Part 3: Coroebus’ Kismet
The shadows deepened as Cassandra stood at the shore of a riverbank, and watched the moon sway on the black surface of the water. She wondered if the moon goddess watched over them, hovering over the distant mountains when Arisbe approached and asked the Trojan Princess how they would proceed.
After a moment, Cassandra instructed Calchas to secure the horses, and start a fire. Calchas then proceeded to retrieve tents from their saddlebags as Arisbe began to prepare a stew. They ate a little, and sat around the fire to keep warm.
Arisbe asked Calchas if he had ever been to the Temple of the Mother Goddess on Mount Ida. The old priest, however, confessed that he had never set foot in a temple beyond the walls of Troy.
“I’m a servant of Apollo. Until now, I have had no business in a temple of a goddess.” Said Calchas.
Cassandra stared blankly into the fire, and her mind wandered as the orange glow reminded her of the Sun god. She had stood near the spring where she had planned to bathe, wearing a thin, blue tunic when a flash of lightning flickered behind her. She felt a strange presence. Tingles rushed her spine.
Cautiously, she turned and saw a tall figure stand before her. It was he. Apollo. And he was naked!
Cassandra froze, her eyes focused on his broad, golden chest, before she looked up at the handsome, riveting features of his face. Her mouth dry, Cassandra remained silent as she stepped into his embrace; beckoned by an unknown desire that burned within her heart. He had whispered her name into her ear when he held her, and tenderly kissed her frontal lobe. She felt safe in his embrace; his strong arms held her as if he would never let go.
She quivered as every inch of his impeccant body pressed intimately against her own. He cupped her cheeks in his large hands and tilted her head up to meet his penetrating stare. Cassandra had gazed into his iridescent hazel eyes that had hypnotized her, and stared into her soul.
The heat of his presence permeated her faltering resistance, beckoning her with intense, concupiscent longing that weakened her knees.
Then, impassioned, demanding lips claimed her own. She caught her breath. She’d never kissed a man; much less a god, and she felt a stirring in her soul. Instinctively, Cassandra wrapped her arms around his broad and muscular shoulders. And all the while, he ravished her mouth and bewitched her senses.
Apollo’s hands roamed along her lower back before they slid around her hips, as he pressed his priapic presence against her lower abdomen.
It had felt like an age since he’d last experienced a woman’s touch. So long since he’d fallen victim to the poisoned arrows of love.
At first, Cassandra savored the sweet taste of honey that dripped from his lips. Her yearning intensified with a mixture of fear as she felt his manhood pulse against her body. But as he lifted her thin, blue tunic, she pulled away from his embrace.
Not like this!
“My lady?” Arisbe whispered.
Cassandra woke with a start, and observed the inquietude that filled Arisbe’s eyes. They had heard movement among the shadows, but whether it was a lion or a wild boar they did not know.
Calchas hid in his tent and left the two women to the fate of the night. Cassandra brandished the sword her mother gave her and called out to Calchas.
“I am a priest, not a warrior.” He said.
“You are a coward.” Said Cassandra, and she motioned Arisbe to stand behind her when they heard another sound in the brush.
“That sword, alone, won’t be enough to protect you against great numbers.” Said a deep masculine voice.
“Reveal yourself!” Demanded Cassandra.
The man emerged from the shadows. The orange glow of the fire reflected in his eyes when he paused and looked down at her curiously. His wavy, brown hair fell to his shoulders and framed his handsome face. Dark brown eyebrows curved over his large brown eyes that studied and admired her.
“Identify yourself.” Said Cassandra.
But when he did not answer she stepped forward, pointing her sword at his chest, and informed him that she was a princess of Troy.
He gazed into her bright blue eyes, his face stoic and impressed. “You are a long way from home. What is a princess of Troy doing alone in these parts?”
“That is not your concern. Who are you?” Said Cassandra.
“When you roam through my lands, unannounced, it becomes my concern.” He paused as a group of his men emerged from the darkness. “I am Coroebus, son of King Mygdon of Phrygia. Our fathers are allies, so it baffles me that notice had not been sent by King Priam of your journey.”
Cassandra remained silent.
“Speak, woman. What is your business in Phrygia?” Said Coroebus.
“Don’t say woman to me in that tone of voice,” said Cassandra. “I am not your wife, nor your concubine. I am a princess of Troy, and my business is my own. Honor the alliance between our kingdoms, and we shall leave your land by morning.”
The corners of Coroebus’ mouth twitched. She displayed a passionate disposition as untamed as her fiery red hair.
“Perhaps we should escort her back to your father’s kingdom, and send word to King Priam that we have located his daughter?” Suggested one of Coroebus’ men.
“No!” Said Arisbe.
Cassandra turned and shot Arisbe a penetrating stare.
Coroebus tilted his head. “Gods. It appears we have struck a nerve.”
Cassandra turned to Coroebus and in that instant she realized that he was tall and powerful, and if he wished, he could have had his way with her, and she would be impuissant to stop him.
A tremor of anxiety reverberated through her, but her instincts told her that he could be trusted.
“We must speak alone.” Said Cassandra.
Coroebus contemplated her suggestion. He looked into her troubled, bright blue eyes, and searched for the source of her swivet. Finally, he shrugged his broad shoulders and instructed his men to remain at a distance while he, sat with Cassandra and Arisbe by the fire. Eventually, Calchas emerged from his tent and sat beside them to hear Cassandra’s words.
“We are here tonight, because of a prophecy revealed to my mother nineteen years ago.”
Coroebus shifted in his seat, and Arisbe pulled her cloak tighter around her body.
“Two nights before my mother gave birth to my twin brother, Paris, and me, she dreamt that Troy burned. Aesacus interpreted the dream, and my father decided to leave Paris exposed on Mount Ida. He was found, and spared, by Agelaus who raised Paris as his own son.”
Coroebus’ men silently approached the fire to hear the tale despite Cassandra’s request for privacy.
“My brother remained on Mount Ida for seventeen years, and knew nothing of his royal pedigree until he arrived in Troy, and I recognized him as my brother. Though, truth be told, I do not know how I knew who he was, since I had never been told of his existence.”
“How did King Priam and Queen Hecuba react to his presence?” Coroebus asked.
“When I declared that he was my brother, and told my parents that I had often seen him in my dreams as a child, they were forced to confess the truth to us, and accepted him into our home.”
“Did anyone not wonder why he returned?” Coroebus asked.
“My father believed that it was the will of the gods.” Said Cassandra. “And I knew this to be true when other visions came to me during our time together.”
“Visions?” Said Coroebus, suspiciously.
Cassandra considered her next words carefully. She felt inclined to divulge her encounters with Apollo, and how the Sun god first revealed himself to her prior to Paris’ return. But she remembered that with the gift of prophecy, bestowed upon her by Apollo, came the curse that none would believe her, and she would be thought mad.
“Paris’ return marked the fulfillment of the prophecy. Now he journey’s to Sparta to claim the prize that Aphrodite promised him, and he has dismissed my warnings that his actions will lead to the fall of Troy.”
“What prize?” Said Coroebus.
“Aphrodite promised him the love of the most beautiful woman on Earth, Helen of Sparta, and if he returns with her, he will bring the wrath of Greece with her.”
“So you wish to flee your city, rather than stand and fight?” Asked one of Coroebus’ soldiers.
“No!” Cassandra stood and faced him. “I journey to Mount Ida to seek the assistance of the Mother Goddess in preventing this great tragedy.”
“What assurances do you have that the Mother Goddess will assist you?” Said Coroebus.
“I have none, but still, I must try.” Said Cassandra. “I cannot permit my brother to bring forth the destruction of our city for the sake of his desire.”
“But to prevent your brother from claiming his prize, is to undermine the will of the goddess, Aphrodite.” Said Coroebus.
“Then, so be it!” Said Cassandra.
“You do not wish to make an enemy of Aphrodite.” Said Coroebus.
“By granting my brother the wife of one of the most powerful kings of Greece, knowing the result would bring the largest fleet that ever sailed across the Aegean to make war with my people…” Cassandra said, meeting his eyes with a hard stare. “She has already made an enemy of me.”
Rising slowly to his feet, Coroebus stared at Cassandra. He admired her courage, and respected her resolve. Despite her polemical position, he was drawn to her, and he decided that regardless of the punishment that would come down from the gods, he would accompany her on her journey.
She refused his offer. “I cannot endanger the lives of you and your men on an expedition against the gods.”
“As your allies, it is our duty to stand beside you, regardless of the enemy.” Said Coroebus.
“Speak for yourself, Lord Coroebus. I do not wish to incur the wrath of the gods, namely that of Aphrodite.” Said one of Coroebus’ soldiers.
“Gordias has a point.” Said another soldier. “Aphrodite has a notoriously fierce temper.”
“It is a perilous ploy to take action against that which Aphrodite wishes to see come to fruition.” Said Gordias. “It would be prudent to remember the legend of Hippolytus and Phaedra.”
“What legend?” Said Cassandra.
Coroebus reclaimed his seat beside the fire. Cassandra too sat beside him, and his men approached to hear the disturbing legend of unrequited love.
Hippolytus, son of Theseus the founder-king of Athens, returned to the home of his father when he had reached manhood; he had grown into a handsome and athletic young man. To the displeasure of Aphrodite, he worshipped Artemis, and many believe that that had been the source of his misfortune.
A strong bond grew between father and son, and much to Theseus’ delight, his wife, Phaedra, grew fond of her stepson. She saw in Hippolytus a young man endowed with the qualities of his father, and of an age corresponding to her own. Soon, however, Phaedra’s fondness morphed into an unquenchable desire, but Hippolytus took no notice of her.
She turned to Aphrodite, and had confessed her undying love for Hippolytus. Phaedra had revealed that thoughts of her stepson had consumed her days, and longing left her nights empty despite the presence of her infatuated husband. Phaedra believed that Theseus merely married her for her beauty, and not out of romantic cacoethes. She divulged that when she bathed, she imagined Hippolytus’ hands caressing her body, as gently as the water; and regardless of her sensibilities, she could not conquer the love that overwhelmed her with shame.
The goddess of love agreed to appease her heart, and waited until Theseus was away from home. But her efforts proved futile when Hippolytus dismissed Aphrodite and incurred her wrath.
Unbeknownst to all, Hippolytus took no notice of women, and the love of any woman disgusted him. Much to his dismay, when Phaedra’s nurse pleaded with him to open his heart, he was horrified and abhorred Phaedra’s love for him. He withdrew with loathing, and in furious indignation expressed that women filled him with revulsion.
So distraught at the idea of betraying his father, he fled from his father’s home and vowed never to return, save for when Theseus would be present.
Rejected and crestfallen, Phaedra asked her nurse to abandon all hope for love, and with melancholic tears she went about to settle her affairs. Her secret passion led to despair, and when Theseus returned he found Phaedra dead with a letter in her hand.
Upon reading the letter, stained with tears and blood, Theseus announced that his son had laid violent hands on Phaedra that led to her death. Angry, and grief-stricken, Theseus summoned Poseidon and imprecated one of the three wishes granted to him by the God of the Sea.
Hippolytus argued his innocence, swearing upon Zeus that he had never touched his father’s wife, had never possessed a desire for her, and never gave her a second thought. Theseus, however, rejected his son’s claims and sent him into exile. And though Hippolytus could have proven his incorruptibility, he maintained his vow of silence to Phaedra’s nurse, and never named her as his source of information.
He departed from his father’s home, but when he reached the shores of the sea, death rose from the waters to claim him at the behest of Poseidon.
Theseus would have remained blind to the facts had Artemis not appeared before him and told him the truth. Hippolytus had then been carried back into the home of the king, and the goddess, Artemis Kalliste, permitted Theseus the privilege of holding his son one last time.
Before Artemis and Hippolytus vanished from sight, the goddess revealed to Theseus that it was not he who killed his son. She exposed Aphrodite as the true culprit, and vowed that she would avenge the death of her favored devotee on a follower of the goddess of love.
“Even with the knowledge of these events, Coroebus, you still wish to embark on a journey to challenge the will of Aphrodite?” Said Gordias. The other soldiers murmured in agreement.
“Your men are right.” Said Cassandra. “This is too great a risk for you and your people—“
“Lady Cassandra,” Coroebus interrupted. “My men may return to their homes at first light. I will not ask them to die for a cause that they do not believe in.” He turned to his men and instructed them to choose their own path, as he would not command them to accompany him on this quest.
Coroebus then turned to Cassandra, the princess of Troy with eyes as blue as sapphire, and hair as red as a sunset. Never before had a woman impressed him with her courage, and her determination to save the people she loved in the face of insurmountable odds. All others had waited in expectation for someone else to solve their problems.
But not this one…
She was different.
He studied her momentarily. Her fair skin appeared to glow against the moonlight. She possessed a lovely innocence and a spark of feistiness that enchanted him, and he knew that it was his destiny to walk with her into the darkness.
“Lady Cassandra, I, Coroebus, son of King Mygdon of Phrygia, am at your service, and will follow you to the ends of the Earth.”