Connect with us

weekly stories

Chapter 5 : Medea, A fractured halo.





The heat was unbearable to say the least, a suffocating hand squeezing the very air from my lungs. As if eternal damnation wasn’t torture enough for the inhabitants of this cursed realm.

Tartarus wasn’t for the weak. Or at least, that’s what I gathered from the looks of it. Down here, the whispers of Asphodel and Elysieum were a cruel joke. Every instinct in my body was begging me to turn and flee, until a flicker of movement in the distance snagged my attention, making me halt in my steps. 

Someone was watching me. 

“Mermerus?” a woman’s voice echoed through the abyss, “Mermerus, is that you?”

Words died on my tongue. Though a silver of desperation lingered in her voice, everything about the approaching figure sent chills skittering down my spine. Crimson red robes, the color of spilled blood, clung to her form, a stark contrast to her pale skin. Her untamed black hair almost covered the entirety of her back. Something about her seemed disturbingly primordial. This was no benevolent spirit, no sorrowful soul. This woman was a true creature of darkness, someone who had not simply adapted to Tartarus but seemed to thrive in its haunting embrace.

As she drew closer, I could see the disappointment in her eyes slowly settle in. For I wasn’t Mermerus, nor did I know of this person she despondently wanted me to be.

Mere inches separated us now. She towered over me then reached out her hand to cup my face. Her touch wasn’t one of comfort, but far from it.

“You do look remarkably like him.” She murmured, the softness in her voice a fleeting mirage.

“Who is he?” I managed to let out as she turned around and started to make her way back.

“My child.”

“And where is he now?” I dared to ask.

The sound of her footsteps abruptly stopped. In the deafening silence, she turned, a cruel smile twisting her lips.

“Dead.”  She said, her voice devoid of emotion, “I killed him.”

A minute passed, or maybe an eternity I’m not certain. Those last three words hung in the air between us, words that felt more like a boast than a regretful confession. 

“Oh please, spare me the shock, I’m sick of it, Who are you boy? Did Aphrodite send you to further taunt me? Sending a boy who looks like my dead child is a wicked move I must admit.” 

“No, my lady.“ I gulped, “Forgive me but I don’t even know who you are.”

A notorious laugh escaped her lips. “Gods and their twisted games.“ she spat, a flicker of something akin to boredom flashing in her eyes. “Fine then, I am Medea, Grand-daughter of the sun. Daughter of the sea, Niece to supreme sorceress Circe. Witch.” She took a step closer, forcing me to crane my neck to meet her gaze. “ A mere thread separates the bumbling foolishness of mortals and the cruel whims of the gods » she hissed, the last word dripping with venom. “ And I walk that thread fueled by powers you, child, can faintly comprehend.”

Ignoring the termance in my voice, I managed to ask “How did you end up here then? amidst this…torment?”

“Why don’t I show you?” she whispered, her voice laced with dark amusement.

Before I could protest, she reached out for my hand. She muttered something in a tongue I couldn’t quite decipher, a strange incantation. The world began to wrap and twist, the great sleep, the great forgetting, darkness, then light.

The world solidified again, I was no longer in Tartarus. My body didn’t feel like mine, Stagnant powers lurked within me, Realization dawned on me.


I wasn’t looking at Medea anymore, I was Medea.


Everything was a blur, experiencing one’s memories through their eyes was nothing short of disorienting. The visions got slightly clearer; A Flash of a golden fleece, the triumphant glint in a pair of unfamiliar eyes. A love so intense it burned. Sacrifices made, yet promises shattered, betrayal, passion morphed into a cage of raging fury, lust for revenge, bloody hands. The smell of death, A chilling satisfaction, A hollow victory, Then back to darkness. 

My eyes fluttered open. I stretched my hands, relieved to feel my own body again.

“How did you do that? Doesn’t being in Tartarus stop you from casting any spells?” I breathe out, still dizzy from the lingering magic.

Medea arched an eyebrow as if I had just asked her the most nonsensical question ever.

“I am a witch, boy. Forever bound to earth. I am tied to the four elements. Tartarus is filled with one of them in all its forms, Fire. My power comes from within. Although this cursed place has tamed it, it could never quench its flames.”

The frustration in her eyes mirrored the confusion churning within me. The visions… hazy fragments that have left me reeling. “I felt them…” I stammered, meeting her gaze, “Your emotions, your rage, as if they were mine.” The weight of a story demanding to be told hung in the air. “Tell me Lady Medea, what has happened to you?”


A sigh followed by, then she began to unravel her past before me.


“Colchis was my home. Magic flowed through my veins, a birthright passed down from my ancestors. Then came Jason, a Greek hero with eyes that shimmered like the Aegean sea and a smile that promised forever. How foolish I was. For him, I defied my own blood. I won him the golden fleece, a prize named by his uncle in order to reclaim his throne. Looking back now, I realize what a waist of muscles Jason was. Without my magic and my wits, he could’ve never returned to his lands victorious AND unharmed. I vowed to protect him. I fled my home to be by his side. Bloody sacrifices on the altar of his empty ambitions. I was promised by Aphrodite an everlasting love as beautiful as dawn breaking over mount olympus if I aid him in his ‘heroic’ quest. I forgot however that while Jason was the goddess’s chosen, I was nothing but her pawn. A mere puppet that will grant her ephemeral glory once hit by Cupid’s bows. But promises made by the gods are fickle. A lesson I had yet to learn at that age.” 

Medea’s fists clenched, turning her knuckles white. She glared into the distance, as if she was reliving the past.


“Another woman caught Jason’s eye upon our arrival to Greece. A princess named Glauce with royal blood and a kingdom to rule over. He cast me aside, leaving me and our children within a blink of an eye . Foolish, foolish man. He had underestimated me, like the rest of them. My grief turned into rage. Revenge became the ultimate goal, a burning ember demanding to burn all it touched. Killing him was never an option. I needed him to feel an ounce of the agony I have felt while breathing still. So I did what had to be done. I took from him what he grew to value most, his new fiancé, her father’s money, and our own offspring. And if I had to, I would do it all over again.”


A look of serenity washed over Medea’s eyes. She unclenched her fists, her shoulders relaxed. I waited in silence for her to finish her story.


“Heaven and Hell became mere words to me. I fled Corinth, cloaked in the golden chariot my grand-father Helios sent me, leaving Jason a broken shell of the man I once loved. People may call me a villain, a mad woman, the devil incarnate for some, but I call myself a hero. I was the one who won the golden fleece. I have defied dragons and armies, navigated foreign waters alongside Jason’s crew and secured his throne all by myself. I deserved the recognition. I have spent my whole life diluting myself to make it easier to be loved. I have dimmed my magic, a witch masquerading as a human for an oath of eternal happiness. I was more than content with working in the shadows and letting Jason take credit for my mastery if only it meant he would be with me. And what do I get in return? Betrayal. Tragedy is a condition to existence, and I have chosen madness as my defense against it. For the dog that weeps after it kills is no better than the dog that doesn’t. My guilt will not purify me. And I accepted that long ago. Let them fear my wrath, let them whisper of my madness. Let them blindly pretend that all of their favorite heroes haven’t bathed their hands in blood too. But of course, blood doesn’t taint a man’s heroism. When a man seeks vengeance, it’s a mark of strength. When a woman does the same, she’s branded a monster.”


She tipped her chin upward, as if addressing the very gods who have betrayed her.


“I am no longer a pawn of fates. I am Medea, I am my own person and I shall spend my remaining days here in Tartarus, my new found home, where I truly belong.”


I stood there, transfixed. Words failed to decipher what I felt at that moment. Medea eyed me up and down one last time. 

“It’s truly incredible how much you look like Mermerus.” she softly whispered,  “Be careful boy. Don’t trust anyone but yourself down here.”


My mind grew heavy with questions left unanswered. I watched as Medea disappeared in the swirling sulfurous mist just as she had emerged from it moments prior.  As I started to make my way back towards the gates, I realized that by simply accepting her fate, this scorned woman has already defied the gods. I may not call her a hero, as she demanded to be called, but she definitely wasn’t a villain either. The very line between good and evil blurred before me. I left Tartarus with a heavy heart and a newfound perspective.



Written by : Fatma Ben Romdhane.

Share your thoughts

Continue Reading

weekly stories

Chapter 6 : Achilles, Valor and Vendetta.







The frame strikingly tall and intimidating, waltzing in reconfigures my senses; a stench of blood encapsulates all, though I seem to be the only one to notice, or rather the last to accustom to it.

The smell of strong hints of iron, rust particles in the atmosphere engulfing the area I was standing, and the eerie noise of metal clashing, I knew I was in for an intricately disturbing turn of events, one that I wasn’t ready to stomach: I found myself on the battlefield.


I presumed that after a decade of perpetual warfare, either side would relent and surrender, or at the very least fight with less valor and patriotism, it is common for the passage of time to dwindle hope and demoralize warriors, but not in the Trojan War, I fear. A grandiose display of courage and heroic sacrifice litters the battlefield, much like the countless corpses impaled with spears.

I never was one to indulge in the idea of warfare, let alone wish to witness it unfolding. I always found the resolution of conflict through violence seldom a path to ending a feud, but rather delaying it.


It appears I’m on the Greek side, and as I realize my stance, the hairs on my nape stand up, and I tremble, feeling the slightest gust of breath over my shoulder, an ominous presence hovers above me, but I dare not turn, neither utter a letter nor exhale, for I fear my fate lies in the hands of what ambushed me. A statue I become.

moments pass and an eternity of paranoia clouds my mind, I am but a prayer away from the river Styx, and I don’t understand the fate I’m bestowed.


« You bear no resemblance to a myrmidon, yet neither are you a Trojan. Where, then, do your loyalties reside? », the silence that befell me as soon as I petrified broke, the voice young, taut, and disembodied, but the tone trod the line between fierce and menacing. Inclined to answer, my thoughts race to implore my limbs to move, but trepidation courses through my frozen nerves, and dread holds me in place. I am but a still husk of a man, dare I glance wrong and I may meet my fate. Nevertheless, glance I shall, my eyes roll cautiously down, and a white silhouette captures my attention: wings.


Wings, even here, rarely turn up on someone’s heel, unless Zeus has something to do with it— and then it blinded me clear as a lightning bolt: those were Arke’s wings on his heels, Zeus’s something borrowed for Thetis and Peleus’s wedding, making their beholder the pinnacle of Greek warriors, the legend of the Trojan War, and the foretold harbinger of peace after a decade of bloodshed: Achilles.

Somehow, in the murk of my innermost self, a deeper tumult of anguish surged, and I recalled a verse wherein his name found sanctuary, which reads:


« Rage, goddess — Sing of the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles, murderous, accursed,  doomed, that brought the Achaeons great suffering »


How must I compose myself when faced with such a formidable presence, formidable yet daunting? Achilles was infamous for his uncontrolled burst of fury, only Patroclus could guide him back to reason with his wise words. As childhood companions, the both of them were inseparable, Achilles and Patroclus. The latter being the role model in kindness and wisdom, and the former in heroic attributes and combat valor, they were an imposing pair. At last, courage stirs in me a storm, and I find myself pivoting gradually to meet his gaze, his sharp, cold, preemptory gaze.


« I mean no harm. » I quivered. It seems as though the courage I amassed wasn’t enough to answer without traces of trembling in my voice. « I’m here to observe, not interfere. »


From behind him approaches a towering figure— a friendlier one than what I confront, though it be void of relevance, for Achilles remains peerless at that.


« Achilles, my brother in arms, hear my earnest plea, » solicits Patroclus as Achilles lowers his defenses. His focus shifts from glaring at me to attentively heeding his companion’s entreaty. Finally, I could draw a relieved breath.


« The time has come for us to don the mantle of strategy as well as valor. Your divine armor, crafted with such skill by Hephaestus, holds not only the strength of the gods but also a potent symbol to strike fear into the hearts of our enemies. As we stand against the Trojan hordes, let us wield not just swords and spears but also cunning and deception. Allow me, with your blessing, to bear your armor into battle. Let the Trojans believe that Achilles himself strides forth, while in truth, it is I who shall wear the gleaming bronze. In this ruse lies our advantage, a shadow of fear cast upon our foes, as they face the might of Achilles where he is not. Grant me this honor, my friend, that together we may achieve victory on the field of Troy. »


Achilles has abstained from engaging in battle ever since Agamemnon, the commander of the Achaeon forces, dishonored him. In earlier raids, Achilles captured Briseis and Chryseis, the latter of whom he surrendered to Agamemnon. However, her father, chryses, a priest of Apollo, intervened with ransom and the threat of divine retribution, compelling Agamemnon to release her. In retaliation, he seized Briseis for himself. With wrath coursing through his veins, Achilles lifted his voice to the heavens, his words resonating with fervor and anguish:


« Zeus, ruler of the skies, heed my prayer! Injustice stains the battlefield, and the honor that once bound warriors together lies shattered. Stripped of my due honor, I stand aggrieved. Yet, I beseech you, turn your gaze upon the Trojans, and grant them your favor. Let them gain ground, that Agamemnon may taste humility and I may reclaim my rightful glory. O Zeus, if ever my valor earned your favor, let vengeance be wrought upon those who wronged me. Grant me vengeance, O mighty Zeus, and restore my honor in the eyes of men! »


As Zeus answered his prayers aiding the Trojans in their advance against the Greeks led by Prince Hector, the situation turned grim, with more soldiers falling in arms. In the midst of this chaotically bleak scenario, Patroclus’s demand appears increasingly more justified, perhaps the most reasonable course of action.


« Patroclus, my trusted companion. » Achilles sighs with compassion, he knows the inevitable, and he comprehends the fate bestowed upon him, yet he acquiesces with a tinge of regret in his voice. Perhaps putting hubris before reason was unwise; maybe he ought to stand alongside his comrade in battle. Nevertheless, Achilles, pompous as he is, complies.


« I bestow upon you the privilege of donning my armor in battle. Yet, I beseech you, do not forget my plea: once you have repelled the Trojans from our ships, return to me unharmed. Your bravery is unmatched, but my heart cannot bear the thought of losing you in the fray. With this gift, I entrust not just my armor, but a piece of my own spirit to your care. May its gleam blind our enemies to the truth, may its weight fortify your resolve, and may its presence upon the battlefield be a beacon of hope to our allies. Promise me, Patroclus, that you will come back to stand by my side, so that together we may revel in our victory and face whatever lies ahead as brothers in arms. »


Patroclus, instilling trust in Achilles, dons his armor and charges forth with formidable strength. None among the Trojans dare to oppose him as he cuts a path through their ranks, and each who dares meets his untimely fate. The disguised hero successfully repels the nearby enemies. Proud, Patroclus basks in the glow of glory, and hubris, once again, trumps reason as an unfulfilled promise is disregarded. Pressing onward towards the gates of Troy, Patroclus finds himself ensnared in battle and Apollo removes his wits. Patroclus falls victim to the spear of Euphorbos, followed by the fatal blow from Prince Hector. As Patroclus lies bleeding on the ground, and as Hector strips him from Achilles’ prized armor as a trophy of victory over the cunning warrior, he utters his last words:


« You yourself are not one who shall live long, but now already death and powerful destiny are standing beside you, to go down under the hands of Aiakos’ great son, Achilleus. »


News of Patroclus’s demise spreads swiftly across the battlefield, and upon learning of his companion’s death, Achilles’ composure shatters, his muscles tense, his gaze hollow, enveloped in an eerie haze of grief. Slowly, Achilles’s world crumbles around him. Slowly, he turns to confront the remainder of his comrades-in-arms. As I stand there, I resign once more to the whims of the great son of Peleus, unsure of what lies ahead, uncertain of his reaction, knowing full well that his wrath may even affect those who stand by his side. And I, unfortunate soul, am burdened with that very fate. For Achilles, hearing Patroclus’s death rewires him, honor recedes in significance and friendship comes to the fore as he exhales with sorrow, consuming and profound:


« The man I loved beyond all other comrades, loved as my own life — I lost him. And now, far away from the land of his fathers, he has perished, and lacked my fighting strength to defend him. Now, since I am not going back to the land of my fathers, since I was no light of safety to Patroclus, but sit here beside my ships, a useless weight on the good land, I, who am such as no other of the bronze-armored Achaeans in battle »


Thetis, his mother, rushes to console the grieving Achilles, entreating Hephaestus to forge another set of armor for him, complete with an intricately crafted shield. His sorrow fleeting, his wrath bursting at the seams, Achilles unlearns restraint and his eyes sparkle with the lust for bloodshed. No grudge against Agamemnon, no swollen pride, no vendetta to reclaim honor, and no pursuit of glory or heroic deeds could ever eclipse what Achilles sought after the most; in that moment alone, Achilles, liberated from hesitation or uncertainty, consumed by a fiery passion to fulfill his one true burning desire above all else: vengeance for Patroclus.


At that moment alone, he unleashed a display of wrath unparalleled by any mortal, as if he had harbored it within his soul since birth, as if his destiny dictated that it would erupt only at this juncture in the war. Perhaps it was the gods who scripted this sequence of events in their celestial books, decreeing that Achilles must lose his dearest friend and embark on a merciless killing spree.


Yet Achilles did not contemplate such matters; consumed by rage, he transcended his own identity, becoming nothing but a harbinger of death to all who crossed his path. His once invincible hands are now stained with the blood of countless foes, the more he advances relentlessly into the enemy ranks, drawing ever closer to Hector — the embodiment of his vengeance — the sooner he fulfills his purpose and returns but a mere shell of his former self, devoid of all impetus and ipseity.


The river ran thick with blood. Angered by the defilement of its waters, the river god Scamander attempts to drown Achilles, but Hera and Hephaestus intervene, allowing him to rise unscathed and undeterred, pressing onward toward his sole target. Even Zeus dispatched the gods to restrain Achilles, so he doesn’t sack Troy before the time allotted for its destruction, for his unhindered rage seems to defy fate itself, threatening to rewrite the very will of Olympus.


Affronted, wroth, and deranged, a determined Achilles tracks down Hector, the subject of his smite. Once Achilles locates his prey, the wings of Akre aid him to catch up swiftly with the Prince. Circulating the walls of Troy, the vengeance-crazed warrior shouts:


« I shall ensnare you with your own entrails, coiling them around you like a scarf, tightening the grip until it suffocates you, until it feels like my hands around your throat »


The anticipation hung thick in the air as Hector and Achilles closed in on each other, poised for a clash of legendary proportions. Maybe it was here and now that the Trojan War vanquisher comes to light. Hector charges through the wind with his sword, fast, efficient, sharp, perhaps from fear of the debilitating force before him, perhaps with the help of his opponent’s trusted shield, he misses. The poor prince, not hearing the sound of metal penetrating flesh, seeing his famed blade not stained with blood of his most formidable opponent, accepts his grim fate. In seconds few, he shall be dead. In seconds few, he meets the consequences of murdering Patroclus in cold blood, and he understands those consequences will be severe.


« Hector— surely you thought when you stripped Patroclus’ armor that you, you would be safe! Never a fear of me— far from the fighting as I was— you fool! Left behind there, down by the beaked ships his great avenger waited, a greater man by far— that man was I, and I smashed your strength! And you— the dogs and birds will maul you, shame your corpse while Achaeans bury my dear friend in glory! »


Hector raises his gaze to Achilles as the blade penetrates further his chest, as the warrior stands over him, towering, terrifying, fatal:


« I beg you, beg you by your life, your parents— don’t let the dogs devour me by the Argive ships! give my body to friends to carry home again, so Trojan men and Trojan women can do me honor with fitting rites of fire once I am dead. »


Disgusted, Achilles grips the spear with both hands and twists it as Hector groans in agony.


« Dog! » Achilles shouts, still inebriated with rage. « Talk not to me neither of honor nor parents; would that I could be as sure of being able to cut your flesh into pieces and eat it raw, for the ill have done me, as I am that nothing save you from the dogs— such agonies you have caused me. Your noble mother shall never lay you on your deathbed to mourn the son she bore. The dogs and birds will rend you— blood and bone! »


On the precipice of death, and in a hopeless effort to frighten Achilles, Hector struggles to collect a breath, then proclaims:


« Be careful now; for I might be made into the gods’ curse. Upon you, on that day when Paris and Phoibos Apollo destroy you in the Skainan gates, for all your valor. »


Hector’s prophecy is cut short, and as his soul trickles down into Hades’s realm, his body’s fate is as grim. Achilles wrenches the spear from the corpse, sets it aside, and rips his stolen armor from the fallen prince. Not one of the nearby warriors flocked to the body and did not stab it mockingly, proudly, as if the war was already won, as if the prince’s remains shall never know peace. Achilles, perplexed by the Hector’s last words, was determined to shame him, finding solace in the lament of his grieving mother.


He pierces the tendons, from ankle to heel behind both feet, then binds them with straps of rawhide, lashing them to his chariot, and leaving the head to drag along the ground. Mounting the wagon and hoisting the armor abroad, the troops aside him follow as he charges onward and leaves a cloud of dust in his wake from the humiliated prince Hector, the once glorious and pompous warrior now reduced to a mere spectacle, being defiled in the lands of his ancestors.


The desecration of Hector’s body broke the once proud Trojans, their spirits shattered by the sight of his lifeless form being dragged behind Achilles’ chariot. The agony that envelops their ranks is palpable, a suffocating shroud that weighs heavy upon the hearts of all who bore witness to their prince’s downfall. And amidst that turmoil, the mother’s cries pierce the air, from the depths of Troy’s walls to the chambers of the royal palace, echoing the grief that courses through every corner of the besieged city.


And as the atmosphere of Troy sways between the landscape of murderous warriors driven by carnage, the humiliating display put on by Achilles to drag a dead man through the mud as you ransack your enemy’s motherland, and the harrowing sounds of a weeping family over their son’s departure and public mockery, I stood there more perplexed than I was when I came in through that door. Once again, stuck in the ebb and flow of tragedies that don’t concern me, I was frozen in place, pondering the same thought that I tend never to omit: what am I doing here?


While tending to that query I realized that I had gotten used to that overpowering smell of blood and that I now wasn’t terrified of Achilles anymore than he was threatened by me at first, a stranger ominously appeared amidst his ranks, perilously close to his most cherished companion. The more time I spend among these flawed gods and legendary mortals, the more I recognize the humanity in them, as if they hold a mirror reflecting our strongest desires and deepest flaws. What is Achilles but a man driven to fury by the loss of a loved one? What is Hector but a patriot willing to sacrifice honor to defend Troy, the land of his ancestors? What is Scamander but a guardian of what he holds dear? And mighty Zeus— What is he but the embodiment of desire for things to unfold according to his will?


In the end, gods and warriors alike are not immune to the passions and frailties that define the human experience. The Trojan War, too, was but a reaction to human emotions of control and greed, and the warriors and gods alike participated, each for the opportunity to bring glory to their name and nothing else. Achilles, with his insatiable thirst for vengeance, and Hector, with his tragic downfall, were but manifestations of the same emotional tapestry that weaves through the fabric of mortal existence. They feel love, grief, and remorse just as keenly as any mortal.


My prejudice of these mythical creatures has led me to unfairly judge Achilles when I met him, for it is not the legends etched in stones or the rumors whispered around that define anyone’s character, but rather their actions and the motivation behind them. And while the path to it may be fraught with peril and uncertainty, it is far nobler to embrace the human emotions within than to meddle with the ever-shifting currents of fate and fortune.


Although I had long forgotten the concept of home, a glimmer of hope lit my face as I gazed at the door materializing before me. Through its threshold, I caught a fleeting glimpse of a reflection of myself from before I came here. Perhaps another adventure awaits me, but an instinct within tells me home awaits on the other side of that door. And so, unwavering, I stride forward and step through.



Written by: Rayen Aouicha.

Share your thoughts

Continue Reading

Made with ❤ at INSAT - Copyrights © 2019, Insat Press