Chapter 5 – Hunting Dogs and Armour
The Heavy knight squad ‘Cheol Bangpae’ barely managed to get back to Saroon Bararm. Half a week had passed since the Demon attacked and after that day new creatures were discovered every day. The strange new monsters seemed to be mixes of creatures they were familiar with. Cheol Bangpae had been deployed to catalogue the new monsters and search for a group of hunters that went missing. As their group was comprised of four players that focused on defence and heavy armour they acted as a shield. The team leader, Bittersweet Camellia, was a remarkably tall woman who wore heavy metal plate armour and hid her face under a full face helmet. She wielded a long mace and tower shield, trying to enact the image she had of a knight. In the confusion of the first day she sat curled up, unable to move, and waited for death. The hero hawk came across her just before she was killed and saved her.
Hawk appeared to her at her lowest point. He, the tall blond in armour, was the knight she read about and longed for. When he was declared dead, she cried for him. She told herself they were the last tears she’d shed and worked harder than anyone from that point. The other members of Cheol Bangpae were a pair of lance users and a healer. Although Sweet thought that her team were united by a shared ideal, her team didn’t believe in anything but her. If anyone were to ask Saebyeog, the healer, why she fought, she would have answered instantly, “For Bittersweet Camellia, and no one else.” The lancers would have likely answered similarly, albeit with more bravado and reference to their ‘duty as men’. There was an innate purity in her aspiration that made her likable.
When Choon Hoar woke up she was clearly damage; hurt by the death of her partner and friend. She was sluggish, apathetic and borderline unresponsive. As someone she admired, it hurt Sweet to see her like that. Sweet slapped her that day, her face fixed, seemingly uncaring, and said, “Live on. If not for his sake, or your own, than for the people that still need you.”
Afterwards, Choon Hoar recovered herself. She started taking command of the survivors. She wouldn’t take on the forest herself anymore. Those around her could see that she was scared to lose anyone and she managed people well to that end. Although, in the end, she couldn’t control everyone; the number of dead each day took a sharp fall under her leadership. She started a catalogue of all the creatures in the forest and the strategies for attacking them. She ensured that all hunting parties were kept up to date on its entries. Cheol Bangpae was Choon Hoar’s most trusted resource in that endeavour. With their defence and diligence they were once of the few teams she felt comfortable in deploying. When a hunting team didn’t return after spending a night in the forest, they were sent to find them.
With their skill and equipment Cheol Bangpae met little resistance as they moved slowly through the sea of trees. It wasn’t until they found the hunting party that things took a turn for the worse. The familiar mark of the Demon, the floating ‘???’ text above their heads, could be seen but their faces were the people they were looking for. One moment passed as the groups looked at each other before the hunters began to let out cries of pain and collapse to the ground. Saebyeog ran forward to treat the men but was sent flying by a punch from one of the men. Their bodies were stretching and growing hairier. They were growing teeth and claws. Skin darkened and faces stretched. The end result could only be called werewolves.
Despite having seen the change with her own eyes Sweet still had trouble believing it. Still, she knew the importance of reporting what they discovered and commanded a withdrawal. It was too late however. The initiative was against them and their healer was taken out by the first hit. Saebyeog didn’t seem dead but she was somehow rendered asleep.
Their armour was able to resist the sharp claws of the wolves but the force of the strikes could still be felt. Holding a defensive formation, the lancers of Cheol Bangpae protected Sweet as she tried to wake the healer. They were taking hits, however and their stamina was reducing fast. Faint cracks in the surface of their shields could be seen and perspiration pooled from their faces. Having given up on waking Sae, she ordered the stronger of the lancers to carry her as Sweet took over defending for him. The retreat was going well until they realise that they were fighting one fewer wolf.
Looking around they found the lancer that carried Sae bent over with a sharp claw pierced through his chest. His heavy armour had broken under the repetitive strain. From the angle of entry, it was clear the attack hadn’t been aimed at him. He protected his sleeping comrade and took the hit. He may have been betting on the power of his armour, but ended up with a claw through his heart. He died standing with a smug look on his face; unwilling to drop her even in death.
Sweet charged forward and struck the werewolf hard in the head with her mace. The creature dodged with a confident expression only to find its hand stuck, unable to be quickly removed, in the lancers body. Its death came swiftly but in no way cleanly. With rage, she ran out attacking the three remaining wolves while her companions withdrew. With blood on her mind her body quickly became stained also. Her mind only cleared when she stood over the lifeless bodies of the creatures that attacked them. Her armour had been shredded, her weapon chipped. She followed the clear footprints in the forest floor to look for her party.
The remaining lancers body was found not far down the track. A large hole had been opened in his chest and the area drained of blood. His head had been removed and his body propped against a tree. She cursed her rotten luck. Werewolves and the Demon; she knew that they had to be working together but she had hoped to avoid confronting it. Finding no trace of Sae, she hoped that she woke up and somehow made it back to town. She didn’t have much hope for that outcome but she desired it more than anything.