The snakes sensed her anticipation. The ones near her face nipped at her skin, while the ones on the top of her head writhed restlessly. Medusa, hands clenched on the railing of the balcony that overlooked the sea, watched as the dot of an incoming ship grew larger.
With a sigh of relief when she saw it was not the ‘hero’ Perseus, her snakes settled down, and she walked down to the shore of her island to welcome her visitors.
A group of women disembarked, Leda and Persephone at the head of their party. Several women let out shrieks when they saw who waited for them and spun around so as not to look Medusa in the eyes.
“Have no fear,” she appeased them. “My gaze only turns men to stone.”
The women turned back, and now they looked on her with wide eyes, their gaze traveling from the snakes on her head, to her wings, all the way down to her sandaled feet.
“Did you get them?” Medusa asked the two women at the head of this army of women.
A young woman, her dark hair held back by a crown of flowers, approached Medusa. Her brown eyes glittered in the spring sunshine, and she held her arms out wide, appreciating the warmth provided by the sun. She closed her eyes and took a breath, before kneeling down and touching the earth. From her spot, the sprout of a narcissus began to emerge.
“Persephone,” Medusa said, trying to urge the young woman to her feet.
Another woman stepped forward, her hair the color of the wheat in the fields, her face dainty, her rosebud mouth turned up in a smile.
“We were able to procure the weapons you desired,” Leda said. “It was as you foresaw. Perseus was easy to enchant, and we left his ship lost in the grey mists.”
“Excellent,” Medusa said, as Persephone rose, a narcissus flower in her hand. Medusa arched a brow which made one of her snakes curl around her forehead. “Persephone, I’m surprised you will pick the narcissus.”
“It is my favorite flower. He will not ruin that for me, not while I am above in the land of the living.”
“He…” Medusa shuddered as she thought of the young Persephone being thrown into Hades’ chariot and dragged, unwilling, to his home in the underworld. She tried again. “If we succeed, he will never touch you again.”
Persephone held up the flower in the palm of her hand and blew on it, releasing it to the wind. “We will succeed. I have brought friends.”
A group of alluring women joined Persephone; they did not speak, but their eyes pierced into Medusa with their pain. Friends of Persephone, the Sirens would be valuable allies.
“Here are the weapons,” Leda said, and she waved for another group of women to come forward. Beautiful and young, all of these women, just the way the gods liked them.
The snakes on Medusa’s head hissed, and her wings spread; her anger rose at the thought of these girls being defiled by the gods.
One of the women knelt before her, holding up a golden helm.
“You do not kneel for me,” Medusa said. “We are all equal here.”
Leda thanked the woman and took the helm from her.
“Hades’ helm of invisibility,” she said, presenting it to Medusa.
One by one, three other women came forward to present what they’d taken from Perseus.
Zeus’ adamantine sword. The polished golden shield of Athena. The winged sandals of Hermes.
“Women! You have done well,” Medusa cried out.
Medusa handled each weapon in turn, and then smiled. These weapons, made for the gods, would now be turned against them.
As the spring days turned warmer, more women came to the island, so many that Medusa could barely contain her rage. It came out through her snakes, their hissing and biting keeping her awake at nights.
The gods would pay.
When Medea and Circe arrived at the island, Medusa knew it was time. They had everything and everyone they needed.
All except for three. The Furies. They would only come when aroused. They would be there when the time came.
The women gathered on the shore, all of them stunning, all of them had been violated by the gods.
“Today we set out to take back our power. To take back our dignity.” Medusa paused, looking out at the women, so many of them. “Look at me!” She held out her arms, her wings unfurled, her snakes snapping in the air above her head like lightning bolts. “I am a monster, something for men to kill for their own glory. And why am I like this? Because I was punished for being raped by a god. I was punished. Not the god who took me against my will.”
A murmur went through the crowd of women.
“How many of you were punished because one of the gods took what he wanted.”
Exclamations from women about what had happened to them. Zeus had visited this one in the form of her husband and raped her. Another had been ravished by Zeus disguised as a shower of gold. Many of them had been tortured and punished by the vengeful Hera, who took out her rage on the women, and not her predatory husband.
The anger and rage swelled like a giant wave, and Medusa was ready to ride that swell to the ultimate end.
Medusa climbed the ramp and onto the ship where the Sirens already waited. She faced the crowd of women. “If any of you want to turn back, now is the time. We go to Olympus and to our fate.”
No one left. Each woman’s face was set with determination, their eyes surveying the horizon, as if eager to be on their way.
Leda and Persephone climbed aboard and flanked Medusa, and they each raised a weapon to the sky, Leda the adamantine sword that had belonged to her tormentor, Zeus. Persephone held Hades’ helm in both hands, and when she raised it high above her, it looked like a decapitated head.
Holding Athena’s polished gold shield, the metal shining so bright in the sun it hurt the eyes, Medusa exclaimed,
The Sirens began to sing, and some of the women instinctively held their hands over their ears. When they saw that the song had not adversely affected their sisters, they looked stunned.
Medusa laughed. “The Siren song works only on men. In their arrogance, the storytellers believed that if something happened to men, it happened to everyone. In their self-righteousness, they believed that if it were true for men, it was Truth. Their hubris will be their undoing.”
Instead of creating unbridled lust in the women, the Siren song called them to action, and gave them hope and courage.
Through Circe’s and Medea’s magic, which cloaked their ships in mists, and with the help of the Sirens, who would turn aside any sailing vessels nearby by creating havoc on the manned ships, the women arrived at last to the land of the gods. The white columns of Olympus shone like bones bleached in the sun.
They were met on the shore by Demeter, and Persephone fell into her mother’s arms, and they wept. Arms still around her daughter, Demeter surveyed the gathered women.
“My daughters,” Demeter addressed the crowd of women. She held out her arms and each woman there felt as if she were being embraced by a mother. Several fell to their knees, weeping tears of despair and joy. Where their tears hit the earth, a green bud sprouted. With Demeter’s help they created life where there had been only pain.
Refreshed, the women joined Medusa, Leda, and Persephone, as they led the way towards Olympus.
At the top of the hill, the gleaming white temple of Olympus looming large before them, the assembly was met at a crossroads by a woman with three heads. A pack of dogs surrounded her, all of them quiet, waiting for her summons.
“Hecate,” Medusa addressed the three-headed woman. “We wish to pass into the hall of Olympus.”
Hecate’s three heads studied the scores of women who had gathered at the base of the temple of the gods.
“Any who wish to turn back, may do so now,” Hecate said, and a golden path appeared that led the way back to the shore and the ships.
“Any who wish to continue forward, must make a sacrifice.”
There was murmuring among the women; they had not brought a sacrifice. Would their quest be thwarted now?
Medusa stepped forward and stood in front of Hecate.
“We have all sacrificed much, Hecate. We have given blood to the gods in plenty. We have born their children. We will sacrifice no more to them. Hear our stories as our offering.”
She started with her story, how she’d been a beautiful young maiden, with hair so alluring all men wanted to touch it. To her misfortune, she drew the attention of Poseidon, and he raped her while she worshiped in Athena’s temple.
“The goddess, upset by the defilement of her temple, turned me into a monster as punishment for the god raping me,” Medusa finished. “I have given my sacrifice to the gods. I will give no more.”
One-by-one the women stepped forward and told Hecate their stories. Even if they spilled no actual blood, the blood of their sacrifices stained the ground all around Hecate.
“It is enough,” Hecate said, as the last woman spilled her story. Hecate raised her hands and her dogs sped away, surrounding Olympus and barking. A distraction.
“Go,” Hecate told Medusa.
With her snakes writhing on her head like a helm, Medusa led the way into the hall of Olympus.
As soon as she threw open the golden doors, the women poured in like a strong current, their wrath carrying them until they surrounded the hall.
Zeus, sitting on his throne, his lightning bolt in his hand, did not flinch. He nodded his head and gave the women a condescending smile. That smile flickered and dimmed when he felt their anger.
When his dark gaze saw Medusa, he had to lower his eyes to the ground; not even the gods were immune to her stony stare.
In that moment, Leda flew forward on the winged sandals of Hermes and pointed Zeus’ own sword at him. As she held him at sword point, Leda gathered power and strength, all the power she’d thought Zeus had taken from her when he’d raped her. That anger was so immense, it stunned the god.
“Call your brothers,” Medusa ordered him.
“I do no woman’s bidding,” Zeus said to the floor. Medusa could see how much it cost him to not be able to deny her to her face.
“I am no woman. I am a monster.” She released her wings, creating a wind storm. The women pushed in closer, their anger heavy and menacing.
“Call your brothers,” Medusa repeated.
In moments, Poseidon appeared like an ocean wave. As soon as he did, Medusa aimed the golden shield at him, and he was blinded. She snatched away his trident and dashed it to the floor. When he tried to look around, he caught sight of Medusa and quickly dropped his gaze.
As quick as a striking snake, Circe used her magic to turn all the women, except Medusa, Leda, and Persephone, into huge serpents, and they wound their way around the two gods, preventing them from escape.
Medea’s magic worked on the stone in the hall, trapping Zeus on his throne, and holding Poseidon fast to the floor.
As the two gods struggled against their bounds, the ground began to shake; a crack appeared and a black chariot drawn by black horses spewed out of it. Hades appeared. When he saw the serpents, and saw his brothers with their heads down, he tried to flee back into the earth.
Two sets of invisible hands grabbed him, yanking him off his chariot; vines wound up his legs, around his waist, out his arms, holding him tight.
Persephone materialized in front of Hades, as she lifted his helm of invisibility from her head. He gasped in shock. Her mother, Demeter, sprouted from the ground like a stalk of wheat, and stood next to her.
“It is your turn to be taken against your will,” Persephone told him. With Demeter’s vines, they dragged Hades to join his brothers.
“You cannot keep us forever,” Zeus told Medusa as he watched his brother’s struggle.
“We do not plan to keep you forever, just…long enough.” She turned to the open golden doors and called out, “Ladies! Come sing your lovely song for the gods.”
The Sirens entered as a group, moving as silently as ghosts, and fanned out so that no part of Olympus would go untouched by their song. As one, they opened their lovely mouths and sang a song so devastatingly beautiful that the gods sagged in their bounds.
“Do you like it, their song?” Leda asked Zeus, still pointing his sword at him. “It is made of pain and suffering and loss. It is ours to release and yours to endure.”
“We do not want it,” Zeus said. He tried to put his hands over his ears, but Medea’s magic held him.
“You do not have a choice,” Leda told him.
The faces of the gods distorted into pain as the Siren’s song penetrated them.
The three brothers, who had cared so little about the world they received that they’d drawn sticks to see who would get which part of it, were on their knees before the women they’d once abused.
The Sirens sang for a long time. Long enough for the gods to know what it was like to be held against their will, to be hurt, to be silenced.
When Medusa gave the signal, Circe turned the serpents back into women. They wanted to face the gods as themselves. They wanted the gods to see their true faces when they met their end.
“You cannot kill us,” Zeus cried out, his eyes on the ground so he would not look into Medusa’s face. Leda remained standing over him, the adamantine sword in her white-knuckled hand.
“Oh, no,” Medusa said as she flew to her place beside Leda, her voice hissing like her snakes. “We do not plan to kill you.”
She enjoyed watching as Zeus’s head twitched, and she wanted him to be able to look her in the eyes, so she could see the flicker of hope in them. She wanted to see the hope of Zeus as it was snuffed out.
“What will you do?” Poseidon asked, as he, too, kept his face averted. His voice churned like the sea during a storm.
“Something worse than death,” Persephone said, the helm of Hades held in the crook of her arm. She’d tucked a narcissus into the helm. Hades sucked in a breath, and he looked at the woman he’d stolen and kept in his underworld against her will. She stood tall and proud before him.
The sound of the Siren song continued to call out in the air around them, keeping the three gods on their knees.
“Witches,” Medusa raised her arms and gestured for Medea and Circe to join her, Leda, and Persephone.
“They cannot hurt us,” Zeus spit out. “We are gods.”
“That is where you are wrong,” Medusa said, her words measured. She walked around the downed gods. “Look around you, gods.” She spit out the word like an insult.
The three gods did not look.
“I said, look around you. Not at me,” Medusa said. “Look at them.”
The three gods raised their heads, taking in the dozens of women circled all around them, their hands joined together.
“Together, we have power. Our rage fuels the magic. With it we can even destroy the gods.”
Medea and Circe raised their hands.
“What are you going to do to us?” Zeus asked.
“What we should have done a long time ago,” Medusa said. “We will take your power.”
“No.” The three gods all howled at once.
“Yes,” Medusa, Leda, and Persephone said together, their voices joining with such strength it sounded like thunder.
“You will take our power and use it against us,” Poseidon would not go down without a fight. His voice dripped with disdain. “You will be no better than us.”
“You are wrong. We will take your power and disperse it into the earth, the sky, the waters. It will be gone. You will be old men, mortal, hoping to die as you roam the world and try to find your missing powers.”
“We will die,” Hades croaked out.
“Yes, you will. It will not take long,” Medusa said.
With a whooshing sound, three figures appeared in the sky. The gods cringed when they saw them. Three winged women with snakes entwined around their arms and waists. Dressed all in black, the Furies wielded whips in their hands. When they saw the three gods on their knees, they let out peals of laughter.
“It is right for them to be powerless,” Alecto said. “As they have preyed on powerless women, so will they become.” She lashed the air with her whip, the snap as fierce and loud as a lightning bolt.
The air turned dark, and the three gods were rendered speechless and motionless.
“Women!” Medea shouted. “Tell your stories. Tell them truthfully.”
The once voiceless women spoke up as one, their voices melding together to tell one ageless story of the gods preying on the young, the beautiful, the innocent. Of punishment by the gods for the hurts they, themselves, inflicted. The women’s voices grew louder, bolder, as they spoke.
The louder the women’s voices grew, the smaller and weaker the gods became. Until they were huddled on the ground, trembling like old men.
The sky lightened, and the Furies disappeared.
“It is done,” Medusa said. She turned to the circle of women. “You can release your hands.”
Some of the women cheered, some cried, some fell to their knees in relief that they would never again be accosted by one of the gods, some hung onto each other, tears falling from their eyes.
Medusa, Leda, and Persephone stood over the three old men, gods no more.
Persephone reached her hand into a small bag she carried on a belt around her waist. Out of it she pulled out six pomegranate seeds. She flung them down at Hades. “No more will I sit on a throne in the underworld. No longer will I be enslaved by you.” Then she walked away.
Leda gave Zeus a look of such disgust, he winced. “Turn into a swan, now, god,” Leda said.
Zeus’s body shivered and twitched, but nothing happened. He was left gasping for breath, and Leda turned her back and walked away from him.
“What will happen now?” Zeus asked Medusa, his gaze averted. His voice was quavering and weak.
She stood tall, spread her wings, and ran her hands over her snakes as if she still had luscious golden hair that fell to her waist. She spun around, taking in all the women.
“It is our time now.”