The Goddess Athena has surfaced after millennia, with a tell-all book about the rise and fall of the Greek Gods. There is far more to the legends than you know.
In a land wracked by civil war, a warrior and a 400-year old healer race to save the life of the crown prince, while eluding powerful assassins bent on stopping them...
The dragons of Norwall have deliberately hidden the richness and complexity of their culture from humans eyes for centuries. Until now.
Take a look inside the cover of My Life As Athena to get a taste of her story.
I stood in my chariot on the hill of Cynoscephalae, facing down the Roman army ranging out in front of me. Around me massed a combined army of Macedonian and Greek warriors, twenty-five thousand strong. Directly behind me rattled the famed charioteers of Greece as they moved into position, eager to do battle to protect their homeland.
What are we doing here, you ask? Shouldn’t you start your tale at the beginning? My answer to you is that this is a beginning. The beginning of my end. This is the moment of my greatest shame: the moment I started to realize my family might not be good for the people who worshipped us.
Catching the excitement in the air, my creamy white horses snorted and stamped their hooves, tossing their silken manes, eager to get moving. I stood, arrayed in my finest armor, helm on my head, preparing to inspire and lead the men behind me. On my distant left, my half-brother Ares was doing the same with the Macedonian phalanxes that he would lead into battle. Standing past Ares was his wife Enyo, leading the light auxiliary and poised to dart out invisibly into the Roman ranks.
The three of us had fought together for a thousand years, and our skills combined to make us a formidable team. Strategy and tactics were what I brought to the table. Ares’ strength was the ability to inspire courage and battle lust in the warriors around him. Enyo’s ability was to sow panic and discord among the enemy’s troops, demoralizing them into easy pickings. This was a winning combination that we had executed successfully many times before, facing the Persians and the Gauls. These Romans, these descendants of Aeneas the Trojan, were just one more in a long line of would-be invaders.
The sun broached the horizon on my right. It was time to unveil myself. Normally, Ares, Enyo, and I were invisible to mortal eyes, but in order to inspire and comfort the vast army behind us, we had to communicate that we were here. As the pale morning light touched me, I started to unveil. Just a touch, just a little sparkle to outline a shadowy presence. The sunlight flashed off the silver helm that I wore, the sharp blade of the long spear that I held in my right hand, and the edges of the engraved shield braced on my left arm. A flurry of murmurs broke out behind me. I smiled involuntarily before remembering that I needed to be Athena, the stern and dignified Goddess of Wisdom and War.
The sun rose over the horizon, flooding the plain ahead of us with light. Cheers broke out behind me and behind Ares as we came more clearly into view. Only we immortals noticed a lithe figure floating down from the heavens towards Ares—Hermes, my father’s personal messenger. I stood for a moment before slowly veiling myself again. One glimpse of divine protection was often enough to charge up our men’s hearts and give them the faith that they would be victorious in this conflict.
Once I had faded fully from mortal eyes, I thrust my spear into the holder by my side and pulled off my helm. My heavy, golden braid fell from the helm and tumbled down my back. Before battle, I would tuck it down the back of my tunic to secure it. But first, I had to get out of the ornate armor that I had worn especially for the men. I unsnapped the buckles at my side and lifted my breastplate over my head. It was beautiful and impressive, but far too cumbersome for what I was about to do. I preferred to fight light and fast, unencumbered by armor that would jab into me at inconvenient times. Beneath the breastplate, I wore my silver aegis wrapped tight around my chest. Lovely in its own right, my aegis was just as impenetrable as the breastplate, without all the weight.
My task would be to lead the first charge, softening up the Roman infantry for Ares. Unfortunately, the Romans had a similar chariot brigade on their side and they would be trying to do the exact same thing. I needed to move faster than the enemy and do as much damage as possible to their infantry, before turning to deal with their charioteers.
Hermes landed beside my chariot as I tied the ends of the reins to the silver girdle around my waist, to ensure that I wouldn’t lose them once I was in the thick of things.
“Lady Athena, I bring word from your father! Zeus has commanded that you and your siblings retire from the battle immediately!”
“What?” I barked as I lifted my eyes from the knot at my waist. “That makes absolutely no sense! We can’t abandon our people. This would be a betrayal of their faith in us!”
“Nevertheless, those are your orders,” he replied. “You are to return to Olympus immediately. Ares is telling Enyo as we speak.”
I looked past Hermes. Indeed, Ares had left his post and was talking to his wife on the far side of the army. I stood back on my heels, flabbergasted. As Gods and Goddesses of War, we were duty-bound to support our people in times of battle. And yet, we were being ordered to abandon them by our father Zeus, King of the Gods—the father I loved and loathed in equal measure.
I stood poised in the chariot, staring at Ares in the distance. With my excellent sight, it was not hard to see his dark expression as he conversed with Enyo. Ares, with his single-minded focus on honor and glory, would be much offended by this order. As if feeling my eyes on him, Ares swung his sculptured head to look back at me, his gaze flat and angry. This was dishonorable, yet we had no choice but to obey our father. I had felt Zeus’s thunderbolt once in my life and I had no desire to experience it again.
Sickened, I nodded to Ares and turned back to my horses, my gaze skipping over Hermes as if he didn’t exist. Gritting my teeth, I unknotted the reins from my girdle and snapped them. The team stepped forward, leaving Hermes behind. My horses picked up speed and then took off into the air, whipping my chariot skyward.
I heard the horns blow at ground level. Glancing down over my shoulder, I saw both the Greek and Roman chariot brigades roll forward, picking up speed. I didn’t watch as the descendants of Aeneas began to take their vengeance, in payment for the destruction of Troy a thousand years before.
3000 years earlier
The first thing I remember was being wrapped in a cocoon of love. It was a reddish cocoon with gold flashes, and came with the resonant voice of my mother, Metis. She whispered to me through the long stages of my gestation, telling me of her life and her hopes for me as my limbs grew and my brain developed. As I grew, she diminished and grew transparent, until I could see right through her, to the darkness of my father’s body. I was cocooned twice, you see. Inside her and inside my father: Zeus, King of the Gods.
Metis was one of the Titans, the original deities of the Greek peninsula. They were eventually overthrown by the Olympians, their descendants, and by my father in particular. Oddly enough, my mother didn’t hold that against Zeus. She chose to lie with him and helped him overthrow the Titan Kronos, who was both Zeus’s father and her uncle. You’re getting the idea now. Familial relationships mean nothing in the Greek pantheon. It was literally eat or be eaten. Kronus swallowed his children. Zeus got him to throw them all back up again with Metis’s help, and then Zeus swallowed Metis.
“It was prophesied that I would bear children of extraordinary power and intelligence who would eventually eclipse Zeus himself,” my mother whispered to me as she cradled me within her. “He grew jealous, unable to bear the thought of being thrown down, as he had thrown his father down. He brooded on it. Then one day, he challenged me to a shape-changing contest. Laughing, we morphed into all kinds of fantastical creatures, great and small. Eventually, I changed into a fly and it was at that point that he leapt upon me and swallowed me whole.”
My mother’s voice grew bitter. “I was the Titan Goddess of Wisdom and I was bested by a suspicious oaf. But I will have my vengeance. Zeus underestimates females. He believes that only another god can be a threat and that, my daughter, will be your greatest advantage. I say this to you: You will be the one to eclipse him, not some imaginary son. So be careful with Zeus,” she cautioned. “Do not ever trust him. Remember that he betrayed his own father and me. He will not hesitate to destroy you if he suspects you to be a threat. You will need time to grow into your power, so play the dutiful daughter and win his affection. If things go bad, act! Go to my grandmother, Gaia. She detests Zeus, and will aid you for love of me and your Titan blood. She will shield you from Zeus and the other Olympians, if need be.”
I stirred within her, stretching my limbs but unable to answer her. Pulses of energy flared and flowed into me from my mother. I felt myself expand, greedily absorbing all that she had to give.
“Your name will be Athena, and you will take my place as Goddess of Wisdom,” her voice strengthened. “I bequeath you my divinity, my cunning, and my power.” Her voice grew to a roar, shaking my world. A short white chiton formed on my naked body. Silver sandals materialized and bound themselves to my feet.
“I also bequeath you these mystical weapons that I’ve created. Use them to protect yourself and defeat your foes.” A helm clamped down on my head, restricting my vision, and a silver breastplate formed on my chest. “Fight your battles with your head, not your heart, and have no mercy on those who challenge you.” A kilt of studded leather wrapped itself around my hips and tightened, protecting me from waist to knee. An engraved sword appeared in one hand and a spear in my other. Things were moving fast, but I felt no fear. I tightened my grip on my sword.
“There is nothing more that I can do for you except to fade, so that you can break free. Now, GO!”
There was a blinding flash as my mother’s being contracted into me, giving me her final bequest of power. When I recovered, I was in darkness, alone, with my mother’s power seething within me. For the first time in my short life, there was no maternal voice, no divine guidance. Shifting my grip on my spear, I began stabbing at the dark walls of my prison repeatedly. How long I did this, I know not. But eventually, a gash of light appeared above me. Taking my chance, I leapt up and grabbed hold of the edges of the gash, ripping it apart with all my strength. Crawling out into brilliant white light, I leapt out and away, weapons in hand. As I travelled, I felt my body expand, unconstrained at last.
I hit soft green grass and rolled to my feet, still growing in size. I slowly opened my eyes, letting them adjust after an age in darkness. The first thing I saw was a pair of concerned golden eyes set in a broad yet gentle face. Behind him was a gory mess of a giant, who was pressing together the two halves of his head. Even as I watched, the two halves began to merge. A recognizable mouth set in a dense beard appeared, then a nose and two eyes. A moment later, my blood-spattered father, Zeus, regarded me in disbelief. He got to his feet, showers of rubies falling from his robes as his blood turned into precious gems. The two gods glanced at each other. When my father looked back at me, I saw the deep distrust in his eyes.
“I am Athena, Goddess of Wisdom.” I heard my own voice for the first time, strong and resonant. My mother’s bequest of cunning came to my aid. “And daughter of Zeus,” I added boldly. I dropped to one knee in front of Zeus and laid my weapons crossed at his feet. Lifting my head, I looked up at his face and watched in satisfaction as the wariness in my father’s eyes cleared.
"As one who highly enjoys a good fantasy genre read, this debut novel by Daphne Ignatius does not disappoint."
"A superbly constructed fantasy, author Daphne Ignatius proves herself to be a master storyteller able to craft truly memorable characters and deftly embed them into a riveting and entertaining storyline of twists, turns, and surprises. Thoroughly entertaining from first page to last, "My Life As Athena" is an exceptional and enthusiastically recommended read."
"If you're a fantasy fan, you'll appreciate The Dragonrider's Quest, which skillfully portrays all the elements of a classic fantasy novel in a compelling fashion. Aenor Merivel, a spirited young female dragonrider and Marius, the Maester of the College of the Healing Arts, are drawn together into an adventure neither expected, fraught with danger and excitement."
"Absolutely delightful and fresh. Ignatius's book is a pleasure to read. It's funny and playful and sincere."