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My Lord Hades: Children of Khaos: The Originals, #1

My Lord Hades: Children of Khaos: The Originals, #1

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My Lord Hades: Children of Khaos: The Originals, #1

ratings:
3.5/5 (3 ratings)
Length:
430 pages
6 hours
Released:
Mar 17, 2018
ISBN:
9781386144946
Format:
Book

Description

Past shrouded in darkness and uncertainty, Persephone, daughter of the Earth goddess Demeter, hides from the world while she heals from the ordeal that stole her memories and her magic. She dreams of the freedom and love she believes out of her grasp, until a chance meeting with a stranger in the forest changes the course of her life forever.

Betrayed by the Gods he once served, battle-weary Hades promised to never allow another god power over him, but he didn’t plan on the intervention of the Fates intertwining his future with Persephone. She is the siren calling him, promising the completion of heart and soul, but only a fool accepts the gifts of a siren, or fights against the will of the Fates.

Released:
Mar 17, 2018
ISBN:
9781386144946
Format:
Book

About the author

Once upon a time there was a girl who went adventuring. She traveled through dangerous lands, distant times, and the dark of space. She endured all manner of magical quests and deadly missions that revealed dark secrets that threatened worlds. She even defeated a few evil overlords and nasty villains. Later in life she settled down with her husband in a little house tucked away in the haunted woods to write about the worlds she explored and the adventures she had, even if most of them are only in her head. Most days, Stephannie Beman can be found spending far too much time and possible not enough time in front of her computer drinking copious amounts of coffee, laughing and crying at the antics of her beautiful creations, and weaving tales about characters who plunge head-first into adventure and mayhem. In her worlds legends walk, love is eternal, fables are alive, fairy tales have lessons to teach, and myths are survivors of bygone years.

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My Lord Hades - Stephannie Beman

Beman

Chapter 1

Hades, her soft voice whispered across his senses. I know you can hear me, Hades. Wake up.

He groaned, shifting his tired muscles. The effort to move taxed him, but the thought of seeing her again, even for a moment, bolstered his failing strength.

He placed his weight upon his legs and straightened. The chains above his head rattled. The pressure on his suspended arms lessened until needles tingled beneath the surface of his numb limbs. Jagged stones and shards of broken pottery sliced the soles of his tattered feet.

Peering through the greasy black strands of his long hair, he stared at the renewed torment that would be his.

She stood before him, stunning and child-like, highlighted by the faintest glow in the cold, windowless cell of his prison. Her black hair was a tangled mess. Her skin was marked by bruises and smudges of dirt. Her white dress hung in soiled tatters from her willowy frame, revealing the fullness of her breast, the curve of her hip, and the length of her thigh. It was a peek and tease that held no desire for him.

But Cronus couldn’t have known that when he sent Leuce to him. She was here to break his will, his soul. She was here to destroy him.

His Leuce was dead. The creature before him a mere shade of the woman he had known.

Go away, phantom, he rasped.

Look at me, Hades, she snapped, a sudden and sharp relief to the screams whirling around him. See what your pride has done to me!

He winced, fighting the urge to play Cronus’ twisted game. She wasn’t his Leuce. She was a puppet, a spirit trapped in the Hell that was his prison, a pawn to the whims of their jailer. In her black eyes he could see his enemy, his tormentor, his unwelcome king. This was Cronus and he had to be careful, because if Cronus realized how her presence affected him, she would be trapped in this cesspool of misery, her voice joining the masses inside his cell. He could survive anything they threw his way, but not that, not her.

She stamped her foot. Look at me, damn you!

He lifted his heavy head once more. The coarse hair of his tangled beard pulled against the half-healed scabs covering his chest. A triumphant smile twisted her face, and he knew if she stayed, he would grow to hate her in death with the same passion with which he loved her in life.

You’re not her. You’re a shade, a paltry replica. I have nothing to say to you.

She glared at him, hands on her narrow hips, chin jutting out in that way he’d thought so adorable when she was a child, her black eyes blazing hate. She was as passionate in death as she’d been in life. You killed me!

Killer! Monster! his constant companions shrieked in unison.

The phantoms of those who’d died because of him raced around the chamber. Their accusations grounded him in the familiar. He was the murderer, assassin, and killer they accused him of being. He was what the world had made him, but he was also more. He was the warrior, hunter, and hero of the rebellion. The world might have condemned and reviled him for his demon blood. But then he’d never truly belonged to the worlds of gods or the demons, mortals, or immortals. He was a Phlegethon Demon-God, a spirit of fiery passions given immortal form, and he would never bow to the likes of Cronus.

The Titans killed Leuce, he whispered, glaring at Leuce’s shade. If you’re going to torture me, Cronus, stick with the voices of my victims. At least I killed them.

Murderer! the voices screamed in agreement.

Her eyes narrowed, and she glided closer. Her black hair whipped around her face as if she was standing in the middle of a maelstrom. And you don’t think you’re responsible for my death?

No.

I’m a rotting corpse, Hades!

A blue tinge spread across her lovely bronzed skin. The faint blue turned white then gray. Her skin shrunk upon her bones and the stench of rot filled his nostrils. In seconds, her flesh showed the decay of decades.

She reached for him in a strange parody of death’s embrace, and he held his breath against the stench, unable to move. Globs of flesh dripped from her arms, plopping wetly against floor. You killed me as surely as if you’d thrown me from the cliff yourself.

I won’t take responsibility for Leuce’s death, Cronus.

Her arms closed around him. Her rancid breath fanned across his face. They came for you and they found me. You should have warned me.

So that was how they found her? Waiting for him to return and give her the news of his victory. But there’d been no victory, only defeat and death.

This should have been you! she snarled.

Leuce... Her name held all the emotion and sorrow in his soul. It also betrayed them both.

Triumph flared in the fiery depths of her eyes. Cronus had finally found the perfect weapon against Hades. Leuce would never know the peace she deserved. She would be bound to him forever, like the ghosts lashing at him. She would remain in this cesspool of despair, a pawn forced to play the game of her Titan overlord.

He prayed to whatever gods listened to his kind, that the peace of death could be had for all the souls trapped with him. He prayed for vengeance against the Titans; not for himself, but for those who didn’t have to die. He prayed for the passionate, beautiful Leuce he knew in life, for the woman who didn’t deserve the fate she earned in death. He prayed for his freedom and the chance to make Cronus pay for every one of his mistakes. He would make the cruel god writhe in pain at his feet.

The last of the decaying flesh and hunks of black hair sloughed from her bones, leaving a screaming skeleton in tattered rags, but the lack of vocal cords didn’t halt her voice. Her hands swept down her skeleton. This is what I am because of you!

Assassin! the chanting voices continued their relentless assault. Killer! Monster!

You’re a worthless god! An incompetent man!

She slapped him. The force disturbed his precarious perch and he scrambled to right his footing. The chains drew taunt, his joints wrenched in their sockets, and his abused muscles screamed as he swung by his arms. Wounds, old and new, split open, spilling blood and pus onto the ground.

It wasn’t her, he tried to remind himself.

She slapped him again and again. You’re a selfish bastard! I loved you! I trusted you! And you betrayed me!

Killer! Demon! the voices of his victims echoed their agreement.

You’re not Leuce, he whispered, suddenly unsure.

The skeleton grabbed his chin, steadying him, her laugh sharp and cutting. You’d like to think that, wouldn’t you? It would make it easier if all these lives weren’t on your head. He stared into the empty eye sockets, and every word she spoke did more damage than the pottery slicing his feet to ribbons. You’re a pathetic fool, Hades. We’re all dead because of you!

Squeezing his chin, her bony fingers sliced into his flesh. Did you ever love me? Was I ever good enough for you? Why couldn’t I be what you wanted? All I wanted was your love!

And in those few words, Cronus had betrayed himself.

This wasn’t his Leuce. Cronus controlled her Shade, feeding her the words Cronus wanted to use to break him.

Leuce had never questioned what he’d felt for her because Hades had done everything he could to protect her from his life, keeping her as far away from the war as he could and placing her happiness before his own. He’d never hidden who he was or what he was capable of doing to protect his people. She knew the monster and the man, the demon and the god. His Leuce knew he loved her. 

Murderer! Assassin! the cacophony of voices hissed.

Movement beyond Leuce’s bony shoulder drew his eyes. Two forms, shrouded in the gloomy dark of his prison, stood watching. Had his jailers come in to watch?

The web of magic in the room drew tight. The power snaking along his skin, keeping him from accessing his own magic, felt wrong. The stale air of his prison changed, an infinitesimal shift charged with electricity and the taste of sea mist. The subtle shift in the dense net jangled through the tendrils, shattering the strands, and releasing the compulsion upon them all.

He breathed deep, savoring the scent. It gave him the hope of a reprieve.

The voices ceased. Flesh reformed over Leuce’s bones, and Cronus’ influence faded from her eyes. She turned on the two men like an attacking long-tooth tiger. Her finger bones scraped bloody furrows down Hades’ cheeks.

Who are you? she demanded.

A little dramatic, the shorter of the two said, stepping into the cell. Not a Titan. The man was a god. He waved his hand in a half circle, obvious disgust in his eyes as they rested on Leuce. Be gone, phantom. Return to your rest.

Hades clenched his teeth at the dismissal. Leuce was worth more than all the gods combined. If he was free of the chains binding him to this prison, even in his weakened state, he could crush the self-important god with practiced ease. This god gave the appearance of strength, but he was weak inside.

Leuce sighed, a heavy sound filled with relief. She turned to Hades, her flesh completely reformed. She leaned forward, her lips brushing across his cheek. I love you, too, brother.

She disappeared, leaving him alone with the two gods.

The smaller god stepped forward into the dim glow of the flameless torchlight, a charismatic smile on his red bearded face. He stared hard at Hades. Are you sure this is him?

The other hesitated a moment, a giant of a man with black hair and black eyes, before he moved to flank his leader. He would be a real challenge. She said it was, he rumbled deep within his chest.

The red-headed god sniffed the air delicately and grimaced. Hades hoped the gods choked on the stench of a thousand years of old blood, infection, and stale sweat.

Smiling pleasantly, as if he wasn’t standing in a room of torture, but a grand hall, the redhead asked, Are you the man who defied Cronus?

We don’t have time for this, Zeus. That guard will be found.

Rhea and Eris told us to find—

I know what that deceptive bitch said! Warrior or no, we have to leave now.

Eris sent you for me? Hades interrupted.

Zeus nodded. Are you the one imprisoned for attacking Cronus in his own home?

You can’t believe anything he says, brother. He would lie to get out of here.

Hades chuckled. The dark god was right. He would do anything to escape Tartarus, but he didn’t have to lie. Why did she send you?

The two brothers exchanged questioning glances.

Hades processed the minute expressions and appearance of the two men and recognized his enemy. You’re the sons of Cronus. He licked his dry lips. They were his freedom! Release me, and I’ll fight for you. I’ll bring your enemies to their knees.

The dark one with the soulless eyes stepped forward. You make hearty boasts for a dead man.

Hades smiled. It was a smile that suggested violence and unpleasantness. He knew its effect. He’d seen the horror or the uncertainty on the faces of others. These gods were no different.

Focusing his gaze upon Zeus, Hades knew he could convince the red-haired god to free him. All Hades had to do was dangle the prize before his eyes until he took the bait. And the best way to convince Zeus to free him was to appeal to his desires. I make no empty boast, but a promise. Free me, give me sovereignty over one of your kingdoms and a daughter to seal our alliance, and I’ll bring defeat upon your enemy by the end of the week.

Zeus grinned, laying a restraining hand upon his brother’s arm. It’s a deal.

Swear by the River Styx, Hades said, leaning forward, uncaring of the pottery slicing his feet.

Zeus, the dark god warned.

Zeus shushed him. I swear by the River Styx, if you defeat the Titans within the week, I will grant you a kingdom and one of my daughters as wife.

Zeus reached towards the chains, and Hades sighed with relief as power surged from his liberator’s fingers. The locks clicked and fell away. His legs, unused to the weight of his body, buckled. Hades fell upon the blood soaked stones and broken pottery, slicing his knees and hands.

The air around them warmed, and the first fiery ripples of pure, unadulterated power tingled along Hades’ skin, burning into his flesh. Oh, how he’d missed its seductive sweetness.

I’m not carrying him out of here.

Shut up, Poseidon. I lost nothing by freeing him. If he can’t do as he says, he gets nothing but his freedom for as long as he can keep it!

Released from the floodgates, magic crashed over him like a roaring deluge of water. It coursed through his battered body. It stole the breath from his lungs. It surged through his veins. It permeated every cell in his emaciated body. And it seared away the last vestiges of Cronus’ enchantment.

He threw back his head, opening his arms to the power, to the centuries of magic denied him by Cronus, and screamed.

The agony was worse than anything the Titans had ever devised. It was every second of his imprisonment compressed into one moment. The daily beatings. The knives slicing deep into his flesh. The swords sheathed into his immortal body. Plunging from the cliffs of Mount Othyrs and shattering every bone in his body. Crushing. Rendering. Splintering who was he was into millions of pieces.

And then it ended.

The absence of pain was worse. He felt nothing. He sensed nothing. He cared for nothing.

He staggered, teetering on the edge of the cliff, staring down into the dark abyss of his own mind. It would be so easy to pitch himself into the peace of oblivion, to lose himself within his mind and spiral into madness. It would have been easy to just let go and allow nature to take its course. But he’d been conditioned to fight, to survive at all costs.

He needed a focus, a minor interruption. Because if he couldn’t bring his will to bear upon the power coursing unchecked through his body, he would be lost. Control the power or go insane.

He screamed his defiance.

I am stronger!

I am more powerful!

I won’t let Cronus win!

He jerked his hand across a pottery shard. White hot agony seared across his palm and bright red blood splashed upon the floor. He focused his all upon the sensations. But it wasn’t enough.

Through blurred vision, he forced his hand to rise, and dug his fingers into the wounded flesh. Severe pain brought him back from the edge of insanity. His mind veered away from the metaphysical absence of feeling and grasped upon the physical pain, clutching it tight. He directed his attention to the tingling flesh and raw nerve endings that was his body, and used all his self-discipline and self-control to still the rampant magic.

By sheer strength of will, he relaxed, seized the magic by the throat, and confronted the raging fire of extreme passion. Fury. Love. Hatred. Sorrow. Need. He promised them their chance at freedom and then thrust the intense emotions of a Phlegethon Demon denied his pleasures into the deepest place of his heart.

He was the only master of his battered and wounded body!

Enclosing the magic tightly in a cocoon of power, Hades opened his eyes and rose to his feet. He felt alive, complete, and healed for the first time in over a thousand years. But it would be short lived. He would never truly be free until he lived as a true Phlegethon should, mated to his equal in power and magic. Without his other half to keep the insanity at bay, he would lose himself in the magic and passions of his nature.

Hades glanced at the two stunned gods and grinned. Who do I serve?

Uncomfortable fear shone in Zeus’ eyes. Hades had seen the look in the eyes of others who had good reason to fear him. A healthy fear could only benefit Zeus, for Hades was starting to suspect that neither god knew who they’d released.

Zeus swallowed hard, raised his trembling hand, and attempted to smile. I’m Zeus, King of the Olympians. This is my brother, Poseidon. What exactly are you?

Hades laughed. Not who, but what. Eris didn’t tell you?

Zeus shook his head. Poseidon glared at his brother.

The foolish god hadn’t even thought to ask Eris. If it wasn’t so sad, it might have been funny. Isn’t it just like her to leave out certain details?

Drawing upon his inner power, Hades let his magic swirl around him, embracing him like a gentle lover, before he sent the awesome potency of his magic outward to stroke along the edges of the two men’s auras. Zeus started, eyes wide.

Opening his arms wide, a gesture that was completely unnecessary, but dramatically satisfying in its effect, Hades threw wide the doors of Tartarus. He released the horrors from their deepest pits, all the monsters, mortal and immortal. I’m Hades, son of Eris.

Zeus’ eyes shifted to the dangling chains. You’re on our side, aren’t you? The uncertainty in Zeus’ voice brought a smile to Hades’ lips.

Hades could almost see the thoughts tumbling around in Zeus’ mind. He was wondering if Eris had tricked him. Hades knew she had. Only those who had the blood of Cronus could break the enchantment upon the chains and the room. She’d sent Cronus’ sons to free her son.

You keep your word, son of Cronus, and we won’t have a problem. Break it, and Tartarus will seem like Paradise in comparison to what I’ll do to you.

Hades drew in his magic tight to his aura, and then brought it closer. Only if someone touched his skin would they understand the truth of the demon-god. It was one of many tricks his mother had taught him.

He winked at the two cowering gods. See you later.

Chapter 2

Hades stood on the white sandy beach at dusk, his toes curling into the cooling warmth.

It felt good to stand on the beach and watch the tide slide inland, to feel the warmth of the sun on his pale skin before it sank into the sea. Helios’ blindingly bright chariot was a welcome sight after centuries in a dank cell, removed from the world and its majesty.

The azure sky began to darken to a light indigo, and he marveled as the oranges, reds, and purples faded. Soon the world become little more than shades of grays, blues, and blacks. The first star of twilight twinkled in the heavens above him.

He’d forgotten the simplest pleasures and annoyances of living, like the water caressing his toes, or the cold air on his flesh, or gritty sand slithering between his toes. He relished the feel of cool water, the darkness upon his skin, and the power surging through his veins, soothing and repairing the damage to his body, to his mind, to his soul.

This was freedom. The freedom he’d desired for so long. It enveloped his soul in a warm and welcoming blanket of joy. But he knew it was a dream he could only hold onto a little longer.

He would never be free of the past until he had his revenge. The power of the Titans needed to be broken. There was much they had to atone for: the deaths of Leuce and her family; the hundreds of Demons dead in tantrums thrown by gods; the stolen power of his birthright and his forced existence without magic; and using the dead to torment him.

He would never be at peace until the shades that haunted his prison, and Leuce and her family, were safely ensconced in the Elysian Fields. He owed them that. Only then would he be free to let go of the past and move toward the future, whatever that might be.

Selene rose into the night sky, her white chariot glowing brightly upon the water. He hoped the witch fell from her chariot and drowned in the dark waters of the sea. He’d never liked the snooty goddess, and the feeling seemed mutual. After all, it was her betrayal that had placed him in Tartarus.

Breathing deeply of the cold salty air, he turned away from Selene’s bright face. The first and second phases of his plan were complete. By opening the gates of Tartarus, he’d unleashed every monster the Titans had ever imprisoned. He’d released chaos and mayhem upon the world. And while the Titans expended the precious power they so coveted by running around recapturing the monsters, he had walked into their palace and taken their weapons. He’d hand them to the Olympians and insure their victory.

But that wasn’t the end of it. While in their armory, he’d taken back his black armor and frightening sword, untouched by the centuries, proclaiming his intent to join the battle. How he would enjoy using them against the smug Titans!

Smiling, Hades wound his way along the sand and into the forest stretching the length of the beach. He breathed in the fragrance of crushed grass and salty sea. He’d planned to return to Mount Olympus and confer with Zeus on tomorrow’s battle plan, but he couldn’t bring himself to be confined to the gaudy, marble monstrosity the Olympians called a palace or confine his excitement. Tomorrow he would face his enemies in battle, and his revenge would be swift. He would accomplish in one day what the Olympians had failed to do in ten years. He would bring the Titan Empire to its knees. He would make them pay for their mistakes.

Soon, he’d be at peace. No war, no people, no petty gods. He was actually looking forward to his solitary life.

The crash of waves merged into the soft cascade of the woman’s gentle contralto floating on the breeze. It flowed over him, into him, threading its way into his soul, and awakening the Phlegethon Demon inside him. The lilting melody was one he didn’t recognize. A song of shipwrecked lovers.

He suspected there were a great many things he wouldn’t recognize. The world had changed so much in his absence, and yet, not nearly enough.

Against his better judgment, he let the woman’s voice lure him through the trees to a small northern valley. Careful where he placed his foot, he wove his way through the loam covered path to a small clearing. He told himself he wouldn’t disturb her, and he definitely didn’t want to scare her. He just wanted a look at the woman who could awaken emotions in his heart with the music of her voice.

He stopped at the edge of the clearing, mesmerized by the dark silhouette beneath the gnarled oak tree. Back to him, her sensual body swayed to a beat only she could hear. Her movements, like the purity of the dulcet tones, wove a magical and passionate atmosphere filled with deep longing.

He shifted at the first stirs of desire in his heart. It wasn’t just the base desire of a man gone too long without a woman, although he yearned for the wealth of feminine curves revealed by the filmy white dress. His desires were that of a Phlegethon Demon-God to meld mind and soul and magic to his equal, something he could never have with a lesser immortal, and especially not with the newer mortal creatures. What his soul craved could only be had with another Phlegethon.

Closing his eyes, and taking a firm grasp upon his desire, he reminded himself of the lessons he’d learned so very long ago. Then he’d been a weak, innocent not yet come into his power. He’d thought himself in love. And he’d learned the kiss of a Phlegethon could kill.

The reminder of Menthe cemented his resolve to leave this place and never return. He wasn’t that adolescent boy. He was an adult now, with his full power, and he knew the passions of his Phlegethon blood could destroy.

Clearing his head of the haunting sound of her song and the promise her voice held, he focused on preparing his mind and body for the fight tomorrow. However, rather than leave, he opened his eyes to take one last look, and was lost to her magic.

Her supple, young body swayed seductively, moving with the fluid grace of a dancer. She twirled. Her crown of lavender tumbled from her head, and the wealth of her sun-kissed hair poured down her slender back in a red-gold wave. He could almost feel the wealth of her hair against his naked skin, the flare of her hips in his hands, the press of her luscious body against his, and the warmth of her mouth as he tasted her. She would taste like honey, sweet and rich.

She bent to retrieve her crown, the creamy tops of her firm, full breasts pressed tightly against the white dress, threatening to spill out, before the veil of hair hid them from view. She straightened and set the crown back upon her head.

Lifting the hem of her gown and revealing the length of her pale thigh, she pivoted, beginning a new song about a meadow of flowers, a shepherd, and his maiden dear. His breath quickened as the magic of her voice spilled over him, painting a picture of the brazen maiden and the bold shepherd meeting in the mountain meadow for a lover’s tryst.

She opened her arms, her hair streaming down her back, and embraced the cool night air. She danced with a freedom he’d never known, had never seen in another. She was so full of grace, and joy, and wild abandon. And he desired her like he’d desired no other woman.

Hades stepped forward, his blood boiling at the need to claim her. She represented everything he had lost, and everything he could not have back. Could she be the balm to the rage in his soul?

He shook his head. The hidden invitation of the song was not for a demon like him. She deserved a man who would speak to her, laugh with her, dance with her, and be with her. He could do none of those things without endangering her life. He had nothing to offer her expect a world of sorrow and pain. He would rather will himself out of existence than watch this beautiful woman die, screaming in agony.

The last thoughts gave him the strength to turn away. He wanted this child of nature to live a long and happy life before Death took her. She would marry a man who loved her, have children, and sing in the dark night without ever having met him.

~*~  ~*~  ~*~

She danced and the stars seemed to dance with her. The dark sky above her burst into color. The silky caress of rose petals gently kissed her skin. They floated around her, a myriad of reds, pinks, yellows, and whites. She laughed, shaking her head, and delicate petals tumbled from her hair.

It’s time to wake, Persephone, a woman’s voice whispered in her ear.

She twirled around and found herself standing alone on the beach. She frowned, wondering how she got from the old oak to the beach so quickly.

Trouble’s coming, the woman continued, as a hand touched her arm.

Warmth surged across her skin, shocking a gasp from her. Arms encircled her, hot and heavy, enclosing her in a cocoon of affection and love unlike anything she’d felt before. I love you, Persephone, a deep voice whispered close to her ear.

She turned into the embrace, lifting her face to his...

The sudden chirp of birds bursting into song outside her window snatched Persephone from her strange dream. She stirred beneath the sheets, enjoying the silky texture against her flesh. Her skin smoldered with a need she could not understand. She only knew she wanted...what? Rose petals to fall from the sky? Love from a phantom?

She groaned, burying her head in the pillow. These dreams were coming more frequently and were far more vivid. It was frustrating to awaken each morning with sensations one didn’t understand, let alone know how to satisfy. And though she would like nothing more than to blame the nymphs for her predicament, she knew her dreams weren’t entirely their fault. She treasured the stories they told her of lovers, magic, and heroes. Truthfully, she was irritated more by the feeling that something vital was missing from her life and she’d know what that was if only she could remember.

Throwing back the blanket, she crawled from the bed and allowed the chilly morning breeze to cool her heated flesh. Usually this was her favorite time of the day, the brief period of time when her thoughts lingered in her dreams. Only she didn’t want to linger today. She wanted. . . she wanted the perfect love spoken of by the nymphs! A love she couldn’t quite grasp, but desired all the same.

She opened her wardrobe and stared at the selection of dresses and sighed. The pastels were so bland. She wanted a dress the color of violets, or ocean blue, or maybe deep red roses.

Roses. She smiled at the thought of rose petals falling from the sky like rain. The unexpectedness of that happening would break the predictable, monotony of her days.

Grabbing a dress of creamy white, she slipped out of her light shift and wrapped the cloth around her body, fastening the shoulders with golden butterfly broaches, and twining a golden cord under her breasts and wrapping it down her narrow waist to her hips, tying it into an elaborate knot.

Satisfied, she exited her room, forcing the images of her dream from her mind. There was a multitude of tasks ahead of her today. She needed to check on the row of daffodils she’d planted last week. The carnations and daisies would need watering. The wood nymphs wanted to teach her a new song, so she would take a break from her tasks before lunch to learn it. It was easier sneaking away to the grove when her mother remained in the small villa.

After lunch, she’d try again to coax the old apple tree to bloom, though without magic she didn’t know if it would do any good. Then she’d gather some vegetables and fruits from the garden to compliment the ambrosia they would have for dinner. She didn’t expect her mother to eat it, but she wished for a change. After dinner, she would spend the time with her mother sewing as they discussed the day’s activities.

She sighed, entering the kitchen. Her life was predictable. How had she coped with this before her accident?

Demeter set a pitcher of fresh water on the table before turning to Persephone, a full grin on her beautiful face. Good morning, my dear. She brushed her hands on the skirt of her dress and pushed back a stray lock of her corn yellow hair, before hugging her daughter. How did you sleep?

Persephone returned the hug, cringing inside. Her skin prickled with the force of her mother’s magic. She might not have the ability to wield magic, but she could feel it crawling over her skin, burrowing deep inside, until she could see the inner person. Her mother was old; far older than the thirty years she appeared to be, and she had many secrets. Sorrowful, shameful secrets hidden in the darkness.

Persephone was the first to break

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