Later that day, when Ilion had passed his summit, Loukas knew from the ugly stench drifting toward him that the river giant Kimon was close at hand.
As soon as Loukas reached the desolate riverbank, Kimon charged out of the woods and settled on the crest of a steep embankment. His grotesque hulk loomed above Loukas.
“Now then, make haste and come out with it,” howled the giant. “What judgment did the cold-hearted tyrants send my way this time, eh?”
“Standing before Destiny, Moon, and Sun, I pleaded for you with the sincerity of a priest,” Loukas called at the top of his voice.
“When they came to their decision,” continued Loukas as he stumbled up a sheer slope and onto the forest pathway, “they told me to report that the saving rains you crave will once again come your way when you calm your mighty surges and control the currents racing through the lowlands.”
Kimon flailed his flippers. He let fly a painful wail that shook trees and sent a tremor through the ground.
Loukas felt the shaking earth as he bolted down the path that took him far from Kimon’s madness.
As daylight edged toward dusk, Loukas wended his way through a grassy meadow. A veil of dense fog suddenly shrouded the path.
From within the fog came the voices of the three sisters—ethereal, melodious, inviting.
“Fearless pilgrim, come linger awhile with us. Fear not,” the sisters sang in unison. “Oh, do tell the fate Destiny has assigned our desire for blissful love.”
Loukas screwed up his face in fear and peered into the fog. “When I told Destiny, Sun, and Moon of your yearning for love, they came together to judge your plea,” Loukas cried. He took wide steps backward with the hope of escaping the fog and the sisters’ temptation.
“Destiny came forward with a verdict about the love you seek,” Loukas said as he tottered into the waning light of the setting sun.
“Truth be told,” Loukas called to the sisters, “Destiny issued this decree for you to obey: ‘Tell those beguiling enchantresses that enduring love will be theirs to cherish once they cease haunting humans with terrifying enchantments.’”
By the time the sisters’ menacing cries caught up with Loukas in a language he did not understand, he was tearing down the path. At that very moment, daylight was seeping from the countryside and the moonless sky was darkening.
Throughout the night, Loukas’s heavy footfalls startled creatures he could hear but not see in the darkness. Whimpering critters scampered across his path. Nighthawks screamed as they flew out of their nests. Bats circled overhead, their chirps recalling high-pitched flute vibes.
As dawn moved in, owls’ cries drifted through the stillness of the countryside. “TOO-WHIT, TOO-WHIT, TOO-WHIT, TOO-WOO,” they called.
Soon after day broke through a cloudy sky, Loukas left the forest and moved on to the road that led directly to his village.
He came to the fork in the road where only a few days earlier he had puzzled over the direction he should take to find Destiny and cast his fate anew. Just as he was about to set off for his village, he was startled to come face to face with Keeper of the Forest.
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