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Thoughts on The Hesperides

September 6, 2009

They are the keepers of the golden apples–the glorious, intoxicating apples owned by Hera. The apples draw sunlight into them throughout the day and burn with their own gold-red glows at dusk. The Hesperides, silent and golden nymphai, are the heralds and guardians of the sunsets. It flows in their blood: delicious and honey-lovely.

They have, for skin, golden tree-bark. Their arms are edged with prickles; dark leaves spread out in place of their fingers. Their elbows are like thorns – long, wicked, curved daggers of bone. It is easy to think of them as delicate, fragile, smiling nymphs–but that is not all they are. They are also the cruel daughters of Nyx, gleaming with blood and shining with sunlight.

They are numbered three, or four, or seven, or nine: their true number is impossible to count. Their golden eyes make thoughts flee the mind; they kiss away logic and dance until rationality flees. In the days, they are like plants: feet apart, arms outstretched to the sky, breasts and bellies bared to Boreas’ winter winds. They are silent and still, breathing sunlight into their wide, delicate lungs–until someone dares try to breach their orchard, or until night falls.

At night, they leave Ladon–shimmering, golden, hundred-headed Ladon–in charge of the orchard. They depart to drift through the air, hunting for swirling storm-winds to guide them to blushing newlyweds. They don’t glow gold during the night: they gleam scarlet, though lines of gold thread through the veins and stand vividly out against all that red, red, red. They sing – bridal music and the hums of the dead. They are beautiful and awful, and they are utterly intoxicating–particularly so when they hold one of the apples against their bellies and revel in its golden heat.

They are not merely the essence of sunlight, of sunset. They are guardians of the treasures of the gods: even their beautiful teeth–perfectly white, perfectly formed–are capable of wrenching limbs from bodies and skin from bones. They, like all nymphai, are both wild and civilised: or, at least, they gleam gold under the illusion of civility.

Seductivity boils in their ichor-blood. They are spirits–wild girls–who prey on those who seek that which they guard. It is when someone, human or divine, trespasses that they truly come to life; after all, the night frees them from their stasis but not from their duties. Trespassers are met with the same lovely-awful fate: the naked Hesperides turn from their posts to gaze upon them. They sing and dance, sliding forward and drawing their leaf-fingers over soft lips or bristled chins. They cannot impose themselves upon the trespasser; but if said man or woman pauses to throw his or her arms around the lovely throat of a Hesperide and hungrily kiss them, the payment they offer–the payment ordered by the Moirae–is their lives.

They wear petals in their tangled hair; during the long, sunny days, flowers twist around their ankles and snare them to the ground. It is these flowers–the trespassers, metamorphosised into plants–that they pluck petals from and shower themselves in. It is evidence of their cruelty and their power: it is the visible evidence that they are far, far superior to humans, even if both they and mortals serve the gods.

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