Lessons from a Dragon

It wasn’t just a dragon. It was an ancient dragon. And I was on its bad side.

Wait, let me back up here.

Yeah, he looked like that. Except light brown, and much bigger.

I’m a big fan of the game Skyrim, so much a fan that my character has gotten really good. And fighting things like dragons have become pretty commonplace. I’ve slain my share of dragons, but I have enough commonsense to always take a companion along with me with full armor to get the dragon’s attention while I stand back and plink it with arrows. Usually within a couple of minutes, five minutes at the latest, the dragon is dead, and I’m able to loot whatever the dragon is carrying.

Trouble is with that scenario, I’ve gotten pretty complacent. It was too easy. And I was getting bored.

So today, we were headed across the countryside on another adventure, me on my trusty warhorse, my companion on foot, when I saw a dragon circling high overhead. I thought–without really thinking too much–why not. So I got off my horse, cast a Dragonrend spell to make him land, and started plinking. Ten minutes later, my companion was nowhere to be seen, I was running out of arrows, and he was coming after me. I decided that discretion was the better part of valor.

Who is that guy? to paraphrase Butch Cassidy, I must have been thinking, as I watched him kill a giant, two soldiers and then come after me. I decided to run for the river. He blasted me with fire. I quickly used up my Resist Fire spells and many of my healing spells. I’d died before by standing toe to toe with these guys, so I knew my best bet was at a distance. I leaped into the river just as he blasted me with fire once again.

I swam across the river and ran into some trees. I summoned my own dragon, who kept the ancient one busy for a little while, but didn’t last more than five or ten minutes. Then I summoned another fighter, who died rather quickly. I was running out of options.

On the other side of the treeline was a small sawmill. I ran into it just as the ancient dragon landed outside. He tried blasting me again. I watched him go around to the other side of the building and then came back outside. I was out of healing potions, out of fire resist potions and nearly out of arrows. I spent the next ten minutes playing tag with a giant dragon, who decided he didn’t like me.

Finally he realized that I wasn’t any fun anymore. I looked outside and he had gone down the road. He was chasing my horse, who was giving as good as he got. While my horse kept him busy, I used up the last of my arrows and finally killed the monster. And then my companion showed up, of course.

What normally took me less than five minutes took me close to half an hour. And I realized that I had a wonderful time.

I started thinking about all the projects I have done over the years. Poetry and songs I have written. Books and short stories I have shared. And even household projects. There’s no direct correlation between how much effort you put into a project and how big a reward you get in the end. I’ve had people love songs I’ve written in a few minutes and said them say “meh” over songs I’d labored over for months.

But if you think about personal satisfaction, now that’s a different story. I think there’s a direct correlation between how hard you work, how long you sweat, over a project, and how satisfied you are when you complete it. It’s good to remember that when your project takes longer than you think it should.

The joy is in the journey. Even if it is a dragon.