The Tower 14
We doused Sareanne and then the two tarranges with the grape seed water and then carefully stepped over the circle of stones. Nothing happened and I was certain that my grape theory was correct. I kept the bottle of grape powder in my pocket just in case we needed it.
“Where are we going?” Sareanne asked nervously.
“Out to the village,” I replied confidently. “We are going to start breaking this curse and I want to start in the village.”
Sareanne stopped in her tracks. “I don’t have the energy to uncurse the entire village!” she exclaimed.
“I know. I have an idea about that.” We reached the stairs and I looked down the circular stairway. “Where is Antheus usually at during the day?”
“I’m not sure. I’m always in the prison during the day. I think sometimes he would take Tuug and Jiun out into the courtyard, probably to scare the invisible villagers and workers. From some of their talk I think he might have taken them out to the tower during the day. Even after twenty years he is still trying to find a way to get to my book.”
I skidded to a stop and Sareanne crashed into me. Several things came falling into place with her one statement.
“Why is he still after the book?” I ask incredulously.
“Because of its power,” she replied.
“But I thought he wanted the vineyards.”
“That was part of it, but I guess he has always just wanted the book.”
I grabbed her arms. “Sareanne when did your father discover what the grapes were doing to everyone?” I ask anxiously.
“I don’t know, a few years before all of this happened.”
“Did you have your book?”
“Yes,” she answered slowly.
“When did you get your book?”
“Well it started out as a kind of journal when I turned twelve and then it just kind of grew into what it is. Why?”
“This has to do with the book,” I say slapping the palm of my hand against my forehead. “It’s all about that book. Antheus wants that book and he was willing to do anything to get it.”
“He can’t read the book, only I can,” Sareanne replied sadly. “I tried to explain that to him when he called you from your world.”
“What is in that book, Sareanne?” I demanded.
“My thoughts and feelings when I work with the earth, some simple spells…”her voice trailed off and her eyes widened.
“What?” I ask painfully.
“That’s when it started. I was about fourteen when I started hearing..no, feeling the earth. It was speaking to me. I didn’t realize that was what was happening, but I did write down the thoughts and feelings in my book. Those words must be very powerful. They come from the Gods of the Earth, they were speaking to me.”
She looked into my eyes with a slightly pained expression. “It was a few months later when my father cut himself terribly. The healer said he would lose his hand for sure, but the next morning it had started to heal. It only took two days and there was no scar. I didn’t connect it until now. The words I felt, that I wrote down in my book…I had no idea.”
“That’s what Antheus wants, Sareanne. He could care less about Perdeen or your grapes. He simply wants to be the master of those words in your book.”
“What does he want to do with them?” Sareanne wailed.
“I don’t know,” I reply frustrated.
I pull her along down the stairs and toward the entrance to the castle. We entered the silent throne room and I stopped. Once again Sareanne crashed into me.
“What is it?” she asked a little irritably.
“Can you do the spell of protection around the thrones? Just the thrones, keep it small.”
She nodded and concentrated. The words came tumbling out like a whole different language. I watched the small circle of stones appear one by one around the two thrones. As the circle completed the air shimmered slightly and then an aging gentleman appeared on the throne. He slowly opened his eyes and yawned.
Sareanne looked up at the noise and a wordless gasp left her lips. “Papa?” she cried.
She then threw herself across the barrier and into his arms. The man barely had enough time to open them before she was embracing him.
“Sareanne,” he said simply.
I could feel the moisture on my cheeks before I realized I was crying. I shook myself out of the beautiful reverie and approached the throne.
“Sareanne he must sprinkle some of this all over,” I instructed.
“Who is this?” Rutheus asked suspiciously.
“We don’t have much time, Sareanne I need you.” I poured a small amount into Rutheus hand and we made our way outside.
I looked up at the grapes hanging from the lattice work in the courtyard. I reached up to try and pluck one. If the grape seed powder worked so well then a grape would be even better. Just as I was about to pop the grape into my mouth Sareanne swatted my hand and the grape fell to the ground. She immediately stomped on it.
“What are you doing?” I ask surprised.
“Look at the roots of the vines,” she said pointing to the walls.
The vines were growing out of the castle walls. At first I didn’t understand and then it dawned on me.
“These vines are cursed. They are attached to the castle,” I say nodding my head.
“If any of us eats them we will be cursed again,” Sareanne replies.
We hurry past the treacherous vines and I now understood why I had felt uneasy and tempted by the grapes. When we reached the empty courtyard in front of the castle I heard Rutheus gasp behind us.
“Where is the village?” he exclaimed angrily.
“It’s still here, you just can’t see it because it has been enchanted or cursed,” I say carefully. “Sareanne, where did we see the most people from the room above?”
She pointed to an area off to the right. I started toward the area and then stopped.
“Is there a well around here?”
“Yes, it’s supposed to be over there.” She pointed to another corner of the courtyard.
“Make the circle around the well,” I instruct.
She concentrates and speaks and a few minutes later the well appears. I run over to the well and draw up a large bucket of water. I take the bottle of powder and dump a generous handful inside. It sizzles and bubbles for a moment and I reach into stir it. When it looks mixed enough I take the bucket toward the first area Sareanne had pointed out and I start scooping it out and splashing it all over.
Rutheus and Sareanne make strangled noises behind me, but I continue my work until the bucket is almost empty. Then I take it and toss it toward the middle.
“Hey,” an angry voice calls. “Why’d you do that?”
I look at the speaker and see a small pocket of the village appearing under the protection of the grape seed powder water. Just having the water sprinkled on an object appears to lift the curse completely. I run back to Sareanne.
“It will take a long time to uncurse the whole village and I don’t think there is enough of the powder, but it’s a start,” I say excitedly.
“I think it’s time someone starts explaining,” Rutheus says firmly.
“We’ve been cursed, Papa,” Sareanne replies slowly, “by Antheus.”
“Antheus? He dared to come into this city after he was forbidden to return?” Rutheus said incredulously.
I stop in my tracks. “Antheus used to live here?”
Sareanne’s eyes dropped to the ground uncomfortably. I looked to Rutheus for an answer. He shuffled his feet, thinking about what to say next. I waited. Finally he began to speak.
“Antheus came here about ten years ago…”
“Actually Papa it has been thirty years. We’ve been under Antheus’ spell for twenty of those years,” Sareanne said softly.
Rutheus’ expression was pained, like someone had just punched him in the stomach and knocked the breath out of him.
“He came here ten years before you were cursed,” I prodded gently.
“He sought Sareanne’s hand in marriage, but she refused him. She didn’t care for him and she was pretty determined to remain true to her feelings. He was angry when he left,” Rutheus said.
“I didn’t mean to anger him, but I didn’t love him. I couldn’t possibly pursue a relationship like that, it would break my heart,” Sareanne wailed.
“I wonder if he knew about the grapes even back then,” I surmised. “Why else would he be so angry about your rejection?”
“But the changes didn’t start until several years later, after I wrote the words in the book,” Sareanne argued.
I shake my head. “You noticed the changes or effects. They became so prominent that you couldn’t not notice them. I think Antheus knew about the grapes long before you did, that’s why he sought your hand. He must have thought he could gain control of the vineyards through you. I suspect it was only later that he discovered the value of your book and the promise of what he could do anywhere in the land with that book. If he had it then he wouldn’t need any of you.”
Sareanne’s eyes widened and understanding crossed her face. “It all makes sense.”
“We just have to figure out how to uncurse the land without exhausting you or your supply of grape seed powder. The people who have been freed need to know that they need to drink or eat grapes or grape products that were harvested from the vineyard before it burned,” I said determinedly.
Rutheus nodded and turned to the nearest villagers who had drawn closer to listen to their conversation. I looked around at the half visible city trying to think of some possible way to free these people from Antheus’ curse, but no ideas popped into my head.
I could see this land seemingly frozen in time, yet I looked over at Sareanne and I could see a very subtle passing of years. She was not as young as the portrait in the gallery had shown, but she also wasn’t as old as she should have been. Rutheus, I was certain, looked just like he did when the curse was first put into place. I examined the villagers. I couldn’t tell whether or not they had aged at all, but then I remembered the cloaked and hooded people viewed from the window high above.
I wondered how the curse had affected them. Had they walked like shadows in a half-life, not really living and not dead either? I shuddered. The thought of being frozen in time made me sick. As my thoughts rested on this last notion I felt like a light bulb turned on inside my head.
“That’s it!” I shout startling everyone around me.
“What?” Sareanne asks coming immediately to my side.
“I think I know how to break the curse,” I reply excitedly.
“How?” Sareanne asks anxiously.
“Come with me,” I say pulling her toward the main entrance.
We scramble through the doors and down the hall past the throne room and toward the first winding staircase. I wracked my thoughts to remember where I had seen the huge clock with the different faces. I knew it was in one of the round stair rooms, but I wasn’t sure which one.
My feet silently groaned at the thought of climbing multiple levels of stairs, but we hurried along.
“Where are we going?” Sareanne asked breathlessly.
“The clock,” I reply. “I think that is the way to uncurse Anderosea.”
I glance over and see the understanding and agreement creep into Sareanne’s eyes. Her pace increases and this time she leads me. We climb the stairs and traverse the hallways until we reach the rounded room where the clock resides. I take the last step onto the main level and stop.
Before us stands the clock and in front of the clock is a glowering Antheus.