Constellations

Far atop the highest mountain, farther than the setting sun and among the stars that shine brightly, there lay the patterns created by the great almighty beings. These beings, which mortals call by many names, are the watchful eyes of the heavens, always observing the chaos that is mankind. It is of the utmost importance that they do not interfere in human affairs, for divine intervention can be either timely or wicked. The patterns that they create, the constellations, pave the way for humanity to learn the tragic stories of the heroes that fell before them. Stories of love, stories of death, and stories of betrayal and treachery decorate the skies above us. It’s no wonder that our people who live beneath this tapestry are destined to repeat history and befall misfortunes that are greater than those of our champions.

One fateful night, Orion, the great hunter of the heavens, let fly an arrow from his bow – a shooting star that pierced straight through the belly of the mighty Taurus whose roar was heard echoing across the great night sky. All the constellations gathered and surrounded Taurus’ trembling body. They questioned why one of their own would harm another. Aquarius, the healer of the zodiac, poured his shimmering water over the great bull and a shower of stardust licked the wound clean. Libra, the fair judge of all the stars, called forth the Gemini twins, Castor and Pollux, and asked for their account of what they had witnessed. Among all the stars in the sky, they were the only ones who watched as the arrow flew across the blue. With a sigh and a deep breath, the twins began their story.

~~~~~

To understand this story, we must take you back to the beginning. Isn’t that right Pollux?

Yes Castor, we must go back, all the way to the time where our heroes once roamed the earth on two legs and were fed from the chest of Gaia. Do you all remember how the hot sun used to feel on our backs and the wet morning dew curling over our toes in the grass between our feet? Yet now we sit here, confined to this darkness and condemned to observe the mortals who walk so freely.

Pollux, be calm my brother. Let us begin with the heroine, for who the arrow flew. We had once seen a young maiden, so magnificent in her timid and gentle nature that inspired many a sonnet in her honour. The Lady Virgo, whose heart and soul was the apple of many eyes, was the fairest and kindest soul in all of the lands. She had a lust for wandering through the forest by her village. Her fascination with flora and fauna alike was coupled with her intelligence on how to use what she found on her wanderings. She was once roving about in the woods one halcyon day in search of herbs when she heard the snap of a twig and suddenly felt a whoosh by her head. It was an arrow that whistled inches by her face and thudded into the tree beside her.

Oh Castor, my brother, you are telling the story so lightly! This arrow only missed narrowly, the poor maiden nearly lost an ear from that pretty head of hers! Of course she had forgotten that there would be hunters in these woods, out to hunt the game that resided so abundantly there. She was given quite the fright as she caught her breath and turned to see from where the arrow was released. Standing a few yards away from her was a tall dark haired man so beautiful that she could not believe he was a mere mortal being.

“Apologies, my fair lady,” he requested with a deep bow of his head. “I believed you to be a deer roaming these woods. I did not realize those soft golden locks belonged to such a beautiful maiden as you.”

She blushed and let out a shy giggle. We could see it you know, that she would begin to be smitten with the young man. Many men had tried to win the hand of the Lady Virgo, but she was always too immersed with her endeavors in the forest. She never had time to look away from the herbs and plants she had grown to love in her garden, but now her sight had finally wavered between the face of a leaf and the face of a man.

“Oh, it’s quite alright, sir. And you are?” she questioned in her gentle voice. Her heart was hammering from a mixture of being nearly maimed and being in the presence of this man whose appearance was near celestial. He was lean and muscular and his skin was tanned a light ocher brown from the hours he spent stalking deer and other game under the sun.

“Orion, the hunter of these woods,” the striking man replied, whilst placing his bow and arrow away. As he smiled, we could almost hear his thoughts turning to how lovely the maiden was. He was already captivated by her flaxen coloured hair and her petite stature. He could not avert his eyes from her blue ones. They were like oceans upon her heart shaped face, and her lips were like ripened peaches in the summer heat.

Pollux and I watched as the hunter offered to walk the lady out of the woods, using the opportunity to woo her as they strolled around the cypress trees. The two spoke about everything they could during the walk, from Virgo’s interest in the foliage that grew in the forest to Orion’s favourite arrowhead to use while hunting. The conversation, which may have seemed mundane to others, was enthralling and stimulating to the two. When they reached the edge of the trees, they found themselves in melancholy at the thought of separation. The two vowed to meet again in the forest the next day at the very same spot where Orion pierced the heart of the Lady Virgo and won her affections. Overtime, the new acquaintances eventually became lovers, sharing their private moments between the trees that breathed life and beneath the stars that watched with blinking eyes. But alas, they did not know that their affair was also witnessed by the Gods, living atop Mount Olympus.

All mortals and immortals alike know the infidelity that resides in the heart of Zeus, King of the Gods. He saw with his own eyes the beauty and grace of the Lady Virgo. Ever since she had matured into a beautiful young woman, Zeus had lusted after her from his place atop the highest mountain. One warm summer’s eve, Zeus was consumed in a fit of lust and heated passion. With a flash of lightning, he flew down to the earth where the Lady Virgo had been milking a herd of cows. He appeared to her in the form of a pure white bull, something that the old fool had done once before to woo the heart of a princess many years ago. He came in this appearance to move the heart of the Lady Virgo, who he knew had a tender spot for animals. His immense arrogance and ego let him believe that he could win the heart of someone already taken with a trick that he had already used.

Virgo spotted the great bull as it ambled up to her and was indeed taken aback by the magnificent creature. She approached him slowly, afraid to startle the beast, but she was happy to find that he was still and confident in his stance. When she reached him, she placed her hand on his wide face, feeling his hair as soft as cotton and inhaling his honey sweet scent. She laughed at how the beast nuzzled into her neck, his breath tickling her collarbones. Suddenly, before she realized what was happening, the bull buried his face into her chest and began to suckle and lick her bosom, his lewd nature coming out as he forced himself on her like the shameless being he was. The poor innocent Virgo was frightened and tried to push the animal away, confused with why this beast was acting so strangely. She ran back towards the herd of cows and when they all scattered away, she knew she was in trouble for being alone in the meadow. She grabbed the bucket of cow’s milk and threw it at the beast, turning to run as fast as she could towards the woods while he was distracted. Zeus enjoyed a tough chase, so of course he went thundering after her.

Virgo sobbed in fear and ran deeper within the trees, her voice aching from calling for help. She prayed and hoped that her lover was already within the forest, tending to his weapons or hunting the deer like he did so often. Her hopes had not been in vain, for Orion had just happened to be washing his weapons in the river when he heard the frightened pleas of his beloved. He quickly gathered his arrows and sprinted towards the sound of her voice, his bow in hand ready to fire. Virgo came bursting through the foliage towards him, the hungry white bull on her heels. Orion’s eyes widened as he immediately saw that the white bull was not an ordinary creature. The beast was completely focused on Virgo, his hungry eyes raking over her body and the thirst evident from his heavy panting. Orion, the brave hunter that he was, saw this as an opportunity to kill the bull and save his true love. He stood between Virgo and the bull and drew his bow, ready to take down the beast. Zeus saw this valour and rumbled out a laugh, mocking the foolish bravery of the hunter.

“You dare try to hunt me? The almighty God of all gods? I will smite you and erase your existence from the earth!” roared the bull in a deep thundering voice. Zeus stamped the ground and shook his mighty head, challenging Orion to beat him. The hunter, at first taken aback by the beast’s ability to speak, had then realized he was facing off against none other than Zeus himself. Orion knew that he did not have a chance, but he had to protect his beloved no matter the cost.

The brave Orion loaded an arrow and pulled it back, all in the blink of an eye like the experienced hunter that he was. He fired just as the bull charged at them. It was arrow versus god and of course neither of us could tell you that the arrow prevailed. Zeus halted, caught the arrow in his teeth, and simply spat it out to the side. He pounded his hooves on the ground in fury and let out a mighty roar. All the animals scattered from the area in fright, Zeus was not a force that one can stand against.

The hunter, out of fear for their lives, grabbed his lover and made a dash for the nearest tree. He began climbing it, getting high enough that the bull would be unable to reach them. He settled the frightened Virgo into the highest and thickest branch, telling her to stay calm and to run should anything happen to him. They both knew that there was a slim chance for Orion to prevail against Zeus. If he lost, Zeus would take Virgo as a wife and she would have to bear the pain of giving birth to a demi-god, a child who would be half mortal and half celestial. Orion also knew that Virgo would face the wrath of Zeus’ first wife, the extremely jealous Hera who was the patron of marriage and childbirth. The couple knew that the resentful Hera would make childbirth extremely difficult to spite her husband’s mistress, as she had done before.

Zeus charged at the tree, shaking it to try and force the couple to fall from the branches. The heavy tree was a strong one; it would not budge no matter how hard the bull struck it. Orion, high in the branches, notched his arrows in the bow and continuously fired at the bull, trying to find a weak spot. Zeus, the god of the sky, was not easily taken down; his pelt was as strong as steel and his weaknesses were nonexistent. With anger, the bull bellowed his rage – he was unable to change forms for it was forbidden to do so when they were on earth. The gods were not allowed to mix in the affairs of humans, nor were they allowed to show a human their true form. Zeus was stuck until he returned to Mount Olympus, which he had to do soon for his time allowed on earth was running short. He knew that Hera would begin to grow suspicious of his absence from Mount Olympus, which was already long enough as it was.

With a final roar of annoyance, Zeus decided to turn around and go back to his home; he would have to find another way to capture the Lady Virgo. He knew when he had to leave a fight – he was not so foolish as to keep trying when he knew there was no chance for victory. Instead, Zeus had other ways to attain what he was after. With a final stamp of his hooves, he vanished back through the forest, leaving the couple high atop the tree branches waiting for their chance to escape. They waited several hours in fear before they slowly climbed back down the tree. Orion scoped out the vicinity, making sure that Zeus had not simply hidden and had indeed left. When they were sure it was safe, the two lovers grasped hands and quickly fled the woods.

They ran until they finally reached Orion’s home, a solitary stone cottage nestled by the edge of the forest. The lovers decided that they were no longer safe. They knew that Zeus was relentless in his quests of selfishness. The two knew that they could not turn to anyone for help. There was no mortal who was foolish enough to defy the king of gods. If they sought aid, they would be offered on a golden platter for sacrifice to please the great Zeus. Orion and Virgo knew that they had no way to escape except to fight for their freedom.

“I will do anything for you, my love. My heart beats for you as do my arrows fly for you,” Orion declared. “I will fight until my last breath, even if it means my last breath is snatched by the god of the skies himself.”

“We must seek shelter,” Virgo replied with determination. “If it is a fight he wants, then we must pick the battleground. If it is a death he wants, then that is what he will get, but it will not be ours. He will not be unwise. He will send another hunter in his place, in which case we must be vigilant and prepared to fight for our lives.”

The two hurried and gathered a few essential belongings and a satchel of food to run and hide in the woods. They knew that Zeus would not be able to return to earth for a period of time, since even the gods had rules that they must abide by. In his impatience, he would send another in his place to fetch his prize while he attended to his other duties in the sky. There was no telling who he would send, for it could be any of the greatest hunters in the heavens or on earth. Orion and Virgo hurried through the woods until they discovered a clearing by a cliff that had an opening on the face of the rocks. The opening led to a deep cave that would hide them until they wanted to be found. They rushed in and found a shallow pool of fresh water and decided to set up their camp to bide their time.

Several nights passed as the lovers hid in the cavern, preparing and waiting patiently for the time when the moon would be the brightest, for they believed their luck would come to grow strong when the moon was full and silver in the sky. Finally, the night of the full moon arrived along with a warm wind and a clear star-filled sky. Orion emerged from the cave, strong and ready to face whoever was sent their way. Virgo stepped into the shining light of the moon and was instantly spotted by Zeus’ messengers who had been combing the lands looking for her. Word was instantly sent back to Zeus, who had decided to send Scorpius, one of the greatest hunters that walked the earth. Scorpius descended upon the couple moments later, his arrival announced by a storm of frosted wind and blazing fire. He stepped out of his chariot and approached the lovers who were standing scared, but bravely together.

“I am Scorpius. I have been sent by Zeus to capture the Lady Virgo and bring her to him at once. Do not stand in my way or this encounter will be your last.” He rasped out in a cool voice. He was a large and fearsome man, clad in a black tunic and cloak with his weapons concealed from view. He had long midnight black hair that was tied back at the nape of his neck and wavered in the wind like the tail of a scorpion. Orion was unable to determine what sort of hunter he was – Scorpius was skilled at hiding his weapons until the battle began as was the trademark of a skilled assassin. Scorpius silently took in his opponent’s protectiveness over the Lady Virgo. He noticed how they clung to each other as though they knew they would not see each other again. Orion stepped forward and pushed Virgo behind him, indicating that he would protect her from being snatched. The hunters squared off, their stances melting into a defensive manner as they realized that this would be a battle where only one of them would walk away.

“Draw your weapon hunter. We will battle with integrity and honour.” Scorpius commanded, drawing a long sword from a sheath hidden under his cloak. Orion nodded and pulled out his bow. He knew he did not stand a chance with his long range weapon, but he knew he had to try. He pulled an arrow from the full quiver that rested on his back. He had spent the days and nights waiting by strengthening and sharpening all his arrows, ready to fight off anyone who tried to take his beloved away from him.

The clearing and the surrounding woods were completely silent. The air was still and a hush fell over the area. It was as though the animals and the trees all knew what was about to happen and were patiently waiting for the fate of the lovers to be determined by the battle. The hunters sized each other up as a raging fire surrounded the group. A pregnant pause fell over the group. Scorpius made the first move as he raised his blade and charged straight for Orion. Orion ducked and rolled out of the way and quickly loaded his bow, firing an arrow straight for Scorpius’ leg to immobilize him. The arrow missed and the two hunters righted themselves.

Virgo watched as her lover and her captor fought, steel clanging against armour and arrows whistling through the air. Orion and Scorpius were both great hunters in their own capacity, but both knew that Orion would soon fall. Orion was slashed and cut in several places, while his arrows only managed to injure Scorpius once in the arm. Virgo was weeping, she knew that she would lose her beloved and she needed a way to help Orion win, no matter what the cost was. She would give her own life to see her lover prevail, just as he would for her. She waited until she had an opening, holding one of Orion’s stray arrows in hand. She knew how sharp each one was, it was enough to slit the throat of the toughest beast. She bided her time, waiting until Scorpius was distracted.

Orion would not let Scorpius be near where Virgo stood frozen. He shot arrow after arrow at the assassin, trying in vain to find a piece of exposed flesh from under the cloak and armour his opponent wore. He could feel himself growing more exhausted and dizzy by the minute, his mind beginning to cloud over. Orion realized that Scorpius’ blade was coated with poison, and it was already beginning to affect his body. Orion was dying, but he refused to let his love be taken away from him.

It was at this moment when Orion ran out of arrows in his quiver, and with quick thinking he grabbed the dagger that was strapped to his belt. He knew at this point that there was no chance at all against Scorpius’ long sword. A tiny dagger cannot easily defeat a blade such as his. Orion used his bow to deflect the jabs of the long sword and used the dagger to stab and cut Scorpius’ arms to weaken them. He slashed at arteries and stabbed as much as he could until at last, the sum of all the cuts he made had finally rendered Scorpius’ right arm useless and dripping with blood. Scorpius was shocked that his dominant arm was weakened by a dagger. He did not realize that his formidable weapon would be tricked by a trivial knife wielded by a half-dead opponent. In his brief moment of surprise he felt a sudden sharp and excruciating pain in the back of his neck. By instinct, he whirled around and slashed with his sword. When he realized what he had just done, he fell silent with shock.

The brave Virgo had seen her chance and ran at Scorpius, arrowhead in hand, and dug the point straight into the neck of Scorpius. She laughed with victory and it took a moment for her to realize that she was bleeding profusely from the deep slash in her chest. Her laugh gurgled off as she choked on her blood and collapsed. Orion and Scorpius stood in a stupor and stared as her already lifeless body hit the ground. There was a moment of utter silence before Orion cried out his rage and his grief. He fell to his knees in hysterics and screamed to the heavens, the unfairness of what had just occurred tore his heart into two. Scorpius, mourning the loss of an innocent life at his blade, stood in the clearing with his life pouring out from his arm and neck and the blood of Virgo dripping off his poisonous blade. He knew he only had minutes to live. He turned back to Orion and staggered towards the hunter with his sword in his hand.

“I am sorry, but this must be done.” He whispered morosely. He raised his blade and delivered the fatal blow into the heart of the anguished hunter. Orion fell defeated, his arm outstretched towards his lost love, their bodies too far to touch one another. Scorpius collapsed to his knees, finally finished with the task he was commissioned to complete, and stared at what he had done. He was horrified, never before had he taken the life of someone who was innocent. He kneeled bleeding, praying for the souls of the lovers who were not fated to befall a destiny such as this. With a final wish he toppled over to the ground and turned his face up to the sky, his eyes starry as he drew his final breath.

The three bodies lay in the clearing, eyes upturned and reflecting the twinkling lights of the stars as the life was taken from their bodies. Zeus had witnessed the entire battle and heard the prayers of Scorpius. The shocking turn of events had left him speechless. He mourned for the beautiful Virgo who had died in the crossfire and he mourned for Scorpius and Orion, both brave hunters who fought valiantly. He sent a shower of cleansing rain to wash away the blood and the memories from the clearing. The rain poured all night, until finally the sun began to rise in the black, smoky sky.

As the darkness faded, Zeus turned the three heroes into constellations in the night. He placed Scorpius and Orion on opposite ends of the sky, knowing that should they ever meet again, Orion would seek revenge for his lover’s death. He placed Virgo near Orion, close but not near enough. He felt compassion for the hunter, but he was still too selfish to let Orion have her. Zeus called upon Taurus who stood tall at the gates of Mount Olympus as the guard of the heavens. Taurus was as mighty and stubborn as he was obedient. His obedience, however, was a curse placed on him a long time ago by Zeus for a crime that he committed against mankind. In his mortal life, Taurus was a mighty man who trampled through villages and forced others to bend to his will. Zeus heard the prayers of the villagers whose homes were destroyed and as punishment he cursed Taurus and made him into a guard of Mount Olympus.

Enough history, Castor! Now, Zeus changed Taurus’ form to that of a bull which Zeus thought was fitting to signify the pure white beast that he himself took when he attempted to snatch Virgo for himself. Zeus placed Taurus in between the hunter and the maiden in the sky, this being the most fitting way for the lovers to be guarded forever. Zeus knew that by immortalizing Orion and Virgo as stars, he would be able to honour their love without allowing them to finally be with each other, the cruelty just another facet of his selfishness. He also believed this to be an even greater punishment for Taurus who would now be condemned to lay still between the lovers forever.

Now finally, dear friends, we are brought to the next part of the story. Orion and Virgo are lovers separated out of spite by Zeus, god of the skies, and Taurus was the mighty beast who keeps the two lovers apart by Zeus’ will. We witnessed the great battle between Orion and Scorpius, just as we have witnessed the love blossom between Orion and Virgo. We have all seen how Orion pined after Virgo for centuries since they were placed here in the sky. He only caught glimpses of her from behind the massive Taurus during the autumn solstice when Virgo rests her duties as the sixth member of the zodiac. The hunter’s bow was always drawn with an arrow in the sky, waiting until the time when he can be reunited with his lover by striking down the bull. At last, after gathering enough power from the sun, he took his chance. Now here we are, the bull has fallen and Orion can finally be with his Lady Virgo. The two lovers can be reunited again.

~~~~~

The Gemini twins fell silent, their story finally completed. All the constellations were still, each reflecting on their own reason for why they had become part of the embroidery of the night. Many of them were also lovers who were doomed to be separated forever, while some were placed there to be in an eternal prison. Libra had heard all she needed to make a judgement for Orion’s crime in harming another constellation. She could not allow him to be reunited with his lover, and yet she felt the sympathy rise in her as she wondered how cruel it would be to never allow the lovers to be together. She conferred with the healer Aquarius who assessed that Taurus’ wounds would be fully healed in a matter of seconds.

Libra took a moment to decide what she felt was the correct fate for the lovers. She decided that because centuries had passed since they were brought into the sky, the lovers deserved to be reunited with one another, despite Zeus’ selfish desires to have them separated. She knew that by now, the old god would have definitely forgotten about Orion and Virgo and have already gone through legions of lovers. Libra gathered all the constellations once more, ready to deliver her judgement.

“I have come to a decision. As the fair judge of the night sky, I have decided to allow Orion the hunter and Virgo the maiden to be reunited as lovers among the stars,” she declared in a booming voice. “But there is a limit to their affair. The lovers cannot be pardoned for Orion’s offense against Taurus. For this reason, I declare that the hunter and the Lady be reunited only once a year, in the days between the autumn mornings and winter evenings.”

She waited as the constellations let her decision sink in. Moments later the sky was filled with cries of joy in their realization that the star crossed lovers would once again be together, even if for a short time. Aquarius let free a shimmering cascade of stardust in celebration of the judgement. Scorpius smiled from his side of the sky, the guilt he carried for centuries for spilling the blood of Lady Virgo was relieved as he rejoiced in the news that the fated lovers would be together once more. The Gemini twins danced in happiness, no longer having to watch the lovers pine after each other across the night sky.

Taurus, the guardian of the Lady Virgo, knew that his job was done. He stood with a great tremble; he was no longer obligated to lie in defense against the hunter by orders of Zeus. His curse of obedience was finally lifted by Libra. With his freedom he bounded across the night sky and let out a triumphant roar before he settled comfortably back into his place. The constellations celebrated the lovers’ liberty to finally touch one another after centuries of separation. Orion and Virgo were ecstatic, for their love had crossed the sky and inspired the greatest stars that shone brightly. To this day, Virgo and Orion are able to be with one another around the mighty back of Taurus, their love finally recognized. With a satisfied yawn and a stretch, the night was laid to sleep as dawn broke, welcoming a new age as the tapestry was finally completed.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s