The trip back to the location of the second trial went without any serious events. The only minor occurrence that happened Tucker had grazed his elbow. Concerned for his health Jessica had done everything that she could to try and make it better for him, she had even gone so far as to completely wrap his arm up in leaves as if he had actually broken it. Tucker knew that she was worrying over nothing but he didn't really stop her because to him it just showed that she cared.
Soon enough the pair found themselves in a familiar setting as Tucker looked around to see what they had seen before when they came looking for the second trial. Before he even started looking he looked at the map and saw that the message was still there as clear as day. It had not changed at all and fortunately he had written down the correct message on a separate piece of paper so he didn't have to figure it out. A shadow loomed over him and he didn't need to fear since it was only Jessica who was at her full size. She was kneeling down so that she could see him better.
"Ok Jess according to this map we've got to find the tallest tree," said Tucker as he looked up at her. "I don't think I need to remind you why you're more suited to finding it than me. Just whatever you do don't go off without me." This was a little joke that he was having with her and Jessica responded by giving him the ok hand gesture and then standing up to her full height.
"Ok Tucker I'll keep that in mind," replied Jessica. She was putting on a louder voice to make herself sound mightier. This again was just a little joke between them and as she stood up as usual she could see for miles around. This was a vantage point that no human being had ever seen in this manner and she was so used to it that it didn't even seem to be anything special to her.
Jessica did begin to look around for the tallest tree but she discovered that almost all of them were practically the same height. There were a couple that seemed to be taller than average but nothing that seemed to be out of place. It took her a few moments to see what looked to be a dead tree sticking out some distance away. It was so thin that from where she was standing. It did stick out above the tree line by some distance and it almost seemed like it shouldn't even be standing. The truth was that the tree had been there for longer than any other tree in the area, all that time it was seemingly dead and eventually it would have fallen down by itself but for some unexplained reason it was still standing but since not many people came through this part of the land not many really noticed. She didn't take long to look down at Tucker who was standing right next to her foot.
"I see something," said Jessica. She looked over to where she had seen the dead tree and she pointed towards it. "There's a dead tree a few miles away that's taller than the others. I think it might even be taller than me."
"Great work Jessica," replied Tucker. He knew that she wouldn't fail him. "I can already see us passing the test with flying colours." The next thing he saw was Jessica kneel down again and place the palm of her hand on the ground right next to him. He didn't need to be a genius to know what she wanted.
"Unless you're planning to walk I suggest that you climb aboard." This once again was a small joke between the pair and she waited until Tucker had stepped onto her hand before she stood back up. By now she had learned that it was best for her to lift a person up slowly rather than quickly. It was something that she had learned over a lifetime of being a giantess. She remembered picking up people in the past and lifting them so quickly that it made them throw up which was not a pleasant sight.
As soon as Jessica knew that Tucker was safe she began to walk towards the tree. She had to move past several other trees and she didn't want to just destroy them since each tree was basically the home for a number of creatures. She could even see squirrels running through a couple of the trees and the last thing she wanted was to make them homeless.
The ground that she walked on was very uneven and it was hard for her to keep her balance. Once or twice she almost lost her footing and fell but thankfully she was able to stay on her feet despite all of this. If she fell over she knew that Tucker wouldn't be able to survive. When she was at her full size she always had to be cautious about more or less everything. Even something as simple as a sneeze could cause disastrous effects for many living things around her.
"Wow steady Jessica," said Tucker as he felt her jitter. She had already placed him on her shoulder ad wrapped some hair around him. He had almost fallen off but thankfully he was able to stay seated.
"Sorry Tucker," replied Jessica. "This terrains a lot rougher than I thought. She tried to look down but the trees below her covered her view. "It would be easier if I could see my abnormally large feet."
"Believe everyone below the treeline can see your feet. Just walk steady and you should be fine."
"Easier said than done." She heard a loud cracking sound and she hoped that she had just trodden on an old log or something like that. She stopped for a moment and moved the leaves around her waist so that she could see her feet. Much to her relief what she had stepped on was actually an old log and she gave a sigh of relief. She didn't know how she would react if she killed some innocent woodland creature. "I'm seriously thinking that it's a better idea for us both to go on foot."
"But that could take us hours." He didn't really like the concept of walking when he had his best friend who could carry him more or less anywhere he wanted. "Surely you can keep going."
"I really don't want to since I really don't want to trip over something that I can't see or step on some squirrel that was unlucky enough to be under my foot." He was beginning to see that he wasn't going to change her mind. He just gave a sigh of defeat as he felt her unwrap the hair around him and then lower him to the ground. No sooner had she done this she shrank herself until she was at her minimum size although most people would still call her a towering giantess. "There I can see my feet now."
"Ok now that you're happy we can keep going. I want to find the test before nightfall." This was a wise move since it would be harder for them to travel at night and they could also run into something that could cause them serious harm.
The pair did continue their walk towards where they had seen the dead tree. Unfortunately for Jessica she came across a new problem. Unfortunately her height seemed to be the perfect one for low branches to strike her head. She was constantly having to duck to avoid these branches and once or twice she was actually a little too late and they would strike her. Tucker could hear her give small cries of pain each time and he had to hide his chuckles. Jessica herself was getting more annoyed and she was tempted to just growing back to her normal size and ripping the trees out. She did keep herself calm and she just kept going, she knew that if she did grow it would be showing that she didn't know best and that was something that she didn't really want to show to Tucker. Despite everything she did have a small amount of pride.
"Are you alright Jessica?" asked Tucker as they continued to walk. He could see that she wasn't having as good of a time as she would have liked and he also wanted her to know that he was concerned.
"Yeah I'm fine," replied Jessica. She looked down at him for a moment and this distraction made her come into contact with a low branch. It struck square in her forehead and it even caused her to fall to the ground. Tucker instantly went to her aid and she seemed to be groggy after the sudden impact. Although a bruise had appeared on her head the damage was not severe. Tucker did try to help her onto her feet but she was too heavy for him to lift. It was not because he was weak but because even at her shortest she was still very heavy. Her bone density was greater than that of a normal person so that her skeleton could support her giant size and the fact that she was much stronger than an average person only added to her overall weight.
"Wow Jessica you need to lay off the sweets." He was using all of his strength to try and get her up to her feet. With a bit of help from Jessica herself he was able to bring her back up to her feet and she rubbed her head. It had knocked her around a little and she did feel lightheaded. She was having to place her hand on Tucker's shoulders just to stay balanced and he could feel her weight upon him. He was able to suck it up and remain standing. "Jessica are you alright?" He knew that he had only asked that question a few moments before but he felt that he had to ask again.
"I'll be fine in a minute." She was still grasping her bearings and she did seem to be recovering. "What hit me?"
"Just another low branch, maybe you should just grow and walk the rest of the way." This was something that he had been hoping but even in her somewhat confused state she still wanted to stick with her judgement.
"No we continue on like this for now. It'll take more than a low branch to get the better of me." She was still recovering but she was grasping the situation more than she had done a few moments before. "If you're really that concerned you could try and carry me there, it would make a nice change."
"Oh you know I wouldn't get far." That was the truth, he could imagine himself trying to carry her on his back but he would only make two steps before collapsing under her weight. He could also imagine her laughing about it but it would not be out of malice but rather just a playful giggle.
"Well you always told me that you were a big strong man. This can be a way of you proving it." She knew that he wouldn't be able to carry her and if anything she was only teasing him a little.
"Maybe but I'm not that strong." They both laughed a little before they continued on with their walk.
The terrain of the forest was made up of small hills that constantly went up and down. Tucker began to see why Jessica had struggled to walk through it when she was gigantic. It would have been extremely easy for her to fall over and he thought that it was a miracle that it had not actually happened sooner. It just showed the balance that she had since if she had fallen over he would have most likely of been killed.
Unfortunately the terrain also made it more difficult for them to cross since they were constantly having go up and down. For Tucker in particular he was getting tired since he didn't have the long legs that Jessica had. She too was finding it difficult but at least she was having an easier time than him.
Eventually they did have to stop for a rest by a relatively large tree. They were still around a mile away from the dead tree that they had spotted but for now they were too tired to continue on.
"So when we get the treasure what are you thinking about doing with it?" asked Tucker. He already planned to buy himself a large plot of land and rule it as a Lord. With his treasure he would become one of the richest lords in Angleland and it would also be a great opportunity for him.
"I'm not sure really," replied Jessica. For her the whole quest had not really been about finding the treasure. It was more about spending time with Tucker and making sure that he didn't get himself into trouble. It was something that she had been doing most of her life and she planned to continue for as long as she could. "I might buy a bit of land but only a small patch. I want to plant my own garden and watch it grow."
"Wait a second, your parents own a farm. Couldn't they have given you a small piece of land to make a garden?"
"They wanted to but believe me they didn't have the space. Every inch of our land was dedicated to growing crops and feeding the animals. It was very hard for us to make ends meet and having even the tiniest bit of land for a garden could have actually ruined us. The fact that they had to spend most of what they had saved to raise me before I could shrink did almost make my parents lose their house. That's why I would only have a small patch of land somewhere else and quite a bit of the money I will give to my parents to make sure that they can live the rest of their lives without having to worry about money. That would make me happier than you could believe."
Tucker had to take a step back from the whole situation and think. He could see many considering his goal for the treasure to be somewhat selfish while Jessica's seemed to be noble. She was putting her own family before her happiness and he could see that she was kinder than he was. That's one reason why he liked her, despite everything that she had been through her life she was still a very nice person. He knew that many people would have become bitter after being shunned for so long but for Jessica she had been able to push the hatred out of herself and keep her golden heart intact. She had seemed to change a little since the whole business with Lord Nostory but he could still see her as the same woman that he had grown up with.
"Well that's a nice thing to do," said Tucker after he had taken a moment to think. "I might give some of it to my family but then again I think they're doing pretty well as blacksmiths." He laughed a little. "Nah I'd give them some."
"Do you miss them?"
"What, my family? Yeah I guess I do. I wonder if they're thinking about us right now. I do miss my brothers and sister." Unfortunately being the third brother he had seemed to be living in the shadows of his eldest brothers who were somewhat being groomed to take over the family business. His father had mainly been focusing on his eldest brother to take over the business once he was gone. This did allow Tucker and his younger brother to imagine that they could be anything they wanted. Tucker's younger brother actually wanted to sail across the seas as a merchant. Like Tucker he wanted to see the world but rather than Angleland he wanted to travel to other continents such as Entios to the east and Gailey to the west. Both had large trade routes to the coasts of Angleland with many different items going in and out of the kingdom.
"You don't know how lucky you are Tucker." She gave a sigh. "You have siblings, you won't believe how many times I wished to have a brother or sister when I was growing up. It can be very lonely sometimes when you're an only child, sometimes I would see you playing with your brothers and it made me so sad. I was happy for you of course, but I was sad for myself."
"Didn't your folks try to have any more kids?"
"Oh believe me they tried but nothing happened. Don't forget that I'm a miracle baby myself, to tell you the truth I shouldn't be alive, let alone have the power that I do. I sometimes wonder if I did have a sibling would I ever been as close to you as I am now?" She looked over to him and there was a small tear in her eye. Tucker placed his hand on her shoulder and looked up into her hazel eyes.
"Well I guess that's one thing that we'll never find out." He gave her a small smile. "Besides having you for a best friend is more than a guy like me deserves." They gazed at each other for a few minutes, they seemed to be lost in their own little world and if given the choice it would have lasted forever. Unfortunately they still had their quest to complete and more importantly the second trial to try and complete. "Ok we better carry on anyway before nightfall."
With that both of them got back up to their feet and continued to walk on. Jessica did feel a little hungry and was very tempted to pick a nearby apple from a tree which was within arm's length for her. She decided against this since she didn't know if it was poisonous. Tucker himself did try to grab it but he was a little too short to reach it and when he asked Jessica to reach it for him she declined for his own safety.
After another hour of walking the pair eventually reached their destination. They could see the dead tree which stood taller than all the other trees in the forest. Tucker didn't waste any time in getting the map out and looking at it once again. The same message was still there and he looked up at the tree for a moment. It was very tall and thin and he felt that if he even gave it a slight nudge that it would fall down.
"Ok what now?" asked Jessica as she looked up at the tree. For now she didn't see much of a point reverting to her full size so she remained at her smallest.
"Well the message basically said that those with a pure heart can find what we seek. Maybe if I touch the tree it'll somehow show us where the entrance to the next test is." The message had not made it specific on how to use the tree so Tucker was just making his most logical guess.
"Well good luck with that." She stood there with her arms folded so that she could see what happened next.
Tucker stepped towards the tree and placed his hand around the trunk. It didn't feel too much like wood but something that seemed to be alien to him. He gave a small sigh as he concentrated on the task at hand.
"Show me the entrance to the second test," said Tucker. He gave a few deep breaths but suddenly he felt what seemed to be another alien force go through his body. Instantly his hand shot back off the tree and he felt a small amount of pain. He had been electrocuted but this was an experience that very few people in Angleland had ever experienced. It was also an experience that he never wanted to have again. The next thing he felt was Jessica looming over him. She did show much concern for him and even bent down so that she could be at his level. It did make him feel that he was a child and he had to remind himself that he was actually normal and that it was Jessica who was huge.
"By the gods Tucker are you alright?" asked Jessica with genuine concern in her voice. Right now she didn't care if she did make him feel like a child, his health was her only concern.
"Y-yeah I'm fine," replied Tucker as slowly he rose to his feet. "That was a real shock." His hand was shaking a little but overall he looked to be fine. He did get back to his feet and so did Jessica as well. "That is definitely no ordinary tree."
"It has to be the right one." She did give him a hug and he knew better than to try and resist. "And I don't want you touching it again, I don't want you getting hurt again or worse." This was out of true concern rather than spite.
"But we still need to find the second test and this tree is our only real lead to it. We could search everywhere in this area for the rest of our lives and not find anything." He really didn't want to turn back but if Jessica really wanted it he doubted that he could stop her. He watched as she looked over to the tree.
"You remember what the message said, only those with pure of heart can find what we seek. Maybe I should give it a go."
"Oh come on I have a pure heart." He knew that wasn't entirely true since there were very few people in the entire land who had pure hearts. There were plenty of good and bad people but almost all of them had some amount of good and evil within their hearts. Although he didn't want to admit it there was a small amount of darkness in his heart much like those of everyone else in Angleland.
"If you did it would have walked." She began to slowly walk towards the tree and she did take some deep breaths. Slowly she placed her hand on the thin trunk and she expected to feel the same sensation that Tucker had. There seemed to be nothing but it was exactly what had happened to Tucker at first. "Please show us the entrance to the second test." There was some amount of fear in her voice but it she kept her composure.
There was a rumbling sound and the pair began to look around. They couldn't see what was happening but the sound continued for several moments before eventually subsiding. Where they were neither of them could see what had happened but from the sheer volume of the noise they knew that something fairly major had happened. Instantly Jessica grew to her full height so that she could see if anything was different. After a few moments she could see a fairly small door open in the ground of a clearing just a short distance away. She had seen this clearing before during her last giant search and she had not seen that door there at all. This was all the evidence she needed.
"Do you see anything?" asked Tucker. He stood right next to the enormous foot of his best friend.
"Yeah I see something," replied Jessica. There's an opening in the ground just a few hundred metres away."
"Great but do we have to walk again?"
"No the ground looks fairly even. I'll be able to get us there before you can even bat an eyelid."
This was the information that Tucker needed as he waited for Jessica to lower her hand so that she could pick him up. He did notice that the tree was slightly taller than Jessica but he thought if they came back in a few years' time she would have grown the extra few feet that she needed to beat it.
Jessica did begin to walk towards the opening in the ground and once again she was careful. Thankfully the flattened surface did make it easier for her to walk across it. Both she and Tucker were very happy that they were finally making progress. The constant distractions and detours had gotten them down a little but they knew that as soon as they gotten past the second trial that they would only be one away from finding the treasure and thus completing their quest.
It didn't take Jessica too long to reach the opening and as soon as she did she shrank herself down to her smallest after placing Tucker on the ground. They both looked down at the opening and it looked to be a little different to that of the first test. The first had a staircase that went down while this one looked to have some kind of slope. Just by looking at it they saw that it was possible to go down but almost impossible to go back up again. They would be able to slide down but that was about it.
"Ladies first," said Tucker as he bowed down a little and smiled at Jessica. He didn't particularly want to go down first and instead preferred that Jessica did. He felt if there were any real threats that she would be more capable of dealing with them. It was something that she didn't particularly mind.
"Such a gentleman," replied Jessica knowing full well why Tucker had offered to let her go down first. She said nothing about it though and allowed herself to slide down the ramp. Tucker did the same a few moments later and as they both slide down they quickly enveloped by darkness. They didn't notice that the opening behind them had already closed what would probably be for a very long time.
As they both found themselves in darkness it did make the pair of them nervous as they obviously couldn't see what was coming. Despite any dangers they thought that they could deal with more or less anything that came their way.
Their trip down the ramp only lasted a minute or two before they reached the bottom. Unfortunately they were still in darkness and they couldn't see each other at all. They couldn't even see their hands in front of their eyes. While they had been going down the ramp Jessica had felt an odd sensation. She didn't know whether it was anything serious or just her nerves getting the better of her.
"Hey Jessica can you feel anything?" asked Tucker as he hand his hands running down what he felt was a wall.
"No, just a wall," replied Jessica. They didn't know that they were actually on opposite sides. They would have seen that this was a tunnel much like that of the first test. She continued to use her hands to search the wall for anything that could help them. Eventually he hand felt something that she thought was a little odd. "Hmm what's this?" She awaited to hear what Tucker had to say.
"You found something?" He turned to her as best as he could but he could only use the sound of her voice.
"I think so." She began to push against it and discovered that it was some kind of panel. She continued to push it until it couldn't go in any further.
Like magic several torches on the wall began to light up. It almost seemed impossible for something like this to happen but the sudden influx of light quickly blinded the pair and they had to cover their eyes. It took them a few moments to adjust to the light and things seemed to be going their way. It looked to be the simple task of walking down the tunnel to the next test.
However there was something very different. When Tucker looked over to Jessica instead of the towering amazon that he was used to seeing he saw that she had become a short frail looking woman. He looked at her in disbelief and Jessica herself looked at herself and then at Tucker. It was the first time that she had ever had to look up at him while they were both standing up and an instant wave of fear struck her.
"Tucker what's happened to me?"