Lj Idol Exhibit B | week 1 | 1257 words
You Gave Everything You Possibly Could (an intersection with that talented duo, thegrimms, whose excellent entry can be found here).
Once, I walked among the clouds. My footsteps shook the heavens, but for all my size, some merciful magic held me aloft. My castle and I were suspended far above the ground, blanketed in the soft quiet of mist and unseen and unknown to those below.
Once, I was a proud and wealthy man.
In years past, we giants lived on the earth below, in a land befitting our immensity. We roamed high mountains and strode through streams that ran ribbon-like through vast green valleys. The larger animals feared us, for we often ate them. Our appetites were large, as were we.
We lived in harmony then with the smaller men in nearby lands, but they grew envious of our strength and prosperity. One dark night, a powerful wizard came and performed an enchantment that changed our lives forever. He broke the giants' realm free from the very ground itself and sent us floating off into the open sky.
Our lands were something like an island in the air then, and gathered their own weather above and below. We drifted, losing all connection to the world beneath us. With time, we forgot much of where we came from. Over the passing years, the world we left behind might have forgotten us as well.
We still had our skills and trades. I was a builder like my father before me. My services were in high demand, and my earnings amounted to a small fortune. I built much of the nearby village, but none of the shops or houses was as grand as the castle I created for myself.
That castle never gleamed so brightly as the day I brought home the merchant's daughter as my wife. Elspeth was a good, kind woman with a tender heart, and I was brimful of happiness over the years we would have together.
Our storerooms were filled with the gold I'd earned and the goods bartered for my services. Elspeth had a fine hand at gardening and weaving, and added in her share of food and linen. Had her belly been as abundant as our larder, we might have been so fortunate as to have a child.
Still, from time to time, things would disappear: a cherished sword given in payment by a blacksmith; a jeweled carafe carefully handed down via legacy from my mother's family line. Even the tiny, chestnut-colored horse I loved to watch run through our meadows simply vanished overnight.
I barred the doors against thieves and took to inspecting my treasures and counting all my gold every day. Elspeth wearied of my tedious rituals, but they were not in vain: our riches remained our own.
One hot summer morning, I visited the butcher to discuss plans for building him a new fence. When I came home, I noticed a strange sense about the place, an odor of something I almost remembered:
It smelled like Human.
"Wife, someone is hiding in our house," I said.
"Nonsense. Your hunger is preying upon your imagination."
Elspeth brought me a good meal, but my heart was not at ease. I counted my gold again and again, certain that some of it was missing. Yet it was there, every piece of it. I pondered until my head grew heavy with sleep.
When I awoke, the gold was gone. I thought Elspeth might have tidied it away, but my search of the storeroom yielded nothing. "Wife, where is my gold?"
"I have no notion."
I searched the castle from cellar to rafters but found nothing. The gold was gone.
I grumbled and grumbled, swearing vigilance once more. Indeed, I had scarcely returned from the goldsmith's shop one morning when I sensed the same disruption as before.
"Wife, something smells of man."
"Don't be silly," Elspeth said. "Have something to eat."
Perhaps she was right, but I could not rid myself of worry over my treasures. Among them was a sweet little hen I had freed from the jaws of a fox. Fearing she would not survive, I brought her home to Elspeth, who made her a bed by the fire that the heat might heal her. The little hen was more blessed than we knew, for she laid two golden eggs the next afternoon. I longed to see what might hatch from them, but they were gold through and through. I collected the eggs instead, often taking them to the goldsmith to be fashioned into something new.
"Wife, fetch me my hen."
The little hen strutted around the table, laying eggs when I so demanded. The eggs were as golden as ever, assuring that she was indeed my own magic hen. I leaned my head on my arms to watch her proud perambulations, and went to sleep soon thereafter.
I woke to the cackling of the hen, but she was gone. No amount of inquiry or entreaties would help.
Surely, a thief was at work! I added bolts to the doors and windows, and vowed to keep all my riches close at hand.
The leaves were turning flame-colored and brown when I came home from the market one morning and again noticed that misplaced odor. My temper bested me, and I bellowed of Englishmen and how violently I would eat them. I was not honest in using those words, but a threat in half-measures is no threat at all.
Elspeth had cooked a good breakfast, yet I ate inattentively. I stopped again and again to check the small places a Human might hide, but found them empty. Nonetheless, I grew more fretful with each passing minute.
"Wife, fetch me my harp," I said. The goldsmith had created the harp from the hen's golden eggs, and it carried a magic of its own: it could sing, with no musician at all to play it. Such large fingers as mine could not pluck the strings of so delicate an instrument. For a giant, a harp that made its own music was a wondrous gift indeed.
"Play, harp, play," I said. The harp began a lovely tune, one that soon helped me find my rest.
I woke to the cries of the harp: "Master! Master!" I saw only Elspeth at first, her hand curved around her belly and a look of immeasurable sorrow on her face as she gazed toward the door. Beyond it, I glimpsed a small figure running out into the sun. It was a human boy, my harp held fast in his arms as he fled my castle with all measure of haste.
I gave chase, following the boy out across the hind meadow to the brink of a hole in the adjoining clouds. The greenest, thickest plant-stalk imaginable was peeking up from that hole through the clouds. The boy leaped onto it and quickly scrambled out of sight.
The stalk shook and swayed as I climbed after him. I gave no thought to my own safety, only to the importance of not letting the boy get away with my beloved harp.
Then, with a great crack, the stalk shifted and suddenly began to fall.
I had thought that young thief had already stolen everything that was dear to me—my hen, my harp, and even the loyal affections of my wife. But with the ground fast approaching, I realized there was still something left that I could not bear to lose.
All of my riches and treasures were as nothing against life itself. The boy was taking the very blood and breath from me now, and all of my days yet to come.
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