Again Kari awoke in a strange place with no clear idea how she got there. “Lisa?” she called, but of her friend there was no sign.
She couldn’t remember exactly what had happened, except there had been a silver knight on a white horse fighting a giant, and… the rest was a jumbled sensation of pain and anger that she couldn’t sort through.
She awoke on a bed of moss in a steep-sided valley with a waterfall, and a lake edged with willow and aspen. The sky was blue, though the sun was not yet visible, and the shadows cast by the hills were long and deep.
It would have been an idyllic scene if not for the terrified bellowing of an animal in pain – and judging by the depth and volume of those bellows, it was a large creature indeed.
Kari hesitated only for a moment, caught between the instinct to run and curiosity about the source of those cries, but ultimately they were cries for help and she couldn’t refuse.
She saw the giant first – presumably the same as before – sitting beneath the umbrella of a weeping willow by the water’s edge, the pale grey skin of her left leg marked by savage cuts that dripped crimson blood onto the rocks beneath. But it was a smaller creature resting on the ground between her legs that was bawling relentlessly.
Kari dared to come closer, and the giant spotted her. “Help him, please,” she said, in a grumbling voice as deep as the mountains. “He won’t stop crying.”
He was a baby boy, not quite as tall as Kari but she still felt tiny beside him. His arms were thicker than her thighs, strong enough no doubt to break her in half. Tears streamed from his eyes, one half-open and red from pain and sleeplessness, the other clenched firmly shut. “Hold his arms,” Kari said, “so I can look at his eye.”
Two giant hands grasped the boy, holding his arms firmly but gently. Kari had to work her way between them to reach the eye, and to lift the tight-clenched lid away from the orb beneath. The eye itself was bigger than her hand, and the boy screamed as she opened it to the light.
The mother wailed in sympathy, her hands trembling. “I see it,” Kari said. “Hold him still.” A splinter of bone, from the femur of a deer perhaps, was embedded in the soft flesh of the lid, and had been scraping against the blue of the eye. She wrenched it free and showed it to the mother, who nodded.
“Sweet child, of pain be free,” Kari sang, “sleep and heal, the world to see.” He quieted at once, yielding to the bliss of sleep.
“Thank you,” the giant said, lifting her son into her arms and cradling him. She sang a song of her own, rich with a different kind of magic.
“Now, let’s have a look at you,” Kari said, circling round to look at the giant’s leg. The sun peeked above the hilltops just then, and its warmth filled her with joy. “Mountain gods who herein dwell, mend this flesh and make it well,” she sang, pressing her hands against the bloody wounds. “Mend this flesh,” she sang, even as her own flesh seemed to split open.
She collapsed with a cry, chanting, “Forever stars, forever stars,” over and over, her voice barely a whisper, her eyes shut, her only solace the warmth of the sun as it climbed high into the sky.
The pain cracked open the memories of the night before, of the silver knight battling the giant, of Lisa riding the white stallion, sword in hand. Lisa the Dragon Slayer.
Where had that thought come from? A story, perhaps, that she had heard as a child, of knights fighting dragons to rescue maids.
Long she lay there, the pain dissipating slowly. It had been foolish, perhaps, to try healing a giant. The transference of injury was so much more painful than it ever was with a human.
Although… There had been something strange about the knight’s armour. Something in the silver had taken her song and sung it louder than anything she had ever experienced. Something…
“Maidsilver,” she whispered. “How many died to give you life?” A knight dressed in maidsilver, in the forest, attacking a giant – a mother seeking help for her child.
And Lisa… The last time Kari had seen Lisa, she had been racing into battle with this giant. “What happened last night?” she asked, daring at last to open her eyes.
“Two men fighting each other,” the giant said with a shrug. “Killed the dragon.”
Kari laughed. “Lisa the Dragon Slayer. So much for not believing in magic.” Turning serious, she added, “I need to find her. My friend.”
The giant thought for a minute. “The river will take you,” she said. “If you ask.”
It was not quite the answer Kari had been hoping for, but she had no wish to separate mother and child. She took her leave and followed the giant’s directions to the river that flowed out from the calm lake to rush gaily through the forest. She knelt at the edge of the swift, clear water and drank her fill from cupped hands. “Thank you, sweet lady,” she sang, and bent to kiss the water’s surface.
The water kissed her back, forming soft, warm lips hungry with desire. The gold-haired naiad pushed Kari onto her back; straddled her, looking down with bright, blue eyes and an impish grin; her bare, beautiful breasts hanging seductively as if begging for Kari to hold them and caress them. The temptation to do so was almost impossible to resist; she had not had the pleasure of a woman in months, and never one as perfect and voluptuous as this.
“Tell me what you want,” the naiad murmured, her voice musical, her tone suggestive, her fingers teasing Kari’s nipples through her dress.
“Take me to Lisa,” Kari said.
The naiad laughed. “Why? Is she prettier than me?”
“I’ve never seen anyone prettier than you,” Kari said with complete honesty. The effort to keep her hands to herself was almost killing her.
“Then why? Is it because she looks like a man? I was sure you liked women, but I can be a man if you prefer.” The naiad shifted form, so that a naked Lisa straddled her now. “Is this better?”
“Oh, gods no!” Kari cried, and burst into laughter, breaking the spell that the naiad had wound. “I don’t understand it myself,” she said to the confused naiad, “but I really would be grateful if you took me to her.”