Let me make it known: I told them not to.
And since you’re here, let’s clear up a few other things, too. The missing scrolls, the Inn that burned down last year and the young bastard running around in Lockside named Terom are not only all completely unrelated, but also have nothing to do with me.
Just so we’re extra clear.
The beginning to the end of the world, however?
Unfortunately, I do take credit for that.
It all started, like any other misfortune, with a break in routine. Before, it was orderly. Unethical and a horrible experience for me personally, but we followed certain steps. The Masters would seek my counsel, commanding me to Seek out the next hidden treasure, undiscovered trove or forgotten goldmine—both literally and figuratively.
Oh, I’m a Seeker. Did I not mention that beforehand?
Please, if you can, try resist spitting on my bare feet, warding off the imaginary evil that you think is going to attack your person by the mere thought of me, or running away obnoxiously in pure terror. Those reactions are childish. I cannot help what I am, just as you cannot help profiting from what I am.
Actually, you could help that second part. You just choose not to.
Now, if you react that way in regards to my actions, well…then you might be a tad more justified than just a second before (thus making me the bastard).
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to your repulsion at me being a Seeker and how the real problem here is breaking the routine being a Seeker usually follows.
As I said, my entire life—that’s right, from birth until my ripe old age of 47—has followed the same routine: I’m summoned, I use my birth-given ability to seek out hidden treasure and reveal the location to those who hold my chains (figurative chains, but the weight of them is no less felt), they unearth said finding, reap the benefit of the spoils and I am left to wait their summons once they grow bored of whatever spoils they most recently reaped.
I wish I could say my streak between summons was longer than three days. If I was nice, I’d blame the amount of lucrative unknowns buried beneath our feet. But I’m not nice. I blame the Masters. As should you, if you live long enough to place blame.
But you’re reading this, aren’t you? My manifesto? My last testament? My confession…no, no, don’t call it a confession. A confession carries a certain connotation, the one emotion that I certainly do not feel in my part in beginning the end of the world:
And I regret nothing.
Still, I did want to set the record straight, in case someone survives to record a new set of history. I want them to get this right.
Terom. Me. No relation.
Write that down.
Now, back to the beginning of the end of the world.
It started with a map.
Hold on. I know what you’re thinking: If they had a map that revealed the location of treasure, what did they need you for? Isn’t that the entire point of your kind? (I said ‘your kind’ because I imagine that is how you would label me, said with a sneer. Don’t stare at me like I’m insane, because I understand your kind.)
See what I did there?
Obviously, someone is not as well-versed in Seeker lore as they snobbishly assumed. Seekers are born with the innate ability to seek out what is buried beneath their feet. Though I have been used to find treasure or an entire lost city or three, I can feel many things; anything. Corpses, all the time. Trash, too often. Bones, crawling things that deserve to be there and never see the light of day…like I said, all manner and assortment of things. So when I tell you that they found a treasure map, you assumed that it labeled what would be buried there.
You didn’t see it, but I shook my head just then.
You can be so ignorant, sometimes.
Naturally, the Masters called after finding such a gem. An actual treasure map? Talk about a relic as pure as any jewel. When they arrived, they refused any sort of greeting or pleasantry, forgot to ask after my well-being or health or attitude again, and even refused to answer any of my inquiries, once the map was shown to me; wouldn’t tell me where they found it, how they did so, how long they had it. Just their typical, “tell us if what’s buried underneath there is worth our time” nonsense. So I did as I was bid, what I was created to do. I extended my reach and Seeked.
And I Saw it.
Oh, did I see.
Since you’ve been so kind to me, I’ll let you in on a little secret. (Actually, that’s a lie. The only reason I’m telling you this at all is because you don’t actually know who I am and it doesn’t actually matter anymore, for as I write this, it’s the beginning of the end of the world. Remember?) It is well known that Seekers can feel under the ground and find things. What isn’t well known is that once we Seek, not only do we find things, but we also see more.
That ambiguous enough for you?
The corpses I mentioned I could feel, the bones? Seek deep enough and I can tell you who they belong to, what sort of life they lived and how they died. The treasure I discover? I can tell you how it got there, who put it there, what sort of past glories and betrayals are associated with it. The past is no stranger to a Seeker.
You can see why we don’t diverge this information, can’t you?
You all have used us enough without realizing we can do more.
Except this time, it was different.
(I told you this was a break in a routine. Everything bad that happens is always a break in the routine.)
When I Seeked, I found the location easily enough. A few days travel by horse, if your horse was from the finest breed and used to being overworked to the point of exhaustion (and these are the Masters were talking about. Of course they were equipped with such beasts). With my senses, I delved underneath the unsuspecting, unremarkable ground, the grass slightly faded from lack of hydration. I shifted through layers and layers of dirt, packed thick and close. The effort to dig would be excruciating.
Only to find nothing.
And unleash everything.
For the first time, instead of seeing the past, I witnessed the future.
When I drew myself back, my throat was parched and I had a blinking fit to rival any that I suffered after my daily abuse. I stared into the faces of the Masters, at their impatient expressions, and I felt the weight of my decision. It crushed me like my imaginary chains. I swallowed, wished for water, but instead gave them my answer.
“We should not dig here.”
Their reactions were as you’d suspect: a range of confusion and shock and pure bafflement. They prodded, asking me the obvious follow-up questions. “Why not? What’s buried there? What’s it worth?” Continuing the streak of firsts, I held my tongue. I refused to answer. As their confusion switched to anger, I continued my silence. When their assault stopped being verbal, my teeth went through my bottom lip entirely instead of breaking away from my decision.
They stopped when the floor became too slippery to come near me, stained red. Then they argued about what to do next. I slipped in and out of consciousness, but remained aware enough to piece everything together after they left. It was apparent that I was rebelling; that whatever was buried with that map was worth so much, I was trying to dissuade them away, only to sneak off and take it for myself. I could not be trusted on this expedition, nor was I needed. They would hire a crew to do the digging and leave in the morning, exploit the riches that I was trying to steal and deal with my insolence upon their return.
When the door closed behind the Masters’ arrogant heels, I suffered through the pain to crack a smile.
They’d taken the bait.
Ah, you’re confused.
Thank goodness I’m here to clear things up for you.
There was nothing buried where the map marked; nothing of value. But if you dug deep enough—deeper than the Masters would attempt before giving up—you would discover roots. If you followed the roots, you’d realize that they traveled up instead of down and eventually, you would find an entire tree, buried upside down, yet completely intact, branches, leaves and all; branches that were rotted, leaves, ashen. A source of immense darkness that was planted, only to be harvested later, but in the interim between the delicate balance of growth and decay, became forgotten.
As I laid there, shaking in the pool of my own blood, I laughed. The Masters were on their way to the burial ground that should never have been discovered. I saw what happened if you disturbed that earth, if you disrupted the packed soil that, for so long, had protected us from the poisons fermenting below. The second the Masters disturbed that ground, the dark sorcery planted underneath would be unleashed. Though I hadn’t seen this, I knew the Masters would be dead within minutes. Everyone within leagues surrounding would die by the time the moon rose. And though the rest of the world would be slower to succumb, after that soil was disturbed, it was only a matter of time.
I saw that very clearly.
Looking back, I marvel at my cleverness, my quick intuition. I’d never told the Masters not to dig somewhere. Sure, there had been times when there was nothing to be found, but I said as much and we moved on. But offering a challenge like that and not speaking another word? I couldn’t have guaranteed their travels there more securely even if I had escorted them myself. Instead, I had ensured my own absence. For surely my silence could be nothing if not plotting and surely I had been planning to steal from them all along. And with the location of the treasure in their possession, suddenly, I was no longer needed; with my silence, no longer trusted. I could be left behind, they could foil my plot to steal from them and they could still reap the spoils. Oh, how clever they were.
And how wrong.
I will give them one point. They were right, in a sense. My silence was reflective of the plot I had already conceived and I was certainly planning to steal from them…just something a little more precious than gold.
Don’t you see it, now? The minute I knew digging there would unleash chaos and death amongst the world, I saw it; I saw my opportunity.
I saw my freedom.
With the Masters dead, I would become Unbound. I would be a free man, an average man, a normal man. I could travel where I wanted to without any greater purpose than seeing something new. I could eat whatever I wish. I could sleep wherever I like. I could change my appearance, remove any trace of my captivity, of my slavery, of my markings as a Seeker and go about the world a free man. And if the price for that freedom, despite not knowing how long it could possibly last, was the the beginning of the end of the world?
How could you think that was something I wasn’t willing to pay?
I’ll give you a minute to process all of this. For someone who had no control or input over such a life-ending and species-annihilating matter, I’m sure you have a lot of emotions you need to process. I’m sure you have a lot of opinions of me, even more vile than the ones you had before; justified opinions, this time.
Except, you don’t know me at all, do you?
(Of course you don’t, that was rhetorical. And stop glaring at me. I’m about to tell you how I’m going to save—or already saved, depending on when you’re reading this lovely document—the world that never did anything for me and everything for you. Hush, now.)
What? You didn’t think that when the tree that would destroy the world was planted, that another tree that could save it wasn’t also? And that I didn’t see that this tree existed when I had my first experience of seeing the future? And I didn’t realize that, by unleashing the darkness upon the world to kill those who ruined my life, that I would know it would become my duty to save the world that remained?
Honestly, you people. Such a low opinion of Seekers and for what? Because you think we’re monsters due to our unnatural powers and one of us caused the beginning of the world of the world? Please.
There…ah, is a catch, though.
I may not know where this opposing tree—what would you call it? Tree of Life? Tree of Light? Goodness Tree?—is located.
I’m working on it.
Really, I am.
Just after I enjoy my freedom for a little longer, first.
About Nicole Evans
Nicole Evans is a writer of fantasy and science fiction. She is currently unpublished and is working fervently to get the “un” removed from that statement. With eight completed drafts in various states of revision under her belt, she has no plans of stopping. And she really can’t wait for you to read these stories.
Considering she has run out of space for putting rejections letters up on her wall, Nicole now uses her spare time doing the typical things that nerds do: blogging, dying repeatedly during video games (which she believes is retribution for the characters’ she’s killed), wishing she was the character she is currently reading about and trying to fight off the real world by living in her own head, with varying degrees of success. Nicole has a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in Film and Media Studies, and works as an evening librarian assistant. You can find her personal blog here and her book review blog here. You can read all of her Muses stories here.