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The Daughter of War - Chapter 19: The Forbidden Child

by Ley


Chapter 19: The Forbidden Child

Josephine heard stories about Medusa. Her island of exile laid right across Serpent Waters on the south side of Olympus’ gates. The lore of the forgotten deity was simple: she was once a beautiful and powerful woman, but the Gods turned her into a monster despite her inability to control the events in her life.

Medusa became who she was because of Athena. Many men vied for Medusa as her beauty was unique among mortals. Because of her position and her beauty, Poseidon took an interest in her. Poseidon and Athena were rivals. Seeing Medusa, Poseidon hatched a plan to get back at Athena. He humiliated Athena by raping Medusa on the steps of her temple. At this point, the Sea God left his victim on the temple’s steps, weak, vulnerable, and alone. Medusa, fearing the worst prayed for forgiveness from Athena.

However, Athena was enraged and cursed Medusa for betraying her and her oath as a priestess. Medusa was to turn any man or woman she laid eyes on to stone. She was no longer to be beautiful; she was to have snakes for hair.

If that wasn’t punishment enough, Athena also banished her from society to a faraway island where she would live her cursed days alone. The island known as Medusa’s Exile. It was said to be an island filled with fire, ash, snakes, and vast obsidian mountains that spanned for miles. Most men and women alike that tried to venture there either disappeared in Serpent Waters, or never returned from the island. Josephine was bold for even trying this quest alone.

Josephine’s intentions when heading to Medusa’s Exile were clear—Medusa wasn’t just known for her betrayal to Athena, she was also despicably smart and cunning. She knew that the only one who would know a way out of the whole ‘Champion’ thing would be the Serpent Queen herself. Josephine could resort to visiting Athena, like Theseus had recommended, but she decided against it. Athena would report directly to Zeus.

She approached Serpent Beach.

The vast ocean didn’t look intimidating, nor dangerous. But Josephine knew better. She was taught by Aphrodite that the waters were more than deadly and were the home to more than thirteen different types of sea-serpents, which were known to be huge beyond imaginable. If she tried to row her way across, she would surely end up dead.

The sun had finished setting, and the mountains on Medusa’s Island were barely visible in the distance.

She thought back to teleporting to the Grande Hall after defeating Hermes. She could try her best to aim for Medusa’s Exile, but there was a good chance that she’d fail and end up somewhere else instead.

After walking along the beach, looking for some way across Serpent Waters, she came across a baby-blue lighthouse. It looked rather worn down and vacated, but a tiny light that shone through the dark windows at the very top proved otherwise.

Josephine placed one foot on the creaky wood steps and felt the tangible magic that was sewn through the landmark flow through her body—most likely a trap or indicator for visitors—used by whoever owned or inhabited the lighthouse. Nothing happened, though, so she continued her walk up the stairs and knocked on the rusted metal door.

The waves crashed behind her as the door opened and the man that stepped into view shone a torch towards Josephine’s face, revealing her now puffy eyes and swollen cheeks, “Where do you belong, girl?” The man bellowed, burping up to be what smelled like whiskey. Josephine grimaced and took a step back, holding her hand up to cover her eyes from the sudden light.

“I am looking for a way to Medusa’s Exile,” She countered.

The man paused for a split second before narrowing his eyes in her direction, taking in her godly features and divine energy. He lowered the torch slightly and stepped aside, the door creaking open even more, “It’s been centuries since I’ve had visitors, especially ones as divine as you. Please, come in.”

Josephine was somewhat confused by the man’s sudden change of attitude but abided. It was getting cold, and being outside next to Serpent Waters at night wasn’t the best idea—survival wise. She stepped into the doorway, surveying the small desk that sat in the narrow circular room. An old winding staircase led up, infinitely to the top where another room laid; the room with the light that Josephine had originally seen. The interior of the lighthouse was more than plain; it looked like someone’s workspace.

The man grunted and shut the door behind her, waddling over to the wood bookshelf to the left of her. He took a swig of the almost empty whiskey liquor that was oddly placed next to countless books about Serpents. It dawned on Josephine who the man really was—a disciple of Poseidon, a guard for the seas. The man swallowed the dark liquor hard before glancing back at Josephine, “Normally, I wouldn’t do this, you know. Being here—alone—it takes a toll on you. I haven’t had any human interaction for years. I doubt his Lord would mind if I helped a fellow goddess out,” Josephine stayed still and listened to him, resting most of her body weight on her left leg. He continued, “But, I’m afraid there’s no way across Serpent Waters, unless you’re a son or daughter of Poseidon. Or, you’re of Athena’s kin—which I can obviously tell you are not.”

Josephine sighed loudly. Of course, she needed Jase for this. He would easily be able to cross, but she wasn’t willing to go to him and ask for another favor. Especially since they shared an intimate moment that left her flustered, “Are you sure there isn’t another way? I’m willing to pay you.”

His eyes seemed to glisten at the mention of money, but slowly dimmed when he realized that he wouldn’t be able to spend it, “I’m afraid that money is of no use for me. I am to stay here for the rest of my life, guarding these waters. But…” The man glanced to the right of them, eyes landing on a telescope that looked rusted and worn out, “…I could possibly take you there. For something in return, of course. Nothing is free. My boundaries lie just beyond this coast and to the other end of the island you seek. It shouldn’t be a problem.”

Josephine was skeptical but was more than inclined to hear him out. This may be her only chance to sneak away from Olympus, “I’m listening.”

A small, lopsided grin formed on his aging face. He paced over to the stairs and lifted his head in invitation for Josephine to follow, “My name is Pelagius. It means of the sea.”

A son of Poseidon, maybe? Although, if he was purely divine, Pelagius wouldn’t be this aged. Most likely a demi-god, Josephine conclusioned, “Josephine. It means shall grow.”

The demi-god’s smile grew as he led her up the stairs, “I like you already, Josephine. Who is your parent?”

Josephine hesitated and bit her lip, her voice lowering just slightly, “Aphrodite and Ares.”

Pelagius stopped his crooked walk up the stairs and glanced behind him. He wobbled and had to hold onto the molded wood handle, “You are a forbidden child.”

Josephine hadn’t heard those words in a while. She looked at the stairs beneath her, refusing to make eye contact with her new acquaintance. It hit her like a brick, the memories of her mother holding her at such a young age. Josephine’s tiny hands gripping her mother’s long golden hair as they sat before the council. She remembered her father’s eyes drilling into her soul, as if he wasn’t sure if Josephine was even real. The sound of Zeus’ voice cracked in her mind as Pelagius spoke again, but all she could hear were her grandfather’s words—

“It seems we have a case of infidelity,” Zeus said, surrounded by all eleven gods, excluding Aphrodite, who was now under Trial for having an affair with Ares during her marriage to Hephaestus, “A forbidden child. Who would like to take responsibility for this?”

Josephine’s father stood to his feet, eyes now moved downwards in shame, “I will, father. The child is of my blood.”

Hera gasped, followed by Athena and Apollo, “Silence!” Zeus bellowed, stepping down from his pedestal and striding towards his now trembling Son. He striked with ease, landing an easy blow on Ares’ neck, causing the god of war to fall to his knees and scream in agony. Lightning flashed in each direction, causing Aphrodite to cower over Josephine and cover her eyes.

“Please!” Her mother screamed, watching as her lover was punished, “Do not punish him! Punish me, my Lord! It is my fault; I am the one who is willed to marriage. Do not punish Ares for my wrongdoings.”

Josephine couldn’t help but cry, her screams echoing throughout the throne room, “Get her out of here,” Zeus replied as he gritted his teeth towards the Goddess of Beauty, “I never want to see her again. Do you understand?”

“Ah, not so fast, my love,” Hera joined in, her long brown hair braided intricately down her bony back, “I believe some punishment needs to be in order. As the Goddess of Marriage, I believe that Aphrodite should face Hephaestus. Let him to decide how she shall be punished.”

She snapped out of it, finding herself laid out in a damp bed. Her vision restored to Pelagius’ head hovering over her, “What the hell, girl? You, okay?” She hazily placed a hand over her forehead, only to feel that her skin was soaking wet. She sat up quickly and her face turned a bright red as she got to her feet.

“Please tell me you didn’t catch me and then carry me up all those steps,” Josephine said.

“Well, no. Not quite. We’re right near the ocean, so I asked it to help you. It brought you upstairs with no problem,” Pelagius sat down in the rolling chair connected to his desk, flicking the light to a lower, more soothing setting, “You really should sit down.”

Josephine hastily sat back down on the bed, finally taking in the awkwardness of how uncomfortable she was in soaking wet clothes. It would dry, soon enough, but it didn’t feel right to sit on Pelagius’ bed in them. Either way, the demi-god didn’t seem to care, so she dismissed the thought. She hadn’t thought about that memory in a long, long time…but he jogged it, and she faced the consequences.

The demi-god studied her intently and continued talking, “What was that all about, if you don’t mind me asking? I’m sorry if I pulled a string that I shouldn’t have—”

“It’s fine,” Josephine said, running a hand through her now unbound blonde hair, “What did you need from me?”

She could tell that he wanted to pry, as would anybody else who was cooped up around a lighthouse for a thousand years. She didn’t blame him for wanting in on the family drama. But she wasn’t in the right state of mind to speak openly about it to him. She just met him and didn’t trust him fully just yet.

Pelagius hesitated but started to speak, “I have a map,” the demi-god pulled out a yellow sheeted piece of cloth, covered in markings and dots and arrows, all pointing towards Medusa’s Exile, “There’s a relic inside Medusa’s home. It belongs to my Lord, Poseidon. We’ve been looking for it for centuries: a long, sheathed trident with engravements of sea and air. Unfortunately, when Poseidon had his affair with Medusa… she stole it. Father didn’t realize it was gone until… well, until she was gone.”

“Why doesn’t he just go back and get it himself? Surely, he’s more powerful than Medusa,” Josephine wondered, her thin eyebrows creasing. What about the relic was so important? And why would he ask her, instead of a noble from Olympus?

“Oh, he’s tried,” Pelagius explained, spreading the map out on the desk, “She has hidden it. She will only talk to women, so I couldn’t help myself from asking you. No woman has ever met Medusa face-to-face after she’d been cursed, besides Athena. She is exiled for a reason, you know. She’s too dangerous for the eye.”

“So, you want me to go there and ask her about the relic, and then request for it back?”

“No, of course not,” he scoffed, “I just need you to find out where it is, that way my father can retrieve it. He will thank you dearly for it. In return, I will take you to her so you can find whatever you’re looking for. Deal?”

Josephine thought about it, but she really didn’t have any other choice. She tapped her finger on her knee. Medusa would help her immensely when it came to knowledge on how to get out of being Olympus’ devoted Champion, “Deal.”

~

Pelagius led Josephine to Medusa’s Exile by boat. Josephine watched as the demi-god summoned the materials to build it—and adored how simplistic it seemed to piece it together. He did it with ease, leaving Josephine in awe. They rowed and rowed over the currents, pushing harder with each stroke of the wooden paddles. Every once and a while she could spot the fins of a Serpent, or the tail of a Mer person. The Mer, or Sirens, were known to inhabit not only the Cove, but also the broadest depths of the ocean floor. Thankfully, she was with a son of Poseidon, so all of the creatures they came across were yielding.

Josephine tried not to think about finding Poseidon’s relic. A sword—Pelagius had said. How was she supposed to bring that up without jeopardizing her own life?

They arrived at the rocky shore of Medusa’s Exile. Josephine observed the broad landscape of cloudy obsidian mountains, surrounded by what looked like burning lava. A temple laid just beyond the first dip of terrain, about a mile from where Pelagius dropped her. The demi-god didn’t say anything but nodded his head, and started rowing away as Josephine took her first step onto the coal invested beach.

It was warmer on the Island. As Josephine walked, she highly regretted not asking Persephone to come along with her. Josephine hated snakes. With every turn, she spotted a snake—either curled up in a spiral on the path or creeping out of the numerous holes in the mountain walls next to her. The pathway to Medusa’s Keep was just beyond this path, but it was super narrow, and Josephine started to feel extremely claustrophobic. She didn’t understand why there even was a path; being as nobody ever actually made it to see Medusa, but she was grateful that there was some sort of direction imprinted on the Island. Otherwise, she’d probably end up lost.

For some reason, the sun didn't set in the distance of the island, and there was still a sliver of sunlight remaining, which shined down on the luring temple that she walked towards. 

She avoided each and every slithery reptile that she came across, and they did the same to her. It’s like they were tamed—house pets, per-say.

Josephine reached the steps of Medusa’s Temple after a short trek, and hesitated before she knocked on the door. It was a beautiful temple, but it seemed to be withered and broken down over time. Faceless marble statues surrounded the entryway, inscriptions and carvings were drawn into the stone walls of the foundation. The air smelled of chalky dust as well as earthy scents like dead leaves and burning wildfire.

Nobody answered, so she knocked again.

No answer.

She knocked again, this time a little harder.

Josephine could hear the muffled sound of footsteps coming from behind the door.

And then there she was. Standing in front of Medusa herself, the woman who was known to turn man into stone. The Gorgon was dressed in an all-black dress that ran down to her ankles, and a bonnet covered her head. Josephine noticed the snakes moving underneath it, just scrambling to take a peek. But Medusa didn’t budge the cotton covering, and instead adjusted the cloth that laid wrapped around her eyes.

“I’ve been expecting you,” Medusa hissed, “Come in, my love. We have so much to talk about.”

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Tue Feb 20, 2024 3:51 pm
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RavenAkuma wrote a review...



(--I really want to read another chapter ahead, so I'll keep this review short, I hope you don't mind--)

...her first step onto the coal invested beach.


I think you meant "coal-infested" beach here.

It’s like they were tamed—house pets, per-say.


I understood the phrase "per-say" of course, although I believe it's spelled "per se."

Very solemn chapter --learning about Medusa was a sad moment, and equally sad to read was Josephine's memory of Aphrodite and Ares being punished. Nonetheless, it was fascinating and built perfectly onto the backstory of both Medusa and Josephine. No wonder there's such a rift between her and Ares, if that was the result of her mere existence. You really nailed the overall tone, atmosphere, and Josphine's internal struggle with that repressed memory. Likewise, Pelagius was an interesting character, I loved your description of Medusa's Exile, and I love how you described Medusa's only dialogue as "hissing."

Awesome chapter, loved it! <3





A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.
— Markus Zusak, The Book Thief