“Come, young Sidekick!” called Sir Arthur Nohack to his plucky protégé, “Let us mount our steeds straight away so that we may begin a great quest.”

“Yes, sire!” cried the eager squire, leaping onto his stallion. “But if I may inquire, of what quest do you speak?”

“Quite well of you to ask, young Sidekick. Our quest, if the Lord allows it, will be to find the Epic Short Story.”

“The Epic Short Story?!” replied Sidekick in a tone that implied astonishment and perhaps even incredulity, “Does such a thing even exist, sire? A story that is both epic and short?”

“Indeed it does, young and inquisitive one. Such was revealed to me by the Oracle of Foreshadows when I visited his cave three mornings past. The Oracle informed me that my destiny is to find this Epic Short Story so that the whole world may bask in its narrative glory. He then gave me this.” Nohack produced a small leather pouch into which was burnt the inscription ‘D.E.M.’

“What do you suppose it means?” asked the curious Sidekick.

“I know not, my ever questioning student, but the Oracle foretold that I will use it when even God cannot help. Now, Young Sidekick, we must depart while the sun yet ascends!” And with that, the intrepid knight and loyal squire embarked on their certain to be legendary adventure.

The first three days and nights of our heroes’ journey passed uneventfully. By day, Nohack and Young Sidekick rode their stallions at full gallop over the misty meadows and through the dark forest. At nightfall they ate and drank by an open fire under the stars, forging a crucial familial bond as Young Sidekick sat enthralled, listening to the stories of his brave master. “Brave Sir Arthur,” the squire exclaimed at one point, “it pleases me so that we are able to forge this crucial familial bond.”

“Indeed,” replied the thoughtful Nohack. “Oftentimes during these quests, the sidekick suffers an untimely demise. Would you not agree, then, that our burgeoning brotherhood will make your inevitable death more emotionally resonant?” Young Sidekick nodded trembling as wise Nohack gazed into the flickering flame. “A grand quest we have undertaken, my young friend, traversing this vaguely medieval landscape through the English moors during late spring,” he reflected expositionally. “Yes, definitely medieval,” added Sidekick helpfully, gesturing toward a picturesque gothic castle in the distance.

On the fourth day an imposing challenge presented itself in the form of the Desert of Writer’s Block. “It is as I had imagined,” lamented Sidekick as the two questors sat on their horses facing the great expanse. “How shall we approach it, Sire?”

“I know little of it myself, frightened yet still eager one,” answered Nohack. “According to legend, the bones of many who have sought great stories lie buried in these barren sands. We shall do what we can do, and that, Young Sidekick, is press forward.” And so the brave knight and… With that, Sir Arthur andNohack and Young Sidekick bravely rode forward intoA stinging breeze uncovered the bleached bones ofDays passed and yet no end was“Sir… Arthur… help… can’t… find… the… words…” “Young Sidekick… we must… persevere… onward… Aaaaarrrrgggghhhhh!!!!! Parched and exhausted Nohack and Sidekick finally emerged from the great desert.

“Great Gatsby!” cried a weakened and suddenly anachronistic Sidekick, “How much time have we lost, and what has become of our horses?”

“I cannot say for certain, my understandably concerned young apprentice,” answered an exhausted Nohack, “but I fear the horses, and the supplies they bore, are gone forever. I have not the words to express how much I never wish to revisit that dreadful desert! Come now, dear Sidekick, and let us find water and sustenance for our bellies.”

And so the courageous Sir Arthur and the decreasingly enthusiastic Sidekick continued their journey on foot, eating and drinking when food and water could be found, and resting under the watchful eyes of the stars. Along the way, they met many captivating characters and withstood numerous nail-bitingly close calls. Most notably, they met the fair Princess Love Interest, being held prisoner in the tall stone tower at Castle Subplot, and whom the smitten Nohack swore to rescue once he and Sidekick had successfully acquired the Epic Short Story.

It came to be that on the seventy-third day of the great quest that Sir Arthur saw a bright light radiating from the side of nearby Mount Climaxus. “It is a sign, Sire!” exclaimed a rejuvenated Sidekick. “Our prize must await us there, less than a day’s journey from here.”

“I believe you are correct,” sighed a relieved Nohack. “Soon the whole world will celebrate our great achievement, and English professors into the distant future will sing the praises of the Epic Short Story! Still, prudence dictates that we proceed with due diligence. I suspect that we may encounter one last conflict before reaching Climaxus.”

No sooner than Nohack had spoken these prophetic words than the intrepid duo was attacked by a marauding band of Clichés. “The early bird catches the worm!” heralded the leader of the fast approaching horde.

“Quickly, draw your sword!” shouted Nohack to his startled cohort, “I could have lived three lifetimes without meeting these vile, vicious creatures.”

“There are so many of them,” replied the overwhelmed Sidekick, “How can we defeat them all, my grizzled yet dashing leader?”

“Listen well, worthy Sidekick. One Cliché poses little threat, but, alas, where there is one, you can be sure a thousand more are hidden nearby. Many a promising story has been derailed by a sudden invasion on the part of these most foul beings. Stand firm, Young Sidekick, and pray that we have God’s favor today.”

A fierce battle ensued, and the Clichés were on Nohack and Sidekick like white on rice. “It’s do or die, and we have you dead to rights!” taunted the attackers as the heroes valiantly defended themselves.

“I do not know how much more I can take,” cried a withering Sidekick, “These Clichés are so… banal! I feel as though my ears may explode!”

“Thrust and parry, brave Sidekick, thrust and parry. We’ll taste victory yet!” reassured the gallant Sir Arthur.

“Our backs are against the wall, but it is always darkest before the dawn!” asserted the Clichés in growing desperation.

“The day is ours,” yelled Nohack, sensing victory, “Now leave us to be on our way, you odious vermin.”

“You haven’t heard the last from us!” responded the retreating Clichés.

This last great obstacle behind them, Nohack and Sidekick made their slow ascent up Mount Climaxus. After hours of treacherous climbing, they reached the source of the bright light: the fabled Cave of Confrontation. Upon their arrival at the entrance of the cave, a loud and terrible voice shook the ground, “Who dares to disturb me on this of all days?”

“It is I, Sir Arthur Nohack, and my squire, Young Sidekick. We have journeyed seventy-three days and endured numerous hardships to claim the Epic Short Story for the glory of our kingdom.”

“Then you should have spent your time more wisely, for I am Morlok the Guardian, and I live only to prevent knights and other protagonists from removing the sacred text from this cave,” spoke the guardian as he emerged into the light revealing himself to be a fearsome beast with horns and impressively large muscles, “and I have vanquished far worthier foes than you.”

“Mighty Morlok, you indeed inspire awe and fear, but I must have that text. Prepare to defend yourself. Young Sidekick, your sword, and do not be timid!” Sidekick drew his sword and charged the enraged beast, who struck the boy to the ground with a single blow.

Sir Arthur knelt by his protégé. “Young Sidekick, are you injured?”

“Sire, is that you?” answered the mortally injured Sidekick, coughing up blood, “My vision is blurred, and I can’t feel my legs.”

“Oh, my sweet boy,” consoled the saddened knight, “It is good that we had the time to forge that crucial familial bond. Now your death will have emotional resonance.”

“Sire, this has been my greatest adventure. Avenge me…” and brave Young Sidekick breathed no more.

“You see,” intoned Morlok smugly, “You’re no match for me. God himself could not wrest the sacred text from me!”

Nohack’s eyes brightened with revelation. “Not even God,” he thought, and he removed the small leather pouch inscribed “D.E.M.” from his coat. Inside the pouch was a small rock which he clutched tightly while saying a prayer. Then, with all the power he could muster, Nohack flung the rock at Morlok, striking him in the temple and killing him instantly. “Of course!” said Nohack as he stood over the fallen beast, “D.E.M. – Deus Ex Machina. The Oracle is surely the wisest of us all!”

Sir Arthur procured The Epic Short Story, and set off to rescue the fair Princess Love Interest.