“What are you doing with powerful weapons, naughty boy?” he said. “That equipment of yours is fitting of our shoulders, which can give certain wounds to wild animals, and to enemies. I, who with countless arrows, recently killed the swollen Python that was pressing down many acres with his disease-bearing belly! You will be content to provoke some loves by your fire, not to lay claim to my honors.” – Impeluso, Lucia; Stefano Zuffi (2003). Gods and Heroes in Art. Los Angeles: Getty Publications.
Arrogant prick. I’d just asked for lessons, not to usurp his place as the Patron of Archery. He would learn his lesson in underestimating me. No one knew the truth of my arrow’s origins, not my parents, not my grandfather, not even me. Yet, my connection to them ran deep. I could feel them vibrating in my hand, their power more subtle than Apollo’s but also more dangerous. Up to that point, when he mocked me, I’d idolized him. I wanted to be like the golden god, but he dared mock me.
Fire coiled in my belly, burning me. It wasn’t the all-consuming rage that came before a battle, the frenzy of my father. No, this was darker, deeper, patient, and plotting. This…this came from my mother. Most would think it more dangerous to cross my father. After all, who does not fear war? But no. You never, ever, cross my mother. She was a scourge and would wipe the world clean to satisfy her insatiable need. What would Miteras do?
I dared not tell her what Apollo had said to me. I knew she would wear his balls as earrings, for a millennium at least. No, this was for me to handle, me to right.
Looking down at the golden bow and arrows Apollo had seen fit to mock, I saw something new. There were three lead arrows mixed among my twelve golden ones. Putting my quiver down, I pulled out the first lead one. I felt the unfamiliar weight as I turned it carefully in my hand. The hum from the arrow was unlike my golden ones. It was absent, blank, void of emotions.
Tilting my head to the side, I inspected each of the three arrows, my lips turning up in a vindictive smirk. Pulling out a golden arrow, I rolled the shaft carefully in my hand, the name Apollo appearing on its side. Tapping the tip of the arrow against my lip, a plan formulated in my mind.
That kernel of mischief that burned inside me, the one that only grew when I shot my arrows, blossomed. One gold, one lead, both arrows would fly.
And Apollo would know to never cross the God of Love again.
I chose my target carefully, waiting to strike, biding my time. Hidden by the foliage, I watched the arrogant god touch the stream, washing his neck after his hunt. My lips turned up in a cruel smile as I looked down the river, seeing Daphne, the daughter of the river god. My mind scrambled for what I remembered of her. I knew she wanted to follow in the footsteps of Apollo’s twin, pledging herself to perpetual virginity.
My golden arrow flashed in the sun for only a moment before landing in Apollo’s ass. His gaze turned, looking for the source, and locked on Daphne where the nymph was bathing downstream.
My next arrow didn’t flash or hum, but it landed, all the same. It hit between her breasts, absorbing into her skin. My brow furrowed slightly as I flew behind Apollo to pull the arrow out of his ass. He was too focused on Daphne to even notice. Fools in love rarely notice anything.
Putting the arrow back in my quiver, I soared back to my spot in the trees, watching the results play out before me. Apollo’s eyes bulged, his golden form darting across the river, embracing Daphne, who stiffened immediately. Their words drifted to me over the small meadow as I plucked an apple from the tree, leaning against it to watch.
Apollo continued to pursue her, even as she slapped him, the sound echoing across the field. I choked slightly on the apple to keep from laughing. She begged him to leave her be. Told him the sight of him disgusted her and that a great hatred for him burned in her breast. Apollo wouldn’t listen, couldn’t listen. Daphne ran, her trim ankles flashing as she sprinted, pouting, knowing she would beat him.
It would only be fun if he caught her.
Using one of my regular arrows, I aim, letting another fly. It hit the edge of her chiton, pinning it to the ground. She stopped long enough for Apollo to close the distance. Taking another bite of the apple, my lips curled maliciously at the fevered affection on Apollo’s face and the utter disdain on Daphne’s.
Struggling to tear her chiton from my arrow, she frantically looked to the river, calling for her father. “Help me, Peneus! Open the earth to enclose me, or change my form, which has brought me into this danger! Let me be free of this man from this moment forward!”
Even as Apollo caught up to his nymph, it was too late. Her legs were no longer legs. A thin bark began to crawl up her body. Her dark hair turned to leaves as her limbs twisted and elongated. Apollo caught her but could do nothing. The transformation had begun, and it couldn’t be stopped.
I took another bite of the apple.
Roots dangled from her body, sinking into the earth. Her mouth froze in relief as it became petrified, her eyes closing in bliss. She was free of the god who had pursued her. I could hear his labored sobs as he clung to her bark, begging her to return. He stayed like that, pouring out his heart to a laurel tree for hours.
I watched and watched as the ground beneath me became littered with apple cores. By the time the sun started to descend, he had dropped to his knees, putting a hand over his heart and pledging himself to the unfeeling, unhearing, uncaring bark.
“Always, my hair will have you. My lyres will have you. My quivers will have you, laurel tree. You will be present for the Latin leaders when a happy voice sings a triumph, and the Capitoline Hill will see long processions.” – Impeluso, Lucia; Stefano Zuffi (2003). Gods and Heroes in Art. Los Angeles: Getty Publications.
Once he stood, I took to the skies, vanishing into the clouds.
He’d learned his lesson to my satisfaction. They all would eventually. It was quite simple, if you thought about it. My father commanded armies, my grandfather wielded the power of the skies. But love, love was different.
Love had the power to bring even the gods to their knees.