She looked skyward and blinked back tears, determined not to let them fall on the infant's head. If Demeter shed tears, who knew what terrible consequences her sorrow would have on the newborn child?
The ten-year war was over. Father Kronos was cast into Tartarus along with the other Titans, monsters, and demons of the old order. Her child was safe here at her home in Eleusis. All the Olympians were safe.
Her heart was broken. She had been his first and his love, their child conceived to rule in peace or in war. But as her belly grew, Zeus Kronides turned his attentions elsewhere— first to Metis, then to Hera. Hera had not captured his heart; she'd secured his critical alliance with the priestesses of Samos. She had convinced several of the Titans to join with the rebel god, Zeus. She had ensured their victory and earned herself the title of Queen of Olympus.
And with that, Demeter was forgotten. She had been left to tend the growing things while her brother gods divided the firmament, the waters, and the earth.
The infant was oblivious, happily gumming her breast. Demeter coaxed her child to suck droplets of ambrosia from her finger. She smiled, enjoying the grip of her daughter's tiny hands and staring into her wide, pale eyes.
The soft voice of her servant Cyane interrupted her.
"My Lady," the nymph said, "Th-there is someone here to—"
"Hades Aidoneus," Demeter said to the looming figure behind her. She hid her breast behind her red chiton, brushed back her long blonde hair, and clutched the swaddled infant to her shoulder.
Demeter looked up at him; his dark eyes peered at her through the slits in his golden helm. The black plumes of the crest were stiff and caked, the helm and plate armor stained with the blood of ancient gods and monsters. The edges of his charcoal and crimson tunic were frayed, and his great black cloak was torn and flecked with blood. Cyane bowed and departed quickly.
"Deme," he said informally, removing his helm and shaking out his hair, "Please, I'm Aidon to you. I was— I am your ally, even still. "
"I will have no such familiarity with any of you. Keep your war and your scheming to yourselves. I'll have no part of it."
"But you did have a part in it. Just as we all did," Aidoneus said, standing over her. "Deme…"
"Address me by my proper name, my lord."
"Fine. Demeter Anesidora," he said, chewing on the words, "the war is over. I regret that all was not resolved the way you hoped."
She looked away, her green eyes filling with tears again.
He continued, "This war didn't turn out as I wanted either. When we cast lots to divide the cosmos, I received rulership of the Other Side. I, the eldest. Do you really think I fought for the privilege of having Kronos and his pantheon of monsters haunting my doorstep?"
"The Other…" Demeter paled. The third lot was not rulership over the earth as they had all thought, but… ruling the dead. Aidoneus would rule over the dead. And if he did… she held her infant daughter closer. "At least you were given something. What I have lost—"
"Enough, Demeter. Do you really want to be with him? To marry him? In just the past year he's had many and pursued more women than I can count. Not least among them Themis…"
"Stop it!" She screamed, jerking away from Aidon's hardened eyes. "Stop it." The wind howled coldly outside, and the baby squalled, balling her tiny fists. Demeter held her closer, cradling her head with her arm as the gale subsided. "You scared her." She turned back to Aidon, glowering.
He waited silently for her to calm the child. As he listened to her cries, something heavy and unfamiliar settled in his chest. Aidoneus shook his head, and then straightened. "About Persephone—"
"Her name shall be Kore."
"Zeus— the Fates— named her Persephone. Given her name, and who she is destined to become…"
Demeter looked away from him. "She is not to marry. And certainly not to someone as hard-hearted as you."
He recoiled, then drew himself up and narrowed his eyes. Demeter wouldn't— couldn't do this to him. Too much had already been taken from him today. "When she comes of age—"
"She will remain with me," she said, but her voice wavered as she spoke. Demeter's eyes grew wide and pleading. "Aidon, please; she's all I have left." She looked down at her baby girl, who murmured softly as she drifted to sleep.
"We made a bargain," he said, growing impatient. "I rallied the House of Nyx against the Titans and their servants. The war would have been lost without me. She is part of the oath that both of you swore."
"There is no longer a both of us," Demeter cried. "He has taken that... that... bloodless, brainless, conniving—"
"Careful…," he said quietly, his teeth on edge. Love and loss were not his concern. He didn't understand matters of the heart any more than he understood childbirth or the movements of the sea. "His choice of queen has nothing to do with our pact."
"Marriage is now Hera's domain, and I'll have no part of it. Not for me, and not for Kore! I swear off all the Olympian men and swear on the Styx that none of them shall have her. No one shall destroy her as he destroyed me!"
"I accept," Aidoneus said.
"You accept what?"
"Your oath. After today, I am no longer one of them. If you are so eager to keep her from the Olympian men, then I will renounce their company, and with them the sunlit world."
"That doesn't mean you can take her from me! I didn't mean—"
Aidoneus stood resolute. "For my part in the Titanomachy, when Persephone comes of age, she is to be my queen and consort and rule the Underworld by my side. You cannot change that!"
She glared up at him, tears staining her cheeks, saying nothing.
Hades shook his head and turned his back to her, walking to the door. "Do not think to see me again until that time," he called out behind him. "None of you will see me. If you are going to swear off the Olympians for her sake, then so will I."