It was well past midnight when Arden finally sat down on the cool sand in frustration. “Damn this sandy hell!” He flung a fistful of sand at the same group of cacti he had passed three times before. His chocobo plopped down in agreement. He regretted traveling in the dark.
Not even an entire day had passed and he was already going in circles. The upcoming battle will have already started before he could even find the allied encampment. He laid on his back and looked up as if to find an answer among the stars. However, his gaze found only clouds, emblazoned blood-red by the Red Hound, Dalamud.
Arden's heart nearly burst out of his chest as the chocobo scrambled to stand up on quivering legs.
“What in Rhalger's name has gotten into you?” Arden was up on his feet, his axe now in his hands.
The chocobo continued its shrieks of terror, its panicked eyes fixed on the entrance of the nearby canyon.
“What? Damn you! What?” Arden followed his steed's frantic gaze, but only saw darkness between the two rock walls. The chocobo finally gained its balance and sprinted with lighting speed in the opposite direction of the canyon.
“W-wait! You bloody overgrown chicken! Come back here!” Arden reached out his hand in a futile attempt to grab the cowardly steed, but it was too late. In less than a minute the chocobo was already shrinking in the distance. Arden could not believe what had just happened. Was the descent of Dalamud now affecting the minds of chocobos like some of the crazed wildlife?
He turned his head back towards the canyon and was surprised to see the flickering glow of a fire gleaming off the walls of the canyon entrance. He cautiously approached the large recess in the wall that held the source of the light. As he looked over the corner he was astonished to see a young midlander sitting next to a campfire. Hope was beginning to kindle in Arden.
“Hello there. Do you mind if I join you?” Arden approached the fire, the man giving no response. Arden sat down across from him. The man made no sign that he was aware of Arden's presence. He simply stared into the fire.
Arden grew uneasy. No warmth was coming from the flames beside him. Was this a hallucination? Was that accursed moon playing tricks on his mind now? Arden gazed into the fire as his mind raced to sort out these puzzling thoughts.
A chill went down Arden's spine. Those words were not spoken by the voice of a young midlander. In its stead was a voice so dark that if one had not payed close enough attention, he would have thought the most unholy of curses had been uttered into his ear. He dare not look away from the flames.
The campfire, once bright and lively only minutes before, had diminished to a few smoldering remains in a mound of white ash. Arden fixed his eyes on the last glowing ember fading from dull-orange to grey.
Arden's uneasiness had developed into an unfamiliar feeling. Before entering battles of insurmountable odds, the warrior would put away such a petty emotion as fear, always emerging victorious afterward. But this was darker than fear. It was soul-wrenching terror. Evil was at work here.
In complete darkness, the dreadful confrontation was finally at hand. He was sure of it now. He didn't need to look. His hand trembling, Arden slowly inched it toward the francisca attached to his belt.
Just another battle, he assured himself. His fingers grasped the familiar leather grip.
Arden bolted up on his feet. Bellowing one last battle-cry, the warrior raised his weapon to strike. His roar ended with a soft gasping whimper as two terrible black pits for eyes bore into his soul.
The sky's hue above the canyon walls was slowly shifting from a dark purple to a soft azure. Dawn was coming. After a few spasms, the Roegadyn gathered himself and left the remains of the campfire, following the dark.