Chapter One: Alterity’s Altercation (III)

Part Three

I saw the blazing light of the overhead sun glint off of dull breastplates and cared for weapons. The lead Amalj’aa threateningly towered over the others, his obsidian scales dull in the blinding mid-day sun. His shoulders rose steadily as he took in breath after breath replenishing immediate exertion and their scales shown wet with sweat. The silver plumage wrapped in crimson cloth stood stiffly up and behind his head, drooping slightly down at its point. In his hand he held a halberd marked in the same crimson dye with their clan’s emblem: two diagonal slashes crossed with a third diagonal slash, resembling how their biological plumage rose and then dipped down at the tip. More crimson cloth wrapped their wrists and waists. About their necks hung individually unique necklaces of beast teeth, claws, or other indicative trophies of their prey. The half-dozen violently displayed their weapons and swung their heads in circles as a display of intimidation. It was when the one without a weapon started chanting and gesticulating with their hands and fingers that the soldiers near the carriage became aware of the imminent severity of the tribal fusillade about to bear quick death upon them.

The antagonizing soldier was the first to break the silence the beastmen carried with them, “Cursed beastmen,” he said spitting his whole cud onto the ground, then examined the Amalj’aa party more closely. The soldier to his right, a soldier with a shaved head and a sinister looking black goatee shoved the helmet which had been slung to his side on his head spoke for the first time, “don’t look like no hunting party. Never seen a Seer hunt.” The rough soldier with the slight curl to his hair who had been slyly conniving his way into our gil pockets added, “just our luck.” He shook his head, causing the sweat coated on black hair to release onto the hot sandy dirt below.

He looked over the wagon and its collection of unfortunate travelers: myself, the old merchant traveler, and the twins — whom I had overlooked during the prior commotion, but were now awake and curiously gazing east towards where the Amalj’aa were located. “Just my luck,” he said under his breath, and after letting out a large sigh he deftly hopped over the back of his leery chocobo mount and hastily trotted up to the driver.

Gravely and sternly, “go,” he pointed south around the bend, “about a half-day’s ride, Camp Drybone. Don’t stop.” The driver nodded his head in affirmation, the floppy brimmed hat bobbing up and down. He circled quickly back to myself and the other passengers. “Here,” he said, holding the carved horn of a Myotragus bull in his hand towards me. He seemed to soften as he saw me recoil and I could smell the smoked raptor coming off his breath eaten earlier that day. It was as if he then remembered what he had done moments before and who he was. The captain forcefully thrust the Myotragus horn not into my hands but into my chest with a noticeable thud expelling a small amount of air from my lungs in the process. “Blow this until someone finds you,” he said as he locked my eyes in his. His smile had long gone. His face reverted to a face revealing a state under constant duress. The once exhaustively charming eyes now gravely adorned a dire look; a quick gaze towards the east revealed a brief flash of fear. It was then I knew. They might die here, and for what? For us? Are any of us Ul’dahn citizens? I would, years on, think back on this moment and what it meant for those soldiers facing assured death at the hands of an enemy long fought, who those soldiers were and what their lives meant. “Now go!” he yelled at the driver.

The once viciously self-serving soldier now expertly issued commands to his soldiers who had abandoned their earlier cause of shaking down the unsuspecting. Their previous look of lazy subterfuge and implicit equivocation had vanished: these were the soldiers I had heard about: the soldiers who fought against the Garlean invasion and died for Eorzean sovereignty. The four of them mounted their bristling chocobos. The avian mounts tensed at the oncoming perennial struggle between beastman and Eorzean. They stiffened their legs and ruffled their mustard yellow feathers slightly shaking their Ul’dahn armor, and cawing in harmony with one another. The soldiers grouped together in-between the carriage and the beastmen: one with a halberd of much greater quality to match the Amalj’aan leader; one trained in the Ala Migo art of the pugilist armed with steel spiked gauntlets, reinforced on every potential point of contact between her and her foe; and two armed with large war axes requiring two hands to weild. They were out numbed two to three but the disciplined cultivation of careless self-sacrifice was not within their purview.

 

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