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A Story of the Giants of Graemalan
Illustration by Mark Hansen
Tales of the Heroes
An excerpt of a short story By Mark Hansen
And so did the Giants, led by Midharg the Strong, Son of Nordin, cross the empty lands to cross the mountains of Graemal and dwell in the fertile slopes of the highlands there on the eastern sides, facing the rising sun. There they found the much hated Dweorg already dwelling alongside them, digging and sculpting deep into the mountain’s spiny peaks.
Granthurg slowly read the words and raised his eyes in wonder from the musty old tome on the table. He held his pointing finger stiff on the page, marking the spot as he read. The archaic handwriting made it difficult to decode and the strange sentences sometimes made it hard to follow. So the dwarves were here in the Graemal mountains first. Amazing! He dropped his eyes in eager fascination.
Granthurg wasn’t tall yet, not by giant standards, measuring only about seven feet or a little more. But then, he wasn’t fully grown, either. Almost, though. He scratched his chin thoughtfully. The strands of hair that would someday become his beard were sparse and thin, and just at the stage where they itched a lot. He ran his hand over his head, across his short-cropped hair. So if the dwarves were already dug into the mountain, I can see why our people made Graemalan City down here, lower on the slopes. The fact that you could grow food more easily in the lower hills probably influenced them a lot, too.
And the mountains were abundant with Drakes and Dragons, and Midharg and his people struggled. Still, Midharg grew in wisdom and strength. And Midharg did parlay with the dweorg King Moggdur that their peoples might share the mountains and set aside old hatreds–
“Granthurg!” The old master’s voice called from another room.
Granthurg kept reading, trying not to hear the interruption. So, is that why old giantish and dweorgen are so similar?
“Granthurg!” The voice sounded again. This time he heard the slow rake of a chair across a wooden floor and the soft shuffling of feet. What did he say? I’d better check.
“Yeah?” Granthurg marked his spot again and raised his head. An old giant filled the doorway. His hair and beard were long and gray but nicely groomed. He had a quirky smile, and a slightly hunched left shoulder. He wore a light gray vest draped over his linen tunic.
The room was small, even for giants, and every wall was filled with bookshelves and cubbyholes stacked with scrolls. In the middle was a small table with three chairs, one filled with Granthurg’s young behind, the other two set aside in the cramped space each holding a skewed stack of books and papers.
Granthurg looked over Master Laridunn with one brow raised, like he was asking a question of the old man.
Laridunn rubbed his beard. “Well, didn’t you say you had to be home before dusk? The sun’s already gone over the mountaintop.”
Granthurg blinked and his back straightened. His gaze shot to the darkening window then to the flickering lantern in Laridunn’s hand. “Shaking stones! I’m in trouble!”
He jumped to his feet, tipping the chair back against a bookshelf and jarring the table. He reached to close the books, but Laridunn waved his hand. “Leave it all there. You can start again another day.”
“Yeah. Thanks,” Granthurg sighed, “assuming my mamm doesn’t kill me first.” He reached for his jacket and lunged for the door, almost knocking Laridunn over. The old man stepped aside with surprising quickness, smiling as the younger giant waved before he jumped down the hall, swung open the door, and dashed away.
Granthurg stuffed his arm into his coat as he ran along the street. The night air was cold, even though much of the winter’s snow on the lower hills just below the town had already melted away. He flipped the jacket over his shoulder and hooked his other arm in the sleeve as he ran along the waterfront, past the docks and barges moored there. He turned with the curve of the street, running with the dim glow of the oculus lamps mounted on the bows of the barges.
A shout flew past him, almost indiscernible, but sounding a lot like his name.
“Granthurg!” He heard it this time, definitely, from behind him. He recognized it, too. He paused, but didn’t turn around yet.
“Granthurg, wait up!” In a moment, Donbenn caught up with him, slapping him on the back of the head affectionately. He was older and taller than Granthurg by almost a foot with a broad smile mostly hidden by a bushy auburn moustache and beard. His cloak was a lighter gray and it swayed with his eager step. “Hey, you gronko!”
Granthurg rolled his eyes and lightly punched his older brother’s shoulder. “Don’t call me that.”
“What? You mean ‘gronko’?” Donbenn fell into step beside Granthurg, shouldering a large pouch. “Why shouldn’t I call you ‘gronko’?”
“Because you know I’m the smart one in the family, right?”
“I thought that was Shollburn…” Donbenn laughed, stroking his beard in mock thoughtfulness. “Oh, OK. Fine. I won’t call you that anymore.”
Granthurg sighed. Yes, you will. The river, running a little higher with the start of spring runoff, was a bit noisier than usual and the rush of it mixed with the jostling of barges and the clanging of bells. A few rivermen called out to each other as they secured their boats, but most of the craft were empty, their crews at home or settling into the inns. Some were already starting their rides down the river to the cargos that would be waiting at the docks in the villages between the mountains and Twynne Rivers. Giants had been running the rivers in barges for centuries, and his brothers would take their places on their crafts soon. Granthurg might not see them again until Summerfest or even next fall.
They strode past the rows of berths on the quay and turned away from the river onto a side street. Now that the sun was down, the shadowy stone houses with high-peaked roofs felt almost as tall as the mountains themselves. Granthurg pulled his jacket closer.
Donbenn adjusted his pack and smiled. “So, if you’re the smart one, why are you coming home so late? Again. Mamm’s goin’ to be really cracked with you.”
“No, she won’t. I’ll just tell her that I had to wait to walk with you.” Granthurg smiled and nodded.
“Yeah. That’s gonna go well.” His brother shook his head. “So, where were you?”
Granthurg shrugged and looked away. “I was at the library.”
“For the last time, That’s not a library, that’s just an old guy’s parlor full of books.”
“Hmm. Isn’t that what a library is?” Granthurg tapped his head. “Now who’s the gronko?”
“Yeah, well, I’ve seen real libraries. Next to the Royal Library in Twynne Rivers, this guy’s house is just a couple of bookshelves.”
Granthurg made a face of disgust. Too many books? How can you have ‘Too many books’? “So when you saw this splendid, magnificent, ‘real’ library, did you go inside?”
Donbenn crossed in front of Granthurg and stepped toward their home’s front porch. “No, of course not. I don’t have time for that!”
Granthurg cut quickly in front of him and reached for the door handle. “That’s too bad. You might have learned something.”
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Author’s Note: Granthurg’s Youth
Granthurg grew up in Graemalan, the home city of the giants. Not many winters before he met Thissraelle, DeFrantis, and Antonerri, he left his family and, like many other giants, found his way to making a living as the crew of a river barge.
He wasn’t like a lot of the other giants. He was much more interested in study and learning than he was in running the river, or herding mountain goats. This is the story of how he chose to leave the land of the giants and discover the larger world of Wynne!