Recreation of the Journeys of Heracles
The Conquest of the Nemean Lion
The chickens squawked noisily as I threw handfuls of grains upon the clamoring, feathery flock. Feeding the chickens was a daily chore of mine, and although it was much preferred to, say, mucking out the pigsty, I still despised it. I was meant for much greater things; although just seventeen years of age, I was stronger than the strongest man, with a brain to match. Yet here I was, doing the work of a lowly farmhand. It was not enough. I was meant to be a warrior.
"Heracles? Are you done yet?" my uncle's voice called earnestly. "Your aunt's made shepherd pie, you don't want to miss that, now do you?" "Coming," I answered quickly, all thoughts of my rightful place fading away in the hopes of the succulent pie. I hastily herded the birds into the coop, not bothering to lock the door properly: the biggest mistake I could have made.
When I came back, belly full of warm pie, I found the coop devoid of fowl. Feathers littered the yard and bloodstains painted the fences. For a second, I was thunderstruck, staggering slightly at the sight. Then I saw it loping away gaily into the woods, a beast of such large proportions that it dwarfed even a horse: a huge, golden lion, with its horrible, savage teeth glistening with the remains of its last meal.
The chickens had been our main source of income. How would we survive without them? I was so angry that I picked up a nearby sickle, ready to charge the monster. But then I hesitated, fearful. Surely not even I was stupid enough to brave the so-called Nemean lion. But on the other hand, this was my chance, my chance to prove myself worthy of gloryif I did not die in the attempt. I stood frozen, thinking.
The god of choices, Janus, seemed to hover above me. "Choose," he whispered. "Choose." In the future, I would come to regret my rash choice, for it changed my entire life (which, admittedly, was to be unforeseeably short) in ways I could not fathom. The sickle throbbed in my hand, and I knew what I had to do. I would hunt the lion.
I found his rocky lair high up in the rocky mountains, where no other animal dared to near. There he lay, basking in the late morning sun, licking his chops to salvage the last remnants of blood. With a great roar, I charged him and brought the sickle down upon his neck. It should have killed him instantly, but the blade shattered. He glanced up at me almost lazily, as if I was no more than an irritating fly, taunting me with those smirking yellow eyes. I felt a rush of rage. This foul creature was impervious to weapons! Well, resistant to blades he may be, but he was certainly not resistant to me!
I jumped onto his back, wrapping my arms around his luscious neck. This move was so unexpected that he lay frozen in surprise for a moment. Taking heed of his momentary lapse, I reached for all the strength I could muster in my sinewy arms, and strangled him. It was slow and brutal, yet when I dragged his body back to the village, I was proclaimed as a hero. This would send me spiraling down a dark path, wrought with misery, for the one thing about a hero is that they must give up everything they love. They must lay down their lives for the greater good. Standing beside the mangled carcass, ferocious even in death, I stared out at the cheering, screaming crowd, all of whom seemed determined to touch metheir savior from the man-eater, and felt the slightest flicker of trepidation. Was this what I really wanted?