By Eleusis, in the heart of the leafless trees, she sits across the stone of her great seat, high in her temple; Demeter. The light is sparse here and falls in an interrupted line from the high windows onto the floor before her, stopping almost as if frightened, yards from the place one narrow foot extends from the imposing throne. She is sprawled, her head cradled in her elbows upon one solid arm of the chair, one foot tucked beneath her body and the other extended from her. She exists almost as if she were sleeping; her crying is over, and the dull and enduring heat behind her eyes testifies that no amount of water could replenish that core that is gone. She is dry and withering like the world beyond the walls of stone she has ordered be built to hold her. She has ordered her own tomb, and resides in it, immortal but empty now without her daughter.
Persephone. The very name tumbling across the periphery of her mind brings with it the phantom scent of flowers and the warm air of her beautiful Spring. Demeter raises her head – there has been a noise at the entrance, and the shawl she had cast off upon taking up her thrown as a goddess fallen flutters half in and half out of a square of light on the floor. The same breeze stirs her dark hair from her face and reveals eyes red with ancient tears, and their trails down two shallow cheeks, both once so full and dark now sunken and pale with her refusal of the nectar of the gods.
The door to the temple has opened, and standing in the threshold is a being so bright that she is forced to turn her head away, but weeks of dim solitude have weakened only her eyes; her mind is fully capable of recognizing the brilliant Apollo standing before her. He lets the door close behind him and fades, becoming only mildly lustrous in the muted setting of the grieving goddess's temple.
"Hail, Demeter, mother of the corn." He speaks from just inside of the doorway, far down the grand expanse of her hall, and his voice echoing from the tenebrous stone walls and floor.
"I was such a mother, once." Her answer is quiet. She lifts her eyes to him, then drops them again, staring into her arms, not shifting her recumbent position. He begins toward her, down the center of the hall, and as he approaches each square of light intensifies in brightness and then returns to the dull light of evening as he passes.
"You are still such a mother. Of the corn, of the earth, and of your daughter below it." He stops at the edge of the hall before her raised dais, much like the light does, though more out of respect than fear.
She does shift now, using one hand to hold her upper body up, taking in the image of the beautiful, glimmering Apollo in her terrible hollow. "He sent you. Zeus. He sends you all, to stir me."
Apollo's face is impassive, looking up into hers. "Have there been many others?"
A sardonic smile plays on her lips. "He sends one after another to play to any part of me. Hermes appealed to practicality and left as quickly as he had entered, angry in coming and angry in going. Pan and his nymphs danced and shook these walls with as much sound as would equal their love for the trees." Her low and amused tone curls like a forked tongue and changes to one
of rage. She vaults herself upright in her seat, leaning toward the steady Apollo, "And all for their own gain. They care nothing for her. They care nothing for my daughter, and I can hear her…" Her hands come to cover her face, her shoulders slump, and she finds a deeper well of tears to draw from. "Her crying shakes the earth, Apollo, and I can feel it below my feet and can do nothing to help her."
Apollo draws closer, reaching up and taking one of the hands cradling the tired face of the goddess. His kind countenance is turned up to hers, so full of understanding and peace, and his hand is wide and strong in holding hers. She lowers her other hand to hold his in both, taking in the warmth that the stone around her would never supply. Her tears run freely over her pale cheeks and she does not look into the eyes of the other god.
His voice is soft and sure, as soothing as his hand on hers. "He will release her, Demeter. No matter the bind between Hades and his brother over this, Zeus will be forced to release her. He will not let the men suffer so for his actions. This winter over the land is your doing, and it will be what brings her back to you. She will be safe in your arms again. I know that their pressure will not break your will to hold her again."
Demeter raises her face to study his, so very sure, and her eyes are fierce. "Nothing could break me of that."
He nods, and releases her hand, taking a step backward and then turning and walking for the door.
Once there, he hears a soft whisper, and turns.
"Apollo…I thank you."
He only nods once more, then opens the door and is gone.