Her anger mixed with confusion as she returned to the castle. How could the woman who had raised her be responsible for the destruction and chaos plaguing Persephone’s life? She would have never guessed it would be her mother who would be the one to plot against her. She had believed fervently that her mother was innocent. But Hades had predicted this. He had seen it coming. He had warned her that her mother’s anger would not be diminished. That traditionally, Demeter was not forgiving.
Her pace quickened into a run as she entered the castle’s open corridor. She knew she had to find her mother. Hecate was right, an unknown enemy was dangerous. But one that was blindly welcomed into her home was even more so. She had invited her mother into the heart of her home without even second-guessing her decision, only to find out the monster they had been searching for was right before them, staying in their home and eating at their table. Persephone only hoped she had not caused too much irreversible damage. She knew her mother could not be permitted to stay a second longer. Persephone continued to search, knowing her mother would undoubtedly be up with the early morning sun.
Once Persephone did spot her mother, it took her breath away. She could not force herself to take another step, for the closer she got, the sooner she would have to disappoint her mother yet again. Though her mother was the one to start everything and the reason behind every hardship, it still would not make what she had to do any easier.
Even though she was a fair distance away, her mother had still spotted her. Persephone watched as a kind smile was offered to her. The kind she, as a child, had always worked so hard to earn.
“Daughter.” Demeter greeted once she had walked to where Persephone stood perfectly still in the corridor.
“Mother,” Persephone greeted in the only way she could without shouting angrily at her. She knew screaming angry words would come soon enough, but for this second, she could stop and dream that everything was peaceful. That her mother didn’t hate her and her throne with Hades was safe and secure. Her moment of peace didn’t last long as Minthe’s words echoed in her head. Her mother’s betrayal could not be forgotten. Or forgiven. No matter how badly she wanted it to be.
Persephone watched as Demeter inspected a rose that had just begun to bloom. “Persephone, this garden is beautiful for what you had to work with. Of course, the flowers do not grow as they would under the sun, but they are still beautiful.” Persephone heard the sting her mother had purposely laid into her compliment. Of course, Persephone could do nothing perfect while here in the Underworld. In her mother’s eyes, she would always be tainted.
She simply ignored her mother’s comment knowing it would be useless to draw out the inevitable conversation that needed to happen, “Mother, we must talk.”
“Of course, Kore, what is it?” Her mother turned to her and took in her ragged appearance. “You look ill.”
“I wish for you to leave,” she told her, trying to use as much authority as she could, once again ignoring her mother.
She watched as Demeter’s face sank instantly, “To leave? But why?”
“Do not play coy with me. I am no longer a small goddess, and I know what you have done.” Persephone spat.
“I haven’t done anything, Kore. Whatever has Hades told you?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest as if Persephone was the one who had something to be ashamed of.
“He has nothing to do with this.” She shook her head, “This is no one’s fault but your own. I know you are plotting against Hades and that you are aligning forces against my husband and me. Your nymph told me of your plot herself.” Persephone told her mother. She didn’t look shocked nor attempt to deny Persephone’s accusations. Instead, Demeter only sighed as if it was a minor inconvenience. She merely looked annoyed.
“I plot against no one but the Lord of the dead.” Her mother told her, staying true to what she had always said, that it was always Hades who she really hated.
But Persephone knew her mother better than that. She knew that her mother’s anger was also placed on her. Persephone had humiliated Demeter in front of the Olympian trail. She knew her mother was not likely to forgive such an offense. Persephone knew that if she herself did not hold the source of Demeter’s power within her, that her mother’s revenge would not have been so subtle. That if Demeter could destroy her without also destroying the source of her own power and elevated position, she would have. Demeter had a habit of removing all obstacles from her path. Some people would never change no matter how long eternity was. At one time, Persephone thought she was excluded. Now, she was not as foolish.
“Understand this, mother; I am with Hades, as I will always be. To strike Hades is to strike me.” Persephone didn’t know what else she could do to make her mother understand that her love and loyalty to Hades would not so easily be diminished. She would always side with Hades, even if it meant leaving her mother.
“Always the one for dramatics, aren’t you?” Demeter laughed while rolling her eyes. “I am only trying to save you from making a deadly and irreversible mistake. Aligning yourself with Hades has already tainted you. It is now a black mark on your character. You do not see it now, but someday you will thank me for saving you,” she spoke honestly. Her mother had always hated Hades, and now she was allowing her hate to blind her to what was right in front of her.
Persephone stopped her before she could say anything else that would make Persephone’s anger rise, “Do not act like you are doing this for me. I am happy now. I am in no need of saving. You are being led by your own selfish motives.”
It was only now that Demeter’s eyes darkened. “Your happiness is of little concern to me.”
“Why are you doing this?” Persephone pleaded desperately.
“I am trying to stop you from making a mistake. I may be selfish, but I am also right, Kore. One day you will see that you were always meant to live on the surface.” Demeter spoke to her as if she was a small goddess once again, not understanding the world around her. But Persephone’s eyes had been open for a long time now. She had let her mother control her and had ignored the pain it had caused her. But no matter how firmly Demeter believed it to be, she had known for quite some time that her place was not destined to be in her mother’s shadow.
“Don’t act like you care. Because if you did, you wouldn’t have done this. I trusted you, mother. I even vouched for you when Hades said you were the one plotting a war.” Persephone said as she heard her mother’s sharp snicker.
“Oh, you naive girl. Trust is for children.” Demeter laughed. Though Demeter had always kept her youthful appearance, she suddenly showed every year. “You will not stop proclaiming how you are no longer a child. Well, it is time you grow up.”
In their past, Persephone had done anything and everything to stay in her mother’s good graces. She would quiver under every one of her mother’s sharp looks. She could not tell if the adrenaline and anger rushing through her veins made Persephone stand tall in front of her mother or the apparent fact that she had grown into a strong goddess. She even shocked herself as she did not shrink or second guess herself. She knew she had come a long way and was better for it. Never again would she let her mother belittle her.
“I am finally learning my lesson; blood is not as strong of a bond as I had believed it to be,” Persephone said to her mother. She thought of all the strong bonds she had formed while in the Underworld; gods and goddesses that would come to her call if ever she needed it. She had unknowingly formed a family of her own, one much stronger than the one she had been born into. Thanatos. Styx. Hecate. And Hades, always Hades. “What was the purpose of the trial? If not a means to an end?” Persephone asked before she realized she had spoken her question aloud.
Persephone watched as her mother’s eyes darkened, and a wicked smile crossed her face. “It was merely the first step.”
Persephone took in her mother’s painful answer. The trial was clearly not important to Demeter, who was an old god who had learned to play the long game. She had never planned to win the trial but had used it as a distraction. To bring her enemies out and to show her allies. The trial that had meant everything to Persephone had meant nothing to Demeter. She had used it as a show, as a vice to gain time to plot, to plan.
Her anger had reached a new level, it was now beyond what she had felt while talking with Minthe. It seemed to roll off her in hot waves but, simultaneously, had frozen her within. She felt the flowers and plants around her welt under her fury, and it only seemed to excite her. She knew her mother could feel the change in her power, and she hoped it terrified her.
“If you don’t trust anything, then trust my anger. Hades wanted you here even though he suspected you were behind Orpheus’s visit. I’m sure Hades will forgive all grievances if you back down now. He will do this for my happiness. He speaks in support of how lonely a mother is without her child. He remembers what it feels like to watch someone you love leave.” She watched as her mother’s eyes softened the slightest bit. An immeasurably small reflex. But even this could not soften the cold hate that formed inside Persephone. “But he does not know you as I do. And now I can see you clearly for the first time. You do not miss me, mother. That is not why you want me back.” She shook her head swiftly, never letting her gaze leave her mother. “I will never forgive you, not for this.”
“Why must this come between us, Kore?” Demeter asked, biting at each of her words, making Persephone’s old name sound like a curse. “Why must we fight? Don’t you remember what it was like before? When it was just you and I?”
“Because I love him, mother. Because if I do not fight you, I must leave him.” Persephone said calmly. It was her simplest truth. If she was made to choose, she would pick him. Always. And if she was made to fight, she would run into battle beside him. Every time.
“Love is irrelevant to deities like us.” Her mother shook her head as her face changed into one of old hatred. “Love is only a word dripping from the lips of a young girl. It holds no weight.”
Persephone suddenly stilled when she heard her mother’s words, “Did you never believe me when I said I loved you? Or when you would tell me I possessed all the love you had? What is that worth now?” As if she was mimicking Persephone, Demeter froze. They both shared a moment when neither could speak. The heaviness of her confession settled over them both.
“You are a god. Have you forgotten what that means? You are worth more than a silly love affair. You have the power to level kingdoms with a flick of your wrist. And you want to bury that power down here? What a waste.” She added as if what she called a waist was not worth everything to Persephone. She stood still as her mother stepped forward and grabbed onto both of her hands. “You have powerful blood flowing through your veins. I could build empires with power like yours if only you could see sense.”
“My divine power is irrelevant to my value,” Persephone replied, ripping her hands away from her mother. “Hades saw that. He allowed me to be queen, to rule, to love, and to be loved. And to not be another version of you.” She had not realized her words until they stung her tongue. She almost began to wish she could take them back, but they had both seen the truth in them. “He didn’t bring me here because of my powers or lineage, but because he fell in love with me. Now I know that word means nothing to you, that you have never seen any other value to me than what I could create.” Persephone said sadly as she watched everything she had tried to save from destruction shattered into a million pieces. Irreversibly damaged. She took a deep, steadying breath, already knowing what she would say next, “Know that it breaks my heart to do this to you, mother. But I want you gone. I do not want to see you a moment before spring.” Her words brought power to her, and she felt like she stood taller than she did before. She had never realized how powerful it would make her feel to stand up to the one who had always held her down.
Her mother paused, waiting for Persephone to retract all she had said. But when the apology had not come, realization clearly sunk in. Persephone saw the moment her mother resigned herself to what must happen. She straightened her shoulders and looked Persephone square in the eye, “If that is what you truly want, I will go. But do not forget that every wild heart can be broken.” When Persephone said nothing, Demeter dissolved into the wind, returning to the world above.
Had Demeter’s words been a warning of what could happen or a threat of what will? Persephone did not know. All she could tell was the last of the love she had held for her mother had left with her.