The merchant leaned in closer to Loukas and spoke. “Yes, yes, of course,” he said, “Let’s settle this ridiculous wager in the village square the next day that dawns with clear skies. Indeed, we will gather to watch the sun spread its first rays across the eastern horizon, of course.”
The merchant stood, grabbed onto his chair, and shoved it aside. He pointed Loukas to the front door, opened it, and motioned him to leave. As soon as the door closed, Loukas heard the merchant roaring with deep-throated laughter. Loukas cringed at the sound and took a few brisk steps away from the cottage.
Once outdoors, Loukas wandered awhile through the grounds. He prayed to catch even a glimpse of Thera and his son and daughter. When he found not a trace of them, he moved on down the path with an aching heart.
And so it happened, at dusk on the third day after Loukas’s return, a sliver of moon appeared from behind a thin cover of scattered clouds. The moon’s appearance held the promise of morning sunlight.
By now, the merchant had spread word of the wager to every villager he had met along the way. He invited each and every one to come to the village square the next morning that dawned with clear skies.
There, the villagers would watch one of their neighbors, Loukas by name, become the laughingstock of the entire island. They would observe him falling prey to his foolhardy claim that the sun would appear on the island not from the east, mind you—the course it had taken since its creation—oh, no, our wise sky gazer was predicting that our old daystar was about to cast its rays from the western horizon!
When that morning came with the first signs of a new day dawning, a large crowd of islanders had already been milling about the square. A few vendors were making their way through the square with their carts. They called folks to sample their delicious sweets, fruits, and flavored drinks.
In the center of the square, Loukas and the merchant took their places a short distance from each other on a makeshift wooden platform. The merchant surveyed the eastern horizon. He laid his arms across his chest and smiled. Loukas paced from one end of the platform to the other. He scanned the skyline from east to west and rubbed his hands together. Each of his breaths came in deep and heavy sighs.
Oh, fate of my fate, what chance is there that so miraculous a change in Sun’s course could ever happen here in these skies over this humble island? Loukas thought.
He looked out over the crowd.
Some islanders had taken to rooftops with their children. From there, a few played at mocking Loukas by calling out outlandish directions for the sun to take.
“From the north,” someone shouted.
“No, no, it’s the southeast,” yelled another.
“The northeast, you fool,” another shouted for all to hear.
Islanders who had climbed onto the branches of an oak that shaded the fountain jeered at Loukas. They pretended they were students who had learned the sun’s deepest secrets from their very wise teacher, Mr. Loukas, a famous scientist. They burst into peals of laughter.
Throughout the square, the noise swelled to its loudest pitch.
As the sky grew brighter, the islanders looked to the east.
Suddenly, Sun hurled a needle-thin streak of light out of a narrow break in the dark clouds.
“There it is. There’s the sun,” yelled a young girl. She pointed to the west and jumped up and down.
“The sun, the sun. It’s waking up over there,” the girl shouted.
The girl’s father took notice of her alarm. He looked westward, ran to a nearby stone bench, climbed on to it, and cried out, “THE SUN IS RISING IN THE WEST!”
Slowly, a hush fell over the crowd. As Sun’s glow grew deeper, islanders looked toward the western horizon. Cries of surprise competed with gasps of wonder from one end of the square to the other.
“A miracle,” someone called. Others agreed, clapping and cheering.
“A curse, a very bad omen,” cried another islander. She fled from the square with her horrified neighbors.
Above the clamor, the merchant could be heard condemning Loukas for using sorcery to disturb a natural wonder. The merchant grumbled, “blasphemy, blasphemy,” as he stormed out of the square.
At the very moment the merchant was ranting, Loukas raised his hands, palm against palm, toward the brightening sky. He let fly his whispered songs of praise to Destiny, Ilion, Luna, and Lambros for enabling him to reclaim his dignity.
As soon as Loukas ended his prayers of gratitude, Thera and the children ran to him.
“Papa, Papa,” the children cried. They wrapped their arms around their mother and father while the two embraced.
Reaching into his satchel, Loukas brought out the gifts of nature given him by the enchanted sisters, the dried up river, and the raging mountains.
To his son, Petros, he gave the sprig of dried heather. He wished him days of good fortune.
To his daughter, Sophie, he gave the myrtle leaves. He wished her a long and happy life.
To his beloved wife, Thera, he gave the purple amaranth flowers, now dried. He wished her a richness of health from that day forward.
When Loukas’s and Thera’s parents joined the reunion, the families together sang an earnest prayer of thanks to their God, their saints, and the spirits that watched over them.
When the new day dawned following Sun’s momentous performance, Sun resumed casting his energy from east to west. He once again took up the daily cycle assigned him since he first whirled into the galaxy millions of years ago.
As for Loukas, Thera, and the children, for forty days and forty nights they opened their doors and hearts to their neighbors. With their neighbors, they celebrated their blessings with food and drink, and they danced to songs Loukas played on his magical flute.
When the festivities ended, every family member, young and old alike, pledged to desire nothing more than a future endowed with peace, good health, and a favorable destiny.
For generations, islanders have told tales about the fateful game of chance that could have kept Loukas from his family and cast him into deep despair.
They told of Loukas’s courageous journey into the depths of the island’s forest to beg for mercy and healing from Destiny, Sun, and Moon.
They told of the clemency granted Loukas for his love of family.
They told of the pardon Loukas had received for his devotion to Lambros, the mysterious talking, dancing snake who had brought enduring happiness to Loukas and everyone within Loukas’s circle of reverence and respect.
They told of the freedom Loukas gained from Sun’s miraculous passage from west to east on a suspenseful day long past.
They told of the songs Loukas had sung from village to village in praise of the lessons he had learned from his loss and recovery.
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