(Art by Alice Boewe)
Karieht reached for the next branch, hauling himself up into the tree one painful lunge at a time, digging his claws into the bark to make footholds where he wasn't tall enough to reach the next natural one. He would be safe once he reached the top. With every step he went up, he reminded himself to not look down, to not look at the horrors that were going on in the swamp beneath. “Keep going.” His mother had told him. Her last words would be obeyed. He remembered the glow in his mother’s eyes fading as she muttered those words, and her jaw slowly dropping until her face reached the slackness of death. The monsters from the stories had come for them.
Men mounted on dark horses, their voice being nothing but a high-pitched screech. We heard about them from our parents, tales of utter terror. The Gol’Daarth hadn’t appeared in these parts in over a decade, yet here they were, and they had even massacred most of our village by now. They towered over us when we were walking normally, easily 4 times as high. Even when our men rose to two legs for fighting, they were still larger. If they had attacked us during daytime, we would’ve had a chance. But now… It’s over. We’re over.
When the dust and ash settled, there was almost no one left. My parents, our town elders, even all of the kids that did not manage to hide are just lying there. A flicker of movement, an adult who played dead pushes the remains of a house off their back.’Thank the Gods, I'm not alone’.