In the days that followed, many women tried to court him, some by clues and some by deeds. Matrons offered him their daughters. Braided women took him to secluded places and made outlandish declarations of love and fealty. However, they were as shades to him: barely heard and barely noticed.
The rejected grew wrathful, but their anger and resentment was not aimed at the fire giant. Rather, it spilled upon the shoulders of the sad giant that had caught his eye, for it is the nature of suffering to flow down like water. However, their hate never exceeded harsh words and feeble pranks. Though the sad giant was made weak by sorrow, all remembered her wanton youth and feared her.
And so, on the day the sad giant left her lodge on quest, all were pleased to be rid of her.
She began by picking flax near villages depopulated by war. She retted the flax stalks in fetid ponds that few travelers have visited, except for one sad man from England who saw all things as they truly were. He told the giant that she was very beautiful and wrote a poem about her.
With a sharp blade of flint, she carved a scraper from a fallen oak and used it to scutch the retted stalks and spin them into yarn. Next, she wove the yarn into a large square of cloth.
Now, with a humble shawl wrapped around her, drab and colorless, the giant wandered far and wide in search of a red dye. Even as a child, she’d always prided herself in finishing every task she’d put her mind to, even if it was wicked, ostentatious, or worthless (words that were often spoken about her -- first to her face and later behind her back).
An ifrit offered to pour liquid fire into her shawl, but she shooed him away. She had no use for gifts from those who kill angels. A blood giant offered to paint it with the blood of his enemies, but he first demanded that she lie beneath him. She sent him away as well.
Finally, after walking for many days, she’d met a little god whose temple was not visited for longer than men or giant counted years. One mustn’t worship any gods save the God of Stones, but what kindness has the God of Stones shown the sad giant that she should be so loyal to him? What has he done for her besides murdering her blameless son?
She’d cleaned the temple of the little God and made a small sacrifice in his honor. She’d placed heavy rocks in the sand so that lost travelers could wander into his temple and cool in its shade. In gratitude, the little God taught her how to ground the rubia root and make vivid red dye. He asked her to stay in his temple and be his goddess. She refused for she did not deem him her equal.
As the sad giant walked away, wrapped in a shiny red shawl, the little god cried very bitterly. His tears brought life to a land parched for longer than men or giant counted years and the denizens of that land called it a miracle.
After thirteen months, the giant returned to her cave one hour shy of sunrise. Her lean body was concealed beneath a red shawl that shone as if flames and rubies were held prisoner within. She twirled about and she was like the fiery chariot of the Prophet Gaashiah rising into heaven.
“Behold!” the fire giant exclaimed with laughter in his voice. “There goes a night giant in a red shawl and who has seen such a wonder?”
And that very instant, as if by magic, the sadness of the giant was uplifted, as if burned away by the bright color of her shawl. Perhaps it truly was magic; who knew what mysteries the wise giant brought with him from the east?
“Who does she think she is, being so ostentatious in her red shawl?” An older woman complained. “It is obscene for a woman to conceal her breasts and thus inflame man’s imagination!”
A younger woman complained, “She already threw coal into the fire giant’s furnace, why must she rub it in our faces by wearing this gaudy blanket?”
The Cave decisor waved his scrawny fist in the air. “Cease your insipid prancing, you rakish wench! You nearly stepped on my tablet, you clumsy harlot!”
Red Shawl laughed and danced around the old fool. The scorn of her cave mates bounced off of her like spears and arrows off the scales of great Leviathan, whom none but God can injure. Inside her red shawl, she was as safe as great Ziz, whom none but God can challenge.
The following night, the giant went outside to search for lovely branches to weave into her basket. She decided that she’d paint it blue. Blue was a good color for a prophet who will give solace to men living among the poisoned ruins of a once great civilization.
All she would produce from now on would be painted in vivid colors. She will be the most colorful giant in the Land of the Exiled. Should anyone find this unseemly or ostentatious, they’d taste her sharp rocks, which would be colorful as well. Though she was but a basket weaver, few could throw rocks farther or stronger than her.
With her red shawl wrapped around her shoulders and her hair fandangles rustling in the wind, the giant sang about great cities under the sea and the liberated raven that toured the sky after refusing to be a slave to Naher of the Boat. A night came and went. Two nights came and went. On the third night, the fire giant came to her.
His flesh bore the black marks of battle, but his eyes shone with triumph. His great blade, inscribed by Naher with the seven secret forms of the Explicit Name of the God of Gods, was still bright with heat.
“My lady,” he said, “I see that you have kept the fruit of the quest that I have bestowed upon you. Do you not think it ostentatious to shine so brightly among your peers?”
The giant in the red shawl laughed. “O noble fire giant. I am no lady. Of my people, I am the lowest. I am most wanton and ostentatious. I am only a little better than a dragon, though he who should say this to my face would taste my sharp rock!” She laughed again. “I see now that this shawl was but a component in a magic spell that you have cast upon me to rekindle the fire in my furnace.”
The face of the fire giant hardened. “All giants are the offspring of the Children of God,” he said sternly. “To belittle oneself is to blaspheme against the Holiest, blessed be he, for in his image we are carved from the choicest of stones.”
The giant in the red shawl laughed harder. “Oh, then I have just added a drop of water to the raging sea, for my blasphemies are without number!”
“I came to fulfill my oath,” the fire giant said stiffly. “Command me to leave and I shall proceed to the East. A human prophet walks there who preaches for unity among all races. I wish to hear his sermons before he is murdered.”
Without waiting for her answer, he turned around as if to leave. However, the giant in the red shawl caught his belt, preventing him from walking further.
She bit her lip and spoke. “I worked hard to complete the quest which you have bestowed upon me. I think I deserve greater satisfaction than a mere shawl…”