"The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu" Prologue

In honour of the book's release this week, here is an excerpt from the prologue. Enjoy!

                At the far end of the garrison, the captain found a peculiar creature lurking beside one of the weapons shipments. He seemed in quest of something: he was prying open crates, hunting through the various boxes and rifling their contents; his gaze intent, his motions swift and unrelenting, moving from crate to crate without interruption despite her intrusion. She spied him with circumspection, having little idea what it was, but when she neared and observed him better, she perceived that he was one of the mysterious giant from the various settlements near and around Lucentia. No one in Frewyn had ever seen one of the reticent and fabled creatures, but his violet and black eyes, mauve-grey skin, grey-white hair and brows, immense stature, and powerful build recommended the giant’s origin. The rings and shells adoring his molded locks, the foreign symbol inked into his forearm, his embroidered kilt, the heap of various pelts adorning his back and shoulders warranted an appealing and distinguishing air. Though his expression was stern and concentrating, his features made him almost handsome: his wide maw, high cheekbones, and proud nose balanced his reproachful countenance. His body was work of exertion: his muscles were large and well-formed, his arms and back were gifted with overpowering might, his skin was scarred and bore the semblance of stone, and his hands were thick and calloused.  Here was a creature of worthy of veneration, and the captain found a consolation in seeing the giant at such a time. She supposed he must be of some consequence amongst his people to be so decorated, but before she could ask his abilities with a weapon, the attentive mountain turned toward her and spoke.
                “You are holding those incorrectly, woman,” the giant said, gesturing toward the blades dangling from her hands.
                The captain felt a ripple of sound resonate through her from his low and commanding voice. “I believe I’ve been taught well enough to use them effectively.”
                He appeared stunned for a moment, his form motionless and his eyes fixed on her face. After a pause, he recollected himself and humphed, returning to his search and endeavouring to ignore her.
                “Do you have some claim to the marks on your arm or are they merely for show?” she presently asked.
                Her remarks caught his consideration. He looked down at his forearm, tapered his gaze, then glared at her with growing dislike. He was growing tired of her intrusive remarks. There were things to be found and a home to return to, and here was another distraction to disturb him. He had done with distractions where his task at hand was concerned; his forbearance with this land and its people were diminishing, and now that he was close to finding what he had come for, he was eager to be gone though he knew not how he could return with honour in his current state. Though unhappy at all the events which brought him to Frewyn, he could at least remained focused in his solitude. Here was a something to ruin his isolation, and though not altogether an unpleasant something, he would rather not be deterred just now. Discovery of his effects and his family was his object, and any deviation from his task now was unadvisable. With a flourish of his trappings, his stood upright and exhibited the whole of his powerful form. He hoped to intimidate her by way of a few menacing contractions of his arms, but she seemed wholly unaffected by his display and continued to stare at him. He scoffed at her, dismissed her looks with a wave of his hand, and continued with his search. He would ignore her, but she was coming closer to him, she was peering up at him with hopeful eyes, and he must remark her though he wished to do otherwise. “Leave me, woman,” he bellowed, pointing to the door and observing her from the corner of his eye.
                “I fear a cannot do that just now. I might need your help, should you wish to give it.”
                He groaned and closed his eyes. “I will not assist you.”
                “Rather a shame you should not. I was going to offer to help you look for whatever it is you’re searching for.”
                The giant turned back and gave her a chary look. He studied her form and face: her wide shoulders, high carriage, constant half-smile all suggested her composure, but the pleading look in her dark eyes conveyed that there was much she feared regardless of her outward tranquility. He made her no answer and continued his investigation of the various crates before him.
                “I have little doubt that you should eventually find what you’re looking for, creature,” she said. “But by the time you should do so, this outpost will be overrun with Galleisians. If you help me now, I will deny ever having seen you.”
                He paused but pretended not to listen.
                “That is what you truly want, isn’t it? Anonymity? Why else would you be skulking around a barracks whilst an entire settlement is in desperate need of the assistance that one of your consequence can provide?”
                The giant said nothing. He only seemed grave and turned aside.
                The captain stood close to him, and with a more serious accent said, “The confusion of battle lends to many hallucinations.” She shrugged. “I may have seen a giant,” and then more impressively said, “or perhaps it was my imagination. The mind conjures many things when one is starving on what little rations are left.”
                Such an offer could not be disregarded. He was not supposed to be on the Southern Continent, and a denial from her could secure his secrecy of ever having been there. His superior already knew of his various blunders, but to be found in the south when he should have been elsewhere would be a devastating humiliation. He would accept her offer, but how was he to trust a foreigner and a woman too?  Although he must own himself the stranger in this instance, he had been too used to the deceit of women to grant his confidence so easily. He could not cavil at the terms of their agreement, but he could dislike placing all his faith in a woman, though he may have found her more agreeable than most. He had almost consented when all the pain of past rejection rushed on him. He would not help her; there were more important matters to attend, but in catching the beseeching look in her eye, he felt his guardedness begin to soften. “And if I use the opportunity to kill you and leave?” the giant said in a tone half-serious, half-arch.
                “I have never known warriors to be so dishonourable, but should you prove me wrong, we will all be dead anyway. Then you will only have the remorse of your refusal to comfort you.”
                The giant clenched his teeth and made a pained sigh.
                “I may not look the part as you might,” she added, “but I am a warrior just the same. There is nothing so hideous a warrior reneging a promise, wouldn’t you agree?”
                “I would,” he murmured.
                She turned over one of her swords and offered it to him.
                He gaped at the small blade with a reluctant expression. She had sworn him secrecy, but he was hesitant to follow or fight for another nation when he had been used to lead. He lifted his hand momentarily to accept, but soon dropped it again. He could escape if he wished, but the fear of his being caught in the south with witnesses was too great a concern for him to deny. He looked at her again, perceiving the determination in her features, and then looked at the hilt of the blade. His hand ached to hold it and gravitated toward it with unconscious movements. He was silent in his deliberation, but in the work of an instant, the deal was done: he silently conceded, took the weapon into his hand, and declared, “I will win this battle for you.”
                 “I daresay you shall,” she said smilingly.
                They exchanged a conscious look and rushed out of the garrison, remaining close to one another while lunging toward the rampant assault.