XI. The Hanging Tree
How many of you want an 'Until Kingdom Come' playlist? We have so far:
~ A Thousand Years (Christina Perri)
~ The Hanging Tree (James Newton Howard + Jennifer Lawrence)
~ Alarm (Anne-Marie)
~ IDGAF (Dua Lipa)
Recommendations for songs are welcome! Anyway, I hope you love this chapter as much as I did.
He linked my arm in his and walked me out of the reception and into a hole. Yes, there was a literal black circle that we walked into. When we walked out of the said circle, we were in a deserted street, the lights of a café visible from our view. He made a beeline towards the café.
“Where are you taking me?” I asked. When he said nothing, I glanced at him. “Apollo?” He smirked. “Apollo?! Where are we going?”
His amused face turned to me. “Ever heard of a surprise, dear?”
I pouted, my boots making a clicking sound as we walked on the pedestrian lane. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread. “I have, but I don’t really like them.”
“Oh, really? Why’s that?”
Are you, are you, coming to the tree?
“I don’t like relinquishing control and letting someone take me somewhere is definitely letting go of control,” I said, wondering what the words in my head were trying to say.
They strung up a man they say who murdered three.
“Well, then it’s a good thing I’m not just someone,” he replied, laughing, and I struggled to concentrate on what he was saying.
Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be.
“Hey, are you alright?” He shook me out of my daze. “Morgana? Morgana?”
If we met at midnight in the hanging tree.
“Sorry,” I said, slowly detangling myself from his grip. “I have this song stuck in my head for some reason, and I think I’ve heard it before, but I’m not too sure. It’s a little distracting.”
“Sing for me?” he asked gently, putting his arm around my waist and pulling me closer to his warmth.
“We’re in the middle of the street,” I protested, not wriggling free from his grasp despite it being tingly a
“We’re in the middle of an empty street,” he pointed out.
Man’s got a point. I shrugged. “Fine. But if someone hears, it’s on you.”
“Deal,” he smiled.
I cleared my throat, a little uncomfortable that I had to sing in front of him. But knowing I’d done it before it was a little less stressful. “Are you, are you, coming to the tree? They strung up a man they say who murdered three. Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be if we met at midnight in the hanging tree.”
He looked straight into my eyes, his pools of silver deep in thought. “Isn’t that the song from Hunger Games?”
The realization struck me. “Oh, so that’s where I’ve heard it from.” I scrunched my eyebrows in confusion. “Any idea why it’d be stuck in my head?”
“Remember the song I sang with you in the car?” he asked, as we ambled towards the café. I was hesitant at first, but I eventually put my arm around his waist too.
“A Thousand Years? Yeah, I remember,” I replied, a little breathless for some reason.
“It weaved into the narrative, didn’t it? Everything that gets stuck in your head or becomes an obsession has meaning.” He paused. “It’s not your job to decipher it, though. It’ll fall in place.”
I remembered this evening when I opened the package from Hecate. “Well, I’ve had an obsession with tarot since forever and Hecate gifted me a very old deck. Her note just said: you’ll know when you need it.”
“Hecate is an odd woman. But you learn to appreciate her advice,” he mused.
“Yeah. She told me anger is just a by-product of pain. I didn’t understand until… later.”
We spoke no more until we reached the café. There was only one man inside. He was on a chair reading a newspaper, his hair white as snow. I wasn’t sure Apollo saw him, though, because he just pointed at the sign above, which read Cassandra Café in a neon green script.
“This is Cassandra Café. It’s a place only gods and demigods can see,” he explained. His voice sounded a little sad.
Without thinking, I blurted out, “Hey, Apollo, I have a question.”
“Uh-huh?” he said, gently leading me into the café, the bell tingling to signal our entrance.
“Do their memories hurt you? Hyacinthus, Cassandra, Icarus, Daphne?” I asked, trying to be as considerate as possible. It’s rather sad that I’m not very good at it.
“Yes and no,” he said slowly. “I miss them as people. I miss the things I did with them. But I don’t miss the way I felt.”
“Of course,” I replied. “Their deaths must have pained you. Why would you miss the pain?”
But that statement was against everything I’ve ever felt. The pain never goes away. It only becomes a part of you. And if you miraculously manage to lose the pain, you’ll always miss it, because grieving is a kind of love. It’s just that your love is directed at their memories instead of the people.
“No, not that. I just don’t miss the euphoria associated with being with them anymore.”
“I have you now. It's not going to be long until I feel that way about you.”
We found a table and descended into it in silence. The man I saw from earlier made his way towards us, and he looked like he recognized Apollo.
I tilted my head in the newcomer’s direction. “Who is that Apollo?”
The man looked at me with ice-cold eyes, and I shivered. He was scrutinizing me, trying to see into the depths of my soul. He extended his hand. “Boreas. Pleasure to meet you, and you are?”
I clenched my fists as my heart rate accelerated. Apollo placed a hand on my left one, and I calmed down enough to shake his hand. “Morgana,” I replied stiffly.
He turned to my betrothed. “Boreas, leave her, and I, alone, please. I don’t have the energy to deal with you right now.”
He was about to say something when the words I was hearing before grew louder.
I interrupt him by asking, “Apollo, who dies in the Hunger Games?”
“A lot of people, but—”
I was impatient. “No, I meant who dies that’s important to Katniss?”
“Primrose,” Apollo says, confirming my suspicions. “And her father.”
Blood courses through my veins as I stand up, my eyes boring into the god of the winds'. “You killed them, didn’t you?” I accused.
“Excuse me?” he asked, smiling as he played innocent. But those eyes. Those eyes said otherwise.
“Hyacinthus,” I clarified. “My father. And one more…”
He just looks at me with sadistic pleasure, enjoying watching me lose control. “Who are you to be throwing around accusations like this, Morgana?”
Anger is for the weak. Anger is for the weak. Anger is for the weak.
Instead of indulging in my rage, I decided to sing: “Are you, are you, coming to the tree? They strung up a man they say who murdered three. Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be if we met at midnight in the hanging tree.”
His face turns from amusement into a playful curiosity. He turns to my betrothed. “Apollo, who is this girl?”
Apollo smirks, but I can see the uneasiness in his expression. “She’s my betrothed, Boreas,” he explains. “Hyacinthus’s reincarnation.”
“Oh,” he says, snapping his fingers and extending the word longer than it should be. He walks closer to me. “Then you’re right, dearie. I did kill your pathetic excuse for a father. I did kill your previous incarnation. I did kill one more… she goes by the name Caelia.”
“Who the hell do you think you are?!” I screamed. “What made you think it was okay to take their lives, you fool?!”
I turned to him, silencing him with a glare. “My father, Apollo! My! Father!”
He tried again: “Listen to me—”
Sing, a voice in my head said, and I sang the first song that came to mind.
“Bang, bang. Two shots fired. Man down, one fool, one liar. Ring, ring. Just gone missing. House on fire, house on fire.”
I stopped short. Boreas fell to his knees, clutching his chest. Golden liquid oozed from two holes which looked surprisingly like bullet wounds. I held my hand over my mouth, feeling unsteady. He slumped forward, unconscious.
“Morgana, what… when did you learn you could use music as a power?”
“Did I…?” I began, and tears began flowing from my eyes. “Did I… kill him?”
“No, love. He’ll heal. All gods and goddesses do,” he comforted, pulling me into an embrace. “I just wish you hadn’t made him an enemy.”
My heart hardened as I remembered what he had done. I broke away from the hug and walked towards the door, telling Apollo silently let’s go. “He made himself an enemy when he chose to mess with me,” I replied. “Caelia,” I muttered, running my hands through my hair, and twisting it into a bun. “Isn’t it weird?”
“Isn’t what weird?” he asked, walking along with me outside the café.
“Morgana. Caelia. Two names from the Tales of King Arthur,” I explained, wiping my eyes of stray tears.
“Morgana, will you be offended if I ask you not to go back to your room tonight?”
“Why?” I asked, my voice low.
“I’m scared,” he admitted. “I’m scared of who Caelia is and what Boreas did to her. I’m scared… I’m scared he’ll do the same to you.”