Part 1: Apple Pie
Chapter 1: The Exalted
The scent of freshly baked apple pie filled the cold morning air… I hated it. It was a tradition of Carra, baked throughout the town at the end of October every year. Most thought it was a lovely treat, a warm and sweet way to step into fall, but it made my stomach clench.
It was a holiday favorite for The Seeking, and today almost every home in town had a pie.
I took a deep breath, allowing the scent to flow through me, allowing my hands to tremble before willing them to be still. It was only morning, I reminded myself. There were many hours before the clock struck midnight and The Seeking began. The hunt wasn’t on yet; besides, I still had people to see.
Wrapping my scarf tighter around my neck, I headed down the hill, away from the Exalted House. The dirt path felt solid under my feet even as my heart fluttered like a hummingbird in flight.
While the sun had only just peeked over the horizon, all of Carra was bustling. They were celebrating, of course; the Great Feast would take place tonight, where they would make sure the hunters and dogs were well fed. I felt their eyes on me as I walked down the street, faces turning toward me, eyes peering out through windows. If I wasn't careful tonight, any of them might catch me.
A blast of wind scattered a pile of leaves and I started, clutching my hat as my boots sank slightly into a muddy patch on the dirt road.
Whenever they caught me looking at them, their intense gazes would turn into cheerful smiles.
All of them were deceivers.
There was no polite, understood rivalry this year.
No, this year, there was outright anger towards me and my family. I could feel it in the air but couldn't pinpoint it exactly. Was it because we had been in power for so long? Five years didn't seem that long, but I couldn't deny how the resentment had grown over time.
A young woman, who had auburn hair and looked to be a few years older than me, walked towards me on the path. She was smiling, but when she glanced up and saw me, her smile hardened, and she turned quickly down a side road. She was hardly an exception to the rule.
Every year I watched their pleasantries grow thin. As the months passed, I noticed how they stared up at the Exalted House with undeniable envy in their eyes as their bitterness grew. Many were biding their time until tonight, when they had the power to make a change.
At midnight the bell tower would toll and The Seeking would begin. Their smiles would no longer need to be masked. At midnight their true hatred would come out to play.