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Dea Atra

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The two mortals, Theseus and Pirithous, ambled forward as Amycus ushered them inside a dining hall. The room was truly exquisite – it was nothing they had ever laid eyes upon before. The walls were painted with a shimmering liquid gold and in the middle of the ceiling, above a long marble table hung a magnificent chandelier. The ornate lighting fixture resembled the bejeweled corpse of a giant spider, molded with the best-cut diamonds and made from the most splendid white gold.

"Wait here. The Dark Lord will be with you shortly,” he said when both men were seated, then left. The long table was a sturdy, monstrous design. Solid with engraved cabriole legs, inlaid with different shades of marble and sanded to perfection. Down the center was a narrow, decorative cloth. The remarkable fabric had a Greek design woven in gold, silver, and bronze. At each place stood a tall empty wine glass and beautifully folded napkins.

Laid on the long table was an amount of food that on any normal occasion, would have lasted several more days for these men. There were pheasants and geese, bowls of roasted root vegetables and creamy sauces with garden herbs. A whole roasted deer with sprigs of rosemary was stuffed with fruits and rye bread.

There were mounds of fragrant wild rice, potatoes and diced pumpkins smeared with butter and spices baked on hot stones. On the far corner stretched the finest cheeses, paired with baskets of biscuits and bread rolls while a waterfall of wine and a champagne fountain sparkled to life.

The sight of the delicacies made their tongues water, for these kinds of cuisines were not readily available to them in the world above. Their eager fingers picked up a heavy polished silver cutlery. The silverware shone brightly against the perpetual evening light of the Underworld as their mouths opened wide… excited to sample the excellent dishes that were prepared in front of them.

“Welcome to my kingdom,” the Dark Lord said as he materialized at the head of the long table. He was dressed in the most splendid suit of black armor, and on his head was the most magnificent golden diadem encrusted with eminently valuable gemstones.

The men dropped the silverware with a loud clatter on the table, snapping themselves from their reveries as they finally regained their senses. Theseus and Pirithous remembered Minerva’s warnings as clearly as if the goddess’ voice was right next to their ears. “You mustn't consume any of the food in the Underworld. You will be trapped therein amongst the dead, forever. Never to witness the Sun rising in the east nor feel the lush grass at your feet.”

Their eyes widened in alarm as they gaped at the God of Death. They felt sick to their stomachs as their bodies became numb and immobilized from the overwhelming fear that threatened to consume them. They tried to focus on their rapid breaths and their erratic heartbeats, although the growing dread was already making its way in their system.

“Go on…” The Lord of the Dark Realm urged the two in mock courtesy, as though he was not seeing their frightened expressions. With a gloved hand, he gestured to the generous servings of dishes spread aplenty. “Help yourselves to the food I have graciously prepared.”

The man, Theseus gathered all of his courage and replied when he finally found his voice. “That won’t be necessary, Volde-”

The Dark Lord’s expression shifted. He turned to face this insolent being, the golden diadem glistened gloriously atop his head. He fixed his murderous gaze intently on the man, daring him to finish his sentence.

L-lord Voldemort,” he enunciated as he corrected himself, immediately. He was swallowing the bile that became lodged at the back of his throat and dreaded the aftermath of his ignorance.

But before he could ponder about it, Pirithous had already spoken ahead of him. “W-we are under the orders of the goddess, Minerva. And it is with her guidance and protection that we have come to rescue her daughter – the Goddess of Spring.”

“What foolish creatures.” Voldemort’s lips pressed tightly together. The displeasure was clear on his features. It emphasized the disapproval and ire that mingled in his voice. “You turn down the King of the Underworld’s hospitality and dare use a god’s name to threaten him in his own empire? Your bravery is almost admirable if not moronic.” A mirthless chuckle erupted from his throat. These obtuse, frail beings should be taught a lesson.

The God of the Dead lifted a gloved hand and made a slashing motion through the air. Theseus and Pirithous were startled as Lord Voldemort’s harsh movements sent the large marble table flying across the room along with the platters of food. The unsightly view resembled the aftermath of a vicious tornado as everything landed in a broken, haphazard mess.

Then, his fist clenched firmly and the two mortal men watched in unbridled fear as one by one, the vacant stone chairs that surrounded them, slowly disintegrated into a large pile of rubble.

The anxious men made haste to get off their chairs and flee from Hades’ wrath. But they found it was an impossible feat as deadly snakes began to coil tightly around their necks and their appendages – binding them to their seats.

Theseus began to panic. The anxiety was evident on his face, willing his mind and his body to find a way to break free. He wriggled with all of his might, trying in vain to escape the serpents’ shackles. His neck and arms were already forming bruises from the strong bindings that had imprisoned them.

“The Goddess of Harvest vowed to protect us! You shall not harm us!” Pirithous barked while he prayed for Demeter’s divine intervention to save them from this plight. However, the reptile’s grip began crushing his vocal chords, blocking the passage of air in his lungs.

“By the River of Styx, Minerva made no such oath.” Voldemort mocked as he strode closer toward the mortals, reveling in their horror. His magnificent suit of black armor clung to him ominously like a second skin.  “Your human lives hold as much value to her as the abundant plants in her garden. You will be taken care of, to grow and bear fruit until you have served your purpose... but once you wilt, you will be easily discarded and replaced.”

“You can’t do this!” Theseus bellowed. His chest ached and heaved as the snakes coiled tighter around him. He strained to inflate his lungs, gasping for air as his head spun out of control with raw terror.

“I am the Master of Death, and you shall be punished severely for your insolence and transgression.” He said simply with an air of finality, vindicating their much awaited demise. He lifted both hands in the air and a miasma of powerful, dark magic oozed from his fingertips.

From the black cloud of smoke he had conjured, a gigantic, deformed creature emerged. It was a grotesque mass of tangled limbs. Its skin was sallow green with three sets of protruding eyes that wept tears of blood and its hair was made of countless poisonous scorpion tails. Every scale on its body was plated with thick black, gelatinous goo that seeped from its pores and gave off the foulest stench.

Theseus and Pirithous froze in place, staring in mingled horror and despair as the thing shambled toward them. It opened its mouth, exposing rows of long, jagged teeth, each equally as sharp as the adamantine dagger. Its rancid saliva was incredibly toxic, dripping on the ground and melting the stone tiles like acid. This thing was a monster composed of three beings. They were the ones who punished the sinners. Those who were known to walk in the darkness.

“Not even the Sun will transgress his orbit but the Furies also known as the Erinyes – The Ministers of Justice, can overcome him.” Lord Voldemort remarked with arrogance as he addressed the gruesome creature in high regard. “My Dear Sisters, the Furies… Tisiphone, Megaera, and Alecto. How lovely for you three to join us.”

“N-no! No! Please! Please, have mercy!” Theseus and Pirithous repeatedly begged in unison. “We ask for your forgiveness, Dark King!” And each time, their pleas for mercy would be accompanied by desperate cries fueled by great exertion. These two grown men, who braved the unknown horrors of the Underworld merely to fulfill a goddess’ delusional orders – reduced to nothing more than a pair of pathetic cowards. The Dark Lord observed salty tears spilled onto their cheeks, but it made no difference. They were still dirty, useless vermin in his sight.

It was an unnerving spectacle for the humans to witness how Voldemort's grey eyes transformed into a potent red. Then, his irises morphed into the slits of a serpent's. One bereft of remorse and devoid of conscience. "Fear is part of being human," the Lord of the Dark Realm fleered in disgust at the terrified men who remained imprisoned in the stone chairs. "So feel it, own it. Let it ignite your thoughts, because this is not the last emotion you will experience, but pain... "

Hades raised his gloved hand once more and pressed his thumb and fingers together. He made a downward motion in the air, conjuring a long, sharp blade with his power. The knife had a large, steel serrated blade with a bronze handle and its ridges fit his hands as though it was designed for only him.

The fine, pointed blade scintillated menacingly in the pale moonlight. Cold and ruthless – a weapon without kindness. He held the knife in between his fingers, examining it in the charcoal light of the dining hall. He could already imagine these two worthless mortals in a pool of their own blood and his face split into a long, horrendous grin.

Their dread was in the form of a sadistic demon – the God of Death, who was joined by the Furies. Their faces became gaunt as sweat pooled on their foreheads and the tremors in their bodies had begun. There was nothing they could do but wait on their seats while they screamed for salvation from their inevitable torture. Theseus could feel the snakes’ vicegrip dug into his wrists and his ankles as he and Pirithous shouted so hard, “No! Please, don’t!” They were shrieking repeatedly until their voices became hoarse and they could barely speak while they writhed to be free.

For any sane individual, a chill would run up their spines if they were to hear Theseus and Pirithous’ desperate screams for help. Although, the men’s screeching voices that were like freezing, icy wind could not make Voldemort shudder nor his immortal blood to run cold. Instead, the Dark Lord became irritated from the piercing sounds that were ripping from their throats. These foolish humans were being too noisy and it grated his nerves for he did not even lay a hand to any of them, yet.

With his patience already thinning, he growled at the two. “Silence, you fools!” Then, he took away their senses. Their sight, their smell, their hearing, their taste, and their touch – rendering them incapacitated completely. Resulting to an absence of the physical feeling through which one would receive information about the world around him. The curse of lacking the specialized function essential to receive and respond to a given stimulant.

Silence, at last. The Dark King pinched the bridge of his nose to calm himself and decided to let his wife have her way with the mortals before he would commence his own enjoyment.

“Am I too late for the festivities, My Lord?” A female voice spoke from across the lavish dining hall; the familiar melody of wind chimes tinkling, reverberated in his ears.

“My Queen…” The Dark Lord was breathless and in awe as he drank in her appearance.

Her soft, honey-toned skin was breathtakingly flawless as she wore a form-fitting dress made of the finest silk. It was not like the white gown she had worn in the Upper World which had symbolized her innocence and her purity, no – this one had the color of the loveliest ebony. Its exquisite black fabric had the darkest hue, engulfing any source of light that stood in its path. She was a vision to behold. There was no ethereal being as lovely as she. A Dark Lady. The Dark Goddess. His Dark Queen.

The flower crown of narcissus sparkled majestically on top of her head while her auburn curls tumbled gently down her back. Her plump lips were stained blood-red as it curved into a smile and her lustrous amber eyes beamed like twin moons inside the grand room. Then, she walked toward him as her hair fluttered wildly in the air and her gown clung to her figure, following her every movement. With each stride she made, her mind became clearer. Her body more determined, and her heart more resolute.

“It cannot be called merriments without your presence,” he replied as she now stood in front of him and he bent down to lay a kiss on the back of her hand.

“You indulge me too much...” Hermione uttered in adoration and whispered his name, “Tom.” A gesture that was meant to be heard by him alone.

“I can burn their bodies under the blinding heat of the Sun for Minerva to watch,” the Dark Lord murmured against the shell of her ear as Theseus and Pirithous’ frenzied actions and loud cries both came to a standstill – destitute of any feeling or sensation.

She furrowed her brows and gave him a skeptical expression. “You don’t have that kind of power over the Sun.” Though, a Cheshire smile soon replaced her disbelieving look. She was thrilled with the prospect of her mother’s horrified reaction when she would soon discover what would be left of her noble followers.

The Dark Lord cupped her face and rubbed her cheek with his thumb, before lifting her chin to face him. His steely gaze was steady as he met her amber eyes. “Actually,” he said, “I do.”

And Hermione believed him as she pressed her lips on his gloved hand. She ambled toward their two prisoners after giving her respects to the Furies who were amongst them.

She stood in front of the seated men who were motionless as Tom’s snakes continued to coil around their bodies. Without even uttering a word, she waved her fingers through the air, allowing her magic to burst forth from her fingertips. She returned their senses and banished the serpents that formed unbreakable shackles all around their limbs.

They smelled of decaying plant matter as though their souls would have left their bodies if the Goddess of Spring hadn't intervened. Slowly, Theseus and Pirithous opened their eyes and blinked. Their vision was hazy but it was not because of the tears that had welled up in their sockets. It was simply the mind and the body's way of adjusting to the senses they had previously lost. Their consciousness floated through an empty space filled with a thick static as though to get hold of all these sensations. Their heartbeats pounded loudly for this newfound energy surged freely through their veins.

They breathed in and out, savoring the rich air that filled their lungs once more. Then, they shifted on their imprisoned seats in search for an ounce of comfort. They were astounded to see that the serpents' restraints no longer impeded their every movement. They were free!

Quickly, their eyes searched for their savior and it landed on the living deity whose beauty and radiance did not belong in the caverns of the gloomy Underworld. It was just as they had hoped for the Goddess of Spring to save their lives. She would now come with them to the world above! Oh how their hearts rejoiced! Minerva would reward them with innumerable gifts and riches!

Theseus and Pirithous swiftly scrambled up from their chairs, eager to shower Hermione with gratitude and praise. But then, they faltered with their steps. Something did not seem right. It was as if they were hit by a newfound fear they could not quite place. They felt the hairs on the back of their necks standing and the sensation of a terrible dread chasing up their spines. It was a type of fear that did not shut the mind down but would fully awaken it.

The mortals watched as Hermione stepped closer and closer to them. She encircled the two in a way a predator would hunt its prey. Something was odd about her. There was this dark, malicious energy enveloping her body that was never there before when she was on the Earth. Her hard gaze towered over them while they stood there, rigid and afraid. Their faces were drained of color and their eyes remained fixed on the goddess, unable to avert them. Every inch of their bodies refused to move and they could not even force their lips to speak. Time felt almost like an eternity as their lungs had forgotten how to breathe.

And with just a single command, Hermione shattered the silence.