Excerpts from the Revised Novel, I

There was much for Medousa to learn in those early days. When she first began her training with Lysimache, her hours were more or less regular. She usually spent the hours between dawn and early afternoon in the temple district. Later, as she progressed, she would go to observe, or participate in, other rituals and duties, sometimes at odd hours.  And so, sometimes she missed her daily training with her friends.

Early on the morning of her first full day, Medousa went to the garden around the olive tree she had used for her prayers and meditations when last she was in Athens. She wanted to give thanks to Athena and prepare herself for her first day of training. As Medousa concluded her meditations, she was startled out of her composure.

“Well! Lookee here!”

Medousa felt a brief shudder run through her as she recognized the voice.

“I thought you’d left Athens, Missy.”

Medousa was uneasy as she looked up at Erectheus. There was something about him that seemed…hungry….

“Yes, I had,” she replied. “But I have returned to serve Athena under Lysimache, the high priestess at the Parthenon.

“Glad to renew acquaintances with you, Missy! It’s good to have you back! –I’ll let you get on with your ablutions.”

Erectheus spared her a wide smile as Medousa hurriedly rose and left.

 

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Erectheus watched Medousa leave, a wanton grin on his face as he observed her retreating form. He settled back, laughing softly to himself.

Presently, as Erectheus sat contemplating the sacred olive tree, he noticed a small, grey owl, suddenly perched in the branches of the tree.

“Ah, if it isn’t my favorite Niece….” He stretched and rose.

A woman entered the little garden. She was very tall, and severely handsome, with chiseled, angular features, muscular limbs, and long, flowing dark hair. She had large, luminous grey eyes that seemed to shine from within. She wore a plain white chiton, with a belt of entwined serpents about her waist, one gold, and one silver. She also wore shining gold forearm bracers and greaves, and a strange, dark red, tasseled garment flung across her shoulders that, though worn like a shawl, seemed more like a breastplate or shield.

Erectheus nodded in greeting to her as she entered the garden.

Had anyone been there to see, they would have noticed that Erectheus suddenly seemed much younger and more muscular.

“Uncle,” the woman greeted him, smiling icily. “What brings you to my city today?”

“What? Am I not welcome in your domains?” Poseidon asked mockingly. “We are family, after all.”

The Goddess’ smile became even wider, and yet more unpleasant.

“You are plotting something,” she said flatly.

“You wound me, dear Niece.”

“If you were merely paying me a visit out of a sense of familial affection, why have I had to find you here, myself? Why have you not come to see me in my temple?”

Poseidon turned to gaze over the city and replied, “I have been walking to and fro in the city, and going up and down in it. Just seeing how everyone is getting on since having made their choice.”

“It was their choice to make, Uncle. We agreed.”

“The city should have been mine,” Poseidon interrupted. “These people live by the sea, and make their living on it, and they will become a great power because of it. This city should have been mine.”

“Uncle,” Athena spoke. “You really need to learn to accept defeat with grace. Find some other project or pet with which to occupy yourself.”

Poseidon quirked an eyebrow.

“Oh?” he answered. “Like your little Spartan?”

Athena’s smile finally took on genuine warmth.

“And have you considered my servant Medousa? She is here to study in my house, and to devote herself to me; and though no Athenian, she will outshine all who ever dwelt in this city.”

“Are you trying to make me jealous, dear Niece?” Poseidon purred. “One girl amongst a city, and a foreign resident, at that! And somehow, she merits your favor?”

“I don’t need to try, dear Uncle,” Athena replied. “Here is one who witnessed her family slain when she was but a babe, and was taken into slavery and bitterness. But she was faithful to me. She made her captor into her lover, and partook of her mistress’ Agoge. Her athletic and martial prowess is superior, she has wit and intelligence, and her beauty is unmatched. And soon, she will be my high priestess in Sparta. A magnificent triumph!”

Poseidon laughed softly, shaking his head. “It is too easy for her,” he said. “Medousa has a strong and vigorous spirit. A sound body and a sound mind. The tragedies she suffered did not harden her, but taught her kindness. And her beauty indeed surpasses that of all mortal women. She was her mistress’ favorite plaything, and she reaped the benefits of it. Why shouldn’t she be devoted to you?”

“What is your meaning, Uncle?”

“Everything that the Moirai tried to take from her, you have made up for; of course she is your devoted follower! Haven’t you lavished your blessings upon her? Ah, but would she be so devoted to you had your eye never fallen upon her?”

Athena scowled in thought. Poseidon continued.

“And why did your eye fall upon her with such favour?”

“Sympathy for her plight, perhaps,” Athena answered. “Am I not allowed my own whims?”

Poseidon laughed. “So,” he said. “You felt sorry for her.”

“Is kindness a sin, then?”

“Mortals suffer daily, in great numbers; and many suffer far worse than this girl. Where is your compassion for those others? Why limit yourself to just this one?”

“She will be, and has been, loyal to me. And grateful for her circumstance. I enjoy her devotion.”

Poseidon shook his head, chuckling again. “And why do you think she has been loyal to you? Do you think she has followed you for your own sake? Or for reasons more selfish?”

“You’re beginning to repeat your accusations, Uncle,” Athena snapped, annoyed.

“Supposing,” Poseidon said, his voice suddenly smoother than oil, “Supposing I offer her love?”

Athena regarded her Uncle, puzzled. He continued.

“She is still a virgin, her erstwhile mistress notwithstanding….”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Uncle,” Athena said, regaining her voice.

“You think she will remain loyal to you because of your gifts, then?” Poseidon challenged. “Suppose that I offer her better gifts?”

“What are you suggesting, Poseidon? A test?”

The Earth-Shaker laughed. “A lesson perhaps. Not a test.”

“Medousa is under my protection,” Athena growled. “You will not harm her.”

More laughter from Poseidon. “Oh, no, dear Niece–  Far from it. Why would I harm that sweet little pear of yours? I have no intention of harming that beautiful flower of Sparta. The lesson will be yours.”

Athena paused, considering. Then her eyes widened as she regarded her adversary.

“You– You lust for Medousa, don’t you…?”

Poseidon made no answer, but laughed again, and turned to leave.

“Medousa is mine, Poseidon. You will not touch her.”

“I will have her,” he chuckled to himself as he departed.

About Michael Butchin

I was born, according to the official records, in the Year of the Ram, under the Element of Fire, when Johnson ruled the land with a heavy heart; in the Cradle of Liberty, to a family of bohemians. I studied Chinese language and literature at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. I spent some years in Taiwan teaching kindergarten during the day, and ESOL during the evenings. I currently work as a faceless drone in a corporate call center, and am an unlikely martial artist. I have spent much of my life amongst actors, singers, movie stars, beautiful cultists, Taoist immortals, renegade monks, and at least one martial arts tzaddik. I currently reside in my dead grandparents’ house, alone, with an impressive collection of martial arts weapons, where I practice and train daily. I am not currently on any medications.
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