Gigas’ Tale: The Cooper Caper

One fine day, a human strode into the cooper’s shop. “Can I help you?” asked the cooper, looking up at the foreigner. He had to look up, because although the cooper stood at an impressive three foot three,  his customer was almost two yards high. The towering man said nothing. He just stood there, glowering imperiously down at the cooper. Even if he hadn’t been human, his long, brown beard would have been a rarity in the land, as would his clothes of metal: a breastplate over chain armor. At his side was a greatsword that was as long as the cooper himself. The cooper cleared his throat. “Sir? How can I help you today?” he asked, trying to sound as professional as possible. He hoped he was making a good impression. He had never had a human customer before.

The human remained silent. His right hand rested on his giant sword, and he leered at the cooper. “S-sir?” gulped the halfling cooper. The human took a step forward, and the halfling took two steps back. The human grinned evilly, and the halfling began to sweat. “Sir,” he said again, “what do you… what is…” The human drew his sword, silently. “Sir!” cried the halfling, scurrying away, towards a nearby barrel, thinking of hiding behind it. The human advanced. “Sir, wait! Stop! I don’t even know you, I don’t know what you want, I…”

Without a sound the man swung his sword through the air. The cooper cowered. The sword came to a stop inches from his head, and he thought the tip of the blade pointed at his throat. Then he realized that it wasn’t pointing at him, but over his shoulder, at a biggish barrel in the back of the room. “Wha?” the cooper looked wildly from the silent human to the barrel he was pointing at. “You– you want that one?” he squeaked. As he looked at the barrel, he thought he heard a scratching or a hissing coming from within it. Frightened out of his wits, the halfling took a few steps towards the barrel, keeping a nervous eye on the silent human. Then, slowly, in dread of what might be inside, he turned his head and peered in the barrel.

The young man crouching inside burst out laughing. The cooper let out a shriek of surprise and terror and stumbled backwards, landing on his behind on the floor of his own shop. He caught a glimpse of the human, still pointing silently with his sword. “What’s going — ” he began, but before he could finish speaking, the human vanished into thin air, as if he had never been there at all.

“Oh, man!” guffawed the young halfling, climbing out of the barrel in the back of the room. “I got you but good! You should have seen your face!” The young halfling wore comfortable but fashionable clothes, colorful and loose. Like most halflings, his feet were bare, but he had on a feathered green cap, and a brown coat with brass buttons, only slightly dirtied by the barrel he had just been hiding in. At his waist was a small pouch, and crawling up out of the barrel after him was a small, colorful lizard. His ruddy, laughing face almost seemed to glow with excitement, shining with the youthful vigor of a halfling who had spent his 20-odd years being cared for by well-to-do parents.

Still in a state of near-shock, the cooper scrabbled to his feet. “What? What!” he sputtered. It took him a moment to realize what was going on, to recognize the laughing young man scooping the lizard off the floor, and to realize that he had been taken in by an illusion — AGAIN. “You,” he breathed. “You little…”

“Your eyes,” choked Gigas between laughs. “Your eyes were this big! Ah, cheer up, friend!” said Gigas. “You did embarass me at the birthday party last week! This is only fair!”

The cooper fumed, and hid his face by opening a cupboard on the wall.

“Seriously, it was just a joke,” he said reassuringly. “I’m laughing with you, not at–”

Before he could finish, the cooper spun around, and in a single motion, chucked a small hammer straight at Gigas’s head. It stopped short barely an inch from him, barely caught by a tangible field of force surrounding the young sorcerer. Now Gigas’s eyes widened, and he ran, head down, past the cooper, escaping the shop before he could throw something heavy enough to break the armor spell. The shopkeeper gave chase, and threw something else that young Gigas didn’t see. It smashed against a wall as he turned a corner into an alley.

There weren’t a lot of alleys in Hobbitania. The only permanent halfling settlement in the area, and perhaps in the world, the city-state’s wooden buildings were comfortably far apart, even in the crowded center of town, and the roads were all dirt. This alley existed only because two fiercely competing tailors had built their shops practically on top of each other, both believing that this precise spot was most likely to attract wealthy clientele. It was well known that either tailor would give you a discount if you remarked how superior his goods were to that of his counterpart.

Gigas squeezed into the space between buildings, and turned around to watch his pursuer run past. But no cooper ran blindly past the opening of the alley. Was the man waiting around a corner for him? The other end of the alley was blocked off by a cart, so there would be no escape that way. He needed to know if there was a trap waiting for him. “Hup,” he said to the lizard on his shoulder, “run up this building and see if that cooper is waiting for me.” His lizard familiar obeyed. He hopped off the young man’s shoulder, onto the wall, and climbed up to the roof as easily as if it had been horizontal.

A moment later, Gigas felt a sense of excitement from his familiar on the rooftop. This was unexpected. He thought the lizard would send him a feeling of either fear or security, depending on whether the cooper was there or no. What had Hup seen?

The answer came in about 5 seconds. A man turned the same corner into the alley, and gave Gigas a curious sort of smile. The man appeared to be a halfling, about the same height as he was, but there was something indefinably odd about him. Perhaps it was his eyes, which were an almost metallic brown. Or was it his dark face, darker than most halflings he knew? It was impossible to figure the man’s age; he looked like he could have been anywhere from 25 to a middle-aged 100.

“Er, hi,” said Gigas, unsure of himself. He reminded himself of the cooper, and half-wondered if the man wasn’t a silent image like the one he had just cast. But the man extended an hand for Gigas to shake, an act that would give away any illusion.

“That was a close escape,” remarked the stranger. “I saw the illusion through a window. Impressive magic for one so young.”

Gigas shook the hand before responding. The stranger was definitely not an illusion. “Thanks,” he said. “Glad you liked it.” Hup the lizard scurried back down the wall, and Gigas put out an arm so it could crawl back onto his shoulder. Before climbing on, though, the lizard stopped halfway down the wall and tasted the air with its tongue. The sorcerer watched, and idly wished he could stand sideways, too.

“You could do that,” said the stranger, as though he had read Gigas’ mind, “if you had the right equipment.”

“Huh? What are you, selling grappling hooks?” Gigas laughed.

“I don’t mean a grapping hook,” the stranger said seriously. “I’m talking about footgear. Magic slippers that let you walk up walls. Does that hold any interest for you?”

“Well, yes. I mean, that would be great. But… I don’t have the money for something like that, and I don’t think my mother would let– ”

“I’m talking about creating,” said the stranger, “not selling. You have the magic within you, Gigas, but I see you use it for pranks. You could be turning it into treasure.”

“I see you know my name,” said Gigas, frowning slightly. It was a close-knit community and his family was very well-to-do, so lots of people knew his name. But this was still uncomfortable. “Might I know yours?”

“Of course,” said the man with a deep bow. “My name is Bosarius. I am a dragon.”

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