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He strode through the woods under the cool grey sky, a bright god of the hunt, his hounds orbiting him like dark, baleful moons. He scanned the trees and undergrowth ahead of him, systematically seeking out his prey. The dogs raised their heads as one, scenting. A quick movement drew his gaze and he broke towards the small hillock where a stringy shrub still moved despite the lack of wind. He gestured to the dogs. Leander and
He crested the hillock, bounding up to gain a clear shot at anything on the far side. Leander and
The hunter ignited. He flew forward, enraged, splintering trees as he roared in pursuit of the quarry. He cast aside the traitorous bow and drew his knife, stealth and elegance subsumed by rage, raw power and the desire to avenge Leander. Wood and soil boiled outwards from the shockwave of his passage, shredded, boiled, seared. The sounds of destruction were drowned by his enraged scream as he flew, himself an arrow driven forward by fury, burning behind the point of his dagger.
His blade-point struck the palm of an outstretched hand and stopped dead. He fell sprawling to earth, his vengeance scream turning to a grunt and a cough as he struck the ground. Rain quenched the burning trail of his passage and new greenery crept inwards, questing, feeding on the remains of the fallen. He scrambled up, momentarily lost for words or actions.
Demeter spoke. "Apollo, I have already made myself clear. You will not violate my woods without consequences." she said, lowering her hand.
"You have killed my beloved companion, and you warn me of consequences?" He stood, beautiful countenance burning with pale fire and hatred. He drew back his arm, dagger flashing. Demeter stood unmoving as he struck.
"HOLD", spoke a voice of thunder. Lightning forked lazily across the sky, bolts caressing the face of another.
"Father, she has struck down Leander. I demand my vengeance," said Apollo, straining to complete his thrust against immovable restraints.
"DEMETER?" She raised her pale, beautiful face to Zeus, calm and determined.
"I will pay a blood price, Brother, but the consequence must remain. These woods are under my protection."
A pause, then: "SO BE IT. DEMETER, YOU WILL PAY BLOOD PRICE FOR THE HOUND. APOLLO, YOU WILL ABANDON THE HUNT AND YOU WILL NURTURE NEW FOREST TO REPLACE THAT WHICH YOU HAVE DESTROYED." Thunder rumbled again, and Zeus was gone.
Apollo looked at her, bleak, his fire extinguished. He lowered his arm and sheathed his dagger. "There will be a reckoning over this, Demeter. I will not forget."
"Nor should you," she said, "but Nephew, you must not hate. You are welcome to return here, as long as you leave hate and death behind. That is the blood price." She gestured, and the earth took Leander's corpse. The fatal arrow stretched, sprouting branches, to become a tall tree of singular colour marking the place where the hound had fallen.
"You have taken my companion, and
Again she gestured, "Look to
Apollo, caught between grief, anger and joy, summoned his chariot. He left his bow where it lay and commenced his daily vigil in the sky overhead, obedient to his father's judgement.
This story contains some beautiful writing, and elegantly drawn characters, but it feels incomplete. I don't really feel like much happened. It feels like a small part of a much larger story, by itself of little consequence.
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