The Keryneian Hind

When the hind was subdued, Hercules carried it to a nearby shrine of Artemis. There, the goddess and her divine brother Apollo appeared, blazing with fury because of the injuries inflicted by Hercules upon the sacred consort...

"The beast you are set to find and capture is a most elusive one. It is bigger than a bull and its horns are made of gold. It was assigned to draw the chariot of Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, but the hind escaped and since long it inhabits the Keryneian hills. Find the sacred prey and bring it back to Mycenae alive..." Eurystheus's words echoed in the hero's mind since his departure from Tiryns. What was he after this time? A hind of greater stature than a bull? That sounded paradoxical.

Having left Iolaos behind, the hero made his way to the mountainous Keryneia. There he started his search for the sacred animal. His search was fruitless for days; he only met ordinary animals of the wild. As the days passed, he noticed that from time to time a large form running in full speed, conjuring up a gentle breeze that swept through the forest. Hercules couldn't make out its exact shape but concluded that this was the lost hind of Artemis, as the divine signs indicated.

In the weeks that followed, the hero tried to catch the animal with various traps and tricks but to no avail. The hind always eluded him and, in short glimpses he took of its face, it seemed to fearlessly ignore him. One day Hercules managed to touch the hind's back before it managed to escape and the animal turned around and exited the forest for the first time. The hero went after its trail and tracked it down through rocky wastes and barren hills. He thought that outside its natural environment, it was possible that the hind would at last be captivated. But every time Hercules managed to barely touch it, the beast ran to a different place, covering great distances with supernatural speed.

 The hero, tired but never giving up, kept following it through mountains and plains, through grasslands and swamps, even into foaming rivers and waterfalls. The hero was searching for his prey in Arcadia when he saw the hind drinking water by the river Ladon. It was the first time he ever saw it standing still. He seized the chance and drew his bow. Hercules’s arrow hit the animal's leg and it fell on the ground, looking helpless. After a full year of pursuit, Hercules approached the sacred beast and took it gently in his arms. But as he touched it, the hind was overcome by fear and began twitching and trying to escape. The hero was forced to wrestle with the great beast and accidentally broke one of its horns. When the hind was subdued, Hercules carried it to a nearby shrine sacred to Artemis.

There, Artemis and her divine brother Apollo appeared, blazing with fury because of the injuries inflicted by Hercules upon the sacred consort. The hero pleaded for their forgiveness. "I am but a pilgrim on the road you have travelled ages ago, immortal gods. My mortal shell, being crude and inept, has injured your sacred animal and for that I ask your forgiveness." After hearing his words and looking at his rundown body and weathered face, the divine siblings were moved by the hero's struggle and decided to allow the completion of his Labor. Thus Hercules delivered the hind to Mycenae and the unwilling King of Tiryns had to admit this Labor had been done properly, although it took so long to be completed.

Plunged into a deep sleep, Hercules saw himself in the Keryneian woods once more. But this time, the hind was standing next to him and was staring at him expectantly. When it had the attention of the hero, the hind started running through the forest. Hercules set to behind it and realized that he could keep track with its speed and even surpass it. The animal suddenly stopped in its tracks when they reached a glade. At this time Hercules realized that the hind was no longer his prey.

A robust dark man was standing in the middle of the glade and Hercules promptly recognized his shadow. This time the villain looked startled by the hero's appearance and tried to flee, but Hercules grabbed him tight and began to strangle him. The shadow then assumed a liquid form of pure darkness and managed to crawl out of his arms, merging with the shadows of the great trees.

The hind started after it, but Hercules felt a touch on his shoulder. The hero woke up and tuned around. It was his nephew, Iolaos. "You were moaning in your sleep again, uncle. Did you see something terrifying? Maybe a monster you are about to face?" Hercules smiled slightly, remembering his dream: the hyperactive hind was still leading the hunt that would result in his salvation.