I awoke some time later, lying in the back of the wagon. The sun was just about to go behind the witch’s mountain. My guide smacked the reins of the horse, yelled, and it took off. Everything was blurry except the blinding pain in my eye, or more correctly, my empty eye socket. I wiped away the blood, still trickling down my face, reached into my coat and found what I had gone to the witch’s house for: the ancient map. I patted it proudly, and then reached around for a jug of water. What I found was a small canteen. I opened it, smelled the putrid smell of rotten potatoes and knew it was the same drink the witch gave me before she took my eye. I guzzled it, shivered as its effects took hold and slept the rest of the trip back to the village.
I awoke at the village with the frenzied shouts and calls for vengeance from my crew, which had hurriedly encircled the wagon as soon as it pulled into town. “The witch gouged his eye out!” I heard my first mate cry.
“Let’s go up there and slaughter her!” I heard another man plead.
“Murder! Murder! Murder!” my crew chanted.
I raised myself to my elbows, still groggy from the potent anesthesia from the witch. My mouth was as dry as desert sand, but I raised my hand to quite the crowd and slurred a few sentences to calm them. “It was a fair trade. I traded my eye for the treasure I sought. Now it is mine.”
The crowd mumbled restlessly, as I rebuffed their screams for vengeance. Finally, I pulled out the map and they let out a loud uproar as their spirits lifted because they realized I had accomplished my goal and now a great adventure awaited us.
“Let’s get the captain to a doctor so his eye doesn’t get infected!” there cries changed. I knew I needed that, but I cringed anyways. I was never one for doctors or the pain they bring.
The doctor was an old man, very meek and kind. I knew immediately that his care would be gentle but I also knew it was going to hurt like hell. “I’m going to have to wash away the hay dust and then pour alcohol on it,” he informed me.
“Hell, you’ll have to pour some alcohol down my throat first!” I exclaimed.
“Give this man a bottle of rum,” he ordered his protégé, “and something metal to bite on.”
I pulled out a long knife and asked, “Will this do?” He nodded his approval. The young doctor in training gave me a newly opened bottle and I drank a fourth of it before handing it back. I wiped my mouth with my sleeve and lay back on the table. I put the non-sharpened side of the blade in my mouth and waited for the torture to begin.
As gently as he could, the doctor wiped the still seeping blood and pus from around my eye with a warm, wet cloth, then opened my eyelids to peer into my empty socket. “The cuts are clean,” he mumbled. “Whoever did this had real precision. Well, not much we can do now but prevent infection. Alcohol!”
I knew that was my cue to bite down on my knife as hard as I could. I instantly regretted not drinking another guzzle of rum before I handed the bottle back. The doctor poured alcohol on another rag and wiped around the edges of my eye. He then had the younger doctor hold my eye lids open as best as he could, because involuntarily, my eyelids struggled to remain shut. Seeing a quick opening, the doctor poured alcohol into my eye socket, filling it with what seemed to me like the unrepentant fires of the underworld.
My clenched teeth on my knife’s blade could not prevent nor contain my violent scream as the alcohol did its job inside my bloody eye socket. White hot pain seared into my brain, leaving me with a memory I would never forget. I passed out from the pain and woke several minutes later, with white bandages covering half my face.
“Rum!” I barked, as I sat up, my head still swimming. The young doctor obliged and with a shaky hand, I lifted it to my mouth and swallowed another fourth of the bottle. This time I didn’t hand it back. I stood up on my wobbly legs and the young doctor grabbed my arm to guide me. I shoved him away and walked out the door. My first mate was waiting for me outside. He quickly grabbed my arm to steady my gate. “Where do you wish to go, Captain?” he dutifully asked.
“Take me to the general store,” I told him. “I need a good sized marble to make my head seemed balanced. I’m going to need a patch fashioned as well.”
“Aye, Captain,” he said.
“Is my ship still in the harbor?”
“Take me to the bank first then. I will withdraw my money to buy what we need and my glass eye. Then you will gather the crew and we will steal back the ship and set sail. A great adventure awaits us, my friend! Let’s get started.”
“Aye, Captain,” he nodded. He led me to the bank and the bank man nervously gave me all my money. I left him unharmed, went to the general store, got what I needed and then walked towards to docks. I smiled at the ruckus I heard and I knew that my crew were busying themselves by making mincemeat of the men guarding my ship.
They had finished their grisly task by the time I got there. I walked aboard, saw the bloody corpses strewn across the deck and ordered my men to toss them overboard. The town became aroused with anger and a mob started descending towards the docks to overtake us. But it was too late. We were already headed out to open sea and there wasn’t another captain in the town who would dare challenge us there.
Once we were out of present danger from the townsfolk, I went to my chambers to relax. I opened another bottle of rum, swigged a dangerous amount of it and opened my map. My first mate was with me and I laid out a course for Sedusa Island. He left to relay the course to our navigator and I lay on my bed to sleep off the effects from the copious amounts of booze and sedative I had consumed over the last twenty-four hours.
Never one to be seasick, the tossing about of my vessel on the ocean surprised me by also nauseously tossing about the contents of my stomach. I immediately began to feel as if the old hag had, in fact, cursed me after all. I got out of bed, stretched and breathed the sweet saltwater mist which lay thick in the air and I began to feel better. It was just the effects of the trauma to my eye, I supposed as I walked up to the deck. There, I was shocked to see half my crew hanging over the rails, puking their guts out. I had never seen anything like it in all my seafaring days.
The thin mist quickly turned to impenetrable fog, which enveloped the ship and brought visibility to near zero. The heavy seas rocked our boat like we were in the middle of some fearsome storm, but no rain fell, no lightning crackled and no winds blew. Everyone was well aware that conditions were not right to be experiencing such dense fog. We were too far out at sea, the temperature was too hot and the air in the atmosphere was too dry. There could be no doubt that diabolical magic was at work. I called all the men together to see if any of them had any learning in the ways of magic, so we could rid ourselves of this spell, which had overtaken us. All I got was old wives’ tales and fear wrought mumbo jumbo.
We tried to fight the fog, too bull rush our way through, but our efforts were in vain. The fog rendered the winds nil and even with every able bodied man on the ship manning oars, we could not tell whether we were moving at all, and if we were, what direction we were moving. I called off the attempt and sent the men into attack mode. They jubilantly left the benches, armed themselves and prepared cannon fire. I didn’t know if we were going to be attacked but I felt it was important to be ready for whatever man, beast, ghost, witch, or demon that may be lurking behind the foreboding wall of mist.
We were all dripping wet with water, both from the violent waves crashing over the ship’s bow and the mist that was so thick you could wear it. The sweltering heat did us no favors either. Our bodies wanted to sweat but with the air saturated with water there was no way for our sweat to evaporate. It all seemed unbearable and dissent began to rise amongst the crew. They were scared, nervous and uncomfortable in their own skins. The seeds for mutiny were sown.
“The captain even said we were cursed,” I heard one man say.
“It’s his curse alone!” yelled another.
“Yea, why should we share it? It’s his curse; let him deal with it on his own!”
The uproar energetically spread until nearly the entire crew had joined in. My most loyal crewmen, six in all, came to my defense and surrounded me. But rather than fight my dissenters, I had my men stand down. The crewmen were right. This was my curse.
I told the crew to lower me to the sea in a life boat and they could have the ship until my return. They agreed. My few supporters refused to let me go alone and climbed into the lifeboat with me. I did not know if they did this out of their loyalty to me or if they just didn’t want to abandon their dreams of the hordes of treasure which might lie ahead of us, if we could find our way to Sedusa’s Island. I did not care about their motives, I was just glad for their company.
As soon as the boat hit the water it sped off from my ship as if being pulled by something supernatural. We all sat and huddled together, shoulder to shoulder to form a small circle. Defending ourselves was always our top priority. Within moments, our former ship was gone, lost in the fog. Not long after, we heard the sounds of the crewmen cheering the clearing of the fog, which in a way proved them right. Then their cheers turned to frantic screams as the explosions of mass cannons erupted. As we floated away, I prayed for the souls of my former crew, as they had been attacked by what was undoubtedly a military vessel, which must have been surprised by the sudden appearance of a notorious privateer’s ship, from the creepy fog they came to investigate.
The fog pulled us for three whole days and nights. It was a miserable time and we all nearly went stir crazy. When the fog finally disappeared it was in the pitch black, dark of night. Only stars could be seen. We dared not row, having no clue our coordinates and thus decided to wait until morning to try to determine our position by the rising of the sun. But when the sun rose, we forgot all about navigating.
That was because the most beautiful island we ever saw lay just a few hundred yards in front of us. We immediately began to row our dingy toward a large lagoon and beach. The entire island looked deserted, but I knew that if anyone was there, they would undoubtedly be watching us from the trees, so we had to be careful.
The water beneath us was so clear we could see the bottom. We were all hypnotized by the shimmering quality of its unique hue. It was light blue, nearly fluorescent and its surface reflected the glowing sun like a defeated enemy ship being burned on the open ocean. But we were entranced by the water only until we saw a sunken ship drowned beneath the water. Then we saw another and another. The place was a ship graveyard. If we made it ashore, our first order of business would be to hide from the creature that wrecked all these ships.
We slowly navigated our way through sunken ships and huge, out of place boulders eerily poking out of the water like stone icebergs, determined that our little boat would not meet the same fate as all these other vessels, which numbered in the hundreds. Schools of tiny fish were everywhere, and they took turns swimming up to our boat, greeting us, before flittering away. The surreal scene ironically foreshadowed for the most serene, yet nerve-wracking moments, I ever had to bear through.
“Captain!” a panicked crewman pointed to the sky.
The men stopped rowing and we all saw a massive black dot rising above the backdrop of trees. “It’s a boulder!” I screamed at my men who were all standing there gawking. I wasn’t about to just stand there staring while death came to me. I would rather escape that fate or at least die trying. “Get us behind something! Give us some cover! C’mon, pull!”
When the black dot stopped rising, it got bigger and bigger as it barreled towards us. My men jumped into action, grasping the oars and sending us flittering across the surface like a skipping rock. I directed us behind a nearby boulder so that we would be shielded from the missile’s effects. It crashed in the location of we were when we first noticed it, with enough force to splinter even the biggest warship. Our dingy immediately dipped down, as the water level dropped, then lifted back up, as the water rushed back in. The resulting wave propelled us through the water and we rode its momentum all the way to the beach.
We hurriedly exited the boat, pulled it ashore and tried to hide it in some overgrown vegetation. That is when we first heard Sedusa hiss her sinful song. Her voice carried through the trees like a nightmare, cutting deep in our ears and overloading our sensory nerves. We all fell to our knees and cupped our ears with our hands, to no avail. When the Valkyrie cries stopped, we nervously looked all around for Sedusa, because none of us could tell from which direction the screeching came from.
“Take a leaf, stuff it in your ear and then pack your ears with wet sand!” I ordered my men. “I know it sounds crazy, but Sedusa is a master of the senses. When she sings, you become paralyzed from the splitting ear pain. When you make eye contact with her, you are frozen by her great beauty, which is said to rival Aphrodite, Cleopatra, and Helen of Troy. When she kisses you, you cannot resist her. When you see her naked you turn to stone.”
“Do not look at her, don’t look at her” the men chanted, as if trying to self-hypnotize it into their psyches, as they searched for leaves.
When we finished clogging our ears, we had to revert to hand signals to communicate. I knew we would have a better chance defending against Sedusa if we stayed together. I directed the men to build a small shelter from the ample amount of fully foliaged tree limbs the island provided.
We soon had a fire going. A couple of men, experts in fishing, caught two huge fish near the shore and we roasted them. We downed the fish with a couple bottles of rum one of the men had snuck inside his coat. As the rum pushed aside the foreboding feeling we experienced since we got on this godforsaken island and replaced it with bravado, we began singing fighting songs, telling tall tales, and laughing loudly. We had to sing loudly, our ears were stuffed with sand!
Occasionally, we heard the now faint but still haunting screams of Sedusa. Even though the mind numbing effects of her muse were now gone, we still cringed in terror. She had to be growing angrier by the minute because of our disrespectful merrymaking, but that only encouraged us to sing and laugh louder. We wanted to lure Sedusa out of her familiar lair and out in open spaces. Let her come to us!
That night, while most of us slept, she did come to us. Our two sentries were found when their watch was over, both turned to stone. We didn’t even hear as much as a whimper. Sedusa’s beauty must be truly powerful, we thought, to overcome two men that quickly and silently. Fear spread among us and we all knew any one of us might be next.
She did not return that night and the sun rose heavily upon us the next morning. None of us slept after the discovery of the two men turned to stone. No one would take the men’s place either, so we sat huddled close, ready to die. We talked all through the night. I learned that the men were here only for treasure. Since I didn’t want to kill Sedusa, the men figured that while I was doing whatever it was I planned to do with her, they would use my distraction to steal as much of her treasure as possible. If I survived it would be ours. If I succumbed it would be theirs.
I was taken aback when I first heard that. “How dare they?” I asked myself. But I soon got over it because their plan made perfect sense. I was the only one who dared think a moment of passion could be stolen from Sedusa, so I would bare all the burden of that cause. If I succeeded, then I would rule Sedusa, own the island and its treasures and would become a legend, not only in my own time, but for all time. If I failed, then I would just become the latest in a long line of treasure seekers who died in the vain search of forbidden love.
But I had no intention of failing. It was my destiny. I knew it in my heart since the very first time I heard the myth of Sedusa, the last demigoddess known to exist. The rest had been slain by men, as had other demigods. I dreamed of lying with Sedusa and becoming the greatest conqueror of all time.
All one really needs to become a conqueror is fortune. With enough money, one could field an army which could rival or best any army on Earth. After I gained control of Sedusa, I would be rich enough, by far, to raise an army large enough to challenge the greatest kings. I would knock them down, one by one, until they all fell. Then I, Captain Deathblade, would put the stamp of my existence on the human race, in much the same way as Alexander the Great. I would name great cities after myself. I would sleep with the prettiest woman in the world. And I would not allow myself to be poisoned.
We sat off through the woods as soon as we ate. We cut through thick vegetation with our swords and swatted nasty mosquitoes with our hands. The death statues of what was once living men, stood strewn about the forest, some more overrun with the jungle than others. It was hard to imagine the terror these men faced, even though we surely knew we would soon be compelled to face that same terror.
Sedusa proved to be a fantastic hunter. She felled four more of my men before we reached her lair. The attacks happened so fast none of us could react. It was as if she was a ghost, swooping in from out of nowhere, appearing right in front of the men and freezing them with her eyes just long enough to show them her nakedness. I will never forget the appalling sound of their bodies turning to stone.
Soon, my first mate and I were the only ones left alive. We made our final approach to the center of the isle, which rested at the top of a hill that provided an unobstructed view of the ocean in every direction. At the hill’s peak, we could see a makeshift shelter, one not much different from the one that we made at the beach. All the rumors, the myths, the lies about her living in a grand mansion, couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
It all made perfect sense. She lived here alone. She would not need a gargantuan stone mansion. She was a creature of nature. I could envision her roaming the woods with the animals, as free as nature could allow for. Yet, there were all these men, frozen in time, murdered by their own wicked desires. She had to kill them. She knew what she was, what she had been turned into by jealous gods and goddesses. She couldn’t allow for another of her kind. They would turn each other to stone and both die.
I pitied the creature, the goddess, the demigod, the demon, the woman, whatever she was. Sentenced to immortal banishment from both the spirit world and humanity, would have to be among the severest of consequences imaginable, second only to having to watch your own family die. I also knew she hated us. She would do everything possible to kill us both.
The number of statues along the path decreased as we got closer to her lair. It seemed that only a small number of men would she allow this close. Maybe one or two per ship, most likely the captain and his number one. We knew our odds were stupendously poor and we both cringed horribly each time we passed a stone man.
We reached the shelter at the top of the hill and without catching our breath or saying a word, we stormed through the door. We were amazed to see still steaming meat and bowls of fruit and wine. There were no statues along the final path to the shelter and none inside, so we began to think we had somehow passed Sedusa’s test and we were the first to make it this far. We began eating and drinking and singing songs about what we were going to do sexually to Sedusa. We were fools!
The door suddenly swung open and Sedusa stood there with a veil over her face. My friend and I were aghast, in instant fear for our lives. We were not frozen yet, but we sure felt that way. With our hearts pounding and adrenaline flowing, we sat there, simply afraid to move. She was snakelike from the waist down, which hugely disappointed me. I had prayed she had the same powers of mermaids and could transform her snake-like body into real womanly legs.
“Follow me men, I shall show you what you seek,” Sedusa purred at us at a wavelength which cut right through the sand and leaf in our ears. We could not defy her.
We followed her back down the hill. About a quarter of the way down she took a path different from the one we ascended. It led us around the mountain, where hidden by some deftly positioned trees, was a cave. It was so well hidden that I doubt we would have found it even if we’d trod this path. Sedusa entered the cave, snapped her fingers and dozens of torches magically lit up. We cautiously walked into the cave and as soon as we walked in our jaws dropped to the ground. Before us was many hundreds of ships worth of treasure. It was a more vast treasure than any king on Earth possessed. It was enough for dozens of kings.
“You may have one piece of whatever treasure you desire,” Sedusa cooed, “if you leave this place, never to mention my name or whereabouts ever again.”
“What if we want more than one?” I asked. “What if we want it all?”
“Then you must cure me by kissing me or you must kill me.”
“That is why I came,” I said boldly. “I came to take you as my lover.”
Sedusa threw her head back and roared with laughter. “Take your one piece of treasure and be gone from my island. If either of you are still here tomorrow, you shall both die!”
After her threat, she disappeared and left us alone with her horde. The temptation was incredible. There was just so much gold, silver, diamonds, rubies, sapphires and every other kind of jewel imaginable. However, neither of us wanted to be laden down with pockets full of treasure when we next faced Sedusa. So, we both took just one. My first mate took a shield, and a beautiful one at that. It was fashioned with a slivery metal that was harder than the hardest steel we had ever seen. On top of this strange metal was a layer of the shiniest gold, polished to mirror specifications. I told him that perhaps it was the same one Perseus used to kill Medusa, and we both laughed. It was a good weapon for him.
I chose a shimmering jade gobbet. I popped out the cheap marble in my eye socket, put the jade ball up to my empty eye, gave a quick push and it popped right into place, like it was meant to be there from the start. We walked out of her cave but instead of going back to our boat, we went back to our shelter.
She caught us about half way down the hill. I was drinking the icy water from a crystal clear brook while my friend stood guard over me. She hissed at us hideously and appeared in front of my friend. He shut his eyes and turned his back to her, just avoiding catching a glimpse of her nakedness. I saw her standing at the other side of the brook. I stared at her now human and near perfect legs. My heart melted as their nakedness captivated me. I began to welcome the thought of seeing the rest of her doom-laden nakedness. Her magic was that powerful.
“Kill her, Captain,” howled my first mate as he fell to his knees and buried his head under his arms.
“No,” I barked, “I want her body. I want to be the man to free Sedusa.”
“No!” I heard my friend cry as I shut my eyes and jumped over the brook. I stood directly in front of the beautiful monster and cupped her breasts with both my hands. They felt so wonderful in my fingertips and palms that I bit my lower lip until it bled. I could feel her inching closer to me for a kiss, but then she stopped. I could tell she did not wish to kiss me with my eyes shut. Perhaps her poison did not work so well or maybe she enjoyed seeing the powerlessness in the eyes of the men she froze with her beauty. I slowly opened my eyes, paying particular focus to opening wide my jade eye and barely opening my good eye. I heard Sedusa grunt as she looked into my jade eye and saw her own reflection. She turned completely limber, as if frozen by her own beauty.
I quickly jumped into action. Keeping my eye shut, I grabbed her around the waist and guided her to her knees. I jumped behind her and mounted her. Sedusa was mine. My first mate set up his mirrored shield in front of me so that I could see a reflective version of her face and walked away to allow me have my fun as I fulfilled my quest.
When it was over, Sedusa was free from her curse, because I lay with her, without kissing her poison lips or seeing her naked body. Now she was mortal once more, she was all mine and so was her treasure. I sent my first mate away with enough treasure to buy himself a ship to come to rescue us. While we waited for his return, I would live every man’s fantasy, on an unknown paradise, with the most beautiful woman in the world.