(Author's Note: OH MY GOD I STAYED UP WAY TOO LATE TRYING TO FINISH THIS SO I'M SORRY IF PARTS DON'T SEEM TOO GOOD; I'LL TRY FIXING THEM ASAP BUT I HAD TO GET EVERYTHING DOWN FIRST. I AM WAY 2DETERMINED)
The inn's doors flew open. All of the laughter and cheer died out as the hunter boy waddled in, eyes wide open as if he had seen a ghost. His breathing was labored, his legs wobbly from running a fair distance. His eyes darted across the room, scanning around until he laid his eyes upon a group of armored folk, All of them had some form of weapon... mercenaries, probably. Finally, people who could actually do something...
Timothy took a deep breath before he yelled out loud enough for all to hear, "Giant! A giant! It's... It's in town!"
Panic spread like wildfire, the people screaming and getting up to pack their things and run, run far away. Glass and wood broke as people struggled to get out before this supposed giant decided to come over and devour them. Good; the sooner they got out of here, the less people that would get hurt. He didn't care much about the innkeep whining that all of his business was lost; as long as everyone was safe, it was worth it.
The mercenaries didn't leave. They stood up and met the young boy's eyes, each one brandishing their swords and smirking. One of them, with a bushy mustache and a breath that stank of ale, walked up to him and asked, "Oh? Care to tell us more, kid? Our swords are a bit thirsty... And our skill is rusting away."
"I saw one!" Timmy replied. "One walked into the big manor where my friend lives! It... it might end up eatin' her or somethin'! Biiiig fella, too! He'd... oh, he prolly has enough strength ta break the entire town to bits!"
Their grins only grew wider, their leader flashing his half-rotted teeth.
"Well, well, a nice bounty to line our pockets, then! Let's see if we can't mount a giant's head on our guild hall tonight!"
Deafening cheers made the inn tremble as the mercs held up their swords, eager for challenge. And as they left. Timmy could only pray that Aurora would be safe.
"And here is where I keep my collection of coral I gathered in the tropics-"
It felt so strange, being in a house like this, listening to the young witch as she guided him throughout the house. Strange that a human would approach him. Strange that they treated him as a person, rather than a thing to be feared. Stranger still that they would willingly invite him into their house. For so long, humans screaming in fear and shutting the doors and windows when he approached was so common, that he forgot what a human who showed no fear to him was really like.
He watched as the witch pulled out a stack of books and said, "I keep a pretty big collection of books, by the way! My library's huge, with two floors in my house to keep them! Bigger than any library kept in towns like these! I like loaning my books to people, but sometimes-" her face twisted into something fearsome "-some people don't give them back, and that's a pain in the butt!"
She smiled after a bit and sorted all the books back into their proper place before heading towards the kitchen. The giant marveled at how many cabinets she had, especially when she opened one up to pluck out a pink, flowery tea pot and what looked like tea leaves. He was so focused on all the things that were in there: cinnamon, sugar, spices, coffee beans, salt... So many things he'd absolutely love to try, but was too polite to ask.
"Make yourself at home," she said sweetly, with a cute little grin. "You're my guest, after all! We can talk more about all these measurements and baloney after tea, okay?" The giant could feel his cheeks burn red for a moment, burying his face in his scarf to hide his embarrassment. He wasn't sure if he was the type worthy of such hospitality, but if she offered, how could he say no?
As the tea was set to brew and steep, the giant walked towards one of the bookshelves and pulled out a book, flipping through its pages until it settled on a picture of a young girl petting a baby dragon. Curious, he flipped back to the first page and began to read quietly, his eyes lingering on one word after another for a little longer than he'd like. How long has it been since he read something? 50 years? Maybe 100?
The fragrant, sweet smell of tea wafted through the air as he could hear the witch humming as she poured it into cups. "All done!" she said with a smile to rival Auternia's, handing one cup over to him. "Drink it while it's hot! I left some sugar on the table if you need any!"
He nodded and took a small bow to show his appreciation, then pulled off his massive mittens, set them aside, and picked up his cup of tea with the utmost care. One sip was enough to warm his entire body. Well, it would be considered a sip to giants, but really, he drank it all in that one sip. The witch didn't seem disturbed by this and merely poured him another cup as he set it aside and continued reading.
From the corner of his eye, he could see her inching closer to him, a curious look on her face. She was trying to get a better look of what he was reading, wasn't she? He stood up and sat right next to her, the whole house jumping for just a moment before settling back into place, and he shared the book between them so that she could see, too. And, for a while, they read in silence, the giant content with her company.
"I worked pretty hard on that book, you know," the witch said after a few minutes of silence. "It was my first book about the study of dragons. Everybody had this weird conception that dragons were the bad guys and completely evil, so I wanted to see for myself if that was true. Turns out, it was just a few bad apples spoiling a whole bunch!"
She crossed her arms and pouted for a moment before taking a seat beside the giant and continuing happily, "Most of them were really friendly, after the initial 'aaaaaag intruder' thing, and I got to learn a whole lot about their habits, their way of life. And as I got to know them, I didn't see them as the big, scaly beasts that fly off to kidnap princesses and only hoard gold. No, they were so much more than what people taught their kids about!
And so, I studied them for years and years, until I knew enough about them to write down everything. Charts and diagrams of their movement and anatomy? No problem! Detailed sections of way of life? Definitely! I made sure every detail was factually correct, because..."
The giant could hear it. He could hear the utter sincerity in her voice as she said, "Because I can't stand to see things that are so twisted from the truth stand up in our society! I want to prove people wrong about the so-called dangerous monsters of the world, that they're not all like what people say in the stories!"
She took him by surprise when she suddenly grasped his giant hand with her two tiny ones, eyes bright with determination. "And I'll do the same for you and your kind! Even if it takes me a million years!"
Never had he heard such words before. And never did his heart feel as warm as it did now. This human was so kind, taking him in from the winter storm he brought upon himself... and now spoke of dispelling the fear associated with him. He clasped at her hands gently, almost afraid that if he let go, she would disappear, like snowflakes never meant to stick to the blades of grass. His poor heart couldn't take it if it was all just a dream.
He glanced over at the book once more, to read the author's name. And then, he mustered up the courage to speak up.
His body seized up, cringing as his hoarse, yet deep voice escaped his lips. His eyes locked onto the witch's face, searching for any sign of fear. He could remember all too clearly how quickly expressions of happiness twisted into that of fear, even children staring at him as if he had become death incarnate. His hand began to tremble, mind wandering to all the horrible possibilities...
The witch blinked before a smile broke out on her face.
"Yep, that's me! Aurora Frost, at your service, Mr. Giant!" she said, as cheerful as could be. "You didn't have to force yourself to talk, but it was really nice hearing you, anyway!"
What could he do, when someone wasn't afraid of him? Afraid of his voice? Never mind that, she even complemented it! Goddess above, he could melt right here and now into a puddle! But for now, the tension in his body ebbed away, and he could feel tears threatening to burst out of his eyes.
Aurora let go of his hand and poured him another cup of tea as she said, "I kinda know what it's like, having a voice you don't really like all that much." The giant's eyes widened as he took a sip of his tea, tilting his head to the side. She didn't seem like the type to hate her voice, especially when it was rather sweet! "It's really awful until you can find a way to deal with it... but you don't have to force yourself to use your voice! I can understand you just fine, I think!"
The giant nodded slowly as he smiled underneath his scarf. He took a moment to look around the house when he heard the yells and screams of people. He froze, heart pounding against his chest.
It didn't really help when Aurora jumped out of her seat out of shock. "What the heck?" she asked, hopping over to a window to take a look outside. "What's everybody screaming about? Did something attack?"
Hastily, he prodded at Aurora to get her attention. He feigned fear and pointed to himself, a desperate attempt to tell Aurora about what might of happened. Pointing out towards the people, pointing at his eyes, then pointing at himself while trying to keep himself composed.
"They saw your eyes?"
He shook his head, repeating his gestures, slowly this time, although he could see armored men marching down the street from the corner of his eye.
"Um... It has something to do with you... but you're pointing to your eyes, so... Aha!" Aurora snapped her fingers. "You're trying to say that they might have seen you and are scared silly, right?"
"Crud!" the little witch swore, slapping at her forehead. "I should have cast an invisibility spell or something; now everybody might have gotten the wrong idea!" The little witch pulled out her ruby tipped wand and grabbed the giant's hand with the only hand she had free and said, "This is my fault, so I'm gonna talk some sense into them! So you just... just stay still! I'm gonna cast the invisibility spell, and it won't work if you move too much when I cast it!"
Before he could protest and flail about, the witch waved her wand to and fro before a multicolored light shot out and covered him completely. He looked down and saw that the witch's hand was still holding onto his, but to anyone else, it looked like she was shaking hands with an imaginary friend. His hand trembled, worry building up in his heart like heavy weights set on a horse's cart.
But all he could do was watch, as something pounded against the manor's front door and the witch headed towards it.
Aurora hardly reached the door before it fell over, hinges broken from all the slamming. Several men in armor were grinning, like they were ready to crash a party. Ugh, a whole mess of problems right at her doorstep. Wonderful. No time to grumble about it, though.
"Oi, are ya the little girlie who lives here?" asked one of the men. Mustached and breath smelled of alcohol. Must be the leader, since he's the one asking questions.
"I am a young woman, thank you very much!" Aurora snapped. "And yes, I am! What in the world do you need to tell me that needed you to bust down my door like a burglar?"
They seemed to snicker when she pointed out she was a woman while their leader continued with an ever-widening grin, "Oh, nothing. Just heard ya had a... Giant problem, that's all."
The only giant problem I have is you guys being in my house, she wanted to say, but instead, she settled for, "Well, if I had one, I don't have it anymore, but thank you for worrying about me!"
Was that a good "hmm" or a bad "hmm?" Aurora certainly couldn't tell, but she hoped for their sakes that they took her at her word and got out. The less time they spend here, the quicker she could get her friend to safety. The stinky excuse for a leader leaned in closer to her, narrowing his eyes in suspicion.
"Ya sure, girlie?"
"Yes, I'm sure." Now get the heck out of my house!
She was about to cheer when the leader turned his back and began to leave when one of the other men piped up and asked, "Ey, Armand, what if she's the giant, usin' a spell to make 'er look smaller than she really is?"
Another one added, "Maybe it's one of them shapeshiftin' giants, eattin' people and then takin' their form to trick their family and eat them, too?"
As the leader turned around towards her again with that same suspicious look, Aurora broke into a sweat. Of all the times they had to speak up!
Armand leaned in again, this time drawing his sword and putting it uncomfortably close to her neck. "Oh, how could I be so foolish?" he said with a chuckle. "Falling for a giant's trick like that? That's not like me. Not like me at all!"
"I'm not a giant!" Aurora hastily retorted, fingers curling around her wand and clutching it tightly. "I'm a witch! A small witch! I'm telling you, I don't have a problem with Giants-"
The blade pressed against her neck now as Armand tsked, tsked at her with his stupid grin.
"Sounds like somethin' a giant would say, when they're tryin' to hide something, girlie." He was so close, Aurora could smell the stench of alcohol on his breath. "And ya never know... a witch could easily turn into a giant and terrorize the wee people, wouldn't ya agree? So come quietly, so we don't need to spend the effort choppin yer purty little head off, little girlie, and we can make some easy cash!"
That did it. They didn't listen to her at all and plan on telling some stupid lie about her being a giant! The last thing she needed was to be thrown in jail or beheaded due to some stupid story that would be all to easy to believe, when there's no information about giants at all aside from the scary stories!
So she snapped, "Like hell!" before pointing her wand at Armand and launching a relatively weak fireball at his face. Armand cried out in pain, dropping his sword and trying to swat the flames away.
His friends drew their weapons and charged towards Aurora, but the witch was far too nimble and quick to let herself get hit. She whispered an incantation under her breath and held up her wand, unleashing a small beam that homed in on the closest merc that slammed into him. It didn't stop there, though: it bounced around all of the mercs like a pinball gone out of control before fading away. By the time they recovered from that, Aurora was hitting them with dark energy taking the form of an angry cat.
Spell after spell after spell, she conjured, trying to drive them away. Trying to keep them away. She even took out a fiery weed and a pumpkin and combined them to make a pumpkin bomb to blow most of them out of her house. She smirked, confident she could win-
WHAM. Armand's fist found its way into Aurora's gut. She flew into a bookshelf and collapsed onto her knees, keeping herself propped up even as books fell on her using her wand. Ugh, should have kept an eye on him, she chastised herself as the mercenary glared down at her. Or staring. It was hard to tell when his eyebrows were seared off.
"Tried pullin' a fast one on me, girlie?!" he hissed as he picked his sword off the floor and approached her slowly. "Was thinkin' of maybe sparing you for a moment: a live giant's worth more than a dead one. But then ya had to go and do whatcha did! Shoulda thought before ya unleashed yer voodoo, little girlie!"
Aurora raised her wand just as Armand rose his sword, hoping to stun him with a good spell or two before she felt something pressing against her shoulders. No, grabbing at them.
It took a moment before she realized what was happening and opened her mouth to yell, Get out of the way!
The words never left her lips, as it was too late: the blade came down.
Blood seemed to float in midair as it trickled down to the floor. The illusion was dispelled; what was once mere air was now a giant. A giant holding onto a tiny witch, ignoring the pain the man inflicted upon him.
"Why...?" the witch whispered, voice trembling. "I thought I told you to say still..."
The giant didn't respond. He only stood up tall, facing the mercenaries head on.
Armand was obviously less than pleased about this turn of events. Not that she could blame him: first a witch burns his face, now an actual giant is on the scene and might actually break his bones! An easy bounty became a hard one. "And now I see you were tryin' to keep one of yer little friends hidden right under our noses?!?" he roared. "I'll kill the both of ya and hang yer heads on the wall!" He whistled for his fellow mercs and ordered, "KILL THEM!"
They were more than eager to try to draw more blood, charging like crazed hyenas. The giant, unimpressed with their antics, stomped his foot on the ground once. It didn't deter them like it would most people, with all the shaking it caused, but the tall wall made of ice that stood between them and their bounty sure did. They banged their swords and maces and axes against it, trying to chip it away and get to the giant behind it, but it was like trying to chip away at a stone wall. Aurora had to give them points for determination, though, even when it was really obvious that the wall wasn't going to down to their lousy weapons. They tried attacking from the sides, too, but more ice walls rose from the ground and blocked their approach.
"Yeah, that's the way!" Aurora cheered, slowly getting back on her feet and using her magic to put her books back as fast as she could. "Give 'em a good punch or two! Or let me nail 'em!"
She lifted up her wand, ready to launch another spell, but the giant gently bopped the little witch on the head and waggled his finger, shaking his head along with. He then motioned to shoo her away from the action, from the danger.
"But these guys need to be taught a lesson!" she complained, putting her hands on her hips and glaring. "They're aiming to kill you, and you're not really fighting back!"
"But what if you get hurt agai-"
She could hear him sigh before he plucked her up, lifting her above the walls, and set her down closer to the kitchen. He then pointed at the cabinets. The witch was pretty confused, though. Was he asking for more tea? It's not really a good time for tea. Or food.
Wait. Wasn't he trying to shoo her away? No; he seem to be making his best impression of someone playing peekaboo. Maybe he was trying to tell her she should hide? Hide in the cabinets?! Well, it certainly was roomy, but why-
When all her sores from being tossed into a bookcase made themselves apparent yet again, hiding in the cabinets suddenly became a great idea. It hurt to scramble the hell in there and move everything so she could fit, but better than nothing, right?
She did crack open the cabinet door a little bit just in time to see the mercs all tuckered out from their injuries and banging on a wall all day. Aurora snickered as they caught their breath, although her attention snapped back to the giant as he reached into his coat and pulled out a small vial. She had to squint to see that there was actually some powder in there. She leaned in a little closer, but spotted Armand sneaking up onto the second floor and readying his blade with a grin.
He was in the giant's blind spot, somewhere the wall wouldn't protect him. And he just jumped off the balcony, aiming right for his head.
In a panic, Aurora grabbed a jar of cinnamon, loosened the lid, opened the cabinet, and hurled it at the bloodthirsty knight.
The jar missed. Aimed way too high.
Its contents, however? Well... Armand got the whole load of it. Especially on his face. And definitely in his eyes. He was so focused on screaming and getting all the cinnamon out of his eyes that he couldn't focus on chopping up his bounty, instead falling to the ground with a loud THUMP, his blade tumbling out of his hands.
The giant looked rather alarmed at the flailing, crying merc who had a ton of cinnamon all over him, but focused on opening the vial and releasing its contents on the remaining fighters. Nothing seemed to happen for a while, until the fighters collapsed into a pile, slumbering their fatigue away.
Aurora couldn't help but pop out of the cabinet and cheer, "Yeah, we got 'em! That'll teach 'em for messing with us!" She rushed towards the giant as the icy wall melted away and he plucked Armand up from the ground. "Nailed him with cinnamon, too! Poor guy will be sniveling for weeks!"
Her friend didn't seem to be paying much attention to her right now as he took a deep breath and breathed out a small blizzard, freezing up part of Armand's body. He helped to wipe away the cinnamon, but also scooped the snoozing mercs into his mighty hands along with their leader before turning towards the door.
"W-wait, where are you going?" Aurora asked as her friend marched on out. "Hey, wait! Wait a minute! Wait!"
He didn't slow down at all, leaving her to try to catch up to him as fast as her legs could carry her.
I caused more trouble.
The mercenaries were set by the inn. It was safer for them than outside of the village, where the snow was deep and they could catch frostbite. Someone would notice them and bring them in to take care of them. Sure, they may talk about him, but he would be gone before they could try to claim his head with more help.
It was good that he kept his sleep powder; the last thing he needed was blood on his hands. It was hard enough to prove that he didn't mean any harm without it. He did not entirely expect that human to try to attack from behind, and he was rather thankful that Aurora tossed cinnamon at him when she did. All in all, things turned out well, for a scuffle.
That doesn't change the fact that I caused it.
If he hadn't been there... if he left the witch alone... if he refused her hospitality... there wouldn't have been a fight. There wouldn't have been a need for her to hurt people. She wouldn't have gotten hurt on his behalf, she wouldn't, she...
His hands trembled again. The blizzards kicked up again as he trudged ever onward, heart twisting in pain from what he inevitably caused.
Away. He needed to get away. Away from innocent people, away from mercenaries, just... away. So he wouldn't scare people, wouldn't get people hurt, wouldn't bother them. So that they could live without fear.
The blizzards howled around him, muffling the sigh he made behind his scarf, trying hard to hold back his tears.
The voice was tiny at first, but became louder and louder. He stopped in his tracks for a moment and turned back. A silhouette of a witch appeared through the blizzard, until it wasn't much of a sillouette and more of a witch running towards him before clinging onto his leg.
"Finally... caught up...!" she said between breaths. "Thought I'd lose track...! But where... where are you going?" She took a few more breaths before looking up at him and asking, "I mean, are you leaving already?"
He nodded sadly, turning away from her. He would take another step forward, but what if he crushed her on accident?
"But we hardly got to talk!" she said. "I wanted to get to know you better, and then those guys came in and ruined everything! I didn't even get to make you food and tell you more stories and..." Tears flowed from Aurora's eyes freely now as she clung ever harder to his leg. "I want to go with you! I want to know more about you and prove all those jerks wrong! This is exactly why I need to do this: so everybody can understand you and you won't have to get hurt over stupid misunderstandings or stupid bounties or... or..."
The little witch sniffled for a little bit before letting go to wipe away her tears with the sleeve of her witch robes. His heart twisted again as her eyes met with his, watery and pleading, like a puppy trying to stay close to its owner. He caused her trouble, even with all her hospitality and kindness, and yet...
He sat down, shaking the earth beneath them, blizzard calming down to mere flurries of snow. He looked at the witch for just a moment before pointing at her, then at himself.
"Well, of course I wanna go with you!" Aurora replied. "We're friends, and friends help each other, and I want to help you, okay?"
Moments passed. The giant clutched at his chest, heart all aflutter and warm.
When someone has treated you so well, and wants to come along, even when one brings misfortune upon them... how could he say no?
As he gave a nod of approval, Aurora pumped her fist into the air. "Hooray, it's settled~" she said happily before turning towards the village. "I'm gonna go pack my things and get ready to go, okay? While I do that, you have to wait somewhere... Hmm..." The giant tilted his head, confused for a moment before the witch snapped her fingers and said, "Aha, got it! We can meet at the hill we met at! It's my favorite place, so it's perfect! I'll try not to take long, uh... er..."
It took Aurora a bit of word stumbling before she admitted, "Well, actually, you never told me your name. Would you mind telling me?"
She looked up at him and smiled, wind making her blue hair flow behind her. He was hesitant to speak again for a moment. However, to the one who looked past appearances and sought the truth... No, to a friend, he mustered the courage to speak once more.
"Boreas... Boreas is my name."