The battles ebb and flow with the passage of time. I once thought the war would end, but it is clear to me now that it is the foundation of Coronam, and just like the oceans that bring both life and death, now, too, do the battles across the land. Glodoran is just another perfect example of this. Eleven long years it has gone on and there is no end in sight, the death toll it takes on each nation that participates continues to grow in staggering numbers. At the end of it all though, when the battle finally quiets down to complete silence, life will return. You can see it just fifty years after the Battle of Dasherranah, the land now prospers. Animals come freely and plants grow bright with rich nourishment from the land. I suspect with another fifty years that the land will entice the return of civilization due to the rich resources now abundant. And of course, with the return of civilization there will come influences of nations with their own opinions, then… a second battle of Dasherranah. It is but the natural order of our world. With this fact though it raises the question of whether this War too will grow silent. It may… but, as it stands now? I doubt anyone alive today will see the end.
-Halbern Isador, A Philosophical Take on the History of the World
The chaos of the trench fighting still roared all around Bryce. The release of gunfire and crashing artillery shells joined the screams of the dying. The acidic smell of gunpowder grew thick in the air to mix with the smells of the trench that always lingered.
Amid the tight space of the outer trench line of Derdainia, Bryce stood his senses numb to it all. A hand on his shoulder shook him away as he looked to Liarie who gave a reassuring squeeze.
“I saved him, damn it…” Bryce’s look of shock turned to anger as he squeezed his working fist tightly.
“This isn’t the time or place. We need to move as soon as I stop your bleeding.” Liarie unhooked his dust flask from his belt and loosened the top before forcing it into his working hand. “You need to drink.”
“Hurry, Liarie, the Imperials are getting closer!” Zel shouted before firing off a few rounds aimed at a distant target.
“Quiet, Zel!” Liarie replied.
“Why couldn’t you save—?” Bryce stopped himself from finishing the sentence not daring to look at her face. “I’m sorry, I know you tried.” He brought the flask to his lips, the iron water kept chill from the air gave his senses renewed focus now that his sense of taste was gone from the dense gunsmoke clogging the air. He gulped down what was left within the flask. The sorrow that clenched his heart was pushed away for now as the horrors of what was happening quickly came back to him.
He looked to Herra to see the woman give a thin smile.
“At least he won’t have to listen to Zel’s bad jokes anymore, right?” Herra said with a forced laugh.
Bryce looked back to Chapman and rubbed at his forehead of sweat.
“No, you’re fine, Herra. Cut his emblem. We can’t take his body with us, but we can at least do that.”
“Yes, Lead.” Herra replied and unsheathed a knife before bending down to Chapman’s cold body.
“How are we doing?” Zel called out again, his rifle clicking at the sound of an empty magazine.
“I’m just about finished!” Liarie shouted again. Her fingertips lit up with a gentle glow over the open wound in Bryce’s shoulder.
Warmth surged through his left shoulder, the numb feeling still lingering but not as strong. Feelings returned to his left hand; Bryce tried to move each finger, finding it painful.
“It’s the best I can do with our current situation,” Liarie said.
“I understand, where’s the rest of the company? Is Dunkir fine?” he asked, placing the canteen back onto his belt and unholstering his pistol to reload it. The motion of emptying the barrel caused him to grunt in pain that shook his left arm. The empty casings fell out as he loaded in two fresh slugs.
“Yes, he’s fine and with Hendrick who led the rest to the location of our retreat. I told him to not wait for us in crossing back over.”
Bryce nodded in approval. “Good… knowing Hendrick he’ll stick around for us, best we hurry.” He turned to see Murn blocking the entrance with his large shield, Zel peering over. “Let’s go you two!”
“Aye, Lead!” Zel replied and gave Murn a pat on the shoulder. “Let’s go big guy.”
“I’ll take the lead, Bryce. Conserve your energy, I don’t want you wasting any on spells.” Liarie turned to Herra without waiting for a reply. “Keep your rifle ready, you’re with me.”
“Yes, Lady Majes,” Herra replied.
“Zel, Murn, both of you are bringing up the rear, I don’t want the Imperials catching us off guard.” Liarie began to head down the trench, tail flicking as ears turned and angled themselves at every odd sound that drew too close to their position. “Let’s move swiftly!”
Bryce followed after Liarie and Herra, his eyes constantly drifting to the top of the trench to his right where an Imperial could appear at any moment. The return to moving through the brown sludge littered with remains of death gave him a sickening feeling. The pain in his shoulder kept gnawing at him with each beat of his heart, only worsening from the pace he was forced to move. The roar of gunfire from the crater they had been in for what seemed like forever never seemed to leave, but instead followed them. The battle itself turned to the dead lands to his left where Union soldiers scurried in panicked retreat. The whistles of artillery overhead crashing into the dead lands only furthered the chaos coming at every angle towards his mind.
All of it was overshadowed in Bryce’s mind by the pale features of Chapman’s corpse. A growing dread in his heart at Dunkir’s fate or Hendricks further ahead on their path or even those around him and what could happen at any moment made his heart only race further. The feeling of invincibility that he had felt striking down the Imperials gone all too quickly.