The wind beat down on Davor's face, arms, chest, legs, a constant pressure of icy cold mixed with occasional stinging needles of driven snow. The storm was just beginning, and Davor knew that in order to complete his training, he had to finish his meditation, his week of privation and suffering. And he had two more days. Ignoring the needles and focusing on the heat radiating from his core, Davor slid back into his meditative reverie, mind drifting over memories, body melting the gathering snow.
* * *
Davor knew his time in the city was limited, even as a young teen. He knew he couldn't stay, that his father was mocked and ridiculed for having an orcboy around, for daring to love a magnificent, wild, untamed woman. He knew deep in his heart that he should leave and rejoin his mother, rejoin the tribe and their wild ways, knew he was meant for the wild dancing and the brutal warfare and the surprisingly complex shaman's rituals, but he couldn't help himself. The city was amazing. The soft, pathetic women wore beautiful gowns that accentuated and enhanced their form, and Davor would stare out his window at the gaggles of them that hurried past, dressed in every shade imaginable. The boisterous men in their trumped up finery escorting them, falling over themselves to please these women. The best parts were duels, when a crowd spilled out of the gentleman's club down the street. Coats on the ground, shirts ripped off, swords in hand as the women gasped or fainted or cheered or kissed their champion and the men mocked and circled, blades finally clashing in magnificent crescendo, only rarely hitting more than a few times before the guard arrived.
* * *
Breaking from his trance briefly, Davor shivered in the cold air. Night was falling, and the storm continued to rage around him, venting empty fury on the cold and lonely mountainside. Distracted for a moment, Davor pondered his place here, his time at the monastery, and his inability to truly master the disciplines he had been taught. Most of his brothers he joined with had long since graduated and began wandering the world, spreading the teachings of law and love, but Davor remained. Unable to muster the true spirit of his order, he had put off this final challenge as long as possible, knowing that no fire lay within and the cold would destroy him. As the years slipped by, he knew he had to face it someday, but he just kept putting it off. Finally his master had called, and this was his last storm. He had to survive the cold and join the brethren, or fail and be cast out forever. Neither choice seemed ideal, and Davor pondered how he had come here, casting his mind back into meditation to free himself from the pressing cold wind.
* * *
His path to the monastery had not been easy. Half human, half orc, a civilized father and a barbaric mother, no part of his life had ever been easy. Constantly tormented at the prohibitively expensive school his father paid for, Davor never managed to grow a thick skin. Teased and tortured, he fought back brutally and often, returning insults with kicks and blows with swift punches, but they ganged up on him, holding him as others beat him only to run to the headmaster when he managed to land a solid blow. Davor spent many days scrubbing floors, often cleaning his own blood off them, and eventually their patience ran thin and his father's money was no longer enough. His education finished, his father gave him no choice: it was time to live with his mother. If he was going to act like an orc, he may as well join them. His father escorted him to the tribe and, after spending enough alone time with his mother to make a pair of younger sisters, abandoned him to his fate.
What made him a violent and dangerous boy in school was laughed off among the violent and chaotic Black Suns. orcs his age had been learning the blade since they were old enough to walk, and no matter how he tried, Davor was utterly unable to gain any ability with them. He often resorted to using the butt of the sword, or cutting in close and landing blows with feet, elbows, or knees, a strategy his new peers saw as worse than worthless on a blood-soaked battlefield. Still, he was quick and smart, and often found himself leading and directing, guiding combats in the battle games they played; more often than not finding victory through quick wits and sharp tactics. Davor somehow managed to earn the grudging respect of his clanmates.
Until the time came to raid a human town.
* * *
Bitter cold had settled into his limbs again, and Davor knew he had to find warmth or die in the storm. Unable to muster the inner flame his masters had spoken of, he stood up stiffly instead. Slowly at first and then faster and faster, Davor began to move through the semi-ritualistic patterns and movements he had been taught. The dance of combat was no joke, and his blood began to flow, thawing from his long meditation. As he danced, flowing from one form to the next, Davor continued to consider his past. Anger bubbled up, but Davor knew that if he surrendered to it he surrendered everything he had worked for, and all was lost. Only through creating true inner peace could he survive this storm. The masters had made that perfectly clear. The motions helped, but Davor knew he was only buying time, that this was a short reprieve. Warmed, he continued the dance, allowing his body to continue to flow as his mind cast back to remember the first raid.
* * *
That morning Davor had woken hours before the sun rose. A dozen or two warriors had accompanied him and quite a few other younglings trying to prove themselves full members of the tribe. The expectations had been simple and clear. Prove yourself in battle or die trying. The whole tribe had been on the move, and they'd gone downriver enough to be solidly in human territory - and well past the fortified and deadly border towns. This had meant that if they were caught in the wrong place the whole tribe could have been smashed to pieces, trapped between hammer and anvil, but otherwise most towns would be pretty easy pickings. This was the second village they'd come across, and it seemed simple enough the Elders had determined it would be meant for one thing only: initiating new tribe members.
Davor had been dreading this moment for weeks, but he knew it had to come eventually: the moment when his true loyalty had been tested, when he turned his back on his father and joined the Black Suns. Whatever respect he had earned, that day had been his sole opportunity to keep it or throw it all away. Naturally he had chosen the harder path. The moment of truth had come quickly, when they closed in on the village, shifting from a quick walk to a hard, fast rush. Unable to watch the town burn, Davor had given the village as much warning as he dared: a rapid ululating orcish battle cry. The yell had ripped from his throat as they crested the hill and had given the villagers precious time, perhaps a full minute before the small band reached them. The other younglings, not to be outdone, had joined in his cry, creating a cacophonous wail that had echoed through the quiet village.
It hadn't been enough time. A few men rushed out, carrying axes and pikes, scythes and swords, with no armor and little more than farm equipment. When Davor had reached the first one, his clumsy axe had nearly cost him his life, but he had dropped and punched the man instead, knocking him out cold. He moved on quickly, knocking out several more men and a couple of women with well placed fists, knees, and feet. Reaching the other side of the small village, Davor turned back to survey the damage. Several buildings were afire, and all the other younglings were involved in fairly intense combat with the remaining human defenders. The next house over, hidden from view, a woman screamed in panic and terror. Davor had rushed to her aid without even thinking, without even considering why she screamed. The raid leader, an orc named Bloodtusk, was attacking the woman with blatantly less than honorable intentions. Without thinking, Davor rushed in and kicked the man's leg, snapping one of the bones in his calf with a horrifying snap. Fully committed, he punched Bloodtusk repeatedly, punching wildly over and over until the orc fell face first, unquestionably and thoroughly dead.
* * *
Davor broke from his reverie to realize that at the end of his last punch a gout of flame had spun around his hands, warming him. He considered the death of Bloodtusk, his abandoned life with his mother and her tribe, with his father and his school. He contemplated how he had fled the broken corpse of the first orc he had slain, how he had run from bullies and brutes. He meditated on his long time avoiding all settlements and camps, avoiding humans and orcs alike. He pondered his path that led, ultimately, to his collapse, half starved and nearly dead, on the foot of the mountain which held the Monastery. His sisters had found him and carried him up the mountain. His brothers had nursed him back to health. His new masters trained him, worked with him, taught him to control his anger, contain his wrath, handle his body and master his soul. And now, finally, in the heart of the storm, Davor's inner fire was unleashed.