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Medusa: Fate's Game Ch. 03

by NovusAnimus 02/13/18

Author's Notes:

Thanks for all the comments and e-mails. Please keep them coming. Writers fuel themselves on comments. It makes me happy people enjoy my portrayal of Medusa!

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~~Darian~~

The journey was not as easy as he'd been hoping. It was a fool's hope to think it'd be a casual stroll down in the country, but still, he had pictured himself in a simple tunic with Medusa beside him, walking at leisure wherever they desired. Instead, he was weighed down in armor with provisions and a bedroll strapped to his back, not to mention a shield, a sword, and a spear.

He looked at the beautiful creature next to him, his one saving grace on this fool's quest. Medusa kept her snake eyes on the horizon, and her bow at an easy place to draw by her shoulder; he didn't need to teach her to be watchful, she'd long figured out how to do that on her own. Maybe she wouldn't mind if he strapped his packs to some of her snake length, like a pack-mule gorgon? The idea made him chuckle under his breath, but he kept it to himself.

"Not a sssoul for miles," Medusa said. She hissed a lot less than she used to, but every so often her long tongue would get stuck.

"Traveling has largely gone unchanged since you were last here. People still hate roads and a take boat when they can, with roads as a last resort. No one travels far without a nearby city to rest at an inn. So out here, in the open country, it's just us, the animals, and our quarry."

"Are we hunting this Chimera?"

"In a sense. I doubt he'll just decide to help us after all. We'll probably have to force him," he said. The idea of forcing the Chimera to do anything seemed difficult, or impossible. But that, he admitted to no one but the quiet of his mind, was part of the allure. The last time he'd dealt with the beast, it had become an epic battle, one that had nearly killed both him and Pegasus. So why was he looking forward to it? Much as he hated the Fates, he was still addicted to the thrill of an epic quest.

He knew he'd have to offer the Chimera to join him in his future meeting with Athena as a bargaining tool. The beast had just as much reason to hate the gods as he did after all. But if he did that, the animal could very well compromise the real purpose of the meeting: helping Medusa. He gritted his teeth and repeated it several times in his head. Help Medusa, help Medusa. The meeting with Athena is for her.

"How did you defeat him when you fought him?"

"I smashed the side of his face in with a rock... after I'd stabbed him a dozen times."

She turned her head to stare at him, as did her snake hair. He shrugged and gave her his cocky smile.

"This Chimera sounds... terrifying."

"Yeap."

"And immortal."

"Maybe."

"B... but! But you are a hero blessed by the Fates, and I am no weakling. We can defeat him, I'm sure. I'm sure..." Medusa's voice started to waver, and she unhooked her bow to hold it ready in both hands. She was nervous.

He wanted to tell her to brighten up, everything would be fine, but it'd be a lie. This fight was liable to get him killed if he made even the smallest mistake.

A smile crept onto his face. He had to look away to hide it, and force it down. But images of his battle with the beast danced in his mind, and made him smile yet again.

"Are you alright?"

"Fine! Fine, just..." He knocked himself in the temple a couple of times and shook his head a few more. "Fine."

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It took a day of walking, but not long after dawn of the next day, the grassy hills and short forests broke way into a rocky basin. A huge crater as wide as Medusa's whole island, and as deep as the mountain, was cut into the plains as if Gaia herself had scooped it open like a child playing with sand. Few trees and only some shrubs grew along the edge of the massive crater, and they stopped all together after thirty or forty feet deep into its awaiting maw. Nothing but rock waited below.

"That... is a huge hole in the ground," Medusa said.

He couldn't help but laugh.

"I remembered the Chimera saying he came from this land, deep in the earth. I'd seen this crater before when Pegasus and I explored this region. I remembered... that." He pointed down to the base of the crater, deep and deeper into its shadow. There was a cave.

"We-we're going down there?"

"I am. I... want to tell you to stay here, but you won't."

Medusa slithered closer to him and shook her head, eyes wide and frowning. "I won't!"

"And it'd be really selfish of me to ask you stay behind, in case you got hurt."

"It would!"

He put up his hands in surrender. "Alright alright, just stay behind me." At least she'd agree to that.

The crater's side, barely more than a cliff face, had enough of a slope with various flat steps that they could more-or-less walk down. Each step had to be careful, any mistake would mean falling down a mountain side. After spending as long as he had working in a quarry, the touch of stone on his hands was oddly comforting. He'd hated working in that quarry, but he was good at it, and it'd been, despite the curse of it all, a nice distraction from the life he'd left behind. Forced to leave behind.

It took time to reach the bottom, and the path took them down in a spiral around the crater. Darian kept looking behind him to see if Medusa was handling the slopes well, but he found himself surprised. Her long body had better grip on the rock and stone than his sandals did. He really needed to stop worrying about her so much, before his worry got him killed, looking behind when he should have been looking forward.

The lower they went down, the hotter it got. The ridiculous armor the Fates arranged for him kept him cool — surprising given its black color — but Medusa was another matter. Again he was worrying about her, and he glanced back over his shoulder to see if the heat was getting to her. He slipped.

"Darian!"

"Fine, fine." Hating himself for his stupidity, for doing what he just told himself to not do, he leaned over the edge to watch the rocks he knocked over fall. They made more than a little noise, cracking against stone and knocking other rocks around to only repeat the chain of unwanted noise, all the way down to the bottom of the pit. He gulped, and waited.

Nothing, not a rumble or a groan. He would have wiped the sweat off his brow if it wasn't for his helmet.

It took another fifteen minutes of slow descent to reach the bottom. The cave was natural, and low-hanging. He'd figured the monster would have lived somewhere with a much taller ceiling, but the cave was only four feet tall. He couldn't fight in there; not that he'd want to. It was pitch black in its depths.

He looked at Medusa, and she looked back at him with the same surprise and a shrug.

"He can't be a very big creature, living in there," she said.

It took all his will to not burst into laughter.

The area around them was several hundred feet wide, circular, a good place for a fight. And there would be a fight. The ground beneath him was hard stone covered in a shallow layer of pebbles, making each step both slippery and brutal to fall on. The edges of the crater were sloped upward, so he might be able to use it as a wall for some maneuvers. The sun was starting to enter the canyon's eye, so he'd have several hours of light if needed. He took stock of anything and everything he thought he might need, and pointed at them with his spear for his mental checklist.

He looked at his spear in hand, long, shaft of the same irregular color as the rest of his equipment, with a coil of silver moving down its body. He looked at his shield, the silver thread drawn onto its face, and checked its weight and balance against his arm; not big enough for a phalanx, but more than enough to defend himself in one-on-one combat. Stabbing the spear shaft into the ground, he reached over to draw his sword, and took a moment to look at the grip. It too looked like thread, and his fingers had good traction against the grip of the short blade. Short enough for a Spartan warrior's more upfront and direct combat. He sheathed the sword, removed his pack, tossed it to the side, and removed his helmet from his head. He held the glorious, disgusting thing in his hands, and turned it over to look at the beautiful silver etchings in the obsidian design. It exposed only his eyes, and a vertical slit down the center to show a sliver of his mouth when worn. Atop its crown it displayed a great white crest, made of something Darian did not believe to be from a natural animal. He put the helmet back on, got to a knee, and touched the ground beneath him. The canyon bed was loose rocks, pebbles, and jagged harsh gravel. The air was dry, and deep in the crater, it was dead silent.

Images of what he would do flooded his mind, where he could roll, where his greaves would protect him against the rough terrain, and where they would not. Where he could sustain a blow with his shield, and where he could not. He breathed deep his battlefield, and stood back up.

"Medusa, I'm going to handle this fight, if I have to fight. Stay back, and—"

"I know, I know, don't intervene."

He turned to look at her, brow quirked. "What? No, of course intervene! If I'm about to die, I expect you to save me!"

He smiled — best in the world — and she erupted into giggles. Such a lovely sound to hear from a beautiful woman.

"Darian, this is no time for jokes! I..." She went silent.

Pebbles, rocks, and the grinding of stone against them. It started quiet, just a bit of background noise, but it grew closer, and closer, until the echo of rocks being knocked aside filled the cave before them. The crater held the sound around their ears, and soon it was like listening to a huge wagon fighting against the rocks of a cliff, dragging stone to scrape stone.

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