Farewell Happy Fields
It has been incredibly long since I updated this—and for that I offer my apologies. I've gotten sidetracked with school and career-furthering, and the like, but I always found myself coming back to this story, tweaking things, writing more in spurts. I have seen it continue to be added to author alerts and favorites, and it makes me insanely giddy to think that my writing is appreciated :)
That having been said: here is the fifth chapter, too long in the making, again littered with references to literary works and the like. I'm going to be going back and fixing some inconsistencies in the earlier chapters within the next month or so (I still have finals coming and then write-on competition for journal), and the next chapter should be posted within the next week or so (it's nearly finished).
Please let me know what you think! I'm always happy to hear suggestions, comments, constructive criticism, etc.
V. Please, take me back to my fields and flowers.
The darkness was vast, suffocating, unlike anything she had ever known. The night was dark in the fields, and even from Olympus, but even then, the stars, bright little pinpricks of light were scattered across the midnight blue above. Under the ground, there was nothing. The spring goddess could scarcely tell whether her eyes were open or shut for a long moment.
Then, there was a small reflection of light across one of the rocks—overhead or next to her, she couldn't quite tell. Then, there was another, and another, different colors all of them, not like stars, but rather prismatic. Still struggling, pushing against the god who held her tightly, she squinted, trying to get a better look at her surroundings. Crystals and gems, as she had never seen before, rushed past, more and more in number as they journeyed deeper and deeper. Kore had never seen such things. She blinked, shaking her head slightly, and resuming her fidgeting and pushing, noting that they were nearing the ground, passing over the vast river she had only heard tales of, and the ferryman as he pushed his skiff off from the opposite shore. The chariot flew low, over fields of asphodel and past the huge three-headed dog, black and ferocious and barking at his master's arrival, and the cattle herds cared for by Menoetius before finally landing with barely a bump, not thirty yards from a huge palace.
"Let go of me!" she said.
He released his hold, and eyed her carefully.
Kore was silent for a moment as she looked at him, completely ignoring their surroundings, not staring at the vast building in front of them, or commenting on the journey there, nothing about the riches under the ground or the beasts they had passed.
She did not glance around, did not look past the black gates, not at the Stygian city or orchards or Asphodel fields, not toward the ferocious hound or sable-black cattle, not to the winding rivers or the ferryman, not at the royal palace with its echoing halls. Instead, the spring goddess looked at him, the Ruler of Many, King of the Dead in his darkly exalted majesty, grimly resplendent, her eyes meeting his evenly. He looked fit for his vast domain, seemed even taller and more imposing a figure in the darkness of his realm.
"Why have you brought me here? What do you want with me?" she asked, without hint of hesitation, her tone far from warm or pleased. There was no curtsy, no smile, no subtle coyness to her voice or demeanor — just a pointed, questioning look, jaded and skeptical, leery and mindful, betraying the fanciful blooms that were woven into her tresses — lilies and violets aplenty, that luring narcissus made to grow as a snare tucked behind her ear — and the flowery diadem that sat atop her head. The bouquet she'd held in her hands minutes before had scattered to the wind when he had taken her, abducted her, and now she looked at him, wanting to know why. "Please, take me back to my fields and flowers."
"Persephone," Hades offered her his arm, which she looked at with a raised brow for an awkward silent moment. Unflinching, he took her hand in his and looped her arm with his himself. Then, he led her toward the palace, up marble steps. The large double doors opened before them, as if on cue.
She looked at him again.
"Why have you brought me here? Please, take me back to my fields and flowers."
Again, there was no answer, just a nod toward the direction in which he was leading her.
Inside the palace itself was beyond description. The floors were black marble, the walls white marble, with inexplicably intricate tapestries, woven with richly colored threads and what seemed to be gold and silver, in places. Ornate rugs covered the floors, in matching rich colors, and the ceiling seemed twenty or thirty feet overhead. There were large windows on either side of the entrance hall, and indeed, through each vast room they passed, decorated with window hangings in exotic fabrics Kore had never seen.
Kore's dark eyes opened wide for a fraction of a moment as they scanned the room quickly, but her attention quickly turned to him again. And she was about to repeat her question when they entered a room easily three times the size of the throne room at Olympus, with three large chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, an ornate red rug running down the center of the room, toward a dais. On the dais, there were two thrones, just as splendid as anything else in the palace, if not moreso, one carved, it seemed, of ebony, and the other of ivory. And on the ivory throne was a box, cherry wood with what looked like floral decorations on it, in gold leaf.
Hades held out his free hand, and the box flew toward him; he caught it effortlessly.
"Persephone, I want to say something to you," he said, unlooping his arm from hers and taking her hand.
She looked at him curiously, though the peculiarity of her situation was certainly not forgotten. But Kore knew she had to approach the whole thing carefully. She did not know of another way out of the Underworld—she had never heard of any way to get out save by paying the ferryman his fare, and to do that she would have to get away from Hades, past his guards, past the massive dog, and what seemed a very long way to just break into a run without a plan. So, she listened, and tried to be polite. Perhaps, she thought, she could reason with him and he would take her back. This was probably just a misunderstanding—after all, Hades did not seem the type to transform himself into animals to deceive women and have his way with them or anything of the sort. He seemed rational, at least. His words took her from her reverie.
"If it pleases you to be my true loyal queen and friend, to consent to marry me, I promise, I'll take you as my queen, as queen of the Underworld, ruling by my side, as an equal, over a third of the world." He smiled at her, and even as she opened her mouth to speak, he placed a finger over her lips to silent her.
"I won't have a thought or an affection for anyone else. If you agree to be my wife, I promise, I shall serve only you," he said. He looked at her expectantly. But the reaction he got was anything but what he had hoped for.
"Your wife? Your queen?" she asked, the disbelief evident on her features.
"Yes, and you will have everything you need. Everything to give to you within my power is yours, just ask." He paused, looking at her. Then he opened the box, revealing a sparkling crown, glittering platinum, with more diamonds than Kore had seen in her entire life, and several emeralds, and rubies, and pearls, all arranged so that they formed flowers.
The spring goddess' dark eyes narrowed slightly as she looked at him incredulously, but said nothing. Those dark eyes had only glanced at the box for half a moment.
"What is it?" he asked. "Do you not like it?" he shifted almost nervously, a rarity for the King of the Dead.
She shook her head and he looked at her, confused.
"No, it's not that," she said, carefully. "It's lovely, really, any woman would be happy to have it, but," she closed the box carefully, and pushed it to him slightly. "I cannot be your queen."
Hades laughed, his laughter echoing throughout the large chamber. "Oh? And why is that?" he asked, amusement shining in his eyes.
The spring goddess looked at him. "Your gracious majesty," she began, "this crown is much too beautiful, and I, unworthy to receive it. I think I never gave your majesty cause to give such a thing to me."
He shook his head, chuckling again, and returned the closed box to the ivory throne. He took both her hands this time, before grabbing her chin and tilting it up gently as his blue eyes bore into her dark pair.
"My lady, this crown was made for you, just as that throne," he gestured toward the ivory throne, and on closer inspection, Kore could see that it, too, was decorated with engravings of flowers, "not for anyone else. And why are you not worthy when I deem you so?" he asked, stroking her cheek gently. His brown hair and shadow of his short beard shone very slightly in the lighting of the room.
She pulled away, brows knitted together. "Your highness," she said, "your tokens and signs of affection frighten me." She took a step back. "How can I be to you what you think me to be?" She half-laughed, in almost nervous disbelief. "I am just a spring goddess. I do not belong here. I belong up there, with my mother, with my friends, and the flowers and birds and trees and grass."
"No, Persephone, you do belong here," he said, in a tone that was just marginally shorter than his previous words. From his perspective, she was being stubborn. He was offering her a crown, a throne, rule over a third of the cosmos and his loyalty—perhaps the long way down had left her dazed and confused. He grabbed her hand and pulled her toward him, almost flush against him, pushing her hair back with his free hand and leaning in toward her ear. "I would be no unfitting husband to you, my sweet Persephone," he whispered, his breath tickling her.
The spring goddess was unused to any sort of intimate contact, had never experienced anything like this proximity. She had been playful with Hermes, for certain, and had been subject to Apollo's sweet words with crude meanings behind them—Hephaestus had even given her a necklace of glittering jewels, which had left her mother utterly horrified—but there had never been anything like this. Her face felt hot, very hot, and she was very aware that she was blushing a vivid red. She pulled away, again, placing her hands on his chest to help her distance herself from him.
"You—kidnapped—me!" she said, her voice just a bit louder than it had been before. Gone was the attempt at reason, at negotiation, at trying to talk him into releasing her. She looked flustered, could feel her heart hammering away inside her chest, beating wildly. She pointed at him, an accusatory look in her eyes. "You took me from my friends, from my fields, my flowers, from everything I have ever known."
"I desire to make you my queen, Persephone," he said. "Is that not enough? I have offered you a chance to raise you up, to treat you as an equal. It is not so bad down here. I am not so bad, I promise you." There was still a hint of pleading in his voice, but his tone was becoming shorter and shorter. In truth, Hades was beginning to get upset. And what she said next did nothing to help the cause she was trying to further.
She broke out, protesting, "No winning words about death to me, your highness! By Styx, I'd rather slave on earth for another man—some dirt-poor worldly mortal who scrapes to keep alive—than rule down here over all the breathless dead!" she said, angrily.
Hades' lighter eyes darkened considerably as he looked at her. Her words hit him like cold water, stabbed at his insides a way he had never known. His expression hardened and he grabbed her arm again. "Listen to me, Persephone," he said, "you will rule down here with me, and you will be my queen. That is final," his voice was stern, louder than she had heard it yet, and had she been anyone who knew him better she would have been silent and nodded, averted her eyes, or something.
But she did not.
Instead, she met his gaze without shrinking back, pulling her arm away roughly. "You didn't even let me say good-bye!" she said fiercely.
Hades paused. "No. No, I did not," he said. "For that I must apologize," he added. "But I saw no other way."
She half-laughed again, a bitter near-chuckle. "No other way? Because what you did was not barbaric?"
"Enough!" he half-yelled, his voice echoing throughout the halls.
Persephone, again, did not shrink back, but glared up at him defiantly. "So now what?" she asked, crossing her arms in an almost defensive way and looking at him. The unasked question hung in the air heavily, and it was quite clear what she meant by her words: was he going to drag her to wherever his bedchamber was and attempt to assert whatever sort of conjugal rights he thought he was entitled to, now that he had made all these proclamations? She scowled at the thought, trying hard not to let the very real fear she was starting to feel creep over her.
"I'll show you to your rooms. Since you will be staying with us for a while, I want to see to it that you are comfortable," he said, cordially.
"My rooms?" she asked, raising a dark brow and making no move to step closer to him—in fact, she was trying every bit to inch away as best as she could.
"Yes, your rooms," he said, with an air of nonchalance. "My own will be just down the hall." He paused, for dramatic effect. "Unless you'd like to stay in Tartarus," he added, trying to lighten the mood with a macabre joke.
Unfortunately, she seized the opportunity to quip back, eager for anything to steer the subject away from rooms and beds and being confined to the same small space with him.
"Oh? I was unaware that that was an option," she said.
Hades shot her a glare. "Do you ever not have anything to say?" he asked, taking her shoulders and leading her out of the throne room, up a large staircase, and down another hallway, past more tapestries, more windows with exotic hangings only drawing attention to the bleak landscape that surrounded the stately palace. And despite all the gold, the gems, the elaborate decor, there were no flowers, not real flowers, anyway, no fish swimming through the streams or rivers, no birds flying—even the trees seemed dull and near inanimate. She suppressed a shiver as he stopped in front of a large door, again with an elaborate floral motif carved into it.
He opened the door with a wave of his hand and gestured for her to enter.
The room itself was decorated in mostly rich greens, and was easily two or three times as large as her room with Demeter. A large window opened to a balcony overlooking the orchards below, with a view of the river. On the far side of the room, the bed was immense, a style she had never seen before, and dressed in fabrics she did not recognize with patterns just as tasteful and exquisite as everything else in the damnable place. An open door led to a bathroom, and another to what looked like a dressing room, with an expansive closet. On the nightstand was a vase of flowers—not real, fresh cut, but rather crystal imitations, and the mirrored vanity had another, hand-held looking glass decorated with jewels, and a matching comb and brush. There was also a chimneyplace, closer to the door, with a plush rug next to it, in front of a luxurious sofa.
Hades watched her take in the sight before her; she appeared almost flabbergasted for half a second, but it was short-lived.
She turned to him, frowning again. "This is, again, all very beautiful, so much more than I've ever had, but I cannot accept this," she said. "Please, take me back to my fields and flowers."
"No. You are accepting this, and I am not taking you back. Do not ask me again." He said. "I will be tending to my duties. You are more than welcome to join me, or you may rest until dinner, or look around the grounds, if you wish. If you need anything, our servants can attend you, or you can come to me," he added, before she could say anything further. He turned and walked out the door, closing it just in time to hear the crash of something breaking against the door behind him.
"I am not asking! I am no longer asking!" she said, fuming in anger and desperation. "Please! Let me go! I don't need anything! I don't want anything from you! Just let me go! My freedom is all I desire!" She leaned up against the far wall and gradually slid down to the floor, holding her knees close to her, as if it would make her feel safer, but feeling very apprehensive all the same, placing her face in her hands. "The only thing I want in the world is to go back," she almost whispered, her voice soft and nearly cracking.
How long he stood outside the door listening, waiting for more was difficult to say. But after several moments of silence elapsed, he finally broke away, unable to hear more. He should have known better than to listen to his brother, better than to do anything the way that the King of Olympus had suggested...