tagSci-Fi & FantasyMedusa: Fate's Game Ch. 06

Medusa: Fate's Game Ch. 06

byNovusAnimus©

~~Chimera~~

He did not like where this was going.

The ship moved at a slow pace, or at least he thought it was slow. In the middle of the night, the stars and breeze should have been more than enough of a guide, but the fog of the dead blocked his senses. It felt almost as if they were holding still, but the rest of the crew assured him they were moving, slow but steady.

Crew. He sneered, and looked across the deck to the others. The two satyrs were chatting about the tale of Bellerophon, and the female one, Pinna, shared specific details with her husband. She spoke of the battle between Chimera, Bellerophontes, and Medusa. She spoke of the nights the two had enjoyed each other's bodies. She spoke of Bellerophon's journey into Tiryns, and his battle with the Amazon inside its walls. She spoke of his escape, and how the giant had saved him in a primal slaughter.

How could she have seen so much? It ate at him, rats in his gut, and he clicked his fangs across his teeth as he glowered at her. Every time she looked his way, he could see she was weighing whether to taunt him or not. She chose wisely.

The other two, the serpent monster and the volatile 'hero,' they held each other's hands, walked the railings of the enormous ship, and spoke of ridiculous futures. What they would do once they were done this journey, with Pegasus free, the Fates no longer at Bellerophon's back, and perhaps even Medusa's curse undone. It was a silly fantasy; stories never ended so well, and not only did Chimera know it, he knew his old enemy knew it too. Or at least, so he thought, but the wisp of hope edged into Bellerophon's voice, and it earned a frown from the giant each time it did.

But none of that was the reason for his current frustration. The fog of the dead may have covered his senses, blocked him from Gaia, but he could still feel the world in his bones. He could feel the water through the unnatural wood, he could feel the faintest breeze sneak through the fog and touch his skin, and he could feel the rising of the sun.

He knew the direction they were heading.

"Chimera," the male satyr said, "you said you can't track with this fog?" He hopped up to stand near the giant at the front of the ship, wife at his side.

"Not well. What animal can with a wet cloth over their nose?"

Gallea laughed. Chimera did not see what was funny.

"Are we at least heading in the right direction?"

He nodded. "We are."

The two satyrs nodded in return, and went back to the deck. They seemed oblivious to his discomfort, but it was likely a farce. Tricky, mischievous creatures, satyrs were, and too smart for their own good.

He turned, and stared out against the wall of fog. Thoughts drifted through his mind, ruining the stillness he sought, waves on what were once calm waters. Would he see them again? Would their old bones recognize him?

"Chimera."

Bellerophon. Chimera growled and looked over his shoulder to the small man. Dressed in only his tunic, the small warrior looked smaller still, an easy kill if he had the desire.

"Bellerophontes."

"I really wish everyone would just call me Darian now. Bellerophontes is a dead name of a dead man, okay? Zeus saw to that." The fox man hopped up onto the railing and sat upon it next to the giant. "No more glory, no more epic battles, no more conquests. Okay? If the situation was repeated, and I was offered a quest to kill you, I'd spit in their face."

Chimera eyed the little man. "You did not enjoy the battle?"

"I did... and I still do, but if I had to pick between that and a woman's arms? I'll take the arms." He winked, and motioned with his head to Medusa and the two satyrs she now spoke with. "A year in a quarry lugging around rocks, and then shipped off for slave labor who knows where? Shipwrecked, I end up with the most amazing woman ever. I'm taking my miracle and I'm leaving my old life behind."

What a fool. The Fates would never leave him alone, they never did, Chimera was sure. They would hunt him for all time, no question. He didn't need to say it though, Bellerophon knew how childish his wishes were. The way his old enemy glanced down, then back at Medusa, and then back at the floor each time the topic of the future came up, it reeked of uncertainty and worry.

Chimera shrugged. "What do you want?"

"Just wanted to talk."

"Why?"

"Because we're going to be fighting side by side. You don't want to know the person you'll be fighting next to?"

He knew well enough. "A fox."

The small warrior smirked, and stood up on the railing. One slip and the warrior would fall from the boat, and yet the agile little man walked down its length a few feet, turned on a heel, and came back again, pacing with hands together in the small of his back.

"I guess that makes you the lion."

Chimera nodded. "It does."

"Can I count on the lion to watch my back then? Lots of opportunities to kill me coming your way, I'm sure."

For a moment, he considered getting angry. He pledged himself, what more was there to discuss? But, humans were humans, sneaky and conniving creatures. Traitors to their own kind without a second thought. He could not blame his old enemy for the concern.

"Our fights are over. It is her I wish to see unleash her anger." It was his turn to gesture to Medusa.

"... you think she will?" The tiny warrior hopped down onto his butt on the railing, and looked at Chimera with heavy eyes.

"I do. She suppresses her anger, and for what was done to her, I do not blame her. But you taught her to hope, little fox, and when she's forced to fight for that hope..." He tilted his head to the side, and groaned with release when the motion earned a loud crack. "Her name will be remembered for all time, for the death she will cause."

It would not be him, the predator who hunted the humans and gods for centuries, whose face would be painted onto the vases of the future. It would be hers.

The small warrior did not look happy about it. Bellerophon looked at Medusa, who was circling the two satyrs in a game of predator and prey. The two half-beasts laughed, and jumped over her coils. How quickly the serpent beast regressed to a child, despite a century of solitude and turmoil. How had her innocence withstood the years?

Is that jealousy crawling up your spine, 'Chimera?'

"I suppose that's why I like her so damn much," the small man said. He scratched his short beard, ran his fingers through his hair, and nodded. "And I'm jealous of her."

Chimera quirked a brow at his old enemy, and rumbled a chuckle. "I saw the Erinyes return your armor. Repaired, I assume?"

"Yeah. They can't have their precious main character going into battle with compromised armor. It's back, shiny and whole." Bellerophontes groaned and cracked his knuckles. A bundle of anger, the little warrior.

"... do you still think you are the main character in this story, Bellerophontes?" Chimera said.

"What do you mean?"

"Raped, cursed, and ruined by the gods she served, a monster, the once innocent woman becomes. The ancient serpent who finally finds the courage to leave her cage, and embark on a quest to free herself from her curse, when a human at last shows her compassion." His voice grew deeper, quieter, and it rumbled deep in his belly as he spoke. "The Fates may have their eye on you, Bellerophontes, but your name will be forgotten as well. It is hers people will remember."

Bellerophon's eyes opened all the wider. But, as if awakening, he shook his head before he hopped down from the railing, and smiled.

"If people remember her name, I don't want it to be for the bloodshed. We can do something better than that."

"Oh? And what story do you think will strike harder than a story of murder and slaughter, little hero?" Chimera shook his head; no story he knew.

But Bellerophon grinned at him, and winked. "Redemption maybe? Guess we'll find out."

And with that, the fox walked off to join the snake.

Alone with his thoughts again, Chimera turned back to face the fog, and frowned. Redemption. For who, for what? He was a relic of a dead age; he had no sins to atone, only the vengeance of a murdered race to dole. Bellerophontes was nothing more than an angry man with the power of the Fates behind him - or perhaps there was more? His old enemy never spoke of his past; what little Chimera learned of him was nothing meaningful.

Medusa though, the only sin the serpent had committed was being beautiful when she was human. Redemption for her was... what, to be forgiven by the gods? Chimera snorted, gritted his teeth, and stroked the claws of the dead creature's paws around his neck. What had Bellerophon meant? Sly, the little fox was.

He glanced over his shoulder. The group were chatting, smiling, and nodding at each other. Bellerophon didn't remain with them though, he moved past them after sharing a quick kiss with the serpent. His old enemy did not like the satyrs, but then, neither did Chimera. Storytellers, poets, musicians, liars. Every word they spoke set him on edge; they were trouble.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A day past. The satyrs, the serpent, and the hero all stirred with anticipation. No patience, but at least Bellerophon did not start any more arguments. Medusa, as Chimera expected, played mediator, and kept the peace. Pinna and Gallea also regaled Medusa with tales of other heroes, of gods and goddesses, and of wars. But they kept to the stories with romance, and spun exaggerated tales of valiant men saving women from monsters and the like. Chimera found it sickening, Bellerophon did not care, but Medusa was enamored.

The serpent sat, coiled, chin in her palms and weight on her elbows, eyes wide as she listened to the tales. Like a young girl. He smirked, memories of his own family coming to his mind, children sitting around the fire, eyes wide. Eyes wide with the power of the Earth of course, with fire and dirt and water and wind, not the lies of storytellers.

A slow ache filled gut. At first, he assumed the memories were stirring the pain, but then the beat of his heart ached as well. A deep, slow ache that made his fingers tighten and his teeth clench. He got up, turned to face the fog in front of the ship again, and rumbled.

"Gallea," he said, loud enough his voice carried over the empty deck, "we are near. Take down the veil, so I may see."

Everyone got up. Bellerophon was by his side in a second, dressed in his armor, weapons at the ready. The satyrs joined him next, while Medusa was slow to slither across the deck to join them, eyes down and shoulders heavy.

"Medusa," Bellerophon said. He must have noticed his lover's concern. "You can stay here, you know."

"No! No I... if there were civilians, I would. But if it is deserted as Chimera says it will be, then I should come." The serpent forced herself to stand tall, and removed the bow from her shoulder before plucking at the string.

"I suppose you two will be staying out of harm's way?" the small warrior said to the two satyrs.

Gallea snorted. "We will. Want no part in the violence, just here to tell the tale."

Chimera rumbled deep in his chest. Would Gallea say the same if Chimera forced him into the fight, he wondered. But it was not worth the trouble. He was there to protect Medusa, not make things more difficult for her.

On the same flute as he used to summon the ship, Gallea played another tune. Another sad, slow piece, with mournful notes that rung across the empty deck; a perfect match for the laborious rowing of the undead beneath them.

The veil came down as would a settling mist. Heavy, but unhurried, the thick wall of fog fell to the deck, and then off of it over the railing and onto the sea. Chimera knew the sun would be setting, but the others had lost track of the time of day, and they each looked to the West in surprise.

But it was the sight before them that made them gasp.

The mountain rose high, black, and quiet. Where once, he would remember the rumbling of the Earth, the whisper of Gaia to her children, and the call of the wind along her fingers, the great mountain had long since gone dark. Now, only the blood of Gaia cracked along its sides, hot and red, dripping down into the sea, and where once earthquakes were like thunder, they were now only quiet murmurs.

Medusa, jaw dropped and eyes wide, slithered up next to him at the front of the ship. "The mountain... it's..."

"As I feared," Chimera said, "the Amazon has gone to Sreria, where death is a part of its land."

Bellerophontes hopped up onto the railing and peered out toward the black mountain that jutted from the sea like a thorn. "Death?"

"Giants died here," Pinna said. She winced when she said it, and took a small step back when Chimera looked over his shoulder down at the little thing. Quivering, but she spoke nonetheless. "Most died in Phlegra, where the land looks much the same. Bleeding, and hot. Some giants went to Sreria, a mountain, isolated in the sea. The gods chased them there too, and..." She looked back to Chimera, as if waiting for him to strike, or stop her. But he did nothing, only rumbled, and stared at his old home. "The giants accepted death."

Accepted was not the word he'd use.

"This is not a coincidence," he said, "but I do not know what the Amazon, or the mask thief would have of this land of the dead."

Medusa shivered with his words. Bellerophon had said she'd spent a hundred years surrounded by the dead, statues of people she'd killed. Another island, another mountain, and more bones. He would have to keep an eye on her.

"Alright, plan." Bellerophon paced back and forth on the railing, shield on his back, sword in its scabbard, spear in hand and helping him balance. "We need a plan. I figured she'd be hiding in another city, somewhere she can use our reputations against us. But there's nothing here according to you two." He gestured to the giant and the satyr. "It looks like it'll be a hot place. You going to be ok Medusa?"

"I'll be fine." She nodded, and humphed.

"Chimera, you should lead. You refuse to die - stubborn bastard - so I can count on you to be at the head. And you know the land better than any of us. You alright with that?" As if a general to his captains, Bellerophon pointed his spear at Chimera in wait.

The giant smirked. Guard captain, Bellerophon said he used to be. He could see it now.

"I am."

"Good. Ready the away vessel. Let's put the veil back up, hide Charon's ship in the fog, and see if we can get to the island on the smaller ship without being spotted."

Chimera groaned, but nodded. It was as good a plan as any, but being trapped on the tiny boat - tiny compared to him - with a giant serpent, two satyrs, a volatile Fate's Child, and an array of undead rowing, was not an enjoyable experience. No room to stretch his legs.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~Darian~~

Nervous. Again. He never used to get nervous, just excited. Now, it was definitely nervous.

Andromeda. Whoever she was, this thief had stolen a Moirai mask, and the Fates had said it was her who attacked him when he was a prisoner on a boat. A giant sea creature had attacked the ship, so... what, the thief could control that? Or had tricked it into doing so somehow? This thief had Pegasus, they had an Amazon queen at their beck and call, said queen was turned into a Fate's Child by said thief, and who knows what else. It was going to be the hardest quest he'd ever been on. And this time, he had people with him. There were plenty of good things about friends, and plenty of bad. If Medusa died on this journey, he didn't know if he could take it.

He breathed deep, and stared out at the mountain before them through the eye-slits of his ebony helmet. It wasn't just Medusa's life making him nervous, it was Otrera. He remembered sinking that sword through her shoulder, deep and hard enough that the wound would have bled out anyone. He remembered the thrill of the kill as he butchered and slaughtered her entire tribe. Over a hundred women, battle-hardened, sword and shield and bows and spears; he destroyed them all in the shadows of the trees.

And Otrera was a stark reminder of how much he really did enjoy that. He hated it, loved it, and hated that he loved it. Conflicted much, Darian? Bellerophontes? A name change was doing little to protect him from his past. Only Medusa was interested in the 'new' him, while everyone else seemed content to judge him purely on his history, Otrera most of all. And she deserved to.

He had to capture her, so she could take them to Andromeda. He had to capture her, so he could prove he was different now? What a joke.

Chimera got out of the boat first. He had no weapons, but Darian doubted the giant would be any better off with a weapon over his hands. He had no armor, but they didn't have time to hunt down a blacksmith and force him to make armor that could fit someone twice as tall, wide, and thick as a normal man. And yet, the wall of flesh and muscle stepped forward onto the black sand of the island as if he had all those things and more.

Unless someone had a giant axe to cut his head off with, he doubted the beast would ever die.

Medusa and Darian got off after him. The sea water, up to his ankles where the smaller boat stopped, was warm. He frowned down at it, and the black beneath. Were it a normal color, he'd probably have entertained lying down and enjoying the odd warmth, but the whole beach seemed sullied. Land of the dead, as Chimera put it.

"We only have an hour of sunlight left. I'd rather not do this in the dark," Darian said. No time to wait, he slipped his shield onto his left arm, spear in his right hand, and walked beside Chimera. "So let's follow your nose, and go on the offensive."

"You wish to spring their trap?" Chimera said.

"Yeap. We have a secret weapon."

"... which is?"

Darian motioned to Medusa beside him. Both the giant and the serpent raised a brow, and Darian smirked.

"They've never seen what Medusa can really do, they've only heard the stories. If it comes to it, Medusa can jump in, same as she did with me and you." As loath he was to admit it, when Medusa transformed, she was a force, and one that not he or Chimera or any Amazon could contend with. He tried to offer her a smile, maybe the best one in the world, but it wasn't there. He didn't want this.

Medusa nodded, snake eyes closing, breath slow, snake hair flat to her scalp, before she drew her bow and readied an arrow.

"A hundred years of practice. I'll be ready."

He nodded, but his jaw clenched inside his helmet. A hundred years of killing and you're still soft, Medusa. He loved that, and hated it; how familiar. It was going to get her killed.

And so, the three monsters moved forward. The weird mountain was only tall at its center, otherwise the island was a wide berth of gentle slope, black leading up to cracks along the mountain's face that bled red. The closer they got, the hotter it got. Medusa would have trouble if it got worse. Sweat was already dotting his forehead.

"I've never seen lava," Darian said, "only heard it described. This is... this is unreal." The waves of heat that poured out onto the slopes of the mountain were, unlike the land they trod, anything but dead.

"I hope where we're going isn't so hot!" Medusa shook her head and tasted the air with her forked tongue. Her snake hair did the same, though the nest of snakes had flattened to her head even more.

The giant rumbled. "It is cooler inside the mountain."

"Inside?" Darian shook his head and leaned on his spear. "You think they're in a cave?" It made sense, he supposed. Chimera slept in a hole; it must have been a giant thing.

Chimera nodded, and marched forward. "Gaia's blood is deadly, even to a giant."

Gaia's blood. More ancient entities who didn't have the good sense to die. Darian gritted his teeth but didn't say a word; pissing off Chimera would not be a good idea.

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