TWENTY FIVE - Her Cruel Mistake
Persephone made her way to the throne room with Hades close by her side. She was thankful he was with her because even though her steps felt unsteady his presence alone was calming. They had both eaten breakfast together although it was done mostly in silence. Persephone was always the one to talk during their time together, Hades always happy to listen to her. She had a habit of going on and on about any subject peaking her interest. In the past, it had annoyed almost everyone she met, but Hades always seemed to love it. He was always a man of few words, so he loved to hear her speak. He would listen to anything she had to say, but this morning she remained quiet. She could not find the courage she needed to complete the challenge of today. It reminded her too much of the morning before their own trial. She felt the same fear of the unknown as she did that dreaded morning. Only this time it was not for herself but for another.
In most ways, this made it worse.
He had not asked her what her plans entailed and she was glad of it because she herself was not sure if it would work. Speaking it into existence might defeat her before she even had the chance to try.
She had prepared for the day the only way she knew how. She had dressed in a dark red gown that dragged across the floor. The dress had the power to make her feel invincible, almost as if this dress too was divine. She hoped that if she looked powerful it would help to convince others and possibly herself that she belonged here. That she too had the makings of a queen. She knew she would have to act the part as well as look it. Every part of her a queen. She would have to be coarse and unwilling, as she had practiced. Precisely who she was not and who she had never been. It was what she would have to do if she wanted others to believe the lie she and Hades had created the day of the trial. That she was a force to be reckoned with. That her mother had hidden her true nature and that Hades had nurtured it.
She knew only part of this lie was true. She was not dangerous and was not powerful but Hades had nurtured her, had taught her that she could be whatever she wanted. She had truly bloomed while with him.
Because she now had to hide her true self she was beginning to understand Hades in a way she never would have been able to. She saw all of his hidden smiles and his gentleness he saved only for her. She understood that there were two sides to Hades, one side to show the rest of the world and the other for only those closest to him. He too had learned the trick of hiding away his softer side in exchange for a harder shield exterior. She too was now learning how to be a God; how to hide all that was important to her. Saving her softer side of herself for those who really deserved to see it.
She had thought it over in her mind during the night. While it was not what she wanted to do, she knew it was her only choice. She would have to make a show of it. She would use her words to prove to any curious eyes that she deserved to be queen. She would do all of this while also saving Orpheus in the process. She had not found a full proof way but if everything went according to plan there was a chance. And a chance was all she could give him.
She knew this made her selfish. If she wanted to she could send Orpheus and Eurydice to earth and they would live a long and happy life together. But she too wanted to be with her love. So all she could give them was a chance while keeping the hope of Hades and her alive.
As they both walked the corridor leading to the throne room, Hades stopped walking suddenly. She turned back to look at him curiously. They both knew they were alone yet still he spoke in a hushed tone, “I have no choice Persephone.” He told her, desperate for her to understand.
She smiled truthfully and ran an idle hand down his chest, straightening his already pristine shirt. “I know.” She told him. She knew Hades was not a man who needed validation but she saw in his eyes that he needed to know she, his queen, was on his side. And she was, she always would be. She knew he was not doing this to be malicious, they had both been backed up into a corner and given a choice. She understood why he was doing this because she had made the same choice he had made, to save them both and all that they loved. Even if that meant damming a mortal or two.
With a smile on her lips, they entered the throne room. The door they had taken let them enter from the side of the hall and straight to their thrones. Hades helped Persephone into her seat before sitting on his throne himself.
The throne room was packed with ghosts, giants, nymphs, and gods. All of them coming to watch what will happen to the mortal that had traveled into the Underworld. She knew most of the Underworld was there but could not see anyone from Olympus or earth, but knew better than to assume they weren’t watching. The thought made her swallow hard but she still did not drop her hard exterior.
Persephone saw Thanatos waiting to the side of the hall watching the pair, waiting for their signal to start the preceding. She watched as Hades sent him a nod which was reciprocated by the God of death. With his king’s approval, Thanatos ordered the doors to be opened and for the prisoner to be brought in.
The large stone doors, eight times her own height, swung open causing a loud crash to echo through the hall. Silence seemed to follow the noise as everyone stood watching a man be brought in. Although he had chains on and was being followed by two large giants the man did not look afraid. Instead, he looked in awe of the hall as if he did not know he was surrounded by danger. Persephone’s face hardened, displeased by the sight of his carefree attitude for she knew she would like this man right from the start. Her curious soul had found in him a friend for she too had made the same face the first time Hades had shown her the throne room.
When he approached her and Hades, he fell into a deep bow that brought him onto his knees at the bottom of their thrones.
“Stand up Orpheus,” Hades ordered, his commanding voice reaching even the farthest corner of the hall. He was born to be a king, she thought. “You are in luck. Normally any living mortal in my realm is forfeited to me, as is my right as God of the Underworld and keeper of the dead. But my wife is curious and would like to hear your tale. She has reminded me that I hear everyone’s tale, dead and I guess now, alive.” Hades told the young mortal. At first, she was surprised by his question but then she realized this was his way of letting her take over. But Hades was right, she was curious about his tale. So she remained silent, watching as Hades waved for Orpheus to begin.
The mortal did not wait a second and began imminently following the decree of the God, “I thank you, Lord Hades, queen Persephone.” He nodded once again to each of them in turn. “My tale is no tale at all, it is simply a plea. From one man who loves his wife to another. I have come to the Underworld, to the only God who can help me.”
Hades darkly chuckled dismissing the plea immediately, “I’m afraid it is my wife who is taken by you, I will not be swayed by flattery and smooth words.” Once again Hades had allowed her to take over and she knew it was her turn. She could no longer be the girl in the garden hiding behind him. Now she would have to find her own voice as Queen of the Underworld.
“My apology my lord there-″ Orpheus apologizes but Persephone stood up from her throne stopping him mid-sentence. She felt Hades tense by her movement but she placed a single hand on his arm to calm him. If she was going to play the part she would do it her way.
“So you have come for love?” She asked. “We have heard your wife is here.”
He nodded in agreement, “Eurydice, yes.” He said her name as if it were a melody. “She was taken from me too early. Love is just a word in comparison to how I feel.” Persephone knew his words better than most for she had once used those same words in reference to Hades. She too had those feelings.
How similar they were, gods and men.
“There are many souls in love that are separated in this realm.” Persephone spoke, “Why do you think your tears should change anything?”
At her words, the mortal looked at her strangely as if something was not making sense to him. This mortal did not hide anything, it was all written on his face. “Because of your own tale,” Orephone spoke plainly. “We, humans, are just now beginning to hear of your myth. How Hades the king of the Underworld had taken a bride. How spring ran into death’s open arms. Some say you were stolen by the lord of the dead, plucked from a meadow. But I knew there had to be something more binding to keep you here. I could only come to one conclusion, one emotion more powerful than even the gods. And I knew.” Even though he had not said the word he spoke of love as only a man who had felt it himself could. “I had hoped you would understand.”
“Understand?” Persephone asked standing now in front of the mortal, one arm’s length away. Still, he did not look worried. “Tell me, mortal, what am I to understand?”
“The desperation that comes with love.” He said powerfully as she began to circle him, studying him as she always did with mortals. “Something so powerful you would do anything, go anywhere for the one you love.”
As he spoke she was behind him and could look up towards her own love. She two knew what it was like to follow a lover into the dark. When she glanced at Hades she found him already watching her, tracing her path with his own eyes. He was watching her, observing her with keen interest as she took on her new role as queen. He was also warning her once again that no matter how badly she wanted to free them, she could not. The mortals were not fated for the happy ending they were.
Ripping her eyes away from his piercing ones she continued as hopeful could be. “You clearly know every little about the makings of the gods, for you have come here empty-handed. It is customary for a sacrifice to be made, an offering. We are not in the business of freely granting requests let alone giving back souls. So dear Orpheus, what makes you worthy of such a grand request?” she asked the mortal as she made her way in front of him once again.
“I have traveled all the way to the Underworld, something no other hero has done.” He said simply as if it was not a great feat itself. As if it had not taken Persephone, a God, years to venture.
“So you count yourself a hero?” Persephone asked, her smile returning slightly.
“No,” he shook his head. “I have nothing to give, no offering I could make, no prayer that would serve this request. I only have what I am.”
“And what are you?” She asked, her curiosity returning.
“I am a musician, my lady Persephone. I sing and play my lyre. Other than these notes I have no other possession.” Orpheus spoke his voice dropping suddenly in sadness, “My only other possession was taken from me.” He did not say it outright but she knew he spoke of his dear wife, Eurydice.
Persephone could not think of his sadness any longer or it would consume her. She turned back towards her throne and her watchful husband, Hades. “Then what be it, husband?” She asked as she climbed the first step up towards Hades, “How long has it been since this hall has heard a melody?”
“I can not recall,” Hades answered.
“Then play Orpheus. Let us hear this toon and judge your prayer.” She told him, raising her hand to encourage him to continue.
“You wish me to play?” He asked only now, beginning to look nervous.
“Yes, I believe that is what I asked,” Persephone confirmed.
“My lady i - i am not prepared. I did not bring anything.” The mortal said, shaking his empty hands.
“My mother has said the best musicians do not need man-made instruments, instead, they themselves, built by the gods, are their own instrument,” Persephone spoke remembering her mother’s words. Their love of music was always something she and her mother had bonded over.
“I am afraid i cannot compete with those musicians.” Orpheus shook his head.
“Well, that is no problem,” Persephone said, walking the rest of the way to her throne. She snapped her fingers and by the time she sat in her seat he was holding the lyre she had made for him and his chains we’re gone. The guards behind him looked worried by the lack of restraints on the mortal but she had seen the man’s eyes up close and saw no need to fear him. “Please, I do love music.”
Orpheus began to strum a chord testing it first, making sure it was tuned. She saw his fingers twitch when he found it perfectly tuned. He glanced up at the two gods of the Underworld as if to ask one more time if this was what they wanted. First to Persephone then to Hades. Neither said a word, only waited for the mortal to play his melody.
Then he began to play.
She couldn’t remember a more beautiful, more haunting melody. The notes floated over all who were percent in the throne room but she doubted they touched anyone more than herself. He sang of her, Eurydice. He never used her name but Persephone knew immediately who the song was for. Who he longed to play it for.
When he finished his song no one moved, not even Orpheus. It took Persephone a second until she remembered the facade she was supposed to be portraying. Her ack. Her mask. She worried she had allowed it to slip while listening to Orpheus’s song.
“You were wrong Orpheus, I believe you are the most talented musician of your era.” She said truthfully, “Do you not agree, Hades?” She asked, turning to watch him nod in agreement.
“Of any era.” He agreed.
“The layer is yours to keep,” Persephone told him, never dreaming of parting the musician and his tool.
“You are too kind but this, while very generous, is not what i have come for,” Orpheus said.
And there it was, the reason for his arrival, the topic Persephone had tried to avoid for as long as possible. But it could not be put off any longer, “No, I suppose it isn’t.” She paused in thought of what she should say.
Hades spoke next, “You have given us a very generous offering.” His words were sad knowing just what was about to happen. He understood what Orpheus did not; that love was not guaranteed.
She thought of her plan and of her hope it would work. She had no other choice. If she wished to give this young romantic his wife back then this would have to work. She knew if Hades and she damned the mortal their enemies would use it as an excuse. They would say Hades was wicked and cruel, that he must be dethroned in favor of a more agreeable God. But If Hades let Eurydice go he would be seen as weak and everyone would invade smelling blood in the water. While her plan was simple and doubtful, if there was a chance it could work she had to try.
“Yes, very generous.” She agreed with Hades, “May I ask you one more question?” She asked.
“Anything goddess,” Orpheus replied.
“Do you love her?” She knew the answer to her question, the song, and his journey had proven enough. But still, if her plan was to work he would have to love her.
“Yes.” He answered immediately. Without fault, without question.
Persephone shook her head, she would need more than instinct. “No. Do you love her?” She asked again. “Will your love last you through it all?”
This time he answered her as if he were telling her his own name. As if telling her his most basic truth. “I love her more than anything, more than my own life. I would do anything for her.”
“Yes, so you have proven.” She nodded, “You may have her then.” Whispers erupted from every mouth in the room. Orpheus simply stood where he was, gripping his lyre, owning a smile that was shining and a single tear on his right cheek.
As always Hades was the one she had noticed. He did not say a word but she saw his body tense next to her and his fist curl together. When she turned to him he locked eyes with her, watching her, asking her if it was worth it. He thought she was betraying her promise to him. But just as Orpheus must trust Eurydice so he must also trust her.
“But there is a catch.” She spoke, still looking at Hades. She saw his eyes darkening, not liking being kept in the dark. She turned back to Orpheus, “Your wife is dead, we will not bring her back to life. That is forbidden, the fates have spun her thread, and believe me there is no unweaving once the pattern has been set. But she can come with you. If done properly a spirit may enter the mortal realm from the land of the dead.” She explained to him and the rest of the room.
“Respectfully I do not wish for only a spirit. I do not want to be haunted by my wife, I wish for my wife.”
“You men never listen, do you?” Persephone laughed, once again seeing the parallels between gods and men. “As I was saying, I will have Hecate goddess of magic perform the incantation. Your wife will look, feel, and act real. You and no other will know the difference and when it is your time, she will follow you back to the Underworld.” Persephone explained.
“You can do that?” Orpheus asked. Persephone found Hecate at the front of the crowd standing next to Thanatos. She smiled slightly encouraging Persephone. “I will never be able to repay you for this.”
“Do not be so fast. Believe me when I tell you that I am doing you no favors.” Persephone stopped the giddy mortal. “Like i mentioned there is a catch. Hecate’s powers will illuminate your wife, working the magic and tearing her from the Underworld. This will continue until you reach the surface. If you turn your eyes to your wife before she has stepped foot on earth, even only for a second, there will be consequences.” She told him, speaking seriously, begging him to understand how dangerous this would be.
“What consequences?” He asked. For the first time, she saw fear in the calm man’s eyes. But she could also see flecks of determination sparkle. He was not wavering, He truly would do anything for his wife. Once again a similarity between gods and men. Not all gods, but then again she guessed not all men either. Maybe it was only Hades and Orpheus who shared this common similarity. Perhaps she and Eurydice were the luckiest of women.
“Morals cannot see a spirit, your mind will not be able to comprehend it and your sanity will be forfeited,” Hades spoke next to her knowing the workings of the Underworld better than her.
“As i said i would do anything for my wife,” Orpheus repeated.
“She will also be lost to you,” Persephone told him, wanting him to know all the information before he started his journey home. “If you lay eyes on your wife before it is time, she will be returned here. And you will be returned to earth.” Persephone told him sadly.
“And let me assure you Orpheus, you will not be finding your way here a second time,” Hades promised.
Orpheus looked at both the gods and swallowed hard, “Is it a trap? I have heard of the many tricks of the gods.” He asked.
“No, it is a test.” Persephone corrected. “You must prove yourself before gods and men. If you succeed then it will have been proven that you both belong together.”
“Then I will do it,” Orpheus said strongly. “I will take the chance and if I must I will take the consequences.”
Although her plan was going how she had wanted it to go a feeling of dread swept over her. Soon they would be gone and she would have no more control over the situation. Soon it would be up to them.
“Turn and walk. I will send her after you.” Persephone promised. Orpheus did as he was told and walked out of the throne room this time without chains, this time with the promise of his wife.
Hecate stepped forward and worked her magic first calling the spirit then sending it after her husband. The woman, although clear as a ghost, looked strikingly beautiful. It did not take much imagination to know why Orpheus had first fallen for her.
Once Eurydice was told of her husband’s brave journey and of the deal, he had struck, happy tears leaked out of her eyes. She was told by Hades and Persephone that she now could go follow her husband and happily ran out the open doors.
Persephone felt hope return to her until the screams began to echo throughout the now silent castle. All ears listening to her calls. Eurydice was calling for Orpheus. Calling for him. His name over and over again. She was a woman in love who no longer wanted to be separated.
Did she not know what she was doing? What this would cause?
Immediately Persephone stood and left out the doors she had entered from without waiting for Hades. She couldn’t hear Eurydice’s cries a second longer. It was no use though, the castle rumbled with the sounds.
Hades soon caught up to her. The sound of his footsteps stopped her, making her turn towards him. Her gut twisted with his happy expression. He too didn’t understand what would happen.
“This could work.” He praised her for her brilliant idea. The same one she wanted no reminder of.
“It will work because we will be safe but Orpheus will not make it to the surface.” She said sadly, sinking into his strong arms. She needed him to hold her.
“Why do you say that?” He asked her while stroking her hair alarmed by her change of demeanor.
“Because of this,” Persephone said simply as another onslaught of cries echoed. Eurydice was speaking of her dream for them, practically willing them to be happy.
“I do not understand,” Hades asked.
“Listen.” She said again. Slowly the cries we’re getting softer the further the pair got from the castle. Still, they had a long way to go, too far. “He will not be able to withstand it, he will turn to her calls. And when he does it will all be over.” She said saddened by the fact she knew to be true.
“You do not know this,” Hades said, trying to give her hope.
“I do, and so do you, my love. He loves her and so he will always come when she calls. It is merely a fact.” Persephone said feeling guilty, knowing it was her who damned them.
She was the one to curse two mortals whose only crime was to be in love. There could not be anything eviler than that. The fates we’re right, they saw what she could not see then but could see now.
She knew these two souls would always haunt her.