TWENTY FOUR - Summoning of A Goddess
Hecate had always been described as a goddess dressed in mystery. She was naturally drawn towards lost things, items that were, but never would be. From the very beginning, there had never been any question in her powers, she was to always be the goddess of crossroads, magic, knowledge, ghosts, and boundaries.
With the power she possessed she could have claimed power and prestige on Olympus and for many a century, she did just that. She would use her magic as a tool and would craft beautiful performances of which she received great approval on Olympus.
But a goddess dressed in half-truths could never feel at home in such comfort.
One day consumed by her own mystery she vanished from Olympus never to return. Many whispered, wondering the cause of her disappearance. Asking, guessing, and murmuring that the part of her that was dark finally consumed her for she now resigned in the Underworld. A place of death and darkness.
What the gods on Olympus could never understand was the brightness of the smile that traced her face the moment her feet touched the ground of the Underworld. Finally, she felt she could breathe.
Originally she had prepared to fight the lord of the Underworld for a place to call her own. But never had she suspected the God-King to welcome her with open arms. Hades was an Olympian like the ones she had left and yet he was nothing like the proud faces she had left behind. It took her years to understand Hades’ reasoning and even still she wavered in her confidence in understanding the complicated god. Though he was a god of few words, and fewer when it came to his history, through the years she was able to understand that he too had run from Olympus. He too understood what it was not to belong amongst the glitz and glamor. A time long before her he had left the comfort of Olympus to make a home here in the Underworld, just as she had.
From then on she was loyal to the god of the dead, though she would never tell him as much, because he understood her as no other god ever tried to.
The white-hot glow from the fireplace lit her path as she paced the floor of the room connected to their bedroom. Long after Hades had fallen asleep she had been kept awake, her mind abuzz. She had been plagued by thoughts of tomorrow. Of what was coming. Of what she had to do if she could not find a solution. She now understood why Hades always seemed so stressed.
Pacing back and forth had not seemed to help her find the answers she was looking for. The way she saw it she had two choices to pick from. First, she could send Orpheus back to earth without his wife. If she did this her worry would dissipate knowing that she and Hades had passed the test and that there would be no one coming to take their thrones. At least not now. But she also knew it would tear her apart to know that the couple was separated by mortality. It would break her heart and making the choice to do so would change her, in all the worst ways.
The only other choice she could see was to let Orpheus have Euridice. To give into her weak heart and let the couple be together despite what it would mean for her own love. But the promise she had made to Hades stopped her every time. She had sworn she would not put them in danger for the love of two mortals and he had trusted her. She could not betray him, no matter the cost. She knew he was right and if they allowed the laws to be broken for one mortal then the gods would see it as corruption and a reason to seize more power for themselves. Weakness could never be overlooked no matter how high the god’s statue stood.
She couldn’t find it in herself to throw away Hades’ crown. He had told her many times that his crown wasn’t important to him, but without his crown and power, they would be defenseless. It would be a short time before her mother came and took her away from Hades. It was selfish but she would rather damn the mortal then lose Hades.
She was missing something. There had to be a way around this mess. Unfortunately, Persephone wasn’t known for being cunning. Not like other gods who played with prophecies and lives. Hera was cunning, she twisted lies and crafted stories. She would look this problem in the eye and see the threat that it was. She would whisper a threat of her own and make short work of it. If only she had the gifts that Hera had.
It seemed like any other goddess would be better than herself to solve this problem. And yet it was her Hades had trusted with the task. Even her mother would be bold and ruthless enough for this. She wouldn’t have flinched at the ultimatum but instead would have given her own.
She wished she could talk to her mother about the problems that pledged her like she once did. She wished her mother and her were in a position that they could come to each other if in need. She needed someone who could help her figure out a path that wouldn’t lead to ruin. Someone to guide her, someone who knew away. Someone who was sneaky and cunning, someone more used to working outside of the lines and in the shadows.
She knew immediately who she needed.
The goddess of black veils and dark prophecies, a goddess of night sights and crossroads.
Persphone practically ran to the garden in nothing but what she was wearing, her robe and one of Hades shirts. She heard the paws of their three-headed dog following after her but still did not stop. She knew what she had to do but had never done it before. Oftentimes when gods needed to summon each other but didn’t want to trouble Hermes with a message they would summon the other. It was not commonplace for it seemed trivial to dirty the hands of a god by working but Persephone had never worried about the dirt under her fingernails. Summoning a god was often used to keep secrets quiet by cutting out the middleman making it exactly what she needed.
Once in the garden she headed straight for the flower she knew she needed. She had at first only grown the flower for its beauty not realizing how handy it would soon become. Persephone quickly picked one single stem of the Aconite flower. This flower was sacred to Hecate and if burned would summon her. That was of course if Hecate wanted to answer her call.
She prayed she would.
She found a clear spot in the garden where the path split in two different directions. Laying down the purple flower she had to shoe the adorable three-headed creature away so he wouldn’t eat the flower. A smile found its way to Persephone when she realized how fitting this flower was for Hecate. She knew the plant to be very dangerous and Hecate’s main form of poison when she punished men.
She lit a match and watched the flower burn in its entirety. As the flame dwindled and the flower laid in nothing but its smoldering ashes there was still no sign of the goddess. Perhaps she was asleep. Perhaps she simply did not wish to be bothered.
Still, Persephone waited.
Still no sign.
The dog sat watching her as she stood alone in the garden. With a deep sigh, she knew the goddess had seen the summoning and had decided not to come. Persephone patted her leg calling the dog to follow as she turned around to walk back into the castle. She felt foolish to have been so hopeful.
With her first step towards the castle, Persephone felt a new presence appear behind her. Now knowing Hecate had come she could breathe a little easier. Without turning first she spoke flatly, “We need to talk.” when she turned she saw the goddess standing where the fire had previously been. Her usual dark cloaks wrapped around her, dressing her in darkness. The only inviting characteristic about her was the goddesses welcoming smile. Her eyes were serious and chilling but her smile was one of genuine pleasure to see Persephone.
She had met the goddess multiple times here in the Underworld and every time she did Hecate seemed to only prove her worth in cunningness and more. From what little Persephone knew of the goddess she had learned that Hecate cared about mortals more than she did any god. Specifically, she seemed to have a soft spot for the lost and wandering, mostly girls who had lost their way. Maybe that was why they had gotten along so well.
“I feel honored to be summoned by my queen.” Hecate spoke with all the airs a goddess of magic should obtain, “What seems to be ailing you?” she asked.
“I need to ask you for help,” Persephone told her carefully. Gods never asked for help, they were all-powerful and to admit they were incapable of controlling the situation was as if they had admitted they themselves were mortal.
But Persephone had never been a very good goddess.
“Help? With what exactly?” Hecate asked, tilting her head to the side a fraction of the way. Coming from her it did not look innocent but almost threatening. Hecate had a talent of always looking frightening no matter what she was doing.
“Sherly you already know what i am talking about,” Persephone said wanting to skip as much of the pleasantries as possible.
Hecate nodded, “The lovesick mortal.”
“Yes, he is asking for his love to be returned to him,” she explained to the goddess not knowing if she had heard the reasoning behind his visit.
“So I have heard.” Hecate nodded, “But how can I help you with this?”
“You are known by your cunning mind. I was hoping… you could help me with this problem.” Persephone said watching Hecate nod and take one step out of the burning pyre of wood.
“I am always happy to help a fellow goddess.” she smiled again, “But if you will forgive my ignorance, i do not pay much attention to lovesick mortals, what is the importance of this mortals love affair?” Hecate asked, sounding confused why she was summoned and not aphrodite.
“It actually has very little to do with him and more to do with the gods themselves,” Persephone replied.
“The Olympians.” Hecate clarified nodding in understanding. The Olympian gods were almost always at the epicenter of any problem.
“I assume yes but we do not know as of now who plots against us,” Persephone told Hecate. She remembered Poseidon and his mischievous smile, but also remembered Hades’ quiet response. He questioned someone else but wasn’t ready to reveal who as of yet. There were so many fears at the forefront of her mind that she had yet to build enough courage to question him further, for she knew that if she asked he would tell her.
“It is dangerous not to know the face of your enemy.” Hecate warned, “We must be careful moving forward.” Persephone smiled now knowing Hecate was willing to help her.
“Yes, that is the problem. They wait for us to fail, waiting for a time to strike. They are hoping to force our hand and play on my soft heart.” Persephone told her now trusting her with the rest of the information Hades had told her, “See if I allow the mortal to return with his wife it would be seen as a weakness. I would be inviting war to this realm and potentially bring ruin to all Hades has built. But i do not think i can bring myself to turn him away, to keep him from his wife.” Persephone said with a deflating sigh, she could not see a way around this problem. Even now she could not understand why the goddess in front of her was only smiling. In fact, Hecate’s grin began to grow after Persephone had finished what she had to say. “What is so funny?” she asked.
“It is refreshing to meet a goddess with a conscience. Especially down here in this darkness. Very few care about anyone other than themselves.” she smiled kindly to Persephone. “If Hades had not already kidnapped you i would be tempted to do so myself.”
Persephone was startled by her words. She was horrified now knowing others thought Hades had kidnapped her. Of course, she had known that fables and myths would spread of their unique coupling. But it was still hard to understand how they could believe her and Hades’ love affair had started with such violence.
“I was not kidnapped,” she said, setting the record straight.
Hecate laughed but did not look shocked by her correction, “That is not what the rumors are whispering on Olympus.”
“Then they are wrong.” Persephone shot back.
“Truth is what the majority says it is.” Hecate said in her witty voice, “Olympus is a constant whisper of you now. I am not surprised someone has sent this test to you. They are vultures rather than gods.” she said looking off in disgust reminding Persephone that there was a time that Hecate did not reside in the Underworld.
“Hades has resigned there is nothing that can be done,” Persephone told her, no longer wanting to discuss Olympus and the rumors that surround her.
“Yes, the male sex can be fullish.” Hecate laughed. “There is always something that can be done.”
“Really? His fate will be decided in the morning. Hades has given me until then to find a solution.” Persephone held onto the hope that this cunning goddess had some trick, some loophole she herself had overlooked.
“Have you considered giving them what they want and inviting the war?” Hecate asked innocently.
“No!” Persephone said appalled at the idea of war. She was not a goddess of war and had no desire to be involved in any conflicts. The trial had been enough for her. She had planned to spend the rest of her life void of any and all strife.
“Why?” the goddess of witchcraft asked. “A war would bring your enemies forward instead of lingering in the shadows. The Underworld is also very defensible, I do not see it becoming a problem. Plus Hades is a proven strategist.” Hecate reasoned.
“Problem?” Persephone exclaimed. “I will not be bringing war to my doorstep.” She had no doubt Hades would be capable of defending off any enemy that came. He had designed the Underworld to be a shield to the outside long ago. But she was given this task by Hades under the impression she would not provoke another war. She understood that after the war against his father he would not want to run headfirst into the next battle. She would have to achieve this without inviting chaos or not at all.
“You are a god, one way or another it will come,” Hecate warned. She had not been surprised by Persephone’s immediate denial but somehow she still looked disappointed.
“Not today, not because of me,” Persephone told her.
“Alright my queen,” Hecate agreed, “Then you must find a way around their test. They want you to pick one or the other but if you can give the responsibility to someone else the blame cannot be pinned to you or Hades. Then they surely cannot blame you.”
“How do I do that?” Persephone asked.
“I do not know my queen. I only know that if you want to give the mortals to each other then you must put the blame and effectively the responsibility on the mortals themselves.” Hecate told her, staying silent for a moment, thinking. “Humans are very resourceful and much more hopeful than us gods. There is something to be said for a man who is hopelessly hopeful. They are usually the ones not to be trifled with.” Hecate said turning to the doubtful Persephone. “Give him a trial, something he can fail at but can also succeed. Paint yourself as the merciless queen of the Underworld. Allow him to make his own destiny. It will not elevate your guilt but it might also be the only way to give him a chance. Give them a chance and see what they are capable of.”
“A trial,” Persephone repeated, rolling the idea over in her mind. “A test.”
“Yes. Isn’t it fitting to test this mortal while you yourself are also being tested?” Hecate chuckled seeing the humor in the situation. Once again Persephone saw the parallels being drawn between her and Hades and these mortals. It seems she was not the only one.
“What kind of test do you suggest?” Persephone asked.
“What is most important to him?” Hecate asked, raising a brow and showing her mischievous smile.
“I do not know, I have yet to speak to him.”
“You cannot test a man without knowing what he truly wants most,” Hecate told her skillfully.
Persephone knew she was right, how could she ever set up a test for someone she knew nothing about. Then again she remembered she was fighting an unseen face and a god she did not know.
She tried to think of what she did know about this mortal.
How stupid of her not to have known. She looked to see Hecate’s gleaming smirk and knew the goddess had already figured it out. The goddess was far more skilled in tricks than herself. “Euridice, he has come all this way. She is what he wants.”
“Very true my queen.” Hecate nodded respectfully.
“Could we tempt him with her?” Persephone asked a plan forming in her mind. She knew a man in love would do almost anything. But sadly Hecate shook her head.
“The living cannot see the dead,” Hecate told her. “Even i do not like to think of the consequences it might cause.”
Persephone thought about what she could do. Both the goddesses agreed the only way Orpheus could be tempted was by his bride. If he was tested it would be seen as the human’s fault if he failed and if he succeeded it would be seen as unhonourable not to keep their word and return his wife. And he had to be tested, otherwise, it would be seen as a decision Hades and she had made. It would be seen as what it is, the bleeding heart of a queen meant to be made of stone.
Put him through a trial. A test. Something difficult but still possible.
Then she remembered Hecate’s words ‘the living could not see the dead’. Persephone smiled gleefully at Hecate knowing exactly what she had to do in the morning. “Thank you, Hecate! I own you for this favor.” Persephone promised.
Another thing the gods did not do easily, give out favors.
Hecate only shook her head and smiled to her, “I will have none of that. This is what friends are for.”
Persephone herself shook her head, matching the goddess in only her stubbornness. She would not forget Hecate’s kindness and willingness to help her in her time of need. If the goddess ever needed her help, Persephone would gladly give it. “Still, Thank you,” Persephone smiled. “will you be there tomorrow?” she asked.
“Yes, along with the rest of the Underworld.” Hecate laughed once more, “For what it is worth, I hope whoever is plotting against you will not win.”
“Me too, Hecate.” Persephone smiled full of hope for tomorrow. She may not have known who was plotting against her but at least she knew who would stand with her.