the princess stayed in the tower and read books about better girls, where their hands learned how to hold swords, where they rode in on horses. i gave her books as often as i could. she devoured them.
her princes saw her and pretended to be scared off by dragons. got too lost in the thicket. didn’t want to handle it.
“tell me what it’s like, out there,” she whispers to me for the millionth time. i take her from The Throne into her bed, tucking her in and making sure her feet are covered.
“boring without you” i say as always, “but i did bring back a great story.”
i tell her about how the stars change beyond the equator. how there are places it looks like there are twin suns. how the desert crawls into you but so does snow. i talk about the taste of fruit and promise to bring her back some. she falls asleep while i murmur about rivers, and then in the morning i bring her from bed to Throne, even though she can do it on her own. sometimes she likes help, is all, and i’m happy to give it.
she doesn’t want help getting dressed. the men come for me, blindfold masters i have almost befriended. the path we take away from her is always different, carefully manufactured so i don’t know exactly where she’s located. after all, a lady might get ideas about things.
they let me go in the queen’s room. i report findings, ask for fruit in the next week’s supplies, am told not to spoil the princess, that she must be kind and waifish and wanting when the prince comes. i spend an hour suggesting that fruit might turn the blood sweeter and am allowed six oranges.
in the next week, she marvels over them. turns them in her calloused hands. smells them. holds them until she can’t control her curiosity, devours them. i bring her books about rivers. i bring her books about deserts.
“when is our birthday?” she asks me tonight. i’m knitting her a scarf for it.
“soon,” i tell her, “i’ll come by.”
she rolls onto one side, looks up at me in the dimming light. “I’m glad they chose you to be mine,” she says, and i drop a stitch. my heart sings against the inside of my wrists. i blow out a candle so she can’t see the blush and i can’t see her lips. i know what she means, i say. i know what she means.
it’s twenty-three for both of us. i bring her a cake we both eat, her on her throne and me on the floor. i am in the middle of laughing when she falls silent in the still night. “nobody else ever comes for me,” she whispers. i say nothing.
we have more cake, we go to sleep. i don’t know if she knows i’m awake, but i hear her crying.
the men come, the men take me. the one that smells like cedar always laughs at my jokes. the queen half-hates me because i remind her of “that nasty thing” they forced on their daughter.
“the left wheel needs oil,” i mention, “she’s having trouble turning again.”
the queen’s nose goes up. she never reacts when i mention her daughter’s wheelchair by name - doesn’t find it funny we call it a throne, thinks it’s well enough to leave alone.
“well, she’ll have a prince in this next month coming for her,” says the queen, “i’ve arranged it all,” says the queen, “he’s … had the situation explained to him first this time. i thought it would be best,” says the queen. “we’re paying him…. quite a lot for his effort,” says the queen.
situation. she means that her daughter can’t walk very far. she means the situation of towers. i excuse myself. i find my girl books about turning down marriage. i’m not sure why. it’s all she’s ever wanted.
they blindfold me and take me. cedar laughs at my jokes. the sawdust one is here this time, even he chuckles at a few. we ride horses through places i’ll never see clearly.
“so according to the queen this is the last time i’m needed, huh?” i ask them as they walk me blindly up too many stairs for my girl to make it down, “i’m sorry i never made your acquaintance.”
cedar laughs. he takes off my blindfold and for a second, lets me see his face. “it’s been an honor,” he says, shaking my hand, “you’ve been a perfect lady.”
i spend the day with my princess pretending i am not peeling apart from my bones. i just want her to be happy. to get to come home.
it’s late. “do you think in a past life i was a mermaid?” she asks.
“almost definitely,” i tell her.
it’s quiet for a while after. “what if,” she whispers, “i don’t want to leave?”
i sit up and look at her from across the room.
“it’s just,” she says, “i have you here and all the books i need and nobody makes me walk too long and i don’t feel like… like i’m wrong here.”
i want to tell her she’s never been wrong. that she’s always fit into my heart like a puzzle piece. that, more importantly, the leadership i see in her glows like a fire - that, no matter her body, she’s always been kind and gentle and smart and sweet. a princess that could bring a nation to her feet and do so lovingly.
“it will be okay,” i say, “there’s more fruit to discover.”
she doesn’t say anything. i think i’ve ruined something by accident, but i don’t know what. i don’t really sleep. i don’t say anything when the men come take me.
the world outside without her is boring. no mermaids. i put my hand in a river once a day, just thinking about her.
two weeks later i am awoken by my name, and a voice i recognize perfectly. cedar stands above me in the darkness. “i know two things in this world,” he says to me, “and one of them is about love.”
this time we make the trip without blindfolds. i see the squalor they keep her in. i see the waste surrounding her castle, the terrible place she’s in. rage fuels my footsteps even when they start flagging.
the prince is already there. he has dropped her twice, cedar tells me. i am already running up the stairs even though i can barely breathe. i hear her crying through the door and i don’t need to get ready - the fire that starts in me burns so brightly.
i roar inside. turn dragon and beat back prince with girl made rage. the bruises on her body turn me into giant snake. i eat the man alive, or at least i chase him from the place, never to be seen again. later i will hear a rumor about a demon that stole the princess from him.
she cries into my arms. i take her down every single stair. i hear her murmur her thanks into my hair and then i kiss her, because i can’t handle it, because i have places to show her and she has my heart to lead.
my house isn’t much but it’s near a river. she likes putting her hands into it. i take her places when she is able, and otherwise i bring the places back. we read books together. cedar no longer works for the queen, but he’d rather live with the man of sawdust making tiny wooden figurines.
i lie in bed next to her, stroking her soft hair. “do you think i was a centaur in a past life?” she asks.
“definitely,” i tell her, and kiss her, gently. she holds my face and pulls herself closer to me.
“will i be a good queen? i mean, in this life?”
“i’m certain of it,” i reply. i can hear the truth ring in it. the bone-deep certainty.
she’s quiet for a moment. “you saved me,” she whispers, “and usually we’d end up married. but…”
i don’t know how to answer that. i feel ice down my spine suddenly.
“i’m not demanding, is all,” her voice shakes, “i’m asking this time. for you to choose me. for me to be yours, i mean. and for you to be mine. permanently.”
the next birthday we celebrate, we are both queens.
Trini may be a badass but she’s all about consent. She’s constantly asking Kimberly if it’s okay that she holds her hand and that she kisses her. Even if Kim clearly initiates the kissing or the cuddling, Trini double checks.
Kim asks her about it one day, and Trini just shrugs it off like it’s no big deal, “Well, just because we’re dating doesn’t mean you’re always going want to kiss me. So, I mean, the least I could do is make sure you do want to kiss me.”
Kimberly is so taken aback by how sweet Trini is. (Not that she didn’t know it before) and says something along the lines of “Well, you don’t always have to ask, I’m dating you for a reason.”
Aries the first sign of the greek zodiac, marking the beginning of spring and the start of a new cycle of life.
The story of Aries is linked with the myth of the Golden Ram, which saved two kids, a brother and a sister, from being sacrificed in order to appease the gods.
The next sign of the greek zodiac is the constellation of Taurus (bull), associated with the legend of Theseusand the Minotaur.
According to myth, Theseus volunteered to be one of the youths from Athens who would be offered as food to the horrible monster Minotaur (half man, half bull) who stayed in Crete, in the labyrinth. But, when he was there and with the help of Ariadne, the legendary hero managed to kill the beast and thus relieve his city Athens from the terrible punishment imposed by the Cretan king Minos.
The constellation of Gemini is the next sign of the greek zodiac. It is linked with the story of the twin brothers Castor and Polydeuces (Pollux in latin).Actually, they were not twins in the ordinary sense, since they had different fathers.
Their story starts when Zeus, king of the gods, wanted to have an affair with Leda, the lovely queen of Sparta. In order to fool her, he transformed himself into a beautiful swan.
In the course of time, Leda bore two eggs: One of them contained a baby girl named Helen (the same one who later was the cause of the Trojan War) and a boy called Pollux. These two were the divine children of Zeus.
The other egg opened up to reveal another girl and boy, Clytemnestra (who later became the wife of Agamemnon, the military leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War) and Castor. These were the mortal children of king Tyndareus, the legitimate husband of Leda.
Despite the fact that one brother was divine and the other mortal, the twins Castor and Pollux grew to be inseparable. They did everything together and they loved each other dearly.
Because they were so close, they were called by one name; the Dioscuri. As they were growing, they both loved all kinds of sport. Pollux was particularly good at boxing, while Castor was renowned for his skill and daring on horseback.
The constellation of the greek zodiac known as Cancer(Crab), is linked with the second labour of the mighty hero Hercules, when he was assigned by Eurystheus to kill Lerna Hydra, a horrible water snake with a hundred heads.
As the story goes, in the midst of Hercules’ struggle, Hera, who was the hero’s worst enemy, ordered a giant crab to go and help the Hydra by digging its claws into Hercules’ foot.
Howling with pain, the hero stamped on the crab furiously, crushing it to death.
Hera, being grateful for its support and in recognition of its attempt to help her, honoured the crab by placing its image among the stars, as the constellation of Cancer.
Leo, the fifth constellation of the greek zodiac, is linked with Hercules’ very first labour, the capture of the Nemean Lion.
According to the myth, Hercules finally managed to kill the beast by strangling it to death. Then, he skinned the lion and took its pelt to wear it. He was then quite protected from his enemies, as the skin could not be penetrated from any known weapon of the time whether made of iron, bronze or stone.
After its death, the famous lion was put on the sky by Zeus, to become the constellation of Leo.
The constellation of Virgo is associated with the story of Demeter and her daughter Persephone. For the ancient Greeks, the story of Demeter and Persephone helped to explain why the seasons change.
The stars that form the golden scales of Libra lie halfway around the band of the greek zodiac, between Virgo and Scorpio.
Day and night are equal when the sun passes through the constellation of Libra. The scales are a symbol of balance and equity.
More specifically, the scales were considered to be the symbol of Dike, meaning Justice, who was a minor goddess of the Underworld.
The fact that the ancient greeks gave Libra a prominent place in the sky, signifies that they considered justice, equity and balance in general, to be the moral cornerstones of an ideal way of living.
The eighth constellation of the greek zodiac is the one with the name Scorpio. The story of the scorpion is connected with different versions of stories that involve the mighty hunter Orion- a hero who is represented by another familiar group of stars.
Orion was said to be the tallest and the most handsome man of the then known world. He was often seen hunting in the woods and hills of ancient Greece with his pack of dogs. His constellation shows him striding across the heavens flourishing a gleaming sword on his bejewelled belt.
Many of the stories concerning the constellations of Orion and Scorpio reflect the annual rising and setting of their constellations, which appear to pursue each other across the sky.
One story tells how Gaia had sent the scorpion to sting Orion, in order to punish him for being too boastful, claiming that he was so mighty that he could easily rid the whole earth of all beasts and creatures.
As soon as the scorpion was released from the breast of Gaia, it immediately stung Orion and its deadly venom sent him straight to his death.
The scorpion was set up on the sky by Gaia to mark her victory, while goddess Artemis, who had loved Orion, placed his image on the sky as well, forming his own constellation. Because Orion had cared so much for his hunting dog, Artemis also put up a star for his dog: This is Sirius, the brightest star in the heavens.
There is another story about Orion and the scorpion.
One day, when Orion was out in the woods, he caught sight of seven beautiful sisters, the daughters of Atlas and Pleione. Orion loved them all at first sight and began to chase after them.
The sisters, however, were terrified and cried out to Zeus to save them.
Zeus heard their pleas and helped them by turning them first into doves, so they could fly away from Orion, and then into the seven stars which are now called Pleiades.
According to myth, Orion was stung by the scorpion as a punishment for chasing the seven sisters. Zeus decided that the constellations of Orion and the Pleiades were arranged in the heavens, so that it seemed that Orion was in constant pursuit of the seven sisters, without ever becoming successful, just as the Scorpio seems always to be chasing Orion, without ever touching him.
The constellation of Sagittarius (the archer),depicts a creature called centaur, which has the body and head of a man and the hindquarters of a horse.
He is named after Cheiron, the most famous and king of the centaurs. He was semi-divine, as he was the son of god Poseidon. He was taught by god Apollo and goddess Artemis, and from them he learned both wisdom and spirituality.
He dwelt in a cave high up in the rocky, snowy sides of Mount Pelion. He was the oldest and wisest of all the centaurs and very strong. In fact, he was so famous, that many kings had trusted their sons to teach them. Among the most famous of his students were Hercules, and Jason, who later became the leader of the argonauts.
As the myth goes, Cheiron was destined to suffer a gruesome death: When Hercules was returning home to Tiryns after killing the Erymanthian Boar, he had a violent encounter with some drunken centaurs, which he managed to drive away near the place where Cheiron lived.
By accident, however, one of the poisonous arrows that Hercules used to defend himself from his attackers, went astray and hit his old teacher. Cheiron, being semi-divine, would not die, having to suffer an excruciating pain, because of the poison.
He was in such an agony, that Zeus himself felt sorry for the poor centaur and permitted him to give up his divine status and give it to Prometheus, the creator of the human race. So, Cheiron finally was let to die, relieved from the intolerable pain that was inflicted on him from the wound.
The constellation of the greek zodiac by the name of Capricorn, is as strange as that of Sagittarius. It is a sea god, with the head and half the body of a goat, and the tail of a fish.
The story of Capricorn is associated with the birth of Zeus, the father of all gods.
As the story goes, when Rhea gave birth to baby Zeus, she feared that her cruel husband Cronus would devour her child, just as he did with the previous ones that she gave birth to.
So, she secretly took her child to Crete, where he was safely kept in a cave on Mount Dicte. There, he was nursed and cared for by Amaltheia, whose name means “tender”. She was a goat nymph, and she looked after baby Zeus with the greatest love and devotion, feeding him on her own rich milk and sweet lavender-scented honey.
Zeus’s golden cradle was hung high upon a tree so that Cronus would never find him in Heaven or Earth, or even in the ocean.
When Zeus later became the lord of the universe, he did not forget his goat-mother, Amaltheia, who had nursed him so lovingly. He took one of her horns and turned it into the horn of plenty, which is always filled with whatever delicious food or drink its owner may wish for, and is never empty.
Finally, in recognition of all she had done for him, she set her image among the rest of stars on the greek zodiac, as the constellation of Capricorn.
The constellation of Aquariusshows a person pouring water out of a jug. It is thought that the story behind this group of stars is that of Ganymede.
Ganymede was the son of king Tros, after whom Troy was named. The young prince was the most exquisite and handsome youth that ever lived, and was adored and admired by both gods and mortals.
Zeus, who was especially fond of beautiful people, was totally infatuated with Ganymedes’s external appearance. Thinking it would be appropriate for so handsome a mortal as Ganymede to live with the gods, the mighty god disguised himself as an enormous eagle. He then flew down to Earth, captured the handsome youth and brought him up to Olympus.
Up there on the heavenly palace, Zeus had to find a job for his young protegee. So, he decided that Ganymede should be given the special honour of being his personal cupbearer.
The position was considered to be highly distinguished, since the person who was assigned the duty of the cupbearer, was responsible for pouring into the glasses of the Olympians the divine drink called nectar. This was the special drink that bestowed on the gods their eternal youth and vigor.
Zeus was forever fond of his cupbearer. So, he honoured him by giving him a prominent position on the greek zodiac, as the constellation of Aquarius.
The image of the two fish swimming in different directions make the constellation of Pisces.
Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, was thought to be the source of inspiration for this particular constellation being set in the stars.
After Zeus had fought his father, Cronus, he defeated the race of the giants, who were the children of Gaia, the mother earth.
In revenge for the destruction of her children, Gaia gave birth to a horrible monster, called Typhon. He was the largest and most frightening creature ever born. From the thighs down he was a mass of coiled snakes, while his arms were so long that when he spread them out he reached a hundred leagues each way.
Let loose by his mother Gaia, Typhon thundered towards the Olympian home of the gods, declaring war on all of them. The gods hurried to disguise themselves, in the hope that the horrible creature would not find them:
Zeus took the image of a ram; Hera, became a white cow; Artemis became a cat; Hermes turned into an ibis, while Ares became a wild boar.
Lastly, the goddess Aphrodite and her son Eros, dived deep into the ocean and took the shape of twin fish.
When the fierce monster was finally captured by Zeus and all of the Olympians were transformed back to their original form, Aphrodite, being grateful to the fish who had lent their form to her and her son when they were in distress, put up their image on the night sky. Thus, Pisces became the last constellation of the greek zodiac.