He shifts his wrists beneath the chains, moves them slowly, gently, in motions practiced and perfected, testing strength here and friction there, each sun-heated link caressing his skin like a burning coal. No weaknesses found, he stills, sighs, begins again with his legs instead, motions all measured out in scant hairs; the one who bound him did his job well.
Twelve thousand, three hundred and eighty-one.
The sun slants across him, forcing him to squint against the glare. He sighs again, but continues the endless testing of his bonds. When the eagle rips out his liver, he groans once and that is all. It will return; no use in making more of a fuss.
Twelve thousand, three hundred and eighty.
Snow. He shivers beneath it, briefly glad for a change from the fire-like heat. The chains bite at him like ice as he pulls against them.
Twelve thousand, three hundred and seventy-nine.
It would be so very easy to lie there motionless, chained to the mountain, liver ever raw and bleeding, face turned toward heaven, and to despair. So very easy to simply stop. He could tell himself that it is wisest, even: to guard his strength. To save his dignity. To retreat inside himself, into a prison from which he could never be freed.
Zeus would like that, he thinks.
But instead he shifts his weight against the rock at his back, the chains at his front, the weariness at his heart, and does not give in. Someday the chains will come off, and when that happens he will stand again, secure in the knowledge that he did not give in or give up. And then—
Then, perhaps, he will rest.
Twelve thousand, three hundred and seventy-eight.