The sorcerer had not been this far down the coast in centuries. Not because the roads were not safe this far from the Capitol: no highwayman would attempt to waylay one such as he.
The towns hereabouts had not seen a magician of quality in years, in fact, and he was making a quite a tidy sum as he progressed from place to place renewing blessings or curses, curing mystical ailments, investigating local mysteries. Grateful town fathers gave him many a gold coin to drop into his impossibly capacious bags. The townspeople generally avoided making eye contact, and gave him a wide berth.
When he reached the gates of the village he had known as Ang Bo, he was not surprised to find it a town of almost a thousand calling itself Angaborough City.
He was, however, somewhat surprised to see the great statue of the giant standing astride the fountain in the center of town. The towering creature was posed in an stance of action — one foot in front of the other, hands raised with clenched fists — as of course it would be. It was thankfully intact, no missing pieces. The sorcerer surveyed it for a moment, remembering, and then laughed aloud.
The townspeople, overcoming their natural caution, stared. He exclaimed to them, “What a fine and mighty giant you have there!” They managed to regain their sense, and scurried off to hide behind heavy doors.
Now alone, the sorcerer found a perch on a low stone wall at the edge of the square. He retrieved a small bottle of clear water from his bag and threw it to shatter against the statue. While the water ran and dripped from the stone, he spoke a few quiet words.
When nothing happened, he reached into the bag and found a book, which he opened and read intently for a few moments. When he found the passage he had misremembered, he checked to make sure there was still water on the statue before speaking the words again, changing several inflections.
When the giant moved, it was only slowly, as if he did not really believe movement was possible. First his massive stone fists unclenched, and the bulging arms dropped to his sides. After a moment, he turned away from the city center to look out across the top of the city wall to the mountains beyond.
“Are you in any pain? Stiff at all?” The sorcerer asked conversationally.
The giant turned back and regarded him blankly.
“Hungry? Thirsty? You have the fountain there, of course. If you’re hungry, I’m sure an ox or two can be found…”
“I know you, wizard,” The giant said, a rumbling avalanche of a voice.
“Of course. I wasn’t sure you’d recognize me after all this time. Of course, I look somewhat different. My hair and beard are white now.”
“Your voice is the same. How long?”
“Oh,” the sorcerer shrugged, “four hundred years, give or take. Had I known I would have come sooner, but—”
“Had you known?”
“The spell is supposed to wear off. In hours, normally. Days, perhaps. Because you are so large I put more power into it. But it should have worn off in time.”
“It did not.”
“So I gather. I apologize.”
The giant stared at him. After a moment, he turned again to look at the mountains in the distance. “I often wondered if the mountains still stood. Everything else is changed.”
“I would imagine so. Did you come from there?”
“Yes.” The giant knelt down, drinking noisily from the fountain. After he was done, he sat heavily on the brick between the fountain and the surrounding grass. “My people are from the mountains. I came down into the valley to find my fortune.”
“I did not think giants cared much for fortunes—”
“By ‘fortune’ I mean luck.”
“You are also quite a bit more well-spoken than most giants I have met.”
“For a time I had nothing to do but watch and listen. One learns the niceties of conversation when tens of thousands take place at your feet.”
“I don’t doubt it. How did you find your luck?”
“Not terrible, at first. I am large and strong, and there always is need for strength. When the Vedek army came through, I joined their progress. They could feed me, and I felt useful. When we attacked the village, I was to batter down the gate. Of men with swords or bows I had no fear, and of wizardry I was alas ignorant. I charged towards the gatehouse with joy in my heart, only to hear your voice and become immobile.”
“Forgive me.” The sorcerer said it not out of fear, but of regret.
“It is of no matter; war is war. Now that you have released me, I feel only relief.”
“What was it like?”
The giant was silent for a moment, as if travelling on a long journey back through time in his mind. “At first I did not understand what was happening. It was as if time had frozen for me while the battle raged without me. The Vedek were slaughtered. I could see the orange light from the burning siege engines falling on the walls, the black smoke drifting past me on the breeze. When darkness fell, the people of the village — Ang Bo — came out and finished off the wounded, began robbing the dead. Wizard, what did they pay you?”
“Not much. They didn’t have much.”
The giant chuckled. “Whatever it was, it was money well spent. You are a very effective defense.”
“Not much call for that sort of thing these days. Just petty robbers on the roads, the occasional tax revolt. But I never had much use for the Vedek; they were always attacking their neighbors, so warlike. These days they’re mostly fishermen. And after that?”
“I was alone, standing in the field beside the road. The children would come out and throw stones at me. Trees began to grow around me, and after some years I could no longer see the walls or the gatehouse. I could hear wagons on the road. From time to time I could tell that there was fighting. At least once part of the town burned, but I could not tell how much or how little was left.”
“Sounds about right.” The sorcerer observed. The old town — within the old wall — was only partly the town he remembered, ancient buildings in the pre-unification style. The rest were relatively new, two hundred years or less.
“Then, men came and began cutting down the trees. They had grown huge, towering over even my head by then. I saw buildings outside the wall. No doubt they needed the wood for more. One great tree knocked me down as it fell. I ended up with my face in the mud, one leg up in the air behind me.”
“Did they right you?”
The giant’s laugh boomed out; if anyone in the town had been unaware of his presence, they were now informed. “The lumberjacks? How could they? Can you imagine what I must weigh? They left me, face down, blind.”
“For how long?”
“I have no way to know. I could hear things, sounds, but I did not know what they were. Eventually the soil must have built up and covered my ears, for I could no longer hear. I tried to occupy my mind, telling myself stories, making up songs, but in the end I went mad.”
The giant got up and once again stared out at the mountains. “Do you think they have grown taller? It seems to me they are slightly taller than they were.”
“I have no idea. Do mountains grow?”
“Of course. Sometimes they grow, and sometimes they crumble or wear away. Sometimes they blow themselves apart and kill everything for leagues around. You did not know that?”
“No, not at all. I knew about volcanoes, but not about the other.”
“Every giant knows this. The Earth is never still.”
The sorcerer was aware that there were townspeople gathering, in doorways and around corners, peeking at the pair of them and listening. “How did you come to be in the town square?”
The giant sat, closer to the sorcerer this time. “Suddenly I could hear and see again. There were men dressed in an unfamiliar style, and there were buildings — houses — all around, except for the spot where I had lain half-buried. They had rigged ropes and pulleys and were lifting me onto an enormous cart made from hard wood, with wheels as tall as themselves. I was on my back for the first time, and could see the sky. A day and a night went by while they were moving me. I watched the moon pass overhead. I could hear horses and oxen doing the pulling, but I think the men helped too: there were many voices. Here in the square there were more ropes and pulleys, and they raised me over the fountain, facing the main avenue there. That was two hundred years ago. Oh, here comes the militia.”
The sorcerer craned his neck around. A double column of armored men carrying pikes was marching up from the barracks at the bottom of the hill. “Yes. Don’t worry; I’m sure they’re just a little concerned about their statue having become a living stone giant.”
The giant laughed, “I worry not; they are good people, and I have enjoyed their hospitality. Once I was in place, they held a ceremony, declaring me their symbolic protector. A street festival followed; I think a rich town father paid for it all. Now, they throw me coins for luck. Brides wade into the fountain and kiss my kneecaps so that they will be blessed with healthy children. Those children play and splash at my feet; when they grow old they sit together at the fountain’s edge and reminisce about their youths. I watch and I listen.”
“What will you do now? They will want to know—”
“I have no idea. What use is a stone giant to the world today?”
“You could help keep the bandits off the road. And, they are still building out, part of the town is on the other side of the river, even. You could carry materials.”
The militia had deployed themselves in a ring a respectful distance away from, but surrounding, the fountain and the giant and the sorcerer. Through it, with cautious authority, stepped the old bearded Mayor.
“Ah, Roglish,” the giant said. “You are looking well. Not much time to visit the fountain these days, I would imagine. How are your children’s children? Martine must be ten now.”
The old man was wide-eyed, and took a moment to recover from the surprise before addressing the sorcerer. “Great Wizard, I welcome you to Angaborough City, and I ask humbly: why have you given this, our statue, life? Have we angered you?”
“No, Mayor… Roglish? The giant was never a statue, but rather a giant frozen in place by me long ago during a battle. But we are enemies no more, as you can see. Nor is he an enemy to the town.”
“Not at all,” offered the giant. “I would like find work here, if it is possible. And of course, I can help protect the town.”
“Indeed you can.” Roglish bowed deeply. “I am delighted to hear it.”
“Perhaps we could arrange for a cow or several pigs to be slain and cooked for our friend?” The sorcerer suggested.
“They need not be cooked. Though, I would not mind if they were.”
“It will be arranged. How shall we address you, oh, giant?” Roglish asked.
“My parents were simple and did not bother to name me. When I came down into the valley I called myself Okur, but it no longer seems like a name for me.” He shrugged, stone shoulders rumbling. “I think I will have to find a new one.”