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The Trouble with Giants
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-762-5
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Science Fiction
eBook Length: 77 Pages
Published: June 2010

From inside the flap

It is a time of giants. It is a realm where dreams die on pyres built for unknown gods not their own. The king is as corpulent as he is corrupt. There is no justice, as villages are burned to the ground, adults are crushed by cannibalistic giants, and children are enslaved. There are no heroes, there is no hope. There is only a boy named Kel.

The Trouble with Giants (Excerpt)

Chapter 1

Kel was tired. He had been in the fields all day. That wasn’t unusual, but today was hotter than normal. The air was heavy and the moisture seemed to stick to everything. The dust and the bugs didn’t make matters any better.

The blazing sun had turned orange and began to cool slightly as it swooped down to invade the western mountains. Thick clouds of gnats hovered around sweat-soaked heads as birds dove in for an evening meal. Grasshoppers sang an evening serenade signaling the end of another day.

Kel was an average looking youngster of average height and average build. His light brown hair was unkempt, but not unruly. He was not overly handsome, but by no means ugly. Kel was a good boy, though a little absent-minded. He didn’t mind working in the fields. He knew it needed to be done and it made him strong. In fact, it made him eerily strong. He liked that. He’d even become somewhat famous, if not infamous among the villagers. Kel’s father was less than thrilled by his son’s unique characteristics, but he tried not to let on. He was afraid it would end up getting him into trouble. Considering Kel’s constant daydreaming of adventure and heroic exploits, he was probably right.

Things had been hard for them since the raids. His father had to take on the duties of a mother as well, which were considerable in their society. The hordes took his mother, and... well if only they’d killed her right away. He didn’t like to think about it. Someday he’d get his revenge... someday he’d...

"Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll be here for the rest of my life."

As he lifted the last bundle of hay onto the wagon he thought how much he looked forward to the end of harvest season. It meant colder weather, but at least he’d have time to tend to more important matters. After all, it seemed there was never enough time to daydream of adventure and to save the village from marauding bandits. The bandits usually took the form of his friends wielding swords of dead oak and shields of locust bark. Of course Kel was always triumphant and won the girl’s hand... not that he had time for girls.

"Kel!" The sound of his father’s voice brought him back to reality. "Kel, hurry and get that wagon into the barn."

"Yes, father."

He headed for the barn to finish up for the day. Yes, it will feel good to relax tonight.

He swung the heavy wooden door aside and dragged the wagon inside. The waning dusk light shone through the cracks in the walls like dusty curtains. He took a towel from a hook on the stable door and wiped the sweat and grit from the back of his neck. Before leaving for the house he did a quick inspection of the two milk cows and the horse. After filling their water troughs he patted the horse on the snout and left, closing the door behind him.

As he entered the house his father was already putting supper on the table. Beans again. Father was good at many things. A jack-of-all-trades. He was the town blacksmith, luthier, and cabinetmaker. He was not, thank heaven, the town cook.

"Eat up son." he said, "don’t want to be late for the lamplight, do we?"

"Oh," he thought, "I forgot it was tonight." He looked forward to the lamplight. It was the one time during the busy season when he could let his mind wander to the very limits of imagination with no cries of "get your mind on your work." This would be a quick supper.

He gulped down his beans and stripped at the washbasin to clean off the grime. After changing his clothes he tidied up the kitchen area and stood at the door tapping his foot. Finally his dad was ready and leisurely emerged from his bedroom smiling and shaking his head at Kel’s impatience. As they walked toward the edge of the village his father spoke.

"I guess someone else will hold the lamplight soon. Old Taron may not be with us much longer."

"Sure he will," Kel protested. "He’ll outlast all of us."

He stared at his feet as they left village. Old Taron had held the lamplight forever... seemed so anyway. Kel winced at the thought of him not being there.

"Someday," his father pondered. "Maybe someday you’ll hold the lamplight for the village."

"Sure, some stories I’ll tell. Guarding the crops from ravening bands of wood rats and crows."

"You never know, son. You just never know."

His father knew Kel was busting at the seams to do something with his life. He’d never be satisfied with the life of a farmer. He understood, but it troubled him. These were perilous times. The world was becoming more and more dangerous, and wicked men flourished and prospered. How long would the relative peace and tranquility of Bardton last? So far, their little corner of earth had gone largely unnoticed by the rest of the world. There really wasn’t much in Bardton to interest outsiders. There was no wealth to speak of and the people were happy to have food and shelter. It was a subsistence existence.

Down the path they walked past the threshing floor, across the creek, and into the woods. As they broke through the trees the meeting place came into view. The anticipation began to build as they neared the fire pit and the surrounding boulders where they would all sit and listen to the old man tell his tales. Most of their friends were already there. Children chased one another around the fire pit while their parents gathered wood. The musicians crouched at the corners of the clearing practicing the songs they would play and tuning their instruments. Kel and his father sat down on a flat boulder in clear view of the festivities, and waited.

The mountains swallowed the last sliver of sun and the sky turned soft yellow, then red, and finally starlight replaced the sun’s glare and the fire was lit. The sound of the wind in the trees was replaced by the chirping of crickets and bullfrogs croaking in the distance. The fire began to crackle and hiss and sap bubbled, trying to escape the warming branches only to be consumed in the waiting fire.

Into the circle from the edge of the clearing bounded a tall gangly man dressed in tattered buckskin, the sound of his flute rudely interrupting the cricket’s concerto. He leaped around the pit in a fury of music and acrobatics as the children joined the dance. One of the girls from the village, Kara, recognized the tune and jumped to her feet chasing behind the mad flutist.

"Of course it’s Kara," Kel mutterd to himself. "She knows all the songs." Kel didn’t have time for this. He didn’t come for the music. He wanted this part to be over with. "What a waste of time."

Still, he did like Kara. He liked her a lot in fact, but not too much.

One by one the others joined in the songs of myth and lore, songs of gallant men conquering evil kings and of knights and the dragons they slew. The players played on with stringed instruments, flutes, and tambourines. The villagers took turns singing as they beckoned bystanders to join in.

Kel strained against the tugs of young girls who would have him join in, but to no avail. They overwhelmed him and he was forced to play his part. Silly girls. He would have come later in hopes of missing the inanity, but then he may have been late for Taron’s entrance and that he couldn’t bear.

The song went on for what seemed like an eternity. One after another the musicians played on into the night. As the fire burned away the wood, the embers released an eerie red glow. The song came to an end and people took their seats. Soon, only the faint flicker of embers danced on the rocks at the cave of Old Taron.

Wide eyes and warm smiles greeted the ancient bard as he emerged from the cave. He held a dim lamp in one hand and a twisted sycamore branch in the other. Old Taron, slowly... painfully so, made his way to the center. His wrinkled face, barely visible behind his long white beard, seemed to glow with the wisdom of the years. Heads nodded in respect and honor to the old storyteller.

No one knew for sure how old he was, not even Taron. He was ancient, and that was all anyone knew. He had been here years before the village was built. Some said he had been alive for hundreds of years. Some said thousands. Only God knew for sure. This is what Kel came to see. He would sit and listen to Taron for hours, days if he could.

Taron spoke.