Medousa spent many days wandering through the dead and blasted forest. She wandered to the sea cliffs and sat a while, gazing at the horizon. She wandered up to the old abandoned village. It stood, still empty, and mostly crumbled away. Here and there, there were signs that travelers yet made camp there on occasion. “I must have made more of an impression than I realized,” Medousa thought to herself wryly.
Eventually she returned to her cave. She tried to sleep, but felt restive. And besides; it was morning, anyway. Medousa rose, and made her way out to the meadow. She stood, looking around at the worn and weathered statuary, and sighed. She pressed her eyes closed tightly, fighting back tears. She looked up to the skies, westward, and bellowed:
“My complaint is bitter! Heavier than my grief is the hand that presses me down!
If only I knew how to find you! If only I could reach your throne!
I would lay out my case before you, and fill my mouth with arguments—
Then I would learn what words you’d find to answer, and could consider what you’d say to me.
Would you use force, disputing with me? Oh, no; You’d pay me close attention.”
Medousa paused, catching sobs in her throat. She continued, no longer shouting toward Olympus, but no less bitter.
“I held to your ways, Athena! Never swerving, even in the midst of your unjust punishment all these years! I have been kind, and I have been strong! I have strengthened the weak, and looked after the orphan! I have loved learning and wisdom! I have excelled in battle! I have defended the innocent and struck the proud! I never failed in my devotion, even though you made yourself my enemy!”
And then, the skies darkened. Thunder cried in the distance as iron grey clouds overspread the meadow. The earth and the ether trembled, and suddenly there, standing over against her, in her glittering armor, the tasseled Aegis about her like a breastplate, was the Goddess Athena.
All at once, Medousa felt rage, sorrow, fear, and betrayal. She rushed at Athena, about to cry out to her in anger, when she suddenly stopped, frozen in place, held by the Goddess’ power.
“Mortal! Who do you think you are? Whence come these airs you put on? You think to instruct me in the differences between right and wrong? You would strive with me, and question my judgment? Do you think yourself to be a warrior and a scholar? A mother to orphans, and a sister to the Gorgons? Do you think yourself a protectress of the weak and innocent?
“Come then, Spartan. Gird up yourself and approach, brave warrior. I shall tell you what you are: Helot! Slave! Whore! Coward and Traitor!
“How dare you challenge me, insect? How dare you question me? Come, behold me as I am!
I am the Dread Protecterss. I look after matters of war, the plundering of cities, the battle cry, and the fray! It is I who protect the people who go forth and return.
I alone am creative, unbending of heart. I am the pure Virgin, Saviour of cities, without fear! Tritogenia! Zeus himself bore me from his awful head; I leapt forth arrayed in battle armor of shining gold. Awe seized all the Gods as they looked upon me as I stood before almighty Zeus of the Aegis, and shook my spear! Great Olympus itself reeled horribly at my might, and the earth round about cried fearfully at the flashing of my eyes! The sea itself was moved, and tossed with dark waves, while the foam burst forth suddenly. And the bright Son of Hyperion stopped his swift footed horses in their tracks.”
Athena stomped the ground and shook her spear over Medousa.
“One who brings Athena to court should fight! She who charges a Goddess should speak!”
Medousa plucked up her courage and replied to the Goddess, “Listen carefully to what I have to say, and let that be your act of consolation; bear with me and let me speak, and mock me only when I have finished: Poseidon disgraced me! And you cursed me! You two have destroyed me! None of this was my fault!”
Medousa struggled to control her breathing, nearly weeping with rage.
“Is all this not true? Who will call me a liar? Who can refute the words I have spoken?”
Athena raised an eyebrow, surprised at Medousa’s strength of spirit. She fixed her gaze on her former priestess.
“Come then, Spartan whore. Cinch up your waist like a fighter. Come, coward and traitor– Slave! I will put to you questions, and you will inform me.
“Would you really annul my judgment, make me out to be guilty, and put yourself in the right? Is your arm as mighty as Athena’s? Does your voice thunder as hers?
“Go on– dress up in Majesty and Greatness! Try wearing Splendor and Glory! Put on my own armor, if you can! Snort rage in every direction! Seek out the Proud, and bring him down! Seek out the man of Hubris and subdue him! Crush cruel men where they stand! Hide them together in the dirt, and bind them in Hades’ Dark House:
“Then would I concede to you, when your right hand has gained you such triumphs.
“Did you create the stallion and give him his strength? Did you clothe his neck in a fearsome mane? Did you make him thunder across the earth? He is thrilled with his own force, he advances to battle, he laughs at fear, never turning back from sword or spear. Around him, quivers rattle and javelins flash. But his stride devours the earth, he cannot stand still when the battle horn sounds, he rejoices.
“Does the owl take wing from your wisdom? When she spreads her pinions in the night? Does she soar at your bidding, unerringly, through the dark, though there be no light to see? She predicts victory for the armies going out to war, and banishes the rats that eat the grain before harvest.
“Does the serpent owe its wisdom to you? Would Ophion deign to accept your judgments? Would you dare to teach him the knowledge of Good and Evil? Would you incubate for him the Primordial Egg? Would you prevent him gnawing the very roots of existence? His wisdom is ancient, preceding even Gaia and Ouranos. His kisses restore sight to the blind, and hearing to the deaf. Would he beg you for judgment and understanding? Yet for Athena, he guards her sacred precincts, and is ever at her service. Would he deign to be your ally? Could you make him a slave for life? Could you pet him like a bird, leash him for your orphans to play with?
“Did you teach Man to tame the horse? Did you teach to Man the building of ships that ply the sea? Or the use of the loom? Did you teach mortals to make vessels of clay? Did you provide the Olive, its fruit, its oil, and its wood? Did you slay dread Pallas, and take his skin for your shield? Could you fell Ares, the Slayer of Men, with but a single blow? Could you wound Foam-Born Aphrodite, and cause her ichor to flow? Could you roll back the very seas that Poseidon calls up to flood the earth?”
Medousa trembled before the Goddess, but stood her ground. She answered, “Now I take my solemn oath: By the life of Athena, who cursed me and denies me justice…By the life of Poseidon, who shamed me and turned my soul to hemlock and gall…By the lives of Stheno and Euryale, my defenders and comforters…And by the life of Echidna, who gave me succor—As long as I have breath in me, never will my lips speak evil, nor my tongue pronounce a falsehood: Never will I call you right! Never will I deny my innocence!”
Medousa paused, suddenly frightened at her own audacity. She continued.
“Until the day I die, I insist I am right. I will not yield. My heart will not be cause for blame, however long I must live.”
Athena’s eyes darkened, her composure almost cracking.
“I had chosen you! You were the most beautiful and radiant of mortal women. Your face was more beautiful than the Dawn! Your hair was more beautiful than if woven upon Artemis’ golden distaff! Your skill in battle was superlative, rivaling even Ares! You desired Wisdom and Knowledge as much as you desired water to drink! You once looked to me as to your mother! I granted you favor in the eyes of your mistress! I granted you freedom! I gave you wit and strength! But you betrayed me! I would have worn you as a jewel in my Aegis! You would have been the spear in my right hand! But you defiled yourself!”
Medousa glanced up sharply, her anger threatening to return. Athena’s eyebrow arched as she saw.
“Not your fault? Perhaps not. But you and my sanctuary were defiled. You knew what you had to do.”
“Both you and my sanctuary required cleansing. That could only have been accomplished through your blood.”
“I was not the one who–”
“It doesn’t matter. It may not have been your fault. But that did not excuse you from what should have been your clear duty.”
The Goddess turned from Medousa, as if leaving, then paused. She turned back to face Medousa, staring malignantly at her with sad, grey eyes. Athena spoke softly to her, but with a frightening depth of passion.
“Because of you, I am humiliated by Poseidon. I will not forgive you for that. Nor will I forgive Poseidon for taking you from me.”
And with that, the Goddess was gone. Medousa felt despair creeping into her soul, clutching at her heart.