Authors: Elizabeth Rose
“You are doing fine,” coaxed Perseus. “Now let the mist enter you so I can ask my questions.”
Horrified at the thought, Andromeda tried to rise from the chair but some unknown force weighted her limbs, making her unable to leave. The mist swirled around the tripod legs of the fixture and snaked closer and closer to the hem of her gown.
She tried to cry out when the mist surrounded her ankles and slid up her legs and under her gown, but could not bring forth a single sound. The stench that encompassed her, made her gasp for breath and she had no doubt in her mind she was going to die right there on the throne of the Oracle of Delphi.
“Are you ready?” came Perseus’s voice from below the mist. She could no longer see him for the thick white air that surrounded her. It was a comfort to hear his voice, but still she felt frightened and very alone.
Andromeda, let me speak through you,
came the oracle’s deep whisper. She tried to block the voice from her mind, but when the mist rose up to her neck and filtered in through her eyes, her nose and her pores, she knew she had no choice but to channel the oracle’s words.
“Yes,” she heard her voice reply. “Yes, I am ready.”
Then once more she heard Perseus from below asking something about a Gorgon.
Her head tingled with the essence of the oracle within her. Dizziness overtook her and she found herself spinning out of control. A heavy force entered her being, and she tried with her mind to push it away.
Don’t try to fight it, Andromeda. You are mine now in every way.
Perseus’s voice filtered through the mist again, becoming her stabling force back to reality. She would not succumb to the forces trying to invade her body. She would not be a victim to anyone or anything.
Listen, for I have the answers
, the voice told her.
I know all that is and all that will be
“Who are you?” she heard herself asking, just as she had the first time she sat on the throne. But this time she wasn’t speaking to Perseus. This time she directed her question to the oracle itself.
“I am Perseus,” she heard from below and realized she must have spoken out loud. “I come to ask the way to the Gorgon’s island. I need to find and kill the one called Medusa.”
A sense of timelessness engulfed her as she felt this had all happened before. A ringing echoed in her ears, causing her head to go into a form of euphoria. Her body vibrated with the essence of the oracle within her, and the fear she had previously had for the being left as a calmness overcame her.
That is it, Andromeda. Accept me. It is only when we become one that I can gain control over you.
She did not want the oracle to gain control over her. Though she now felt comfortable with its presence, her own burning volition kept her from surrendering. She fought the mist inside her, and the mist fought back.
I have all the answers, Andromeda. You need only to surrender to me and you can be my channel until the time comes for you to join me forever.
The oracle’s words changed into visions in her head. Every answer to time and space vibrated through her. She knew all that would come to be of the world; she knew every living thing’s past and the future destined for each. The feeling was euphoric but overwhelming. Although she now knew the oracle was not really evil, she saw it as the trapped, lonely soul it was. Somewhere deep down in the bottomless pit resided the spirit of knowledge. But knowledge could not make an entity happy, nor could it make a person’s life any better. She saw that now. The knowledge of all time and being remained lonelier than the loneliest of men.
She understood now why the priestess who channeled the oracle must be a virgin. It was because the channel of the oracle needed to give themselves, body and soul, to the force in order to bring it forth. And when that channel ceased to exist on this plane, she joined the others who went before her, combining her force with those in the bottomless pit. Over time, the oracle would become stronger and stronger, until eventually it would manifest as a physical being.
She pushed the oracle’s voice from her head, wanting no part of prophecies or glimpses into the future. She no longer wanted to look to another for her answers, and she no longer wanted to be sitting upon the oracle’s throne.
No one has ever fought me before
“I will not be your servant,” she cried, once more pushing the oracle’s own thoughts from her head by the power of her own mind.
Then let it be so
, the oracle hissed.
You are released. There will always be another
Her head stopped spinning and the world came to a halt at her feet. Once again, she was able to move her hands and toes. The mist subsided back down into the depths of the pit as if defeated. Her eyes fluttered open, and she stared into the black pit feeling sympathy, loneliness and sorrow for those who were not able to push away by their own will.
Her heart ached and her throat swelled. The oracle’s stench clung to the inside of her nostrils and she felt the urge to retch. Her body wobbled back and forth, and she could feel the pull of the oracle still trying to persuade her from the depths. Its force was strong, the urge of persuasion intense. Her mind exhausted and weak now, the thought to jump into the pit in surrender encompassed her being.
No sooner had she thought it than she rose in the chair feeling a need to be at the oracle’s side.
Yes, come to me
, she heard the voice, her body’s actions her own now.
She leaned forward slightly, her body wobbling back and forth, but Perseus’s voice stopped her from jumping.
“Andromeda!” he called. “Are you all right?”
Her mind pulled in different directions, and she knew she needed to get to the ground and away from this pit, back into the safety of Perseus’s arms. But as she tried to do so, her dizziness overtook her, and her foot slipped off the rung. The ringing of the golden chair turned into the sound of her own voice screaming as she fell into the dark pit below.
Perseus rushed toward the chair as Andromeda slipped. He lunged forward, reaching over the stone wall that guarded the pit just as Andromeda’s body fell, nothing more than a white blur. Her screams echoed in his ears, freezing the blood in his veins as he managed to snag the back of her gown and stop her from disappearing into the dark pit.
“Andromeda!” he called over her screams. “I’ve got you. Give me your hand.”
The girl dangled limply in his clutch, her face turning upward showing the dazed look in her eyes.
“Perseus,” she said with a tremor in her voice. “I’m going to die.”
Still, she did nothing to help him save her. Her weight pulled against his muscles, his free hand holding himself on the edge of the precipice so they both wouldn’t fall to their deaths.
“You are not going to die. Now give me your hand so I can help you.”
She reached up for him slowly, the back of her gown ripping as she did so. Perseus knew her death was imminent unless he reacted quickly. He needed to get a better grip, but in order to do so he needed both hands.
Her gown ripped further, her hands never coming close to his. She screamed again, her face matching the paleness of her robe. He thought of using his demi-god strength as he had when throwing the discus, but knew he could not control it. He used his human force instead, rather than to chance crushing her bones to powder in the process.
He wrapped one leg around the base of the chair and used his other hand to reach down to support her. Just as he gripped her, the gown ripped away leaving only a piece of her garment grasped in his right hand. She swung from his left hand like a pendulum, eyes rolling upward, the fight to survive gone from her being. Her lips mouthed the words, “Perseus, save me,” her eyes closing and reopening as she slipped in and out of consciousness.
Her golden cape slipped off its resting place on his shoulder in the process, floating into the center of the pit as the dark depths swallowed it from sight.
That could have been her, he could not help but think. She could be next to disappear into the pit never to be seen again, and it was all his fault. Narrowing his eyes in concentration, he pulled her over the stone wall where she collapsed helplessly into his arms.
He sat on the wall with one foot dangling over the edge, hugging her to his chest, feeling the beat of his heart faster than he had ever experienced.
She looked up to him with innocent blue eyes. Eyes that held all the knowledge of the world, yet at the same time seemed dazed as if she had no idea how close she’d come to death. Her head tilted backward in surrender, her eyes closing in the process.
“Andromeda! Are you all right?” he asked, knowing her frail life rested in his hands. She was limp in his arms, no longer coherent. His feisty princess seemed close to death.
A door banged open from behind the rocks and five priests ran out to meet them. They surrounded them and helped them from the ledge. All the while, Andromeda lay quietly in his arms.
“We heard the screams,” said one.
“What happened?” asked another.
“She rejected the oracle,” came a weak voice from across the cave. The priestess who channeled the oracle leaned against a tall rock, looking just as pale as Andromeda.
“Priestess,” said a priest, rushing over to her side. “You should be resting.”
“You need to take her far away from here,” the priestess instructed Perseus in a soft, urgent voice. “She is drained of her essence. You must stay at her side and nourish her back to health.”
“Will she die?” asked Perseus, shifting Andromeda in his arms.
“That is not for me to answer,” she said. “Will you give up your quest to save her?”
Perseus did not like this question the priestess challenged him with. His quest to kill the Gorgon and save his mother’s life was a goal he would never abandon. But the lovely Andromeda in his arms needed his help, too. His own insistence that she contact the oracle was the reason she lay helpless in his arms right now. He could not leave her. He felt a responsibility to the girl and knew what he had to do. Could this be the prophecy the oracle spoke of before his birth? Is this how she would try to stop him from attaining his goal?
“I will help the girl,” he answered to the priestess. “But I will not give up my quest to slay the Gorgon, Medusa.”
“Spoken like a true warrior.” The priestess smiled and handed a small bag to one of her priests. “This will heal her in a few day’s time. Use it on Princess Andromeda if you want to help her.”
The priest handed the bag to Perseus. He took it but could not examine it with Andromeda in his grasp. “What is it?” he asked.
“Special herbs to bring back her strength. Infuse them in hot water and have her drink it. The salve you are to spread on her temples. She is a strong princess and will recover quickly. Go now. Take her far away from here where the oracle will not tempt her again.”
The priestess swayed back and forth, two priests hurrying to her side to keep her from falling.
“You must rest,” said one. “You are weak.”
“Wait!” Perseus called. “Priestess, I need to know where to find the Gorgon, Medusa.”
“She cannot answer your questions,” warned a priest. “She is very weak.”
They guided her away from him, disappearing once again behind the rocks and through a door. He stood alone, feeling the sting of defeat as he held an unconscious Andromeda in his arms. He needed to know where to find the Gorgons, and nobody could seem to produce an answer for him. He’d never be able to accomplish the task and get back to Seriphus in time at this rate. He started up the stairs that led out of the cave when a priest hailed him and came scurrying towards him.
“Are you Perseus, son of Zeus?” he asked.
“Aye,” he answered.
Perseus realized it was the same priest who had run to get his scroll when Andromeda climbed into the oracle’s chair.
“Your presence here has been foretold by the oracle many times throughout the years. I have found a scroll that states the information you need to find the Gorgon, Medusa.”
Finally, Perseus would get his answer. Mayhap his trip here was not for naught after all.
“Tell me. What is the answer?”
The priest unrolled his scroll, searching with his finger on the page until he found what he wanted.
“It says Perseus, son of Zeus, must seek the land where men eat not Demeter’s golden grain but only acorns.”
“What?” Perseus shifted Andromeda in his arms, feeling his sense of hope diminishing. “Where is that?” he asked. “I am not familiar with any lands except for those of the island of Seriphus.”
“It says nothing more,” the priest answered, searching over the scroll quickly. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know what it means. I only record the oracle’s words, not interpret them.”
“I see. Is there anyone else who might know where this land of acorns exists?”
The priest looked down to Andromeda and nodded.
“The Princess is well traveled. Her family has been many places in Greece. She would know what this means. She could give you your answer.”
Perseus exhaled through his mouth. Once again, he found his success depending upon the princess. It had been foretold she could help him reach his goal. And if she ever awoke from her slumber, mayhap he would have his answer.