The Culling: Conclusion
A sitting room. Red all around, a diffused glow. In the middle of the room, a pinprick, a dot of darkness floated suspended in the air.
The darkness started growing tearing open bigger and bigger. I opened my mouth to sing a spell and my voice was stopped I couldn't make a sound. Fearfully, I backed away from the growing darkness.
A hysterical, gibbering sobbing scream filled the room and I saw Garoth trying and failing to grab the sides of the void with bleeding hands. He saw me and lunged forward his mouth filled with fangs...
My eyes opened to see the blue of my cloak stretched above me in the morning light. I could hear a light tapping of rain on the outside. I slowed my breathing as I looked around my small makeshift tent. Absently I traced the muscles of the hard bulwark of my chest with one hand. I felt calmer. It had been only a dream.
I was camped in a stand of trees by the King's highway several miles from the castle. I was waiting for Michael to rejoin me. As the tapping of rain subsided I crawled out into the drear of the early morning.
I peered through the grey mist at the highway. It was completely deserted.
Then I heard it. Maybe it always been there as a low thudding but it was getting louder. The heavy beat of drums the sound of thousands marching forward. The sound obscured all others and the ground was shaking with the force of it. I quickly gathered up my cloak, feeling it reform from a tent as I pulled it over my shoulders.
A massive shape was coming towards me in the mist. It was huge, large enough to make one of the giant grizzly bears of the forest look minuscule by comparison. I knew instantly it was, "Michael!" I felt his huge arms around me before I even saw his face.
He kissed me and all of me felt for a moment like it was just us, we were the only two in existence, the whole world was the two of us kissing. We paused and I looked into his blue eyes.
"Gregor, my life. It has been many days. The world is not lovely when you are not beside me." His voice rippled through me.
All I could do was breathe his name once but he heard everything in that.
We walked to the highway where the army was marching forward. As they passed, they saluted us and continued their march forward. "I bring you a gift Gregor! All the king's men! We have the full army without a drop of blood spilt."
"Michael, this was our dream. You are repairing the wound of Durness and Eoghan, here and now. And you have done far better than me these past few days." I said thinking of my encounters with the wizards.
"Gregor, I believe you repaired the folly by yourself, with your own magnificent rod several weeks ago," Michael said with a salacious wink, "But what of the wizards? We have seen no sign and the men have ceased worrying about their retribution."
I told him briefly about my dealings, finishing with, "So one is in some kind of eternal torment damnation and the other has had her identity and powers destroyed. Clearly, I am not so persuasive as you."
"Gregor, it is the nature of the world that those with the most power never give it up easily. Their ambition and hatred destroyed their ability to work with us long before you ever came to call."
"Then what of the king, Michael? Will he also be destroyed?"
"I think not Gregor, for he has realized by now that his power has fled, he has no power to lose," Michael smiled confidently.
We led the army until we were within hailing distance of the squat gray fortress of the king. It looked hunkered down, smaller and less grand than either of the wizard towers, this building was designed for defense.
An inhuman bellow issued from the open gateway of the fortress and an enormous troll thundered out. It was dressed in filthy, rotted rags which exposed most of its body including its fetid, bulbous sexual organ. The smell of rancid piss and shit accompanied its appearance. The creature was dragging a club made from the entirety of a felled redwood, spikes thicker than an ordinary man's neck studded the free end of the massive weapon.
"Even though you are the stronger, allow me some fun," Michael breathed in my ear, simultaneously staying me with a gesture and sweeping off his cloak. He was still wearing the simple tunic and breeches of a peasant, his hard and huge muscles only slightly obscured by the loose clothing.
He strode up to the giant beast. The creature snickered, leered and scratched its big organ at seeing a lone figure moving toward it. I saw the creature's eyes focus and then widen with fear as it took in Michael's monstrous size. Its own hulking bulk was no match for the overwhelming thickness of Michael's colossal muscularity. As Michael sauntered nearer, his overpowering size became even more apparent. The creature's great legs would humble most tree trunks however Michael's forearms massively gnarled and distended with muscle were easily twice the girth of the troll's gigantic limbs.
The creature should have run or been paralyzed with fear. Even if it didn't understand how infinitely more powerful, Michael's strength was, some animal survival instinct should have sent it running like a fragile fawn from a crushing avalanche of granite. The creature had no awareness of how disproportionate the fight was. It grunted with effort as its two great arms levered up the great redwood club. Ponderously, it swung the bulk of the club, twisting to torque up the greatest force into the movement. Michael could have easily evaded the blow but instead kept walking right into it.
A great, cracking roar of sound erupted as the irresistible force of the giant swing met the titanic, immovable object of Michael. The club shattered against Michael's impenetrable mass, shredding his outer clothing. We watched as the heavy metal spikes, literally splattered by the force of the blow against the hairy alabaster of Michael's skin, bounced away flattened, unrecognizable.
Michael's manhood was fully exposed and his flaccid magnificence was fully five times the size of the troll's now puny looking genitalia. The creature gaped at the impotence of its blow and the useless remnant of its weapon.
Michael paused and moved one of his behemoth arms up, explosions of muscularity rippled across his exposed torso with the motion, and theatrically yawned covering his mouth with his hand.
The soldiers cheered for the bravado of their humongously massive leader. The troll bellowed in a rage and began to charge Michael. It would have been so easy for Michael to destroy the foul, creature utterly with a single blow but Michael suddenly moved in a blur away from the creature.
Before the troll could even take a single step Michael had crossed several hundred feet to the castle. With a single easy motion he yanked out the heavy portcullis. The shattered steel chains were still in the air while he blurred back towards the charging troll with the massive gate, ripping it into pieces as he moved. His hands moved fast warping and reshaping the hard metal into giant sized manacles.
Then he was behind the creature almost gently manhandling its great limbs and manacling them with the transformed pieces of the gate. He finished by chaining the creature with a thick metal stake driven deep into hard rock. This all happened in almost a blink, I was startled by the sound of portcullis chains crashing down. I wondered if the soldiers thought it was magic, so quick were Michael's movements.
The troll struggled helplessly against the weight of the metal that Michael had effortlessly forged with his grip. It's sluggish brain not comprehending what had occurred. It let out a mewling, beaten sound at Michael's retreating figure. I summoned clothing to cover Michael. We were overwhelming enough without Michael's nakedness awing everyone into stupefaction.
After Michael's little show of force, the king's instant surrender was anticlimactic.
The day moved forward in a blur of military displays and speeches and by the evening Michael and I were both crowned as kings while the former king was escorted to his home village.
We acted quickly with multiple decrees. The first was that the culling ceremony would result in the chosen boys to be sent to training at the castle. It was our idea that the Brotherhood in our fair land would become all variety of public servants, that the strength of our kind would serve the weaker making all the land a stronger place. We also treated with the men of Taiga to open the former lands of the Folly for cultivation. The once sterile lands were now the most fertile in our corner of the world.
Years past and the work of transforming a broken country to a land of prosperity and happiness, seemed unending. Having the power to single handedly annihilate any hostile neighbors around us made coming to agreements an easier task than that faced by our predecessors.
This part of my life was filled with much happiness, but the darkness of the culling, while scrubbed from my own country, remained in the world.
One night, I left my body and floated free in the nether world of the spirit. The world still was mostly covered in darkness however now the lights of Taiga were joined by the lights of my own Mediolanum. I felt pride at that. I turned towards the blinding white brilliance of the valley of the Elders. I now approached with ease no longer buffeted by the power that they emanated.
They became aware of me.
Many of the men I had known had passed beyond the bounds of the world since my visits so many years ago. A few of the brightest burning lights still remembered me.
"Ah, Gregor who changes the world, we see our prophecies fulfilled," spoke a familiar burning form in the voice of gales.
My own burning light did not waver from the force of his voice and when I spoke the shock waves of my power buffeted many of the elders' flames. "I am honored to be remembered by the elders and wish to discuss the possibility of changing the deep magic."
A swirling in the matter of the elders and all was silent and then, "Gregor, for one such as yourself there exist many possibilities. The deep magic is all that makes up the movement of the universes. It is the substance of creation. To change it is to threaten the very fabric of what is. Even for you it may be impossible to make a change without being destroyed utterly and the danger of destroying everything that is, is very great.
"We tell you this because among all we know, you are like our beloved son and we trust what drives you forward." There was a long, considered pause. Finally, the great voice spoke again, "If you must attempt this, go to the forest of green silences where the heartbeat of creation is most easily heard."
"Great fathers, you are what has bound me to the Brotherhood even in my darkest days of bitterness. I am always your grateful son." I became briefly one with them, part of their tremendous energy. I could feel a change in my place among them. I felt I was at least as powerful as the mightiest among them and I drew them to my greater light. Despite this we all understood I was not ready to join their number, I still had my own life to live and promises to keep. My beacon like light separated from the elders and then I departed to my earthly form.
I opened my eyes. Michael lay sprawled beside me softly snoring, the moon's light in our room turning his magnificence to silver. The dark hair of his chest breaking the sheen. Some part of me wanted to curl up in his safe warmth and never leave, I leaned over and kissed his forehead and breathed in his scent.
My dearest forgive me.
I left our room and crossed the castle to a room shielded from the rest of building for magic lessons. I sat on the cold flagstone and thought of the forest of green silences and began the spell of passage. The room melted away and I was sitting in a meadow outside near a dense thickness of trees.
The trees were enormous, larger than even the great buildings of Taiga. The woods were so densely grown on all sides that no passage was possible for even a small child much less a being as large as I.
I called out, "To she who walks between branches and he who guards with fang and hoof Lady and Lord of Green Silences one who has need begs entrance."
Her voice was melodious and almost evaded the edge of my hearing, "Gregor, we know of what you would do and grant you leave to enter."
I heard not a sound but the shadows around the trees seemed to deepen and I found myself peering at a path into the wood.
I entered the stillness of the forest, the ground was soft with moss. I could feel a sense of the center of the place and my path led me to it. The morning light was lifting the gloom and for a second I thought I saw the green skin of the lady and the antlered head of the lord watching me. But when I looked more closely there was nothing but the forest.
In the heart of the wood, I stripped my clothing and lay face first in the moss and sang a spell of joining. I felt myself falling into a vastness of life of power. I felt my being pushed into the big pulsing rhythms of the world. Was it breathing or a beating? It was through me and I was of it. I could feel the earth leaning and spinning to this huge movement.
I began to be aware of parts, fit together, it was a massive machine exquisitely balanced and fit together each part depending on the other. Did it have awareness; this great engine of everything that was? I could not tell, I only felt my heart beating in time to its workings. For the first time in many a year, I felt small and insignificant.
I pulled energy from within and sent a questing. Something in these intricacies answered me and with effort I moved through the colossus of the framework, feeling the deep magic pulling me back towards the world I belonged in.
After what seemed days or hours, time has no meaning here, I saw it and recognized it as my goal. It sat dark and precious turning in the light, linking and continuing. I studied its place in this great machine.
I then pulled all of my power into me, feeling my strength, my great potency even in this place. I flung my force at the darkness pulling it by force from its place.
It came away, unmoored from its place in the magic. It burst into red and vanished.
There was a sudden wrenching a tearing and I was pulled apart. I could feel my limbs being pulled, popping from their sockets, my essence was being pulled into microscopic thinness. I pulled with all my power but the force was relentless. I could only slow its unyielding tearing of my being. I felt a blackness descending and some part of me wondered what I had wrought.
Dark and pain and coldness was the tendril of my consciousness as I held on.
Light and warmth bathed me and I pulled new power into me. The force began to slowly yield. Small, infinitesimally small movements drew me back into my form and so slowly the pieces fit back and the great beating continued. I was myself and I let the current of the deep magic sweep me back to my place in the world.
Darkness again but warmth. I slept.
Light flickered and my eyelids flickered open to the green and gold of the forest. I heard a familiar soft snoring and felt Michael's massive arms wrapped around me. I turned in his arms to face him and kissed the dark stubble on his face, "You saved me."
His eyes rimmed with exhaustion blinked open, "Gregor, you are awake. I feared you would never again awaken. I felt you slipping away." Michael's eyes sheened over with tears.
"I am here my dearest and thanks to your strength, I believe I am well." I beamed my smile, my love into him.
Michael smiled,"If this is a dream, may I never waken and if this is real, then I am truly the most fortunate of all men who walk this earth."
"Oh my tired savior. I put you through this and you are thankful. I ..." I stopped too full of feeling and kissed him pulling the bulk of his body into mine. I could feel his pulse, the physicalness of him. I squeezed him.
We made love in that sacred place and I felt blessed and completely restored. Michael was kissing the vastness of my chest as I held him. He suddenly stopped.
He gently pulled out of my embrace, blinking wetness from his eyes, "But Gregor what did you do here? What evil came upon you that was so great?"
"The world is now a changed place, Michael. The culling is no more. No longer will the pollen refuse to fall on one of the brotherhood. No longer will the wise women use that tool to kill us when we are young."
Michael sat up looking startled, "There will be many of us Gregor, maybe too many for the world."
"I know the culling is the greater evil and the world will find a balance. It will and we will shape it in a better way."
We pulled on our clothes and walked out of the forest in our own thoughtful silence.
Michael's smile broke through like sunlight, "How we will recruit our civil servants?"
I returned his grin, "Maybe we can just ask them. There is no longer a reason to hide."