That One Time I Went On A Quest

Kastor applied for a job he wasn't qualified for and got it. His employer? A woman known throughout the Realms as the greatest dragon slayer in the world.


7. The Little Giants (1/2)

The council of little giants first look at each other, then back at us, their lidless black-marble eyes swirling with inner light.

‘I just told them who you are, Aunt Kath,’ Haylis says, ‘but I think they’ve already recognised your sword.’

‘In that case, might they consider offering the slayer of Elisaad a discount?’ Kathanhiel asks with a smile.

Haylis nods, and returns to banging her chain of silent bells. With two soft-tipped mallets in each hand, she hits them in complex sequences, often three or four bells at once. They don’t make any sound, but the little giants seem to be shaking their heads in response; there’s no way to tell whether they’re talking or not, for their round, lipless mouths don’t seem to move at all.

‘Fifty thousand crowns for a coach to Iborus, non-negotiable – oh but they –’ Haylis cups her ears. ‘They’re offering to send their warriors.’

‘Warriors! Fighting giants!’ Arkai exclaims. ‘A rare sight indeed – I wonder how many there are – if we’ve a legion of giants…’

Turns out, there are only two warriors in the entire enclave: a pair of siblings named Oon’Shang and Oon’Shei, both over ten feet tall and not-so-little in every aspect. They greet us with polite bows, then single out Kathanhiel and drop to one knee before her. Oon’Shang, the bigger giant wearing an orange-coloured face veil, unties a bracelet from her wrist and lays it out; threaded onto it are twenty-eight dragon incisors; some are no larger than my thumb, others longer than my forearm.

Her resume.

‘They’re honoured by your presence,’ Haylis interprets, ‘and wish to join our quest as coach runners. They’ve pledged their lives to exact revenge on the dragons for ransacking their ancestral homes in the Endless Ranges.’

Kathanhiel shakes their hands – or rather, their index fingers. ‘Many tales I’ve heard of the dragon hunters amongst the little giants. I am grateful to be placed under your care.’

The siblings lead us from the council to the field behind the enclave. On it sits rows upon rows of massive hand-drawn carriages with hulls of shaped steel and crystalline windows made from pieces of quartz. Some of them are so large they have five human-height wheels on each side; one of those could probably carry a fifty people.

The one we’ve hired is just about the smallest: four bedrooms, complete with a bath, a working kitchen, and a stable big enough to fit three horses.

‘They’re ready to depart when we are,’ Haylis says, already eyeing the soft beds with an eager expression.


To be inside the most expensive mode of transportation in the Realms, my butt on the same leather seat a prince from the Vassal States would have sat on, seeing people-shapes blur past the window, listening to the neighing of our nervous horses in the next room – passengers now because they couldn’t keep up – it’s exciting to say the least.  

Out front Haylis is braving the wind and talking with Oon’Shang, who is pulling our carriage at a fast trot. Oon’Shei, her younger brother, is pushing our carriage from the rear. On his back is a bundle of six-foot javelins and a sickle-like blade that could easily lop off the head of an elephant.

Being warriors, neither of them are particularly good at coach running.

As yet another massive bump sends everything airborne, Arkai, who is sitting on the roof as lookout, expresses his displeasure with polite language.

‘ be more careful!’ he shouts, ostensibly at Oon’Shei, who wouldn’t understand nor hear a word he’s saying.

‘Do you see anything?’ Kathanhiel asks from her leather-bound chair in the cabin.

‘No, nor do I want to.’                     

Arkai’s squad of Ink Scouts had gone on ahead while we bargained for the coach, but a mere day later they’re now behind us, for the little giants run without rest or sleep. Haylis says this is perfectly normal; two weeks of straight running is apparently a popular exercise routine for them, right up there with digging a tunnel though a mountain.

These folks, with their inexhaustible stamina and immeasurable skill, had been made exile by the dragons over eight hundred years ago.

What can we little people do?

When I ask her this Kathanhiel replies dismissively. ‘You only see their strengths. The little giants value discretion and self-actuation above all else. Even for an organisation as simple as running a coach service they require human assistance, because working together is simply not a part of their life.’

‘But they’re so strong, and smart too.’

‘They are, but so are the dragons.’ She taps the scabbard of Kaishen, which hangs at her side. ‘This sword was made by one who was known as Ush’Ra the Godsmith, a legend among their people. The art of its making has been lost because its creator refused to share it with others. That’s how it is with them.’

‘Really? But I-I’ve heard that, um…’

‘That it came from a bolt of lightning?’ She smiles. ‘Or is it my pulling it from a rock in the middle of a lake? That one’s my favourite. When I was young I imagined myself as the hero in it. Little did I know...’

‘Are there more swords like Kaishen? Maybe if-if I could get one I can be of some use to you.’

Her expression darkens. During our first meeting in the King’s garden, she had a moment just like this. ‘One such sword is one too many,’ she says quietly, and not to me, ‘and I don’t need you to fight. There’s nothing I can’t take care of with Kaishen at my side.’

‘Y-yes my lady.’

She blinks. ‘I like this about you Kastor. You always ask the right questions.’

‘I just want to be of more use to you than the esquire who cooks and cleans.’

‘You’ll do much more than that, this I know for certain.’ She stands and moves to the window. ‘Would you mind go checking on the horses? That last bump must’ve startled them.’

Rough of her to counsel me so well then immediately undermine it by giving out a menial task. As I open the door to the next cabin I glance back; Kathanhiel is holding up her sword against the rain-pelted window, as if offering it to the light. She looks like she needs to be alone.

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