The Culling

The thaw began early that year.

All the boys between the ages of ten and 16 in our village were standing in line, in front of Agnieska, the wise woman, as she performed the ritual.

The ground was muddy, wet and cold but I could feel beads of sweat run down the back of my neck as she stared at each one of us in turn. Her gray eyes seemed to linger longer over me.

She sang some sort of song in a strange language. I could feel a vibration in the air as she summoned.

She plucked several of the bright orange flowers from the slushy earth. She shook them hard releasing a cloud of pollen which held a vague blob like shape near her. She then violently pulled out the thick stamens of the flower and then pulled them apart. The pollen glittered at the sacrifice and then began to move and fan out over the boys. It fell in an even sheen over all of us. All of us except a dark haired 13 year old boy named Ulric. There was a clear space around him, not even a particle landed on him.

A hiss of breath came from the villagers watching us. Ulric's mother stifled a cry as the wise woman moved toward him with a knife. He stood silent in his clear space. The villagers stood silent around us boys as she silently cut his throat and he fell to the ground. After the body was taken away, the rest of us stripped and ran to the river and into the icy water, washing the clingy pollen away.

I forced myself to laugh with the other boys pushing down the deep guilt I felt in not being taken along with Ulric. It was my last year, I had passed and yet I knew I should have been killed as well.


"It is a hard thing, but he died human, Mertha," John the Elder, said to Ulric's mother.

It was night and the villagers clustered around the fire in the great room to hear the story after the culling.

John the Elder turned from the bowed woman to address the rest of us with the story.

Durness, the mighty was the greatest ruler this world had ever seen. His army stretched from horizon to horizon with several score more waiting beyond. Some of the greatest of all knights, fought alongside each other. Men who had slain dragons and fought trolls and whose songs the bards of our kings still sing. He employed over 20 of the most powerful wizards and witches, whose spells protected the land and made the people prosperous.

His people were pious and good and performed the ritual every spring just as we do. Some years they escaped sacrifice altogether and the villages remained pure and unsullied.

But Durness was proud and felt beyond the laws of natural men. He did not subject his own sons to the test. He felt his bloodline could not produce a perversion.

His first son grew up tall and strong and good and Durness was glad he had never been forced to stand in line with the common boys. His second son, Eoghan was even more promising. His eyes were clear blue and his hair as dazzling as sunlight, his wit keen edged and his prowess on the battle field was twice his older brother's.

When he was fifteen, the change began. His shoulders grew wider. Wide enough that Eoghan had trouble walking through a door. His arms grew larger than a man's leg, larger around even then a sturdy man's full torso. In short he became an abomination to the sight of good people. Durness tried to hide him away in the dungeon, but one night the creature burst through the thick stone walls and escaped.

Durness used his resources to track the creature. Hoping to destroy it before it harmed his people. To no avail.

Several years later the great seeress, Lythum was able to divine that the creature had joined with more of his kind and that in the center of the great range of mountains that marked one of the great country's boundaries, there was a lair where his son was now living.

Durness in his great wrath and pride, set his full army to march against the lair of these creatures. He wanted to destroy all of them. He felt that if their kind was stamped out, the perversion would no longer infect the men of any family.

As the advance scouts approached the mouth of the pass through the mountains they saw a small encampment by the side of the road. Standing by the fire was a creature several times larger than Eoghan had been when he was imprisoned. They trembled as they approached, recognizing in the still blindingly handsome features the face of their former prince. He wore only a cape, heavy boots and a breechcloth held up by a leather belt.

His body no long looked human. There were massive mounds of hard flesh stretching out from his chest area like mountains. His arms were bigger round than a body of a horse and covered with craggy lines of muscle and veins. His legs were even more massive and he had to stand with his legs slightly apart accommodate their enormity. He carried no weapons that they could see.

The creature frowned at them and then spoke with a voice that shook the ground with its power, "Turn back your army or you will all perish by my hand. You shall not march against my brethren."

The scouts dashed back to the generals who surrounded by the leagues of men, fighting animals, heavy equipment, laughed at the message. They sent out a hundred men at dawn with instructions to bring back the head of the second son of Durness. The noon sun drew to the center of the sky and dark cloud swarmed over the general's tent. A hundred heads of the men who had been sent rained down upon them.

The generals sent a dispatch to Durness that the battle might need magical support and the wizard's climbed to the top of the their towers to summon their most potent magics against the creature once known as Eoghan.

The army then marched forward reigning death upon the single man. They attempted to surround and destroy him. The creature's bronze skin glistened in the sunlight as he moved quicker than the eye could follow obliterating the soldiers and their weapons in fleshy explosions of motion. The bronze blur would come upon a heavily armored group of men and equipment and there would be an eruption of chaos as man, beast and objects were destroyed. Spears were pulled from the grips of strong warriors and then flung with such force that they pierced the armor and bodies of a score of warriors often bursting thick trees before they finally cleaved to a wall or burrowed long trenches into the ground.

Then the Wizards sent down bolts of power to stop Eoghan. He grew even larger swelling three times his already gargantuan size as the power burned down upon him. The energy destroyed anything near Eoghan but he laughed as the blue power crackled around him and flung powerful bolts from his hands that were several times more powerful, reducing the wizards and their impregnable towers to dust mites with single strikes. One wizard set a tornado twisting across the land to destroy the creature and Eoghan drew an enormous breathe and sucked the entirety of the storm within his body and then breathed out a storm hundreds of times more powerful that boiled the very earth and drenched the earth in the blood of thousands of men. The storm traveled to the city fortress of the wizard and destroyed all, whipping him with lightning and agony and then leaving his body impaled on the city's highest tower.

in the course of a single day, the mightiest army known to our history and the empire that linked over a hundred countries in peace had been destroyed. The battleground was a place of desolation and when Eoghan, massive as a mountain himself covered in the gore of the men and creatures he had destroyed, stood before one young soldier who was the last of all the mighty armies, "Tell them what you have seen so that no others will ever be foolish enough to march on the Taiga lands. You are marked with my sign so that all who see you will know you speak the truth." He traced a sign with his hand which burned into the forehead of the terrified soldier, who forgot for moments his loathing of what Eoghan had become and kneeled before him as to a god.

In a flash Eoghan was gone leaving the soldier alone in the center of the devastation.

It took the soldier several days to cross the vast plain where the great army had been destroyed. There was nothing living in that place. No grass or wildlife, nothing stirred in the charred remains of the land. The land was twisted into weird fantastic unnatural shapes and the journey was slow and difficult. When he came at last to the great capital, now with its ancient towers sheared to the ground, he saw a body hanging from battlements. It was Durness, dead by his own hand.

Of course the great empire was destroyed and we now live in hovels ruled by petty tyrants and squabble with each other, all because of the perversion. For those men who desire other men will become creatures of death and destroy all around them for their perversity is unholy and should be destroyed before it blooms.

Everyone nodded silently their faces hardened and there was no grief for Ulric. But I, Gregor, the eldest son of a widowed mother, also desired other men. Parts of the story describing Eoghan's power and size actually made my manhood become hard and I worked to conceal my aberration.

I knew some men gave themselves up for death to save the village but I could not bring myself to do that and I could not run into the forest and leave my family to fend for itself. so year after year I pass the culling somehow and pray that my passing means that soon I will look not look upon men with a longing that burns through me and haunts my dreams.

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