A servant peers upon the dinner party with trepidation. He fidgets in place as he tries to figure out the best way to interrupt his Lord and Lady, deliver his important news without letting the guests know that there is a problem in the realm. He looks over the assembly noting that tonight it is a small party, just his dark-clad lord, his lovely bride in brown and burgundy and their guest who is rather painful to look upon.
His fidgeting and hand wringing attracts the notice of his mistress. “Yes, Gerald? Is there a problem?”
The servant starts to go to her side, when her husband also speaks. “Out with it. There can be nothing here worth that level of anxiety. Have the girls been at it again?”
“There is knocking at the gate.”
“Knocking at the gate?!” says the royal couple in unison.
Their brightly attired guest speaks up, “I take it that is unusual?”
The king stands up in such haste that his heavily adorned chair threatens to tip over. “Where are the hounds? Where is Kerbie?!”
“Their whimpering can be heard but no one has had the nerve to look out…”
“Very unusual,” states the shining guest.
The couple moving as one rushes out of the room leaving their guest chuckling in glee but too lazy to bother following his hosts. “All in time” he mutters as he swallows the liquid in his cup. “All in good time.”
By the time the king reaches the gate, his face is dark with worry and anger. A man of few words, he gestures for the gate to be open, while his wife stands quietly at his side.
“About time someone opened up. Your hospitality is rather lacking.” States a heavily cloaked woman, stooped with age.
“Mother?!” said the queen in shock. “What are you doing here?!” Rushing to her mother’s side, she displays dismay at the physical state of her parent. Helping the unexpected visitor over the threshold, she looks at her husband in confusion.
“What have you done to my dogs!” thundered her husband not knowing what else to say. Internally he worried over what this visit would mean to his realm, his new marriage and politics in general.
“Ah, so he doesn’t keep you locked up. I had wondered. The rumors of you willingness are proved true. How you pain me, girl.” Looking at her son-in-law as she unwinds the black fabric from her upper body she states, “as for your mutts, they are fine…just a little tied up at the moment. Getting vines to grow down here was harder and easier than I thought it would be.”
Haides groaned. “Why are you here Demeter? Why have you left the surface for this trip to Gaia’s belly? Why have you deserted your realm for my own?”
Persephone stares in horror at the disheveled state of her golden mother. Her hair is white and unkempt while her skin reflected an age much older than when she last saw her mother months before. Despite her feisty demeanor, the eyes of the earth mother appear reddened and defeated.
Looking at her daughter arrayed as befitting a queen, “I was advised to come see how you faired with my own two eyes. Never did like you in dark colors. Suits you well enough, I suppose.”
With that the gates are closed and servants are sent to the Harpies with requests to cut loose the hell hounds and Kerberos. “That will give the girls something to do other than harry the servants.” Hades states to his wife as she helps her mother up the stairs.
Persephone nods and whispers, “If you will return to our guest, I will see to making Mother presentable and join you soon.”
“I heard that. My hearing has not declined with the rest of me you know.”
“But your temper certainly has.”
“Becoming a queen has certainly made you impertinent.”
“Becoming a wife and queen has given me the freedom to speak my mind.” Calling to the upstairs servants, she requests water to be drawn for a bath.
The two ladies appear in the dining room with Demeter arrayed in dark gray clothing, white hair piled artfully upon her head. She has been quiet and thoughtful during her toiletry, observing the honor paid to her child in this realm of the dead. Upon entering, Haides rises from his seat, prodding their guest with his gaze to do the same. He then goes to his wife, kisses her on the forehead and seats her in her customary seat to his heart side. Courteously, he sits his unexpected visitor at the foot of the small table. While tradition would have it otherwise, he wanted his wife close and her mother not.
“Well Helios,” she says. “So this is where you’ve been spending your time of late.”
The brightly coifed guest, chuckles, saying “Well with what you’ve been doing to the land, their didn’t seem much point of hanging around.”
“Mother? What have you done?” asked Persephone.
“You were stolen from me. Your screams were heard. I wandered the land looking for you having no care for my duties.”
“What about the mortals?” cried the horrified bride.
“Why did you eat of the pomegranate?” cried the mother.
“While the method of my beloved lord’s marriage proposal was ill done, it is a love match. I am here of my free will. I ate of Hera’s fruit because I wanted this marriage. His methodology was because of your refusal to ever see me as anything other than a child.”
“You are MY child and always will be! Why the scream if you want to be here? Why did you not tell me of your relationship?”
“I tried many times and many ways. You always refused to hear. You kept sending me off to pick flowers and “play” with my friends. Repeatedly calling me by my childhood nickname of Kore and refusing to see me as a woman grown. I love you but I could find no way to make you hear me. The scream happened when I suddenly was picked up from behind by Hades when he snuck upon me. The best flower in the meadow, he said. Laughter followed. Followed by feelings of slight unease and daring when my love led me into his chariot and immediately back into his realm.
Hades interjected, “Yeah that little jaunt was just long enough for the girls to harry the servants into fits of terror. Yet it was well worth the trouble it caused in my realm, though I am dismayed to hear of what you have done to your own.”
“Love, would you stop referring to those poor beings as girls. They serve an important function in the world. Please give them the respect they deserve.”
Helios wasn’t sure whose eyebrows were raised higher over Persephone’s statement, Hades or Demeter. He quickly picked up his cup to disguise the smile on his face. No need to remind them he was present. Front row seat for the tale of the ages. Nice!
Hades cleared his throat and apologized to his beloved. “You assessment is valid and I will try to remember it.” Turning back to Demeter, “now that you have seen your daughter and the high place that she holds, what will you do now? Will you still force her into attending you upon the surface for half the year?”
“Yes. She is my heart. Without her I have no desire to see to my duties. For the good of the mortal world and for the offerings that our relatives desire, she must return. However, as displeased as I am by this marriage, I will honor Hera’s mandate and will not fight her return to you. Be aware that as the heart of the land falls to the underworld, so will the greenery. I will then teach mortals the methods of planting, harvesting and storage to see them through until my daughter springs again to the surface.”
Hades slams his fists down on the table in anger causing its contents to shake, rattle and spill. All except the cup of Helios, still held in his hand in case of the sudden need to drown his laughter. Persephone reaches over and places her hand upon her husband’s tightly clenched fist. “It is as my father said it would be. For me, I will have the best of both worlds: your love, respect and a home; as for above, the greenery and flowers which cannot grow down here. This is what Father meant when he said our marriage would not be idyllic.”
“I thought he meant our strong personalities and grayness of our realm.”
“No. You only hoped that.”
“You are wise, my beautiful bride and well worth any price”, bringing her hand to his mouth for a kiss. “Very well, but in return, I will let loose the seeds needed for your greenery and flowers. I will also let loose the shades, so that they too can visit their loved ones. A hunt will be sent out to retrieve them…and you if necessary.”
“It is done.” Demeter stands and nimbly moves around the table to Helios’s side. Grabbing him by the ear, she drags him to his feet. “You can have done with your smirking and gossip gathering. You have worked to do. It will be a long process to prepare the land again for plants.”
Shoving him out the door, Demeter turns to say farewell to her daughter. At some point in this process, Persephone notices that her mother appears…healthier. Her gown now has more dark green than gray to it, her hair is now a very pale yellow and her skin no longer sags like an ill fitting gown. “I cannot approve this marriage but I do hope you will be happy. I am glad that I came to see you and I hope in time your husband and I can find some mutual accord.” Nodding to Haides, Demeter exits the dining room. Sounds could be heard of her harrying Helios and calling for her things.
“Well” huffed Persephone. “That went better than we thought it would.” Haides pulls her into his embrace, nodding his ascent. His lips seeks her own in a private vow to enjoy every minute he has with her while she is close, only to have a mournful howl cause him to break off the kiss. Every minute that the realm will spare him that is.