Part Three: Gluttony
I yelped, my head clearing of the overwhelming greed, and I rolled out of the way. Ava landed, cat-like, at the very place I'd been sitting.
She turned, her red tongue running over her lips. "Give it to me!"
"Ava, listen, I—"
She launched at me again and this time I was too slow. Her fingers, nails long and cracked, slid down my leg leaving wicked looking red marks in their wake.
"Ow!" I squirmed, the pain mild but irritating. Primal instinct made me want to punch her, to claw at her face, but I restrained myself. Was attacking someone a Deadly Sin? I couldn't remember.
Ava hissed, her eyes flickering like a guttering candle. "The silver coin, new girl. I want it."
I could feel the coin's weight in my pocket. I said nothing.
Ava roared, baring her teeth. "I'll kill you to get it, I swear I will—"
"Ava, stop. This has gone too far."
I looked up at my savior. The boy who'd intervened had a red mop of hair that hung down to his shoulders but unlike anyone else I'd seen in the Underworld so far it was free of ash. His voice was accented as well and I guessed that he was Irish. Don't Irish people have red hair and accents? I was pretty sure.
"You don't know anything, Erik! You spent your coin already but have yet to feel the pain I'm punished with!" Ava said but her voice sounded less violent, more civil.
"Ava, why don't you go get some water?"
Ava's eyes widened. She looked as if she was going to protest but to my surprise she turned away, walking towards a murky looking water trough that reminded me of the ones I'd seen horses drink from.
Erik turned back to me. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah. Yeah, just the scratch on my leg—"
Erik hardly glanced at it. "Yes, it is nothing. So you're new here, I presume? And from what I've heard so far it sounds like you are a Vanished."
"I am," I said emotionlessly. Then, remembering my manners, I said, "I'm Saint from Greaseland, Oregon."
"Leenene, Ireland's where I was from before I fell," Erik replied.
His words sunk in. "You're a Vanishedtoo?"
"Aye, but in Ireland we call ourselves Hell Raisers."
That made me laugh. Ava, from where she crouched over the water trough, shot me an ugly look.
The other teenager in the birdcage stepped forward. "I am Nereus," he said. "I come from New York but I grew up in Greece. The place you are from, Greaseland? Is it named after my homeland?"
"Oh," I said, blushing and glancing at Erik. "No. It's Greaseland as in 'greasy' or so I have always thought."
Nereus nodded sadly. "I understand now."
Suddenly something sparked in my head. Reaching into my pocket I grabbed the silver coin. "Nereus, can you read the letters on this? What does it say?"
Nereus took the coin and I glimpsed the strange letters again; Δεν είστε μόνοι.
"Ah," the boy said, handing me the coin back though I saw how his fingers lingered on it for a moment longer. "It says 'you are not alone'."
"What does tha—"
The door of the birdcage swung open. Before me was one of the hedgehogs, eyes burning like infinitesimally small suns. "Helena Haddock-Underwood?"
I was surprised that it could speak—its voice was masculine and had the same accent as Nereus. A Greek hedgehog? That was too weird.
"Saint," I corrected, shaking myself a little.
I stepped from the birdcage. Erik and Nereus watched me leave, staring silently. Ava gave a cruel smile and a taunting wave.
The hedgehog led me down a corridor and through a large cave where many people were digging holes. One girl, with long, sweat-slick black hair, looked up as I passed. Her hands wept with blood.
And then we were out of the digging-room and the hedgehog was motioning at a door. I opened it and stepped through. The door slammed shut behind me. I was alone.
The room was about the size of my kitchen but empty except for a wooden table. On the table, pilled high, was food.
My jaw dropped. Echoing in the back of my mind I heard Dim say "don't eat any pomegranates." But surely I could have chicken, peaches, cobbler, ice cream and maybe a tiny little naughty sip of the sweat-smelling wine?
I stepped forward. The food looked so good and I was sure it tasted as such. Reaching out delicately I snatched up a small apricot.
It looked so good! The 'cot was slightly wet as if it had been freshly washed. Unable to contain myself I sunk my teeth in.
Swallowing it, I felt suddenly heavy. The change in weight felt as if I was a ghost turned human or had been jumping on a trampoline and suddenly I was jumping on concrete. My bones ached and the heat increased.
But there was so much food! I reached for a slice of blackberry cobbler and licked it. And then suddenly I was stuffing my face, throwing aside chicken bones and snatching melting ice cream. I even downed a bottle of rich tasting wine, the peppery, dizzy feeling I got making me laugh and eat some more. I felt possessed, like how I'd felt when Hades made me greedy and angry, but surely eating was not a Deadly Sin?
The door opened behind me. I heard a gasp and Dim was suddenly at my side. "Stop! Stop eating! Saint, this is gluttony! Gluttony! How many sins have you committed?"
I spit out a watermelon seed and stared at him.
"And—oh no—Saint! You can't get back to the land of living now! You've eaten Hades's food!"
Somehow that frightened me more then the prospect of turning evil after only four more Deadly Sins. "You only told me not to eat a pomegranate!"
"Normally that's the only food here! Everyone eats pomegranates! Where all these delicacies came from is beyond me!"
Despite the situation I laughed. Who says delicacies?
"How many sins, Saint?"
I stared at him and then dropped my eyes. "Three, I think."
Dim slammed his fist against the wall. I jumped, quivering, afraid at his outburst. He turned in a circle, looking back at me. "The Hedgehogs, they did this. They brought on the Gluttony because…because…"
"Because they know that I care what happens to you!"
My eyes widened, shocked.
Dim looked over at me. "Listen, I'm trying to get you home. I really am. But you've got to listen to me, Saint. You've got to trust me. Can you do that?"
"Yes," I said softly. "I think I can."
"Good because—listen to me, Saint—there is going to be a revolution. A revolt. An overthrowing."
Dim put a finger to his lips. "Shh. You can't say anything. It's a secret. If the 'hogs find out…"
I told him I'd keep that knowledge to my grave.
Dim chuckled. "Very well, then. Now let's get out of here before you're suddenly filled with—oh, I don't know—lust."
I grinned back at him wickedly. "Sorry, Dim, but that's just wishful thinking on your part."
Dim made as if to punch me. I dodged, backing out the door, laughing—and running right into a red, fiery, mad, supposed-to-be-banished, completely full-grown demon.
And it wasn't too happy.
Three commited, four to go. Next up: Sloth.