Here goes my entry for this week's card: Minotaur Warrior! Hope you enjoy it!
Beware if you enter the forest with evil in your heart. If you hear hoofbeats... think of Minotaurs. And battleaxes. And run for your life.
A Rite of Passage
Our eyes met. I could see the fury and determination in his eyes... everything that mine would be showing as well: none of us would back down. And for a brief moment, the chain of events that led to where I am now passed through my mind.
I've been told that many clans existed before the splintering. Proud Ragebulls, cunning Stronghorns, massive Hoofstomps... and more than 20 more. All of them fighting among themselves, and with everything else that would come in their way. Not that it is surprising, to fight is simply part of our nature. We are warriors. Then the splintering came. And the few clans that survived had to gather themselves to survive, up to a point where no one could tell who belonged to which clan. Or so I've been told.
Not that the fighting has stopped. From birth we fight: with our brothers, our tribe members, during the training with the elders... it's almost parte of a game, to see who's the strongest, the more agile, who can run faster. After all, the passage ritual will come, and no minotaur can pass to adulthood withouth conquering its right to do so... or die trying.
My tribe was one of the three where the minotaurs that survived gathered, and probably the one that took the passing ritual more seriously. On the month of the 18th birthday, we would be taken away to an unknown location, and left to fend for ourselves and come back to the village alone, after slaying a worthy opponent. Talking about what happened during the passing was absolutely forbidden; we had to bring proof of our deed, and no more.
“Don't expect an easy challenge, son”, I heard my parents say over and over during that last year, “If you are to be a brave warrior, you are to battle a great foe”. “Don't worry”, I said, “I can take care of myself”. I can't say I was the strongest of my tribe. Nor the boldest. But I was fast, and could hold my ground with my battleaxe. And I was to be 18 in the following month.
The 19 of us that reached the 18th birthday in that month were gathered in the big central square. The families of the soon to be warriors and the elders were there, and I couldn't stop a chill up my spine, as the blindfolds were placed. I saw the ritual and the departure of the groups over and over again, but it was me that time. And I couldn't stop and wonder if I would come back.
Truth be told, most of the young ones returned gloriously after three or four days, sometimes a week... but a rare few were never seen again.
The group was taken by the boats to the west. Each of us was escorted by 2 of the older warriors, and as we disembarked after a few hours, we began to walk. A couple hours more, the hand in my shoulder pressed a little bit stronger.
“Stop. We have arrived.”
The blindfold was removed. I looked around, as my eyes got used to the light again, that was already fading. And apprehension filled my heart: almost no trees! The green landscape where I felt at home was replaced by an arid land and huge rocks. One of the two warrior gave a faint smile.
“We all passed through this. And so will you. Remember your strenghts, and trust your instinct.”
And they left.
I stood there confused. A small pack of food and water was all I had, and no weapon.
I walked around for a while, getting a feeling of the surroundings, getting used to all the strange scents that were unfamiliar to me. The sun had already setted by then, and I was able to found a curved rock that would do as a shelter for the night.
Not that I slept at all. Strange sounds and smells were all over, and I couldn't tell what was out there. I wondered how my companions were doing?
Started exploring again at first light. Rocks and more rocks, in such a way that made it difficult to know which way to go, and more than once I found myself on the same place I had passed a few minutes before. Finally found a clearing, already in the afternoon.
The strange scent I picked up during the morning hadn't left, and seemed stronger. I had the feeling I was being watched... could this be my challenge? Tried to carve a small knife with what I had at hand, and found a small piece of wood that would suffice; sharpened the tip with one of the rocks and tucked it in my belt. The carving distracted me a little bit, and having my back against one of the rare trees, felt some of the tiredness settling in... and I closed my eyes for (what it seemed) a few minutes.
Woke up with the terrifying, massive howling.
It wasn't far... and the scent was stronger than ever! I heard the tales in the village, and although had never seen one, I could guess what that howling meant:
Huge, vicious beasts. Formidable hunters; once they pick up a prey, they won't stop.And I knew I had found my opponent.
No point in running or hiding. He would have no trouble finding me in his territory. So I waited. And not for long.
Less than an hour later, I heard slow, steady steps from the left. And moments later, a huge shadow appeared from behind the rocks.
And that's when our eye met.
We stood there, facing each other, for what it seemed an eternity but probably took no more than a minute. Damn, he was huge! The slightly open mouth gave a glimpse of the huge white teeth, ready to rip its prey.
He growled, slowly but menacing. One step forward, two steps. I stood there, tensing my body. Who would take the first step? Three steps, four steps. This was a challenge I could not escape. And when I could wait no longer... I letted my battle cry be heard! And we lunged at each other at the same time.
Never in my life I had met such opponent. I was thrown back by his lunge, and not many foes can brag about sending a minotaur to the ground. But still I was able to shake him and get back on my feet. And for the next minutes, we fought for our lives.
For a few moments, I thought I wouldn't survive. Had I not such massive arms, and he would have ripped them of with his huge teeth. Two more times he brought me down, and two more times I fought my way back to standing. He was strong, so strong! But minotaurs are fierce warriors too... and this was a battle I had to win. Both of us were already tired and wounded, when the beast lunged for the last time... and this time my carved “knife” found his way. I just stood there, looking at the formidable opponent I had just faced, the piece of wood that saved my life in his chest. My arms and legs aching, my breath becoming more regular.
Now I could call myself a Warrior.