Hades, Persephone, and the rest of anything related to ancient Greece here fore and therefore belong to the ancient Greeks. However, since they are notably ancient and therefore unlikely to be alive, perhaps no disclaimer is necessary.

The culmination of Menthe's affair with Hades.


She is not quite sure of what has occurred.

Affairs in the castle beneath the ground rarely change; the rooms are always dark and gloomy, the servants as quiet as ghosts, and the lord and the queen as distant as earth and sky. She is aware that she is one of the rare changes wrought in the castle under the ground, a stone's throw in one direction from Tartarus and the same in the opposite direction to the Elysium Fields. She knows, that regardless of the movement of the living above and the dead around the castle, very little changes.

Persephone is always, always insane, a lovely and shadowy spectre as capable of putting on a show as she is of driving her husband to the brink of madness – flawless creature of dark and destruction – and beyond. She is an airy, never truly solid presence, as beautiful as the day and as treacherous as the night, the terrifying queen of the dead. Hades, in turn, her beloved lord of the underworld, is always, always slavish to his wife's desires, but nevertheless seeking comfort in the embraces and arms of anyone else who will not refuse him entry to their bed. He is grounded, solid, immovable, unchangeable.

And she? She is the breath of fresh air in the cluttered and crowded prison of Persephone, the warm nymph slipping into Hades' bed instead of him crawling into her own. She is the sunset fire of the clouds in the world above, red and violet and gold, created as the earth clashes with the sky. She is the greenery that softens the earth and the wind that moves the air. Even as the agent of chaos, the catalyst of change, she is just another known variable in the castle beneath the earth, and defined by not herself but what she means to those around her. The castle's guest, the lord's – whore – mistress, Persephone's rival/lover/occasional companion. She has been the same since she arrived, and she feels that she will be the same when she leaves.

But everything is different now. Everything has changed.

She paces the familiar halls, the lord and the queen's throne room, the dungeons and the towers, stretching up to kiss the earth. Lost in her own thoughts – for those of others rarely trouble her – the discrepancies become more and more obvious as she roams further away from her corner of this shifting and ever-the-same world.

The rooms of the castle below the ground are aglow, brightly lit up, and servants scurry from corridor to corridor, their voices discussing every possible scenario as to why they have been ordered to bring the light back in. they let her pass without word, for all know she is the master's – whore – companion. She is disassociated, alienated from her surroundings. The dim and gloomy castle of the realm beneath the earth is gone, replaced by a palace fit for the queen of the spring. Only the lack of windows tells the truths of the castle – ever-dungeon, always-oubliette – only the lack of windows, and the shades that drift like the souls of the lost.

Most curious of all is that the lord and the queen are nowhere to be seen. This puzzles her more than the light and the noise and the joy, for Persephone's suite of rooms – the prettiest prison to grace under the earth – are empty, the door smashed open and singed like a burned and broken heart. If this is not odd enough, Hades himself is missing since evening the day before, along with his demon-bride.

The meeting of the gods was the day before; she, as a minor nymph, was not called to attend. But the lord was, and the queen, and she is bemused. Usually, after a gathering with the other gods, he calls upon her, the sweet Nepenthe and the inimitable Lethe to his bruised pride and wounded heart. For a moment she considers – no, of course not, never ever ever. The rogue thought slips up through her subconscious, a bleak image of two bodies entwined, in that duet only Fate has ever borne witness to. She dismisses it from her mind. Hades is Hades, and for as long as he has known him he has been as solid as the earth above and beneath her feet, as dependable as the rock on which his castle below the ground is built from. And he would never bed his queen.

Yet it is with some trepidation that she enters his suite of rooms. She has never been here before except on invitation from the lord/himself; he values his privacy almost as much as he once valued his queen. But he is absent, and the only person to be found is his wife, sitting calmly and quietly and oh-so sanely on his bed. The shivers race up and down Menthe's spine, a fierce blend of fear and passion, death and sex.

"Menthe," Persephone greets, her usually black-flame eyes a warm shade of honey and hazel, and she shudders to hear her name on the tongue of this woman, madness incarnate. "Are you looking for my husband?" On the delicate sharpness of the queen's voice, she receives every answer she ever needs. She does not need to ask to know what has occurred. The queen's glow is that of a woman who has been well pleased by a man, and Menthe feels a sudden surge of fear. There is something a little too sane about Persephone's eyes, an expression a little too calm resting on the goddess's beautiful features, when she is usually lit from within with the frantic glow of the truly deranged.

"I'll find him later," Menthe stammers, backing towards the door, desperate to escape. She is the prey, and the lioness is sharpening her claws. She is unsurprised when the heavy door slams shut, trapping her in the room with a madwoman. Persephone continues to smile pleasantly.

"No, you won't," she says, standing and moving towards the stricken nymph.

Menthe presses her lips together, biting down on them to hold her tongue, wanting nothing more than to be away from this woman, this nightmare vision of death. But the queen's eyes are living stone, stubbornness in every line of her willowy frame, and with something like resignation, she accepts that there will be no escape.

"You're something of a dilemma, Menthe," continues Persephone, shaking her head, as though the fate of the nymph is something that truly concerns her. "You really are. You see, my husband is very fond of you, as am I. I would say he is perhaps too fond of you. This is something of a problem."

Menthe says nothing. What is there to say? It is the truth – the lord loves her, but not as much as he loves his bride. Her heart burns.

"You understand, of course," says Persephone, her large eyes warm and gentle and so gods-damned sympathetic, "that I cannot let you live." And worst of all, she does understand, knew that the queen would never let her live so long as her husband's eyes still turned from her to another. There is no point in arguing. Persephone is not one to change her mind once it has been made up. "My husband and I have reconciled," continues the goddess. "He – nor I, I must confess – have any future use for you. And make no mistake," she adds, eyes narrowing and bending closer, "I will not have you ruin my marriage."

The lucidity, Menthe understands, is nothing more than a show, an act put on to fool those who do not know the queen into understanding her insanity. Persephone will never change; never become something more than the rigid, unbending monster she is now. And this is why she must die, why she must be erased from the face of the earth and beneath it, as though she never existed. For she could see the queen's state of mind, understand her in ways no one else ever could. The thought makes her body constrict and her soul shrivel – but, glancing down in horror, this is the work of the queen, standing, smiling, serene.

She cannot speak, cannot breathe, cannot do anything but melt into something not herself. The cage of her own flesh locks around her, a more restrictive cage than that of Persephone. As the barriers of what she was and what she will become begin to align in a dreadful kind of allegiance that she cannot fathom nor comprehend, she casts her eyes up to where she imagines the sky might be, above the castle beneath the ground.

xx

"Was Menthe here?" inquires Hades later, when her consciousness is dissolved and Persephone's witchery is done. "I think I smell her perfume." Persephone smiles at the window, to the solitary plant growing in the small plant pot.

"No, she wasn't," she replies, and turns back to her husband, a picture perfect woman with the heart of a snake.

xx

She watches, and she waits, and she dies eventually, a plant consumed by the ravages of age and the dislike of the queen. But the queen is still airy and light, a creature of artifice and sham and false beauty, and her beloved lord is still immovable and unchangeable as the earth that sustains her life. And they are together, and she is not.

But she is still a creature of change. For she is still the greenery that softens the harshness of the earth, and the gentle motion of her leaves creates wind that moves the air. Her seeds fly in this wind to the world above the castle beneath he ground, underneath the clouds of red and gold and violet that are created as the earth clashes with the sky.

When the nymph dies, imprisoned in a cage of mint scent and leafy softness, Persephone and Hades have fought and lived and loved in the room where she grows. Starved of the sun and of love and care, she rots from the inside out, her scent a sickly perfume that only the lord and the queen do not notice, too accustomed to care. She watched them for forever and a day, caught between worlds, locked in a kind of purgatory that never seemed to cease. Feasting her eyes on the glory – horror – that is the lord and the queen, she is wordless and silent, a presence no longer herself, but no one else, either.

But for as long as she lived, through the agonies of disease and torment and the slow slide into forgetfulness for eternity, until she forgot even her own name and those of the two people she loved and loathed, she never forgot that earth and sky will always meet at the horizon.


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