|Posted on March 3, 2009 at 11:15 PM|
A cool, breeze swept through Hercules' hair, relieving him of his long journey. His muscles ached under the weight of the three golden apples he had to carry all the way from the Hesperide gardens; it was only the thought that he had successfully completed eleven of given tasks – and had only one more – that had kept him going.
Hercules approached Eurystheus' temple, he took a deep breathe, and entered. Hercules stepped before Eurystheus, placing the apples at his feet.
Bearly able to speak Eurytheus mumbled, “How?”
“My final task?” replied Hercules.
Euresthyus answered, “Your final task will be given at dawn tomorrow.”
Hercules nodded and left. The truth was that Eurystheus hadn't even thought of a final task. He doubted that Hercules would be able to complete the previous task. The king thought long and hard, but not a single task he thought of surpassed the previous task in challenge. Finally, after many hours of thought, he dozed off. Then in his sleep, a thought came to him, he thought of a task so horrible, so tretourus, so in-humane, that the king dared to speak it aloud. Go down to the underworld and bring back Cerberus, the Hound from Hell. Eurytheus was awoken due to the sparkling, gold apples at his feet, he looked up to see a figure in front of him. It was Hercules.
“What time is it?” the king groaned.
“Tis dawn and I am here for my final task.”
“Ah yes,” answered Eurystheus. “Your final task, Hercules, is to bring back Cerberus, the Hound from Hell.”
Hercules stared at Eurystheus, and before leaving he said to Eurytheus one thing, “Then I shall.”
* * *
Hercules was able to get Hermes to guide him to a cave at Cape Taenarum near Sparta.
“This is as far as I go,” said Hermes.
“Thank you Hermes,” replied Hercules, and Hermes left.
Hercules took one more breathe of fresh air before descending into the dark winded paths that lead down into the fiery underworld.
Hercules traveled for days and days. The twisty tunnels he crawled through got thinner and thinner, until finally, just before the heat of the Earth became more than Hercules could bare, he reached the underworld.
He looked around the flaming prison in horror. Nothing on Heaven or Earth had ever disturbed Hercules so much as the evil sight set before him today. A strong urge told him to turn around and run away right now, but he fought it, he couldn't give up now, he was so close. He stepped down from the entrance and began his journey down the rocky, jagged, and surprisingly cold steps that led down to the River Styx. As he walked down step by step, dead bodies clambered at Hercules' feet, he shooed them away as though they were common vermin. Suddenly, somewhere off in the distance, an ear-splitting shriek sliced through the air, Hercules dropped to the ground with his ears covered. Where was that awful sound coming from?
Hercules noticed the sound becoming louder and louder, until suddenly, three screaming heads bobbed down in front of him. Hercules jumped back in fright, it was the three merciless Furies, screaming vengeance on wrongdoers. Hercules sprang to his feet, and bolted past them. He kept on running and running away from the noise, past the moaning ranks of the dead, past the three cruel Fates, holding in their hand the threads of human life, and didn't stop until he reached the River Styx.
Reluctantly, Charon the boatman had been ferriing across at that very momment, and offered to give Hercules a lift to Hades' palace, Hercules thankfully said yes.
* * *
After many hours of adventuring the two finally made it to their destination. Hercules thanked Charon for his troubles and entered the palace. He aproached the throne where Hades and his wife Persephone sat. Quickly, for he did not wish to linger, Hercules told them why he come.
Hades listened grimly then said, “Take the hound; he is yours – if you can overcome him with your bare hands.”
Hades pointed to the wall on Hercules' left, he then clicked his fingers, which lifted a stone on the wall, revealing a set of stairs that obviously led up to the gates of Hell. Hercules promised to return Cerberus to Hades once his task was over, he then began his journey up the rocky staircase. Once he'd reached the top, he found that he was facing the dogs back. As quietly as a mouse Hercules snuck up behind the beast, and draw his sword. Then as swiftly as a serpant he brang the sword down onto Cerberus' back. A small trickle of poison leaked out of the thin cut made in dogs back. Hercules froze, the sword hadn't even gone skin deep, Hercules hadn't brought it down hard enough onto Cerberus' tough skin. Cerberus slowly turned around to reveal its whole body to Hercules. Three furious heads bent down towards Hercules. Six angry, blood red eyes hatefully glared at him. Three giant sets of jaws all let an almighty roar at him, revealing three sets of jagged teeth, all dripping with poison. Four legs then bent down ready to pounce.
Hercules looked down at his sword, which was now a blunt dagger because of the burning poison. He threw it on the ground and took a step back. Suddenly, without warning, the hound sprang at Hercules throat. Thinking quickly, Hercules took off his lion-skin coat and held it in front of his body, where the hound was aiming, then just at the last minute pulled his body out of the way, entangling Cerberus in the tough folds.
Hercules then picked up the lion-skin with Cerberus in it, swung it round, hitting it against the stone wall, and knocking the beast unconscious. He then picked it up again, hoisted it over his shoulder, and strode home.
* * *
So Hercules returned to Mycenae in triumph, his final test completed. Hercules entered Eurytheus' temple, where the king sat sipping wine from a golden goblet. But when he saw Hercules he dropped the goblet shattering it across the marble floor.
“Here is Cerberus,” Hercules said undoing the lion-skin coat. “Just as you requested.”
This was too much for Eurystheus. It was bad enough that Hercules had completed all twelve labors, but now, at the sight of the Hound from Hell –although unconscious – he fled, howling, from the palace and was never seen again.
Hercules took Cerberus quickly back to Hades and returned to the upper world with a light heart. At long last his labors were over. He had atoned for killing his wife and sons. Now he was finally free and at peace with himself.