Kore was an immortal and so, by the very definition of her being, could not grow out of childhood. The cruel beauty of immortal meant she was denied the enjoyment of lingering out of time. She was every age and no age simultaneously; an adult and a child, a woman and nuisance. Yet, irrespective of her wishes, and desires, and desperation, she would eternally be Demeter's daughter. Innocent, youthful, beautiful little Kore. Kore, who was dismissed with a flick of the wrist and an order to go play in the forest with the young nymphs (even they were allowed to grow old) to pluck the flowers from their roots and weave flower crowns and arrange beautiful collections of wildlife.
Kore ripped the life from the flowers, crumpling the white lilies in her angered, lily-pale, fist. She flung the flowers into the deep pool of water in front of her, banishing them from her grasp. The pool was deep, almost unendingly deep (she wondered how deep a pool must be to drown an immortal), the only respite to the soul sucking darkness of the void of water was the glints of ripples, catching the sunlight and reflecting it back into the calmed sky. The waters sank eternally down to the very core of the earth, taunting Kore with its release from the tether of the earth – from her ties to her mother. Kore threw herself down to the ground, grabbing fistfuls of grass and yanking them from the ground, dirt clinging desperately to the roots of the plants, before throwing them away from herself once more. The mockery of a tantrum haunted her, the spears of the earth landing limp in her youthful hand. She could not bear being infantilised for another moment, being treated as nothing but her mother's daughter. Even nymphs (– nymphs!) were given more respect than she, and they weren't even immortals (jealousy was unbecoming of a goddess, but oh how sweet it tasted. Oh, to be a nymph, or better still, human. Mortal.)
Kore ripped up another handful of grass, shredding it between her fingers, tossing the corpsed plant to the wind. A few green stalks landed in the ripples of Pergus, tossed about by the faint wind for a few moments, before the water lapped on top of them and they disappeared into the water. Kore urged more white lilies to grow, (if only she could disappear into that deep, deep water too) beheading the flowers, even as they bloomed to maturity, and throwing them on to the black waters of Pergus, slowly turning it white with the funeral flowers. Some petals had ripped in Kore's vicious attack, and bled a sweet, sticky nectar over her hands.
"What a violent massacre you've caused, sweet niece," drawled a voice from behind Kore. She paused in her attack turning to face her uncle. Hades leant against a tree, the shadows of the forest growing darker behind him, shading the clearing in a dark veil, hiding the two of them from any spying nymph eyes.
"There are no souls for you here, Hades," Kore grumbled, tossing more flowers into the water. She didn't look her uncle in the eye, refusing connection, refusing to submit to the belittling tone he would no doubt start to use. "Leave me."
Hades did not turn to condescension. He sat in the grass with the younger deity and listened to her, as she wove her complaints and daisies together, twisted deftly into a crown with her nimble fingers. Kore's complaints were not petty, not to her at least, and Hades let them swarm into the air, fluttering through the clearing like gentle bees, wandering aimlessly from plant to plant. As she spoke, Kore settled, gradually moving from pacing agitatedly, to standing, to sitting to lying down into the grass, and staring up at the endless stretch of blue sky. Dark hair spilled on the ground below her head, a halo of black below the Goddess of Springtime and Flowers, coating the ground in an artificial shadow.
Hades relaxed as well, leaning back, his hands placing behind him, propping him up off the ground. He plucked the crown woven by Kore, the white petals of the flowers turning golden at his touch and placed it on the forehead of the goddess. It covered her eyes, the rich wildflowers blinding her with their soft gold, reflecting the summer's light. Kore lifted the crown off her face and raised an eyebrow at the god of the underworld, a scepticism and faux-disapproval preceding the uncontrollable giggles. She couldn't refuse the giggles their exit and hated their childish sound bubbling through the air.
But Hades joined in, his low rumbling laughter surprising even himself.
The nymphs came back, and Kore turned to Hades with a panic that she hadn't thought she'd ever experience.
"Take me with you," she commanded. Her hand clutched at his robes, her white fist shining against the dark cloak he wore. Her grip was tight, unnaturally tight. It was the grip of a woman who would not let go until she got what she wanted, and Kore was going to get what she wanted. This time she was not going to settle with being the obedient child. Hades looked down at the lithe figure, clutching at him with such desperation, and wordlessly swept her away, an arm around her waist.
The nymphs looked on, horror stricken across their faces. They could do nothing but watch as Hades stole away the prize of Demeter, leaving behind a trail of flowers in his wake.
They were too far back to hear the sheer joy in Kore's laughter, to see the release in her face. They were oblivious to Hades' wry amusement as he whisked away his niece, providing at least a brief respite.
It was to grow into a love which defied and defined the passage of time – her revolt from her mother was to cause Winter and Autumn to gain their lives, but Kore couldn't know that yet. Consequences were for the future, release was all she craved, a freedom to know herself, to build her image how she pleased – to be more than simply Demeter's daughter.
There was no pressure on her to choose which world. Hades gestured to the exit as they strolled through the gardens of the dead, reminding her that she was welcome to come and go as she pleased. He allowed her to roam freely, grow whatever flowers she wished in his meadows, talk to any of the mortals she envied so much. Kore blossomed with the world she was given, no bounds created, no limits, simply spread out before her.
When the deaths rolled in, human after human, all frail and thin, all speaking of Demeter's death of the land. She had scarred it in her anger, robbed it of its nutrition and used the death toll as her bargaining chip.
Choice stopped being a freedom. Kore looked on at the chaos her absence had wrought, looked at the lengthening queue of the death, milling on the banks of the Styx. Even the mists of the Underworld couldn't mask the sheer numbers that demanded entry.
The pomegranate sat in her hand, the pomegranate that she had nourished to life. She had brought these fruits to the Underworld, and now they were to decide her fate. If she ate it, her mother would never forgive her, would never forgive Hades, Aphrodite, the poor foundation nymph whose name Kore had never bothered to learn. Demeter would take back the harvest, never to return, and would burn the world in her wake. Kore looked down at the pomegranate.
She picked out six seeds, placed them carefully into her mouth, and chewed. Freedom burst into a flourish of flavours. Her eyes stayed on the fruit until she had swallowed the seeds in their entirety.
She looked up, staring into the soul of Ascalaphus even as he shrank into the warped form of a screech-owl.
"Tell Zeus I'm ready to bargain."
So spoke Persephone, Chaos-Bringer, Goddess of Spring and Queen of the Underworld.