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Athena Sneak Peek


Here's an Athena sneak peek! It's from the opening of my upcoming young adult fantasy release, Athena: Gods and Monsters, Book One. Enjoy!


Warm blood cradled her, though it would be many days before she would have the words to comprehend it.


I am inside my mother’s womb.


It was cozy, warm, and soft. She stretched her arms, turned, and closed her eyes, but before she had fallen back to sleep with her knees pressed against her cheeks, a deep voice rang out in a threatening roar.


Her mother’s voice, calm and quiet, followed. “I will not destroy the babe.”


“Metis, you must, if you love me.”


That was her mother’s name—Metis.


“I will not.”


A pressure disturbed her cradle, followed by sudden jerks of movement and her mother’s wail. She clenched her tiny fists and uncoiled herself, ready to spring into action. She flattened her feet against her mother’s backbone.


Her mother’s screams unnerved her. For many hours, she listened to the distressing sounds and felt her mother flailing against her prison.


“Let me out of here!” Metis cried repeatedly.


Once her mother’s cries had subsided and all had gone still, she put her hand against her mother’s belly. It was warm and firm. “Mother? Are you well?”


Her mother flinched with surprise.


“Mother? Metis?”


Warm hands pressed the belly from the other side. “I am here, child. All is well.”




The sound of something scratching woke her from her slumber. She stretched her tiny fists. “Mother? What are you doing?”


“Tearing splinters from your father’s ribs.”


Her eyes opened wide, warm fluid coating them. “Why? How?”


“Your father, Zeus, is the king of the Olympians. He swallowed me because of a prophecy that I would give him a son who would one day unseat him.”


“I am not a son. I am a daughter, I believe.”


“Yes, I believe it, too. My only concern now is setting you free. I shall weave armor for you from these splinters and find a way to get you out.”


“I like it here.”


“For now,” her mother said. “But you are growing, and soon there will be little room. You will become restless and bored, and you will long for something more than this. I must prepare for that day.”


“Mother?”


“Yes?”


“I like my name. Thank you for it.”


“You are welcome, my precious child. And now, I want to exercise your mind with a riddle.”


Athena smiled, ready for the challenge.


Her mother began, “Imagine that your father gifts me a beautiful pear tree. If the main trunk has twenty-four branches, and each branch has twelve boughs, and each bough has six twigs, and each twig bears one piece of fruit, how many plums can the tree produce in one growing season?”


Athena put her finger in her mouth. After a moment, she removed the finger. “The tree can bear 1,728 pieces of fruit.”


Metis pressed her hands against her belly. “How wise of you to put it that way, since a pear tree would produce zero plums.”


“I thought you may have misspoken,” Athena explained.


“It was a trick. If you had said that the tree would produce 1,728 plums, you would have been wrong, because pear trees cannot produce plums, but because you said, ‘pieces of fruit,’ you bested me, the goddess of counsel!”



Despite the many riddles her mother told her to pass the time, Athena soon outgrew her cradle and felt suffocated by it.


“Let me out of here,” she said one day.


“You must find your own way out. I will help as much as I can.”


Athena searched for an opening and found one. Her mother bore down as Athena squeezed through, first her head and then the rest of her. When she was free at last, she found herself in another cradle not much bigger than the one she had left, made smaller by the presence of her mother.


Metis embraced her. “Well done, my precious child. When you are stronger, you must do that again.”


“Will you follow me?” Athena asked, still wrapped in her mother’s arms. She pressed her ear against her mother’s bosom and was comforted by the sound of her beating heart.


“It is not my destiny. It is yours.”


Athena’s stomach formed a knot, and tears pooled in her eyes. She would never leave her mother.



For many months, as she doubled and tripled in size, Athena watched Metis weave her father’s bone splinters into armor, making beautiful, ornate designs with red fibers stripped from her father’s innards. Her mother showed her how to make the weave tight and even.


“Will not my father miss his bone and innards?” Athena asked as she weaved a long splinter in the fashion shown to her by her mother.


“Look around. He is a god. Everything I take grows back within a day.”


“Are we also gods?”


“Indeed.”


“How did my father come to be the king?”


“Pull it taut, Athena. Here, let me show you.”


Metis took the breastplate in her hands and worked her magic. She had created a central floral design and was now developing a chain-link border around the edges.


Athena assumed her mother had forgotten her question, but after a while, Metis said, “Zeus’s father, Kronos, was once King of the Titans and ruler of all the earth. Like Zeus, he was told that his children would one day overthrow him. To avoid it, he swallowed each of his babes as soon as they were born.”


“Including Zeus?”


“No, he was spared by his mother after she had given up five of her children. She wrapped a stone in a blanket and gave it to Kronos to swallow instead. Then, she hid Zeus in a cave at Mount Ida on the island of Crete, where he was raised by nymphs. That’s where I met him. We swam and chased rabbits together. He often sought my counsel. I’m the one who gave him the potion that caused Kronos to vomit his five children from his belly. Zeus was waiting to rescue them. He and I and his mother whisked them away and, together, we made plans for the rebellion that made your father king of the Olympians.”


“He was lucky to have you, as am I.”


“It’s not over yet. While it’s true that Kronos has been captured, Zeus and his siblings continue to fight against Titan and Giant uprisings and search for ways to secure their rule. Zeus freed many of his father’s other children—Giants born of Gaia, the Earth—hoping they would come to his aid in vanquishing the followers of Kronos. But some turned on him.”


“Is my father a good warrior? A good leader?” Athena asked.


“He was until he swallowed us.”


“He did it to protect his throne,” Athena insisted.


Her mother met her eyes. “You don’t resent him for it?”


Athena shook her head. “I would have done the same.”


Metis’s blue-gray eyes widened with surprise. “So, you are ruthless like your father? I hope in time that you will learn compassion and empathy.”


Feeling snubbed, Athena said nothing as her mother continued weaving.


Almost an hour passed before Metis spoke again. “Nevertheless, you must escape. You’re fully grown. Even when I make myself as small as I can without compromising my work on your armor, there’s little room in here for the two of us. More importantly, you have a destiny ahead of you—adventures and glory beyond your greatest imaginings.”


Athena frowned. “Won’t you miss me when I’m gone?”


Metis dropped her weaving and cupped Athena’s face. “More than you can fathom. Stay close to your father, and you will be close to me.”



Athena enjoyed watching her mother weave the armor, and she especially took pleasure in doing it herself, when her mother would allow it. One day, as she watched Metis pull the threads in and out, she studied her mother’s face, admiring her beauty. Raven hair fell across her back and blue-gray eyes trimmed with long, dark lashes looked upon her work. Delicate but strong hands moved tirelessly, making intricate patterns in the armor. Athena wondered if she resembled her mother. She had the same color hair, though it didn’t quite reach her shoulders. And her skin was fair. But what of her eyes? Her face?


“Mother? Do I look like you?”


“Indeed, though your eyes are more brilliant—a stunning gray.”


Athena smiled and kissed her mother’s cheek.


“How about another riddle?” her mother asked.


Athena beamed. She loved it when her mother challenged her mind.


Metis cleared her throat. “When called in for questioning, a prisoner is warned by Zeus, ‘If you lie, I will throw you into the pit of Tartarus. If you tell the truth, I will swallow you.’ What does the prisoner say to save himself?”


Athena tapped her finger to her chin. After a moment, she replied, “The prisoner says, ‘You will throw me into the pit of Tartarus,’ because throwing the prisoner into the pit would cause a contradiction, since the prisoner would have told the truth. He can only be sentenced to Tartarus for a falsehood. And swallowing the prisoner would also create a contradiction, since the prisoner would have stated a lie and can only be swallowed after stating the truth.”


Metis embraced her daughter. “Very good. The prisoner might also say, ‘I am a liar.’”


Athena shook her head. “My answer is better, Mother.”


Metis laughed. “Why is that?”


“Because even liars sometimes tell the truth. If the prisoner says that he is a liar, Zeus could swallow him without contradiction.”


“You have bested your mother once again.” Metis embraced her daughter. “Can you make yourself small, like me? There will be more room.”


“I don’t know how.”


“Visualize it, and it will be so.”


Athena closed her eyes and imagined herself small, like a bird. Her perspective changed, and when she looked down at her body, she saw feathers.


Metis chuckled. “You’re a little owl. Keep practicing, my love.”



When Athena climbed her father’s ribs and leaned close to his throat, she could hear his conversations. Over time, she came to recognize the voice of Helios, the sun god, and his sister, Selene, the moon. They reported the movements of Zeus’s enemies to him. Athena also recognized the voice of Zeus’s new wife, Hera, who bore him two sons. They were called Ares and Hephaestus.


Zeus had children from other wives before Hera and after Metis. The twins Apollo and Artemis proved skillful with the bow and arrow. Hermes was easily the fastest and most cunning of all the deities. Persephone brought springtime everywhere she went. And Aphrodite, according to what others said, was the most beautiful, next to Hera.


There was another voice that Athena thought was the loveliest she’d ever heard. It belonged to a Titan named Prometheus. His deep, melodic voice soothed her and piqued her curiosity.



One day, Zeus announced that he would invite the Giants who had fled to the Caucasian Mountains to pledge their loyalty to him on Mount Olympus.


“They will be grateful for my mercy,” Zeus insisted.


Prometheus objected. “If you open the gates, they may strike. Instead, you should invite them to another location where our allies, hidden from view, surround the meeting place. If the Giants charge you, we will be ready. And, if they go down on their knees before you, you should test them before accepting their pledge.”


Athena grinned and nodded, whispering, “Well done, Prometheus!”


“Test them? How?” Zeus asked.


“Send them to attack the Titan rebels hiding in the Himalayas. If the Giants succeed in bringing the rebels back to the meeting place as your prisoners, then they will have earned your trust, and you will have killed two birds with one stone.”


“Mother, I think you’ve been replaced as Father’s counselor,” Athena called down to where Metis worked tirelessly on the armor.


“You might think so, but you are wrong. I often whisper advice to him while he sleeps. He thinks the ideas are his own.”


“Why do you wait until he sleeps? Why not speak to him now?”


“He hears better when all is quiet. Besides, it is easier for me to climb to his ear when he is lying flat.”



When her father next lay down to sleep, Athena climbed beside his ear and said, “Father, this is Athena, your daughter by Metis. If you set me free, I can help you win the war.”


Athena was startled when he mumbled, “Too dangerous for a child. Safer where you are.”


“But Mother says I’m full-grown, that gods age differently from one another.”


“Let me think on it.”


Athena’s heart soared.



Months went by without another word from Zeus, and Athena, as her mother had predicted, grew restless.


Metis took her daughter by the shoulders. “Bargain with your father. Tell him that in exchange for advice—advice that will help him win the war—you want your freedom.”


“What advice would I give?”


“The Giant Alcyoneus is only immortal in his native land,” her mother explained. “Tell Zeus to shoot the Giant and drag him across his borders, where he will die.”


Athena did as her mother said, and Zeus was pleased by the outcome.


“Father, now will you set me free?” Athena asked.


“It is not the time, but soon,” came his reply.


Athena fumed.



Suspecting that her father knew that the advice about the Giant had come from Metis, Athena climbed higher than she’d dared to go before, reaching into her father’s head. She was pleased when she neared his eyes and discovered that she could see the world through them. Determined to offer something indispensable to him for her freedom, she studied everything with an analytical mind. She held onto his skull as he fought Giants and Titans, and she noted which strategies worked and failed. Meanwhile, below her, her mother fashioned a spear.


Athena learned the names of her father’s greatest and strongest allies—his brothers Hades and Poseidon and his sisters Demeter and Hestia. Hera was perhaps his most loyal ally of all.


Swift, dark-haired Hermes led a charge into the Mycenean hills where a rebel base was believed to be located. The twins Apollo and Artemis weren’t far behind, their long, brown hair flowing in the wind. Each carried a bow and quiver of silver arrows—“Silver Shooters,” the twins had come to be called. Ares and Hephaestus flew on either side of their father. Although Athena couldn’t see them unless Zeus glanced back, his brothers and sisters were on his heels with Hera, Persephone, and Aphrodite, along with their allies, taking up the rear.


While her mother continued to work below, Athena watched the great battles through her father’s eyes with much pleasure. She longed to join her family against their enemies. Artemis and Apollo were indeed experts with the bow. It was a delight to watch Hermes run and fly in circles around the others. And Hephaestus’s craftmanship at the forge produced remarkable weapons.


The ally she was most anxious to see was the Titan Prometheus. She was enchanted by the perfect blend of beauty and wisdom he possessed. He wore his dark, curly hair cut short like his beard. Dark, brown eyes gleamed from beneath even darker brows. Like all the gods, his jaw was square, his neck muscled, and his arms ripped with iron bulk. But unlike the others, she saw unabashed warmth in his smile which, joined with his wise counsel and his stunning beauty, conspired to leave her breathless.


She became consumed by thoughts of Prometheus.


The paperback, hardback, and ebook images for Eva Pohler's upcoming release, Athena.

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