The Sun God (age twelve)

I glanced down for a moment at my brother, who lay asleep still, on the floor near the altar. Then I looked back at the radiant being before me. He was tall and handsome, with blue eyes the color of the sky, and hair as gold as the sun. That was all I could see clearly through the brilliance of the light that surrounded him. Trying to look directly at him was just like staring straight into the sun. Finally, I let my gaze fall to the side, where the light was not so bright. I stood silently for a long time, it seemed. I was almost afraid to speak. I knew the dazzling form in front of me belonged to no mortal man. This was a god. And we were in the Sun God's temple. It was not hard to guess which god this was. Unmoving and silent, I barely knew what to think, let alone what to say. After all, what on earth does a twelve year old princess say to a god? At last he spoke.

"There is no need to be afraid of me, lovely one," the Sun God said soothingly.

"I am not afraid of you." The words were firm and matter-of-fact. They were out of my mouth before I realized I had spoken them. Suddenly I was mortified. What if he thought me disrespectful? What if I offended him. I worried that he would vanish now and that I would never know why he had appeared to me in the first place. But he did not vanish.

Instead, he laughed. It was a sound that seemed to shimmer, as if even his laughter were made of sunlight. "No, lovely one," he said, "you aren't afraid of me. Are you?" Apparently this pleased him. "Do you know who I am?"

More politely, but no more demurely, I answered, "Of course. You are the Sun God. You are Apollo." Once I said it, however simple the words might have been, it made it real. I was not dreaming. This was real. I was being visited by the Sun God. But why?

"Has anyone told you that you are very beautiful," he asked me, sitting down on upon one of the stone benches nearer to the windows. Farther away from him now, I found it easier to look at him. He was smiling, with an inquisitive expression on his face. A sense of surreality began to overtake me. Had a god truly just told me that I was beautiful?

"Yes," I told him truthfully, without vanity or doubt. "Many people have told me that I am very beautiful. Some people have even said that I will be 'the most beautiful of all of Priam's daughters', though I don't think that's fair. I am sure my sisters will grow up to be beautiful as well. Besides, some of the time, I'm not really sure that I believe them at all." I stopped abruptly, embarrassed. I always speak too much. Mother says so. It is an embarrassment to watch a girl as old as I babble, she says. I shudder to think what she would say if she heard me now, especially given who I was talking to. "Forgive me," I asked sincerely, "I-"

The words of my apology hung un the dewy morning air, unspoken. "Kassandra," he said, "Don't apologize for telling the truth. And it is the truth. You are quite beautiful and charming." Charming? Me? "It was you whom I noticed, first among all the girls in your father's great kingdom." I was silent once more now as I listened, enchanted by his presence. "It is you to whom I have decided to offer my gift."

"Gift?" My voice echoed his, repeating the word as if I did not understand. Perhaps, at that moment, I didn't understand.

"Yes, a gift. The gift of prophecy." Prophecy. I had the gift of foresight, yes. I saw the future in flashes and images, but prophecy-. That was something different. I could call upon it at will, see in clear, unbroken visions, foretell things that mattered. Slowly, he stood up, but remained at a distance, saying, "Do you wish for me to grant you that gift, lovely one?"

"Yes," I told him immediately and shamelessly.

"Then it shall be so. You will be a phrophetess, and the only seer in all of Troy who needs no oracle to speak your predictions." There was something hypnotizing in his melodic voice.

Only. For some reason the word 'only' bothered me. I swept my gaze around the room as I tried to understand why. Finally, my sight came to rest upon my twin, who seemed to be in a trance-like sleep. Suddenlyh my head cleared and I felt guilty. I wanted very much to accept the gift I was being offered, but my brother- this would separate us. I knew it would. I could not be so different from Helenus. He was my closest friend. My emotions began to pull me in different directions then. I stood helpless and unable to reply. I was torn. Apollo must have seen this in my eyes, for he followed my gaze to Helenus. After an instant, the god spoke again. "I will grant this power to your brother as well." He stepped forward and, standing very close to me, whispered, "but you must promise me something, Kassandra."

Dizzy, I asked him, "What must I promise?"

"You must promise to love me. Tell me you love me, and I will grant the gift."

"I love you," I said without hesitation. I adored most of the gods. It would not be difficult to love Apollo. In that moment, under his spell, I think I believed that what I said was true.

He smiled. I don't know how I managed not to look away from his divine radience. He smiled and decreed quietly, "It is done." Light-headed and strangely breathless, I remained standing only because he held me by both of my arms. With these words, he placed a kiss on my forehead. The room tilted and spun. The light around him flared into such brightness that I was made temporarily blind. And then he was gone.