Iric stared up at the massive man. Easily seven feet tall, the man’s face was an amalgam of negative emotion. He looked angry, if not furious, and despondent at the same time, glaring up at the tree. The man’s huge hand rested on the trunk of an equally disproportionately large tree. They were a pair of giants that Iric didn’t know how to deal with.
Iric glance around looking for support. He found none. His fellow watchmen were patrolling elsewhere and the crowd was keeping a safe distance from this unpredictable bear of a man. The man had already smashed a chair; people were obviously concerned he might break something else.
“Sir, I need you to calm down.” Iric said, an obvious hand resting on the hilt of his sword. “You are making the people here uneasy.”
“Calm?” the man growled. Iric’s hand tightened on his sword reflexively. “How can I be calm?”
The man spun around to face Iric, towering over the young man. Iric stood his ground nervously, the big man’s shadow eclipsing him. With only five weeks of experience in the Watch, Iric was no prepared to deal with a situation like this. He certainly wouldn’t win in a fight. He had considered running to get help from his fellow watchmen, but the stability of the scene had deteriorated fast. The man looked ready to take out his anger on the surrounding people. Iric couldn’t let that happen; it was, in fact, his job to prevent it.
“How about you tell me what’s troubling you.” Iric said gently.
“Oh, you really want to know?” the man asked cynically. “Don’t try to act concerned. Nobody cares about a brute like me.”
“I’m paid to care,” Iric said.
From the corner of his field of view Iric saw a shadow moving in the high branches of the tree. The man looked up, a sense of severe concern painted on his pace. Iric tried to see where the man’s attention was focused. Then he heard the leaves squeak.
“Cheese! My little boy. Daddy’s coming!” the man looked close to desperate tears.
“Is that a mouse up there?” Iric asked.
“Yes. That’s my Cheese. He got spooked and ran up the tree. Now I cannot get him to come down.”
“That’s why you’re so upset?” Iric asked, letting out a sigh of relief.
“The way you ask… it’s not so strange,” the man said with a frown.
“I guess not. But mice are not common pets around here. I would have had you pegged as a dog man.”
“Your expectations betray your prejudices… just like the rest of them,” the man said pointing to the onlookers. “And Cheese is not a mouse, he’s a rat. Not that it matters.”
“I apologize. I meant no disrespect.”
“No one means it… But they do it anyways.”
“How can I help?” Iric asked sincerely.
“Really, you want to help?” the big man asked, his expression beginning to balance. “No one else offered to help.”
“I have an idea,” Iric said. “How about you bend down for a moment.”
The giant man dropped to his knees and leaned forward. Iric climbed on the man’s back. It was like mounting an elephant. With a gesture, he got the man to rise to his feet, extending his massive body upards. The man’s large hands gripped Iric’s ankles tight. Iric felt himself rising in the air, the huge tree becoming smaller as he approached it. The man was able to lift Iric high enough for him to grab hold of a large, swaying branch. Iric dragged himself into the tree.
“Here Cheese… tik, tik,” Iric called out. “Come here buddy.”
Iric saw the white rat waiting nervously a few feet away on the far edge of another branch. He shuffled over, hoping the branch he was on would hold his weight. He cursed himself for not taking off his armor and sword before starting this stunt. He took a couple more knee steps forward, the branch cracked in response.
“Be careful,” the big man bellowed from bellow. “Don’t drop my Cheese.”
Iric was only about a foot from being able to reach the animal. He wasn’t sure how it was going to react to his grasp. Its red eyes started at him; it seemed unsure of him. Fortunately for Iric, the rat was as far out on its branch as it could go. Hopefully it doesn’t jump, he thought. He was worried the heavy branch bearing his weight was not going to bear him much longer. He had to make a move.
Lunging forward, Iric reached out with his right arm. He felt the soft warmth of scurrying flesh and clamped his fingers down. Sharp pain singed the fleshy part between his thumb and finger, which made him yelp in pain and draw his hand back. The sudden burst of movement shook the branch violently and it gave out one finally, explosive crack. Iric felt himself starting to fall through the air. He pulled the furball tight to his chest and braced for the hard impact of the cobblestone below.
Instead of slamming into the stone, he felt himself caught up in massive arms, which gently dropped him to the ground. Iric handed the wild rat to the man now standing over him. Then he laid flat on the cold ground and cradled his aching hand.
“Oh, my little Cheese, my little boy,” the man said joyously, raising the animal to the air in both massive hands. “You’re safe now!”
The giant looked down at Iric with a vast smile across his face.
“Thank you, sir. Thank you so very much,” the man said. “I’m sorry he bit you. But you can understand his fear.”
The man lowered a hand to Iric in a gesture of friendly aid.
“I think I’ll stay down here for a while, thanks,” Iric said.
“What’s your name, watchman?” the man asked.
“Iric. My name is Iric.”
“I’m Alvdi. I will remember you, little Iric.”
Of course the man was named after a mythical giant, Iric thought. He didn’t like being called little, but in this case is seemed appropriate. The large man carried his treasure away, the crowd parting for him as he passed. Iric decided he would stay on the ground for a bit longer.