Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young man, with flowing golden locks and eyes of purest, clearest blue. His parents were King Pierus of Macedon and Clio, the muse, and they named him Hyacinth, and raised him with all the love they could give him. He was a happy child, and wanted for nothing, and grew up to be considered a great beauty by all who saw him.
One such person who saw him was the god Apollo, who, having heard Hyacinth's beauty compared to that of the gods, came down to see for himself if the claims were justified. He was instantly taken with the young man, though hesitated in making his presence known straight away, and instead remained hidden to watch him bathe.
As he watched, Apollo became aware of a west wind blowing, caressing the youth's body and playing with his hair, and recognised it after a time as Zephyr himself. Quickly realising that he would have a rival in his affections, the god approached the boy in human form, sitting by the edge of the water and beckoning him over. To his surprise and joy, Hyacinth swam over straight away, leaving the wind behind without a second thought.
“Who are you?” The young man asked, blue eyes dancing as he took in Apollo's impressive form.
“Do you not recognise me? I had heard you were a devout servant of your gods.”
Hyacinth paused for a moment, clearly considering the question, and then lit up as he realised the answer.
“You can only be Apollo!” He bowed as well as he could in the water, then smiled up again. “I am honoured.”
“Then that makes two of us. For I am honoured to finally meet the young man who I've heard was more beautiful than Adonis. Especially as I find the rumours to be accurate.”
The young man blushed, but smiled up sweetly. A gust of wind did its best to knock Apollo from his perch, but he remained in place and refused to be hindered by Zephyr. Hyacinth was sweet and humble in addition to being beautiful, and he would not be prevented from having him as his own.
“My sister Aphrodite would be jealous, if I could return to report a kiss from someone more beautiful than her lover.” Apollo leaned over so he was nearly eye-level with Hyacinth. “Do you think you could help me with that?”
Blushing again, the youth raised himself up in the water and pressed a sweet, soft kiss to Apollo's lips. At that moment, a fierce gale blew in from the west, the jealous Zephyr making his presence known once more. In retaliation, Apollo called forth the sun and had it shine too brightly for the wind to withstand, chasing away his competition for the time being.
Pleased with himself, Apollo said his goodbye to Hyacinth, promising to check in on him again soon, and left to attend to other matters which he could no longer keep himself from, even in the pursuit of such a beautiful boy.
Unknown to either Apollo or Hyacinth, Zephyr returned to play with the young man again once the sun god had left, becoming just as infatuated with him as Apollo had. Whilst he was already a step behind his rival, he would not allow himself to lose out on the affections of the boy, and began to form a plan to win them away from Apollo.
As taken with the young man as he was, Apollo visited Hyacinth often, teaching him sports and games, going with him to bathe, and simply enjoying his company for hours on end, and always stealing a kiss before he left.
If it could be said that Apollo loved Hyacinth, though, the same could be said tenfold of Hyacinth towards Apollo. The boy was flattered by the attention, in part, but also taken with the kindness and companionship the god had offered him. Though he'd always been told by his parents that he would one day know a great love, as they had before him, he'd never believed it could be as great as the one he shared in secret with Apollo.
On seeing this, Zephyr became more and more jealous, bubbling with rage until he finally decided that he would take no more of it, and would instead put his plan into action. He appeared to Hyacinth on a rare day when Apollo was not with him, disguising himself as an old sage in the hopes of seeming more trustworthy.
“Are you the boy they call Hyacinth?”
Hyacinth looked up from the javelin he was sharpening and smiled warmly at the old man, for he had been taught always to be kind of his elders. “I am. Can I help you?”
Zephyr smiled, seeing that his disguise was working. “It is I who comes to help you, my dear boy. Is it true that you are Apollo's lover?”
The boy's eyes widened, a guilty blush spreading across his cheeks. No one was supposed to know! But if this old man knew already, then perhaps there was more to him than met the eye. “How do you know that?”
“I see things, dear boy.” Zephyr dug around in a bag slung over his shoulder, and produced a beautifully decorated jug that he'd had enchanted by a powerful witch. “That is why I seek you out. Take this jug and fill it with water from the pool where you first met your lover. Bring it home with you, being careful not to spill a drop, and pour it into a basin with a smooth bottom. You will see Apollo's true feelings reflected in the water.”
Of course, the jug would show him no such thing, but Hyacinth took it from the old man, and followed his instructions straight away, having no reason to disbelieve him and expecting to be filled with joy at seeing Apollo's love for him. When he poured the water, though, the scene reflected in it was one of Apollo with another boy, being even more tender and loving than he had before, truly becoming his lover, and laughing that Hyacinth was little more than a pretty distraction.
Upon seeing this, Hyacinth knocked the basin over and fled to his bedroom, shutting the door behind him and pushing his dresser in front of it to keep it closed. He took to his bed and cried all through the rest of the day and well into the night, finally tiring himself out and falling into an exhausted sleep.
When he woke, he found that he was no longer alone in the room. Seven beautiful women surrounded his bed, all looking down on him with the soft sympathy his mother had often displayed for him, and he recognised them straight away as the seven Pleiades, nymphs who were the daughters of Atlas and lived in the heavens as stars.
“Poor boy,” the eldest – Maia – knelt down beside him. “You have been the victim of a terrible lie.”
Hyacinth looked at the beautiful woman in confusion – was she talking about Apollo? Surely women who lived as stars were used to seeing such betrayals. The other six knelt around him as well, stroking at his body and soothing him. They were clearly here for a reason.
“I should have known better than to think I could hold the attention of a god,” Hyacinth sulked, though in truth he realised now that he had been silly to believe that Apollo would be interested in him.
“But you have, my darling. It is not Apollo who has deceived you.”
“Then who?” Hyacinth furrowed his brown in confusion.
“Zephyr, the west wind. You've felt his presence before, haven't you?”
Hyacinth nodded slowly, remembering now the times he'd felt as though the wind was playing with him, and always blowing in from the west. He'd never thought that it had been true, though.
“He was the old man you met today. He is jealous of your love of Apollo and wants you for himself, though is too much of a coward to win you fairly. So he showed you a lie in the hopes of breaking your ties with Apollo.”
Struck dumb with shock, Hyacinth could only stare for several moments, his stomach turning over sickly as he realised that the nymph was telling the truth.
“But I have cursed Apollo and shouted for him never to come to me again!” He wailed. “He won't know what really happened.”
“Shh,” Maia soothed. “Hermes, my son, will come when I call. He will deliver a message to Apollo, and you will see him again. I promise you. Now sleep, little one. Rest up for tomorrow, when you will be reunited with your lover.”
With the gentle attention of the seven nymphs lulling him to sleep, it wasn't long before Hyacinth found slumber again, this time much more peacefully, with thoughts of a joyful reunion making the prospect of the morning much brighter.
As had been promised, Hermes delivered the message to Apollo that Hyacinth had been tricked by Zephyr. Though the god was disappointed that his young lover had been so quick to think ill of him, he was willing to forgive him – especially as doing otherwise would mean letting Zephyr get away with his treachery, which he would not allow.
He met Hyacinth in a field, where the boy was picking tiny blue flowers that matched his eyes. On being greeted enthusiastically, arms thrown around him and a sweet kiss pressed to his lips, he found it easy to forgive the boy when he asked for it, and continued on as though nothing had happened.
Zephyr, enraged that his plan had gone awry, crept in as a subtle breeze, not making himself known just yet, but waiting for his moment to strike.
Apollo had found that Hyacinth had a love and a talent for sport. Though he would never compete with a god, his skills were impressive for the mortal realm, and Apollo wished to help him develop them to their fullest. If Hyacinth was going to be his lover for years to come, it would do well that he was accomplished in the things he showed promise at.
As he had not yet introduced him to discus-throwing, Apollo decided that this would put the final touch on his complete forgiveness of Hyacinth, and show the youth that his love for him was just as strong as ever. Hyacinth's first few throws showed that he had a natural talent at this as well, and he was soon demanding kisses for particularly impressive distances, much to Apollo's delight.
However, Zephyr still lurked, curling around in the grass and watching the boy with jealousy. As he realised that his foiled plan had made Hyacinth's love for Apollo unbreakable, he raised up a great gust of wind, blowing debris up and blinding both god and mortal, as well as catching the newly-thrown discus in its flight. In a blind rage, he tossed the disc back at the boy with all the force he could manage, and then disappeared as quickly as he could to sulk over his defeat.
When the rain of sand and leaves settled, Apollo looked to see if Hyacinth was all right, and to his horror saw him lying on the ground, body twisted awkwardly and blood flowing from his head. He knew before he approached the boy that he was dead, falling to his knees before him and cradling his body close to weep over his loss.
As he gathered the boy's body up to return it to his parents for a proper burial – one he would ensure was done respectfully and as grandly as Hyacinth deserved – Apollo felt a stinging need for some other memorial to him, something permanent so that his beautiful lover would leave the mark on the world that he hadn't had the chance to.
One of the small blue flowers the young man had arranged in his hair fell to the ground, and Apollo picked it up to look at it. He set Hyacinth's body down again and knelt before the place where his blood had flowed into the soil, and from it he drew up a much grander flower, in the same colour as the young man's beautiful eyes, with a hundred tiny blooms – it paled in comparison to the beauty of the boy it would be named for, but it would remain forever as a reminder of such a beauty that a hundred flowers could not match it, and while there was no scent sweet enough to compare to Hyacinth's sweetness, the flower would mimic that also, as well as it could.
When he was satisfied with his work, Apollo returned to his lover's body and lifted it in his arms to take it home.