A Priceless Treasure

A light flickers dimly, from a common tavern, on a cold winter’s night. A man stands tall, illuminated, as his peers prod for one more adventurous tale. The man looks at his glass, “half full,” and prods back, “another round from you for another round from me.” Looking down, the man exclaims, “look at all these glasses, this side of the table is full!” His boisterous voice becomes filled with sorrow; the man looks distant, as if the travesty was right in front of him.

“I was told a monster roams these parts, ‘a wretched beast that snarls and grunts as her treasure trove is challenged.’ I thought they were too young to know what a real monster was. Now, I think I was too old to get my hopes up, chasing another windmill. I had to slowly dance around the target as I sought out more reputable intelligence. It did not sit well with me, in my youth I would have grabbed my rucksack without a moment’s thought. I would have run headlong knife in hand severing head from body, opening the beast right in the throat, before any more foul groans could be emitted.

‘FORGET IT!’ I began to yell at myself, ‘I’VE HEARD ENOUGH!’ I began to pace back and forth and grab at my hair. ‘IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT THIS BEAST IS!’ I looked down at my hands, ‘all the blood so recklessly shed.’ I had seen terror in the eyes of every inhabitant of this town, ‘IS THE HAPPINESS OF THIS TOWN NOT TREASURE ENOUGH?’ I can still feel the daredevil taking over. It was slower then, than in my youth. ‘I DON’T CARE IF IT’S GAURDING A BOWL OF RICE!’

Rucksack already on my back, I grabbed the knife from my boot and began to run headlong with a near empty pack. The fields were desolate, demonstrating the utter lack of hope. Truth be told, it made me smile and gave me hope that beyond these snow covered fields was a great challenge yet to overcome. I must have run for hours before I saw it, the large crack in the mountainous wall of this hopeless valley. Out of breath, but full of vigor, I lowered my head and ventured into her realm of darkness.

In this darkness I was lost for weeks. I neither had track of what was ahead of me nor behind. Out of rations, but somewhat rational, I began to unbraid the rope from my grappling hook. I had lost track of time in the darkest depths, but I know it was a slow and monotonous process. My fingers became raw and cramped from the small tedious task, but now I had tied the individual strands together making for quite the large ball of twine. I attached the grappling hook to the side of my rucksack and ventured forth once again, no longer lost by the gradual curves of the narrow passages. With as simple a tool as threads tied together, I was able to determine and mark dead ends.

I found the exit again and marked it with a piece of my rope. There was only one turn left in this labyrinth and I quickly followed the knotted line back to it. I could tell the den was near. I had to remove my shirt and tie it over my face to endure the foul stench ahead of me. I found the feeding room, a mix of excrement, blood, and crushed and torn pieces of flesh and bone. The beast had been devouring townsfolk, but there were too many bodies for them to be venturing through the darkness on their own accord.

The eight legged beast came rushing towards me with pincer’s crashing closed and ripping open. She reared back on her hind legs to demonstrate her size and strength. She stood at least three times as tall as this lone daredevil. I quickly dove at the beast’s right compound eye, but she swatted me away with her claw. I hit the wall and she quickly closed in. As her pincers came to sever me I rolled under her, and her pincer got caught in a large crack in her feeding room wall. I quickly climbed up the backside and jumped with all my weight on her caught pincer, snapping it off. The wretched beast let out a groan of discontent, and I quickly grabbed my grappling hook and thrust it into the elbow of her left claw, ripping off her hardened outer shell between the joints.

The monster quickly cowered, retreating rapidly deeper in the cave. A small group of people began to emerge from a hidden gap in overlapping walls. The group grew larger, entire families began to emerge from this hidden passage. I told them all to follow the string straight out and to not walk down a passageway with a string hanging down the middle. Exhausted after weeks of effort, I followed slowly from the back, making sure all escaped the cave.

Outside the cave I saw all the villagers, who had not yet been captured. They had a fire and freshly hunted meat. They were all focused in a deep prayer. It was as mixed a moment as I had ever seen. Some people wept for those already devoured, while others embraced their missing kin and wept with joy. We sat, ate, drank, and were merry if only for the night. The villagers gave me thanks for my service, and I told them that I had disarmed the beast which caused them so much pain. They told me from here they would handle it, and showed me their spears, shields, and armor. I nodded and slowly backed my way out of the crowd, disappearing into the first spring night of the year, safe in the knowledge the treasure of courage and hope had been saved for so many.”