He taught me how to read people’s eyes. It was his way of punishing me for not going along with his plans, for causing the deaths of so many with my careless words.
I had been sold to him when my brother was born, my mother’s gift to the gods after a decade of giving birth to only daughters. As the seventh I had a value, one which her own family had squandered in allowing her to stay, to set up home with the man she loved. This is what she had always been told. Now times were hard and she had her longed for son to care for. The seer paid handsomely for me.
It was obvious that I was special, perhaps even more so than her mother before, a woman she had barely known and had been raised to fear. When the seer visited to see what was being offered, he looked into my eyes and gasped before handing over his bag of gold. There was no haggling over the price and I could tell my mother regretted that she had not valued me more highly, regretted that loss of gold more than the daughter she so willingly gave up.
The seer was good to me and I worked hard for him, eager for his praise. When I was ready we travelled together, sheltered whilst sleeping by the hedgerows and trees. As our reputation grew we were called to towns more than villages, stayed at inns and ate well. Time passed and we wanted for nothing.
The seer looked worried when the king sent for us, but we set off anyway. I knew as soon as I saw the city that this would not go well. I begged the seer to turn back but he would not listen. Despite my powers I could not yet see his thoughts. Perhaps he should have told me.
The king received us dressed in cloth of gold, hands weighed down by jewels, heart by fear and brooding. I saw death and pain, the destruction of all he tried to own. The seer added honey to his prophecy, obfuscated the message that was so clear. We were dismissed, threatened with imprisonment if we did not use our gifts to advise clearly, as was our purpose.
That night the seer tried to warn me that some men are not strong enough for the truth, that they will try to kill it rather than accept their own fallibility. I was young, I did not know that there are those who do not regard the wider good as desirable if it fails to set them above the rest.
The next morning I was called to the king alone. The seer remonstrated that I was a mere apprentice, but the guard ignored his pleas. I kneeled, took the king’s hand and allowed my mind to seek. I told him the truth as I had been taught.
‘You plan to send an army out. The blood you spill will flow freely before returning, a river of blood that travels in a never ending circle, powering the wheels of your life, your children’s lives. Then you will be no more. Accept terms, give your daughter in marriage and your family will be banished but live long.’
The seer howled in anguish when I told him what I had done, and then he taught me the lesson that he called his curse. I looked into the mirror of his soul and knew what I had done. He was everything to me, and my naivety killed him and our world.
It was I who was banished as our rich and peaceful land descended into chaos. I watched in my dreams as the villages, where I had offered health and happiness, were pillaged and burned. Young women, who I had counselled to marry wisely, were raped, their babies thrown live onto funeral pyres.
All that can ever be seen is a choice, a possible life. Wise decisions become futile when fools conspire to overtake even the best laid plans.
The king did not escape his fate. In time his blood joined the river that he created. I traversed the mountains, moved on, married and had daughters of my own. I looked into their eyes and asked the gods for forgiveness. I taught my seventh daughter well; I taught her silence.