There were three times in Prometheus’s life in which he played with fire.
The first time was many, many years ago, though time means nothing to the gods. He remembered it well, the stark look on his father’s face, the cold surroundings. “Take this,” his father had said, holding a single flame in his large, callused hands. “Take this, and burn what you can. Take this flame, and use it to cause an inferno.”
It had surprised Prometheus, but it was a pleasant surprise, this gift. With what his father held in his hands, he could destroy, but he could also create. He could hold his own little world at his fingertips.
Prometheus remembered laughing and playing with the fire, holding it in his own, smaller hands. He remembered enjoying the fire, liking it for what it was, and watching the cold shrink it. He remembered bringing it out to the fields of Gaia and burning all he could, watching the vivid green plants shrivel up in the foggy black smoke. It was fun to watch the world burn. To see how life could just as easily die, and just how simple it was. It was enjoyable for Prometheus to destroy what he could, knowing it caused little effect on the world, knowing he could create something so powerful.
However, Gaia quickly ended that, her fields being ablaze and all. There was to be no more fire for Prometheus. “Fire is no toy,” she said, having witnessed the destruction of her lands from the single flame first hand. “Fire is not something to be played with, nor is it something worth giving to someone not yet a millennium old.”
While his father reluctantly agreed, Prometheus wept on his own, remembering the shriveling of the plants and the ashes of the trees. He remembered the destruction, but also the life the fire gave to the world as it burned, destroying wood, but keeping him warm. Its faint halo illuminated the sky at night, yet still burned the flesh on his hand.
The third time Prometheus had played with fire was much more recent. Much had changed in that time that had passed. The gods had risen to power, while the titans shriveled like the great green trees Prometheus had burned so long ago. Kronos was dead, and Iaeptus no longer held the power he used to. Even the relatives he hadn’t liked much were thrown into Tartarus by the gods, those all powerful beings who seemed so perfect in many’s eyes. Had his father even wanted to give Prometheus fire again, he likely couldn’t, not with Zeus’s tyrannical rule. Besides, he was in Tartarus, and there was no coming back from there.
Life was hard for a youngish titan, in a kingdom of gods and men. Humanity existed now, and while the people seemed to be a weaker version of the gods, they fascinated Prometheus.
Humans didn’t throw those they didn’t like into the deepest depths of Hell. Humans didn’t punish each other for actions they felt were wrong without seeing all sides of the story. Humans just lived, and that was all. They existed, and they survived. They were nothing in the eyes of the gods and titans, but they were everything in the eyes of Prometheus.
In fact, people were so fascinating, that Prometheus decided to live as one. What was the harm? He’d only be one for a few days, only to see what it was like. No one would see him gone anyway.
And so, Prometheus transformed himself into that of a young boy, a person just beginning to see the world for what it was. He started to wander the fields of Gaia like he had so long ago, looking at the familiar ashy trees and wondering if they were the same ones he had burned.
Of course, that was stupid, he thought. Trees don’t survive that long. But still, he wondered, as he walked throughout the world.
“Hello,” a voice said, singsongy and bright. Prometheus turned around to see a young girl behind him, around the age he was pretending to be. Her olive skin reflected the sunlight, and her darkish short hair blew around her face. All of her characteristics were fairly dark, except for her golden eyes.
They held fire in them, like the fire he used to play with so long ago. A fire singing a song she would never share with the rest of the world. She was holding a lyre, the same golden color.
“Oh,” Prometheus said, recording this conversation in his mind. His first conversation with a human being. “Hello.”
“I’m Pomelia,” the young girl said, plucking on her lyre. “But you can call me Meli.”
“I’m...Patroclus,” Prometheus said, thinking quickly on his feet. Patroclus meant glory of the father. Perhaps the girl would see the glory of the titans like he did.
“Do you play?” he asked, indicating towards the instrument she held in her hand.
She laughed, playing a simple scale, with a few flats thrown in. “Obviously.”
The lyre usually reminded Prometheus of Apollo, Zeus’s son, but when she played it, it didn’t remind him of Apollo at all. Perhaps it was just that she clearly wasn’t very gifted, or perhaps it was her attitude towards the instrument, but something about this girl was just so different from the gods and the titans alike.
Her...humanity. That was it. She was distinctly human, not all powerful or all knowing. She didn’t have a corner of the cosmos dedicated to her father, or have incredible strength worshipped amongst her family. She wasn’t forced to have a distinct personality for people to make light of, and she didn’t have the world placed on her back. She was no titan, but she was no god, either. She was simply human, another person wandering through Gaia, like he was at this moment.
The girl, Meli, started humming along with her playing. It was an old song, one he recognized, despite its flats and sharps spewed about.
“Hey, Patroclus, “do you know what this song’s about?”
“Yes,” Prometheus said, feeling a shiver go down his spine. He knew what this song was about. He knew it all too well.
“Father, please - please, don’t do this.”
“I have to, son. It’s what’s right.”
“But - but, Zeus-”
“I know, son. I know.”
This was the second time Prometheus had played with fire, though perhaps it wasn’t literal. He had tried, desperately tried to convince his father and his brother to switch sides of the war between the titans and the gods. But they didn’t, and they were punished for it.
He would never forgive himself for not changing their minds.
“I wonder how Prometheus feels,” Meli said, standing up off of the tree stump she had been sitting on. “He must be so sad to have lost his family.”
“Yeah,” he responded, feeling a heavy weight in his chest.
“Y’know,” the girl grinned, flinging her lyre behind her. “He burned down this tree a loooong time ago.”
Suddenly, Prometheus realized why this place was so familiar. It was because it was the same place where he had played with fire the first time - where he burned the shrubs and weeds to his heart’s desire, before Gaia stopped it. He remembered a great ash tree there where Meli was sitting, and he remembered leaving it aflame.
He remembered how human he was back then, how much he loved the fire in his hands, how he could destroy, but also create.
“Meli,” he said, watching her shiver as he realized how cold it was. “I want to show you something.”
And, with that, Prometheus used all of his strength, all of his might, drawing from all of his power, to steal from the gods, taking only a little bit of fire, and summoning it in his hands.
“Woah,” Meli gasped, her golden eyes dropping. “What’s that?”
He smiled, bouncing the flame between his hands. “Something to keep you and your people warm. Use it wisely.”
Prometheus let the fire sit on the stump like Meli was before. He could hear the gods in the sky discussing his punishment. Perhaps he’d be thrown into Tartarus with his father. Perhaps he’d have to lift up the sky like his uncle. Perhaps he’d have a completely different punishment altogether. But the people of this world they had created needed their fire.
As Prometheus was pulled back into the heavens by the gods, preparing himself for his punishment, he could hear Meli plucking away at her lyre, playing a simple melody. The song that fire sings.