raise the dead Who: Kate [Hecate] & Isobel [Persephone]. What: The two share a dreamspace. Where: Here and then. When: Right now.
She was a shadow of her former self.
Persephone sat at the head of a long, black table filled with every conceivable meal, far too much for any mortal let alone the slim figure of a girl that she cast; her form was wan, pale, made more so by the dark dress she wore. Hades had bid her eat, sleep, do something to relieve the agony she felt over her mother's reaction to the 'marriage' they had devised; never had she imagined that Demeter would go to such lengths to see her daughter returned.
Her hands picked at the rind of a pomegranate, but nothing seemed alluring. It was dark in the great dining hall, too dark, in more ways than the simple lack of light in the underworld. She could not even see the ceiling, so lost was it in a miasma of shadow. When another figure entered, Persephone did not give notice, her mind too lost in trying to think of a way to 'fix' everything, when all she could see was two simple paths: returning to her mother and losing what she wanted, or staying with Hades and laying waste to everything else.
Hecate had just finished escorting a spirit to the Elysian fields--an easy passage this time, the bright soul consenting to settle in for a deserved afterlife of comfort--when she saw the shadow at the end of the dining hall as she passed by the doorway. She paused, sensing a great deal of turmoil inside the room, and changed her direction.
The young woman at the far end of the table did not stir at Hecate’s entrance, absorbed as she was in neglecting to eat the bounty before her. The stories Hecate had heard about Persephone the earthly, honey-sweet, fruit-bearing maiden did not match the stiff figure in front of her. This Persephone with dark visage and bowed head seemed to blend with the Underworld gloom around them, to belong more fully than Hecate had expected.
She sat in the chair opposite Persephone. After watching the young woman for several minutes, in a quiet but rich voice she said, “Something troubles you.”
Persephone's head settled between her hands, her unfocused eyes coming back into the room to settle on Hecate's dark countenance. She had no more tears to cry; the sockets of her eyes ached from all that she had shed. There was nothing here to absorb the moisture, no dirt nor plants that would use the water for its purpose. She was starting to feel as hollow inside as she was sure the spirits felt.
"I know not what to do. My mother rages in grief for a daughter who is not dead, but I might as well be. The only way to placate her is to go back, but to do so will sunder my heart from my chest. I thought it would be a simple thing, and she would come to terms with it, but now the whole world suffers for my folly."
Of course Hecate knew what had happened; the whole world knew and was suffering Demeter’s wrath and grief. Now, at least, Hecate knew where Persephone stood on the matter--on the edge of two paths, seeing nothing but dark abyss either way she turned. Well, Hecate Enodia had helped gods and mortals alike find their way before.
“The gods are hard to placate, and impossible to predict,” she said. “Demeter will not desist.” Hecate had seen too much in her long immortality to believe otherwise. “But tell me, Kore, if you go back, what will the world suffer as a result of your grief?”
It was a fair question, but Persephone showed the first sign of emotion -- anger welling up from her deep offense. Her arms slammed down on the table top, making the few plates near her rattle. The pomegranate was swept aside, nearly spilling from the table.
"I may be my mother's daughter, but I am not her." The Kore's voice was indignant, confident if thready from the anguish that had earlier bled through the same sound she used now to form words. "Why must I suffer for her desires? I wanted but one thing, to not be alone, and instead she saw fit to push all others away from me, to keep me for herself. I would not have spurned her if she had allowed me but one friend.
"I did not mean to love him, but I do, as much as the sun does not mean to rise and set. Why she cannot accept that, I do not understand, and I will only go back if it is the last solution there is. There must be another way."
Hecate Trioditis smiled. It was always easier when the conflicted being realized for themselves there could be another way, even if they hadn’t come to any specific conclusions yet. And Hecate was pleased to see some life return to Persephone’s demeanor.
“There is always another way,” she said. “It is simply for us to find it.” The teetering pomegranate at the edge of the table caught her eye, and she frowned. “Have you eaten here at all?”
Persephone shrugged. "No, I have no appetite. Everything that delighted me here before only hurts, because when I'm happy, everyone else suffers." She followed Hecate's gaze, plucking up the pomegranate and bringing it back to her plate. Turning it over in her hands, she glanced wryly in the other goddess's direction. "Hades already bid me to eat something, thinking it would put me in a better mood. I don't want food, I..." She sighed, the sudden burst of anger and energy leaving her feeling more weary than before. "I don't know. I just don't know."
Hecate’s frown remained at the Kore’s answer. She spoke about the food in front of her as if it provided merely an idle pastime. “Eating the food here will make you belong to the Underworld even more truly than your desire to remain. You have not eaten, so you have not committed yourself to this place. Did your husband not explain this?”
The younger goddess' mouth worked for a moment, her eyes drawing back to the food with a renewed interest. "He... He might've. He must have, but I don't remember." Her fingers moved gingerly over the halved pomegranate, the seeds moving over the bronze plate beneath it. Persephone looked back to Hecate, brow furrowed.
"How will that fix my situation? My mother already counts me lost. Tying myself here permanently does not ease her pain. The harvest is still withered, and will remain so if I eat this."
Hecate nodded. Persephone was lost in a sea of emotions, wrapped in her desires but buried in her own guilt weighed down under her mother’s grief. It was time to lay everything out in the open, they way things are and the way things could be.
She held up her left hand, palm facing up, fingers curved as if holding something, elbow resting on the arm of her chair. “You can tie yourself to this place, seize your joy, and let the faraway world of mortals wither and die, their souls to come here and fill your kingdom until one by one they choose to fade away, leaving you purposeless.”
She held up her right hand in the same manner. “Or you could put down the pomegranate, leave your love in this dark hall, and return back to your mother’s sunlight with the shadow of what you’ve lost always behind you.
“You know this already.” Hecate caught Persephone’s gaze and held it, her expression hardening; the younger goddess tensed, watching and waiting. “You want pieces of both paths.” Suddenly her hands came together in a startling clap that resounded throughout the hall like a thunderbolt. Persephone startled, her back straightening as her gaze widened in surprise. Behind Hecate's eyes burned a dark flame. “Take those pieces and make your own path.”
Persephone's mind struggled with the things Hecate had presented to her. Her mind was still jumbled, the witch deity's meaning lost on her.
"But...I cannot have both. I..." Realization dawned on her, her gaze drifting from Hecate to the pomegranate. Her mouth pursed into a moue of thought, fingers toying at the fruit on her plate. She looked back to the woman seated across from her. "How much must I eat to tie myself to this place? Is it undoable?" At what point was the point of no return? Thoughts were flitting through the goddess' mind again, her fingers digging into one half of the fruit to spill slick seeds over the plate. "If I have reason to return, do you really think I could go between one world and the other?"
Hecate’s dark countenance melted into a wide smile, her hands falling down to rest again in her lap. The fire in her eyes faded. Persephone had taken a step, even if she didn’t quite know it yet. “You are a goddess,” she said warmly, “born of one world, chosen of another. Who would dare stop you?”
She shook her head, a laugh almost on her lips at the absurdity of the idea. “Your mother will rage again when you leave her side, but a picked harvest does not spoil so quickly. Mortals will learn to survive until you return to her again.” Her eyes moved to the pomegranate in Persephone’s hand. “What is your decision, Kore?”
The young goddess already held three seeds in her hand, the rest sloughing off her skin as she held her answer too tightly. She met Hecate's eyes again, and rather than offer a verbal reply, she brought her hand to her mouth and swallowed the seeds whole. Pomegranate juice ran from her lips over her chin, fingers attempting a failing impasse. The sour-sweet taste filled her mouth, as she was sure it would soon fill her life. Persephone swallowed, and though she felt no different when she had done so, she at least felt better for having done something.
Still smiling and wishing to bring some light to mark the passing of this dark time, Hecate stood and clapped her hands together again, the sound not nearly as forceful as earlier. Three torches lit with flame, one behind Persephone and one on each of her sides. Hecate’s eyes widened at the sight they illuminated, for all around the other goddess had grown that ghostly flower of the dead, asphodel. Hecate did laugh then, the sound warm. Pleasure evident in her deep voice, she said, “Welcome home, my queen.”
Persephone rose from her seat, her chair scraping back loudly in the dead quiet of the hall. Her dress cascaded to the floor, little stones scattered throughout the cloth winking in what failing light there was to be had.
"Thank you," she said, desperately grateful, as though afraid to break the bond that had just been woven by her actions, unsure if she might do something to undo it completely. "Thank you. I must... I have to tell Hades." Moving away from her chair and the table with its largesse of offerings, she walked by Hecate’s chair and pressed a tight grip to the woman's shoulder -- then the Kore was gone from the room, in her wake a small trail of quickly fading spring flowers.