The Romantic on The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Love in the Age of Heroes: Ubiquitous Legends of Unrequited Love (3rd Installment)

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.”

To be continued…

Friday, December 14, 2012

Love in the Age of Heroes: Ubiquitous Legends of Unrequited Love (2nd Installment)

Part 2: Queen Hecuba's Contrivance

The chamber was dark, save for the sunlight falling in through the window. Cassandra watched from a tower of high-walled Troy as her brothers prepared to embark on their journey across the Aegean to Sparta. She always admired Hector’s bravery, and Paris’ honesty in judgment, and she worried that they sailed to their doom. When the door opened, Cassandra remained still as her servants bowed and shrank into the shadows.

     “Leave us.” Said Queen Hecuba.

     The maid servants scurried out of the chamber, the last pulled the door closed behind her.

     “Hector came to me with word of that which troubles your mind.” Said the Queen.

     “It is not only my mind, mother, but my heart.” Cassandra said, and lowered her eyes.

     “Come, my dear Cassandra,” she said, and led her to a bench. Hecuba sat beside her and leaned forward to hold her daughter’s hand.

     “Everyone believes I have gone mad.” Said Cassandra.

     “We both know that is not true.” Hecuba reassured her.

     Cassandra looked up at her mother, and saw the empathy in her deep blue eyes. Her auburn hair had been drawn back smoothly from her brow and fell in gentle waves over her shoulders.

     “I went to father, but he will not listen. Hector and Paris are about to leave for Sparta and—“

     “Men have a tendency to believe what they want to believe when it suits them.” Said the Queen.

     Cassandra scoffed.

     Hecuba brandished a sword from the folds of her robe, and admired the weapon before placing the hilt in her daughter’s hand. She shared with her daughter the memory of her own father’s tribe, and how the women trained like the men with sword and spear. She longed for the days when she wielded a sword and walked among her people like a lioness, a warrior-queen.

     Now, she lived as the consort to a king. A queen’s place is in the palace. She mused with resentment. Despite wielding great power during her husband’s presence on the battlefield, she felt that her status as a woman had been diminished to placate the pride of men.

     When she had chosen to marry a man from a land beyond her own borders, she had consented to his domination; she had accepted his gods, because he was her husband and she loved him. This time, however, she would not stand idly by and permit her children to be pawns for the gods.

“Three years ago, when you first saw your brother, you knew who he was. Did you not?” Hecuba asked.

“Yes, but no one believed me when I said that—“

“I know.” The Queen interrupted. “I believed you then, just as I believe you now.”

Hecuba spoke of Hermes, the Messenger of the Gods, who had come to her with a dark omen prior to the birth of her twins, Paris and Cassandra. She recounted the nightmare of her son, crawling with snakes and burning like a torch, a fire that consumed all of Troy. The Queen knew that the prophecy foretold by Aesacus, after he interpreted her dream, and Cassandra’s visions were one in the same.

When King Priam insisted that they not challenge the will of the gods, Hecuba questioned his blind devotion at the expense of his own child’s life. She knew that the gods intended to see Troy fall, but felt in her heart that not all stood in accordance with this fate.

Although Hera, the wife of Zeus, would not intervene directly, because Paris had insulted her when he thought Aphrodite more beautiful than she, Hecuba remembered Hera’s vengeance. Perhaps, if Cassandra shed light on another of Zeus’ infidelities then she would be inclined to unleash her wrath again.

“If you are to prevent this tragedy, then you must leave immediately!” Said the Queen.

They stood, and walked to the center of the chamber. Queen Hecuba summoned one of her servants, and helped Cassandra hide the sword in the folds of her robe.

“When you need this, wield it just as I have taught you.” Said the Queen.

Cassandra nodded.

Hecuba instructed Arisbe to help Cassandra depart the city in secret, and to take her to the shrine of the Mother Goddess on Mount Ida.

“Leave an offering, and pray that the goddess will grant you an audience.” Said the Queen.

They exited the chamber and raced to Cassandra’s quarters to pack the necessities for their journey. In hushed a tone, Hecuba revealed to Cassandra the betrayal that she should present to the Mother Goddess.

“Shall I summon a guard to accompany us, my lady?” Arisbe asked.

“No!” Hecuba said. “My daughter is aptly capable of protecting herself. I have taught her well.”

Cassandra smiled at her mother. She had always believed Hecuba to be the most queenly and beautiful woman in the world, and to know that her mother held her in such high regard filled her with pride.

“Men find it difficult to keep their mouths shut. I will not endanger this plan by divulging its details to a soldier who would just as easily repeat it to one of my husband’s personal guard.”

As Arisbe led Cassandra through the crowded market, pulling the hoods of their cloaks close to their necks, they arrived at a shrine of Apollo. Arisbe requested a moment to make an offering to the god of light that also had the epithet, Alexicacus, the protector.

“Given the dangers that lie beyond the walls of Troy, we may yet need his blessings, my lady.”

Cassandra looked upon his statue, and recognized him as he had once appeared before her. She had wandered along an unknown path, on the mountainside, to bathe in a private spring, and ponder her destiny. She’d had many suitors, but never had she felt love. Too often they praised her beauty, but seldom did any of her would-be lovers inquire about her interests and her passions. No man had previously inspired any desire in her heart, until she met him.

His bronze skin complemented those penetrating hazel eyes that she was certain looked into her soul. His brown curls framed his handsome face, and before she could demand to know his name, and insist that he not take another step towards her, he smiled. His sensuous lips curved slightly, displaying a set of dimples that carved half-moons into his handsome face, and softened her stance. He approached her slowly, like a lion stalking his prey, and when he emerged from behind the bushes, he was naked. His body was sleek, lean, and immaculate. He resembled the statues that depicted him as the ideal “kouros,” a beardless, athletic youth.

She glanced again into his hazel eyes that seared in their intensity and burned with desire. He stepped into the spring and drew near, as she could do nothing but stare. He swept his gaze over her thick, fiery red hair, and her bright blue eyes that shone like sapphire. Her fair skin felt warm against him, and he felt that every curve of her body was proof that even mortal women should be worshipped among the gods.

The other mortal women with whom he had consorted fell in love with him instantly, but he could sense that this one was different.

Apollo embraced Cassandra, and she felt the strength of his body, in its entire splendor, reveal his intentions. With mortal women, the gods often did as they pleased, but Apollo hesitated. He decided that he would not force himself upon her, simply to lose himself in the savoring of her body.

“You are Apollo.” Said Cassandra.

He ushered her hair out of her face and tucked the strands behind her ears. “Yes.”

“Why are you here?” She asked.

“My lady, come, we must go.” Arisbe said, taking hold of Cassandra’s hand and led her away from the shrine.

As they navigated through the crowd, they overheard a soldier instruct another to send guards to the southeastern gate and seize the princess, Cassandra.

Arisbe shot Cassandra a worried look before she pulled the princess into a vacant alley. They spoke in hushed tones, and deliberated how they would avoid detection when someone gripped Cassandra’s elbow.

Startled, she turned and reached for the sword hidden beneath her robe, but felt relief upon seeing the handsome face of her youngest brother.

“Troylus, what are you doing here?” Cassandra asked.

“Mother sent me to assist you in fleeing the city.” He lowered his head, and pulled his hood closer when a group of soldiers ran past. “Father has learned of your ploy, and is furious. He has instructed guards to secure the gates to the city to prevent you from departing.”

“What are we going to do, my lady?” Arisbe asked.

“Come,” said Troylus. “I have horses waiting for you beyond the city walls.”

“But you just said that father—“

“I know what I said, dear sister, but I never said I was taking you to the gates.”

He led Cassandra and Arisbe along the winding, crowded streets of Troy, and after they turned into a long and empty alley, they arrived at a wooden door. He knocked softly and waited.

“Where are we?” Cassandra whispered.

Before he could answer, the door opened and a lovely young woman greeted them. Her long brown hair fell in gentle waves to the small of her back, and her fair skin seemed to glow against her deep blue robe.

“Cressida, this is my sister Cassandra, and my mother’s servant, Arisbe.” Said Troylus as they entered her home.

Cassandra noted how wistfully Cressida’s brown eyes looked upon Troylus, and how the glow of love reddened his cheeks when he looked upon her, too. Arisbe and Cassandra exchanged a furtive glance as Cressida’s father, Calchas the priest, entered the room.

“Is everything in order?” Calchas asked.

“Yes.” Said Troylus. “The horses will be waiting. You must set out for Mount Ida, immediately. Ride until sunset to ensure you won’t have long to travel in the morning.”

The group entered a back room, and Troylus helped Calchas move a mattress and a wooden board beneath it to reveal a trapdoor. As Calchas led Cassandra and Arisbe into the dark shaft that led to an exit beyond the high walls of Troy, they heard pounding on the front door.

Troylus and Cressida looked at each other and knew that he could not be discovered in her home without her father’s presence. The pounding continued, and the soldiers demanded to be allowed to enter, lest they force entry.

Cassandra, and her caravan fled into the shadows as Troylus climbed into the tunnel after them. Cressida replaced the mattress and wooden board as best she could, but as she raced into the front room to answer the door, the soldiers thrust it open and barged in.

“We know that Cassandra was here!” Said Deiphobus, Cassandra and Troylus’ brother.

Cressida quivered with fear. She would not betray her lover, and wondered who, within the royal house, had betrayed the Queen, the prince and the princess.

To be continued…

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Love in the Age of Heroes: Ubiquitous Legends of Unrequited Love (1st installment)

Part One: Cassandra’s Curse

When the gods intervened on mortal affairs, as they often did in Ancient Times, their whispers summoned the children of destiny.

Cassandra begged him not to go. She warned her brother, Paris, that his return from Sparta would bring tragedy, not love. The frenzied look in her bright blue eyes frightened him, but he pulled his arm from her grasp. He pondered her counsel, and felt the conviction in her voice.

“I love you, sister, and I appreciate your concern.” He said as he brushed the curly strands of her long fiery red hair away from her face. But the goddess had made him a promise, and he would cross the Aegean to claim his prize.

“Please, listen to reason.” She said. Tears cascaded along her fair skin, but he would not be deterred. He turned away and marched towards his chariot; her cries faded in the distance.

“Think of father, think of Hector, and think of Troy!” She cried.

The visions flashed across her mind. Her father, and her brother would die at the hands of their rivals. Their city would be lost to the misfortunes of love. Aphrodite had intervened and Apollo had ensured that none would heed Cassandra’s prophecy. The world would remember the gods and the heroes of their time, and for Apollo it would be inevitable that the fairest would always remind him of unrequited love.

She raced through the palace, a riffle wind stirred, and her hair lashed gently across her face. Lightning flared across the sky, and she paused in the courtyard to study the heavens. When she turned to the doorframe she observed a figure walking in her direction. Cassandra shrank inwardly; did anyone else see him, had he come to intercept her?

He spoke. His voice deep and soft as he extended his hand and summoned Cassandra. She fought the inner dread that filled her with anxiety, and wondered if he intended to harm her. Looking up at him, she studied the form he took, unable to recognize his face, yet able to identify his presence.

“Apollo?” She said. Her hand shivered when she felt his cold flesh.

The shadow of a smile emerged from the stern look on his face, and he drew her under his arm.

“Come, Cassandra, walk with me.” He towered over her.

She obeyed, but whether she did so out of fear or because of the strength with which he held her, she could not tell. With his arm around her shoulder Apollo guided her along a cobbled path to a nearby garden. When they arrived at the center of an empty garden, Apollo pulled her close to him, and held her in an embrace so that she could feel his manhood rise against her body.

His cold flesh now felt warm, as if fevered, and she felt comfort in his arms.

“I can take away the pain, Cassandra.” Said Apollo.

He lifted her chin and when she looked into his hazel eyes, she knew he was telling the truth. For it had been known that no false word ever fell from his lips. When her glance fell upon his lips, she remembered how passionately he had kissed her when he had professed his love. But she could not reciprocate that love, and now the doom of Troy walked hand in hand with the destiny of her heart.

No, not like this! She pulled away from Apollo. Her bright blue eyes shone like sapphires and searched his features for forgiveness.

He caressed her cheek and ran his fingers through her bright red hair. His touch reaffirmed his compassion, and the lightning flickered around his form and face. For a moment it seemed that he was no longer a god enraged, and she no longer his hopeless obsession.

Apollo leaned forward and kissed her with profound tenderness. Cassandra closed her eyes, and when she opened them, he had vanished. She looked around, but the garden remained empty. A strong wind brushed past, and a flicker of errant lightning reminded her of her burden.


Cassandra fled the courtyard in search of her brother Hector’s wife. She raced through the corridors, her eyes frantically searching between pillars and nameless faces. She bumped into an elderly woman and knocked her to the stone lined ground. Cassandra turned as if she would assist the woman to her feet, but remembered her dilemma and left others to come to her aid.

“Pobes!” Cassandra said. “Where is your sister?”

“She is in her bedchamber with Hector. What’s wrong?”

“I’ll explain later. I must speak with them both immediately.”

Cassandra ascended a flight of stairs and pounded on the double doors of their bedchamber. Andromache pulled the wooden doors open, but before she could speak her sister-in-law immediately began to plead for her assistance. Hector approached and wrapped his arms around Cassandra to calm her.

“You look like you have met with the Ferryman himself. What troubles you, sister?”

“Paris must not accompany you to Sparta!” Cassandra cried.

Hector looked perplexed and listened to Cassandra as he escorted her to a bench at the far end of the bedchamber. She begged him to take leave for Sparta without Paris, for if Paris set foot in the kingdom of Sparta then the tragedy of Troy, as foretold by Aesacus, would come to fruition.

“Troy will burn. I have seen it!” Cassandra said as Andromache sat beside her.

Hector dismissed Cassandra’s premonition and assured her that their mission was for peace.

“Father insists that Paris accompany me to Sparta to liaise in his stead, and solidify our alliance with the Spartans.”

He knew, all too well, the fallacies of prophecy, and he understood his father’s position. King Priam felt guilty over his decision to send Paris to be killed on the day of his birth, because of a prophecy, but it had been nearly two decades, and no such tragedy had taken place. The king felt that the time had come for Paris to take his place as a prince of Troy.

“It is our duty to serve as representatives on behalf of father, for the peace he has worked so hard to achieve.” Said Hector.

Cassandra shook her head. Andromache stroked her back to comfort her.

“Paris does not intend to journey in the name of peace. He goes because Aphrodite has promised him a prize for naming her the loveliest goddess. He seeks to claim Helen of Sparta, the most beautiful woman in the world, as his own.”

“You have a wild imagination, sweet sister.” Hector smiled.

Cassandra stood. Her eyes hardened and she glared at her brother, Hector.

“The gods, with their squabbles, and their passions, and their vanity have doomed us. And father’s favorite, Phoebus Apollo, who loves me more than any mortal man could ever love a woman has cursed me with the knowledge that none should believe my words, since I am unable to return his love.”

“This is madness!” Hector stood, but before he said another word, Cassandra fled the bedchamber in tears.

If no mortal would listen, and the gods had indeed cursed humankind, then she had but one other option. The conundrum, however, was that The Fates answered to no one, not even the gods, and if Cassandra hoped to enlist their aid, she would need to find their mother, Nyx. But to find the one who stood near the beginning of creation, Cassandra would need to journey into the shadows of the world, for the goddess only ever seen in glimpses.

To be continued…