The most fearsome thing for a parent is to see their child in danger; however, in order to test the mettle of some individuals it is necessary for their lives to be endangered. In the case of the S'Barinth recruits, this is done to judge their reaction to certain high-tension situations.
Saeban was a recruit, Saeban was being tested, and Saeban was in deep trouble.
The minotaur had already made two passes, which Saeban had only narrowly dodged. He gripped the hilt of his sword a little tighter and then relaxed his hands as the words of his trainers ran through his head.
"A tight grip, the sword hilt will slip!"
If he gripped it too tight he would easily be disarmed... or dismembered. The catch was, if he held it too loose, the same things could happen.
Saeban glared at the towering, muscular figure of the minotaur across the arena, and was struck with a sudden calmness. The battle seemed to play out in his head, and he noted possible openings as they revealed themselves. The plan formed, and all he had to do was wait for the opportunity.
The minotaur stomped a hoof and let out a bellow that was somewhere between a roar and a vicious "moo". Saeban cracked a smile and spread his feet a little further apart. Although extremely dangerous, minotaurs were predictable if you knew their body language. Saeban noted the way the minotaur's head lowered, its eyes fixed on his body, and the tension in the thick legs. He knew the minotaur was going to make a third charge, and he was ready.
As if on cue, the minotaur snorted and pawed the ground. The powerful muscles of its legs knotted and released, propelling the living seige-engine into a ground-shuddering run. Saeban gritted his teeth and steeled his nerves.
Wait for it... Wait for it... NOW!!
Saeban threw his body to the side just as the minotaur turned its lowered head to gore him. His sword followed in a vicious arc, slicing the minotaurs throat just under its chin. The momentum of the charge carried the beast past Saeban as it tried to roar in defiance, the sound coming out in a choked gurgle as the blood poured forth in a crimson river. Saeban stood and walked over to the dying beast, which made one last attempt to reach him. He lifted his blade and sliced the monster's head from its shoulders.
Saeban, the warrior, stood in the middle of the arena, clothed in the cheers of the crowd. He was victorious.
To call the world of a S'Barinth warrior "dangerous" is an understatement. Those who don't pass the first few tests are either marred for life or killed in the process. Saeban is only one of a handful of men that will survive the training to join the ranks of the S'Barinth military. The men of the army are vicious, surly, and loyal to the harsh kingdom that honed them into the living blades they are.
Saeban knew that this was only the beginning. He would have even more rigorous training ahead and months of being drilled in the ways of the S'Barinth military man. He was ecstatic about it, knowing that the life of a nomad on the tundra is no life for a warrior spirit.
S'Barinth is a cold, harsh kingdom, far north of more civilized countries. A vast amount of the land, although appearing to be barren tundra, is actually teeming with life adapted to the bitter climate. Most of the subjects of the kingdom are nomadic barbarians, following huge herds of caribou and mas-ox as they travel across the windswept plains. In the past few centuries the kings of the land--the more civilized men who live in actual cities south of the tundra--began to unite the wandering tribes of the bitter north. The hope of these kings was to make S'Barinth a unified kingdom with rights belonging to all citizens, nomads and settlers alike.
The first idea was to secure loyalty through service: a military. The rugged life of the barbarians made them the perfect candidates for the extremely punishing military training, and it is no surprise that barbarians outnumber civilized men in the ranks almost five to one. With the addition of the northmen into her loyal service, S'Barinth's army became feared; a terror lurking in the north that no enemy wanted brought to bear.
Saeban made his way back to the barracks, covered in gore and blood-some of it his own. A few buckets of cold water dumped over his head cleaned up the worst of the mess, and he was at least less bloody when he reached his pallet. He threw himself onto the leather mat and tossed over onto one side, then the other. Although the adrenaline in his body began to subside, growing aches and excitement kept him from relaxing. His fellow trainees grinned and nodded at him, and the whole room filled with tension as they awaited Saeban's judgement.
"Saeban!" The voice of his instructor rumbled through the barracks, as the massive figure entered the room. Saeban jumped up and stood at attention, as a hush fell over the other trainees. "You've done well, small one, and you've been assigned to a unit."
Saeban knew this was the final, customary step. A warrior in training would finish his last trial and from there, based on his abilities, he would be placed in a unit that would utilize his skills.
"Skirmishers, sir?" Saeban could hardly hide the smile on his face.
His teacher smiled and nodded, "Aye, skirmishers."
At this announcement, the barracks filled with the cheers of his fellow trainees.