Sun in the Night | Prologue
Posted December 22nd, 2010 by GabiDi
in ception. (you're waiting for a train. BA-BAM. Oh, I shame myself.)
A/N. AAAH! It's my greek retelling! This is so long. It's six pages and 3,111 words on Word, which is way longer than my typical prologue. Still, I loved writing it! Here's the link to the original myth--this is a retelling. http://www.loggia.com/myth/phaethon.htmlAnd it's not going to be in third person, or about Phaeton, through the whole book. Just the prologue.
This was his time, he knew. Everyone that didn't believe when he said he was the son of a god; oh, they would get their comeuppance, all right. And his mother!...Oh, his mother would be so proud. He smiled giddily.
"Father!" he called. Yes, and his father would be proud, too. Phaeton, son of Helios the sun god...the words tasted right on his lips.
"Father!" he shouted again. His words bounced back at him from the white marble walls and weaved in and out of the marble columns that erect as prisoner bars, and for the first time Phaeton felt a shiver creep down his skin. But what could go wrong, he reasoned. All he needed was a souvenir, an experience, to prove that he, Phaeton, was real. The sun of a god! He would show them how much better he was, and they would cower when he came to classes with gods behind him, riding a sun chariot. How they would beg for his forgiveness-grades mattered little when you were practically a prince.
"Son," said a rich, deep voice behind him. "What troubles you?" Phaeton whirled, his heart racing. Now! Now is the time!
"Father," he said, his tongue stumbling suddenly around the foreign word. He dropped down to one knee and bowed, looking at his toga respectfully before he stood up again. He looked up. He knew that no matter how many times he replayed this moment in his head, he couldn't change it. He had to show his father that he was truly his son, the son of a god, and not make any mistakes.
Helios's toga shimmered gold in the strong rays of sunlight that shot like pieces of straw through his palace window. It must have had golden threads woven into it because the otherwise simple cloth glimmered like a sheet of mail. A wide, plain belt of gold wrapped around Helios's wide, strong waits, and a pair of gold sandals covered his feet. In his hand he held a rod of gold, with small jewels and diamonds set into it. Most striking of all was the crown that covered his flaxen hair. It was made of gold, but blinding sunbeams flashing out of the ornate carvings on it.
"Son," he rumbled, paternal joviality lighting up his rugged, roughly shaven face like the sun beams that he controlled. "What can I help you with, so much that you chose to make the climb to my palace?"
Phaeton swallowed nervously. He had never met his father before. Often his mother, the beautiful nymph Klymene, would speak of him. He sounded far too glorious to be real, even if he was a minor god.
"Father," he began evenly. His voice shook slightly. "The only favor that I would beg from you is the great honor of..." he swallowed dryly. "Of driving your sun chariot through the sky." He could see his father hesitate, and persisted eagerly. "Only this once," he persuaded, "for it would be a great honor to me. See, the goddess Dawn will awaken soon. This would help me, father."
Helios was already shaking his head. His flaxen beard quivered as he spoke, and his fiery blue eyes were solemn.
"Phaeton," he explained. "Only a sun god can ride the chariot."
"But I am your son! Surely I am a sun god, too!"
Helios was beginning to protest when a gray, subtle light flowed past the window of Helios's golden sun hall. It was Dawn, the goddess of morning, and Helios knew that if he would ever grant this favor to his only son, this was the time.
"All right, son," he sighed heavily. "All right. But you must remember-allow the horses to do what they want. They know the path. And should the Snake ever approach you..." sighing, he snapped his thick fingers in the chilly dawn air and his hall disappeared. He and Phaeton were standing in front of a magnificent chariot outside, in the cool air of morning. Balanced on a snowy drift of clouds, four beautiful palomino horses swept their golden hooves through the clouds and tossed their fine manes. Their reins and bridals were studded casually with brilliant jewels, and the two handmaidens named Hours fastened them tightly. The horses snorted fire into the moist air, and flicked their tails and whinnied insistently at their master and his son.
"Be careful!" Helios concluded, as though nothing had happened. "It is a dangerous path that you are going to take, my son."
"Yes, father," Phaeton nodded eagerly, even though few of his father's words had managed to slip through his glorious daze.
Helios pulled off his thick golden belt, and Phaeton wrapped it around his thin waist. Then, Helios reached up and pulled the magnificent crown from his head, and placed it solemnly on his son's. Helios looked strangely naked without the gleaming circle of sunbeams.
"I'm ready now, father," Phaeton decided. His head felt hot with the warm weight of the crown on it, and he leapt into the chariot. He entangled his fingers in the horse's reins and grinned.
"It is time, father!" Phaeton cried. He leaned forward and the horses leapt into action, lifting themselves and the chariot effortlessly.
"Be careful, son!" Helios shouted after him, but Phaeton was not listening.
The horses' hooves rested in thin air and they climbed into the air. Behind the chariot, golden sunlight streamed like ribbons. Phaeton felt glory fill his chest and excitement flutter in his breast. He was now, truly, the son of a god.
The horses led him easily through dense mountains of clouds, as yellow light spread sluggishly like honey on the landscapes below. Phaeton held the reins tightly, and then tugged at them gently to steer.
Too late did he remember the warning that his father had given him. The horses neighed with worry and tipped to the side, tripping away from the path and into a new type of clouds, ones with scrappy yellow-grey puffs instead of snowy, dense cushions. Soon, he had shot out of the clouds altogether and was in the space, huge stars and black air around him. Were it not for his blood of gods, Phaeton would have been killed by lack of gravity; and even so, he gasped for air desperately as he plunged through the icy air. The horses snorted plumes of fire indignantly. Black stars where the sunshine had not yet pierced the cold or framed dancing, glowing shapes, like the Great Bear, forever frozen in mid-bound, or the Snake, whose still body seemed to sway hypnotically, were formed in the constellations. Panicked, Phaeton lost all faith in the horses and yanked the reins to the left, but the horses ignored him and rose higher, the crown and chariot shooting out sunbeams into places that should never have seen sun. The Great Bear felt the obnoxious heat seep into the space around him and woke up from his long hibernation. The Snake slowly flicked his sleek, tapered tail, a forked tongue slid through his jaws as he watched Phaeton pass, and two emerald stars shone brighter as his eyes opened.
Phaeton saw none of this as he shot through the heavens. Finally, he pulled in reins in tightly, screaming-but it did not have the effect he had wished for. The horses felt the gravity pull them up, and then they plunged down. For the first time, they were truly out of control: Their hooves stumbled through the air and slipped and slid about on wind currents. Phaeton and the four horses were plunging towards the earth, and the sky was freezing behind them and the mountains and forests too hot before him.
Phaeton screamed, again and again, but he continued to hurtle down like a meteor. Forests burnt, and people screamed as massive heat waves beat upon their skin. The skies were freezing and the earth was burning, the hot sun exciting volcanoes and starting huge fires.
Zeus, in the high Palace of Olympus, scowled in anger and worry-what was Helios thinking?-as he saw the earth being destroyed by a reckless sixteen year old boy. Suddenly, he heard Mother Earth's pain-filled screams as she was killed, and he growled with rage. Zeus snapped his scepter and strode outside, his violet eyes alight with rage, and saw the golden chariot flipping and whirling in the sky, the four horses snorting plumes of fire and ashes in their distress. Zeus hefted his scepter into the air and laid two long fingers on it, sending powers into the silver.
Helios, watching in anxiety, shouted, "No, Zeus!"
Phaeton screamed again.
Then a long streak of crackling lightning spat from one end of Zeus's scepter and shot through the air. It found Phaeton easily, and it disfigured him for a moment as a sheath of crackling lightning covered his thin, writhing body.
Then he fell from the chariot and his limp body spiraled instantly through the air. The horses, which Zeus had calmed with the lightning, slowly climbed back onto their path and trotted peacefully back to Helios's great hall.
Helios sped to the chariot, but he already knew that Phaeton was dead. H e groped for a moment inside it and found the golden crown, still flashing sunbeams into the air. Tears formed in his bright blue eyes and slid down his brown face as he looked at the last memory of his son. He walked slowly back into his hall, the crown dangling limply from his hand.
"How can he not be there?" the river nymph demanded. "He must have fallen into this river."
"I'm sorry, but he simply isn't. Phaeton did not fall into this river," the pale nymph insisted. The first nymph sighed and massaged her forehead with her webbed fingers, floating effortlessly in the ripples of the huge river.
"But he must have," she snapped. "He must have because he didn't land anywhere else, and if Phaeton's body is not here, then where else could it be?"
The second nymph shook her head. "That I do not know," she said helplessly, "but he is not here and he is not in the other rivers. We even asked the wood nymphs and they say that he is not on land."
The first nymph stayed silent for a while. "Then we must say that we have found him and bury an empty coffin," she decided slowly. The second nymph was so stunned that she almost sank into the dark waters of her home.
"Decieve the gods?" she repeated finally. "We cannot do that. We can't-"
"And why not?" the first nymph demanded. "They will never know, and they would be so angry if they discovered that we couldn't even find Phaeton's dead body." She paused to make the point, and the second nymph shuddered along with her.
"You are right," she conceded finally. "We will provide a false grave." The first nymph nodded.
"Thank you. For all our sakes."
There was a pause as they both hovered in the water. "Where is he, though?" the second nymph wondered helplessly.
Phaeton felt hot pain coursing through his veins, pushing all the air out. He plunged down, down, and he closed his eyes. The end will be quick, he thought dimly.
But when he opened his eyes again, he was still alive, and the pain was sluggishly ebbing out of his body. Phaeton stretched his tingling limbs and opened his sticky eyelids. He felt something dry and sleek slide over his sandal and yelped, his foot jerking, for her knew that it was a snake. Snakes, known in Greece to be cunning and cruel.
But this snake, something said in Phaeton's mind, is different. This snake has healed you. He will not turn on you as your father did.
No, Phaeton though, bewildered. Father has not turned on me. He never would.
The snake was black, with a pattern of white diamonds scattered across its sleek scales. They looked dull and ugly at first, but if Phaeton focused...look at those rainbows in the scales. Beautiful, he thought dazedly. In his shock, he did not notice that the snake was almost ten feet long.
"Son of Helios," the enormous snake hissed melodically. "What fate has befallen you?"
Yes. I am the son of Helios. "I crashed the chariot," he mumbled. Utter humiliation and shame washed over him and he almost whimpered. What had started as a quest for glory, just a way to prove that he was better than them, had turned into one of the worst things that he could ever had done. His father had known that. He had known that Phaeton was not worthy of the chariot.
The snake's emerald eyes shifted. They were sympathetic and paternal, almost. "You did not crash the chariot, Son of Helios. It was simply a mistake, and the horses were frightened. You should not be ashamed of yourself."
Even as he said so, Phaeton felt an extraordinary rush of confidence and happiness. Yes, that was what had happened. It wasn't my fault. It was a mistake, and those horses were scared, so I won't be worried. "That's right," he agreed, nodding blissfully, "that's absolutely right. "
"Yes, Son of Helios, it is," the Snake said warmly, the tail that had once been made of stars stirring invitingly.
"I'll go and find my father now," Phaeton said, starting to his feet on the clouds. "Thank you, Snake."
"No!" the Snake cried vehemently. Phaeton blanched and the Snake somehow bent his scaly jaws into a smile. "No, Son of Helios," he coaxed smoothly. "You are not yet fully healed. Sit down and let me heal you-it will only take a few minutes."
At the moment, Phaeton saw that he was hurt. He needed to be healed. "You're right," he agreed, in great relief. "Thank you, Snake." And he sat down.
"Wake up, Helios!" he shouted. His angry voice echoed around the hall. It was a different hall, though, than the one that Phaeton had been in three days earlier. The sunlight was gone, and the columns were crumbling. Dry, racking sobs filled the hall as Helios slumped in his once-magnificent throne.
"You must drive the chariot again, Helios!" he shouted. "You have been in mourning for three days. Your son has been dead for three days. The people are dying, Helios! The entire earth is freezing! You must save it."
And still Helios continued to sob. So Zeus cast his powers out at him, and forced his way into Helios's unsuspecting mind. He was disgusted at the weakness in there; why love the one who had almost destroyed earth? And then he purged out all the memories of Phaeton, all of them, even the memory of his birth. He retreated from the mind and panted slightly in exhaustion.
Then Helios looked up. His blue eyes twinkled. "What is that outside?" He gasped, looking out the window. "Why is there no sun?" He touched his wet face. "And why am I crying?" he wondered in bewilderment.
"Never mind," Zeus snapped impatiently. "Now go!"
Helios scrambled out of his chair and ran to his chariot, where he jumped in and placed the sunbeam crown on his head. But he could never find his belt, and he never knew why.
"You may go now," the Snake said finally. Phaeton grinned in relief.
"Thank you so much," he gushed, inspecting his flawless skin. Oddly, he couldn't remember any cuts or scars in the first place; but the Snake assured him that he had been hurt badly, and he could trust the Snake.
"It is all right," the Snake said kindly. "Now go back to your father."
"Thank you!" Phaeton repeated. "Thank you so much!" And he ran back to his father's hall, his sandaled feet not slipping through the clouds. He noticed that it was very, very cold. There was no light, and it was so dark...how could that have happened in the few minutes that he had been with the Snake? His father must have been in such mourning that the earth had grown colder at an accelerated rate, he reasoned. He arrived just in time to say Helios set off in his chariot, his smile wide and his eyes blissful, the crown at a careless tilt on his flaxen hair. Phaeton was confused. How can he be so happy? He wondered, when his only son has just been killed? But it didn't really matter; he could get answers soon enough. He waved until his father looked down. The horses snorted at him angrily, remembering their earlier mistreatment, but Helios was still blank and carefree.
"What are you doing up here, boy?" he shouted down at him. "You had better get down before you fall!" Then he sped through the air, staying on the path, guiding the horses easily through the sky to save the people of the earth from freezing.
Phaeton remained frozen there, though. He was still and frightened. "He has forgotten," he whispered blankly. He had only walked a few paces when the grief and shock caught up with him and he slumped into the clouds, sobbing.
He heard a familiar slithering next to him, and looked up, not ashamed. The Snake was his friend, after all. "He has forgotten, Snake," he whispered. "My father does not care that I have been killed." The Snake merely looked at him with his emerald eyes. He was so understanding.
"My father," Phaeton repeated. A dry sob racked him, a sob of rejection and anger this time. "He has forgotten me! And I was only gone for a few minutes!"
"Yes, Son of Helios," the Snake whispered smoothly. "Only a few minutes."
Phaeton sobbed for a few more hours, the Snake offering comforting words the whole time. Finally, Phaeton rubbed his bloodshot eyes, and looked straight ahead, not at the snake.
"I want revenge," he decided in a monotone. "I want to get revenge on him for forgetting me."
"Yes, Son of Helios," the Snake hissed. His melodic voice was gone for a moment, and there was only a savage, eager hiss in its place. But Phaeton was so enchanted that he did not notice. "Yes," the Snake hissed slowly, his tongue flicking in and out quicker and quicker in eagerness. "That is what you will do. What we will do. I will help you, Son of Helios." Phaeton smiled. It was the same giddy smile as before, three days ago, but it felt like only a few hours.
"Yes," he said gleefully. "That is what we will do."
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