this is a good series

six of crows is literally one of the best ya books out there right now it takes ya tropes but presents them in a smart and new and interesting way that comments on those tropes but also demonstrates how they can work without being cliche. you have a ragtag group of underdog characters who come together for a heist but each individual is so fleshed out and given a backstory that informs their choices you love every single one of the group. the series also has some of the best worldbuilding. its a fantasy world with magic but it focuses on a part of fantasy world we dont often see: the poverty stricken areas. there are gangs and gambling and prostitution that make the world seem real and gritty and gives it depth. it also is so ambitious in the Issues it addresses but does it in the most tasteful and beautiful way it makes me cry. there are discussions of trauma, sex slavery, agoraphobia, race, religion, class issues, learned racism, nativism, addiction, and ableism. and like none of that is even the main part of the story this is a heist book with magic and the most pure and beautiful romance and friendships … i cant believe this book is getting slept on i need a movie deal for this series asap so young people can experience it and learn about overcoming trauma in healthy ways i would die for kaz brekker by the way 

I drew the man who punched his way out of prison because he punched his way out of prison.

2

“What do I do?” Blue asked cannily. “What have you guys seen me doing?”

spiritworldly  asked:

( whispers quietly ) eros & psyche ?

Aphrodite can’t get comfortable during her pregnancy. She’s always too hot, constantly sweating whether she’s in the in the oppressive heat at the bottom of the volcano, or in the icy air at the top of it. It makes no difference. No matter where she goes or what she does, she can’t find any relief. Hephaestus hovers over her, wringing his hands and leaning his head against her stomach. Her distended skin is too warm to the touch, and both of them can’t help but worry about their child that grows inside her.

They beg help from Artemis, who has no help to give them. “The child is healthy,” she tells them, mystified. “The mother is healthy, though pained. I can do nothing for you because there is nothing to be done.”

Time passes. The child is born. They call him Eros.

He burns.

~

He warms in Artemis’s hands as she cleans him and Aphrodite eagerly waits to be handed her son. Artemis cries out and has to put him down, blisters appearing on his hands. Aphrodite moves to pick him up, and she can stand his heat for longer, but after a few minutes he leaves a welt of burnt flesh against her chest. Hephaestus tries next, and manages to hold his son for a whole quarter of an hour before his skin is eaten away.

Artemis can do nothing. She insists there’s nothing wrong with him, it’s just how he is. Hephaestus crafts gloves of flexible metal so they can care for him – the babe’s fire reacts to the warmth of another person. Clothes and objects remain unburned. They go to Hermes, to Apollo, to Hestia, and none can help them. Hestia tries to hold the child. She is the keeper of celestial fire, which burns hotter than anything, yet she too comes away burned. “The celestial fire is of me, and so it cannot harm me,” she tells them regretfully, “Eros is not, and so he can.”

No one can help them.

Eros cries, constantly unhappy because he longs to be held and rocked, longs for the warmth of his parents but they can only give him snatches of affections, stolen moments before he burns them and they must retreat behind cool metal.

Aphrodite is desperate. She sneaks away to Mount Olympus, goes against her husband’s wishes and goes to Hera. She’s crying as she speaks, and Hera watches her with cool, impassive eyes. “There is nothing wrong with your son,” she says. “He is as he was made to be. If you cannot provide the care he needs, find someone who can.”

Aphrodite stares, betrayed. Hera has been kind to her in the past, was the one who helped her choose her husband when all of Olympus sought her hand. Aphrodite is a daughter of Zeus, but not of another woman, and so Hera hadn’t hated her.

Hera loses some of her sternness. “I have given you the answer you need, if not the one you wanted. Return to you child and husband.”

She goes.

She tells Hephaestus where she went, and instead of angry he becomes contemplative.

~

Ares is blood soaked and exhausted when his brother appears beside him in the middle of a battlefield. “Hephaestus,” he greets, startled, “Is something wrong?”

“I need your help,” says the man who had never once asked him for anything, “I know it hurts to leave, but–”

Ares shakes his head, “There will always be another war. What do you need?”

~

He can wield the lightning bolts of Zeus and he takes bathes in lava to soothe the ache of his muscles. Ares is not bothered by heat or flame because it passes through him, he manages to do these things because he absorbs their heat instead of being harmed by it.

He’s in his brother’s bed, holding his nephew, and Eros gives him a gap-toothed little grin from where he’s splaying out against his chest, skin against skin. “Cute kid,” he yawns. Hephaestus is on one side of him, and Aphrodite on the other.

Ares leeches most of the heat from Eros, so he’s cool enough to touch, so his parents can pat his back and kiss his forehead. “Thank you,” Hephaestus says, finally able to touch his son without consequence.

“Anytime,” Ares says, eyes sliding shut.

With his brother’s family curled around him, Ares finds enough calm to sleep.

~

When Eros is older, he learns to control it. He always runs hot, but by the time he’s gotten big enough that the cyclopses are constantly chasing him in fear of him getting into something he shouldn’t, he’s learned to regulate his temperature to the point he doesn’t burn anyone any more.

Or at least, he doesn’t burn any gods anymore. No matter how hard he tries, he’s too hot for any mortal to touch unharmed.

Before that, Ares spends every moment away from the battlefield with Eros that he can. He’s not always able to sleep, but he lies down with Eros on top him and with Aphrodite and Hephaestus on either side.

Rumors run rampant, like they always do. People say Eros is the product of a union between Ares and Aphrodite, they say that Aphrodite has been cheating on her husband since the moment they married.

“I’m sorry,” Ares says, face pinched.

Hephaestus smiles, and Ares relaxes. “You are only doing what I’ve asked of you. There’s nothing to apologize for.”

Ares can’t help but feel guilty anyway.

~

Eros grows, from a toddler to a man. He burns, a wide laughing mouth and eyes like the sun. When he’s declared the god of passion, no one is surprised.

He has the best features of both his parents, and is devastatingly beautiful, with a face that Helen herself would weep over. He is the son of the goddess of love and the god of craftsmanship, and passion is necessary for both.

Passion is many things. There is passion in love, and he goads many a shy couple into a desperate embrace. There is passion in war, and when the battlefield grows stilted and tired he joins his favorite uncle there and brings their energy to the fore. There is passion in academia, and Eros encourages many scholars who spend long nights seeking answers they may never find. There is passion in art, and he blesses uninspired artists to create their heart’s desire.

Passion is a quickening heartbeat, a want that must be sated, a determination to follow through. It is burning until you are nothing more than ash simply because the fire is too beautiful to put out.

Eros is a favorite among the gods, because so much of what he does benefits them. He quickens the pulse of a people, and they use that energy to do great deeds in the gods’ names.

He is beautiful and powerful and loved. He wants for nothing, until –

- until his mother sends him to help a village girl who has been praying to her for months.

Eros sees Psyche, and instantly knows the weight of love in his chest.

~

Psyche is beautiful.

She knows this, it is the one thing about herself that she knows. All her life people tell her this, when she’s a babbling baby and a little girl and a fully grown woman, it’s what people say to her.

Men come to her seeking her hand, crossing borders and monsters to end up at her door. “I have no dowry,” she tells them, “I cannot cook, I am a poor seamstress, I have never cleaned a home.”

“I do not care,” they all tell her, with their greedy eyes and their greedy hands, “You are beautiful.”

Her mother and aunts shooed her from the kitchen as a child, saying the steam would ruin her pretty hair, wouldn’t let her sew because the needles would harden her soft hands, didn’t want her to spend hours cleaning because the she was too lovely to mar with common dirt.

Other children wouldn’t play with her, including her sisters, and soon she ran from all her tutors whose gazes made her shoulders itch. The first time someone lays tribute at her feet, like she is some sort of goddess and not a simple village girl, she runs away and locks herself in her room.  

The tributes and prayers don’t stop, and she hates them. She only wants to be like everyone else, wants to read and cook and have friends. Every night she bundles up the gifts and tributes people give her sneaks away to the temple of Aphrodite. She lays these things where they belong, with the goddess of beauty and love. “Please,” she begs, every night, “please make it all stop, revered goddess. I can’t live this way.”

She does this, for years and years, but her prayers are never answered. She sinks lower and lower, feeling confined to her home like a prisoner since she can’t leave it without flowers being thrown at her feet or someone remarking on her figure and face. Her sisters will not speak to her, and her parents will not listen to her. She eats less and spends days languishing in bed, growing weaker and more tired by the day.

One day, after turning away yet another suitor and being turned away yet again when she tries to help her mother in the kitchen, she goes far out of the village, where no will find her, where no one will be able to remark on the beauty of her corpse.

She walks to the edge of a cliff, and takes a deep breath. “Lady Aphrodite,” she whispers, “let me be ugly in my next life.”

She jumps.

~

Eros sees her falling, and bids Zephyr to save her. She is caught gently by the wind. However, she’s so weak and malnourished that the shock of not falling to her death causes her to pass into unconsciousness. He wishes he could have save her himself, that he could take her in his arms now and cradler her close to his chest.

But he burns.

If he touched her, he would harm her, so he will not.

“Take her to my home,” he says, conflicted because he has no interest in growing into either Zeus or Poseidon. But he cannot touch her, so it’s not the same. “I’ll be along shortly.”

Zephyr carries her away, far into the distance.

This is not what his mother intended when she sent him here, but he can’t leave Psyche among the mortals. If she tried to kill herself once, she’ll do it again, and then where will he be?

Eros feels heavy with love, and he does not know this girl, he does not know how this is possible unless it has been arranged by the Fates. Psyche is a beautiful girl, but he is a god. He is the son of the goddess of beauty and every other goddess he knows is comparable in the grace of their form and face. Beautiful mortals do not tempt him.

He has other things to attend to, so he puts aside the problem of Psyche so he can go convince a young noble lady to kiss the baker’s daughter.

~

Psyche wakes up, which she wasn’t expecting. What’s more, she’s not in pain. She’s being carefully deposited on soft grass by a being she can’t see. “Where am I?” she cries. She doesn’t think this is the afterlife. She’s on top of a large mountain, and a large, gorgeous home with marble columns sits on the edge.

There is an edge. She can still jump. She takes one hesitant step closer when a strong gust of wind pushes her back and something like a voice says, This is the home of a god, do not desecrate this place with your blood.

“Okay,” she says, a mixture of relief and fear clogging her throat, “Can I – can I go inside? It’s cold out here.”

The wind pushes her towards the home, so she takes that as permission.

It’s all marble and gold and fur, perfectly decorated and with many rooms and interesting things. But Psyche finds the bedroom, and in between the long journey outside of her village and the adrenaline of being caught by the wind and brought here, she’s exhausted. She climbs onto the soft bed without thinking, and is asleep the moment her head touches the pillow.

~

The moon is high in the sky by the time Eros returns home. He steps inside, and doesn’t light any of the torches out of fear of startling the girl. He finds her in his own bedroom, and only has a moment to stare at her silhouette against his white blankets before she’s stirring, pushing herself up looking around the room. Her eyes aren’t as good as his, so she can’t even see the outlines of objects. To her, it is complete darkness. “Who’s there?” she demands, voice scratchy from sleep, “What do you want?”

“I am a friend,” he says, not saying his name. He knows the impression mortals have of him, and the last thing she needs to hear is that he’s the god of passion while she lies helpless before him in his bed. “The wind brought you here because you threw yourself from the cliff face. Why would you do that?”

She sits up and pulls her knees to her chest. “I don’t want to talk to about it.”

He sighs, but doesn’t push. “I’m not here to make you do anything you don’t want to do.”

“What are you here to do?” she asks, “Why am I here?”

She sounds sad, and scared, and he wishes he could touch her. He wishes he could take her hands and kiss her forehead, but he can’t, not without hurting her. “I think it would be best if you stayed with me, for a while. Until you no longer find cliffs so tempting. I have a beautiful home, and am often gone while attending to my duties, so feel free to make full use of it.”

“What do you get out of it?” she demands.

He smiles, wry, and knows she cannot see it. “I suppose I could use a housekeeper.”

He meant it as a joke, but she perks up at the words. “A housekeeper? Really?”

“If you like,” he says, although there are nature sprites who tend to his home for him if necessary. “I apologize, we’ve been speaking in the dark this whole time. I’ll light the lanterns.”

He moves to do so, a flicker of flame already appearing on his fingertips when she screams, “NO! DON’T!”

Eros freezes. “Psyche?”

“You can’t look at me,” she says desperately, “Please. Not – not ever. If you saw me, you wouldn’t be so nice to me. I – I want you to be nice to me. Don’t light the lanterns.”

“Never?” he asks, and he’s already seen her from afar, he knows what she looks like. But it sounds as if she’s seconds away from away from crying, and it seems like it would only be a cruelty to tell her this now.

“Never,” she says, “please. Please.”

Staying away from home during the day is a small thing, what with his parent’s volcano always open to him, and he can see well enough in the darkness that he’s not in any danger of tripping over his own feet. “Very well, Psyche. If that’s what you want. We will only meet in darkness, and I shall never see your face.”

~

Psyche takes his offhand comment about housekeeping seriously. She’s never cleaned before, but she’s seen it done, it’s simple if not easy. The first time her hands blister and crack she can’t stop smiling for the rest of the day. She spends her days cleaning, and at first that takes up all her time. She’s unpracticed, and slow, and she falls into the same bed utterly exhausted. It leaves her no time to dwell on the life she left behind, or the hollow ache below her breastbone.

It’s hard work, and it leaves her ravenous. Before, she ate almost nothing and slept most of the day away. She doesn’t do that here, can’t, has more of an appetite than she’s had since she was a child. Nymphs bring food to the home, fruits and vegetables, bread and cheese and meat. At first she makes only simple meals, but as the cleaning takes less and less time she finds herself trying more things. Cooking is harder to get the hang of than cleaning.

Her friend comes to her at night, slipping into her room. She always knows when he’s there, even if she’s deep in sleep, and will wake up to speak to him. Psyche never leaves the bed, and he never comes from across the room. She sits up and listens to his voice, of the people he saw and things he did. She tells him the same, even though at first she thinks he does not care. But he does, because he asks her questions and compliments her on polishing the floors until they shine. One night after a particularly bad failure, the first thing he does is ask, “Did you try and burn down my kitchen, Psyche?”

He’s laughing, so she throws a pillow at him, and is satisfied by the dull thud of it hitting true and his laughter growing louder. “If I had tried I would have succeeded, and you would have come home to an ash pile.”

“Then I’m pleased by your restraint,” he says, and she scowls at him even though he can’t see it. “What was that horrible smell supposed to me?”

“Lamb,” she says, sighing. “I don’t think I’m a very good cook.”

“Perhaps not. Why don’t you try doing something else? What else do you enjoy?” he asks.

She sits cross legged on the bed and frowns. “I don’t know,” she says finally, “I’m a poor artist and a worse singer. I have no eye for needlework. I like knowing things, but I’m not a fan of learning. I – I like cleaning. I like using my hands.”

“Focus on what you like. Try to do some things with your hands. The garden could use some looking after,” he suggests.

“I do have to eat,” she points out, “I might as well learn to cook.”

He snorts. “Spare both yourself and my kitchen. Don’t worry about that. Worry about the mint that’s taking over the rose bushes.”

She doesn’t know what he means until she gets up the next morning and finds a day’s worth of food waiting for her, already made and much tastier than anything she’s managed. Next to it is a book on gardening.

This, she has a knack for. It is a god’s garden, so it has always been beautiful, but under her hands it becomes even more so, flourishing and vibrant under her attentions. She plants flowers that bloom and glow at night, so that her friend may walk through the garden and be greeted by something that doesn’t slumber.

Her hands are calloused and hard, and dirt gets stuck under fingernails. Her hair is a sweaty mess and breaking at the ends, and her skin is tanned in patches, her arms and the back of neck darker than her stomach and thighs. Freckles pop up in unexpected places, on her wrists and shoulders, a single one slightly off center of her sternum.

She has never felt more beautiful.

Psyche is stronger now, food and hard work having thickened her waist and brightened her eyes. She does not fall asleep exhausted each night, but instead sits up waiting for her friend to visit her, eagerly listening to his adventures of the day and telling him of all the things she did, of the new plants she’s trying to grow and how the shrubbery is stubbornly growing in uneven heightd.

“My hands are all rough,” she tells him one night, like it’s a secret.

He doesn’t understand. “Have you tried rubbing olive oil in them?”

She laughs, and gets to her feet, confident she knows the room well enough that she won’t stumble or fall and walking towards his voice. “No, it’s a good thing, it’s never happened before. See?”

She reaches out and he shouts, “No! Don’t touch me–”

It’s too late, her hand has already blindly grabbed onto his arm. She lets go, “I’m sorry! I didn’t know–”

“We have to get you to Hermes, before the burns get too bad,” he says urgently.

Now she’s the one who doesn’t understand. “What burns?”

He quiets. “You’re not hurt?”

She flexes her hand, mystified. “No. Should I be?”

“I – everyone else always was,” he says.

“I’m not everyone else,” she says confidently, and takes another step closer. She grabs onto his arm again, fumbling until she can hold his hand in hers. He flinches, but doesn’t pull away from her. “See, I’m fine.”

Carefully, and oh so slowly, he curls an arm around her waist and pulls her forward until she’s flush against his chest and full lips press against her forehead. “I’m – I’m glad.”

He’s not just talking about her not being burned. She feels such a surge of affection for him in this moment, and being held in his arms she realizes something. She loves him, this man she’s never seen and doesn’t truly know. He’s kind and funny and has given her back a life she hadn’t known she’d lost. He’s never touched her or coveted her, and even now in his arms there’s nothing lecherous or uncomfortable about his touch.

That might change, if he saw her. If he knew how she looked, he might forget about the rest of her, and to lose his affection and regard now would kill her as surely as that fall from the cliff would have.

But he does not need to see her to touch her.

She shifts enough so that he raises his head, and gathers her courage. She presses their lips together, lightly at first, then less lightly when he returns it. “Come to bed,” she says, when they part, dizzy with emotions she’s never had before.

“Are you sure?” he asks, voice rough.

She’s never been more sure of anything in her life.

“Yes.”

~

That’s her life now, her days filled with cleaning and gardening and her nights with her friend, her now lover. He’s never told her his name, and she doesn’t want to ask. He doesn’t see her and she doesn’t know his name. It seems better that way, more fair. She falls asleep in his arms every night, and he’s gone by the time she wakes, gone before the first ray of sunlight creeps through the window.

He loves her. It’s obvious, so incredibly obvious that she’s ashamed she didn’t notice before. He let her sleep in his bed even before they were sleeping together, gave over his home to her and requested nothing in return, listens to her and laughs with her. He loves her, and she loves him, and it’s time she trusted him.

She’s wide awake when he comes to her, greeting her with a kiss. He notices her stiffness and pulls back. “Is something wrong?”

“I think it’s time you saw my face,” she’s shaking, and she can’t stop it. She loves him and is terrified his love for her will change when he sees her.

She sits up in bed, and he kneels in front of her on the floor, holding her hands in his. “Psyche, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. It’s okay.”

She shakes her head, “No. I love you, and – and we should be together in the light of day, our love is too big to fit in this room anymore.”

He kisses her wrist and says, “Whatever you like.”

How will she live without this love? Hopefully she won’t have to find out. She reaches for a lantern and sets it in her lap, lighting it with careful fingers. A soft glow fills the room, and she squeezes her eyes shut, waiting.

A finger touches a spot on her sternum, then her shoulders, her neck, her cheeks, then the tip of her nose. “You have freckles,” he says, “I like them.”

She opens her eyes. Her lover is smiling at her, and he’s gorgeous, every bit as pretty as she is with dark eyes and even darker skin. Most importantly, he’s looking at her like a person, with love and affection. Not with something blank and othering like so many people have looked at her before, not like she’s an object or an art piece.

The tidal wave of relief is so great that she’s weak with it. She realizes her mistake a second later when the lantern slips out of her hands, spilling hot oil.

Her lover reacts faster than any mortal man could, pushing her out of the way and catching the lantern at an awkward angle, so most of the burning oil spills down his arms and chest. “No!” Psyche cries.

He looks down at his blistering skin with fascination, “That’s never happened before.” He winces, and clenches his hands as the burns spread along his body, as his skin cracks and bleeds.

“Lie down!” Psyche cries, grabbing the sheets and trying to mop up the oil, trying to stop it from spreading. “What were you thinking? You should have let it fall on me!”

It’s burning more than hot oil should, and she’s sobbing as tries to stop it. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he says, voice slurring as his eyes slide shut. “I would never let anything hurt you.”

“No!” she grabs his shoulders and shakes him, “Wake up! You have to wake up!”

He doesn’t respond. Psyche thinks back, frantic, to when he thought he had burned her when they first touched, to the person he said they needed. “HERMES!” she screams, “HERMES! A GOD NEEDS YOU!”

There’s a flash of light, and the messenger god of healing and is in front of them. “Eros,” he says, dropping down beside him and not looking at Psyche at all. “What happened to you?”

He touches his chest, and then they’re both gone.

Psyche is left alone crying next to an oil soaked sheet.

~

Hermes takes Eros to his parents, both of whom drop everything to come to his side. “What happened?” Hephaestus demands.

Hermes concentrates on containing the burns before they can spread any further. He can worry about healing them alter. “He dropped oil on himself.”

“He’s a god,” Aphrodite snaps, “no oil can harm him. Even if it could, it wouldn’t be able to do this.”

Hermes shoots them both a grin, “It seems like your boy’s fallen in love. Only true love could cool him enough to burn him, only true love could hurt him like this.”

It’s at that moment that Eros gasps awake. He reaches out, and Aphrodite takes his hand. “Mom,” he says, eye wide, “please, go to my house, there’s a girl there–”

“Did she do this to you?” she asks dangerously.

“It was an accident. I pushed her out of the way, I didn’t know I would burn,” he moans in pain, then grits his teeth against it. “Mom, please. Please go to her.”

She looks to Hermes, who’s busy mixing a salve. He doesn’t look up at her as he says, “Your son will be fine. I’ll take care of the burns.”

Hephaestus meets her gaze and gives a sharp nod. “Go, I’ll stay with him.”

Aphrodite doesn’t want to leave him, but gives in and does as her son asks of her.

~

She shows up just in time to stop the mortal girl from hurling herself from the mountain side. “What do you think you’re doing?” she snaps, and takes a moment to register that it’s the village girl she sent Eros to help so long ago. This wasn’t what she’d had in mind.

Her red eyes and tear soaked face does more to sooth Aphrodite’s temper than any excuses she could have given. “He’s dead,” she sobs, “I love him, and he’s gone, and there’s no reason for me to live any longer. Please, let me die.”

Aphrodite sees the glow of love on her, and knows the girl’s affection for her son is true. “He is not dead,” she hesitates and adds, “yet.”

True love has started wars and left all involved nothing but dust and regret. Her son deserved more than that. A love must not only be true – it must be pure.

“If you wish for him to live, you must help me,” she says.

Psyche prostrates herself before her, “Anything! I’ll do anything!”

Aphrodite moves them to warehouse full of mixed grains. “You must sort these before dawn. Barley is necessary for a poultice that will heal my son. Hurry.”

~

Psyche looks at all of them and despairs. But her lover needs her. Eros needs her.

She gets to work.

The night is halfway gone and she’s not even a tenth of the way complete. There’s no hope, her love will die, and there’s nothing she can do to stop it. She gives in, and is sobbing in the middle of the warehouse when she feels a tickling sensation on her hand. She looks down to see a small ant. “Why are you crying?” the ant asks.

“I need to sort all these grains, and I cannot do it,” she says, sniffling. “My lover needs the barely to heal.”

The ant considers this. “I will help you,” it declares, “and in return you must allow me to take all the beans from this store.”

“They are not mine to give,” Psyche says regretfully, “so I cannot accept your help.”

“Then your lover will die,” the ant says callously, and leaves.

She looks at the unsorted pile of grains. Not if she can help it.

Psyche shoves up her sleeves and gets back to work.

~

Aphrodite shows up, and Psyche is still working. She’s gotten through three quarters of the grains, and Aphrodite is impressed. She did not think she would manage to get through even half. The girl clearly hasn’t slept, and even now doesn’t pause in her work. “Lady,” she says, “I’m not done yet.”

“That is enough,” Aphrodite says, looking at the sizable pile of barley. She produces a glass bottle and puts it in front of her. “To stave of death while we make the poultice, we need water from the river Styx. There is a spout on top of my son’s mountain. You must collect this water and return it to me.”

Psyche’s shoulder’s slump, but she doesn’t hesitate when she takes the glass bottle. “I will do it.”

~

Psyche calls for the wind, begging it to take her to the top of the mountain. If the lady wishes, it says. She’s lifted into the air, and brought there. She’s freezing, and it’s hard to breath in the cold air. Dragons sit on either side of the spout, snapping their jaws at her. “Please!” she calls out, “I need the water of the river Styx! I act in the name of Aphrodite.”

They hiss and spit fire at her, and she clings to the side, trying to avoid the flames. “We are not commanded by the Lady Aphrodite,” a child’s voice says, and Psyche looks up to see a girl with black skin and grey hair looking down at her from the back of one of the dragons.

“Please,” Psyche says, “Lady Styx, grant me some of your river. Eros need it to live.”

Styx frowns, and says, “This is not a water which brings life.”

“Please,” she repeats, “I swear no harm will be done in your name, I swear my intentions are honest.”

The child goddess sighs and says, “Come and get it then. If my dragons’ flames pass through you, then you speak the truth, and may have some of my river. If you lie, then I shall see you again in the underworld.”

Psyche nods and walks forward, not breaking eye contact with the child goddess. The dragons screech and flame roars towards her and then – it goes through her. She reaches the top of the mountain safely. She holds out the glass bottle.

Styx laughs and fill it for her. “Happy travels,” she says, right before pushing her off the mountain. Zephyr catches her halfway down, and it takes several seconds for Psyche to stop screaming.

Zephyr deposits her back on the ground, and Aphrodite appears before her. Psyche hands over the bottle.

Aphrodite undoes it and pours the water out, and the grass dies wherever it falls. “It’s too late,” she says, and Psyche’s heart is in her throat, “the only thing left to do is to go to Persephone and beg a spark of life from her.” She slashes her hand down, and opening into the underworld appears. “Persephone will not grant any request of mine. You must go.”

She barely finished speaking when Psyche throws herself through the portal.

~

Aphrodite stares at the place where the girl stood, stunned. Hermes appears beside her. “Your son is well and only sleeps,” he says, “Isn’t this a bit unnecessary?”

“My son has a heart that will never stray. She must prove herself worthy of it,” Aphrodite answers.

Hermes stares, “You will petition Zeus for her?”

“If she proves herself worthy,” she says, then looks at the place where she poured out the incalculably dangerous water of the river Styx. “She’s doing quite well, so far.”

~

Psyche stumbles as she goes through the portal and falls on her knees. This ends up being rather lucky, as it’s taken her to the throne room of the palace of the underworld. Not only is Persephone there, but so is Hades and a god she thinks might be Thanatos. Both Persephone and Thanatos throw Hades narrow eyed looks, which he ignores. “Miss Psyche,” he says, “we’ve been expecting you.”

“Have we,” Persephone says dryly.

Psyche shuffles forward until she’s kneeling in front of Persephone and presses her forehead to the cool obsidian floor. “Lady Goddess,” she says, “I beg a spark of life from you.”

Persephone rises from her throne, and circles her with slow measured steps, her face blank and cold. “I’ve seen you garden,” she says finally, “you have quite a talent with plants.”

“Thank you, Lady,” she says.

Persephone crouches and grabs her chin, jerking up her chin to get a good look at her. “Well, aren’t you a pretty little thing,” she murmurs. “I will give you a spark of life. In return, you must give me your beauty.”

“Take it,” Psyche begs, elated the price is so small, “I don’t want it, I’ve never wanted it. All I want is Eros.”

Her coldness melts away, and the goddess of life and death shakes her head, a small smile curled around the corner of her lips. “He chose well,” she says.

Psyche doesn’t understand until there’s another rip in the air, and her lover steps through. He looks healthy, alive and well. “Eros!” she cries, forgetting her place and standing in the presence of the king and queen of the dead. Before she can kneel once more, Eros runs to her and picks her up in his arms, raising her into the air and spinning her.

“I was so worried about you,” he says, kissing her, then kissing her tears away.

“I thought you were dying!” she says, running her hands over his chest and shoulders and nearly falling in relief when the skin there is whole and unburned.

He winces and kisses her once more, “My mother – I asked her to help you, not test you. I’m sorry.”

“You should be grateful,” Hades says, and they both turn to face him. “Psyche has proven herself, and Aphrodite intends to contest Zeus so that she may stay by your side for eternity.” He smiles, “If Aphrodite is unsuccessful, come to me. I will do what I can.”

They both bow to him, and then are gone in the next moment.

~

Aphrodite goes to Hephaestus, “You are his son, Zeus would want the request to come from you.”

“You are his daughter,” he shoots back, even as he paces.

She sighs, “I was born of his blood and sea foam. It is not the same, and you know it.”

Hephaestus gives a grudging nod. Neither of them are favorites among Olympus, so he goes to someone who is.

Ares looks at him consideringly. “You should ask Mom yourself. Father will do as she says.”  

“Hera hates me,” Hephaestus snaps. “She will reject my son’s request if I’m the one to present it.”

Ares grabs the back of his brother’s neck, pulling them together until their foreheads touch. Some tension gradually bleeds out of Hephaestus. “Try, for me,” Ares says. “If she denies you, I will ask her, and she will not deny me.”

Hephaestus goes to Mount Olympus when Zeus is gone and kneels before Hera. He looks up, and can’t help but think that Ares is right – they have her eyes. Eros has her eyes too. “My son has fallen in love with a mortal girl whom he wishes to marry. I petition you to allow her to become immortal.”

He’s braced for anything, shoulders hunched. Her laughter, her scorn, for her to throw him from Mount Olympus like she did when he was freshly born. “Would this make you happy?” she asks.

He blinks, mouth open. Is this some other cruel trick, to force him to admit it’s something he wants only so she can take greater pleasure in denying him? “Yes,” he says, because it’s true. It will make Eros happy, and when his son is happy, he is happy.

“Very well,” Hera says coolly. “We will have the wedding on Mount Olympus, and once they exchange vows she will become like us.”

He stares, frozen in shock. He didn’t expect it to be that easy. He’s never heard of anyone requesting anything from Hera and just getting it besides Ares.

“Was there anything else?” she asks.

Hephaestus shakes his head, “No, my queen. Thank you.”

He’s gone before she has a chance to respond, before she has a chance to change her mind.

~

Eros and Psyche’s marriage is the event of the century. Gods great and small show up for it, even Hades is convinced to leave his realm to attend.

They pledge their lives to each other, and Hera officiates as the goddess of marriage. Once they swear their loyalty to one another, she takes a small square of ambrosia and hand feeds it to Psyche. She swallows it in two bites, and when she’s finished she glows with her new status as an immortal.

Eros grabs Psyche and dips her.

When he kisses her, the gods’ cheering is loud enough that it causes thunder storms all across earth.

gods and monsters series, part xix

read more of the gods and monsters series here