I don’t feel particularly safe, but I’m also not completely uncomfortable.
I find a place to sleep that is protected from the wind and I make myself comfortable. I know it will be a long night with no food and no fire. I doze on and off as the sun dips behind the trees and then down past the horizon. It gets darker and I realize just how frightened I am to spend the night alone.
I lean agains a tumbled block and stare up at the stars overhead. They seem so brilliant from where I sit and their bright twinkling calms me. I spend the next few hours listening to the quite sounds of the forest, sounds that just a few days ago had been missing.
I can imagine the relief everything and everyone must feel to have life in motion once again. I think over Antheus’ curse. It froze Anderosea in time, for his own benefit I was certain. I couldn’t help but wonder what magic he had practiced that had affected him so deeply and why he couldn’t just ask his brother for some of their magic wine.
These questions would never be answered. “But they should,” I say out loud. “People need to be warned against Antheus’ magic.”
I close my eyes thinking about that and I must had fallen asleep because the next think I know Sareanne is gently shaking me awake and it is morning.
“We came to bargain with Antheus,” she says looking around the crumbled tower in awe. “What happened?”
“I burned the book,” I say.
Her eyes widened with surprise and then a sad smile creeps across her face. “I should have thought about that,” she says sadly. “I could have saved so much time and sorrow.”
“But you might still be under Antheus’ curse,” I add. “No one would want that. At least now the curse is broken and things can return to normal.”
“I will miss my book,” she says quietly.
“It is better this way, Sareanne,” Rutheus interrupts. “Now no one can try to steal its secrets.”
I watch her face and an aweful truth dawns on me. “This will affect your harvest, won’t it?”
She looks at me and shrugs. “I don’t know, but I suppose it will. I think the power of the grapes came from the book.”
“I think the power came from the goodness of the Anderosean people, especially those in Perdeen,” I say carefully.
“Even if our eternal youth is lost we have lost nothing. We have all lived good long lives and it is time we got on with them,” Rutheus adds cheerfully. “Shall we go back to Perdeen?”
Sareanne and I nod and he motions us toward the carriage they had brought. The journey back to Perdeen was much shorter than my first one, but I realized just how pleasant walking can be in comparrison to a bumpy carriage with no shock absorbers.
When we arrive at the city I look around in awe at the magnificant village and town square that filled the empty space between the forest and the castle. It was as lively and cheerful as I had imagined when I had read the book. I didn’t mis the silence at all.
Sareanne took me to a guest bedroom and had a servant bring me a change of clothes and some bath oils. I took a long, hot bath, soaking in all of the good smells and rest I possible could. When my hands looked like prunes I decided to get out and put on the pretty dress she had laid out for me.
Rutheus threw a banquet in my honor, but I deferred it all to Sareanne. If she hadn’t been brave enough to bare the pain of crossing the protection then none of this would have resolved itself. I enjoyed the festivities emmensly, but I was ready to return to my regular life.
That night I slep peacefully and dreamed flight attendant dreams. In the morning I got up and dressed in my freshly laundered clothes that I had come to this world in and went in search of Sareanne. I found her in the pretty courtyard garden that lay in the center of the castle.
She looks at me and sighs, “You’re ready to go back.” It was a statement not a question.
I nod. “It’s time for me to return to my own world.”
“All right, come with me.”
She gets up from the stone bench where she had been sitting and leads me into the castle. We walk the corridors and traverse the rounded staircases until we come to the hall with the mirror.
“This will take you home,” she says sadly. “Thank you for everything.”
I embrace her and whisper encouraging words in her ear then turn to face the mirror. Through the glass I can see the hotel room as unchanged as if I had never left.
“This really has been quite an adventure,” I say stepping toward the mirror.
“For both of us,” she replys.
“If you ever need help again, feel free to call me back,” I say with a grin.
She grins back and laughs.
I step toward the mirror and tentatively put my hand up to the glass. It is like reaching through a sheet of cold water except you don’t get wet.
“Goodbye Sareanne,” I say my voice catching slightly.
“Goodbye Melanie,” she replys as I slide through the glass and back into my world.