“Please,” Cassandra begs, “It would be the greatest gift you could ever give me.”
Apollo really isn’t sure about that. Prophecy has never been a gift - it has been his godhood, his life and his power, but it has never been a gift.
“It would be a curse,” he tells her, stepping close. His hands slide up her bare arms, slide back down and drop off as he turns away. “I would never wish this on anyone.”
“And yet you have oracles!” Cassandra exclaims, her voice liberally laced with self-righteous anger and accusation. She is upset; it is clear to see. “Why would you give strangers this gift and not me, even as I beg it from you?” Sighing, Apollo’s head drops. No longer is he the god Apollo, chariot driver to the sun, he is instead Apollo, lover of Cassandra and a man who wishes to be free of a partnership of promises he cannot honour.
“If you wish it that dearly, then I shall give you the gift,” he tells her, and his very being emanates resignation. “However, know this: I will be unable to take this back once you have received it.”
“This gift - and no other - is my wish,” she replies, and her voice is hard, strong, proud. She will not back down from this. Apollo sighs, reaches out with both his hands and his power, and as he cradles his lover in his arms he gives her the godly gift of prophecy. “Well?” she demands.
“It is given,” he says, regret lacing his tone.
“Then I thank you, Lord Apollo, for your generosity.”
“My love,” he sighs, lets her go. “I am sorry for this.”
“You have nothing for which to apologise,” she tells him, confused. He looks away, unable to meet her eyes.
“I have everything to apologise for.”
Cassandra does not wake that night, but the rest of the castle does. They wake to her screams and cries as she finally gets what she wished - the gift of prophecy from Apollo himself.
“I am sorry,” he weeps, knelt by her bedside. It is a moving sight - a god kneeling for a mere mortal as she writhes and screams in her bed. “I am sorry, Cassandra, why couldn’t you listen to me?”
She does not reply but to scream once more, and it is not long before her father bursts into the room.
“Lord Apollo,” he says, as he kneels, “can you help my daughter?”
“I am afraid I cannot,” Apollo tells his lovers father, hiding the tears that hang, caught, on his eyelashes. “For it was my gift to her that does this. I am sorry to cause her pain.”
“You are forgiven, my lord,” Cassandra’s father says, because he may not have entirely forgiven the god, but Apollo is a god, and gods are not to be questioned. Apollo just smiles softly in response and vanishes from his place at Cassandra’s side.
Artemis finds him on the banks of a river, deep in the forest. Her hunters had settled there for the night, and she had felt him nearby.
“Brother,” she greets, sitting beside him.
“Sister,” he responds, staring into the water.
“What ails you?” Artemis drops a hand onto Apollo’s shoulder in an attempt at comfort.
“I gave a lover the gift of sight,” he says after a pause, “and she suffers because of it.”
“You cannot take it back?” Artemis asks, gentle in her discovery.
“I cannot. The most I could do is tweak it - perhaps make it so her prophecies are never believed. Spare her family, perhaps.”
“Do so,” Artemis responds decisively, “for she may not be able to resist telling them, but at least you can protect those she loves from them.”
“And damn her in the process.”
“If it must be so.”
Apollo is the god of prophecy, foresight, medicine, music, poetry and the sun. He is the father of the nine muses, one of Olympus’ best archers, and well-known amongst gods and mortals alike for his conquests.
Cassandra gave him Melpomene, and he gave her a gift of his own in return. That that gift was not a gift was not his fault, nor is the fact that he could not take it back.
His hesitation to place the curse of disbelief on Cassandra of Troy, however, is his fault entirely.
“I see everything,” she whispers, clinging to Apollo as they sit together on her bed. Her eyes are shut tight, screwed up against the constant influx of information.
“I know,” he whispers, hands running through her hair, “I know. I’m sorry, Cassandra, I’m so sorry.”
She laughs, humourless, and it quickly turns into a sob with the new information - knowledge of wars and deaths, failed births and torturous quests.
“Focus on the good, Cassandra, please!” Apollo begs, having had millennia to adjust to his powers - to see all and not let it drive him insane. She cannot - she does not have the practice (nor the time to learn) - and the bad in the world constantly overwhelms the good. Apollo knows this, but he cannot help her do this - if she is to learn she must learn herself.
Cassandra, however, while special - you’d have to be, to catch the eye of a god - was never meant to carry this burden.
In the past three days, Apollo had seen enough. Cassandra had terrorised any and all servants who came to aid her; although that was no fault of her own. The pressure of this blessing (it’s a curse, how could it be anything but) was too much for her mind to handle, and she was wasting away.
“ You can protect those she loves ,” Artemis’ voice rings loud, almost as if she is in the room. She is not, but her presence wraps around her brother as if she is hugging him.
Apollo sighs, looks down at his lover (past lover, she will hate him for this) and places the curse.
They will tell tales of this day.
Those tales will be wrong.
“It is a curse!” Cassandra exclaims, grasping at her father’s robes, “Apollo has cursed me!”
“Then you must have angered him,” her father replies, and his voice is as cold as ice, “and there is nothing I can do to help.”
He leaves her to weep on her chamber floors.
Apollo visits every night as she slumbers, watches over her as her health deteriorates.
She gave him the Muse of Tragedy. Is it really any surprise that their union would turn out like this?
History is written by the victors, and those victors are always human.
History says that Cassandra of Troy was born with the gift of prophecy, that she angered a god, and he cursed her gift.
History is wrong.
The Muse of Tragedy was born of Tragedy, as is only fitting. Sometimes Apollo cannot bear to look at her, but he loves her all the same - she is his daughter, after all, and he does not blame her.
He blames himself, but he will never let that affect his relationship with his daughter.
If Melpomene notices that his smile is slightly strained when his gaze falls on her, she never mentions it.