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Chapter Text

“Look up!

Orpheus does, fingers stopping abruptly on the frets of his guitar, melody in his mind suddenly falling away. Hermes is staring at him with a sour look on his face that Orpheus has come to know means disappointment.

“There’s a storm coming on,” the god says. “And your girl is alone.” His expression softens. “I know you can see how the world could be, but now you have to live in the one that is.”

His voice cracks. “Eurydice?”

Hermes nods toward the door. Orpheus runs out into the storm.

It’s brutal and cold, and Orpheus has barely eaten anything all this time he’s been working on the song; he’s just about to collapse of exhaustion when he hears his name being called. He runs to her against the harshest wind he’s ever felt until Eurydice is in his arms, shivering.

“It’s gone,” she tells him, voice trembling. “Everything we have—my coat, the supplies—they’re gone.”

“We need to get inside,” he says, but they’re both succumbing to the cold, fast, and it’s getting darker every minute that passes. The wind howls in their ears, and for a moment Orpheus thinks he hears voices, singing in eerie harmony. But Eurydice buries her head in his chest and he sees home in the distance, so he keeps walking and doesn’t look back.

Hermes is gone by now, called to bring the train back up top. Orpheus lays Eurydice down by the fire and covers her in as many blankets as possible. The flames are dying down, he realizes, and there’s not much firewood left. He looks at Eurydice again. He almost left her to die out there, all for a stupid song. Who was he to think that he could make spring come again? Who cared about the way the world could be? 

This is how it is.

The storm settles down. Orpheus looks out the window and sees a lone figure in a slate black duster walking down the road. Mr. Hades, he thinks, heart leaping into his throat. The god stares at him the same way he had stared at Eurydice on the train platform.

Orpheus slings his guitar over his back and goes out to meet him. “How much will you give me for this?” he says, gesturing to the guitar.

Hades raises an eyebrow. “What would I want with a lyre?”

“I’ll do anything,” Orpheus says. His knees are beginning to buckle under him. “I’ll work in the mines. I’ll work on the wall.”

“Son, you wouldn’t last a day down there,” the god drawls.

“Then I’ll sing,” he croaks. “I’ll sing for your workers to keep them in line. I’ll sing for your wife, to keep her underground. Please…” He glances back at the house—really more of a shack—where Eurydice lies by the dwindling fire. “I can’t let her starve.”

Silence. Then, a quirk of the lips—not really a smile, but the gesture of one. “I suppose I could use a canary.”

Barely awake, Eurydice hears Orpheus come back in from the cold. “Who was that? Mr. Hermes?” she murmurs.

Orpheus pauses, unsure of himself, before answering, “No. It was Hades.”

The shock gives Eurydice a new shot of energy, just enough to bolt up and stare at her lover. “Hades?” she repeats. “Why would Hades be here?”

Slowly, he makes his way over to sit beside her, laying the guitar against the wall. The fingers of his right hand are curled around something Eurydice can’t quite make out. “He was recruiting,” Orpheus says. “Looking for more workers.”

He opens his hand. Four silver coins lie in his palm. It’s more money than either of them could scrounge together in months. Not enough to last them through the winter, but enough to buy two tickets to Hadestown.

Eurydice shrinks back a little, settling deeper into the pile of blankets he had wrapped around her. “Orpheus…”

“Mr. Hades said I could work for him and Lady Persephone and sing for the workers. It would raise morale, he said. You could come with me and work in the factory, and Mr. Hades would provide for both of us.” His gaze flickers over to the last few embers of their fire. “We wouldn’t have to worry about the wind, or the cold, or going hungry. But I wouldn’t go without you.”

He extends his arm out to offer her the coins in his hand, like the time he’d offered her a bouquet of torn-up newspaper or a flower that blossomed from the power of his voice.

A draft comes in through the thin walls of their house. Even under her blankets, she shivers. It’s so cold. It seems like everywhere she goes, the wind follows. But it can’t follow her down there.

“I’m coming,” she says with a nod.

“I’m coming with you,” Orpheus says, smiling.

Chapter Text

Hermes meets them on the platform, solemn-faced. The look of disappointment he had given Orpheus the day of the storm still lingers in his eyes. Doubt gnaws at the edges of Orpheus’ resolve. Maybe it’s too soon to leave Mr. Hermes, to leave the world above. He remembers the god’s warning, the day he’d brought the train up from Hadestown to bring down Lady Persephone: the wage is nothing and the working’s hard; it’s a graveyard in Hadestown

As if he can hear Orpheus’ thoughts, Hermes places a hand on his shoulder. “Do you really wanna go?” he asks in a low voice.

Orpheus turns to look at Eurydice, who is staring at the point where the railroad tracks disappear into a cavern under the earth. The wind plays with her hair; she brushes it out of her eyes and meets’ Orpheus’ gaze, and all doubt melts. “With all my heart,” he tells Hermes, not taking his eyes off her. “Wherever she is, is where I’ll go.”

“What about your song?” the god asks. “What about making spring come again?”

Orpheus shakes his head. “I almost lost her because of that song. I need to be someone she can depend upon.”

“A’ight,” Hermes says. “Time to go.” And with that, the train whistle blows.

The inside of the train compartment is nicer than anything Eurydice had ever seen. Smooth red leather lines the seats, and an empty crystalline decanter rests on a mahogany minibar in the back—Persephone must have drunk it dry on her way down. As Eurydice and Orpheus shuffle in, Hades’ voice rumbles, nearly making Orpheus jump out of his skin.

“Young man.” He is standing by the door that connects this compartment to another. He nods his chin in Orpheus’ direction. “I’ve got a commission for you. Due as soon as we get to Hadestown.”

“I, uh, I dunno if I can do that, sir. I, I don’t write that quickly—”

“Why not? You have your lyre. You have your muse with you.” He turns his gaze on Eurydice for the first time since Persephone left. Eurydice had almost forgotten how it felt to be stared at by those ice blue eyes, fixed in the god’s gaze like a butterfly pinned to a board.

Orpheus bows his head. “What do you want the song for?”

“A rally. To remind the workers why we build the wall.”

“Does it have to be right now?” Eurydice said before she could stop herself. “He hasn’t eaten—we haven’t eaten anything but scraps in days.”

The corner of his mouth twitches. “Very well. Nobody sings on empty.” He grabs a radio device from its receiver on the wall and speaks into it, words booming into every compartment in the train. “Send two portions of food to the coach. Something substantial.”

He hangs the radio back on the receiver and addresses Orpheus again: “You have two hours.” Then he slides the door open and disappears into another compartment of the train.

 Eurydice looks at Orpheus, and he’s shaking. “I can’t do it, Eurydice,” he says, sinking into one of the seats. “I can’t.”

“Of course you can, poet.” She sits beside him, letting him nestle up close to her. “You just need to eat and to clear your head.”

An attendant brings them two trays laden with soup, sandwiches, and warm mugs of some hot drink—Eurydice doesn’t really care what, as she scarfs it all down as quick as she can. Orpheus picks at his food, eyes darting about wildly. He’s still shaken by what Hades said.

Suddenly, the soup spoon falls out of his hand and clatters against the bowl. “Why do we build the wall?” he asks, breath coming fast and shallow. “He does it to guard all his riches, but what about us? What does the wall give us?”

“Safety,” Eurydice says, placing a hand on his shoulder. “And… and opportunity. For a better life. That’s why we’re on this train, remember? We get a chance at a better life.”

“But why build a wall?” Orpheus pressed. “Why divide the rich from the poor? What are we trying to keep out? What are we keeping in?” He starts rocking back and forth, eyes squeezed shut and mouth murmuring frantic melodies.

“Orpheus!” she calls. His eyes snap wide open and he scrambles for his guitar, and Eurydice sighs in relief.

The song comes in fits and starts. The words are plain and the tune dark and moody. The first song Orpheus played for her made hope blossom in her chest. This song crushes it under the hard heel of reality. Eurydice wonders if that’s how Orpheus feels—crushed and resigned. More worried about safety and security and practicality than being alive.

The Orpheus she knows is gone, Eurydice realizes. Something has died inside his soul.

Chapter Text

Persephone hates the rallies. Hates having to stand there by Hades’ side, looking out at the sea of workers and seeing the hollowness in their eyes. Hates the sound of her husband’s voice as he shouts every word like a general commanding an army. Hates not being able to do anything about it but smuggle in some scraps of the world above and drink for six months—or seven, or nine—until she can leave this hell. Gods, what she wouldn’t give for a drink right now.

Hades finishes his speech and clears his throat, drawing Persephone’s attention back to her husband. He beckons to someone in the wings, then turns back to the microphone and says, “Now, this is a very special young man, come all the way from up above to sing to us.”

Persephone’s breath catches in her throat. No.

Orpheus steps onstage, thin and pale as a sheet.

Hades steps aside, closer to Persephone, and smiles at her. Not maliciously—almost sweetly, in fact. She stares back at him, brow furrowed. Why?  Why is Orpheus here? What’s going on? What did Hades do?

Following behind Orpheus like a shadow is his girl, Eurydice, with an expression like a wild animal, wide-eyed and terrified. She gives Persephone a pleading look just as Orpheus begins to sing.

The poet’s voice is captivating as always. The boy has a way with words, rhythm and rhyme coming as naturally to him as breathing. The steel and stone walls of Hadestown echo the plucked notes of his lyre, amplifying the sound. “Why do we build the wall?” he begins. “My children, my children, why do we build the wall?

Horror sets in as Persephone listens to the poor boy sing. Hermes’ boy, the poet who once raised his cup to the world we dream about, now echoes Hades’ words, steps in time with Hades’ step, with a kind of resigned desperation that breaks Persephone’s heart in two. A moment later, indignation begins to swell. How dare he. How dare he take that bright boy and twist him into this.

Hades reaches for Persephone’s hand, but she rips it away and storms off. He follows her, tries to place a hand on her shoulder. She claws her fingernails into his arm until he pulls away.

“How could you?” she growls. “How could you force him down here? How could you make him do that?”

“I didn’t force him into anything.”

“Like hell you didn’t.”

Hades grits his teeth. “I thought you would be pleased. You like the boy and his songs. I brought him here for you.”

“Don’t you dare try to make this ‘for me’!” Persephone jabs her finger at Hades. “You made him part of your propaganda machine. You’re exploiting him for your own benefit!”

“The boy was going to starve,” Hades hisses. “Him and his girl. She’d nearly died out in the storm. He came to me looking to sell his lyre, I offered him something better. They chose this.”

“A choice made in desperation ain’t a real choice.” She crosses her arms and turns her back on him, sick at the sight of his face. “Tell me they haven’t signed the papers yet.” Silence. “Tell me!”

Nothing. Hades is gone.

Persephone closes her eyes and lets out a sigh with the intensity of a scream. Then she turns around and heads back toward the rally, back toward Orpheus and Eurydice. She has to get to them before Hades does.

After Lady Persephone leaves and Hades follows, Orpheus sinks to his knees, guitar strings clanging as the instrument hits the floor. Someone is calling his name, but he doesn’t hear. The sounds of pickaxes and hammers and infernal machinery echo in his brain, even though no one is working—all the workers are at the rally, watching Orpheus break down.

“Poet,” Eurydice tries again. “Come on, love. Get up.”

Persephone approaches them, dark eyes full of indignation. Her face falls when she sees Orpheus on his knees. “Oh, chickadee,” she says with a soft, sympathetic cluck of the tongue. “What happened to you?”

“We lost everything in the storm,” says Eurydice, not meeting the goddess’ eyes. “I was… I nearly froze to death, and we were running out of firewood. It scared Orpheus, bad. He went to Hades and begged him to take us in.”

“Did you sign a contract with Hades?”

Eurydice bites her lip. “I didn’t, not yet. He did.”

Persephone crouches down next to Orpheus and gingerly places a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Orpheus?” No response. Persephone grits her teeth. “Help me get him up,” she tells Eurydice. “We’re going somewhere Hades can’t touch him.”

“How is that possible? We’re in Hadestown.”

Persephone can’t help but smirk a little in self-satisfaction. “A lot can happen on the factory floor, when the foreman turns his back,” she says. “What the boss don’t know, the boss don’t mind.”

Chapter Text

Orpheus drowns in sound. The rhythmic whir of machinery, the hollow ring of pickaxes, the grunts and labored breaths of workers pushed to exhaustion. “Eurydice?” he calls out, but he can barely hear his own thoughts, never mind his voice. He shrinks a little. “Doesn’t anybody hear me?”

And then, like the distant howling of the wind, three otherworldly voices answer:

—They can hear.

—But they don’t care.

—Nobody has a voice down here.

Orpheus recognizes those voices. The day he saved Eurydice from the storm, he thought he heard voices on the wind, singing dissonant harmonies that undercut the melody he had been chasing for so long. He tries to sing it again, to comfort himself and focus his thoughts—he would always sing when the world was too loud and bright and made no sense—but the notes catch in his throat. His muscles tense.

“Why can’t I sing to myself anymore?” he asks, voice rising to a frantically high pitch. “I always could before.”

—The patron pays—

—the tune is called.

—The piper has no choice at all.

His eyes widen. “I can’t sing unless Hades tells me to?”

—You signed his contract, didn’t you?

—Exclusive rights to every word.

—He owns you now, little songbird.

Orpheus’ breath comes fast and shallow as he tries to sing something, anything. He opens his mouth and nothing comes out.

“I have to go,” he finally says hoarsely. “I have to leave.”

—And what about Eurydice?

The question makes his whole body grow cold. Eurydice. He can’t leave her here. But would she really follow him into the cold and dark again, after he promised to provide for her and failed twice? Who was he to lead her out when he himself had made the deal that sold them both to Hades? Who did he think he was?

—So, what was that song again?

That’s why we build the wall,” Orpheus sings, and despite the fact that he’s trapped, it still brings him some relief. His music isn’t gone completely. “We build the wall to keep us free.

The three voices intertwine into a haunting harmony. Saw that wheel up in the sky, heard the big bell tolling. A lot of souls have got to die to keep the rust belt rolling. A lot of spirits gotta break to make the underworld go round, way down Hadestown, way down under the ground…



“Well, this is a damn mess.”

Eurydice glances across the bar at Persephone, who is currently downing another drink as she watches Orpheus rock back and forth in his seat on a nearby chaise. The goddess had brought them to her speakeasy, hidden in a storage shed overgrown with dead leaves and vines that made it look like it hadn’t been used in years. “I told Hades I wanted to grow a garden. Told him maybe it’d make my time down here bearable, he gave the go-ahead ‘cause he thought it would keep me down here longer,” she told Eurydice. “Ain’t nothing that grows right down here, not with all the heat from the foundries and those damn industrial lamps and all the rocks and stones in the ground. By the end of the year, I’d supposedly abandoned the project. Just another failed attempt at workin’ on our marriage. But really, I was building this.”

The place reminds Eurydice a little of Hermes’ café, where she and Orpheus first met—a shelter from the harsh world outside, a little dusty and dim but with an atmosphere of camaraderie. A place for Persephone and the workers to drown their sorrows and reminisce about the good old days, or what little the workers remembered of it. It seems that signing a contract with Hades and working on the assembly line wears away at your identity until you’re nothing more but just another worker. The thought of it makes Eurydice worry about Orpheus, who had signed his contract on the train right after playing his wall song for Hades.

“He can’t hear me,” Eurydice says, gaze falling to the floor. “It’s like when he was working on the song, up top. You called his name and he wouldn’t answer.” A thought stirs. “The song. The song could wake him up.”

“Do you know the song?”

Eurydice shakes her head. “Only a little part of it. He wasn’t finished yet, but he sang a little bit to me when we first met.”

She approaches Orpheus, careful not to move too suddenly. “Can you hear me, Orpheus?” Nothing. She takes a deep breath and closes her eyes.

La la la la la la la…” Silence. “La la la la la la…”

Slowly, Orpheus’ muscles relax. His eyes focus on her face, and he whispers, “It’s you.”

“It’s me.” She smiles, tears welling up in her eyes. “Orpheus.”


“I don’t know how the rest of it goes,” Eurydice says and places her hand on his cheek. “Sing it for me, poet.”

Orpheus recoils from her touch, instantly tensing up again, and stares down at his empty hands. “What’s wrong?” Eurydice asks. “Orpheus?”

He just shakes his head, over and over and over again. Finally, he speaks in a cracked and hoarse whisper. “I can’t.”

Chapter Text

Hermes knows this has all happened before. It’s an old song, after all, and as the god of stories on the road to hell it’s his duty to tell the tale. Time and time again he’s found Orpheus, a scared little boy singing to himself on the train platform, waiting for a mother who hopped on a railroad car and never came back. Time and time again he’s raised the boy as his own, encouraged his gift, watched him fall in love, instructed him on how to bring her home again, even though he knows every time that the boy will bring springtime back but lose the one who matters most. Little things change from time to time—Eurydice stays longer or leaves sooner, or Orpheus train-hops to Hadestown instead of walking—but never something like this.

It’s never Orpheus who chooses to sell his soul to Hades.

And Hermes knows what that bastard will put in the contract. The lord of the dead isn’t a fool; he’ll have seen the potential enemy Orpheus could be, so he’ll keep the poet on a leash. Sold to the king on the chromium throne. And Orpheus will sign the deal willingly, just to keep Eurydice safe.

When the train comes back to the upper world, empty except for a single feather, Hermes recognizes the signal immediately. It’s the feather Eurydice wears in her hair. Persephone must have smuggled it onto the train before Hades sent it back.

A message for the man with feathers on his feet. We need you. He needs you.

The god of mischief cocks an eyebrow. The messenger god steps onto the train. The god who helps souls to their final destination sets the wheels in motion, headed down the tracks to Hadestown.

“All aboard,” whispers Hermes.

Persephone meets her half-brother outside the speakeasy. “Didn’t happen to bring any extra souvenirs, did you?” she asks as she ushers him inside.

“The last thing you need is more wine, Persephone,” he says. “Dionysus gave you plenty.” A pause. “Don’t suppose Calliope has come around for a drink.”

“Calliope doesn’t know who she is anymore. Wouldn’t do the boy any good to see his mama like that, would it?” Persephone purses her lips. “Did you even tell him why she left?”

Hermes shakes his head. It would have just made losing Eurydice far, far worse for the boy.

“Hey.” Persephone puts a hand on his shoulder. “We’ll get him out, yeah? And Eurydice. We just gotta think of a cunning plan.” She gives him a lopsided grin. “And who’s the god of cunning plans?”

“Metis,” Hermes deadpans. Persephone punches his arm lightly, then leads him to Orpheus.

The poet sits at the bar with his head in his hands. Eurydice is by his side, one arm wrapped around his shoulders, murmuring quiet encouragement to her lover. “Orpheus,” Hermes calls, and for once, the boy hears and turns to look the first time his name is called.

“Mr. Hermes.” The musical lilt of Orpheus’ normal speaking voice is gone. His voice trembles without tremolo. “Is it true, what they say? That there’s nothing to be done?”

Hermes sighs. “That’s what we’re workin’ on.”

He takes a seat on the other side of Orpheus and starts pouring drinks for the boy, the girl, and himself. One sip of the crisp autumn leaves that flavor his drink and he’s already nostalgic—it’s been so long since he’s tasted fall. This bottle must be from the better times, before they were on this road. Before Hades and Persephone fell out of love.

He sits up straighter, furrowing his brow. “Orpheus,” he asks, “when you told Hades you’d sing for him, did you say whom you would be singing to?”

“The workers,” Orpheus says. Then: “And Persephone. I said… I said I’d sing a song to keep her underground. With him.”

From the other side of the room, Persephone bursts out into bitter laughter. “You promised him what?” She snorts. “You may be good, but you ain’t that good. Ain’t nothing you can do to make me stay down here all year ‘round.”

“But Hades believes it,” Hermes says, raising a finger to point at Persephone. “Hades wants to believe it, with all his heart. And Hades can commission Orpheus.”

“But then all Orpheus could do is write a song about why Persephone should stay,” Eurydice said. “What good would that be?”

“But that’s not what he’s going to ask him for.” Hermes gets up from his seat, striding confidently across the floor. “Hades will ask Orpheus for a song to make Persephone love him again. And Orpheus will be able to work on his epic.”

“The song!” Eurydice claps her hands together, smiling at Orpheus. “You’ll be able to sing your song again!”

“One problem,” Persephone cuts in. “Hades knows how to word things tricky. He’ll put in constraints, you know he will. There’s no way you’re gonna get him to phrase it exactly like that.”

“Oh, no, I’m not,” Hermes says with a grin. “You are.”

Chapter Text

“Well? Are you happy?”

Slowly, Hades raises his head, having been bent over the piles of paperwork stacked high and thick on top of his desk. He hasn’t seen or heard Persephone in days—not unusual after one of their rows, but troubling given that the poet and his girl have disappeared, too. Hades isn’t stupid. He knows Persephone is trying to get them out.

Let her try. She’ll find that the contract, much like her own wedding vows, is not so easy to get out of. She may throw her little tantrum over the boy, but in due time, she’ll give in, and he’ll still have Orpheus.

He turns to face his wife, who leans against the door frame with a bottle of wine in her hand. She grips it so tightly Hades wonders why it doesn’t shatter in her hand. “Happy about what?” he says, drawing out the last consonant.

“You got what you wanted. The son of a muse, forced to sing Hadestown’s praises for the rest of eternity.” She scoffs and takes a swig from her bottle. “It won’t work. It never works. Don’t think I don’t remember what happened to Calliope.”

Who? is Hades’ first thought, then: Oh. “That was different.”

“How?” Persephone asks. “You convinced her to abandon her life and her child and come to Hadestown so she could inspire you and your workers, and all it did was drain the life out of her. You made an actual muse soulless! And now the same thing is going to happen to her son.”

“Calliope was flighty,” he says. “Fickle. She had no attachments, no roots—every time she got bored of a place, or a person, she would just leave. She got bored of her own child. Then, she got bored down here, and when she found she couldn’t leave, she went the same way most of the mortals do.”

“Orpheus is mortal, too.”

“Yes, but he has the girl. That’s all he needs.” Hades clenches his jaw. “A woman, by his side, the whole year ‘round.”

Persephone nearly chokes, then lets out a strangled, bitter cackle. “Oh, it’s about me.” She takes a few swaggering steps forward and pokes her finger at his chest. “You think that if you bring everyone I care about down here, and make your electricity burn bright and hot as summertime, you can keep me happy in Hadestown. Well, lover, you don’t know shit about summertime, and you don’t know shit about what makes me happy.”

“Enlighten me, then,” he practically snarls. “What makes you happy? Because it clearly isn’t being married to me.”

“But it was!” She slams the bottle down on his desk. “We were happy, you and I. In the garden where we met.” Her eyes soften, and she looks at Hades as if she’s mourning something. “You’re right about one thing. He loves that girl. Orpheus and Eurydice—they have the kind of love that you and I once had, or maybe could have had in another life. Another world. But we made our choices.”

She turns her back on him, letting the bottle go. Hades rubs the bridge of his nose, adjusts his collar, and says, “What do you want from me? What can I do to make you stay?”


The word pierces through his chest like a bird impaled on a spit. Voices hiss in the pack of his mind like steam in a valve:

—Nothing. There’s nothing to be done.

—Nothing you can do. She’ll find some way to leave you.

—It’s too late. She’s already gone.

He stands, reaches out to grab Persephone’s wrist in his hand as if he can hold her forever, stop the world from spinning, keep her from leaving.

Persephone looks him in the eye. “Nothing comes of the songs people sing,” she says, “however sorry they are.”

When Lady Persephone comes back to the speakeasy, she shouts a curt “It’s done” at Mr. Hermes, grabs a bottle off the shelf on the wall, and storms off to sulk in another room, without so much as a word to Orpheus or Eurydice.

“When the gods are havin’ a fight, everybody else better hold on tight,” the messenger god mutters.

He puts one arm around Orpheus’ shoulder, the other around Eurydice’s, and they all walk out of the speakeasy and toward the empty train, as if Mr. Hermes is escorting them back to the upper world. The god even takes a few furtive glances around every couple of steps and once makes them stop and hide behind a pile of shipping crates—“to make it seem like we don’t want to get caught,” he explained to Orpheus.

It’s not long before they’re stopped in their tracks. “Young man,” comes the unmistakably deep voice, booming from intercoms all across Hadestown. “Where do you think you’re going?

“I’ve come to take them home,” Mr. Hermes says, eyes flashing with pure contempt. Orpheus has never seen his guardian look so enraged. “I raised this boy as my own—”

He’s a grown man, Mr. Hermes. He made his choices, signed the deal himself.” A crackle of static, then: “Step into my office, son. I’ve got a song for you to work on.”

Chapter Text

“It’s a simple enough commission,” Hades tells Orpheus. “Song practically writes itself. Yet it should be challenging enough for a musician of your caliber.”

Orpheus nods, swallowing hard as he does so. Eurydice’s heart melts a little, looking at her poet’s scared eyes. She turns to look at Hades instead and contempt nearly twists her upper lip into a snarl before she reminds herself to keep her composure. They can’t afford to anger Hades.

The god continues: “I want you to write a love song. For Persephone. To make her love me again, the way she did when we first met.”

This is what they’re hoping for. This is Orpheus’ chance to finish his epic. Whatever Persephone said, it had gotten Hades to phrase the request just right. Orpheus can finish his epic and sing it for Persephone and for Hades, too, and then everything will be fixed and Hades will let him go.

“How long do I have?”

“Take your time on this one. Just make sure it’s before Persephone leaves for spring,” Hades says, and Eurydice sighs in relief. The two-hour deadline had devastated Orpheus’ nerves. Her poet can’t break down again. But now they have time, a little time to breathe—

“One more thing.”

Hades turns his eye on Eurydice. She meets his gaze, chin up in defiance.

You haven’t signed a contract yet,” he says.

Eurydice crosses her arms, but her voice is soft and quavers a little as she answers him. “And I’m not going to. Not after what you put in Orpheus’ contract.”

“If you’re not a worker here, you can’t stay. Hermes will take you back up on the train—”

“I’m not going back alone. I’m not leaving Orpheus.”

A hard glare from the king of the underworld. “You misunderstand me. If you’re not a worker, you’re a trespasser on my property.”

“I don’t care,” Eurydice snaps. “You’ve forced Orpheus to only sing for you, pushed him to the edge of a nervous breakdown, and now you’re trying to separate us. Divide and conquer, is that it? And all because you can’t keep your wife happy!”

Hades practically lunges at her like a dog ready to bite. His face is inches away from hers; his voice booms with the power of the abyss right in her ear. “Who the hell do you think you are? Who the hell do you think you’re talking to? Go back to where you came from!”

Eurydice has heard those words many times before. Every town she’s passed through, someone’s said it, whether it was to her face or in a conversation with someone else that Eurydice was clearly intended to overhear. Why doesn’t she go back to where she came from? We don’t want her here. She had learned to grow a thick skin, to ignore it and move on to the next town as quickly as possible. This is just how it is.

Still, when a god hurls those words at her, in a voice so deep and loud it can be heard all across Hadestown, she can’t help but feel like a small, frightened little bird, freezing out in the cold, suddenly being shot down. She falls, vision blurring as the figures of what she can only assume to be Hades’ workers encircle her, one of their tools scraping along her cheek as they drag her away from Orpheus, who can only watch.

When she wakes up, the first thing she sees is a cinder brick wall. She slams her hands against it and bruises her palms—as if she needs more injuries—then turns around. A black-top tar road leading up into the wasteland of the world above. They’ve beaten and betrayed her and thrown her out into the cold and dark again.

Orpheus is gone. Orpheus is alone.

She is alone.

Eurydice crumbles into a ball, sobbing. The wind, the awful wind she had once hoped she could escape, now carries whispers of it ain’t, it ain’t, it ain’t no use, you’re bound, you’re bound, you’re bound to lose into her ear.

Why waste your precious breath? Why beat your handsome brow?

—Nothing changes,

nothing changes,

nothing changes anyhow…

Eventually, her sobs become silent and her tears run dry. She picks her aching body up off the ground, bracing herself against the wall with one arm. Pickaxes are ringing in the distance.

She’s no Orpheus. She can’t make the stones weep for her and let her in. But the wall isn’t finished yet. There’s got to be a part they’re still building, some crack where Hermes or Persephone or Orpheus can let her through. She begins to walk along the Styx, slow and careful to avoid the security cameras or cut herself on the barbed wire sections of the fence, until she comes to a construction zone.

And Hermes isn’t there, or Persephone, or Orpheus. It’s just the workers. But just as Eurydice turns to go, she catches a glimpse of one of their faces. The resemblance is unmistakable.


Chapter Text

Before Eurydice was beaten and thrown out of Hadestown—

Before Orpheus signed his contract and lost his voice—

Before they stepped onto the train together—

Before she got caught in a storm and he ran out to find her—

Before he asked her to come home with him and a flower bloomed in his hands—

There was a muse and her son, walking hand in hand down the road to hell, the wind following close behind. “Are we there yet?” Orpheus asked for what felt like the hundredth time.

“Soon, baby. We’ll get there soon.” Dust whirled through the air and into Calliope’s eyes as she strained to make out the railroad station on the horizon. She could feel Orpheus growing tense beside her. There was a storm coming on, and storms scared Orpheus even when the two of them were safely sheltered, never mind out on the road.

“La la, la la,” the boy sang as he walked. “La la, la la la.”

Calliope smiled a little and stopped to adjust his bandana to keep the dust from getting into his nose and mouth. “La la la la la,” she sang back.

He shook his head. “No, you’re singing it wrong.”

“How can it be wrong if we’re just making it up?”

“It’s wrong.”

“Okay. It’s wrong.” There was no talking sense into Orpheus when he got like this. “Come on. I can see Mr. Hermes’ place from here.”

“Will Mr. Hermes like me, mama?”

“What’s not to like?” She reached down and ruffled his hair with her free hand. “Don’t worry. Mr. Hermes is a friend of mine. He’s gonna take good care of you while I’m away.”

“You’ll come home, right?” Orpheus looked up at her with those wide brown eyes, and the look on his face drove something sharp into Calliope’s heart. It’s as if he knows I won’t. “You’ll go away on the train and work until you have enough money and then you’ll come back home?”

She was beginning to waver. To doubt. She couldn’t let herself doubt—this was the right decision. There wasn’t enough to feed herself, let alone somebody else—she was doing what she had to do. What else could she do? Bring him with her? No, let Hermes take care of him. Hadestown was no place for a child.

No place for a muse, either, not really. But Hades had promised food and shelter and coin to send back up with the springtime train, and more than that, he’d promised her freedom. Freedom from the weather, the wind, the hardships of the road.

Freedom from a child she’d never wanted and never quite knew how to love the way he deserved to be loved.

She kissed her son on the forehead as they stepped onto the platform. “I’ll come home, I promise,” she said. “Wait for me?”

Orpheus nodded. “I will.”

The worker keeps her head low, like all the rest of the shades, and moves to the monotonous rhythm of hammer, pickaxe, brick, and stone. Almost like music, she thinks.

She remembers music. Snatches of melody fly from her lungs every so often, lighting up her mind for just a moment before flickering out, but they never last long enough for her to remember much. She hears the other workers talk about a lady selling liquor that reminds you who you are. Who you were in the world above. The music is a little like that, though it’s less of a memory than a sudden burst of feeling. She doesn’t know how or why, but in those moments, she feels.

Here one comes. She throws her head back and lets it out—a low note, then the same one an octave higher, three more notes cascading from that high point—and her heart aches. She left somebody up above, she thinks. Somebody’s waiting for her, she has to get back—

The note trails off. Another hammer pounds a nail. She forgets the song she sung.

But suddenly, there’s a girl in front of her, a dark-haired little slip of a thing who isn’t in work clothes. The girl is staring at her. At her. “Where’d you get that melody?” she asks.

“I don’t know. It came to me.”

Silence. The worker turns away to pick up the hammer again, but the girl interrupts her. “I came here with Orpheus.”

The name stirs something in her, as if she’s cradling some small, warm creature to her chest. She closes her eyes and tries to focus on that feeling, but it slips out of her grasp. “I don’t remember who that is.” She shakes her head. “I don’t remember anything.”

The girl tilts her head and smiles, tight-lipped, but her eyes are not smiling. “The rocks and stones weep when he sings,” she says in a choked voice.

The feeling of familiarity comes to her again, a distant echo of a child, singing. La la, la la, the memory sings, and the worker sings back, “La la, la la la.”

The girl covers her mouth with her hands, tears spilling onto her cheek. “I’m Eurydice,” she says. “Your name is Calliope. Your son is Orpheus, and we’re gonna change the way it is.”

Chapter Text

Orpheus stands in shock, staring at the door where the workers dragged away Eurydice. “Why?” he asks in a trembling voice, and for just a moment, Hades feels guilty. He hadn’t expected the girl to resist, to raise her voice at him and attack him where he was most vulnerable. How easily she saw through his defenses, broke through the walls he’d built around himself. Dangerous, this jack of hearts…

“Finish the song,” he tells the boy. “And know that the anguish you feel, being separated from your girl—that’s how I feel every summer.” Now it looks as if he’s planned this all along.

“I, I can’t,” says Orpheus.

“You can and you will, songbird.”

“But Eurydice—”

Hades cuts him off. “She doesn’t belong here,” he says, a bit too quick to bury her name. “There’s no getting past the wall. The workers will bar her way. She’ll go back to the world above and forget all about you. Take it from an old man.”

Orpheus says nothing, just picks up his lyre and scurries out of there. Back to Persephone’s speakeasy—oh, Hades knows that she opens her abandoned garden shed to his most vulnerable workers, pours them drinks, eases the weight of the work from their shoulders. She used to do that for him, too, long ago. Now, she only does it for others, to spite him and undermine his authority. He knows what they call her—our lady of the underground. Every time he hears it, a bitter voice in his head says, She used to be my lady, before.

Hades clenches his fist as he watches the poet go. She will be his again. The boy will succeed. He has to.

Hermes and Persephone hear the whole confrontation—walls have ears, after all, and Hades’ wrath had shaken the entire electric city as he bellowed at Eurydice—so when Orpheus comes back to the speakeasy, there’s no need for words. Hermes takes the poor boy in his arms. Persephone pours him a drink. After a long silence, Orpheus speaks.

“If it’s true, what they say… if there’s nothing to be done, if there’s no song to be sung and the girl I love is gone…

“Oh, poet,” says Hermes.

Orpheus jerks himself out of Hermes’ embrace. He throws up his hands and screams. “Take this voice! Take these hands! I can’t use them anyway!”


“What’s the purpose of a man? Is this how the world is? To be beaten and betrayed and then be told that nothing changes?” His eyes dart about wildly, settling on his lyre. He grabs it before Hermes can stop him and rips one of the strings off it with a twang.


It’s Persephone who hurtles over the bar and keeps him from ripping out another string. “When I was a young girl—young like you—this old world was younger, too. We set it spinning, hand in hand, me and a young man.” Her gaze softens, just a little, before she shakes it off. “Now you see what he’s become—Hades with his heart of stone, I forgot what feeling was—but listen to me, Orpheus. Take it from a woman of my age—there is nothing love can’t change. Even when the bricks are stacked, love is blooming through the cracks. Even when the light is gone, love is reaching for the sun—it was love that spun the world, when I was a young girl.”

She lets this settle in, then begins again: “Something in the way you sing, I believe that you can bring the mightiest of kings to tears, even after all these years. You sing, and Eurydice will find you. You sing, and Hades will relent. I believe you can sing yourself home again.”

Orpheus blinks, slowly. His lip trembles. “Who am I? Who am I against him?”

“Touched by the gods is what you are,” Hermes tells him, a smile spreading across his face. “Now, you wanna take your girl home?”


He holds out his hand for the broken string. Orpheus hands it over, and Hermes restrings the lyre with the ease that comes from being the one who invented it. “Sing the song,” the god says.

Orpheus takes a deep breath, adjusts his fingers, and strums the first chord.

Calliope is a strange soul—most of the time, silent and downcast as the rest of the workers, but occasionally bursting into melodies that make hope flare up like sparks in Eurydice’s chest. The other workers notice, too, if only for a moment. They stop their work and stare. One man, pushing a boulder with his bare hands, stops and sits on his rock, with a nod toward Calliope as she passes by.

“Do they always do that when you sing?” Eurydice asks.

It takes a moment of confusion before she can respond. “Yes. I’m a muse. That’s why Hades wanted me here.”

“Hades wanted you to make the workers stop working?”

“He wanted me to give them hope. That’s what a muse is, hope.”

“You make them see how the world could be,” Eurydice says, and anger clouds over her expression. “Just enough so they don’t realize how unhappy they are the way it is.”

“I left my boy with hope,” the muse said, focus already beginning to wander. “My last gift to him. Hope that I’d be coming back for him.”

“How could you do something like that?” Eurydice asks. “How old was he, six? Seven? And you abandoned him.”

“The wind was changing.” Her eyes locked on Eurydice with a sudden hardness and clarity that had not been there before. “Ain’t nobody gonna stick around when the dark clouds roll. You’d have done the same, in my skin.”

Something shifts inside Eurydice. She’s as cold as she was in the storm, winds whirling all around her. If Orpheus hadn’t come for her… if she’d been alone and Hades had come above ground, would she have gone with him? No, she can’t blame Calliope. A choice made in desperation isn’t a real choice.

Soon they reach what they have been searching for—a crevice of hollowed stone inside the wall, just big enough for a girl to hide in without being seen. “I’ll bring the supplies when I can,” Calliope says. “Don’t make a sound, whatever you hear. And don’t lose hope.”

She places a finger on Eurydice’s chest, spreading warmth through her body as if the sun were rising and falling in her chest.

The darkest hour of the darkest night comes right before the dawn,” Calliope sings, and then she’s gone.

Chapter Text

Tucked inside the crack in the wall, Eurydice waits.

It could be hours. It could be days or weeks. Time hangs in suspension in the underworld, even for those who are still alive. Days melt into each other, hunger pangs numb and the need to sleep fades away, until all that’s left of the daily cycles of time are the factory whistle and the coming and going of the train. She sees now why Persephone is bored out of her mind, being stuck down here. It isn’t just the world above that has fallen out of time, out of rhyme and rhythm—Hadestown is suffering, too.

When Calliope comes back, she brings renewed hope with her, along with a helmet, lantern, and a spare set of worker’s clothes. “Whose were these?” Eurydice asks, running her hand along the leather straps.

Calliope doesn’t answer, just helps Eurydice undress and suit up. The clothes are ill-fitting on her small frame, just as her old clothes had been. “Don’t give your name—you don’t have one,” Calliope tells her. “And don’t look no one in the eye. This town’ll try to suck you dry.”

Eurydice nods, a sharp little movement. “Go on ahead of me. Sing. Make them stop their work to listen. Draw Hades’ attention away from Persephone’s shed, while I find Orpheus. Do you think you can remember that?”

“I hope so,” Calliope whispers. She leans in and kisses Eurydice’s cheek, then her chin. When she pulls away, there are tears in her eyes. “Oh, how I hope.”

Orpheus sits in the failed garden beside Persephone’s speakeasy shed, lyre in his lap, and writes. Hermes and Persephone check on him periodically, but it’s like he’s in a trance, only able to hear the melodies in head if he tunes out the world around him. Except instead of painstakingly slowly, Orpheus’ pen flies across the paper, his fingers pluck the lyre strings with an urgency and intensity that surpasses everything else.

He writes about Hades and Persephone, about the way they first met and the love that bloomed between them, but really, he writes about Eurydice. Seeing her alone there against the sky, as if she were someone he’d always known. How, when he takes her in his arms, it’s the whole world that he’s holding. He takes Hades’ words about the anguish of separation and uses them as a bridge—I know how it was, because he was like me: a man in love with a woman…

And then there’s the melody. When he sings it, even quietly, the dead plants who could never grow in the underworld—not even with a goddess’ touch—they unfurl themselves as if they’re about to bloom. They’re still dead and withered, but they yearn for life. For the sun. For the love that spun the world and would do so again.

He’s just finishing the last verse when the whole underworld falls under a hush. Trance momentarily broken, he sits and waits for something he doesn’t even know he’s waiting for. And then he sees her running toward him.

“Come home with me,” she says once she’s reached the safety of his arms.

“It’s you,” he breathes.

Eurydice smiles. “It’s me.”

It takes a long time for Hades to look up from his paperwork and notice the resounding silence throughout Hadestown. No hammers swinging. No pickaxe ringing. None of the cogs and grinding gears of his machinery. Not even the factory whistle.

Cautiously, he opens his office door and walks out onto the balcony overlooking the central furnace. The workers are not shoveling coal. Instead, they’re transfixed, unable to do anything but stare at the lone shade making her way across the factory floor. She’s utterly forgettable—dust-brown hair and ashen skin like the rest of the shades, almost translucent. But then she looks up at Hades, and he sees her eyes are bright blue. The resemblance to the boy is clear.

“Muse,” he drawls. “Send them back to work—yourself included.”

Like a bird, she lets out a wordless call. Three of the same note, the last one held out longer. The other workers echo her, their voices harmonizing.

“Back to work, I said! You’ve inspired them enough.”

“Is it true?” She stumbles a little over the words, as if they’re new to her. The workers echo, with words this time, and it seems as if the walls reverberate with the sound.

Hades crosses his arms. “Is what true? Do you even know, muse, or has someone planted words in your mouth?”

She hesitates a moment. Then: “If I raise my voice—”

“If I raise my voice, if I raise my voice,” the workers echo.

He raises an eyebrow. “Go on.”

Could I change my fate?”

"Could I change, could I change could I change my fate…?"

Hades is about to smirk and answer with a blunt, “No.” But someone new walks into the factory, a lyre on his back and his girl, disguised, following behind him.

Orpheus stands beside his mother, locks his eyes on Hades, and speaks: “If I raise my voice, could I change the way it is?”

Chapter Text

“Young man,” says the king of the mine, “just what do you think you’re doing?”

The severity of Hades’ tone makes Orpheus stumble over his next words. “The, the song, Mr. Hades. The song for Persephone—I finished it. I’m ready to sing it for her.”

“As you can see, we have a situation to deal with right now.” He glares down at Eurydice; Orpheus clings to her arm, afraid that if he lets go, Hades will take her away again. “Your lover here’s been fomenting rebellion among my workers. But it takes more than singing songs to keep rebellion going strong.” A pause, as he looks back and forth between Orpheus and Calliope. “I wonder whose song is stronger—the poet or the muse-no-longer?”

Orpheus looks at his mother, who drops her head. She is pale, far paler than how he remembers her, and there’s a dullness to her eyes despite their bright color, as if a gray transparent film is clouding them over. He wonders if his eyes will look like that, someday, if the song doesn’t work and he’s stuck here forever.

When Eurydice told him that his mother was here, that she had found her and helped her get beyond the wall, he could scarcely breathe. Mama had told him to wait for her, told him she was coming back, and for years, he had believed it. Nurtured the hope of it inside his chest. It was only after the storm, while Eurydice was sleeping by the fire and he turned Hades’ coins over and over in his hand—only then had Orpheus thought, It’s been over fifteen years. And you know how those muses are… sometimes they just abandon you.

And now, he realizes, he’s followed the same damned road. He’s just as stuck as she is, two songbirds in a cage, singing about freedom in the midst of their desperation.

 “Let him sing it,” Eurydice says, turning her chin up toward Hades in defiance, “and I’ll be on my way. I’ll walk out of here without even looking back—just let him sing it.”

Hades raises an eyebrow. After a long stare between them, he turns to one of the workers. “Find my wife. Tell her to come here right away.” Then he descends the stairs, grabs two stools, and slams them down, one by one, onto the factory floor. “Alright, canary. Sing for an old man.”

It’s time. Hermes can feel it in the air like the changing of the seasons, the rumble of the train. Despite everything the Fates have changed this time around, Orpheus still stands before Hades and Persephone with his lyre, ready to sing the song of their love.

Hermes sets his double-headed microphone in front of the boy he’s raised as his own, placing a firm hand on his shoulder for a moment before pulling away. Eurydice and Calliope stand together behind Orpheus. Hermes smiles at his old friend, and a ghost of a smile passes across her lips. She isn’t the woman she once was, but she still puts a warm feeling in his chest, the hope that maybe it will turn out this time.

Orpheus closes his eyes and strums the first chord.

“King of shadows, king of shades
Hades was king of the underworld…”

Hades narrows his eyes. “Oh, it’s about me?”

The high, rising voice of the muse speaks to her son: “Go on.”

The boy hesitates, then begins again.

“But he fell in love with a beautiful lady
Suddenly when he saw her there
Persephone, in her mother’s garden
The sun on her shoulders, the wind in her hair
And he took her home to become his queen
Where the sun never shone on anyone
And I know how it was, because he was like me
A man in love with a woman

Singing la, la la la, la la la…”

Persephone feels Hades grow tense beside her. She turns to look at him—he’s staring, slack-jawed, at the poet, who continues singing the melody, his high voice rising ethereally over their heads. “Where’d you get that melody?” He starts to rise to his feet.

“Let him finish, Hades,” she says, taking his hand to gently pull him back down. Orpheus’ music is like a dream—whenever she closes her eyes, she sees herself back in that garden, staring at a young man on bended knee, hat in his hand, arms outstretched. The scent of the wildflowers she’s gathering lingers in the air. Pollen falls from her fingertips. It’s as if the sun is rising and falling in her chest, and the whole world is spinning…

Orpheus turns to Persephone.

“You didn’t know how and you didn’t know why
But you knew that you wanted him to take you home…”

Then back to Hades—

“You saw her alone there against the sky
It was like she was someone you’d always known

It was like you were holding the world when you held her
Like yours were the arms that the whole world was in
And there were no words for the way that you felt
So you opened your mouth and you started to sing

La, la la la, la la la…”

Calliope—yes, that’s her name, she has a name—knows the tune her son is singing. She joins in, the chorus of workers harmonizing around her voice. The girl Eurydice takes her hand, and together they throw their heads back and give themselves up to the song. The fog is starting to lift from her mind, and flashes of the world above keep coming back to her—

A bright smile from a man with tender curls of black hair and a square jaw, before he leans in to kiss her and run his hands down her back.

The shelter of Hermes’ bar, where the dust storms settle into stillness and her old friend pours her a drink of something warm.

The fluttering kicks of a new life growing inside her, safe within her womb, protected from the rain and the wind and the cold.

Tying a red bandanna around a little blue-eyed boy’s nose and mouth, seeing the smile in his eyes as he babbled, voice almost like music.

The workers’ voices quiet, fading into the background as Calliope meets Orpheus’ eyes and the two begin to harmonize. It’s the song he sang as a little boy, the music in his brain that was always wrong before, but now is perfectly right. Their voices cling to each other and entwine as the melody rises higher and higher.

Then, a hush. Orpheus strums another chord.

“And what has become of the heart of that man
Now that the man is king?
What has become of the heart of that man
Now that he has everything?

The more he has, the more he holds
The greater the weight of the world on his shoulders
See how he
labors beneath that load
Afraid to look up and afraid to let go

So he keeps his head low
He keeps his back bending
He’s grown so afraid that he’ll lose what he owns
But what he doesn’t know
Is that what he’s defending
Is already gone…”

The boy takes a step toward Hades, who can’t bring himself to move away. Orpheus gives a nod toward Persephone. Dizzy, Hades turns to look at his wife, who is blossoming just as she had the day they met.

“Where is the treasure inside of your chest?
Where is your pleasure, where is your youth?
Where is the man with his arms outstretched
To the woman he loves, with nothing to lose?

Singing la, la la la, la la la…

Silence. There is expectation in their eyes—the boy’s, Hermes’, and Persephone’s. Softly, ever so softly, Hades sings, “La, la la la, la la la…”

The boy repeats the melody. The next time Hades responds, Persephone’s voice joins his, and some spark of divine power jumps from her fingertips to his.

For the first time in thousands of years, a flower blooms in the underworld.

Chapter Text

Orpheus plays his lyre, Hades and Persephone dance, and all around them, the world spins in time with the music. The gods feel the lazy, balmy heat of summer on their skin, then the crisp air and vivid colors of autumn, then the stillness of a winter day when all the snow has settled on the ground, and then the gentleness of a green, growing earth, pollen in the air, the scent of flowers wafting on the wind—not the harsh, ever-changing winds that for so long had hounded the world up above, but something softer, lighter, more balanced.

When the music stops, the king and his queen just stand there, holding each other. It’s the first time Orpheus has seen them touch. Perhaps she took his hand at the train station, when he came to bring her down, but there was no tenderness in that gesture. Not like this.

It’s his mother who breaks the silence first. “Orpheus,” she calls.

He turns to face her. She looks fragile, waifish, almost reminiscent of Eurydice in her oversized coat, cupping her hands over a candle. Now Eurydice stands a few feet away in a worker’s uniform, a sight that sends a shudder through Orpheus’ body. He’s seen Eurydice like this before, but he can’t remember when or how or why.

Mama steps forward and cups his cheek, smiling as best she can—she can’t quite shake the blankness in her eyes, the stare of the dead. “Oh, my sweet babe,” she says. “Your song…”

“I finally got the melody right.”

“Yes.” A breathy laugh. “You would always say I sang it wrong.”

Orpheus presses his own hand over his mother’s. He can scarcely remember what her touch felt like in his childhood. Now he yearns for it.

“Why?” he asks, the question slipping out of his mouth without conscious thought. He swallows. “Why did you leave me?”

She closes her eyes and her whole body seems to sink, drained of the little bit of liveliness she had possessed just moments before. She was tired. Aching to the bone. “When you were a child, you thought the rivers and the trees would fill our pockets and our plates.” She sighed. “The river froze. The trees were bare. All the birds, they disappeared, so me too. I flew away.”

“You said that you’d come back to me.” His voice cracks. “I waited for you every day, remembering promises you made.”

“How would I have told you?” She shakes her head. “What could I have said? I told some of the truth—I planned to send my wages back up with the train, I really did, I didn’t know the contract was going to be…” Another sigh. “I could make you see how the world could be, or I could have told you the way that it was. I chose to keep this world from breaking you.”

“Yet here we are,” Orpheus says, flicking his gaze to the floor. “Both of us chose Hadestown.”

Mama took her hand away from his cheek and firmly rested both on his shoulders. “No, baby,” she said. “You chose to save Eurydice.”

She turns to face Eurydice, who is watching the mother and son with tears in her eyes. “Take him home,” Mama says.

“Come with us,” says Eurydice, so tenderly that it makes Orpheus ache to be home with her already.

Mama shakes her head. “Hades won’t allow the release of more than one worker. He may not even let Orpheus go. And my mind…” She gets a glazed look in her eyes, interrupted for only half a second to show sorrow before clouding over again. “My place on the assembly line has replaced so much of my memory... It’s like I’m living in an oblivion.”

“You still remember what’s important. You remember Orpheus now, and me, and together, we’ll make new memories. Happier memories.”

“At least let us try,” Orpheus says, and it’s like he’s a child again, clinging to her. “Mama, promise me you’ll let us try.”

A moment’s silence. Then, softly, Mama sings, “Can’t promise you fair sky above, can’t promise you kind road below. But I’ll walk with you, my loves, any way the wind blows.”

Eurydice throws her arms around both of them, the poet and the muse, her smile exuberant. She nestles her head against Orpheus’ chest and the warmth is like sunlight.

And so the poor boy asked the king, “Can we go?”

And this is how he answered him: “I don’t know.”

Chapter Text

The devil take these lovers, Orpheus and Eurydice. The girl had somehow broken through his border wall, riled up the workers, turned Calliope and Orpheus against him and thrown Hadestown into turmoil. And now the boy had written a song that broke through the walls in Hades’ mind, riled up his heart, turned his love for Persephone against him, and thrown all his best-laid plans off-course. The kingdom will fall for a song.

He considers the flower that bloomed in his hand when he sang the boy’s melody. It’s easier to look at a flower than at the pleading faces of Persephone, Orpheus, Calliope, Eurydice. It isn’t fair, he thinks. They all came to him of their own free will. He had followed through on all his promises of food, shelter, bed and board. He provided for them. He cared for them. And now all they want to do is leave him. Turn on him, just like the wind.

The real problem, he reflects, is a matter of logistics, and the workers’ newfound unity. Orpheus and Eurydice—and now Calliope—want to leave together. If Hades grants that, the rest of the workers will petition to leave as well. And then Persephone will leave and he’ll be alone with his doubt and his dread that no factory whistle or whirring machine can drown out. There will always be new souls—everyone dies, after all, except for the gods—but if he makes them work they’ll grow restless and demand to leave like Orpheus did, and the whole damn cycle starts again. The king, alone on his chromium throne in the great dark void that’s too much like his father’s stomach, only able to set foot in the world above to drag some other soul down there with him, to join him in his misery.

He considers what he said to Orpheus, once: The anguish you feel, being separated from your girl—that’s how I feel every summer.

He thinks of what Eurydice said to him before he threw her out: You’re trying to separate us. Divide and conquer, is that it?

And another comment she made, this time to convince him to listen to Orpheus’ song: I’ll walk out of here without even looking back—just let him sing it.

And Hades knows what he has to do.

Amendment to the contract between the mortal Orpheus and Hades:

Orpheus’ service to the underworld will be considered complete if and only if all of the following conditions are met:

I. Eurydice leads him out of the underworld by walking through the wasteland rather than by train.

II. Orpheus walks at a minimum of six feet behind Eurydice and does not speak, sing, or call out to her; this will be enforced by Clause II of Orpheus’ original contract, which grants Hades exclusive rights to Orpheus’ voice.

III. Eurydice does not, at any point in the journey, turn around to look at Orpheus, until they both have reached the world above.

If these conditions are not met, Orpheus must return to Hadestown and resume his services to Hades in perpetuity, as agreed upon by the original contract. Additionally, Eurydice will not be allowed to re-enter the underworld or keep any form of contact with Orpheus for the duration of her natural life.

Amendment to the contract between the muse Calliope and Hades:

Calliope’s service to the underworld will be considered complete if and only if all of the same conditions of Orpheus’ contract are met, with the following changes:

I. Calliope walks at a minimum of six feet behind Orpheus and does not speak, sing, etc. to either party in front of her.

II. Orpheus must not turn around to look at Calliope at any point in the journey, until they both have reached the world above.

If these conditions are not met, Calliope must return to Hadestown and resume her services to Hades in perpetuity. Additionally, if Calliope’s conditions are not met but the conditions of the amendment to Orpheus’ contract are, then Orpheus, being returned to the mortal world, will not be allowed to re-enter the underworld or keep any form of contact with Calliope for the duration of his natural life.

Hades sends the contracts through Hermes, figuring the mortals would rather hear the terms and conditions from someone they trust, and waits in his office for him to return with the signatures of Orpheus, Eurydice, and Calliope. Hades is always last to sign the deals he makes. It is his power, after all, that makes the contracts binding.

Hermes arrives at last with the papers in hand. As the messenger god spreads them out on his desktop, he catches Hades’ eyes, purses his lips in disapproval. “It doesn’t have to be like this.”

“I let them try,” Hades reminds him.

Knowing that they’ll fail,” says Hermes. He’s one of the younger gods, closer to Persephone in age than to Hades, but worry lines have carved themselves deep in his brown skin, and his eyes are old. Almost as if he’s seen all of this happen before.

“Whether they pass or fail is up to them, not me,” says Hades. “It’s between them and the Fates.” A moment of silence. “If they don’t make it… I’ll be gentle on him. I know you care for him.”

“I care for all three of them,” Hermes snaps. He closes his eyes, exhales. “Sign the damn contracts. Or don’t.”

And with that, he leaves, and Hades is once again alone.

Chapter Text

The road out of hell is all shadows and silence. Those who walk it leave behind the neon brightness and noisiness of industrial labor, until all they can hear is their own heartbeats and all they can see in the dusky light are the few feet of pavement in front of them. Darkness eats up everything else.

From the top of a watchtower along the wall, Persephone stands beside Hades but does not look at him; both gods’ eyes are trained on the three figures below, walking single-file out of the underworld. Persephone’s gaze flicks briefly to her husband. His expression is difficult to read, but after millennia of marriage, she can guess at his thoughts.

“You think they’ll make it?” she asks, voicing the question in both their minds.

“I don’t know.”

There—a gleam of emotion in his ice-blue eyes—fondness or regret, she doesn’t know which. She lightly touches his arm and his eyes melt as he turns to look at her. Physical affection startles him, she realizes, after going so long without touch. “Hades,” she breathes. “You let them go.”

“I let them try.” His subterranean voice sends vibrations through the rocks and stones beneath his feet. “Though I don’t quite know why.”

She smiles, as if to say, Silly old fool. I know why. He sees himself in Orpheus, or himself as he might have been, in a desperate situation. And he sees Persephone in Eurydice’s stubbornness, feistiness, the ferocity with which she clings to life even when surrounded by the dead. And, of course, her ability to see through his bullshit.

“Are we gonna try again?” she asks, because now that Orpheus and Eurydice have the chance to start anew, why shouldn’t they?

He reaches out to caress her cheek. Stops out of habit—this was the point where she would usually turn away. But she doesn’t, and as he brushes his fingers against her skin, he says, “It’s time for spring.” He plucks the carnation from his breast pocket and places it in Persephone’s hair, making her beam like a young lovebird. “Try again next fall?”

“Wait for me?”

“I will.”

This is what Calliope knows: she is walking out of Hadestown. Shuffling, more like; kicking up dust as she drags one foot in front of the other despite the ache in her bones. She is walking out of Hadestown, and she is tired.

She wants to burst into song, to steady the rhythm of her footsteps. But song shrivels up in her throat, and when she tries to sing in her head, the words get all jumbled and she can’t find the tune, can’t feel the rhythm. Orpheus always could, she thinks absently, and then: Orpheus is walking ahead of me. Orpheus is leading me home.

She wants to cry out to him: Hold on, hold on—it won’t be long. The darkest hour of the darkest night comes right before the dawn. But that darkness is creeping into the edges of her vision. The little patch of light that she can see grows narrower and narrower. She hasn’t seen a sunrise or sunset in—she can’t recall.

Who was she, before she came to the underworld? A mother, a muse. But those are just words, and words that she can’t wrap her head around. She remembers music. She remembers cradling a child. She remembers dust. She remembers the wind.

Who is she? Where is she going? Why is she all alone?

But no, she’s not alone, she remembers. Orpheus is just a few feet ahead of her. Orpheus is waiting for her to come back. She promised him she would come back.

She walks on.

Orpheus remembers the storm. He thinks of the cold and dark he had known in the world above. The way the weather would turn on you, keep you running, keep you starved and scared. The storm that nearly tore Eurydice from him—when he found her on the ground, so cold he might have thought she was dead had she not spoken his name. The hovel they lived in, with barely enough food and firewood to bring Eurydice back from the brink of frostbite. The enemy is poverty and the wall keeps out the enemy and we build the wall—

No. He can’t let himself grow so afraid of losing her that he forgets the song of his love, the beauty of the world even at its harshest. That was what brought him to Hadestown. He won’t let himself be driven back there again.

He has to keep walking. Keep following Eurydice, even though he can’t see her—keep trusting in her the way she had trusted him. Follow Eurydice and show mama the way. Mama, who is right behind him.

She won’t abandon him again, will she?

No. It’s just the voices on the wind, playing tricks on him.

He walks on.

Eurydice doesn’t know how or why, but it’s like she’s been walking this road since the beginning of time. It’s familiar, even comforting, in a strange sort of way. Her footsteps echo from the walls of the cavern like a steady drumbeat. She hums Orpheus’ melody under her breath, and she can swear she hears the rocks and stones thrum with song.

Orpheus, are you listening? she thinks, although she knows he can’t respond. I’m right here, and I will be ‘til the end.

She knows Orpheus will follow her to the ends of the earth. He sold his soul and went to hell just because he was afraid of losing her. If she had been the one to go first, he would have walked to Hadestown, broken through the wall with a song, and fought as fiercely to get her back as she did for him. And if Hades had made him lead the way, and told her to follow behind…

Orpheus’ faith in her is never in question. But Orpheus is also fragile. Orpheus has never trusted himself, especially not after signing his life away to Hades.

This shred of doubt in her only steels her resolve. She will not fail him or Calliope. She will not falter.

She walks on.

This is what Calliope knows:

She is walking down a road. It is dark. She can’t see anything but the path ahead.

--who am I where do I think I’m going who am I why am I all alone who do I think I am—

There’s someone ahead of her. Someone leading her further into the dark.

--who are they who do they think they are who are they who are they to lead me—

Flashes of memory fire in her brain. Hammer striking stone. Song bursting from her throat. An ache in her chest. Exhaustion. Despair. A train pulling away from the platform as tears well in her eyes, but she knows that she can’t look back, because she can’t bear to see the hopeful face of whoever it is she is leaving behind.

—I need to go I need to go back but oh gods where is that and what was my name again I’ve already forgotten—

She needs to sing. She needs to make herself remember, give herself hope. She opens her mouth and nothing comes out. Nothing… nothing gonna wake her now.

Orpheus remembers meeting Hades after the storm. He remembers how he begged the god to give him work, didn’t matter what, name anything and he would do it. How eagerly he signed his contract before he’d even stepped onto the train, how desperate and naïve and dumb he was, so easy to trust, so easy to trick. Is this another of Hades’ tricks that he’s too stupid to see through?

He is the reason Eurydice is here, the reason why she’d been beaten and almost thrown out. He is the reason his mother was here—she couldn’t provide for him, so she left for Hadestown. He led Eurydice wrong the first time, why would she trust him to follow her now? Why would Mama trust him to lead her?

Silence gnaws at his resolve. He tries to fill his mind with melodies, dreams about the way the world will be when they all reach the surface. It’s not enough.

Maybe she isn’t there at all. Maybe Hades is tricking him, or maybe she’s just decided it’s easier to abandon him, like she did last time. Who is he to think that she would follow him into the cold and dark again?

He needs to hear her voice. Her footsteps. Any sign that she’s something more than just a memory or a fantasy. Nothing.

He turns around.

She isn’t there.

The second clause of Orpheus’ contract forbids speaking, calling out, or singing. The scream that comes from Orpheus’ mouth is none of these. The strangest thing, though, is that it is a triple scream—laced through with three-part harmonies. It is a scream that is felt throughout the entire underworld, and it says, nothing changes, nothing changes, nothing changes anyhow.

There is sunlight in sight. Eurydice can feel it on her skin, bright and warm. She thinks of Orpheus and smiles. They’re so close. A few feet more and they’ll walk out of their graves.

And then she hears it. A cry of anguish from a voice meant for singing, not screaming.

Without hesitation, without even thinking, Eurydice turns around, shouting his name: “Orpheus—”

He is on his knees, sobbing, staring into the empty black of the other side of the cavern. When he hears his name, he startles and instinctively turns toward Eurydice, whose hands are clapped over her mouth in shock. She is standing on the threshold of the upper world, light streaming into the tunnel from behind her.

He tries to speak—or maybe sing, she doesn’t know which—but he can’t. This turns his sobs into outright weeping, and gods above, it is a horrible sound.

Eurydice runs back into the tunnel to grab him, drag him back up to the surface before Hades can touch him. Contract be damned—she’s not letting it end like this. It can’t end like this. But then three pairs of hands reach out and pull him away, and just like that, Eurydice is walking on the road alone.

Chapter Text

Eurydice survives. It’s in her bones. Wander, scavenge, scrape by. Use any means she can. The wind blows cold and she keeps her head low and no one looks her in the eye, though she can hear them whispering: Didn’t she have a young man? I heard they hopped the train to Hadestown together. Poor girl, wonder what happened. Poor fool, more like, to follow him down there. Young love and that town ain’t nothing but trouble.

She can’t bring herself to visit Hermes. There are too many memories of that station, that little roadside café where they first met. Not to mention the pain of having to hear how Orpheus was coping after losing his soul to the underground. How long would it take him before he became like Calliope, or worse? Even if she were to die right now, would there be enough of him for her to find? No. She doesn’t want to know.

Yet in spite of herself, she goes to see Persephone’s train come in—earlier than it ever had come before, the sun bright but not beating down the way Eurydice always remembered. The lady steps off the train and flowers bloom where her feet touch the ground. Spring has come again. Everyone else rejoices. Eurydice just thinks, You should have been here to see it.

Persephone finds her among the celebrating crowd. “Eurydice,” she breathes, and hugs her. Eurydice does not move, muscles tense and locked in place. The last time someone held her like this…

For a moment, neither of them speak. Then Persephone says, too gently, “It wasn’t your fault.”

“I should have kept walking. I should have trusted that he would follow in his own time—”

“You heard him cry in pain and your instinct was to go to him. No one can fault you for that.”

The goddess pours a cup and offers it to Eurydice, who downs it in one go. The liquor burns her throat. Good. She wants to be in pain. After, she closes her eyes and asks, “What happened to Calliope? Why wasn’t she following him?”

“We found her in the middle of the road, about halfway down the tunnel. She was… confused. Even when we brought Orpheus to see her, she couldn’t recognize him. Kept insisting her little boy was waiting for her up top. Hades thinks it was a side effect of the journey to the surface—her memories regressed, causing her mind to unravel.”

At the mention of Hades, Eurydice grinds her teeth. Her gaze turns into a glare. “He could’ve just let us go, no conditions.”

Persephone sighs. “We had words about that, me and him. And we’ll have words about it when I go back. But last I saw your Orpheus—”

“He ain’t my Orpheus anymore,” she practically spits. “Your husband owns him.” And with that, she leaves the party, leaves the station, walks right out of town. There ain’t a thing she can do about Orpheus. Better to just hurry up and hit the road, any way the wind blows.

After the turn, Orpheus does not speak. He does not sing, or cry, or make any sound at all. Even when he sees his mother, he does not call out to her. Not that she would have remembered him if he did—the road had broken them both.

He does let Hermes stroke his hair and try to comfort him, though he knows a few pretty words can’t heal the wound in his heart and in his throat. Persephone lingers for a few weeks, to tend to Orpheus and try her liquor on Calliope’s memory, to no avail. But soon she leaves for up top, and Hermes leaves with her, and so Orpheus spends his days lying on a cot in the back of Persephone’s speakeasy, throat aching with the strain of silence.

He doesn’t know how long it is before the workers start coming to him. The first time he gets up to open the door, he flinches at the sight of them, thinking they’re going to drag him back to Hades. But instead, they move past him and sit at the bar, waiting.

Slowly, he goes to Persephone’s liquor cabinet and picks a bottle at random—sun-ripened pomegranate, according to the label—then starts filling their cups. The wine seems to ease their bodies and their tongues; they start chattering among themselves, sharing the memories that come with the taste of sunshine.

“Have a glass yourself, brother,” one of them urges, but he shakes his head. The wine can’t bring back his mother’s mind, and it can’t turn back time and keep him from screaming, so what’s the point?

The factory whistle blows. The workers clear out. As he’s cleaning the bar, new faces show up, and so Orpheus falls into a rhythm. His work is not the back-breaking labor of the mines and machinery, nor is it the work Hades recruited him for, singing sweet propaganda to keep the rust belt rolling. But at times, when his mind is clear and he can focus on nothing but the task at hand, it brings him comfort.

When Persephone comes back, she tells him Eurydice left town. “Where she’s gone, there ain’t no one knows. But she’s a tough little bird. Knows how to survive, even in the bitter snow.” She pours two cups of the fruit of the vine and raises hers high. “To Eurydice, wherever she is now.”

Orpheus raises his cup. To Eurydice, he thinks. Her name is like a melody, drifting through his mind like the song of the gods once did. And for a moment there, the world comes back to life. He’s lying in a field of wildflowers, sunlight streaming onto his face. Eurydice is by his side, watching the birds in their flight, while his mother tells them stories from his childhood in her bright, hopeful voice. For a moment, Orpheus lives in a world where they got it right.

He adds to his silent toast: To the world we dream about, and the one we live in now.

After wandering alone for who knows how long, Eurydice falls in with a group of vagabonds who don’t ask questions or expect anything from her. It’s a rough, raucous crew, always either too drunk or too hungover to pay much attention to her. She hasn’t even given them her name. Cheerfully, they dub her “Nobody” and carry on drinking. So it’s a surprise when their leader—a wild-eyed, long-haired bootlegger by the name of Dionysus—walks over to her as she warms her hands with a candle one night and says, “Eurydice, right?”

“What’s it to you?”

“Persephone told me to keep an eye out for you. Hermes, too. Said you’d be wandering into my path at some point. You didn’t strike me as one to join the maenads, though.”

“Honestly? I’m just waiting for them to get too wasted to recognize me and rip me limb from limb,” she says. It might be a joke.

Dionysus just stares at her with an intensity that makes her shudder. “What?” she demands.

He shakes his head. “Nothing. It’s just... well, the Fates can be funny sometimes.”

“Fuck the Fates,” she says, and he grins like a leopard with too many teeth.

He hands her his bottle and she takes a swig. It fills her with the wild urge to dance. Dionysus obliges and spins her under the stars. She watches the world whirl around her, faces beginning to blur. She laughs—she must be drunk, because for a moment, she swears she’s dancing with Orpheus again.

The other maenads circle them, dancing with reckless abandon, a tangle of arms and legs and bodies in heat. When they begin to grab her arms and pull at her a little more carelessly than they should, Eurydice doesn’t feel it. Whatever Dionysus put in that bottle, it frees her from pain and from the past. The last thing Eurydice hears is the distant whistle of a train coming this way, and she smiles.

Now she stands in front of a dusty old railroad station on the road to hell. Peering through the window, she sees a few denizens of the nearby town eating or slumped over their drinks. As good a rest stop as any, she thinks. No one will notice me here.

She feels dizzy for a moment, as if coming out of a dream she can’t quite remember. She was dancing with someone with whiskey on his breath—no, she was walking through a dark tunnel toward the little patch of sunlight she could see—no, she was listening to someone sing a song so beautiful it could make stones weep—but the memory fades within a second, leaving her with a vague sense of emptiness, of being incomplete.

The wind blows in her ear, bringing her back to reality. She walks into the café, takes out her candle and pats down her coat pockets. “Anybody got a match?” A sharp-dressed gentleman—probably the proprietor of this place—offers her one with a thin, close-lipped smile, as if he knows something she doesn’t. She takes the match with an eye roll and a muttered “gimme that” and warms her hands over the flickering flame.

She doesn’t notice the pale, over-eager waiter with a bouquet made of newspaper and stars in his eyes until he gets down on a bended knee and says, “Come home with me.”

And so they sing the old song again, trying once more for a world that gets it right.