They presented Siggy with a sword. Not that he was to fight the giant, they assured him, which Siggy felt happier about. But it was better, they said, to go armed on any kind of quest and it would show Figboot that he meant serious business.
Siggy told them, alright, but if it was all the same to the townfolk if he was not going to be doing any fighting he’d as soon not do it with a net as that was the only weapon in which he had training. They worried that the giant mightn’t take a net as seriously as a blade. Siggy told as how, on a day trip down to the city one time, he’d seen a gladiator in the arena wielding a net and a trident and taken plenty seriously enough by his opponents. After some discussion, Mr Tarwick, who always won Best Artichokes in the Harvest Fayre every year, popped home to fetch a garden fork which he said would do fine service as a trident, there not being such an implement to hand in the town.
“Indeed, that’ll see you righter, Siggy, me lad,” he testified, “as these here prongs are thicker than you’d find on any trident and see here, they’ve collected their share of dirt and rust which’ll give your enemies a nasty infection to think about along with their grievous wounds.”
Siggy accepted the gift gratefully. He experimented with a few combat manoeuvres – or moves that he felt would pass for combatish, based on the action he’d witnessed at the arena – testing the weight and balance of the weapon. To be honest, it was on the heavy side and a tad unwieldy, but the extra poison damage from the rust and dirt would, he reckoned, make it rival the magic weapons he’d heard were often brandished by seasoned adventurers.
He set off for the jetty. A gaggle of well-wishers trailed after him, temporarily surprised by his choice of direction. Some asked if he wouldn’t be walking to Tortoise Mountain, it being all of a day’s trek, allowing for picnics. Siggy did not like to admit that his knees went too wobbly for walks at the thought of the giant, so he explained that he had not been ashore very long since his last fishing trip and had yet to fully recover his land-legs. The small gathering seemed to accept this and commended his wisdom, the boat trip being likely to save his energies for the coming confrontation.
They waved and shouted encouragements and waited out an awkward quiet as he sorted through his nets, trying to figure which would best compliment the fork. None would cover a giant, but on the other hand any part of a giant he happened to trap would not be able to slip through any of the sizes of mesh available. Eventually, he settled on one which would look weighty enough to lesser prey but was a manageable size for casting single-handed.
Then came time to cast off and there was more waving and further encouragements. As Siggy loosened the final rope, Fred ran up on the jetty, nudging his way politely through the gathering with many a sorry, multiple scuse mes and many a tip of his forelock. Smile broad as a whale’s tail, he handed Siggy a fish pasty and a corked jug of cider.
Bless him, he was a simple fellow, but kind.
Siggy had no doubts he would wear the name of Sigfred well in the event the number of Sigfreds in the village fell to one.
Slosh clunk. Slosh clunk.
Siggy rowed a good rhythm, the oars sounding like when his dear old Mar, rest her soul, used to dish up soup. There probably wasn’t half the salt in the ocean that there was in a bowl of Mar’s pilchard broth.
Recollections of his Mar’s cooking started a bout of growls in his stomach, like there was a pack of starved wolves chasing round in there. And Siggy thought about the fish pasty wrapped in a crinkly brown paper bag. Then even thinking about the crust dried out his throat and turned his mind towards the cider.
An experienced fisherman of some years now, he was always able to keep a straight course despite an imagination given to drifting. The sea was in kind spirits, the waves giving him a ride no rougher than when the village lads used to give him bumps for his birthdays. When he was six or so, they’d given him Fred’s share too, three months later than his own. Siggy had laughed at their mistake and thanked them in his teens as he was sure the extra dose of the bumps had prepared him for a life on the most heaving of waters.
But the calm today allowed his nerves to make the climb from his stomach up to his head. Where they played havoc with his imagination. There were days when mist and clouds conspired to paint sea monsters and perilous shadows out there on the open sea or up there in the sky. None had ever troubled him. But now that he was rowing his lonely way to an encounter with a giant all he could see was a host of perils ahead, nebulous as all the clouds and mists he’d ever met but even the least of them were twice as menacing.
Of course, to be strictly correct, he had his back to where he was headed. Behind him, though he had no need to look over his shoulder to know it was there, loomed the Tortoise: a dark and rounded beast of a mountain with all the inviting presence of a burial mound. What lay ahead – or before his eyes, anyway – was his hometown, slipping steadily further away with each stroke. With each slosh and clunk of the oars.
Smoke curled up from Big Toe where the now extinguished fires had wreaked their worst. A wispy reminder to Siggy of his purpose: to face the giant, question him about the source of the igniting spark, demand compensation and seek reassurances that such a thing would never happen again.
Simplicity itself and a matter that he could see easily settled between two gentlemen if discussed in a civil manner. But a situation grossly complicated when between a man and a giant.
And not just any giant.
The giantest giant who ever lived.
[To Be Continued…]