The smell of blood wafted through the air, creeping steadily from the battlefield. Screams could be heard, far off in the distance, if you listened long enough. A solider covered in dirt and sweat crawled stealthily to the edge of the trees, hesitating for a moment, anticipating the massacre. How many of her fallen comrades would she see today? This place had become a permanent scar across their landscape. It stretched for miles, with no end in sight. This once peaceful place had become a graveyard for all those fighting for the cause. Invaders had come, infiltrating their land and pushing them from their homes. They had come with swords and bombs, leaving a path of destruction wherever they went. Many of these stories lived on in their community, but they took place long time ago. Peace had come to the land and many had become complacent. The two peoples had learned to live without conflict as long as they lived segregated from one another. Their people had been banished to the forest and fields, living as nomads. No one cared any more that this land rightly belonged to them. For many, there had been peace for as long as anyone could remember. They had grown accustomed to the world they had created with their jobs and routines. Some gathered food for the village or built homes, while others carried messages across the lands. Hidden under all that security, and monotony, was fear. A deep, ingrained fear that had not lived in them before the invaders arrived. They continued to go about their days while the fear continued to build until it began to run their lives.
For months now, their numbers had been steadily gaining. Crops had been good this year, supplies were in surplus, and families had been thriving. Everyone finally had enough food to eat and they weren’t counting on the scraps of the wealthy invaders. Maybe that’s what had spurred it. Maybe it was inevitable. They couldn’t stay in the shadows forever. Perhaps it was a false sense of courage and wealth had made them overconfident. They knew now that they had tried to take back their territories too fast. They had not been prepared for the fight, albeit a necessary one. As they multiplied, thriving on the land around them, homes had grown cramped and many had tried to find new places to call their own. Rumblings of the invaders controlling monsters had spread through the neighboring villages. They had two eyes that appeared to glow, and teeth that nearly touched the ground. They ran on four legs with speed that defied sight. Most didn’t believe the tales, but some came back with stories of their own. The monsters were real, and they grew bigger by the day. They said if you were lucky, you could get by unscathed. They were determined and bull headed, confident nothing could stop them. So far, that had proven true. No one had yet stopped one of these monsters, only narrowly evaded them. If they saw you, there was no stopping them. They sought you out and weren’t satisfied until they saw blood. Only those with a firm constitution and much determination bested the monsters. As soon as doubt entered your mind, all was lost. There was no turning back. Retreat was not an option.
She cautiously approached, listening intently. Their roars, almost deafening, seemed constant. So constant that you almost forgot they were there. Many had become apathetic to warnings. Young ones were leaving the villages in droves, searching for valor and honor. They were confident that the monsters would never catch them, and those were the ones that were never seen again. From her cover in the woods she could see two bodies. She knew many more lay out of her sight. The ones she could see were mutilated, almost beyond recognition. A foreign ally lay amongst her brothers and sisters. The smell from the body was sickening. The bright red blood, signifying a recent slaughter, was garish in contrast to his black and white uniform. Though they came from different villages, they all bled the same. If only there was a way to form a united front against the invaders and their machines of war. One monster approached with mystifying speed and passed by without even a glance in her direction. She had her orders. She knew supplies and relief troops were on the other side. Her family was waiting for her return.
She had crossed the battlefield once before, finding more battles raging across the territory. It had been early in the season and the battlefield had been quiet then. She had crossed with no issue. Many claimed there was no war because they had only seen the battlefield empty. It could stand empty for hours, with never a soul entering its perimeter. The monsters patrolled the area often, but their long absences made them all the more dangerous. People pointed to these times of neutrality and ignored all the other accounts of violence and pain. The last time she had rallied all the troops she could. Many were content where they were, turning their backs on the fights and plight of their race. They had families and food aplenty, what did they care about the woes of people they had never met? They did not want to see how many were dying for the cause. But now it was time for her to return and raise the call again. She must reach them if there was any hope. They had lost too many to fight this battle alone. Many had fallen in this battle, surely many more would rise to fight back. She excitedly paced to and fro. She banished all doubt from her mind. “There is no turning back,” she chanted to herself as the wheels came barreling toward her, seemingly multiplying before her eyes. She set one foot on the pavement. “For the forest,”she whispered, “for the squirrels.” And she charged ever onward, onto the battlefield.