Welcome back for a whole new adventure! Read on and at the end, vote for how you’d like to proceed. Choose with caution, for there be giants out there=)
The entrance is dark. All you can really make out is the faint glint of bronze in the streaks of sunlight that sneak under the edge of the rock overhang.
Your heart beats with excitement. That glint of dark metal tells you you’ve found the entrance to Raylaylin, the fabled city of giants. You’re not worried about the giants. None of the massive creatures have been seen in years and most believe they’re all dead. Hunted to extinction for the reward prices on their heads.
Slipping off the harness you used to repel the cliff face, you consider the rope. You want to leave it so you have an easy way out but at the same time you don’t want anyone up top to find it. You’re not the only one looking for Raylaylin and the others won’t treat you kindly if they discover you.
You consider it a bit longer but don’t come up with a good solution, so you tie the end of the rope off just in case someone cuts it up top. Then you approach the metal glint of bronze.
The doors sit deeply recessed into the cliff face. Perhaps this was a balcony instead of an actual entrance.
As you draw close enough to touch the metal, you can just make out the outline dug into the mountain. The doors are easily twice your height, if not taller. Their width spans several feet beyond the tips of your fingers when you hold both arms out to the full extent of your wing span.
Where the two slabs meet, the metal is jagged but they meet smoothly, so the zigzag line was manufactured, not a lack of skill but a design choice.
Most believe the giants were dim witted. After searching for their fabled city for months, you don’t agree with most. It was by luck you heard of this door while sitting in an inn in an out of the away farming village to the north.
And even that mention was shrouded in an old man’s curse about a klutzy serving woman who dumped soup in his lap.
Otherwise the giants hid their city so carefully you, and many other hunters, were left running in circles trying to find it.
Thankfully, the old man’s curse held a sliver of hope as to the city’s location. It mentioned the Cliffs of Vale overlooking the sea.
It also mentioned the sunset. You’re hoping that last part will help you open the giant slabs of bronze.
Leaning back against one door you wait for the day to pass. Slowly the sun sinks and fills the underside of the overhang with warmth and light.
You stand to view the doors in all their glory.
A shiver runs down your spine. In laid into the doors are two sets of eyes. Very real looking eyes. So real they pivot to take in the sun light. Then they shift as though just noticing you.
“Hmmmm.” Vibrates the walls it’s so deep in sound. “Another attempt to enter?”
You can’t tell where the words come from but the voice is deep enough to thrum in your ribs like a drum.
“Perhaps,” you answer, hoping your uncertainty doesn’t sound in your voice.
“Then answer me this,” says the voice. “Who are you in the full light of day that I should grant you entrance?”
The sun’s warm on your back and your realize your answer must come while the sun still touches the door or you’ve lost your chance.
Who are you, though? You’re a treasure hunter really but will the door open for something so crass?
Some say the giants valued honesty, even to the point of brutality.
However, the giants also valued gifts. For the short time they interacted with humans before they became feared and hunted, they always asked for a gift at the start of every interaction.
So do you…
A. Tell the truth?
B. Offer a gift?
Giant Town Option B: Offer A Gift
The eyes blink several times as you consider your response. Somehow it feels wrong to have come empty handed but you don’t have much to offer as a ‘gift.’
“I come bearing a gift,” you say, slinging your slim pack around to your front so you can dig inside.
“A gift?” the voice rumbles like it’s laughing deep in its chest though you’re not even sure where the voice originates. “You are not the first to offer a gift at these doors. None have actually come with a gift worthy of entrance and neither have you.”
You pause, stunned that you haven’t been allowed to present anything. You’ve already been judged.
The ground shudders beneath your feet. “Nice try, Treasure Hunter.”
A crack appears between your feet and, as the shaking grows worse, you realize it’s growing wider.
You race for your tethered rope but the ground tilts toward the cliff and before you can grasp the rope in your fingers, you slide backward into the widening gap.
Tumbling head over heels, rocks bite into your skin and the world turns dark. Time becomes meaningless before you hit the bottom with a solid thud that leaves you gasping for air.
If you doubted the giant’s intelligence before, you don’t now. Only an intelligent race could create such a trap to protect their home.
Your breathing slowly comes back and you pick yourself up and dust yourself off. Hurts like you just went through flame but you grit your teeth and only a groan escapes, not the full fledged cry in your throat.
“Hurts something fierce,” says a voice to your left. “Break anything?”
Relief washes over you as you do a quick inventory and find nothing seriously out of place. Then comes the consternation that you’re not alone.
“I’m all right,” you answer.
“Right about now you’re wondering who’s in here with you. Then you’re considering how to get out.” Whoever it is chuckles. It’s a deep sound disturbingly like the door. “Let me save you some time. I’m Alexander and I know of two ways to escape if you’re small enough.”
“This place was built for giants,” as Alexander speaks, he moves and his voice, which started on the same level as yourself, lifts into the air until it’s coming from far above you. “It holds giants quite securely but it wasn’t made to contain a human. Only reason it holds a human well is because you’re not tall enough to reach the window or vent.”
“But if there’s a giant and a human—“ you trail off, waiting for Alexander to confirm he’s as big as he sounds.
“Exactly,” Alexander finally says. “Only thing is, the giant’s got to believe the human will free him if he helps.”
You hum acknowledgement as you consider. Then you ask, “why’s the giant in here in the first place?”
A gusty sigh answers. “It was a dispute between friends that got way out of hand.”
“What’s that mean?”
“We knew humans feared us and had started to hunt us. To make sure we weren’t caught unawares, we developed a serum that would shrink us to human size. It was enough for five giants to become spies. The major drawback was we couldn’t reverse the effects. One shrunk, always shrunk. A dispute broke out as to who would take the serum. No one wanted to be small forever. One night after much debate and no sign of a solution, I invited some of my friends over for drinks. We were all trained to interact with humans. I slipped the serum into our drinks. I meant to take it too but when they started to change, I poured most of my drink down my front in shock.
“I’d seen the lab results but watching my friends change-I hadn’t thought about how painful it would be. The little I did ingest changed my ears, nose and several of my toes. That was painful too but not the same.
“To say they were angry would be a gross understatement and I don’t blame them my imprisonment. But they grew suspicious of all the remaining giants and imprisoned them too.”
“How?” you ask, trying to picture five human sized giants imprisoning the others.
“They told the first few that I’d gone insane and they needed help moving me to a safer prison. The next ones were told there’d been an escape attempt and the first group was involved. Then they asked the next group to feed the prisoners because they were afraid to after being shrunk. The stories didn’t have to be anything extravagant. Giants distrust the outside world but we believe each other to a fault.”
If nothing else the story explains why giants haven’t been seen in a long time. Not quite convinced you still ask, “and what would convince you the human will free you?”
“You’re a treasure hunter, no?”
You consider lying but then remember the door’s reaction. “Of course.”
“Than I offer you treasure in return for freeing me. You gain the treasure’s location as soon as I’m free.”
Seems like an odd way to convince him but it does make sense.
“And what are the two ways out?” you ask.
“Ah,” there’s triumph in Alexander’s deep voice. “One is a ventilation shaft next to the ceiling. It’ll take you to the top floor just under the top of the cliff. The hard part is the fans in between. The easy part is the release for the prison doors is in the next room over from the vent room. The second option is a joke of a window. It’s a short vent that leads up into the base of what we call ‘The Pit.” It’s the central meeting area for the giants. Easy part is there’s no fans and the vent’s short. Hard part is, to reach the room to free me, you have to climb the walkway around the pit and there’s not much by way of a hiding place. So pick your poison.”
Do you say…
Giant Town Option Bb: Vent
Although the window sounds like the easy way out, you’re suspicious of it. It sounds too easy.
“Let’s try the vent,” you tell Alexander.
He hums a surprised “huh” but without further question, you hear him move and his large hand wraps around you. He must be able to see better in the dark because he doesn’t fumble around.
You lift into the air with a swift, nauseating whoosh. Then you hear something crack and the metal grate over the vent clangs against the floor.
“I know you can’t see,” Alexander says as he sets you down,”but you’re in the vent now. Walk directly away from my voice until you reach a wall, then reach up. There’ll be a ledge you can lift yourself onto. The vent continues like that in steps. When you hear the whoosh, you’ll know you’re near a fan. There are three. Good luck.”
Three fans. He didn’t give you any advice about getting past them but then, maybe he doesn’t know anything. Considering the size of the vent, maybe humans helped in their construction.
You hit a wall and reach up, exploring with your fingers until you find the ledge. You’re just tall enough to make this work. Hoisting yourself up, you feel around until you figure out the vent’s direction and then you continue on, listening to your breathing echo in the tight confines and your steps lightly swish against the stone floor.
The whooshing of the first fan starts not long after the next ledge. At first it’s faint but as you continue, it grows to the point that your ears throb with the whoop-whoop of the blades.
The floor sloops against your soles and, after exploring with your hands above you, you realize the vent is no longer square but circular.
Air presses against you like a strong wind. It’s moving but it’s not cool. Instead it’s warm and heavy with moisture.
You feel around the walls but don’t find anything like a lever or switch to shut the fan off. Since you can’t see the blades, you decide to simply try to stop the thing.
Taking your pack off, you pull out an anchor you brought for repelling. Although your rope is outside, you still have the rest of your gear. You get as close to the fan as you dare and place your hand on the floor, feeling the whoosh of air after each blade passes. You count. One, two, three. Then shove the anchor into the path of the next blade. You let go as soon as you feel resistance.
It’s a good thing you do because the blade grinds against the anchor, dragging it for a moment across the tunnel. It screeches, making the throb in your ears tighten to a high pitched ringing. But then silence. The air turns muggy on your skin.
Tentatively exploring, you find the fan has five blades. The bottom one is bent into a bow shape and your anchor feels mangled beyond recognition. You slip through the still blades and leave the anchor behind.
A moment after pulling your feet free, the bowed blade lets out a dying screech and snaps. The next blade hits your anchor and tosses it into the vent wall. You hear the thud and duck just in time to miss its rebound.
The whooshing returns with a slightly different sound. Less air resistance with only four blades.
Your heart’s barely returned to its normal rate by the time you reach the next fan. Due to your close call on the first one, you search the walls a little harder this time and find an odd indentation in the right hand wall. It’s round but doesn’t seem to have a handle or anything. Giving up on it, you turn and lean, preparing yourself for the next anchor placement.
The indentation gives way under your weight. It slides inward. Pushing it harder, you find it slides in and to the side, opening up what you’d guess is an access tunnel circumventing the fan. Relief runs through your veins.
The third fan’s a cinch since it has the same access tunnel. You’re sure the first one had it too, you just didn’t search hard enough to find it.
Exiting the vent into the vent room, you find a square room full of humming machinery. This room must keep air flowing throughout the entire city. You traverse it and peek out the door to find a walkway running to your right and left. To your right is a door and then the walkway ends with a railing. To your left it spirals downward into the city.
If you head right you can free Alexander. He might be telling you the truth and you’ll be shown the treasure. Or he might just be playing you in order to free himself.
If you head left, maybe you can find the treasure on your own but then you’ll be leaving Alexander to wait for the next treasure hunter to be dropped into his prison.
Bb1. Free Alexander?
Bb2. Leave him?
Giant Town Option Bb1: Free Alexander
The walkway is lit by the walls themselves. They give off a hot and dry air and it makes you realize the vent was warm and moist because it must pull moisture from the city to keep the lights working. You’re not sure about the mechanics but the light is soft, not like flame but like the walls themselves are glowing with a bluish light that swirls. Makes you think of being surrounded by walls of water instead of stone.
You step outside the door and peer over the side of the walkway railing. Raylaylin appears far below you through the telescope of the walkway that spirals downward around the outside of an open shaft. The mere space involved makes your head spin.
Stepping back, you realize, even if you do go it alone, you’re without a rope and down one anchor. The likelihood of getting into the giant’s treasure room is slim without the rope in particular.
Plus, you kind of like Alexander. He’s been straightforward with you so far. You head to the right to free your giant accomplice. The room beyond the door is dark so, to help you see, you leave the door open but as soon as you cross the threshold, there’s a whoosh and the room lights up like the walls.
Someone shouts from below. It echoes off the walls and reaches your ears as a distorted “iiitttt”.
They’ve spotted you.
You try to lock the door behind you but there’s no lock. Turning to find the lever to free Alexander, you hesitate. There are lots of levers, and no one saw fit to label them.
Reaching a tentative hand toward a black lever, your fingers close around it.
“Sewer drainage system.” Says the voice. That voice that greeted you in deep tones at the door. Thankfully it doesn’t shake the ground here.
You move to the next lever.
You don’t know which cell Alexander is in. You pull the lever just as the door behind you opens.
“STOP THIEF!” This is not the city talking.
You pull the next lever and go for a third but a strong hand grabs your wrist and forces you around to face an old man. The same old man who’s curse led you to the city.
Behind him stand several other men who sport an assortment of odd features. Too large ears or a nose that takes up half a face. These must be Alexander’s ‘friends’ who he shrunk.
“You’ll pay for this!” the old man says as he flips the levers back to the up position. “We’ll shrink you to the size of a bug.”
He pulls you toward the door even as you try to resist him. Considerinlg he looks like an old man, he’s quite strong.
The ground shakes and the wall’s light flickers.
“Which levers were pulled?” one of the others asks.
Before the answer comes, the door bursts open and a figure fills the space. A very large figure.
“Maurice,” Alexander greets your captor.
“You deserve your cell,” Maurice responds.
“So do you.” Says a new, rumbling voice. Another giant steps up behind Alexander. Seeing them side by side, you conclude Alexander was telling the truth. Some of his features are shrunk.
“Good idea opening two cells,” Alexander says to you.
You smile like you thought the whole thing through and step away from Maurice as his grasp on your wrist has grown limp.
The five shrunken giants glance at each other and then bolt, trying to get past Alexander and his friend’s legs. They don’t make it far.
The first cell housed Alexander alone. However, the second cell held three other giants who assisted Alexander in rounding up their shrunken friends. They agreed to hold a trial for the five after all the giants were released.
As for yourself, Alexander showed you to the treasure room. It fits the giants. It’s huge. And you decide it was fortuitous that you helped Alexander because the giants hid their treasure by having an outer treasure room, convincingly large enough to make a treasure hunter look no further, and then they have their inner treasure room where you could become lost and never be found again.
Alexander and the others made a deal with you. You can come take a bag of treasure once a month on the condition you never reveal the city to anyone. You’re pretty sure you can keep that deal.
Congratulations treasure hunter! You’ve successfully found treasure and made some friends along the way. Thanks for participating this week. I hope to see you next week for a new short story involving one of my favorite creatures. Dragons=)