She sighed and then followed with a question of her own. “What do you know about Anderosean grapes?”
“Just what I read in the book in my room, The Castle at Perdeen. They are supposed to be the best grapes, juices, wines and raisins in Gemal and the only major export of Anderosea,” I answered. “I understand that can be very profitable, but why would Antheus go to such trouble to control the vineyards, he’s a sorcerer.”
Sareanne closed her eyes as if what she was about to share was painful. “Once the products left Perdeen they were very good, the best in Gemal, but here in Anderosea there was something more. It was something my father happened upon quite by chance.”
“Yes,” I whispered.
“Once you ate one of our grapes something happened to your body, it would regenerate itself. Cuts healed in hours, major injuries in a day, illnesses disappeared over night, and no one died.”
My eyes widened in surprise and understanding. To control such a product would make Antheus the most powerful man in the world.
“Did the other countries in Gemal know this?”
“Not that we knew of. For some reason once the product left Anderosea it didn’t work the same. They were the best tasting of any product and I suspect it increased people’s abilities and lives, but not to the extent it did when the consumer remained on Anderosean soil.”
“So you burned the vineyards,” I said quietly.
“My father would have relented and Antheus would have destroyed our land. Think of what the people of the world would do if they knew what our land contained. We were a peaceful people, hard-working and economical. We were happy to live our lives producing things that brought joy to the people of Gemal. If Antheus took control the world would know what our land could do. We would have been overrun and subjected to slavery or worse. Wars would have been fought over the very ground and eventually the earth would revolt and refuse to produce its magical product.”
I nodded in agreement, knowing she was absolutely correct. I looked at her and then carefully asked, “How old are you?”
She blushed ever so slightly. “Seventy-five this year.”
“And your father?”
“He would have been one-hundred and thirty.”
“What happened to him?”
“After I burned the vineyards he began to realize what was happening to me. He refused to acquiesce to Antheus’ demands so Antheus cursed the land. Everything was frozen, changed into a state that couldn’t change. My father and the people of the city disappeared.” She shook her head sadly. “I have been alone in this castle with Antheus and the tarrange monsters for twenty years.”
I immediately put my arm around her shoulders to comfort her, realizing the struggle she must have had over the years and then I remembered the scene I had viewed from the window of the cloaked figures and the invisible village below.
“Wait, I have to show you something,” I cried excitedly.
“What?” she asked bemused.
I tried to remember our progression through the castle and my own progression earlier that day. We had reached one of the castle corners and climbed one flight of stairs by this point. I turned around to go back down the stairs and toward the hallway with the mirror. When we reached the said hallway Sareanne stopped.
“I can’t,” she whispered pulling back.
“I can’t go back down there,” she said pointing to the mirror.
“We aren’t going there. There is another hall connected to this one.”
I pulled her gently down the hall and passed the mirror. When we reached the barren hall I half dragged her to the first door and opened it. I was met with the same noxious feeling, but I brushed it aside easily and went to the window.
I looked out at the same view from before. The smoke wasn’t quite as thick as before and there weren’t quite as many people milling around below, but there was enough activity to show life. I pointed to the window and drew Sareanne over.
She cautiously looked out and gasped.