I close the window and turn back to the empty room. The bookshelves practically shouted for me to come over and peruse their shelves. I turn away now wishing to be tempted by the forbidden book. I know Antheus is counting on my love of books to eventually draw me to the book, but I was determined to remain aloof.
I finally head for the stairs and tentatively take the first few steps down to the main room. The walk down seemed to take even longer than my first walk up the rounded staircase, but finally I catch the glow of the fire below. When I enter the room Antheus looks up from the book he is studying.
“Ready to read?” he asks with a wicked gleam to his eye.
“I won’t read the book, Antheus. Just give up. You won’t win this,” I say firmly.
“You are a fool if you think I am going to give up so easily. I have a lot more patience then you think.”
“The curse is broken!” I exclaim. “What can you possibly gain from keeping me here?”
“I will get what I want,” he retorted.
“What do you want, Antheus?” I ask simply.
He ignores me.
“What is it? Do you want power, wealth, a cure? What?
I saw the flicker of his real self as I spoke. I knew he wanted a cure, but there was more to it than that.
“You know even if Sareanne let the vineyards grow again they would burn them just as quickly to keep you from gaining any control.”
“Sareanne is a fool. Along with my idiot brother,” he answered bitterly. “They don’t know what they have and they waste it on those worthless people instead of building up their own family. Androsea could be the wealthiest country on the continent, in the world and yet they throw it away.”
“That wealth would destroy them and the people of Androsea. They have a gift from the Gods of the Earth and they choose not to exploit it. That isn’t foolishness, it is preservation. Long after every other nation has disappeared they will still be here producing the finest grapes, juices, and wines and living forever.”
“They should have shared with their family,” he spat. “What about Rutheus’ daughters? His sons? How are they benefiting?”
I couldn’t answer.
He answered for me. “They aren’t. They are living their short lives far, far away and they will die without ever knowing that they could live forever with their family.”
In my mind part of me agreed with him, but if word of Anderosea’s miracle grapes spread the country would be overrun and destroyed. Countries would battle against each other for dominance of the soil and it would eventually stop producing the miracle product. I look into his eyes and I realize that he knows what I am thinking and he understands.
“Why would you destroy this land?” I wonder aloud.
“I found this land long before Rutheus came here and began his little kingdom,” he said indignantly.
“And you knew what it contained?” I demanded.
His expression told me he didn’t. I saw the guilt in his eyes.
“You have no right to anything here. The land didn’t have its magical qualities until after Rutheus came here and I’d dare say it wasn’t until Sareanne was born. She is the key in all of this, isn’t she?” My eyes dare him to contradict me and he doesn’t. “This has to end, Antheus.”
“It will end when my brother turns over his kingdom to me.”
I turn away shaking my head. Whatever happened, this wouldn’t end pretty. Antheus chuckled as he reads my thoughts. I am thoroughly disgusted now and I move toward the stairs.
“I won’t read your book, Antheus,” I say quietly as I start up the stairs.
“You will if you want to protect yourself,” he says.
I stop in my tracks wondering what he means.
“When I leave the tower, you will be completely unprotected from what hunts out there and as soon as you open that book I will know.”
I choked down the fear that rose in my throat. “Then I will die,” I reply.
“It is such an easy thing to say when the danger is far away, but we’ll see when I’m gone just how long you last,” he says confidently.I continue up the stairs keeping my mind blank and swallowing my fear. I will not betray Sareanne and her father. I will not betray Perdeen and Anderosea.