Hot wet breath roared in his ears, acrid in his nostrils. The stench of death that lingered on clothing, impossible to scrub clean. Dennis took a step back, steadying himself. Every fiber in his muscles screamed. The sword he held aloft in front of him quivered with a heady mix of adrenaline and finality.
Before him, stood Tyraxxius. A gigantic mountain dragon, black and purple and powerful. It towered over him, at least the height of twenty men, with giant wings outspread in challenge. It was not advancing - simply holding it's place while the two observed one another, weighing up their own options in this very clear fight to the death. It's lips were curled back in a promise to end him, revealing several rows of very sharp, very white fangs that glittered dangerously in the pale light filtering down into the cave of which they fought.
Dennis turned his head and spat in distain, his brown eyes cold and determined. He was an older man at this point - nearing forty six - but the only one who had the skills and knowledge, and, at this point, the only one who had the will to try. Tyraxxius had been the last thing that most of the fighters from his village had seen. In fact, Tyraxxius had been the last thing that most ANYONE from his village had seen. The dragon had gorged itself on his descendants and neighbours and friends and family for years, indiscriminately and mercilessly, and nobody had been able to so much as scratch it.
But Dennis? Dennis had made this his life mission. Tyraxxius had eaten his father, and his mother, and both his brothers. At night, before sleep swept him off into enveloping blackness, he could still hear them screaming. He could hear the crackling splintering of bones, the ripping of flesh, the shrieks of purest terror as they were chewed up, alive, by the huge reptillian beast. Those sounds had driven him to travel the lands, as far as his horse could carry him, and then a bit further, in search of a solution to the end of this living nightmare.
Of course, in all stories, during his travels, he had met a girl. She was sweet and beautiful and kind, with a soft voice and shining black hair. For a while longer than he meant to, he had lingered with her, forgetting his mission and everyone back home.
They had built a life together, away from it all. A little farmstead with cows and sheep and ducks. Their little wooden home had been full of warmth and laughter, and for a while when he fell asleep in her arms, even the screams of his past faded. They had discussed their hopes and dreams together, and while they struggled to conceive, after five years, she eventually bore their first and only child. A son, with raven black hair of his mother and soft brown eyes of his father. It had been a decade of peace and affection, and Dennis was gloriously happy.
And then one night, exactly a year after the birth of their son, as Dennis had closed his eyes, it was all over. A huge black scaled jaw had crashed down through their roof, shattering it into matchsticks, and snapped shut around his beloved wife and their small baby. The desperate screaming, bone shattering, skin tearing - and then he had woken up, covered in sweat and choking with fear. A quick glance around, and with relief, he realised he was still at home. His wife slept peacefully in bed beside him, their sweet boy in a crib next to her.
The very next day, Dennis had chosen to leave. She'd begged him to stay, of course, asking him why he would give up their life together, sacrifice watching their child grow up; but his mind was already decided. Tyraxxius had to die.
And he would be a hero.
And less than a year later, he had found what he was searching for. A rotten old troll, beneath a broken bridge, had presented him with 'Dragonsmite.' A fable, a children's tale, a story, a rare rock that was said to be deathly poisonous to dragons, able to melt through their scales with ease. It was said that even the slightest touch would cause a dragon to turn to stone, poisoning it from within.
It was notoriously impossible to find - but sure enough, there it was. A fist sized piece wrapped in a thin layer of cheesecloth, laying in the trolls gnarled hands.
Amber in colour, hard to the touch. Resinous and slightly sweet of scent, a deeper and darker mix of pine and leather, wrapped up in a balsamic, smoky aroma. The troll had not wanted to part with it, and Dennis had been unable to force him.
However, after a few days of discussion, they had struck a deal. If the troll would allow him to take the Dragonsmite and edge his blade with it, then Dennis had promised the troll his first born.
His wife had, of course, not taken it well. In fact, she had told him there was absolutely no way she would agree to such a stupid agreement - so when he'd stolen away their only child the very next day in exchange for Dragonsmite, she abruptly left. Their home, once a source of laughter and family, stood empty in darkness. Cobwebs and sadness filled the corners, and spiders danced along what remained of the crib that their child had slept in. Dennis had no idea where she was - whether she had gone to another village, or heck, whether she was even alive. But he knew that, while the deal was a tough one, it would be worth it. He could save the village and every child born inside it.
He would be a hero.
The ground shook as Tyraxxius finally took its first thunderous step forward, snapping Dennis back to reality and the task before him.
It was time.
Dennis inhaled shakily, and also began his approach, albeit more hesitantly than the giant dragon. He knew he would likely die, but this.. this was going to be worth it. It would all be worth it. He would be a hero. His longsword had been coated in Dragonsmite - he had taken a long time to carefully cover each and every part with a coating of the resinous amber block. All he needed to do was touch Tyraxxius with it, and the poison would absorb through the scales, spreading through it's body and immobilising the dragon where it stood.
Nothing would be left of Tyraxxius, except a huge stone statue of what it had once been. The reign of terror would be over.
The distance between them was swiftly closed - and the dragon's head snapped down at ferocious speed, jaws clashing together with an almighty clatter of teeth, just behind his head, as he spun himself around.
But he hadn't been fast enough. The briefest flash of pain seared through his leg, and he was abruptly yanked up into the air. Tyraxxius was very well practiced and VERY accurate.
It was already over. But it didn't matter.
He would be a hero.
He stared into the giant, baleful green eye. For a moment, there was the briefest of connections, or at least, so he told himself - before he slashed the edge of his sword straight into the side of the dragon's face.
.. And it bounced off.
Dread filled him even as darkness began to creep in. He immediately knew. He IMMEDIATELY knew.
If it looks like amber, smells like amber and feels like amber.. it's not Dragonsmite. It's amber. IT'S GODDAMN AMBER.
Crunching. Bone shattering. Darkness rushed, filling his vision. The hot flood of blood in his mouth, his eyes, his ears, his nose.
.. He would .. be .. a hero....