A mythological short story by Solomon Robert
The surrounding gold of the cobblestones, the fountains, and the temples quells the majesty of the gates of Mount Olympus before me in the main square. For when every rock is a diamond, the splendor of one loses its effect. I readjust the quiver and bow across my shoulders. At any moment, Hades will arrive. My fellow gods and goddesses trickle inside. They debate if Demeter will murder Hades on sight, if Persephone had fallen in love with him, and whether Persephone will become Queen of the Underworld. I could care less what happens to her. Hades doesn’t visit Olympus often, and depending on what Zeus decides for him, I might not have another opportunity like this, perhaps, ever again.
I’ll only have a second to catch Hades before Zeus and Demeter grab him. If Hades is taking Persephone to help him oversee the Underworld, I want to be part of his court as well. Each god has his or her set place here. The order of Olympus has already been set, but in the Underworld there still remains opportunity for distinction. There, I will be able to make a name for myself. I’ll be able to build a following, and although I haven’t been before, the Underworld could be no darker than living in my brother’s shadow.
Clouds hide the expansiveness of the human world below—all the possibility off this mountain. In a robe of fishnets, Triton swaggers into the square. His daughters, the sea nymphs, parade in behind him. Their arrival rouses the fountains in the square. Each spout blasts water towards the stars as if to test the distance between them, yet they only reach the same height as they always have.
One of Triton’s daughters approaches. I do not know her, yet she sways up towards me. Sand powders her cheeks into a pale sheen. Inspired by sapphires, the fabric of her wrap flows alongside her red hair. The smile upon her lips troubles me. I do not have time for silly sea nymphs. I must be on the lookout for Hades before the other gods usher him into their meeting.
“You are exactly the god I wanted to see,” the sea nymph says. “I’ve fallen in love with a human and, try as I might, I just can’t get him to notice me. I would owe you the world for this, but would you be willing to use one of your arrows to help me?”
No one has ever requested the benefit of my powers before. Clasping her hands together, she shrugs. Her aquamarine eyes dance around my expression with hopeful wonderment. She requests—no, needs—my arrows to find happiness. She doesn’t view my powers as vain and superfluous. I will help this sea nymph. She only has to name the man, and I will ensure that he is enthralled in desire for her. I’ll bless him with stamina, prowess, and girth for the occasion. It will be the most gratifying sexual experience of the millennia!
“Eros, you must believe me that this is a truer reverence than I have felt with any other,” she adds.
Of course, she isn’t interested in my powers. Just as I can’t distinguish her from Triton’s other daughters, she has no recognition of me. Although my twin brother and I are the most gorgeous beings in all the cosmos, our physical likeness is where our similarities end. Eros creates true love connections. I rouse blinding passions. He evokes relationships as immortal as us gods, while I cause romantic, intense, and lustful bonds that end as quickly as they begin.
“Please, help me,” she says. “I can’t bear for this love to go unfulfilled.”
“You mistake me for my brother,” I say. “It is I, Himeros.”
The sea nymph grimaces. No one wants to find a coupling as radiant as a soulmate but with the shelf-life of a glass of wine in Dionysus’ hand. In the Temples the humans have built to honor my mother, there is always an altar for Eros, yet no space for me. Those who might ask for another’s attention don’t wish for it to wane with the moon. No one prays for one-sided love, all-consuming desire, that engulfs the human touched by one of my arrows but for a moment. Mother always tells me that it’s not the number of worshippers that makes a god powerful. That lies in his constitution, his forward thinking, and the domain which he controls. It’s easy for her to say that when she’s Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love.
“Oh, Himeros, my apologies,” the sea nymph says. “This feels like more of a true love situation. Don’t worry, I won’t pester you any further, but thanks for offering to help. Please don’t! Though, would you happen to know where your brother is?”
Eros struts up and puts his hand on my shoulder. He winks. His black, wavy hair sways, even though there’s no wind up here. His long lashes brush up against each other like swan’s wings. His muscles are toned, but not overpowering like Zeus or Triton. Yet, my twin flexes as he leans off my shoulder towards the sea nymph. Besides our identical forms, Eros and I could not be any more different.
“I couldn’t help but overhear your predicament,” Eros says. “And may I just say that you are the most stunning of all of Triton’s daughters?”
He has no idea who she is either. I guarantee it.
“You really think so?” The sea nymph’s lips waver from a smile to frown like a snake caught under a Titan’s foot. “Does this mean you’ll help me?”
“Hmm…” Eros strokes his chin. He loves the pleas for him to use his power. Prayers bombard his head like songs, and he gets so intoxicated by mankind’s worship that he barely remembers who’s asking for what with who.
“Please?” She clutches a shell hanging around her neck. She presses her forearm against her heart as if to protect it from whatever my brother will decide. “Eros?”
I wander away from my intolerable brother. I pass through the drunken stupor of Dionysus’ followers. While Dionysus may not be a god of sex, he has made a name for himself as the god of pleasure, which overlaps quite a bit with my areas of expertise. I should be the master of all infatuation and trysts, yet somehow between Eros and Dionysus, I am not sure where I fit into the pantheon here on Mount Olympus.
Just in front of Dionysus’ followers, the cobblestones crack in a long and jagged line. The ground splits open and releases black flames. A sphere of spiderweb-like smoke grows out of the ground to about eight feet tall. He’s here! Hades is finally here! There’s a soft glow from within the smoke. A black candelabra pierces through the sphere before vanishing from Hades’ outstretched hand. The smoke solidifies into glass. The mirrored sphere reflects the scowls, gasps, and amusement from the gods and goddesses gathered ‘round. Their intrigue and disgust melt away with the sphere as Hades reveals himself and Persephone.
Thick and linear, Hades’ brows wear a sternness that is matched by his ice blue eyes. His nose fits in perfect symmetry with the harsh angles of his jawline. His beard, like the hair atop his head, is short and dark. The only speckles of gray hair reside on his burly chest. His black robe hangs across his broad shoulders. His long eyelashes blend in with the shadows below his brow. Hades never blinks like he’s completely confident in himself and all his actions getting here—even now as he faces the wrath of Demeter and Zeus.
Next to him, Persephone blinks. Her eyelids flutter like leaves in the wind. All of her facial features could be considered pretty, but when all together on her face, somehow, she looks plain. Her white dress is cut low on the neckline, even though she has no figure to speak of. There’s a frailty to her that makes her posture wilt like a dying flower.
Hades, however, stands strong with his hips forward. The bulge between his legs is relentless. Although wind is not possible on Olympus, I pray for it anyways. I would love a glimpse of what his robe conceals. He reaches out and takes Persephone’s tiny hands in his. He tenderly strokes her as she stares down at the crack in the stones beneath them. She has zero appreciation for how lovingly Hades touches her.
Though, her privilege is not my concern today. Now is my opportunity to talk to Hades before his sister, Demeter, strangles him.
I dart towards the couple, but Demeter bombards them first. “Persephone!” Demeter cries. “How could you kidnap her from me?” She squeezes Persephone as tight as the braided bun wound atop her head.
Hades remains serene. “And how could you have starved all of mankind?” he asks. “You’ve sent many souls to an early death when your disagreement is with me.”
Glaring in Hades’ direction, Demeter turns to Persephone. “Are you alright, my darling?” After inspecting the white lilies in Persephone’s hair, Demeter rips them out. She squashes them in her hands, and their white petals of death fall tattered to the golden stones.
If I’m to ask Hades to be a part of his court, the moment is now.
“I beg your pardon, Hades. I don’t know if you remember me, but I am Himeros. Aphrodite’s son?”
Hades waves his hand over the scattered petals, and they turn to ash.
I had been foolish to think that the King of the Underworld would remember me, let alone believe in me. The dead have no use for sex, passions, and unrequited love. I would be just as useless for Hades as I am on Olympus.
“I remember you,” he says.
Like I’ve dived into a lightning strike, my cells enliven with a buzzing. Electricity flickers around the main square. The only explanation for this sensation could be Zeus emerging from his Temple. I don't have much time.
“I know you probably have a lot on your mind, but before you meet with Zeus,” I say. Somehow, this god of all gods remembers me. Behind his stoicism, I admire a gentleness that I’ve never noticed before. Hades nods. He encourages me to disrupt him on this momentous day. His entire relationship with Persephone is about to be debated, yet this distinguished and handsome god seems only here to guide me. Persephone has no idea how lucky she is to have his heart, his sex, and his mentorship. “See, I feel I’ve outgrown Olympus. I—”
Demeter elbows Hades and me apart. She’s ruining my one chance to talk with Hades, to ask to be on his court. Demeter shoves my sternum, and I stumble back next to my brother and the sea nymph. Hades’ eyes narrow on Persephone crouched on the cobblestones behind her mother. A scowl breaks through his serenity. Hades’ anger at Demeter will erase me and our conversation from his mind. My opportunity is gone.
“Did one of you fire an arrow at Persephone?” Demeter howls at Eros and me. “If either of you used your love magic on my daughter or my brother, Aphrodite won’t be able to save you from the fury I will unleash.”
“No, Demeter, I assure you,” Eros says.
Could one of my arrows affect a god? The thought had never occurred to me. I know I can enchant demigods, but I had always assumed that was because of their human side.
“How about your sex-deviant brother?” Demeter growls. “You two are the only explanation for this lunacy!”
Demeter seems to think my arrows would work on a god.
“Demeter.” Zeus’ voice resounds like thunder. Only the fountains dare to make a sound. “The boys had nothing to do with this. Now, come. Let’s deliberate on this together. You too, Hades.”
“Himeros.” Hades looks at me as he helps up his beloved. “Please do find me afterwards.”
I nod, but I know better than to get my hopes up. When he leaves Zeus’ Temple, he will either be preoccupied with his own wedding or departing in a rage without a bride. I will have to wait until a new opportunity presents itself, and who knows how many centuries that could be?
“Out of my way.” Elbows out, Demeter barges through the crowd.
Even though it’s been years since his last visit to Olympus, Hades acknowledges every god and goddess here as he passes by. His back muscles and arms bulge with each step up towards the golden archways of Zeus’ Temple.
Perhaps a new opportunity has already presented itself. Potentially, I could skip asking to join his court and, instead, blind Hades with one of my arrows. He would fall passionately in love with me and crave my body in a way that I’ve never allowed myself to dream of before. I’ve used my arrows for my own pleasure with mortals and demigods, but their attentions have been unremarkable. If I could have the Almighty of the Underworld entranced by me, I would claim a seat on his court and milk his godly body for as long as the enchantment holds. It is a shame that Hades’ love for Persephone will instantly dissolve. He probably made promises to Persephone that he will no longer be able to keep, and all this hubbub would be for nothing. Though, I am Himeros, the god of unrequited love. It’s part of my realm to create all-consuming excitement that ends too soon.
With the thud of the Temple door, Triton’s daughters swarm Persephone.
“Are you alright, dear?”
“How did Hades manage to bring you to the Underworld?”
“What was it like?”
“What was he like?”
Persephone stares out at the clouds over the human world. Slowly, she brushes her hair with her hands. “The flowers and fruits I grow in the Underworld are unlike any I’ve ever created here or in the human world. You wouldn’t believe it. The berries tasted like Zeus’ lightning mixed with sweet honey.”
The sea nymphs’ eyes dart to the other parts of the square like they too want to escape Persephone’s diatribe.
“The Underworld is made entirely of lava rock,” Persephone drawls on. “The souls of the dead glow like molten lava when they first arrive. Their edges bubble until they eventually harden into more walls and floors.”
Persephone could never understand the opportunity that Hades is presenting to her. She could be married and become Queen of the Underworld, yet she makes no mention of the most sultry and benevolent gods in all the cosmos.
I can’t stand to listen any further.
I turn to find the daughter of Triton with aquamarine eyes. A crease has formed across her forehead. My brother, Eros, toys with the shell hanging from her neck. Fluttering his lashes, he brushes his shoulder against hers.
“I could help you with your human,” Eros says. “But I think your feelings have been misplaced. You hadn’t had the opportunity of meeting me yet. Can’t you feel it? I can make you feel more vibrant than any affection a human could afford you. After all, I am the god of love.”
I take a step backwards almost bumping into Dionysus. He extends a large goblet of wine in my direction. “My favorite god,” he coos.
“Not now, Dionysus,” I say.
I need my aim and my wits about me.
His ruby eyes dazzle as he swirls the goblet like Poseidon churns the tides. “Oh, Himeros. You seem more like the god of stress than a god of sex today.”
I can’t wait to be out of Olympus and in the Underworld.
In a long red gown, Hestia, the goddess of the hearth, smiles at me. Her fingertips light candles upon a table of delicacies. “Eros, darling, would you like to help me with the banquet? If love prevails, we’ll have a wedding here shortly.”
I don’t belong here. Only Dionysus, my mother, and my brother seem to recognize me at these large gatherings. Though, if I’m about to shoot an arrow at the King of the Underworld, maybe being mistaken for my brother will prove useful. I’ll need to be close enough to have a clear shot, but far enough away to avoid detection. I glance around for a suitable location within range.
“I’d love to, Hestia, but I’ve got some business to attend to,” I say.
“Very well, dear.”
I can mask my arrows from view, but my bow will be visible. The white, pink, and gold feathers liken my bow to a bird of paradise. It is not exactly inconspicuous. The goddess, Artemis, will surely notice me. She has the eye of a hunter. Though, there must be a way to distract her.
“Hera!” Apollo screams. “Clear the sky.”
Apollo, the protector of the youth, falls upon the steps. His long brown hair falls over his face, but it doesn’t block the pained arch of his eyebrows. He holds his hands over his ears as if that could stop him from hearing the humans’ prayers.
“Souls are escaping from the Underworld!” Artemis exclaims.
Only Zeus’ muffled voice continues from inside the Temple. Artemis presses her hand to her forehead. She drops her bow at her feet. She protects the youth alongside Apollo. What are these escaped souls doing to the children?
Hera raises her royal scepter. Her shawl falls from atop her head to her shoulders. She closes her eyes. Like brush strokes, the clouds dissolve from the sky in time with the motions of Hera’s golden scepter.
The souls of the dead do look like molten lava. They boil and splash about the towns of the humans possessing the bodies of the youth. Children have a much weaker ego to overpower. Captive with the dead, the toddlers and babes glow like fire. They speak with voices not their own. A toddler in Epidamnos controlled by the soul of a murderer begins throwing knives at his family members. They take cover and cry out to the gods for assistance. A child in Kamarina begins speaking with the voice of her possessor. She tells her family members of the horrors awaiting them in the Underworld. The dead speak of their desire to use their newfound bodies for depravity and violence.
With Hades gone, there are no other attendants guarding the gates of the Underworld. Of course, the souls had escaped. This is exactly why I need to join Hades there. If only I’d had more time to explain this to Hades.
I can’t let this commotion divert my attention. I need to focus on waiting for Hades to emerge from Zeus’ Temple. This could be my only chance at hitting the King of the Underworld with one of my arrows. I need him to become obsessed with me. It’s the only way that Hades will recognize me as being worthy to rule beside him, especially now. Even if he is to wed Persephone or to leave in a fury, Hades will first have to deal with the escaped souls. If he’s not infatuated with me, he’ll have too many other distractions.
“Hera, what can we do?” Apollo asks.
“Hera, you must interrupt Zeus and Hades,” Artemis says. “Hades is the only one who can stop them.”
“I will do no such thing,” the Queen of the Gods says. “If the humans die, they die. There’s plenty more of them.”
As Hades raises his voice inside, electricity surges from the doorway to Zeus’ Temple. I can’t miss my chance to hit him with one of my arrows, but we can’t allow the souls of the dead to run rampant below. The living might not be praying to me, but I can see their tears and their anguish. I can’t stand by while these gods and goddesses ignore the humans just like they ignore me. That’s not what a Prince of the Underworld would do.
“Hermes!” I shout.
Hermes floats above the square with his winged, golden shoes. Worry weighs down his brows as he looks to me.
“Yes, Eros?” he asks.
“It is I, Himeros,” I say. “Hermes, you’re the only one who knows how to get to the Underworld and back. You have to guide these escaped souls as you would the newly dead.”
“But . . . how?” Hermes asks. “I could grab them one at a time, but they surely won’t follow me. They’re unruly and dangerous!”
“I’ll use my arrows to make these souls desire you with unbelievable passion,” I say. “Their yearning will fade, but for right now I can make sure they follow you. All you have to do is guide them.”
“Eros, help him!” a sea nymph calls.
The crowd murmurs in agreement with the sea nymph.
“Eros’ arrows are two-sided,” I say. “His magic will alter Hermes’ affections and would only work on one soul at a time. I can influence all the dead with my arrows without Hermes feeling anything.”
“Will your magic work on the dead?” Hera asks.
“It’s worth a shot!” I position ten arrows on the string of my bow and raise it up at the ready position. “Go, Hermes! Go!”
Hades better not leave Olympus before I can stick him with an arrow.
The other gods and goddesses watch me with hesitation. I hear whispering, but the sound of Hades’ voice from inside the Temple dominates over their doubts. Eros has his arm around Triton’s daughter. Hera shrugs her shoulders. Apollo and Artemis eye Hermes as he dives down towards the human world.
I envision Hermes with his boyish smile and hairless skin. He’s athletic and hopeful but in a way that you can never truly read him. He promotes both commerce and theft. I never know where I stand with him, and he is the god of premonitions and signs. I wrap Hermes’ energy into my arrowheads with my powers. I fire my arrows out at the human world. They fall faster than Hermes can fly. In perfect twists and turns, the arrows pierce through the lava-like souls and the captive youth.
Hermes reaches the villages. When he flies overhead, the dead souls leave the bodies they possess to follow him. Hermes flies in circles with a string of flaming ethereal blobs trailing behind him with their unreturned affections.
“It’s working!” Artemis cries.
“You’ve got this, Himeros!” Apollo cheers.
I load more arrows onto my bow and wrap Hermes’ energy into the arrowheads. Around me, the gods and goddesses cheer. I’ve never been this noticed or celebrated before on Olympus. I raise a fist to the sky and am met with more applause. I do a fancy turn while launching the next string of arrows out into the human world. There’s even more clapping!
The arrows plunge through the air; they teeter, unlike before. I don’t think it’s possible for me to miss, but this might be the closest I’ve ever been. I cringe as my arrows zip into the wrong homes. They hit the wrong humans. Agatha of Megalopolis becomes overwhelmed with lust for Hermes. During supper with her husband, Agatha pours his wine all over his food and tells him that they’re getting a divorce. A man named Demetrius of Stagirus becomes mad with desire for Hermes. He climbs up on his rooftop and cries for Hermes to be with him. In the midst of a tryst, Theodosia of Didyma threatens to chop her lover’s member off for she will only be Hermes’ lover.
The cheering ceases. Dionysus’ laughs heartily as I load another set of arrows. Mistakes happen. All the attention had been distracting me anyways. I’ll surely hit my marks now.
“It’s okay, Himeros,” Artemis yells. “You’ve got this!”
Wrapped in Hermes’ energy, I fire once more and hit the remaining of the escaped dead. The gods and goddesses applaud.
“You are a hero this day, Himeros,” Apollo says.
The lava-like souls fly after Hermes as he guides them towards the Underworld.
“I don’t know you well, Himeros, but I must say, your skill with a bow rivals my own,” Artemis says. “I’ve been hunting with your brother, and he was not that accurate a shot!”
“Thank you,” I say. “That’s quite the compliment coming from you!”
Artemis and Apollo each put one arm around me.
“If there’s a wedding here, you should sit with us,” Apollo says.
“Thank you,” I say as I peel myself apart from them.
Any other time I would be basking in this praise, but not when I have a chance to spellbind the God of the Underworld. I could give up on my plan with Hades and his court. Perhaps the gods and goddesses might start recognizing me for my worth now. Maybe all I’d needed was to prove myself apart from Eros.
Demeter storms out of the Temple first. She marches over to Hera and crosses her arms. Then, Zeus exits his Temple with arms outstretched. “Gods and goddesses, we have reached a decision.” Hestia hugs me and shouts in glee. The gods and goddesses continue their chatter, which makes Zeus pause. His bushy brows furrow at Hermes, floating back into the main square. “But first, did I miss something?”
Hades saunters out of the Temple next to his brother. He does not curse or fume in anger, but he does not jump for glee or smile either. His eyes soak in the stars above, which must not be visible from the Underworld. Hades looks out at the main square with a tenderness and a tremble of his lip. It must not have gone well in there for him. All I want is to comfort Hades, to touch him, and to love him into better spirits. One of my arrows would distract him from any loss he’s feeling over Persephone.
“Himeros saved the day!” Apollo shouts.
“Souls of the dead escaped from the Underworld and took over the bodies of the human children,” Artemis says. “It is thanks to him that the children are safe and the dead are back in their rightful place!”
“Thank you, Eros!” Zeus cries. “You are truly the hero of the day!”
Zeus nods approvingly as he apportions all credit to my brother and not me. Even when the King of Olympus is directly told that I, Himeros, saved the day, he concludes that they meant my brother. I have no place on Olympus, and now, with all of the attention on me, I will never be able to secretly hit Hades with one of my arrows. I’ll never be able to take a place on Hades’ court. All I need is for everyone to ignore me again like normal.
“Thank you, Himeros,” Hades says.
Hades looks at me with the same admiration as when he had looked at the stars. Perhaps I could just ask him to be on his court, no arrows necessary.
“Himeros?” Zeus asks. “No, Himeros is his twin brother. They look identical, but that’s Eros.”
I clench my jaw. I can feel Hades’ pity, everyone’s pity, at Zeus’ error. Though, I don’t need their sympathy. Very soon, I’d be Prince of the Underworld with Hades by my side. I can’t leave any room for chance when my life hangs in balance. I must hit Hades with an arrow and make sure I leave with him from this Mount.
I search through the crowd of gods and goddesses until I find my brother, Eros. He sits on one of the fountains with the sea nymph on his lap. As they kiss, they tug their robes up to their midriffs revealing their sex for any who look. His egotism has exposed itself at quite the opportune time.
“Actually, it is I, Himeros,” I say. “My brother, Eros, is on the fountain there with one of Triton’s daughters.”
A wave of gasps spread through the crowd. Artemis, also the goddess of chastity, screams. Cowering, she shields her eyes.
Now is my chance!
I wrap my own energy in a camouflaged arrow. I think of my time here, being overshadowed by my brother. I think of what I could give to the Underworld that I can’t on Olympus. I imagine a life where I could spend every day making Hades feel loved, appreciated, and satisfied. I hold the bow firmly and pull back the string. I take it back. I can’t wish for a lifetime. My arrows won’t ensure a happily ever after, but a moment of rabid desire.
I fire at Hades. The camouflaged arrow strikes him right in the chest. His stance and expression remain still, yet his ice blue eyes find me. If my powers can affect a god, he should be completely enthralled in me. His expression should have changed in some way.
“Cover yourselves!” Zeus exclaims. “My apologies on the mix-up, Himeros. Thank you for your help here today. Now, gods, goddesses, let’s return to the matter of our assembly today. Hades, Demeter, and I have reached a decision. Hades will wed Persephone here and now. She will become Queen of the Underworld, but she will only spend one third of the year in the Underworld with him. In the remaining months, she will continue to reside here on Olympus. Also, from now on, only Hermes, mortal souls, and any offspring Hades and Persephone have will be allowed in the Underworld. If any other god or goddess ventures to the Underworld, one of my lightning bolts has been set up to strike this being and any who accompany them into oblivion. Do I make myself clear?”
I can never be on his court now. Even after proving myself with the escaped souls. Even after potentially enchanting the King of the Underworld!
The arrow dissolves from Hades’ chest. Persephone latches onto his arm, though his focus stays solely on me. The arrow must have worked.
To Be Continued . . .