There’s nothing better than being a Daddy’s girl… Especially when your Daddy is your own, personal superhero, as well as Hades, the legendary King of the Underworld…
I wouldn’t say I was exactly estranged from my mother and half-siblings by the time the “Summer of Mango,” [as I eventually came to know it] had finally faded into a series of fond memories. Regardless, I wouldn’t say I was an active member of our family’s flock back then either.
Nevertheless, there was one entity concerned with my biological roots who I was still very much in touch with around that time. We’d always been on good terms; yet, shortly after my first bloody encounter with the Deluxxe family (in which I left the mother slain in order to redeem the honor of our own family’s matriarch [and my own, dignity, of course]), our rate of correspondence ascended to a new level altogether.
My father, Hades, was very impressed by my display of initiative, skill, and honor, as well as my inclination towards gore. The King of the Underworld also went by Pluto; as my namesake, he’d done a pretty splendid job of becoming involved in my life from afar, especially with his intensive, demanding, and rigorous position as the sole Commander of Hell.
We’d met up in the Himalayas during the “Summer of Mango” for teatime once or twice, and again in Milan for a high-class dinner. With my mother and I doing our own, separate things, it was easier for him to become more involved in my life.
My other siblings actually found him daunting; they were born to male beings who were lesser in every manner than my father, and that was made clear by the trembling of their feathers each time the King of the Underworld had tried make contact with me while I was still living at the pond.
This tale began just as summer was starting to fade into winter. With the changing seasons came an event I’d never been able to attend before, at least not with my father:
It was Mount Olympus’s very own “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.”
While it’s true that my father was more “affiliated” with the sky kingdom than he was actually involved with it, he was still encouraged to participate in most of the events they planned. He appeared to resent the fact that he didn’t sit up there with Zeus Uncle (nor was he even “allowed” to because of our bastard, bearded kin), but I personally found that his having an abode in the Underworld made him more respectable than the rest of the morons who sat up in the clouds and dared to call themselves “gods” and “goddesses.”
I was actually on my way to Stonehenge to even further develop my superior powers when that good-for-nothing Hermes intercepted my passage through the water. I’d never seen that moron before, but I still fathomed who he was before he even introduced himself, due to the omnipotence [which was starting to become active at that extremely youthful age o’ mine] I already somewhat possessed.
Hermes arrived to me in a blur which only a lesser God could’ve considered a worthy entrance; his chosen manner of appearance was hardly an impressive way to block my path (and that’s putting it kindly… perhaps even too kindly). “Pluto, the Goddess of Death!” he called, hovering a few inches over the water’s surface and less than a yard away from where I floated in place.
I shifted the bundle of weaponry I held in my beak to the area between my wing and body. I couldn’t have been more irritated by his presence. “I already know exactly who I am! Plant your feet on the seafloor, Hermes, you knave and imbecile, and state your business before I blow you to smithereens with my newfound aptitude for telepathic destruction!” I threatened menacingly.
“How do you know who I am?!” he gasped. The way distraction fell upon him so, very easily proved what I’d already assumed about him: that peasant endured an existence of undeniable inferiority.
I wouldn’t actually know the feeling.
“Because I am who I am,” I responded with authority. “Now, speak your bit and be gone, knave!” I promptly tilted my weapons, including the glistening, dark mage staff I looted off a strange creature I ruined, towards him as well as I could without allowing them to slip out from under my wing.
Hermes pursed his lips and eyed my arsenal anxiously; I could tell he was making a decision about whether to lash back at me. However, in a display of intelligence quite startling for a plebeian like himself, he swallowed any ill sentiments he might’ve felt about my blatant disrespect towards him, and finally announced the purpose of his visit. “Your father, Hades, has sent me to retrieve you for ‘Bring Your Daughter to Work Day,’ as decreed by your Zeus Uncle.”
I clenched my beak in suspicion. “Is that so, Hermes? If that’s really the case, then why didn’t He relay the message by His own means? He usually sends me His end of our ongoing correspondence by means of a live goose I then get to stab, cook, and eat on the spot while reading His letters.” The messenger made an odd face. “It’s our special father-daughter thing we share.”
It honestly shouldn’t have mattered what he thought. I’m not sure why I felt the need to justify mine and my father’s methods of communication to some sad, envelope-ridden knave.
We live and we learn, I suppose…
“He wanted to,” Hermes explained with a blend of sincerity and exasperation. I chose to disregard the latter in hue of my rather consuming curiosity regarding the situation. “It’s just that your Zeus Uncle demanded we use official invitations this year, and that they be delivered by me, the official ‘Messenger of the Gods’, to invite whichever of their Earth-inhabiting child or children each of the Olympians so choose to spend their days with.”
The knave placed a slab of thick, sparkling, ivory-colored parchment in my beak. I didn’t think twice before spitting it out onto the ground and stomping on it several as violently as I possibly could at that young age. How did any of it matter if my father’s other children were invited, too? No cherry-vanilla invitation, despite all its deliciousness, could ever be enough to redeem such an insult.
Still, despite my internal upheaval, I kept my cool in front of Hermes; he was not worthy enough to watch me disintegrate…
No one was.
“And, did my father invite any of his other children?” I inquired steadily, goosebumps of rage already boiling under my hot pink feathers.
“No, no, Your Divinity. You are the only offspring of His whom he deemed worthy of the occasion.” His lips were trembling a bit now; it was clear he was fretting that I wouldn’t believe him.
Yet, I did. I wasn’t sure if it was out of my perpetual thirst for knowledge, my early-childhood craving to spend the day in the Underworld and watch the King of Hell in action, or my confidence in the fact that Hermes was no match for me. I’d only gone to ‘Bring Your Daughter to Work Day’ with my mother in the past, and although I enjoyed my time seeing what happens behind the scenes in the pond’s drag scene, I never perceived a potential career for myself in a field without chain maces. It simply wasn’t the right fit for me. Taking my rightful throne as the Princess of the Underworld, however, felt far more appropriate for the kind of duck I was…
The kind of duck I still am.
I made up my brilliant mind quickly. “Very well, then, Knave of the Gods. Where shall I go to reach my father under these most peculiar circumstances?”
“Actually,” Hermes elaborated, “I’m under specific instructions by your father himself to yeet Your Divine Self into the Underworld. Charon will be watching for you beneath the surface to row you across the River Styx. Further guidance will await you on the other side. In fact, in honor of the special day, your father has instructed him to stick all incoming Underworld residents in a gigantic oven to roast for the time being. This way, the waters won’t be polluted by the, and I directly quote, ‘Essence of Peasant’ when you sail through them.”
I smirked smugly to myself. My father really does get me, I decided quite merrily.
Therefore, without another moment’s delay or chirp on my end, I spread my wings and permitted Hermes to yeet me into the searing flames my father called home.
Charon was quite attractive to me, with his crooked nose, scraggly facial hair, well-toothed ears, beady eyes, and vintage Saint Laurent tunic. Regardless, I knew that I was still too young for him then, and that even if I wasn’t, he would’ve been too fearful of my father’s wrath to participate in any non-platonic encounters with me. It was fortunate for me that the realization of his [probable] cowardice in such a situation was a turn-off in itself.
My journey into the depths of Hell was quite lovely, all thanks to the splendid Charon [and, of course, the Underworld yacht my father had so kindly arranged to have deliver me from and across the exquisite waters of Styx]. The demonic sailor and I engaged in great discussion, listened to the most delightful music, and consumed Hell’s finest foods, especially selected and prepared in honor of my visit. Charon ensured me that the items I devoured that day wouldn’t confine me to the Underworld in any fashion or form; my father had made the necessary amendments to each dish and drink so that potential entrapment would be a non-issue for His beloved daughter.
We departed only after following each other on every social media account we possessed and sharing an amicable farewell to tide us over until my expected return later on that day. If everyone there who was “worth” associating with was even remotely like Charon, I was sure I would revel in the time I spent with them. Anyhow, a place as wondrous as Hell dangled the promise that my father was in cahoots with the best sort of folk directly in front of me.
Megaera Auntie retrieved me on the other side of the River Styx; she stood there, amongst the hot pink balloons, magenta twinkle lights, and flashing, gas station “Welcome Pluto!” sign which stood on the bent-over backs of what I assumed were several of my father’s moaning, groaning peasants.
“My goodness!” my auntie exclaimed upon seeing me. “You’re even more beautiful in the feather!” I appreciated her blatant disregard for the undeserving mortals who my father had so generously immortalized by means of His Flames of the Underworld.
“In the feather?” I wondered out loud. Had this mysterious, exquisite she-beast seen me before in a some less personal way I was unaware of?
“Oh, yes! Your father keeps a gorgeous picture of you on his office desk.”
“Which one?” I probed. I couldn’t help myself.
“That one your EDM friends took of you before you all yeeted that silly Mango’s body into the bonfire and ate her! You were covered in her blood, remember?” She was trying to jog my memory.
It worked. “Oh, that one!” I chirped. I agreed; that really was a lovely picture of me.
“Indeed! It’s such a beautiful photograph, but you’re even more lovely up-close! Your father was right… You do take after Him.”
“I… thank you,” I gushed. Associating me with my father is and was the ultimate form of flattery for me.
“Of course. And, I’m so sorry, my dear! Where are my manners?!” my father’s trusted subordinate yelped. “I forgot to introduce myself. I’m your Megaera Auntie.”
I extended my wing to her in a standard gesture of introduction; regardless, instead of shaking it as I expected her to do, she scooped me up into her own, veiny wings and embraced me. I almost resisted her clutches out of habit, but there was something reassuring about it that made me stay. I slowly allowed myself to lean into her coarse but hospitable bones, and the comforting iciness of those hissing, slithering serpents she had draped around her body.
A few moments passed before we separated. “Those snakes,” I observed to break the silence, extremely impressed by her aesthetic, “I adore them.” They were amazingly chic.
Megaera Auntie waved off the compliment. “Oh, these old things? They’re just some cheap accessories I picked up at Saint Laurent a while back,” she admitted. “I recently purchased a new set, but I haven’t had a chance to break them in just yet.”
“You have a Saint Laurent here?!” I inquired, recalling Charon’s outfit as well.
“Oh, absolutely, my dear!” she confirmed. “You’re actually scheduled to visit the Vogue Afterlife later on today so that your father can buy you some new things! He simply insisted.” Her chilly smile expelled exhilaration into the dry, smoky air.
“The Vogue Afterlife?” I queried, already beaming from the inside-out.
“Yes, darling,” she answered patiently. “But first, let’s get you to your father!” I nodded eagerly. “He said He’ll meet you in the conference room.”
Entirely elated, I allowed the glorious woman-like creature to usher me the meeting place designated by the King himself. Along the way, she told me all about her sisters, the other Erinyes, and the noble work they did for my father as the Underworld’s renowned Furies.
I caught a few glimpses of the Underworld’s wailing inhabitants before my newly-discovered auntie rushed me onto the elevator, pressed the button for a floor that appeared to be far below us, led me out the automatic doors when we reached the desired level, and guided me into a room at the very end of the hallway.
“Wait here, sweetheart,” she instructed, assisting me in placing my bundle of weapons on the table and beckoning me to take a seat. “I’ll go and inform your father that the Princess of the Underworld has finally arrived.”
Megaera Auntie exited the room quite gracefully, but not without first flashing me a final wink and a sweet smile that strained the hard features of her face in a way I couldn’t help but appreciate.
I sat down excitedly in one of the rolling chairs on the end of the elongated conference opposite from the door and scooted it back as far as I possibly could.
I wanted my beak to be the first thing my father saw when he entered the room.
“The Princess of the Underworld,” I sung out loud to myself. “I can get used to that.” I spun around in my chair a few times, releasing a couple of joyous “Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees!” as I did so.
It was as I slowed down from my sixth or seventh spin that I noticed some clutter on the other end of the table. There were two half-consumed beer bottles, piles of toppling poker chips, scattered playing cards, and two extinguished, barely smoked cigars in an ashtray made of cemented-over human hand. The most fascinating detail was actually the rather exquisite-looking cowboy hat off to one side.
Before I could ponder the scene in front of me further, however, the door swung open and the blessed King of the Underworld appeared with open, outstretched palms and a gigantic grin smeared across his beak-free face.
“Ah, Pluto! My darling! Come to me!” His vivid, infernal outline billowed with jubilation at our reunion.
“Father!” Chirping more happily than I had in a long time, I hopped up on the table and waddled at full speed into one of his flaming palms, charging at him O’Ren Ishii style. He cupped his hands together and nuzzled me sweetly with his forehead, the fires which roared off him grazing the top of my own head affectionately. “My namesake! My only and favorite child!”
“But… you have other children, Father!” I stated mid-smother.
“Yes, you are correct, my little princess!” he guffawed, peeling me off him so that he could get a good look at me. I studied him as well; it was amazing how human-like his form was while still being so scorching, majestic, beastly, and ethereal. “Nevertheless, you’re the only one of my children worth loving, let alone acknowledging!”
“That is true,” I admitted gleefully, running a reel of all his other, startlingly pathetic spawn through my mind. “What a shame that they all went on their mothers! Absolute knaves!” It truly was tragic… Not just for them, but for my father and myself as well.
“Knaves, indeed!” he agreed with a somber nod. “It’s a good thing you went on me… Not just in personality, intelligence, capability, and skill, but also in looks!”
“That goes without saying, Father,” I squawked, amazed by our uncanny resemblance to each other.
After a few more minutes of mutual father-daughter admiration, he placed me back down, but this time, on the table, amongst the very same mess I’d been observing earlier.
I sniffed the cowboy hat and frowned; I would know the Essence of Swan Folk anywhere. “I see you had company, Father.”
The featherless, bronze-skinned Ruler of the Underworld glanced down and realized I was scoping out the poker chips upon that beer-ridden table. He looked astonished by my acuteness for a moment before he spoke. “Indeed. But, my guest is no one you would know, my dear. At least, I hope not.”
“Oh, alright. I see,” I conversed agreeably. I was honestly just eager to learn everything I could about my father and his thrilling life as King of the Underworld. “Was this one of your thotty friends?” He’d spoken of one or two of them before, but they were still enigmas to me.
“Pluto, my dear… He’s the thottiest thot I’ve ever known. Some even go so far as to call him the ‘King of Thots.’” My father’s focus slipped off my beak and off to the side; I watched as his gaze went somewhere far away, somewhere I’d never seen it go before.
I was immediately mesmerized; a craving for more information regarding the unknown, swanish visitor with the human-sized cowboy hat overcame me. My omnipotence hadn’t fully kicked in yet by then; thus, I was forced to investigate further. “Tell me more, Father. Please.”
“We never beg, Princess. Remember that,” the King of the Underworld lectured sternly before reentering to his impenetrable trance. “Some call him Swanny Trejo. But, I… I call him Swan.”
“Swan,” I repeated softly. I could feel the awe blossoming from within my hollow heart cavity.
“Yes, my darling, Swan. Don’t get too used to wearing his name on your beak, though. I expect I won’t be seeing him again for a long while.” He scowled and scratched his head.
Surrounded by the unfinished alcoholic beverages, cigars, and apparent game of poker, understanding dawned upon me as best as it could in such a young duckling. I almost felt bad for him before realizing this was an opportune moment to remind him of the ins and outs of the bird social scene; he didn’t live it, so he didn’t [and couldn’t have] fully comprehended it. “I see. Yet, I can’t say I’m surprised,” I confessed. “This is what happens when you fraternize with the Swan Folk, Father.”
“You’re correct again, my princess,” the King of Hell admitted. “It’s a real shame, too. I thought you two might marry some day when you’re old enough.”
My blood froze. “Marry?!” I gasped in revulsion. This “Swan” character may have intriguing, perhaps even to the point of further investigation, but to marry a man, let alone one of the Swanish Folk?! “Why would you even consider that, Father?! Why would you disgrace me so?!” Embers rose from a few of my feathers in my impromptu state of rage.
“Oh, oh, oh no, my dear,” my father immediately tried to soothe me, concern replacing the sinister serenity which occupied his face just seconds before. “You misunderstand! This would be an alliance, a political move of sorts!”
“How?” I demanded through pursed beak. “Tell me!”
“We would gain legal claim over the Swan Folk and their many lands, Princess. And, once that occurred, you could simply kill Swan the moment we’re sure everything is official. Then, you could take over as their sole ruler!”
“Why so much trouble for that which we can just seize by brute force? What are the Swan Folk versus the legendary forces of the Underworld?!”
The King sighed. “You’ll understand this someday, when you rule your very first kingdom. You see, legal province should be acquired whenever possible. It allows us to maintain these areas and knaves we claim as a part of our empire using less time, effort, and resources than we would otherwise. A title recognized by the more standard peasant set of laws laws is far more challenging to topple, my dear.”
“Oh,” I muttered. That all made perfect sense. “I see now, Father. I apologize for being such a silly goose, and assuming such awful things. I should know that you wouldn’t properly wed me to a swanish one, and disgrace both of us in the process.” I felt like a fool.
“No, you have nothing to apologize for. I should’ve been more clear… I would’ve been offended too.” He nudged my cheek playfully with his hand; I giggled, all venom regarding his declaration already gone. “However, let’s forget about all these thotty thots for now. We get so tied up with the irrelevant sometimes that we forget what’s important, and fail to see what’s right in front of us… For example, it slipped my mind just how keen your sense of smell is, my daughter. I’m very impressed.”
“Thank you, Father.” I tried not to let on how flattered I was; father-daughter moments aside, this was still the King of the Underworld I was conversing with, and his observation served to remind me just how critical it was that I showed him my other side in addition to the more “adorable” one he had the pleasure of knowing as my preferred parent.
“The pleasure is all mine. Now, if this conversation is closed, I had Alecto Auntie make some of that Crème Brugoose topped with gooseberries I know you enjoy so much.”
My father, still grinning from ear-to-ear, snapped his fingers; within seconds, a broken, beaten-down man entered the room with a lidded, silver platter in his hand. On closer examination, it almost seemed as if he had been… chewed upon…
He struggled immensely as he moved towards where I sat perched on the table and placed the dish down on the surface among the remnants of my father’s last encounter with this “King of Thots.”
My father looked less than amused. “Judas! I didn’t give you a day pass so that you could just limp around uselessly!” The wretched man’s eyes drooped further as he tried to pick up his pace and exit the room.
However, my father simply wasn’t having it. The King wiggled his fingers and summoned a blazing whip from thin air. The servant let out a shriek of horror before the first lash even landed on him.
Between the misery of this pathetic peasant and the dessert my behemoth of a father had had Alecto Auntie specially prepare for me, I squawked in sheer merriment, dug into my treat, and enjoyed the show with my beak full of carefully caramelized, ooey-gooey goose crème and berries.
I gobbled down the final bite just as my father slashed the knave for the fourth time with a fiery sword he had conjured from thin air just a minute before. “And, for Persephone’s sake, clean up this mess!” He bellowed.
Judas leaned on the table, held up only by the quickly waning strength in those bloodless, mortal knuckles as his seemingly-devoured body trembled, bled, and sweltered all at once.
“I’m all done with my dessert, Father!” I chirped happily, some of it still smeared on my beak. “Can I take a swing or two at him?” I crossed my wings under the table in the hopes he’d let me.
The King roared with laughter; I could feel that it was one spun with admiration rather than mocking, as lesser minds may have assumed under similar circumstances. “I truly love your ambition, initiative, and eagerness to learn, my darling, yet this is not a knave worthy to be disciplined by my daughter, the Princess of Hell. Nevertheless, fear not! I have far better, viler, and more exciting things planned for us today. We’re going to torture others alongside the demons, taunt suffering mortals, bleed out insubordinate subordinates, blow additional fire everywhere just for the fun of it, drink lots of whiskey, feast on even more of this scrumptious food, and go shopping for an abundance of designer clothing at the Vogue Afterlife! Are you ready for that, Princess?”
That sounded like the perfect day. I flapped my wings in joy. “I’ve never been more prepared for anything in my life,” I squeaked with pure mirth.
“That’s my girl!” my father chortled heartily. He opened his palms out for me again and, just like before, I launched myself right into them.
It was in that very instant, as I chirped within the sweltering flames of Hell and shook my feathers out upon the fiery hands of the King of the Underworld, that I knew…
I was finally home.
About the Author
Pluto, the Goddess of Death, is a hot pink, rubber duck with an affinity for chaos, killing, blood, death, eyeliner, and watermelons. When she’s not working on her chronicles, it’s a safe bet that Pluto’s out questing, starting verbal feuds on Twitter, ordering around the plethora of knaves which occupy her kingdom, and/or writing her ballads.
She can be found on Twitter (@PlutoisDeath), and Instagram (@baby.vamp.ami). Her chronicles can be found here (babyvampami.com), or on Wattpad (@babyvampami).