“Have either of you ever met Hades?” Crystal asked to make the walk more interesting.
“Sure,” Venus said. “He comes to all the important meetings at Olympus.”
“What’s he like, then? Should I do anything special to prepare myself to meet the Father of Evil?”
“Hades isn’t evil,” Thor said. “He’s Lord of the Underworld, but that doesn’t make him evil.”
“But I’ve always heard….”
“You’ve heard wrong, sweetcheeks,” Venus said drily. “What is evil, anyway?”
“Well, it’s—it’s the opposite of good,” Crystal said.
“Okay, fine. So what is good?” Venus pressed the issue.
“Good is—well, good. Now’s not the time for a philosophy discussion.”
“You brought it up,” Venus said, shrugging and returning to her quick-paced walk.
“Grunnskólar,” Thor said.
“What?” Crystal asked, not understanding the word that Thor said with a heavy accent.
“Grunnskólar. English speakers called it primary school, I think. ‘Oh, that’s good.’ ‘Oh, that’s bad.’ Childish, lass. To an adult, there’s no such thing as truly good or truly bad.”
“Sure there is,” Crystal argued. “I remember taking a philosophy course in college where we learned that relativism doesn’t work. There has to be an absolute good, and an absolute bad.”
“Well, I don’t remember right now,” Crystal said, sensing that the debate was soon to be well and truly lost.
“Must’ve been a terribly strong argument to have made such a long-lasting impact on you, sweetcheeks,” Venus said.
“Would you please quit calling me that?”
“Sure, sourpuss,” Venus said with a grin. “Better?”
Crystal ignored the jab. “That was way back in college. Nobody remembers most of that stuff. Besides, just because I don’t remember the rationale behind something doesn’t make it false.”
“Correct,” Venus said. “But how many of those philosophy professors were three hundred seventy-five point two million years old?”
“Point two, eh?” Thor said mockingly.
“Look, my hairy barbarian companion, I ruled continents hundreds of times before your sperm won its race.”
“Thus making you an old lady,” Thor countered. “Big deal. Look, Crystal, let’s think about it this way. Is it good, or evil, to be just and equitable in everything you do?”
“It’s good, of course,” she answered.
“Is it good, or evil, to be cruel in your punishment?”
“Well that’s evil,” Crystal said, feeling a trap coming on.
“Right. So you just called Hades both good and evil. He’s the overlord of the afterlife, such as it is. He punishes those who deserve it, and often quite cruelly. But what would be equitable about letting those who deserved their reward receive it while at the same time letting those who do not deserve it also receive it?”
“Well—nothing, I guess. Okay, you’ve made your point. I get it,” Crystal said.
“So,” Phoenix interjected, “Grand discussions of the nature of good and evil aside, it appears that we’re coming up on the gate. Do I, as the token human here, need to start playing dead yet?”
“Who said anything about playing?” Venus asked, a wicked gleam in her eyes. When she received the glare she was hoping for from Phoenix, she continued, “No, you don’t have to be dead yet. We’ll address the keeper. We’ve three deities, so we should be able to just walk through. If we have to, though, I can just kill you and he’ll let us through immediately.”
“Oh, great. Thanks for the comforting wisdom, oh mighty and terrifying goddess of love,” Phoenix said.
“And beautiful. You forgot beautiful. Sexy, too. Exquisitely, radiantly pulchritudinous, if you really want to make an effect with your words. Oh, and don’t worry. I’m sure Crystal will bring you back on the other side.”
“Not likely. Crystal couldn’t even light a globe back there,” Crystal reminded the group.