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Love is a strange thing, he mused as he watched the goddess, his goddess. None of the other gods on Olympus had ever believed that his heart of stone could have its hard shell cracked and made to feel love. Yet, there she was, his beloved. And soon, she would be his. All he had to do was wait.
On the very last day of her freedom, Persephone wandered the fields of Enna, gathering wildflowers and spreading sweet life in her wake. Her mother, Demeter, goddess of the harvest, was in a nearby orchard, healing the sickened fruit trees. Persephone gently trailed her hand over a rose bush, which caused the buds to swell and burst into the most beautiful flowers.
Persephone smiled and admired her handiwork. There were some that swore she was nearly as beautiful as Aphrodite herself, with the flowers she weaved into her auburn hair that fell down to her waist in thick curls, silvery-blue eyes that saw the world with an innocent truth, and a pretty smile that shone nearly as bright as the sun. Everyone who set eyes on the young goddess fell in love with her beauty, but more the fact that she saw the goodness and beauty in everything else. Many had tried to woo her hand, but her mother, Demeter, refused to let her go.
Persephone shivered as the sun became blocked by clouds. She felt a prickly feeling on the back of her neck, as if someone were watching her. She turned around, but only to find that no one was there. Her eyes were drawn to the dark forest of the oldest oak trees that bordered the edge of the meadow. She shivered again and turned away, kneeling to a patch of white lilies. At her touch, their steams grew taller, and their whiteness grew brighter. She sat back on her heels, and drew in the peace that the meadows gave her. Still, she felt something troubling pushing on the back of her mind.
“Persephone…” A cold whisper broke into her thoughts, jabbing at her mind like a cold needle. She jumped to her feet, scanning the meadow for the source of the voice.
“Mother?” she called, even though she knew her mother wasn’t anywhere near her. She was beginning to feel nervous, something that Persephone didn’t feel very often.
“Persephone…” The whisper floated around her, lulling her senses into a trance. She was still afraid, but now she felt as if that didn’t matter. She slowly spun around, scanning the meadow. Then, she stopped, her gaze captured by the most beautiful flower she’d ever seen.
Gradually, Persephone drifted over to the flower and knelt beside it. It was a flower she hadn’t seen before, but she wished that she had. It was white with a yellow center that extended past the middle of the flower; it was small enough to fit in her tiny palm. “Narcissus,” she whispered as the name came to her from nowhere.
Slowly, Persephone reached out her hand and grasped the steam of the flower. She had to pick it; it was too beautiful to leave it. She felt a tingle of coldness travel up her arm, but she ignored the feeling and pulled on the flower with all of her might. After some resistance, the flower came up from the ground. Persephone frowned when she saw that attached to the end of the steam was a glowing, black pearl.
The ground began to shake violently, throwing Persephone backwards. She let out a startled cry as the ground cracked open, revealing a large crevice that led to darkness. She covered her head with her arms as an icy fear filled her and a large cloud of black smoke rose from the crack.
“Persephone, do not fear me.” She shivered at the sound of the same icy voice that had called her earlier, but she made herself remove her arms from her head to look at the source of the voice. What she saw made her quiver like a leaf in the fiercest of storms causing tears to spill from her eyes and run down her cheeks.
Standing above her was a tall man dressed in dark furs. He had eyes that flickered between silver and black, and skin that was paler even than Persephone’s. From the aura that emitted from him, she knew he must be a powerful god. Her gaze traveled from his long, silvery hair to the black crown that sat atop his head, and Persephone knew who he was.
“Hades,” she whispered, the name feeling bitter on her tongue. The god of the dead, ruler of the Underworld, and the most hated of all gods. She shook with fear as he smiled coldly and knelt down beside her. “What do you want with me?”
He reached out and stroked her cheek with a black-gloved hand. She flinched at his cold touch. “I have been watching you,” he said, his voice sending shivers down her spine. “You’re even more beautiful up close.” Then, he leaned to her and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. “Sleep,” he whispered, his breath tickling her skin.
Persephone felt the fear drain from her body. Her eyelids grew so heavy that she couldn’t keep them open. Her last memory was Hades scooping her up in his arms, and succumbing to the darkness.
She was surrounded by the anguished screams of the d*mned. They pounded against her eardrums and filled her mind with fear. She looked down into a black pit, from which the screams came from. A withered, yellow hand took hold of her ankle with an icy grip. It pulled her down, down into the bottomless pit. She was free falling, being swallowed by darkness. The screaming turned to cold laughter and it pierced her head as she kept falling…
Persephone woke from the dream, sobbing hysterically and fighting against whatever was trying to hold her flailing arms down. The cold, harsh laughter still rung in her ears, and for a second, she was afraid that she was still falling. But no, she was in a bed, and trying to escape the cold grip on her arms. She sobbed harder, refusing to open her eyes.
“Persephone!” Her attacker managed to grab her wrists and pull them over her head, so she was unable to move her arms. “Persephone, look at me.”
She knew who was holding her down before she even opened her eyes; she recognized his cool, soft voice. Her eyes flew open to see Hades’ face only inches from her own. He was sitting on her bed, his body leaning over her as he held her arms above her head. His forehead was wrinkled in concern and when she looked into his eyes, she was surprised to see how soulful they were.
“Why is your face filled with so much fear?” he asked quietly, tilting his head. “Am I really that terrible?”
She shook her head, unable to speak as the terrible dream came back to her. She felt more tears trickle down her face, and she felt ashamed to be crying in front of the powerful god of the dead.
“You’re trembling,” he said, letting go of her wrists. Then, his face softened and a look of understanding came over him. “You were having a nightmare, weren’t you?”
“Yes,” she said meekly, feeling her face burn. She felt even more ashamed to be admitting that she was afraid of her own dreams, like a small child.
“It’s alright,” he said reassuringly. “You’ll have them for a while before you get used to living down here. They come from the bitter, wicked souls of the lost.” He stroked her cheek, moving a strand of her auburn hair from her face. She flinched at his cold touch; she’d only been touched by her mother before. His face grew hard and he withdrew his hand, standing up from her bed.
“I request that you dine with me,” he said stiffly. “I’ve prepared a wardrobe for you; I assume you can dress yourself?” She nodded, and Hades turned to leave. At the door he stopped, and he turned back to her. “Persephone,” he said softly. “I’m sure you’re very confused, but I promise to explain everything to you. If you need anything, just call me, and please, don’t be frightened.” Then, he was gone.
“I’m not,” she whispered to herself, realizing that she felt more numb than afraid. Then, pushing the covers from her, she stood from the bed and examined her surroundings. The bed was made of twisted silver metal and was covered in a dark purple blanket. It was placed in the center of the large room, and it was surrounded by a layer of silver lilies. She noticed that the rest of the furniture was also made of the same twisted silver. There was a large empty fireplace. On the far side of the room, there was a window that stretched from floor to ceiling, but it was covered by purple curtains. Remembering that she was in the Underworld, Persephone was afraid to open the curtains. Instead, she turned to the wardrobe and threw open the doors.
She switched out the white nightgown she was wearing for a simple, navy blue dress. She found a stone basin filled with water and washed her face and pulled a comb through her thick curls. Then, Persephone gathered up her courage, took a deep breath, and pulled open the door.
She paused outside of the room, letting the door swing shut. She frowned, realizing she had no idea where to go. She glanced around, perplexed. The hallway was completely empty. Then, she remembered Hades’ words. If you need anything, just call. “Hades?”
In an instant, he appeared in front of her, causing her to jump. “I’m sorry,” he said, frowning. “I suppose I should’ve told you where to go.”
“It’s alright, my lord” she replied, suddenly feeling shy.
He laughed, catching her off guard. She never thought that she’d the feared god of the dead laugh. “My dear,” he said warmly. “You don’t need to bother calling me by formal titles; just my name will do. Come, you must be hungry.”
He held out his arm, offering her to take it. She hesitated, but slipped her hand through the crook of his elbow, marveling at how pale her fingers were compared to his dark attire. He led them through the hallways of what she knew must be his castle. They turned down many different paths, and Persephone marveled at the majestic beauty it had. His castle was certainly different than the small cottage she and her mother had shared. At the thought of Demeter, she felt a small pang of sadness, but it was over shadowed when Hades pushed open a grand set of doors and led them through a small garden.
“It’s beautiful,” she said, admiring the way the plants grew wild. There was so much life in the different vines and flowers; something that she hadn’t expected in the World of the Dead. “I didn’t realize that there were gardens in the Underworld.”
“There are many gardens that grow around the castle,” Hades replied. “I would like to show them to you, but first, we must eat.” He gestured to a table set for two, and laden with food. Leading them over to it, he pulled out her chair and motioned for her to sit. Persephone did, flashing him a tiny smile. “I had all of this food brought from your own world,” Hade’s said, sitting down across from her. “Please, help yourself.”
They ate in silence; Persephone suddenly felt shy again. She tried to ignore the way Hades’ eyes never left her from across the table, but she shifted uncomfortably from his attention. “I know you must have questions,” he said quietly after a few moments. “Don’t hold them in Persephone.”
“I’m fine sir,” she stammered, looking down into her lap.
He sat back in his chair and frowned. “I can see that Demeter has taught you to hold yourself in, and to keep your thoughts quiet. That won’t work here, so go on; speak your mind.”
“Why did you bring me here?” she blurted out, and then clamped her mouth shut, surprised at herself. It was true; her mother had stressed that she keep her feelings to herself and not to express them to others. Still, that hadn’t stopped her from ranting wildly to the water nymphs, but she’d always kept to herself in front of her superiors. “I’m sorry,” she added quietly. “I just want to know why you’ve captured me.”
Hades’ grey eyes sparkled with amusement. “Don’t be sorry, little goddess. We might yet be able to pull out that spark of defiance that Demeter has so carefully caged inside of you. You are a child of Zeus, after all.”
“I’ve never met my father,” she shot back, annoyance loosening her tongue.
“You haven’t met any of the gods,” he countered. “Except for the day of your naming, you’ve been locked up your entire life; sheltered by your mother in that quiet meadow of hers. You’re a beautiful songbird Persephone, but you were stuck in a cage that barely gave you room enough to stretch your wings.”
“You haven’t answered my question,” she said, the fact that he’d called her beautiful pricking at her mind.
“Persephone, I’ve set you free. I’ve broken the lock on your cage and open the door, so that you may have a chance to fly.”
She shook her head. “I don’t understand. Why would you do that for me?”
He smiled softly. “I’m not going to answer that yet. I want to see if you can figure it out on your own.” He pushed his chair back and stood, holding his hand out to her. “Will you walk with me?”
She nodded and placed her hand in his, marveling at how his fingers dwarfed hers. “Your hands are warm,” she said, surprised. They began to walk down a winding path through the garden.
“And yours are cold,” he replied. “It will take a while to get used to the chill of the Underworld, but eventually you won’t feel anything.”
She frowned. “I don’t feel cold.”
“Interesting,” he mused. Another few moments of silence passed, and then Hades looked down at her. She was much shorter than him, she noticed; her head barely came up to his broad shoulders. “Tell me about yourself, little goddess,” he commanded gently.
“What’s the point,” she questioned lightly. “You already seem to know everything about me.”
He laughed and squeezed her hand. “I only know what I’ve picked up over the years. Go on; tell me about your likes and dislikes; what annoys you, and what causes that lovely smile of yours to lighten up your face.”
She blushed; he was once again complimenting her. But she pushed aside the awkward feelings and began to tell him about her life. She talked about the small cottage that she and her mother shared, the beautiful meadow that she spent her days in, and the people she talked to when her mother was gone. “You know,” she said, laughing, “when I was younger, my only friends were birds. The nymphs didn’t like me until I grew older, so when my mother went somewhere to fix crops, I was all alone. I could always get the birds to come to me, especially sparrows, so I would talk to them.” She grew slightly sad as she thought of her younger self, memories of confessing everything to the tiny songbirds she held in her palm. “They never responded,” she added, feeling her eyes prick with small tears.
“Persephone.” Hades’ voice was soft and comforting, and she looked up to see him staring down at her with such emotion, it sent shivers down her back. He took her other hand and squeezed the both. “Demeter kept you tucked away from the rest of the world for your whole life. I can imagine the hurt you’re feeling.”
“I never had a friend in the world,” she said, her voice breaking. “I mean, the nymphs treated me like a pet of theirs, once I grew old enough for their tastes. And of course I had my mother to talk to, but she criticized me every chance she could.” She shut her eyes, not wanting to see his sympathy. “I love her, I really do. But is it wrong that I don’t miss her?”
“Oh, Persephone,” Hades said, suddenly pulling her close to him and wrapping his arms around her. “Of course you love her, how could you not? However, it isn’t wrong that you don’t miss her. You’re tasting freedom for the first time. It’s alright.”
She nodded against his chest. She felt so frail in his strong arms; so breakable. Yet, at the same time, she felt safe. Then, she realized that the Lord of the Underworld, the eldest of the three most powerful gods, was holding her. She pushed away from him, her face burning.
“I’m sorry,” she stammered, staring down at the silver-dusted pathway.
Hades chuckled. “Your face is nearly the same color as your hair right now.” At that, she burned even more, and he laughed. “Now it’s the exact same color as your hair. Come on, little goddess, let’s continue our walk.”
“Why do you call me that?” she asked, following beside him, but not touching him.
He looked down at her. “Little goddess? I’ve called you that since I first held you in my arms as a newborn.”
She frowned. “What do you mean?”
“You’ve never heard the story of your naming?” She shook her head. “Well,” he continued. “Demeter has kept you out of sight for your whole life, except for the week after you were born. You see, it’s tradition that if a child is born of one of the three main rulers of Olympus, the father’s brothers must be present for the naming. I personally have never fathered any children, but I’ve gone to every single naming for the children of my two brothers. At the time, you were just another infant to me.”
He paused by a bench and sat down, motioning for her to join him. She did, and waited for him to continue. “So,” he said, looking off into the garden. “At the actual ceremony, Zeus and Demeter kept arguing back and forth, about everything under the roof, but mostly about what your name would be. Your mother was persistent about calling you Kore, but your father swore he wouldn’t have a daughter called that. All throughout their bickering, you were being passed around to everyone present, and you would not stop screaming. But when it was my time to hold you, you looked up at me, hiccupped once, and were quiet. I was quite mesmerized; you were a beautiful baby. I cradled you in my arms and whispered ‘little goddess’ to you, and I swear you smiled at me.”
Persephone stared at her hands. “My mother still calls me Kore,” she said, avoiding the subject of his nickname for her. “Who came up with my real name?”
He leaned back, looking slightly smug. “I did, of course. While I was holding you, it came to me. I presented it to your parents, and Zeus agreed to it. Demeter still wanted to call you Kore, but you don’t argue with Zeus when he sets his mind on something.”
“Well,” she said thoughtfully. “I’m glad they chose Persephone. I like it a lot more than Kore.”
“Persephone suits you better than Kore,” he replied. “Come, shall we continue our walk?”
She nodded, and they made their way through the rest of the garden and along the edge of a slow-moving river. While they chatted idly, Persephone marveled at the different flowers they encountered. She was surprised that the Land of the Dead could have so much beauty, but it was everywhere she looked. Soon, they came back to the castle, and Hades led her back to her room.
“I’m sorry,” he said, frowning slightly. “I was planning on dining with you tonight, but there was a series of earthquakes today and I have to judge the souls of the lost. I’ll have to leave you for the evening, but I’ll have food sent up for you. Will you be alright?”
“Oh,” she said, slightly startled. “Yes, I’ll be fine.” He smiled, took her hand, kissed it, and then was gone.
Persephone rubbed the tingling spot on her fingers where his lips had touched and realized that she was sad to see him go. She heaved a sigh and went into her room, settling herself down in a chair in front of the fireplace, which now held a comforting fire. She stared into the flames, not really thinking about anything.
A while later, she opened her door to find a steaming tray of food and a small book bound in black leather. She took the food back to her chair and upon opening the book, found it was a collection of poetry written by Sappho, one of the oldest and rarest poets. How Hades managed to get a copy of her work she had no idea, but he was said to be the wealthiest of the gods.
She spent the rest of the evening curled up by the warm fireplace, reading the book. “Sappho really was a genius,” she mused quietly to herself. She read until her eyelids grew so heavy that she couldn’t focus on the words anymore. Then, she changed into a soft nightgown and crawled into bed, letting the flickering light from the fire lull her to sleep.
She was sitting in darkness with her hands bound behind her and a gag in her mouth. It was cold; she felt the icy chill seep through her skin and settle in her blood, along with an overwhelming fear. Then, a pale light flickered on, but it only made the room seem darker. The light illuminated to show a heaping pile in the middle of the room. With a shock, she realized the pile was of bodies, and she scrambled back as best as she could. She began to scream through her gag as she recognized the two bodies on top. One was her mother; Demeter’s blue eyes were open, staring blankly at the world above, her once-blonde hair stained as red as Persephone’s with blood. Beside Demeter was Hades, the God of the Underworld, laying with the dead. Persephone tasted the salt from her tears as they fell down into her open mouth. And once again, the screams of the souls of the d*mned pierced her ears…
When Persephone woke this time, her face was dry, and her mouth was clamped shut. However, her skin was clammy and the awful dream had left her body shivering. “I can’t stay here,” she whispered to herself, and got out of the bed. She put on her slippers and practically ran out of her room.
She blindly maneuvered through the halls of the castle, for she’d forgotten to bring a candle. Eventually, she found the doors that led out to the garden, and as she pushed them open, was assaulted by the sweet smell of the cold night air. She wandered the paths, not really caring where she was going. Soon, she found a flat rock amongst some rose bushes and plopped down beside it, leaning her head against it. She shook violently, but still, no tears would come.
She flinched when she felt a soft touch on her shoulder. “Another nightmare,” Hades confirmed quietly, sitting down beside her. She nodded, not wanting to look at him, because all she could picture was his dead body beside her mother’s. She shuddered. “They’re only bothering you because the deepest, most wicked parts of the Underworld fear the power you have.”
His touch moved from her shoulder to her hand, and he frowned. “Your skin is ice-cold,” he said, and took off his fur cloak, draping it over her shoulders. Then, he wrapped his arms around her, and once again pulled her close to him. She was too tired to even care.
“Look,” he said, nodding up at the sky. “The stars want to comfort you.” She looked up, and gasped in awe. The black sky was filled with the brightest of stars, millions and millions of them. They twinkled down at her, and she marveled at their brightness.
“They’re beautiful,” she said softly. “How can the Underworld even have stars?”
“This is the land of the dead,” he explained. “These stars died long ago, so they appear in these skies. You won’t find any of the same stars you see from Mt. Olympus.”
“Oh, they’re much prettier than the ones in Olympia,” she said, realizing that she was beginning to feel tired again. She shut her eyes and let herself sink into his warm cloak. “They’re magnificent.”
“There are more beautiful things in this world,” she dimly heard him say, but then she felt herself being pulled into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.
When she awoke again she was back in her bed and she was warm. She realized that along with the blanket on the bed she was still covered with Hades’ fur coat. It took a few minutes of staring at it for her tired brain to register that he must’ve brought her up to bed after she fell asleep. Once again, Persephone felt a blush creep up her face. She still wasn’t used to Hades’ presence.
Once her mind was fully awake, she crawled out of the warm bed and changed into a silver and amethyst-colored dress. She braided her long hair and wrapped it into a bun, so it was out of her face. Then, she pulled the cloak from the bed and folded it neatly, carrying it with her.
When she opened the door and stepped out into the hallway, she jumped in surprise. Hades was standing across from her room waiting for her. “You scared me,” she stammered, clutching his cloak tightly in her arms.
“I have that impression on people,” he said smirking. “Did you sleep well after your midnight garden stroll?”
“I slept very well, thank you,” she replied, holding out the cloak to him. “I believe this is yours.”
He took it from her and clipped it around his shoulders. “Why, thank you, little goddess. Are you ready for breakfast?” She nodded, so he offered her his elbow, and she took it. They walked through the castle, but they went a different way than the last time. “I thought we should eat inside today,” he explained at her puzzled expression.
Soon, they came to a large dining room where a massive silver table sat. There were two places set at the end of the table, and when they reached them, Hades held out her chair for her like before. As they ate, Hades seemed to be deep in thought, so Persephone didn’t try and make conversation with him. After a while, his grey eyes grew puzzled, and then troubled.
“Is something wrong?” she asked, softly. He jumped a little as her voice pulled him from his thinking.
“I’m not really sure, Persephone. Something feels wrong, but I don’t think it’s with my kingdom. There’s something wrong with the above world; I can feel the mortals suffering. They’re coming into my land in larger quantities than usual.” He filled an empty goblet up with water and waved his hand over it, and then frowned. “Look,” he said, holding out the goblet.
She inhaled sharply when she saw that the surface of the water showed a bleak image. The land was barren, and the ground was covered in white. Everything was dead. “Is this the above world?” she asked in amazement, and frowned when he nodded. Then, the image suddenly changed to a woman with limp, grey hair and giant bags under her eyes. The woman looked up at her, and Persephone cried out when she saw that they shared the same, silvery-blue eyes. “Mother!” She looked up at Hades with desperation. “What’s happening to her?”
He gently took the goblet from her hands. “She misses you,” he said simply. “Her sorrow has taken over her mind and the land she cares for.”
“Oh,” Persephone moaned and buried her face in her hands as she felt tears spill from her eyes. “How can she be hurting so much, when I barely miss her at all?”
Then, she felt Hades arms around her as he sat on a chair beside her. “You’re happy,” he said quietly, resting his chin on her head. “I know this must be confusing for you.”
“I feel so guilty,” she said, her voice muffling in his shoulder. “I feel like this is my entire fault.”
“It’s not, Persephone. She just loves you, and she doesn’t know what to do without you.” He pulled away from her and lifted up her chin. “Here,” he said, holding out his other hand. “I was going to wait to give this to you, but you should have it now.”
In his hand was a black obsidian stone set in silver. A design of two vines weaved together was etched onto the stone in silver. “It’s a locket,” he explained, and hooked it around her neck. “You can put in it whatever you want to be close to your heart.”
“It’s beautiful,” she said, fingering the stone. “I don’t know what to put in it.”
He wiped her wet face with his thumb. “You’ll know soon enough.”
“Thank you.” For once, she didn’t break away from his gaze, and they sat there for a few moments. Then, he looked away and frowned.
“I’m afraid I’ll be terribly busy today,” he said with regret. “There are mortals dying left and right, and they all have to be judged. Will you be alright by yourself for a few hours?”
“I suppose,” Persephone replied, even though she really didn’t want to be alone again.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ll spend the evening with you, even if I have to leave the mortals waiting.”
She shook her head. “You shouldn’t leave them waiting. It must be hard enough for them to be dead, anyway. I’m not that important.”
“You are,” he replied. “And you’re much too kind. If you need me, just call.”
“I will.” Then, he leaned in and kissed her forehead, surprising the words right out of her. He smiled, and was gone, leaving her speechless. After a few minutes, she recollected herself and hurried out of the dining room, to the gardens.
She wandered the paths, not really paying attention. After about an hour, the path reached an end and she came to a bare patch of dirt. She sat down beside it and let her mind wander, digging her fingers into the cool, moist soil. Then, letting the soil fall from her hand, she suddenly came up with a brilliant idea.
Being the Goddess of the Harvest, her mother had the ability grow plants from nothing. Over the years, Persephone had only managed to produce seeds from other plants, and with her loving touch, she could ensure they grew in their own, natural time. So, she quickly hurried through the garden and gathered the seeds from many different plants in her hands. She gently piled them on the ground beside the path, and began to work the soil with her hands, preparing it for her own garden.
Hours later, Persephone sat back and admired her work. She had found a place for every seed she’d collected, and in a few months, the first green shoots would begin to pop up. She examined her hands and her dress; both were clean. Another benefit of being the daughter of Demeter was that the dirt never stained her.
Looking around, she frowned at a white figure coming down the path. As the figure grew closer, she saw that it was one of the wispy souls of the dead. Hades had told her that some chose to work in the castle for thousands of years to gain entrance to the Elysian Fields.
When the soul finally approached her, Persephone was able to see that it was a middle-age woman. The woman bowed her head at Persephone and kept her eyes on the path. “Lord Hades requests your presence immediately, Lady,” she said, her voice echoing softly. “He says it’s urgent and that I’m to lead you to the throne room.”
“That’s odd,” Persephone said, more to herself than anything. “There must be a few hours until dinner. Did he say why?”
The woman only smiled and shook her head. She beckoned for Persephone to follow her, and they made their way back through the garden and into the castle. Eventually, they came to a large, majestic room. At the furthest wall from the entrance, there was a massive, silver throne, where Hades sat. Persephone thanked the soul and hurried to him.
As she grew nearer, she saw that a small wiry man was standing beside the throne. She knew right away that he was a god, because he carried a golden staff with two snakes entwined around it. His green eyes twinkled with mischief and he kept floating an inch or two off of the ground, supported by a pair of winged sandals. She knew who he was from the moment she saw the staff and as she approached the throne, she dipped her head in greeting. “How do you do, Hermes, messenger of the gods?”
He smiled at her and opened his mouth to reply when he was interrupted by Hades, who had gotten down from his throne and approached Persephone. “Is something wrong?” she asked for the second time that day when she saw the storm clouds of worry on his face.
“He refused to tell me his message without you being here,” he replied, turning to Hermes. “She’s here now; give me the message.”
The smile on Hermes’ face faltered, and he cleared his throat. “My message is from Zeus, the King of the Gods, to Hades, Lord of the Underworld, and Persephone, daughter of Demeter.” His face grew nervous, as if he feared what he had to tell them. “The mighty Zeus has decided that, under the circumstances of Demeter’s sorrow and the rise in the death of the mortals, that the agreement he made about Persephone’s betrothal to you, Hades, is off.”
“What?” Hades looked ready to explode, as he stalked towards Hermes, who nervously backed away. “Who does Zeus think he is? We made an agreement, a deal!”
“I’m only the messenger,” Hermes said, frightened. “Anyway, Zeus says that you are to return Persephone back to Demeter with me, immediately, or we will both suffer the consequences.”
“Never,” Hades growled, his black eyes turning to face Persephone. “I won’t let him take you.”
All she could do was stare at him; her mind had gone numb. “You made a deal,” she finally managed to say. “You made an agreement with Zeus, with my father; an agreement that allowed you to steal me from my home, so you could force me to be your bride.” She took a step back as came towards her. “I thought you actually cared; I thought you actually had more of a heart than everyone else said you did.”
“Persephone,” he crooned, and attempted to gather her into his arms.
“Don’t touch me,” she cried, tearing away from his grip. “I- just, don’t.” She spun away from his hurt expression and began to run, away from them all. She ran until she found herself back by her garden, and she plopped down on the ground, burying her face in her hands. She rocked back and forth as she cried for the second time that day, only this time, she was sobbing.
She cried until she couldn’t anymore, and then she just sat there, staring at the ground. She jumped when she felt him touch her shoulder, and she pulled away from his hand. “I’m sorry,” he said softly, sitting down beside her, but far enough away so that he didn’t make any contact with her. “I’m so sorry, Persephone.”
She didn’t respond, only watched the ground. “Look at me,” he begged, and after a few moments hesitation, she tore her gaze from the grass to his face. She was surprised to see the sorrow in his expression, but she didn’t say anything.
Now that he had her attention, Hades seemed hesitant to speak. He took a deep breath and looked into her empty garden. “I thought you knew,” he said, almost in a whisper. “When you first came here, you asked why I took you away and gave you your freedom, and I told you to try and figure it out on your own. Persephone, I thought you had it figured out; I thought you knew why I took you.” He turned back to her. “Do you know?”
She shook her head, her mind still numb. “Persephone,” he said, and tentatively touched her fingers. When she didn’t pull away, he rested his hand on top of hers, covering it completely. “I love you, Persephone. I’ve loved you since I first held you in my arms. I’ve watched you from outside your mother’s protected glen your whole life, and the more I watched, the more I fell in love. I went to Zeus and begged him to let me have you and he obliged. So I took you and I’ve fallen in love with you even more.”
Her mouth dropped open, and when she looked into his eyes, she could tell he was speaking the truth. “Oh,” was all she managed. “You do?”
He nodded. “With all of my heart, if what I have can even be considered a heart. But now, I have to lose you.” Then, his face grew determined and he grasped her hand and pulled her from the ground. He led her to a tree she’d never noticed before; a tree that was laden with round, red fruits that were bigger than an apple. He dropped her hand and picked one of the fruits, breaking it open.
“All of the food that you’ve eaten here has been brought to you from above,” he said. “Do you know why that is?” She shook her head, and he pulled out six red seeds from inside of the fruit. “The food of the Underground is cursed,” he explained. “When you eat it, it seals your bond here, forever. If you eat, you can never leave this place.”
Then, he held out the seeds to her, and she looked at him in surprise. “If you eat these pomegranate seeds, you can never truly leave, Persephone. I love you, and I don’t want you to ever leave me, but I cannot defy the orders of Zeus. But if you eat these, you will have to return to me for six months out of the year, and I can have you to myself.” He took her hand and placed the seeds in her palm, curling her fingers around them. “You have to chose, Persephone.”
Then, Hades leaned in and gently placed a kiss on her lips. Drawing back from her, he gave her a small smile and turned away, walked down the path. She watched him go, and felt more tears trickle down her face.
She opened her palm and looked at the pomegranate seeds. He was right; at the back of her mind, she had known why he’d taken her. And, if she was true to herself, she would admit that she felt the same way. She, Persephone, daughter of Demeter and Zeus, had fallen in love with Hades, the God of the Dead. And she wanted to stay with him, no matter what it took.
She closed her eyes and poured the seeds into her mouth, letting herself fully enjoy the sweet taste of the fruit. Then, she hurried back along the path and to the throne room, feeling a mixture of joy, sorrow, and excitement.
Before she entered the castle again, a tiny narcissus flower caught her eye. She smiled as she realized she knew what to put in her locket, and she picked the tiny flower. Now she would have something to remember him by when they were apart.
When she entered the throne room, she bowed her head and approached the two gods. “I’m ready,” she said quietly to Hermes, and then she turned to Hades. He watched her carefully as she approached him.
“Persephone,” he pleaded softly. “You’re worrying me.”
She smiled. “There’s no need to worry. We’ll meet again in six months.” Then, she stood on her toes and initiated her own kiss. “I’ll miss it here,” she whispered. “But it’s time for me to go.”
Then she turned away and ran to Hermes, who held out his hand to her. “Your lips are red with the fruit of the Underworld,” he said with surprise. “I’m assuming I’ll be taking you back here soon?”
“Yes,” she replied, smiling through her tears and taking his hand. “I will return.”
Six months later, Persephone hurried through the castle, searching for its king. Worry filled her when she didn’t find him anywhere, so she pushed open the doors that led to the gardens and ran down the path.
“Please,” she begged to herself as horrible scenarios filled her mind. Maybe he’d given up on her; in the amount of time she’d been away, he’d realized he didn’t love her and had found another. She came to the end of the path and to her garden, which had grown beautifully. It was empty.
She spun around as despair began to fill her heart, and she feared she would break into sobs. Then, she felt a strong pair of arms encircle her from behind, and she spun around to find herself staring into his beautiful, grey eyes. “Oh, Hades,” she cried, and buried her head into his chest. “I thought you weren’t here.”
“How could I not be here?” His voice was amused. “I’ve missed you too much, my Persephone.” He held her as tight as possible, and for the first time in six months, or maybe for her whole life, Persephone was truly happy.