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The Medusa Spell
The steady dripping of water would have had a calming effect, had Thrinó not been walking to her untimely death. The sharp stone beneath her feet and hands was as good a distraction from the fear of what lay ahead as anything. This to say it hardly did anything. It was no use wondering though. Deep down she knew what her fate was to be.
Memories flashed in her mind’s eye. Shouts of childlike fear. Whimpers and whispers that fluttered through a room. The animated voice of the village storyteller that recounted tales of heroic tragedy and a hissing monster. It struck fear into the hearts of misbehaving children and egoistic hunters. No matter who, big or small, everyone was afraid of what lurked in the cave high upon the mountain Tragodía. Deemed the worst demon of them all, the Woman of Venom and Stone. Medusa.
And now, as she made her way through the depths of that very cave? Thrinó’s escaping breath was chilled as she entered the deeper recesses. Then her hand came in contact with something other than the jagged stone of the cave walls. It had the same cool feel. The same hardness. Yet it was smooth and she could feel the curves and dips of it. But in her eternal darkness, Thrinó could not see what she was touching. As her delicate fingers roamed the stone, she felt out what may have been the features of a face, possibly a frozen sword. It was chilling. There was nothing she could do though, except stumble on in hope of saving her home.
For some arcane reason, the villagers had chosen Thrinó of all people to go forth to the beast. To offer herself up and sacrifice her life for the greater good. For her family and friends, the elders and the newborns. Perhaps she should’ve felt a sense of pride and bravery but all she could think of was what horrific fate awaited her.
So when she first heard the spitting of none other than the monster, Thrinó froze in fear. She felt that she only now knew the true meaning of the phrase, ‘paralysed with fear’. For once she knew not if she was thankful for her blindness in the face of terror.
The telltale sound of movement forced the poor girl out of her daze and in a flurry of panic, she turned and ran frantically through what seemed to be a maze of a cave. Her hands outstretched in front of her, auburn hair flying she easily got lost. She was aware that it didn’t matter. There was no use attempting to return. That was simply not the purpose of sacrifices. So when her bare foot caught on a jutting stone and Thrinó stumbled she made no effort to pick herself up. Tear streaks littered her face and if she’d been breathing irregularly earlier, she full on hyperventilating at the moment.
Once again she heard the whispers of the monster and it sounded as though it spoke with many voices, the words incomprehensible to her ears, so mysterious and ethereal it was that she listened in awe as her breathing evened out to the sound. The gentle voice that followed was not at all what she’d expected. It was soft. A caress. The near murmur bordered on sorrowful when asking if she was hurt.
Through the daze, Thrinó could feel a throbbing in her ankle and she knew that she’d twisted it upon her fall. A weak “yes” was all that escaped her as the occurrence and startling contact with the monster drained her energy and the girl slumped to the ground. A shadow amongst shadows.
Cool ground contrasted by a powerful heat circling around her woke Thrinó. Her eyes fluttered open instinctively. Only when she was fully conscious did she realise that it was a body pressed up against her. The same light hiss from earlier could be heard by her head and the sensation of something cool and scaly upon her neck made her bold upright, stumbling backwards. Frenzied pants filled the air and based on the resonance, wherever she was, Thrinó was in a room whose ceiling was high and walls far apart.
“Do not fear, lovely, for you are safe in this place.” A chillingly soft voice sounded through the darkness. The voice was cool. Like a rippling spring, it washed over the frightened young woman.
Thrinó’s voice trembled, though she tried to keep it strong. “Are you the monster?”
Although it was a simple enough query, it was met with a heavy silence. Until. “No. I am no monster. I am what they have made of me. And you, are you a monster?” There was no threat to be found in the silky lilt.
Thrinó found herself insulted that she be thought a monster, “Of course not!” She cried. As she said this, she realised the error in her own question. “I’m sorry.” She added a moment later, tone much softer and apologetic, “I did not mean to assume, but with the stories, I could not know for sure.”
A thin hand was placed on top of her own and though it came as a surprise, she was not displeased. She sucked in a shaky breath and relaxed on the exhale, “Perhaps we should start once over. I am Thrinó, what is your name?”
Though it was impossible to see it, she could hear the smile in the stranger’s words. “I went by the name Medusa when people still spoke to me. When I was beautiful.”
“Are you not now?” Curiosity spiked Thrinó’s inquiry as she mulled over what may have happened to the eloquent Medusa.
“No, the fate of all who gaze upon my face is sealed. They are stone evermore.” Suddenly Thrinó was tossed back to the unnaturally smooth stone she’d felt on her journey into the darkness. She swallowed back the lump in her throat. A simple, “Oh” was all she could manage. She’d touched a human being. A human being that would never see the daylight again.
Medusa’s words struck her out of her reverie, “But you are blind and are therefore immune, am I correct in my assumption?”
“And now I will not be alone should you stay by my side!” A rush of passion washed over Thrinó when the woman spoke, “You do not have to return to those who cast you in here, do not lie to me because I know the thoughts of your people. A life for a life, no? Why would you wish to go back to them?”
Thrinó was silent for a long span of time and that weighed on her. “No…” She said quietly, “I was teased for my ailment and you have been the only one not to take advantage of that.” A sudden bitterness soured her normally quiet words. Her fingers curled around those encircling hers. In contradiction of the heat of Medusa, the hand that held hers was cold to the touch.
It was then that she felt the rough bandage on her ankle. Her free hand traced over the wound. “I see you’ve also taken care of me.” She observed. “For that I am thankful.”
The two used their endless reservoir of time to become familiar with one another and it was as though both had found home.
Their short comfort was for nought though, when the thunder of footsteps could be heard from one of the many tunnels. Shouts rang through the musty air and Thrinó felt the same fear that she’d had upon entering.
She laid by Medusa, her head supported by Medusa’s outstretched legs. The noises spurred her to sit up. “What is it?” She asked, already knowing the answer.
“Hunters.” The words sent shivers down Thrinó’s spine. Many groups had been sent to kill the woman she now knew as a loved one but none had come back. She was finally aware of what happened to them but still remembered spending long nights imagining what horrors may have befallen them. She felt no remorse if they died this time. What worried her was the size of the party. She knew a few were sent, but none of this proportion. It frightened her.
These thoughts and worries stirred her and the blind woman stood, holding out a hand in the direction she hoped was Medusa’s. “Come. We must leave!” She cried, “They will kill you, possibly both of us!”
The snake-haired woman seemed reluctant about running away but firmly grasped Thrinó’s warm hand. It provided a type of anchor, reminding both women that they were not alone in the world. “Run.” A husky voice whispered in Thrinó’s ear. And so they ran.
Jagged puffs of air were all that could be heard in the tunnel, that and the threatening sound of footsteps behind them. It seemed that no matter how many twists and turns the women made, the hunters were just behind them.
“W-we won’t make it!”
“We must and so we will.”
And it continued as such. Suddenly the hand that clasped Thrinó’s so tightly slipped away. She heard the stumbled and sickening thump of a body along with shouts of excitement. Her heart skipped a beat. Her hands reached out blindly. Footsteps and elated yells surrounded the two. Shaky hands found the monster’s face. Trailed down to find an arrow protruding from the gut. Horrified gasps. Whispered comforts. She cradled Medusa’s head in her lap. Auburn hair brushed over her love’s face as she leaned over her head. Forehead to forehead, heart to heart.
Somewhere far away, Thrinó could hear the hands trying to pull her away. Screams of warnings concerning the monster she held did not reach her. She held tight to the only one who’d shown her what love felt like.
“My precious love, do not fear for me. It- it has been fated. I am only regretful that we did not have more time.” Medusa struggled to say as her body shut down.
“No, do not leave me! I love you, stay and we can leave this place together… please.” Thrinó’s cries of anguish struck her like the same arrow that was now killing her.
“Do not fear, stay alive for me and be the saviour for others like me. I will always be here.” And so were her dying words.
Sobs wracked Thrinó’s body as her terrible loss forced the tears from her eyes. Hunters stared on in confusion at the sight, for how could a monster such as this be loved?
Years had passed since a great monster was felled and whispers of a witch filled the lands. It was said that a woman, red of hair, wandered the world in search of monsters. None truly believed such tales but people could not help but wonder.