[RP Episode] The Bloody Ballad


#81

Last of the group, he quickly stepped into place, holding a position of attention. Although being the last man into formation was rarely a good idea unless that was the position assigned to you, in this case Halatir had had no choice but to wait to see where he would be positioned.


#82

Fan-Zhou nodded with satisfaction, his formation was full and ready, he turned on his heel, '‘And, march!’'
The unit stepped forward, marching in unison, their armour and weapons motioning rhythmically as they ascended upon the path and vanished in to the mountains.

Winter covered the land, there was nothing but snowy white slopes and grey cliff faces. They continued along side a crevice on a narrow pathway, and suddenly, mountain goats were on the opposite side, scaling the rocky surface.

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The winds began to pick up here, and Halatir’s unit visibly tightened up against their own clothing to shield themselves from the cold attempting to breach any opening in to their shell.


#83

All that is, except for Halatir. He shrugged off the cold, and continued marching at the same pace. In contrast to the remainder of the squad, the weather did not bother him in the slightest, though the wind was more of an issue. Not much of an issue, but enough to remind him why Helcelen warriors wore a large amount of furs. They would brush off the wind better than simple cloth, and keep one dry when it rained. But for now, as furs did not form a part of the Niirai uniform, he shrugged, and pushed on, his tunic billowing slightly from the breeze.


#84

When the unit reached another crossroads, they saw a peculiar red stain in the snow. Immediately recognising it as blood, because what else could it have been, they broke formation and neared it to investigate.

Fan-Zhou knelt before the bloody mark on the ground, ‘‘This is fresh.’’ he reported, ‘‘Liang?’’ he said while turning back. Liang nodded, closed his eyes, and meditated for a brief moment, then opened his eyes again.
’‘Its Niirai blood.’’ he replied, and they all suddenly became worried. Fan stood up, ‘‘I thought there were no predators in the area…’’ he questioned, and Liang shook his head, ‘‘Muts be new, and only wandered in recently.’’

Wei-Yong scoffed, ‘‘What manner of beastie did this, then?’’ he asked, to which Liang merely shrugged unknowingly. ‘‘I have studied animals back when i was attending the university, and familiarised myself with many of their tracks, but this… this is beyond me.’’
’‘So we don’t know what we are dealing with?’’ asked Fan, and sighed, ‘‘We still need to find it though, and deal with it. Retrieve the corpse of the victim if we can. And…’’ then he stopped as he looked at the trail of blood and tracks, which suddenly just vanish from the snow. ‘‘What the…’’


#85

”Either the creature can fly, or snow has covered the tracks recently, sir." said Halatir, stooping over the prints in the snow. They were large, and formed like large talons, though wider than those of even the biggest bird. “It hasn’t snowed in a day. What manner of winged beasts do you have in these parts, sir?” He looked to Fan-Zhou.


#86

‘‘Well, we have vultures, then we have eagles, both of which are pretty large, but I’ve never seen them carry off a person before. Every other bird of prey around here only gets smaller after that. And the tracks, they are larger than anything I’ve seen.’’ the Zhengshi replied, examining the trail once more, ‘‘Could it have been a dragon?’’ he asked worriedly.

‘‘Unlikely. If it were a dragon, we would have heard it from miles away, and they would have left the ground scorched with fire, as they like to cook their pray alive before eating them or carrying them away. Besides, a dragon hasn’t been seen in the past hundred years.’’ pointed out Liang.


#87

Halatir thought for a moment. “It has talons. That rules out most creatures. And there is a fair amount of blood. A bird would have grabbed the victim and throw him, in order to break his neck on a cliff before eating him or carrying him off to eat later.” His eyes widened. “Do you know what a griffin is?”


#88

Liang widened his eyes, surprised by the suggestion, but not entirely disagreeing with it, ‘‘Yes, i do. But gryphons are as rare as dragons these days. It is said that in the past, our people used to tame them and use them as flying mounts, but they proved bloodthirsty and devoured a lot of stock, and neither did they differentiate animals from Niirai, so when people saw they would ravage even Niirai but who weren’t their master, they were killed off, and bit by bit, their numbers began to dwindle to the point few were convinced they still even exist.’’


#89

“I have not seen one myself, but I have met those who have. They described attacks by the creatures that are similar to this.” replied Halatir, musing.


#90

‘‘Did they also tell you how to track one?’’ Fan-Zhou asked.


#91

“There would be a lair near by, somewhere high up.” The white haired elf frowned. “Other than that, I am not sure. Few of my people hunt winged creatures. It is difficult to get to grips with them, sir.”


#92

‘‘Typical.’’ he smirked, ‘‘Even when he does know something useful, its a fleeting thought.’’ he thought to himself. ‘‘We don’t have neither the equipment nor the time to go mountain climbing at this point, so we will send a runner back to base and tell them to send a hunting party. Ren, get to it!’’ he commanded with a strict voice. Ren nodded, and dashed off back the way they came. ‘‘The rest of you, form up. We are moving on, and keep an eye on the skies.’’


#93

As the squad reassembled, Halatir set a mental reminder to determine the cause of Zhou’s animosity. Shouldering his Ji, he set out once again with the small platoon, marching along the path.


#94

Everyone assembled, except Wei-Yong, who remained uncomfortably staring at Ren who was jogging down the path they came on. Fan-Zhou raised an eyebrow, ‘‘Wei?’’

‘‘I should go with.’’ Wei-Yong replied, looking back at his lieutenant.
Fan-Zhou took a bit to register what he just heard, ‘‘Whats this? You? Worried? That’s new…’’
’‘There be powerful beast roaming sky. It is dangerous to go alone. I go with.’’ Wei-Yong concluded, and ran off after Ren.
Fan-Zhou stood there for a while longer while his brain attempted to compute, ‘‘What!? You can’t just… You didn’t get my permission!!’’ he shouted after him, with no effect.

Fan-Zhou then abruptly turned to face the remaining unit, who were all observing the unfolding event completely mute. Fan looked angry. ‘‘What are YOU staring at!? Back in formation! I’ll deal with those two later…’’


#95

Halatir frowned. Initiative was all well and good, but the incident reflected badly on both the Niirai and their commander. The soldiers didn’t not strictly follow his commands, but on the other hand Fan did not establish his command securely enough to be consistently obeyed. He kept his eyes straight ahead, and silenced his doubts.


#96

The unit pressed on with their patrol, and the entire way, Fan-Zhou was venting about ‘‘That premature anarchist and his dimwitted baboon.’’, mainly to Liang, who did not take his words kindly, but neither did he feel the need or position to object to them. Looks like Fan-Zhou didn’t take much liking with anyone in his unit, save for Liang. And for some reason, even though Ren didn’t do anything wrong in this instance, he too was the target of the lieutenant’s verbal outbreak.

After a while, he had calmed down, and the remainder of the squad continued relatively normally. Eventually, they made a loop in their path, and began heading back. They took a few minutes break along the way to flex from all the mountain hiking they were doing, and take the time to release any bodily fluids off of the edge of the world.

While Fan was busy pissing on the entire world before him, the two brothers in Halatir’s unit, Dong-Rong & Biao-Rong have taken it upon themselves to secure the area and have entered guard mode, but Fan did not care to notice anyone else and their discipline or initiative, only his own.

Liang approached Halatir, one hand holding his satchel he had hanging over his shoulder.
’‘How are you holding up?’’ he asked, too far and with a low enough tone for Fan-Zhou to not hear him.


#97

The elf cocked his head to one side with a puzzled frown. ”What do you mean? A long walk is good for you.”


#98

Liang smiled, Halatir didn’t get what he meant, but his reply answered his question regardless.
’‘So it is.’’ he said, and paused for a brief moment to take a closer look at the snow elf, ‘‘The cold does not bother you, does it?’’


#99

”Not at all. It is quite pleasant.” Halatir replied, looking back at Fan-Zhou, who was muttering to himself. ”Unlike our Lieutenant.”


#100

Liang nodded in agreement, ‘‘Yes, but do not let him get to you. He is just bitter because he used to be military before he got re-assigned to this ‘‘penal-battalion’’, where nobody will ever reach any of his standards.’’

And with that, Fan-Zhou began recollecting himself and turned back to his squad.
’‘Don’t worry about it.’’ Liang added swiftly before returning to formation.