I was sat in Morganite’s shop under an array of dried bunches of spices hanging from the rafters and breathing in the strong smell of mixed herbs once more. I had given her the Elderberry branch Eztil had gathered from Peru and the witch, wearing her apron with her sleeves rolled up to her elbows, was now rummaging through her jars in search of an ingredient and heating a cast iron pot bubbling over a fire.
I cupped my mug of herbal tea in my hands, with its steam misting up my face, and said, “You said the next portal was in Greece Morgan, where?”
“The gate of Olympus, home to the Gods.” She took a leaf from a bunch drying on the window ledge and dropped it into a mortal before picking up a pestle and grinding.
I blew on my hot beverage to make it cool enough to drink, “Olympus?”
Morganite crushed a dried herb in her palm, “The summit of Mount Olympus in northern Greece was where the Gods and Goddesses built their palaces, Zeus claimed Olympus as his home. The weather was always perfect and the Gods could enjoy their great feasts and parties in peace. Olympus is a paradise set above the clouds for only the Gods to reach, no mortal was allowed to enter through its gates.”
“If I can’t enter its gates,” I sipped at my tea, it was bitter on my tongue, “How can I go through the portal?”
“First,” Morganite was sorting through a bunch of flowers to select another ingredient, “You have to climb the mountain to its highest peak. Which is no easy task, I might add,” She added something to her cauldron, “The journey will be steep, foreboding and extremely difficult for you to climb.”
I added a spoonful of sugar to my mug, in hope this would sweeten its taste, spilling it over the counter top, “Then what? I don’t have wings Morgan, I can’t fly to Olympus.”
“No,” Her eyes glittered wildly, “You can’t... but Pegasus can.”
I nibbled nervously on one of Morganite’s freshly baked cookies, it tasted like cinnamon and dried fruit. “Pegasus?” I stammered.
“He’s the only one who knows the way to Olympus,” Morganite stirred the potion, surveying its colour, “He’s been there before.”
“Morgan,” I finished my cookie, sucking the grease off my fingers, “I hate to be brutal, but he was only born a month ago.”
The herbalist laughed, “I know that. Each Pegasus born is a reincarnation of the last, he knows the way.”
I licked the remaining crumbs from my lip, “How?”
Morganite took a clove of garlic from a braid hanging on the wall, “He’s been there before.” She dropped the garlic into the pot with a sizzle.
“When?” I took a mouthful of tea, it now tasted like honey.
Morganite sighed, checked the potion once more and said, “It’s a long story, I’ll leave this to brew.” She tugged at a colourful, but faded, spine of a book on the top shelf and fanned through it’s pages with interest, the paper rustling as she searched for the myth. She walked over to the counter, shoes tapping against the wooden floorboards, and set the book down open on the counter with a ruffled clunk.
“Bellerophon was the Prince of Corinth and had always loved horses.” Morganite began, “The great rider dreamed of adventures and his biggest dream of all was becoming a worshipped hero. Bellerophon travelled to Lycia as he had heard that every night a Chimera, a monster with the head of a lion and the tail of a dragon, was terrorizing the town. It was taking children, women and livestock from the townspeople and leaving the bones for all to see.
“The King of Lycia knew that Bellerophon was a great warrior and asked the horseman to rid his town of evil by killing the Chimera. Bellerophon accepted this task and went to the wisest man in Lycia, Polvidus, for advice. Polvidus knew that the Prince would not be able to kill the beast alone, the wise man told Bellerophon that he would need the help of Pegasus.”
Morganite stopped to stir the potion, its colour was grungy and its consistency was thick with lumps. It looked like vomit. I waited patiently as Morganite leaned over the pot to smell the fumes and with a nod of satisfaction, she dropped a dagger into the mixture.
“Where was I?” She smoothed her apron, “Oh yes. The wise man told Bellerophon that he would need the help of Pegasus. Pegasus was a majestic, winged horse born from the blood of Medusa. Polvidus sent Bellerophon to the temple of Athena and told him to stay the night. Bellerophon went to the Goddess’s temple and spent hours offering her many gifts in exchange for her help.
“Bellerophon grew tired and fell asleep. He dreamed the Goddess Athena gave him a magical, golden bridle with directions to the pool from which Pegasus drank. The following morning Bellerophon woke with the golden bridle from his dream in his hands. The Prince hid in the bushes by the lake Athena had guided him to and waited for Pegasus to come.
“Pegasus finally came to drink the water, Bellerophon was awed by his elegance and grace. He watched in wonderment as this black beauty drank from the lake, grooming himself and bathed in the sun. When Pegasus lay down to rest Bellerophon seized his chance, he pounced on the unsuspecting horse and slipped the golden bridle over its head. Alarmed and wild, Pegasus flew into the air, bucking and swerving to try and shake Bellerophon from his back, for hours and hours Pegasus fought against being tamed but nothing he could do would dismount the Prince. When Pegasus realised that he had a skilled equestrian on his back, the horse gave up and surrendered.
“Bellerophon flew Pegasus back to Lycia and together they bravely fought the Chimera. Bellerophon swinging his sword at the fire-breathing beast and Pesagus biting and kicking the monster every chance he got. As a team the pair of them killed the Chimera terrorising the town and were honoured by the King as brave champions.
A breeze came into the shop through the open door and the dried herbs tied to the rafters swayed uneasily in the wind with a dry, leafy rustle. I gulped down the last mouthful of my tea and set the mug down quietly on the counter top.
“This worship was not enough for the Prince of Corinth and he thought he deserved a greater reward. He mounted Pegasus and told him to fly to Olympus to visit the Gods, where they would be treated like heroes. Zeus was furious that Bellerophon would even think to come to his domain, Bellerophon was painfully reminded of the limits of the God hospitality.
“Zeus sent out a horsefly towards the flying guests. Pegasus was stung and reared, accidentally throwing Bellerophon from his back. Athena spared the hero’s life by softening the ground where he fell, but until his dying day the crippled and lonely Prince hiked over the mountain range in search of Pegasus. He was never found.
“Pegasus had continued the journey up to Olympus and was welcomed by Zeus. The God kept the horse as him most favored and important steed, in return Pegasus was loyal to Zeus until his last breath.” Morganite slammed the book shut and the dry, woody smell of the pages drifted into my nostrils.
“Where is Pegasus now?” I queried.
The shop keeper smiled, her face still ageless, “Through the back, I’ll show you.” Morganite got to her feet with the scrape of a stool and lead me through the curtain.
I wasn’t greeted with a great ranch, garden or stable but a mere door in a dingy stock room. I turned to Morganite, puzzled. The witch just smiled calmly in response and twisted the rusting handle, the door opened with a creak.
I cautiously walked through the doorway and was immediately blinded by the sun, I lifted my hand to shade my eyes. I was now stood in a beautiful meadow made up of long, whispering grass and seeded with colourful wild-flowers. I breathed in the clean air and the sweet smell of the growing lawn.
Pegasus stood out, jet-black against the calm green of the meadow. His neck was bent down to the ground and he was lazily nibbling the turf around him. He was the size of a full-grown stallion now, hard to believe I had only seen him less than a month ago. His ink-stained wings, like a giant raven, were tucked tidily to his sides and his plumage ruffled in the wind.
The herbalist and I walked through the field, the grass stroking my legs and the breeze ruffling my clothes, fondling the strands of my hair lovingly. The lawn was slightly crunchy underfoot but the earth was warm, I could feel it radiating through the soles of my feet. The air was filled with the humming of bees and dragonflies as they danced with the twirling wind. The field was dotted with petite, fragrant daisies, their sunshine centers grinned up at me whilst the gentle breeze ruffled the white petals.
Pegasus stopped grazing and his ears pricked as he sighted us. He began to advance towards us, his coal-coloured coat shining in the sunlight on the horizon. His mane flowed as the wind whipped around his quivering haunches, all four hooves pounding the ground in rhythm as he galloped over.
Pegasus pranced in a circle around Morganite and I before coming to a stand-still, his muscles rolling under his supple coat that hung on his slender-limbed frame. He looked at me with his big, genuine eyes and I felt that he saw through me.
I reached my hand up hesitantly to Pegasus’ muzzle, it was velvety soft in my palm, and ran my fingers along the coat of his neck, glossy as silk. He snorted in contempt and pawed at the grass with his foreleg.
“How has he grown so quickly?” I said gently, as not to spook Pegasus.
Morganite held out her hand, in her palm she held a sugar cube, Pegasus leaned and gulped it down greedily. “I don’t know, he just grew and then just carried on growing.” Morganite laughed as the horse nudged her shoulder, asking for more treats.
I couldn’t stop touching this beautiful creature, I stroked down his neck and along his back. I twisted my fingertips through his mane and rubbed behind his ears, he seemed to like that. “So, I climb to the highest peak of the mountain and Pegasus will take me to the gates of Olympus. Then what?”
“Well, before that you have to free the Wraith.” Morganite reminded me, to be honest I had forgotten all about him, “You have to do the summoning on the highest peak before Pegasus takes you to Olympus.”
“How do we free him?” I asked, Pegasus bumping me with his nose for attention as I had stopped fussing him.
Morganite reached into the pouch on her apron, “With this.” She pulled out a locket, silver with rusted edges. “His freedom is sealed within this necklace, he will be free once you open it.”
“That’s it?” I examined the locket, similar to the one around my own neck, “I open it and he’s free?”
“Yes,” She pulled out another sugar cube and fed it to Pegasus, who nickered happily, “I would suggest that one of you keeps the locket on you afterwards. You can use it as blackmail to keep the Wraith under control in the mortal world, if he misbehaves all you have to do is close the locket and he will no longer be free.”
I eyed the witch, “What do you mean, misbehave?”
Morganite rolled her eyes, “He is a demon after all.”
I shrugged, rubbing at Pegasus’ fuzzy ears again, “So, I climb the mountain. Summon the Wraith, set him free. Pegasus will then take me to Olympus...”
“The other four portals are linked. The last will already be open,” Morganite explained, “All you have to do is walk through it.”
“Okay,” I exhaled, getting to grips with the instructions I was being given, “How will Pegasus know when and where to meet me?”
“He knows where to go,” Morganite nodded at Pegasus. He tossed his head, shaking his mane that was as fluid as water and spread his wings proudly. Then with a resounding beat of his great wings, he launched himself into the air and disappeared through the clouds.
“He’ll be there when you need him,” Morganite told me, “Come, the potion will be ready.”
I followed her through the door and back into the dusty stock room of the shop. Morganite rolled up her sleeves and took the daggers out of the pot with her bare hands. Wiping her wet fingers and the blades on the front of her apron she said, “I boiled these in the ash of the Elderberry branch you gave me,” She held out the two daggers for me, “This weapon will weaken the Shadows’ powers whilst causing them injury.”
I reached out and took them from her, “Thank you.”
“Remember,” She warned, “This won’t kill them, only your sight can do that.”
“Thank you so much,” I said, giving the witch a hug, “For everything. I wouldn’t have been able to get this far without you.”
Morganite smiled, “There’s no need to thank me, dear. Now, go and save your friends.”
I nodded, pulling the shop keeper into another embrace. I hastily picked up my bag, placed the daggers inside and bid the witch goodbye.
“I hope I see you again,” Morganite said before I walked through the shop door.
“Me too,” I admitted, “But for now, I’ve got a God to kill.”