Once upon a time there was a little knight, who as it happens was called Sir Little. Now, Sir Little lived in a little castle and rode a little horse in a big kingdom on big adventures. He tamed the griffons on snowy peaks; he slew giants in the fields. He dove for treasure with mermaids, and followed maps to lost cities. He even partied with the king and queen! Sometimes he won, and sometimes he lost. Sir Little still swears that the goblins cheat at marbles.
While Sir Little could go just about anywhere in the kingdom, there was one place that he didn’t go, and that was only because he was a good little knight. The Cave of Treasure. It was said that there’s a treasure for everybody in the kingdom behind its iron door guarded by a fierce red dragon. As knowing that you’d have to face a fire breathing dragon wasn’t enough to keep adventurers away, before they even got to the dragon, they had to climb a long and winding trail of stairs, each step up a chance to turn around. At the very end of the trail waited a wooden sign, a lone sentry standing before the dragon’s lair with the polite warning, “Please ask the dragon for the key.”
After losing a game of marbles to a friendly goblin who was defiantly (well, probably not) a cheater, Sir Little handed over his best marble like a good little knight saying, “Enjoy your treasure, you won it fair and square. Allegedly.”
The good natured goblin giggled gleefully, “Golly good sir, it’s not my fault you’re no good at marbles.”
“I’m plenty good at marbles,” Sir Little insisted.
“Then why don’t you win?”
“That’s the question.”
That giggly goblin giggled some more, then he patted the knight’s shining armor, “I have an answer. You’re good enough to get this treasure, but not good enough to keep it.”
Sir Little looked longingly at the lost marble, “I wonder if you’re good enough to keep it.”
It’s quite a curious thing to see a serious look from a goblin, and Sir Little saw one as the goblin said, “I’ll never risk this treasure.”
Sir Little was struck by this, so he said, “Then treasure it.”
They parted ways then, and Sir Little got to thinking. “What’s my treasure?” he asked himself. Sir Little thought to himself for a little while, and then he answered himself, “No, it’s not my little sword…” He thought to himself a little longer, and answered himself again, “No, it’s not my little shield…” A little more thinking to himself before Sir Little answered himself again, “No, it’s not even my little horse…” An indignant neighing interrupted his thinking, so he said, “Sorry Apples, I treasure you, but you’re not really mine.”
It just so happened that Apples took Sir Little to the start of that well known staircase. “A treasure for everybody in the kingdom…” he muttered as he looked at the sign pointing up the stairs. Almost as if in a trance, Sir Little read the sign aloud, “The Cave of Treasures is up the stairs, every step should be your own.”
Sir Little thought about the sign for a bit, and then he slid down out of the saddle saying, “I guess if the treasure’s mine, then so is the journey. Wait here, Apples.”
With a look over his shoulder to his little horse shaking its little mane in a little goodbye, the little knight took a very big step. The second and third steps were just as big, too. So were the fourth and fifth and all right up to the thirtieth step! Fortunately for Sir Little, that thirtieth step was more of a landing conveniently shaded by a pine tree. Sir Little gratefully leaned up against the tree and wiped the sweat from his brow, and a little gray bunny hopped up the steps behind him and flopped herself flat on the shaded flagstone.
“Hello Ms. Bunny,” said Sir Little.
“Hello Sir Little,” said Ms. Bunny.
“Are you on your way to the Cave of Treasure?”
Ms. Bunny looked up from where she lay in puzzlement and said, “But you’re too little.”
Sir Little puffed out his chest and answered, “I’m bigger than you!”
Ms. Bunny smiled a crooked smile and explained, “That’s true, but I am big for a rabbit, where as you are not big for a knight.”
The expression on Sir Little’s face was definitely not a pout as he indignantly insisted, “It’s never stopped me before.”
Ms. Bunny stood up and stretched before she said, “That’s a good point, but there wasn’t a dragon before.” With that, she hopped on ahead, and Sir Little watched the little bunny’s little ears bounce up and down until its little tail disappeared around the bend, and the little knight picked up his little foot and took another big step.
Up, and up, and up, and up the little knight took big steps, until he found another landing with another pine tree. While Sir Little was thankful to the tree for the shade, he couldn’t help but feel sorry for how the wind had bent it over and twisted it into knots. He sat down on one of the knots, and was surprised to meet Bill the styre there.
With the clattering of hooves the shaggy old ram nimbly jumped down from a large boulder saying in his braying voice, “It’s strange to see you on this side of the mountain.”
“I’m going to the Cave of Treasure,” answered Sir Little between pants.
“You’ve still got a long way to go.”
“I can make it.”
“It’s okay to turn back you know.”
Sir Little frowned at Bill and retorted forcefully, “I can make it.”
The styre just laughed and said, “I believe you.”
Sir Little definitely wasn’t pouting when he asked, “Then why mention turning back?”
“Because you have to decide to keep going just as much as you’d have to decide to turn back.” With that, bill tapped his little horns and leapt with his little hooves further down the mountain, and the little knight furrowed his little brow, tapped his little boot, and adjusted his little visor. Then, he took a big step up the mountain.
Up, and up, and up he climbed, and this time he was even more determined. He was so determined in fact, that he did not stop to chat with anybody he met along the way. He didn’t stop to chat with the happy farmer. He didn’t stop to chat with the friendly family of little mice. He didn’t even stop to chat with the noble fellow knight. Sir Little just focused on the next step, and the next one, and the next one, and the next one until he stumbled at the top of the stair because he was so used to them that he expected another
There at the top of the stairs was a little alcove in the mountains, something like half of a funnel, with a winding path at its end where that lonesome sign stood silent sentry. Sir little read the big, bold lettering aloud just like the one at the bottom of the stairs, “Please ask the dragon for the key.” Then, he was suddenly possessed by a desire to turn around. When he did, he saw the kingdom’s patchwork of little farms and big cities stretching out as far as the eye could see. “That’s a whole lot prettier than staring at stone stairs,” he said wistfully. Even though he didn’t realize he was looking for it, Sir Little’s little eyes picked out his little castle of their own accord and he reached his little hand out toward where his little bed was waiting for him safe and warm by a little fire.
Sir little was quite surprised to find that his little feet had taken little steps quite on their own to the very edge of the first stair down, but he shook his little head and made a big choice, “I’m deciding to keep going!”
The little knights armor clattered as he performed an about face and marched right on past the sign and down the twisty path. He rounded the final bend and in front of an iron door, there she was.
The dragon was at the same time fearsome and beautiful, her ruby red scales glinted in the sun, and her emerald green eyes burned with sharp, hot wisdom. Her voice was like a gale tearing through a forest, and cut into the heart as easily as a good knife into an apple, and with that voice she demanded, “Why are you here, Sir Little?”
Sir little tried not to shake in his armor as he answered honestly like a good little knight, “T-to go into the C-Cave of T-Treasure.”
She raised a scaly eyebrow and questioned him further, “And what do you want inside?”
Frankly, Sir Little hadn’t thought of an answer beforehand because the question had never occurred to him. Images of golden chalices, diamond necklaces, ruby encrusted swords and other such riches flashed in his head at her asking. Then, like the good little knight he was, Sir Little answered, “I… I don’t know…”
“Come back when you’re big enough.” The judgement fell on Sir Little like a hammer on a tin can, and he crumpled inside.
The little knight preformed another about face, and began to go back. He hung his little head, hunched his little shoulders, and dragged his little feet along the twisting path weeping big tears. When he got to the top of the stairs, Sir Little simply couldn’t bring himself to step down the first stair, so he sat himself down on it. He dried his eyes, and was surprised by a visit from a crow.
The crow perched himself on Sir Little’s helmet and looked into the knight’s face upside-down, and asked him, “Why the long face?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” said Sir Little morosely.
Undeterred, the crow asked, “If you don’t talk about it, how can you get any help?”
“Maybe I don’t need any help.”
The crow cawed indignantly, “I know what crying looks like!”
It was Sir Little’s turn to ask a question, “Does it look like I’m crying?”
The crow turned his head and answered, “It looks like you just stopped.”
Sir Little was good and caught, so he confessed, “The dragon won’t give me the key.”
“Do you have a treasure in the cave?”
“Is it yours?”
“Then go get it.”
“How can I? The dragon won’t give me the key.”
“The dragon has to sleep too. Wait for her to fall asleep, and just take it and go in.”
Sir little didn’t answer, so the crow flew off into the setting sun to leave Sir Little alone with his thoughts.
By the time the stars had come out, Sir Little had made his decision. He had stripped off his armor to make no noise as he crept along the path in his tunic, and ignored the accusation of the silent sentry. Once he got to the end of the path, Sir Little peered around the bend to make sure that the dragon was asleep. She was, and the silver key glinted in the moonlight on a cord around her neck. Slowly, on tiptoe, on bare feet, the knight snuck up to the sleeping dragon. Then, he held a little breath, reached out a little hand, and plucked up the key with his little fingers and took a big gulp. His heart raced as he fled toward the path, and the silver key clattered against the dragon’s scales.
Sir Little returned to his armor, and the dragon met him there saying nothing. She simply stared at the little knight’s little face with his little weeping eyes letting big tears roll down his rosy cheeks.
Oh how that fearsome guardian towered above that little caught knight, but she did not accuse him even with her eyes. But still Sir Little found himself taking a position of defense until she finally asked softly, “What were you doing?”
“When I’m big enough?!” he shot back at her accusingly, “What does that even mean?! I’m big enough to go anyplace in this whole kingdom! I’m big enough to party with the king and queen! I’m big enough to wrestle giants! I’m big enough to dive with mermaids! I’m big enough to do all sorts of things! I’m even big enough to stand up to you!”
Softly, gently, the dragon asked, “Are you sure?”
Sir Little shook the tears and defeat from his little eyes, took up his little sword, and hefted his little shield before he said in a big voice, “Yes! So you might as well roast me now!”
The dragon sighed, “Oh, alright then,” and turned her back to go back down the path to the door.
Puzzled, Sir little asked, “Alright you’re going to roast me?”
“Alright I’m going to open the door,” she answered.
“Oh,” Sir Little said meekly as he followed her with his sword and shield hanging in his hands. When they reached the door, the dragon took the key in her talons and turned it in the lock. The lock made a loud clang, and the hinges creaking sent a chill up Sir Little’s spine, but the dragon sighed out fire into the Cave of Treasure to light a hundred candles all at once.
Sir Little’s eyes were dazzled by the light dancing off of gold and silver, off of gems and jewels, off of treasures of all sorts. However, he himself could only stumble inside. He stumbled past a golden chalice, he stumbled past a diamond necklace, and he stumbled past a ruby encrusted sword besides all other kinds of riches. None of it was his though, so he couldn’t even touch it, of course. That is until he stumbled upon it.
It wasn’t gold or silver, but brass, and didn’t have gemstones in it, but glass. It was a little brass spyglass, covered in dents and scratches which would have looked dignified and respectable just about anyplace else. Here though, here in all the gold and silver splendor, that little spyglass looked rather shabby. Well, you or I might have said so about it, but not Sir Little. To Sir Little, nothing in that room was more beautiful that that dented and tarnished spyglass, and what he said about it was, “This belonged to my dad.”
“He left it here for you,” said the dragon.
The little knight’s little finger trembled as he took up his little treasure as his little heart filled up to bursting with big, big feelings and he asked, “Why this?”
“So you could see where you’ve been, and where you’re going.”
I know it’s an older piece, but it’s new to this blog and I haven’t posted in a long while.