The midday sun blazed hot down on the pair of horses riding the path between the high pinewood of northern Ghant. North of the two horses and their passengers the southern reaches of the Westron Range slowly marched, blue with distance and haze. It was nearing the harvest season, and summer was giving the people a last taste of intense heat to keep them mindful of the soothing cool days that fall would offer. The tall trees on either side of the road were very old and somewhat wild, though the road was generally considered a safe one.
The lead horse was ridden by a tall, skinny man. The sun shone off the finery her wore, from tailor-made clothes to gleaming jewelry of gold and silver. His face was unlined, and he was perhaps thirty. He had a rather thin face, and a nose that would be called aquiline by the well-spoken, or simply a 'beak' by the crude. His eyes were alert and shined despite their almost black coloration. His brown hair was cropped close to his skull and laid in oiled down ringlets. He was obviously a man of means. He resembled nothing else so much as a strutting peacock.
The second horse, following the first, was ridden by a girl, or a young woman, looking to be about twenty years of age. She had a reasonably pretty face, if somewhat large-featured, and large expressive blue eyes. Her hair was golden blonde on the surface with a layer of darker almost brown underneath. It was worn loose, and flowed to just past her shoulders. Her body was fairly long, and not lightly built, though far from heavy. She was fit, and trim in her fashion, she was simply not petite. She had reasonably sized breasts, that filled her peasant's blouse out well enough, and what could be seen of her legs from beneath her knee-length skirt were agreeably shapely. As his garb was expensive, hers was obviously home-made. Even her shoes consisted of leather rectangles with cloth sewn to the upper surface. Her skin was bright pink from the scrubbing she had been given that morning with lye soap and a hard brush.
They had wanted her very clean for the landlord. He was Lord Darvid Vichenso the Third, and he owned her family's farm and the lands they tilled. The last three years had been unkind to them, and they had several crops fail them, rather oddly, too, as the weather had been good, and few other farmers nearby had suffered such losses. But they were a good, solid family, and kept their business. When Lord Vichenso came to them demanding his rent and the back rent, they had nothing to give. He then said. "I will take your daughter's service in my home, then. As payment for current rents due, and you will only have to come up with the back rent by next year." He sneered at the poor family. "If Sylva will grant her promise to serve me well."
Sylva had done so. "I will serve you, then, to save my family from eviction. I will do as you ask. I swear it." She had said.
Now it had come to this. She was riding behind him. No sooner had they left the farmstead and begun the half day journey to his country estates, than he had informed her that her duties, per her promise would include rather personal services to him. "You have sworn to serve me as I ask, and I will hold you to that. Your family will have a place to live, so long as I am pleased with the services you provide in the home, and in my bedroom."
She had cringed at that, she was a maiden, and had never known even the touch of a man's hands. She did not relish the idea of giving this greasy little man her maidenhood, but had no choice. If her family was evicted, they could well starve, or fall victim to some of the truly horrid fates that befell the homeless, like being rounded up by slavers or simply slain for their meager possessions. She had sworn her oath, knowing full well what it might entail. Her mother had told her that much. Her mother was not pleased at the idea, nor was her father, but they had little choice, they did have four other children to protect, and being the kept woman of a noble was not bound to be quite so terrible.
She watched the rump of his horse bob gently as she swayed in her sidesaddle position on the horse he had brought for her. Her expressive eyes were wet with unshed tears and she knew that in a few hours, that scrawny man would be on top of her, deflowering her in a few moments, then spending himself and then falling asleep. She cringed again. Then she sat upright. Her oath bound her, and she would never break it.
He looked back and winked at her, smiling. She forced a smile onto her face, and returned the wink. She thought that this fool actually believed she was enjoying this. As soon as he turned back around, she stuck out her tongue at him.
"We will be at my manor ere nightfall." He said over his shoulder. "Your household duties will begin on the morrow." Then he leered back at her. "Your other duties will begin a hour or two after we arrive." He winked again. By the One, she wanted to just leap on him and claw his eyes out. But no, she would not do that.
"I look forward to learning my duties." She said, hating each word she uttered and piling all the syrup she could muster into them to make them stick.
He chuckled at that, as he had made a clever witticism. Then clucked to his horse to pick up the pace a bit. Her own horse, being normally a pack horse, followed the lead horse obediently. Just like herself, she thought, follow obediently.
As they rode near a particularly dense clump of small pines, she thought she saw something move in the trees. "Sir." She said. "There is somethin..." Her words were cut off by a shape emerging from the foliage. It was nine feet tall, and looked as a man, but more crudely chiseled. It leapt from the trees and hurled a stone at the lead horse. The stone struck the horse's head and it collapsed as its brains coated the man's fine jacket. He screamed like a woman as the horse collapsed under him, and it rolled to its side, pinning his puny leg beneath its body.
Sylva's horse whinnied but did not quite run, it simply shied away from the looming form that approached them. She dismounted in an ungainly fashion, being unpracticed with horses, and moved back from the humanoid. It regarded her and the man.
"Dear Lord." Darvid said, still squealing in a high-pitched voice. "Please, stop him." He said.
Who stop what? Sylva thought. Then she thought quickly. "Release me and call my family's debts void." She said picking up a large stick off the ground.
The big humanoid loomed over his fallen horse and it reached down toward the man. "It is done, I release you and your debts are voided, now kill it!" He screamed.
She charged at the creature with her makeshift club, as she neared it, she cocked back the heavy wooden pole and swung with all her might. The creature simply reached out a hand and caught it in one massive palm. The shock of its sudden stop almost threw her to the ground. She looked up, standing only about two feet from it and figured that it was time for her to die. It turned to face her, it's huge head swinging toward her. It's eyes were massive and brown.
It stood back up, yanking the stick from her grip and hurling it off into the trees, where it made a terrific racket. It regarded her some more, punctuated by the yammering of Darvid.
"You try hit me." It said, in understandable, if debased, Ghantian. It cocked back one of it's great fists and prepared to drive her into the ground like a blonde headed fence post.
She held up her hands and screamed. "Wait!"
It stopped a moment. It had never been asked to 'wait' before, so it was curious what it was to wait for. He looked at her with those big dumb eyes. "What me wait for?" He said, his head tilting.
"I will make you a deal." She said. Trying to think quickly.
"No deal!" It said. "Humans lie Tok, humans hurt Tok!" He said, pointing at large scars on his ribs.
She said. "I'm not like them, I keep my word." She said, and pointed to the fallen nobleman. "Ask him."
The great head rotated around and over Darvid and looked down. "She keep word?" He asked.
"Y... yes... yes, she keep word." Darvid stammered out in a voice both quavery and squeaky. Tok turned back to face her. "O K. You keep word, what deal?" He asked, eyeing her dubiously.
"If you don't kill me, and let that man go," She pointed at Darvid, "I will stay with you."
Tok looked askance at her. "You be wife?" He asked. "Good wife?"
She nodded. "Yes, I will be a good wife. If you will be a good husband." She looked at Darvid, and launched a quick imploring look at him. He nodded minutely in return.
He held out his hand, as if to shake hers. "Swear it." He said.
She winced and took his massive hand. He smelled of old sweat, and grease, and outhouse stench. "I swear it." She said, trying to force a smile.
Tok looked down and said. "Deal, then." He then turned to his right and spit a huge wad of fleghm onto the ground. Sylva tried to copy him, but achieved only marginal success. She was scared and repulsed, and worried.
The ogre looked down at Darvid, and reached toward him. The nobleman squealed again, and cringed back. But Tok simply lifted the horse off of him and hefted it like a large sack of potatoes in both arms. "Me keep horse meat." He said. Then chuckled. "No good to you now, anyway." His chuckle was like the sound of two large stones being ground against each other.
He turned toward the wood. "Go first... wife." He said nodding toward the treeline. She cast another look over her shoulder toward Darvid and he caught her eye, and nodded again, then mouthed 'Two days.' She minutely nodded and then proceeded Tok into the woods.
As they walked Tok said. "You very pretty girl."
.... There is more of this story ...