(By popular request, this story picks up where Kilig Me Darkly left off.)
She followed the river Acheron, slithering over rocks and other impediments. Tattered souls shrieked and moaned onshore; they tore at their illusory hair and clothes flinging ectoplasm that vanished as it left their hands. She kept going, hugging herself as her heart sank beneath a tide of woe.
“What’s got you so glum?”
She didn’t answer the ferryman but he poled his craft, keeping it close to the uneven shore anyway.
“How’s about a ride? A little excursion’s just what you need to brighten those spirits.”
She shook her head and continued on; a rattle accompanied her, another reminder of her half-reptile state. At least she didn’t have snake hair, just a rattlesnake’s body from the waist down. She had it easier than her mother and had an angelic smile not set the butterflies in her stomach to fluttering, she might have been happy with her lot. But he had and she was not.
“Aw come on, a little trip up river will fix you right up.”
She rolled her eyes at Charon’s latest inducement. A river cruise would not improve her mood but he wouldn’t understand. He was as much a trickster as Puck. There was no knowing where he meant to take her and that was reason enough to decline.
“Another time perhaps,” she meandered around a ruined temple and put its ruins between herself and the river.
“Really? I’d’ve thought you’d be raring to go see the big to-do. But I guess I was mistaken.” Charon shrugged a thin shoulder and poled his vessel back out into the current.
“Wait, what big to-do?” Locomotion via contracting her belly muscles was not the most speediest way to travel but without legs it was her only means of motion.
“We-ell I heard from–well never mind you’re probably not interested in who– not that it matters one bit because this being wrote the book on reliable. Eh–I mean if there was such a book my source would have written it–”
“Charon–the point, please get to it. What big to-do?” She slipped into the cold water and its fell current yanked her down. Thankfully, there was more of her to pull on than there was depth in the river. Besides, she was part snake and the hurdles she faced in moving her rather lengthy body about on land vanished in the water where she was weightless. Whipping her tail, she propelled herself to the narrow craft and grasped its gunwale with her right hand.
Charon caught her hand and hauled her up. She concentrated hard on having legs and her body began to quiver. Her tail raveled up and pain sliced her in half as her snake half divided into legs. She flopped onto the boat’s bottom and gasped like a landed fish as her scales receded leaving an approximation of smooth skin.
Her saturated robe, white of course because Hades mandated that every one of a female persuasion wear white, had become transparent courtesy of her swim. She hugged her knees and covered herself as best as possible as shivers racked her body.
“Here, take this. You look like you need it more than I do.” Charon draped his black, raven feather-edged cloak around her and she nodded her thanks. It was all the rage with the Underworld crowd but then, the Ferryman had always been well-dressed and dashing in his own macabre way.
“That always so painful?” he gestured to her transformed state, his dark eyes serious and reflecting his concern. He’d squatted down to either get a better look at her or because looming over a shivering woman felt wrong.
She shook her head. “One way is more painful than the other…”
A black eyebrow winged up in mute inquiry. And here it was, the perverse curiosity of those who had only one form to take. He leaned his elbows on his knees and waited as if her answer was some kind of revelation. Maybe it was and maybe she’d be just as fascinated if she only had one shape to wear.
“What I mean is going back to–my snake form is not…painful.” She breathed deep and slow; it helped. The shakes were almost gone now. Shape-changing used a lot of power and she didn’t have much to begin with. “What’s this big to-do?”
Charon grinned and held his palm out for a coin, his customary fee.
to be continued…?