Two sorcerers unleash an unstoppable giant. Warning: for mature readers only.
“Just a few more steps,” Alaist told them, his voice echoing down the length of the stone staircase. Thilen could barely make out the member of the Triumvirate, the Free City of Laaren’s ruling council. The only light came from the candles that they held in their hands and even then, the yellowish glow was dim at best. Perhaps it was the foreboding darkness of this place, located deep within the bowels of the earth, or the fact that they were approaching an artifact that had once caused the deaths of countless people, but Thilen’s heart pounded painfully in his chest. The candle quivered in his sweaty hand and he glanced over at Marek, glad that he was here as well.
His friend had always been so calm, so composed, even in the worst of situations. As a child, he had been the sort of daredevil who would pick up a poisonous snake, and later, as an adult, he had excelled at learning the Magical Arts, attempting spells that not even the more experienced sorcerers would try. Those who disliked Marek claimed that he was impulsive and that it was a surprise that he wasn’t dead yet. Even Thilen was surprised at times that his friend was still breathing.
Marek saw Thilen looking at him and offered him a reassuring smile, the sort of expression that always charmed men and women alike. He paused and put a hand on Thilen’s shoulder, ignoring the fact that Alaist was continuing down the winding staircase.
“Are you okay?” Marek whispered.
“I’m fine.” Thilen was relieved to hear that he didn’t stammer as he answered. His friend grinned wider, a smile that would have made most women swoon. Marek was undeniably handsome, with his ash-blond hair and pronounced cheekbones. In comparison, Thilen always felt plain-looking, his face slightly round with deep-set brown eyes. He was utterly unremarkable, especially when he was with his friend.
“Come on, we’re losing him,” Marek said, hurrying down the last of the steps after Alaist. Thilen followed, clutching the candle tightly. They entered into some sort of vast chamber, the air chilly and damp. A few oil lamps had been lit and Alaist was lighting others, the firelight reflected off of the glistening rock walls. Thilen glanced around, marveling at the sheer size of the chamber. To say that it was immense was an understatement; most of Laaren could fit in this cavern. The ceiling stretched so far overhead that he couldn’t see it, only impenetrable blackness. Most impressive of all was what towered before them, huge beyond all comprehension.
I’lhz Rh’thi, as it was called in the ancient Laaren tongue. The Bound One.
It was a statue, unimaginably gigantic. Had it been a real person, it would have dwarfed Thilen and the others like a man before ants. The statue was seated cross-legged with its head slumped forward and he tried to picture what it would look like standing at it full height, but his mind couldn’t grasp something that massive. So he just studied it, a little at a time since he couldn’t take it in all at once.
Thilen had seen numerous statues in his life, statues of generals and princes, but this one was the most breathtaking in its beauty. It was perfect in its proportions, its gargantuan limbs sleekly muscled. And its serene face was the face of a god, its lips full and its jaw strongly defined. The statues of the deities in the temples were hideous in comparison.
Colossal chains, each tremendous link the size of a small building, were wrapped around the seated statue. These were magical chains that bound the statue; Thilen could see the arcane symbols carved on them. He chewed nervously on his lower lip. From what he knew, some of the most powerful sorcerers in the world had imprisoned the statue here millennia ago. But before they had done so, the being had destroyed several cities, killing everyone its path. Freeing it was an awful idea, but one that Marek had quietly suggested. Laaren had been under siege by the neighboring dukedom of Kaleth for quite some time and as much as the Triumvirate loathed to admit it, they were losing. The Bound One was their last resort.
“It’s too dangerous to unleash the creature,” Cyrin, another member of the ruling council, had protested.
“Yes, but we’ll be controlling it this time,” Marek had reassured him, while Thilen had just wrung his hands. He had secretly agreed with Cyrin, although he didn’t want to contradict his friend. So now he stood before the mountainous statue, dread making his stomach churn. The Bound One seemed to be staring down at him intently with its pupiless eyes. The sight was unnerving enough that he averted his gaze.
Marek had taken a scroll from his gray robes, the thin parchment crinkling as he carefully unrolled it. Written on it were two spells: the spell to free the Bound One and a transfer spell. As Marek began to read, Thilen exchanged a glance with Alaist. The older man’s face looked waxen in the dim light, his pale eyes betraying his own unease. For one second, Thilen considered telling Marek to stop, but once more, he couldn’t summon the courage.
He stood by, listening as his friend recited the spells. It was only when Marek uttered a strangled noise and tumbled forward unexpectedly that he dashed forward. Crouching down, Thilen pushed the other man over, horrified to see the dark blood trickling out of his eyes like crimson tears. He shook Marek, trying to rouse him, but when he felt for his pulse, he couldn’t detect it. Grief and panic threatened to overwhelm him and surely would have if the ground hadn’t quaked beneath him.
Thilen looked up and saw to his astonishment that the statue had moved, the chains rattling with a deafening sound. Large fissures had formed all over the grayish-black stone, the colossus’ skin cracking like an eggshell. Alaist cried out as the stone began to flake off, enormous chunks of rock crashing to the ground around them. They had time to dart away just before a particularly large piece of stone smashed down like a meteorite. As smaller fragments of rock pelted him, Thilen glanced up and saw that there was flesh where the outer exterior of the statue had fallen away.
The Bound One was alive.
As they watched, the remainder of the stone fell away, revealing a giant of a man. Thilen was further amazed to see that the titan’s features were now oddly familiar, the hair an ash-blond color. Marek…the Bound One resembled his friend.
“Marek?” He choked out. “Is that you?”
The giant’s huge eyes blinked and focused upon him. They were an eerie silver color, the irises shimmering like lakes of mercury. To Thilen’s relief, the titanic mouth curved in that charming smile that he had seen a hundred times.
“The spell worked, Thilen,” Marek announced in a booming voice that made Thilen and Alaist wince. It took a moment for their ears to stop ringing.
“Gods, Marek. I thought you were dead.”
“It takes a lot to kill me,” his friend said with a wink, the simple motion awe-inspiring because of the giant’s astonishing size. “Now, I need you to read the last part of the spell to free me.”
Thilen hesitated. For one second, he saw something in the vast quicksilver eyes that truly frightened him. Something infinitely cruel and coldly calculating. Then it was replaced by Marek’s usual cheerfulness. Don’t do it! A part of his mind screamed but he ignored it. Nodding, he picked up the scroll, brushing off the stone pebbles, and read the last few lines.
The monstrous chains snapped and as soon as they fell from Marek’s mammoth body, the giant tried to stand up. His powerful shoulders and broad back brushed up against the ceiling of the cavern and he snarled in frustration. Then he began to push, his incredible muscles straining, and Thilen gasped as he heard the low groan of the ceiling.
“What’re you doing?” He called out, but this friend ignored him. Stalactites that had been hanging from the ceiling broke free, adding to the rubble littering the floor. As Marek began to force his way out of the cavern, Thilen was convinced that he was going to die. Thousands of tons of dirt and rock began to rain down, threatening to bury both him and Alaist.
Then he saw something massive swooping down toward them and when he spotted the curled fingers and the field-sized palm, he understood that it was his friend’s hand. The fingers scooped him up, the light from the oil lamps disappearing as Marek’s hand closed. Thilen found himself enclosed in a prison of warm flesh, the giant’s pulse beating rhythmically around him. There was a series of thunderous crashes, a cacophony of noise as Marek dug out out of the cavern.
The noise eventually stopped and the giant’s hand opened, the bright light of the midday sun assaulting Thilen’s eyes. Beside him, Alaist shielded his eyes from the sun and gawked up at the titan. Marek’s immense face stretched out high above them, still wearing that smile. A part of Thilen’s mind still was having difficulty accepting his friend’s size and as he tentatively peeked out past the monumental columns of Marek’s fingers, he could see the city of Laaren far below. At this height, even the tallest of the buildings looked like children’s toys. There were people down there, or at least he thought so; they looked like tiny scurrying insects from this vantage point.
How very easy it would be for Marek to simply tip his hand and drop them, Thilen realized with a shudder. As if he sensed his thoughts, the giant looked directly at him and he felt like a beetle being scrutinized by a human. To make matters worse, he remembered the scroll, the one with the spells on it. He didn’t have it anymore; most likely it was buried under all of that stone and dirt.
Which meant that he couldn’t undo the spells.
That thought was chilling, but his attention was diverted as Marek lifted them closer to the tremendous expanse of his face, close enough that when his lips parted slightly, Thilen could feel the hurricane-force of his warm breath. The tips of the titan’s white teeth, bigger than wagons, flashed in the sunlight as he spoke.
“Don’t worry, Thilen. You can trust me. I’m still the same old Marek, after all,” the giant told him. As Thilen stood on the palm of his friend, held hundreds and hundreds of feet above the ground, all that he could do was offer a hesitant smile.
The first thing that Alaist and the other members of the Triumvirate did was send an ultimatum to the Duke of Kaleth, demanding that he cease his war against the city or face the consequences. When they found out that the Duke had ordered the Laaren messenger to be hanged, they called for Thilen. This was the third or fourth time that he had been in the Triumvirate chambers but it was the first time without Marek. He immediately felt unnerved by the enormity and opulence of the place. Laaren was an incredibly wealthy city and this was reflected in the ruling council’s chambers. Everything was made of marble and imported silks; even the hand-carved chairs of the council members were probably worth more than what he’d earn in a lifetime.
The expressions on the Triumvirate’s faces didn’t help Thilen’s unease. They were used to dealing with Marek and he could see the contempt in their eyes as they watched him from across their sprawling table.
“It would seem that the Duke refuses to compromise with us,” Renam said without bothering to greet Thilen. The Triumvirate member was an emaciated man, his cheeks hollow and his eyes sunken, and he decorated his traditional councilman robes with all kinds of jewel-encrusted pins and pendants.
Thilen simply nodded as the thin man continued, “We’d like Marek to deal with him. The Duke won’t listen to a normal man, but he’ll certainly listen to a giant.”
“What if the Duke doesn’t listen?” Thilen was afraid to ask the question.
The three council members exchanged brief glances before Renam answered.
“Then destroy him.”
It was late afternoon by the time that Thilen left the gates of Laaren, heading out to find Marek. The giant was camped outside of the city, staying at a safe distance from the inhabitants. At his size, he probably would have caused catastrophic devastation just by accident.
Thilen spotted his friend long before he reached him. Marek stood high above the surrounding forest, the tallest trees not even reaching his lower calves. He certainly was an impressive sight, huge beyond all mortal comprehension, and Thilen could see how the I’lhz Rh’thi had caused such terrible death and destruction. If Marek wanted to, he could have trampled the entire woods like a flower garden.
When he had almost reached the giant, Thilen’s stallion froze without warning. He tried to prod the horse forward, but the animal just folded back its ears and rolled its eyes in terror. Something was spooking the stallion and he quickly realized what it was: Marek had shifted his gaze in their direction. Thilen couldn’t blame the horse. There was something about the giant’s ethereal silver eyes that sent a shiver down his spine. So he dismounted, tied the horse to a tree and then walked the rest of the way on foot.
When he reached the clearing, the first thing that he saw was his friend’s muscular right leg, several times wider than a castle tower and stretching up impossibly high. The other leg was more than a hundred feet away. The next thing that he noticed was that there was some sort of wooden scaffolding set up, waist-high to the titan. A half-dozen people rushed frantically back and forth and it looked like they were measuring something, although it was difficult to tell from where Thilen stood. He craned his head to look up at the giant, having to tilt it far back in order to see Marek’s face far above him.
“Hello, Marek,” he shouted up to his friend. The huge quicksilver eyes focused on him, strangely cold and alien; then an amiable smile appeared from out of nowhere, stretching wide across the giant’s attractive face.
“I was wondering when you’d be by. I’ve been standing here for the last hour being measured for clothes. The Triumvirate insists that I wear them, although I don’t know why when I have the body of a god,” Marek boasted. Well, he wasn’t exactly boasting. He wore little except for an oxblood-colored leather loincloth around his hips, so his perfectly-portioned body was on full display. Beneath his tanned skin, his sculpted muscles were well-defined, rolling hills. Most men could never have achieved a similar appearance, even if they had dedicated their life to doing so.
As if to demonstrate, Marek flexed one arm, the titanic swell of his bicep large enough to dwarf a nobleman’s mansion.
“Very impressive,” Thilen said. “But I’m here on serious matters.”
The giant slowly lowered his arm. “What sort of matters?”
“The Triumvirate has asked us to visit the Duke of Kaleth. He refused to listen to the other messengers.”
“Is that right?” Marek glanced down at the men and women on the scaffolding, who were most likely tailors and seamstresses. “You heard him. I have a certain Duke that I need to visit, so I think it’s time for all of you to leave.”
Most of the workers obeyed, climbing down from the scaffolding. One older woman was too slow and just as she made it to the top of the makeshift stairs, Marek moved unexpectedly. The massive, rippling wall of his abdomen slammed into the scaffolding, sending the seamstress tumbling over the side. Fortunately for her, she was able to grab onto one of the wooden struts and she clung there, unnoticed by the giant.
Thilen, however, saw her dangling high above the ground, her legs kicking from underneath her dress. He pointed frantically but the giant didn’t even bother to turn his head, seemingly uninterested that a tiny life was hanging precariously next to him.
“Marek!” Thilen screamed and his friend finally saw the seamstress. Or rather, his eyes finally focused on her. There was no surprise in them, absolutely none. He had known that she was there the entire time, that much was apparent. Thilen purposely looked down at his feet as Marek delicately plucked the woman from the scaffolding and deposited her on the ground, where she went running for all that she was worth. He only looked up when he noticed that the giant’s hand was still resting palm up, obviously waiting for him to climb up onto it. If he had been a braver man, he would have confronted his friend then and there.
But Thilen had never been a brave man and so he reluctantly approached the colossal hand with its pillar-like fingers that curled inward slightly. The enormous palm was nearly as tall as he was and he was slightly embarrassed when Marek had to help him climb up, gently pushing him with one huge finger. Thilen immediately went to the center of the palm, away from the sides where he could fall off by accident, and then knelt down. The leathery flesh beneath his knees was soft, although he could feel the harder mass of the tendon beneath the skin.
Marek lifted his hand and despite his care, Thilen was still jostled around. He peered out between the titan’s fingers at the landscape before him. It was incredible seeing how small the once-towering trees were and he glanced up at his friend, although he couldn’t see much of him besides the underside of his jaw and chin from his current position.
He held on tight as Marek began striding forward. The giant didn’t bother to try to go around the tiny trees in his way. Trees snapped and splintered and toppled to the ground as the giant plowed through them, cutting a visible path of destruction through the forest. The thunderous noise was terrible and Thilen cupped his hands over his ears, thankful when the giant finally reached a road. It was one of the main trading roads, wide enough to accommodate several merchant wagons at once. But from this dizzying height, the dirt road looked like little more than a thin brown line.
Most of the time, it would take several days to reach the Duke’s lands. But at the rate that Marek was moving, it’d take just over a day or so. The giant didn’t seem to care much about the other people who were using the road. Fortunately for them, the tiny merchants and tradesmen and other travelers heard Marek approaching and so they promptly pulled off to the side. Clusters of people watched awestruck as he strode past, stirring up thick clouds of dirt from the road. At one point, they passed by a farmer and his daughters, the young women waving and cheering unselfconsciously at the sight of the handsome titan.
Marek gave them a lewd wink and that seemed to excite them even more, their cheeks flushing beet-red. He laughed as he and Thilen continued down the road.
“I can honestly say that I don’t miss my old body much,” the giant commented.
“Not in the slightest?”
“I prefer this one so much more. I’m the most powerful force in the world now,” he replied and as if to demonstrate, he reached down and seized several small trees that were growing near the road. The bending motion startled Thilen, who rolled toward the edge of Marek’s hand. He managed to stop himself just before he fell to his death. Meanwhile, his friend was pulling up the trees as if they were dandelions, ripping them from the earth with incredible ease. He held the uprooted trees in his hand and then flung them aside with a casual flip of his wrist. As the trees crashed down in the distance, Marek stood back up, wiping the dirt and the chunks of bark from the trunks onto his thigh.
“Just imagine what I could do to an army,” the giant mused aloud and there was a hint of malicious glee in his deep voice. In his other hand, Thilen swallowed hard.
He had a horrible feeling that he would eventually find out.
By the time that they finally stopped to rest, night had fallen and the only light came from the crescent moon and the scattering of stars overhead. So Thilen built a small fire and huddled by it, trying to warm his hands as Marek settled his enormous body over the ground. In the darkness, the outline of his shoulders and hips and knees resembled a miniature mountain range. He was trapped in that body now; even if they could dig out the spells, his old body was long dead. Thilen’s mind lingered on this as he laid down and fell asleep to the slow, rhythmic sound of his giant friend’s breathing.
When he awoke, it was early morning and his entire body ached from remaining in one position all night. The first thing that he noticed were the terrible cramps in his muscles; the second thing that he saw was that Marek was gone. The only indications that a giant had been there were deep craters in the ground and grass that had been pressed flat. Thilen scrambled up and looked around wildly, searching for his friend. It didn’t take him long to spot him; he could see the impressive wall of Marek’s back rising up above the trees, his head bent slightly.
When he was closer the giant, he saw why his friend’s head was tilted. Marek was devouring everything within his reach, yanking up entire apple and pear trees and eating them, including the leaves and branches. A quick glance around showed Thilen that this was a farm. He could see a modest-sized stone house and beyond that, more fields and vineyards. There were several sheep in a paddock and the animals were all as far from the giant as they could be, watching Marek with fear-crazed eyes. For a brief moment, Thilen recalled his horse’s similar reaction. Then he hurried toward his friend, who was now scooping up entire rows of cabbage and squash, his gargantuan fingers gouging deep into the ground.
“Marek, what are you doing?” He exclaimed.
“I was hungry.” Marek gave him a dismissive look before he dumped an entire harvest’s worth of vegetables into his mouth. He started to chew and the noise was awe-inspiring, the sound of tons of cabbage and squash being reduced to pulp. Without warning, he stopped in mid-chew and his quicksilver eyes narrowed as he noticed something behind Thilen. Or rather, someone. It was the farmer, a burly man with a scowl on his ruddy face. Behind him were several farmhands, although they were obviously too nervous at the sight of the colossus to come any closer. The farmer was either a very brave or very foolish man because he marched right up to Thilen, jamming a fat finger in his face.
“Tell your giant friend to leave right now,” he snarled, spraying spittle onto Thilen’s cheeks. Thilen winced and took an involuntary step backwards. He had never done well in confrontational situations, especially when he was younger. To his shame and gratitude, Marek had always shielded him from bullies when they were children. Once, an older boy had threatened to break his nose for ratting him out and Marek had ended up pouncing on the bully and beating him with an amazing savagery.
Marek reacted in a similar fashion. One minute, the farmer was screaming at Thilen; the next, a vast shadow fell over him and the giant’s hand descended from the sky, his fingers closing around the man’s body. He lifted the farmer right up to his face, his brow wrinkling in a scowl.
“What did you just say to my friend?” Marek demanded and the farmer began to babble incoherently, his courage disappearing as the giant glared at him with pitiless eyes.
“Marek, wait!” Thilen shouted but Marek either didn’t hear him or purposely ignored his protest. Instead, he addressed the tiny man who trembled violently in his hand.
“Perhaps I should just eat you, too,” he sneered, bringing the farmer closer to the ghastly abyss of his mouth. A tongue the size of the stone house slipped out from between the giant’s lips and the farmer screeched as he felt it brush his feet.
To Thilen’s horror, Marek placed the man on the tip of his tongue and then retracted it back into his waiting mouth. The farmer’s shrieks were abruptly muffled as he vanished between the giant’s lips. A wicked smile formed on those lips as Marek pushed the man around inside his mouth, slamming him against his upper palate and inner cheeks. Thilen, fearing that he really would eat him, howled up at his friend to stop.
Marek glanced down at him, still batting the farmer around with his monstrous tongue; then, unexpectedly, he brought his hand up near his mouth. He spat the man into his palm and then disdainfully lowered him to the ground, next to Thilen. To say that the farmer looked awful was an understatement…he was covered with a thick layer of saliva and numerous bruises dotted his skin. He just laid there, dazed, as Thilen bent down to check on him. To his disgust, the man started coughing up huge mouthfuls of Marek’s saliva. Thilen helped him to his feet and brought him to the farmhands, who had witnessed the whole thing.
“Run,” he whispered to them and wisely they did, carrying their boss between them. Thilen watched them go, painfully aware that Marek was staring down at him. Reluctantly, he turned around and met the giant’s silver gaze.
“Were you really going to eat him?” Thilen asked quietly.
Marek snorted contemptuously, which was like a dozen cannons firing at once.
“You’re too soft,” the giant replied, not answering the question.
It was mid-afternoon when they came upon the Duke’s army.
Thilen could see for miles in Marek’s hand and he noticed the legions of soldiers and the scarlet flags that bore the house arms of Kaleth. From the sheer number of men, it looked like the Duke was preparing for another attack. Marek watched the army with a predatory gleam in his immense eyes and it was evident that the soldiers saw him as well. Chaos and panic were spreading through the ranks and several soldiers fled as Marek stomped toward them. Thilen was afraid that he would simply tread on the tiny men, but the giant paused a few hundred feet away.
“Who’s in charge here?” Marek asked. Holding on tightly to one of the giant’s colossal fingers, Thilen glanced down at the army on the ground. It was difficult to make out individual soldiers from up here and with their gleaming black armor, they resembled a mass of swarming ants. He didn’t expect the officer in charge to come forward but he did, the ranks of men parting to let him through. With a small smirk on his lips, Marek looked on as the minuscule man approached him. Once he was close enough, the colossus squatted down so that he could see him better.
“I’m General Berh,” the officer said, glancing up at the giant with wonder. Although his voice was composed, his upturned face was turning the color of flour. This was clearly a man who had seen many battles but who couldn’t possibly conceive of such a gigantic creature as Marek.
“It seems like the Duke isn’t interested in peace. I can’t say that I’m surprised,” the giant remarked. General Berh began to say something, but Marek just spoke over him, which was easily to do considering the tremendous volume of his voice.
“Well, if it’s war that the Duke desires, then it’s war that he’ll get,” Marek said, positioning his free hand over the general. “But I guarantee that we’ll crush him.”
The officer let out a high-pitched squeal as the giant’s mammoth thumb came down on him, completely covering his body. There was a hideous squelching noise as his body mashed beneath the digit. Marek ground the general a few feet into the earth, his teeth-rattling laughter causing goosebumps to break out over Thilen’s skin. The titan stood back up, the pad of his thumb stained dark crimson, and smiled horribly at the petrified soldiers.
“In fact, we’ll crush all of you,” the giant announced, still chuckling. The world around Thilen went completely mad as Marek strode into the midst of the tiny army like some titanic war god. His first footfall was lethal, dozens of soldiers simply vanishing beneath his sole. Blood and crumpled armor and liquified flesh squirted out in a noxious stream, splashing over those lucky enough not to be under the gargantuan foot.
Some of the men fought back, slashing futilely at Marek’s toes and foot with their swords and pikes, but most just ran for their lives. When the giant took another step, Thilen saw the gruesome footprint that he left behind, a horrific pit filled with dead and dying soldiers.
The Duke’s army was no match, of course. Even the cannon-fire didn’t faze the giant, who pursued large groups of men as they tried to escape into the forest beyond. Marek moved with astonishing speed, hunting and crushing the soldiers with the same contempt that one would feel for fleeing cockroaches. It was true that they were enemy soldiers, but the giant’s sadistic delight repulsed Thilen.
Marek herded the survivors together with his blood-soaked feet, pushing and nudging them into a large group. Once they were all together, he bent down, grabbing up a handful. Thilen looked on in mute horror as Marek raised the squirming soldiers to his mouth, little arms and legs poking out from between his immense fingers. There was nothing human in the giant’s quicksilver eyes, only an insatiable appetite for power and brutality. At that instant, he realized that he was no longer looking just at Marek; he was also beholding the demonic being who had almost brought about the end of the world.
The soldiers screamed in hellish chorus as the colossus pushed them into his cavernous mouth. A few men clung to his lips but Marek’s tongue swept them up, dragging them between his boulder-like teeth. Once the soldiers were in his mouth, the giant began to chew. Unlike earlier, it wasn’t vegetables that Marek was eating but live, shrieking people. Even in Thilen’s worst nightmares he couldn’t have imagined a more awful sound, bones breaking and armor screeching as it was compacted between the titan’s crushing molars.
Swallowing, Marek reached down for more soldiers, grabbing greedily for them. Some he squished by accident between his eager fingers; the rest he shoveled into his mouth, not even bothering to chew this time. That mouthful he swallowed alive, a slight bulge forming in his throat as he sent fifteen or so men to their doom in his stomach. But the soldiers were quickly forgotten as Marek glanced down at Thilen, who was trembling in his other hand. He feared for his life, terrified that the giant would devour or crush him as well. When Marek raised him to his face, Thilen’s heart nearly exploded in his chest. The giant’s breath washed over him, hot and redolent of coppery blood, and he found himself staring first into the dark pit of Marek’s mouth, and then into the massive eyes.
“Marek, I hope you’re still in there,” he managed to say.
His friend’s familiar charming smile appeared, made terrible by his gore-splattered teeth.
“Of course I am,” the giant said, although Thilen wasn’t sure. The atrocities that Marek had just committed were still replaying in his head, over and over again. He’s insane, Thilen realized, wishing that he was on the ground so that he could escape and warn the Triumvirate. But he was trapped there in his friend’s open palm, looking up helplessly at the titan who had just destroyed an entire army with ridiculous ease.
The grin slowly faded as the giant noticed Thilen’s mind-numbing terror.
“Calm down, Thilen. I’m not going to hurt you,” Marek said, obviously trying to soothe him. It almost worked until he continued, “The Duke, on the other hand…”
Serentha was the capital city of Kaleth, a heavily-populated metropolis that was the home of some of the most famous artists and poets in the world. It was located by the ocean, crisscrossed by a number of canals and channels. For centuries, Serentha had remained unscathed by attack, its elaborate marble buildings pristine and unmarred by its enemies…until Marek appeared on the outskirts of the city.
By then it was dusk, the sky shading from dark blue to purple, but Thilen could still see the guards posted on the city walls. As the giant approached, they unleashed a volley of arrows, enough to kill a hundred men. But the arrows smashed harmlessly against the muscular columns of Marek’s lower legs, unable to puncture his skin, and he laughed at their feeble attempts. Most of the guards fled as he moved toward the wall, disappearing down the steps. Those who stayed behind were killed as the giant’s shins crashed effortlessly through the wall, the thick stone crumbling as though it were soft sand.
Before them was Serentha, with its beautiful buildings and narrow canals and brightly-painted boats. And rising up from the center of the city was the Duke’s huge palace, multi-spired and roofed in gold and crimson tiles. Thilen gawked at the palace as Marek stepped forward into the city.
His right foot crashed down next to a twenty-five foot statue of Sereni, the winged patron-goddess of the city. It was as gorgeous as the rest of the architecture, intricately carved from pale marble. To a normal person, the statue would have been a huge and imposing sight; to Marek, it was nothing more than a small figurine that barely reached his ankle. The goddess with her outstretched wings seemed to be looking up at the giant as he smirked and raised his foot over it. The smirk widened as he pulverized the statue beneath him, his foot sinking deep into the cobbled street. Tiny people rushed around Marek’s feet, shocked that a giant man had invaded their city and that he had just ground their goddess into fine powder.
Marek didn’t look down at the people below; instead, he started striding through the city, not bothering to keep to the winding streets. He smashed through everything in his way, the tallest buildings not even reaching his knees. Thilen was sure that there were casualties from his friend’s casual destruction, but he thankfully couldn’t see anyone. The billowing clouds of whitish-gray dust that the giant churned up obscured the ground below.
By the time that they reached the palace, Marek had created a trail of toppled buildings, smoke steadily rising up from the fires scattered everywhere. The Duke had to have seen the giant approaching but the palace was eerily quiet; there weren’t even any guards who came rushing out. Marek bent down, peering through the windows.
“Maybe he isn’t in there. Maybe we should go,” Thilen called up to him and the look that the giant gave him silenced him instantly.
“Of course he’s in there,” Marek replied, ramming one of his fingers through a wall. The wall disintegrated, exposing several frightened servants but not the Duke. So the giant moved to another section of the palace, peeling away the exterior like fondant from a cake. He placed Thilen on his shoulder at one point, the smaller man struggling to find a place to hold onto so that he didn’t go sliding.
The exterior of the palace had been almost completely stripped away when they finally found the Duke, huddled in the corner of an elaborately-decorated room. He was a young and handsome man, most likely in the prime of his life. Wealthy as well, from the look of the ermine furs and brocade clothing that he wore. Thilen could tell that he was the sort of person who was accustomed to being feared and he was obviously shocked at being in the presence of someone who was infinitely more powerful. His entire body quaked in abject terror as Marek’s gargantuan shadow engulfed the room.
“D-don’t hurt me!” The Duke whimpered. “I surrender! I surrender!”
Marek’s upper lip curled scornfully. “It’s too late for surrender.”
“Wait, I’ll give you anything that you want! Just name it! Gold, jewels, land —,”
The giant cut him off, his silver eyes narrowing to slits. “There’s nothing that you can give to me that I can’t simply take. This city is mine now.”
Marek’s hand plunged effortlessly through one of the walls, grabbing for the Duke. The frightened man dashed away with surprising speed, evading the giant’s massive fingers. To a casual observer, it may have seemed that he had a chance of escaping. But Marek just pushed his hand in further, flattening everything in his way, tables and chairs and other pieces of furniture pulverized into fragments of wood. His fingers eventually trapped the Duke against a wall and the man pled desperately as the giant seized him.
“Don’t kill me,” he begged, and Marek grinned viciously.
“I’m not going to kill you…yet. I’m going to make you watch while I turn this city into rubble.” The giant began to tear the expensive drapes from the windows and Thilen couldn’t figure out what he was doing until he saw him tie them around the Duke. The giant’s fingers were astonishingly nimble despite their unbelievable size; deftly, he knotted the pieces of fabric together, one by one, until he had fashioned a crude sort of necklace.
Marek slipped the necklace and the struggling man around his neck, the Duke nestled in the hollow formed by his huge collar bones. Thilen hoped that the giant would remove him from his shoulder, back into the safety of his hand, but he didn’t. When Marek began to walk again, he had to cling on for dear life, the winds from the high altitude buffeting him. A hundred feet below him, hanging against the enormous muscles of the titan’s lower neck, the Duke shrieked terribly.
The giant ignored the tiny man’s screams and concentrated on systematically destroying the city. Thilen could see Marek’s muscular legs rise and fall as he crushed entire rows of buildings underfoot, debris spraying outward as deadly projectiles. As much as he disliked the Duke, he didn’t approve of the sort of carnage that Marek was causing.
And it only became worse as the giant focused his bloodthirsty attention on the tiny citizens.
Thousands were trying to escape but there were bottlenecks forming at the gates and at the section of the wall that Marek had damaged. The citizens were like fish in a bowl, unable to get away as the cat came for them. The giant understood their predicament and took his time, sweeping buildings from existence with one foot. Those who fled into the street were flattened, their deaths unnoticed as Marek smashed through Serentha like a living natural disaster.
As the first stars began to appear in the night sky, the giant slowed down, circling the center of the city. Thilen saw the naked lust in his friend’s eyes, something that he had seen before, especially when they were younger men. Except this lust was magnified a million times, burning with a horrible brilliance. This was the lust of pure, unbridled power.
The giant finally crashed his way into the center of the city, where some sort of event had been taking place, a holiday celebration from the look of it. A multitude of colored paper lanterns had been strung around a plaza, illuminating the hundred or so people gathered there. They instinctively froze at the sight of Marek as he stepped effortlessly through three or four buildings, sending titanic chunks of marble hurtling through the air. Even worse than the tons of debris that struck people and buildings indiscriminately were Marek’s feet, which came stomping down from the sky and killed anyone beneath them.
With a devilish grin, the titan gazed down the length of his sculpted chest at the insect-like people below. His eyes gleamed with that inhuman desire and far below, Thilen saw something gigantic and awe-inspiring stir beneath the leather loincloth. The group of citizens clearly saw it as well and many of them tried to run, only to find their escape route suddenly blocked when the giant casually kicked over a tall building, the crumbled masonry and other wreckage forming an almost unscalable barricade.
“Wait, Marek,” Thilen yelled to his friend, suddenly terrified of what the giant would do. Marek didn’t take his eyes from the group below as he reached up with one hand, gently but firmly pinching Thilen between two fingers. Despite his care, the titan’s grip still hurt and Thilen yelped in pain and panic as he was lowered down to an upper-story balcony overlooking the plaza. His friend dumped him on the balcony and then withdrew his hand, leaving Thilen to climb to his feet.
As if undressing for a lover, Marek slipped off the leather loincloth from his hips, revealing an erection as large as a clock tower. There were hushed whispers and murmurs from the crowd as the naked giant loomed above them; then he knelt down, the weight of his powerful legs cracking the cobblestone. Nearby lanterns swung crazily from the earthquake that resulted from the colossus’ movement. Marek’s hand darted out and he snatched up a few people at random, raising them before his silver eyes.
“One of the drawbacks about being this size is that I can’t find anyone my size to fuck,” Marek told them, his voice hoarse with lust. Between his legs, the monstrous penis throbbed and twitched, gallons of clear precum dribbling down and splattering onto the cracked cobblestones. The people trapped in his hand began to cry out as he lowered them toward the swollen column of his cock.
“But I suppose I’ll just have to make do,” Marek said, wrapping his hand around his penis, crushing the people against the hard flesh. They continued to shriek wildly, desperately, but the giant ignored them, too lost in his own pleasure. At one point, he pressed them too hard against his cock and the hapless people simply squashed, their bodies no match for the titan’s ruthless strength. As Marek continued to move his hand along the length of his shaft, blood smeared across the skin in huge swaths of crimson.
The people on the ground were trying to flee, of course, some even trying to clamber up over the wreckage. But they couldn’t escape quickly enough, especially when Marek focused his murderous attention on them. One group of men and women cowering near a stone fountain suddenly saw an enormous cylindrical shadow cast over them. By the time that they realized what it was, the giant had pushed down on the base of his immense cock, obliterating them and the fountain beneath its unimaginable bulk.
When Marek released his fingers, his penis sprang back up, flattened bodies and the debris from the fountain raining down. He grinned, obviously pleased, then began to pick off the survivors. Some he crushed against his awe-inspiring cock; others he forced under his massive balls, suffocating them beneath the tons of soft, wrinkly flesh. The blackish water in the neighboring canal was beginning to turn a ghastly red from the multitude of corpses bleeding into it.
The Duke, meanwhile, was still howling like a thing possessed, his voice ragged by his constant screaming. As his subjects were brutally killed by the giant, he writhed and kicked, bound by the makeshift necklace. Marek’s low, throaty groaning soon drowned out the man’s shrieks, the sound rattling all of the remaining windows in a mile-wide radius. The titan continued to stroke himself, his breathing becoming faster and faster, until he was practically panting; then, with an almost animal-like snarl, he came. His first shot of cum struck seven people, slamming them against the wall of a nearby building. The subsequent blasts spilled down onto the plaza, leaving large pools of milky semen amidst the detritus littering the ground.
Most of the people in the plaza were dead or dying and Marek seemed too lost in post-orgasmic bliss to even care. The only sounds now were the giant’s breathing and the occasional hoarse cry from the Duke. Thilen glanced down at the carnage below, his stomach doing violent somersaults. He tried to catch Marek’s attention but his friend was distracted, reaching for the Duke.
“I haven’t forgotten about you,” the giant said as he undid the necklace. The man tried to say something, although Thilen couldn’t hear him. More pleas, maybe. It didn’t matter; he knew that nothing that the Duke said could save him. Thilen wasn’t sure if Marek was even capable of mercy anymore. The alien presence that he had witnessed earlier was there in the titan’s eyes and it was thirsting for more death and destruction.
Marek lowered the struggling man down into the yawning pit of his mouth, his gigantic incisors snapping together and severing the fabric of the necklace. He didn’t bother to chew his latest victim, instead swallowing him down like a raw oyster. There was a dreadful moment when Thilen thought he could hear muffled shrieks reverberating from behind the thick wall of abdominal muscle, but then the giant moved slightly and he couldn’t hear the horrendous noises any longer.
Thilen couldn’t take it any longer; he rushed from the balcony into a small room, where a family was trying to hide from the rampaging giant. He didn’t say anything to them, just barreled down the stairs and out into the plaza. As soon as he was on ground-level, the horror of the giant’s actions became even more apparent. That one person could cause such catastrophic mayhem made Thilen’s mind reel. Somehow, he realized, he had to stop his friend.
Feeling more terrified than he would have thought possible, Thilen walked slowly toward the giant, avoiding a pond-sized pool of musky semen as he did. Marek had stood back up to his nearly-incomprehensible height and it was difficult to see much past his mountainous chest, although the light from the lanterns and the raging fires reflected off his eyes in the distance.
“Enough, Marek,” Thilen said, surprised at how composed he sounded. “We’re going back to Laaren and we’ll find a way to change you back.”
At first, Marek said nothing. Then he began to laugh, the rumbling noise echoing throughout the ruins of the city. “Oh, we’ll go back to Laaren, all right. But I don’t plan on ever changing back.”
“You can’t stay this way, Marek. You’ve become…” Thilen wanted to say “a monster” but he couldn’t, so he carefully continued, “…too violent.”
“Why, because I’ve killed a few insects?”
“They were people!”
When Marek laughed again, Thilen knew that his friend was lost. Almost on its own accord, his right hand raised up and he uttered one of the few spells that he still knew. Thilen’s fist glowed a brilliant bluish-white and the energy bolt that burst forth from it was powerful enough to reduce several buildings to fine ash. But when the energy hit Marek’s shins, the giant didn’t seem to feel it. Even as Thilen realized his mistake, his friend moved slightly, his foot lifting up off of the ground. Marek’s far-away face was suddenly obscured by his vast sole as he purposely positioned it over the other man.
“Don’t!” Thilen screamed, but it was useless. The night sky was now replaced by the giant’s gargantuan sole, still flecked with blood and debris. Worse, Thilen saw that it was rapidly descending upon him. Instinctively, he tried to raise his arms but it was like trying to ward off a collapsing building.
Lights flashed before his eyes as he was knocked to the ground, the warm yet oppressive flesh of the colossus’ foot pressing down upon his entire body. All those people that Marek had killed were nothing more than insects to him and that was what Thilen was as well…an ant to be squashed into a bloody stain, forgotten by his best friend.
He would have wept, if the pain wasn’t so all-consuming. Marek was carefully applying more weight and although he couldn’t see much, trapped beneath the titan’s sole, his vision was steadily tunneling. Thilen tried to take another breath, found that he couldn’t. He also couldn’t move at all, the foot pinning him to the street, one of his cheeks pressed painfully against the cobblestones. Once more he attempted to draw a breath and once more he failed, the unimaginable weight of the colossus bearing down upon him. It was then that everything faded into blackness.
At first, Thilen thought that he was dead.
Then the cold water washed over his body and his eyes snapped open. He shuddered at the sudden shock to his system, spitting up the foul-tasting water. It took him a minute to realize that he was in one of the canals, cradled in Marek’s palm. The giant was crouched down, watching him as he sputtered.
“What were you thinking, Thilen? You’re lucky that I didn’t flatten you,” Marek growled as Thilen shivered in the frigid water. Despite the astonishing amount of body heat that his friend was radiating, he was still uncomfortably cold. The mammoth hand holding him rose up, water splashing back down into the canal and onto the street, and then the palm tilted at an angle, depositing him on the ground. Thilen continued to quiver, his robes so thoroughly drenched that they felt as though they were made of heavy lead instead of wool. Marek remained in a crouch, looking down at him like some imperious and unforgiving deity. Yet despite the cruel gleam in the silvery eyes, there was something else as well. Sadness, almost.
“You’re my best friend, Thilen,” the giant told him. “But if you stand in my way again, I’ll kill you as well.”
Thilen watched him stand back up, rising up to his towering height. The colossus gave him one last lingering glance and then strode away, the ground heaving beneath his footsteps. All around him, Thilen could hear faint screams and the crackling of numerous fires, but his attention was entirely on Marek as the giant marched toward the city walls. As his friend stepped over the wall, Thilen knew where he was headed.
Laaren, of course.
The rational part of Thilen told him to go and seek a safe place to hide, somewhere as far from Laaren as possible. A cave up in the mountains or a cottage hidden in the woods, a shelter where he could live the rest of his days without having to face the giant again. But for once, he didn’t listen to that side of himself. No, he was going to Laaren, although he had no idea how to stop Marek. When the Bound One had first ravaged the world long ago, it had taken dozens of sorcerers to stop the being. And they had had the spell, which was now currently buried deep in the earth. It would take years to digging to uncover it and he doubted that the giant would allow such a thing.
But Thilen didn’t dwell on that. He just knew that he had to get to Laaren quickly.
Trying to navigate through the streets turned out to be a stupendous feat. It was sobering to see how much damage the giant had so casually caused. Even the areas that Marek hadn’t purposely stomped flat were devastated, ruined by the earthquakes that he generated just by his incredible size. Thilen ran as fast as he could, having to avoid the deep craters of the giant’s footprints and the rubble of entire buildings. Gigantic fires were quickly spreading everywhere, illuminating the survivors as well as the corpses in hideous shades of orange and red.
Amidst the pandemonium, he found a public stable. There were several horses inside, most of them panicking at the odor of smoke and blood. He walked down the aisle, peering into the individual pens until he found a speckled mare that seemed less frightened than the others. No one confronted him as he led the animal outside; whether its owners were alive or dead, Thilen couldn’t be sure.
It took him a long time to get through the city gates, people wandering around confusedly around him. Most of them were in shock, their faces ashen as they tried to locate missing friends and family. Those missing individuals were most likely dead, casualties of the giant’s rampage. And more would be joining them, Thilen knew. Especially when Marek arrived at Laaren.
As soon as he was through the gates, he mounted the mare and set off in pursuit of the giant.
Following Marek’s trail was unbelievably easy, since the colossus had decimated everything in his way. Acres of forest had been torn down, like reeds after a violent hurricane, and towns had been turned into huge graveyards, buildings and people crushed into the ground. Occasionally, the mare made a whinny of protest, unnerved by the smell of death everywhere, but Thilen pushed the animal on with a ruthless determination.
The first thing that he saw as he approached Laaren were the thin wisps of smoke curling up into the air, black against the cloudless blue sky. It was a terrible omen and fear seized him as he dismounted the horse. Thilen once again contemplated finding a hiding place, especially when he heard the booming laugh of the giant. He would get back on the horse, he decided, and he would gallop away to anywhere but here.
You’re a coward, Thilen, the voice in his head sneered. For some odd reason, it sounded exactly like Marek. And the voice was correct, he was a coward. But for once, he didn’t turn away, instead trudging reluctantly into Laaren. More destruction awaited him, although he was relieved to see that the entire city hadn’t been leveled. His relief quickly faded away when he saw Marek.
The giant was lounging upon the tower that had housed the Triumvirate’s chambers, as well as several other neighboring buildings. They had crumbled beneath his astronomical bulk, forming a crude sort of throne. His pose was befitting of a king (or a despot, to be more more accurate), his expression aloof and arrogant. A large crowd had formed between his feet, the people completely silent as the titan placed his chin on one fist; with his other hand, he made a beckoning gesture.
Someone stepped forward and Thilen saw that it was Renam, one of the members of the Triumvirate. The man who had once wore jewels and fancy clothing had clearly been humbled. At one time, Thilen would have secretly gloated at seeing the council member cowed like this; but now, he understood the predicament that they were all facing.
“Has the Triumvirate reached a decision?” Marek asked the tiny man.
Renam took off his feathered hat, nervously worrying at it as he answered, “We surrender.”
The giant smiled and then, without any sort of warning, swung his foot around and brought it down on the council member. Renam didn’t even have a chance to scream or raise his hands or back away. He simply vanished beneath the massive foot, the ground shuddering beneath the impact. When Marek lifted his foot from the deep depression that he had created, Renam’s body was thoroughly flattened and plastered to his sole, a mere speck on a wide expanse of flesh.
The titan leaned back, refocusing his attention on the crowd. “Bring me a hundred of your most beautiful virgins. Your new god demands sacrifices,” he ordered. At first, no one moved; then, when Marek shifted slightly, preparing to rise, several people dashed off, presumably to fulfill his command. The others quickly dropped to their knees and bowed before the giant. When Thilen marched forward, the only one moving in the crowd, Marek immediately spotted him. The huge head swung around, the giant’s eyes widening almost imperceptibly.
“You’re the last person that I would have expected to see here,” Marek said, sounding mildly amused. ”Did you come here thinking that you could stop me?”
Thilen croaked out a pathetic, “Yes.”
He expected Marek to swat him like an insect or squash him into human goo all over the street. But the colossus remained seated on his throne of ruined buildings.
“So you finally decided to grow a spine, did you? Well, I’m afraid that stopping me is out of the question,” Marek replied. “I plan on ruling this entire world, which is something that I should have done thousands of years ago, when they first freed me.”
Thilen shuddered as he realized that he was talking to the demon now, the otherworldly entity who was once again free to roam the world. And to conquer it.
“Some people are meant to rule the world. And others are merely meant to serve them,” the giant declared. “Those who refuse to serve will be dealt with accordingly. Now, tell me, Thilen, what will it be? Will you serve me or will you die?”
Thilen stared up at Marek, the man who had once been his friend and who had become the personification of cruelty unbound. All of his courage vanished beneath the giant’s silver-eyed gaze and he was left with only his fear. Ever so slowly, he bent down, bowing with the rest of the city before his new ruler.