Author's Note: I sidetrack as I write my other stories. Heh.
"There, in front [at the ends of the earth], stand the echoing halls of the god of the lower-world, strong Hades, and of awful Persephone. A fearful hound guards the house in front ... keeps watch and devours whomsoever he catches going out of the gates of strong Hades and awful Persephone."
- Hesiod, Theogony 767
Such verses, full of dread of Hades and Persephone would not prepare the adventurer for the scene that was to unfold. If by chance, he or she managed to get past Cerberus, the three-headed (some others say fifty-headed) dog that guarded the Underworld's entrance, trick Charon, the ferryman of the dead, and get through the hordes of Underworld guardians… such a skilled adventurer would fall faint with disbelief at the sight of Hades, the feared god of the Underworld, smiling affectionately as he buckles a helmet on a young lady with fierce eyes similar to that of his. In all fairness, the smile that Hades bore, to outsiders was unnerving and sent shudders down one's spine. Unless you're family, in which case you might find it almost endearing.
"Now remember, Natsuki, the immortal do not fall in love with mortal, it only leads to tragedy." Hades, the King of the Underworld, God of Death and the Dead, gave his petulant, green-eyed daughter a serious look as he tied a helmet to his daughter gently. His voice echoed in the large cavern, lit by little twinkling balls of lights, which shone silver blue in the darkness.
Natsuki huffed, embarrassed with her regal father's display of affection in front of his attendants, who were standing at a respectful distance away from them. She bent down, hands placed in the earth, and scrunched her eyes shut, before pulling a gold nugget, size of a man's fist from the dark soil. Her father looked on proudly as his daughter removed the gold nugget. Those long hours instructing her how to harvest the riches of the earth paid off after all. After all, she was the daughter of Hades, who had dominion over everything under the earth! Noticing her father's proud gaze, Natsuki stood up, grinning and shoved the gold nugget into her leather bag, slung across her shoulders carelessly. She decided to remind her father of the utter ridiculousness of his anxiety. "Father, do I look the type to fall in love to you? Gah! And unlike you, I'm sure I can keep myself from abducting women to be my Underworld Queen."
"Woman. Singular. Goddess, too. The point I am making is that mortals are strictly off-limits." Hades frowned, and looked to his wife, the Queen of the Underworld for support.
Her mother, tall and face framed with straight flowing midnight-blue hair patted her shiny bronze helmet lovingly. Natsuki had inherited her dark hair, although her emerald-green eyes were clearly from her father. "Natsuki, your father's just worried for you. Play nice, now. And remember to let us know when you arrive in your lodgings."
"Father's being his overprotective self again. He DID abduct you, you know. Beats me how you're still with him." Natsuki unsheathed her sword, checking that it was well-cleaned, free of bloodstains from a previous hunt. Pushing it carefully back into its silver-decorated scabbard, she called for her horse.
Her mother's laughter, light and tinkling contrasted greatly with the usual gloomy atmosphere of the Underworld. "When a handsome, dark-haired god charms you away with his golden chariot, it's hard to resist. Plus, there wouldn't be adorable grumpy you without him."
The pale, dark-haired goddess sighed and climbed atop her horse. "I need some sunshine, it's too dark and dreary here. Thanks for Duran, Father. Goodbye, you both. See you in next winter." Goodbyes said, Natsuki reared her black steed and left for the outside world. She was going to be late meeting Mai and Nao, at this rate. Leaping with Duran into Charon the ferryman's boat, she urged him to row as fast as he could. "Though I suspect Nao's going to have a longer time saying her farewells than I did! Her parents are way more protective than mine!"
Back in a castle, in a land that was a fortnight's ride away from where Natsuki was, a crimson-eyed lady was practicing her naginata. Her movements were suffused with grace and expertise as she performed her practice sets. Sunlight poured in through the sole stained glass window in the room., colouring the pale grey stone floor in multicolour.
Her brown locks appeared golden in the light as she twirled, swinging her naginata such that it hit the sandbag hanging above her, giving her the appearance of a halo. Anyone would be entranced as they saw her move. Hence her decision to practice in the privacy of her rooms. She was a charmer, a persuader, and sometimes, when bored, a seductress, but when she practiced she didn't want anyone to interfere with epithets of love and adoration.
A knock on the door, and a servant dressed in purple and white, hair tied in a French braid, bowed as she entered. "Shizuru-sama, a messenger for you."
Shizuru stopped her naginata practice and leaned against her weapon, head tilted at just the right angle to express her interest in what the servant girl had to say. "May I know who the messenger is from?" A polite question, as expected of the brunette.
"I was not told. But the messenger is dark-haired, and has the most quaint pieces of glass in wires set about her eyes. She looks mighty pleased with herself and is bursting to the seams with news." The brown-haired servant girl giggled as she relayed the information, blushing slightly. She stood attentively at the door, waiting for Shizuru's response.
Shizuru smiled, setting her naginata down and looked into the mirror, ensuring that her appearance was unruffled by her recent exercise. "Ara, I think I know who that is. Thank you, Aoi. You may go." She wondered what news the friendly messenger brought this time. Perhaps more gossip about what her sisters, Anh and Calypso were up to these days, frolicking with some nymphs or other. She wondered if she could cut short her stay in this castle and join them. Nothing much happened in Garderobe nowadays. She came here, a few months ago, drawn by the Garderobe's reputation of having the best teachers in whatever skill, language or knowledge the world had. Not to mention the lively theatre and music culture the city boasted about. All kinds of mortals and gods were drawn to Garderobe, and with this potent mix of entities, the accompanying drama.
However, the city-state, the centre of Greek learning was at its calmest after the last furore over some goddess running away with some mortal and then turning into a tree-stump because her immortal ex-lover got jealous and cursed the two lovers. Shizuru laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. "Love," she mused, "is nothing but the success of persuasion, seduction and charming speech. How foolish to fall prey to love! With a mortal too!"
A red haired girl drew her bow, and shot a deer, but it ran off into the woods, arrow jutting out of its rear. Nao cursed under her breath. Her aim was off, as usual. Her father would be ashamed of her, even though her mother wouldn't care. The god of war, Ares preferred his daughter to practice the art of war, which often made her mother, the goddess of love and pleasure, Aphrodite, annoyed. "The best way is the way of pleasure and love, Nao-chan. Now forget that sword-practice you have with your father and join me in inspiring that mortal below in writing his little book called the Kama Sutra."
Nao sighed at the memory. It was liberating to get away from the petty rivalry her parents had. "Damn! Hey, mutt! Give it chase, will you? I'm tired." She stretched her arms, and slumped forward on her white mare. Beside her, Mai was tying a rabbit she'd just shot. A rabbit wasn't enough for a dinner to feed three young ladies, goddesses or not. Nao sighed again.
"Enough with the sighing, Nao. I'll get the deer. Like this." Natsuki raised her right arm, and her bright, alert eyes glazed over for a brief second. Moment later, they heard a thud in the direction the deer ran off in.
"That's cheating, Natsuki! Cheating! Your father will be ashamed of how blatantly you used your powers!" Mai scolded her childhood friend. Natsuki raised an eyebrow at her while climbing back on her dark steed. "Okay, he wouldn't, but really. What if there were mortals around? Our parents clearly said to-"
Natsuki interrupted the orange-haired goddess who was working up to a good nagging. "To conceal our identities as immortals. Yes, Mai, I remember. Don't worry, okay? We're three days ride from Garderobe! Woods around us, no one's around."
Mai laughed sheepishly. "Sorry I got carried away. Blame my mother, goddess of wisdom?"
"Aunt Athena also happens to be the goddess of war, and I doubt she would mind Natsuki killing off a deer for our hungry stomachs even if it's with her powers, Mai." Nao grinned as she rode past them to get the deer. An hour later, the deer and rabbit were skinned and their meat roasted over a hot fire. With full stomachs, the three childhood friends lay down, side by side, dropping off to sleep under the broad expanse of stars above them.
In a castle, three days away from where they slept, Shizuru was wide awake, looking out of her window. She looked down at the festivities in the courtyard on the western side of the castle, and sighed. "If only I didn't have to hide from my stalker. I might have gone too far with the charm last week. Now she's following me around, and I can't even flirt without fearing the person's going to get stabbed by the crazy woman!" She rubbed her tired eyes with the heel of her palms. "I bet that mortal won't even stop to think before hurting an immortal should I flirt with one. It's hopeless, utterly hopeless. I must do something about it." That thought in mind, Shizuru dressed for bed and fell into a fitful sleep.
Author's note: Review, if you'd like! The zombies in Time of Shambles was dampening the mood so here's a fic that's more lighthearted. I think.