The Last Cronos

The Last Cronos

Status: In Progress

Genre: Science Fiction

Houses:

Details

Status: In Progress

Genre: Science Fiction

Houses:

Summary

“We once said that war will not be the one to define us, but mere it is a tool that we ourselves created to shape ourselves…a pitiful excuse to release all that we have that we view as negative…and beg to the ashes that we will never do it again…in a never ending cycle that one would say is a partition of our nature as…heaven forbid…the fusion of reality and insanity of what our race has become.”
- Professor Ezra Tadeous, the last biological human...

There exists a special kind of warrior, one who is not like the other. Whose abilities, whose skills, and whose knowledge of the battlefield are nothing like anything before seen before the face of the living. They say their touch is that one whose mere essence of the surface would cause death itself to incarnate…and those who have bear witness to it had death gazing at them.
Some say that they are beings given life with purpose and strife for them to conquer anything that comes before them. While others say that there is a never ending sadness in their hearts that is filled only by the void of those they love and care the most. Beings that have the power to take on anything before them…even those who rival them in power.
Even by those who claim themselves as gods. Many claim that such a warrior is merely the birth of fiction, given life by those who treat them as the figure of hope and by some in desperation for power. That they were merely stories of old men to keep children from doing ill…while others claim to have seen them with their bare eyes…slaughtering everything that was before them.
While a handful of a few claim that they were existed with a void of nothingness in their hearts and doomed to walk hollow and empty with no sense of purpose. Many legends say that these soldiers are warriors of the righteous path who have come to judge those who are righteous and punish those who are foul.
Other legends say that they are mere rebels to those who defied tyranny and oppression’s cause with their arrogance and an ally to those who follow their banners. But in some legends, they depict them as blood thirsty beast whose craving to cause destruction is unmatched and that gives those who stand in their wrath a fate much worse than death.
Which of these legends are real we may never now…but two things are of reality…that such soldiers exists…and all these legends are about to shape them for what they will become. All of these warriors have one name…the Last Cronos.
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Summary

“We once said that war will not be the one to define us, but mere it is a tool that we ourselves created to shape ourselves…a pitiful excuse to release all that we have that we view as negative…and beg to the ashes that we will never do it again…in a never ending cycle that one would say is a partition of our nature as…heaven forbid…the fusion of reality and insanity of what our race has become.”
- Professor Ezra Tadeous, the last biological human...

There exists a special kind of warrior, one who is not like the other. Whose abilities, whose skills, and whose knowledge of the battlefield are nothing like anything before seen before the face of the living. They say their touch is that one whose mere essence of the surface would cause death itself to incarnate…and those who have bear witness to it had death gazing at them.
Some say that they are beings given life with purpose and strife for them to conquer anything that comes before them. While others say that there is a never ending sadness in their hearts that is filled only by the void of those they love and care the most. Beings that have the power to take on anything before them…even those who rival them in power.
Even by those who claim themselves as gods. Many claim that such a warrior is merely the birth of fiction, given life by those who treat them as the figure of hope and by some in desperation for power. That they were merely stories of old men to keep children from doing ill…while others claim to have seen them with their bare eyes…slaughtering everything that was before them.
While a handful of a few claim that they were existed with a void of nothingness in their hearts and doomed to walk hollow and empty with no sense of purpose. Many legends say that these soldiers are warriors of the righteous path who have come to judge those who are righteous and punish those who are foul.
Other legends say that they are mere rebels to those who defied tyranny and oppression’s cause with their arrogance and an ally to those who follow their banners. But in some legends, they depict them as blood thirsty beast whose craving to cause destruction is unmatched and that gives those who stand in their wrath a fate much worse than death.
Which of these legends are real we may never now…but two things are of reality…that such soldiers exists…and all these legends are about to shape them for what they will become. All of these warriors have one name…the Last Cronos.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Chapter 1 Before

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: February 01, 2017

Reads: 52

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: February 01, 2017

A A A

A A A

When we think about it, we would like to start anew. Have a reset of things that are around us, try to start fresh with a little more comfort that we hoped for in what we have now. Take a moment to have inventory of our own mistakes as well as assessment of steps so that we would avoid them in the future. But then again, starting anew would mean that the demons we wish to forget about would come back to haunt us yet again…And maybe, those demons would haunt us yet again…thus shaping a realization that it would be a useless effort all in itself. But if it was a matter that they were willing to sacrifice and go through so much just to achieve…then was it clearly worth fighting for?

The grass and ground seemed softer and seemingly comfortable despite the pitch blackness everywhere under the canopy of the forest. There was barely any light and an eerie cold wrapped and enveloped around everything like the kiss of the mother of the frost as the sun was about to rise to drive her off. From this an interesting figure awakened, with the cold the first warmth to greet him as his vision and eyes began to twitch into synch with the pain in his mind. He reached out, stretching his body but quickly reeling back from the pain he suffered from some unknown task that may have caused his downfall.

Like lightning it struck him, but weep he did not as he held the pain of both his unseen scars and added fatigue in the dead silence and wept with no one to witness it. Pain jolting down his entire body, in every vein and on every surface of his body…but in a sense he had comfort in knowing that the pain he had was real. He did not ask what kind of pain it was…it was that of electricity of the rush beckoned by one that had numerous barbs meant for death penetrating every nerve in his body. 

Nor did he ask himself as the sun began to rise why there were stains of blood still fresh in his clothing. He checked his body, with every swing and every press he made to his body in search of the scars that were hidden from him from both the darkness and the pain. But as he felt his clothes, still damp from the blood as the sun began to give him warmth while he searched for them…he found none.

His skin he filed and brushed with the palms of both hands…he started at his neck…the felt the clothing he was wearing. It was rough and leathery but smooth and pale, he scanned with his palms for an image of his clothing…the cold had reached even into his cloths, and the numbness of his pain had little or no picture for him to pain of what he had attained nor what he was wearing. He skimmed his palm through his arms, he had no sleeves, but his vest was thick of sorts. He had some form of pants on him…and boots with the same coarseness and texture…but there was something that surprised him even more than the sculpting of the clothing he had.

He had no wounds, nor gashes, nor any heavy blunts and yet his body managed to bleed with so much blood wrapped around him. But he felt a liquid around his body, it was not water…and it had a familiar scent. Pungent and sticky but had a coarseness that seemed course and slippery with bits that begun to clump on some parts. It was blood…and he was swimming in a pool of it.  And yet he had no scars on his body to have caused such bathing of blood that he had been ominously drenched in beforehand.

Neither were there any signs of corpses or bodies that would have been the source...  His memory and his coming to this forest remained a mystery to himself as his mind was blank.  But he did not panic, and there was an unsettling calm in his mind as he looked around him to admire the biome that he had awoken to. The trees where beyond those that he seemed accustomed to. Rising several hundred meters above a land mixture of marsh and woodland, the animals were alone beyond his size nor comfort in being next to as everywhere he looked he would come to see a sight of a massive creature that was greater in him in size.

On the side of his eye’s view was a massive herd of cattle which grazed on the massive lines of weed that grew wildly on the shallow yet wide ponds on the forest floor…and from behind the bushes was a large and sizable feline prowling them for breakfast. Several hundred pounds by a blind eyes estimate and sporting massive incisors and curved teeth, and with brown and striped fur concealing it as it slowly crept in the mud with the silence. It was no different than death by one’s side and waiting for the right time to reap your soul.

But he wasn’t the type to flee when the predator was just meters away from him. Rather, he watched it as it made its slow paced creeping towards the herd. He watched as the creature decided to murk by the side of the pond where the massive cattle grazed…the darkness hiding it as it lurked in hind sight of the cattle. But as the feline was about striking distance from the herd, a massive crocodilian creature leapt out of the water beside where the cattle were grazing.

Its head breaching and flowing out of its open mouth full of rows of serrated teeth with the muddy water that had come along as it burst forth. The river monster, with a snout more than three meters long, had little hardship in snatching an animal the several hundred times bigger than itself and dragging it to the water where its blood shrouded the murk with a red hue as the prey’s last gasps of air escaped from the water...It didn’t bother him that the panther caught wind of his presence. But the creature, rather than release its frustration with the watcher, was plucked in a state of paralysis as the observer looked at the feline with no remorse.

As if no fear was in his heart…and no other emotion in his eyes as he stared blankly into the creature with the emotion that was in his heart…and that was to kill it without regret if it were to make a move on him. And that was enough to break the creature’s intent to go after him. It roared loudly before finally succumbing to its fear and fled and disappeared into the bushes as the observer continued to watch on the darkness of the forest slowly fade and escape as the sun began to rise overhead and break through the thin layer of canopy.

“Risk everything…to gain anything…”, chanted a voice.

The awakened man’s eyes widened and with a sudden gasp of surprise came to him as he suddenly searched for its source. He turned his eye to a beam of sunlight shinning on an enclave in the forest whose clearing looked like a path. He rose, mindless now of the cause of the scars and began to trek on the path that had been given to him by an unseen force.

“Risk everything…to gain anything…”, chanted it again.

But the voice did not chant it a third time as the searcher stopped as the path he had been following had led him to a tributary whose path lead to a river that leeched out of the forest. It was not a large river, frankly it was connected from the partition of river from which the heavy predator from before rose from. He could even see the little swirls of water that were created by the massive underwater hunters as they passed undetected among the reeds and muddy waters. Anyone in his right mind would not bear the idea of walking alone it, let alone be near it…but something made him think otherwise of the proposition he had planned.

“Risk everything…to gain anything…”, the voice chanted again…and with a closer realization as he finds that the chanting voice came from none other than his own mind. 

“Follow the river…”, the voice chanted again before it died down yet again and with it now bearing the frustration of the searcher.

He tried to speak, utter words of irritation to the voice or to himself but none could come out of his mouth. He sighs as he looks at the tributary. It seemed as there was no point at staying at the marsh, the only thing in his mind was his empty memory, and the desire to fill the void of nothingness in his past. His mind was still in a faze, still adjusting to the awakened searcher…The cause of his curiosity was the blood that had coated him in his awakening, his identity, and his memory and why it had vanished. Why he blindly followed the voice was its own mystery altogether…but this one had a logical reason…a reason that anyone would get. There could have be signs of civilization, maybe a form of settlement for him to receive aid of sorts. Or maybe run into a group of fishers or hunters that could help him. Or maybe run into some bridge that he could follow on his way down the river.

How he knew that was the most logical means to survive was in its own right a curiosity that boggled that who bore its creation. But he walked on…Led by some urge to find civilization as starvation was far from setting in while he walked down the river. He didn’t mind his mode of travel that was by foot. Nor that he was in some perilous environment that seemed to challenge his safety with every step that he made. He would walk own, with nothing but his urge to move as his motivation to walk on to the unknown. With every journey the hardest is the first steps. The marsh led out to a thick partition of rainforest and clumps of sand…But gradually just by following the river…it led out to a thick scrubland where the clearings beside the rivers were the simplest path of travel. But there were times where he would find fatigue.

He would rest beside the calm river, admiring himself as he saw the reflection on the river. It seemed to shed some light on whom he was and why he was in the middle of nowhere in the first place. The clear water showing a man who was tired and barren yet with the clear sign of experience and burden that had been passed on his shoulder, eyes whom have seen their own fair share of horrors. He was not a handsome man, but a man who was meant to fight and not for show. His cloak seemed to be like him, as if it had gone through the same pain and suffering as him. A Shroud of Scars made of a vest that was black and drenched with dried out blood. Pants that seemed loose but scaled that seemed to have a metallic tone. His clothing was loose and thick and meant to protect.

He was dressed as a warrior…a man meant to take the beating of war and willing to die for a worthy cause. A warrior who failed at one battle…but continued on to the next...and never stopped… He pondered on what he was, but the fatigue of his journey or what had befallen on him caught up…and as dusk was falling on the horizon he looked at a nearby tree and saw a particular curve of the branches that seemed ripe for slumber.He climbed up, clinging on the soft but though bark and with hits back resting and letting the slumber caused by fatigue rest on him. But then again, as he closed his eyes…the voice spoke…and said “Sweet dreams…”, and with it, was something that he was not to consider sweet.

If at anything…the closest thing in comparison was a nightmare.

“All units retreat!”, he shouted. A voice so clandestine and yet bursting with the mix of anguish and desperation.

“I repeat! Retreat!”, he repeats as he drags a soldier whose arms were cut off as bullets and shells were pinging all around him as a comrade from his side tries to protect him.

They were on a beach, and the wanderer slides on the shallow surf as a wave cracks on it…and he catches a glimpse of a massive superstructure out on a shore and from its deck it launches something that reaches out to the skies…along with others as it leaves behind a plume of smoke produced from a fiery tail. He stands up…and sees a small craft, aligned with several others with men on them like him. Boarding and fighting for their lives as he stands up and begins to drag his wounded comrade to a waiting vessel as his compatriot was still protection him despite himself being wounded.

His hair was bristly and with blood dripping from his hair as he tries to keep his focus on his aim as a bullet slams onto his chest. Drenched in blood was a Shroud of Scars, but torn and with patches of protective sheets tearing off thanks to some form of cut that marks across his entire chest and exposing his flesh as it leaked blood. He keeps his stance, but his body was too damaged to keep his grip on the gun he had. He held it at its grip and kept pulling the trigger while it fired away in some sporadic and random manner with the stranger continually pulling his fallen comrade as from his forehead blood drips onto his palms.

“Alfred, we have to get out of here!”

“What do you think we are doing?!”

But the craft they were seeking shelter disappeared…sent into the air as a bombardment from afar began to pound them into submission. The ship they sought as for relief was one of those lost in the bombardment…a round sending it sky high into the sky…and landing just several feet behind them. It was now cover, as a crashing wave extinguishes the flames of the wreck and with bits and pieces of metal chipping off from the wreck as they use it for cover. The wanderer manages to bring the man he was dragging to cover, where he looks into his eyes and stares at pupils that were lifeless.

He lets go, and with the corpse falling on the ground with no more blood to leak out. His companion forces pressure on his wound, while his arm that has lost control holds the gun he uses to fight while it too was spewing and gashing blood all over.

“Markus, it’s time to go!”

“Over my corpse am I leaving you here! We sent the last of the men! All that’s left are those too wounded to evacuate! And I am no so keen on adding you!”

“Just go! I have spent my use now go!”

The fellow branded as Markus took cover as his gun was of no more use. He looked at his companion, and swore with himself with regret of what was to happen.

“We both agreed in this…”, he says to him “We all agreed to this…I will not oblige myself of  task that has finally given me meaning!” and with it he hands something before leaving. It was some form of mechanism meant to be clasp.

“You’re insane!”, he replies, from which he gets a smirk of sanity from his compatriot…

“Good…”, he takes something hidden underneath his covers, and pulls the pin as he nods to the fellow he brands as Alfred. “Then let me show you how to fear my devotion!”

Dashing out of the protective cover whose surface was being rattled by bullets from where they have come from they know nothing…he charges, while his companion looks on as he heads towards a large figure whose height was that of a mountain shadowing down upon him. It was like a man, a massive figure with spikes on its back that jolted electricity as it looked down on Markus. But he still had the strength to fight…and with the lunging of a grenade it detonates before the beast’s head…shredding off its head and sending its body. His body comes flying into the part where the surf and the beach meet…rolling like a rag and with him sliding on the waters while he laughed in a maniacal tone…

“Damn it Markus!”, a woman shouted as she slides into the cover from which another comes from where another gal forces a barely unconscious Markus to their cover as a heavy thunder of an aircraft passing by deafens them. And it was not alone…as more came and passed, striking the beach with the payloads that they bear until last one came and bore down what it had to strike the enemy. Its pass leaves a thunderous zip from the wake and with the massive beast screaming in pain while the zip passes again and finishes whatever opposition was present.

“Kyla…”, the wanderer says to the woman who dragged in the one named Markus.

Clad with the Shroud of Scars and with a rifle swinging on his back and beginning to tend to his wounds.

“Don’t speak Alfred……I will patch you up, then we can get you back to base.”

“How many did we lose?”

“Around five thousand…but the workers and civilian support have been evacuated thanks to them…all of the primary ships have been launched…Mother wants the secondary sorties to be launched as well.”

“We have no choice…if we let the enemy do as they please then all of this will be for nothing then…Mother being in our side is the edge we need at times like this…”

“Dido, let me go!”, shouted Markus as the other woman tries to keep pressure on the wound he had on the shoulder whilst forcing a bandage around his chest.

“I let you go then death will surely be waiting now hold still…”, she said in a voice that was trying to calm him down, but the wounded knew better tried to wrestle his freedom despite having no strength to do so.

He tilts his head and looks at the person tending him…a fair tempered but calm woman who took her time in patching Alfred’s wounds. Her hands were full of blood, but they were not hers, as she finished patching a wound on his head while she took out some sort of mechanism whose one end was a syringe. With the least of care, she stabs it to his leg…and with a sudden surge coming into his senses as everything felt like it was in a blur…The other woman did the same thing with Markus, but in his case three of them were given and with both the men being hoisted onto the shoulders of their saviors.

“Both of you hold on…we will get you back to base.”

“We wasted so much of our astral just to hold back the Abandoned…”

“Yeah well it was worth it…”

As with them being lifted was the sudden sight of hundreds of thousands of corpses scattered across the battlefield.

Some of them piled onto large molds with heavy thunderclouds forming above in the sky. It was a battlefield, with them the only survivors of a massacre that seemed to have gone unnoticed to them. They were a mix of men who died, those clad in Shroud of Scars, while the others were in black plated armor that covered every part of their body. Separated by a thin line of fallen palm trees and sand stained with the blood of the dead with pillars of smoke and falling ash mixing with rain that was beginning to pour. The beach was oozing with the fluids of the decay, the mud clotting as the mixture forming on their feet went unnoticed as they sought for cover.

“You think we will grow tired of seeing the same thing every day?”, Markus asks while he was being lifted, pointing to Alfred the apparent tenacity of where they came from.

He scoffs off a light laughter, as on their side were men being hauled in a similar fashion as them…but by figures no different from the faces of Kyla and Dido.

“Depends…after all, we just killed those one would consider as…innocent.”

He wakes up, at the crack of dawn, and with his body dripping with sweat with what he had just remembered. Was it a dream, or a memory…And why was he being called Alfred. A shred of identity from so long, and yet what was he doing on that fateful event where he saw his comrade give the ultimate sum to win. He looked at the river, and then to the rising sun…and tried to calm himself down as he jumped down and felt the thud of gravity as he fell. It was real. He gripped the loose gravel from which he landed, and with the soft and dry particles loosening in his grip while the water that still clung onto their surface placed themselves onto the pours of his skin…and it was real…

He then looked at his reflection…and saw a scar on his forehead that could only be seen from an angle, a slashing depression on his forehead that had buried itself without him noticing it before…and he wondered…was ‘it’ real? He sat on the edge of the water and did nothing but look at the scar that he had on his forehead. Astral, platform, Abandoned, Alfred...four words that stuck in his mind as he gazed down at the water…but he knew that looking at the rivers side was nothing more than a sorry excuse to mope and wander in thought.

As with any journey, it always begins with that first step…but then again, no one expects the numerous paths that one has to crisscross in order to get to their destination…or if there is one to begin with in the wanderer’s case. As he ventured deeper into the path of which the river flowed, there was something in the water that made him cease focus…be idle minded for the moment. It must have been the cresting of the water as the wind gains strength on its surface…but there was something else that held his interest. What it was he did not know…as it changed and flowed like some serpent changing directions with each whip of its body for the interest had shifted to the path in front of him…to the trees overhanging…and then to a stalemate as the wanderer had come across a split in the river’s flow.

The river had split in three, and with each curving into a different path…a first in his journey. Each one could lead him to his destination, or to a fate much worse than the one that he had dreams of in his slumber. The river at this partition was shallow, and wit the basin visible thanks to the low tide. The layers of sediment on the rocks were visible, and with the wanderer looking back at the path that he had taken. He did not notice that he was in a different biome. The swamp had given way into something much drier, and sprucing with some form of vividness that one would accustom to the rural areas.

But there was no one there, and the sign of the fishes in the river was something that made his stomach growl. They were large fish, the ones whose breath of length were more than one’s arm…but he was not the only one that had an interest in them. There was someone fishing for them, a woman…armed with a spear and in the knee deep waters where the entrance to one of the tributaries was at its lowest. The wanderer was in a spot where he could easily conceal himself, but choose to stand and observe the woman as she fished.

She was patient, and mechanic in waiting and observing her prey as they passed in the shallows…but the fish were not the prize that she sought to spear as she was waiting for something else to come to range. She was no ordinary woman…for her garment was like that shrouded with scars in some places. She had this feel of herself of some form of caring and understanding nature that seems to compose itself no matter what the dilemma…and she knew that the wanderer was watching her. The curiosity of the man on the banks was not something he could hold on for long…and on the sand banks he walked towards the woman who was spearing for prey. He stopped at the edge of the water, and looked at the huntress as she continued to wait aimlessly for her prey.

“Are you here to hunt me?”, the huntress asked, at to which the wanderer shook his head.

“Just visiting Dido…”, he answered.

The two were once again in the deadlock of silence, and with the wanderer looking at the huntress who still waited for the prey that she sought to wait in patience. But there was nothing but fish in the water…so what else was of interest to her.

“What are you hunting?”, the wanderer asked.

“I do not know…”, she replied…and with her curling her spear at throwing it at a distance into the water…and with it wriggling and submerging into the water never to be seen again. “Passing time, searching for a meaning…there was something in the water I wanted but…lost interest in it…”

And yet it did not, it bopped up and with three fishes pierced in a succession on the other end of the spear still forcing their way to escape the clutches of the spear…She walks to it, disappointed, as the prey she sought did not want to appear…and with the wanderer watching only as she fetches it and places the length of her tool on her shoulders as her catch continues to dangle on the side. The huntress looked the wanderer, as if waiting for answers that she could have when he questioned…but he had none, as he only stared blankly into the huntress as she waded to the shore on which he stood.

“Are you lost?”, the huntress asked.

“No…”, he replied.

“Then do you know where you are going?”.

“No…”

“Then what are you doing?”

There was another pause, and the wanderer replied with “I do not know…what are you doing out here?”

There was again a pause, as the huntress took the fish of her catch and placed it on a pelt bag that she hid among the reeds from where the wanderer stood. She simply placed them then zipped the entrance before slinging it on her back while the huntress looked at the wanderer.

“I do not know…”

“Then that makes two of us then…”, there was a silence as the two looked at each other, in a manner of test to see if the other had the same emptiness as the other.

“Did you wake up on a pool of blood…in the middle of nowhere…and with everything around you killing one another? No memory of who you are…no memory of what happened to you…just that when you closed your eyes…you saw someone sacrificing himself…am I right…Alfred?”

The wanderer grip on his fist tightened, but he nodded.

“Did the voice in your mind lead you here?”, he asked the huntress.

“No…all she said was go down the river…I cannot believe that you were the one I was supposed to come to in my short travel…we make camp on the banks on the crossroads…if we are to meet more…I guess it would be best that we create something to welcome them…”

“That depends…and those on the other side?”

He was referring to another fellow on the banks…one that was rustic and hard pressed with some burden on his chest…but he was a familiar fellow that the wanderer knew as he was the one in his dream…the one he called Markus. He walked into the banks, and with the wanderer and the huntress looking at the stranger…and both deadlock as they waited for the other to move…but they did not. All three’s stomachs growled, as with another that was hiding on the banks and had the thought of concealing herself rather than immediately show who she was.

It was another woman…but with a pelt made of fibrous leaves dangling on her belt like some sake while it was filled with berries and other commodities. She was the one they called Kyla. At the banks of the river, where they all gathered before a fire…none of them dared looked at the other as the only thing that they wished to lay eyes on was the flame of the fire that was burning at the moment. They found a depression, well secluded thanks to overhanging reeds and roots. They were silent, even as they feasted on the fish that the huntress had hunted alongside the berries plucked by the gatherer. Cooked on thick sticks which were pierced from the mouth and it’s exit on the tail. The neither spoke, nor did they want to bring up anything…all that they bore in resemblance was the Shroud of Scars that they all don together…and with their own scars that they refused to hide amongst each other.

“So…Alfred was it?”, Markus asked while pointing at the scar on his forehead. It was buried on the ridgeline of his hair, but it made a distinctive cut that seemed like a unique hairstyle rather than a memento of the past.

“Yes…and you must be Markus…”, he takes a moment to see what the others of his troupe were going to say.

But they too knew the topic that the wanderer wished to partake in.

“I saved your life…”, Dido said to Markus.

“I did not need saving…”

“Right….and the depression on your chest that was leaking blood?”

“It was only a scratch…”

They return to a memory from before, there was a large man…or thing of sorts, having large arms that were nothing but spikes made of bone sewed on its arms and back. It had the body of a man, or more, stapled together as if they were found lying idle on the ground then put together with some gray paste. There was Alfred, trying to drag a soldier to safety when the monstrosity pounced. But Markus was a much more brash fellow, and he had all in heart good intentions when he forced the beast to a rock formation by throwing his body as a propellant. The monster lets out a horrendous scream as it forces itself up and charges at its opponent as Markus forces it to halt by spraying bullets onto it in bursts, in its charge he tries to strike it but he dodges at the last second as the beast tries to halt itself by stabbing the ground.

It charges again as Markus reloads and fires another burst, but as he dodges he is not so fortunate as the beast snatches him and forces him in its charge, pushing him against the rocks where the focal point was at his chest. The beast stops and throws him at a depression, but his hand was still on the trigger which let forth a barrage that was aimed at its chest…and with the beast falling just as he dropped onto the ground barely conscious. They return to them being around the fire…and with all eyes on Markus who was feeling his chest for the wounds he sustained in the memory. He seemed frantic, or more less desperate…as he forced his hand under his clothing…and found nothing that seemed to resemble what was once his wounds.

“Our memories return to us at uncanny times…it bothers me that we remember the same thing…of the same event…of the same misfortune.”, he ranted as he was in a calm…while the others smirked in his little skit of apparent worry.

They befell once again to silence…as they tried to find some form of comfort on their camp or some form of assurance that they had something to bond over besides a bitter memory…Silence was their friend, and it brought them a sense of peace as they found a fragment of their past, and it was to be short-lived…as a voice in their mind spoke to them all with the words “Things will be interesting…”.

All of them looked up, standing in agitation with the sudden speaking of the voice…as with the clearance that all of them heard her utter meek words in their minds. Then came a roar, a heavy scream of an animal hunting for prey and with another screaming back in the same horrendous tone as if in a manner meant to duel. It was not far from where they made camp, it came across the river and they saw…hidden amongst the enclave of reeds and fallen trees was two beasts ready to brawl with one another.

One was the predator, a large and bulky dinosaur whose hind legs reeled its body back in a great display of agility while it tried to block the blow sent by a massive ape that was stuck in the mud. The predator was a massive beast, covered in scales and with spikes on its back that were made of pure bone and covered with some form of green lichen. The ape was a worthy contender, but it was inexperienced…a trait that the predator hunting it showed as even it was weary of its next moves against an opponent backing up his pure strength.

The four of them watched as the two beasts struggled with the cycle of survival…and with an urge in the four of them that seemed the same. The river was now at its deepest, with the shores that they once stood on now flowing with water that was past that of their heads. It was rushing, from some distant source from above in the mountains afar, but it was not  enough to stop them with what they were seeking. But the inkling of wanting to intervene was a matter that they all wanted to engage in…after all, they were not the only ones that wanted in on the brawl.

A fairly large drake was hovering nearby, wanting to steal the spoils of what the predator was throwing all that he had to hunt….while an ominous fowl was resting nearby and keen on the spoils of what was left of the defeated. The fowl was small, but it was bigger than two men while it stood on the branch with its feathers crossed inward while perched. Its feathers bore resemblance to the rummage of leaves around it, while its belly was pale black with white dots similar to that of the sky above it as it waited for the battle to come to a close. The drake was nearly as large as the predator, and with its wings the only thing that multiplied its size and bulk.

But it was gambling on chance rather than joining the hunt to conserve energy rather than waste it on an enemy that was still on the prime in the fight. The water was deep, and there was no way for them to cross…but the wanderer did not want to miss on something that was drawing him in…like some animalistic urge that was waiting to be answered to…the urge of one fighting for its survival. The massive ape tried to pull itself off the mud, while the predator it was fighting managed to land a bite on his arm.

But it was muscular and bulky and only served as a distraction for the predator for he is quick to throw a jab on the side of the predators head and throwing him into the pit of mud. The predator gets stuck, while the drake and the fowl close in to pick up the scraps of the battle…but there were others that wanted to intervene as well. They inched closer, running rather than walking, looking for a near crossing over the river…but there was none.

“Jump across…”, the voice in their minds said. They all looked at one another, and with them looking at one another and looking for sense with what the voice was asking of them.

But the eagerness to join in the fight was one thing that they were witnessing.

The one named Markus smirked as he ran deeper into the forest, until he was nearly visible amid the darkness of the forest. He was preparing for a running start, a feeble attempt to cross the river.

“Are you insane?”, Kyla asked him, and with the others sharing the same sentiment.

“Depends…stupidity that works does not count as stupidity!”

He begins a dash, with speeds that makes him become a blur in their visions, and with the convenience of a large rock that was on the edge of the river he catapults himself across the river…and lands safely on the edge…The river was more than thirty meters across at the time, and yet he lands with excess and with the others eager to follow in his success.

One by one they catapult themselves while the beasts nearby continue to trash and slowly sink themselves in the mud. The drake begins its move and tries to sweep down and snatch the ape…but he anticipated this and grabs the drake by its neck and tail…and throws the flying giant into the mud...and the three of them were forcing themselves out of the mud whilst trying to reach the other or safety.

The large fowl on the other side began to glide towards them, and with it resting on the spikes of the massive predator that tried to duel with the ape. It looked at him, and with it losing interest as it prepared to glide away…until a slick of mud slams into its wings and throwing it into the slick of mud…entrapping all of them as the four from the other side arrive and look at the result of the battle. It came from the predator that sent it by its tail, and it grinded a heavy slur of content mumbles as it would not let any of the newcomers to steal his prey…despite the gravity of their new dilemma.

But it was not over, as another band of interlopers wanted to join in… It was a band of rats, the size of the four that barged in…and they came in the hundreds…They were chopping and eating everything that was on their path…like some plague that came in they ate everything they would consider edible…and the beasts and the four that arrived beside the four trapped behemoths were no exception.

“They seem hungry…”, Alfred said as they stood in one line and saw the hundreds of rats begin to push towards them in a blind furry to devour them, and with more pairs of tenacious and glowing red eyes piercing through the timid and cynical darkness of the forest’s undergrowth. The distant cries of those too late to escape were all but clear distant mourns of those who could not be helped. The rats looked at them with hunger, but the four looked at them with satisfaction…and with a growing pain on their fists aching to bore an action that they themselves had long been detesting to fall to…but do so over and over.

“And so are you…”, the voice said…and with a rat jumping onto Kyla and pinning her to the ground. The others watched as the rat tries to chop her head off…but with him being torn in half with little ease as she pulls his head and tail away from each other and with its blood dripping all over her…and with her face that one whose interest was roused. The others had the same form of carnal desire, and as Kyla did not wait for the next rat to make its move she charged onto the swarm with a building grin on her face.

The others came doing the same, but with them dying just as fast as they were torn apart with the bare hands of the four…the beasts looked on as the swarm of rats that were supposed to devour them began to pile…corpse after corpse. Alfred snatched from the air one that tried to leap, grabbing it by his tail and slamming him to another before the force of their collision with a nearby tree kills them both and pins down another. The Dido pulled her spear, and forced it down the throat of one that tried to charge.

It did not do any much damage as it was a mere spear crafted broke at the latest opponent she sends to her grave. It kills the beast but she did not stop as she charged on and forced another down the tip of the spear as with another and another. Kyla was careless and was swallowed whole by one that seemed larger and more ferocious than the others…but its stomach severs and spills out its organs as she comes out armed with one of the bones of the beast and prepares to use it as some form of club.

She had a smile on her face while she waited for two more to come at her…and casually smash their skulls with the bone before it broke in three parts. Another rat came her way, but she grabs one of the severed bone parts and stabs it into the skull of the coming rat and lets its lifeless corpse drop to the ground as another is killed in a similar manner.

Dido relieved herself of her spear that was now cut in half, and with her taking the separated tip and forcing it down the neck of another rat. She pulls it out and slices through the eye of another rat as another jumps into her…and with her kicking it to the mud with the force of the blow separating the head from the body as it landed on the predator.

It was a free for all, and the four of them were gutting the rats like they were insects with nothing but their bare hands. This continued on and on as the beasts watched haplessly at the chaos ensuing before them. The dead piled onto one another, their screams of death was only beaten by the methods of how they were being butchered. Flesh being torn from their very bodies, bones and body parts thrown or bashed onto them as melee weapons that

And with their senselessness something aroused from them, as if it came like common nature to them…and they did not notice. Alfred was being pinned by a rat, but something formed in his grip…it was a flame…taking shape as he kicked the beast off from his body and into a nearby tree. It snapped at the point of impact and began to tilt down…but it began to face towards him as rats climbed it and pounced from the branches and onto him by the dozens…

He did not notice that the flame on his right hand had taken shape…and with a heavy swing the rats were gutted and halved in a heavy blow that sliced even the heavy timbers with little ease. It was a large sword…old and made of dull luster metal which had the engraving of a lotus flower carved on a shield. Alfred did not notice the sword…but it felt like some natural ebb as he swung his heavy blade towards the horde amassing before him.

A rat charged at him, but he swung the sword from over his head and with the blade landing in a curve and cutting it in half. The sword went into the ground from the sheer force, but Alfred was able to pull it out and swing it with ease like a glade on two more rats that tried to pounce on him. Markus was fending off rats that were forcing his arms down their throats…but like gloves he used them to bash the others that were coming at him.

One by one, he hits the rats on their heads as the endurance of the bodies of the rats was not that admirable…and their flesh crumbled and slid off, revealing a pair of axes with a similar insignia on their blades as with Alfred’s sword. Dido was charging into the horde, both hands on a spear whose tip was as large as a palm. She forced the blade deep into one of the rats but kept pushing the blade on more of them until they simply tore off the spear from the force of impact each rat pressed as it was stacked on the spear.

Upon reaching a certain point, she throws the stacked cluster on a horde that tried to clump together…and with the blood from the spear dripping onto her as she craved for more. Kyla was the only odd one as her weapons were like crested blades that had been mounted on some form of stock…and there was two of them which she held in dual like Markus. But the center of the crests was a barb cluster, and as she cleaves a rat she takes aim at one that tried to pounce on her…and she sends a bolt into its skull and lands on the ground just inches from her. She continued this, cleaving into chunks those that got too close…and she enjoyed how the blood spilled all over the place. She was not alone it aiding the carnage…

It was morning, and with the river colored red with the blood of the rats as they piled in their hundreds dead before the beasts…They were still trapped in the mud, but they were being hauled out by the four who had little ease plucking them from the waters as their mettle of strength seemed unwearied despite the slaughter they had been part of.

Half their bodies were covered in mud, and it was not enough to conceal the massive claws, teeth and grip that some of them were capable off…but matched against those who had the strength to tear anything apart…and the lust for chaos and destruction…and not to mention the strength to pull them out of the mud despite their weight. Using reeds sewn together reeds to pull them out, the seemingly weakest of the four was able to drag all four of the giants out of the mud, and into the safety of dry soft sand that seemed to blanket the entire riverbed as with its shores.

They stood before the four, the blood still fresh on their skins…and they did not mind its stench. The bodies of the rats were scattered and ill placed, but they created stacks that tried to reach the tops of the canopy that oozed death and decay as flies hovered over them. No beast wanted to fetch a moment with the spoils, as anything that came close would mean that death was all but certain death in the hands of the four. The trapped behemoths looked at the corpses that piled, and then to those that they wanted to hunt…and that seemed like a better meal as it offered much less effort as those who hunted them have taken their fill before they left them and continued their journey.

There was something that they saw in the eyes of the four men and women that saved them…a carnage of wildness that did not want to be quelled. A chaos that wished to be unleashed…and that the mere sight of it sent a fear that was not to be trifled with. The predator that sparred with the ape began to follow the four…while the ape looked at the drake who also did the same…as did the fowl who was already just above them… The ape smirked…and followed as well for he had seen what carnage the four was capable off…and began to wonder if he had been given a choice rather than a forked decision. The four were now walking as a group, not wanting to wash the blood of the rats while it began to stink on their skins…nor did they find it bothersome.

It was like the blood that they all awoke on…but like before they did not seem to mind. Those following them though were not that much used to the stench of blood beginning to lick the paws of death and from the river a quick wave of cold water suddenly erupts and cascades onto them giving them a quick taste of refreshment and cleansing.

It was the predator, half submerged on the water…with the ape, drake and scavenging fowl following behind them… The four of them looked at the predator, as it rose from the river and walked towards Markus…staring into his eyes as there was a moment of hesitation on both of them…and with the predator bowing to him.

“Fair enough…”, the voice in his mind said, as the wanderer placed his hand on the middle of the eyes of the beast…and smiled. “Tame them…”, the voice added, and with the others being approached by the other beasts and bowing at them in a similar fashion. 

They were weary…and they were hesitant…but they did the same. Their domestication was not for fear, but for improvement. They sensed something that only carnal beasts share with one another and that was the desire to become more efficient, more precise, and more effective. The four were much better at this respective, and the only ones unaware of such carnal destruction was the four themselves.

“I see no harm in letting the beast repay their gratitude with us with domestication…”, Dido said as she inspected the scavenging fowl that wanted her to tame it.

“Maybe…”, Markus said, with him reeling back his arms and pressing them on the sides of his waist. ”But why do I get the drake?”

“Does it bother you that the most ferocious wants you as its master?”, Kyla queried as she was the first to jump on the nape of the ape…and with the beast not objecting as it reared up and waited for its master to become comfortable.

“No…but I sense that this beast will be a work in progress…”

The beast snarls and sends a blast of its breath into his face…the stench of decay was all but strong in its wake…and with the stranger coughing while keeping a straight face as the others laugh at the seeming skit of the two. They rode on their new mounts…and with them leaving in a faster pace than before while the day was still fresh.

The next day, the mounts were traversing the river…the shallow tide made the crossing easy despite the river’s edge being barely visible while the depth was no deeper than the rider’s waist. The drake decided not to fly, and walked to conserve some of its strength…the scavenging fowl was resting on its back alongside Dido and Kyla who were watching the horizon for anything of interest while the predator led the way. Markus was just above the drake’s head…and he was scanning the weapon he had formed…it seemed like a weapon that he had mastery off…clasping it like it was something he wielded before.

He looked like it as if it was a token from his past, and in a sense it self like something that reminded him of something that would be of importance. A weapon that had formed in his hands without him knowing, and yet had markings no different from the ones that he wore. He looked onto Alfred, who was leading them…he was in the same dilemma…but he was frank to not show his curiosity to the others for his weapon was kept on the back hanging on a makeshift sling and roaster made of reed and sewn hemp from that they used to haul out their domesticated behemoths.

Even with the mounts that were walking with them…there was no clear goal to their travel…they were heading down the river…but why though was another question. The river’s other side was beyond their sight, but something trapped on the tide was. It was a small dingy, trapped on a sandbar, and with two young men on the side pulling it back to the water where the depth could still allow travel. The boat was half the size of the predator…it had a mast for sails but they were torn, as if bitten and shredded from age and the elements as with its turbine that hanged on the side still able for use.

The wood on the sides were stapled and sewn together with some form of cement and with a small crane dangling its hook on the side while it served as a post to hold a stack of cages steady. On the deck was an old geezer, whose left eye was left disabled thanks to a scratch that ran across his entire face. He was obese, and wrapped in rags while he kept himself entertained by blowing some long and thin pipe that blew rings out the other end with each puff.  The young hands did not notice the massive ape placing its fist on the side while the old captain who was watching his boat be dragged to the waters.

The two young hands slipped into the water, and with the fowl gliding over them and snatching them as she makes a pass…and comes back and hovers using its wings and gently places them on the deck as Alfred nods at the captain who nods back.

“Are you lost? Young’un?”, the old captain asked with a rusty tone.

“Maybe…”, Dido replied. “What makes you say that?”

“Traveling folks don’t take the river…they take the mountains…best way to travel if you don’t want da die…you don’t do mountains do you?”

There was a silence, and they nodded.

“We are looking for civilization sir…”, Markus said as he looked at the captain while he took in another puff, while the young hands looked at the predator who was staring at them like food paralyzed in fear while the captain simply smoked his pipe.

“Civilization huh? And the Marvalander?”, he points to the predator…from which both it and Alfred look at one another and then to the captain.

“My mount…is there a problem with him?”, the owner asks.

“Nah…Marvalanders better than dogs at pets…”, he then points to the drake, and chuckles “…same with Goliath False Drakes…but are kind of like your wife if you take care of them too much…Basalt Kongs are husbands, like women as masters…”, he comments as he looks at the ape who scratches its forehead at confusion of what seemed like a compliment “While Marauder Kites are the shy ones…got the whole bunch in yer pockets I see…”

“I thank you for complementing on our companions sir…”

“Don’t take my work for it young’un…at least they be more loyal than my wife…damn tramp took me for everything then ran off with some hot shot Admiral…”

He notices the insignia on the weapons that were on their backs…and pointed at the one most visible to him…the one carved in the crest of Kyla.

”Law of Loyas folk like you getting lost in the middle of nowhere seems right. This ain’t your bogs after all. Head on the tributary connection downstream and take the lick where the sun sets and y’all can get to Byros before dusk on the third day on the second week on yer mounts …”

He points down the river, and with the four of them looking at the pale horizon where nothing could be seen.

“Might want to harvest some pelts of things…Byros tradin town, they don’t want Magnas credits but a few folk who trade with the big shots like tradin when a lot of stuff is on the bid.”

They wanted to ask the old man something, and he could sense it…but they did not want to say what it was…

“Yer don’t know who you are…seen my fair share of broken people…you look like the type…Loyas buddy of mine showed me a picture a few years back showing some junk head wearing fancy clothing like that for some fancy bunk…said them were ceremonial.”

The four of them did not turn and looked at the horizon…and with the old man simply waiting for the four to say something.

“Yer four don’t talk much do ya…”

They nodded…

“Yer strange folk you Law of Loyas…can’t blame ya after Massuvia tried a takeover…lost a lot of good friends…”, he takes something from his jacket, and throws it to the huntress who grabs it without looking the captains way. “It ain’t got much after those stupid rats ate my fields…don’t run into them, they like eating anything…and I mean damn anything…”

“Rats?”, Markus inquired.

“Yeah, migrating from the south back to their homelands…don’t usually pose no harm but since the war took the only thing that’s keepin them check fucking pests spread like wildfire couz they be fucking like crazy. Wish I could kill them for them pelts…damn be a fortune if I ever get to kill a dozen and one…damn things eat anything, must have killed a village or town couz the water round here slate couz of the blood. Hope that’s not the case…”

“A day’s walk upstream and before a connecting tributary you will find hundreds of them gutted and slaughtered.”, said Dido. “Consider it as payment for the information…”

The mounts moved forward, and with the captain watching them slowly get dimmer to the sight of his eyes on the horizon. He puffed from his pipe after they were no longer visible, at which he said “Strange folk…”

“Boss, are we to follow what they said?”, asked one of the hands.

“No harm in tryin, damn river’s dead for the year since those stupid rats passed early…wished the High Mother send them critters back where they came from…besides, they don’t look like the lying folk…wonder if those folks know what they’re wearin be holy shit…we go up the river, check that tributary…if nothing comes up well guess you two gonna follow the kahots of the others working for the war. Damn thing the only shit that jacks out money these days.”

The crew of the small dingy found the corpses of the rats of which bore the captain’s ire…but what the old man did not know was what he gave to the four travelling…and the rest they were about to meet…was a memory that even the voice that spoke in their minds found amusing.

When we think about it, we would like to start anew. Have a reset of things that are around us, try to start fresh with a little more comfort that we hoped for in what we have now. Take a moment to have inventory of our own mistakes as well as assessment of steps so that we would avoid them in the future. But then again, starting anew would mean that the demons we wish to forget about would come back to haunt us yet again…And maybe, those demons would haunt us yet again…thus shaping a realization that it would be a useless effort all in itself. But if it was a matter that they were willing to sacrifice and go through so much just to achieve…then was it clearly worth fighting for?

The grass and ground seemed softer and seemingly comfortable despite the pitch blackness everywhere under the canopy of the forest. There was barely any light and an eerie cold wrapped and enveloped around everything like the kiss of the mother of the frost as the sun was about to rise to drive her off. From this an interesting figure awakened, with the cold the first warmth to greet him as his vision and eyes began to twitch into synch with the pain in his mind. He reached out, stretching his body but quickly reeling back from the pain he suffered from some unknown task that may have caused his downfall.

Like lightning it struck him, but weep he did not as he held the pain of both his unseen scars and added fatigue in the dead silence and wept with no one to witness it. Pain jolting down his entire body, in every vein and on every surface of his body…but in a sense he had comfort in knowing that the pain he had was real. He did not ask what kind of pain it was…it was that of electricity of the rush beckoned by one that had numerous barbs meant for death penetrating every nerve in his body. 

Nor did he ask himself as the sun began to rise why there were stains of blood still fresh in his clothing. He checked his body, with every swing and every press he made to his body in search of the scars that were hidden from him from both the darkness and the pain. But as he felt his clothes, still damp from the blood as the sun began to give him warmth while he searched for them…he found none.

His skin he filed and brushed with the palms of both hands…he started at his neck…the felt the clothing he was wearing. It was rough and leathery but smooth and pale, he scanned with his palms for an image of his clothing…the cold had reached even into his cloths, and the numbness of his pain had little or no picture for him to pain of what he had attained nor what he was wearing. He skimmed his palm through his arms, he had no sleeves, but his vest was thick of sorts. He had some form of pants on him…and boots with the same coarseness and texture…but there was something that surprised him even more than the sculpting of the clothing he had.

He had no wounds, nor gashes, nor any heavy blunts and yet his body managed to bleed with so much blood wrapped around him. But he felt a liquid around his body, it was not water…and it had a familiar scent. Pungent and sticky but had a coarseness that seemed course and slippery with bits that begun to clump on some parts. It was blood…and he was swimming in a pool of it.  And yet he had no scars on his body to have caused such bathing of blood that he had been ominously drenched in beforehand.

Neither were there any signs of corpses or bodies that would have been the source...  His memory and his coming to this forest remained a mystery to himself as his mind was blank.  But he did not panic, and there was an unsettling calm in his mind as he looked around him to admire the biome that he had awoken to. The trees where beyond those that he seemed accustomed to. Rising several hundred meters above a land mixture of marsh and woodland, the animals were alone beyond his size nor comfort in being next to as everywhere he looked he would come to see a sight of a massive creature that was greater in him in size.

On the side of his eye’s view was a massive herd of cattle which grazed on the massive lines of weed that grew wildly on the shallow yet wide ponds on the forest floor…and from behind the bushes was a large and sizable feline prowling them for breakfast. Several hundred pounds by a blind eyes estimate and sporting massive incisors and curved teeth, and with brown and striped fur concealing it as it slowly crept in the mud with the silence. It was no different than death by one’s side and waiting for the right time to reap your soul.

But he wasn’t the type to flee when the predator was just meters away from him. Rather, he watched it as it made its slow paced creeping towards the herd. He watched as the creature decided to murk by the side of the pond where the massive cattle grazed…the darkness hiding it as it lurked in hind sight of the cattle. But as the feline was about striking distance from the herd, a massive crocodilian creature leapt out of the water beside where the cattle were grazing.

Its head breaching and flowing out of its open mouth full of rows of serrated teeth with the muddy water that had come along as it burst forth. The river monster, with a snout more than three meters long, had little hardship in snatching an animal the several hundred times bigger than itself and dragging it to the water where its blood shrouded the murk with a red hue as the prey’s last gasps of air escaped from the water...It didn’t bother him that the panther caught wind of his presence. But the creature, rather than release its frustration with the watcher, was plucked in a state of paralysis as the observer looked at the feline with no remorse.

As if no fear was in his heart…and no other emotion in his eyes as he stared blankly into the creature with the emotion that was in his heart…and that was to kill it without regret if it were to make a move on him. And that was enough to break the creature’s intent to go after him. It roared loudly before finally succumbing to its fear and fled and disappeared into the bushes as the observer continued to watch on the darkness of the forest slowly fade and escape as the sun began to rise overhead and break through the thin layer of canopy.

“Risk everything…to gain anything…”, chanted a voice.

The awakened man’s eyes widened and with a sudden gasp of surprise came to him as he suddenly searched for its source. He turned his eye to a beam of sunlight shinning on an enclave in the forest whose clearing looked like a path. He rose, mindless now of the cause of the scars and began to trek on the path that had been given to him by an unseen force.

“Risk everything…to gain anything…”, chanted it again.

But the voice did not chant it a third time as the searcher stopped as the path he had been following had led him to a tributary whose path lead to a river that leeched out of the forest. It was not a large river, frankly it was connected from the partition of river from which the heavy predator from before rose from. He could even see the little swirls of water that were created by the massive underwater hunters as they passed undetected among the reeds and muddy waters. Anyone in his right mind would not bear the idea of walking alone it, let alone be near it…but something made him think otherwise of the proposition he had planned.

“Risk everything…to gain anything…”, the voice chanted again…and with a closer realization as he finds that the chanting voice came from none other than his own mind. 

“Follow the river…”, the voice chanted again before it died down yet again and with it now bearing the frustration of the searcher.

He tried to speak, utter words of irritation to the voice or to himself but none could come out of his mouth. He sighs as he looks at the tributary. It seemed as there was no point at staying at the marsh, the only thing in his mind was his empty memory, and the desire to fill the void of nothingness in his past. His mind was still in a faze, still adjusting to the awakened searcher…The cause of his curiosity was the blood that had coated him in his awakening, his identity, and his memory and why it had vanished. Why he blindly followed the voice was its own mystery altogether…but this one had a logical reason…a reason that anyone would get. There could have be signs of civilization, maybe a form of settlement for him to receive aid of sorts. Or maybe run into a group of fishers or hunters that could help him. Or maybe run into some bridge that he could follow on his way down the river.

How he knew that was the most logical means to survive was in its own right a curiosity that boggled that who bore its creation. But he walked on…Led by some urge to find civilization as starvation was far from setting in while he walked down the river. He didn’t mind his mode of travel that was by foot. Nor that he was in some perilous environment that seemed to challenge his safety with every step that he made. He would walk own, with nothing but his urge to move as his motivation to walk on to the unknown. With every journey the hardest is the first steps. The marsh led out to a thick partition of rainforest and clumps of sand…But gradually just by following the river…it led out to a thick scrubland where the clearings beside the rivers were the simplest path of travel. But there were times where he would find fatigue.

He would rest beside the calm river, admiring himself as he saw the reflection on the river. It seemed to shed some light on whom he was and why he was in the middle of nowhere in the first place. The clear water showing a man who was tired and barren yet with the clear sign of experience and burden that had been passed on his shoulder, eyes whom have seen their own fair share of horrors. He was not a handsome man, but a man who was meant to fight and not for show. His cloak seemed to be like him, as if it had gone through the same pain and suffering as him. A Shroud of Scars made of a vest that was black and drenched with dried out blood. Pants that seemed loose but scaled that seemed to have a metallic tone. His clothing was loose and thick and meant to protect.

He was dressed as a warrior…a man meant to take the beating of war and willing to die for a worthy cause. A warrior who failed at one battle…but continued on to the next...and never stopped… He pondered on what he was, but the fatigue of his journey or what had befallen on him caught up…and as dusk was falling on the horizon he looked at a nearby tree and saw a particular curve of the branches that seemed ripe for slumber.He climbed up, clinging on the soft but though bark and with hits back resting and letting the slumber caused by fatigue rest on him. But then again, as he closed his eyes…the voice spoke…and said “Sweet dreams…”, and with it, was something that he was not to consider sweet.

If at anything…the closest thing in comparison was a nightmare.

“All units retreat!”, he shouted. A voice so clandestine and yet bursting with the mix of anguish and desperation.

“I repeat! Retreat!”, he repeats as he drags a soldier whose arms were cut off as bullets and shells were pinging all around him as a comrade from his side tries to protect him.

They were on a beach, and the wanderer slides on the shallow surf as a wave cracks on it…and he catches a glimpse of a massive superstructure out on a shore and from its deck it launches something that reaches out to the skies…along with others as it leaves behind a plume of smoke produced from a fiery tail. He stands up…and sees a small craft, aligned with several others with men on them like him. Boarding and fighting for their lives as he stands up and begins to drag his wounded comrade to a waiting vessel as his compatriot was still protection him despite himself being wounded.

His hair was bristly and with blood dripping from his hair as he tries to keep his focus on his aim as a bullet slams onto his chest. Drenched in blood was a Shroud of Scars, but torn and with patches of protective sheets tearing off thanks to some form of cut that marks across his entire chest and exposing his flesh as it leaked blood. He keeps his stance, but his body was too damaged to keep his grip on the gun he had. He held it at its grip and kept pulling the trigger while it fired away in some sporadic and random manner with the stranger continually pulling his fallen comrade as from his forehead blood drips onto his palms.

“Alfred, we have to get out of here!”

“What do you think we are doing?!”

But the craft they were seeking shelter disappeared…sent into the air as a bombardment from afar began to pound them into submission. The ship they sought as for relief was one of those lost in the bombardment…a round sending it sky high into the sky…and landing just several feet behind them. It was now cover, as a crashing wave extinguishes the flames of the wreck and with bits and pieces of metal chipping off from the wreck as they use it for cover. The wanderer manages to bring the man he was dragging to cover, where he looks into his eyes and stares at pupils that were lifeless.

He lets go, and with the corpse falling on the ground with no more blood to leak out. His companion forces pressure on his wound, while his arm that has lost control holds the gun he uses to fight while it too was spewing and gashing blood all over.

“Markus, it’s time to go!”

“Over my corpse am I leaving you here! We sent the last of the men! All that’s left are those too wounded to evacuate! And I am no so keen on adding you!”

“Just go! I have spent my use now go!”

The fellow branded as Markus took cover as his gun was of no more use. He looked at his companion, and swore with himself with regret of what was to happen.

“We both agreed in this…”, he says to him “We all agreed to this…I will not oblige myself of  task that has finally given me meaning!” and with it he hands something before leaving. It was some form of mechanism meant to be clasp.

“You’re insane!”, he replies, from which he gets a smirk of sanity from his compatriot…

“Good…”, he takes something hidden underneath his covers, and pulls the pin as he nods to the fellow he brands as Alfred. “Then let me show you how to fear my devotion!”

Dashing out of the protective cover whose surface was being rattled by bullets from where they have come from they know nothing…he charges, while his companion looks on as he heads towards a large figure whose height was that of a mountain shadowing down upon him. It was like a man, a massive figure with spikes on its back that jolted electricity as it looked down on Markus. But he still had the strength to fight…and with the lunging of a grenade it detonates before the beast’s head…shredding off its head and sending its body. His body comes flying into the part where the surf and the beach meet…rolling like a rag and with him sliding on the waters while he laughed in a maniacal tone…

“Damn it Markus!”, a woman shouted as she slides into the cover from which another comes from where another gal forces a barely unconscious Markus to their cover as a heavy thunder of an aircraft passing by deafens them. And it was not alone…as more came and passed, striking the beach with the payloads that they bear until last one came and bore down what it had to strike the enemy. Its pass leaves a thunderous zip from the wake and with the massive beast screaming in pain while the zip passes again and finishes whatever opposition was present.

“Kyla…”, the wanderer says to the woman who dragged in the one named Markus.

Clad with the Shroud of Scars and with a rifle swinging on his back and beginning to tend to his wounds.

“Don’t speak Alfred……I will patch you up, then we can get you back to base.”

“How many did we lose?”

“Around five thousand…but the workers and civilian support have been evacuated thanks to them…all of the primary ships have been launched…Mother wants the secondary sorties to be launched as well.”

“We have no choice…if we let the enemy do as they please then all of this will be for nothing then…Mother being in our side is the edge we need at times like this…”

“Dido, let me go!”, shouted Markus as the other woman tries to keep pressure on the wound he had on the shoulder whilst forcing a bandage around his chest.

“I let you go then death will surely be waiting now hold still…”, she said in a voice that was trying to calm him down, but the wounded knew better tried to wrestle his freedom despite having no strength to do so.

He tilts his head and looks at the person tending him…a fair tempered but calm woman who took her time in patching Alfred’s wounds. Her hands were full of blood, but they were not hers, as she finished patching a wound on his head while she took out some sort of mechanism whose one end was a syringe. With the least of care, she stabs it to his leg…and with a sudden surge coming into his senses as everything felt like it was in a blur…The other woman did the same thing with Markus, but in his case three of them were given and with both the men being hoisted onto the shoulders of their saviors.

“Both of you hold on…we will get you back to base.”

“We wasted so much of our astral just to hold back the Abandoned…”

“Yeah well it was worth it…”

As with them being lifted was the sudden sight of hundreds of thousands of corpses scattered across the battlefield.

Some of them piled onto large molds with heavy thunderclouds forming above in the sky. It was a battlefield, with them the only survivors of a massacre that seemed to have gone unnoticed to them. They were a mix of men who died, those clad in Shroud of Scars, while the others were in black plated armor that covered every part of their body. Separated by a thin line of fallen palm trees and sand stained with the blood of the dead with pillars of smoke and falling ash mixing with rain that was beginning to pour. The beach was oozing with the fluids of the decay, the mud clotting as the mixture forming on their feet went unnoticed as they sought for cover.

“You think we will grow tired of seeing the same thing every day?”, Markus asks while he was being lifted, pointing to Alfred the apparent tenacity of where they came from.

He scoffs off a light laughter, as on their side were men being hauled in a similar fashion as them…but by figures no different from the faces of Kyla and Dido.

“Depends…after all, we just killed those one would consider as…innocent.”

He wakes up, at the crack of dawn, and with his body dripping with sweat with what he had just remembered. Was it a dream, or a memory…And why was he being called Alfred. A shred of identity from so long, and yet what was he doing on that fateful event where he saw his comrade give the ultimate sum to win. He looked at the river, and then to the rising sun…and tried to calm himself down as he jumped down and felt the thud of gravity as he fell. It was real. He gripped the loose gravel from which he landed, and with the soft and dry particles loosening in his grip while the water that still clung onto their surface placed themselves onto the pours of his skin…and it was real…

He then looked at his reflection…and saw a scar on his forehead that could only be seen from an angle, a slashing depression on his forehead that had buried itself without him noticing it before…and he wondered…was ‘it’ real? He sat on the edge of the water and did nothing but look at the scar that he had on his forehead. Astral, platform, Abandoned, Alfred...four words that stuck in his mind as he gazed down at the water…but he knew that looking at the rivers side was nothing more than a sorry excuse to mope and wander in thought.

As with any journey, it always begins with that first step…but then again, no one expects the numerous paths that one has to crisscross in order to get to their destination…or if there is one to begin with in the wanderer’s case. As he ventured deeper into the path of which the river flowed, there was something in the water that made him cease focus…be idle minded for the moment. It must have been the cresting of the water as the wind gains strength on its surface…but there was something else that held his interest. What it was he did not know…as it changed and flowed like some serpent changing directions with each whip of its body for the interest had shifted to the path in front of him…to the trees overhanging…and then to a stalemate as the wanderer had come across a split in the river’s flow.

The river had split in three, and with each curving into a different path…a first in his journey. Each one could lead him to his destination, or to a fate much worse than the one that he had dreams of in his slumber. The river at this partition was shallow, and wit the basin visible thanks to the low tide. The layers of sediment on the rocks were visible, and with the wanderer looking back at the path that he had taken. He did not notice that he was in a different biome. The swamp had given way into something much drier, and sprucing with some form of vividness that one would accustom to the rural areas.

But there was no one there, and the sign of the fishes in the river was something that made his stomach growl. They were large fish, the ones whose breath of length were more than one’s arm…but he was not the only one that had an interest in them. There was someone fishing for them, a woman…armed with a spear and in the knee deep waters where the entrance to one of the tributaries was at its lowest. The wanderer was in a spot where he could easily conceal himself, but choose to stand and observe the woman as she fished.

She was patient, and mechanic in waiting and observing her prey as they passed in the shallows…but the fish were not the prize that she sought to spear as she was waiting for something else to come to range. She was no ordinary woman…for her garment was like that shrouded with scars in some places. She had this feel of herself of some form of caring and understanding nature that seems to compose itself no matter what the dilemma…and she knew that the wanderer was watching her. The curiosity of the man on the banks was not something he could hold on for long…and on the sand banks he walked towards the woman who was spearing for prey. He stopped at the edge of the water, and looked at the huntress as she continued to wait aimlessly for her prey.

“Are you here to hunt me?”, the huntress asked, at to which the wanderer shook his head.

“Just visiting Dido…”, he answered.

The two were once again in the deadlock of silence, and with the wanderer looking at the huntress who still waited for the prey that she sought to wait in patience. But there was nothing but fish in the water…so what else was of interest to her.

“What are you hunting?”, the wanderer asked.

“I do not know…”, she replied…and with her curling her spear at throwing it at a distance into the water…and with it wriggling and submerging into the water never to be seen again. “Passing time, searching for a meaning…there was something in the water I wanted but…lost interest in it…”

And yet it did not, it bopped up and with three fishes pierced in a succession on the other end of the spear still forcing their way to escape the clutches of the spear…She walks to it, disappointed, as the prey she sought did not want to appear…and with the wanderer watching only as she fetches it and places the length of her tool on her shoulders as her catch continues to dangle on the side. The huntress looked the wanderer, as if waiting for answers that she could have when he questioned…but he had none, as he only stared blankly into the huntress as she waded to the shore on which he stood.

“Are you lost?”, the huntress asked.

“No…”, he replied.

“Then do you know where you are going?”.

“No…”

“Then what are you doing?”

There was another pause, and the wanderer replied with “I do not know…what are you doing out here?”

There was again a pause, as the huntress took the fish of her catch and placed it on a pelt bag that she hid among the reeds from where the wanderer stood. She simply placed them then zipped the entrance before slinging it on her back while the huntress looked at the wanderer.

“I do not know…”

“Then that makes two of us then…”, there was a silence as the two looked at each other, in a manner of test to see if the other had the same emptiness as the other.

“Did you wake up on a pool of blood…in the middle of nowhere…and with everything around you killing one another? No memory of who you are…no memory of what happened to you…just that when you closed your eyes…you saw someone sacrificing himself…am I right…Alfred?”

The wanderer grip on his fist tightened, but he nodded.

“Did the voice in your mind lead you here?”, he asked the huntress.

“No…all she said was go down the river…I cannot believe that you were the one I was supposed to come to in my short travel…we make camp on the banks on the crossroads…if we are to meet more…I guess it would be best that we create something to welcome them…”

“That depends…and those on the other side?”

He was referring to another fellow on the banks…one that was rustic and hard pressed with some burden on his chest…but he was a familiar fellow that the wanderer knew as he was the one in his dream…the one he called Markus. He walked into the banks, and with the wanderer and the huntress looking at the stranger…and both deadlock as they waited for the other to move…but they did not. All three’s stomachs growled, as with another that was hiding on the banks and had the thought of concealing herself rather than immediately show who she was.

It was another woman…but with a pelt made of fibrous leaves dangling on her belt like some sake while it was filled with berries and other commodities. She was the one they called Kyla. At the banks of the river, where they all gathered before a fire…none of them dared looked at the other as the only thing that they wished to lay eyes on was the flame of the fire that was burning at the moment. They found a depression, well secluded thanks to overhanging reeds and roots. They were silent, even as they feasted on the fish that the huntress had hunted alongside the berries plucked by the gatherer. Cooked on thick sticks which were pierced from the mouth and it’s exit on the tail. The neither spoke, nor did they want to bring up anything…all that they bore in resemblance was the Shroud of Scars that they all don together…and with their own scars that they refused to hide amongst each other.

“So…Alfred was it?”, Markus asked while pointing at the scar on his forehead. It was buried on the ridgeline of his hair, but it made a distinctive cut that seemed like a unique hairstyle rather than a memento of the past.

“Yes…and you must be Markus…”, he takes a moment to see what the others of his troupe were going to say.

But they too knew the topic that the wanderer wished to partake in.

“I saved your life…”, Dido said to Markus.

“I did not need saving…”

“Right….and the depression on your chest that was leaking blood?”

“It was only a scratch…”

They return to a memory from before, there was a large man…or thing of sorts, having large arms that were nothing but spikes made of bone sewed on its arms and back. It had the body of a man, or more, stapled together as if they were found lying idle on the ground then put together with some gray paste. There was Alfred, trying to drag a soldier to safety when the monstrosity pounced. But Markus was a much more brash fellow, and he had all in heart good intentions when he forced the beast to a rock formation by throwing his body as a propellant. The monster lets out a horrendous scream as it forces itself up and charges at its opponent as Markus forces it to halt by spraying bullets onto it in bursts, in its charge he tries to strike it but he dodges at the last second as the beast tries to halt itself by stabbing the ground.

It charges again as Markus reloads and fires another burst, but as he dodges he is not so fortunate as the beast snatches him and forces him in its charge, pushing him against the rocks where the focal point was at his chest. The beast stops and throws him at a depression, but his hand was still on the trigger which let forth a barrage that was aimed at its chest…and with the beast falling just as he dropped onto the ground barely conscious. They return to them being around the fire…and with all eyes on Markus who was feeling his chest for the wounds he sustained in the memory. He seemed frantic, or more less desperate…as he forced his hand under his clothing…and found nothing that seemed to resemble what was once his wounds.

“Our memories return to us at uncanny times…it bothers me that we remember the same thing…of the same event…of the same misfortune.”, he ranted as he was in a calm…while the others smirked in his little skit of apparent worry.

They befell once again to silence…as they tried to find some form of comfort on their camp or some form of assurance that they had something to bond over besides a bitter memory…Silence was their friend, and it brought them a sense of peace as they found a fragment of their past, and it was to be short-lived…as a voice in their mind spoke to them all with the words “Things will be interesting…”.

All of them looked up, standing in agitation with the sudden speaking of the voice…as with the clearance that all of them heard her utter meek words in their minds. Then came a roar, a heavy scream of an animal hunting for prey and with another screaming back in the same horrendous tone as if in a manner meant to duel. It was not far from where they made camp, it came across the river and they saw…hidden amongst the enclave of reeds and fallen trees was two beasts ready to brawl with one another.

One was the predator, a large and bulky dinosaur whose hind legs reeled its body back in a great display of agility while it tried to block the blow sent by a massive ape that was stuck in the mud. The predator was a massive beast, covered in scales and with spikes on its back that were made of pure bone and covered with some form of green lichen. The ape was a worthy contender, but it was inexperienced…a trait that the predator hunting it showed as even it was weary of its next moves against an opponent backing up his pure strength.

The four of them watched as the two beasts struggled with the cycle of survival…and with an urge in the four of them that seemed the same. The river was now at its deepest, with the shores that they once stood on now flowing with water that was past that of their heads. It was rushing, from some distant source from above in the mountains afar, but it was not  enough to stop them with what they were seeking. But the inkling of wanting to intervene was a matter that they all wanted to engage in…after all, they were not the only ones that wanted in on the brawl.

A fairly large drake was hovering nearby, wanting to steal the spoils of what the predator was throwing all that he had to hunt….while an ominous fowl was resting nearby and keen on the spoils of what was left of the defeated. The fowl was small, but it was bigger than two men while it stood on the branch with its feathers crossed inward while perched. Its feathers bore resemblance to the rummage of leaves around it, while its belly was pale black with white dots similar to that of the sky above it as it waited for the battle to come to a close. The drake was nearly as large as the predator, and with its wings the only thing that multiplied its size and bulk.

But it was gambling on chance rather than joining the hunt to conserve energy rather than waste it on an enemy that was still on the prime in the fight. The water was deep, and there was no way for them to cross…but the wanderer did not want to miss on something that was drawing him in…like some animalistic urge that was waiting to be answered to…the urge of one fighting for its survival. The massive ape tried to pull itself off the mud, while the predator it was fighting managed to land a bite on his arm.

But it was muscular and bulky and only served as a distraction for the predator for he is quick to throw a jab on the side of the predators head and throwing him into the pit of mud. The predator gets stuck, while the drake and the fowl close in to pick up the scraps of the battle…but there were others that wanted to intervene as well. They inched closer, running rather than walking, looking for a near crossing over the river…but there was none.

“Jump across…”, the voice in their minds said. They all looked at one another, and with them looking at one another and looking for sense with what the voice was asking of them.

But the eagerness to join in the fight was one thing that they were witnessing.

The one named Markus smirked as he ran deeper into the forest, until he was nearly visible amid the darkness of the forest. He was preparing for a running start, a feeble attempt to cross the river.

“Are you insane?”, Kyla asked him, and with the others sharing the same sentiment.

“Depends…stupidity that works does not count as stupidity!”

He begins a dash, with speeds that makes him become a blur in their visions, and with the convenience of a large rock that was on the edge of the river he catapults himself across the river…and lands safely on the edge…The river was more than thirty meters across at the time, and yet he lands with excess and with the others eager to follow in his success.

One by one they catapult themselves while the beasts nearby continue to trash and slowly sink themselves in the mud. The drake begins its move and tries to sweep down and snatch the ape…but he anticipated this and grabs the drake by its neck and tail…and throws the flying giant into the mud...and the three of them were forcing themselves out of the mud whilst trying to reach the other or safety.

The large fowl on the other side began to glide towards them, and with it resting on the spikes of the massive predator that tried to duel with the ape. It looked at him, and with it losing interest as it prepared to glide away…until a slick of mud slams into its wings and throwing it into the slick of mud…entrapping all of them as the four from the other side arrive and look at the result of the battle. It came from the predator that sent it by its tail, and it grinded a heavy slur of content mumbles as it would not let any of the newcomers to steal his prey…despite the gravity of their new dilemma.

But it was not over, as another band of interlopers wanted to join in… It was a band of rats, the size of the four that barged in…and they came in the hundreds…They were chopping and eating everything that was on their path…like some plague that came in they ate everything they would consider edible…and the beasts and the four that arrived beside the four trapped behemoths were no exception.

“They seem hungry…”, Alfred said as they stood in one line and saw the hundreds of rats begin to push towards them in a blind furry to devour them, and with more pairs of tenacious and glowing red eyes piercing through the timid and cynical darkness of the forest’s undergrowth. The distant cries of those too late to escape were all but clear distant mourns of those who could not be helped. The rats looked at them with hunger, but the four looked at them with satisfaction…and with a growing pain on their fists aching to bore an action that they themselves had long been detesting to fall to…but do so over and over.

“And so are you…”, the voice said…and with a rat jumping onto Kyla and pinning her to the ground. The others watched as the rat tries to chop her head off…but with him being torn in half with little ease as she pulls his head and tail away from each other and with its blood dripping all over her…and with her face that one whose interest was roused. The others had the same form of carnal desire, and as Kyla did not wait for the next rat to make its move she charged onto the swarm with a building grin on her face.

The others came doing the same, but with them dying just as fast as they were torn apart with the bare hands of the four…the beasts looked on as the swarm of rats that were supposed to devour them began to pile…corpse after corpse. Alfred snatched from the air one that tried to leap, grabbing it by his tail and slamming him to another before the force of their collision with a nearby tree kills them both and pins down another. The Dido pulled her spear, and forced it down the throat of one that tried to charge.

It did not do any much damage as it was a mere spear crafted broke at the latest opponent she sends to her grave. It kills the beast but she did not stop as she charged on and forced another down the tip of the spear as with another and another. Kyla was careless and was swallowed whole by one that seemed larger and more ferocious than the others…but its stomach severs and spills out its organs as she comes out armed with one of the bones of the beast and prepares to use it as some form of club.

She had a smile on her face while she waited for two more to come at her…and casually smash their skulls with the bone before it broke in three parts. Another rat came her way, but she grabs one of the severed bone parts and stabs it into the skull of the coming rat and lets its lifeless corpse drop to the ground as another is killed in a similar manner.

Dido relieved herself of her spear that was now cut in half, and with her taking the separated tip and forcing it down the neck of another rat. She pulls it out and slices through the eye of another rat as another jumps into her…and with her kicking it to the mud with the force of the blow separating the head from the body as it landed on the predator.

It was a free for all, and the four of them were gutting the rats like they were insects with nothing but their bare hands. This continued on and on as the beasts watched haplessly at the chaos ensuing before them. The dead piled onto one another, their screams of death was only beaten by the methods of how they were being butchered. Flesh being torn from their very bodies, bones and body parts thrown or bashed onto them as melee weapons that

And with their senselessness something aroused from them, as if it came like common nature to them…and they did not notice. Alfred was being pinned by a rat, but something formed in his grip…it was a flame…taking shape as he kicked the beast off from his body and into a nearby tree. It snapped at the point of impact and began to tilt down…but it began to face towards him as rats climbed it and pounced from the branches and onto him by the dozens…

He did not notice that the flame on his right hand had taken shape…and with a heavy swing the rats were gutted and halved in a heavy blow that sliced even the heavy timbers with little ease. It was a large sword…old and made of dull luster metal which had the engraving of a lotus flower carved on a shield. Alfred did not notice the sword…but it felt like some natural ebb as he swung his heavy blade towards the horde amassing before him.

A rat charged at him, but he swung the sword from over his head and with the blade landing in a curve and cutting it in half. The sword went into the ground from the sheer force, but Alfred was able to pull it out and swing it with ease like a glade on two more rats that tried to pounce on him. Markus was fending off rats that were forcing his arms down their throats…but like gloves he used them to bash the others that were coming at him.

One by one, he hits the rats on their heads as the endurance of the bodies of the rats was not that admirable…and their flesh crumbled and slid off, revealing a pair of axes with a similar insignia on their blades as with Alfred’s sword. Dido was charging into the horde, both hands on a spear whose tip was as large as a palm. She forced the blade deep into one of the rats but kept pushing the blade on more of them until they simply tore off the spear from the force of impact each rat pressed as it was stacked on the spear.

Upon reaching a certain point, she throws the stacked cluster on a horde that tried to clump together…and with the blood from the spear dripping onto her as she craved for more. Kyla was the only odd one as her weapons were like crested blades that had been mounted on some form of stock…and there was two of them which she held in dual like Markus. But the center of the crests was a barb cluster, and as she cleaves a rat she takes aim at one that tried to pounce on her…and she sends a bolt into its skull and lands on the ground just inches from her. She continued this, cleaving into chunks those that got too close…and she enjoyed how the blood spilled all over the place. She was not alone it aiding the carnage…

It was morning, and with the river colored red with the blood of the rats as they piled in their hundreds dead before the beasts…They were still trapped in the mud, but they were being hauled out by the four who had little ease plucking them from the waters as their mettle of strength seemed unwearied despite the slaughter they had been part of.

Half their bodies were covered in mud, and it was not enough to conceal the massive claws, teeth and grip that some of them were capable off…but matched against those who had the strength to tear anything apart…and the lust for chaos and destruction…and not to mention the strength to pull them out of the mud despite their weight. Using reeds sewn together reeds to pull them out, the seemingly weakest of the four was able to drag all four of the giants out of the mud, and into the safety of dry soft sand that seemed to blanket the entire riverbed as with its shores.

They stood before the four, the blood still fresh on their skins…and they did not mind its stench. The bodies of the rats were scattered and ill placed, but they created stacks that tried to reach the tops of the canopy that oozed death and decay as flies hovered over them. No beast wanted to fetch a moment with the spoils, as anything that came close would mean that death was all but certain death in the hands of the four. The trapped behemoths looked at the corpses that piled, and then to those that they wanted to hunt…and that seemed like a better meal as it offered much less effort as those who hunted them have taken their fill before they left them and continued their journey.

There was something that they saw in the eyes of the four men and women that saved them…a carnage of wildness that did not want to be quelled. A chaos that wished to be unleashed…and that the mere sight of it sent a fear that was not to be trifled with. The predator that sparred with the ape began to follow the four…while the ape looked at the drake who also did the same…as did the fowl who was already just above them… The ape smirked…and followed as well for he had seen what carnage the four was capable off…and began to wonder if he had been given a choice rather than a forked decision. The four were now walking as a group, not wanting to wash the blood of the rats while it began to stink on their skins…nor did they find it bothersome.

It was like the blood that they all awoke on…but like before they did not seem to mind. Those following them though were not that much used to the stench of blood beginning to lick the paws of death and from the river a quick wave of cold water suddenly erupts and cascades onto them giving them a quick taste of refreshment and cleansing.

It was the predator, half submerged on the water…with the ape, drake and scavenging fowl following behind them… The four of them looked at the predator, as it rose from the river and walked towards Markus…staring into his eyes as there was a moment of hesitation on both of them…and with the predator bowing to him.

“Fair enough…”, the voice in his mind said, as the wanderer placed his hand on the middle of the eyes of the beast…and smiled. “Tame them…”, the voice added, and with the others being approached by the other beasts and bowing at them in a similar fashion. 

They were weary…and they were hesitant…but they did the same. Their domestication was not for fear, but for improvement. They sensed something that only carnal beasts share with one another and that was the desire to become more efficient, more precise, and more effective. The four were much better at this respective, and the only ones unaware of such carnal destruction was the four themselves.

“I see no harm in letting the beast repay their gratitude with us with domestication…”, Dido said as she inspected the scavenging fowl that wanted her to tame it.

“Maybe…”, Markus said, with him reeling back his arms and pressing them on the sides of his waist. ”But why do I get the drake?”

“Does it bother you that the most ferocious wants you as its master?”, Kyla queried as she was the first to jump on the nape of the ape…and with the beast not objecting as it reared up and waited for its master to become comfortable.

“No…but I sense that this beast will be a work in progress…”

The beast snarls and sends a blast of its breath into his face…the stench of decay was all but strong in its wake…and with the stranger coughing while keeping a straight face as the others laugh at the seeming skit of the two. They rode on their new mounts…and with them leaving in a faster pace than before while the day was still fresh.

The next day, the mounts were traversing the river…the shallow tide made the crossing easy despite the river’s edge being barely visible while the depth was no deeper than the rider’s waist. The drake decided not to fly, and walked to conserve some of its strength…the scavenging fowl was resting on its back alongside Dido and Kyla who were watching the horizon for anything of interest while the predator led the way. Markus was just above the drake’s head…and he was scanning the weapon he had formed…it seemed like a weapon that he had mastery off…clasping it like it was something he wielded before.

He looked like it as if it was a token from his past, and in a sense it self like something that reminded him of something that would be of importance. A weapon that had formed in his hands without him knowing, and yet had markings no different from the ones that he wore. He looked onto Alfred, who was leading them…he was in the same dilemma…but he was frank to not show his curiosity to the others for his weapon was kept on the back hanging on a makeshift sling and roaster made of reed and sewn hemp from that they used to haul out their domesticated behemoths.

Even with the mounts that were walking with them…there was no clear goal to their travel…they were heading down the river…but why though was another question. The river’s other side was beyond their sight, but something trapped on the tide was. It was a small dingy, trapped on a sandbar, and with two young men on the side pulling it back to the water where the depth could still allow travel. The boat was half the size of the predator…it had a mast for sails but they were torn, as if bitten and shredded from age and the elements as with its turbine that hanged on the side still able for use.

The wood on the sides were stapled and sewn together with some form of cement and with a small crane dangling its hook on the side while it served as a post to hold a stack of cages steady. On the deck was an old geezer, whose left eye was left disabled thanks to a scratch that ran across his entire face. He was obese, and wrapped in rags while he kept himself entertained by blowing some long and thin pipe that blew rings out the other end with each puff.  The young hands did not notice the massive ape placing its fist on the side while the old captain who was watching his boat be dragged to the waters.

The two young hands slipped into the water, and with the fowl gliding over them and snatching them as she makes a pass…and comes back and hovers using its wings and gently places them on the deck as Alfred nods at the captain who nods back.

“Are you lost? Young’un?”, the old captain asked with a rusty tone.

“Maybe…”, Dido replied. “What makes you say that?”

“Traveling folks don’t take the river…they take the mountains…best way to travel if you don’t want da die…you don’t do mountains do you?”

There was a silence, and they nodded.

“We are looking for civilization sir…”, Markus said as he looked at the captain while he took in another puff, while the young hands looked at the predator who was staring at them like food paralyzed in fear while the captain simply smoked his pipe.

“Civilization huh? And the Marvalander?”, he points to the predator…from which both it and Alfred look at one another and then to the captain.

“My mount…is there a problem with him?”, the owner asks.

“Nah…Marvalanders better than dogs at pets…”, he then points to the drake, and chuckles “…same with Goliath False Drakes…but are kind of like your wife if you take care of them too much…Basalt Kongs are husbands, like women as masters…”, he comments as he looks at the ape who scratches its forehead at confusion of what seemed like a compliment “While Marauder Kites are the shy ones…got the whole bunch in yer pockets I see…”

“I thank you for complementing on our companions sir…”

“Don’t take my work for it young’un…at least they be more loyal than my wife…damn tramp took me for everything then ran off with some hot shot Admiral…”

He notices the insignia on the weapons that were on their backs…and pointed at the one most visible to him…the one carved in the crest of Kyla.

”Law of Loyas folk like you getting lost in the middle of nowhere seems right. This ain’t your bogs after all. Head on the tributary connection downstream and take the lick where the sun sets and y’all can get to Byros before dusk on the third day on the second week on yer mounts …”

He points down the river, and with the four of them looking at the pale horizon where nothing could be seen.

“Might want to harvest some pelts of things…Byros tradin town, they don’t want Magnas credits but a few folk who trade with the big shots like tradin when a lot of stuff is on the bid.”

They wanted to ask the old man something, and he could sense it…but they did not want to say what it was…

“Yer don’t know who you are…seen my fair share of broken people…you look like the type…Loyas buddy of mine showed me a picture a few years back showing some junk head wearing fancy clothing like that for some fancy bunk…said them were ceremonial.”

The four of them did not turn and looked at the horizon…and with the old man simply waiting for the four to say something.

“Yer four don’t talk much do ya…”

They nodded…

“Yer strange folk you Law of Loyas…can’t blame ya after Massuvia tried a takeover…lost a lot of good friends…”, he takes something from his jacket, and throws it to the huntress who grabs it without looking the captains way. “It ain’t got much after those stupid rats ate my fields…don’t run into them, they like eating anything…and I mean damn anything…”

“Rats?”, Markus inquired.

“Yeah, migrating from the south back to their homelands…don’t usually pose no harm but since the war took the only thing that’s keepin them check fucking pests spread like wildfire couz they be fucking like crazy. Wish I could kill them for them pelts…damn be a fortune if I ever get to kill a dozen and one…damn things eat anything, must have killed a village or town couz the water round here slate couz of the blood. Hope that’s not the case…”

“A day’s walk upstream and before a connecting tributary you will find hundreds of them gutted and slaughtered.”, said Dido. “Consider it as payment for the information…”

The mounts moved forward, and with the captain watching them slowly get dimmer to the sight of his eyes on the horizon. He puffed from his pipe after they were no longer visible, at which he said “Strange folk…”

“Boss, are we to follow what they said?”, asked one of the hands.

“No harm in tryin, damn river’s dead for the year since those stupid rats passed early…wished the High Mother send them critters back where they came from…besides, they don’t look like the lying folk…wonder if those folks know what they’re wearin be holy shit…we go up the river, check that tributary…if nothing comes up well guess you two gonna follow the kahots of the others working for the war. Damn thing the only shit that jacks out money these days.”

The crew of the small dingy found the corpses of the rats of which bore the captain’s ire…but what the old man did not know was what he gave to the four travelling…and the rest they were about to meet…was a memory that even the voice that spoke in their minds found amusing.


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