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Storm The Castle - by Daniel
(And the sword Dragontooth)

A stranger came to Windrun one winter's night, a charcoal roughspun cloak pulled over his head to block out the howling wind and the bite of the snow. He wore armour of black enamelled plate and a greatsword strapped across his back, its leather wrapped handle jutting out over his right shoulder with a large ruby inlaid in the pommel. It was obvious a sword of this size was too large to be carried on the hip, and would take the strength of an ox to merely wield, and much more to swing. Under his hood, a salt and pepper beard stubbled his square jaw and upper lip. His cheeks remained bare; the left burnt red from the wind and the other boasted a crooked scare leading up towards the darkness of his eyes. Perhaps the strangest feature about this stranger was the fact that he entered the town on foot.

Windrun stood alone in the valley of darkness, miles from the nearest hold, making it virtually impossible to reach without a horse. The valley earned its name from the great mountains surrounding Windrun shielded it from ever seeing the light of day. The townsfolk dubbed the mountains the forks because of how their pointed snow crested peaks resembled the teeth of a fork. Atop the tallest mountain stood Kalif castle, a tall sentinel that caught the sun at the 8 th hour of every morning, illuminating it's mighty towers in full radiance. But grey clouds circled the peak now and no one had seen the Lord Kalif or his son William in 20 years past. Not since the dragon attacked.
The stranger spied the light of a nearby tavern, still alive with music and laughter. He pushed on the heavy wooden door and strode inside, his cape billowing as the wind and snow followed him in. The tavern grew silent at the arrival of its new patron. With all eyes burning into him, he pulled up a stool to the bar and ordered a pint of mead. The barkeep eyed him for a moment before filling a cup with sticky golden mead from a clay flagon. The stranger sipped slowly from the cup, being careful not to make eye contact with any of the other townspeople as the music started up again and the chatter grew louder and louder. A stout man clapped him across the back and sloshed his cup on the bench next to him.
"What brings you to Windrun stranger?" he bellowed. The air from his mouth was stained with the assaulting stench sour wine.
"I wish to visit Kalif castle," growled the stranger, silencing the tavern again "and my business is my own." The man leaned in as if he wished not to be heard.
"I dunno if you know this or not friend, but Lord Kalif was killed by a dragon, 20 years past. That scaly bastard still lives atop the mountain in the castle, and no one dare go up there." The stranger managed a wry smile before turning back to his mead. Before he could stand up to leave, a tall wiry man cornered him from the other side.
"Just who do you think you are, waltzing into town like you own it, thinking you can kill El Guapo?" The stranger stood face to face with the thin man before dropping his shoulders with a sigh. He threw back his hood, sending a gasp around the tavern.
"I am Sir William Kalif, son of Lord Kalif of Windrun," his voice boomed, "I have returned to slay the dragon known as El Guapo and claim Kalif castle as my own." He drew the sword from over his shoulder, its blade shimmering a thousand different shades of silver before he set it down on the bar. "This is dragontooth," he proclaimed, "forged in the fires of dragon breath, it is the only thing strong enough to pierce dragon skin." The crowd sat patiently, enthralled in by his speech. Will suddenly became aware of the commotion he had caused and slid dragontooth back into its sheath. "Now if you don't mind" he growled at the audience, "I'm off to go storm the castle." He pulled his hood back up before stepping back out into the cold, leaving the crowd in awe.

"You'll never make it to the castle on foot," said the stout man who had now stepped out to join Will in the snow. He held a horse as black as night by the reins behind him, "Take Shadow with you. He may not be the fastest horse out there, but he'll be able to handle the slopes." Will took Shadow's reins and stroked him gently between the eyes.

"Thank you," said Will with a smile, "I'll be sure to bring him back to you."
"It's the least I can do m'lord," grinned the man, "now go slay that dragon."

Shadow's hooves pounded on the winding path, kicking up snow as Will galloped through the night, onwards and upwards to the looming sentinel that was Kalif castle. As he rounded the final bend to the drawbridge, he pulled sharply on the reins, causing Shadow to rear up on his hind legs. El Guapo had destroyed the bridge and all that remained were a few charred strands of rope. Will dismounted Shadow and ran the remaining strands through his fingers. It crumbled to ash and fell down into the gorge. He shuffled back to where shadow was tied and rummaged around in the saddlebag. From the tanned leather pouch he produced two large ice picks. Once more he looked out of the abyss and the icy black river that ran along the bottom of the plunging ravine, before turning his back towards it and taking ten long steps back the way he came. Turning back towards the castle now, he breathed sharply three times. Then he ran. The snow crunched under his feet, his cape snapping in the breeze and his sword bouncing awkwardly. He quickened his pace towards the cliff and threw his arms backwards, launching himself across the gap. For a moment he fell down into oblivion, pick axes in hand, his arms flailing before thunk! He buried them into the sheer ice wall about 30ft from the ledge.

Bit by bit he started to climb up the face of the cliff. Arm over arm, axe over axe before he clambered atop the ledge and stared once again at Kalif castle. He took one step closer to his former home when a deafening roar echoed from inside, bringing the snow down from the surrounding hills. He sprinted for the mammoth oak door and barged inside before the avalanche of snow engulfed him. Will heaved the door closed behind him until the rumbling stopped and the last of the snow flowed though the gap in the door. Turning around into the great hall, he gingerly removed his hood and drew dragontooth over his shoulder, ready for whatever danger lay within. A dark shape caught his eye, slinking around the great stone pillars. Will steadied himself, preparing for the attack. El Guapo launched at him, his large leathery wings spanning across the width of the great hall. Will ducked under his slashing claws and rolled underneath the gargantuan creature before dragging his blade across the back of the beast's leg. Crimson blood trickled through the tear in El Guapo's emerald scales as the beast reared in pain. It was at that moment that Will could finally see El Guapo in full.

His scales were a deep emerald colour except for his belly where they went a pale yellow. He had large curling horns reaching out from the back of his skull. A thin finger of smoke climbed out of his nostrils that lit up the end of his snout with a soft amber glow, and at the other end of his snout were two large ruby eyes that burned into Will. His fangs were the size of daggers, dripping with saliva and venom. Perhaps El Guapo's most notable feature, his wings, fanned out more than 50 feet wide behind him and his long snake like tail curled under his abdomen, covered in spines running all down his back. Will charged towards El Guapo, who opened his gaping mouth ready to swallow Will whole. But at the last moment, Will slid on his side underneath the beast's snapping jaws. Once clear, he thrust dragontooth upwards, piercing the soft flesh of the dragon's belly. El Guapo roared as Will grew his blade down the length of his stomach before rolling around to face the dragon once more. El Guapo snapped quickly but Will was quicker. He sidestepped the dragon's fangs and sliced along its neck. When El Guapo turned again, Will rolled under his neck and sliced again on the other side.

Facing El Guapo head-on now, Will ran up the beast's snout and onto the top of his head. He plunged the dragontooth downwards, right between El Guapo's horns. The dragon swayed slightly, before collapsing into a heap. Will stood up and sheathed dragontooth before walking away from El Guapo's carcass towards the door. Not a moment after stepping back out into the blistering cold, the door exploded in a brilliant burst of orange flame. Surprised, Will spun around to see El Guapo charge through the smouldering wreck. The great beast's claws struggled to grip the slick ice and he toppled onto Will who also slipped. Both man and beast then went tumbling into the murky black abyss below.



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