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The Tower 4
The road through the countryside was much more pleasant than the forest for only one reason, sunshine. The silence from the forest carried on in the open country and there wasn’t as much as a breath of air to create a breeze. Though the day was warm it wasn’t overbearing and the sunshine made everything just a bit more cheery.
I walked on following the progression of the sun as it moved across the sky and finally touched the spires on the castle. I had hoped to reach the castle by dark, but the distance was greater than I had anticipated. As the sun drew closer to the body of water I began searching for the cheerful fire and tent from the night before. To my dismay nothing materialized.
I became uneasy and nervous. Something about this place at night was not right. I began looking around for any kind of shelter and noticed a small path breaking off from the road. I eagerly took the path and after rounding a small hill discovered a tiny cottage.
I approached the door carefully looking for any sign of inhabitants. Finally I knocked hoping the people were inside and they were normal people. Nothing happened. The sound of my knock seemed to echo through the hills. I knocked again, silence.
The light around me grew dimmer and dimmer with each passing moment. Finally I reached out and tried the knob. It turned freely in my hand. I stepped inside and felt the urge to shut the door behind me. The light outside failed as the door clicked into place.
A fire crackled in the small fireplace giving very little light to the room. I looked around for a lantern or candle, anything to brighten the place and my mood. After a thorough search I discovered a candle that looked like it had been sitting for years without anyone disturbing it. I took the candle to the fire and lit the wick.
It came alive quickly, burning off years of dust in an instant. I then searched the main room of the cottage until I discovered a holder for the candle. With my handy light I searched the cottage thoroughly. The search took approximately two minutes.
The cottage was a small two room building for one person or even perhaps a couple. There was one four-poster size bed in the bedroom and a tall wardrobe. I opened the wardrobe half expecting to find another magical kingdom, but only discovering a few ragged dresses and a thin, worn overcoat.
After searching the bedroom I re-entered the main room. It was a combination of a kitchen, dining room and living room in a ten by ten space. The table was pushed up under the window with two chairs in their proper places. A pretty checkered table cloth adorned the table with a small vase of daisies. Everything was coated with dust.
Across the room near the fireplace was an old fashioned sofa and easy chair. Both looked well used. I moved next to the fire and reached out to feel the warmth. It was even colder than the fire in the forest.
I looked around the room in wonder. It looked like the inhabitants had kept loving care of their tiny home, but where were they? Why weren’t they here? What happened to them? These questions filled my mind and an even stronger desire to find the answers filled my chest.
I knew it wouldn’t be wise to leave the cottage until morning so I took the blanket from the bed and curled up on the couch for the night. Though I was tired I lay on the couch thinking about my strange journey so far and what could have possible left this land so desolate and silent. There was nothing that could even begin to give me answers except for the white castle.
I rolled onto my side and stared at the fire watching the flames move in twisting patterns. I didn’t even realize I had fallen asleep until I was jolted awake by a loud noise outside the cottage. I sat up listening intently. I could hear voices outside the cottage, strange unfamiliar voices. They spoke in a language I didn’t understand.
Suddenly I heard something heavy hit the front door. The whole house shuddered. I crouched down waiting in fear for whatever it was to break through. The object hit the house again, this time cracking the window.
The talking broke out again this time louder. More voices joined encouraging whatever it was to continue its work. I didn’t know what to do. I started to get up but the sickening sensation washed over me and I remained on the couch.
“What do I do?” I mentally shouted.
No voice answered this time and I knew I would just have to wait it out on the couch. I curled up in a ball listening to the voices and the thuds. The work continued for several hours and finally in the grey light of dawn they went away.
After this night I was ready to return to my hotel room and be done with this dream, but I knew I was in it for the long haul. I turned back to watching the flames of the fire until the first rays of sunlight broke across the cottage.
I pushed back the blanket and slid off the couch. No feelings halted my progress so I quickly folded the blanket and put it back on the bed. When I returned to the main room I noticed a thin white line of dust encircling the couch. I’d had my protection again. I wondered what would have happened if I had crossed that line.
Shaking my head I looked around for my handy canteen. It sat on the table where I had laid it the night before and next to it, to my relief, was a loaf of bread. Remembering my previous day I found a knife and dish towel and cut two pieces from the bread and then wrapped the remainder of the loaf in the towel. I tucked the bread in a handy pocket attached to the canteen and ate my two slices. This time it tasted like whole wheat apple muffins. I reveled in the delicious taste for a few minutes and then decided it was time to head out.
I cautiously opened the door of the cottage and peered out. There was no one to be seen and everything looked just as it had the previous day. I examined the side of the house and could see faint signs of disturbance but nothing to compare to the sound and shaking of whatever was being hurled at the house.
In awe I turned my sights toward the castle. There it sat in its early morning splendor, the sunrise giving a pinkish cast to the white walls. With a deep breath I took to the road once again. After my frightful night I had no desire to stay anywhere for the night
I walked through the silence over and around hills. The sun moved slowly across the sky and the castle grew in size as I traveled. I passed a few silent villages with their scattering of houses and barns and empty fields of still grain. I fought the desire to stop and explore, listening to the deeper pull of the castle instead.
As the sun approached the horizon I finally reached the gates of the castle. I expected to enter some sort of a city first, but there was nothing but a cobblestone road that began a hundred yards from the gates.
To my surprise I was still met with the oppressive silence and obvious absence of anyone. I reached out and touched the tall metal gates. They swung open silently and I entered the main courtyard.
A grid of pillars was situated evenly before me with a trellis work spanning the spaces between and thick heavy vines entwined among the trellis. The most luscious looking grapes hung invitingly from the vines. I looked at the grapes hungrily but they were out of my reach. I continued on.
The tiles beneath my feet made a beautiful path of mottled granite. I followed the path through the pillars toward an arched doorway. When I reached the door I examined the gold etched artwork around the frame. It depicted tall slender ladies in beautiful gowns and elegant gentlemen picking grapes from the vines above their heads and singing and dancing to now silent tunes.
With a shudder I glanced back almost expecting to see the ghosts of the court. It was as empty and silent as before. Taking a deep breath and summoning more courage than I ever thought I had, I opened the door to the castle and stepped inside.
The hall I entered was as elegant and mysterious as the rest of the castle. Tall windows lined the corridor with elegant drapes hanging in pleated perfection. Through the glass panes I could see gardens with fountains and flowers of every kind. I moved through the passage taking in the beauty around me.
Exquisitely crafted candelabras mounted the walls every fifteen feet and beautiful wall tables with gracefully carved legs and ornate vases adorned the spaces beneath the candles. Everything seemed built for very tall people and my thoughts immediately turned to the strange man in the tower.
He must be part of this kingdom, but where was he? I pushed the question to the back of my mind and returned my attention to the passage before me. I finally left the hall stepping into a large, round room.
A fire burned silently directly across the room from where I stood. To the left there were stone benches and chairs scattered in a chaotic, but organized pattern. To the right I saw the most beautiful pair of thrones. Even from where I stood I could tell they were carved from marble and inlayed with gold and silver in the patterns of grapes and vines.
The hearth across from me was the same marble as the thrones and held the same gold and silver inlay. The mantle was placed just above my head and on it were delicate blown glass sculptures of long-legged dear with large curving antlers.
I examined the room from where I stood seemingly frozen in place. After seeing the glass sculptures I glanced out the windows that framed the thrones and realized it was almost sunset.
I remembered the experiences from the night before and felt a surge of panic rush through my body. The doors and gates had opened at my touch, how could they possibly keep out the dangerous host that attacked the cottage. I looked around for the circle of safety I had been given the previous two nights, but could see nothing.
Released from the frozen awe I began searching the room meticulously. There were no other passages behind the scattering of benches, but I quickly discovered a passage covered by a tapestry behind the thrones. I didn’t know where this corridor would lead, but I felt very strongly I should follow it.
This hallway had fewer windows and walking along it made me even more nervous, but the unknown danger spurred me on. At the end I encountered another large round room. This one had no fireplace, but a grand staircase wound around the outer edges. In the center was a beautiful fountain carved in the shape of grape vines reaching ten feet in the air.
At a ninety degree angle to my left was another opening and corridor. I stepped toward the opening and immediately felt that same sense of wrongness I had experienced the previous two evenings. I paused and then turned to the stairs. Nothing happened so I began climbing.
I wound around the room twice before reaching the next level of the castle. I was in a room similar to the one below but the ceiling wasn’t quite as tall and the fountain was replaced by a delicate round table with a blown glass sculpture of a deer. Again there were two arched openings at a ninety degree angle from each other.
The floor was carpeted with thick Persian style rugs and tall windows encircled the entire room giving me a perfect view of the courtyard in the center of the castle and the approaching sunset. I looked out at the courtyard and realized the castle was a square with long corridors making up the sides and the large round rooms at the corners.
The staircase continued up to the next level, but I felt drawn to the corridor on the right. I padded across the thick carpet to the hallway and made my way along it. This passage was much narrower than the one on the main level and instead of windows looking out at the water there were doors to rooms.
Several of the doors were opened and through them I glimpsed beautiful paintings and tall carved beds with heavy brocade spreads and ornate bureaus. I walked more slowly through this passage than the ones below, mesmerized by the scenes I beheld.
At the end of the passage I came to another round room just like the one I had come from. This time I took to the stairs again and climbed. One circumference of the room brought me to the next level, but I felt urged to continue up.
Up and up I climbed passing four or five levels. The only thing that changed in the rooms I passed were the carpets and glass statues on the tables and the placement of the sun as it began to sink into the vast body of water below.
When I reached the sixth level I entered a room just like the ones below, but there the stairs ended and only one corridor was available to traverse. I followed it in the dimming light. There were no doors or rooms here, just tall windows looking out into the space below.
At the end of the corridor was a smaller door. Arched frame made of a deep cherry wood and inlayed with silver only. I reached out and touched the silver handle and the door swung open. I stepped inside and shut the door firmly behind me just as the sun set lighting the sky on fire with a brilliant display of reds and oranges and quickly fading to purples and blues.