It was spring. It was her time to blossom. It was her moment in the light.
Persephone presses her hands up against the glass and raises it high in the air, "To Immortality."
Nike and Aura raise their glasses as well. She was in good company. Nike was the goddess of Victory. She had been around since the Titanomachy. She had fought side by side with Zeus himself. But she was a humble goddess. The kind of goddess who would reward those who had strength. She'd chosen Persephone as the victor. Not too far from them was Aura, daughter of a titan Aura was a resident of Phrygia and companion of the goddess Artemis. She was "Aura the Windmaid", a "manlike" virgin, "who knew nothing of Aphrodite", and a huntress, who "ran down the wild bear" and "ravening lions", and "kept aloof from the notions of unwarlike maids". Aura despised men and everything they stood for. Who better to be the heir to the virgin goddess Artemis?
"I have one better," Aura offers, "To Persephone, Queen of the Gods."
"Not yet," a voice states.
Before they clash glasses he appears. Heracles. Persephone watches as he walks up to them. He looks like Zeus in a way. He's ridiculously strong looking. He reminded her so much of Zeus and there was nothing about Zeus that she saw in a good light.
"Enjoying the festival, Heracles?" Persephone asks.
"You and your friends disrespected my future lover," Heracles responds, "I don't take kindly to such disrespect. He is going to be the husband of your future king."
The girls laugh. Persephone doesn't though. Anger heats up in her blood.
"Do you know who I am?" she asks him.
"Daughter of Demeter and wife of Hades. Or so I've heard."
"You were born a mortal. I was born divine," she tells him, "I am the reason for the Spring. I am the cause for the Autumn."
They all knew the myth. Hades, the God of the Underworld kidnapped Persephone to make her his bride. When it happened, her mother Demeter refused to let the grass grow or the crops spread. The world was in famine as Demeter mourned her daughter. It was Zeus who split the time Persephone had with her mother, the goddess of the harvest and her husband, the god of the Underworld. In the winter, nothing grew because her mother mourned her and in the spring she was allowed to rejoin her mother. Persephone was a legend.
"I don't give the slightest fuck who you are," he rages, "Your mother is dead with the other Olympians. You'll apologize or I'll send you back to your husband in pieces."
Aura and Nike step forward. There is a gust of wind from Aura that causes even the god of strength to take a step back. Nike is standing there with a sword that has appeared out of thin air. Several of the other Olympians turn in curiosity to see what the new commotion is about.
Nike smiles at the thought, "You think your muscles mean anything here, son of Zeus?"
Aura is glaring at him, "Maybe we should teach him a lesson."
As much as Persephone would like to see it, she stops them. She'd heard about Heracles. He'd been defiant with the goddess Hera for quite some time. Her failure to kill him had caused Heracles to have quite the big head. He believed he was above the others. His cocky, arrogant nature was backed all by his manhood. He looked at them and didn't see goddesses. He saw women. And he was unafraid.
Persephone stops them, "Not yet."
"Smart," Heracles states.
"You want us to apologize to Thaddeus?" Persephone asks, "Earn it during the trial. I will be your Queen. And if you're lucky, Heracles, I won't let my horses fuck him while you watch."
"We'll see..." Heracles states, "We'll see."
Persephone watches him as he walks away. All her life she hadn't had the choice of what she would be. Either her mother made decisions about her life, or her husband or Zeus himself. Now was her time though.
She would win the trial, no matter what.
She turns to her right, "Aura. You and your nymphs up for one of your hunting trips?"
Aura was the new goddess of the hunt. The heir to Artemis. She had inherited the retinue of Artemis. The female nymphs were famous for hunting things down.
Aura nods, "Always, Persephone."
"Good. Get your hunting bows ready. The weather is nice out. It's Spring now...the best time for a hunt."
It was the Spring. No
more hiding out in the cold Underworld.
It was Spring. That was Persephone's season to shine. It was her time in the sun.
My head feels like a million hammers have drilled right into it.
"You need to get up."
I look up and I'm so fucked up I don't know who is talking to me. It takes a few seconds for me to realize I'm under the banquet table. I also realize I've spilled something on myself. No, it isn't juice. It's yellow. I'm wearing all white and I'm in a sense of shock and also a strange self of relief when I realize that I've pissed myself.
It takes me quite a while to register the face or at least the lack of a face. It's the girl with the mask. She's standing over me with those same judgmental, unfriendly eyes that I've seen before.
"Leave me alone. I just want to kill myself."
"You can't kill yourself, dumbass," she tells me, "You're an immortal."
She helps lift me up. She is ridiculously strong for how small she is. She isn't as tall as Persephone, Nike, and Persephone. She has to be about 5'1". She throws me across her shoulders though and I put all my weight on her but she doesn't seem to struggle with it even a little bit. It takes me a while to remember that she is a goddess after all. Strength probably wasn't the only amazing thing about her.
Now comes the walk of shame. The scent of piss is super strong and the others are well enough to see me walking out of the party.
That's when I see him. Deimos.
He is standing away from me. He has a beer in his hand and his shirt is off. He's leaning up against the bar. Not too far from him is Krill. I watch as Krill intentionally walks up to him. He kisses him. He kisses him in front of everyone. People see it. I swear I hear a few people comment. Among those people are Persephone, Nike, and Aura. I feel like they are discussing me. I'm not sure but there is just that feeling. My face is red with embarrassment. They aren't trying to hide the fact that they are mocking me. Deimos doesn't check on me. He doesn't even come over to explain the fact that he was fucking Krill in the bathroom. He just...doesn't care. He looks away seeming more interested in the grass growing than my walk of shame. At least he wasn't laughing. If that made anything better.
I'm halfway out of the party when I look over at the girl helping me.
"Who are you?"
"Thalia, daughter, and heir to the Olympian Hephaestus, god of metalwork."
"Why are you helping me?"
"Because you're quite pathetic as a god," she explains to me, "And I owe your mother a favor."
"You were friends with my mother?"
The girl in the mask shakes her head, "Not quite. Not at all actually. Your mother hated me. I'm not a well-known goddess like Persephone. My myth didn't cause the seasons. Hell, most people don't know my story. Our parents were married you see...but your mother felt Hephaestus had me to spite her. See I was very beautiful...almost as beautiful as Aphrodite. For a time I was a vain goddess who cared about nothing more than my looks. I was the envy of all goddesses, including Aphrodite. Zeus turned himself into an eagle and made love to me. To hide me from his jealous wife, Hera, Zeus buried me in the dirt...all except my face. He didn't think it was Aphrodite who had the real issue with me. Aphrodite had her beautiful swans pluck the flesh off of my face."
The myth is so fucking sad.
"So why would you say you owe my mother a favor?" I ask.
"She taught me a lesson. A lesson that I had to learn the hard way. Beauty is fleeting. Without my beauty, I learned to be a metalworker as talented as my father. That's why he chose me to be his heir. I thank your mother."
I don't understand if she really means what she's saying. It's so sad and almost devastating that my mother would do something like that to another woman just because she was beautiful. The Olympians seemed rather...cruel.
I don't say another word as we walk. I wasn't feeling good. Besides what do you say to a girl who blames your mother for disfiguring her. Regardless if Thalia thought she wasn't mad or not I knew that it didn't matter. My mother had done something horrible.
I'd expected Thalia to be another hater like Persephone and her crew. It's different though. That's not what this is and it's somewhat surprising.
"I'm sorry what my mother did to you."
"I'm sorry what Deimos did to you," she explains.
"So you know?"
"I make it my business to know things that are going on around me. Just like I know that Krill and Cupid had a secret meeting."
She shrugs, "Maybe ask Krill."
"I'm never talking to Krill again. I thought I had a friend in Krill," I state.
I expect her to ask what I mean but for some reason, it seems like she knows already. Maybe it was already common knowledge that Krill and Deimos were a thing now. Krill did kiss him in front of everyone. I remembered how Persephone and the others were talking. Had Deimos let everyone know how obsessed I was with him? Was I the laughing stock of the gods now?
"This is Olympus. You don't have friends in Olympus. If someone is helping you, it's because they want your help back."
I look over at Thalia.
Was she talking about Krill? Or was she talking about herself?
I stop walking. I stop walking because we have made it to the Love Temple. The rows of roses have a unique smell to them outside the Love Department that pierces even through a drunk mind. When I stop I take a look at Thalia. This strange girl who was probably the most mysterious person that I've met in Olympus so far.
"What is it that you want Thalia?" I ask.
She doesn't get to answer the question. We are interrupted. I'm surprised by the interruption. Almost immediately we are surrounded by flying children. They swarm around us like fucking bees!
"Step away from her, Thad," a voice states.
I realize that we are surrounded by the Erotes. The child-like winged minor gods of the Love Department all have bows out. They are all dressed in silly shades of pink, white and lavender. You would think they were putting on a performance. It's somewhat laughable if it weren't for the fact that the arrows they had were very much real. They were pointed at Thalia and Thalia doesn't seem to be taking this threat as much of a joke at all.
"I'll be seeing you around, God of Love," Thalia states.
With that smoke forms around us. It's a heavy smoke. It has a smell to it. It's the kind of smell that you expect in an industrial wasteland. It causes the Erotes to spring out into the sky in an anxious nervousness. It's clear Thalia has somehow created this smoke on purpose to upset the beautiful smells of the Love Department. She interrupts the pleasantness and when the industrial smoke clears she is gone.
I'm left with nothing but a disarmed Cupid who is staring at me with a sense of disappointment in his eyes.
It's almost as though he knows. Somehow he knows what happened at the festival. It's not just because I'm covered in my embarrassment either. There is a deeper knowledge. There is a deeper understanding.
"I hope you've learned a lesson."
I'm too drunk to respond. I'm too embarrassed. I just nod.
It was time to put away the childish things.
He continues almost immediately, "You're a representation of the Love Department. You are the embodiment of love itself. If you are going to succeed Aphrodite you need to start acting like it. Go upstairs and wash that stink off of you. Get some rest. Tomorrow we begin to turn you into the best love god possible."
I sleep like a stone that night. Unmoved. A part of me never wants to wake up. Even in immortality, I feel more mortal than ever. I didn't think I could ever be so embarrassed. The Charities come to wake me up. They are singing. Most people would say they had beautiful voices. Divine voices. I have a hangover though and it sounds as though these melodies are hitting me in the head with a sledgehammer.
"It's time, it's time..." Aglaea, the Charity of Splendor sings.
I know it's her because she has these rosy cheeks. I swear when these girls move they don't actually walk. It's almost as though they are skating across the room. They open the blinds and the lights of the heavens blind me. We are on the high Mount Olympus, after all. We're so close to the sun.
They follow me around picking and prodding at me.
"Time for what?" I'm moaning?"
There is no answer. No interest. I know almost immediately that Cupid is up to something. The worst part of it all is when I'm presented with a mirror I look fucking perfect. I feel like the ugliest person in the world but there was no stopping the God of Love. Within seconds I look as though I've been prepping for hours to look this good.
And for the first time in such a long time the realization of who I am really becomes real. Cupid made a point last night. He said I represented Love itself. There was a reason these Charities were so happy all the time. There was a reason everyone was beautiful and everything smelled good here. The Love Department brought beauty to the world.
And maybe I could find some comfort in that, even if I couldn't find love for myself.
Maybe that's why when the door opens and Cupid walks in, I greet him with a smile, putting aside the fact that I had a hangover.
"Are you ready?"
Without knowing what I'm ready for or why I had to be up so early, I nod.
"Go through that door."
"There is no door."
I turn at that moment. Sure enough, I realize there is a door there that was not there before. It was magic! The door is a wide door with curved frames. I look at the door and I'm just puzzled by it. None-the-less, I do what he says. I walk to the door. I'm a little nervous. I'm little scared, but I can't show it. I'd embarrassed myself enough the day before. It was about time I started acting like a god.
I walk to the door, keeping my face up and open it. There is nothing on the other side. Nothing but a bright white light.
We walk through and on the other side, we are in a field. There is ground below us. Grass. We aren't on a mountain with cloud below us anymore. We're back on Earth. Within seconds I realize that Cupid is behind me.
"How'd you do that?" I ask.
"You'll learn all these secrets soon enough," he explains to me, "Today we start with the basics. Look over there and tell me what you see."
I turn towards the way he points. When Cupid points I see people. It's a beautiful morning. It looks like some sort of event going on. I'm thinking it must be some sort of upscale social mixer or something of the sort. People walk past us quickly.
"Mortals," I realize, "Can they see us?"
He shakes his head, "Not at the moment. You are the God of Love. It's time that you showed what you're power can do. I brought you here to this Upscale Speed dating event. Look at their faces. Everyone's miserable. No one's having fun. These people are in desperate need of sexuality. Without realizing it they are praying to the God of Love."
Cupid was right. Young women were stationed at these lawn gazebos drinking sparkling wine while young men rotated around them. I didn't know where we were. It didn't seem like America. They spoke a different language. It feels like we're somewhere in Europe. Maybe Naples. Yes. They were speaking Italian for the most part. Without even hearing the conversations at the speed dating event I could tell things weren't going well. I could see the look on the faces of the women. They were stuck up and crude. The men seemed a little turned off by these women altogether. I'd never been to a speed dating event but I assumed a part of it was a conversation. Most of the women were more interested in their wine and the men were making sure they were on their phones.
The awkwardness of the event was scorching. I feel like I'm spying on them. I feel like I'm feeling their pain. People walk right past me without knowing I'm there and yet somehow I feel so much a part of what is going on.
"What should I do?"
"What you were born to do," Cupid tells me, "Put passion into this situation."
Cupid shrugs, "I'm not the God of Love, Thaddeus. You are. It's time for you to change this narrative."
He's putting me on the spot. This was a test. A part of me wonders if this was punishment for the embarrassment of the festival the night before. Maybe he didn't think I had what it took to be the God of Love. I couldn't even win over Deimos, after all. All of a sudden the pressure starts getting to me. I'd never done anything really godly. Cupid could fly. Thalia could disappear in a cloud of smoke, Deimos could move as quick as the wind. What could I do?
Then I think.
"I've only ever caused attraction to myself," I realize out loud.
Cupid shrugs, "Couldn't be much different, could it?"
He had a point. These were mortals. I should have power over them.
I take a deep breath.
I close my eyes. All of a sudden I'm concentrating. All of a sudden I'm thinking. I remembered at that moment all the time that I prayed and I wished for a man to be attracted to me. All of a sudden he was. It was almost like he was drawn to me. Ever want something so bad that you feel like you could wish out and grab it. That's what this was like. When I close my eyes it seems as though the entire universe was in my grasp.
And I could weave it!
I could change it!
I had a willpower built in me and all I had to do was release it. And it springs off me. I can feel it. I can see it even with my eyes closed.
The feelings swell out of me. And when I open my eyes I can see it. A light that is coming out of me that is all pretty colors of purples and pinks and golds. A spirit. An emotion. I had thought they were pheromones before but I realize now that it's something more than that. These were my divine wishes! They flood out of my body.
Like an invisible hand they reach out and they begin to touch the mortals. The mortals don't seem to notice the aura. They don't see it, but the moods change. They notice it.
It starts with the twinkle in the eye of one man. And then a smile on the woman he's looking at. All of a sudden they are giggling. All of a sudden they are enjoying each others company. The aura jumps from one person to another. Soon it's no longer speed dating. Soon people are spending quality time getting to know each other.
"Turn it up," Cupid instructs me."
"Amp it up."
I'm confused when he says that. It's almost as though this was another test. Hadn't he seen how amazing this was already? I had made people begin to bond. That wasn't enough for him. No. He wanted to see what I could do. It's clear. I see him looking at me and there is still that doubt in Cupid's eye. He still doubts who I am and who I could do.
Just at that moment, I turn it up. I turn it all the way up.
The colors are a hot red now. The color of passion. The red heat sweeps over the event. Within a matter of seconds, the men are taking off their clothes. The women are dropping their panties underneath their brunch dresses.
"AY!" a man yells as he reaches over the table grabs a girl and kisses her deeply. Within a matter of seconds, he rips her clothes off. The sexy Italian man is naked on top of her in the fancy gazebo. He kicks over her sunrise Mimosa and unleashes his long, uncut Italian dick.
She doesn't even get a warning when he shoves the dick into her. I hear her moan desperately at that moment.
Soon the red aura spreads. Hot read. Passion. Sex. Everywhere. Men are starting to have sex with the women they've met with. That's not enough soon. Within a matter of minutes, the men are starting to have sex with multiple women. And then when that is not enough they start having sex with each other.
"Is that divine enough for you?" I ask Cupid.
He looks back at the orgy. People entering each other in raw fits of passion. All you hear are moans of sex and satisfaction all around us. People are sucking, fucking and licking everything that has a hole nearby. It didn't matter. The naked bodies embrace in this heat of warm unadulterated sex. And it's something, unlike anything I've ever seen.
Cupid smiles back at me and nods, "Well done. You've passed."
"So this was a test after all?"
"Yes...and I've arranged a prize," Cupid explains.
"See that tent over there?" Cupid asks, "Go in there. And, Thad. Make sure you enjoy."
I'm confused but also rather intrigued by what Cupid would think would be worth giving me a prize about. In the middle of all of this there, sure enough, was a white tent. A part of me knew the tent was divine. It just felt like something out of place. I cross towards the tent making my way through the sounds of sweaty, hot fucking.
I have to admit that by the time I get to the tent I'm already turned on. It doesn't help that when I open the tent I see a naked man in there.
It's not just any naked man.
"Hello, Thad," the voice states.
It's Heracles. He's completely naked and in the tent, there is nothing more than a plethora of silk pillows that look softer than anything I could ever imagine. Cupid arranged him to be here.
At some point, I was so set on Deimos but it was clear Deimos had someone else in mind. Seeing Heracles brought to me like this was clearly changing my mind. It was hard not to have my mind changed. His waist was lean, his body clearly athletic as though he spent every moment of his life doing some sort of exercise. He was powerful. His chest the size of multiple average men. There was strength in the way that he was toned. It wasn't just his body either. His face was so...toned. This man somehow managed to have a muscular face if that was possible. His jawline seemed to be so fucked detailed and well-trained.
My eyes continue down to his waist. He's playing with something. He has it in his hands.
"Cupid thinks you and I would make an absolutely great team," Heracles explains, "I like to think we would. Together we could rule Olympus. Together we could rule the Universe."
The way he says it. It's so daring. It's so positive. He was beyond cocky. It's sexy. It's reckless and it's fucking dangerous. But I'm still rock hard as I look at him and realize what he's playing with. He's playing with his dick in his hands. His dick is wet with oils. It's just as strong as the rest of his body. His waist seems to be carved specifically just to emphasize the girth of his dick. He begins to stroke in a vigorous way, thrusting his hips up in a way that lets me know he's probably imagining he was thrusting inside of me.
I'm staring at him and at this point I'm damn near drooling.
"A power couple?" I ask.
It's clear Cupid brought me here for more than to just to show him I could make a couple mortals horny. He brought me here to prove I could really be the God of Love. He brought me here to make sure that I could seduce the heir of Zeus.
"Come here..." he tells me, "My king."
The way he calls me that was as though he was already crowning me with a crown that he didn't have and proposing to me with a ring that he didn't have. I'm tempted to start walking to him. Hell every part of me just wants to go over there and sit on his dick. Then the thought of Deimos comes in my head and for some reason, I'm hesitating.
Why the fuck am I doubting this?
All of a sudden as though the universe itself seemed to be doubting this with me there is a flash outside. It's a bright flash. I would have thought a fucking star had fallen from the sky when I see the blinding light streaming through the tent.
"What the hell was that?" I ask.
"That's Angelia's light," Heracles explains seeming just as surprised.
Within a matter of seconds, an elf-looking creature with pointy ears walks in. She does it quickly in a strange way almost as though he is cutting through the air somehow. She covers her eyes immediately when she sees Heracles standing there naked.
"Oh my...I'm sorry for the interruption," she states.
I'm about to ask her who she is but almost immediately Cupid runs into the room.
"This is NOT the time," Cupid is screaming at her.
For some reason, Cupid seems really upset that this girl is here. I'm so confused by it. Cupid looks almost as though he wants to wrestle the girl out of the tent.
I'm annoyed, "Who are you and what's happening?"
"My name is Angelia," she states, "I'm the goddess of messages. Heir to the God Hermes."
Hermes was one of the old Olympians. He was the messenger of the Gods. I knew that much. I hadn't heard of the fact that he had a daughter. I had never heard the name, Angelia. Thinking about it though, I had seen the girl before in passing. She had a familiar face. I hadn't met her. She had been talking to Pan at a point, I believe. I think she was one of the Olympians he was attempting to seduce. I take a look at her ears. She seems like an elf or something like it. I notice she is barefoot and also notices that her feet seem to emit some flashing white light.
"Why the hell are you here?" Heracles asks seeming just as annoyed as Cupid, "You're interrupting a moment between me and my future husband."
It's kind of annoying how he just says it like that. It isn't in a sexy way. It wasn't like he was flirting or slightly joking. No. Heracles didn't seem like much of the joker. He was saying it relatively in a hard way. He walks up to her as though he is going to snap her neck in two. He's completely naked and it seems like the poor girl is intimidated either by his muscles or the anaconda between his legs. She sweeps away from him so fast that I barely see her move. I realize now that the girl seems to be walking on the light beams underneath her feet. That was where the bright radiation came from.
Within seconds she has made her way past Heracles and is near me. Heracles turns around fast and I can see his muscles tense. He's pissed. I step between the two. I know if I'm not there Heracles would probably attempt to throw her out of here on her neck.
"She has a message clearly," I state.
Cupid is irritated, "It's nothing. Nonsense. Nothing you need to worry about. You need to be focusing on this alliance with Heracles. He is promising to make you his consort."
It's just like Cupid. All he's doing is worried about the Love Department and our status. Every time I look at him it just seems like he's living through me. If Aphrodite thought he was up for the job she would have named him his heir. It's clear she didn't and for some reason, he still seems to think he has control of everything I do. But there is a desperation in his tone. He must have heard her message before she entered the tent. He was screening my messages now. It was that serious.
And this was clearly something he didn't want me to know...
"It's just a message right?" I ask.
Cupid nods, "A stupid invitation. Nothing to worry about."
"Then why are you so bothered?" I ask Cupid.
"It's Persephone," Cupid explains, "Up to her tricks. It's a trap."
Persephone? I'm more confused than ever. I turn to the goddess of messages. She looks over at me and her pointy ears seem to be flickering. She has her eyes set on Heracles as though he was a three-headed dragon ready to spit fire at any moment but she seems like she is ready to stick around with that dragon if it means that she had to deliver this message. It's clear the girl had some resolve. I guess she got it from her father Hermes.
"You have a message from Persephone?" I ask.
"It's not from Persephone. Not directly at least," she explains, "This comes from her husband. Hades. He sends a message saying that goddess of the hunt Aura has hunted and killed your father..."
My heart drops.
Cupid is immediately at my side, "Listen this is a trap. Don't fall for it."
"SHUT UP!" I ignore him.
Immediately I turn to Angelia. Did she say what I just thought she said? Aura was one of those bitches that were with Persephone. Did they hunt my father? Why the hell would they do that? Why the hell would they want to hunt an innocent mortal? He did nothing to them.
Angelia hands me an envelope at that moment, "He is being taken to the underworld. Hades has invited you to the Underworld to meet with him in person. He says that you will accept...if you ever want to see your father again."
To read the next chapter in advance go to www.crushedcrown.com