“Both of them?”

I rubbed my knees; the old woman took a sip of tea.

“It follows the males in the family line. Until its treasure is returned.”

My anxiety was easy to see. I had tried to hide it, but this news was more than I could handle.

The old seer’s cottage had been hard to find. With one wall built into a mountain, hidden in a copse of trees. Pine needles made the passage unnervingly soft, and the cottage seemed as old as the forest surrounding it.

A thatched roof, with log walls. It was not meant to be seen. I had thought it looked cozy from the outside, but when I was let inside, the smell was anything but inviting.

“How does it kill them?” I asked.

“Most painfully,” she said, licking her wrinkly lips.

I shuddered.

“The details are trivial,” she nodded, not quite in my direction.

The seers were usually blind, she was no different.

“And my father?”

“He met the same fate earlier than your grandfathers. He went looking for the beast,” she coughed.

“Can it be killed?”

“Of course it can. Anything can. But this is a Djinn, a mystical creature of immeasurable power, from the east. You cannot run, that’s what your grandfathers thought to do, and it found them with ease,” she told me.

“What kills it?” I asked.

“The glittering spear, from the cave of wonders,” she smiled, “Good luck with that one.”

I frowned, and she laughed. The seers always irritated me, speaking in riddles and laughing at perceived ignorance.

“The cave of wonders?”

“Ah yes! A cave of riches beyond imagination! Piles of gold as high as mountains! Jewels that shimmer like the sun on a hot day!” her hands danced with excitement.

“Can you tell me where it is?”

“Oh sure!” she laughed, coughed then contained herself.

I rose from the small wicker chair she had sat me on.

“Why do you taunt me!? I came here for help! My family is being killed by an otherworldly force, and you laugh at my attempts at preventing this!”

Her face turned sour.

“You’re here for you. All the other males in your line have been killed by this Djinn. Do not tell me your intention is noble, young one. You are here for selfish ends, and you will indulge me while I tell you how to save yourself, or you will leave with nothing.”

My face burned. I sat back down, and held my breath waiting for her to continue.

After a few moments passed, her face brightened.

“Well then, silence is golden, yes!” she giggled.

I rolled my eyes.

“I may be blind, young one, but I know an eye-roll when I feel it. One more slip and you’re out of luck,” she tisked.

I clenched my jaw closed, feeling my teeth grind against each other while they settled into place.

“Now then. The cave of wonders. I can give you a map, and I can even tell you about how to get in. There is no information on what will work,” she shrugged.

I leaned my head forward, and my face landed in my hands.

“Or you could just return what your ancestors stole,” she sneered.

Her face became a sickly display of gloating. Three blackened teeth were exposed in a gummy smile.

“It’s what keeps the family strong. It’s what keeps the nation strong! It’s what keeps this place stable!” I exclaimed.

“Nations come and go, families drift in and out of power,” she said.

“No. The beast must be killed,” I said.

“Very well. But your odds are not good,” she shrugged.