Here in the Shadows – Hades/Persephone

Title: Here in the Shadows

Fandom/Pairing: Greek Mythology/Hades x Persephone

AN: This was inspired by this pic:

In his world of shadows, where darkness encompassed all, Persephone was the light and the sun; he could never touch her. For six months of a year she was condemned to this place, to the very depths of his underworld domain. She would wander slow, bringing spring to the dark wherever she went, but never meeting the eyes of the man who kept her here. Yet Hades was besotted with her.

It was not just her beauty and grace that drew him in; it was her selflessness, her eager smile, and the kindness she held in her heart. But Hades knew he would never win Persephone’s love, no matter how many years he imprisoned her here.

Of course he knew it was his own foolishness that grew such hate in her heart. Had he not tricked her into consuming the fruits of the underworld, she would not be there, and would not despise him so. But then she would not be trapped with him, and he would not be able to bask in her presence. Perhaps the way in which she was brought into the dark could have been gentler, kidnapping her may not have been the best idea; Hades would never listen to his brother again, for that. Life, however, is dictated by choices made, and he must exist with his choices for eternity; as will she.

How he longed for the day when her parting from this dark world was perhaps tinged with a slight unwillingness to leave, or that on her arrival she was not so melancholy. Alas, he feared it would never happen.

For the most part he avoided her; his presence was unwelcome and he did not wish to impose upon her. He spent his days in the gloom, watching as trafficked souls disembarked at the Styx, and torturing those he was bound to. In his billowing cloak and armour of black, his long white hair blowing behind him, he would stand upon the shores, his sullen expression ever present, hoping to see but a glimpse of Persephone.

Her beauty was unrivalled, to Hades, Aphrodite herself could not compare. She was lithe and light on her feet; her skin forever sun kissed and glowing, yet pale and soft in turn. Long auburn hair, the colour of autumn leaves, tumbled in gentle waves down her back, from which flowed flowers which fell upon the ground in her wake. Her face was delicate, but striking, full rose coloured lips and deep brown eyes the most notable of features. She was all Hades could ever want in a woman, and everything he would never have.

One day as he walked, melancholic and brooding, he came upon Persephone, sitting alone as ever upon a large rock by the river Acheron. He watched, silent from afar as she tempted her fate with the river; rhythmically dipping her toes into the water, only to hiss in pain before removing them. Hades wasn’t sure how long he watched her, one hand threading through her hair as her face scrunched up in pain, before he moved, causing her head to snap up. In her haste to be gone from his company she tripped and fell, coming down hard upon the earth and laying still.

Hades had never felt such panic as he raced to be by her side.

Persephone was laid on her back, one arm above her head and her legs all entangled. But she breathed, her heart beat, and Hades breathed a great sigh of relief. He never wished to welcome her to the underworld as anything other than a temporary guest. As her chest rose and fell, Hades simply looked upon her, one arm outstretched as though to gently caress her cheek; but he paused. He could not touch her, not when she was not awake to defend herself as he knew she would do.

“Persephone,” he sighed. His voice was deep, betraying all of his years in a way his face never could. “Were you to know how much I adore you, would you be more receptive to my advances? If you knew you were my light and life in this darkness, perhaps would you warm to me?”

Clenching his eyes tight he pulled back his hand, scrubbing it roughly over his mouth.

“My foolish choices brought you here and keep you here, yet I cannot regret them. I am a selfish creature and I will take your company in any way I can. Perhaps this makes me unworthy of your love,” he laughed, “for I know I am so terribly unworthy of it, but I want it all the same.”

His cool gray eyes were soft as he looked upon her, the closest since her kidnapping he had ever dared venture. But she was stirring, and soon she would awaken, and Hades knew he could not be near when that happened.

“How I wish I could say this to you when you may hear it, but I am a coward. So I will tell you instead now, when you are unreceptive and sure not to be hearing this; I love you, wholly and most fervently, and I know I always will.”

Then he was gone back into the dark, and Persephone was left to awaken alone, though there was a strange heat about her where Hades had crouched. Three days later she returned to Demeter, taking spring with her for another six months.

~

Six months Hades spent in perpetual darkness. His moods were sour, disturbed always. His punishments were severe, harsher than they were when Persephone resided with them, and all who existed in the underworld prayed for the day she would return.

Of course return she did, reluctant as ever in the wake of leaving her mother and the human world once more. Hades hid in the shadows, watching her disembark at the Styx and greeting Charon. Her light almost blinded him, after so long hiding in the dark, but he welcomed it all the same. For the first time in six months he was settled, and all about him there was a collective sigh of relief, none would have thought their master could be tamed by such a slip of a woman.

For the next two months they had no contact. He marched in the dark, billowing cloak the perfect camouflage from any hint of her sun. Yet his steps were lighter, a weight seemingly gone from his shoulders. It was always tense those six months, wondering if she’d return, though for her not to would mean her death. It was pleasant to know she would rather be condemned to his presence than end her life; reassuring.

Half way through her time in Hades’ domain and her heat was becoming stronger, bringing summer to the underworld. The flowers that fell after her were yellows, oranges, and reds; the colours of fire and the sun. It was then, as Hades stood over the body of a man who had tried to steal his late wives soul from the depths, Persephone happened upon him.

He turned, startled by her presence, to find her looking curiously at the body at his feet. But she said nothing as she tilted her eyes to meet his. She did not look afraid, or angry that he had taken this man’s life, she looked only curious, as though trying to figure out some puzzle by staring deep into his eyes. Hades was transfixed, he had never looked into her eyes before, had never expected for her to approach him when she was always so fearful of him.

Before he could analyse her actions any further she about faced and wandered gracefully off into the cave beyond. He was perplexed. This was not something he was used to, or something he expected. He was not prepared for Persephone’s new boldness, and therefore couldn’t work out what to do with it.

Unfortunately for Hades he did not have long to work through it, as for the entire month following he ran into her with growing frequency. He could avoid her no longer, and never had to seek her out, for it seemed Persephone was the one doing the stalking.

The first few times they did little more than look at each other, staring into each other’s eyes as though daring the other to break contact first. But as Hades grew steadily used to her presence, he began to enjoy it ever more. His days were no longer complete without catching sight of her. He dare not hope that her feelings towards him were changing.

The first time she spoke, the first words she had spoken in the underworld since screaming her lungs out as she was first brought to it, Hades was astounded. How was it possible that he’d forgotten how sweet her voice was, how light and airy a breath it was.

Once again they were caught in each other’s gaze, such a strict juxtaposition between them; Persephone all light and life, while Hades stood in the dark, for her light could not touch the darkness that surrounded him. She smiled, small and timid, before clearing her throat delicately to speak.

“Hello,” she said. Such simple words and yet they moved him to his very core.

So shocked was he, he could not move his lips to form words, and instead stood mute before her. Seeming to sense his anxiety Persephone nodded, still smiling, before moving towards and passed him, out towards the meadows of Asphodel. Hades could do nothing but watch her go.

The next day he was determined he would not be a silent partner in their communication. He would speak to her. Hope sprung like a foreign bloom inside his chest. He had no idea as to why her feelings had begun to change, but he was determined that they would continue to. So when he saw her, sitting on a rock and dropping flowers into the Phlegethon, watching as they sizzled in its flames, he was quick to speak up.

“You enjoy playing in my rivers,” Hades said, cringing as she shook from shock.

Persephone was quick to recover however and turned her head towards him, smiling as she continued idly dropping flowers into the flames of the river.

“It occupies my time,” she replied.

Hades stepped closer, dragging his onyx staff along the ashy ground.

“Good,” he said, relaxing as she did as he moved closer. “You’re not bored here then?”

“Not often,” she shook her head, placid smile still in place. It seemed almost as though she was trying not to scare him. The thought alone almost made him laugh.

“Well, I’m glad.” He shifted quickly from foot to foot. “However, I must be going.”

“Of course, you have souls to judge, minions to control; a busy existence to be sure.”

“Yes, well…”

“Until tomorrow.”

Hades nodded, backing away slowly before turning and striding from her. He walked until he met Cerberus, dropping against the wall beside his colossal form. The faithful animal dropped one of its impressive heads, nudging Hades’ side, almost causing him to fall. The hound could sense its master’s distress.

The conversation with Persephone had given him much hope, more than he’d ever felt in his existence. More happiness even than when he and his brothers had overthrown the titans. Hades was ambivalent of most things, mortals attempting to leave the underworld or steal something from it had been the only thing to truly get his heart racing; until Persephone.

On the same rock as the previous day is where Hades next found her, tempting the flames with the soft flesh of her fingers. He knew the fire would not hurt her, she was the daughter of a God, his sister, and she was indestructible. Yet it still irked him to watch her play in such a way.

“I never expected to find you here,” he said.

“I like it here, though there aren’t many places I know of.”

“No, well I didn’t give you the grand tour, did I?” There had been no time for a tour when she had first entered the underworld, kicking and screaming. Hades barely had time to show her, her quarters before he was in Olympus, arguing with his brother. To bring it up was unknown territory, and he prepared himself for a scolding.

“You didn’t,” she said, still smiling. “Perhaps you can give me one now?”

Seemingly shocked into submission he nodded, keeping a straight face as she stood lithely from her rock and hopped down to the ash. It did not stain her bare feet as she walked through it towards him.

“Well, Hades,” she said, the first time she had said his name in this place. It felt odd upon her tongue. “Lead the way.”

For the rest of the day they walked. He showed her all she had seen before: four of the five rivers: the Styx, Lethe, Acheron, and Phlegethon; Cerebus’ domain and the great gates he protected; the meadows of Ashphodel and the field of Elysium. He introduced her to Hypnos, Minos and Charon, all whom greeted her with the grace she deserved. She shone in the darkness, and Hades was in awe of her.

They ended their journey at Cocytus, the frozen river of wailing. It was a cold province, its inhabitants all encased in great blocks of ice. Persephone milled about them, watching curiously as their glazed eyes followed her slowly.

“Who are they?” she asked.

“Traitors, mostly.”

“It’s horrible, though no less than they deserved I’m sure.”

Hades nodded, walking close behind her. “Naturally, though some would say it is not the worst place to end up.”

“The Asphodel meadows,” Persephone concurred.

In silence they left Cocytus, walking slowly side by side. Hades was perplexed. He wanted answers, but was afraid to ask them. He would rather have her attention, yet be confused by it, than lose it simply because of his curiosity. The darkness was stark around them, except where Persephone walked, her light seemed to retract around Hades. It could touch nothing of him, as though revolted by his very presence.

“I suppose,” Persephone began, breaking the encompassing silence, “you’re wondering why I deigned to speak with you?”

“I’ll admit it did cross my mind.”

“It was something you said.”

“Something I said?”

Persephone nodded but did not comment, and so they continued to walk in silence. They walked through the tunnels of the underworld, Persephone spreading her warmth within them, Hades basking in it while he could, until they reached an atrium, the convergence of the Cocytus and Acheron.

“I watch you,” Persephone said, once again startling Hades by sparking conversation. “As you walk, and I hear you when you would suppose no-one can.”

“Excuse me?” Hades asked, stopping their stroll in order to face her. She wore a gentle smile, and her hazel eyes lit as they looked at him.

“You mumble and chunter along. You speak of me, did you not know?” Of course his blank look was all the answer she needed, and her smile widened, the light brightening with it. “Obviously not.”

“What do you hear?” He asked. His heart was in his throat and though she looked placid enough he feared it was only the calm before the storm. How was he to know he spoke aloud as he walked? Millennia he had been alone down there, and he had become accustomed to his own company.

“Pleasant things, compliments mostly. I hear anger also, mostly directed towards yourself for keeping me here. You feel guilty, not that you kidnapped me, but because you want me to stay. You’re not as frightful as you would have people believe.”

“And this is why you speak to me? Because you heard what I’ve said about you,” he asked.

“For years I have heard you mutter about me, but I never took any notice. I was stubborn in my hatred of you, and nothing could sway me. But then I collapsed, my own folly from playing in those waters, and you came to me, and you spoke to me. Your words were beautiful and the most I’d heard you speak in so long. You could say it opened my eyes to you, to who you truly are.” Persephone stepped forward, placing a hand upon his arm. Hades watched the strange mix of light and dark. “I find I’d like to get to know you, Hades.”

Hades was baffled, and as Persephone moved her arm to his armour clad chest he could bare it no longer. Her warmth seeped through into him, scorching his cold insides. Sharply he stepped back from her; she did not seemed surprised by this, only disappointed.

“I must go,” he mumbled, and in a swirl of black, his ethereal cloak like fog in the dark, he stalked away. Persephone stood, sad smile upon her face for but a moment before heading in the opposite direction to her chambers.

Hades did not have chambers of his own, not in the same way Persephone did. Instead he had an entire wing of the underworld, sitting lower than anyone could reach, directly below Cocytus. No souls touched his space, and no one but Hades had ever been down there. It was not a pleasant place.

Cold torches burnt in the walls emitting strange light upon the black rock. In the very centre rested his chariot, all onyx jet and smoke flames. When he rode, two great skeletal horses pulled it, flames spouting from their nostrils and sparks erupting from their iron hooves. Now it was still, only rocking gently as Hades slumped upon the open end, head in his hands.

Inside, Hades mind roiled, like snakes in a pit his emotions coiled over one another, spinning and churning until he was unsure which way was up. He should rejoice in the conversation with Persephone. Yet happiness was not something Hades was well acquainted with. Pride in himself and his brothers as they over threw the titans was the closest he had ever come, he was sure. But Hades was mistrustful in nature and he could not help but think that this was some sort of horrible entrapment.

But how could Persephone, the personification of new life and warmth and all that was beautiful, lie to him like that? He couldn’t believe she would do such a thing.

Yet if she was not lying, then that could only mean that she was sincere in her want to get to know him, to spend time in his presence and speak to him as they had done today. Could he do that? He wasn’t sure.

Agitated he stood, stalking about his chambers like a caged wolf, muttering beneath his breath as though anyone could hear him and answer his questions. He needed advice, but from who? It was a well known fact that Hades had no true companions, and he had not spoken a word to his brothers since Zeus’ ill fated advice had led him to this purgatory with Persephone.

But after nearly a century of her being held captive here, she had warmed to him. She had heard his words, thought on them, and come to the conclusion that perhaps he was not as cold as those in the mortal world would believe. He should not miss this opportunity. Persephone had but two months left in the underworld before she would return to Demeter, to bring spring to the mortal earth.

He had been imprudent, he knew. Running off like that would not solve anything, but had he stayed he was afraid of what he might have said. Surely he would have spoken out of turn and ruined what little faith had grown for him in her heart. He laughed out loud at his foolishness. Lord of the Underworld and all souls who reside there, if only those who worshipped him could see their Lord, and the conundrum he had found himself in.

Still chuckling low and deep he swept from his chambers, rising slowly through the tunnels until he reached the great atrium. There he stood, watching as Charon sailed through with three poor souls huddled together in his boat. As he stopped on the banks of the Styx, they each placed two bronze coins in his palm as way of payment, before floating ethereal onto the shore.

Hades watched as one of his minions greeted them, though no words passed the demon’s lips, before he led them along to the Asphodel meadows; ordinary people being led to their ordinary afterlife. If only his existence could be so cut and dry.

“I find I do not pity them.” Persephone’s sweet voice whispered from beside him, but Hades did not turn to look at her, focusing instead on the ferry man, pushing back off from the shore into the dark waters of the Styx.

“You don’t?” He asked.

“No, they should have lived more exciting lives; stuck to their morals instead of bending between both good and evil.” Hades frowned as she laughed long and low, “perhaps I have been down here too long. It would seem the judgement in this place is rubbing off on me.”

As one they turned, walking slowly they meandered across the surface of the Styx, their feet barely breaking its surface. Neither led nor followed the other, they simply traversed the darkness of the underworld as one. Hades enjoyed the company.

“You know, up in the mortal realm they think of me as your wife.”

Hades brows cocked in surprise. He didn’t listen to any stories that came his way from the mortals that were drawn into his grip, and having never risen above the shadowy ceiling of the underworld since he had captured Persephone, he wasn’t to know of the stories about him.

“They do?”

“Yes,” she replied. Reaching across, bridging the gap between them she grasped tight onto his surprisingly warm armoured hand. “I find I don’t mind.”

Though Hades heart raced in surprise he did not remove her grip, instead relaxing into the comfort she gave him, as together they walked slowly into the shadow of the underworld.

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One Response to “Here in the Shadows – Hades/Persephone”

  1. Jess August 14, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    I really enjoyed this, I quite like your writing style.

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