The sound of hoof beats clicking on the ground diminished gradually as four black horses came to a stop and a bearded man holding a two-pronged scepter descended from the golden chariot that trailed behind them. As soon as his feet touched the ground, the man closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, filling his lungs with the pure cloudless air in which basked the snowcapped peaks of Mount Olympus. The grim figure stood a few feet away from the golden gates of the heavenly fortress, his stern posture betrayed by the longing in his eyes for the familiar place he once called home. He approached the gate cautiously, reflecting on the possibility it still opens at his touch. He raised his hand and imprinted his palm on the lock just like he did countless times before. Nothing happened. He waited for few more seconds, his gaze fixed on the lock but the lock wouldn’t budge. He sighed and turned around heading back to the chariot when he suddenly heard pieces of metal aligning. He glanced over his shoulder and saw the gate standing ajar.
Few moments later, he found himself standing in the council chamber, waiting for the resident of the palace to emerge. He straightened his posture and held his head higher as he heard footsteps approaching.
“What are you doing here?” a voice asked.
“It’s good to see you too brother,” he said.
“If you’re here, who’s guarding the underworld Hades?”
“Don’t worry about it Zeus.”
Zeus glared at Hades daring him not to answer.
“Fine”, Hades said. “Cerberus. Cerberus is there.”
“You left your pet in charge?”
“It’s not a pet, Zeus. It’s a three-headed dog. And it’s not in charge. It’s just guarding the entrance to the underworld.”
Zeus considered that for a moment before tearing his eyes away from his brother’s face.
“So what brings you here?” asked Zeus.
“Nothing. . . Uh, you. . . I mean. . .” Hades paused, bracing himself for what he was about to say. “We’ve spent millennia arguing over who gets to rule what. And we’ve spent another millennia away from each other. So, uh, I was thinking, maybe it’s time to put all this behind us.”
“What are you playing at Hades? Do you really think you can manipulate me like that?
“I know that you weren’t happy about getting the underworld.”
“I’m. . . It’s. . . Uh, yeah, I wasn’t very happy at first, but-”
“But what? We drew lots to decide which part of the world each of us would rule. I took over the sky, Poseidon got the oceans and seas and you got the underworld. End of story,” Zeus shouted.
Hades felt his grip tighten around his scepter. He wanted nothing more at that moment than to stab his egotistic brother with it. Nevertheless, he turned around without speaking another word and stormed out of the chamber.
And so Zeus, drunk with power, turned his brother away.
The horses needed to rest several times before finally reaching Atlantis, for water is more difficult to move through than air. Merpeople whispered and hinted as Hades walked past them along the path lined with glowing pearls. Hades entered through a huge doorway and stood before Poseidon who was seated on a throne of coral. Fish and octopi darted in and out of the windows and a luminescent jellyfish drifted about in the hall. Poseidon descended from his throne and greeted Hades feverishly.
“Brother!” said Poseidon.
Hades let out a huge breath and his body lost its stiff posture.
“Hello Poseidon!” he replied.
“You look pale as death, Hades! You have to get out of the underworld more often or gods will start confusing you with Thanatos.”
A shaky laugh escaped Hades’ lips and the two brothers hugged. A woman emerged from one of the chambers into the hall. Hades followed her with his gaze and Poseidon’s eyes lit up at the sight of her.
“Hades,” the woman said.
“Demeter.” Hades nodded.
“There’s a chariot parked outside attached to four of the most magnificent creatures I’ve ever laid eyes on. What are they?” Demeter asked.
“You mean horses?”
“Horses!” Repeated Demeter under her breath.
Poseidon’s eyes darted from his brother to the woman he loved. He clapped his hands together and announced cheerfully, “Tonight, we feast together.”
Hades couldn’t help but notice that Demeter flinched away when Poseidon went to rest his hand on her shoulder but he was too excited at the prospect of dining with his brother to risk saying anything that might ruin the evening.
Hades struggled to lift his eyelids and found himself tied to a chariot made of sea stone and shell, pulled by seahorses navigating fast and with ease through the water. Tears came rushing to his eyes and slipped down to his beard as he came to the realization that his brother has cheated him.
Poseidon doused the nectar and ambrosia they were feasting on the night before with a sleeping potion and stole Hades’ horses to present as gifts for the woman he loved in a desperate attempt to impress her.
And so Poseidon, blinded by love, turned his brother away.
Hades returned to the underworld and spent his days dwelling in the dark palace beneath the earth alone with his thoughts and despair with no one other than Cerberus, the three-headed dog, to keep him company. After a while, he became cold and ghastly and risked drowning in his sorrow. Therefore, he seeked the cyclops and asked them to fashion him a helmet that rendered the wearer invisible allowing him to roam the land of the living unseen.
One day, Hades was seated on his ebony throne watching the souls wander in the river. His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by Cerberus’s loud bark. Hades stood up, his brow furrowed and he narrowed his eyes trying to make out the figure who was standing in the entrance of the underworld. It was a pale, bearded and winged old man, unbothered by the dog’s threatening growl.
“Let him pass, Cerberus,” said Hades.
Cerberus settled down skeptically and moved aside allowing the man to pass.
The man entered and kneeled down by the river bank. He removed the cork off the glass vial he was holding and emptied its slivery glowing content carefully in the water, thus delivering this human soul to its final resting place. He watched the soul being washed away, then stood back up and walked towards Hades.
“What are you doing here, Thanatos?” asked Hades.
“I’m the god of death, Hades. It’s my job to carry humans off to the underworld,” replied Thanatos.
“Why not deliver them to the boats, as usual?”
Thanatos let out a sigh, “Fine. You got me. I wanted to see you.”
Hades looked at Thanatos inquiringly, his brow still furrowed.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because you don’t go out anymore. You rarely leave your kingdom.”
“And where would I go, if I did? Huh? I’m not welcomed in Olympus nor in Atlantis. My brothers want nothing to do with me and humans fear me. . . I have no one.”
Thanatos climbed the stone steps leading to the throne where Hades stood. He raised his arms and rested his hands on Hades’ shoulders, looking him straight in the eyes.
“You have me,” said Thanatos.
And so Thanatos, the god of death, welcomed Hades in his open arms and delivered him from his sorrow and pain with his gentle touch.