From The Wrath of Horus: Alexander and Pavan Theorize about the Inferno

The hot air met the cold as Horus reached the eye level of the Titans. Fog and frost coated the skin of the grotesque monsters.

“It’s not possible,” Alexander gasped. “No human being could be so large. It’s not biologically possible. They would collapse under their own weight.”

All of the giants were chained, some more than others. One of them spewed a string of strange syllables at them. Pavan was startled by their size and scope, but in the end, they were prisoners, just as he had been, or Alexander had been. “Why are they here? Do you know?”

“Why is anyone in Hell?” said Alexander. “Sins against God. There’s a story about each Titan where, in their pride and arrogance, they attempted to rise above their station, and so they are tucked away here, if you can tuck away something the size of a continent.”

Horus circled the ring’s perimeter, descending. As they flew deeper, the circles narrowed. The Titans noticed them about as much as Pavan thought they themselves would notice butterflies.

“Can I confide in you?” Pavan asked Alexander.

“I’m not certain this is the best times for confidences,” Alexander answered. The cold was becoming more intense, a wind rising to meet them. Horus pivoted, avoiding turbulence. Large raindrops splattered on their skin. The skin of the Titans was textured and pitted, like bumps on rocks.

“I don’t want to come back here when I die,” said Pavan. “I have already committed the sin which will bring me here, if it is a sin.”

“I see. And you want to talk to me, because I am also predestined to return?”

“No.” The rain intensified. “I don’t think either of us are sinners. If I wanted to end my own life, it is my own business. It seemed a reasonable exchange for my circumstances.”

“I’m listening,” said Alexander, raising his voice above the wind.

“Why should anyone go to Hell because we want to sleep with a woman or a man, or we need to steal to feed our family? Why is violence less of a sin than flattery? These rules make no sense to me,” Pavan shouted.

“I believe religion is shaped by belief. When many people think of Hell, this is what many of us expect. Perhaps the belief takes on a life of its own.” The wind snatched Alexander’s voice away, so he sounded distant.

“We can change our expectations and change our afterlife?” Pavan asked.

“I hope so.” Alexander slicked his wet hair back, sprinkling water drops on Pavan. “I would rather death were nothing at all, rather than have it be these gross injustices.”

“I hoped you would be more comforting,” said Pavan.

“Did you expect me to have an answer?”

“No.” Pavan gripped the slick fur on Horus’s back.

Horus glided to where the giants stood, to the edge of the eighth level. Cold, icy rain slashed at Pavan and Alexander. The rocks beneath them were covered with frigid water, and just beyond the rocks the lake was churning and angry.

“This is wrong,” yelled Alexander. “There is no storm in Hell like this. Cocytus is a frozen lake. Horus, we have to stop here. There will be no solid place to put us down in there.” Alexander and Pavan slid off Horus’s back.

“It must be Greg,” Pavan said. “Everything he has done here has changed the nature of the place.” In front of him, the waters of Lake Cocytus thrashed. “As you said. Change your expectations and change your afterlife, in action.”
Horus landed and transformed from the griffin to the god. “I must continue myself into the storm,” he said. “For the Trial.”

“True. You must.” Erasmus Klaereon raced out of the storm, drenched, water falling in rivulets off his helmet and armor
“You found Greg?” asked Horus. “Is he in the storm?”

“Gregorius is the storm. The storm has melted much of the ice, so conditions are treacherous. Greg fears for all of your safety and advises you against trying to save him. He believes he must stay here.”

“What nonsense,” said Alexander. “Marc would never forgive me if we came back without him. We shall simply have to figure out a creative way to Anchor him and have the Trial in the storm.”

“I have no intention of leaving matters between us unfinished,” said Horus. “Leaving matters unsettled brings madness to the Binder and the god. I have no intention of leaving Gregorius to Set.”

“Erasmus,” said Pavan, “can you keep me safe from the storm, like you could on the Plain of Fire?”

“My purpose was to keep Gregorius safe for the Trial. You are afforded no such safety.”

Pavan sighed. “I think I expected such would be the case.”

“Pavan,” said Alexander, “As someone with Dantes magic, I can manipulate the odds in your favor. Erasmus, give me your cloak.”

Erasmus removed the sopping fabric. Alexander’s fingertips whispered with edges of clear, fibrous magic, strands of probability which sank into the cloak.

“Worthy,” said Erasmus. “Would the helmet help?”

“Wearing the cloak should be enough,” said Alexander. He threw the fabric over Pavan’s shoulders. “I haven’t had a chance to teach you most of what you need to know. The essential aspect of Anchoring is making certain Greg remembers why he cannot leave his family and friends behind him. If Horus wants to take him, you must make it possible for Greg to choose to not be taken, by reminding him of what he has to lose.”

“I might have more practice than you think,” said Pavan. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I have to lose. Will you be all right on your own, waiting?”

“I will have to be, won’t I? Good luck.”

“That carries weight, coming from you.” Pavan threw one edge of the cloak over the other. It landed with a thwap, and water splashed him again. “Are you ready, Horus?”

Horus and Pavan strode forward, Horus pushing against the wind, Pavan following.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.