Gareth poked his head over the rocks, peering across the blasted landscape. It was a particularly hot day, the sun's rays bouncing off the endless gray of the wasteland, nothing but the occasional ravine or dead, naked tree dotting the endless fields of stone. Only the sighing wind gave him any company as he searched for the single source of food for miles, the devious rock lizards that scuttled throughout the rocky outcroppings.With his bow slung across his back, Gareth moved across the waste, using his hands as much as his feet to propel himself forward. The dull army helmet on his head and rags covering his clothing helped him blend in perfectly with the surroundings.The world was an unforgiving one, where you were either fast and silent or easy prey for a wandering Beast. Gareth was a straggler, one of those who chose to fend for themselves instead of joining one of the dozen armies that fought for control over this war-torn planet.
Hugging close to a somewhat large boulder, Gareth pulled out his bow, spying a black lizard sunning itself on the rocks a dozen meters away. Knocking an arrow, he carefully aimed. He would get one shot at this, rock lizards were skittish and easily frightened creatures. Understandable, considering that they lived in a place where nameless abominations roamed freely and destroyed or devoured anything that was in their way.
Suddenly, the rock lizard perked up its head, staring off into the distance. Giving a squeak of fear, it scurried under the rocks, probably into some hidden burrow under the ground. Gareth paused, and placed a hand on the ground. He shuddered with fear, feeling the all-too-familiar vibrations in the earth. Quickly, he unstrapped his field glasses, looking off in the direction the lizard had. There, in the distance, was a black band of moving figures covering the horizon. Troops, there was an army approaching.
Twiddling a dial at the side of the glasses, he zoomed in on them, scanning the ranks for a banner that would identify which army this was. If he knew which particular faction this army belonged to, he might be able to judge how they were going to act, and hopefully find a way to avoid encountering them. He spotted it, a massive flag depicting five jagged shards of metal joining together to form a twisted circle. Gareth groaned.
They were Assemblage troops. The Church was on the move.
Still sticking low to the ground, Gareth darted across the broken landscape. He moved diagonally away from the advancing army, trying to get away from them as fast as possible. It was unwise to run into soldiers belonging to the Holy Order of the Assemblage. If they found him, they would only give him a single choice: Become a devoted member of the army; join the Priesthood of the Assemblage God; or be turned into one of the mindless automatons the Church employed. Not content with summoning their monstrous deity to this planet, the Church had to subjugate the rest of the human species to their way.
If he had been lucky, Gareth would have run into one of warmongering tribes devoted to the Hunter. That way, he could have thrown down his bow and arrows, shown he was no threat or challenge to them, and be left alone relatively unscathed. Even the horrifically inhuman minions of the immortal Lizard King would have been preferable to the proselytizing Church. A quick death to the purge being committed by the hordes the Lizard King had supposedly pulled from another realm would be far less painful to the iron grip the Church held on their recruits.
As Gareth scurried across the rocky wastes, he could feel another set of vibrations shivering through the earth. Looking up in horror, he could see a second army, this one moving up from the south, towards him and the Assemblage army. Lying prone on the ground, he pulled up his field glasses in an attempt to see this new army.
There was no point in searching for a banner with this group, however. This army's allegiance was made clear by the white paint all of the soldiers wore on their faces, put there in homage to the cruel masked being they served that was known only as the White Lord. The White Lord, who sat upon a throne as black as death, who could reach into the minds of men and tear their souls from their bodies. The White Lord, who revelled in corruption and could make the very walls bleed in fear of him. The White Lord, who commanded his army through sheer terror, and held a grip on them that could rival that of the Assemblage Church's.
The two most fanatical armies in the world were about to clash, and Gareth was stuck between them.
Forgetting any attempt at stealth, Garet stood up and bolted, making a mad dash to get out of the way of the two incoming titans. His feet slammed into the ground as he ran, sheer fear driving him away from the soon-to-be warzone. The opposing forces were large, but he had a good distance between the two, and he prayed to the gods that he reached the edge of the armies before they met.
Luck was on his side, as it were, and when the forces were about to clash he was a good distance away from the field of battle. He kept running though, on the chance there was a flanking attempt that could sweep him up. As he moved, he could hear the two sides scream their respective battle cries of 'In the holy name of the Assembled God!' and 'For his high honor, the White Lord!'. A monstrous scream split the air as the two monstrous armies slammed into each other. Gareth was fairly far away from them, but their cries could be heard for miles.
Gareth slowed down. He was far enough from them, he was safe. He continued his slow trot away from them, not even worrying to stay low to the ground. There weren't going to be any Beasts in the area, they were smart enough to avoid a battle. As he walked, Gareth sighed, depressed at the state the world was in. He had been a straggler since the day he was born, knowing no life other than hiding from monsters and armies, knowing no landscape except for the dead rock called Earth. There were small towns and cities scattered across the planet, yes, but Gareth had found living in them a difficult life, for they drew Beasts to them like moths to a light.
It hadn't always been this way, according to the legends Gareth had heard as a child. Back then, years and years ago, the world was said to be a lush, green place, with water that wasn't brown and trees that had leaves. It was a world where armies hadn't destroyed the planet, and humans didn't have the need to hide from hideous monstrosities.
That was almost three hundred years ago, according to the stories.
From what he heard from the elders, something had happened two hundred and eighty years ago. The ancient tales told of a series of monstrous explosions across Earth. The first happened in the eastern portion of some long-dead nation called 'America'. That had been the trigger, for soon after that a wave of explosions popped up across the planet, everywhere from populated cities to the middle of the most desolate deserts. Out of these explosions came the Beasts, hundreds of terrifying creatures that would warp reality and kill without mercy.
The nations of the world united, and attempted to vanquish these beasts. At first, they were successful. At first. But with the Beasts came the kings and generals that now fought for dominance. There was the Assemblage Church, the Hunter, the White Lord, the Lizard King, the Queen of Darkness, and the leaderless Army of the Dead, along with other monstrous rulers. Whatever it was that caused those explosions, it had sealed the fate of humankind and doomed them to a death of eternal warring and a husk of a planet as a home.
Gareth sat down, now completely out of sight of the raging armies. Looking across this section of the blasted, dead terrain, he realized he needed to dig himself a new home before night fell. His stomach growled, the combat had lost him a chance to eat today. That was all that was left for humans. Hunger, death, and a desolate wasteland. For three centuries monsters and demons had fought for control, and they could do nothing but pray that their new masters would be a kind one, futile as that may sound. There would be no end, and no hope for humans.
Gareth shook his head, setting out to build himself a new home. Such things were not his place to dwell upon, he was too busy trying to survive.