|Map of the Classical Underworld|
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After your passage through Hell’s seven floods,
Whose fumes of sulphur will have parched your throat,
The Halls of Judgement shall loom up before you,
A miracle of jasper and of onyx.
To the left hand there bubbles a black spring
Overshadowed with a great white cypress.
Avoid this spring, which is Forgetfulness;
Though all the common rout rush down to drink,
Avoid this spring!
Alive with speckled trout and fish of gold;
A hazel overshadows it. Ophion,
Primaeval serpent straggling in the branches,
Darts out his tongue. This holy pool is fed
By dripping water; guardians stand before it.
Run to this pool, the pool of Memory,
Run to this pool!
In my version, it is Hector whom Ki'shto'ba meets first: Viz'ka'cha Bright-Head, from The War of the Stolen Mother, wandering among the gibbering shades on the outer banks of the Styx. Other characters weren't so lucky -- you'll recognize Sisyphus and his boulder. A Prometheus stand-in appears also, bound on a cliff with his liver being eaten by a scavenger bird. In Earth myths, this didn't happen in the Underworld, but some stories state that Heracles freed Prometheus. If you want to know whether Ki'shto'ba freed my version of Prometheus, you'll have to read the book!
You can't have a visit to the Underworld without encountering Charon, the ferryman who transports souls over the river Styx. I confess to being influenced by Michael Hurst's comic rendition of Charon in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. I think you'll find Fet'rai'zei the Raft Poler equally amusing in Beneath the Mountain of Heavy Fear.
How do I adapt Hades himself? How else but as one of the Highest Mother's Kings who began to bore her and so was set as King over the Dead? He bears the knobbed horns that I have conferred on all beings suspected of being associated with the nether realms (see the black demon Warrior Sho'choi'ji'ka in The Valley of Thorns). He also has a helmet of invisibility, although in this case it's a basket that he flops over his head when he wants to disappear. Re this helmet, I first learned about it from Xena, but now I find in the Wikipedia article on the subject that attributing this to Hades was a later addition. However, it makes a great story point!
Many heroes have a guide who conducts them through the Underworld. Aeneas has the Cumaean Sybil and Hercules meets Teiresias. I used Teiresias, whom the reader has already encountered in v.1, but I also added Orpheus in that role. Orpheus's story will be discussed in a later post.
|Gustave Dore's Rendition of Lake Cocytus in Dante|
"And when we'd left him, in that icy bed,
I saw two frozen together in one hole
So that the one head capped the other head;
And as starved men tear bread, this tore the poll
Of the one beneath, chewing with ravenous jaw,
Where brain meets marrow, just beneath the skull."
This horrific image has stuck with me down through the years, ever since I first read Dante at age 20. If you want to know who suffers a similar fate in Beneath the Mountain of Heavy Fear, you'll have to read the book.
Now, being the rationalistic creature that I am, and having endowed some of my characters with similar skeptical qualities (namely, Di'fa'kro'mi, Wei'tu, and Za'dut), I have to say that what happens to Ki'shto'ba and Bu'gan'zei after they drink from the Pool of Memory could be just a "bir'zha|" dream -- a hallucination induced by the properties of the water. After all, they never saw an entrance open up into the Place Beneath -- they were simply transported into it. The characters argue this matter at some length. However, both Ki'shto'ba and Bu'gan'zei stoutly maintain that they really journeyed through Mik Na'wei'tei'zi (the Place of No Seeing) and we modern scientific types will just have suspend our disbelief and enjoy the adventures and all that they imply ...