I feel the life within and around me with fierce joy. It is a glorious morning. Dew sparkles like living diamonds on the grass and the air is bright. Waking to such a day is pure pleasure. I stretch out my forelegs, rousing muscles stiff from sleep, and flex my wings. I strike the ground and a stream is born, pooling around my hoof, one of my father’s more useful gifts.
I drink, admiring my rippling reflection and then break my fast; the grass is young here and sweet and there are apples on the trees.
Once I have eaten, I set about preening my feathers… a laborious task, but necessary. There is an itch, just there on the leading edge. I twist around to reach it, a most ungainly position for one such as I… and find that I am being watched.
Beyond the spring, there is a young man. His athletic form is clad only a leather kilt and sandals. Beside him, thrust point-down into the earth, is a spear. His hair is as golden as the bridle he carries. I have seen it before, that bridle… it belongs to Athene. I know that the young man has been sent by the goddess.
I accept the inevitable… have you tried arguing with Athene?
Shrugging my wings, I allow the young man to approach. Does She have to pick the very young ones every time? He holds out one hand and slips the bridle into place with the other. Very confidently done. He tells me his name and says that the goddess has decreed that I should help him on his quest. Being what I am, I am not averse to a bit of questing… I wait for him to elaborate.
Slay the Chimera? Oh yeah… nice one, Lady! Have you seen the thing?
It is all very well, this nobility lark, but it does have its downsides. I hope the lad has a damned good plan… I don’t much fancy being eaten by a fire-breathing, lion-headed goat-snake. Or, even worse, getting my feathers singed!
He climbs on my back and with one hefty beat, we take to the sky. In spite of the task ahead, the pressure of the wind under my wings and the thrill in my stomach is a joy. We soar high in the wide blue above Lycia, heading towards the smoky hills on the eastern horizon. He clutches my mane, perhaps just a little too tightly.
It takes only a few joyous minutes of flight before we can see the tell-tale scorching of the trees. Extending my wings, I glide lower, circling above the mouth of a cave. On the third pass, I see it, the lion’s maw buried in a bloodied carcass, the great, scaly tail writhing behind.
The lad shifts his position, gripping tightly with his thighs as he adjusts his grasp on the spear. I dive, tucking in my legs, folding my wings and stretching out my neck. The ground rushes towards us as frightening speed. My rider tenses as the spear whooshes past my right ear. A thud and a whoop of triumph. We watch the beast’s tail coil and uncoil as the beast’s own flames melt the lead-tipped spear into its flesh.