Apollo’s Castle Written by Ashley Jones Illustrated by Gabrielle Jones
“ e’re almost home, Hellblaze!” the god Apollo called to his Sun Steed. Rarely did he call the immortal pegasus by his true name, Pyrois. Hellblaze brayed and flapped his great wings, propelling them toward the solar-powered edifice Apollo called home. The Delphic Chateau loomed in the distance, wedged firmly at an angle in the cloud he had chosen for it. Its black solar panels reflected the glare of his precious sun, and just as he neared the castle, it began its mid-day cycle. The shell of the Chateau rotated upon its axis every hour to regenerate the solar panels. The mobile panels near the top of the castle that allowed sunlight to shine down upon the courtyard where the demigods loitered and kept up enough noise to be heard on Earth, folded closed as the chassis began to turn. Inside the castle, everything remained stationary, and life could continue without interruption. The demigods messed about, the pegasi were sound in their stables, and nothing spilled over in Dr. Life’s lab. Heavens forbid one of the great healer’s most mysterious concoctions spill in her laboratory. Apollo passed over the courtyard just as the castle finished its rotation and the panels over the cloister opened again. The demigods called up to him, but he simply acknowledged them with a nod and nicked Hellblaze in the side with his boot. The pegasus shot upward several meters, then turned to take a nosedive into the top of the castle, which was now open. The roof of the Chateau was wide, funnel-shaped, and opened at Apollo’s will as it was his own essence that shielded the entrance to his home. Down the center of the entire castle was a chute, and Hellblaze soared through it, straight down to the orb at the bottom of the Chateau where the stables were located. Hellblaze landed with the grace only a Steed of the Sun could manage, and brayed to his mate, Flutterflare, who pranced around in her stable. Apollo had left the rest of his fire-breathing steeds grazing on the Blessed Isles, as Hellblaze and Flutterflare were his two favorite steeds to ride. After stabling Hellblaze and making sure both pegasi were fed, Apollo vanished and appeared in Dr. Life’s lab, which was one level up from the stables. He could have taken the stairs that crisscrossed and zigzagged all over his precious domain, but Greek gods didn’t bother with stairs. They were for the demigods mostly, and Dr. Life. “My lord,” she greeted him, looking up from some sort of experiment she was in the midst of. Dr. Life’s lab was of the archaic variety, complete with stone slabs and old tomes. But there were modern elements as well, such as her microscopes and all the other things that made her a great healer and scientist. “Lucy,” he said, sniffing one of her bubbling beakers. He jumped back, terribly offended at the scent emanating from the container. “Careful, my lord,” Lucy laughed. “That’s a hair removal serum simmering away there.” He ran a hand over his fine, black locks. “Why does it smell so foul?” he growled. Lucy began to tell him of the many ingredients and fauna combined in the serum. He knew of all of them. Cared not even a little bit. He was the god of Healing and he certainly didn’t need to mix together any foul-smelling brews to get the job done. Apollo left the doctor to her work, vanished and appeared at the entrance to the courtyard where the demigods now lazed about on Greek lounges and tables appearing bored out of their minds. Tall plants and statues of his likeness encased the massive cobblestone piazza, giving it a more temple-like feel. The solar paneling was a bit translucent, so it didn’t feel like they were completely caged in. With the sky so clear and the sun beaming down through the open panels, Apollo couldn’t understand why his children weren’t still taking advantage of it. There weren’t even any duels in play and that was shocking. Demigods loved to duel...and to maim and kill, but that was beside the point. Then the reason became clear. Laid out on the giant lounge sitting in direct sunlight with his eyes closed and his legs crossed at the ankles, was his Irish-bred son, Strafford. The boy wasn’t sleep, he knew, because his son couldn’t sleep when the sun was up. He was rejuvenating his abilities by absorbing the sun rays, as he and only one other demigod had the power to do. Making himself invisible, Apollo strolled across the plaza and stopped when he was standing over the godling. He made himself visible again. “Isn’t there something important you could be doing, Strafford?” His son’s gray eyes flew open. “Da!” His exclamation grabbed the attention of the other demigods. Some were even startled out of the naps they’d fallen into. Strafford laughed. “Only you could sneak up on me without being run straight through, my lord.” He patted the sword strapped to his hip. Apollo smirked. “I take it you’re the reason for the gloominess that has befallen your siblings.” It was less like a question, more like a statement. Strafford shrugged. “I needed to get some rays and they were keepin’ up a bunch of racket.” “The courtyard is for everyone, boy. You can’t simply commandeer it every time you want to sun bathe.” His son scowled. “I don’t sun bathe. I’m catchin’ rays.” Apollo chuckled. “Whatever you wish to call it is fine with me. Just be quick about it and save your siblings from their misery.” “You got it, Da.” Strafford saluted him, then let his eyes slide shut again. All of the hopeful looks circulating the yard faded away. Apollo could hardly hide his amusement. Vanishing, he reappeared in his own private domain, which was a globe that was situated near the top of the solar fortress and speared right down the center by the castle’s chute. Gravity meant nothing to Apollo, so all of his wares and belongings were scattered around all sides of the sphere. His essence held everything in place, allowing him to utilize the space to the fullest, as he did right then. Conjuring up a glass of nectar wine and ambrosia, he willed his lyre to play soft music as he reclined in a lounge at the top of the globe. He sighed to himself, trying to think back to the last time he had taken a day off from his duties. It had been centuries, for sure. He smiled to himself and settled in even more. Today would be his day off. A day of leisure, free from the drama of Olympus and the never-ending bickering among his family. A day to enjoy all that he had created and relish in the fact that it was perfect. Ah yes, there was nowhere else he wanted to be. Even to a Greek god, there was no place like home.