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Daughter of Thessaly

by Danielle Berggren 9 months ago in Love
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A twist on the tale of Daphne and Apollo

My heart,

Forgive me if this letter grows long or disjointed. I find my thoughts full of you and as so often happens for those who live beyond several spans of years, these feelings are tied to memories of the past.

In absolute quiet, you can hear the trees grow.

They sing, and in the twisting of their bark and the unfurling of their leaves you can see the way they dance.

Trees are not things. They are living, breathing, thinking creatures.

But most mortals do not know how to listen, or how to see.

I do. I have spent time in their world, after all, and learned their secret language, of meaning that stretches through the centuries.

When you beheld me, you wept.

It is not the first time that a mortal has had such a reaction. Even gods are moved to tears.

A nymph, not of the first but of the many. I have hundreds of sisters. Thousands.

Does this frighten you, beloved? For we have shared in much, you and I. How the months have flown by like minutes! Or is that only the curse of the long-lived?

Yes, I will die. All who are born do, in the end. Even gods.

I would know.

My father turned me into the laurel tree in order to escape Apollo. And that’s where the story ends.

Except you know better, do you not?

Today we took a turn on the drive. Walking, hand in hand, speaking in soft voices of the future and the present. Oh, what sweet words you wove among the laurel trees. Their trunks leaned toward you to listen better, did you not see?

A poet. I never thought that I would find one again, and yet there you were.

I hope you will forgive me, my darling, for I have seen the signs of age upon you. Not many, mind, but enough. You’ll come to understand in time, I think, that my love for you runs deeper than your roots soon will.

Yours always,

Daphne

#

Selene shone brilliant, full as though with child, her muted light cascading through the intertwining trees to create patterns along the packed white gravel.

Daphne walked without sound, as nymphs do, the blue of her hair and the green of her eyes luminescent, as though they shone with their own inner radiance. She moved, the trees swayed in her direction, reaching.

She trailed fingertips along smooth bark. Felt the pulse of life deep within the hard exterior. Knew the heart of the being who lived within, locked safely away.

Near the end of the long driveway, where it split into the backcountry road that led to her sprawling estate, there stood the last, and the first.

Daphne knelt at the base of the tree and placed the letter in branches that she stroked with the familiar hands of a lover. Tears welled in her eyes as she kissed a new leaf, her lips just as supple.

“I will not fail you, my beloved,” she whispered, her lilting voice a melody that made the night birds and insects pause in their singing.

When she stood, she turned her back on the sapling who had been the man warming her bed just that morning, and faced the broad trunk of Apollo.

The tree twisted as she approached, until a face appeared, grimacing in pain, arms pinned overhead and twining into branches. She had been told that it was agony. At least for him.

“Bitch,” the god spat when his brilliant blue eyes beheld her. “How long has it been this time?”

“Only forty years, give or take,” Daphne replied, voice soothing as she reached out and lay a hand on where Apollo’s chest would be, if it were not covered so with bark. “Have you given much thought to my need? Do you do much thinking down there, in the dark?”

“I will not.”

“Freedom, Apollo, and forgiveness. If you but give me the elixir of life,” she crooned, leaning in closer, “I may even give you a kiss.”

The god jerked his head to the side. “Foul thing! I would not have you touch me.”

Daphne laughed, and something dark moved in the light of her eyes. “You once embraced me and called me wife, called the laurels your own and let them be used in ceremony to your honor.” She scoffed. “Do you forget so readily?”

“Thousands,” he whispered, his eyes falling shut. “It’s been thousands of years, Daphne. Let me go, and I will seek no revenge.”

“Not without them!” she hissed, gesturing behind her at the driveway that stretched for miles behind her, twisting along the slow-moving river. “Give me my lovers, and I will give you your life.”

“How many have you done this to?” he continued on in a murmur. “Dozens, or hundreds? What will you do if they all wake, nymph? Take them into you at once?”

“You’re crude, and cruel,” she said, stepping back. “You do not understand what love is. You only think in terms of the act of mating.”

Apollo opened his mouth to respond, but she waved a hand, and he let out a strangled cry as bark covered his beautiful features once more.

Daphne turned and wiped the moisture from her eyes with the heel of her hand. She looked up, at the laurels stretching far into the distance, lining her drive on either side. Scraps of paper clung to branches where she had placed her letters to them over the years.

They seemed to whisper in the wind, calling her name, and her heart ached with the weight of wanting them all.

Soon, my loves, she thought. We have all the time in the world.

Love

About the author

Danielle Berggren

Writer. Artist. Left as f*ck. Author of The Five Realms. PTSD | ADHD. She/Her. BLM. 🏳️‍🌈

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