Of Giants and Men
Rurak walks up the dusty road, following Cearle. That's his whole life: following Cearle. He doesn't know that Cearle used blood sorcery to bind Rurak in that role, that he couldn't leave if he wanted to unless Cearle ordered it. He doesn't want to leave. Rurak is a half-breed. His mother was a human slave--a tall woman with ebony skin and hair and eyes. He remembers flashes and glints of her, but little else. She died a long time ago. His father was an Urs, one of the 8' tribal giants that live in the north and west and far, far to the south where civilized people don't go. He never remembers his father--the man owned slaves, made Rurak's mother a slave and she died escaping from him. Rurak knows this because Cearle told him and he has never been given a reason to not trust Cearle.
Cearle is looking for someone, and he is running from someone too. Rurak isn't sure why. A kinswoman, Cearle says. It's important, the most important thing in the world, to find her, to get to her before the pursuing someone does. Cearle won't say more. He'll talk about animals, plants, history, religion. He tells legends and myths and sometimes insists that they are true, that everything taught in temples is false, more false than the most ridiculous myth. But he never talks about the woman or whoever hunts them.
They travel, Cearle like the wind and Rurak the thunderstorm coming after. Someone tried to kill Cearle once. The bandit was stupid enough to attack an armed man and a grown giant. Rurak has never forgotten what the man's neck bones sounded like when they cracked beneath his fingers. He fears that ability to kill without effort.
One morning, Rurak wakes and sees Cearle standing in the dim dawn, head cocked, listening. He says nothing. He knows that Cearle can see and hear things others can't. He knows that Cearle sometimes sees a different road as they travel. "She's close," Cearle says. "They're both close." That day Rurak follows Cearle into the small town. He can see where the river has shrunk in its banks and the fine dust of the road coats everything. Here a woman comes hurtling from the trees, careening into Cearle. The second woman, taller, darker and younger, runs out too, breathless. It was the first time Rurak had seen someone fear Cearle more than himself. He didn't even think she saw him until later.
There was something in her eyes, the way they tracked what wasn't there, the way that Cearle caught her attention and held it, that told Rurak this was the one. But Cearle never explained it. And Cearle didn't survive the night.