The village had been quiet with that heavy silence that accompanies sleeping. Now, it was alight and dancing with colors that stood starkly against the green-yellow grass of the surrounding plains. Soldiers ran everywhere, carrying lit torches and dragging them against every flammable surface. A red glow spread, and it wasn't long before parents were awake and fighting both flames and invaders.
A well-dressed man watched with pleasure as chaos seized the tiny town, his Doberman Pinscher guard dog standing silent at his side. Children were cowering in thatch-roofed houses as their elders were cut down by merciless pawns. Screams issued from those that were not simply frozen in fright. Some were ended in their own beds as they slept to death in an inferno.
At the far end of the village entrance, a lone tree stood on a lone hill. Beneath the soil, a small burrow contained two worried creatures and their slumbering daughter. Softly pointed dog ears twisted, turned, flattened to their skulls, the wretched smokey smells pervading sensitive noses. Now they debated their situation, hurrying to prepare a plan to save what they could.
The mother rushed to her daughter's bedside. The voice she used wavered with emotion - only one would be able to escape without notice of the invaders.
"Nini, my darling, it is time to leave!" She shook her daughter's shoulders to jar the child awake. Nini opened her eyes to hectic panic. Her mother pulled her from her covers, pushing Nini's favorite rubber ball into her hands. Nini nearly dropped it; a tough little sphere colored blue, with a gold star emblazoned on it's surface. She rubbed at her eyes with one hand as she was ushered into a back room her ancestor's claws had dug into the earth many years ago. Nini didn't understand. This room had a hidden door for the only other tunnel out of the burrow. It led to the dark side of the hill that the current carnage did not see, and it would be how this one child would survive the massacre.
Nini was never offered an explanation. The last she saw her parents was as her mother babbling a tearful goodbye as she swung the door into place again and sealed it with packed soil. Her father was already at the burrow entrance with his saber, fending off a flood of attackers. He was not able to bid his daughter farewell.
Nini was shut into darkness, and she fought off tears of her own that she could not explain to herself. She clung to her treasured rubber ball and crawled slowly down the dirt tunnel, walls pressing into her side. Breathing came in quick pants and sobs. But the exit wasn't as far as it seemed. Night air flooded with the smell of smoke greeted her snout. She continued to crawl on her stomach to the towering tree on the hill.
Her tree. Her comfort.
She climbed as high as her arms and legs would carry her, higher than she had ever dared before. She clutched the rubber ball to her chest and twisted her head as far as she could to look over her shoulder.
And then she had the most spectacular view of her home's destruction.