Η Ειρήνη των Σκιών
Dead souls are kinder than the living ones.
They barely haunt us unlike the other.
There is no white and black in life, just lighter and darker shades of gray. People and situations seem to burn into a completely different light, depending on what point of view we choose to look at them each time. Perspective can make you reconsider your beliefs and change your whole world, making you consider things you have never before thought about.
The mighty kingdom of the Underworld –the residence of the dead, was no exception to these contradictions.
People immensely feared it because of the dead souls who dwelt in its darkness and its eternal frost. They were terrified by the punishment of Tartarus and the rotten souls that burned in those depths. Hades in their eyes was an almighty God who showed no mercy –his cold heart was finding pleasure in the cries of pain and sorrow of the dead.
What they all failed to understand was that the Underworld was also the afterlife -a place of second chances and new beginnings.
Hades wasn’t just a ruthless and cold God, but also a just and honorable King. He was a punisher only to those who deserved it and a protector to those that deserved better during their time in the world of the living. His subjects were dead, but his kingdom was full of life.
The silence provided them with peace and the darkness made the precious stones of the Underworld sparkle like shining stars in a vast dark sky. Nobody was poor or sick or hungry –the unfair sorrows of the living didn’t follow them in the world of the dead.
Because a beggar or a lord, they were all equal in Death’s eyes.
The contrasts had a strange beauty. At least, that was what the Goddess of Spring was thinking as she let her fingertips caress slowly his lower lip. It was cold at the touch but at the same time soft, reminding her that Hades was a complex of contradictions himself.
The three judges of the Underworld had excused themselves after Thanatos and Hypnos had dragged a screaming Ixion out of the throne room. Persephone had been left to watch their retreating backs, seated upon her King’s lap and throne. Τhey closed the huge doors of the throne room and let the silence fill it up.
Sighing deeply, she leaned into Hades’ embrace as he let his slender fingers comb through her auburn locks. Lost in their own thoughts, they enjoyed the silence in each other’s company.
Suddenly, an unexpected sound echoed in the halls of Hades, making Persephone furrow her eyebrows in confusion. It was heard over and over again, having a steady rhythm and disturbing the peaceful peace of the dead. Looking around the dimly lit room, the Goddess tried to find the source only to end up empty-handed.
“Hades?“, she asked in uncertainty.
His silver eyes snapped to her emerald ones, softening when they distinguished a flicker of fear inside of them.
“That would be the Greeks, my love”, he answered her unspoken question.
Persephone cocked her head to the side.
“The Greeks?“, she asked again.
Humming in answer, the God of the Underworld let a kiss upon her bare shoulder, smirking in satisfaction when he felt her shiver slightly.
“There is a war brewing in the world of the living, my sweet. The Greeks are gathering their forces to attack Troy.”
She listened carefully to the strange sound, trying to understand what it was. The sharp rhythmic sounds echoed around the throne room, seeming too loud even in her own ears. Her heart hammered inside of her chest, falling into pace with the steady rhythm. And then it clicked inside her mind, making her eyes widen in sudden realization.
Turning around to her beloved God, she blushed when she understood that he was already watching her. He let a loop sided smile appear on his face at the scarlet color shading her porcelain complexion, before slowly caressing her rosy cheek.
“Are they marching towards Troy?“, she bit her lip in curiosity.
“Not exactly”, he rested his head against the back of his throne, “Menelaus cannot win this war on his own –he will need his brother’s support. The Spartans are heading to Mycenae, so they can join Agamemnon’s army.”
She nodded in understanding.
“And why are their footsteps so loud?“, she gazed at him in confusion.
He let a dark chuckle escape his luscious lip as his eyes became a few shades darker.
“They are doing it on purpose, my sweet. They hit the ground hard enough for me to be able to hear them in the Underworld.”
“I don’t understand...why would this matter?”
A smile appeared on his face as he let a small kiss on her forehead. She was too pure and innocent for this world. A maiden of flowers couldn’t possibly understand the greed for gold or the thirst for blood.
“It is a way to greet me, showing that they are not afraid of death. Soon enough most of them will join my kingdom. At least, they hope to fall in the battlefield like heroes, so their legacy can pass into their family’s bloodline and their fame into the eons of time.”
“Oh”, she felt her cheeks blushing furiously.
She never understood men’s need for blood and glory. What was the point of fame when you are buried beneath the ground and never get to see your loved ones again?
She guessed that they wanted their children to be proud of their fathers and their names to be well known. But was it worth sacrificing everything in the name of glory? Love? Family? Even your own life? She could only thank the Fates that she was a Goddess connected to nature and not any of these bloody rituals.
"Oh indeed, my love.”
He gripped her chin gently with his fingers, forcing her emerald orbs to meet his pools of silver. Flickering his gaze from her emerald gems to her red lips, he leaned in and claimed her rosy petals into a fiery kiss. Persephone sighed in delight, letting her fingers tangle into his long black locks. His slight beard scratched her porcelain skin gently, but she had become familiar with its roughness.
When the burning in their chests was too much to handle, they separated from one another trying to breathlessly calm their wildly beating hearts down. Hades smirked at the flashed Goddess, who tried to hide her scarlet cheeks behind her long hair. Taking a strand of her curly hair, he placed it gently behind her ear, enjoying the clear view of his blushed love.
“I have a surprise for you”, he announced to her with sparkling eyes.
The Goddess widened her eyes in surprise before a bright smile graced her features.
“What kind of surprise?“, she asked excitedly.
“Now now, my Lady”, he smirked up at her gleaming form, “It wouldn’t be a surprise if I reveal it to you, will it?”
She narrowed her eyes in contemplation, before folding her arms in front of her chest.
“Persephone...“, he mimicked her.
She huffed in annoyance, knowing very well that the God of the Underworld wouldn’t reveal his intentions since he didn’t want to. It was one of the first things she had realized about him –Hades was a man who liked to keep things to himself from time to time and wouldn’t reveal them to anyone unless it was the right time. It got to her nerves to know that he had all this knowledge and yet was so cryptic about it.
Suddenly, a blanket of blackness surrounded them, covering them from the rest of the world. The Goddess of Spring realized that black smoke had begun to appear from his black robes, creating a cloud of black shadows around them.
Gasping in surprise, she hugged him tightly. She buried her face in the curve of his neck, letting him teleport her wherever he wanted to go. A feeling of floating and a rush of wind was all she felt before the blackness cleared out to reveal the new location.
Looking beyond Hades’ shoulder, she realized that a meadow stretched around them until their eyes could see. It was a plain meadow –completely different from Demeter’s colorful fields, with only green grass spreading like a calm sea from its beginning to its ending. Little wooden huts sprang out like wildflowers here and there, making it look less empty than what it appeared to be.
A child’s laughter echoed around them, making her turn her head urgently as she tried to find the sound’s source.
She gasped when she saw a boy not older than six years, watching her with a bright smile from afar. He had a grey light emitted from him, making her come to the realization of his fatality. The lad walked towards them shyly, blushing under their intense gaze and kicking some rocks in its way. When he reached them, he tagged at Hades’ robes and squealed in delight when he raised him in his arms.
“Persephone”, Hades turned to her with the smiling boy in his embrace, “This is Stelios.”
She smiled at the beautiful sight in front of her, before she caressed the boy’s hair lovingly.
“It’s nice to meet you, Stelios”, she awed as the little lad flashed at her words.
“Welcome to the Fields of Asphodel, my Queen”, he cheekily said before offering a white flower to her.
Persephone watched with interest the narrow plant, admiring the small white flowers that were attached to its long stem. She comprehended that the whole field was covered by them, but they were so discreet between the green grasses that she hadn’t taken notice of them.
“Asphodelus, the flower of the dead”, Hades explained to her, “It’s the only flower that grows in the Fields of Asphodel.”
Persephone twirled the white flower in her hands, before gazing up to him in curiosity.
“Why Asphodelus?“, she asked.
She knew that the God of the Underworld had a thing for narcissus, making her confused about this unexpected choice of his.
“It grows near the graves of the dead, my sweet”, he smiled at her sadly.
“Besides the humans that are unable to find anything else for food use to cease their needs with Asphodelus’ roots. Therefore, the dead seem to be content by quenching their hunger with them too”, he shrugged his shoulders.
The boy squirmed in the God’s arms forcing him to let his small form down. Stelios approached the beautiful Goddess slowly, before tugging on her dress. Smiling softly at him, Persephone kneeled down to be in the same height as him.
“Would you like to meet my mother, my Lady?“, he asked her shyly.
“Oh, I would love to”, she caressed the child’s chubby cheek.
They chuckled as the little boy bounced up and down in excitement as he began to make his way through the white-flowered meadow. Persephone noticed other people appearing in the meadow, watching them with bright smiles and waving at them heartily. They all had the same grey light emitting from them, making her look at Hades’ in confusion.
“We are in Asphodel’s Fields, my love, where those who lived a normal life reside. They did nothing great but nothing bad either during their lives; therefore, they can live peacefully here. They aren’t heroes or criminals, so we call them “The Shadows”. The grey light distinguishes them from the heroes’ golden one, revealing their position in Asphodel’s Meadows.”
She nodded in understanding before her gaze fell on the excited child in front of them.
“What happened to Stelios, Hades?“, she gazed at the six-year-old sadly, “Why did he die so soon?”
She watched as the Lord of Darkness shook his head sadly, before gazing at the giggling child that was guiding them towards his home.
“A fever took him while he was sleeping. He had been battling a few days with a spreading disease”, he gave her hand a small squeeze, “His mother had died a few days earlier by the same sickness, so they found each other in these fields soon after his death.”
Her emerald eyes sparkled with unshed tears.
“That wasn’t fair”, she mumbled quietly “Why would the Fates give him such a short and torturous life?”
His silver orbs met her emerald ones.
“Because sometimes, the Fates give you hope, only to see you crumbling when they crush it.”
And that statement couldn’t be truer.
End of chapter 25!!
Title Translation: “The Peace of the Shadows”
Asphodelus is often connected with Persephone, who appears crowned with a garland of asphodels. Its general connection with death is due no doubt to the greyish color of its leaves and its yellowish flowers, which suggest the gloom of the underworld and the pallor of death.
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Until next time!!