A Giant Quest

Artwork by Jakub Różalski

Everyone was justifiably concerned and of course everyone also had an opinion about what to do. It was more than two weeks since the incident and with winter upon them now, their options became even more limited every day they waited. Some were even frightened enough to threaten to leave the village if something wasn’t done soon. Of course everyone knew what needed to be done but it was something that could be dangerous and no one really wanted to volunteer.

When the village elders brought the great council together it was decided that the quest would require three of their finest warriors to track and find the giant Ég er Aflinn. Dealing with a giant was not something anyone relished but it was a task that needed to done, and done soon. Several scouts had just returned and reported that the path of destruction through the forest was much greater than thought and it was only a matter of time before Ég er Aflinn found his way into the next valley. If that happened it would not be good for anyone as trade could be interrupted and all the people in the three kingdoms would suffer.

Of course everyone knew which three warriors would volunteer and the warriors themselves were very aware of what would be asked of them. But it was something each knew they would do without question, no matter what the risk.

Quint the Red was the first to speak up and pledge herself to the quest and of course White Köttur standing by her side also pledged his loyalty to her and the quest.

Bofalia the Ranger only had to nod his head for all to know he too would also join the quest

Once the three warriors had made their intentions known the rest of the village knew they had to prepare for when the warriors returned. They were used to hard labor, but this was a task that would require the resources of the entire village to complete as there was a giant to consider. It would take whole trees to build what they needed as it had to be sturdy enough to contain his enormous size. Several parties of men headed out into the deep forest with axes, rope, and sleds to retrieve the needed trees because there was no time to waste.

The three warriors gathered up their supplies and started their journey down the center of the village and they were bid farewell by all the villagers who loudly praised their bravery and wished them all well. Everyone knew what was a stake and they also knew that failure could mean the end of not only their village, but everyone who lived in the village.

All that sought out a giant needed to first visit the Black Tree and collect crumble bark as it would be vital in helping calm the giant and hopefully make what needed to be done, that much easier. The path to the Black Tree was difficult and they would have to climb to the top of Gull Mountain and they needed to reach the top before dusk.

With only light gear the three warriors were making good time but they could see that the sun was setting and darkness would soon be upon them. Any who dared climb Gull Mountain in the dark were either foolish or desperate and as the three reached the top and located the Black Tree they knew they had to work fast. Bofalia collected as much crumble bark as his pack would hold while Quint and White Köttur retrieved their járnpinnar and began to beat them together. The sound rang out over the mountain and echoed into the valley below and they knew that as long as they kept beating the járnpinnar they would be able to keep the dark creatures at bay. Bofalia with his pack now filled with crumble bark joined them and together the three of them beat their járnpinnar in a drumming cadence as they climbed down the mountain. They could hear the dark creatures moving in the brush all around them and with each beat of their járnpinnar they would yip in discomfort from the sound and their feet would glow red briefly in response.

So many dark creatures followed them down the mountain it was if they had gathered up a small army, but the three warriors were experienced and they would take turns so that at least two of them would be beating their járnpinnar so the third could climb down in the most difficult spots.

When they reached the bottom the three turned back towards the mountain and together spoke the words of thanks, “Við erum frábær fyrir gjöf þína” they called out in unison. They then took two steps backwards and together they each pushed their járnpinnar into the ground to ensure that the dark creatures would not follow them into the woods.

To be sure they were not followed they walked an hour through the woods before they set up camp in a clearing and in front of their fire they discussed their plans for the next day. Time was of the essence but to continue to travel through the woods could take a week to find Ég er Aflinn from where he was last reported seen. They decided that instead they would return to the village as planned but then follow the path of destruction Ég er Aflinn had left through the woods. A cleared trail would mean they could travel at a run and they could do so both day and night.

Already on the trail heading back to the village before the sun rose the three warriors met one group returning from their expedition pulling a sled with a tree that would be added to the ones already collected in the village. As they approached the village they could see that the entire village had been working non-stop since they left, and in the center of the village the trees that had been collected so far were being assembled with great care. There was not an idle hand in the village that day.

Bofalia strode up the great cauldron and as he removed his pack, all the villagers stopped what they were doing and turned to watch as he poured all the crumbled bark he had collected from the Black Tree into the cauldron. Telalda the Maker was standing to the side and waited until Bofalia was finished and then placed her hands on the great cauldron and spoke praise to both Bofalia and the spirit of Gull Mountain as did all the villagers with whispered prayer.

The three warriors refreshed their supplies and immediately headed towards the trail of destruction that Ég er Aflinn had left in his path.

Run, they had to run and the most effective way to do so was in a single file as each took a turn as the lead. Anyone that happened to come upon their tracks in the snow would believe that it was only one traveling alone as their feet always landed in the tracks in front of them.

A day and a night passed when they first heard what they knew they would hear long before they saw Ég er Aflinn. His bellow, out in the open air traveled far and they knew they would come upon him soon.

The sound of branches snapping and the loud crack of trees being broken in half let them know they were close and as they circled around from the broken trail they saw him.

Ég er Aflinn it us” they called out in unison.

Ég er Aflinn turned and glared at then and bellowed “I don’t know any us”

“We’re from the village and only wish to speak to you” Quint replied.

“I see you bring swords to kill me with” he angrily replied.

No it is only our traveling sticks we carry” Bofalia offered.

Then you plan to beat me for what I have doneÉg er Aflinn replied.

His anger could be seen building from the red glow in his chest and with each exchange of words he became more and more agitated until they could see that the snow was beginning to melt around him.

“I have killed and I can kill again” he shouted out to the sky as he grabbed the closest tree and pulled it from the earth and held it above his head like a club.

“Do you wish me to show you how I kill?” he asked.

“No Ég er Aflinn, we do not, and neither do the people of the village” Quint offered.

“The village?” Ég er Aflinn repeated as he stared off into the distance for a moment.

“I’ll return to the village and they will know that I have killed and I can kill again” Ég er Aflinn cried out.

Before they could respond Ég er Aflinn pushed aside the trees in front of him and moved past them. Before he began to run they each jumped and grabbed onto his back holding onto his fur and remained unnoticed by Ég er Aflinn as if they were like fleas on a dog.

He began to move faster and faster through the forest straight back towards the village. The trees fell as if they were wheat in a field as he bellowed out “I have killed and I can kill again”

What had taken them a day and a half to travel Ég er Aflinn was now already on the outskirts of the village in less than an hour. The three warriors could only pray that the village had enough time to prepare.

As Ég er Aflinn entered the village square he again bellowed out “I have killed and I can kill again” while swinging the tree he still held high above his head. The glow from his chest was now bright red and when he lowered the tree and held each end in his hand it started to smolder and then burst into flames.

All the villagers were assembled in the square and they stayed quiet as one small figure approached Ég er Aflinn alone.

“Ég er Aflinn, it is I Telalda the Maker” a small voice called out.

Ég er Aflinn looked down at the small figure and you could see his shoulders slump and with a voice almost like a whisper he replied “No this cannot be true, you are dead”.

“No Ég er Aflinn I am very much alive and quite well” she responded.

“How can this be?” Ég er Aflinn replied as he dropped the tree to his side.

“I do not understand” he continued as the red glow in his chest began to subside.

“I sat on you and saw your body not moving” he added.

“Yes it is true that you did sit on me, but you did not kill me” Telalda replied.

“But how?” Ég er Aflinn asked.

“Well for one, you are quite furry so you did not crush me, you only knocked the air out of me” Telalda replied. “If only you had waited a few more minutes you would have seen that I was unharmed” she added

Ég er Aflinn lowered his head and cried “I have failed you all and I am ashamed”

“No Ég er Aflinn, it the village that has failed you. You are the heart of our village and we should have come to you sooner. Your grief was unnecessary and we wish to show you how much you mean to us all” Telalda replied

“Look over there” Telalda pointed to the center of the square

In the center of the town square, the trees that the villagers had collected were assembled into a large chair, the seat and back was lined with moss and all around it there were planted fragrant flowers.

“It is for you Ég er Aflinn, a small gift and one we should have given you long ago” Telalda said. “and you will never again have to worry again that you might sit on one of us” she added.

The red glow in Ég er Aflinn’s chest had subsided and a faint blue glow began to take its place.

“I have made something special for you too” Telalda added.

Ég er Aflinn began to relax and you could see it in his face as he had also stopped crying.

“Come sit in your chair as I have made you crumble bark porridge and I would like to serve you some now as you must be very hungry” she said.

Ég er Aflinn walked slowly over to the chair and with a great sigh of relief fell backwards into the chair and closed his eyes. He could smell the crumble bark porridge and when he opened his eyes Telalda was offering him a large bowl. His chest was now brighter as the blue glow seemed to create a halo around him and the chair. The plants around his chair seemed to rise up and they began to sprout new blossoms that then opened and surrounded the chair with a rainbow of colors. As Ég er Aflinn took his first bite of crumble bark porridge the snow began to recede from around his chair and then was pushed further out to the edge of the village and beyond.

“Ég er Aflinn, you are the center of our village, you live in all our hearts, and most importantly you are the hearth that keeps us all warm” Telalda said.

Ég er Aflinn closed his eyes again as he savored the porridge and he could feel the warmth of all the villagers around him and a smile crossed his face as he began to purr his contentment. The villagers one by one began to walk past Ég er Aflinn and each in turn caressed one of his hands as they passed. Ég er Aflinn began to cry, but this time not in anger or grief but in joy and as his tears touched the ground the frost began to subside and the earth around his chair began to warm.

One of the villagers, a jokester climbed the side of the chair and leaned in and whispered something into Ég er Aflinn‘s ear and Ég er Aflinn bellowed out a laugh that was echoed through the village and well beyond.

No runner was needed to let the other villages in the valleys beyond the mountains know the news that Ég er Aflinn had returned because if they could not hear his laughter they could see the blue glow in the sky and they knew that winter had been pushed away from the village.

All was well again in the three kingdoms as the blue giant Ég er Aflinn had returned home.

This story is inspired by the accompanied image where I try to find at least 1000 words that may be hidden within.