He felt the morning sun on his back and welcomed the warmth, surprised at how cold such a place could become at night. Next to him, surveying the landscape with the telescope stood Commander Slog. Since the attack, on the commander’s orders, sleep came in shifts, and what little sleep the fighters got was not full of rest, but rather the fitful kind when a soldier sleeps with one eye open, wary of danger.
Morale was low, and Brog knew this weighed on his commander. Absent was the usual banter, the jocularity amongst soldiers indicative of a cohesive fighting force. The events of the previous evening had left them shaken. Put an army in front of these hardened draconians and Brog knew they would stand and fight to the last man. But what fell upon the men last night was unlike any foe they had faced before. An enemy who would haunt them as this one had, snatch up one of their best and bravest fighters and sadistically prolong his death, taunting his comrades, hapless to help, with those horrible screams. Theirs was a warrior race, bred for battle and ill-prepared for mischief.
It was not as though the loss of a fellow warrior were uncommon, or viewed as necessarily unpleasant for that matter. For a draconian warrior, there was no greater form of death than that which comes in battle. And when the day is done, and the battle won, celebrations are held in honor of the fallen.
He stood by patiently as his commander continued his surveillance, when at last he let out a sigh, folded the telescope, and handed it to his number two. He looked over his shoulder, down the face of the dune in direction of the camp, then forward again, towards the mountains in the distance.
“Prepare to march.”
Brog left his commander atop the dune.
He had remained atop the dune for a moment to think. He had heard the legends; the songs and tales, but never thought that he might encounter one some day. And while the tales spoke of creatures of size and power, he was now realizing that such a beast went far beyond a spoken word.
He thought of his walk through camp, when first he sensed its presence. He had experienced moments of angst in his life, usually in anticipation of battle. Anxiety before a campaign is common amongst even the hardest of fighting men. But the emotions experienced while in the presence of this creature went beyond the thrill of battle. And then came the moment, atop this very dune, when the beast revealed itself, and he beheld that monstrous silhouette in the moonlight; struck with awe, unable to move. What kind of foe renders its enemies to such a state? And, should the beast return, how does one fight such a monster?
Broken from his reverie, he looked over his shoulder. Half way down the dune stood Brog,
“Sir, the men are ready.”
Slog nodded and looked towards the mountains one last time, shimmering as the temperature rose with the morning sun,
He cast a wary eye skyward, searching the blue ether. Aside from a pale moon over the distant mountains, the skies were empty. He filled his lungs with dry desert air, and exhaled, forcing himself to calm, then retreated back down the face of the dune to camp, still haunted by the screams of his comrade.