The giant exhaled and I snuck a peek at his face. His piercing stare stuck on me and I held my breath.
“Take my hand!” He thrust his open palm at me.
Why should I? This giant had shown no compassion for me and I had to get away. Purposefully allowing him to seize me didn’t seem the best course. Perhaps I could dart past him and out the cave?
“Please,” he said. It actually sounded sincere.
I swallowed hard. There really wasn’t anywhere to run. I watched almost as if it were someone else’s hand that floated upward and into the palm of my captor as I sealed my fate. With a gentleness I didn’t expect, he lifted me to my feet.
“This has been a mistake. Let me take you somewhere warm and get you a meal.”
“Will you take me home?” My voice sounded small—and weak. At that moment it matched my resolve. Tired, I slumped at the offer of comfort.
“Perhaps, though there’s more to consider first. We can speak again when you’re rested.” With that, he scooped me into his arms.
Positioned against his large frame, I could tell he held me as one would an injured bird. Carefully, not wishing to cause more harm to the fragile creature. It confused me.
We headed out of the cave and into the swirling winds. Snow and ice pelted us from all directions. I never would have made it far if I’d have run alone. The giant hunched his shoulders, providing me the most protection within his ability. As unnerving as it was, I was grateful. I tucked my face into his chest and let my hair surround me. In part, for warmth but also to hide.
Not long after, I heard the latch of a door. I peeked through my tresses and found we stood inside an opulent foyer. The giant, whose name I’d still not learned, stomped the snow from his boots. It sloshed onto the shimmering tiles in sloppy clumps.
A male figure came running in our direction. Brushing my hair aside, I couldn’t help but stare. An ape dressed in livery and standing as a man hurried to help me as the giant set me on my feet. A blanket swirled around my shoulders. I stood dumbfounded and mute.
“Please show the young woman to a bower and offer her whatever comforts she desires. I’ll be in my study. Let no one disturb me.” Upon issuing his orders, he strode down a hallway to my right.
It was then I dared to take in my surroundings. A grand staircase, wide enough for four elves to walk abreast rose to a balcony on the next floor. Three massive chandeliers hung above the foyer dripping with crystals and illuminating everything in a sparkling glow. Rich tapestries depicting scenes of garden groves or peaceful canals hung from the walls.
“You are frozen, Mademoiselle. Please allow me to help you to a more comfortable chamber,” the ape said.
“Where am I?” I followed as he led me up the stairs and then down a hallway in the opposite direction the giant had gone.
The ape stopped in front of a tall white door with gilded framing. “I hope this will be an acceptable choice for you. The master can be harsh, but he is fair.” He gestured with a sweeping arm for me to enter the room, without answering my question I noticed.
“I will return when your meal is ready,” the ape said. Bowing deeply he backed away and closed the door.
Nothing could have prepared me for the sights in front of me. Lush green plants grew from pots around the room. Their thick limbs and twining vines climbed the walls and covered the ceiling. Other potted trees were scattered around creating a jungle-like atmosphere. Even the air held the sweetness of new growth and extra oxygen. Peeking between two branches I saw a pair of dark eyes blink once then continue to gaze at me.
“Hello . . . who’s there?”
Leaves rustled from several spots among the greenery, including the ceiling. I inched my way deeper into the room. The humidity and welcoming attitude from the Ape had given me a sense of security. Revitalized with warmth, the icy cave drifted from my memory.
Spinning at the sound of a loud thump behind me, I smiled. An adorable little creature with huge black eyes and fluffy gray fur gazed at me from the floor. Its large ears twitched as it stroked its own tail held between delicate paws.
I leaned down with a wide grin to introduce myself, then promptly fell to my backside. A flash of light blinded me as I scrambled backward, and the innocent-looking creature transformed before my eyes.