Orpheus returns from war to discover Eurydice has been faithful to him, only to lose her again to tragedy. Determined to get her back, he ventures to the Underworld armed with nothing but his famous lyre.
“If you spend any more time in there, you’re going to turn into a mermaid!”
Eurydice lifted her dark head from where she was reclining in the water, seeing the centaur pawing at the edge of her stream. “Chiron!” Her eyes widened in surprise and delight. She grinned. “Nymphs aren’t mermaids, horse-boy. You just want to turn everyone half-breed, don’t you?”
The centaur snorted, sounding very horse-like in spite of his human torso. “Not if they all turn out like my brothers. I swear I’m the only civilized one in the lot.”
Eurydice stood, twisting the water out of her long, dark hair, and saw Chiron’s eyes moving over her nude form appreciatively. She smiled at him as she stepped out, patting his chestnut flank as she reached for her wrap. It was the standard Greek dress for women, a long, thin strip of material she wound about her body in an intricate way. It clung to her curves. “You certainly are the best of them. What are you doing here, anyway?”
His dark eyes moved over her body before she finished pulling the material around her and closing it without any fasteners. He cleared his throat, running a hand through his long, dark hair. “Apollo insisted I come for the whole ‘Find Aristaeus a Wife’ shindig, since I was apparently responsible for his birth, or some such rot.”
“Hazards of being an oracle, huh?” Eurydice’s hand moved over the horse’s back, feeling the strong muscles there. “Didn’t you introduce Apollo to Aristaeus’ mother?”
“Not exactly. I think the exact prophecy, as I recall, was Apollo would take the nymph, Cyrene, to Libya, where she would bear him a son, named Aristaeus-he who would become revered among men for his skills with the land and the animals.” Chiron shrugged, looking over his broad shoulder at her. “Eurydice, dear, if you don’t stop petting me like that, my baser natures may just take over.”
“Sorry.” She dropped her hand with a blush. “It’s just such a nice, shiny coat.”
“And you are a glistening star.” His rump swung around as he faced her, stunningly human completely from the waist up. “You know how I have a thing for nymphs.”
“Nymphs are nigh irresistible when we want to be.” She cleared her throat and changed the subject. “So this nymph, Cyrene-how could she travel so far from her domain?”
He gave her a sad look. “She was a Nereid, not a Naiad, like you, my dear.”
“Oh.” Eurydice’s hopeful eyes dropped, and she sat on the bank of the stream with a sigh. “So basically, as long as she was near the sea, she could travel anywhere she wanted?”
“But I’m stuck here by this little creek.” She sighed, kicking at the water with her foot.
“You love your stream.”
“Yes, well…sometimes I think it does not love me.”
Chiron’s tail swished. “I’m sure there are many men-or half-men-who might settle with you here beside your waters.”
“Oh Chiron…” She reached up and patted his flank. “I love you like a brother, you know that.”
“Well, my dear, there will be plenty of men to choose from at Apollo’s son-worshipping.” He snorted at his own pun and she smiled, shaking her head. “Won’t you at least accompany me? So few give me as much pleasure with their very company as you do.”
She laughed; standing and stretching. “With all the honey you spread with your words, I’m surprised you haven’t attracted more than just flies, horse-boy!”
He grinned. “Wanna go for a ride?”
“I thought you’d never ask!” She eyed his back, long and sleek. Placing her bare foot in the stirrup he made with his hands, she swung her leg over his flank, arranging her robe and settling herself on his back.
“Love that little wiggle.” He glanced over his shoulder and waggled his eyebrows at her.
“You’re so bad!” She slapped him near the tail with her hand and his eyes widened.
“Watch it-I like that too much.”
She laughed, wrapping her arms around his waist, feeling the hard ridges of muscle in his belly as he began to trot across the stream, carrying her with him. He was a fine specimen, really, of man and equine, and while he’d made it known on several occasions he would settle by the stream with her, she doubted he could do so for long.
There was too much in him that loved liberty and the freedom of roaming. He was, by no means, the wild half-breeds his brothers had proved themselves to be-but Chiron had an undeniable love for adventure, and Eurydice couldn’t roam any further than her stream itself did. Roaming too far from home would force her to wither and die, like a grape left off the vine in the sun.
However, a secret longing burned in her belly, and it wasn’t for Chiron. It wasn’t for any man she had ever met, but she just knew she would know him when she found him. She yearned to find the man she would be willing to follow, regardless of her circumstances. He existed, somewhere, she was sure of it-the man she would sacrifice everything for.
Eurydice saw something out of the corner of her eye and squeezed her thighs around Chiron’s sides. He gave a distinctly whinny-like sound. “Hey!”
“I think I just saw Melina!” She urged him left, and he cantered that way, towards a clearing. Sure enough, her friend was standing in the field, her arms held up to the sky. “Wait, Chiron!” Eurydice grabbed his long, dark hair as if it were a mane, pulling back and he slowed, shaking his head and glancing over his shoulder at her.
“What was that for?”
“She’s taming the bees.”
Eurydice dismounted, sliding to the ground. “Stay here for a moment. You’ll see.” She approached her friend quietly, her bare feet making no sound on the soft grass. Melina covered with a carpet of bees, the softly buzzing insects crawling over her skin from head to toe. When she had first seen Melina performing this trick a few years ago, Eurydice had panicked, running forward and waving her arms wildly, trying to make the bees scatter. She winced at the memory. She had caused her new friend several unnecessary stings that day-but Melina had taken it in stride, and they had spent a nice afternoon doctoring her wounds and chatting in Melina’s little cottage.
“Melina?” Eurydice called softly, still keeping her distance. The woman’s eyes opened and she stared out at her friend from two blue eyes lost in a moving blanket of insects. Eurydice thought she caught the hint of her smile, and then Melina started to spin. It began slowly, her bare feet shuffling on the grass, her steps minute and perfected. The insects started to rise, a few at a time, then in larger numbers as she turned faster, her arms thrown out to her sides. Soon she was spinning like a top, her blonde hair revealed now and whirling around her face in a cloud as the bees took flight, going off again on their daily business.
Chiron came up behind Eurydice, pawing the ground. “That’s impressive!”
“She does it every day.” Eurydice shook her head, her smile bemused. “Melina, this is Chiron, the centaur. Chiron, this is my friend, Melina.”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance.” Chiron bent one jointed leg and bowed his head briefly. “May I ask…what is the purpose of that daily death-defying stunt?”
“I’m just keeping them happy.” Melina smiled from where she had collapsed on the ground, still gently shaking her head free from a bee or two. They buzzed gently around her face, but she showed no sign of fear. In fact, they seemed to kiss her cheek before taking flight again with their brothers and sisters. “Angry bees don’t produce good honey. Happy bees are good workers. They love being seen for the magical beings they are.”
“Is that so?”
“Chiron is taking me over to a festival Apollo is having for his son.” Eurydice held a hand out to her friend. “Do you want to come with us?” Melina took the outstretched hand, looking askance at the half-man, half-horse. “Do I have to ride?”
“You’ll let bees crawl all over you, but you’re afraid of horses?” Eurydice laughed.
“It’s not the horse ride itself…” Melina shrugged, giving Chiron an apologetic smile. “I’m more afraid of the falling off.”
“I’ll go slowly.” He winked, making his hands into a stirrup again. Eurydice helped Melina mount first then swung herself up behind her, putting her arms around the other woman’s waist.
“You said you’d go slowly!” Melina squealed and grasped Chiron tightly around the middle as he galloped over the field. She buried her face in his back, and he rumbled laughter as he leapt nimbly across a small stream.
“But then I wouldn’t have two beautiful women clinging to me, would I?” Chiron slowed, grinning back at them with a wink.
Eurydice smacked his rear. “You are bad!”
“It’s part of my nature.” He shrugged, but his smile never faded. “And we can’t help our natures can we?”
Eurydice sighed, thinking of her attachment to her stream. “I suppose so.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Melina dared to peek around Chiron’s broad back to see where they were going. “I think people can change.”
“Spoken like a true mortal!” Chiron laughed; the sound rumbling through him. Eurydice could feel it between her thighs.
“Come on, horsie.” She squeezed her legs around him, digging her knees in. “Play nice.”