“I think it’s time someone starts explaining,” Rutheus says firmly.
“We’ve been cursed, Papa,” Sareanne replies slowly, “by Antheus.”
“Antheus? He dared to come into this city after he was forbidden to return?” Rutheus said incredulously.
I stop in my tracks. “Antheus used to live here?”
Sareanne’s eyes dropped to the ground uncomfortably. I looked to Rutheus for an answer. He shuffled his feet, thinking about what to say next. I waited. Finally he began to speak.
“Antheus came here about ten years ago…”
“Actually Papa it has been thirty years. We’ve been under Antheus’ spell for twenty of those years,” Sareanne said softly.
Rutheus’ expression was pained, like someone had just punched him in the stomach and knocked the breath out of him.
“He came here ten years before you were cursed,” I prodded gently.
“He sought Sareanne’s hand in marriage, but she refused him. She didn’t care for him and she was pretty determined to remain true to her feelings. He was angry when he left,” Rutheus said.
“I didn’t mean to anger him, but I didn’t love him. I couldn’t possibly pursue a relationship like that, it would break my heart,” Sareanne wailed.
“I wonder if he knew about the grapes even back then,” I surmised. “Why else would he be so angry about your rejection?”
“But the changes didn’t start until several years later, after I wrote the words in the book,” Sareanne argued.
I shake my head. “You noticed the changes or effects. They became so prominent that you couldn’t not notice them. I think Antheus knew about the grapes long before you did, that’s why he sought your hand. He must have thought he could gain control of the vineyards through you. I suspect it was only later that he discovered the value of your book and the promise of what he could do anywhere in the land with that book. If he had it then he wouldn’t need any of you.”
Sareanne’s eyes widened and understanding crossed her face. “It all makes sense.”
“We just have to figure out how to uncurse the land without exhausting you or your supply of grape seed powder. The people who have been freed need to know that they need to drink or eat grapes or grape products that were harvested from the vineyard before it burned,” I said determinedly.Rutheus nodded and turned to the nearest villagers who had drawn closer to listen to their conversation.