A story set in the Rise of the Three universe.
If it was not for the fury, it would be utterly exhausting. Even as a bull man, Yapal felt the fatigue in his muscles as he swung his iron headed hammer at a nearby ogre. The foe raised a large wooden club but it shattered when it met his hammer. So too did the ogres skull. The battle had been waging for over an hour, merely a glimmer in a war that had gone on for so many terrible years.
Yapal raised his bloody hammer ready for another swing, his fellow bull men stood nearby, pushing back the routed ogres. The green fleshed smaller foes had fought hard and well but they were now only accepting the defeat that the rest of the world could see that they had been dealt. The war had turned on the ogres, such battles were now the desperate death throes of proud warriors.
“Shall we pursue?” Haroz asked as he wiped green clumps of flesh from his axe, he watched the wounded and tired Ogres leave the battlefield as others stood ready in defiant pockets.
“Yes, kill them all” Yapal ordered. His comrades cheered, dropping from standing on two limbs, the army of bull men lowered themselves to all fours and charged. Pointing their large double horned skulls in the direction of the ogres they impaled and trampled those who were routed and any that stood and fought on were simply crushed by the powerful army of bull men.
Yapal stepped across the corpses, the deeper he walked into the battle the less of his fellow bulls and the more ogre bodies he came across. It had been a good day. Maybe the war would be over. He sipped from his bladder, the watered down honey beer was warm and sickly as it emptied into his mouth. He wore armour that protected his hide, the softer parts were made from the pelts of the enemies and beast.
In the dark distance Yapal could see his warriors cut down what remained of the ogres. No prisoners would be taken. The enemy accepted this, they never took any themselves. It was a brutal war. Yapal was tired. He had seen more death than he had life. Smiling bull men covered in blood and the filth of combat walked by, carrying the trophies of battle. The severed green bald heads of ogres, whole arms, battle garb and one bull warrior sewed additions to his already over loaded necklace of rotting ears.
“We won” Haroz smiled as blood ran from his horns across his jaw.
“Again” Yapal nodded.
That night the warriors drank and cheered. Others slept wary of the coming mornings demands for more war. But for now their victory had afforded them a reprieve. Yapal sat on his own, he cleaned his hammer with the muddy water from a nearby pit of sludge. The ogres could not be reasoned with, they were savage and terrible killers but how many more of them could he kill before a greater wisdom prevailed.
Haroz sat across from him, handing his old friend a bundle of sweetened grass that had recently arrived with the supply train. Yapal took the offering and munched into the greenery, he could still only taste blood.
“You look like you need a sleep or night with a heifer” Haroz pushed a hoof in Yapal’s direction.
“Tell me Haroz, what will do when this all ends?”
Haroz laughed, “This end? I expect that this is all that I and you will ever do. Or die doing.”
Yapal considered the honesty, he looked around the camp as his fellow warriors celebrated, the young were the most enthusiastic. The veterans who had seen more than a few battles or even wars, took the time to rest. They stared into the night lost in a sleepless gaze. Yapal could only see the faces of those who he had lost, and killed whenever he stared into the darkness.
“You should sleep, we will march on in the morning” Yapal yawned as he leaned back.
“Yes, but you and I both will not” Haroz looked up to the cloudy sky and picked the food from his teeth with a stick.
The morning crept in with a coldness, fog and low lying clouds washed over the camp. The nearby blood soaked fields glistened with mildew. The slaves, mostly humans, would be bought in soon enough to clean the battle field of the dead and anything usable.
A pair of lean bulls, runners each carrying satchels full of maps and orders stood waiting as Yapal washed his face in a basin of dirty salted water.
“New orders” one of the runners said as he handed a hemp document to the yawning Yapal.
“Thank you”, the runners left to share the new orders with the other units in the area.
“So we get to go home and sleep for the rest of the war?” Haroz arrived with a fresh bundle of grass.
“Hardly, we push forward deeper and march them into the sea” Yapal munched onto the grass, still he could only taste blood.
The army of bull men formed up. Yapal led just under five hundred. They were broad as they were tall. Horns sharp and blooded. They crossed the battlefield just as the puny human slaves began to break up the corpses for burying. Yapal held his hammer, swinging it from fore limb to fore limb, he was warming up in anticipation for another day of killing. The other warriors followed his example and stretched and moved their bodies as they marched on, their eyes glassing over for the coming fight.
It was the afternoon by the time they found any remnants of an ogre. A pair of injured ogre warriors propped against a tree, iron studded clubs in their hands as they waited for the bull men.
“Come closer and die you bastards” one of the ogres cursed, his mangled feet holding him in place.
“You limes the rearguard?” Haroz asked as he stood over the ogres.
“Just finish the day and be on your way” the older of the wounded ogres said as he lowered his club onto his lap, broken fingers barely holding the weapon.
“All at once or one at a time?” the younger ogre challenged as he struggled to stand onto his only good leg.
“Sit back down you stupid fool” Haroz said as he swung his axe, taking the young ogres head from his shoulders.
“What is your name old timer?” Haroz asked the aged ogre whose sunken eyes could not hide the wars wear.
“I will be just another corpse in a few moments, so what does it matter”
“Suit yourself” Haroz cut the old ogres head from his shoulders. No one cheered. Yapal walked past without looking at the pair. As did the other bull men. Yapal had seen this part of the war in the past, the one sided killing stage. The massacres of victory.
The afternoon was late when Yapal and his warriors arrived at a junction filled with ogre refugees. A road full of women and children, the injured and the dead. Panic spread as the bull men arrived, the ogre army had long gone, either way the refuges were still ogres.
“Please, let us go” a long toothed ogre woman, her age had yellowed her skin curled in fear as the bull men towered above her.
One of the younger warriors cut her down with his bovine steel broadsword. The refugees screamed. Yapal watched as his warriors killed them all. None of the ogres were capable of defending themselves, even if they had been armed. The night was greeted by their deaths. The screaming and cries for help softened until the hard breathing and beating hearts of the bull men was all that could be heard.
“Shall we set up camp?” Haroz asked as he pushed a pair of female ogre corpses into a pit. Their still warm blood soon to chill in the cool night air.
“Yes, but away from this” Yapal said as he strolled to the side of the road.
There was less cheering among the bull men that night. Instead they drank and ate in mostly silence. This was the war that many of them left inside of their minds, the clouded memories of distant fields of slaughter never to be mentioned once they returned home. It was the part of the war that many felt made them heroes, heroic to remain silent. To burden the deed and memories.
Yapal kicked over the bodies as he walked along the road, far from him he could see the flames of the camp fires. The dark silhouettes of the sentries and outline of the warriors as they spent the night awaiting sleep. The open stomachs of the slaughtered stained his nostrils, but Yapal forced himself to endure it. This was his doing. He was the war master who oversaw this and other such killings.
A soft murmuring caught his attention, he approached with his hammer ready. In the darkness he pushed aside a mangled corpse and found a whimpering baby. A round green younglin. Yapal reached for it. He would end its suffering. The small green child wrapped its fingers around his hoof, it stopped whimpering. Yapal picked it up and held it, moving away from the road of death.
Yapal studied the lime baby, even in the faint moonlight he could see its eyes as it looked into him. It was not afraid, he had only ever seen hatred and fear in the eyes of the ogre. Never whatever it was that he saw now. As Yapal looked it over, he no longer saw a disgusting lime beast but a child. Yapal carried the little survivor back to the camp, he hid it near his chest and laid down. It began to suck on his hoof, its eyes closed as it did so.
Yapal stood up and walked back to the road, he searched among the death until he found what he had sought. A bladder of milk and ogre food. The mushy soup and pickled meats that turned his stomach sour when he smelt it. Yapal returned to his resting place in the camp, uncurling the small child he placed the bladder against its lips. It sucked from it as one of its little hands held his hoof. He studied the baby, the nearby fire dancing shadows across its features.
The bull fell asleep with the small green child resting on his chest. He woke to its moaning cries. Yapal quickly pressed his hoof against its mouth, swiftly feeding it from the ogre food he had found.
“Did some one hear a baby?” Haroz asked as he walked to Yapal.
Haroz paused as he found his old friend nursing a child, an ogre one of all things.
“Are you mad or did your tits finally form?”Haroz chided as he watched Yapal awkwardly feed the baby.
“Me or the child?” Haroz asked.
“Did you decide that you needed a pet?” Haroz looked at the ogre disdainfully.
“I could not leave it to die” Yapal wiped away the food remnants from the babies mouth.
“Sure you could, we have before”
“I will get this one back to some one who can care for it” Yapal reasoned.
“No wet nurse exists that would take such a baby”
“Well I will find one” Yapal insisted.
“When? You will take it with us as we kill the rest of its family? Or do you intend to flee to the rear of the war and save this lime baby?”
“I don’t know. All I know is that I can’t snuff it now”
“Perhaps not, but I can” Haroz reached out his hoof, while the other seized a knife on his belt.
“No. I will not allow it.”
“We must fix this problem now. The warriors will not respect you if they see you nursing a lime” Haroz now stood looking down on Yapal.
“You worry about getting the warriors ready for the morning. I shall take care of the child.”
Haroz nodded and left Yapal and the child. He yelled for the bull men to form up and ready for another day of war, Yapal could hear the sounds of his warriors forming, packing up their items and lifting their weapons. As he delicately attempted to change the babies dressings, removing the soiled, replacing them with a bandage from his kit that he fashioned into a nappy.
With the baby stuffed inside of his chest plate Yapal walked past his warriors and led them onward. The scouts had already pressed ahead. Yapal and his warriors pushed deeper into the frontiers of the ogres.
The scouts rushed back to the main body of bull men, they panted hard as they revealed what they had seen, “thousands of them, if not more.”
“Well today is as good a day as any to vanquish them all” Haroz stretched his limbs out as he held his axe skyward.
“How far?” Yapal asked the scouts.
“In a few hours, they will be upon us.”
“Make ready for defensive action. Shields ready for their archers. Be strong!” Yapal yelled as the warriors cheered back.
Yapal watched over his warriors as they readied for the approach of battle. He could not help to find himself distracted. He tried to conceal the child, to soothe it. As the dust of the approaching ogre army lifted on the horizon he considered how he would shelter the child during battle.
The bull men prepared as the massive ogre army approached them. A hail of arrows took flight from the ogre formation, they soon fell with violence seeking flesh as they crashed into the ground and shields. Yapal covered the child as he raised his hammer swiping at any arrows that neared him.
“Ready for their charge!” Yarpal yelled as his bull men lowered at the front ranks, their horns and weapons facing the on rushing ogres. Both sides met in a crushing action, weapons and bodies bashed and bludgeoned into another. Yapal stayed near the rear, ordering his warriors to fill any gaps. The ogres soon surrounded them, the bull men formed into a square and fought back with vicious courage. The fighting had gone past three hours, with repeated attempts to break the bull men, the ogres finally began to wear down their ranks.
More arrows rained in as the bull men hacked and stabbed back, their numbers thinning. The superior numbers of the ogres pushed them back. Yapal cursed himself for leading his warriors so far and letting them get caught in the open. Perhaps he like they were drunk on hubris with the taste of victory. Now they would pay for it.
Haroz and the remaining few bull men became surrounded, cursing their enemy as they fought with courage. Haroz was the last to fall, he took two ogres with him as their swords and clubs beat into him. His bloody body piling onto itself as the ogres crawled over him and advanced towards Yapal.
Yapal retreated as the last of his warriors fell around him. It was now just him and the child. Yapal climbed over the bodies of the other bull men, as the ogres now slowly closed in on him. They cut down any any wounded bulls as they passed them by. The ogres cheered with a blood poisoning cry, Yapal’s only concern was for the child.
Yapal backed away from the mob of ogre soldiers. They closed in on him, their weapons pointed and ready to end his life. He held the child in his fore limb away from them, his other held his hammer ready to swing.
A pair of ogres rushed in, Yapal met them with a blow each from his hammer, crushing their skulls. Suddenly a barrage of arrows pelted in, stabbing deep into Yapal despite the thickness of his hide and any armour that he wore. He turned away from the arrows and shielded the child from the death dealing barrage of wood and iron.
Falling down, Yapal continued to hold the child safe and away from its own kind. A grey beard ogre stepped forward, “why do you hold the child?”
“To protect it from you” Yapal spat, blood gushing from his wounds.
“Yet we want to protect it from you!” The grey beard, an ogre commander named Montar replied.
Yapal tried to stand but his injuries were slowly killing him. He trembled as he held the child, sheltering it from any further arrows. Yapal dropped his hammer, no longer could he hold its weight. He could only now taste his own blood.
“Give me the child, you want it saved, yes?” Montar stepped closer to Yapal.
“Yes, I want it saved” Yapal answered as he looked at the innocent eyes of the child while it wrapped its fingers around his hoof.
“Then give it to me” Montar reached his hand out.
“You will save it, and protect it from the war?” Yapal asked.
“Yes, I will do my best to protect it from your kind” Montar kept his arms extended.
Yapal looked at the small child one last time, before he reached out to the grey beard and let the ogre elder take the child from him. The baby began to cry, reaching for Yapal as the ogre carried it away.
The army of ogres rushed in, stabbing and hacking at Yapal. His eyes remaining on the small child as his body fell to pieces. “Be safe little one” Yapal whispered as his lungs filled with blood and his body collapsed into a broken mess.
The ogres cheered.
“What do we do with child?” an ogre asked Montar who held it against his bare green chest.
“Find a home for it”
“No wet nurse would want to take it on after it had spent time with the bull people” the younger ogre spat.
“Then we keep that from them” Montar ran his tired fingers across the child’s head as he walked it across the battlefield, past the dead.
“It would be easier to put the baby to death now. No one would need know. It would be painless” the younger ogre said as he cleaned his weapon.
“Yes it would” Montar looked at the baby as it took his finger, he considered the child’s fate. He could run it through, leave it in a shallow grave.
“Or we could let it live and hope that in its living, this war will soon be over” Montar offered the child water from his bladder.
“If you so order”
“I think we have seen enough killing for one day” Montar patted the young warrior on the shoulder.
“Yes but tomorrow we will do more killing”
“Yes, but not this child, not on this day.”