A while ago, my family was crammed into a car going a few hundred miles and trying to stave off boredom. My sister suggested we play a game called “Nate tells a story and we try to guess whether it’s a real story or he just made it up,” also called “Puddlejumper” for short. (No, this game had not ever previously existed, and no I do not have any idea where that abbreviation came from. My family is kind of strange.) I told one, making sure all names and identifying information were obviously fake or references to something completely unrelated. Since I didn’t have time this week to write an actual post, here’s the story in question.
Once upon a time—not the same time as all those other stories happen because that would be confusing, but I guess pretty close to it—there’s a dragon. Pretty scary as dragons go. Breath iron, scales made of fire, standard dragon stuff, right down to the titanium elbow. So, this dragon is in the process of rampaging through the kingdom, as dragons tend to do, and this is understandably annoying for the innocent bystanders.
The ruler, King Ralph the Adequate, decides he has to do something about it. And by “he,” I mean “someone.” Delegating is the most important part of kinging, after all. So he calls up the King’s Champion, a hero-type who has rampaging monsters as part of the job description, and issues some royal orders. Something along the lines of “Yo, dude, don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a DRAGON and it’s RAMPAGING through my kingdom as dragons tend to do. This is annoying all my innocent bystanders and I’d really like to live in a slightly less dragon-rich environment. Could you maybe make it a bit more dead, since you know, this is literally the exact problem for which you are paid?”
Every kingdom has a permanently employed hero-type for obvious reasons. This one is a guy called Brand son of Bane, and he claims to be descended from a long line of professional heroes. There’s probably a musician in there somewhere but, well, I’m not going to argue with a guy whose job description involves the word “rampage.” Anyway, the king asks him to fight the dragon, and is shocked to hear that the answer is no.
“Dude. Kingbro. I know dealing with rampaging monsters is part of my job and all, but I thought I should warn you that this one is kind of mega-scary and might or might not even notice when it crushes me. You know I’ll take on pretty much anyone in single combat, and that includes any monster I’ve got a chance against, and I even stopped that army of Fae Folk for you that one time, but have you seen this thing? It’s got a titanium elbow.”
The king’s response is pretty predictable, since stopping the rampages of rampaging monsters is pretty much why he has a King’s Champion, so he tells Brand that it’s officially His Problem. There may be some yelling involved.
“Dude. Chill. Here’s what I’ll do. So, this dragon thing is way beyond my pay grade, but I’ll call in backup. See, all us hero-types know about the legendary epic hero Clarence the Warrior, from way back when monsters were scarier and heroes were heroier, and how he’s in a magic sleep or something until he’s woken up to help rescue anyone who’s hero enough break through the ring of fire at the top of his mountain. I’ll go do that one itty-bitty quest, and he can take care of your dragon problem.”
Now, I think this is a bit stupid on Clarence’s part, swooping in to rescue anyone precisely heroic enough to do that but not so heroic enough that they can solve their own problem, but it probably makes sense in the mind of a professional hero-type. And the king doesn’t object, because this sounds like a solution that involves the dragon being dead. So Brand sets out on his quest to avoid fighting a dragon, and the king goes back to setting his grain tax rates or whatever it is kings do when they aren’t dealing with rampaging dragons.
So Brand heads out in a direction containing no more dragons than usual, on his way to the mountain where this legendary hero guy is waiting. And he makes good time, both because “the fastest horse in your stables” is a traditional request when going on a quest on behalf of the king and also because the dragon is in the other direction. He wouldn’t want it to have any more time to rampage than it absolutely has to.
Eventually he makes it to the mountain. It’s not hard to find, seeing as how there’s a wall of fire on top of it. But before he can get to the magic cryonics thing on the inside, he’s got to get through that. In his younger heroing days, he might have just jumped through, but since then he has become not stupid. Like any good hero-type, he knows his limits for which impossible tasks he can do and which are too impossible. And he doesn’t have any idea how thick the ring of fire is, any more than you do.
So he dumps a bunch of water on it instead. Nope, nothing happens. Not even steam. Throws a bunch of earth on it to make a safe(r) path across. No effect. Magic fire is annoying. So he decides to just jump, The last thing he thinks before deciding is “Eh, screw it,” followed by “famous last words” and then “well, it was set up by a professional hero-type, so maybe it makes sense.”
Landing on the inside, he’s only kind of surprised to find that it worked, and not surprised at all to find that the person on the inside is waking up. He gets out the important questions, “Are you Clarence the Warrior, have you been waiting for someone to come who needs your help, can you fight a dragon?”
“Er, yes. That’s me. Wait, you needed help with a dragon? That’s it? Anyway, I should probably warn you—“
“Great! I’m Brand son of Bane, and we need your help. Take my horse and ride south, take care of the dragon and I’ll meet you at the capital—”
He shoves him through the ring of fire, but as soon as Clarence is through it turns into a solid wall. He feels himself falling asleep, and knows what’s coming. His last thought is that he hopes he’ll be able to handle it in a couple thousand years when someone calls on the legendary ancient hero Brand son of Bane.