Medusa Ch. 06byNovusAnimus©
~~Finally back on track, sorry for the wait. This chapter was a difficult one to structure, as I needed it to set up precedents for future aspects of the story, while also containing a time jump that puts half of it after chapter 5, and then half after chapter 1.~~
~~Thanks to the people who e-mailed me with concern and curiosity about chapter updates. Knowing people are reading these stories gives me the inspiration and desire to write.~~
Chapter 6 - Then and Now
"Sir! I... I think one of our heroes is returning!" The soldier stood at the railing of the vessel, hand pointed out to the island. With the sun in the sky, it was plenty obvious what he was pointing at.
"Really? Don't lie to me," the captain barked, stepping down to join the soldier. Other soldiers and crew members came to join them, each bringing a hand to block the sun. They gasped openly at the sight, many leaning over the rail to get a closer look.
"By the gods. Get the ropes out! I want Aertir back up here with that body in two minutes!" The captain stepped back up to the quarterdeck to monitor the progress, a wicked grin on his face as he watched the men work. "Finally Rollian. Finally I can stop bringing good men out here on a death sentence!"
"Yes sir. It seems Aertir's managed the impossible," his right hand man added, first mate Rollian, short and thick with muscle and fat. The captain was his opposite, tall and lean, with a sword at his side and a smile on his lips.
"Arg, she's heavy captain!" one of the soldiers bellowed, groaning with frustration as he pulled on the rope.
"Why didn't you just cut off her head, Aertir?" another man yelled down, palms turning red as they pulled with all their might. The tightening of metal latches and creaking of wood against weight echoed over the sea, and more and more men crowded around to watch as the tiny boat came into view.
Dressed in Theban armor, the hero stood with one foot on his prize, a hand on his sheath and a smile to mirror the captain's. His helmet kept most of his face hidden, but the crowd could tell he was happy. As the crew looked down to see what he stood upon, they gasped in horror at the sight.
With a harsh shove, Aertir shoved the dead snake woman from the small vessel, pushing her onto the deck with a thud. The soldiers and shipmates quickly backed off at the sight of her, some even gasping and bringing fingers to their lips. She was soaked in blood, though armored with Greek armor not too dissimilar to Aertir's. While her torso and arms were protected, her head in all its snake glory was fully exposed, and the men leaned in to look at her hair.
"Snakes. So many snakes. Why didn't you just cut off her head, Aertir? No one would have blamed you for not wanting to drag that carcass. Look at her! She's huge!" Another man walked around the length of the dead woman, taken aback by how much snake there was to her. "I never expected this."
"Aertir! My boy! Come on up here, you must share this tale with me! By the gods, you know I've been taking boys like you out here for at least 15 years, and not one of you has ever succeeded?" The captain reached out, and Aertir gladly took his hand and joined him on the quarterdeck, patting him on the shoulder.
"You're shorter than I remember, haha! Come on Aertir, tell us! Tell the boys how you managed to slay the mighty monster!" Waving his arm to the crowd of men joining them at the base of the quarterdeck, the captain turned to face them. "Look at her! By the gods what a disgusting creature. That snake hair almost looks alive...."
The men's eyes opened wide as Medusa opened her own. "Capt-" The gorgon struck faster than they could react, and within moments, she had 20 men strong caged into her grip. Compressed so tight, she wrapped around them twice over, squeezing them and surrounding them, forcing their arms to their sides and their bodies together. Only tight enough so they could not escape, Medusa hissed at the group of them with malice, rage in her eyes and a life returned to her unexpected. They could barely breathe, let alone speak.
"In Zeus's name! What the-" The captain's words were cut short, blood spraying from his mouth as a pain he could not imagine coursed through his system. Looking down, he blinked in confusion, unable to process what was going on.
A sword protruded from between two of his ribs, covered in blood. Someone's blood. He raised a hand to touch it, only to finally realize who's blood it was as its warmth dripped onto his fingers. His blood.
"How I slew her?" the short hero finally spoke up, causing the captain to turn his head. "I didn't, and I'm not Aertir." So completely detached from his act of murder, Darien ripped sword from the captain's body, and kicked his spine hard enough to break bone. The dying man fell over the railing of the quarterdeck, landing in a twitching heap next to Medusa.
"You killed him?" the gorgon questioned, confused and disturbed by the sight of the man's last words.
"Yes I did," he whispered just loud enough for her to hear. Forgetting about the dumbstruck Rollian, Darien stepped down to join the gorgon and her captured men, stepping onto the captain's still writhing form as he did. "I had to kill him," he seethed, blood dripping from his sword and eyes almost glowing white. "He would have warned everyone you escaped."
Silence. Darien stood there in front of the group of trapped crewmen, sword in hand and white eyes terrifying them. The gorgon had them completely encircled, squeezing them hard enough to make their skin grow red, while the first mate watched from the quarterdeck, frozen in place. Not even the sea made a noise, growing quiet in the sun as everyone stared at each other, many looking to the corpse of their once captain.
"Darien... I don't think there's a way we can avoid that happening, unless you think you can sail this ship by yourself?" Trying to act the voice of reason in the chaos, Medusa reached out to touch Darien's arm, earning a calming breath from him as he lowered his weapon.
"... I don't." Sighing with the inevitability of their situation, Darien pointed his sword at the men within the gorgon's death grip. "Unless you want her to squeeze you to death, or turn you to stone, you will take us to Athens. Perhaps some wisdom can be found in the city of philosophers."
"Wisdom? Sir! You can't be serious!" One of the few men not bound by the snake woman, a crewman of the ship, walked up to Darien with a dreaded fear on his face. "Poseidon will not allow this. You have offended the gods by allowing this beast to li-" The man's words were cut short in a gargled mess of pain and blood as Darien's sword buried itself into his mouth. The forward thrust dislodged teeth and split his lips with its vertical angle, only to crash into the back of his throat and slice through tissue.
Falling backward, the man clutched at his throat, gargling blood and trying to breathe as crimson flooded his lungs. Darien stepped toward him, slowly, staring into the man's terrified eyes with his own white gaze. His approach spurred the dying man to run, but Darien easily pinned him, stepping on his back and crushing his sandal's heel into the back of the man's head. The crewman could only clutch hopelessly at the foot against his skull as he drowned in his own blood.
The act was so sudden and cruel that Medusa had to look away, her stomach turning until she almost wretched.
"Darien!" she finally screamed, unable to reach him to where he moved, as her body remained wrapped around their hostages. "He didn't deserve that!"
"Didn't he? He thinks we've offended Poseidon, and that we should be punished. Poseidon is not here! Poseidon is not some all-knowing creator who follows our everyone whim! Poseidon is nothing more than a monster, a bastard and a rapist!" Stepping from the stabbed man, he backed away and put his back to the railing of the quarterdeck behind him, pointing a sword at the crew that remained in the gorgon's grip. "Poseidon is a fiend! Medusa is nothing more than a victim! You are all nothing but sheep for your wicked master! Worthless, pathetic sheep incapable of thought or self-awareness. I should slaughter you all right now. I should rip out your entrails and dance in your blood. I should..."
As Darien looked to Medusa, he found himself at a loss for words. Standing there, with blood dripping from his sword and his eyes looking to Medusa's, he could not imagine the look on her face. She was disgusted. Not disgusted with the soldiers or the crewmen of the ship, but rather, disgusted with him. Her gaze turned his heart to stone, and he could not help but lower his sword.
How did the situation turn so quickly? They had seized the ship, and forced the men into a position they could not escape. The plan had gone flawlessly, without a fight to even risk injury. In the span of a single minute, their dreams of getting off the island had come to a success. He had expected Medusa to be with him, more than willing to slaughter the sheep. She was not happy, and her hurt gaze brought his insides to ache.
"... get the ship to Athens," he whispered to the men between clenched teeth. Unable to look the gorgon in the eye anymore, Darien stepped back up onto the quarterdeck, and watched the men work.
"Darien, I..." Realizing this was no place for a lover's quarrel, Medusa hardened herself for the task. "Men," she whispered with a hiss, turning to face the helpless, almost suffocated group of soldiers and row men in her clutches, "you are going to get us to Athens, or I will crush the life out of you and leave you a worst fate than your friend Darien dealt with."
Most of them were not soldiers. Men of the sea they were, superstitious and all too easily swayed by tales of gods and monsters. They were panicking in fear, but not in any worry of death, but rather of being associated with her, as if the act of just being near her was damning. She could see it in their eyes, as if to mock her in her very moments of triumph.
Hissing in fury even in her power, she squeezed them tight enough to break some ribs, compressed groans escaping their caught forms. How dare they fear her more than death? What had she done?
"Step out of line, even look at me funny, and I'll decorate my garden with your stone corpse. Understand?" The men nodded in dismay, defeated in a minute's whim. Captain dead and hopes dashed, they had no choice but to comply. Upon releasing them, the men quickly got to work, silently pulling ropes and prepping the ship for departure, numerous manning the oars. They couldn't even bare to look at her anymore, many backing away from her slithering tail as she moved to join Darien on the quarterdeck.
"You are going to steer us to Athens," Darien whispered with barely contained malice. He was kneeling in front of a short, thick man, who was curled in and petrified against the cabin door. The captain's right hand, Medusa imagined. "You'll take us to Athens or I will make sure you join your captain."
"Why!? You'll be executed on arrival! No one would... would..." His voice went cold and his body froze as Medusa slithered closer. He choked on his tongue as his eyes looked her up and down, breath trapped in his lungs as his gaze looked to the scales of her underbelly, only to rise to stare at the twisting, living hair of snakes.
"We have defended ourselves, little man." Reaching down, the serpent seductress secured her clawed grip on the fat man's throat and lifted him off the deck. He clutched at her arm as his breathing became labored, eyes bulging in fright and panic as he tried to keep his weight off her grip, lest he choke. "For decades I've suffered your constant bombardment of heroes. You and others, bringing enemies to me as if I were some mindless creature to behead and display. All I wanted was to be left alone!" Taken with a rage, she threw him back against the cabin, earning a yelp of pain from Rollian.
"You will take us to Athens, and you will let us worry about what Athens will do to us."
The two monsters watched with observing eyes over the crew. The humans were extremely skittish, constantly casting worried or angry, judgmental glares to Medusa. They worked with their eyes over their shoulders, and only constant vigilance on Darien and the gorgon's part kept them from growing bold. The corpse of their captain, and of another who merely voiced his opinion, had them both mortified and petrified. Being tasked to throw the two corpses overboard had them enraged.
As the trip wore on, Medusa found herself almost having to reach out to hold Darien down. He was fidgeting, as if each fearful glance from the humans only made him want to kill them even more.
"I had no idea you hated them this much," the serpent whispered, slithering up to join her mate on the quarterdeck. Reaching out, she placed her clawed hand upon his arm, frowning at his tension.
"Neither did I." With only the fat Rollian with them and the rest of the crew working, Darien paced back and forth, keeping an eye on the first mate's steering.
"Why did you kill the captain? That was never part of the plan. We were going to force him to take us to Athens." She watched after him, hugging her arms about her waist.
"I know, I know I just... when he called you a monster, I had to... do something." Slumping against the railing, he watched the workers work. They whispered between themselves, no doubt with a plan to kill him and his love. He'd have to put a stop to that soon.
"You killed him just for that?" she asked, a little bewildered. She slithered up to press her shoulder against his own, hooking her arm underneath his to find his fingers, intertwining her grip with him.
"I didn't think I... well, I didn't think." He shrugged, trying to pass the moment off as irrelevant. Medusa kept her grip between his fingers, tugging on him a little to pull more information. "I just reacted, ok? He said something horrible, disgustingly hypocritical, and I killed him. Does it matter? He was just a sheep." He motioned to the rest of the crew that continued their work. "All of them. Sheep. You think they'd have understood our, YOUR plight? You think they'd care if we explained to them what happened?" His words struck her, and she looked to the group of terrified soldiers that manned their vessel.
"Were you any different then? Was I?"
"You... you're not one of them anymore, and neither am I. We're smarter than them; we understand just how disgusting and cruel our so called 'gods' are." He slipped his fingers away from her with a sigh, slumping against the railing. Looking over its edge, he watched the waves splash back and forth against the vessel's side. "I guess I'm just redirecting my hatred."
"Is that how you came to possess that mark?" she asked, pointing to his temple. His hair was just long enough to cover the burned symbol of a slave, a mark she only knew to be linked to his unknown past. "You never did tell me where you got it."
"... are you asking?" He turned to face her, eyes almost drooping. He was in pain. This situation brought up far more than the obvious; there was something that he wasn't telling her that this fiasco had reminded him of.
"No," she added, not wanting to pull it from him, "but I hadn't expected this to happen. I thought we were just going to force them to take us to Athens." Medusa slithered after him, not wanting to let him drift off. Now was not the time for a distance to grow between them, after throwing themselves into this hell of unpredictability. "We have to be careful...."
"You're right. You are absolutely right. We've got progress; we're going somewhere." His smile returned, and he hooked his fingers back into her grip as they placed their back to the railing, watching the crew at a distance. "I'm sorry, no time for sorrow. We've got a world of hurt coming at us when we land." Nodding with a smile, he brought her clawed hand up to his lips and kissed her knuckles before looking back to watch their hostages.
Medusa frowned, looking down at her hand before back to Darien. He wasn't happy; he was repressing. Memories of their first conversation in the pool surfaced, of how he refused to talk about his past, and put on a smile for her. She looked down at his hand, still entwined with hers, and how his grip was almost tight enough to hurt. Tightening her own grip, she brought his knuckles to her lips to mimic his own kiss, offering him a warm smile when he turned to look to her.
He sighed happily with her gaze, knowing she knew very well he was in pain, and to reduce himself to a sniveling shell of a man was more painful than he could stomach. He simply leaned against her, putting his temple to her shoulder. No words were needed, no discussion, she just knew.
"This is despicable," one of the crewmen said with a loud grunt, throwing down his oar and standing, turning to face serpent and the small man. He was slightly below them on the main deck, a thick man with a long beard of almost black. He was older than the rest of this crewmen, a main of the sea with the years to show for it.
"Excuse me?" Darien asked, pushing himself from the railing and stepping toward the far larger, albeit unarmed rower. A grip on his hand yanked him back, and Darien found himself back against the railing again by Medusa's power.
Giving Darien an assuring nod, Medusa slithered down from the quarterdeck, foot upon foot of thick snake length following behind her as she slowly circled the troublesome rower. "May I help you?" she said flatly, lifting herself to an imposing height. Clad in her Theban breastplate and gauntlets, she looked almost godly, raising herself to ten feet over the rower.
"I refuse to be part of this, monster! You are a despicable creature, and Athens will have your head on a pike." The man stood his ground, even as parts of him shivered with adrenaline. He was not expecting to survive this, but conviction had pushed him to make a stand.
Medusa wrapped herself around the man from head to toe, and soon only the man's face was visible from within thick muscle bindings of scaled snake length. "Really?" she asked with a yell, starring down at the man. "I'm just a horrible monster, am I?"
"Yes," he said, stubborn to insanity.
Starring the man down with her snake eyes, she slowly undid her binding. One moment, the man was a muscle twitch away from being crushed, and the next, he was free. He stumbled back slightly before resuming his attempt at rebellion, starring up at the gorgon.
"I could crush you into a bloody heap. I could turn you into stone. I could rend you limb from limb!" As her anger unleashed, she transformed. Her skin parted and scales erupted, covering her face and body, exposing the beast within. Her eyes glowed with energy, and her mouth opened inhumanly wide, exposing her snake fangs. The sight of her made the rower fall back onto his ass, stumbling back in terror and pressing himself to the railing.
When nothing happened, the man opened his eyes. Medusa returned to her previous form, a beauty of snake and skin. He was stunned, not by her beauty as it was something beyond his ability to perceive, but by her decision to spare him.
"You think I wanted this? You think I asked to become this? " She slithered forward to loom over the rower, glaring down at him as she unhooked her jaw, opening it wide to stretch the muscles. The process exposed her snake fangs, inches long and sharp enough to pierce flesh like butter. She groaned as she slid her jaw back into place, hands rising to rub at where it connected to her skull.