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The Tower 11
Sareanne stared at me without an answer. Neither of us knew what to do. Tuug stood watch like a faithful dog and every time either of us moved he looked up and glared.
“Can you speak his language?” I asked Sareanne suddenly.
“I remember some of it, but most of the knowledge came with the curse that you broke.”
“How did I break the curse?” I asked. I didn’t really do anything except fight nausea and go down a long tunnel.
“It was your courage to find me even though you thought I might harm you once you were no longer protected, courage to continue on even when it would be in your best interest not to.”
“Oh,” I replied. I looked over at Tuug. “Do you think he would listen to you if you told him to do something?”
“He might, he trusts me.”
“If you told him to put his hand through the barrier do you think he would?”
“No, he’s afraid of the barrier. It burns,” she said matter-of-factly.
I thought for a few moments considering my idea. “Do you think we could expand the protection to include him?”
“But he’s a monster,” Sareanne said shocked.
“So were you,” I pointed out. “Maybe he isn’t what you think he is, maybe he’s cursed too.”
I tried to sound convincing even though I wasn’t completely convinced myself. I had to try though, it was the only way to escape Antheus’ little trap. I had to get back to the protected room.
Sareanne looked at me like I was crazy, but my persuasion must have worked because she glanced over at Tuug then shook her head and began whispering under her breath.
It was an almost imperceptible change, but I watched as the circle of rocks around us faded ever so slightly, then reappeared just a bit larger. The process continued until the edge of the protection appeared next to Tuug and then suddenly enveloped him.
The pitiful cry of pain that escaped Tuug’s mouth wrenched my heart. He writhed for several moments and then finally collapsed in a lump of limbs. The change happened slowly. We watched as the horrible scales blurred and then seemed to burn away revealing soft fur. The clawed hands became padded paws and the horrible fangs shrank into catlike teeth.
When the transformation completed we faced a furry animal that appeared to be a strange catlike creature.
“A tarrange!” Sareanne exclaimed.
She rushed over to the creature and began stroking its ears and murmuring in a purring, guttural language. The creature seemed to understand her and it purred back. This wasn’t what I expected, but it was an improvement nonetheless.
“What’s a tarrange?” I asked stupidly. I could see the creature there before me, but I had no idea what it was or what it could do.
“They range through the mountains that border Anderosea and Betalth. They have never harmed people before though. They’re very intelligent creatures and if you can get close enough to speak to one and pet it, it will protect you from other predators.”
A big improvement.
“Good,” I said. “Will this one protect us?”
She murmured a few words of the strange language to the creature and it purred back. When I forced myself to really listen I could actually hear words mixed in with its purrs.
“Well, he’s upset that we hurt it, but he is also grateful to be back to his normal self.” She paused. “He is afraid of Antheus cursing him again.”
I shrugged my shoulders thinking I was too, but for some reason I doubted he would be able to harm either the tarrange or Sareanne.
“I don’t know, but we have to leave this place and go back into the castle, so I guess he can find out and come with us or try to leave.” Deep down I hoped the creature would stick with us, the more the better. “Can you make the protection moveable?”
I doubted and hoped in the same breath.
“No,” she replied nervously.
I didn’t have a choice then, we would have to move unprotected and take our chances. I moved toward the door determined to return to the room at the top of the castle. I wasn’t completely sure why I felt like I had to reach that room, but that was where I wanted to go.
“Where are you going?” Sareanne asked.
“I need to get to the room, the one where I stayed the first night in the castle. You can come with me,” I paused, “I’d like you to come with me,” I qualified.
Sareanne hesitated. I could tell she had been in her little prison for too long. She didn’t want to be returned to her cursed state. I had to admit I would have felt the same way.
“Sareanne, you are very powerful and believe it or not, I think Antheus is afraid of you. That’s why he cursed you. Something I have noticed about people is that they try to hurt the people they are the most frightened of. Antheus knows you can communicate with the gods of the earth, he can’t and I think that frightens him. Simply put, you’re more powerful than he is.” As I finished I knew I spoke the truth.
My words were enough to create a firm resolve. Sareanne squared her shoulders and marched toward the door of her twenty year prison.
I followed her out the door and into the bare hall. The tarrange was close at our heels. The walk back to the mirror seemed much shorter this time, probably because I expected to meet Antheus at any moment. We reached the mirror and experienced the sensation of passing through liquid glass as we crossed back through into the castle.
“Where are we going?” I asked Sareanne.
Her brows knit together. “I don’t know. I’m not sure how to…tackle this.” She waved her arm in a circle including the silent castle and land.
“Well, I was on my way up to the room I stayed in the first night I came here. There is a book that I want to look at,” I said.
“I can take you up there,” Sareanne agreed.
We started along the hall back the way I had come. I thought about what had happened that morning and the lay of events in Anderosea. Antheus had told me partial truths and some of the holes had been filled in by Sareanne, but it still didn’t make much sense to me that a sorcerer would go through all the trouble of cursing a land and people just to control some popular vineyards.
“Sareanne, what was so special about your father’s vineyards?” I asked carefully feeling this must be the crux of the problem.
She remained silent so I tried another line of questioning.
“What really happened after you cracked the earth and found yourself on the island facing Antheus?”
“I didn’t realize who he was at first. I thought he was one of the refugees from Elderich and the northern part of Anderosea, but then he spoke the words of cursing. I could feel the power of the book instructing me what to do before I changed completely. I set the book on the ground and spoke the words of protection, then watched as a circle of white rocks formed around the book.”
“What did Antheus do?”
“He was angry and he tried to use sorcery on my protection. It sent a shock out that threw both of us away from the book and when I got to my feet again the tower had risen around the book. We met at the doorway and I knew he couldn’t harm me any further, though to a certain extent I was in his power.
“We both went into the tower and climbed the stairs to the room at the top. The walls were lined with shelves of books. Instinctively I knew which book was mine, but I didn’t share the information. Antheus moved to the bookshelf and tried to pull the books off, but he wasn’t allowed to touch them.”
“That probably made him very angry,” I surmised.
Sareanne nodded. “He tried for several days to get to that book, that’s when he used other magic to pull you here. I knew he wouldn’t be able to reach the book so I left to discover a way off the island and back to Perdeen so I could warn my father. I didn’t know he would try to use someone from outside our world, but that wasn’t allowed that’s why you were pulled back so suddenly.”
I was a little confused at that point because I had only spent one day away from the hotel and when I returned twenty years had passed, but I wanted her to continue so I remained quiet and attentive.
“After his attempt with you failed he decided it was time to leave the island and use other means to get my book. When I had returned to the tower that night I knew what he had done and that it had failed, but that was when a plan formed in my mind. Since he had already broken the boundaries of our world, perhaps I could now use outside help as well. I wasn’t able to put my plan into effect though because Antheus’ curse had finally completed and I was under his power.”
“Then how did you finally call me here?” I blurted out.
“It was a moment of lucid sanity that occurred one morning just as the sun was peaking over the horizon. Perhaps Antheus was busy thinking about something else or perhaps the earth slowed down just enough to render aid to me. Whatever it was I found myself down in my prison, but I wasn’t under the influence of the dreams Antheus usually thrust on me. I know what is in my book and I used that information to call you out of your world and into mine.”
“But twenty years had passed for you and only one day for me,” I said wonderingly.
“I don’t know why time passed differently in our worlds,” Sareanne replied.
I had to accept her answer, because there was no other way of explaining it. “So Antheus gave up trying to reach the book, what did he do next?”
“He made the bridge,” Sareanne stated.
I stared at her in surprise. “Out of thin air?” I asked waving my hands in the air.
She nodded. “Crossing that bridge finalized his curse. I didn’t realize it would, but as soon as I stepped onto Anderosean soil on the other side I was completely under his power. During the day I looked normal, but I was forced into the dream world he had created for me. He tried to use me that way to influence my father when we reached Perdeen, but my father was a wise man. He was suspicious of my behavior, so Antheus made a show of turning me into a monster.”
“But that happened every night,” I interrupted again.
“My father didn’t know that and Antheus had kept it hidden from him. As a monster, at night, I was more myself then during the day in my normal form. I could see my father weakening in his resolve, so I went out and burned the vineyards.”
“That explains the painting,” I murmured thinking of the fiery canvas with the menacing shadow.
Sareanne’s expression became thoughtful and then realization spread across her fine features. She nodded sadly.
I decided it was time for the answer to my original question. “Sareanne, I can understand why Antheus would want your book, but when he couldn’t get it he went after your father’s vineyards. I need to know why,” I said gently.