The Always Quest: Chapter 3

 Chapter 3: Family and Wishes

Avery stared up at the dark trees that towered over them. It sent a shadow that reached out with blackened hands towards them, their camp right up against where the shadows ended. Guy would not go a step closer. They had made a small fire and camped for the night, the giant along with them. Grimber had been generous with what he had and made sure that the girl was resting comfortably, but afterwards placed his tree into the ground and was deep in thought. Avery had tried to get a conversation out of him, but he didn’t seem keen on answering too many questions. Guy was silent, and wouldn’t leave the girl’s side. The cat wouldn’t leave Guy’s shoulder.

So Avery sat alone, staring at the menacing forest. She drew her sword and looked at the blade, then put it away.

“It’s a magnificent sword.”

Avery turned around to see Grimber towering over her. He had approached rather silently for a huge man covered in armor.

“Thank you,” Avery said. “It was my brother’s.”

“He was skilled with it, then?”

Avery chuckled. “No, not at all! He had horrible swordsmanship. Couldn’t beat a one legged toad with a sword, let alone his sister.”

Grimber took his tree and crashed it into the ground, then sat down next to it with another thunderous crash. Avery nearly flew up into the air, but readjusted her balance and got comfortable again.

“My family was bad at fighting as well,” Grimber said. His voice deeply groaning like a ship out at sea. “My swordsmanship was the only thing keeping our family in high standings.”

“Swordsmanship?” Avery said. She stared at the tree. “I don’t think that thing counts, big guy.”

Grimber chuckled. “I gave up my sword long ago, little fox. Never again will I…” Grimber’s sentence trailed off. Avery bit her lip with curiosity. She didn’t know giants ever wielded swords. She wanted to know what kind, how, and how many, but she sensed that it was a sensitive subject.

“You’re brother,” Grimber said. “Did he die with honor?”

Avery looked up at the giant in surprise. The giant looked at her behind a cold and expressionless visor which hid his eyes from the rest of the world. Avery immediately looked away and put a hand to her eye to stop a sudden tear.

“H-he did. With the highest of honor,” she said. She took a deep breath and shook her head. “He died for family. For… me.”

Grimber became silent.

“Is that why you travel to the west?”

“Yes,” Avery said, but immediately began to stutter. “I mean, no. I’m not sure yet.”

The giant was still quiet.

“It’s just,” Avery continued. “I don’t know if my brother should come back. I miss him, so much. But life isn’t something one should play with, you know?” Avery threw the sword down into the soil in frustration. “I don’t know. I set out to restore my families honor, for my own honor! Not to disrupt something sacred as life, but something that my brother fought for. He knew he couldn’t win a challenge against our leader, but they were going to sell me as some sort of… slave! I…”

Avery looked back up to the giant, tears now streaming down her face. She wiped them off quickly, and put on a brave face.

“I haven’t decided yet. I want my brother back, but I don’t want to mess with the life of someone that was special to me. I don’t believe it works that way. It just doesn’t seem right.”

Avery crossed her arms and looked back at the sword that lay in front of her. Her cheeks flushed as she realized just how emotional she had gotten over Grimber’s simple question. She put a hand behind her neck. The giant probably had lost all respect for her after an answer like that. She was about to say something else, until she heard something she did not expect. From underneath the echoing helmet of the armored giant came a deep sobbing.

“Little fox,” Grimber said. His voice thickly accented in weeping and tears. “You are far wiser and more noble than I. For life is sacred, isn’t it? Why should we just wish for our broken hearts to be mended on their expense. For they are in a better place, are they not?”

Avery looked at the giant with wide, suprised eyes. She hadn’t seen this side of a giant before. “Grimber…”

He held up a hand, and attempted to regain his composer. “You lost your brother, little one,” Grimber said. His voice now calm. “I also lost ones dear to me.”

Avery’s heart melted, and she dreaded asking. The giant was so terribly shaken, but she pressed anyway.

“If I may ask, Grimber… who did-“

“My wife,” Grimber said. “And my daughter. They were everything to me, but I was not there to protect them when they needed me most.”

“Daughter…” Avery said. Giants were warlike. At least, that was what everyone just assumed. She had never even thought about a giant being a caring father, or a husband. “Grimber, I’m so sorry.”

“It’s why I threw my sword away,” Grimber said. “Raiders came while I was gone, off to battle somewhere… I don’t quite remember why, or who we were fighting. But raiders came and killed them, burnt our home, and pillaged everything there. The only thing that remained was our iron-wood tree.” Grimber placed a hand on his weapon. “I carry it with me to… remember.”

Avery pushed a lock of her autumn red hair behind her ear. “What were their names?”

Grimber gave a soft, short laugh. “My wife’s name was Aurelie. She was more joyful than the does in the field, and as beautiful as the lilies in the meadow. Aurelie and I grew up together and fell in love well before I went off to fight. We named our daughter Juliette. Her hair was darker and more vibrant than the highest breed of horses, and I don’t believe her smile ever faded. She was so little… only just four years.”

Avery swung her tail around and held it. She wanted to say something, but no words graced her mouth. She was silent, and felt utterly broken to the giant’s loss.

“I came to the west to get them back. But I see how blind I was, little fox,” Grimber said. “I’ve never heard a living thing so devote and selfless as to consider life in such a manner. I thank you.”

Avery nodded, but felt far too shaken to think highly of herself.

“I suppose that’s why you protected the girl?” she said.

Grimber took a deep breath and nodded. “I would have stepped in anyway, but I’m sure she has a family out there. Whatever she is, I won’t them grieve without putting up a fight.”

“I do wonder what she is,” Avery said.

“Awake, for one,” Guy said. Avery jumped up, startled.

“How long were you there?” she asked.

Grimber chuckled. “You didn’t see him? He was there for most of that conversation.”

Guy smiled softly. “I just didn’t have anything I wanted to interrupt with. Sorry to startle you, Avery. But she did wake up for a few minutes. She’s quite the… well, I’ll just let you meet her. I told her I would wake her up in a few minutes to meet you both.”

Grimber stood, picking up his tree on the way up. “Good to know she is alright.” The giant began to walk back to the other side of their camp. Avery stood as well, but was stopped by Guy.

“You’re sword?” Guy said. He held the sheathed katana out to her with a smile.

“Oh… thanks,” she said.

Guy looked carefully at the sword, and then handed it back to her. His eyes were soft and suddenly understanding. “I’m sorry about your brother, Avery. Truly, I am.”

Avery nodded. “You heard the whole story?”

“Most of it,” Guy said. “I understand your need to not shy away from battle. Your brother would be proud.”

Avery turned away, feeling her cheeks flush once more. “Th-thank you, Guy. That truly means a lot to hear.”

Avery walked away. As she walked, the cat crossed her path. She leaned down to pet its ears before continuing behind Grimber. The cat walked silently up to Guy, and then leaped up onto his shoulder. Guy turned his head towards the cat, softly petting it.

“You realize I can’t just stop on their account,” Guy said, looking into the cat’s green eyes. “I have to do it this time. It’s impossible to save everyone, and this time has to count.”

The cat stared silently back.

“You’re colder than I remember, you know,” Guy said. “You enjoy being my daddy’s pet? I’m sure he doesn’t abuse you at all, cat.” Guy spat the last word at the creature, and the cat’s back arced up at his response. But the cat remained on his shoulder, cold, green eyes still staring into his. Cold, green eyes that had plagued him all of his life. “Strike a nerve, kitty? I hope your shadows are ready for me. Because I’m fighting for them and their lost ones just as much as I am for myself. The storm is coming tomorrow, and that forest won’t stop me. May the best magic win.”

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The Always Quest: Chapter 2

The Always Quest Frella Cerella

Chapter 2: A Giant Mystery

“Knock, knock.”

“Seriously?” Avery Foolhardy walked in front of the man with her head resting on her hand.

“I’m always serious,” Guy said. “Knock, knock.”

Avery sighed. “Who’s there?”

The cat walked alongside Guy, looking intently at each of them.

“Purr,” Guy said. He gave the cat a wink.

Avery winced. “Purr, who?”

“Purr-sonally, I think you’re a little uptight.” Guy picked the cat up by its shoulders and handed it to her. It licked its whiskers, and Avery took it from him. She pet it as she walked.

“Well, I guess you got me. Darn it all, Guy.”

Guy put his hands behind his head and smiled. “I do my best.”

Avery stopped, and Guy skidded to a halt. Guy looked up to see a deeply green forest ahead. It’s trees were covered in leaves and sticky moss, choking out any sunlight. Each tree seemed to reach out at them with long, finger shaped branches. It was about a day’s journey past the valley and an unseen road, but a strong smell of death and decay was still present.

“Where did that come from?” Guy said.

Avery continued walking, eyes set straight ahead. “If you would put as much effort into your direction as your jokes… well, you’d probably still have no idea where you were going.”

“So this is why most people avoid this road?” Guy said. “I mean, it can’t be that bad.” He buffed his purple coat and followed Avery.

“If you’re going into the west, you need to take this road,” Avery said. “The other roads are just as bad, but mostly worse.”

Guy nodded. He put a hand to his chin and frowned. He became quiet.

Avery frowned. “Hey, you alright back there?”

Guy looked up, but his eyes were distracted. “I suppose there’s plenty of shadows in that forest, huh?”

“I… would assume so, yeah.”

Avery decided to put it off as a typically obvious question Guy would ask, but for some reason the way he asked it made her uneasy. She tugged at the leather belt that held her sword firmly in place, and bit her lip.

Guy was quiet for a long while after that, and remained a few steps behind her. Avery could hear the soft footsteps of the cat directly behind her, her sharp ears picking up little to nothing else as they walked down what had turned into a dirt road that led down into the valley.

But then something else was heard. Metal, scraping against… something else. It was metal, wasn’t it? It sounded different. Was it metal against metal?

Avery looked back to Guy. “Do you hear that?”

Guy shook himself. “Hear what?”

Avery jumped back up the decline of the path and squinted her eyes. “Movement past that rock formation. Some sort of metal? I swear that’s metal, but it’s off for some reason.”

Guy became disinterested. “That’s in the daylight, so I don’t have time for it.”

Avery scoffed. “What is that suppose to mean? It sounds like a scuffle. Someone could be in trouble.”

Guy ignored her and kept walking downward.

“Guy!”

The cat looked at them both. I meowed after Guy, and then followed his footsteps further down. Avery stamped her foot into the dirt and ran towards the sounds. Her feet sank into the soft dirt outside of the path and sprinted towards the rocky side of a formation, the sounds getting louder to her sharp ears with each step.

Avery reached the formation of rocks and leaped up on top of it. She scaled the final few feet with a precise aim, finding places for her hands to propel herself further upward in a calculated flurry. She reached the top, and looked down.

There at the bottom of the rock formation was a giant. A giant holding a tree. Avery rubbed her eyes, but looked once again to see the same thing. The giant was dressed in a silver armor that covered his entire body, making his physical features difficult to make out. He wielded the tree above his head and smashed it down on what seemed to be bandits who had backed him into the corner.

There were about a dozen bandits, all cornering him. They had spears and axes, which did little to advance on the giant. Avery wasn’t sure why they would be picking a fight with a giant, until her eyes caught what was behind him. It was a little girl, silent and still, up against the rocks behind the giant.

Avery knelt down, drew her sword, and leaped off the rock face without another thought.

She belted out a long howl and drove her sword into the first unsuspecting bandit. The group of men stopped in surprise, but Avery kept her movements fluid. Her long katana went to each one of the bandits, cutting into throat, knee, and shoulders of whoever she could reach. She took long steps and spun towards each individual, cutting them down.

By the time the bandits knew what was going on, half of them were dead on the dusty soil. The remaining immediately turned around and ran away as fast as their legs could carry them.

Avery reached into her pouch and pulled out a cloth, precisely wiping her blade clean of the red stains and then placing the sword back into the sheath in one fluid movement. She turned around with a smile, but bent backwards to avoid the massive tree from slamming into her head.

“Hey!” Avery said. “What’s the big idea?” She jumped backwards, studying the giant knight.

The knight lowered the tree. “Sorry, little one. But how do I know you do not have the same dreams and desires of the bandits who attacked me before?”

“I just drove them away from you, didn’t I?” Avery put her hands onto her hips and flicked her tail, annoyed.

“So you either wish to help me or take the spoils for yourself,” the giant said.

Avery frowned. “I suppose that’s fair.” She knelt down on her knees and placed her sword onto the ground in front of her. “I apologize for not making my intentions known, giant. By the south, I am not here to harm you. I do not know you, nor the girl, but you seemed to need assistance. It is not like my people to leave those in need without help.”

The giant was quiet, but gave a rumbling laugh. “Those who show respect to a man who nearly took their head off with a steel-wood tree stump must indeed have good character.” The giant slammed the tree stump into the ground, wedging it into the soft soil. He then placed a gauntlet over his heart with a loud metallic crash. “I am Grimber, the giant. Pleased to not take your head off.”

He held out a massive hand, and Avery stood. Grimber carefully shook her hand and then laughed again.

“It’s not often you get an ally on the west road, so I hope you will forgive my hasty decision.”

“I understand,” Avery said. “You can’t trust everyone out here…”

Avery looked around the giant to see the little girl, laying up against the rocks. “Is she alright?”

The giant turned. “I believe so. I found her like this. But you should take a closer look.”

Avery walked over and leaned down, but stepped back in surprise. The girl was dressed in a red and scarlet dress, but her body was made completely of metal. Her hair was silky, and colored gold and pink.

“What… is it?” Avery said.

“She’s a young girl.”

Avery turned to see Guy right behind her, the cat sitting on his shoulder.

“Oh, so you decided to show up after all,” Avery said. She glared at Guy, but he seemed to ignore her.

Guy leaned down and put a hand to the gear that rested on top of her head. “She needs rest, though. We should get her into the sun, and well out of the shadows.”

Guy gently picked up the sleeping girl and carried her away from the side of the rock formation. The cat leaped off his shoulder. Avery pet the cat’s ears and shook her head.

“You know, cat. I can’t tell whether he’s very gentle or just cold. Either way, he’s a mystery.”

“The west is full of the unknown for everyone,” Grimber said. He then began to follow Guy. “But I think that’s the way it’s suppose to be.”