A young woman looked out over the fields that she used to plow, a frown coming to her face. A wide breadth of dead plants spanned in front of her, plants that had once grown majestic and tall now wilted to practically nothing. She struggled to find even a single patch of green, only seeing some short grasses on the very edge of the field. It wasn’t due to poor rains, or an insect infestation that had caused the crops to fail this badly.
It was the Goddess of the harvest, Demeter, that was the root source of all of this. Scarcely had the teachings of agriculture and harvesting been passed down to mortal man before Demeter had discovered the fate of her daughter. In grief, anguish, and anger, she had closed herself off from the mortal realm, and without her, life was dying. The woman looked in her house for what remained of stored food, but it was running preciously empty.
“There’s about a week’s worth of good grain if we stretch it…I know Father mentioned that he was going out into the wilderness to hunt and maybe to find some good food left, although even the forests were dead according to travelers…” She sighed, holding her head in her hands. They were almost certainly going to run out of food, and then probably starve.
“Oh Mighty Zeus…you wouldn’t allow this to happen? For all of your worshippers to starve to death?”
Just then, there was a sharp knocking at the door. The woman got up, quickly composed herself, and answered it. Standing in front of her was one of her friends, whose bright red hair was always the talk of the town. Some had said she was blessed by the gods and would live a miraculous life, but she looked thin and a little haggard.
“Hello Lyra…I’m sorry to arrive without saying anything, but I was wondering if you had anything you can spare. My grandmother is old and she’s all I have…even just getting enough grain for one meal would be enough.” Tears were coming to the redhead’s eyes as she pleaded. Lyra shifted a bit on the spot, before looking around. She did not know where her parents were, but she couldn’t turn her friend away. She waved her hand quickly, ushering the redhead inside and shutting the door.”
“Listen…Thea we don’t have a lot of food ourselves. I can’t give you much, and you’ll need to get out of her quickly. My mother would be angry if she knew I was doing this.” Lyra said as she prepared a small pouch to put some grain in. As she poured the grain in, she felt a wave of sadness come over her. There was no way she was going to be able to fill the pouch up all the way, so she was going to have to give her friend the minimum amount possible.
“Thank you Lyra…everyone is so very stingy with their food right now. I know the omens look bad, but I think that Demeter will come back. She has to. She’s the Goddess of Life and the Earth, there is no way she is just going to allow everything to die off.” Lyra nodded, not having the courage to say anything verbal. She tied up the pouch with a miserable amount of grain in it, just enough that she thought she could space, before turning around to hand it to Thea.
With more of a good look at Thea, Lyra gasped softly, involuntarily. She wasn’t just thin and haggard, but rather she looked like she was wasting away into a walking skeleton. She hadn’t taken that good of a look at her while in the doorway with the sun shining behind her, but in the house it was clear as day that she hadn’t eaten for a while. Lyra mumbled to herself before turning around and starting to scoop more grain in. It was definitely more than they could afford to spare for Thea…but she couldn’t see her friend, normally so beautiful and the darling of the town, looking like she was awaiting Hades.
“Here you go Thea, there should be enough for you and your grandmother to eat for two days, maybe three if you stretch it thin. I’m sorry we can’t help more…” Lyra said as she handed the pouch over, making Thea bow slightly.
“Gods bless you Lyra…thank you so much. We’ll repay this in full and then some, I swear!” Lyra simply nodded, feeling a pang of regret. There was no taking it back now, but she felt her stomach rise as she considered how much she was giving away.
“Head back to your grandmother Thea. Don’t make her wait for a meal.” Lyra said coldly, although Thea didn’t notice. She quickly hurried out of the house, and Lyra slumped against the wall as she struggled with her feelings. There was no way she could turn away Thea, she didn’t have it in her heart to tell her no, and she couldn’t help but feel bad for her. But…giving away food was a decision she was starting to regret.
“If Mother was here…she would have told her to leave, that we didn’t have enough to spare…I guess even now I’m not as cruel…” Lyra sat in that position for a while, long enough for the sun to move across the sky, when she finally allowed herself to stand up. Her father wasn’t back yet and wouldn’t be for at least a couple of days, so no one would know she did this.
“There has to be something…maybe if I pray to Demeter, she might answer. Nothing else has worked and everyone else has failed…but I should at least do it. Tell her what is happening to her followers, beg her to return. Something has to work.”
Demeter’s temple wasn’t that far away from town, only a few hours walk. As she prepared a small amount of food and water, the door to the small house opened and her mother came in. There was a permanent scowl across her face…Lyra couldn’t remember the last time she genuinely saw her mother smile. Between the crops failing and the general tension between her Mother and Father, there was probably nothing really left to smile about.
“Are you going somewhere, Lyra?” she asked, with a tone of voice just shy of anger. Lyra shrunk down a bit before responding.
“Yes Mother…I am going to head to the Temple of Demeter. I know it probably won’t do any good…but maybe if I kneel and beg Demeter will come back. Even just for a short time.”
Her mother shook her head, before sitting down on a chair and sighing. “It’s folly, child. Demeter is gone. She may never return. To assume that the gods care about us mortals to that degree is lunacy, I’m of the mind.” Lyra covered her mouth in shock.
“Mother…that’s blasphemy…you’ll get punished by the gods if you continue that.”
“Bah! What more punishment could they give? Sure, Zeus could strike me down with a lightning bolt but that would be a preferable fate to starving to death. Go if you insist, Lyra. I’ll have some food for you when you return.” Lyra nodded slowly and carefully made for the door. She didn’t have a good read on what her mother’s emotions were, but she had never seen her like this before. For someone who had been strict with her about giving proper respect to the gods…seeing her like this scared Lyra. As she opened the door, she slid through the small gap and shut it behind her, walking quickly away from the house.
‘Just get some distance away from her…you can push her out of your mind then.’ she told herself as she kept walking, moving from the dead field onto a well-trodden dirt path. This one would lead straight to one of Demeter’s temples. Lyra tried to push out her thoughts as she walked along the path, but as she looked all around her, it was pretty clear the extent of the damage Demeter’s absence had caused. It wasn’t just the fields that were dying, all the plant life on either side of the path was also dead too, and the trees were barren without any leaves to speak of. There did truly seem to be no life around anymore. Lyra couldn’t even hear any birds singing.
‘If all the animals are dying off too…what are we going to eat? Oh Gods, this really is bad. Please Demeter…’ Lyra started to run forward, hoping to save even just a little bit of time getting to the temple.
Demeter’s Temple was maybe the last bastion of life left in the area. There were some green plants surrounding the temple and even a couple of flowers, although they were small and looked sickly compared to the flowers Lyra was used to. Demeter’s residual divinity was keeping things alive here, although not well. The Temple itself was not particularly grand, but it was big enough to at least hold a couple of worshippers at a time. Lyra put her hand on one of the stone pillars outside of the entryway as stared inside, looking to see if there was anyone else in the temple. Usually there would be a priestess or an oracle there offering praise and worship…but it seemed that the temple was deserted.
Lyra slowly walked in, moving towards the statue of Demeter standing in the center of the temple. It was still in good condition, although the last offering to Demeter hadn’t been cleaned up, leaving some old food lying in front of the statue. Lyra got up to the statue and grabbed the old offerings, tidying them up before kneeling in front of the statue and starting to pray.
“O Great Goddess Demeter…please hear this prayer of your loyal and humble follower. We wish for your return, Goddess Demeter. Your grief is understandable and we grieve with you, Goddess Demeter. However, your followers are running out of food. Without your presence, crops and plant life are dying off, the animals are not eating, and we are starving. Please, O Great Goddess Demeter, return to us. Show pity on your creation and restore life to the Earth.”
Demeter laid in her bed, a brilliant shimmering blanket covering her as she stared at a mug in front of her. Her eyes were reddened with dark bags under them, and she groaned as she grabbed a mug full of wine and chugged it back. Her body glowed with a soft green light as she slowly got up, the blanket falling down revealing herself fully. In terms of human appearance, she would appear to be a beautiful, middle-aged woman with long, flowing, slightly curly green hair that shimmered like blades of grass on a summer day. She wasn’t wearing any clothes, exposing her naked body to the elements, her large, slightly sagging breasts hanging prominently off of her chest.
“There’s someone at the temple…uggghhhh…my head…” Demeter grabbed her head slightly, feeling a pang of pain.
“I really should stop drinking this much…hangovers are awful…” Demeter got up, walking away from her bed and refilled her mug with more wine. She made her way back over to the bed, and was about to crawl back inside when she heard a faint voice.
“-restore life to the Earth.” rang out almost like a whisper, but Demeter groaned as she turned around walking towards a room with a small portal in the center of it. It gave a top down view of the temple that Lyra was at, and Demeter rubbed her eyes as she sat down in front of it.
“I’m not going to be doing anything…but this might be good for a laugh. Nobody has bothered to worship me in a couple of months.” Demeter opened her eyes and a loud gasp came out of her mouth. She grabbed the wooden edge of the portal after putting down her mug.
“Persephone!? Wait…no…that’s not her…you’re drunk Demeter.”
The human in the portal did look a lot like Persephone, however. Her hair was similar in shape and length, but the mortal’s was a raven black in comparison to Persephone’s dark violet. Her face was also similar but a little more worn down and rugged.
“I mean Persephone never needed to work a day in her life really…and was a god…so of course she would still be perfectly soft and smooth. But it’s almost charming in a way…you can tell she works hard…”
The rest of the mortal’s body was also similarly proportioned, although Demeter snickered as she took another swig of wine.
“Her breasts are bigger. Definitely bigger. Such a beautiful mortal…maybe I’ll listen to just a little bit seriously. This wine is really doing me in.” Demeter listened to the mortal’s prayers, learning that her name was Lyra, and that everything had gone to absolute shit outside since she decided she wasn’t going to do her godly duty. Demeter sighed as Lyra continued to pray, continued trying anything that would get the goddess to stir and return to her role.
“Well if you want me to return, go down to Tartarus and bring me back Persephone…although…”
Demeter leaned in. Slowly, a sinister smile was coming across her face.
“My my, mortal Lyra. You do look so much like my daughter…what are you, her reincarnation or something? If I dressed you up and dyed your hair, I’m not sure how many people could truly tell the difference between you and Persephone…”
Demeter started to laugh. It wasn’t a cheerful, hearty laugh like one would expect. It was a sinister laugh, which sounded akin almost to madness.
“I could…make you my daughter. You’d be so beautiful. Almost a spitting image. Maybe even more beautiful. Yes. Oh, my Persephone…you are coming home. My Persephone!” Demeter thrummed with divine power as her headache started to go away, and as clothes miraculously appeared on her person. She looked every bit as splendorous as a goddess should, and she quickly grabbed a mirror as she worked to reduce the redness in her eyes and the bags from lack of sleep. Trivial things for a goddess to deal with. She looked into the mirror, at her own reflection, with eyes smoldering with dangerous intensity and a grin that couldn’t help but look predatory.
“Oh yes! I’ll come back! I’ll no longer need to weep! Who needs a daughter who marries herself off without telling you!? I’ll restore life to that miserable piece of rock for you, Persephone!” Demeter yelled, her voice echoing in the empty halls as she prepared her energy to teleport her to her temple.
“You’ll be my Persephone, forever! A daughter who is only mine, forever!”
Demeter disappeared suddenly, without fanfare. The halls grew quiet again.
Lyra didn’t know for exactly how long she had been praying, but the sun was starting to set over the horizon. She had tried everything in order to get the Goddess to answer her: praise, libations, the promise of offerings. She had even said she would live her entire life as her priestess if necessary. But the Goddess had stirred to no promises, no drinks, no praise. The Temple remained empty except for just Lyra. She sighed despondently, knowing she was going to have to return back home.
As she stood up and turned around to leave the temple, she saw the temple doors start to shut in front of her. She dashed forward, not wanting to get stuck in the temple overnight.
“Please wait, I’m still here!” Lyra yelled as she ran, but that almost seemed to make the doors slam shut faster. Lyra pushed against the doors to try and get them to open, but they refused to budge. It wasn’t a matter of size or weight; no matter what Lyra did the doors would yield not even an iota to her.
“Now now dear mortal…there is no need to leave after such heartfelt appeals, is there?”
The voice rang out through the temple, and Lyra froze up. It was beautiful…maybe even too beautiful. It was the voice of a mother who was stern and yet so intimately caring. It was a voice with power, and yet one that was also as sweet as honey. A voice so full of humanity that it ceased to be human. It was the voice of a goddess. Lyra turned away and saw the goddess she had been praying to standing in front of her, standing in front of the statue.. She started to shake involuntarily out of fear.
‘Oh gods…I’ve never seen a god before…and one of the Olympians even…what do I do what do I do what do I do…’ Lyra shook until she began to prostate herself.
“That won’t do, mortal. Stand up. You have no need, and never will have any need, to demean yourself in such a fashion. Stand up, proud.” Demeter words were simply that, words, but to Lyra, they were the commands of a goddess which could not be ignored. She quickly stood up, working to fight off the shakiness from her obvious fear, and look at Demeter as proudly as she could.
“Tell me, child, your name. The name your parents gave you.” Demeter spoke softly, making Lyra gulp.
“I’m Lyra, o Goddess.”
“Lyra…a beautiful name. For what purpose did you come to my temple, Lyra?”
“U-um…well…I was asking for you to return to the Earth…since everything is dying…” Demeter nodded.
“I have made a big problem haven’t I. I would probably not retain much favor from the gods if I caused all of their followers to die of starvation. Shall we make an arrangement, Lyra?”
“W-what kind of arrangement, o Goddess?”
“I’ll return to the Earth and share my blessing. I’ll restore life to the forests, to the fields, to every blade of grass and every leaf on a tree. But you must come with me. You are to live with me, your new Mother, and as my daughter Persephone, for the rest of your life.” Demeter smiled, and Lyra felt a wave of chills crawl down her spine. Something was deeply wrong with Demeter. Could Lyra even agree to those terms?
“But I’m not P-Persephone. I’m not a goddess. I’m just a m-mortal, o Goddess. There’s no way I could-” Lyra gasped as Demeter closed the distance between them almost instantly. One second Demeter had been at least twenty feet away from her, and the next, she was looking directly into Lyra’s eyes. Her eyes blazed with an intensity that made Lyra want to shrink down and disappear from existence. Demeter brought up her hand and gently stroked Lyra’s face, causing her to whimper gently.
“Don’t worry my dear Persephone. Everything can be fixed in due time. You’ll be a spitting image of my Persephone, a proper divinity, and my loving, sweet, daughter without a shred of independence. Mine, forever and ever.” Lyra felt something in her gut churn as the reality of the statements started to hit in.
‘Oh gods, she’s not going to let me be me anymore is she!? I’ve got to get out of here!’
“Truthfully Persephone, you didn’t have a choice in this arrangement.” Demeter put her finger to Lyra’s forehead and forced her divine power into the mortal, causing her to cry out and fall to the floor. A bright, deep flash of green washed over her like a powerful wave and dragged her mercilessly. Lyra’s head swam, reeling from a direct blast with a god’s divine essence. The Temple was spinning quickly, worse than any time Lyra had ever gotten drunk off of wine. There was no strength in her left to stand, she was left in a pile in front of Demeter, who looked down on her and smiled.
Lyra couldn’t tell what that smile meant. Her head simply wasn’t working anymore. It was full of green. Any fear or trepidation had almost instantly been wiped away. She couldn’t stand, and she could barely focus on anything, but she felt. Green. Green was the only feeling she could possibly muster. There wasn’t anything working to tell her that green was just a color and not a feeling.
“Let’s go home, Persephone. We have so much to do with you.” Demeter picked Lyra up from off the ground, and Lyra simply let it happen. The green was now starting to feel something…it felt good. It filled her body with warmth. Now that she was being held, it felt amazing. Lyra instantly relaxed, the stress leaving her body, although she had no idea where that stress came from. The lady was carrying her. The lady whose name she couldn’t remember. Gradually as she looked at her, a name came through out of the green. It was so bright compared to the rest of her green mind. Such an easy word.
“Mother…!” Lyra squeaked happily as she stared at Demeter, almost lovingly. Her eyes had become a solid green color from Demeter’s mind blast, so it was impossible to tell what lied underneath them.
“Yes darling…I’m your Mother. Now and forever. You’ll need no one else. We’re going to fix you Persephone. I’m going to make sure you remember who you are. Not the mortal woman Lyra…but the beautiful daughter of Demeter and goddess, Persephone!” Demeter chuckled as she pressed a finger to Lyra’s forehead again. She considered pouring more of her essence into Lyra immediately in order to finish the job. It would be trivial for a goddess of her power to change the mortal’s mind. But she held herself.
‘That would be unsatisfying, I think. I want to see her admit it of her own free will. My daughter doesn’t need to be a broken toy to be my daughter. I want her to become Persephone, completely and fully. Not just a doll.’ Demeter smiled, although it completely lacked anything resembling warmth. Lyra smiled back, completely oblivious.
“We’re going to be a happy family again, my Persephone.” Demeter said, before kissing Lyra on the forehead as they both disappeared from the temple. The doors gradually opened up, as a man and a woman entered the temple. They looked around but found nothing in the temple that was out of the ordinary. They examined the doors again, pushing and pulling and finding them working perfectly fine, before leaving, confused on why the doors had been unable to be opened just a few minutes before.