The mountains that the wind and rain from the great ocean in the west roared over and down from to scour the land at their feet were called by men the Mountains of Atlas, for it was whispered that somewhere in their lofty heights, the Titan Atlas held up the heavens upon his back, condemned to that eternal fate by Zeus for having opposed the gods of Olympus in the long-ago. The one in the cave in the foothills of the mountains listened to the storm raging outside, and wondered briefly if the Titan felt as much discomfort exposed to the elements as she now did here. Pain ripped through her again, and she decided his torment could not be nearly as bad as hers. She screamed, and the serpents sprouting from her head grew more agitated.

Had Athene arranged for this storm, Medusa speculated, to add to her misery? The goddess certainly hated her enough; hadn't she already cursed her, taken away everything which brought her joy, and made her a thing of hateful nightmare, an outcast in this wilderness? Medusa had prayed to the goddess, again and again and again, for forgiveness; only silence answered her. She prayed also to Zeus, and Hera, and all those who ruled the world from Olympus' shining summit. And she prayed most fervently to Poseidon, who had come from his kingdom of the sea and loved her, planting within her his seed which now, even in her cursed state, she brought forth. But he too was silent. Even should their child survive its birth - which Medusa doubted - did he not care that its first sight of its mother's face would mean instant its instant death? She screeched, writhed, and grasped her swollen belly, its once creamy white skin now a mottled green and yellow. Her savagely sharp talons drew foul blood where they dug in, the wounds almost instantaneously healing over.

The first victim of Medusa, the day after Poseidon had taken her, had been a girl, one of the newly initiated priestesses in the temple of Athene where she lived and worshipped. When Medusa had looked into a mirror and seen what had happened to her, she had screamed with the purest horror, and the girl, alarmed, had rushed into her chambers, caught sight of her face, and not even had time to scream herself before every inch of her body turned gray and cold, frozen forever in lifeless stone. All others who saw her met the same hideous fate, before Medusa was driven from the city of her birth, alone and feared. She had met no one since then, but doubted that would last.

She looked about her then at the dark walls of the cave she had made her sanctuary as she heard a new sound: Voices. "Medusa...Medusa..." The voices were those of women.

"Who is there?" Medusa demanded, her once lovely voice now a reptilian snarl. The snakes hissed.

"We are the Eileithyiae, Medusa," the voices replied. "We have come to aid you in this painful time."

The Eileithyiae! The sisters that protected and helped ease the suffering of women in labour! "You must know what I have become," Medusa sobbed. "Better my child be born dead than only live long enough to be turned to stone upon first setting eyes on me!" She screeched then like Typhon himself as another spasm, the most violent yet, tore through her.

Still invisible, the Eileithyiae continued to speak to her: "Your child will be immune to your curse, able to look upon you without harm. Poseidon has arranged this, for it is his offspring also."

"So," Medusa gasped, "he does care for what he has brought about. A pity he evidently cannot persuade the rest of the gods to restore my humanity..."

"Alas, that cannot be," the sisters responded, "Athene has willed that you will spend all the rest of your days as you now are, and will settle on no less. But your son will be as perfectly human as you once were..."

OOOOOOOOOOOO

The storm of the night had abated, and now that Mistress Nyx had retired back to Tartarus, the night too had passed, with Helius now riding his charot of blazing gold light across the cloudless sky. And in a cave, a woman who was also a monster held in her scaly arms the form of a male newborn, as utterly and mercifully untouched by her curse as had been promised. Even the snakes of Medusa's head were silent and still as she studied her son's sleeping face, as beautiful to her as that of Eros. "Chrysaor," she whispered, naming him. But would he love her, as hideous as she was, as much as she already loved him...?