“Your job isn’t as fun as mine. Your chariot can only go straight,” Ares brags as Apollo stares slack-jawed at the god of war.
“Next sunrise, I will show you tricks,” Apollo responds arrogantly.
The next morning as dawn is approaching, Eos is waking and the moon chariot driven by Artemis slowly descends closer to the ground, Apollo harnesses his horses, preparing to show Ares what he can do. Up in the air, Apollo pulls on the reins of the flaming horses, telling them to go off course. The lead horse, a blazing golden stallion, snorts out a protestant stream of smoke, yet complies with his master’s request. When he took over for Helios, Apollo was told great consequences would arise should he not keep to the path, but the sun god’s judgment is clouded by his ego.
Ares watches from the edge of Mt. Olympus as the ball of light that is the sun chariot swerves left and right, up and down, does loops and figure-eights, until it finally comes to a rest at its stopping point and quickly drives to the very spot the god stands.
Apollo egotistically says, “How is that for tricks?”
Being unarguably the most stubborn god of them all, Ares stalks away from his half-brother who has a smile splitting his face as bright as his chariot and an ego as big as the mountain upon which they stand. The sun god, once returning his horses to their respective stalls to rest and feed, receives a summons from the ice goddess Khione.
Apollo shifts uncomfortably as he glances around the walkway to the goddess’s palace. Water drips down from the melting ice trees, buildings and statues into the crystal clear puddles accumulating underneath them.
Coming to a fairly large pool of water, the god of heat looks down into it, seeing what happened in the past almost as well as Epimetheus, Titan of afterthought. People in clothing as white as the evaporating snow surrounding them run amongst homes and nurseries collapsing from unknown causes, although Apollo has an inkling as to why they are falling.
Unbeknownst to the god, Khione, from the entrance to her castle mere yards away, watches his reactions to visions from the Oracles’ mind itself. It still surprises Khione that Apollo was so ignorant to this travesty in her realm, seeing as how he is the keeper of the Oracle.
As the scenes end, the water ripples and the snow goddess clears her throat, jolting the clumsy god from his thoughts and sending him tumbling head-first into the ice-cold water. Cold. Apollo, for fair reasons, hates the cold with a passion, and immediately pulls himself from the shallow pond, using his godly powers to warm himself.
“K-Khione,” he stutters as the cold seeps from his bones, and continues once he gathers his wits. “What is it you request, goddess?”
“Oh, don’t pretend to be so ignorant. Look what you did!” Khione screeches, waving a pale arm wildly towards her thawing realm. Khione’s pure white chiton resembling the cold of her fortress and reflecting the cold of her heart, which, quite figuratively, is made of ice as well, but has not thawed because of Apollo’s little trip in his chariot.
“Can’t you just fix it?” Apollo suggests.
“Just fix it? Just fix it?!” Khione paraphrases, her voice rising as her pale silver eyes turn from the window to the sun god. Icicles sprout from the ceiling, threatening to fall on the Olympian, although they stick as Khione knows that the god would still be there, merely bleeding golden ichor and getting Zeus angry at her once again. “You torch my home and all you have to say is ‘just fix it’?” Apollo opens his mouth to say something, but the snow goddess cuts him off, “For your foolish deeds, I curse any and every of your followers who turns to the sun to give you praise. They will be frozen until the heat from your own realm melts them to oblivion. Their souls forever stuck in the fields of Asphodel, their memories lost in the River Lethe, lost hopes and dreams in the river Styx, mixing with all the many others.”
After leaving the snow palace, the cruel, heartless white burned into his eyes, Apollo flees to his father, god of the gods, asking him whether he could remove this most wretched curse or if the god was stuck being punished for eternity.
Regretfully, Zeus says, “My son, I am deeply sorry, but it is not my place. This is your lesson to learn.”
“But father, you must be able to do something. You are the king of the gods.”
“I cannot,” Zeus sorrowfully explains. “It is up to Khione to remove the curse she casted.”
Returning to the nearly restored ice realm after taking the sun across the sky for another time, sticking to the path above the earth like glue, Apollo begs Khione to revoke the curse, thinking the entire time about his poor followers whom have done nothing wrong. Khione, albeit taking her time to revel in seeing her polar opposite groveling at her feet, refuses to accept any and all promises or bribes Apollo makes to her.
Far away, in a land stricken with frost and famine, a small village gathers in a field larger than the town itself which, during a normal spring, would be green and ripe, but is barren and icy, the soil packed tightly into the earth. The upwards of twenty people, a meek number, but is painfully great for a community without any food, kneel down to pray to the gods for sun to aid the plants. They face the sun that peeks through the stark white clouds gathered around it. Mothers struggle to keep their children still, their babes silenced; elders work hard to drop to their knees without injuring themselves.
“Great Apollo,” the leader of the society begins, but is never able to finish as a sudden freezing feeling roots him and the others into place. Growing fast and efficiently, ice creeps up their bodies, spreading out to cover every square inch as the souls go without fight to the River Styx, waiting aboard Charon’s boat for them to arrive at the massive, obsidian black gates which will lead them to the Underworld, where they will spend eternity. Charon the ferryman does not extend his hand, looking for the usual fare, instead, he smiles, glancing down at the sack of Drachmas at his feet, a bribe from Khione to take all of Apollo’s condemned followers. Innocent souls cursed because the god they chose to praise out of either faith or necessity had let his ego take over for one day, one set of daylight hours and he didn’t take the time to stop and think.
Each citizen takes their time attempting to speak, to tell the family around them everything is alright, to make a legible noise, but they cannot. They each find themselves unable to speak a coherent sentence or to grab the attention of any passerby no matter how intimately they once knew them. Against their volition, they move forward, forming a column as they step onto the dark glassy sand where each step makes no noise. In the distance, agonized wails and piercing shrieks ring out, chilling the townspeople to the very core.
They march, passing by the large dog unlike any creature they have ever seen. Three heads branch off from its neck, each swiveling in separate directions; six eyes observe the transparent apparitions flitting about around its massive paws; a long, furry tail wags, passing through the ghosts as though they we not there.
One weightless step after another leads them along the main path created of pure obsidian rock until eventually, they each appear before the three judges. Their lifetimes are evaluated before their blank, glossy eyes as Rhadamanthus, Minos and Aeacus value the worth of their existence and the mark each citizen has left behind. Although, no matter the final verdict, Khione has condemned each and every one of them to an eternity of mindless wandering through the colorless gray grass in the fields of Asphodel.
At the surface, as Lady Night herself, Nyx, and Artemis fulfill their daily tasks, Apollo drops to his knees before the icy townspeople, loathing his actions and dreading the fate of those who praise him. The consequences of his pride bear down on him as if he was the titan Atlas, struggling to stay upright as the sky weighs down upon him. No one bears witness as the great, shining god Apollo weeps before his frozen followers.