Story for the Day: Rannig, the friendly Frewyn giant
The Legendary Rannig was Brother Ciran's teacher, but before that he was a slave in Sesterna, taken from his family when he was only nine and set to work in the fields of the north. He escaped his servitude when he was put to work at the docks and was offered a ride home by Danaco, who promised to return him to his native Frewyn if he would be his boatswain for the space of a few months. Rannig fled Sesterna never to return, and became known as Danaco's right hand, galley cook, first mate, and all around excellent tea sandwich-maker. He returned to Frewyn later in life and was reunited with his family, to settle down and become a High Brother at Westren's TussNaTuillin church.
Damson watched with horror as the giant moved beyond him, his colossal arms hanging heavy at his sides, his well-muscled legs bent in a half crouch, his broad shoulders stooped as his bowed head brazed the ceiling. He thought to move back from the passing mountain, until the giant turned toward him and granted him a momentary view of his face: he was rather boyish in feature, his light green eyes numinous with innocent curiosity, his complexion pale, his cheeks round and blushing, his nose fanticled and freckled, with one side of his mouth curled in a smile, his copper hair disheveled, his shirt rumpled, his impressive chest peeking out from his ripped collar. Here was no giant, no creature of legend, no horror of nature—here was a young man who had been subjected to a life of hard labour, judging by the roughness of his hands, the influence of his unassailable limbs,and the metal ring garnishing his neck; whose virtue was recommended by his jovial voice, his easy manner, and the book of fairy tales tucked between his fingers.
“Put it there, Rannig, if you’re finished with it,” said the old man, pointing to a pile of books beside him.
The book was placed at the top of the stack, and the giant began perusing the lot. “May I take this one?” said he, plucking a book from one of the circrumjascent stacks.
“’Might’, dear boy. ‘Might you take that one’, you mean to say. And yes, you may.”
“Might I take that one…” the giant muttered to himself, unclear what the difference was between the two phrases, but willing to believe that Bartleby was right. “Might I take that one…”
“Yes, dear boy, I said you may. No need to ask again. Only do not drink over it. Your sooming offends my ears and you might spruge the paper. And do not eat while reading it either. I will have no crumbs in the creases, and you do tend to climp the pages.”
“I’ll be careful,” the giant promised.
“Let me see those hands before you begin reading it. You were touching the knight, and he was bleeding when you brought him down here and might still be bleeding now. I want to make sure you won’t bemire my volume. That is a first edition of the Adiethian Tales, and if you make smudges on it, I shall contrive to have the captain throttle you in your sleep. Let me see.”
The old man made a thorough scrutiny of the giant’s hands, but as the giant observed, “Ye leave more marks on the pages than I do, Bartleby. Ye’re always lickin’ your fingers and wettin’ the page corners and all.”
The old man gave him a fierce look. “Do you want to rent my books?”
“Then you will keep your unasked for commentary to yourself.” The old man hemmed and peered over his spectacles. “What right have you to remark on what I do with my own books? They are my books, as I say, and I may do what I like with them. And a smattering of spittle to lubucricate the hand and facilitate reading is hardly at all like climping the pages with grease. Hardly the same thing at all.”
The old man flouted, and the giant shared a furtive smile with the supine knight.
“You need not look so self-satisfied,” the old man humphed. “Complacency does not become you, dear boy.Neither does dolluming old books. There,” pushing the giant’s hands away, “you may go away and read your book.” The giant turned to go, and the old man called after him, “And it comes back exactly in the same condition as it left. Exactly. Do you understand me? We will have no more folded corners like we did with the Marridon Melee debacle, hmm?” but the giant was already clointering away, back to his darkened corner, and was not obliged to hear.
The giant returned to his corner and sat down, positioning himself in such a way to catch the amber light from the sunset behind him, leaving his subrisive features obscured and his page alighted. He remarked the knight, who was remarking him in turn, and said, “Glad to see ye’re awake and alive,” and without waiting for a reply, opened the book of fables he had taken from the old man’s stores.
How fascinating a creature was this, Damson conceived whilst marveling at the giant, who smiled to himself, who read his book of fables, who was in possession of the most innocent features and sparkling eyes, who had borne his weight, who had braced and wrapped him round, who granted him good tidings as to his health, and who asked for nothing in return, not a look, not a nod, not a word of thanks or recognition. Damson stared at the beast, and the tremendous creature only looked at his book and was pleased to be left to himself.
He had not got to page two of the volume, however, when the old man began with, “My dear boy, it is far too dark for you to be reading like that.You will blind yourself. Where is your lantern? In the name of luminescence, light it, boy. What are you waiting for? Have you no candle?”
The giant shook his head, though no one could see him do it, his immense form shrouded by the thick delitescence of the hull. “I finished my candle last night. I have a few rushlights, but I’m savin’ ‘em for when I need ‘em. I can see with the light behind me—“
“My dear boy, this absolutely will not do. You cannot read a book by starlight. Gloaming is nearly gone. How are you to see anything? This will not do, not do at all. You cannot absorb the words and regale in their construction while your eyes are straining away. You will achieve nothing accept a headache.Take my candle, and I will light another one. Here,” holding the candle out to him.
With a heavy sigh, the giant took the candle and placed it atop a cask beside him. “Thank ye, Bartleby,” he murmured.
“The light will not attract the gnats, dear boy, as I know you are fearful of.”
“I’m not afraid of ‘em. I just don’t like ‘em ‘cause they bite. I don’t like the Sesternese bogfly. I know they don’t bite, but they’re big, and they have long legs,” and the more the giant was compelled to consider how many insects were likely to be attracted by the light, the more he shied away from it and pressed himself against the corner of the room, guarding his back from any clandestine siege the gnats and midges may lay.
“But you like dragonflies, do not you?” said the old man, spying the giant from over his spectacles.
“Aye, and dameflies, but they don’t come out at night.” Rannig slunk further into his corner. “Only things that I don’t like come out at night.”
“You like moths.”
The giant gave a sideways glance. “They’re like butterflies.”
“And yet butterflies are insects.”
This might have been true, but Rannig would not acknowledge that a butterfly could be related to the bogfly. He had difficulty enough not cowering from the shadfly that had accidentally made its way from the deck and was now hovering around his candle. It a blaze of speed, the fly flew into the flame and fell to the top of the casks in cinders. He felt a pang of regret as he watched a severed leg twitch; that it should have been attracted to the dancing furole of light as the sky’s brightest object delve into the sea to sloom for the remainder of the evening made him sorry beyond what his apprehension of most insects would otherwise suggest.”I don’t want ‘em to die,” he said quietly to himself, his aspect rapt in grief, “I just don’t want ‘em flyin’ around me an’ bitin’ me.”
“But they are a one-hundreth of your size, sir,” said Damson, sitting farther up now that he was able.”There must be a reason that someone as large as yourself fears what is so small, sir.”
“I’m not afraid of ‘em,” the giant insisted. “I just don’t like most of ‘em—well, most of ‘em don’t like me.” He would rather not have told the whole, but the old man began fleering and mumbling to himself about how ridiculous it was for someone so large to be apprehensive of something so small, and he was forced to explain his situation, to quiet the old man and to satisfy Damson’s curiosity. “I spent a lot of time in the bog,” turning aside, his gaze distant, “cuttin’ out turf and dryin’ peat. All the gnats and midges were all over me, and I didn’t mind it so much, so long as they didn’t fly in my ears or my face. Once a few of ‘em accidentally got caught in my mouth, and then a whole cloud of ‘em were after me. They bit me all up,and I didn’t stop itchin’ till the followin’ winter. Then the wasps in the summer, and the beetles in the spring, and the flyin’ ants in the autumn. I stepped on an ant hill while I was workin’ once, and all the ants crawled up my ankle and bit me all the way through. And then there was hornet’s nest that fell on me when I was coppicin’ wood, and all the centipedes that ran across the floor of my room. And then there was the spider I found what crawled into my ear whilst I was nappin’. And then there was the mantis I saw eatin’ its mate’s head. That gave me nightmares for a week. And then there was the millipede what crawled into my shirt when I was liftin’ the consignments from the pier. And then,” feeling his throat begin to tighten and his palms begin to sweat, “there was the Lucentian tree cricket that flew into my forehead. I heard ‘em all summer, chirrin’ in the trees, and I saw their husks all over the trunks and the ground. I tried not to step on ‘em, ‘cause I was afraid one of ‘em had a live on still inside, and I didn’t want to get their insides on my toes. I did that once, stepped on one, but that’s ‘cause I had to shake it off me. It landed on me when I was sleepin’ in the field and tried to feed on me like how they do on the trees. It stabbed my arm and I shook it to the ground. It fell hard and started chirrin’ at me. It stared at me with those beady red eyes and it’s mouth was movin’ like it wanted to bite me.” Rannig’s eyes grew wide, and he stared at the fall wall in terror, his enormous arms holding his knees to his chest. “It’s wings twitched, and it flew up at me, but I stepped on it before it could bite me. I smashed it with my foot a few times to make sure it wouldn’t fly at me again. It’s body got stuck to my foot, and its eyes were squished betweed my toes.” A gelid sensation crawled up his spine, and he shuddered, his skin horpilating, his massive muscles contracting and tensing.”I don’t like tree crickets,” he murmured, hiding his face behind his knees.”They don’t bite usually, but since I’m so big, they think I’m a tree. They like landing on my back whilst I’m workin’, and if I don’t shake ‘em off when they land, they try to feed off me. And then there was the whip scorpion what crawled in my boot. I don’t know how it got there considerin’ those are only found in the Sahadin, but it sure liked pinching me.”