Look, kid, in our profession, there is no such thing as talent, only patience.
The words of my teacher swam through my head like a school of fish as I navigated my tiny wooden boat away from the shore of Krawk Island. I could even picture him saying it - my teacher was Dorak, the blue Krawk of Dubloon Disaster fame. It was still early, and a salty fog floated over the calm ocean and permeated the air. In the distance I could see the shoreline growing farther and farther away, until finally it disappeared.
No talent, only patience.
I was a small-framed, young purple Krawk, and I was all alone.
I could hear the slap of waves lapping against the shabby wooden hull of my rowboat, and the tinkling sound water dripping off my oars in cool ripples as I swung them out of the sea.
I knew what to do, but I couldn’t help feeling a subtle pang of nervousness as I neared the minefield. I’d been training for a month, but much to my disappointment, I still hadn’t reached the “grand master” level. A week ago, a mine had hit my ship when I had 2,380 points - I had just a few hundred to go! Two or three dubloons could have done it, easily.
The frustration still stung. I could hear the crashing sound of my boat as it rattled and -- no. That was then. I shook my head and took a deep breath, reaching down to scoop up a silver dubloon that was floating nearby.
Then I heard it.
It sounded like the blip of a sonar that was reading empty seas. I’d know the sound anywhere. A mine.
Seeing nothing in front of me, I whirled around. There it was, floating maybe twelve feet away and rapidly approaching. The rusty metal death trap I’d been taught to fear and loathe since I first came to the island training academy.
My muscle memory kicked in before my brain did. Swiftly and without hesitation I threw my oars back into the ocean, pushing with all my upper body strength against the protest of the waves below me. Away from the mine, to a safe distance where I was untraceable by its homing device.
There’s a silver dubloon! I smiled, listening to the crash of the raging, foamy sea around me as I whipped back and forth, collecting my prizes! Bronze, bronze, here’s another silver! I was on a roll, like cheese in Meridell. Happier than a snicklebeast on Terror Mountain. Red and blue mines flashed as they crowded together in a line behind me, but I was faster than them! I remember actually laughing aloud.
I was on top of the world. Glancing back at the pile of loot behind me, I did some quick mental math -- 2,000 points on my scorecard already. I threw my hand into the spray, feeling the smooth ocean fly past my fingers, grasping for a dubloon that... wasn’t... there?
I jerked my left oar forward, whirling around in a 180-degree spin.
And then my heart dropped. My stomach twisted into a knot around my lungs and my toes started to tingle -- at least, that’s what it felt like when I saw the spectacle before me.
In my wake were hundreds, maybe thousands of mines. They crowded together in the lapping waves like fangirls at Usukicon, or snipers at the Smuggler’s Cove. What I mean is, they were everywhere. An impermeable wall. If they weren’t explosive to the touch, I probably could have gotten out of my boat and walked across them for the full length they stretched across -- several hundred yards. Actually, I remember wishing that was the case. Because when I stood up in my rickety wooden vessel I could see, bobbing up and down on the far side of the minefield, a golden dubloon.
In my trade, a golden dubloon is worth no less than 500 points, the exact amount I required to be upgraded at the school to “grand master” status.
This was it.
But how was I supposed to get around the swarm of mines?
I was at a loss.
So I did exactly what my teacher had always told me not to do -- I sat still. I set down my oars, sat facing the advancing onslaught of homing mines, and thought. Mostly about how absolutely, completely, unequivocally hosed I was.
There seemed like no way out, I thought. Dangling my fingers in the water in desperate hopes of a rouge dubloon coming my way, I watched as the two nearest mines approached me. First they came slowly on the tide, but when their homing devices became aware of my ship, they began to speed up, until...
I cringed, waiting to feel myself being dragged underwater. I waited for splinters to lodge themselves in my extremities and salt water to wash up my nose, but they didn’t come. I opened my eyes.
The two mines... had detonated by colliding with one another!
Eureka, that was it!
I picked up my oars and singled out the next two closest mines. With a swift swoosh, I flew between them and booom! They exploded in my wake. I swerved around to avoid the next three nearest traps, and as I rowed away from them -- booom! Gone. I felt a smile rise on my lips -- I was actually going to do this!
The number of mines in my path didn’t matter. I battled them as they came. And two by two, the obstacles in my way began to clear. I was on a roll again!
I heard my teacher’s voice in my mind once again.
There is no such thing as talent, only patience.
He was right!
Two more mines floated before me. One was red, polished, and beeping quickly. A new model from the Black Pawkeet, I supposed. The other was blue and rusted around the edges. It signaled me with a beep on long, irregular intervals. If it were a zomutt, it would have been limping. They were maybe ten feet apart.
Patience, I thought. I simply required patience.
But then I got an idea.
I tensed the muscles from my shoulders, down my arms to my wrists. I took a deep breath, filling my lungs from the bottom up. And for the second time, I did what you’re classically never supposed to do here in the minefield. I threw myself between the two active mines.
What followed were the longest two seconds of my life.
I could feel my lungs burning as I gasped for salty air. My body was in overdrive as I rowed, faster than I had previously thought possible, faster than I’d ever rowed before. The golden dubloon was in sight. I was almost there! It was almost in my hands... it was inches away... it was in my grasp at last!
Behind me, I heard a crash as the mines swiveled and crashed together. I felt the wave they created swell and rock my ship, and I hugged the tall pile of loot beside me to keep it from falling. I saw my teacher, Dorak, speed up in front of me in his motorboat.
“Great job!” he shouted, his blue figure waving happily at me from afar.
“Thanks!” I yelled back, and held the golden dubloon high above me in the air. I was triumphant. Victorious. And best of all, I was a grand master.
All I’d done was repeat what I knew -- my strategy was foolproof. There was no such thing as luck, or, king Altador forbid, “talent”. Only patience.
And patience is how I got the Dubloon Disaster avatar!
Author’s note: Unfortunately, although it is loosely based on true events, this story is a work of fiction. As of the present, I am not currently in possession of the Dubloon Disaster avatar -- but I am working on it. Wish me luck! :)