“You asked for an audience, you have it. Now tell me, where do you belong?” Hades’ voice was deep, emotionless.
Ariston swallowed. “Athens.” He met Hades’ gaze, but the God revealed nothing to him.
“Why? You died with honor and glory. Is that not what every soldier wants?”
“My wife…” His voice wavered.
Hades brow lifted slightly. “Lives. You do not.”
“She is in danger.”
“Earthly danger. She is no longer your concern, Ariston.”
“The danger she faces is not earthly, but far from it…” Ariston’s voice was hoarse, his desperation mounting. He took a wavering breath before he began again. “She is everything to me. I am proud of my death, but it means nothing if she is in peril. I must know.” Ariston kneeled. “I beg you. I beg you to return me to Athens.”
Ariston waited, willing himself to be strong.
“Who is this wife?” Hades asked.
“Medusa of Athens.” He paused. “Now of Rhodes.”
Hades was silent, his dark blue eyes regarding him steadily.
“When I die—” Ariston began.
“You are dead,” Hades assured him.
“When I return…die again, I would serve as guardian to Tartarus. I am a skilled warrior, a skill I might offer you.” He spoke with confidence.
“You vex me,” Hades muttered, the slightest crease appearing between his eyes. “You offer this to me for a woman?”
Ariston nodded. “She is worthy.”
Hades was silent again, his eyes shifting to the blue-white flames in the massive
“My words do not…adequately express the love I have for this woman. But I cannot leave her. She is at risk. I must return.” The words came without thought. How could he justify such emotion to a God who reviled affection or companionship? “As Olympus has my arm and sword, she has my heart – a mortal, and perhaps weak, heart.”
The room was silent for too long. He would have to fight his way out…
“It is a weakness not reserved for mortals alone, Ariston of Rhodes.” Hades’ words were so soft Ariston feared they’d not been spoken. But Hades continued, strong and clear. “I will return you to your ship so that you may lead your men to victory. Too many have fallen from this war and I would see it end. When that is done, you may go to your wife.” He paused then added, “When you return to my realm, I will have your fealty.”
The God of the Underworld, Lord of Death, gave him mercy? Mayhap there was one God he might serve with honor.
Ariston vowed, “You have it.”