by Alex Arki
Maira, a barbarian giantess, finds a small child in the middle of a horrific battlefield.
| Maira gazed out at the battlefield with a distant visage. Everything in sight was a painful reminder of how bloody the battle earlier that day was. Bodies of all races lay still in the snow, half buried by the blizzard that blew around the endless wasteland. This bleak scene used to be a tiny village at the edge of the forest. It was small, peaceful, and welcoming. It had an inn, a stable, small farms, a blacksmith, and a market. Now it lay in ruins. Those that survived had long fled, except Maira.
She was a healer of a tribe of Baake people from the North, who wasn't affected by the cold as much as many types of giants. She had remained to see to the injured. At a staggering eleven and a half foot height, she easily strode through the deep snow to look for survivors. Her strong, muscular arms made little of any rubble she encountered. Her sinewy hands pawed at the snow and ice to try and unearth potential survivors. However, she had found none and was beginning to lose hope.
Blood splattered endlessly across the snow like dark ink stains on blank paper. The scent of burning wood and flesh lingered in the air and flew with the breeze, making her cough and wrinkle her sensitive nose. It was horrible! She could hardly bear the sight of the innocent victims of the village that laid still in the cold. But if she did not care for them and give proper burial, who would? She began by digging up pieces of burnt buildings, looking for the bodies that lay beneath the charred remains of the village buildings. She made little of the rubble, thanks to her great strength. She quickly overturned every stone and plank, but to no avail. Everyone she found was dead. Feeling a bit sick, she wandered aimlessly away and sat on what was once the village's well to rest. Now it was just a pile of stones. All this chaos and destruction brought on by the Orcs was making her feel very unwell. Being a healer and daughter of a druid, she drew energy from growth and life. Everything from the buildings, to the landscape, to the people were all dead and decaying. She watched as a group of elven women began to bury the bodies, sighing to herself. Even with there being others nearby, everything was silent and lifeless except for the howling wind. Maira was about to go and help the elves when a curious sound caught her attention.
Maira raised her grizzled head a little and turned towards the sound. It was muffled and faint, but it was definitly the cry of a child. A child! A child was alive?? The giantess shot to her feet and followed the sound until it brought her to a small hut. It laid crumpled like a little dead bird. She ripped aside the wood and rock and clay until she found the body of a woman, her back completely burned through to the bone, curled up on the ground. The sight of the charred flesh and bone made Maira's stomach churn, but she had to get to the child. Carefully, she turned the body over by her side and saw in the corpse's arms, a small baby, wrapped in nothing but a dirty cloth to keep warm. The giantess immediately dropped to her knees and knelt over the infant. This child was a newborn, still completely helpless to everything. Maira gently lifted the crying newborn into her great brawny hands and cradled her in one arm.
"Oh you poor thing... You're so cold!" she cooed, grasping her bearskin cloak and pulling it around so she could wrap the baby in it's warmth. Maira sheltered it from the icy wind with her massive being and looked back to the forest. Her colleagues were camped out a mile away. She could care for the child there, where there was shelter and food. Quickly, knowing the child's life was at stake, Maira headed off to the camp. The elven women had been watching her from a distance and understood they urgency of the situation. Rather than making Maira stay, they left her to care for the child at the giantess's camp.
The baby still cried. Although it was now much warmer near the large woman's body, it was afraid of what was happening. Maira cradled the baby close and talked to it in a soft, gentle voice, hoping to calm it down.
"It's alright now. I'll take care of you..." Maira murmured softly, cradling the child to her breast. The wind whipped her exposed skin, trying to viciously get at the child, but the giantess covered every part of the infant's body with her huge hands and bearskin cape. She trudged through the storm as quickly as she could, but she knew that it was getting worse. She had to reach camp before they both froze. The giantess pressed on, picking up in speed as the snow got heavier. She brought the child to her face and pressed her nose and lips to it's little body. She whispered soft and comforting words under her breath, releasing whisps of heat from her lips. The child still cried, but not as badly as before. She was warming up, and Maira was determined to get her to the camp. Fifteen minutes after battling head-on with the blizzard, she saw the shadow of the tent. She and her two other companions had survived the onslaught and decided to rest on a hill, just before the treeline of Razorback Forest.
"We're almost there, little one." she told the child as she hurriedly made her way up the hill where the tent was and where her friends shivered in their own blankets.
Luc looked up quickly as he heard the soft thudding of Maira's footsteps. The little Imp quickly stuffed a stolen scone into his mouth before slinking back to the fire. He sat there shivering, trying to warm up. His companion, Ezekiel, didn't mind the cold since he was already dead. He sat reading a spell book, looking over enchantments and such to occupy him. Maira entered the tent, bending over low to avoid hitting the ceiling and damaging the tent. A strong gust of chilly wind followed her before she sealed the entrance shut again.
"I thought you were going to help bury those bodies." Ezekiel said monotonously without looking up from his book. "Or was the cold too much for you?" The giantess knelt down on the ground and glanced over at him with mild irritation.
"I went to help heal those people, but all that was left was this..." She drew back her fur cape to reveal the newborn, who was still whimpering and whining, but no longer crying.
"A child survived?" Ezekiel marveled, his black and orange, ember-like eyes growing wide.
"Lemme see!" Luc then jumped from the fire and dashed over to see the little bundle. His large, pointed ears perked forward with immense curiosity.
"Be careful..." Maira warned. She knew of Luc's recklessness, and part of her was cautious with him being around such a small child. The baby didn't seem to notice the imp, though.
"Why is she wrapped in a dirty cloth?" Luc asked.
"I found her in it. Why don't you find her a new blanket?" Along with his reckless behavior, Luc also possessed a childlike eagerness to please. Upon hearing Maira ask for blankets, he scuttled off and returned with a blanket that had been warming up near the fire. The giantess thanked her friend and removed the old, dirty cloth from the infant's body and proceeded to wrap it snugly in the new, warm fabric.
"She's a baby girl." Maira said with a tender smile, watching the infant. The baby wriggled in surprise and babbled in facination. This blanket had an odd new scent that made her uneasy and a bit fussy. "There you go, little one. Is that better?" Maira brushed a leathery finger gently across the baby's soft velvet cheek. This friendly gesture put the child back at ease.
At this point, Ezekiel stepped up, wanting a better look at the tiny creature. Vampires rarely saw babies, since they were undead and incapable of natural reproduction. All they had to do was drink some poor mortal's blood. He looked at the baby with deep interest. He knew that the blood of an infant was a delicacy amongst the undead and fought the urge to do anything rash. He smiled a fanged grin at the child and reached out to touch her hand. His cold, boney fingers held the tiny, warm appendage gently and chuckled.
"She's a pretty little lady..." He pushed a strand of his long, wispy white hair behind his ear and watched the baby flinch at the coldness of his hands. Maira kept a close eye on the vampire, just in case. She knew that he was susceptible to his natural insticts.
Meanwhile, Luc was busy touching her hair and peeking in at her through the blanket. The child babbled and made tiny gurgling noises at all the attention she was getting.
"She's so tiny!" Luc smiled.
"All babies are tiny." Ezekiel snapped.
"She'll be needing a name." Maira said more to herself than her friends. Luc agreed readily.
"I think it should start with an L." Luc said with a big smile.
"Why is that?" Ezekiel grumbled impatiently. Luc shrugged.
"I dunno. I just like the letter L. How about Leera?" the imp asked with a sappy grin.
"Leera sounds like a lovely name." Maira nodded. The imp perked his ears up proudly.
"I'm guessing this means you plan on keeping it?" Ezekiel inquired. The giantess nodded.
"Can I help take care 'a her? PLease please please?" Luc begged, his pupil-less eyes growing large. Maira smiled and nodded, laying down on the blanket-covered floor with the baby in her arms.
"Sure!" She thought that sounded like a good idea. She knew babies were hard to take care of and to have his help would be wonderful. Luc sat cross legged on the floor and brought the corner of his white and blue cloak up to his boyish and proceeded to play peek-a-boo with Leera.
Ezekiel watched this for a few moments before returning to his book. Yes, it was cute. But the vampire wasn't too big a fan of such things as babysitting. Meanwhile, Leera was smiling brightly as the funny looking man with big ears who hid behind the blue cloth. Luc absolutely loved seeing the little baby's tiny smile. She didn't even have her teeth yet! Maira sighed a large breath of air and rested on her side, still watching the baby. She was exhausted from battling all those Orcs and needed to rest. She was so tired, that she eventually fell into a deep sleep with her armor on. Her strong, broad form rose like a large lump amongst the piles of blankets and pillows that made up her bed.
Luc then took it upon himself to look over the child while his friend rested. He gingerly scooped Leera up into his arms and continued to coo over her. The baby seemed to be calm with him holding her, but eventually she became fussy and hungry. Ezekiel was getting a little irritated with the whimpering nosies and glanced over at his roomate scornfully.
"Do you mind doing something about that awful noise she's making? I am trying to read."
"Oh hush. You've been dead for the past thousand years and it's about time you livened up." Luc huffed, rolling is big white eyes. Leera had now lost interest in Luc's little game and was focused on Luc's blue and white cloak. She grabbed up the fabric in her tiny fists and was busily teething on it. Luc giggled and tried to tug the fabric away.
"Hey, now! Baby humans don't eat cloth, silly. They eat...uh...Ezekiel? What do baby humans eat?" he asked his friend.
The vampire looked up from his book, but not at the imp.
"How should I know? I'm a vampire, not a nanny." he hissed.
Luc then looked to Maira. She was sound asleep merely a few feet away. Maybe she would know...
"Maira," Luc asked, placing a hand on her brawny, tattooed arm and shaking it a little. She opened one big green eye. "What do babies eat?" The giantess yawned and rolled over to her back, stretching a bit before replying.
"I believe they drink milk." she muttered, still half asleep.
"Do we have any milk?" Luc asked them. Leera was starting to wriggle and flail about in his arms, whimpering in hunger. If she didn't eat soon, she was really going to start crying again.
"Don't look at me..." Ezekiel remarked when Luc turned his way. Luc thought for a moment before remembering something. The village's farmer had released his herd of cattle before he was killed. They were bound to be nearby! Luc grinned and placed Leera by Maira as he rose to his feet.
"I'll be back soon." he told the others while suiting up for the frigid conditions. Maira grunted and retracted Leera closer to her, still asleep.
"You idiot, what do you think you're doing now?" the elder vampire inquired.
"I'm going to find one of those cows. A farmer by that village released a couple before the raid"
"You can't just go walking around in a blizzard. You'll freeze to death." Ezekiel pointed out.
"We what other choice do we have. She'll starve!" The Imp pointed to the baby, who was still whimpering and sniffling.
Ezekiel merely scoffed and grumbled.
"You're a damn fool, Luc." The vampire then turned away." One less mouth to feed is always a positive thing." Luc narrowed his eyes and flattened his ears.
"At least I have a heart, you dead bastard." he snapped as he pulled up his hood and pulled his baklava up over his mouth and nose so that only his eyes remained exposed to the bitter cold. Ezekiel frowned and watched as the imp left the tent, releasing a burst of freezing air. The giantess shifted at the chill, bringing the vampire's attention to the baby. He gazed down at her with those black and orange eyes greedily, remembering how precious an infants blood was. She was so helpless there, with no way to defend herself. Maira was fast asleep. It would be so easy to just pick Fiona up and gently sink his fangs into that soft little neck...
Ezekiel slowly and gracefully strode towards the sleeping giantess. He was as quiet as death and was longing for the sweet taste of infant blood. He knelt down close, minding his distance. Maira could mash him into a pulp with no effort because of her brute strength. Female giants were protective of offspring, even if it wasn't theirs. It made getting this little snack a much harder task.
The vampire waited for a few moments, keeping himself restrained. He didn't want to risk the giantess waking up and realizing his motives. She was still.
Leera continued to whimper and wiggle her arms around to show her hunger. In Ezekiel's mind, this was the proper way to go. The baby would starve anyway, and there was no sense in wasting a meal--er, life. Besides, she was so young that the blood loss would not turn her to a creature of the night, but a quick, painless death.
Just as he was leaning over to sink his teeth into the child's neck, Maira's big, emerald green eyes flashed open.
"Don't even think about it." she growled, pulling the infant close to her huge form. Ezekiel hissed in agitation and scuttled back to his nook. When you have biceps the size of what your guarding, there's just no argument.
Ezekiel shrunk away while Maira watched him with hardened gaze plastered on her frightening, tattooed face. The vampire muttered inaudible words to himself before picking up his book to read once again. Still, the giantess kept the child closer to her, and even rolled over onto her other side just in case.
Luc trudged through the snow, fighting hard against the bitter cold. He scanned as far as he could for any sign of the cows.
Luc marched through the wind and snow, keeping an eye open for any cows. He was about to go up a hill when he stopped the silhouette of one. He grinned and took out a rope.
"Come on, Bessie. Let's get you back to camp, now." he said as he neared the dairy cow. The bovine let out a pitiful moo as the Imp approached, but made no escape. Luc easily wrapped the rope around her neck, but when he tried to lead her back, she wouldn't budge. He pulled and tugged and even attempted to push her, but her hooves appeared frozen in the icy snow. The Imp grumbled and took out his knife to try and help free her.
After picking at the ice for a while, he finally freed the cow and led it back to camp through the icy storm. Upon arriving, he tied it up to a tree and went to fetch a bucket. Inside, Maira was sleeping soundly with the infant tucked in her mighty arms.
Luc entered the tent a while later with a pail of fresh, warm milk. He gingerly tip-toed past the sleeping Plainswalker and placed the bucket down next to the glowing fire. Then, he turned to see Maira snoring quietly with the child nestled amongst those mighty arms. He gave a smile from behind his baklava. They were both so tired and cold. Luc approached, kneeling before his friend. His blue-tinted hand tapped on Maira's tanned, leathery one.
"Hey," he said in a quiet voice. Maira's brilliant green eyes fluttered open and a sleepy expression was evident on her square face. "I got food for Leera." Maira smiled gently and scooped up the child, sitting up.
"It's about time, too. It's almost dark out!" shouted Ezekiel. Maira rolled her eyes and told the vampire to hush as she took a small, hollow goat horn to use as a cup to feed Leera. She dipped it into the pail of warm milk and offered it to the child. Leera eagerly drank it, making little baby noises. Maira continued this until Leera was done, then she finished off the bucket.
Feeling satisfied and sleepy, Leera snuggled up to Maira's body, seeking warmth. The Baake smiled gently in response and laid on her side. She tucked Leera into her bearskin cloak like a mother would put her own baby to sleep. Her strong maternal instincts told her to keep the child. Take care of her, protect her, and raise her like a daughter.
"You're gonna keep her?" Luc asked, scurrying over and sitting beside his large companion. She looked to the Imp and nodded.
"Yes. I can't just give her away. I was meant to find her."
"For what?" Ezekiel strode up to his comrades, raising a white eyebrow.
"I don't know, but one thing's for certain. Having her with us will change everything."