CHAPTER 01

PERSEPHONE

It was a warm, sunny day. Well, at least it had been before she was grabbed up by a dark man who she only recognized from seeing him once on Olympus complaining to her father. She was dragged to the Underworld by Hades, carried in his powerful arms as he steered his black steeds to drive his chariot rapidly into the earth below. He had carried her into his dark castle, unperturbed by her confused, frightened sobs. The goddess was looking around in confusion; the land was so barren, and even the poplar trees that she attempted to reach out to refused to speak, and were likely dead, so withered they appeared.

Hades had scarcely said a word to her, setting her on a rather large, soft bed adorned in black like most of the room itself, though there were golden accents, and a few gems scattered around the room that drew her attention so she wouldn't have to look at the god as he whispered to her that he would return, and left the room. She was left alone in candlelit darkness, the flames of the candles scattered throughout the room providing dim, flickering light. Still, the gems in the corner drew her attention, and she walked over cautiously, not wanting to move too far in this room, because she was frightened of what Hades would do to her if she did anything he didn't like. She touched one of the gems, flinching back at the contact since it felt like a thunderous current shocked through her, and she swallowed hard, finding that the gem wasn't even out of the floor, simply peeking out as the floor held it firmly in its hard, earthy grip. It was not what she expected of the god of the Underworld for decoration. Persephone slowly returned to the bed, lying down on it.

As much as she hated to admit it, the bed was comfortable, and somewhat soothing to her frightened, hectic mind. She could sense his dark energy, far away as she curled up defensively, grabbing the pillow to hold to her face and push out the darkness of the Underworld, trying to find some form of break from the gloominess of this world. She inhaled through the pillow, mostly calm, up until she registered that the pillow smelled like Hades. An almost earthy smell, though certainly a more clean smell, like fresh soil, ready to grant life to the world. She had almost expected any earthy smell that came from him to smell like stale dirt, compacted over the dead bodies of those who lost their lives to him. Perhaps if he smelled like that, it would be easier to accept her decidedly grim fate, but she still didn't understand entirely.

The goddess peeked over the pillow as she felt his energies move minutes later, growing stronger, though thankfully slow. She wanted to hide, not sure of what the god wanted to do with her, so she took the pillow that she had deemed hers, even though his scent was all over it, and slipped under the bed, her small body an easy fit. She pressed her back against the wall in the far corner of the bed, where it would be the hardest to reach her. She wanted answers before she would go to the god that kidnapped her, and she wouldn't come anywhere near him if he intended to hurt her. The door opened, and she could see his feet. He seemed to pause at the door, and she swallowed, feeling panic claw at her throat, though she remained silent as a thought dawned on her.

She'd just cornered herself.

She buried her face in the pillow, not wanting to see her fate and what would happen next. She was immortal, yes, but there were ways to destroy or eternally torment immortals. She wondered what she had done to warrant his attention, and why she was being punished. As far as she knew, she had never done anything wrong, and as tears escaped her again and silent sobs of fear wracked her body, she tried inhaling that earthy scent again, even though it no longer held any comfort for her.

HADES

Contrary to what seemed to have become everyone's personal belief, the Greek lord of the Underworld was not an evil man. He did not take pleasure in the reaping of dead souls, nor did he find the screams and moans of the dying music to his ears. Simply because he preferred the dark solitude of the Underworld to Olympus or the mortal world, everyone assumed he himself could be up to no good. It annoyed him, if he were being honest, but he wasn't about to make a fuss over correcting them. Every second was precious, and he had more important matters to use his minutes on than the petty cries of his brothers and the other Olympians.

Even now, as Hades sat in his dimly lit study after delivering the goddess of springtime to his bedroom, he felt a blossom of guilt. If it had been his daughter whom he had allowed another god to simply take away with the intention of marrying her without her prior consent, he would have unleashed the dead on the world without hesitation. Zeus hadn't seemed to care much though, almost grateful that another reminder of his infidelity wouldn't be at Olympus any longer to stir the rage and vengeance his wife seemed to have endless amounts of. That annoyed Hades as well, merely adding to the list of reasons why he disliked Zeus and Poseidon above all other Olympians.

He hadn't said a word to Persephone as he'd stolen her away from the mortal world; he didn't want to risk anyone else speaking to the goddess before he'd had a chance to, and so swiftness had been his primary focus. Hades knew very well that any god or goddess that may appear suddenly if he'd tried taking his sweet time would try to twist her opinion of him further than it already likely was. He wanted to speak with her without having to face such excessive, unfounded prejudice.

The god of the dead eventually stood from his seat, it having been long enough for Persephone to be able to adjust to her new surroundings and be able to gather herself appropriately. She would not have been able to escape the castle, considering the amount of guards stationed around every corner and doorway. At least, not yet. Hades left the room, continuing down the corridor to where his bedroom was located. The interior of the castle was elegantly adorned, extravagant in a simply way. Torches were placed on a nook every few feet for the ease of soldiers, the flames that grew from the oil pitch black despite displaying a natural white light.

Hades paused in front of the door, hearing nothing. He adjusted his black cloak, letting the hood fall from his face so that the light illuminated his morbidly handsome features before knocking once and promptly entering.

He wasn't surprised to see that the room appeared empty; he expected the goddess to be frightened and confused, given the circumstances. He knew she was there though - the energy her divine being emitted was of the only vital type in the entire kingdom. "You can come out from under the bed now, Persephone. I don't plan on hurting you. I would like to explain myself, if you would allow me to." He spoke quietly in a tone that was simultaneously firm and authoritative.

PERSEPHONE

The goddess of spring clung to her pillow, swallowing hard and letting out a soft whimper. He knew exactly where she was, and it frightened her. "You're lying," she murmured, even though somewhere inside, she knew he wasn't. He didn't sound like he was lying. In fact, he sounded more in-control than anything, but that didn't stop her from being afraid. There were very few reasons that the gods were brought to the Underworld. Each reason was more terrifying than the last. She took several deep breaths, searching for courage, and slowly managed to slip out from the bed.

Hades hadn't moved, his dark eyes staring at her, watching her, and she slowly met his eyes, swallowing hard as she stared at him. "Lord Hades...why am I here?" she asked softly, breaking eye contact so that her gaze would downcast, voice no more than a murmur. She was scared, acting as if she were stronger than she was in the hopes that he would find a fight with her a waste of time and leave her be, not that it would work.

He wouldn't hurt her. He'd said that, right? She swallowed again, meeting his eyes once more. She let her gaze flicker nervously, taking in his rather handsome features, though he was darker and more lean than most gods she had met thus far. Her eyes finally met his firmly and she blushed, considering he had yet to look away. If he had noticed her study of him, he had been merciful enough not to let her in on that. She didn't back up much, dropping down to sit on the bed again. She was young, and she was certainly beautiful in her decidedly innocent-looking form. But that was why most men avoided her; there were myths about girls like her being nymphs that would do something or other...she had lost track of the gruesome deeds because she didn't like violence or gore.

HADES

"If I wished to hurt you, I would have by now. I wouldn't have allowed you to settle and gain your bearings. And I would forcefully remove you from your hiding place. But as I said, I come in peace, more or less." Hades leaned his shoulders against the door, his arms crossed over his chest. His expression was cool and calm, a stark contrast to the general situation. He trained his eyes - darker than the blackest night - on the spot where he could sense the goddess was curled up, but did not move to get any closer to her.

Hades studied the goddess' beautiful features as he thought for a moment on how to tastefully answer her question. After all, he couldn't simply say he'd wanted a wife and Zeus had suggested Persephone, so there she was. "You are here," he began slowly, "not because you have done anything wrong or committed a crime, but because you are more beautiful than the flowers you help to bloom every springtime. I... I am lonely, Persephone. That is all. The Underworld is a large kingdom where my only constant companions are the Furies, Cerberus, and Thanatos, but even then, they each have their individual tasks that they must carry out within this place and that keep them occupied. I simply want someone I can be with here, be it as a friend or something more. There is no other reason why you are here. If I disgust you and you would like to leave now, you are free to go," he added, knowing that would be the reaction of countless goddesses had they been in Persephone's place. He just dearly hoped she wasn't too much alike them.

The god remained quiet as he waited for her to speak, his stare unblinking. He watched her study him, his own inspection of the immortal already completed. He said nothing, did nothing; Hades just waited, still and pale enough to have been one of the marble statues erected of him in Greece.

PERSEPHONE

The goddess listened carefully to his explanation, taking several calming breaths as she stared at the floor, taking his words into account. She was thinking. Her eyes turned to him, considering he still watched her, hiding everything from her naive gaze. She rested her chin on the pillow, still looking at him as she thought. He wasn't out to hurt her, and she knew that. Finally, she quietly asked, "Do you have a romantic interest in me?" Men had never been interested in her, always cursing her for coming near because they believed her to be a nymph of some kind, which usually sent her to her solitary flower fields, alone with her mother in the sheltered world she had come to know.

His response left another blush on her cheeks, his compliments more than enough to flatter her. She wasn't stupid, of course. As much as everyone complained about him being so moody and dark, he had every right to be. Everyone left him on his own, alone in a kingdom that no one else wanted. He had all the power in the world, and for what? Finally, after careful consideration, she finally released the pillow, replacing it on his bed.

"Uhm...you can...come over here and sit...with me," she said slowly, testing the waters as she invited him to join her on the bed, though he still made her nervous as any man likely would at this time. "I...want you to tell me about yourself...so that I can...you know...make sure, Lord Hades...I don't...it's not fair for me to just...make a decision when I don't know you..." She swallowed hard, trying to meet his eyes. She was naive in this harsh world, still believing that fairness existed. If she hadn't, she likely would have just left, but...something about how Hades had admitted he was lonely, showing his desperation without being blatant...it made her feel for him. It made her want to be with him, at least long enough to be sure of the decision.

"I...I can call you Hades...right...?" she asked coyly, looking down at the floor instead of at him, although he was taller than her even seated. She didn't want to upset him, even though he had already told her he didn't want to harm her.

HADES

Hades raised an eyebrow when she finally spoke up, interrupting the almost deadly silence that had fallen over the room. Of every question he'd imagine she might ask him, that was the least expected of them all. "I would not call a woman beautiful - mortal or immortal - if I held no romantic interest in them," he stated simply. If nothing else, the goddess of springtime was a physical gem among females, although the same could be said for a majority of the other goddesses that were on Olympus and elsewhere.

The god of the dead nodded, dropping his arms as he stood up straight from where he had been leaning against the wall. "I didn't expect you to make a decision within the hour. I was going to give you as much time as you needed, allowing you to roam freely between my kingdom and above." Hades walked briskly over to the bed, sitting on the edge with the upper half of his body turned to face her. "What would you like me to tell you?" he asked. After all, he wasn't one to speak much in the beginning, and self reflection could be a most difficult task if you weren't completely full of yourself. He planned on answering any other questions she asked as completely and honestly as he was able to; despite the means in which he had brought her to the Underworld, he didn't want to keep her there based on the use of deception. Besides, he wasn't certain she could stay even if she wanted to; while he had asked for her father's permission to take her away and ask for her hand in his kingdom, he knew that Demeter would not be nearly as lenient...

"If you wish to," Hades answered with a shrug, his hands folded in his lap. For the moment, he wouldn't particularly mind if she simply called him by his name. If it made her feel more comfortable around him, it was a small privilege to grant.

PERSEPHONE

The goddess looked up at the god, thinking hard. "Well, Hades...I'm not very good at talking with...people. I'm usually avoided...so please don't be upset if I step out of line," she murmured before taking to some curious, naive questions; favorite color, favorite food, music interests, and other such silly questions that were more common to children than adult goddesses. Though finally, her basic curiosity satisfied, she decided to comment.

"You know...you don't really seem like how everyone talks about you." She blushed, realizing how vague she had been. "I mean, ah...you aren't a mean person, or super evil or sadistic or anything..." She looked down toward the floor. "Why do you let people think of you like that?" she asked, finally turning her eyes up to meet his. "If people knew you were willing to be friends, they'd probably be friends with you..." Of course, she didn't understand the extent that his kingdom isolated him from the world, as she was quite inexperienced in the duties the god had.

Her eyes flickered over him again in a chaste study, settling on his lips for just a moment, a blush surfacing on her lightly tanned skin again as the thought of kissing him passed through her mind. She wondered what it would be like, if his lips would be cold as people said, or if he was actually warm. Tentatively, she set a hand on his shoulder, flinching away as she felt how cold his skin was, then swallowing and trying again to grow used to the feeling. "I once heard something...really interesting...that people who don't have a reason to be warm, are very cold, even to the touch...but once they find love, they gain the warmth that they are missing," she murmured, blushing and looking at the ground.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't bore you with silly stories," she commented after a moment, though she was slowly getting used to the god's cold temperature.

HADES

Hades had to admit he was both surprised and amused at what Persephone's questions ended up becoming, although she would hardly be able to tell from his facial expression. As he answered, occasionally having to take a moment to think, it seemed to dawn on him how childlike and naive the goddess was. Regardless of not having children of his own, he was still an older brother; when his father had eaten his siblings when they were nothing more than infants, he'd gone through the motions of having to raise them as the eldest of the five that were consumed.

A ghost of a smile briefly flitted on the death god's lips. "I'm glad you've realized that. And I think, of all beings, immortals are the most scared of death. They expect to live an eternal life without worry of it ever coming to an end. I am more attuned to death and the dead, so I believe they fear my capabilities. They fear what may happen if I ever willed for there to be a way to kill immortals. Of course, the Olympians are so arrogant that stating so would be a dagger to their pride, thus they've manipulated their fear into hatred that has spread. I am trapped here, almost," he added thoughtfully, gesturing with a hand to the castle and surrounding lands that could be seen through the window. "I cannot go above ground without my cloak lest I writhe in pain from the rays of the sun touching my skin. My kingdom grows at an ever fast, exponential rate that requires me to watch over it every single day. I am feared by mortals, detested by the gods. Over time, I've decided to simply let their exaggerations be, as I see none of them frequently enough for it to become a problem anyhow."

Hades watched as she took to studying him yet again, hesitantly reaching out a hand to touch his shoulder. Even through the black cloth, he knew it would feel very cold. It had always been that way, even as an infant; Rhea had told him she'd nearly dropped him because he'd felt like ice in her hands. "I think that the moral of that story is more metaphorical than anything else," he said quietly after she spoke again. "You can let go now; you may get too cold." It wasn't an order, simply a statement concerned for her comfort.

"It wasn't a silly story. I don't often hear stories. I read books, but they hardly ever stray outside of serious or factual matters."

PERSEPHONE

Persephone smiled at him when he showed her the ghost of a smile, nodding at his explanation of why he allowed people to think how they did. "I guess it would be a useless thing," she said, blushing as she finally removed her hand from his shoulder, pressing it against her other in her lap, considering that hand was warmer and would let the cold feeling that touching him had left disappear faster than the temperature of the room. She averted her gaze. "I know a lot of stories," she said softly. "Nicer stories than how life actually is. I hide away in my flower fields because I like my stories more than mortals. Mortals don't like me. They think I'm going to suck out their souls or something because I'm so attuned to the plants around me..." She looked up at Hades.

She was starting to see that he was definitely quite different from how he had always been described, as when she had seen the man, he'd kept his hood up, likely because of how close Olympus was to Apollo's chariot. She swallowed hard, trying to build up courage for a moment. "It's horrid, how sunlight affects you," she murmured, feeling the last of the aching cold she'd gained from touching him finally seep out of her. "I love the sun. It's warm, and nourishing." She offered a meek smile. "Of course, it really isn't bad here...my favorite flower would grow here better than any other place, if I had to be honest, because it needs dry soil and a darker location, which, aboveground, is so hard to find," she admitted, rubbing her hands together. He made her a little nervous still. Of course, she wasn't sure that he'd find her chattering attractive, as he was so unused to company. However, if he wanted her, he'd have to learn what she was really like, wouldn't he?

Finally, she looked up at Hades. "You don't really get much affection down here, do you? You're lonely, surrounded by soldiers and gods willing to do your bidding, but not a woman to make it feel like home," she mumbled, though it was her assumptions put into a small ramble, as she usually thought aloud. She shifted on the bed, turning toward him and hugging him, not bothering to ask his permission. She tensed at the cold temperature of his skin, but persisted.

"For now, Hades...let's be friends and see how it goes, okay?" Although she didn't want to admit it, it was nice to be away from her mother, considering her mother could be overbearing at times. A smile appeared on her face as she pulled away enough to look up at him. "You really need to work on warming up, though. It can't be good for you, immortal or not."

HADES

"Then you and I, we're not too dissimilar from each other, are we?" the god mused. "Although, the mortals do have a better reason to believe I would 'suck out their souls', considering my domains and how I normally appear to them in the mortal realm," he recalled with a dark chuckle. The last instant in which he'd blessed a Greek with his presence, the man had promptly died of a heart attack before the god could breathe a word.

Hades shrugged, glancing down at the hands in his lap. His skin was paler than milk, nearly a faint blue from the general lack of natural light his body ever saw. Veins of flowing golden ichor could be seen easily, although not because he was scrawny; his skin had simply taken on an opaque quality over the millennia that he doubted would ever be leave, no matter what form he chose to take on. "I dislike the sun and sunlight. Not simply because I'm... allergic to it, you might say. It's too warm for me; too bright. I prefer the darkness, as I always have. In a way, I suppose it's fitting that the Fates chose to give me the Underworld. I imagine I would not have been able to last five minutes on Olympus." He raised an eyebrow at her, a gesture for her to continue on about the flower. Unlike some men might have, he found Persephone's relative chattering interesting; he spoke little himself, and so did those around him. It was hardly ever light conversation, when one was actually struck up - usually about the Underworld or some idiot on Olympus having done this or that to upset another a different idiot.

Hades said nothing in response to her comment. He'd thought it made it vaguely obvious that he wished for a companion that simply didn't work under him, but he allowed her to continue rambling nonetheless. The god blinked in surprise as she suddenly hugged him however, tensing as he felt the warmth of her skin through his cloak. It was oddly... nice. After a moment, the god relaxed. He was almost disappointed when she pulled away.

"That is fine," Hades responded with a nod. "I did not expect anything more in the beginning. And I suppose I can try... though I wouldn't know where to begin." As there were three sharp, distinct raps on the door, the god looked up at the door briefly, sensing Alecto on the other side. "I believe I should take my leave now. Business that I need to attend to never waits very long for me to take care of it. If you would like to tour the castle or have any other questions, you may ask the guards stationed in the hallway outside." Hades promptly rose to take his leave.

PERSEPHONE

The spring goddess nodded slowly, taking in his words and watching him start to leave. It was when he was almost at the door that she decided to speak. "Hades, uhm...Is it possible that...you could stay here with me tonight? I...don't want to be alone here...not for very long..." she admitted, looking at him, considering he would probably have an interesting reaction to the request. He turned around to face her, an eyebrow arched in an almost inquisitive manner, though he still maintained his emotionless facade.

"If you would prefer," he started slowly, as if considering his words carefully to find a way that worked for everyone, "I could return later and remain with you until you were to fall asleep." His voice was the same authoritative tone he had used before, and Persephone swallowed lightly, nodding.

"Yes, I...I think that would work." She looked down and away with a blush as he nodded at her, and she heard the door shut, which meant his departure. She returned to the bed, sighing softly as she hugged her now-favorite pillow to her tightly.

It just wasn't fair.

She wanted to live her life in the sun, but she had been taken by Hades, who was likely too hated by anyone else to have any real friends. Not to mention, she didn't mind him particularly much. She just didn't want to be without sunlight, without flowers and the beautiful colors that she could make grow outside, in the sun or the moonlight that bathed the warm, peaceful days and nights.

But after hearing the lord of the Underworld's plight, she couldn't help but feel bad about that yearning for the sunlight when he was always in this dark, dismal kingdom, alone save for those who worked for him. She was not a mother, and had never actually known the pleasures of being with a man, but that didn't mean that she was as innocent as most thought. She knew what it was like to be without friends and companions. She had spent her whole life that way, and it seemed like Hades had as well. Save for a sparse amount of family, it seemed like no one cared, and at least Persephone had her mother. Sighing, she nuzzled her face into the pillow further, hiding herself away from the Underworld in all its dark splendor while she waited for her newfound friend to return to her side, a man who would probably talk with her until she fell to sleep.

She couldn't wait for sleep to come, where she could sort everything out without the pressure that came with the curse of awareness.