A Giant Misunderstanding

A Giant Misunderstanding

Snow gathered atop the stone walls and the iron spikes that lined them. It drifted against the carved stones littered about the enclosure, guided by a bleak north wind.  It covered his near-naked body and chilled his bones until he felt as though he had become one with the granite slab at his back. He lay in the waning daylight, as close to the stone wall as the chain shackled to his outstretched leg would allow, and watched the auroras dance across the surface of Brothellad to a lullaby of baying of wolves. It was a song he knew well and he closed his eyes as his stomach growled harmoniously.
Tom was awoken by the sharp bark of wolves and the panicked stomping of hooves in the snow around him. He opened his eyes to see a young doe running frantically about the stone enclosure, desperately searching for an exit she would never find. She paced anxiously near the large iron gate. The savage snarling followed her around the stone walls to the large iron gate,  chasing her to him in the middle of the enclosure. Tom remained motionless even as she stomped anxiously around his outstretched legs, spotting the snow crimson from a wound in her leg. He assumed she cut herself on the iron spikes leaping over the wall as the gate was locked from the outside.
Tom recognized the doe. For two seasons he’d watched her and her family graze in the clearing outside the narrow gaps in the bars of the large Iron gate. He’d giggled with joy watching her prance and play with her siblings, he cried when her father was taken by hunters from the nearby town; he’d even fed her berries after waiting motionless for half a day with his hand stretched through the bars. The memory of that moment was so strong he felt the warmth of her breath and the soft fur of her snout in his hand.
The barking and clawing faded to whining and digging and the young doe, realizing the wolves could not get to her, began to settle. Sandum was high overhead when she curled up next to Tom to lick her wounds and the last of the wolves wandered off into the darkness. Her body against his felt like a cherished memory and it warmed him to his core. He longed to stroke her, to feel her soft fur between his fingers but the slightest movement caused her to start. Afraid that she might leap back over the wall and into the gnashing teeth of the beasts beyond, he closed his eyes and fell asleep to the patter of her heart and the gentle rise and fall of her breath against his legs.
“Get up you foul beastie!” The familiar voice of Father startled him and he was promptly struck in the chest. Instinctively he reached out to protect the young doe even before he had fully awoken. Instead of warm fur, his hand found a cold slush and he drew it back covered in blood. Tom’s confused and waking mind tried to grasp his situation. He had felt the blunt agony of sticks & stones many times and he was familiar with the pain, but the large object that rolled into his lap was not heavy enough to be rock. He looked down to see what had struck him and met the vacant stare of the young doe. He collected the severed head and righted it, blood dripping onto his lap.
Father stood before him, long black robes tied at the waist with a gold sash before stretching up to a pale face filled with hatred, topped with a mop of thick salt & pepper hair. He carried a gilded staff with a large hoop at the top that he would loop over Tom’s head to control and lead him like a vicious animal. Behind him stood two Brothers in trousers and tunics, one was armed with a wooden club and the other a bloodied short sword. At their feet, the body of the young doe lay splayed open, her entrails spilling out into the blood-soaked snow.
In nearly two decades, Tom had never raised a hand against Father, or any of the many Brothers and Sisters brought to abuse him. Despite the beatings and bruises, despite the cutting and carving, he had only ever begged for their mercy. For most, this had been enough, and they never returned. Father and a small collection of others were the exception. For them, the more he begged, the more satisfied they seemed, and the more often they returned. In time, Tom learned to accept the beatings. He learned to focus on his breathing, imagining that he was made of the very same polished stone that grew from the ground of his enclosure, and the pain would pale somewhat. This helped distil his castigators down to a handful of regulars who came to visit him every few days.
They shouted at Tom, but he heard not a single word. Tears welled in his eyes to counter the rage in his heart. Tom was a monster. They regularly told him so. They travelled to him just to beat him for this transgression, but the doe was an innocent, gentle soul, and she did not deserve their blades and bitterness. Overflowing with hatred, Tom leapt to his feet, hurling the severed head back at the Father. The projectile struck the robed man in the chest, and he stumbled back, falling to the snow. Tom leapt at the man, but the length of chain between the manacle about his wrist and the spiked ball buried in the snow prevented him from bridging the distance, and he stopped with a jerk like a dog at the end of his leash.
Brother Fry attempted to bash the boy with his club to subdue him, but Tom easily moved out of the way. Brother Ael stabbed at him with his short sword,  and Tom again reeled out of the way. Anchored to the ground the way he was, young Tom could not reach the three to retaliate, so in his anger, he took the chain that bound his left wrist in both hands and pulled on it as hard as he could. A chunk of frozen dirt ripped from the ground, sailed over Tom’s shoulder, and struck Brother Fry in the chest. The impact slammed the man to the ground, and he lay there staring at the boulder-sized object in his chest as he gasped for breath.
Father climbed to his feet, still bellowing venom and swung at Tom with his hooped staff, trying to catch the boy about the neck to control him, as he had so many times before. Familiar with this tactic, Tom ducked to evade the entrapment, but in doing so, he leaned into Brother Ael’s Blade and was slashed across the ribs under his arm. Tom let out a grunt that grew into a growl and pulled on the chain again, yanking the frozen chunk of dirt from Brother Fry’s chest. Nearly half of the frozen dirt remained in the broken man’s chest, absorbing the blood. What remained of the projectile sailed through the air, missing the two men, but its weight pulled Tom off balance, and he continued to spin, chunks of frozen dirt flying off in all directions. Father attempted to capture Tom in his hoop again. Still, a rogue piece of ice struck him in the face, causing the staff to swing wide, hooking Ael in the back of his head and pulling the man into the path of Tom’s sailing bludgeon. It struck him in the groin and the man folded onto the ground with a whimper and did not get up again.
Eyeing Father with rabid hatred, Tom yanked on the chain again. Brother Ael screamed as the projectile ripped from his lap, leaving behind the last of the frozen dirt. At the end of the chain now swung a five-pound cannonball covered in sharp, narrow spikes. It whistled through the cold morning air, sailing inches from Father's aghast mouth.
The robed man retaliated, thrusting his staff out and hooking it about Tom’s neck. The golden hoop, however, did not stop Tom from spinning, instead holding the man directly in the path of the spiked ball. It struck him in the side of his face, caving in his cheekbone and ripping his lower jaw off. The man dropped to the ground, releasing his staff and a gurgling gasp. Tom pounced like a rabid dog, kneeling on the man’s chest. He grabbed the spiked ball and slammed it into the man’s face over and over until long after Father stopped struggling, driving a spike deep into his palm. 
Tom slumped into crimson snow and cried. He bellowed his anguish to the moons until only pain remained. Wincing, he packed snow about his wounds until they stopped bleeding, then gathered up the spiked ball and carried it, dragging the chain behind him with some effort. In their haste to punish the boy, the men had forgotten to close the gate, allowing Tom an unobstructed exit from the stone enclosure for the first time in his young life. He peeked out the opening with trepidation, checking that none were waiting for him. He found three sets of footprints in the snow leading across the small clearing toward a path in the trees on the far side.  The enclosure looked much larger and more prominent from the outside, and he walked about the stone walls, looking in through the iron-bared windows to the place he knew as home. The walls were thick stone six feet high and lined with two sets of barbed iron spikes. One set pointed to the sky, another pointed down into the enclosure and the recessed ground stretched in a ten-foot circle around the freshly opened crater at its center. The area around the enclosure contained no polished granite or sharpened iron spikes, just snow and trees. When he returned to the gate, he pulled it closed and disappeared into the forest.
Tom woke, as usual, before the dawn. He enjoyed the moonlit quiet and darkness that existed before the rising sun and all of the tribulation that it brings. Though quite used to sleeping on the ground in the open air, Phaye had insisted he sleep on her down-filled bedroll, and when he finally accepted, she promptly covered them both in quilted blankets and furs and curled herself around him. Those first few nights he struggled to find sleep. It had been several years since Tom had felt the touch of another and the warmth brought with it childhood nightmares.
Tom looked down at the young faun curled into the crook of his arm. Her warm breath stirred a lock of hair that hung in her face before drifting softly across his chest. He reached over to tuck the hair behind her antlers but any movement caused her to stir, nuzzling into his chest with a supplicate hum. The soft patter of her heart against his ribs reverberated through his bones, and the peaceful rise and fall of her breast warmed him in breathy waves. Her arm was draped across his waist and when he moved her hand gripped his side, touching a rather sensitive spot that made him tense instinctively, anticipating pain where none followed.  A soft fur-covered leg curled around his like a snake, pulling her hips tight to his side. The soothing warmth of her fur against the inside of his thigh affected him in a manner unfamiliar. It heightened his senses and made him feel possessive of her. Like the doe from his childhood, he wanted to stroke her; he wanted to wrap his arms around her and squeeze her until he could feel her against his soul.
Phaye snuggled into him again, sliding her hand down his abdomen toward her thigh, but her wrist found an unexpected obstruction. The unfamiliar contact startled them both from their morning reverie. “Hmmm, good morning.” Phaye hummed with a coquettish smile.
Tom bolted to his feet and walked several paces away from his guide. “Unh, good morning, Miss Fey.” He quickly wrapped his leather kilt around his waist and began rebuilding the fire. For the next few hours, as they had their breakfast and readied their gear, he would not look at his companion, embarrassed that the young woman had found him in such a state.

The overcast skies were what, likely, caused Phay to strum a melancholy tune as they hiked up a small hill overlooking a lake. It certainly couldn’t have been the wandering loneliness that seemed to haunt her on this adventure. Presumably, it wasn’t the longing that followed like a hungry stray. Surely, it wasn’t the sense of failure she felt, or the sobering resignation that carried. Yes, the overcast skies probably caused her to strum a melancholy tune as they climbed a small hill overlooking a lake.
Phaye enjoyed Guiding for the Tourism Board. The job paid decently enough, though the real money to be made lay in the gratuities. More importantly, she enjoyed the work. She loved being in the wild, beneath the stars. according to her employee handbook, her role as a Guide was ‘to interpret her Adventurer’s idea of a memorable experience and get them as close to that as possible.’ While this usually meant tempering the expectations of the greedy and lecherous, what wasn’t in her Employee Handbook was the expectation of promiscuity. Though it was not a written rule, Phaye had learned relatively quickly that praising her charge’s accolades during an adventure was key to a good tip, but banging one out at the end of the adventure could net you an even split of the treasure. For the flirty faun from the fey wilds, this was her favourite part of the job, and she took great joy in building up the confidence of those in her care to a euphoric finale, basking in the savage exchange of energy that happened when bodies came together.
While every adventure was different, there were some generalizations Phaye had found she could rely on. Female adventurers tended to move quietly through the wild spaces, disturbing little and leaving few traces of their passing. She had learned that rescuing and supporting each other throughout the adventure was often enough of a catalyst for seduction. They would make love by firelight urgently and often, filling the night air with their fervent cries. Though she had found herself caught in more than her fair share of love triangles, Phaye’s patient and sensitive nature had helped her to cultivate a small forest of pining lovers. Those adventures frequently ended with tearful and passionate goodbyes.
Guiding men was quite different. They journeyed through the wild spaces like a herd of stampeding Unicorns, leaving destruction in their wake. They spread out like teenagers, taking over as much space as possible and leaving their mark on everything in sight. Adventurous men, being what they are, liked to prove themselves through raucous bravado or genuine usefulness, especially to a damsel in distress. Of course, they also preferred and often demanded instant gratification. Phaye, for her part, had learned that bedding them too early often resulted in her being largely ignored for bigger prey by the end of the adventure. Instead, she would tease and taunt them, implying that her affection was a part of the dragon hoard or pirate treasure at the end of the journey. Tom, however, was something else.
Tom appeared to be a complex bundle of curious paradoxes. Despite his size and imposing appearance, his touch was gentle, and his compassion for the living creatures he encountered seemed boundless. He stopped often to smell the flower blossoms or to watch the gentle creatures of the fields. The slightest hint of danger, however, and the man became a mountain between her and it. He defended Phaye with merciless, rabid ferocity, dragging enemies from her with the chain he carried and pulverizing them with its anchor. Always returning to ensure that she was safe and uninjured. He did any task that was asked of him with little more than a nod or a polite “Yes, Miss Phaye.” Tom had proven to be a decent hunter and an excellent forager, but when setting up camp for the night, he seemed to lack self-preservation skills. He didn’t look for caves or create shelters, instead plopping down wherever he was, regardless of the weather or conditions in the area. She had seen him take his lunch in a muddy puddle and sleep in the rain like a beast. When she lit campfires for warmth, he became as fascinated as a child, intently watching as she nursed the sparks into flames.
Tom was reticent in conversation and dismissive of questions about his past. At first, Phaye thought this was to hide the truth of his incarceration, and for a brief time, she was concerned for her safety. A prisoner, however, would have cut the ball and chain from his wrist at the first opportunity while Tom carried his around like a strangely burdensome security blanket. She had even heard him speak to it like a cherished loved one late at night when he thought she was asleep. For a brief time she thought it might be simple modesty that held his tongue, but the more time they spent together, the more late-night conversations she overheard, it became clear to her that he was simply trying to leave behind a painful and traumatic past.
Phaye found herself torn between a matronly instinct to protect this beautiful creature, and her womanly desire to mount and ride him like a beast. Worse was her seeming inability to accomplish either. Yes, the overcast skies probably caused her to strum a melancholy tune as they crested a small hill overlooking a lake.
“You keeping up, Hero?” She asked, looking over her shoulder. Tom practically snapped to attention, a nervous smile on his face. She took him by the arm as they descended into a chilly fog that cloaked a thick forest of budding maple trees. Inside the fog, the forest followed the western shore around the lake, whose water was smooth like glass, reflecting the dreary skies above. The shores were frosted with a thin film of crystal-patterned ice and framed in an assemblage of chunky ice blocks shingled atop one another. The ground beneath the barely budding maples was cold and wet, with dark corners and long shadows packed with slowly sloughing snow.
Phaye stepped to the lake's edge, picked up a hand-sized chunk of packed ice and tossed it onto the frosted lake. It hit the ice with a crack that echoed across the water and broke into smaller pieces that slid or tumbled across the ice, leaving a web-like crack behind. Joy lit up Tom’s face, and he looked at her excitedly before picking up a chunk of his own to throw. The slightly larger piece punched through the frozen lake with a splash, fracturing the ice around it and startling the large man. He looked to Phaye with restrained enthusiasm as if waiting for permission to enjoy the moment. Despite her gloomy mood, she chuckled at Tom’s Child-like glee. Nodding her approval, she turned away from the breeze blowing across the lake to wrap her scarf around her shoulders as the air filled with increasingly larger giggles and splashes.
Phaye looked longingly off into the foggy forest. The trees here were enormous, some large enough to cut an archway in that you could drive a horse-drawn cart through. They branched through the fog, stretching up into the desolate sky.  A glint of light drew her attention high in the leafless trees to a strange cluster of cylinder-shaped fruit near the trunk. Though Phaye was not native to Brothellad, she was fairly confident that Maple trees weren’t fruit-bearing, but the growths appeared to hang in bunches of two or three throughout the forest. “Well, those are the biggest nuts I’ve ever seen,” She said with a smirk, “Hey Hero, come …” She was about to turn back to Tom when she spotted the shadow of a tree fall some distance into the fog. She cocked her sensitive faun ears, but aside from some twitter-pated chipmunks above her, she heard only the trickling of water and morning birdsong. There was no cracking of wood, no snapping of broken branches, no crunch of impact with the ground; in fact, it made no sound at all. “... here?!”
Phaye watched bewildered as the fallen tree in the distance returned upright. It reached its limbs high into the fog again, then it seemed to turn and move several feet where she lost it among the fog. “Time to go!” She said with quiet urgency, turning to get Tom’s attention. The shoreline was empty except for the thin shards of ice rippling silently across the lake. “Hero?!?” Phaye drew her rapier with a whispered cuss and crouched for cover in some underbrush at the base of a large old maple. The figure appeared in the fog again, lumbering between the trees toward her. It stopped every few feet and reached high into the branches as if hunting for something, it hunched down near its strangely thick tail, to inspect the item, then repeated this twice more. It let out a long, sorrowful growl as it worked that seemed somehow familiar to the faun. As the creature moved, it made a sound that seemed to scrape along the ground and echo in the trees.
The great lumbering beast emerged from the fog some forty feet from where she crouched in the underbrush, her back to a tree. Again the sorrowful growl came from deep within and grew into a long, deep resonant hum like wind through a wooden instrument. It was a sound Phaye recognized from home and she risked a glance at the great creature. He stood nearly fourteen feet tall, dressed in a fur lion cloth with a fur ruana wrapped about his shoulders. He dragged not a tail, but a box-shaped sled that was brought to a stop at the base of a massive maple. She watched the giant reach high into the branches for the ‘fruit’ she had spotted earlier. To gain some additional height, he stepped up onto a broken branch with a moccasined foot and Phaye was granted a peek at his undercarriage. “I … stand corrected!” The faun snickered.

Walking behind the little faun had become a meditative exercise for Tom. Fey took three steps for each one of his, the ruffled skirt hitched over her furry tail and danced back and forth as she did. He was inexplicably drawn to the flexing muscle beneath the soft curve of her thigh as it disappeared beneath her skirt, the narrow curve of her waist as it reached away from her hips and up to her back; the way her hair cascaded across her bare shoulders. Though he fought against it, distracting himself with smelling the beautiful flowers or chasing squirrels, he inevitably found himself staring at the hypnotic sway of her wagging tail. He did not understand the strange blend of impulses he felt in those moments, like an angry affection. He wanted to hold her firmly by the cheek just to feel her muscles flex as she walked, he wanted to bite into it like some juicy piece of fruit. He hungered for her in ways he never felt before, ways that made him afraid for her safety. On the few occasions, like this one, where she caught him gawking, Fey was gracious enough not to embarrass him further, instead taking him by the arm and walking alongside him, “You keeping up, Hero?”
“No Hero.” He replied, as always, though he became suddenly aware of his arousal as it slapped back and forth beneath his leather kilt. She curled her arms around his, her fingers wrapped around his forearm, the sway of his arm caused his fingertips to slip between her thighs, and his coarse fingers gently caressed both sides in a single stride.  For Tom, the moment felt like a lifetime as her warmth pulsed through him. He fought to distract himself by looking at the ground and watching where he placed his bare feet on the snowy ground. Still, his eyes danced between her breast billowing from her top and the bulging embarrassment beneath his clothes that threatened to present itself with each step.
The Faun slipped suddenly from his grasp, squatting to the ground. Tom turned away from her in a panic, hoping she would miss him in his state. At a loss for what he should do, Tom implored himself to calm down as he shifted the chain wrapped about his torso so that the spiked ball hung at his groin. His thick leather kilt protected him from the spikes but the weight of the cold iron against him only bade him to flex against it.
Whack! The sound echoed through the leafless canopy and Tom spun around to see small pieces of ice tumble and slide across the ice as a crack tore raggedly across its frozen surface. Tom was elated! He picked up a chunk of ice and hurled it out onto the frozen lake. It did not fracture like Fey’s had, instead punching a hole through the ice revealing the inky black water beneath. He looked to the faun excitedly, they had not seen more than knee-deep streams since their journey began and Tom relished the idea of a refreshing bath. Fey nodded at him with glistening green emeralds, flushed cheeks and a radiant smile before turning back toward the foggy forest.
Large sheets of ice were shingled several feet deep along the shoreline and Tom had to place his feet carefully as he stepped over several large chunks to get to the lake’s surface. With a bare foot on the icy surface, he transferred his weight and plunged ankle-deep into the icy water. “Ohhh!” He gasped with shock, not realizing that the water below would be as cold as the ice on its surface. Tom yanked his foot from the freezing water but the slippery slanted sheets beneath his feet caused him to stumble and slide several paces onto the lake’s surface. On unsure footing, Tom turned to face Fey on the shoreline with an excited smile. She stood with her back to him looking deep into the fog-filled forest. “Fe…” He called out to her but a loud crack split the air and the ice beneath him gave out.
Tom gasped a breath as he plunged into the water. The icy darkness seized his body and froze every tiny hair into a needle poking into his skin. He sank swiftly, the icy surface closing behind him. The weight of the ball and chain wrapped around his torso pulled him hips first toward the rocky lake floor but as he sank Tom clasped the manacle about his wrist so as not to lose the weapon and began unwinding himself from it. With the ball free, it plunged to the floor, spinning Tom in the water and disorienting him until the Iron ball landed with a distant echoey crunch.
Tom lay suspended in the water as the cold seized his muscles to agony. There in the darkness, He heard his mother's voice. “Baby, you need to go.” The words were not spoken into his ear, as much as they resonated in his bones. He fought to open his eyes in the freezing water, blinking against a cold that burned deep into his head. His mother floated beneath him, clothed in a swirling vortex of ice and bubbles quickly disappearing in the darkness. In one hand she held the chain that anchored him in the water, with the other she pointed up the inclined floor of the lake bed.“Tom!” Her voice resonated in his bones like a shiver, stirring him to action, “Get out of the Gods-damned water!”
Having never learned to swim, Tom pulled at the chain until his feet were on the ground. and tried to walk but couldn’t gain purchase in the buoyant water. He picked up the ball to weigh himself down but movement up the rocky incline was slow and he was quickly running out of air.  Holding the ball in both hands Tom threw it up the incline. The Iron weight was light in the water and easy to handle with his frozen fingers but it travelled slowly, the resistance of the water pushing him back and up as the Iron weight left him. He grabbed the chain to pull himself through the water, but the ball tumbled over the rocky floor and pulled toward him as much as he moved to it. Gaining only a few feet, he gathered up the spiked ball and tried again. His lungs ached and he struggled to keep himself from taking in water but he braced a foot into the lake bed and thrust the ball through the water again, trying to hook it behind a large stone like an anchor. It tumbled into place, he tugged at the chain to set the spikes and dragged himself along the underside of the ice. Miraculously he found a recess in the lake’s surface where expanding ice had cracked and shingled over itself, and he was able to get a small breath of the air trapped within. Tom was numb when he released his last throw. Though he could see his hands pulling on the chain, his bones felt the iron links as he pulled until there was no space left to go. He punched at the ice meekly cracking it. Pulling on the chain Tom wedged himself between the rocky floor and the icy ceiling, then picked up the ball with both hands he bashed his way through the ice.
Tom exploded through the surface of the lake gasping for air. With the spiked ball still in his hand he tossed it exhaustedly toward the shore and pulled at the chain to drag himself from the water. The frozen surface broke up beneath his weight as he crawled and tumbled over the large chunks of shingled ice to the rocky shoreline. Gasping and barely conscious, he rested for a moment, exhausted, freezing, and struggling to stay awake. He tried to call out to Fey but his shivering lips wouldn’t allow him past the the first letter. The cool morning air somehow felt like fire cooking his skin and he curled up in agony. Jagged rocks dug painfully into his side, rubbing against his bones as he shook, still, they were his only source of warmth and he soon felt as though he was sinking into them, or them into him.
Laying on the ground, struggling to stay conscious, Tom became aware of a strange howling, or growling sound a short distance away. He might have thought it coyotes come to devour him, and in his condition been satisfied with that, had he not heard Fey’s delicate giggle. He pried his frozen eyelashes apart and looked toward the sound. The cold air burned his eyes filling them with tears and he had to fight the weight of his eyelids to blink them away. An enormous creature with a hairy back shifted its weight back and forth as it rumbled in a long, low growl only a few feet from where Fey had last been seen.
Tom stumbled to his feet and scrambled on all fours toward the enormous growling beast. He dragged the ball and chain behind him, yanking it closer in short bursts as he fought for the strength to try and chase the thing from his companion. Stumbling over the jagged rocks and chunks of ice after the growling noise, Tom leaned against a nearby tree for support. The figure before him stood nearly fifteen feet tall, with a thick brown beard and a mop of long hair on his head. He wore a coat made from furs and a leather kilt and used a long-handled shovel to keep his balance as he bounced on his heels. Tom dragged the ball up until it hung a foot from his frozen and shaking hand. He was still too far from the beast to strike but he tried to spin up the weapon in the hopes of drawing it away from his guide, but he struck his leg cutting his thigh with one of the spikes. Wincing he tried again, trying to spin the weapon faster but his frozen fingers kept him from securing a firm grip on the weapon and he quickly lost the strength to hold the weighted chain aloft.
A new sound joined the growl of that giant beast. It had nearly the same pattern but in a higher pitch and it rose and fell in opposition of the deep rumbling of the beast, as if trying to balance the sound. Tom spotted Fey sitting on a tree stump before the monster. She plucked at the strings of her lute as she looked up at the beast growling in response. The great beast perked up at the sound and squatted as if to pounce. Tom burst forward with the last of his energy stumbling forward in an attempt to bridge the distance between himself and the monster. (PA Attack: 6+3=9). Lacking the strength to hurl the weapon properly, he simply threw the spiked iron ball toward the beast. It flew just far enough to pull the chain taught and then fell to the ground, yanking Tom from his unsteady feet.


With her back to a large maple tree and her sword drawn, Phaye watched through a burdock bush as the enormous man retrieved one of the large nuts from high in the tree, revealing it to be a gourd that he emptied into a tank in his sleigh before returning it to the elevated boughs. He repeated this process for each of the gourds, a deep rumble resonating from him as he worked. Looking up at the hairy undercarriage of a growling giant Phaye finally recognized the the melody as an old folk tune she had learned shortly after arriving on Brothellad.
The giant language of Jotunhaug consisted of long, deep, guttural moans, and was often mistaken for growling or purring by those unfamiliar. It is also a very direct language, as concepts take time and patience to convey, so it can often come across as impolite or even rude. This misinterpretation was often the reason they lived so far from ‘civilized’ society. Their music was similarly deep and guttural, seasoned with shallow breaths reminiscent of the strong winds and harsh climates to which they are drawn.
The Weeping Mountain was a beautiful song of a giant mourning the loss of his lover and though the towering figure before her was not a seasoned entertainer, he sang with the passion and sorrow of one who’s known loss. The mournful lament made her nostalgic for her early years in the realm. Unfamiliar with the language and customs she had gravitated to communities where the fey languages were prominent, often finding herself in performing with other troubadors in giant longhouses. Without meaning to, she instinctively began to harmonize with him. The giant, half suspended in the tree, twisted precariously toward the voice over his shoulder, clearly expecting someone else. Startled by the sight of the tiny faun, sword drawn, he shrieked like a pterodactyl and fell backward into the prickly underbrush.
“Ohmygods!” Phaye called out in a half whisper, rising from her hiding place. She sheathed her weapon with some difficulty, as each time she moved she was poked by large thorns and her fur and clothing kept catching on burrs. “You alright?” Phaye hummed in the Giant’s native tongue. She attempted to hold her hands up in a non-threatening manner as she worked her way through the thorny thicket.  “Ouch! Didn’t want to … ah! Mother Fucker! … want to scare you.” she declared, alternating between the two languages. When she was free of the thicket she approached the giant, reaching out a hand to offer her assistance.
“DON’T KILL ME!” the giant cried out in the common tongue. Despite being nearly four times her size, the giant’s eyes were wild with terror,  he flailed wildly trying to scramble away from her, narrowly missing the faun and nearly kicking over his sleigh which sloshed like liquid in a metal tank.
“Whoa!” The faun raised her hands again and backed away to a safe distance. “I’m sorry! Friend! Friend!” She called out in Jutunhaug, trying to calm him. As the giant man scrambled to crawl away he began to call out against the thorns and thistle that poked and prodded him until he stopped, wide-eyed. With his eyes locked on the faun he moved one leg very slowly, stopping suddenly with a cry, “a-ahh!” He shifted his bent knee to see what the issue was gasping deeply as he did, and Phaye was able to see what the issue was.
“Dude!” she raised her hand to her mouth and quickly averted her eyes, looking about the area for a means to help the enormous man. The thick bushes he’d fallen into continued for ten to fifteen feet away from what the faun now saw as a worn trail through the forest, and the quickest way out was to return to the path, which meant coming toward her.
“Please let me help.” She spoke slowly in Jotunhaug, apologizing for startling him and offering a plan to help him out of his situation. He agreed to help and she quickly retrieved a length of hempen rope from her pack, tied a loop into one end and looped it over her shoulders. Then she found an area from which she could get a decent running start and leapt up into the tree branches, scrambling to gain purchase on a sturdy branch. Once she was stably balanced on the branch, the faun lowered the looped end of the rope down to the Giant. She asked him to hold tight while she used the rope to lower herself from the tree.
Once the unsecured end of the rope was tied tightly around another, nearby tree, Phaye gave the giant a thumbs up. The giant pulled on the rope and carefully lifted himself to his feet. He stepped out from the underbrush, keeping his feet a rather awkward distance apart, and hobbled to his sleigh, where he carefully sat. Phaye collected her rope explaining to the enormous man that even with the help of her travelling companion they would not have the strength to pull him anywhere.
“Buuuuuttooooooo!” The giant called out with a long howl before uncomfortably reclining back across the length of the sleigh. Within moments the faun heard something crash through the trees some distance away. A moment later the ground began to shake and Phaye backed up, putting the sleigh between herself and the approaching calamity.
“Buto is friendly, yeah?” She asked the giant, searching the fog and flora for the advancing figure from behind the man laid out before her. He cussed under his breath and struggled to right himself again. Phaye put a hand on his back to help the massive man onto his seat but with each tremendously approaching footstep, she struggled to keep her balance. Her colossal companion reached out, both for leverage to help himself up, and to stop a second giant man as he burst through the trees, armed with a long shovel. When Buto spotted the faun near the sled he raised the shovel to swat her but was stopped by his compatriot.
“Ceddius, what’s …?” Cedius reclined back onto the sleigh as before, pressing one foot against the sleigh to slow his descent and allowing Buto a glimpse of the issue. The giant began to bounce on his sympathetic heels, “Dude!”
“Just take me home” Cedius groaned.
Phaye called out for Tom, turning toward the lake but found him leaning against a tree nearby. He shivered uncontrollably as he attempted to spin the chain weapon but seemed to lack the strength to wield it. Phaye moved to stop him but he released the weapon. It sailed through the air until it reached the end of the ten-foot length of chain where it yanked Tom off his feet and he fell face-first into the mud, before losing consciousness.

“Hey baby, It’s time to wake up,” He lay cradled in the warmth of his mother’s bosom. He opened his eyes to her soft, melodious whispers and found a glistening complexion like rich soil in a night sky of tight black curls. Her crystal blue eyes glistened like stars and her breath on his bare chest was a warm southern wind. Her full nebulous lips were curled into a doting smile,  that intermittently rained kisses down upon him. He felt bathed in love and safer than he had felt in his twenty-some years. That alone was enough to convince him that he must be dreaming and he shut his eyes tight, desperately holding onto the moment as it collapsed around him.
Fey’s delicate fingers caressed Tom’s cheek, pulling him toward consciousness.  He lay on a rumbling bed of lumpy furs, the young faun draped over his chest. Her warm breath moved softly across his chest, stirring the small hairs. The soft patter of her heart against his abdomen, reverberated through his bones and the peaceful rise and fall of her breast warmed him in breathy waves. Soft fur-covered legs curled around him like a constrictor pinning him down, the warmth of her body against his soothed him to his core.
“Tom, Time to get up, Baby.” Fey hummed with a coy smile. She lifted herself on one hand until she was straddling him. Her wavy mahogany hair was touselled about the tips of her antlers as she rubbed sleep from her eyes. Her breasts were bare, which was not uncommon, but Tom had never been close enough to see how alluring they were trembling with the rumble of their vehicle. His hands reached out instinctively, grasping her about the waist to steady her weight shifting to his hips.
The cart jerked to a stop, and the blankets draped about the beautiful faun fell away, allowing the sun at her back to swathe her in radiance. He shut his eyes, abashed by her opulence and was only roused by a familiar growl. Tom bolted to his feet leaving a great guttural grunt in his wake. He took three steps with the faun wrapped tightly around him. As the cool afternoon breeze found them, Tom became acutely aware that he and the faun were entirely naked and surrounded by armed giants.
Mighty laughter emanated from a few members of the horde that surrounded them as Fey slid slowly to the ground, clutching him tightly. Tom pushed her to his back and he held her there with one hand to protect her. A grunting and groaning drew his attention and he turned to see two giant men, standing some ten feet tall, helping a third from a lying position atop a wooden sled. The growling was followed by laughter from much of the group surrounding them.
“NO!,” The faun replied defensively, “We did not fuck on his chest! I was trying to warm him …”  She was interrupted by something akin to a deep, guttural bark that seemed to even silence the birds. It was followed by a long incomprehensible grumble that set the other Giants to task. Fey responded with a groan of resignation and one of the giants tossed them their clothes.

The air inside was thick and sweet and filled with the scent of maple. A chant-like murmur gathered near the domed ceiling of the massive longhouse where the swirling steam disappeared out the clerestory openings. Through the swirling steam, the three openings along the apex of the arched building were bridged like the spokes of a wheel, and a rope hung from the center. The walls were made from logs nearly a hundred feet long, stacked parallel to one another in increasingly larger diameters as they descended over an interlocking wooden frame to the ground. Heat resonated from a stone trough at the end of the room where four large cauldrons or kettles simmered over open flames. Pipes connected to the bottom of each kettle extended in an intricate labyrinth that hung from the log walls. It was wound together by various interconnected wheels, faucets, and copper reservoirs. In front of these were various workbenches cluttered with glass vials and measuring devices and the dirt floor about each table was littered with worn woven mats.
Phaye felt tiny here beneath the two-storey ceiling, in a way that she hadn’t felt since she was a child. Her legs swung playfully over the edge of her chair, hooves swinging nervously back and forth above the floor. She looked up toward the collection of towering giants muttering amongst themselves and almost felt as though she were back home in the Monastery, sitting outside the Monseigneur’s office waiting to be disciplined.
Tom sat next to her, draped in blankets. He glared menacingly at the half-dozen angry giants towering before them, gripping the armrests of his chair with white knuckles. The chain hanging from the manacle on his wrist was coiled about the back leg of the oversized chair to secure him. Phaye placed her hand on his, in a calming gesture, worried that he might pounce if someone got too close. His hand closed around her fingers almost instinctively but he did not soften. Perhaps it was the company, but his usually imposing stature had diminished somehow. He seemed frail like the icy water had aged him somehow, despite having recovered somewhat on the hour-long journey around the lake.
“Well, “ A woman declared loudly, silencing the murmur, though somewhere behind her Phaye could hear the soft whimpering of a familiar voice. Before her, a bank of four or more Giants, armed with workman’s tools quieted themselves. “Your presence here puts me, in a rather … prickly situation.” The wall of Giants parted and a woman who was their leader stepped forward. She was much shorter than the rest, standing just under seven feet tall, but despite her size, she had the figure and proportions of a Dwarf. She had a narrow face, and piercing green eyes, and wore modest work clothes covered in a stained leather apron. The light through the clerestory occasionally caught a silver pendant tucked into her shirt.
“Unn listen,“ Phaye said with a nervous smile, she hadn’t spoken Giant in several years and had to clear her throat a few times to get her pronunciation correct. “We were just …”
“ … Coming here to murder all of my people?!” The Giant Dwarven woman interrupted her. She stood before the two with her fists on her hips, a phalanx of fifteen-foot men and women practically growling on either side.
“WHAT!?! NO!” Phaye started, “We’re going to …”
“... burn our village to the ground?! Slaughter our children for their toes?!” The Woman interrupted again, the growls behind her growing louder.
“What are you ..?! NO!” Phaye raised her hands in protest and the Bank of Giants raised their weapons. Tom shot to his feet, teetering slightly on his unstable legs as he positioned himself between the faun and the phalanx. The tallest of the giants, a younger man nearly seventeen feet tall and armed with a pitchfork stepped forward to meet him. Still bound to the chair Phaye held tight to Tom’s other hand, opening his bare chest to the Giant’s weapon. “Please, we just wanted to bring …”
“... a hostage!?!”
“... your friend home! What, the fuck, is happening here?!” Phaye was exasperated and her inquisitor seemingly satisfied with this looked over Phaye’s shoulder toward the wincing and moaning beyond. (Perception: 19) Phaye saw a moment of silent communication in the little large woman’s deep green eyes followed by a shift in her demeanour.
Phaye cocked an ear back and stole a glance over her shoulder to see Ceddius, the Giant they’d met in the woods, lying on a table. Two more Giant men stood on either side of him, struggling to hold his legs up in the air. One was pale and appeared on the verge of passing out, while the other was red-faced and jovially mocking the others. “Oh, quit yer bitchin’!” A female giant jabbed her hands and face hidden beneath Ceddius’ Kilt. She leaned back in her chair clutching a burr about the size of a lime between her fingers. She picked a few curly hairs off of it with a smirk and dropped both into a bucket at her feet “That’s what you get for flirting with the Fey, ya hairy pervert.” She snarked, leaning in for another.
“I wasn’t … aah-h!” Ceddius’ legs twitched against his subduers as the woman tugged sardonically at something beneath his kilt.
“What was that?” The giant woman asked with a smirk, tugging again each time he tried to answer. As she freed another burr from his groin the woman caught Phaye peeking and winked at the blushing faun. Phaye turned back to find her inquisitor’s glare.
“I see.” She said plainly, fists on her hips, looking deep into the Faun’s eyes. The giant dwarven woman stepped back nodding as she held the faun’s gaze for a long moment and after a pensive moment raised a hand to lazily waive off the giants flanking her. They lowered their weapons and milled about awkwardly talking amongst themselves as they slowly returned to their business.
“You’ll forgive our defensiveness, “ The little giant woman turned away from the two and approached a counter along the wall, previously hidden behind her and her guards. Phaye heard the clinking of glass and slosh of liquid as the giant dwarf assembled something “A group of Adventuring Tourists came through our villages a few days ago and … “
“Whoa! Yo, Tom!” Phaye called out in the common tongue. One of the guards remained, still levelling his eyes and giant-sized pitchfork at a now standing and rabidly growling Tom. She jumped down from her chair and placed a hand on his abdomen, failing to hold him back. Tom instead leaned onto the dull point, and the petite faun, pushing futility on his taught abdomen noticed a similar, though smaller scar in nearly the same place. “Fucking, Stand Down!”
“Grover!” The giant little woman shouted, her voice was like a clap of thunder that stopped everything in the room. Grover stood towering above others, at nearly seventeen feet tall, despite his young, slender frame. Brown, flowing hair clumsily hung over a lean, angry face. Woeful silver eyes, buried within their sockets, watched Tom with furious intensity. A still-healing wound stretched from just under the left eyebrow, across the bridge of his nose and ended at his left nostril and his jaw was clenched tightly in a growl that pulled at a cut on his lip. He wore no shirt over his lean frame but buttoned farming coveralls protected him to the nipples. His arms were poised to deliver a killing blow and his meaty, calloused hands gripped his pitchfork with white-knuckles.
“They need to pay.” The young Giant growled. Tears welled in his eyes and his whole body trembled with rage. He rocked slightly on his feet as if trying to build up the momentum to push the pitchfork through his quarry, but his body moved along the weapon as though it were held against a stone wall.
“Lower your weapon, son.” The Giant little woman spoke gently in the common tongue to ensure that Tom also understood. She extended a hand up barely able to reach his cocked elbow and tugged at his arm with her fingertips. “These are not the ones responsible.”
“Someone needs to pay.” He growled, but his voice hitched on the words, pulling the venom from them.
“And someone will,” She assured him calmly, “But we don’t punish our allies for the misdeeds of our enemy, ” She continued to tug at his arm with her fingertips as tears trickled from the large young man’s eyes, leaving clean streaks on his work-worn cheeks. “Do we?” She emplored him again, more sternly, and he softened slightly. Another, older man who had been watching from a few feet away approached Grover from behind. Without moving it, he gently took the weight of the pitchfork from his friend. As though it was the kingpin holding him together, young Grover slipped from the weapon and collapsed to the ground sobbing.
The Giant Dwarven woman introduced herself as Rangi, The Clan Chief and welcomed them to Titan Maple’ “As the Realm’s largest supplier of Maple Syrup we are literal Giants in the Maple Industry!” The line was delivered with the zeal of an awkward saleswoman but Phaye recognized the slogan, having seen their bottles in nearly every breakfast tavern in Mayheath.
“I apologize for the cold welcome,” The Giant Dwarf led Tom and Phaye out of the great door at the far end of the longhouse; into the cool evening air. They were led through a maze of extremely large makeshift tents assembled about the well in the middle of the village square. Children some four and six feet tall bustled and played about the muddy alleys between the tents while parents cooking over campfires hollered after them in long moans and growls. The tents were encircled by a ring of enormous cottages in various states of disrepair, some near collapse. Tephes fiery descent over the western horizon bathed the town in an amber glow, as though it were on fire fire. “And please excuse Grover, he lost his little sister in the latest attack.” The woman continued in the common tongue so that Tom understood.
“That’s terrible!” Phaye responded, horrified, then realized what she’d heard, “Wait! Latest attack?! How often does this happen?” She fumbled awkwardly with the silver ring around her pinky finger, remembering when Lesym had given it to her on her first day of work and the instructions that had come with it. “Don’t you work for the Realm? What about the Employee Insurance Plan?”
“Independent Contractors, ” Rangi clarified with sarcasm in her voice; shaking her head solemnly as they continued weaving through the tents. “The Tourism Board doesn’t have to provide us with insurance benefits.” (Phaye Insight check: 5+1=6).
“What?! That’s awful!” Phaye was genuinely shocked. She had always been treated with the utmost respect and courtesy by the Board of Tourism. “Have you ..?”
“Yes, “ Rangi interrupted curtly.
“Oh. Did you ..?”
Oh. What if ..?”
“But ..”
“But why wouldn’t …”
“Resources,” Rangi Replied, exasperated.
“Oh. But …”
“Look, “ Rangi stopped and bent down to look Phaye in the eyes. “I appreciate your concern,  but I’ve spoken to all the ‘officials’ and had all of the ‘conversations,’ as did my father, and his father; we were all told the same thing, “ She straightened up, looking over toward a new mother tending a pot of stew suspended over a small fire as she fed a swaddled infant roughly the size of a human toddler. Rangi spoke with a tone of officiality as if addressing the mother directly. “Supporting Giants with insurance benefits is financially unfeasible.” The young mother also straightened, spitting her distaste into the mud between them. Rangi replied in kind, haphazardly spitting at the same spot like a gambler calling a bet. She turned away from the flustered faun and continued walking.
Phaye followed after her, taking two steps for each of the Chiefs.  “What attacked you? Maybe we could hunt the Monsters down for you!” Phaye offered, hoping the gesture would soothe the large little woman. Rangi stopped in her tracks and turned to Phaye with a pointed finger. 
“The only Monsters in Brothellad are the fucking tourists!” Rangi barked at her, once again silencing everyone in earshot. She jammed her finger at Phaye, stopping just shy of poking her in the chest and her voice dropped to a lower more solemn tone. “If you lead them back here I will murder you my-fucking-self!” She turned away and took a single step before lowering her head and raising her hand to her face. She pinched the bridge of her nose between her fingers and took a deep breath to compose herself then turned back to the faun. “You want to be helpful?” She aimed her finger over the faun’s shoulder at Tom, while glaring deep into Phaye’s eyes, “Keep your fucking tourists out of our village!”
They walked in silence until they reached the edge of town at the far end of the lake.
From there Rangi directed them to follow the road north another mile or so until they reach an abandoned cottage where they could rest for the night. She left them with a warning, “I appreciate you helping Ceddius home but, for your own sake, do not return to our village.”
Nestled at the edge of a dense, enchanted forest, the rundown cottage stood as a testament to the passage of time and the whims of the giant who once called it home. The giant had crafted this peculiar dwelling from the materials the forest offered, creating a structure that seemed both out of place and strangely harmonious with its surroundings.
The exterior of the cottage, now weathered and worn, bore the scars of countless seasons. The wooden beams, hewn from ancient trees, were massive and gnarled, their surfaces etched with intricate patterns of moss and lichen. Shingles made from pieces of Maple bark, sagged under the weight of time, casting irregular shadows upon the uneven walls.The front door, seemingly salvaged from a castle, loomed like a portal into a forgotten realm. Its immense size hinted at the giant's proportions, and it now hung precariously on rusted hinges. Vines had claimed the doorstep, weaving a tangled tapestry that whispered tales of a time when the giant tended to a lush garden outside.
Inside the cottage, the atmosphere felt both cozy and cavernous. The furniture, hewn from the trunks of colossal trees, stood as if frozen in a moment of abandonment. A massive stone fireplace dominated one wall, its chimney ascending to heights that defied reason. Patches of sunlight filtered through gaps in the roof, casting a warm glow upon the debris of a bygone era.
The kitchen, though worn and battered, still held remnants of giant-sized utensils and cookware, scattered as if abandoned mid-meal. Enormous wooden bowls, now cracked and weathered, hinted at a time when laughter echoed within these walls. Cobwebs adorned the corners, weaving a silent testimony to the solitude that had settled in after the giant's departure.
Yet, amidst the decay, traces of life lingered. Faint echoes of magic resonated through the air as if trapped there by the ageing cobwebs. Human-sized boot prints and scuff marks traced strange paths across the dusty floorboards and the fireplace showed signs of recent use, the moss covering its hewn brick having been scorched in some sort of blast. Half a chair, dismantled for firewood, leaned against the wall its once carefully crafted backrest was riddled with knife marks as though used for target practice. Along the opposite wall, the dead foliage growing up between the floorboards was matted down on either side of the door, as if slept on by three or more. Spotting something glint in the detritus Tom recovered a round piece of glass about four inches across, It was framed in tin and had a small wooden handle like a tool. Looking through the glass he found the images on the other side inverted and blurry.
“Magnifying Glass,” Fey Called from the far end of the room. She held a pole wrapped in leather straps, one end was rounded and worn and the other had been snapped off. She pointed the broken end toward the object in his hand, “It makes close things look closer.” Tom held his hand beneath the ‘magnifying glass’ and adjusted the distance between the two until his hand came into focus. Across the vastness of his calloused palm, he found rows of tiny crevices, like freshly sewn fields that filled the plateaus between the canyon-like cracks. Tiny hair follicles stood like sentinels, barely visible to the naked eye, now standing proudly as if guarding the mysteries beneath. The ridges on his fingertips resembled the ripples of a miniature mountain range, weathered by the winds of existence. Fey giggled at his childlike fascination as he passed the device over everything in his immediate vicinity. He followed tiny insects travelling through the moss-covered walls, tiny glittering flecks of metal in the dirt tracked across the floor, but
Most interesting was the tiny spider cleaning its web. Through a gap in the wall, suspended in a beam of setting daylight, a diminutive spider delicately tended to its intricate web. The silken threads, woven with precision, glimmered with dewdrops, creating a mesmerizing dance of light and shadow.
The spider, no larger than a raindrop, moved with deliberate grace along the gossamer strands, navigating its intricate creation with a masterful touch. Its eight slender legs moved in a rhythmic pattern, each step purposeful and deliberate. Using delicate front appendages, the spider meticulously combed through the silk, removing any debris that might have collected overnight. This she carried on her back, held in place by a pair of back legs, to the edge of the web and released into the air like a tiny balloon on the wind.
The spider's movements were deliberate and elegant, its body language akin to a dancer sweeping a stage. It paused occasionally to inspect a strand, tapping it with an almost musical precision. The setting sunlight caught the fine threads, casting a soft golden glow around the arachnid as it performed its ballet of maintenance. As it traversed the web, it left behind a trail of intricate patterns, repairing any damage inflicted by the elements or passing intruders. The meticulous care with which the spider attended to its home spoke of a deep connection to its craft, a commitment to the artistry of survival.
She completed her task just as the light from the fireplace began to attract the first prey and Tom watched as a mosquito burst violently through a trap, designed for significantly smaller prey. The pest ripped away an entire segment of the web and very nearly escaped, but was not strong enough to break the last strand that seemed to stretch just enough to yank the insect back. The tiny Mistress of the Maze watched the Mosquito dig its way deeper into bondage and when it stopped to recover its energy she attacked, strapping the bundled beast down.
In the heart of the dimly lit cabin, the warmth of a crackling fire painted Fey with a soft, golden glow, the flickering illumination cast her silhouette in an enchanting dance of flames as shadows played upon the walls. She held a wooden bowl of steaming soup out to him and he joined her at the hearth.
Fey, with her expressive eyes and a cascade of untamed curls, sat across from Tom. As the firelight embraced her features, it unveiled a subtle radiance that seemed to emanate from within. Her laughter, echoing in the coziness of the cabin, resonated like a melody, and the fire's glow caught the sparkle in her eyes, revealing a depth that Tom hadn't fully noticed before.
The amber light softened the edges of Fey's face, accentuating the delicate curves and contours. Her features, bathed in the warm hues of the fire, carried an ethereal quality as if the flames themselves were paying homage to her beauty. Tom found himself entranced by the way the light played upon her skin, casting a gentle glow that seemed to highlight not just her physical charm but the warmth of her spirit.
As Fey spoke, animated and passionate, the shadows wove a captivating tapestry around her. The fire's glow outlined the grace in her gestures, turning simple movements into a dance of elegance. Tom realized that her beauty wasn't confined to conventional standards but resonated in the authenticity of her expressions and the genuine joy she brought to the room.
“Tom? Come to bed.” The warmth of Fey’s hand on his bare thigh woke Tom from his reverie. His eyes focused to find her crouched in front of him. He smiled, nodded and allowed her to lead him to the bed that she’d prepared.
“Miss Fey?” He spoke gently as the warm glow of the fading fire surrendered to the rays of ethereal blue moonlight descending through the open roof. It gathered in tiny eddies at the edge of darkness just beyond his feet. It twisted and swirled like smoke, connecting tangent branches into luminescent form. The faun hummed a contented question mark as she nuzzled into the crook of his arm. “What’s a Patron?”
A short, muffled laugh resonated through his ribs, and she reseated her face against his chest to speak. “A being of great power who shares some of that power with a person, usually in exchange for something.” Tom felt the delicate tips of her fingers begin to walk the rigid moguls of his abdomen. At his feet, the spiralling columns of light drifted gracefully across the room on slender legs that strode through a dress of flowing gossamer. It twisted and knotted itself about her waist, and billowed over her breasts. It wafted around her long slender neck and coiled itself into a mass of tight curls. “If you had one, how would you know?”
“They make themselves known, as I understand it.“ The faun flattened her hand and drew her palm slowly up the far side of his waist. “Some claim to they can feel their presence, others say they can see their Patron and others still claim to communicate directly.” She drew her hand back across him, tracing the forgiving border between the edge of his ribs and fields of his abdomen, pausing at his sternum.
“Wait!” Fey sat up, propping herself on one arm, and looked deep into Tom’s eyes. He glanced at her only briefly before returning his attention to the otherworldly figure as it crouched before the fireplace. She blew across the coals and a breeze drifted through the cabin, reigniting the scorched wood. “Do you not have one?!” Phaye was astonished and confused, “Why would you follow me halfway across a continent if …”
Tom coaxed her uneasily back to his side with a smile and a gentle hand on her shoulder. He pulled her in close and held her tightly, his hand curled gently about hers as if easing her back to sleep after a nightmare. She remained there, safe but unsettled, as if she too were watching the airy form rise from the fire with the smoke and stride wistfully toward the door. “It sounded peaceful.” He replied as the smiling visage of his mother dissipated into the darkness.

Back to blog