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Taker Of Many, Keeper Of None: The Tale Of Bellerophon And The Pegasus
This was the second time Bellerophon had seen her. The Pegasus was drinking from his fountain. Well, it wasn’t really his fountain, but he cleaned it, and it seemed he was the only one who knew it was there. Well, until Pegasus had come. Now he had to share his fountain. But he supposed that was fine, so long as he could come near the winged horse.
The first time he had seen her, they’d both spooked, and she whinnied. Bellerophon backed away. He managed to calm her with gentle words and actions, and she even let him rest his hand on her neck. But when Bellerophon tried to feed her some of the grain in his pocket, she backed away and went to eat some of the grass in the field nearby. He would have tried more, but his mother called him to dinner.
That night, he had prayed to the gods for another chance to meet the Pegasus. Apparently they had listened, because she was here now. The fools. He was only going to steal her the first moment he could.
He crept closer to her. She was asleep in the pasture. He slipped the bridle over her head. Yes! He could finally ride her. But then she awoke, and flew into a rage trying to get the bridle he’d brought from home off. She finally flew off, going back to wherever she lived. Bellerophon was about to finish cleaning the fountain, when he heard his mother calling. Why, when he was doing so many important things, did she have to bug him. She was so irritating.
When he got inside, Bellerophon’s father had news.The local princess had been captured, and kidnapped by a chimera, a terrible beast with the head and body of a lion, a goat’s head, and a snake for a tail. The king was offering a handsome reward for her rescue. Bellerophon scoffed. Why save another when he was going to be master of Pegasus soon? But then he thought it through. The reward could give him enough money to buy his own house, all the food he wished, and plenty of servants. So first he needed to capture the Pegasus.
In the evening, he prayed to Athena, the grey eyed goddess, goddess of wisdom, to give him a plan. And that night he dreamed that the goddess herself had visited him and handed him a golden bridle.
“Put this on the Pegasus, for then she will become docile and allow you to ride her. Then you must rescue the princess that you love so much.” Was it Bellerophon’s imagination, or was she glaring at him when she said that?
The next day, Bellerophon barely contained the urge to brag to everyone he saw about Athena visiting. It wasn’t often that the gods took it upon themselves to visit mortals, let alone give them gifts. He would tell them all, soon, when he rescued the princess. They would be so jealous.
When it came time to trap the Pegasus, Bellerophon had a plan figured out. So after cleaning the fountain, he stood in wait, concealed by the trees that lined the pasture. Soon enough, the Pegasus laid down on the soft green grass for a quick nap. Once he was sure she was asleep, he crept up and put the golden bridle onto her beautiful, pearly head. He stood there a moment, admiring his unsuspecting prey. She would be such a joy to ride-and such a joy to flaunt to his peers. They wouldn’t mock him now, would they?
Then she awoke. Her eyes took on an agonized quality as it appeared to dawn on her that this, this, this mere mortal was her master. She tried to toss he head, but Bellerophon put his hand on her beautifully arching neck, and she found that she could not. She pawed the ground in distress, but when Bellerophon frowned, she stopped.
He mounted her and kicked her sides to get her to go. She reluctantly started to walk. Bellerophon was immensely pleased with himself. He brought her to a trot, then a canter, and finally a gallop, then slowed. He would proceed with the next phase of his plan tomorrow.
When he went home for dinner, he was struck by how mundane it all was. The food, his house, even his family. When they asked him about his day, he gave them short, one word answers. His mother seemed concerned, but that was just her. Always worrying about one thing or another. But once he’d saved the princess, he wouldn’t have to see them anymore. He would leave them once and for all.
The next morning, Bellerophon got up early. He took his father’s oxcart to another town to buy lead for the next phase of his plan. He also shaped a spear to go along with the lead. This was all part of his plan.
When he got back, his father caught him on the way out of the stables, where he’d been returning his father’s oxen.
“Where were you this morning?” he demanded.
“Why should I tell you? You’ll know soon enough.” Bellerophon was mad, and when he was mad, he did stupid things. “And anyway, you know I could just---”
“Young man, while you are in my house, you will follow my rules. You will not threaten me. Understand? Good,” he said, without waiting for an answer. Then he walked away.
Bellerophon was fuming, so he decided to go to the meadow a bit early. And, of course, Pegasus was there.
He knew there was no turning back now, so he mounted her and kicked off. Together, they soared through the air. Bellerophon and Pegasus swooped down to pick up the spear and the lead, and they were off. With adrenaline coursing through his body, he urged Pegasus higher and higher, faster and faster. Then they swooped down as one, and faced the Chimera. Time to put the plan in action.
With lead -tipped spear in hand, he dove quickly toward the chimera. He forced the spear into the fire-breathing lion’s mouth. Then the Pegasus brought him away, and they watched from a distance. The head with the lead spear in it’s throat continued to roar, far past the point where the roars were audible. The lead on the tip of the spear had melted, and was choking the chimera to death. The Pegasus landed, and Bellerophon dismounted, and walked over to the princess.
“Princess---” he started, but she cut him off. She laughed.
“You looked rather comical up there, on your flying horse,” she said, and at seeing his hurt expression, added, “They all did, though, especially the ones who decided to come on foot.”
“You know, the Chimera and I were having quite a lovely conversation before you went and killed him. He’s not so bad, considering---” she nodded at the remains of the monster, “---all that.” She laughed at Bellerophon’s horrified expression. “I’m just kidding. His breath stank. I never could have done what you did.” She frowned. “My father won’t let me learn to ride. He---” She stopped when she saw that his attention was elsewhere.
She followed his gaze to the Pegasus, who had managed to take the bridle off. Bellerophon was striding toward the Pegasus, and he did not look happy. The princess put a hand on his arm, and said, “Let her go.” And miraculously, he did.
Bellerophon took a deep breath. What had he done? He’d given up everything to rescue a princess whose name he didn’t even know. He’d tortured a gentle creature so he could fulfill a dream that he was now rethinking. And---worst of all---he’d alienated himself from his family, the ones who are about him most.
He sent a silent prayer to the gods to see Pegasus on her way, though he knew she could make it on her own. Then he turned to the princess.
“By the way, what is your name?” he asked.
“I thought you’d never ask,” she said.
Then she winked.