The Life and Death of Caeneus


Released on July 5, 2022



"Lord Poseidon," she said, "please change my body into that of a man's."

Poseidon, the sea god, looked up.

He eyed Caenis with curiosity.

The moonlight shone on his lover's naked body as she stood over him. The waves lapped on the beach where they had made love.

"You wish to become a man?" Poseidon asked.

Caenis shook her head, "No, Lord Poseidon, I have always been a man."

Poseidon eyed Caenis again.

And he saw the intensity and the truth in Caenis's eyes.

Poseidon nodded.

"As you wish," he said, as he waved his hand.

And in only a moment, his lover's body was changed into that of a man's.

His lover looked down at his new body, and stared in awe at it.

"Caenis?" Poseidon spoke up, snapping his lover out of his awe.

"I-It's... It's Caeneus now," he said, his attention now on Poseidon.

"Thank you, Lord Poseidon," Caeneus said, bowing down to the god, "You have made me very happy today."

"I am glad to have done so, Caeneus," Poseidon replied.

"Now then..." Poseidon said, with a cheeky grin on his face, "Would you like to 'test out' your new body?"

Caeneus stared at Poseidon for moment. Bemused, he asked, "Do you mean...?"

Poseidon laughed and nodded, "Indeed, I do."

Caeneus smiled, and laid down on the beach next to Poseidon.

The god and the man kissed, and they made love on the beach again.

~~~


And that was the story as Caeneus had related it to me, whilst we were both travelling on the Argo.

Even amongst the Argonauts, Caeneus had distinguished himself as a great hero - which was no small feat, as the Argo had counted many famed heroes amongst its crew, including: my best friend and King of the Lapiths, Pirithous; the famed musician, Orpheus; the demigoddess and sorceress, Medea; the great huntress, Atalanta; our fearless captain, Jason; and, of course, the strongest of all heroes, Heracles.

An Argonaut, a participant in the hunt for the Calydonian boar, a hero of the Lapiths, and a hero during the Centauromachy - Caeneus was a valiant warrior, with many deeds to his name.

And he was a great hero, right to the end.

I know this, for I - Theseus, King of Athens and Slayer of the Minotaur - was there to witness it.

***


What would become known as the Centauromachy began with a wedding.

My best friend, Pirithous, the King of the Lapiths of Thessaly, was to be wedded to Hippodamia.

As he was their king, Caeneus and many of the other Lapiths were in attendance, of course.

Also in attendance were the Centaurs of Thessaly.

I am unsure of the exact relationship between the two families, but when Pirithous's father had died, both Pirithous and Eurytion, the leader of the Centaurs, had a legitimate claim to Thessaly.

In the end, the Lapiths chose Pirithous as their king, and the Centaurs were given Pelion, a mountain in the region, as a peace offering.

Years had passed since, with the peace between the Lapiths and the Centaurs mostly undisturbed.

And so, as the wedding began, no one suspected that the Centaurs would do what they were about to do.

Pirithous and Hippodamia were married in an uneventful, but beautiful, ceremony.

However, as the newlyweds went around to greet their guests, the Centaurs suddenly revolted!

Taking us all by surprise, Eurytion suddenly snatched Hippodamia up into his arms, and galloped off into the nearby forests of Pelion.

Following suit, the other centaurs began to snatch up some of the guests, and ran off after their leader.

Pirithous and his fellow Lapith heroes leapt into action, chasing the Centaurs into Pelion.

I, of course, followed as well, and we soon found ourselves in the Centaurs' territory.

***


In the frenzy of the chase, we had all gotten separated.

As luck would have it, Caeneus and I would chance upon each other in the forest, and we continued on our quest together.

As we made our way through the thick trees, we would soon meet our first adversary.

A rustling nearby caught our attention.

Instinctively, the both of us jumped away as the centaur leapt out of the trees and swung his swords at us.

The centaur pulled his swords back to his side, and looked at the both of us.

"Impressive," he said.

From behind him, two more centaurs appeared, marching their captives out with them - two children held with a blade close to their necks.

"I am Latreus," the centaur began to boast, "And I am the great-"

"Coward!" Caeneus interrupted him.

Latreus scowled, "Don't interrupt me when-"

"Release them, cowards!" Caeneus yelled.

Latreus grew angry, and he yelled back, "Who do you think you are?!"

"I am Caeneus of the Lapith!" Caeneus answered, "And you will relea-"

"Wait, I've heard about you..." Latreus said, a smirk growing over his face, "You're that weak woman pretending to be a man!"

I quickly glanced over at Caeneus. Though his expression remained unchanged, I noticed that he had gripped his spear a little tighter.

I stepped forward and began to speak...

But Caeneus held out his spear to block me, "Allow me to take care of this, Theseus."

I began to protest, "But..."

I saw the fierce determination in his eyes.

Stepping back, I nodded and said, "He's all yours."

Caeneus readied his spear and his shield.

Seeing this, Latreus laughed.

"Are you challenging me, woman?" he asked, incredulous, "A weak woman thinks that she can defeat me?"

"You are wrong," Caeneus said, the fury subtly lacing his voice, "to think that I am a woman, and to think that women are weak."

"Ha!" Latreus smugly laughed, as he readied his swords, "You will be always be a weak woman! Not even a god can change that!"

"Latreus, wait..." one of the other centaurs began to speak up.

Latreus dismissed his companion, "Worry not, this will be easy."

And with that, Latreus charged at Caeneus.

Without hesitation and with ease, Caeneus made a quick jab with his spear at Latreus's left arm.

The spear found its mark, and Latreus yelled out in pain as he dropped his sword.

Angrily, Latreus swung his other sword at Caeneus.

With his shield, Caeneus parried the sword away.

And now that his opponent was wide open, Caeneus thrust his spear forward.

The spear pierced Latreus through his chest.

In shock, Latreus dropped his remaining sword, and looked down upon his mortal wound.

"No...," he said, "I lost... to a woman?!"

Without bothering to respond, Caeneus pulled out his spear, and the duel was over.

Stunned, the other two centaurs could only watch, as Latreus's body fell to the ground.

Regaining their senses, one of them began to threaten their hostages, "D-Drop your weapon, or I'll-"

And that's when I struck.

By this time, I had already quietly made my way closer to the centaurs.

When they began to threaten the children, I leapt out without hesitation, and I swung my sword at the centaur that was speaking.

My sword cleaved through the centaur's neck, stopping the threat.

The remaining centaur began to react, "S-Stop, or I'll-"

Caeneus's shield flew through the air and struck the centaur in the head, incapacitating the final threat.

With that, all of our opponents were down.

The children ran over to Caeneus, bawling.

"Caeneus!" the children cried out.

"Are you alright, children?" Caeneus asked, as he knelt down.

"Y-Yes, I think so," one of the children said.

"You've both done well," Caeneus said, as he patted the children's heads, "But I need you to be brave for just a little longer."

Caeneus stood up and pointed in the direction that we came from, "Do you know how to find your way out of the forest?"

"Y-Yes, sir," the children replied.

"Good," Caeneus nodded, "Be brave. Off you go then."

The children nodded, "A-Alright. Thank you, both of you!"

And we watched, as the children began to head out of the forest.

***


Caeneus and I continued on our way.

As we made our way through the forests of Pelion, we would come across more of the centaurs, hidden throughout the trees.

Together, we managed to defeat all those that crossed our path, and rescued the captives that they held.

Once again, I bore witness to Caeneus's brilliance and valiance on the battlefield, as he easily fended off dozens of centaur warriors with his spear and his shield.

Once again, I saw Caeneus's kindness and beauty, as he rescued the captives with his care and compassion.

Witnessing his might on the battlefield again, it was no surprise that there have been stories of Caeneus being invulnerable - that he was impervious to any weapon.

We had been fighting for hours now.

Our exhaustion and weariness grew.

Still, we continued to press on, as there were more innocents to save.

Another rustling caught our attention.

Almost in unison, the both of us quickly jumped back, barely managing to avoid a log as it swung across where we were just moments earlier.

I started to turn to Caeneus, "Well, that was clo-"

"Watch out, Theseus!" Caeneus yelled, as he pushed me away.

As I flew back and crashed into the ground, the end of a giant tree trunk suddenly slammed into Caeneus from above.

A centaur jumped atop of the trunk, and started to boast, "Ha! The strength of the centaurs shall crush even you, Caen-"

From beneath the tree trunk, Caeneus flung his spear at the centaur, piercing the centaur's head with it.

As the centaur's body fell, Caeneus groaned in pain, as he tried to push the giant tree trunk off of him.

I quickly leapt to my feet, "Caeneus, I'm com-"

"Get him!" a yell from the trees above screamed out.

From out of nowhere, another tree trunk slammed into the Caeneus.

Then another.

And another, and another, and another.

Stunned, I could only watch helplessly, as my friend was rapidly being crushed by pillars of wood.

Then, the ambush ended, as quickly as it had started.

"Caeneus!" I yelled out as I rushed over to mass of tree trunks that were now buried into the ground.

All that I could see of my friend, however, was his motionless arm, sticking out from the earth.

I reached the tree trunks, and I grabbed one of them.

I pulled as hard as I could, trying to lift it out of the ground.

But it didn't even budge.

"Damn it!" I yelled.

I tried again, but it amounted to nothing.

"Ha! And they said that he was invincible!" a smug voice cried out from behind me, "Don't bother! No matter how 'invincible' he was, he won't survive getting buried!"

I turned around, angry.

Half a dozen or so centaurs were now approaching me.

I yelled out in fury, and I charged at them.

Taking them by surprise, I managed to pierce one of them in the chest with my sword, and then I sliced off the arm of another.

However, my advantage would not last long, and their swords and spears would soon find their way into my body.

It was only by some divine luck that I managed to avoid any mortal wounds.

Still, my wounds were no laughing matter, and I soon found myself staggering back away from my enemies, as they closed in on me.

My back hit the wood pillars.

I looked down, and saw my friend's arm.

Weakened, I slumped down to the ground, blood flowing freely from my body.

"Now, it's your turn, King of Athens!" one of the centaurs cried.

I weakly held up my sword, as they prepared to charge at me.

Suddenly, from out of the trees, two giant arms reached out and grabbed one of the centaurs.

"Wh-What?!" the centaur yelled, as he was lifted off the ground, above the head of his attacker.

Without a moment of respite, the centaur was then flung into one of his comrades, and the two of them were sent flying into a tree.

We all looked in shock, as it became clear who the new combatant was.

It was Heracles, the strongest of all heroes.

He glared at the stunned centaurs, "I had finally made my way to the wedding, only to be told that you lot had ruined it!"

"So, if it's a fight you want, then it's a fight you'll get!" Heracles yelled, as he charged at our enemies.

Some of the centaurs tried to fight back, while the others fled.

Heracles made short work of those that stayed.

After the fight was over, Heracles rushed over to me, "My apologies, Theseus. I was late, and-"

I held up my hand weakly, and pointed to Caeneus's arm.

"Caeneus...," was all that I was able to utter, before I fainted.

***


When I next awoke, I would find myself safe, back with the Lapiths.

Pirithous would later inform me about what had happened after I had lost consciousness.

After I had fainted, Heracles had managed to lift up the tree trunks that had buried Caeneus.

He then quickly took the both of us back to the outskirts of Pelion, where the Lapiths - those who weren't warriors, that is - were waiting.

After leaving me with the healers, Heracles returned to the fray in Pelion.

While this was happening, Pirithous and some of the other Lapith warriors had managed to rescue Hippodamia. They had even managed to capture Eurytion, the leader of the Pelion Centaurs.

The remaining Centaurs had planned to continue their resistance, but the arrival of Heracles changed their minds, and they surrendered.

Later, some of the Centaurs would claim that 'the wine had brought out their wild nature', and that they were 'not in their right minds'.

Pirithous, for peace and because of their familial bond, decided to spare the remaining Centaurs.

However, they would be punished by being expelled from Thessaly altogether, and they would be the Centaurs of Thessaly no more.

Thus, this was the end of what would come to be known as the Centauromachy.

***


We stood in front of the funeral pyre where Caeneus had been lain.

Next to Caeneus, were the pyres of the other fallen Lapith heroes, who had been slain during the Centauromachy.

We had honoured the other heroes, and now it was Caeneus's turn.

"Is there anyone who would like to say a few words?" Pirithous asked.

The other Lapiths and I hesitated - not out of disrespect or anything of the sort; but rather, from the exhaustion of our sorrow that the day had wrought.

Finally, I stepped forward, and said, "Allow me."

Pirithous - the most exhausted of us all, as he had spoken words for each of his fallen friends - nodded, and stepped back.

I looked at Caeneus, his body broken and battered by the tree trunks that had driven him into the ground.

With tears in my eyes, I began my eulogy.

"Caeneus was a valiant and brilliant warrior..."

~~~


A bird landed on the branch of a tree. As it perched, it folded its tawny wings to its side.

It watched the great hero Heracles wept, as the hero-king Theseus finished his eulogy for their fallen friend.

Theseus stepped back as he finished, and Pirithous stood forward.

The tawny-winged bird watched, as the King of the Lapiths began to speak.

"Caeneus..." Pirithous began, "He was our greatest hero."

The king continued, honouring the life of his fallen comrade.

When the king was finished, he was handed a lit torch.

The bird watched, as the other Lapith heroes took their places next to the other pyres.

Pirithous looked at his fallen friends one more time.

"May you all find peace in Elysium," he said.

Then, he lit Caeneus's funeral pyre.

Following their king, the other Lapith heroes lit the pyres of their friends.

The bird watched as Caeneus's body began to burn, along with the others.

Then, it spread its tawny-coloured wings, and flew away.



Commentary:
To start off with the most obvious thing to start off with - yep, I made Caeneus explicitly, more or less, trans for this story.
There are a couple of versions of this story, and it can be ambiguous as to whether or not Caeneus/Caenis is trans.
(Because of the ambiguity, I will refer to Caenis before the transformation with she/her, and Caeneus after the transformation with he/him.)
Some versions have Caenis asking Poseidon to give her a man's body, after they had sex, as a favour.
Others have Caenis abducted and raped by Poseidon, and Caenis being granted a wish by Poseidon because he was "pleased", so Caenis wished to become a man (her reasoning being so that she wouldn't bear his children and/or so that she couldn't be raped again).
And, of course, there are probably many different other variations, but those are the two main variants.
The versions where Caenis asks Poseidon to change her body into a man's body, because Poseidon raped her, can be interpreted as "a woman in a man's body"; and some sources do interpret it that way. Though, of course, this version can still be interpreted as Caeneus being trans. (Also, to note, from what I can find, the abduction and rape seem to be later additions, as if it was put there to 'explain' why Caenis would want to have a man's body.)
As for the other version, where the transformation is a just a favour that Caenis asks of Poseidon, it seems to be more of a natural wish of Caenis's, and I would argue that, in those versions, Caeneus is a trans man. At least, that was how I interpreted it myself, when I first read it.
However, after saying all that, we don't really know what the intentions of the 'original' story were (or exactly how it went), as well as the intentions of the other versions of the story, so I hesitate to say whether or not Caeneus is supposed to be a trans man.
I will only say that some versions of the myth can be interpreted as Caeneus being trans, and that I decided to make it more explicit for my story.
Continuing on, in some versions, it is said that Poseidon also granted Caeneus invulnerability (or invulnerability to weapons); whether it was part of Caeneus's request or Poseidon's whim is also up to the story.
For my version of the story, I decided to make that part a little more ambiguous - so, the Caeneus in my story is probably not invulnerable, but his ability on the battlefield can certainly make it seem as though he is.
One last bit about Poseidon's role - none of the versions that I know of has Poseidon make love with Caeneus after the transformation. However, since Poseidon has had other male lovers, I didn't think that it was too much of a stretch to add in here.
As for Theseus's role in the story - most of it was made up by me.
The parts that I DIDN'T make up, were that: he was (possibly) an Argonaut, he is Pirithous's best friend, he was at his best friend's wedding, and he did help out the Lapiths during the Centauromachy.
Whether or not Theseus was an Argonaut (and when he could have been one during his life) is inconsistent across the many different stories.
However, because Theseus was Pirithous's best friend, and, therefore, highly likely to be at Pirithous's wedding, it was convenient for my story to have Theseus, Pirithous, and Caeneus all be Argonauts.
Theseus and Caeneus's friendship was something that I mostly made up for this story, as was the pairing of the two during the Centauromachy.
Some versions have Theseus personally killing Eurytion, while others have Eurytion dying during fray, and others still have Eurytion surviving but punished. For my story, since I needed Theseus to be there to witness Caeneus's death, I went with the last one.
Speaking of the Centaurs, I wanted to emphasize that the Centaurs of Pelion weren't ALL the centaurs in the world, which is why I capitalized Centaurs when referring to them as a group.
Hopefully, that came across clearly.
Caeneus wielding a spear and a shield is an homage to Caenis from Fate/Grand Order.
Lastly, some versions of the story have Caeneus becoming a bird and flying out from underneath the tree trunks.
While I didn't have that happen in my story, I wanted to reference it - hence, why a tawny-winged bird watches the funeral at the end.


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