The Tower 5
A fire burned silently across the room. The window looked out across the darkening water. In the fading light I discovered a pretty little candelabra and I quickly lit the candles at the fireplace.
The room was the same size as the others I had encountered. On one side stood a four-poster bed on a carved stand, a short bureau, a tall wardrobe with silver handles, and a writing desk with a myriad of ink bottles and paper to choose from. On the other next to the fire was a Japanese style dressing screen, an overstuffed reading chair and a long sofa with a table, and a tall bookshelf full of books.
I stepped to the window and looked down, regretting it immediately as the height made my stomach turn. I could see nothing on the ground in the deepening darkness, so I pulled the drapes across the window. I would feel much safer knowing nothing could peer in at me while I slept.
I examined the room more closely by candlelight. The furniture was very fine quality and clearly hand-carved. Everything seemed as if it were made for very long-legged people. I didn’t mind too much since I was already five foot nine, but there were a few things that were a stretch even for me.
I searched through the drawers of the desk and found nothing out of the ordinary or suspicious. When I opened the wardrobe I discovered several beautiful dresses made of the finest silks, satins and linens and in the bureau next to the bed I found several frilly, satiny nightgowns.
Behind the dressing screen I discovered a sunken marble tub with silver faucets and a pretty little cupboard full of bath salts and oils. I turned the faucets and let the warm water flow over my cold fingers. I was sorely tempted to bathe, but I held back wanting to finish searching my room for the night.
I left the tub and went to the bookshelf. The volumes on the shelf were similar to the ones I had seen in the tower, old, worn covers with gold or silver writing. It was then I realized the whole room was missing the layer of dust I had grown accustomed to seeing.
I moved around feeling the desk and tables, dust free. This development made me nervous for some reason. If everything on the outside of the castle was dusty and untouched for so long and things here were clean that meant someone had to come and clean them. I knew there might be other reasons, but my practical brain didn’t want to deal with which fairy tale I had stumbled into yet.
With a sigh I returned to the bath and turned the hot water on. It would feel good to soak away two days of walking and uncertainty. I searched through the wardrobe and found a thick, soft robe. Next I went looking for something to wear that wasn’t made of silk or satin and that didn’t have ribbons or lace attached to it.
Finally I discovered a plain blue dress stuffed in a back corner. It was still constructed from the finest linen I had ever seen, but it had no other decorations other than a simple trim of silver on the neck and sleeves.
As I sank into the hot water I felt at ease and relaxed for the first time in two days. After my bath I put on the plain dress and went in search of something to eat. On the small breakfast table a fine meal had been laid out. A loaf of the delicious bread waited along with a variety of cheeses and fruits. Happily I applied myself to the spread enjoying a little bit of everything before me.
When I finished I realized, with some surprise, that there had been no grapes on the table. I had noticed the recurring theme of grape vines as I had moved through the castle and anyone could have smelled the mouthwatering scent of the grapes as they entered the outer courtyard. The absence of the fruit puzzled me and I questioned it along with everything else, but with my stomach full and my body rested I didn’t linger very long on the occurrence.
It was still early enough that I didn’t feel ready to climb into bed so I headed for the miniature library in the other half of the room. I perused the volumes on the lower shelves first, but I didn’t understand the scripted writing on the bindings. About half way up the bookcase I began to understand the writing and one title popped out at me: Castle at Perdeen.
I pulled the book from the shelf and walked over to the chair sitting closest to the fire. It was green leather bound with silver writing in the spidery script I was growing accustomed to. I opened the cover carefully. The first page contained a beautiful depiction of the castle where I now sat and the caption stated: The Castle at Perdeen. I studied the image for several minutes before turning the page.
The first chapter began a description of the land surrounding the castle. It was located in a beautiful country called Anderosea, of which the capital city was Perdeen. The chapter discussed the countryside and forests at the outskirts of the land and then moved on to a description of the city itself. The city was located on the eastern most shore of the Carscher Sea and was a main point of contact and trade for the western kingdoms.
When I finished the first chapter I was no closer to solving the mystery of this place than before except I knew where I was, though I still didn’t really know. I turned the page to chapter two, grapes.
The title of the chapter intrigued me. It was apparent that grapes were very important to the people of the castle. The chapter spoke of the fame of the Anderosean grapes and how merchants from the four seas had traveled to Perdeen to gain just a taste. Anderosean wines were supposed to be the most widely acclaimed and their juices even more so.
With this small revelation my brain questioned even more fiercely the absence of the said grapes from my dinner table. If Anderosean grapes were so popular and the only place you could get them was from the port at Perdeen then why was there no one here?
I moved onto the next chapter hoping for some understanding of the situation. It was a discourse on the architecture of the Anderosean people and I began to understand a little about these people. They adored graceful lines and towering structures that gave an impression of airiness. I thought about the bridge and the castle and how they fit into that mold. Even the cottage I had stayed in had some of the grace and height mentioned.
Then my thoughts turned to the tower. Though it was very tall it didn’t have any of the characteristics mentioned in the chapter. It was blocky and solid. What was its role in this land of tall graceful things?
After the chapter on architecture I finally came to a discourse on the castle itself. It had been constructed many years after the grapes became the main trade item, by a man named Rutheus. He was not really a king, but he was the closest thing Anderosea had to one. He tried to rule his people kindly and fairly. He supported himself by working in his vineyards near the sea.
The prosperity of the kingdom was due mainly to his work ethic and the love of his people. They were content with their lives and thrilled with their products. As the popularity of the grapes widened Rutheus found himself the center of attention of kingdoms from far away, all who happened to have a daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, or niece they would be happy to give in marriage.
Rutheus was a simple man, though, and he ended up choosing a bride from the forestlands of his own kingdom. Shortly after they wed he began construction of the castle. It took ten years to build and at the end of the ten years he and his wife were the proud parents of two sons and three daughters.
They moved into the castle and continued to rule the kingdom with the same hard work and loving kindness Rutheus had shown before. The castle became an icon of the kingdom and it stood as a symbol of the goodness of Anderosea and their grapes.
I was fascinated by this little history lesson. The chapter talked about how the castle had been built and Rutheus’ love of graceful arches and open spaces. It even contained a map of the castle and I traced my own steps to the round room.
When I finished the third chapter I felt I knew a lot more than I had before about this strange land I had been brought to, but I still was no closer to understanding the mystery around me than before.
A yawn interrupted my reading and I realized that it was probably very late. I marked my place and set the book down. The tall canopy bed was calling my name so I changed into one of the frilly night gowns and crawled under the covers. The sheets appeared to be made of the finest silk and I settled down in a cloud of softness and fell asleep.
When I woke I could tell it was still dark outside and I didn’t understand what had awakened me. I sat up, all my nerves on end, and crawled to the edge of the bed. I was about to climb down when I got the strange feeling of danger again. My eyes immediately went to the floor. In the dark I could see a faint white line on the floor. I crawled around following the line. It encircled the bed completely.
This was the line of safety I wasn’t allowed to cross. I sat on my heals frustrated and wondering if this line, while protecting me, was what kept me in this fantasy land. Sleep had now fled my mind and I sat awake wondering what to do next.
All the previous nights I had slept until dawn. This time I felt restless and uneasy and I wanted, more than anything, to get out of bed and go to the window, but each time I crawled to the edge of the bed I got the same sensation of danger. I leaned back against the pillows and stared at the ceiling.
After a while the hairs on my arms pricked up and a shiver swept down my spine. I sat up. Outside the door I heard the shuffling of feet and the murmur of voices. They spoke in a guttural language that gave me chills. I wanted to call out, but something held my tongue in silence. I looked around helplessly realizing this was going to be a very long night.
I passed from fear to frustration and anger. Why was I here? Where was the tall gentleman I had met the first night? What was I supposed to do?
I would not be kept captive quietly. The frustration built until I decided it was time to defy this annoying magic. It had grown lighter in the room and I assumed dawn was quickly approaching. The voices outside my door had ceased and I felt a prick of courage. I crawled to the edge of the bed and looked down.
I could see small, round, white stones that made up the circle of protection. Ignoring the sensation of danger I slid off the bed. I moved to step over the line.
“Not yet,” the deep voice cried in my head.
“Why not,” I demanded in a whisper. “I’m tired of being stuck in this world of total silence. I want answers.”
I leaned back against the bed waiting for a response, but heard only silence. Suddenly the voices returned. This time they sounded angry and determined. A thin, higher pitched voice joined them and I could only assume whoever it belonged to was giving instructions to the deeper voices.
My courage dissolved and I crawled back into the bed and under the covers. I heard scratching at the base of the door and then a metallic scratching like a key being inserted into a rusty lock. I closed my eyes keeping a slit that I could see through my lashes. I wanted to know what was coming into the room.
“Stay absolutely still,” the voice instructed calmly in my mind, “and don’t speak.”
I silently followed the mental instructions. I glanced over as the lock clicked and the door cracked open. I expected to see something tall and lanky slink into the room, but instead a short, stubby little figure stepped inside.
I kept my breathing as regular as I could as the figure moved toward the bed.
“Tuug breld vesh do’ng,” it grunted.
The door opened the rest of the way and two enormous things moved into the room. I managed to keep myself still though I wanted to shy away in fear.
The small figure grunted another order and one of the giant things moved toward the bed. It tentatively reached out a hand or claw or whatever it was and I almost cringed, but as soon as it reached the circle it flinched back giving a howl of pain.
The short figure growled and uttered what I could only guess were curses and it ordered the giant things out. They lumbered out of the room, the short thing walking behind them. As soon as the door closed I let out a sigh of relief.
“I want answers today,” I whispered.
“Today,” the deep voice replied in my mind.