The Culling 6
There was a tremendous, thunderous CRAAAAAASH! which echoed in the distance of the tunnel. I could see a small patch of sunlight which looked miles away in the otherwise complete darkness of the cave. There was a stillness in the air and I could hear my own ragged breathing echoing from the hard stone. The light from the staff I held played over the crags and valleys of Jedrek's immense muscles. He was taking up most of the width of the large tunnel he had created, my mind could not comprehend the power it had taken to break and shove the thousands of feet of the hard stone from the mountain's heart all the way through and out the other side. It would have taken an army of men years with heavy equipment to create such a tunnel and Jedrek had accomplished it in moments and with a sense of playfulness. I fought to hold on to my own consciousness in the face of such a casual display of power.
Jedrek was studying my reaction taking in the dampness of my breeches near my manhood with a brief smile and then said softly, "Gregor, we have only a little ways to go."
I nodded mutely. Jedrek was still too large to fit back into any of his clothing so he turned and proceeded into the darkness of the tunnel he had created just by flexing, pulling and shoving.
We walked for hours over the craggy floor of the tunnel. Little bits of stray rubble remained from the enormous rock Jedrek had forced out. Eventually the tunnel opened up and we came out into, devastation.
The countryside was twisted and deformed all around the other side of the mountain and nothing lived here. There was not even the smallest plant or sound of wildlife all was broken earth and odd deformed relics of life, broken and petrified.
"The great plain of the folly of Fearghus and Eoghan," Jedrek said softly into the dead air.
"Fearghus?" I asked softly, looking at the vista.
The miles long piece of rock from the tunnel had shot out of the mountain and come to rest a full league away churning up rock and earth afresh as it had sped away. Large chunks had broken free and lay towering alongside the path matching the ancient violence with a new upheaval.
"Of course the breeders never mention Fearghus when they tell the story, it makes the whole thing too disgusting, I suppose." Jedrek's voice broke the eerie silence of the place. "Fearghus was Eoghan's partner. The two of them knew when they were boys, that they desired men and Eoghan managed somehow to keep Fearghus from the culling and eventually get Fearghus into his personal guard. When they grew into manhood they eventually made love and they elevated to manhood. So it was the two of them that eventually destroyed the army of Durness."
Jedrek turned to face the gaping maw in the face of the mountain that he had created. He lifted up his massively muscled pillar of a leg as if he were going to take a large step and slammed his foot on the ground. His foot easily broke the earth as I might break the crust on bread. BRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMM! The force of his stamp cracked the earth in front of him and a fissure ran down the path we had come into the cave. The mountain groaned, shifted changing the shape of its craggy height as it collapsed into itself sealing the newly created cave. Great chunks of earth spilled forward and a huge cloud of dust erupted from the mountain.
After the rumbling of the earth subsided, Jedrek said darkly, "Any who follow us no longer can do so." He turned from the mountain he had half destroyed and faced the strange, twisted landscape. "We are very near our destination Gregor. You will soon be in Taiga, land of the brotherhood." Jedrek pulled on his clothes which ripped slightly as they could no longer accommodate his larger body.
The path was hard traveling with unexpected drops and gaping holes that required much detouring. We moved slowly across it. I asked Jedrek, "Why take such a slow journey? A man with your power could surely jump or fly home."
"Gregor, it is very rare when I bring one of the brotherhood, who has been raised by breeders, to Taiga. I have learned that making the journey slow helps prepare them for the shock of their new life."
We continued on and I learned more of the story of the culling. It was an ancient practice, began when the world was very young by the wise women who, according to Jedrek, were jealous of the brotherhood's dominance of female and male magics. The men of the brotherhood were not only infinitely physically stronger than men who desired women but they could call on an endless amount of magical power and they were not limited to the male magics but could direct the forces of the earth with more force than even the most powerful of wise women. A deal was struck where the brotherhood were given the vast lands of Taiga without challenge and the tradition of the culling began in the rest of the world.
King Durness had broken that deal and Eoghan and Fearghus exacted the horrible payment for that transgression: The destruction of the great empire of Erin, which left my own small country of Mediolanum a broken place full of misery and poverty.
Even in Taiga there were never many of the brotherhood. "We make up about two percent of all the people in Taiga." Jedrek said. Seeing my confusion, he continued, "That is a very small portion, Gregor. You have so much to learn about this world."
After five days travel across that ancient scar, we came to the path where Fearghus and Eoghan had met Durness' scouts so long ago. The land was again normal and I could hear birdsong. The thaw had truly come as there was green pressing through the gray of the melting ice and snow. We were now on a well marked path and made good time. Despite some of my dark thoughts about Jedrek's violence, I found myself looking forward to life in Taiga.
We traveled through a rocky terrain once again and into a canyon which ended at two gigantic metal doors. There were runes inscribed on the doors.
Jedrek sang a short song in his deep powerful voice and the runes on the doors rippled with a blue light and an audible metal clanking could be heard. The doors opened for us, slamming behind as we entered.
The landscape was immediately changed. Cultivated lands crossed by paved roads bordered with sculptured trees. In the distance I could see a mighty city, giant with large buildings. Large metal vehicles streamed in from the side of the city and out.
"The great city of Virilius. My heart beats proud every time I return," Jedrek said.
Before we reached the city I could hear it. A vast clamor of productive noise, from the metallic clanking of the metal vehicles, distant chords of music, to the hum of human conversation could be heard even as the city was some distance from us.
The city was beautiful, exotic marbles and threads of precious metals were worked into the construction of the mammoth buildings so their surfaces swirled with color and light. There were beautiful parks and I could see ornamental lakes tucked into small, inviting nooks in the landscape. All spoke to the taming of nature.
The buildings were built large because there were so many huge men in this city. The muscular behemoths strode with carefree ease paying little heed to the small, frail (who I would have referred to as normal) people who scattered out of their way. The normal sized people clung to the margins of the paths and were obviously trying to avoid crossing in front of one of these giants of men.
Jedrek matched and surpassed many of these men for size. But I was shocked to see that the men who looked to be older than Jedrek actually were bigger even than him. Their midsections were thicker with muscle as was every part of their bodies. Many of the men wore no covering on their upper bodies, so their huge chests which cantilevered over their overmuscled midsections could plainly be seen. I was surprised to see how different many of these men were from each other. While most were fair skinned like Jedrek, many of them had hair ranging from dark brown through Jedrek's red to yellow hair like gold. Some of the men even had very different skin color. There were a few men with deep brown skin and one or two with deep black skin color.
More striking to me even than their size and skin color was the open affection some of these titans of muscle showed for each other. Some of the men held hands and I glimpsed at least two male couples kissing in the park. I had never thought I would see such open affection between men in my life. I could feel my eyes wet with tears as a yearning for this sight, that I had never known I had, suddenly felt fulfilled. It was if an unknown hollowness had been filled and it was a piece of my soul that was returned to me. I felt a wholeness and a naturalness I had not known before.
Jedrek, looked back at me, his own eyes filled with pride and kindness, "It has been hard on you, Gregor, these many years."
The "normal" people who skirted around these monolithic men were more numerous but much less diverse. They were generally a pale, light haired people who must have been the original people of these lands before the Brotherhood came.
We came to one of the odd buildings massive but with many smaller lighter fixtures that marked it as a building of shared usage. Jedrek delicately opened the human sized door and led me into a spacious entryway. The room was lit not with torches but round globes of light affixed to the walls.
Jedrek gestured me to sit down on a sturdy bench, saying, "Gregor, this is the school, where you will learn your skills, history, heritage. And this is where I take my leave of you," he paused and his eyes softened in the light, "it has been fair traveling. Change boils around you. If you accept your gifts, you will be one of our greatest."
His large hand engulfed my shoulder as he gave it a very gentle squeeze and he looked into my eyes. Then he turned and left the room before I could thank him. And so Jedrek left me there in the Great School.
Thus began my time learning. I at first sat with the smallest of boys painfully tracing letters but soon moved up through the classes to more advanced studies.
Our teachers were all massive men, who gently guided us though our lessons. Besides my letters one of the first things I was taught was movement. How to control my body precisely. This lesson was forcefully taught to even the smallest boys.
I thought at first it was to help them become better warriors but I soon reasoned it was also so the boys could control their incredibly powerful bodies when they were elevated to manhood.
When a boy was found to be of the Brotherhood, usually as early as one or two years old, he was taken from his family to the Great School of Virilius. Many of the boys had come from outside the city but I was the only boy from outside Taiga who had been raised by "breeders" and so often the center of curiosity.
There was an arrogance in them that disquieted me. They expected the crowds to part before them. While it was never stated, there was a sense that "breeders" and especially women who desired other women were less than human. Despite the beauty of many of the young men around me and despite their frequent kindness to me, this arrogance kept me distant from my fellow students.
In my room there was a mirror. The first time I ever saw my own face was in that glass. I had rough light brown hair that never lay straight, skin that was lightly tanned, darker generally than my fellow students but not nearly as dark as some of the men I had seen. I had dark brown eyes and when I smiled my cheeks dimpled. My reflection at first was a stranger to me but I did think myself handsome.
Others thought so too and I was often flattered by the other boys around me who wished my company. At fifteen and sixteen it was expected that some of us would elevate and sometimes I would hear the moaning in the night and see the next day, the fresh faced boys with the bodies of gods. They would usually be moved to other quarters shortly after to train among the other giants.
However I stuck to my vow. One boy, a year younger than me was particularly persistent in my second year. His name was Sean and his hair was the color of sunlight and his eyes were deep blue. His skin had an even golden tan. He had many admirers that followed him but he was enamored of me. He often asked me to sit with him and occasionally would slip a flower into my hand. I tried to be friendly, but distant so he would not pursue me further,
There was a preparation for a dance for the 16 and 17 year olds, I had, through hard study, recently joined my own age group in classes. I had few friends as I always was studying to catch up. One evening as I walked from the library to my room I saw Sean waiting impatiently pacing in front of my door. Some of his admirers were there watching me with jealous eyes.
"Gregor," he smiled and spoke loudly for the others to hear, "you study excessively. You must put aside your books and come to the dance with me."
I knew many of the boys planned to elevate that night. I suspected that the dance was scheduled to encourage us to elevate. No one had asked me to the previous year's dance but this year a few had asked me. I had refused all the invitations.
I saw the desire in Sean's eyes, but I did not wish to elevate with him or anyone else. I stammered, "Th-thank you but I d-don't want to go with you." My voice dropped into the sound of several of his followers hissing in disbelief.
Sean slammed his fist into my door, "You reject me! I thought you were saving yourself for me, Gregor. I thought you cared." His eyes were red and he was blinking away tears.
I realized how blunt I had been, I tried to put a hand on his shoulder he shook it off, "I move like an oxen when I try to dance. I did not want to embarrass you."
"That doesn't matter to me," Sean was crying openly, his followers had moved away giving us a space, "Ever since you came to school. You were different, I tried to help you fit in. I did it because I liked you. How could you humiliate me, Gregor?"
I spoke softly, "Sean, this is the truth from my heart. This isn't about you. I do not wish to be with anyone or to elevate. I did not mean to hurt you, I don't mean to hurt anyone."
He looked at me, intensely, "You aloof bastard!" and he ran down the hallway.
My insides were swirling and I felt emotionally battered. I went in to my room and locked the door behind me. I collapsed on to my mattress and fell asleep.
I was in the smith again and it was stifling hot. The air was filled with the sound of gigantic bellows blowing the fire hotter and hotter.
I woke from the dream, my room was pitch black and hot. I was covered in sweat. I could see nothing, but I could feel an immense presence, I realized the sound of the monstrous bellows in my dreams was the breathing of something huge.
The lights of my room suddenly came on and I saw a hulking chest swelling in time to the immense sound of breathing. The chest was perfectly golden tan. I looked up beyond the vast expanse of muscle. I took in my ruined door with the lock wrenched out of it. And then I saw Sean's handsome face contorted by rage.