Persephone let out a shaky breath, looking at her reflection in panic and slight awe. Ribbons, lace, garter belts, gloves; everything was strewn about the room as they tried to match everything to her dress. Maids bustled on every side of her, trying to make her presentable for her own wedding. Her own wedding! She had never agreed to this! She swallowed thickly to keep the panic down and one of the maids looked at her discreetly. She was as white as a sheet, her tanned skin already paling in the palace with no sun. Her red-brown hair was being painstakingly pinned to the back of her skull, her wild curls giving the three maids behind her quite a bit of trouble.
"I-I can't do this. I can't marry him. I barely know him! And… And… And he didn't even ask me!" Persephone knew that was a lie but didn't admit to it. "T-this isn't how it's done! It's… It's unreasonable! He can't force me to marry him! I won't do it!" Before she could sprint away, a pair of soft hands took her by the shoulders and gently kneaded the muscles from behind. Persephone looked to see it was the head maid and quelled slightly. She was a matronly creature with her hair in a tight bun and in a plain brown dress and shoes.
"My lady, it's going to be alright. Give him a chance." The quiet words of the older shade had Persephone's mouth clicking shut even as more fear bubbled up. But she didn't love him! She walked around the piles of discarded lace and shoes to round Persephone and stand in front of her. The matron shade understood the sudden fear in her eyes and put a finger under her chin to make Persephone look at her. "My lady, for years I have resided here in this palace, longer than anyone but Charon and the young lord himself. Lord Hades is…" She searched for the words and after a moment failed. She motioned for a maid to hand her a black velvet box that was on the end of the bed. The velvet was smooth to her fingertips as she unclasped the box and opened it carefully to show its prize; Persephone's new crown.
She picked up the crystal tiara that had been forged for Persephone and showed her the jewels in them. They glittered in the dull light of the candles, a white gold circlet with emerald leaves and pink diamonds for rose petals. Each tiny gemstone flower and carving was intricate, and a masterpiece, if the maid said so herself. Persephone couldn't take her eyes off of it, her blue orbs filling up with awe. "Lord Hades is like one of these precious stones. He feels and looks hard and cool, cut to perfection." Persephone watched the light wink off of the stones one by one, listening quietly to the head maid.
"But just like this gemstone, he has facets and different sides to him. Do you understand now?" Persephone nodded slowly as the tiara was carefully placed on the top of her head. It felt like a lead weight to her even though it was light enough to be a feather. Persephone bit her bottom lip and looked back at herself in the mirror as they finished the preparations. The maid was right about Lord Hades, he was different, but that wasn't the point.
She didn't love him.
Hades had been prepared hours ago, but that didn't settle his mind for long. What was taking her so long? Was she purposely trying to drag this out? He shook his head. No, she wasn't doing it on purpose. She was probably trying to convince the maids to leave her alone so she didn't have to come downstairs. He knew very well that she didn't want to marry him. "It doesn't matter. She will learn to love me in time." Even as he muttered the words to himself, it left him with no reassurances.
Letting out a frustrated sigh, Hades ran a hand through his well groomed hair in a quick gesture. His well combed hair was wild again as it was meant to be once the hand had left his hair. Hades paced in front of the alter in the grand room where cheerful decorations were hung everywhere. The three sisters, the Fates, had already arrived along with Charon. They cast each other baleful looks from where they stood to the side. Charon moved forward, dressed in crisp robes as he stepped up behind the alter and opened a small velvet box. Inside of the box held two wedding bands wrought of white gold. His blacksmiths had been busy the past few weeks to prepare for everything, but not one of their creations had a flaw. He himself had made the wedding bands, spending most of the previous night at the forgeries below the castle walls. The doors opened behind them but Hades didn't look, his mind too distracted to even think of who could be opening the doors.
Charon shifted to attention and Hades looked up at Charon as he stared at the entrance, light surprise written on his face. Hades turned around and his eyes landed on Persephone, his bride.
Persephone stood in a glamorous white gown at the end of the carpeted aisle, looking radiant and scared to death. Hades turned fully to face her and slowly started towards her with careful steps. She was dressed in a gown that would put any bride to shame. Pearls were inlaid in the delicate lace bodice and the collar traveled to be a careful scoop neck. It had no sleeves, but pearls and diamonds dripped from her ears, throat, and wrists, pale against her lightly tanned skin. The skirt tapered at the waist before flowering out in different layers like rose petals.
'I can't do this. I can't do this.' Persephone's knees were shaking and she felt sick to her stomach as Hades carefully approached her. He was dressed unlike the other gods she had seen in Olympus, who wore no shirts but togas. He dressed for the chill air underneath the ground. The white tunic had sleeves that went to his wrists and had a black vest that went over it. He wore black pants as well that were stuffed into the black leather boots on his feet. His hair was wild from his fingers combing through it, but it was the eyes that caught her attention the most.
The liquid silver looked at her with such calm and cool that she couldn't help but feel some calm herself. She stared at him until he was standing barely a foot from her. With a calm that he didn't feel, Hades outstretched his hand and took her left hand that was choking the bouquet of flowers. He pried her fingers off carefully and she relaxed her hand. Keeping eye contact, Hades led Persephone forward and down the carpeted aisle towards the Alter.
Persephone barely felt her feet move as she stared at him, scared out of her mind. How could he be so calm? He was marrying a stranger he didn't know, just a random girl he picked out of a field, literally! She didn't even know him!! What was she going to tell her mother once she found a way out of this place?! Oh, hello mother, guess what, I'm married. A sudden thought occurred to her that made her other fears tiny and insignificant. If she was getting married, that meant she had to have a wedding night. Persephone immediately stopped walking, only a few feet from the Alter. Hades gave her a questioning look as she refused to budge. Immediately the conversation she had had with Aphrodite some days prior came to her mind. Now she knew she couldn't go through with this. Had it only been a few days? A few weeks? She didn't know, time passed so much more differently without a moon and sun to guide her.
Hades watched as Persephone's eyes dropped to the floor, wide and now terrified. Her feet immediately shuffled backwards as she started to back-pedal out of the chapel. Hades held onto her hand firmly, tugging her forward carefully before she could turn the shuffling into a full sprint. She stumbled forward and gave him a shocked look, as if she'd just woken up from being dazed. Persephone tugged on her hand harder and Hades gripped tighter, refusing to let go. "Hades, let me go!" Her voice came out as a hiss as she bent her head towards him to whisper, so she wouldn't cause a scene. She already was however as Charon and the Fates watched with blank faces. They had expected her to be ranting, raving, screaming, anything but the near quiet and terrified thing that walked through the door.
Hades shook his head wordlessly, taking her bouquet and dropping it to the floor. He took her other hand and put both of them over his heart, letting her feel the rapid beating underneath his shirt. She was slightly surprised that it beat at all, much less that quickly. "I cannot."
Persephone shot him an accusing look. "You mean you won't."
Hades dipped his head in a nod once and Persephone's hands curled into a fist over his heart. Her fingernails pricked the inside of her skin, reminding her how hard she was squeezing her fingers. She forced them to relax and instead focused on being angry. If she was angry, she could think, she could be rational. Terror and fear of the unknown had done her no good; she'd just been frozen in place. "Persephone." The single word came out as a command and she looked up, feeling meek and small under the powerful gaze he put on her. He sighed softly and brushed a stray curl from her face. His fingers were surprisingly warm for such a dreary and frozen world. "This is fated."
Persephone shook her head as he spoke, refusing to hear it. "No, it's not! Please, don't make me do this!" Her voice was close to begging as she looked up at him, refusing to let her eyes fill with tears. She was not a child who would cry because she didn't get what she wanted, she was an adult, and she was mature. She was scared out of her mind of what she knew couldn't be avoided.
"Persephone, do you trust me?" The strange question had her blinking slowly at him as she looked at him. Did she trust him? She bit her bottom lip in thought and looked away for a moment. He'd dragged her to his own personal hell, his kingdom, away from her beloved sunlight and away from her mother. But he had helped her in the hallway, given up his cloak to keep her warm, and defended her against her own mother; no one else had done that for her. While others cried in despair at seeing him or scorned him, she felt no fear towards him. Annoyance from time to time, but not fear. The scene in the bathroom came back to mind and she finally looked at him with her answer.
"Yes." Hades smiled softly, his unruly black hair hiding most of his face from the view of the others in the room.
"Then trust me now."
Persephone gave him an unsure look then looked at Charon at the alter. He nodded politely to her and she gulped, her knees shaking again. She looked at Hades and nodded once. He gave her another brief smile before retrieving her flowers and leading her to the alter. He had never hurt her this far, had he? No, he hadn't. That was more then she could say for any god on Mount Olympus.
She glanced at Hades discreetly from beneath her lashes, Charon drowning on about wedding them until death parted them. Maybe she could do this.
Charon finished the ceremony and pronounced the words that Persephone had been half dreading the entire time. Charon, who had been monotonous throughout the entire wedding, suddenly broke out into a grin. "You may kiss the bride m'lord."
Persephone felt a whole new wave of nervousness hit her and she took a half step back as she turned towards Hades. He had already anticipated her thoughts and moved quickly, tilting her head up with his fingers. His mouth slanted over hers quickly and stole the kiss, much to her shock. He smiled against her mouth briefly before pulling back, winking at the shocked expression on her face. Her hand came up to slap him reflexively and he caught her tiny wrist, his smile turning into a small grin at her embarrassed and angry expression. "Ah, ah, I don't think so. Charon, would you escort my bride upstairs to our room please? I have business to attend to for a moment."
Charon stepped down and grinned cockily at Hades, Persephone going to his arm quickly to shoot him an annoyed look as her face turned a brilliant shade of red. "Cheat." Charon hooted with laughter and slapped his leg while he cackled. Persephone missed the look Hades shot her as Charon rounded the corner and took her back upstairs. Immediately shades appeared and started dismantling the cavernous room of its decorations.
Hades eyed the flowers they were pulling down and held up his hand for their attention. "The flowers stay, everything else may go." They glanced at each other but did as they were told, leaving the flowers.
The sister Fates had already disappeared, leaving the King of the Underworld alone in the large chamber. He let out a sigh and ran a hand through his hair again. That was more nerve wreaking then war! Shaking his head, Hades went to the throne room down the hall where new souls were waiting for him, along with the three judges. Even though he had just married, he didn't get a break for a moment. The entire room was daunting, carved out of rock and black marble. Sitting on the high throne behind the three judges, Hades waved a hand towards them. "Gentlemen, let us begin."
Persephone liked Charon a lot. At first his gangly and scruffy appearance had made her nervous, but with the stories he was telling her, she was surprised she could even breathe and walk at the same time. "H-He what?"
Charon grinned as he told his anecdote about the young Hades when he was a prince and at his father's knee. "He ate the lightning bolt his father used. Damn kid nearly fried his insides out swallowing that thing. He was sick for days and everything he touched turned static. I remember him chasing Zeus around for days, making his hair stand on end with a mere touch. Hades was a terror when he was a lad. Always fit and running around, doing this or that and getting into trouble. I was only a lowly servant at the time, before I became ferryman of the river Styx. It's not a bad job, I get paid every day. Hera was his favorite test subject, as far as pranks went. He and Zeus got into so many scraps with that thing, it's no wonder she's a wildcat. She still gives Hades a hard time about frying her clothes even after centuries of time."
Persephone wiped the tears from her face as they mounted the stairs to Hades' rooms. Imagine, a toddler Hades chasing his siblings around so he could electrocute them with energy he'd gotten from eating a lightning bolt. The mental image brought more giggles to her lips. The moment they had turned the corner, Charon had told her so many stories, stopping at different wall murals to explain. Some of them, like the battles, he passed by with just a casual look. By the time they were at the second floor, Persephone had to slow, she was laughing so hard. It felt good to laugh. Finally they reached the grand doors and her giggling died away as she stared at the doors with apprehension. What floor were they on? They were high up; she'd never seen so many stairs in her lifetime! She gulped to herself as the doors stared her down.
Charon opened the door for her with an easy flick of his wrist. "This will be your new room that you will share with Hades. He kicks in his sleep, so if he kicks you, kick him back, alright?" He glanced at Persephone to see she wasn't moving inside but gripping his arm tighter. Charon sighed dramatically and patted her hand. "Don't worry about it lass, he's a good man. Wicked temper if he's in the mood to fight, but a good man nonetheless. You made it through the ceremony; you can make it only sleeping in the same room. If it becomes too much for you, you can always visit me downstairs and sleep with me." He gave her a wink and cackled to himself again.
Persephone gave him an unsure look. "Only sleeping? But... I thought…" She trailed off, her face flushing in embarrassment once again. She was talking about her private business with the ferryman of all people!
Charon caught on and he shrugged lightly, letting go of her arm and nudging her inside of the room. "Hades may be a bit on the frosty side, but he isn't cruel. You're lucky you married him; any other god wouldn't be so patient or so kind about your… newest fear. Your clothes and things have been moved here, or so I assume. Good night my lady." Charon closed the huge doors with a heavy clang before his footsteps walked away.
Persephone didn't have shades to help her change this time around, being in his private rooms. Somehow she managed to untangle herself from the unbelievable mass of lace and pearls without ripping anything. The armoire did have clothes in it and she picked a long sleeved green dress, wrapping a shawl around her shoulders.
The fireplace was already going and the room was quiet. She wandered it for a few minutes, glancing at the door every so often. After thirty minutes and Hades still hadn't shown up she relaxed and looked around in honest curiosity. Her fingers trailed over everything from the ornate bedspread to the chest of drawers on his side of the room. Each chair she sat in was more comfortable then the last, and she even took a turn bouncing on the huge bed. She had to admit, the bed was more comfortable then the springy grass she had once slept on.
She found candles and lit them to give the room some light. She found a window behind one of the tapestries hanging on his walls and nearly gasped in shock. The River lied out before her and wound in different directions, leaving her the most beautiful view she had ever seen. Not one waterfall, one forest, or one lake could ever compare to the sight she had now. The water on the formations in the giant cave made it glow blue and shimmer like millions of diamonds. The river snaked through different places and she was glad to say that she was alone when her jaw dropped a few feet at the sheer size of it all. At the other end of the river she could see it split in three, going into three different tunnels on the far side of the room. Briefly she wondered where they went before turning back to the room.
A side door led her to what looked like his study and she looked at all of the scrolls. Unfortunately, her mother hadn't taught her very much when it came to books, rarely letting her read anything other than the notes a grateful farmer would lay on Demeter's alter. The less she knew, the more she was protected apparently. Persephone snorted. That plan had failed.
Another door led to a grand bathroom, bigger then the last one she had seen and stark white and black. The marble was an interesting checkered pattern on the floor and walls and the tub was pure black. It looked like it had silver dust on the bottom, but with closer inspection, she saw it was part of the marble. Once she was done exploring the set of rooms, Persephone sat in front of the fire in the main room, bored. Where was he?
Persephone sighed and laid in front of the fire on one of the fur rugs, dozing off. Persephone knew he wasn't coming anytime soon.
Persephone woke three hours later to a dying fire and voices outside of the hallway. She sat up slowly, a strong crick in her shoulders and in the back of her neck. Her hair had fallen out of the pins and she scooped up the pearl pins, setting them aside for safe keeping. Her form was rumpled and she stood up, stumbling a little bit towards the door. Was Hades back yet? Groggy, Persephone pressed her ear to the door to hear what was on the other side.
Two shades were mopping the floor in the hallway with sour expressions on their face. "It's too quiet in that room to belong to newlyweds." One said with a sharp parrot like nose on his face. The other shade was a tiny man that sloshed water onto the floor from the buckets.
"I say that the rumors or true, that he brought her down here just to kill her."
Persephone frowned as alarm bells went off in the back of her mind. What???
"Lord Hades needed a bride, and he got a bride. Now, if he killed her, then she would stay forever in the Underworld. She's only a minor goddess, she doesn't have that many abilities probably."
The other rolled its eyes, leaning against his mop. "She'll never see the light of day now, the stupid creature. Even if he doesn't kill her, he'll never let her go back up to the surface. He'll chain her to the wall if he has to I bet." Both of them gave each other sour looks before moving on further down the hallway. Both had been wealthy business men, and both of them had figured on being sent straight to Elysian Fields, or Heaven. However, their crimes were deep and wide and Hades had sentenced them to limbo, sort of. It was either work as their servants had worked or go to Tartarus. Neither had any inclination to go there, but that didn't mean they couldn't be sour about what they had now. Their voices faded away completely, but Persephone didn't move from where she was on the other side of the door.
Would Hades really kill her, just to make sure she stayed? She couldn't leave anyway, she didn't know how to escape from under the ground!! She felt sick to her stomach at the thought and covered her mouth to keep from retching. Swallowing back bile, Persephone quickly went to the armoire and threw the shawl to the side, wrapping a thick cloak around her. Persephone didn't think, didn't give herself a chance to let logic leak in but prepared to flee. She had clothes, now she needed self defense. She found a letter opener on Hades's desk in his study and tied it to her waist with one of his over sized belts. Slipping on a pair of leather boots she found that fit, Persephone opened the door a crack and glanced around. With out a thought to being silent or careful, she ran full speed down the stairs and through corridors, heading for the front gates.
When Hades finished with the souls ten minutes later and finally made it upstairs, he was surprised to find his room in disarray and clothes strewn everywhere. What shocked him most was that Persephone was no where to be found.
She was gone.