He stared at the door. His heart was pounding. Minutes passed. He sighed, grabbed the metal knocker, and struck the door with three hard thuds.
And then he waited.
Again, he knocked…and waited.
And yet again…
With his hope fading, the palace door suddenly wrenched open.
Destiny withdrew from the shadows. She was unusually tall. She radiated the stately manner of one privileged by royalty. A cavernous dark blue hood concealed her face. She was clothed in a purple tunic of loosely layered silks that reached to her ankles. The garment was embellished with images of planets, stars, suns, and moons sown in crimson floss. Scattered throughout the tunic’s oversized sleeves were embroidered medallions displaying a red glass eye in the center of two small, overlapping silver wings. Her jeweled fingers revealed her dark brown skin. She held a black onyx scepter studded with lapis lazuli stones and tipped with an enlarged replica of the medallion found on her sleeves.
Destiny stared quizzically at Loukas.
“Tell it true or not at all,” Destiny said in a soft but commanding voice. “What brings you to this hallowed place where humans fear to tread?” she asked.
“Pity me, oh, pity me, your grace,” cried Loukas, dropping his gaze and kneeling before Destiny. “I come to you racked with shame, but fired by hope. Save me, revered truth teller. Accept my remorse and rescue me from the dishonorable course my life has taken. Help me to find my way back to the blessings I recklessly squandered.”
“Ah, my misguided mortal,” Destiny said. She gestured for Loukas to stand. “The favor you seek will only be given if you meet one condition.”
“A condition, Your Highness?” Loukas asked.
“My son Ilion, the Sun, and my daughter Luna, the Moon, must join me to decide if you are deserving of our compassion,” Destiny said.
“In my mind’s eye, I watched you sacrifice the good life designed for you since before timeless time—a life created for you not by happenstance, mind you, but at my bidding,” Destiny said, peering at Loukas. “I watched you sink into the depths of pride. You dared to defile my sacred plan and fell under the spell of a trivial game of chance.”
Destiny then warned Loukas that when Sun returned from his daily labor and Moon from her nightly watch, they would meet with her to judge Loukas’s request. Together they would decide if he deserved to be reunited with his family. They would judge his worthiness to reclaim the riches that fate had made it possible for him to gain for sharing his musical gifts with the snake he so willingly befriended.
Loukas flinched at suddenly hearing Destiny recall his relationship with Lambros.
“Be forewarned, my needy wanderer,” she cautioned, pity quickening her words. “I predict that Ilion and Luna’s plan for your future will be shaped by the mood that has taken hold of them from observing the habits of living beings on Earth.
“If Ilion and Luna witness uncontrolled surges of hatred among the earth dwellers, their disgust with these beings will surely cast a shadow over your request.
“I will keep you hidden until I know that upon their return Ilion and Luna will tolerate a human like yourself. Will they as much as even listen to your plea to bring an end to the misfortune you cast upon yourself and your precious family?”
With her next breath, Destiny tapped Loukas’s forehead. At once, he became a gull with pure white plumage. From his perch on Destiny’s raised arm, Loukas fluttered his wings rapidly to keep his balance. His squawking calls continued as Destiny entered the palace just as daylight was draining away.
The next thing Loukas knew, he was standing in his human form in a vast chamber. The room was so brightly lit, he was forced to shield his eyes to avoid reeling from the light’s intensity.
Once his vision adjusted to the brightness, Loukas was puzzled to see he now wore a white tunic of coarse cotton. A hooded cloak in deep red covered the tunic. His feet had been bandaged and new sandals replaced his worn ones.
Loukas lowered his hood to get a better look at the room. Displayed on the walls were larger versions of the medallions found on Destiny’s sleeves and scepter that showed two silver wings overlapping a red glass eye. Gazing upward, he saw a vaulted ceiling covered with the same images of planets, stars, suns, and moons that graced Destiny’s tunic.
The moment Loukas stepped forward to examine the marble fountain in the center of the room, a wooden door swung open. In swept Destiny, dressed now in a crimson silk tunic. She had drawn back her blue hood.
Luna and Ilion followed her.
Ilion’s yellow-cowled cloak trailed behind him, skimming the shiny marble floor. The loose cloak covered a tunic of soft burlap, the color of rust. Far shorter than his mother, Ilion had a stout build and the broadest shoulders Loukas had ever laid eyes on. Ilion lurched forward with unsteady steps. At every move, his body twitched and swayed slightly from side to side.
Luna wore a dark blue tunic. Images of meteors appeared on light blue panels that fell from the tunic’s wide upturned collar to the white-laced hem that brushed her ankles. A halo of glassy volcanic stones within layers of cosmic dust hovered over her spiked white hair. Luna was far taller than Destiny and Ilion. She had large deep-set blue eyes and a silver complexion. With each wide stride she took behind Destiny and Ilion, Luna seemed poised to leap into the air.
Like their mother, Ilion and Luna each carried an onyx scepter. Like their mother’s, their scepters were ornamented with lapis lazuli stones. Both scepters were topped with an enlarged replica of the medallion Loukas had seen on the sleeves of Destiny’s tunic and scepter and now on the walls of the chamber in which he stood.
At the front of the room, there were three adjacent high-back thrones set on a dark green marble platform.
Loukas stood stark still by the fountain and focused all of his attention on every move and gesture the three celestial guardians made.
Destiny made her way to a throne of dazzling black onyx and took a seat on a cushion of purple damask. She adjusted the red velvet drape that lined the back of the throne. Placed along the edges of the drape were drawings of playing cards used in games of chance.
Destiny’s drape had also been decorated with mysterious images that roused Loukas’s curiosity.
Loukas would later learn from the island’s sage that these images are the ones Destiny and her followers consult to foretell the fate of all living beings.
Destiny waved Ilion on to a throne of white marble mottled with black and gray.
Once Ilion sat, he swung his legs over the throne’s armrest, sighed deeply, and threw back his cowl. His complexion was the color of a lemon. Color etchings of Ilion in different phases of eclipse and luminosity shimmered in dark red floss on the black drape that fell along the back of his throne. A model of a glowing rainbow arced across the top of Ilion’s throne.
At Destiny’s bidding, Luna took her place on a throne of blue alabaster. Clear crystal likenesses of Luna’s waxing and waning were suspended above her throne. On the dark blue drape that cascaded down the entire length of her throne, images of Luna’s eight phases, her cratered surfaces, and her valleys and highlands appeared in circular patterns in thick white yarn.
Luna soon took to singing. Her high-pitched melodies filled the hall with explosions of sound until her song faded into waves of calmer, softer expressions before fading away.
Ilion peered out at Loukas. He scrunched up his face with a steely expression and beckoned to Loukas to move forward.
At the thrones, Loukas genuflected. He slowly stood and raised his head to meet the unflinching scrutiny of mother, daughter, and son. His heart thumped loudly.
Loukas was struck by the ageless beauty of Destiny’s face. It was framed by a thick mass of flame-red hair that streamed to midway down her back.
Ilion’s body was charged with sudden bursts of quickened movement. Destiny and Luna sat calmly. All three shared a sternness that chilled Loukas through and through.
“Our mother has told us all we need to know about the life you plundered with your arrogance,” announced Ilion. He startled Loukas with a voice as agitated as his movements.
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