EIGHT - The Goddess of Many Faces
THE GODDESS OF MANY FACES
The Fates - Weavers of Destiny
The fates were made of old magic, older than the gods, older than the most ancient of titan, older than the first stars. There was never a time when they did not dwell. They had seen the beginning and the end before they were even labeled as such. Some say it was this that drove them mad. They were the ones who orchestrated the most deadly of battles but also the ones who brought every baby into the world. The orchestrators of life and of death.
They might have been right and they might have been wrong, but no one questioned them, no one but themselves.
Fate hung heavy on them all.
The fates were a combination of three sisters. There was Clotho, the spinner who was the final voice on all major decisions. She was the one who decided when gods and heroes were to be saved or put to death. It had always been such a large responsibility and yet she bore the weight of such decisions dressed in the image of a 10-year-old girl.
Then there was Lachesis, the one who measured the thread, she decided how long a soul was to live out its life on earth. She appeared as a warm and loving woman decorated with the kind of hope-filled eyes that symbolized the time in every mortal’s life where they could see their future ahead of them while also looking back at their past.
The last sister was Atropos, the unturnable, who would cut the string that symbolized a mortal, or god’s life line. Instead of choosing to change her personification, the goddess showed each year plainly, never using magic to cast a different appearance. She left no question for whoever saw her that she was to symbolize death.
Together they spun the threads of fate, controlling the story of every soul.
With a defeated sigh, Persephone crawled out of bed. She tore the covers off the bed to wrap them around her. Then she left in search of Hades. It was late, far too late for him to be out, and far too late for her to be searching for him. He had told her that he would be to bed soon, that he only had a few papers that needed looking at. But he never came. It did not matter, she was not sleeping anyway, only tossing and turning. There was far too much on her mind to be able to drift off into dreams.
Tomorrow they would go to Olympus together. So many possibilities echoed in her mind. It was the unknown that drove her into unrest. She guessed it was the same for Hades. She needed answers, there was no way she could walk into Olympus not knowing what would happen to them. Hades had already done all he could do to prepare them both for anything that might happen, but now it was her turn.
She found him out on their favorite balcony that overlooked the vastness of the Underworld. He stood leaning against the railing, so still, she wondered if he was already asleep. She copied his movement, choosing to stand and watch him until he raised a glass of what looked like nectar to his lips.
“Couldn’t sleep?” She asked as she wrapped her arms around his waist from behind him, leaning her head against his strong back.
“You know I can never sleep,” He told her before he squeezed her hands. She knew he was lying, only covering up how worried he was about tomorrow. Still, she didn’t say a word, only held him. He turned around to face her while still leaning against the railing and now pulling Persephone to lean against him.
“Do you miss your mother?” His question puzzled her, this was not what she had expected him to ask. She would have thought that many other things were on his mind than this.
“A little,” She told him truthfully. “I’ve never been away from her for so long. And I know I should still be mad at her but I can’t seem to make myself forget about her. I know she would love you if she could only see you the way I do. If only there could be no hostility between the two of you. I just wish she could be happy for me, then there could be peace between us all.” she answered his question but watched as his already deep eyes deepened into what looked like worry.
“Am I a cruel man to want to go through with tomorrow and separate the two of you?” He asked her in a sorrowful way. As if he already knew himself to be that cruel.
“Where is this coming from?” She asked. He should already have already known this was not his fault, that this was between mother and daughter. Above all, he should have known that she wanted this, to be with him, and would accept whatever consequences followed.
He glanced away from her, “You love your mother and I know she loves you. I saw it in her eyes, deeply hidden but still burning. But no matter the love you two share I’m afraid tomorrow will do more damage than it is intended to. To separate a mother and her child has to be the greatest sin.” he finished with a sigh. He turned to look down at her, “I don’t want to hurt you Persephone. I’m just wondering if I’m a selfish bastard or if I’m taking your needs into account.” Her hand found its way from his face as she reassuringly brushed his cheek.
“I am not a child Hades. My mother has acted on her own selfishness. You have done everything in your power to avoid tomorrow. Please remember it is not your fault this is happening. I do not blame you and I do not blame my mother. Very few people, let alone gods, can claim to be loved as deeply by others as I can.”
A sad laugh came from him, “Yes, I guess you’re lucky in that way.” She looked at him and knew he was still worried but better than when she had found him. She knew that there was never a way to change Hades’ mind once it had found its way there, he was far too stubborn. Over the years she had learned that the best way to comfort him was to reassure him but to also be there for him as he worked it out with himself. It hurt her that he felt guilty for what was happening. So many saw him as dark and heartless but she knew the truth; he had the biggest heart for those who were closest to him. That was why she loved him. His love was not smothering or for his own benefit, but his love was nurturing and caring. She truly bloomed under his love. She couldn’t love this man more.
Still, tomorrow loomed over them. Only hours until the morning would greet them. More than ever the need for answers arose. And she knew only three ladies could tell them what would transpire in the morning. Softly she raised her head from his chest to look up at him. His hair hung in his eyes but she could still see them watching her.
“I’m going to go visit the fates,” She told him.
“What? Why?” He asked, shocked by her statement.
“You already know why. I want to know the outcome of tomorrow.”
“We know the outcome, Persephone.” His voice was stern and unmoving.
“No, we don’t, we think we do, we hope we do, but we do not know for certain. And with something as important to me as our future, I cannot leave anything to chance.”
His eyes burned into hers and he swore fiercely, “You will be my queen. I do not need the fates to tell me that.” He promised.
“Hades this is important to me,” She told him, he looked conflicted.
Finally, he answered, “Then at least let me come with you. Let me get changed.” Immediately he let go of her to return to their bedroom but she caught his sleeve before he got too far.
“No, you stay, I’m going alone,” she told him despite the confusion she saw in his eyes.
“Persephone, you know I don’t like you to wander the Underworld alone.” He took the last remaining steps back to her, his hands rubbing her arms back and forth.
“That was before I was your queen.” She reminded him, biting the corner of her lip.
“Well, maybe I don’t think a queen should be alone in the Underworld either.” His eyes went back to being concerned, creating a crease between his eyebrows. “Persephone what if something happened?”
“You and I know I can take care of myself. Besides after tomorrow, I have to become a fearless and powerful goddess. Not one who needs a babysitter.” Her smile seemed to trouble him as he was toying between dragging her back to bed and tagging along with her against her wishes. With a sigh and his decision made, he let go of her.
“Straight there and back?” He checked with her.
“I promise. Thank you, Hades.” She thanked him before she leaned up to kiss him.
“You will be the reason I get gray hairs,” he said, annoyed. She laughed at his obvious hate for the idea.
“Oh please, don’t be a baby. I’ll be back before you know I’m gone.”
“I doubt it,” He mumbled yet still he kissed her again, saying softly, “I’ll wait up for you.”
“I won’t be long, I love you.”
“I love you too.”
She took the trail that followed the river until it came to the waterfall, from there the path dropped down and folded in and back on itself until it came to a cave halfway down the cliff. It was the path to the fates. It was a rough and jagged path often hidden and hard to find. It was built in a winding way, equivalent to finding your own fate in life.
As she entered the cave she had to duck and maneuver her way through a mass of red strings that looped their way over rocks and hung off the roof of the cave. Persephone knew the strings were the lifelines of every human currently living. The fates would weave these strings into what their fates would soon be. She could see individual gold strands intermixed with the red. Sometimes knotted, sometimes simply twisted. Those were the life strings of the gods. She wondered which of them was hers as she reached out to touch one.
The moment her finger touched the gold strand a young girl suddenly spoke behind her, startling Persephone, “The lovesick child.” The girl said. It seemed odd a girl no older than seven would call her a child but it did not take her long to realize who the girl was. It was Clotho the eldest of the fates and also the one who made all major decisions. She was often depicted as a child because she always decided when a person was to be born, and so adopted a childlike appearance.
“She has finally come.” An old voice responded, coming from the dark side of the cave where a woman sat. This must have been Atropos, the unturnable. She was the metaphor for death because she was the one to cut any sting when it became the mortal’s time to die.
Following the old woman was a lady who was middle-aged with curly shoulder-length hair, her smile was warm and inviting. This had to have been Lachesis, the one who measured the thread and decided how long a person’s life should be.
“I am not a child,” Persephone said, testing out her act for tomorrow morning. She had heard stories of how invading these women were. If she were to let them have an inch they would take it all. She had no plan but she needed answers and if she wanted them she could not let these women walk all over her.
“No, of course not. There is wisdom, there is pain in your eyes.” The middle-aged woman said.
“Beyond your years.” The young girl spoke up behind Persephone.
“Beyond your status.” The old woman finished her sentence.
They seemed connected as if they were one mind thinking and saying the same as they circled Persephone. They also seemed to be speaking in a pattern. First Clotho the young girl, then Atropos the old woman, ending with Lachesis the middle-aged woman, only to repeat the pattern over again. They seemed to be trapped in this pattern, aware of it or not.
“Is that all you see?” Persephone asked.
“There are many things we see dear.” Lachesis’s warm voice answered her, following the pattern.
“We see desire,” Clotho said.
“Power.” Atropos, the middle-aged woman suddenly said. The struggling voice surprised Persephone because she was far too close to her as they circled. Persephone could do nothing but standstill as they studied her.
“Love.″ This answer did not surprise Persephone as much. Love was why she was there in the fates cave, the Underworld, and this fight with her mother.
“Selfishness.” The young girl spoke up sharply. This time it did surprise her, she hadn’t expected them to say this.
“There is no shame in wanting what I desire. If you must call it selfishness then I will accept it as yet another shade of what I am to be.” Persephone replied, having no choice but to own her own emotions.
“Yes, yes, the queen of many faces.” The old woman laughed at a joke Persephone did not understand.
“It is true all gods wear a mask.” her sister replied.
“Hara, the queen of the gods; Hides behind her broken throne.” The young girl said lifting part of Persephone’s dress only to then dropping it, uninterested. Even Persephone had to agree to their observation. She too had watched how the goddess of marriage hated her own husband.
“Aphrodite, queen of lovers; Will never know the deepest depths of intimacy.” The old crone spoke in an accusing tone.
“Artemis, queen of the hunt; Searching, always searching?” Persephone was shocked to see all the strong goddesses she had looked up to as great goddesses torn down by these three women in a cave. Nowhere else would these words be uttered.
“Even your mother, Demeter, queen of the harvest; but you know her as something more, don’t you?” The young girl looked at Persephone and for a moment she wondered if the young girl knew their secret. But of course, she knew their secret. They were the fates, they knew all secrets.
Together all the women stopped pacing around Persephone and spoke together in unison, “They all have masks they wear.” Then, as if nothing had happened, they went back to inspecting Persephone.
“Queens being the most tricky of all the gods.” The old woman laughed to herself once again.
“But none have held and shown so many faces as you. Each one different.″ The middle-aged woman was the only one who looked kind and inviting but now listening to her accusing tone Persephone found herself changing her mind.
“I wonder what version of the goddess we have with us today?”
“The goodness of spring?” The old woman asked.
“The Queen of death?” this time the middle-aged fate.
“Kore?” The young girl spoke the name Persephone’s mother had given her.
“The flower goddess?” The old woman asked.
“Demeter’s daughter?” they continued.
Persephone could not listen to them ramble on any longer. She would not be made into someone she was not. She would only be herself. Not all these different personalities they were making her into. She interrupted them, “No, I come to you only as myself, Persephone.”
“Ah.” The young girl answered from the other side.
“The wife of darkness.” The old woman nodded.
“Death’s bride.” her sister agreed.
“And tell us why do you come to visit us today?” The young girl asked. Persephone doubted they needed to ask, they probably already knew.
“What questions have you come to ask?”
“Ask and we may answer them.” one sister laughed eerily.
“You may answer?” Persephone asked. She had not come all this way for them to deny her answers.
“Some fates are not final.” one fate answered.
“Always changing.” the other echoed.
“Especially the fates of the gods.” The middle-aged woman told her while twirling a piece of Persephone’s hair.
“Sharing too much may change the fate of any man,” she explained, pushing her sister forward as to not trip.
“May change the outcome of any war.” The messy words the old woman had said caught Persephone’s attention. The word had been suggested by her mother and now that the trial was coming the word was even more of a sensitive subject. War.
“I am not a warrior, I do not go to war.” She told the three women. She was not Aries, she was not Athena or Artemis, she did not seek out a fight from anyone.
“Of course, you are.” The middle-aged woman told her softly as if Persephone should have already known.
“Tomorrow will be a decisive battle.” The next fate agreed.
“One battle in a larger war.” The old woman told her but she wished to hear no more about war. She wished for this issue to be over tomorrow. The small innocent part of her still hoped that maybe if it was not spoken of any longer it would not happen. That even a war could be stopped. Even Persephone laughed at the absurdity.
“So tell me what I would like to know,” Persephone demanded more than asked.
“You must first ask us a question.” The middle-aged woman reminded her. Persephone did not roll her eyes even though she wanted to. All three women already knew what she wanted to ask.
“I would like to know what will happen to us,” Persephone asked them.
“Us?” all three asked instantly.
“Be specific” The old woman waved one reminding finger in her face, close enough Persephone had to back up so as to not get hit.
“My husband, Hades, and I. I want to know if after the trial, will we be leaving Olympus together or separated. I want to know if my mother will succeed in her doings or fail.”
“Those are two very different questions.” The middle-aged woman informed her.
“We said one question.” The girl looked at her pointedly in a punishing way.
“One question you are permitted and you ask of matters of the heart?” the next laughed once again.
“What is love in measure of wars and the pleasure of the gods?”
“Pitty, such great power would be turned over for love.” the next pondered. Persephone couldn’t see the girl but knew she was rolling her eyes at what she thought was childish love.
“You underestimate my love. It is what is most important to me. It is greater than my own power. It was what inspired me to go against my own mother.”
“And tell us, does your lover, lord Hades, share in this love?” The old woman asked leaning in close, too close.
“I do not speak for the king of the Underworld. His mind is his own. But of this matter, I can say that his love is mine. And mine alone.” She answered, trying to focus on keeping her voice as even as possible.
“No one is as confident as a girl in love.” The middle-aged woman said in a sing-song voice.
“Confidence fades once time stretches onward.” one fate reminded the others.
“As does love.” the next agreed.
“Stop! I will waste no more time listening to old crows tell riddles. I am not just a girl, as you have said. I am a goddess. A queen. And as a goddess, I came to you as only a goddess can. To ask a question, to plead my case, to ask for your guidance because not even a god can see into the future. I am sure it has been longer than even you can remember since a god has questioned their future or has put themselves in a compromising position to find those said answers.” Persephone said, pausing only a second to watch as the fates nodded in agreement with her words. They seemed to be in agreement with her for once although their sudden silence had her worried.
Still, Persephone continued on, not waiting for their chatter to pick up once again. “But no more. You wonder what my true self is? Well, I will tell you. I do not have as many faces as you predict. I am simply a Queen with an iron heart. Who holds what she cares for most dearly. A queen who will fight till the end for those she loves. It is as simple as that. My love and my throne, those are what I fight for. That is what the songs will say. That is what your stings well say.”
“I hear a threat in your words queen,” she said, her words biting the air.
“It seems you have no need for answers or questions. It seems you have answers all your own.” the second fate agreed.
“Yes, what use could we be?” the last one asked.
“I no longer am looking for advice or counsel, instead, let me give you three, some advice of your own. As you must know, my string is long, If tomorrow I am to be returned to my mother, if I am to be separated from Hades, know that until my string ends I will spend it haunting you. I will plot your eventual demise and end. You may be gods in your own right, celestial, and more ancient than even the oldest Olympians. But as we eternal beings learn fast, every empire must face its end. Hades respects you, has been kind to you and has made a place for you all here. As the queen of the Underworld, I wish to continue this tradition. Trust that I will be your greatest advocate. That is if my fate is favorable. Hades is a forgiving God, I am not. Weave the strings in my favor, dear holy fates.” She nodded in a moke kind of bow and watched the fates look to each other, speaking an unheard conversation.
They were silent for a moment and Persephone was happy for it. She watched as they collectively nodded, agreeing. They turned to her and as the pattern suggested the middle-aged woman was the first to speak.
“Our dear goddess, we are afraid that happy endings are not always the wisest path to choose.”
“We are afraid that in this matter it may come to a point when you have to choose.″ The young girl for the first time this evening looked at her with not hate but pity. It startled her for a second. She liked it better when the goddess was a hateful child.
They wanted her to choose. Happyness or a life with Hades. She was not foolish enough to think that life with him would always be perfect but she knew that with him she could get through anything, even crippling sadness. Whatever would come their way. Without him, she would cease to be. Life would lack meaning.
“Hades. I will always pick Hades,” she answered. Though it was an inappropriate time, a slight smile made its way to her face.
“Very well goddess, from here your future will begin to make a dramatic change,” The old woman said tiredly as if Persephone was taking up too much of her energy.
“One that will be unchangeable.”
“Unweavable.” The next emphasized.
“Yes, for once the pattern is set and the string woven it is quite impossible to reverse what has already been done.” Persephone heard the woman say.
They waited to watch her reaction and only when she gave them only a slight nod and the reminder of her previous smile, they continued. “Then you have him.” the goddess told Persephone.
“Your great love.” The young girl interrupted the middle-aged woman.
“Your great epic.” The older woman finished.
“But beware, goddess, while you are with him there will also grow an evil.” The middle-aged woman spoke the prophecy to her. Her words took the breath from her lungs. There was never any doubt when something was said from the fates. They only spoke the truth. Persephone could not outrun these words now that they had been spoken.
“And as the evil grows so will your destruction grow closer.” The girl told her. She was suddenly scared of what that meant. But she quickly pushed the fear down to be worried about another day. She would add it to the growing list of things she now had to worry about.
Instead, she smiled. “Then so be it,” She told them happy because she now had Hades. They would be together. And if that eventually led to her destruction then it would be a price she would pay happily.
On her way back to the castle she reflected on what had transpired. She was shocked by her words. She was not the flower goddess she used to be. No, she was different now, stronger. She had never stood up to someone like that. Certainly never to her mother, let alone, three ancient goddesses. It scared her how much she enjoyed it. She wondered if that was what she was to become. If it was the beginning of the evil prophesied, or if this is what it meant to be a god. Immortal and Celestial. Knowing this she felt more ready for the coming morning. She knew she was capable of being a strong goddess, for she had always been one. It just took almost losing Hades for her to see it.
Walking down the hall she saw light creeping out from under their door. He had waited for her as he had said. Making her way to him she eagerly kissed him before crawling her way into bed. She found her spot next to him and curled herself into his side. Comforted by his heavy hands pulling her closer to him.
He did not ask her what she had found, she suspected he already knew from the soft smile gracing her face. But still, she whispered into the now dark room, “All will be well tomorrow, Hades.”
“As i had already promised you.” He whispered back.
“Please don’t blame me for doing everything in my power to make sure tomorrow goes smoothly. I know all too well you have done the same.” She turned around to face him, resting her hands against his naked chest.
“I could never blame you,” he answered quietly.
“All I want after tomorrow is over is for you to wrap me in your arms and tell me you love me. I want you to grab me by the waist, pull me in, and kiss me hard.” Obediently he leaned in and kissed her, the kiss consuming all of her.
“I will whisper to you that you are mine and I want you to answer back that you will always be mine,” he whispered into her neck, sending shivers down her back.
“That is all I want Hades. Forever,” she told him.
He leaned back an inch so that he could look into her eyes, a dazzling smile appeared as he answered her, “That can be arranged.”