Time: A Year Ago
Location: The Invader Stronghold/The Forest
Never place your hope in a fairy tale.
Remember the stories I mentioned before? The ones from my childhood? I didn’t know if they were true, or fabricated by a broken people who were desperate to hold on to any lingering shred of dignity they could. Even if that meant they crafted that dignity of pure imagination.
People are such interesting creatures.
So, what these legends of my ancestors say? Because I find your facial expressions so amusing, I will tell you.
We were once a clan of beasts.
Legends told how my cunning ancestors tricked creature-spirits, and forced them to agree to a pact. From then on, these spirits were to grant the people of our clan with great power.
It’s said when a creature-spirit finds a kindred soul, that person is guided by the spirit, and takes on a new form. Perhaps that form varies depending on the spirit and the person. I’m not fully certain — the stories are pretty fuzzy when it comes to the details.
Our people had heroes. They mastered their new bestial forms and defended the clan with strength and honor.
Our people had loss. Those who failed to master the beast. Those who were consumed by the Flames of Bedlam. They were doomed to walk the world as mindless monsters.
In the stories, there was nothing more horrifying.
But, those were only stories.
I think I’ve lived through real things far more terrible than that. Like the loss of my mate and child.
It was only by fluke I discovered that they were dead. Naturally, the Invaders didn’t think us worthy to inform us. They were probably nursing the wound of losing so many of the next generation of their soldier-slaves.
How did I find out? Well, it started the day my troop had a particularly awful run-in with the Adversary.
We lost many of our number. While I never went out of my way to make connections or any semblance of friendship with others like myself — since that was heavily discouraged — I felt this particular sacrifice deeply.
It was if the Invaders were becoming more and more desperate to destroy the natives of my world who continued to evade their mastery. They threw troop after troop of their slave warriors to death against the technology and might of the Adversary.
In turn, the Adversary cut us all down, either uncaring or unaware.
Usually, after defeat, the soldier-slaves were left to lick our own wounds with some medical aid offered. But this time, the loss was so great, the few of us who survived were rushed back to a medical unit near the city. It may have been the first time I’d ever been treated for a battle wound.
It was there that I learned this medical site was built over the ruins of the residential ward that had once housed my mate and child. I learned that it was destroyed and they were dead.
This is where my story really begins.
I must have seemed completely and utterly mad.
I’m sure in the past Invaders had put down the random soldier-slave who finally snapped. Given what we were living with, that couldn’t have been too uncommon.
But what was uncommon was that we were in a medical ward. Not in our military compound, which was highly secure against anything like what I was about to do. That was the only reason I got as far as I did.
Maybe I should have felt a little remorse for taking down the healers in my escape. I tried to make it fast and painless. After all, they may have been the very few Invaders who held a spec of compassion for other living creatures.
You have to care about something to heal it, don’t you?
Don’t answer that question.
I can only imagine the hysteria I caused as I rampaged to my desertion. I half expected to be shot down right there, but it didn’t happen. My own people watched, horrified, as I did the thing they couldn’t even dream of doing.
I left them alive.
But anything else that got in my way met its end on my blade.
Finally, when the crimson streams of my making parted, I had my freedom.
Freedom is not easy when you are hunted by an invading force that can disintegrate you as soon as look at you. I’d like to say that I had everything figured out. Planned to perfection.
I didn’t even know what I was capable of until that moment. Driven by grief, I’d become less than an animal. Perhaps this was more true to myself, and I didn’t know it until then.
As I tasted freedom for the first time, I felt as if I bore the pain and suffering of all my people combined. I couldn’t revel in the glory of the moment. I could only limp up the steep hillside, taking cover in the massive forest that loomed outside the city.
Now that I had a choice in where I was going, I had no idea where to go. Surely, all roads led to death.
That first night, I remember collapsing in exhaustion, hidden among the mud and reeds of a forest swamp. I slept a deep, troubled sleep.
I rarely dreamed in my previous life. But that night, I did.
In my dreams, I heard the call of the creature-spirits. The same spirits that my ancestors bonded with to become the beasts of this world. I’ll never know if this dream was a gifted vision, or an illusion created by a grief-broken mind.
When I woke, I had an unexpected new purpose. I had to find these creature-spirits.
And once I found them, I knew what I had to do.