The Lord of the Dead was shorter than Jyn had expected.
He hadn’t introduced himself, but she knew who he was. He was clearly a god; no mortal could have withstood her. Not now, not when she had unleashed all of her power in a desperate attempt to escape.
And – there were so few immortals left, and she knew the others. Who else could it be but the Unseen One, the ruler whose realm even gods feared to visit?
Although to tell the truth, she had known him even before her conscious mind made the connections. It was something about his eyes. His face was handsome, but his eyes spoke of darkness, of suffering, of the abyss. He was no less intimidating for being of average size; one look at his face, and it was clear he was not one to take lightly. Even with her eyes closed, she could feel the power rolling off him in waves.
Not that she would give him the pleasure of knowing he scared her.
“Is this how you treat a follow Olympian?” she asked, forcing a haughty tone. “Whatever happened to welcoming guests?”
He looked unimpressed. Well. It was hard to look imposing when dangling from the mouth of a three-headed dog.
“You are not our guest,” one of the dog’s heads told her. “You are our prisoner.”
“Yes, thank you, K,” the god of the dead said. His voice was like his face, she decided; beautiful, but with more than a hint of pain.
“I never was welcome on Olympus,” he added, addressing her.
“Is that was this is about?” she asked. “My apologies, Lord Hades. You have my welcome to visit Mount Olympus whenever you please. Provided you can wrest it back from the Titans, of course.”
A grimace rippled over his face and was gone in an instant. She waited for him to grow angry with her insolence, but all he said was, “I don’t go by Hades these days.”
“So what’s your name?”
“Names are such fluid things, don’t you think?” he answered. “Persephone. Cora. It is Janna now, is it not?”
Honestly, he had her kidnapped and dragged to the Underworld, and he couldn’t bother to learn her nickname?
“I go by Jyn,” she told him, letting her irritation seep into her voice. The words felt like a confession as soon as they left her lips, and she silently berated herself. Names were power.
His face was neutral as he looked her over, taking in her ripped jeans and dirty hair. She held her head high. It wasn't like his clothes were much better. Cleaner, yes, and better fitted, but the coarse work pants and jacket were hardly something Ares would wear, let alone any of the others.
He held her eyes for a long moment, then nodded as if he had made up his mind about something.
“Cassian,” he said. “That’s my name.”
“Cassian. Doesn’t that mean ‘empty’?” She raised an eyebrow, looked around the gloomy chamber. “Fitting, I suppose.”
“It suits me better than your name suits you, perhaps,” he said, voice sharper now. “A nice name for a goddess of nature, but when did you last use your powers? When did you last give mortals a bountiful harvest? When did you last give them anything?”
“Did you drag me down here to talk about my job performance?” she asked, fists clenched, and if she’d been irritated before, now she was furious. She felt the dog’s teeth dig tighter into her sweater in response to her anger.
“No,” he said, his face an expressionless mask again. “I brought you here to talk about your father.”
The goddess of the fields was not what he had expected.
He generally tried not to have expectations. Or, better yet, to expect the worst. He was so rarely disappointed.
Still, looking at the angry, disheveled figure trapped in K’s jaws, he realized that he had, despite himself, expected that a nature goddess would be… calmer.
She was quiet now, the mention of her father having apparently succeeded in shocking her into silence. He knew better than to expect it to last.
“Release her, K,” he ordered. “We don’t need to restrain her.”
“Because I’m trapped here just as well either way,” she said bitterly, finding her voice. K dropped her unceremoniously, but she landed on her feet, grimacing in disgust at the drool marks on her sleeves.
“We have no time for bickering,” he said, impatient. He ignored her glare. “Your father. When did you last see him?”
“I haven’t seen Zeus in ages,” she said. “Nobody has. If that’s what you brought me here for, sorry you wasted your time.”
“Your real father.”
She froze. Not for long, not for more than the merest fraction of a second. Cassian saw it anyway. He did, after all, meet all of mankind eventually. He often watched them stand and be judged; witnessed their last desperate attempts to justify their lives. He liked to think he was fairly good at reading faces.
He liked to think he was fairly good at spotting lies.
Still. He almost believed her when she said, “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Hephaestus,” K supplied. “Tall god, good with metal, probably creating a weapon that will destroy all life on earth?”
Cassian sighed as Jyn’s face contorted in horror. He hadn’t planned to tell her like that.
“He wouldn’t do that,” she told K, her voice shaking with anger. “I don’t know who told you that, but it’s wrong. My – He has honor. He’s done with weapons.”
“Jyn,” he said, trying to keep his voice level. She turned to him, green eyes wild, and he was struck by how young she looked, despite all her angry posturing and suspicious glares. He knew he must look far older. He certainly felt far older.
He sighed again. “I know your father wanted to be done with weapons,” he began. She started to speak, but he held up a hand for silence. “But that does not mean they are done with him.”
She was quiet for a minute, staring at something none of the rest of them could see. “Galen,” she whispered. He raised an eyebrow in question, waited. “His name,” she added. “After the bombs, he… It means ‘calm.’”
“That is an illogical name choice for a god of fire and destruction,” K interjected. “I do not understand.”
“What a surprise,” she shot back.
He spoke quickly, before they could start really fighting. An angry goddess and a three-headed hellhound could do some serious damage, and he had enough to do these days without rebuilding the mourning fields again.
“We have reason to believe that Hephaestus – Galen,” he corrected himself at a look from Jyn, “Has been taken by Kronos. That he is building a weapon that will secure the Titans’ rule over this world for time without end.”
She was shaking her head before he finished. “I haven’t seen him,” she said. “I wish I could help you – “ K snorted “ – I do!” she glared, “But I haven’t seen him in years.”
“Too busy saving your own skin,” K muttered, and Cassian would tell him to back off, except that he didn’t exactly disagree.
Jyn didn’t fly into a rage. For a long moment she didn’t answer at all, and he felt the subtle discord of unmet expectations again.
“Are we done here?” she finally asked, voice flat. He stared at her in disbelief. She raised her chin and stared right back.
It had been a long time since someone met his gaze so easily. There was something almost pleasing about being seen as an irritation for once, and not a horror.
Still. “We are not done,” he informed her. “We still need your help. Your father still needs your help.”
Her eyes flashed. “I fail to see the connection,” she said. “I can hardly help my father while trapped in the underworld with your little monsters, can I?”
K let out an indignant woof. “I am not a ‘little’ monster,” he complained. “I am Kerberos, hound of Hades, terror of the Netherworld. Men look upon me and tremble.”
Jyn smirked. “That’s not what Hercules told me,” she said.
Cassian didn’t think he’d ever seen K actually speechless before.
He fought back a moment of amusement at the sight of all three of K’s jaws opening and closing wordlessly, and turned back to Jyn. “I am your best chance of helping your father,” he told her. Implored her. “Together, we stand a chance of saving him.”
She gave him a hard look. “And if I say no?”
“Then the only way you are leaving here is through Tartarus,” he told her. She didn’t even flinch at that. Maybe she was more accustomed to horror than he had thought.
“It’s good to know where we stand,” was all she said. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to shower. Someone seems to have drooled on me.” She let her gaze flick over him. “You do have showers here, right?”
“Show her to her quarters, K,” he ordered. The giant dog lunged forward. “Wait!” K paused, his teeth almost at Jyn’s neck. “Walk with her, K, don’t carry her.”
K let out a frustrated whine, but did as he was told. Cassian did not watch Jyn as she walked away.
But he couldn’t help but notice that even hours after she had left, the room still smelled of springtime.