Chapter Three: In which I hear the story of Thurid Njärlbjörnsdöttir.
“So, my dear,” said I. “How did you come to be sitting behind this tavern making pies, when I happen to know that your people live far to the north on the great icy glacier known as The Skagarack?”
“Aren’t all glaciers icy?” she queried.
“Not at all. In the distant south there is a glacier they call Monoglyceride that is made entirely of oil.”
“If it’s oil, then why doesn’t it just flow away?”
“Oh, it does. It just flows very slowly. Not as slowly as ice, but slower than water.”
“That doesn’t sound possible,” she said.
“Many things that sound impossible, are actually possible,” said I. “For instance, there is a giant animal in the fetid, stinking jungles of Ennedi called an elephant.”
“How giant is it?”
I looked at her.
“Well, not so giant that you would call it such, being quite large yourself, but it has five legs and horns growing out of the bottom of its head.”
“That doesn’t sound possible either.” She climbed to her feet and stretched, before sitting back down. “Now I don’t know what to believe.”
“All the world knows Eaglethorpe Buxton and all the world knows that he would never lie just to make a point. But more to the point, or more to a different point, why are you here among humans instead of with your own kind?”
“You really want to hear my story?” she asked.
“If I don’t, then the title of this chapter makes no sense,” said I.
“Well, here is my tale, such as it is. My clan lives in a fortress in one of the great rifts in The Skagarack. We are just one of many clans of Frost Giants. For as long as anyone can remember, the various clans would join together and go off to war. We have always been naturally warlike. We warred mostly with the Sky People and the Cloud Giants, but then they exterminated one another, and we had to go further afield to find enemies. We went far to the west and attacked the lands of Catolan and Aerithraine, but the queen of that latter nation proved to be a match for our armies.”
“She’s a heinous bitch.”
I looked to see that Ethyl had returned from seeing to the horses.
“Did you see that the horses had oats and water?”
“Oats and water,” she said, rolling her eyes at me, “and ordered the stablemaster to give them both a good brushing.”
“I was just hearing the story of Thurid Njärlbjörnsdöttir,” said I. “You can tell it’s an important story by looking at the top of the page.”
“Whatever,” said Ethyl.
She picked up a bucket of sand near the giant oven and turned it over, using it as a stool.
“Please continue, my dear,” I told the giantess.
“Well, with no enemies to war with, our people eventually went to war with each other. My clan became embroiled in a bloody conflict with the Ice Peak Clan. During one of the battles, we captured a dozen of their warriors. Among them was the Ice Peak Jarl’s son.”
“Jarl?” I asked.
“It means king,” said Ethyl.
“I knew that, of course,” said I. “I was just going to ask you if you knew it. Thankfully you did, so we can continue the story without you having to be punished for ignorance.”
“You are a coxcomb,” said Ethyl.
“It is a term of affection,” I told Thurid Njärlbjörnsdöttir. “Now, continue with the story.”
“We captured Gorm Birggersson, the son of the Ice Peak Jarl. I was put in charge of bringing the prisoners their food.”
“I can see it already,” said I. “The two of you met each day as you brought him his meals. You talked. You found out how much you shared in common. Then you fell in love, a forbidden love, forever separated by the strife that separated your families.”
“No,” she said. “That is not what happened.”
“Then what happened?”
“I brought him his food. He told me that I was a horrible cook and that I was a fat ugly cow. Naturally, I stabbed him.”
“Naturally,” said I. “I hope he learned his lesson.”
“No,” she said. “He just died.”
“This is the best story I’ve ever heard,” said Ethyl.
“It does have its charm,” I opined, “though it will need some major revisions to be suitable for the taprooms and alehouses of Lyrria. I am thinking something along the lines that he fell in love with her so terribly that he committed suicide. People like when someone kills himself over love. Drunk people especially like it.”
“But he didn’t love me, and he didn’t kill himself,” said the giant woman.
“No, not yet,” said I.
“So, why the hell are you here?” asked my daughter.
“Ethyl!” I chastised her. “Do not hurry a storyteller!”
I nodded toward the giantess.
“Killing a prisoner is against our laws,” she said. “I was banished from my home. And having nowhere else to go, I came south. I had hunted as I traveled and took down several deer, so when I stopped here, I made a meat pie. The townspeople were wary of me, but I shared some of the pie with them and they let me stay. Master Turklewink offered me this job. I have been baking pies for the last three days. When I have enough money, I will build myself a cottage here. There is plentiful wood in the forest, but I’ll need to buy some things to set up house.”
“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” said Ethyl. “That guy in there is named Turklewink?”
“That is his name. I believe his first name is Claud.”
“Claud Turklewink!” snorted Ethyl.
“It is late,” I told Thurid Njärlbjörnsdöttir. “We have a room here, and with any luck, we shall be able to eat another of your pies on the morrow.”
“Good night,” said the giantess.
“Come along, Ethyl. Let us turn in for the night.”
“You go ahead,” she said. “I’ve got to find the outhouse and drop a clod and a turklewink.”