Aurora knew they were coming. She had seen it in the stars.
But when she told her husband, Silas, he dismissed it as women’s talk. Her tears of frustration fell on barren ground. The man she loved had grown strange to her. As leader of the tribe, the plainsman was expected to provide heirs. The shame hung heavy on him, and he blamed Aurora.
They came at night, while the village was abed, the thunder of their feet masked by the weeping heavens. The fortunate were butchered in their sleep, or suffocated as teepees and crops flamed.
But Aurora was not sleeping. She had kept vigil that night, using her amulet to petition her goddess, Astrea. Her husband lay in drunken torpor.
“Take my life, Star Maiden, only spare Silas.”
“It cannot be, for it is written in the stars. Your child carries the hope of your people.”
“But, there must be some mistake. I am childless.”
“In the cycle of nature, there is no such thing as victory, or defeat. Only movement.”
As the great-axe rent through the animal-skin teepee, Aurora’s eyes widened. A burly grey hand appeared through the tear, then an armoured leg. He was huge. Reddish eyes met her brown ones as he moved into the tent, his yellow teeth bared in a wicked grin, accentuated by the cruel scar that ran from left ear to upper lip.
She heard Silas draw his sword behind her, roaring with terror, and the orc launched at him in a flash of blood red armour. Aurora closed her eyes and wept. The battle would be swift, she knew.
Her tears did not cease when her husband fell, nor when the orc, drunk and lusty from bloodshed, took her over Silas’ corpse. Through it all, she fixed her gaze on the amulet that swung below her neck. The ways of the gods are mysterious.
Aurora, the barren one, only survivor of her tribe, endured those first desperate months of enslavement. Long enough to bring into the world her son. An ugly, bullish thing. Too orc-like to pass for human, too full of human weakness for orcs to tolerate. She named him Taurus.
On the day she gave Taurus away, she quieted his cries and held him to her breast. Taking the amulet from her neck, she fastened it around his. His red-brown eyes widened as she lifted him for one last look.
“Never forget who you are,” she whispered. “One day, I will see you again.”