“Look,” said Erebus, propping his feet on the cooler and popping a cold one. “They won’t be here for a few minutes, so we may as well relax, right?”
I shook my head. “Duty. It isn’t as much fun as gathering your bros together for another kegger, but it is a part of the job.”
“Stick in the mud.”
I didn’t dignify it with a response. I’m too curvy for “stick” to apply.
The cavern is huge and, of course, sunless. There’s the smell of brimstone and rotten eggs wafting on the breeze from the “up” side, and the smell of putrefaction and decay near the “down” end. The smell came from the vultures feeding on a giant’s liver down there.
The Hekatonkheires guard the passage back to Tartarus, but we’re all old friends by this point. On most days they only nod as we pass through. A nod with fifty heads, each.
The entrance to the cavern begins glowing, growing brighter. Erebus grabs himself a fresh beer and moves through the stalagmites into the right hand side of the cavern, as far as he can get from my position in the middle.
My daughters step into the cavern, and pace toward me. They both look exhausted, as usual at dusk. Hemera comes toward me, while Aether steps around the outside of the cavern to take up the spot opposite Erebus.
The bright glow issues from Aether. She is surrounded by a corona, a glowing nimbus of energy that causes stalagmite shadows to dance in the cavern with every step she takes. Erebus moves to block most of the direct illumination with a rock formation, and gathers his shadowstuff protectively around himself.
The moment Aether reaches her accustomed spot, she scowls across the cavern at her father.
Erebus lifts his beer in a distant toast, and she turns her back on him. Neither is a great fan of the other.
The transformation begins. The light from Aether dims from her normal bright yellow-white, through the oranges and into the fading reds of sunset.
In complement, the darkness spinning and swirling around Erebus grows deeper, inky tendrils obscure more with each passing moment. He draws power from her, and he always waxes when she wanes.
Separated by the full width of the cavern is the closest they ever come touching.
Hemera greets me with a hug and a kiss.
“Good evening, mother,” she breathes.
I hold her tight and a tear drops from my cheek to hers. I hold the hug for as long as I possibly can, but I know time is fleeting.
“Take care of your sister for me,” I whisper.
She affirms with a tightening of our hug. “You take care of dad.”
And at last we must part. Twice a day. I wave as my daughters turn toward the cavern’s exit, to spend their night in Tartarus.
“See you in twelve hours,” I call after them.
Erebus meets me at the entrance of the cavern.
“Ready for another wild night?” I ask.
He shoulders his beer cooler, and we begin our nightly journey to the upper world.