A Master’s Gift

Sleek and agile, strong and confident; that is the way of the tiger. To pounce into action, relying on your own abilities to overcome your foes and covet your desires. I have spent many days fighting these incredible creatures and learning from them. Their swiftness and self-reliance, letting their instincts guide their movements, and more important: their thirst for survival. To become an artisan in my craft, I would have to fight just like them. To claim any treasure buried in the depths of hell, I would have to possess that same strength and confidence.

For many yuris, I have lived by these standards, training in the most difficult of situations against foes much greater than myself and in tempered terrain and weather conditions. Through these feats, I have grown stronger as a whole. Without the skills mirroring those of a tiger, I may not have had the same success during my past hunts. And even so, I may not have even reached this threshold without the aid of Master Vaughn. He was with me nearly every moment of my rigorous training, summoning beasts more powerful than the next, one after another, until my body could no longer move. Only then would training end for the night, and I was left in the same place until morning. Again, we were right back to training. Occasionally, I’d be woken up with a task, or a lead onto a great treasure to seek out and return to Vaughn.

One morning, I was approached by the Master with a very gracious offer. He was very proud of my accomplishments over the yuris, and wished to bestow upon me a gift unlike any other, but only under the condition I complete one more task. The gift, he said, would be a representation of my persona, and would aid me in times to come. What exactly it was, he did not say and would reveal it to me only when the task was finished.

“Guarded within the caverns of the mythical lands are mountains and mountains of diamonds, rubies and other beautiful gems. Fill this bag with diamonds only, but beware the Mythic Dragon and his brethren, for they will not take kindly to your intrusion. Use your skills wisely and return to me with the diamonds. And please, Keaira…don’t do anything stupid.”

A simple enough task, I figured, as I had slain dragons numerous times before, however…never before had I been face-to-face with the great Mythic Dragon himself.

I prepared as I did any other treasure hunt, packing only the necessities and some dried meat to snack on for the trip there. By nightfall I arrived at a camp at the base of the mountain, brought there on the back of a steed. Numerous caverns and rocky hollows went through the mountain, which is where the dragons made their abode. I rested for the night, but anxiously awoke just before sunrise to start my journey on foot up the mountains. The stable horses knew better than to touch hoof in the dragons’ territory.
As I made my way up the mountain, I couldn’t help but wonder what Vaughn’s gift could possibly be. Something that represented myself, but would help me at the same time? My thoughts were running wild, ranging from daggers and swords to jewellery and other neat trinkets, but they were soon cut short by a loud screech from above. In the near distance a huge beast was flying in my direction. I quickly took to hiding amongst the trees, peering out to watch it pass overhead. Through dawn’s misty cover I spotted a long, slender dragon with beautiful shimmering purple scales glide swiftly through the air. Clutched within its hind talons was a full-grown ox which dangled helplessly in the sky. Must be dinner time. I smiled to myself, “Perfect, now I have a guide to show me the way to its lair.” With my dagger held by my side ready for danger, I quickly dashed through the woods while careful not to lose track of the dragon. It wasn’t too long before it descended into the trees. The lair was nearby.

I slowly crept through the trees keeping sharp eyes on the look-out for an entrance into the mountain. My heart grew excited when I began hearing the vicious sounds of a meal being shared. Just ahead I could see an opening leading into a rocky mountainside. The sounds were definitely coming from inside. I decided to wait a while before entering…

A few hours later, the sounds from inside had completely died. The sun was awake, hiding just behind the trees. These dragons were nocturnal, coming out of their dark caves only at night to hunt cattle from nearby farms. During the day they remained inside, hopefully fast asleep. I pressed my ear to the wall just inside, listening for any movement. It was dead quiet. I took that as a good sign. Lighting up a torch, I eagerly ventured deeper but remained careful not to make any noise. I soon came upon a small chamber that wreaked of death. Immediately I spotted the remains of an ox – its bones lying in a puddle of blood. Heh, sure didn’t make it far in here…Moving on. I continued through the cavern until I began to notice something a little odd. The walls were dotted with golden flecks. I waved my torch along it. There was definitely traces of gold within the rock. How pretty… As I continued along the wall, the flecks grew bigger and more defined until finally, the walls were made of solid gold blocks! Amazing! I was now inside what appeared to be man-made. A palace within the mountain? This was an incredible find! But…I came here for another purpose, and needed to hurry along. I continued through the golden hallway.

I soon came to a huge opening in the structure. The first thing I noticed were numerous statues of warriors leading to a stairway. After reading an inscription at the foot of the first statue, I learned they were of revered warriors who fought in the name of Chung Ryong. How ironic…a palace for a people who revered a God whose kind now overruns this place. Just before the stairway on both sides were two larger golden statues of what I recognized to be Chung Ryong himself. In place of the eyes were large round sapphire gems. At the top of the stairs there was a small platform with an altar. Looking around the rest of the room, there were various doors leading to unknown places. This underground structure was very similar to that of a palace, so I figured there were living quarters and council chambers beyond some of them. Oh, how the Scholars will love me for discovering this place! However, my eyes kept drawing upon the altar at the top of the stairs. There was a faint light emitting from it. Wouldn’t you guess it? That was my destination.

Approaching the altar, I identified the source of the light to be from a crown – or rather – a golden tiara. Beneath it was another inscription which simply read: ** Selu’kiira ** Amazing how it was simply left here, untouched. Just as I reached out to grab it, a low rumble froze me in motion. I didn’t need to look to know I’d been discovered as an intruder, but for my life’s sake, I turned to meet eyes with an angry (and I use that as an understatement) large (also an understatement) beast (yep, understatement). The dragon stood nearly as tall as the room itself, its scales more orchid in color than the last I saw – a showing of age? It’s body had to be twice, if not three times the size of the earlier purple dragon. It’s mouth was about twice as long as my own body and could easily swallow me whole. I could only assume that this was the Mythic Dragon Vaughn had warned me of.

Like a jolt of lightning it suddenly sprang forth, maw wide open and ready to chomp down on me. Without much time to think, I quickly snatched the tiara and dove out of the path of the dragon’s jaws. It came smashing down on top of the altar, just narrowly missing me. A ferocious roar echoed against the walls, making the whole room feel like it was shaking. I flew down the stairs as quickly as I could, but before I reached the bottom the dragon lashed its tail firmly into my side, throwing me into one of the warrior statues. The force knocked it over, causing it to crash into the ground with myself a mangled mess on top. Aw man, the Scholars are gonna hate me for that. I forced myself up, only to feel a rush of pain in my side. “Agggh!” I pushed myself off the ground, fighting the persistent throbs. The dragon turned to see I was on my feet again. It let out a strange snort, then arched its neck backwards. Its chest began puffing up and smoke started to stream out of its nose. This doesn’t look good…I looked behind me and noticed a hole in the bottom of the wall with a faint glow coming from behind it. I immediately dashed towards it, just as the dragon released a huge flaming torpedo. I clutched the tiara firmly in one hand and threw myself along the marble floor towards the wall. Was I going to make it in time? I turned in mid-slide to see the wave of fire engulf me just as I crashed into the wall. “Nooo!” I screamed, covering my face with my arms.

All I remember was darkness coming upon me and being able to feel nothing afterwards. Wait…nothing? I slowly opened my eyes to find I had made it into the other room. I looked down at my hands and saw they were pefectly fine. No burns? Not even my clothes were singed. I still held the tiara in my hand and noticed a faint light emitting from it, which began to fade away. Did this thing protect me?

I peeked out of the hole and saw the dragon was still out there. It was flailing around the room, smashing everything in its path in an angry uproar. All of the statues – every one of them – lay smashed in a million pieces on the floor. Ohhh man, the Scholars are going to KILL me! I could just picture Notorious reaching his hands out to strangle me for causing the destruction of these valuable monuments of history! I looked again to the tiara. Maybe not!

I picked myself up again and finally took the time to see where I was. As soon as I turned around, my jaw dropped straight to the floor. Before me, from wall-to-wall, were dusty chests filled with jewels of every shape and colour, ancient armors of different styles and class and weapons of various shapes and sizes. There were also several shelves with old, dusty scrolls. “By Kubera, I’ve slipped into the Treasury room!!” I placed Selu’kiira on top of my head, freeing my hands to gather up as many diamonds as I could fit into the bag. “This should be more than enough for Vaughn!” Now then…to find my way out of here… All I could find was a single door on the wall leading back into the main hall. “You’re kidding me…”

I peeked outside again, and saw the dragon was STILL rampaging. “Oh, get over it!” I stupidly yelled out at the dragon. He suddenly came charging straight towards the wall and slammed its body with all its weight against it. Surprisingly it did nothing to the room but cause some dirt to fall from the walls. Another thud and more dirt fell. I looked around the room again, just as another thud came. On the adjacent wall, I noticed a strange pattern differing from the rest of the wall. It revealed itself more and more as dirt fell away. I quickly went over, clearing the wall with my hand. There was a hidden latch. “Oh, what the hell…” I pushed my fingers against it until I heard a ‘click’. There was a moment of silence, followed by a creaking of interlocking gears. One of the bookcases began to move forward from the wall, revealing a passageway. I peered inside and saw the walls were lined with lit torches. It looked much more inviting than the only other way out. I made my way inside and all the way through the passage. It was quite the hike, but eventually it came to an end in front of a large boulder. Next to it was another latch. Sure enough, after pressing it, the boulder swung open, letting in fresh air and the late-afternoon sun.

“Ah, Keaira…You’ve certainly outdone yourself this time. You managed to get the diamonds alright, and that” — Vaughn gestured towards the top of my head — “that must have given you a great deal of trouble from the Mythic Dragon, huh?” He grinned widely.

I smiled in return, “Eh…you know me. If it’s shiny, it’s worth any amount of trouble.”

Vaughn nodded his head, “Yeah yeah. There’s no point telling you what not to do. You never listen anyways.” He then shook his head, chuckling. “Good job, nonetheless. And, as I promised…” he withdrew a box from his desk. “This is for you. I had it custom-made from Laptev. There’s no one I can think of more befitting than you for this.”

My eyes grew excited as he passed the box to me. I opened it carefully, not knowing what to expect. When I opened it, my heart nearly jumped straight out of my chest. Within the box was a pair of hunter’s gloves, but they were no ordinary gloves. At the end of each finger were claws made of pure diamond! The gloves themselves were made from rare tigerskin. Incredible! Diamond-tipped claws.

The gloves later proved very useful in my endeavors. I have since taught myself a new style of dueling with the claws and they have also come handy in many of my hunts. The diamonds are perfect for when it comes to climbing rocks! As for the other trinket I collected, Selu’kiira…the Scholars of our guild managed to do some research on it and discovered it was enchanted to protect the wearer from fire, no matter how strong. That would explain why the dragon’s fire did me no harm! It has also proven to be a great addition to my hunting gear for that reason.