The Endless Song Chapter One
Hello and good afternoon to you all. I felt like sharing the opening chapter to my latest book: “The Endless Song”. I hope you will enjoy this and that it will make you hungry to read more. If you would like to support the campaign for The Endless Song, please visit publishizer.com/the-endless-song and pre-order your very own copy today.
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All but verses in the song
What you read now are words written in your tongue. They are short and unlike ours they are not timeless. Where does one begin when there are countless beginnings? We are endless while you are not. Together our bloodlines have stood against the Hunger, since before your histories can even remember. Our lines have shared so much, great pains, wonderful joys, immense sorrows, absolute love all of these moments and more. Despite this, the Vigil remains and will forever be ours.
Our memories, like us, are timeless whereas yours are not. It is a sorrow. We have met you time and time again, throughout countless lives and ages. We remember each and every one of these encounters. While you do not.
We are a long line, stretching back to the beginning of all things that were, are and will one day come to be. By contrast, your line is no older than several millennia, still young, full of promise and coupled with near limitless ambition, compassion and creativity. All of these marvels and more are contained in a fragile living shell with too short a lifespan to manifest your own infinity.
Know then child of Humanity, that these words come from one who was young during Creations’ infancy and that yours is a strong and noble line. Boastings some of the bravest and greatest heroes we have witnessed and will remember from now until the great silence when the Endless Song’s final note is sung.
May that day forever be late and far.
The Night’s Hunt
The sky above was awash with starlight while the full moon cast her glow over the forests and mountains of what the local descendants of Humanity had named Mégantic in their crude and mortal words. Time was the great eradicator and it was only through the eyes of one who had lived and was doomed to live forever that her true ravages could be witnessed. To Korynth, one for whom existence was just that, the sky above had diminished so much over the measureless passage of time that had come to be his life, that he often wished he could forget the blissful harmony that had been the beginning of all beginnings.
Indeed to his immortal kin who had witnessed the opening moments of the cosmos, had heard the first notes of the Endless Song, the clear night-time sky above would have looked almost barren and alien to them. And all known fates was it ever growing harder and harder to recall those wonderful un-tainted days that had been the years of reality’s dawn, when nearly every portion of the cosmos had been awash with stars, magic and life proliferating the space between them.
Truly those had been the glorious moments of the Song and also the times where its melody had been loudest now nothing more than a fading echo. These days and nights a scant few remained who recalled the Song. Yet the fact remained that every living and un-living thing was affected by and a part of it. And those who could hear the melody were now treated to a tone most mournful at all that had been lost. Few now remained who remembered. Korynth Darakolin Eventide was one of the rare immortals who did.
Tonight the stars shone over Korynth and while his duty and oath to the Eternal Vigil had lead him to the quiet woods of Mégantic, he was no less grateful for the clear celestial sky above. In the days long before the Hunger’s coming, Korynth’s kind and Humanity had both marvelled at and observed the celestial map above them together. These woods then had been and still were a sacred space of quiet and peace. It warmed Korynth’s heart to know that the people who now called Mégantic home had made certain to set up and run an observatory and a dark sky preserve.
Unlike the skyline in the human cities that were drowned out by a near endless supply of lights, here what precious few stars that remained were fully visible. They were among the rare living things in the cosmos older than Korynth. And because of that his kin had always taken to drawing both their names and strength from the stars.
Korynth had often thought that the act of giving something as near ageless as the mountains and land any name in the language of those who were doomed to die was an odd thing indeed. Such a short sound uttered with dying breaths did not do the land around him proper justice. He wondered as his attention slowly began to return to the task at hand, whether or not he could have conceived of a proper word in the deathless tongue of his kind to properly name the woods and mountains or even the living world upon which he stood. Perhaps if the Vigil’s call had never come, he could have devoted his immortal existence to doing so.
None of that mattered now though. How many dreams of simply singing praise to the living breathing entity that was the whole of existence until the end of time were now lost? Cast aside for the grim matter of survival and preservation against the relentless bane to it all: The Silent Hunger. Korynth did not know, nor would he ever desire to know. The task of remembering was reserved to the Sylvian, his cousins who had made it a purpose to remember every single note, no matter how bitter or sweet of the Endless Song.
Not so for Korynth. His fellow Darakolin, the vanguard of the Eternal Vigil, those who would never break, had devoted themselves to actively warding off the Silent Hunger and its agents.
Truthfully it was hard to dedicate one’s life to songs and contemplation when one was aware that something wholly unfathomable and menacing existed just beyond the thin membrane separating existence from whatever lay beyond. Never resting and forever waiting for the moment when the Vigil’s watch would falter and only then would its predatory patience at long last be rewarded.
Korynth made no illusions that countless more living beings who called this reality home would be wholly and completely consumed by the Silent Hunger. Everything from their biological body all the way down to the very living essence that gave the body life. And then the it would move on, to feed again, and again. Perhaps some “where” or some “when” would muster up the power to defeat this bane to all things living, but Korynth had long ago given up on the hope that his would be the one.
Yet as long as he lived, Korynth refused to make himself an easy meal to their foe. The Silent Hunger would accomplish its dark purpose only after he and the rest of his immortal kin had drawn their final breath. Hopefully on that dark day, there would be someone new to take up the Vigil’s mantle. Perhaps the Drake would return, lending their fire, wisdom and fury to the cause once more, or maybe the children of Humanity could re-awaken and remember their past glories.
“And maybe, one day I’ll be a parent.” Korynth grumbled bitterly to himself as he thought this. It was great to dream about the return in strength of old allies. But until that highly unlikely of moments came to be, the Eternal Vigil was a burden that only Korynth and his kin would shoulder. Because of this, his strength would not and could not, falter.
The last of his fellow Elfkin had numbered in the hundreds of thousands when the Vigil had first been sworn in days of forgotten and lost history. It had been known then that they were woefully stretched thin for the monumental task of preserving existence. So much had already forever been lost in order to push back their relentless foe.
Now thousands upon thousands of years later their numbers, dwindling over time, less than a quarter of those who had first sworn themselves to the Vigil remained maybe even less. Where typically a unit of Darakolin soldiers would have been dispatched to investigate the forests of Mégantic, tonight Korynth alone hunted for a sign or his dark quarry. This was no mistake, most of the Vigil’s diminished forces were committed to watching the World Seals, the one thing baring the Silent Hunger’s entrance into the world. Yet Elven magics, while powerful, were not infallible and sometimes, slivers of the Hunger managed to seep past them.
It was these pieces of the Hunger that Korynth was duty bound to track down and hunt. And the Seers had witnessed signs that such a sliver had taken root somewhere in Mégantic. It was the reason for him being here tonight.
Left un-checked, this piece of the Hunger would feed off the life around it, growing stronger and more dangerous with each passing moment. Should Korynth fail at his task, the quiet hills of Mégantic would be awash with terror. This was a heavy burden, carried with him for so long that he could no longer recall a time where he had not felt it. All known Fates, had he truly lived that long?
The forestlands were both still and silent. Korynth could smell, hear and feel the fear lingering in the air. Many of the animals who called the forest their home were sleeping yes, but Korynth could feel their eyes on him. They knew that something dreadful was hidden in the forest and had chosen to hide. A wise choice as no beast, no matter how noble, would be able to do what needed to be done.
Rather it would take his Elven-Kin’s weapons and knowledge to best the dark creature that waited for Korynth somewhere in the forest. Covered in head to toe in his family armour, intricately forged, oiled, polished and silent, it had kept Korynth safe for centuries. His blade, Moon’s Crescent, was drawn and beyond razor sharp. The short-sword was finely curved and immaculately balanced, shimmering defiantly like quicksilver in the starlight. It was older than some of oldest of Human civilizations and since her forging Moon’s Crescent had slain countless beasts and agents of the Hunger.
A pin dropping in the snow would have made more sound than armoured Korynth as he pushed forward, deeper and deeper through the dense canopy of trees and branches, his eyes adapting to the dark and his pointed ears twitching to and fro as they listened for any telltale sign of an ambush. He heard nothing, which offered him precious little comfort. Even by night there should have been the sound of owls or the occasional ruffle of movement.
Rather it was a heavy foreboding quiet that hung in the air. And the deeper inward he pushed, the more entangled and gnarled the trees became. Their branches interlacing almost seemed to want to ward Korynth away and they would have no doubt succeeded against even the most experienced human outdoorsman.
However Korynth had been born of the forest and was ancient even to the trees and had held long friendships with many of them. He was therefore more than capable of silently pressing forward. He lithely slipped between the branches and tree trunks, cutting past the undergrowth until abruptly he stumbled into a clearing. The comfort he felt as he could once more see the sky above him was short lived. For Korynth had found the lair of his query and it towered before him, an aberration of nature and pulsing like a sickly scab.
In the middle of the clearing stood a tree, gnarled and withered. It reminded Korynth of a willow however there was no way that the tree looming over him was of this world. Its bark shimmered a mixture of unhealthy wet maggot-white and grey, its many branches were like long withered arms and at their ends were black viscous pouches of various sizes. These sacs looked like large cancerous fruits and were filled to the brim with a white oozing sap-like substance that seared the ground it dripped upon. Some of them were small no bigger than a bird, others were unnervingly man-sized.
Korynth could make out the indistinct shapes of animal carcasses being dissolved through the semi-translucent membranes of the bags. His jaw dropped in disgust at what he saw.
“The Song Spare my soul.”
He muttered the words in his immortal tongue. This was far bigger than he could ever have planned for. The withered tree was visibly growing, and it was fully aware of Korynth’s presence. It had known the moment he had set foot in the woods.
The ground around the tree was unhealthy, scorched by the white acidic sap that dripped from the tree. The snow had melted away around the trunk and the naked ground around it was chalk white, cracked, dry and lifeless. Yet the air surrounding the area was heavy, thick and hard to breathe.
Korynth thought to himself that it was fortunate that he had made it here when he had. He had to report back to his brothers and sisters. The Vigil would need to send one of the Gremhölk magis to deal with this. Koryynth was a master warrior, but the withered tree was something even Moon Crescent would be unable to banish. It would take proper powerful magics to do so.
A shuffle behind him was all the warning Korynth had as he spun around to face his would-be attacker. How had he managed to drop his guard? Had the heavy air around the clearing somehow addled his senses?
Based on his attacker’s size and shape, the creature now standing before him had once been a bear. But that was where the resemblance ended. What stood before him was a large furless mass of sinew and skin of an un-healthy white, almost translucent with pulsing black veins. Long blackened claws adorned its paws. In place of a face, there was nothing, no eyes, snout, ears or mouth, just a head with skin and veins.
Korynth took a moment to whisper a silent prayer for the poor, proud living creature it had once been. For truly no being deserved to be processed and converted into the monster that now silently lumbered towards him. The prayer done, Korynth circled his foe quickly slashing towards its neck and hoping to sever the head from the body. To his credit the cut was precise and true, finding its mark. The blade sunk deep but it was like cutting into hardened stone. It took all of his strength to jerk his sword free. Korynth was briefly taken aback by all of this. Moon Crescent had been forged and blessed by the Gremhölk Magi and it was one of few weapons in this world insured to harm the Hunger or its beasts. And yet here his foe had barely even flinched.
The former bear capitalized on this moment of hesitation on his part and swatted at Korynth. The blow came faster and stronger than he had expected, striking him square in chest and deeply indenting his once ornate breastplate. The fine and intricate protective runes his people had carved into his armour would normally have warded off the blow, but instead it sent him across the clearing. Korynth felt his ribcage almost collapse as he came crashing into the base of the withered tree, the impact almost knocking him out instantly.
Korynth struggled to get back his legs, using his sword as a prop to help him up. The faceless bear silently walked towards him, the one wound Korynth had managed to inflict closing up as it did. Stars started to cloud his vision and Korynth knew that he would need to make his escape, treat his wounds and return with more numbers, it had been incredibly stupid and foolish of him to come here alone.
Before he could take another breath, the “bear” lunged forward, with blinding speed and precision, skewering Korynth with its blackened claws and tearing through his ancestral armour as if it were mere cloth and not some of the strongest and finest steel ever crafted by hands mortal or immortal. The shock of suddenly being pierced was overwhelming for Korynth who could only stare, dumbfounded, as the bear hoisted him towards one of the oily pouches on the withered tree’s branches, this one easily human sized and dropped him into it.
There was barely enough time for Korynth to register the sheer terror he felt as the pouch closed itself over and above him, like a fly trap. He could feel and hear the corrosive hiss of the digestive white sap working away at his flesh and armour. He could also feel, strip by strip, memory by memory, that his very self was being consumed and digested by this vassal for the Silent Hunger.
He opened his mouth to let out a final scream only to have more viscous acidic liquids work their way down his throat, up his nose and through eyes and ears, digesting every last part of him from within as well as without. Korynth Darakolin Eventide, who had lived for tens of thousands of years, had every single part of him, from his body to his mind, his every experience and very immortal soul broken down and absorbed piece by piece. Once the gruesome process was complete, what remained would be converted into a new thoughtless body, a form more compliant and useful to the will of the Hunger.
Several hours later, his metamorphosis was completed. And from the oily fruit sac of the withered tree emerged a faceless creature shaped from the matter, energy and spirit that had once been Korynth. It went and took its place next to the creature that had once been a bear. After a moment, without a word, the two silently walked away from each other and the clearing. Each would stalk the woods and bring others to the tree until all things were fed to the Hunger. Korynth’s was not the first soul to suffer this fate.
It would not be the last.
I hope you enjoyed the first chapter of my latest book: The Endless Song. None of these images are mine and were used for purely inspirational purposes. I will be posting another chapter once I reach 75 Pre-Orders for The Endless Song.
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ps: we are all notes of the Endless Song.