Bertram’s leather boots slurped in the mud and built up cakes of straw as he ran the rounds. He wiped his nose against the back of his heavy leather glove, rolled his shoulders within his quilted jacket, shrugging off the chill; his chainmail jangled reassuringly. The monks were already gathering for terce, and the sun still hadn’t warmed up the land. He laughed to himself at the bitterness of it all, the endless struggle from cradle to grave, wondering what was the point.
He shook his head roughly and targeted some soldiers leaning against a wall and chatting. “Ailwin! You checked on the stores?”
A short, goofy-looking man with straw thatch hair nodded eagerly. “Blacksmiths are loaded for a good long stretch. Guessing they’ll have another 25 longswords before they’re low. Leather stores are good, plenty of coal.” He and his fellows hugged themselves and swatted their arms in their padded jackets sans chainmail, unlike their captain.
The answer satisfied Bertram but it was bad policy to let on. “You and Colin go and check the scullery, ask how we’re faring for crops. We don’t want to surprise our lord if we have to lock down for another month under siege.” Their fortification wasn’t a strategic hold, but it was easy pickings for a stray army with too much time on their hands.
Colin’s coppery curls stuck out beneath his slightly too-large helmet. “Heard from the wenches we’re all clear on that front. Begging your pardon, Captain,” he added, tapping the brim of his helmet.
Bertram was unable to relax, however. Everything seemed in order, and the layabouts under his command had good answers for everything. But it was exactly that sense of relief that put him on guard. He frowned and looked around the courtyard: nothing ever went so swimmingly, not for long. “Who’s on shift at the south gate? David?”
“Elias, sir, since lauds,” said Colin. “You want I should relieve him?”
“And where’s David?”
“Helping out the stables, sir. Getting them ready for patrol.”
Sighing heavily, Bertram racked his brains for whatever he was missing. All men accounted for, all stores in good stead, everything on schedule—what was going to go wrong?
“Ware! All hands, ware!” It was Elias, belting out from the upper guard post. “Entiscan at the south gate!”
Horses neighed in panic at the rolling thunder growing louder. Soldiers leaped up from the crates and bales, lining up in the yard. Archers’ boots clapped up the wooden stairs to the battlements. Only Bertram seemed pleased, nodding to himself and muttering this was what he was waiting for. He pointed at Ailwin and Colin, thumbed at himself, and ascended to greet the storm.
She was entiscan, all right, an entiscan woman as tall and slender as one of their own towers, except easily double its size. Bertram rubbed his jaw, watching her approach. Once again, the strange outfits of this gigantic race made little sense to his eyes: this one seemed to be wearing a close-fitting velvet drapery that exposed her shoulders, arms, and most of her legs. Her feet were bound in little more than a platform with shiny black straps running over her bridges and around her ankles. Tall, thin heels pushed the immense body even higher into the air, when they weren’t sinking into the loam as though it were liquid.
“Good morning, pathetic bugs,” she called out. Her young voice rang against the hills, crashing through the chilly air at the fortress.
Bertram waited for some moments. Elias turned his long, dark face toward Ailwin and Colin. “Are we supposed to say something?” he asked them. Bertram backhanded him in the chest and stared up, unflinching, at the arrival.
The entiscan woman parked all her weight on one long, shapely leg, slouching to the side, and planted her fists on her hips. “Well, you lowly bugs? Is that how you greet your new goddess?” She shook her sharply bobbed hair, black as night.
Bertram grinned at his soldiers. “New goddess,” he said, and they all let out a sigh of relief. Turning back to the strangely, scantily dressed monstrosity, he filled his lungs with clean, cold air and bellowed up at her. “Thanks, no, we’re good.”
One thin, sculpted eyebrow, as wide as any of them were tall, slowly slid up her porcelain forehead. “Excuse me?” Her tone rose high, weaker than she’d started with.
“We’re all set for goddesses, thanks. We’ve had two yesterday.”
Far above, her garish red lips gaped at the fortification. “But I’m your goddess, Giantess Ava.” She said it again, stronger, louder. “I’m your goddess, and I’m here for you to worship me. Maybe I’ll let one of you disgusting pervs worship my toes before I squash you.” She tilted her head and smirked. “But you perverted little bugs would probably like that, wouldn’t you?”
“No, thank you. Not necessary.”
There was a long pause. “What?”
Bertram swatted Elias’s chest, who cleared his throat and called up, “With all respect due an entiscan seductress, we’ll pass on worshipping your toes today.”
Another long pause. “What?”
“We worshipped toes all last week.”
“Yeah, it was great,” Ailwin chimed in. “The lord’s limner got into it, did these wonderful illustrations on her toenails. Knights fighting snails, bishops with dogs’ legs, rabbits beating up a priest.”
“The usual stuff,” added Colin.
Giantess Ava straightened up, shedding her rakish pose to let her long arms hang by her sides. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“We’re not in the market for toe-worshipping today,” Bertram wrapped up. “Sorry!”
“But… I’m your goddess!”
“Again, sorry, we’re all full up for goddesses. Should’ve gotten here a month ago. We were a little low then.”
Ailwin chuckled and elbowed Colin. “A little low.” He nodded at the entiscan; Colin said he got it, refused to make eye contact.
Giantess Ava slumped, one rope-like strap sliding forlornly down her shoulder, and she slowly trudged off in a sequence of quiet little earthquakes. The men watched her go, studying how her ankles and heels wobbled perilously as they sank into the earth. “If she fell,” Ailwin mused, “she’d probably ruin most of the woods.”
“Unless she blocked the river,” Elias said, peering into the distance. “She could fall into the river and dam it right up, no problem.” The other soldiers nodded and grunted, said that wouldn’t be very good.
Boots hammered up the steps behind them: broad-shouldered David cried, “What’d I miss? Was it another entiscan goddess?” Sweat glowed on his alpine-chiseled features, and his smile positively gleamed.
Colin nodded. “Yeah, another one. This one was, like wearing curtains. Tight curtains? But only from her boobs to her butt.”
David’s brow furrowed as he tried to picture that. “I really wish I knew where they came from. I have all sorts of questions for their tailors.”
“Right? Right?” Elias nodded along with his companions. “Her shoes don’t look like they protect anything at all.”
“They’re a hindrance, if anything,” said Ailwin.
Colin rocked on his heels and looked away. “Well, you know, lads, it’s really not our place to tell ladies how to dress.”
“Oh, here he goes again.”
“Heads up, men.” Bertram pointed across the woods into the hazy distance. “We’ve got another one.”
“I really wish I knew where they all came from,” muttered David.
Within a few minutes, a younger entiscan woman approached the fortress. They had plenty of time to check her out: long, stringy, dark hair, dead eyes and a permanent frown. A ragged, short blouse in pale green stretched over her distended belly, and her hips were packed into strange blue underwear of a coarse material: for all their loops around the waist and copper rivets, they looked sturdy enough for anyone of entiscan proportions.
“What up, stupid bugs,” she called out, examining her nails. “I’m your new goddess. Start worshipping.” Her nails, for the record, were ragged and stunted, with a flaky blotch of bright paint in the center of most.
“Oh! And which giantess are you?” David called out.
“Giantess Olivia,” she said reflexively, then blinked and dropped her hand. “Wait, what?”
“Sorry, we’re only looking for a true goddess right now.”
“I am a true goddess, bitches.” She adjusted a wide frame of windows, one for each eye, shoving them up the bridge of her nose. “You’re all hot and horny for me ’cause I’m a sexy bitch. Start worshipping, bitches.” Without warning, the young giantess flung her arms up overhead, exposing half-acres of dark stubble to the late morning sun. She swung her hips in quick, threatening arcs, causing all the men on the battlements to take a step back. “Yeah, that’s right, paypigs.” It wasn’t clear to whom she was replying. The giant folded seam above her crotch swam threateningly close to the guards, who stared up the jiggly hillside of her belly.
Only Bertram held his position. “If you’re a true goddess, Giantess Olivia, why don’t you spell that for us.” Ailwin, Colin, David, and Elias waggled their eyebrows at each other.
The colossal woman ceased her tremors. “What?”
“Go on, just spell goddess for us, like all true goddesses can, and we’ll start worshipping you.”
“Oh, boy howdy, will we,” called up Colin. “Such worshipping shall we do.”
“Just try to stop us from worshipping,” said Ailwin.
The woman swung her entiscan head, as though studying the landscape for some assistance. Her fat lips writhed against each other for some moments, until she cleared her throat. “G – O – B—”
“Next!” The soldiers hooted and laughed, and the young giantess slowly slumped and turned away, middle finger raised in a Parthian shot at the fortress.
“At least she’s going around in bare feet, like a normal giantess,” Ailwin observed. Colin cleared his throat but said nothing.
After some dull moments Bertram sent the coppery-haired recruit down to the scullery for a ploughman’s lunch for them to share. They were breaking into stout bread as a bored young giantess draped in a black cowl and robe stumbled toward them. She wore baggy pantaloons of flannel, tightly designed with the repeating image of a spiky leafed plant, and she too announced she was their giantess, no, wait, goddess, and she informed them how excited they were to start worshipping her.
“Ah, Captain, if I may,” started Colin. Bertram nodded. “Pardon me, giantess!” His helmet slipped back as he craned up to address the young, enormous woman.
“I’m your goddess, pathetic bug.”
“Right, about that: by what metric are you a goddess?”
The massive woman weaved slightly and the soldiers wondered whether she would collapse upon them. “What?” She appeared to have trouble focusing on them.
“Like, can you bring people back from the dead? That would be very useful to us.” The other soldiers brightened at this and nodded. “Or do you control weather? I see your, er, raiment is festooned with agricultural designs. Can you bring in rain when we need it and chase it away when we don’t? Maybe summon a thunderstorm to burden our enemies?”
“No, I don’t do any of that,” she said slowly.
“Can you at least step on our enemies?”
She hmmphed and pouted and said that wasn’t how this works, so Colin asked her how it worked. “You worship me like the stupid bitches you are.”
Colin glanced at his compatriots, who shrugged. “And what do we get out of this?”
“What do we, your ostensible worshippers, receive in exchange for this form of tribute?”
Her expression darkened and her head reared at the thought of it. “You get to pay me.”
They simply stared at her until, confused, she toddled off toward the hills. David really wished he knew where they all came from.
After her was a rather dangerous-looking giantess with large chunks of shiny metal embedded in her face and intricate designs etched into her arms until no skin could be seen. She began to announce her goddessness, until Ailwin offhandedly commented that her bangs didn’t really suit her. “Who gives a fuck what you think,” she growled, thrusting her hips at the towers; the guards inside the towers immediately fled.
“Why are you doing that?” called up David.
“You stupid bugs love this.” The giantess cackled. Her bare breasts, shuddering in the morning air, bore two large glittery disks that covered her nipples, and that was the sum total of her upper garment. “You’re honored to worship me, though you don’t deserve it, pathetic little bugs.” Long, spidery fingers ending in colored talons clawed at her own breasts.
Ailwin turned away, wincing. “Good lord, that looks painful.”
“You love it,” she insisted. He debated the viability of protesting this.
David gingerly replaced a slice of sausage onto the trencher. “I don’t think I want this anymore.”
“Fuck you, stupid worms! I’m sexy!”
“You’re incredibly sexy,” amended David hastily.
Her huge eyes rolled in her sockets, taking in the periphery of the fortress. “No free shows, assholes,” she growled, stomping away.
Shortly before the chapel bells rang for sext, they were visited by another enormous woman. “Great gobs of geese,” whispered Elias. “How is she even walking?” They all stared up at her: incredibly long and spindly legs waded through the woods with much crashing and rending of good timber. Elias looked at his captain. “Saves us some time, I guess.”
Bertram chewed the corner of his mouth and watched her approach. Long, thin thighs rose up and disappeared into a frilly umbrella of white and black fabric, like a skirt but much shorter and stiffer as it shot out in a ring. Beneath, blue-and-white striped undergarments were plainly visible; Ailwin, Colin, and Elias turned chastely away. David and his captain remained gaping in disbelief at the entiscan chest: instead of breasts, she appeared to have two small planets mounted to her ribs. The purpose of this, they could not determine, for they bounced and heaved in what had to be an intensely painful manner.
“Greetings, you tiny, disgusting little assholes,” she called out in a bell-like voice. “Shut up. It is I, Queen Empress Regina the Magnificent, in all mine Amazonian glory!” She stretched her arms wide, almost as wide as the lord’s demesne, and grinned up at the sun. “Bow down, thou stupid fucks! Bow down and worship thine glorious goddess!” She shook an immense mane of platinum blonde and smirked at the guards lined along the parapets. “Shut up. That’s right, finally I have arriven to engrace thee with mine glory! It’s wonderful, I know, and I also know thou disgusting little pervs want nothing better than to worship my toes!”
Colin looked at Elias and whispered “Arriven?” Elias shrugged.
“And if ye do a goodeth job,” she continued, sneering, “maybe I’ll even suffer thee to survive. Maybe! But probably not.” Queen Empress Regina the Magnificent tried to fold her arms imperiously, but there wasn’t room to do so beneath the immense, ponderous globes, and going above was too far of a reach, so she simply posed akimbo and laughed. “Which of thou pathetic little worms is going to be the first to payeth homage to thine beloved goddess? That’s right, I’m granting thee rare permission to smeareth thine pathetic little selves upon my ravishing toes. Shut up. Thou art lucky thee’re so small or you’d really make a mess, ye disgusting little worms.” So saying, she extended one impossibly long, stilt-like leg toward the fortress and planted her foot before the portcullis.
Bertram gnawed at a chewy slice of bread. David carefully carved neat slices out of a hank of ham. Colin thoughtfully sliced up all the cheeses in more or less even sizes for distribution, and Elias made tiny little sandwiches for them all to enjoy. Ailwin ran off for beer.
Queen Empress Regina the Magnificent’s beaming smile slowly melted into a wrinkled scowl. “What the hell are you pathetic bugs doing down there?”
“Shut up?” offered Colin. David and Elias laughed with their mouths full. Bertram tossed a piece of cheese onto Colin’s helmet and they laughed at that, too.
“You pathetic… worms! I don’t believe this! Are you listening to anything I’ve said?” Queen Empress Regina the Magnificent stomped one disproportionately large foot into the ground, sending a tremor throughout the castle grounds. She clenched her large fists at the end of long and spindly arms, and the planets on her chest launched into a shoving war between themselves. “Shut up! I’m you’re new goddess and you’re so lucky to serve me! Shut up, bow down, and start worshipping me like you know you want to!”
“Captain,” Elias said, “it’s hard to finish lunch with all these weapons strapped to me. Do you mind if I disarm?”
Bertram looked about to balk, then shrugged and unbuckled his own sword belt, letting his axe and daggers clatter to the paved stone floor. The soldiers likewise unhooked their heavy equipment and rested it in separate piles. “Yours is touching mine,” Colin hissed sharply to Elias, who apologized and moved his belt slightly to the side.
Queen Empress Regina the Magnificent glared at them in disbelief. “You stupid, disgusting worms! What are you—”
“Disgusting bugs,” called up Bertram. “You already used worms.”
“But she said pathetic last time,” Elias pointed out.
“Ah, that’s right.” The captain waved at the entiscan woman. “Carry on.”
“You miserable, pathetic wor— I mean, bugs! Wait!” Queen Empress Regina the Magnificent began to froth at the mouth. “No, I mean you fucking idiots! You adore me! I’m better than all your wives and you know it! You dream of me! You wish you could get some of this! You’re lucky to worship me, you fucking losers!” She paused. “Are you fucking yawning?!”
Bertram looked genuinely embarrassed. “Sorry, I was trying to hide that, honest.” Behind them, Ailwin came charging up the stairs with a large barrel of ale strapped to his back, and the men turned from the lanky giantess, visibly cheered.
With a roar, Queen Empress Regina the Magnificent strained to raise one of her knees. Sunlight glinted off her toenails as she brought her bare sole upon the battlements, only just missing the soldiers. For some reason, she continued to stomp in the same spot, calling everyone stupid, thus giving the soldiers plenty of time to rally, assemble, draw out the horses, and load up their own siege engines. Up went the portcullis, out spilled the troops upon the giantess’s unguarded foot, and the battle was joined.
Ailwin dolefully poked his spear at an oversized big toe. It actually was an attractive toe, as huge toes went, but duty called. So did the barrel of ale left behind on the battlement: he hoped it was all right. “What’s that thing you always say, Captain?” he asked. “In times like these?”
Bertram considered this, as he climbed upon the bridge of the giantess’s foot to begin hacking at an engorged blue vein. “Ah, right. What a curse, to be born under stupid gods.”
4 thoughts on “An Embarrassment of Deities”
This was a surprising story. The way it begins I expected it to be about a magic spell, or a giantess looking for a bard, or some sort of historical size story. I like how you don’t explain anything; the giantesses just show up, behave the way they do, and step right off, like models strutting down the runway… except of course when they get to the end they are booed and laughed at by the crowd.
I also liked the casual attitude of those standing guard. They’re sporting their battle gear, but at the same time there’s a sheen of contempt in the way they treat the giant visitors. Neither party tries to breach that intellectual gulf. One because it can’t, and the other because it won’t. And maybe that describes both sides. Possibly. Maybe it was mostly Bertram that felt the ease of facing giantesses that demanded to be worshipped rather than the assault of enemy armies.
“Paypigs” cracked me up. : D
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This was kind of a lazy story in that it’s directly observational of public phenomena. Practically wrote itself. I had the idea but didn’t write it immediately, so when I finally got around to it most of the sheen wore off, but I figure I can come back to it later and keep adding ideas as they occur to me and no one will die. The only major deviation from my original vision was that I chose not to incorporate the subliterate stylings of these ersatz goddesses into my narrative, only hinted at them with a spelling quiz.
I’m less inclined to explain anything in short stories in my blog. People who come here should just accept that Size Happens™ and they shouldn’t strain themselves to make sense of it. There’s a standard, bookend medieval fortress, and there’s a stream of anachronistic giantesses, and off we go.
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I’ve been meaning to remark that one reason I envy you your Fairview, Washington, and Franklin is that you don’t have to spend a lot of time on exposition for this Astonishing! Incredible! Inexplicable! size differential that animates each and every story. I want to institute similar devices for my stories, but I remain torn between just letting the background accumulate “organically” with each new story or if I want to set out rigorous “fact sheets” for each world, particularly since I know all-too-well how easily the latter option can detract from (and even circumscribe) actual story-writing.
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I suppose I’m not exposed to the right forum, but in my limited experience sooner or later you get a Big Girl who just wants to hear the crunch and feel the squish.
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