Kore danced and laughed within the Sun, a Child of Light.
She had always been so. She had no knowledge of the Darkness, being made of light as she was. She was the Sun. Darkness surrounded her but she could not see it, so absorbed in her own light.
She came often to play and laugh with the other Goddesses in the Heavens. On one of these trips, she had an intriguing conversation with her friend Amora.
“Umbra’s the dark one; you want to avoid her.”
Kore frowned in confusion. “Dark?”
“The opposite of light.”
That was strange to the Sun. For her, there was no opposite of light. She could not conceive it.
Amora spoke again. “Juno banished Umbra to the Underworld, to rule over Tyvian, ages ago. Umbra’s still upset about it and comes up here to wreak havoc every once in a while.” Kore’s pretty friend reclined back on her klina, lazily eating some grapes. She did not seem that concerned.
“Who’s Juno?” Kore asked, for she had never met that goddess.
Her friend looked at her incredulously. “Our mother, the Queen of all Goddesses.”
Kore shook her head. “I don’t have a mother. I don’t remember one. All I remember is the Light, since the beginning of life.”
Amora shook her head, and let her gaze travel across the courtyard they sat in. “Juno is your mother. Umbra’s mother too. You don’t remember her because she has so many children, she cannot devote time to any one.”
“Does that mean we’re sisters?” Kore asked, suddenly happy to have a mother she’d never met if it meant she could be sisters with Amora.
Amora smiled, her face shining like the Sun that Kore was. “Of course.”
Amora’s words stayed with Kore, and her curiosity got the better of her. Umbra didn’t sound so dangerous. She decided to pay the ruler of Tyvian a visit.
She dressed in her favourite peplos, strapped up her golden sandals, adorned her neck with a silver necklace and her wrists with copper bangles. She wore a brass ring on her right hand, and she took her walking stick with her.
The trip to the Underworld was long. First she alighted in the Palace of the Heavens, a familiar haunt where hours with Amora had been spent. It was night, and she should have been sleeping — the denizens of the Palace were. Instead she searched the Palace for a doorway, or staircase — something to take her to the earth below.
She found it behind Juno’s throne. A small archway in stone, leading to a staircase. Carefully she descended the uneven stairs, and eventually ended up in a forest.
Now she was truly lost, but undaunted. She set her feet in the direction that felt right and walked onwards, determined to find this Underworld.
After a long time she came upon a cave. She knew this to be the entrance to the Underworld, though she could not say how she knew. Kore ducked as she entered the cave’s mouth and stepped into the expanse beyond. It was pitch black in here, a greater darkness than had existed outside in the nighttime. But Kore herself shone, her bangles clinking together as she walked, and she went forward, knowing no fear.
Soon she came to a Gate. It was guarded by an ugly creature, all fangs and horns and claws, who told her that in order to go on she had to remove her sandals. Kore complied, and she went through the first gate barefoot. When she came to the second gate, she was told to remove her necklace. On through the gates she went, until she was down to her peplos and her walking stick; then her peplos; then nothing at all.
It was then she came to Umbra’s throne room, and stood naked, her unbound red hair brushing her ankles.
Umbra stood, rage suffusing her features. “Who dares intrude on my domain?” she snarled at Kore.
Kore inclined her head. “Forgive me. I am Kore, the sun. I wished for knowledge of the dark.”
Umbra smiled and stepped down from the dais that held her throne. “Then knowledge of the dark you shall have, sister,” she whispered, and Kore felt a great piercing pain in her chest.
Her last sight was Umbra, eating what used to be her heart.
For thirteen days Kore’s body was on display in Umbra’s throne room, shown to all who entered, like a trophy. On the earth, darkness reigned. The sun did not appear; plants and animals died; humans went mad. It grew cold, and soon Juno realised she had to interfere. She travelled to the Underworld herself. With her strength she cast aside the guardians of the gates, and stood fully armored in her daughter’s throne room.
Umbra hissed and spat at her mother. “Is it not enough that you banish me from your realm? You must come and invade all I have left?”
Juno said nothing, and instead picked up Kore’s body, cradling her daughter in her arms. From within her peplos she drew a piece of golden zircon, and it she placed within the hole in Kore’s chest.
Kore’s eyes opened, and the zircon glowed.
Juno smiled sadly. “I’m afraid I cannot restore your innocence along with your life, daughter. Threads of darkness now lie within you. Take up the sword, and train yourself as a warrior to soothe your shadows.”
With that Juno was gone. Kore now faced her twin, a hardness on her face.
Umbra, now with threads of light swimming within her, shivered in fear. “Please don’t kill me, sister.”
Kore smiled. “You made me what I am,” she said. “How could I kill my creator?”