I set out last week on a quest to slay monsters. They have been accused of banditry, of stealing livestock, and poisoning the river with their excrement. The evidence is convincing, the cause is just.

As I have been traveling I have been thinking through my approach, refining it, perfecting it. It is likely the tale that I will tell people when I return home as it will be more exciting than the real thing. But regardless, it’s good to be prepared, ready to take on anything.

There will be traps leading to their cave; a trip wire that unleashes rocks from a net overhead; a noose that will tighten around my ankle to hoist me high into the air. But I will be too clever for them, I will manage to bypass them silently. They will be noisily feasting on the flesh of some hapless creature. The slurp of blood and the crunch of bones will be disgusting; combined with the nauseating smell it would be too much for an ordinary man to endure, but I shall fight through it.

I will peek from around the corner to see, for the first time, their hulking forms, hunched over a fire and covered in blood. Even crouched they will easily be taller than I, and stronger for sure than any ten men. From my new vantage I will see that they are not eating a beast but that they are munching on what is unmistakably human. My resolve will strengthen, for surely if any creature has ever deserved to die, it will be these.

The one on the left will be sitting underneath the cave wall, giving me an opportunity for a clever ambush. I will scale the wall, careful to avoid any loose rocks that would tumble down and announce my presence. When I am at the top I will silently unsheathe my sword and then leap, plunging my sword straight into the the monster’s spine at the base of its neck, killing it instantly. But in an act of defiance from beyond death’s door, two of its vertebrae will clamp onto my sword, preventing me from getting it out cleanly and allowing the other monster time to ready itself. When it lunges at me I will attempt to leap out of the way but it will be quicker than it will appear and it will grab my ankle. As it swings me around I will manage to grab the hilt of my sword and use the monster’s strength to wrench it out of the body of its fallen mate. Then, still hanging in the air, I will stab through the monster’s wrist, crippling it and causing it to release me, sending me falling to the ground. I will turn my fall into a roll, coming up to my feet, ready to strike. The monster will still be screaming in pain, and spraying blue-green blood around the cave from its wrist. I will dash forward through its massive, veiny legs to strike at the back of its gargantuan knees. It will fall to the ground, shaking the whole cave, and I will briefly wonder if the whole thing will come tumbling down around me, but it will calm. In my momentary lapse of concentration I will miss, until the last moment, the monster’s attempt, with its one remaining functional limb, to smash me against the wall, but with a nearly superhuman effort I will manage to throw myself sideways, just barely avoiding the terrible attack. Then when I regain my feet, I will do a great leaping flip onto its chest, from where I will plunge my sword through its massive eye into its brain. I will stand atop it, dusty and bloody, but victorious, while beneath me it will twitch, as though it is so big that it will take time for the entirety of it to become aware that it is dead.

When I get there, the monsters are no taller than I am and they were expecting me. One of them has made a cake, which smells temptingly of sugar and cinnamon.

I think there has been a grave misunderstanding.

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