Daren waited impatiently with his company behind the line of battle. Settled on a rocky hilltop, they had a grand view of the conflict and the pristine air of Tase allowed the group to see the minutest details. Occasionally the sounds of battle would be pushed upward by the wind and the air would fill with the sound of horses, men and the clash of swords. However, the small company of men and its captain was forced mostly to watch the chaos without sound. Daren watched the happenings safely away, for now. Proudly erected on a hilltop directly opposite theirs, the proud flag of Praia was unfurled. On a bold backdrop of red, blue and gold, a silver stag danced and leaped, surrounded by four small stars. Daren shook his head at the display of color. This whole war was the fault of the ignoble king of Praia. Of course, no one had thought him base and dishonorable at first. Praia was once a long time friend and ally of Tase. The two countries had been one and united for as long as Daren could remember. Or at least, until now.

King Ettrick of Praia had defiantly called all of Tase dishonorable ruffians, during his recent and last visit. King Ettrick's reasons were ghastly. In the night, his ten sons had been stolen away, their abductor leaving no trace or clue as to their passing. King Ettrick had blamed all of Tase and declared war. All of Tase had been outraged for the accusation was preposterous. King Madone of Tase had been furious and had spent one entire afternoon cursing his former ally. Afterward, a large and whole hearted search had been conducted by all of Tase and the King so as to prevent the impending war. Neither scrap nor hair had been found of the royal princes. Still, King Ettrick had refused to call off the impending war. He 'knew' his sons were in Tase somewhere.

On top of his small hill and sanctuary, Daren sighed and turned his thoughts to more pleasant ones than politics and plotting. Instead he looked northward, to an eroded horizon and took in the pleasant green forests and craggy mountains in one gaze. That was the abode of the golden dragons, an old man had warned Daren one day. Daren, naturally, didn't believe the old man. Everyone knew that dragons were a myth and fairytale. Daren turned southward and gazed out at the sea, so far away, it was merely a blue smudge. Daren closed his eyes and tried to imagine the small fisher ships that must be sailing happily through the blue, perhaps being overshadowed by a passing merchant vessel. Daren opened his eyes and looked northward again, to the mountains, some still capped by winter snows.

A calling horn sounded below from the fray, startling Daren from his pleasant thoughts and causing him to glance down at the battle in surprise. On his right, another company from the relief regiment was being led into battle. Daren's group would be the next to be called out to support the Tasian army. Daren gazed after the departing company longingly. He would much rather be fighting and sweating in the heat of battle than sitting amongst the lush grass and yellow sunflowers. Every muscle in his body was itching with impatience to move, to do something, rather than sit and wait.

While Daren's muscles itched, his eyes roved the land, absorbing every detail. Daren was a tall man, but nevertheless of strong build with daring green eyes. His brown hair was cropped close to his head, and his ruddy cheeks and calloused hands proclaimed his identity. His features announced him as a farmer's son, fed up with chores who had enlisted to escape working on a farm. Daren took an empty minded sip from the water flask at his hip, reminiscing on the past.

Enlisting at age 16, Daren had undergone a year of rigorous training before being accepted into the Tasian army. Glowing with pride at his achievements, Daren had gladly accepted his first challenge, to hunt down a group of bandits plaguing a well traveled road in the rough mountains. In the end, it had been Daren's small company of men who had captured the unruly bandits and brought them to justice. As a reward, each member of Daren's company had received a small bag of gold.

Daren gave another small sigh. Those had been the days. He idly drummed his fingers against the hilt of his sword, thinking of his four years of service to the army. Here he was, now twenty and a veteran, he should be out in the thick of it; hacking, cutting and wreaking destruction in as many ways possible. But Daren was stuck sitting in the grass with the idle beetles and various bugs.

Then, as if the sun had finally risen to dispel a cold and sleepless night, the horn sounded again, far below in the chaos. Gladly leaping to his feet, Daren followed his company's banner bearer into the fray. Wildly yelling, Daren and his company rushed down the hill like a raging torrent of water, ready and eager to begin. When they finally engaged their swords and other weapons, the whole earth shook with the excitement.

From the hill they had just left, a rain of deadly arrows cascaded down on the enemy, easily piercing the Praians' leather armor. Daren gave his own little yell of triumph as he saw the enemy fall, but with some regret. He was thinking of the women and children those men would leave behind forever. Daren felt a little sick at the wasted lives, but his thoughts were soon scattered when he met up with his first opponent.

A quick thrust through the chest finished him off quickly, but Daren had no time dwell on the death before his sword engaged with that of another man. So the battle continued on, neither side giving or pushing forward. By the time Daren's shift in the battle was over, he was soaked with sweat and blood while his arms screamed in protest at his sword. The calling horn sounded for his battalion and Daren turned to retreat back to his hilltop.

Suddenly, Daren felt a sharp pain in his belly. Looking down, he saw the tip of a sword protruding from his midriff. The sword withdrew and Daren fell to one knee. Turning, he looked into a face mad with delight and hate. As the man raised his sword for the final blow, Daren lifted his and drove it into the man's chest. Giving one gurgling grunt, the man fell backward, another corpse among corpses. Daren slowly stood again and turned to walk away. However, a young man stood before him, watching him with wide eyes.

Slowly walking forward, Daren rested a hand on the young man's shoulder.

"Go, I'll be alright." The boy protested, shaking his head.

"I'm not leaving you," he retorted boldly. Daren took another step forward, and then faltered, his strength fleeing. Gently catching him before he could fall, the young man put Daren's arm around his neck and helped him to stand. Daren weakly sheathed his sword and walked slowly through the chaos, supported by this unknown angel.

"By the way, my name is Bennett. Please just call me Ben," said the boy. Daren smiled and nodded, trying to make his blurry world clear up. Black spots appeared in his vision and he halted in alarm. Around him people continued to fight and Daren could feel their anger and hear their weapons, but he couldn't see them. Abruptly, all strength left him and he collapsed on the boy's shoulder. Darkness then reached up and pulled him into its nightmarish abode.