At sunup, the same trio of attendants returned to the room. They bore Loukas’s satchel and the clothes he had worn on his journey to the palace. One of them stepped forward and gestured Loukas to sit. She set about replacing the bandages that protected his feet with fresh bandages. Another attendant laid before him a parcel of rusks and cheese to take on his journey.
Once the attendants left the room, Loukas dressed and dropped the parcel of food into his satchel.
Moments passed before the bearded attendant returned to the room and beckoned to Loukas to follow him. He led Loukas down a narrow corridor to a massive wooden door. The door was embellished with replicas of the medallion with the silver wings and red glass eye. The bearded attendant knocked once.
“Enter,” called Destiny. Loukas grew wide-eyed the moment he stepped into the room. He found Destiny standing in the path of Sun’s early morning brilliance filtered through a tall stained glass window. She was bathed in a wavering stream of glowing colors. She invited Loukas to draw nearer.
Loukas struggled to catch his breath as he looked intently at Destiny while moving within her reach. Once he stood before her, he yearned to thank her, Luna, and Ilion for allowing him the hope that some day soon he might once again be blessed with all that he treasured and loved.
When Loukas realized no words could ever express the depth of his gratitude, he held Destiny in a fervent stare. He sighed deeply and raised his palms toward her to show his indebtedness.
“O, mortal wanderer, fare thee well,” Destiny said. She placed a hand on each of Loukas’s shoulders and met his stare with serene certainty. Loukas would forever hold close to his heart the surge of compassion he felt at Destiny’s gentle touch.
Moments later, the bearded attendant returned and dropped to one knee before Destiny. Once he stood, he waved Loukas to follow him. Loukas bowed grave thanks to Destiny and left the room on the heels of the attendant.
Loukas soon stood with the attendant at the head of the path that would lead him back through the forest and then onto the road that would take him to his seaside village.
As Loukas started off, he heard Destiny, Ilion, and Luna singing to him in one compelling voice:
“May trust light your way.
May courage be your guide.
May victory be your reward.”
At once, a palace steward poured a bucket of water onto the path to wish Loukas a journey as peaceful as a gently flowing river.
Nearly at a run, Loukas hurried southward. Sometime later, he came to a sudden stop just short of the valley shrouded by a thick curtain of vapor. He recalled coming upon this ghostly place on his way to Destiny’s palace. The memory set his heart pounding and pressed him to focus all of his attention on the trials he would have to endure along the path before ever making his way back to his village. When the rising vapors caused Loukas’s eyes to sting, he forced himself to sprint past the valley’s poisoned air.
Much later, he again came to the stretch of ravaged countryside. As before, he wondered if this horrid wasteland was a harsh omen. Was this place a warning that fate would once more oblige him to forfeit his honor at the hand of the merchant? He shuddered to think of a life bound by fate’s whims.
Not long after clearing the wasteland’s stench, the path’s quaking warned Loukas that beyond the next bend he would find the furious pair of bewitched mountains.
All unfolded according to Ilion’s plan. Loukas stumbled off the path and took shelter in a stand of firs where he had a clear view of the mountains’ strained movements. As soon as they were wrenched backward, grumbling with each labored thrust, Loukas sprinted through the path’s opening.
Loukas’s breath came in short bursts as he scuttled to safety. From there, he shouted out Destiny, Sun, and Moon’s warning above the mountains’ frightful din.
“Listen well, beleaguered mountains of Meander Pass. Destiny, Sun, and Moon have cautioned the two of you to hold to their decree, saying: ‘If the pair of you ever again expect to be admired by humans and creatures that come your way, you must weaken the power of your brutish storms, rockfalls, and tremors.’”
“So be it, then,” spluttered the mountain on the right, plodding forward.
“Once again that rogue Destiny and her tricksters Sun and Moon have determined to deny us the wonder of satisfying our bold and daring feats,” roared the mountain on the left with a lurch.
Relieved to leave the mountains behind, Loukas ran down a steep incline that took him far beyond the pair’s hideous struggle.
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