You couldn’t really say the Underworld was ever a truly pleasant place. It was like being in a graveyard at night in the fall, when it’s cold and damp out. A thick mist hung around, making it difficult to see, and one had to be careful not just of different rock formations jutting out of the ground, but also the various spirits in the Underworld, looking for repentance or a quick way out. It was enough to sap the will out of a person in minutes if they weren’t really determined, but it was also still enough to really creep out Hermes as he ran his way through the Underworld. He made a point of spending as little time here as possible when he had to run down errands to Hades.
Hades himself was a perfectly pleasant and reasonable individual, in comparison to the other gods. Hermes himself wondered if it was because he had basically gotten himself the perfect position. Yes, he wasn’t the god of the Hellenistic World like Zeus was, but he was the god of the Underworld. He was the god of all that Greece was, and soon to be god of all that Greece is and ever will be. It was certainly a very powerful position to be in at any rate.
Hermes reached the outside of Hades’ palace, the large stone doors towering over Hermes as he approached. The palace was imposing and intimidating, meant to be the final obstacle that kept people out of Hades’ domain. He didn’t need people traveling into the Underworld to try and convince him to release their family members or a king from their stay in the Underworld. Hermes motioned to knock before the doors started to creak and open on their own. The grinding of stone on stone resonated loudly as the doors opened, and Hermes shrugged before walking into the palace.
Hades and Persephone were sitting on a pair of thrones, looking down the long throne room as Hermes approached. Hades’ long, wispy white hair and black sullen eyes made him look like a specter sitting on the throne, making his warm grin seem alien on his face. Persephone’s dazzling black and purple hair, done in large lazy curls, framed her beautiful face. She was a bit smaller than Lyra and her chest wasn’t as large, but the similarity between the two was obvious. Hermes bowed as he got close to the thrones, before standing up.
“So, what did Mother say? Did she agree? Please tell me she said yes, Hermes.” Persephone pleaded as she looked at Hermes. She was obviously distraught, and Hades grabbed her hand to comfort her. Hermes scratched the back of his head, looking away.
“Please Hermes, answer her. She’s been really worried about her mother. Truth be told, I think all of the pantheon is.” Hades said, causing Hermes to clear his throat and nod.
“The situation has gotten pretty complicated actually. Demeter is back, like she’s causing the plants and crops to grow again, so we’re not going to end up losing all of our followers and offerings. But I didn’t get a chance to deliver the message to her.” Hades raised an eyebrow, while Persephone stared at him.
“Hermes, what do you mean you weren’t able to deliver my message? What could have prevented you from doing so?” Persephone asked, her voice breaking at the end.
“The problem was, she wasn’t alone at her temple. There was a mortal woman there with her, or really at this point it is probably more accurate to say a partially divine woman with her. She was dressed in your clothes, her hair color was the same as yours, and she looked incredibly like you Persephone.” Persephone gasped and put her hand over her mouth as she looked at Hermes with growing horror on her face.
“Are you suggesting what I think you are Hermes?” Hades said, his face becoming severe. Gone was the warm smile he had to greet Hermes.
“She called herself Persephone, and she called herself Demeter’s daughter. After I met her, Demeter ended up throwing me outside of her temple. I don’t think I could have given her the message if I wanted to, she was furious with me.” Silence hung as Hermes stopped talking, leaving Hades and Persephone to contemplate what he had said. Hermes awkwardly lowered his head a bit, avoiding their gaze.
Persephone broke out into a sob, crying into her hand. Hades looked over, his face clouding over with concern, as he gripped her hand tighter. She held onto him as tightly as possible as she cried loudly, her sobs echoing in the large throne room. Hades stood up out of his throne and Persephone ran towards him, holding him tight as she cried into his shoulder as he wrapped his arms around her. His eyes closed as he gently rubbed her back, doing his best to comfort her. Hermes looked back to see if he could get away from the scene, but the door to the room was too far back.
Persephone gathered herself in time, sniffling as she looked at Hades.
“Are you okay, my love? Do you need some time alone?” Hades said, his concern evident in how his face hung. Persephone sniffled, rubbed the tears from her eyes, and shook her head.
“No I’m…fine now. I needed a moment, that’s all.” Hades nodded and held her close for a bit longer, before slowly letting her release the hug and leading her back to the throne. Persephone sat down, giving one last sniffle as she wiped her face again, before composing herself. Hades sat down once Persephone had calmed down, looking at Hermes.
“My apologies, Hermes. I’m sure you have places to go and messages to deliver.” Hades said, causing Hermes to awkwardly chuckle.
“No it’s not really a bother. There’s nothing to apologize for, I understand that the news really is shocking. I’m still grasping at the edges of it, waiting for it to really sink in.” Hades nodded to that, as Persephone grabbed his hand. They looked each other in the eyes before Persephone nodded.
“My mother means to replace me. She abducted a mortal woman, and is now changing her into a replacement daughter. A replacement specifically to be me. Oh Hades…I fear we were too late. We should have gotten in contact with her sooner. Now she has clearly fallen into the throes of madness. I feel so sorry for that mortal girl, who will never have a normal life again. To have divinity forced upon her so…” Persephone trailed off. Hermes was a bit surprised at the empathy Persephone had.
“It is something I had feared as well. Not long ago a bunch of souls came in all at once into the Underworld, and many of them had been asking about a woman named Lyra. I didn’t really know what to make of it at first, so I simply told them that I had not seen the soul they were talking about. One of them had said that she had disappeared after going to a Temple of Demeter to pray, so I assume this is our mortal replacement.” Hades said, making Persephone and Hermes nod.
“What should be done then, Lord Hades? Obviously this is a major transgression but it does seem to be allowing her to return to her duties as a goddess. I don’t know if causing the end of humanity would be worth punishing her.” Hermes said, causing Hades to nod.
“It’s not really our decision to make anyways. It would be Zeus’, with the counsel of the other Olympians. As much as I have a personal investment in the outcome in it, I fear there is not much I can actually do. My domain and Demeter’s are rather fundamentally opposed after all.” Hermes nodded, before Hades turned to Demeter.
“What do you think? This is your mother after all, Persephone. It would really be rather insensitive to discuss this without your advice.” Persephone nodded and paused, deep in thought. She did her best hiding it, but her mind was clouded with a maelstrom of different feelings. Confusion, anger, sadness, concern, pain, and even jealousy. She was in no small part jealous of the human who had taken her place, the human who was being used to be a replacement daughter.
“I…want to see them. I want to see my mother and the mortal. I want to be able to look them in the eyes. I want my mother to see me and see that I’m still here for her. I want the mortal to see me and maybe whatever spell my mother has her under will break. I can’t just sit here and pretend like nothing is wrong. My mother is mad but maybe seeing that I’m happy and have a loving husband will snap her out of it.” Hades nodded and thought briefly.
“Hermes, deliver a message to Zeus for me. Since Demeter has returned and is now restoring life back to the plants, I think a banquet is in order. A true feast. One for all the Olympians, including myself. I highly doubt that she would willingly choose to not attend. It would be too suspicious if she did not join a feast in her honor after all. There, then, let her choices be laid out for all of Mt. Olympus to see.”
“As you wish, Lord Hades.” Hermes nodded and, seeing an opportunity to excuse himself, quickly left the palace. The doors shut behind him, and with Hermes gone, Hades sighed loudly, holding his head in his hands. Persephone got out of her throne and walked over to him, resting her hand on his shoulder.
“I can’t help but feel that I have managed to make this situation even worse than Zeus had already. I should have let you see your mother as soon as possible. I never considered how bad she would take it.” Persephone shook her head, lightly rubbing Hades shoulder.
“You should not blame yourself, it was Zeus’ decision not to ask my mother for permission to marry. Even then, I should have tried to speak reason to my father about it. I knew her more than anyone else in the world could.” Hades grabbed Persephone’s hand and held it tightly to his shoulder, looking down.
“I think the truth is, the blame falls down on all of us. On Zeus more perhaps but this was avoidable. I’m so deeply sorry, my beautiful Persephone.” Hades got on his knees and bowed before standing back up, right into the embrace of Persephone.
“I promise you this. I will make up for this, Persephone. You are my wife and I care for you so…you will be my equal down here in the Underworld. This realm will be as much yours as it will be mine. Your name will leave the mouths of mortals with fear and reverence as mine does. My glory shall be shared with you, eternally, if that is what you so wish, Persephone.” Persephone gasped and held her husband a little tighter. She wasn’t expecting something as dramatic as that. If he was telling the truth, it was no empty gesture either.
“I…I don’t know. I want to see my mother before making any decisions on that. That is the kind of decision that is going to change how the world works when I make it and I don’t want any regrets.”
“Of course. I won’t force this on you.” Hades nodded and they slowly broke the embrace. The palace grew quiet as they were both in contemplation. They hadn’t sat back down in the thrones either, they both simply stood facing each other as they thought about what they wanted to say next. What they could say next in such a bizarre situation. Persephone moved over to the throne, making to sit in it before simply grabbing the arm and turning around.
“Do you think there is something we could do? Some way we could help the mortal? Maybe if the mortal were able to get away from my mother, she would come back to her senses. It might be enough.” Hades thought about it for a bit, shaking his head.
“I don’t know, Persephone. There’s only so much that can be done from down here, and if I were to leave the Underworld and come back to Olympus without warning it would cause a lot of commotion. I also wanted to not voice this in front of Hermes but, it’s possible that the mortal is part of this. There would certainly be a lot in it for her.”
“I don’t know if there a mortal alive who would be brave or stupid enough to choose to replace a goddess, Hades. It would be a tremendous act of blasphemy to do so. It would have had to be my mother’s idea to do it. So let’s quiet those thoughts. If you can think of anything that might help, anything at all…” Hades simply nodded as he sat back down on the throne. An idea was already forming in his head about what he could do from down here. He wasn’t very excited about doing it to a potential victim, but if he did it right Demeter wouldn’t notice. He closed his eyes as he felt power begin to run through him. He opened his hand and let his index finger drift upwards as a pale blue haze began to float up from it. The haze quickly stopped coming out from his finger, just enough to do the job that needed to be done as it floated up and up.
He hoped it would do something.