Giant Slayer: Flash Fiction by Cam for Annart's Challenge
Ann's Challenge and My Response
This story is a response to Annart's (Ann Carr) challenge to write something based on the photo which you see at the top of this hub. My response is in the form of Flash Fiction. I've written a 1,000 word short story based on the image of the Long Man of Wilmington.
Thank you, Ann for issuing this challenge. I hope others will respond as well. You can find links to the other responses to Ann's challenge on the hub where the challenge was originally issued.
Arthur scuffed his boots along the dirt road watching the distant hillsides for his first glimpse of the church of Wilmington with its three bells. That's really all he knew about the village. Whether the bells ever sounded and on what days or at what hour was all a mystery to him. After all, he hadn't come to see the church or the bells or Wilmington. Arthur had traveled the length and width of England for five years battling giants.
In all truth, Arthur had not encountered any giants in that whole time, a fact he attributed to his fame preceding him wherever he went. Clearly, the giants were on the run as he scuffed his way hither and yon. He had it on the trustworthy word of a gentleman he'd met in an Ipswich tavern that the giants of Wilmington were a barbaric band which kept the village and manor house in a constant state of terror.
Arthur was a man of no means. In fact, the only things of note which he owned were two staves, or staffs, if you wish. One was for walking, the other for fighting. He could use both in battle. On one occasion the staves served as poles for propelling a small raft downstream on a canal. The baker's lovely wife had been kind enough to have let him out the back door just before her paunchous husband entered. Alas, the smell of the morning's bread on his clothing had given the baker away.
As he walked, Arthur would, on occasion stop, toss the walking staff away and hold the fighting stave in both hands. He would twist and jump, jab and sweep. But it was only an imaginary giant. He would settle back into his scuffing along and imagine the battle that lay ahead––He hoped.
Just as he neared the first cottage of Wilmington, the bells of the church began to sound. In Arthur's mind, they were tolling the arrival of their deliverer. He went directly to the village inn where he made the acquaintance of two of the town's leading citizens. The men must have been weighed down with such concern for the wellbeing of the folks who depended on them that they were drowning their worries in pints of ale before midday.
"Come now, Arthur, my new friend, you must stay and have a pint with us before you run off jousting giants." The portly man who spoke was waving half a pint in the air as he swayed in alternate time.
"I wouldn't think of drinking at the expense of two such prominent citizens of this fine village."
The two men were momentarily flummoxed since they had not even broached the topic of payment. But rather than start an argument with the brave and famous giant slayer, both men anted up. After all, he had referred to them as prominent citizens.
They drank and talked long into the early afternoon. Arthur learned, to his disappointment, that giants weren't a concern of the people of Wilmington. The blasted Frenchmen were the problem.
French raiders crossed the channel in the cover of darkness and hid, during the daylight, among the boulders on the shoreline. On the second night, they climbed the cliffs that lined the coast and began raiding villages between the coast and London before the rising of the sun.
Arthur had never met a Frenchman before, so he journeyed five days to the channel and waited for another raid. His two friends from the inn were curious to see what the giant slayer was up to, so they followed at a distance until they came to the bluffs overlooking the channel with the coast of France in the distance.
During the night on which he arrived, a commotion rose from below the cliffs. Arthur grabbed his staves and ran to meet the Frenchmen before they began their plundering. The sky was cloudy and the night was as dark as a sinners heart. He was only feet from the cliff's edge when his walking staff got tangled in his legs and feet.
The first of the raiders pulled himself up just in time to see a wildly tumbling Englishman whose arms, legs and two staves flipped and flopped like a flailing ragdoll. The impact sent the hapless Frenchman back over the edge. Like a cannonball, he plowed through the climbing column made up of his countrymen, sending them all to the rocky beach far below.
Cliffs of Dover, UK
Arthur's two pub-mates were astonished. They ran to Arthur, slapping him on the back, hooting and hollering about how he had single-handedly defeated the raiders from across the channel.
By the time they reached Wilmington, the story had grown to legendary proportions, and Arthur's estimation of himself had expanded right along with it. The clumsy tripping and tumbling had become finely timed and executed fighting prowess.
The celebration and feasting went on for days until Arthur decided it was time to move on. There were other battles to wage, and maybe even real giants to conquer. His two companions accompanied him for a few minutes. They stopped and turned Arthur around to look back toward the town. All the villagers had gathered to wave goodbye as the bells tolled. On the side of a hill, covering the entire slope from bottom to top, was the chalk-white outline of a man holding two staffs; one a walking stick and the other a battlestave.
Arthur scuffed along a rutted road that wound through the downs on the way to Southampton. He relived the Battle for the Bluffs, as the villagers had named it. For once his mind wasn't preoccupied with giants. Nevertheless, two such creatures leaped out of the ruins of an ancient hill fort and blocked his way on the road.
Arthur was as ready for a fight as ever he had been. He attacked the behemothic brigands, twisting and spinning, leaping and hopping, jabbing and sweeping. Fortunately, at the last second, he tripped over his battlestave.