"Perhaps you should return to the cottage Anne." Kendall Finch told his wife as the pair slowly trotted through the woods. "It ain't safe out here."
"Do you suppose it's safer indoors?" Anne replied, her voiced hushed to avoid attracting any attention to themselves. She clutched a lantern like it was her lifeblood, lighting the way through the darkness for the married couple. "Whatever made that ruckus is big Ken!"
"I know, it's just-"
"Wait, you hear that?" Anne interrupted. The pair stopped talking, and listened. The whitened hairs on the back of Kendall's neck rose in trepidation as he felt the forest seem to close in on him. Nervously, he raised his rifle, aiming into the endless darkness before him. He felt Anne tighten her grip around his side, as she too was frightened.
Anne and Kendall had been married for almost sixty years now. They lived far from the dense cities and civilization of the American east. Some called them pioneers, or believers in manifest destiny. The two had their own reasons for living in a plot of land in the Dakota territory, but if being pioneers meant that both the damn Confederacy and the misguided Union would leave them be, then pioneers described them.
Frontier living was hard, and could be dangerous. Kendall had seen a fair share of oddities living in the middle of nowhere, surrounded on all sides by brush. However, never had he woken up in the middle of the night to sounds like that, like a massive beast was prowling his land.
Anne had insisted on coming with him when he grabbed his gun, and while he was grateful for the company in the woods at night, he was terrified to lose her should something happen. Something he could not protect them from.
"What is that?" Kendall muttered aloud. Moonlight reflected off the leaves of the dense forest, illuminating the forest as clouds cleared from the sky. Anne and him both shuddered as a unusual gust of wind rustled the trees.
Before either of the couple could take another step, the whole forest went quiet. Birds, raccoons and any other critter than had been make their own faint sounds suddenly went silent in anticipation. Anne held her breath, the lantern in her hand shaking uncontrollably as her gnarled fingers gripped the handle.
A second gust of wind rustled the trees. However, the wind was unnaturally powerful, blowing even the tallest trees so hard that branches went flying. Kendall grimaced as some debris from the foliage caught in his large, unkempt white beard.
"What is causing that wind?" Anne whispered. Kendall raised a hand, indicating for her to be quiet as he listened more closely. "What is it?" She pressed. She was a tad older than him, and her sense of hearing was beginning to wane faster than his own.
Kendall was too preoccupied to pay her any mind. His aging, dreary eyes that were bloodshot from his lack of sleep strained in the darkness to make out what was in front of him. When he tried his hardest, he could just make out the outline of something massive in a small clearing just ahead. He would not have even noticed the clearing itself if not for the fact that the trees on the other side of the clearing were broken haphazardly, and was more evident with the moonlight. It was like a locomotive had plowed through them. He gulped, realizing that he was approaching the source of all the commotion from earlier.
"Stay here Anne." Kendall said.
"I'll be fine. Keep low, dim the lantern." He ordered. He could see the fear and anxiety in Anne's blue eyes, but he also saw the love she held for him. She decided to trust her husband, and did as he asked, crouching behind a nearby tree, dimming the lamp.
Kendall took a deep breath, and wiped the sweat from his brow. Holding his rifle ready, Kendall wished he had brought some extra powder. He only had the one shot in the weapon, and it had been years since he had ever needed to shoot accurately.
The crunching of the leaves covering the forest floor seemed deafening to the old man, who approached the clearing with dread. His heart pounded in his chest as he finally stepped past the treeline, and he looked before him.
Several, agonizing seconds went by for Anne, who watched her husband disappear into the woods. She waited for him to either return, or for a gunshot to go off. What on earth could it possibly be? Perhaps they should have just stayed in the cabin, moved into the cellar and lock the shutters till morning...
"Anne!" She heard her husband call. The noise startled her at first, and she nearly dropped the lantern in her arms. "Come here!"
Confused, but curious, Anne stood from where she had been hiding. Careful not to trip over her own dress, she hurriedly made her way next to her husband. Thankfully, he was alright, at the tree line looking into a clearing.
"What is it?" She asked, holding the lamp in front of them. Her eyes were not what they used to be, so she could not see too far.
"Just... look." Kendall said. It had taken him a moment as well. Anne squinted, and finally took note of what her husband had been referring to.
A girl was laying in the center of the clearing. An native, as evident from the deeply tanned skin and beautiful, pitch black hair that was braided. She was slumbering apparently. She was clad in the furs and skins that would be expected from her people, and Anne could just make out what appeared to be some kind of tribal paint adorning her face and exposed arms.
It was not unthinkable for a native to out here, it was unthinkable however for a native girl to be the size of a barn, if not larger. She was enormous. She was so big that with each breath she made as she slept, a gust of wind pushed through the forest, which was what the couple had felt earlier.
"I don't- How?" Anne asked aloud. "She must be... I've never seen someone so large!" Anne quivered in place.
Kendall was also stunned, and gripped his weapon nervously.
"Let's just head back to the-" Kendall began, but stopped short when he noticed something else. Farther in the clearing, just beyond the other tree line, several shadowy forms emerged from the darkness. Four legs, with slender bodies and glowing eyes.
"Wolves." Kendall muttered.
"You think they mean to eat her?" Anne asked, bewildered. "She could crush the entire pack with a single foot."
"Their probably starving..." Kendall said. With the bison moving farther and farther away from the encroaching settlers, the predators that were far less migratory were having a difficult time in finding food. Never underestimate the zeal of a wolf that hasn't fed its pups for days, or itself for that matter
The wolves moved silently, at least eight of them, circling the girl. They appeared to be looking for a bit of exposed flesh, unwilling to risk biting into thick layers of fur and hide.
"Well... I'm sure the young lass will be perfectly fine, after all, she seems the kind who can take care of herself..."
Without warning, Kendall aimed in the air with his rifle, and fired his only shot.
The sound of a musket being fired in the dead of night could be heard for miles, and was more than enough to frighten the wolves away from the sleeping giantess. Of course, this had the unintentional, yet completely inevitable side effect of waking the giantess, who looked around fearfully.
The wolves barked angrily at being disturbed from their hunt, and sniffed the air for the source of the gunshot. Kendall dropped to his knees, ushering Anne to follow suit, as not to provoke the ire of the pack.
The couple need not have worried however, for the giantess was now fully aware of what was happening. She turned her attention to the canines circling her hungrily, and loudly hissed at them to shoo. Most of the wolves reluctantly regrouped away from her, their barks and wails made the once silent forest much louder than Kendall or Anne were comfortable with.
Deciding that their prey was now too dangerous to kill, on account of her being completely awake, the wolves chose to let her go, lest they lose a few members of the pack before winter even began. Slowly, and careful not to let the massive woman out of their sight, the beasts slinked back into the forest, vanishing from sight the moment they crossed the tree line.
For several seconds, there was an eerie silence that hung over the clearing, and by extension, Anne and Kendall. The gargantuan native woman finally looked in the general direction of the couple, her eyes searching for her 'saviors' or at least the people who had spared her a few scratches from an overzealous band of dogs.
She rose to her full, impossible height. She towered well above any tree, with the tallest of the firs not even coming close to her waist. The moon shone brilliantly on her, giving her an almost ghostlike appearance. It also served to accentuate her facial features.
Her high cheekbones were lined with a dark face paint, a shade or so lighter than her hair. She had the same tanned skin as most of her people, like a rich caramel. It struck Anne in particular that she was not very old. Perhaps in her early twenties or very late teens. More a girl than a woman.
After a pause, the woman finally spoke. It was in a deeply accented English, but clear enough for the elderly pair to comprehend.
"Come out." She boomed. Her voice was smooth, and harmonious. "I know you are there."
Kendall and Anne sat in silence, both unsure of what to do. Kendall grasped his wife's hand, and squeezed it. He was both afraid, and regretted scaring off the wolves. He cautiously looked behind him, back towards the way leading to the cabin. If they were to stay low, not make a sound, then perhaps they could-
Anne took a deep breath, and rose from her crouched position. She wrenched her hand from Kendall's, and slowly stepped out of the clearing.
"Anne, wait!" Kendall cried, unable to help himself. He quickly tried to pull her back, but was too late. The woman knew exactly where they were. She saw him trying to restrain her, and interrupted his attempts by taking a single, thunderous step forward.
The action shook the forest, and sent Anne reeling. She held onto to Kendall for support, who wrapped his arms around her lovingly, also trying to maintain his balance. He grunted as he recovered from the giantess' movement, and found himself looking up into her large, dark eyes.
With a single step, she had closed the distance between herself and the couple, and now towered above them both, looking down at them from what had to be a hundred feet above. Kendall gulped, and subconsciously gripped his rifle a little more tightly. The woman noticed the firearm in Kendall's free hand, her eyes fixating on it.
Anne noticed this, and realized that it was best not to try threatening the giant.
"Ken... drop the gun." She whispered, her voice full of fear.
"But it ain't even loaded!" Kendall replied, stubbornly.
"Ken!" Anne hissed back, a little more forcefully. Kendall looked at his wife for a moment, and then turned his attention back to the woman in front of them, who looked down on them reticently. Sighing, Kendall tossed the rifle away, making at effort to show he was not trying to threaten the woman.
The giantess seemed pleased by this act, her body becoming a little less rigid, and her harsh, piercing gaze softened.
"We don't mean you no harm, miss." Kendall said, his hoarse voice struggling to be loud enough. "We'll be on our way, if that's alright with you."
"Why were you out here?" The girl asked, ignoring him. Kendal jumped a little bit at her authoritative tone. She had all the power here, and she knew it.
"We um-" Kendall struggled to speak, so Anne took over.
"We heard some strange sounds." Anne said. "It woke us up so we came to investigate."
"You heard me then." She said. Both Kendall and Anne nodded. The girl seemed to consider their answer, nodding, and finding it satisfactory, she got on her haunches. The couple recoiled fearfully, wondering if she intended some kind of violence.
Seeing their distress, she was quick to raise her hands, urging them to calm down.
"Be at peace." She said. "You did me a favor, scaring off the wolves."
"I-It was no problem." Kendall said shakily. Now that she was crouched, her face was closer to them. It made her seem more domineering, and much larger somehow. He clutched Anne even harder.
There was a bit of a pause, before Anne piped up.
"Why are you so big?" Anne asked. The question had been bugging her this entire time. It had been bugging Kendall too, but he was more preoccupied with ensuring she didn't eat them than finding out why she was huge.
The girl looked away for a moment, thinking.
"I don't think I could explain it in a way for you... for your people to understand. My own tribe barely understood it." She said finally.
"The Sioux?" Anne asked.
"I'm a part of the Lakota, so yes the Sioux nation. Or at least I was." The girl said, her voice twinging with a little sadness. "Not anymore."
Seeing the confusion in their faces, she explained further.
"My tribe moved further west. And... they decided it was best not to bring me." She said quietly.
Anne considered this, and nodded solemnly.
"I'm sorry. You seem to be a very nice young woman." Anne said.
"Thank you. But it is for the best that I not be with the tribe any longer."
"What is your name?" Anne inquired.
"Aiyanna." The giantess stated. "My name is Aiyanna."
"It's a pleasure to make you acquaintance, Aiyanna." Anne said, warmly. "I'm Anne Finch, and this is my husband, Kendall Finch."
"Pleasure." Kendall said, nodding.
"You're settlers, I presume?" Aiyanna asked, furrowing her brow. "You're awfully far north for white settlers. I thought there was a city a few hundred miles to the south?"
"We'd... rather be on our own." Kendall said, hesitatingly.
Aiyanna steel appeared curious, but recognized the pain in the old man's voice. She decided not to press them any further.
"You know, Aiyanna, are you sure your okay out here alone? If your tribe has moved on, and your all by yourself-" Anne began. Aiyanna cocked her head. "You might be more comfortable at our lodge.
Kendall looked at his wife, bewildered.
"Quiet Ken! Didn't your mother tell you to offer shelter to strangers, should they need it?" Anne asked.
"Perhaps your husband is right, miss." Aiyanna spoke up. "I appreciate your generosity, but I would only be a burden."
"Nonsense." Anne said. "Besides, these old bones aren't what they used to be. We've had some trouble getting ready for the winter."
Aiyanna considered the proposition. Looking back at the lonely spot of dirt and mud she called a bed, and thinking of how alone she felt, she turned back to the couple, nodding her head.
"I've been meaning to thank you, Mrs. Finch." Aiyanna said a few days later, as she sat down next to the couples cabin. She was far bigger than the entire structure, making the cabin look like a dollhouse.
"For what dear?" Anne asked.
"For... keeping me company." Aiyanna said. "I've been really lonely since the tribe moved on."
"In truth, I can thank you for the same thing." Anne replied. "Me and Ken... we've been lonely for a few months now." Kendall was currently sleeping in, with Anne being much more of a morning person, she was sitting on a rocking chair outside the cabin, speaking with Aiyanna.
"If I may ask," Aiyanna started. "what brings you out here? You don't seem to be the usual pioneer."
"What makes you say that?" Anne asked.
"Well, Mr. Finch isn't a hunter, or a logger, or a miner." Aiyanna said. "Why come so far west from your stone cities to live off the land like this?"
Anne smiled, the wrinkles in her face betraying years of experience.
"Well hon... we just came out here to get away from it all." Anne said. "Ken and I... we lost our son."
"Oh." Aiyanna said. "I'm sorry, I had no idea."
"It's fine honey." Anne said, sadly. "I've been grieving for almost twenty years now for James."
Aiyanna sat there, silently for several moments before pressing further.
"How did it... how did it happen?" She asked.
"James always wanted to be in the army. Like his dad." Anne said.
"Mr. Finch was a soldier?"
"A sharpshooter, in the War of 1812." Anne said. "I married Ken right before they sent him off." Anne looked at her lap. "I was lucky he came home to me."
"Our boy James always wanted to be a hero like his dad. So when the call went out, about what happened at the Alamo, that we were going to war with the Mexicans, James didn't hesitate to enlist." Anne said, proud of her son, before her face turned dark. "James died at the Battle of Molino del Rey. They couldn't even get his body back for a proper burial."
"So when two years ago, another call went out, that we were going to war with the South... Ken and I just couldn't do it anymore." Anne said. "We've had enough of war for one life time."
Aiyanna wished she were small enough to hug Anne, as the old woman reached for a piece of cloth to wipe her face.
"I'm sorry about your son." Aiyanna finally said.
"Thank you. I think you would have liked James. He always had a respect for the Indians our neighbors never understood. I used to say he was the most liberated man in the country." Anne recollected. "Damn near broke his father when we got the news."
The pair sat in silence, until Anne decided to change the subject.
"If you don't mind me asking, now will you tell me how it is you are so large?"