I stared at the canvas for several minutes listening to the pounding of my heart and the sound of my accelerated breathing. Who was this figure? He must have some sort of power over these people who would obviously tower above him. What had he done to cause so much fear? How long ago had it been?
I glanced out the window behind me. There was no sign of the endless vineyards that made up the major export of Anderosea. Had the vineyards truly burned as the picture depicted and was it really the doing of the short stubby figure?
The questions shouted across my mind and somewhere in my deep thoughts I knew the answer was yes. So now I knew, somewhat, what had happened to the surrounding land, but that still didn’t explain what had happened to the people and who the stubby figure was and who, for that matter, the tall gentleman from the tower was.
I needed to know the answers to those questions before I could comfortably proceed with my purpose for being trapped in this strange land. My frustration mounted as well as my impatience. I actually stomped my foot on the hard marble floor and listened for a moment as the sound echoed down the hall.
What enchantment or curse had forced the perpetual silence of an entire kingdom? My frustration mounted. Instead of answers I had more questions and absolutely no direction. The hall of paintings came to an end and I was faced with the choice to either go up the stairs or down the hall. I felt oddly drawn to the hall on my left so I moved in that direction.
I was met with another gallery of paintings, but these were vastly different from the ones before. Each picture depicted a person dressed in the simple finery of wealthy people. No titles or name plates adorned the frames.
The first one I guessed to be a portrait of Rutheus. He appeared to be fairly tall with broad shoulders and a slightly rounded chest and stomach. His brown eyes were afire with passion and a twinkle of humor. His hair was a deep chestnut color that would make any brunette jealous.
He was dressed in a simple doublet of brown and standing next to him was a pretty red-headed woman in a delicate gown of the palest blue. She was tall and slim with stunning green eyes. Her skin was creamy white with just a slight scattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks.
They looked prim and proper, but there eyes were completely content and the smile that played on the lady’s lips gave a hint to the happiness she held in the man next to her. Her face made me smile. I found myself wishing I could have met this couple and enjoyed an evening in their precious castle.
The next few paintings were quite obviously Rutheus’ two sons and three daughters. The young men bore a striking resemblance to their father, but had some of the softer characteristics of their mother in their eyes and smiles. The girls were a mixture of their parents. All three girls had their mother’s complexion, but only the youngest had her father’s chestnut hair.
Her face was striking and I spent several minutes trying to decipher her expression. It was a mixture of tentative happiness, but there was a knowing fear behind her striking blue eyes, like she knew what was coming. Whomever had painted the portrait must have considered it a masterpiece to be able to capture the deep feelings of the subject so clearly.
I continued on. There were more family pictures of the sons and their wives and the daughters and their husbands, but I saw no further portraits of the youngest girl. I assumed she had died, perhaps that was the cause of the fear in her eyes, but she hadn’t looked ill. Deep down I began to suspect she was the key in all of this. If I found out what happened to the daughter then I might be able to solve the mystery of the empty castle.
I took a deep breath feeling like I had finally stumbled onto something worthwhile. The next ten portraits did not really capture my attention much, but the last one made me stop in my tracks. It was the man from the tower. His piercing blue eyes smiled somewhat anxiously and his dark brown hair fell in waves across his forehead. It wasn’t the familiarity of his face that stopped me. Everything about him screamed one thing: he was the son of the youngest daughter.