Also, fuck Titans. Don’t think I’ve said that in a while.
So, we got to Hades. The play worked, kind of. The highlights of the trip are as follows:
Ixion is still a fucking tool.
My mom is in the Elysian Fields.
Hades is kind of a jerk.
The Furies are dirty Underworld hookers.
Right. So, I'll start with the abyss. I understand that's how most things started.
From Norway we went to Germany. As soon as we got there I grabbed Gunnar, and told him that when we were done with Hades I felt like I needed to go to Duat.
I guess I had made it pretty clear that I thought he shouldn't go, that this part of the "Laurel fucked up and it needs to get fixed" show was going to be more or less a solo act. Not that I don't want him there, I think the idea of being away for an indeterminate (meaning months, years, or the darker side of an eternity) amount of time kinda sucks. But he's got way better shit to do than help me clean up my messes, especially since he's pretty much been on mop duty for the last three segments of this whole fucking circus and I'm not gonna drag him through another ring if I don't have to. Especially since this one will probably try to kill us.
I mean, Amanda made it sound like it was a really bad idea for anyone who's not Egyptian to head in. And he's not Egyptian. Neither am I, but of course I'm going, because I don't really have a choice. I have to give Erzulie her daughter back and I can't leave Azzeza hanging anymore if the gates are closing and if there's another option I haven't thought of it yet.
I told Amanda and Azzeza to start getting ready too, take care of any business they needed to while I worked on finishing the blueprints. Nevermore helped with that. And by helped I mean he was obnoxious and would tell you he helped with the blueprints. What he actually did was keep telling me to "put a bird on it." I kept telling him that Dionysus has no reason to want a bird on it.
Gunnar spent his time in Germany checking out how well Dionysus' efforts were helping the community, making costumes for our play, and making sure that Susan and Carmen were like, 5,000 feet from one another at all times. The kids aren't crazy about having her there. Well, I'm not crazy about traipsing through another underworld. Life's a bitch.
Nate helped out where he could, but it almost seemed like this was a little bit of downtime. Oh, and Nate called the U.S. Government and told them to plan for dragons. His advice amounted to, "well, try to talk to them and maybe they won't eat you and I'm not sure what language they will speak so you should have a team of linguists and a lot of guns ready, just in case."
Best advice ever. Nothing could possibly go wrong. It will probably be fine though. I've got faith in Nate and if he's not worried, I'm not worried.
Everyone else kinda chillaxed as well. I was hoping to get a start on learning whatever language Amanda's book is written in, but I am not nearly as talented as Gunnar and I can only do one thing at a time. So I finished the blueprints, since there's a worst-case-scenario that says I may not be coming back for a very, very long time.
So we put on the play. It was about Dionysus. The kids played it off as a Grand Opening ceremony, or something like that. That was actually really smart, since this is a temple to the Situation.
Story time: Dionysus used to be Zagreus, until Hera
So I guess I can't really blame her, except for the part where Zagreus got torn apart.
Oh. Uh... Spoilers: Zagreus gets torn apart.
So, Zeus throws a party for his cute little bastard baby, and Hera is not happy. She let the Titans into her home where baby Zagreus was sleeping after his super-mega-awesome birthday party. The Titans were pissed because they weren't invited to the party and they tore Zagreus to pieces.
So Athena went into the bloody room full of Zagreus bits and somehow found his heart, and gave the heart to Zeus, and Zeus sewed it into his thigh and drank this potion Athena had made that would let Zeus be a regenerative incubator type thing and that's the reason people call Dionysus "the twice born" and also why he is kinda effeminate, since he was born both of a man and of a woman.
I played Zeus and my beard was awesome.
We didn't cover the scene where I couldn't keep it in my pants. Apparently the play starts after that, and it is just understood by the audience that Zeus cannot, does not, will not keep it in his pants. Maybe if he actually had pants, instead of a toga... but anyway, Kas was Zagreus/Dionysus, and it was awesome when she jumped out of my thigh.
So we were midscene and everything faded, and then we were in the realm of Hades and there was a cliff and then...
"Alright, you've seen it. Does that mean you're going to leave now?" It was Hades talking. Hades has a voice made of pebbles. Sharp ones. It sounds like he ate a quarry. Or a mine field. That'd explain why he looks so unhappy, too. I mean, I could ask Gunnar for sure, since he can taste them at a range now without ever getting his tongue near them, but I'm fairly certain that rocks don't taste very good.
To answer the esteemed and honorable Lord Hades' question (which would have been really silly if he'd ever actually met us before, and he probably would have known better than to even bother asking it): No. Of course it didn't mean we were going to leave. Especially since we didn't remember ever even getting there.
So, here's the down side of staring into the abyss: It kinda does stare back, and it makes googly eyes and then you forget stuff. Hades had a more eloquent explanation, something about the primal chaos and forces too powerful for our ordered minds to comprehend, but - and I'm just being honest here - I like the googly eyes better and I wasn't really paying attention anyway.
The point is, we forget everything we saw and learned while we were testing Nietzsche's theory. So Gunnar, who will probably be the God of People Who Can't Leave Dangerous Things Alone, decides to try it again. He's got the best eyes, and he's pretty smart (but try telling that to the rest of the Band; I think they're still mad about the time he shot that priest who was holding a grenade).
We figured something out the second time around, though. While he was staring into the big crazy blackness where the realm of Hades ends and what used to be Tartarus begins, I was staring at him. He described to all of us everything he saw, and then when he started to mumble like a madman from Miskatonic U., I turned his head away and made him stare at me instead. I'm sure it was torture.
What he saw was a blue mechanical fiery thing which turned out to be a Promethean Star, and some island that was a fragment of where the Titans used to live, and oh yeah, the great swirling void from which everything and nothing originated and coexists.
Or something like that.
I am not an expert on abysses.
We asked Hades a billion questions about everything and learned pretty much nothing except that in order to even convince him to let us come stare at this big ball of fun, we had to promise him that we would find Cerberus.
And that's how we learned that Cerberus was even missing. Apparently we knew that as soon as we got here, because Hades told us, but then we forgot. Fuck abysses.
Eventually we got bored with the primal chaos. It's a lot less impressive than you would think.
So then we decide to go actually investigate that Cerberus thing. Apparently we had had this idea before, and we leave really obvious footprints. And of course, the second time we still didn't think to just go around the field of the Asphodels, where all the pissed off ghosts live, but it was fine because I just used one of those shield thingies and made them stay away.
We got into the cave and Nate went all crazy CSI. He should have used Gunnar's sunglasses to complete the look, that would have been funny. But yeah, he was all like "Ixion and Kane were here and they fought a ghost and the ghost went so many paces in this direction and from his gait I can tell that he was heavily wounded and by the end it looks like this... was one hushed puppy."
Okay, I made that last bit up, but the rest of it? All true. Kane and Ixion stole Cerberus for who-the-fuck-knows-why but it's probably going be really fucking inconvenient for us later. We decided to share that tidbit with Hades.
Oh, and we tracked down the ghost warrior, who turned out to be fucking Perseus!!!
I didn't get to meet him though. Not at first, because the Furies are still assholes.
Sequence. Right. Gotta try to stick to this sequence thing.
So we follow the tracks of the ghost - I don't know how that works, I'm a doctor not an astral physicist - up to this morbid looking tower. And by we I mean Nevermore helped track or scout it. Or something. The tower had three faces, and all of them looked kinda constipated. The tower stood on the edge of the realm of Hades, where there's a river of fire and a river of ice and there's probably a river of DOOM.
Nah, that was where the Furies lived.
When we figured that out, my first response was, "Fuck." I didn't say that part out loud.
My second, vocal response was, "I'll go first."
So there were three gates around the tower, one behind another, and I don't remember what they were made of but every time I opened a gate I had to talk to a Fury and answer a question.
I can't remember what the first question was, but I answered it well enough to get through the gate.
One of them asked me if I agreed to leave in the Tower anything I found there.
I tried to imagine the worst thing I possibly could find there, but figured that we knew where Gunnar's parents were, and I had an idea where my parents were, and I would have known if something had happened to any of the kids and anything else I could probably convince myself not to worry too much about. Hopefully.
So I said yeah. And then Alecto was like, "You know our sister's behind the last gate and she's still mad at you."
And I was like, "Yeah, I know."
And she was like, "You really wanna go back there?"
And in my head I was like, Fuck no, do I look stupid? but I have gotten smart enough to occasionally keep my mouth shut and I just said, "Yeah, kinda have a job to do. Need to see a ghost about a dog."
Kas was nice enough to warn the Fury about all of the others that would be coming through, and just to hang around. Nicer than I am. I would have let them all wear themselves out, bamf-ing back and forth.
So I get up to the third gate, and I finally got to meet the last little fury. She looked a lot like Medusa. Post-snakening.
As soon as she appeared, Tisiphone looked me in the eyes and then I couldn't move. Just like I'd done to Marie, before I shot her in the head. I wondered for a second if that would be the payback. I was pretty sure I could survive a shot to the head, now. Maybe.
But because of what she'd done to me, my body refused to go anywhere. I guess that was good, because if it could have moved I probably would have gone to a place called Ballistic and smashed her little Fury face in. Or tried to. I don't really know how well that would have gone. She probably would have called in the other two for backup. And that probably wouldn't have ended well. So it's probably a good thing that I kept my temper and didn't drag the rest of the Band down with me for that kind of a showdown.
So Tisiphone stared at me. And then she stared at me some more. I felt her digging around in my head, or trying to push something into my head, or something. She was canoodling my lobes, which was kind of invasive and really not cool. It's that kind of feeling you get when the weather is changing and you're about to get a headache, which... now that I think about it, is not a bad description for the Furies: the beginnings of a headache.
I don't know. Whatever she wanted to do, it didn't fucking work. I postulate that this is because I'm too awesome for that.
She looked angry. Well, okay, she looked pissed. I got to laugh at her. Yeah, that's right: I looked a Fury in the eyes, and laughed. I get a gold star. Where from? I gave it to myself. I think I've earned the right.
And with that business concluded, she asked what I figure was her normal question.
"Do you intend to break any of the laws?" She probably meant one of those twenty things that fucking nobody had told us about because they don't really matter to anyone, except these three hookers who live in the tower on Scary Hooker Island (it's not really its own island but this is neither the time nor the place for a Plutonian geography lesson).
"Nope." I even thought about it before I answered.
"You lie. You may not enter."
"You're a bitch. Whatever."
I don't even know what I was lying about. It didn't really matter that they didn't let me in, mostly because they didn't let Gunnar in, either. So all the cool kids were outside, anyway. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Plus, Super Gunnar was able to hear what was going on inside and turned to me at one point and was like, "They're talking to Perseus!" He seemed unhappy we were missing it. I'm guessing that's what the pantomimed gesture of shooting himself in the head was about.
Perseus. The guy with the Pegasus. Another one of my uncles. I have approximately a bajillion, since Zeus is the god of not-keeping-it-in-his-pants. Perseus is a ghost now, but I'm pretty happy to see that this has not slowed him down at all. Kinda lends credence to my "I can still kick some ass if I die" theory. Big "if," though. I don't plan on dying.
So Perseus talked to the others who went in, which was like, everyone, and then they all come out and Perseus leads us to the shores of the Styx where there is a boat and some water and a conspicuous lack of anyone who is named Charon.
Instead, sitting in the boat, was Ixion-with-two-life-aura-things. It looked like a Matryoskha doll, the way the life forces were stacked. Ixion was pretty chatty, and fairly keen on telling us that we were too late and that he was going to kill the person he'd turned into his meat puppet.
I don't know if it was a literal kill switch, but he did something to the simulacrum (like the one Uncle Hercules crushed) and I saw all the lights on the inside start to dim.
I decided a while back that this is a Caleb type situation. Whatever he wants, if I'm in a position to keep him from getting it, I will. So I saved the woman on the inside, and I cut her out of the metal skeleton and I kept her alive and then we as a Band worked on freeing her from the ferry.
Why did we have to free her from the ferry? Well, there's this old riddle that I can't remember how it goes, so I'll just tell you the answer to the riddle instead. It's from this poem by a guy named Gaiman who writes the weirdest and truest shit:
"The river can be crossed by the ferry.
The ferryman will take you.
(The answer to his question is this: If he hands the oar to his passenger, he will be free to leave the boat. Only tell him this from a safe distance.)"
So when I saw Ixion sitting there, and realized that he was sitting pretty in one of his simulacra, I figured out pretty quickly what had happened. And if I managed that, I'm betting everyone else did, too. I am not the thinker of the group.
Ixion stole a woman's body, put one of his meat-suits over it, used her mouth to volunteer to take Charon's place, and then literally planned to abandon ship. The plan, I guess, must have been either that the whole construct would die, and Hades would have no ferryman, or that she would live and be stuck there and Ixion wouldn't care because it wasn't his ass in the boat.
So we went to tell Hades. I figure something like this is what you would delicately call a Big Fucking Problem. Hades apparently agreed, and said that the only way the woman could get out would be to have somebody voluntarily replace her. His wife, Persephone (who is kinda scary), said that maybe someone in the Elysian Fields might be nice enough to help us. I should have looked closer to see if maybe she was sneering at us when she said it.
So we go to start talking to the friendly ghosts in the heavenly part of the realm of Hades, and we don't get very far at all because as soon as we walk into the fields there's some commotion and someone shouting my name and then holy shit there's my ghost-mom who I haven't seen in seven years and I'm trying not to cry as she hugs me and tells me how beautiful I've gotten and that I look just like my dad. I don't, for the record. I've got her hair and her cheekbones and I used to have her eyes until they started turning gold.
I don't remember anymore why I was so torn up about seeing her, but I remember aching on the inside at the thought of having to walk away, like I was having one of those moments where you're living in a song and this one was about a dead woman:
"When God took her with time
God made me quite alone
It's like the universe has left me
Without a place to go...
I saw your ghost tonight
It fucking hurt like hell."
With her being my mom, it occurred to me that if I didn't tell her about Gunnar and the boys, and she found out later, she'd be kinda mad. I'd be mad if my future-daughter just kinda forgot to mention babies and a husband during the first time we talked in seven years.
She seemed really happy to meet Gunnar, even though she had no idea who Heimdall was. And I showed her the picture of our kids, and my mom's pretty smart, so when I said, "We got married this summer, and these are our kids," and I showed her a picture of two (unbelievably adorable) nine-year-olds, she raised an eyebrow. Both eyebrows.
Here I was thinking that I would have to give her this long explanation about the gods and the divine war and what the hell was I doing here in the realm of Hades anyway, but it turns out my dad's been holding out on me.
Before my mom died, I mean almost right before she died, my dad went and visited her and explained everything and called in the type of favor with Hades that got her let into the Elysian Fields. The Elysian Fields, for the record, are every bit as bitching a place as the legends make them out to be. So I'm not sure why I made with all of the internal melodrama when I saw that's where my mom was. There are worse places to not-live, and she could have been in one of them if my dad hadn't talked to her and to Hades.
I kinda have to wonder how exactly that talk went. The one between my parents, I mean. I care less than I probably should what my dad had to say to Hades.
"Sorry I abandoned you and our kid, honey, and let you think I was dead for seventeen years. Had shit to do." Something like that. And they decided not to tell me, that I would find out when I needed to.
Whatever. I was just really happy to see my mom, and she didn't seem to have any trouble following the explanation. It pretty much went like, "Well in January I went to Vegas and that's where I met Gunnar and my other friends, and then we all started saving the world and here are the fights we had and we killed a Fomorian then Gunnar proposed and then we fought a war in a place where people can't die, and then Gunnar and I got married and that night I got pregnant and then we ran into an avatar of time - kinda literally - and now our twin sons, who shouldn't even be born yet, are nine years old. Mazel tov!"
She handled it well.
Gunnar stuck around and talked to her with me. He could have left and I totally would have understood, but I'm betting he felt like it would have been really poor manners to walk away from his mother-in-law the first time he met her. Plus, the others were busy being the responsible ones and talking to the Elysians and asking them if they'd like to be tied to a boat for the rest of existence.
Surprisingly, we had no takers.
Well... One taker. My mom volunteered. Guess where I get that "more loyalty than sense" thing from. Not really from my dad. Not that he's disloyal... well, okay, he kinda is in the sense that I have lots of half-siblings but I'm trying not to think about that because it's hard not to like my dad and I get the feeling that he comes from a family where adultery is just okay. Okay with everyone except Hera, I mean.
I told my mom I'd get back to her. I was thinking that if there was anyone else, literally any other person in the whole realm that we could get to do the job, there was no way I would let her take over.
I remember thinking that she had suffered enough, that it was time for her to just rest and enjoy being dead and to stop taking care of people, that that part was over and she was supposed to just relax. I don't remember what the suffering thing was about, but my attitude towards my mom's afterlife is the same: it should be time to kick back and relax. It should be a reward for a life well lived and a job well done.
But being a mom now too though, I get it. It's never really over. It never will be over. I'll be protecting my babies until the end of my existence. And their friends, and their friends' parents, and the bus they ride to school on. Or griffin, in the case of Alex and Erik.
It was hard saying goodbye to my mom, though I don't really remember why so much anymore. Just that she'd been gone a long time and there were eighty million things I wanted to tell her - like about Brendan Gair and his future T-Rex and the daughter I hadn't had yet but that Gunnar told me about and how I was going to turn Nevermore into Bubo from that old movie with the mechanical owl, and there were a bajillion things I wanted to ask her and I wanted to just sit down and spend forever there, just talking to my mom. And not talking about how she shouldn't be volunteering to be Hades' new ferryman. Ferrywoman. Ferryperson.
Whatever. We didn't have to take her up on it, but we had been told by Persephone that we couldn't trick anyone in the Fields into taking up the position.
So we didn't. Harlan the Glib convinced one of the guys who used to judge souls that it was his duty to the realm to free this woman, or something like that.
So we set someone up on the boat, and Nate stays with the woman who needs to eat in the next day or she's going to be in trouble but we can't let her because hey, that's how Persephone got suckered into being here so much. But I didn't come here to babysit a mortal and solve all of Hades' problems. I came here to investigate the Darkness and get Marie's memories. Which totally explains why they're in Gunnar's head. Only not really.
I wonder, if he had known how things would turn out, if he still would have done it.