(Author’s Note: This is a scene from a much larger story that I am writing.)
Hades was unfortunately growing accustomed to the journey between realms. He had used this means of travel more in the last few months than he had in a millennium. The changing gradient from dark to bright didn’t seem as long as it usually did, and he noted that he no longer felt the prickling darkness trying to drag him down. It was almost as if he was actually free, a feeling he had long ago forgotten. It wasn’t that he was trapped, but it no longer felt like the Underworld was trying to smother him.
As the ground solidified beneath him, he prepared himself for the hard task he had ahead. He knew, in theory, that talking about the way he felt would be good for him. To give a voice to his feelings would help him process it. But he also knew that he was going to have to fight to get his voice heard if he wanted any help from Aphrodite. He also knew that there was a chance she would ridicule him. The God of the Underworld in love? It still sounded absurd to his own ears. There was also that small fact that Hades had been the one to have her husband taken away. He wasn’t sure that she would even see him because of that.
Aphrodite’s temple was overflowing with offerings. Desserts, silks, and flowers were nestled in every corner and everywhere in between. The mortals who had brought them here had hoped that their offerings would appease the goddess enough that she would grant them their wishes for love. A mortal woman who was sitting on her knees with her head bowed down to the floor, looked as if she was about to burst into tears. She sat in front of a beautifully gilded throne. Aphrodite’s doppelganger in the form of stone sat in the seat, just as gilded. From what Hades had gathered from her whispered pleas, she was in an arranged marriage with some mortal man she did not love. If Aphrodite were to grant her wish to marry the one, she loved, the mortal’s governing system would not be able to object. That was unlikely though, Hades knew.
Hades wrinkled his nose as he looked up at Aphrodite’s statue. Perhaps this was not the best idea. He was already feeling overwhelmed by the utter mess he was standing in. The mortal woman had finally noticed him standing there and she screamed, making the other mortals stare at him in terror. He was used to their fright, of course. It came with being the god of the Underworld. No one wanted to go to his realm, even those that did would change their minds if given the opportunity. His realm was a paradise for those that the Fates deemed worthy of peace.
Hades felt the anxiety in his chest blossom. He wouldn’t normally feel this from the mortals’ reactions, but their reactions mixed with his nervousness about confronting the Goddess of Love had him standing on edge. As the mortals fled, he thought of doing the same. However, he was stopped, mid-thought, by the silky soft voice that spoke his name.
“Hades,” it said, the words caressing the air around him. “I thought I sensed you here.”
He turned to face the owner of the voice and found himself face to face with Aphrodite. If he had been mortal, he would have fallen to his knees at the sight of her. She was the definition of beauty with her heart-shaped face. However, when he saw her, he couldn’t help but think that Persephone was more beautiful than she was, a thought that astounded him. Since he was in her temple and he wanted something, Hades gave her a stiff bow.
“It has been a while, Aphrodite,” he said to her in an even, if a bit too unenthusiastic, tone.
“So it has,” she replied, her voice was soft as ever with that note of hidden charm that she always had on like armor. “What do I owe the pleasure of this visit?”
Hades frowned, feeling the tension he had come here with thicken. It was then that he saw her narrowed eyes and he knew it had been a bad idea to come here. Not one to let his pride be hurt, however, he subconsciously gulped back the anxiety and returned her suspicious gaze with one of his own. He stood straighter, if it were possible, and held his head high.
“I’ve come to ask a favor of you.”
The snarl she gave him wasn’t enough to mar her beauty.
“You, who caused my husband to be taken away, dare to ask for a favor?”
“I…” Hades hesitated for a moment then said, “I didn’t mean to disrupt your life, Aphrodite. Hephaestus is the one who has been giving those-”
“Hephaestus hasn’t done anything!” She interrupted.
After a moment of silence, Aphrodite let her glare soften. A new teasing glint entered her eyes and that made Hades’ skin prickle. A wave of suspicion washed over him. Before he had a chance to speak on his suspicion, Aphrodite laughed. She slunk herself into the lap of her statured self and smiled at Hades. He was stunned from the confusion.
“Go on, Hades. Tell me what you would ask of me,” she said, waving nonchalantly in his direction.
It took him a moment to get his thoughts together and, feeling like this was going way too smoothly, he cleared his throat and said, “I want to know if…I want to know what love feels like.”
The surprise on Aphrodite’s face was quickly replaced with an intense curiosity and amusement. She sat forward, resting her elbows on her knees and her chin on her fists. That teasing glint in her eye grew. Hades became immensely uncomfortable at her gaze and, let’s face it, at this whole situation. The regret of having come here multiplied in his stomach.
“Don’t tell me that you are in love, Hades! Is it a mortal woman?” Aphrodite asked, clearly thriving in his discomfort. “Give me all the details!”
His face felt warm and, all of a sudden, the God of the Underworld couldn’t make eye contact with the goddess. He stared down at his feet, a feeling of shame rising in him.
“Of course, it’s not a mortal,” he said, not able to catch himself before his confession came tumbling out of his mouth.
“Oh? Then who is this mysterious, non-mortal crush of yours?” Aphrodite grinned teasingly at him before feigning exasperation. “Could that be the reason you wanted to get rid of my husband? Oh Hades! You should have said so sooner.”
“No. It’s…I…” Hades huffed, irritated with her teasing. “Just tell me what love feels like, Aphrodite!”
She giggled, sitting back in her seat. Hades glanced up at her, feeling a scrambled mess of feelings that he hadn’t ever felt before in his eternal life. Annoyance, shame, embarrassment, hope, desperation. He wished with his whole immortal soul that he had never come to this place.
“I will tell you if you are in love, Hades, if you tell me her name. That is my price for this little favor,” she said.
He had the fleeting thought that Aphrodite was tricking him. He felt sure that she was trying to make him feel hope so she could squash it. He couldn’t imagine her actually helping him after everything. For whatever reason, though, she didn’t seem as mad at the loss of her husband as he expected her to be. This confused him as he had always thought that their marriage was good. Perhaps things were not always as they seemed. Feeling like a fool, he swallowed his pride. If there was a chance that she would help, he needed to take it. Biting down all of the doubt, Hades forced the words out from his lips.
“Persephone, the Goddess of Spring.”
A surprised laugh sprang from Aphrodite’s mouth, and she covered it with the back of her hand. Her power was being able to see the love in others and manipulate it and them. She could see the truth of it in Hades. The thought of him being in love was as shocking as it was hilarious. He was the God of the Underworld, where the dead resided, yet he fancied himself in love with the Goddess of Spring? She couldn’t be more opposite to him if she had tried. Her power, as far as Aphrodite knew, was to bring life into the world. Staring down at him for a moment, Aphrodite pondered what to tell him before deciding on the truth.
“Congratulations, Hades. It seems that you are capable of love,” she said, smiling at him. At the relieved and bewildered reaction, he gave her, she added, “I wonder if she also will find herself in love with you.”
Biography: I am currently in my last semester at Aims Community College. I am pursuing a degree in physics, but I have a passion for art of all kinds. When I’m not studying, I am working on creating all sorts of things. I enjoy painting, writing, drawing, sculpting, leatherwork, woodburning, and many other things. I’ve always been drawn to different crafts and I enjoy learning new skills. Writing has always been my favorite pastime. I enjoy creating new worlds and bringing new characters to life. My time here at Aims has been incredibly rewarding. I have learned so much and have been inspired by many of the people I have met here. I hope to one day have a book published and I want to expand my art career even further. If I could give advice to anyone wondering if they should continue pursuing their passions, it would be to just keep going for it! If it gives you joy, you should make time to do it!