TITLE:"Embracing The Darkness"
AUTHOR'S NOTES:A million thanks to my best friend, Whitney, who helped edit this story for me. God only knows where I'd be without her!
DISCLAIMER:I believe that most of these characters are old enough that Homer and all other great rhapsodes lost the "copyright" on them a long time ago.
DEDICATION:This work is dedicated to my mythology teacher, Mrs. Burge, who first created the spark of a Muse that brought about this story.
Zeus rose from his black, marble throne at the head of the great hall and spread out his hands wide in order to call silence upon the gods and the goddesses that had been called upon to attend this meeting. "All right, now, I have called for silence!" He spoke out loudly, trying to raise his voice as best he could over all the others. "Everybody, be silen-!"
The loud commotion of voices raged on covering over his intended words. He gave a frown of annoyance and took a deep breath. "Silence!" he called out once more, his deep voice echoing off the walls in a powerful reverberation, causing everyone to fall still and look upon him.
Well, almost everyone.
" . . . so you see," Aphrodite carried on merrily to Athena, having not realized that the rest in the hall had become suddenly quiet. "All you really have to do for perfect hair is to just add a bit of-."
"Eh-hem!" Zeus cleared his throat rather loudly, giving a reprimanding glare at the talkative Aphrodite.
Only now noticing the startling lull in conversation, the goddess of love and beauty looked up and glanced about to see all eyes upon her. A rosy blush colored her cheeks as she glanced back to Zeus almost sheepishly before clasping her hands in her lap and giving him a look that said 'yes? you were saying something?'
The magnificent god rolled his eyes upwards and sank down once more into his throne, bringing his fingers up to massage his temples before continuing, though still speaking a bit loudly. "Thank you. Now, as I was saying, I have called you all here today due to a problem that has been drawn to my attention recently. It seems to me that there have been quite a few things as of late that need to be solved as soon as possible, and to do so requires the cooperation and consideration of all gods and goddesses." Now realizing he had everyone's attention, he allowed his voice to subside somewhat as he heaved a sigh from his chest, looking over a scroll that sat beside him. "So, let us begin with . . . Poseidon. I believe you had something you wished to address?"
The god of the sea rose from his throne and nodded to his younger brother with a serious expression. "I believe that Lady Athena will agree with me when I say that there is a most terrible problem." Already the goddess nodded her head, knowing what was coming. "There is a most beautiful city that the two of us have fallen in love with, and wish for our own. Right now the people worship the both of us, but it cannot remain so. As you know, each city must have a patron god or goddess."
Zeus frowned over the seeming pettiness of the problem, yet nodded his head sagely. "Can you not split the city between the two of you?"
"Mi'lord," Athena called before Poseidon could answer, and attention turned to her. "To split such a city as this between two people would be much like splitting a mortal child between two parents. Without its' other half, it would surely die. I propose that a better solution be found."
Poseidon nodded his head grudgingly in agreement with the goddess of wisdom. "She is right, Mi'lord. This city thrives and is quite fruitful, but if we were to even consider dividing it the results would be . . . catastrophic. No, there must be a way that this problem can be solved where the city remains as a whole."
Zeus sat back in his chair and stroked his beard in a thoughtful manner before nodding his head. "Then here is what shall be. Each of you shall present the city with a gift of some sort. Then the people shall decide which one is best and worship the one it was from." He lifted a majestic brow towards them, acknowledging any comments they might have on the ruling.
The god and goddess nodded their heads in acceptance to this and murmured as one, "As you wish," and sat back down in their thrones.
Pleased that there were no unnecessary arguments, Zeus once again looked back to his scroll. "I have received word in the past few days that-."
At that very moment, a sharp banging was heard as the doors to the great hall were thrown aside by a tall, dark man that stood silhouetted in the radiant beams of light from outside in the hall.
Zeus smacked his forehead, wondering if he would ever be able to get through a meeting without interruptions.
The man that stood at the door had a face that was strong and handsome, though a bit thin with high cheek bones and piercingly cold eyes that seemed to snap with an inner fire. His lips too were somewhat thin and pursed together in a straight line, giving the impression that a smile had never lit upon his features before.
As he slowly walked into the hall with long strides, his cloak made a soft rustling noise against the ground as it billowed out about him like the wings of a downed night bird. His gaze swept very slowly across the gathered gods and goddesses, causing each one to cringe inwardly as his eyes lighted upon him or her.
Soft whispers of 'it's Hades' and 'the lord of the Underworld' and 'what is he doing here?' were spoken behind concealing hands as a low murmur of surprise rose up from everyone. Each pair of eyes followed the man with hints of disdain, fear, and disgust.
Hades stopped short at the center of the circle, his own cold and dark eyes now firmly upon Zeus as he lifted a hand to remove the cowl of his cloak away from his face, allowing his long, raven hair to spill down just below his shoulder blades. Every wide eye was upon him as he stood calmly before his powerful brother, his arms rising to cross over his chest as he maintained an intimidating presence.
"Everyone, silence!" Zeus roared above the whispers in an aggravated tone, and this time everyone stopped speaking instantly, each one curious to know what could have possibly brought Hades to join them.
Zeus waited a few seconds until he was completely certain that there was not a sound, then turned his eyes back to meet those of the dark man, noting how they did not waver away from his gaze. "Hades, my brother, why is it that you have come to present yourself before us?"
Hades entire posture seemed to stiffen somewhat, but when he spoke his voice was low, almost sensual in a way that could send a pleasurable chill down the spine of any lady that heard it. "Ah, my dear brother, always so straight and to the point. Are you truly so anxious to be rid of me so quickly after I have traveled so far?" Before the great god could answer, the man spread his hands open wide in an almost disarming manner. "But then let me not cause you any excess trouble for I too am most anxious to return to my prison into which you have cast me. Surely all this sunlight and brilliance cannot be good to one's health." His voice then dropped to a more serious tone as his arms once more crossed over his strong chest and there was a slight narrowing of his eyes. "The count of the dead has been down as of late. For almost two weeks I have not had any 'visitors', nor has Death made any contact with me as to the reason for the delay. I demand to know why this has come to be, and I had assumed that you must have some part in it."
The gods and goddesses exchanged looks that varied all the way from concern, to fear, to panic, to confusion.
Zeus frowned in an almost dark way as he leaned forward on his throne. "I do not appreciate being accused of such things . . . but considering that you are my brother I shall let it pass." He slowly leaned back in his chair, almost marveling at how his once-weaker brother no longer flinched or cringed in his presence, but instead met his eyes evenly and with a sense of pride and confidence. For some reason, this observation left him feeling very unsettled.
Turning his attention back to the gods and goddesses, he made a motion of his large hand towards them. "Does anyone here have any knowledge of what has become of Death?" He glanced over towards the goddess of all wild things. "Artemis?"
The woman shook her head in response, dark, unruly hair falling about her face. "No, Mi'lord. I have heard of nothing out of the ordinary on my travels."
"Demeter? Perhaps you know of anything that might help us?"
"Nothing. The farmers and their families have spoken of nothing that seems odd."
Poseidon gave a small frown as he steepled his fingers before him. "The fishermen have been speaking of odd occurrences back on shore, but I would not give them credit to knowing anything. Most of them are only mere yarns and tales they create to pass away the time."
One by one, a negative report was given as to having seen or heard anything completely out of the ordinary regarding the death toll.
Just when Zeus was ready to dismiss the complaint altogether, Ares, the god of war, rose from his chair with a thoughtful expression on his face. "Lord Hades, who was the last person that Death was to claim the life of?"
Hades turned his sharp gaze over towards the god that had more blood on his hands than anyone he knew. "He was last sent to claim the life of the King Sisyphus of Corinth."
Ares turned to Zeus then, standing a bit taller with arrogant pride. "Mighty Zeus, allow me to hunt down this mortal . . . for surely where you find him, you shall also find Death. I shall find him and kill him so that he may be taken to the underworld where he belongs. It will be of little trouble for me."
Zeus frowned thoughtfully and again stroked his beard as he narrowed his eyes on his overzealous son. He did not wish to send this reckless man out on a mission such as this, but then, he saw no other choice. To deny him the right would upset him and he would go off and do as he pleased anyway. Plus, Hades would be angered for not having the problem solved.
So Zeus nodded as he leaned back in his throne and gave a deep sigh from the very depths of him. "Yes, you have my permission to go."
"And do I have permission to deal with this mortal as I see fit?"
"Yes, yes, do as you wish." Zeus waved his hand dismissivly.
Ares bowed low and then rose to his full, haughty stature. "I shall leave immediately." And, clutching tightly to the sword that hung at his side he brushed past Hades where he stood in the center of the ring and exited the hall.
Zeus stretched just a bit in his throne before turning back to his brother once more. "Ares shall undoubtedly return within the week, and the moment that he does, I shall send word to you of what he has found."
A very light smirk crept across Hades' lips as he nodded his head in a self satisfied manner. "As you wish, oh mighty Zeus." There was a hint of sarcasm in his words that did not go unheeded by his brother.
The meeting continued on through the usual events of battling small issues and problems in each of the gods or goddesses fields back and forth until they had reached some form of a resolve or had simply managed to bring themselves all the way back around in a complete circle. Hades had remained to watch the rest of the meeting from the shadows of a nearby pillar that he leaned upon, eyes skimming over whoever was speaking at the time with an almost bored and disdainful look. Still, it had been a terribly long time since he had attended one of these meetings and he found it both amusing (in a rather sardonic way) and enlightening at the same time.
Of course he always received the invitations to them, but he knew for a fact that nobody really expected or even wished for his presence. For some time this thought, and those that had been sparked from it, had actually hurt him.
What if I had not drawn the lot that doomed me to eternal darkness? he would think as he surveyed the River Styx and his own dank palace. What if I had been in Poseidon's place . . . or even Zeus himself? Would people still hate me as they do? Would mortals still be afraid to speak out my name, for fear that it would draw my attention? Do people believe that just because I am the god of the Underworld, that I do not deserve to be happy as well?
But as the years went by he had managed to build up a cold exterior to all of the scorn and hatred that went along with his position. Little by little he found himself becoming more callous and uncaring towards their comments until finally he had ceased to care at all. If they wished to think of him as an 'evil and dark creature', then he would let them think that. He would do his duty and associate with them as little as possible. It no longer mattered whether the residents of Olympus hated him or not. He had cut himself off as best he could from their presence. He had made his heart as cold to them as the pits in which he lived.
"Very well, then," Zeus spoke in an almost tired tone as he took another large sip from his goblet of wine. "I give Athena my permission to avenge the wrong done to her by the mortal, Arachne." The goddess nodded a gracious thanks to Zeus before taking her seat once again. "Now, before I bring this meeting to a close, is there anyone else that-."
All of a sudden there was a loud cry from outside the open door to the great hall and all heads turned, startled, just as Hermes flew into the room, with little Kore right behind him.
Zeus threw his hands in the air. He would never make it through a meeting uninterrupted!
"Give me my ball back, you little gorgon!" the girl cried as she lunged towards the boy, knocking him down to the ground amidst giggles, squeals for help, and surprised gasps from the surrounding goddesses. She pinned him down under her, her hair coming loose from its ribbon to fall about her flushed face. "I'll tickle you to death if you don't!" she threatened him, instantly beginning to find all of Hermes' most ticklish place.
"No, no, no!" Hermes managed to shriek between giggles and gasps for breath. "Ah! Someone get her off me - she's gone crazy! No, not there, anywhere but-!" He doubled over with laughter as Kore managed to pry his sandal off and began tickling his sensitive feet. "Ah! Okay, okay, you win! You can have your ball!" And he tossed it as far away from the both of them as he possibly could from his feeble position on the ground.
Kore quickly stumbled to her bare feet and was about to go after it when a loud voice pierced through the air, stopping her dead in her tracks. "Kore!"
The girl cringed. Uh oh.
She turned about to see Demeter standing directly behind her, with a disapproving glare upon her face as she looked down upon her daughter. Kore gave her her best 'innocent and angelic' smile, fluttering her eyelashes up at her. "Yes, Momma?"
While she was distracted, Hermes managed to slip away before he caught the bad side of Demeter as well.
The goddess of the earth swept her daughter up into her arms with a reprimanding shake of her finger. "How many times have I told you that you do not play in here? This is for the grown ups only and you have disrupted important-."
"Ah, Demeter," Zeus spoke with a weary wave of his hand. "Let her be. She has disrupted nothing." Looking about to all of the others he nodded his head towards them. "Is there anything else that needs to be presented before the council? No? Very well then, I call this meeting to a close. Thank you for coming."
The meeting now finished, everyone began to slowly rise to their feet, a dull murmur coming over the great hall as they began to mill about and socialize as they wished, discussing everything that had taken place and the decisions that had been made.
Demeter sighed softly and set Kore down with a shake of her head. "What am I ever going to do with you, child? Oh, and look at all this dirt!" She licked her thumb and reached out to try and wipe away a smudge from her daughter's cheek. "What on earth have you been into?"
Kore blushed with embarrassment as her mother began to try and clean her up with her own spit. "Mom! Stop, you're embarrassing me." But Demeter only chuckled and continued to dust off her lovely dress and fix her hair as best as she could. "Hermes and I were only playing. He took my ball and then he wouldn't-."
"Good evening to you, Demeter," Artemis spoke as she walked up to the goddess with a smile on her lips. "And to you, little Kore."
Kore hated being called 'little' and inwardly she rolled her eyes. But on the outside she gave Artemis a beautiful grin. "Good evening to you as well, Lady Artemis."
"Demeter, I was wondering if I might have a word with you for a moment. It will not take very long, but I have a few worries about the deer in the northern territories . . . they complain of not getting enough grass to eat."
"Not enough grass to eat? Oh, well, let us see what we can do to remedy that." Then Demeter turned about to Kore and placed her hand atop the girl's head. "Now, don't leave this hall, all right? Artemis and I have some things we need to discuss and then I will be right back."
"And please try to stay out of trouble!"
Kore batted her eyes sweetly. "Always!"
As she watched her mother and Artemis move off, the young goddess turned around and started looking for Hermes in hopes of finishing their game. Though she weaved her way in and out of the gods and goddesses that still stood about, smiling politely when they greeted her, there was no sign of her half brother. He was absolutely no where in sight and her shoulders drooped, realizing he had taken off so as not to get into any trouble.
Great, she thought sarcastically to herself, already feeling the boredom creeping in. Now what am I gonna do?
After a few more minutes spent wandering about in idle frustration, she was just about to go in search of her mother and pester her into leaving, she remembered that Hermes had thrown her ball off to one side of the room when she had tackled him. Hoping that the clever god had not remembered it as well when he took his leave, she ran off in the direction it was thrown. Kore quickly ducked her way in and out of the legs of all those that remained in the great hall, occasionally having to dodge around one or two people.
However, when she finally reached the far side of the room where the ball's path had coursed, she realized with great dismay that it had landed atop a decorative ledge filled with plants that was cut into the wall. She could just barely make out the top of the object when she stood on her tiptoes and craned her neck as far up as she could.
Oh, that's just my luck!
Moving back away from the ledge she tilted her head upward in thought as she surveyed the problem carefully. She tapped her bare foot against the marble floor and stroked her chin like she had so often seen Zeus do when he was thinking something over. It did not take very long for an idea to come to her, and it took even less time for her to act upon it.
Once again she stood on tiptoe, judging the exact height and placement of the ball, then took a few steps back. She got about eight feet away before lunging full speed at the wall, and launching herself into a jump just before she hit it. But her grasping hands fell two inches short.
No problem . . . Just try again!
This time she went even further back and dug her heels down into the ground, taking up the position of the young sprinters that she had seen when her mother and her went into town to look at the crops. Her tiny brow creased in an overdramatic concentration, then with a mad dash she shot towards the wall and bounced as high as she possibly could.
One inch short . . .
Kore stomped her bare foot in frustration and began to backpedal as far as she possibly could, planning to run across the entire room if she had to. She was concentrating so hard on the recovery of her prized possession that she almost didn't notice when she ran directly into something and fell very ungracefully to the floor. She blinked her eyes in bewilderment as she turned her face slowly upwards to see what had caused her to fall.
Two booted feet . . . a long black cloak . . . two arms crossed firmly over a chest . . . and two eyes that looked down at her from obscuring shadows.
Blushing sheepishly she dragged herself to her feet, dusting herself off out of habit. "Forgive me, Mi'lord. I did not see you there."
Hades turned his head to see the person who had so rudely jarred him, and was prepared to lash out against them when his eyes fell upon the girl. He arched a brow upward before speaking in that velvety, yet somewhat monotone voice of his. "Perhaps if you were more careful to look where you were going, you would not be so clumsy."
Kore felt her face grow even hotter with embarrassment and she ducked her head so as to avoid his scrutinizing gaze.
Hades frowned a small bit then as his eyes wandered quickly across her, having never before seen this one about Mount Olympus. She was enchanting in the way that all little girls are at such an age when they are no longer a complete child, but at the same time not even close to being a woman. The blush that he could see blossoming on her pale skin made her seem all the more radiant as her burgundy colored hair fell about her face, framing it with a gentle caress of curls and locks. Those two emerald eyes that he had only caught a glimpse of before she lowered her head in a chastised shame were stunning, and the light from all about her had reflected off of them, causing them to shimmer like the precious gem itself.
Hades had seen goddesses such as Aphrodite and Athena at this age, and none of them even held a candle to this child's beauty! Not even the mortals that he had looked upon in his underground world could ever have been as vibrant and becoming as she.
All these thoughts rushed through his head in a split second, and he found himself instantly regretting his words to a certain extent. He had not meant for what he said to come out sounding as harsh as it had. After many years spent practically alone in the Underworld, he had almost forgotten how to enter into a polite conversation with another being.
"Do not worry, child," he muttered after a slight hesitation, the soft words sounding strange to his own ears. "There was no harm done."
Kore's face held a small smile on it as she turned her brilliant green eyes upward once more to the dark gentleman. Though his words were spoken a bit gruffly, and with a small amount of sharpness to them, she was just glad he was not mad. The Fates knew she got in enough trouble as it was without having to add any more to it.
Just then she had a wonderful idea and both her smile and her eyes lit up at the same time. "Oh! Why didn't I think of it before?!" Without a pause, she grabbed the man's hand quickly and pulled him towards the location of her ball. "You're pretty tall! Could you reach my ball for me? I can't get it. It's way up there!"
Hades blinked his eyes in shock and it took all his will power to not draw his hand away from the child's persistent grasp as he allowed her to lead him to the location. Her hand was tiny against his own large hand, and he realized how terribly trusting and innocent she was. Why, with a flick of his wrist he could crush her slender fingers before she even knew what had happened. Did she not realize this? Did she not fear him like the others?
In his entire life, he had never known the tender touch of another being except for his mother, and had often thought that the only intimate caress he would ever know was the embrace of the darkness itself. Yet this small girl came to him and took his hand of her own free will. She looked upon him with the very purity of her heart in her eyes and no fear or hatred whatsoever!
This one thought shook him down to the deepest regions of his soul.
Kore stopped a few feet short of the ledge where her prized object was stuck and she pointed upwards to it. "Up there. Can you reach it?"
"That shouldn't be a problem," and so saying, he easily reached the ledge and plucked the ball from its' nesting place amongst the decorative plants, then turned and handed it back down to the girl.
She grinned happily, releasing his hand and taking hold of the ball. "Oh, thank you!"
The moment she had released her hold, Hades was forced to clutch his fingers into a tight fist to keep himself from reaching out and grabbing her small hand once more. It had felt so warm against his own cold skin, so gentle and soft. A sweet and light caress of flesh meeting flesh. A sensation that should not be denied to any person.
A sharp pang raced through his stone heart as he clasped both his hands firmly behind his back.
Kore now tilted her head in thought, as though she were just now registering the entire stature of the man. "Who are you? I haven't seen you before. Are you a new god?"
Hades could not help but give a slight smirk at her blunt question and childlike curiosity. "No, I am not a new god. In fact, I am a very old god. My name is Hades, lord of the Underworld," and he gave her a grand bow such as he had never offered to any other god, swinging his cloak back and away from him with a majestic sweep of his hand.
The girl gave a giggle at the extravagance of his greeting, and then gave a curtsy as best she could with a ball in her hands in return. "My name is Kore, but you probably heard my mom say that already."
"Ah yes," Hades almost ground between his teeth, turning his eyes away so that Kore would not see the disgust there. "Fair Lady Demeter."
"I try to behave!" she cried out indignantly, holding tightly to her ball with a sigh. "But Father says that 'she's just being protective' and that 'that's her way'."
"And your father is?"
Again Hades grit his teeth together as he leaned against the pillar once more, crossing his arms. How did I know that my brother would be the one to have a child as splendid as this one? he thought sarcastically and bitterly. Just how did I know?
"She never lets me go anywhere," Kore continued on, seeming not to notice the god's darker mood. She began to bounce the ball in frustration, rolling those enchanting green eyes of hers once again. "It's not fair. Lord Zeus lets Hermes go wherever he wants and he's only a year older than I am! But no, I gotta stay at home and help Momma with the work that must be done on earth. The only place I ever get to go is out to the field where all the wild flowers grow."
Hades turned to glance back at her as he listened to her babbling on. "You're your mother's child," he muttered under his breath. "In love with the flowers and the earth and all it has to offer."
"Just the flowers," Kore corrected him nonchalantly. "I don't care much for all the grain and corn and stuff."
"She lets you go to the field alone?"
"Only if Ocean's daughters are with me. Even then she doesn't let me wander off without them." Kore stopped bouncing her ball suddenly and struck a mock pose of her mother - finger shaking and all. " 'You never know what might happen. It's best to stay in groups than to go off anywhere by yourself. It's far too dangerous. ' " Kore shook her head and once more continued to bounce her ball. "I'm doomed to live out my life in a prison."
A pale hand crept upward as Hades rubbed his chin thoughtfully at her words, turning them over and over in his mind. "Have you ever considered running away?"
The ball ceased to bounce, and Kore looked at him with a startled gaze.
When she did not reply for a few moments, Hades looked at her, indicating that he would not drop the question.
The girl's pink tongue ran nervously over her bottom lip as she looked down before she answered, a bit softly. "Well . . . one time I did. I was thinkin' that it would be nice to just leave and have some big adventure. But then I started to think about how worried Momma would be . . . and how much I would miss Olympus."
"Would you truly miss it that much?"
She nodded her head, then frowned thoughtfully. "At least . . . I think I would."
"Do you not wish to see beyond this place?"
Kore shook her head in return and again she began to bounce the ball, as though her mind had just been made up. "Only in my dreams."
The tall man gave a very soft sigh and looked upon her almost affectionately with a dull spark of light in his dark eyes. "Ah, Persephone . . . my little dreamer."
Kore blinked her emerald eyes in confusion and was about to ask why he had called her 'Persephone' when all of a sudden she heard a very familiar gasp, followed by a sharp hand on her arm, pulling her back and away. "Kore, what are you doing?"
The girl looked up to her mother with incredulous eyes. "I didn't do anything wrong, Momma! Honest! All I did was ask him to help me get my ball," and so saying she motioned towards Hades, who had quickly fixed his usual cold stare back into place when Demeter came running over.
Demeter glanced frantically between her daughter and the god of the underworld, pulling the confused girl further behind her so that she was a shield between the two. "Kore, why don't you go wait for me outside?"
"But, Momma, I didn't-."
"I mean it! Right now."
She frowned, seeming to be thinking through whether or not to obey her mother. Wisely, she decided upon the latter. Giving a stomp of her small foot and a 'see what I mean?!' look towards Hades, she turned around and began to make her way towards the door, bouncing her ball loudly as she went.
Demeter turned back to Hades and her contempt and disgust towards the god was evident in her very stance & gaze. "Forgive me if she bothered you, Lord Hades," she spoke in a cold and crisp voice that conflicted with her words.
"No bother at all, Lady Demeter," Hades returned in a tone that matched her own, yet with a strangely calm and confident hint to it. "In fact, I quite enjoyed your daughter's company. She will make an extraordinary goddess some day."
Demeter stiffened, not liking the way he spoke. "She is my heart and soul."
"Perhaps she will even be so magnificent as to rival Hera herself," Hades continued, a cruel twinkle in his dark eyes that sent a fearful chill down Demeter's spine despite herself. He chuckled, though there was nothing humorous in his voice as he mused out loud, "Ah, yes, perhaps she would indeed make a lovely queen." The way he spoke those words sounded so pointed, so purposeful.
The goddess of the earth's eyes narrowed upon him, her lips pursing firmly together. "What do you mean, Mi'lord?"
A very casual shrug of his broad shoulders was given as he pushed off from the pillar he leaned upon to stand to his full height. "Merely making an observation," he replied in a careless manner before returning the cowl of his cloak back up to cover his face. Only his thin lips could be seen from within its shadows as he smirked in a way that struck Demeter as purely sinister. "Good day to you, Lady Demeter, and to young Persephone as well," and so saying he brushed past her and headed towards the door.
Demeter turned and watched the retreating figure's back with a frown embedded deep in her normally calm features. She did not trust that god at all.
Not at all.