A Tale For The Gods: Cassandra's Gift

Submitted into Contest #235 in response to: Write a story that includes someone saying, “You can’t run forever.”... view prompt


Historical Fiction Fantasy Romance

Archinae, goddess of time, sat on her golden throne, absent-mindedly spinning the Sphere. She didn't mind if she span it too fast at times – the mortals on Earth wouldn't notice if time sped up a little more than it should have.

“I will not be able to wait until my Horae have grown,” she whined to her twin sister, Aphrodite, who was sitting by Archinae's pool of sight and watching the affairs of men, occasionally dipping her finger in to create a ripple and see a different image.

“But surely you do not wish to abdicate so early?” Aphrodite's voice, like the rest of her, was beautiful as the setting sun and delicate as the morning dew on a snowdrop. Mortal men had died to win an admiring glance from her pure, midnight-blue eyes, or to gaze for a moment at her skin, as pale as chalk. Mortal women scarcely fared better. Even Archinae, who had known Aphrodite since they had been born, formed from sea-foam, felt her breath catch as she stared at her sister.

“Not abdicate, my dear Aphrodite. I only wish my duties were more fulfilling – I have long tired of mortals begging for 'more time'; they seem to confuse me with Atropos of the Fates, or that intimidating young man Hades has employed.”

“Some even ask for the course of time to be changed.” She chuckled. “They do not realise that the Sphere turns on itself. They are blind to their history repeating.”

She opened her mouth to continue, but Aphrodite had lost interest long ago. Her attention had been arrested by two words.

“Young man?” She sighed, and caressed the waters of the pool. Her honey-coloured hair shimmered. “Is he handsome?”

Archinae laughed gently. “My sister, he is a cousin of Hades. He is not a god; only immortal.” She left it at that.

The sky turned orange, and the air grew hotter. The two sisters looked at each other.

“Apollo,” Aphrodite squealed in excitement.

“Apollo,” Archinae moaned.

The sun god in his golden chariot appeared on the horizon, chasing the sun across the sky to set it. The air blazed as he flew past them, his long, aureate hair streaming behind him as he whipped his two golden lions, his chariot-bearers, to greater speeds, then disappeared over the horizon. Then the light faded, and the moon rose, with Selene, the moon goddess, seated in its curve.

Aphrodite sighed. But then, the sky lit up in a yellow blaze, and Apollo emerged from behind the horizon, riding his chariot towards them. Aphrodite stood, arranging her white silk garments to wave alluringly around her.

“Stand,” she hissed. Her sister ignored her, and remained seated.

Apollo arrived, and tied his chariot to the edge of Archinae's cloud, where Aphrodite waited expectantly. He stepped forwards, and bowed.

“My dear cousin, most wonderful of goddesses, most masterful among us,” he began, facing not Aphrodite, but Archinae. Aphrodite crossed her arms in a huff, and Archinae stood up in surprise. Her hands moved lifted with her, and the Sphere's turning slowed. She didn't notice.

Before Apollo could continue, Aphrodite interrupted, moving in front of her sister to draw Apollo's attention to herself. “My dear cousin,” she said. (In reality, the relationship was not cousin, although she would never admit it by calling Apollo 'grand-nephew'.) “You must be confused. Did you mean to address me?”

Apollo frowned. “Cousin, I am correct in facing your sister, the goddess of time, in matters of time, am I not? If I ever wish for a mortal woman to love me – though she undoubtedly would without your coaxing” – he smiled handsomely. Archinae rolled her eyes, and sat back down. – “I will come to you.”

Aphrodite moved to one side and huffed. “I would not grant that wish,” she muttered.

Apollo turned back to Archinae. “My dear cousin, I confess I love a mortal woman.”

“I thought you had told Eros not to play with him again,” Archinae whispered to her sister, who raised her eyebrows, meaning I have. Apollo heard her.

“No, my cousins, Eros has done with his jesting. I truly love my Cassandra, and she has agreed to wed me.”

Archinae sat up. “Marry? Cousin, Zeus forbids it.”

“He has lifted the law, my dear Archinae.” She flinched; use of another immortal's name, to their face, was forbidden except between siblings. Then she smiled. Perhaps Apollo truly did love this Cassandra.

“What are you asking of me?” She glanced musingly at her sister. Apollo followed her gaze.

“No, my cousin,” he said. “My beauty already loves me. No, it is the gift of prophecy that I ask for.”

“You wish for your Cassandra to see the future?” Archinae pondered the request. Then she recoiled, remembering a crucial detail. “But cousin, this is against Zeus' law. I have not permission to give such a gift.”

“My dear Archinae.” She tried not to flinch at his second use of her name. “My dear cousin, I ask only once. Surely you would not deny such a request, for one as beautiful as my bride-to-be?”

Archinae smiled. He seemed so sincere, and it had been so long since she'd have fun in her job. The least she could do was consider it. “Come back to me at sunset tomorrow, and I will give you an answer.”

Apollo nodded, and turned. He mounted his chariot, then faced them for a parting sentence. “The Sphere has stopped turning, cousin.” Then he was gone.

Archinae whipped her head around to the Sphere – it had stopped entirely. She started spinning it again, breathing a sigh of relief and gratitude. The mortals couldn't have noticed, but Zeus would've angered if she'd left it too long. She blushed, remembering the time she had actually fallen asleep from boredom. Zeus had become enraged when the gods had entered a stalemate – Apollo unable to budge the sun, Demeter unable to change the seasons.

She snapped out of the memory to a wild hiss; Aphrodite was furious.

“A mortal woman,” she fumed, pacing back and forth, the ends of her caramel hair curling. “He dares love a mortal woman over me. My sister, he cannot. He is delusional, he is insane, he is – he is wrong.”

She turned to Archinae. “I must see her.”

The goddess of time shook her head slowly. “I cannot show you, my dear Aphrodite. You may use my pool to spy on the affairs of men, but I will not let you watch the lives of women.”

She sat down on her throne and focused her eyes on the Sphere as she spun it. “What will become of Apollo's wish? I cannot grant it – I will not defy Zeus. I would not, were it Hera who requested it. Further, I do not believe the mortals deserve such a gift, especially not such a woman who is fooled by our cousin's appearance.”

Aphrodite opened her mouth to retort, then thought better of it. Instead, she said, “My dear Archinae, you are only trying to run from your duty, and we both know you cannot run forever.”

“Duty? How is it my duty to disobey Zeus?”

“My sister, how is it not your duty to look after time? If you do not grant Apollo's wish, he will try to sabotage what you work for. You know what he is like.” She smiled the special, sly smile she reserved for her most manipulative moments.

Archinae looked up and met Aphrodite's gaze – a mistake. She fell into her sister's midnight-blue irises, enchanted by the stars that seemed to twinkle inside them. “You are right,” she said slowly. “It is my duty.”

“And you will allow me to use your pool to observe Apollo's mortal, this Cassandra?”

“Yes.” Archinae nodded, which broke her eye contact. She breathed, and glared at her sister. “Aphrodite, you must not do that to me. What have I done?”

Aphrodite smiled like a fox. “You have not done anything, my dear Archinae – only spoken.” She sauntered to Archinae's pool and sat by it as her twin observed.

“Sister, I have not given permission for you to -” Archinae began, but Aphrodite interrupted her.

“But you have.” She waved her hand over the waters and watched as the ripples produced a woman of jet-black hair and skin as white as snow – Cassandra. She lay in bed, with the sheets draped over her body and her hair draped over her face.

“Now you have seen her,” Archinae snapped, sitting down by her sister, who shook her head.

“I cannot leave it at that. Will you turn the Sphere, my dear sister, so I can see her by day?”

Archinae clenched her fist, then softened. “I suppose it cannot hurt,” she said. “But you must promise to leave thereafter. I will not have you swooning and attempting to charm our cousin – you have no shame. He has chosen his love.”

Aphrodite huffed. “I will gladly leave. You do not let me have fun.”

Her sister stood up and walked to the Sphere. She put her hand on it and pushed, so the Sphere turned faster than normal. Aphrodite watched as the night sped on with little movement from Cassandra, until light streamed through the open window of the bedroom. Cassandra rubbed her eyes, sat up, and yawned.

“I see!” Aphrodite squealed. “Apollo is nervous about facing me. He cannot gather enough courage, so he seeks a mortal woman who reminds him of me. See her eyes, sister. Tell me their colour.”

Archinae leaned over her twin's shoulder. “Navy.”

Aphrodite frowned. “No, no. Midnight.”

“My sister, she shares only the colour of your eyes. I doubt that our cousin would have thought of you when choosing her.” They watched as Cassandra rose from her bed, clothed in white cloth, and began her morning duties.

There must have been a knock on Cassandra's door, for she turned to it and spoke. The twins couldn't here what was said, but when they saw that Cassandra wasn't going to open the door, Archinae reached down and rippled the water to show the man outside of it.

Aphrodite giggled. “Apollo has chosen a handsome look for his mortal form.” She reached forward as if to touch the golden-haired, strong-bodied youth, then withdrew her hand, not wanting to disturb the image or show her cousin that they were spying on him.

They watched as the door as opened, and Apollo walked through to embrace his love. Cassandra melted into him, and they held a whispered conversation. Archinae waved her hand, and Cassandra froze.

“What have you done, sister?” Aphrodite asked.

“I have granted our cousin's wish. Now step back, or she will see us.” They stepped away from the pool, and the picture of Apollo and Cassandra changed to a still image before fading into ripples.

Archinae saw her sister turn from calm to seething as she dwelt on what she'd seen. By the end of a minute, Aphrodite was having trouble concealing her rage.

“Sister,” she said in a voice like still waters before a storm, “I have my request.”

Archinae stiffened. Each god or goddess was obliged to fulfil a request from their sibling/siblings once per mortal month – Zeus had declared it would keep the immortals content. But with a goddess like Aphrodite for a sister, Archinae's monthly requests were a source of dread.

“Yes, my dear Aphrodite?” She said through gritted teeth.

“Change Cassandra's gift. From now, she will only predict dangerous and destructive events,” her sister commanded.

Archinae clenched her fists and grew red. “Aphrodite Gaia,” she said slowly. “I cannot comply with such a request. It is spiteful, and can only do harm to the mortals. I will not.”

“You have no choice, my dear Archinae. You must grant it.”

Archinae grunted, and waved her hand towards the pool. Aphrodite sat by the edge once more, smiling. She touched the water, and an image of Cassandra appeared, alone. Tears ran down her cheeks, and her eyes were stained red.

“Expect a visit from Apollo, dear sister,” Aphrodite said in a sing-song voice. Then she faded into the air without turning the vision off.

Archinae sat and seethed, muttering to herself. “That goddess is a snake, a monster, worse than the hydra or any of the titans.” Before she could go further in her comparisons, a copper blaze illuminated the sky. It grew, then transformed into a fierce blue. She groaned.

Apollo's chariot streaked through the light, the two golden lions roaring as Apollo whipped them furiously, and to Archinae's ears it sounded like the crying of tortured mortals. She jumped from the poolside and rushed to the edge of her cloud.

When Apollo arrived, he didn't bother to tie up his chariot, instead addressing her, with his handsome face contorted and red. Archinae winced; she'd only seen her cousin this angry once, when he had directed it at Prometheus in the time of the first mortals.

“Why have you done this to my love?” He shouted. Then he noticed the vision in the pool, showing his Cassandra still crying. He shoved Archinae to one side and strode up to it, bending over it with the face of Hades. He cried out. “Are you a monster, that you watch my beloved in this state? Or are you only a cruel, uncompassionate husk of a goddess?”

Archinae struggled to remain calm. “Cousin, it was not me who treated your mortal so. My sister -” She broke off and turned away, despising herself for her unmerited loyalty to her sister.

My mortal?” Apollo raged.If she is my mortal, I am her god. Why do you say your mortal in that way?”

“I apologise, cousin. I am truly sorry, and I regret” – she paused, and swallowed. She'd gone this far, surely it would make no difference to go further? – “I regret what I have done,” she finished, hoping her words were enough. By Zeus' law, no god could justly show their anger after an apology from the one who had offended them.

Apollo stood still for a few minutes, then began to calm. The mark of anger on his face gradually disappeared, and his colour shifted back to normal.

“I am sorry, cousin,” he said eventually. “If it was your sister's request, then you could not have refused.” He turned and mounted his chariot, leaving Archinae standing, open-mouthed.

She gathered herself, sitting at the edge of the pool and waving her hand to disperse the image.

“Sister.” She whirled round to see Aphrodite standing with her arms out. Archinae prepared to unleash her anger, then saw that her sister's eyes were tinted pink and wet lines streaked down her face.

“I am sorry,” Aphrodite said. Her voice cracked. “You are right – I was spiteful and cruel, and I deserve to be punished.”

Archinae softened. “I did not say that, sister. If you are truly sorry, I forgive you.” They embraced.

“I cannot take it back, can I?” Aphrodite asked. Her twin shook her head. “Then can I mend the damage in some other way?” She pondered for a few minutes, before adding sadly, “she will be hated, will she not? By the mortals?”

Archinae raised an eyebrow. “Perhaps?”

“Perhaps we could change her...” Her sister mused. “A bird? Could she become a bird?”

“Where has this appeared from, dear Aphrodite? Why this unusual idea?”

The goddess of love gave a tinkling laugh. “I do not know, my sister.” She glanced at her twin, and their eyes met. Archinae swam in a galaxy of navy-blue and watched the stars again without even realising what had happened.

“She could become a bird, could she not?” Aphrodite said absent-mindedly, forgetting to break eye contact. Her sister nodded, waving her hand, and Aphrodite lifted a hand to her mouth and looked away. “No, I didn't mean it, sister!” She cried, rushing to the pool. What she saw was a plain bird, with feathers of jet-black and a beak as dark as midnight.

The sky lit up again and Apollo appeared in the distance. Aphrodite jumped up and ran to the edge of the cloud, her worry and remorse instantly dissipated as she waited for the sun god to arrive. But instead of alighting on Archinae's cloud, Apollo streaked past them and disappeared into the distance.

“But -” Aphrodite started, then faded away.

Archinae laughed with a mixture of spite and regret. “I should not have trusted you, snake. But see, now your plan has finished, what it has come to.” She waved a hand over the pool, and the ripples shimmered and faded to reveal two ravens, side by side, caressing one another with their beaks.

January 30, 2024 10:24

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Michelle Oliver
23:02 Feb 01, 2024

I love the Greek mythology and your spin on this with the addition of new characters is lovely.p and has a very authentic feel. As I was reading, I was thinking, I never realised that Aphrodite was a twin, hahah.


21:21 Feb 02, 2024

Thanks! :) As you probably know, I love Greek myths. Glad it felt authentic! :)


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Mary Bendickson
19:38 Jan 30, 2024

All myth why not fantasize.


18:52 Feb 04, 2024

Thanks! :) (I'm sure I replied to this already... 😂)


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10:25 Jan 30, 2024

I used the romance tag 😩 again. What am I turning into? 😫😂 Hope you enjoy my first attempt at a home-made Greek myth :) A few things have been changed for convenience: 1) The biggest - obviously, a new goddess (Archinae) has been invented. 2) Of course, the original Cassandra myth has been changed, but that's the whole point of the story. 3) Assuming that being born from sea foam counts as birth - that would make Aphro and Arc Cronus' sisters, Zeus' aunts... and Apollo's great aunts 🤣 4) The Horae, the three 'time gods', are Arc's children...


Annie Persson
11:32 Jan 30, 2024

I have read loads of Greek myths, and I do have to say this is very well done. I did notice some of the changes, namely the extra Time goddess. (And I'm pretty sure it's my fault you're using the romance tag. I really am a bad influence) ;)


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