There were bodies everywhere. Artem picked his way through the battlefield, thankful for the cool bite of fall turning to winter, the slow-growing snow. He had been in the field long enough to know the stench of the dead and dying, long enough to know how much difference the temperature made for the senses and for life. Heat would make bodies fester and rot all the quicker, while cold slowed decay and thereby desiccation.
Heat also made people die faster. But the cold... Artem had hope, vague as it was. He checked each body he came across, registering his versus theirs. Many of the casualties were his own.
He wasn't sure how he had been left behind. It didn't matter. His people would come back for him when they figured out he was missing. Or they wouldn't. He would worry about that later.
American, American, American, Russian. They had been good; two to one, at least. His company was robust enough the few that they had lost would not matter much. Someone would come back to take names for families back home. Artem would join them when they did.
It wasn't the first time he had been in a battlefield, but it was the first time it had been so quiet, so still.
He checked bodies. No breath, no rise and fall of the chest. Blood turned to ice on uniforms. He didn't know any of them; he hadn't been with this unit long. Snow crunched beneath his boots. Snow fell quicker, temperature dropping like a stone--
Someone moved. Artem felt his attention snap to them, moving forward to check.
He was handsome, in a way; dark hair and pale skin, made paler in the snow and uniform. His eyes were as blue as the sky, gaze distant. Still breathing, though shallow; a bullet tore clean through him. Asian, though in American garb. He searched for a rank and found it missing, likely torn off and dropped to the ground in the confusion, deliberate. But he was alive.
Artem looked up, hunting for his own people. The snow was coming down heavy now, filling in his own tracks from moments ago in heartbeats.
Snowblind. A blizzard.
Artem scowled. Russian winter had come already, too soon and inopportune. But he knew where there was a good place to hunker down and wait it out. He had grown up in these woods, and he knew them very well. He would keep himself and the American alive until his people came back for him, and when they did, he would have information for them. Or a prisoner, either one.