CHAPTER0:

The sky was a heavenly blue with hardly a single puff of cloud to disturb it. Birds sang a melodious tweet as they hid themselves within the branches of the trees surrounding this unnatural clearing. Bright unblinking blue eyes stared at the clear canopy above. The pupils tracked an invisible guiding line, like a pencil tip tracing along a blank piece of paper.

A hand reached out to the sky above, slowly and unsteadily. A tattered and mud caked grey sleeve covered the arm. The eyes focused on the outstretched fingers, at the back of the palm, at the rest of the arm. It was his? It responded to every thought that was channeled to it. His fingers flexed and curled; his wrist turned to grant him a glimpse of his palm. With scrutinizing eye, he examined each contour on his palm. This was his.

The eyes blinked.

A young male then gradually sat up. He wore a grey tunic which had eight gold buttons, organized in two columns of four. A paler grey set of trousers covered his legs; brown knee high boots concealed his feet. A black belt with silver buckle pressed into his stomach. A grey Kepi – a forage cap – with leather sun guard, rested at a slanted angle off his head. Short black hair curled out from under the back and sides of the cap.

Pulling his left leg in, the young man dug his right hand into the ground for support while he rested his left hand on to his knee. He stopped himself momentarily as he was fascinated by the presence of a white glove adorned on his hand. He gazed at it with intrigue before he pulled it off revealing a hand no different than the other. He threw the item of clothing over his shoulder and afterwards climbed to his feet. He brushed off the clumps of mud that clung to his worn trousers and ripped tunic and arranged his cap to shield his eyes from the beating sun.

He looked at the ground at his feet. The soil was recently overturned and flattened. Half buried in the muck was a leather pouch and a rifle that was shattered in half. The man reached down and picked up the pouch. Peering inside, he found it still contained some food rations and a flask filled with what one could assume was water. He did not bother to touch the rifle. It was of no use to anyone. Before its resulting fate, it would have no doubt been a formidable weapon. Regardless, the young man was more curious with his surroundings.

The man had woken up in a peculiar ditch. The walls of soil and mud climbed up steeply all around him, as if they formed a sinking basin. The top wasn't too far, but it was just that much out of reach to allow him to peer out on to level ground. There was nothing else he could do but trudge up the slippery wall. He dug his hands into the mud and pulled himself up, his boots sliding back a bit with each step of progress. Eventually he reached the top and stretched his arms as he took a deep lungful of air. He froze temporarily. There was a poison in the serenity about him. He glanced all around him, catching his surroundings at eye level. The ground was charred black and dampened in pools of crimson. Corpses and shattered debris polluted the clearing – a clearing that only became to exist from a war that swept through the area. Trees were uprooted and even splintered into pieces. In some places, fire still tenderly burned the broken wood and fresh flesh. The young man gazed upon the scene curiously. How had he come to be here?

There were hundreds of bodies all around him, each one a victim of a grisly and untimely demise. The army that had fallen was a mix of human and humanoids that had the resemblance of tigers and foxes. Each soldier had two things in common. They all wore the same uniform. It was a navy blue tunic with gold plated buttons; black belt with gold buckle; navy blue trousers and a similarly colored Kepi. Some soldiers also carried a second belt with a sword sheath and their tunic was decorated with useless medals. Also, instead of the Kepi they had once worn a Slouch Hat.

The second thing that they had in common was the manner in which they were killed. With the amount of guns that were strewn across the battlefield, and the massive crater in the center of it, not a single soldier had been shot or been blown apart. There were some corpses that had been too close to the impact point of whatever had struck the ground, yet their blood had long since ceased pumping. Each soldier had been gutted or stabbed.

How had the young man come to be here? The obviousness had eluded him for only a short while. He was here for he was the sole survivor to such a bloody massacre. Yet strangely, such a revelation did nothing for him. His breath did not catch; his panic did not swell; his pride did not brim. He simply and quite calmly, walked on as if nothing happened. He was almost out of the clearing when he heard a short, pained grunt. Carefully he headed back, listening intently to the still air. A soldier was wheezing and groaning in pain. Eventually he came across the wounded soldier, who was clutching at a stab wound in his shoulder. He was an older male, with blonde hair that reached his shoulders. He wore a uniform similar to all the rest and a Slouch Hat lay upside down in the mud beside him.

The young man stared uncertainly at the wounded man. He felt a slight apprehension, but it was not fear. It felt nothing like it. It simply felt like confusion compounded with more perplexity.