This story was written for the Microcosms flash fiction competition last week. The prompts were “nymph, the Underworld, myth” and the theme of the week was Greek mythology.
The Sisters’ Oath
It was the day of the solstice. Like countless years before, the people of the villages around the mountain braced themselves for the opening of the Underworld and the taking of the Chosen Dead. A rumbling came from within the mountain when day dawned and the two wardens of the entrance to the Underworld waded through the icy cold streams of the River of the Dead to open the great stone gates that barred the land of the dead from that of the living. Between them stood the barefoot nymph they simply knew as Summer. She was pale after the long time she had been kept away from the land of the living, but today she would step out into the world once more and people would rejoice. In her place would come Summer’s sister, Winter; the oath the sisters had sworn an age ago to keep their beloveds safe still ongoing.
The gates swung open to reveal a world in the grip of cold and mourning. Those who had been chosen to die during the year were slowly making their way up the mountain, wearing the brightest clothes they owned, carrying the branches of evergreen trees and humming an ancient hymn of which most words had been forgotten with time. Leading them was Winter herself.
The sisters saw each other only in a tearful passing, the guards pushing Summer into the world and taking Winter prisoner once more. As the Chosen Dead walked through the gates into the underworld a light started to shine from within them until they seemed to glow with a golden light.
Summer stood between the dropped evergreen branches and, as the tears dropped from her eyes onto the ground, she saw the first sprouts of spring starting to emerge. A new year had come.