A maiden is born, in time becomes a mother- to bear her own maiden daughter- and, in her age, is the crone, withered, but wise. The spring comes, in time bears fruit and seeds, before, as the year ends, the earth becomes withered and bare.
A maiden with no chance to age or a spring with no winter to rest suffer -both die slowly.
When Kore was small her mother would walk with her through endless fields, showing her how each grain of wheat was unique, special, and her responsibility. Kore laid on her belly and whispered to seedlings, entreating them to grow, teaching them to break through the earth with care. Her mother would stroke her hair and tell Kore she was Demeter’s proudest creation.
Kore grew to young maidenhood in a mortal life, aging as all gods do- as quickly as man- but then, breasts high, small, waist tiny, hips only beginning to curve, and widen, she stopped. Stopping aging, just on the cusp of true adulthood physically. She supposed, occasionally, that she should be grateful her mother chose her to be older, rather that being, like Cupid, forever the cherubic toddler his mother had chosen him to remain.
Her mind aged and her body remained the same- young, ripe as the grain- and just as untouched dew on a spring morning. She had suitors, both gods and men who aspired to her hand, but Demeter turned them away, desiring to share her daughter with no one, to continue as they were, Maiden and Mother, and endless Spring and Summer. And Kore loved her mother. Loved the Spring. And grew to hate forever.
Then there was a summer day, bright and clear, and Kore was torn from the bright blue sky, from Helios’s all seeing gaze by a dark man in a chariot and for moments, for the first time in her existence, knew nothing.
Kore woke- woke, that was what happened- curled safely beneath a fur on a deep soft bed, black iron forming the support. There were candles, shaky illumination on stone walls, and a warm fire providing dim light for a goddess who had only ever seen the sun.
“You’re awake,” a deep voice announced from the shadows. Kore’s stomach clenched deep and low as the voice, an instinctual fear reaction coupled with another, primal reaction, her womb clenching.
“I am,” Kore responded, identifying the dark, unknowing place as un-awake.
The voice approached the bed from the dark corner, coming into view- the same dark, bearded man from the chariot. Kore grasped the fur roughly, pulling it up to her chin as she curled up against the headboard, knees in front of herself protectively. “Where am I? Who are you?”
He didn’t smile, but his eyes changed, warming slightly. “You’re in the underworld, my lady.”
She covered her mouth in shock, “Am I dead?”
“No,” he said firmly, hard. “I have not harmed you.” That was important, vital, from his tone. Kore’s shoulders relaxed slightly and he came closer. He sat lightly on the edge of the bed, reaching out for her face.
He drew his hand back saying softly, almost sadly, “I also will not harm you.”
“Why am I here?” she asked, voice soft.
“I wish you for my wife,” he sounded nearly apologetic, touching her knee softly over the fur.
“I.” She swallowed, then asked, weakly, “My mother approved?”
“I thought your approval was more important,” he said, looking away. He’d been denied then.
“Mine?” she asked, startled. Pleased.
“Isn’t it your life, not your mother’s?”
“But I…” she shook her head, processing.
“Or do you want to remain the maiden goddess, like Artemis,” he asked, sincere, but concerned.
“No,” her reaction was instinctual, real, loud. Then softer, “No. I do not desire to remain a child forever.”
“Then be my wife,” he offered softly, voice gravely, rough, “Be queen here.”
“Queen of the Dead,” she said doubtfully; it was no beautiful title, no enviable position. It was a harsh, cold world, that of the dead.
“The dead do not deserve your scorn,” he said softly, “I rule not only Tartarus, but Elysium as well.”
“And the Asphodel Meadows,” she retorted, loosening her grip on the fur, letting it fall, “The blandest place in all existence.”
“Where only the banal exist,” he replied, eyes dipping down to her revealed figure before instantly returning to her face, respectful. “There is little banality amongst mortals.”
“And less amongst gods,” she agreed, twisting her fingers, “My mother will never agree.”
”You’re not a child to be ruled by your mother.”
“What am I then?” she asked, meeting his eyes for the first time. They were black. Deep.
“What do you want to be?”
She was quiet for long minutes, eons. Hades remained on the edge of the bed. Unmoving, still.
“Not a mother,” she whispered eventually, softly, shamed, but truthful. “I could not bring life to fruition.”
“I’m not my mother,” she said simply. “But you’re asking me to be her opposite, to end what she created.”
“Life cannot exist without death.” He replied, sincere, strong. “Crops grow strong with loam, rich in death. Animals eat other animals, vegetables.”
“But who will be the maiden if I’m your wife?” she asked softly. “There needs to be the maiden and the mother.”
“But what of the aged? What of the wise old woman who teaches the youth and the new mother their way, guiding them to me in time?”
“You’re rationalizing against me,” she protested, leaning forward, arguing, “It’s not that simple.”
“Why isn’t it?”
“Because…even my name means maiden, girl.”
“So pick another.” He said simply.
“What?” she said scornfully, “Pherein Phonon? To bring death?”
“You’re too literal. Pherepapha. Touch what is in motion- everything must come to rest, Persephone.”
“You’re asking me to leave my mother.”
“Every child must.”
Persephone stared into Hades eyes, her own blue eyes darkening from the sunshine blue sky to the midnight blue of an endless night. “Leave me. Please.”
And he left her with a gentle touch to brush her hair back.
Persephone leaned back to rest against the headboard, eyes half shutting as she considered. Worried.
Time passed in the underworld, more quickly than above ground. Months passed like days in the underworld. Months when the world died.
Finally Hermes came, carrying a pronouncement from Zeus, decreeing Hades return Kore to her mother.
Kore met Hermes in a dark receiving chamber, deep in the underworld and said, innocence and light, “Of course, I must comfort my mother. But first, let me say my goodbyes to my host who treated me with nothing but respect.”
She left Hermes amongst the dead and sought out Hades, who, as she had requested had left her to her thoughts.
She slipped her hand into the God of the Underworld’s, quietly. He did not start; he’d felt her coming. “You have to return.”
“I know.” She replied. “But. I wish I didn’t.”
He turned towards her, startled, “No?”
“I heard…I heard once.” She began, hesitatingly, “That if you eat the food of the underworld…”
“My lady Persephone,” Hades said with a slight quirk of his lips in his still face, “May I interest you in breakfast?”
“My lord Hades,” The Queen of the Underworld, the Goddess of birth and death, Kore and Persephone replied, “I would be delighted.”