So Dana and Perseus lived with Dictys, the fisherman, and his wife Thalia in their cottage on the shore of the Aegean Sea.
Dana helped Thalia in the home, and learned from her all the things she would have learned from her own mother and her aunts, if Acrisius had not locked her underground for all those years. From Thalia, she learned the art of weaving, of baking bread, of keeping a garden and of making cheese and yogurt from the milk of their small herd of goats. Thalia taught her, too, the songs, the games and the stories with which the women of Seriphos made their work go faster, as they did their laundry together on the banks of the river or gathered the dark olives from the low, twisted trees.
And as soon as he was old enough to climb into the boat, Perseus went out fishing each day with Dictys, who taught him to cast the net and haul it in, heavy with fish, and to row the boat straight and fast through the rolling waves of the sea.
As he grew into a young man, the rowing of the boat and the casting and hauling of nets gave Perseus strong arms, a broad chest and powerful legs, like those of his step-grandfather. When the young men of the village met for their military training sessions, Perseus was the strongest and fastest of them all.
But this family had one more member. The king, Polydectes, used to come down to his brother's cottage from time to time, and each visit cast a chill over the little home like a harsh north wind in winter.
You could tell that Dictys and Polydectes were brothers, but they were very different indeed.
Dictys often smiled, and, when he smiled, he smiled with his whole body. He had the kind of smile that made you smile, even if you were in a bad mood.
When Polydectes smiled, however, only his mouth smiled. His eyes remained cold.
He had the kind of smile that made you stop smiling, even if you had been in a good mood, because Polydectes only smiled when he was thinking of something particularly wicked.
Polydectes used to come to the cottage and smile at Dana. Even before Perseus was old enough to understand, it made him angry and frightened to see how the king smiled at his mother. Now that he was older, it was all he could do to keep his temper, and to remember that Polydectes was the king, and the brother of Dictys.
Then one day, when Dictys and Perseus were coming home from fishing, Thalia met them on the beach with the news. A messenger had come from the city, with orders from King Polydectes. Dana was to come live in the palace, alone, to work as a servant.
Perseus leapt from the boat and started towards the cottage, but Dictys called him back to help haul the boat up onto the sand and turn it upside down for the night. Then they hung the nets on the racks to dry.
By the time they had finished putting everything away, Perseus had started to calm down. But he still wanted to go up to the city and storm into the palace of Polydectes.
"We can't just sit here on the beach!" he insisted. "We have to do something!"
"You're right," Dictys said. "I will take some fat goats up to the temple of Athena. Perhaps she can help us."
"I will take a stout club to the palace and help us myself," Perseus declared, but Dictys put a calm hand upon his shoulder.
"Wait until I have prayed to the goddess," he said. "If she cannot help us, then, yes, we will have to help ourselves. But let us see."
That evening, Dictys walked in the bright moonlight up to the temple of Athena with a tender young goat tucked under each of his strong arms and a basket of fresh fish strapped to his broad back.
He had not yet returned the next morning when a chariot arrived at the cottage, and a soldier in a bright bronze helmet topped with a waving plume of horsehair came to the door and picked up Dana's small packet of clothing. She followed him to the chariot and stepped in, then turned to her son.
"Perseus, wait here for Dictys," she said. "He will know the wise thing to do."
But as soon as the chariot was out of sight, Perseus stormed into the house. He strapped on his sword and walked out, following the route the chariot had taken.
Thalia called after him, but he paid her no mind.
It was late afternoon when Perseus strode up to the palace gates. One of the guards stepped forward, but Perseus pushed him aside. "I must see Polydectes!" he shouted.
The Captain of the Guard hurried over. "Come back another time."
"I must see him now!" Perseus insisted, but the captain shook his head.
"Perhaps in a few days," he said, then grinned. "Tonight, the king feasts with his friends. Tomorrow, he's getting married -- to one of his servants!"
Next Week: The King's Feast
Text copyright Mike Peterson, 2001; illustrations copyright Christopher Baldwin, 2001