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The Arrowflight Murder

In the winter of 1644, a small rebel division surmounted the snowy peaks to the west of the Clymare Desert. They were a band of only five, led by the newly appointed leader of the Rebellion, Cirius. Just days prior, the previous leader had been killed and the remaining band took the risky decision to surmount the mountains to retreat back to the Clymare Desert.   This band included the then second-in-command called Heleas, Cirius' wife Maida, another strong rebel warrior called Kydis, and one of the original Rebellion members by the name of Acteros. The group had made camp in a cluster of trees with the supplies stolen from a Human merchants’ cart. Heleas, who had just been named second-in-command, suggested celebrating Cirius' coming years of leadership. Some time after midnight, Cirius, drunk, went to retrieve more ale from the merchant's stash.  
"May Cirius' reign be long and may he spread freedom to all the land!"
  This was the last time Cirius was seen alive.  

Centaur Burial Rites cover

Centaur by Joel Kramer

The Events

"Pass the ale," said Kydis, words slurred.   "I think you've had enough. It’s unlike you to drink this much," replied Heleas.   "Please, I need it." Kydis reached toward the bottle.   "Fine. Have the rest of what we have."   An almost empty bottle rolled to Kydis’ hooves. In an instant she drank it down, but it didn't satisfy her. "Where's Cirius? He should have been back by now. It's too early to start pissing now."   "I'll go make sure he hasn't slipped on the ice," Maida said, carefully stepping over the growing pile of empty ale bottles. Acteros rose and accompanied her. The pair followed Cirius’ tracks to the cart, then beyond the cluster of trees in which they had made their camp. The wind picked up considerably once outside the cover of the trees. A short distance away lay Cirius in a mound of blood-red, crystallizing snow.   Maida screamed, and as the others arrived, bows drawn, they saw her collapsed on Cirius' body, weeping. Heleas peered over her. "What happened?"   From Cirius' side jutted three arrows crafted using traditional Centaur methods. They fell upon the tracks immediately. Acteros and Heleas followed the tracks in the direction from which they had come. Kydis, stumbling, followed them forward into the night while Maida composed herself beside her husband’s body.   Acteros and Heleas followed the hoofprints as far as they led, but the tempest had erased their origin. Not a moment later, Kydis called them, voice shaking. The tracks had led straight toward a sheer cliff. Kydis and Heleas the Unbranded stared down the precipice, but saw nothing at the bottom. If someone fell from that height, they surely perished. Peering down the cliff, Heleas suggested:  
“A Pegasus rider?”
  “I would sooner take that fall than put my life on the back of a Pegasus in this wind,” Acteros answered. They saw no other safe way to the bottom of the precipice, so returned to the body.   Carefully, Acteros examined the arrows still in Cirius’ side. With his only hand, he teased out the fetching, examining it closely. “Whose arrows are these?” he asked. “Everyone show me your quiver.”   One by one, each Centaur set their quiver beside the body. Only one was missing.   As Kydis' quiver dropped beside the others, it was clear why she had hesitated. "I took them. We took them - Cirius and I. At the bottom of the mountain." Silence. "I know we aren't supposed to take arrows from the dead, but I did. That does not make me a murderer!"   "She was with us, drinking." answered Acteros. His face rose to meet the wind. "Look at the angle of the arrows. They were shot from somewhere up there." He pointed up the slope in the direction the hoofprints originated. "In this wind, in your condition, I do not believe you could have made that shot."   Maida's attention turned to Heleas.  
"Murderer."
  She struck him, quicker than a viper.   Heleas, stunned but furious, grabbed her arm before she could strike him again. "I am no murderer! I was with you all as well! You're hysterical."   "You were named second in command. You are the only one here to benefit from Cirius' death! It was your idea to drink the ale in that cart, and yet you didn't touch a drop."   "I didn't drink because one of us needs to think clearly! Could we have been followed?" spat Heleas the Unbranded.   "In this storm? Unlikely." Acteros examined the hill from which the arrows were shot.   Kydis stared at the arrows in her quiver. "Cirius and I both took arrows from the dead. You don't think the stories are true?"   "We've all used arrows from the dead. If they did turn back on thieves, none of us would be alive. Besides, arrows don't leave hoofprints." Maida's glare fixed once again on Heleas.   "None of us are at the bottom of that cliff, are we?" asked Heleas.   Acteros struck the snow, sending a wave of white into the wind. He said:  
"Enough. Something killed Cirius, and we are standing here, bickering, completely exposed."
  Heleas, realizing he was now responsible for those around him, breathed in the frigid air and said, "Acteros is right. It's unsafe to travel in this weather, so we will have to wait for morning. We should break down the cart and use the wood to strengthen the fire. Until morning, a pair of us will keep watch. Kydis, you and I will keep watch first."  
"By morning, the evidence we have will be gone!
  Heleas stood beheld Haida, his cheek still stinging from her strike. "I will not stop you. If you would like to remain with your husband."   He removed the stolen arrows from the quivers slowly being swallowed by drifting snow. The tracks he walked beside, likewise, were disappearing. Within the hour, they would be gone.   Thoughts raced through Heleas’ mind.  
"Until we know otherwise, we do not use the arrows of the dead."
  The arrows fell over the precipice and into the maw of the storm. They vanished into darkness before they hit the snow.
Date of Setting
1644
Related Species
Related People

Those Involved

Cirius

The victim. Had taken up leadership of the Centaur Rebellion Army that very day.  

Maida

Cirius' wife. Their marriage was unremarkable, neither flawless or strained. Distraught upon finding Cirius' body.  

Heleas

Cirius' newly appointed second in command. He inherited leadership of the Rebellion upon Cirius' death. Was the only individual who had not consumed alcohol that night.  

Acteros

An aging Centaur. Considered an elder by the Rebellion. Missing his dominant hand.  

Kydis

A skilled warrior, though often considered driven by emotion. Consumed the most alcohol of anyone due to the guilt she felt about looting arrows from the dead earlier in the day.  

The Evidence

All the elements that were found at the scene.  

Storm

A storm had stranded the group atop the mountain and would have prevented anyone from following them.  

Tracks

Tracks were left in the snow leading to the body, then off a sheer precipice. The bottom of the cliff could not be investigated as there was no safe path down. The origin of the tracks had been erased by the storm winds.
Hoof Tracks
No Frog Horse by Willowtrail Farm Musings
 

Arrows

The arrows used to murder Cirius were taken from the body of the previous leader, who had been killed at the base of the mountain. Kydis reported that she and Cirius had taken the arrows together. Some arrows still remained in Cirius' quiver.  

Origin of the Shot

According to the angle and direction the arrows had embedded themselves into Cirius' side, the shots were determined to have been taken from a nearby hill. Making that shot in the dark in a wind storm would be a very difficult shot to make.  

Alibis

No one had left the vicinity of the rest of the group during the time Cirius was murdered. Once the body was discovered, no members of the group spent significant time alone or tried to leave the scene.  

The Legend

Centaur legend states that arrows stolen from the dead will turn back on the one who shot it.  
The Arrowhead's Maker
Myth | Oct 21, 2019

An old Nephmiri myth about the connection between an arrowhead and its creator


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Cover image: Skull Illustration

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