“You’re lying,” I say. “You only wanted the power of the vineyards so you could overcome your own mortal weakness.”
“I am not weak!” Antheus roared.
I cringe back from his anger.
“I was betrayed by my family and friends.”
“You abandoned your family and friends,” Rutheus countered. “When you left us because you could no longer see the value in the simple life our parents led. With you it was always more, more, more.”
Antheus’ face contorted in anger and hatred.
“I should have been the one to control this land, not you,” he spat at his brother.
“But you wouldn’t have controlled it, you would have destroyed it and all the people with it,” Rutheus replied.
Antheus began shouting curses at his brother and Rutheus would reply calmly, but firmly. I scooted closer to Sareanne.
“Can you create a circle around the clock,” I whispered in her ear, trying to keep my thoughts on the conversation the two men were having.
I saw only the slightest nod from her, but her lips began moving ever so slightly. I tried not to look at the clock when the white stones began appearing at its base. I did the only thing I could think of to keep Antheus’ attention.
“Just admit you’re wrong, Antheus. You’re dying and you need their help. Why not just say it?” I cried.
The two men turn to me incredulously.
“I don’t know what magic you have used to keep yourself alive, but it is now clearly killing you. Taking the vineyards was your last hope, but when Sareanne burned them and you cursed the country you didn’t realize that with the people gone no grapes would grow. Only the grapes that are attached to the castle grow and those are just as cursed as the rest of the land.” I looked Antheus squarely in the eyes. “You need their help.”
He sneered at me. “I need no one’s help, girl,” he spat.
He opened his mouth to speak again, but was interrupted by the loud, deep chime of the clock behind him. It rang out twelve times. Each time I could hear a cracking sound and then a rush of new sounds and voices and each time it rang I could see cracks in Antheus’ careful façade.
As the last chime echoed away I look around at the castle around me. Not much has changed except there is now a layer of dust on everything and when I glance back at the clock it is an ordinary clock with only one face. It ticks loudly and I welcome the sound in exchange for the frozen silence from before.
Then my eyes met with Antheus. He looked so old and frail standing next to the clock. His smooth skin was now a mass of wrinkles, but his brilliant blue eyes shown as sharply as before. He shoots me a look of hatred and before anyone can react he reaches out and grabs me by the throat wrapping his bony arm around my body.He is deceptively strong and I struggle in vain against his arm. I see at the horror that now fills Sareanne and Rutheus’ faces and then with the loud echo of his staff striking the floor, the room around us disappears in a swirl of smoke.