The Culling 7

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I was staring at a furious golden behemoth of rippling muscle.

Sean was that behemoth. His wide shoulders almost brushing both sides of my small chamber. I could barely see my ruined door past the vast expanse of his torso. Though his thick back was near the doorway of the room the vastness of his chest overhung my bed by several inches. I seemed to see nothing but those massive striated, mountains of muscle. The heat from Sean's body made the close room almost unbearably hot, I could not get a full breath.

"Ah puny Gregor awakes," Sean sneered and moved closer, turning sideways to stand on one side of my bed, his chest hung over three quarters of my mattress, I moved away, where the other side of my bed rested next to the opposite wall. I noticed that Sean's clothes still were in tatters around his massive frame, the craggy masses of muscle had destroyed most of his clothes so only bits of rags clung to his newly grown body.

"Congratulations, on your elevation, Sean," I croaked out the traditional words hoping to still his anger towards me.

"You see I didn't need your pathetic little prick," one of Sean's muscled hands shot out, ripping my sleeping clothes from my body in one blinding motion, "touching me to become a man."

Despite the heat, I was shivering pushing my shoulders into the wall behind me.

"Gaze upon a real man, Gregor the insignificant!" He tore the remains of his breeches from his rippling midsection revealing his truly massive manhood. Even though he was not erect, his cock had almost the same girth of one of my skinny forearms and hung down swinging almost half the length of his tree trunk legs. His testicles also hung low and heavy, as fat peaches in full ripeness. I could smell the scent of him, his sweat, his musk, the recent bout of sex all clung to him.

Even though his cock was soft, it dwarfed my own manhood significantly. I curled my legs up against my torso easily hiding my pathetic member.

"Truly magnificent." he smiled fondling himself and bounced his chest, SSSLLAAAMMM! SSSLLAAAMMM! His pec muscles crashed down. The force of his muscle bounce slammed me back without even touching me. My head cracked the plaster behind me.

"You are a meaningless insect I will barely notice crushing," I opened my mouth to scream for help. In a blur of motion one Sean's monstrous hands engulfed the lower of part of my face completely smothering my cry. My jaw was completely immobile in his vise like grip. As if I weighed nothing, Sean lifted my body in the air. "First the insect must worship the god and beg for his life. I will honor you by allowing you to touch my magnificence, insect."

Pain ran through my body as I dangled in his grip and I began shrieking in my mind for help. I pictured mighty Jedrek.

"Why do you hesitate insect?" He gave my body a small shake a bare twitching of his wrist and I heard an audible crack from my back and pain like I had never known sheared across my senses. I almost blacked out.

"Does it break so easily then?" I could not see Sean as he spoke because of the waves of pain that bled red into my vision. Suddenly the pressure on my face was gone and I was resting on my bed.

I blinked up and saw the shaved head of Master Lorcan, one of our teachers. He clenched Sean's large forearm with his huge paw of a hand effortlessly crushing the hard muscles of the massive teenager's arm forcing him to drop me. His light brown goatee framed the grimace of his mouth. Sean for all his incredible muscle looked like a child next to the monstrous shirtless teacher. Master Lorcan's lightly furred and insanely thick chest plowed into Sean's comparatively puny pectorals forcing them to flatten backwards and submit to the teacher's superior strength and overwhelming size. "Ouch," Sean's deep voice whined as he struggled ineffectively against Master Locan's incredible power. Sean instinctively put his other hand up to block Master Lorcan where it looked childlike and vulnerable next to the vast, crushing muscularity of the teacher. Sean reminded me briefly of a house cat in the paws of a tiger.

In a voice several times deeper than Sean's, Master Lorcan said, "You never attack a non-elevated brother." The teacher tossed Sean up to my ceiling with a twitch of his thick forearm. As Sean's body slammed into my ceiling the teacher sang a short line and red lines of power twined around Sean's body pinning him helplessly to my ceiling.

Master Thornton turned to me, all anger vanished; his light brown eyes soft with concern. He crooned a sweet song and a healing warmth washed over me, my pain vanished. I sighed and suddenly felt very tired. I could feel the rock hard ripples of muscle in his arm as he carefully picked me up. "Sleep now, Gregor," he said softly, "All will be mended soon."

I succumbed to the tiredness and fell into blackness.

A golden light pressed through my eyelids. I blinked them open and saw Jedrek's face smiling above me. There was a golden sheen over everything. "Blessed awakening, Gregor. The light is a healing spell cast by the good Master Lorcan. You are out of danger but you must sleep some more." Wordlessly I fell once again into darkness.

I felt the warmth of natural sunlight on my face and blinked my eyes open. Gingerly, I tried to sit up. My back felt stiff but I was able to sit up right with no pain. "Good morrow Gregor". It was Jedrek. We were in a room with a long line of beds and windows overlooking the green common of the school.

I found my voice, "It is good to be awake and it is good to see you, Jedrek. I thought I would never speak or see again."

"Sean has been taken from the school. His shame is great."

"is that the justice for attempted murder in your great city, Jedrek? I think little enough of your civilization." I was startled by the bitterness of the words I was directing at this man who was perhaps my only friend in this place and who was bigger even than Master Lorcan.

Jedrek ignored my statement, "It was awful, Gregor but you accomplished something incredible. Sean had cast some simple dampening spells so no noise you could make would be heard by the school, but even though you have not come into power, you managed to call me while I was leagues away on the other side of the country. You overcame both the distance and Sean's magic with no formal spell. That is remarkable."

"You heard me when I screamed in my head?"

"Loud and clear. As if I was as close to you as I am now. I quickly alerted the staff and Master Lorcan intervened. I arrived soon after." Jedrek brought up one of his huge forearms to stroke his beard, "Gregor, we're going to put you into some of the advanced magic classes. It is practically unheard of for one before elevation."

"I am honored," I twisted the words out as sarcastically as I could manage, "but I do not know if I wish to continue these studies or elevate myself, Jedrek. Most of what I've seen justifies the barbarism of the culling. I do not wish to be a part of that same violence."

Jedrek seemed to hear my anger for the first time, "It is fully your choice, Gregor. No one can force the elevation on you. But accept the training of your gifts. They are yours regardless of your feelings and you should understand the use of them. If I may suggest," he continued looking sternly at me, "it is unwise to close your heart Gregor. Not necessarily because of the power but because I fear the bitterness you have growing in you. Living a life alone is not something I would wish on anyone."

"I'll think about it," I shot back, of course intending to do the opposite.

I did compromise ultimately. I enrolled in the advanced magic courses but did not allow myself to get any closer to my fellow students.

I was the only non-elevated member of the class and I could not sustain the power of the other class members and even though my efforts were comparatively small, they left me exhausted. I was gifted though, particularly in astral travel. For some reason, leaving my body behind offered little trouble.

One night, well into my third year, I lay in my room and began the ritual. I was floating up above my body looking down. No one was observing, I could roam as far as I pleased. I spun up and up kicking through clouds high to where the air thins and runs out, up and up until there was nothing between me and the stars and I was staring down not at the flat map of the world I had pictured since I was young but at the spinning ball that the Brotherhood claimed the world to be.

There were clusters of lights scattered across the globe. Most of it was dark though. One region sparkled with light almost too brilliant to see. I flew closer and recognized the lands of the Taiga. I skimmed near to the lights but none seemed aware I passed.

In the northernmost tip the cluster of lights became too brilliant to see. I flew closer and the waves of brilliance buffeted me, tearing at my astral form. I pulled from deep within and brought my form in together against the waves of and flew into the great energy within this massive light cluster.

It was aware of me and one brilliant piece of light detached itself and hovered near me. In a voice that threatened to shatter me it asked, "Why do you disturb us little one?"

"I mean no harm," the creature chuckled when I said this but let me continue, "I only wished to understand what you are. None of the other dimmer lights even acknowledge me."

"The lights you see are the power of the Brotherhood. If you look very closely you will see very dim glows for the other wizards and the wise women. The glows represent the power that we have in this plane of existence. We are the old ones of the Brotherhood. As we age, we grow ever stronger until we have grown too large and strong, we threaten the earth herself with our movements. We wait in this valley to detach from the physical altogether. Those of us who remain, still care of earthly things and we know of you, Gregor, who brings change to the world."

Despite the claim of earth destroying power, the creature did not share the same arrogance as the Brotherhood I had met.

"You are correct, Gregor. We who have seen the warp and the woof in the world, we know our place and the place of others. It is humbling and we see the great pride of the Brotherhood as a flaw in our own pattern. You are one who reshapes patterns." it paused and I could see light sparkling between the creatures, "It is decided by those of us who remain to begin your instruction in the deep magics that come with age. We begin tonight."

And so the elders of the Brotherhood taught me skills no one knows until they are ready to depart this earthly coil. During the days I was cold and aloof and in the night I enjoyed the warmth of their fellowship. I worried that most of what they taught me, I had not the power to accomplish, "Gregor, that is of no moment to us, rather we see this as correct according to all the paths, you could follow, if you never ascend to power, this knowledge still matters." Even though I never spoke about my personal situation, the elders knew it well.

Years passed and I remained steadfast in my vow, remembering Sean's rage and Jedrek's bloodshed. At 22, I became a teacher at the Great School. I taught the beginning magic courses. I was the only one of the faculty who had not been elevated. Occasionally Jedrek would visit the school to bring a student from outside and he would look at me with disappointment.

At 25, I seemed older than my years and more closed. I did not like to spend time among my fellow teachers, their great size and power unnerved me. And I felt they looked on me with pity or as an oddity. The normal people generally seemed coarse but they reminded me more of the people from my old home. None of the men would be interested in me. Perhaps, in moments when I saw myself clearly, I could see a bitterness emerging in me, but I ignored it and continued on. I did feel happiness and warmth among the elders on the nights I left my body behind, but that was the only fellowship I allowed myself.

Sometime during that year, I remember bending over my students' exams and hearing a deep voice clearing, I looked up into the deepest blue eyes I had ever seen. The man in front of me looked to be in his late thirties, he was not elevated but he had the power aura of one of the Brotherhood. He had thick black hair and the shadow of a beard on his face. I could see lines of pain around his eyes, he had suffered before coming to his life with the Brotherhood. His skin tone was similar to mine and his features reminded me of home.

"Master Gregor? I have been moved into your class, my name is Michael."

I found myself beaming at him as I stood up and extended my hand. He was slightly taller than me and even though I tried to keep my eyes on his handsome face, I glimpsed some of his dark hair peaking from his shirt collar above his broad chest.

"Well met, Michael. Welcome to my class," I greeted him more warmly than I intended. "We are in the middle of the year of instruction, so there is much to catch up. There are books in the library and I do have office hours I'm available to help." It was my standard speech to mid year transfers and yet it felt as if I was offering him something more.

His smile dimpled his face, "I look forward to learning all that I can from you." He gave my hand an extra squeeze and went to an empty desk to sit down. He towered over the majority of my class, which ranged from 11 to 14 in years.

As I presented the day's lesson, I found my eyes frequently wandering over to Michael. The other students predictably treated this non-elevated grown man in their midst with derision. I often dealt with the same derision at the beginning of each school year with a new class. He ignored them utterly and frowned in concentration at the lesson. I could see him earnestly trying to catch all the information with his awkward scrawl in his notebook. I was aware of the dusting of his black hair on the back of his hand.

At the end of the session, I approached him with a smile, "How did you find the class, Michael?"

"This one is very different for me. Where I come from, only women can do magic. There are stories of men that do. It is like a different language for my brain." He shrugged his meaty shoulders and gave me a crooked smile, "I never thought I would be expected to do such things. I thank you, Master," and he bobbed his head down in my direction and hurried from the class with a long stride.

That evening I was in my gigantic office pacing around the huge desk trying to come up with a better introduction to the Song of Openings when I heard a knock on the door.

"Come in," I said in an annoyed tone.

There was a deep grunt as Michael pushed my heavy office door open. I could smell flowers on him although he carried only a stack of books.

"Master Gregor, I apologize for the lateness of the hour. I need help with this Song of Beginnings. Even though I know my music some of these symbols don't make sense."

"Michael," I heard my voice become warm and good humored, "please come in." I explained the symbols and the stances of power. Michael was even able to summon a feeble blue glow in the room. It was late and the exertion left him looking drawn as it does for those who are not elevated.

"I don't understand, Master, how it is that those who are not elevated and not of the Brotherhood can cast great magics, are we weaker than them before we elevate?" he asked as he sat down after the spell.

"Power grows somewhat as we use it and it takes less from us. But for the great magics, the wizards rely on the great towers which funnel huge energies into their beings. The wise women rely on time and repetition to cast their great magics so they are not expending such huge energies all at once. The Brotherhood are the only people that can call on the great magics instantly and without special equipment. But that ability comes after elevation."

I continued, "I know it is not completely orthodox, but would you care to dine with me this evening, Michael? There is a small establishment near the school that serves..."

"Yes!" Michael interrupted me grinning broadly.

Even though the food is better at the restaurants ran by the Brotherhood, I usually went to the non-Brotherhood establishments. The furniture was less awkward and the noise from the families kept me out of myself.

As we sat down, a lusty wench flirted openly with Michael as she served us our ale.
"It has been a time since I beheld a man as comely as you in this heap, sir," she said pushing her ample breasts forward.

Michael blushed, barely glancing at her display, "Many thanks, goodlady. But I am taken this evening," he said beaming a smile at me.

She instantly stood straight and one of her hands flew up to cover her breasts, "But you're so old...Many pardons for my insolence sirs, I will pay for your meal."

Michael let out a deep laugh, "We will gladly pay for our meal goodlady and we welcome your high spirits. If I were with someone less handsome, your beauty would be turning my head."

She looked confused by Michael's answer but gave a small smile, bobbed a curtsy, "Many thanks, sir" and sped away without another word.

"They all act like scared rabbits around us. At least they don't come with knives or stones for throwing, eh Gregor?" he winked good naturedly but I could see he was pushing away something dark in his mind.

Our server returned with a young man who had obviously been working in the kitchen, his apron was grease stained. He looked nervously at us both as he attempted a smile. "This is Liam," the waitress said, "if he pleases you, he can be your server tonight."

"Woman!" Michael growled, "Allow this comely lad to return to the serious business of preparing meals, as you return to the business of bringing ours! Only your slowness in this displeases us, in all other ways you are quite pleasing."

They sped away and she returned with fragrantly steaming plates heaped high with roasted beef, boiled potatoes and carrots. She bobbed again and Michael winked at her.

I felt dumbfounded at Michael's easy manner with everyone, "That was impressive. I usually just smile and try to ignore the flirting."

Michael was eating heartily, "I did not want to mislead or hurt her feelings. I have spent much of my life pretending."

I started to eat. The food was salty and especially good with the cold ale to wash it down. I looked at Michael and I found myself responding to a man's handsomeness for the first time since Sean. The feeling did not scare me and I could feel myself once again smiling openly at him.

"Michael, how is it a man as handsome and likable as you has not come into the power? I would think you would have to fight off potential suitors."

"I could ask you the same thing Gregor." Michael smiled with genuine warmth, took a deep drink of the ale and continued, "It is a bit of a tale. Like you, I come from Mediolanum a poor place that is faithful to the tradition of the culling. I knew very young that I was drawn to men in the wrong ways and I lived in terrible fear of the culling. I was not brave enough to take my fate, I wanted to live even if I became a monster."

"I ran away, just before the thaw. I had planned a long time and had hollowed a tree and secreted what supplies I might through the previous year. It was a hard time but I was good at setting traps and there was plentiful wildlife. I moved as far as I could in the wilderness for those years. I survived without touching other human lives. I was now a man and while I had grown taller and stronger, I had not turned into a monster.
I did train a hunting bird which became my entrance back to village life."

"I came at last to a village far from my own. The people marveled at my hunting skills and the bird of prey at my command. I quickly earned a place within the village, but I was frightened that they would see I felt no desire for women. So I befriended then married a woman. Mara was my wife's name.I found ways of pleasing her and dreamed of men as I did. She was a good woman and we had a happy life. Soon, we were blessed with a son. We named him Caleb for Mara's grandfather."

Michael took another drink of his ale, his eyes were dark with memory, "Ten years we lived happily until it was time for Caleb's first culling. I wanted to move away from the village and keep Caleb from the culling. Mara turned on me then, she called me weak. We did appear at the culling with the other families and while Caleb passed the wise woman pointed at me. The villagers picked up stones and tried to kill me as I once again fled into the forest. I lived there for a time before Jedrek found me and brought me here. That is the sum of it." He finished and spread his hands out and smiled a crooked smile.

I told him my story and he listened intently, his blue eyes soft with concern, "Such anger in your heart Gregor," we were walking towards my quarters at the school. We were outside but the moon was so bright I could see Michael clearly. "The Brotherhood has saved our lives, there is much that is good here."

I felt an emotion rising in me and I heard myself say, "When I close my eyes I see Jedrek killing those men without a thought, I see my students' arrogance. All I see closes my heart. I cannot feel love for what I am," the words ripped my heart.

Michael, did not answer he stopped walking turned and faced me. He put an arm on my shoulder. I did not resist him. He drew me close and my body was pressing into his. I could feel his warmth pushing away the cool of the night.

He spoke softly into my ear, "You are a good man, Gregor. Love yourself a little."

Gently he took my chin in his hand, and I could see his face framed by the night sky. All the stars were shining bright...

and then he kissed me.

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