|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|
An unfortunate change...
Jillian didn't really sleep the night they were captured. She and Hunter had been given food, not very much, but enough. Hunter had sat watching MacBeth's people until he fell asleep sitting up. Jillian leaned against her bars in order to catch a glimpse of the moon. She closed her eyes to try and steal some sleep, but all that came to mind was that night not very long ago when her father told her the news.
You're going to marry the shepherd of the town to the south, Wellhaven, he had said. Her father had been smiling widely when he shared the engagement at dinner. Her mother hadn't seemed shocked but her smile didn't quite reach her eyes.
Isn't this wonderful? Her mother had said, You will get to have a loving husband so soon; it really is a great thing. Her mother spooned soup into her mouth quickly, as if trying to drown words that wanted to make themselves known. Jillian had been too shocked to say anything at that time, but her stomach rebelled. It knotted up and she couldn't even so much as look at the soup and bread in front of her. Jill set her spoon down and pushed the shallow bowl away slowly. She tried sipping water from the old wooden cup that she kept. The liquid seemed to clear her throat a little.
Why, Papa? Do I really have to get married to some shepherd I don't even know, she had managed weakly. He seemed ready for this and smiled again, gently this time.
Don't worry, darling, he's a good man and not much older than you. He'll treat you well and you can still come visit us, her father's words were said gently, but all Jillian could see was short rock walls that she couldn't step over and couldn't navigate pop up around her. She felt dizzy and dropped her head into her hands, trying to breathe deeply. Her mother stood and patted her back.
Dear, this is a bit of a shock to her, to Jillian's father, and then to her, Let's get you to bed, Jillian. You'll feel better in the morning, I promise. The woman led her through the narrow halls to her room. Jill dropped onto her bed, her head landing in her hands.
Do I have ta', Mama? I don't want to get married and leave, Jill looked to her mother by the window. She was dressed in her normal pale green dress and her dirty blonde hair was bound tightly to her head. The older version of herself lit a candle and pulled a comb from nowhere before approaching the bed.
Jillian, you know that you'll have to leave some day, she began to brush her daughter's long blonde hair, Getting married is the best option and besides, I've heard Wellhaven's a good town. You'll be safe there and your husband will take care of you. Jillian's shoulders shook, tears threatening to come. Her mother began braiding her hair, her hands gentle.
I'd rather run away than be forced to marry some strange person, is there any way to get Papa to change his mind? Jillian had turned to face her mother before the braid was finished. Her mother smiled sadly and kissed Jill's forehead.
I'll see what I can do, but no promises, her mother had turned to leave the room but paused, Please consider marriage as a good alternative to running away. She left silently and Jill didn't watch the door close. Marriage was no alternative.
Jill opened her eyes to find that she had slept. She was back in her cage and the moon was gone. The wind, however, had begun to whisper through the camp and around the captives. Jill felt that it was different, not a normal wind like what she had known. It rushed past her, back into the camp and to a figure that had come to stand in the clearing. Jill shivered with their passing and moved closer to the camp to try and catch a glimpse of what was going on. The figure that the wind spirits were swirling around was a woman, Jill scoffed then looked harder. What was left of the small camp fire behind the woman was swept up into a miniature blaze and the wind was suddenly visible. They were tiny and fragile-looking, androgynous bodies and glistening wings visible only because of the light they bent into prismatic colors. The woman was colored in rainbow hues now, too, though. MacBeth stood among the spirits, her face soft as she interacted with them. She suddenly looked beautiful, her hair clean and back, her cheeks rounded and her bones no longer so clearly visible, she almost looked regal. Jillian shook her head and stared back, the vision was gone and in its place stood the woman who had kidnapped her and Hunter. MacBeth noticed Jill staring and sauntered over. Jill backed up when MacBeth reached the bars. MacBeth caressed the bars and smiled kindly down at Jill.
"It had just occurred to me that I never received your name, little one," she said. Jill turned her face away, not willing to give up just because the crazy woman had decided to pull out some manners. If she had been a little younger, she might have answered, maybe. MacBeth walked to the side where Jill was looking and sat on her heels. "I'm not going to make your life miserable unless I have to," the woman said in a solemn voice.
"It's already miserable enough," Jill blurted. She slapped her hands over her mouth, surprised at herself. She kept her eyes focused on the ground at her captor's feet. The older woman chuckled.
"Forced to do something terrible enough to make running away from home a good idea, I see," MacBeth nodded to herself, she smiled at the girl in her cage. "I remember my sister doing that." MacBeth stood and looked away, "She was picked up and killed by slavers. We were sent her head and left hand." MacBeth turned then began to walk away.
"Jillian," Jill called from the cage, MacBeth waited, "My name is Jillian." Her voice was weak and shook ever so slightly. MacBeth nodded and then continued walking back to her own tent. Jill silently watched her go, shocked at MacBeth's own admissions. Jill hadn't thought that people who suffered at the hands of slavers would become one. As Jill turned to look into the darkness of her surroundings, her mind wandered to the sparkling image she had seen. That couldn't be real, probably still part of a dream that she had been stuck in when MacBeth happened to walk over to inspect her and Hunter. Jill hadn't learned anything she considered useful, like a weakness that would help her and Hunter escape faster and get to the nearest city, at the very least. She leaned back against the bars and waited for the sun to rise, closing her eyes.
"Pst, Jill." Jill's eyes snapped open, revealing her best friend in his cage but closer somehow. She nodded in acknowledgement. "Get up, some new people came into the camp a little bit after sunrise," his voice was hushed and worried. More worried than normal, even. Jill rose slowly then edged towards Hunter, unsure of what to be ready for.
"Who was it? Why do you seem more worried than last night," Jill asked softly. Her voice carried easily and Hunter's face fell. "What is it? Tell me already," she insisted. He looked like she had told him his puppy drowned in the newly dug well and he was the one who was supposed to be giving the news. He looked away, more troubled than before. Jill reached towards him then remembered the welts along her arms and pulled her hands back and then farther until she was sure he couldn't see them.
"They called this man the Buyer, as if he specializes in slaving people off to the rich or people far away," Hunter paused and looked back to her, he was trembling, "I fear they may try to take you first. I don't know what to do," Hunter said, deflating into a heap on the floor. Jill stared in shock at him. He had always been strong and arrogant, seeing him afraid was wrong, horribly wrong. Jill wracked her brain for something to distract him. She wouldn't think of this man as the one who could destroy her dreams.
"Hey Hunter," she began, her voice shaking ever so slightly, "Did you move the cage closer? It looks closer," she asked. She forced a curious smile, it didn't reach her eyes but he looked up. Hunter glanced behind him, a tiny trail in the leaves behind him.
"Yeah, I thought that maybe there was a way to break the cage apart since not all of the bars are metal. I tried kicking the other bars, but it only got me a sore foot. I decided to see if maybe the cages were attached to the group and we could dig our way out or something," Hunter rose, happy to have something else to think of, his hands still shook when he gestured behind him, "As you can see, they are separate and moveable." He turned to smile at her and it was real. Jill's own managed to climb her face and reach her eyes.
"Hate to interrupt this lovely chat," MacBeth piped up, disturbingly close to the cages. Hunter and Jill whirled as one, both betraying their terror. MacBeth continued, wearing a smile, "But I have some business with our Buyer and you need to be good little children while we determine if it will only be one or both." Jill grimaced in fear and revulsion, backing away from MacBeth. MacBeth didn't see it as she was walking back to the Buyer who had emerged from the tent they had been talking in. Jill caught the faintest rainbow glimmer in his hair, but she dismissed it with a shake of her head.
Jill wanted to look at Hunter, to reassure herself that he was still beside her, even if he couldn't protect her right now. She didn't dare because the Buyer and MacBeth were approaching the cages. The Buyer was tall with broad shoulders, dark brown hair, green eyes, and strange clothing that she had never seen before. She guessed that maybe he was royalty or foreign. His swaggering gait made her more nervous than she had been when he had simply been the monster that would destroy her dreams. Jill saw her life with her family and her friendship with Hunter breaking apart like old ceramic thrown at a tree. Jill looked away then, but she could still hear her captor talking.
Hunter watched the awkward pair come closer. The Buyer looked almost regal or at the very least, important compared to the scrubby looking MacBeth. He glanced to Jill and saw she had gone back to sitting and her hands were over her face. He longed to hug her and tell her she would be safe. His gaze snapped back to the couple, weary of the words they would speak.
"So the girl is rather small and feisty, but the boy, well, he'll be a wonderful servant. The girl would ruin your things and probably attempt to cause you harm," Macbeth continued to the Buyer, "The boy is a much better option, especially since it appears that he has only recently begun to mature." The Buyer shook his head with a grin and the two of them stopped to examine Hunter and Jill. Hunter watched the Buyer closely as he examined Jill, hoping that he would take no interest in her. When the Buyer walked over to Hunter's cage, the boy stared back at the older man defiantly. The Buyer's grin returned.
"Boy, what's your name," the Buyer asked in a commanding voice. It was deeper than Hunter thought it should be and he felt compelled to answer.
"Hunter," he said, shocked at himself. He looked to Jill in confusion and she was staring back at him, horror written on her features. The Buyer laughed heartily and turned away from the cages. MacBeth, who had been glaring at Jill, quickly composed a light smile to meet the Buyer.
"I told you he would be the better option," she said confidently. The Buyer nodded and reached into his jacket.
"What are you doing," Hunter asked them angrily, his fear reshaping itself into something he could use. MacBeth glared and approached him, getting close enough to whisper to him.
"I am selling you to my best customer," she said in an angry hiss, "And if you don't keep your mouth shut and be good, I'll sell your little girl friend to the worst person I can find." Her voice could have cut through stone and Hunter felt a pain in his chest. "Now be good, little boy, and I will keep Jillian safe," MacBeth said lowly, her face almost soft. Hunter, shocked that she had even thought of saving Jillian, nodded dumbly. If he couldn't protect her, he would have to trust that someone else would. Hunter still didn't like it; he glared at the rocks in the bottom of his prison and kicked at some smaller ones angrily. He was so weak and he hated it.
Jillian, missing MacBeth's conversation with Hunter, saw something she hadn't thought possible. Hunter was giving up. She stared at her friend, unsettled by his behavior. She decided that it might almost be better to look at the man who was making her life worse. He had pulled some rolls of money out of his jacket and handed them to MacBeth, who smiled generously at him.
"I thank you for your service, Buyer. Would you like any chains or rope to make sure he doesn't run away?" MacBeth asked innocently. Jill felt a pick of ice jam into her heart. She wasn't being sold, Hunter was.
"I just want his wrists tied behind him. I can catch him easily if he tries to run," Buyer laughed at his own statement and stretched out a hand for a length of rope. MacBeth dropped the bit into his hand and then moved to unlock the cage. Jill saw her whisper something to Hunter and watched him flinch. MacBeth tossed open the door, moving out of the way quickly. Hunter walked out slowly, his feet dragging. He looked forlornly at Jill and mouthed, "I'll come back for you." Jill couldn't stop the tears from creeping down her cheeks. She saw the man tie Hunter's hands up and then proceed to disappear into the brush. Just like that. Gone. Jill sank into herself, wondering what would happen to her closest friend and then moving on to worry about herself. She heard the creak of hinges and turned to face the door. MacBeth stood in the entry to her cage with a smirk. Jill waited for the woman to do something. MacBeth chuckled and moved out of the way, making a gesture for Jill to exit. Jill hesitantly walked out, her shoulders hunched and her eyes wide, not sure if she could believe it.
"I made a deal that benefits everyone," MacBeth said gently. She placed her arm around the girl's shoulders and guided her into the camp. Jill noticed a few members of the group just lounging about, but they looked different than before.
"What deal did you make," Jill asked tentatively after they entered a relatively large tent, "And what are you doing with me?"
"Hunter will be trained and taken care of by my friend and you will be trained and taken care of by me, for a little bit, anyways," MacBeth said happily, "I'm quite glad you didn't run when I opened the door, it would've been a pity to injure you and make you unable to work."
"What work are you going to make me do," Jill asked, backing away slowly.
"Normal things to take care of the camp, really," MacBeth looked through the flap they had come in by, lifting it and letting the material drift closed. "And you will help with the woods. You see, I really am the Queen of this forest," MacBeth turned to face Jill, acknowledging the girl's disbelief. The woman nodded, "I know you don't believe that yet, but some of my darlings told me you saw them before they let the fire die." Jill stared at her in confusion.
"The little rainbow things in the wind," she asked incredulously. Jill crossed her arms in front of her chest and shifted her weight back, seriously contemplating the insanity of the woman in front of her.
"I want your help in taking care of my lands for a short time. I know you can see the spirits, sense their difference from the regular things. It only makes sense that you help me in exchange for me letting you live and not being sold to some pond scum for a very good price," MacBeth said. The woman smiled at the contempt in Jill's eyes. "I know where you came from, the woods tell me where you disturbed them," Jill looked away but MacBeth came closer and lifted her chin and she continued softly, "I know where you intend to go. The Oracle cannot be reached as easily as you think, but if you learn to know the land and the spirits like I do, then you will never be alone again and you will almost be able to find the woman on your own."
"Why should I trust anything you say," Jill asked, her voice rising. MacBeth jerked her chin to the side before letting go.
"You don't have to, but you will learn whether you want to or not," MacBeth said. Her tone was final and Jill wouldn't look at her. "Also, you will stay by me at all times from now on," Jill stared at her in rage; MacBeth cut her off though, "It is for your safety and for your mind. You must be safe, according to my deal with Hunter, and you will learn. Besides, not all the people in my camp are as averse to girls as I am." MacBeth smiled sweetly and patted Jillian's head. "Oh yes, we need to give you a new name," MacBeth said with an excited twinkle in her eye.
"What's wrong with my name," Jill asked, offended.
"When the search party gets here, they'll call for you. If you don't answer to Jillian, they won't look at you as the missing girl, and we can change your appearance so they don't look too hard anyways," MacBeth said as she paced around the tent.
"There's a search party," Jillian asked, hope wrapping around her lungs.
"If you knew how to hear the birds and the trees and the wind, they would tell you everything about this group," MacBeth said with a glimmering smile but then she shrugged, "But you don't, so I guess you'll only find them if they manage to get here."
"Fine, I will learn. But I want to leave and get Hunter as quickly as possible," Jill said.
"You rescue Hunter?" MacBeth asked incredulously. She laughed and then continued, "You will not be able to go where he will be by the time you have the skills to elude me."
"He's like my little brother and my best friend, I have to help him," Jill puffed angrily. MacBeth's smile became sad and she shook her head.
"That's sad to hear, he would've made a good husband for you, in a few years once he's gotten his bearings on life," MacBeth said quietly.
Hunter rubbed weakly at his wrists. The man who had bought him had made him walk for hours, stopping only to drink every once in a while. They were at a small cabin now in what looked to be the foothills to the mountain range he and Jill had been looking for. Hunter had no idea how they had gotten so far in the six hours that they had been moving. It had to be over a day's journey back to the slavers' camp.
"Stop moping, boy, you have work to do," the man who had stolen him from Jill said.
"What work? And who are you anyways," Hunter asked petulantly.
"Call me Boss and you'll do whatever work I give you," Boss said, his features set. "Besides, you want to be strong enough to save and keep safe that little girl you were next to, don't ya?" Hunter nodded, wondering how Boss knew that, "I can sometimes read minds," answered the older man, "Now pick up the axe over there and cut some firewood before the sun goes down. We can talk over dinner." Boss walked into the cabin and Hunter saw a candle flare to life.
Hunter walked to the side of the cabin and was shocked at the number of logs that needed to be cut. He picked up the axe and felt the familiar weight settle into his hand as he cut the wood down to size. This old task calmed and wearied him, enough so that when the sun set, he was strong enough to carry an armload of wood inside and drop it by the fireplace before collapsing by the fire.
"Tired from just that? Ha, we'll definitely need to start your training soon if you're ever going to be anything like a hero to anyone," Boss said with a smile, he set a tray with two bowls of soup, two cups of water, and a loaf of bread down on the floor in front of the fire. Hunter took one of the cups of water in hand quickly and gulped it down before Boss could say anything. Boss watched and laughed as Hunter fell back again, his arms and legs twitching uncontrollably. "You should have waited, stupid boy. I was going to give you a lesson on who you can trust to do certain things, but you get the speed version. I put small amounts of poisons into all my food," Hunter's eyes rolled wildly in his head, "And you grabbed my cup, which has a great deal more than yours, so here," Boss sat Hunter up and poured a small vial of something bitter down his throat. Hunter's limbs relaxed and he could focus again. His mouth wasn't working so he tried thinking to Boss, Why were you going to poison me? "I'll explain everything on our morning run. Here is some bread that you will eat and I hope you understand that it is better to wait and discover what someone has to say before blindly picking up something that may hurt you because of your ignorance," Boss ate his soup and bread quickly, disappearing into the kitchen with his dishes and reappearing with a blanket. Hunter had just finished the bread and was beginning on the soup.
"Why was there poison in the water?" Hunter managed this time.
"I will let you think about it. Here's a blanket, you get to sleep in here for now. Do your dishes when you finish eating. Be ready to go when the sun rises, we have a lot of work to do," Boss said, ignoring his question and walking into a separate room. The door closed behind him with almost a grating sound and Hunter winced. So he was going to be trained, he would learn how to what? Fight? Build things? Hunter shook his head, drinking the rest of the soup. It burnt on the way down, but that was familiar, too.
Thank you for reading and the next bit shall be online next Monday, Jan. 14th. Please review if you can.