|He Whose Throne is Darkness
Author: anonymousse PM
The beautiful goddess of spring is spirited away to the cold, dank Underworld to be the bride of Hades, the equally cold and frightening God of the Dead. While her mother frantically searches for her, Persephone slowly realizes that she doesn't want to leave, as her grief and dread eventually become something else...Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Supernatural - Chapters: 10 - Words: 16,398 - Reviews: 13 - Favs: 21 - Follows: 34 - Updated: 12-11-12 - Published: 05-21-12 - id: 3024514
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Another spirit timidly entered the room and approached her mistress.
"Madam, the Master has summoned you to dine with him," she said hesitantly.
Persephone's stomach clenched, and the ichor drained from her face. "M-must I go?"
"You needn't be afraid, My Lady," her handmaidens chimed in reassuringly; "everything will be alright. He simply wishes to see you."
"I don't really have a choice, do I?"
Her chambermaids readied her for supper with beauty rituals that seemed strange to her—bathing her in jasmine water, anointing her with olive oil, applying pomegranate juice to her cheeks and lips to redden them, darkening her eyelashes with some black paste, putting drops of belladonna in her eyes to dilate her pupils. They dressed her in a gown of black linen that clung to her body more than she was accustomed to, its narrow pleats making her appear even taller and slenderer.
As one of the ghosts arranged her curls to perfection, she whispered, "You are dazzling, My Lady," holding a mirror for her to look at herself.
A beautiful goddess gazed back at her—a pale, queenly, statuesque goddess—but she did not recognize her. Persephone bit her rouged lip in anxiety, and so did the mirror-image. This reflection looked about five years older, and far more confident than she felt. Perhaps she could make it through the evening without betraying her terror.
Though still wretched and morose, she had sufficiently composed herself by now that she could maintain a serene façade. She held her head high, despite her dread. The maids led her through the palace to the dining hall.
Before she entered, however, the ghost who had given her the mirror leaned over and breathed urgently in her ear, "Do not eat anything he gives you. He wishes to entrap you here. Whoever eats the food of the Underworld, even just one bite, is bound to this world forever."
Blanching at this warning, but nodding gratefully, she entered the dining hall.
An enormous hearth, flickering with blue flames, dominated the far wall. A feast was laid out on a long table, though there was only one other figure in the room.
She gulped. Somehow, she had forgotten just how towering and imposing he was.
"My dear," he said with a courtly bow. "Thank you for joining me."
His voice was so polite and detached, contradicting the intense stare from his dark eyes.
Her courage left her. Her throat became too dry to speak.
"Please, won't you sit down?" he said, graciously offering her a stool.
Shakily, she took her seat.
He must have noticed her shivering, for he observed, "You are cold. Forgive me—I ought to have realized that you would be unused to this climate."
He nodded to the fire, which doubled in size and the warmth it produced.
"Better?" he asked.
She nodded. "Thank you," she whispered.
He took his seat at the head of the table and began to fill his plate.
Persephone's mouth watered at the dishes on the table—a bowl heaped full of apples, figs, and quinces; ripe olives; warm fresh bread; and roasted lamb. But she remembered the warning her maid had given her.
He offered her the bowl of fruit innocently.
"No, thank you," she said, struggling to keep her voice steady. "I'm not hungry."
She clenched her hands on the edge of the table, waiting for his ire at her defiance. To her surprise, he merely smiled and held up another dish.
"Won't you at least try some of the olives? They taste even better than those from above. It is the soil down here, you see—volcanic soil—it is some of the most fertile on earth."
She tried to keep her expression cool and unconcerned as she repeated, "No, thank you."
She dared not make eye contact with him, but his voice was still light.
"At least join me in a glass of wine," he offered. "It is an excellent vintage."
Resolute but scared, she shook her head.
Sneaking a glance at his face, she saw that he merely had raised his eyebrows, a small smile on his lips.
"So you have been warned. Your maids must like you very much."
She paled. "It wasn't them, I—I heard it elsewhere—"
"Noble of you to protect them, my dear, but it is unnecessary. I will not punish them for giving you the truth." He folded his hands together and studied her. "So you intend not to eat anything?"
"That is correct."
"I will not die of starvation."
"True, but it will still be rather unpleasant for you. The temptation will only grow with your hunger." He waved a hand carelessly. "Of course, it matters little whether or not you are magically connected to this place."
It chilled her insides, to hear him imply so nonchalantly the impossibility of escape.
"My mother will find me eventually," Persephone said, with as much confidence as she could muster. "She will bring me home."
"No god can enter the realm of another without an invitation," he replied smugly. "It is one of the most ancient of laws."
She turned her face away from him. "She'll find a way," she muttered.
"If you say so, my dear," he said, as if humoring a child.
Admittedly, he did have a point about the temptation being unbearable. Already, hunger was gnawing at her insides, and the aroma from the table—the tartness of the fruit, the savory meat—was alarmingly tantalizing.
Then something among the dishes caught her eye—an unremarkable-looking white pudding—ambrosia, the food of the gods. Even Hades had to consume it in order to retain his immortality. Her heart leapt: it could only be made on Mount Olympus itself—it must be safe. It could at least appease her hunger until Demeter came to her rescue.
Feeling his gaze on her, but refusing to look back at him, she spooned a dollop of ambrosia onto her plate. Hesitantly, she took a spoonful. She felt no different, save a little warmer and stronger. It was fluffy and sweet. Ambrosia was a delicacy, but, in excess, could be cloying—which was the reason the gods ate it accompanied with mortal food. Persephone had difficulty swallowing it all.
"Clever girl," Hades remarked. He almost sounded impressed, and strangely satisfied in some way. Glancing over at him, she saw he had raised his hands as if to say she had won this round. "I should not underestimate you."
"Nor should you underestimate my mother."
"Demeter does not even know where you are. The nymphs who were supposed to be looking after you fled in fear of her wrath." He paused. "You must accept this, Persephone. The sooner you let go of your former home, the sooner you can embrace your new one. You must regard this as your home now. Your sorrow will fade if you do so."
The tears she had been repressing throughout their conversation burst forth. Loath as she was to show any more vulnerability in front of him—and despite having thought that all of her tears had already been shed—she could not control them any longer.
He seemed frozen for a moment, watching her cry into her hands.
"Did I say something wrong?" he asked blankly, still seeming shocked.
She could not articulate a verbal answer, but internally cringed at his obvious lack of compassion. "If I said something to upset you, truly, I am sorry," he said quietly. "I had no intention of grieving you further."
His words are dead and hollow, she thought. There is not a trace of real warmth in him.
Indeed, his voice hardly fluctuated in its stoic tone as he said, "Persephone. I only meant to console you."
Through her tears, she managed a derisive snort at this.
"I regret the…peremptory way I brought you here, Persephone. It was an ugly way of obtaining you, I know, and I hope that I can make amends to you someday."
She took a deep breath to steady her nerves, but said nothing.
"You shall be a high and mighty queen. Does that give you no joy?"
Queen of a wasteland, she thought contemptuously, a cringe-worthy title.
"I will love you everlastingly," he added tonelessly.
"Do you even know what that means?" she could not help but retort.
His momentary silence made her tense—had she incensed him? But, to her surprise, his spidery hand forced her chin up, so their eyes locked, and his face was as smooth as ever.
"I wish I knew the art of wooing, My Lady," he said. "But no honeyed words are sufficient to praise your beauty and grace, nor are they enough to cure your grief. I do not know how to win your favor, like another man might—therefore my abruptness may cause you to doubt my sincerity. But if I have one virtue, it is that my word can be trusted."
She broke her gaze away from his cold, hypnotic eyes.
"My mother needs me," she pleaded feebly. "Please, let me return to her."
"When your fate becomes known to her, Demeter may grieve for a time, but eventually she will accept that you must live your own life. Every maid must leave her family's house and join her husband's—this is the nature of things."
For the first time, his tone actually changed a fraction, grew unexpectedly soft and silky—yet she trusted it as she would a python coiling about her. "My dearest, I know that you need time, above all else, and we have an abundance of that. I only ask that, if there is anything I can give you or do for you that would ease your pain, that you will simply ask."
She opened her mouth to speak, but he cut her off, predicting her response.
"Save for sending you home," he clarified.
Well, it was worth a try, she thought resignedly.
*****Author's note: Sorry about the long wait! Unfortunately, I can't guarantee that updates will come any quicker, because I'm in the complicated process of transferring to another college and stuff (sigh, boring). But don't worry, I will not forget about this story, I will keep working on it. I'm actually pretty pleased with this chapter, since we *finally* get some interaction between our two leads.
Thank you so much to everyone who's reviewed, favorited, and been following this story. I hope you enjoy, and please, drop me a comment if you are so inclined. I appreciate it! :)