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Leaina and the Stone of Power
The Trip to Velos
|Therapon and Maciste arrived at Velos within four days. Maciste wore simple peasant clothing to cover his impressive physique so as not to draw attention. Therapon asked around the town for the location of Arkus’s cave and quickly learned where it was. As they traveled up the road toward it, they passed Arkus at the edge of Velos. Maciste started to approach Arkus on his horse. But Therapon grabbed his thick forearm and said, “No, remember the Queen said when Arkus returns to his home. Not here, there are too many people who might aid him.” Therapon tried to stare at Arkus as they rode toward each other without being blatant. “What a magnificent specimen of a warrior,” he thought. His muscles seemed as large as Maciste’s and were full. His arms and chest flexed as he road on his horse. He wished he could see the battle between these two musclemen and maybe if he acted quickly he could.
As they continued up the foothill road, Maciste found a spot at which he planned to ambush Arkus. With Maciste staying behind, Therapon continued on toward Arkus’s cave.
When Therapon reached the cave, he called Arkus’s name pretending to be a visitor but no one answered so he quickly ventured inside. The cave looked like a simple abode. Arkus had a range of weaponry, foods, a simple animal skin covered bed and a spring fed pool for water. He searched every where for the stone but he could not find it. He looked for anything that would tell him more about Arkus but found nothing.
Arkus began the journey back toward his home in the early afternoon. He rode quietly up the road he had taken many times before. As it narrowed, he saw fewer people until he reached the final stretch that veered off to his cave in the foothills of Mount Melos. He enjoyed living in the foothills of this semi-active volcano. It fed many hot springs in the region including one in his cave and one could climb into several caves near the top and actually see pools of lava. He admired its natural beauty and it calmed him from all the stress of hearing all this talk of war and invasion. His calm did not last long. As he reached a narrow pass, a tall, large man jumped from above and knocked Arkus down off his horse.
Therapon was becoming increasing impatient and worrisome. “Now where would I hide it if I were him?” he asked himself. He looked under animal skins, he looked behind wall coverings. Looked in every crevice he could see. Nothing.
Then he heard someone walking slowly and deliberately up the path to the cave’s mouth. The person sounded tall and heavy as he heard the stranger’s feet crush the gravel leading to the entrance. It must be Maciste he thought but to be safe, he decided to hide behind one of the cave’s pillars.
He peered at the entrance and in walked a tired Arkus. Arkus did not look as large as he looked earlier in the day. His pecs and biceps seemed almost a bit smaller. He watched as the giant staggered over to a rock in the wall near his bed. Arkus pulled the rock away and there was a small hole in the wall in which he put his hand and pulled out the stone Therapon was looking for! Arkus then placed the stone on a wood table next to his bed and collapsed into his bed. Lying on his back he closed his eyes and seemed to fall asleep. His breathing seemed laboured. His body was covered with dirt and scrapes including a gash bleeding on his forehead. Now thought Therapon was his chance to grab the stone and run. However, as he watched to make sure Arkus was sleeping, he hesitated to admire Arkus’s beauty. His soft long brown hair, his narrow nose and square jaw. As he started to step forward, he watched in amazement as Arkus’s wounds seemed to begin to disappear and then slowly Arkus’s muscles grew larger as if air were inflating them. His pecs once again appeared as cliffs besides his sternum. His biceps returned to the size and vascularity he saw earlier in the day. “What magic is this?” he wondered. Arkus’s breathing began to normalize and Therapon felt it was now or never. He crepted over to the bedside and gradually lifted the imitation stone from a small burlap sack with his right hand and exchanged it with the Stone of Power from the table. Then he stealthily slipped out of Arkus’s cave.
Arkus woke an hour later from his rest and looked at the stone on the table. He looked at his body and though dirty it was its beautiful form once again. He picked up the stone and kissed it and placed it back in its hiding place in the wall. He then went and bathed. As he soaked in the hot spring, he thought about his encounter with the man on road. “What fool would dare to challenge the great Arkus?” he thought. But he knew in the back of his mind that this man was quite a challenge for even him. He had never met such a strong warrior previously. The man not only had great fighting skills but also impressive strength. But he knew he once again proved he was the stronger one. He knew he had the Stone of Power.
Therapon first traveled slowly down the path to the road to Velos fearing Arkus might hear his footsteps. Once he reached the road, he ran to the place where he hid his horse. It was nightfall. There he found Maciste, badly battered and bruised. Maciste looked up at Therapon and said weakly, “Did you get the stone?” “Of course,” said Therapon, “But let me help you.” He soaked some clothing in some wine and applied it to Maciste’s wounds. “I almost had him,” he said. “Just when I thought I was overcoming his strength, he suddenly grew stronger almost at will. He beat me badly.” “We can talk when we return to the palace.” said Therapon. “Can you ride?” “Yes, we must,” said Maciste. And the two returned to their horses and to the Queen.
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