A distinguished visitor, part four
She had a habit of asking unsettling questions just before she departed. Nevertheless, Hades found himself looking forward to Hel’s visits, to slow walks with her in the gardens, to her calm face and flat voice and those offhand probing questions.
On one of their circuits about the land of shadows, they crossed paths with Hekate and her retinue. Hades halted the horses to greet the triformed goddess; she approached the chariot and bowed.
“Hail, lord Hades. Hail, Hel, divided goddess, lady of the northern dead.”
“Hail, Hekate, triformed goddess, lady of the torches.” And Hel made a little bow.
Hades was struck by the formality of their exchange; he and Hekate were comrades of old. He did not think anything more about it, however, until Hel had left and he received another unexpected visitor, namely, Hekate.
“Does she come here often?” She had a habit of putting her hands on her hips when she was talking to him that he hoped Persephone never came to imitate.
“You know who. The northern goddess.”
“Often? Well, I don’t know that I would say often–”
“What does she want?”
“Want? I don’t know. To bear me company. To have company, I suppose.”
“She has company at home, surely.” Hekate folded her arms across her chest, which was worse than hands on hips. “And you have a wife.”
“What are you implying, Brimo? Do you think I would cheat on Persephone?”
Hekate glared at him for a long moment without answering. Then she breathed out in a huff. “No, I don’t. But I know you well. Others who don’t know you might be misled by appearances, and they might spread gossp that could get back to the girl, and hurt her.”
Hades had not considered this. He rather prided himself on not looking beyond his own bedroom, now that he was properly married. (Unlike some people he could name.) He was also struck that Hekate still referred to his wife as “the girl”. There was something girlish about Hel, actually, that in some way reminded him of Persephone.
“You know I don’t want to hurt Persephone. That is the last thing I would want to do. But I also don’t want to fail in hospitality to a foreign deity, and a ruler of the dead, at that, someone who’s in the same profession as I am. And I think Hel and I have become–friends.”
Hekate sighed, and her faithful hound wandered in and leaned against her legs. “I divine that Hel has some ulterior motive for visiting you, something she hasn’t revealed, but I cannot divine what that is, yet.” She laid a hand on Hades’ arm. “If you have any doubts, if anything doesn’t seem right, will you speak to me, let me know?”
“I will do that. I swear.” The room seemed to quiver around them. He had not named the sacred river by which the gods swore their oaths, but they were so near to it as made little difference.
Hekate left to pursue her own affairs. Hades made it rain in the gardens and walked in the rain for a long time.