Today, unless my bus gets lost somewhere in the middle of Ireland, I should be heading into Dublin. But just because I’m on vacation, doesn’t mean I’m going to miss out on a chance to tell you all about one of the many story lines I’ve woven together in The Bonds of Osteria.
This time, we’re not only going to be looking at one of the myths that went into making the book, we’re also going to clear up a little misconception about that myth fostered by a certain film. Yeah, I’m looking at you Clash of the Titans! So, let’s saddle up and set some facts straight about Pegasus.
The Myth Vs. The Bonds of Osteria: Bellerophon and Pegasus
As with last week’s Myth Vs Book, even though I don’t give too much away, I’m going to shout “SPOILER ALERT!!” right now, especially since the mythical story of Bellerophon and Pegasus isn’t one of the more familiar ones. Below, you’ll find the original myth is in regular typeface, while I’ve enclosed my version of events in **italics** like so. Got it? Okay, on with the myth and my twist on this Greek duo.
First off, anyone who has seen the original Clash of the Titans movie and hasn’t read up on their Bullfinch’s Mythology will be scratching his head saying, “Bellerophon? I thought it was Perseus who rode Pegasus.” Nope. Well, sort of nope. As myths evolved, Perseus did eventually get to have a jaunt on Pegasus, but for most of the time the Greeks were telling tales, Perseus just borrowed Hermes’s sandals to flit about saving damsels in distress.
Now, onto the legend. The Pegasus in myth was born from the union between Poseidon and Medusa (which we saw last week). Some tales say Pegasus sprang from Medusa’s neck when her head got lobbed off, others say the winged horse emerged from her blood as it spilled on the ground.**In Bonds, I really didn’t want to have a horse sprouting from someone’s neck, so I opted for the born-from-blood route. However, I also wanted to give Poseidon’s character a little more depth. In The Maze of Minos he’s blamed for certain events that he refuses to take responsibility for. In Bonds, he’s realizing his actions have consequences and he wants to make amends. Taking Medusa’s blood to make Pegasus is one way he atones for what he’s done.**
**Those of you who have read The Trials of Hercules (Book One), might just remember a certain silvery-white horse that Herc gave to Iole. I got all giddy (or maybe giidy-up) when I was able to bring that horse back in Bonds.**On to this Bellerophon chap. Although the son of Poseidon, he really has a tough time in the myths. His story starts out when he is accused of killing his brother and sent to Proteus for punishment.
**Bonds starts off where The Maze of Minos (Book Three) left off, with Theseus in Athenos and Bellerophon there to watch over him (Theseus is having a tough time due to events that happen in Maze). Working in another myth, I have Theseus meet and fall for Phaedra. When Bellerophon questions the wisdom of this relationship, Theseus banishes him from Athenos and sends him to Proteus (who is Bellerophon’s foster father).**
Proteus clears Bellerophon of the charge of murder, but then Proteus’s wife–when Bellerophon refuses her advances–accuses Bellerophon of rape. Proteus, feeling betrayed but unwilling to kill a guest in his home, sends Bellerophon off to Iobates (who happens to be the father of Proteus’s wife) with a message that Iobates should kill the boy.
**I mostly stuck to this part of the myth in Bonds, but had the challenge of working in some family dynamics and some interior motivations. I also got to play with putting the myths in a new setting as Bellerophon rides along the Oregon Coast to get to Iobates.**
Iobates makes the mistake of letting Bellerophon into his home before he reads the message. Since he too has qualms about killing a guest, he decides to let someone else do the killing…or rather, someTHING else: the Chimera.**Unlike most things in mythology that seem to take years and years, this was one area where I needed to stretch out time. This meant needing a reason for Iobates’s delay and gave me time to build up a relationship between Iobates and Bellerophon as well as letting Bellerophon fall in love with one of Iobates’s servants. Iobates at first seems like a bumbling old man, but we soon learn he has a very dark side.**
In the myths, Bellerophon has to capture Pegasus–a task Athena and Poseidon help him with. He then rides the flying horse to hunt down Chimera. With the advantage of being out of reach of the monster’s flames, he’s able to attack and kill Chimera.
**I won’t give away all the details of this part in the book, but let’s just say it’s a good thing Poseidon came to terms with his responsibilities earlier in the story.**
From A Writer’s Perspective
I wasn’t terribly familiar with the Bellerophon myths when I started Bonds, but I ended up really enjoying developing his myth and bringing it to life with a vengeance. Bellerophon’s character, with his sense of duty and honesty, truly becomes one of the “better” people in the series without making him seem phony or goody goody. Through him, we see a couple of rival gods heal old wounds and work together. And Bellerophon’s tumble into love was both fun and painful to create.
Bellerophon’s story ended up being my second favorite of the many story lines in Bonds, but next week we get to learn all about my absolute favorite story line and the myth behind it! See you then.
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Sample Chapter from The Bonds of Osteria
In this sample, Bellerophon is kicked out of Proteus’s home and sent to Iobates. I chose this chapter because it doesn’t give too much away about what happens before Bellerophon is forced to leave for Proteus’s and doesn’t reveal too much of what happens during his stay at Iobates.
25 – Bellerophon
It’s in the darkest hours before dawn the next day before I hear the bolt of my door slide open. Proteus steps in. His face bears a mixture of anger, disappointment, and regret.
“Father,” I say, using the formal Osterian word that means both parent and lord, “believe me, I didn’t rape her, she came here willingly—”
“Please stop. Don’t embarrass us both. She has told me everything. How you asked her to your room saying you had a wedding gift for her, saying you wanted to talk and to get to know her. She thought you were giving her the mare. She told me,” he says, a sob biting at his voice, “how her heart was warmed by the gesture because she had been fretting over whether you would approve of her or not. And then you violated her.” His voice trembles.
I drop to my knees, humbling myself before him.
“Believe me or not, but by the justice of Osteria, please hear me. I deserve that much after never giving you any reason to doubt me.” Although pleading, I speak calmly, wanting nothing but to reassure him. “I swear to you, I swear on the bond that makes us as close as father and son, that I did not do this. I did not take her by force. I have no desire for her at all. I know what she means to you.”
When I glance up, Proteus’s cheeks are wet. He stoops over and pulls me into a tight hug. His chest heaves. When he has control of himself, he stands back and looks me in the eye.
“She has demanded that you face a rapist’s execution.”
My groin tightens. Such a punishment means having one’s genitals hacked off with a cleaver that has first been dipped in the feces of the victim. The wound is then bandaged but not cleaned. Eventually sickness sets in that no medic can cure. The person’s own blood turns to poison. In the end, the victim will have killed her attacker. I wonder what a woman has cut off if, as in my case, it’s she who is the rapist?
I stand silent. I don’t know what I’ve done to set Anticlea so against me. Can she want the mare so badly? Does she think I will turn Proteus against her? Or has she taken offense at my not wanting her? Whatever it is, I’m certainly having no luck lately with the chosen loves of the men closest to me.
Still, the hurt is too fresh for Proteus to listen to any words against Anticlea. If I can speak to him in a few days, if I can show him what his wife truly is, I know I can convince him of her true nature. But will I have that much time? Anywhere else a matter like this would go to the courts in the polis’s capital, but in Tillaceae governors act as judges within their own districts. Proteus reaches inside his tunic. I expect a knife, that he’ll avenge his wife here and now. But instead of a blade, he shows me a sealed piece of parchment.
“My execution orders?” I ask, keeping my tone even.
Proteus flinches as if I’ve struck him. “How? I—,” he stammers. “No, I do love you as a son. It’s because of the love I bear you that I’m not doing as she asks. She’ll be bitter for a while, but in the end she will see justice has been done.” He holds out the paper and I take it. “I’m sending you away. You will never set foot in this district again. If you do, the rape charge will still stand. As will the punishment.”
“Where will I go?”
He gestures for me to turn the letter over. The name Iobates is scrawled across the front in Proteus’s familiar handwriting. I don’t know the name and give Proteus a questioning glance.
“The governor of Neskownia, the southernmost district in Tillaceae. He has a new stallion that needs trained. I’ve assured him in there that you are the best trainer for the job.”
I don’t think he’s lying, but the way he rushes his speech makes me feel as if he’s omitting some of the truth. Regardless, I’m lucky to be getting out of here alive and have no ground right now to ask questions or demand the full story.
“When do I leave?”
“Now. You are not welcome in this house any longer, and you really must leave. Anticlea declared last night that she’ll need a day at the agora to select the right dress to wear for your punishment. She also wants something special for her first ride after claiming that mare of yours.”
“No,” I say defiantly. I know I should be humble in this situation, thankful I am not facing my death, but that woman will never touch such a perfect animal. How can Proteus not see she is lying? What woman claims to be raped then goes out on a shopping expedition only a few hours later?
“If you don’t leave before she wakes, there’s no chance to stop her. Leave now and I will say I had to return it to the Herenes. Consider that my final gift to you because I will give you nothing more in this life. I regret having given you so much as it is.”
I reach out one hand for Proteus to shake. He hesitates for a heartbeat, then accepts, but before he can let go I reach around with my other arm and hug him to me. He resists at first then lets me hold him. “I love you, Father. I accept your punishment and will see it through out of respect for you, but know that I did not do this.”
Proteus heaves a sob then storms out of the room, leaving a guard behind who watches me stuff the letter and the few things I’ve unpacked into my travel bag.
When she sees me, the silver mare prances in her stall and gives out a cheery whicker in greeting. I shush her, giving her an apple. I’m supposed to leave quietly and I don’t want the stablehands to wake and detain me. I will not let Anticlea keep this fine animal for herself. With movements I’ve honed over a lifetime in Proteus’s stables, I saddle the horse and get her bridle and reins fitted in the dim cool light cast by the moon through the stall’s barred window. It’s a rare cloudless night after so much wet weather and I know I’m lucky to have even this amount of light. I take this as a sign that the gods favor my escape.
Leading the mare through the vast stable, I notice the storeroom is low on oats and other grains that should be stacked high to see the horses through winter. Trade has come to a near stop thanks to Chimera and Medusa, and news has come that the perpetual storms have ruined crops in Demos. If these problems aren’t solved by the end of the season, it will be a hard winter not only for Proteus’s steeds but for all Osterians.
I guide the mare outside. Her silvery white body seems incredibly bright in the moonlight, gleaming with a god-like shine. To make her less of a beacon, I shift my cape over her flanks when I mount. Again, a light tap with my heels sends her flying over the narrow roads and forest tracks that will take us to the southernmost district in Tillaceae: Neskownia.
Unlike the wealthier poli such as Illamos Valley and Portaceae, the districts in Tillaceae have little communication or interaction with one another. Although they consider themselves Tillacean, any person from Neskownia will think of himself as a Neskownian first and Tillacean second. The governors of the districts in Tillaceae rule their regions independently. There is no central government or king to report to. Taxes are collected and used within districts and legal matters are handled by district governors.
Every Tillacean district pays homage to Hermes, our patron god, but his temple is on land in the center of the polis, land owned by no single district. It is only Hermes’s guiding hand and wise management that keeps this rugged polis prosperous with healthy dairy cattle and a mild climate; and it’s his easy manner that keeps the districts bonded into a polis rather than splitting into kingdoms.
As the mare and I set off on the Osterian Road I realize I’ve not considered where Chimera and Medusa are, but I’m too dazed to worry over it for long. If Anticlea had her way, I’d be facing a far worse death than what either of those two monsters could do to me. I wonder what kind of man this Iobates is and what this letter in my travel bag truly contains. I could ride off, gallop to Perseus to see if he’s ready for another adventure on the Argoa. But then I tell myself that’s what a guilty man would do. I will go to Iobates as I’ve been told. I will train his horse to walk on water if I have to. Anything to prove I’m not a criminal and allow me to bide time until Proteus comes to his senses.
I ride with the sound of the Western Sea crashing to my right. I’m torn over whether to give the silver as much rein as she likes or to pull her in and slow her down. On the one hand, I’m in no hurry to meet whatever fate greets me in Iobates’s home. I believed Proteus at first, that he would not want to order me to die a rapist’s execution. But after having time to think about it I wonder if he meant I wouldn’t be punished at all, or did he just mean that he himself couldn’t do it? Does this letter carry my execution orders to be carried out by a man with no attachment to me, or was Proteus telling the truth? Could he be sending me to complete a task in order to bide time with Anticlea? I can’t decide and I can’t understand how he could believe her, but in the shadows of the forest paths I keep seeing the look of hurt and disappointment and disbelief on my father’s face. Can he really believe I would do such a thing to him?
While I want to delay my fate, I also don’t want to linger on these roads. Chimera was last spotted in the Astoria polis and could have made her way south across Tillaceae’s borders by now. Medusa was most recently reported in the southern portion of Illamos Valley, but she would only need to cross west over the Low Mountains and journey north to reach Neskownia. These two monsters come and go at will as if they are capable of god travel. With the unnerving idea that they could appear before me at any moment, I opt to let the silver go as fast as she likes and hope that my fate is not to die on this road.
The silver is so nimble and swift, it’s like I’m flying up and over the headlands and across the beaches of southern Tillaceae. Regardless of my circumstances, I have to admit the exhilaration from this feeling of flight is one every Osterian would be envious of.
The sun is just beginning to kiss the Western Sea when I reach the district limits of Neskownia. I’ve made the journey in half the time it would take on any other horse and neither of us is the worse for wear. As I enter a village, little more than a cluster of a dozen houses and a few shops running down the side of an unpaved road, the silver draws the attention of dozens of shabby people. I soon learn this is the main town in Neskownia despite not even being large enough to be considered a neighborhood in some of the poli I’ve been to.
I crave a warm meal and large beer, but the townsfolk, curious at first, start to eye the silver more greedily and I won’t leave her. Hoping his name will alert them that I am no wayward traveler who they can rob, I ask one of them where to find Iobates.
“Just look for the rock,” a man with a squashed nose tells me. “Can’t miss it.”
A rock doesn’t seem to me to be the clearest indicator of where someone might be, but it’s the same thing I’m told by three other people who advise me to keep following the road south as they stroke the silver’s mane and attempt to slip their fingers into my travel pack.
Despite what I think are the worst directions in all of Osteria, I follow the road a little further. At a bend, I glance to my right and see a rock bigger than the water tower at the House of Hera jutting up from the beach as if the gods have simply dropped it there from the sky. Straight across the beach from this mammoth stone spreads a bright green field dotted with black and white cows. At the southernmost part of the field stands an array of buildings—one grander than the others, several paddocks, and what must be stables. There are more structures here than in the whole village I’ve just passed through.
I follow the stone wall that separates the road from the estate until I come to a large archway with an elaborate letter “I” carved on the keystone. The gate stands open, but a heavy-browed man with a bruise across his cheek steps out of a guard house when I approach. I greet him, but only get a grunt in response, so I hand over the letter. He examines the name written on it, eyes me with the same wary caution one might give a madman, then shrugs, hands the letter back, and indicates for me to go through before stepping back into his little hut.
My stomach knots. This is it. I could turn and run, escape a horrible punishment but be a fugitive the rest of my life; or I can follow the path to the house and keep my dignity and my honor, even if some people have chosen to believe I have none.
I glance over my shoulder, my hands tight on the reins ready to tug the mare’s head around and ride off to freedom. With a deep breath to steel my resolve, I relax my hands. I pass under the arch and leave my fate in the hands of the gods.