The Giant of Rotok | 10 January 4/685

The view from inside a cave set in forested hills with a pond at the entrance.
The Giant’s Cave

Dearest Jowan, Cora, and patrons of the Unarkida

Recommended: Read Extract No. 1 here, if you haven’t already.

Derrik’s story would have seemed farfetched in 3/115 had it seen the light of day. We still had so much to learn. Incidents like this were a precursor to much more significant events in the following decades.

Look upon the Titans, the builders of Unara.
Giants at their feet, caretakers of this world.
She, the light that charges them in life.
He, the shadow consuming in death.

Translated from the Araki Verses

Extract No. 2 from the journal of Derrik Sandar, an Officer of the Agriculture & Wildlife Council of Dax.

Day 203 – 22 July 3/115 – Case 2/58/3/115

Case: Reports received of bear attacks in the foothills of the Diamond Hills, outside the village of Rotok

Summary: With a night’s rest behind me, I feel I need to restate the facts.

Firstly, we have a missing child (Lea Haldar). Ascertaining her status is my priority.

Secondly, we have a bear, one of larger than average proportions, roaming the forest near the Village of Rotok.

An assessment must be conducted regarding the danger to local livestock and the villagers.

My first course of action today is picking up the trail left by the bear in the hope of discovering the child’s fate.

Day 205 – 24 July 3/115 – Case 2/58/3/115

Notes continued:

I have spent the last two days trying to come to terms with what I witnessed on the morning of the 22nd of July. I have yet to report back to the Council and haven’t decided how complete or accurate my final report will be. This will be my first effort to record the events of that day as they took place. Let’s see how this reads.

On the morning in question, following breakfast, I headed back to the Montral Farm. The farmer, Kestin Haldar, father of the missing child, was waiting for me. He had armed himself and was preparing to accompany me. I had to inform him that I could not allow him to do so. Not knowing what I might find or his state of mind, I could not risk it. He did not understand, but complied.

The trail was easy enough to pick up and I tracked it several kilometres into the forest in the morning light. There was no evidence yet of any harm coming to the child after she vanished from the scene of the violence. No blood nor any evidence of her, only the creature’s tracks.

The trail led me deep into the forest to an area known for large caves and waterfalls. According to my investigation, this area is the subject of much superstition among the locals in Rotok. Stories are told of missing campers, vagrants and lost adventure-seekers going back to the Second Age.

I came to the edge of a large pool. It was dammed up by a series of fallen boulders and set before what looked to be an extensive cave system. The tracks entered the pool, so ending the trail. There did not seem anywhere else for the creature to have gone but into the caves.

I know better than to enter the cave of a bear without exploring the surroundings and conducting some observation first. The last thing one wants is to be trapped between a bear and its home, or worse, its young.

First, I walked a broad sweep in both directions, finding nothing of note. After that, I found a high point overlooking the cave entrance. A mound of fallen rock and boulders served me well. I observed for about two hours before I considered approaching the cave.

Only, there was no need to because I now heard signs of life from within. A familiar rumbling growl reverberated around the small clearing.

The sound was familiar enough that I could confirm it was something like a bear I was dealing with, but it was remarkable in its volume and melody. I say melody because it was more song-like than any regular bear grunt or call I had heard before.

The creature emerged from its cave. I will do my best here to describe it as accurately as I can. I have been struggling to find the words.

My size estimate back at the farm was a touch conservative, but not by much. Of one thing I am certain, it looked like a bear, though none I believe to be on the official record.

There are myths of ancient creatures. Giants of earlier epochs, wolves, antelope, whales and more. Bears too. I believe that in those stories, they were called Grootbears. I remember reading these stories in my studies before those books were banned and destroyed.

Now, if I were a betting man, I’d say what I saw was one of these Grootbears. As it reached the water’s edge, it rose and stood on its hind legs. Taller than twenty feet, it stood before sitting back down on its rump and scratching its belly.

Its eyes were glowing, yes… glowing a bright white. I am still trying to convince myself that I did not imagine that.

Its fur was a dark brown, or that was the colour I settled on. There was a shimmer to it where it caught the light, and the colour seemed to shift in hue. I would need to make a closer inspection to be sure.

By now, I had trained the scope of my repeating rifle on the animal but found myself hesitant. There was this feeling that I was witnessing something mystical, sacred even. Lifting my cheek from the rifle stock, I stared at her for a while. She swatted at some midges flying around her head, yawned and then continued to gaze out into the trees beyond.

Those eyes. They burned an intense white. The image is still seared into my mind’s eye.

One more surprise was to come. Out from the cave, to my immense relief, came young Lea. She was as happy as she could be, if not as clean as she might be. She approached the Grootbear and teased it playfully, tickling its flanks. My hand tightened around my rifle stock.

The Grootbear played along gently, lovingly. She swatted away at her and grunted, a deep warmth in her demeanour.

Just then, she stopped playing and looked up, clearly alerted to something unwelcome. I quickly learned that the wind must have shifted, and it was my scent she had suddenly detected.

She was back on all fours in an instant, growling aggressively and looking in my direction. I had no time to think. My first instinct was to shoot, but that was immediately overcome by something profound which I cannot describe. Instead, I stepped down from the rock and held my gun high, hoping the gesture would be understood.

Young Lea immediately stepped in front of the Grootbear and shouted, “please! Please don’t hurt her.”

“I’m not even sure I could, young one.” I placed my rifle on the ground.

After she calmed the Grootbear, I persuaded her to accompany me home. As we walked, she spoke to me; she indicated they had been communicating on some level, and she seemed to know so much about the ancient animal. She shared with me some of what she knew before explaining what had happened the day before.

The Grootbear had indeed saved her from the dogs. Lea had come out to try and prevent them from harming her father’s sheep, but the dogs had rounded on her. She showed me bite marks on her legs, nasty but already healing so well that I struggled to accept they were from only a day earlier.

The Grootbear had arrived, in the nick of time, quickly dispatching the dogs. Then she explained that the creature had approached and licked her wounds before picking her up and carrying her off into the forest. She understood that the Grootbear wanted to nurse her back to health, which it did—bringing us to our moment outside the cave.

After returning Lea to her father, I have spent two more days in Rotok. I revisited young Lea and found her wounds are almost entirely healed. She spoke to me about what I might say in my report. I explained that I had not yet decided.

After my visit, I trekked back to the cave and observed the creature for several hours. It became clear at some point that she was aware of my presence, and we seemed to share the moment. I felt something in those large, glowing eyes—something deeper than I have seen in any animal I have tracked or hunted.

Is it my place? To reveal the existence of such a sacred thing.

I feel confident that the creature would not be safe. Especially if the High Council were to learn of it.

Perhaps this account should never see the light of day.

Perhaps all I discovered was a bear, after all.

This was the last entry in the journal, despite being barely half full and in fine condition. It’s as if Derrik hid it for fear of it falling into the wrong hands. Though he clearly could not bring himself to destroy it. We located it amongst a series of donations from deceased estates.

Come back next week for another story from the Third Age.

Illustration by Midjourney & G.G.B.

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