Sensing the End

The night was always the loneliest time for Tredan. He remembered years ago a time when he never felt this way. Was it a decade? Two? After so long, keeping track had lost its importance, and wandering the world had become Tredan’s only occupation.

His new life had begun at the end of the war, when the Havat empire invasion had put Tredan’s homelands under their control. The war had lasted less than a year and the soldiers Tredan had fought alongside had either been killed or enslaved. All of them except Tredan, for he had seen the defeat coming and at the last charge abandoned his post.

Fleeing to the woods he looked back to see fires breaking out atop the castle walls. Tredan ran until the screams of his people were finally silenced, then until the guilt was finally outweighted by exhaustion. After days of running, he was lost deep in the forest of Balisk. He searched aimlessly for a road, or even a hunting trail. It had been a month–at least it felt like a month–before Tredan found other people.

He took refuge with the village’s blacksmith for a time until he had earned enough to travel on. He left that place in the dead of night; too many knew of his old platoon, the Black Wolves, and their many exploits in the ever declining defense of their country. They had tried–by the gods, they had tried–year after year to stem the invasion.

Failure still gripped Tredan no matter how much he drank and no matter how far he ran. And now, years later in the midst of unfamiliar forests, he gripped himself tight by the fire. He was shaking from the strain as the faces of his comrades raged at him from the flames.

He was still wandering the next day aimlessly walking a trail to an unknown destination. It had been so long since he had seen a village. He had no food, no water, and only his old sword at his belt. His thoughts of nourishment fled as he left the forest’s edge, looking out at the old ruins of a castle, its remains scorched and overgrown with vegetation.

This was his home. The place he had fought so hard to defend and run for so long to forget. Walking the grounds again depleted him of emotion. This place had not even been worth rebuilding. He attempted to fill the ruined halls the memories he still had. Tredan fell to all fours weeping at his cowardice, until the growls of an animal pulled him back. The largest wolf he had ever seen looked down at him with from a roof top. Eyes as yellow as the harvest moon, and mid-night black fur bristling at Tredan’s intrusion. The falling sun masked the beast’s movement as Tredan drew his blade for the last time.