The Gorgons and the Serpent’s Maw
Born of Emenos and a human mother late in the 2nd Age, the Gorgons are demigods, blessed with much of a god’s power but cursed with none of the longevity. Medusa, Euryale, and Stheno were born as an younger sister and twins, respectively, and were completely unaware of their divine heritage. Emenos, pitying his daughters, wished to give his only mortal children fulfilling lives, as granting immortality to those born of mortals was taboo amongst the Celestial beings. He never wanted them to feel the pain other creatures did and so separated them from their mother at birth, crafting a beautiful island for them in the Imperial Sea where they would never want nor wish for anything. He provided all to them in the forms of natural bounty; fruit on trees, cattle in pastures, water through streams, everything that was needed to live was readily available to the sisters. Their home was tended by Emenos’ angelic heralds, who cared for and tended to the trio, but with one restriction: the angels must never reveal nor let the sisters find out that there were entire civilizations of mortals just like them only a day’s sail away. Medusa looked to her older sisters as a beacon of love. The angels, being emotionless creatures born of a god’s will and power, were incapable of affection, doing only what they were told; the angels could never replicate the love of family. Euryale and Stheno filled a motherly role for their little sister, always at Medusa’s side when she felt frightened, angry, or sad. However, Medusa was naive, for she had grown up without any worldly knowledge and was coddled by the familial love of her sisters. Medusa knew nothing of romance, science, history, nor any of the world’s greatest stories that made the imagination wander. The only love she knew was that of Euryale and Stheno,, and the only place she knew was her island home. It was for this reason that she threw her family’s paradise into chaos. Following Medusa’s 18th birthday, Emenos was content to leave the girls to their devices, believing his youngest daughter’s maturity to be the end of any potential troubles. The god turned a blind eye to the island, resolving to only look in once a year. As fortune would so have it, shortly following Emenos’ bold decision, a storm fell upon the sea surrounding the island paradise. Caught up in the violent gales was an Aeternian ship, fighting against the cruel winds and biting rain. Crushed by a great wave, the vessel was lost, its once great hull turned to flotsam. One young elven sailor, however, survived the ordeal, clutching to what was left of the ship. Medusa, taking a morning excursion without her angelic escorts, spotted the elf offshore. Swimming out to him, Medusa dragged the elf’s body back to the beach; she knew not the creature that lay before her, but sensing a kinship, brought him to a nearby sea cave, where she tended his wounds best she could. When the elf awoke, he was shocked at the sight before him; a beautiful, young human woman had saved him from certain expiration, a miracle by all mortal standards. He professed his thanks, but Medusa was beyond confused at the thing sitting before her. Prior to the elf’s arrival, Medusa was certain that she, her sisters, and the angels were the only speaking creatures in the world but suddenly her every thought on existence was blown apart. Over the course of the next few days, Medusa continued to tend to the elf, sneaking out of her home to bring food to the man. In exchange, the elf gave his thanks but also education, gradually teaching the demigod girl about the world beyond her paradise. The first thing he taught her was his own name: Aetius. Days turned to weeks, weeks turned into months, and Medusa continued to visit and speak with Aetius. The elf used the plentiful resources of the island to turn the sea cave into a rudimentary home, taking advantage of the numerous bounties to sustain himself. On occasion, Aetius, using materials brought to him by the young girl, wrote letters of his experiences, tying them to captured birds and sending them out into the horizon. Medusa, on the other hand, began to spend more and more time away from her sisters and angelic companions, demanding she wanted time alone. Day after day, Medusa met with Aetius and, over time, a budding romance began to grow. Overcome with new feelings, Medusa became obsessed with Aetius and the emotions he gave her; she spent even less time with her dear sisters in order to be with Aetius. Euryale and Stheno grew concerned for their dear sister and begged for her to remain with them, but Medusa brushed away their pleas with contempt; only Aetius’ could satisfy her desires. The elf and demigod’s romance intensified to the point of no return and Medusa was deflowered, an action that would have dire consequences. When the year came to a close, Emenos followed his commitment and surveyed the island of his daughters. The god was horrified to discover Euryale and Stheno confused and concerned for their sister who had been disappearing for vast amounts of time each day. Emenos used his godly gaze to search the island and found his youngest daughter and Aetius embraced. Infuriated, the god materialized on the mortal plane and with his own hands seized the elf by the throat. Emenos cast Aetius into the sea, where the elf sank to the deepest depths, choking on water all the way down. The sea god was not so kind as to let the elf simply die, though, and cursed Aetius with, ironically, life. For eternity, the elf would drown, but never perish; Aetius would have no need of food, water, nor air, although his mortal mind begged to end the hunger and drought. Aetius would choke on seawater to the point of death, only to have it purged from his lungs to be swallowed all over again. Aetius remains at the bottom of the Imperial Sea, where his punishment continues for as long as the sun still rises in the east. Medusa, in fear of her father, tried to run to the safety of her sisters. She cowered in their embrace, terrified of the punishment that Emenos would unleash upon her and rightfully so. On his warpath, the sea god, filled with wrath, destroyed each of his heralds one by one, save for the angel he had appointed as head caretaker. Emenos tore his youngest daughter away from the elder sisters’ arms and rose another island just within sight of the paradise. The new island was small, just big enough to house a cavern fit for a frigate, and made of coarse, jagged stone. Emenos took his daughter to the isle and forced her to look upon her old home in the distance, telling Medusa that she would never set foot on grass, sand, or dirt ever again, her new home floored with cold stone and frigid water. Medusa’s terror slowly turned to intense self-loathing and unrelenting sadness, and she fell to her knees in tears. Even yet, Emenos had not finished his punishment. The sea god ensured that no mortal would ever look upon Medusa with seductive eyes ever again. Emenos cursed Medusa with a snakelike form, with cold blood and a long tail in place of legs. He also instilled within Medusa the inability to look upon another and see love in their eyes by cursing her with a petrifying gaze that would turn any who locked eyes with the woman to turn to stone. To remind Medusa of her transgressions against the love of her sisters, Emenos turned his daughter’s hair to snakes that whispered words of regret and betrayal in her ears. Finally, the vengeful god broke taboo and gifted all his daughters with immortality, Euryale and Stheno so that they could mourn the loss of their sister and Medusa so that she could ruminate on and be terrorized by the memory of what she had done. Emenos then abandoned the islands to his daughters, leaving only the angel he spared to tend to the twins and leaving Medusa to fend for herself. So it remains that the twins live in relative peace on their island sanctuary, each day looking out over the sea to the home of their cursed sister. Meanwhile, Medusa remains in the cavern, long since driven insane by the words of the snakes, but she does not remain alone. Emenos, in one last act of cruel discipline, enchanted the waters around Medusa’s isle so that nearby boats would be swept into the great chasm. For hundreds of years, the currents have brought many ships to Medusa’s watery doorstep, where she has killed, petrified, and eaten dozens of unfortunate sailors. The treasure of the ships became her boon, hoarding it all in an enormous pile and draping jewelry over the petrified people she considers to be the most beautiful. What survived of Aetius’ letters continued to bring unwary sailors to the cursed isle of Medusa, and still does. However, the tales of paradise are mixed with stories of terror from what few sailors managed to escape the wrath of serpent-woman. All who travel the sea whisper of the treasure that may be found in Medusa’s lair, but also the danger. Some are willing to risk all for riches, while others choose the path of rationality; either way, sailors know that the gaping jaws of the snake awaits upon the lost island. So has grown the legend of the Gorgons. So persist the tales of the Serpent’s Maw.