Chapter summary: 1. The gods exist, so 2. don't piss them off by not believing in them. Also don't answer back to men in power when you're a woman with no one to defend you. And 3. I'm dead. I'm so dead.
I looked at the woman holding out the goblet of wine to me. She was a large, older woman, with a no-nonsense, careless air about her. She didn't care if I drank the offered wine, or if I didn't.
But why why wasn't she offering anything to any of the other captives?
I looked at her carefully for signs of charity. I saw none. I looked for duplicity. Again, nothing.
I saw boredom, with growing impatience.
I had to ask. "Is it ... is it poisoned?"
She shrugged. "Drugged."
My eyes widened in surprise at her blunt honesty. "Then why would I drink it?"
"You've been chosen," she said plainly. "This will help you."
"Survive?" I asked.
The woman looked at me with derision, as if I were the stupidest person she ever saw.
That was galling. After all, she was Cretan. I was from Athens, if there was a stupid person in this chamber, she'd do well to regard herself in the glass.
"No," she answered simply. "The last girl sacrificed didn't make it off the table ... not in one piece anyway. She didn't even last half a minute when the beast ... took her. This drink will take away ... most of the pain and make your end, not ... pleasant, but it won't be so shockingly agonizing that you may face your end bravely, and not shame yourself."
"And so that I can last longer for you Cretan's entertainment?" I demanded. I felt my face flushing with indignation.
The woman shrugged, unconcerned. "You have fight in you. Good. But now is not the time to be brave, girl. Save your bravery when your end comes in the labyrinth."
"And that will help? Being brave?" I asked.
I'm afraid I asked because I didn't know what to expect. One isn't usually prepared for these situations in life.
A virgin sacrifice to a monster.
And the thing was, I'm not a virgin anymore. I barely qualify as a maid anymore, being in my twenty-first year, this is: years and years past a desirably marriageable age, but when I pointed this out, again, I was met with an indifferent shrug.
'Yes, you are,' I was told.
I wondered, then, if all Cretans were simple. I mean, I should know if I was a virgin or not, and they could have easily verify this in a moment, those lecherous goons, who didn't despoil me, but who also didn't mind handling the cargo they transported us.
But they just didn't care. I told them I wasn't a virgin, and they said I was unwed, and, to the beast every woman was a virgin, even if she had just borne her fifth child, as he was so monstrous, nine feet tall and almost as wide as a man standing. Any woman offered to him would be a first offering for him, and that was good enough for him, so that was good enough for them, too.
And that's what I was singled out to be, apparently: an offering.
We all were, actually, all fourteen of us an offering to the beast, but apparently I was special.
Always had that problem, and have hated it. I've always been noticed. It's not that I'm a beauty, I'm fair, but not stunning, curvy but not generous, more dryad-like, a nymph, rather than a goddess in figure and looks.
I mean, I wasn't wise like Athena, nor beautiful and beloved, like Aphrodite, nor lithesome, sure-footed, and deadly, like Artemis. I was none of these things. I'm only human. I'm just a girl, trying to make her way through this world, and make sense of it.
But my sharp tongue, ... that I cannot still to save my life ...
I always knew it would be my undoing, and it was. I was noticed. I don't know how, or by whom, but I was one of the special ones chosen as tribute to appease the Cretan oppressors, intellectually our inferiors, but they had strength in numbers, so ...
So here I was, probably with most of Athens heaving a sigh of relief, being now unburdened with one of her most troublesome children.
I am Medea.
And you are ...? I don't know your name, but you are one of the lucky ones reading this scroll, not writing it. Reading my experiences, not having to go through them.
Thank the gods for your fortune, or rather ... don't. Being noticed by the gods is never a good thing. They could care less about us mere mortals, and on top of that, they're a major pain in the ass. I know, from first-hand experience. That is, I know now.
But I get ahead of myself.
I looked down at the offered cup, dubiously, then shook my head, regretfully.
"No," I said.
The woman affected faint surprise.
"I want my wits about me when the time comes," I explained.
She snorted: a large blast of air. I stilled my hand from wiping her spittle from my eye.
Cretans and true Greeks, Athenians, were always spoiling to give insult and to find it in the slightest thing. I didn't need to antagonize my jailor.
Besides, she brought friends. Lots of them. Some of them armed to the teeth.
"Your wits won't save you, girl," she boomed, and several of the guards laughed appreciatively. "Besides," she said, "this will heighten your wits as it dulls your senses. You will be awake and alert, but you will not feel pain. Don't be a fool, girl: drink this, and spare cursing yourself later for not taking this balm when you needed it most."
I looked at the cup again. The wine was syrupy with a potion that smelled both cloying and compelling. I looked back up at her as I took the cup.
"You're not lying to me?" I asked cautiously.
She snorted again, "Why would I?"
I thought of a thousand reasons why she would, right off the top of my head, but she just seemed not to care, either way.
If she were lying to me, and I died of this drink, I'd be spared from having to face the unknown, and if ...
I sighed. Thinking too much, again, as always, Medea, I scolded myself, and quaffed it, quickly.
I hit the stone floor like a sack of potatoes. The cup fell from my nerveless fingers and clattered on the floor.
"Wow," I gasped. But that was all I could manage.
"Hm," I heard, but could not see the woman anymore as she said it, as darkness covered my eyes that did not close. "Perhaps I mixed the dosage too strongly for one so slight as you. Ah, well; so it goes." Then, commandingly: "Prepare her."
Then I heard, and felt, no more.
A/N: Hi, my lovelies! Back to my roots. Uh, this is the 'un-darkest' chapter, so, upcoming: rape, murder, vore, and then worse: the things people do, and say, to people because they can.