The Last Dog of War – Prologue: The Break of Dawn

Author’s Note:  I’ve read a lot of reincarnation OP cheat stories and fancied a change of pace. This is a world of magic and swords, make no mistake. However, the magic in this world works slightly different, it’ll be explained more in depth later on. For now, imagine magic as a rare, unstable, yet powerful force. It’s described as “Reiki”

 

It’s a little dark at times and there are gruesome scenes, so watch out for that. It’s my first time writing a story that doesn’t follow cliches and trends such as OP protagonist and magic is easy to use by anybody.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

🕀

Surrounded by bodies. Blood covering his entirety, dripping from his clothes, seeping into the ground. A lone boy with white hair kneeled.

All around him were the corpses of his fallen comrades, whom just hours earlier were sharing drinks in high spirits.

The world of Altia continued turning, but for that boy. His world had stopped.

🕀

6 hours earlier…

The Wolves of Dawn. A prided mercenary unit made up of a hand selected group of elites, were currently stationed in Asteril’s military camp. They had been hired by the King of Asteril in order to supplement his levies.

“Isn’t it unusual for a King to hire mercenaries?”

A white haired boy asked. His age appeared to be around 14. In contrast to the big burly men around him, his body was slender, with lean muscle showing the fruits of his training.

“Not really Alden. Many kingdoms enlist the help of mercenaries during times of war. The general rule of thumb is, the side who holds the most number of soldiers, wins the battle.”

The boy’s name was Alden. The youngest member of the Wolves of Dawn. He was picked up by the mercenary leader, Roland, in a nearby frontier village that had been raided by bandits.

In this battle, with the Wolves of Dawn fighting alongside the soldiers from Asteril. They had the superior numbers. With a total of around 100,000 soldiers, it was easy to see who the victor would be.

“The enemy?” – Alden

“The beast kingdom of Rastos” – Roland

The beast race was a hated existence by the humans of Asteril. They saw them as nothing more than monsters. Mutated by Reiki, the origin force.

Surprisingly, Roland showed no disgust when talking about them. It was the same with all mercenaries in the unit. As long as they were paid, the Wolves of Dawn would work for or against anyone. Being picky reduced income.

“Why are we even fighting them?” – Alden

Alden continued with his questions.

“Oi, what did I tell you before?” – Roland

“Don’t ask questions. Just do what you’re paid to do” – Alden

Alden answered honestly. As a mercenary, their livelihood depended on receiving money in return for risking their lives. Because of this, their lives are only worth as much as the highest bidder. It would be unwise to say anything that could reduce how much you are paid, as it’s the same as devaluing yourself.

“Good lad. I don’t know the exact reason, but it seems like Rastos captured a settlement near the border” – Roland

“That’s strange. They’ve been quiet for so long. I wonder why they chose to act now?” – Alden

“As I said, I’m not sure. There’s been no word from the settlement since it was taken over. Best not dwell on these things. We’ll be moving out in a few hours and we all need a clear mind. Are your weapons prepared?” – Roland

“Yes!” – Alden

Alden enthusiastically replied as he gazed over to his right. There, leaning against the log he was sitting on, was a bow, a quiver with arrows and 2 short swords.

Since he was taken in at the tender age of 6. He was taught a dual swords technique by Roland, as well as how to shoot a bow by one of the seniors in the unit.

From Roland’s initial assessment, it was decided that Alden would probably not be suited for being a “power” type fighter, using a heavy weapon to overwhelm opponents. Instead, it was decided that Alden would become a “speed” type fighter, relying on superior speed to outmanoeuvre opponents, whilst using lighter weapons such as daggers and short swords.

“I know you’ve been on missions before. Bandit subjugations, assassinations, hell even the occasional protective detail. However, a battlefield is a different matter” – Roland

Whilst listening to the words of Roland, Alden thought back. As soon as he turned 10, he was allowed to participate in mercenary operations. The first mission he was put on was bandit subjugation.

At that time, he had never killed anyone before and never wanted to. Frankly, the thought had scared him.

During that mission he had to make a tough choice. The initial raid of the bandit village went well, it was a relatively clean sweep of the outside. The problem came when they went to search the houses.

🕀

With his two short swords in hand, Alden entered the nearest house to him. It seemed to have once been a run down inn. Whilst searching the various rooms, he encountered a lone woman tied up in the corned, gagged.

Blinded by selflessness, he went to her aid. He should’ve known something was off as the woman was desperately shaking her head from side to side, tears began to fall as she frantically tried to say something.

Ignoring her silent plea, he released the gag on her mouth.

“RUN! HE’S HERE!”

As she said that, Alden suddenly felt a presence behind him. On instinct, he lept to the side. Only to see a two handed sword cleave the woman in front of him in half. With a look of betrayal in her eyes, the woman died.

Alden had seen death before. This was not a new thing for him. However this was different. He was responsible, even if he didn’t meant to be.

If he had tried to block the sword instead of diving out of the way, that woman would still be alive.

Mixed emotions welled in his mind. Anger, sadness, self-loathing. His mind was clouded.

“Tch” – Alden

Pushing his emotions down, he focused on the battle in front of him.

Whilst in mid-air from his dive, he pushed his hand down. Manipulating his trajectory and spinning himself in the air before landing nimbly on his feet. Taking up a stance, he glanced at his opponent.

A tall bearded man wielding a two handed sword. From the attack previously, it could be said that he was quite skilled with his blade. He was wearing high quality plated armor covering his vitals. In order to take him down, Alden would have to thrust his blade into a gap in the armor.

“Ho—You’re quite fast”

The tall man leered, as if looking down on Alden. Without replying to the man’s rousing, Alden rushed forward.

A sinister smile broke out on the bandit’s face at Alden’s predictable action.

Just before his blades could reach the gap between the bandits plate armor, the man rotated his body to the side, causing Alden to over extend himself.

“As I said. You’re quite fast. Just not fast enough”

The bandit quipped, as he swung his blade down sharply. As it made contact with Alden’s twin swords, they shattered like glass.

“That’s!?!?” – Alden

Alden couldn’t believe what had just happened. Those were solid iron swords. They may not be made of the strongest metal in the world, but they are at least strong enough to last a few hits. Yet his swords had shattered so easily.

Overcome by shock, he didn’t notice what the bandit was doing next. Removing his left hand from his sword, he grabbed Alden by the throat, lifting him off the ground, pushing him against a wall.

“Hahahah! Did you really think a brat like you could beat me?”

Laughing maniacally, the man tightened his grip around Arden’s throat.

‘Is this the end? No, it can’t end like this! I won’t let it!!’

Screaming in his mind, Arden’s eyes turned fierce.

Noticing the change in atmosphere, the man was surprised. Taking advantage of that, Arden raised his arms, pushing his fingers into the man’s eyes.

“AHHHHH!”

Shrieking like a banshee, the man dropped Arden. Unable to see due to the pain and the water building up in his eyes, he swung his sword around wildly.

As soon as Arden landed, he ducked down and searched the floor, picking up one of the larger shards from his broken swords.

Knowing any further delays could cost him his life, Arden made up his mind and lunged forward. Piercing the shard into the space between the man’s armor and twisting it.

With the pain from his eyes and the added pain of the shard in his side, the man dropped his sword.

Arden grabbed the sword and attempted to lift it, the sword was heavy. However, it would be good for one hit. Spinning on the spot, Arden took advantage of the built up momentum and raised the sword to the bandit’s neck.

With a clean swipe, the Bandit’s head was instantly lopped off. With his head detached, his body fell to the ground. Blood rained down from the stump, covering Alden from head to toe.

Looking at the severed head as well as the split corpse of the woman, feelings of nausea assaulted Arden.

‘I…..killed someone…..’

Letting the words sink in, Arden fell into depression.

“Arden! Arden! Are you o–…..” – Roland

Roland’s words stopped abruptly as he stared at the scene. A 10 year old boy bathed in blood with two corpses next to him. One had been split completely in half and the other was missing a head.

Strangely, it seemed as if Roland understood the situation.

“Not now. Those feelings you’re fighting with, push them down. Save them for when you’re alone. The first time I even killed someone I cried all night. The sickening feeling just wouldn’t go away, but trust me on this. It gets easier” – Roland

Many people would probably disagree with Roland’s method of dealing with it, but it came from personal experience. So it’s value was not to be overlooked.

“…….I understand” – Arden

Pushing those feelings down, he glared at Roland with determination.

“That’s more like it kid. Hey, where’s your swords?” – Roland

“Everywhere” – Arden

“…..I see” – Roland

Throwing the bag on his shoulder onto the ground. Roland retrieved a wooden bow from the bag, as well as a leather quiver with 30 arrows.

“Use this for now. If you like it, maybe you could use it as a backup weapon. It would also give you a nice range advantage against your opponents” – Roland

“Understood” – Arden

Equipping the bow, arrow and quiver set. Roland and Arden continued subjugating the bandits.

Arden didn’t kill anyone else that night, but he did make many skilled shots towards the legs of those who tried to run.

Seeing his talent with the bow, a senior mercenary who participated in the raid offered to teach him.

🕀

“Arden. Are you even listening to me?” – Roland

“Ah! Sorry Roland. I had something on my mind, what were you saying?” – Arden

Sighing out loud. Roland repeated the words he stated previously.

“In a battlefield, don’t focus too much on techniques, they won’t help you in this brawl. You need to fight instinctively, taking advantages when they’re given. It’s tricky at first, but you should get it sooner or later. In this battle specifically, you don’t necessarily have to come to the front lines with us. We’re more than happy to let you stay in the rear shooting your bow” – Roland

“I understand” – Arden

“Good kid. We’re all having a drink before we set off. As long as you don’t tell any of the kingdom’s soldiers, you’re welcome to join us” – Roland

“Ok” – Arden

Following Roland into one of the larger tents, cheerful voices could be heard as alcohol was passed around the mercenaries.

An hour later.

Arden sat in the corner of the tent, away from the others. It wasn’t that he didn’t like them, it was just that he hadn’t drank enough to deal with them just yet.

Whilst taking sips of his own warmed alcohol, Roland approached swaying slightly.

As he sat down on the adjacent seat to Arden, he put his arm around him.

“Want to hear something interestin’ Arden?” – Roland

“I guess…..are you gonna be ok for the battle Roland?” – Arden

“It’ll be fine! I’ve stopped drinking for now……So just listen. I’ve always wanted a son you know? You’d be surprised how many mercenaries want kids. Due to the nature of our work, our lives are constantly in danger. The only way we can leave any semblance of a legacy in this world is through our children” – Roland

Listening carefully to Roland’s words, Arden couldn’t find a fault with them. Unless you do something incredible like saving a country, you’re probably not going to leave much of a mark in the world.

With time, you’ll just fade completely from existence. No-one will remember you, no-one will care you existed. Continuing your family line is the only way to keep your legacy going.

“You’re like a son to me you know? When we took you in after what happened…..I knew you’d make a fine soldier. I used to say to myself, If I ever have a son one day, I’d make sure to craft him into an incredible soldier. When I saw you fight back at that time, your eyes looked so fierce, I knew you had talent. I get goosebumps just remembering it. It was like you were me in the past” – Roland

“Thank you, but I don’t think I had as much muscle as you did back then…..” – Arden

“Hahah! This kid gets me!” – Roland

Roughly stroking Arden’s head, Roland returned to the party. Leaving Arden to enjoy his alcohol.

‘It’ll go well. I’m sure of it’

Like that, the time of the battle approached.

🕀

Standing facing one another. The armies of the Asteril Kingdom and the Rastos Kingdom raised cries of war.

The sound was deafening, but nobody minded. The sounds of their comrades voices mixing together gave them courage. More so than any alcohol could.

“Remember what I said Arden. It’s okay to stay in the back. There shouldn’t be any problems, but as I always say, there are no definites in war” – Roland

“I understand. I’ll only advance if I run out of arrows” – Arden

Voicing his approval, Arden prepared his bow. He was currently atop a horse in the front with Roland and the other high ranking mercenary members. He planned to move to the back before the charge started.

Arden wasn’t necessarily a high rank. However, being the youngest one there, he became a sort of mascot. The other mercenaries were always thinking “If such a young kid is risking his life, then I should fight even harder!” leading to a boost in morale and courage.

Furthermore, being on horseback made shooting individual targets with a bow a lot easier. However, it was very difficult to shoot accurately when on horseback.

Looking to his left, Arden could see the commander of the Asteril army sending messengers to each division. The Wolves of Dawn included. Indicating that the charge would happen soon.

“I’ll move to the back now” – Arden

“Good luck kid” – Roland

“You too, old man” – Arden

“You littl—–!” – Roland

Without waiting to hear Roland’s response, Arden sped off on his horse. Since the Wolves of Dawn were well practised with military techniques, they had set themselves out in even rows. Leaving spaces for horses to go to and from the front and back, thus making it easy for Arden to reach the back quickly.

As soon as Arden was in position.

“CHARGE!!!!” – Commander

“““““CHARGE!!!!”””” – Army

A loud roar echoed across the battlefield as the Asteril army and the Wolves of Dawn advanced forward quickly.

Since the speed of the cavalry was much quicker than that of the infantry, they engaged the enemy first.

Despite the early engagement, the cavalry from the Asteril army seemed to be having trouble with the surprise spears that the Rastos army had prepared. As soon as their horses hit them, the riders were thrown off into the densely packed enemies. It didn’t end well for them.

Roland on the other hand…..despite being thrown from his horse and falling into the middle of the enemy army. No-one could even touch him. With his large two handed sword, one swing could instantly kill 2 or more enemies. Because of this, they had formed a 2 metre diameter circle around him in an attempt to keep away.

‘Idiots….’

Arden couldn’t help thinking that. Roland only has an advantage if his opponents are 1-2 metres away from him. If they just got closer to him, he would be at a disadvantage as he couldn’t swing his sword. Yet, who would be crazy enough to approach him? That fear was leading to many unnecessary deaths.

‘I should start as well’

Knocking an arrow, Arden drew the bow string to it’s limit before releasing. The arrow flew in a parabolic path before hitting an enemy soldier in the head, killing him instantly.

‘Like this, it should be ok’

Arden continued firing like this for a while, felling many enemies. By the time he had emptied his quiver, the battle had been going on for about an hour.

A large amount of the enemy’s army had already been destroyed, yet the main force still remained with around 20,000 soldiers.

Making a quick decision, Arden decided to join in with the melee on the ground.

Advancing quickly to the front lines using his horse, he drew his twin swords from his waist.

As he reached the enemy lines, he leapt backwards from his horse, flipping completely around in the air before landing near an enemy soldier.

The soldier was bewildered for a moment, taking advantage of that Arden sank one of his blades into the soldier’s neck swiftly. He had become much more proficient at killing than 4 years ago.

Another enemy soldier ran towards him and tried to attack from the side, as a third soldier attacked from the front.

Parrying the side soldier’s blade, with his right sword Arden span around on his feet, simultaneously dodging the blow from the soldier in front. As he span, he slashed his weapon towards the side soldier’s neck. Killing him instantly.

The front soldier advanced whilst Arden’s back was to him. Predicting this, Arden swooped low. Dodging a thrust from the enemy soldier.

Then, returning a thrust of his own. Arden stabbed his right sword into the space between the soldier’s armour.

It didn’t kill him instantly like the last ones, but it caused a big enough wound to stop him attacking.

Kicking the soldier down, leaving him to die, Arden continued his rampage. All the while, follow Roland’s advice and keeping his feelings in check.

It was not just so that he didn’t lose himself in battle, but also so that the opponent couldn’t see his fear. In combat, opponents will take advantage of any weakness thrown to them.

After 4 long hours like that, the battle was almost over. Every soldier’s exhaustion was at its maximum, yet they never gave in.

There was around 3,000 or so enemy soldiers left. In comparison, the Asteril kingdom had around 60,000, including the Wolves of Dawn.

Rastos had lost 95% of their forces, whereas Asteril had only lost 40%. It was clear who the victor was going to be.

Arden has been fighting in the melee all this time. His arms could barely hold his swords anymore, he had resorted to just using one blade and alternating the hands it was held in.

‘Haaa—–Just a little more’

As he thought that…..

DOKUUUNNN!!

A loud gong like noise sounded. Despite the clamour of battle, it could be heard by all.

“What the hell was that!?” – Arden

Arden couldn’t help but exclaim out loud as he looked towards the origin of the sound.

There, around 500 metres or so away, was a figure covered in black miasma.

The source of the miasma? The fallen soldiers from Rastos. Each one was emitting a black haze, that was then pulled towards the figure, before being absorbed.

A cold feeling began to trace it’s way down Arden’s spine. Although he didn’t know what was happening, he had a bad feeling.

As if answering this feeling, the figure pointed it’s hands towards the ongoing battle. The black miasma orbiting it contracted into a ball. Before exploding outwards, travelling towards Arden and the other soldiers.

“Shit!” – Arden

Unsure of what to do, Arden quickly searched for Roland. He needed to warn him.

Finding him, Roland was currently taking on 3 Rastos soldiers at once. He seemed exhausted, but his fearless smile betrayed that.

Running towards his location, Arden raised his voice whilst pointing to the oncoming wave.

“Roland!! Look out, something’s coming!!” – Arden

Surprised to hear his voice, Roland quickly flicked his eyes to Arden, before moving them to where he was pointing.

“IT’S A WITCH! RETREAT!!” – Roland

Roland screamed with widened eyes. Arden had never seen him scared before.

Looking towards Arden once more, Roland raised his voice.

“Retreat kid! I’ll cover your back! Wha……?” – Roland

The oncoming black haze began to accelerate. Even if Arden ran now, it would soon catch up with him. Realising this, all Arden could do was stare.

As the black haze first touched the soldiers from Rastos, shrill screams sounded as dark veins appeared on every soldier’s face. Some attempted to claw the darkness out of their bodies, only to cause even more injuries. Other’s became frenzied and ran into a group of enemies, slashing wildly.

‘What’s happening? Why would they unleash this on their allies as well???’

Despite encountering numerous Rastos soldiers, the black haze did not slow down. It soon reached the frontlines of the Asteril army.

“Not good!” – Arden

With death looming all Arden could do was cover his face with his hands.

Suddenly, a dark shadow was cast over Arden, but it was not the black haze.

“Roland!?!?” – Arden

The shadow belonged to Roland. He had stood in front of Arden in an attempt to block the darkness.

“I’m alright…..keh” – Roland

Roland said, as dark veins appears on his face.

“Why did you?” – Arden

“We’re mercenaries you know……we look out for each other. Besides, I said you’re like a son to me…….right?” – Roland

Despite the intense pain, Roland beared with it in order to get his words out.

“This is the best……I can do. You’d better……live well after this” – Roland

After saying so, Roland collapsed. Taking advantage of this, the darkness just continued onwards as if it had never been hampered to begin with.

Arden was frozen in fear and sadness, betraying Roland’s advice of holding down his feelings.

The screams of agonised comrades and enemies plagued his mind as he stared at the oncoming death cloud.

“……Roland” – Arden

Arden muffled one name before the darkness consumed his body.

The pain was unbearable, it felt like he was being skinned alive then dumped in salt from head to toe.

“ARRRRGGGHGHHHH!!” – Arden

His screams reached the heavens as the pain caused him to lose consciousness.

The dark cloud consumed both armies entirely. Friend and foe. Leaving only bodies in it’s wake.

In the future this battle would be known as the dawn massacre. It marked the end of the Wolves of Dawn.

As well as Arden’s first encounter with a witch.

One thought on “The Last Dog of War – Prologue: The Break of Dawn

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