I could easily forgive his pride if he had not mortified mine
- Jane Austen, “Pride and Prejudice”
- Seven and a half centuries ago -
Apollo's pride did not fit inside his chest.
He drank air audibly; leaving a broad smile, showing his long and white teeth. His long and golden hair, like burnished gold, danced majestically around his tan beautiful face tasting the warm breeze. The sunlight gleamed on his skin.
He was on top of a hill at the Olympus’ base. He came there to get a little away from the massive bedlam around him relentlessly throughout last week. It was an act of false modesty. He wouldn’t publicly assume it, but he suckled every praise, reward, congratulations, slap on the back and kiss on the cheek that they gave him unreservedly. Men love the gods, gods love heroes. And he was one of them.
The world was full of monsters, each one with its trail of corpses and rivals. But there was one in particular that had been terrorizing mortals and immortals: the Evil Serpent, the Monster Snake, the Devourer of Men - The Python
Being one of the bastards of Zeus, Apollo had suffered in Hera's hand even before he was born. In addition to curse his mother, Leto, and prevent her from getting shelter to give birth anywhere in the land, the queen of the gods still put the reptilian monster to her heels. The young god could not even imagine the mother’s painful toil, pregnant and alone, without the fibers of his being vibrated with fury. Against the goddess, he couldn’t do anything, but since it held a bow for the first time, he knew he would be the one to kill the beast.
A Zeus lightning hit him in head if he dared saying it was easy. He had lost count of the years spent strengthening. Running to extreme fatigue. Training until bleed the fingers. Forcing to the limit. No one asked hem to do this. No one would help him. He had nothing but his own will and pure hatred. But he succeeded. He pursued the monster to its lair, smelling poison and putrefying bodies. He urged his anger and fought. He fought as a titan in fury. At the end of three-day fair, the Python had an arrow in the eye, one in the mouth and another one in its scaly body, cold and dead and Apollo fatigued, grated, but unharmed, returned victorious home.
Ah, the grateful pride in his mother's eyes warmed his tired heart. His sister, so brave and tough, kissed his face with tears in her eyes. He found peace that day. But just then came the others. Rows of gods, great and small, extolled his victory, exaggerated his achievements, cringed his person, and swelled his young ego. Yes, what he had done was epic, after all. How many of them had the resilience and toughness necessary to endure this drudgery? How many marched alone and returned? How many had overcome monstrosities so powerful and returned unscathed? One? Two? None?
For the wheedle him for years. He deserved it.
In the midst of these thoughts, still with a proud smile on his face, Apollo heard a noise, an elastic noise that he would recognize kilometers away. It was a bow being pulled taut. Following the source of noise with his head turned in time to see the archer releasing an arrow. Meters below it, on a slope plan, Eros was training to aim.
Apollo stared at the young god of love and his first thought was what that brat was doing there.
The boy pulled another arrow from his quiver and fitted on the rope of the curved bow and languid, absently. A sudden wind played a loose move its almost straight hair against her delicate face, but he did not move with the discomfort, just gently blew the blond lock and with a feline grace, shot a second arrow. A straight, slight track, it met the same fate as the first.
The center of the target.
What a displayed. Apollo thought. Training outdoors in a place he didn’t belong. What was he doing there anyway? It was not an Olympian. Aphrodite must have needed him at some point, but now she’s probably busy and dropped the puppy walking with dangerous weapons around
The sun of god stared at his nephew for some time, still exercising without having the slightest idea of his presence, which seemed outrageous. He remembered methodically all the faces of those who congratulated him for his epic in the last week.
Eros wasn’t among them.
The more he watched, more angry the god was. Nephew hit arrow after arrow with no visible effort. He wore fine clothes, a pink-dry tone that insinuated the smooth muscles under the skin. The long and very light hair were tied by a simple leather strap, exposing the flawless white skin of his graceful neck and his ridiculously handsome face, and he pressed concentrated the full lips that would envy a courtesan every time he pulled the short stiff bowstring.
There was a time when Apollo was the most beautiful among all the gods. Their similar envied its forms and mortals idolized him, raising him to the ideal of male beauty and carved him on expensive marbles hundreds of times. But then Aphrodite and Ares fell in love as only irrational do, and the goddess of beauty put that bastard - perfect - in the world.
Fleck! One of the arrows hit the exact middle of another, sliding inside it, leaving the flexible timber in the middle to the bottom. Eros raised his head for a moment and smiled, satisfied. He already took another arrow when someone loudly cleared his throat behind him. God of Love left the position and turned to the sound in a fluid motion. And found Apollo with arms crossed over the top of the hill
- Oh, Uncle, you're there! - Exclaimed, putting the rebel lock behind the ear. His voice was soft and smooth - Forgive me, I hadn’t seen you ..
- Clearly not - the Sun cut. The melodic voice was firm as the beating of drums - if I wanted to harm, you would have a dozen holes. You are distracted and careless, and you’re still doing it wrong.
For a moment, Eros was truly confused, narrowing a bit pale eyebrows.
- Doing it wrong? - He hesitated - How?
- You pirouetting by chance? Juggling? - Questioned Apollo, rude.
What was left of the left in beautiful smile Eros's face, faded
- No ... - he replied in a shy whisper.
- Although, awkward as it is, you wouldn’t have competence for that too - Apollo continued, as if he hadn’t heard.
Cupid left the bulky lips open minimally, in a hurt surprise. Apollo was clearly angry with him, and he didn’t know why.
- In addition of not showing the slightest caution or wakefulness, you're shooting wrongly and did not even notice it – added, going down the hill
Eros could not help but cast a look at the studded target and make sure he wasn’t hallucinating or, if for some bizarre chance, the arrows had changed place. No. All seven were still securely fastened in the center of the target.
- Hey, kid, I'm talking to you! - Apollo scolded, snapping his fingers aggressively near the nephew's face, that blinked repeatedly by reflex.
- Oh I...
- Your concentration is depressing.
The hurt of Eros began to turn into a caustic anger.
- I'm sorry - he said, firm.
- No excuses, it's not my problem. Now do it again - ordered Apollo.
Cupid stared at him for a few seconds, the beautiful smooth face like a pillar; then, without a word, he placed himself in position and took an arrow from his quiver nearly empty. Fit the base of gray feathers on the rope and pulled it calmly, his dark eyes were more engrossed than ever. He looked at the perfect center of the target. His long and thin fingers opened when he heard a loud and scornful laugh. His head turned to the sound by pure reflection, compromising his posture. But it was too late to stop the arrow. It left into an erratic trajectory, and touched the target corner, splintering the frame and dipping the turns to the cliff.
- That was ridiculous - the Sun said, in a spiteful slowness. There was an almost victory smile on his mouth
Eros locked his jaw, clenching his teeth angrily.
- You disrupted me - said in an angry whisper.
- Oh, really? - Provoked the sun god with disdain - That thing you use so indifferently are lethal weapons! With these you injure and kill. You think there is silence in the war, boy? - He wrinkled his nose disdainfully - That fall the world in your head, you could have hit if you had the concentration of a drunk hummingbird. Do not blame me for your own incompetence!
The passion of God narrowed his dark eyes, the burning anger freezing his features.
- Why are you doing this? - he finally asked
Apollo looked him up to down, with swollen and bruised pride dulling his conscience, he exploded.
- Maybe I'm tired of seeing you walking around there, carrying my arms as if they were toys! - he was screaming now - Why do you think you are worthy of them, insolent boy? What have you done to deserve them? My arrows are still driven into the body of poisonous Devourer, which stretches across the plain. With them I fought and I was victorious! But you ... you mock my instruments of death! You have fun with it like a hobby, a dupe! Do you think you have that right? - he pointed the finger at the other's face - I tell you now, boy, you have not! Be content with your torch and your selling, that is. But don’t you dare mess with what belongs to me. Expresses a little ashamed of the your indecent nature and leave the bow and arrow for those who are worthy of them!
Without another word, the sun god turned to his rival and strode out there, as if the other did not deserve it or the benefit of answer.
But Eros wouldn’t answer even if he could. What he felt now couldn’t fit into words. God of Love escorted the others departure, with the dark eyes burning in a cold fire full of malice. The fibers of his being vibrating slow and corrosive hatred, that went to his head in seconds.
Without expressing a letter with his full lips, he took a low tree where he put casually a totally different quiver. One half of it was white trimmed in gold, dark and smooth as glass other. He pulled an arrow on each side. The first was thin and sharp, made of the purest gold, white feathers like clouds in the summer. The second was robust and heavy, made of lead, the rough and irregular edge and completely black feathers.
Yes, Apollo, your arrows hurt monsters. The god thought, tensing the bowstring, took careful aim. But mines hurt gods.
And released the first arrow.