The god of all the oceans and seas left her in a puddle of water on the harsh sand of the beach. She saw, through burning eyes, as he turned into water and merged with the ocean. She lay on the wet sand, cold and shaking and her wrists ached from where he had bound them together with an ice-cold whip made of the water he ruled over. Her legs bore marks after his hands and teeth. Her once untouched cave burned, and yet it was a cold burn. The god had left no place unused, the back had not been spared, nor had her mouth.
Her dress hung in torn stripes down her body as she slowly, painfully, got to her feet. The world spun, and she almost fell back down. She had to get to the temple. The goddess would help her. She had to-
They came out of nowhere. The men from the village. Five pair of eyes, hard and of ill-meaning, gazed on her. She froze. Inside, she was screaming as they pushed her down.
Hands groped her aching body, hard members bruised her, mouths licked her. She wanted to scream, but she was still and unmoving as stone.
She lost all account of time. They left her on the beach, dress all but gone and with more bruises and more hurt.
It was the soft hooting of an owl that made her sit up. The animal sat on the sand, a few steps away and looked at her, yellow eyes unblinking. The goddess's companion, the link between her and the humans. Slowly, trembling, she crawled towards the grey and white bird.
"Goddess… mighty and wise Athena… please… please help me."
The owl called out, spread its wings. The light blinded her. Blinking, she watched the shimmering silhouette of the goddess take form, clothed in a toga, long red hair loose and bright down her back.
"Medusa… my priestess… your pain is mine, little sister. What help can I give to ease it?" the goddess spoke softly, and still the power in her very being overthrew Medusa.
"Mighty goddess… one god and five human men have all violated me because they find me beautiful. If this is the price to pay for beauty, I do not want it! If beauty renders me still as stone when in ill times, I cast it away. Please goddess, I'll serve you with even more of my heart than before, help me!"
The shimmering goddess bowed her head. "You already serve me with all of your heart, sister. I will gladly offer my help to you. Men will no longer find you tempting, and you will never again be still as stone in ill times. Look in the water of the well in my temple, little sister, and you shall see my wonder on you."
The reflection that stared back at her was, if not hideous, then not appealing. Medusa saw nothing but perfection.
Her hair, once golden as wheat, was now a nest of snakes, small and thin ones, long and thick ones, in all the colours that existed. They slithered around her shoulders and hissed happily in her ear.
Once brown, her eyes blinked back at her, yellow and with vertical black pupils, much like the eyes of the snakes that accompanied her.
Her nose had shrunken back and flattened out in her face, and now all that was were two slits, also much like the snout of a snake.
"Thank you, goddess, thank you," she whispered and bowed low. Her snakes hissed in happy agreement, a few licked her cheek, others slithered around her shoulders and neck, happy to be with her.
The first time she discovered what the goddess had meant by you will never again be still as stone in ill time was when of the men who had violated her on the beach, came to her when she was at the market place, looking for an urn to bring to the temple.
He pushed her up into a little alley and held her wrists together. Rage, ice cold and unyielding, filled her and she looked straight into his dark eyes. He stilled, froze and, in the blink of an eye, turned to a grey statue of stone before her eyes.
She returned to the temple with an urn for the altar, and an olive branch for the goddess, which she laid upon the altar together with a prayer of thanks.
The high priestess came to see her on the evening of the full moon, holding the scroll and the olive branch. Medusa felt honoured and glad, and bowed low to the ground. The snakes hissed happily. She took the scroll and the olive branch, walked into the deepest part of the temple and unlocked the heavy double doors.
The room was round and small. Nothing adorned it, but a fire that burned eternal in the middle, surrounded by stones. Medusa sat down, unrolled the scroll and began to read.
The last prayer left her lips just as the full moon took its place exactly above the rounded opening of the roof. Medusa put the scroll directly in the fire, watched as the fire roared and the smoke turned black. When the scroll was no more, she lifted the olive branch, kissed it and put it into the fire. The smoke was balm to her nose, sweet smelling and white.
"My love, goddess, to you," the priestess whispered and bowed her head. Her snakes hissed softly. An owl screeched in the night. Medusa smiled.
The temple of the goddess lay in ruins. Humans had lost fate. Medusa made the ruins her home, put together stones and broken pieces of wood to form a little spot for herself.
To shield her home, she put out the statues of the men she had turned to stone all over the room that had once been the centre of the palace. She pulled fallen tree trunks from the riverside and placed them out as well, adding to the look of abandonment and danger.
For many years, she lived in the ruins. She turned more men to stone, foolish men who thought they could dispose of her.
She prayed to the goddess and her kind, never once lost her fate, for she had seen first-hand the magic of belief.
The woman was poor, hurt and alone. Medusa watched her for many days, put out food for her, kept her safe, before she showed herself. She was as always prepared to turn and flee if need be.
The woman smiled, and something fell into place. Her name was Kassandra, and she turned out to be a companion fit for a gorgon; witty and caring and sharp as stone.
They lived in the ruins for many years. Kassandra grew old. Medusa did not. Still, they shared companionship that warmed the gorgon's heart.
When Kassandra went on to join the spirits, Medusa turned her body into stone, cherishing the statue; she never once let the stone wither.
The other companion the gorgon found was also a woman, a shy but sweet darling who called herself Felicity.
They went on long walks and Medusa taught the young human about the old ways of the goddesses, only mentioning the gods in passing – they were all men and had wronged so many.
Felicity offered her most prized possession to Athena one night when the moon was a full silver orb in the clear night sky; a medallion given to the human by her mother.
Medusa never knew what prayer Felicity hade offered the goddess, and it did not matter, because Felicity was happy.
But, as with every human, Felicity had a limit to her time. Medusa waited and cared for her lover as she had with Kassandra.
She lived alone with the two statues for many years afterwards, her heart too fragile to take in another in its room.
When Medusa met the third human that spoke to her heart, the world had changed even more, and her home in the ruins were since long covered in greenery and stone dust.
Diana did not seem to mind, although she was at first mildly taken aback by Medusa's story. Nonetheless, they lived happily, until Diana confessed to wanting children.
Medusa, remembering an old tale from her time, offered one of her snakes – one of her oldest pet snakes, not her hair snakes – to the goddess, after having asked the old animal if it would help her, asking for Diana's wish to be fulfilled.
That night, when they shared a bed once again, Medusa felt the old magic of the goddess shroud them.
Many moons later, Diana bore a child. The little one had her human mother's eyes but bore the same snake-hair as Medusa. The three of them lived happily for many years. Little Kyla grew, and Medusa taught the child the power of the Stonestare, as well how to speak with the snakes that guarded her.
Diana taught the child the ways of the humans, simple and kind and with a patience as old as the statues in Medusa's garden.
When Diana, old and tired but happy, passed away, Medusa did not turn her to stone, for the human had begged her not to.
Instead, Medusa and her daughter buried their lover and mother together under the old oak that stood guard just by the entrance to the cave they lived in.
Years passed, and around the oak, buttercup flowers grew in a circle; the flower that Diana had so loved, protecting the cave.
Medusa set her daughter free into the world but chose to stay in her ruin home.
The gorgon took many lovers as more years passed. Most were women, for she did not trust men. The few men that she did take to her bed, ended up in her garden when she was done, for they all tried to banish her from the world.
Only one man escaped this fate. A kind and generous soul, Gaius. He was blind and saw her fully through touch. He spent some time with her, and when he left, he gave her his walking stick to remember him by.
Medusa later learned that Gaius had fallen in a quarrel with other men who wanted to know her hiding place. Gaius had never spoken a word.
Moons passed, and Medusa bore a child, a girl whom she named Gaia.
Gaia, for reasons unknown to her gorgon mother, did not inherit Medusa's powers. Still, they shared a strong love, and once Gaia left to join a woman in a village, Medusa felt content.
Years later, Gaia came to her, and she brought a child whom she had with the woman in the village. The child was of the Stoneblood, and Medusa decided that it must be a blessing from the goddess; a female descendant from her could bear a child with a woman, and only then would the Stoneblood live on.
Medusa no longer remembered how many eons she had walked the earth, but she had seen the world change, die and be reborn many, many times. She never thought it got better.
She was tired but felt no desire to perish. She felt a need to stay if her descendants should need her.
Through her many children, she spread small clues about how to find her cave, and then, one full moon, she sat down by the statues of Kassandra and Felicity, and sank into herself, calling on the powers of Stone, asking to be confined in sleep, undisturbed and unbreakable, until a descendant woke her up.