TWENTY ONE - A God with table knife
A GOD WITH A TABLE KNIFE (3,747)
Dinner was usually Persephone’s favorite time of the day. Business always had its way of stealing Hades away early in the morning, lunch was never guaranteed for either of them, but dinner was always thiers. They had quickly compromised that during the day their work would always distract and leave little time for the other, but at night there would be no interruptions. Once dinner was served no one would interrupt them. The worries and the rush of the day would end.
But this afternoon she could not concentrate on anything, anything but on them. Those poor souls trapped on the other side of the river Styx. They sat alone in the cold while she sat by the fire in their decadent dining room eating her favorite meal. She watched the wine in her glass swirl against the sides. It only acted as a reminder of the river as it rushed up the sides of her glass. Following a deep sigh, she once again put it down.
When Hades had said he was taking her on a tour she never imagined she would have seen a sight like the one she had found. Of course, she knew humans came here to be judged, and of course, punished for their crimes, but the forgotten were being denied even this. They were not even being permitted the right to be judged, solely because of a lack of wealth. Though she had tried, Persephone could only see it as cruel and unfair.
She knew there were probably some humans who were purposely hiding from their fate or at the very least welcoming the wait. She even understood what Hades was trying to tell her when he said that most deserved to be left on those shores. But the fact that he said most and not all made her question if there were others. People who did not deserve to wait on those river banks. Innocents who were forgotten.
She could not stop herself from thinking of them, the innocent who were being punished without being judged first. She was okay with the fact that people were suffering in the underworld, Hades was fair in his punishments. She knew that if they were sent to the fields of punishment it meant they had done something to deserve it. But these souls, whether they had or hadn’t done it, still had not received their trial. She knew what it was to be prejudged. For everyone to assume they knew who she was and what she had done. She knew what it was to have no voice to tell them they were wrong.
Hades’ hand reached out of her concentration and pulled her back to the present. He gently squeezed her hand, “Darling? Is everything alright?” He asked.
“Yes,” She smiled weakly to him, “Why?”
“You have not touched your meal and this is your fourth glass tonight.” He told her. She knew she was distracted but now even Hades had noticed. She should have known, he notices everything. “You seem upset, that is all.” He watched her waiting for her to tell him whatever was pegging her mind.
She already knew why he was so concerned. She had not taken more than two bites out of her meal and instead had drunk most of the nectar, hoping it would help her forget the souls she had seen. “I’m not upset,” She sighed, “I’m just thinking.”
“About today?” He asked, rubbing his thumb against the center of her palm. “I know how shocking it all must be, I can only imagine what is going through your mind. I do not want you to worry though, you have my word you are perfectly safe here.”
She smiled at his kind words, even though he did not know what was distracting her he still wished for her to feel safe. But she already felt safe, she always felt safe with him. It was a much different environment than what she was used to. But she’d had thousands of years to grow accustomed to it and had grown quite fond of the underworld. She knew that if there was anything to fear Hades would be there to protect her. She had little to fear. As a goddess, she had also grown stronger and more confident in her own powers and abilities. She was starting to understand her powers were much vaster than her mother or even she had once believed.
No, the only thing she feared was what she could not fix. The things out of reach even for a god.
“That was not what I was thinking about.” She confessed to him as he studied her.
He raised a brow curiously, “Tell me then.” He said, leaning forward while looking concerned.
She shook her head no, “I do not think you will like it.” she told him. She knew he wouldn’t be thrilled by her sympathies to the forgotten. It was the only thing holding her back from speaking her mind as she usually did with him. She knew if she were to discuss it with Hades she would first have to know exactly what she wanted. The only problem was she did not know what that was, and he was asking her now.
“Persephone, i want to know all things that interest you; the good, the bad, and the ones i will not like. If it troubles you then please share it with me,” he told her in his usual serious tone.
“Alright,” She nodded in agreement knowing it would make her feel better to be able to talk about it. “I cannot seem to erase from my mind the thought of those men wandering our shores.” Her words stopped him as they always did. He had always listened to her so intensely whenever she had something important to say. This time was no different, he had heard every word. Though his facial expressions didn’t change she knew he understood what she was referring to.
He put down his fork and straightened in his chair before he spoke. “You are speaking of the forgotten.” He clarified. He had heard her but he was now redding himself for what they both knew was going to be an argument.
She nodded once, “Yes, I cannot imagine waiting for the afterlife for 200 years, but I can imagine being separated from the ones I love.” His eyes softened as she said this. Yes, they had spent longer than two hundred years being divided, but they always had each other to lean on. They always had their secret moments to hold onto.
“Yes, it is a fate we share with them.” He said somberly. Her heart sank remembering this fate was not only one they had once struggled through but one they once again would have to endure. Now more than ever she wanted to help the forgotten, for if she couldn’t help herself, then she had to help them.
“It breaks my heart to think about.” She whispered.
“It is not all bad my queen. Once they are judged their sentencing is mostly lenient, for they have already endured a form of punishment,” he replied.
“If there is any punishment needed.” She corrected, meaning only to clarify her thoughts but it came out sounding like an accusation. One she had not meant to make but now could not take back.
He quickly snapped his head up to look at her sharply, not appreciating her tone or her judgment. “There is a reason no one thought to pay for their passage.” He replied harshly, biting at each of his words, “They are not good men.”
“But even you admitted today some of them simply couldn’t afford passage. What of the innocent? The women and children?” She asked him, gripping onto both his hands. His brows furrowed before he stood up and turned his back to her. It was his own way of trying to stop the conversation.
“It is extremely rare for that to happen,” Hades told her harshly as he leaned on the fireplace mantel, watching the white flames.
She stood as well taking only a single step in his direction. “But what about when it does happen? Why can’t they just make the trip anyway? I know it would slow things down a little at first but eventually-” she started to explain her thoughts when she was interrupted by him.
“A little?” He snapped, throwing his hands in the air “Persephone, every soul on that beach claims innocence. Do you remember how many souls were on the other side? The effects would be undoable.”
“But don’t you agree it is unfair?” she asked him, knowing his kind heart and knowing that he would not simply let an injustice be left ignored.
“Of course, I do.” He said defeatedly. His eyes dropped to the carpet and she quickly took two more steps forward almost meeting him across the room. His eyes followed her movement and trailed up from her feet to her eyes.
“Then you will change it?” She asked him hopefully.
He turned to her, his eyes sad but his words were stern, “No.” He turned away and went back to stoking the fire.
“No?” She asked, taking one step away in shock.
“Just because I want something to happen doesn’t mean it can or will be done. Being a king does not give me that liberty, my darling. It is forbidden.” he said while looking into the fireplace but once he was done he turned to her tentatively. He saw her so far away from him and reached for her. She too didn’t want to be far from him. She loved him and felt their precious time ticking away. But this was a serious matter to her. Not something she could forget so quickly.
“Forbidden by who?” She asked. Who in the underworld could have outranked the king?
“Me.” He answered her immediately.
She had seen many different sides to Hades; the stern and forceful side he showed to the world but also the kind and loving side he kept only for her. She knew this was his true self, the one he hid away from the onlookers. She knew his past had brought him nothing but pain and had taught him that feelings were something to be hidden. But this was not him. She knew he wouldn’t just curse these people, not without good reason.
“Why? Why would you forbid anyone from helping these humans? You are good, Hades, I know this. You wouldn’t curse someone for no reason.” She asked him, digging for answers. She found herself holding onto him as she always was and he in return was holding onto her.
“It is complicated, Persephone.” Hades sighed. Wrapping his hands around her waist.
She frowned. She had not found his answer as satisfying as he must have hopped. Instead, she found it dismissive and did not enjoy the way his words seemed to brush her aside. “Then explain it to me, I’m sure I will be able to follow along.” she snapped.
She watched him take a deep breath before he began his tale, “When I took over the underworld after the Titans fell, it was in chaos, there needed to be some sense of order. The underworld is not just a place it is an enchanted being of sorts. It has moods and most of all it has needs. Without order, the underworld would be nothing but rubble.” he explained. His words resonated with her, and as much as she hated to admit made sense to her. It was common knowledge that the sun, earth, and darkness were all gods older than even the titans themselves. It was not a large jump to assume the underworld was also a being if not a titan.
“Some of the rules I have been able to change over time but this is not one of them. The underworld must be paid compensation for every soul it takes. These particular souls cannot pay the death tax. There must be a price for Elysium and the afterlife. And it must be paid in full.” He told her, never breaking eye contact as he spoke. She knew his words were true, he was not purposefully being cruel but was only doing what he knew to be right. He was being the king he had to be.
Still, she pressed on. She had learned, as any child had, that with every rule also came a loophole. “And what if I were to pay for their passage myself?” she asked.
He shook his head letting her know immediately how deeply he disagreed with her idea. “You? Perse-”
“If i am not here to help those who cannot help themselves then why am I here at all?” She asked him. She had always strived to help those who were helpless and as a god, she was in an exceptional position to do just that. While with her mother she always had to hide her movements, knowing if her mother found out, she would have certainly put a stop to them. But now that she was with Hades she knew it was the perfect opportunity.
His face went blank as he leaned back to get a better look at her. He spoke his voice deep and searching, “I thought you were here for me, Persephone?”
She had not noticed her mistake until he spoke. If it wasn’t for her blasted tongue. “I will always be here for you Hades. You know that” she promised him. Him, it was always him.
She watched his face harden, “The answer is still no.” Hades stated bluntly, not being one to mince words. When he had set his mind to something it was nearly impossible to change.
“No? That’s it?” she nearly shouted, gesturing with her hands out in front of her. Removing his hands from her waist he once again walked over to the table, accepting her anger. Still, she followed him, “You’re just going to say no, without any discussion or mediation. Just no?”
“Yes,” he replied simply. It wasn’t the fact he was saying no, though still, it angered her. But it was more the fact that he was dismissing her. He wasn’t allowing her the chance to state her case or to prove herself to him.
“I don’t accept that,” She retaliated. “You’re a terrible negotiator,” She accused loudly.
“Who said we were negotiating?” He replied. His dismissive attitude was starting to get underneath her skin.
“I am telling you we are negotiating. Saying no doesn’t exactly work for me Hades.” She barely batted an eyelid as she watched Hades turn around, still leaning against the table, to face her.
“So what do you propose then?” He asked her before he stopped suddenly feeling her fingertips caress the top of his right thigh. She watched his gaze dart downwards, he was as shocked by her boldness as she was. “What are you doing?” He asked. He did not pull away but instead locked eyes on her, watching as her light pink lips parted slightly. He studied her as if she was a puzzle he did not yet understand. She was putting on a show.
“Nothing.” She whispered as innocent as she could manage, never being very good at lying. Yet her touch did not seem to mirror the same sense of innocence.
“I can see what you’re doing.” He said smoothly but still, she saw the shock still in his eyes. She had never in all the time she had known Hades used her body to sway him. This was certainly not the same Persephone he had first met in the gardens of the underworld. Not by a long shot, this Persephone was proving to be sexy, confident, and bold.
“Is it working?” She whispered before gently lifting her hand, sending him an eye roll filled with just the right amount of sass. This in its essence was very much Persephone. Before she could take one step away he flipped their positions so she was now the one leaning against the table and he was leaning over her, close to her ear.
He whispered in her ear with a husky voice, “You have no idea.” If he said other words besides these she did not hear them. Instead, she melted away as he kissed behind her ear gently. She felt her anger dissipate as she forgot about the argument they were having. Her hands traveled up and into his hair holding onto him. Suddenly he stopped his pursuit only for her to hear him say, “I’m afraid I will not be changing my mind. No matter how tempting.”
She did not move from him, instead, she straightened so she could see him more clearly. “You told me I am your queen. You said we would rule together as equals but you will now limit me the first time I have something to ask for?”
“I want you to be happy, Persephone, I want to give you everything you desire. Please, ask anything else of me,” He pleaded with her. “I cannot put you in harm’s way. If anything were to happen to you I’d never forgive myself. And what you are proposing is exceedingly dangerous.”
“I understand Hades, but you cannot shelter and tuck me away in this castle forever. I did not escape one prison cell for another, lover or not.” She told him firmly but gently put a kiss to his cheek. While they were mid disagreement, she still wanted him to know how deeply she cared for him. She always would, it was her fate. No matter what he did, she would always love him.
“I’m not trying to trap you, please know that.” He corrected her immediately, almost pained by the thought.
“I know, you only want what’s best for me.” She reassured him, “That’s one thing I love about you, you are fiercely loyal and protect the ones closest to you. It’s charming, but not practical at this moment.”
“I’m not trying to control you. I only ask that you stay out of danger. The underworld can be quite dangerous. I do not think this is an impossible request.”
“I am not hunting out danger Hades,″ Persephone exclaimed, raising her voice out of frustration.
“But certainly, you must understand my point of view. If you do this then I am purposely allowing you to be put at risk.” Hades said, still keeping an even tone which only made her anger raise.
“I’m a goddess, you know I can take care of myself.” Instead of replying to her, Hades reached down for a knife that had been forgotten on the table. She followed his movements with her eyes, watching as he brought the blade closer to her throat, only just slightly touching her skin. He had turned the blade so the bunt side related against her throat. She was not afraid, she knew Hades would never cause her pain, but the feeling of the cold metal near her throat was a foreign feeling to a goddess.
He leaned even closer to her whispering in her ear, “So you would be able to defend yourself if I came at you with this knife? Just me, not using my godly powers.” he asked.
His point struck her as she realized his meaning, it had not drowned on her to fear the dead. While on the tour and during her many visits she had never felt fear towards any mortal. Once again she had relied on Hades to protect her. It had only at that moment dawned on her that Hades knew otherwise, that he surely had thought out the worst.
Softly she whispered back her realization, “You think the dead have weapons.”
At first, he only nodded, “I think it would be unwise not to plan for them. There are many other items you can use as a weapon. Especially if you have 200 years. I could instead use the candlestick if you prefer.” he asked, raising an eyebrow in question.
She shook her head not needing his snide comment, “I see your point. No need for the theatrical.” He slowly removed the blade from her throat and softly kissed her neck where it had rested.
“I meant no offense my darling. I only mean to protect you.” he reasoned.
“You mean to keep me in your pristine cage.” She corrected.
“I promise that has never been my intention.” He promised her once again. She knew he was not anything like her mother but at times she could feel his control over her, whether it was intentional or not. This was one of those moments. Even though it was only done to protect her she did not care for it. Once again she had let herself be the weakest one in the room. She had left herself to rely on others.
He sighed and dropped his head to rest in the crook of her neck. “I am tired of fighting Persephone. It’s been a long day, could we put this on hold until the morning so I can have a nice meal with my wife?” he asked her tiredly.
She nodded knowing she didn’t want to fight with him either. Taking a step away he pulled her with him and escorted her back to their seats. Once she was seated he leaned down to kiss her ear and to tell her, “I will seriously think about what you have had to say and see if there is something to be done. But please don’t get your hopes up.”
She knew he really was trying to hear her out. In his own way. He was still adjusting to ruling with someone else. Never in the past had he ever had to share power with anyone let alone be questioned on laws he had set up generations ago. She could tell he was having a hard time with the adjustment. While he might disagree with her need to help the forgotten, she had voiced her opinion well and knew he would be true to his word. If it was possible he would find a way for her.
She stopped him before he could stand back up. She pulled him farther down and brought their lips together so she could kiss him like she had wanted to. “Thank you, that is all i ask.”