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A Giant's Rightful Due
by Amanda C. Davis
Bay had found it rare, as she journeyed through her own ravaged kingdom and into its allied
neighbors, to come across a tavern willing to exchange room and board for war stories. So she
was determined to take advantage of this one.
The maiden perched on the stool to her right hefted Bay's sword in both hands. "Not so
heavy as it looks."
"Well, who wants to march all night with ten pounds of steel banging around their knees?"
said Bay. "And you can't forge them too heavy to swing time after time. Not that we used 'em the
whole battle," she added. "We marched in with pikes. Long as three of you end to end. You could
kill a giant with one of those things."
A pockmarked fellow from down the bar leaned in. "Have you then?"
"Killed a giant?" said Bay. "Oh yes. Seven at a time. Stacked 'em up like fish on a skewer.
I'll have another pull of what you're serving, if you don't mind."
The open lead bottle at her hip twitched to get her attention. A voice from inside hissed,
"Take it easy or you'll be plastered on the floor!"
She stoppered the mouth of the bottle with her palm and drained her mug. The barman
obligingly topped it off again.
A cockeyed young man even drunker than she was leaned over her shoulder voraciously.
"Did you see Barrowgate?"
Bay's vision narrowed like a closing flower until it contained nothing but her mug and the
hand that held it. She worked it toward her lips and drained it. The world cleared.
"No," she lied. "I wasn't there." She handed over her mug to the barman. "Want to learn a
marching song, then? I sing, 'Mother, should I join the army?' and you all sing, 'No, son, no,' then
I do the verse and then you come in at the end, 'For you'll never come home from the army'--it's
easy, you'll catch on fast. Thank you kindly for the pour. Ready now?"
The pockmarked fellow slipped out after the first verse, but there were plenty more to sing
A wonderfully sturdy woman led Bay to a room. "It's got a bed in it," said Bay, overwhelmed by
kindness. "I've got to thank--want to thank--"
"You hush now," said the woman bracingly, maneuvering Bay inside. "We're honored to
host a giant-slayer." She put a key to the room in Bay's hand. "If you need anything, just call."
"Want to do you a--a whatsit. A favor."
"Sleep first," said the woman, smiling, as she backed out.
The lock, Bay thought, was devilish finicky. Much trickier than usual locks.
The moment she finally wrangled the bolt shut, a cloud of ashy black smoke burst from the
bottle at her side. It gathered itself into the shape of a red imp who wore, at the moment, a face of
"Look at you. Simply shameful."
"I don't care what you think of me," said Bay, with a very uncharacteristic grin. She
stumbled for the bedside table and groped for the candle, but Khloromain, the imp, swept across it
and left a flame behind him.
"There," he said. "Don't touch it and at least you won't burn the place down."
"Look who's clever tonight."
"Four hundred years of forced sobriety keeps one at his sharpest." He eyed her stealthily.
"Bet you wish you hadn't drunk all that."
"Yeah, wish I--ha ha! Nice try." She tried to pat him between the horns and missed.
"Little bastard, sneaking a wish. You'll be the death of me."
"Provided you're not the death of yourself first."
It proved impossible to remove her trousers with her boots and sword still on, so she
doffed it all, along with her jacket, into what she believed was a neatly folded pile. She crawled
into bed unsteadily and curled on her side, clutching Khloromain's bottle. "Stay sharp," she
murmured. "Might need you."
Khloromain settled into the bowl of the candlestick, crossing his arms. "Well, I'm certainly
happy to wait for your call," he said. "Hundreds of years of imprisonment, what's another
agonizing, unnecessary day? Or month? Or year? No, certainly take your time. Take all the time
you need. It doesn't hurt me. I'm not sitting around two wishes away from freedom."
"Well done then," Bay said into the pillow.
She prided herself on her alertness, but the kindness and drink and feathered pillow proved
simply too much to resist.