Two young girls sat facing one another with legs crossed. They clapped hands and sang a little cheer, “Snow is white. Sky is blue. Wendigo will devour you.” The alternated between clapping their own hands, and slapping each other’s. They were bundled in many layers of fur and sitting in a small hut made of animal skins. They were concentrating so much on the rhyming game, that they hardly felt the biting cold of the ice beneath them. However, they did notice the slight vibrations. The two young girls peeked out from behind the fur wall, and saw three giants walking toward the water. As frightened as they were, they could not take their eyes off of the trio.
“See the human hut?” one of the giants asked. He carried a large three-pronged hook, with a long rope coiled over his shoulder. The giant’s name was Elom, and this was his first fishing trip to the frozen seas to the north of Titus.
“Yeah,” stated Omri, a giant who was wearing nothing but a fur loin cloth. He was a therian, and the freezing temperature did not affect him at all. Omri could take the form of a saber-toothed tiger, or a hybrid of giant and cat.
The third giant, Aron, scoffed, “We aren’t worried about humans right now. We are going fishing, and you are worrying about humans.” Aron was a leader of the armies of Titus, and he couldn’t tolerate a lack in focus. “What do you think those men have that we could possibly want?” Elom understood and ignored the question, hoping it would die between them. Aron did not like being ignored. “I asked you a question, fool! Do you want some blubber? Perhaps some tiny whale bone tools?” Omri and Aron laughed.
“I don’t want any of that,” Elom waved them away with his huge hand. “I was just making an observation.”
Aron knowingly looked at Omri, who stated, “I smelled the pups before we got near the water. Unlike you, however, I simply didn’t care.”
No more words passed between the three of them as they made their way to the water. The plan for fishing was simple. Throw the treble hook as far into the water as possible, and then pull it back to the icy shore with the rope. The sturgeon that the giants hunted were bottom feeders, and would easily be snagged by the iron prongs. Elom went first, and after several throws ended up catching a sturgeon that was about 9′ long. He was pleased with his haul. Aron was up next, and he quickly snagged a huge fish. It took a lot of fighting before he finally got the leviathon to the bank. It was a good 13′ fish, bony protrusions running the length of it’s back.
“That is the biggest sturgeon I have ever seen,” Elom remarked. Aron held it up by the gills, and at shoulder level the tail still dragged the ground. As Elom was admiring the fish, he noticed something behind Aron. “What is that?” he pointed at a dark spot amidst the ice and snow.
“Not more human junk,” Aron complained. “I thought I told you about that.”
“No,” Omri said flatly. “It looks like an old ship. Definitely worth checking out while we are this close.”
“Do you smell anything?”
“No, not close enough yet,” Omri answered. “Follow me.” The giant silently shifted into the form of a saber-toothed tiger and raced on all fours toward the ship. The others did their best to keep up with the therian. Omri stopped as he got near the ship, and Aron and Elom caught up. Aron could tell by Omri’s raised hackles that something was not right.
“What is it?”
Omri shifted into his hybrid form. His head remained feline, with his huge teeth bared; yet he walked on two legs ending in large clawed paws. “Not sure what it is, exactly.” He hated to admit that he couldn’t figure the scents out. “I smell woolly rhino, but I think there may be an ogre in there as well.” Ogres were the sworn enemy of the giants, however, these giants were not prepared for battle. They were on a fishing trip. Omri had his natural weapons, while Aron had a small (by giant standards, anyway) axe, and Elom had a skinning knife.
“Just one?” Aron asked. Omri nodded. “Are you certain?”
“Come on,” the giant tiger shoved the other two toward the ship. The three giants walked into the broken hull of the abandoned ship.
A booming voice echoed through the vessel, “Get out!”
“You don’t command Aron, son of Isak, general of the armies of Titus!” Aron announced. “Show yourself, that you may receive a quick death.” Elom chuckled, but Omri was still confused.
“Death climbed upon me while still in the womb,” the voice continued. “Leave me in peace.” A hulking figure standing slightly shorter than the giants, but just as broad stepped out of the shadows. At first it appeared that he was wearing shoulder pads and a helmet, but upon further inspection they realized that it was all flesh. A large horn protruded from the beast’s face. Omri understood; he was in the presence of another therian; a runt.
“Kill him, Aron!” cackled Elom. However Omri put his huge clawed hand on his friend’s shoulder, holding him in his place.
“Leave me alone,” the runt wererhino yelled again. He smashed the side of the ship with a huge club made of whale bone. The force of the strike made the giants step back.
“Come with us,” Omri stated which took the other two giants by complete surprise. For some reason, Omri felt compassion for the therian runt. It did not matter that he was an ogre; for who could even tell, trapped as he was in his hybrid form. Omri could tell in the way that the rhino lowered his club that the beast was considering the proposition. “We can help you. You don’t have to live out here alone.”
“Help me?” the runt, Kwan, asked. “How can you help me? Can you give me a new face?”
Omri had completely forgotten about his two giant companions; he was focused now on someone who could understand him on a completely different level. His friends could never know how it felt to be tainted with the spirit and blood of an animal. However, this ogre could share in those feelings. Omri longed to have this runt in his life. “I cannot change your face, nor would I want to. I can, however, offer you a chance at a normal life. We don’t care much about how someone looks. If you can fight, then you will thrive in our society. Come with us. If you do not like living in Titus, then I deliver you back to this ship myself.” Aron grabbed Omri’s arm to try to get him to stop, but the weretiger shrugged him off without even turning to look upon him.
Kwan followed the three giants out of the ship. He hoped that what Omri spoke was true. He hoped that he would be accepted in Titus. Kwan was full of hope; Omri was as well.
They all went back to grab the two sturgeon. The giant sturgeon was still there, but the smaller one that Elom had caught was missing. “Those damn humans took my fish,” Elom complained. The giants laughed at his misfortune, and would not let him go and take it back. They had found something much more interesting than a medium sized fish.
When the two girls’ fathers returned, they were surprised to see the 9′ sturgeon laying outside of the hut.