Telling Tales 70
The Best Laid Plans
They traveled farther and farther down. The captain of the horses went on his way with his company, crossing the mountains in search of an army that would be willing to take on the giant. He believed neither Ivan nor Scrobarnach Armtha that there was an army at hand, for which they could not, in all honesty, blame him.
“I can shoot out his eyes,” said Ipiktokiyakovik as they descended.
“I can get behind him before he knows what has happened,” said Haraka.
“I can hear his plans,” suggested Entendtout.
“I’ll knock him over with a wind,” offered Juleidah.
“My army will cut him to pieces then,” declared Scrobarnach Armtha.
“I’m not sure what I can do,” mourned Kou Ke.
“Not to worry,” said Ivan reassuringly, “I’m sure we will all know what we must do when the time arrives. Our skills will reveal themselves in time.”
“What is your skill, if one may ask?” asked Kou Ke.
“Ah, well,” said Ivan, “that’s just it. I’m a prince. I wasn’t really raised with skills in mind. Not even rulership. Aside from the fact that I’m the youngest of three brothers and don’t expect to assume the throne, even my eldest brother hasn’t received the most formal of educations. I can swing a sword and dance in the most current modes… Though I’m probably even a year out of date with those. I’m a fancy hunter, really, and compared to Haraka who can run down a deer or Ipiktokiyakovik who can shoot the eye from a songbird at a hundred leagues, I’m afraid I’m not even that impressive.”
Kou Ke nodded his agreement. “We must take heart in our experiences and in the kinds of men that they have made us. You and I are brothers under the skin, for we have both been victim of horrible enchantments. Truly, this must be our measure.”
Ivan nodded. “We cannot help but be who we are, but that does not change the fact that I would I were faster, or a better marksman, or commanded the winds or could summon an army.”
“Would you have those things if it meant going through what our companions have undergone?”
“Perhaps not,” he agreed. Then he laughed with true joy and not a shred of bitterness. “We are a wonderfully motley crew, is that not true?”
Vasilisa smiled at the man Ivan was becoming. She might have said something then to Juleidah, who was walking alone, but their walk was interrupted by a roar that would have made thunder itself shake. “What is that?”
The noise continued, growing in intensity as they drew closer. It was a moan. It was a cry. It was without reason. It was fury.
“Oh,” said Scrobarnach Armtha, suspecting that her army, as large as it was, might be of little use.
“Oh,” said Entendtout, who understood that there were no words that the giant might utter.
“Oh,” said Ipiktokiyakovik, who saw no weak points to shoot out.
“Oh,” said Haraka, who saw that speed mattered little against that size.
“Oh,” said Juleidah, who felt how little her desert wind would accomplish.
Oh,” said Kou Ke.
“Giant” was a tame word for what was before them. It stood three – no, four times the height of the tallest tree. Its legs planted solidly against the ground, and even from this distance it was clear that its skin was like bark or stone. Its cudgel was a mighty oak tree. It had no eyes. The giant swung all around, crushing all within its reach and howling like a madman.
“Uh oh,” said Ivan.