Hey. This is a story I wrote a while ago. We were having a family competition and the criteria where the following; it has to be less than 2k words, and it has to have treasure and a black book in it.
The Book of Sangrehel
And the Salvation of Sablecroft
The contour of a figure leaned forward in the dim light of four black candles. Jarus felt a shiver skitter down his spine. He, as well as his master, was clad in the dark burnooses of Sablecroft, the city of great renown seated between high mountains, but still the black of the hood and the white of his glinting eyes made for a horror for those who ventured to gaze upon them. Jarus looked back at the crack of light from the trapdoor above. He knew just above them was a busy inn and right now he was pining away for a nice bowl of rabbit stew, definitely not the black sludge of the basement. All the sewer for the inn ran down pipes, spilling onto the floor before cascading through an iron grate.
A withered, trembling hand reached out from the depths of his master’s cloak sleeve. Jarus jumped. This is what he had trained for, for three years, he had trained for this, trained for a mission. And now his nerves were off like a broken metronome, it was fear. Stark horror. With a sword at his back it surprised him he could fear anything, but he was, scared by a hand, worse yet his master’s hand.
Jarus stared at the contents in the Warden’s hand. Nearly imperceptible against the black of the chamber stone floor he beheld a black book.
“What is it?”
Jarus’ voice quaked right in the middle of his sentence rendering his incorrigible question hanging. But the Warden was ever forbearing.
“It is a notebook, my boy.” His voice was steady and sure, like him with his aged staff and quick blades. Never cracking and never dull. The small dark chamber echoed with his voice, but still Jarus was unsure if he had heard him correctly.
“A notebook?” He whispered, the air of mystery tingling his mind and ears.
“Not just any notebook, this is the book of Sangrehel, written by the ancients.”
Jarus’ translation skills were ailing as the adrenaline of the beginning adventure set in, but even he knew Sangrehel was a word of the ancients.
“What does that mean?”
A wide smile spread across the Warden’s face.
“It means forgotten or hidden. This is the book of the hidden.”
“Hidden what?” Jarus asked excitedly yet shivering.
“Do not fright.” The old man admonished, “it is no evil. This is the book of hidings. It will enable you to find a greater treasure than your heart can fathom, the treasure of adventure and gold alike. The book contains maps of the lair of Nelde, the insidious beast of the labyrinth beneath all Sablecroft.”
Now Jarus really shuttered. “I thought that was a myth.”
“Do not be so naïve, my boy.” Jarus looked around the empty room apprehensively, trying to listen. His boots squished as he shifted his weight and the drain gurgled in the corner. “Long ago when the ancients began to build the city,” the Warden began, “they requested help from a wyrm, one of the most powerful of all the land, Heldayhuh was his name, meaning protector of many. The city was to protect the lives of many, refugees from the burning isle, Veas. They promised Heldayhuh many great riches and fame, but they harnessed his power in deceit and made him a slave. Until one day, he escaped stealing with him the sword of gold that belonged to the chief.”
“The vengeance of wyrms is great. He now lives beneath the city of Sablecroft, in the sewers that he was forced to dig. He is a burrowing water wyrm and even now delves his passages deeper. But one day as he revealed to the ancients many millennia ago, he would return to the minds of the people to harm those who had once held him captive. And he is moving now.”
“How do you know?”
“The tremors, my boy. Have they escaped your keen notice?”
“No sir, but what does that have to do with us?” Jarus added, “and the dragon?”
“He said long ago that when he had morphed his apathy into anger, he would destroy the entire city of Sablecroft with one blow. He changed his name from Heldayhuh, protector of men to Nelde, eater of men. The entire city, my boy.”
Jarus couldn’t deny he was now interested.
“How can he do that?”
“He is a genius wyrm and cunningly evil. He will destroy the legs of the city, the stone, and it will collapse, killing all those in it.”
“Can we stop him?” Jarus asked, clenching his jaw in a way that didn’t fit his youthful face.
“Wah? Why not… sir? I thought that—”
“We cannot. But you can.”
Jarus cocked his head. “Why just me? We’re a team.”
“No, not today. I can no longer fight.”
“I’ve seen you fight!” Jarus protested.
“You have seen me fight men. Men and wyrms are quite different, my boy.” He gave a heaving chuckle. “Quite different, indeed.”
“How will I fight him?”
“Nelde has a weak spot on his lower jaw, as recorded by the ancients, if you stab right there with your sword, you will be able to pierce his pouch membrane, causing him to explode from mixing chemicals. Then you will need to locate the treasure, the golden sword. You can follow the instructions in the book.”
“This book will guide you through his main tunnels and to his lair, there you should be able to ambush him. It was written by a party who trapsed down there millennia ago. It will guide you.”
Jarus took the book and flipped through it. Maps and more maps, oh, a drawing of a golden sword.
“Are you ready? You have everything you’ll need in your pack and a sword on your back.”
“Can you come with me?”
“No. I wish for your sake I could, but I can’t, much too old now. Are you ready?”
Jarus clenched his jaw again. “I’m ready to face the beast.”
It was only two minutes later when Jarus was dropping down the grate into the sewer. He wrinkled his nose. He had only just come to terms with the fact that it was the sewer he was chasing this dragon down. He paused a second.
“Why am I going? Why not one of the elders or the chief of the city?”
“The elders are ignorant and Gethrel won’t hear me out. I have been training you for this moment.” The old man came forward and with emotion Jarus rarely saw he bent down to speak to him. Jarus gripped the rope tighter to keep his hands from shaking .“My only hope is in you. If you do not come back in three days’ time, I will draw all those who will listen with me and venture outside the gates to seek safety. I need you to succeed.”
“I will.” Jarus said with more confidence than he felt.
He began to descend down the rope into the black hole until he could no longer see the Warden’s cloaked head. He remembered the first time he tried to descend a rope, he thought his hands would nearly catch on fire. Now after years of fighting and dealing with coarse staves, his hands were hardened to stones.
“Conquer, my boy, conquer.” Came the echoey voice.
“I will.” Jarus called back. He slowly lowered down about fifty feet. The light above had dissipated. His foot hit the bottom.
Jarus reached into his pack and removed a long-lasting torch. He followed the maps in the book through the maze of tunnels. Soon he was wading in the black water. Not long after that the rivers joined and there was a bank on the side of the roaring river. Like a light fire suddenly he had boldness and strength he never knew before. He feared nothing, only hoped to succeed for the good of his people.
Jarus walked down besides the flowing water for a distance. He became aware of a roaring of a waterfall. He moved forward until the floor leveled into a plain with a ri0ver through it. He bought his torch up revealing an opaque wall of black. Sheer black, nothing more but the roar of distant waterfalls.
“Hello?” The voice came out like the sound of a sword from a sheathe, raspy. Suddenly the room was lit from above. A great wad of dripping fire clung to the stone ceiling.
“Like the fire, eh?” The voice scraped again. Jarus drew his own sword to match. The powerful shjillling resounded above the roar of the spouts pouring sewer into the great bath at the bottom of the chamber. He could feel the unseen beast hesitate. It’s now or never.
“Beast of old, wyrm of old, Nelde eater of men, come forward and face your doom.”
The waters of the pool before him plumed outward. The head of the mighty wyrm appeared.
“I heed no one.”
“Sablecroft no longer bows to your evil. Be gone or face my steel. I, Jarus of the Warden’s Keep and striker of the evil, now lay evidence against you for attempted massacre of a city. How do you plea?”
Nelde shook his spined head in cruel mirth and foul water sprayed onto Jarus. It hacked. “Guilty.”
“Then I shall have to pronounce your judgement.”
“There is no judgement for me.” The wyrm stoked the water behind him with his paddled tail as he left the pool and paced around Jarus. Nelde’s foot could have crushed him, and Jarus had no doubt he could swallow him whole. Jarus eyed the spot the Warden had indicated would cause the dragon to ignite.
“There is judgement for all who trespass.”
He had a plan. There was only one way to kill this murderous beast. The sac was likely a chemical storage for one of the two enzymes he mixed to create a fiery breath like he had. The spot where he could break the sacs and combine the two enzymes, creating an inferno in his body and hopefully killing him, was too high for him to reach. Jarus swallowed. There was only one way to reach the towering head.
“Why you, child? So small, so weak, but yes, I will say bold, very bold for one of your stature.”
“The elders had forgotten your words and neglected your warning, the Warden only believes and recalls, but he has sent me, I will be your demise.”
“Child, I could eat you, very, very easily.” Nelde rolled his eyes and playfully spewed out a ring of fire around Jarus.
“I dare you to try.” Jarus sheathed his sword. He couldn’t afford to lose it, that would ruin everything. Nelde let out a snort and reacted faster than Jarus could comprehend. In seconds, the area around him was dark and he was rolling on an undulating tongue. Jarus slipped back as Nelde lifted his head. The lips cracked open and the tongue lashed about.
“How is this?”
Jarus didn’t respond immediately. There was a harsh orange coming from the throat of the dragon. He drew his sword and plunged it into the soft flesh of the lower mouth.
There was a massive explosion as chemicals that were never meant to touch combined and the wyrm’s great head came free.
The Warden stood on the street as a final tremor shook the city. It was bigger and deeper than any of the others. Jarus had done it, but at what price? The toll of ignorance was great, very great. Stabbing the vital parts would have been impossible from any far distance, and any close range would have surely caused a good deal of exposure to the explosion. How long the Warden sat there mourning the loss of his apprentice he never knew. There was a clattering of metal against stone and he looked up. A black hood was visible coming from a drain tube, but beneath it he could see nothing. He dropped a golden sword and a black book onto the cobbled road.
“You know how bad I smell right now?”