I stared at Antheus in confusion and then realization dawned. “Mehean had been infected by the monsters, but how?”
“I don’t really know, but I think some of the monster’s claws were poisoned. Not in the way that would kill someone, but infect them and spread throughout their body until they were overcome.”
“So he was slowly turning into a monster?”
“What did Sareanne do?”
“Well when she realized what the scar was she wanted to run away, but she knew she had nowhere to go and the only thing she could do was protect herself. Everything made perfect sense now, the noises she had heard, the alterations in Mehean’s appearance and behavior. He was turning into a monster and she could do nothing about it.”
“Did she say anything to Mehean?”
“She planned to, but the next morning he was very upset at the bruises he had given her in the night and he shied away from her for the next three days. It was that point that she thought he might suspect what had happened. She didn’t want to cause him pain by broaching the sensitive subject so she let it go.
“A few weeks later she realized she was with child. At that point she began searching the rocks near the edge of the eastern part of the island for some way to cross the chasm. Escape had never really been a path for them because it seemed so impossible, but now she knew she would never be able to live on the island with a child and its monster father.
“She was wracked with alternating fear and horror for what grew inside her body. When she started to show Mehean realized what had happened and he left for a week. She thought he had thrown himself into the chasm and was preparing to search for him when he returned. That evening they talked.
“Mehean described what had happened just before Sareanne had cracked the earth. A monster had reached out to grab her and he had stepped between them. He had felt the scorching pain as the monster’s claw raked down his back. He fully expected death when he realized the monster was gone and he was alone with Sareanne.
“He had carefully tended the injury, but knew almost immediately that it was different from anything else he had ever dealt with. No amount of potions and poultices, charms or enchantments would affect the cut. The first night when he sat outside the shelter he could feel the venom working inside his body and he fought the overpowering sensation to kill her. At his weakest moment was when the flowers had grown. He reached out his hand and met with the invisible barrier that burned his skin.”
“How did she know what to say to form the protection?” I interrupted.
“She didn’t know. She had murmured it in her sleep, like she mentally knew when her danger was the greatest so she took steps to protect herself.” Antheus shook his head. “She was more powerful than anyone understood, even herself.”
“Why did Mehean marry Sareanne if he knew what had happened to him?” I asked suddenly angry with this man who had endangered Sareanne so deeply.
“The venom seemed to be moving so slowly and he thought he could control the impulses that came. They were always the worst at night and he found he could avoid being with her by sending her to bed and staying outside the tower. The times that were the hardest he always found the circle of flowers surrounding the tower,” Antheus explained.
“It just seems so selfish to me,” I chided.
“In a way it was selfish. Mehean had fallen in love with Sareanne the moment he met her. Her bravery in leading those men to battle solidified his feelings for her. They spent two years with only each other for company and his emotions were entwined so deeply with hers that it would not be proper to remain together unwed.
“He felt if he married her he could protect her all the more, but that night that she begged him to stay with her his resolve crashed and he gave in. When he realized what he had done he almost threw himself into the chasm, but his loyalty to her and now their unborn child was too strong and he vowed to protect them both."
“What about the child?” I asked totally engrossed in the story.
Antheus smiled and I realized he was the child. I blushed thinking about what an idiot I was but he shook his head.
“Sareanne and Mehean didn’t know what to do about me. Mehean wanted to destroy the unborn baby certain it would be a monster, but Sareanne wasn’t so sure. They finally agreed to let the pregnancy proceed as normal. If the baby came out as a monster Mehean would destroy it immediately.”
“You seem pretty normal to me,” I said with a smile, “except for being freakishly tall.”
“So what happened?”
“Well Mehean’s nightly behavior worsened as the months wore on. Sareanne struggled with what was happening to her husband, but she was unable to give him up. What she didn’t know was what Mehean had been doing at night when he was away from the tower.”
“What?” I whispered.
“When Sareanne gave birth to a healthy baby boy Mehean let her rest for a week and then he took her to the eastern edge of the island. Over the months and years he had been cutting away the rock creating a stairway in the side of the island. He explained to Sareanne that he had built a way to return her to the Perdeen side of the chasm.
“At first she couldn’t believe it and she joyfully embraced him. He stiffened at her touch and she cringed. He told her it was a way for her to escape. He could not follow her and he didn’t know how much longer he could control the monster inside him. He wanted her to take their baby and leave the island. Once they were safe he would destroy the path so he would never be able to follow.
“After much arguing she tearfully agreed to do as he suggested. She prepared a pack with supplies and water for us and then she bound me to her chest and began down the treacherous staircase.”