I felt the dawn’s fingers of light prise open my eyelids. Before, I had liked to sleep long into the morning. But that was before. Now daylight hours were precious, and not to be wasted. Yawning, I stretched, when all of a sudden a shadow fell over me. Before I knew it, I was upside-down, suspended by my left leg. I realised fairly quickly with alarm the giant was awake (evidently), holding me by the foot with one huge hand, which hid my foot and ankle. Peering suspiciously into my face, I noticed he was only sitting up, yet could lift me clear off the ground. I fought the urge to: scream, kick, writhe and curse at him. Instead I put on my bravest face, and put my so-called silver tongue to the test.
My rule for staying safe in the forests was simple, when threatened, climb the tallest tree in the vicinity. If the threat can also climb the tree, it can nearly always be reasoned with, and my persuasive skills were second to none. I gazed into those big eyes, stormy grey, and smiled.
“Morning sleeping beauty,” I grinned, to show I wasn’t a threat, although I doubted he thought me particularly scary, being about ten times my weight, and twice my height. He couldn’t have looked more surprised than if a talking pinecone had offered him the same greeting.
“Who are you?” he asked incredulously and lowered me to the floor, sucking in a breath through his teeth as his broken leg moved from the action. That needed to be fixed, immediately.
“Nice to meet you too- my name is Lana, although you may refer to me as my lady saviour, for healing up the slice on your shoulder,” I smiled again as his hands found the bandages on his shoulder, frowning deeply as he inspected the mostly healed flesh. “Sorry to rush the greetings but I have to fix that leg of yours, before you move about to much and make it worse.” Boldly, I strode over to his tree trunk leg, although my insides contained a hundred butterflies. He tried to move but cried out in pain.
“Look, it’s all right, I promise I won’t hurt you,” I tried to look reassuring. “But this is going to hurt like hell and I really need you to stay conscious for the spell to work properly.”
“Spell?” his eyes narrowed, “you’re a witch?”
“Just because I can do spells, don’t make me a witch,” I huffed, a common preconception, “just means I have magic.” I blew into my hands to start the enchantment, like blowing a fire. They glowed gently this time, unlike when I’d drawn the rune on his shoulder yesterday, and place both hands over the break. He gasped in pain.
“Look, talk to me, tell me about yourself, focus on that and don’t faint. What’s your name, giant?” Not waiting for him to start I begun to murmur the words for knitting bones back together straight. I saw him screw his face up in pain but he managed to speak.
“I- I- my name is Oak,” the giant shook, as my hands grew brighter, and my spell grew faster. “I was raised on the Jagged mountain-“ he broke off and bit his lip. I’d begun drawing the marks that accompanied the spoken words, and white sparks flew off my fingers in all directions.
Despite this, Oak went on, managing to keep his deep voice steady, “I have never been in the forests before, I have no idea where I am, and ah- a midget human, is currently healing my injuries, though I gave no idea why she’s helping me- ah!” He clenched his jaw as the final mark sunk in. I flopped back, completely drained from the effort of fixing his leg, feeling the grass tickling my face as I deeply inhaled, getting my breath back.
I was amazed at his- Oak’s- resilience. Other men had swooned at the spell the moment it started, causing it to fail almost instantly. I tried to sit up and felt a large hand against my back, helping into sitting position. Cringing realising my vulnerability, I looked up and found his face close to mine, inspecting me searchingly. Standing shakily, I gathered my wits and spoke.
“I helped you because-,” I faltered, struggling to word my next sentence. “Because I found you here and- and I couldn’t just let you die, when I could save you...” trailing off, I noticed his hard rock eyes softening. Clearing my throat quickly I asked what I’d been puzzling over all of last night “What, exactly is the prince of giants doing, a hundred leagues from home, horribly injured in the middle of the forest?”
Oak frowned again, “how did you know I was the prince?”
“The symbol on your cheek is Rorge, the giant king’s,” I shrugged, “My dad wrote about it in his book.” Well, technically my book now. “Regardless, answer my question.”
“Well Rorge is dead, is it in your book how a new giant king is chosen?” he asked bitterly, not waiting for an answer. “His heirs fight in battle for rule. My father had many sons, but I defeated them all, only my brother Heros remained. But he’s always been a lying cheating coward“ He broke off, anger lacing his voice. “He had me drugged before our fight, then cut me down as we fought,” his fingers strayed to the freshly healed wound on his shoulder. “To keep me from coming back to challenge him, his riders brought me here, still drugged and broke my leg, so I could never get back.” His hands were shaking as he spoke. “And now, I’m lost in the damned forest of the south, whilst Heros defiles my rightful kingdom.” The anger left him then, only leaving brooding sadness that had nothing to do with Heros, and everything to do with the father he’d lost. I knew that face all too well; I’d worn it for a year.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” I said quietly. Oak looked at me.
“I am a great warrior, I feel no misery for my fathers passing, I’m as strong as the mountain I was born on,” his face belied his words.
“Every being feels sadness, even one as huge as you,” my reply was directed at my feet, but I awkwardly patted the huge leg next to me. My eyes rose high to lock with Oak’s, a metre above my own head, even sat down. He looked so lost... but quickly, a mask of nonchalance slipped over his face. Suddenly, an idea crept into my head, one that helped us both.
“Oak, giant prince, for you, I have a proposition. I know exactly where the Jagged Mountain is, and how to survive in this forest. I will take you home, where you can win back your kingdom, wreak revenge on your brother, whatever. The journey should take one moon cycle-ish. In return, I want gold, so I can board a ship and sail to the sunset lands in the west. Do you accept?” Watching his face I already knew his answer would be the ‘yes... Lana’ he then provided.