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The Castle at the End of the World

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Once upon a time, there was a man who lived in a castle at the end of the world. Or at least, the people of the nearby village assumed it to be the end of the world, since none had ever gone beyond it and returned. Though some among them thought that, perhaps, it was not the end, and the man in the castle had simply destroyed anyone who dared venture that far. For you see, the man in the castle was much more than just that, according to legend.

Some said that the man was a dragon, one to whom devastation and destruction came easily. That his scales were made of brass, shining and glimmering. That his eyes were made of molten metal, and looking into them for even a moment could burn one alive. That he had claws more vicious than the sharpest blade, and he would cut into ribbons anyone who came close.

Some said that he was a sorcerer, one to whom summoning fire was as simple as breathing. That he had been known to wreak havoc on those who crossed him. That flames leapt from his fingertips at the slightest provocation. That the noises sometimes heard echoing across the plains from the castle were explosions used to destroy those who had angered him.

Some said that he was nothing more than a man, but one with the temper of thirty. That he was simply terrible, cruel, and selfish. That anyone who came near would inevitably meet a horrible and violent end.

All the villagers agreed on one thing, however; no one was to go near the castle.

Though not everyone followed that creed.

The first to venture to the castle was Sir Bertrand McGuffingham, the greatest knight in all the land, or so he said. He told the people of the village that he would slay the beast, so they would live in fear no longer. He travelled across the plains, the ruby eyes of the falcon on his helmet shining in the sunlight, loudly confident in his victory. Two days later, a raven returned to the village and deposited a single, small ruby atop the broken stone pillar in the central square.

Sir Bertrand McGuffingham never returned.

The next was a sailor who smelled of saltwater and brine, by the name of Zolf Smith. He told one of the guards that he would destroy the sorcerer or die trying, for he had nothing left to lose. He travelled across the plains, driftwood dolphin clutched in his hand, solemn and certain of his fate. Two days later, a raven returned to the village and deposited the carved driftwood atop the broken stone pillar in the central square.

Zolf Smith never returned.

The third was a young woman made of shadows, whom the villagers simply called Sasha. She told a local shopkeeper that she would travel to the castle and kill the man, so she could finally live somewhere she needn’t fear another whom she called Barrett. She travelled across the plains, the silver spikes on her leather coat glinting in the moonlight, silent and self-assured of her success. Two days later, a raven returned to the village and deposited a single silver stud atop the broken stone pillar in the central square.

Sasha never returned.

For a few years, the castle remained undisturbed, the people of the village remaining safely within their crumbling stone walls. No one came, and no one went, and all was peaceful. Then one day, three newcomers arrived in the village, having heard of the man in the castle, and all that he had done.

The first to leave was an archer named Grizzop drik acht Amsterdam. He told the leader of the village church that he wanted to reach the true end of the world before he died, and it simply wouldn’t do to have a dragon in the way. He travelled across the plains, a quiver of arrows tipped with silver strapped to his back, single-minded and focused on his task. Two days later, a raven returned to the village and deposited a silver arrowhead atop the broken stone pillar in the central square.

Grizzop drik acht Amsterdam never returned.

The next was the priestess who had arrived with the archer, cheerily clad in pink robes and calling herself Azu. She told the village healer she would travel to the castle to try to help those who had gone before, for she believed them to still be alive. She travelled across the plains, her heart-shaped pendant casting fragments of pink light all around her, smiling and hoping to succeed. Two days later, a raven returned to the village and deposited the pendant atop the broken stone pillar in the central square.

Azu never returned.

The final person to make their way to the castle was an alchemist named Celquilithon Sidebottom, though they always went by Cel. They told their assistant that they couldn’t allow the mystery of the castle to remain unsolved, that they had to know whether the being that dwelled there was a dragon, or a sorcerer, or just a man. They travelled across the plains, many stoppered phials and bottles strapped to their belt, eager to solve the mystery once and for all. Two days later, a raven returned to the village and deposited a cork atop the broken stone pillar in the central square.

Cel never returned.

No others have ventured to the castle since, and the villagers are content for it to stay that way. They remain as they are, secure within the walls of their village, and very, very afraid of the man in the castle at the end of the world.

But there are two sides to every story, aren’t there?


Once upon a time, there was a man who lived in a castle at the end of the world, who went by the name Hamid. Hamid was deathly afraid of the people of the nearby village. Or, perhaps, not so much afraid of them as he was for them. For you see, he had a terrible secret; he was a powerful sorcerer, and a direct descendant of one of the greatest dragons of old. This in itself would not warrant his self-imposed seclusion from the nearby village if it weren’t the case that, while he was incredibly powerful, Hamid had never been trained to use his magic properly. Sparks would fly from his fingertips without warning, and his touch would burn the very people he cared about the most. So he simply stayed away, far away, where he could not hurt a soul.

Sometimes he was a dragon, or as much a dragon as he could ever be. He had scales made of brass, shining and glimmering. He had eyes the colour of molten gold, with irises whose appearance would shift and change as one looked into them. He had claws more vicious than the sharpest blade, with which he could cut himself to ribbons if he was not cautious enough.

Sometimes he was a sorcerer, or as much a sorcerer as he could be with no training. He had magic which would wreak havoc on the halls of his castle if he lost his focus for even a moment. He had flames that would lick at his fingertips at the slightest lapse in concentration. He had a power within him that would force its way out without warning, startling even the birds that made their homes on the castle’s roof with the sound of it.

Sometimes he was simply a man, or as close to a man as he could ever be. He often felt terrible, cruel, and selfish, letting the villagers live in fear of him for his own ends. It was worth it, however, as he knew that anyone who came close would inevitably meet a horrible, violent end. No matter how fervently he wished otherwise.

And so he stayed, awfully, painfully alone, locked up by himself in his castle at the end of the world, constantly afraid of the power lurking just beneath his skin. That was, until he began to receive visitors.

The first visitor to his castle was Sir Bertrand McGuffingham, the greatest knight in all the land, or so he said. He told Hamid that he had come to slay the beast, to ensure that the villagers need not live in fear any longer. But Hamid was not a beast, so he could not slay him. Instead, Sir Bertrand told him stories, wonderful stories of all his adventures. Tales of heroism and bravery. Hamid loved Sir Bertrand’s stories, so he asked him to stay, and he agreed. He had only one condition; that they find a way to tell the villagers that the castle held nothing to be afraid of. So Hamid summoned one of his ravens, and told it to take one of the ruby eyes of Sir Bertrand’s falcon back to the village, to show them they need not be afraid.

Sir Bertrand McGuffingham stayed.

The next visitor was a sailor who smelled of saltwater and brine, by the name of Zolf Smith. He told the man that he had come to destroy the sorcerer or die trying, for he had nothing left to lose. But Hamid was not just a sorcerer, so he could not destroy him. Instead, he taught Hamid about the stars, their names, and all the constellations they were a part of. Hamid loved learning about the stars from Zolf, so he asked him to stay, and he agreed. He had only one condition; that they find a way to tell the guard that he was okay, and that he’d found something he did not wish to lose. So Hamid summoned one of his ravens, and told it to take Zolf’s driftwood dolphin back to the village, to show them he would be alright.

Zolf Smith stayed.

The third visitor to his castle was a young woman made of shadows that referred to herself only by the name Sasha. She told Hamid that she had come to the castle to kill the man that lived there, so she could stay somewhere that she needn’t be afraid of the man called Barrett. But Hamid was not only a man, so Sasha could not kill him. Instead, she taught him how to be quiet, to be unobserved even in an empty room. Hamid loved learning to be part of the shadows from Sasha, so he asked her to stay, and she agreed. She had only one condition; that they find a way to tell the shopkeeper that she wasn’t alone, but did not need to be afraid of Barrett any longer. So Hamid summoned one of his ravens, and told it to take a stud from Sasha’s jacket back to the village, to show them that she was safe.

Sasha stayed.

For a few years, it was just the four of them, alone and undisturbed in the castle, staying safely within its crumbling walls. No one came, and no one went, and all was peaceful. Hamid no longer felt quite so painfully alone. Then there was a commotion in the village as some newcomers arrived, and the castle started receiving visitors once more.

The first to visit the castle was an archer named Grizzop drik acht Amsterdam. He told Hamid that he had wanted to reach the true end of the world before his life was over, and had been prepared to eliminate the dragon that was in his way. But Hamid was not just a dragon, so he could not kill him. Instead, Hamid took him to the far end of the castle and showed him the end of the world. In exchange, Grizzop taught him how to use a bow and arrow, how to ensure he always struck his target. Hamid loved Grizzop’s archery lessons, so he asked him to stay, but he said that he could not. He would not stay in one place as Hamid requested, for he had many other things that he wanted to accomplish, but he promised to return one day. He had only one condition; that they find a way to tell the head of the church that he had reached the end of the world and was going to find new adventures elsewhere. So Hamid summoned one of his ravens, and told it to take one of Grizzop’s silver arrowheads back to the village, to show them that he had achieved his goal and was moving onward to the next.

Grizzop drik acht Amsterdam did not stay, but he returned.

The next visitor was a priestess, cheerily clad in pink robes, who called herself Azu. She told Hamid that she had come to the castle to help the others who had come before. But Hamid had not hurt them, so she could not heal them. Instead, she taught Hamid about the art of healing, the ways one could bandage a wound or stave off infection. Hamid loved learning how to help his friends from Azu, so he asked her to stay, and she agreed. She had only one condition; that they find a way to tell the village’s healer that she had been able to help those that had come to the castle before her. So Hamid summoned one of his ravens, and told it to take Azu’s heart-shaped pendant back to the village, to show them that she was assisting people she cared about.

Azu stayed.

The final visitor to the castle was an alchemist named Celquilithon Sidebottom, though they always went by Cel. They told Hamid that they had come to the castle to solve the mystery; to determine whether the being in the castle was a dragon, a sorcerer, or just a man. But Hamid was not just any of those things, so the mystery had a more complex resolution than Cel had anticipated. While they considered this, they taught Hamid how to mix chemicals in order to make useful concoctions. Hamid loved Cel’s alchemy lessons, so he asked them to stay, and they agreed. They had only one condition; that they find a way to tell their assistant that they had solved the mystery, and that it had been even more satisfying than they had hoped. So Hamid summoned one of his ravens, and told it to take one of the corks Cel used to seal their phials and bottles back to the village, to show them that they had satisfied their curiosity.

Cel stayed.

But every story needs a happy ending.


Once upon a time, there was a man who lived in a castle at the end of the world. He used to live alone, afraid to hurt the people who came close to him. But over time he received some visitors, all of whom he grew to love very dearly, and who loved him in return.

And they all lived happily ever after.