Oblivious to what was being said at the nearby castle Jessica and Tucker ate away at the tavern as if it were their last meal. The food was very cheap so they could both eat to their heart's desire and not have to worry too much about the cost. Jessica in particular was very hungry since she had been walking for a few days straight and she hadn't been able to eat what she considered to be her fill. Because of this she ate more than she normally would have done, in the end she ate three times what a normal person would eat before she actually decided that she was full.
Her appearance in the tavern had not gone unnoticed as several people would turn their heads to see the colossus of a woman sitting there eating. It did bother her somewhat but she kept it all to herself and she was used to being stared at. It came with the territory of being a giantess, even in her smallest form.
Most men wouldn't even want to be seen with a woman who was so much taller than him but Tucker didn't mind at all. Jessica had always been bigger than him and he never thought of anything different. They were inseparable over the years and a little height difference was the last thing that was going to split them up. They even somewhat expected some man to come up to her and ask her to have sex with them but thankfully this didn't seem to be the case here, not like it had been in Lake Town.
"Hey Jess I was thinking," said Tucker as he took another sip of his ale. "There's a world of wealth downstairs and I feel myself to be a little lucky today, maybe I should go down there and win us a little extra money for the quest. You gotta admit that a few more gold coins for the trip is good for both of us."
"I don't think so Mr Martel," replied Jessica as she knew that she was going to have to be stern with her friend. "How do I put this Tucker? You and gambling don't exactly mix, you never seem to come out a winner."
"Oh come on I once won a thousand gold coins in a single bet." He tried to make himself feel proud of that achievement but Jessica was only a few moments from shattering that pride completely.
"Yes you did but then you gambled it away in less than an hour. I'm not entirely saying that you're a bad gambler but you just don't know when to stop and I promised your father that I wouldn't allow you to waste all that money again."
"Oh come on Jess I know what I'm doing."
"Don't make me have to carry you out of here, I know that you don't mind me carrying you when we're travelling but having a man carried out of a tavern by a woman is embarrassing to anyone, even you."
Tucker sat there for a few moments as he considered his options. He wanted to try and win some money but even he had to admit that his record wasn't too particularly bad. He knew that he was only one win away from making it rich. Another thought began to creep in over the fact that he didn't particularly need to try and gamble. The shield strapped to his back was worth a lot of money and for that there was almost nothing at risk. For the time being he wanted to keep the shield since it would be handy for the quest but he definitely wanted to sell it after the quest was over. This was so if they failed their quest they would still have a considerable amount of money.
"Ok you win Jessica I won't gamble," said Tucker admitting defeat but he knew that she had his best interests in mind. "But maybe a quick game of cards could get me an extra couple of coins." He saw the scowl on Jessica's face and he began to laugh. "I'm only pulling your leg." He began to laugh and the scowl on Jessica's face began to disappear and she did begin to smile. He thought that she looked a lot more beautiful when she was smiling rather than scowling. "Shall we go and see the good Lord when we're finished, maybe we can get ourselves a few extra coins there?"
"Sure but let me just finish this last drink off." Her last drink was a very large cup of ale which she was able to drink in one go with a handful of mighty gulps. Tucker could only watch as she drunk almost an entire litre of ale in seconds without spilling a single drop. When she was finished she placed the cup down on the table and she didn't even need to belch. "Ok little man, let's go."
It only took moments for Tucker and Jessica to be out the door and on their way. They had already paid for their food when they ordered it so it wasn't like they were running off without paying for their meals. That was a quick fire way of finding themselves in trouble and drawing unnecessary attention. Most likely if people knew about their quest they would try and steal the map off of them since the first part was already completed for them. Most likely if anyone wanted to get the map they would have to go through a towering giantess who was unwilling to see her best friend part with it.
As they continued to walk through the streets Jessica was getting some looks from others around her but these were all things that she was used to. There were a couple of the guards who knew what fate would fall onto her but they kept it all quiet. They only felt a little sorry for her but they knew that they would be seeing a lot more of her very soon in ways that she couldn't imagine.
One thing that Jessica did notice as she and Tucker walked closer and closer to the castle was the fact that the necklace around her neck seemed to be slightly tingling around her neck. There was also a small humming sound that was almost too quiet to hear. A few times she did think about taking it off but it was like something within her mind was telling her to keep it on and she had no idea why. She still hadn't realised that all the times that she had grown while wearing it the necklace had grown with her. This piece of information had seemed to elude her when normally she was quite sharp when it came to things like this.
Tucker was also somewhat excited to be going to the castle. Not just because he thought that there would be some gold at the end of this small trip but also because it would be the first time that he ever met a Lord. He imagined him to be some kind of giant of a man. He had no idea that Lord Nostory was actually quite short but his cunningness and ruthlessness made up for what he might have lacked. It would have even been nice for Lord Nostory to be able to knight him since a Lord of Lord Nostory's stature did have the power to knight a man. It would be one of his life ambitions drawn to a close and he still felt that the quest was relatively close to the beginning.
It only took Jessica and Tucker a few more minutes to approach the castle and when they were a few metres away from it they stopped for a moment so that they could see the grandeur of it, it was the first castle that they had seen with their own eyes but from what they had heard from others this one was definitely the fanciest. Much like the other buildings in July the bricks looked like they were made of gold thanks to the sun shining down on them. It was taller than Jessica's maximum height by a good fifty percent, maybe more and it also looked heavily fortified. There were guards posted everywhere and numerous vantage points for archers to wreak havoc on approaching enemies.
From the looks of the castle it seemed almost impossible in the mind of Tucker for anyone to be able to storm it. He thought that Lord Nostory must have had some kind of plan when he had invaded the city a few years back and had actually been able to conquer the castle and put himself on the seat. In the tales it didn't mention how many of his own men died but if it had been a lot of them it would most likely have some kind of mention and yet there was nothing. It seemed that the castle could fend off a huge army for a long period of time with very few men to defend it.
If he ever got the opportunity he thought that he would ask Lord Nostory exactly how he did it. There was no doubt that he had some kind of inside help but if there wasn't any then it made the achievement that much more impressive.
Their arrival at the castle had not gone unnoticed however. Word had been spreading as Jessica and Tucker had been approaching the castle. There were still preparations taking place inside but all would be ready in mere moments. Lord Nostory was especially looking forward to Jessica's arrival but he had also caught wind of Tucker as well. He didn't wish for the wannabe knight to remain around for too much longer but for the short term he was willing to tolerate another for now.
Before the pair even stepped into the castle one of the gates came open and out stepped one of Lord Nostory's serving women. She was a beautiful woman with long flowing fair hair and a dress that came all the way down to the ground. Her feet were invisible under the dress but one thing that Tucker did notice as the woman came up to them was that she was an inch taller than him. Jessica didn't really notice this since most women were small in comparison to her so this woman was only a different degree of shortness.
"Good day to your travellers," said the tall serving woman as she bowed slightly to them. Her voice was very soft and pleasant to the ears. "My Lord bids you welcome to his castle and his city. He is awaiting for you in the great hall, he has been eager to see you since you entered the city." She turned around and slowly began to walk away. She turned her head briefly. "Please follow me, this castle is so large that there is a good chance that you might lose your way."
As they were told Jessica and Tucker began to follow the serving woman through the castle and they marvelled over the magnificence of it all. If the outside seemed to be impressive the inside was even more so. There were items in there that were worth more than their weight in gold. A thief could steal more than his needs for an entire lifetime and yet it would hardly change the value of everything within the castle.
As they went through the castle to go to the great hall Tucker did notice something else that was odd. He could see who inside the castle were I important visitors or those that lived there and those who were merely there to serve. He noticed that all the serving women were very tall. He had not seen one yet that was shorter than him and he was a six foot tall man. He thought that it was more than coincidence for all these tall people to be together in one place like this.
For the moment he kept these thoughts to himself as he continued to follow the serving woman. He was finding it somewhat difficult to keep up with them. The woman was walking at a fairly fast pace while Jessica was walking at her normal speed. Due to the fact that her legs were so long she could cover more with one stride than any other person could. It meant for every one stride that Jessica took Tucker needed to take almost two. The items that he was carrying wasn't making the walk any easier for him. He did easily have enough energy to keep up however.
When Jessica and Tucker eventually did make it to the great hall they saw Lord Nostory sitting in his great seat. There was one other serving woman right next to him and once again she was very tall. There were also numerous guards all dressed in shiny new armour with weapons from the best forgers in the city. Their only duty in life was to protect Lord Nostory from all harm. The ceiling in the hall was easily fifty feet high and a man could easily echo his voice in this environment.
"Greetings my friends," said Lord Nostory as he stood up from the seat. Jessica and Tucker were a good way away from him and he used his hand to indicate that he wanted them to come closer. "Please approach, it is difficult to speak to you if you remain there." Without much fear Jessica did approach closer while Tucker remained by her side, there was something about this place that wasn't sitting very well with him. He couldn't put his finger on it but there was something in this castle and with Lord Nostory that just seemed to be off for some reason.
"Your castle is very splendid my Lord," replied Jessica showing her manners as best as she could. Her parents had always told her that if she were to ever meet a lord to know her place and be as kind and gracious as she could to them. This was a lesson that she wasn't going to forget. "My friend and I are deeply honoured that you have allowed us commoners to step inside."
"The pleasure is all mine my dear." He even stood up from his seat and began to walk towards the pair. His eyes were squarely on Jessica and to him Tucker didn't even exist. "Allow me to properly introduce myself. My name is Hector of House Nostory, the third of my name and Lord of July. Please may you introduce yourself my dear?"
"Err there's not much to introduce. If you want me to do properly I am Jessica of House Snape, first of my name I believe and a commoner from Morgan." By now she and Tucker had stopped walking as they were quite close to Lord Nostory. The guards had their hands on their swords just in case anything were to happen. "This is my best friend, soon to be Sir Tucker of the House Martel, first of his name and talented smith of Morgan." Tucker gave Lord Nostory a quick bow and didn't try to correct Jessica when it came to the fact that he had a couple of recent ancestors with the same name as him.
"Jessica, that is such a lovely name." By now he had reached Jessica and had gently grabbed her hand. He gave it a quick kiss. "And might I say that you are one of the most beautiful maidens that I have ever had the pleasure to lay eyes on."
Jessica began to blush a little. She had never expected to receive such compliments from a Lord. He might have been almost two and a half feet shorter than her but his social status was a long way above hers. She was merely a common folk while he was probably the richest Lord in all of Angleland. She couldn't believe that he was complimenting her in this way. She only noticed too late that this caused her to grow a couple of inches right in front of him. He took a step back in surprise and there was a part of him that was much more excited than afraid. He had just seen the tallest woman in Angleland grow an extra two inches right before his eyes.
"Please forgive me my lord," said Jessica as she realised what had happened and she quickly shrank herself until she was back down to her minimum height. She thought that he was going to cast them out of the castle and the city. She knew that many people were terrified of her whenever she grew, even if it were just an inch and she began to fear the worse. "I lost control of myself there and I just kind of grew. Please don't be afraid." She noticed that the guards seemed to be more anxious than they were a few moments ago and it seemed that they were just moments from stepping in between her and Lord Nostory. "I am not some kind of monster."
"If you are a monster you are that of beauty." His words were of comfort to her and for the time being she had seemingly forgotten about the message that they had brought to give to him. It was their sole reason for coming here and she had forgotten about it. "In my time I have seen a great many things but I have not seen a woman grow by a couple of inches right before my eyes. You are truly a gift from the gods my dear Jessica."
"T-thank you my Lord." This was not the response that she had been expecting. Whenever she grew she had been met with fear the majority of the time but this time it seemed to be different and she couldn't help but be happy about this. She thought that Lord Nostory was genuinely a nice person.
"You're very welcome my dear and I believe that you have a message for me." His smile went right through her.
"Oh the message." She felt a little stupid about forgetting to give him the message and she quickly looked to Tucker who got the roll of paper from behind his shield and he passed it to Lord Nostory. This was the only time that he really noticed the wannabe knight as he unrolled the paper and began to look. "We have brought this from an old lady in Lake Town."
"I see and did this old woman also hand you that fine necklace that you're wearing?" His gaze focused once again on Jessica and she had a surprised look upon her face.
"H-how did you know that my Lord?" She didn't think that he knew that it was the old woman who had given her the necklace. It almost seemed like too good of a guess to be coincidence.
"Would you believe that it was dumb luck?" He took a moment to look at the message that he had been handed. He began to read through it like it was something of importance but in truth it was just a list of different tomatoes. They meant absolutely nothing but he pretended that he had been given exactly what he wanted. He looked once again Jessica and for one of the few times he actually acknowledged Tucker. "This castle will be your home for the night and I will give you a few gold coins for your troubles. I would also like for you to join me for dinner later, I will have the cooks make you both a feast that is fit for a king. They should know I bought them from the royal castle itself."
"We would be honoured my lord." There was something within Jessica now that was telling her that something was wrong. However she had learned that when a Lord offered you anything you were to take it without question.
"Good now Alice would you be kind enough to show our guests to their rooms? They must be tired after such a long journey."
"As you command my Lord," replied the tall serving woman. There was a hint of fear in her voice but she did as she commanded. She knew what happened to those who disobeyed Lord Nostory and she didn't want it to happen to her.
Like she was commanded Alice took Jessica and Tucker to rooms that had been prepared for them. Unfortunately for Jessica the bed in her room was too small for her but it wasn't the first time that she had slept in a normal size bed. Her room looked grand much like the rest of the castle and if she didn't know any better she would have thought that this room belonged to the Lord of the castle. The ceiling was very high and she even had a little fun with growing until she could reach it.
Sometimes Jessica did like to play a little with her size when she was alone. Although being smaller did allow her to have more of a normal life being her full size made her feel like her true self. Whenever she was small she thought that she was simply hiding, she hoped that people would accept her whatever size she was and she would only shrink when it was more cost effective like feeding and sleeping inside.
Tucker's room was much the same as Jessica's it was grand and he walked towards the window so that he could look out over the city. He knew how expensive a window was and it only showed how wealthy Lord Nostory was to be able to have windows fitted in every room of the castle. He was almost too afraid to touch it on the off chance that he broke it. He had also began to take his armour off and sit down on the bed to relax. He thought that when he found Three Man's Treasure that he would be able to afford a room like this. He even thought that if this was merely a guest room he wondered what the master bedroom was like. He imagined that the floor was made out of silver and the window in there would be made entirely out of sapphires.
This was just a little fantasy that he had in his mind and he felt relaxed being in a room like this. He couldn't shake the feeling that he and Jessica had stepped into a world of danger that neither one of them were entirely prepared for. He was more than willing to sacrifice his life for that of Jessica and he was sure that she would do the same for him. He even felt something in his mind that made him think that they were close even though they were in separate room. Tucker couldn't explain it but when he was apart from Jessica he could feel her in more ways than most people would think possible.
There was also a serving woman inside the room that was there to tend to his every need. She had an exotic look to her and it was obvious that she was very tall herself. This girl though was an inch shorter than him so for the first time since entering the castle he was actually looking at a woman who was shorter than him.
One thing that he also noticed was that there was a guard outside of the door. Tucker knew that most likely he was there to prevent him from leaving. It was most likely so that he couldn't wonder around the castle and go into places where he really shouldn't go but there was also something that which made him feel uneasy. He didn't think that Lords would have guards standing outside of the room of a guest like this but then he and Jessica were merely commoners rather than being high birth guests like Lord Nostory was probably more used to. They probably made sure that nothing was stolen.
It was not until a few hours until both Jessica and Tucker were called down to the banquet hall so that they could have dinner. By now the lunches that they had eaten earlier had gone down so they were hungry enough to eat once again. Jessica felt like she was underdressing for the occasion since she was wearing the same dress that she wore every day. The only problem was that she couldn't wear any other dress, she knew what happened when she took off her dress and she didn't want to destroy the castle by accident.
When Jessica and Tucker reached the banquet hall they saw that Lord Nostory was already sitting down at a relatively small table. They had thought that they might have had to sit down at an enormous table that would have been so big that if someone wanted to communicate with someone else at the far end of the table that they would have to use a messenger. This table was still large but it was more than enough to sit three people down so that they could eat.
The food was already on the table and there was roast boar, chicken, turkey and even an animal that neither one had ever seen before. The food smelled delicious and it made Jessica feel like she hadn't eaten in days even though she had eaten enough to fill an entire family just a few short hours ago. Tucker himself was feeling very hungry and he had never seen such a feast offered for just three people. He was sure that a dozen people could have eaten their fill with all the food that was on offer.
"Welcome once again my friends," said Lord Nostory, he didn't stand from his seat but he had yet to start to eat. "Please sit and enjoy the feast that my cooks have made. Each bite will send your taste buds to another world." Alice was standing right next to his chair ready to serve him anything that he required. In her hand was a jug that was filled with the finest wine in Angleland.
As they Tucker and Jessica sat down at the table and they decided to sit right next to each other. No sooner had they sat down two more serving placed fine plates in front of them and began to ask them what they wanted to eat. Each of them told the serving women what they wanted and they would carve the meat off of the roasts and place it on their plates. They were even given a large range of different vegetables, some were grown locally but others were imported from the opposite side of Angleland. In Tucker's mind there seemed to be no limit to the riches of Lord Nostory.
As both Tucker and Jessica took their first bites they could taste the explosion of flavour in their mouths. It was the most succulent and tasty meat that they had ever tasted, it was superior to anything they had tasted in any tavern or even anything that came from the Snape farm. It was almost like something that had been completely alien to them, until then it had been like they had been eating rat droppings since they were born.
"Do you like the food my friends?" asked Lord Nostory as he was cutting a potato with cutlery made entirely of solid silver.
"The food is grand my lord," replied Jessica remembering to show her manners to a high born. "We are not fit to taste such food, I am surprised that you would allow people of our social status to dine with you."
"Well it's simple really, without the common folk what is a Lord? He's just some guy in a big house commanding livestock and nothing more. It is the common folk that keep the kingdom going, sure some lords see them as being insignificant but the common people are the cogs that make the kingdom work."
"I see my lord." Jessica was very impressed with the answer and she could see that he was very intelligent. She was almost beginning to see how he could have conquered July when it practically seemed impenetrable.
"And might I ask how you got so tall my dear?" There was a smile on his face as he asked this question. "You are by far the tallest and prettiest woman that I have ever laid eyes on, you are over a foot taller than my mightiest guard and yet you don't carry yourself much like he does. Please tell me how this came to be."
"There is not much to say my lord. When I was but a new born baby the gods were going to take me away from my parents but a being talented in the ways of magic gave them a potion that made me healthy again. Unfortunately a side effect meant that I grew much larger and faster than all the other children in my town. Unfortunately my height has made me somewhat of a taboo in my town and not many people liked to be near me."
"I see that is such a shame, how anyone could shun such a beautiful creature like you is beyond me. Now let me ask you, do you like my castle?"
"I do my lord." Jessica wasn't sure why he was asking her this. There was no doubt that this was probably the most beautiful castle in Angleland.
"Then why should you leave? You may stay at this castle until the end of your days and be by my side." Jessica was completely shocked by this. She hadn't expected for him to say that she was staying in the castle. She admitted that it was lovely but she didn't really want to stay.
"As another of your serving maidens my lord?" This was the only thing that could come out of her mouth. It was the only logical explanation in her mind and Tucker was also fully aware of what was happening. He remained where he was for the moment to see exactly what would happen next.
"No my dear, being a serving maiden is beneath you. I don't want to make you my serving woman or simply someone who will pleasure me when I seek it. I want you to sit by my side as my wife and we can rule this land as one. You will be Lady Jessica Nostory and I do not care about your low birth. You are the woman that I have been waiting to meet for as long as I can remember and I would be honoured to take you before the gods and marry you where the whole kingdom can see."
"That is very generous my lord." She was trying to think of the next words to say. She had to be very careful with what she said next because it could be the difference between leaving there with her head still attached to her shoulders and she also thought about the welfare of Tucker. He had almost nothing to do with this but if things began to go south he could be hurt in the process. "But I'm afraid I must decline, my friend and I are on an important quest and I know that you are a very handsome man but I prefer to know the man I am about to marry instead of someone I've just met. I know that if I accept that you would make me very happy but I have other responsibilities as well"
"I'm so sorry my dear that wasn't a request." His smile faded in an instant and suddenly he began to mutter words that neither of them could understand and the next thing that Tucker saw was that the necklace that Jessica was wearing was beginning to glow bright. There was a brief scream from her and suddenly there was silence. Almost all emotion had faded from her face and she seemed to stare blankly into space. The whole process had taken just a few moments but already he knew that something was very wrong. "Now my dear have you reconsidered my offer?"
"Yes my lord." Her voice seemed to be very different. It was her own but the bubbliness that came with it was stripped away completely leaving a voice that seemed to be void of any emotion. "Nothing would give me more honour then to wed you and produce you with sons to carry on your name."