One Greek writing (that I can no longer remember) mentions Pan's death, along with Charon's cry of "The great god Pan is dead!" The phrase wouldn't leave my head, and after reading far too many Greek myths, this is the result.


The Great God Pan is Dead

On a day when the sun is high and bright, a group of revelers come down the rocky path through the forest, laughing as they go. I stand among the bending trees, silent and unseen, and watch them pass. A human girl walks with them, fair-haired and bright-eyed, like Eos, rosy-cheeked goddess of the dawn, come down to earth. She laughs louder than the rest, and sings more sweetly. The air around her is filled with birds, and her hair is filled with flowers.

A dryad leans down from the branches of the tree next to me, her smile impish. "Who does the great god Pan see that has caught his eye? A nymph, perhaps? Or one of my sisters?" She follows my gaze, and then scoffs. "A human, and Argos's princess at that? How far you have fallen, in your time on Gaia's earth. Mayhap you should return to the great halls once more, and recover."

I shake my head, finally moved from thought by her words. "Olympus is a land for gods, not goats." To make the point, I stamp my cloven hooves and toss my head, the small horns passing before her face so that they cannot be missed.

The dryad laughs at that, slithering with boneless grace down the trunk of her tree, though she never truly leaves it. Branches still twine in her hair, and connect her to the olive that is her life. "You are our god, Pan, and not some distant figure in the clouds." With gentle hands, she grips my horns and pulls my face to her, so that all I can see are her green, green eyes. "Come, Pan, play with us! Give us a tune, and we will dance in your honor, for the veneration of the only god who consents to dwell among us forest folk."

Around us, more dryads emerge from the trees, chorusing her words. "Play, Pan! A tune, a tune! Something pretty! Play! Let us dance to your pipes!"

But I am in no mood to play for them, and walk away. "No music. Not today."

The dryad who first spoke reaches out and catches my arm as I walk away. "Oh, Pan, she is not for you! Content yourself in the forest, among those who are your kind! Welcome the satyrs and the maenads, and let Old Man Silenus join our revel, and you will see a greater joy than you would ever know with a mortal fool!"

Perhaps her words are true, but I do not wish to hear them. I walk out of the forest, beyond their reach, and continue after the revelers. They are not far, but they do not see me, too intent on the princess in their center to care about the road around them. As I watch, one of the men uncorks a wineskin and passes it around. The princess does not drink, but she laughs as the others do, and claps as one begins to dance around her in a circle. She is so carefree, so dazzling, and accepted.

I envy her that. Always, always, I have been one to stand apart. With the legs and feet of a goat, I am not welcome on Olympus. With horns and a voice of terror, I am not welcome in the human towns. Not a god, not a mortal—I am nothing, and it has always been that way. And I am tired of it all, of the humans' rejection and the way the other gods shun me. I did not ask to be born the way I am, but I was, and there is no way in which I can change it.

Ahead of me, the party stops, moving off the road to rest in the shade below an old oak grove. The princess and the other women wade into the cool stream that twists around the roots of the trees, lifting their wraps away from the water and the wet fingers of the playful nymphs. I drift closer, unsure of why I bother, but wanting to hear the words that these people share.

The men are speaking as I step among the cool oak-shadows, their voices low. They are keeping the women from hearing. The slimmer one glances to where the princess is splashing at her companions, then asks in a quiet tone, "Any word from the fleet yet?"

Another man, bearded and heavyset, grunts. "Aye. They sit on a dead sea. The oracle said that Artemis is angry, and sides with the Trojans until we can placate her. We are to take the princess to the temple, and let the priests tell us what must be done."

"Ah, but it's too hot to travel now." A third rolls over on his back and sighs, draping his arms over his face. "Let's rest here for a while, and continue after Helios passes us by a bit. Elsewise, I'll melt like mountain snow in summer."

His friends laugh, but say no more as the women return and begin to prepare simple food for their midday meal. Soon, they are all asleep—all but the princess, who wanders past the grove and into the meadow beyond, then sits down among the flowers and the butterflies.

As she sits there, I move closer, keeping to the shadows. But despite my hidden steps, she turns and looks directly at me, and smiles.

"Who are you?" she asks. "Are you a satyr? Or a faun?"

"I'm not sure there is much difference between the two," I say, but I sit down a short distance from her, without even knowing why. But in my heart, I do. She is calm, and beautiful, and as vivid as the sun above us.

"Then are you one of them?" she asks again, and it is slightly impatient now. She is used to getting her way, but no less lovely for it.

I look away, unable to meet those clear blue eyes. "My name is Pan."

She smiles at me. At me. "I am Iphigeneia, daughter of Agamemnon, the king of Argos. If you are not a satyr, why do you look like that?"

It is an innocent question, but painful. I cannot look at her face. "My father tells me that it is because I was meant to be a god of the forests and meadows, and that I will be more at home here this way."

Her eyes grow a little wide at that, and she tilts her head in question. "Who is your father?"

"Hermes."

"Oh." She puts her hands up to her face and laughs, as though embarrassed. "Oh! Forgive me. I sounded so mighty when I told you who my father was, but yours is far greater."

I shrug, uneasy at her sudden deference. "Our fathers do not make us. It doesn't matter much to me."

"Why are you here, Pan?" she asks, eyes bright and inquisitive. So many questions, and all of them hard to answer.

Instead of telling her the truth—that I want to see her—I say, "I have nothing else to do."

"Then stay a while with me!" she entreats, leaning over and gripping my arm. "Talk with me! Please?"

"All right," I agree, helpless to refuse when faced with so plain-spoken a question.


We talk for a long while, in that sun-drenched meadow. Or she talks, and I listen. Soon, I know about all the ladies in the palace, all the men who try to win her hand. I know about the war and her father's fleet, becalmed on the ocean. Iphigeneia and her companions travel to the oracle, to see if there is a way to remedy it.

Then, as the sun begins to descend, I see her escorts stirring, and I rise. Iphigeneia welcomes me, but I am not about to test my reception among them. I look down at Iphigeneia, and smile at her. It is a real smile, and comes naturally for the first time in a long while.

"I will play for you tonight," I tell her. "Listen in the woods, and you might here my syrinx. Then all the nymphs and dryads will dance for you, daughter of Agamemnon."

She smiled up at me in return. "I think I'd like that."

I bow to her, just my head—the gods bow to very few. "Then it will be done. Goodbye, Princess Iphigeneia."

"Goodbye, Pan," she calls as I walk away. "I hope I will see you again."

After a moment's hesitation, I turn to face her again, and nod. "If you ever need my help, call my name into a grove of trees, and I will hear you and come. You may ask a favor of me, and I will grant it if I can."

Her smile is like dawn. "All right. Thank you, great god Pan."

I am too enthralled by her to wonder at the covetous hunger in her words.


That night, the great gods come down from Mount Olympus to watch as the lesser gods make merry in the forest. My father comes, and mighty Zeus, and beautiful Aphrodite. Even Apollo comes, and listens to me play my simple pipes with distaste on his handsome face. He remembers that I once beat him in a contest to see who could play more sweetly. I played the tune of the rushing streams, the peaceful wood, and the star-filled meadows, and I won the first round. But the gods of Mount Olympus are always greater than those who dwell with Gaia, and so he was named the victor. But now, now he must listen to me as I play, as I make the other gods laugh.

When the Muses step forward to sing and play, I take my leave, and Zeus me rewards with a nod of gratitude. "You are well-named," he says. "'Pan' means 'all,' and you have pleased all the gods tonight. Thank you, Pan."

I bow to him, because he is far greater than I, and walk a ways into the still forest. It pleases me that Zeus enjoyed my tunes, and I know that what the dryad said was true. I am a creature of the forests, and of the forest folk, not meant for a mortal life. Perhaps, in order to see that, I just needed…perspective.

And then a call rings through the trees, as soft and light as a breeze. I recognize the voice, for I last heard it only a few hours ago. But I cannot imagine what need Iphigeneia has of me so soon. I no longer need to go to her, but I gave my word, so I do. Fleet-footed through the silent trees, I go.

Iphigeneia is waiting when I step out of the grove that surrounds the temple to Artemis. She looks up, and smiles. But there is something dark in that smile, darkly pleased. She stands and comes over to me, perfect in the false dawn.

"Hello, Pan," she says, and her voice is like every bird singing at once. I am, once again, utterly captivated, and can do nothing but stare as she wraps her arms around me and leans her head against my shoulder.

"Princess Iphigeneia," I manage to say after a moment. "What is your reason for calling me?"

She does not answer, but stretches on her toes to whisper in my ear, "Do you love me, Pan?"

Love? Is that what this is? "Yes," I answer, powerless to resist the charm her words are weaving.

"Would you do anything for me?" Once more, she lets her head rest against my shoulder, looking up at me through her lashes.

Again, I can do nothing but answer. "I have already said I would. What is your wish?"

She smiles, and it is exquisite. "Will you die for me, Pan?"

The words are jarring, and suddenly I am aware of our surroundings. Within the temple, the priests prepare for a sacrifice. It is not a difficult thing, to guess that Iphigeneia will be the one sacrificed for a fair wind. So this is why she called me. not for love, but for death. And just as suddenly, I realize that I am no longer caught by her spell. I am aware of the anger in her eyes, of the greed for power that would let her ask such a thing of a god. She is not perfect. Indeed, she is like every other mortal. But I have promised her a favor, and I cannot refuse. My heart breaks to do so, but I push her away and step back.

"All right," I say softly. "I will take your place. Go now, into the woods, and tell the dryads that Pan wishes them to care for you."

She stretches up again, and kisses my cheek. "Thank you, Pan. Goodbye."

And with that, she is gone.

I wait for a moment, until her passage is lost to the sound of the breeze, and then I change. The priests, emerging from the temple and not seeing the princess, cry out. But their cries stop when I walk over and lay myself on the altar. A whisper goes through them, and they gather around. One murmurs something about the goddess's will, and raises his knife. I close my eyes and think one last time of the forest, of the cool stream, stately trees, and the laughter of the forest creatures in the green-hued sunshine. Of meadows, wide and green, dotted with flowers, as though someone had scattered handfuls of precious stones in great, careless sweeps over the grass.

And I let my voice whisper through the trees one last time, carrying a single word upon the breeze. It is the word, "Farewell."


Deep in the wooded hills, in the center of a sacred grove of oaks, a dryad pauses. Then, suddenly, she tips back her head and wails aloud, a scream of grief to shatter the peace of that hallowed wood. One by one, her sisters in the forests, fields, and streams take up the cry, and soon the whole world echoes with their keening. Like a rising storm, Boreas and his kin, the four winds, sweep out across the land, carrying the cries of the forest folk. On Mount Olympus, where the halls are white and perfect, and the gods walk in peace, swift-footed Hermes hears and begins to weep, inconsolable in his sorrow. And, deep below the earth, where the black river flows ever onward, Charon lifts up his head and lets his voice ring even to the sky.

"Cry forth, O heavens! The great god Pan is dead!"