Chapter 2: A Giant Mystery
“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.
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.”