“You will be the death of me,” he whispers.
Silly boy, she thinks. I am the death of everyone.
É/E Mythological AU for sassymontparnassy, who is a damn fine classy lady. :)
Everything in italics is a long-ass author’s note. Feel free to skip if you have sufficient knowledge of the myth this is based on. Also, there is going to be smut later, so if you cannot handle it, turn around now. (This is a fic for Katy, what did you think was going to be in it? O.o)
Okay, this fic is loosely based on the Mesopotamian myth of Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld, and Nergal, her consort and the god of plagues. The title refers to the fact that Mesopotamia means “land between rivers,” specifically the Tigris and Euphrates.
Like in many mythologies, Mesopotamian family trees are super-complicated, with several different versions, gods’ and goddesses’ names changing upon assimilation into the pantheon, only fragmentary accounts left behind, etc., etc. So here is a quick character chart to tell you who is who (and who does what) in this universe before we get started (do not worry, I will use French names in the story after the initial token introduction, and we’ll pretend it’s not a gaping plot hole):
Éponine = Ereshkigal, goddess of the land of the dead.
Enjolras = Nergal, god of plagues.
Azelma = Inanna, goddess of sex, fertility, and war (but not marriage ;)). Younger sister of Ereshkigal (in most versions of the myths).
Montparnasse = Dumuzi, Inanna’s consort, god of the spring, whom she had replace her in the underworld when she tries to usurp her sister, Ereshkigal. Their myth is similar to the Hades, Demeter, and Persephone myth of Greek mythology and explains the changing of the seasons.
Javert = Anu, god of the sky (and order ;)), head honcho of the pantheon, first part of Mesopotamia’s Big Three power hierarchy, and for the purposes of this story, Éponine/Ereshkigal and Azelma/Inanna’s dad.
Jean Valjean = Enlil, god of air, husband of Ninlil/Fantine, and father of Sin/Cosette, Ninurta/Courfeyrac, and Nergal/Enjolras. Second part of Mesopotamia’s Big Three power hierarchy.
Fantine = Ninlil, goddess of grain, wife of Enlil, and mother of Sin, Ninurta, and Nergal.
Cosette = Sin (pronounced “seen”), god of the moon, though here he has been turned into a she. Sister of Ninurta and Nergal.
Courfeyrac = Ninurta, god of war. Brother of Sin and Nergal.
Georges Pontmercy = Enki, god of water, created humans, helped them survive the flood, all-around cool guy. Mentor to Ninurta, helps Nergal. Third part of Mesopotamia’s Big Three power hierarchy.
Marius = Ningal, goddess of the reeds (but again, she’s been genderbent, and we’re going to ignore the fact that her name (and therefore Marius’s) translates to “great lady”), consort to Sin/Cosette, daughter of Enki/Georges Pontmercy.
Grantaire = Namtar, god of fate, right-hand man of Éponine/Ereshkigal.
Combeferre = Neti, gatekeeper and scribe of the underworld, left-hand man of Éponine/Ereshkigal.
Gavroche = Sumuqan, god of cattle, who apparently lives in the underworld. (His favorite cow is named Aurore. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. And yes, I tracked down a random underworld god just so I could stick Gavroche in the fic. He is my favorite character. He pops up in all my stories, even if it’s just a name-drop. :D)
For more information, this site is useful: http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sitchin/mesopotamian_gods.htm (And personally, trying to figure out who’s related to who on Wikipedia will be painful. But go ahead if you want to.)
If you have any questions, message me and watch me fangirl.
And now have some story:
They call her Ereshkigal, Great Lady Under the Earth. Goddess of the Dead. Queen of the Land Far Beneath the Heavens.
They call her She Who Rules Alone, and she smiles.
What is loneliness to her? She has ruled Erkalla, land of the dead, for a thousand years, and she will rule for a thousand more, and even the great Inanna has fallen to her knees and touched lips to the ground in her presence.
She knows her worth and she bows to no one.
The name she calls herself is Éponine. She takes it from a dream, from a whisper from the future, from a half-forgotten story, and she gives it only to those whom she trusts. Only to those whom she loves.
She can count the number of voices who have shaped her secret name on two hands and still have fingers left over.
She does not trust easily. She loves even less so.
When Anu (known to the gods as Javert, but Éponine calls him Father) divides the world up between his followers and his children, he keeps the heavens for himself. He gives ever-moving water to mischievous Enki, life-giving air to gentle Enlil, and the whole of the land to the goddesses.
Javert is wise—earth may be soft, yielding, and fertile, but only on the surface. Beneath, it is iron, it is stone, it is the backbone of the world, and the goddesses are pleased with his choice.
To wild, tempestuous, beautiful Inanna, who walks with a sway in her hips and fire in her eyes, he also gives the city of Uruk, the Morningstar, and the title of defender of the law.
Love and lust and warfare she will take for herself, trailing broken hearts and broken cities behind her like the scattered flower blossoms Éponine used to braid in her hair.
She is Javert’s favorite daughter—the one he calls Azelma, the syllables dripping like honey from his lips, sweet as he believes her to be.
To Éponine, he gives Erkalla, the land beneath the land, the lowest of the low, and the gods murmur amongst themselves of how little favor he shows to his eldest child. But Éponine takes it and she smiles, because of all his children, she is the only one precious enough to be granted a realm unto herself, Queen of the Land Beneath as he is King of the Heavens Above.
She is not his favorite, but she is still loved.
Once Azelma and Éponine were close as could be; once they were sisters in truth and in heart, not just in blood and name and law.
Then Azelma fell in love with a green-eyed god of spring, the shepherd king Dumuzi, called Montparnasse. She invited him to her bed, and willingly he went, and for a while it seemed contentment had at last ensnared the goddess of desire.
But Éponine came to her sister’s house, a smile on her lips and rare fruits in her hands, and Dumuzi took one look at her and fell in lust.
Azelma saw, and instead of turning her wrath upon her lover, she plotted against her sister.
She visited Éponine in turn, flirting with Neti, the gatekeeper (known as Combeferre to Éponine), and bringing empty hands and a laugh in her throat and betrayal hidden in her dark, sultry eyes.
She asked her sister for hounds for hunting. Éponine gave them to her. She asked her sister for the finest robes for clothing. Éponine gave them to her. She asked for glittering jewels to adorn her body. Éponine gave them to her.
She bade her sister rise, “that I might embrace you for your generous gifts.”
Éponine rose, and Azelma struck, throwing her to the ground and placing herself upon her sister’s throne.
But Éponine was the goddess of the dead and the dying, of last rites and crushed dreams, of the end of stories, and of things that were no more, and a goddess of life and lust and vibrancy could never hope to hold her throne and take her power.
Azelma begged for mercy, and angry though she was, Éponine would have given it to her if she could, but the Underworld is a place of sacrifice and justice, and the scales needed to be balanced. The punishment must be met.
“Ask Montparnasse to take your place,” Éponine advises. “He loves you. It will only be for half a year.”
“Why? So you can have him? I knew you were jealous!” Azelma spits out. “I knew you had lain with him behind my back! Traitor! You are no sister of mine!”
Éponine leaves her in the pits of punishment with a broken heart, and she sends Namtar, the god of fate (known to her as Grantaire—known to her as friend), to Javert. Javert sends unfaithful Montparnasse to Éponine to take his lover’s place, and the green-eyed god has the audacity to smirk at her and say it was only a matter of time before she succumbed to his charms.
He expects to be treated like a king, like her consort.
Éponine wraps him in chains and imprisons him in the deepest, darkest part of her kingdom, and she would keep him there for all of the year instead of half, but Azelma wants her lover back, and Éponine has never been able to say no to her sister.
Her sister finds it easy to say no to her, though, and she is unwelcome in the only place she ever considered home in the upper world.
Éponine vows to never step foot in it again, and keeps to Erkalla—she has Grantaire and Combeferre and even young Sumuqan, the god of cattle, who insists on being called Gavroche, to keep her company. They will never betray her, and she will keep them safe in her realm, in the domain she calls home.
They will be her family now.
Decades later, Combeferre comes to her, a frown on his face and worry in his eyes.
“A god is at the gate,” he says to her. “What do you want me to do?”
She rises from her throne (cold and uncomfortable, but it is hers and she loves it even now when it bears her bloodstain on the left arm, from when Azelma had struck her) and goes to meet him.
It is Enlil.
She blinks as he bows and smiles wryly at her. “Ereshkigal, it is good to see you.”
“I wish I could say the same, Uncle,” she says sardonically, surveying the whip marks on his skin.
He grins and shrugs.
“So, what are you doing here in my fair realm?” she asks, blunt as always.
Enlil drops his hazel-eyed gaze to the floor. “Tholomyès told the other gods about Fantine and I,” he says softly. “He saw us on the banks of the river. He claims I raped her.”
Éponine swears under her breath. “Damn it. Her mother sided with him? And of course you didn’t defend yourself, did you?”
“Tholomyès would have been executed for lying,” he explains gently. “I have merely been banished to the Underworld—not a terrible fate if you think about it, not when its ruler is as good a woman as I have ever met.”
“You will give me a puffed-up ego,” she tells him, but she has Grantaire prepare rooms for him, and their nightly feasts have an additional guest at the table.
It does not last long, of course.
“Where is my husband?” Ninlil—Enlil’s Fantine—demands. The goddess of grain has shorn her hair in the style of mourning, and her cheekbones stand out sharp against her pale skin. “I want you to give him back!”
From behind her, Grantaire gives Éponine a disgruntled look. “Don’t blame me,” he says. “Combeferre’s the one who let her in, and now she won’t leave.”
“I refuse to leave without Jean!” the goddess decrees, and Éponine feels her brows lift in surprise at the possessive, casual use of Enlil’s private name. Her uncle really did love this one, didn’t he?
Grantaire just grabs a goblet of wine from the table and downs it. “Your problem now, boss,” he says, leaving her alone to deal with a very angry goddess.
She loves him, but Grantaire could be such a headache.
It takes some time and some trickery (Jean is being particularly stubborn and martyr-like as usual), but the two are reunited and soon sent on their way.
There are some consequences, though—Fantine gives birth to a daughter in the Underworld, and a citizen of Erkalla may not leave without another taking their place.
“Send me the next one,” Éponine says, holding little Cosette (she will be Sin, goddess of the moon, She Who Brightens the Night, but here and now she is just a little thing—just Cosette). “You may take your time about it, though. Let them live—I will take them when they’re ready.”
“Thank you, Éponine,” Jean says (he has earned the right to say her name, these months as one of her companions). “We won’t forget this.”
Éponine nods. And I won’t forget you, she thinks to herself, but she doesn’t say it aloud, merely cuddles Cosette closer.
From the hug Fantine gives her, she thinks it’s obvious anyway.
Enjolras is his parents’ middle child, born between smiling Cosette and friendly Courfeyrac, and a rather more serious counterpart to them both, despite the bright golden color of his hair.
His childhood is a happy one, and he grows up as kind and good-hearted as his parents might have wished, if sterner than Jean and even more short-tempered than Fantine.
He takes great care and interest in the lives of mortals—his mother is the goddess of grain, his father the god of water, both essential to life, and their worshippers are numerous and dedicated.
Upon reaching their majority, Cosette is made goddess of the moon, She Who Brightens the Night, She Who Darkens the Stars. Courfeyrac is made god of war, Champion of the Heavens, Defender of Victory.
Enjolras asks to be made the god of plagues.
“Why?” his mother asks, perplexed.
“So I may be by the mortals’ side when they suffer,” is his answer. And there will be suffering regardless, but he wishes to make it as painless as possible.
And so Enjolras is made a god of death, Harbinger of Plague, Bringer of Oblivion.
There is a visitor at their joint coming-of-age ceremony that has their parents talking to each other in low whispers and secrets.
The man is dark-haired, blue-eyed, and reeks of drink. He introduces himself as Grantaire, god of fate, messenger of doom, and all-around right-hand man of the Queen of the Underworld.
“Is she as terrifying as they say?” Cosette asks, eyes wide and eager.
“More,” Grantaire says with a grin.
“I hear she’s as ugly as her sister is beautiful,” Courfeyrac says.
Grantaire rolls his eyes. “She’s twice as beautiful as that skinny little weasel could ever hope to be.”
Enjolras sits in the corner and keeps writing on his scroll, ignoring the conversation. He doesn’t like the way their visitor looks at him, something calculating and expectant and altogether knowing in his gaze.
The visitor leaves soon after, bearing a message from Enjolras’s father and a hug from his mother, the latter instructing him “to give it to your Lady as soon as you see her. And tell her thank you.”
“She can’t put it off forever,” Grantaire says warningly, “but she’ll do it as long as she can. It helps that his domain is under her jurisdiction.” He shoots a pointed look at Enjolras.
Enjolras can feel his hands clench into fists at his sides and glares obstinately back.
Fantine smacks the back of his head. “Be respectful!” she says, frowning. “Grantaire is the representative of Ereshkigal herself; treat him with the same respect you would treat her.”
Enjolras grudgingly bows, and his siblings follow suit, and finally the man leaves with a casual wave.
Enjolras soon forgets about him and his cryptic words, but his parents never do.
They know they’re on borrowed time, and no matter how much she cares for them, the goddess of death always collects on the debts owed her.
He is slightly…worrying to the other gods.
“It’s as if he doesn’t know his place,” Thénardier says to Georges, the latter known as Enki to the mortals, the god of water, of culture, of cleverness.
Georges smiles. “Let him be; he’s young. Were we not the same, just as arrogant and foolhardy? He will grow out of it.”
Except he doesn’t. He simply grows more and more stubborn in his beliefs. He is always just and terrible when dealing with the mortals, but he is still kinder than a god of death usually is. He does not indulge in the games of dominance the young gods play; he does not accept the coy invitations of the young goddesses to share their beds; he does not clamor over himself to court favor with Javert, or gain the approval of Georges, or, even more shockingly, draw the eye of Azelma.
The goddess of lust sees him as a personal challenge, and takes it as an insult when he refuses her advances. The only thing that saves him is that Fantine is his mother and Cosette his older sister; had anyone messed with their beloved Enjolras, they would be sent packing to Erkalla with no hope of return. Still, Azelma manages to turn the rest of the court against him in her spite.
Enjolras doesn’t mind. He thinks it’s stupid anyway, and shortly after stops bowing in deference to any god whatsoever.
This bumps him up from slightly worrying to downright alarming.