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Sculpture of Persephone by Carl Marx Kruse, 1916, photo by Lienhard Schulz, 2007
Recap: Persephone has successfully escaped the Norse Goddess Hel’s invasion of the underworld. Unfortunately, she’s a long way and a long time from Olympus. ************* I walk along the road. Periodically, one of the horseless carriages zooms by at speeds I would not have thought possible of mortal conveyances. At first, I had thought they were drawn by invisible horses, but this close, I would have sensed their essence. Given the fumes being emitted, I now suspect they are pure machines inspired by my brother, Hephaestus. The first two zoom past me. I see faces through the clear windows staring out at me in wonder, but they still don’t stop. The third carriage, goes by even faster then the other two, but then with a loud squeal comes to a quick stop and suddenly starts backing up toward where I stand by the side of the road. I watch curiously as two youngish looking men step out and start walking toward me. They are both dressed in extremely well fitted black leather jackets. They wear, tightly wrapped around their legs and lower body, a blue material made from cotton, a plant that was just starting to be used by man when last I walked the mortal world. The men stop in front of me. I dislike the disrespectful expressions on their faces even before they speak. “Damn, is the circus in town?” the right one asks. As with the trolls, the language is unfamiliar but I understand him perfectly well. “Who cares?” his friend replies. “She is incredibly fine.” “Yeah, but you’ll need a ladder.” At first, I don’t quite follow his meaning, but then I realize I’ve made a critical mistake. Unlike, my father, I rarely pretend to be mortal and I’ve done nothing to disguise myself. These two men appear to be tall for mortals, but I am well over a head taller. “Hey baby, why don’t you come with us?” I ignore him. I should have changed my form. I’ll stand out too much and be easily recognized by Hel’s forces. I should hide, change shape, and then come back to this road and find some mortals to shelter amongst. Unfortunately, these two have already seen me.
“Hey babe, get in the car,” he grabs my arm and his tone changes from disrespectful to menacing. “Mortal …” I stumble, struggling to form the appropriate words in an unfamiliar language, when a phrase floats into my head. I’ve never heard it before, but it seems strangely apt. “Mortal, you are barking up the wrong tree.” “Ha,” he starts to laugh, but I’ve already wrenched my arm free. I backhand him across the face. He spins in the air and falls to my feet, unconscious. His friend swings his fist at me, but I grab his arm with my other hand and toss him into the side of his … automobile … the word comes to me. He bounces off it and also falls to the ground. I walk up to him. “Be grateful that the Covenant protects you from the full extent of my wrath else you’d be turned to weasels already.” I’m about to walk away, when something about this automobile catches my attention. It’s a smaller, lower slung vehicle then the others I’ve seen drive by. Its swooped body gives it a sleek ominous appearance, and it’s painted an unusually glossy bright shade of red with what appears to be a Phoenix painted on the front. None of that though is what concerns me. The back of the car has some kind of compartment with a lid on the outside. There’s something inside that isn’t … right. I pull on the lid but it won’t open. I now see what I take to be a small keyhole. I work my fingers under the lid’s lower lip just below the lock, brace myself against a bar extruding from the bottom of the vehicle and pull up. The metal is thick and sturdy, but the lock snaps with a good tug. The lid pops open and inside I see the body of a young mortal girl. She’s badly bloodied, her face is a mass of bruises, and her clothes are in shreds around her. I touch her arm gently. She’s dead. I can tell it was a horrible, slow death too. “Poor child, what did these monsters do to you?” Much to my surprise, her spirit pops up from her body, and says, “I was hitch-hiking home when they offered me a ride. I should have known better. They took me down a dirt road and pulled me into the woods. Then they took turns …” Her voice breaks up. Then one of them
kept beating me. He laughed all the while he did it. Soon, I passed out; I guess I died.” The spirit looks down at her broken body and sobs some more. I gently stroke the poor spirit’s hair, her form solidifying under my touch. It’s odd that her spirit is still here, perhaps Hel’s invasion is keeping the dead from crossing? A nasty thought enters my head. I look at the two mortals who did this to her. They’re just starting to stir. “Would you like vengeance upon those that did this to you?” She stops sobbing for a minute, looks at me, then at them, and quietly nods. The Covenant has an interesting loophole concerning the use of our powers on mortals. Certain rights were universally respected amongst all the gods regardless of pantheon. One of those was the right to pursue blood vengeance on behalf of our followers. “Then swear your allegiance to me, the Goddess Persephone, Goddess of Life, Queen of the Underworld, daughter of Zeus, Ruler of the Universe.” She looks at me with her mouth wide open. It’s clear that she hasn’t a clue as to what I’m talking about, but no matter, she says, “I do, I swear my allegiance to you.” I turn to the two mortals, now struggling to their feet and smile down upon them. They cower before me. “You have befouled and cruelly murdered my vassal even though she’s caused you no harm. I therefore claim my right of blood vengeance upon you. Since you have chosen to be as jackals amongst the rabbits, I condemn you to now be rabbits amongst the jackals.” I catch their eyes with mine, though they attempt to turn away, they can’t. Under my stare, they start to wither and change. In a moment, two rabbits stand at my feet. “Though you appear as rabbits, you will retain your human understanding so you can suffer as you made this child and probably other children suffer. Now flee, before I summon some dogs to hunt you.” They look at each other a moment, then scamper away from the road as quickly as they can. I turn back to the girl. “I see now that I’m going to have to disguise myself a little better. Then, hopefully, we can find some kinder and smarter mortals. Now,” I turn to the car, “do you know how to operate this thing?”