Bea was wondering the forest. Just like her hero, she too was lost in the wood, but this time she knew what was coming. She had already bested the other 2 beast and the only one left was the leopard. She needed to find the gates. Her bag was filled with the necessities for anything she would potentially face, bottles of water, a first aid kit, coins for the ferryman, and some biscuits for the centaurs. She was going to ask her question whether or not it killed her. The mountain looked so close yet so far away. It felt like an eternity to get to the base. The gates were in sight, the inscription that she has ran her fingers over in her book were within view over the entrance. She ran towards it, completely oblivious to the world around her. The leopard jumped in front of the gates ready to charge her.
She thought quickly and undid the cord around her waist.
“Here kitty kitty. You want the rope?” She taunted the beast. Its eyes snapped to the swinging rope.
“Fetch.” She threw it deep into the woods to her left. It ran off after it, leaving her alone to make her grand entrance. She ran right into the uncommitted. No matter how many times she had read about it, she was unprepared for the cold. The wailing was unlike anything she had ever heard. She needed to just make it to the ferryman. It was dark. It felt crowded but there was nothing to physically touch around her. She ventured forward, keeping her arms in front of her in case she tripped. Nothing could be heard over the sounds of the wailing. She could’ve sworn she was going deaf. It soon decreased in volume and she couldn’t tell if she had actually lost her hearing. She just knew no matter what she had to keep going forward. Eventually she saw him, casually waiting on his boat.
“Are you Charon?” She asked.
“Yes, and you may be?” He looked her up and down under his cloak hood.
“Beatrice. Most call me Bea. I need to cross into purgatory.”
“And why would I allow that? You’re a living mortal, you have no business here, child.” He spat the word child like an insult.
“I’m 18, and I have a job to do in Purgatory. My business doesn’t concern you, but I do require a ride.” She motioned at the boat.
“Absolutely not. The last time I let someone over a living, it came back taught me in the worst ways. I’m not going sit here and have another Dante.”
“Dante! That’s why I’m here. I have to ask him something.”
“And… I’m here on a heavenly mission?” She tried. The deity sighed heavily.
“What do you have to trade me for the ride?”
“Oh, I heard you like coins, so I have some for you.” She grabbed them from her bag.
“I don’t take pocket change little girl.”
“I got you 3 drachmas from Greece. They’re made of gold.” He seemed to be thinking it over. He held out his hand and she dropped the coins. He stepped sideways to allow her on.
The ride was quiet. Charon gently steered the boat across the river.
“Any advice?” She asked to make small talk.
“You have three days.”
“Are you daft? You have three days to get in and get out or you’re stuck.”
She sat there thinking. This was just like Dante’s journey. She was lost in thought, retelling the story in her head again. Eventually the boat came to a stop.
“This is Purgatory. Now get out.” He said harshly.
Bea hopped out. This was different than the last place. Curious eyes peered at her. A face she had once seen as a marble bust sat not too far away.
“Virgil!” She called. The man looked confused at hearing his name. He crossed the distance to meet her.
“Are you looking for me?” He asked. She nodded vigorously.
“Yes. I need your help. I need to get to Dante.” The area around them went silent.
“Sorry, but that was a one-time deal. I don’t know him, where he is, and I certainly don’t want to see that snake.” He said angrily. His voice made her recoil.
“I’m sorry. You know hell better than anyone else, I need help getting through. I have to ask him a question.”
“I just need to know something. Is it true though? Are you as bad as the story makes you seem?”
Someone called out from the crowd.
“Virgil is an angel. That Dante is the evil one. Virgil tried to help him and now he’s being punished for all eternity.” Virgil hung his head.
“What happened to you,” she asked, stepping closer to him.
“I’m forever stuck as an errand boy. My new master is stuck in the ice. I must do all his dirty work.”
“I’m so sorry. Help me find him. Help me tell the rest of the world the truth.” She said, cautiously holding out her hand for a shake. He took it, gave it a brief shake, and pulled her deeper into the crowd. There were murmurs and whispers as people parted to let them pass. It reminded her a lot of Dante’s adventure. Virgil steered her silently until they came to an area where no one was around. Just then, they heard the clicking of Hooves on the ground. Bea reached into her bag. She took out the snack she had been saving. Virgil looked at her questioningly with a raise of his brow. The centaurs soon came into view.
“I would like to ride across on someone’s back and in return, I will give you snacks of oat and honey,” she offered. They all seemed taken aback.
“Basically, I need a ride and I’ll pay you in food.” She tried again. Virgil looked at her impressed. It was easy negotiating when you’ve spent years researching. Things went relatively well for the duo until they needed a flight to get from one circle to the next.
“Call Geryon?” She asked Virgil.
“No other way to get down.” He tossed a rope down into the depths of the abyss. The sound of flapping wings could soon be heard.
“Oh no. Not you again. And another living mortal?” Geryon was already angry.
“Long time no see. We need to cross.”
“I will not be made a fool of twice. I refuse to give you a ride.” The monster turned to fly back from where he came from.
“Wait.” Bea called. The monster paused.
“We are on a revenge mission. We intend on exposing Dante to the living world. We need to find out where he is first.” She continued.
“I’ll take you to Ulysses. He should be able to help.”
Ulysses was hesitant.
“Virgil, do you think we could trust this one?”
“Hey, I’m right here. And yes, my king, I am here to learn the truth. Trust me.”
“Yes, you were the greatest King Greece has ever known.” He smiled. Flattery works wonders. The three began to venture downwards, watching the punished souls with both interest and disgust.
“He’s definitely in hell. I can feel his presence, but it is faint,” Virgil said.
“There’s only one place left in Hell. You don’t think he made it into heaven, right?” Ulysses asked.
“I’m not sure. Bea, why are you so hell-bent on asking him this question?”
“I just need to know if he was a person or a demon when he published it. The inferno. I also need to know if he’s here.”
“He was a person. A bad one at that.” Virgil said. It began to get cold.
“We’re at the bottom.” Ulysses commented. The ice was just as it was described last.
“Nothing has changed.”
“What’s that,” Bea pointed. There was someone blocking the chasm, stuck between heaven and hell, both just slightly out of reach but in view. Dante just sat there, watching.