SIX - A Plan Unfolds
A PLAN UNFOLDS
Zeus - King of the gods
Among him and his two brothers, Poseidon and Hades, it had been decided that Zeus would be the king of the gods and rule over them. How this was decided no one knew for certain but it had been highly suggested that it was over a large bottle of nectar. Among this Zeus was also the God of the sky, lightning, and thunder which only aided to enhance his already roaring temperament.
His ascension into godhood was a bloody one. Though he had no ties to his father and no loyalty to give, Zeus can still remember how it felt like he was somehow betraying his family as he cut his father’s throat open. The feeling was quickly masked by one of triumph and victory as he freed his siblings. He began to relish in the feeling of battle, war cries, and adrenaline. Feeling at peace only when there was chaos.
When the war was over and the cosmos were being divided, it shocked him that the feeling of being given the kingship did not compare to the one he felt with his sword in his hand. Ever since then he has been bored of life in fine palaces, searching in different women’s beds for the same feeling he once had.
Hera- Goddess of marriage
In the beginning of the goddess’s reign, Hera had quickly and decisively chosen to be the goddess of marriage, women, childbirth, and family. She did this to set herself up perfectly to be Zeus’ queen, even though everyone knew it did not match her temperament. She had come from a long line of ambitious women, who all had held power within their grasp but had allowed their husbands to cripple them. Rhea and Cronus. Gaia and Uranus. From them, she learned never to become attached. To never give another the power to weaken you. Whether it be a husband or a child.
Zeus had never been as ambitious as his wife, only caring about how long his glass of nectar would last him. This she was fine with, his lack of ambition was the reason she had picked him, for he would never think to cross her. She crafted the lies and set it so no one would draw the winning straw but Zeus. She made him king, allowing him no choice but to name her as his queen.
Though Zeus picked her and loved her well in the beginning, both parties could feel the separation Hera had created but labeled as survival. As the decades passed and Zeus’s love was left unanswered his eyes began to stray, even though he always returned to her. But once again Hera knew she could never be hurt by something she never let herself love.
Hades did not have time to wait, he had no intention of giving Demeter any more time to build her plan. He found himself needing answers for what was to come and for what was happening. For he would be damned if he walked into Olympus unprepared. If he wanted to keep Persephone as his wife then he needed to act fast and to be smart about it. Demeter may think she was clever. She may believe she would do anything to get her daughter returned. But she will soon learn that when it comes to Persephone there was nothing Hades wouldn’t do.
There was not a chance he would bring Persephone to Olympus to meet his brother. Not today. He hopped never. He knew she would not be as safe as she would be while in the Underworld. Not only safe from her mother but also safe from his family. Hades didn’t trust Zeus around Persephone and had no interest in bringing her to him.
He sent word to Thanatos and quickly led Persephone through a maze of halls as they made their way deeper and deeper into the castle’s core. He could tell she was lost and confused but he did not have time to explain that these halls were in fact supposed to confuse any intruder. Years ago he had commissioned Hephaestus, the blacksmith of the gods, to design a labyrinth of sorts and even Hades had been impressed with what the god had created. This was the only place he felt she would be safe from her mother’s reach. He didn’t want to leave her defenseless while he was gone. He knew she was powerful but he also knew what Demeter was capable of.
He would do anything to keep Persephone safe.
Drawing to the end of the hall he could see Thanatos had beat them to the room. He stood patiently in front of the double doors that lead into the room that sat at the very center of the castle. Here Persephone would be safe. He felt reassured that Thanatos understood the severity of the situation and had brought his Scythe. The god of the dead was incredibly well prepared as always. One of the many reasons why Hades had first hired him and trusted him with almost everything, now including his wife.
Hades turned to Persephone and spoke softly to her, “I will not be away long.”
“You’re going to Olympus to talk to Zeus.” she did not ask so much as tell him. Her eyes squinted as she watched him, asking him a much different question.
“Yes, I must find answers.”
“I want to come with you,” she told him.
“No,” he told her immediately. He had expected she would want to come but could not put her in danger. She was a young goddess meaning she did not understand the dangers that a meeting with his brother could entail. He was also expecting her to fight much more than any other goddess would, Persephone was a passionate and fierce goddess when she wanted to. He expected this would be one of those times.
“No?” she asked, shocked he would deny her request. Under other circumstances, he would have given her whatever she desired. Any other situation except one that put her in danger. That he could not allow.
“No, it is too dangerous,” he explained to her again. “Instead you will stay here with Thanatos.” he nodded behind them towards the God who stood tall next to the doors.
“I do not need a babysitter Hades,” she told him. He tried hard to suppress the smile that wanted to creep its way onto his face when she crossed her arms in a pout. All he wanted to do was to kiss her but he assumed this would not be the appropriate time. Still, images from the night before flooded his mind, making him want her even more. “i will not be hidden away.” she said in defiance.
“Yes, you will. I’m trying to protect you Persephone. You and I do not know what your mother is planning. This could be a ploy to get me away from you.” he explained to her.
“You are being paranoid, Hades,” she said as she tried to walk past him and back the way they had come. Instead, he bent down to swing her over his shoulder and carried her towards the doors.
“i am being paranoid. But i will not be taking chances,” he told her as she screamed for him to put her down. Not with you, he wanted to add. Thanatos opened the doors for him since his arms were full. Hades did not miss the gods’ smirk.
Hades set Persephone down on the bed and then immediately turned and shut the doors behind him. Her shouts and curses could be heard through the thick doors including the sound of her hands pounding on the sturdy wood.
“No one opens these doors, correct?” he said to Thanatos, pointing a deadly finger towards him.
“Correct.” he nodded.
“No one takes my wife, correct?” he asked but it sounded more like a demand.
“Correct.” he agreed once more.
“If anything happens to her, you don’t want to know what I’ll do to you,” he explained to his closest friend knowing there was no amount of friendship that could save the god if someone touched one hair on her head.
With the warning, he turned on his heels making quick work of heading to Olympus. Besides the other night It had been decades since he had returned home to Olympus. The halls did not hold fond memories for him. Olympus, even in the early years, had never been a home to him. He did not trust his brothers and in return, they had only proven him right over and over.
When it became time to draw lots to see who would gain what realm, Hades had pulled the largest stick. He had won. Everyone already assumed he would choose the skies. Who wouldn’t want to rule over everything, to be a king over gods? But when he picked the Underworld no one understood his choice. Suddenly those closest to him looked at him with confusion and disgust. Horrified he would voluntarily live with the dead.
He had originally picked the Underworld when he saw his brothers fighting over the sea and the skies. They both fearsly wanted power over the other. He would have none of that. Instead, he took the Underworld and saw it as a means of escape. A place he could make his own. His home. His kingdom. A king in his own right.
It always seemed like a good fit to him; I was in the darkness, so darkness I became.
But now he had to leave his home to go back to the place he once lived so many years ago. His brother, Zeus, would certainly be there, ruling over his domain as only he could. The thought of seeing Zeus brought a bad taste to his mouth. It had been lifetimes since he had trusted the God of thunder. In the past he had tried to reconcile with his brothers, knowing it was distrust that befell the titans. But betrayal after betrayal left him to only distance himself more from his siblings. After a while, their invites began to go unanswered. And after that, they too disappeared.
But this time was different. He was doing this for Persephone. For their future. For the possibility of a future. For her, he would do anything; including talk to his brother.
He knew Demeter was far too wise to be foiled after only one conversation with Zeus, he doubted even a demand from the king of the gods would make her back down. But a tribunal sentence could do it. If it did not, he would at least have the greatest of the gods backing him if it ever came to it. They would have to side with him or face a tribunal all their own. War meant nothing to Hades, it did not worry him in the slightest. He would have still made her his queen despite knowing it would likely still start a war.
What a mess we have created. He thought.
What a war it will start. Still, he did not care.
When his chariot pulled up to the front gates he saw Zeus waiting for him. He stood leaning against one of the pillars scattered across Olympus, a broad foolish smile decorating his face. He had been expecting him.
“I thought I smelled death.” Zeus joked, patting Hades on the back in a welcoming gesture.
“Very funny but this is important.” Hades reminded him. This was not a social visit and his brother knew that. “I received your message.”
“Yes. I am sorry about the timing, not much in the way of a wedding present was it? But still, it was urgent.”
“So I’ve heard. How bad is it?” He asked.
“Let’s talk inside, I know you watch over your realm pretty closely in the Underworld but up here I’m afraid I’m the one being watched. There are no secrets here,” Zeus told him as they begin walking inside Zeus’s vast private rooms. If there was one fact Hades knew it was that there were watchful eyes everywhere on mount Olympus. He had no doubt it was already known to everyone that the God of the Underworld had arrived.
While he looked around Zeus’ front rooms Hades was impressed, they had grown since the last time he was here. He never did understand the reason for such big and lavish rooms whose only purpose was to lounge in. Still, he found it hard not to be impressed by their size.
If he remembered correctly Hera’s rooms were connected to the right, though they were often closed off to this direction. Hades could not imagine being separated even by one wall from Persephone. He would riot if they ever moved to separate rooms. Although he doubted how much time Zeus and Hera spent together now, he knew it was nothing compared to the relationship he and Persephone had. He had heard of Zeus’ many affairs and if he had heard of them all the way in the Underworld he had to believe they had already made their way to Hera. The thought just made him miss Persephone even more.
“Would you like a drink?” Zeus asked, pointing to an already opened bottle of nectar.
“No, I want to get this over with,” Hades said, tired of his brother’s stalling.
“Patience brother, this isn’t going to go away easily. You haven’t seen Demeter,” Zeus told him.
“Actually, we have already spoken on the matter,” Hades said remembering the night in the garden and the fury he had seen in the goddess’s eyes.
“And you are still intact? I’m impressed. As it is I thought she was going to cut my balls off and I didn’t have anything to do with It.” Zeus laughed, “Although I will admit it is rare that it wasn’t me who fucked up and made a mess. Still, out of all the gods, she’s the one that needs an attitude adjustment the most.”
“You shock me, brother, I would have guessed you’d have picked me.” Hades was shocked to hear himself joking with his brother again, he quickly straightened his demeanor. All of this went unnoticed by Zeus.
“It varies depending on the week.” Zeus smiled at him. A kind smile that Hades did not remember ever seeing. He had prided himself with being able to decipher lies quite well, this time he could see only true friendliness in his brother’s eyes. He could not believe it at first. And now that he had seen it he could not understand it. “I wish you’d come around more, it seems like I never see you,” Zeus said to his brother in a softer tone, one not usually used by the God of thunder.
“You know why that is.” Hades reminded him.
“Yes, I guess I do. Still, I know Hera misses you.”
“Zeus this is not why I’m here,” Hades said, trying to shift the conversation towards something he could actually control. Zeus’s facial demeanor shifted to one that passed as one of professionalism. Hades shook his head as if shaking away the past conversation.
“Of course, I almost forgot how much you like to get straight to the point. Kore, or what is she being called now? Persephone? She is a beautiful flower goddess from all accounts. I also hear she’s the perfect match for you.” Zeus told him as he walked through the room as he spoke. “But I, unfortunately, I still can not allow her to stay with you.” The words infuriated Hades more than anything ever had. He almost could not contain his anger.
“Damn it, brother, I’m asking you for one fucking favor. And you know how often I ask for favors!” He should have known his brother would be no help, that once again he could not rely on his family.
“I’m aware Hades and I don’t take that lightly but the facts are that I can’t let the humans die off, and they will if Demeter lets this go on much longer. You know her, she can hold a grudge for an eternity.”
“So to save your pet project you’re going to just rip the one person I’ve ever loved away from me? Just like that?” Taking steps towards Zeus Hades’ voice only grew deeper in a warning. His fists balled together tightly ready for the fight.
“Do not disrespect me, brother, I am still the king,” Zeus warned, electricity buzzing in the air.
“You may be king here but I have my own kingdom, I am a king in my own right and I will talk to you however I see fit.”
They stood toe to toe, their stairs deadly, daring the other to cross the line when a soft feminine voice carried from the far corner of the room. “Boys, boys play nice or I’ll have to separate you.”
Both gods turn to see Hera descending the stairs in the most graceful of ways. Hades had always loved Hera even though she too had a part to blame in his distancing. She to had once betrayed his trust one too many times. But that was the power Hera had, she could make you remember only the good times, never the bad. The days when they stood side by side on the battlefield fighting their father.
But the woman before him was different from the Hera he had remembered. Her hair was pinned back in an elegant bun, tight and uncomfortable, no longer falling loose in soft curls. Her eyes did not hold the spark they once did and there was little love to be shared in them. Above all, she looked tired.
Hera walked between the two warring gods and turned towards her husband to put a hand on his chest in what looked to be an affectionate touch. Hades watched as she leaned in close to Zeus and saw how when he leaned in as well to kiss her, she turned away, now facing Hades.
“Long-time no see big bro.” Her smile was a light he had not seen in quite some time. It warmed him, yet still, he remained cold remembering past times when her smile had burned him.
“Hera.” He nodded to her in kind.
“I heard about you and Persephone, what can we do to help?” She asked kindly. Hades’ eyes rose to meet the burly God of lightning standing behind her.
“Apparently nothing,” Hades told her though he was speaking more to his brother and less to his wife.
“If there was anything I could do you know I would!” Zeus claimed in defense.
“Oh come now there must be something.” She asked looking from Hades to her husband.
“Why would you help me?” Hades asked her accusingly. “Last time we saw each other you threatened a curse on me.”
“That’s ancient history.” Hera waved it off as if it was to be forgotten. She had that power with most gods, they would all follow her every word. But it would not work with Hades, not now that he had everything to lose. “I’ve seen you two together. You and Persephone are fated to be together, and this is coming from me; the goddess of marriage. Not Aphrodite; the goddess of one-night flings. You two are married and I plan on helping you two stay that way.” She told him.
“Truly?” he asked.
“Truly.” she nodded back, her smile alight.
“Thank you.” He did not fully believe that family ties were her only motives but he could worry about that on a later date. For now, all he cared about was that she was going to help him and Persephone.
“We’re family, even if we don’t act like it. In true times of need, we will always be here for you Hades.” She told him. A touching sentiment If only Hades felt like she meant it.
“Are you both done with your heart to heart?” Zeus interrupted from behind Hera. “Tell me, dear wife of mine, how are you planning on appeasing Demeter? She will not be as easily wooed by your speech of love, marriage, and ‘fate’.”
“No, she won’t will she.” She replied thinking, “She prefers a tight leash when it comes to her child.”
“Then she’s just going to have to get used to it,” Hades said. When it came to threats he did not reply well and this was exactly how he was taking the news. It may be disguised by a mother’s bleeding heart but he could see a clear threat lying underneath.
“That won’t work Hades.” Hera shut him up quickly while rolling her eyes. “When a man’s pride is hurt it’s like all sense leaves him. Can you imagine if all the humans living on earth entered the Underworld in three months’ time? It would be chaos and you know it.” She did not have to lecture him on the subject, he already knew what would happen.
It would be worse than chaos. It would take everything he had to keep the Underworld intact. The Underworld was meant to receive the dead by growing at a slow pace to match the spread of the dead. A flood like that would nearly break it. He would have no time to protect Persephone and knew Demeter would use the destruction to her advantage and steal her away.
“Then what?” He asked.
“She’s tried talking to her mother I’m assuming?” Hera asked. Hades had to focus on not rolling his eyes in return.
“Repeatedly with no avail,” he confirmed.
“Then we’re going to need to play Demeters game. She wanted a trial originally, correct?” She turned to her husband who clearly was falling behind and not following his wife’s logic. Still, he nodded like a fool.
“Yes, she practically demanded a trial to enact revenge on Hades,” Zeus told his wife, though it didn’t need to be said.
“Then that is what we will do,” Hera told them both as if she had solved the problem and not just led them back to the cause of their fight originally.
“No, I will not be subjected to a trial and I will certainly not allow Persephone to either. We need something full proof, not just a trial we would hope to win.”
“Don’t you see? A trial is all we will need. We will be more than hoping for a good outcome, we’re going to rig the trial. Easy enough to do.” She smiled as if she had done it before. Hades did not have to doubt his sister’s talents, he knew she had Olympus wrapped around her finger. If there was anyone that could rig a trial it would be the Queen of the gods.
“My husband is the king of the gods and as per the old laws will be leading the proceedings,” she continued to explain. “We need to fix the trial. When Demeter loses, and she will. She will have no other choice than to comply with our demands.”
Hades did not like the sound of what ‘demands’ might mean but this was what victory looked like. If he must surround himself with the snakes that were his family in order to marry Persephone, then so be it.