Silver and Gold

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  • Published: 3 Apr 2017
  • Updated: 11 Apr 2017
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[Entry for Strange the Dreamer competition - Option One] Artemis and Apollo are brother and sister - two halves of a whole. Artemis has always been the wild one, the dreamer, the adventurer. But her brother has been torn away from her by a vengeful mortal angry with the gods. The sun has gone down on earth and the world is plunged into darkness as Artemis rallies together the greatest hunters the world has ever seen to save her brother, the only person who ever truly understands her. But time is running out, and in a month's time Apollo will die, taking he rest of the world down with him.

(Cover by NamesFromGraves)

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1. A BEGINNING

Everything has a beginning. Every song has its first verse, every poem has its own first stanza, every god must in time take their first shuddering breath, feel their lungs rattle for the first time. Every story has its first chapter, and I suppose this is it.

Artemis, they called me, back when the world was new and the grass was green and the sky was blue and cleansed of filth. When the sun rose every day and the moon came following in its tracks like a faithful servant. That's how Apollo liked to describe it in his early obnoxious phase, when he had very little regard for the fact that I was the eldest, the heroine child who arrived in burning glory. The moon pulling the sun on a string, just for once in the history of the world. That tiny moment in the fabric of the universe, woven as tightly as the bond between brother and sister. Though I would never admit it to him, I quite liked his narcissism sometimes. It gave me just the tiniest bit of hope when we were younger, that at least there was someone who was happy, excited.

That was in the beginning.

Perhaps that was the real beginning, the first beginning if you like. The first time the sun met the moon, when the world felt that first hint of darkness and was touched by that single glimmer of light. But perhaps not this beginning. This beginning is not a song or a poem, but a warcry. Not a waltz but a stampede, a cacophony of noises and sounds and battles. This beginning is not the beginning of a life, but rather the beginning of a war.

I was in the forest when it happened, running along by a babbling brook, chasing fish with a bow and arrow, feet thumping and squelching on the damp grass. My hair bled into the clouds above and my silver eyes were reflected in a puddle, a piece of stolen glass in the middle of a forest. I'd been happy - my heart soared and my spirit leapt - until I heard the footsteps behind me - faint, but there - and I turned around with a bow in my hand, ready to take the perfect shot.

The wolf simply stared. It was like me, I suppose; silver on its lips and on its fur and in its eyes; such wide eyes like shining caverns of mist and metal. I lowered my bow and the wolf kept staring. Wolves were not common in these woods, but I ignored the unease that rose in my throat, and stood up taller.

My heart pounded in my chest as I took a step forward. Two steps. Three steps. The wolf followed suit, like a mirror to me. I tried to speak as the wolf began to howl into the sky, eyes still fixed exactly onto my own. "Kneel," the wolf cried. "Kneel and I shall sing to you, Lady of the Hunt."

And so I knelt with a wary gaze, until our eyes met exactly and we were level, and the wolf began to sing. She sang of sunsets and winters, of falling stars and burning worlds, painting pictures of fire and ice and the day and the night and the ever present darkness that burned and froze and melted and destroyed and murdered. Then she sang of a night that never ended, a day that never came, a sun that never rose and a moon that never died.

The wolf put its paw on my hand and I stroked its fur. Then I heard a scream and the wolf was gone as though it had never been there, slinking into the shadows of the forest's night. Perhaps the wolf never was there, perhaps it was all but a dream - though a distinct one, I must admit - but I will always remember the screaming. The screaming that I thought may never end, that came from the sun itself and ravaged the landscape as the sun began to slowly burn itself out. It was my brother screaming, I could hear it. There was no mistaking my brother's tears, his screams, his very existence shattering and exploding and being torn from the world.

Every explosion leaves debris. It was like glass, striking me right in my heart and tearing it from my chest, a scream and a sob ripping from my throat at the exact same time. And then the darkness came and the forest shuddered before me before it was torn apart by fire and ice, and my vision turned black.

 

My brother was there, in the dream. Apollo. The light, the sun, the child everybody loved, adored. He was just as he always was - golden, shining in the way that I never quite could. But he wasn't smiling - that was the first thing that I noticed about him. My brother was always smiling, always happy, always cheerful and warm and welcoming and kind, bright, bold, wonderful. His warm honey eyes were turned down to the ground, and I followed his gaze to where his golden hands were bound in leather and tied together. Where a single tear splashed onto the fabric and seeped into the cracks.

"Apollo," I whispered, and even to my own ears my voice was trembling, as my heart weighed heavier in my chest. "Apollo, who did this to you?"

It was only his slight nod of the head that showed me he was still conscious. It wasn't much of an answer, but then my brother never did speak in much other than riddles and poems. Perhaps this was one of them. "Apollo, are you able to speak to me?"

His head turned to the left, just ever so slightly so that I could see his lashes coated in golden tears, and his brow bone marked by a scar. He turned his head back to the centre, turned it down even further, and clenched his fists. Apollo lurched forward slightly, as if trying to reach me, trying to break free, but he stopped suddenly. A moment later I heard even footsteps coming towards me, heard a key turning in the lock of a door, and my heart skipped a beat.

It swung open and a woman burst through the doorway, a crooked smile gracing her features. Porcelain skin was stretched over high cheekbones, striking green eyes bursting from her face, lips painted blood red. Her hair was blacker than black, ebony sweeping over her ivory skin.

Her heels clicked on the marble floor with every step she took, her deep green gown swishing along the floor like a song of hushed whispers and secrets. She placed a hand on my brother's shoulder and he flinched away from her just enough for her to frown as she grabbed him by the wrist. "Apollo," she hissed, a python's voice curling into the air like smoke. "The god of the sun, the bringer of light." She raked a nail along his cheek, and I gagged at the ichor which bled from him. "Stand up for me, dear."

It was like he was a puppet dangling from invisible strings. Apollo stood, and I saw the full extent of his scars. Dozens of them criss-crossed his chest, tore into his skin and tore into my heart. "The healer with scars he cannot heal. The great poet with words he can no longer speak." Apollo lifted his eyes to meet mine, a silent message.

Go.

"I can't leave you, Apollo," I said as evenly as I could, though my mind was racing over and over, more tumultuous than the ocean itself. "You're my brother." I could feel my eyes were a little damp, and I lifted a hand to wipe away my tears.

The woman lunged towards me suddenly, but her hand simply swept through my body. Her hand was blackening, burning, shrivelling, turning to smoke and ash. Apollo smiled the tiniest bit, just enough for me to smile back. "I'll save you," I whispered.

He shook his head as the woman regained a train of thought - her eyes focused on me again and just as she was about to lunge towards me, I ran for the door, slamming it behind me and disappearing from the world.

 

I was back in the forest. The wolf stared at me from between two trees, and a crowd of women stood around me.

Athena. Aphrodite. Demeter. Hestia. Persephone. Nemesis.

"Artemis?" Aphrodite whispered, her brown eyes warm and her black brows furrowed. "We found you." In her eyes, the darkness of sorrow. On her lips, the faint light of a smile. I hated it.

Hestia took a step forward to knell beside me. "Apollo-"

"I know," I told her, voice shaking as I held back hot tears. "I know."

Above me, the sky began to darken. Deep grey clouds rolled across the blackness, and the stars flickered with a dying light. As the wolves howled my name and the river's wept for my loss, the moon above could no longer fully reflect the sun, and it too was beginning to grow dark.

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