Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Great Horse Stories - Psylla's Story

Dark bay mare
Rider: Hector

My name's Psylla, and I was the first of our herd to have a foal by Bucephalas! True, Aura was away at the time, or it might not have happened. But the new horsemaster didn’t realize I was in season when he turned me out in the pasture, and Bucephalas had not run with a mare for years, and… well, one thing led to another. Anyway, eleven months later I gave birth to a beautiful black filly. She was big like her sire, so it wasn’t easy getting her out, but I’m a determined mare and managed it in the middle of the night without any help. I do so hate to make a fuss. It was hard to leave my sweet filly behind when we left for Persia, but she was much too young to fight. The grooms called her Electra, and promised she would join us just as soon as she was old enough to be ridden. I didn’t know I would not live to see that day.

The Persian army was waiting for us at the River Granicus. Though it was after sunset, Alexander immediately galloped Bucephalas into the water, and so of course we all followed him. But when we scrambled out on the other side, we found ourselves trapped on a horrible little beach. Arrows hissed down from the bank above us, while the Persians attacked us from both sides. My rider Hector got hit by an arrow, and I felt him slip off my cloth. Then he was gone, just like that.

It’s a terrible thing to lose your rider, almost as bad as weaning a foal. I thought my battle days were over and I’d be sent home in disgrace. But Bucephalas had been swept away downriver in the dark and I was the only spare horse. The next morning, when the Guard mounted up to continue the battle, Alexander himself leapt on my cloth and urged me back towards the river again.

Can you imagine? Me, little Psylla, leading the herd! Well, I can't begin to tell you how amazing that felt! You can’t help but be brave when Alexander is on your cloth. Call me a reckless mare if you like, but I swam that foaming river and led the charge on the enemy line with Alexander on my back yelling his war cry, and never once thought of the enemy spears flying at us.

When the first one hit me, I didn’t even feel the pain. I kept on galloping, fast as I could. But the second spear stuck deep into my chest and brought me to my knees. From then on, everything was a blur. Alexander somersaulted over my head. I think he landed on his feet, but a bright light was shining in my eyes so I couldn’t see properly. Then, somehow, I was back on my feet, too. I trotted out of the way, feeling light and free. It was very strange. Horses galloped past me, but I couldn’t smell them. My body lay in the mud with the spears sticking out of it. I didn’t really want to go back to it. Alexander stared at it sadly. Then suddenly Bucephalas was there, with his girl-filly groom clinging to his mane. He sent me a whinny of thanks as he knelt in the mud for Alexander to mount, and then they bounded up and charged the enemy who had speared me. Hephaestion pulled the groom up on Petasios and galloped with her across the river to safety. Since Alexander didn't need me any more, I followed. And – this is really strange – when I entered the water, my hooves didn’t even get wet!

There are advantages to being dead. I soon worked out I could go anywhere I liked without getting wet or tired or hungry or ordered to fight for anyone. So I kept on galloping, right back across the Hellespont and all the way to Macedonia, where I’d left my beautiful black filly. Electra looked fit and happy, stretching her long legs in the pasture. I jumped the fence and galloped alongside her until she stopped to graze, then blew into her nostrils. She couldn’t see ghosts like Bucephalas of course but I think she felt me, because she snorted in surprise. “Be brave,” I told her, “and one day you might carry Alexander like I did.”

Then I left my filly to grow big and strong, and went into the ghost pastures to wait for Bucephalas.


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