Struck: Origin of Love Book 1
Apollo, god of the sun, stood at the threshold of Aphrodite’s palace, holding a thin laurel tree branch that he gripped like a sword ready for attack. Aphrodite, goddess of beauty, gazed upon him calmly, reaching to her left for another plump, purple fig which she bit into slowly, her lush, pink lips and youthful cheeks defying the agedness of her glacial blue eyes.
“Where is he?” Apollo’s voice boomed through the elaborate corridors, causing the reliefs on the Corsican columns to tremble in fright.
“Where is who, dear brother?” Aphrodite’s melodious, feminine and effortlessly seductive voice was a sharp contrast to his.
“That addlepated twit you call a son!”
There was a flicker of interest in her eyes and she paused in her chewing. “Eros? Why, I have not seen him all day.”
“You lie! I know he’s hiding in here somewhere, cowering behind your skirts like the gutless mongrel that he is.”
Apollo raised his voice and shook the branch at the ceiling. “You hear that, Eros, you demi-god of riffraff and all that’s unholy! You are naught but a little craven! A spineless, useless miscreant!”
“Please lower your voice. You’ll disturb my peacocks that are resting in the gardens.”
“To Tartarus with your peacocks!”
“Oh really, Apollo, you’re starting to give me a headache. Could you at least explain what all the ruckus is about? Did he try to steal your phaeton again? Or did he lure away one of your water nymphs from your grasp? Perhaps if you had a more delicate touch they wouldn’t fly away so quickly.”
Apollo’s response was a withering glare that sent one of Aphrodite’s winged servants flapping away in fright. Aphrodite, however, remained unmoved.
“She did not give me the chance to touch her.”
He looked at the brown branch in his hand with pained eyes. It only had a few bruised leaves left hanging from the ends.
“A wood nymph. Daphne. He all but destroyed her. It is all his fault that she is lost to me forever!”
“Well unless he seduced her himself, I don’t see how that could be possible.”
“Do you not?” He shook the pathetic tree limb at her. “You’re the one who gifted him those blasted arrows!”
“Oh, pah! Eros's arrows cannot affect the gods. Love in that obsessive form is a purely human thing. You don’t mean to say that you, Apollo the noble, god of light and the sun, truth, prophecy, medicine, healing, archery, music, poetry, arts and sport, was affected by a child’s plaything?”
Conflicting feelings warred in Apollo’s eyes as he thought of the implications of Aphrodite’s comment. He shook his head as if it hurt, his voice softening slightly. “Eros is no longer a child. And...”
“And what?” She said coyly.
“And his damn arrows are getting more and more powerful!” All softness vanished from his angry voice.
“Is that so? Because I don’t hear of anyone else complaining. Is it truly the arrows that are getting more powerful, dear brother, or are you starting to be more prone to... weaknesses?”
Aphrodite observed the evenness of her fingernails as she continued.
“Perhaps you are getting a little too old for your work now, dragging that gargantuan chariot across the world day in and day out along with that hot, ill-tempered sun. You must be quite exhausted. Perhaps it’s time you retired, settle down with a proper immortal wife and make lots of sunny little babies.”
“And who, pray, do you envision taking over my godly duties?”
“Eros has a strong arm with a phaeton. His phoenix is the fastest in all of Olympus. As for his archery skills, well, you can attest to that. He never misses his target, man or immortal, no matter how fast.”
“Hah! I would rather die a thousand deaths and be married to Hades himself!” Apollo spat on the immaculate marble floors. “I see what you’re getting at, little sister. And if you think I will ever give up my duties as god of light and truth, much less give it to that ne’er-do-well lying piece of toad spittle, you are very much mistaken. I don’t know what you’ve done with Eros’s arrows, but I will be watching him very carefully. One of these days, he’s going to slip up. And I will be the first to make sure he stays down.”
“Ugh, brother, you look so ugly with your brows furrowed thus. Please begone from my sight or you will give me frown wrinkles too.”
“Zeus forbid your beauty ever fades, Aphrodite. That is all you have to boast of, everyone knows brains are not your strength. But get this. There is already talk down in the grape valley of a maiden more lovely, even than you. Perhaps she could take over your duties, being that your rank has been surpassed.”
At last, a flash of true anger crossed Aphrodite’s celestial eyes. “Hah, what foolishness is this?”
“I’m surprised you have not heard. The mortals speak of nothing else these days besides the war between Troy and Greece, of course. She has apparently served as a lovely distraction. They say that had she been among those competing for Paris’s Golden Apples, the prize for being the fairest in all the world, she would have plucked it right out of your greedy little hands.”
Anger was turning the natural pink blush of Aphrodite’s cheeks a deeper, more crimson red. However, this only enhanced her charming beauty. “What is this? A mortal? A mortal woman more beautiful than I?”
“Aye, and more intelligent, honorable, and virtuous than you as well. Hah, but that is not much of a task, is it? Perhaps if you stopped staring at your own reflection so much, you might be aware of the great offense.”
“Enough!” She flicked her delicate wrist in his direction. “You have gotten away with abusing my son in my very own home, you will not be allowed to say such things to me! Begone from here and take that daft branch with you. It’s dropping leaves all over my floor.”
“This daft branch is from a tree that was once the most beloved nymph in all the land! All because of your wretched son! You and everyone else will honor it!”
Without another word, Apollo stormed out, taking his sad, shedding twig with him.
The moment he left, Aphrodite rose with a speed that belied her previously lethargic position. Immediately, she moved to a shimmering fountain and gazed at her reflection. A frown was marring her beauty and a curl had fallen out of place. She replaced the golden ringlet immediately in to its proper position and sat touching the water. Her mood lightened as she gazed upon her stunning reflection. She touched the water lovingly.
More beautiful than I? She chuckled at the ridiculous notion.
“Show me this maiden who is said to be more beautiful than the winner of the Golden Apples, the most beautiful goddess in Olympus, I, goddess of exquisiteness, passionate love, and sensuous pleasure,” she commanded, smiling as her image continued to gaze back at her. For a while, it continued to reflect her divine face unwaveringly. Aphrodite began thinking of all the ways she would punish Apollo for his little lies.
Then, slowly, another face began to replace her own, blurring in the frothing water.
At first, Aphrodite did not look impressed, but the longer she stared and the clearer the vision came, the deeper the lines of displeasure marred her face. She leaned forward, picking up on the small details of the young lady reflected in the water. The goddess’s face grew darker with every passing moment. Finally, she gave a sharp cry and summoned her owl who swooped from a pedestal and landed on a meticulous finger that she extended for the bird.
“I want you to look for Eros. I need him here immediately!”
The snowy white owl nodded its consent and immediately flew through an open window. As it flapped away bidding the wind to carry him faster, the owl could hear the angry bellow of its mistress.
“How dare she!”
The owl’s feathers ruffled and he flapped more vigorously. He’d hate to be the object of Aphrodite’s rage.