Chapter 0:


The Masquerade in the Forest

“Lieutenant! The Delin forces greatly overpower us! We are going to be slaughtered if we don’t do anything!”

“I know you fool! Silence, I’m trying to think!”

Screams filled the battlefield as conflict broke out between soldiers of Andania and those of Delin.

Most of these screams belong, or rather, belonged to my countrymen, the Andanians.

There has always been hatred between the two empires, but the Delinians have been acting suspiciously lately. They were seen going in and out of the Elves’ Forest, and the Andanian military suspects they’re trying to win the Elves over to their side so they would have an advantage over Andania. That’s why the Andanian military decided to send a couple of platoons to scout the situation.

The Elves have always been known to be neutral. Or rather, they didn’t want anything to do with human conflict at all. After all, to a species that can live millennia, we must be nothing but a feather floating in their wind. Our conflicts must seem petty to them.

But they didn’t only live for millennia, they were also proficient magicians, and clever warriors. Living for that long meant they possessed knowledge that was lost to time. Such magic was now called black magic. It is considered evil, for it was too powerful, and humans have no way to defend against it with. Fortunately, only the neutral elves possessed it. Which is why Andania is afraid that Delin could win the elves over to their side.

It’s rumored that there are few humans who could use black magic, but until today, they have proven to be only rumors. Either that, or they prefer to lay low and not interfere with these political conflicts.

Until today, that is. 
Andanian soldiers are being killed right now with magic we have never seen before, this is probably black magic...

“But… he isn’t an elf…” I whispered to myself.

“Yes! He isn’t an elf! The damned Delinians have the aid of both the elves and a black magician!” The Lieutenant, who seems to have heard, me replied furiously.

Yes, it doesn’t feel fair at all. And why are the elves helping them, anyway? At this rate, not only will we die here, but Andania is doomed. Up till now, Andania and Delin have been close in power, but this will severely tip the scales in their favor.

“Listen, Grout.” The Lieutenant suddenly addresses me and continues, “You must report this to the Empire, it already looks bleak as it is. But if we are to have any sliver of hope, then we must deliver this news back. I don’t know what we could possibly do to fight against both the elves and a black magician, but that’s for them to think about. We must do our part, and believe that they do theirs.”

“But, S-Sir…” I gulp. I didn’t expect such a huge responsibility to fall on my shoulders alone, “We won’t even last for another 5 minutes, they will surely catch up to me. It’s better if I stay and fight! If we’re going to die anyway then we must inflict the most damage we can possibly do to their forces!”

“It’s fine.” The Lieutenant firmly places his hand on my shoulder and grips it forcefully, “The other platoons are on the way, we’ll try to buy as much time as we can. No, we will buy you enough time. Just believe in us and be on your way. You must report this to the Empire no matter what! Now, hurry!”

There really was not enough time to think about it. But I didn’t need to think about it. At the end, I’m a soldier for Andania. I must follow orders. And I’ll make sure I see this through.
I have been extremely pessimistic about our chances ever since I heard about the rumors with the elves, and it got worse when I realized they have a black magician.
But surprisingly, the Lieutenant’s speech made me think that perhaps Andania could emerge victorious at the end.

“Yes, Sir!” I bring my right hand to my head, and salute the Lieutenant one last time.

Then I turn back and start running as fast as I can, I look back one last time, and see the Lieutenant running into the battlefield with the rest of the troops, carrying his rifle.

I will not let all of your efforts go to waste, everyone! I swear on my name, Grout Aullius.

Joe Gold