The setting: my local board game cafe, a Saturday afternoon, my oldest son and I sitting across the table from each other, with a complex system of tunnels leading from a castle down to a dragon’s lair with treasures galore and monsters hidden along the way…mapped out between us………
………Both of us know that we need to be quiet as we go exploring for treasures, a personal contest engaged to see who can bring back the biggest haul. Everyone thinks we are loony for daring to enter the dragon’s depths. But my son and I have been egging each other on for so long about who is most daring, who is the craftiest, and the bravest…that we are no longer thinking with our brains, but with our pride and our money pouches. Early on, I’m having a hard time getting my bearing. I stumble often on metal pieces strewn about the passageways. Each time, I hear an ominous noise…a clanking sound. Oh well…carry on. My son has youthful bravado and he is determined to journey deep and bring back a mighty jewel to impress the townsfolk with back above. I’m new to this dungeon-diving experience, so I am feeling a little less ‘ambitious’ as my mind starts to relay from my nose that the less-than-pleasant smell I have been registering just may actually be from a dragon.
Once past the castle’s lowest levels, I flirt around the upper regions of the dragon’s cave — grabbing a few sparkly items. The more I grab, though, the more I seem to create that loud, annoying sound — I am getting very worried that the dragon is going to hear the noise. I have a fleeting thought about my son: for his safety, about the treasures he is surely acquiring, that he might win our contest. After that quick moment, though, I let my valor tag-out with wisdom and start moving back up to higher ground. I make my way back to the top…beautiful, beautiful sunlight washing over me.
I take stock of my hoard and realize that my collection is bigger than I had realized while down in the darkness — no wonder the trek up was so tough! Upon hearing that I have returned — not just returned — but have brought back voluminous value for the king and his lands, I am greatly applauded: receiving invites from neighbors to join them for dinner, and a special medallion and reward from the town’s provost.
Obviously, I am feeling very good about my achievement and my showing in the contest. The contest!? My son! Is he still down there? I rush back to the entrance and shout for him. For several minutes, no response and then finally I hear his faint voice call back to me. Whew! He’s alive and out of the cave. He sounds a bit fatigued, though. [Hmm…I wonder how much treasure he found if he has been gone this long…I sure don’t like losing to him in our contests]
As I wait a little longer, I can tell that he is starting to get closer to the surface. Then, I hear the sound — it chills me to the bone. The loudest, well…Clank! I dare guess that one has ever heard. (Later research would determine that one of the monsters I had defeated in the depths of the castle had dropped a shield. My son, while starting to feel safer, was busy looking over his gems and jewels, trying to estimate their value…when he ran right into the shield.) For a moment after the cacophonous sound, there was silence…it lasted long enough that as I was about to exhale in relief…the mighty and powerful roar of a dragon broke the transitory peace. Following the roar –> the harsh shaking of the ground beneath my feet –> and then the cry of my son followed by startling silence.
I called for guards and we rushed downward. Luckily, not too far from the entrance, we found my son — passed out with a large egg-shape growing near his temple. He was so close — he had almost made it.
After a few hours of rest and some apothecarial administrations, he was awake and excitedly telling me about his adventure in the deep recesses of the dragon’s cave. Soon after, we had the chance to look over his treasure trove. The provost joined us and seemed pleased that the kingdom would benefit so much from both of our quests. At this point, I expected my son to receive the same honor from the man that I had, but it did not come. After exiting, I chased after the provost and requested his ear. Having relayed my query, I was informed that while there was great appreciation for the wealth that my son had retrieved from the depths below, his awakening of the dragon…and the damage caused to the castle and several local buildings…would take some time to repair. My son might be appreciated, but he was not to be rewarded.
That night, the treasurer stopped by to check in on the questing crew. He informed us that he had tallied up the value of the riches we had retrieved. Though my son had brought out greater wealth from down below, the value of my reward upon safely returning put my total slightly ahead.
Just imagine…he was so close, he had almost exited the passageways safely — without awakening the dragon’s wrath. Had he done so, the provost would have rewarded him equally…he would have won. And yet, that is not how it came to pass. In the end, I won the contest.
Time has slipped by since then….and every so often, I will hear some kids tossing rocks down the town’s wishing well. And when tossed just right, the rock will echo back up the well with the faint sound….of a “clank!” And I will be honest with you, when I hear that sound…as I think back to that day my son and I had it in us to go questing for wealth…I can’t help but smile, knowing that the old man pulled off a victory one more time.
Since that day, I have journeyed back downward in the heat of contest twice more. The results? Well, let’s just say that the villagers don’t call me Sir Dragon’s Bane for nothin’!
Will there ever be a day in which one may show up who can beat me in this contest? Maybe…or maybe not 😉
By the way, if you are feeling sorry for my son after reading this, just read last week’s story and know that he has plenty of his own victories.