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.”