"I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will." Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Planet Solice, Olympus Town
So many years had passed since Demeter had set foot in Olympus, yet as soon as she got a glimpse of the bustling town, it was as if she'd never left.
Many times, Demeter had envisioned visiting the vibrancy that was this place with her daughter. To allow her young mind to be enthralled and captivated, to learn and absorb the many cultures thriving together. It had only been a dream, something to keep her sane, to allow her to feel normal.
Persephone had been the best gift she could ever imagine and Demeter knew she had done the right thing to keep her safe. Yet now…now there was a hollowness in her chest that threatened to consume her entire being. If she lost her child she would lose everything.
Concealed by a long dark cloak, covering her white hair lest she be seen by spying eyes; Demeter scurried down the paths of Olympus. The streets she knew so well in the days of her childhood, when everything had been so simple. Though those days were long gone, she yearned for that peace of mind again.
A familiar site lay in front of her. Demeter stood for a moment at the entrance of the house, her grey eyes following the well-known features. An iron gate stood ajar, the design full of flowers and leaves to represent the endless summer of Olympus. The building was white stone, cracks in the paint showing the true grey colour beneath, weathered by the sun's heat. Ivy wove it's way around the gate and up onto the walls, practically covering the entirety of the upper floors. Demeter walked through the gate, finding herself in the light and open courtyard. An array of flowers bloomed freely in the borders, purple petunias, sunset orange cosmos and deep pink bougainvillea. Within the centre of the courtyard stood a cement cylinder monument, decorated with a carving of a three-headed dog and a polecat. Atop of this monument was a bright burning flame, the very one she had first seen when she had been but a child.
Little had changed since then. Demeter cast her eye upwards to the balcony above which circled the courtyard, unsure where the person was she needed to find.
"My my, this is a surprise,"
Demeter turned her gaze to the flame, a figure moving just beyond it, enough to distort for a moment. "Hecate, my friend, I have come for aid,"
The woman behind the flame moved forwards, her long, deep purple gown sweeping in the wake of the ground. "It can't be…Demeter?"
"It is," Demeter slid the cloak from her head, revealing her white hair. Hecate's azure eyes widened slightly. She was tall, at least 6 feet, with a long and delicately curved body. Her skin was sun kissed with an olive like tone, a contrast to Demeter's pale complexion. Hecate's long chocolate brown hair had been braided on both sides over her ears, then pinned up and wound into a tight knot at the base of her skull.
She closed the gap between the two of them, hugging Demeter tightly. "I cannot believe you are here!"
Demeter felt her eyes fill with tears. "I barely believe it myself,"
"What on Solace has caused you to venture so far?" Hecate kept hold of Demeter's forearms as she looked down at her smaller friend. "You know how dangerous it is for you,"
"I would not have come if it wasn't of the upmost importance," Demeter felt a tear roll down her cheek.
"What is it?"
"It is Persephone. She has run away, and I have no idea where she might be!"
Hecate wrapped her arm around Demeter's shoulders. "Come my friend, we will find your lost daughter together."
The Night Planet, Forest of the Dead
"…I love you mother…."
Persephone expected to feel sharp canine teeth sinking deep into her flesh, yet did not. Opening her eyes, she immediately realised a large wolf had landed between her and the four vicious animals. It was the same wolf who had visited her in the Cascade forest.
It began to growl, the sound vibrating through its large body. Persephone watched for a moment, too stunned to move, before the four smaller creatures launched their attack.
Crying out in fright, Persephone leapt back, away from the ruckus. She tripped over a tree root and fell to the ground, the sounds of snapping jaws and snarls filling the murky air.
Suddenly the sound of a horse's hooves thundered above her, the noise rattling her eardrums. Persephone could only gape as a large black stallion loomed above her. The enormous creature whinnied loudly as it's rider jumped from its back, feet thumping to the ground.
"Away with you! Mangy creatures!" A loud, deep voice bellowed above the din.
Persephone had little time to realise she recognised that voice, before she was hauled from the ground as if she weighed no more than a feather. Her palms met a broad chest clad in black, eyes lifting to meet piercing dark orbs. His irises were almost as black as the pupils they encased. They were like staring into molten lava.
With their faces so close, for a long time it felt as if the world beneath them had stopped spinning on its axis. Persephone had never been more terrified, sickened, intrigued and captivated all at the same time. She could feel Hades' pounding heart beneath her palm, his hands encased around her waist tightly, the skin prickling underneath her thin dress.
The creatures who had not seconds ago been ready to eat her alive ran off into the dead forest, tails between their legs. Without a word, Hades scooped Persephone up and onto the stallion, setting her down before jumping on behind her.
"Kainon, come!" He commanded to the giant wolf, who looked no worse for wear even after his scrap with the smaller dogs. He obeyed his master dutifully, following the black horse as they made their way back to the castle.
"I believe you now know to do as you are told. The Night Planet is no Solice, you will find no friends here. The Forest of the Dead is full of terrors," Hades took a lengthy sip of his red wine.
Persephone stared at him, unable to think of a response. Her dress was filthy, one sleeve ripped and hanging from her shoulder. No doubt the dust from the ground had caked into her curls, and she could feel powder between her fingers. The King merely kept his unrelenting gazed upon her, causing a flurry of butterflies to dance within her stomach.
"Sit," He commanded, making her start. Persephone stared down at the chair opposite his own, where he sat by the large fireplace. It illuminated red and green as the flames changed colours, as if to try and hypnotise her.
Persephone sank down onto the ornate seat, her arms folded about her. "Why am I here?" She finally asked, her voice a mere whisper.
"Because I ordered it so," Hades tilted his head slightly, handsome face catching in the light bouncing around the room. His black tunic stretched over his broad shoulders, his physic strong and muscled. Persephone doubted she had any chance against him, even if she tried.
"Why would you do that?"
Hades smirked. "I am the King of the Night Planet,"
Persephone's hands balled together, her fists clenched tightly. "You have kidnapped me…taken me away from my home…"
"I warned you there were dangerous people within the Palace. You did not listen, you chose to go into the town of Olympus instead of staying home, where you were safe." He leant forwards slightly in his chair, Persephone noticing the slight lines between his brow. "You are now under my rule. Solice is no longer the place you call home. The Night Planet is,"
Persephone felt a tear fall down her cheek. "Never."
"It does not matter what you say, or do, even. My say is final. I have been ruling this land for far too long on my own, now that will change. You will become my Queen, and together we will rule this Planet,"
"What?" She gasped, the weight of his words dragging her down like an anchor. "I…you…no! You cannot do this to me!"
An infuriated expression rippled over Hades features. "You will do as I say. We will be married and you will be mine."
Persephone stood from her chair, nearly throwing it over in the process. "No! I refuse!" She cried, anguish filling her heart. "I am not yours to have!"
"Is that so?" Hades said lowly, standing up to his full menacing height. "Tell me, where is your mother now?"
She froze, her heart suddenly in her mouth. He couldn't have her…? Could he? Surely not, Demeter was not so naïve as she and had always been proficient at concealing herself. "My mother…?"
"You have put her and yourself in terrible danger, have you not? I believe the Queen harbours revenge…she is quite patient when she has to be."
"What are you saying?"
"I only allude to the facts; if you marry me, I will ensure your mother's safety…and the lives of those you love. If you do not…well, I suppose all I need do is expose Demeter to Olympus. I am sure Queen Hera will do the rest." Hades smirked. "I hear she is quite creative with her punishments,"
Persephone felt thick tears pouring over her cheeks. This was her doing; she had been the foolish child who had run away from her home, from everything she loved. The Cascade forest was just an illusion now. A hazy memory from happier days gone by. An able woman may have been able to talk her way out of the threat…but Persephone was not talented in such ways. She was not snide, nor was she cunning. Her cards had been dealt for her long ago.
For a split second, she saw…remorse? Guilt? Something else other than coldness in his eyes. It was merely an instant and Persephone wondered if she had imagined it. "I believe I have no choice then, My Lord."
Hades gulped the rest of his drink, his eyes never leaving her. Without a word, he marched from the room, the door closing loudly behind him. Persephone felt her knees go from beneath her, only the chair stopped her from plummeting to the ground. She clung to the piece of furniture like a life force as she sobbed ardently.
What have I done?
"There has been a bath drawn for you, oh and some food has been prepared as well, you know, so you don't starve and all," Angelos said as she escorted the rather forlorn Persephone back to her room. "I would suggest you get some rest tonight,"
Persephone hadn't said a word since Angelos had practically picked her up off the floor in the chamber room. The woman had no patience whatsoever nor seemed to have any empathy, merely gave Persephone a light shove to get her moving back to her room.
"I am not a babysitter by the way, just doing what I am told. I don't deal with little weaklings like you," Angelos opened the large door to Persephone's chambers. "After you,"
Persephone reluctantly stepped through the threshold, the feeling of being a trapped bird in a cage hitting her like a tonne of bricks. She didn't want to be locked in this room again, to be confined in this dark place where nothing seemed to be truly alive.
"I have to say though, I was impressed that you managed to escape earlier. You were pretty fast on your feet, it's not often anyone out runs me," Angelos continued. "Though I wouldn't do it again. There are worst things out there than those mutts,"
"Those creatures. What is the matter with them?" Persephone voiced, her throat a little squeaky from crying.
"She speaks! I thought you'd gone mute from the shock. There is nothing wrong with them, they are animals,"
"But…they were going to attack me,"
"Yes, they are predators, that's what they do," Angelos quirked her eyebrow. "Oh right...so animals do not attack people on Solice? You are lucky,"
Persephone stared at Angelos with something akin to devastation. What sort of place was this? That the people were so estranged from nature that nature had turned on them? No wonder she could feel no link to the heartbeat of the forest or the creatures within it.
She suddenly felt extremely weary.
"You'll get used to it here, believe me." The taller woman opened the set of heavy wooden doors that led to the bathroom. "You need help Princess or what?"
Persephone shook her head quickly, entering the bathroom. The marble floor was like ice beneath her bare feet, a large round stone bath set in the centre. The whole room was illuminated in red candle light, the flames crackling and twinkling. "I'm not a Princess. Never have been,"
Angelos smirked. "Well you're going to be a Queen soon, so get used to the titles," She turned on her heel and marched out of the room, sliding the lock as she did.
Persephone paced over to the large bath, her palm running over the cool stone. She slipped her dress from her person, the thin chiffon material sliding down her small body. The cold air bit at her skin, goose bumps rising on the back of her arms. Encompassing herself within the water, Persephone the relief of warm water on her aching muscles. She sank underneath the clear blue, grateful to be able to wash her matted hair.
There were several soaps for her to use; one scented in Lavender reminded her of home. The memory caused tears to erupt behind her eyes, thinking of the fresh herbs she and her mother grew in the gardens behind their home.
She stayed in the water for what felt like hours; until her fingers pruned and the water turned icy. Slipping on a white night gown, Persephone curled up atop of the large bed and cried. She cried until she felt her eyes would burn out, she cried until restless sleep finally embodied her.