|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 something is learned...
Jill and MacBeth stopped to rest in a clearing. The sun was getting close to setting as Jill skulked around the edges of their new, secluded camp. They had left the others behind not long after lunch for what MacBeth called 'special training' so Jill guessed that maybe it meant actual training. The tent was set up quickly and MacBeth gathered some rocks to surround the place where she wanted the fire. Jill grudgingly gathered kindling and larger sticks.
"Stop moping, Fae," MacBeth said, "The time for real work is coming soon and then you will learn about the Wind spirits and maybe the animals, if you're a quick enough study." MacBeth smiled fondly at Jill, though the girl wasn't looking at her. Jill was gazing into the beginnings of a beautiful blaze. She smiled crookedly and poked the fire with a longer stick.
"Why do we need dark to deal with the spirits," Jill asked, putting her back to the fire and her poker next to her leg.
"That is because they sleep during the day," MacBeth said. Noticing Jill's look of confusion, she continued, "In your sleep, you do things like talk or thrash and some people even walk, this you understand, correct," MacBeth asked. Jill nodded so she went on, "The Wind spirits float through our world during the day, recording what goes on in the movements of the air subconsciously, without knowing, and when they awake, they are able to go through the whole events of the day in a matter of moments. This makes them wonderful for long missions because they can condense everything they learned from that day and convey the important information quickly, though not as quickly as mine. My particular set is as fond of creating a ruckus as I am and are able to move through longer distances faster than the regular kind. Mine are also more reliable when it comes to information date. The regular kinds only know what happened the day they slept or the time they were awake and paying attention, add in travel time, and the enemy or whomever could have changed plans or acted on theirs already and now you are moving without a clear destination or purpose." MacBeth leaned back, resting on her arms. Jill watched her quietly, rolling the information she had just heard through what she knew already of the woods and spirits. Nothing contradicted her previous knowledge, but she resisted.
"So these spirits just tell everything they know to someone like you," Jill asked, fiddling with the poker at her side. There was a tiny ember in the end that hadn't gone out. She focused on it, willing it to grow and give her an opening to escape and get to Hunter. The ember gently went dark. MacBeth laughed softly.
"Girl, that fire won't listen to you and it certainly won't help you get away," MacBeth said, picking up the stick before Jill could tighten her grip, "To answer your question though, no. Most spirits don't like people. Most spirits will only tell what they want you know, even if it's a lie that will probably kill you if you act on it. Also, not a single one will tell you their name, even among mine. The reason is because if you write the name of a spirit you are bringing it fully into our world, which would not only anger them beyond reason, but it would make you the target of every other spirit in the area." MacBeth glanced sidelong at Jill while pretending to examine the poker, hoping that the girl understood the warning. The stick, when she did actually examine it, was a bit more than a yard long, mostly straight, and the wood it was made of was just soft enough to be worked while being strong enough to last through regular wear that a walking stick would go through. MacBeth turned and sank back onto her heels, she handed Jill the stick with a smile on her face. "Keep this with you, don't burn or break it, it may prove useful later," MacBeth said. Jill took it, rolling it on her hands. Jill wasn't sure what to do about the name issue, aside from it meaning she could never really 'know' the Wind by her own understanding. The quiet was gaining weight when Jill couldn't stand it any longer.
"Why are you still calling me 'Fae' when we're all alone now," Jill asked, grasping at straws for conversation.
"Because of the other Wind spirits," MacBeth said, turning around to hand Jill some dried meat and nuts, "Just because they can, and regularly do, lie, doesn't meant the truth can't be gotten out of them. Those methods, however, are not known to me and for that I am glad." Jill nodded and watched the last rays of the sun disappear behind the trees, the sky falling into a deep blue, like the water in a well or lake that goes down a long ways. She munched silently on her meat when the wind picked up, whipping the flame higher and wilder. The crackling almost sounded like laughter again. MacBeth stood facing the fire, her arms outstretched.
"Welcome," MacBeth said, gesturing at Jill and changing from audible sounds to just forming the words from air. The wind swirled around her arm and shot to Jill, surrounding her. Jill was lifted up to standing. Instead of being scared, though, she felt strangely at ease.
"Hello," Jill said softly. She felt the spirit on her left move in what might have been a happy jig if it had been human, "I'm, um," Jill hesitated on her name and closed her eyes tightly. She knew that she couldn't know their names, but what would happen if they knew hers?
"She is Fae," MacBeth finished. Jill looked at her, unsure of what to do. "They will not hurt you, see how boisterous they are," MacBeth asked happily, moving her hand is if petting an invisible child or pet. The wind picked up, pushing at Jill from all directions, almost lifting her from the ground entirely. Jill flailed, fear chilling her instantly. MacBeth's hand landed on Jill's shoulder quickly, pushing her feet firmly into the grass. "No, she does not go flying right now," MacBeth said firmly, Jill understood the words were for her as well as the Wind, because she had guessed the reason for the silence. Air moved through the throat to make sound and even without the audible part, the air was still shaped into the same patterns. The Wind left her in another whirl, moving to lift MacBeth's hair up and away from her head. The short strands whipped wildly in the strong winds. Jill focused on her hands and trying to get them to stop shaking. When the Wind left again, she felt it through her body, like a hole she hadn't noticed being dug. She sat down hard, her legs finally giving up.
"They," she gulped and looked to MacBeth, "They were holding me up. They were going to take me away." Jill finished in a gasp, moving to wrap her arms around her legs. MacBeth sat next to her and placed an arm around her shoulders.
"I know, that's why I stopped them from taking you higher," MacBeth said softly. Jill stared at MacBeth, her own fear doubtlessly showing. "Flying is for some other time," MacBeth said with a wink, "They won't hurt you though, these ones like you and would just try to show you until your ears worked like mine." Jill dropped her head into her hands and MacBeth laughed heartily, "It's ok, Fae, really. I promise that my Wind spirits will not hurt you in any way." MacBeth's voice was serious and Jill almost believe her, she desperately wanted to. Jill picked up her poker, the stick somehow a talisman against fear. The ember that had been in the end was still gone, but it felt warm, like the hand of a friend. Jill's smile was tight.
"Will I be learning anything else out here," Jill asked, looking up to MacBeth. The woman's smile was wide and open, reaching her eyes.
"Of course, among the first things will be fixing your new walking stick to what you feel is right. Also, we might start working our way north along the River Nohn," MacBeth said, "Oh, and you can call me Beth, if it makes this any easier on you." MacBeth stood then, stretching back, twisting from side to side. She leaned down, snatching a thin sword up from the grass.
"What kind of sword is that," Jill asked, pulling the cloak away from her neck as much as she could.
"This, dear girl, is a Rapier," MacBeth said, looking with love on her sword, "I got it as a gift from Buyer when I was little and have had it since." MacBeth caressed the sword like it was a dear friend, "It's been with me through all the bad times." Jill nodded skeptically and suddenly MacBeth was right in her face, "You will know what a comfort it is to have something stay with you for a long period of time, especially when your situation goes from bad to terrible." MacBeth stood just as quickly and marched into the tent.
Jill unsheathed the knife she still had and began taking the bark off the stick. Even if the woman was strange, she did have a point that it might be a good idea to be armed at least a little. The bark came off easily after she got the hang of the wood. It was crooked inside, like it had been whipped by wind the whole time it was growing and it was only straight now due to some miracle. The wood smelt strongly, but it was nice, like it could stop something, Jill didn't know what. MacBeth poked her head out of the tent to watch before emerging completely.
"If you're done, you can go to bed and I'll take the first watch," MacBeth said, resting a hand on the girl's shoulder, "I'll wake you when it's your turn, Fae." Jill turned glazed eyes to look at the woman. The wood shavings had been going into the fire and it too smelt of Cedar. The wood looked odd in the fire, but the bark fully gone. Jill nodded dazedly, standing with the help of her stick and wobbling over to the tent. She collapsed into the pallet and was asleep instantly. One arm hung off, the hand tightly clenched around the now-smooth walking stick.
Hunter was chopping wood again and beginning to get bored of it. How is this even helping me? he wondered silently, beginning to fume at his state. The Boss was a magician of some sort and so was the tiny man who had left in a huff the other day. Hunter was just a normal guy who wanted to protect and help his best friend that happened to be a girl. He stopped working for a moment to look at the clouds, they were ruddy and had streaks of orange and yellow behind them. He was wondering if MacBeth had kept her word or not when Boss came around the cabin.
"Boy, what are you doing just lazing about," the man boomed. Hunter jumped, turning to face him. "Never mind, I wanted to talk to you about Jal," Boss said in a normal sounding voice. Hunter hadn't heard this tone before and was shocked into silence, he waited. Boss looked aside sheepishly. "The truth is that when I went to MacBeth's camp, I was supposed to get the girl, but she convinced me otherwise. That woman did not want me to take either of you, but she insisted that if I had to have one, I take you," Boss scratched the back of his head, staring resolutely at the ground. Hunter gazed at him in mild confusion.
"She didn't want you to take either of us? Did she say why," he asked, watching the man avoid his eyes.
"Uh, no," Boss said, he looked up tentatively, meeting Hunter's gaze and the anger in it. Boss's smile crept back and he relaxed. "I'm going to teach you how to talk with the animals around us," Boss said, his regular booming voice back and happy to be there, "It is the simplest thing any of us can do. Also, about earlier, when I fixed the door, I'm not quite a magician. Please don't call me that again both for my sake and because any magician you do meet will obviously be one," Boss said with a snigger, "They're quite the flamboyant bunch, magic users." Hunter grimaced, remembering the minor telepathy Boss had mentioned before. "Let's get going then," Boss said, clapping his hands together. He reached out and grabbed Hunter's arm, pulling the boy along into the woods again. Hunter managed to keep up this time, though he hurt more now than he had after their run.
"So what do we do to talk to animals," Hunter asked, "Don't we just talk normally like with a pet dog or something?" Boss stared down at him and laughed, though he never missed a step. Hunter stumbled on.
"Oh no, and if you ever do, I can guarantee that they'll do the opposite of what you asked," Boss said, swatting branches out of his way.
"Then how do we do it," Hunter asked angrily, frustration and bruised feet getting to him. Boss looked at him seriously; his arm moving branches as he studied the youth he was dragging along. Boss almost felt pity but then again, he almost felt anything. The man shrugged and smiled gleefully at the boy.
"I'll show you when we get there," the man said. Hunter almost growled and tried to answer when Boss released his arm and pushed him into a small field.
"What was that for," Hunter asked harshly, spinning to face the man, finding nothing instead.
"I'm calling a friend of mine for help, you'll love him, really," Boss's voice came from the other side of the field. Hunter turned again in befuddlement. Boss had been right behind him, how did he get all the way over there so quickly. Before Hunter could voice his questions, a mountain cat emerged from the branches in a leap. Hunter yelped and stumbled backwards. "I thought you wanted to meet my friend," Boss said from directly behind him, "Don't be rude now. Go on," with this last bit, Boss shoved Hunter forward.
"But what do I do," Hunter hissed, turning to face his owner. He was terrified and the cat was stalking closer.
"Open your mind and think, boy," he heard Boss say, almost like the man was in Hunter's ear. Hunter squeezed his eyes shut, thinking hard and fast about the cat in front of him. Lean body with powerful limbs, a flicking tail and bits of dappled fur. Harder, someone urged. Ok, Hunter focused on the creature's head. It had pointed ears sharp teeth, it also had eyes that burned, but Hunter couldn't remember their color in the glimpse he had taken. Hunter opened his eyes carefully. The cat pounced on him then. Tail thrashing and mouth open, Hunter screamed when the weight hit him and he fell. The cat's front paws were on his shoulders and their faces were almost touching. Hunter's breath froze and he stared at the blazing green eyes. The mouth opened wider and Hunter whimpered, fearing the worst but too afraid to move. The cat licked his face from chin to hairline. It then moved off of him, moving to sit next to Boss's huge frame. Hunter was still frozen, unable to move but filled with adrenaline.
"Good, now think of the cat," Boss commanded, "Ask it why!" Hunter wouldn't admit his fear, he would not submit to that agony. He closed his eyes and thought of the burning green jewels, mentally asking why. He opened his eyes again and sat up, his head spinning. He backed away in a crab walk, unable to stand. "Boy, your mind is closed again," Boss boomed. The cat stood to follow Hunter, but sat back with a shake from Boss's head. Boss and the mountain cat watched as Hunter managed to find his feet, rise, and begin to run back towards the cabin. "Gabriel, how about you come by the cabin later and we can try again," Boss said gently, patting the feline's head once before it streaked off in the opposite direction. "Thank you for this time anyways," he said to himself.
Hunter chopped wood furiously, his body trembling still. He stood only by force of will and swung the axe by force of habit. That beast could have killed him! Had that monster of a man really wanted for him to die from the work and fear? Hunter cut more logs, not paying attention when Boss appeared behind him again. Hunter heard something break and, screaming madly, he charged, axe in hand. Boss caught him up, taking the axe and tossing it aside. He held Hunter off the ground by the boy's shirt and shook him once, twice, until Hunter quieted.
"Were you trying to kill me," Hunter screamed.
"No you little brick, I wanted to help you, but you ran off like a baby girl instead of standing like a man," Boss said just as forcefully, "You didn't even try to fight her off, you ninny. Do you even want to help your little friend? Huh?" Boss shook him once more and then dropped him. "Come inside when you're ready to be a man," He tossed at the boy before disappearing around the corner. Hunter sat on the ground, dazed, feeling tears sear his eyes. Had he really failed? He punched the ground and then looked at his hand and the impression it had made. His hand throbbed and the space where he hit was almost undisturbed. He had done nothing but hurt himself. He hung his head and stood, slowly finding his feet.
You should really try to be more open minded, human, said a soft voice in his head. Hunter looked around in confusion.
"Who's there," he spun, trying to see everything, "What do you want with me?"
I just wanted to see if you could hear me now, Hunter heard a feline yawn from behind him. The mountain cat sat politely by the discarded axe. It appears you can, congratulations, the cat stood and waltzed past him towards the doorway, Are you coming or are you going to cry out here some more? Hunter scowled at the cat that was talking down to him as it walked away. He fixed his clothes and moved to replace the axe. He gazed at it fondly, doing his best to forget what he had tried out of blind fear and rage.
"We all have to grow up sometime," Hunter said to himself before walking through the cabin door with an armload of kindling. He would be ready for anything Boss cold throw at him now. He heard low voices from the kitchen, when he entered. As he was setting the pile down it hit him. Hunter had talked to the beast. He had understood her, for Boss had said 'her', and even though he didn't particularly like her, they could speak. Hunter threw a long on the small fire in triumph.
Thank you very much to those of you who have read this far.
The next bit will be out by 2pm Central time next Tuesday, Jan. 29.