Chapter One: Hades, God of the Dead
Everyone in Neo-Macedonia knew of the gods. If you did not, you were quite commonly accused of living under some form of rock. The knowledge that gods lived amongst men was as renowned as the fact that water was a necessity of life.
As renowned as the fact that you did not, under any circumstances, mess with a god. Especially one who was in charge of the Underworld.
Which was why Hades was clenching his jaw as he stared at his brothers across the webcam and muttered, "I am hanging up now."
"As if that's a surprise," Zeus said, leant forward on his desk with his fingers threaded together, his eyes narrow. His suit was an exceedingly pale grey. "Always the first to leave a meeting, even when we're discussing something important."
"Because I do not appreciate being insulted by my younger brothers for attempting to do my job," Hades replied, his own eyes narrow.
"Let him be. If he wants to sulk, let him sulk," Poseidon said, arm draped carelessly over the back of his chair. Out of the three brothers, Poseidon was certainly the most carefree and perhaps the most liked too. Not a hard feat to achieve when he never wore a shirt, not even in meetings. Apparently, he did not need a shirt to swim, though he ignored Hades' constant remarks that one did not need trousers to swim either, but Poseidon wore those constantly.
"I am hanging up now," Hades repeated.
"Fine," Zeus huffed, not even twitching as he spoke. "We have a meeting with the Twelve Olympians anyway."
"A meeting without me sounds remarkably pleasant," Hades said. "It is fun to always be excluded."
"Hades, why do you have to be such a kill joy?" Poseidon asked. "You know why you're not one of the Twelve."
"I am hanging up now," Hades said, and before either of his brothers could say another word, he had pressed the button to cancel the call. As the screen flickered black, Hades slumped in his chair with head tipped back and eyes closed, and he sighed. Sighing, it seemed, was one of his most favoured activities.
As he sat back, there was a click, and he opened his eyes to see a white, slender hand had shut his laptop. "You know you should wear your glasses when on video call."
Hades gaze flickered up to the woman stood before him. Almost everything about her was black, from her dead straight hair that fell to her waist, to her three-piece suit, and even the bubble-gum she constantly chewed.
"You know my brothers like to insult me for being unable to see without the aid of human spectacles. Not to mention they revel in calling me stuck up for having an expensive pair." Hades gaze shifted, to the jewel encrusted glasses Hecate dangled in front of him, the jewels and he plucked them from her grasp as he said, "So I shall not wear them on call."
"You'll just make your eyesight worse if you constantly strain it," Hecate said, blowing a black bubble in his face. He sighed, and she sat down on his desk, pulling out her phone and tapping away with her inch long, red nails—the same blood red as her eyes and lips. If one paid attention, they would see the tiny rubies in the shape of a skull on each of her nails. "You look tired. That bad, huh?"
"I can't get tired whilst working in the Underworld."
"Stressed, then. 'That bad' still stands. So, what did they insult you about this time?"
"The usual," Hades said, blowing on his glasses and wiping them down with a cloth—he never used his shirt, unlike some people. "How I am not one of the Twelve and shall be doomed to a life of loneliness."
"Can't be lonely in the Underworld with Nyx and her dozens of kids," Hecate said, without looking up from her phone. "Can't be lonely in the Underworld when I'm here too."
"Hecate, I was not referring to friendship."
"Aw, you think of me as a friend?"
"Absolutely not," Hades said, and Hecate snorted, still not looking up from her phone.
"Romantic relationships are overrated," she said.
"Yes, but you say that as an aromantic asexual who is not interested in any relationship outside of familial ones," Hades replied, sighing as he put his glasses away, snapping the case shut. "I speak as someone who accidentally told my brothers I desire a partner of sorts."
"Well, that's not my fault you were an idiot and told your mean brothers something you didn't want them to know," Hecate said, still tapping away on her phone. A second later, and she added, "Nyx says you should find a wife."
"Or a husband," Hades said. "And why must you text Nyx everything?"
"Or a spouse of any gender," Hecate said. "And I text Nyx everything because you know how she loves to mother everyone in the Underworld, including us."
Hades sighed. "Nyx makes it sound easy. She has never had to worry about finding a partner, not when Erebus has been her consort for several millennia."
"We know from experience there's plenty of nymphs in the Underworld who would love a piece of this," Hecate said, waving a hand at Hades, though she still didn't look up from her phone. "Albeit a man who looks like a corpse is an odd choice. There are better looking gods down here."
Hades, who did not desire to be reminded, sighed again. "Hecate, please."
Hades sighed yet again. "Sometimes I regret making you my personal secretary."
"Yes, but who else would be as exciting as me?" She finally looked up at him, pausing in chewing her bubble-gum so she could grin at him.
"Exciting is certainly a word to describe you…"
"And 'boring' is one perfect to describe you," she chirped, and she blew a bubble in his face again. He didn't flinch when it popped. "Now, if you're going to spend the next hour sulking, why don't you do something useful at the same time?"
"Like my job?"
"No, I mean take Cerberus out for a walk because he has been bugging me all morning and won't stop barking," Hecate said, turning her attention back to her phone. "I'll handle your paperwork for the time being, and you take a little break as you cool off after whatever argument you had with your brothers."
"Fine," Hades said. "I will be gone for one, maybe two, hours. Stick to your word and do the paperwork, or there will be trouble."
"I love trouble," she said, blowing him a kiss. He only sighed again.
Hades preferred to keep a low profile, as expected of one who's popularity remained at a constant low amongst the mortals, despite being one of the most worshipped gods in the pantheon—being the god of riches had its perks at times. Therefore, he spent almost all of his time in the Underworld, typically working, as he did not have many hobbies.
On occasion, he did make the rare trip to Neo-Macedonia, the mortals' realm, mostly to take Cerberus for a walk. After all, Cerberus got restless remaining in the Underworld for too long, even if it was his job to guard the gates. Considering Cerberus did not like Mount Olympus, Neo-Macedonia it was.
The streets of Neo-Macedonia were a lively place, something that never changed after hundreds and thousands of years. Bright and breezy, and constantly bustling with mortals and nymphs. The only thing that had changed was the replacement of horses and carts with cars and bikes, and Hades had to sidestep around one too many teenagers glued to their phones. They were even worse than Hecate and her constant texting.
He also had to sidestep around one too many people trying to snap a picture of him. Everywhere he walked, heads turned. Hecate was right, after all, in saying he looked like a corpse, with sunken eyes and hollow cheeks. Anyone with his appearance would get their fair few stares. Though, in all fairness, most of the stares were possible aimed towards Cerberus with his three heads. Cerberus was typically too large to fit in most human houses, but for the sake of strolling around outside, Hades would politely ask him to downsize. However, asking Cerberus to switch to only one head was too much.
Of course, the reason most stared at Hades would have been because only one person had a three headed dog. A particular god no one wanted to get on the wrong side of.
Usually, Hades would take Cerberus to the dog park, but that day they stalked the streets, following the map on Hades' phone, until they came across a particular shop they had never been to. A small, coffee shop tucked out of sight of the main street, the sign that read 'Cassie's Coffee' in desperate need of a new coat of paint.
Hades frowned at his phone, then frowned at the store. "I believe this is the shop Odysseus recommended."
The last time he had run into Odysseus at the dog park, the mortal man had claimed to know a fantastic coffee shop that Hades just had to visit. Hades had never even been to a mortal coffee shop. In all honesty… he expected a place a little more exciting if Odysseus had recommended it. As the god of riches, Hades was not used to small places.
Nonetheless, Cerberus was barking at the entrance. Once in agreement that, yes, it was the correct place, and another time in confusion.
"Yes," Hades said, kneeling by Cerberus and scratching the top of one of his heads. "I sense it too."
It was faint, but there no mistaking the feeling of magic that came from within the shop, a magic that felt more akin to a god than anything else.
There was a black-haired waitress outside, in the midst of clearing a few tables. Hades asked if dogs were allowed inside, and she yelled in response and dropped the cups she had been holding. Hades then had to apologise for spooking her, repeat his question, and offer to help clear away the broken shards of a china cup. The waitress, now deathly pale, squeaked that she would do it herself, scooped up the large shards, then scurried inside. It was only a second later she bolted back outside and said no, dogs were not allowed inside, but she could fetch a dog bowl full of water if Hades wished to stay at one of the outside tables.
Hades nodded and thanked the waitress, who hurriedly swept up the rest of the mess she had made, before fleeing back inside. After picking a table tucked away in the corner, and telling Cerberus to stay, he headed inside to join the queue, ignoring the stares of the few other guests already there—not that there were many. Perhaps he should not have worn his usual attire, to which others always turned their noses up at for being too 'stuck up'. It turned out normal people did not have jewels on their real leather shoes. Not even Zeus.
Unfortunately, Hades wasn't a coffee person, or a tea person, or even a hot drinks person in general, despite residing in the chilly underworld. Hades frowned as he examined the board behind the counter, not knowing what half the words even meant. Odysseus had recommended a drink called a hot chocolate, which, thankfully, sounded remarkably tasty, so Hades supposed that would have to be his order.
He placed his order at the till, where the dull-eyed barista did not seem at all bothered by his presence. Then he went to the other end of the bar where he waited for his drink, watching as the barista at the machines worked away on the orders. It was her, Hades decided, that was the source of the magic.
Hades thought that perhaps she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, even more so than Aphrodite. She reminded him an awful lot of Demeter, with the same dark skin, and dark, wavy hair, currently pulled back into a large bun. Plenty of strands had fallen free and were framing her round, freckled face. Her eyes were a fantastic green, but when her gaze met his as she was about to hand him his drink, they shifted to more of a teal. Only for a second, and then they brightened as she smiled at him. Hades heart skipped a beat.
He was too distracted by the sudden smile that he had not noticed she had taken his drink away. He only realised when she handed the drink back, this time swamped in a mountain of whipped cream and marshmallows.
"Thank you," he said, since he had not paid for the extra cream.
"It's my pleasure," she said. Even her voice was beautiful. If Hades had to describe it, he would say it sounded like melted chocolate. Hot chocolate, perhaps. It sounded as sweet as his drink looked.
Not wanting to linger, Hades nodded his thanks again, stole a glimpse at her name badge, then went back outside to sit with Cerberus.
Persi, her name badge had said. And who, he wondered, was Persi?
Cerberus was already drinking from a bowl of water when Hades sat down. Cerberus barked, and Hades patted him on all three heads, before he took a sip of his own drink. The hot chocolate was delicious, as delicious as it sounded and looked. As delicious as the barista, Persi, sounded and looked.
Hades shook his head. What was wrong with him?
Cerberus barked up at him, and Hades sighed. "No, I do not know her. It is not as if I am familiar with every god in the pantheon. She may simply be a nymph."
As he sipped at his hot chocolate, he pulled out his phone to text Hecate.
Hades: Are you familiar with a minor deity / nymph named Persi?
Hecate: I'm trying to do your work for you whilst you take a break and you interrupt me by asking completely ridiculous questions?
Hades: It is not completely ridiculous. You know your gossip.
Hecate: Well I guess who have a point, but it is tough to keep up to date on all minor deities and nymphs. You know what Zeus is like!
Hecate: To answer your question.
Hecate: Never heard of a Persi.
Hecate: Doesn't even sound Greek ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Hades: Thank you for your help.
Even though she hadn't helped at all. Hades sighed and put his phone away.
A quarter of an hour later, he had finished his drink. He pulled out a tiny notebook, a pen, and his glasses, and started to jot down some notes for work, not wanting to move too quickly after having finished his drink. As he was halfway through filling out a page, there was a cough, and he looked up.
Persi the barista, stood before him, smiling softly. Her eyes, however, were not as bright green as they had been before. As she smiled, Hades heart skipped a beat again. She was too beautiful he wanted to tell her to walk away, before standing next to him was doing her no good. He wasn't beautiful, far from it. That was what years skulking around the Underworld got you.
"Are you finished with your cup?" she asked.
"Yes," he replied, nudging it towards her. "It was an enjoyable drink. Thank you for the extra cream again. You did not have to."
Persi picked up the cup, unable to meet his gaze. "I… I did… it might have been a bribe."
Hades frowned. "A bribe for what?"
"A bribe to convince you not to tell Mother you saw me here," she said. "Please don't tell her. I'll get in trouble."
Hades' frown deepened, but before he had the chance to ask any questions, Persi had already fled inside. Cerberus barked after her, and Hades quietly put his pen and notebook away. Now things made sense. No wonder why Persi had reminded Hades of Demeter.
Hades did not keep up to date on most of the other gods' affairs, but he was familiar with Demeter and the daughter she kept locked away.
The question was, however, what was her daughter doing working in a mortal coffee shop?