Category: Classics & Creative Writing
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Atalanta first saw the white hind grazing with the herd in a forest clearing.  The hind was not white as virgin snow, but the colour of a field of wheat bleached by the sun, shining beside her darker sisters.  A prize fit for a King’s daughter.  Such a beast was left by the Lady Artemis when brave Iphigenia would be sacrificed at Aulis in times to come, if one were to believe such tales.  Atalanta crept away and said nothing of her discovery.

The next day Atalanta stepped out into the forest again at first light.  This time with her bow.  The bow with which she had drawn first blood from the Calydonian boar.  Her prize had been the boar’s head and hide, given by Meleager.  But Meleager had been hit by the arrow from another bow that day; the arrow of Eros, and had died pining with unrequited love.  Atalanta thanked the Lady Artemis that she had never been so smitten by the power of Aphrodite and her mischievous son. 

The only sound in the forest was the song of the birds.  Atalanta, the expert huntress, tread silently.  Not a twig broke nor leaf rustled to announce her presence.  Hiding behind a hundred year old oak she waited patiently, as a hunter does, and she was not to be unrewarded for her patience. 

Soon the white hind stepped out, this time alone.  Proud and graceful, the hind looked up and sniffed the morning air, as if she was aware of the presence of an intruder in her world.  But she did not flee.  Atalanta picked up her bow, still silent, as her well-practised hand pulled back the bowstring, on the arrow already resting there.  She found her mark but just as she was about to loose the arrow and secure her prize she hesitated. 

Did Atalanta need another trophy?  She was already famed throughout many kingdoms, and needed no more trophies to announce her worthiness.  And did the Lady Artemis need another sacrifice?  Or would the lady think more kindly on her servant if the white hind should be allowed to live? 

As Atalanta hesitated the hind turned and ran.  What chance there had been was over, and Atalanta returned to the palace.  She spoke to no-one of the white hind, and the hind was never to be seen in the forest again. 

But Atalanta and the white hind had not been alone in the forest that morning.  Aphrodite and Artemis, rivals and not sisters, had surveyed the scene.  The Lady Artemis nodded and left; she would no longer protect this girl, who had for the first time shown her mortal weakness.  And Aphrodite smiled, holding a beautiful golden apple in her beautiful golden hand.