Son of a Bull
Author: Okay, let me just say, that this is one of the most difficult things I've written, because there's SO much to this character and the country this is based in, that needs working on and I wrote this a LONG while ago and was having difficulty choosing what to update this week. Please, feel free to rip it a new one, if you feel like you must. This is not the solid, for sure, final draft, if anything, this is just a one shot that gives an idea of a foothold that I could use, depending on how it's received. Other than that, hope ya enjoy. And yeah, one-shot.
What was once a humble village was now a demolished, burning field of death. The villagers, fifty in all, lay scattered around either covered in their own blood or turning black from the flames that ate away at their clothing and flesh. They had all been dead since before dawn, but it wasn't until late afternoon that they were discovered.
It was a band of minotaurs that saw the pillar of black smoke rising into the sky as they returned from a hunting trip in the Volkholz. The Volkholz was a very large forest that stretched over the flatlands and the hills of Knoss and was home to a variety of nasty beasts like trolls and giant wolves. They were carrying two carcasses of wolves as they entered the burning remains of the town.
One of the minotaurs was a very hairy bull-man whose pale brown fur was matted with the blood of dead wolves. His horns were long and curved upwards. On his back, he carried a giant broad-axe; the shaft was made from the legbone of a troll he had slain years before and the double-headed blade was carved out of a large chunk of firestone. The two pieces were lashed together tightly with thick rope. He led the hunting part into the village and knelt down among the dead, running his hands along the ashy earth.
"What did this, Groz?" asked another minotaur. It was a smaller one with rust-colored fur and shorter horns. "Can you tell?"
Groz made a grunt as he moved some bodies around, then looked about the area. "Aye, I can tell, Govinda," he said gravely. "A big party came through here and did all this."
"What was it? Longtail? Razorback?"
"Both of them, I think. They also either had horses or centaurs helping in their attack." Groz looked at the village and it's dead occupants. "I wonder if they did this just to attack the humans for sport or to try and get something out of it."
Govinda shook his head. "Don't try and figure out the minds of rats and swine, Groz. We have better things to do with our time." He motioned to the dead wolves the rest of the group were carrying. "We have to skin them, tan the hides and cook the meat for the rest of the clan. Let's go already, it's not like we'd do anything for them even if they were alive."
That much was true. Minotaurs weren't known to be generous to those of other races. They were warriors and nomadic by nature, although some did make a living in the capital city of the wildlands, somewhere in the far mountains. They made a living off the land, fighting to see another day and earning food for the night before. They used the hides for clothing and shelter, bones and stones for weapons; humans and others like the rat or pig folk were often used as servants, while other minotaurs from other clans were treated with some degree of respect.
"I heard you, Govinda, I heard you." Groz rose to his feet, wiping his hands on his hide shirt. "Let's hurry back. Gotama won't like it when we come in late with dinner." Gotama was leader of the clan and he did not like being kept by his people. Groz turned about and began to follow the others out of the village when he stopped, one of his ears twitching. A sound, a small, quiet sound, came from nearby. It sounded like someone was crying. "Wait!"
Govinda and the other hunters turned. "What is it?" Govinda asked. "You smell trouble?"
"No," Groz turned to the direction of the noise. "Someone's still alive."
"So? Let them be, Groz. If they're alive, then they can fend for themselves. If they can't, then they'll die anyway."
Groz wasn't listening. He was already moving towards the sound when Govinda was trying to convince him to keep walking. The axe-carrier followed the sound to the corpse of a woman with three arrows lodged in her body. Two pierced her back and the last one had broken through the back of her head and the arrowhead was sticking out of the socket, her eyeball impaled on the tip. Beneath her body was a small bundle of cloth.
It was moving.
He rolled the woman away and pulled away the cloth of the bundle. Inside, wailing so loud it could wake the dead, was a human baby. It was a pale, pudgy thing with black hair and, from the sound of it, carried a mighty set of lungs. It was covered in the blood of it's mother.
Govinda walked up behind him and looked down at the child. "One of their young. I'm surprise it isn't dead yet."
Groz nodded as he lifted the child from the ground with one of his large, hairy hands. He brought the little creature to his chest, staring down at the mother. "We should take it with us," he said suddenly.
"What?" Govinda asked, stunned. "You want to take that thing with us? To the camp?"
"Gotama won't allow that! You know how he is with the humans already living with us. He sees that thing, he might feed it to our hounds or something."
"I don't think he will."
"Why do you say that?"
Groz looked to his companion. "Do you really want to know why, Govinda?"
"Aye! Tell me!"
The minotaur tapped the child against his chest. "This child, this very young child, survived a massacre! All of its people were slain and yet, it still lives. Do you not think that the gods, that Tarvos himself, will have blessed this young one?"
Govinda scowled. "Tarvos doesn't bless humans, Groz, he blesses us, the minotaurs, his children! He does not bless the children of humans!"
"Look at it, Govinda!" Groz demanded, turning to show the babe off completely. "It's covered in blood!"
"So are so many other things around here, but that doesn't mean-"
"Baptism by blood!" Groz cut him off. "Remember our ways, Govinda! When a young one-"
"Young bull!" Govinda insisted.
Groz pushed on. "When a young one survives a battle and receive a baptism by blood, that means that Tarvos has great plans in store for them. Some of our greatest leaders and warriors have been baptized by blood in the ancient stories! This child is meant for something, I can feel it!"
Govinda shook his head furiously. "Gotama won't allow it! The ways of Tarvos applies only to us, not to humans!"
"I am bringing it home," Groz said firmly. The way he said made Govinda realize that he wasn't going to change his mind and nothing would make him change it. "I will deal with Gotama."
The younger minotaur shook his head and walked away. "You're a damn fool, Groz." He looked over his shoulder. "That thing smells something foul, by the way! Will you deal with that, too?"
Groz looked at the child, took a light whiff and his face scrunched into a grimaced look. "I don't know if that's your shit, child, or if that's the stench of death on you, but it stinks to the heavens!"
The baby was still crying at this point and it cried for most of the way back to the camp. Groz did nothing to soothe the child or to clean it up. They had female humans in the camp; they would be able to deal with those matters while he dealt with Gotama.
Gotama, leader of the clan, was a brute of a minotaur. He stood taller than Groz and Govinda, and unlike them, he wore armor instead of hide over his black fur. The armor was a mixture of plate and chain and had seen many battles, ones that had earned him the position as chief over the clan. When he heard of the human village and what Groz had done, he ordered the hunter to him. The human baby was given to one of the females kept around, but she was close by once she had taken care of the child, who was now much calmer and quieter.
"You should have left it to die, Groz," Gotama said, his voice rumbling like thunder. "We have no use for tiny humans here, unless it's for food." He pointed to a pack of trained wolves that lay nearby. They were large like those in the Volkholz, but trained and loyal to the camp.
"Gotama," Groz said slowly, "the gods smile upon the child. Tarvos has given him a baptism of blood!"
A few of the other hunters and warriors murmured around them. Gotama gave a short wave and they fell silent. "Tarvos is not the god of humans, Groz; Tarvos is the deity of our people, the child can't have received a baptism like that."
"But he has!" Groz insisted. "Its mother died from arrows, one of which went right through her head. The child bathed in her blood and is the only survivor of the attack on the village."
"What is it?"
Groz seemed taken back. "What?"
"What is it?" Gotama repeated as he looked to the woman who held the child in her arms now. "Male? Female?"
"It's a boy, chieftain," she said dutifully.
"A boy, eh?" Gotama looked back to Groz. "What exactly did you plan on doing with this boy, Groz?"
"Raise him as one of us," the hunter replied immediately. "Tarvos has blessed him and has shown us a sign of his destiny. Consider this, Gotama: if the boy lives with us, learns our ways and becomes great as I suspect, it may be good for our clan."
Gotama scoffed. "Please. The only way humans can be good for us is that they make sure we're comfortable or we need to breed. You expect the clan to take the boy in and raise him like something he isn't? You expect me to allow that? What good can come of it?"
Groz shook his head. "I don't know, Gotama, but you know as well as I do that the Great Bull does not do things without a reason."
"Humans are weak," Gotama pointed out.
"Then we can make him strong," Groz countered.
"They don't know the land."
"Then we can teach him about it."
"They can't hunt like we can."
"I will teach him!" Groz was becoming impatient. "You're only trying to hinder Tarvos' will by stalling like this, Gotama! Are you going to go against the Great Bull, who gave life to us minotaurs? Are you going to ignore his wishes?"
The chieftain's area of the camp became silent. Gotama's mouth twitched and his eyes opened so wide, the others could actually see the whites of his dark eyes. He shot from his seat, enraged. "I do not go against our god, Groz, and you would do well to remember that and also do well never to accuse me of doing it again!"
"Then let the boy stay," Groz reasoned, sounding as cold as the chieftain was angry. "Let him stay, let him learn and let Tarvos' will be done."
A thick strand of saliva fell from Gotama's bottom lip. He wiped it away and looked at the other bulls and servants that surrounded them for a time. To hear about one going against the Great Bull was trouble. Many minotaurs had fallen out of power because of such accusations and Gotama wasn't going to let himself become a statistic. He turned back to Groz and pointed a thick hairy finger at him. "If he stays, you must raise him, Groz. You bring him up, you teach him our ways and if he dies, then that's your problem. I still don't think that a human can do anything for us besides labor and breeding, but if you're so damn adamant on this, then you are responsible for him."
Groz bowed his head in gratitude. "Thank you, chieftain. He'll be good for the clan, I swear to you."
"Don't think that this doesn't come without a price, Groz," Gotama went on. "If you wish to take the boy, then you must give up something in return."
Groz lifted his head. "What do you ask?"
Gotama pointed to the broad-axe he still carried on his back. "Troll-Slayer. Give it to me and I will let the boy live among us."
Troll-Slayer was a famous weapon in the clan. Many of the natives of Knoss had become victims of troll attacks at night throughout the years and Groz's weapon was known for killing more of the bastards than any other weapon in the clans. It was Groz's prized possession, but it was always desired by many, including Gotama.
"The axe or the boy, Groz. Choose."
There was no choice, really. Although Groz loved his weapon, he still felt that there was something going on here because of their god. He had to find out what it was. This in mind, he pulled the broad-axe from his back and laid it before Gotama.
"Good." Gotama snapped his fingers at the servant girl who was holding the baby boy. "Bring the brat to his new father, girl."
She hurried over to Groz's side. The hunter looked to the boy, then to the chieftain. "I know nothing of human children."
Gotama rolled his eyes. "Then take the girl and have her teach you, fool!" He looked at the servant. "Understand, woman?"
The girl nodded. "Yes, chieftain."
"Good." Gotama snorted. "Are you going to name it, Groz, or are we going to be calling it No Name the entire time it's living?"
Groz took the baby from the girl and looked at it. The boy was no longer cry or smelling of shit. It seemed curious about who was holding it now and reached out to grab at Groz's long hair. His new father turned him about to keep it from touching his mane and saw a curious thing. The baby suddenly started to squeal and laugh, like it had seen the funniest damn thing in the world. Groz studied the child and discovered that it was looking down at Troll-Slayer on the ground.
Did human children laugh at such things? Groz wondered. He knew nothing about their young, so could they actually see something deadly with a bloody history and suddenly start laughing out of joy? Or, was it another sign from Tarvos? He had to admit, he had no idea what to make of it if it was, but if it was a sign...
"I know what to call you, little one," he said with a smile. He looked down at his weapon, then back to his new son. "From this day on, your name is Axe."