Once again, it came time for the Night of the Goddess. The last full moon before the night of the eclipse, as each full moon before it, Medusa awoke and followed the silvery beam to the moonlit fountain. She awaited her beloved, but somehow, this night felt imbalanced. The waters of the fountain never settled, the moonlight was dim, the garden less lush, and a strange chill hung in the air.
Medusa sat at the fountain, immersed in uneasiness. Fretfully, she waited.
Suddenly, strong arms wrapped around her and she leapt away.
“I did not mean to frighten you.” His voice was calm and soothing, as always. Medusa flushed with relief and rushed into his arms. “What is the matter?”
“Do you feel it?” she asked warily.
He stopped and went suddenly rigid. Medusa pulled back to look up at him. His demeanor had shifted so suddenly she nearly gasped.
“I missed it,” he cursed himself. Medusa could see the worry in his eyes. "She wouldn’t dare harm you.”
Medusa’s heart sank. “She?”
“Athena has followed me.” Medusa'ʹs eyes grew wide with fear. She always knew her moonlit paramour was not a common mortal, but she never dreamed this would involve her beloved goddess. “I know you are here,” he called to the gardens.
There was a shift in the ivy draping the wall opposite the fountain. Medusa could not stifle her gasp as a tall, impossibly beautiful woman stepped out from behind the wall. She was the very same figure immortalized in marble on the central pedestal of the temple’s great hall. Medusa'ʹs breath caught in her throat as she stared at her patron goddess and quickly shifted her eyes to the garden floor, humbled to look upon her.
“So! This is where you disappear to, Poseidon?” Athena's voice was thick with scorn. “You have been so scarce in Olympus. I should have known you would be trifling in my affairs.”
Medusa stared at her beloved in astonishment. She had thought him magical—a muse or a sprite perhaps. But not the Poseidon.
Poseidon glared at Athena coldly, keeping Medusa protectively behind him. “I have broken no rules,” he told the goddess. “I have not stepped foot in your temple.”
“You have my priestess!”
“She is here of her own accord. I have not bewitched her. She has been neither harmed nor sullied.”
“This is my island. Zeus will have your head when I tell him of your indiscretion.” Athena was almost hissing in her anger.
“King of the gods or no, I have no fear of my brother. I have not set foot on your land. What I do here and with whom, is no business of yours.”
“You have made a grave mistake going against our understanding for the sake of this little snake,” the Goddess sneered.
Medusa stood aghast. She had been raised praising the benevolent goddess. Now she stood scorned and defamed by her. She looked to the fountain in shame as tears streamed her cheeks.
“Athena, please.” Poseidon’s voice was calm. “You are overreacting. As the patroness of wisdom, you should see I have crossed no boundaries.”
“Your mere presence on this plane is an infraction. I may be the goddess of wisdom, but I am also a proclaimer of warriors. This disrespect will not stand. She is mine! I took her in when your ilk rejected her.” Athena glowered and then looked to Medusa who stood frozen in fear. The poor girl felt as though she might catch fire under the goddess’s gaze. “You are a beauty—no mistake—but you dare to think yourself above my rules?” Athena’s wrath was truly petrifying.
“No, my Goddess! I would never—” Medusa pleaded.
“You are but a toy to him!”
“Leave her out of this,” Poseidon demanded.
“She is prettier than the last one you stole, I’ll give you that.”
Medusa felt she might crumble to the ground. Could Poseidon have been using her to get to Athena?
“Leave us!” Poseidon roared, truly angered now.
Medusa stood shocked by the force in his voice. Even Athena seemed shaken, but she recovered quickly.
“You will be punished for this.” Athena glared at Medusa.
“You would not dare,” Poseidon warned.
“Wouldn’t I?” The goddess’s voice was ice.
“If you harm so much as a hair on her head—” The sky churned and grew dark, as if in response to his anger.
“You’ll what?” she laughed. “She is mine and has been since she arrived here. You have no choice in her fate!” Athena took a short breath, calming herself. “However, I am not above mercy. I will not harm her as long as you agree to never interfere with her again."ʺ Athena’s voice deepened. Her breathing slowed. “If you choose to betray our pact yet again—mark me—it will be she who pays the price. Now, son of Cronus, say your farewells to this slip of a girl. This is the only warning you will receive.”
Medusa hardly glimpsed Athena’s cold scowl before she disappeared.
Poseidon stood rigid a moment longer, only relaxing once he was sure Athena had truly left them.
“She is gone,” Poseidon assured her, guiding Medusa into his arms. "She will not harm you.”
Medusa felt naive suddenly. “So, you are Poseidon,” was all she could think to say.
“I am sorry I did not tell you. I did not want to scare you,” he told her softly.
“I think I already knew, or at least some part of me knew.”
“I suppose you did,” he replied with a slight smile.
“It doesn’t matter to me who you are. If it turned out you were a great sea monster, I would still love you."
Poseidon stroked Medusa’s pale cheek admiringly. “I am so sorry for this. I never dreamt she would follow me. Athena is jealous and vengeful, but if she says she will not harm you, she will not. Rest assured.”
Medusa’s smile faded as she recalled Athena’s words. “She called me a ‘toy.’ What did she mean?"ʺ
Poseidon looked away then. “Medusa, I am older than this temple. I have had many lifetimes. This is one of the burdens of immortality. When one loves a mortal...they have a set amount of time.”
“I see,” she answered.
“Medusa, please believe me when I say I love you.”
“I do,” she replied sweetly. "But why did you come to me? I am nothing more than a lowly priestess. You, who has the very sea to command.”
“Because you have enchanted me,” he told her. "I have lied about nothing. Your song and your beauty are beyond that of any goddess.”
“You must not say that.”
“I will not lie.”
Medusa’s kiss was gentle. “Am I ever to see you again?
” Poseidon chose his words carefully. “If she catches me here again, she will make good her word. Though I am only partially here, and not on her land. Because of Morpheus’s help, I have been able to appear to you in dreams.”
“You mean, I am dreaming now?”
“Yes. I cannot reach you physically, not as long as you reside on Athena’s island. However, there is one way."
“How?” Medusa asked, unable to mask the hope in her voice.
“My alliance with Selene. During the full moon she is at her most powerful. Unfortunately, with the preparations for the festival, Athena grew strong enough to sense me. If I could, I would take you away with me right now, but what she has said is true: being her priestess, I cannot just take you with me. That, Zeus would punish. It is complicated. However, if you were removed from this mortal coil, you would be beyond Athena’s reach.”
Medusa looked away sadly. “So, I would have to die.”
“No, not at all dearest, you will be removed from this mortal land. With Selene’s help, I can take you during the eclipse on the Night of the Goddess. It is a night unlike others. All gods are welcome to view and partake of the festival. Zeus decreed it so. That is why no one is to look into the eclipse. Any god who has a mind to can take a mortal and be within their right. This is what we will do. As soon as you are in my care, she cannot touch you.”
Medusa sat considering his words, everything was happening so fast.
“It is also possible, because of your blood.”
“I am not sure I understand.”
“Have you not wondered how you arrived at this temple? About your origins? You are mortal, yes, but you are not human. Your beginnings lie in my domain—with the creatures of the sea. There are very few like yourself. You do not age as a typical mortal. You are truly a unique creature, my darling. Zeus cannot condemn you for returning to my province. It is Athena who will not allow you to go.”
The truth played at the edges of Medusa’s mind: the flowing forms she often glimpsed in the crashing waves, the absolute ease and comfort she felt while swimming along the island’s shore. The mornings spent singing to the faces curling about her in the surf. She had been convinced these inviting sprites were simply figments of her imagination.
“That is why Athena said she took me in,” Medusa reasoned. "My parents rejected me—my differences.”
“Your form was more fitting in the human world. So they left you at the temple stair.”
“Why did you never say?”
“Would it have made a difference to you if I had?”
Being raised under the tutelage of the Athenian priestesses, Medusa was taught to hold reason before feeling, but now she felt so flooded with emotion she did not know what to do or say.
“It is too much for you,” Poseidon sighed, holding her tight.
“How will it be done?” There was newfound steel in Medusa's voice. “You would still be mine?”
“My love. I am yours already. The sorrow of never seeing you again far outweighs the sorrow of leaving this island forever.”
Poseidon smiled down at her brightly, his eyes shimmering as though created from the sea itself. “It is agreed. Come the eclipse, I will take you away from here.”
“We will be together.”
“Yes. Forever. I will lay you on your own island where you may but flick your eyes to the sea and I will come to you. You shall be lavished with gifts, never want for anything. You will be mine and I will show you the mysterious depths of the sea itself. Places only I have seen."
“I require no gifts. Just you.”
Poseidon smiled, but the curl of his lips faded quickly. “You are sure this is what you want, Medusa? My love. Once you go with me—”
“There is nothing for me here. I have never been more sure of anything.”
“Then it will be done.” In Poseidon'ʹs arms, all worry was washed from her. “On the Night of the Goddess, watch the eclipse and do not turn away. Selene will assist me in taking you.”
They kissed and held one another until the sun rose, shattering their dream world. Poseidon bid her farewell, and though he was confident in their plan, Medusa could not shake the ominous feeling permeating the garden air.
Medusa was uneasy as she went about her chores. In past years, assisting the high priestess in readying for the Goddess’s Gala was an all-consuming task, one which Medusa relished. This day, however, was blanketed in foreboding. At every turn, she felt daunted by the statues of Athena glaring down at her as she worked.
The night before, her dreams had been filled with terrible visions, visions of Athena’s wrath should Medusa continue her meetings with Poseidon.
“What is the matter, child?” the high priestess called, startling Medusa. "You look terribly pale.”
“I am sure it is nothing,” Medusa replied, busying herself with arranging flowers in the vase before her.
“Perhaps you should lie down for a while. I will have one of the sisters finish your work.”
“I am well, Priestess. Please do not concern yourself.”
The high priestess nodded and turned to leave when Medusa heard her inhale sharply. Turning, she found the priestess staring up at the statue of Athena in horror.
“What is it, Priestess?” Medusa called, almost too nervous to ask.
“Blood,” she replied in shock. "There is blood!”
Streams of red broke from the statue’s eyes, trickling down the marble contours of its face.
“Athena weeps blood!” the high priestess wailed as she fell to the ground in supplication.
Medusa stood terrified—the weeping marble eyes bore into her own. Were Athena’s tears of rage, or grief? Whichever they were, Medusa knew her transgression was the source—and she trembled in fear, there at the marble feet of the goddess of wisdom.
Soon all the priestesses in the temple gathered round, weeping and praying as they lay offerings at the foot of the statue.
The priestesses worked diligently to appease their angered goddess. They brought forth baskets of their choicest crops, anointed its pedestal with the finest perfumes, burned their most fragrant incense, and chanted their most revered songs and hymns. It was not until they drained the blood of their most virile ram that the statue finally ceased its weeping. No one in the temple knew the source of the goddess’s anger. No one but Medusa.
After long preparation, the day of the Gala finally arrived. Medusa’s heart fluttered and her fingers faltered as she readied herself for the ceremony.
In all the days before, her nightmares never truly left her—not even in her waking hours. They were a wretched plague causing her to wake screaming in the night, her mind wracked with visions of snakes, Thais in ruin, people slaughtered, and the expansive blue sky riddled with black clouds. She could not shake the horrible images, even now as she stared at the pristine and untarnished scenery outside her window.
Her hands grew clammy as she thought of all the night promised. Tonight she must decide to stay in the temple or leave with Poseidon forever. Unfortunately, Medusa knew she had little choice in the matter. Athena would never permit her to maintain her role as a temple priestess. Her only option was to leave. Though she truly loved Poseidon, the decision pained her: she could never return to the only home she’d ever known, never realize her dreams of becoming a high priestess. Medusa tried to be enthusiastic, but her nerves prevented her from truly reveling in this evening’s many joys.
The door to her room flew open, startling Medusa from her somber thoughts. She was barely able to hide Poseidon’s amulet beneath her robes before the high priestess flew in.
“Medusa, here you are! What is the matter with you, child? It is a most joyous day, come enjoy it with us!” Medusa had never heard the priestess so carefree—she all but sang as she spoke.
“I am sorry. I was just lost in thought,” Medusa replied, her voice quavering.
“You are not feeling ill again, are you?”
“No, no, I’m fine,” she replied uneasily. “Just relaxing before the ceremonies begin. You are in good spirits today.” Finally looking up, Medusa was bowled over by the priestess’s seemingly unshakable good mood.
“It is the night of the eclipse! How could I not be excited? The mighty goddess was merely testing our faith with her weeping statue. We are her favored once again!”
“Yes, it would seem so,” Medusa replied half-heartedly.
“It is time we dance and sing! Time to rejoice!” The priestess grabbed Medusa's hand, pulled her to her feet, and twirled the girl in circles until she finally smiled. “That’s it, Medusa, priestesses must inspire joy!”
Medusa spun out of their merry circle and dropped onto her bed. In doing so, Poseidon’s amulet slipped from the neckline of her robe.
“What a lovely amulet.” The priestess smiled, taking hold of it before Medusa could stop her. The high priestess froze as recognition flooded her face. “What is this?!”
“These are Poseidon’s markings, Medusa! What have you done?” Medusa strained against the chain as the priestess tightened her grip on the amulet.
“I have done nothing. I swear it.” Her voice was wracked with fear.
"I warned you against flirting with the gods! You have brought danger upon us all! Athena is not a forgiving goddess! You careless fool!”
The priestess ripped the amulet from Medusa’s neck and threw it to the ground. Medusa wailed as she lunged after it, but the high priestess stood firmly in her way.
“Please, he loves me!” Medusa sobbed at her feet.
“Loves you?!” the priestess scorned her. “Is that what you think?! Gods do not love! We are but pawns to them! Playthings!”
Tears flowed freely from Medusa’s eyes. “He swore to me.”
“Ignorance! Athena will raze our temple to the ground to get to you! I will not tolerate such defiance!” she screamed as she ripped at Medusa’s ceremonial headdress.
Medusa shrieked as locks of golden hair were torn from her scalp.
“From this day forth, you are banished!” the priestess bellowed. Medusa clutched at her hair, whimpering as the high priestess loomed over her. “I will not have you upset the night’s activities. You are not worthy of these ceremonies," she hissed. “You are to stay in your chambers. On the morrow, you will be sent from this island never to return. To think I once thought to call you daughter." The disgust in her voice bit into Medusa.
She sobbed desperately as the priestess left, slamming and locking the door behind her. Medusa ran to the window and looked out at her sisters preparing for the ceremony. The sun was setting and the eclipse, Medusa’s only hope, would begin in a few short hours.
A sea of people gathered at the steps of the great temple. The islanders held their breath in anticipation as the sun descended into the dull and lackluster sea. When the sun was finally extinguished, the dark sky hung clouded, as though readying for a storm.
The people waited for the warm winds to rise, the stars to shine, the light to skip across the sea. But the wind never stirred, the stars never gleamed, and the light never danced. The people of Thais were left alone in their uneasy silence. They could not ignore the sense of something ominous lurking on the horizon.
“The goddess is displeased!" A voice rang out from amidst the crowd.
The panic spread until the crowd roared with fear.
Looking out from the towering steps of the temple, the high priestess knew exactly what caused her beloved goddess’s displeasure.
“Calm, my people!” her voice rang out over the ensuing mob. "Someone has displeased our goddess. I know what must be done. The eclipse will take place and the festival will go on! Follow me and all will be well!”
The people cheered, rallied by the high priestess’s confident words, and followed her into the temple.
Forlorn and bereft, Medusa stared out at the moon from her window, practically vibrating with anticipation. Eventually, the door to her chambers flew open and the priestesses she had once considered sisters—her friends—burst into the room, and dragged her roughly into the hall.
Medusa was pulled screaming down the ornate hallways of Athena’s most majestic temple and tied between two pillars in the great room.
The priestesses and people of the island flowed into the hall in a tidal rush of anticipation, eager to catch a glimpse of the perpetrator. At first, the people of Thais could not comprehend what they saw. Before them hung their cherished Medusa—bound and trussed as if she were to be sacrificed. Murmurs of disbelief rippled through the hall.
“People of Thais! Here is the blight on our fair island!” the high priestessʹs voice carried, loud and clear, over the crowd. “Athena has punished us for this ignorant girl’s lurid transgressions with her nemesis, Poseidon.” Gasps of outrage circled through the crowd. “Tonight she will be punished. Athena will be appeased!”
The people roared their approval as one. Adored as Medusa may have once been, Thais would not risk the wrath of their terrible and beautiful goddess.
Medusa sobbed as she hung, painfully strung up by her arms. The eclipse was moments away but the people had blood on their minds. She had been so close to being with her love forever. Medusa prayed they would wait until the eclipse was full so Poseidon’s power would be at its height and able to release her from this madness.
Time, however, was not on her side. The sky grew dark as the priestesses prepared a basin to catch Medusa’s blood. However, none of the onlookers noticed the first shade of dark sliver fall across the face of the moon. Had Selene somehow heard her plea?
Medusa watched as a young novice presented the ceremonial dagger to the high priestess, who began the chanting required of a sacrifice. Her words echoed off the walls of the great room and the crowd chanted in unison. The anticipated bloodletting lifted their voices to a frenzied pitch. This would be the greatest Goddess’s Gala ever witnessed.
Medusa’s heart raced in terror as she glanced at the dagger approaching her chest. She began her own chanting: a beseeching prayer to Poseidon.
The shift in light was nearly imperceptible—yet it was enough to make the crowd turn from Medusa’s sacrifice to the eclipsing moon. At that moment, the eclipse came to full cycle. Everyone, including the high priestess, bowed their heads away from the sight.
Eyes wide with relief, Medusa stared into the darkened face of the moon and felt herself lifted. Her heart leapt as the ropes unbound themselves and she floated, unhindered, away from the pillars. Her prayers had been answered.
Then, there was a jolting flash of light and Medusa fell roughly to the ground. She screeched in pain as her head and hands slammed into the cold marble floor. At her scream, every head in the hall jerked up from its reverent bowing. The high priestess glared and called for her priestesses to grab Medusa. Her yell was cut off by a hideous noise from the rear of the temple.
Turning, the islanders were appalled to see fissures crackling their way down the largest and most magnificent statue of their beloved Athena. The marble flaked and chipped, falling away to reveal a beautiful woman—fierce and more magnificent than anything the people of Thais had ever seen. Priestesses and villagers threw themselves to the ground in the presence of their mighty goddess.
Athena paid them no mind. “How dare you!” Her voice filled the hall and sank into the very hearts of the people, shaking the temple walls.
“Please! I meant no harm!” Medusa begged, terrified and pained as she looked up at the mighty Athena.
“You and Poseidon will pay for your insolence!”
Outside, the wind howled and the sea roared. Torrential rains soon drenched the smooth temple steps. A hurricane was brewing.
“I do not care how you roar, Poseidon! This is MY temple!” Athena'ʹs voice thundered strength and defiance. “Sink this island to the depths of the sea if you will, but this creature shall not be yours.”
The high priestess threw herself at the goddess’s feet, pleading for her to spare the temple. Athena only swatted her away, sending her flying into the temple wall. Athena’s eyes never once left Medusa.
“I would kill you, but death is too good for such a treacherous snake!” The island itself trembled with the storm outside.
“No! Please!” Medusa begged—but there would be no mercy.
Athena thrust a hand forward, her eyes alight with power, and Medusa was pitched to the floor. There she screamed in agony as her flesh twisted upon her very bones.
People fleeing from the temple were immediately swept from the steps into the sea. Those who remained inside scrambled to the corners, praying to avoid the rampaging goddess’s wrath.
Athena’s laughs echoed and rumbled through the temple, causing the marble walls and statues to tumble upon the terrified worshipers.
On the temple floor Medusa continued to writhe. Her once alabaster skin grew patchy and rough as scales pushed to the surface. The flowing tendrils of her golden hair twitched and coiled, twining and untwining with a life of their own. Terrified, she now looked out through a tangle of long slim snakes. She felt her teeth elongate and curve into fangs. Her cries became even less decipherable as her tongue lengthened and forked. Panicked, she looked down to her legs upon the floor behind her. In their place lay a thick coil of green: scaly and sinuous in the torchlight. Medusa’s screams were beyond sanity as she looked to her deformed figure in disbelief.
“You have all disgraced me by keeping this wretch!” Athena called, turning her wrath upon the women and girls of the temple. “You are no longer priestesses of mine!” With a twitch of her hand, the priestesses screeched in anguish and burst into flame. The people of Thais panicked anew as they beheld the ire of their goddess. They tried to run, but all were trapped between the clashing gods.
“A final touch for the fearsome gorgon.” Athena'ʹs laughter was piercing as she turned her attention upon Medusa once more. Raising her hand to the wretched girl, Medusa’s eyes were forced to look upon the enraged goddess. The second their gaze met, Athena disappeared.
Medusa’s screams heightened as a searing pain exploded in her skull. She grasped and clawed at her eyes which felt afire, sure the goddess had stricken her blind. When the torture finally dissipated enough for her to open them again, she found her clawed hands drenched in blood. Medusa shrieked in panic as she searched the room for help, struggling to move her new horrifying body.
The same people who had once competed for a glimpse of Medusa now pushed and shoved one another to escape her presence. Medusa blindly lunged at a man, pleading for help, but when she looked at him, her terror turned to confusion: she was not holding a man, but a statue. There had never been a statue like this in the temple. Looking closer, she realized she recognized this man, she had seen him on many occasions in the village. Slowly, the truth took hold: the statue had once been a living, breathing man.
Throwing herself back in revulsion, Medusa stumbled to the floor, cracking her head on the unforgiving marble. The snakes crowning her brow nipped her face, hissing in anger. She slithered across the floor frantically, unable to control the direction. Everywhere she looked there were tumbled statues and fleeing people. Grabbing wildly for someone, anyone, she was consistently met with the unforgiving stone of statues. She screamed wildly as people ran from her, trampling one another and throwing themselves into the storm outside just to get away.
“Medusa! Where are you?” It was her Poseidon.
"Come to me!” Medusa sobbed and turned, in search of her love.
But all that lay before her was a great puddle of water. “Poseidon?!” Medusa bellowed in her distress and clumsily slithered toward the water. Looking down, she was shocked to see Poseidon’s likeness, blurry and undefined. “What has she done to me?!"ʺ
“Athena will pay for this!” His voice, watery and distant, was pure wrath. Medusa touched the water, but the vision only rippled away. “Where are you?”
Poseidon bowed his head in the settling reflection. “If I were to look at you in the flesh, I would be turned to stone, as all the others.”
Medusa looked around at the terrifying statues surrounding her, all frozen in fear, all because of her. “How can that be?”
“The curse Athena has placed on you is forbidden by the gods. There is nothing I can do to remove it. She ensured we could never again be together.”
“No!” Medusa had never experienced such agony. She buckled under the pain. With her body disfigured and her being shattered, Medusa’s heart felt as though it would burst from the weight of such misery.
“Medusa, I must leave. I will see she is punished for this. Athena may be Zeus’s favored daughter but this brazen misuse of our laws will not be ignored.”
“Wait! Poseidon!” she cried, scratching frantically at the floor as the puddle dissolved. "ʺHelp me!”
“I am,” he replied sadly and the waters dried up, taking Poseidon with them.
“No!” she screamed, fumbling after the diminishing pool. He was gone. "Please! Don’t leave me here! Don’t leave me alone!"
The storm outside ceased and the sky cleared. Looking up to the moon, tears spilled from her horrible eyes.
Surely this was the end of her.
The next day Medusa awoke—bruised, battered, and beaten—on the steps of the temple. She tried to stand and quickly stumbled. Looking up from the horror of her body, she gave a cry at the sight of her surroundings.
“It can’t be,” she stammered.
The wreckage and devastation would haunt her nightmares forever. Above was a blanket of thick dark clouds, a pallid gruesome fog lingered in the air, bodies littered the shoreline, and the land was awash with broken flora. The dead strewn upon the temple steps were grey and bloated with sea water. In the night, most of the island had been consumed by the sea. Naught but a small patch of land surrounding the desolate temple remained.
Medusa wept as she pulled herself along the rubble-laden steps. There was not a soul left on the land.
Struggling to control her new serpentine tail, she used her arms to pull herself into the temple. She crawled over fallen statues, pillars, and the bodies of the dead to the center of the once great temple where she resigned to weep. All Medusa had wanted was to leave the island so she could live a life of love with Poseidon. Now the island stood as an eternal testament to the death and destruction of all life on Thais.
All life but her own.
A year passed and Medusa saw nothing of Poseidon. She spent her days clearing the destruction of her temple and tending to what was left of the formerly magnificent gardens. Occasionally, as she worked she would discover an unbroken mirror and catch a glimpse of her horrible reflection. It was strange: though her skin had turned scaly and her golden hair transformed into a bouquet of ill-tempered serpents, her face had been left untouched. Despite the wretched changes wrought by Athena's wrath, she still had the same soft features, the same clear eyes and shapely cheeks—her face was still beautiful to behold. Medusa could not help but resent her unchanged features. No one could ever look upon her and live— her beauty was purely an added torment, a reminder of her former self.
In a fit of anger, Medusa smashed every mirror within the temple walls to obliterate every reminder of what had once been. However, when she came to the full-length mirror in her former chambers, she hesitated. The longing for her old life was too strong, too sharp. Medusa hung a long sheet over the thing and left it in peace.
She never entered that room again.
Over the days which stretched into months, the locked away mirror became a comfort to her; it was a symbol of her sanity. As long as she had the strength not to smash it, she knew there was something of her old self beneath her hideous serpentine shell.
Medusa often thought of the events leading up to her new life—if life was the name for this wretched existence. She had been such a fool. How could she believe Poseidon had really loved her? He told her he would take care of her and not once had she seen even the slightest sign of his return.
The only life remaining on Thais—aside from her self—was a small patch of garden. Though she grew bitter and depressed as the months stretched on, her small garden never failed to fill her with a sense of solace—to provide her a tiny moment of peace. The flowers did not turn to stone at her gaze. They had no eyes to see her.
Occasionally, adventurers from the mainland landed upon the shores of Thais. Medusa hid at first, fearful of the men looking to hunt her as game. As if she did not have enough heartache, now headhunters came in Athena’s name, or simply for the prestige of killing a monster.
Medusa used her accursed stare to defend herself, but found as she tended her wounds that it could not be her sole means of survival. So, she harvested the weapons left by those she had killed: bows, swords, javelins, morning stars, anything intact. Deciding that close quarter combat was not for her, Medusa found archery the most appealing of her available defensive options. However, she worked to perfect her hand at each weapon all the same, readying for the next attack.
Thankfully, those who came for her head were ill-prepared to fight a beast such as she, and Medusa defeated them with little effort. Had they thought she would give up her head willingly?
As disheartening and dismal as her days on the island proved, they continued to move forward; thus it came time again for the night of the lunar eclipse. It would be the first since the destruction. Medusa was not sure the eclipse would occur now that the gods had abandoned this place, but curiosity tempted her all the same.
She had slowly grown accustomed to her new body, and with relative ease, Medusa slithered through the halls of the temple, making her way across the cool marble floors to the garden. As she went, a glint caught Medusa’s eye. She searched for its source and there, beneath a toppled pillar, lay the amulet Poseidon had given her. Medusa stared in disbelief. It was perfect, not a scratch on it, so unlike everything else in the temple. Including herself, she thought of her lost love, but did not weep. Medusa had shed all the tears she had for him, having wept a lifetime of tears in a single year. She considered tossing the beautiful thing away, but somehow could not bring herself to do so. Instead, she hung the gleaming charm around her neck and made her way to the garden.
Medusa coiled herself upon a low broken pillar in the midst of her flowers to gaze at the moon. She watched patiently, when to her surprise, a shadow crept across its silvery surface. Her heart fluttered slightly as she stared on, unblinking. She could not believe it had actually come. Some part of her—a not-so-small part—still hoped she might see Poseidon again. Despite her dismissed hopes, her heart raced as the moon grew dark and brilliant.
Medusa felt strange then as she stared into the moon, it was a pleasant and familiar sensation. Suddenly she heard a voice and her heart leapt anew. She looked to the garden wall; the voice came from behind the hedges. Medusa slithered quickly toward it, nearly stumbling with an excitement she couldn’t control. She hurried through a maze of plants and flora which now extended far past the little acre of land she had been tending.
The hedges twisted and turned until she came to an ornate iron gate. Medusa had never seen such a gate before—it seemed wrought from moonbeams. She pushed it open and moved cautiously down a long aisle of tall shrubs, eventually spilling out into a fragrant and lush garden. There, in the center, was the fountain where she and Poseidon had met. Medusa spun in disbelief, her heart pounding. It was as beautiful as ever.
“Come to the fountain.” The voice was muted and distant.
Medusa pulled herself onto the side of the fountain, unable to suppress the foolish hope she felt. “Poseidon?” she called, timid with sensations she thought lost.
Her voice sounded so foreign, having gone rusty and ragged with lack of use. She heard the waters ripple from the fountain, and hoping he was there, hoping to embrace him, she turned to it.
In the fountain'ʹs water alone was her love'ʹs perfectly reflected face. “My darling Medusa,” Poseidon'ʹs voice rang through the waters.
“Where have you been? Why did you leave?” She was unable to keep the wrath from her voice.
“I could not come back to you until now,” he replied sadly. "It was difficult to find a way to see you. I can only look upon you with Selene’s help and the protection of these waters,” he told her. “No one can survive your sight: mortal or immortal. The gods have determined you too great a danger to be freed. I prevented them from sinking the island entirely.”
“What do I do?” Her plea was nearly a wail.
“You must stay here, for eternity,” he replied shamefully. His helplessness and anger caused the waters of the fountain to froth.
“Here?!” Her heart sank in despair.
“Athena has been punished many times over. For her insubordination, Zeus has even taken away her ability to bear children,” he replied, but this was no comfort to Medusa.
“What will happen to me?”
“I wish I knew, my sweet.”
“Is there nothing you can do? Are you not a god?!” she cried desperately.
“Once a curse is placed, it cannot be reversed.”
“But you must take me away from here! I cannot stand it!”
“I am sorry, my love. Zeus demands you stay here. As lord of the gods, his word is law. You will live here, like this. Until the end of time.”
Medusa choked on her ire. To spend eternity on this desolate, lifeless island. “How can this be?!” Her reptilian eyes watered for the first time in months and she found she had not shed all her tears, as she had thought.
“I will find a way for us to be together,” Poseidon soothed her.
Medusa laughed bitterly. “How could you want me anymore? I am hideous!”
“Though I cannot look upon you in person, I can see you,” he replied softly. ʺYour golden locks and porcelain skin are gone, but your face, Medusa, is beautiful as ever. Your soul will never be tarnished in my eyes.”
Medusa wanted to scream, wanted to cry, wanted to tell him he was foolish for seeing her as anything but a monster.
“Will you sing for me?” His voice was full of the same fervent adoration as the first time he had made the request.
Medusa stared to the broken stone flooring of the garden. “I cannot.”
“Please, Medusa. Sing for me.” The tenderness in his voice cut through her like a knife.
She could hardly speak anymore, let alone sing. But she could not bear to deny Poseidon. Reluctantly, she attempted to sing. It took time to figure how to form the melody with her forked tongue. She began with a series of hisses which slowly turned to words. After a few frustrated moments, her voice flew out over the gardens—as full and rich as ever.
“You are still enchanting.” Poseidon'ʹs smile was heavy with admiration. Medusa sang for him until the dark sky grew light.
“I am afraid I must go now,” he told her.
“Will I ever see you again?” Medusa asked, terrified of the answer.
“On the nights of the full moon, my love. I will come to hear you sing,” he replied.
“But once a month?” she sighed in disappointment.
“It is the night the moon shines brightest and the waters are at their clearest."
Medusa stared at the waters of the ornate fountain, attempting to memorize every beloved detail of his face. “Until then,” she replied sadly.
“A parting gift, my sweet,” Poseidon added to her surprise, and disappeared from the waters.
Looking up, she found herself surrounded by lush greenery, the small patch of growth around her having expanded and tripled. Her sad little plot had turned into a beautiful and exotic garden bursting with flowers of every kind and color.
“Until the next moon,” Poseidon's soothing voice called once more and was gone.
Poseidon, as promised, appeared every night of the full moon, looking up from the fountain as Medusa sang. It was the only bright moment in her dark world.
Medusa continually marveled at how much she missed the contact of others—the touch of a hand, casual conversations with patrons, the camaraderie she had shared with the other priestesses.
This dreary life continued month after month, year after year. Her only joy was in sitting beside the fountain to gaze upon a love she would never again hold.
She grew strong, ruthless, resilient, and stayed as such. Except in those few hours when she closed her eyes and was allowed to live as she had once, dancing next to the sparkling light of the silvery fountain with her love.
And so, there was no one left to remember the beautiful young girl who had once been so adored and cherished by her people; so lovely the gods themselves envied her. All that remained was a story which took shape on the mainland. Mothers told their children, generation after generation, of Medusa, the fearsome snake-haired gorgon, who—peeking from beneath her hair of hissing, writhing asps—would turn a man to stone with one thoughtless bat of her terrible eye.