I stepped back and shook out my fist. I hadn’t meant to hit the old biddy, but she made me angry, berserker angry. She slumped at the rough-hewn table, a hand to her bloody nose.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “But I need those beans.”
“And I told you I don’t have anymore.”
“You expect me to believe a wizard would give all of her magic beans to an idiot like Jack?”
She glared from under a tangle of grey hair. “I’m an herbalist, not a wizard, and Jack is a nice boy.”
Yeah, my cousin, Jack seems nice, but he’s a shit, and dumb as a haystack. Ever since the whole beanstalk thing he’s been insufferable. That’s why I needed the beans, to rob the damn giants blind and put Jack in his place. I looked around the shack. No self-respecting wizard would live in such a hole. “Look, just one or two beans. I brought you two cows. Jack only gave you one.”
She poked a bony finger in my direction. “I don’t need any more cows. “
I gritted my teeth and towered over her. “Take the cows, give me the beans, or else.”
She straightened her shoulders. “Fine. The beans are gone…” she lifted a hand to placate me. “I have some vine seeds in that drawer,” she said, pointing. “They should do, but they’re slower growing.” She looked me up and down. “Give them five years to hold your weight.”
She shrugged. “Take ‘em or leave ‘em. Just get the hell out.”
I took them.
I planted them. Five years ago.
Today I climb that vine and make Jack look like a chump. I stop at Grimm’s Ale House for some liquid courage on the way. The bartender Bill Gruff hands me a tankard of ale.
“Hey, it’s Jack’s cousin,” calls someone at the back of the bar. “How’s The Giant Killer?”
I try to keep my cool as my metal breastplate clangs against the solid oak bar. “The moron chopped down a vine,” I say. “The fall killed the damn giant.”
“Well, if you want to get technical,” says Bill, the bartender.
I do. I do want to get technical.
“And where did this rumor of giants living in the clouds come from,” I continue. They lived at the top of the fucking cliff. And they never bothered us until Jack and his damn vine.”
“I heard it was a beanstalk,” says a guy further down the bar.
Bill fills a round of glasses then says, “So what’s with the metal petticoat?”
I smile. I motion Bill closer and drop my voice. “I’ve got a vine too and I’m going up tonight. I just want someone to know what happened, just in case.”
Bill shakes his head. “Can’t leave well enough alone, can ya, Georgie.”
“Hell no. I’m bringing back something better than a filthy goose and a stupid harp.”
It’s an hour of rough going to get to the base of the cliff where I planted my seeds five years ago. I gape in awe. The old woman didn’t lie. Vines, the thickness of my thighs, full of red-tipped leaves, twist up the face of the cliff as far as the eye can see. My heart pounds. I step forward and grasp the vine. This is it. Vindication. Finally, I’ll get the respect I deserve.
Wait. The vine writhes. Tendrils whip out at me. Hey! They wrap around my wrists and ankles, drawing me in. I struggle. Larger vines loop around me pinning one arm to my chest. I scream. Bones! I see bones amid the leaf litter. The vine cuts off my windpipe. I can’t breathe! I yank at the vine. It grows tighter. Darkness…closing in. Damn that… little… old… la…
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