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 A tale of Giants and Dragons

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Join date : 2013-02-03

PostSubject: A tale of Giants and Dragons   Sun Feb 03, 2013 11:21 pm

"Gather close, niblets, for I don't dare to tell this tale too loud. Spirits have good hearing and most would rather forget the time I am about to tell you of..."

The children leaned in close, human and half dwarf, elf and shifter, with a halfling child elbowing his way to the front. The pampered child of a wealthy merchant, an orphan, a kitchen runner, a traveler's cub, and a refugee child all ignored their station to attend to the old storyteller. The shifter cub sniffed the air and glanced over her shoulder, seeing her mercenary father deep in negotiations with a blacksmith at a nearby stall. He would be there a while, so she turned back to the crone, nervously playing with her long braid.

The sun barely penetrated the canopies of the crowded market, streams of light filtering through like in a dense forest, road dust and loose spices scattering the light like willowisps. The markets in the Floating Cities were like an environment all of their own, with its own flora and fauna, travelers grazing from the booths, scavenging street urchins scurrying off with any bit dropped to the dusty ground, and predators big and small making their way through the narrow lanes, either silent as a housecat, or commanding and bold as a Vesserian lion.

Ragged cloaks were layered on the old woman sitting in front of them. Neither the bend of her long nose nor the knobby knuckles on her fingers revealed what race she called her own. After all these year, centuries maybe, her grayish skin, wrinkled leathery face and bent spine could be human, elven, half Orc, or even something more rare, perhaps githyanki or tiefling? Her eyes did nothing to betray her secret, as she never looked up from the ground. Her twisted walking stick carefully drew ancient letters in the dust of all roads that collected on the worn, flat stones of the market.

"Once, children, none of your kind lived in the Inner Sea kingdoms. Once, children, the Inner Sea kingdoms didn't exist at all. Once, children, this land was home to terrors, creatures so large you could not imagine that so big a thing could breathe and move under its own power. Once, children, this land, from the western coast, to the Edge of the World, was a land of giants..."

The children gasped. Children of all hides, be it Orc or gnome, knew stories of giants so tall that they brushed the clouds, their voices were like thunder and their footsteps shook the earth like a herd of bison with each step. Giants were barbaric, and ruled over their tribes with cruelty and menace. When the smaller races first sent ships to Bywairren, they were often as not eaten alive by the giants, or pressed like grapes and ground into a smooth paste. There were supposedly still giants in the world, far away at the edges of the map, having retreated to the frozen south. Explorers claimed to have seen giants' bones, and the kid who lives under the Lace Bridge says he met a goblin girl whose uncle was a porter for a company of mining dwarf refugees from Broken Mountain who were seeking their fortune in the foothills of the mountains of Hardarya and saved the life of an injured Theian horse woman who told them that her sisters sold a giant skull to the R'asul of Kabidj, which now hangs from two massive iron poles at the gates of the city. So it must be true.

"The giants were not alone. They hunted all manner of beasts, larger than any we have known since. The trees grew so tall that their topmost boughs were singed by the stars, and grasses grew like cathedrals. The first elves hunted giant mice and harvested seeds as big as melons, scampering into holes when the ground shook at an approaching giant. It was those elves, riding on sparrows clad in silver mail that saw the end of the giants and wrote the songs that we little people sing in secret to remember them."

The old woman took a deep breath, her small frame expanding in shudders like a bird shaking off snow, before deflating, looking if possible more gaunt than before.

"The giants were not the only nightmares to haunt the world. From the far corners of the world came the great dragons. They were wyrms whose great, jagged leathery wings would darken the sky. They were made of flame and ash, their skin scaled and cracked, burnt from the inside, the broken edges of their hides glowed from the inside and trailed black acrid smoke. When they roared, the hot winds would scour the land from coast to coast and the stars would be extinguished. And when they were angry, my niblets, they would take a deep breath, their chests would turn white hot, massive ribs showing through the taut skin... "

The old hag finally looked up from the ground, her yellow eyes with violet irises had opened wide. She was seeing another place, another time. Her gnarled fingers came up to her wrinkled mouth, then spread, as if she was blowing out a candle while she whispered, "they breathed fire."

The children were silent. The half dwarf boy clutched the small shield hanging around his neck, symbol of Vaard the Protector, and prayed silently that he never, ever saw a dragon.

Well, maybe just once.

The shifter cub was the first to break the silence that followed.

"What happened to them... What happened to the giants and the dragons?"

A small eddy of wind scattered the dusty letters that were drawn on the ground, sending them away in a tiny whirlwind. The crone's eyes took on a cloudy sclera, losing their violet brightness. She grasped for her fallen walking stick with dry, spindly fingers and sighed heavily, "I don't have the strength for that tale today. Come back to old Thornbury tomorrow, and she will tell the tale of the Fallen King of Stars, the Dragons Below, and the Giants' Bones."
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