“A Night in a Dungeon” by Lancelot Takeda 9/1/02 Revised 9/4/02

            Three teenagers in ragged, faded jeans and loose-fitting T-shirts sit around the kitchen table. Paper, writing implements, and dice of all shapes and sizes lay scattered across the surface. The boys chat amiably, but every few moments, they look towards the door with anxious eyes, as if waiting for something.

            At the far end of the table, another seat sits empty. This area is distinctly set apart from the rest of the table by the plastic screen set up around it, which is covered in garish images of fantastical creatures. Though they roam about the room, the boys never go near this spot.

            Ten minutes creep slowly past. They’re getting bored. Two of the boys start rolling dice and comparing results; the third pulls out a paperback and begins reading.

            Suddenly, all the lights go out. All three boys whip around in their seats to see a fourth standing sillhouetted in the doorway, a big, mischievous grin on his face. “Took you guys long enough to let me in,” he jokes. “I was waiting by the door the whole time.”

            A round of jokes and stories about the past week consume the next few minutes. Finally the fourth boy takes his seat behind the screen. The others fall silent. This is the moment they’ve been waiting for. They lean forward eagerly to hear what he has to say.

            The boy flips through a beat-up notebook, searching for his spot. Finally, he finds a dog-eared page. Smoothing out the crease, he clears his throat and speaks, the low tone of his voice carrying an air of mystery.

            “Last week,” he begins, “Vin the Brave found a journal locked away in the duke’s secret chamber. Being unable to understand the arcane handwriting, you took the book to an old friend, Sage Allwisen.”

            The boys nod impatiently. These are things that came before, things they already know. One of them, who has a sheet of paper before him titled “Vin the Brave,” motions for his friend to continue. “Go on, man” he says. “You’re the Dungeon Master. Ignore these goofballs.”

            The Dungeon Master pulls thick, black hair out of his eyes as a few dice are playfully tossed at the speaker, then continues. “Sage Allwisen locks himself away in his study for hours. When he emerges, he waves the journal in the air, an excited gleam in his eyes.”

            At this poin, the Dungeon Master stoops down and pulls just such a book out of a duffel bag at his feet. He holds it high enough for everyone to see, and his eyes take on a maniacal gleam. The boys can practiically see the old sage before them as he gleefully exclaims, “You’ll never believe this! This book contains a map to the tomb of the great necromancer Amon Kee!”

            And so it goes. Each of the boys immerses himself in his character as the Dungeon Master leads them on a foray into the tomb of Amon Kee. They fend off monstrous creatures, deadly traps, and even the great necromancer himself, who has used his powerful magic to rise again from the grave. Through it all, the Dungeon Master keeps the energy in the room high, keeping his players on their toes with his quick wit, careful planning, and acting ability.

            Finally, as the night wears on into morning, the Dungeon Master dog-ears the page of his notebook again, closing it with great ceremony. “That’s it for tonight, folks! See you next week!”

            Suddenly, the boys who have been Vin the Brave, Slippery Fingered Nicky, and His Holiness Morkal of Abbydale all night are just regular teenagers again. They gather up their belongings, promise to be back, wave goodbye, and each leave for their own homes. Each of them knows that he has just spent a night in a dungeon, and not one of them can wait to return.