Traded Daffodils for a Kingdom of Ash and Bone

Submitted into Contest #86 in response to: Write a story where flowers play a central role.... view prompt

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Fantasy Coming of Age Fiction

   The flowers aren’t as beautiful as everyone says they are. Sure, they’re beautiful, but after staring at them for so long I can’t think of them that way anymore. They’re just boring, and they’re all I ever see. My mother says I must stay in the garden, I’m safe here. I shouldn’t complain, it’s not a prison or anything. There is plenty of space and kind creatures that roam around. I’ve made friends with the dryads and nymphs, so I’m not lonely, I’m just bored. All I ever do is garden, and while this place is magnificent, once you’ve seen it all a million times, the sunny days start to feel more grey, the colors less vivid, and the world less magical.

   I contemplate why I’m here, what brought me here as I sit in the grass, my hand brushing the tips of daffodils. What a selfish flower. My mother told me how they came to be, the handsome Narcissus falling so far in love with his own reflection that he could not leave, dying there of starvation, the only thing left of the man that once was being a small, delicate, flower. He always seemed a cruel man to me, ignoring the poor but beautiful Echo, who loved him. I hope I get a better love story than that one day.

   In the distance the pigs squeal in fear, and I shoot up to a stand. What could they be afraid of? There is no evil here. I rush over to find a large pit, a sinkhole in the ground, an escape from this beautiful but monotonous place. Without thinking, I jump into it, yearning for adventure.

   I find myself on a cold stone floor, a man staring at me in surprise. I brush the dirt off my dress and compose myself, before introducing myself.

   “Hello, I’m Kore.” I say, reaching my hand out so he may shake it.

   He takes my hand, but instead of shaking it he leans down and kisses it gently, seeming to have collected himself as well. “I know who you are, I just didn’t expect you to actually come down here. Your mother, Demeter, insisted you would never leave her garden, I just thought I’d give you the choice. It was just a thought experiment really, this is not at all the result I was expecting.”

   “A thought experiment? And who are you to think you may mess with me in such ways?”

   “Oh yes, of course.” He takes a step back, before bowing in respect. “I am Hades, Lord of The Underworld. That’s where you are now, kind Kore.”

   I consider this for a moment. “You’re Zeus’ brother right?” I ask, trying to remember all the stories my mom told me when I was younger.

   He looks shocked at this. “Yes, I am. Are you not scared?”

   “Why would I be scared?”

   “Well, you’re in The Underworld, and I rule it.”

   I look around at the glistening walls of the cave, appearing to be covered in beautiful gems, and void of those horrible beautiful flowers I spent my whole life surrounded by.

   “It’s nice here, I don’t know any reason to be scared of it.” I say casually.

   “You are certainly not what I would expect from a spring goddess.”

   “What did you expect?”

   “I suppose I don’t know. Considering you’re here now, would you like a tour?”

   I nod, and he leads me through beautiful glistening cave halls until we enter a big open space, the cave floor now turning into a beautiful stone platform. He shows me his palace, then the fields of the souls of heroes, then the river Styx, then the places where most souls rest. Finally, hesitantly, he shows me the pits of tartarus, where the cruelest and evilest of souls are punished, tortured in hellfire. I stare at them intently, watching as they continue to try to justify their actions even in death. Hades looks at me, expecting me to feel some sort of sympathy for them. I don’t.

   After seeing all of his glorious place, full of souls that could never become uninteresting in a thousand years, I turn to him.

   “May I stay here?” I ask. 

   “You don’t want to go back to your garden? The flowers and dryads and living creatures?”

   “No, I don’t. There is far more beauty here than I could ever find there.”

   “Surely your mother will miss you, want you back in the mortal realm.”

   I think to the stories she told me when I was a child, desperate for any excuse to stay in this dark and mystical place. I remember one thing, the food here. If a person eats it, they must stay here. I rush off, Hades staring at me as I do, but not chasing me, content to let me do as I will. I search for some sort of food, but the dead don’t eat, so it doesn’t come easy. Eventually, I find myself in a forest. There are plants, though these are nothing like the ones back at home. They are dark, ominous even. It’s comforting.

   In the center of the forest I spot a pomegranate tree. Perfect. I go to it and pull down a pomegranate, breaking it open almost immediately. I take a handful of seeds, six to be specific, and down them. When I look up Hades is staring at me from the trees, walking out towards me. He looks pale, scared. Of what, I don’t know. Surely it isn’t me. I look over my shoulder, but nothing stands behind me.

   “Please tell me you know what you’ve done.” He says. “Please tell me you know you can’t leave once you eat the fruit here.”

   “Of course I know that, it’s why I did it. My mother can’t take me back now.”

   The fear leaves his face as he breathes a sigh of relief.

   “Good.” He responds, calmer now. “I was so scared you just trapped yourself here, that you might hate me for not letting you go now, even though I can’t.”

   I smile. “I wouldn’t hate you, you’ve been nothing but kind to me.”

   “And you’ve been nothing but brave. A goddess such as yourself deserves more than to wander the realm of the dead. You’ve treated the spirits justly thus far, and though I haven’t known you long, I feel you have a natural affinity to rule. Would you accept the position as Queen here, by my side?”

   “I’d love to, but is Kore really the name of a queen of The Underworld?”

   “It can be, but if you don’t like it, change it. What might you prefer?”

   I consider for a moment. “I think I prefer… Persephone.”

March 27, 2021 02:45

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2 comments

Charlie Paul
23:50 Sep 10, 2022

Hey! You’re the first person I’ve met who likes the song Pomegranate seeds!

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00:02 Sep 22, 2022

It's a good song!

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