“..and I want the full reward.” The young man dropped a large sack that was soaked and dripping with blood.
“Of course, of course! I don’t take back my own words, sir,” croaked the older fellow. He pulled out a small pouch filled with schillings. “I’ve counted, and this should hopefully please you.”
The young man pulled off his gauntlets and accepted the man’s offering. Opening the pouch, he moved his fingers around the coins to get a feel of how many there were. “Seems good to me,” he said. He readied himself and put on his gauntlets and adjusted the sword to his side, placed in the scabbard. “Well, I’m off alderman. If there any signs of activity or word spreads, please do try and put notices or a messenger out to me.”
The alderman nodded, watching the young man covered in armor leave his home.
Sir William Blackmore, the young man’s name was, was pleased with the quick exchange. A head for coin. The young knight wasn’t in his late 20s, but has lived as long as 20 winters, from his knowledge. He was a striking tall man, in his opinion, with brown eyes and gently short black hair over a bony, warm face. He wasn’t fond of having longer hair, as most young knights like himself had, and thought of those knights as cocky and full of themselves. However, he was just as full of himself as them. William had other traits, such as bravery and honor. When he made a deal or contract with someone, he likes to keep his word. And he always did.
In the realm of men and giants, there existed a kingdom nestled deep in a mountainous and flat terrain. This kingdom was inhabited by a hard working society that lived within a large castle town with surrounding villages. The large castle town was called Farhall, and was centered between the vast wheat-filled plains and mountains. The ruler of the kingdom was some coward, but William did not care for the politics of the realm. He only cared for the giants and the coin.
William wasn’t like other knights. He didn’t rescue damsels from towers, fight off dragons or battle for his liege. Instead, he was a hunter. A giant hunter. He went around the countryside tasked with one thing: to kill giants. There weren’t many giants, but there weren’t few either. William had slayed plenty of giants in his young age, and was certain that number was 9. Other giant hunters like himself barely killed 3 before their demise. He heard their deaths were tragic, some were stomped on, others pulled apart and the rest eaten whole while still breathing.
The giants themselves to him once were just myths, legends and tales, until the day he was almost killed by one. A day he shall never forget, when a giant terrorized his village and caused him and his mother to flee, living without a home for years. The giants were barbaric folk, most around 15-20 feet tall. The tallest by far he fought was 30 feet tall, where William was just below the giant’s knees. The giants raided villages and some were brave enough to attack towns and cities. The giant themselves looked strikingly similar to men, but some were also cyclops with one eyes. Others were deformed looking and a few just looked like something from a nightmare. The cyclops were the easiest to kill, William thought. With only one eye, they lacked perception and couldn’t keep up with William’s speed.
William stepped out from the alderman’s home and walked under the sun’s rays and harsh summer heat. The folk of the village, which William could not remember it’s name, seemed as if a curse had been lifted upon them. A few days ago they were hidden inside their homes, fearful of the dreaded beast that would prowl at night. However that beast won’t be prowling anymore. The young knight kept moving through the village, watching the people work on the fields, talk and play. He felt happy, and every time he killed the local threat, he savored when the villagers would celebrate. An act of kindness, he thought.
While passing by the village, he was greeted with “Hero!”, and “Bless ye boy!” Soon he reached the stables, where stood a small statured, bald man with a crooked nose caring for a horse. “Killed the giant, have ye?” He could hear the clattering of armor.
“Yes. I wish to continue our talk from before.” The man turned around and stopped caressing the horse’s mane. “A horse, still?”
“Of course. Why else do you think I would come back to talk to you?”
“Well, I also-”
“Never mind that. The alderman and I have spoken on my reward for slaying the beast. Along with a pouch of schillings, I was to be given a mare. Any, from your choosing.”
“He did, did he?”
The man scratched his chin. “Well, I suppose he did. I’ll take your word. Take this as my gift to you for ending that damn giant.” The man leaned over and spat on the ground. “To hell with it. Damn beast took two of my fastest horses.”
He left the knight grumbling under his breath and went into the stables to fetch a mare fit for him. While waiting William was soon swarmed with flies and the smell of manure filled his nose. He wanted to leave this pest-filled village. When the man came back with a horse, William noticed a saddle upon it’s back. “Think of the saddle as a little extra,” he said, pulling the horse behind him. When the horse came closer, he noticed the saddle was worn out, a bit tattered. The horse itself seemed healthy with a chestnut coat and white going down its face to its nose. She was stellar, and William wondered if this was the best horse he could give.
“Her name is Chestnut, just like the color of her coat.” The man handed him the end of a rope which was tied around her neck.
“Sorry for the makeshift reins,” he said, “I don’t own anything better.”
William grabbed the rope and noticed it was a bit tattered as well. “Don’t worry. It’s better than nothing. Thank you for this excellent horse.”
He bowed his head, “Course, anything for a knight such as yourself.”
William nodded his head and started to caress Chestnut’s muzzle. He didn’t hesitate and got himself up onto the mare. The saddle felt comfortable enough and he grabbed ahold of the reins. This wasn’t the first time William had rode a horse, as he used to have the fastest mustang that had a bright silver coat. Unfortunately she wasn’t as fast, being swatted by a giant’s club.
He turned his head to the man, “Do tell the villagers to leave notices when a ‘giant’ problem arises. I’ll be there on the double with Chestnut.”
“Will do sir.”
“Good,” he said with a smile. William kicked his heels and Chestnut began to gallop. William and she started to make their way over to the next nearby village, which reported an incident with a giant. The village, simply called Lakemere, wasn’t far, just over the rolling hills and nearby to a lake, hence the name. It is a village William could not forget, because of its simple name and beautiful lake. Chestnut galloped out of the village and onto the countryside, following the dirt path to Lakemere.
The countryside in the summer was beautiful, noticing the healthy green forests around him and the plains filled with wild flowers. The smell of the countryside was something William always loved, as was the wind brushing against his face as he horse raced on the path. The trip was short and managed to reach the village within under an hour. It was still midday, and wondered if he should track the giant today or tomorrow.
Soon the lake came into view after passing the wild forest. The lake was on a hill, nearby to mountains. A perfect place for a giant to be, he thought. On the other side of the forest was the village of Lakemere. It was small, and must’ve had about 20 folk living there. William galloped into the village and noticed the lack of the villagers. Is it deserted, he questioned. After a mere moment of galloping around, he spotted a young woman carrying a woven basket. He brought Chestnut to a halt next to the woman, “Milady,” he said, “Where is everyone?”
She was pale and petite, with a dark braided ponytail and wearing a worn-out dress. “Oh my. A knight? Are you here to deal with the giant?”
“Of course. But I ask of you, where are the folk from this village? Is it only you?”
“No, I’m afraid most are sheltered inside their homes. There is only a few of us here, about 14 I reckon.”
William dismounted his horse and stood near the woman, “The men hide behind a woman’s skirt? Are they so afraid they send you to collect water?”
Her face grew concerned, “Sir, there are only so few men. There is a lumberman, farmer, and our village elder. The rest are children and women.”
With a puzzled face, he asked, “My question still stands. Why also are there so few men? The last time I visited Lakemere, I noticed a handful of men working in the fields.”
“Well, the men hide because they are targets to the giant. They do not wish to get snatched under the light like the others.”
“The giant is taking them? Only men? Odd. Have you seen this giant?”
“No sir. I believe the elder here has. He lives in the cottage on the hill. I reckon he has felt the giant shake the ground beneath us as well.”
William scratched his head. “I wonder how tall this beast truly is. Tell me, am I the only knight to take on this giant?”
“No,” she said, “Another knight arrived not too long ago. We watched as the man flee in terror with a tail between his legs.”
“Coward,” he said under his breath. “I thank you...”
“Hilda,” he smiled. “I shall return back to you when the beast is slain.”
The young woman blushed. William mounted his horse and made off to the house described to be the elder’s home. When arriving to it, he was already outside his home. “I hear you are interested in killing the giant.” William dismounted his horse and walked up to the elder, “Yes, can you tell me about it?”
“I will. Come, inside. I do not wish the giant to interrupt our talk.”
William followed the elder into his cottage, which was warm and lit by a grand fireplace. The old man took a seat in an armchair as William sat upon a crooked wooden stool. The table next the man had cup filled with wine. “Would you care for some wine, boy?” William nodded, accepting the cup of wine from the man. “You are a blessing to us, knight. I hope you are not like the other however. A coward he was. I don’t think he even reached the lake!”
“The giant lingers that close?”
“No. I believe it makes shelter near the mountain, because under the moonlight you can see smoke rising. I think that is where it lives.”
“Can you describe the giant to me.”
“Tall, loud and shakes the ground below it.”
“Any facial or something odd about it? Does it have one eye?” William hoped it was just a cyclops, meaning an easy contract.
“No,” he said. “No one who lives has seen it. However, I did catch a glimpse of it. Tattered clothing, it wore with hair along its arm.”
“Sounds to me like normal giant. A tall one, at that.”
William finished drinking the remains of his wine. He looked deeply into the fire before asking, “What is my reward if I slay the beast?”
The old man rested he head back. “The same I offered the previous knight. A hand in marriage, a free cottage, and food from our stores.”
“I do not think that is enough.”
“The previous knight thought it was. What more do you want? A cow? Grain? I have no coins and nothing grand to offer.”
William rubbed his chin, pondering. “The hand in marriage, who is it with?”
“Why the girl you were just talking to. The only woman in this village who is still a virgin and has not been a widow, unlike the others.”
He liked the sound of that, a hand in marriage with a charming girl, a free home and some food to accommodate it all. Perhaps I could settle here, he thought. “Agreed. I bring its head and give me what you have given.”
The man grinned, “Deal. I shall give you a stay in my home with food and water, but under one condition. Do not speak to Hilda. I do not want her to stay pure and I do not trust the likes of you.”
“Of course,” I said. “Do not worry. I shall only being speaking with the giant from now on,” he joked. “It will be a quick chat.”
The old man rose from his chair. “Do you wish me to show you where the giant enters and leaves are village?”
“I believe I can find it on my own. The footsteps are not hard to miss.”
William waved farewell and went outside. Before scouting the forest, he decided it would be best to tie up his horse. He did, tying Chestnut up to the cottage’s fence. “I’ll be seeing you soon, Chestnut,” he said brushing it’s mane. William turned and walked along the edge of the forest, searching for any sign. The loud clattering of his armor could alert the giant if it were near, but he was lucky. “Footstep, footstep..” He repeated to himself.
Soon the young knight felt a difference in height when he stepped. He stopped and looked down, realizing he had stepped on a footprint, covered by the foliage. Fear became too fill his heart as he scanned up the footprint. It was massive and was longer than him. William gulped. The footprint must’ve been 7 feet long and 2 feet wide. Those must be monstrous feet, meaing a monstrous giant. This will be the biggest giant he will ever face, and he was scared. However he calmed down and felt brave once more. This was just some giant, he thought.
He followed the gigantic footsteps, leading up a hill towards the lake. He noticed the the trees near him were brushed aside, and even some were leaning. Soon he came into contact with a small fallen tree, pressed deep into the ground. William moved around the tree and gulped once more. “This giant does not seem smart, stepping on a tree. Hopefully it’s as dumb as a rock.” The shining sun passed through the tree’s above and he listened to chirp of the birds. Then the humming. “Wait,” he said. “Birds don’t hum.”
William started to move faster up the hill. “What dumb woman would be up here alone? Does she not fear the giant?” He kept moving up the hill, hoping he could silence the woman before she alerts the giant. William reached the edge of hill, now standing nearby to the lake. There was no woman humming. There was no giant nor creature. There was only.. Wet dirty blonde hair.
The knight rushed to the nearest tree, hiding behind it. He started to panick, noticing the back of giant with long dirty blonde hair. It was massive, the giant. And hairy. He had never seen a giant with a full head of hair. However he could only make out the back of its head, unsure what it's faced looked like. The rest of the giant’s body was submerged into the lake. William felt his heart race, unsure of what to do next.
Quickly a hand emerged from the water and moved along the wet hair. The hand seemed feminine to William, but he did not think it was some woman giant. He has not seen nor heard of a female giant. Soon he realizing what he was witnessing. A large hairy leg kicked up from the water, causing the lake to send waves to the shore. The feminine hands rubbed up and down the giant's legs. Next the feminine voice again started to hum. William was shocked. This was no giant. This was a giantess.