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The Tower 10
When I opened my eyes I could see the frame of the mirror behind me and the hallway I had just left. Before me was a stone passage lit every ten or fifteen feet by a single burning torch.
I walked for what seemed like hours when I finally came to a solid wooden door. I reached for the handle wondering if I would come face to face with a monster or something worse. It turned easily at my touch and swung open.
I was surprised at the comfortable trappings that greeted me. Soft carpets dotted the stone floor and a tall bed with filmy curtains stood in the corner. Pretty chests, bureaus and bookshelves lined the walls.
The last thing I noticed was a tall, slender woman with dark brown hair and piercing blue eyes. She stood next to a tiny window and held a beautiful baby in her arms.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” she said softly rocking the child and humming quietly.
Her eyes met mine and she smiled. The effect took my breath away. She was so beautiful and I was just a plain, ordinary person.
Her smile widened. “I’m glad you found me. I’ve been hoping you would break through the enchantments and come.”
“You felt them each time,” she replied matter-of-factly.
I stared at her in confusion, not really understanding. “You are Sareanne?” I finally blurted out.
“Yes and this this Antheus,” she said holding the baby up so I could see.
His eyes were the same piercing blue I had recognized from the paintings and my encounters, but this didn’t make any sense.
“But I met Antheus, he was an adult…” I muttered. “But you…you…” I couldn’t finish.
“Ahh, I see,” she said. She looked at the baby thoughtfully for a few moments. “The change must have happened. Mehean warned it might. What did Antheus look like?”
Her statements ran together in my head and she stared at me for at least a full minute before I realized she had asked a question.
“Normal,” I replied quickly.
She let her breath out with a sigh of relief. “Good. That’s very good. What did he tell you?”
“Everything,” I said carefully, “well, almost everything. He didn’t finish. Sareanne, what happened to all of the people, the village?” I looked around me. “Where am I?”
“The tower,” she said simply.
I looked around the room and suddenly it looked familiar. The fireplace and the stone staircase were right where I had found them the first time. I hadn’t taken much time to explore the main room of the tower when I first arrived in Anderosea.
“But it took me three days to walk from the tower to Perdeen and only a few hours to get here again.” I was now thoroughly confused.
Sareanne looked at me and I could see the wheels turning in her head trying to understand what I was saying.
“You have been to Perdeen?” she finally asked.
“Who have you spoken with? My father?”
“Only Antheus. I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do.”
“You were in Perdeen and you didn’t speak with my father?” She seemed shocked at the idea.
“There was no one else there!” I shouted in frustration.
Her expression was one of amazement that slowly turned to fear. “No one?”
“Not that I could see. The whole country of Anderosea seems to have vanished leaving a silent land with lots of mysterious happenings.”
“I only saw one of them. Antheus said there were two and…” I looked at her carefully, “and you.”
Her face paled and she sat down heavily on the edge of the bed.
“How old was he?” she finally asked.
“Around my age at least, mid-thirties.”
I stared at her trying to absorb the strange parallel I had entered. Somehow I had gone back in time and yet it didn’t feel like that. Sareanne didn’t look like the young woman from the painting, she looked older like a mother who had watched her only son grow up, yet here she was with a babe in arms convinced it was Antheus.
“You left the tower with Antheus, Sareanne. Don’t you remember?” I said carefully.
She looked at me with confusion and then looked down at the baby in her arms. It suddenly shimmered and disappeared.
“I remember something,” she whispered looking lonely and afraid.
“Do you know what is happening here?” I asked hoping for an answer, but not really expecting one.
“I remember seeing you at the top of the stairs. You were in the circle, my circle,” she said suddenly. “Who are you?”
I hadn’t expected her to ask me that. I had never had to explain to Antheus who I was he just seemed to know. I opened my mouth to answer, but I heard a strangled noise behind me. I turned to see Antheus accompanied by one of the monsters, probably Tuug. He stared at me and I saw a glimmer of anger behind his eyes.
I glanced over at Sareanne and heard the whisper of words escape her mouth, as she did so I looked at my feet and noticed the white circle of stones appear. I looked up and the glimmer of anger had turned to one of incredulous annoyance.
Several things clicked into place in my head. I finally realized that Antheus hadn’t brought me here, Sareanne had, and she was the one who had been protecting me the whole time from him.
A dark chuckle escaped Antheus’ lips as he read my thoughts.
“Who are you really?” I demanded.
“He’s the sorcerer from Betalth,” Sareanne replied. Her voice was much stronger than before.
I looked over to where she stood and realized she had created a circle of protection for herself as well. Our circles overlapped ever so slightly. She stood tall within the circle her eyes defiant and strong.
More things clicked into place.
“Sareanne, what do you remember? Not what you think, but what you actually remember,” I asked carefully keeping my eyes on Antheus’ face.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see her troubled expression, and then her head snapped up. “I remember my brother Mehean leaving for northern Anderosea.”
“Mehean is your brother?” I asked incredulously. I glared at Antheus knowing he had lied to me.
“And when he returned with his tale of monsters I knew something was wrong, something in his eyes, but I convinced my father to let me go with him to try and help the people in Elderich,” she explained. “I couldn’t leave them to the mercy of the monsters
“You took your book with you, didn’t you,” I surmised.
“Yes. In all of my family I was the closest to the gods of the earth and the power they shared. My book contained the mysteries they had shared with me, but only I could read it,” Sareanne replied.
I looked at Antheus, “the first time you brought me here and you tried to get me to read from the book.”
“That is forbidden, Antheus, even you should know that,” Sareanne said scathingly. “That’s why you were pulled back into your own world.”
“But you brought me the second time,” I said to Sareanne. “Why?”
“I needed your help. He had already opened the doorway between our worlds,” she said carefully.
“And what do you propose to do, Sareanne,” Antheus interrupted coldly. His voice sent chills down my back. “You are stuck in your circle of protection in the prison I’ve kept you in for twenty years.” He laughed.
“Why did you do this?” I blurted out interrupting his evil tirade.
“He wanted to control my father’s vineyards,” Sareanne replied. “I remember now. He cursed me to try and force my father’s hand, so I burned the vineyards.”
“That’s when he cursed Anderosea,” I added understanding.
“And it will stay cursed until I get what I want,” he said menacingly.
He turned to leave and then grunted at Tuug. “Stagrath, Tuug.”
Tuug turned toward us and then lumbered over to the door and sat down watching us carefully.
I turned to Sareanne determined to get some answers now. “So it was you that protected me each time.” It was not a question.
“Yes. I brought you back hoping you could help me break Antheus’ curse. He had already brought you here once so I knew I could bring you back. I hoped that if he chose you to try and break my protections I could use you to vanquish him.” She looked down at me. “I’m sorry.”
I nodded fighting the surge of anger that coursed through me. I don’t like being used.
“So the tower is not in Anderosea?” I asked.
“No, it is. The borders of Anderosea go all the way to the northern mountains. Elderich is the northern most city in the land. The cliffs of Betalth mark the border between Anderosea and Betalth.”
“Oh,” I replied, “but the tower is where you met with Antheus?”
“Yes. We had never been plagued by the monsters before, he must have done something to control them or rouse them against us.” I could see the memories seeping back into her mind as more and more understanding dawned in her eyes. “I took my little army north and when we met Antheus I knew the only way to protect my people was to speak to the gods of the earth. They answered and the chasm was formed.”
“How did the tower come about? Antheus said Mehean built it for you.”
“Mehean, as far as I know, fell into the chasm. When the earth cracked I found myself alone on the island facing Antheus. He cursed me before I could protect myself, but I had enough time to enchant the book so he couldn’t take it and read it.”
“How does the curse work, you look normal to me right now.”
“The change starts when the sun sets and goes away when the sun rises, but I always end up in this room trapped in the dreams he has forced me into,” she looked into my eyes, “but you broke through and found me. Thank you.”
I sighed, “but now we have to figure out what to do next.”