Dean would never have realised that it was possible for a flying thing to skid to a halt in mid-air, but that's exactly what Not-Bobby did after he turned and darted back to the brothers and ducked down between them; "it's a friggin' troll," he gasped.
The troll's bloated torso leaned over the side of the bridge; its rolls of fat oozing over the rails like slimy grey molasses. It watched the brothers intently; a moronically blank expression across its spectacularly ugly face. It let out a long wet sniff, and a glistening ribbon of mustard-yellow snot trickled down it's upper lip.
It was only as their stomachs had stopped rolling in disgust, that both brothers noticed what the troll was holding in its huge, calloused hand.
A leg which they were both fairly sure had, until recently, belonged to a human body. It lifted the lifeless limb to it's mouth and took a huge bite, slurping flesh and crunching bone, chewing messily.
"Okay, I'm gonna hurl," Dean groaned, feeling his bile rise as he fought to avoid looking at the foul creature ahead of them, when it was bad enough hearing and smelling the thing.
"Okay, ideas?" Sam asked urgently as he backed slowly away from the bridge pulling Dean with him.
"Well, we've got to kill the damn thing," Dean snorted, his voice barely more than an urgent whisper. He glanced between Sam and Not-Bobby; "how the hell do we gank it?" he asked with a helpless shrug.
The three turned back to look at the troll just in time to see the foot disappear into it's dripping maw.
"Sunlight," Not-Bobby whispered; "you expose them to sunlight, they turn to stone," he added.
Dean looked up, scanning their surroundings.
"Okay, any other ideas," he sighed; "no friggin' sunlight in this desolate hole, too many trees."
Not-Bobby rubbed his beard thoughtfully; "well, as far as I know, they can be killed the same ways we can, but their hide is so thick, you have to be able to get close enough to strike a fatal blow with something pretty lethal."
"Hey," Sam's face brightened as he turned to the faerie; "you can do faerie magic; can't you zap it into a hedgehog or something else harmless?"
The little figure shook his head despondently; "no, my faerie magic can't make a mark on any of the creatures you'll find in this forest; sorry boys – too powerful, too dark."
The brothers fell into a nervous silence as their minds worked feverishly.
"Wait, I know," Sam yelped, slapping himself on the forehead as if he'd come to a realisation that was painfully obvious; "Dean, d'you remember the three Billy-Goats Gruff?"
Dean stared back at his brother, incredulous for a moment. "Sam, is there any reason on earth why I should remember the three Billy-Goats friggin' Gruff?
Sam rolled his eyes, "well right now it would've been useful because they outsmarted a troll on a bridge."
Not-Bobby, swooped down and smacked Dean upside the head; "listen to ya brother, y'idjit."
Sam took a deep breath; "trolls are really stupid," he began.
"Well, goats aren't all that bright ..."
Dean flinched as the little faerie smacked him round the head again; "well, you'd know all about that," he snorted.
"Trolls are really stupid," Sam continued regardless; "and in the three Billy-Goats Gruff, the little goat crossed the bridge first and told the troll that the bigger one would make a better meal, so the troll let him go."
Dean nodded hesitantly.
"the the bigger one went across the bridge and told the troll that the biggest goat would make a better meal, so the troll let him go over too."
"What, trolls speak goat?"
Sam sighed. "Dean, I will hurt you," he stated calmly.
"So will she," added Sam, pointing behind Dean.
Dean turned to see Beauty's face hovering only inches from his own, its angry glare blazing in his direction. She released a hot, moist warning snort squarely into his face.
His grin faded as he turned back to Sam.
"So," Sam continued, glancing nervously over his shoulder at the troll who didn't seem to be making any move toward them just yet; "the two smaller goats got across because the stupid troll believed what they said, and the bigger one was big and strong enough to kill the troll."
"So, what're you saying?" Dean shrugged.
"I'm saying, if three goats can outsmart a troll, we should be able to."
Dean nodded in agreement; "I guess so," he replied.
"So, I reckon if you and Bobby try to talk to it, and get across the bridge then I'll ..."
"No," Dean raised his hand to silence Sam. "I'm not leaving you to fight that thing at full strength alone; you might be a freakin' sasquatch, but you're not that big. We need to figure out a way to get it at a disadvantage."
Sam scowled; "well we'd better figure out something pretty damn quick," he grumbled, "look!"
Dean turned on Sam's prompt to notice that the troll had stepped up onto the bridge and was lumbering slowly toward them. They took a slow step backwards, barely noticing Not-Bobby hovering in front of them, spreading the full fourteen-inch span of his arms as if to protect them.
"Hunnnnnn-gry ..." it moaned, it's voice reverberating through the forest like a rumble of thunder; "wannnn' eat ...".
Dean elbowed Sam in the ribs; "hey, I've got an idea."
Sam opened his mouth to ask the question but was cut off. "Just let me do the talking," Dean hissed through clenched teeth; "follow my lead."
Sam's eyes narrowed suspiciously; this had reckless written all over it.
Not-Bobby clearly agreed with Sam because he glared at the older Winchester; "don't you go doin' anything stupid," he warned; "my faerie magic might not work on a troll, but it does work on idjits like you. I'll leave the mule as he is, an' turn you into a friggin' snail.
Dean treated them both to a grin that looked far more confident than he felt.
The troll had practically reached their side of the bridge at that point; it stopped abruptly as Dean approached it.
"Hey, buddy," he called out to the troll.
It stared stupidly at him, blinking its rheumy eyes in confusion.
"See, the thing is," Dean explained, fighting to keep a nervous quiver out of his voice; "we need for one of us to get across this bridge. Now, I can see you eyeing up my brother there, but trust me, you wouldn't want to eat him; he's all musclebound and hard. I'm telling you, meat like old boot-leather, you'll be picking gristle out of your teeth for months if you eat him."
"Dean," Sam hissed.
"Shaddup," Dean replied without taking his eyes from the troll.
"Uuuuuunngh?" The troll scratched it's bald head with it's blood-caked fingers.
"Now me," Dean gestured toward himself with his thumb; "this beefcake here's as tender as a newborn lamb," he grinned; "look, I'm all fresh," he tapped his finger against his gleaming breastplate; "I'm in a can."
The troll's tongue flopped out of its shapeless mouth like a massive brown slug, and moistened its lips.
"Trust me, my meat'll fall off my bones," Dean continued; "I'll taste so freakin' good, I'm starting to regret I won't be around to enjoy me myself." He patted his breastplate again; "don't you just wanna get a taste of this fine, lean brisket?"
"DEAN," Sam snapped.
"Shut it Sam," Dean replied abruptly, making a point of flicking his eyes across to Sam's mule, and the bristling collection of armaments that adorned its haunches.
Sam's eyes locked onto a particularly long, fierce-looking pikestaff and suddenly he understood.
The troll, unaware of the brothers' silent exchange, thrust a finger up it's right nostril and rooted enthusiastically while it pondered Dean's words.
"So, why don't you let my brother cross the bridge," Dean coaxed cautiously, his heart pounding in his chest; "then I promise - an' I'm a knight, I have to keep my promises - I promise you'll be in for a gastronmic treat!"
Not-Bobby hovered above them, his tiny bloodless face a mask of nervous anticipation; what the hell was this kid up to?
The troll's miniscule brain went through it's machinations, trying to process what Dean had told it. It was salivating wildly at the thought of the feast that Dean had just described, and after what seemed like forever, it trudged off the bridge and moved clumsily aside, gesturing for Sam to pass.
He hesitated before reluctantly gathering up the mule's reins and stepping forward to sidle nervously past the troll; his eyes never leaving his brother's nervously grinning face as he did.
Dean's heart was in his mouth as Sam moved past the troll, and he found his hand straying to the hilt of his sword, only relaxing again as Sam and his mule stepped clear of the troll's threatening presence.
"Thank you," Dean breathed a sigh of relief as he took a step toward the massive creature, bowing his head as if ready to accept his his fate.
"Meeeeaaat ..." a shadow fell across Dean as the troll loomed over him, reaching out to claim his prize.
He looked up just in time to see the troll convulse wildly, yawning a groaning, wet screech as the razor-sharp head of the pikestaff burst out through it's belly. It staggered sideways one way, then the other, before toppling slowly forward like a felled oak, spewing green blood across the ground, and collapsing face down into the forest floor with a thunderous crash.
Sam stood on the bridge panting with the sheer effort it had taken to skewer the creature as he stared at the huge grey bulk, the long, thick shaft of the pikestaff sticking jauntily out of it's back like a candle out of a birthday cake. He had to admit, Dean's idea to distract it and attack from behind was a good one; worthy of those three billy-goats.
"Dean," he called.
"Dean?" He felt concern growing in him when no answer was forthcoming.
"Uh, Sam, I think you need to get over here," Not-Bobby bobbed up and down over the troll carcass excitedly, gesturing for Sam to join him. There was a sense of urgency in his movements.
Sam shimmied round the huge, stinking bulk as directed and stopped in his tracks when he realised where his brother was.
Dean lay flat on his back, helplessly pinned and spreadeagled under the troll's massive body, only his head and one arm visible, grimacing as green blood and troll snot dripped onto his face.
"Dean," Sam dropped to his knees; "Dean, y'okay man?"
Eyes bulging alarmingly, Dean croaked a breathless plea for help as another trickle of troll fluids dripped onto his nose.
Sam was eternally grateful for his mule's faithful and uncomplaining help in shifting the dead troll, and had to concede that Dean cut a pitiful figure as he stood, leaning heavily against Sam, swaying in a rubber-legged daze every time he tried to move under his own steam, his hair spiked with drying goo, face crusted green and breastplate dented in the shape of the troll's elbow.
"S'mmy," he slurred, staring up at Sam's face through unfocussed, slightly crossed eyes; " y'know those three grilly-boats?
Sam grinned and glanced up at Not-Bobby's relieved smile; "yeah, dude, I know them," he replied.
Dean's eyes uncrossed briefly as he frowned.
"They freakin' suck."