Character Spotlights are a (bi)weekly Wednesday series where I talk about some of the characters from the novels I’m working on, or have already completed. They’ll just be little snippets of their lives so that you can get to know them a little, and hopefully one day read about them in a published book! For the five weeks of October, we’ll also be doing spooky-themed Spotlights, so prepare yourself for witches, vampires, the underworld, and demons!
This week, we’re chatting about one of my brand new favorite sad boys! I’ve written a heck ton of Thursday Thousands based in Charon’s universe (Charon, Persephone, Hermes, Hades, and the Twins), and someday I’m going to just about die when I get to finally write this.
I’m not sure I actually know when Charon came into my head. I’ve always loved the Greek myths, and the webcomic Lore Olympus definitely had a bit to do with all of this finally coming together, but Charon specifically–well, actually?
I know exactly when this came together.
In case this has somehow slipped through the cracks, I am a witch. Probably a green or white one since I work with plants and herbs a lot, but I’m not always keen on the labels. I have a bit of a coven, which first started to come together on Halloween last year. Yes, on Halloween, we’re so cool. I went out with two friends, walking through the woods at night, crossing a swamp, and eventually finding ourselves at a raised wooden platform that was bordered on three sides by the forest and looked out over the swamp. We dressed it up with blankets and candles, burned palo santo and sage, scattered crystals and tarot cards, called in our gods and goddesses (and, for me, the Buddha), and ate some skull-shaped brownies. It was an incredible night, and it felt magical.
There was one moment, however, that stood out above all else. As three, we gave our circle protection. One cast reiki around it. One helped ground us. I called in the four elements and asked for their guidance. We set tea lights in a circle around us, and we did not step out of it. We cast our circle, and as it was settling around us, I felt something behind me.
I was sitting at the entrance of the platform, steps descending down into the forest behind me. As I started to turn, something told me to stop. Don’t look back, it said, You’re safe.
As the night waned on, as we ate and chatted and laughed at our cards, I felt safe. Protected. Locked away inside our circle. Eventually, it was late, and we decided to call it a night. We started to clean up our things, putting away tarot and boxing up leftover food, organizing crystals and snuffing out candles, all but the tea lights around us. With everything packed away, we sat back down inside our circle and started to break it. One lifted the reiki around us and instead blessed us with it. One pulled our roots up. I thanked the elements, and as we started to stand, I quickly reached into my purse, fished out a coin, and set it down on the railing. One of the others was leaving apples in gratitude to the forest. One of the others was cleaning up the candles, guided by the light of our phones.
“Did you feel something weird?” one of them asked, “Right at the beginning?”
And, out of nowhere, I said, “We were safe. Charon was protecting us.”
And as I said it, words I hadn’t planned, words that I didn’t quite understand, I realized it was true. He’d been skulking around us all night, keeping us safe, keeping away whatever was trying to creep in. As we left the platform, as we wandered back through the swamp and out of the woods, I whispered thanks to him. We tossed our bundles for abundance into the swamp, and I thought about the coin I’d left behind.
Sometimes, your guides are not chosen. Sometimes, they choose you.
The river was as black as night and twice as deep.
Charon, ferryman of the dead, and apparent protector of my witch-born soul. To this day, I’m still not sure why Charon is one of my guides, but I’ve welcomed him in. I call to him quietly when I go out into the holy wild now, and he’s always there, lurking in the shadows.
But that day was the beginning of something, and a few months later, he finally started to materialize. February saw the beginning of Thursday Thousand, a small series in which I wrote short stories every week in an effort to fall in love with writing again, or at least remind myself why I loved it so much. It worked, evidently, as the series ended and I finished two books in a few months, but at the very beginning, I wrote about Charon.
Now, we all know the story of the ferryman, but, as always, my Charon is a little different.
Raised in the lush underworld, Charon always knew that he was destined for something, just not what. One of many, many children, he never felt unloved by his parents, or forgotten. Erebus and Nyx did their best by their several children, welcoming them into their lives and exposing the beauty of the underworld around them. They helped their children peel away the layers of themselves until they understood, at their core, what they were meant for, and it was a day of sorrow for all when Charon finally understood his.
For so long, the river Styx had been a wild, lawless place. Souls often went missing if they stumbled into Styx rather than drifting off toward one of its tributaries, and as the main river into the underworld, this had always been a hindrance. But now, it seemed, the river Styx would finally have a guide.
Erebus and Nyx did not try to dissuade their son. If this was the path he was meant to take, they could not change it. They asked for an audience with the royal family, and in a matter of days, Charon was set to leave. He would be allowed to return to the underworld only under the royal family’s decree, and to leave it without permission meant a severe punishment.
Charon accepted this quickly, not quite understanding the full measure of it. No one did, truly, until they finally saw what would become of little Charon’s life.
The river Styx fed directly into the underworld’s welcoming gates, which meant it was beyond the underworld, set in a sort of purgatory. Grey skies and black water and fine grey sand and mountainous black rocks as far as the eye could see. Somewhere, the gates of hell, yes, but on this beach where the river welcomed souls, it was just grey and black and Charon.
Thankfully, with a family like Charon’s, he was never quite lonely. He was often visited, for days at a time, by his closest brothers, Thanatos and Hypnos. He formed a strange friendship with the sisters three, Lachesis, Atropos, and Clotho. Though they saw him only when he ferried souls to the gates of the underworld, they became fond of him, and he eager to see them. Perhaps most startling was the queen’s soft spot for him, though. Charon had no idea what he’d done to deserve it, but she often quelled the river’s hunger and let Charon leave his post to waste a day in the mortal world stuffing himself full of pastries and lying out under the sun with his twin brothers.
And though Charon had grown accustomed to the grey wasteland of the river and his post as ferryman of the dead, he longed for those days, for moments spent not in his own head, but distracted by those around him.
It was on one of these trips, arguing over where to visit next after they’d finished up their scones and tea, that Charon’s quiet life slipped away from him.
Unbeknownst to the brothers, an old, presumably dead, legend walked into the cafe. The legend stood in line just like every other customer. He had long since faded into the background of humanity. His wings had disappeared slowly, but disappeared they had. He could never die, burned as he was by a god, yet still human, he carried on.
Another legend sat in a corner table, dark eyes watching the world around him. He saw the brothers, and he knew what they meant. His purpose here would need to be carried out swiftly, his goal acquired before they had a chance to ruin him. Gods of death and sleep and ferrying, they were, sons of his son, and he would not allow them to step in his way.
Icarus, felled by love, waited to order tea.
Chaos, long dead, waited for to be noticed.
When Charon’s attention finally snagged on him, Chaos sprang to his feet and murdered Icarus, an impossible feat, but Chaos alive was already impossible, so what more might be possible with that suddenly destroyed?
What more might be lurking in wait for them?
Charon, ferryman of the dead, swept his brothers back to the underworld in haste. Chaos had been killed by their parents long, long ago, and to find him alive was something they could not handle. He would destroy them as easy as breathing, so Charon returned them home, intending to cross the river and tell the king.
When they arrived, they were not alone.
Icarus, his wings burned by a god and his human life elongated because of his love of the same god, had fallen again.
This time, to the underworld, and to Charon, who, for the first time in his life, was about to abandon his post.
Death came in all shapes and sizes, in all manners, and when the souls were meant for the underworld, the sisters three snipped the strings tying the souls to the human world, and they were deposited on the grey sands of the river Styx. Whether it was natural or murder, death was simple.
Until it wasn’t.
Ugh, the amount that I want to write this is ridiculous. It centers around Charon as the main character, but it’s got Icarus, Thanatos & Hypnos, the sisters three of Fate, Hades & Persephone, and Hermes, as far as I can tell, and it’s just going to be so fun. Someday, I swear.
What do you think, though? Would you read about sad, lonely Charon and his underworld turned on its head by a bright, fallen legend?