“How do you know all of this?” I interrupted suddenly.
Antheus looked up at me and I could see the pain in his blue eyes. “My mother told before she died.
“Oh, sorry,” I mumbled.
“It is something I have come to grips with long ago.”
“Why have you never left this place?” I asked. “It is clearly an unhappy place for you and I would do anything to avoid those monsters.”
“I keep hoping I can find a way to save them,” he said despairingly.
“Save them from what? They are what they are,” I replied hotly. I could feel my temper raising in annoyance at his dogged loyalty to the monsters that destroyed his people.
“I don’t see it that way,” he replied curtly.
I shook my head angrily, but then I stopped. Until I had all of the facts I couldn’t judge his actions.
“What happened?” I asked more gently.
“Sareanne made her way down the cliff on the narrow cut steps. The mist around her made it impossible to tell where she was and how far down she had come. She traveled this way for several hours before she sensed a change.
“The mist had obscured the terrain above and below her, but it didn’t completely remove the light. Mehean had given her a lantern and told her to keep going even after dark. She had to leave the island and be far away before the monster could take over him again.
“Now, she had gone far enough down that the light that filtered from above was too dim to see by. She lit the lantern and gasped as the mist parted around her leaving the air clear. She continued for another hour until she came to a bridge of sorts. It was a large log that had been flattened on top and a thin railing nailed to one side.
“She tested the bridge and it appeared to hold her weight so she continued across. It was about a hundred feet wide and she reached the other side. With her lantern she could see a similar staircase leading up the other side of the cliff.”
“Did Mehean carve both staircases?”
“My mother assumed so, but I am not so sure,” Antheus replied. “They were on that island for three years, but most of the first two they spent building the tower. I just don’t see how he could have carved both staircases by himself unless he had some sort of help.”
He paused for a moment as if remembering or thinking of some unnoticed detail then continued on.
“Sareanne climbed the stairs methodically and though she went up the light continued to dim until it disappeared completely. She knew it was night and her danger had increased. She hoped and prayed that she was on the right side of the chasm and that Mehean could control the monster inside himself so that he wouldn’t follow her.
“It was close to dawn the next morning when she reached the top. She looked across the chasm, but could see nothing through the mist. With a sigh and a pain in her heart she turned her feet toward Perdeen. It didn’t take long before she located familiar landmarks and relief flooded her body. She was exhausted, but determined to keep going. When she finally did stop she didn’t even have the strength to build a shelter. The only thing she had the strength to do was murmur the few words of protection that Mehean had heard that first night.
“When she woke the next morning we were surrounded by a circle of sand and she knew that the protection had worked. She thanked the gods and continued on. It took her six days to reach Perdeen. She was exhausted and heart worn, but her tale had to be told.”
“What did your grandfather do?”
“He took her in with open arms. She had acted nobly and he was proud.”
“How did the people react?” Surely not everyone was thrilled to know that her offspring might be half monster.
He smiled sardonically and I remembered that he could read my thoughts. I blushed.
“Not everyone was thrilled to hear the story and know of my parentage, but most of the people were willing to do what Rutheus said. It wasn’t long after she returned though that other stories similar to Sareanne’s began to emerge. Though not nearly to the degree that Mehean had experienced some of the men who had been cut or scratched by the monsters had had a similar change come over them.
“Most of the people thought it was a madness from the horror of the attack, but now they understood what was happening.”
“What did they do?” I asked almost unwilling to know the answer.
Antheus sighed. “The worst cases they either burned or cast into the sea with an iron chained around their necks.”
“That’s horrible,” I exclaimed.Antheus nodded. “Those men were nowhere near the change that had occurred in Mehean. What the people did was wrong and Sareanne put a stop to it as quickly as she could.
She set about working with the healers in the city and using her knowledge of the protective charm she tried to counteract the effects of the venom.”
“Was she successful?”“Yes. The milder cases were almost completely cured, but they found if they stopped taking the medicine that their symptoms returned. The one thing that made everything worse though was the grapes.”