"What sort of deal?"
"Since I can recall, you've had a deep fascination with mortals."
If worry didn't grip Mineekas so thoroughly, she'd have laughed at her father's understatement. Her interest in mortals bordered on obsessive. Her room was decorated with trinkets Persephone or Hermes had gotten her over the years. Mineekas didn't care what they got her. Postcards, bottle tops, license plates, stuffed animals, key chains; she loved it all. Often, she heard the servants complain about their princess' intense focus on the Upperworld, but she ignored them. She didn't think her pursuits were as worrisome as everyone made them out to be.
"You could say that."
Humor sparked in the depths of Hades' otherwise blank stare. "Yes, well, I believe it's time to satiate your longings."
Mineekas' stomach flipped. "What are you saying, father?"
"I want you to...spend time in the Upperworld, living amongst the mortals."
Mineekas pawed at her ears. She couldn't have heard her father right. He hadn't just offered to make her wildest dream come true.
"Are you—Is this a genuine proposal?"
The question was absurd. Mineekas knew Hades never said what he didn't mean, and he'd always stressed to Mineekas not to toy with individuals. Some under-dwellers claimed that a too-honest king was unsavory, but most of the Underworld didn't share that view. In fact, from what Mineekas understood, her father's sincerity is what had won him the crown.
"Oh, father, I—" Gratitude overcame her, and Mineekas couldn't form words anymore. Tears spilled down her face.
On impulse, she launched herself into her father's arms. If Mineekas had done this outside the palace living quarters, Hades would have stiffened and asked her to release him (the daemons didn't mind public displays of emotion, but, for some reason, they bristled when they saw their king perform them). Yet, in private, Hades lavished on his daughter and wife all the attention he kept bottled up. This time was no different.
Hades locked his arms around Mineekas and squeezed her so tight her lungs protested, but she didn't demand release. All her life, she'd known her father loved her and would move the heavens and Earth for her, but she didn't often get to lavish in Hades' affections. The older she'd gotten, and the denser the mortal population became, the less she'd seen or even interacted with her father.
The pair stayed in each other's arms for many minutes, then Hades broke his hold. He pulled Mineekas back and studied her. After a moment, he smiled and wiped away her tears.
"How long would you like to stay?"
"I-I don't know. I never thought you'd let me go."
Hades nodded. "The prospect terrifies me, I'll confess. The Underworld is far from safe, but you fair better down here than in the Upperworld. Earth, especially, is a volatile place better left to more experienced gods—if even them."
Mineekas frowned. Could her father be talking himself out of his decision?
"But?" she pressed.
Hades sighed. "But...You're intelligent, more knowledgeable about mortals than many of your peers, and, though you may not want to hear this, your Purpose is incredibly powerful. Unless an elder god or Olympian mess with you, I don't have much worry about you handling any situation you come up against."
"Does this mean...Are you sending me on my own?"
The prospect intrigued Mineekas. When she daydreamed about residing in the Upperworld, she pictured it being just herself. Occasionally, she may include Persephone (even Demeter had crept in once, though her mind had shut down that idea quickly), but she mostly envisioned herself taking on the Upperworld alone. Most gods stayed on Mount Olympus, and many monsters had either gone extinct or remained in their remote parts of the world.
If Mineekas hadn't made a secret enemy or didn't act extremely foolish, she didn't have much to fear.
Hades held up his hand. "I know quite a few gods, and goddesses, that will pounce on you if they hear you're unattended."
"They can't get to me, so you're the second-best choice."
"You'd retaliate, though. Right?"
"With the full force of the Underworld, but that wouldn't change the damage done to you." Hades shook his head when Mineekas tried to protest again. "No, my word is final. If you want to go to the Upperworld, you must have an escort."
Mineekas swallowed her argument. If she pressed too hard, her father would take the offer off the table entirely, and probably force her to act as Hecate's personal servant for a year. Though having an escort made her feel like a godling, she preferred that over being at the mercy of the Magic Goddess.
"Fine. Who do you have in mind?"
She ran through a list, a very short list, of under-dwellers that may be persuaded to go to the Upperworld to babysit the princess. Mineekas held back a groan. No one she got along with well would want to come, though she couldn't blame them. Half of their luggage was going to consist of the salve under-dwellers had to always wear when on the Upperworld unless they wanted to risk death.
"I don't want to draw too much attention to you, so I think one will be enough. At least for now."
Mineekas bit her lip. "Who's tha—" Her eyes widened. "No."
"He's not an under-dweller, and he has no choice but to do as I order."
"Yes, but he's...He's been sentenced here for a good reason."
For the past fifty years, Pharcill, a nymph of excitements and son of Eris, had been sent to the Underworld by Hera for his hand in convincing Heracles to stray outside of his marriage and break Hebe's heart. The God Queen had wanted to kill the nymph, but Zeus had swayed her to a less rash decision (while Eris might not seem to care much for her children, she looked for any excuse to mess with the Olympians. Killing her son would have fueled her like much else couldn't).
Hades shrugged. "It's either you go with him, or you stay here."
Mineekas hated the terms of this deal, but she couldn't see much sense in declining. The worst Pharcill could do was annoy her, yet she planned to stay so busy she'd hardly have time to see him, let alone hold a conversation with him. Lest Hades ordered the nymph to remain glued to her side, Mineekas shouldn't have too much trouble with him.
She held out her hand. "Okay."
Hades squeezed her fingers, then stood. "You leave in two days."
He left, and Mineekas hurried to pack.
A/N: Another story done! I love how well Mineekas' short stories are going, and I'm glad you guys are enjoying them, too. Thank you for all your support.
So, guys, where do you think Mineekas and Pharcill are going to wind up?