Me Me Monday: Hades

Welcome to Me Me Monday, a day to promote, strut, and celebrate your Me-ness!

My characters have decided to take advantage of this Me thing. 🙂 On Mondays, one of them will stop to talk. Or grumble. Or gloat. 🙂

Today it’s Hades’s turn. Here’s my own version of the God of the Underworld, from my mythical Work in Progress, Aissa and Polyxena…

Hades

I sit upon a throne of bones, listening to the anguished cries of the dead. During the colder months of the year, my queen sits at my side. Pale and wan, her beauty is wraithlike when she’s with me.

Persephone will bloom anew with the warming weather, eager to leave my side and dance upon the mother, laughing with her mother, making everything around them green and delicious.

Not even she wishes to stay in my gloomy kingdom of the dead, although everyone comes to me in the end. No matter fast they run, no mortal can escape me.

Achille is the only one who didn’t try to escape.
His mother, Thetis, brought him to the borders of my land when he was just an infant. She bathed him in the River Styx, attempting to keep him from me forever.

Achille giggled and kicked, keeping one heel free, receptive to my touch, to death.

He was only a baby, but it touched me deeply. No boy has ever shown any willingly to keep my company. Not unless he wanted something; a priceless treasure of the underworld, a lost love, or to simply boast he’d visited the lands of the dead and returned.

No one comes simply to visit.

No matter. I can seize any mortal I wish, carrying him off, for I am Death. No one escapes me who is not immortal save for one Trojan prince.

Ganymede was mortal born, but his beauty caught my brother’s eye. Zeus seized the young prince and carried him away. Ganymede drank from Zeus’s own cup, along with the divinity swirling in its contents.

It was enough to change Ganymede, transforming him into one of the gods. I can never touch him, not as he is. I can only gaze upon his youthful beauty, perfected by immortality, taunted by the fact that he is forever out of reach.

There are other Trojan princes who are not. I console myself with that knowledge as Troy’s doom looms over its lords. The city’s destruction promises a harvest of pretty youths cut down in their bloom.

No dount Achille will be doing much of the cutting. He’ll send me bloody gift after gift, flirting with his own doom, seeking the one who’ll bring him down.

The one who’ll send him to me.

Which will it be, Troile or Patrocles? The future is unclear except a fatal blow will find its mark in the coming conflict.

I’ll finally be able to kiss Achille’s ankle, that tantalizing bit of mortal flesh, seize it, and drag my prize down my kingdom below.

Will he scream and fight, trying to escape me like every other I’ve pursued? Or will he surprise me, just as he did when he was an infant?

Soon I’ll have the answer to that question.

Soon Achille will be mine.

 

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Stealing Myself From Shadows

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets! Every Saturday, those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQ+ fiction at their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQ+.

To read a wide variety of samples from LGBTQ+ stories, go here…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets/?ref=group_header

When I answered a question about last week’s snippet, I said I’d share the next six sentences of Stealing Myself From Shadows this week.

Here they are, right where I left off…

Bold and brilliantly attired in a red jerkin, he strode to the edge of cliff, auburn hair curls sticking to his face in sweaty locks.

Only the Fool on the card didn’t have sweaty, auburn locks. The fool who’d asked me the question did.

Peter smiled at me, raising a hand to fiddle with his already rumpled hair. Preening again.

When had that habit become endearing?

Visions of Christopher

Welcome to #QueerBlogWed! A day to share a touch of the rainbow via our blogs.

For mine, I’ve decided to share a little Tale of the Navel concerning Christopher.

Once you get lost in the Shadow Forest, it’s only too easy for fragments of you to get lost. What if some of those pieces slipped through Doors into other worlds? Other versions of Omphalos?

Christopher may very well have done this…

 

“Once Upon a Time is the avatar of every story’s beginning. S/he takes on a number of forms, giving birth to everyone’s plot. It’s a vast power, so it’s passed to different vessels.”

I blinked, trying to measure the meaning of my master’s words. He was a Tale Weaver, one who seduced with pretty words and images. Deceiving others with them was part of his art.

Even if one of his victims was his own student.

“Whom are these vessels?” I watched him roll up a scroll of parchment, placing it among many other scrolls, indistinguishable from the others. No gaudy adornments for him. Those craving his stories would have to show determination to look within.

“Once Upon a Time is selected from among our ranks, we shapers of story in whatever form exists today.” My master shot me a sly glance from over his shoulder. “If you consider it, Christopher, it makes perfect sense. It’s a Tale Weaver’s nature to warp unreality, just as it’s his duty to deal with shadow and illusion.”

“How so?” It was only too easy to be lulled by my master’s seductive cadence, without comprehending his actual words.

“How so depends on the Tale Weaver.” His cool, gray eyes assessed me. “Different minds interpret what they’ve glimpsed beyond the Door in different ways, determing the nature of what they’ll find and how they’ll shape it.”

This may well have been honest. At least as honest as my master was capable of being. Not that I could ever hold it against him. It was part of his playful, whimsical nature.

“You’ll understand in time, my dear.” My master waved a spindly hand at me. “If you have the magic, you’ll hear it, captured within a story’s words.”

“I will?” I frowned at the tablet in front of me. Older than any of the scrolls, its carved words refused to yield any secrets.

“You will, with practice.” My master laid a long finger against his nose. “You’re much closer to grasping its meaning than you realize.”

“Once I do, I’ll become a Tale Weaver.” I shivered a bit at the thought, only it was a delightful chill. “This means I could become Once Upon a Time, if I’m selected.”

“No, it means I’ll become Once Upon a Time.” My master crooked his finger at me. “You, my sweet, may very well be my Happily Ever After.”

“The end of the story?” I recoiled a bit at this.

“The very best ending of the story.” My master lowered his hand and bowed his head. “The outcome every character hopes to catch.”

“There’s no such thing as a good ending.” The tablet shimmered in my vision, like light reflected on water, shifting, in motion. “Every person’s story ends in death.”

“Only in reality.” My master’s voice diminished while he himself blurred into light and shadow. “A Tale Weaver challenges reality with every tale he tells.”

“Christopher!”

I blinked at the surface of the pond. The water was inches away from my nose.

I raised my head and turned to face a pair of rose purple eyes, gazing at me out of an amused heart-shaped face. Damian allowed his lips to twitch at a private joke he silently invited me to share. Only he was the only one who understood the jest.

“Why do you smile like that?” I murmured. “I’m right here, waiting for you?”

“Who’s waiting?” No, not Damian.

“Ashleigh.” I gazed at the girl with the shaggy head of silvery golden hair glaring at me. “I thought you were someone else.” I raised a hand to touch my face. “For that matter, I thought I was someone else.”

“Every time I catch you up here, looking into this pond, it’s like I’m interrupting a private conversation with someone I can’t see!” Ashleigh shook her head, a bright strand of hair falling forward over her face. “I keep wondering if one day you’ll just lean forward and fall in, heedless of your safety.”

“Perhaps.” I reached forward to brush the stray lock from her forehead. “Fortunately you’re here to distract me from that.”

Ashleigh flushed at the attention, batting my hand away. “What did you see this time? Visions of another Christopher?”

“I’m not sure.” I recalled little before stumbling out of a Door into this reality. I’d been fortunate enough to find Map, Ashleigh, and Omphalos. An entire village of creatures half real, half shadow.

We called ourselves halflings, for whatever else we were, we preferred to regard ourselves as half human. Especially when we weren’t. Feared and shunned by true, flesh and blood humans who were born, ate large quantities of solid food, eliminated waste from their bodies, tied to reality in a hundred little ways, we were odd. This oddness manifested in other ways and abilities.

We’d founded Omphalos on the edge of reality. Ashleigh named our village after an ancient word which meant ‘navel’. Here we’d have the peace to contemplate our navels, unmolested by humans.

Living on the edge of reality, though, meant other realities could slip into our little sanctuary. I kept catching glimpes of other versions of Omphalos, reliving the memories of other Christophers. Unless they were my own lost memories. Or did these visions belong to someone else?

They came to me at the top of a hill overlooking Omphalos, whenever I gazed into the pond there.

It was only too easy to get lost in the images floating within its multicolored waters. Or were the hues only reflected light from the sun, dazzling my eye?

“Map thinks no good will come of gazing into this pool.” Ashleigh blinked eyes bright with silvery light, sparkling with curiousity. “What did you see? The many limbed seductress, Duessa? Or the beautiful Damian?”

“Once Upon a Time.” I shivered at his name on my lips, wondering if I’d cast a spell just by uttering it. “And…Happily Ever After.”

“The beginning and the ending to all stories.” Ashleigh lowered her eyelids. She collected tales herself, fashioning them into new forms at a whim. Some of them she scribbled down in rough notes, which she seldom kept track of. “The way you speak of them, you’d think they were people.”

“Not just people.” Tears gathered behind my eyes, tight and hot. “Titles won and inflicted upon others.”

“Inflicted?” Ashleigh frowned, the silver triangles in her violet blue eyes dimming. “Is becoming Once Upon a Time or Happily Ever After a punishment?”

“It could be.” One of the tears escaped from the corner of my eye. It trickled down my cheek, stinging and wet. “I’m afraid it will be.”

Ashleigh studied my face. Without thinking twice, she took me in her arms, enveloping me in a fierce hug.

“Don’t be afraid,” she whispered in my ear. “Whatever you see in that pond, face it without fear.”

“Easy for you to say.” I yielded to her arms, rippling with muscle beneath the softness. “You’re not scared of anything.”

“I’m scared of you slipping away.” She tightened her grip around me, like the constricting coils of a snake. “One evening, I may climb this hill, only to find you’ve disappeared.”

She released me and backed up a step, studying her feet, the tiny wavelets following the wind across the pond. “Even when you’re here, you’re somewhere else.” That stubborn lock of silvery gold hair fell forward to hide her face. “Whomever I was before Ashleigh clung to a piece of you, dragging you into this world. It would only to be too easy for that piece to vanish.”

“Ashleigh.” Another name for her bubbled up within my memories, only to pop before I could recall it.

“Ah, look how fanciful we’re both becoming!” Ashleigh flipped her head back and flashed a grin.

How like Damian she seemed, the young man who slipped in out of my visions in the same way she accused me of slipping. Keeping the world at a distance with a bright smile.

Not that Ashleigh could ever be Damian. It was unfair, even comparing the two of them. Yet I needed her, needed her as badly as I’d once needed him. Map, too. The two of them grounded me in the same way Damian once had.

“Maybe Map is right.” Ashleigh stretched out her hand to me. “Come, Christopher. Let’s leave this pond of visions for a while. Let’s return to her.”

I hesitated for a moment before accepted the offered fingers. There’d be a price for this. There was always was.

Nor would it stop me from returning to this pond.

 

Immortal Cupbearer

It’s Me Me Monday, a day to promote, strut, and celebrate your Me-ness!

The Guest Me for today is Ganymede, immortal cupbearer of the gods. Here’s a moment with my particular version of Ganymede, who becomes Troile’s patron deity in Aissa and Polyxena.

 

Once I was a Trojan prince, like and unlike the boy I visit in his dreams.

Like Troile, my passions were only just beginning to awaken when I was swept up by forces I couldn’t control. Brought to the table of the Olympians, dominated by beings greater than I could ever be.

There was a girl standing among them, thin and awkward amongst their superhuman beauty. She held a cup in both hands.

She offered it to me.

A chill ran down my back when a cold finger touched my cheek.

I turned to look into the bleak grayness of Hades’s gaze. He shook his white head from side to side.

Once I drank from the gods’s cup, I’d be immortal. Forever young and beautiful. Beyond Death, beyond the Lord of the Underworld’s reach.

Zeus beckoned me from his finger, waving Hades away with his other hand.

Hades drifted back to the table, a ghost at the Olympian merry making.

Not that Zeus allowed my attention to linger on his brother for long. His full lips curled with a sensual promise of all the nights to come if I yielded to him and drank.

I was just a boy, trembling with the beginnings of passion. I wasn’t about to reveal this to a lover, no so readily. Little did I know I’d set the pattern of behavior in generations to come in reticence. Boys who’d caught a lover’s eye would be expected to show the same reluctance whether they felt it or not.

I might have been slow about it, but I stepped forward. I accepted the cup from the girl.

A face appeared in its swirling contents of a boy with golden hair and a face wet with tears. Troy burned behind him. I saw myself, flushed with passion, feeding upon Zeus’s kisses, qivering in his arms. I saw Hera, Zeus’s queen, watching with cold eyes. She twisted her mouth into a malevolent grimace which promised retribution and misery.

She would never forgive me if I drank, if I yielded to her husband’s embrace. Hera would see Troy burn if I did.

If I yielded, no, if I learned from Zeus’s amorous caresses, from all the Olympians present, perhaps I could learn persuasion. Perhaps I could hone my charms, which would never fade, use them to persuade the mightiest of the Olympians to save my people from his queen’s wrath.

I lifted the cup and drank. My flesh grew rosy with warmth, yet somehow my heart, my blood, everything stilled without ceasing.

Time stopped for me. I was immortal.

The girl left me holding the cup. Without a word, she left the gathering. No one noticed her departure except for Hera.

The Queen of the Olympians turned her gaze upon me, which was even colder than before. She would neither forgive nor forget what I’d done. I hadn’t merely stolen her husband’s attention. I’d stolen her daughter’s place among the them.

Hera would see that I suffered for this.

Her wrath didn’t frighten me as it had before I drank. I studied her with calm detachment I’d never felt before.

Perhaps Aphrodite had added a little something to the cup to relax me, make me more pliant. All I know is that when Zeus took me to his bed, I yielded to him, moving according to his passion, responding just as he wished.

My lover was well pleased with me. There have been others. There will always be others. I’m the only one he invites back to his bed over and over, besides his wife.

Hera hasn’t forgiven for me for that, either.

It doesn’t matter. I’m still the cupbearer. I pass it to each of the gods. I hold it for Zeus.
Hades is an infrequent visitor to the table of the Olympians. When he’s there, he watches my every move with sad, hungry eyes.

Perhaps he regrets that I slipped through his fingers. Death will never touch me.

Other Trojan princes will not escape him so easily. Not with Athena, enraged by Paris’s scorn for her beauty tempered through wisdom and strength, allied with Hera against them.

Hades, Athena, and Hera will bring about Troy’s destruction if they have their way. I fear not even Zeus’s might, persuaded by my caresses will stop their cunning determination to destroy my home.

If only I could save one Trojan prince, just one of my kindred. I’ve sought one in his dreams. I’ve shown him the face of his doom. I’ve offered him a taste from the gods’s cup.

Will it make him immortal as it did me? I don’t know. Whatever power he drank, it’s up to him to use it. For Troy’s fate, any possible future it might have depends upon Troile.

It’s a heavy burden for one so young. May he find what strength lies in his heart to face it.

A Taste of Stealing Myself From Shadows

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets! Every Saturday, those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQ+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQ+.

To read a wide variety of samples from LGBTQ+ stories, go here…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets/?ref=group_header

I’ve posted all three preludes to this novel during Rainbow Snippets. Here’s the first six sentences from the ambient fantasy novel I’ve struggled years to finish, which I’m currently learning how to self publish.

It’s the first of a series of novels inspired by Tarot card imagery. The second book is The Hand and the Eye of the Tower. The third is A Godling for Your Thoughts?

All three of these books have drafts which are currently under revision.

Here’s a taste of Stealing Myself From Shadows…

 

“How might I enter the Shadow Forest?”

My hands spasmed, sending a bunch of cards flying.

Hardly an attractive arrangement guaranteed catch a potential customer’s eye. Ah, well, the Navel was supposed to be the center of all things bizarre. The cards scattered across the ground with an utter lack of grace, except for one.

It landed, face up, smiling brightly up at me. No, not it. He.

The Reflection

On May 2, 2018, P.T. Wyant offered up a prompt at ptwyant.com involving a glowing sword, a masked figure, and twins separated at birth.

Words cannot express how much I loved this one. I may have to use it again. 🙂

What I came up with was something inspired by a bizarre fanfic cross-over I never posted at Archive of Our Own. It was so removed from the fandoms that inspired it, I decided to shape the story into something original.

This  was the result…

 

I reached out to the mirror toward my reflection.

“Poor little slave.” My own face smiled back at me.

Only it wasn’t my face.

“Trapped serving a man who’d cut you down if he suspected what you truly are.” My likeness lowered his head slightly.
My own dipped in response. I clapped my hands to my neck, trying to keep myself from moving.

“Master Shin.” I closed my eyes against the vision behind this master waiting beyond the class.

Shin waited right before my eyes, his own fuming red. His irises shifted, becoming an ever darker red.

“No!” I was crying out in the vision, thrusting my hand forward. “Master Shin!

My master’s irises might be changing right now, becoming the color of blood.

“Master Shin.” I shut my eyes, but I couldn’t block the vision. Shin was laughing, hungry lust for battle in his eyes. His sword glowed in hand, perhaps anticipating the bodies it would soon have a chance to pierce.

The blade glowed with power. I could hear its tiny scream of hunger. What did it want? Didn’t it have enough food?

He offered a sweetly savage smile to the delicate girls and boys cowering before him. All of them were younger than myself. Each had the androgynous slenderness I possessed.

I closed my eyes before he brought the sword down upon, allowing it to feed upon its victims’s magic.

“Yes, it’s a devilish sword that your master uses.” The voice of the boy in the mirror caressed my ears, mocking them. “It devours the very souls filled with magic which make those poor creatures devil spawn.”

“It’s necessary.” I opened my eyes to meet green ones identical to my own. “In order to fight heavenly spawn, my master needs energy from one of the hells.”

“Liar.” He shook his head, raven locks bouncing with the movement. “Your Lord Shin will take anyone with his sword, including members of his own Imperial legion. His own kin has fallen to not only his blade, but his lust for blood, his hunger for violence.”

“He’s not always like that.” An image of Shin, weeping tears of red, clinging onto one of my hands.

“Lathryn, don’t ever leave me,” he murmured. “You’re the only one who can calm the madness burning within.”

Yes, he’d said something like that. I’d taken one of master’s bloodstained hands and simply sat with them while he released his grief and guilt.
“I’m only a slave, I should beneath his notice.” I raised a hand to tuck a lock of hair behind my ear, identical to my double’s. “My master chose to confide in me, in spite of that.”

“If only he knew you were the very thing he hunts!” My reflection leaned closer from the darkness on the other side of the glass. “Where would you run if your master decided to hunt you?”

“Shut up!” I reached out to strike him…

…only to find my hand claimed by one of his own.

“Little brother, we were never meant to be apart.” He leaned forward, brushed his lips against mine. “When your master betrays you, when you come into your own, look into a mirror. Any mirror.” He bent to kiss my fingers. “I’ll be waiting for you.”

“No,” I murmured, lifting my own hand to his cheek, only to feel cold hardness.

I withdrew my fingers, only to watch his mask fall off.

“Your lips were so real,” I swallowed, backing away from the glass.

“All the better to lure you close to me with kisses.” Writhing serpents and flowers exploded from his cheeks, chin, and brow. “I no longer have a human face.”

Once more, he reached out, grasping blindly, no longer able to touch me. “Lathryn, please, give me yours.”

“No!” I cried, thrashing in my cot, nearly knocking the boy sleeping next to me out.

“Lathryn?” Quara stirred, returning to the waking world with slow reluctance. “What’s wrong?”

“I dreamed of a reunion with my lost twin brother.” I shuddered, my skin prickling in the cold air. “I hope it wasn’t a true dream.”

“Only the Devil Touched and our masters have true visions when they sleep.” Quara offered me a sleepy smile. “Otherwise dreams are just dreams. Nothing to worry about.”

“You’re right.” I forced myself to smile. “I’m sorry I disturbed you, Quara.” I softened my voice, making it as soothing as possible. Quara would pick up any trace of fear I felt. “We’ve got a busy day tomorrow.”

“Mine won’t be as busy as yours.” Quara smiled back at me. “I don’t envy you. I wouldn’t know how to keep Lord Shin happy.” He closed his eyes. “I’m not sure how you do it.”

With those words, Quara drifted back into slumber, leaving me to stare at his chest, rising and falling with the polite softness of his snores.

I didn’t know how I kept Lord Shin happy either. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep it up.

 

It’s All About Me, Paris

Of course it is, although you could say it’s all about me, Alexandros. This is the name I was born with. Personally I much prefer Paris. Alexandros is so warlike. I’ve spurned war, even when she bats her eyelashes at me in the guise of wisdom.

Yes, you may have heard about that. The Judgment of Paris? I’ve turned my back on my wives as well. The way they hide their beauty within the bondage of respectable marriage, only to plot and scheme, struggling to escape their husbands’ hold. Ugh. Such machinations only take a toll on a woman’s beauty.

Do you truly wonder at the choice I made? I rescued the most beautiful woman in the world from the bondage I described.

Helen deserves to be free, to offer herself completely to Love!

For that’s my choice. Always. Love and the lady who offers it.

Some accuse me of stealing Helen. Others accuse Aphrodite of bewitching her. Why, who wouldn’t be bewitched by Aphrodite, loveliest of all Olympians? I myself decreed her so with the blessing of Zeus. The very King of the Olympians values my judgment and taste above all mortals. Why don’t more people respect me?

Why do my own brothers scorn me? I’ll wager they’re jealous. Our father loves me more than all the rest. Like Zeus, he sees my true value. None of my brothers can bear it, especially sweet little Troile. None of my sisters either. They can barely keep from gnashing their teeth with envy at the sight of me. After all, I’m prettier than any of them. Now I’ve brought home a woman who makes all of them look like hags except for Cassandra. She was a hag long before Helen showed up. There’s also that pretty little thing, Troile’s twin, what was her name? Ah, yes, Polyxena. I’m surprised I never noticed her before. I guess she’s been with the Amazons, whose company I wouldn’t expect any maiden to endure. Cressida should be able to help her unlearn any coarse habits picked up from those humourless warrior women. Honestly, the Amazons are as bad as the Achaens, all hair and surly expressions. I’ll tell you why they’re surly. They’re afraid their wives will take a second look at them and see how ugly they are. More Achaen women might be inspired by Helen’s flight to leave their domineering piles of ugliness to find love and beauty.

For that’s what I follow, love and beauty. I once lived with a nymph, whom I abandoned when a goddess beckoned me with a more beautiful woman. You may think me faithless, but who am I to spurn the will of the gods? Least of all the most beautiful of the lot, whom I chose as the fairest? Who am I to spurn Aphrodite’s offering?

To do so would be truly faithless. I shall never lose my faith. Not in beauty.