From Under the Sea VI: Betrayal

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: The Imaginarium
Orin and Selka learn the true origins of the Seer, as well as Il'dria itself. The Seer also reveals the power contained within the Orbs, and the dangers they contain.

This is a continuation of a collaboration, From Under the Sea, written by JackCrawford and myself. Visit each of our profiles for the previous installations.

Submitted: October 31, 2018

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Submitted: October 31, 2018

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There were several moments during which the three stood, staring silently at the Seer and at the surrounding room. Beyond introductions, Orin didn't quite know what to say next—he was distracted by this strange room. Everything Orin saw felt like something out of some fantastical dream. He didn't understand anything about what was happening. Oddly enough, the strangest thing was the man himself. When Selka had described the Seer, there had been a level of reverence, awe. At this moment, Orin was wondering whether he deserved this level of respect. His disheveled, untidy look and demeanor implied that he was no more than a mere mortal, and a disorganized one at that. Granted, his clothes and the very room in which they stood suggested that he was, indeed, otherworldly, or at least belonged to some distant land very different from their own, but besides that he seemed like a perfectly ordinary man. Well, perhaps ordinary was not the right word. 

The Seer cleared his throat and glanced, somewhat awkwardly, between his three visitors. Finally, he spoke. “I realize this is all a lot to take in, but I am in something of a time crunch.” He paused for a moment and looked at the domed ceiling. “Or, maybe I'm not. Again, I'm still pretty new to this, so time is kind of an ambiguous concept to me right now.” He pondered this for another moment or two before saying, “I suppose I actually have all the time in the world. Continue your disbelieving gawping, I can wait. Heaven knows I needed a few moments—hours, really—to come to grips with everything.” He fell silent and smiled. 

A week ago, Orin would have thought that this man was mad, a complete raving lunatic. Even an hour ago he would have at least questioned his sanity. But right now he was standing in a chamber in an undersea bubble watching boxes vanish into thin air and images flash across a screen, so realistic that he could have been looking through a window at them. Orin was confident that everything the Seer said made perfect sense. Just not to him. 

Orin could have happily stared around the room all day, soaking in what he saw, and still not take in everything by nightfall. But something the Seer said galvanized him to speak. “You just now said you're new to this, and earlier you mentioned that it was only your second day.”

“That's right,” the Seer said. 

“New to what, being the Seer?”

The man shrugged and wagged his head in a noncommittal gesture. “Well, new to this Watcher gig, which I suppose does encapsulate the ‘Seer’ responsibility. So, in short, yes.”

“That can't be possible,” Selka said. It was the first time she had spoken since they entered the chamber. “The Seer was the one who set up our society, the one who gave us the Orb. That was over a thousand years ago. How could you have just started?” Reiko nodded beside her. 

“Ah, yes, that's where it gets a bit complicated. See, as you understand it, time is a linear progression of events, each following another, and you can only travel in one direction along a particular timeline. But in reality, time is more—” He stopped as he saw the blank looks on everyone's face. “Right, too complicated. For now, let's just say that I don't exactly follow the same rules as everyone else. I'm here with you now, but I'm also with your people a thousand years ago giving them the Orb. Well, not me exactly, a past version of me. See, I'm not bound by time, per se. When I near the end of my life—every time—I go back and recruit my younger self to take over where I left off—or leave off—will have left off? I don't know, tenses can get confusing for me. Anyway, for most people this would be impossible. Even if they could travel back in time and recruit their younger self, that younger self would simply go on and live the exact same life that their previous self had lived, they wouldn't be able to do anything differently—such are the laws of time. But thanks to all this—” He gestured at everything around him. “—I'm able to exist outside of the natural flow of time, so I'm able to exist as different instances throughout time, doing different things each time and still preserving cause and effect.”

He stopped his rapid explanation, during which his voice had become quieter and more reflective, almost as if he were speaking to himself by the end. He may as well have been, because Orin had understood very little of what the Seer had said. He seemed to realize this when he looked at their faces. 

“I apologize, it would be very difficult to explain all of this in terms that you would fully understand. It is helpful for me to explain it, though. I've had a lot of time to consider everything, but saying it out loud really helps me to grasp it myself.”

“So, if I understand you correctly,” Selka said slowly, “there are multiple copies of you throughout history, giving out orbs and offering advice and guidance?”

The Seer grinned. “You're a sharp one. Even people back—forward?—in my original time would have difficulty understanding all that. She's a keeper.” He directed this last comment at Orin, who shuffled uncomfortably and gave a vague cough. Selka just chuckled. 

“Then how,” Selka continued, “do you know about everything your other selves have done?Especially if you only started two days ago?”

“Oh, I suppose I should clarify. I started performing my Watcher duties two days ago. But I was actually recruited, so to speak, several months ago. I spent all the intervening time staring at that display.”

He walked over to the desk and allowed his hands to dance across the rippling surface. Immediately, images accompanied by long, descriptive paragraphs appeared on the screen. The images depicted Il’dria from multiple aerial views, as well as the Il’drians in every phase of transformation. 

“Everything I need to know about every time period that I have visited in my past lives is stored in these archives. I have spent months familiarizing myself with my past exploits. It's really been a very illuminating, if not overwhelming, experience.”

Silence fell once again as Orin, Selka and Reiko struggled to absorb all of this new information. This all felt like a dream to Orin. He knew it couldn't be though. There was no way Orin would be able to dream up something as complicated and unbelievable as this. 

“So, now that I've thoroughly confused you,” the Seer said at last, “was there a particular reason you decided to come and see me? Or did you just stop by for a friendly visit and an overview on the laws of temporal physics?”

At these words Orin mentally shook himself. They did, in fact, have a purpose in being here, and it was urgent. They had already wasted hours searching for the Seer through the labyrinth of caverns, and who knew how much more time listening to the Seer’s explanations. 

“Oh, we—”

“Il’dria and Morfir are both in danger,” Selka said, cutting Orin off. She seemed to have snapped out of her awe and confusion as well; her expression was now determined. “Both tribes are trying to take the other's Orb.”

“What? Why—?”

“And you just happened to be seen in Morfir after the last harvest, I wonder who could have told them to steal our Orb.”

Orin wanted to stop her from openly accusing this man. He glanced warily at the place where the box had vanished earlier. He didn't want that fate for Selka. 

“I wasn't—” began the Seer, but another voice cut in.

“That's not the man I saw.” 

Orin and Selka both turned to look at Reiko. He was staring at the Seer, his eyes slightly squinted. 

“Are you sure?” said Selka. “He may have been older than he looks right now.”

Reiko shook his head. “No, this is definitely a different person. His hair's a different color, his face is less pointed.”

“What did he look like?” the Seer asked, suddenly serious. 

Reiko hesitated for a moment before speaking. “Uh, he was tall, short black hair, about forty. He was also well dressed, very clean. Oh, and he had a deep voice.”

A shadow seemed to pass over the Seer’s face. “Wrath,” he said quietly. 

“What?” said Orin. 

The Seer took a deep breath. “Wrath. He's a sort of rival of mine. He's in the same profession as me, if you will. Unfortunately, we don't always see eye to eye. I've only been at this for two days and I already find myself at odds with him, or at least with some of the things he's done.” He shook his head, then looked up at Reiko. “What did he tell your people?” 

Reiko shrugged. “I don't know. All I know is that after he talked to them, the elders made the decision to try and steal Il’dria’s Orb. And then I found out that Il’dria has the same idea, so he must have spoken to them as well.”

“But what is the point of stealing the opposite Orb?” the Seer said, mostly to himself. 

“Our Wiseman says that if we put the two orbs together, our kingdom will double in size and give us the power to repel the Morfir, and the Morfir dome will collapse,” Selka said. 

“What?” the Seer exclaimed. “No! No, no, no! That's wrong, that's so very wrong. Damn you, Wrath!”

“What is it?” Selka said, and now there was a hint of panic in her voice. 

The Seer closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “The Orbs should never be brought together. That would be quite devastating, and would, in fact, have the opposite effect that they are hoping for.”

“What will happen?” Orin said. 

“Well, essentially, the Orbs are made up of different forms of energy contained by a field. Imagine a wineskin which holds in some sort of liquid. Now, there is the energy which provides light and heat and which cycles through luminous stages, mimicking day and night. That's regular energy which we are all familiar with. But within the cores of the orbs there lies something called dark energy. This works quite differently from regular energy, and it's what creates the field that keeps the ocean from pouring down on you. Essentially, it has the opposite effect of gravity, pushing things away from it as opposed to pulling things toward it. 

“If the energy cycles are disrupted by someone removing the Orb from it's plinth, well, the energy goes into a sort of inert phase and it stops producing the intended effect. So in other words, the light goes dark and the sea falls down. This would be pretty bad, yes, but it can be kick-started again with the proper amount of energy introduced from an external source. 

“But if you were to bring the two Orbs together, rather than combining the effects of the two, it would disrupte the fields holding in all that energy, which would then be released.”

“And what would happen then?” Orin asked. His voice was slightly hoarse. 

“Remember that wineskin from earlier? Well, fill it to the brim with gun powder, then throw a match at it. Now multiply that by a thousand. Okay, so it's not the perfect metaphor, but you get what I'm trying to say. Not only would both Orbs be irreparably destroyed, but it would create an explosion that would destroy everything within about a three mile radius. Dark energy does not play well with normal energy.”

Another loaded silence followed the Seer’s words. Selka was shaking her head in disbelief and Reiko was glaring at the floor. Orin didn't know what to think. He couldn't imagine everything being destroyed. In the short time he had spent in Il’dria, he had come to regard it as a sort of home. How could he lose it now? Then again, he wouldn't be alive long enough to care. If he didn't die in a great explosion, he would die from sea water filling his lungs. 

“But why?” Selka said. “Why would this Wrath person want to destroy both tribes? What did we ever do to him?” 

The Seer sighed, a drawn out, mournful sound. “It’s more just the fact that you exist,” he said. “Wrath is something of a purist. To him, if something was not supposed to exist in a certain timeline or era, then it shouldn't. If someone was supposed to die, then they should die. There are no gray areas with him.”

“What does that have to do with my people?” she asked.

“Wait,” Reiko said before the Seer could respond. “Are you saying that we, our peoples, were not supposed to exist?”

“Well, not exactly. You did exist, all on your own with no help from me at all. You just weren't supposed to be brought to this timeline, to this era in history.” He paused briefly to collect his thoughts. “According to my extensive documentation, your people are from a doomed timeline far in the future. Your world was collapsing. I had to fix the past where the events that were causing the destruction had taken place, but doing so would mean that your people would be wiped out of existence. I would not allow that, so I brought you back here, to live out your lives beneath the sea. Obviously I didn't expect the two tribes to begin a war, but you have to take the bad with the good.”

“And Wrath doesn't like that you did that,” Orin said matter-of-factly. 

“He never knew about it. At least, not until he visited the Morfir. He was probably investigating the energy output of the Orbs.”

“This is a disaster,” Selka said. “Both tribes are attempting to steal the other Orb to win the war, but in the end, neither tribe will benefit.”

“We can't let that happen,” Orin said. “We have to get back and tell your father everything we found out.”

 

The castle loomed over Selka and Orin as they approached on their kelpies. They had made great time. By following the marks they had left on the cavern walls, they were able to exit in about half an hour as opposed to the long hours it had taken to find the Seer’s chamber in the first place. Once they had made it out, it was a simply a matter of riding back to the castle at top speed. Reiko, of course, had to stay behind; if he was seen he would be executed on the spot. 

The kelpies slowed to a trot before approaching the stables, where a stableboy was waiting to take care of the creatures. As soon as they dismounted, Selka grabbed Orin by the hand and ran into the castle. 

Right inside the open doors they ran into the last person they wanted to see. 

“Adair!” Selka cried. 

“Ah, Princess, what a surprise,” he said. “I thought you had been tasked with protecting the Orb from the Morfir.”

“Oh, well, we were. But we had to come back to tell my father something. Do you know where he is?”

Adair smiled genially. “I'm afraid your father is indisposed at the moment. Running a kingdom on the brink of war is not an easy task. But whatever you have to tell him, you can tell me and I can pass it along.”

“No thanks, we can wait,” said Orin. 

Adair continued to smile, but it never reached his eyes. “Please come with me,” he said with no preamble. 

He began to walk away, clearly expecting the two to follow him. Orin, for one, would never have followed, were it not for the armed guards who appeared behind them, forcing them forward. He led the up a flight of stairs and into a small chamber off the hall. It was unfurnished, and the floor and walls were bare. There were no windows, and a single torch was the only source of light. 

“I do apologize for all of this, but I didn't want to make a scene out there,” Adair said as the door slammed shut behind them. “Now, what is it that you wanted to tell the king. As you know, I am his main advisor, so everything you tell him would eventually make it to me anyway.”

Orin glared at the Wiseman. “Your plan won't work you know,” he said. 

Adair put on a confused expression. “And what plan would that be, boy?” Orin recognized the derision he placed on the word boy. 

Selka answered. “The plan to steal the Morfir Orb to increase our power.”

“Why is that, Princess?” He was playing with them at this point. 

“Because the one you received the plan from was not the Seer, he was another person known as Wrath who wants to destroy both our societies. The moment you join the two orbs, you will destroy both of them as well as half the kingdom.” Selka’s voice rose about an octave as she spoke. 

Adair stared at them for a long moment. He was no longer smiling. 

“Well, I must say,” he began, “I am impressed. You have discovered much more than I ever expected you to. How you got the imposter Seer’s name I can only guess, not even I was able to glean that information.”

“Wait, you knew?” Orin blurted. 

“Knew? Certainly not. How much can any man ever truly know? I had, of course, guessed that this was the case. After all, why would the prophet of both tribes be setting one against the other?”

“And you were still going to go along with the plan, even though you thought it might destroy both kingdoms?” Selka said. 

“Why do you use the past tense? Do you think I'm going to abandon my plan now that you've given me the crucial piece?”

“You mean you're going to let half the kingdom be blown up?”

“Oh, quite the contrary. I'm going to let the Morfir be blown up. As far as Il’dria goes, being reclaimed by the sea is quite sufficient. Without you guarding the Orb, it'll be even easier. I'll admit, I was hoping you'd be there so the Morfir could kill you off, make a neat job of it, but a good report can essentially achieve the same effect.”

Orin’s head was reeling. “Why would you want this?” he asked. 

Adair smiled, but it wasn't the fake genial smile he had put on earlier. This one was menacing, mad even. “It's quite simple, really. For over a millennia, our people have been forced to live in a confined dome at the bottom of the sea. We so rarely see the open sky, feel the warmth of the true sun on our heads. And when we do, we do so as seals, for if the surface dwellers ever saw our man-forms, they would attack us.  

“One Il’drian against a horde of humans would stand no chance. But all of us, combined, we could conquer the surface easily. We could be the dominant race on the surface. I have suggested many times to the king that we should do this, but every time he has refused. Because he is weak! And so, I must force his hand. With this plan, we will be able to rid ourselves of most of the Morfir and take the surface or be forced to live as seals for the rest of our existence. The king will make the right choice when presented with those options.”

“Wait,” Selka said, and there was a note of panic in her voice mingled with her defiance. “Why would you tell us all of this?”

Adair’s smile broadened. He made a signal with his hand, and rough arms grabbed Orin and Selka from behind in an iron grip.

 

To be continued by JackCrawford.


© Copyright 2018 J. R. Merrick. All rights reserved.

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