Demeter was on the war path.
Hades supposed the conflict was inevitable, given their respective domains. She gave fertility to the earth, growth to the crops, life to everything green above the ground. He ruled over the underworld, where everyone but him was dead, and mined the glittering gold and gems that lay deep beneath the earth’s surface. It was only natural that they would clash.
Still, he thought his railway was a relatively inoffensive initiative. Yes, it was loud and filled the sky with smoke, but it gave the shades of Hadestown work to keep them occupied, and it would expedite the import of souls into the underworld and the export of luxury goods—the gold and gems and coal and oil that Zeus and Poseidon suddenly found so very valuable—to the world above. It was the herald of a new future—one in which the underworld was no longer so isolated, the darkness no longer so absolute.
Demeter, however, declared it an invasion of her domain. She was a formidable opponent, too—provoking weeds to wrap their thick tendrils around the iron railway tracks or slip into cracks in the concrete and break it apart. She could not stop the singleminded focus of the shades, who kept working despite these interruptions, but she could certainly impede their progress, forcing them to repeat the same task over and over again without getting nowhere.
It was getting to be a real problem. There was only one way to deal with it—negotiate terms with Demeter. He would not simply acquiesce to her will, but surely a compromise could be reached. A business deal of sorts. So he set out walking up the railroad track and set foot in the world above for the first time in ages.
It was not difficult to discover the location of Demeter’s residence on earth; he simply had to ask the mortals of the nearby farming village. They had cowered at his sudden appearance and imposing manner, as was to be expected; the bravest among them asked why he was building the railroad. “To make us free,” he said simply. “Now where is the goddess Demeter?”
Apparently, the goddess lived on a farmstead just outside town with her daughter, a girl called Kore. So she had a family, Hades thought grimly. Yet another difference between them, for Hades always walked alone. He briefly wondered if he could use the child to his advantage, convince Demeter that his project would create a better future for her daughter. He was already forming the argument in his mind when he found the garden.
The scent hit him first—the scent of wildflowers, wafting toward him on a gentle breeze. He felt the warmth of the sun settle on his shoulders. Pollen floated in the air around him. And a young woman who had to be Demeter’s daughter stood there, alone against the sky.
He had been expecting a child. A brat. Not a fully-grown goddess in her own right, and especially not… this.
There were no words to describe her. There were no words for the way that Hades felt.
So, without even realizing it, he opened his mouth and he started to sing.
And that is when Kore turned and saw him.