Men & Monsters

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Simply Giant No More

Eira felt like a farm animal in the dark underbelly of the castle as she and the others were herded in by the guards. The ladies smoking their pipes were still at the base of the stairs, and they looked at the Green Folk with their usual disinterest as they continued to gamble their meager earnings amongst themselves.

Likewise, the servants and maids were too busy fretting over their own lives to take note of the green-clad men and women. Eira could see it was only Madam Martin who remained composed despite the events occurring. It was almost good to see her again, to see her keep her poise despite the madness unfolding outside, Eira thought. After everything that had happened, she almost could have hugged her.

In fact, the only ones who seemed shocked to see them were the nobles who had taken to the underground as a last refuge. Among them were James and Susan, who Eira tried desperately to stay out of sight from. They stood with a relative amount of space around them, as few tried to venture into their space bubble. Holding hands, they hardly acknowledged one another, as their eyes scanned the crowded room. Once the Green Folk were herded in by the guards, however, James threw Susan’s hand to the side.

“What is the meaning of this? Why have they been taken from the stables.”

“Tanner’s orders, Milord.” The guard spoke in a rumbling deep voice. “Said the stables were the least safe place to house them.”

“Then why are they taking up space here? Take them upstairs. Some of us actually enjoy our breathing space.”

“They’re quite fine here, Your Eminence.” Madam Martin said as she stepped toward him and gently held a skinny arm up in a calming motion. “There is more than enough room to house all of you.” James glared at her when he turned.

“We must leave this place, lest we fall victim to dragon fire.”

“What do you suggest, Milord?” The guard asked.

“I don’t know! Isn’t there some sort of escape tunnel? Anything?”

“Your father had it filled. A sign of good faith to the neighboring kingdoms.” Martin said with a slow but decisive nod.

“That fool,” James spat. He paced back and forth swiftly, thinking. When he got an idea his head turned upward, but no words passed his lips, when he starting thinking and pacing again. He did this for a few minutes, one idea shot down in his mind and then another. Finally he turned to the guard. “Put us in a carriage. Have the dragon distracted while we escape.”

“The city is overrun as well, Milord.”

“I don’t care! We’ll find Tanner and have the Kaiser guards escort us! Now have it done!”

“Uh, y-yes, Your Grace.” The guard said as he bowed his head and turned to tell someone else of James’s plan.

“We’re leaving?” Susan asked.

“Yes, my love. We shall ride, for hours, days if we have to. Away from this place. We’ll go to your father, have him strike an assault on this vicious beast after this castle has fallen.”

“I wouldn’t word it so...bluntly, Your Eminence. For morale’s sake.” Martin spoke softly. Sure enough, when James turned, he was met with a plethora of eyes staring widely at him. Mothers had covered their children’s ears, some chewed on their fingernails, and the air was unbearably thick.

Hope was dwindling, and it would take but one more shred of doubt or fear for the place to be overrun with chaos, Eira realized. She slowly inched back toward the doorway, fearing that Giant’s company might somehow prove to be safer than with this lot. She poked at Awel and Adelae and motioned for them to follow her, when James scoffed.

“No matter. My wife and I are leaving! Come along, my love. Let us find a carriage by the stables.” He took Susan’s hand in his and dragged her through the crowd of servants and Green Folk. One arm ahead of him, James pushed and shoved people aside, and it wasn’t until he was just upon the staircase that he spotted a familiar face, as did Susan.

“Eira? Is that you?” Her words nearly stopped Eira’s heart as it leapt to her throat. “I didn’t know you were here. James, this is Eira. She was my chambermaid for awhile.’re a Green Folk?” James narrowed his eyes at the girl.

“Yes. I happen to remember her. Tanner said they had not captured this one. You. You’re coming with us as well. As a good luck token.” And with his free hand he grabbed Eira’s wrist, despite her protests. Awel stepped forward to stop the newly-crowned king, but was pushed back by a guard who seemingly came from nowhere. With two guards following, James dragged both girls up the winding steps and out toward the stables.

They arrived just as a carriage pulled by two white horses arrived. The carriage itself was beautifully made, with intricate designs carved into the dark wood around the windows, door, and along its borders. As she was pulled closer to it, Eira could see small character carvings of eagles, lions, and dragons lining the designs along the border. With luggage and supplies already strapped onto the back of the vehicle, Eira couldn’t help but wonder how it was that they prepared it all so swiftly. Truth be told, the carriage was stocked and ready for a romantic honeymoon in the countryside for the newlyweds.

His brow wet with sweat and apprehension, the man perched atop the carriage urged the three to get inside as quickly as possible while his knuckles grew white around the horse reigns. Four black-armored knights rode up on horseback with lances in hand and bows strapped to their backs. Determined to die, these elite Kaiser knights brought theirs steeds to heel while they waited for the two royals and Green Folk.

First James let Susan slowly but surely climb inside, where she looked back at him affectionately and slowly took her hand from his. When it came time for Eira, however, the king forcefully pushed her into the carriage. Hitting her shins hard on the step, she could hardly give off a painful wince before James placed his hand on her back and forced her inside, followed by himself. Once inside, the carriage was off, with James and Susan sitting across from each other, and Eira sitting on the floor, rubbing her shins.

“Thought you could get away, did you? Not from my grasp.” James said coldly to the Green Folk.

“Oh be nice, James. Here Eira, sit by me, dear.”

“She shall not share a seat with royalty. She sits there.” The king demanded. Looking up, Susan swallowed her pride and did as she was told. She hadn’t seen this side of James before, she thought, but it could be understood. At least during times of great crisis as this. Meanwhile Eira sat curled in a ball. This carriage was a sure deathtrap, she thought, but she said nothing. The least she could hope for was a quick death. Anything so long as she didn’t have to endure the company of this king for much longer.

Perched high above on his castle throne, Giant looked down at the chaos underway in the city. He had done it, and he it was accomplished in one single morning. Everything in all directions of the horizon now belonged to him. It was enough to make the dragon give a booming scoff as his wings stretched outward, giving a most impressive show. His laughter was interrupted, however, when something fleeing from the castle caught his attention. Clattering on the cobblestone road winding around the large field and toward the castle gates, Giant wondered why it didn’t simply cut through the massive and well-groomed lawn the trail circled. One for formalities, he presumed.

Giant was ready to let them go, but with his eagle-like vision he could see how decorated the carriage was. Surely it was royal, he thought as he gave a sinister grin. Leaping from the tower he clung to, his wings caught air with a thundering whoosh. With his tail slithering back and forth, the dragon glided effortlessly down toward the fleeing party. Too easy, Giant thought when he launched a roaring fireball just ahead of the carriage. The road exploded in a mighty show of flame and debris before leaving a smoldering crater. The vehicle proved to be too cumbersome to avoid it in time, and it ended its trip by crashing into the scorched pit.

Wood splintered as the carriage driver fell to the ground, knocking himself unconscious in the process. The horses, now freed, ran for their lives as the dragon descended down on them. The knights stopped and jabbed their lances at him, but with a forceful flap of his wings, they were thrown free from their steeds and weapons as they were sent reeling.

Only then did Giant land, his wings encircling the crater with his head raised up above it. He could hear heavy grunts and thumps emanate from inside the carriage. Finally James forced the door open and scrambled to get out with a heavy groan.

“And what might we have here?” Giant purred as he cocked his head to better inspect the shaking king. His knees quivering, the gangly man stood tall, swallowed his fears, and stamped his foot on the side of the carriage.

“I am King Jameson Piermont! First of my name, son of King Carl Piermont the Fourth before me, heir ruler to the Piermont Kingdom and the lands around it.” Giant couldn’t be more pleased, as his eyes widened and his grin broadened.

“Ah, of course! It certainly is an honor, Your Eminent Grace. I am Giant. Simply Giant. Though that title might change soon.” The prince felt his eyes widen.

“You speak. I can’t believe you speak…” James said he realized he was conversing with the dragon.

“Well, of course! There are many like myself, well, not like me, not with this form, but I’m sure you understand. Beasts great and small capable of speech.” As James stood in awe of the massive dragon, Susan crept out of the shattered carriage next. Shaken, she still retained a sense of her ladylike poise as she stood beside her husband. “And just who might you be, my dear?” The queen smiled and bowed her head graciously.

“I am Queen Susan Piermont, formerly Gladview, as of this morning.”

“Well congratulations.” Giant said with a contagious grin. Susan curtseyed her thanks, but swiftly glanced back to James’s piercing glare.

“Why are you acting like this?” He whispered harshly. Susan did not break character as she kept eye contact with Giant, though a sly smirk now lined her lips.

“Perhaps a well-mannered dragon responds better to kindness than to dominance, my love.” Eira, her teeth rattling, finally stumbled out of the carriage. She brought a hand up to her brow and touched it softly. When she examined her fingers, she found blood. Perhaps that accounted for the lightheaded feeling she felt overcoming her. Giant’s eyes widened as he swiftly turned his attention from the Piermonts to the girl.

“Eira! There you are! I was afraid maybe you were lost somewhere. You little scamp.” James turned back in shock to the Green Folk, then to the dragon.

“ she your master? Your keeper?” He asked. It called a very confused expression from Giant, who responded with a choked up laugh.

“I beg your pardon? Eira is my friend.” The dragon lowered his head down so that James was mere inches away from his toothy maw. Steam poured from his nostrils as his eyes narrowed and voice grew sharp. “I have no master. Not in this life or the next.”

“You-your friend?” James stammered. Giant’s demeanor shifted just as swiftly as it had the moment before as he rose back up.

“Why of course. Eira and I go way back. Many days in fact. Long, arduous days.” Eira, however, didn’t seem to notice anyone or anything going on, as she instead worked to climb out of the crater. She fell the first time, but as everyone watched her with a certain fascination, she managed to pull herself out of the hole and toward the castle gates. Her gait was uneven as she wavered back and forth. “You must forgive her. She’s been through a great deal. My poor little dove.”

“Why do you speak to us so, Dragon?” James asked.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Giant asked as he lowered himself down closer toward the king and queen. His charm put the queen at ease as she smiled, but James felt his heart skip a beat as he saw something sinister ignite behind those golden eyes of his. “Well, my two fresh-faced young lovers, I intend to remind you of who the new ruler of this land is. Dragon is what you call me,” his words oozed like poison upon uttering that last statement. Smoke began to billow through his teeth when his slit-like pupils dilated. “But I want you to remember, and never to forget, that I. AM. GIANT!” Then, arching back on his hind legs, James and Susan gave ear-piercing shrieks when they watched the firestorm rain over them. The hellfire consumed them fully. When the flames ceased, and Giant landed back on all fours, he looked down as nothing remained of the king, queen, the carriage, or its driver. Only smoldering ashes. “Hmph. Pity. That Susan proved to be rather pleasant.”

Looking up, Giant hoped to spy Eira as she tried to escape, but rather, was treated to a different sight entirely. His eyes narrowed and smoke again billowed out from his snout and nostrils as he growled.

Confidently starting toward him, Rex and Rust showed their fearsome teeth in an attempt to intimidate the dragon. For Eira, it was a most welcome relief, as she mustered enough strength to run to Bernard joining them, but not before collapsing into his arms, exhausted.

“You’re bleeding, lass. Can you hear me? Eira?” Fatigue was setting in hard for the Green Folk, and as Bernard looked to Tanner, he effortlessly hoisted the girl up in his arms. The golden knight crossed his arms.

“I didn’t know you still had that kinda strength.”

“I’ve felt...youthful lately.” Bernard replied as he turned.

“Where are you going?” Tanner asked.

“I’m getting this one to safety. She needs rest, and needs to eat something.”

“Not right now, she doesn’t. She’s why this drake is here and she’s who it wants. She stays here, at the castle, or else he razes the city looking for her should he see you cross through those gates. We’ll get her help and food in the castle.” Reluctantly Bernard nodded before looking down at Eira.

Seeing her in his arms, like a daughter safe in her father’s care, wanted him to see her safe no matter what. As they raced to the castle, they left the two dinosaurs alone with Giant. The dragon smiled at the new arrivals when he stepped over the charred remains of the king and queen.

Excellent. You two are just in time for the christening.”

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