In the kingdom of Andagalicia was the wealthy town of Farhen. Farhen had grown rich on trade owing to its position on mouth of the Gorgonian river, a fertile delta which helped fuel the farms surrounding the town itself. Ships laden with cargo from distant lands passed through its ports, bringing exotic goods from distant lands. It was this system that allowed the town to amass wealth and prosperity.
Everyone knew of the riches in Farhen, criminals included. As a result, a problem arose: the trade caravans were often harassed by bandits. Hiring mercenaries didn’t help either, some helped themselves to the goods while others proved inadequate at doing their job.
Roden , one of the town’s councilmen, knew that this had to be solved sooner than later or the town would experience hardship when trade dried up; merchants could only stay here as long as there was a guarantee of safety. And as of right now, that wasn’t on the table.
Roden wasn’t young, having only recently celebrated his forty fifth year but his grey beard betrayed the pressure he was under; most of his grey hairs sprouting after bandit attacks escalated in both frequency and ferocity.
At first the king had pledged to combat the scourge of banditry and the soldiers deployed to Farhen did well to repel the parasitic bandits. However, the king’s men were there only as long as they were commanded; and soon enough, the town’s only decent defence was recalled and deployed for more pressing matters.
Roden tried to find fault with the king’s decision but with news coming in about the war with the Southern orcs going poorly, the leader in him could see the need to focus on the bigger threat. Even so, he had to find a way to keep Farhen together.
Which was what led to him calling for a first ever town council meeting since the bandit matter popped up.
Council members tended to be wealthy, powerful or from families of reputable lineages. Most had at least two of those qualities and Roden was no exception, he had made his money selling rare furs imported from the Giant kingdoms and with that, he managed to gain enough power to warrant a seat on the council.
Seated on the long table next to him was Bortrul , a young baby faced man whose flawless complexion bore the look of a man whose greatest pain in life was deciding which outfit to wear to a feast. He had inherited this seat from his father, a ex-mercenary who settled down in Farhen after the last war to start a family and eventually rose up to command the town milita.
Completing the triumvirate was Artrai, a wizened man with a leathery face. He wasn’t rich or powerful but many of those people in Farhen did come to him for advice and that respect of old and admittedly valuable wisdom got him a seat on the council. He had seen much in his seventy odd years but this, this perplexing and foreboding problem was something else entirely.
“This is what remains of the Farhen council? Three of us when there ought to have been ten,” Artrai waved his hand dismissively at each unfilled seat, disdainful at its occupant’s absence.
“ I wish it were more but fewer cooks tend to not spoil the broth,” Roden assured him. It did worry him to see so many of his fellow council members leave the town like rats leaving a sinking ship. He thought it would have been worse for Artrai, he could recall every member of the council of the last four decades with stunning clarity, seeing it as hollow as an ogre’s skull could not have been easy.
“ We’ll make do with what we have,” Artrai interejected.
“ We all agreed to suggest solutions, the sooner it can be done the better. I don’t know how long it’ll be before those rogues decide to move on in our town. Arrin tells me the militia are barely holding on and as of yesterday, another forty men have deserted their ranks.”
“Lets make an example of those forty. I’m sure we know who they and where they live so it’ll be easy to punish them with decimation,” Bortrul suggested.
“ Nay,” Roden interjected. Decimation meant putting every tenth member of the militia to death and if done properly, it would prevent further occurrences of desertion.Barbaric as it was, it hAD worked quite well with the standing armies of the past. However, he knew now was not the time to use it.
“Their numbers have shrunk too greatly to endure a decimation. I doubt it would raise their morale much and we need as many able bodied men we can muster. Let's not reduce those numbers any further.”
“ Oh,” Bortrul snorted, miffed at his idea’s rejection.
“ What do you have in mind, then? More mercenaries?” he sneered.
“The last group turned on us and the landsknecht are not going to come here. Furthermore, we’ve no more than the normal sum to offer them.”
Roden chuckled, “ I don’t mean human mercenaries. There’s no point, desperate times call for desperate measures and I know just the thing.”
“ You’re not hiring humans? Who are you hiring? Orcs?” Artrai enquired.
Roden shook his head, he had something better than unruly orcs.
“ Elves?” Roden again shook his head, the tall and fair folk in their shimmering cities were not what he had in mind.
“Dwarves?” Artrai seemed more hopeful. They were well organised, efficient and when it came to business, their acumen was second to none. He had done business with them in the past and had yet to be disappointed. Dwarven warriors were some of the most feared in the lands and if Roden had secured their help, then their problem was solved.
“Oh, much better,” Roden purred.
“ I got a giant,” he announced proudly.
Artrai’s eyes widened in shock while Bortrul guffawed as if Roden had just told them a great joke.
“ I am serious, I have engaged the services of a giant and she’s agreed to help us,” Roden said after Bortrul’s laughter had died down.
“ You can’t be. Giants are brutes, they hate us as much as we hate them. Why would one, a female no less , want to help us?” Bortrul drummed his hands against the solid table, no longer seeing the humour in this. His grandfather told him stories of how they, towering above the other races would descend on towns like a terrible storm, looting and killing the weak and defenceless without a shred of remorse.
His grandfather had fought in the last Human-Giant war , he survived but not without a few scars. None of it was visible but there nights when they acted up and he found himself sleepless. He learned not to trust them and he passed that on to his descendants.
“I overheard two drunks talking about a wandering giantess, good of heart and looking for adventure. I had to sober them up to get the fully story but to my surprise, inebriation had not reduced the truth of their words.
So I went to the spot she was last seen and she’s agreed to discuss terms, right after our meeting.”
Just as he finished, the doors swung open and about ten militiamen stepped in, all clad in chainmail and leather while wielding a panoply of weapons. Some were proper ones like swords, maces or axes but there were a few sickles, clubs fashioned from large pieces of wood to more them look more like rabble than milita.
“ Let’s go then, I would hate to keep her waiting,” Roden stood up confidently.
“I-I can’t,” Bortrul insisted but Artrai followed without saying a word.
“Artrai, you can’t be agreeing?” He asked him, dumbfounded by the old man’s acquiescence.
“ I am not,” Artrai turned back with a look of acceptance. He smiled gently at Bortrul, regarding his youth and inexperience as almost cute.
“ I am merely going to assess her suitability for the task. I don’t trust giants much but there have to be a good apples.”
Sery had not expected Roden to be back so soon, or even to actually consider her offer. As a Giant, humans tended to give her a wide berth whenever she ventured into their lands. At 140 feet tall, above average for a Giant female and massive for humans, it was easy to cast fear into the smaller races.
Sery relied on more than just size, however; she had received proper training. Her body was toned from years of training with the best Giant fighters out there.She was pretty as many Giant men described as such with golden hair which she tied into a ponytail; earth brown eyes and plush lips.
She wore what was the standard for Giants, a linen tunic and brown woolen pants and a sturdy pair of leather boots; near her side was a long woolen coat that she had neatly folded with her sword and travel pack atop. Winters tended to be harsh and even Giants were susceptible to the biting cold.
“ Ah, I see you’ve returned with your friends!” She called out to Roden who flashed a smile. Sery had opted to sit down, a tip she picked up from her fellow Giants who did business with humans; they were always afraid of things bigger than them and sitting down was a way of keeping the adrenaline corked.
“ Indeed I have. Gentlemen, this is Sery. The young pup you see here is Bortrul and our senior fellow is Artrai, my fellow members of the Farhen Council,” Roden called back. Sery watched through her amber eyes as the armed guards formed a protective detail between her and the three councilmen. She folded her arms under her considerable chest, modest by Giant standards but what was nothing to them tended to be excessive for humans.
“I would prefer not to have to talk over your um...bodyguards,” she said to him.
“It's for s-safety, Giant,” Roden’s young companion spoke up. She was nothing like the ones described in the stories he heard, those tended to be...uglier.
“ You’re going to be very safe with me around. I also think it's a little impolite to have your guards stand between me and you. It's also not very efficient, that might work with other humans but I could just reach over and pick you up if I wanted,” Sery pointed out.
“ Fine,” Bortrul conceded and waved the guards away. They moved back to the back but their hands were still gripping their weapons tightly, ready to unsheath them at a moment’s notice.
“ What can you offer us?” Bortrul asked her.
Sery chuckled, “ I can take the bandit problem off your hands.”
“At what cost?” Bortrul wondered, good mercenaries were worth their weight in gold, was she even worth hers?
“ I’m more interested in hearing about your offer,” Sery casually rested her head chin on her hand, her elbow propped up against her knee.
“ We can pay you a lump sum, I was thinking five hundred guineas, once you bring us their leader. Dead being preferred,” Bortrul offered her.
“That’s a big sum, ye sure that’s your final offer?” Sery’s eyebrow raised skeptically, she had done other jobs before. Bandits paid out according to their notoriety, the bigger the threat the bigger the reward. Five hundred guineas, that was more than what some villages had in their coffers.
“ Forgive my friend here,” Roden patted him gently on the shoulder, like a man addressing an impetuous teenager.
“ He’s new to the game but I have a different offer in mind,” Roden smiled back to her. Behind him, Artrai watched the scene unfold, silently taking notes. He spent more time observing Sery than the actual negotiations. Sery noticed it too, she could feel the old man’s eyes trained on her like a hunter stalking a deer. He probably didn’t like her kind too much, he likely grew up during the last great war; it was not even a generation for Sery but as giants lived much longer lives than humans, it was at least two or even three for them.
“ A more long term contract if you are willing to think beyond the standard mercenary work. I’d like to know if you’d consider being this town’s guardian.”
There was a loud disapproving gasp from Bortrul who look liked Roden had questioned his mother’s fidelity. His cheeks turned red and he was scowling at Sery.
“ Have you caught the pox, Roden? There’s a touch of madness about you,” he pressed his hand against Roden’s forehead, feeling for the tell tale sign of a burning fever.
“There’s none of that,” Roden deftly brushed Bortrul’s small hands away, bemused by his disbelief.
“ I am serious,” he approached Sery. Artrai followed behind but still kept a distance from Sery.
“ Other towns have offered guardianship to beings such as yourself, I hear Angden has a giant protecting them and it's working out just fine.”
“Indeed, I know him. He’s a decent fellow,” Sery smiled. This was not what she intended to hear, Angden was the first to offer such terms to giants.
“ It is tempting, certainly better than moving around like a nomad. What about your friend there,” Sery pointed her thumb at Bortrul.
“ Is he okay with it? Or will a simple majority suffice?”
“ Artrai, say something!” Bortrul approached the elderly gentleman who now bore a soft smile on his face.
“ Roden, what would you offer the lady?”
“ She’d be fed food from our stores, there’s plenty for a girl her size. We’d also clothe her.”
“Money?” Artrai asked, noticing the glaring omission of cash.
“ A small sum, if she should desire some luxuries,” Roden spoke loudly, such that Sery could hear his words.
She smiled sheepishly, “ That’s quite an offer. I hear the Giant of Angden gets his choice of women, although what your girls would do with a pillar so large...I wonder. No, I don’t want men, I am a simple girl.”
“ Y-yes, I think we’ll let our townspeople decide that for ourselves. If you find any man willing-”
“You mean crazy,” Bortrul muttered under his breath.
“ Any man willing to spend the night with you, we won’t stop you. Artrai, you think it's a good offer? Bortrul, any second thoughts?”
“Yes, my second thought is we’ll regret this. My third thought agreed with the second, my fourth had-”
“Right,” Roden waved it away.
“I think we get the point. Artrai, you get to play tiebreaker. What say you?”
“ Young lady,” Artrai moved close to the sitting Giantess, close enough to feel her body heat.
“ I am undecided but I’ll agree to the deal, if you bring me Koblak the Bloodthirsty, alive. Not dead. I can assure you he is not the only bandit we have to deal with in the region.”
“Is this a test?” Sery’s smile grew wider, she always did love a challenge.
“ Yes,” Artrai replied.
“ A test. If you pass, we’ll hire you as town guardian. You have until noon tomorrow, if you arrive a minute late the deal is off.”
“ Deal,” Sery extended her finger forward, Artrai and Roden shaking it to complete it. Bortrul kept his distance, muttering something about the end of days coming to Farhen.
“ Well then, you best get started because we’re already counting down.”
Sery stood up to her full height, casting the group under her shadow. She stretched , the loud crack of her joints clear to the men below.
“ See you in a few hours!” She called back cheerfully.