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WHOM THE GODS WOULD DESTROY
The true Gorgon curse, after the wrappings and trappings of myth are dispersed.
She is my treasure, this woman-child. How could she have recognized the sea god if he chose to walk in mortal form upon the earth? Flattery, gifts and an impetuosity of youth fueled the impiety to make love in Athena's temple. Even your mother, Ceta could not save you. Cowardly Poseidon returned to his watery shape, escaping the just wrath of Athena. Her immortal prey gone, her full rage came upon you. Truly, whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad.
"Saria! Saria!" The weeping girl, clothes disheveled and hair unkempt, came running into the house. The servant came quickly, whispering soothing words, stroking the damp red-gold locks that still smelled of the ocean's embrace. Saria's clouded eyes saw nothing but the young servant could feel how her mistress's body shook.
"Shhh... Dusa, it'll be all right." Though only seven years older, sometimes Saria felt she was more mother than friend to the nineteen-year old girl. The younger woman's sobbing grew less as she told a disjointed tale of love, of loss, and a terrible curse.
So wild Rumor and frantic Mischief whisper and ignite the populace. But if her hair is of serpents and their heavy-lidded gaze turns men to stone, whence come these accusations from marble lips? That is part and parcel of the madness. She believes she DOES have snakes for hair--and this too, she has an innate fear of serpents. So does the curse work double harm of both dementia and terror. Little by little, day by day, I witness her descent into madness.
Saria's gentle hands squeeze the sponge once more; warm water trickles down Dusa's back. She stands as the servant wraps a bath sheet about her and leads her to a stool. Saria takes a wide-toothed comb and separates the golden strands. Her deft fingers plait intricate braids, then she asks as she always does, "Are you not beautiful, my lady?" She knows Dusa is staring hard into the mirror for any sign of sinuous scales.
"By your hands and your love, only then am I beautiful," Dusa whispers. Saria bends and kisses the top of her head. "I had a dream last night." Dusa holds the older woman's hand.
"The same one as the night before?" Saria asks.
"Yes. He comes. Invisible, yet I know he is there. Wearing the masque of 'Hero' with his sword flashing in the sun and the shield that looks back at me. He was a step closer. I know he comes to kill me." She takes a ragged breath. "The waiting--it's the waiting that is so terrible."
"Ah love," Saria replied. "Morpheus plays with us in our sleep. The changeling God is anything and everything in our nightly repose. Why, I dreamed I had the tail of a cat. Someone said I was angry and I denied that, but my tail twitched and thrashed about proving my words false. It was of tabby stripes and quite independent."
"And did this tail of yours comport itself with modesty?" Saria heard Dusa give a small chuckle.
"I recall having a definite sense of a draft under my skirts, on the parts that were covered with neither linen nor fur. But I was so riled I didn't care." Dusa turned and kissed Saria's hand.
"I promise if ever I see you sprouting a tail I will lecture it on proper decency." Dusa said. "Then I'll have you check the house for mice." The two women laughed as they went into supper.
He is tall, strong and clean-limbed. A determined set to his mouth, lips that should woo a maid not revile her. The magical cloak is set aside; he will face the monster, almost. He looks into his shield at a horror. Hissing, writhing, venom glistening on a hundred pairs of fangs below a hundred sets of blazing eyes. She screams, seeing herself so mirrored, so unlike her natural form and face. His face is pitiless, his sword even more so. She feels the edge touch her neck and she awakens, shrieking in the night. I weep with her; each vivid detail told anew.
I could pick him out of a thousand men, out of ten thousand, if I could see. I ask at market if any have seen such as he. The answer is no as I hold out money for our purchases. But would they tell me the truth? Has Athena's denunciation turned their hearts from us? I cover the basket with a cloth and thanking the merchant, turn for home. My cane taps out the path before me, but behind I hear whispers too soft, they think, for any ears but theirs. Perseus, they whisper, Perseus.
Saria placed the loaf of rye bread on the table, measured two finger's width four times and taking up a filleting knife, cut four slices. Cheese, olives, smoked eel and pomegranates joined the bread on the tray for the noontide meal.
"Monster!" Echoed from a deep voice. Dusa cried out as she tried to flee the inevitable. Saria ran into the atrium, hearing the hissing of air parted by steel and a deeper noise. A small hollow thud then two larger in quick succession. He was breathing hard; his sandals scuffled on the mosaic floor.
The servant slipped on spilled liquid and fell to her knees, knife still in hand. Saria put her hands to steady herself and touched a cheek, soft braids, lips open in a soundless scream. The coppery scent of Dusa's blood was everywhere.
"Murderer! You bastard, you murdered her!" Saria wept as she cradled her beloved's head. "Look what you did! Why? She was the most harmless child." Her lips brushed those others, soft, pliant and unresponsive now.
"How can you bear the sight of her?" Disgust and revulsion oozed from the voice of the callous youth.
"Because I love her. Look what you did, you bastard." Saria felt the gouts of drying blood sticking to the golden plaits. "I love you, I love you..." Saria cried to ears which heard only silence.
"I must take her head for proof--"
"No--You will not TOUCH her!" The servant held tighter to her precious burden.
"Come woman, give it to me." His arm brushed hers.
"NO!" Saria struck out with the kitchen knife, scoring a small gash.
"Bitch!" He yelled, as if it was a mortal wound. He brought his sword pommel down hard on Saria's temple.
I cannot fall... "No...won't let go...Please--" I beg as his coarse fingers pry my hands loose. I clutch tighter and shriek as my fingers are bent back. My screams are louder than the crack of snapping bones as he breaks two fingers. The pain is nothing to the loss of her head. Fingertips brush her cheek, stray hairs touch my skin and she is gone. He takes her away.
"Kill me!" I sob as his footsteps recede. "Kill me too..." But there is no glory in taking the life of a blind serving woman.
"Athena, you bitch!" Saria's heresy reached where her pleas did not. She fumbled for the fallen blade and grasped the edge, cutting her palm. She doesn't care. Saria crawls in an arc until she finds Dusa's body. The servant's injured hand shakes as she lifts a cooling arm. Saria laid kisses on the wrist and palm.
"Wait for me, my love..." It was too hard to twist the thin blade into her own heart one-handed. Saria felt for her pulse, at the side of her neck. She placed the sharp-honed edge atop the rapid beating and drew it quickly through her flesh. A crippled hand held a cooling one as Saria's body jerked. She coughed as her mouth filled with blood; warmth gushed over her breast. Saria slowly slipped from kneeling to lying across her beloved's body.
Shadows flutter across my face. Shadows? I can't see. I can see? Bands of brown and white resolve into eyes and feathered tufts of ears. An owl lands upon the mosaic floor. I have no voice to wonder and scarce breath enough to draw.
"Destiny can be cruel, so too, the world of men." The Goddess speaks to me, her voice a tenuous hold onto what little life is left. She is draped in silver pleated silks, enameled aegis, bracers, greaves. In the crook of an arm is cradled a plumed helm, a spear held casually in the other.
"Curse--" is all that comes from my lips.
"Saria, you and Medusa share one heart. Therefore I shall join you; two shall be as one. I give you the power to soar above it all, to be together, forever."
Her words fade as the darkness glazes over me, my head rests on a quiet heart. I can breathe clearly, but I cannot move. I would not even if I could; not even a Goddess can separate my love from my love.
I gasp as Dusa moves beneath me; her arms are about me. We turn and stretch, she smiles! Sweet Gaia! She's here! My tears blur into hers. Our hands clasp as lips meet. Strength flows and I feel her heart in my breast; my smile is her own. Our feet clatter on the floor, hooves a bit unsteady but we stand, tossing our mane. Shoulders itch, skin shivers and plumes spread to either side. The horned owl is rather taken aback, our wingspread so much greater than his. We neigh in laughter as he hoots and takes refuge on Her shoulder.
"You shall always be, Pegasus." The Goddess fades as we leap into the sky.
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