When will this hangover end? Hercules wondered. His head hurt and his eyes were insulted by the sight of the ugliest crones he’d ever seen in his life.
“You three have to give the term ‘ ugly old bitches’ new meaning don’t you?” He grumbled. Disapproving old biddies were one thing but of course there had to be nothing less than monsters for a son of Zeus. The three old women had dogs’ heads on their coal-black bodies.
They growled in rage at his comment and raked him with their claws. He swatted them away, but they were like mosquitoes that refused to die. They always came back to sting him with their flails.
His first accusers have been easy enough to squash, but these ones were tough. Megara asked him, ” Does King Thespius have 50 daughters?” with tears In her eyes. He waved away her concerns. Or did he swat her away?
“Where’s Mama?” the boys asked. He pushed away their questions when they changed to screams of, “What happened to Mama?” Or did he push them away?
Why couldn’t they leave him alone? Let him enjoy his cup of wine when he came home from a long journey before they pestered him?
Now his accusers were these ugly old crones who kept yapping at his heels. He switched from slapping them to using his fists.
“Yes, do it!” Hera screeched out in encouragement in his ears. “Smite the Furies. Let this be the grand ending to your career as a hero.”
Her cackle was enough to make Hercules pause. It was like a spike thrust into his head. Then there came a piercing beam of light that surrounded him. It illuminated the corpses of his family pounded into a bloody pulp. “No.”
The crones barked with laughter. “You spilled your family’s blood and now must pay for it with your own.”
Zeus stepped out from the golden beam. “I’m sure we can work something out, Kindly Ones.”
“Mortals must always pay for their misdeeds in blood.” They hissed in unison.
“But gods work out deals with you.” Zeus said.
“He’s no god.”
“Neither is he a mere mortal.” Zeus sniffed.
“A Herculean effort is not enough to atone for blood guilt. It must be an Olympian effort.” They said.
Zeus smiled. “What is the going rate between a Herculean effort versus an Olympian one?”
“It’ll take 12 Herculean efforts to equal an Olympian one.” They said.
“Then let my son perform 12 labors to atone for this crime.”
Hercules collapsed into a merciful stupor after this.
He awoke to the scent of his own vomit and sweat. Worse yet was the smell of blood. His wife and children were smashed as if they were fragile vessels of clay. Father was there and looked down upon him. “You know what you must do. Bury them with the proper honors before you begin your labors.”
Zeus disappeared in a flash of golden light. Hercules sighed. He’d never thought he’d need to be saved by deus ex machinae. He hadn’t asked for it, but rejecting this favor would only make things worse.