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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…

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