I traveled alone. None could aid me, so I allowed none to accompany me. God alone walked beside me.
“Give me the strength I will need,” I prayed. “Not for my sake, but for the sake of all those who suffer from this pestilence. As You aided me that night in the Roman Coliseum, come to my aid again, O Lord.”
I had always known where to find Lycanon. All of us in Arcadia knew. He dwelt upon his mountain, at the place of sacrifices. His place of power.
The day I found him mocked me with its loveliness. Warm, yet offering a gentle breeze to carry the aroma of the blooming flowers. The trees were verdant with the springtime’s new growth, tender and green. Only a few, small brushstrokes of white clouds, like the down on a snow-white rabbit, floated against the soft blue mantle of the sky. Birds sang to me from the branches of the trees, their diverse voices mingling in tuneful harmony. It made me think of Samaethea. She had always loved the chirping of birds.
No. I told myself I must not think of her. I must think of nothing pure. I must take nothing pure, not even thoughts, into this corrupted place. God alone would accompany me. God alone could not become tainted by its putrescence.
I breathed hard as I climbed. My heart spoke with greater rapidity. I felt sweat trickling down my skin, playfully tickling me, beneath my robe, this a dull yellow in color where once it had been as white as the clouds. My feet kicked up dust and pebbles, my naked toes growing dirty inside my sandals.
“Wash me, Lord, and I will be wholly clean,” I prayed.
Throughout that day I had observed dancing butterflies, dragonflies, bees. Lizards and small rodents had skittered across my path. The trees rang alive with minstrel birds. Now, as I drew nearer the summit of Lycanon’s mountain, I saw no living thing save for a snake, as black as grief, slithering from behind a rock ahead of me, and flies. Flies buzzing, irritating, swarming near my face, my ears, louder than the tiny size of their wings should allow, they seemed to come from everywhere, from the air itself; my arms grew tired from swatting at them.
I saw another snake, blacker than the first. Lethargic in the sun, it sprang to life at my approach, coiling, hissing at me.
I have given you power to tread upon scorpions and snakes, the Lord promises in Scripture. I prayed for this ability.
I poked at the snake with my walking stick and it crawled away upon its belly. Would that my true foe could be vanquished with such ease.
The sky remained clear. No cloud now intruded itself between the land and the sun. I looked down to descry my shadow at my feet. I saw none. Nothing living casts a shadow on Lycanon’s mountain, they say.