by Pirate Turner
His head bowed low as he stood alone amongst the trees. A deep sigh rumbled forth from his throat as he fought back tears. He was glad and thankful that his friends were safe and his world was saved, but he could not stop his mind from repeatedly returning to the time that he had spent as a slave for the Trolls. He had been only too eager to surrender himself in order to save the others, and he was gladly do so again if the need arose. He had not minded the back-breaking labor that much, but what bothered him was that they had stolen a piece of him, a piece of his body, a piece of his individuality, a piece of his very essence. After all, what good was a Minotaur without both his horns?
Suddenly, the Minotaur felt a tiny, fragile hand gently touch his hand. His fingers parted, welcoming her embrace in silence. He knew who it was without having to look down at her and would have even if he had not smelled her scent. He stifled another heavy sigh. She would be leaving him soon.
"Minotaur," the human girl asked softly, deep concern etched in her small voice, "what's wrong?" He dared not look at her for he did not want her to see the pain and shame in his eyes. Instead, he remained silent until she added, "You can tell me whatever it is."
He grunted softly as his free hand touched the end of the protrusion where his horn should have been. His fingers felt the rough texture there, and pain shot through him. He ground his teeth together but did not make a single further sound. "Is that it?" Cassie asked him in her quiet, caring voice. "Your horn?"
He nodded shamefacedly, and she turned to face him. She dipped underneath his vision, and her head lifted up so that her blue eyes met his dark orbs. "That's nothing to be ashamed of."
"You would not understand," he told her gently, hoping that his words, though true, would not upset her. "You are not a Minotaur."
"You're right. I'm not. But you're also wrong, because I do understand. Those creeps cut off your horn. Your horn. A part of you, of your body, of what you think makes you what you are, but what you are isn't important. It's who you are that counts. They may have cut off your horn, but that doesn't make you any less. Actually, in a way, it even makes you more."
His eyes widened in question. "How can that be? What good is a Minotaur without both his horns?"
Cassie shook her head fervently in a motion that set her soft, blonde hair shaking around her head and shoulders. "It's not the horns that make you good. It's you and what's in here." She touched his chest with a gentle hand and cupped her palm over his heart. "Even if they'd cut off both of your horns, they couldn't have made you any less. The only thing that could have is if you'd given us away, but you didn't. You never would have. You would have died to protect us and to save your friends and the prophecy if it had come to that." The bluest eyes the Minotaur had ever seen shone with tears and the truth of her words. "Remember back in the cave where we met when you told me that there's no honor in starving? Well, there's no honor in looks or body parts either. The honor's in here," she gestured to the hand that remained cupped over his heart, "in your soul, and in your actions but never in anything else physical. You're no less of a being or a Minotaur because of what they did to you. You're more. You're much more than so many others will ever be."
The urge that came over him then startled him greatly, but instead of acting on his desire, the Minotaur merely nodded. Having heard the truth in his best friend's words and having felt it in his heart, he knew she was right. "Thank you, Cassie," his deep voice softly said even as his strong arms wrapped around her fragile body and pulled her into a tight hug. As he hugged her tightly to him and she hugged him just as tightly in return, the Minotaur remained careful not to crush the girl who had come to mean so much to him, so much more than any one her age ever should have to some one like him.