Monday, March 22, 2010

Chapter Eighty-Three

"Faster!" screams the Dwarf, and the Magic Carpet weakly, desperately pushes through the storm with the tiniest amount of acceleration.

"We're dead, we're dead, we're dead," chants the Wolf, and though he doesn't want to, he can't help but glance at the Giant chasing them.

The Giant is a world all unto itself, an unstoppable force, a moving mountain. Its footsteps overpower the thunder, its rot corrupts the smell of the rain. And with every step - every league-spanning step - it comes closer to its meal.

"We ain't dead yet," shouts the Dwarf, but his voice is lost in the piercing wind.

He’s faced Giants before - he knows how they think. A lone Dwarf versus a Giant might be madness, but the brutes were never known for their smarts. Take out its eyes nice and quick, and it'll back down.

A dead Giant, however, is another tale altogether. Even blinded, it will pursue them as long as it can smell their blood - namely, forever.

“Of course,” he thinks, “never fought a giant while flying before.” That must count for something.

His body numb from the wind and rain, he forces the Carpet to climb higher and higher. His brief hope of breaking through the clouds is dashed - Lady Luck was never one to favor Dwarves. The Carpet stops, exhausted, at eye level with the Giant.

It reaches for them with a hand the size of a cottage.

The Dwarf pats the Carpet's sodden pile, and wraps its tassels around his gnarled hands.

“Hold on tight,” he shouts to the Wolf.

"You too," he whispers to the Monkey, which clutches desperately to his beard.

“Now drop!” says the Dwarf, and with a shake of the Carpet’s tassels, they fall from the sky.

The Monkey screams, the Wolf howls, and the Dwarf - to his surprise - laughs madly.

The giant swipes at them with its massive hand, and the ensuing rush of wind slams into the Carpet.

It is only Dwarven stubbornness that keeps him from letting go of the Carpet. The rest of his body flies into the air, the Wolf flails like a flag, and their few supplies fall away into the sky.

Now almost at the Giant's waist, the Dwarf leans into the Carpet and shouts, “Now! Through his legs!”

With an uncanny instinct, the Carpet slows down somewhat before going through the bowed legs of the Giant. It rests for one final moment until the huge hands are near - grasping and grabbing and stained with a kingdom’s worth of blood - and then it zooms through.

“And up!” screams the Dwarf, though the Carpet is already traveling upward, back into the sky, somewhat rejuvenated by its momentary rest.

Again the Wolf dares a look behind him to see the Giant bent over, reaching foolishly between his fat legs.

The Giant’s face, so close to the treetops, is suddenly attacked by a flurry of arrows. They fly into his eyes, nose, mouth, nothing more than probing mosquitoes.

It takes some time for the Giant to notice, and then it plunges its hands into the forest, more interested in the many nearby morsels of blood that hide in the trees than the retreating speck of cloth.

“There’s archers down there,” murmurs the Wolf. It cranes its neck to get a better look.

The Dwarf wishes that the Wolf hadn’t said anything, or that the storm would’ve blocked out the words, but Lady Luck was never one to favor Dwarves. He’d heard rumors, long, long ago, it feels, that there had been a refugee camp in the Forest of Sherwood, one ably defended and safe. No more.

He tries not to think of them, the brave and the weak, all taking bow and blade to the hungry mouth and legs and hands of the Giant in a last, desperate, futile battle. And though his hands twist and knot the Carpet's tassels, he does not turn back.