Origin: The Truth of Medusa

Titania Tempest
7 min readJan 14, 2024
A bronze and green statue of snakes, remniscent of Medusa.
Image by emsalgado from Pixabay

Deep inside the great Temple of Athena, where owls swooped between marble columns and vipers coiled in peaceful slumber, a lone priestess knelt before the ever-burning altar. Muted firelight chased shadows through her golden hair as she bowed her head to pray, and the hush pressed close, guarding her from the clamour of the outside world. Meticulous, she straightened the luxurious furs she knelt upon and took a deep breath, soft words dripping from her lips. She murmured the mantra thrice over, and then the quiet echo of the call to her goddess flickered and faded. In its wake, silence waited, soft and sweet.

At last, there came a whisper in response — a faint suggestion that fluttered the stone-bowl torches as it ghosted past — and the glowing moonlight seemed to pool thicker upon the temple floor. It brightened, coalesced, and burst upward in a swirl of silver stars.

The priestess kept her chin low, furtively watching the radiance bloom into the magnificence of Athena — tall and proud, bedecked in a flowing blue-and-gold robe that clung to her lithe figure. The goddess cast her gaze about the space and then approached, tilting her noble head to one side as she regarded the meek mortal who had summoned her. Lifting one fine brow, she came to a graceful halt a mere breath away.

“Why so demure, Medusa?” she asked, her voice warm as honey.

Medusa inclined lower beneath her scrutiny. “You are my goddess, naturally I should be demure.”

Athena’s lips twitched, and her eyebrow lifted higher. “And yet… I have other memories of you that are not… quite so.”

The priestess raised her gaze, then, and an impish smile played on her lips. “Indeed, no. You do bring out the worst in me.”

She swept up from her knees, caught the laughing goddess around the waist, and claimed her mouth beneath a searing kiss. Ruby lips met crimson, and the world imploded into the only moment that mattered; their bodies fit perfectly, pressed tight beneath the storm surge of their wanting.

Voice strained, Athena admonished against her ear, “You should not ignite me so!”

But she did not pull away, only threw back her head with a groan as Medusa grazed teeth and tongue down her neck, gasping as she grew volcanic within. With a shudder, she pushed her priestess down against the soft furs beneath the altar, and there, ensconced within the soft vigil of the dark, Medusa explored her needs with artful hands, catching fire herself beneath the goddess’ sultry lips. Laced in scorching harmony, the moment soared, came crashing down in tides, and, at last, grew tender.

Catching their breath, they nestled together, and then Athena sighed and ran a fingertip down Medusa’s cheek. “My dear High Priestess… you’re supposed to be celibate.”

Medusa stole a kiss. “I’ve sworn myself celibate in service to you, so… I’m sure there’s room for interpretation.”

Athena laughed. “I suppose there is.” Her amusement sparkled for a moment more, but then her bright grey eyes turned serious. “In all my aeons, Duse… You have beguiled me as no other. I would smite civilizations for you, if you asked.”

Medusa sobered, propping herself up above the goddess’ prone form. “I’d never ask that of you.”

“Perhaps that’s what I adore about you,” the goddess replied, contemplating her. “I feel strangely… at peace… with you.”

Medusa’s impish smile returned. “Odd, for the goddess of war.”

“Isn’t it just,” Athena agreed, toying with a strand of her golden hair. She kissed her again, long and languorous, before reluctantly rolling to her feet.

“Don’t go,” Medusa whispered, so softly it made Athena’s heart ache.

But she replied, “I must. If anyone were to discover us… I have already dallied too long in your sweet company.”

Medusa got to her feet, forlorn. She slipped her arms around Athena to gift her one last kiss, laced with endless yearning. Quietly, she said, “I hope I will see you soon.”

“You shall,” Athena promised, as she melted away.

Medusa’s arms fell limp as the goddess disappeared, but she raised her chin — she would not weep for her heavy heart. She was the High Priestess of the Order of Athena, and she’d be damned if she’d give her goddess’ secrets away. Besides, she had duties to attend to. Slow steps bore her the length of the temple, skirting sleeping snakes, and she tended to the great stone braziers, cleansing their wicks and polishing the marble of the pedestals that bore them. She had almost reached the last when an owl swooped low over her head with a sharp warning screech; a prickle slipped down her spine in response, and she whirled.

In the deep dark near the entrance, a shadow stood. Watching her.

Instantly, she raised her ire. “Who dares trespass here?”

A deep, throaty chuckle answered her, and she stiffened as a tall, broad-shouldered man stepped forward into the flickering light.

No, not a man.

A god.

Medusa swallowed as she recognised him, but she set her jaw. “This is the Temple of Athena.”

“I’m well aware,” Poseidon mused. He prowled forward, something predatory in his strange, oceanic eyes. “And yet… it seems hardly to be a temple at all.”

Wary, Medusa backed away. “What do you imply?”

Poseidon closed the gap suddenly, snatching her wrist. “Oh, I think you know.”

The priestess’ blood ran cold. He couldn’t mean — ?

Before she could pull free, he caught a vice grip around her waist. “Seems more like a den of iniquity to me,” he growled, pulling her against him. “But you know… a pretty little thing like you is wasted on her.”

She fought, then, like a wildcat. But it was too late, he was too strong — he slammed her against a pillar, pinned her hands above her head and tore her dress apart.

Hot against her ear, he leered, “My turn.”

Athena stood with eyes narrowed against the stain of distress hanging in the air; wicks burned low, interrupting the hollow silence with sickly hissing. Something was wrong. Slowly, she moved forward — until a silhouette stirred against the shadowed base of a grand pillar. The goddess froze, suspicious, but a glint of gold caught mutely in the sputtering torchlight. Her eyes flew wide, and a rare panic caught within her.

“Medusa!”

She flung herself towards the priestess, but Medusa flinched beneath her touch, shying away with a startled cry. Athena stumbled to a halt, disarmed by her sobbing, disturbed by her broken spirit. She bit at her lip and hovered, not wishing to frighten her further.

“Duse, darling, it’s me…”

“Th-Thea…?”

“Oh, my love!” Athena’s voice broke. “What happened?”

Medusa shrank back against the pillar’s solidity. “P… Poseidon…”

Athena fell still. “Poseidon… did this to you?”

Medusa nodded — but reached for Athena’s arm to stay her as she bridled. The goddess paused, caught between anguish and fury.

“Wait, Thea,” Medusa whispered, clutching at her sleeve. “You cannot… go to war over a mortal — it’s what he wants. The sea will rise, and Athens will fall.”

Athena fisted her hands — desperate to touch her, and yet terrified to. “Athens be damned!”

Medusa swallowed her anguish, digging deep for fortitude. “You don’t mean that. Goddess of War you may be, but of Wisdom also; vengeance is not worth the lives of an entire city.”

The goddess faltered, then, feeling helpless for the first time in her long existence. Of course, Medusa was right — and if Poseidon had discovered her covert affair with one of her own priestesses… Well, the truth was before her, etched onto her lover’s haunted face.

“Oh, Heart,” she lamented, dropping to her knees beside her. “How are you possessed of so much courage?”

Medusa moved tentatively into her arms, averse to the contact, yet craving their refuge. “If you challenge him, he has won. I do not want anyone else to suffer.”

“But what of you, my love?” Athena murmured, embracing her.

Medusa shuddered, buried her face against Athena’s chest, and breathed deep her sweet, comforting scent. “Doubtless, I’ll not sleep — for I will ever see him when I close my eyes. Always, I will be afraid lest he returns, but at least… perhaps… I can spare others their nightmares.”

“I do not want you to live in fear.” Athena pressed a fervent kiss to the top of her golden hair and then held her at arm’s length with a thunderous expression upon her regal face. “I will give you the power to defend yourself.”

Medusa met her gaze with a faint, desperate hope. “How?”

The goddess loosed one hand and conjured the image of a monster — serpent-bodied, lithe, and strong, with a human torso and snakes for hair. The venomous face was dauntless, frightening as it bared its teeth in defiance, and an explosive gasp escaped the priestess — lent force by the possibilities she saw in the demon’s eyes.

Athena’s fingers wove immeasurable cosmic power. “None may approach you, nor even look upon you, without inviting swift and certain doom,” she said. “I will gift this to you, my love — but only if you wish it.”

Medusa found herself mesmerised by the creature’s hypnotic stare, enraptured by its indomitable vitality.

But she wavered. “If I were to become such a monster, how… could you love me?”

Athena tilted her beloved’s chin with a fingertip, breaking her gaze from the phantom.

“I do not adore you only for your beauty, darling,” she whispered. “But fear not, when I am near enough to protect you, then shall you be who you truly are.”

Still, Medusa was not convinced. “But… I will harm others?”

“Only those who would seek to harm you.”

The priestess met the goddess’ ethereal gaze, drowned in it. Athena’s face was creased with love and worry — for her — and the ache of it crashed against her already battered heart. She could protect herself — and thus her goddess — from further strife at Poseidon’s hands. At last, she cupped those proud cheeks.

Her whisper trembled through the dark, carrying a last tentative zephyr of hope. “As you command, my Goddess. Make it so.”

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Titania Tempest

Author of Paper Daffodils, a sweet and sassy late-life lesbian romcom. Also currently working on a High Fantasy trilogy featuring sapphic sorceresses.