The Dark Divine Chapter 7
Hades took a deep breath and plopped down into the chair behind his ebony desk. His long fingers slid over his face as he leaned back in his chair. The past few hours had been exhausting to say the least, and Hades was beginning to understand why mortals turned to alcohol. Nothing was happening as planned, and at the moment he wasn't even sure what the plan was anymore. This was supposed to be an easy way out of family gatherings, but was quickly becoming one of the most stressful things Hades had ever endured.
This afternoon had been a disaster.
After signing off on the extension of the East Waiting Room, Hades had to go down to the dock's gates and check on how Cerberus was doing. He got pretty restless when Hades took long trips like this and had probably tried to eat someone again. Hades turned back around to face Persephone who was gawking like some sort of deranged tourist. He had been a little hesitant to leave such a naive person alone in Underworld, what with rapid Furies and desperate souls swarming around the place, but he had work to get caught up on. She had assured him that she could handle herself for a few minutes, which made him even more hesitant.
Confidence turned to arrogance, and arrogance was sure fire way to get yourself killed down here, if you weren't dead to begin with that is. In the end the need to get back to work and to see his favorite three-headed beast again won out over babysitting a goddess for another twenty minutes while they waited for the next ferry that passed his place.
Cerberus was overjoyed to see his master again, and Hades was equally pleased to see that there were no souls he would need to fish out of Styx due to his pet's exuberance. After a short belly rub and a scratch behind all three sets of ears Cerberus returned to his spot in front of the gates surrounding the docks and wagged his tail pleasantly, hoping that a soul would be stupid enough to try and get past him, so he could have a new plaything to chew on.
Hades shook his head fondly at his pet. If only everyone could be as easily pleased as Cerberus. The construction for the new 'Soular' panels was coming along nicely which meant a nice amount of souls would finally be released from the already overcrowded waiting rooms. 'Soular' panels were one of Hades many projects after what had happened a few years ago. They were really just another way to keep himself occupied, but had proven to be most useful for keeping souls from piling up in the waiting rooms.
The fact that the Underworld even needed these panels was enough to annoy Hades. Humans really had no sense of tradition anymore. Or perhaps the tradition had changed from respecting the dead to stealing the coins off their eyes during the funeral reception. Whatever the reason may be, souls were becoming unable to pay their way to Judgement more and more frequently. The ancient Egyptians went a bit overboard with this being able to pay their way through, and consequently provided enough gold and trinkets to pay for a least a few dozen years worth of people each. Unfortunately (thanks to tomb raiders and nosy museums) these funds had been disappearing from the accounts where they had been stored.
This is where the Soular panels came in handy. With some craftsmanship work from Hephaestus and multiple failed trials, they were able to come up with a way to use some of the soul's energy and feed it into the power system that ran the entire Underworld. It was a lot like security X-ray machines in airports. Souls walk through, the panels soak up the minimal amount of energy for them to pass, and they are granted a somewhat free trip to the ferries. Besides, this was the perfect way to avoid Apollo charging him a fortune to light the Underworld.
Suddenly, a commotion pulled his attention away from his genius invention's construction and up the hill leading to the sorting lines. Hades whipped around to see a crowd starting to form around something near the M booth. These things were not uncommon down here, souls often got restless and belligerent after waiting for so long. The shades on duty could handle it. Then he remembered what, or who rather, was still waiting up there: Persephone.
Before he had even had time to process what might be happening there, or what would be the best way to handle all of this, his feet were set off on a mission in the direction of all of the noise. It was like Hades had lost all sense of thought process, all sense of apathy, all sense period. At that moment all he wanted to be sure of was that Persephone was not in the center of the crowd that was quickly forming into a riot.
But of course she was right in the center, her vibrancy sticking out like a bright orange buoy in the middle of a sea of transparent grays. From the looks of how quickly her attackers were coming, she hadn't even attempted to defend herself. Anger bubbled up inside Hades. Did this girl have no sense of self preservation at all? Did she not know how long this matter would take to finally settle?
It was time to put an end to this madness.
Without warning, Hades bellowed Persephone's name into the swarm of souls that were about to finish her off altogether.
Souls and shades scattered in every direction, not worrying about trying to keep with line formation or try to sneak another touch of her skin. No, when the Lord of the Underworld raised his voice you either got out of the way or prepared to be destroyed on the spot: no questions, no excuses, no exceptions.
Hecate called it his Phantom voice, mainly to tease him for even watching an opera, let alone liking it. However, it did possess a certain truth to it. It was both intimidating and enticing, much like the voice used to entrance Christine to go with the Phantom into his lair. Some described it as terrifying, others thought it was the most glorious sound ever to grace their ears. Either way, when the voice was used anyone who heard it did whatever he wished. The only person that it didn't work on was Eris, but then again, she was the goddess of chaos, obedience wasn't exactly her strong suit.
Souls and shades were still trying to plaster themselves against the gray walls as Hades plowed his way through the quickly dispersing crowds. Hades slowed his pace to his conventional walking pace and stopped in front over the fallen goddess.
Her hair was a sight, most of the mess resulting from the ride down, but also from the recent stampede around her. It fell around her face in tangled strands and the pink sun dress that she wore was now wrinkled and dirty. Even with all of that grime and filth around her, Hades couldn't deny that the girl was pretty. He would even venture to say that when she wasn't being an annoying, naive, air head she could actually be charming as well. Maybe that was going a bit too far. After all, she did manage to sentence herself to a little over half a year in the Underworld.
Rescuing people was not a talent that Hades had even attempted to posses, so he had absolutely no idea what to do with the unconscious woman lying at his feet.
The Underworldly side of him told him to leave her there on the cold, unwaxed floor. It would serve her right for being such a complete fool and directly defying his earliest instructions.The rational somewhat humane side of him swung her up over his shoulder and began to make his way back to the docks. It would be to difficult to teleport to Hecate's place with the other passenger being incapacitated so it looked like they would have to take the boat and hope that Hecate wasn't in the middle of one of her asinine experiments.
When the long boat stopped in front of the dock that was attached to Hecate's island Hades lifted Persephone up onto his shoulder again. She showed no signs of waking, and although the boat ride had been a smooth one, it seemed a bit uncommon for a goddess to be weakened for such a long time. It also baffled him how she could sleep so peacefully in a place like the Underworld, and if he didn't know himself better, he would say that he envied her.
He didn't bother knocking the griffin shaped door knocker hanging on the bright purple laboratory door.
"Hecate?!" Hades shouted into the heap of papers and tables, and kicked a book out of his way.
This place was a disaster. It was like a bad episode of Hoarders; everything from candlesticks to the latest Katy Perry CD could be found among the plethora of clutter. Books were piled on every surface and the vast majority of then had multiple neon colored Post-It notes sticking from the pages. Ever since the eighties hit, Hecate had a rather disturbing obsession with bright neon colors, and insisted that her home, although originally painted in grays and purples, be redone in some gaudy lime with orange shutters. Personally, Hades thought it was the tackiest thing he had ever laid eyes on (well, until Persephone's birthday dress), but if it put a stop to her complaints about the Underworld's dreariness then he would bite his tongue for the time being.
After clearing off a small spot on the tie-dyed couch to lay the sleeping goddess down on, Hades set off to find Hec, all while trying not to stumble over the piles of miscellaneous papers, test tubes, and teacups (another one of her many obsessions). He found her lying face down on the would-be dining room table with more books spread out around her. This probably would have been alarming to some, but after a few millennia of torturing souls in Tartarus and listening to some of his brother's many 'romantic' exploits, nothing could alarm him any more. He poked her shoulder roughly. "Hecate, wake up."
Her black eyebrows scrunched together, and a hand came up to swat at the voice that dared to wake her from her beauty rest. "Don't wanna," she mumbled drowsily into the arm covering her face.
"Hecate I swear to Styx if you don't get up I will turn your hair blonde and play nothing in the waiting rooms but country music for the next two hundred years."
One electric blue eye opened, full of loathing.
"You are a sick, cruel man."
Hades smiled, knowing he had won this one. "Flattery will get you no where with me; now get going. I needed to be back at the office half and hour ago, but I've ran into some unexpected. . . delays."
Hecate raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow and flipped her long blackish blue hair back behind her shoulders. With a quick wave of her hand her faded owl pajamas melted into a Japanese style robe in an elegant cherry blossom print.
"Delays? What kind of delays? They wouldn't happen to have anything to do with a certain cake throwing goddess would they now?" Folding her arms across her chest, she smiled at him knowingly. Even half asleep, the image of Hades coming back from one of his meetings with pink frosting in his hair was still fresh in her mind.
Hades didn't respond. That was one thing that always annoyed him about Hecate: she was much too perceptive for her own good.
"I'll take your silence as confirmation of my superior observation skills." She grinned triumphantly.
"Can we just cut the commentary and get back to the problem at hand?"
Hecate followed him back into the living room and gave him one of her signature 'What did you do?' looks when she saw the Goddess of Spring knocked out cold on her couch. "I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that there won't be a second date?" She said trying her best to come up with some plausible reason why Hades and his newest object of disapproval would be together, and in the Underworld no less. She had instantly come up with a few explanations, most of them involving kidnaping and other immoral activities that Hades usually tried to avoid or at least save for the souls in Tartarus.
"She's only here as a favor to Zeus." explained Hades and sat on one of the royal blue dining chairs, rubbing his temples warily, while relaying some of details of his agreement with Zeus and his run ins with Persephone, "Apparently, everyone who attempts murder on a human nowadays is sentenced to a few months of Underworld therapy."
Hecate took a seat on one of the yellow armchairs across from where the couch was. She studied the sleeping goddess skeptically.
"So you're trying to tell me that Princess Pansy over here," she said motioning to Persephone with a nod of her head, "Not only humiliated you in front of your family, but also tried to commit a capital crime as well?"
"Yep. And do you want to know the best part?"
"Yes I do. Wait let me guess. . ." she glanced at her slumbering guest again. "She barbeques puppies too, doesn't she?"
"No, I'm afraid that's still just you."
Hecate gave a fake pout. "Now Hades, you know very well that I've quit."
"Yes, well now not only is he a potential threat to humanity, she has dark powers too. Yeah, the Goddess of Spring has dark powers! It's ridiculous! And now I have been assigned the role of babysitter, and dark arts teacher as well. Honestly, I don't know how Zeus drags me into these things. I mean, who in their senses would sign up for something like this? For the next seven months I have to put up with that insolent, disrespectful, little. . .what's so damn funny?!"
Hades asked pointedly when he noticed that his one audience member that was awake was now laughing so hard that she was nearly falling out her seat.
"It's just," she wheezed out in between giggles, "I don't think I've ever seen get so worked up, and over a girl no less!"
Hades eye twitched. "I'm am not worked up!" He shouted, then after realizing the contradiction in his words and tone he recomposed himself and repeated his statement. "I'm just not exactly sure what to do with her at the moment."
Hecate's laughter had dies down to a few random chuckles and she leaned back against her chair. "Well, that's not exactly surprising considering she's been here less than a day and you've already made her faint dead. However, being the kind, generous, benevolent,"
"Conceited, annoying," Hades broke in.
Hecate gave him another look. "Ignoring that. I will offer my assistance in your little adventure. I'm due for a little excitement anyway."
Hades stood from his seat and started to make a path to the door. One of these days he was going to let one of the cleaning harpies in here while Hecate was out. Seph finally showed some sign of life and shifted on the couch, reminding Hades of something.
"Just remember Hec, the only way I get my reward is if I return her like I got her. In other words: she's a rental, don't break her."
Hecate smiled. "Speaking of rewards, what do you get out of this whole deal? I know for a fact you aren't doing this out of the goodness of your heart."
"Let's just say it's something I've wanted for centuries."
"An Easy-Bake Oven?"
Hades gave her a tired look, and turned to the door. "Solitude, that's all I've ever wanted." He muttered and stepped through the threshold, not giving Hecate another chance to respond.
The purple door slammed shut as he left the Goddess of Magic, shaking her head dejectedly at him, and hoping that this sleeping beauty would wake soon. If this was the same girl who had enough guts to stand up to her boss and had dark powers, there was no doubt in Hecate's mind that she was about to acquire a new best friend very shortly.
Persephone woke with the most terrible headache. 'If this is what a hangover feels like, then I am never drinking for as long as I live.' she thought to herself rubbing the side of her head. It felt like her head had been trampled on by a stampede of centaurs and then kicked by a few hundred soccer players for sport. And if there was any sun she was positive it would have killed her on spot.
Anymore it was a rare occasion for her to actually have an injury. The nymphs that were assigned as escorts also had taken on the role of personal body guards. One particularly protective nymph had nearly wiped out an entire bee population after Persephone had gotten stung from being to close to the hive. Each mishap was met with the same routine: Mother would become furious, rant and scold both the nymph and Persephone for a good hour or so, and then the sentence would be made. The bee sting had gotten her two months with elbow high rubber gloves and an absurd hat with a large net over it.
Wait. Seph exerted all of her senses as far as she could trying to remember where she was. No sun? Strange smells?
Reality hit her full force as she remembered where she was and who she came with. Everything, from the paralyzing dark abyss to her run in with some grabby souls, came flooding back to her. 'I bet that jerk left me here on that dirty floor too.' she thought.
But to her surprise, when she opened her eyes she wasn't in the Sorting Room. In fact, it looked nothing like anything she had seen before. It looked like something had exploded at a few dozen garage sales and the debris had been quickly gathered in multiple piles and left for rats. Bookshelves lined the walls, but their space was not limited to just literature. Vases, plates, teacups, CDs, and even a random snow globe or two had been housed on the dusty shelves. There were other arbitrary neon items haphazardly placed around the room like a mismatched dining room table and chair set and a orange bubble chair sitting beside a pile of empty test tubes and bottles.
Seph looked down to see she was sitting on a tie-dyed couch that slapped her headache like a flailing fish. In her mother's cottage, everything had a theme (typically floral patterns and white whicker furniture) and anything that didn't fit in with that theme was thrown out at once. Her bedroom for instance, had been completely covered in lilies and daisies for as long as Persephone could remember, and if she thought about bringing in something even slightly more modern, the idea was instantly shot down with a guilt trip leading her into thinking that she was being ungrateful, and, in her mind, she was. Demeter was the only person to stand up for her during the Incident, and if gratitude meant living in some gods-awful flower shop lookalike, then so be it.
"Well, look who's finally awake. I've been waiting for a good half and hour on you ya' know; your tea almost got cold."
Seph turned her head to see a petite, dark-haired woman walking towards her. She was beautiful, but not in the traditional sense. Her kind of beauty came from confidence and integrity. She was dressed rather strangely, in only a long silky bath robe and pair of slippers that looked like bear feet, carrying a tray with a Chinese style tea pot on it.
Seph sat up straight to make room on the couch for her hostess, whom she assumed owned this junkyard.
She was more or less happy for being a resident of the most terrible place in the universe. Her shocking blue eyes were effulgent as she poured them both a cup of tea. The teacups she used were beautiful in both design and quality; unequaled to anything Seph had ever seen before. One was a vibrant shade of violet and the other was a deep shade of emerald.
The strange woman offered her one of the cups and set the other on a small plate. Seph cautiously took the proffered cup into her slightly shaking hands.
"Thank you, Miss. . ." Seph trailed off. It just occurred to her that she was accepting food from a stranger, and in the Underworld. Mother would have a fit if she ever found out.
"Hecate, goddess of magic and witchcraft." she said bringing her violet cup to her smiling lips. "And none that 'Miss' rubbish. I don't do formalities, just ask the boss."
"Yes, though you might know him better as Hades. I just call him the boss because it irritates him. And the word around the river is that you like to vex him almost as much as I do, am I right?" Hecate wriggled her eyebrows at her.
"I, uh, don't really, um. . . who did you say you were again?"
Even on Olympus, Seph had never met someone who was so willing to carry on a conversation with her.
"Hecate. But you can call me Hec or Cate, or Supreme Goddess of All Things Magical works too."
"Alright, uh, Hecate. Where am I exactly? The last thing I can remember is the most awful pain going through my arms and legs and then this voice calling my name. I just felt so tired like I could sleep for an eternity."
"I'll say, you were pretty much drained of all your energy within your first fifteen minutes of visitation. I keep trying to tell Hades, this is why we don't get repeat customers!" she laughed and poured herself some more tea.
"You should drink that," Hecate said motioning to Seph's still full cup. "It'll make you feel better; it's green tea and I put some citrus extract in there with honey and a shot of peppermint to wake up your sleepy little head." she paused anxiously and waited for her new acquaintance to take a sip.
Seph stared down at her green cup cautiously. It didn't look poisonous, and the smell wafting up from it was heavenly. Tentatively, she took a small swallow and closed her eyes in bliss once her taste buds registered the symphony of flavors drifting over her tongue.
"This is amazing!" she exclaimed and hastily took another sip, not even caring that the liquid was still only lukewarm. Only halfway through her first cup, her headache had dissolved entirely and she felt as if she could run a marathon and still feel fantastic.
"So Miss Sleepy, do I still have to call you that or do have a real name?"
Seph sat down her cup quickly and extended her hand. "My real name's Kore, but I've always preferred Persephone or you can call me Seph if you want. I know my it's a mouthful."
" I think your name's just lovely, not the first one but Seph's pretty cool. And I'm glad someone around here finally appreciates my tea making expertise. Thanatos runs solely on coffee and Hades, well, I don't think he likes anything. Anyways, should I give you the grand tour, since you are going to be staying with us for a while?"
Seph nodded. "Yes please, but would you mind if we avoid the sorting rooms for the moment. I think I should steer clear of the souls for a while. I guess Hades wasn't kidding when he said that shades feed off of light was he?"
"Honey if there is one thing you should know right up front, it's that Hades doesn't kid. Ever. About anything. He's about as comical as a brick wall and only half as social." Hecate gathered up the tea tray and disappeared into the small kitchen on the opposite side of the room.
Persephone began to relax in her seat. Maybe the Underworld could turn out to be better than she had originally thought.
"Oh by the way," Hecate called from the kitchen, "How do you feel about changing into some new clothes? I have a few things for you to try on."
Yep, this was most definitely better.