Hades and Persephone Ch. 05bysushi_taco©
Persephone's whispered words scalded Aidoneus. All he could think about was her body pressed to his, the thin layers of cloth the only barrier between them. He brought her harder against him with one arm and locked his lips to hers. With his left hand, he reached out, enveloping them in black smoke, ready to transport them through the ether to the world above. Her eyes closed and her tongue danced with his as the Underworld vanished around them.
Nysa, he thought.
She felt them being pulled through, the silver and crimson light of the ether whipping about them as they traveled together. Persephone broke away from their kiss. The black smoke that had lifted them out of the Underworld condensed under their feet to hold them aloft, solid against the infinite expanse of the void. All was quiet. Vertigo gripped her as it had the few times she transported with her mother. Persephone didn't know if the silver light and clouds were twisting about them, or if they were falling headlong through them. The journey took much longer this time. She looked down to see the rings on Aidon's hand glowing fiery red. She gripped his shoulders tighter, and he responded by pulling her closer to his chest. She felt safe and secure against him as she tried to blot out the very real fear of falling through this void forever, lost in the spaces between worlds.
"We're almost through," Aidoneus said, then braced himself, his legs apart, supporting her. She watched as the light gave way, threads of silver pulling back from them to be replaced with darkness. Stars appeared, the brighter ones with peculiar haloes around them. Silhouettes of wild cypress blocked out the midnight blue of the sky and the stars above. She knew this place...
The ethereal threads disappeared entirely and he almost reluctantly released his grip on her, watching as she slid down and away to stand on her own two feet and look around. Aidoneus could see his breath before he felt the cold. It was curious; foreign. He looked down and saw Persephone shivering, her arms held around her sleeveless shoulders. He quickly unclasped his himation and wrapped its folds around her, gritting his teeth against the bite of the cold air.
She felt the warmth of his body radiating from the soft wool, his fresh, masculine scent caught in the heavy folds of cloth. Persephone startled, realizing where they were. It was the grove; this was Hades' sacred grove at Nysa. She closed her eyes, remembering when she lay here in the dappled sunlight, his unseen fingers teasing and caressing her naked skin as she came for the first time, her back arching in the soft celery grasses of the clearing.
It seemed like a lifetime ago. She reached down to the ground. The wild celery had dried brown, their dead husks turning to dust in her hands. The asphodel showed no flowers, the black stems sticking up out of the ground. She saw her breath in front of her face and looked at Aidon. His teeth were chattering. "Aidon, you're freezing..."
"Don't worry about me," he said. Aidoneus felt her press her warm body against his as she wrapped the heavy fabric around both of them
"Why is it so cold?"
"I don't know." They looked up; the frost-haloed stars disappeared behind dark clouds. An infinitely tiny speck floated out of the sky and drifted between them, vanishing as quickly as it had appeared. Another followed, then another, then the air around them was full of gently falling cold flakes. They clumped together as they spun through the air cascading into one another. One tiny clump landed on Persephone's nose, melting instantly.
Persephone wiped the droplet and examined it on her hand. "This isn't possible; it only snows on the very highest mountain tops. Higher than Parnassus, even..."
Aidoneus looked around watching as snow fell about them in the field. It melted when it hit the ground, but the dead plants and tree branches held it aloft, their topsides slowly turning white. Demeter wouldn't do this; she couldn't, he thought. "We should go back."
"No; please Aidon. I want to try."
"Are you sure?"
"Well, I'm warm enough. Are you sure you're all right?"
He thought back to when Zeus, Poseidon and he carefully scaled the wind-whipped face of Mount Othrys all those aeons ago. "I've felt cold worse than this. At least there's no wind. Something here is off balance, though. If you don't mind, I'm going to skip ahead a bit in our lessons and have you send us back to the Other Side."
"Aidon, I'm not powerful enough to—"
"Yes you are." He stepped away from her warmth and lifted her chin to look into her eyes. He closed his hand around hers, her fingers lacing through his alongside the rings. "I wouldn't have asked you to do this unless I knew you could."
"H-how do I even start?"
"Close your eyes," he said as she did so without hesitation. "Breathe with me, now. In and out."
Persephone inhaled through her nose and exhaled slowly, following as he breathed with her. She could only feel his hand gripping hers and the ground beneath her feet.
"Whatever you may be thinking about, Persephone— any limitations, any feelings, anything at all— let them go. There is only you, the immortal goddess, and there is only the place you want to be. Concentrate."
Grow, she thought. Persephone felt her other hand raise almost on its own, her fingers bending toward the earth, her wrist curling upward. Aidoneus watched as a dark stalk sprouted out of the freezing earth, turning green and almost glowing as it lifted. One six-petal asphodel blossom opened along its length, then another. She could see it in her mind as the petals peeled back, their anthers unfurling, their stamen standing on end. She frowned, "I only made a flower, Aidon. I'm not—"
"Concentrate!" he said sharply. Aidoneus felt an echo of energy surge all the way through him from the earth itself and flow out to her through their joined hands. His rings smoldered like coals.
Upward through her feet, outward through her hands and pulsing like the touch of her husband through her core, she felt the raw earth and all that lay beneath it surge into her. With a turn of her wrist, she channeled it through her outstretched fingertips. The asphodel stalk grew faster, the top bursting with an impossible mass of buds.
In her mind she saw fire— Aidon's chariot in the bowels of the earth outside Erebus, just before he claimed her. She saw the wreath from her hair, in her betrothed husband's uplifted hand, the ashes flying away as the heat set it aflame. She remembered picking the asphodel to make that wreath from this very ground, how the red-orange anthers had ignited as they traveled through the fires of the earth.
As the buds opened in front of her outstretched hand, one ember emerged, then another, swirling, the flames increasing as more buds opened in orange flames. The fire itself became a blazing ring that stretched in front of them, flaring with heat, melting the snow that clung to the plants around them.
Through the ring of fire, Aidoneus saw the silver threads of the ether and smiled triumphantly. They pulled and tugged at the flames and latched themselves to a speck in the distance that grew wider, coming into focus and pulling their destination toward them. He could make out the garden of the palace, the stone walls, and the fields beyond. His mouth dropped open as a shiver crept up his spine in a mixture of arousal and astonishment. This was impossible— no one could bridge the ethereal reach this way. Except for his wife. Aidoneus had been wrong— intriguingly wrong about her— Persephone was a goddess beyond his reckoning.
She opened her eyes and shuddered out a long breath, staring into the fire, her arm outstretched toward its center. She felt her husband's wonder and admiration; she felt the earth's energy and the pull of the fire. "The Phlegethon," she breathed.
It was only when she whispered it that Aidoneus recognized the circle of flame. He opened his eyes wide and a very old emotion he hadn't allowed himself to feel in aeons came rushing through him. Fear. She was drawing the fires from Tartarus itself. He swallowed hard. "Persephone..."
The voice was small— too small for him to notice. "I hear someone—"
"Persephone, don't listen to him! Close the gateway now! CLOSE IT!!!" he shouted at her.
"No," she replied calmly. Persephone felt his fear pulse into her hand and looked back to comfort him. "It's all right, my husband."
Aidoneus almost staggered back as she turned to him. Her eyes were rimmed in fire, glowing an orange that matched the circle before them. She calmly turned back to the ring of fire. For a moment he considered letting go of her hand, breaking the Key's connection to the ether and their home beyond, but feared that she would be pulled in and lost to either the Pit or the void. He had to try to reason with her. "Persephone; wife, do not listen to him. No matter what he—"
"She. It's a woman," she paused, listening, "Her name is Merope."
"Merope?" He had never sent anyone to Tartarus by that name. His brow knitted in confusion, and fear was slowly replaced by curiosity. He closed his eyes and connected with Tartarus all the way through her body toward her outstretched fingertips, focusing on the gateway she created. He listened for the voice.
Please help me, it said. I don't belong here.
"They all say that," he scoffed, withdrawing from it.
Aidoneus stopped. Now that was a name he recognized.
"Sorcerer king of Ephyra," Persephone continued. "Merope was his wife. He tricked them."
"The brothers. Your judges, Minos and Rhadamanthys, with a glamour. They thought she was Sisyphus. They presented her as Sisyphus to you and you sent her to Tartarus."
"Impossible. No mortal could ever summon sorcery strong enough to fool—"
"Gods above..." Persephone cursed under her breath shaking her head in shock, "...the things he did to her. Listen, Aidon."
He closed his eyes and focused again on the crying voice.
...us both on the funeral pyre... imprinted his essence on me as I burned... calls himself a deathless god king in Ephyra, now... a kinslayer... blasphemer... sent me in his place. Please Lord Hades, Polydegmon, you are a just god...
"Aidon, please, we must help her," she echoed, looked back at him, her eyes rimmed in fire, her face pleading with him.
A pyre, he thought. Ephyra's people were Thessalonian. The people of Thessaly don't build pyres; they bury their dead. Unless... He nodded to Persephone. "All right. I'll speak to the Hundred Handed Ones."
"They hear us," she said. The fire told her everything. They were the guardians of the Titans and the wicked. The jailers of the Pit of Tartarus. The vision of their home faded from the center of the circle, replaced with the gaping maw of black flames from her nightmares last night. She shuddered.
This time, Persephone recoiled. A sound so deep and resonant it almost made her nauseous welled up in fifty voices speaking as one from the dark fires. Aidon could hear it too. He protectively tightened his grip on her hand. "I've got you," he whispered.
"Wh-who are you?" she said.
More importantly, the many-voiced one asked, who are you?
"Kottos," Aidoneus said to the Hundred Handed One, "you are addressing my wife."
Ahh, Kottos said, my brothers and I have waited aeons for you, my queen. Persephone Praxidike Chthonios. She Who Destroys the Light. Carrier of Curses. The Iron Queen of the Underworld.
"What am I?" she whispered to herself, trembling.
Aidon could feel her faltering. "Sweet one, it's all right."
We are yours to command, Praxidike.
She straightened, then looked back at Aidon who nodded to her. She spoke to the fire, "A woman is being held in Tartarus. A glamour has been cast over her. Her name is Merope, and she was sent there in place of Sisyphus of Ephyra. I command that you release her at once from the Pit."
And what should we do with her?
"See that she is brought to the Palace of Hades. We must learn all we can from her," she turned back to Aidoneus, her eyes flaring in anger. "The sorcerer king must be brought to judgment for what he did to her."
As you wish, Praxidike.
The fire flared once and the maw of black flames vanished back into the ring. The fires calmed and grew friendly. Their home once again stood on the other side. Persephone looked at Aidon, her eyes returned to normal and her hand shaking in his grip. The sun started to dawn in the east, nearly obscured by storm clouds whipping flurries of snow around them. "Can we go home now?"
"Yes," he said quietly with a nod. She gripped his hand. He took a step forward and held her at the small of her back. Aidon just watched her, his heart racing. This was not the screaming girl he dragged into his chariot from the field of Nysa. His wife was a darkly magnificent creature, stepping through the ring of fire she created with him at her side. Persephone— his Queen.
The journey home was quick; mere steps. When the threads of the ether closed the ring of fire behind them, they found themselves standing in the palace gardens. The blanket of misty clouds above was awash in the brilliant colors of dusk, reflecting the light from the river Styx. It was so much warmer here, and she realized that she still had her husband's robes wound around her shoulders. The cold from mere moments before still clung to him. Persephone took off Aidon's himation and draped the dark fabric around his shoulder once more. He closed his eyes and inhaled as she sweetly attended to him; it smelled like her now— lilies, ocean mist and warm earth. He watched her carefully pin the golden brooch at his shoulder.
Aidoneus wrapped his arms around her, and she leaned into his chest. He pulled her closer, his hands gripping at her skin. They breathed shakily, both trying to understand what happened, what it meant, what they saw, what she was able to do. The tension left his fingers and he flattened his hands against her back, soothing and holding her. She sighed and closed her eyes, listening to each slowing breath. Her ear pressed over his heart, she slowly opened her eyes.
Persephone blinked at what she saw. "Aidon, this is the garden, isn't it? I didn't accidentally take us somewhere else, did I?"
"No, sweet one; you brought us home."
"What is that, then?"
He followed her gaze and saw rough bark on a slender tree trunk. When he looked up through the canopy of branches, he saw vibrant green leaves unlike any he'd ever seen, the boughs winding through the branches of another similar tree. Aidoneus and Persephone turned in a circle to see that they were surrounded by six such trees that stood twice their height, each one spread out to touch the one next to it.
"My dreams," they whispered in near unison and looked at each other in shock.
"You've seen these too?!" Persephone said.
"I hardly sleep as it is, and I see them every time I shut my eyes," he said, stunned. "They started when I brought you here. What about you?"
"Same," she broke away from him and walked over to the tree, smoothing her hand over the rough bark. "Every night. Last night, when I woke up and you held me... I saw these trees; then fire."
He walked over to a different tree and reached up to run his hand along one of the waxy leaves. "This is impossible..." he said under his breath. "Persephone! Touch the leaves; they're warm. Like the sun has been shining on them all day. Do you have any idea what they are? I've never seen anything like them in my realm."
"Pomegranate, I think? ...Hard to tell when they're so young." She walked around one tree and stared up through its branches at the sky. "It's getting dark; I'll be able to see them better tomorrow."
They circled the small grove, touching the leaves and branches as they went, and met on the opposite side under one of the trees. Persephone almost ran into the wall of his chest, distracted by the winding branches. She saw the same astonishment she felt written across his face.. Aidon drew her close again and held her face in his hands. "In all the aeons I waited for you, I never dreamed—"
She cut him off with a kiss, interrupting him before he said something she wasn't ready to hear. Persephone kissed him hard on the lips, and felt Aidon surge against her. A familiar coil tightened in her stomach. His hands wandered down her waist and over her hips as her tongue played against his. She brought her hands around him, her fingernails raking over his clothed back. They broke away and watched the fading light of dusk frame the silhouette of the trees.
"Aidon, we have to tell Hecate."
"Yes," he said, "Though I have a feeling she already knows. If these are tied to our dreams I should also speak with Morpheus..."
She looked up at him for a long moment and swallowed. "In Nysa when I created the ring of fire, I... I never thought I could do anything like that. Not ever. Thank you for showing me," she said, running a hand along his cheek. He turned his head and kissed her palm.
"You were magnificent."
"Then, you're not... upset that I can create a gateway like that? That I have more control over the ether than I thought I did— than you thought I had, and possibly more than you, even?"
"What?" he said in amused bewilderment.
"I'm just worried," she said looking at the ground and fidgeted, tapping her fingers together, "that you don't want me, as your consort, to be able to just create something like that my first time out. That what I did would somehow make you feel... emasculated... and that you wouldn't want me afterward."
His lips curled into a half smile as he tilted her chin up to look into her eyes again. Aidon's face turned serious once more. He grabbed her wrist and stepped toward her, pressing her hand over the hardness quickening under his clothes. He smirked when her eyes grew wide, then circled his arm around her waist and pulled her even closer. His heat arched into her hand, and he sucked in air through his teeth as her fingers closed around him through the fabric. Her lips parted and she shuddered, warmth flooding into her and echoing his arousal.
"Tell me again, Persephone, how you think I could feel emasculated by you," he crooned in the deepest register of his voice.
Her voice cracked, "I—"
He stole a kiss from her then, drawing her figure into his arms and tipping her back as she clung to him. Aidon mated his tongue with hers, the depth of their kiss a portent for all he wanted to do to her that night. His voice was low and dangerous, his words whispered against her neck when he broke away from her lips. "On the contrary, sweet one, I've never desired you the way I desire you now."
She kissed him just in front of his ear, feeling light headed, her stomach fluttering at his words and the sway he held over her body. "Aidon..."
"Please Persephone," he said grinding into her once more, "do not deny me anything tonight. I need you..."
He felt her tense.
He let out a long breath before continuing. "I would never dream of taking you unwillingly," he said, "but if this is what you want—"
Persephone kissed him hard, her body quaking. She felt her thighs twitch and moaned into his mouth as his hand came up to her breast, roughly cupping and molding her clothed flesh in his palm. She pulled back and whispered hoarsely to him, "Take me inside."
That was all he needed to hear. Aidon grabbed her hand and marched them out of the garden. He took them through the portico toward the entrance to the palace, pushing her against one of the heavy doors and kissing her hard as he pulled the other open. She darted out of his grasp with a nervous titter as the door swung wide and ran along the hallways ahead of him, bidding him to chase her, stopping suddenly at the column base of the stairs and biting her lower lip. He stalked toward her and crushed her body between the stone column and his own, his lips moving over her neck, earlobe and jaw line before capturing hers.