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So Eurynome lay in the arms of Poseidon and bare in the house of Glaukos blameless Bellerophon, surpassing all men.
— Oppian, Cynegetica

Bellerophon is a demigod hero from Greek mythology, the son of Poseidon, best known for his slaying of the Chimera, a hybrid monster that was part lion, part goat, and part serpent.

Born in Corinth, Bellerophon was the son of Eurynome, wife of the king of Corinth. One day, when Bellerophon was a young man, he had an argument with his half-brother, and they came to blows. Bellerophon killed his brother in his anger and was exiled from his homeland. He found refuge with the king of Argos, who cleansed him of his crime. The queen of Argos took a liking to Bellerophon, but he rejected her. Distraught, she accused Bellerophon of raping her. Furious, the king sent Bellerophon to Iobates, king of Lycia, bearing a sealed message instructing him to have Bellerophon killed.

To avoid violating the law of sacred hospitality, Iobates sent Bellerophon on a suicidal mission to kill the Chimera, a monster that was ravaging Lycian lands. The goddess Athena, who favored Bellerophon, aided him by granting him command of Pegasus, a winged horse. Bellerophon shot arrows at the beast, but they had little effect. Bellerophon then tipped his spear with a block of lead, which he thrust down the monster's throat. The lead was melted by the Chimera's fire, suffocating it. Shocked by Bellerophon's survival, Iobates continued to send him on such quests, but Bellerophon completed them all. Eventually learning of Iobates's goal, Bellerophon, with some help from Poseidon, stormed the palace. Convinced that his guest was the son of a god, Iobates begged for forgiveness and granted Bellerophon co-rulership of his kingdom.

With so much success and glory at such a young age, Bellerophon's hubris began to grow. He began to see himself as deserving of a place upon Olympus, the home of the gods. To claim his rightful place, he mounted Pegasus and began to fly to Olympus's peak. Appaled by this display of pride, Zeus sent a gadfly to sting Pegasus, who panicked and bucked Bellerophon off. Bellerophon was saved from death by Athena, but the fall permanently blinded him. He wandered the Earth as a begger, living in misery until he died.

Battle vs. Astolfo (by Laquearius)

"Get a move on, you damned horse, we don't have all day," mumbled Bellerophon as he leaned against a rock, impatiently waiting for his loyal companion Pegasus to sate his hunger on the fresh grasses that surrounded them. Remembering his mission, he scanned the horizon for any sign of his quarry. Iobates had sent him northward, with instructions to hunt down a troublesome griffin that had been harassing shepherds and their flocks. It was a foggy and overcast day, the perfect time for a griffin to strike and disappear into the clouds before any would-be trackers could locate it. Bellerophon chuckled. He knew that when he finally found the beast, it wouldn't be expecting its pursuer to have a pair of wings of his own. Pegasus whinnied, drawing the hero's attention back to him. "Ready to go? Let's hunt ourselves a monster."

"Your aid is much appreciated, Ruggiero!" Astolfo exclaimed as he slipped on his helmet. Ruggiero smiled. "Any time, my friend. Are you sure you have to leave so soon? Can't stay around for a few drinks to celebrate our victory?" Astolfo shook his head. "I'm afraid not. Now that the Saracens have been routed, I have little time to complete my mission for the King before they return to their homeland. But do not fret, if the hippogriff is reliable as it always is, I should be back within four days time." Ruggiero laughed, and put his hand on Astolfo's shoulder. "Excellent! Good luck, and Godspeed!"

"Calm yourself, good man. You are sure you saw the griffin here?" The old man nodded vigorously. "Yes, my lord! But this was a different griffin! Yes, not like anything anyone has ever seen! It had hooves!" Bellerophon raised an eyebrow. "Hooves, you say? Like a horse? How odd... Can you tell me exactly which direction it was headed?"

The few remaining embers of what was once Astolfo's fire began to fade away. The paladin's spirits were low; he wanted to keep searching for a village to find lodgings in, but it was much too dark, and he was tired enough already. Despite this, he took comfort in the fact that he had made good progress today, and the journey to the Saracen lands was nearly completed. Astolfo wrapped his cloak around him as a makeshift blanket, and allowed sleep to overtake him.

Bellerophon had not slept last night. There is no time for sleep, not when you're hunting down a murderous monster like a griffin. He had followed the old man's directions to the letter, and sure enough, as the sun was beginning to peak over the horizon, he was staring down at his quarry, which was curled up next to the smoking remains of a campfire. The puzzling description of the beast he had heard was indeed true: the griffin had not the rear legs of a lion, but those of a horse. What was even more confusing, was the fact that there was a heavily armored man sleeping only a few meters away. This was a curious case indeed, but he had a task to complete, and the frivolous details could be sorted out later. Bellerophon drew a dagger from his belt, and approached the sleeping monster.

Astolfo awoke to the sound of an piercing screech. Scrambling to his feet, he snatched up his lance from where it lay and spun around to meet whatever threat endangered his animal companion. He saw the hippogriff standing upright, having pinned a mysterious man to the ground with its talons. Even in his precarious situation, the stranger remained calm, as if he had done this many times before. "Who are you!?" Astolfo shouted. "What have you done to enrage my companion!?"

Bellerophon's breathing was strained under the weight of the massive creature, but he mustered a response to the stranger's questions anyway. "My name is Bellerophon, exile of Corinth. I have come to slay this beast for its monstrous actions against the people of this land, and I will not hesitate to slay you as well if you try to stop me!" Bellerophon then seized the hippogriff by the legs, and with a mighty push, hurled the beast back. The hippogriff crumpled onto the ground with a weak squawk.

Astolfo moved quickly. As soon as Bellerophon was freed from the hippogriff's clutches, Astolfo charged at him, the tip of his lance pointed at his chest. There was a burst of golden light, and Bellerophon was sent flying backwards, crashing into the ground in a cloud of dust. "Allow me to return your introduction! I am Count Astolfo, paladin of King Charlemagne! And I will not allow you to hinder my mission!"

The pain in Bellerophon's chest was excruciating, feeling as he been stabbed by a hundred red-hot blades. Overcoming his agony, he forced himself to stand, and shouted the name of his companion into the air, praying to the gods that he was listening.

"PEGASUS!"

Astolfo hurried over to his downed companion. He began to check the beast for any wounds, but was interrupted when the hippogriff leaped to its feet, and turned to Astolfo with an impatient look. Astolfo smiled, and then looked over to Bellerophon how was now accompanied by a magnificent white winged horse. "It seems our friend has a winged beast of his own serving him. How about I introduce you two?"

Bellerophon unclipped his spear from its leather sheath on the side of Pegasus's saddle, and retrieved his shield from where it hung over his shoulder. With his shield hand, he grasped the winged horse's reins, and urged him ownward. "To the air, Pegasus! We shall smite this beast and its master!" Bellerophon knew he had to be careful. Even ignoring the fact that the stranger's companion was a griffin-horse hybrid, this man was clearly no ordinary warrior... he must be favored by a god, and a powerful one indeed.

The paladin gritted his teeth as he readied his lance. He knew nothing about this man, where he cam from, or why he was so bent on slaying him and the hippogriff, but what he did know was that a delay in his mission for his king was not something he could tolerate. He commanded the hippogriff to take to the skies, who swiftly obeyed. The rider of the winged horse followed soon after.

The Corinthian demigod eyed his opponent's gilded lance cautiously, remembering it as the weapon that had floored him with a simple thrust. He spun his own spear around in his hand, changing the orientation and readying it for throwing. Steering Pegasus skyward to gain a height advantage, Bellerophon raised up the spear and prepared to end the battle with a single masterstroke. Astolfo saw what Bellerophon was about to do, and raised his shield instinctively, trusting in the shield's craftsmanship to protect him.

Astolfo's foe, however, was aiming for a different target. The spear left his grasp after a downward motion of the arm, and the weapon plummeted directly at the hippogriff's head. The hybrid was more responsive than its own rider, and it darted to the side with a quick and powerful flap of its wings. The spear sailed harmlessly past the pair, and plunged downward towards the ground below.

Bellerophon cursed his misfortune, and drove Pegasus ownward, before Astolfo could ascend and retaliate. He removed his bow from the sheath on the back of his belt. Drawing and knocking an arrow from his quiver, he took aim at the pursuing paladin, remembering how he had slain his foes back in Amazonia. He released the bowstring.

The first arrow buried itself in Astolfo's shield, and the four more that followed shortly after either bounced off his helmet or failed to pierce his chainmail. Astolfo's armor was sometimes uncomfortable, but he couldn't have been more thankful for it now. He encouraged the hippogriff onward with a light kick of the heel, and extended his lance arm.

Bellerophon growled in frustration. This new foe was far too well armored for his attacks to have an effect, and the beast accompanying him was much too swift. He placed his bow back into its quiver, and instead drew his sword. It was time to try something drastic.

The hippogriff rapidly gained on Pegasus. Astolfo should have realized that something was wrong, but his mind was purely focused on eliminating Bellerophon. The tip of the golden lance inched closer and closer to Bellerophon's back.

Bellerophon spun around suddenly, shield raised, hoping to cushion as much of the blow as possible. The lance's tip made contact, and Bellerophon was thrown from his mount. Pegasus dashed forward, unsure of what had happened, but determined to protect his master. Bellerophon grabbed hold of the forelegs of his horse, who was barely phased. He climbed alongside Pegasus's underbelly, and then, with all his strength, leaped towards his foe.

Astolfo barely had time to register what was about to happen. Bellerophon crashed into him and seized him by the shoulders, knocking off his mount, and sending them both plummeting to the earth.

Bellerophon ripped the shield and lance out of Astolfo's grasp, which immediately drifted away from the falling pair. He then grabbed hold of Astolfo's neck, cutting off his breathing while he raised his sword, preparing to cut away Astolfo's life with a single stroke.

Astolfo struggled, but to no avail. Bellerophon's strength was far greater than that of anyone he had encountered before, and his own simply gave way before the demigod. He released his grip on Bellerophon's wrists, and instead began to kick wildly at Bellerophon's unprotected legs. The demigod was only slightly phased, but it stunned him long enough for the pair to crash into the lake that lay beneath them.

Water surrounded Bellerophon, blurring his vision. He recovered quickly, and pulled himself up to the surface where he looked around hastily, until he located his foe on a beach just a few meters away.

Astolfo coughed up water as he climbed up onto the shore. His gambeson had soaked up water, making it many times heavier. The paladin couldn't bear the weight, not in his exhausted state, and he collapsed onto the sand. His spirits fell as the rising sun was blotted out by the figure of an enraged Bellerophon.

Bellerophon lifted Astolfo up by the neck, determined to finish what he had failed to do in the air. Deprived of his own sword, he threw Astolfo to the ground, knocking the wind out of him. He removed the paladin's own sword from its sheath, and raised it above his foe's throat. Bellerophon didn't have time to react to the earsplitting shriek that came from behind him.

The claws of the hippogriff ripped through Bellerophon's flesh, causing him to scream in agony. Seeing this as his last chance, Astolfo summoned every last bit of strength in his body and forced himself to his feet. He ran towards the demigod, slamming his shoulder into him and knocking him to the earth. He snatched up his sword, and thrust it into the downed hero's chest. Bellerophon gave one last cry of pain before his life faded away.

Completely enervated, Astolfo collapsed. The hippogriff prodded him lightly with its beak, and when it received no response, it lifted its master up with his talons, and took to the air, carrying him to safety.

Pegasus nudged his master's motionless body with his snout, whinnying sadly. With nowhere else to go, he laid down next to Bellerophon's body, hoping to, at the very least, keep him company for a while longer.

Winner: Astolfo

Expert's Opinion

Due to the airborne nature of the fight, Bellerophon was unable to make good use of the advantages he had over Astolfo, leaving the Frank to claim victory with his superior protection, mount, and weaponry.

To see the original battle, weapons, and votes, click here.

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