“My name is Meliroc, and I am your servant.” When the terrifying white-skinned eight-foot apparition shows up at the door of sorcerer Cedelair and his apprentice Valeraine, Cedelair would naturally rather be left alone. But Valeraine, whose imagination has been fed by a steady diet of action-adventure fiction, sees the giant’s appearance as the call that might start her on a hero’s journey.
Valeraine is a round-faced, doll-like blonde, the sort prone to being underestimated. Artist Kaysha Siemens captures her perfectly, with the wide-eyed, eager expression and the precious book tucked in her arms. (Anyone attempting to get between Valeraine and her book would soon learn the error of underestimating her.)
In this excerpt, Valeraine and her master debate what should be done about the mysterious Meliroc:
Brave Bennelise and the Cursed Mountains beckoned from her bed. Beside it, her wooden penny-flute whistled to her. Both would surely speed her journey into slumber. Yet how could she content herself with reading of Brave Bennelise’s victory over the bloody-toothed Giant of Cormboise, when a giant now lurked outside her very window? The towering ivory woman with the heart of coal-fire meant adventure at hand. How could Set-in-his-ways Cedelair want to be rid of her?
“We cannot keep her,” he had pronounced, his jaw set in stone. “I will not have some ghastly hulking golem from who-knows-where haunting my home.”
All politeness, she’d pointed out, “Sir, we may not have much of a choice. She’s obviously under a geas. Let’s just give her a few tasks to do. Where’s the harm?”
“There may be quite a bit of harm. We can’t be sure of her real purpose here.”
“We could find out quickly enough.”
Master Cedelair had locked withering eyes upon her. “How?”
“The Seventh Tongue.” Her words had shrunk to near-silence under his gaze.
She’d felt the snap of his ire. If she wanted to see his face redden, she had only to mention the Seventh Tongue. “A last resort,” he’d insisted, his voice sharp and deep.
“Sir, we wouldn’t have been given the Seventh Tongue if we weren’t meant to use it on occasion.”
“But the point remains, she’s under a geas. What better way to be rid of her than to remove it?”
“That can take time.”
“Time well spent, I think, the chance to do a good turn.” Valeraine’s chest had swelled with the spirit of Brave Bennelise, her mentor in print. “Sir, would you let me try? She can be my servant. You wouldn’t have to bother with her at all.”
He’d chortled under his breath. “Do you imagine looking after a giant will be as simple as looking after a lost puppy?”
“Far from it, sir. But I’ll learn all the more.”
Cedelair had flexed his jaw as if gnawing on some idea. “You’ll have your answer tomorrow. Now, off to bed with you.” He’d turned his back to her, unwilling to hear another word on the matter.
He was not truly an old man. A night’s hard thought on the question of the giant could rouse a dormant spark of adventure in him. So Valeraine hoped, as with a cool breath she pored over the pages of her book and saw and felt with her mentor, Brave Bennelise.