FINDING OUT

I felt their eyes upon me as I stood in the middle of the meeting hall. In the front sat Zeus, the left, and Hera, the right side. In descending order from Zeus sat Poseidon, Hermes, Athena, Aphrodite, and Dionysus. On Hera's side sat Demeter, Areas, Apollo, Artemis, and Hephaestus at the end of the circular throne set up. They were calling me to make a decision between my three suitors, yet I knew I would take none of them. My heart rested with another. Kaikias, the northeast wind. He would be my lover. The one I would take to my bed as a maiden and bear his northern children. We had not discussed that far into the future, but he wanted me by his side until my "nymph" death.

"I will marry none of my suitors." I finally spoke. I could hear the cries of outrage from Apollo, Hermes, and Hera. Hera was the wrath goddess of marriage and in essence I threatened her position because I was the daughter of both Zeus and Demeter. I could over throw her like when Dionysus took Hestia's position. If I married I would be under her domain and not a threat. The others stayed silent.

"Only a short while ago you asking why I did not marry, sister. Now it makes sense. Men are vile animals, perhaps you can join me as a virginal goddess and hunt with my maidens." Artemis's deep hues peered at me with interest and possibility. I shook my head. "I do not want to live as a virginal goddess either. I want to be a minor nature goddess, not an Olympian." I replied and could sense Artemis's wrath. "I mean you no insult, dearest sister, but as Demeter's daughter I am also a goddess of fertility. Therefore I am bound to bare children and as you said men can rape girls like myself." I explained. "I recall. I forgive you for rejecting my offer." She muttered as she stroked her deer's head. I would have to talk to her later.

"Why would you want to be a minor goddess?" asked Athena. I turned towards the dark haired woman in sky blue robes. The wise owl perched on her left shoulder. Her grey eyes watched my every movement. "I do not desire the power of an Olympian, nor have I ever desired it. Ask any of the nymphs." I clarified. Hera coughed at my words, believing them to be a lie. "Everyone wants power especially someone in your position. Look through at the ages or Dionysus." The queen purred. She was beautiful with flowing red hair and freckled skin. Her green eyes shot me daggers though. I met her lethal gaze with my amber hues. "I have no intention to take your seat, Hera. By this I swear with my immortal blood." I swore and she was taken back. I dug my nail into my flesh and let a single drop fall to the ground.

To swear by immortal blood meant she could strike me down if I ever attempted to steal her throne. Gods and goddesses, although immortal to objects of disease, mortals, and other common ills of humans, could be killed by Olympians and other major gods and goddesses. Although, when an immortal died, they truly did not die. They would reappear on earth with lesser powers. Any promises or arrangements before their death would be removed and they would be reborn without ties. They would live as a spirit and shall attend to their godly duties, but they would lose their godly essence. With every death they would become forgetful and eventually lose themselves to nature. It happened before with Gaia and Uranus. That hardly ever happened because of the alliances between everyone and no one knew about it except the major immortals and those connected to them.

Then I felt a chill in the air that accompanied my love. I felt everyone turn towards the wind god who had just entered and everyone of them had venom on their faces. I looked back and saw my white haired god staring at me before looking at Zeus. He stood only two feet away from me. "Hades," I heard the leader of gods call, malice lacing his word. I turned my head towards Zeus, my father. Why did he call him 'Hades'? "What are you doing here? You are not scheduled until later today. We are discussing Persephone's marriage, and you have no need to concern yourself with that." Zeus reasoned. Kaikias briefly looked at me. I never told him I was a goddess because he assumed I was a nymph and I told him my name was Fern. His gaze hardened finally realizing I lied to him. I opened my mouth to speak, to say I would explain myself later, but his lips moved first as he addressed Zeus.

"Actually I should have a say on this matter. She is your daughter with Demeter and therefore she is a powerful goddess in her own right. As your brother, she is my kin and whoever she marries will become a part of this court." I trembled at his words. He could not be Hades. No, this was a lie, a trick to fool me. Then Kaikias turned towards me again. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Persephone. I am the God of the Underworld, the one they call Hades." He addressed me with such formality. Only days ago I felt his cool fingers tracing figure eights on my shoulder blades with me kissing him tenderly across his collar bone. Where was that man? I felt my breath catch in the air. Pain rippled through my chest. It spread like a cluster of webs running down my spine, sewing its parasitic worm into my core. No. It could not be true. I wanted Kaikias, not this death god.

"H-Hades," I tested his name on my lips. Kaikias was sweeter to say, yet he did not exist here. Had he ever lived? Not in front of every other Olympian who seemed to watch us as though we were on a stage. Every action I took was being measured by the other gods as I confronted Hades. "I am Persephone." I admitted as I met his frozen blue gaze. We stood there, knowing what the other had done. We lied about our true natures and persons, but in front of the Olympians we were forced to face the truth. "It's a pl-pleasure to ma-" I stopped and held my hand to my throat. I could not get the words out. Tears started to roll down my cheeks as I felt the truth bare down on me. Kaikias never existed and Hades reigned as the man I loved. The god of death who was vengeful and spiteful as everyone said. He just stood there in his black robes watching me tremble in shock. He made no move to comfort me. What could I expect from him? He thrived on suffering.

"You are scaring her, Hades." I heard Hera call. Then I felt solid arms engulf me and drag me farther away from Kai-No, Hades. I let them take me away from the tall man and lead me to an willow wood throne with vines shrouding the sides. It was meant to be mine, my throne between Demeter and Ares, once I married. "It is alright." Athena kissed my cheeks before returning to her seat next to Hermes and Aphrodite. "I mean you no harm, Persephone. Now shall we continue this discussion?" His chilling voice told me as he sat in his ebony throne between Poseidon and Hermes which was right across from me. I nodded my head trying to breathe again.

"Yes, we shall." Zeus's stormy eyes watched his sharp brother. "Persephone has decided not to marry. She intends to be a minor goddess of nature instead of realizing her full potential as my daughter. She could be an Olympian, yet she wants to spend her time collecting wildflowers with her nymphs. Apollo and Hermes both lay claim to her, yet she wants neither." Zeus sighed and looked at me with disapproval. Hades nodded then glanced at me. "She has every right to make her decision. Artemis does not have a husband, nor do I have a wife. However, we both do our duties without the worrying about the wrath of our spouse ruining our work. Just look at Aphrodite and Hephaestus." His long arms gestured towards the married couple, goddess of love and the smith god. Their union was a plague on Olympus and mortals alike. "He captured her and Ares in a golden net. It left the mortals without war or love. They carried on without a care, motive, or conscious." Hades reasoned as his eyes met mine. I shivered and felt his cool breeze engulf me. He was defending me against the others' hostile judgments. Why? I had betrayed his trust and now he wanted to save me again? It made no sense.

"Their relationship was arranged, but Persephone has the decision on who she wants to be with. She will have a love match; therefore, she will not encounter the problems that they have." Demeter replied, grinning like a fox. She thought she was so cunning. "Really?" Hades grinned back at her as she purred in her smugness. "Because I seem to recall a love match between Hera and Zeus, yet he still blessed others with children including you." The death god mused glaring at his sister. She bristled as she gripped her oak throne. "Zeus is the god of gods. He may take anyone he wishes without punishment." Demeter said as her cheeks reddened. "I'm curious. How did he 'take' you? You could have refused him and respected Hera's marriage." He asked with a huge grin. "That-That is none of your concern. I will not answer that." She said in a fluster. He grinned knowing he won.

The god of mischief just turned his attention to Hermes and Apollo. He was sweeping the floor with the Olympians at their own game. "Why do you two want to marry Persephone?" He questioned both gods. Hermes was the first to answer. Although his sea foam green eyes danced with lies. "She is a lovely maiden with a kind heart. Any god would be lucky to have such a precious girl as his wife." The thief god glanced at me trying to connect with me. I looked away from him. He tried to rape me and I would not allow him the satisfaction of marrying me. I gripped the curved sides of my chair and stared at the messenger god. "And you, Apollo?" Hades turned towards the sun god. He stiffened and risked a look towards me. "Well, like Hermes said she is a beautiful girl with an innocent, sweet personality. She does not argue and has a soft voice. As the sun god, I can see her riding in the sun chariot and pouring pollen on the plants as we race across the sky." He reasoned. "We could help each other." He added quickly. I met orange gaze and smiled slightly. He was kind, but I did not want him as my husband. Hades snorted at that. "It's curious. Demeter says Persephone will have a love match, yet you do not love her. You two only desire her for her elevated claim. Then again who am I to say if she does not love one of you." He turned his attention back to me.

"Persephone, do you love either of these men or any other suitor?" He asked. His frost blue eyes searched mine. They were calculating and manipulative. Did he want me to admit that I loved what he had been, Kaikias? That I originally planned to stay a minor god so I could go to him and give him my maidenhood? No, I would not give him that satisfaction. He leaned forward in his seat waiting for the words. Aphrodite watched me intently with her reddish tinted eyes. She would be able to detect the lie, but she would never tell. It was not her place to tell lovers' secrets. "I love no man as I would a husband. I will not marry a man I do not care for nor love." I stated resolutely. Hades' eyes hardened and lingered on me. He knew it was a lie, only days ago I told him I loved him. Then he told me he wanted me by his side for as long as I lived. Kaikias gently kissed my whole face, forehead, cheeks, nose, mouth, and jaw afterwards. Where was that man? I could almost feel the spirit's hands ripping out my beating heart and letting it fall to the ivory marble floor. Corrupting the court with lies and secrets.

His eyes turned to Zeus. "You heard it from her own lips. She will not marry, so let her be a minor goddess of nature." He said. "You make a good case, Hades, but Persephone you are wasting your potential if you do not take a husband." Zeus said. Artemis nor Athena had a husband yet they had their 'potential' covered as Zeus called it. Why could I not have the same respect? I bristled just thinking of it. "I do not want to be tied down to a loveless man. You cannot force me into this because of your oath to Demeter that you would give me a love match." I added the last bit quickly. Demeter nodded in agreement. He could not go back on his word.

Finally the ruler sighed and consented. I won and I smiled for a while. "Hence forth from this day, Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter, will reside as a minor nature goddess until she marries an immortal man of her choosing. She will have all the powers of Demeter, but to a lesser extent. In the event she marries, she shall receive his combined strength and powers if he has any of value." He snorted. "I nor any other Olympian will impose or influence themselves on her to marry someone of their choosing. This is my rule as Ruler of the Gods and the Mortal World." He called and forced a bolt of lightning through Olympus to the earth. It reinforced his act and granted me my wish. "Today's meeting is called to an end. Every one leave the chambers."

I rose from my seat and felt a rush of power drift over me. Energy tingled in my fingers as I wiggled them. I had the powers of growth and nature and every other force Demeter had. Yes, it was to a lesser extent, but it was mine. Each group of Olympians filed out together: Dionysus and Hephaestus, Artemis and Aphrodite, Athena and Apollo, Hermes and Ares- which meant I had to walk with Hades. He stood and marched to the middle of the chamber. He waited as I walked towards him. I kept my head level and overcame my shock as I seamlessly slipped my hand into the crook of his arm. Inwardly I loved the feel of muscle under his clothes, but outwardly I grimaced. I was a player in this court now and could not risk detection. "Fern." He whispered, poison dripping, in my ear as we reached the exit.

"Kaikias." I hissed lowly, malice spilling over the word. Before I let go of him I met his gaze. There was a hint of the wind god in him, but in the end he had been the death god. "I will see you soon." He breathed into my right ear as he dropped his arm to his side. He drifted from my side giving me a sly smile. I tightened my fist in anger. He lied to me. He was Hades, the vindictive god, and he showed all his colors tonight when he won my independence.

"Honey," My mother approached me. "What did he say to you? If he threatened you then we will do something." She glared after the tall man who was walking towards Poseidon, his brother. Her threat meant she would decline Hades' request for more Underworld gates for souls. My eyes lingered on Hades as he talked to the sea god. He seemed unfazed by my true identity as he spoke with my other uncle. Poseidon laughed at something Hades said before Hades clapped the god on his back in good nature. Was it sad that I wanted to go over and rest my head on Hades' shoulder and titter with those two? "Persephone, what did he say?" Demeter asked in a raised voice now.

My concentration broke and I looked at the green eyed goddess. "He congratulated me for not marrying anyone." I said quickly. Demeter's eyes flickered briefly to her brothers before looking at me. "He probably lied. He does that a lot." She spat. "He does. He's a trickster god." I said meeting her eyes which caused her to gleam. I did not challenge her assessment like I had been doing the last few months of courtship. She embraced me in a hug and I felt her warmth surround me, replacing Hades' chill. I looked over her shoulder and noticed Hades watching us with ominous blue eyes before he turned to look at the sea god. He still wanted me. Whether I wanted to live by his side, knowing he was Hades, was still up for grabs. Yet I still felt the pull from his immortal promise saying he would see me again from the second time I saw him.