viernes, 2 de enero de 2015

Castle by the cliff

On the tallest hill of the entire region, there used to be a castle. If tales were to be believed, one could see the ocean from the westernmost watchtower. Visiting nowadays was disheartening, to say the least: only the walls remained, in some parts even less than that. One could see were the rooms used to be, the primary water source and even the most important person’s chamber.

That last one was the duke. There was no king here, at least not for a very large radius. In these mountains, only the duke ruled over the peasants, back then. Today, it was still a remote region although some roads crossed the former forests and even got close to many of the old fortifications.

Back then, there were only two towns in the region: one just outside the castle and another down the hill, close to a thin river that passed through there. Today, the river can only be seen in the spring or in the fall. It source freezes in winter and gets dry in the summer.

The duke, according to historians, was benevolent and all his sons and daughters kept the region peaceful. They built watchtowers all over the forest, creating a perimeter around their lands but many saw it as unnecessary: there was nothing coming in and the only people that left were merchants and they always came back.

If one goes by the books, there were two hundred years of peace and isolation, were the folk of the region would just mind for themselves and take care of their land in their own way.

But one day, without them knowing it, the king that ruled the country died. To be precise, he was murdered and his brother, a bloodthirsty devil, sat on the throne. From then on, every single region would slowly fall into his sphere of influence, that consisted of troops being sent to sack every town of its most prized possessions and then asking them for all their crops when time was right.

So during the next fifty years, region-by-region, land-by-land, the soldiers of the Dark King (as he was known) invaded mercilessly. So one day, they followed the one road that, back then, linked the castle in the rock with the rest of the kingdom.

At first, no one really noticed anything strange, besides a few uncommon deaths in the forest but that was not really that uncommon: wolfs roamed the wood in the search for meat and many people were sure their numbers were rising, so the town had already begun a plan to kill some of them or at least to push them away from the areas they frequently visited.

It was in the winter when a girl named Ariana finally realized that what was killing the countrymen were not wolfs but humans, soldiers in gray armor. She managed to escape without them noticing her near the edge of the woods. Crying, she told her mother about what she had seen and they, in return, went to the duke and told him that vicious deeds were being done in the forest, far more vile than anyone would have imagined.

The girl herself told the duke, a peaceful man, that she had seen soldier wearing gray, eating by a fire near the edge of the forest, inside their lands. She had been there picking raspberries for a dessert but she had dropped them all when she saw what they were doing: As it happens, the soldiers were not by the fire to keep warm, they were there eating, cooking their meal. And when the girl saw what they were eating, she couldn’t scream, not even breather. She confessed to have been paralyzed for a few seconds, before she managed to escape.

The soldiers in gray, the color of greed, were eating a human child. Even more disgusting, they were eating one of the girl’s friends. This made the duke realize that those soldiers had already entered the region and were probably waiting to be given the order to attack, to invade their territory.

The duke summoned all his advisors and the strongest and fittest men and women from the two towns. Every single person that knew how to use a weapon or how to defend him or herself, was now essential for the survival of their territory.

It was ordered that all people that couldn’t battle, elderly or very young, pregnant or just not strong enough to battle, had to stay inside the castle, in a special room overlooking the cliff. The rest of the people would prepare themselves for the fighting, which wouldn’t be taking long.

A week later, the grey soldiers finally attacked. First, they aimed for the town by the river. They took it rather fast, with no casualties from either side. Any way, there were only a few persons guarding it, mounting bombs and traps. The duke had decided that the river town, as it was only made of a handful of houses, could be left behind to better defend the upper town and, if it came to that, the castle.

Anyway, the bombs and traps left in some of the houses worked beautifully and many grey soldiers had to pull back as they weren’t fit for battle anymore. But disabling a dozen wasn’t enough. Between the river town and the castle town, there was a small plain with scattered trees. And when the grey soldiers army stepped into it, the people of the region finally saw what they were up against.

They were at least a thousand soldiers, creating a tight formation on the plain. Some had horses but most of them came by foot. All of them wore helmets, to conceal their identities, to make them even more fierce and despicable.

The people of the mountain were hidden among the many houses and little streets of the castle town. From inside the castle, no one could see anything, so they wouldn’t know if their loved ones died or got taken. Only if they won they would ever see them or their bodies again.

For a whole day, the grey soldiers just stood there, waiting, picking the best time to attack. The duke thought that they might decide to attack at night or early the next day, as they were skilled soldiers and knew how to attack when their enemies were mostly weak.

Indeed, the attack came covered by clouds that reduced the amount of light in the mountains. They raided houses and wholes streets, screeching horribly and laughing with a deep and awful voice. The people of the town lived up to the expectations and begin attacking from the rooftops and the sewers, from the trees an even standing in the middle of a street.

In the first few hours, many people of the mountains were killed, without mercy or a single second of doubt. But when the sun started to shine, they recovered quickly, killing several soldiers with arrows, stones and swords. For such a peaceful people, some of them were very skilled with metal.

Some of them even created a melted mixture of metals that they poured on top of a large groups of greys trying to penetrate the castle. The screams of pain were heard by the men and women waiting inside, waiting for their deaths or for the end of the struggle.

But it did not seem to end. Soldiers and townsfolk kept on fighting, maybe slower and with far less agility but insisting on their actions, on what each thought was right.

Then, from inside the castle, came yelling and screaming and cheering. The ones outside had no idea what happened. At least not until they saw it too: the day was bright clear so anyone could see it. There were five big vessels on the shore and people from inside were already heading towards the castle. In a matter of time, they would arrive to the battlefield.

The duke, a wise man, seeing his land in distress, had decided to use an old way of communication to contact some ancient allies of this land. Passed down by generations of his family, there was a ring, made somewhere beyond the sea. The duke took it and put in in a tiny bag, which he tied to the leg of a hawk. The bird left they day before the grey soldiers attacked the river town and now, their allies had responded.

That alliance had been forged centuries ago but it was visibly still alive. The troops from the sea help destroy the grey army and defend the castle. With the duke, they organized a greater alliance to liberate the rest of the kingdom and bring peace back to the known lands.

Eventually, no one really knows how, the dark king was defeated and everything came back to normal.

Several years after, the castle fell into disuse when there were no more descendants to sit inside it. Now the place is in ruins and the people from the town try to get tourists to visit the castle in order to tell them the legend of their lands and the magic of these mountains.

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