Coldfire's Reign

Big and Little

When the giant rushed toward them, Koll had sense enough to think of Leo: he always got out of the way before Koll could really smack him good. So Koll shouted to the others to spread out, keep away from the giant, and try to take out its legs. The big woman knight did well, darting back and forth from behind trees. Leo might have done that. Koll tried to do that, too, but first the giant knocked him onto his ass with a huge swipe from his axe, and then Kryllin started singing. He looked over at her, and the song got into his head, and he flared up with rage. He knew it was a bad idea—fighting angry was always a bad idea; everyone said so—but he wanted nothing more than to slice open the giant from nuts to neck. So he didn’t even follow his own instructions; he just stayed toe-to-toe with something three times his size. Oh, if Leo had ever done this he’d have killed him for sure. (Well, not killed him, but bloodied him badly.) He did manage to stop hitting it in the chest, though, and he was pretty sure other people were aiming for soft spots, too. He saw at least one arrow stick into its cheek, and the knight and he were both slashing the hell out of its legs and loins. The wizard who didn’t know how to fight seemed to be throwing things at it, too.

At some point Kryllin stopped singing. Koll thought about playing smart, like Leo would have, but there never seemed to be a good time to slip backward and out of reach. So he just stood there like a tree and tried his best to knock the enormous axe away when it came whooshing toward him. But oh, it was cold in there. Just being close to the giant was like standing right next to a fire, only the opposite. A few times it got so cold that all Koll could do was stand there with chattering teeth and try not to drop his sword or shield.

But things were looking up. Arrows and swords were bouncing off left and right, but every once in a while one would draw a bit of blood. And then, just when Koll thought they might actually not all die in the clearing, a double handful of little rocks hurtled into the giant’s eyes, nose, and mouth. There was a lot of blood. Then came more rocks, and more blood. The giant screamed—really, really, really loudly—and fell over, and Koll and the knight rushed forward to slash its head from its neck. Even that—cutting the head off an unconscious giant—turned out to be pretty hard.

When they had finished, Koll wiped and sheathed his blade and then turned to find the rock-throwers—and was surprised to see the engros from the caravan standing at the edge of the clearing, watching the beheading. First things first. “Thank you,” Koll said to the witch who seemed to be their leader. (Now that he thought of it, there was a time when plants had wrapped around the giant. He hadn’t thought to wonder why then, but now it made sense.) And, because it was the right thing to do, “I’m sorry for what I said earlier.” With that, he ducked his head and made for the horses they’d tied up earlier, carrying the giant’s huge head under his arm.

The trip gave him some time to think, but not enough. The engros had killed the ferryman and tried to rob Malik. So they were bandits and murderers. Why would bandits and murderers help fight the giant? People who fight giants are knights. The engros had fought the giant. So they were knights. But bandits and murderers couldn’t be knights, any more than Leofric could be strong or Koll could be fast. So what in Hela’s halls were the engros? The only thing that Koll had decided on by the time he reached the horses was that they liked killing things. That seemed useful, if nothing else, out here.

With a bit of coaxing, a lot of strapping, and a fair amount of mess, Koll got the giant’s head tied up securely on the haunches of his horse. As he and the others made their way toward Watchgap, the first thing they noticed was that the seige had broken—sort of. Tons of goblins were running from the fort as if it were on fire. But tons more were just standing perfectly still, like those dead people the snow demons had possessed in that village up north. Soon it became clear that these goblins, too, were walking dead. But since they weren’t moving and Koll and the others were on horseback, it seemed like a good idea to ride them down. So Koll called out to the others to suggest doing just that. And as they crashed into the ranks of undead, stock-still goblins, with hooves and swords laying waste left and right, Koll thought about what an advantage speed was. It mattered more than size, apparently. Once again, Leofric had been right, and Kollsvein had been wrong. He’d never admit that to Leo, though. But he would really enjoy telling him about the time they’d killed a frost giant.

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