1. The Empty Chair
It was cold in hell, so damn cold, but Hades was used to it. After all, he was fated to spend an eternity there seated on his throne, and such an uncomfortable seat it was. The ebony was strictly sculpted, allowing for no unwonted comfort. What was worse, the throne beside his, petite and more forgiving in design, was empty.
And it would always be empty.
He repressed a sigh at the painful sight. Hell was a blasted realm, unfit for those of softer design. Why he'd had the second chair constructed beside his remained a mystery to him. No, that wasn't right. He knew why he'd set out a second chair to his right, just the right distance for him to turn his head and whisper to whoever was seated beside him, to take the hand resting on the arm of the adjacent chair into his; it was hope—And damn Pandora for unleashing such a horrid demon upon men and Gods alike. The fact that the elegant seat remained was a sign that he was still afflicted by the disease. It was futile and foolish to hope when he ruled over a realm so unforgiving as the underworld. And yet…
Hades glanced down to the bowl of crystalline water in his lap again, and again he found himself looking at a vision of beauty. A young woman sat in a field of flowers, three nymphs laughing with her as they relaxed. Guilt sparked in him as he realized that this was probably a time she thought she had to herself, and yet here he was, watching her. He simply could not help himself, though. He would look into his bowl with the intent to silently look over the realm he ruled, but all of a sudden a pair of fair hands would dip into the river Acheron and he would find himself gazing at her as she drank from a tranquil pond, or the Elysian Fields would melt into a familiar field of flowers with her lying in the center.
He was old enough to recognize the beginnings of obsession, but he told himself his intentions were innocent enough. He was just so lonely, and knowing that he would forever be so made his chest ache.
As he looked away from his bowl, his memory drifted to the first time he'd ever laid eyes on her. When he'd heard that she was just another daughter of Zeus, his whore of a little brother, he'd shrugged. Zeus had too many children to keep track of. It had been just another party to celebrate nothing (probably just Zeus trying to placate his irate wife after another affair), and as always, he had been out on the balcony. He was an outcast among gods and mortals, feared and hated for his merciless (but fair, although few praised him for his faultless sense of justice) outlook on death. He'd only attended to get his brother off his back.
Just as he'd decided that he'd been at the party just long enough to placate Zeus and had been getting ready to leave, a flurry of flower petals had danced onto the balcony. Three young nymphs joined him, the three of them prancing around…
Hades swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. No, that wasn't a young girl that had just wandered out onto the balcony. Persephone was a young woman now, her feminine curves accentuated by her slender waist and generous bust. He wondered if her fair skin was as soft as he imagined, if his rough hands, the hands of a worker and a warrior, would ever be able to fully appreciate that smoothness. Her hair—brown and rich like the earth her mother tended—was down, with just enough body to fall down to the small of her back in a gentle current of waves, curling ever so slightly at the end. Her robe was white, trimmed with a gentle green, and it fell down…
There was a slit in the robe so she could walk comfortably, and a perfect thigh was bared to him, just below the knee. His eyes could not help but trace what of her skin was open for him to see, but when he got to the bottom, any trace of heat disappeared and his eyes lit with silent laughter. Her feet were bare as they stepped on the flower petals that appeared, swirled, and fell where her nymph companions stepped. The tiny little trail of grass that led out to the balcony, that was the trail of her feet, though, that sprouted wherever her feet fell. Oh yes, definitely a nature goddess, definitely his sister's daughter.
"I am not too young to be wed." The young goddess exclaimed to the wind that swirled her hair as if in comfort. She rested her elbows on the balcony, then her chin on her palms, bending over. Hades, before he politely glanced away, decided that he liked seeing her in that position. It made her robes tighten around her bottom, showing him much more of her figure than he should have liked to see—though that didn't change the fact that he was very pleased to see her stand before him that way.
"But mistress, do you mean to say you would like to marry Ares?" One of the nymphs asked quietly. Petite little creatures, nymphs were. Persephone was by no means small, however. She was tall, and thin, and willowy, but she was a nature goddess; she was a woman. A very beautiful woman.
Persephone sighed. "No, I do not mean to say that. Ares is a pig-headed war-monger. I'd sooner marry a raging rabid bull than that stubborn old sadist. I swear, if I took him as husband, he'd probably swing his limp penis around and declare he was going to cleave me in two wi—"
Hades didn't know when he started laughing, when she'd likened his nephew to a cow or when she'd puffed out her chest and pretended to be her suitor, complete with her hand between her legs, swinging around an invisible and comically large penis. Well, at least she gave the god of war credit, right? At least Ares couldn't say she didn't think him anything but well-endowed. And apparently impotent.
"I'm sorry." He laughed, covering his mouth. He couldn't remember the last time he had laughed so damn hard. He couldn't breathe he was laughing so hard. He gasped as he struggled to reclaim his infamous composure, or at least to not fall out of his seat. He had to swipe at his eyes as his laughter finally quieted, revealing the balcony to be eerily quiet. An absolutely mortified Persephone stood with her two hands still holding onto her invisible penis, her petrified nymphs hiding behind her. It was a sight comical enough to make him giggle. And he called himself the lord of the underworld.
"I'm sorry." He repeated when his laughter had receded into quiet chuckles. "You seem to know Ares fairly well."
The goddess, in attempt to reclaim her self-forsaken dignity, straightened. She seemed to debate whether or not she wanted to cover her severely blushing cheeks, and ended up crossing her arms over her chest. "It's rude to eavesdrop." She jerked forward slightly as one of her nymphs elbowed her. A deep breath later she added, "Although I am glad my display pleased you, my lord Hades."
The stiff formality with which she pronounced his name was enough to dishearten him. She seemed like the kind of woman who approached everything with an energetic vivacity that challenged the world to take her on. He sobered, righting the bowl of water in his lap. "I must apologize again for having such a presence that you would not be able to notice me as you walked past. Although I do have a reputation for being invisible." He sat up, his shoulders straightening. Rejected again, it seemed. "But I relinquish this refuge to you. If you would excuse me, my la—"
"If I might be so bold to question, why is it that you are upset with me all of a sudden?" She asked, a delicate brow raising as she dropped her arms to her sides. She seemed honestly curious, even as she added, "I would beg of you to indulge me with an answer before you take your leave in spite of my rude interruption."
The sudden politeness in her voice was biting, but she was talking to him and not averting her eyes. "You are a goddess, Persephone. My name is Hades."
"How is it that you know me?" She asked curiously, moving to perch on the edge of the long, cushioned chair he lay reclined upon. "I do not believe we've met before."
"You are my brother's daughter." He replied.
"My father's bastard daughter." She corrected quickly, then moved to correct herself. "One of his many illegitimate children. You cannot know us all, even if we are children of your brother."
"You are the beloved daughter of my sister, then. Is that not reason enough to know you?" He smiled when she smiled at him. "Now if you'll excuse me, Persephone, I have a great deal of work to do. I've neglected it for too long."
He'd disappeared then, though not so fast that he didn't hear the echo of, "Farewell, Hades," as he reappeared seated in his throne in the underworld.
Hades sighed, glancing down the hall. He froze for a second as he realized Charon was hobbling toward him with his ferry pole, sporting a black eye and splinters in his frazzled hair. Suddenly self-conscious of the smile touching at his lips, he lifted the bowl and drank from the water he'd been staring into. Slowly, he lowered the bowl again, his blue gaze narrowing on the ferryman. "Charon."
The old man bowed, leaning heavily on his stick. "My lord Hades. There is a war, and a great many soldiers cannot pay the ferry toll*. I require a new ferry pole."
Hades nodded, setting his bowl on the throne beside his, ignoring the painful twinge in his chest because that wasn't what the chair was for. That chair was for his consort, his wife, his queen, his… He swallowed, leaning back in his chair. "And you shall have what you need."
"And extras. Leave me." He commanded. It was only after Charon left and the throne room was empty again that he picked up the bowl and threw it off his black marble dais. It didn't make him feel better to see it smash against the far wall, and he swept out of his throne room. He didn't need to see the water trickling across the black marble, splaying her image across the wall and floor.
Acheron: The river of pain, a river in hell
Elysian Fields: The place where fallen heroes and the virtuous rest in hell
Cerberus: Three-headed guard dog of the river Styx
Charon: The ferryman of hell who ferries the dead across the river Styx
*When the dead are set to rest, a coin is set on their tongues to pay their passage across the river Styx. If they are not set to rest and cannot pay Charon's toll, then they must wait a hundred years on the banks of the river.
Thank you for reading. Although, I suppose I just told you all a whole lot of nothing. Sorry. But here it is, my first stab at the Grecian world. I decided to go with a more well-known story, and I've always had a thing for this particular tale, so... Yeah. Please tell me what you think, all feedback is greatly appreciated, even when it's negative. Thanks again. I'll try to get up the next part sometime soon.