Disclaimer: This version of Persephone is mine; all other characters belong to their respective owners. I don't own, and I don't earn
Chapter Two: Wager of the Titans
"To Demeter!" Zeus proclaimed, raising a goblet to his sister-in-law. Dionysus raised a whole bottle of retsina, not even bothering with a goblet any more.
"Keep it comin'!" he slurred merrily. Demeter chuckled and bowed to her peers as whoops and waves of applause rippled through the Gods. Deities started shouting out their testimonies to the Goddess like they were at auction.
"Loved what you did with the Barley this year, Babe" Hermes remarked.
"And thanks for those fly traps, by the way. They're a Gods send in the hot weather" Helios praised. Demeter looked sheepish.
"Oh, those. That was down to Persephone. Yes, um, a moment of brilliant madness" Demeter laughed awkwardly. What on Gaia's Earth had possessed her daughter to create plants that could bite? Demeter had chalked it up to Persephone's fear of creepy crawlies and a slightly warped sense of humour; until, at least, the 'Venus Fly Traps' were a huge hit with the mortals. They must have hated bugs almost as much as Persephone did.
"Is the little lady gonna make an appearance?" asked Dionysus, in between stuffing fig rolls down his Divine gullet.
"Oh, no, no. She's in the middle of one of her experiments. I couldn't possibly drag her away. Besides, she gets very shy around you other Gods"
There was a chorus of endeared 'Aaahs', (though Hades stuck his fingers down his throat when he did it) then the Gods resumed their chatting and drunken partying. Three hours and five red wines later, and Demeter was ready for a drunken rant. Being an inherently down-to-Earth Goddess made Demeter less arrogant than the other Olympus dwellers, and not too proud to admit when something was wrong. Even so, for dignity's sake, Hera ushered her little sister behind a great pillar for a heart-to-heart. When it came to family, Demeter knew that out of her two older sisters, Hera was the one to talk to. A mother herself, she knew what it was like to have a child that gave her a headache. Hestia, bless her hearth, could never see passed the blisses of Domesticity.
"Don't get me wrong Hera. I love Persephone" she slurred.
"Anyone can see that, Dear" Hera responded gently.
"It's just these last few years have been so trying"
"Oh Dems, I imagine it's very tiring for both of you, stuck on that island all the time. You know that Persephone's more than welcome to-"
"But how could it be awful in Sicily? I've given Persephone the perfect life on that island; playing space, no responsibilities – save for those plant experiments she always makes a mess with- the Oceanaids, that bad-mannered little pet of hers-" Demeter wildly gestured her green hand around, so forcefully that a bronze bracelet flew from her chubby wrist. She let out a drunk, un-goddess-like cackle as the piece of jewellery skimmed over the clouds like a pebble over water.
"Whoooops. Hephaestus made me that for my birthday!" Demeter whined. She suddenly sprang up, trying to remember what they were talking about.
"Right. She's not a little girl any more, Dear. After all, by mortal standards she's nearly twenty. She's a young lady."
"Oh, Hera, she's still my baby. And she still acts like one too, throwing silly tantrums if she doesn't get her own way, the silly goose."
"Persephone does?" Hera exclaimed, blue eyes widening. Demeter nodded, lowering her voice: she might think her daughter was a silly, spoiled little girl, but she wouldn't have the other Gods think badly of her.
"She is a very frivolous young lady. For someone so gentle, she is very bad-tempered ; sweet and loving, but manipulative; and for a goddess who thinks so much of others, she spends several thoughts on herself. Times like that she reminds me of her fath-"
Demeter cut herself off. No. That subject would not rear its ugly, unwelcome head, especially with Athena in earshot. The last thing she needed was her dirty chitons aired out in public. Demeter grumbled, thinking of only a couple of days ago, when Persephone was happily playing in the meadows, giggling and jumping in puddles and waving to her mother without a care in the world. Demeter sat with her weaving as Persephone plaited flowers prettily into her mother's hair; Persephone having hacked off her own hair prior. Then, just hours before the festivities, Persephone had run off and hidden, sulking and complaining that she didn't want to go to the party, and using tears to get her own way. Demeter, big softie that she was, had indulged her daughter's whim. Hera sighed, placing a nimble pink hand sympathetically on her sister's shoulder,
"I think you two need some time apart, or a long talk, at the very least. Persephone is a bright, cheerful and sweet Goddess, and I can see in her eyes how much she loves you. She's very beloved, and so much like you"
"That's the problem Hera, I look at her and see myself as a young Goddess; nubile and flippant and headstrong. Except when I was younger than Petal I had a full time job and a child to look after" the drunk-sobbing stage was threatening to rear its leaf-covered head "I love my child just as much as any mother. Probably more. I just don't want her to have the same Fate that I did".
'Easier said than done' Demeter thought, shuddering. Persephone was a beautiful young Goddess -there was the murmured opinion that she was lovelier than Aphrodite- but Persephone certainly wasn't as 'worldly wise' as the older Goddess. And that was the diplomatic way of putting it. That hadn't stopped the appreciative Gods from trying their luck, though. Apollo, the only candidate that was at least similar age to Persephone, was the most recent God to start sniffing around. Demeter had almost had a hernia when he requested an audience with her daughter; no way, not with his track record. Over her Immortal body! Unfortunately, Gods and mortals alike would swarm her like flies around a honey pot, and save for keeping her on Sicily, there seemed to be nothing Demeter could do.
Well, almost nothing. Demeter looked down to her bracelet-less wrist, and a torch lit off in her head.
Well, this was an interesting turn of events. Just how exactly had Athena and Aphrodite found themselves forcing polite chit-chat by the ice sculptures? Simple really, a shared passion for gossip.
"I'm curious about this experiment of Persephone's. I wonder what she's cooking up" said Athena.
"I'll bet it's something pretty" responded Aphrodite, thumbing the silky fabric of her dress.
Athena groaned "There's more to life than looking pretty"
Aphrodite scoffed "Okay, only the Goddess of Wisdom would say something like that. Sounds to me like someone wants a makeover" she cooed in a sing-song voice.
"Why do you always bring up the subject of makeovers? No bloomin' way! Logic will always rule over lipstick. Sounds like you need to learn some lessons on life".
Aphrodite rolled her eyes dramatically. This was why she hardly associated with Athena: their squabbles over Brains v.s. Beauty rivalled the arguments Athena had with her brother.
"I used to teach Persephone you know, when she was a little Divine tot. She was so cute with her knapsack and her braids, like a little Girl Sprout. She even got a gig at Prometheus Academy, until Demeter put her Divine foot down" Athena remarked with a wistful sigh. Just then, the two Goddesses were interrupted by Aphrodite's fiancée. Almost a century down the line, and she still hadn't married the poor sap.
"Heyyy, Honey. Getting' into the party spirit?"
Hephaestus looked bashful "Uh, almost. Demeter's asked me to make a chastity belt" he remarked, spinning his hammer like a baton.
"Bit late in the day for that, isn't it?" Athena sneered.
"No, silly. Fir Persephone" he chuckled. Athena was about to flip out over the 'silly' comment when:
"NO!" boomed a hammy, Zeus-esque cry from Aphrodite, burying her face in her hands "Not another chaste Goddess!" she cried mournfully.
"Oh, don't worry about that, Dearie, you more than make up for the rest of us. Maybe I'll be able to take Young Persephone under my wing after all" Athena chuckled, Ibid fluffing his feathers in approval "My brother will be most unhappy"
"Ares? What's he got to do with it?"
"Well, I'm not one to gossip, but my brother asked Demeter for Persephone's hand in marriage. Needless to say, Demeter knocked that toe-rag down like a dryad in a lightning storm." Athena chuckled.
"But..that's a terrible idea. Ares would scare the living daylights out of her" Aphrodite remarked.
"Hermes proposed, too"
"What?Why am I always the last to know? That's a terrible idea too; Hermes is already married to his job" said Aphrodite.
"Last I heard, Apollo was the most recent suitor" Athena sighed.
"Oh my Gods, that's wild! That's crazy, that would...actually, I could see that working"
"What, Apollo? He couldn't be faithful even if you paid him" Athena sneered.
"True, but their kids would be beautiful"
"No bloomin' way! That kid has brains, and I'd see to it myself that she does something extraordinary" Athena vowed.
"Uhm, hello? She's a Goddess. Being extraordinary is part of the package" Aphrodite replied.
"All right then, let's make it interesting. Persephone comes up with something revolutionary, or you can give me a sodding' makeover" Athena vowed.
"Really? All right! You try and make her a teacher's pet, I'll see to it that Persephone is married off by the end of the year. If not then uh...you can make me your teaching project" Aphrodite proclaimed, reluctantly. Hephaestus cleared his throat.
"Aphrodite, Dear. How is she meant to get married when I'm supposed to be making-"
"Hold that thought, Honey; we're meddling."
There Hades was, just minding his own business and innocently picturing the Olympians burning in Tartarus for all Eternity, when something whacked into him from behind. It bounced off his shoulder blade and into his hand; one of those cool tricks that only happen once in the cosmos and could never be repeated. Go Figure no one was around to see it.
"Ouch! Hey, what's the deal? Olympic try-outs already? Come on, what's the-"
Inspecting the offending object – when really he should have been keeping his eyes on the road. Well, cloud- Hades guessed it was some sort of piece of tacky jewellery. Bronze and tubular, with a distinctive engraving of the Horn of Plenty. Bingo; Demeter. His horrifically brilliant mind began to work overdrive.
"Oh, yeah. Hello there, Leverage" he chuckled to himself. Nothing like some good old school plotting to lift his dwindling spirits. Maybe this artefact was the key to all of Demeter's powers; with this the whole world could be fed, or starved to Death and held for ransom (and if that plan didn't work, Hey, at least there'd be a boom in business). Perhaps it...Nope. It was literally just a bracelet, fine work courtesy of Hephaestus. Maybe he could still..nope, the moment was gone. The schemes sizzled up like his own hair. His face dropped, as did the chariot. Hades yelped, and pulled the reins, much to the annoyance of his screeching griffin. Thank the Gods no one had been around to see that.
"Well, that idea went up in smoke" he sighed "Maybe I could return it to her anyway, out of the goodness of my chasm...Nah!"
Then, no sooner had his plan gone out the window, another bout of inspiration hit him like one of Zeusy's bolts. Sicily, Demeter's island. Her sacred place, the source of all her powers, her bachelorette pad; uninhibited and completely unmanned. Gods only knew what he'd find there.
Dot, dot, dot, cue foreshadowing.