̉̍ͤͫͬ̚r̡͙͎̄́̃͑ͥ̌̀ŗ͔̦̜̝̤͚̦̣̭͆ͮ̊ͭ̓̊ͯ́r̨͇̼̘̲͓ͮ̉ͧ̌̕r̷̗̯̺̯̳̰͙̻ͧ̾̿͆̀̄̑͋͝͝ͅn̻͉͚͕̜̮̪ͧ̌͆͛͘͢n̢̪̲̟͆ͩ̑̎͟ͅͅn̹͇͓̝̯̜̲̳̭̓ͥ̾̕n̢̛̤̺̗̯͆n̵̢̳̭ͦ.̶̝̯͚͓̓̇̑ͧͦ̈́ͯ͘͢ͅͅ.̈́̐́́҉̰̩̼̯̯̞.̷̫̰̮͎̲̠̟̎ͭ̂ͨͩ͠.̨͖̫̖̘̯̥̻̩ͣͣ̐.̶̰͈͈ͨ͛̒ͥ̈̓̓.̶̘̜̇̍ͯ.̸̱̗͐ͬͩ̀̕͠.̈́͏̬̫͕

Permalink Mark Unread

"I do. I'm Yvette. I'm, uh. Actually—I̜͈͖̥͍̤̩'͓̘̟̬̞̤͙m͚͉͕ ͍f̳̱̩r̫̣̩̬̭ͅo̰m̫̳ ͇̦̲a̘͎̰̩͍͢ ̤̤ͅm̝̣i̳͔̮̺͘r͙̭r͜ọ̧̪̣̲r̶̪̞̣e̜̩̬̲̝̞͞d͙͓̤͝ ̭̹̘͓̥w͍͎̤̦͞o͉̰̮͇̺̪̝rl̙̘͓̱d̜̝̯̪͙̙͕/E̛̘̖̗a̪̝̩̙̥ͅr͏̱̠̖͍̪̜̯t̘͙̪̫h҉̮̲/̹̖̻̦͟f̱̣͚ḁ̥̹r̡̝̬͓͚̟̗ ̛̳̦͎̭a̳̝̻̩͓̜̬͟w͖̘̹a̹̣̻͇̻̩̣y͇͖̥͉.̹̝̖̦̭"

Permalink Mark Unread


Ẩ̸͎͖̫͚̖̫̺ͨͅͅẖ̢̢̖͕̮̅̇͂̾͗̄h̝͊ͣ̏̑̊ͦͮ̓̕h͒̂ͨ͊҉͉̻̤͇͙͉̥r̨̈́̎̊ͬͯ̉ͬ́͏̗̗͖k̩̲̺͙̏̑̓̋̊̓ͬ̽̄͘͝ͅk̛͖̹͇͖̤̉̂̈͆ͥ̓͆͆̃͘k̴̺̼̥͉̈́͋̿̓̚̕ ̯͎̻̊̅ͦ̾̓ͩ͟ẕ̲̬̟̰̱̯̥ͯͬ̈̈͟͞h̫̬̖̤̣̖̒͞͞h̢̟͕͗͋̌̓͑ͨ͟h̊̒ͧ̑͆̎̋͏̷̗̟͈̼̼̙͍ḩ̮͌͆̎͊̇̂̓ͣ͞e̼̺̭̐̂̏́͞ă̶̗̳̲ͪ̆̇ͯͮh͖̱̤̣̞͎̫̋̀͋ͧ̍ͤ̎̕h̩̻̼̙̆̈ͥ̀͢ḥ̰͕̐͌ͯͧḧ̡̬̱͈͖̹͉͒̆͡h̶̦̲͙̠̟͒͑̎͟ͅh́͘͟҉͉̩̣͈̠̦͉ḥ̢̭̜̠͕̖̬̻ͫͮ̏̓ͅ.̲̞̠͇̤͍́ͪ̈́ͦͯ̅ͤͅ

Permalink Mark Unread

"Thank you for the offer. I don't think I have any money to purchase them, though, and I... don't think it would be the thing you want if I made my own?"

Permalink Mark Unread


H̘͇ͩh̶͈̳̰͔̦̠̽ͦͣ͒̽̓̚͢h̛ͪͧͦ̒̚͏͖̮̤͎̱h̥̞͉̞̩̼̜͉̤͆̏ͭͫ̈́ͯ̎̓h̨̦͉̩̞̽́̉̒ͬ̚ḫ̭͕̥ͨ̿̀ḧ́̊́̾̾ͦ҉̲͖̹h̛̺̜̜̤̫̜̍ͨh̛̛̭̟̄̎ͪ̌̈ͥͦ͛hͣ̐̍͒ͨ͟͞͏̙͎̺̦.̨̛̜̗̋̈̔͗ͥ̅̀̚̚̕

Permalink Mark Unread

"A centaur heart!" says a Zagreus who's been peering through the items on display. "And this, I'm going to bet this here has a blessing, doesn't it," he adds, pointing at a rusted coin.

Permalink Mark Unread


Ǵ̲̖̻̹̠̲̽̾́͠g̎͛̈͋̅͑̇͏̪̞̤̞̤h̠ͫ̈́͆͡ŗ̢̖̩ͦͫͫ͋̓͐ͣͣę̙̣͚͇̊ͣͧͥͮ̄̔͜ḛ̤̻͖̠͎ͯ͌͗͢ë̵͇̭̓͡ȩ̶̛̹̪̤͕͕̫̺̼̮ͭͤͨ̈e͈̤͎̹̺̱͖̤͋͒̿͂́́ͥͥ̓͟k̢̦͒͌́̏̏̓ͯkͬ̾̽҉͍̫͘k̷̴̼̯̼̥̦̲̅̊k̢̩̗̐̒ͯ͆̊̐̅̌͜k̨͕̰̯͇̟̍̔̒͒̇͐̀͋̇͞ͅͅş̴̤̄̽̀ͮ̋ͨ̚.̏ͩ́̏ͯ͏̘

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"I thought so. And it does, Zagreus. Hermes's."

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"I'll take both," he decides, counting several coins from the coin purse attached to his belt and offering them to the boatman.

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The coins disappear, and now the boatman will not attack Zagreus to the death if the godling takes those two items.

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Hooray for that! She wonders what he wants (or perhaps needs?) all of that money for. Well. It's probably not her business, is it. What is her business to ask of the boatman, though:

"Um. I don't suppose you know the way I go to get home, Charon?" she requests, in a small voice.

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K̛̻̻̲̥̩̥̭̘͔ͤ̈ͫ̊͆̓h̴͎̰̱͎ͪ͗ͣ̇̎̃̽ẖ̱̭̖̍̓͐̂h͖͎͙̲̽ͧ͐̋̈́́͗͘͡t̮̙̜̩͔̝͚͌̈́̽̑̈͜ťͯͤ̽̂͋҉͉͜t̵̥̺̤̲̬̜͚ͧ̽̊̌̀t̥̞̙̯̦̺̖̫̾ͩ́͋ͨ̅̚t͓͇̳̉ͧͨ͆̓ͪͦt̲̗̯̥̾̉̆̏͂̒ͫt̛̐̄͗̒ͦ̔̉́҉̮̣̱̫̭̣̦h̫̥̠͊͒̋̄̒ͤ̀̕͡ë̷̷̫̙̇̉͂̌͊ͥͨ͢eͫ̿͏̘͎͈̗̤ę͉̫̱͙̋ͯ͌̃̕e̸̮̤̤͎̐ͬe͈̤̘̮͒̽̔͟e̶͙̭̺̤͈̳̭͒͑͢͞h͈̹͍̟̻ͮ̄̋̊ͩͭ̋̌̒.̈̓ͧ̉͏̻͈̳̼͖̖̙̝͎.͑̏͌͋̉̉͏̴҉̪̤͚̤̪̲̤.̶͓͕̲͎̹̺̳͕̒̑͝ ̧͓̰͓͓̲͓͓̤ͬ̿̄ͬͅG̓̾̐̋̑̌̅҉̟̤̫͓̗͓͓̫͙͝r̷̬̖̥̞͈̺̜͓̄̋͊́ͯ́̀y͚̭̲͙̽͠y̞͙̫̥͕͊̽̚͟͜͡ͅy̵̟̩̤͇̘̟̓͂ͮͣ̚y̢̰̮̤̹͉͍͊̎̒h̰̥̠̰͎̺̯͂͋ͣ̅ͭͮ̅͟h̷̖͔͖̞ͯ̍h̴̗͛̈̿ͯ͒ͧ̔̀͟h͎̯̺͚̥̰̘̔̎ḩ̗̆ͬͬ͛́h͚͍͓̝͚̹͇̖̬͌̿͂͋ͪ͞.̢̭ͧ̄̽͛̍ͮ͞

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"No need to apologize, thanks anyway. Figured I might as well ask."

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H̥̫͚̳̣͇̬̳͒ͮ̈́̔̃̋͟͞ȩ̲̠͍̠̠̣̯̟̒̈ͥ̀ẖ̷̡̡̭̭̮͈͌ͬͥͫͅͅh̅͌͘҉̲͞h̑̆̉ͬ҉͙̼̺͈̼̕r͂ͦ̌͐̾͝҉̪͇͕̝̪̖h͕̹̻͑̒ͫ̂̍̓ͫ̇ḩ̫̃̃̆̿̄h̒̑͗҉̮͕ḧ̜͎̞̱̘̮́̀h̔̅̌̒̓̾̉҉̡̛͎̖̟̤̳̲̘̲ḩ̸̬̥̈̈̍ͯ͞r̥̗̥̜͉̼̗̿ͤͯͨͨ͌r̼ͬ̂ͯr̭͈̜̫̘ͮ̆̓͐͑̉́r̨̹͉͔̄ͭͯ͂ͮŗ̗͍̂͡.̵̜̖̦̮͙͈̻̔̐̾͞

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"You, too."

Well, now she went and made herself all sad, that's inconvenient.

"So it'll be our boss battle next?" she says to Zagreus, in an attempt to distract herself.

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"Yeah. Let's see what Hermes has on offer, though..."

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There is a breeze, one not unlike someone just ran past them at a speed so blinding they could not even catch a glimpse of him.

"Hey, Coz! And who's your friend there? Not that you can reply, of course. Anyway, glad you found me in Charon's stuff, here, good on you. Good luck with Theseus!"

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Yvette lets out a little snort, a little amused. He speaks very quickly and sounds like he's in a hurry.

"Doesn't waste any time, does he," says Yvette, charmed.

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"He does not, although until recently I only knew this by hearsay."

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She gives a little affirmative hum, then adds, "Okay, go pick. I think I've got the sun-blast ready. And if not, well, I have practice at playing saboteur without it, now."

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So he picks something, and tries slashing at the air with his sword a bit to test it out. He's noticeably faster.

"Ready as I'll ever be. This run, anyway." Onwards to the coliseum.

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"Well if nothing else, I don't think they know to expect me."

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The gateway of the coliseum is long and dark, and opens out to a large space, a cheering crowd, and two figures standing in the middle of it all. One of them is a man with a confident smile, and the other is minotaur with a very large axe.

"Halt, fiends! You'll go not one step further, while I, Theseus, and noble Asterius, still stand! And stand we shall, for you have fallen before and shall fall again, blackguard! Witch on your shoulder or no!"

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"...Wow I hate him."

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"Told you," he murmurs right back, staring at Theseus. "And hello, Asterius, hope you're doing well."

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"Hello, short one. Get ready."

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"Come forth and fight, witch, or are you content to cower behind a coward? Hm? Well, you have good reason, for you will soon taste my spear—"

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"Okay, wow, no," interrupts Yvette. "I'll come out if you stop talking, especially with any innuendos about spears, how about that."

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"Never, fiend! We all know you fear the truth I speak!"

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"Too late deal made here I am," says Yvette, materializing her body just to get to personally blast Theseus with a brilliant bright ray of what looks like concentrated sunlight.

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The bull takes that as his cue to start sprinting towards them in a decidedly trample-like manner.

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Which Zagreus has no trouble dodging so he can lob a slow-moving fast-spinning floating disc of red blades in the bull's direction, courtesy of Ares.

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Oh, that looks like the sort of environmental hazard that someone should be dragged into! Look, Asterius, you're already close! C'mere, it's time to introduce yourself to the disc of red blades, courtesy of this burst of starscape.

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"My spear will taste fiendblood!"

And then he throws it. At Yvette.

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No he doesn't.

Well, he does, but Zagreus is in front of it in a blink to reflect it right towards the Athenian.

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Asterius is heavy, has lots of momentum, and when dragged to the spikes has a hard time leaving them.

On the other hand, he is a magical dead Champion of Elysium with extremely thick skin so all that does is scrape him a bit. He turns towards Zagreus and sprints again.

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The spear bounces off of Theseus's raised shield, but he does look very annoyed about the whole affair. He summons it back to his hand and then surges forward to Zagreus to personally poke a hole in him.

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Asterius is sprinting again? That's not very smart of him. What if she just skirts a bit of herself along the ground behind him until he's all nice and sped up, and then grabs him and shoves him off course, and at that column, right over there?

And meanwhile she can have her body sink into another puddle of night to skim along the floor, and maybe see about finding an ambush point to flank Theseus with. Zagreus is faster than she is, but she's very agile and can easily change direction if given an opening.

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Well, as the narration mentioned previously, Asterius has quite a lot of inertia, so what he'll do if Yvette does that is crash horn-first into the column over there, and snort in irritation.

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Zagreus will attempt a parry! He will mostly succeed, except for a scratch somewhere on his side.

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And then there is Yvette, who blasts Theseus with a sunbeam from the side that manages to break his irritating smile. Ha! See! That means it’s working!

“Do we want to pick one to bully or keep juggling them?” wonders Yvette, who then blasts Theseus again while talking.

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Unfortunately for her, Theseus now has his shield pointed in her direction, and blocks it entirely.

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In lieu of replying, Zagreus tries to take advantage of the opening to land a blow on Theseus's back.

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Only to be intercepted by a leaping minotaur, who almost cleaves him in half with the landing.

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He jumps out of the way at the last second but the shockwave is enough to send him tumbling to one of the statues.

"The bull, definitely the bull," he finally answers.

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Snort.

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“Not a fan of getting sliced in two?” quips Yvette, who backs towards the pillar Zagreus got thrown into, blasting Asterius this time.

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“We fight together, villains! You shall not tear our bonds of brotherhood apart!”

And then he throws a spear at Yvette, again.

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Who turns to starscape before it hits her. The starscape opens a hole for the spear to pass harmlessly through, before reforming into her construct. This is admittedly mostly just for show, but there’s a tactical consideration besides intimidation. It also helps to keep them focused on the construct instead of all of the bits of ambient starscape floating around.

... but yeah, mostly it’s to look pretty.

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Okay good she can handle herself so he can go fight the godsdamn bull.

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Yes he can.

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The first section of the fight is fairly straightforward. Yvette doesn’t have all that much combat experience, but she knows that, and generally stays out of Zagreus’s way as much as possible. She blasts Asterius from afar when an opening is available, and takes every available opportunity to get out of melee range if anyone tries to get close to her. Since she can shift to starscape and skirt across the ground as a super maneuverable puddle, she doesn’t usually have that difficult of a time getting away whenever anyone tries to close the distance.

But most of her attention is spent being the most obnoxious little shit to Theseus in particular. Not to injure him, just to keep him busy and buy her teammate time. She throws starscapes in his eyes, trips him when he advances, and creates another construct of herself behind him to blast his back and throw him off guard. At one point, she even verbally harasses him to get his attention, though she’s not actually angry enough for the insult to have any real teeth. (“I thought you were the champions, do you really have this much trouble when a fight’s closer to fair?”) Her entire time here is spent leading Theseus, and sometimes Asterius, on a merry little chase around the arena while Zagreus does the real harm.

Needless to say, it’s great fun.

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Whether it is also fun for the Champions is somewhat less clear. Asterius is taciturn, and Theseus is a prick, but they're both pretty relentless. Asterius's attack start getting some more bite a while into the fight, shooting energy beams forwards and to either side whenever he leaps at Zagreus (or, occasionally, at Yvette, if she looks particularly appetising as a target).

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This does make Zagreus's life slightly harder, but on the other hand Athena's blessing allows him to deflect Asterius's energy attacks right back at the minotaur so ironically it only speeds up his demise.

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"You have... grown strong..." he declares, as he falls to his knees and starts dissolving into red motes of light.

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"Asterius, no!"

And... that is when Theseus proceeds to get angry.

"Fiends! I'll not allow him to go unavenged! O mighty Lord Zeus, king of the gods and master of the heavens—" The air starts to feel charged, the hint of lightning in the air, "—I ask your aid so I might smite my enemies."

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"Oh, fu—"

And then Yvette is blasted with lightning! It hurts rather a lot. More than being blasted with ordinary lightning would, actually, and more than it rightly should. She doesn't actually have all that many pain receptors in this construct! It hurts a bunch anyway! Why this! Why this thing!

"... Ow," she whines, and then snarls and blasts Theseus with a very large sunbeam, because ow, that hurt!

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And now that Zagreus can focus on Theseus it is game on. He sends one of Ares's spinny blade discs and then immediately dashes through and past it and Theseus himself to start hacking at the Athenian hero and sandwich him there.

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He blocks the sunbeam, then twists and sidesteps the young god and the spinny blade disc. His shield stays pointed at Zagreus, and he steps out of the way of the admittedly rather predictable path of the disc.

"Not today, villain!"

And then it is Zagreus's turn to get blasted with lightning.

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Yvette meanwhile is actually still a little bit distracted by pain. Ow, ow, ow ow ow, why did she go and make a target of herself again, she doesn't recall. Oh, look, that's a spinny blade disc, isn't it. Zagreus made that. How about she just, attempts to shove Theseus into it, that seems helpful to do at this present time of no seriously ow.

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This works, briefly, and Theseus's face is a grimace of pain before he changes his footing to charge at Zagreus with a jab of his spear, half a second after the bolt of lightning.

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Zagreus is not literally quicker than lightning but after getting hit by it once he has the presence of mind to jump away from that spot since an attack of opportunity is the obvious thing to do.

He looks slightly singed and annoyed but not like he's in extreme pain like Yvette is, and he immediately sends another disc then leaps towards Theseus to land in a spin, splashing Poseidon's water in all directions.

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Theseus sidesteps the direction of the disc and keeps his shield up towards the splash of water and Zagreus himself, barely being knocked back by the force.

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Yvette is recovering, though she still feels a bit like agony itself. Gosh, what is happening to his footing, there? He’s just sliding right into the disc of blades and whoops is that another sunblast, her hand must have slipped. So sorry.

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“Rrrrgh you cursed witch,” hisses Theseus, and Zagreus gets to eat another bolt of lightning while Theseus decides to go after the squishy caster that has been a thorn in his side this entire time. He spins and lunges towards her much faster than he’d been going before.

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Yvette considers whether or not she wants to keep puppeting a body for this fight or not.

... No, not really. This is dumb and silly, and she thinks it’s tactically smart to go help Zagreus predict lightning strikes instead. Since they don’t need to keep two people busy at the same time, anymore.

She pools all of the important bits of her into the dirt beneath her feet, and she sets a trap in her construct while she retreats.

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“Got you, fiend,” growls Theseus as he impales ‘Yvette.’

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Who smiles sweetly at him. “Did you?”

And then she explodes.

(Ow, why did that also hurt, most of her wasn’t even there! It was just a shell, without any nerves to feel pain with, why does being stabbed hurt! The explosion didn’t hurt! That’s not fair!)

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A suspiciously starry shadow emerges from the ground beside Zagreus, returning to his shoulder.

“I think I can predict the lightning,” she informs him, igniting her golden iris to watch the sky.

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Zagreus's M.O. is and has always been win the game of attrition through sheer stubbornness, so he has been on Theseus's tail throughout all of this, pressuring the Athenian with a flurry of attacks, the blade disc, Poseidon's wave, all the while shifting extremely quickly from one point to the other. Nevertheless, when he hears Yvette ask "Did you?", he finds himself halfway across the arena from her because he is really sure something is about to happen.

Then it happens.

And.

...

........

............that was really hot. Damn.

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"... You okay, there? I don't think that got him, he—yep, he just looks pissed off. Lightning, dodge!"

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Zagreus dodges, and he's back on Theseus. He will deal with how attractive that was at a later point, when he is not currently in a battle to the death.

Hey, water conducts electricity, maybe if he gets Theseus wet he can make the hero electrify himself. Or he could just deflect his spear back, one of those.

Or all of those.

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Water does not turn out to cause Theseus to electrify himself, possibly because it's divine bullshit, or possibly because there's just not enough of it present to manage it. Deflecting his spear back definitely works, though. Yvette is very dutiful about giving him a heads up for lightning blasts, and drags Theseus into blade whirlwinds, trips him up, and occasionally sunblasts him, when there's an opening available.

Unfortunately for Zagreus, Theseus is a very skilled and practiced fighter, and Zagreus got to fight his way through all of Tartarus, Asphodel, and Elysium to get here, and a minotaur besides. Theseus also has more reach, and a shield, and the ability to lunge forward with this really irritating sweeping strike that is a bit of a bitch to dodge, and, well. At one point, Zagreus is stabbed. Mortally.

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"Zag—!" hisses Yvette, a half second too late.

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"Fuck!" he says, looking at the hole in his chest. "I wanted to save that for later," he growls, and a swirl of darkness emerges from within his body, pulling him up into the air and then exploding outwards in a shockwave. When he lands back on his feet, the wound is healed, and though he still looks beat up he very much does not look dead.

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"... Wait, what?"

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"Too bad, blackguard. I will slay you again, and again, and again, until you finally fall for good and return to the pits of Tartarus where you belong!"

And then it's back to fighting! Theseus does not really seem surprised by Zagreus's ability to defy death itself.

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It would be bad tactics to let something like that create an opening and whatever his faults Theseus is one of the greatest warriors Greece has ever seen.

Nevertheless, Zagreus is a god, was taught by Achilles himself, and is really fucking pissed off. Yes, Tartarus and Asphodel and Elysium and that damn bull have taken their toll, but their toll is not enough to stop him. Not now, not here.

"You're dead," he says a split second before the blow he lands past Theseus's defense buries his sword in the hero's gut.

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"Khh, why, you..."

And then, just like that, he fades away.

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Zagreus spends a few seconds there, motionless, breathing heavily, before standing straight and letting out one deep breath.

It seems the crowd is cheering.

They seem to be chanting "ZA-GRE-US! ZA-GRE-US!"

Well.

That's unexpected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not entirely unwelcome, though. He grins and extends his arms up and to the sides, then bows to his audience.

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"Hey, to your left. You have a fan," murmurs Yvette, amused and relieved.

And, yep, right over there, amidst a sea of blue banners with Theseus and Asterius's faces stamped on them, is a little orange banner with Zagreus's face. The shade just above it is in orange, and looks thrilled to pieces.

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...oh.

He hops on over to that shade and beams up at them.

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This is the GREATEST MOMENT OF THIS SHADE'S NOT-QUITE-LIFE-ANYMORE and they are SO THRILLED!!!!! SO THRILLED!!! AAAA!!!!

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He bows again, this time directly to that shade, and says, "Hope you'll come cheer next time! Thanks for your support!"

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AAAAAA they are being DIRECTLY ADDRESSED this day cannot get any BETTER, this is it, this is the perfect day, aaaaaa so exciting aaaaaa!

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Yvette lets out a little giggle. This is very cute.

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And onwards to... well, whatever comes after this. He hasn't been this far before.

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Well, first, once they are out of the coliseum and in the next little waystation room, Yvette remakes her construct so she can hug him!

"Sorry, I realize I didn't get a chance to warn you about my trap for Theseus, that was probably kind of scary? I'm fine."

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Hug! "Oh, no, I have seen what you can do in the previous chambers, I knew you were fine."

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"Oh! Okay, good. Well, I'm glad you survived your stabbing, too."

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"Yeah, uh, about that. I didn't, not quite."

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"... Oh?"

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"I figured out how to - cheat, sort of. A while ago. Erm, I don't really know how to explain how it works. I was taking some of Styx, with me, and now I don't have it anymore, it's returned. Next time I die will be for real."

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"Oh. Damn. Okay. Uh. I guess I'll start working on some way to protect you? What's ahead to worry about?"

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"No clue! First time I've gotten this far."

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"... Great! Okay. Do you have an estimation for how close we are to the surface?"

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"I think we're... there. If I'm right, Cerberus should be waiting for us just up ahead."

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"Really?" she says, beaming. "Okay, well, then let's go!"

Back to her shoulder perch she goes!!

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Past another little transitional room, he drinks some from the fountain and replaces his necklace with a black spiked collar/choker, and onwards to...

...indeed...

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...the Temple of Styx, a walkway surrounded on both sides by the mouth of the Styx and whose gate is guarded by an enormous, red, three-headed dog.

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Wow, that dog is absolutely terrifying. Uh. Are they going to have to fight the dog? She'll do it, but that seems, uh. Difficult.

"Think we could maybe sneak past...?"

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The rightmost head looks straight at her - even though it's rather large it is still quite clear that it is looking at her - and starts growling.

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"meep."

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"So it's really come to this, boy?" asks Zagreus, walking up to the dog. "After everything we've been through. Well then, if this is how it has to be, there's nothing left to say. Except for: on your guard!"

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Now both the right and middle heads turn to look straight at Zagreus and start growling.

...but the left one fails to keep the straight face and barks once then starts panting happily and wagging its tail, and the other two can't help but join in, lowering closer to the ground so all three heads are looking at him.

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Which makes the godling laugh and walk up to the left head to scratch it behind the ear and around the jaw. "Sorry, boy, couldn't help it. Who's a good boy? It's you!"

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Wag wag wag.

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Oh.

Well, of course Cerberus is the family dog. He's the son of Hades. That makes this very easy then, doesn't it.

"Awwwww, hello," she coos.

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Bark bark wag!

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"No, but seriously, boy. I know why you're here. There has to be a way to make you look the other way."

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The leftmost head lowers all the way to the floor and Cerberus covers that snout with his front paws. It whines a bit.

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"Say, what if I help you with the Satyr problem, would you let me go? Please. I have to find Mother. You know what this means to me."

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The right head whines a bit but the left head opens its eyes to look at him. The middle head makes a long humming noise and then finally barks in a decidedly affirmative fashion, which seems to make the day of the left head who once again barks and licks Zagreus from toe to head.

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"Hahahahaha, yes, okay, I'll take that as a yes!"

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"Awwwww," says Yvette, and Cerberus seems like quite a smart dog, so she guesses she'll come out and see if she can give the great big doggo some pets. First she'll hold out her hand to a nose to let herself be sniffed, because she knows literally anything about manners around dogs, and then she can give the good boy scritches. Right? Yes?

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"Middle and right heads don't like being petted," Zagreus says, stepping away from the left head so she can have her turn.

Permalink Mark Unread

But the left head sniffs her hand then pokes its tongue out in a huge doggo grin accompanied by more tail wags.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh I see, okay. Thank you for helping me navigate the specifics of etiquette with three headed dogs." Scritch scritch scritch, only on the left head!! "Sorry I thought about sneaking past you, I didn't want to fight a big brave scary dog like yourself and didn't realize negotiation was on the table. I was very foolish. I will pay reparations in scritches, though. And Satyr killing." Scriiiiiitch?

Permalink Mark Unread

Wag wag wag sllllluuuuuuuuurp.

Permalink Mark Unread

She is now covered in hellhound drool. This was, in retrospect, predictable. She giggles anyway.

"Okay, I'm going back to being a shoulder decoration for now, but it was lovely meeting you." That's aimed at all three heads, even though the other two seem to be a bit more work-focused. "Keep on being the absolute best boy!"

And then, fwoop! Back to Zag's shoulder.

Permalink Mark Unread

Bork bork!

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, let's see, then," says Zagreus, looking around - and who's there on the side but Charon himself!

Permalink Mark Unread


H̤̙̫̬̪̰̰ͣ̄ͦ̆̾͂͐͐r̨̦̳͙͓͇̞̜̞͌́͆̋͐r̸̨̥͉̻̫̼̥͒̐ͪ̄ͧͮͅr̫̦͉̠ͬ̄̉̒ͦg̡̤̭͉̻̪̠̲̜͚̊̃ͩͬ̈ę̴̫͙͚̳̤͇͛̑͞e̮̲̥̥̫̺̋̽͡e̸̤ͯͦ̏ͧ̊͝e̵̠̤̳̝͉̐ͪ͛͘eͣ͒ͦ͏̛̭̜ẻͬ̒ͣ̐͏͎͕e͚͕͛̆̄̎͝͞ê̒ͭ̐̇͏͍͙͎͇̹͈͖͇h̵̴̰͔ͧ̓͛͋ͯ̈͛ͪh͙͉̼̹ͧ̒͋͆̅h̹̲͎̥̜̻̄̏̏͛͠h͙̗ͨͮ͜h̦͈̙̳ͤͦ̄͗h̦̝̤̤̳ͥ̎ͦ̀̉̌ḫ̶͇̝͙͉̻͚̽ͬ͞h̲͔̎͗ͫ̊͑̔́͆́͢͞.͖̜͍̦̲̣̦͌̆

Permalink Mark Unread

"Hello! I suppose it was both much easier for you to get here, since there wasn't a pair of champions in your way, and that Zagreus is enough of a big spender to be worth all of the trouble."

Permalink Mark Unread


Ṫ̶̥͔̲̙̰̠̼͇͕̆̈͠k̋̑̂ͨ̌̚҉̥̩̩͎k͉̱͇͎̪̞̅́́͢h̨͚͓̩̦̓̑̅̈͆̓͜h̷̴̨̤̪̲͎͕̒̈́̆h̷̸͍̖̠̪͐ͅ ̖͍̺ͮ͠ḧ̞ͧ́͠s̟̘͕͍͔̟̥̐̃͞a̛͒͆ͩ҉̞̰h̼̜̭ͭ̂͐͂͆̓̂ͣ̾͘͟͠h͇̳͒ͫ̂̍̋̇͂̎͢h̶͖͚̦͕̳͚͔̘̠̀̄̏ͥͧ̔h̡̺̮̯͒̎ͪ͑̈̐͛ͫh̼̪̻͋ͬ͂ͭ͊͑͑̃͛͘ḧ̫̣̪͔ͨͦ́̇͠h̨͎̺͉̝ͥ̅̉ͦͣ̏̃͗.̨̨̥ͥ̃͐͋́̂ͮ́

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, well, fair enough. Though uh, isn't Zagreus defying the House of Hades by... running off? There's no conflict of interest against the greater whole, there?"

Permalink Mark Unread

Questioning look?

Permalink Mark Unread


S̟̙͍͉̿̔̈͐̊ͬ̈́ͧ̅ḣ̴͖̫̱̯̘̬͇ͧ̔̐̐ͧ͢͡ͅh̬͖̞͙̗̝̟͙ͩ̽͋̇ͯ̾͌̂h̗͔̯̼͔̬͈̩̾̈͑̆̕h̸̗̤͓̯̼͊͆̐̒͘ẖͦ̈́͌ͥ̂ͅy͖͓ͧ̓̉͊̉̿̚̚ȇ̾͊ͥͯ̚͏̡̖͖͈̩̩̝k̵̡̖̥̹ͭ̂̆͑̌ͅ ̷̟̹͈̩ͤͩͮ̂̊͛̅̓ͩ́r̷̞̠̳͑̔́r̡̬̩̣͕͌ͩ̈̈͗ͪ̍h̲̣͐̌̐̾ͫ̌͛̀͜h͈̖̲̻̤̬̗̣͗͊̽ͯ̅͞a̴̸̯̟͎̦͍̣͌͟a̡̧̱̖͍͔̜̟ͫ͊͗͑̋͂ͩ̓͛a̰͓̼̦̙̪̦͆͋ͪͥ͛̈̒ͦ͝ä̧̳̱̖̤̙́̾͆̋ͩͣ͗̇͞͞h̗̪͖͙̣̰̗͉̔̓̉h̯͇̟̣̼̼̅ͤ̿͂ͧ͊̏́k̥̖̼̃̃̃͒̽̐͆ͨ̀͘͜k̢̛̤͈̣̘͋ͦͥ͢k̩̖͉̼̘͍͖̞̀͐̄̆̕k̡̥̣̹̣͚̩̩̱͆ͤͤ̎̂̾̀.̥̮̯͇̍̃̐͌ͭ̚͡

Permalink Mark Unread

“He said that he’s here out of loyalty to the House of Hades, and that you’re the prince, so here he is. I asked about conflicts of interest, and he says that Hades is not necessarily correct about what the House’s interests are. Then basically that he thinks you’re right. And, well, I agree, Charon, but I hope it won’t get you in hot water with Hades himself.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Charon, mate!"

Permalink Mark Unread


K̶̼̹̪͖͕̯͍͖ͮͥ͒̇͊̚ͅh͍̭̰̭̞̼̿͊͌̂ͪ̄͛̚h̴̰̱̦̘͎ͧ̏̅͞h͓̦͖̰ͩ̚͞h̵̢̼̖̘͈ͥ̔͛̂͠ŗ̢͖̺͎̩̪͉̮͍ͫ͛̂.̜͖̘͆̓̀͆̓ͯ̕.͖̬̟̟̆̊͒͒͊ͬ.̯̖͉ͮ͊̆̆ͤ̔̿̇ͭ?̓̔͟҉̹̭͓̰ ̘̓̃͛ͭͦ̕R̷̯̟̯͚̈͋a̖̻̅͆̉͡k̷ͧ̇̌͒̀͐̃ͫ̚҉͎͚͙̙̰̫̼h̑̓̎͆̏̊̎̍҉̡̮̟̲͙̹̳̰ͅt̪͉̹̝ͭ͗̾͌̉ͫ̅͒ḁ͙̙̲̳̫̘͙ͮ͗̈́̂̇̌̅̍̾s̨̯͔̻̼̪͍̥ͬ̓̽̌ͤ͂͛̚͜s̛͉̥̀̈ͥ͋̿̒ͫṡ̤͞s̛̜̍̄͛͑͢͞s̈́̃̈҉̙͉̳̬͡.̙͕͚̹̫ͣ̐ͥͫ̽ͬͮ̿̚͜

Permalink Mark Unread

“Oh, fine. He was implying that he thought you were right, but did not actually outright say it. Just that you might be.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, I'm still thankful. Let's see what we have, here, then," says Zagreus, looking over at the wares on offer. "Hmm, bit pricey, here, isn't it? Sure you can't give a friend a discount?"

Permalink Mark Unread


K̗͈̪͇̥̥̠̠̓͂̆̓̇̋̓́̕h̶̲͖̞̱͓̟͉͗̅ͩ̍ͭ͢͜a̍̉͊͊̅̇̇͊͜͏̬̘ẖ̟̘̝̮͖̘̻̿͊̒̕h̤̬̣̮͉̳̤̃ͦ̓͌̆͞h͖͓̀̓͌͆͊͌͠͡h̥͖̲ͯ̆̌̚̚͢t̤͚̘͖͇͓̑͡ä͕̬͂h͗̇ͦ̌͏̫̫̼̼̳̪̥̟̘.ͨ̏҉̵̱̜̮̥̹̞

Permalink Mark Unread

Giggle.

“In his words, he is loyal, not stupid. So that would be a no.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Shame. Maybe I'll find some more obols wherever those Satyr rats are."

Permalink Mark Unread

“Maybe,” says Yvette, a little dubiously.

Permalink Mark Unread

"We've been finding them in very unlikely places haven't we?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"True. I suppose you'd know better than I. It's just a little strange for pests to have money on them. Unless we're ransacking your father's things again?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"We are definitely ransacking some things," he agrees.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, then that makes perfect sense. Bought everything you want, shall we go?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Bought nothing as I'm short on coin, so yes indeed!"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, you could have had even more coin tucked away in that robe of yours, how am I supposed to know! If I were royalty trying to run away from home, I would have all of the money on me I could reasonably carry, and lots of jewelry to pawn besides."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Charon doesn't accept gems, just obols, but they are not allowed anywhere in my father's House. Or used. And I lose them all when I die. Sooooo."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, I see. So you only get spending money by ransacking. What a terrible incentive structure. ... Well? Are you just going to stand there, Zagreus? I'm still a shoulder decoration, I can grow legs and walk but I can't really walk for you."

Permalink Mark Unread

He blinks slowly and looks around. "I have no idea where to go, actually."

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Yvette snorts, amused.

"Charon? Do you happen to know where we might find the source of the Satyr pest problem?"

Permalink Mark Unread


E͔̖̫̠̯͔͋͐̎̅ḣ̼̩̠̜͓ͤͤ̂n̦̜̰̞̜̐̑͂̈́̓ͤ̽͘a̸̅ͥ̑͏̶̲͇̩a͚̜͔̦̭̪̜̲ͥͩ͌à̤̻̙̦͈̮̂͑ͣ̄̆̂ą̸̤̟͌̋̋̆͂͗̌ͤa̻͓̣͕͕͇ͮ́ͯ͒ͯ͌͐̚ḧ̸̤̝̬͈͍̫́ͣ̑̆̕͜h̙̹̱͚͎͌̿̃ͩ̎̀h͇̮̯̼͓͚́ͯ̿ͮh̴̊̽͑͠҉̜̺̣͇͚̯ȑ̷̰̩͔̜ͮ͒ͭ̾́͜ͅrͯ͌ͩ͂̎̑͏͏͚̩͚͕̭r̩̰̟̪͕̤͇̖͑͂̏ͤr̠͓̘͇̗͖̪̘̽̿ͧͬ̏̈́͋r̨͙̩̻̖̝͎͙̈́͌ͦ̋̌ͥ͑̑͘r̮̘̎͐͒̀̋ͭ.̷̴͙̦͉͎̓ͮ̂̿͋̎

He points in a specific direction with the hand that's not holding the oar.

Permalink Mark Unread

“Thank you very much! Okay, onwards.”

Permalink Mark Unread

Onwards!

The direction he pointed in is a tunnel lightly flooded by the Styx, only about ankle deep, blocked off by metal bars. Zagreus steps into the river, his burning feet making it sizzle and bubble, and carefully uses the Stygius to cut through the grates. The blade goes through them almost like melted butter, and then the god has to bend over a little bit to fit under the low ceiling - not quite low enough that he has to actually crawl on all fours, but still not extremely comfortable. But he doesn't let out a single peep of complaint, and in fact looks pretty happy overall.

Permalink Mark Unread

Gosh, she sure is glad she doesn't have a body for this! She feels like she has won, here.

Now, hmm, how to make a shield for Zagreus, that's actually not as obvious to her as how to blast things. Knocking projectiles out of the air, maybe? Some sort of gravity well thing that turns things away? This will do absolutely no good for being directly stabbed, which is what happened last time. Damn. This is a hard problem.

Permalink Mark Unread

The tunnel eventually gets dark enough that Zagreus's burning feet are the only thing lighting the way, but that's enough to make it clear that the tunnel does not bifurcate for a while.

Eventually it does, though, splitting into three possible paths.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Charming. Well, I say right this time."

Permalink Mark Unread

Right they go!

"Of course even the sewers of the Temple of Styx would have shifting geography," sighs Zagreus.

Permalink Mark Unread

"That seems really inefficient when you're dealing with a pest problem. They can just go to new and interesting places in the ever shifting geography."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Maybe someone should suggest stable geography to him as a pest control solution. Would make my life easier for sure."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Somehow I don't think you father would find that particularly convincing. Making your life easier, I mean."

Permalink Mark Unread

"No but he might just hate satyr rats more than he hates the idea of me leaving."

Permalink Mark Unread

"True. How bad are they, anyway?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Never seen one so I guess we'll find out together."

The tunnel opens up to a much larger cavern, badly lit by torches and undecorated except for the vases that are apparently endemic to the whole underworld.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Exciting. ... Why are there so many vases. Everywhere."

Permalink Mark Unread

"My suspicion is that the contractor just really likes them. Last I chatted to him about renovations I saw some small print options about adding more vases and he squirmed when I questioned it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That's adorable."

Permalink Mark Unread

He laughs and then proceeds along carefully.

The cave is devoid of any visible rats.

"I would have expected to have been attacked by now." He waits a beat. "Not even the narrative bait I just dropped here is working, the Fates are slacking." Another beat, still no rats. "Wow."

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"You're going to get swarmed by them at this rate," snorts Yvette.

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"I do need to bribe Cerberus with something." Pitter patter. "Oh okay that sounds like rat noises." He draws his sword and waits.

Permalink Mark Unread

"When you're drowning in a sea of rats, I'll be sure to try and drag you out before they rip you to pieces for your narrative hubris."

Permalink Mark Unread

"What a way to go. Get past the Champions of Elysium only to get eaten by rats. Hypnos will have a lark at my expense."

There's a rat over there in that corner! ...its ribs are poking through its skin and it's leaking a sickly glowing green fluid. Rather than commenting on that, though, Zagreus dashes over to it and sticks his sword in it.

It dies without fanfare.

Permalink Mark Unread

"So what type of flowers do you want at your tasteful funeral, here in this place where no one will be able to attend? I can even play some touching music for you. Say a few words to the leftover rats."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Where will you even find flowers?"

Another rat! Half of its cranium is exposed, and the green fluid is leaking from its eye socket. It makes a disgusting screeching noise when Zagreus bisects it.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I will make them. I hope you don't mind a stars theme, because it's all I can do!"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I had never seen a star before so I think it's actually quite fitting."

As they reach the other end of the cavern, what had from a distance looked like a particularly golden torch or lamp turns out to be a small round stone basin filled with a glowing golden liquid. A fountain in the shape of a plump nymph stands behind it, lazily pouring more of the liquid into the basin.

Permalink Mark Unread

“Great! Then we’re agreed.”

She opens an eye to peer at the strange, glowing liquid.

“... Is that... healing? No. Universal antidote. Oh, that’s clever, I’m not sure it’ll work perfectly against diseases, but against poisons it’d be fantastic.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Who... put this here? And why?"

Permalink Mark Unread

“Absolutely no idea, but presumably for curing poison. The rats did look, uh, extremely poisonous. And green.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"That they did. Convenient." He walks up to the basin to drink up some of the liquid and smacks his lips a few times. "Tastes like absolutely nothing."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Would you rather it had a refreshing lemony flavor, or the ability to cure poison?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Why not both?" Zagreus walks over to the wall and kicks it with the side of his left foot, then looks around it some more. "Why would this be a dead end? What's the point of tunnels and a cave in the Temple of Styx?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Lemon flavor might count as a poison. It's protecting you for your own good. Good taste doesn't play into it. And... I don't know, the cave might be a later addition, by the satyrs? But I'm not clear on why you'd want the Temple of Styx to be an everchanging maze anyway, especially filled with vermin."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, it was originally built by mortals a few centuries ago, I think." Tap tap walk walk. "And I think it only got maze-y when Father made it a more official part of the Underworld. Guess maybe he felt it was appropriate?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Hm... Could also be that he couldn't help it. It might be all or nothing on the mazehood of the Underworld, and to turn it off up here would turn it off elsewhere, too."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh. Suppose that would make sense, yeah. Wait." He pauses, his left foot still hanging above the floor, and extends his leg a bit forward. "I feel a breeze." So he starts following it.

Permalink Mark Unread

"If there's a path outside that isn't past Cerberus, that is a major design flaw and also terribly convenient for our purposes!"

Permalink Mark Unread

"The rats must have come from somewhere." He starts following the breeze away from the wall and towards a less-illuminated part of the cave.

Permalink Mark Unread

"That's true. Doesn't bode well for the security of the Underworld, though."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Well, Father never said it should be impossible to get in." He stops walking and looks down at what is apparently some grating on the ground. "Found ya."

Permalink Mark Unread

"This seems like a design flaw. Though I suppose there are stories about heroes venturing into the Underworld to rescue dead loved ones."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Bunches of them did that. Herakles, Orpheus himself." Slice slice away with the grating and down into it he goes. It's darker down there than the previous tunnel was even, and Zagreus makes a red diamond appear floating above his palm for extra illumination in addition to his feet.

Permalink Mark Unread

“Hrm. Did any of them succeed in rescuing dead loved ones? Because that implies that the dead escaped.”

Oh, light. She can help with that. She separates a tiny more of herself out to make a tiny spark of light above his head.

“Tell me if I should make this brighter or darker. Or make another one and send it ahead.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, sending them ahead would help. And a tad brighter?" Pitter patter "That sounds like rats. Damn vermin. Uh, anyway, they didn't escape so much as Father let them leave. Everyone who's ever left has only done so with my father's permission."

Permalink Mark Unread

She brightens the light above his head, and then sends another to float ahead. She even has the light ahead work more like a flashlight than a torch, blocking the light facing him with a darkness and directing it to brighten just the way forward. He probably wants to have functioning night vision.

“Oh. I see. But he’s not letting you leave. Even though you’re his son. I’d think that’d be way more persuasive than ‘Random hero broke in to retrieve dead person!’”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Something something shirking my responsibilities, it's not my place, I belong here?"

Permalink Mark Unread

“What responsibilities are you shirking? The others seem, uh. I think it’s kind of up to the person, where they belong. I guess gods have things they’re gods of, but Thanatos said you were a god of life, so. Kinda not seeing how it’s your place to belong forever in the Underworld. The place of the dead.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"Thanatos just said that to tease me," he grumps. "I'm not the god of anything, I don't think. Achilles thinks I am, but I don't feel like the god of- OW BLOOD AND DARKNESS -!" he suddenly yelps, kicking his right leg forward and sending a small rodent flying and screeching ahead. He jumps on the spot a little, holding his right foot in his hands. "Stupid rats."

Permalink Mark Unread

Okay, screw that little rat, can she hit it with a sunblast from Zagreus’s shoulder?

Permalink Mark Unread

She can! It dies a disgusting death.

"Why would a rat bite a burning toe. There is no way it was going to survive with its face half melted off!!"

Permalink Mark Unread

“Considering how it oozes green, a melted face might have been a kinder end. Alternatively, the green ooze might make it not care about death and just care about biting people. A zombie rat.”

Any other rats to blast? She will blast them.

Permalink Mark Unread

None visible.

"I don't think I know that word."

Permalink Mark Unread

“It’s a thing from a, uh, set of stories. In my world. Corpses of the dead rise back up and start shambling around, hungering for human flesh. Running around biting things, maybe saying, ’braaaaaaaiiiinsss’ if the story is particularly shallow. Don’t worry about it.”

Permalink Mark Unread

"...I think Father would be really mad if that happened."

Onwards!

Permalink Mark Unread

Onwards!

"Annoying your father is not a sufficient reason to start a zombie apocalypse, Zagreus."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Apocalypse?"

Yvette's light up ahead illuminates a curve of the tunnel to the left, and a set of metal grates farther on and above. Soft squeals can be heard from that direction.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Traditionally zombies are presented in a zombie apocalypse story, where most of the world has become zombies, except for a rag tag group of survivors that have to get over their differences and try to survive against overwhelming numbers. So. Zombie apocalypse."

Permalink Mark Unread

"...what a curious kind of story."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yep. I don't really see the appeal, personally, but I will nonetheless make references to it."

Permalink Mark Unread

Zagreus notices the potential entrance into another chamber, and quickly slices the metal bars and jumps up into the room.

"Now this is more like it," he says of the substantially better-illuminated room with many rats visible.

......including one rat that is approximately the size of a horse.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Try not to get horribly poisoned," says his shoulder buddy, who then proceeds to start sniping the tiny rats with sunblasts. The big rat seems like it's Zagreus's problem more than hers, and that she should focus on making sure the little ones don't nibble on his toes again.

Permalink Mark Unread

He tries!

But his definition of "tries" does not take into account the possibility that the poison (venom?) can affect him just by touch. Which it can.

"Aarrgghhhhh that feels awfuuuuul," he yelps, immediately dashing for the conveniently-located stone fountain with the antidote.

Permalink Mark Unread

Okay, while he’s retreating she can buy him some space to get his poison cured, any nearby rats can be flung away from him with bursts of starscape flavored kinetic force. This is less effective at killing them than just blasting them, but she can hit more than one at once and buy him time when they’re all rushing him. Which they probably are, because he’s dashing for the fountain.

“What did I just say?” she teases in a singsong, clearing the way and covering for him as best as she can.

Permalink Mark Unread

"How was I meant to know it goes through skin!" he calls before dunking his head into the glowing liquid for half a second. "Aaand back in action," he says afterwards, dashing straight towards and through the horse-rat.

Permalink Mark Unread

And back to playing firing support! Pew pew.

"It's bright green, it absolutely looks like toxic sludge that shouldn't be touched!"

Permalink Mark Unread

The small rats are easy pickings and by the time Zagreus has sliced the big one enough times to get it to stop moving there are no more of them either.

"Well maybe bright green sludge is more common where you're from." He pokes some rat corpses with his sword and - "Aha! Told you there'd be money here. These rats will eat anything." He destroys rat corpses a bit further and dunks the found gold obols into the antidote fountain before pocketing them.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'll be sure to let you know if I see anything else obviously hazardous that you might think is okay to step in."

She peers at the money that came out of the rats. "That.... doesn't make any sense, but. Okay. Sure. Rats that eat gold coins. That has to be terrible for their digestive systems, but it's not like they're the healthiest creatures anyway, so I guess I won't grouse too much about it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That one ate a rock," he says, pointing at a corpse. "That one had pieces of pottery sticking through its stomach even before you killed it," he says, pointing at another one.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Terrible. How can such incredibly stupid creatures successfully survive, much less breed."

Permalink Mark Unread

"They're probably only half alive. Being here, they are just between life and death, aren't they?"

This chamber has an actual door so he starts making for it.

Permalink Mark Unread

"That just brings up the question of how they reproduce even more, don't they need properly functioning circulation systems in order to, er. Get busy with each other. This makes no sense."

Permalink Mark Unread

To that he can only offer an eloquent shrug.

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Well, onwards, to kill more of the nonsensical toxic rats. Yvette will continue being two portable light sources, just for Zagreus.

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And they can go through chambers that are at least loosely inspired by what the original mortal-built Temple of Styx once contained, before it was swallowed up by the Underworld and made approximately just as infinite.

Zag... is not so great at not getting poisoned.

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It's very frustrating. There are lots of ways she tries to help, and none of them work. She tries grabbing a bottle of the poison cure liquid, stored in her eldritch pocket dimension bullshit space, specifically to feed to him through a straw, but it turns out to become inert when away from the fountain for too long. Unfortunately, application of a drink holder sports cap does not help. She tries shoving the poison out of the way with a kinetic blast. It's not very stuck to itself and so, while it moves, it tends to move in a 'everywhere' and 'unpredictable' sort of way, which is distinctly unhelpful. Annoyed, she eventually tries eating it and shoving it into an eldritch containment space, but this predictably gets her poisoned, too, which is so not fair because how does it even make sense for her to be something that can be poisoned. (She drinks the fountain water, grumbling.)

"Zag, can you please try to be more careful?" she pleads, after one of the many times he's been poisoned. "I don't know how to heal you, and the fountain doesn't at all!!"

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"I'm fine, I'll get something off Charon if I need to," he says, rubbing some blood off the corner of his mouth with the back of his wrist. "And I am trying, trust me I do not enjoy this poison thing."

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“I-right, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to snap. I’m just worried. Maybe stand back and we slowly blast everything to death from range....?”

She doesn’t expect him to go for this at all.

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He sighs. "No, it's fine, sorry for snapping back. And... I suppose we can try that but I reserve the right to scrap that strat if it doesn't work or I get too frustrated."

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"Yes, of course. Thanks for trying. Uh," her mote of shadow exits the shoulder skulls and forms back into her more human shape. She offers a shy smile, and opened arms. "... hug?"

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Sure, hug, why not.

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Hug!!

"I suppose taking breaks so you can have a nap and recover a bit while I figure out a way to heal you is probably not going to happen. Or you hanging back while I go scout ahead as a little mote, either," she mumbles, into his shoulder.

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"My father is sure to find me if I stay still anywhere for too long and send a horde of his minions homing in on me."

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"Your father sucks," she grumbles.

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"This is the whole entire problem I am having here, yes."

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"Yeah, just. It's worth saying again. Because he sucks. We'll get you out." Squeeze. "Okay, let's go?"

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"Yeah, let's."

They still have a ways to explore, anyway, and they soon start finding more nasties: the satyrs these tunnels are known for, disgusting little creatures that worship the rats and make poison-coated weapons; snakestones, clusters of souls the satyrs shape into floating crystals that shoot deadly lasers; and bothers, spirits of the restless dead who band together into unassuming ash urns in an attempt to sneak past the entrance of the Underworld and maybe coalesce into life for another chance.

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"It is incredibly creepy to have groups of souls shoved together into objects that shoot deadly lasers. Or launch bombs," says Yvette, from her shoulder spot, once everything is dead. "Why would they want their soul to become a little bomb-launching urn."

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"I have no idea. Maybe they just want to be unobtrusive enough to manage to sneak past Cerberus."

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“And the explosives are, what, in case they’re spotted? To make themselves a new exit in the earth by blowing things up? Bah. I suppose that makes some sense, but I’m still not going to be happy about it.”

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"I do wonder what the surface must be like, that so many want to go back to it... I have my grievances with the Underworld but I would have thought them more personal."

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"Having been to a surface, I can probably guess. Sunlight! Friends and family. Lots of open sky. Plants. Uh, everything not being on fire, that seems like a really good reason, considering."

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"The fire part is pretty recent, it's some blockage downriver, I understand Father is trying to figure out a way to deal with it."

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“Okay, but the river was and always was a fire river, correct? Compared to a nice river of water that you can swim in. Like what you’d find on the surface.”

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"...I suppose so."

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“Oh, oh, you know what would go well with your fire river? Hot springs! You’d get way less shades trying to run if they could soak in hot springs heated by your fire river!” Pause. “I guess getting the water might be a problem.”

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"Surely not, the Styx is water before it... becomes fire."

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"It... becomes fire. Okay. That's. Well I have no idea what to do with arbitrary god physics, so."

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"Are you not basically arbitrary god physics yourself?"

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".... Touché. I have no idea what to do with foreign arbitrary god physics, how about."

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"I am sure you can figure it out!"

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She snorts!

"Thank you for your faith in me. I still need time to figure it out. I definitely did for my arbitrary god physics."

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"Chaos may be able to help. They seem to have more knowledge than they should about pretty much everything."