Prologue

Dark corridors. Small torches of weak flickering fire punctuate the darkness and shine upon the gleaming slime of the damp walls. The only bright light to be seen in all the miserable labrynth is by an open wooden door, their catching glare casting demons into the wooden carvings. Through the gap in the open door, two shadows dance on the shining wall - one is tall and muscular, the other small and slender. They embrace, but their lips have barely touched when a scream emits from the smaller shadow who falls to the ground. Writhing like fire on lime, she shrieked as though white hot blades pierced her skin. The larger shadow fell to the ground trying to clutch the others shaking hand as she slowly turned before him. The shadow gone, only one reflected on the wall and in his grief he struck the ground, cracking the stone floor and cried her echoing name - Leukie.

The Autumn Festival

Persephone lay down on her bed, the sun filtering its dusty rays through the open window. The chiton she was going to be wearing that night was hanging up in front of her, its deep blue waving silkily in the breeze. Looking at it she felt excited about the night ahead. She couldn't wait to get of Sicily even for just a few hours and finally join the other Gods. She hated Sicily, it was her prison and she its' prisoner. It was here that she whiled away the endless hours, picking a field of ever-growing flowers that bloomed in a tired light. Her Mother was a stranger - someone who ran off in a blurry of activity each day to tend the fields only to zoom off at night again to present a speech or to send ill omens to some ungrateful King. She was there only to scold and yell. By Zeus, how Persephone detested her. It was because of Demeter that she had this lame duty - Goddess of Spring. A duty given to her to give them time to come up with something better. It showed her what they all thought of her though: an echo. A mere shadow of her mother.

Persephone stood up and watched Apollo's chariot beginning to set and began to get ready for the night ahead. Brushing her fiery red hair she stared into the mirror thinking about what was in front of her. All of the deities would be there tonight, even Hades. Her Mother wasn't too happy about that. She didn't like Hades, for what reason Persephone had never really been told but she had gathered that he was not at all popular. Mother had called him a tyrant, bad tempered and evil beyond words.

"Persephone, you better get ready now, we'll be going soon." Persephone heard her Mother call.

"Ok Mother" Persephone said, walking over to her dress. No doubt she was in for an interesting night.

* * *

Demeter stood strictly erect as she unpacked her notes watching her daughter stand awkwardly at the sides as the Pantheon mingled and chattered, selecting seats before the lectern. The Goddess of Plants sighed - Persephone was a hopeless case. If anything was going to happen in the marriage department then she, Demeter, was going to have to get involved. Now that Apollo, he was a nice God - rich, responsible and a must have on any invitation list.

The Gods seated; Demeter took out a pointer and started her presentation. "The Harvest has been a success this year." she pronounced. "The King of Crete has been most generous in his sacrifices and I am pleased to announce that famine is at an all time low. In fact if you care to look at this chart I prepared earlier it is now falling by - Demeter looked up angrily as the doors to the hall noisily swung open as Hades entered late as usual. She gave him a furious glare as the doors clanged shut "As I was saying," she started agan, "Famine is now falling by 3% a year."

God this is boring, Persephone thought. The speech finished, the Gods now mingled with incessant chatter, sipping the nectar that the cherubs were offering. She took a glass herself and wandered through the hall feeling quite left out of club. She had been so sure that this night would be fantastic, a taste of freedom, but all the Gods looked down upon her, she was just a child really, a non entity in their busy enterprising world. There was one God though, who seemed just as left out as her. He stood on the edge of the crowd and despite his height he seemed somewhat diminished. No nectar sat idly in his hands - instead they were folded across his chest as he slumped darkly against one of the halls pearly pillars. His hair - black, but softly ignited in blue gaseous flames. In fact, Persephone thought looking him up and down, he was all black. His toga, which stretched to full length, was as black as death. "Hades" Persephone realised, eyeing him over her glass of nectar. So this was public enemy Number 1. She hadn't expected him to seem so bothered by the deity's obvious dislike, she had assumed that he would be haughty, aloof and malicious but here stood before her an anxious God who was clearly ill at ease.

Maybe it was pity that made Persephone go over to him, or maybe it was the fact that she had seen something of herself in him, but she did and so she started the ripples that would echo for eternity.

Unaware of the future that she had chosen by walking towards him, she ambled slowly, looking fashionably casual towards him. He wasn't looking at her, but instead was scrutinising the quality of the cloud drapes that hung over the golden pillar.

"Hi, I'm Persephone"

He looked up sharply at her with a surprised look upon his face.

"Shouldn't you be with the Olympian do-gooders society?" he said gruffly sulkily swirling the dregs of his drink.

"Fine. Have it your way then" Persephone replied sharply and turned her heel to march off when -

"Hey, wait kid"

Turning round she responded "Yes, kid?"

"Sorry about that, just after a few millennia of being the enemy you don't generally get deity's just coming up and being polite."

"Yeah, well there's a first time for everything" she answered, staring up at him. He was hardly good looking, far from it in fact. He had grotesque ashen grey skin, his teeth were long and fang like and the head of fire didn't really help either...

"So, Persephone, huh? Well I bet not even the Fates ever saw the day Demeter's daughter would be let out of Sicily"

She smiled "Tell me about it, even though hardly anyone is talking to me its brilliant to be out of Sicily. I can't stand being there but my Mother never lets me out. It drives me nuts"

"Parents can be a right pain sometimes" he sympathised, "I mean look at mine. At least your father didn't try to eat you"

Persephone laughed, "That's true but she still so annoying. You'd think that since I hardly ever see her I'd get on with her when I do, but I don't. Its worse when she's around"

"My mother was hardly any better. It was always "Zeus that, Zeus this, why can't you be more like Zeus". At least you haven't any siblings who pester you or lord it over you." Hades' face twisting as he said this, hatred flickering as he glanced to his brother.

"Yeah but if I had a little brother or sister then -

"Persephone!" Demeter exclaimed and then more quietly so Hades couldn't hear - "Don't you know who that is? Don't want you mixing with him, God knows what everyone will think of you. Come and meet Apollo now, he's been dying to see you". Persephone mouthed "Sorry!" at Hades as her mother led her away by the arm towards the rest of the gods. Once she'd turned around he put down his glass and left the hall.

* * *

Hades. Of all the Gods she had to choose to socialise with! Demeter would never understand her daughter, no doubt she'd only done it to get back at her, Persephone did after all know how much her mother hated him. They'd been silent on the way back; both angry with each other but the silence broke when they got home.

"Couldn't you have talked to Hermes or Aphrodite or someone? Did you have to talk to him of all people?" She told her daughter exasperatedly when they got home, slamming her bag of notes on the table.

"I was only being nice, he was the only deity there who would talk to me" Persephone retorted. She began to head out of the room when Demeter started again.

"Nice? Nice? He doesn't know the meaning of the word! He's evil, he was born evil and he'll always be evil" She cried adamantly. "The less you have to do with him the better."

"You can't lock me up forever you know! One day I'll be out of this dump, and you know what? I'll be glad to get away from you" with that her daughter stormed out and banged the door of her room shut.

* * *

It was quite late now; the stars were twinkling like beacons of hope and freedom in the deep black pool of sky. Persephone lay on the long springy grass of Sicily staring up at the sky and pondering over what her mother had said: "he was born evil, he'll always be evil." But that didn't tally with the person she had met tonight. Hades of the stories and the gossip was controlling, sly, a malicious schemer with his eye always looking out for the opportunity of more power. That wasn't the God she had met tonight though. That Hades, whilst sullen and gruff, was more sensitive (if that's the right word) than the stories let on.

The thudding of hooves broke the still night air. Persephone wrenched her eyes away from the stars to see Athalan, the Centaur, coming towards her. He was her only companion, a friend of sorts although "friend" is almost a degrading term for a person of such wisdom and age - even for a Goddess!

"It is late and yet Persephone still wanders beneath the sky." He spoke smiling at her. "That means but one thing. Discord is rife between the Mother and the Daughter."

Persephone returned her eyes to the sky. "I went to the Harvest Festival up on Olympus for the first time. There I met Hades and he seemed different. He wasn't the Hades of the stories. But Mother says he was born evil and will always be evil. But I'm not so sure" she told him.

Athalan lay down beside her, his silvery coat gleaming softly in the moon light, and joined her gaze to the stars. Unlike Persephone he could read the secrets and wisdom that they displayed. He was like most Centaurs though, and did not readily share his wisdom with others. "No one is born evil, absolutely no one. We are what the world has made us and even once we have sunk into the deepest, darkest abyss our hearts still hold a shard of light that sees the suns daily rise."

Persephone laughed softly at this. "You've me more confused than I was before. No doubt some day I'll understand it all, after all I do have all of time to learn it in."

Athalan looked to the east to se a shimmer of light breaking the dark. "But I do not" he said. "Dawn is approaching, I must go back to the herd. Do not fret, Demeter shall learn and so shall you." And with that he galloped away to the cover of the forest, his hoof beats resounding on the turf.