Saturday, May 19, 2012

And The World Shall Spin Forever - Draft

A 16-year-old boy jogged along a dirt road. He wore a brown leather vest over a forest green tunic. Coffee colored boots kicked dust into the air as the boy tried to keep his pace. The pack over his shoulder chinked from a few trinkets inside and his sheathed short sword attached to his waist patted against his slacks. He moved with purpose, panting and sweating as he continued to move.

Seth Greenwald grew up in his village dreaming about adventures. He grew up listening to the stories of many brave heroes, who fought evil and rescued damsels in distress. His dream was common among the youth of many villages, being brought up by such enchanting tales. Seth’s parents granted him the opportunity to go on an adventure, much to the surprise of the community. They hoped that Seth would learn something from such a journey, no matter how much time it took. His father supplied him with an old but well cared for short sword, and his mother gave him a pack of food and water, and a few good luck charms in the form of stones and figurines of Gods. All of them had yet to serve their purpose, when a band of thieves found him a few days after he began his travels.

Seth’s lungs burned as he continued to push himself and he dared a look over his shoulder. He slowed down, realizing that he had outrun them, before falling onto the ground panting. A few trees and hills surrounded the road that Seth rested on, hiding his view from the farthest horizons around him. Instead, he looked towards the blue sky with a few slow-moving clouds. The sound of grass and leaves shaking in the wind reached his eardrums, and he realized that the world had not paused its cycle of life merely for his sake. Many travelers faced bandits and thieves along the roads on a regular basis. Seth pushed himself up into a seated position, as he understood that he was one of the few lucky enough to escape from thieves without any harm.

His thoughts disappeared as a shadow fell over him. Seth knew he was no warrior, but all boys knew how to wield a sword at least through playing in the schoolyard with sticks and wooden replicas. Quick as his reflexes would allow, and pumped by instinct and fear, he jumped and spun around to face the caster of the shadow. A man with a scarf covering his face, and a dagger in his hand, growled in annoyance at his mistake, edging closer to Seth in order to try and finish the job anyways. Seth unsheathed his sword smoothly.

The breeze continued to blow and the sky remained a crystal blue. Seth knew how he stood, untrained and truly unskilled at defeating another at armed combat. Seth played with all the boys in the schoolyard, but he never won. Still, he prayed to the Goddess of luck, her figurine still in his pack, and thought of the tales he remembered and the heroes he loved to hear about and idolize for courage. From the Solemn Knight who swore to protect an empire until he life ran from his veins thousands of years before, and continued to patrol its lands today, to the True Justice, the knight who fought to protect the innocent although he himself was severely disfigured and sometimes hated. Seth felt his blood boil as he tightened his grip on the hilt of his sword, and charged forward yelling. Seth brought his sword down onto the bandit; the bandit slid to the side and took a simple step forward, slashing quickly at Seth’s sword arm. He hissed in pain and placed his free hand on his now bleeding shoulder. Seth watched as the bandit drew closer to his throat in less than a second before a sudden impact sent the bandit flying across the ground.

Seth’s throat became dry as he looked at the unmoving body of the bandit, a large arrow sticking out from his chest. He turned his head, setting his gaze on a man in a dusty green leather outfit, similar to those worn by archers who travelled through the forest and fought in the shadows. He had seen many of them walk alongside soldiers in the army when they came to visit his village, but this one had no emblem embroidered on his breast. The man’s hood hid his face and he held a longbow, and as he ran down from the small hill he had been standing on, his short coat flared up enough to show that he had many other weapons hiding within it. Once on the road, the man sprinted to where Seth stood awestruck.

“Hey,” the man said without any shortness of breath as he reached Seth, “you know how to run right?” He gave a smirk as he patted Seth on his shoulder, “From what I saw, you didn’t seem to have any problems before.”

Seth opened and closed his mouth silently, trying to think of a decent comeback, “I was outnumbered then!” He finally said, “I figured I could handle one on my own…”
The man shook his head, and revealed his short brown hair and fair complexion as he pulled down his hood. His skin seemed strange to Seth, as most of those who remained in the wilderness normally held darker and harder skin than this man did. “Well, it’ll be fine then. My friend should handle the rest when they come.”

“They?” Seth turned his head towards where he had come from, watching as the same band of thieves that had chased him before stalked toward the two of them from their hiding places. Many had hidden themselves behind trees or behind the cover of the hills. As they moved from their hiding places, Seth could see their grins pressed against the scarves and rots tied around their faces.

“Well they seem to be a happy bunch, don’t they?” the archer said in a light tone. He shouldered his bow and walked over to the body of the thief he had killed. He grabbed the bottom of the arrow and, with a swift and strong tug, pulled it out of the body without a second look. He walked back to the boy, looking over the red tip of the arrow, and then looked back at Seth, “My name’s Cathair,” he said as he held his free hand out, “what’s yours?”

Seth remained silent, focused more on the band of thieves closing in towards them, while the one person who could handle them asked for an introduction. Seth almost wanted to scream, but whether he more frightened or frustrated he could not tell. To top it all off, he had a pain on his shoulder from the wound of the bandit’s dagger, a pain he did not normally deal with. He found he had not breathed in enough to elicit a good response. A weak curse coughed out between his lips.

“Well that’s rude.” the ranger said, “What kind of parents name their child with that kind of name?”

Seth had little time to correct the ranger, as the sound of a horse neighing reached his ears. He looked off of the road in time to see an auburn warhorse charging down towards the dirt path at the band of thieves at full speed. On the warhorse, sat a man wearing full plate armor over his body, shined to perfection, with a helm over his head with a visor. It looked like a knight, or at least what Seth had envisioned to be one. A tattered cape flowed from his shoulder, keeping the sheathed great sword strapped to his back free and easy to reach. The knight had no emblem upon his armor, and instead Seth could see deep scratches on one side of the armor’s breastplate. The knight charged forward with his horse holding a lance in his hand.

“There see?” Cathair said, pulling Seth’s attention away from the knight and thieves, “I told you he’d take care of it.”

As the knight easily plowed and stabbed through enemies with his lance, and his horse trampled on anyone to slow to react, Seth realized that the archer was giving an understatement. Just after the initial charge, the knight dropped the lance and jumped onto the ground. He unsheathed his great sword and, without mercy or effort, swung it around himself. The giant blade cut through an unprepared bandit, sending him to the ground in two pieces. Another swing came down on a faster bandit, who raised his blade in order to try and soften the blow. The knight’s sword came down on the bandit’s sword hard. The bandit’s blade held strong, but his own arms broke from the strike and his sword embedded itself into his shoulder and his body flew through the air like a ragdoll, rolling and sliding across the dusty ground. One after another, the thieves fell before the band split and the survivors scrambled in different directions. The knight stabbed his great sword through the chest of the remaining thief, before looking around for another victim.

“Great job, Armo!” Cathair shouted and began to clap his hands, “It’s always good to know you never stop practicing!”

The knight turned to Cathair and, after kicking the body off of it, sheathed his great sword and walked towards him. In a low and growling voice that sounded more like an animal than a man, Armo spoke, “You could have helped me!”

“No one came after me. Besides, I was getting our damsel in distress’ name.” Cathair said as he pointed a thumb towards Seth, “You know what his name is? You’ll never believe it, it’s-”

“Seth!” he shouted, unable to keep quiet, “My name is Seth Greenwald.”

The knight moved his helmet in a quick nod, “Sir Armo Blackblood,” he said before turning back to Cathair, “Why not wait until after the battle was over to get his name?”

“Because, I knew you would deal with them easily. I mean, they were obviously evil, right?”

“They weren’t all evil,” Armo said, raising his voice, “I have no idea why, but they weren’t all evil!”

“Well, you killed them, so obviously you can kill non-evil things as well.”
“But I’m a paladin! I’m trained to kill evil things!”

Seth raised a hand at that moment, “E-evil things? Like…orcs?”

Armo turned to him, while Cathair snorted and tried to hide a chuckle. Armo gave Cathair a shove to the ground in response before speaking, “I mean creatures that…have evil intentions, enough so that they emit an aura that few can see.”

“And…you can see that?”

“I’m trained to. And I’m trained to fight at my strongest against such creatures. I’m not at my best against anything else.”

“Oh is that why Cartographers are so difficult for us to deal with.” Cathair interrupted as he dusted off his trousers. Armo let out a growl as he turned back to the archer, making Seth back away slowly.

“Cartographers are crazy, not evil. There’s a difference.”

Seth continued to step away, until he felt his back bump into something, and turned around slowly to see what stopped him. The auburn warhorse stood in front of him, chewing on grass. It then moved towards Seth a bit and bumped its head against his shoulder gently, painfully reminding Seth of the wound on his shoulder.

“Oh careful there. We should try to have Armo look at that before we take you…” Cathair paused as he placed a hand on his chin in thought, “where are we taking you anyways?”

“He’s going home,” Armo interrupted and placed a gloved hand on Seth’s shoulder. A flash of light came from within the gloves and Seth’s pain suddenly disappeared. He looked down to his shoulder as Armo pulled his hand away to see that the wound had disappeared under the small tear now on his vest. Seth looked over at Armo in surprise, only to see him climb up onto his horse and turn to Cathair, “We’ll take him home and go on our way. Alright?”

“Sure.” Cathair said and turned down the road, walking at a steady pace next to Armo. Seth remained behind for a few seconds, before snapping out of his reverie and sprinting after them. Home sounded good.


The group travelled for the rest of the day, making camp at night on the side of the path. Cathair reached into his pack and pulled out a lute much larger than the bag itself. Seth looked over at it questioningly, but Cathair ignored his stare and began to play on it. Seth frowned and then turned over to the more heavily armored companion, watching as he struggled with his helm, grunting and growling the entire time. Seth blinked in disbelief for a moment as Armo pulled the helm over his head.
He had never seen an Orc before, but knew their description well. Armo had coarse green skin and a small tuft of jet-black hair on top of his head. His eyes were colored red, but the fearsome look conflicted with the laugh lines on his face. Finally, he had a pair of small tusks sticking out from his bottom set of teeth. If Armo was not an Orc, then he stood as the worst case of inbreeding Seth had ever seen.
Armo dropped his helm next to the fire and sat down next to it, beginning to unclasp each piece of armor attached to his body. Seth looked back towards Cathair and then turned back to Armo, “So…uh sorry about the misunderstanding, about evil creatures and Orcs.”

“Happens all the time.” He said simply as he pulled of another piece of armor.
Seth nodded his head slowly, and then began another question, “So, Blackblood…does that mean that you bleed black-?”

“No, shut up.” Armo said with a light shake of his head but a definite smile on his face.

Seth placed a hand on his collar, coughing lightly as he began to look through his pack. He needed a good luck charm, something random but at least a little lucky. He clasped his hand over something simple, but round and smooth. He pulled it out slowly, and looked it over using the campfires light to help. He held a smooth green crystal, imperfect but soothing to the touch. He never remembered putting it inside of his pack, but knew whom it belonged to. His younger sister had showed it to him once, thinking it was something important. A stone imbued with magic, or a precious jewel, and Seth could no persuade her any differently. She probably left it in his pack before he left, and remembered that she was expecting a book’s worth of stories when he returned.

He knew he would have at least one; he then tried to come up with a good title. “The Orc knight and the lazy ranger?” He said to himself, but shook his head. It certainly did not draw any attention as it was.

“Actually,” Cathair began, “it’s the True Justice and the Apathetic Spiderleg. Wonderful little tale. I hear it keeps the children up at night, but I don’t know if its cause their scared or excited…” Cathair said with concentrating look before shrugging his shoulders.

Seth’s eyes lit up as he looked between the two, “That’s who you two are!?” he half shouted. “The disfigured knight sworn to justice? And the scout with monster qualities?” He looked between the two in a pause before squinting his eyes at each of them, “Wait those legends were thousands of years ago…a-and the True Justice was a disfigured human. And the Apathetic Spiderlegs had…well spiderlegs!”

“Legends tend to change overtime, or they forget important pieces of information.” Armo said as he pulled off his last piece of armor. He only wore a tunic and trousers, and Seth noticed a strap of leather tied around his left arm with black feathers and red beads sewn all around it.

“Besides,” Cathair began, “I have to look inconspicuous sometimes. Otherwise I’d get the attention of all the ladies!”

Armo scoffed, “And send them running to the hills…so they could get their pitchforks and vow for revenge.”

Cathair plucked a string on his lute a bit too hard and then glowered at the Paladin, “That only happened one time…”

“And yet they’re still after you? Do you remember how long ago that was?”

“A-anyhow,” Seth interrupted with a weak smile, “we should be close to my home village, right? Just a day’s walk away…?” He began to toss the green crystal in his hand up into the air, and caught it as it fell.

“Well that’s the idea-” Cathair began and then stopped as he eyed the flying crystal for a moment. “Seth, what is that?”

“Oh this?” Seth began as he looked over it again, “Just a little something my sister found and gave to me for good luck.”

Cathair reached over to him for the stone, and Seth passed it to him silently. Cathair looked it over for a moment, and then looked through it, aiming towards the fire. The light passed through and a grin began to spread across his face. “Armo? I think you want to look at this…”


The next day, the three stood in front of a cave entrance carved out from the side of a mountain. Cathair held the green crystal in his hand and patted Seth on the back as he stared at the entrance, “I’m so happy we rescued you Seth.”

“Why do you say that?” Seth replied, focusing a bit on the ancient runes carved on the pillars supporting the entrance.

“You’ll see.”

Armo stepped off of his horse and walked towards the entrance, followed by Cathair and Seth. “You sure we should bring the kid?” Armo asked.

“Better to keep an eye on him than let him run off on his own. Besides, it’s only fair he gets a share of what we find.”

“Right. I just don’t want his death hanging on my conscious.” Armo finished before stepping into the cave, disappearing almost completely in the darkness from what Seth could see.

“How’s it look?”

“Well, it’s dark.” Armo began, “But I can handle that pretty easily.”

Seth heard the sound of a snap echo from within the cave, before a ball of light appeared, growing in size until it was the size of Armo’s head. It shined with a bright light, but gave Seth no pain even as he stared into it. He shook his head as the Cathair entered the cave and Armo continued forward, “Hey wait!” Seth shouted,

“Are you sure I should be coming with you?”

Cathair looked back ready to answer, but Armo placed a hand over his mouth and kept moving forward. Seth looked towards the light, knowing he would not be able to catch up at all if it suddenly disappeared from his view. He broke into a run, chasing after them.

The adventurers stepped through the cave, moving through dark tunnels illuminated by Armo alone. When Seth could see him, Cathair would look down at the green crystal every so often, and nod his head happily.

“You know what that is don’t you?” Seth asked.

Cathair answered, “It’s a map. Damn good one too. With this, we’ll be in and out of this labyrinth before you know it, and with a bit of coin too.”

“What is this place anyways?”

“Haven’t heard a name for it yet,” Armo replied. “People just know it’s easy to get lost forever down hear. Especially without a light.”

The journey came to a stop at a large set of stone doors. In front of it, stood a robed figure with a thick book in his hands. “Who dares to enter the Dragon Dungeon?” It asked in a daring tone.

Seth turned to Cathair, “Dragon Dungeon?”

“Here there be Dragons…” He replied mockingly.

Armo looked towards his other two companions, placing a finger over his visor before turning forward again, “Who are you to ask for our names?” He spoke in a tone that nearly made Seth bow to him. He sounded different, almost regal.

The robed figure remained still and silent for a moment before speaking, “I…am Cartographer.”

There was a long silence between the four of them before Cathair asked, “Say that one more time?”

“I am Cartographer,” the robed figure said, standing a bit taller.

Armo pulled his great sword out of his sheath without a second thought, letting the ball of light float over his head, and grinded his heels into the ground as he stared at the robed figure. “Are you?” He asked growling, “Are you Cartographer? How long have you been Cartographer?” he spoke rapidly.

Seth turned to Armo in surprise, but then noticed Cathair pull out a short sword in each hand. “Lose a river or something?” he asked and scowled, “I figure we’ll see a dragon here, and we have to deal with a Cartographer here too? What are you even doing here?”

The robed figure looked between the two armed individuals, taking a few steps back and holding his book in front of him. Armo and Cathair edged forward cautiously, before the robed figure spun around and pushed against the doors. The doors remained still for a few moments before one of them began to move slowly.

“Oh for the Gods sake.” Armo said as he sheathed his sword and walked towards the door. He grabbed the robed figure and pulled him back roughly. He then pushed the doors and began to make progress on it right away. The sound of stone grinding against stone grew louder as Seth began to swear he saw sparks in front of Armo’s feet.
Once open, the three entered into a large room with a domed ceiling. A few torches were hanging from the sides of the wall, and a bit of sunlight drifted down from small holes in the ceiling. Seth noticed on the far side of the room however, light sparkling off of something in the distance. It seemed to glitter and glow, and Seth knew well enough what he would find if he stood closer: gold, gems and jewels. His imaginings were cut short when a roar cut through the air, reverberating against the walls and forcing Seth to cover his ears in pain.

Seth felt his ears ring when the sight of it came into view. Gigantic and standing tall on its four limbs, it’s blue scales gave off a sheen that seemed as if they had been polished extensively. It’s chest was colored a whiter hue, but no duller in its shine as the rest of its scales. It thrashed its tail roughly, and opened its jaws to show rows of sharp teeth. With a quick snort, it blew a small flame.
Seth felt his knees shake, until Armo spoke, “You know, we would have a better chance of avoiding these battles if we knew how to speak Draconic.”

“Stop asking for the impossible.” Cathair said. He looked over at Seth and placed the green crystal in his hand, “Better stay here kid, it’s about to get fun.”

Seth had no complaints as he held the crystal tightly and watched as Armo moved toward. He lifted his visor to get a better view of the dragon, “Is that thing evil…?” he said to himself. “It is evil…yes!” he shouted as he unsheathed his sword once more. He roared as he charged towards the Dragon, responding to the roar with its own. It spread its leather wings apart a bit, waiting as the Orc came closer. Armo’s sword and armor began to glow and shine with a pale light. The dragon roared in pain and forced its head to look away, as Armo slammed his blade down on the closest arm of the dragon.
Cathair, meanwhile, looked over his equipment, “Short swords? Check. Bow and arrows? Check. Transformation?” He gripped his swords tighter as he hunched forward a bit. His back began to grow bumps, and then two orange and scaled dragon wings appeared, sprouting to the side. A silver and spiked tail appeared just under his coattail and slammed against the ground a bit. Finally, eight brown, bony and sharp spider legs sprouted out through hidden holes on the back of Cathairs coat. He looked over himself as the spider legs lifted him up a bit, “Check.” He then let out a sigh as he looked towards the dragon, “And now we fight a dragon.”

Seth watched as Cathair moved towards the angry dragon, moving quickly with his new limbs. There were stories of these two, fighting side by side against monsters fiercer and more frightening than the dragon, some with the power to destroy worlds. They had fought demons from Acatur, ghosts from the Hell Plane, and had travelled between planes of existence. They stood and fought as legends, and would be remembered forever in history. And yet, Seth began to realize that outside, nothing would change as this epic battle ensued. The heroes fought the dragon with the world completely unaware of its happening. And the world would not end in their deaths. It would continue to spin, until new heroes replaced them and took up their mantle.

“That’s…that’s frightening.” Seth heard beside him, causing him to turn and look at the robed figure.

“What part? Spider legs or the dragon.”

“Both, but I’ve seen the dragon before.” The robed figure said as he pulled down his hood, revealing a young and human looking face with gray scales instead of skin. The boy turned to Seth, “Oh my name’s Kot by the way.”

“Right,” Seth replied, realizing that Kot looked no older than himself, “you’re…the Cartographer right?”

“Well,” Kot laughed and his fingernail along his cheek, “I was merely acting as the Cartographer. In order to scare other adventurers away. It is a rather nasty dragon after all.”

“What’s so fearsome about a Cartographer?”

Kot nodded his head in understanding, “Well, I’m told that every once in a while, a strange creature comes into villages saying…well ‘I am Cartographer.’ They make maps in little crystals, like the one you used to get here.” He pointed at the green crystal in Seth’s hand.

“And the reason their feared…?”

“Well, after a few months of travelling around or staying in a village, most of them go berserk and start to transform into hideous creatures.” Kot moved his hands around, wiggling his fingers from his face like tentacles, “They get stronger too. They become capable of powerful magic spells and great feats of strength. Just one can kill hundreds of villagers on its rampage and it takes an army to kill just one.”

Seth nodded his head a bit, and then looked towards the two heroes again. Watching as Cathair lifted Armo high up and threw him into the air, and then watching Armo fall to the ground, slamming his sword against the creature’s scaly neck. “Those two seem to have fought them before though…” He then turned back to Kot, “where do the Cartographer’s come from?”

“Another plane of existence.”

Before Seth could ask for a better explanation, another sound gained both of their attentions. Behind them stood several middle-aged women, and men, with torches and pitchforks. All of them showed wrinkles on their skin and graying hair, and there were many of them.

Seth looked over at Kot, “How…did they get here…? I’m the one with the map…”
Kot sighed, “They must have found the back door…”

“There’s a back door?”

“Well of course. That’s how I get here. The front door is easier to find, but it’s harder to get to the chamber this way. The back door is for…well me.” He then pulled the hood over his head and looked towards the mob.
The eldest women stepped forward, pitchfork in both hands, “Where is Spiderlegs?” She shouted.

The fake Cartographer cleared his throat and then spread his arms apart, attempting intimidation, “Who dares to enter the Dragon Dungeon?”

“Who’re you supposed to be?” someone from the crowd shouted back.

Seth could see Kot’s shoulders sink, before puffing his chest out a bit, “I am Cartographer!”

Even with the sound of battle echoing behind him, Seth could feel the silent reaction start to choke both him and Kot. The crowd visibly tightened their holds on their makeshift weapons and Kot turned around. “Into the fire my friend!” He shouted, grabbed the back of Seth’s vest and started to run away, deeper into the chamber with a dragon and two heroes.

One Ending - Draft

I have no story of bravery, courage, and the ability to do everything above and beyond the call of duty. I am not a soldier, but a student. My name is Fritz Von Kauben from the University of Volkenburne. Tonight, I stand inside the university train station with the rest of my fellow students. Well, the ones that survived. It is a cold night, since the air conditioner for the dome is at full blast, possibly to keep the air clean and filtered. The inside of our fair train station is magnificent and I might describe things to you were it not so crowded with people and school bags. I am near the entrance to the station. I was trying to find the rest of my books in my room when I was forcefully taken towards the station by a police officer. He and several other men are now standing outside the entrance, and have barricaded themselves with police cars and tower shields. I do not think it will be enough.
I stop walking for a moment to try and gather my thoughts, instead I find myself lacking air as large arms enclose themselves around me quickly. My eyes are open wide enough to realize that I am being hugged by a good friend, my roommate actually. Jacoun Papaccio is known for his virility, and how we are good friends I may never know. But good friends we are still as he grinned and grabbed my shoulder, pushing his way towards the side where there are two girls waiting. One is a young asian girl, probably a freshman and definitely a girl that Jacoun would be trying to sleep with later on. The other is an Indian woman, she looks more mature than we are with a friendly smile still on her face. Once we reached them Jacoun gave a wider grin and spoke, “Yoko, Shima, this is my good friend Fritz.”
I had to brush a few strands of blonde hair away from my face, being dragged by a strongman through a crowded bunch of people is not as fun as some people might think (I pray I never meet those people). I suppose you could say I am not a bad looking person. I am nowhere near as tall or lean as my roommate, but I am told I look cute enough, whatever that may mean. Yoko shrugs her shoulders at me and smiles, while Shima seems to dart her eyes away from me. I remember Jacoun telling me once; this was probably a good sign. Jacoun gave me a small silent nudge towards her and I wondered if we were really running for our lives. She gives me a smile, “I am Shima as your friend has told you.” She speaks to me in a whisper, and I find myself holding a conversation with her that gives me hope.
I do not remember what day it is today, nor do I care for the year. All I know is that the world is ending. Years ago, a meteor fell. It was just a small meteor that fell and never hit the ground. Instead, it burnt into dust and ash over a battlefield. Nothing happened, and we felt that it was just a harmless bout of luck that brought a war to a peaceful end. But as soldiers returned to their homes we realized we were mistaken. The soldiers turned out to be infected with something out a horror movie. No one had ever seen anything like it. It was a disease that caused insanity and physical transformation. The disease was said to be transferred by bite, causing these once human creatures to be dubbed “vampires.” Although they did not drink the blood of their enemies, one bite would mean certain doom to your mind, and so an epidemic spread. Towns and cities fell immediately, but they were found to have a weakness. Like the vampires of stories, they were severely affected by sunlight and only attacked during the night. It was our strength and the governments used it, until it became our own enemy.
The atmosphere weakened a great deal. We realized this when we reached 102 degrees during the winter. It was, of course, mankind’s greatest moment of ignorance. We coped with it though, with ingenuity. We created domes, shielding our skin from the UV radiation of the sun, but it would only be temporary. The atmosphere had not yet reached its weakest moment, and so the sun’s damage would only strengthen. By the time humanity decided to continue their lives during the night, the earth was a desert for the most part. Glaciers and snowcaps melted, and then evaporated into the air. We had heard that the oceans were still there, but that nothing good would come from taking a dip except red burns along the skin. No doubt most of the fish were dead too. And with the lack of food came another monster, ourselves.
Not everyone was rescued and put into a glass dome. Most of the people who were not rescued died from starvation or were bitten and turned into vampires. Everyone else was probably a cannibal. It has been said that the intense heat and the lack of food caused this desperation in finding food. And they attack domed cities without warning, using vehicles during the day or trying to sneak in during the night. Most times nothing happens, but in this domed city, they broke through the dome during the night. We did not need to worry on them however; the vampires took care of that. And so the evacuation began.
People scuffle in line, one behind another, trying to get into the train. They make sure no one is infected, although I think we would have noticed an infected person by now. The faint sound of gunshots can be heard suddenly, and I cannot help but look behind me. I am not the only one, it seems. The door opens and a young woman rushes inside, and the gunshots sound much louder until the door closes. She is covered in scratches and sweat as she runs up towards the line of people. I feel as Shima tenses up against me, watching as soldiers from the train start running towards the entrance. I can still hear the gunshots, but I am a bit more focused on the young woman. Her hair intrigues me. It is a shiny alabaster, pale like the moon and almost sparkling under the light. She said nothing as she stood up and looked around with gray eyes, and I notice them widen as she looks towards me and then suddenly turns around. As I begin to wonder why she does this, the gunshots silence.
I have never known true fear, until tonight. When the silence is so thick and so loud, that you can’t even hear your own breathing, you know that you are afraid. I feel hands pushing against my back. My own hand is squeezing Shima’s tightly, and I can feel her reciprocating in kind. The sound of steps moving returns to my ears, and I watch as several soldiers run between the lines with automatic rifles. The windows of the entrance doors break and I try to break into a run. Everyone else beats me to it, and it feels like I will not be going anywhere soon. I nearly lose all of my air as people push and crush me between each other; I lose sight of Shima, Yoko and Jacoun. I feel my heart jump as I hear the sound of gunfire, it makes me push deeper. I start to get aggressive and start pushing people apart in order to get through. The sound of snarls is starting to drown out the gunfire; now I’m tossing people aside just to get through, even if it is just barely. I think someone is tugging at the end of my jacket, or maybe they are trailing along. I don’t actually care; it just makes me run faster.
Suddenly, I pass between a doorway, and fall to the ground before someone roughly picks me up to my feet. “Get to the side!” They yell at me, and push me along. As I move, I feel someone tugging on the back of my jacket still and I turn around to find who it is. Gray eyes look back at me as I feel myself pushed along the length of the train. The girl with white hair and gray eyes grabs onto one of my sleeves and hangs on for dear life. I grab her hand and hold it tightly; I don’t want to get lost in this crowd either. I don’t know how long we were pushed along, before a worker for the train pushed her and me into a room with two beds, a metal wall, and a window sealed by metal shutters. The door closes, and seals shut with a thick metal wall. I am still a little shaky, but I get the feeling that my companion is feeling even less composed.
The train starts all of a sudden, and I lose my balance. I feel arms grab one of mine, and I take a step to keep my balance. As we jolt forward again, I take a seat on one of the beds, and the girl nearly falls onto her rear. I grab her and pull her onto the bed; better to fall on something soft than the ground, even if it is carpeted. She grabs me and holds me close. She might be my age, if the feel of her breasts against my arm tells me anything. I can tell she is a little scared by the beating of her heart. Her face is embedded into my shoulder and I put a hand on her neck, “It’s all right,” I say to her, I am sure I am unconvincing. As the train continues to move along, I am fairly sure we have left the station, although I have no way of knowing if we left anyone behind. To be honest, I’d rather not find out. But the idea that Jacoun, Shima and Yoko were still back there nags me in the back of my mind. As soon as the wall covering the door slides away, I stand up and run out into the hallway. No one else has left their rooms, perhaps they are too shaken. As I look around, I feel her tug on the back of my jacket once more and follow along after me as I walk down the hallways. Going to the bathroom is going to be difficult.
“Excuse me sir!” I hear from behind me. I turn around, seeing her look up at me with her head cocked to the side slightly. She didn’t say anything, but the man behind her did. “Why are you walking around sir? You should stay in your room.”
“But…I am looking for my friends. They were with me, I need to find them.” I say as desperately as I can manage. Maybe I can gain sympathy and he won’t mind the fact that I am breaking a few rules. I doubt I could ever have such luck though.
“Sir,” he says with a stern voice, “I can assure you that we are trying to make sure we picked up everyone.” His stern voice disappears and I know why.
“Listen, their names are Jacoun, Shima and Yoko. They were students as well as I.” I say calmly, I start heading back towards the room, making sure that my new friend is staying close. “When you find out where they are, please knock on my door and let me know.”
I can be hopeful, I have that right. I return to the room (it takes awhile to find it, they all look the damn same) and feel a sense of dread as I walk inside. I feel hands wrap around my own tightly, she must be distraught by the sight I am witnessing as well. There’s blood on the outside of the window, drawn in a curved line from bottom to top. The momentum of the train has already begun to move droplets of blood to the side. I take the first few brave steps forward, placing a hand on a small button and watching the shutters come over the windows again. It is probably for the better anyways, as I turn off the light I remember that I enjoy the darkness. The darkness cannot hurt me like the light can. I take a seat on one of the beds, I feel drained. Again, she sits next to me and I look over at her. I don’t even know her name.
“Excuse me,” I begin, “What is your name?” She does not give me a response. I am pretty sure she could have heard me though, there is no other sound. The train isn’t even loud enough to annoy anyone in their sleep. “Do you not have one?” Again, I receive no response and I feel a slight thinning in my patience, “Hello!”
I feel a little impatient, or maybe I just do not like the feeling of being ignored, as I wave my hand in front of her eyes rapidly. She blinks and turns to me quicker than I expected her to. At least she has quick reflexes. She cocks her head to the side slightly, I can barely see her facial features in the dark, but I have gotten used to seeing things in this way. “Can you understand me?” I ask and she moves her hands. They slowly go up to both of her ears and then she drops them, shaking her head. I think I understand, “Deaf, are you deaf?” I feel a little stupid after saying that, I just asked a person who cannot hear if they cannot hear me. Maybe I should have learned sign language, instead of beating myself up about it though I decide to improvise. After I confirm that she cannot hear, I point at her throat and shrug my shoulders at her in question. She shakes her head in response. “So no hearing or speech…” I say to myself before I raise my hand and begin to make small motions in the air. She looks confused, and I guess I can understand why. After I turn on the light, I rummage through my backpack a bit and pull out an old journal of mine. I take out a pencil along with it and write down, Can you write?
I barely have time to offer the pencil to her; it is already out of my hands. My journal is still against my leg though as she writes in it. Her motions are slow and fluid and I feel a little better at the chance of communicating with her now. I like the feel of a pencil between my fingers actually. I nod my head in agreement; I enjoy that feeling as well.
What is your name?
What’s yours?
Well, so much for making an easy friendship. Fritz.
She looks up at me, and gives me a small smile before writing down her response. Nice name.
I look at her with an arched eyebrow. I don’t like being teased and I don’t like being strung along for no reason. May I have your name now?
Already? But where is the fun in that?
I do not know, but calling you “girl” or “you” doesn’t seem to have a nice ring now
does it?
Oh you just want it so that you can be polite when you take me.
Yes that’s exactly it; I need to make sure I call out the right name.
I pause. I speak the word silently, trying to get the feel of the word. I can feel her staring at me, and as I look over I notice her smile. She must be getting a kick out of watching me squirm with it, which makes me wonder if this is actually her real name. I don’t want to think about it, I simply take it as she says and nod my head.
Playful banter written on paper. I feel like a middle school student. As the days went on, it didn’t feel like much of a chore, although she was much more reserved when she could not communicate. It made things difficult when the worker came back to me a few days after we left.
“They aren’t here.” He says to me simply. He leaves before I have the chance to ask any questions. I feel so confused for a moment before it dawns on me. It had been the same person I had asked to look for my friends. They were not on the train. They were left behind, dead or worse. I shut my eyes tightly as images of each of them surface looking like those creatures. Pale skinned with blue veins, blood shot eyes, and an empty yet feral look. The dark doesn’t give me solace now, I feel like there is something waiting in the shadows. It is hiding the same way that I am, but for a different and more malicious reason. Rai, as I dubbed to call her a little while ago, is the only thing keeping me sane now. Her worried looks and soft touches are enough to make me remember reality. I barely remember speaking while on this train, perhaps because the only communication I have is with Rai-la-su on a piece of paper.
Our food came in small rations and several water bottles. We were not going to go hungry apparently, and I can only guess that is because of the many people left behind. I notice, however, that I am the only one eating. I remember getting the first bout of rations and offering one to Rai, and she took it and merely smiled. I ate my own ration quickly, deciding to try and ignore the flavor as best I could, before tossing the garbage down the chute. Later that day, she must have put her rations with the rest of them, because when I counted the rations there was one more. She did not eat, and I am not sure she ever slept. And yet, she did not look unhealthy at all. Her figure remained the same, as was her amount of energy. She never had bags under her eyes. And she never stopped finding reasons to smile at me. I wonder why she smiles at me so much. I ask her once, and she responded, I’ll tell you later.
Later came faster than I expected, but I don’t mean that she told me the answer to my question. Instead, weeks after we have left the University, the train comes to a stop. It isn’t very sudden, but even I know that stopping is not a good idea, especially with vampires and cannibals roaming the grounds at night. And I know we are still far away from the next dome-city. But this is nothing compared to Rai’s actions. She runs, out the door to the room without giving me any warning whatsoever. Not knowing what she was doing, I run after her. She is faster than I have ever seen her move, and I know I can’t keep up. I can see her down the hall as I move quickly, and watch as she turns a corner and disappears. I hear yelling as I try to reach where she turned, and find myself wishing I had stayed in the room. She had left the train. It was nighttime still, and I saw a small station in front of the exit to the train. It had no glass dome over it, just a small sun roof that would not be able to block out all of the sun’s rays. Past it, I noticed Rai’s figure running along the ground, and she ran towards a town not far from the station.
“Hey, is she with you!?” I turn towards the source of the yell, a soldier with an intimidating automatic rifle. It’s not pointed in my direction, but his finger is still on the trigger, “I said is she with you!?”
I nod, “Yes…yes she is.”
“Listen kid, I’m not sending anyone after her. A roadblock is all we stopped to take care of, so if you think she’s gonna come back, she’s not getting back on this train.”
The soldier shook his head at me, “Its nighttime kid. There are vampires out right now, do you expect her to be able to do whatever she’s doing and come back out without a bite?”
I feel something, and it’s not something I enjoy. Without giving any warning of my intentions, I shove the guard to the side and start to make a break for the town that Rai is going towards. Some of the guards try to stop me, at the order of the one I shoved aside. I don’t know how to fight, and I could definitely be defeated by only one of these soldiers easily without a good surprising element. So instead, I keep running. This only becomes a bad idea once I reach the town, and the sound of the train leaving the station reaches my ears. I don’t even have a weapon, and it becomes my first mission for survival.
It is dark here, and it looks like the town has been empty for quite some time. The street lights are not on, and I feel especially alone in this darkness. I strain my ears, as I move quietly, the less sounds I hear, the better I feel. I crouch down as I move along the street slowly. I take in each corner as I pass by it, and look at each building as well. Most of the windows are broken or melted through; sunlight will do that without any protection. The buildings look fairly intact though, and I wonder if I can rummage through a few safely. When I find a shop with more than a few gardening tools, I take my chances. I leap over the frame of the front window slowly, and try to be careful with my steps. There’s glass on the floor, and I can’t help but cringe as I step on a few pieces. They sound so loud in such a silent location, and I wonder if the world could hear me trying to sneak around. I wonder if a chainsaw is useful, but I doubt I would be able to move fast enough. Instead, I find a machete. I don’t think this has ever seen the light of day; it looks like it’s never been used before. I nod my head at my weapon of choice and leave the store; my next mission is to actually find Rai. I start moving a little quicker down the road although I’m not sure why. I must be feeling confident. At the corner of a block, I hear feet shuffling that are not my own. And there are a few voices in the distance as well. I freeze in place, silently stepping towards a wall and taking cover behind it.
A quick peak shows me a small group of people talking and laughing. They seem normal enough, but I have been taught at an early age to distrust those that live outside the dome. They would not see me as another person, only as food. I pay attention to numbers. There are four of them, each of them eating, and only one of them with a gun. I can’t sneak up on them, but I might be able to sneak around them. I stop thinking about that when I notice her on the ground, Rai’s white hair shining lightly even in the darkness. She’s not moving. She is not moving. I have no thoughts after that, only the feelings of rage and hate.
I woke up feeling sick and with tears in my eyes. It is the same sickness I feel after using up my adrenaline; I really do not enjoy it. I get up from where I was lying down, and notice that the four cannibals are dead. Each one is a little more gruesome than the next: stabbed through the heart, cut into the face, one through the stomach and then decapitation. I wish I could say that I didn’t do it, but I’m covered in blood too and so is my machete. I feel like I will need to get used to this sick feeling I have right now. A hand on my shoulder turns me around suddenly, and I see something that seems impossible. Rai stands in front of me, smiling she opens her mouth, “I’m impressed.” She says to me, catching me completely off-guard.
“But…you couldn’t speak…I thought you were dead!” I stand up and put my hands on her shoulders, dropping the machete. There are no wounds on her from what I can see, but I find tears in her clothing. I look up at her for some explanation, but she merely winks at me and places her hands on my face, holding it as she looks at me.
“Will you trust me?” She whispered.
I nodded my head, who else was I going to trust in this wasteland. I also didn’t think we had much time; it was not as dark as it used to be. Dawn was coming.
“Then, keep looking at me and don’t fight it.”
I would have asked her what not to fight, but I feel it as soon as she finishes her sentence. What feels like wire encircles my neck and I begin to choke. My airway is constricted, and I have no chance of getting any air back into my lungs. I look up at her in surprise, but she continues to hold my face and smiles gently. I start to fade out already; my heartbeat must be slowing down. I begin to wonder what death is like until I feel something against my lips. Even with my eyes open, I can’t see exactly what it is, but I can guess.
I wake up suddenly, lying on the ground. I put a hand on my neck, but I don’t feel anything out of the ordinary. My hearts still beating, my lungs are breathing. I know I’m still alive and at the same time, something is different. I stand up, seeing that the dawn is about to break outside of a window, and I watch as Rai-la-su speaks with an elderly man covered in white robes. He disappears into dust and she turns towards me and walks. When her eyes focus on me she smiles and begins to run inside. I barely have time to react as she tackles me. I’m still standing though, somehow.
“How do you feel?” She asks me.
“Confused,” I answer, “I thought you were deaf and mute?”
She smiled, “When you live long enough, you tend to forget some of the more basic things you take for granted. You might see what I mean one day.”
I do not feel any less confused. In fact, I feel a little more confused than before. “How old are you?”
She hits my shoulder gently, and I nod my head. Probably not the best question to ask. Instead, I say, “I thought you were dead.”
“When you are forgotten by time, thinks like that have no meaning.” She answers and grabs my hand. She pulls me towards a doorway into a dark room with a bed in it. She closes the door, locks it and jumps onto the bed, a smile in her eyes. As she lies down, she looks over at me and pats the side of the bed, “I have a story for you.”
I sit down next to her, and feel her press up against my back, wrapping her arms around me. I don’t mind, I enjoy the feel of her breasts. “What kind of story?”
“A story about being forgotten by time.”
“Is there a word for that?”

Hero - Draft

A valley once existed, known for its beautiful scenery and peaceful people. Tall and old forests stood strong along the bottom edges of the surrounding vale mountains, with a river sourcing from the North and running through a stretch of hills and plains. Within these fertile lands, life thrived peacefully up until the news of this paradise reached the world around them. Many countries wished to assimilate this incredible and important find into their borders. Disputes came up and the only expected solution came to be war.
On a small hill inside of this valley, there stood the ruins of a mansion. Once it housed a small family, but the war ended their lives quickly. At the time, few could remember the kind family without tears, a bitter reminder of their once peaceful summers. From this location, three children looked down towards the plains below, watching a battle with incredible clarity. They were so focused on the battle they did not notice the fourth figure in the shadows.
“Who’s fighting today?” One of the children asked.
“I think it’s the pale-skins and the burnt-ones.” The second child answered.
They watched as regiments of heavy armored soldiers charged into a group of dark-skinned men, their armor covering only specific portions of their body. Many of the dark skinned men fell, trampled in the sudden charge; but the rest maneuvered around the attacking regiment and closed in, choking the life and momentum out of the heavily armored soldiers.
“I think the burnt-ones are winning today.” The third child spoke shyly.
“Yeah, but they’ve been losing for a while now, so it only means that they’re regaining some lost territory.”
The shadows shifted, and then whispered, “You’re well informed aren’t you?” it said with a heavy eastern accent.
The three boys jumped as they turned to face the speaking shadow, finding a woman in tight black clothing covering most of her body, except for her eyes. They would have paid much more attention to her figure, if she had not spoken again wielding a small onyx dagger in her hand, “I’d like you to run away now,” she said, “and don’t return, or else your luck and my kindness will have run out.”
The three boys said nothing as they ran from their places, moving around the outside of the house and sprinting away from the battlefield. The woman watched them go out of the corner of her eye and then kneeled down near where the boys had been sitting. From her position, she watched the battle continue to unfold. Her eyes shifted from side to side, searching through the ranks of the armies before she gave a small sigh, “They aren’t here today either...” she whispered to herself.
She recalled the information of the two armies in front of her. These armies belonged to do of the three nations fighting over this piece of land. The heavily armored soldiers made up the army of the Kingdom of Noor, better known as the pale-skins by their enemies. They sought the land for the metals that they believed laid embedded deep within the expansive walls of the valley, hoping to make better weapons and armor for their oversized soldiers.
She turned her eyes towards the dark-skinned men, easily recalling them to be the Mercenary Army of Bailadan, the Desert Prince. Their enemies knew them better as the burnt-ones and it was rumored that the Prince hoped to make a large merchant city within the defendable yet easy to travel valley. It would bring a profit to the already wealthy prince.
Without realizing, she had placed a hand to her chest, breathing in relief at the absence of a certain person, before she stood and faced the dark forest down the side opposite of the battlefield. She picked a small hand mirror from her waist, and reflected the light from the sun down towards the woods. Nearly instantly, men and horses began to step out from within the forest and fell into tight block formations. They came wielding spears, swords and long bows, and carried hard cloth and ceramic armor organized in plates over their shoulders and down their waists. Ahead of them rode an imposing man with the same samurai armor in black and copper, and devil horns on the top of his helmet. A black Oni mask, the mask of a demon, covered his face.
She bent to one knee as he trotted his horse towards her and slowed to a stop. “You executed the children?” He said in his native language.
“No Master...I scared them off instead...” She responded in kind.
The man paused for only a moment, “Why is that?”
“I felt that mere children were not worthy of such a death. Forgive your shadow if it offended you.” She said with her head down the entire time, eyes focused on the grass beneath her feet.
“It is forgiven, but it shall not be repeated.” He said sternly before waving his hands towards three soldiers near him. “What is the situation on the battlefield?”
She nodded her head slightly as she spoke, “The pale-skins and the burnt-ones are in heated battle. They have already suffered several casualties; they will be easy to defeat for you, my master.”
“It shall be so then.” He nodded to the three soldiers, who quickly moved back to their respective men, shouting out orders to them. He then turned to the woman, still on her knee, “Return to your post. I, Tensen Miyamoto, have a victory to confirm.”
She nodded her head, watching as he turned his horse around and trotted down towards the other horsemen. Several archers broke ranks from the regiment and passed by her as she finally stood up, crawling just over the peak of the hill, notching arrows in their bows. This was the ‘proud’ army of the Makoten Empire, reduced to resorting to ambush tactics on weakened and bleeding enemies. She recalled the nickname given to them, squints, meant to insult them for the shape of their eyes. She remembered laughing the first time she heard it.
She listened as the near silent sound of snapping bowstrings, as the archers shot their arrows down at two fighting armies. The sound of horses pounding into the once beautiful grass rumbled through the hill. The hero of the Empire led a stampede of horsemen down the slope of the hill. This fearsome Demon’s Blade drew his sword, and rode into the enemies. He cut down and slashed through all in his path, those that stood their ground, those that fled and those that surrendered on their knees and begged for mercy. No shame or hesitation ever affected his sword arm.
With these thoughts in mind, she ran down the slope of the hill, heading towards her next assignment. The battle would eventually end with victory to the army that appeared from nowhere.


Along the valley, different battles took place simultaneously. Armies gained and lost territory, always leaving the ground littered with corpses. From one of these corpse ridden battlefields, marched the victorious Noors. They sluggishly walked to their encampment, dragging their feet along the soft ground. They each wore plates of silver armor, dulled and dented by the weapons, and the blood, of the enemy. Ahead of them led their General, the hero of the Kingdom of Noor.
General Grath Brithmere, better known as the Armored Mountain by his enemies, walked taller and larger than any other Noor with little difficulty. His armor covered him from head to toe, leaving very small openings along the joints. Light scratches, dents and dirt had marred the shining beauty that normally graced his armor, but as he left behind footprints almost two-inches deep in soft and dry ground, no one questioned the strength of the armor. Nor did they question the strength of the one who wore it.
The soldiers walked leaning on their spears or against each other, some with sounds but most lethargic and aching from wearing the heavy armor for most of the day. But Grath continued without any aid from his comrades. As they neared their destination, the sound of blacksmiths banging hammers against heated metal echoed towards their ears. An encampment lied before them, consisting of several tents, some connected to each other with tented tunnels and hallways. Smoke stacks could be seen from the blacksmith room pitched on the far side of the encampment.
As the troops reached the perimeter of the tents, many of the soldiers fell to the ground, grasping for the latches to take off their armor with the help of any page or squire that was available. Grath walked on, moving towards a solitary tent near the river and stepped inside. He sat down on a stone stool and waited as several squires and pages came to unfasten and pull off his armor. After several minutes, they left Grath in his chainmail underclothing and carried the armor to be washed, smoothed out and polished. It took three pages alone to carry his spear to the blacksmith, in order to re-sharpen the blade.
Grath sat still for a moment, running a hand through his beard, grey and damp with sweat. His hand moved up to his face, feeling the wrinkles that mapped from his eyes all around to his brow and his lips. He stood and walked through a doorway into the war room, where a large map of the valley lay on a wooden table with several small and simple figurines lay on top of it. Several old men stood around it in various states of clothing. Some stood in their armor, either leaning over and inspecting the map before them or drinking a glass of red wine as they rested. Others leaned against or sat near the table dressed similarly to Grath, with sweaty faces and droopy eyes.
“Well met, how went the battle with the squints general Brithmere?” asked one general covered in shiny armor.
“We were victorious,” Grath responded in a deep voice, “even though they ambushed us at every corner.”
“Such is the way that they do battle general.” said another, older, officer in chainmail underclothing. “You did well despite the losses.”
“Inevitable,” Grath said strongly, “such is war.”
“General Brithmere,” A younger officer began, “how many men did we lose in the battle?”
Grath turned towards the younger general, remembering his name to be Calib and eyeing him before turning his head back to the map, “the battle was won, and the losses were acceptable.”
General Calib placed a hand on his smooth chin before shaking his head, “general we can’t win the war on the backs of dead men. Surely we can think up a better strategy against the enemy armies.” He eyed each of the generals before turning back to Grath, “general Brithmere, you’ve had many battles against the squints before, what would you suggest? What can our men do in order to fight them off better?”
“Our strategies have yet to fail us in our wars,” countered a general from the table. “It is enough that we win each battle after another.”
“But there must be a better way!” the younger general said in a raised voice.
General Grath cut him off with a pound on the table, “If you wish to fight the enemy better, force your men to charge faster. Once they strike your men, the enemy will be unable to use their own weapons for a time. That is when you finish them quickly.”
Cabil froze for a moment, before another general interjected, “Don’t worry general Brithmere, we have no reason to change our strategy. As long as you lead the men into battle, they will fight and die for you and we will come out of this victoriously. You may rest for today.”
Grath nodded his head slowly and moved away from the table as the war meeting continued. He walked down one of the many interweaving hallways between larger tents, stepping towards a room connected to smaller ones built to house each general comfortably. Grath entered his with a tired face; his mind moved along his memories, searching through each of the battles he had taken part in. He wondered if the young soldier truly understood war.
Grath shook his head as he realized how far back he went. He remembered the battle where he became a respected hero, after the many battles where his nation merely considered him a berserker. His battles ended in death on both sides; many of Grath’s own men would reach their end simply be standing too close to the hero as he spun his large spear around himself. None disagreed in the fact that Brithmere achieved impressive feats, but none could ignore the death trail of fathers and sons that followed Brithmere wherever he went in war. He went through platoons and soldiers like food and water, leaving nothing behind but scraps and bone. His infamous reputation did not change until the day he accidentally ended a war.
As the war against a neighboring empire began to intensify, Grath received orders to do frequent patrols around the camp. After a few days, Grath decided to widen the patrols himself. He took his men along a much longer route, walking around the camp in what would have taken an entire day to fulfill. Instead of finishing the route however, Grath came across an unexpected surprise, the enemy encampment. Purely by accident and incredibly outnumbered, Grath charged forward into the enemy stronghold with his men.
After that, he could only remember the looks on the enemies faces as he skewered them, slashed at them, and pummeled them to death. He remembered nothing of the time, and only awoke from his trance when a horn echoed through the sky, signaling the reinforcements had come to support him. They were unneeded. Grath had succeeded in destroying the entire encampment, and sending many of the soldiers into a sudden retreat. Grath’s entire platoon had died early on in the battle; he simply had not realized it.
Grath shook his head as he returned to reality. He saw no need to relive the past. The world knew Grath Brithmere as a general and a heroic one. He also knew that many years after he would have passed away the kingdoms of the world would speak of his name in awe and fear. Grath had done the greatest feats he had set out to do. He was a member of the aristocracy and was married. He had an heir to his fortune, which was vast. None saw any doubt that Grath had fought for everything that he had received as a reward and this was only after payment of the blood of his enemies. His only goal now, was to survive for as long as possible.
With that, he eyed the soft cot in the corner of his private room. He sat on it, and fell onto his back. His body ached as his eyes began to droop immediately. Almost at once, he began to dream, and he focused on the heroic deeds he would commit during the next battle.


No moon shined that night at the Bailadan camp but the mercenaries and the soldiers cared very little about that, deciding to light up the night with their bonfires. They feasted on meat cooked by the flames, each with large smiles on their faces. They spoke to each other and laughed in a way that would make anyone wonder if they had truly just returned from a battle.
Among these happy warriors sat one whose smile grew into a grin. His teeth turned red from the meat; he had not allowed it to cook enough. Still, he continued to tear his teeth into the morsel, holding it out against the flame as he chewed and swallowed. The battle with a victory for the young warrior grinning with red teeth; Budi, the hero of the Mercenary Army. Budi had a grand ability with a blade and still he had the skill to run into battle with one in each hand. His grin, causing the laughter and glee of his fellow soldiers, turned into the sole reason that many of the enemies feared the Bailadan Army. The enemies knew they could not compete with the Bloody Grin easily.
No sign of the fearsome hero showed however, as Budi continued to cook and bite into his piece of meat. He laughed and listened as other warriors told their battles in detail, and then recounted the sight of their hero striking down an enemy commander behind enemy lines. “Budi! You must be insane for taking such a risk, do you not fear death?” One of them asked from across the bonfire.
Budi did not know who had asked, but knew how to respond, “Why fear death when I know I’ll be returning to such a feast after a victory?” He half-shouted smiling, wiping his chin as he moved closer to the fire, showing his features more. Each soldier had a different age. All countries remembered the Princedom of Bailadan for their powerful Mercenary army. A mercenary had the most dangerous work but at the same time it paid almost the best. Only a merchant could earn more in their lifetime. Old veteran mercenaries and young rookie mercenaries always existed. But if a veteran fell, a rookie would soon enough take his place on the battlefield. Yet with Budi, his veteran status did not show in his age. By far, he fought as the youngest warrior in the army. Barely an adult by most standards, many people already considered him a hero. Prince Bailadan rewarded Budi with a rate that most mercenaries would not live long enough to see, yet none could believe the money was not well spent.
Budi grinned under his dark spiked hair, sniffing his nose gently as he took another bite of his meat. He had skin as dark as the rest of them but, unlike them, his face had no scars. Anyone could see his small nose and wide grin through the bonfire. But although he looked childish, his eyes held the same wisdom and experience that most soldiers who had seen a great deal of bloodshed owned. A few had heard rumors of his story, but no one could say they knew the honest truth. They only needed to know that the Bloody Grin appeared on the battlefield after he had made several kills. They knew also that he would walk away from battle covered in blood that was never his own.
The food, drink and conversations lasted the hour before most of the mercenaries began to separate from the fires and head towards their tents. Their other benefits, a woman for each warrior, lay on their beds and waited for the return of their masters. They left Budi in front of the bonfire, along with a pile of meat meant to congratulate his success; a pile of meat he knew very well he could not finish alone. He knew the friend he had to go to.
With several slabs of cooked meat on his arms, he stepped through the camp looking through the other bonfires. He came across the one where his friend sat, an old friend. Around this bonfire sat several men of the same skin tone, but wearing different armor than those of the mercenary. Their armor shined dark red, covering their forearms as well as their stomach and their shins. The rest were covered in cloth, meant to keep their bodies light and fast. Next to each of them laid a spear, most of which had seen a great deal of action. They were not mercenaries, but the few soldiers that existed within the Bailadan Army, soldiers with a wage and an occupation during peacetime as well as wartime. The position belonged only to those who passed the requirement of blood and family, acknowledged in the past by the first Prince of the desert. After which, the Prince and the nobility never offered the position to even the most well-known mercenaries.
“Jobi!” Budi shouted and watched as his soldier friend turned around with an arched eyebrow. Although just as young as Budi, most people considered Jobi as one of the more responsible warrior. At least, most believed it from the standing of his family among the common people. Jobi looked down at Budi’s arms, before he reached out and grabbed hold of two slabs of meat for himself. He then let his smile widen as he scooted to the side, giving Budi room to sit.
“It is good to be your friend,” Jobi said as he began to chew his piece of meat. Many of the soldiers reached over to take their fill of beef offered by the mercenary hero, the bowl of gruel at their feet completely forgotten.
“It’s a shame they don’t let you out of your armor, you look like you’ve been in there a while,” Budi said as he saved a piece of meat for himself, he knew he would go hungry later on anyways.
“Not all of us can be as laid back as you mercenaries. We are supposed to be ready to fight at all times. Who do you think protects you during the night?”
“Not only during the night, or so I hear.” Budi said with a glance towards his friend. The stern expression on Jobi’s face and the way he avoided Budi’s eyes told him all he needed to know, “So it’s true then, they’re now ordering you into the battlefield.”
“Yes, it is so,” Jobi said with a piece of meat between his teeth. He swallowed and shook his head, “Either the battle tomorrow will be fiercer than any we’ve ever come across,” he smirked as he looked back at Budi, “or you mercenaries are simply dying too quickly.”
“Well,” Budi said unshaken as he showed his hand and pointed towards himself, “you and I both know that I haven’t been touched in any of these battles.”
“Ah the luck of the Bloody Grin continues to surprise us all.”
“Luck has very little to do with it.”
“I doubt that old friend,” Jobi said smiling, “look at yourself. You are no older than the rookie mercenaries who could survive their first time on the battlefield, and they die the quickest .”
“I suppose it was luck then, that had me survive my very first encounter with bandits?” Budi said with an arched eyebrow. He noticed that his friend did not respond, instead continuing to eat through his food, “And I suppose it was luck that had me at the frontlines of the first battle that saw me as the Bloody Grin.”
“Why the hell do you grin on the battlefield anyways? You’re not crazy enough to enjoy the bloodshed, are you?” Jobi asked, but his eyes already knew the answer. He and his friend had grown up together; they knew each other like true brothers.
“You know I’m no war monger, just a hero of the battlefield.”
“Most people do not see a difference.”
“Most people aren’t warriors either.” Budi spat back and stared at the bonfire in front of them. He began to realize that most of the soldiers had already gone for the night. He sighed as he continued, “most people don’t watch their fathers die at a young age.”
Jobi looked over at his friend and nodded his head in agreement, but remained silent.
Budi sighed as he continued, “It wasn’t luck that brought my father to death and swords in my hands. It was fate, and my skill that kept me alive when I was surrounded by cutthroats, pale-skins, squints, and any other enemy that we’ve faced in the last five years.”
“Enough Budi, I meant no offense.” Jobi said sternly as he finished his meat. He watched as Budi took out the meat he had hidden from the other soldiers and began to eat it as well. “Still you are hungry?”
Budi looked down at the meat slightly surprised before looking at his friend grinning, “Food is meant to be eaten, otherwise it’s wasted. You’re words if I remember correctly.”
“Why not give it to your harem? Heaven knows that they may need it.” Jobi said smirking as he grabbed his spear and stabbed the wood in the bonfire gently.
“I gave them some food a while ago, I’m sure they will be ready.” Budi said with an equal smirk. The two laughed alongside each other, as good friends did.
“You mercenaries are all so spoiled. Most of them have a woman, but you Budi are given three!” Jobi said with a shake of his head, “How could you manage to receive that anyways? There are rumors that you even have a squint among them?”
“Jobi, my old friend,” Budi began with a grin, “what better way to keep a war hero happy than to give him women to entice him to fight harder and return home alive and well?”
“I doubt you could possibly be that famous...”
“Really? Then why was it that so many pale-skins turned tail and ran as soon as they realized who I was?” Budi responded, brimming with confidence.
“Budi, I’m afraid I must be honest with you.” Jobi began seriously, causing Budi to raise an eyebrow. Jobi turned to him with a smile, “You’re just so ugly that most people would run in fear of catching some rare disease off of you.”
Budi shoved Jobi to the side and laughed as he stood up. “You’re just jealous that the battle is half-won for me just when I show my face.”
“Well then, in that case, I will just have to make sure that I stand behind you when the battle begins.” Jobi said grinning and standing up alongside Budi, “That way, I won’t have to fight all that much.”
“Fine then, I’ll make sure to suggest you into my troop tomorrow.” With a grab of each other’s arms, the two smiled and honored each other with great luck in battle the next morning. Jobi returned to his duties, and Budi walked towards his tent. He stood in front of the entrance eyeing his two scimitars and his armor hanging from a hook at the entrance. They shined and held no cuts or dents on them, the blacksmith had worked on it as soon as Budi had walked away from the battle. Budi smiled as he entered his tent, the scent of incense entering his nostrils almost immediately. His tent was covered in bright colored sashes, and the ground was completely covered in carpets and pillows. The sight did not really suit his tastes however his mind was preoccupied by other things.


“Commander Miyamoto?” a guard called out from outside a small tent in the shadows. The tent flap moved to the side as the man in question walked out. He walked out and looked up into the night sky, dark without the moon.
“Are you here to waste my time?” The commander said staring at the young guard coldly, who gulped in response. The guard remembered the stories of the last person who wasted a moment of the Commander, he shuddered at the stories.
“No commander!” The guard whispered fiercely knowing that their cover of darkness was meant to be secrecy. “The Lieutenant asked me to inform you that the rest of the squad leaders are present. They wish for you to explain the plan for the battle tomorrow.”
“Good, in that case, you’ll be keeping your fingers today subordinate. Be grateful.” Miyamoto waited for no response as he quickly stepped past the guard and marched deeper into the encampment. He walked past several trees and watched as many soldiers that were standing at ease quickly bowed at Miyamoto’s presence. He did not slow down or give any response to the bows. He continued on his way, not once changing his direction, expecting the soldiers and even the trees to move to the side as he walked in the most direct path to his destination. He reached it in less than a minute, entering a tented room with a large map on the floor. Many of the officers were kneeling in front of the battlefield map, while others were standing above it with furrows on their brows. As soon as Miyamoto walked in however, the attention quickly shifted to him.
“The Hero of the Makoten Empire appears,” said an aging general amongst the many officers. His face was covered in wrinkles and his hair was white with age, but his eyes were young and fierce. No man dared challenge him, for there was no chance at besting his ferocity in battle nor would there be honor in such a fool’s death.
Miyamoto gave no response as he moved to the other side of the map and kneeled onto a cushion on the ground. He and the aging general stared at each other for a bit, while the rest of the officers knelt down around the map slowly and as quietly as they could manage.
“Well Commander, I believe you have a plan that you wish for us to implement in our battle tomorrow, is that not correct?”
“My plan will be everything that our battle hinders on general; it is our best way for victory.” Miyamoto said with a straight back and a stern face. The General did not respond facially but gave a small nod, waiting for Miyamoto to continue. Miyamoto looked down at the battlefield map and pointed towards a spot where the river was narrow, “That is where the next battle will occur in the early morning, our spies have confirmed this. The burnt-ones and the pale-skins will be battling each other with all their might, it will be the perfect time to cripple both of their forces.”
“It will be no simple battle if they mean to bring as much force as you suggest. How are we to place our men against such a large amount of enemies?” An officer asked, searching the map for cover and concealment where an ambush on the battlefield would work best.
“We must split our forces into small groups, and then begin to surround the enemy from this base before we attack.”
“That will take many hours, we won’t know when each of us will be ready, or if we can move around without being caught and attacked.” The General stated, a finger on the map, “if it succeeds we will more than likely be facing only the surviving enemy, but only if we succeed in stealth.”
Miyamoto shook his head, “I intend to attack before we have completely surrounded the enemy. It will draw their attention away from the rest of the forces, while you surround the battlefield.”
“And should this distraction fail?”
“There is no need to plan for such a thing. I will be leading the distracting forces myself.” He stated as he stood up from the ground, “My presence is all we will need to assure victory, the rest of the plan is merely in case it takes longer to wipe them out.”
“How can you call the combined forces of the rest of the army a contingency plan?” The old General finally spoke up once more.
“Obviously I cannot enter the battlefield with only my platoon. I will need a great deal of men from each of the platoons to make the battle easier.”
The General did not speak immediately, instead eyeing Miyamoto with a suspicious look. “I cannot accept this request,” He finally said and moved to stand up.
“Thank you General,” Miyamoto said with a bow and a smile, “I knew you believed in me. I only wish that you could have seen my victory in this war.” The General looked towards him in confusion before his eyes blanked. He looked down at the Eastern Katana blade that stuck through his chest. Blood dripped off the blade slowly and fell onto the map, before the sword was pulled back suddenly. The General fell, bleeding and dying but silent. His killer was merely another officer, returning to his place on the ground next to the other officers.
Everyone remained silent; most had looked away from the sight that they knew would eventually come to pass. But some could not help but stare and now placed a finger between their collar and their neck to allow a little air. Miyamoto was already gone from the tent, and the Officers began to leave as well, moving to their soldiers to tell most of them where they would be going and who they would be fighting for.
Miyamoto could not force down the smug smile that had come at the General’s death. He knew that with the general gone the rank would soon pass on to him; a victory was all that was needed. As he sat down on his cot, his mind began to consider many different ways that the battle would go. His considerations had always gotten him this far on his own, but now he had several men at his disposal and an information network that had a finger in every country. Now that the rank was within his grasp, he needed to worry about the next stage of advancement. It would be more difficult to reach Emperor, but with time, he could secure his future.
Miyamoto did not mean to become a warrior. He meant to stay as an officer that never made it into the front lines. But his commanding officer sent him in on his first battle, although Miyamoto never understood why. He took his men against a larger number of enemies and found himself losing the battle almost immediately. He retreated, angry and the only survivor of his platoon. His commanding officer spoke with him, asking him where the enemy was heading. Miyamoto gave him a direction, and the commanding officer followed it, allowing Miyamoto to rest in the shadows.
The battle ended in victory, but Miyamoto’s commander never returned from it. The commander was sent through a forest and ran into the enemy accidentally. The platoon survived, but it is said that the commander died first and the platoon scattered to regroup and reform their chain of command. The victory only came when the enemy found themselves outnumbered and outmatched. Miyamoto found his victory when he was promoted because of the death of his commanding officer. It was something that he learned from and used to his advantage when it came to war. He used his mind and manipulated things so that they would turn out how he wanted them to turn out. He created the name “Demon’s Blade” knowing that many of the pale-skins would become superstitious and afraid.
The flap to Miyamoto’s tent opened suddenly and Miyamoto was forced to return to the present. A young soldier entered and knelt in front of Miyamoto. He was not an officer, but he had been present moments before in the war room.
“You are quick to clean yourself I see.” Miyamoto stated noticing the lack of blood on the soldier’s uniform. The soldier gave a simple nod and Miyamoto continued, “And you hide your gender well, I had forgotten that you were a woman when I ordered you to commence this job tonight.” Miyamoto stated after noticing two mounds under the uniform on the soldier’s chest. The soldier reached up and pulled off the bun their hair had been in and released it, allowing the long flowing hair to fall and reveal the soldiers more womanly appearance. She gave no other response.
Miyamoto spoke once more as he went to fetch a bit of alcohol for himself, “I feel it is necessary to congratulate you tonight Kiben, I was unsure of your abilities until now. As I have promised, I will reward you through your clan with a handsome payment.” He took a drink silencing him for a moment as she looked towards him, waiting for him to continue with a different set of words. A different reward.
“I have also considered your more personal request.” He stated quickly and without looking towards her, “You wish to become my shadow. My eyes and sword on the battlefield, is that not so?”
“It is so,” as she spoke for the first time she quickly bowed her head, “I wish to be in the service of an esteemed leader. I feel that will be the greatest reward for my clan and my honor.”
“I believe your skills are great now, but you are aware that I already have a warrior in my service. I must remain secretive, and I may be successful in this with only one. Otherwise, my enemies will realize my past victories were...pulled by several unseen strings.”
“Give me the chance to prove myself!” She stated before gasping and bowing once more, “Forgive me, I spoke out of turn.”
“It is forgiven. I did wish to know of your resolve, and now I believe you are willing. I will not tell you where my warrior is or what she is doing, but I am sure you already know where to find her. If you wish to stand by me, you will take her place. And for you to take her place, she must become useless to me. Take her life, silence her, and your place at my side is certain.” Miyamoto said and then turned to her, kneeling down to her level and raising her head. “Do not fail me Kiben.”
“I would never dream of it.”
“Oh, and before you go, pick a group of men to perform the task that you and I spoke of yesterday. I want this plan implemented before I enter the battlefield.”
“Yes my master.”


Early in the morning of that day, before the sun had even lifted itself out of the horizon, Budi had woken up thanks to the woman that was lying on his chest, wide-awake and striking up a conversation with him. Two other women slept at his side, but he did not mind. The Makoten now speaking with him always made conversations interesting.
“Are you sure you don’t need more rest?” the squint said with a hand over his cheek. Her smile showed she knew the answer to the question but allowed Budi to respond.
“I’m fine. I’m only going to war, isn’t that right?” He said in a whisper.
“Then, I have a question. When was the first time that you were made known as the Bloody Grin?” She asked with no amount of caution. Instead she had an even wider smile across her face, like a little girl wanting to hear a story.
Normally, Budi would rather avoid the question or think of something else to focus on within his mind. But for this woman, he began to think back to those awful years without realizing it, “It was after my father died, so I know I was already well trained with a blade. I was with the mercenaries then, and I couldn’t have been more than...15 years old. We fought an enemy, I don’t know who, but I do remember that we were clearly outnumbered. By the time the enemy reached my group, we had been forced to scatter thanks to their arrows and their cavalry. I thought the battle had been lost and that I would be able to retreat to the encampment, but I got lost.”
Budi closed his eyes as he tried to remember the next details, and forget the beautiful woman’s body that was caressing his face at the moment. “I...jumped into a ditch, in order to try and wait the battle out. But it wasn’t long before the enemy found me. I suppose it wasn’t a very small ditch in the end. I don’t...remember what happened after that though. The fight went by too fast, but I do know that I was sure I was going to die. Yet the army tells me that they found me on the ground, covered in blood but not my own. They woke me up, told me I was still alive, and I couldn’t help but grin. Even my teeth were red there had been so much blood, but they coined the nickname out of it.”
“You mean...” the squint woman began with a smirk on her face, “it wasn’t the enemy who named you this?”
“They caught on eventually, but at first it was just a name to remember me by through my friends and comrades. The enemy was not the ones who first thought of that name.”
She gave a silent giggle as she looked up at him, “You’ve come a long way since then.”
He nodded his head silently, “After five years of constant war and struggle and not a single scar to show for it, I certainly hope so.”
“Why do you still grin though?”
“Reflex.” He said simply and then shrugged his shoulders, “Or maybe it’s my only way of dealing with the stress of battle. All I know is that I’m still alive, which means it must be working.”
“I’m glad it is.”
“Glad that I can take part in battle with it, or glad that I’m still alive because of it?”
“Both.” She said grinning and pressed her face against the crook of his neck. “I probably wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you.”
He placed a hand on her back, rubbing it and grasping her attention before asking, “Now, what about you? I’ve never asked your story, but how is it that a simple mercenary like me gets a hold of someone like you?” He winked as he waited for an answer.
“I’m a slave, remember?” She said with a roll of her eyes, “I was bought by a Maharaja that passed by in the Makoten Empire, and am currently here for your pleasure and presence, hero.”
“It can’t have been that simple.” Budi said with a raised eyebrow, “There would be more than one single squint slave if that was the case.”
“Well squint slaves are more expensive than burnt-ones.” She said gesturing to the other two women that were sleeping, “Besides, squints are much more experienced.”
“That...I can believe. But if you were so expensive, why would the Maharaja even let you out of his sight.” He responded thoughtfully.
“I...may have enticed the Maharaja slightly when he bought me and when Baladia asked for women.” She felt her face go warm and began to avert her eyes from his. “I wanted to see the hero that put fear into many soldiers in the Makoten Empire.”
“You flatter me.”
“No, you truly do put fear into the hearts of many men.” She said smiling and looked back at him expecting a smile, but instead receiving a light frown. He stared at her as he shook his head.
“No, I mean you really flatter me. You became a slave to a Maharaja and then more than that, just to meet me?”
“No,” she said simply and watched Budi’s face become a mix of different emotions as he tried to stay indifferent. She smiled as she pressed her lips against his cheek, “I did all of that, so that I could see you. I never expected to meet you.”
Budi remained silent looking towards the girl holding him but finding his voice had left him for a moment. “How...” he began remembering the gift of speech, “How could you want to find someone who was an enemy to your people? Someone you’d never even met before?”
She gave no answer, instead placing her warm face into the crook of his neck again, hoping that he would forget he had asked that question and ask another. But he did not, just as she knew that he would not. “I saw you...once before. A very long time ago...”
“I...” She wanted to continue, but a horn sounded outside of the tent and Budi closed his eyes and let out a sharp sigh through his nose.
“Sorry...” Budi said as he stood up from the covers and began to put his clothes back on. He reached outside for his armor and pulled it into the tent. With her help, Budi latched on his armor and looked over himself in a large full-length mirror.
“You look dashing...” She said over his shoulder, her squint eyes smiling as she stared. His armor was focused on his arms where he had large plates of sand colored armor scaled over each other along the entire arm from his hand to his shoulder. The end of his shoulder’s armor stuck out straight into the air, giving him some protection to his head. He had a piece of armor around his mid-section as well, covering his stomach and the bottom half of his chest.
Budi moved his shoulders around a bit and flexed his hands and arms, before smiling and nodding his head, “Great, everything’s working just fine.” He turned around smiling, looking down to see his squint slave standing with a smile, still naked, carrying two scimitars in their sheaths. Budi took them and holstered them to his hips, before looking back at her and smiling, “I’ll expect that I’ll be on my back for quite some time after this battle Yukki. Sure you can handle that?”
Yukki shook her head as she wrapped her arms around him from behind, “Just come back alive and we’ll see.”


The cold morning air was refreshing for those wearing heavy armor. Grath knew his men felt fear at the coming battle, but the air cooled their sweat-ridden bodies and kept their nerves under control. They marched, deep into the disputed territory. The Noors looked to match weapons with the Bailadans, and strike a crippling blow strong enough to turn the final tide of the war. Grath noticed that Cabil was marching with a troop of his own to his left.
He remembered an older general telling him earlier in the morning that Cabil wanted to study his techniques. Grath found himself growling at the sight of the young upstart, before he turned away and noticing that they had reached the shallow part of the river. He raised a hand and watched as the flag bearer next to him pulled a horn carved out of a tusk and blew into it with a great burst of air. The rumbling tone echoed amongst the troops and they all came to a sudden stop in their march, retaining their rank and file.
Brithmere remained watchful though the fog blocked most of his sight. In fact he only noticed the river once they came close, and stopped only a few feet from the bank. The sound of the running water drowned out most noises, except for the light clanking of heavy armor and shields. Tapping his foot against the ground, Grath began to wonder if the enemy waited for the fog to life with them, or if they were simply unprepared at the moment. He pushed forward the soldier next to him with ease, and then pointed across the river. With a quick nod of his head, the shorter soldier jogged forward with his spear in front of him and entered the water. He waded through, quickly disappearing into the white mist though his armor could be heard as the soldier climbed up on the other bank. The armors steps faded slowly, until the closest soldier could hear nothing over the running water, until a shout echoed through the air and was then cut off.
“Weapons ready!” Brithmere bellowed, tightening his grip on his heavy spear. All the Noors watched ahead of them, waiting to see who would come from the mist. Grath strained his ears, listening for any sign of life on the other side of the river, but could hear next to nothing within his helmet. The fog began to lift, and Grath pivoted his spear and pointed it ahead of him as he spread his stance a bit and bent his knees.. He gave a glance at the flag bearer, who nodded and prepared his horn. The air grew thick and wet as each soldier’s tense hand fiddled with their weapons, the noise overpowering the sound of the river itself. Everyone, save Brithmere, held their breath as the fog began to lift, the sight of burnt-ones came into view, and Brithmere threw his hand up and waited.
The flag bearer’s horn blew a deep and rumbling tone that each Noor followed with their fiercest cry. Both sides moved forward, slowly at first before breaking out into a jog and then running towards the running water. Each soldier carried their spear or sword aimed directly ahead of them, hoping to impale the first enemy they ran into. Grath lagged behind most of the soldiers, watching as many of his men entered the river and many of the Bailadans followed suit. Then in the wind, he turned his head as the faint sound of a second horn blew in the distance, echoing through the entirety of the valley itself, and followed by a tremor in the ground.
The Noors waded through the water, not realizing the horn that echoed above their heads. They focused on the Bailadans that charged towards them, pushing through running water with swords up in the air. With a quick spin of his spear, one of the Noor knights pummeled a Bailadan mercenary into the water, knocking him out and letting him drown underwater. He spun around, thrusting his spear at another approaching enemy only to have his spear deflected and then watch the Bailadan strike at his head. The Noor fell over, decapitated, and the victorious mercenary pushed forward through the water to reach another armored enemy. All along the front, the battle was similar, with soldiers felling one after another. The splashing cold water began to turn warm and red as many more bodies began to flow with the current.
But eventually, even the shaking became evident to them and they turned their attention upstream, ignoring the enemy before them at least for the moment. Grath and Budi turned North, towards the the source of the river, and wondered what could cause such a quake. The sight of thunderous rushing waters gave them an answer, and chilled fear ran through the armies. Jumping over the horizon and barreling along the river’s path, the wall of water jumped off of the bank and spread along the battlefield. Grath and Budi barely had time to react or order their soldiers before the fresh water pummeled into them and sent them off of their feet.
The bodies swam in the water without control, some dragged along the ground as the water continued to push through for half a minute; seconds that broke ranks and sent the armies in a blind panic. The raging water swept away everyone that stood within the river itself, whether they were alive or dead.
Budi felt himself tumble against the ground while underwater. He shut his lips tight and held his breath before he dragged his fingers against to ground to steady himself. The current pushed and pulled against his body, dragging him where it pleased before it was finished with him. When the water finally drained away, continuing along the rest of the valley, Budi coughed out a bit of water as he forced himself to stand up against the now muddy ground. His body felt a little sore but nothing had broken. Though soaked and a bit cold, he stood up and opened his eyes. They went wide in an instant as he took a sharp breath and held it.
All around him, Noor soldiers moved and staggered to their feet. Others stayed on the ground, searching through the mud for their weapons.. Budi made a quick check of his own weapons, finding both weapons sheathed and locked as they had been before the waters hit him. He relaxed his worries, though none could notice it by the stance he took, before he heard the sound of a sudden battle cry. Without a second thought, he ducked his head and rolled to his right. He stood up using the momentum of his dodge and faced his opponent. There stood a Noor with a halberd stuck deep in the mud where Budi had been standing a second before. With his lips beginning to twitch already, Budi moved his thumbs over the locks of his sheaths and pulled both of his scimitars.
He watched as the armored soldier finally wrenched his halberd out of the ground, with mud splashing into the air, and then spun around, swinging the halberd at Budi’s head. The wild strike barely missed as the Bailadan ducked his head and the Noor then charged at him, crying out once more. Budi gripped his swords tightly before taking fast steps forward. He leaned towards his right side as he ran, using the sword in his left hand deflect the halberd’s path away from his body, and giving a solid cut through the midsection of the Noor soldier. Experience found less armor there, and so the scimitar cut through and the soldier fell to the ground.
He did not find the time to celebrate as many other Noor knights stood up and gave a battle cry like the first one had. Budi forced his fear down and grit his teeth further, his smile more prevalent as he swerved under a sword. He spun forward, raising both of his scimitars over his head before he swung them down and cleaved off the arms of the attacking Noor. Budi ignored the soldier’s surprise and pain as he twisted around to another that charged with his sword above his head, hoping to split Budi’s skull in two. With a quick flick of his wrist and an aggressive step in the right direction, Budi cut through the soldier’s neck and ignored the body fall past him like a rock.
Blood flew through the air and he knew this. But he had no care for where it landed. His enemies and his cutting blades were his focus. He kneeled under a spear and stabbed his scimitar into the leg of the attacking soldier. The pale-skin cried out in pain before Budi ran his blade across his throat as he stood up. In the same motion, he leaned to his left and pushed a spear away from his right side with his scimitar, and stabbed under the Noor’s armpit with the other blade, cutting into the ribcage. The sword shined red, and with the last few strikes, he began to realize his face felt wet and an odd metallic taste had fallen into his mouth. His grin only seemed to widen as he slid the scimitar out from the bleeding corpse and watched as the charge slowed to a stop and the war cries remained silent.
He could not see the faces on many of the soldiers through the visors of their helms, but he noticed their eyes. He saw them widen and noticed several spears and swords begin to shake. “It’s...” A soldier tried to speak, taking a step back. Budi continued his grin as he spread his stance, standing straight and looking towards each of his enemies. He spread his arms a bit but his scimitars remained in his hands and at his side. The blades pointed outwards and red dripped onto the muddy ground from the tips. “It’s!” The soldier tried once more, finding it hard to breathe and speak. Budi stepped forward, watching the stuttering pale-skin try to move away but tripped and fell on his back. The hit caused his breath and voice to return, “It’s the Bloody Grin!” He shouted as he dropped his sword and turned around, trying to crawl away. With a yell, two scimitars stabbed through the fleeing soldier’s back and he coughed as blood ran out between his lips. He slumped into the mud, silent and growing colder as the two scimitars slid out of his body. The man with red teeth watched as the tension broke like a mirror and the rest of the Noors started to flee. They tripped over each other as they pushed and shoved. And as they ran, he chased and struck hard at the backs of the cowards that feared him. The Bloody Grin did not stand amongst the bodies of the enemy, he killed and searched for more, blood covering and spreading through his water soaked clothing and armor. His teeth had long since become completely red as more ran down his face. Now, his battle was beginning.
Tensen Miyamoto held a rare smile as he rode through the plains with his men. He had seen the waters from the river rush forward and cover the enemy, but the damage and confusion it had done was more than he had hoped for.
From the Makoten Empire, the river weaved into the valley and merged with the main river running from the North. But it had been dammed a year before and had been used to create more land and build up more water. The Empire hoped to increase their farmlands when it became evident that the most of the land would dry out easily without the river to moisturize it. Yet the Empire never removed the damn and used it, instead, to keep a reservoir.
The night before, Miyamoto sent a signal that would break the dam to pieces. It would only take a few minutes before the excess water would rush through the shallow river channel and reach the valley. The plan worked perfectly and Tensen would reap his victory as he moved closer to the wet battlefield.
He had watched the entire event from a higher ground and then ordered the charge. Hundreds of men rode with him at full speed, ahead of the rest of the army. With a quick hand to his helm, he pulled down his white and red porcelain mask, showing an ugly face with tusks for teeth. His hand reached to his side and pulled out his katana, the eastern blade. He held it high in the air as he and his men charged onwards, watching as several soldiers and mercenaries cleared the fog from their heads. A Bailadan stood up and shouted to the rest of his comrades over his shoulder, before his head separated from his body and rolled along the ground.
The Demon’s Blade had awakened and its thirst for victory would be quenched. The charge continued as the cavalry trampled many of the men who lied injured and resting on the ground. Hooves broke bones and blades drew blood as the charge continued. And then the unforeseen happened.
The Demon’s Blade found himself flying through the air and then landed on the muddy ground. He slid along the mud for some time, creating a small trench along his path until he finally stopped. He looked back behind him to his horse toppled over and unmoving. It had tripped in the wet mud and had probably broken its neck at the impact of the sudden halt. He saw that most of the men were in similar states, some unlucky enough to be trapped under the horse themselves. He watched as other soldiers, both Noors and Bailadans charged towards him and towards each other. He growled as he stood up and held his katana with both hands. A mercenary reached him first, shouting at the top of his lungs. The Demon’s Blade watched his attacker swing down from above. The Demon’s Blade moved his up and to his left side in the beginnings of a circular motion, catching the enemy’s blade with the reverse edge of the blade. He then slid forward, continuing the circular motion as he slashed across the armored stomach with little effort.
The mercenary fell, almost unnoticed by his killer, but another one soon took his place. A quick swipe at his legs forced the Demon’s Blade to jump back before bounding forward and planting his foot firmly into the ground as he slashed upwards, cutting through the Bailadan’s chest. An armored knight then ran ahead, and aimed to impale the monster on the blade of his spear. He watched as the Demon’s Blade moved without hesitation, spinning around the spear and grabbed hold of his helmet. With a motion of his hand, he could hear a sickening crack and the Noor’s body fell.
More soldiers shouted their war cries as they hoped to best the hero that struck fear into their hearts. Those that died by his blade, died with the same desperate and fearful expression they had while they charged forward, yelling out their battle cry. Three Noors approached the Demon’s Blade together and charged forward with halberds in each of their hands. They each charged towards each other with the Demon’s Blade standing at the center of the three. A quick spin later, they realized that he had dodged their attack and was quickly moving towards one of them. A katana through the neck killed the unprepared one, before switching and moving on to the next armored soldier of the three. He brought his katana down trying to strike at the neck again, but found his weapon blocked by the staff of the halberd. The Demon’s Blade swung his blade around and slashed the Noor’s stomach, sending him to his knees in pain and shock. There was only one left now, and he prepared himself for the Makoten Hero’s next onslaught. The Demon’s Blade stepped forward, slamming the sword on the Noor’s helm and denting it at its top. He continued with another step and pushed his fist against the visor, sending the helm flying off his enemy’s head. The Demon’s Blade pulled back for only a second and then stepped forward again, striking the head in the same way and cutting through the top of the skull with ease. In less than ten seconds, the Demon’s Blade had efficiently killed enemies that outnumbered him and had even tried to work together.
Those who watched them fall one after the other took a step back and turned their focus to enemies they felt they could handle better. They also hoped that the Demon’s Blade would choose to ignore enemies with different opponents, all in vain as the Demon’s Blade found the closest enemy tangled in battle and slashed through his back and then cut through the opponent’s neck. Covered in both mud and blood, the Demon’s Blade continued his onslaught. His movements were quick and efficient, bringing enemies down in the smallest amount of attacks possible. He would move on immediately after dealing a lethal strike, but never even stood still long enough for the body to land on the ground.


After the water had thrown him across the battlefield, Grath could barely get back onto his feet without depending on his spear. Once on his feet, he began to step between the bodies of allies and enemies. But those simple victories did not last, instead it spurred on the rest of the Bailadans to get on their feet and prepare to at least fight for their lives.
He felt a smirk come over his face as several mercenaries ran up against him and bounced their blades off of his thick armor. His solemn face resumed under his helm as he spun his heavy spear around and sent the Bailadans toppling through the ground, most with broken bones. The Armored Mountain had made his appearance as he ignored the weapons pinging off of him uselessly. He ran his spear through another Bailadan and then picked it up with the body attached to the blade. The Armored Mountain then heaved it to the side and sent the body flying off into another group of soldiers and mercenaries.
He marched forward slowly, sinking deeply into the mud and pushed aside any of the Noors in his way, and lethally batted away any of the Bailadans with his spear. His grip slid down towards the butt-end of his spear and snapped it upwards, smashing the jaw of an enemy. With no hesitation in his grip, he then slammed his spear down onto another one of his enemies, smashing them into the ground. Chunks of mud and blood flew into the air, some of which splattered onto the shined metal over the Armored Mountain. Several Noor soldiers then ran to his side without any indication that he had called for them, and began to push and cut through the enemy ranks, moving ahead of their general. The marching progress only came to a halt when arrows began to rain down from the sky.
The Armored Mountain paused as he listened to the pinging of the arrows bouncing off of his armor harmlessly, and ignored those that pierced through the unprotected body parts of some of many of the warriors continuing their battle. He swiveled his head to the side quickly and found several Makoten archers standing at near the peak of a small wooded hill, notching arrows for another volley. In a sudden motion faster than most would think possible with his size, the Armored Mountain prepared his spear and pushed his legs against the ground with a bellow. Others were quick to follow his example, shouting and chasing after their general. Grath knew he was leaving them behind; they were not nearly as strong or as quick as he was. But with his size, his thick armor and his spear, he could stampede through such a group of enemies on his own. He stomped through Makotens and Bailadans alike, before he reached a clearing within the battle and continued to push himself to reach the archers as they aimed their bows towards him. The Armored Mountain lowered his head as the archers released their arrows, only to watch helplessly as their arrows bounced and broke against the mightier steel plate he wore.
There was no time to prepare another volley as the Noor hero finally reached them and slammed his shoulder into the commanding Makoten in the lead. Though he could not run any farther as he felt, Grath easily crushed one of the archers with his spear as he slammed it into the ground once more. The strike shook the ground around them and a few of the archers fell to the mud. His spear tasted blood on the easy targets, and the threat of the archers became a simple and unimportant memory. Turning about from the mass of bodies riddling the ground, the Armored Mountain marched back onto the battlefield, searching for new prey.


The battle had raged for only half-an-hour, but so many soldiers already lied in a pool of their own blood mixed with the wet mud of the ground. And still the fight continued. Thousands of soldiers had joined in, killing one of their enemies and then turning as an enemy ran them through. The heroes focused on bringing about a quick end, but even as they left behind more dead, the enemies refused to lose hope. Instead, they fought harder, spurred on by the thought that their own heroes were fighting alongside them.
The end came near only when the Bloody Grin and the Armored Mountain finally caught sight of each other. They had never met before, but the fear of their allies and the blood that covered them was enough to prove to each other, ‘this enemy is strong’. Without waiting, the Mountain stepped forward and slammed his spear against a Bailadan mercenary, sending him sliding out of his way. The Grin widened his smile as he stepped forward, pulling his blade away from a Noor that had rushed him earlier. The body hit the mud limply.
Deciding to move first, the Mountain rushed forward and aimed his spear ahead of him. He watched his enemy twist around the blade and barely push the heavy spear away with his scimitar. The Armored Mountain then came to a quick stop and leaned away from his enemy, making himself just out of reach of the sword’s cut. A quick jab of from his left hand landed onto the Grin’s armored gut. The Bailadan hero took a few steps back, beating his chest in order to try and force air to return.
The Mountain took this moment of weakness to strike at him again, slicing to the left and watching the Grin roll under it to the right. The Grin stood up and cut upwards with his both his swords, causing sparks to emit as it made contact with the thick armor. Marks dug into the silver plating, but the blades had not broken through. The Mountain turned towards him slowly and stuck his spear into the ground, waiting and watching the Grin with his cold eyes.
The Grin stepped forward and cut to the left, but met resistance as the Mountain blocked the attack by leaning the spear slightly. The Grin then tried a cut to the right but was blocked the same way. Pushed back again, he held his twin scimitars tightly and charged forward, opening his arms wide to strike from the both sides simultaneously. As the blades came closer, the Mountain twirled his spear in front of him, catching both blades with the staff and twisting their aimed target. The Grin spun through the air holding onto his blades and stopped only as he hit the mud on his back. He opened his eyes and quickly rolled to his left as the Mountain stabbed into the ground where he had been seconds before. He pushed himself back onto his feet and looked to the watchful Mountain.
The Grin leapt forward again and felt his air leave him as the butt end of the spear landed firmly against his stomach. The Grin flew back and slid across the ground once more, but he could not muster the strength needed to push himself back onto his feet. As he watched the Mountain step closer to him, however, he felt a almost cold sensation begin to coarse through his blood and forced him to stand up and open his lungs. He stood on his feet, both blades still in his hands somehow. The Mountain stopped marching and instead placed his spear in front of him and held it with both hands. The Grin tightened his face and his grip, and waited for something to move between the two of them.
Surrounding the two heroes, many of the warriors watched with intensity. Several of the Noors and Bailadans called a temporary truce in order to watch the heroes fight. But the Makotens had no interest in the end of the battle and forced their enemies to fight back instead of watching the battle unfold. Cabil stood among those who wanted to watch the battle with intensity and then found himself blocking the blade of a Makoten. A strong-armed slash with his broadsword ended the encounter, only to find another samurai replacing the fallen one. Cabil grit his teeth as he stabbed through the chest plating and watched his enemies eyes roll back. He then threw the body to the ground, and turned to watch the Armored Mountain and the Bloody Grin once more.
The Grin ducked down and rushed forward, hoping to end the battle quickly. He leaned back and slid under and between the Mountains legs, cutting at those armored limbs. The Mountain heaved a groan as he fell to his knees with pain and a strange sense of feeling unbalanced overcoming him. The Grin took this chance and ran towards the Mountain’s back, jumping onto it and raised his swords over his head. He slammed both of them down over the Mountain’s helm. The blades cut and dented the helm and even shifted it from its perfect placement, but the Grin absently lost a glimmer in his smile, as he could not cut through the armor completely. The Mountain stood up suddenly and reached over his shoulder and grabbed hold of the Grin. He then tossed the Grin, like a small parcel, off and flying into the mud.
The Mountain pushed his feet sluggishly against the mud, feeling the weight of their current conflict already weighing against his muscles, towards the Grin. He began to sink into the muck and used his spear to push himself up and further forward. On the other side, with aching arms and legs, the Grin pushed against the ground. The water and dirt seeped through his fingers and instead he felt he sank even deeper. The Iron Mountain stopped suddenly as the front of his armor pinged from a sudden strike. He hooked his spear in an arc towards his attacker and watched as Jobi fell to the ground before his vision, screaming in pain. A swift kick send Jobi tumbling to the side, where tears fell from his eyes as he continued to shout. Jobi reached over to grab his pained arm as he choked another scream, but found nothing there. The Mountain then turned to the Grin and lifted his spear over his head, poised for the final strike, before dying suddenly.
A small and thin Makoten blade jutted out from under the helm, stabbed through the neck of the Armored Mountain. On his back was the Demon’s Blade, crouched and holding the katana in his hands. With a smooth tug, he pulled it out from the body, and stood on it as it fell to the mud, dead. The Demon’s Blade stood tall with his katana in his hands and watched as the Bloody Grin stood on his feet. The smile was gone, wiped clean by the sight of the dead giant in front of him and the small hero with a monster’s mask. Thunder rumbled through the sky and lightning flashed.
The battlefield remained silent in the immediate surroundings. None had expected the sudden ending to the conflict and now all soldiers wanted to witness the next hero’s death. They waited, almost holding their breath and with wide unblinking eyes. The only other sounds were that of moaning and crying soldiers like Jobi, injured but not yet dead. The Grin stood on his feet, eyes darting from the Blade and to Jobi. The Blade kept his stance and his eyes focused on the enemy ahead of him. The silence broke suddenly as a yell echoed from within the crowd and a brightly armored Noor charged through the ranks of watching soldiers.
“Revenge for our fallen general!” shouted Calib as he charged straight on towards the Blade, broadsword aimed in front of him. The Demon’s Blade took a step back and attacked Calib’s back. Calib dodged by rolling forward, leaving the Grin with enough time to run towards his friend. He grabbed hold Jobi’s good arm and pulled him farther out of the mud and towards several other Bailadan mercenaries. “Protect him!” he yelled as he handed him off and then turned back to the occurring fight. He stopped to grab hold of one of the scimitars he had dropped moments before and watched as the Demon’s Blade cut through the neck of the young Noor general.
The Blade stood over recent kill but his eyes remained focused on Bloody Grin, as if they had never turned away. He sheathed his sword suddenly and beckoned the Grin over, before he twisted around and sprinted through the battlefield the fight began again. The Grin swore as he followed, turning his weapons around to have the bladed edge hover just over the ground as they hung from his relaxed arms. He watched as two armed Makotens with chips along their armor, and one missing his helmet, barred his path. The Grin reacted sliding across the mud on his knees and below their strikes, and sliced through their legs. He got up to his feet and arched his arms to dispose of the two with a stab through both of their backs and then continued running. Ducking and weaving between soldiers, both friendly and not, the Grin began to wonder where he was being led to. The ground he ran across became dryer and though the sky above him began to darken with clouds and more thunder and lightning.
He came across fewer soldiers and soon found that the only person close to him was the Demon’s Blade himself, turning over his shoulder every few steps and giving a quick wave. The Grin could already feel his lungs begin to ache as he continued to chase, spitting into the ground as he kept pushing himself forward. The two kicked their feet against harder ground, moving faster with better traction. As he ran and followed the Blade between tree after tree, the Grin realized he had begun to run through the shadows of a forest and felt a chill run along his spine as his foe came to a halt and turned around quickly. Still in his momentum, the Bloody Grin jumped forward and slashed at the Demon’s Blade, watching as he ducked and ran out of his way. The Grin dug his feet against the ground as he forced himself to stop completely, and turned around to keep his enemy within his vision.
The Grin ran forward through the thick shadow, slashing upwards using his right scimitar and giving off a grunt. The Makoten hero shifted aside to the left, eyeing the curved blade pass by casually before he drew his katana, looking to strike up and across the Bailadan’s body in a single killing blow. The Grin raised his armored right arm slightly and listened to the blade sing and clank along his plated armor. He then pushed his shoulder down against the blade, letting it slide up past his shoulder and over his ducking head. The Grin spun around behind the Demon, following the momentum of his deflecting strike, and held his blades out over the Blade’s open back. The Makoten instantly rolled forward and back up onto his feet, turning towards the Grin.
There was near silence as they stared down at each other, even with the Grin’s panting and the chirping of the wildlife between the trees. The Grin twirled one of his scimitars and bounced on the balls of his feet while the Blade dug his rear foot into the ground, tightening his hold on his katana. The Demon’s Blade rushed first and attacked, and the Grin ducked under the blade and pulled his arm back to stab through the Makoten when he felt his foe’s knee land solidly against his chest. The Grin staggered back, a tree stopping his motion as he slammed up against it. He pushed his fists against the bark, standing up on his sore legs once more. He breathed in deeply and released a growl as he slowly accelerated into a running charge, yelling at the top of his lungs.
The Demon’s Blade cut first, slicing through the air as the Grin dodged around the katana in a spin. At the end of his spin the Grin rolled his shoulders to slash through the back of the Blade’s neck, and watched as the Blade crouched to a knee and roll away by mere inches. Without a moment to think on the next move, the Blade roughly kicked the Grin on his knee, causing him to fall onto the ground. The Bailadan pushed himself up on his feet as quickly as he could muster, and quickly felt the same leg give way, unable to hold him up completely. But another worry soon came to his mind; he could not find the Demon’s Blade. The Grin looked around him. He limped backwards, bumping into a tree and continued to watch and wait for his enemy. Something snapped over his head and the Grin jumped forward, barely dodging a sword stabbing into the ground. The Grin hit the ground hard and rolled onto his back, pushing himself onto his good leg. He spun his scimitars around, and stared at the readied Demon’s Blade. The Bloody Grin would not surrender, even now.
But the unexpected happened. The Demon’s Blade stood up straight suddenly, arching his back as if pushed from behind, with a small inconspicuous hand pulling his shoulder back. The Grin’s eyes widened as he watched a small and thin blade suddenly appear through the front of the Demon’s armor, blood running down the front of him. The Demon’s Blade coughed and gurgled before he fell to the ground, sliding off of the short katana. It revealed his killer, the one who had struck a final blow from the shadows. She stood tall, covered in black clothing and free of dirt, grime and blood save for her blade. Her eyes, Makoten eyes, were the only things that the Grin could see of her body. He wanted to raise his swords in defense, but found that his strength had left him. The sight of the two dead heroes entered his mind; both struck down but not by his hand. He was alive, but not through his own skill.
He fell to his knees suddenly, feeling weak and sore but wide awake. He looked up at the shadowed warrior as she walked forward. She came down to her knees, pulling down her mask to reveal her face. The thunder rumbled and the lightning flashed as the rain finally began to pitter through the trees. The blood was washed away and the dry land became wet, and a clean-faced Budi was left staring at his savior.
Yukki smiled lightly, placing a gloved hand on his face and caressing it gently. She then stood up and retreated, and all Budi could do was watch as his body refused to move to his commands. She disappeared in the distance, covered by trees. And when Budi’s legs finally found the strength to hold him up again, he knew that she was long gone. He sheathed his swords and looked down at the body of the Demon. He sighed as he continued back to the battlefield, hoping that the battle had ended.
Jobi had thought he had died. There had been silence for far too long for it to be a battlefield. He could hear people moving, but could barely move his neck enough to watch and see who they were. Still, he was not sure he wanted to know. Dying by loss of blood remained better than dying through torture and execution. He tried to shake it off such thoughts, trying to find another thing to focus on. The shock of losing an arm came to his mind; he wondered what life would offer him if he lived through this. He wondered if his people would promote him to an officer’s status, or retire him and send him a decent pension. He smiled at the thought of a relatively comfortable life. Then Budi entered his mind, always smiling and grinning, helpful and passionate. Jobi could remember the days of his childhood, and some of the adventures that they had. His mind drifted further, thinking of a girl who promised to wait for her hero’s return. “I wish Suri had been talking about me...”
Jobi felt a hand on his shoulder suddenly tug on his right arm, his only arm. His heart skipped a beat in fear; fear that he was found by those who would not care about torturing a prisoner. “Jobi,” he heard a familiar voice say and looked up at the face of a war hero, “Suri has never noticed anyone besides you, old friend.” Jobi felt himself lift into the air and then felt his stomach land on someone’s shoulder.
“Run back to the camp. I want him alive, and well! Understand? That’s an order! Now go, run!” Budi shouted at the mercenary holding Jobi. Jobi felt himself jostle under the mercenaries arm, but kept his head steady enough to look back at Budi. He had not noticed the rain before, but it became evident at the sight of Budi. There was no blood on his face and his teeth did not show. There was no Bloody Grin.


Budi’s return to the camp was quiet in his mind, but outside the soldiers celebrated. People passed food and drink along to each other, and congratulated Budi. “A true war hero,” they called him with smiles and yells. But he ignored most of it. His thoughts were too focused on the bodies of the other heroes, the other powerful warriors. The image of the bodies of the Demon’s Blade and the Armored Mountain were clear in his head. Each one was dead, but not by his hands or his skill. His unfocused mind led him to his tent without realizing, and inside he stopped. His eyes came across something that woke him up from his trance, blood.
The tent was empty. He had expected Yukki to leave, but the other two slaves being missing was surprising to him. Blood was soaked into the carpet in three different spots, and on one of the spots was an envelope. Without thinking, he stepped forward, picking up the envelope and removing the letter that was inside.
My dear Budi,
I am leaving. If my calculations are correct, the Armored Mountain and the Demon’s Blade are both dead, most likely not by your hand. I will be honest with you. I knew who you were before I was given the task of spying on you. I’ve heard the stories of the Bloody Grin, but as a spy, a shadowed warrior, I knew other things about you. I heard the stories of a hero who was once kind and caring of his people and friends. A hero that wanted survival of all who fought alongside him and not just money, fame and rank. I wanted to meet this person and prove the information wrong.
I never believed it was true. And yet when I met you, I understood the honesty of it all. But before my very eyes you were already beginning to change. I would have welcomed it, if I knew it was truly who you were and would bring out your best potential. Some people are not meant to be good and kind heroes. And some people, like you Budi, are not meant to be the uncaring hero. There is a true meaning to the word hero, and you will find it, one day.
I leave you now, knowing that my life is forfeit. With the death of my attempting assassin, I have sealed my fate to a life of hiding and escape. I don’t want that for you. I feel like a coward for not telling you this before, but the sooner I leave then the better off you will be in the end. I expect to hear news of you winning the war soon. Good fortune to you.
Budi, I do love you. If fate If you decide that you wish to come and find me; look to the East, and follow those who seek the shadow.
Eternally yours from wherever I am watching you,
Budi remained silent after reading through the letter. His eyes smiled at the thought of seeing her once more. He read the letter over several more times, making sure he understood its meaning clearly. “She doesn’t want to let go...” He whispered to himself and quickly came to a decision in his mind. He rushed towards a lit candle in his tent and hung the flame under the letter. He watched the paper turn black and orange and then dropped the flaming letter to the floor. The rug would catch on fire quickly and spread through to the entire tent. He took what he needed: a bag of money, food from the soldiers who were still congratulating him, and his swords. His armor was so damaged he would have to wait until the sunrise to get it back in good condition, and he felt he did not have that time.
As he felt everything was ready, he watched the flame spread through most of the inside of the tent. He picked up a cloak and covered his face with a sash before walking out of the burning tent. He made his way to the exit of the camp, ignoring the mix of soldiers celebrating and those realizing that a tent was in flames. As he neared the exit, he heard a familiar voice coming from a nearby tent. Jobi was injured and would more than likely wish to return to a family or a future one at least. But Budi knew that the war would reach a stalemate without a hero again, and he turned to the tent with his friend in it.
He pushed the flap aside as he entered, glad to see that his old friend was merely talking to himself. “That’s a sign of insanity you know.”
“It’s also a sign of insecurity, but I’m not eavesdropping or anything.” Jobi snapped back at him before sighing and leaning back against the bed he had been given. Jobi sat up quickly once he realized what Budi was wearing. “What are you doing?”
Budi looked down at himself and then returned the stare Jobi was giving him. He gave a small shrug, “I’m leaving Jobi.”
Jobi sighed as he put his right hand to his face, “This is not funny.”
“This is not a joke.”
Jobi grit his teeth, “The war will continue if you leave.”
“I have other duties.”
“To what?”
“Someone.” Budi answered with finality. Jobi looked at him with wide eyes before turning away and cursing.
“They’ll keep me here!”
“They’ll make you an officer.”
Jobi pointed towards Budi, and then began to think on the prospects of an officer status. He shook his head as he continued, “I don’t want that. I want this war to end, I want to go home.”
“So make it end then.” Budi said as he turned around, deciding it was time to go.
“You’re going to leave now? So soon?” Jobi shouted.
“I’ve got no time to waste.” He said looking over his shoulder.
“How the hell am I supposed to end the war?”
Budi stood outside of the tent, holding the flap open as he spoke, a smile in his eyes, “Be tactical. Use strategy.” When Jobi gave no answer, Budi dropped the flap, “I’ll expect to hear the news of your victories soon. Don’t let me down.”
He smiled as he heard Jobi yell; “Well now I don’t have any time to!”


“What? He did not say that?” One of the boys yelled from behind the campfire.
“Actually he did say that,” said Budi with a smile on his face, “he wants the last word.”
“So that’s the status of the war? Two heroes die and one decides to run off in search of some girl who may be in love with him? We don’t even know if the hero’s in love with her!” A second boy shouted in exasperation, and Budi barely restrained a chuckle.
“Where is he now?” said the third boy calmly.
“He’s probably on his way. East is all he has to go on after all.” Budi answered keeping his smile, “I’m not sure he’ll ever stop either.”
“Sounds mushy.” The first boy said with grief. “I bet he finds her and realizes that he wasted an opportunity as a hero.”
“I doubt that’s going to happen.” The second boy said, “If the story is true, then this guy seems to have a really good chance with her.”
“Well, you’re the romantic, so you would know.” The third boy said with a lowered voice but laughed anyways along with his friends.
“All right then boys,” Budi answered as he pushed himself onto his feet. The sky was dark and the fire was blazing, and it was the perfect time to travel in secret. “I believe it’s time for me to head on out.”
“Wait!” The first boy said suddenly and stood up, “We don’t even know what’s going to happen to the two. Will he find her?”
“Hmm…might be a while before that happens...” Budi said simply.
“Well...when you do find out, how will we?” the third boy asked unsure of a good answer.
Budi smiled over his shoulder as he began to walk away, “I’m sure the rumors will pass along at some point. I’m not very good at keeping quiet.” He waved at the three boys, watching as they waved in return and continued along his way.
His steps never paused as he moved along, but in one moment he looked up at the bright moon and whispered, “I’ll find you…one day.”