Loukas turned to face Destiny, Luna, and Ilion. Again, he bowed to them.
“Esteemed Ladies, revered Lord, before I take my leave, may I be so bold as to appeal to your bountiful compassion?” he asked, timidly.
“If there be truth to tell, then tell all,” replied Destiny.
“While traveling to your realm, I happened upon desperate souls who yearn to have your Ladyship relieve them of their misery,” Loukas said.
“Who then, sir?” Destiny asked from her throne.
“Along the forest path, I met Kallo’s daughters,” Loukas reported.
“‘To Destiny, Sun, and Moon,’ pleaded the three daughters, ‘we humbly offer our earnest desire to be blessed with enduring love.’
“Then together they sang a song of hope:
‘O, Destiny, O Sun, O Moon,
May your wisdom our happiness favor,
To each of us grant a sacred union to savor,
Inspired by love eternally kept sublime,
Forged into bliss by your grand design.’”
“Be not deceived by appearance, good fellow,” Destiny said. “These sisters are enchantresses. Indeed, they are daughters of a vile sorceress feared among Highlanders as an unscrupulous predator.”
“Surely they will take great pleasure holding you hostage for as long as they so desired,” sang Luna, gravely.
“Slip past the sisters, slowly crying out, ‘I talked with Destiny, Sun, and Moon. They told me to tell you…’” Luna sang, each word drawn out on high-pitched notes.
“But do not tell them our decision about their request until you have moved beyond their reach,” ordered Luna, again drawing out her words on even higher notes.
“From a distance, call to them the action they must take to be awarded lasting love,” Destiny said.
“You will say, ‘By the command of Destiny, Moon, and Sun, sublime love will be awarded the three of you once you cease haunting the humans with terrifying spells,’” Destiny said.
“And then be on your way, swiftly,” Luna sang, with short bursts.
Loukas moved to within a few steps of the thrones. He took a deep breath and looked steadily at Destiny before moving his gaze to Ilion and then to Luna.
“On the path I met another desperate soul who seeks a change of fate,” Loukas said, barely above a whisper.
“If there be truth to tell, then tell all,” Ilion urged.
“From the River Kimon, I bring you a message of grief,” Loukas said, his voice growing stronger. “Kimon begs the three of you to take pity on him and end the drought that is ravaging the countryside his waters serve.
“Kimon yearns for the rains that make his river a welcomed source of goodness among the humans who inhabit the valleys and canyons he once passed through. Before I departed from Kimon’s parched riverbank, he implored me to recite to you his song of yearning. Kimon cried out:
‘That your design, O sacred sages, these currents may you favor,
To quench with rains the Earth will surely savor,
Thus every living thing may once more thrive,
A grateful chorus chanting, ‘Alive! Alive! Alive!’”
“You must remain vigilant with Kimon,” Ilion cautioned. “In the time it takes an osprey to plunge into the sea,” Ilion said, “Kimon has been known to transform the river’s tranquil waters into a raging tempest.”
“He draws great pleasure from having a storm ravish whatever obstructs the river’s tumultuous course,” Luna sang, trilling each word.
“As with the sisters,” Destiny instructed Loukas, “you must dodge Kimon. Edge out of his sight slowly. At every step, draw out each word, saying, ‘I talked with Destiny, Ilion her son, and Luna her daughter.’
“Say not one word more until you have passed beyond the threat of Kimon’s deadly temper. Only then should you call to Kimon the warning you have received from us.
“Alert Kimon to our demand. With a strong voice, say: ‘River Kimon, saving rains will once again come your way when you vow to control your urge to flood the lowlands with each and every storm.’”
Loukas clasped hands and bowed to Destiny.
After that, he wasted no time bringing up the struggle the mountains at Meander Pass were fated to endure. He told Destiny, Luna, and Ilion of the mountains’ agonizing movement toward each other equaled only by their grueling retreat.
Loukas then recited the mountains’ plea to be restored to their natural grandeur:
“Would that your plan our dignity may favor,
Standing firm and noble, admirers of every breed may savor
Our bountiful valleys, woodlands, ancient mythical streams,
Our scented meadows, our craggy cliffs, our mystical fields of dreams.”
“Whenever these rugged creatures call for help, put aside your trust,” Destiny said, scowling.
“So greedy is their craving to dominate nature, they would eagerly sap the life out of anything that breathes and thrives,” continued Destiny, her anger rising.
“Nothing must be allowed to compete with their greatness, or so they believe,” Destiny said, with a sneer.
“To survive the mountains’ treachery, approach Meander Pass as sly as a fox. As soon as the mountains begin to withdraw from one another, race at full speed through the gap they will have left on the path,” Destiny advised Loukas.
“Once you are out of harm’s way,” Luna added with quavering tones, “call out our warning to the mountains in a hearty voice. Say, ‘Meander Mountains, if you ever again expect to be admired by the humans and creatures that come your way, you must weaken the power of your storms, your rockfalls, your tremors.’ Then, quickly take your leave,” Luna sang with one long breath.
With that, Loukas nodded earnestly.
“As it must be, so will it be,” Destiny said as she glanced at Loukas.
Moments later, Destiny rose from her throne and made her way to the door through which she had entered the chamber. Ilion and Luna soon followed their mother. When the door opened, all three took their leave.
At once, a tall, bearded man entered the room. He wore a belted tunic of grey cotton that fell to just below his knees. A soft close-fitting black cap covered his head. The large pendant that hung from his neck on a silver chain was a copy of the medallion with the silver wings and red glass eye Loukas had first seen on Destiny’s scepter and the sleeves of her tunic.
Loukas was puzzling over the meaning of this curious jewel, when the man gestured for Loukas to follow him.
With long, firm steps, he led Loukas down a wide curving passageway. The sound of their sandals hitting the white marble floor resonated a hollow echo. Loukas’s attention was soon drawn to the movement on the domed ceilings. Each dome contained illuminated images of suns, moons, stars, and planets crisscrossing one another in perpetual motion. It dizzied Loukas to stare at them.
Further on, Loukas caught sight of brightly colored tapestries gracing the walls. Each was about the size of the woolen shawls worn by shepherds who tended their flocks in the windswept highlands. The tapestries revealed copies of the playing cards and images found on the drapery that lined Destiny’s throne. Placed alongside the tapestries were large versions of the medallion. The medallions’ glowing red eyes spread a soft warm light onto the passageway.
The bearded man stopped at a curtained doorway, drew open the curtains, and stepped aside, motioning Loukas to enter a brightly lit room. There was a clear glass table in the center of the room. The table had four stained glass legs in the shape of uncoiled snakes that rose up from the marble floor. The tabletop was set on the heads of the snakes’ thick bodies. A black marble chair had been placed next to the table.
A bed made of black wood was set against a white wall to the left of the table. The bed had been made up with several large pillows and a thick, red bedcover. When Loukas finished surveying the room, he noticed that the bearded man had left. Once Loukas settled into the marble chair, fears about his journey back to his village drifted through his mind like gruesome wraiths.
What if the mountains at Meander Pass refuse me a safe passage until I reveal Destiny’s decision about their petition? he wondered. What if River Kimon thrashes me about with deadly gales once he comes to understand the changes Destiny is commanding him to make in his behavior? And the sisters, the three crafty sorcerers. They have the power to trap me in an enchantment so bewitching, I could lose any sense of peace, of direction, of myself.
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