Rivers of the Dead: Book Two

3-7: Hate

All the buildings looked the same, but Caleb was certain he was heading in the right direction. It was as if he could sense the Styx flowing ahead of him, could sense the end of The Underworld. The farther he walked, the more he understood, the more he could see.

And he was beginning to understand, even as the world shifted around him, he could see the pattern in the shifting. He felt, if he studied it long enough, he could learn to manipulate it, to bend it to his will and recreate the land as he saw fit should he find the will to do so.

"Caleb, where are you going?" Orpheus asked, appearing at his side.

Caleb smiled at him. He understood Orpheus, too. Now more than ever. "Orpheus, I was wondering when you'd come back. Where did you go?" Caleb asked.

"Official business of The Underworld," Orpheus replied. "I needed to serve as a witness at the Grand Tribunal."

Caleb knew it for the lie that it was. He'd reasoned out the hidden meaning of Eurydice's words. The Ruler stood before him now, but why? Caleb knew, but he had to play the game a little longer, he had to learn why The Ruler would choose to masquerade in such a manner. "Is that one of your official duties as Psychopomp?" He asked.

"Yes. I'm often called for such things," Orpheus replied with a casual shrug. "A certain warlord and tyrant have recently arrived in our realm. The three judges wished to commit him to Tartarus, and all Psychopomps are to be made aware of such a verdict."

"I see," Caleb replied. The answer was as vague as he'd expected, but he no longer expected anything less. He needed answers, and he no longer trusted anyone. Though Eurydice had seemed clear that he should still seek the seat of The Ruler, and so he would. As long as Orpheus offered guidance, Caleb would accept it.

"You'll learn," Orpheus said, "should you become one of us. Until that moment, you are not allowed in those chambers."

Caleb ignored those words. He didn't care about becoming a psychopomp. He didn't want to serve Orpheus. He couldn't. But the answers, those motivated him, and so instead he said, "I'm seeking the Styx."

"What for?" Orpheus asked.

"I believe The Ruler is now the only one who can help me find answers," Caleb replied. "Ethan isn't in Elysium."

"You're sure?" Orpheus asked. He sounded so sincere, so concerned, but Caleb knew. He knew Orpheus had duped him from the beginning, but why?

"Yes. I'm sure. I've searched with my heart and I know it's true. I can see things much more clearly now."

Orpheus laughed. "You've drunk more deeply from the Mnemosyne, I see."

"Indeed."

"So, you seek The Ruler and, what then?" Orpheus asked.

"I officially offer to exchange my soul for Ethan's," Caleb explained. That's what you said I had to do, right?"

"Do you earnestly wish to offer your soul to The Underworld?" Orpheus asked. Caleb recognized it for the dangerous question it was. If he answered yes now, then his fate would be sealed. If he answered no, then Orpheus may stop wasting time on him.

He needed to tread carefully, for he now knew the danger of his opponent. There was only one type of answer he could give, for only one answer would give him the freedom to see this through.

"Once I know that Ethan's fate is secure, yes," Caleb replied.

True to form, as soon as Caleb said he would accept his new position, Orpheus' face lit up like a kid receiving presents. "Then I know the way to the Styx. Come, let me show you."

Caleb didn't need to look back this time to know that the cat-eyed dogs were stalking them, watching his every move. He could feel them in his soul. He was dead, and they knew it as surely as he did.


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"I'm sorry for your loss," Caleb said. His arms felt light, and suddenly she was gone, disappearing as if she had never existed. But she remained in Caleb's memory, a fragment of a ghost he'd carry with him as he moved forward. He looked up, fresh tears in his eyes as he imagined the edge of Elysium and walked toward it.