Ode to Apollo’s Peony
Apollo drew back his bowstring and loosed an arrow, sighing as it soared passed the target and punched into a distant tree.
“Brother,” Artemis laughed, “Where is your head today? It most certainly isn’t in our game.”
“It makes you wonder what he is thinking about, sister.” Aphrodite watched Apollo shrewdly, brow furrowing. She’d seen that look on his face before.
Apollo let another arrow fly, this time hitting the edge of the target. He huffed out a sigh of frustration and flung his bow aside, storming off down the forest path.
Artemis looked at Aphrodite and shrugged, bending down to retrieve the fallen bow before plucking the arrows from the target.
Aphrodite silently followed her half-brother’s footsteps through the forest, determined to find out what he was doing, sure he was keeping a secret.
Eventually the forest opened out into a glade, a lake in the middle, a group of nymphs—the Naiads—at the edge, all vying for the attention of the god.
He wasn’t interested in any of them, instead looking out towards a rocky outcropping in the centre of the lake where another nymph sat, blatantly ignoring Apollo as she idly combed out her long blonde curls with her fingers and weaving flowers around her crown.
“Paeonia,” cried Apollo, “Why won’t you speak to me? My love for you is boundless.”
The nymph turned her back on him.
“Paeonia, your hair is like spun gold, sparkling in the sunlight. Won’t you come to me?”
Paeonia coyly glanced over her shoulder. She gave him a gentle smile.
“Your beauty is greater than that of my sister, Aphrodite. Won’t you come to me, Paeonia?”
His words angered Aphrodite. No one was as beautiful as she. In a fit of anger she pointed at Paeonia with all her godly magic and sent a command.
There was a brilliant white flash over the island. When it cleared a single pink peony swayed in the middle of the island. Apollo’s cry of anguish filled the air.