Close your eyes. What do you see? An image? A scene? Simply the dark? All I saw for years was the dark. I saw the shadows and the end approaching. I saw all of the things I feared the most. The monsters in the woods. The unjust roaming our lands and tearing it all asunder. The parting of the love of my life. The death of my daughter. More than anything, the Orion.
When I had my daughter, when I held her in my arms for the first time, I knew in that exact moment that I would do anything to protect her and shield her from harm. Her eyes were like her father’s eyes – a perfect deep blue reminiscent of the twilight on the horizon as the suns set. Many of her features were like his – almost too many. The only piece she seemed to have of mine was a fragment of red mixed into her dark brown hair, making a silky auburn the curled and frizzed. Yes. Nothing would prevent me from keeping her safe; not even the Orion.
They – the Orion – are the giants of the land. They more often than not keep to themselves and don’t trouble us. Leaders, men and women of far more intellect than I, bartered and treatied with them to ensure we were protected. There were clear boundaries between our lands and theirs, separated by massive bodies of water. The most beneficial thing about the Orion was their level of intellect and the seriousness of a vow to them. Even if there were savages among them, their leaders kept them in check with their strength.
Even still, they were terrifying. If you stared across the water long enough to some of the nearby islands they occupy, you could see them. They could probably touch the heavens if they leapt high enough. Immense trees sometimes did not reach the tops of their heads. Their hands could entirely engulf you if you were small enough and they were large enough. Just the notion was bone rackingly terrifying.
There were other and more important things to worry about than whether or not an Orion would cross the waters to their lands or not such as the daily struggles of survival. My… situation… left me as a young mother of one with not even a single sheqel to my name. I had to make ends meat somehow and took odd jobs here and there to keep us afloat. I found several promising jobs as a maid and nanny to a few families who possessed mild importance in the small city we lived in; that is, until they found out about my daughter.
Having a child and being widowed is one matter, but it is another matter entirely of baring a child with no father to name them. Small towns were easier to drift through, but cities existed for people who wanted nothing more than to blend with the shadows and forget their pasts, which is exactly what we did with the few sheqels we had saved. It became more apparent as the years went on that I needed to work harder, longer, if I were to provide for the both of us.
It nearly broke my heart, and in many ways it did, but I had to go – work in the city – and leave her. She wasn’t alone. She was with a farming family who ran the inn we lived in until it was time for me to leave to work. I visit as frequently as I can, but more often than not I have to send her room and board in my stead. I receive letters from time to time, but they’re read to me by the old bookman of the city. He is an honest, well learned man. He has forgotten more than Time has learned, and his name is Caster Veil.
The most recent letter Caster read to me spoke that my daughter has grown so very much and she needed more room, more food, just… more. I was at my wits end when Caster whispered the way kind, elderly men do in that grandfatherly way that there was a position that had just come open that paid three times what I could make holding two of my current positions. The old bookman told me that people didn’t hold the position for long, and I knew immediately why when he told me.
The position was that of a factotum – a general servant – and this person was to tend to a prisoner who had been apprehended on the boarder. He was accused of terrorizing some of the western lands and even burning some of them down. I heard of such things several years ago when my daughter was so very young. He was tried and convicted, sent to rot away in one of the city’s dungeons to live out the rest of his days. The task itself didn’t seem so monumental on the surface. They didn’t know what Caster knew – what I remembered.
The prisoner was an Orion, one of the giants, known as Steele Veyne.