“It didn’t take long before he heard the sound of slithering and hissing. He followed the noise and found Medusa pacing around. Her hair was a dreadlock of terrifying snakes and her eyes were grey and piercing.”
Polydectes, King of Serifos, took a bite out of his chicken leg. A steady stream of grease dripped into his greying beard as his mind ticked over. ‘So the mother is still single you say?’
‘Yes, I believe so your grace,’ replied his advisor.
‘And the big looking chap with the muscles and the chiseled jaw is definitely just her son?’
‘Yes your grace. The mother is called Danae and the son is Perseus.’
‘Good, good. Have to be careful these days with relations. Sometimes they can be quite complex. And this Diana…’
‘Danae, your grace.’
‘Exactly, Danae, will refuse to be my Queen whilst the boy is around?’
‘Yes your grace. That is what I am led to believe.’
‘Why is that exactly?’
The advisor looked at his ill-tempered King’s ageing body overflowing from his grease stained clothing and then considered the perfectly formed Danae. He chose his next words carefully.
‘I believe the Gods have plans for them.’
‘Humph,’ grunted Polydectes, ‘the boy maybe. We just need to lose the boy.’
‘Perhaps, your grace. Although they say he’s another one of Zeus’…’
‘Yes, yes, lose the boy and while he’s away the mother’s fair game. Perfect. I must have her. You say they are poor?’
‘Very, my grace, barely a drachma between them.’
‘Yes, well, I suppose that’s what happens when you’re looked after by my brother. We’ll have a banquet. Invite the boy Percy and all the usuals and ask everyone to bring a horse – we’ll say I’m collecting contributions for the hand of Hippodamia.’
‘But Perseus will not have a horse to bring, my grace, nor the money to buy one.’
‘Exactly Achaeus.’ Polydectes chomped into a tomato and the juice squirted out of his mouth. ‘Exactly.’
The day of the banquet arrived and Perseus, too noble to refuse the King’s invite, was sat at his table. He felt completely out of place. His plain white tunic, crudely fix in place at the shoulder, made him look like one of the servants rather than one of the guests. And what was he to do about the horse, or – more correctly – the lack thereof?
‘Percy, I say Percy!’ came a cry.
Perseus looked up.
‘Over here young chap. Yes, you, come over here.’
The fat, odious King was calling for him. There was something about him that Perseus didn’t like, although he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He was quite the opposite of his brother Dictys, who had raised Perseus from boy to man.
‘Your grace,’ Perseus said as he approached the King’s table.
‘None of that young Percy, we are – after all – more of less family are we not? And how is my brother Dictys? Out fishing no doubt. Look at you! You’ve certainly grown into a strapping young man haven’t you. Such big muscles. I bet you could grate cheese on those abs. Achaeus? Achaeus, where are you? There you are. Be a good man and go fetch me some cheese will you. I’m going to…’
‘Your grace, about the horse.’
‘The horse, ah yes, I bet a young man like you will have a fine stallion worthy of Poseidon.’
Perseus was sure he saw the King wink at his advisor as he spoke.
‘Well actually your grace, I come to beg your forgiveness. You see, I do not have the money for a horse. But I will, of course, be willing to pay my dues by some other means.’
‘Mmmm,’ the King pondered, ‘yes, yes, of course. Typical of my brother really. That is unfortunate. What might we do? What might we do? Aha, that’s it!’
‘Yes, my grace?’
‘There is something you could do.’
‘Anything my grace.’
‘Yes, my grace, I wish nothing but to bring honour to my family. Name it, I shall not refuse.’
‘Such is the folly of youth,’ muttered Polydectes under his breath. ‘Achaeus, what is the name of that Gorgon, the one with the pretty face but with snake hair and eyes that turn people to stone?’
‘Medusa, my grace,’ replied Achaeus.
‘That’s the one. Instead of the horse, fetch me Medusa’s head. That seems fair. There’s a good lad. Off you go then.’ Polydectes walked Perseus to the door.
‘But…I’ve not had any food yet,’ Perseus moaned, ‘and what’s that about snake hair and stoney eyes,’ he added as he found himself standing outside the banquet hall, the door slowly shutting in his face. ‘God help me.’
Luckily for Perseus, Athena and Hermes happened to be playing swingball within earshot and after hearing his pleas decided to come to his aid (leaving poor Hestia to play by herself once again).
‘What’s the issue big man,’ Hermes asked.
‘I might have talked myself into a bit of trouble,’ replied Perseus surprisingly unflummoxed by the sudden appearance of two Gods. ‘And now I need to go kill something called Medusa, who has snake hair and eyes that turn people into stone. I don’t know where to start.’
‘See what trouble you’ve caused sister,’ Hermes barked at Athena.
‘Half-sister,’ she responded. ‘And she did desecrate my temple with that oaf Poseidon. What am I supposed to do, just allow that sort of frivolity?’
‘I’d hardly describe her as a willing participant…’
‘Anyway, about time someone finished her off. We can help you Perseus, but you’ve got a bit of travelling to do. Hermes, give him your winged sandals.’
‘My winged sandals? Are you crazy, no-one – and I mean no-one – wears my sandals. What are you going to give him? You started all of this.’
‘I’m going to give him some advice, now take off your sandals.’
‘I’m not taking off my sandals.’
‘Take them off…’
The debate raged on for some time as Perseus waited patiently. Eventually it was decided that Hermes would lend Perseus his winged sandals and Athena would provide a polished, reflective shield.
‘Now,’ said Athena having explained to Perseus how to defeat Medusa, ‘the rest of the items you’ll need will be with the Hesperides, but you’ll have to seek out the Graeae first to discover their whereabouts.’
‘Could you not tell me?’ asked Perseus.
‘Yes, we probably could,’ said Hermes, ‘but then that would be too easy wouldn’t it. Anyway, off you go. The quicker you go the quicker I can have my sandals back.’
And so off Perseus flew, his sandals flapping effortlessly through the air as the distant sound of Hermes voice followed him: ‘You better not scuff them!’
Perseus landed at the cave of the Graeae to the sound of bickering. He tiptoed his way in to take a look.
‘It’s my turn Deino.’
‘You’ve already had your turn, Enyo, it’s my turn next.’
‘You have the tooth, Pamphredo, you can’t have the tooth and the eye, what will the rest of us do.’
‘What’s that smell.’
‘I smell it too.’
‘Look over there, Deino.’
‘I can’t see where your pointing Enyo.’
‘What do you mean you can’t see, you have the eye.’
‘No I don’t, I gave it to Pamphredo.’
‘No you didn’t, I have the tooth.’
‘Where is it then?’
‘How am I supposed to know?’
‘Must we go through this every day! If we just followed the rota I prepared.’
‘We can’t see the damn rota.’
‘Search for it then, it can’t be far.’
The three haggard witches searched desperately for their eye on their hands and knees. Their bony bodies were covered by filthy rags which, for poor Perseus’ eyes, left little to the imagination. As Perseus watched, a small spherical object slowly rolled its way to him and came to a stop by his foot. He picked it up and cleared his throat loudly.
‘That you Deino?’
‘Does it sound like me Enyo?’
‘Well it’s not me.’
‘Ladies,’ cut in Perseus before the bickering started again. ‘It looks like I have found something you might be looking for.’
‘You’ve been looking for our tooth Pamphredo? What happened to our tooth?’
‘I thought we’d lost it.’
‘We lost the eye, have we lost the tooth as well? Oh for goodness sake.’
‘Ladies, ladies, the eye, I have your eye.’
‘Give it to me.’
‘No, give it to me.’
‘Did you find my tooth as well?’
‘If you don’t give it to me, I’ll curse you for the rest of your life, Perseus, son of Zeus.’
Perseus was startled. His mother had told him that Zeus was his father, but when he’d asked how she’d said something about Zeus and a golden shower, and he’d told her what she did in the bedroom was up to her and that he didn’t need to know any more.
‘How about a deal?’ Perseus asked, having composed himself.
‘We’re listening,’ replied the Graeae in unison.
‘Your eye in return for information on how I can find the Hesperides.’
The Graeae consulted each other and, after a further round of squabbling, agreed to the deal.
‘Throw us the eye and we’ll tell you what you want,’ said Deino.
‘No, tell me first and then I will throw you the eye.’
‘Fine. Fine. Have us over a barrel really, don’t you. The Hesperides guard the apples near the Atlas mountains at the edge of the Oceanus. Now, please will you give us the eye.’
‘Yes, give it to me.’
‘No, to me.’
‘Don’t give it to her, give it to me.’
‘What about my tooth?’
Perseus threw the eye to them. ‘It’s by the large crevice,’ he shouted as his sandals took off once more.
‘Thanks. Wait, what crevice? I can’t seeeeee.’
Perseus landed once again. This time the setting was far more pleasant with rolling green hills and a beautiful apple tree standing proud in a picturesque field.
‘Perseus, I assume,’ came a voice from behind him, making him jump. Three nymphs appeared, their beauty magnified in Perseus’ mind after his experience with the Graeae.
‘Yes,’ he said, wiping the drool away from his mouth.
‘Your father said that you might be popping by and that you might need to borrow a few things.’
‘Apparently so, yes.’
‘Right, well if you’re going to cut off Medusa’s head you’ll need to use this sword.’ Perseus was handed a heavy, diamond sword. ‘And you’ll also need this knapsack to put it in. Finally, this helmet might come in handy. It’ll make you invisible.’
‘Wow, excellent, thanks. Is that it? No test or challenge to overcome?’
‘Nope – one of the benefits of having Zeus as your father. Plus, people like these stories to be short and snappy.’
‘Okay, well, great.’
‘Just be sure to return them once you finish.’
Fully equipped and pumped up by an energy drink, Perseus made his way to a small deserted island on the Western edge of the world where he’d been told he would find Medusa. He placed the helmet on to make himself invisible and used the reflection of his shield to navigate around a maze of surprised-looking people who had been turned into stone. It was a tough task walking using only the mirror, and Perseus found himself walking into the statues and tripping up over rocks as he went, creating quite a racket.
It didn’t take long before he heard the sound of slithering and hissing. He followed the noise and found Medusa pacing around. Her hair was a dreadlock of terrifying snakes and her eyes were grey and piercing.
‘I might not be able to see you, but I can hear you. Clumsy fool,’ she said.
Perseus was careful to stay hidden behind his shield so as not to look in her eyes.
‘Why not show yourself, join my garden? I have a lovely spot for you on the pond. We could make you into a water feature.’
Perseus threw off his helmet to reveal himself and lifted his shield. Medusa looked in his direction, but only saw her reflection, causing her to freeze momentarily. Perseus quickly flew over and brought his diamond sword down on her neck, severing it one blow. From the neck of Medusa sprang a winged horse and a golden sword. ‘How peculiar,’ thought Perseus to himself, but he didn’t have time to dwell on it; he could hear the other two Gorgons approaching.
Being careful not to look into the eyes, Perseus quickly placed Medusa’s head into the knapsack, put his helmet back on, and escaped to pursue other heroic deeds.