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Runcorn Shankleton

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andy-pandy

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Once upon a time, in the azure forest of Molekdor, a small troll named Runcorn Shankleton began a journey to slay the legendary dragon Gromellox, of the western Glandular Mountains.

Runcorn travelled through the dark plains of Burnkopf, where he encountered all manner of strange and cruel beasts.

Upon reaching the village of Drysdale, he spent 6 gold pfennigs on a well deserved room in the local tavern: The Trembling Goat.

That night, Runcorn sat in the smoky tavern bar, sipping a flagon of Blumsholme Ale. He reflected on his trip through the Burnkopf plains, shuddering at the thought of some of the monstrous creatures he had encountered and slain with his axe. As time went by, Runcorn grew tired and decided to retire.

On his way to the tavern staircase, a small kitten dressed in brown robes approached him.

"Master Runcorn, may I have a word?" The kitten enquired.

Runcorn narrowed his eyes and looked warily at the kitten.

"Make it quick, small kitten, for I am tired and have a great journey ahead of me."

It was the kittens turn to narrow his eyes...

"I know of your journey Runcorn, I know of it well. The league of Wexlingforth kitten knights have learned of your quest, and I have been sent to warn you. Not all is as it seems on the road to the Glandular Mountains. There are spies afoot, and there are many guilds who would see that you do not complete your task."

Runcorn mulled this over.

"And why should you tell me this?" He asked suspiciously.

"We are but 23 small kittens who seek peace and honour throughout the land, the dragon Gromellox is a curse upon those mountains and should be stopped. The village of Venerythe was razed but two moons ago by him, and 2 kittens on an ambassadorial mission were lost. Should you reach the Glandular Mountains, you may be able to tell us what became of them."

Runcorn could not bear to disappoint the kitten.

"You have my word," he said, "Should I reach the Glandular Mountains I will do everything I can to ascertain the fate of your brothers."

"You are a brave troll Runcorn, may the gods look favourably upon you."

And with that, and a swish of his robes, the kitten leapt out a nearby window and scurried off into the bitter night. Runcorn went to his room and slept. That night, he dreamed of kittens, crying in the mountains, but every time he went in the direction of the cries, they faded...

His journey resumed the next morning at dawn. He rode on a trader's carriage along the western road. Soon the green trees and grass gave way to rocky outcrops and dead shrubs. The air grew thicker, and at the outpost town of Elisolmn he bid the trader farewell. Carriages did not travel any further west.

He started along a path into the pass of Carnillion, which would eventually lead him to the foot of the Glandular Mountains, and the lair of the dragon Gromellox. Days went by, and Runcorn did not see a single living soul. At night he would sleep in caves or under overhanging rocks. He heard strange and foreign cries, but not once did he see the source of these noises.

Half a moon later, Runcorn began to see signs of life. Tiny footprints in the dirt, strange runes carved intricately into the sides of trees, and at times, when Runcorn was almost asleep at night, he thought he saw glowing lights in the distance.

Then one cold and dark night, he heard a whistling from nearby. It was the most exquisitely rich sound he had ever heard. He rose, as if in a trance, and made his way towards the sound. He stumbled and tripped along the path in the darkness, and as he grew closer to the whistling he began to make something out ahead.

Runcorn could not believe his eyes.

Before him, hovering in the air, was a gathering of fairies. They glowed brightly like small suns, and their wings sparkled with magic.

"Runcooooorn...", he heard. It was the sweetest and tiniest voice he had ever heard in his life.

"I am Runcorn!" He exclaimed rather stupidly.

"Runcorn! We are the fairies of this mountain pass, and we have watched you for many days now. We know of your quest, and we wish to give you a gift."

One of the fairies broke from the group and fluttered over to Runcorn. He held out his hand and a small wooden whistle dropped into it. The fairy returned to her companions.

"This is the fairy whistle of Carnillion. That is how we called you here. If you find yourself in times of peril, blow on the whistle and we will aid you if we can."

And with a sudden brightening of their small bodies, the fairies flew off into the night.

Runcorn slept soundly that night, and he heard no strange noises.

A moon later, he found himself at the ruins of the village of Venerythe, at the foothills of the Glandular Mountains. All was black and charred, dwellings were flattened, and the stone watchtower lay in pieces. "What a task I have ahead of me. What a task indeed." Runcorn thought to himself. "Before I approach the dragon's lair, I must discover the fate of the two kittens of the league of Wexlingforth kitten knights."

He searched amongst the ruins for the rest of the afternoon, and when night fell, he had found no sign of any kittens, dead or alive. Downtrodden and frustrated, he slept under the blackened roof of the least destroyed house.

At dawn. He set off to the lair of the dragon Gromellox.

Gromellox lived in an enormous cave halfway up the Glandular Mountains. Runcorn found it by following the bones of people and animals. The air smelled of sulphur and he had to wrap a piece of cloth around his face to quench the smell.

He entered the cave.

More bones were scattered in large piles in the cave. Rags and gold and shoes and leather were littered everywhere.

As Runcorn made his way further into the cave, he made out whispering ahead of him. He tensed up and silently drew his trusty axe from his belt. The moment he did this, the whispering stopped.

Suddenly, out of the darkness ahead of him, a small animal leapt at his face. Runcorn had no time to dodge the attack and he tumbled over, dropping his axe and clawing at the beast latched onto his head. After a few frantic seconds of grappling, he managed to tear the assailant off and hold it in front of him.

It was a kitten!

"Take your hands of me troll!" It yelled at him, "I'll tear you to pieces!"

"Kitten! I am Runcorn Shankleton, I spoke with one of your brothers in the town of Drysdale!"

The kitten eyed him warily. Runcorn held his gaze.

"Alabast! Stand down, this troll is a friend." The kitten finally said.

Runcorn was confused for a moment. He looked around and found that behind him was another kitten, slowly sheathing a small blade.

"You are lucky good troll," the kitten called Alabast said seriously, "I would not have hesitated to drive my blade into your back."

The other kitten's name turned out to be Quilian. During the vicious attack on the village of Venerythe, the kittens had fled into the mountains. Alabast had been injured and in dire need of rest. They had found refuge in the terrible cave of the dragon Gromellox, and being small and nimble, they were able to avoid dragon as he came and went. Alabast was now healed and they had been debating about what their next move should be.

"We are ambassadors for the kitten league, but we are skilled in combat. We will assist you in your quest if you think we will not get in the way."

And this is how Runcorn Shankleton came to defeat the dragon Gromellox with the aid of two members from the league of Wexlingforth kitten knights.

They made their way further into the cave towards the dragon's lair. At last they arrived at the foot of a large cavern, the floor of which was piled high with a spectacular mixture of bones and treasure. They crouched at the lip of the entrance and surveyed the room.

Gold, skulls, chests, bodies, goblets and torn clothes lay mounded at the centre of the cavern. Lying on top of the pile, sleeping noisily, was the dragon Gromellox. It was purple in colour, at least 40 metres long, and was quite the cruellest looking beast Runcorn had ever lain eyes on. It's bloated belly swelled with each ragged breath he took, and now and again it snorted licks of flame from his swollen nostrils.

Runcorn and the kittens decided that the best tactic was to sneak up to Gromellox and attack it while it slept. They had no qualms about killing the monster in such a devious way, for if Gromellox was awake they would surely stand no chance at all.

They each made their way separately to different sections of the beast's body. The kittens managed silently, but several times Runcorn clumsily tripped and stumbled over the treasure pile. Luckily the dragon gave no indication of being disturbed.

Once in position, Runcorn nodded to both the kittens. The time had come.

Runcorn was at the dragons neck, he took a gigantic swing and drove his axe as hard as he could into the beast. At the same time, the kittens, both standing at an exposed patch of stomach, thrust their daggers into the tough skin.

A tremendous roar filled the cavern, filling their ears with Gromellox's fury. The dragon was on his feet in an instant, knocking the kittens off balance and sending them tumbling down to the cave's floor. Runcorn narrowly avoided being battered by the beast's neck as it darted around, seeking out the intruders. Frozen stiff by terror, Runcorn only stared wide-eyed as Gromellox spotted him and drew up to face him.

The dragon's eyes bulged with rage. Runcorn raised his axe in a heroic attempt to show Gromellox that he meant business, but quick as a flash the dragon swatted him with it's tail and he was sent crashing into a corner. He saw stars and then everything went black.

Runcorn came to with a start. His head ached terribly and for a moment he forgot all about the peril he was in. As his vision cleared, he made out the truly terrifying sight of Gromellox's fierce purple face only feet away from his own. He was cornered, he was doomed.

"Troll." The dragon spoke.

The deep, booming voice reverberated round the cavern like a tremor.

"You have great courage, daring to defile my cave with your insolent attempt to slay me. What is your name?"

"R-r-runcorn... Runcorn Sh-shankleton..."

"Runcorn. I will now fry you and eat your flesh."

"W-Wait!" Stuttered the troll, "Please oh great Gromellox, indulge a doomed troll to a final wish before he dies! I wish to play on my whistle a final time before I meet my end!"

The dragon paused.

"Very well."

As Gromellox looked on curiously, Runcorn dug out the fairies whistle and blew on it. The single note echoed around the cave.

"ENOUGH!" Bellowed the dragon, "Your whistle playing is as bad as your skill as an assassin young troll. Prepare to-"

Suddenly, the beast reared up with a gigantic roar, after a moment of confusion as the beast flailed furiously, Runcorn made out the small forms of the kittens Quilian and Alabast clutching tightly to the dragons back, their daggers buried deep into it's scales.

"Now Runcorn!" Quilian yelled, "Attack!"

Runcorn was on his feet in an instant, he picked up his axe and charged at the dragon. Gromellox lashed his tail and one of the kittens was struck and propelled into the cave wall. Runcorn drew back his axe and while the dragon's tail was raised to strike again, he swung his axe at the dragon's neck, at the same point he had attacked first, which was now bleeding freely. The axe struck home, and another terrible roar came from the dragons mouth, this time accompanied by a blast of flames from it's nostrils which shot into the roof as it's head reared back in pain.

Runcorn drew back and swung again, driving his weapon deeper into the beast's neck, the remaining kitten darted up the dragon's neck and sunk his dagger into the top of Gromellox's scaly head. With the loudest roar yet, the dragon rose onto it's hind legs and crashed his head into the roof of the cavern, as it's head lowered again Runcorn swung with all his force into the dragons neck wound again. This time the troll felt something give way deep in the dragons flesh, Gromellox squealed and stumbled into a wall, as Runcorn's axe came away from the cut, thick black blood gushed out, covering the floor and walls.

The dragon slumped against the wall, still roaring, but now more in shock than anger. Runcorn ran over and swung again and again, he swung his axe until his muscles burned and he was seeing stars, and finally, he severed the head of the dragon Gromellox. He was victorious.

Wiping the viscous blood from himself, he set about looking for the kittens. He found Alabast unconscious against a wall. The kitten was battered and bruised, but alive. Runcorn gently shook him awake.

Together they found the body of Quilian underneath one of the dragon's wings. He was injured in many places and barely breathing.

"Quilian!" Cried Alabast, "Quilian, brother! We are victorious! Gromellox is dead!"

Quilian opened his eyes slowly, he was breathing in shallow gasps.

"Alabast my brother, we have done a great deed this day, but my body is sorely broken. I will die soon."

The poor kitten coughed terribly, blood trickled from his mouth.

"No!" Alabast screamed, "Brother this cannot be!"

But even before he had said this, Quilian sighed and grew still. Alabast wept, Runcorn gently closed Quilian's eyes.

"Be in peace brave kitten," Runcorn said softly, "I owe my life to you."

The troll now wept openly, joining Alabast in his grief.

As they cried, the cave suddenly glowed brightly. Runcorn and Alabast looked around and saw a beautiful woman approaching them, bathed from head to toe in a glorious golden light.

"My friends," the woman said, "I am princess Vilomia, guardian of the fairies of Carnillion, I was summoned by your whistle, and I fear I may have answered your call too late. The dragon Gromellox is slain, why do you cry?"

Runcorn nodded at the body of Quilian. Princess Vilomia knelt down and gazed at the poor kitten's body.

"Oh my. You have been through great hardships and have suffered. But I am not too late to help you."

She placed a hand on Quilian's still head, and at once the cave was filled with a blinding white light. Runcorn and Alabast shielded their eyes. When the light faded, princess Vilomia was gone, and Quilian's small voice said "What happened?"

Alabast ran to his brother and hugged and stroked and licked him all over. Runcorn sank to his knees in wonder. Quilian was confused, and his bruises and injuries were gone. They all laughed and rejoiced together. The dragon was dead, and they were alive.

Many moons later, Runcorn and the two kittens arrived at the outpost town of Elisolmn, where he bade the kittens farewell. They journeyed south to their leagues headquarters, while Runcorn continued east, and back home. The kittens were to report on the events of the Glandular Mountains, and Runcorn was desperate to get back to his beloved home and forest. The kittens assured him that they would visit him as soon as their affair was properly concluded.

Runcorn reached his home 7 whole months after he had set out on his journey. He was honoured throughout the land as a hero, and for the rest of his long life he journeyed with the league of Wexlingforth kitten knights, and had many more adventures.

And maybe I'll tell you of his other adventures another time.
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