“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. :)
“You have more balls than anyone I know, and that’s saying something since I knew Enkidu,” Courfeyrac says to his brother, clapping a hand on his shoulder.
Enjolras rolls his eyes. “What are you going on about now?”
“You refused to bow to Inanna!” Marius, who is Georges’s son and the young god of reeds (a seemingly minor but important sphere—reeds went into making baskets, roofs, paper, boats, and a great many other useful things), says incredulously. He is staring half in horror and half in admiration at Enjolras.
“I told you, this hierarchy we currently have in place is ridiculous,” Enjolras says, annoyed. “Inanna barely listens to the prayers of her followers these days; I refuse to show her any respect she has not earned.”
“You’ve stopped bowing to Javert,” Courfeyrac points out, fiddling with one of his spears. “Last I checked you still respected him.”
“I nod in acknowledgement,” Enjolras points out.
Bahorel gives a booming laugh and strikes his knee. “And you wonder why we hail you as fearless! You should have been a god of war like your brother and I! Your talents are wasted on plague.”
Enjolras shrugs noncommittally. He is content with his position as a god of death, though not many understand why.
Joly, one of the other minor gods of sickness, looks at him doubtfully. “It’s a miracle Javert hasn’t had you banished.”
Courfeyrac snorts. “No, it’s the doing of our mother. The pantheon still owes her for sending Father to Erkalla, and you know how all the goddesses always side together.”
The young godlings nod in agreement, and talk turns to the goddesses, specifically which ones they long to court. Marius in particular has never made secret his infatuation with Cosette, and Joly and Bossuet are competing for the hand of one of the goddesses of music. Feiully is successfully pressing suit with one of Marius’s many sisters, Jehan is busy fending off his legion of admirers, and Bahorel and Courfeyrac both claim they are too young and wild to settle down just yet.
“And mothers everywhere rejoice,” Jehan quips. He turns his curious gaze on Enjolras. “What of you, O Harbinger of Plague? Have any of the goddesses caught your eye?”
Courfeyrac laughs. “Don’t bother! He’s turned down every goddess of spring and summer, lake and river, city and town that have thrown themselves at him! He’s immovable as marble. And he was so cold to Inanna, I think she’s purposefully spiting him by preventing him from feeling desire.”
Enjolras bites back his angry retort—he knows desire full-well, has dreamt of dark eyes and black hair and dusky skin since his coming-of-age.
You are mine, she’d whispered in his dreams. You belong to me, little one, have belonged to me since before your birth.
And her hands would reach out to trace his skin, her fingertips trailing fire wherever she touched him, from the base of his throat down the planes of his chest, over the muscles of his abdomen and lower, until he was arching up to her in mute ecstasy.
Come to me, she’d said. I am waiting for you.
And he would wake, alone and aching in his bed, certain that no one else would ever measure up.
He says nothing of this to his brother and their friends. They wouldn’t understand. The goddesses they love are real and not just a figment of their own imaginations.
Javert holds a grand festival at the beginning of every year, and all the gods and goddesses are required to attend, from the lowest to the highest, from the most powerful to the half-forgotten.
She is the only exception.
“It’s that time of year again, isn’t it?” she muses.
Grantaire grimaces at her. “Since we just sent that pompous Montparnasse back to the surface world, yes. Spring is come again, the new year is here, and Javert sends his invitation as always.”
Gavroche snorts. “As if our Lady even wants to go to that stupid party. She can have more fun with me and Aurore and the other girls,” he says, referring to his beloved cattle, who graze in the eternal fields of autumn, the grass kept right at the height of life, just when they begin to die. “We throw the best parties.”
Éponine smiles fondly and ruffles his pale yellow hair—though he is no longer the skinny young god she’d taken in so many centuries ago, having grown even taller than Combeferre, Gavroche is still her favorite. “Yes, you do,” she acknowledges, before turning to her other confidantes. “Grantaire—tell Father that I send my regards, but am unfortunately detained. I request that all the gifts and salutations may be given to you in my place, for you are my right hand and my messenger, and you speak with my voice and my will.”
Combeferre chuckles as Grantaire winces. “But the party’s so boring. The minute I arrive everyone has to bow and scrape and pretend as if I’m you so you don’t get angry and turn them into mice,” Grantaire complains.
Éponine rolls her eyes. “That was only the once, and it was years before my self-imposed exile. Are they still going on about it?”
“It was a rather memorable occasion, my Lady,” Combeferre says.
Éponine huffs. “Fine. But I don’t want to go, so you have to because somebody from Erkalla must, or Father gets annoyed.”
“I don’t see why it can’t be Combeferre,” Grantaire grumbles.
Éponine smiles. “Because you like to go and drink all the wine and get all the gifts and generally be fawned over by the pretty young gods and goddesses. Think of all the debauchery you will miss out on if you do not attend.”
Grantaire rolls his eyes. “Fine,” he says in the voice of the long-suffering. “I’ll go.” But there is a smile in his eyes and he bends to press a kiss to her cheek before he leaves to get ready, and Éponine knows he isn’t truly annoyed.
“You didn’t tell him to bring Nergal with him,” Combeferre says quietly once he’s out of sight.
Éponine grimaces. She doesn’t want to think of the god of plague, the god she must claim as a member of her court. “He’s still too young,” she says instead. “Fantine says he hasn’t even tumbled with any of his fellows, or done foolhardy things, or even shirked his duties once. I said I would take him once he’s lived, and he’s done nothing of the sort.”
Gavroche laughs. “He’s had plenty of time to do so, my Lady. Perhaps he’s just not suited to life above? I know I wouldn’t be.”
Combeferre sighs. “Either way, you must take him soon. As a god of death, he’d be better suited here than his brother, and we can hardly keep his sister, not now when she’s been reigning goddess of the moon for centuries. The moon descend permanently into the Underworld? What would the poor humans do? But someone of the same blood must take her place, and it might as well be this Nergal.”
She says nothing in reply. She knows the laws, the binding words, the covenant between her realm and the realm of the living. She knows better than anyone that Combeferre is right.
Still, she thinks of the young boy Grantaire had described, the one with Jean’s chin and Fantine’s smile, and she can’t quite bring herself to order him to leave behind everything he’s ever known and reside in her dark, cold, and forbidding realm.
“A little longer,” she decrees. “Just a little longer. I will send for him next year.”
Combeferre and Gavroche exchange knowing looks—she’d said that the year before, and the year before that, and all the years counting back centuries now.
Time was running out, and Erkalla would have its due.
The new year’s festival is the grandest occasion of the year.
Enjolras doesn’t much like it, but he goes because it’s his duty; he goes because the gods are his people, and though he doesn’t understand them, he still wants to know them, much like how he tries to know his mortals.
Cosette comes up to him and bids him dance with her. He politely refuses and sends a pointed look at Marius. “I’m a little tired sister—here, Marius is free. Take him.”
And take him she does, arms wrapped tight around his waist as they stomp their feet in rhythm with the drums. Courfeyrac, Jehan, and Bahorel are dancing a wild war dance a little further away, and then Inanna rises to join them and it seems as if all the monsters of the Underworld are let loose, the festival growing louder and fiercer and ever more out of control.
“Not your place, is it, my boy?” a voice asks.
Enjolras turns to find Georges observing him intently, a half-smile on his face. “Uncle,” he says, bowing his head in acknowledgment but not moving to stand.
Georges’s eyes crinkle in amusement at the gesture. “You are lucky that Javert likes courage and mistakes your insolence for lack of ambition,” he says. “Though I suppose there is also the fact that you know how to stay out of the godlings’ power struggles.”
Enjolras scoffs. “I have all the power I need, Uncle. There is no reason to play the petty games of my fellows. I like my position as it is.”
“Oh, really?” Georges asks, and Enjolras tenses slightly. The god of air is kind, but he is also very, very clever. “Then why are you here on the edges, just slightly out of place?”
“I choose to be out of place,” Enjolras snaps, temper getting the best of him.
Georges surveys him and sighs. “I do not agree with my brother not telling you of where you belong,” he eventually says.
Enjolras frowns. “What do you speak of, Uncle?”
“I am speaking of the fact that your place is not here. That this is not where you are meant to be. And that the longer you are kept from your rightful place, the more pain will be caused to everyone involved,” he says.
Enjolras narrows his eyes, but before he can question his uncle further, the horns of greeting blast loudly, signaling the newest arrival.
Enjolras scowls, knowing without even turning around that it is the blue-eyed god of fate and Ereshkigal’s damnable representative, Grantaire. He is always the last one to arrive at the festivals.
“Hail, Namtar!” the heralds proclaim, using his formal name. “Hail the right hand of the Queen of the Dead, hail the messenger of the Great Lady Beneath the Earth, hail the voice of She Who Rules Alone!”
And as he makes his way through the crowd, all the gods and goddesses bow before him, falling to their knees as if they were in the very presence of Death herself. They touch lips to the ground, they lower their eyes to the floor, they lift up their hands to him in worship.
Even Inanna grudgingly curtseys, her consort Dumuzi falling prostrate to the ground in fear beside her. Grantaire gives him a nasty smile and watches him whimper before moving on.
He makes his way to the table at the head of the hall, where Javert and Jean sit in council with their mutual consorts, the chair besides Ninhursaga left empty for her husband, Georges.
Javert rises to his feet and bends his head, the King of the Heavens acknowledging that Ereshkigal holds power even over him. Beside him, Jean stands and does the same.
All bow before the goddess of the dead, even if only her shadow is present.
Javert soon steps forward and kisses Grantaire on both cheeks. “Welcome, representative of my daughter. Welcome, beloved of my beloved. Eat at my table, drink from my cup, and rest under my roof—I would have my eldest daughter know that a place is ever prepared for her, should she ever deign to visit in person.”
“Alas, urgent matters detain her,” Grantaire says, not even bothering to hide the sarcasm in his tone. “She sends her regards and her love to you, her father, and to Inanna, that selfish cow that she calls her sister—”
“—oh, whoops, did I say that out loud? My apologies, I meant to say that selfish bitch that she calls her sister,” Grantaire says, deadpan. “Also, she sends salutations to all the gods and goddesses of the pantheon, and hopes that they are well and have not forgotten her. She would be happy to turn them into mice if their memories need refreshing.”
Everyone flinches around him, except for the elder gods and goddesses, those who knew Death as a girl and Fate as a boy, and know their ways even now that they are grown into their strength.
Beside Enjolras, Georges outright laughs, and Grantaire turns to face him, mocking expression transforming into a wide, mischievous grin.
“Why, if it isn’t Uncle Georges! I’m surprised to see you here,” he says, striding forward to meet the older god.
Georges bows deeply when he reaches him, then sweeps him into a hug. “Grantaire! It is good to see you! How fares my favorite niece?”
“She fares well, in fact she—” Grantaire cuts off and the room goes utterly silent
Enjolras takes a few moments to realize that it’s because they’re all staring in horror at him, casually leaning back in his seat.
“Will you not kneel, nephew?” Javert says, breaking the eerie silence, his voice carefully controlled in the way that indicated his anger was starting to rouse. “Your liege lady stands before you.”
“I do not see Ereshkigal here,” Enjolras answers. “I see no one worthy enough to bend knee to. I see only a god, just like any other god, no greater than the rest. No, Uncle, I will not bow.”
Javert growls low in his throat, but Grantaire holds up a hand to forestall him. “Peace, Uncle. I think I know this young man—are you not Nergal, son Enlil, son of Ninlil, brother of Sin, brother of Ninurta, Harbinger of Plague, Bringer of Oblivion, and a god of death?”
“I am,” Enjolras answers.
“And you think you are equal to me, Namtar, god of fate, Right Hand of Death, Voice of the End, and He Who Sees the Last?” Grantaire asks.
Enjolras looks him in the eye. “I do not know. Shall we find out?” he says, issuing words of challenge to another god for the first time in his life.
“Enjolras, no!” Cosette cries out. She moves to stand in front of him and curtseys deeply. “He does not mean it—he means no disrespect to your Lady—”
“I mean no kind of respect to her at all,” Enjolras interrupts, a fey kind of wrath taking him over. He has never liked Grantaire, and likes Ereshkigal even less—she seems to have less concern for the humans in her care than even her sister, and Enjolras will never bow to anyone who does not help the helpless. “Since she shows no respect to me or any other gods, mocking us with her very absence, and refuses to even visit her temples and hear the pleas of her worshippers, I see no reason to—”
“Enjolras, shut up,” Cosette hisses.
But it is too late.
“You dare,” Grantaire says, “you dare insult my Lady, after everything she has done for you—”
“She has done nothing for me or anyone,” Enjolras states coldly. “Not since she locked herself away in Erkalla and turned her back on the world.”
Grantaire snarls and moves to strike, his normally uncaring persona moved to action.
Enjolras moves to meet him, but before they collide, someone’s hands whip out and smack them both in the forehead.
“Foolish young bucks,” Georges says, voice calm and amused. “This is a celebration, and no place for a fight.” He turns to the gawking crowd. “Musicians, if you please? Dancers, if you like? My dear friends, carry on.”
Everyone knows better than to refuse the god of water, the god of change and chaos. The music began again, the dancers took their places, and everyone studiously ignored the vignette taking place in the corner.
Well, everyone except Javert and Enjolras’s family.
“What were you thinking?” Cosette whispers furiously, poking him in the side. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?”
“Enjolras could take him,” Courfeyrac answers, eyes bright from the battlelust still circulating in the room. “I think he’s stronger than Grantaire—”
“That is not the point,” their father says sternly. He turns disappointed eyes on his eldest son. “We taught you better than this.”
For the first time that night, Enjolras feels shame curl in his belly. He never meant to let his parents down. “Father—”
“Not now,” Fantine says. “I think Georges has worked out an agreement.”
And indeed, he has.
“Were you challenging Ereshkigal, or were you challenging Grantaire?” he asks as he walks up to them.
“Grantaire,” Enjolras says.
Georges nods. “Good, good.”
“How is that good?” Fantine demands. “My son has challenged the representative of his own liege lady!”
“Well, since she is his liege lady, Javert doesn’t actually have jurisdiction—which is good because he was about two seconds from sentencing him to exile. Now, however, Grantaire is heading back and reporting to Ereshkigal, and my lovely niece will decide what is to happen to you.” He smiles wryly. “I hope Fate has mercy on you, because Death certainly won’t.’
“What do you think she’ll do?” Cosette asks, worried.
Georges exchanges knowing looks with Jean, who seems to slump forward, resignation written in every line of his body. “She’ll call in her debt,” he says, absolute certainty in his words. “She’ll call you to her judgment. She will summon you to Erkalla.”
Enjolras feels a deep sense of fore-boding wedded to finality, as if he’d been waiting to hear those words all his life.
Come to me, his dream-lover’s voice whispered in his mind.
I am waiting for you.