His feet felt as though they had been crushed by the hammer of a Tremor. He didn't know how far he had gone, trudging along through these mountainous roads, all he knew is that he could never go back. Keep walking Tarq, he would tell himself. Just a few more steps. Just a few more never-ending steps. He could always take just one more. He couldn't stop, couldn't rest or he would surely drift off to sleep and die huddled up in the snow.
He thought back to the events the night before. The locust assault on the camp, his brother being blown to bits a few feet away from him, the kryll sweeping into the darkness devouring everything in their path. He had only escaped with his life by hiding under the old broken down junker, and by the grace of the gods he wasn't found. Why would they suddenly attack in such force?, he pondered. What threat could a small stranded camp be to the might of the locust horde?
The battle was fierce. The Stranded, to their credit, had fought bravely and made the drones pay for every inch of ground they advanced upon. Bronson, the leader of their camp, had mowed at least 20 down with the troika they'd salvaged the week before from an abandoned locust outpost. But even the destructive power of a locust turret wasn't enough to stop their onslaught. Bronson was transformed into a cloud of red mist and chunks of flesh and bone when a locust frag went off next to his feet, and the battle quickly took a turn for the worse. Once the locusts had taken the wall, they began to shoot the light sources above the Stranded still alive. Tarq had watched in horror as the bat-like kryll poured in from the shadows and tore to pieces any Stranded left in the darkness. He felt a pain in his left leg, and looked down to see blood slowly creeping out of the wound where a piece of shrapnel had buried itself in his thigh. He had no time to react to the wound; the locust onslaught continued without end. Out of nowhere, a monstrous Locust, at least 10 feet tall, approached the desperate troop of survivors. He carried no weapon but a giant knife, and seemed as though the shadows followed and enveloped him in their grasp. But a closer look revealed that he was surrounded by a swarm of Kryll. What is this demon?, Tarq remembered thinking to himself as he witnessed this shadowy devil move toward his friend Sarin. He tried to shout a warning to his comrade, but it was already to late. The behemoth had seized her, his gargantuan leathery hand wrapped completely around her fragile skull. He impaled her upon his vicious serrated knife, while simultaneously crushing her skull inside his powerful grip. He had almost lost his dinner when he saw the terrible shadowy brute shake the remnants of what used to be Sarin's face and head from his palm, and continued on to his next victim. No matter how many bullets the Stranded pelted him with, still he came. The other locusts began pulling back, as if even they were fearful to be in this monster's presence. He remembered his father running toward this creature, shouting for him to run, to hide, to escape. The creature ran to meet his father, not losing as stride as he swung his immense blade and decapitated the man. The head hit the snow with a sickening thud, as the body slowly fell to it's knees, then crumpled to the ground, changing the white powder to a thick red sludge.
Tarq had then turned and looked around for a place to hide. There was no running from the beasts, if the locust drones surrounding didn't pick off those attempting to flee, the kryll would surely seize upon them as they ran into the darkness. He climbed under the old broken down junker his father had been trying to fix up for months. As he lay there, motionless, he could see the last remnants of his camp being slaughtered. He felt like a coward. How could he not? He lay in relative safety as his friends, his neighbors were being mercilessly butchered. But what could he hope to do against this beast? He felt helpless, but dare not try to aid them lest he meet the same fate. A mere boy at 17 years old, how could he be expected to attack this monstrosity from below the surface?
He watched the giant black-armored locust finish off the last of the Stranded defenders, an old man in his 60s they all referred to only as "Grim". No one knew his real name, only that he had been a Gear, and abandoned the COG when his wife was killed in the Hammer of Dawn attacks. He watched as this fearless man was lifted from the ground, the monster's hand grasping his neck. Grim was undaunted, he looked into the creature's jet-black eyes for a moment, then spat in it's face. The beast seemed amused by this show of gallantry, as a bully in a schoolyard when the weakling he preys upon attempts to stand up to him. The locust buried his fearsome claws into Grim's stomach, gripped tightly, and pulled out every vital organ in his body as he stared into his eyes, watching as they glazed over with the empty stare of death. Grim's body twitched for a moment on the ground, then finally lay still. It was a ghastly sight. The giant walked over to the salvaged troika, and with one hand lifted it from it's mount, placed it across his shoulder, and walked off into the night, his band of drones and red-armored guards following in his wake.
Tarq laid there for what seemed like an eternity, not daring to move. Finally, the first glimpse of sun began to reflect off of the snowy white ground. He climbed out from his place of safety, knowing he was now safe from any attack by the kryll menace that haunted the night. The sight of the camp was almost more than he could stomach; bodies laying in pieces everywhere, people he had known and grown up around, savagely cut down and mutilated, some beyond recognition. He found a leather strap to use as a tourniquet, although the wound he sustained had stopped bleeding hours ago. What can I do?, he thought to himself. Where can I go? He decided to make for the mountains, where he had heard from his brother there was a cave where a group of Stranded had taken refuge. The kryll didn't like the extreme cold of the higher altitude, so the darkness was the safest place possible. At least there you couldn't be seen as easily. Perhaps he'd find his brother there. After all, no one had heard from him in over a month. Perhaps he was still alive there.
His thoughts suddenly came back to the present moment. He came to a fork in the road he'd been following. Which way should he go? He didn't know. He wasn't told about any fork in the road, only that following this small winding path would eventually lead him to a new camp in which he could take refuge. He sat down for a moment, propping himself against a tree. He could go no further. He'd trudged along in the cold snow for hours, the fierce winds gnawing at him like Death's icy jaws begging to devour him. His wound was making his leg almost useless, he had to rest for a moment and let it recover. Just A few minutes and he'd be back on his feet again... just a few short minutes....