Chapter Four, Part Four

The mountains were nearer now, their height and size now foreseeable. He had forced his men beyond the hours of daylight to march ten more miles. They were a legion of flame, glowing a mile long straight. His men knew better than to grumble for what lay ahead. Phaethon's scouts from months before had given him long days and night to ponder this route, to accomplish the steps that needed to be taken. And now he let them set camp, letting the work occupy their minds until they fell exhausted, with no time to conceive complaint or conjecture. If their words fell upon his ears, their lives would be cut in half and stabbed onto spikes, left to rot in the desert with vultures as their only companions in their final days.

"The men are tired, but in good spirits." Paros closed the tent flap to where Phaethon sat. His map was set before him on a table, his royal military panoply still set firmly upon him though he would not be leaving the tent anymore tonight. "The sight of the mountains encourage them, and they are sure that we can reach them by the moon’s rising."

"That is well," Phaethon nodded.

Paros took the seat across the table from Phaethon. "And I am sure that the mountain's topography have not changed from the night before."

Phaethon's brow wrinkled in annoyance. "Geryon's whereabouts?"

"He is in his quarters and well-protected. Do you request his presence?"

"Nay, but remain here for a little while if I do." Phaethon brushed a fly from his parchments. "You cannot deny my presentiments of his powers."

"If you would regard my humble honesty, my king, I have mistrusted him from the moment he set foot in Levant."

Phaethon nodded. "I will pardon you for your lack of faith. Though he has refused to display his powers to even mine own eyes, I do not doubt there is some merit in his claims. His knowledge is peculiar. I am not a priest, but the names and words that spill from his mouth are strange and convincing."

"I will not believe until I see. Words cannot tear down a mountain, let alone move a speck of dust upon the ground."

"Do you doubt this journey, Sir Paros?"

Paros frowned. "I do not doubt the power of ten thousand men beating their swords. But the words of a man are temporal and void. And even if one could shape stone with words, I would not trust him."

Phaethon nodded again. "You are my right hand, Paros. I honor your opinion, I respect it. But one man's softness is strengthened by another's vigor. I would not let such an opportunity go to waste. The pejoratives of the weak are my gain, the sins of another have become my grace. Ursmades has fallen without fight, and by what means? What are they afraid of? Who are they afraid of?"

Paros looked at him steadily.

"You see, Paros," Phaethon smiled. "It was only a mathematical calculation in your mind, but I have proved it without error. Have faith, Paros. Spiritual strength is neither a fallacy nor misguided conception. I place strong faith in spiritual strength. Geryon knows this. And he knows that he cannot slight me."

"Unless he finds you when you are least expecting it," Paros frowned.

Phaethon laughed. "My fears are protected by your sword, Paros. And mine. I give myself no reason to fear. Look." He thrust his hand towards the south to the mountains. "It will commence tonight. We will find our answers on the morrow's eve, as you have anticipated. I have no fear."

Paros nodded, sitting forward in tense anxiety.

"Come now," Phaethon laughed gruffly. "Send for Geryon, I wish for some amusement."

The End

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