"Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night."
William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet

Chapter Fourteen

Northern Dragon District

The Night Planet

Persephone

Lord *Minos was a particularly large man.

Not in fat, but stature and muscle. He was as broad as he was loud, and the Lord of the North was very, very loud indeed. His voice carried throughout the halls of his home with an echo that could rival even Zeus's thunderbolt.

He greeted Persephone with an overly tight embrace, proceeding with several kisses to her cheeks. She had never felt more uneasy and yet the longer Lord Minos spoke, the easier she felt around the enthusiastic man. He possessed horns on his head much like the Priestess who'd married she and Hades, only Minos's were thinner, curving upwards like that of a deer. There was something animal like about his features, his nose quite large and flat over his face. Big, shining green eyes that had larger pupils than anyone she'd met before, with tanned skin that appeared as thick as the bark of a tree.

Many of his household stopped to stare openly at Persephone, who by now was used to the attention. She ignored it – for the most part – the whispers and pointing, some genuinely curious, others sniggering at her obviously strange appearance. Angelos looked peeved and hissed quite aggressively at a few women who were sniggering as Persephone neared them. The women gave small shrieks of fright and scattered.

"It's alright Angelos," Persephone said to the woman mutedly. "I do not care what they think of me,"

Angelos, who had been chuckling to herself at her own antics, shrugged. "No one laughs at you, except me," She grinned. "Besides, you're one of us now whether you like it or not. We protect our own,"

Persephone could not help but feel a swell of happiness at her words. She felt an immeasurable mound of guilt stick straight in her throat – one that had the ability to stop her from executing the 'escape plan'. She could not let any personal feelings get in the way. This was one of the best opportunities she would ever receive to get back to Solice once and for all.

Hades had been walking ahead with Lord Minos, talking like the good friends they were, though it seemed the Lord was doing most of it. They rounded a corner and were greeted with the sight of a beautifully decorated grand hall. The place was sheathed in an unnatural blue light from the crystal sapphire windows, the air permeated with the earthy smell of rich spice and cardamom. It was a vast, open space, and Persephone's eyes widened as she took it all in.

The throne at the end of the hall was the most impressive. Black stone and marble had been expertly carved into the shape of a sleeping dragon, the seat blended into its wings that almost reached the ceiling.

"This is my wife, *Pasiphaë," Lord Minos announced proudly, his eyes alight with warmth for the lady who was walking towards their party gracefully.

Her dress slid over the floor as she walked, the silver material covered from top to toe in shimmering crystal jewels that sparkled in the blue hue. Her skin was as white as the snow outside, almost pearlescent, yet her hair was black ebony waves that flowed freely over her shoulders to the back of her knees. Pasiphaë's very long pointed ears peeked from her hair, several jeweled earrings decorating the cartilage.

It was then that Persephone noticed the very prominent bump that was Pasiphaë's belly. The lady was with child.

"This must be our Queen," She curtseyed graciously, before taking both of Persephone's hands in her own. "I have been anxious to meet the woman who managed to melt our King's heart, and I am not surprised. What beauty you behold,"

"Thank you, it is a pleasure to meet you," Persephone felt wholly inadequate in the gown she was wearing, a very simple and plain swooping dress that was a similar pale shade of blue to Pasiphaë's eyes. How anyone could think she was beautiful when this woman stood before her, she did not know.

"Likewise. I believe we are going to be very good friends," Pasiphaë smiled, not a hint of malicious intent in her voice.

"Come Hades, let's leave the womenfolk to their gossip. I believe it is time for a drink," Minos's bellowing voice caused many of his new guests to jump in alarm. Pasiphaë merely rolled her eyes to heavens, casting her husband a look that read something like 'behave yourself' before she took Persephone by the arm.

"I will show you to your guest quarters, I had them prepared especially for your arrival," The lady started leading Persephone away, and for a moment she felt panicked. She wasn't on great terms with her husband, but the thought of being anywhere without him made her guts churn. At least his protection was something she could rely on.

Angelos made to leave with Hades, who stopped her abruptly. "No, Angelos, stay with the Queen,"

"You can't be serious?" She hissed.

"It isn't a request,"

Angelos's nostrils flared, her teeth gritted as she gave the King a meek smile, before turning from him without another word.

Persephone could feel dark eyes upon her, and she couldn't stop herself from meeting Hades gaze. He did not appear angry. His irises possessed a soft quality towards her, despite the argument that still hadn't been resolved between the pair of them.

"Come on Queenie, stop staring at him for a minute and let's go," Angelos said with little patience to her tone, causing Persephone to flush a deep crimson. Minos, who had overheard the comment; started bellowing with laughter and clapped Hades on the back so hard, the King had to steady himself so as not to fall flat on his face.

"You must forgive my husband. He can be brutish at times, but he means no harm, I assure you," Pasiphaë said as she guided both Persephone and Angelos into a very large bedroom, complete with a sitting room area. "These will be yours and the Kings quarters, I trust you like it?"

Persephone felt the colour drain from her face. Of course, they would expect she and Hades to share quarters! She gazed around the large room in panic, spying the monstrous Queen-sized bed mounted centre stage within an alcove, ascended on three steps. It was covered with plush red velvet, the material draping seductively over the ground, as if put there to be purposefully tempting.

"You do not like it? I can have something else arranged, a larger room perhaps-"

"No, no of course not, this is…this is fine," Persephone interrupted the lady, feeling decidedly foolish. How could she admit to this woman before her that she and Hades had never shared a bed? That they'd never kissed, or made love? Were they even technically married, if it had never been consummated?

"You got any wine?" Angelos drawled as she sprawled herself out over one of the armchairs. "I could use a drink,"

"Why of course, please make yourselves at home, I will return momentarily," Pasiphaë beamed brightly, holding her swollen belly as she left the room with more grace than a lady should be able to warrant in such a condition. Persephone watched as the last of the servants packed away her belongings, most of them the same species as Krista.

"Queenie, are you really going to allow the King to sleep in here with you then?" Angelos said with a sly grin. "Have you finally decided to ease the tension between you two?"

Persephone ignored the way the woman's eyebrows waggled. "Certainly not. I merely did not want to air out my private matters with a lady I barely know." She cast her eyes to the bed again. "I suppose he will have to stay here,"

"Ooooooh, the scandal! A married man and woman sharing a bed!" Angelos feigned fainting, placing the back of her hand to her forehead. Persephone merely narrowed her eyes at the woman, before she picked up one of the cushions and threw it straight at her. The red satin hit Angelos straight in the face with a 'whoomp', and Persephone smiled in satisfaction.

"Here my lady, I have brought the best red wine we have to offer!" Pasiphaë announced as she re-entered the room, placing a tray with a sparkling crystal carafe and three glasses. Angelos had been looking at Persephone with a mixture of annoyance and rapt, before very rapidly pouring the wine into all three glasses to the brim.

"You are very forthright, Angelos," Pasiphaë observed in amusement, as Persephone seated herself down next to the pregnant lady.

"Believe me, this is her behaving," the silver haired girl jested.

The three women continued to idly chatter whilst drinking copious amounts of wine, until Persephone was very sure she was drunk. It didn't take much for the slim petite girl to get inebriated, it appeared, considering how much Angelos had managed to gulp down. For the first time in what felt like forever, Persephone was totally relaxed and enjoying herself immensely. The weight of her capture, of living on a completely different planet with strangers was numbed rather nicely by the red wine that had slightly stained her lips and tongue.

Angelos was in the middle of a rather entertaining story about an adventure she and Hades had been on, when said King himself strode through the door. The three women looked at him for a moment, before all promptly bursting into peals of laughter, Angelos' cackle being the loudest.

Minos strode in not too far behind him, immediately amused by their drunkenness and looking slightly worse for wear himself. "My my, what have we been getting up to here ladies?"

"I believe I told you to stay with the queen, not get her completely intoxicated," Hades snapped sharply at Angelos.

"I think I can get myself intoxicated, my King, Angelos did not pour it down my throat," Persephone drawled up at him, waving around her glass and not noticing a portion of it sloshing to the ground. Her mind was hazy and jumbled, but his face was as clear as the bleeding day.

"Well you've gotten yourself a little fire cracker there, Hades," Minos grinned, aiding his wife to a standing position with little effort. "Come, let us leave the new couple to themselves eh?" He waggled his thick eyebrows suggestively.

Persephone cast Angelos a panicked look. She shrugged, helpless, and left the room after Minos and Pasiphaë. Hades stood with his arms folded, watching her with that intensely dark gaze that caused butterflies to erupt in her belly.

"Are you determined to be a pain in the arse?" He finally said.

"Excuse me?" She fired back, affronted,

"You heard what I said. Why can you not just behave, and do as you are told?" Hades gestured to her glass of wine. "Getting drunk? Is that really you?"

Persephone, now slightly more emboldened due her intoxication, stood far too quickly. "Is this really me? You speak to me, sir, as if you know me! Let me tell you, you know nothing about me! For once on this miserable planet I was happy, I was enjoying myself, and then you come along and ruin it, just like you've ruined my life!"

Her words hurt him, she could tell. It made her own heart ache, because for some reason, despite it all, she did not want to hurt him. Persephone let herself fall back to the armchair, sighing heavily as she put her face in her hands.

"I am trying…have tried…to make you happy," Hades said in a mere whisper. She couldn't hold back the tears rolling down her cheeks as she caught his gaze, watched as the firelight danced over his alabaster skin.

"Why? Why did you do this to me? Why me?" She half pleaded, desperate for the answer. Her husband morphed towards her, sliding onto his knees so he was level with her face. He took her hands, a gentle, delicate hold that surprised her greatly. Hades eyes were such a dark brown, she could see the wisp of flame in their reflection.

"Is it not obvious?" He implored in a soft voice, thumbs gliding over her smooth forearms. "Do you not understand the motives of my transgression? I did not realise it myself at first. But you have become etched into my heart…"

Persephone merely gaped at him for a moment, too stunned to speak. There had always been a part of her that had known he held a certain regard for her, yet she had always assumed it was a carnal, primal desire. Could she really believe that the King of the Night Planet was confessing his love to her?

"I know it is a lot to ask of you. I have torn you away from your family, threatened you, forced you to dine with me and…well, I have not exactly been the most hospitable of men," Hades was looking at her hands, so tiny compared to his large ones. "I just wish to make a mends. To make you happy, and possibly one day even like me,"

Her fluttering pulse must have been evident beneath his palms. Persephone wondered why she had the urge to lean towards him, let their lips meet in a frenzy of passion, until they both couldn't breath for want and need of each other. Then she remembered who he was, what he had done, and she wanted to slap him silly.

She thought then about where she was. Maybe, if she let Hades believe she would try to like him, it would lower his defenses enough for her to escape? The space port was within her grasp, and freedom not too far away.

"You are right," She finally said. "It is a lot to ask of me…but I…guess I can try, for both our sakes,"

There was a genuine smile on his mouth then, that made Persephone feel a little sick with guilt. He reached over to wipe her tears away with his fingers, his touch generating a heated response over her skin and further down her body. The alcohol in her system began to flood her mind, the world spinning horribly on its axis. "I erm…don't feel so good…"

"Probably due to abundant wine on an empty stomach, my dear," Hades grumbled, ignoring her glower. Persephone gave a very undignified squeak as he suddenly hauled her up into his arms. "Perhaps some rest before we dine tonight is a good idea,"

She didn't argue with him this time, sinking gratefully into the soft mattress and burying her face into the plush pillow. "I love riding horses,"

Hades paused in his task to drape a blanket over her. "Hm?"

"I told you, you know nothing about me. Well…one thing about me, is that I loved riding the wild horses on the planes…there is hardly a thing to compare the feeling to…" She murmured sleepily.

"I will remember it," He replied, his voice fading away as she drifted into a deep wine drenched slumber.

*Minos was the first King of Crete according to Greek Mythology. Every nine years, he forced King Aegeus to pick nine young girls and boys to be sacrificed to the Minotaur, who dwelled in a Labyrinth waiting to consume it's next victims.

*Pasiphaë was the Queen of Crete and wife of King Minos.

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