|Pegasus and Perseus with the head of Medusa - Peter Paul Rubens|
Now she pulled her cowl down again. Her hair writhed with the serpentine undulations. The golden snakes separated from her locks and hissed softly. Perseus stood still, both enthralled and terrified. From her forelock, one strand of hair turned darkest black, red eyes glowing like coals.
“Do you know who this is, Perseus?”
“Venpay” he breathed.
She nodded. “You have seen his children’s work. Venpay has the purest venom in the world. When his fangs sink, my death will be certain, and none can reverse it. He tells me because of my close proximity to him for many months, I will not be spared an instant death. My time will take perhaps a few minutes, and it will be a death of asphyxiation and fear. He advises that it would be a kindness to sever my head." She pointed to the adamant sword. “Using that, it would be instant and painless.”
He looked away. “I cannot kill the woman I love.”
She spoke. “I understand the prophesy. Only the man who truly loves me can do this. A strike to me will be a strike to Poseidon himself, and on my behalf.”
She saw him waver. She walked to him and kissed him gently, softly, then reached and caressed his face, smiling, at peace. “This is the time.”
She reached back and took the sole black lock from her scalp. She kissed Venpay and stroked his head. She whispered to him, then smiled and spoke to Perseus. “I am thanking him for his gift of his venom. It is a singular honor never before bestowed upon a mortal.”
She gently took Venpay’s head and held it to her wrist. “Strike at my command, Perseus. Our sons, Cassup, and all within can be saved."
The ancient serpent god wrapped around her wrist, and then gently sank its fangs into her skin. Even as he watched, stunned, she began to pale and slow.
“Strike, if you have strength!" The voice was Stheno's.
“Strike, if you have courage!" The voice was Euryale’s.
“Strike, if you love me." The voice was Medusa’s, and weakening fast.
Nearly blinded by tears, he brought the adamant blade in a perfect arc toward her neck. The last mortal words she heard were his cry for forgiveness.
|Peter Paul Rubens|
Her lids closed as she awaited the sword’s blessed release. She had planned for her last moments to be in prayer for the delivery of her children, but as her eyes shut, she found herself detached from her body and back in that of the dream horse. Instead of paralysis, the coursing venom seemed to impart immense strength and vitality.
She ran with all her strength, boldly and without hesitation toward the cliff. Her front hoofs found the edge and she leapt with joy, reaching for the stars themselves breaking through the evening skies. All fear was banished, replaced by elation.
In the moment when she was perfectly balanced between the strength of the leap and the pull of gravity, a rippling came from her shoulders. Instinctively she pushed down, then up. Huge wings had unfurled, bedecked in white feathers each longer than a man’s arm. She pulled herself up into the air, striving for the beckoning stars, hoofs catching on the air as if it were turf. She cried out in a shout of delight, the sound swirling the cosmos.
Stars shattered and scattered and realigned.
Excerpt - S.D. Hine's Medusa