Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 12
In long-forgotten days the Titans dwelled. About this race nothing more is known, for theirs was a time of strife, and in their battles every scroll was burnt. For one hundred days the fires raged, their smoke throwing a shade across the world, so that from the ash of war a thousand years of winter bloomed, and from the winter Man’s first city grew.
Beyond the walls of that first city no crops thrived, for the earth was tainted by the dust of that great war. Barbarian hordes gathered in the corrupted lands, envious of the city’s wealth of grain, and so for centuries it remained under constant siege, neither side able to gain any ground. The stalemate looked set to continue for eternity, until one day a plume of smoke appeared on the horizon.
The Prince of the city saw the smoke and knew that the barbarians had unearthed a beast of war from the age of the Titans: a fire-breathing Chimera like those that had once seared the sky in service of forgotten kingdoms. Its hide was steel, its breath was wrath, and in its blackened footsteps a thousand warriors marched.
The Prince knew that no hero could stand against such a force, and so with great reverence he took his ancestral key and opened wide the gates of the Underworld, upon which the city had been founded. Four hundred fathoms the Prince descended, down steps carved by ancient hands, until his torch illuminated that which should never have come to light.
“Whose feet disturb the silt of Lethe?” Mane twitched, feathers rattled in the darkness. “Speak now, or join the silence of the dead.” The Pegasus was forged of a strange metal, its hooves light against the cavern floor.
“I rule the city built above this place, now threatened by a terrible foe. I seek your strength to fight it.”
“Have I not upheld my oath?” The Pegasus stepped into the light, and the Prince saw how one side of its face had been scarred and pitted by the wars of old. Both its eyes were dim. “Are my battles not at an end? My only duty now is to ensure this place remains untouched forevermore. Had you not come with the key, I would have killed you where you stand, and should you take one step further, I would kill you still.”
“The lawless hordes that now approach will not hesitate to let the sunlight in. They have summoned a Chimera to strike down the gates.”
“A Chimera?” The Pegasus approached the stairs. “Such a thing should not be. Guide me, so I may destroy this foe or fall in the attempt.”
So the Prince led the Pegasus out of the Underworld, and from its back guided it to the beast that led the invading horde, now quite near the city walls.
The battle was close. Though the Pegasus had the advantage of flight, it couldn’t strike without drawing within the Chimera’s reach. More than once the Prince atop its back was only saved from harm by his steed’s fending hooves or shielding wings. The Chimera fought so viciously that even the army that it served was forced to flee the raging hellfire of its jaws, but eventually it succumbed to the onslaught of the Pegasus.
“It is well that you summoned me,” said the Pegasus to the Prince, “but I must ask that you give up your key and seal my vault until the end of time. Should I come to serve an unworthy master, I would become a terror just like the Chimera, and the world might once again fall to rust and flame.”
“If you would prevent that,” said the Prince, “serve me once more. The barbarians who brought forth the Chimera may yet discover some other relic of the Titans. Help me vanquish them, and ensure the security of both our realms.”
So the Pegasus let the Prince guide it once more, this time to the barbarian stronghold far beyond the horizon. With great regret—for this was an act it had not performed since the wars of the Titans—it loosed a thunderbolt at that great citadel, and in doing so reduced an empire to dust in a single flash of light.
“Now I must return to the darkness,” said the Pegasus. “Give up your key, and let me wait out my days beneath the world.”
But the Prince had seen the power of the Pegasus, and he had yet one more task for it.
“There is another empire that might yet prove a threat to both our lands. Serve me but once more, and you will know for certain that no force on Earth can contend with your strength—or mine. My own legions will watch the gates until the end of time.”
And so it came to be that Pegasus let the Prince guide it for a third time. But though it could not see, it felt the warmth of the sun vanish in the West.
“Are we near?” it asked. “This would be a long way for any army to march.”
“Have patience,” said the Prince. “We are near.”
Hours passed, and though it could not see, the Pegasus felt the warmth of the sun return, this time from the East.
“Are we near?” it asked. “Such a journey would take months on foot.”
“We are near,” said the Prince. “Let me guide you.”
Hours more passed, and the Pegasus resolved to wait no longer.
“Tell me truly that this foe of yours could make such a march, and I will smite him.”
“He could,” promised the Prince. “Why, even now I see his armies on the horizon.”
Without another word, the Pegasus rolled over and pitched itself into the ocean, carrying Prince and key with it to the crushing depths. Though it could not see, it had heard the waves below, and knew that it was not the Prince’s rival that would bring war across the water.