My name is Liam Jefferies. Private First Class, or so they tell me. A month in basic training, and then put on a boat and shipped off to fight an American city.
My group was on the west side of the city. We breached the gate without difficulty. We found ourselves in an urban canyon. It was a long, wide street with tall buildings on either side, stretching as far forward as anyone could see.
Something about the place felt… off. It wasn’t just the distant gunfire. That didn’t seem directed at us, so we could ignore it. No, the problem was the street, and the surrounding buildings. There was something about them we couldn’t quite place, something wrong.
It was when we were setting up our base camp that we realized everything was built for people ten feet tall.
The doorways—all shut and locked tight—were taller and wider. The chairs and benches were bigger and broader. Even the water fountains and vending machines were bigger. There were usually normal-sized ones right next to them, like one for a child and one for an adult.
The place was abandoned, but that didn’t make any of us feel better. Between the looming buildings and the bizarre furniture, it felt like playing in the Three Bears’ house. Sooner or later, the bears would come home.
They waited until we had everything set up. Barricades, gun turrets, first aid stations, the works. Some of our scouting parties even had a chance to return, reporting nothing else out there.
The sound of drums echoed down the street.
It was a slow, deep beat. It didn’t take long for everyone to notice. Everyone stopped what they were doing and just stared in the direction it was coming from. Some of us tried to put on brave faces, and others looked terrified.
Because any fool could recognize the beat of a war drum. Some things are etched into your bones.
We all retreated behind our barricades, pointing our weapons down the street. We couldn’t see much, since the skyscrapers blocked too much light. But we could hear where the drums were coming from. We could feel where they were coming from.
The armies marched into view.
There was no other way to describe them. They didn’t all march perfectly, they didn’t all wear any recognizable uniform. But they marched towards us, guns and swords and axes in hand. I saw pale ones who looked European, dark ones who looked South American, blue ones, red ones…
And they were all at least six feet tall, judging by the tall doorways they passed. Most of them were eight feet, with a few ten feet tall or more. And not a skinny sort of tall, either. These men and women had biceps bigger than my head. Some were shirtless, and seemed built like Sumo wrestlers.
They had segregated themselves along… racial lines? Is that what you called it? The Europeans didn’t mix with the South Americans, who didn’t mix with the multicolored ones. And none of them mixed with the bare-chested ones with the too-large teeth.
They marched under flags, the biggest one looking like a fist bursting out of the ground. I recognized the Asgardian Valknut from my Nordic studies. There was another that looked like two mountains clashing. Another which seemed to just be gnashing teeth. There were more in the back, symbolic designs I couldn’t hope to identify. But I knew what it meant: A dozen groups or more, all working together.
All to drive us out of their homes.
With one last quick drum beat, the horde, which filled the entire street in front of us, stopped. They stood maybe a hundred yards in front of us, in range of our guns but far out of range of their swords.
One man, nearly the tallest of them all, stepped forward. He wore a sharp business suit, sized up to appear loose on his massive frame. He appeared unarmed, but a man of that size could throw a car at us if he was so inclined.
“I am Odin,” he called, his voice echoing through the urban canyon, giving him the voice of a god. “I am the Colossus of the Aesir, and have the honor of negotiating with you on this fine day. Who is in charge here?”
The highest ranking man was a captain, a young blond man who had been looking pretty confident. At least before the drums started. He swallowed, but took a step forward and raised a megaphone. Thankfully, he had prepared.
“What do you want?”
The man who called himself Odin smirked. I had played bodyguard to some negotiations. The captain had made a mistake. He sounded weak and conciliatory. He shouldn’t have even acknowledged the man’s right to speak, much less negotiate.
But he was right. This was a man of the city, one way or the other. We were invading his home. He deserved the chance to speak, despite the tactical implications.
Besides. Our echoes were on their way. We just needed a little more time.
“We want you to leave, good sir,” Odin called. “We do not appreciate our streets invaded by fools who think they know what is best for us. We have enough of that here as it is. Leave, and no harm will come to you. You have my word.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t do that,” the captain said, displaying more backbone than I had expected. “My orders are clear and explicit. Do not test me on this. Do you want your streets to run red with blood?”
And they laughed.
More of a quiet chuckle. All the giants laughed with genuine amusement at that statement. It was enough to make the street we were standing on rumble just a little. While Odin didn’t make a sound, he did smirk.
“Do you know where you are, good sir?” Odin asked.
“Domina City,” he said. “A United States city that has been beset by crime and worse for far too long.”
Odin nodded, conceding the point. “True. Somewhat. But I meant more specifically. Here in Domina City, do you know where you are?”
The captain’s silence spoke volumes.
“You are at West Gate,” Odin said, his tone patient. “You are at Ginnungagap. The Yawning Void. The heart of all giants. It is something of a holy place, as much as we can have such things.”
To the captain’s credit, he didn’t ask unnecessary questions. “Then you would not want to have blood spilled here.”
There it was again. That slow, dangerous chuckle, moving through the entire army—all the armies—like a wave. We were doing something very, very wrong, and we didn’t have the slightest idea what it was.
“You misunderstand, good sir,” Odin said. “Do you know why Ginnungagap is a holy place to our culture?”
The captain didn’t speak, but I did see him make a few signs behind his back, where Odin didn’t see.
“Ginnungagap is holy because of all the blood spilled to defend it.”
Someone next to him handed him some massive object, and it took me a moment to realize it was a gun. It had to be be at least ten feet long, and the barrel was as thick as a baseball bat. He could wipe out half our army just by swinging it around like a club.
“Menn!” Odin cried. “Vi slåss!”
“VI SLÅSS!” they roared, and rushed forward like a wave.
But the captain wasn’t a fool. Out of his depth, true, but not a fool. The second the giants started charging forward, we all raised our guns, took aim, and fired. We had prepared ever since he started signing orders at us.
A solid wall of roaring flesh was met by so much lead that it must have felt like a solid wall. Dozens of the giants fell, trampled or avoided by their fellows.
Dozens fell. But there were hundreds.
The ones with guns stayed in the back, while the ones with swords or axes or just bare fists charged. Normally, such a tactic would never work for a second against a prepared enemy. But each foe took dozens of bullets to put down. Despite the number of giants falling to the street, the horde made solid progress.
In what felt like moments, they were upon us.
A massive hand grabbed the barricade in front of me and pulled itself up and over. I pointed my rifle at it and squeezed the trigger, but the shot went wild. I emptied half a clip without hitting him even once. The giant grinned, grabbed the gun, and ripped it out of my hands. With his other hand, he brought around a massive sledgehammer, big enough to squash my head like a tomato. He wielded it as if it was cardboard.
I scrambled back, barely managing to dodge as he brought the hammer down on the street where I had been standing, leaving a small crater. He grunted in surprise, but grinned and adjusted his grip, bringing it up again with two hands this time.
He looked like a normal person, besides his size. He was wearing a nice white shirt with a tie and everything. What was it that made him act like a screaming berserker warrior?
It didn’t matter. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was screaming. All that mattered right now was my hand finding my sidearm. I pulled it out and pointed it at the man coming after me.
Three red blossoms appeared on his white shirt.
Had I done that? The gun in my hand was smoking, but I didn’t remember pulling the trigger. It had just happened.
The giant flinched and swayed for a moment, but growled and managed to step forward. His sledgehammer was still raised above his head.
I pulled the trigger again and again, knowing I couldn’t miss at this range. This time, I could actually see the bullets impact him, could see them force him back a half step each shot. In moments, his white shirt was completely soaked with red.
The sledgehammer dropped from weak fingers. It hit the ground hard enough that I could feel the impact several feet away. A moment later, the giant himself followed, landing face-first with a wet smack.
I scrambled to my feet and glanced around, reloading as I did. The place was a war zone. They had pulled down our barricades like so much kindling, and bodies were strewn everywhere. Most of them were American soldiers, but there were a few of the giants as well.
It was like watching children fight adults. The captain and the other officers tried to establish firing lines. Then the giants just waded in and started tearing everything apart. I saw one soldier get picked up by the leg, and then used as a club by the hairy beast who had grabbed him. Within a few moments, there was nothing left of him and his squad but a bloody mess. The giant tossed him aside like so much trash.
The sound of gunfire was everywhere, but it wasn’t all coming from our side. At least so much as there were ‘sides’ in this horrific melee. Some of the giants had guns, massive things that looked like they should be sitting on a tank. They kept their firing line. They shot up our lines whenever it looked like we were about to get organized. Odin stood in the center of it all, relaxed and unconcerned. His own gun leaned against a nearby wall like some unimportant trinket or broom.
I stood in the center of it all, untouched. No, not untouched, just unnoticed. The giants seemed to have to make an effort to notice anything as small and unimportant as us. And since I wasn’t currently running away or shooting anyone, I just wasn’t worth their time.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and tried to ignore the screams and sickening crunch of bones all around me. All I had was my pistol, and two more clips. Would it be enough against these monsters? No, no it would not. But I had little more than a week or two to live anyway. May as well go out fighting.
Nearby, there was… something. A large and shirtless purple-skinned beast. It had arms long enough to knuckle-walk and claws like razor blades. It advanced on a small squad that had managed to regroup, hoping to ambush them from the rear. It would cut through them like so much wheat.
I took a deep breath, and fired.
My first shot caught it in the shoulder. It wheeled around and roared at me, revealing a mouth full of needle-like teeth. I fired again, trying to get it in its mouth, but instead missed it completely.
It loped forward, initial quarry forgotten, and I forced myself to focus. If I wasn’t quick, I was dead. More dead than I already was, anyway.
I squeezed off three more shots, getting it once in the shoulder and twice in the chest. It didn’t even slow, and then it was upon me. It tackled me to the ground and raised those terrible claws to disembowel me.
My back felt like all the skin had been ground off by the street. I could smell the foul stench of rotten meat on the monster’s breath. Gunfire filled my ears, along with the wet, painful sounds of meat being sliced and cut. It was like my body knew that this was the last moment of my short life. Like it was trying to give me everything it could in these last few precious seconds. Just in case there was anything important.
There was still the gun, held in my hand in a death grip.
I was underneath the monster, so I just had to point the gun up and pull the trigger. The odd angle of the recoil hit me in the chest like a kick from a mule. But the beast roared. I swore I could hear the sound of the bullet breaking through its rib cage and into the vulnerable organs behind it.
I fired four more times, emptying the clip, until the beast finally collapsed on top of me. It was like getting crushed under a bear. I could feel my ribs cracking. Not to mention the warm and disturbing feeling of its blood soaking my clothes.
With a great deal of effort, I managed to roll the beast off me. I just lay there for a few minutes, breathing heavily and trying not to throw up. There were still the sounds of battle and carnage, but they felt distant for the time being. Right now, I just needed to catch my breath. I stared up at the sliver of sky visible through the top of the urban canyon.
Then I heard something shifting next to me.
Very slowly, I turned to look. I was unsure what I could possibly see, but I knew that whatever it was, I wouldn’t like it.
The beast was sitting up.
It was grunting in pain, but it was alive. One of the wounds I had given it was closing up even as I watched. It was a massive bullet hole that had exploded out the back of its chest, but it was healing. Like some grisly flower opening its petals in reverse.
After a moment, the beast sighed in relief, then turned to grin at me.
“Good fight,” it said, before ripping out my throat.
Behind the Scenes (scene 282)
I feel like I haven’t done enough with the giants. The Jotuun only have two warlords, and there aren’t many named giants outside the Aesir. I’m trying to rectify it, but I’ve got a whole lot of characters as it is.