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“Stone Ghosts” excerpts from the Children of the Rune anthology

Morgain Nai-Barinon strode through the cobblestone streets of Ka-Rone with no interest in the surrounding festivities. Despite her evenly bronzed skin and lustrous black rope of braided hair, Morgain’s empty scabbard drew the most stares. Why she carried no weapon added to her mystique. The gazes then drifted back to her unwavering emerald eyes that challenged anyone to make comment. None did. The worn leather attire and sword scars and arrow nicks on her arms bespoke of a veteran.

In all the mystery and beauty of Morgain, never once did onlookers see the rune adorning the back of her hand. They never suspected Morgain as runechild.

The port city’s normally pungent air of brine and slaughtered fish lay masked beneath a sea of new odors… vendors selling roasted chestnuts and spiced chai, taverns serving freshly baked breads and meats. If food didn’t delight the senses, then the eyes and ears indulged in their own banquets. To the joy of children, performers juggled spheres of colored glass lit from within, while musicians set tempo for the savage movement of litorian war-dancers. Torches of yellow flame lit the streets into the late hours, while dyed cloth and festive banners fluttered from the eaves of buildings.

Morgain, however, paused for none of these distractions. While the Narasanight Festival was a joyous time, it was once strictly a Hu-Charad celebration. The giants were somber creatures, and their festival was one of words and memories. But, if the giants learned one thing, it was that the greatest of human qualities was appropriation. The festival belonged to all now, and was far too garish for the understated Hu-Charad. Only in Ka-Rone’s giant districts did noise drop away and the festivities adopt a quiet, more sober tone. Morgain walked past poetry and story circles, where giants sat and recounted their works. Their tales were precise, their passions exact in the measured cadence of rhyming schemes and wordplay. A few distracted giants watched Morgain walk by, curious at the human who seemed comfortable in their hushed streets.

Morgain found her destination, a courtyard park surrounded by colonnaded buildings with pediment-style roofs. The garden’s hanging vines and verdant crown of shrubs were spectacular against the alabaster-white structures and toga-clad sculptures. At the garden’s center sat a circle of eight giants, while outside that, numerous children played quietly. Even sitting, the giants were heads taller than Morgain, but she appeared at ease. The circle listened to one speaker, his voice reverential on this, the Hu-Charad’s holy night; a few roasted corn or boiled chai on a heated brazier at the center of the circle. Morgain, her stride unwavering, marched straight for the giants before stopping. Everyone stared, surprised at this diminutive stranger who now waited for their attention.

“May we help you?” the giantess of the circle asked, her gray eyes curious. Her white hair and 11-foot stature marked her as eldest, and thus the circle’s matriarch.

Nasannah Mater, Hu-Charad” Morgain said, initiating a traditional giant greeting of harmony. “I respectfully ask to join your tale circle.” She carefully reached into her satchel and retrieved a large ivory flagon sealed with wax, and three cloth-wrapped loaves. “I offer you this honey mead and coconut bread, in honor of your ancestors’ names and memories,” Morgain said, concluding her rite of greeting and hospitality.

The giantess looked at her compatriots, surprised. “You’re familiar with our customs. What is your name, child?”

“My name is Morgain Nai-Barinon, and my name is my tale,” Morgain said.

Again the giants exchanged glances, their curiosity evident.

“Then join us,” the giantess said. “Your company is welcome. I am Ia-Tyrrane, and I’m very curious why you have a Hu-Charad name.”

Morgain smiled. “When it is my turn, then.”

Morgain sat and nearly vanished among her powerful, thick-limbed hosts. She passed her flagon and loaves to her right, as was customary - always away from harm. The giants finished both, in short order, as a show of hospitality and trust in their guest’s generosity. The circle returned to their stories, each giant relating his tale and passing the ebony story-stick to the next speaker. Finally, the stick reached Morgain; it was a heavy staff in her hands.

“All tales begin with someone’s truth, so know my words are echoed in the Houses of the Eternal and from the lips of the ancestors,” Morgain began, using an ancient Hu-Charad custom that few in the circle even remembered.

Ia-Tyrrane leaned forward, infinitely more intrigued by this human who understood giant culture better than her own children. She studied Morgain in equal parcel to measuring her words, scrutinizing her every movement to determine the precision of her Hu-Charad etiquette.

“Let me tell you of my exploits in the desert city of Khorl,” Morgain continued, “where my story ends….”


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