In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt Forgive and Forget?:
Share a story where it was very difficult for you to forgive the perpetrator for wronging you, but you did it — you forgave them.
She was fighting against the man’s hold as two men struck at Hephaestion. He threw a quick glance her way and held out a curious object glinting in the midday sun. One of the soldiers hit it with his sword and one of the horses stepped on it. A blinding light came out of it and she felt herself lean into before she was pushed backwards and fell against the combatant who restrained her.
She must have fainted because when she came to, Cassandra couldn’t remember where she was. She’d had the most curious of dreams and she must speak to the emperor about it. These nightmares had plagued her for months and she knew death was upon them. She reached to call one of her maids but she found she couldn’t move. Blinking, she looked up into the eyes of a man she didn’t know. She jolted up, looking left and right. She was on a battlefield. No, she was on the battlefield of her nightmare. What had happened?
“Lady Cassandra?” She turned to face Alexandre. He was wearing the imperial crown. She cried as she knelt in front of him, head to the ground in the most subservient posture.
“It’s true then? We did betray you and the empire.”
He placed a hand on her head, like a forgiving gesture. She didn’t deserve this. What had she done? What had Hephaestion done? How could they? Where was he?
He shook his head, forbidding the name. She understood. He pointed towards a bed near hers. She went to him, to the man who had betrayed her trust, her heart, his brother, his family. And yet, somewhere she remembered what he’d said. They were born of the gods, the both of them, not truly of this world. Was it true? Or was it a lie? And how had he bound her to him? Beyond the love she’d felt. Was it even true?
She knew he’d turned her into a tool in his search for conquest. She knew what he had done: to her, to the empire. She’d become a weapon in his hands betraying her sovereign, her country and her calling. She’d been a fool. She’d loved him. She loved him still, or did she? She knelt by his side, holding his hand. There was so much blood. And yet his face was pale, as if he already belonged with Hades. And he did; when he opened his eyes and met hers, she knew he did. And he knew it too. He sighed though, something like a sob.
“Do you hate me my love?”
“My love?” She repeated incredulous. But it was true: it was there for her to see. Bare and real. He loved her. He had used her, lied to her but he loved her. He could have killed her when she started failing to hear the god’s voice. But he didn’t. He had helped her through the loss of her power, supported her through the first months of this terrifying pregnancy. He loved her. And for all that he’d done, she loved him still. She shook her head as she whispered. “I forgive you my love.”
“May you find your way through Hades. Maybe Zeus will grant you mercy for you too were a tool in the hands of your parents, as I was in yours.”
She knew she was lying to herself. They both were tools but they both could have walked away from it. Even she. She must have known at some point that it was wrong. That they were the ones betraying the empire and not the reverse. She should have trusted Iphigenia when they met on that battlefield months before. Her sister wouldn’t have lied to her. Ever.
“You and I both know that there won’t be anything but the darkest pit of Hades for me. I don’t mind. I chose this. You didn’t. For that I hope you can forgive me.”
“I have already granted forgiveness Hephaestion. I meant it.”
“I hope the gods understand you weren’t a willing piece of this game.”
“The gods will do as they see fit, as they always do my love. Haven’t you learned?”
“Apparently I still seek to defy fate and not accept they do.”
She smiled through her tears. So mortals were toys in the hands of Fate, so were the gods. They didn’t control destiny more than mortals did. That was where Hephaestion had been wrong. That was where he was wrong now. She wouldn’t be forgiven more than he was. She was Apollo’s daughter and she betrayed him. He wouldn’t forgive her more than he did Cassandra of Troy. And she had died for it.
“Farewell my love.” She murmured kissing Hephaestion as his eyes became veiled and he looked upon the Styx that he would cross into Hades’ realm. Alexandre stood on the other side of the bed and placed gold coins on his brother’s eyes. She found herself sobbing leaning on her lover’s, her betrayer’s body, as the emperor left.
“Cassandra?” A murmur called. She looked up thinking to see Neb. Instead she stared into a bright light, a figure like the sun standing in front of her. She gasped. The man looked so brilliant and yet so sad. Behind him a shadow, or rather something representing power. “My child.”
Eyes widening she realized who she was staring at. She bowed her head to the god she served who had just called her daughter.
“Apollo, father of our line. How have I deserved your presence? I have betrayed you and our father Zeus.”
Something sizzled. Was it possible that the gods were here?
“I have come for one last time until you pass onto our world. Then maybe, we might welcome you but there is a sacrifice to be made for peace.”
“I will do anything.”
“Anything Cassandra? Even losing the lives of your daughters, my grandchildren?”
The meaning of his words hit her in the gut.
“Father do they have to be punished for my mistakes? Their father’s? I would gladly give my life to atone for what Hephaestion and I have done. I don’t know that I can sacrifice them. For all that I am not they are innocent.”
“You speak truly my child. Their lives will be their own, but yours is forfeit. So has our father decided. See your fate and embrace it. Embrace the darkness daughter mine for until you cross into Hades you will no longer see.”
She did then in a flash of burning light. And she welcomed it. When the light disappeared she was left in the darkness. The gods were gone; so were her eyes.
image by dahlig