Here is my response to the writing prompt: write a fantasy story in 1,000 words or less. I had a lot of condensing to do after the first draft. It was a fun exercise in evoking a rich world with very little space to do it in. I hope you enjoy!
The Legend of Giltiberim
There was once a young gold miner who was so formidable that his king afforded him mail shirt and iron sword to wield in battle against foreign invaders. The young man slew many enemies in the field and earned the name Giltiberim among the common people. After the fighting was done, the king’s retainers sat on long feasting benches in the great hall, telling stories of their bravery and strength. Here it was that men secured eternal life in the hearts of their people.
“I must find some way to make my name as lasting as the stones of this hall,” said Giltiberim to himself one day as he paced the stables, but he despaired, knowing the king’s retainers did not accept him. Just then, a young woman with copper hair and a face like a cool stream, appeared before Giltiberim speaking these words:
“Brave warrior. I often see you in this courtyard alone, and I hear your piteous laments. I am the daughter of a warrior slain by Yorthak, the man-breaker of the Northern mountains. If it is glory you seek, then you might prove your bravery and strength by avenging my father—a task no warrior here will undertake—and restore honor to my father’s name.”
Giltiberim agreed at once to hunt down the murderous creature. He rode day and night until he reached the mountain’s base where he left his horse and scaled the craggy cliffs to the highest point, where he found the creature, a large man-like beast, ten feet tall, covered in hair, with helmet-crushing hands, glutting itself on the rotting flesh of a young man. Skeletal corpses from twenty or more men and women covered the frozen ground: this would be a good fight.
Without saying a word, Giltiberim launched himself from his vantage and fell on Yorthak, slicing at his neck and belly, but the creature’s thick skin and tangled hair rendered the blade useless. They grappled hand to hand; the beast bit into Giltiberim’s chest, but his teeth snapped on the mail shirt. Giltiberim then took up a broken thigh bone and buried it into Yorthak’s eye, releasing it’s steaming lifeblood into the snow; thus he dispatched the man-breaker. Taking the beast’s head, he descended the mountain.
When Giltiberim reached the great hall the next morning, he was received with joyful tears by the stable girl, but the king’s retainers did not meet him, nor did they praise his victory.
“This fool has killed the keeper of the mountain pass, the only thing keeping the Northern tribes from crossing into our land,” said one of the elders. “This senseless attack will surely cause trouble for our people. It’s best he returned to the mines for gold to afford the inevitable battle he has brought on us.”
The king agreed with this council and stripped Giltiberim of his sword and armor, then commanded him to leave at once and return to the squalor of the mining camps, outside the protection of the high walls surrounding the hall. Giltiberim knew his only chance left for eternal renown lay in uncovering gold in the earth’s stoney breast. He took up his axe and lantern and reopened the wound in his father’s mine, gouging and tunneling for six days and nights, disdaining sleep, eating only dust, and finding nothing but dirt and rocks.
On the seventh day, Giltiberim smashed through a rock wall and found himself in a glistening chamber, filled from floor to roof with raw gold, more gold than had ever been seen by any man.
Rushing to the king, Giltiberim asked him to gather all his able bodied men and follow him to the mines where he would show him a sight that would please him greatly. He led the king through the mine, but before he could reveal the chamber of gold, one of the king’s men interrupted, exclaiming that the Northern tribes were descending the mountains for battle. The king cursed Giltiberim for distracting him from the affairs of his kingdom, then hurried away.
Giltiberim sat down in the entrance to the gold hoard with a heavy heart, but still hoped that the king would soon return and all the praise and glory he deserved would be his. Then he smelled hot, acrid fumes and heard a loud, wheezing voice, like the breath of the blacksmith’s bellows. He turned with lantern raised and saw the obsidian, plated back of the ancient treasure worm, rolling and scratching in a great circle around the chamber.
“Who disturbs my earthly apartments? I can smell you, little human,” the rock crawler hissed, spilling molten flames from his crescent jaws. “Your race ravishes my land and tears out the sun’s flowers from the depths. All your kind is hateful to me, and they will all die for your trespass.”
The tunnel-lurker advanced with dizzying speed, gliding on its one thousand or more legs, chomping the air, spitting liquid fire from his mouth and melting rock and gold as he went. Now was Giltiberim’s moment; now was the time to prove his bravery and strength in a final battle for glory.
Exhausted and foggy-minded, Giltiberim roused his remaining strength, and running ahead of the furious worm, began chipping away at the chamber walls. Soon the room began to tremble, the gold watcher’s frantic pursuit helping quicken Giltiberim’s work. The stones began to topple, and the gilded hall finally collapsed completely on itself, crushing the cave worm and Giltiberim together, sealing them and the treasure forever in the rocky depths of earth.
Outside of the mines, the king and his men intercepted the invaders, a small, angry band of Northern warriors, who were soundly defeated and driven off, after which, all but Giltiberim’s father forgot him. The king and his people never knew of the marvelous wealth of the boulder biter, or how close the people came to destruction, or indeed, how brave and courageous the man was who saved them all.