Fandom: Greek Mythology
Pairing: Hades/ Persephone
Author's Note: My first Greek Mythology fanfic is, predictably, about Hades and Persephone, the pairing that has monopolized the fandom. Give it a chance anyways, and reviews are much appreciated.
Poems were written about them, full of rhythm, well-crafted similes and carefully chosen imagery. The greatest wordsmiths had contributed their skills to the task, but in the end that did not matter. Name and profession was meaningless among the dead, and besides, so much of the poetry was just… wrong. And the metaphors were ridiculous.
The story was simple enough, when looked at from the right angle.
There was a young woman once. Through a convoluted series of events entirely beyond her control, she found herself in love. Her lover was strange and still and dark, entirely unsuitable in the eyes of everyone, and therefore perfect. Because of inconveniences like over-protective mothers thinking that famine was an acceptable solution to rebellious daughters, she could only spend half the year with him. Oh, and there were pomegranates.
He smiled when she summarized like this. Her synopsis lacked literary merit, but it was so much closer to the truth.
Their love (though they did not voice that word) had survived a remarkably inauspicious beginning, uncountable wars, caprice justifiable only to the gods, unspoken wounds and burning, tearing arguments. Finally (and perhaps most importantly), they were not broken by creeping change, the dusk of the gods, that destroyed so many within their family.
You must remember that this is an immortal love story; there is an ever, the after is conditional, and the happily is certainly not a promise.
They were never never meant to be together.
The reasons were limitless: family feuds (in a family where arguments were resolved with metamorphoses and wars, on a good day), the simple fact that spring and death were meant to stay far away from each other, and the much simpler fact that gods did not fall in love. They lusted, desired, wanted and felt affection but love was beyond the capacity of immortals with the whims of children.
As he pulled her into his chariot, feeling the earth open sharply beneath them, all he could think of was a saying he had heard among mortals: love doubled is eros, eros doubled is madness. The madness was there certainly, just beneath the surface, created by uncounted years of whispering shades, dancing shadows, unending loneliness and restrained by those same things. He pushed the darkness back with some effort, turning his eyes to her brilliant coppery hair, streaming in the black like candle-flame.
She did not struggle in his arms, sensible enough to know that there were two places she could be: in the chariot or falling into the abyss, and breaking several bones in the process. She preferred the former, but only slightly.
Somehow, the myth had recorded that the girl had wandered away from her playmates in search of flowers. Thankfully, the myth was wrong on two counts: she was not a girl, and she was not simple-minded enough to walk far away from her companions because a narcissus had caught her eye.
Kore is not a girl, no matter what her name suggests. Girl implies humanity, and innocence bordering on ignorance. She embodies neither.
Kore is female (because neither girl nor woman apply), but she is immortal and eerie, with eyes like the coming storm. An earth-bound creature, she thirsts for the sky, making her burn with wanderlust, though she does not quite know where she wants to go, or what she would do with freedom, were it offered to her.
He could only compare her to flame. Sometimes, she was all-consuming, a furious, destructive inferno; otherwise, she was warm and brilliant as a hearth-fire. Neither description fit exactly, but he had never been one for metaphors.
She did not cry and she did not plead.
Instead, her eyes burned as she turned away from him and wandered into the dark, without saying a word. He did not consider stopping her, marvelling at the courage (or perhaps the stubbornness) that prevented her from being frightened of the quiet, yawning stillness of the Underworld. Instead, he listened until her footsteps had faded into nothing. Then, and only then, did he sit, burying his face in his hands, as he saw the shades of children do.
Eventually, he decided to find her, a jolt of worry running through him. He could trace her steps easily; radiance of a sort followed her, almost palpable in the cavernous halls.
She stood in the middle of the asphodel fields, her fingers tangling in the delicate stems of the flowers, several ephemeral blossoms braided into her copper hair. Shades flickered around her, drawn to the faint light that danced across her skin. She did not flinch away, her eyes almost curious.
Suddenly, gracefully, she turned and faced him.
"Why?" Her voice was clear and steady, a hint of steely anger dancing on the question's edge.
Ten thousand reasons spun through his head, but the answer he gave resembled a riddle. "There is no light here," he replied, mentioning neither love nor beauty.
She did not say anything in response, perhaps caught off guard. Instead, she walked away, though she had no idea where. Anything was better than being with him, she reasoned.
She watched and wandered, wandered and watched. Nothing (not ghosts, not torture, not snarling three-headed hounds) frightened her, and he was impressed. Every once in a while, she would find him and ask a question, genuine interest dancing in her stormy eyes.
"Hmm?" He looked up, a sudden gentleness on his features.
"A place named after a person, or a person named after a place? It's strange," she murmured. "Why?" After several months, she shared his speech pattern, using riddles to ask questions.
"It is not my name, just a title the humans give. They are afraid of death, I suppose, and they fear to speak my name because of my connection with their mortality," he explained, his voice quiet. He did not think about it often, but the Underworld altered and distorted everything, even names.
"Do you remember your name, the name you used once?" Her voice was shy, for the first time.
He nodded, and she remained silent for a moment.
"Names do not mean much. Mine is most certainly my mother's creation." Her smile was sweet and sharp, lilies and glass.
"Sweet-little-Kore, who was never meant to grow up," he mused, cynical for the first time.
"Sweet-little-Kore likes it here," she said softly, and he bit back a smile.
Precious-pretty-delicate-silly-little-Kore does not like being herself. She feels ephemeral, light and meaningless as a sunbeam, though her mother quickly reminds her that sunbeams are both beautiful and useful. She is too brilliant, too passionate to be satisfied with pretty meadows and pretty nymphs and pretty flowers, but anything beyond that is simply not right for a goddess of spring.
Her rebellion is not a bloody, vicious twisting thing as it always seems to be for the gods. Instead, confused-lonely-brave-fiery-Kore places her hands on the dark god's cheekbones, and guides him towards her. The kiss is like drowning; she is engulfed in his darkness, he is caught and held by her impending-storm eyes.
"You do not know why you are doing this, do you?" He is only curious, not expecting a declaration of love or even an answer. She shakes her head with a shrug and a crooked little half-smile.
Shades flicker around them, unnoticed but numerous. Neither observe that the newcomers in this shadowy realm are unusually gaunt, all angles and bones.
In her wanderings, she found gardens (dead, dark and strangely lovely). There were flowers, with black, desiccated stems and delicate, silvery blossoms, but she ignored them. Instead, she turned to a pomegranate tree. It looked eerily out of place, the fruit vibrant and bloody as human hearts. With a smile, she picked a pomegranate and cradled it in her hands, feeling a strange kinship with it.
Incongruous, colourful, misplaced and vivid, yet somehow belonging.
The queen of the Underworld was beautiful and terrifying and regal, though she did not realize it. In her usual whimsical way, she fell in love with the unfeeling beauty of the Underworld first, its ruler second. Not the typical resolution of a love story certainly, but the monarchs of the dead were happy, which was a rarity among gods.
Happy enough, anyways. Happiness came with many caveats and limitations.
He did not understand her (or more specifically, her strange sense of justice and her unusual compassion). Death was inexorable and unavoidable, he reasoned, and the ruler of the dead should not be swayed. His queen, on the other hand, listened to Orpheus play and allowed him to leave with his wife, conditionally. She gave Psyche some of her beauty freely and did nothing to impede Odysseus. Never explaining, she smiled at her husband's curious glances.
Her name is Persephone now, in both the upper and lower world. She who destroys the light is a frightening epithet, though not perfectly true; light follows her, radiates from her, lending some warmth to the fickle, dancing shadows. Mortals pray to her, not when they fear death, but when they know that their death is inevitable. They expect nothing from her except understanding.
After a while, she sees: her purpose is not to bring the spring, or to rule the shadowy lower world. Instead, she is meant to have empathy for the dead, which no other god has.
There is a word for it among the mortals: Götterdämmerung. They believe that the dusk of the gods will be a climactic battle, with heroes and monsters and an apocalypse. He thinks it is just more evidence of the human penchant for the dramatic. In reality, the death of gods is a quiet, creeping sleep that comes from lack of belief. They fade away as their names are forgotten and their power is neither feared nor remembered. As temples fall into ruin (nothing more than quaint tourist attractions with lovely postcards on sale) and sacred groves are converted into high-rises, their deities vanish, (suddenly or slowly) but disappear nonetheless.
Hades and Persephone remained, though they were not certain why. Perhaps it was because they needed neither praise nor belief; they had the inevitability of death clinging to them. Maybe it was because the Underworld endured; mortals could never forget that there was a place where they could lose all memories of life, with all its faults and shortcomings.
Still, change left its mark on them. Science and geometry proved that the cycle of the seasons had more to do with planetary tilt and rotation than the rebirth of a goddess; she did not have to spend her time anywhere in particular. Whatever her decision, life would not change. She wandered, as she had always wanted to for six months, then returned to him for the remaining time. He never asked what she did, she never told and it was alright.
Imagine a reunion of sorts. She is delicate and thin, her auburn hair cropped short around grey eyes. He is dark and tall, but that is all you notice because it is unnerving to look at him too closely. She has a pomegranate clutched in her hand. Perhaps she bought it, or found it, or wished it into being. That is not important. She breaks it open with a deft movement and picks a seed.
One she eats for poetry, and art and myths confused.
Two he eats for darkness and longing and choking, dancing madness.
Three she eats for courage and wandering.
Four he eats for riddles, metamorphoses and a handful of seeds.
Five she eats for names changed and strange, unexpected insight.
Six… they kiss, tasting pomegranate on each others' lips. The sixth seed is for endurance, for remembrance, for… it does not matter. He takes her hand gently, and they walk away. Lost and forgotten they may be, but at very least they can meet, losing and forgetting themselves (if only for a while).