Chapter Thirty-Six

Cian's Pass

If Apollo and Persephone hadn't kept interrupting Demeter, they would have learned that Hades and his men had been spotted. That information could have saved them both a lot of trouble. But sometimes it really is too late.

"Are you crazy? You could have killed me," Apollo exclaimed. "At least none of the glass cut you," he said, reaching out to brush away a few shards.

"Don't touch me!" she screamed.

"I'm just trying to help you," Apollo explained as he moved closer. "Just sit down and we can talk about this calmly."

"I don't want to talk!" Persephone ran to the door and threw the latch, but Apollo grabbed her arm before she could open it.

"Persephone, there's an assassin after you! Do you want to get yourself killed?"

Persephone struggled in his grasp but couldn't break lose. Instead, she let out a scream to wake the dead. She just hoped the living would care enough to answer.

Artemis wanted to believe that Hades wasn't serious about killing Apollo, but couldn't bring herself to hope. She led Hades and Narin through the corridors, a few men trailing behind. The rest were waiting outside within a call's reach. Hades thought it best not to bring in fifty armed men lest someone get the wrong impression, which would more accurately be called the right impression. The group rounded a corner and almost literally ran into some of Apollo's men.

Apparently they had been instructed to detain Hades on sight and made the mistake of trying to carry out their orders. Hades, not keen on killing them, whacked one man across the knees with the flat of his sword. The guard crashed to the floor in pain as his companion received a nasty blow to the head. Hades wiped beads of sweat from his brow and laughed. It was almost easy. As things turned out, it was too easy because several more guards bounded down the hallway after them.

"Just go!" Narin called out. "We can handle this!"

"But Artemis-" Hades started.

"I'll be fine. Just go get Persephone!" Artemis yelled between thwacking her twin's retainers.

Just then, Hades heard Persephone scream and there could be no more arguing with his sister. When Hades made it to the hall where Apollo's bedroom was located, he could hear them struggling inside.

"Let. Me. Go!" Persephone grunted.

"Stop trying to scratch my eyes out and I will!" Apollo protested.

"You're hurting me!"

"Not trying to!"

Hades made it to the door and thanked the gods that it was unlocked. Both Apollo and Persephone froze when he burst into the room. Persephone smiled triumphantly while Apollo turned a sickly green, not from cowardice but from the sheer knowledge that this was a fight he couldn't win. Apollo watched his well laid plan unravel disastrously.

"Get your hands off my wife!" Hades growled, pulling Persephone towards him.

"So glad to see you," Persephone breathed as she smacked into his chest.

Hades kissed the top of her head and breathed in the scent of her hair. Not exactly the reunion he had planned, but it would have to do for now. Apollo laughed on the ground where he had been pushed. Hades had almost forgotten about Apollo and now turned a glowering eye on him.

"It's nice to see you again, brother," Apollo smiled.

Hades felt his body moving of its own volition. Before he realized it, his fist collided with Apollo's jaw. Further down the hallway Hades could hear the scuffling of the guards' feet, undoubtedly rushing to Apollo's aid.

Apollo spat out a mouthful of blood and laughed again. "Did you really think I'd let you steal her from me again?"

Hades raised his knife to Apollo's throat. He expected fear or surprise, but Apollo showed no reaction at all. He just stared at him. It was almost like he wanted him to do it. "She was never yours," Hades snapped.

"Did she tell you that?" Apollo said defiantly. "There was a time when Persephone wanted nothing more than my affection. And before our little misunderstanding, I felt we were very close to rekindling that flame."

"Apollo, what are you doing?" Persephone cried.

Was he trying to get himself killed? Persephone watched in horror as Hades applied more pressure, drawing blood from his throat. And Apollo didn't try to move. Didn't try to fight. He stared at Persephone with a look of peace, like she was the last thing he wanted to see. She wanted to be angry. She tried so desperately to remember what he had done, what he had threatened to do. But when Persephone looked at Apollo, she didn't see a monster. All she saw was the boy. Her poor, sweet golden boy. And Persephone knew she couldn't let Hades kill him.

"Hades, stop!" Persephone screamed. Hades immediately turned to look at her, the fury still apparent in his eyes, but after looking at his wife, his gaze softened. "Please, Hades, take me home."

Hades didn't say anything at that moment, but took her by the hand and left without ever looking back at his brother. Hades was sobered by the fact that he had almost killed his own brother. Without a doubt, he would have if Persephone had not interfered. They ran down the hall, but were confronted by another group of soldiers. Hades quickly spun them into another passage but he knew that they weren't far behind. His eyes darted around for any means of escape but couldn't find any.

"Hades, just in case we don't make it out of this, I wanted to say that I love you," Persephone blurted out.

Hades felt a smile creep onto his face. "As always, my dear, you have perfect timing," he said before kissing her.

"Are you just going to stand there?" an annoyed voice said just ahead of them. "Hide," Demeter said as she pushed them behind some curtains. They could hear that the soldiers had finally caught up with them, but couldn't tell if they had been spotted yet. "They ran that way!" Demeter yelled. Hades listened for the sounds of their footsteps diminishing and when he deemed it safe, they stepped out.

"What are you doing, Mother?" Persephone asked, dumbfounded.

"I'm letting you go," she answered sadly. "Something I should have done a long time ago. You make her happy," Demeter said sternly, turning to Hades.

"Goodbye, Mother," Persephone said quietly.

Demeter felt tears flowing down her face, but she smiled despite them. "You better run," she advised.

"Thank you," Hades said simply before they turned to leave.

Hades and Persephone ran through the courtyard, where they were joined by Narin and Artemis, both of whom looked bruised and battered. Artemis gave a whoop of excitement at seeing her friend, but no one stopped to chat. The thudding of hobnailed sandals alerted them to the guards who had obviously found them once again. The four reached the fields in time to see that Hades' men had 'borrowed' horses for their return journey. Persephone's felt her heart leap with joy when she spotted the familiar blood red rose against its snowy background. In that moment she was sure that there was no happier sight than that banner. It meant she was going home.

Just as they were about to take off, Aidan and Psyche appeared from the woods. "I did what you said," Psyche chirped proudly. "Am I coming with you?" she asked with great anticipation.

Hades raised an eyebrow at his wife. Leave it to Persephone to take in stray wolves and lost children. "Oh, why not?" he laughed. "We're already in deep." Psyche smiled as Aidan lifted her onto his horse. "Another one of your rescues?" he asked Persephone.

"Yes, this is Psyche," Persephone explained.

"What a morning!" was all Hades said.

Apollo sat on the floor of his room, very much alive. He marveled at that fact. Persephone had saved his life. Why had she done it? Persephone knew that he had tried to kill Hades and whether she trusted his intentions or not, she also felt he had kept her prisoner. And yet she saved him. Apollo felt his heart lighten and his suicidal desires dwindle away. She loved him. Whatever she said, he knew that was true. It had to be.

Just then, one of Apollo's soldiers entered his room with a bad limp. The man looked as if his face had been trampled by a horse and was holding his chest in agony. His ribs were badly bruised, if not broken. Apollo waited impatiently for the man to catch his breath.

"Well?" he demanded.

"They got away," the man responded darkly.

"How could you let that happen?!" Apollo shouted.

"We had orders from your father not to leave the palace," the soldier answered nervously.

"Who pays you?" Apollo asked calmly.

"What do you mean?" the man said, groaning from the pain.

"It's an easy question," Apollo said, standing up. "Who pays you?"

"You do, Your Highness," he stated cautiously.

Apollo gave the man a severe look. "Then gather your men and prepare them for the journey to Winter."

"We won't fail you again, Your Highness."

"No, you won't. Because I'm coming with you." Apollo knew that Hades would have at least a half day's head start, but if they didn't stop he was sure that they could outpace them. After all, Hades couldn't run forever.

Hades and Persephone reached the Pass the next evening, much to their relief. Everyone was exhausted from their flight and was looking forward to sleeping for more than a few hours. The horses had been pushed to their limits, so now everyone was forced to walk. The last thing they needed was a bunch of dead horses. Artemis and Narin stayed close while Persephone related what had happened during the last week. After Persephone had finished, Narin, Artemis, and Hades each filled in the gaps until she understood all that had happened since she lost contact with them.

"Never a dull moment for you," she joked to Hades.

"Not since I met you," he answered, kissing her cheek.

"Look," Persephone said, pointing into the distance. The castle was just visible from its high hill and its welcome sight filled Persephone with warmth despite the rapidly dropping temperature. "We're almost home," she said wistfully.

"Well, I'm pleasantly surprised," Artemis commented. "We marched into Summer and pulled you out of Apollo's clutches with barely a fight! It was almost easy!"

"Speak for yourself," Narin chided playfully, while rubbing his very swollen jaw.

Just then, they heard the clatter of men and horses behind them. Persephone turned in time to see Apollo and his soldiers approaching the narrow pass. She had never seen anything quite so grim. It looked as if most of their horses had died and the men didn't look much better.

"I'm directly responsible for this, aren't I?" muttered Artemis.

"We have to ride out of here," Narin said quickly. "It's the only way."

Hades shook his head. "The horses couldn't handle it. We would never be able to outrun them," he said sadly. After everything that had happened, it seemed like a truly cruel destiny to be defeated now. He looked at Persephone, the woman he was willing to die for. He knew he might be given that opportunity very soon, but he refused to give up without a fight.

"We don't have to outrun them," Persephone said suddenly. "Narin, can you hear it?"

Narin immediately knew what she was referring to. All around them he could hear the ground freezing. It popped and crackled as spider webs of ice spread all around them. "She's right! We just have to clear the Pass!"

They ran and Apollo struggled to follow as ice sprang up around their feet. Several of his men charged out ahead, realizing too late that the ice they were standing on was much too thin to support their weight. A few steps from their hobnailed sandals sent fissures through the frozen stream like cracks in an old mirror. They screamed and thrashed, but the weight of their armor made escape difficult.

Apollo watched in despair as Persephone passed further and further out of reach. "Why are you stopping?" he screamed. "Keep moving!"

But none of his men followed him. They were staring at the border, which was quickly being encased in solid ice. Apollo had never seen anything like it before, like nature itself had turned against him. A thick, glassy wall of ice stood between him and happiness. Apollo howled and screamed, beating at the ice until his hands bled. Several of his men grabbed him by his shoulders and attempted to pull him away. As terrified as they were by what they had just witnessed, they felt even more terror at their commander's maddened grief.

"Please, Your Highness, we must leave," his lieutenant insisted. "We can come back in the spring," he added in an attempt to placate his prince.

"Yes, we will," Apollo vowed.

Hades breathed a sigh of relief as he bolted the door to his bedroom. Persephone was kneeling on the crimson carpet by his bed, petting Cerberus who was beyond thrilled to have his mistress back. Hades smiled as he watched his wife coo to the wolf. Only Persephone, he thought happily. Persephone yawned loudly and Cerberus took the hint, reluctantly curling up by their bed, ever ready to defend them if necessary. Hades took Persephone's hands and helped her to her feet.

"This isn't over," he sighed.

"I know," she said frankly, "but we have a rule, remember?"

"And what is that?" Hades laughed, as she pulled him toward her.

"Nothing exists outside this bed," she echoed happily.

Hades kissed Persephone for all the times he had wanted to in the past six months. Apollo was still a threat and would undoubtedly return in the spring. He had no idea what Zeus' reaction might be and if it was bad, there would probably be a war. But Persephone was right about one thing: tonight there was only them.

The world could wait until tomorrow.

Outside the castle, the green lioness kept watch on her perch. Lorimir was nestled safely inside. The boy had all but collapsed after his arrival, but was being tenderly looked after by Artemis. Persephone was secure at last and left in peace to enjoy her husband's company. Yes, Ariel thought happily, the day had been a success. She was truly exhausted by that last feat of magic at the Pass and felt she had earned a rest. The spring would herald a world of troubles, but until then, there would be peace. Tonight she could sleep soundly knowing both her charges were protected. Ariel purred at the thought and slinked away into the dark woods.


Apollo stared into his mirror, wondering how any of this was possible. The purple bags under his eyes showed his lack of sleep and the swelling in his jaw had yet to diminish. He hadn't shaved in five days, ever since that morning. Apollo slammed his glass down in anger, causing wine to swish over the sides. Everything had blown up in his face. Persephone was gone and every moment since then had been hell.

What had happened at the Pass? He turned the event over and over in his mind with no answer except that it was magic. Apollo had always believed, but had never seen anything of that magnitude before. It was just more evidence that Persephone was special. She clearly had powerful protectors in addition to magic of her own. That he knew too well, he thought bitterly. How could he fight a force of nature? It was impossible.

As if fighting would even do any good. He was unofficially under house arrest since his return. Zeus spent hours lecturing him about all the trouble he had caused by breaking the agreement with Hades. On top of that, he had led an armed group of men in pursuit, fully intending to invade Hades' land. Now Apollo would have to pay the price for his actions, 'severely punished' as his father put it.

Everything had turned against him. How could this have happened? He had always been the best at everything. The best singer, the best dancer, the best archer. He was better liked than almost anyone at court. Every girl in Summer wanted him and yet he somehow had managed to let the one girl who mattered get away.

"Damn it!" Apollo screamed as he slammed his fists into the mirror. Apollo winced as he began to pluck pieces of broken glass out of his knuckles. He looked disdainfully at his shattered mirror and noticed something moving behind him. Apollo spun around and was startled to see a man sitting in the chair beside his bed.

"Will you cease this self-destructive behavior, or are you just going to sit there feeling sorry for yourself?" the man asked calmly.

Apollo thought that he had a gifted voice, but this man's was like silk. The man's dark shoulder length hair shimmered as he moved, setting a stark contrast to his white skin. His grey eyes were bright and ethereal. Everything about the man seemed to exude an otherworldly beauty. But there was a feeling of dread that Apollo couldn't quite shake. Something seemed off about him.

"Why are you here?" Apollo asked cautiously. "Who are you?"

"You may call me Draco," the man replied. "I'm here to help you. I am here because you are at a sad disadvantage. I can give you what you require to win back your woman and claim your brother's lands," he continued smoothly.

Apollo felt intrigued by Draco's proposal, but felt a gnawing sensation in the pit of his stomach. "And what do you want in return?"

The corners of his mouth turned up into a toothy smile. "I only want you to be happy," Draco replied, his eyes flashing green.

The End

So this obviously has a sequel, which I haven't finished writing yet. If you liked the story, please review and pass it on. Thanks for reading :)