Medousa stood in the temple of Athena on the Acropolis preparing a votive offering of wine and fruit to place on her altar. There were few attending the shrine at this hour, and Medousa was alone in the holy place before the image of Athena Parthenos. She tried keeping her mind focused on her prayers, but it was difficult. Her thoughts kept straying to Cynisca, and to Ajax. She put them out of her mind and focused on Athena. She needed her wisdom and counsel.
“I begin to sing of Pallas Athena, the glorious Goddess, bright-eyed, inventive, and unbending of heart, pure virgin, savior of cities, courageous, Tritogeneia. From his awful head wise Zeus himself bare her arrayed in warlike arms of flashing gold, and awe seized all the gods as they gazed. But Athena sprang quickly from the immortal head and stood before Zeus who holds the aegis, shaking a sharp spear: great Olympus began to reel horribly at the might of the bright-eyed goddess, and earth round about cried fearfully, and the sea was moved and tossed with dark waves, while foam burst forth suddenly: the bright Son of Hyperion stopped his swift-footed horses a long while, until the maiden Pallas Athena had stripped the heavenly armor from her immortal shoulders. And wise Zeus was glad. And so hail to you, daughter of Zeus who holds the aegis! Now I will remember you and another song as well.”
“Well, hello, there, Missy.”
The voice startled her and broke her concentration.
Out of the corner of her eye, Medousa could have sworn she had seen old Erectheus, leering at her. But when she turned to look, she saw no one.
Medousa started to tremble, and thought to flee.
Suddenly, she felt a warmth, spreading throughout her body. It radiated out from her loins to her extremities, her limbs suddenly languid. At first she thought it was simply her desire to be with Cynisca or Ajax, but she was not actually thinking of them at that moment. In fact, she began to feel vaguely panicked. She started to lose control of her arms and legs. She clutched at the altar, trying to remain on her feet, but she slumped to the floor. Her body was leaden, and she felt dizzy. Medousa was vaguely aroused, or, more accurately, she had the sense that someone was trying to arouse her. She was suddenly terrified; she lay supine on the floor of the temple unable to move, and unable to call out. She was paralyzed.
And, she noticed, alone.
She thrashed about, struggling mightily; But only in her mind– her body lay, limbs slowly moving to splayed out position, and she could feel what was happening, but had no control. She felt as if she were an observer, watching what was happening to her. As she looked around, she saw a large man standing at the entrance to the shrine, and her blood seemed to chill in her veins. He was huge and muscled like a bull. He was broad of shoulder, deep of chest, and his limbs were like oaks. Atop his thick neck was a noble, broad browed head, crowned with flowing dark curls, shot through with grey. He was larger than any man should be, almost a giant, taller even than Ajax. He was naked. And tumescent. And slowly, open lust on his face, he approached Medousa’s helpless body. Even at a distance, she somehow felt his mighty hands restraining her. Pinning her to the floor.
Medousa screamed. She called out for Cynisca. She called for Chionis, and Helen. She cried out for anyone to come help her. She called upon Athena. She cried out in rage and shame that she should be reduced to such helplessness. She cried out in terror for her vulnerability. She tried to thrash about, but could not move. The giant stranger seemed too large for the room, as if the temple itself could not properly contain him. As he drew closer, she could feel her clothes tearing, and ripping, and being cast aside. He was nearly on top of her now. With sick dread, Medousa saw her talisman, the amulet that Athena herself gave to her, crumble to dust upon her breasts, as if crushed by an invisible hand.
Bringing his face close to hers, the stranger spoke. “Daughter of Sparta, do not fear. Do not censure my heart in bitter reprovals. Your beauty has captivated me.”
His voice seemed to thrum through her entire body, deafening her, drowning out all other sounds, like the wild surf. Medousa renewed her efforts, struggling all the more, desperately trying to scream, to will her body to rise, to flee, pitting her human will against the desire of a God. She screamed to Athena for help. But Athena answered not. Had she even heard?
“Come,” Poseidon chided. “You needn’t be difficult. It is not my intention to harm you.” He was upon her, lifting her slightly to meet him, handling her as effortlessly as a child handles a rag doll, despite her struggles. He began to force her open.
“Turn with me to love-making, sweet Medousa. Never before now has a mortal woman so enmeshed my senses and inflamed my passion. Since the day I first saw you at your prayers by the sacred olive tree, I have desired you.”
He began battering her, hurting her. Gripping too tightly, tossing her about as a storm would toss a ship and drive it before the wild winds.
“I have watched you running to and from the waters. I have watched you swimming in the sea with your friends. I have watched you at your games in the fields.”
She was crushed, as beneath a fallen horse. She was shaken, as a cat shakes a mouse.
“Ah. Am I your first, then? I will be gentle, little mortal; Yield to me, dear one.”
Poseidon loosened his mind’s grip on her will slightly. But Medousa would not yield. She continued to resist, striking out at her divine assailant with all her strength and skill. But what mortal can fight against a God? Anger darkened Poseidon’s face.
“Would you spurn the love of Poseidon?” he roared in her mind. “You would struggle against a God?”
He tore the remnants of her clothes from her body, and throwing her heavily to the floor before the sacred image of Athena Parthenos, entered her fully, brutally, invading her mind as well as her body. Medousa gasped, hardly able to breathe for the shock of pain. Her vision swam, and she felt somehow separate from her own body.
Over the next several hours, Medousa was violated and abused. Poseidon was by turns cajoling, then threatening, but always he maintained his awful assault. After the first hour, exhausted, she ceased struggling, watching her own degradation as if from afar. She wept, begging Athena for help as her body was used in the most creatively perverse ways a God could conceive.
At long last, Poseidon finally spent himself within her, and, his lust slaked, rose, leaving Medousa’s body and mind. She immediately curled up, too terrified and exhausted to do anything but whimper in pain and fear. Poseidon sneered. “Are my gifts not sufficient for you, mortal? Your heart is full of pride! No natural love dwells within you, haughty one.” The Earth-Shaker drew himself up to his full height, standing taller even than the image of Athena.
“Well, mortal. At least you have given me some pleasure; you have quenched my present thirst. In gratitude, I give you a gift—” He leaned in close to the cowering girl. “Your life.”
And then he was gone. As if he had never been there at all. Medousa remained, not daring to move, nor even to look up. She wept deep, heaving sobs, curled up naked on the floor before Athena’s altar, still covered in Poseidon’s leavings.
Gradually, Medousa noticed that it was dark. Only a few votive lamps still flickered in the shrine. She also sensed that she was alone. That was odd. After she had calmed herself a little, she attempted to stand. Every muscle in her body ached. She felt as if she’d been beaten by a mob, or as if she’d single handedly battled a full phalanx with her bare hands. On her third attempt, Medousa was able to rise shakily to her feet. She shivered in the evening chill and looked about for something to cover herself with. She found her own peplos and himation were beyond use. The sanctuary was eerily deserted. No sign of life other than herself. She longed for her friends. She wished she were safe at home, safe in her own bed, secure in Cynisca’s familiar embrace. She fell to her knees before Athena and wept.
And then Medousa heard a deep, feminine voice vibrate in her ears and throughout her body.
She looked up, frightened, trying to cover herself with her arms, ashamed of the filth in which she was drenched and the countless bruises starting even now to discolor her flesh. Where the image of Athena stood, there now stood the Goddess herself. Her tone was low and cold.
“Why have you defiled my temple?”
An icy fist clenched in Medousa’s stomach. She stood, raising her arms in supplication.
“How could you, my aspirant priestess, my chosen, and my beloved, so defile my sanctuary?”
“But– Great Goddess-!” Medousa pleaded. “I was attacked! I never-”
“SILENCE! You tempted Poseidon with your golden tresses and shining eyes. Licentious, disreputable Spartan whore.”
Medousa protested, at once outraged, frightened, and ashamed. “But, my Lady– He took me against my will! Am I responsible for the lust of a God? I tried to fight him–”
“I begged you for succor! I screamed for someone to help me!”
Medousa fell to her knees again in an agony of fear and desperation. She prostrated herself before the Goddess. There was a long silence before the Goddess spoke again.
“And what will you do about this?”
“Great Goddess? I do not understand….”
“Will you not cleanse yourself and my temple of this dishonor?”
Medousa looked up. The Goddess was offering her a shining adamantine sword. Terrified and bewildered, she hid her face, shaking in terror.
“Please-! Have mercy-!”
“I am disappointed.”
“Oh, Athena! Parthenos! Polioukhos! Please–NO-!”
“Receive your punishment, impious libertine.”
And then the Goddess was gone.
Medousa rose painfully to her feet, swaying unsteadily, and looking around anxiously, no longer even trying to cover herself. She turned to flee the shrine, but weak and dizzy, she managed only a few steps before collapsing again.
Presently, she felt her skin burning. It started as a dull heat, from the sole of her foot to the crown of her head. Her muscles, which still ached in dull pain and exhaustion, began to burn like fire. Excruciating pain erupted from her back under her shoulders. Her bones felt out of joint, and stressed almost to the point of breaking. She could not get what seemed to be the hiss of the surf out of her ears.
Soon, the burning and pain were intolerable. Medousa cried out and lost consciousness.
How long she lay there, she did not know. But the light of dawn began illuminating the interior of the shrine. No longer sore or in pain, Medousa was surprised. She felt an odd sensation under her head, down her shoulders, and down her back, as she lay on the floor. Something was squirming around. She raised herself up and stretched her limbs. It didn’t feel quite right somehow. She stood, and again started to look for something to cover herself with. But as she looked down upon herself, she choked back a surprised scream. She picked up a silver tray that had been dropped on the floor and used it to look at her reflection. And Medousa let forth a heart-rending wail.
Her skin was now pale. Not the light olive color it had been. It was tinged a bluish green. And her body seemed carved out of some unearthly kind of material. Where the light hit her skin, there were glints of gold, as if beneath her skin were scales, like those of a serpent; Scales of pure, polished gold, reflecting the light. The patterns were almost invisible under her skin, but the stray shafts of sunlight striking her flesh betrayed them, making her flesh opalescent. Medousa’s limbs were more obviously muscular now than they had been, even from her years of training. She still looked womanly, but she no longer looked like a flesh-and-blood mortal woman. Her feet and hands ended now in fearsome talons instead of human digits. Her face was recognizable, but it looked hard, and roughly chiseled. Her cheeks, and her chin, and the bones of the orbits of her eyes were, ridged, and almost reptilian. Medousa’s facial expressions were fearsomely hawk-like. Her eyes themselves were now dark pools, black as the void, no more the brightly shining sapphires surrounded by white coral they once were. And when she drew back her lips, she could see that her teeth were animal. Carnivorous. Her eye teeth were enlarged, almost like fangs, or tusks.
And, wonder of wonders, Medousa had also grown wings. Huge wings, silvery white, like the wings of a giant swan. As her body glinted gold where the light struck it, so her wings glinted silver. Her stature was increased as well. She must have stood a full five pechys in height, far taller even than Ajax.
But worst of all, her crowning glory, her long, thick, golden hair was no more. In lieu of hair, Medousa was now crowned with ophidian tresses. A thick nest of entwined serpents now grew from her head, dark and shining.
Medousa slumped to the floor and sat, her head down, wings drooping. Her serpents tumbled down her shoulders and back, slithering, writhing, and hissing. Her heart had completely gone out of her, despair overtaking her thoughts.
Medousa could hear the murmur of a crowd outside, but no one had as yet attempted to venture in. It was the dawning of a new day. She wondered if anyone had heard or seen anything of her ordeal last night. She remained seated still, her body slouching over, her wings outstretched upon the floor. The priestesses and acolytes seemed to be hanging back at the entrance of the shrine, their fear filling the air like a fine mist. Presently, Medousa heard footsteps at the threshold. It seemed some brave soul was timorously venturing in. It was Thaleia.
It suddenly struck Medousa that she was still sitting on the floor, facing away from the entryway; she was seeing all around her through the eyes of the serpents that now grew from her head. What they saw, she saw, if she paid attention. She could see the young priestess was peering hard at her prone form, large and indistinct in the gloom at the far end of the shrine.
“He-Hel-Hello…?” came the girl’s small frightened voice.
Without moving, Medousa answered sorrowfully “Yes, Thaleia. What word do you bring? How is it with you?”
Thaleia barely choked back a squeal of terror, and Medousa felt a catch in her throat as tears welled up anew in her eyes. Her voice was low, deep, and sepulchral, with a wild edge to it. Her own voice was barely recognizable. And it was supported by a sibilant choral undertone– as she spoke, not only did her words issue from her own throat, but from the throats of the serpents that now comprised her hair.
“W-wh-who are you? Why are y-you here? W-wh-where is the priestess M-Medousa…?”
A low, agonized moan escaped Medousa’s lips, as she dropped completely prone on the floor. After a moment, she slowly stood, stretching her wings, and glaring hatefully at the image of Athena that loomed above her.
“Thaleia,” she spoke. “It’s me— I am Medousa.”
She could practically hear Thaleia’s bones shaking in fright. She turned to face her, folding her wings against her body. She looked down at the girl, who was too frightened even to raise her eyes. Medousa moved toward her, intending to entreat her softly, speaking as soothingly as she could. She reached out and gently touched Thaleia’s cheek, and turned her face up to look at her. But as Medousa did so, as the trembling girl met her eyes, Thaleia emitted a quick, high scream. And where once stood a young girl, there now stood a perfectly sculpted marble of the priestess Thaleia.
Medousa cried out and recoiled in horror.
She reached out again to touch the child. Her flesh crawled as she laid her hand upon smooth, cool stone. She began shaking with anger and disbelief. She shook her head, serpents hissing. Medousa turned about to face the image of Athena.
She stood in a fighting crouch, her wings flared wide, nearly spanning the width of the room. Her talons were clenched at her sides, and her face was distorted with rage, fangs displayed. The almost bird-like talons of her feet gripped into the stone floor of the shrine. Her serpents writhed in fury, rearing up to hiss and spit at the image.
“She was innocent! Why strike her? What offense had she committed against you? What has she done to deserve this? Will a Goddess treat her priestesses thus?” Medousa’s voice rose and deepened in rage. Her wings beat the air in fury.
Suddenly she heard another cry.
“Thaleia-? Thaleia-! Wait for me-!”
It was Lysimache. Medousa saw the high priestess run in, pulling up short in horror at Thaleia’s statue. She cried out as she touched Thaleia’s cold, stone shoulder.
“Thaleia! No! NO! Oh, Goddess-!”
Medousa turned to Lysimache, falling to her knees in supplication.
“Mistress! Please, help me-!”
But Lysimache cried out in terror, and, raising her arms as if warding off an attack, became cold, smooth stone, as had the young associate priestess.
Medousa howled in despair and rage, realizing that the cause was she herself.
“What have you done to me?” she bellowed, turning back to Athena’s image. “What have you done to me? What have I done to deserve this?”
Medousa laid her hands on the great image of Athena. It was more than thrice over the height of a man, and made of marble and gold. But Medousa wrenched it off its base and pushed it to the floor. The great statue fell against two of the columns supporting the gallery at the far wall, by the Virgins’ Chamber. It broke in half, bringing down one of the columns with it and cracking another. The sound of it crashing down was almost enough to drown out Medousa’s cries of rage.
As she stood over the wreckage, still howling in anger at the Goddess, she felt a sudden sharp pain under her right shoulder, below her wing. Some of her serpents twisted back around to look; she’d been struck by a glittering bronze spear. The blade cut through the surface of her flesh, but abruptly stopped as it came up against her scales. The blade was shoved in hard, the tip breaking off against her body.
Still in a fury, Medousa whirled around, her left arm threading over the oaken shaft of the spear, grasping it in her hand. She wrenched it forward under her arm, pulling the wielder to her as her right hand reached out to the throat of her attacker. But even as her talons reached his flesh, he became stone, like poor Thaleia.
She roared again, grimacing. Two more soldiers behind the leader were also petrified as they met her gaze. Two more she glanced ducking out of the entrance, fortunate not to have glimpsed her face.
Medousa turned and looked out toward the entry way. The porch beyond the doors was now bright with the morning sun. Medousa hissed in disgust. She could hear crowds falling back from the Parthenon, orders being shouted, people running back and forth. She could see soldiers backing up to the steps, spears ready to hold back the foolishly curious, keeping the citizens from harm. The doors were quickly slammed shut.
Medousa paused, taking deep breaths, tears rolling down her cheeks. She turned to look at the poor young woman and the high priestess, and the men who had entered and met her deadly gaze. Two of the soldiers looked like Athenian hoplites. But the remaining one– the one who had tried to thrust his spear through her heart from behind– his shield was a Spartan shield.
Trembling again, her heart sinking even further, she forced herself to look at the face under the helmet.
It was old Chionis.
Medousa cried out again, rage and grief overtaking her once more. She leapt upon the fallen torso of Athena’s statue, and destroyed the face of the Goddess with her talons.
“Why did you do this? Why did you do this to me?! It wasn’t my fault! What have you done to me? Why have you done this to me?!”
Exhausted after venting her anger, and from lack of food or drink since the previous day, Medousa was exhausted. Still tormented by her wild swings between despair and rage, and the pain and humiliation of her abuse and transformation, and, worst of all, the guilt she now felt for the deaths of Lysimache, Thaleia and Chionis, she longed for a deep, oblivious sleep. She slunk down behind the wreckage of stone and gold, and squeezed herself into the Virgins’ Chamber in the very back of the temple. It was deserted. The virgins must have fled during the time she’d been unconscious earlier, Medousa considered. She curled up, covering herself with her wings, and began to cry quietly, drifting in and out of consciousness.
As she half slept, concealed by the rubble at the back of the temple, she could hear booted feet running back and forth outside. She could hear the sound of armored men taking up positions, of orders being shouted, and of the curious masses. The door creaked open at some point, and Medousa heard quiet footsteps, as of someone sneaking in on reconnaissance. She noticed that as the sun went down, someone had brought in a few lamps, placing them not too far in from the doors. She heard footsteps approach the fallen Goddess and broken columns, but halt while still a respectful distance away. They might have noticed her huge, slumbering form in the small room just beyond.
She heard furtive whispers. “The high priestess…Gorgon…Poor Thaleia…The Spartans….Medousa.”
She wept silently to herself.
“A Gorgon,” Medousa thought.
Her eyes lit upon one of the friezes high up on the temple walls.
A fearsome grimacing face, carved in stone, looked down upon her, grinning.