I had one of my old soldiers reach out to me the other day saying he read my memoirs. I always find it interesting to see what people who lived through the same events as me think about my interpretation. This particular man was featured in the book (a little- sorry dude). I haven’t seen him in over 10 years and the war we shared was in Mosul, Iraq in 2003. Memories never fade, my friends. Not like that. All of this made writing my battle scenes more visceral. As you might have noticed. There is a bond soldiers share that no one else on the planet can replicate. Read on, my friends. Read on.
Fresh fires sprang from caverns dug too deep, and the smell of death was renewed to a ripened vintage. Tens of thousands of idle Berserkers lounged in the caves, while even more readied for the coming invasion across the Wastelands. Soon, they would conquer everything from the ruins of Bastion on the edge of the Weston Sea down south past Minion and the Angril River. The Berserker empire was growing again. They came and went with impunity, no longer fearful of the quick response of the soldiers. Village after village was falling to their grasp.
The sands between the old castle of Regwin Hold and Rook Mountain were clear for them to walk on the surface again. Great companies of warriors were being formed to march south and seize the cities of Helgscroft and the old Delvar Prison Colony. Kargosh’s designs called for expansion. Berserker bases would be set up in those three places, and from there, he would control the war. Humanity was slowly fading from the deserts.
An unparalleled fear pushed out ahead of them, for if the mightiest army in the world was destroyed, who, then, could stop them? Most of the smaller villages along the Frontier knew nothing of the Imperium’s defeat or even the invasion. They lived their lives cut off from the rest of the world, some managing to thrive without protection. Little did they know their fragile dream was ending. Each village was a target for annihilation, and they started falling. Total victory along the Frontier was but a matter of time.
Mnemlath refused to partake in the victory celebrations. His mind was burdened by other troubles. Too often he’d seen their hopes rise only to be dashed by the deeds of this Slayer or that. His miseries took him to the darkened waters of the lake and the creature therein. So many things were transpiring around him, he longed for that quiet time to reflect. The waters lulled him with false security and soon lost their focus. He jumped when he found two silver eyes staring back at him, haunting him with their lone hand.
His foul heart longed for one more battle with the man who’d turned defeat into victory, for though Kane had lost a hand, he had killed two Berserkers. Destiny screamed for that final confrontation. A blast of warm air on his neck told Mnemlath that he had been joined by another.
“The First One has called for his captains. There are preparations to oversee, or had you forgotten? The eve of a new age is finally upon us, and here I find you staring into the waters like a mortal,” said the wraith. “Have you forgotten your warriors?”
“Quite the contrary, Shadow Demon. They seem to be the only thing on my mind as of late,” he growled. “Tell me, how is it the Slayer manages to survive all I do? I’d have thought we destroyed humanity’s hope long, long ago.”
“Persistence seems their nature. One day, they will be gone, and we shall stand under the suns.”
“And what then?” Mnemlath asked. “Don’t you see? We will never have their numbers. Our armies can destroy the lands west of the river, and they will come after us with an even larger force. Not even with the technology will we best them. It will take decades to come close.”
“You speak of treason,” the wraith warned, suddenly uneasy with the direction things had turned. They were soldiers of the One and must obey.
“I speak of reality! We need see beyond the present and seize the future if we are to have any hope of survival. How many more battles like the last do you think we can maintain before we are too few to resist?”
Tiny red eyes blinked in disbelief. “You would proclaim defeat in the throes of our greatest achievements? Kargosh will have you executed for this.”
Lighting quick reflexes weren’t enough to save the wraith from Mnemlath’s claws squeezing around his neck. The Berserker leader leaned forward so that no other might hear him and said, “He will never find out, or I shall tear you limb from limb and feed you to the beast in the water before I die. Understand?”
Fear answered him.
Letting the wraith go, disgust smeared his face. “Now go. Leave me to my solitude. Watch over the others until I return, and spread no discontent among them. I hold you accountable, wraith.”
Embarrassment singed the wraith’s pride as he took to flight. If only the Creator had given him the genes of leadership, life would be vastly different. Fear kept his tongue in check — fear of being murdered before his time. There were other ways to make his opinions known.
Alone again, Mnemlath’s attention returned to the bubbling waters. The monster in the lake was stirring again. He wondered what made the lurker so eager to rise from his slimy depths now of all times. The Berserker had always felt a certain closeness with the creature, more so than with others of his kind. The lurker was simple. It killed to live. Mnemlath longed for such simplicity.
“I know your hunger,” he told it. “Your pain of being hidden forever must burn at you in ways unimaginable. Soon, you will have day to claim.”
He knew the lurker was watching him from its prison depths. A giant eye stared up through the murk considering if this was another chance meal. It had grown fond of the taste of Berserker over the course of its life. Slowly, it started moving the great weight of its body closer to the shore.
“Always hungry aren’t you?” the Berserker mused. The trail of bubbles breaking the surface moved closer. “You kill to sustain yourself while I kill for the purity of it. What will happen when the world changes?”
He offered the waters a final glare and said, “We shall speak again, demon.”