From the dawn of life, I have lived and seen far more than any other who shall ever exist. For I was here long before and shall remain, long after, your existence. I was there before the Creation and shall remain after the Destruction. I am known as καιρόσ or time. I will always be here. Elusive and yet apparent. I know how your life began and I know how it will end. My knowledge is unbounded and this is why I have chosen to share it.
Oftentimes, I find that the tales told by man are obscured by retellings or even the people who choose to tell them. Humans are curious creatures, who bend a tale to fit their needs. Alas, I have spoken too swiftly. For it is not only the deeds of man that are amended to fit their needs, but that of the Gods as well.
A time came when the Titans Rhea, the daughter of Uranus and Gaea, Heaven and Earth, and Cronus gave birth to their six children. These children were Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Hestia, Demeter and the one of which the story I shall tell is based on. Hades. Upon hearing that his children would be the fall of his reign, Cronus swallowed each of his children whole, right after they were born. Now, Rhea was greatly distressed at the loss of her children.
When her youngest child, Zeus, was born, she replaced him with a stone, wrapped in swaddling cloth, and placed it in the arms of his father, which he swallowed. She snuck away with her youngest child and took him to Crete, where he was raised to a fine young man.
When he was old enough, he confronted his father in battle, and when Cronus was felled, he cut open his father and released his siblings, now fully grown. They embraced their mother and took over their father's domain.
The three brothers, Hades as the eldest, pulled straws to see who reigned over which domain. Now Zeus was crafty, even at his young age, and knowing which was the longest, pulled it, to reign over the Heavens. Poseidon and Hades pulled next, Poseidon obtaining rule over all the Oceans and Hades, who pulled the shortest straw, obtained rule over the Underworld.
Happily, Zeus made his way to the Heavens where he lived in happy excess. Poseidon ruled over the oceans in almost the same way, while Hades was now trapped with ruling the gloomiest and most depressing of all the kingdoms. Soon, he began to see the beauty of his underground kingdom, however, valuing the treasures under the earth, storing the minerals in grand chests and vaults. He mended the land that his father had cruelly neglected, allowing it to be separated into different sections, in order to justly judge the souls of the dead, where his father had tortured all.
Searching through the depths of the Underworld, Hades found the Moirae, also known as the fates. Clotho, the Spinner, spun the thread of life; Lachesis, the Dispenser of Lots, decided its span and assigned a destiny to each person; and Atropos, the Inexorable, carried the dread shears that cut the thread of life at the appointed time. The decisions of the Fates could not be altered, even by the gods.
The three sisters, who had always been thought of as old crones, bent and knowledgeable about each and every mortal and immortal in existence, were actually young, vibrant women, who spent all day, inexhaustibly working with their threads. They made a home in the darkest, most secret cave in the Underworld, accessible only to a select few, including, at any time, Hades, who ruled over their world.
Seeing all he had done and knowing what he would do for the Underworld, they gave him something they gave to few Gods. Respect. They treated him as an equal, including him in their plans for the future of others, confiding in him secrets and sharing details that few or none were ever privy to. In return, he provided them with all the things they could ever need, precious jewels to adorn themselves with, servants and guards to watch over and lavish them with attention. When he explained to them how he wanted to change the Underworld, they each smiled at him and said, in unison,
"Your plans are very good, brother."
Satisfied with this response, he began the tedious work of judging the souls, and separating and preparing the lands.
First, he created the boat where the souls of the dead could cross over the river Styx, without suffering the icy cold of its depths. He asked one of the residents of the Underworld, Charon, son of Nyx and Ereus, Night and Darkness, respectively, to take the souls across. With his black robe and cowl over his head, he epitomised the modern visage of death. No one would have ever suspected that underneath the robe, was a handsome, vibrant young man, whose shy and quiet nature had made him perfect for the silent work of transporting the dead.
After that, Hades focused on creating places for the souls to stay.
He first created the Elysian Fields, a place without compare, the closest thing to perfection possible. Here, he would send the souls of the unfailingly good, who deserve a great reward for their deeds during their lives. It was an endless grassy plain, full of beautiful flowers and overarching trees, where the souls could remain for eternity with their loved ones, untroubled by things like pain and suffering.
Next came The Isles of the Blessed. This was the most mysterious place in the Underworld. Hades himself only went there to create it. No other has laid eyes on the Isle. In extremely rare cases, if a soul, once taken to the Elysian Fields, chose to be born again in the human world, and returned to the Elysian Fields twice more after that, he or she is sent to live out eternity in the Isles of the Blessed. Here, he asked Harmonia, goddess of peace, to rule and oversee the souls.
Then, he fashioned Tarturus out of what remained of his father's cruelty in the Underworld. Next to the river Acheron, the river of woe, he forged the rooms of his father's hate and made shackles with his malice. The floors were made of his spite and the minions of torture were made of his callous brutality. Here, the sinful souls of murderers and rapists would suffer for eternity.
Next was the Asphodel Planes, where Hades made his own home and the home of the Moirae. On the banks of the river Lethe, the souls who had not done enough evil to be sentenced to Tartarus, but not enough good to be sent to the Elysian Fields, waited to drink of the river Lethe, otherwise known as the river of forgetfulness. One sip of this water and all memories of their previous birth were erased. Next to it, its sister, the river Mnemosyne, flowed, otherwise known as the river of memory. Souls who had just entered the Underworld drank of its waters to remember all of their previous lives, to repent for all their sins.
Hades took a huge lot of land, far enough away from Lethe to not disturb the souls on its banks, and created his own palace. It was terrifyingly beautiful. Its formidable black gates and black marble walls were awe-inspiring. When one stepped inside, however, the immense opulence of the castle left one tongue-tied. The King of the Underworld, had made his home as or even more comfortable than that of his brother Zeus in Olympus, where the Gods lived. He had even fashioned himself a throne. During the day, it would appear close to the bank of the river Styx, so that he would judge souls as they entered. Other than that, it would remain in the vast throne-room, next to a smaller, more delicate throne that Hades created on a whim.
He summoned his pet, Cerberus, a three-headed dog of gigantic proportions to him, and ordered him to guard the entrance of the underworld. He was to allow only souls of the dead to enter, but he would not allow anything to leave. No one was to suspect that the giant mammoth of a dog had the disposition of a bunny rabbit. One glance at his enormous fangs and claws would dissuade anyone from trying to sneak in, or out as the case may be. While he patted Cerberus' head and he slobbered on his robes, his humungous tail whacking the floor with such enthusiasm, it caused a mini-earthquake, he surveyed his work and nodded, content. He made his way back to his palace and began the work of his kingdom to the best of his abilities.
Years passed this way, and he gained more loyal servants, such as Thanatos, the harbinger of death, taker of the souls of the mortals, and Hecate, the goddess of darkness, witchcraft, sorcery and crossroads. They were indispensible to him, aiding him greatly with his responsibilities. He took care of the souls, fairly judging each one, giving them a chance to redeem themselves, if possible, and punishing those who had harmed the innocent in any way. The inhabitants of the Underworld worshipped him, having known only the cruelty of his father's rule.
Many more years passed, and the fates began seeing changes in their ruler. They noticed how he would glance wistfully at the families in the Elysian Fields and would spend hours staring at the throne next to him. He had never been one to show much emotion, but now, the coldness in him was noticeable. Gone was any sign of warmth. Now, he was truly the King of the Underworld. Seeing this as a chance to repay their kind master, they smiled at each other and rubbed their cunning hands together. From the reel of thread, they pulled a length, and dipped it in the pot of water from the river Styx that they had next to them, designated for the Gods. They smiled at each other again. This was going to be very interesting.
Far above, in the land of the Gods, as the fates pulled the thread free form the rest and dipped it, a babe was born to the goddess Demeter. As the child was wrapped in swaddling cloth and placed in the arms of her mother, her mother's eyes filled with love. Her precious child. Her Kore. The child's father, Zeus, was admitted into the room and laughed, joyously at the sight of the little bundle. He took her from her mother, the arm she had held her baby with reaching out for her child, as she hissed,
He grinned at her and said,
"She is beautiful, Demeter."
Demeter smiled at him and nodded her head, taking her babe into her arms once more.
"She shall be given a name and gifts at the ceremony tomorrow. I shall invite all."
Demeter nodded, even though she had already chosen a name for the child. The little bundle grabbed onto her finger with a strong grip and opened her periwinkle blue eyes to look up at her mother. The little tufts of blonde hair fluffed out from her head, and she opened her mouth in a toothless grin. Never had Demeter seen anything so beautiful. She rocked the child and put her to sleep, murmuring,
"Tomorrow, my love. Tomorrow your fate shall be set."
She did not know how true her words were.
"There is a message for you, my King," Thanatos announced.
Hades turned at the sound of his voice and nodded.
"You have been cordially invited to the birthing ceremony of the daughter of Zeus, King of the Gods and Demeter, the goddess of Harvest. You are expected to attend and present the young one with a gift, as you deem fitting to her stature."
Hades nodded once more, returning his gaze to the empty throne next to him. His loneliness had stretched on for years, and now, it was to be interrupted by the birth of another of Zeus' brats? Well how wonderful. He couldn't wait, really, to grant a gift to another one of his immature spawn, who would probably use it to zap her own eye out. He heaved a deep sigh and made himself more comfortable. Well at least he had something more to brood over than his own loneliness.
Now he had to figure out a gift that would not offend his brother. He pondered the conundrum and shrugged, figuring he would just see what the others gave the thing and develop a gift that would fit well with the others. He returned to brooding about his loneliness once more, unaware that the crafty fates were plotting for his future.
The next day came in a blaze of sun. Apollo, overjoyed at having a new cousin, allowed no rain clouds near Olympus that day. Proudly, Demeter brought the little bundle to Zeus' throne room. Everyone was seated already, Zeus at the head, on a platform that held his throne. Next to him sat his wife, Hera, who, known for her jealousy, glared at both Demeter and her child. Demeter held Kore closer, trying to protect her from the look of hatred. Zeus stood, and opened his arms to the room.
"Gods! We are here to welcome the newest addition to our ranks!"
They all cheered wildly, except Hades, who lounged in his seat and clapped sedately. Zeus took the child from Demeter and held her up, to more cheers. Hades did not bother to look at the child, yawning into his palm and slouching further into his seat. One by one, the gods made their way to the little bundle to admire it. Hades dragged himself to where Zeus held the child to be admired and listened as Poseidon said,
"She will have domain over the plants of the ocean."
Zeus had already given her dominion over the flowers of earth. Zeus smiled at Hades and said,
"Big brother, it is your turn. The three rulers first."
Hades nodded and looked down at the child for the first time. His breath stopped in his throat and for a moment, his heart stopped as well. It was as though time itself stood still. The smallest creature he had ever seen held out chubby arms to him, grinning toothlessly at him, her eyes so pure and innocent, filled with joy, staring up at him. His heart filled with the purest love. He reached down and stroked a finger down her cheek. She grabbed it and held on, almost refusing to let go,
"Persephone..." he murmured, unsure why and what he said.
Zeus glanced at him, sharply, and then, he smiled widely.
"Yes. That is a suitable name."
Hades did not even bother to look at him, as he continued staring at the child. She was all that was right in the world. She was exactly what was missing in his life. It was as though she had been made just for him. Suddenly, Demeter pushed past him and pulled the child away. The loss of her grip on his finger was as sharp as a cut to his heart. She held her to her bosom as the babe cried out loudly. It was as though she felt the loss too.
"Persephone is not a suitable name for my child, Zeus! She shall be called Kore!"
Zeus laughed at her and said,
"Do not be silly, Demeter. Hades has given her a fine gift. Do not be impudent. No child of mine shall be called something as silly as Kore."
Demeter's eyes filled with tears, but Zeus was the King of the Gods, and no one defied him. She gave the child to Zeus again, and she immediately reached for Hades once more. He smiled and reached out his finger, but Zeus had already moved to Ares, God of war, to grant his gift. Ares smiled down at the babe and said,
"She shall be able to protect herself from all harm."
Zeus nodded, smiling and moved to Athena, Goddess of wisdom.
"She shall have the universal wisdom of nature."
Zeus' smile widened and he moved to Aphrodite, Goddess of Beauty and Love.
"Her beauty will astound."
"It already does..." murmured Hades, and realizing what he had said, looked around quickly. Thankfully, no one had heard him. Zeus was already moving on to Hephaestus, the God of fire.
"Fire shall never harm this child."
Such gifts had never been delivered to a babe of the Gods before. It seemed as though everyone loved the child already. When he turned to Hera, Goddess of marriage, she grimaced, but upon seeing the child, her cold look melted and she smiled softly saying,
"She shall have the most successful marriage of us all."
Zeus and Demeter both paused in shock. Even more so as Hera lifted little Persephone into her arms. The little girl laughed in delight, charming Hades and also, it seemed, Hera. She held her and cooed, perplexing the rest of the Gods. Aphrodite smiled.
"That child was made to be loved by all."
How right she was.
In the years that followed, it was easy to see that Persephone had become a favourite to all. She was well loved and pampered as a child. By the time she was three and toddling around the hallowed halls of Olympus, the once totally selfish Gods were following her around and vying for her attention.
Aphrodite made pink sparkles glide in front of her for her to giggle and laugh. Artemis made small woodland creatures follow her so that she did not fall. Hephaestus made her tinkling anklets and bracelet to amuse her as she moved, Hera would give her the sweetest ambrosia available, Poseidon made bubbles float around her to play with and Zeus gave her a multitude toys to gain her affections.
Anyone could have told them that this was not necessary, for none of them would ever be her favourite, but they would not have listened. The Gods are an arrogant bunch and they do not listen to words that do not flatter them. The small child who held a special place in the hearts of all only had one special place to hold in her own tiny heart. That place was for Hades.
In secret, he met her and played with her, enchanting her with the jewel-encrusted toys he brought her. Her mother, of course, oblivious to this, assumed that the toys came from her father, Zeus. Even as a small child, she knew when the dawn was coming, as Apollo would be returning to Olympus and bringing gifts from all around the world back for her. She would cry out to her mother to take her to her sleeping cambers. When she was tucked, comfortably into her little crib, her mother would gaze upon her for a few moments. Persephone, the clever child, would even close her eyes to feign sleep. When her mother closed the door, she would get up and wait for her Hades, as she had come to think of him, to arrive, leaning over the shimmering metal frame of the crib that Hephaestus had made for her.
Like clockwork, from the darkest corner of her room, her Hades would appear and make his way to her. She would hold out her arms to be held and he would lift her ever so gently into his own, rocking her slightly. After this, they would begin their nightly staring match, looking at each other, until, since she usually lost, she looked around for her present. He would smile, and then take it out from the folds of his robe.
This particular night, it was a rattle, covered with rubies, which were her favourite. She giggled and took it into her small, chubby hand. She shook it vigorously while Hades blocked any sound from leaving the room. He laughed at her enthusiasm and sat on the floor, holding her. Anyone who was watching would be incredulous to see the King of the Underworld playing and laughing with a small child, on the floor.
The years passed kindly to all the Gods. Persephone, by this time, was ten years old. She had started growing into her powers and could now produce tiny buds of flowers when she tried extremely hard. Today, she was labouring over a small bouquet. Upon seeing this, the other Gods looked at each other, worried. Their Persephone should not have to work hard for anything. Aphrodite waved her fingers and small rose buds prang from the earth, the only flowers which she could make. Persephone seemed stunned that the flowers, which had seemed to take so painstakingly long to grow, had suddenly popped out of the earth. Looking closely, he saw that they were not the type she wished for. Sighing, she began afresh, whispering to a small bud to appear, concentrating on the growth and formation. The Gods looked at each other again, brows furrowed. Artemis went over to her and knelt next to her in the dirt, something she would have done for no one other than little Persephone.
"My darling, what are you doing?"
"I'm trying to make a bouquet of buds, Aunt Artie."
She had given nick names to almost all the Gods with long names, and they had smiled indulgently over them, soaking up the affection that this represented. Aphrodite knelt next to her and plucked some of the rose buds from the ground, offering them to her.
"What about these, sweetie?"
Persephone smiled up to her,
"Those aren't the ones I want, Aunt Aphie."
"Which ones do you want then, Seph?" Hera asked, kneeling next to her as well.
"The ones that mommy taught me to make. She calls them 'daisies' I believe."
Hera nodded and said,
"Well, why don't you take a break, sweetheart. You must be tired."
Seph shook her head.
"I think I want to finish what I started, please."
They all nodded and left her to her work, still worrying and fluttering around her as she strained to make the tiny flowers. Suddenly, she popped up and twirled around with a little bouquet of daisy buds in her hand. She smiled, brilliantly, at the surrounding Gods, garnering a grin from each of them. She then ran to her home and filled a small pot with water to put them in. As she heard Apollo's booming voice yell,
She knew it was time. She ran and got ready for bed, made her way to her mother's room, kissed her swiftly on the cheek and took the pot of flowers to her room. She put it next to her bed, the frame, once again, made by Hephaestus, and the mattress and pillows filled with the softest swan down that Artemis could find. The material had been made by Athena, using the finest silk. She had woven the faces and glorious acts of the Gods into the child's blankets and pillows. As Persephone lay in her bed, she closed her eyes and knew, from experience, the exact moment when her mother peeked into her room to check on her and then shut the door for the rest of the night. She sat up, excitedly, and waited.
From the cloak of darkness in the corner, Hades appeared. She sprung up and hugged him tight. Hades chuckled and lifted her up to spin her around. She had grown much since she was a child, not only getting taller, but her hair had grown to her waist as well. The same Periwinkle eyes sparkled at him under lashes so long they made anyone who saw envy them and her lips were a natural red that looked as if she were constantly eating the sweet cherries that Ares gave her. Her skin was unblemished and sun kissed, and her smile was straight, white and enthralling. Her beauty was unparalleled. The only true rival she had when it came to loveliness was Aphrodite. In his eyes, however, there was no question as to who won. She gave him a little push then, since he had been lost in his thoughts. He smiled, good-naturedly at her and was shocked as she handed him a pot of little buds.
"I made these for you!" she said, in her voice that was soft and soothing.
He looked down at the precious bundle of buds and cradled it in his hands. He looked back up at her to see her delighted smile and said,
"Thank you, Seph."
She nodded and said,
He grinned, something he only did around her, and pulled out her favourite treat, a box of sweets that he had, at first, gotten as a gift. When he had given it to her, she had been so excited and grateful, that he had gone and bought many more for her, bringing her a box almost every night. He smiled as she almost ripped open the packaging in her haste. She lifted one of the small confections with care and bit into it. She chewed and swallowed, sighing at the taste. She then offered one to him and he shook his head, knowing she would save them for the next day.
She kept his presents and visits secret now that she was older; hiding them in her cupboard, since she knew her mother disliked the King of the Underworld. As the Goddess of Nature, well used to the bright outdoors, she did not understand the dark, dank depths under the earth and so, she condemned him to be a monster. They sat on the floor and as they spoke of her day, then his day, all the while, she nibbled on her sweet. As she drifted to sleep, the last things she was aware of were his strong arms lifting her and putting her on her bed, covering her with a blanket and a soft warm kiss on her forehead as she drifted.
As the King of the Underworld made his way from Seph's bed to the corner where he had conjured a portal to his realm, he glanced back to see her smile in her sleep. He felt his heart swell and turned to return to his palace. After seeing Seph, his palace was cold and empty to him, the hallways and rooms missing her laughter that sounded like the tinkling of bells. He sighed and made his way his throne by the river Styx, idly glancing at the long lines of souls that had formed in his absence. He shrugged to himself. His nightly visits were well worth the stress of judging the long lines of souls.
As he sat at his throne and began judging, he was unaware of the small smile on his face that shocked his servants but brought smug grins to the faces of the fates.
At sixteen, Seph had grown into a gorgeous young woman. She brought joy to anyone she met. She was open, friendly and accepting of everyone. She spent most of her days in the fields with her friends the nymphs around her. They played together and grew flowers, laughing and enjoying themselves in the wide open plains of Olympus. They often took baths in the streams and brooks around the forest. When they met creatures who were unwell or hurt, Seph would soothe it and take it to her Aunt Artemis, who would care for it, to please Seph.
She also enjoyed spending time in the throne room with her Aunt Hera, who took care of the daily lives of the Gods and mortals while her husband was away, doing whatever it was that Zeus did with his time. Mostly, she had come to realise, that consisted of wooing various females.
When she wasn't doing any of these things, she was with her mother, growing trees, tending to gardens, birthing young animals and in general, caring for nature. Since she had gotten older, she had many suitors who vied for her attentions. Even the Gods had offered for her hand.
Ares had offered his largest army, Hermes had offered to give her mother preference in all messages to be delivered and Apollo had offered his specific attentions to providing sun and rain for Demeter's gardens. Demeter had shooed them, and Seph had been confused. Why would her uncles want to marry her? She thought of them as fathers. Shrugging, she made her way back to her home, as Apollo yelled,
"May sweet dreams grace your sleep, Seph."
She waved and said,
"And yours, Uncle Appie!"
He grimaced at the now constricting term uncle and continued home. She went inside her grand home and got ready for bed, meeting her mother, who as always, asked,
"Did anyone bother you today, darling?"
She smiled and shook her head sideways.
"No, mother. No one bothered me. I had fun with Aunt Hera and the nymphs today. She came to play with us in the field for an hour."
Now, Demeter, although she did not show it, was a jealous mother. Inside, she churned with envy, while outside, she smiled serenely and said,
"Truly? How nice of her."
In her opinion, her precious child's affections were for her alone. Seph kissed her cheek and said,
Demeter hugged her and allowed her to go to bed. She peeked inside a few minutes later, to check on her, and as usual, Seph was fast asleep in her bed. She smiled indulgently. Her daughter wore herself out during the day, playing in the fields and since she was a little girl, went to sleep as soon as the sun set every night. Demeter had been overjoyed when this continued, since she did not have to worry about where he daughter went or who she saw at night. Smiling still and humming to herself, she made her way to her room.
Seph jumped up from her bed and smoothed her clothes and hair, awaiting her nightly guest. Ever since she had begun to mature, her Hades had stopped touching her altogether. He did not accept hugs or kisses on the cheek. He kept his distance and this was so refreshing to Seph, who was used to her other Uncles hugging her for entirely inappropriate amounts of time that she respected him even more than she already had, which was no small amount.
Now that she was fully mature, however, she found herself wishing that he would hold her like he used to. She found him extremely attractive. More attractive than any of the fair, blonde gods of Olympus. His chiselled features and muscles made a shiver run up and down her spine. His dark hair and eyes reminding her of how water looked in the night. Smooth and luminescent. His hands, unlike her father's, were calloused from the work he did in the Underworld.
When she had asked him about his hands, he had told her that they were from when the Underworld needed to be repaired in any way. She sighed dreamily as she remembered the day she had tripped and he had caught her arms with his strong hands. Sadly, he had released her almost at once and moved away from her. She sighed again, knowing that she would never be anything more than a little girl to him. She wished he would see her differently.
Suddenly, he appeared in the corner, smiling peacefully at her. Excitement bubbled up in her stomach, and a grin came to her lips.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed the story. This is my first ever published story, so i'm pretty excited. Please review if you find any mistakes or have any comments.