Warrior Queen - Karpov Kinrade by Karpov Kinrade

1





"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." ~Socrates



I wake with a start, my heart beating with such force I fear my ribs will crack. A sheen of sweat soaks my clothes, making my skin itch, and my head feels crushed in a vice. My eyelids peel open, but the light is too bright, and I squeeze them shut against the glare. Every part of my body aches, and a dread I can't define has me in its grip.

A nightmare. I must have been having a nightmare…but why do I feel as if I've been hit by a truck?

Through my anxious haze, music floats to me as if in a dream. Something stringed— a lyre—plays a calming melody that dances in my mind. I try to move, to sit up, to see where the music is coming from, but my body feels tethered to some dark place, and I moan, finally giving up, still keeping my eyes tightly shut.

The music pauses.

"Easy now," a deep voice soothes. "You might feel a bit disconnected from yourself for a bit. I hear that's perfectly normal when your memories return."

My pulse quickens. The voice is familiar but not. Just like the music. In fact, this entire moment feels like deja vu on steroids.

I force my eyes open once again, blinking rapidly to ease the strain of the bright golden light saturating the room. I peek through my eyelashes as my vision gradually focuses.

Standing over me, I see a beautiful man. His short golden hair curls around a face so stunning it's nearly blinding. Thick lashes frame his large, golden eyes. He’s gorgeous with full lips and a straight nose. On his shoulder, a large white raven perches, studying me with sharp pitch-black eyes as it digs its long, curved talons into the fabric of his tunic. Unnerved, I shift my gaze back to the man, noting the halo of light that surrounds him, and I realize with a start, the light is coming from him, as if his skin is made of the sun itself.

Recognition shoots through me. "Apollo," I say through parched lips.

The music stops, and Apollo sets the lyre down. As the raven launches itself from his shoulder to settle on the foot of the bed, the god of light helps me sit up. "Greetings, Prometheus, and welcome home."

Prometheus. The name triggers a flood of memories. Finding Homer the Cyclops. Remembering my past life as a Titan, my true self. Clay framing me for poisoning the gods. Mirk, Torak, Ladron all helping me to escape.

Then, the worried faces of my people swim through my thoughts. Holy Lemons, what has Clay done to them in my absence?

"My queendom. My people," I gasp. I try to stand, but instead fall back into bed as white-hot pain lances through my body. I clutch my side and glance down. Golden ichor oozes through my fingers.

Apollo steadies me with a hand. "I fear your wound is poisoned, my friend. Clay used Death Mist. Achlys potion. Fortunately for you, this is something I can heal.”

Of course. Clay knifed me during the duel. It’s not surprising that he used poison. The betrayal of his actions hurts deeply. Not Lily Lemon, the college girl who died—and who totally expects this kind of thing from Clay—but the Prometheus part. That layer of my soul who mourns for the loss of a brother, of Epimetheus now known as Clay.

I look up to see Apollo tilting his head, studying me with curiosity in his eyes. "You're him but you're not," he muses with a touch of surprise in his voice. "Normally when gods return, they regain their memories and slough off their human lives—which are so short as to almost be irrelevant in the scheme of things. But you…you aren’t truly Prometheus now, are you?" He sits back in his chair and fixes me with a measuring gaze as if trying to determine the exact percentage of Prometheus I truly am, like a live scan version of a genetic test.

There's so much to unpack here, not the least of which is Apollo's role in Clay's attack on the gods. But I'm still processing my own godhood and history, so—one thing at a time, I guess.

"I’m still Lily Lemon, but I remember Prometheus’ life, like it’s a book I read long ago. Or a dream,” I say. I know of no better way to put it. Prometheus feels like someone else, and I have an emotional connection to what was important to him, but my personality, my desires, my gender… that's all still solidly Lily Lemon. “His memories are still here, somewhere.”

Narrowing my eyes, I lift myself slowly on an elbow, the slight movement setting off stabs of pain. As I adjust on the bed to ease my aching side, I take a deeper note of my surroundings for the first time. I’m still in Prometheus’ dungeon room, the walls lined with shelves of scrolls and books, and his—my—skeleton is still slumped at the table. Someone lit the beeswax candles. Homer the Cyclops, probably. With glowing skin, Apollo is his own light source.