June 1, 2018

TAKING LEAVE by Connor Sassmannshausen

You will not keep me from my home, my throne, or my husband...
Persephone walks through the forest on the warm summer evening, a basket on her hip. Her mother has done beautifully this summer, with the flourishing fruit trees and the blooms along the forest floor. She stops at a low hanging branch, plucking a few apples from its foliage. It's unfortunate that her mother will go into mourning come dawn.

She continues on into the forest until she finds a picnic set out before her. Her husband waits for her, and he stands when he sees her. She smiles as she looks him over.

Hades is dressed as always, in the dark robes of his position as King of the Underworld. He sweeps her into an embrace, towering over her. She wraps her free arm around him, chuckling into his shoulder. She pushes back, looking up at him. He cradles her face in his hands, kissing her softly.

"I've missed you," he murmurs against her lips.

"And I you, my love," she replies.

He takes her hand and leads her over to the blanket he's set out for them. She takes a seat, as he pours each of them a glass of Dionysus' best wine. When he sits, she shifts to recline against his chest. They sit quietly for a while, watching the sun sink below the horizon.
"Do you know what today marks?" Persephone asks Hades.

"Two hundred years since our marriage," he replies with a smile.

"And two hundred and one since I snuck into the Underworld."

Hades chuckles. "Darling, you didn't make it past Cerberus."

"Fault a girl for getting distracted by a puppy."

He laughs at that, and she smiles. Cerberus was far from a puppy, even back then, towering three times the height of a man, with three heads. When he'd tried to attack her, she'd hit one face right on the nose, and it had startled him so badly they had all backed off.

When he had the courage to come toward her again, she began to pet him. When Hades had come to check on his guard dog, the beast was on his back, with Persephone sitting on his chest, giving him a belly rub. He had invited her inside, and she'd stayed with him for a while until her mother almost caused a war to get her back. And because of that, she could only spend half the year with her husband, reigning the Underworld by his side.

As the night rolls in, they pack up their picnic and make their way to the cave that would take them home. Before they reach it, they find their path blocked by Demeter and a number of guards.

"Daughter," the goddess says. "I will not allow this to continue any longer."

Hades steps forward, but Persephone takes his arm, pulling him back. She steps forward instead. "It's my time to return to the Underworld, Mother, as was decided long ago."

"He stole you and tricked you into staying with him."

"I have told you many times before, he did no such thing. I went to the Underworld myself and chose to stay. There was no trickery, no coercion. He is my husband, and the only reason I stay away from him so long is because of Zeus's order. Now, let us pass."

Persephone takes her husband's hand, leading him forward, only to have Demeter tear her away. Hades extends his arms, summoning his two-pronged bident. The guards around Demeter draw swords to protect their charge. With a howl, three hellhounds burst from the cave, and some of the guards turn to defend against them.

"Enough!" Persephone shouts, and the hounds' ears perk up at her voice, tails wagging slightly. She pulls her arm free of Demeter's grasp. "Do not lay a hand on me again, Mother." Power she rarely uses outside the Underworld thunders around her.

The guards are in such a state of shock, the three hellhounds slip passed them to stand around Persephone's feet. Demeter takes a step back, as the hounds push her away from their mistress.

"I am the Queen of the Underworld," Persephone says. "You will not keep me from my home, my throne, or my husband. My time away has ended. I will return as always in six months' time. If you ever try to stop me again, I will take the slight to Zeus."

She tosses her hair over her shoulder, stepping toward the cave to the Underworld. The guards part, and Demeter doesn't protest. One guard reaches out to take Persephone's arm, but one of the hellhounds snaps its mighty jaw at his hand and he jerks back. Persephone glances back at her husband, seeing a grin on his face, as he follows after her.

He steps up beside her, snaking an arm around her waist, as he presses a kiss to her temple. "I love when you don't hide who you are," he says into her hair. "I hate it when you put on the innocent face for her."

"Maybe when next I leave, I'll simply show her who I am, now," Persephone tells him.

The back of the cave falls away, opening into the entrance to her beloved home. Charon waits for them with his ferry along the river Styx to take them home. He bows his head, placing his hand across his chest. "Welcome home, my Queen."

She takes the hand he offers, stepping onto the ferry. The boat takes them inside, pausing to greet Cerberus with a belly rub. When they arrive at the steps of the palace, the Fates, the Furies, the goddess Styx, and many of her other friends are awaiting her.

Styx rushes up to her, embracing her. "Welcome home, Persephone."

Persephone looks around, with a smile on her face. "It's good to be home."
Connor Sassmannshausen is an American author based in Australia. When not writing stories of all types, she enjoys traveling and taking things apart (but not necessarily putting them back together). Her dream is to have a pet dragon, but seeing as that's unlikely, she'll go with seeing the world.
Twitter: @sass_connor
Instagram: @sass.connor
Cover Art: Thomas Francis Dicksee, 1895, Wikimedia Commons
Layout: Amanda Bergloff


Guy S. Ricketts said...

What a fun and fascinating slice of mythological life story featuring Persephone and Hades, with other familiar names from myth mixed in. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the familiar names, imagining Cerberus on his back for belly rubs, and the bold strength Persephone displays here. In fact, I would enjoy reading this ensemble in an ongoing series. Thanks for the fun story, Connor.

Lissa Sloan said...

I have always thought that Persephone was much more okay with her situation than Demeter wanted to believe. And I love the idea that she took the lead in her relationship with Hades. Great story!