I walked into my lab office and closed the door behind me. My head spun. My chest ached as the realization of what Zeus and I had agreed to sunk in. Eos for Helios. Titan for a Titan. I instinctively sat down at the mere thought of betraying my sister. She was never going to change. I truly felt that from her. Her hatred for Zeus and the Olympians flowed through her, the same way she lit up the sky, burning from within.
On the other hand, Helios had changed. I had no doubts. When we fought Atlas, we were one. There was nothing hidden between us. I had to do it, but how? I needed to see Persephone. Maybe she would have an idea.
Leaving my office, I went back to my friend’s apartment and hoped she was still there. The elevator doors opened, and I knocked on her door for the second time that day. Persephone opened the door rather quickly and let me in, surprised to see me again, so soon.
“Selene!” It was obvious that she sensed something amiss, and without a thought, headed to the kitchen to make two cups of tea for us as we talked. “You seem uneasy? Did something happen?” The sound of porcelain clinking in the kitchen was a staccato beneath the words of concern. “I assume you spoke with Zeus?”
Following Persephone into the kitchen, I took a deep, steadying breath and smiled at her weakly. “Yeah, I saw him. And it went as well as could be expected. Percy, he wants me to trade Eos for Helios.” My shoulders dropped a little, relaxing in the presence of a friend. “The problem is, I need to talk to you and Hades to come up with a plan on how to do the exchange.” I rested my elbow on the counter, leaning my jaw into my fist. “I was thinking of telling Eos we had a visitation. You know, since you have been working with Helios in rehab? She may believe we have made arrangements for that. What do you think?”
Persephone leaned against the counter, waiting for the kettle to whistle, announcing the boiling water. “Would she be willing to enter the Underworld under normal circumstances?” Her tone was worried. “I think that would work, BUT at this time of the year, I cannot enter without permission and escort. It is,” I could see the pause in her thoughts, “it is not normal to request a journey below outside of the traditional arrangement, but this is not a traditional need. If you think she would be willing to entertain the idea, I will reach out to Hades, and we can discuss the logistics with him.”
“I know it’s a big thing to ask, Percy. I just don’t know how else to proceed from here. Do you know if Hades is even around? There has been so much going on with Atë and the board meeting. I am unsure of where to find him.” I ran my hands through my hair, shaking it as I spoke. “Eos for Helios,” I muttered. I looked back up at Persephone. “Is it feasible?”
“I think it is, but you know her, and if she would walk into the trap expecting nothing. And it is no delusion. It is a trap.” Persephone reached out and took my hand, holding it gently between hers, “But it is a worthy trap. It removes one still violent towards Zeus and Olympus, and releases one willing to swear loyalty to all the Kings.” The sound of the kettle whistling interrupted our thoughts, and she turned back to the stove and poured the tea, handing me a delicate cup filled with the fragrant brew. “We can reach out to him and ask for a meeting.”
“So,” I continued, blowing the steam from my cup. “You agree with your father, then? It’s a good trade?” I eyed her, hoping my friend would be honest with me.
“I agree that if there is no rehabilitation for her, if she still holds a threat to Olympus, then it is a good trade. It does not mean there is no hope for her in the future, but for now, it is what should be done. I know it hurts to turn your back on family, and it feels like a betrayal, but as I have learned recently, sacrifices for what is right has to outweigh the emotions.” Persephone closed her eyes, relaxing; she seemed to almost stop for a brief moment, as if time froze and with it, her. Eyes fluttering open, she smiled reassuringly at me. “If he is free and can come, he should be here soon.”
“Here?” I sat up and looked around. “Did you just call him?” Taking a moment to brace myself for another meeting with a king, I smoothed my hair, swallowed hard, and turned back to Persephone. “Ok, let’s do this then.” Standing, I took a long swallow of my tea and looked at Persephone with steely determination.
“In a manner of speaking, yes.” She nodded at me, the confidence she had in this path evident on her face.
Hades appeared in the doorway, hands in his pockets, and a calm expression on his face. He looked between the two of us, nodding to Persephone. “Ladies. How may I assist?”
Persephone returned the greeting with a smile, thanking Hades for coming at such short notice.
I walked calmly over towards Hades and inclined my head in respect. “Lord Hades, your brother Zeus and I have made an arrangement. I assume he has discussed this with you, in regards to my brother, Helios?” Without pause, I continued, “Persephone and I are working out how to do the exchange of Eos and Helios. We’d like your input, and permission, to allow Persephone entrance out of her season.” Persphone gestured for Hades and me to have a seat in her living room. As I sat, her white pit bull, Snow, peeked his nose out of the bedroom, wanting to see me but unsure of Hades’ presence in her home. I pat my leg as I saw him, and the dog slowly rounded the corner and sat at my feet.
“We spoke briefly, yes.” Hades paused, letting the hesitation linger. His eyes rested on Persephone before continuing, “Persephone, you are more than welcome to come out of season. I would not hinder your path.” He paused again, rubbing his jaw. “I would prefer if the exchange was done within the Underworld. Doubly so, if it was in Tartarus. There is far more security there. Just in case.”
Nodding, I replied, “I agree. I feel if we make it too lenient, she will think Helios is free, and that would make her more suspicious. What about a table, like I have seen the mortals use for prisoner visitations? He could be past the Reception Center, perhaps, so she cannot flee easily. Would that work for you?” I paused, giving Hades time to think this idea over and reply. I rested one hand in my lap while scratching the dog’s ears with the other.
He considered this a moment, leaning against the doorframe. “What if it is done within my office at the Center? I would be happy to have it secured and enchanted for such an occasion.”
A pensive look crossed my face. “She is not naive, just hot-headed. I understand where you are coming from, but I am afraid the confined quarters would make her even less likely to trust us. You understand it will be hard enough to convince her to enter Tartarus as it is.” My hand still absently scratched the dog’s ears, channeling some of my tension. “Maybe the gardens? No, they are too far inside, she’d never go that far in. Hmmm.” I stopped and thought in silence, trying to think of a fitting location.
Hades raised an eyebrow. “I did not assume she was naive. We are looking to do this securely. My suggestion would be there or Tartarus. Tartarus would be more believable.”
“I guess my thought was that she would feel less boxed in just beyond the secure gates of Tartarus. That is my opinion on the matter. Is there a secure, but open location, Lord Hades? I have only visited Persephone twice, so I am not very familiar with your world.” I inclined my head in acknowledgment, awaiting his reply or Persephone’s suggestion.
“Hm.” He walked into the room to join us now, leaning against the counter and folding his arms. “Perhaps the banks of Styx would suffice?”
Thinking about that possibility, I nodded. “That sounds open enough she wouldn’t feel boxed in. I think I will ask Erebus for help. Eos can read me, as I read her and Helios. I need something to block my intentions. Would Erebus be welcome if he agrees?”
“I take no issue with Erebus being in attendance.” Persephone absently chewed her bottom lip, lost in thought. “The banks of Styx would be open enough for her comfort and easy to secure for ours. I am very familiar with that area and comfortable in the setting. I agree it would be a good option.”
“Sounds good to me, then. If you want to, work on the arrangements on your end while I go see if Erebus can help on mine.” Turning to Persephone, I added, “I will text you when we are on our way to make sure everything is ready, and you are aware we are on our way. Sound like a plan?” I asked with finality, looking from Persephone back to Hades for confirmation.
Persephone nodded in agreement, hesitating for a moment, she cocked her head to the side thoughtfully. “Would it be best to not inform Helios of the plan? Would Eos be able to read it on him as well?”
“Probably,” I replied, turning my gaze back to Persephone. “I will be asking Erebus to shadow my thoughts, not hers, so their connection would remain intact. That is a very astute point, Percy. Thank you.”
“I can propose he and I take a walk, with Hades’ permission, of course. That would keep it vague enough that she should not be able to get the intention from him.”
“If you require anything else, please let me know.” Hades pushed off of the counter, looking between us once more. “This is a delicate operation, and I will not have it go sideways on my watch.”
“Sounds like a plan, then.” Standing abruptly, the pit bull at my feet skeeted away, nails clicking on Persephone’s floor as he slid, rounding the corner to her bedroom and vanishing into it. I stepped over to hug Persephone briefly, taking a final gulp from my teacup and turned to where Hades was leaning. “Lord Hades, do we have a deal?” I reached my hand out for a handshake. “A Titan for a Titan?”
He mulled it over for half a moment, then shook my hand firmly and nodded once. “A Titan for a Titan.” He nodded to Persephone and took his leave.
I wasn’t far behind him as I quickly made my way to Persephone’s door. I waved again at Persephone and rushed to the elevator. “I sure hope Erebus is in,” I said to myself as the doors closed in front me.