|Jill and the Giant
Author: Sera Notte PM
When Jillian Mathis is informed of her impending engagement, she is determined to change her fate. The way to change her father's mind is to get the Oracle, a mythical giantess, to pronounce a better match. With her childhood friend at her side and a stubbornness to rival a mule, she will travel North to find a better match. Updated and tweaked weekly.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Friendship - Chapters: 10 - Words: 30,629 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 03-05-13 - Published: 12-31-12 - id: 3087894
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Where Jill and Hunter begin their journey...
The candle wavered from the breeze Jill made when she pulled the sheet off her bed. Her father wanted her to marry some strange man from another town who owned a large number of sheep and she was determined to change this fate. Unfortunately, the only way to accomplish her goal was to get the Oracle herself to say otherwise. Her father was unwilling to let her go against him and had told her so two days ago when he revealed her engagement. Their farm was small and could be worked by their little family and a hired hand or two, but it was a good place, most of the time. Jill scowled and slung the makeshift bag over her shoulder. One last glance around her room told her that it was the same bland space as always with an aged window that sat oddly in its frame. She wouldn't miss it. Jill wiped at her eyes to clear her vision.
She blew the candle out and felt the pockets she had sewn into her dress and cloak. She felt the needles and the extra bits of material and then the tiny bit of money from her mother while her eyes adjusted to the moonlight. Everyone else would be asleep already in preparation for planting new crops and taking care of the animals in the morning.
Jillian Mathis climbed out of the window lithely, dropping to the ground with barely a noise to give her away. Getting out was easy, getting away, however, would be more difficult. Jillian checked the knots on her sheet and then briefly watched the side of the house. Nothing moved. She lifted her skirts and ran, very carefully at first, and then faster. The woods were approaching and she closed her eyes tightly in preparation of the jump through the fruit trees her parents tended. Jumping this fence was simple. She had done it a hundred times before and landed with perfect knowledge of her surroundings.
"So, uh, did you plan to leave me here by myself or were you going to pick me up along the way?" asked a quiet voice. Jill froze and turned carefully, searching the shadows for the source. Her hair was tugged back, forcing her head to tip up. "I always told you to look up," said the boy in the tree.
"Dangit Hunter! Let go of me," Jill said in a tight voice. Hunter released her hair but hopped down from the tree and grabbed her bag before she could bolt.
"I thought we promised to go on adventures together," he said, a mock pout decorating his young face. He was a good head taller than her, but he was still a year younger.
"I have to go alone," Jill said, attempting to walk away from Hunter, "Otherwise the Oracle won't talk to me." Hunter's grip was strong and he leaned back against the tree he had been lounging in.
"I won't let you go alone," he pulled her back easily, "You're only 16 and any guy could just come along and take you. What if it's the slavers? What if it's those forest thieves?" He moved his hold to her wrist, it was tiny and fragile for all that she had worked in the fields and kitchen her whole life. Jill turned to face him slowly with a pained expression, as if looking at him was an effort. Her lips twitched towards a scowl.
"I am a grown woman, just like Mama said," She jerked her hand out of his grasp, "And I will be just fine all by myself." With the final words she pulled back her hand and, curling it into a fist like her father had taught her, slammed it into her childhood friend's cheek. Before he could recover from the shock, she was running deeper into the woods, her golden hair flicking out behind her. Hunter growled and bashed the tree, his hand sinking into the new bark with an audible crunch. He reached up and yanked his own pack from the cradle of the branches and began following Jillian. He was the man; he was supposed to protect her from harm, even if it came from herself.
Jillian didn't dare stop at the stream she had previously decided on. She kept going when her lungs began to ache and her legs to burn. When she finally collapsed, she was on fire. Jillian hadn't run that hard since the first time the family's dog escaped. The moon was setting and the forest was becoming murkier by the second. Jill gazed at the trees around her. Even though she hadn't felt like she'd gone very far, the land had already begun to change, becoming a little less flat with less plants. She couldn't tell if it was the woods or her vision that was swimming, but she climbed the first reasonable tree she could find and moved the smaller branches to act like a cradle. When she finally lay down in her makeshift bed, the sky was beginning to grow brighter and her eyes were already closed in sleep.
Hunter kept going. He wasn't running as fast as his charge had been but he was steadily moving closer to her. He knew that she could protect herself from almost everything not-human, but that didn't lessen his concern. Jillian's mother had told him a few weeks ago that she might try to do something ridiculous like run away and he would have to keep her safe. Jill's mother had said to bring her home safely. She had been crying when she sent him home. Hunter stopped to sit and fill his flasks with water, knowing that Jillian wouldn't have stopped for water if she thought he was in pursuit. He sighed heavily and just watched the river for a moment, pushing his doubts away. The river was cool and twinkled at him in the dim light. Hunter leaned down and splashed his face before drinking deeply. The young man rose and stretched with a carefree smile; his charge awaited him, most likely in a shelter too close to the ground.
Jillian woke up to patches of sunlight fighting their way through the dense limbs. The light was eerie and something about the silence sent shivers down her spine. Jill sat up warily, hoping that her chosen tree wouldn't give her away as she scrutinized the shadows close by. Hunter's warning from the previous night came to mind and she looked up. A Cardinal chirped at her and flew off, letting her exhale easily.
"You probably should've gone a bit higher up," said a masculine voice from beneath her. Jill jumped in terror and scrambled a few branches higher in her chosen shelter, staring down to the trunk. Hunter's grey eyes sparkled as he grinned at her. He laughed and pulled her things out of the bed she had vacated just moments before. Tears were brimming in Jill's eyes as she grabbed the first things she could to throw at her friend. The pinecones bit into her hands when she pulled them off the spiky branch but that wasn't why they shook.
"That's not funny," she screamed at him. He ducked away, his hands raised in supplication as she kept lobbing the seedpods, "I told you not to follow me and I'd be fine. Why'd you come?" she finished, running out of missiles. Her chest heaved with exertion as she stood over Hunter, all the pinecones scattered on the ground around him. He rose from his crouched position and studied her briefly. Standing on a wide branch with her clothes rumpled, dust covering her tanned skin, and twigs in her long blonde hair, she looked like an angry forest spirit, especially with her eyes flashing gold and green. He set her bag against the trunk and lifted his arms to her. This time his smile was gentle.
"I'm not going to go back and I won't force you to," he said, moving closer, "Please let me come with you," his eyes were beseeching. Jill began to shake her head but he cut her off, "I'll follow you even if you say no." He chuckled softly as she grumbled while clambering down the tree. He let his arms drop and stepped back to watch her. Elegant was not the word for Jillian most of the time at home and now was no different. They stood facing each other, Jill glaring and Hunter beaming back at her. Jill punched his chest but not with the force of the previous night. Her lips twitched, almost forming a smile before she pressed them together. She picked up her bag and turned north.
"You can come," she grumbled. She spun quickly to face him before he could do something childish, "But that doesn't mean you can lord over me. You aren't my father. I decide where we go." He stood stony-faced and saluted like he had been told soldiers did.
"Yes, my lady," he said, leaning into a sloppy bow. Jill grunted and started walking away. Hunter snatched up his own pack and hurried after the diminutive girl. He was accustomed to their random journeys into the woods, but knowing Jill had a clear destination made things different. There would be no heading home when they got tired or hungry on this adventure. "Pardon me, my lady," Hunter kept the act up, his voice clear and polite, "But how do you know where we are going? Do you know how to get to the Oracle's mountain?"
"We are going north until we reach a city and then we will find someone who can tell us how to get there," Jill kept walking without looking back, "She should have some kind of servant or apprentice or something that would know how to speak to her in person." Jill's voice and the set of her shoulders gave no space for argument. In other words, they were wandering in the general direction of a city. Hunter was silent for a while after this revelation. His own pack weighed heavily against him.
The Oracle was a mysterious woman who knew the future and could tell a person anything they wanted to know, including who it would be best for them to marry. That she could tell love fortunes was the reason Jill was seeking her out. Jillian Mathis loved her father, but she was unwilling to marry some strange person just because he said it would be good for both of them. Both of whom, she had thought to herself the night he had just about ruined the joy she had in her life. Jill walked until the sun was high and beating its way through the tall trees to press against her back. She and Hunter moved a bit more until they found a river. It splashed gaily around the rocks on the shore and the fish streaked by. The water sang as Hunter began fishing with a stick and some fishing line he kept on his person at all times. Jill began the hunt for firewood. It was a simple task for her and she was happy to be able to stop safely, even though having the equivalent of her kid brother made this journey a little odd. She had planned on being alone so she could think about whether she wanted to go back home after seeing the Oracle or not. Still, Hunter was a comfort she hadn't expected when she left. The bushes were getting thicker and there was a rustling coming from a particularly large clump.
Hunter sat in the shade of the tree closest to the river, the number of tiny fish at his side increasing slowly. There were no really big fish, so a bunch of small ones would have to do. Maybe they could do a stew for dinner, if Jill ever got back with the wood. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly before turning to face the woods.
"Jill, come on, finding wood can't be that hard," he called, rising to his feet. There was no answer. Hunter put the fishing rod away and retied the line. It was so quiet. He pulled a short knife out of his pack and approached the forest cautiously. "Jillian, if you're there, this isn't funny," he said, louder this time. He moved fluidly into the woods after no answer came. There was no way for him to know what happened except that she hadn't come out. Hunter knew that she hadn't wanted him to come, but she wouldn't just leave him and all of her things and run off into the woods. If she was taking care of personal problems, she would have told him so before he got close enough. The hair on Hunter's arms stood on end as he approached a particularly thick grouping of bushes. Suddenly, a tall woman materialized brandishing a thin sword that she pressed against his neck.
"I suppose you are the guardian of the young lady we encountered earlier," the woman said with a bright smile. Her cropped hair swung limply by her face as another woman and a man appeared on either side of her. Not turning from Hunter, she spoke swiftly, "Prepare another cage and send someone to collect our guests' possessions."
"You won't get away with this," Hunter said, his voice containing only the tiniest of quavers, "There are others that will come looking for us soon," he glanced around quickly, "Some of them are soldiers," he added. He tried backing away slowly but discovered that the two people he could see where not the only ones to have appeared. There was someone blocking him. He had always been taught to be a gentleman to all ladies, no matter their class or state, but this lady, this thief, had shocked him. He didn't want to fight her. Hunter decided to turn and fight the person behind him; it felt like the crossed arms of a sailor. He figured that dealing with the burly man behind him would be the quickest way out. The arms that caught him around the middle and squeezed him tightly when he tried were indeed well muscled, but they were not a man's arms. He looked up into the woman's face only to find that it was masked and not even her eyes were on him. He heard the leader laugh, and that's the only thing she could be, after all.
"You're so cute, thinking you can protect such an adorable girl and yourself in my woods," the leader approached him, moving deftly over the uneven ground, "Maybe we can make a servant of you yet, however we will need to do some training," she grasped Hunter's jaw and examined his face, his strong jaw and piercing grey eyes, "Some serious training," and then she smiled. "Come, all, let us go home." And then everything went black. It wasn't that he was knocked out, if anything, they had somehow blacked out his vision in the middle of the day. This was worse than if they had kicked him into unconsciousness because he was aware of it. He tried to scream his fear and anger, but his voice wasn't working either. They had robbed him of that, too! He thrashed against the woman who had decided to carry him like a sack of potatoes. It had no effect. He felt almost like he was floating next to his body and was unable to touch it, unable to interact at all with his physical surroundings. He tried moving his fingers and toes, tried to listen for any clue as to which direction they were going. There was nothing and he felt his mind slipping. Hunter tried his best to keep himself together.
Come on, it's no time to be a weakling. Jillian's relying on you to protect her. You have to keep your promise. What promise? What's a promise? What…? Hunter's mind drifted, no longer worrying about himself or his charge. He didn't wonder at how he got there or why. He was only aware that he was. Time meant nothing to him.
The light returned violently, searing into his head along with the feel of rocks cutting into his skin, the scent of dust flying up at him, the sound of a girl crying near to him and laugher beyond. Beyond what? Hunter looked up, trying to focus on the now. Jillian had her arms wrapped around herself in a cage not too far from him and he himself was surrounded by bamboo and metal bars. Beyond the bars was the group that had taken them. There couldn't be more than ten of them, but that's enough to cause a lot of damage and it's enough to kidnap a family, let alone a young pair of travelers. Jill was the girl who was crying. He reached for her and felt the whip curl around his arm, caressing his skin as it parted with his hand. Hunter flinched back and noticed the red welts all over Jillian's hands; she had tried to reach him, too.
"Silly boy, there's no way we'll let you two get together, not when we're so close," said the whip-bearer.
"What do you want us for," Jillian screamed at them, her arms thrown to her sides with clenched fists, her eyes shooting daggers into the leader. The laughter stopped abruptly and the leader stepped forward. Jillian not only didn't back down, but she stood defiantly and continued to glare.
"I have not decided what I want to keep you for yet," she said with a leer to Jill, "Maybe I'll keep you as a pet or sell you to someone who will." Jill shuddered and took a step back. A beer filled mug flew out from behind the leader into the bars of Jill's cage. The contents splashed over her, forcing her to flinch away from the bars. She still got wet. The leader laughed heartily.
"Who are you?" Hunter asked, rage bubbling through him. The leader faced him slowly, her possibly once beautiful face icy cold.
"Who am I?" she asked in disbelief. Her eyes widened almost innocently as she stepped closer, "Who am I?" she pressed her filthy hands against her chest. "You don't know who I am," she seemed not to be understanding so he nodded. She growled angrily, "I am MacBeth the Great!," she pulled her sword from its sheath, "I am the queen of this land!" Her group was howling their approval and support. Hunter looked to Jillian and grimaced, they were at the mercy of a lunatic and possibly a slaver. Jillian's face was weak with understanding and her head drooped, wet hair splaying around her. Hunter gazed at MacBeth's group and felt his neck weaken. Their laughter was drowning out his hope and will, it was a physical ache. He remembered seeing their packs behind the three men in the gang and felt a tiny pang of hope. Maybe someone would come along and help them.
Hunter clenched his fists in frustration and looked at the rocks around him. He had convinced Jillian to let him tag along so anything was possible. He looked past the gang into the sky and realized that the sun was going to be setting soon. He would have to watch this mob and learn. He would wait for them to slip up. He hoped that it would happen soon.
Thank you for reading this portion, the next shall be up on Monday, Jan. 7th. This portion has been modified once again.
Please review if possible and thank you if you do.