tagSci-Fi & FantasyMedusa: Fate's Game Ch. 11

Medusa: Fate's Game Ch. 11



Patrius showed up come dawn, as promised, as did the three men. No bandages on his skin this time, not after Chimera explained it didn't help much. Once Otrera and her companions had taken a whiff of Athena's gift, they set out into the night.

Sneaking around at night was much easier with Athena's special jar of whatever to wash away the curse. She didn't like it, smelling something odorless to free her mind of some sorceress's curse. It was a lot of talk, conjecture, a lot of mysticism and magics and goddesses interfering with the things she understood: swords and flesh. She couldn't sink her weapon into a curse, she couldn't fight off magic with a shield, and she couldn't kill a god or even really defend herself from one.

It took a lot of faith to go with the flow, and trust Darian. Well, she did trust him, loath though she was to admit it. The memories of her battle sisters, her family and friends dying at his sword, it'd all taken on a new context in light of their conversations. Tragedies, and she lamented them all, but the blame she put on Darian started to fade with each passing day. They'd died in battle against a demigod, and there was no shame in that.

And if Ares was the vile and vain creature Chimera painted him as, she couldn't care less about attempting to please his desires anymore.

Gallea was sleeping in their hideaway. It was night, and the satyr was of more used to them in the day. He hadn't found anything out the day before, just that everyone in the city was frightened and refused to say why. If the city had been Amazons, everyone would have resisted the curse, and died in battle. Better that than becoming a sacrifice.

After the four of their group each took a deep breath of the jar, hopefully enough to last the night, they split. Patrius and his friends went toward the city center, and Otrera and Darian followed. Medusa and Chimera left for the city outskirts, where they would lure more manticore to their deaths. It reeked of risk. They didn't know how closely Andromeda followed her pets, how much information the cats could report, or if she even knew any had died. Perhaps the spell worked on its own, while Andromeda's mind was elsewhere? It'd be lucky if it did, and the four could operate without worry of being discovered. Luck didn't seem to be their strong suit.

The old soldier patted Otrera and Darian on the shoulder, nodded to each with a stern eye, and headed out onto the street. His companions weren't so solid, and they shivered and shook as they glanced around in the black, at the two Fate's Children, and then to the back of their savior. They followed him, and Otrera followed them. The four men knew the city, while she and Darian did not.

Relying on strangers. She didn't take well to that. Darian didn't take well to that. But at least Patrius seemed a trustworthy fellow, sort of. A nice man, but a slave to Athena's will. The two didn't necessarily go hand in hand, and every time the man had glanced Medusa's way, Otrera had been ready to cut his head off.

Outside, the cold fog continued to roll over the buildings and streets. The bazaar stalls were abandoned, the roads were quiet, and the sky began to cloud over. Seeing at night in the fog was hard enough, but as gray washed over the moon and starlight, keeping track of anyone or anything grew more difficult. It got to the point she was holding onto the tunic of the man in front of her, and Darian was holding one of the leather straps that dangled from the waist of her armor.

It was a large city, larger than Tiryns. Buildings rose tall, walls of white stone and pillars of marble. The outskirts of the city, the smaller homes, they were built with mudbrick and wood. But as they fell deeper and deeper into the tide of roofs and columns, everything changed into a colossal array of white. Temples with towering columns that held enormous roofs of alabaster, pillars ten feet wide that circled the temples, and opened before stairways as wide as the temples themselves. In Tiryns, there would be at least a few guards patrolling with torches out, and a civilian or two. These streets were as lifeless as the stone that walled them, barring the occasional large feline.

It amazed Otrera that the curse had gone so long without notice from outsiders and traders. But if Andromeda could affect people's minds with the curse, perhaps she could do more? The resistance had mentioned they'd heard her name before, but long ago and only in passing. But they'd heard it in the acropolis, and that meant someone of at least mild importance. Perhaps Andromeda could affect people's memories?

She shivered, and rubbed her arms. A scary thought indeed, but hopefully Athena's protection would extend to such sorcery as well.

Noise. The men ahead ducked into one of the temples, up the stairs and behind the huge pillars. She followed, back aching with the constant crouching, and she relished the moment to get to her knees and relax the muscles as they hid.

Claws scraped against stone, and the quiet growl of feline carnivores rumbled over the intense quiet of the city. This deep into the walls and buildings, the already quiet animal life was silenced, and sound of the prowling cats was obvious. Good for her merry band of resistance fighters, but it also meant any noise they made, the manticore were likely to hear.

Not just cat growls though, but sandals too. She stuck her head out from behind the pillar of the temple, kept her head low to the floor, and peered into the fog. The cats were walking by, and their silhouettes were blurs of limbs and raised scorpion tail. But behind them walked two more things, human shaped, with spears in one hand and a torch in the other.

Light flickered over the columns, and giant shadows merged into the heavy fog. As long as the six of them stayed within the temple and behind its columns, they should be fine. Should. If the cats got curious and sniffed them out, they'd have to get creative, fast.

The cats continued on, but the soldiers with torches came closer. Two of them, clutching spears at the ready, emerged from the fire-lit mist, and came toward the steps of the temple.

Hoplite armor, but colored gold and stained red. As if an army of golden warriors beneath an ocean of blood had risen from its depths. She half expected to see blood stains where their sandals fell. One slow step after another, the two soldiers approached the stairway, and raised their torches. Their faces were hidden black, and their eyes glowed red from the shadow that hid their features. Great, more things with glowing eyes. Where hoplite armor left the arms and legs exposed, the skin could not be seen. A strange obsidian coated their limbs beneath the armor, but also did not. Otrera tried to focus her eyes on where their skin should be, but the odd blackness did not hold her gaze, and try as she might to capture it in her vision, her gaze fell away from it like trying to focus on shades of darkness in an ocean depth.

She dared not swallow, or breathe more than the faintest wisp, and her companions did the same. A single sound meant a battle, and a battle now meant failure if anyone found out.

So she stayed still, quiet as the dead, and body pressed to the column like a second skin. Don't look to Darian, don't look to Patrius. Stay absolutely still, and they'll move on.

Eternity would have taken less time than each breath she took, but as she started to grow lightheaded with her shallow breathing, the two faceless, red-eyed guards nodded to each other, and moved on to follow their manticore escort. Once their torches were just orange blurs against distant fog, she let out a long sigh, and slid over to Darian.

"Couldn't see their skin," she said.

He nodded, and looked to Patrius. "That them?"

"Yes. Come nightfall they wander the city. In the day, they vanish into the acropolis. Come." Quiet as a mouse, Patrius started down the street, and the six of them resumed their journey.

It took time to walk through the city. What would have taken only half an hour to walk across took triple that to sneak through, even with only the rare patrol. The next pair of cats had again included the odd soldiers with hidden black skin and red glowing eyes. The Corinthian-style helmets that framed their eyes made each guard seem like a wraith, like death walking, but at least their eyes and torches made them easy to spot.

Patrius guided them into another street, off of the main road where the temples stood. Between homes and winding pathways of closely knit short walls, the old soldier took them deep into the most dense area. Homes wall to wall, short and small, where the farmers, fishermen, and hunters lived. The working class, indebted slaves, poor families, and scrawny children. The typical life of the lowly peasant, something she strove to prevent among her battle sisters.

Every so often, she glanced in one of the windows. In the dark for as long as they'd been, her eyes had adjusted enough to see the silhouettes of people even in the dark of their homes. No candles lit, no noises to be had, except for the shaky breathing of sleeping folk. Many were shivering, and many more had pressed their bodies together to sleep. They had to sleep in the curse every night.

No one said anything. The civilians were dangerous; if they were spotted, it'd mean they'd be ratted out. That meant they'd have to kill whoever spotted them if it happened, and even she didn't want to do that. The people disgusted her for their weakness, but she didn't hate them; the last thing she wanted to do was kill a child if one noticed her.

The homes spread further apart, roads forked, and the air opened up. Fog caught the breeze, and the smell of salt and sea grew until it rolled over them. The bay was ahead, and only a few homes dotted near the coast where docks held trading ships and war vessels alike. She strained her ear, but not a bird to be heard. None of the odd guards walked the water, and if there were any manticore walking without escort, they'd be much easier to see out in the open air of the beach. But the same in return. A risk either way.

Like Darian said, the underdog has to take risks. She smirked, and followed after Patrius as he motioned for them to follow. They didn't go down toward the water, not yet, but stuck to the line of homes against the low end of the city near the bay. He was taking them toward a glow of orange against the fog, far in the distance, and tall against the backdrop of fog over the buildings and stone.

As they grew closer, she understood the height. It was the bridge, a huge structure of wood, easily fifty feet wide, with metal bindings grabbing the massive columns of lumber along its impressive length. She'd never seen a bridge so huge, easily eight feet thick of multiple slabs of wood intermixed with diagonal metal beams, and torches that lit jutting towers along its topside. Back and forth across its length, manticore and the strange guards patrolled, a dozen of each at least. They walked to the open entrance of the great structure, and back to the tall cliff in the bay. No gate, but made up for with guards on each end.

They didn't go toward the entrance of the bridge though. Patrius waved them down, and they slipped through the fog toward the water where the ground gave way to a small rolling cliff. Water hit their ankles, and as they walked it, they held out a hand to the side to lean against where the beach rose into the cliff the bridge entrance sat upon. It took another fifteen minutes of walking, but in the deep fog and black of night, they crept underneath the bridge.

"The tide makes enough noise to hide our own, a little at least," Patrius said as he leaned back against the cliff. "And I doubt they think we'd be stupid enough to swim across so near their patrols."

"We might just be that stupid." Darian chuckled and pat the old soldier on the back. "You scouted all this in a week? And put together this resistance?"

It was impressive, no doubt about it. The old soldier — old was too strong a word, just starting to get on in his years. A little white in the beard never hurt anyone, and what girl didn't think a bit of wear and tear on a man was a good look? She found herself smirking at Patrius, and nodding with Darian's compliment.

"Tritus, stay here with Acron and Mindarus. We'll be back in an hour or two. If you think you're in risk of being spotted, get out of here, and we'll take it as a queue to find a different route." Patrius patted the three men on the shoulder, and turned to walk down the beach, deeper into the water.

"W-wait, you're going with these two? You don't want—"

"Otrera and Darian are demigods, Tritus. I'm the baggage in this little excursion, and one piece of baggage is better than four."

Ouch. Otrera smirked again, and winked at Tritus. The young man glowered at her and folded his arms across his chest, puffing up as best a man could. Well, he was a resistance fighter, and putting everything on the line to save his city; that was attractive in a man too.

The water was colder than she thought it'd be. If the curse affected the mind, and they were free of its hold, why was the water cold? Just in her own head then? She shivered as it worked its way up over her thighs and waist, and all the more as it enveloped her to the neck. Swimming in armor wasn't a good idea, but she and Darian could handle it. Patrius was only in his tunic and sandals, but she could see the man was struggling to keep up with them once the water grew too deep to walk upon the land underneath.

Swimming in the middle of the night. A fun pastime, and as they sneaked their way across the shadow of the bridge, her mind wandered. When all this was over, would she be able to take Chimera for a swim? He probably sank like a stone. The thought made her chuckle, especially as she imagined standing on his shoulders while the colossal man of muscle failed to stay above water.

She found herself thinking about Chimera a lot lately. Yesterday had been a surprise, for two reasons. Having sex in front of Medusa had been a lot of fun, and she saw the expression in Medusa's eyes, clear as day human or snake: attraction. Otrera knew she was attracted to Medusa — maybe not as much as Darian, she didn't really care for snakes — but she didn't know the curvy creature was attracted to her too. The gorgon hadn't really looked Chimera's way though, and she rarely looked Darian's way, yesterday in their little group sex. No attraction there, not really. Darian was handsome, sure, but she wasn't drawn to him.

But part of her mind kept coming back to the crushed manticore, the bloody mess, the organs and flesh and skin and animal fur, and Chimera's face, beard, and chest covered in it. He'd really let loose last night, really let the animal out and then some, really unleashed something almost... sinister. Cats liked to play with their food sometimes, but she knew of no animal that liked to bathe in blood.

Would he hurt her? She'd fucked him only several hours later, and he'd been as he always was during sex: strong, in control, and delightful. No denying the thrill was there too; fucking a dangerous animal sent a chill up her spine, and then fire into her loins, every damn time.

Always thinking with your legs, Otrera.

"Otrera?" Darian said.

"What? What, I was—"

Darian raised a hand and shook his head. They had come up onto the beach of the bay cliff, or what she'd thought would be a beach. Instead, it was a sheer cliff face. Water splashed against it, and the cracks of rock against the reflections of distant torchlight were the only sign of its existence in the dark night. She tried not to think about the empty black below. How deep did the water go?

"Here," Patrius said. "You can start the climb here, but after that... I don't know. The road that circles this seacliff has only a few patrols, but—"

"We have to see what's up there, Patrius. Stick with us and we'll be fine."

Darian held out a hand for his friend, and managed a smile Otrera could see in the night. Such a bastard, Darian was, cocky, arrogant... fun, adventurous, warm. She could see what Medusa saw in him. That didn't stop her from wanting to punch the man for various reasons, but she could see it nonetheless.

"What do you want me to do?" the old soldier said.

"Just hold on."

"Hold on? What—"

Darian grabbed Patrius's hand, yanked him closer, and put it on his shoulder.

"... you can't be serious."

Otrera chuckled, and put her grip against the wet rock. It took a few tries to find something with a hook for her fingers, something not slippery and wet, but once she did, pulling herself up out of the water was like lifting a pup. She did it with one hand, while the other reached up to comb her wet hair from her eyes.

If only the man realized how strong a Fate's Child truly was. Well, he was going to realize now.

Patrius almost yelped, but managed to choke it down as Darian started to climb. The old soldier had his arms locked tight around the smaller warrior's neck and shoulders, but Darian climbed as if the man was but a toddler on his back, strapped in with a carrying strap. It took effort to keep from laughing, and Otrera had to look away several times to keep it from bubbling over at the sight of the small man carrying the bigger fellow.

They had to climb to the side, to keep out of sight of the unnatural guards, and their extinct animal companions. And not only that, they had to keep out of sight of the flat road that circled the mountain upward. A weird, jagged path that bent one way, then another, and then around the cliff rock twice before cresting as a winding road into the acropolis above.

Climbing wasn't hard. Even with Patrius on Darian's back, they were demigods, and getting a good grip on the rock with sandals and strong fingers was simple enough. Once they were above the dark waves and their fingers dried, the rock was more than forgiving with their holds, and they were able to climb up and to the side to stay underneath the winding path of the road.

But because the road didn't just circle the island sea cliff, but zigzag at a few points where it leveled off, it meant they had to make some crosses.

They hopped up onto the road, halfway up the cliff. No guards around, no manticore, and thank the gods, the fog didn't follow them up. Clear air, cloudy night sky, and all their enemies in the distance. They could see their torches, and with no light of their own, the enemy could not see them.

She tapped Darian on the shoulder, pointed at herself, then the path they had to cross, and scampered along. The two men followed, and without breaking a beat, they were back to climbing.

There'd be no way she or Darian could mount an assault while climbing the cliff. If they were spotted, they were dead, and that included if they brought Chimera, Medusa, and the rest of the resistance — who wouldn't be able to climb the cliff anyway. The only way they were getting up to the acropolis was if they launched a surprise attack on the bridge, took out as many enemies as they could, and then marched up the cliff. So many unknowns, so many risks. For all she knew, Andromeda could launch a fireball down to disintegrate them. The sorceress's power always seemed indirect though, controlling other things through curses or summons or rituals; which meant a surprise attack was actually the perfect plan for dealing with her if that was true.

Or she was wrong and they were all going to die and turn to ash. A good death, but she didn't really feel like dying, not yet.

The higher they went, going the opposite direction of gravity became their only true guide in the dark night. Just keep going up, up and up until there's no more up to climb. The patrols were never in large amount, always close to the bridge where any normal person would have to cross. And as they peeked over the final ledge to land upon the flat land of the acropolis foundation, they found no guards.

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