I urge those who wish to see the result of war and what it does to a nation’s people to research the Bosakil Mountain range. Among those mountains and the valleys within it lived a prosperous people under the singular banner of Bosavan. Their capital was popular and brought in many travelers who sought the beauty and history locked within the walls of the mountains. They had a rich culture of art, literature, and innovative designs, and nearly all of it was lost to this maddening war we live in. Nearly a thousand years ago, Derdainia conquered them and subjugated their people to Imperial rule. Since then battles have raged as various nations have come to fight over the rich minerals of the mountains. In the end, nearly every single city, town, and village has been reduced to ruins or flattened entirely. The people of Bosavan, stripped of their nation’s identity, second-class citizens in the nations that conquered them, have now been scattered across the continent to try to eke out a living, assuming they have not already died along the way. Books now barely even mention the small nation’s name and soon they won’t at all. Just another casualty to a war that must end.
-Marlene Vumos, Letters to End the Madness
The stream wove back and forth through the remains lying across the crumbling street. The sections of the road were cracked and ruined, helping to guide the icy stream along its path. The water’s journey came to an end in a small lake formed out of a large crater that had swallowed up several homes on the outskirt of the town. The entire scene was frozen along with the rest of the town with a thin layer of snow blanketing everything, except where it had been disturbed by recent shelling.
Gray clouds moved at a snail’s pace but were growing in numbers; their heavy appearance promised more flecks of white to further bathe the town. The rays of the sunrise only broke through with rare glimpses to the bright sky above. Warmer days were far off for the town nestled within a valley of the Bosakil Mountains.
At the edge of the crater stood five figures, each covered in thick, dark, navy coats. They began the gradual ascent of the road leading into the town. Eyes scanned each dark window searching for any sign of danger. The variety of vehicles, craters, rubble, and frozen bodies that could provide potential cover were peered over with keen sight. A low, howling wind swept through the tight alleyways. Their boots crunched through the snow, and puffs of smoke blew into the air with each of their breaths.
Bryce walked ahead of the rest of the group, the device in the palm of his left hand leading him on with its needles. His breathing was smooth and consistent, the black scarf around his face helping him breathe warm air. A gust of wind struck at him; its icy tendrils gave him pause for a moment before he pushed onward.
A pile of bones just ahead of his step with a skull looking up did not waver his focus. The fear of what had happened to those who passed through the ruined town barely crossed his mind. His grip tightened on the marker as he looked down at the needles urging him down the road.
The path he walked on rose sharply, cracks in the cement gave glimpses to something metallic that had crashed through several buildings to the right and submerged itself beneath the street. Bryce reached the top and there he stopped to give a chance for his comrades who lagged behind to catch up. He glanced back and saw Liarie at the front, a gust of wind catching at her thick flowing orange hair.
She hooked loose strands behind her black-tipped, furred ears. “Do you see anything, Bryce?” she asked.
He shook his head, “No, I’m starting to wonder if this has been a waste of time.” He turned to head down the other end of the slope, eyes scanning for any remaining signs to point him in the right direction through the streets.
Liarie kept pace with him, her elegant fingers taking hold of his arm.
He halted at her touch.
She brushed up close to his body, “You are being hasty; you should take my advice and head to the center. I’m sure there we will find Guidance.”
Bryce lowered his shoulders as he relaxed to her smooth tone against his ears. “You may be right, but the marker doesn’t point there. Though it hasn’t exactly been accurate through these mountains.”
“The town’s archives, I’m sure of it,” she whispered.
“Surely that place has been ransacked of anything valuable?” Bryce asked, glancing down at the small circular device in his left palm, a pair of needles within pointing toward a glow at the outer rim of the device. “What would Guidance find in there?”
She ran a hand along his back. “Knowledge or power, either way he must have found something.”
“And now his presence seems to have stopped there, meaning we can finally meet him. I wonder if the scavs in the area got to him first though.”
Liarie waved her hand. “It is not scavengers that linger near us, but a scout of the Vlaxtawk.”
Bryce looked up abruptly. “You can’t be serious!”
“Hush, your raised tone will upset the others,” Liarie replied, placing a hand over his heart and looked over his shoulders to the other three reaching the top of the slope.
“It’s bad enough we have Luncal descending upon our position soon, but Vlaxtawk too?”
Liarie shook her head. “The scout is merely that, a scout. It knows not our plan nor does it have any intention to confront us; it knows it would mean death.”
“We can’t let it reach Guidance before us,” Bryce grumbled.
“If the Vlaxtawk want what Guidance seeks then they would have sent more than a scout.”
“How can you be certain?”