I woke up with a start, I’d fallen out of bed. We were moving again. I don’t know why it surprised me, we’re always moving these days it seems. I asked my broodkin what was going on. They replied, “Giant attack overnight, had to move the tribe again.”
“Ahh, that tracks, there were reports of one nearby when we set up outside of town,” I grimaced while I grabbed a snack and said, “I just woke up, you want me to lead the caravan for a few hours while you get some sleep?”
They handed me the meld orb faster than they could sigh “thanks”. As they climbed back into the sleeping cart they told me “someone will relieve you in a few hours” so I mind-melded with the Atlas beetles and took over guiding the caravan.
The road was flat and straight and the beetles aren’t as dumb as most people think, so it was a fairly simple matter of nudging the bugs one way or the other every once in a while when a curve came up.
Nobody ever did end up relieving me, but we still made it to the next town eventually. They weren’t pleased about a goblin tribe setting up shop so close to town. People don’t think highly of us. But they got over it when they saw our goods and silks. People seem a lot less likely to be overtly bigoted to you when you have something they want.
“We’ve got fine silks and rare goods!” One of my broodkin was shouting at passersby to get their attention, drawing in customers with the kinda shit they’d never be able to get this far out from the Metropoli. “We’ve even got powerful magics! And exciting new technologies!” It seemed to be working because there’s six customers trying to get our shipments of silk blend and the new portable phones.
We sold twelve of the new portable phones and eight bolts of the silk blend. We noticed a lull in customers coming by and called it a night.
We all set up in front of the visocast with news on. It wasn’t surprising that most of the reports were on the giant attack we just fled, but the report that it was coming our direction again was a very unwelcome surprise.
We changed it to cartoons to keep the fresh brood distracted while we packed up. It seemed to work because none of them asked any difficult questions. Whether that’s because they’re used to the nomadic lifestyle already and know the answers, or because the distraction worked was hard to say for sure.
I can’t stand pulling all nighters. We just finished with work for the day, and we have to fucking leave town and run the caravan another three hundred damned miles east towards the metropolitan core.
We finally got far enough from town that it was no longer visible. Myself and my broodkin all shared a collective sigh of relief. The Atlas beetles didn’t even need to be melded throughout the trip, they sensed the danger and kept going without our nudging. They didn’t settle down at any point in the journey. Even when I melded with them and started urging them to stop they kept going for another 10 miles.
We’d made it about a hundred-fifty miles over the span of two hours when we finally settled down for the night. The bugs didn’t seem to understand that the danger was over now; they wouldn’t stop chittering. I wish I’d known how right they were to still be scared.
Later in the night, after we’d made camp following our mad dash out of town, we’d all gone to sleep and had learned to tune out the chittering from the bugs. In the early hours of the morning we were all woken up by rumbling and stumbled out of our tents and sleeping carts. We felt it more than heard it, a deep periodic rumble that trembles through your guts.
Then we saw it covered in shadows. Deep inky, oily black shadows that obscured any details I could’ve made out. I’d never seen one this close and suddenly all of the stories about them being taller than the clouds seemed true. The bugs saw it too, evidently, because they all ran whether there was a cart hooked up to them or not. They ran faster than I’d ever seen them run before.
It all happened in an instant. The giant appearing, the bugs running, and now the giant reaching for a storage cart. It ate the entire thing. It swallowed the cart whole without chewing. It looked angry when it realized that the cart didn’t have anyone inside, then it looked around to find more prey. It spotted some of the young brood huddled together in fear. They were all scooped up at once and then swallowed. The entire tribe was in an uproar after that but we couldn’t do anything, none of us were powerful enough.
The elder brood started casting the most powerful combat spells they had at the giant, the spells shot through the air like fireworks, all of the colors of the rainbow blending into each other, into the brightest whitest light I’d ever seen. It lit the night sky around us and left several of us blinded for a few seconds and then we could see again. The giant was completely unaffected, in fact the giant looked bored, and it just… walked away as if terrorizing my entire tribe and eating our young wasn’t even a noteworthy event in its day.
The worst part was the apathy afterwards. None of us could actually do anything to stop the giant and once the terror bled out of us we just started trying to get the Atlas beetles mounted back to the caravan so we could keep moving. It’s all we can do, just keep moving and hope it doesn’t come again.
We caught the beetles and got back on the road. We had another two-hundred miles to the next town and a lot of sorrows that needed to be drowned, so we carried on in silence until we made it to the next town.