I, Medea by Jeffrey Peter Clarke

I, Medea

(Jeffrey Peter Clarke)




As she spoke, lights appeared ahead and moments later their source was revealed. They emerged from the bushes into an ominously calm stillness, a stillness charged with impending menace. Directly before them across clear ground lay a cliff, dark against the night sky and rising to over three times the height of a man. At its base was a grotto, lit either side of its entrance by a burning brand placed on wall brackets less than an arm’s length within. They approached to find close before the entrance a blood-drenched table, a wooden altar upon which rested an offering, the part-eaten remains of some large but unidentifiable animal. The carcass glistened, still wet in the light of the torches and they saw it was infested already by a myriad of small, writhing, wriggling creatures.

Jason sensed Medea’s apprehension. ‘So it needs to eat,’ he said as they paused before the altar. ‘If it needs to eat then it truly lives and can be killed.’

‘It is as I told you,’ replied Medea, closing her eyes as she clutched his arm, ‘but of the few who avoided my father and got as far as this, none survived to speak of it.’

‘This may not be the best time to ask,’ muttered Jason, ‘but what happened to them?’

‘Two were seized and devoured by the creature and one escaped only to be caught later and executed with some of his men. Others from their vessel were condemned to the quarries where they were worked to death in chains.’

‘I smell a foulness in the air,’ said Jason. ‘It was so with the Harpies but this - this is -.’

‘It is the stench of pure evil,’ she cut in. ‘It is an evil beyond anything I ever knew.’

At the gloomy rear of the cavern Jason saw there had been placed upright a dead tree. From one of its branches hung the object of his quest. ‘So that’s Aietes’ precious fleece,’ he said, quietly. ‘It’s surely an ordinary sheepskin covered in gold dust yet men have given their lives trying obtain it.’ As they moved closer he added, ‘I don’t see this so-called dragon yet.’

‘No,’ she whispered, ‘you see nothing, but it sees us and it waits until we attempt to flee. I know Hera watches over you but I call as well upon Hecate because she is closer and knows the nature of beast.’

‘Then here’s to them both,’ said Jason, handing her the torch while levelling the spear to test its balance, ‘but I hope well-sharpened bronze might also come in useful.’ He moved closer to peer inside the entrance but Medea lowered her linen bag to the ground and remained where she was with the torch held high and the fingers of her free hand raised to her mouth as she murmured, ‘Jason, I regret more with each breath that we ever came here!’