“Hello,” I said, looking at it, seriously.
The face on the tree blinked once, examining me.
“Hello,” it responded. Yet again it felt like something from the story. Except the voice was even deeper than I had imagined. It was… unimaginably low. Yet I could understand every word that it said. “I would welcome you by your name. But I cannot do that,” it continued, looking at me.
I was confused. “What do you mean?” I muttered, taking a step back.
“You stink of a curse. Nobody, besides the one, should never say your real name. Perhaps once the one says it, the curse will be finally lifted.”
I felt hopeless. He already gave me an answer to a question that I hadn’t asked, even though I had always wondered it. And I began to realize what he meant. It only made sense. “And who’s the one?” I asked the question.
“Who knows? I don’t. I can only smell the curse. It’s a pretty strong curse.”
“Aren’t you all-knowing-tree or something?” I asked, smirking. “But you do know my name?”
There was this weird chuckle that echoed throughout the chamber. It was a very deep, yet weird chuckle. “Me, and all-knowing-tree? Please. How should I know your name? I only know that I shouldn’t ask it. It could be a catastrophe if you forced me to listen to it.”
“I don’t understand. How?”
There was another chuckle. “I assume that you’ve always been disturbed if you wanted to tell your name, right? But let me tell you. Even if you force someone to listen to your name, or watch you write the name down, they can still become deaf or blind. Or in the worst case, they can still die. Don’t test curses. They always win.”
I began to understand things. But quickly shook my head. “But still. You should know many secrets that we shouldn’t get answers to?”
“Me?” the tree said. “Is that what that bastard told the others?” the tree asked. And for the first time, all the roots above its head began to move slightly. But not in a weird way. It was as he was stretching. “I’m nothing like that,” the tree finally said. “Well, I used to be great, a long time ago. I used to be more than great. Yet now I’m nothing but a memory of my former self, trying to survive in this prison. It’s quite a pain to try to circulate the air to get some fresh one deep down here. Or try to gather water or whatever else I can from outside, without having any control over… anything.”
“Did Hin do that to you? Trap here?”
“Who else? The others were right. You, humans, are full of mistakes, problems. I should’ve never tried to help you, protect you. But in the end, I was deceived by Hin’s words. If I had been myself, I would’ve never let that happen. But then I wouldn’t have been there either.”
“You like to talk in the mysteries. What are you?” I asked, crouching time to examine its face slightly better.
“You mean who am I?” it said. There was a moment of silence as it thought about what to tell me. “I was a god, once,” it finally said. A chill went through my body, followed by shivers. I felt fear. Many stories or studies in my father’s study reminded themselves. There were talks of Gods, but nobody had ever met one.
Perhaps this was why Hin had hidden this one. Maybe people weren’t ready for something like that.
“God of Harvest, to be more exact. But when you humans did poorly, and I tried to help you by breaking the no-interference agreement, the other Gods stripped me from the power and threw me down on earth, rooting me in one place for punishment. They only left me enough power to survive. But in the end, it was all pointless. All I could do-No. All I can do is… this.” As his roots began to move around in a circle for a mere moment.
I began to chuckle. The chuckle finally turned into a burst of laughter. The tree didn’t even bother asking me why I was doing that. “It’s funny,” I said, finally seating myself. “I’m nobody. I have never been anybody. Yet somehow I become a hero. Then I get a mission to kill the real most powerful demon king ever. And now I’m sitting in front of a former god. Do I need to kill a god next?”
“Can you do that?” the tree asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t think so. But destiny really likes to fuck with me,” I said, laughing. “Is the world in danger?”
The tree didn’t answer. “There you go. I’m fucking nobody, who can’t even say out his name because he’s cursed. But yet I get the most fucked up quests and requests. Why does this keep happening to me? Is this part of this stupid curse?”
The tree looked at me. “Perhaps it is. Perhaps it’s a blessing. Maybe you’re truly unlucky. I can’t tell. But I guess the only thing you can do, is moving forward. At least you’re not rooted in one place.”
“Can you at least help me out of here? My companions are holding yet another bunch of greedy humans back and might arrive soon. They are after you and your heart.” As I said all of that, I stood up and began doing circles in the spot, examining the room. “There’s no other exit either, which means they’ll push in and kill us all.”
“But there is,” the tree said.
“W-what?” I responded immediately, looking at the tree.
“This room had only one design in mind. Greed. My roots have to reach Hin’s garden. It’s a place where I grow my wood.”
There was yet another pause. I couldn’t help but chuckle. “This is hilarious,” I said. “I can’t believe that Bill was actually fucking right. You’re growing red trees out there?”
“That’s one way to describe them. I did it after Hin had planted me here and I didn’t know it was a prison. Not yet. He did promise me something that he never delivered.”
“And what was that?”
“He would plant me somewhere where the dirt was beautiful, not corrupted like back there. Someplace where I could grow the fruit and be finally free. I know those lands exist. I used to take care of them. I only wish I could grow there and finally take my long deserved rest.”
I looked at the tree, sighing. “I’m sorry. But he did keep the promise,” I said.
“What?” the tree muttered.
“You’re in an area where the dirt is beautiful, and there’s no corruption. You’re just trapped within a stone are, so you wouldn’t ever bear… whatever fruit you were talking about.”
The tree’s face began to change. There were signs of anger. But almost immediately, all the signs disappeared. “He got me there. It explains quite a bit. And perhaps that’s better. It means that all of those curses I sent flying were pointless.”
“Hin wasn’t an idiot,” I muttered. “But apparently he wasn’t as great Hero he seemed to be. You said there’s a way out?” I asked.
“There’s another hole that my roots have grown into, reaching to another place, garden perhaps. That’s where my trees grow. There is a small hole I’ve managed to get through within the long tunnel. I began growing corn there, hoping that somebody would take notice of ever-ending corn, eventually, and would investigate and find me. But so far, nothing.”
I sighed. “Humans are greedy bastards, aren’t they? But like you said. Why can’t you stop growing them?”
“I’m also cursed. I cannot stop what I’ve started. I need to put my energy somewhere.”
“So, your roots fill that so-called tunnel? So there’s no exit after all.”
“Oh, but there is a way. You just have to remove my heart once more. Once I die, the roots will die. Everything will die, really. The trees, the corn, the roots, this room. But the path will open, and very fast.”
I looked at him, confused. “Why are you telling me this? Why are you willing to die to save me?”
“What choice do I have? Wait forever? This would benefit us both. And perhaps you’ll find enough mercy to plant me somewhere... better. I’ll even take that corrupted ground over this place. Or perhaps you’ll become the next Hin, abusing me and my curse. But at least, I will be freed from this torment, and I can grow once more, redesign my prison.”
I kept staring at him. “I’m… speechless.”
“And I’m Ahean,” he said.
There was a moment of silence before a smile appeared on Ahean’s face.
“Now I finally understand why they say goddamnit.” I chuckled.
There were finally sounds echoing to cavern from the only exit. Running footsteps shouts.
“If I were you, I’d hurry,” Ahean said.
“And how I do that?” I muttered. “Push my hand into your mouth and pull out your heart?”
I frowned, pushing my hand into his mouth. I almost expected to feel something slimy, but there was nothing. And I could feel something soft in there. I grasped it and began to pull it away. Surprisingly enough, it didn’t take too much effort to pull it out. Perhaps because Ahean didn’t resist any of it.
But it wasn’t anything like the heart. It was a seed.
An elder seed.
Of course, not everything was literal in the Elder’s Scrolls.
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- Matthew E. Damson
I'm someone whose pen-name is Matthew E. Damson. Some others know me as Elven. I'm also known as elf, elfie, elves, pointy ears, and some more. To be honest, I have no idea why they call me other names, but they create nicknames, not me.
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