Aphrodite was not one of the original narrators for Iron Queen. It took me writing these two chapters to realize the story NEEDED her voice to make sense. Her perspective was important to the story, and it told me things I couldn’t get from Hades. This is a cut, unedited, very, very rough set of scenes in Hades’ perspective that ended up being reworked to be in Aphrodite’s pov. Enjoy 🙂
Cool hands shook me and I opened my eyes with a groan. Aquamarine eyes looked at me in concern. I blinked, recognizing Aphrodite.
“Hades!” She shook me again.
Why am I on the ground? I was sprawled across dry leaves, half dead grass, and dirt. My head felt like it was full of molten lava. I could feel an entrance to the Underworld nearby. Something was wrong. Really wrong.
“Hades!” Aphrodite shook me again. “Where is she?”
Persephone! I bolted upright as the memories crashed back. We’d been wrong about Aphrodite. It was Joel. Joel was Zeus! And I’d left her alone with him.
Persephone’s voice, desperate and frightened, had surged through my mind. I can get him to the entrance, Hades. This can still work!
Then blinding pain surged through our connection and I’d been on the ground.
I shoved past Aphrodite and ran up the dirt path.
“Hades, where is she? What happened?” Aphrodite asked. She lagged behind me, picking through the forest in her heels. “She called me for help. She said that Thanatos was working with Zeus and he’d attacked her. I told her to stay behind a shield while she waited for me.” She cleared her throat. “She said Thanatos was dead.”
“More than dead.” I’d killed him then destroyed his soul. Enjoyed every minute of it too. Thanatos had spent months torturing my wife. An excruciatingly painful death was the least he deserved.
“She already told you?” There was a crash and a thud. Leaves crunched, twigs snapped. Aphrodite cursed. A red heel flew past my head. “Hey!” She shouted, picking herself up from a pile of leaves. “I’m talking to you! What happened? Where is Persephone? And why the hell were you unconscious!”
I kept pushing through the woods. Bent and crushed daisies were randomly strewn across the path.
Another heel flew past me. “What did you do? You were a jerk about it, weren’t you!” Aphrodite glanced back in the direction we’d come from. “Did she knock you out?”
I didn’t dignify that with a response. Here. I stopped when I reached a small gazebo. A bouquet of daises littered the ground. The earth was scorched. There was no sign of either of them. I knelt, fingers brushing the dirt. Sunlight filtered through the trees, and a cool breeze carried the smell of barbecue. Hadn’t it just been raining? How long had I been out? The wet dirt stuck to my fingers, and I stared at it, lost in thought.
She’d been in so much pain. There was nothing in the space she inhabited in my mind now. Complete silence.
It couldn’t have been long. Aphrodite had just pulled up when– I closed my eyes against the echo of the searing pain that had flashed through my head. I’d been shielded. How long did it take for a shield to drop if I lost consciousness? How far could they go? How could they travel?
Aphrodite’s breath hitched, interrupting my mental math. “No.” She turned to face me. “You let him take her?”
Loathing, pure and unadulterated flashed through me, boiling my blood. She saw it in my face and blanched.
“You knew.” It wasn’t a question.
She stepped backward, holding her hands up in surrender.
“Please, please don’t hurt me. I didn’t–”
She flinched. “P… Please. He said he wouldn’t need to hurt her.”
A vision of my wife being struck by lightning flashed through my brain.
“He didn’t need to.”
“I didn’t know–”
“Didn’t know what?” I closed the gap between us. She backed up, stopping when her back met a tree. “Didn’t know he would take her? Didn’t know he would hurt her? Didn’t know he was pretending to be Joel? What didn’t you know? We told you he was dangerous. We told you what he wanted. And after everything she did for you, you pushed her toward him! Why?”
“He’s our father!” Aphrodite’s voice broke.
“You honestly think he gives a damn about you!” I grabbed her by the shoulders. She felt small and fragile. It would be easy, so easy to break her. “You’re nothing but a tool to him, and you just threw the only person who gave a damn about you to the wolves. He left you here, with me and Demeter. What exactly do you think happens next?”
She seemed to consider that. The fear melted away from her face and confidence filled her eyes. “You’re not going to hurt me.”
I tightened my grip, fingers biting into her flesh. “And what makes you so sure of that?”
“She wouldn’t want you to.”
She was right. Persephone and I dealt with things… Differently. My way tended to be a lot more violent. But Persephone knew that. “Didn’t stop me with Thanatos, and that sure as hell isn’t going to protect you from Demeter.”
She swallowed hard. “I didn’t have a choice.”
“I didn’t!” Her voice rose. “He’s my father.”
I let her go and put some distance between us so I didn’t completely lose it and hit her. “That doesn’t mean anything!”
“Yes, it does. Hades, I couldn’t tell her. I tried, but he told me not to.” She threw up her hands in frustration. “He’s my father.”
No. My mouth dropped open. No. No one would do that. It was unthinkable. Horrific. Even the Titans had given us free will. Lot of good that did them.
“You have to listen to him.” I’d missed that. How had I missed that? She’d called Persephone sister. Gods didn’t think of each other like that. We weren’t family, we were just created. There were no genetic ties. No grouping instincts. Those were human weaknesses. Exceptions were rare. Demeter chose to act like a human mother toward Persephone, and Persephone treated her accordingly, but Aphrodite hadn’t been raised with those beliefs or expectations. When she latched on to those titles right a way it should have been a huge red flag.
But then I’d also missed the fact that one of my most trusted advisors was working with Zeus, that my wife was being tortured by Reapers, and that her new boyfriend was actually the very man I’d been hunting for months.
What was wrong with me? I was usually more on top of things. I’m one of the only gods left. I didn’t get where I am today by being oblivious to the world around me.
Aphrodite watched me with wary eyes. “I didn’t realize I had to listen to him. Not until I saw him here in the park.” Her lips were pressed together so hard they’d turned white. “She fought against him so hard. But he was using the Reapers to wear her down so he could charm her. She didn’t have a chance. You should have kept her in the Underworld.”
“You think?” I pushed my hair out of my face. “Come on, let’s get to the bridge.” I set off for the lake in the center of the park.
Aphrodite hastened after me. “The bridge, why?”
“I’ve got to call Demeter. Do you want to be standing in her realm when she finds out Zeus has her daughter?”
Aphrodite blanched, and quickened her pace.
I hadn’t even hung up Persephone’s phone when Demeter appeared beside me on the wooden bridge.
“What do you mean Zeus has her? You told me you’d keep her in the Underworld where she’d be safe.” Demeter’s color was high, her eyes blazing with fury. She was a good bit shorter than me, but for a second it still felt like she was towering over me. Persephone could have the same effect. I shook my head, it was weird how alike they looked, and right now I couldn’t get Demeter’s daughter out of my head.
Then her gaze fell on Aphrodite. “What are you doing here?”
I stepped in front of Aphrodite before Demeter could do any damage. “We were wrong. Joel was Zeus, and when he created Aphrodite he programmed–” I shot Aphrodite an apologetic glance for not finding a better word for it, “her to follow orders.”
“It’s just loyalty to family,” Aphrodite interjected, voice small. “It worked for her, too, just to a lesser degree.”
My eyebrows shot up. “Persephone wouldn’t control you.”
“Have you met your wife? She’s bossy and–” Aphrodite glanced between me and Demeter and cleared her throat. “Gosh, she’s just a wonderful person. I’m sure she would have toned it down had she known I had to listen to her.”
“Joel is Zeus?” Demeter sounded shocked. She shook her head as if to clear it and focused on Aphrodite. “What else were you ordered to do?”
“Nothing further for the moment. But if I were you, I’d keep me supervised by someone that can’t be charmed.”
Demeter gritted her teeth and turned to me. “This is your fault. You brought her–” she jabbed a finger at Aphrodite. “To my realm, you put her under my roof with my daughter. You let Zeus–”
“I didn’t let him take her. If you weren’t so stingy with your teleportation authorization, I’d have been able to get to her–”
Demeter paled with fury. “Are you suggesting this is somehow my fault? You made her a target when you forced her to marry you–”
“She was already a target! And thanks to you, she was helpless. Had she known what she was–”
“Really,” Aphrodite interrupted. “The blame game? That’s the most important thing on the agenda right now? Okay, I’ll take a turn then. This is your fault–” she gestured at me. “Because you’re an idiot. Had you treated her more like your wife and less like an addlepated teenager she wouldn’t have given Joel a second look. She should have been too powerful for Zeus to charm and had you two been linked the way you should have, then you would have known about Thanatos and the Reapers.
“But don’t look so smug,” she added, turning to Demeter. “You’d have her believe she was nothing, just some silly mortal teenager. She shouldn’t have been going on dates and hanging out with friends. There are demi gods and minor deities going missing from your realm.”
Demeter looked at her in surprise.
“Oh yes, I know all about that.” Aphrodite smiled. “Did it ever occur to you that she could help? That she should help? You know, the only person who treated her with the respect due to her station and level of powers is Zeus. He at least treats her like a threat. You two–” Aphrodite waved her hand. “You two seem to have forgotten that she can actually be useful.”
Demeter looked like she was about to say something, but I cut her off. “Aphrodite is right. We don’t have time to argue about this right now. We need to rescue–”
“Rescue her!’ Aphrodite exclaimed. “You two still don’t get it, do you? She’s powerful! She ranks, and incidentally, she’s part of a very small group left that can kill Zeus. Use her.”
Demeter shook her head. “She’s not strong enough.”
Aphrodite scoffed, and propped herself up on the rail of the bridge. A fountain set in the center of the lake sparkled behind her, bathing her in glittering light. “Well then let’s fix that. I swear fealty–”
My hand shot out, nearly knocking her from the bridge. “Stop.” Persephone still hadn’t come into her powers yet. Too much unfiltered power could kill her.
My throat constricted. I’d been channeling the excess power away every night. If we didn’t find her soon…
Aphrodite’s eyes flicked over my face. “Exactly. If she’s going to die anyway, why not take Zeus down with her?’