Wronged in love,
There is no heart more murderous.
01 | barbarian across the black sea
"How does your father expect me to kill this... this dragon?" Jason asked, the exhaustion clear in his voice. His tanned skin was dirtied, days (and sometimes nights) of hiking through thick woodland and barren wasteland had left almost no time to wash in the rivers and lakes they'd passed. Not that Medea minded really; this was the last test Aeëtes had conjured up in his mad mind. Once Jason had conquered this task, just like he had with the others, he'd snatch up the golden fleece. Then, he'd whisk her back to his homeland – a land across the black sea called Iolcus. He'd promised to take her back as well. Away from her madman of a father.
"He doesn't." Medea let out a small sigh. She knew her father too well, and the beast in front of them was enormous. No mortal man – hero or not – had managed to kill it. Her father was hoping that Jason would perish, just like the others had. But Jason had something they didn't. He had her. "Not while it's awake, anyway."
"What do you mean?" He asked, his tousled, matted black hair blowing in the wind. As they stood outside the looming cave, she let out a sigh. As much as she was in love with Jason, he had his moments.
"Here." From the pouch looped round her waist, she pulled out a small vial. It looked as if it contained sand blessed by the goddess Psamathe. "It won't kill the sleepless dragon, but it will make it easier."
Jason looked at the tiny vial, and its content. An unimpressed look crossed his beautiful features. Medea's chest panged, with hurt and insult. She may have only lived for sixteen years, but she was brilliant at her skills. There was no other sorceress that could match her skill. And who could? She was the granddaughter of the great sun god, Helios. Her aunt, the great sorceress Circe. Her aunt was renowned for her knowledge of herbs, and Medea herself was soon catching up.
"It will do the trick."
"But... there is so little of it." He started to shake the vial, but Medea cried out.
"No!" Worry filled her. If he could not kill the dragon and reclaim the golden fleece, she could not escape to live with Jason. Even at such a tender age, she knew what love was. She'd heard all about it – and she knew Jason was the one for her. Nothing was going to stop her from being with him. Nothing. "Please, Jason. Trust me. Throw the vial onto the floor, in front of the dragon, and try not to breathe in the smoke. I promise you, this will work."
"Okay." Jason nodded. He took a step towards the cave, before his body dived sideways. Medea felt pressure on her lips, for moments, before she watched Jason's tall figure stride into the cave. Her heart thumped, hard and heavy. Her mind going over his future situation. What if the dragon couldn't be slayed? What if her father refused to let Jason have the golden fleece? He needed it to prove to his father he was the rightful heir! Her stomach tightened, frightful of what could happen if he didn't break the vial properly. If the dragon didn't inhale–
A loud roar broke the silence. Medea's heart jumped. She couldn't catch her breath. She couldn't just sit on the side-lines. What if Jason needed her help? With the first task, she'd given him an ointment made up of thyme, opium and honey, mixed with the blood of a phoenix, to protect his skin from the fire-breathing oxen. She'd warned Jason about the dim-witted dragon teeth warriors. All he'd had to do was throw a rock into the middle of the group – the brutes had argued, which had escalated quickly into a brawl. In the end, they had all succumbed to their wounds. He'd planted the teeth of a dragon into the field. This sleepless dragon was the final, and most daunting, task.
Sprinting in, without a second thought, she stopped once she saw the dragon. Lying limp on the ground, she saw no sign of Jason. Heavy breathing filled the dark, damp cave. The only breathing that could come from a gigantic monster. Just the sight of the moss-scaled beast made Medea cautious; walking close to the cave wall. She wasn't a coward, not by any means, but she wasn't stupid either. The beast was only under a temporary slumber – if it awoke, she would have no means to defend herself. She'd given Jason the only sleeping potion she'd made.
Passing the slumbering beast, Medea found that her battered sandals needn't walk any further. A few feet in front of her, stood the remains of a leaf-less tree. And beneath those branches, stood Jason. However, his gaze wasn't upon her. Instead, he looked down to his hands, where the legendary skin of a winged ram was being held. It was more glorious in person. The rumours and tales told about it, did no justice.
"Jason..." Her voice trailed around the cave. Jason didn't acknowledge if he'd heard her. Cautious, she took a couple more steps towards him. She called out his name again. As if he was coming out of a daze, his head whipped up. A fire blazed in his eyes. Without a word, he ran up to her, giddy in his stride.
"Look! I have it – I finally have the golden fleece." His grin was wide; almost splitting his cheeks. A grin spread across Medea's own cheeks; adding to his triumph. "We have to leave. We have to get back to the Argo!"
Still smelling wood burning, still feeling the burn from black smoke invading her eyes, Medea made her way up the stairs to her father's palace. Churning in her stomach was an ugly feeling. It coiled round her like a serpent throttling its prey. She demanded answers. Like who had set the boats alight – why they'd been set on fire. Jason had held up his end of the bargain. He had personally completed all the tasks her father had asked of him.
"Medea!" A loud whisper broke through her furious thoughts. Turning, she recognised the stranger as one of Jason's shipmates. His skin was lighter than her own, and his words sounded funny. His hair wasn't as dark as hers (or anyone from her homeland) either. "Come quick, Jason is leaving. Your father set the boats alight."
"My father?" Yes, her father King Aeëtes was mad, but setting the foreigner's ships on fire? That was insane! However... he was always worried about someone stealing his throne from under his thumb.
"Yes," the boy nodded, "you need to come now. We have no time to lose."
In Medea's muddled thoughts, she knew that once Jason had set for his homeland, her father would go into a rage. He'd stop at nothing in his pursuit of Jason. King Aeëtes wouldn't stop. Not until Jason's famous ship had been welcomed into Poseidon's realm. Until her love's blood coated her father's sword. Until his shipmates blood floated among the waves. It was something that she couldn't allow to happen.
Jason wasn't going to die.
"Hold on." Nothing – and nobody – was going to stop her from being with Jason. Even if it meant betraying her own blood. "I just need to get something."
Apsyrtus' blood soaked into the boards of the ships. Some overflowed, staining Medea's shins. The silence was deafening – none of her lover's shipmates spoke. The dagger in her hand was stained with her brother's blood. Sadness welled up in Medea's heart. She pushed it aside. This was the only way to keep her father at bay – to give the Argo enough time to get distance between Colchis and her new home.
"What..." She recognised Orpheus' voice. He had spoken many times in front of her father, had performed many songs. They were extraordinary. His voice was unique, almost like Terpsikhore had given the gift of song to him. "Medea, what have you done?"
"What had to be done." Her voice was cold; emotionless. It was as if there was nobody behind her words. Looking down, the crimson glinting in the moonlight, she readied herself for the next part. It wasn't going to be pretty, and she knew that the gods didn't approve of her actions. The sudden onslaught of rocky waves, of harsh winds, was an indicator. A storm from the gods was brewing.
She brought the knife down on her brother's lifeless body. Sawing through flesh and bone, she separated his body into pieces. Taking a hand, she cut off a finger, placing it in her trusty pouch. Picking up the cold, wet hand she launched it across the side of the ship. Ignoring the disgusted, cautious looks, she grabbed more parts. Each and every part of her brother went overboard.
"Medea?" Another one of the foreigners called out her name. Rain started to pour down. The ship rocked heavily, side-to-side. Medea held onto the boat. The gods were furious; she had murdered an innocent, young boy. She had committed fratricide – murdered one of her own blood.
"Father won't come after you, if he's too busy trying to find Apsyrtus. He cannot enter Hades' realm, without being fully intact." She looked out to sea. Medea couldn't see any of her brother. Eventually, they'd end up on the shores of some land.
And just like that, she'd saved Jason's life.