The King of the Dead is nothing if not patient. He watches his bride as she wanders his palace like one of the wraiths his boatman brings. The goddess of spring is young and beautiful and unhappy. She refuses to look at him and while she does not resist his touch, it is clear that she does not welcome it.
He thinks that if she would only look at him, if he could just make her smile, that he might be able to reach her. A gift, perhaps. He endeavors always to please her. The god of the dead is also the god of wealth. He showers her with jewels, garnets the color of blood gleaming in silver settings, but she does not smile. Garnet gowns to match the jewels and still she does not smile.
Finally, inspired, he shows her the garden. The air is heavy with the scent of night-blooming jasmine. Although his flowers are not the springtime primroses and tulips and violets that she knew, they still bring her joy. As he leaves her alone among the pomegranate trees and the sweet pink and white flowers of valerian, she turns to him and speaks for the first time.
"Thank you," she says.
He bows in response.
It is different, after that.
Each day, he walks with her in the garden. It has been carefully planted with her in mind. Bryony climbs the walls of the garden, reminding her with small white flowers that wealth seeks company. He notices the first time that she wears one of the necklaces that he has given her. The silver meander chain gleams around her pale throat and the garnet pendant lifts her spirits enough that he is able to draw her into conversation. He is silent when the words pour out of her. She talks about her mother and he is gratified to know that his sister has not changed since he left Olympus. Some of her stories are happy, others are sad, and he listens to all of them with genuine interest.
Heart-shaped balm leaves line the garden paths and their spiky white blossoms intrigue her. He crushes one of the leaves to release the scent of lemons and she asks him about his own life. It is not in his nature to share his feelings or memories, but he finds that there is little that he can deny her when she asks. He tells her how he came to rule over the dead while his younger brothers rule sea and sky. Her exclamation at the injustice of the eldest Olympian being confined to the underworld and cut off from his family pleases him until he remembers that he has now condemned her to the fate that he has resented for so long. He is too proud to apologize; still, she whispers:
"I forgive you."
The blue trumpets of gentian remind her a little of the meadows in Eleusis where she last saw sunlight. The eglantine flowers smell of apples, and she grasps at the stem unthinking, forgetting the thorns hidden by the pink petals. She cries out as one pierces her flesh, and pulls her hand away. Eglantine thorns wound to heal, though, and he presses a small strip of cloth against the wound until it closes over.
"You must be careful," he tells her. "Lovely things are not without danger."
She can feel herself growing fond of him. When he brushes one of her black curls away from her face, her breath catches in her throat and she cannot explain why.
The first time she touches him—it is nothing, really, a hand on his arm—he freezes and looks at her in a way that used to frighten her, his black eyes burning with liquid fire. She is not afraid now, but she does not know the word for what she feels instead. The scent of the night-blooming jasmine is suddenly over-powering. One of them is drowning, but she cannot say if it is he or herself.
He does not allow the messenger to speak to her, when he comes bearing bad news, but tells her himself that she must return to the light. In truth, he has been expecting this command from on high. Part of him has always known that she is not his to keep. When she hesitates, though, he allows himself to hope. His hand trembles as he offers her the seeds. She eats them one by one, each one making her more completely his. Months in his garden have made her aware of the pomegranate's symbolism.
Neither of them shows any sorrow at parting the next morning. They both know that she will return.