When elves die episode.., p.1
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       When Elves Die : Episode One, p.1
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           Richard Poche
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When Elves Die : Episode One


  WHEN ELVES DIE

  by RICHARD POCHE

  All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, including scanning, photocopying, or otherwise without prior written permission of the copyright holder. Copyright © 2014 Richard Poche

  ISBN: 1502710064

  ISBN-13: 78-1502710062

  Cover illustration by

  Rick Servande

 

  To Jim and Rick

  and rainy days of rolling twenty sided dice.

 

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  Special thanks to my editor, Brian Kaufman, for helping guide a rookie through his first novel.

  CHAPTER 1

  His black horse seized up the moment they came upon the orange flames which flickered against the snowfall. Three tents stood beyond the chromatic hues of the fire, the largest one in the center covered a stage.

  He snapped on the reins and trotted across the desolate landscape. His horse moved with his body, the longer they rode together the more the animal became an extension of his mind. The horse knew instinctively when his rider wanted to turn right or left. When to speed up or slow down.

  Tholan stood shorter than most other barbarians. He grew his hair long while most other fighters in the region shaved their heads bald. Tholan made up for his lack of size with tenacity. He always overwhelmed his foes with unmatched speed and expert swordsmanship.

  The fire started to die down and he dismounted. One of the tent poles fell over and the tattered tarp revealed several dead bodies. He recognized the deceased as elves with their pointed ears and diminutive bodies. But some had their ears either ripped or bitten off. All had their throats torn open, with a circle of blood in the snow as their final resting place.

  Crude stigmata signs were scratched into some of their foreheads. Pentagram symbols with the letter “K” cut into the center. With dead corpses everywhere he stepped, his boots crunched down on the charred remains of an elf whose tongue dangled from his mouth. Another lay with a broken off spear stuck in his chest.

  With the grace of a lion, he threaded his way to the stage platform. Four bodies were sprawled out, like a child's forgotten toys. One of the elves clutched a strum guitar. Another hunched backward over a drum set with wooden sticks impaled in both eyes. A singer with her throat ripped open lay on the stage front. Her skin a translucent white, she had been drained of blood. Sobbing sounds turned him around. About twenty feet away, a woman nested her head on the chest of a dead girl. Her cries rose and then lowered in intensity as he approached. He thought her too tall to be an elf. As he got closer, his eyes turned to the source of her grief. The dead girl's skin had the same pale, blood-drained look as the others.

  “What happened?” he asked.

  The woman turned around slowly. She gazed at him with unblinking eyes that shined with tears. After a few moments of silence, she returned her attention back to the dead girl.

  “We were having a service,” she said finally. “They came upon us so fast. The Killtooths.”

  He always thought the Killtooths were a mythical creation. Supposedly they were a breed of elves that fed on the blood of other elves.

  “We thought we had killed them all last year. They stayed in the caves up in Shaian. You have to kill them in the summer when they go into hibernation. There must have been another group. Another colony that we missed. I had no idea they could make it this far out.”

  “Your daughter?”

  She nodded her head.

  “She was my heart. That's what she was.”

  The woman kissed the girl on the forehead.

  “Come back to me,” she whispered.

  “The rest of you. You're from the same church?”

  “My husband is...Was Diorman,” she pointed to an elf on the ground who had bloodied stumps for arms.

  He had heard of Diorman. One of the leaders of the church that worshiped the God Pegasin.

  “Come back to me, Iriedove” she whispered to the girl again.

  “How did you survive?”

  “I went to the woods,” she pointed back at the vast expanse of trees. “I had to pee. I heard screaming and when I came back it was pure chaos. I tried to find my daughter but I couldn't with all the elves running and screaming and...the Killtooths attacking. So I played dead. I laid down next to a group of dead elves. They found me anyway but...They don't drink human blood...They can't.”

  Looking back down at her daughter, she started to clean the blood off the girl's face.

  “She was always teased for being a half-breed. But she was the most beautiful girl in the village.”

  “She's very beautiful.”

  “And she loved to sing. Songs of worship.”

  The woman placed her head on the dead girl's chest again. Her mouth distorted into a bitter smile.

  “When a human is bitten by a Killtooth they turn into...they come back to life as one of them. Maybe she'll come back. Maybe because she's a half-breed, she'll come back.”

  “If she does come back. She's won't be human. Or elf anymore.”

  She shot him an icy glare. Then she looked up at the white sky.

  “Lord Pegasin,” she cried out. “Why have you allowed this to happen? We have been good. We are a faithful people. We are a peaceful people. We have spent our entire lives worshiping you. Singing to you. Praising you. And yet, you allowed this to happen?”

  He looked at the young dead girl. Her blouse had been ripped away, only the torn sleeves remained. There were bloodied hand prints along her breasts and thighs. Dried mascara tears streaked her face and trailed down her nude body.

  “Do you think I can live on with these memories?” she raged with her fists clenched. “Why don't you just kill me? I don't want to live....I don't want to live anymore. How could you allow this? We worshiped you!”

  She ripped off a medallion that suspended from her neck on a leather cord. Throwing the religious symbol on the ground, she spat on it then looked to the sky with hate in her eyes.

  Tholan looked up at the heavens himself. Some fast moving clouds were coming in from the east. The winds were starting to pick up and he could feel the temperature getting colder.

  “We really don't have time to give your daughter a proper burial. The snow will cover her body. Protect it from the-”

  His voice trailed off. He did not want to bring up the topic of scavenger forest animals digesting what remained of her loved ones.

  “I have no place to go,” she said. “We were supposed to go to the next village and set up a revival. I have nowhere to go and nothing to live for. My husband is gone. My daughter is gone. I have nothing now.”

  The woman turned her back to the Barbarian.

  With nothing more to say, he started to walk away.

  “Wait,” she said.

  Tholan kept walking. He did not want further involvement.

  “I know who you are.” The woman's face now a picture of delirious hope. “You are Tholan the Feared. You are an assassin for hire.”

  “How do you know?” Tholan stopped in place, now interested.

  “I remember you. Our village elders hired you four or five years ago. We had a chief in our town that was abusing our people. He was a brutal man. They hired you to take care of him. His name was Rodius.”

  “Rodius,” he said. “Yes. I remember.”

  “I have thought of you for many a night since then. How you saved the day when no one else would.”

  “Because they paid me.”

  “I have no money,” she said.

  Tholan turned back around. He called his horse over and mounted the animal.

&nbs
p; “But I can offer my body.”

  “In exchange for what?” Tholan dropped off the horse.

  “I want you to go to the caves of Shaian and kill the lot of them.”

  Tholan paused for a beat as he looked over at the carnage.

  “We could set fire to the rest of the bodies,” he said. “Otherwise carrion will come and feed on what is left of them.”

  “There's nothing left of me!”

  The woman twirled around in a pirouette of grief.

  “I cannot help you,” he said as he turned his back toward her once again.

  Her bloodcurdling scream startled him as it reached a volume he would never have expected. Nor did he expect her to be racing toward him at supernatural speed.

  Her jaws snapped at him, saliva dripping from her fangs. Holding her back by her shoulders, he could see the bite marks on her neck.

  Unable to get close enough to bite him, she spat into his face.

  Her sputum burned like acid. He pushed her hard and she fell on her back. Screaming like a psychotic banshee, she bolted back up and attacked again.

  He half-hoped that by taking out his long sword she would back down.

  Screaming, she kept coming. He pierced her heart with one upward stroke.

  Silence.

  Her face, which looked so demonic an instant earlier, faded into a serene calm. Her black eyes turned back into a slate blue.

  Tholan extracted his blade and laid the dead woman on the ground.

  He broke his own code. He only killed for money.

  Tholan took another look at the dead bodies. He noticed that a lot of them still had their purses and money bags. A small bounty there for the taking.

  He decided against sifting through the valuables of the dead. Already tardy, he did not want to anger his new employer.

  Ravalynn. The Dark Queen.

 

  He couldn't help but look back at the dead elves again as he left. A group of friends and family that lived together, ate together and worshiped together. Now they died together. He wondered what it would be like to belong to a community of people, whether it be elves or humans. To have people to whom his life mattered and would avenge him if he were murdered.

  He reminded himself that he did not make it this far by having compassion and clemency. Sentimentality is for the weak, he told himself. Friendship is for the weak.

  The weak and the dead.

  That is how he earned the name Tholan the Feared. The solitary figure coming down the mountain with a sword in hand.

  The assassin of the snow.

 

 
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