Mortal men said that where Aphrodite walked, roses grew and bloomed. Though this wasn't quite true, the Earth did seem brighter for her presence, the air more fragrant…

She watched the girl from afar as only an immortal could, down through the thickets and the woods…

There had been problems, lately. Hades had been neglecting his duties. And when Hades neglected his duties, the Upperworld suffered as well. The spirits of the recently dead wandered aimlessly, creating all sorts of problems. If it got any worse Aphrodite feared that the dead wouldn't die at all. The sick and terminally wounded would linger at death's door. Men would be cut to ribbons in battle without ever dying…And although death was hardly Aphrodite's area of expertise, she felt that what was her specialty, love, could potentially be the cause of the situation.

She continued watching.

"What is that woman up to?" Zeus asked rhetorically of his wife.

"Watching Demeter's daughter; but of what purpose, I do not know."

"She is no doubt disgruntled by Persephone's maidenhood. She's always hated to see beauty go to waste."

Hera's face reddened, as she recognized both the surface meaning of "maidenhood" and it's more…immodest connotations.

"Don't speak of your…" her face flushed darker still, "…daughter in such a way, Husband. Innocence is her essence, and so it shall remain."

There was a pause, then Zeus shrugged.

"Perhaps, perhaps not. I'll be watching the situation closely. With Aphrodite's involvement, things are bound to hold my attention."

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The river Styx didn't so much consist of water as it did sludge. Charon pulled his tiny barge along against the icy water as he had for centuries.

The far side of the Styx loomed ahead, dotted with spectral figures—the recently dead. They wandered, some of them, others just stood motionless, watching the river. No one wept. Hades' realm seemed to induce a kind of apathy in the dead, at least until their souls received judgment…

Charon had prowled the river Styx since time began, and even if the sight of the dead had once disturbed him, he was long since over his shock.

So when his eyes widened in surprise, it was not due to a dead Greek warrior or slave.

The dead let off a pale blue glow, below, providing only a wan, vaguely depressing illumination. But Her aura was vibrant pink, so bright in the gloom that it actually caused the Shades to cast shadows against the gravel.

Aphrodite.

Charon's tiny boat docked, it's bottom crunching on the gravel of the shore, and, handing him their fare of obols, the dead boarded.

Charon stared openly at the Olympian on the shore. Then, suddenly, she turned to face him.

"Well, Boatman, will you ferry me as you do these men, or can only the dead barter passage?"

Charon stared at the bottom of his boat, blushing fiercely.

"Step aboard, my Lady, your beauty is much needed in this realm, and my Master will be pleased to hear whatever news you bring."

"Yes," she said, red lips twitching up into a smile, "…Yes, I rather imagine he will."

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Aphrodite's hair was black, like Hades', and it fell to her hips. Her skin, unlike his, was bronzed from the sun, and her eyes were deepest brown. Everything about her contrasted deeply from this realm of black and smoky grey, with only the ice-blue shades to light the darkness…

Shades were everywhere. She had expected them to swarm around her as mortals did, attracted to her beauty. But on the contrary, they barely seemed aware of her presence at all, so oblivious to her surroundings were they.

This place made her uncomfortable. It was cold, damp, and overwhelmingly dark. A wave of pity for Hades descended upon her. To live like this for all eternity, without the sun, without love…

Suddenly, he was there, as though she had spoken aloud.

Hades' hair was black, and had a slight curl to it, falling to just past his broad shoulders. His skin was so pale it was nearly translucent, and his eyes were icy blue, almost the color of the shades he governed. His face was handsome, and held a certain regality, if sadness.

"Aphrodite, what has prompted you to so grace my realm with your presence?" he said dryly; Aphrodite had a reputation for sewing mischief wherever she went.

Aphrodite pretended not to notice his dripping sarcasm.

"News, Rich One. Of a matter that may concern you."

She drew up an image. It was a simple matter, all the Gods could do it.

For a second the spectral canvas hung blank above her raised hand, then, an image filled it.

It was a girl, not much beyond 18 summers, by the look of her, resting beneath a laurel tree, in the land far above them. Her hair was very long and her skin was gold from the sun. She was slender but curvaceous, the contours of her breasts and hips visible through the white shift she wore.

Hades' forgot his annoyance. His breath caught in his throat. "Who is she?" he whispered, eyes never leaving Aphrodite's ghost image.

"She is Persephone, daughter of Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest." She waved her hand, and the image dissipated like smoke.

"…And soon, she will die."

Hades looked back to Aphrodite's face, his own flushed.

"Why will she die?"

Aphrodite shrugged. "There is no place for her. We have a Goddess of the Harvest: her mother, Demeter. And we have a Virgin: Artemis. There is no reason for her to exist, and soon, she will no longer."

"How do you know?"

"The Sisters, have told me, the Fates with their spinning and their shears. Her line runs short."

Hades was angry, now.

"Why tell this to me? Why taunt me with the inevitability of death? I who know it so well?"

"Because, Rich One," she snapped back, "…You have a niche here that needs filled: you have no Queen. Take her maiden-head and give her a crown, and her place among the Olympians is assured."

Hades looked away from her, and began pacing.

"How, sister?" Aphrodite wasn't really his sister, of course, but she was the Olympian he'd been most companionable with.

"Even if I agreed to such a thing, how exactly would I persuade her to be my Queen? Or surrender her maiden-head, for that matter?"

Aphrodite's eyes narrowed. "I know how Zeus would go about at least one part of that equation." She didn't have to speak it aloud, Hades knew what she was referring to. "And I know that the Fates do not care if Persephone is willing or not, but…I have faith in you," A smile twitched on her lips

"… brother. I know that Zeus' way is not yours. But I refuse to let something so full of potential die from over-sheltering.

She has until the next full moon. If you find rape as distasteful as I, then I suggest you get started."