(TYIP) Protea

There was a giant white crocodile suspended on the ceiling.

“Goddammit,” he hissed after it’d made him jump. His violent intent to beat the shit out of the captain was disrupted by a crocodile lamp.

He’d received a letter inviting him to ‘Enjoy the night’ in a godforsaken tavern hidden in the backwaters of the moors, far enough that the chaos wreaked by the arrival of pirates went unheard. He was keenly familiar with the ambience, the loud laughter and the constant tension of fights brewing, threatening to erupt; it was air that invited dirty secrets to come to surface, along with indecency and the general absence of common human integrity.

But he was familiar for the wrong reasons, how he stood on the other end of the law. He’d chased countless criminals in this setting or around it, vagrants smelling of piss in fetid alleyways, and pirates who’d just docked to drink and raid the businesses of poor old vendors.

He kept an eye out for the owner, looking for a cowering old man or a tavern wench who looked like she could snap his neck. But when he found her she was a young, sweet thing, who, to his surprise, seemed a good friend of the entire crew. With her light steps around little round stools and the too-big men on them, effortlessly navigating dangerous waters with a tray full of drinks, it was easy to tell she had memorized their poisons by heart and served them unprompted.

She approached Hyder, doe-eyed and her lips like petals. “Haven’t seen you before,” the barmaid said, brightly. “New recruit? Never too late to be a deckhand, huh?”

“I suppose not,” he responded, desolate. What else could he tell her? The truth? That he was a Captain in the Navy with ships and men to his name, upholding a role in command of the sea and maritime security, held currently against his will by pirates using a girl he secretly raised as leverage? On top of which he was sick to his stomach with worry over said girl, and that itself was a problem, seeing as he’d already thrown up once into this pirate captain’s face after he got squeamish thinking of how two of his fingers were crushed while he was getting sacked? Should he just ask her about the crocodile?

“Can I fetch you anything?” The barmaid asked, dragging him back to the din under her roof. In response he shook his head and thanked her; he needed all the wits he could muster if he was to attack tonight.

Rigel, captain of the crew that filled the tavern was man whose notoriety traveled seas ahead of him, and whose arrogance was not suited for a man of his size. When Hyder had met him first, Rigel’s tunic had been stained with blood, and so were his breeches and the black leather boots he strode so proudly in. He had left behind red footsteps behind him. “Sorry for the wait,” he’d said. “I was humoring my other guest. For information, of course. I’m not cruel.”

He’d feared it’d be Willow, that guest, but it wasn’t. The screams of a man had filled up the galley beforehand, and afterwards Hyde was taken to see Will. She hadn’t been crying before he went in, but she broke into tiny sobs when she saw him— then burst wailing, but he wasn’t released to break her out of that secluded room, and it shattered him how helpless he was. “I won’t hurt her,” Rigel had said later. “She’s of no use to me dead.”

The bastard, with that audacity he threw in his wake was playing cards while a long-haired girl leaned onto his bony shoulder (‘I’ll get to you as soon as I kick these bastards’ asses,’ he had said to Hyder when he saw him enter the bar. The crew cheerfully responded to that, “Oh, you’ll be waiting for a long time, Doc, Cap never wins shit.’)

He’d left Hyder uncuffed, bound to the crew with nothing but his adopted kid, Willow, held captive. They even let him keep a weapon. A brass display of underestimation, he thought while wrapping his fingers around the hilt of the dagger at his belt. But Gal, Rigel’s right-hand man and the only true raw strength protecting the captain, was nowhere to be seen now. It made Rigel as vulnerable as he could be; distracted with a game and a pretty girl. His guard was down, Hyde could tell from the way he bit the tobacco roll between his teeth, a tiny smile tugging at the scarred corner of his lips as he contemplated his next move.

Hyde looked at his reflection on the blade, contorted and made into a monster. Though in truth he didn’t look much better, his eyes deep in their sockets and his face gaunt; but he didn’t even look as horrible as he felt. His dominant index and middle fingers had both been broken during the crew’s first attack, when they mauled him then hurled him at their captain’s feet. That runt was barely bigger than the girl by his side— the knife Hyde had in his palm was more than enough to penetrate straight to his heart if it were pushed right, and dismember him afterwards. With his knowledge of the human body, it wouldn’t take much, he thought. He was a surgeon before everything, had studied anatomy through and through, knew every tendon and every ligament, every point of a man’s body that could kill him. He’d known it all before he was trained to wield a sword, and before the insignia on his uniform gave him his rank. He could tear this bastard limb from limb with a pair of scissors from a suture kit.

But he wasn’t going to. He only planned to turn the tables, take the captain as leverage and force the crew to give his girl back; that was all.

The dimming light glossing over wooden planks made the air warm and pleasant, and in any other circumstance (and in the absence of the crocodile), Hyde would’ve found a comfort in it, that din and the scent of polished hardwood; it reminded him of his childhood and something long forgotten in it. It made him want to sleep.

Before he drew his next breath, he heard the chime of steel meeting its kind. He’d darted and pounced atop the round table, knocking glasses to the floors and the breath out of the girl’s chest. Cards fluttered around him to the floor, then for a second, all else made no sound.

Rigel had drawn his sword, partially, only to block the tip of the dagger coming his way. From where he crouched, Hyde could see the eyes behind the blade, something otherworldly or wild, serpentine in its yellows and green. “You bastard,” he heard, whispered from beneath him. “And I was finally winning.”

Then he unsheathed his weapon, fully.

The force had Hyde instinctively recoil, kicking his foot firmly on the edge of the table and drawing back. They had the attention of everyone in the tavern by now. He blew it, he thought. The crew will interfere soon.

But all he wanted was to take his Will and get the hell out of here, wash up and go to bed. He’d bet all he had on that first strike, and it got blocked by the half-pint.

Hyde took a defensive stance, the knife pointing towards his opponent, staggering his way. But in a beat Rigel was sprinting, sure-footed and swift, until their blades met again, the clink louder this time as two forces collide, opposing.

Hyde dropped to avoid the blade— did this kid want him killed? In the midst of strikes and parrying, his mind wandered to that first meeting, when Rigel had made what he sought clear. ‘Be my eyes and ears’ he’d told him, with no reserve. ‘Betray the Crown.’

His words had come as unbridled as his strikes. ‘How would I be your eyes and ears if you end up killing me?’ Hyde lamented, dumbfounded. He could hold his ground, but Rigel’s feet were all but planted in the planks, sea-legs accustomed to duels on water, and movements fluid and decisive.

Rigel attacked, his blade drawing a clear arch above Hyde’s head. Lower down, Hyde finally found an opening. He drove the pommel of his weapon into Rigel’s stomach and felt it hit his hipbone, pulled the dagger back in a blink, and thrust it into Rigel’s gut this time, harshly.

Rigel toppled forward, but his sword was still in his grip. Hyde was vaguely aware of a betting pool forming around them, and as Hyde reached down to seize Rigel, finally..

He felt the impact on his shin, a kick that had him grit his teeth in pain as he fell to the ground. In the second it took him to rise to his feet, he heard Rigel hissing to his crew, “You shits are betting against me?!”

“He’s a big shot in the Navy, Cap,” one of them said, laughing.

Rigel grunted something with the crude gesture he raised to the men behind him. “No choice now,” he said, pointing his sword towards Hyde again like the duel started anew. “I can’t have my own men look down on me”

How cocky.

Hyder looked down to his feet; he was a big shot in the Navy, but he’d rusted after being shackled behind his desk for so long, a pile of documents growing by his side, waiting to be signed. Ignoring the protests of his joints, he pointed his own blade towards his opponent, and watched as a small grin stretch along his lips; if he’s in this neck-deep, he might as well enjoy it.

Two swift strides ate the distance between them, and Hyde crouched for his life seeing Rigel’s sword come for his neck. Shoving a breath past his teeth, he sent Rigel sprawling on his ass by the force of his entire weight pressed where their swords met; but then he was up again in seconds, striking like he knew how— fiercely, and without reserve.

The roar of the blades filled the tavern to its brim and mingled with the cheer of the crowd, looking after their bets. He felt his shirtsleeves clinging to his back, and the trickle of sweat down his brow.

And then it hit him.

‘No,’ he thought, his eyes opening to the truth, bound by a piece of cloth and the air of authority. He was blind to it by choice, but it all made sense, too much sense. Rigel’s palm was splayed flat behind the pommel while his dominant hand was wrapped around the hilt, firmly driving it forward. He really was coming for the kill; and distraction meant Hyde’s end, but he couldn’t stop his mind from spiraling, repeating all the little instances of the past two or three months when he found himself staring at this Captain, considering his size and his slender forearms and his narrow frame and his choice of weapon; a short sword, a small, deadly thing— just like him.

No.

Wait. Wait.

But he didn’t, not for a second. His sword spun on the apex of his wrists, then hit the back of Hyde’s hand. Hyde’s weapon shot to the planks with a loud clank.

Rigel sneered, trapping him between himself and the wall behind, and when Hyde grabbed his collar to defend himself, he was kneed between the legs. Hard.

The pain sent him sliding down the wall with a grunt, and, “Yield,” Rigel said, triumphant, holding him by the collar like it was payback, and placing the tip of his sword beneath Hyder’s chin.

God.

Rigel was so close Hyde’s voice caught in his throat, the tips of their noses almost touching — he drew a shuddering breath, and tried to avoid looking straight towards the scars between them, under Rigel’s white tunic, three ragged lines starting below his collarbones and disappearing into the bindings. Hyde wasn’t sure why right then he was reminded of the morning after a storm at sea, that unbelievable stillness and the first breath of relief. He was tortured with it, some longing or pain, and what was it that dropped his heart so desperately, reaching out for something he didn’t know. It was the booze, he decided, that made light look like this on Rigel’s scars, that made him tremble with the need to touch. It fucked him up, and he couldn’t help but direct his eyes towards the ceiling.

He knew it somewhere inside him, that he’d seen Rigel before, amidst fire and carnage and death; Rigel’s head was shaved then, and his bony body was barely covered with rags. He remembered the scars; how could he possibly forget the hands that placed the tiny red-haired Willow into his own, then pointed at a dead body nearby; a woman with hair like fire.

“Because you’re a woman?” Hyde hissed, defiantly. He waited for a reaction of shock or offense. He knew, after all, and he could very well announce it to the world, that the pirate that turned it on its head was a woman. “Or because you kicked me in the groin?” Hyde continued.

“Because I have a sword at your neck.” Then, once more, and more fiercely this time, “Yield.” It was the only word said loud enough for the crew to hear.

“Make me,” he challenged, rashly, like a man much younger than he was, like he hadn’t seen as much of the world, like the exhilaration was worth living for.

But then she did. She made him yield— crushed her lips onto his, caught his breath and his entirety and closed her eyes in reckless abandon, and she smelled of the sea and gunpowder and something like ink. Soft, he thought, like it was criminal— how did she feel so soft? This pirate who was all shards and anger and sharp edges, leaving him stupefied like he had turned back into a naive and inexperienced boy, unsure of where to put his hands. Push her back by the collar he had in his grip? Slide to the rounds of her shoulders to draw her nearer, then sink into it?

What?

Then it ended as fast as it started, with him left breathless and overcome on the floor and their audience ignorant of what had happened. “What?” Rigel asked, hunching overhead. She was so close he could count the scars on her face, pale ridges and curves against her lips and down her collarbones. “Never been kissed by a pretty girl before?”

(Later when what sat between them was no longer malice and hungry rage, after he’s seen all of her— burned off the secrets on her back with iron and fire, and called her real name as she cried— she tells him about every scar and ragged old wound, and shudders when he touches the lines on her neck like they hurt still. Then she closes her eyes, eyelids heavy with burdens and memories of crueler things, not wanting to see his expression for fear that it would be disgust or pity. “Hey,” he starts, but she only responds with a sigh, and by then he’s learned how happiness truly looks on her, and how anger does, too, and other things. By then he’s run his fingers across her ribs enough times to know by heart which ones haven’t properly mended after being broken in her past, and how the curve of her ribcage fits in his palms, but her eyes don’t part until he reminds her of that night. “You know,” he tells her, lightly. “Those scars were the last thing I saw before a pirate once kissed me. She was so pretty my legs buckled.”)

What?” Someone from the crew asked, disappointed and groaning. “Cap won?”

“Hah!” She exclaimed, gloating. “Serves you bastards right.”

While coins were begrudgingly passed around, Gal barged through the batwing doors, leaving them creaking as the clatter quieted down. His imposing presence was acknowledged thoroughly, and the brows above his deep-set silver eyes were drawn together. “What the hell?”

“Cap got into his first bar fight,” said one crew member. “And won, somehow. Or at least it looks like it.”

“Gal,” Rigel called. “Your shitty crewmates bet against me, their own captain.”

Gal picked Hyder’s dagger up and flung it towards his captain. “I would’ve done the same,” he said, a scoff following his words.

“Saved your coins then.” Rigel bent down again towards Hyder, her presence fierce as she handed him back his weapon. “No one hears of this,” she told him, about the kiss or her secret, he couldn’t tell. He nodded to his own surprise, not hers, and then she laughed. As she headed to the dark staircase, “Oh, my darling scalawags,” she announced to her crew. “This’ll teach you to trust me a little more. And sorry for the mess, Eli. The boys’ll take care of it,” she told the barmaid.

(The crew had their protests, though. “Take care of it yourself, Cap,” they laughed. But when the owner fluttered her eyelashes and asked, “Won’t you?”

“Of course we will!” They exclaimed, and got to work.)

A large arm extended towards him. “Get up, Doc, Rigel’s going to be waiting,” Gal said. “We’ve got government secrets to discuss.”

He looked again at the crocodile, no longer the most absurd thing of the night. This crew had a nickname for him, and they called him by it like he hadn’t spent the evening trying to kill their captain, like they were friends.

He’d just become Doc.

Flower prompt: Protea — transformation, courage

A/Notes: The croc lamp was a gift from Rigel. She thought it was cute.

my gentle decimation

I fell in love with my sadness

With her primordial existence inside me

With her magic, ancient and devious

and raw

and maddening

Leaving me yearning to be abandoned

in a city of quiet ghosts

in the safety she promised,

where no other soul exists

where the day’s no longer

aglow, and the night’s calm

is no more

where I am stranded in an

eternal forlorn onset of darkness

that drapes forsaken buildings, ruins

I want it, that terrifying quiet

I want the desolate pleasure of

exploring it, scrutinizing its secrets

After the world has ended

and everyone’s gone,

and waiting for me

to follow suit.

(TYIP) D A P H N E

He’s always slightly taken aback by the sun when he splits earth open. It’s all too bright, too alive, grasses and greens and small flying creatures, but he ventures unperturbed, his resolve clenched between his teeth along with his sanity, barely hanging on with the chirps of ugly little feathered things.

He finds her with ease, loitering between her maids, dressed in the colors of blossoms and the trinkets she brings back to their realm when she returns. When she feels his approach she turns to him, a gasp preceding his name as it leaps from her throat. She hurries, smiling, and he finds happiness in her eyes, glimmering beneath sunlight before she throws her arms around his neck. It takes all he has not to give Demeter a demeaning look, and instead he only whispers a greeting into Persephone’s ear.

“I’m here for my wife,” he tells Demeter. Then, dryly to taunt her, “Mother.”

“Perish the thought,” she replies.

‘Perish yourself,’ he scoffs under his breath.

Persephone has flowers in her hair; daphnes. She told him about them when he last ascended to take her back, a story about the girl who was yearned for, so desperately desired that she had to be saved from it, turned into a flower with curved petals. He considers his position as his wife slowly tears away from his arms, the loss he feels again though she’s coming back to him after; that frailty, that fickleness, far more suited for mortal than for the King of the Dead.

“Do you really have to go,” Demeter pleads, and before he could say anything, his wife finds his eyes with hers and glares.

“Oh, Mother,” Persephone chimes, releasing herself from him after a pout. She goes and, dragging her hands down her mother’s forearms, “You know I’ve no other choice.”

Demeter’s sorrow brings down the flowers around them, and his wife winces as the ones in her hair turn crisp and brown and black; he could tell they were the ones she liked the most, and that she wanted them alive to take home.

“Now,” she continues, tender (she may be feigning, or not; he’s never sure, never understood why anyone would coddle Demeter willingly.) “You know I shall be back before too long.”

And she is going to, when the time comes; his entire affair with her is a practice of reaching out then letting go, a burden of restraint that he’s taken upon himself. It’s never mattered to him what Demeter thinks, how she twists her curses around her tongue and spits them out at him— it doesn’t bother him the slightest that Persephone’s attachment to the world below is sewn to his name, the lord and his realm.

But wasn’t it she that called? The memory wanders sometimes inside him; her soft hands as she knelt to earth and ripped the grasses and flowers by the root, then whispered to the blot of carnage she left, “Hades, King of the Underworld, would you ascend and claim me yours?”

He’s never been one to be called often, his name too damning to leave cowardly mouths. But she’s a tender thing, too delicate for the demand she breathed— so when he tore earth open he waited for a fright, but he was only met with awe— her eyes round and surprised, and her lips parted.

“Well,” he said to her then. “Come.”

She stood and shook the dirt from her robes, breathless with soft laughter. “This was… unexpected,” Persephone said.

“It’s not often that I hear my name whispered from your world,” he told her. “Let alone so blatantly called.”

“And you heeded in a beat,” Persephone teased. He was walking her down the dark steps, the path extending because he willed it to. “Are you lonesome, Lord of the Dead?”

He felt her eyes on his back as they descended, and tried not to let her gaze irritate him. “I like to think that I am accommodating,” he professed, and the sound of her amusement caught him off guard; she’d noticed the quip enveloped in his words, and laughed for him without fear.

So she barged uninvited into his realm and his being, and she seeped into him, washed over him, became his, and she was so unlike him, all soft curves and waxen features, so sweet it sickened him; the flutter of her skirts when she sat on the wretched ledges of the underworld, the trail of flowers she left in her wake.

“I’m tired of it,” she told him once, after she’d learned how to disappear from Demeter, slandering him with the sin of stealing her away. “Being in my mother’s shadow, always.” Then, when he said nothing back, she raised her head from where she’d tucked it on his shoulder, and reached for his jaw to turn his face towards her. “I want more, power and freedom, and to rule. I want to be Queen.”

“Is that why you called on me?” Hades asked.

“It was,” she replied in honest, drawing her face closer, closer, until she nudged it against his, her eyelashes quivering across his skin. “Do you feel betrayed?”

“You assume too much of what I feel,” he said, bluntly.

“Will it be too bold to assume that you want me, too?”

“It shouldn’t be,” he told her. “You’ve done,” his voice dropped as he tipped her chin towards him, his touch dark and ardent and barely restrained. She held his gaze until, “Far more insolent things to me,” he continued.

“Did I, now?” She was trying to feign her ease still, but he felt her flutter beneath his touch. “Tell me what I’ve done.”

He didn’t know; there’d never been anything taking more of him than governing his realm. He was a thing of abyss — he was born into it then consumed by it, then it was made his. Her arrival was intrusive, meddlesome, not how her laughter swept him when he forbade her from bringing flowers into the Underworld, and not how Cerberus took a liking of her in seconds, it was something more, an unnamed greed inside him, the desire to consume endlessly, to devour.

“You said my name as it is,” he replied, instead. “With no title or moniker in sight.”

“I thought that liberty was mine to take.”

“It is,” he told her. “And so is this Kingdom, in darkness and death and its long, tired suffering.” Withdrawing from her, he cupped his hand and a pomegranate fell into it. He dug his fingers in and broke it in half, the crushed seeds bleeding down his arms, staining his robes; beckoning.

“Is this your marriage proposal, my King?”

Seven perfect seeds were placed into the heart of her palm. “You know the meaning of this,” he told her, his words sharp and clear-cut.

Her resolved lined the innocence of her irises, and had he allowed himself to, his gaze would’ve turned tender at the sight; but he didn’t, he waited for her to eat all seven of the seeds that will draw her to him for eternity, watched as she crushed them beyond her little lips, and when she swallowed the last of them, “There,” she said. “Does this make us married now?”

Before he could hold back he smiled; an unfamiliar feeling lodging itself behind his ribs, and she took his expression as a yes, and never held back since, not her affirmations of love nor her laughter, and “my stern-faced lover,” she would call him, “would you smile a little for me?”

(Oftentimes he wouldn’t, but she would never let it go, she had her ways and her methods; and before too long he’d yield, her mirth a ghost left on his lips, and she’s so lovely and insufferable, leaving him muttering, “cunning thing,” when he realizes that he’s thoroughly lost this battle.)

Their union hadn’t been received well by anyone, and Demeter’s rage was an unexpected hinderance that killed off the mortals by taking away their crops. And while they’d decided to continue deceiving, (‘How do you like the idea of resuming the act? The naive little girl stolen away by the ruthless King of the Underworld?’ she’d asked), Zeus intervened, asked for Persephone to be given back.

He’d no intention of obeying; he wasn’t beneath his brother, and he wasn’t beneath Demeter, and the realm of the Dead was vast enough for however many mortals she would end up killing in her fits. “Give her back to her mother,” Zeus had told him, and Hades’s silence bore destruction and apocalypse, expanding and knowing no bounds, a vicious hunger to bring the entire world to its feet.

It struck him that there it was, his flaw, clear and glaring, his possessiveness to the extent of gluttony. He wanted no hand in anything that was his, nothing to touch the underworld he governed and it’s inhabitants, and he had never wanted anything over that, not before she came along. But a shift of shadows in him brought the thought of what she was, and he couldn’t tell if it was the voice of reason or some other thing, but he saw her flesh, so tender his touch could turn her to mist.

So instead he surrendered her to her will.


“Mother had to kill all of my flowers,” she whines, flicking the dead petals from her hair as she skips down the stairs before him. “I hope you’re not rejoicing that I won’t be able to weave them into that hair of yours.”

“I am doing just that.”

She laughs, producing a living flower from the folds of her peplos. “You forget that I am the daughter of life and the harvest.” And the flowers propagate in her hands where she’s cupped them, so much that they spill onto the steps beneath. “Do you know what they spell? These petals?”

“Eternity.”

“You remember!” Persephone chimes, peals of laughter sinking into the walls of darkness around them.

He’s never forgotten; not the stories she told him about trees and earth and deepening roots, how she’s life’s daughter. He’s never forgotten anything with her— how she’s never been the pure girl all thought she was, and yet she was sacred, his insufferable love leaving him in a trance and ruined, their lives a secret hidden in the soft lines on the corners of her eyes when she smiles.

She gives him a knowing grin, then calls his name.

Hades, let’s go home.

Flower prompt: Daphnes— immortality

(TYIP) Hibiscus

One time I wrote a story about a woman with steadfast eyes, a surgeon whose little island saw pirate flags approaching and closed upon itself, held its breath.

My girl left her little house, though, when she was called to the ship to treat an illness that was eating away at the crew. I wrote her amputating a man’s leg because she saw no other choice, then I wrote her watching, with an enduring heart, her husband slowly dying.

That story sits abandoned in my drafts, an old, dusty thing— descriptions of island plants and thatched roofs, of an unlikely affinity growing between a criminal and a doctor. I went back to it when I meant to write about hibiscus flowers and what they signify, and found that I’d written my doctor as the embodiment of that flower with no inhibitions. I wrote delicate beauty literally; deft hands and a tender appearance, but a roaring heart in her still. It sounds as though it will shatter, that beauty, but I see it as a fleeting thing, something hopelessly alluring but unafraid to leave; and even if it weakens and withers and dies, it remains tethered to you, like a single gentle breeze on a sweltering day.

Anyway, it’s a waste to leave it unread forever, so here’s a relevant little piece of it:

“Nothing about the affair was effortless, but he could see it, the efficiency of a doctor, comparable to the best naval surgeon he’d seen, mapping the joint and finding the last of the broils, and the first motion and the blood, and other than his first mate tying the limb tight and holding its owner up, she had no hands to assist, none to wipe the sweat beading on her brow.”

(Really, will I ever stop writing about women being so fierce, so fearless? I don’t think so.)

Flower prompt: Hibiscus— delicate beauty, glory, immortality.

(TYIP) Poppies

I lost myself

In the vast wonder of my mind

In the ethereal loneliness of

The folds of my dress

In colors of sunrises

And sunsets.

There’s no pain here, lining

the final whispers of joy

and cheer, of sorrow

But then I find myself

Growing

Prying peace from

the very end

Claiming it mine

Touching my dream

Barely, tenderly,

With fractions of the light.

Flower prompt: poppies— eternal dreams, sleep, peace, death.

I C A R U S

 

Speak to me

about the son of Daedalus

who tasted upon his lips

her freedom

and upon his eyelids

her warmth

Speak to me

about his wings that gave in

plunged him, watched his being

shatter as it struck sea

his delirious soul, drunk on innocence

on sin

Speak to me

about my pristine self

as my back meets the harness

and my new wings

as I stand on the edge,

as the Sun beckons

freedom

 

 

 

Life updates you don’t really need: Heroes

Hello hello!

(Contrary to the popular belief, I am actually ALIVE and well, thank you for asking.)

I hope you’re all doing well and staying safe and healthy 💫

The reason I haven’t been active here at all is that I’ve actually been working on a single project for over a month now (can you believe it? ME? not stuck in a writing block??). It is pathetically short for the amount of time I’ve spent working on it so far, but I’m honestly somewhat proud of how meticulous my efforts have been. An excerpt of it can be found on my Instagram page inkofhers .

I don’t know what kind of exceptional feelings I have towards this piece, but I think I will not be posting it publicly. Still unnamed for now, it retells the story of Hector and Andromache from the Iliad. Fleshing out characters ends up making you fall in love with them slowly (or: your version of them). I’ve always liked Hector, found him one of the few (relatively) sensible men in Greek Mythology, but while Andromache had a little role in the Iliad itself, discovering a strong woman while reading more into it is making me want to do her justice. I knew I wanted to retell this specific story since listening to a podcast about the Trojan War last year, so I’m glad I finally managed to pick it up. Little victories deserve celebrations.

On reading: I’ve mainly been listening to audiobooks lately, and happened to find my first 5-star book of the year. It’s an insanely intriguing non-fiction about Henrietta Lacks’s life and her immortal line of cells. Although it was published a decade ago, I’ve only personally heard one person talk about it in real life. Please give it a shot, it’s a story about humanity and science, and the ethics of both. Another audiobook is Heroes by Stephen Fry (you KNOW I’d sneak Greek mythology in here somewhere). Enjoyed listening to it on my way to and from work, and I’m just grateful Achilles wasn’t included as a hero. Let’s discuss: Achilles is a man-child that moped around for 10 years and– I’m honestly trying my best not to go off on a rant about him at this point. Finally, My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay was a poetic and beautifully written account of a child growing up in care, and all the horrors that come with it.

Maybe this is a tiny celebratory section for myself. I’ve been reading and writing more, finding happiness again after I couldn’t see it for a while. Sometimes I dip, but I am healing; I know I am.

Thank you if you’re still reading. Be good!

E U R Y D I C E

Owing to the Sun’s mournful song, hearts flourish in Grief and Death, and in the other dwellers of the Underworld.

Harpies and centaurs cease their horrors. Hecate eases her burden and the Erinyes their punishments. Even Cerberus tore away with no command, and had all six of his ears lifted, alert. Old wandering souls stilled, solemn after centuries of wailing. They had been searching for meaning or purpose, a reminder of life; maybe in this mortal, they see it.

Orpheus’s is grief that touches even them— these wicked, hideous things, these feared strays. They have no empathy to speak of, no awareness nor heart, but hers had longing roots; it was one beating still. While the guest  fills their realm with the strings of his lyre, that heart breaks at music like dimmed sunlight.

She looks to her companion, finds his features tense and stern. He governs so, and it is the way things are. His subjects are empty, nothing but bones, bare and made of smoke, their ribs covering hollowness as devoid as the Underworld itself. Some were humans once, and upon their arrival they would retain their form— phantom flesh and skin, but not for long.

His ways were born from from loss and necessity. Early, he realized that only reign over this abode is one with no remorse. He has never been passive, but has honored a decision and a responsibility when he was given the Underworld, and an agreement when she gave herself to him. That responsibility he made entirely his, ruled with virtue and the weight of circumstance, and under his laws all was equal. True to his old self, he remains sober and restrained— the most disciplined of his brothers. But she knows that in part, his dispassion is an act; she knows that, under that exterior of steel and ice, he is no stranger to tender perceptions.

So, “Will you not give him a chance?” Persephone asks.

“It is unheard of,” Hades simply retorts. It is a cold, dry aggravation, not like the vicious wrath that often follows those who try to leave the Underworld. “Soon he shall fall hungry and eat from this realm,” he continues, looking at Orpheus in the distance. “Then they will become reunited for eternity.”

“She still bears the marks of the viper,” she says at length. “What a painful death that must have been.”

“And what mercy is there in sending her to live and die again?”

“She deserves a gentler death, a swift passing in old age,” Persephone presses, her palms facing upwards, gesturing at the delicate, grieving melody. “Listen! How loved she is!”

“Compassion is unbefitting to the Underworld,” he tells her, and harshly tucks what else he wants to say between his teeth. His brows are drawn together, casting a flinty shadow on his eyes. He is not angry, she realizes with delight; he is doubting. Hades is dreading that soon, he will yield.

Stifling her amusement, “is it now?” she playfully says. “Strange. I hear its Patron would ascend to earth to seek his consort if her return was delayed by so much as a single day.”

After earning an exasperated sigh, Persephone holds her hand to his chest, finding the steady thump underneath. She wonders if the Ichor running through them both will endure all the coming eternities; she considers death and its decisiveness, the finality.

“They call us immortals,” she tells him. “Do you believe we are so?”

“No,” he says, simply, his black eyes tight on Orpheus. “The desire to be brought my Father’s doom upon him.”

He was the oldest of his siblings, but is the youngest now— the last to leave the bleak shadows of their Father. Persephone muses, runs her hands through the streaks of silver in his hair. Like mortals, he is ageing, his features etched deeper with lore and conflict.

“Can you bear the thought of parting?”

His eyes then find her, and he rises from his seat. “From Demeter? I’d be elated,” he says dryly.

She laughs in surprise. “Well, I like it, the notion of the end. It would bring closure to you and me when we grow tired of ruling.” In the lines of his face she notices an old, wistful sadness. There was no trace of it when earth first split in half and she saw nothing but darkness and his figure, beckoning silently. None of that sadness adorned his face until she began disarming him, undoing that tenacious exterior and finding the truth beneath. It came with his affections, with the solemn acceptance of an inevitable conclusion. Smiling, she continues. “I hope that should Death come, it comes for us both.”

“Yes,” he says, easing.

“You will have to pass first,” she teases. “You are accustomed to waiting..” Her words are split apart by giggles when Cerberus arrives and circles her legs as she pet his heads. “Besides, I do not want you to wind up like poor Orpheus.”

He gives in to a gruff chuckle. “Are you planning my demise to become the solitary ruler of the Underworld?” He says, his voice lighter and lined with mirth, and his gaze gentler. She knows that that is his truth, finds it with an old familiarity when he claims her with the names of red gemstones.

“I could be,” she retorts, considering the unspoken proposal all that time ago. Seven pomegranate seeds that she, with thorough awareness of what they meant, ate with no hesitation. “You should let him take his wife and go,” continues Persephone afterwards, turning her back to him and letting the hound lead her back to the music. “We all know you couldn’t afford another competitor for Cerberus’s affections.”