TITLE: Beautiful Medusa
GENRE: YA Fantasy
I never knew what it felt like to be hunted. Not until today.
I swept my gaze around the supposedly safe confines of the Temple of Athena. As far as I could tell, I stood alone in the inner sanctuary, and yet I knew I wasn’t. A predator watched my every move, far enough away never to be seen, but close enough to always be felt.
I picked up a lily resting on a stone bench, the bloom as pale as the marble it sat upon, and studied it with a scowl. The temple’s garden didn’t have lilies like this. I had no idea where it had come from.
This had started in the morning. Half asleep, my senses still dulled, I had felt a presence by my bedside. I woke up screaming, the senior priestesses rushing to my room.
I begged them to search my quarters. They had found nothing, assured me it was merely a nightmare. But you couldn’t hear the inhale and exhale of a nightmare’s breath, nor could a nightmare run its fingers through your hair.
Suppressing a shudder, I tossed the lily to the ground, as if it were made of poison.
Wherever I went, whatever I did, my predator followed, leaving small tokens for me to find. I could almost catch the broad-shouldered figure of a man out of the corner of my eye, but when I turned around, he was gone.
And none of the other priestesses believed me.
I peered up at the statue of my Lady. Athena towered over me, three stories tall, a spear gripped in one marble hand, her golden helm glittering in the afternoon light.
My Lady would keep me safe.
My gaze lingered on her perfectly-chiseled face, never changing, forever vigilant. “Blessed Athena, wise and serene. Protectress of us all.” Today, more than ever, I took comfort in the truth of those words.
“Alessia, come on.”
I jumped at Naima’s voice. My fellow priestess stepped into the sanctuary, tugging at my sleeve and shooing me toward the courtyard. Then she took a closer look at me and her face fell.
“You’re still upset about this morning, aren’t you?” I considered every priestess here to be family, and I had two older sisters back home, but Naima was the little sister I had always wanted. A year younger than me, her family originally hailed from the far away city of Thebes, on the river Nile.
I kicked at the lily with the toe of my sandal. “The problem is my intruder never left. Don’t you feel it? He’s still here. He’s been leaving me these…things all day.” I swallowed a lump in my throat, overcome by emotion.
“By the Gods, you should hear yourself talk.” Helene swept in with Korinna in tow. Though Helene was dressed in the same white robes we all wore, she carried herself with an elegance that even I found impressive.