It is her dedicated service to her goddess that first brings Poseidon's eye to her. It is her extraordinary beauty that keeps it there. He does all the right things to charm her: he compliments her mind and war form; he gifts her with weapons and knowledge; he takes her to the edge of his domain and shows her his creations, horses, as they gallop easily through the surf.
But no matter the seduction, Medusa remains steadfast in her chaste devotion to her goddess.
Little whore, he spits one night, in the temple's main hall, after his latest attempt fails. You will yield to me.
Despite all the battle prowess she has acquired during her years at Athena's temple, she could never win a fight against a god.
A demon, she corrects, broken in the aftermath. Whispers of such loveliness should never be kept hidden echo in her memory like shards of glass.
On Olympus, Athena rages in secret. Her uncle's claims of tender love are false; she can smell the violence on him. She knows her most faithful servant would not betray her. But she is helpless in the face of her father's lusty approval of his brother's actions.
Punish her, Zeus demands. She broke her vows of chastity to you.
Provoked into action, Athena goes to her priestess.
Shh, little one, she murmurs. I know. I failed you once. How can I protect you now?
Make me ugly, Medusa whispers. Make me so ugly no man can ever look at me again. Then send me away. Please.
So Athena passes her hands over her priestess's long, rich hair, creates a cacophony of hissing vipers. Athena strokes her priestess's smooth, dark cheeks and traces her full lips, leaves behind scales and fangs.
My protection, she says bitterly. Any man to see you now will be a man no more.
My thanks, Medusa says.
She makes a home on the rock of an island her goddess gives her. She makes a display of the stones men become when they steal onto her home. She never forgets, but sometimes she touches her only company, ignores their stinging bites, and smiles.