Someone I’m not.
Lied to and betrayed by gods, Daimons and Dark-Hunters, I’ve struggled to find my way in a world where I’ve been cursed since the moment I was prematurely ripped from my mother and planted into the womb of an innocent woman who thought me her son.
Trained as a slayer and predator, I learned to fit in and stay low. To become a tool for evil. Until I was sent to kill the one woman I couldn’t. My hesitation cost her her life.
Or so I thought. In an act of betrayal that makes all the others pale in comparison, I’ve learned that this world is an illusion and that my Phoebe still lives.
Now I will have to travel into the very pits of Hades to try and save her, even as everyone around me attempts to steal what little soul I have left. There’s only one person at my back and I’m not sure I can trust her either, for she was born of an enemy race. Yet sometimes the road to redemption is one that singes us to our very core. And if I fail to find the answers I need to save Phoebe, more than just my wife will die.
We will lose the world. Both human and Daimon.
Stygian will be available August 28th. Please enjoy this excerpt.
Tears blinded Braith as she stared through the bars to see what they’d done to her once proud husband. While all the Sephirii beings were ethereal and beautiful, none were more so than her precious Kissare. Yet they had beaten him to the brink of death. Had sliced his white wings from his muscular body and left him a broken shadow of the fierce warrior he’d been.
Even so the fire of life returned to his warrior’s gaze the moment he saw her through his matted white hair. Ethereal hair that contrasted sharply with the blackness of hers.
“Apollymi,” he breathed, using an endearment that in his language meant “the light of my heart.”
From the moment they’d first met, he’d refused to call her anything else. Unlike the others who scorned and mocked her for a monster to be feared, Kissare alone knew her for something more than the pit of utter darkness that would devour the world whole, and laugh while she did it.
And they were right. She hated everything and everyone.
Except for him.
He smiled at her in spite of his pain. “You shouldn’t have come here.”
“I had to.” Choking on her grief, she cupped his face through the bars. “I drugged Atticus and have stolen the key.” She released him so that she could pull it from the folds of her cloak and unlock his prison to free him. “We can—”
“Nay,” he said, cutting her off. He placed his bloodied and bruised hand over hers to stop her from setting him free. “I cannot leave. It’s the only way to protect you and Monakribos.”
She sobbed at the mention of their young son, who’d been crying himself to sleep every night as he asked after his absent father. Kissare and Monakribos were so close. From the very hour of Monakribos’s birth, Kissare had been there for him. Had never missed a single night of tucking their son into his bed to sleep—provided the babe hadn’t fallen asleep while nestled in his father’s arms.
Until the other gods had learned that Kissare was the father of her child.
Damn Kissare’s brother for his loose, treacherous tongue! A tongue she’d nailed to the ceiling over the betrayal that had caused Kissare’s arrest.
Not content to stop there, she’d also nailed both of Tisahn’s testicles beside his tongue as he screamed out for a mercy she’d refused to show him. Then she’d grown him two more balls just so she could rip those off and nail them up as well. Pity the weakling had died before she’d had a chance to give him a third set.
Worse still, her pathetic sister had hidden his corpse from her so that Braith couldn’t resurrect him and torture him longer…
Wretched bitch! She’d get Cam back for that one day, even if it was the last thing she did.
While it was fine for the male gods to have children with the female Sephirii, or any other whore they dredged up from the lowest pits for that matter, it was considered sacrilege for a male Sephiroth to impregnate any goddess he served.
But in her heart, Braith had only loved Kissare and their son. In all these centuries, Kissare alone had been the one who’d made her laugh. His had been the sole company she’d sought. Whenever she’d been despondent, he’d comforted her. When she’d needed friendship, he’d always been there. No excuses. No delay.
Her best friend.
Her only friend.
“I don’t know how to live without you, Sare. I don’t want to live without you.”
“Shh,” he whispered before he placed a tender kiss to her cheek. “You are a goddess. The most beautiful of all. You lived centuries before my birth and you were fine without me.”
“No. I survived and endured. I was cold and unfeeling. The last thing I want is to be cast back to that lonely hell I used to call home.”
“And now you have a baby who needs his mother.”
She choked on a sob. “He needs his father, too.” How would their son ever learn kindness without Kissare? She could teach him nothing save murder, torture, and hatred.
Those were all she understood.
He buried his hand in her dark hair and locked gazes with her. “The other gods will never leave us in peace, Polli. You know that. We’ve broken their sacred law, and they are a hateful lot. My execution will make amends. Better they punish me, alone, than you and Kree…But I will come back for you. I swear it. No matter what it takes. Death can’t keep us apart. Nothing can. I love you too much to stay away.”
Through the pain, she believed him. If he said it, it was true. He’d never once lied to her. It wasn’t in him to do such.
“How will I know it’s you?”
He took her hand into his and placed it over his heart so that she could feel its fierce, strong beatbeneath her palm. “You will know, and you won’t doubt me. Ever. You’ll see.”
“Then I will wait for you. No other shall ever touch me. You will forever be my only heart.” She turned her hair snow white to match his and to honor him and his noble sacrifice.
For her and their son.
Never again would her hair be any other color, and she would sit in black—to mark her darkness—until his return.
He gave her a sad smile. “You will always be my precious Apollymi.” He kissed her lips. “Now go before they find you. Raise our son and never let him doubt how much his father loves him. One day, I will return for you both. You can count on it.”
Her heart shattered as she nodded and let go of his hand. “I will wait for you! Forever!” She turned and walked away, fearing the future. And knowing what she would do if the gods dared keep them apart.
June 25, 9527 BC
Apollymi the Great Destroyer burst from the depths of her hellish prison to set fire to the entire earth, intending to scorch it back to its primordial ooze.
Her wrath was implacable.
And no one was immune.
Waves crashed over continents and sank them overnight to the bottom of the oceans. Roiling black clouds obliterated the sun. All life upon the human earth was threatened with extinction.
Even the very gods trembled in fear.
Why? Because those gods of old had banded together once more to take from her the one thing she’d loved above all others. Again. The only one she’d allowed them to lock her in prison to save.
Her second born son.
The sole child she’d hidden in the world of man, hoping to spare him from their cruelty and slaughter.
And like his brother before him, he had been persecuted by the gods. No mercy had been shown him.
Instead, her own pantheon had allowed humanity to abuse him and had gone out of their way to stalk him until they’d succeeded in brutally murdering him just after the eve of his twenty-first year.
As with Monakribos, he’d been deprived of his father’s love.
Deprived of his mother’s protection.
She would have her vengeance!
In a furious blood quest for atonement, Apollymi had set upon her own pantheon first, annihilating every god who’d cursed her child.
Until she reached the final two in Katateros.
There, the ancient goddess sent the force of her winds to knock both Symfora and her daughter, Bet’anya, into the bright foyer of the theocropolis where the Atlantean gods had once held their immaculate parties, and their meetings that determined the fates of mankind, along with those of Apollymi’s beloved sons and husband. She stalked them like the predator she was, intending to feast upon their souls for what they’d done.
“You killed him. All of you!”
Symfora—their goddess of death and sorrow, who was as dark in coloring as Apollymi had been before they’d interfered with her first and only love—shook her head. “We didn’t kill your son. He still lives.”
Narrowing her swirling silver eyes as her white hair cascaded around her lithe body, Apollymi curled her lips. “My Apostolos was slaughtered this morning by the Greek god you invited into my lands.” A god who had killed her son and then cursed all the Apollite people to die painfully at age twenty-seven.
Symfora’s eyes widened in terror. “I never welcomed Apollo here. That was a decision made by you and Archon.”
“Shut up!” Apollymi blasted her into oblivion for speaking a truth that speared her with guilt. She refused to be blamed for what had happened to her child.
The gods had betrayed both her sons, Monakribos and Apostolos! And she was done with them.
Now alone in the wake of her mother’s fate, Bet’anya faced Apollymi without any help whatsoever. Her dark caramel skin turned pale.The Atlantean goddess of wrath, misery, and the hunt was the last one standing.
She would be the last one to fall.
But as Apollymi reached for her, she hesitated at the sight of Bet’anya’s distended belly. The much younger goddess was pregnant. About to give birth any day by the looks of her.
In that moment, rage and pain warred within her heart. Most of all, compassion flared deep as she felt the pangs of a mother who’d lost her child, not once, but twice. How could she deliver such pain to another?
Her breathing labored, Bet’anya met her gaze levelly, without fear or deceit. Of all the goddesses in Katateros, she was by far the most beautiful. Half Egyptian and half Atlantean. Her exotic features were sharply chiseled,and framed by a wealth of thick ebony hair that set off her almond-shaped eyes to perfection. Apollymi could see why the Egyptians called her Bethany. In Atlantean, Bet’anya meant “keeper of misery,” but in her father’s language, Bethany meant “oath of grace.”
A far more fitting moniker for such a fetching creature. “I didn’t incarcerate you or hunt your son, Apollymi. I took no part in their cruelty. The one time I thought I’d stumbled upon your son in the human realm, I came to you with that information and not the others. I never breathed a word to them against either of you.” Tears choked her. “You know it’s true. I came here today to leave this pantheon forever so that I could have my own baby in peace, away from their politics. Please, do not do to me what I did not do to you.”
The girl was right and Apollymi knew it. No matter how much she wanted Bet’anya’s blood, she couldn’t kill another innocent baby. Especially not on this day. Not while the soil was still damp and stained with the blood of her own son. “Who among the gods is his father?”
“The father’s mortal. Human.”
There was something Apollymi would have never suspected from a goddess she knew hated that disgusting species even more than she did. “His name?”
“Styxx of Didymos.”
For a moment, Apollymi couldn’t breathe as her rage renewed itself with a vigor unprecedented.
Of all the mortals, in all the world, that was not the name to give her.
Not after she’d seen through her son’s own eyes the life he’d lived and what had been done to him because of Styxx of Didymos…
Damn him! For Styxx was the prince she’d chosen to bond with her own son to protect him from the gods who’d been hell-bent on killing her precious Apostolos. The human twin brother who was supposed to have protected her child and his birthright!
Instead, Styxx had stood by and allowed her son to be slaughtered and betrayed. Of all men, he was the very human whose throat she wanted most to personally rip out!
She felt her eyes turning from silver to red as her Destroyer form took over.
Bet’anya stumbled away and wrapped her arms around her belly to protect her baby. “Please, Apollymi…my baby’s innocent.”
“So. Was. Mine!”
Both of them. And yet her sons had been given death sentences by the gods.
All of them.
Before she could stop herself, Apollymi reacted on instinct.
And she returned to the goddess what her pantheon had done to her.
In the blink of an eye, she ripped Bet’anya’s son from her belly with a furious scream.
Bet’anya staggered back and fell to her knees. Gasping, she stared at her unmoving son in Apollymi’s hands, and she reached out to touch him.
But Apollymi wouldn’t have it. No one had shown her an ounce of mercy. Not once.
Therefore, she delivered it back, full force. She blasted Bet’anya away and turned the bitch into a statue like all the others. Let her sit out eternity in a fathomless void where she could hear and see, but never again move or be part of any world. It was what they all deserved for what they’d done to her.
What they’d done to her children.
Then Apollymi looked down at the tiny infant in her hands and started to discard it as they’d done her son.
To toss him into the sea like he was garbage. Without a second thought so that he could die.
But because he was the son of Styxx, it was as if she held her own son in her arms. He looked like her Apostolos.
Identical, in fact. Every last part of him was the same. His tiny little fingers and toes.
His lips that had never had a chance to call her mother…
Tears filled her eyes as she remembered that day, twenty-one years ago, when Apostolos had been ripped from her womb and taken from her. So small and fragile.
Just an innocent babe in need of love…
And she remembered when Monakribos had been so tiny and sweet. When all he’d done was beg for his father’s love after they’d stolen his father from both of them and left them lost in their grief. Powerless to keep the world from crushing them with its unkindness.
“Just like you,” she whispered to the baby. “They were helpless, too.”
No one had taken pity on them.
For her sons, alone, she’d allowed her powers to be bound. Had allowed the gods to lock her into a dark, hollow prison until she’d lost what little sanity she’d had.
Her tears formed crystals on her cheeks as they fell silently and her grief shredded a heart she’d never wanted to begin with.
Damn you, Kissare, for making me feel love.
Because of him, the goddess of destruction was not without feelings. Her heart was shattered and she was devastated. And no matter how much she hated Styxx of Didymos, she couldn’t bring herself to kill this baby who looked so much like the creature that had fathered him.
A baby who looked so much like her precious Apostolos who wasn’t supposed to die so very young.
So very brutally.
More tears blinded her as she struggled to breathe past the pain that lacerated her heart.
I will protect you, little one. You will grow to be a strong, fine man.
“Out of darkness comes the light. From the loins of this Stygian hell, you are born and you will be called Urian—the flame of our new people. And one day, you will be my blade. My vengeance upon them all. They took my son from me, and I will take theirs from them. Together, my precious Flame, we will destroy the human race, and all the gods of this earth.”
But first, he would have to be reborn in the land of the mortals and from the belly of a mother who would have no idea of who or what she carried…
What this child’s destiny would become.
And Apollymi knew just who his new temporary mother would be. What father would be the best to mentor him to manhood.
Aye, the world of man would tremble before them all.
Copyright © 2018 by Sherrilyn Kenyon