@Copyright E. Charles Tucker, all rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without the expressed written consent of the author.

This was written during my stint with the online RPG, Illusia. At this point I was near-exclusively playing a Minotaur Knight, and for role play purposes I played the pround knight aspect up as far as I could take it. Some background: the game world centered around two alliances, light and dark, one led by the "goodly" humans and the other led by the "evil" V'lalek, or Vampire race. The Minotaur were aligned with the V'lalek race, and were considered evil; they, however, considered themselves noble and often looked down on the other races of their alliance as necessary comrades in arms, but loathed being in their presence.

My character often crossed those alliance borders, spending time with like-minded Humans, Elves and Centaur of the goodly races. This often required him to sneak into the Human cities, sometimes with disasterous results...

Lune, Silvermane, and Krag are some of the gods of the Illusian pantheon. His greatsword, Justice, has magickal healing properties.

A Day in the Park

"It's such a fine day, is it not?"

I turned away, taking care to hide my face from the speaker. A Gnome, it was. Of course. I drew my hood ever tighter, hoping the high sun would shadow my features from this overly cheery merchant. I held him no ill will; the day was warm and bright, and I sought only to enjoy the solitude of the midday.

The merchant crept closer to my kneeling body, his wide smile marked by a hint of curiosity. Krag blast his inquisitive kind! I shifted once more, nodding my agreement. "Aye" I grumbled, hoping this would be enough to move him on his way.

Of course, it would not.

"Then revel in it, friend!" he piped, moving around my cloaked body. "Why hide from such light and goodness?"

"The truly pious are humble before the creations of the Gods" I returned, my voice a thunderous roar compared to his musical lilting. It's effect, however, I could not deny; his stare softened, his body relaxed. "A priest, then?" he asked, sitting down beside me. "Silvermane? Or Lune, is it?"

Blast this curious monkey! Must we discuss religion? I held back a growl of annoyance, calling on Krag's strength to see me past this. "No. I follow the mighty Krag."

"Krag!" he laughed, his curly hair tossed back. "That relic? I'd thought only the horn-heads worshipped that single-minded warmonger!"

I rose, my full height dwarfing his Gnomish frame and enveloping him in shadow. In such short breath, this...merchant...did DARE to insult my race and my faith! The rage threatened to overwhelm me, my eyes misting in crimson fury. "Krag is not of War, but of Strength!" I rumbled through clentched teeth. "Strength of Mind, of Body, of Character!" The merchant cowered on the floor, his eyes narrowed as he sought to pierce the darkness shrouding my face. "I meant no harm, Brother!" he cried. "I sought only to jest!"

I cared no more. Defiantly I tossed back my hood, lifting my chin to the sky and releasing the roar that geysered from my lungs. With a swipe I tore the cloak from my body, flinging it to the side; I would hide no more!

"M-m-m-mi-mi-mi..." he stuttered, his fear paralzying him in place. I bent low, snorting a blast of air into his quivering face. His fear had left him near-mute; I would say it for him.

"Minotaur."

A scent came to me then - one of spoiled flesh and heated alleyways; I turned about, certain a hoard of Trollics were barrelling through this serene park. The Gnome wimpered; I glanced back, and laughed aloud. "Soiled yourself, merchant?" I chuckled, standing full before him. "Leave, then, lest you sully this well-cared for ground." My anger was abated in light of his "accident"; this was no warrior, no worthy opponent. I turned away, my chin high and proud; my day was done in this city.

Or so I thought. A second's warning was all I had; the whistle of metal slicing through air, the rustle of cloth brushing against a leather sheath.

I am a Knight, dedicated to Krag's service as a holy Paladin. A moment was all I needed. And though I regret the need for my actions that followed, I take measure that in standing firm I have served my god well.

The Gnome lunged, the small dagger missing as I sidestepped the untrained attack. "Minotaur!" he shrieked, over and over. In one smooth motion my greatsword, the blessed claymore dubbed Justice was out of its sheath, arcing down and away only to rise once more - the Gnome's head now tracing a flight towards a nearby crop of trees.

I knelt, saying a silent prayer to my god even as the thunder of heavy boots moved ever closer. I have shed blood here, within this city; they would not have seen the unprovoked attack by the foolish merchant. No, they would only see a Minotaur, and a dead Gnome. Never mind the righteousness of my actions, nor the heavy burden now on my heart; they would seek to destroy me, should I let them.

They came at me from all sides, cautiously; there were no Centauri among them, and I dwarfed even the largest of them. My assessment was quick, my choice made; I charged, momentarily stunning the first with my unexpected attack. The great claymore slid home, driving through the artisan's chest and out the other side. I took no pleasure in his death, however; survival was all I sought. With a brutal twist I turned the blade Justice flat and pulled sideways, slicing through the human's flesh and biting heavily into the side of an onrushing merchant. His death cry still echoed as I kicked out, forcing the corpse from my blade and turning to face my opponents.

A guardsman ran forward, crying out in rage; they were brave, these Mistriders, and I silently said a prayer to Krag in his honor even as I brought the heavy blade down upon his skull. The others kept back a pace, their caution warrented in the wake of the unwelcome destruction I'd been forced to inflict. "This need not be" I growled, raising my sword before me. They looked at each other, considering my words; mercenaries they were, simple sellswords with no honor or loyalty.

"You'll die this day!" rang out a baritone voice. I frowned, seeking the owner of the words even as he stepped forward, robed in the thin blue and white cloth of the followers of the White Lady, She of the Lake. "Evil will not be permitted to exist here!" he cried, pointing an accusing finger at me. I snorted, shaking my mane. "The only evil, Priest, is to allow these here to sacrifice themselves to your cause. Let me go in peace, and their ghosts will not haunt these lands tomorrow."

My choice of words was poor. The mercenaries ran forth, blades raised expertly as they sought to hammer me from all sides. I stepped back instead of meeting their charge, placing my back before a pair of sturdy oak - they would not press me from behind, and the great claymore would keep them at arms length.

For long minutes we battled; their skill was admirable, though unrefined. Often they evaded the swipe of my blade, nimbly dancing aside to strike a glancing blow of their own. Once I slipped my guard, allowing a female to step close; she feinted with her dagger, only to reach out and grab my arm instead. I was caught unawares, my movements too slow to stop her hurried chanting as the pain of winter's cold ran it's way along my arm and sought my heart! I cried out at the sudden pain, lashing outward and knocking her from me. By the gods, are even the unschooled such as these able to wield such magicks?

Angrilly I swung Justice in a wide arc, scoring heavy hits against a pair of my opponents. They were heavily wounded, all five; their attacks were slowed, their defenses thin. I was not without injury; I would live to see this day end, true, but I would not crawl from this land in honorless victory. I gave a prayer to Krag; by his will I could feel my strength returned, my energy rejuvenated!

With renewed vigor I launched myself forward, surprising the first of the sellswords with a upward thrust through the belly. Never losing my momentum I swirled, yanking out the claymore and spinning around in a cutting arc, removing the head from a second. The third pounded me with a heavy mace; I ignored the sudden pain and thrust back with an elbow, stunning her - a simple backwards cut ended her life in a red splash. The fourth - and perhaps the brightest of the group - quickly lost any desire for combat, whirling and sprinting across the field.

I could not allow him to call for reinforcements.

In a quick motion I flipped the claymore Justice in my hands, placing the blade towards me; with a heavy grunt I hurled the blade in a sideways spin, grimacing at the meaty thud as the final warrior was staked to the ground. The battle was done.

Or nearly so. I turned, slowly, to face the final opponent - the foolish Priest of Seppha, the Lady of the Lake. He crawled desperately away, his leg already mangled in our battle. I pressed a hoof to his robe, stopping his pathetic attempts. "Priest" I commanded, drawing his attention. He turned, fear evident on his face. Is this, then, the devoted of the Human Alliance?

I shook my head of such thoughts, bending down to speak with the priest. "This did not have to be. These bodies, these wasted lives, are on your soul. Had you let me be, there would not have been more bloodshed. Do you beg forgiveness of my god, and pray for mercy?"

"B-b-but you're a M-Minotaur!" he stuttered. "You're e-e-e-evil!" His hand flashed out, the bronzed dagger in his hands reflecting the sunlight as I caught his wrist.

"The only evil, Priest, is ignorance. I pray that Krag shows you mercy, in your afterlife." I turned his wrist, plunging his arm towards his chest and planting the dagger he held into his cold heart. Sadly I bowed my head in supplication, giving a litany over the dead and offering thanks to Krag for my victory.

Someday, I thought as I reached for my cloak - someday I will walk these streets unmolested. I will stand proud, a Minotaur among Humans, among Elves - and they will not fear me, or hate me.

I walked away from this field of death, hooded and cloaked in darkness - but with the light of hope in my heart.

Someday.

-fin-