Why I Search

By Nick Kristof.

“Why do I search the jungles? Why do I delve deepest shadows of (Name1), where even the manbeasts dare not roam? Mmmm. It’s a question often asked. This might give you some clue.”

He held in his hand a small object. It was metal, blue, and it shined in the daylight. He handed it to me, carefully, though he didn’t warn me. I dropped it immediately, because my hand was not prepared for its weight. It was as heavy as a pouch of coin, although no bigger than a bauble. It hit the ground at my feet and did not bounce or roll, as if the dust had grabbed it.

“To me it was given by a man in my youth, a man who journeyed far into the jungles. That same man once showed to me a Telling Stone. I slipped it in my mouth. I breathed over it, and said the word that he had instructed me. I grew faint, and the vision took me. Before me appeared another man, strong but broken, lying on the ground. He was bloodied and near death, his flesh torn, his skin burned, but his eyes were bright. He looked up; he knew, and he said these words.

‘The soldiers, priests, the mages, the scouts and porters, all dead. The jungle sweated; the air wept; and the madness took many. The (Name2) attacked again and again. We then came upon the great walls. They rose above the dense jungle, and the creepers did not touch them. We entered the mighty city, those able, hoping to find mercy, or at least peace. We found neither.

We were attacked, driven into the city—away from the jungle’s cover. I entered a tower, alone, and climbed its twisting steps. Below me I heard the others, although soon the screaming stopped. I climbed higher than I thought steps could be built, and then came to an arch and wandered into the daylight.

From that tower, I looked down—the city stretched before me and then the ground opened into a great canyon—a thousand yards across or more, filled with men working, digging, lifting and hauling. They appeared as ants digging in the ground, so great was the pit! Down, down past the foundations of the ancient city, down past the ruins of a second city beneath the first, and further. And in the center of the pit, at its bottom, a great stone was being uncovered. Five hundred yards long or more, metallic and blue, and covered in vast runes that hurt my eyes to look upon. It seemed to me a sarcophagus. A sarcophagus! Pray to the Living Gods if it was!’

And the man began to cough, and spit up blood. And then the vision ended. The man insisted I return the Telling Stone to him. He ventured into the jungle again shortly after; I have not seen him since. Now do you understand why I search?”

He removed the blue bauble from my hand, hid it away, and then slapped my shoulder.

“I leave in the morning. Will you join me?”