The Hunger Strike Chronicles Book 1

Thore pulled the hood over his pointed ears. Now wasn’t the time to advertise his heritage. He’d lived for two hundred years in a world that had slowly evolved from peace and harmony into something he couldn’t define. But now, instead of walking this path without fear, he hid behind shadows and cloth.
He would go to their leader in his home near the Conglobate Mountain range. Something must be done and soon. Their leader would know the solution. He slung a leg over the leather saddle on his bay horse. His wife looked up at him worriedly.
“I’m sorry, Graenthe, but you know I must,” he told her.
“I know you do. There are few others who can see the problem. We must do something. If this Creotle is allowed to grow, our children and grandchildren won’t be safe.”
He looked at her fondly. They had fifteen children, some of them over a hundred themselves. He loved her so much and couldn’t imagine the world without her. But that was the problem. He frowned. Their loving balanced world was starting to become unbalanced. He didn’t know what else to call it.
“I love you, Jennifer, errmoreeff . Please be careful. I don’t understand the others or their motivation, but my heart tells me it is harmful, like touching a firewood that’s burning. I don’t want you or the younger ones exposed.” He felt reluctant to leave her, but felt it was his duty. Someone had to warn the King of Elven kind.
The horse moved slowly, and he led it out of their small town and over the knoll. Once he was beyond the vision of his wife and the rest of the village, he spurred the horse to move faster, speaking in its ear. He made himself one with the horse, mentally connecting to the feelings of the horse and shared his own urgency as well as the destination.
He’d been to the king’s castle a few times. Honoring the queen’s children as they were born, and taking his own children for the traditional blessing, the quaticessnce. He knew the way well, as did the horse. His hood threatened to come off as they galloped down the road.
He went as far as the next town before he or the horse rested. He should have gone slower, but it was safer for him to be among others rather than alone on the road. It was elves traveling alone that had been attacked and killed over the last few months.
He paid for a night’s lodging for himself and his horse. He hated the time loss, but getting killed on the road wouldn’t help him get there any faster. As he drank his mug of beer, he listened to the worried talk around him. There were people stressed about the recent deaths around their village.
“My girl was set upon. I’ve never seen the like,” the pocked, ruddy faced man said before taking another swallow out of his pint. “She was covered in blood, like the pigs we slaughter.” His voice slurred over the last words as he cried, holding the pint in both hands as if it would slip away like his daughter had.
“Tom’s boy, as well. Could barely recognize him when they brought him in. Only one hundred fifteen years old. Too young to die. His kids are devastated,” the grisly, wizened old man said.
Thore guessed him to be about four hundred or more. Living to be five hundred made some races think the Elves were immortal. They weren’t, as the recent bloodshed around their small hamlets proved.
“Excuse me,” he said to the elder man. “My village has also encountered such a problem. Do you know the cause?”
The entire pub went silent as everyone eyed him. Mayhap he should have kept quiet. He was unknown to them and he supposed they weren’t trusting of strangers after losing some of their townspeople.
“We have lost many of our kin in the areas around Horsesran. I’m going to the king to ask for protection.”
His statement was met with looks of pity and fear. “What can the king do?”
“I don’t know, but he needs to be told of these grave tidings.” Many people were nodding their heads in agreement. A young woman stood up.
“I will go with you,” she said, to many gasps from others in the pub. “I need to do something to help fix this problem.”
The wizened old man stood up, saying, “But it is now dangerous out there. We can’t allow people to go off on their own.”
“Father, I won’t be on my own. I shall have this man with me. He is courageous enough to brave the roads to help his village, then he must be an honorable man.”
“Mhairi, we don’t know him.”
“I trust him.” Thore watched as the whole pub drew in a breath and seemed to hold it. She had the gift then.
“The way of the light?” her father asked.
“Yes. I have seen into his heart and he is the right one to take me to the king,” she said quietly.
Everyone quit arguing with her and started talking about the things she would need to travel. Thore was bemused and a little overwhelmed. No one stopped to ask him if it was okay with him. Traveling with a companion would be safer since those who’d died had all been alone, but she was so young.
The old man, Mhairi’s father, came up to him. “What is your name, fellow elf?”
“I’m Thore. I hear and respect you,” he replied as was the tradition with the elders in his community.
“Respect Thore, that is my youngest daughter. She was born in light and has the sight. I’m her humble father, Jherl Menthela Hamphton. Do you have daughters?”
“I have twelve daughters and three sons, Elder Hamphton,” he replied.
“Then I trust you know what a father means when he asks for you to keep his daughter safe,” the man leaned onto his cane with both hands, looking up at Thore through his bushy grey eyebrows. “Whatever is upon our land, it is a monster, the like of which our race has never seen.”
He stared off for a moment and Thore felt a quickening within him, his own gift of knowledge. Elder Hamphton’s daughter had the sight through the light, but it was the father who gave it to her.
“There is a dark evil presence, like in stories my grandmother used to tell of the time before creation. It is older than this world. And it is hungry.” His gaze focused on Thore again. “Hungry for the souls of this world.”
Thore shivered under his cloak. He didn’t understand the evil he spoke of, but he understood the death scenes he’d seen. If this evil was hungry, it couldn’t be a good thing.
“This evil hungers for death and malice. Do not let it in, Thore. I fear our world is under attack and there are few who can fight it.” Elder Hamphton turned his back to Thore and shuffled off to his daughter.
The day seemed colder and darker to Thore. Evil invaded his knowledge and once known, could not be undone. He was afraid. He put together more food, staying quiet and contemplating the words of the old man. It was a great responsibility to care for another’s child but usually not a problem. In the world where death was handed out to the young, it became a great burden.
Mhairi came over to him as he was stuffing his leather satchel with more dried meat. “I’m sorry for the imposition, but the Fates demanded that I leave with you. I know not the true reason I’m to be with you, but I must go the way you are going.”
“The Fates? You have a direct line?” he tried to keep the sarcasm out of his voice, but it had been years since anyone could honestly claim to hear the Fates’ will.
“Yes, as do you,” she said quietly. “Many do, but cannot hear because they haven’t been taught. You hear it, but it’s built into your conscience where you cannot hear it as a separate voice. We must leave at first light. The king needs our help.”
Thore stood stunned, holding onto his satchel to help ground himself in reality. If she was right, then they did indeed need to hurry. For he’d had strange dreams about the king. Fear and blood shrouded the dreams with a red haze of blurry mist and he couldn’t fathom where the dreams came from. People were hitting each other with strange tools and there were strange faces. In his dream, it happened because he didn’t warn the king of the death’s in his village.
“We will leave as soon as you’re ready,” he whispered. “If you’re right, then more blood will happen if we arrive late.”
She nodded and turned back to the preparations. They left two hours later, both solemn and afraid. The time of killing had just begun and they didn’t know if anyone could stop it.

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