The Last Hold

Onidas knew the war was over when the giants seized the walls of Svellgard, humanity’s last hold. The giants crushed the bricks of the guard towers with clubs carved of ancient ash trees, bearing the blood and shattered remains of the guards of the East Towers. Their clan’s leader, hoary giant called Vald, stood just out of range of the defenders’ bows, catapults, and ballistas. His beard flowed down to his stomach, long enough to soak from tip to chin in the twin falls of Garbassa. He wore an ancestral sword at his waist, the only one in his clan which may have been taken from another clan at one point. It is said that entire mountains are destroyed to obtain enough ore for one sword fit for a giant.

With the East Towers decimated, Onidas cut loose the straps holding his leg plating and sprinted to the battlements in the West Towers. Armor would only slow him down in this battle. One of the ballistas there was abandoned, its operator either dead or a coward, both just as likely. Though there is no escape when running from giants. As the saying goes, you run from a giant and you only choose to get scraped from his boot instead of his club. Onidas preferred a death in which he resembled an opponent rather than cow dung.  He signalled for a boy who was delivering buckets from the latrines to the ballistas. He was only a squire, not even a man, though he showed the courage of a knight. The boy came back and tossed the refuse onto the head of Onidas’s weapons. They would all die, of that he was certain, but the least he could do was take one down a day or two after the battle when the infection settled in.

He waited until the giants had closed in on their warpath, though the debris from their carnage was shattering even these walls. He loosed his ballista onto one overzealous giant. The gods  must have been on his side, for the diseased spear tore into the side of the giant. He fell, howling in thunderous pain. Vald, seeing this, took his first steps toward the remaining battlements. Each step brought him straight toward Onidas. He sought revenge for a fallen clansmen. His sword, when brandished, lit up from the sun so that the entire battlefield was hammered by its glare. It is said to be an honor to be killed by a giant’s sword, a death usually reserved only for other giants. Onidas may have felt the honor if not for his overwhelming fear.

The giant crashed his blade into the battlements. It sunk in deeper than Onidas would have imagined, perhaps down to the earth. The blade was not only humongous but sharp as well. With his other hand, he swatted and twisted apart the other men on the wall, never taking his eyes off of Onidas. Vald meant for him to die by the sword. He drew the sword from the rubble and the sword again glared at Onidas. Having nothing to defend himself against this beast, his courage faltered. Not knowing whether to fight or to run, Onidas merely stood there as the giant raised his massive arm and he could only watch as the arm was stayed and blood waterfalled down onto the battlements. Vald had been feathered with half a dozen arrows, all the size of ballistas.  Another clan had arrived.

Onidas saw them emerge, dressed only in blue war paint, all equipped with bows. Unlike the siegers, these giants were equipped to assassinate, not to massacre. They were giant-killers. At first, Onidas was relieved. He would live another moment, perhaps another day. But the realization dawned on him. His kingdom must have struck a bargain with this clan, cooperation to provide slaves for their clan. More than likely, Onidas and the few other survivors here would spend the rest of their lives mining for the giants. His only hope, then, would not to die honorably in battle, but that maybe one day the weapon that he helped mine for would kill more giants, at least until they had finally all killed one another. But that would never happen in the short lifetime of a slave. Onidas sunk to his knees, peering over the gorge that Vald carved out with his blade. At the bottom lie the giant leader, bleeding the last of his life through his mouth and his nose. Onidas knew, then, that the fall of Svellgard and the fall of Vald were tied, marking the beginning of something new and very horrible for giants and humans alike.


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Filed under Flash Fiction, Session X

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