Deep breathing and groaning filled my ears as I neared the clearing. Stuffing the alder bark I had been stripping hastily into one of my many pockets, I pulled my huge trench coat tighter around my slim frame, and slowly slid my sword from it’s sheath, the steel hissing against the leather scabbard. Keeping to the shadows of the trees, I darted between the trunks. Swift and silent, I told myself, my heart in my throat.
Steeling myself for the possibilities of what lay in the clearing, I checked the runes on my sword were clear, in case the deep breathing thing was undead. Probably some injured animal, but it was the predator that injured it that worried me more. The nights were getting longer, and the forest was filling up with animals I’d rather not encounter if I was being fussy, giant spiders, wolf-men, hags and even some reports of maugs, awful spirits that wore dead flesh like clothes.
I crept round the tree I hid behind, and froze. The creature was no creature, but a man. Blinking, I realised my stupidity, for this ‘man’ was huge, and sprawled across the clearing, long limbs like fallen trees. It was hard to estimate how tall he was exactly, but I reckoned I was probably the size of one of his legs. I felt my eyes pop and didn’t quite manage to retain a surprised ‘oh’. The giants were fearsome warriors, who generally stuck to the mountains, keeping themselves to themselves (and woe betide those found on their territory). So what was one doing this deep in the Southron forest?
Manoeuvring myself round, I saw he was bleeding. Badly. He continued to groan, but he seemed to be more or less unconscious, to my massive relief. Walking to his head, I noticed a mark on his cheek, a circle with a fist, and reeled backwards. That was the mark of Rorge, the destroyer... King of the giants. Which could only mean, that this was his son, or at least very closely related.
I whistled softly to myself. A giant prince. And I thought I’d seen it all; dragons, trolls, fairies, dire wolves, centaurs, once even a particularly nice riverman, who’d offered me my weight in fish for my eyes (I’d politely declined). However, giants, I had never seen. I noticed he was hugely muscled, his biceps the width of my chest. His own was a vast leather covered expanse. I tried to think of something that could match him in a fight and came up blank. So what had hurt him this bad?
Shaken by the volume of red draining out of him, I hunted around in my pockets till I found a sewing needle, spiders silk thread, and ground elm bark. My patient was a little bigger than usual, but he seemed to have the same physiology, so I got to work cleaning and sewing up his wounds, this biggest of which was upon his shoulder. He also seemed had a broken leg, but I didn’t want to try and set that till he was conscious.
Wincing, I saw the shoulder gash had begun to fester. To get to it, I had to crawl on to his chest. Even through the leather tunic he wore, I could feel his muscles, which did something funny to my insides. I rubbed my hands together to kick-start my magic, which was unpredictable at the best of times. Suddenly my fingers sparked and shone with that familiar bright white light. I traced a healing mark over the rotting cut. It must have been agonising, even with poppy seed salve to kill the pain, he writhed and struggled, huge arms nearly sending me flying. Finally, when the rune had burned away all the bad flesh, I sewed it up, smeared some ground elm on it to seal the cut, and wrapped my best bandages tight around it.
As I admired my handiwork I realised what a fool I was. He was, well, giant, so I’d used up most of my wound supplies- and I had used the good stuff. I frowned; I was usually pretty hard, being alone in the world did that, and helping every other man and his dog wasn’t really my priority. So why this guy? Staring I realised he was very handsome; it made me feel almost shy to be there, and I was never shy. Defying the reasonable half of my brain telling me I should now leave this fair faced giant immediately, and go find some spirit tree to rest in before it gets dark, I drew protective field lines around the clearing to keep the nastier inhabitants of the forest out and settled down a few metres away, grabbing out a blanket from one of my coat pockets.
Suddenly I remembered, however ethereal he seemed, he needed water and food like any other creature. Food wasn’t an option, I’d eaten the last of it this morning, but I walked over to his head, and poured some water from my skin in his large mouth, wider as my hand was long. He'd probably wake up tomorrow, I realised nervously. Nervous, why was I nervous?
‘Lana’, I murmured to myself softly after settling back under the leather blanket, eyeing the huge form, which was now really just a dark lump in the moonless night, ‘What have you gotten yourself into now?’