Daughter Of The Sea

By George Nikolopoulos

sfgenreMagdalena could swim before she could walk. She could hum the songs of the sea before she could speak. When she cried, her tears were the salt of the ocean.

She didn't remember her mother. Υears ago, a storm had swept her father to the shores of Galaxidi, baby Magdalena in his arms. Father had sailed all over the seven seas, but he never set foot on a boat again after that. A carpenter now, he wouldn't stop talking about the sea — and yet, in all the stories he told Magdalena, he never once mentioned her mother or the shipwreck.

Whenever she asked him, he fell silent, until she finally learned not to ask.

Magdalena's father raised her in the busy sea-port of Galaxidi, with stories of the youssouri, the haunted tree that lives at the bottom of the sea, feeding on the fools who dive and try to cut it; of Gorgona, the sister of Alexander the Great, who catches passing ships with her tail to ask the sailors if King Alexander still lives; of Asaf, the giant who can drink up the ocean and clog the seas with his mighty black beard.

She grew to become a young woman. She was beautiful, but boys shied away from her. Perhaps it was because her eyes changed colour according to her mood, just like the sea.

Magdalena loved her father. Nevertheless, when she was sixteen she ran away from home to become a sailor. Girls were not allowed to become sailors, so she cut her long black hair and walked to the port of Itea, along the way stealing a boy's clothes while he was swimming. She found employment as a deckhand on the first ship she spied at the port. The ship's name was "Panayia Spiliani;" her own name was Michalios, she told the first mate.

As Magdalena’s ship sailed across the Aegean Sea during her first voyage, the sky turned black and thunder rolled. Soon, the waves were like hills and the small ship was thrown here and there like a nutshell tossed about in a winter storm.

Amidst mayhem, they reached the eye of the storm, and there beheld Gorgona. Magdalena knew her as soon as she laid eyes on her. She stood tall as a mountain; her hair black, her face beautiful and proud. Below her bare breasts she bore the scales of a fish and the tail of a sea-serpent, long and sinuous.

Gorgona fixed her eyes on the seamen, scrutinising them. She was terrible and magnificent, and her eyes were like the sea too, wise and angry — and beautiful beyond reason.

The ship's captain, Kapetan-Giannis Gavalos, was an old sea wolf who knew all there was to know about Gorgona. He'd not encountered her before this — but back when he had been a young deckhand, he'd served under a captain who had faced Gorgona and lived to tell the tale.

Kapetan-Giannis waited for the inevitable question, but, to his astonishment, it never came. In all the tales he'd ever heard, Gorgona would hasten to ask "Does King Alexander still live?" But now she simply stared at them, silent, terrible wrath blazing in the edges of her eyes. In the end, Kapetan-Giannis decided there was no point waiting. He had to take the matter into his own hands.

"O’ Mighty Gorgona," he shouted above the howling of the wind, "King Alexander lives, and he reigns, and he rules the world." Trembling, he confronted her with an expression as solemn as he could manage.

Gorgona grew even more terrible to behold. Her eyes burned, her voice was a thunderstorm.

"Liar!" she shouted. "I know that my brother is dead and has been for two thousand years. My mortal lover told me of his death. For years I grieved, yet in the end I came to accept it.

"Then I realised that while I was lost in my grief, the wretch had left me, taking my daughter with him. I want my daughter back! Tell me where she is or I will sink your ship and drown you all!"

Ashen-faced, the captain looked at her. "I don't know where your daughter is, Gorgona. I didn't even know you have a daughter!"

"Liar!" She shouted. "All men are liars."

She coiled her tail around the ship and squeezed. Timbers creaked, ready to break apart.

A wild impulse seized Magdalena. While the ship rocked and swayed, she began climbing the main mast. Many times she almost fell as the mast, along with the ship, was jerked around, but she held on. Centimetre by centimetre she managed to climb.

"Hey, Michalio!" shouted the seamen from below. "Are you crazy? You're going to fall to your death!"

Magdalena finally hauled herself into the crow's nest. She looked at Gorgona eye to eye now. "Spare the men, Gorgona!" she shouted. Then, "please," she whispered.

Gorgona laughed. "Why should I spare them, boy? All men are liars, like the one who said he loved me and stole my daughter from me." She squeezed harder.

The crow's nest swayed like a willow in the wind, but the girl held fast. She stared into Gorgona's angry eyes. They were grey now, like her own.

Silently, Magdalena removed her garments, one by one, until she stood naked on the crow's nest.

The seamen stared and shouted in amazement, but Magdalena had eyes only for Gorgona. "Take me, Mother," she shouted, and she jumped from the mast into the water.


The men of "Panayia Spiliani" swear that when the sea became calm again there was no sign of Gorgona or the strange girl who had been Michalios.

All around the Aegean Sea, sailors still tell the tale of Gorgona's daughter, though none of them know her name.

Only an old man in Galaxidi knows. He once was a carpenter, but now you can always find him in the tavern, drowning himself in drink.

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About The Author

George Nikolopoulos

George Nikolopoulos is a speculative fiction writer from Athens, Greece, and a member of Codex Writers' Group. His short stories have been published in Galaxy's Edge, Grievous Angel, Helios Quarterly, Unsung Stories, "Best Vegan SFF 2016" Anthology, Bards & Sages Quarterly, SF Comet, Mad Scientist Journal, Truancy, Digital QuickFic, 9Tales from Elsewhere, StarShipSofa, Antipodean SF, Manawaker Studio's FFP, Fifty Flashes, Event Horizon 2017, and many other magazines and anthologies.


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