SHANE recruits the Giants

One's perspective struggled in the North Country of Tyraron. Unclaimed by any race in Celestia, the land was wild and largely avoided. The trees grew as large as houses and as tall as skyscrapers; tall, craggy mountains blocked out the horizon, the show tipped peaks thrusting up into the clouds; the wildlife was dangerously diverse—panthers and tigers prowled the land, vipers hung from the trees, and there were tales of basilisks and yetis in the mountains. There were no roads or trails to follow in this wild world.

Shane and Kiyoshi, weary from the long trip from Virana, sat astride Yui as his large paws made quick work of the thick underbrush. The elf and she-vampire admired their surroundings, but did not allow their guard to fall.

Shane found it very difficult not to let her mind wander. She was so in awe of the sight around her; her brain filling with these images she would never forget.

"I wish I had my camera!" she remarked to Kiyoshi behind her.

"What about your phone?" he supplied.

"Oh yeah!"

The elf, with his black and blue hair pulled back into a ponytail, removed his arms from her waist so she could reach her phone in her back pocket. He then rested his head on her shoulder as she bent over the tiny screen.

"Fuck," she grumbled while vainly pushing the device's power button. "It's dead."

"I am not surprised," replied Kiyoshi lazily. "We have been traveling the road for a week."

"And that last inn didn't have electricity," she pouted. "Give me yours!"

"It died days ago."

Shane muttered grumpily to herself, shoving the useless phone into her bag, which hung from Yui's side. They continued to travel in silence. As the afternoon wore on, dark clouds moved in to completely block the sky. Luckily, they were near the base of the mountains so it was a simple task to find a shallow cave for shelter. They gathered wood for the fire and settled in just as the clouds broke overhead, and the deluge began.

"We had might as well spend the night here," Kiyoshi said as he attempted to see through the thick curtain of rain.

Shane sat close to the fire, her jacket wrapped around her tightly, and Yui—in his small form now—curled up on her lap.

"I hope we find the giants tomorrow," she whispered as she stroked her feline friend's soft, white fur.

Kiyoshi sat next to her, close enough that their arms were touching. She looked over at him, smiling slightly.

"The giants are masters of stealth. They blend into the very environment."

"Because they are the environment," insisted Shane. She was a firm believer in the Druid Theory about the giants, which stated that they were things of the natural world, such as giant trees, bears, or even mountains. It was impossible to find a giant. You had to wait on one to find you.

"Okay," Kiyoshi appeased her with a slight grin. "I'll take first watch."

"Good," Shane said brightly. She leaned forward and pecked him on the lips. He grabbed the back of her head to stop her and kissed her again, this time longer and deeper. Then he released her without a word.

The morning was bathed in white light. The sun filtered through a thick cloud of fog that hung just over their heads in the forest. Cold dew coated the forest, and the temperature was significantly lower than it had been the day before.

Shane bundled up in two jackets and thick boots, but despite having her hood pulled up and her arms crossed tightly she was still cold, and she hated it. She sat astride Yui, glad for the warmth of his skin against her legs, as she waited for Kiyoshi to finish stomping out the fire. She wasn't, however, waiting patiently.

"Hurry," she whined, drawing out the word. "It's freezing!"

"It'll be colder once we start moving," he replied. He secured his bag next to Shane's, but when he moved to climb Shane scooted back.

"Get in front. I want a wind breaker."

Kiyoshi laughed. "That's not nice." But he climbed up onto Yui's back in front of her.

They saw much of the same as they had the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that: Lots of plants and no sign of any civilization.

"I'm beginning to think these giants are a myth," Shane grumbled into Kiyoshi's back. She had her arms curled up under her against him, her cheek pressed into his sweater at his shoulder blade.

"No, they're real," Shane said with conviction, "Nero said so."

Kiyoshi hesitated before posing the question: "Has it ever occurred to you that he could have lied?"

Shane gasped as she lifted her head to stare at him in an almost offended kind of surprised.

"Elvians don't lie," she stressed whilst looking at him as though he had lost his mind.

"Yes, okay," Kiyoshi said placidly, rolling his eyes in secret.

Shane laid her head back down against his back. As she gazed out to their left she noticed something strange. It looked like giant holes placed randomly, like the trees had been removed—roots and all.

"Kiyoshi," Shane whispered, laying her hand against his arm while she sat up straighter. "Yui, go left!"

The large guardian cat growled in response and obeyed without hesitation. Soon they were walking through a wide expanse of large holes, with evidence of a root system. Did the trees get up and move?

"This is eerie," Shane said. Chills ran down her spine. This land was so strange; she had never experienced anything like it. Too many times chills had run down her spine for seemingly no reason.

Not to mention that no matter how far they traveled the holes continued and they didn't meet anything else of significance.

The afternoon was a bit warmer, but Shane was still glad when they stopped for the night and built a fire. Yui remained in his larger form, curled around the fire. Shane leaned against his stomach, curled up under her blanket. She drank a few bottles of the marketed blood she had brought—it tasted like crap, but it satisfied her hunger.

"What do you think created these holes?" Kiyoshi asked. He had cooked some meat over the fire and put it over bread. The bread had grown hard, but it was still edible—they would surely need to hunt soon.

Shane shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. Maybe the giants tore up the trees?"

Kiyoshi considered the theory for a moment and then shook his head. "There are no footprints."

"Crap," Shane said and bit her lip, "True."

CAPTURED (Again!?)

It took a second slamming of the iron door to rouse Shane. She woke with a violent jerk, one that caused her to body to seize up with pain. She lay shivering on the damp floor. The cold stone relieved the burning of her wounds, which consisted of a gaping hole in her left thigh and multiple areas of bruising. A trail of blood from her hairline to her chin was dried on her face, renewed occasionally by a small trickle of blood. She felt too weak to move—to even open her eyes. She had lost too much blood. If she didn't ingest some soon she would surely die.

"Shane!"

A bolt of recognition shot through her brain, momentarily firing up her mind. She opened her eyes slowly, her lids felt as heavy as the stone she laid on. Her nose picked up the scent of blood, warm and pulsing near to her. It was a sweet aroma with a tang to it. Her fangs began to elongate, pushing into her lower lip as she lifted her head to see Kiyoshi.

His shoulder-length hair was messy and pushed hastily out of her face. Locks of black and blue touched his dirt smeared cheeks. He looked paler and more ragged than she remembered, but try as she might she couldn't distract her from the pulsing vein in his neck.

"I…need to feed." She was surprised at how hard it was for her to speak. She lifted a hand to her throat to find it scratched and bruised badly. It felt as though someone had been stomping on it.

Kiyoshi glanced around the cell; it was small and empty. "You will have to drink from me," he whispered gravely. "But if we're caught they will take you away."

"Take me?" she asked weakly. Her vision had blurred and because of the dark hold Kiyoshi was only a pale oval framed by black.

He did not answer, but the silence between them was heavy with meaning. Shane's heart felt constricted as she reached out in Kiyoshi's general direction. She felt suddenly desperate for his touch, so much so that it temporarily suppressed the blood lust.

Kiyoshi captured her hand in his.