The patterns of two animated shadows pondered over the fires. Embers flickered up and left the patterns shaking as if by an invisible musical instrument. They were at odds as they often were. The dark had crept into their bones and the sounds of the forest swam against the words in their mouths. The shadows were men.
“Boy, you will be the next Earthseer. There is no more than that to it. Can you feel the flame?”
“Of course I can. It fucking burns.”
“When you have mastered the gifts as I have, you will feel only the Earth which means you will feel everything.”
“I’d rather just be normal. I’d rather just eat and hunt and get married and go to sleep every night with a woman. Is that so much to ask?”
“You are not a man, Rooc. At least you won’t be for much longer. Desire is something an Earthseer has no use for. You must follow the path of the Cychu.”
“It’s not fair that I can’t choose my own job. What if I ran away? What if I joined another tribe?”
“They would use you as our tribe would. We are who we are, Rooc. You are the next Earthseer and there is much I will teach you. Now put your hand back on the fire.” Rooc reluctantly pressed his fingers against the campfire and felt the searing pain clawing up his arm. He screamed. The Earthseer held his hand in place as he struggled. “Quiet your mind! Feel the flame become a part of you. It is a part of you! What is there to fear or desire? To be pretty, to not want to die? I will die, you will do. All there is between the veil of a rock and a song is us. The eyes and ears of the universe. Do you understand?”
“Y-yes! Gods damn you yes!” Two of Rooc’s fingers had begun to blister. He curled into a ball and cried in pain. “You’re fucking mad old man, and your religion is bird shit.” The Earthseer gave him a solemn stare, the kind of stare that says with no uncertainty that another word from him might mean his death. “I’m sorry…. Sometimes I’m just tired of being different.” He held his hand like a mother holds a babe. The Earthseer sighed.
“When I was your age I felt the same way. I’ve given up a lot to see what I’ve seen. Listen Rooc. I know you’ve heard the stories of the origin of man from the entertainers, but I will tell you something almost no one knows. Outside of the Great Forest are lands of untold wonders, and unspeakable horror. The gods have shown me because I have the blood, and so do you.”
“What can be outside the forest? You mean the sea, right?”
“No. There are demons and man beasts and rumbling machines. There is smoke and where the beasts congregate there is always light and fire and hideous stone caves hundreds of feet high. They consume the world and soon it will consume us too. I am old and will be dead soon, so this will be your inheritance.”
“Well thanks. The monsters are gonna kill us all. Alright, what else is there?”
“There are many worlds and many histories. There are many gods and some of them claim the sole divinity. Don’t you want to know why you have the dreams? Why you can feel the Earth?
“I’ve never thought of it before. It just is.”
“Nothing just is, Rooc. You have the blood. The blood of the Cychu. Long ago the gods left this world, left their bodies and ascended to a spirit realm. The last of them had children. We are rare but we are strong in the blood.” He waved his hand around through the thick of the brush back towards the village. “The temple houses the gods. When I die my spirit will go inside and I will join the realm of the gods.”
“You have got to be kidding me. We’re Gods?”
“I am a God. If you can master your blood and don’t die, perhaps someday you will be one too. Now put your hand back in the fire.” Rooc still groaned for his blistered fingers. The last thing he was going to do was put his searing hand in the fire again. He jumped up to make a run for it, thinking his teenage agility could outrun an old man. The Earthseer caught his foot and tripped him over a log. He pulled him mercilessly across the dirt and stones as Rooc clawed desperately at the ground, screaming as the skin of his fingers peeled off against the stones he gripped to. The Earthseer pinned his head against the fire and pushed his arm down into the embers.
“Can you feel the flame?” The Earthseer asked, emotionlessly. Rooc screamed.