Thursday, October 02, 2008

Herakles in the Hesperides

I told him the garden was forbidden to mortals. He laughed and said he was the son of a god. Then he kicked down the gate and strode among the trees, looking up. The apples gleamed gold, but Ladon's scales were silver.

"Come on down, worm. I strangled a pair like you when I was less than a day old. One in each hand."

"Don't hurt him," I begged. "He's harmless. He's my only friend."

"Well, I hate to see a pretty girl cry," he said, shifting the club on his shoulder. "But I've no choice, you see. The Pythian Oracle laid it on me to collect twelve heads of serpents. Twelve snake's heads. The Hydra had nine, so I have three to go..."

"Then go kill some other serpent. Geryon has three heads. I'll even give you some of these apples—they belong to my mother—and you can tell everyone you tried to kill the guardian and it fled in terror..."

He scowled. "No. I won't lie. And if people hear that I came here, they'll want to know why I didn't kill him. They'll think I was afraid. A hero has to look out for his reputation."

"Well, let's talk about it. Have an apple."

"Hmm..." he said, juice running down his chin. "Not bad. Nice and sweet."

"I know where there's something sweeter." I fluttered my eyelashes at him.

"Don't try and talk me out of killing your dragon, now."

"I won't, I promise."

When he was asleep, I called on my mother. She came from the east, covering the world with her robe. Ladon raised his head in adoration. "Lady Nyxsss!"

Daughter, what is your need?

"This man wants to kill Ladon. He says the Oracle told him to do it."

My mother's laugh is the screech of an owl. Pythian Apollo is a friend to serpents. The fool misunderstood. This is what you must do.

Ladon found a sleeping rabbit and crushed it in his coils. I cut its throat and dabbled blood on the lion-skin cloak. Then I gathered three flowers and put them in the sleeping man's hand.

When he woke, I was tearing my hair and wailing. "You monster! You brute! Look what you've done. Poor, poor Ladon, poor creature!"

"Ah..." He looked a little confused. Then he looked at what was in his hand. "Oh! Oh, yes! Yes, I'm sorry about your pet, but he put up a pretty good fight, you know. I'm not so sure you were safe with him. I'll bet he was just fattening you up—"

"You think I'm fat?" I bridled.

"No, no! I mean—Well, you can't trust snakes. Everyone knows that. Anyway I need to be going... very nice to have met you..."

I stood at the wrecked gate and watched him out of sight, swinging his right hand by his side as if it carried something heavy. He was walking in a waking dream, a dream in which he carried three gory, scaled heads cut from Ladon's lifeless corpse. But to my eyes, all he carried was three wilted flowers.

I could have explained it to him. I could have told him what snake's-heads are, but you know heroes. He never would have believed the Oracle would send him out picking flowers.

Collection available! Knocking from Inside

6 comments:

Granny Smith said...

I love this! The story is gripping. I was worrying that Ladon might lose his heads, which would never do for anyone's favorite dragon. This is an amusing take on mythology. A LOL is the line where she says, "You think I'm fat?" As well as the final picture of the dragon slayer swaggering out into the world with three wilted daisies in his hand.

keithsramblings said...

A great story - I love your writing style. I finished it with a smile on my face.

Patois said...

Delightful read. I'm glad she saved her friend.

Emily Ezpeleta said...

Having studies Classicism and Creative Writing in college, this story really rings true to me. You've truly grasped old mythological story lines and harnassed the method to make it your own. Fascinating the way you portrayed Herakles, though. Much different from most mythologies I've read. He's much more of a pedantic brute than a true hero. I loved it and I look forward to hearing your comments on my own story.

tumblewords said...

A great tale! Great!

MissMeliss said...

I'd have a better comment than 'This is wonderful,' if I wasn't writing this at one AM, and wasn't also loaded with antihistamines.

But it /is/ wonderful, and I'm glad I got to read it.