The Origin of the Golden Ram

Long ago in a small village on the coast of Old Pangonia there was a modest fishing boat that would become a great legend. Its wood was scarred and rough from many battles fought against the sea and its citizens. Though The Golden Ram being of a firm constitution always managed to return home. The year before the village had reaped great bounty from the sea. However, for many months the sea was restless. The village lost all but The Golden Ram to the cold dark depths of the sea. The fishers were quick to spread the tale of a monstrous sea serpent furiously writhing the crushing waves upon the sea. The elders gathered the whole village in the hope they could find a solution before winter fell.

Brundi, a fabled huntress of great stature, was the first to bellow. "If we cannot fish the sea we must hunt the land!" The hunters grunted and flourished in agreement. She waited for their howls to quiet. "Though we cannot hunt - that is, unless we clear the herd of Stagitaurs from the forest." Once again the warriors and hunters began howling and thumping their chests.

"Preposterous!" Gerard the vegetable farmer cried over the cheers of the warriors. "A single stagitaur has the strength of twenty men, the agility of a deer, the mind of a man, and antlers as deadly as any sword."

"Hurrg! Puny farmer doubts the might of the great Hurk!" the village's greatest warrior groaned. "Hurk slew the beast with twelve heads, subdued the Dragon of Corr and conquered the un-conquerable temple of Grom. Silly deer-men are future meat!"

"But the herd out numbers us many times over," Gerard explained, "and even if we were victorious the toll it would take would be devastating. If we are to take on beasts let it be the serpent which causes the waves to mist our farm land with salt."

"Ha!" Brundi interjected, "And risk our one remaining boat! That is just as foolish."

"Hurk smash deer-men!"

The voice of a child raised above the mob, "I think Stagiaturs are cute." The shouting and arguing quited, followed by uproarious laughter.

Vernal, an elder fisherman of modest esteem, spoke when the laughter died, "The child makes a point." Again, the villagers laughed. "We've all heard the tales of violent battles with the mighty Stagitaurs, but in all my years I have yet to hear of any one trying to reason with them."

"Absurd! Reason with a beast, are you mad old man?"

"Ah, but a Stagitaur is part man. Surely, that part may be reasoned with." The village took to silent contemplation. "If we can convince the Stagitaurs that the sea serpent is a problem to them as well, perhaps we can solve two problems at once."

"Deer-men know no reason. Hurk crush deer-men!"

"I am but an old fisher man, but I once was a young boy with dreams of the sea. I was here when the village cut down the mighty tree that was to become the Golden Ram. I helped the craftsmen bore the mighty log into a boat. I was on it when it first took sail, and from it's deck I've seen a great number of things. I have seen triumphs and heroics, but more often I see heroics fail." The warriors and hunters moaned in disapproval. "Our warriors and hunters are that of legend," the fickle warriors cheered, "but we must not forget that the Stagitaur are legendary for legend ending." Even the mighty Hurk was quiet to this remark. "We can send a small unarmed group, as not to provoke them into battle, and attempt an agreement-"

"And if that fails?" questioned Brundi.

"Then we know they cannot be reasoned with, and we can plan accordingly."

The villagers took time to consider Vernal's plan, and decided to wait till the next morning to make a decision.

The next morning the village gathered, and though there were some objections, they agreed to attempt a truce with a Stagitaurs. After which, they debated the proper group of people to send on such a mission. Many warriors volunteered with zeal, all listing their many great feats, but the elders noted that sending accomplished warriors would appear hostile. By mid afternoon the village agreed to send Vernal, and York, a teenage a warrior's apprentice of good standing. Having wasted much time where there was little to spare the village promptly gathered supplies and prepared two steads. The two left to many tense farewells from the fellow villagers.

The forest was not a long journey from the Village. Nor was it treacherous. In fact, it was quite un-spectacular, being nothing more than a field of short grass with the occasional rock. Yet, from this field you could see the spectacular view of the surrounding mountainous forest. The two made haste across the field, but as they drew closer to the edge of the forest Vernal's horse began to lag behind.

"Old man, even your horse is slow," York complained, "Let's get this over with soon, okay. All the young maidens will be awaiting my return. I guess being a fisherman you wouldn't know what that's like, would you? You come home smelling of chum and seaweed."

"Perhaps, but I return with food."

"Uhg, this is so stupid! Why can't we just attack them?"

"That's-"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," holding his nose in the air, "I get it old man. Really, what is wrong with your horse? Is old contagious?"

"I must admit, Young York, this stead does seem to be exhausted. Perhaps we should rest a moment and lighten the poor girl's load."

"Ugh, Come'n old man!" the young man moaned, then mumbled something inaudibly.

"For matters of importance it is always good to be well fed, young warrior." Vernal exclaimed as he dismounted the stead. "We shall rest a moment and eat." The young man sat cross armed atop his horse as Vernal began rummaging through his saddle bags. "Oh dear, what's this?"

"What?"

"That's not suppose to be here at all."

"What!?"

Curled up inside the saddle bag was the child that had proclaimed the Stagituar as "cute." Elsie was her name. She was holding a satchel over her face in an attempt to hide. Vernal poked her, "A saddle bag is not a place for a polite young lady." The young girl gave up her farce and climbed out of the bad with a defeated expression. "Now what would your mother and father say to you young lady?"

There was no answer.

"Aw great, now we have to take her back!" York complained.

"Humpf?" was the response from vernal. "I'm afraid we haven't the time." Both York and Elsie celebrated before being cut short, "But, returning the young lady home safely is now our priority."

"Uhg!"

After a small but satisfying meal of flat bread with bean spread the group continued their journey. Elsie rode with York and clung to him tightly, not out of fear, but out of some strange compulsion to grasp him. Vernal rode with his mind focused on many worries and doubt. The idea of confronting a wild beast with an adolescent was one thing, but a girl that had not yet seen her sixth rotation was begging to horrify him. The folly of his plan was becoming apparent, and soon the growing unease met with the stark reality as they came to the edge of the forest. "Hold humans," boomed a voice from the shadows, "We have warned you before that this forest is the hunting grounds of the mighty Stagituars, and only ours." The beast came out from the shadows pointing a bow and arrow at Vernal. Two others followed with weapons drawn.

Elsie peaked from behind York. She'd never seen a Stagituar from this close before. Brown fur covered their entire bodies with a tuft of white upon their human-like torsos. Their faces were long with a small snout capped with dark brown nose, and underneath their human-like lips grew beards. Their ears were deer-like triangles that pointed up towards the horns that sprouted from the tops of their foreheads. Their horns were ornamented with yarns and beads, two of them even had their horns carved into tiny sculptures. Aside from the quivers hanging around their torso they wore no clothes, but they all had symbols painted upon their fur in red. Though she still thought of them as strangely adorable, Elsie felt a wash of fear shoot through her nerves. She hid behind York's back. Her fear was quickly calmed as the Stagituars began to laugh ferociously. "What sort of farce is this? An old man that cannot hold a blade. A juvenile warrior with armor that shows more vanity than battle experience. And, a baby female. Have the other savage humans forsaken you, or have your kind finally grasped humor?"

"Good Stagituars-"

"Good?"

"Mighty Stagituar, we humble ourselves in your presence." He bows ever so slightly atop his horse. "We come in hopes that your herd and our village can live in peace."

"Peace, what does that mean?"

"Well peace is when" –

"Don't insult us old man! That was a rhetorical question." The three Stagituars spoke softly to each other occasionally laughing. After a few minutes one of them spoke to the three travelers "If you wish to talk to our Queen first you must release your slaves."

"Slaves?"

"Our hooven brothers that you lazy humans burden with your weight. I believe you call them horses."

Vernal glanced back to York and Elsie and saw a great fear in them. Vernal considered the problems that would arise from setting the horses free. They would have to carry all their supplies. It would be a considerably longer journey. Yet, if they refused that would mean the end of their mission, or even worse they might upset the Stagituar. Vernal slided gently off his horse and told York to dismount and free his horse. "Are you serious old man? We can't let the horses go! We'll die without them," York objected.

"Nonsense. People survived long enough without horses, we can do the same."

"But what about the supplies?"

"We will carry them."

"Oh come on! You can barely carry the clothes on your back."

"Elsie?"

"Yes," she answered still hiding behind York's back

"Are you scared?"

She looked at Vernal and made a mean face, "No," she proclaimed.

"In all my years I've never met a warrior more brave than you." York scoffed. "But if you do get afraid young York will protect you. Isn't that right?

"Yeah..."

"That doesn't sound like the confidence of a warrior."

"On my honor!'

"That's better. Now then, free the horse."

York and Vernal took of the horses saddle and bags. They took the most important supplies and left the rest behind. Even Elsie managed to carry some supplies. However, the horses did not run free, they just stood there. "What now?" questioned York. Vernal looked to the Stagituar, "Are you satisfied?"

"That will do weaklings. We will take you to the Queen, if just to make her laugh."