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The Tower 7
I waited for him to speak, but he made no move to do so. Finally I got to my feet.
“You can’t leave the circle,” he exclaimed.
“What will happen if I do?” I asked keeping in the center of the said circle.
“I can’t protect you.”
“Protect me from what? The silence?” I questioned. “I’m going crazy trying to figure out everything out. Just give me a straight answer,” I demanded.
He looked at me with a pained expression, clearly torn between two directives. I watched him struggle for several minutes before I sighed and sat back down.
“Do I have to stay here all night?”
He nodded, his eyes pleading with me to understand.
“Is that stumpy little dwarf thing going to bring his monster to attack me again?” I asked suddenly a little afraid of meeting that thing while I was awake and protected only by a circle of stones.
“He won’t come to this hall, but my brothers might try. Just stay still and keep your eyes closed when they come. They can’t cross the circle,” Antheus replied.
“Those things are your brothers!” I exclaimed.
He nodded sadly.
“And that dwarf thing? That’s your…your…” I couldn’t finish.
“My father,” he admitted in a doomed voice.
I looked at him with disbelief. He was at least six foot seven and from the pictures in the lower hallways his mother was at least six foot if not taller. How could this man with his beautiful blue eyes and striking stature have come from that stumpy dwarf? It didn’t make any sense and my mind rejected the suggestion as soon as he made it.
“I don’t believe it,” I muttered.
“Well you don’t have to believe it,” he snapped back suddenly irritable.
“Where are the rest of your family, Rutheus and Abrigal and your mother? And the people of Anderosea? Where is everyone?” I didn’t understand his strange revelation, but maybe if I knew the answers to the questions that had been haunting me since I came here I might be able to better understand this mystery.
“Gone,” he said mournfully.
“Dead or just disappeared?” I wasn’t going to let emotions, even painful ones, stop the flow of information.
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe you should start at the beginning,” I suggested hopefully.
He pulled out a pocket watch and considered it for a moment. “I will share as much as I can.” He paused collecting his thoughts. “You read part of the book from your room, right.”
“Castle at Perdeen.”
“So you understand that the people of Anderosea all worked to create the finest vineyards in all of Gemal.”
“Gemal is the Western Continent,” he said. “Anderosea’s major export was grapes, grape juice, wine and anything else you could get from a grape.”
“That’s a pretty narrow field to deal in,” I interrupted.
“Oh don’t get me wrong. We were very self-sufficient. The farmers outside of Perdeen grew corn and wheat and other crops as well as raising cattle, sheep and horses, but everyone had some sort of vineyard that they tended.”
“So the people of Perdeen focused only on grapes,” I qualified.
“Yes. There used to be a market to the south of the castle where the people of Anderosea would come every eight weeks and sell their wares.” He looked at me thoughtfully. “I think you would have enjoyed seeing it. There were glass blowers, vegetable stands, instrument makers, entertainers and all sorts of things to see and do. It was a regular fair.”
“So what happened to everyone?” I asked returning to the crux of why I was there.
“Rutheus had five children, two sons and three daughters. As they grew up Rutheus groomed his sons to continue the traditions of Anderosea and rule the people firmly, but kindly. The daughters he encouraged to develop their talents and seek out men to whom they could love and work alongside in an equal partnership, their beauty was widely acclaimed in Gemal and even further, but despite their parent’s counsel the eldest two sought suitors who were either wealthy or handsome. Both married and moved to far away countries where I suppose they must still live.
“The eldest son followed his father’s footsteps and sought a girl from the forests of Anderosea who had spent a summer in Perdeen. He and his brother journeyed to the north to secure her hand in marriage and both young men were never heard from again.”
I gasped at the sad misfortune that had struck Rutheus’ family. “And your mother?”
“She loved my grandparents. She had no desire to leave them so she worked daily in the vineyard with her father and sat for hours with her mother learning the subtle arts of cultivating happiness in a kingdom. She was Rutheus’ pride and joy.
“One day when she was working in the vineyard she noticed a simple young man walking along the main highway toward the city. His clothing was worn and slightly tattered and he looked exhausted. She beckoned him over to where she was and offered him a drink of the finest juice and some cheese and bread. He gratefully partook of her food and cautiously answered her gentle questions.
“When he finished eating he got up to leave and she invited him to come into the city with her. From her questioning she had discovered his name was Mehean and that he came from the far north countries near the border of Anderosea and he had a message for the king. She explained who she was and he stared at her with surprise and admiration, for he did not know that the royal family worked the vineyards along with the common people.
“Sareanne took the young man to her father and he gave his message. With that message everything in Anderosea began to change.”
I held my breath in anticipation.
“He told the king that the people from the mountains to the north had been attacked by a mysterious army of gangly monsters that destroyed everything in their path. The people had fought back valiantly and managed to save the city of Elderich, but the losses were heavy and the monsters showed every sign of returning when they recovered. The people of Elderich had asked for volunteers and Mehean agreed to travel south to Perdeen to beg for help.”
“Is that what happened to Rutheus’ sons?” I asked interrupting.
“Rutheus thought so, but no one really knew the answer. Rutheus was at a loss for words when Mehean finished. Anderosean’s were a peaceful people who didn’t really have much of an army or weapons. They had lived simply and relied on the services of local men who kept the peace and discouraged rowdy behavior. He had never wanted nor needed an army.
“That is when Sareanne had stepped up. She offered to gather together a hundred men from Perdeen and the surrounding villages and take them north to help Elderich and the other cities either evacuate or prepare for the monsters’ attack. She then suggested her father send word to her elder sisters and ask for help from their husbands. Rutheus and Abrigal set about immediately to do as Sareanne suggested while Sareanne gathered her small force and started north. She had Mehean teach the men about the monsters and their weaknesses so that when they reached Elderich they would be prepared.
“They had only traveled for seven days when they met with a host of refugees from the north countries. The monsters had returned more ferocious than ever and the people had fled in terror. Sareanne’s soldiers were just as frightened as the people and everyone turned to flee back to Perdeen. They traveled for two days when they were overtaken by the monsters and forced to stop and fight.
“The battle was fierce and many were killed. As they were about to be overcome Sareanne rushed to the front of the fighting and placed her staff in the ground. She then called upon all the powers that be to give her strength to protect her people. She spoke two words which no one heard and the ground began to shake and move.
“The two forces were thrust apart and when they were finally able to regain their feet they found an enormous chasm separating them.”
“She used magic?” I asked skeptically.
“Magic was not unknown among our people, most people knew a spell or two to help their farms prosper or their gardens remain rodent free, but this act was more than anyone on the continent of Gemal had seen or done in the history of time. This went beyond any knowledge of the known world to something deeper. Sareanne had spoken to the gods of the earth and they had responded.”
“What happened to her?”
“No one knew. Both she and Mehean had disappeared. The Perdeen soldiers thought she had fallen into the chasm, but the villagers from the north swore they had seen her floating on top of the mist that rose from the chasm. The only thing they knew is that they were now separated from the monsters by the chasm. They could hear the howls from the monsters and knew that many had tried to jump the chasm and had fallen to what they assumed was their death.”
“Has no one discovered what is on the bottom of the chasm?”
“No one dared to try. It seemed foolhardy and certain death to attempt.”
“What happened after that?”
“The survivors returned to Perdeen and shared the tale of their miraculous escape.”
“I bet Rutheus and Abrigal didn’t think there was much that was miraculous,” I mentioned sarcastically.
“They were heart broken. Rutheus threw himself into the work of the vineyard and all but left the ruling of the kingdom to Abrigal. She was tough though and she shouldered the responsibility. She took in the refugees who had fled the north countries and gave them land to start over.
“Three years later Sareanne showed up at the city gates barefoot, in rags and clutching a baby in her arms. On her finger was a thin circlet of silver and on her tongue was a tale that brought fear to the people of Perdeen.”