As I boarded the boat that would ferry me across the eternal river, I thought to myself how glad I was to not be mortal. Had I been, my visit to my uncle’s domain would not have been so cheery. I would be crossing the river on a one-way ticket, purchased for me by my friends or family. I would be approaching my judgement, the outcome of which would determine the rest of my existence.
I would be dead.
But, since I was immortal and, therefore, couldn’t die, I had nothing to worry about. My uncle was expecting me, but only for a pleasant afternoon together. He would never see me on the other side of judgement.
The robed ferry conductor docked the boat and gave me a nod. I disembarked, giving the soul-trafficker a slight wave as I passed.
As I watched him leave, I caught sight of my reflection in the river and frowned. Though the water was a deep crimson, I could still make out how pale I was. My black hair curled in to frame my face, so my cheeks looked even paler than they were. My eyes looked darker than they should be, since they were the same shade of red as the river.
I ran a hand through my hair, trying to make it stay away from my face, but it just fell back to where it was before.
I sighed, knowing it was pointless. All I was doing was making my uncle wait.
The path to my uncle’s castle started as the same path souls of the deceased took. It had been a slow week, so there was only an elderly couple and a gangly teenager walking alongside me. The old woman gave me and the teenager a sad look and I didn’t have the heart to tell her I wasn’t dead. The teenager flipped her off.
A few meters before the gates of judgement, the path forked. Souls of the dead could only see the right path, so that’s where they went. As an immortal, I could see, and take, the left. And I did.
The rest of my walk was boring. There was nothing to see on either side of the path. And even if there was, I’d taken this route too many times to see anything new. I hummed a tune my older brother had written for me to pass the time.
Finally, I reached the castle. It was made of black obsidian glass and shone in the light from the eternal flames dancing in the moat. To get in, you had to cross a red-hot steel bridge. Any mortal would be in agony after one step.
I skipped across, my bare feet cool to the touch.
“Uncle.” I called through the halls. The glass walls shook, but I knew it would take more than a loud voice to break them. “I’m here.”
I made my way to the centre of the castle, to where my uncle’s throne room was. The doors were obsidian, like the rest of the castle, but they were mixed with swirls of amber. The amber popped out to form ornate handles before remerging with the glass. Without knocking, I opened the doors and walked in.
“Please, Lord Arius!” A man was on his knees, begging for something at my uncle’s feet. “She shouldn’t have died! She was too young!”
“And yet she did.” My uncle’s cold voice echoed around the room. He was calm, having been subjected to similar requests from living mortals for millennia.
“I’ll do anything!” The man pleaded. “I’ll trade my soul for hers!”
My uncle leaned forward on his throne. “Your soul will be mine in due time.” He leaned back and waved the man away. “Your daughter’s soul will stay here. You can take comfort in knowing she is not being punished.”
The man looked like he wanted to protest again, but the power of my uncle’s dismissal was absolute. Without another word, he rose to his feet and left the room, the door closing behind him.
My uncle sighed and rubbed his temples. He opened his eyes and gave me a warm smile. “Cel.” He said with all the warmth of my father’s sun that was blocked by the earth above us. “I believe we have a date today.”
He stood and I ran into the arms he reached out to me.
Another reason I was glad I wasn’t mortal. Dating my uncle would be bad. But as a god-to-be, it was normal.
“Ari!” I giggled. “I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve been busy.” He placed a hand on the small of my back and led me through a side door into a garden he’d made just for us. “Kion still refuses to end his war.”
I wrinkled my nose in distaste. My half-brother had been made the God of War before my creation and I’d only ever seen one side of him: bloodthirsty. When one war was settled, he planted the seeds for another one.
“What about tomorrow?” I asked as we sat among the flowers. “I’m getting my domain.”
He smiled sadly. Even in despair, he was gorgeous. His hair was the same black as mine, but it shone like the obsidian around us. His eyes were the red of fresh blood, nicer than mine. His robes were jet black, with accents of bone white.
“We’ll see.” He said after a long pause. “My brother… Your father doesn’t approve of you coming down here. I’m sure he’ll make some sort of excuse to keep me away.”
“He can’t tell me what to do.” I said adamantly. “When I have my own domain, I’ll have my own powers, too. I’ll be a Goddess of my own accord.”
“You’ll also have your own responsibilities.” He reminded me, putting a flower crown of yellow buttercups on my head. “What do you think would happen if I closed the Underworld for a day?”
I shrugged, but he stared at me until I voiced an answer. “The souls wouldn’t get processed?”
“Cel…” He lay his head on my shoulder. “If I ignore my responsibilities, the dead won’t stay down here. If I leave, they will, too.”
I knew how he felt. After all, I was always the one coming to see him. He couldn’t leave unless it was for a meeting.
Along with his domain, he’d been placed in a prison.