Greek Mythology: The Chimera

chimera book 20160709_200503“It won’t kill us to eat a vegetable every once in a while,” Mimi snapped.

“Yes,” Kai replied, “a little part of me would die screaming.”

Mimi head butted her. Pain bounced back, vibrating down her neck. She shook out her head. They glared at each other.  Tension between them thickened like bean stew.

What’s worse than being conjoined to your fraternal twin sister? Being conjoined triplets.

“S-s-spinach,” Ras chimed in.

Mimi bit her lip to not say anything nasty to escalate the situation. Their stomach gurgled low and long.  Hunger had them on the edge of madness. She could neither run away nor hide.  Her sisters were a bulwark against an unfriendly world as well as an oppressive presence in every facet of her life.

They crouched in a barley field. Tall green stems rustled in the morning breeze. The sun peeked above the mountainous horizon, coloring the sky a bright orange.

Mimi closed her eyes. Images of hot green beans spread on a bed of crisp cucumbers floated into her mind. Ripe red grapes coating her tongue with sugary juice as she ground them in her teeth. Her mouth watered. Her head swayed as she day dreamed.

“Keep still,” Kai said in a harsh whisper.

“Why can’t we eat something different for a change?” Mimi whined. “It’s always what you want, you, you, you!”

Kai huffed and rolled her eyes. “We’re not rabbits and we’re not eating like one.”

“I need something healthy, green.”

Ras cut in, “Shallots-s-s.”

Kai snickered.

“Well, I’m not helping then.” Mimi lifted her chin. “I’ll howl and yell at every hunt.”

Kai’s eyes widened. “Y-you wouldn’t.”

Mimi turned her face away. She’d give anything to taste an onion right now. Onions cooked slowly with minced garlic, lentils, maybe even some cabbage.  She licked her lips, losing herself in fantasy. A dull ache clenched their belly.

“I don’t need you,” Kai said. “Ras and I can catch breakfast by ourselves.”

Mimi snorted. They both knew that wasn’t true.

Tears welled in Kai’s eyes.  “Starve us all then.” She glowered at the little farm house in the distance.

“S-s-squash?” Ras sniveled.

“SHUT UP!” Mimi and Kai shouted in unison.

The farm house’s front door banged open. Lantern light outlined a man in the doorway.  He bellowed, “Who goes there?”

Kai looked nervously at Mimi. Her fidgety energy zipped like lightening over their body.

The farmer ambled out of the house, waving the light over the field. Deep lines creased a tan face. Muscular arms and a plump tummy filled his white tunic. “Hello?”

The lonely sound traveled down the valley.

Kai whimpered as he drifted closer.  The light was almost upon them. She whipped her gaze from the farmer to Mimi. Her eyes pleaded.

Mimi held firm.  They moved as one or not at all.

The farmer scratched his armpit and yawned. He turned, strolling back to the house.

“Please,” Kai breathed. The muscles in her face tensed as the farmer neared the door. “Fig tree, a hundred paces back.  I, I won’t gag, much.”

Mimi sighed. That was good enough for now.

“S-s-sweets-s-s,” Ras hissed.

They leapt from the grass and galloped at top speed. Wind raked their fur. Legs pumping. Dirt flying.

The farmer turned. A strangled cry burst from his lips.

He never reached the front door.

~*~

After killing his brother, Bellerophon fled Corinth to the kingdom of Argos. There, King Proetus absolved him and held a feast, as one does for pardoned murderers.

Later that night, Queen Stheneboea asked Bellerophon if he’d like a taste of her syrupy Tulumba. Bellerophon was on a gluten free diet so he declined. Queen Stheneboea was furious. No one rejected her pastries and lived to tell.

She burst into her bed chamber, sobbing and wailing.

King Proetus asked, “Indigestion again, babe?” His face wrinkled with worry lines.

“It’s that horrible Bellerophon,” Queen Stheneboea said sniffling. “He ate the last almond cookie after I’d called dibs.” Tears streamed down her face.

Proetus sputtered, “After how well we honored him?  So rude!” He flew into such a rage he punched a throw pillow. Proetus shook out his hand. “I’ll have the cur killed.”

Stheneboea smothered a smile as she snuggled into Proetus’ boney chest.

Rules of hospitality dictated that a person could not murder a guest without inciting the wrath of the Erinyes. King Proetus devised another way for Bellerophon to receive his just desserts.

The next day at breakfast, Proetus noted the way Bellerophon refused to meet his eye.  “Dear friend, please deliver this letter to my father-in-law in Lycia.  It’s of the utmost importance.”

Bellerophon grabbed the rolled parchment, all too happy to comply.

~*~

In Lycia, King Iobates welcomed Bellerophon with open arms and a hearty feast. “Any friend of my son-in-law is a friend of mine. Besides, any excuse for a party.  Bring out the beer!”

They laughed. They drank. They overindulged in honeyed yogurt.

King Iobates, who was still hungover, remembered the letter from Proetus on the ninth day of the feast. While holding his puffed out stomach, he read the message:

Hey dad, how’s it hanging? Kill the messenger. He stole the last almond cookie from Stheneboea and made her ugly cry.”

Iobates sat up straight on his divan. His ears colored bright red.  My Poor Stheneboea! How could someone who told such funny fart jokes last night act rudely to my daughter days prior? The two images didn’t jive.  Nevertheless, Bellerophon had to die. “But, I can’t execute a guest.  The Erinyes would curse my house.  Bring poverty, illness and moldy cheese down upon us.”

His insides quaked at the thought of moldy cheese. He had to figure another way to crumble Bellerophon’s Semolina cake.

“Servant!” Iobates clapped his hands twice. “I need to think.  Bring more beer.”

~*~

The next day the king summoned Bellerophon, “I have a great mission for you.  There’s a horrible, fire breathing she-monster terrorizing our neighboring city of Caria.  It’s called a Chimera.”

“That’s unfortunate,” Bellerophon said. “You want me to fetch Orion or Hercules or somebody?”

“I want you to kill it.”

Bellerophon paled.  He looked around the throne room to see if the king played a practical joke. The servants and guards were stone faced. “Me?”

“The Chimera has the body and head of a giant goat, a lion’s head and the tail is a serpent…Now, off you go.”

“Hold up!” Bellerophon gaped. “Me!?”  Three guards shoved a spear in his hand and ushered him out of the palace.

Deeply regretting the spicy food he had eaten, Bellerophon clenched his sphincter and saddled his horse for the long journey to Caria. The castle gates slammed shut the second he stepped threw them.

Polyeidos, an old drinking buddy of Bellerophon’s, heard the news of his friend’s doomed quest from one of the palace guards.  He raced to catch up with Bellerophon on the road. “Buddy, I have a solution that might save your Corinthian bacon.”

Bellerophon was desperate. “Tell me, please.  I’ll do anything.”

“Grease yourself with extra virgin olive oil then sleep in the temple of Athena.”

“What?” Bellerophon’s eyebrows rose to his hairline.

“Trust me.  It’ll work if Athena likes you.” Polyeidos squeezed his shoulder. “Grease up, um, inside and out. You may want to drink a few swigs of wine.  Fall asleep on the altar. You need a Pegasus to defeat the Chimera and that’s the only way to get one.”

Butterflies whirred in Bellerophon’s stomach.  How bad could this be?  He thanked Polyeidos and got on his horse to ride to the market square to buy olive oil.

~*~

The following day, Bellerophon awoke in the temple of Athena with a wicked headache and a throbbing pain in the rear. By his side laid a golden horse bridle. “What the?”

He shook off apprehension and praised Athena as he gingerly dressed.

“Hey, pound cake.” A priestess sauntered into the alter room. “Have news for you. Villagers reported a winged horse drinks water at noon from a well on the eastern outskirts of the city.”

Things already looked promising.  He bowed, thanked her and rushed to get out of the temple. She slapped him hard on the rump as he passed by.  “Whoa!”

“Come back any time, cream pie.” The priestess winked.

 Bellerophon furrowed his brow.

“Here.” She tossed something from her pocket at him.

It was a cone shaped lump of lead, cold to the touch.

He looked at her with a frown. “Huh?”

“To reduce the swelling.” She winked.

Bellerophon sped outside. The echo of her laughter stalked him through town.

~*~

Bellerophon crouched in a brush. He willed himself to stay still.  Ants crawled up his pant leg.  He had been waiting for hours and was about to give up.

A whinnied caught his attention. He looked around, then skyward. A magnificent white horse flew in a lazy circle around the pool. Its hooves chimed like harp strings when it landed. Bellerophon was frozen by Pegasus’ beauty. Its feathers had hints of light blue.

Gripping the golden bridle, he snuck up on Pegasus as it lowered its head to drink. He leaped onto its back.

The horse bucked.  Bellerophon hung on to the mane. His knuckles whitened with exertion. He feared his bones would snap with the jerking motions. The bridle nearly slipped from his fingers. Mouthing Athena’s name in prayer, he thrust the bridle straps over Pegasus’ head.

A purple light burst around them.

Bellerophon was blinded. He clung to the horse’s neck. Fear jangled his nerves.

Pegasus slowly quieted. Bellerophon blinked until he could see once more. The horse was calm under him. He used his legs to guide Pegasus to a canter.

They soared into the air. The breeze raised goose bumps on his skin. Below the city of Caria seemed like a drawing.

“Yippee! I did it.  I really did it.” He felt strong.

It was time to battle the Chimera.

~*~

That afternoon, Bellerophon tracked the Chimera to a field in the Carian countryside.  The Chimera sat on a pink blanket with a bottle of red wine. Cheese and figs were laid out. Meat roasted on a spit.

“You’ve terrified your last village,” Bellerophon hollered.

Pegasus dived towards the beast. His and Pegasus’ thoughts were as one. He held his bow steady as he unleashed an arrow.

It knocked over the wine bottle.  Red fanned over the blanket.

Pegasus turned for another pass.

The Chimera’s serpent head tail whipped back and forth.  “That was an eighty drachma bottle, meat stick,” roared the Chimera. Fire exploded from her lion’s maw.  Flames shot twenty-five feet in the air.

Pegasus abruptly drew back, rocking Bellerophon forward. Heat singed his skin. They pulled back.

Bellerophon unleashed ten more arrows from afar.

The Chimera only grew angrier.  With shafts sticking out of her body she blew flames at them.

Wiping sweat from his brow, Bellerophon struggled with what to do.  The air was thick with sooty smoke.

An idea struck him.  He pulled the block of lead from his saddle bag. Unhooking the spear, he mounted the lead onto the end.

“May Athena protect us.” Bellerophon kissed the lump then recoiled remembering how he’d last used it.  “Time for glory Pegasus.”

The horse neighed in answer.

Bellerophon led Pegasus on a head on charge.  He extended the spear as far as he could.

Chimera held her ground.  She opened her mouth.

Flames screamed up.

Steeling himself against ferocious pain and the smell of charred flesh, Bellerophon rammed the spear down the Chimera’s throat.

Pegasus pumped his wings to bring them up from the dive in time before they crashed.

The Chimera choked. The lead melted down her throat, burning her taste buds, clogging her lungs.  She thrashed for air.  Horns and claws flailed wildly. She tried to spit out the obstruction.

After eight agonizing minutes, she died.

Bellerophon breathed a ragged sigh.  Burned skin hung off his face. Most of his body had gone numb.

At least Pegasus was okay, unaffected by the fire.

Draped on Pegasus’ neck, Bellerophon told him to return to King Iobates’ castle.

Maybe a healer will have an ointment or something, Bellerophon hoped as they flew back the way they came.

~*~

Hope you liked this week’s post and my take on Greek mythology. You can read last week’s blog to learn about the Sphinx.  You can also find backstory for my urban fantasy series The Children of Ekhidna and Typhoeus on the books page.

Please let me know what you think by liking, commenting or subscribing.

Next week’s blog will share information about the Hydra.

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